Dmitry Markov: The Most Beautiful Things

Someone wrote in the comments: “I get the impression that Dmitry is sitting near the same five-storey apartment block [pyatietazhka] and photographing life in the vicinity.” Existentially, that’s how it is, and so when I geotag a post I feel I’m doing something that is somewhat meaningless, as if a Khrushchev-era apartment block [khrushchevka] in Ladoga were fundamentally different in some way from a Khrushchev-era apartment block in Petrozavodsk.

Nevertheless, the Soviet neighborhoods with their endless labyrinths of prefab blocks of flats and bricks are the most interesting and beautiful things in a city. [On the contrary,] I enjoy going to museums and fortresses about as much as I enjoy going to a municipal outpatient clinic.

I would like to paraphrase a quote by an artist,* although he is probably the last artist whose quotes I would like to paraphrase—Warhol: “Five-storey apartment blocks are the most beautiful things in Russia. Five-storey apartment blocks are the most beautiful things in Belarus. Five-storey apartment blocks are the most beautiful things in Kazakhstan. There is nothing beautiful in Beijing and New York.”

* [“The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Stockholm is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Florence is McDonald’s. Peking and Moscow don’t have anything beautiful yet.”]

Source: Dmitry Markov (Facebook) is at Staraya Ladoga (Leningrad Region, Russia), 31 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

Friends, I don’t answer questions about shooting and processing, not because I keep this knowledge secret, but because the very wording of the question don’t entail a substantive answer. How do I get people’s consent? In different ways. How do I process shots? Manually.

Many people think there is some kind of universal life hack—a script for talking to people, a filter for processing photos, etc.—that will solve the problem. It is excusable for youngsters who grew up on TikTok and other shit to think this way, but we adults should realize that things are more complicated. And supposing that quality is determined by equipment is like believing that a properly selected frying pan is the key to being awarded Michelin stars.

I used to think that this desire for quick results was a peculiarity of young people, but my psychotherapist friends, for example, face the same situation, although their clients are no longer teenagers. Apparently, it is human nature to cut corners and look for a panacea.

You can get experience in communicating with people only by doing it. And in this case it is also difficult to give advice because everyone has their own patterns of behavior—at first. Some [photographers] get the consent [of the people they’re shooting], some shoot brazenly, some shoot secretly, etc. Situations are different too: in some places it’s enough to shoot once, on the fly, while in others you have to get to know your subjects. Being able to predict which strategy will be most effective in which case and will give the best result is a tour de force, I think. And this comes with experience.

P.S. By the way, shooting secretly is no solution at all—any street photographer will tell you that when shooting covertly, the photographer has such an anxious and telltale kisser that it would be better if he shot openly.

Source: Dmitry Markov (Facebook) is at Bogoyavlenie (Nizhny Novgorod Region, Russia), 25 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


“Underwear and swimsuits from 900 rubles.” An image from a circular I got this morning from Russian online retailer Ozon

We are not ashamed

I’ve been doing my favorite thing for almost the whole month—hanging out with ordinary Russians, not only in Moscow, but also in the regions—in my capacity as a sociologist, via focus groups. Ten random people are brought together, and we sit and simply talk “about life,” and I’m among them with a dictaphone. It’s the best format, and ordinary folk like it too.

Naturally, I was curious about people’s opinions about what was happening: their reactions were very different, expressing a whole range of emotions. In most cases, people sense the crisis, and they complain especially about prices… Although then they cheer up and say that “life is livable.” Some even argue that this is not a crisis, but that there are “certain crisis phenomena.” However, after thinking about it, they usually said that it would get worse; this is the easy part now, they said.

I won’t describe everything they said, because I want to get to the main point, the horrible point.

People voiced a variety of emotions (and I carefully monitor them: focus groups are not so much about information as about feelings, about which events excite people more): despair, apathy, depression, anger, patriotic enthusiasm, complacency, and braggadocio… Some still “believe in victory,” some already have doubts, but most are unable to articulate what “victory” would look like… But one emotion—and I conducted more than a dozen focus groups both in Moscow and in the back of beyond—was practically absent, manifested by no one.

I’m talking about shame. There was “we’ve been betrayed,” or “we can still win,” or even “we shouldn’t have started it at all,” but there was no shame. And this, in my opinion, is a very bad symptom, showing that society has not even started down the road to recovery yet. And it may well happen that they will lose and fall face first in the mud, but will still not understand a thing.

This is sad. I’m not trying to show off my own “moral rectitude.” I don’t claim to have it, of course: I’m just as much a bastard as my dear compatriots. My claim is purely pragmatic: if we are still not ashamed, it means that for the time being we are a long ways away from the only emotion that gives us a chance at rebirth—horror towards ourselves. While everyone continues to justify themselves (even if by citing their own weakness: “What can I do?”), the cart won’t budge an inch.

We know that no one ever feels sorry for anyone in Russia. We have always known this, and we didn’t need Sergey Shnurov to tell us that. But the complete absence of shame, and in its place, again, this incredibly vulgar self-pity, pity for us poor unfortunates, “the whole world is against us,” is still quite eye-opening. You listen to how enthusiastically folks pity the “Russian people,” and all you can do is feel gobsmacked. They screwed up completely, betrayed everyone, they are up to their elbows in blood, they can’t do anything, they don’t know how to do anything – but no, they don’t feel even a smidgen of shame.

Nothing’s going to change their minds. Indeed, this, apparently, is the Russian people’s principal tragedy.

Source: Alexei Roshchin (Facebook), 29 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Julia Arkhipova for the heads-up.

I learned from reposts that a very young man, Evheny Osievsky, has died defending Bakhmut.

I didn’t know him at all, but for some reason I went to his page.

In the trenches he was reading Pynchon. He loved Lou Reed and Bob Fosse.

I would so like to have talked to him (if he would have agreed).

Pain and rage.

Evheny Osievsky April 12 · A book impressively unsuitable for reading in the army. But what difference does it make if “In each case the change from point to no-point carries a luminosity and enigma at which something in us must leap and sing, or withdraw in fright. Watching the A4 pointed at the sky—just before the last firing-switch closes—watching that singular point at the very top of the Rocket, where the fuse is… Do all these points imply, like the Rocket’s, an annihilation? What is that, detonating in the sky above the cathedral? beneath the edge of the razor, under the rose?”

Source: Anna Narinskaya (Facebook), 29 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

HBO and Russian streaming service Amediateka have made sure that wartime Russians are au courant when it comes to prestige television, as illustrated by this image from a circular I found in my mailbox the other day.


After witnessing the country’s crackdown on opposition activists and independent journalism — and the prosecution of hundreds of people who do not support the war or President Vladimir Putin — many emigres expect to encounter a dystopia when they arrive in Russia. 

The reality is more banal. 

“It’s corny, but the first thing that caught my eye after returning was that Twitter and Instagram don’t work without a VPN,” said Yulia, referring to Russia’s wartime ban on several foreign social media sites. 

“Moscow bars were packed with visitors even on Monday evenings,” added the 25-year-old screenwriter who returned in April after fleeing to Georgia last year. 

“Recently, my friend and I went out for a glass of wine. All the tables were occupied.”


Source: Kirill Ponomarev: “‘Almost Nothing Had Changed’: Anti-War Russians Risk First Trips Home Since Invasion,” Moscow Times, 28 May 2023

Oleg Vazhdayev: A War Resister on Trial for “Terrorism” in Rostov-on-Don

Oleg Vazhdayev. Photo courtesy of Solidarity Zone

Oleg Vazhdayev has been transferred to Rostov-on-Don, where the court will begin to try his case the day after tomorrow.

Vazhdayev, an auto mechanic, was detained in late September on charges of attempting to set fire to a military enlistment office in Krasnodar. After his arrest, the police tortured him, demanding that he confess to receiving funding from Ukraine.

The building in which the military enlistment office is housed was not damaged, but this did not stop the security forces from charging Vazhdayev with committing a “terrorist act” (per Article 205.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code). He faces ten to fifteen years in prison if convicted.

The criminal case against Vazhdayev has been submitted to the Southern District Military Court, and he was recently transferred from the Krasnodar pretrial detention center to Rostov-on-Don.

The trial of the case on the merits should begin the day after tomorrow. Come to the trial!

🕑 2:00 p.m., 31 May 2023

📍 Southern District Military Court (Judge Maxim Mikhailovich Nikitin), 75B Mechnikov Street, Rostov-on-Don

❗️If you are going to the trial, don’t forget to bring your internal passport with you and leave all blades and means of self-defense at home.

You can also write to Oleg or send him a package.

💌📦 Address for letters and parcels:

Vazhdayev Oleg Igorevich (born 1988)
219 ul. Maksima Gor'kogo, SIZO-1
Rostov-on-Don 344022 Russian Federation

(It is possible to send emails via the service Zonatelecom.)

Solidarity Zone is supporting Oleg Vazhdayev and his family.

Source: Solidarity Zone (Facebook), 29 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. People living outside Russia will find it impossible to use the Zonatelecom service. It is also probably impossible to send parcels to Russian detention facilities from abroad. But you can ask me ( for assistance and advice in sending messages to Russian political prisoners.

You Went Away

A gravestone at El Carmelo Cemetery, Pacific Grove, California, 25 May 2023. Photo by the Russian Reader

Everyone I know who has left [Russia] has improved their circumstances by leaving. I understand that mine is a biased sample, but it is still a sample. One young woman recently said it to me outright: “Things have got better for all of us because of the war. And that scares me.”

We are beneficiaries of the war, me included. I have started earning more money. I live in a great place, better than where I lived in Moscow. Everyone respects me, which was unheard of in Moscow, and sometimes they even recognize me on the streets. Every day something good happens to me: new projects, interviews, interesting encounters. And I’ve generally started feeling better. I have become calmer, kinder, more confident in myself, and I smile more often.

And all because the war is underway.

It scares me to admit it, but sometimes I think: if only it had started fifteen years earlier, when I was younger and I had more vim and vigor. Would it have been to hard for them to arrange? How wonderful my life would have turned out then.

I realized this back in 2014, when I spoke with people who had gone to fight in Donbas completely voluntarily. Yes, of course, there were ideological idiots among. Some were in it for the money. But many honestly admitted that there was nothing else for them to do. Life had become meaningless and hopeless: TV, vodka, the wife. Life was boring, there were no prospects. They had to raise the stakes, and so they went to war.

I was like that myself. In 2014, I worked at a terrible dreary job. My personal life had come to a dead end. I felt that what mattered most in life was happening somewhere other than where I was, and I was just rotting where I was. It was like Groundhog Day, like being in a sludge which you can not get out. Everything was unreal, inauthentic, imaginary. And so I went to report in Donbas, because I knew for sure that that was reality. It didn’t matter what kind of reality, but whatever it was, it was the real thing.

And suddenly everything fell into place. I am a feckless, indecisive person, poorly adapted to life. But suddenly, in the midst of war, I felt that I was in my element. I knew exactly what to do, I had no doubts, I took responsibility. And everything panned out for me, something I wouldn’t have dared to dream of in peacetime. But why was war just the ticket?

There was even a fire in my belly. I thought: there is a chance for people like me in this mess, in this chaos. Now I’m going to show you assholes just like—you’ll dance to my tune. You had me all wrong…

It sounds nice, but there’s something despicable about it.

So did all those failed poets, provincial schoolteachers, and hairdressers with cosmic-scale ambitions who in 1917 posed for pretty photographs and then engaged in mass executions. That’s how history is made. And then they were shot themselves.

And it also eliminates the need for choice. Oh, how easy it is to make decisions when there is no other choice! Can’t make up your mind? It’s okay, the course of things will choose for you. “The coercive force of reality,” as Babel said. Force majeure, as they say in the courts.

In December 2022, I had good papers made for myself, and so now I can move freely around the world. And my first thought was: that’s it, now I’m going to Kyiv. From there I’ll go to Odesa and Kharkiv. I know how it’s done. I have to go. I won’t forgive myself later if I don’t go, so off I go!

But I didn’t go. I wasn’t able to double dare myself. I couldn’t explain to myself why I had to go to the war and what I would do there. I already have a different life from the one I led in Moscow. I don’t need to compensate, to show my worth in a particular way, to prove anything to myself. I think I’m recovering, I’m getting better.

“Have you read the news? What a beautiful article you could write!” a friend recently wrote to me. “Come on, have a whack at it! It would be a powerful move!”

I texted him: “Go fuck yourself!”

But another person wrote: “We have a problem here. Can you…” I answered briefly: “Yes, I’ll do it.”

I’m recovering, but I’m not quite recovered yet.

P.S. For those who are outraged by the first sentence.

I lived badly in Russia, I had nothing to lose. So yes, my life has improved. Everything is relative.

You had been living well, apparently, and now you are experiencing difficulties trying to restore your previous standard of living. That’s also the way the ball bounces. I hate everything about the way things were. I wouldn’t want things to be like they were before.

Source: Yan Shenkman (Facebook), 26 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ultra Bra, “Sinä lähdit pois” (“You Went Away,” 1997)

In the wee hours neither of us can party anymore
In the wee hours neither of us can party anymore
Tired gazes, hoarse voices
In the background a sun that doesn’t warm
In the background a sun that doesn’t warm

You went away
From the balcony I watched
Your receding back
You skirted the puddles
And I guess you won’t regret this parting

All the birds in the bushes sing before seven in the morning
All the birds in the bushes sing before seven in the morning
Tired gazes, hoarse voices
In the background a sun that doesn’t warm
In the background a sun that doesn’t warm

You went away
From the balcony I watched
Your receding back
You skirted the puddles
And I guess you won’t regret this parting, parting

The night’s last drink
Turns into breakfast
To which I added coffee

You went away
From the balcony I watched
Your receding back
You skirted the puddles
And I guess you won’t regret this parting

You went away
From the balcony I watched
Your receding back
You skirted the puddles
And I guess you won’t regret this parting, parting, parting

Source: Genius. Translated from the Finnish by the Russian Reader

KYIV, May 29 (Reuters) — Explosions rang out across Kyiv on Monday as Russia launched its 16th air attack on the Ukrainian capital this month, hours after unleashing dozens of missiles and drones overnight.

Panicked residents, some of whom initially ignored the air raid siren as they ate breakfast in cafes, rushed for cover when the sky filled with smoke trails and blast clouds.

All the Russian missiles were shot down, but one person in the central Podil district was taken to hospital, authorities said. No major damage was reported.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said explosions sounded in the capital’s central districts and emergency services were dispatched.

“The attack on Kyiv continues. Don’t leave the shelters!” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukraine shot down 11 cruise and ballistic missiles fired in the second of Monday’s attacks on Kyiv, said Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Heavy air strikes about six hours earlier had targeted the capital, put five Ukrainian aircraft out of action in the west of the country and caused a fire in the Black Sea port of Odesa.

“I would say there has been an activisation, a serious activisation… there are fewer missiles flying, but the regularity of strikes has increased,” said air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat.

Russia’s main targets are typically stocks of Western weapons, energy facilities and government buildings, but the fact the missiles over Kyiv were shot down made it difficult to establish their target on Monday, he said.

Russia has increased the frequency of air attacks as Ukraine prepares to launch a counteroffensive.

Kyiv metro stations were packed with people taking shelter although many residents ignored the air raid alarm until they heard loud blasts in city centre.

A local television report from a junction on a busy highway showed missile wreckage that appeared to have hit a traffic light.

Source: Pavel Polityuk and Max Hunder, “Russia launches 16th air strike on Kyiv this month,” Reuters, 29 May 2023


Just two of the soldiers who were rebuilding the machine-gun nest had been with the battalion since Kherson. One of them, a twenty-nine-year-old construction worker called Bison—because he was built like one—had been hospitalized three times: after being shot in the shoulder, after being wounded by shrapnel in the ankle and knee, and after being wounded by shrapnel in the back and arm. The other veteran, code-named Odesa, had enlisted in the Army in 2015, after dropping out of college. Short and stocky, he had the same serene deportment as Bison. The uncanny extent to which both men had adapted to their lethal environment underscored the agitation of the recent arrivals, who flinched whenever something whistled overhead or crashed nearby.

“I only trust Bison,” Odesa said. “If the new recruits run away, it will mean immediate death for us.” He’d lost nearly all his closest friends in Kherson. Taking out his phone, he swiped through a series of photographs: “Killed . . . killed . . . killed . . . killed . . . killed . . . wounded. . . . Now I have to get used to different people. It’s like starting over.”

Because the high attrition rate had disproportionately affected the bravest and most aggressive soldiers—a phenomenon that one officer called “reverse natural selection”—seasoned infantrymen like Odesa and Bison were extremely valuable and extremely fatigued. After Kherson, Odesa had gone awol. “I was in a bad place psychologically,” he said. “I needed a break.” After two months of resting and recuperating at home, he came back. His return was prompted not by a fear of being punished—what were they going to do, put him in the trenches?—but by a sense of loyalty to his dead friends. “I felt guilty,” he said. “I realized that my place was here.”


Source: Luke Mogelson, “Two Weeks at the Front in Ukraine,” New Yorker, 22 May 2023

The Sasha Skochilenko Trial: Olga Safonova’s “Slightly Misleading” Expert Analysis

Sasha Skochilenko (center) at her criminal trial in Petersburg, 25 May 2023. Photo: Nadezhda Skochilenko

At today’s hearing [in Sasha Skochilenko’s criminal trial on charges of disseminating knowingly false information about the Russian army], Sasha’s defense lawyers and Svetlana Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya, a linguist who conducted an independent forensic examination and found no knowingly false information in Sasha’s messages, were able to question one of the authors of the linguistic forensic examination [commissioned by the prosecution].

Olga Safonova, a specialist in political science (!), was enlisted to contribute to the linguistic forensic examination. But, as she was instructed to do by a staff member at the forensics expertise center, she evaluated whether what was written [on the anti-war “price tags” that Ms. Skochilenko is alleged to have posted in a Petersburg supermarket] was in line with the Russian Defense Ministry’s position, not whether it was truthful.

[Safonova] admitted that her analysis of one of the messages was “slightly misleading.” She was “at a loss” when asked to respond to the assertion that Sasha faces up to ten years in prison on the basis of such misleading conclusions, among other things.

After a recess (due to her heart problems, Sasha found it difficult to endure the stuffiness and lack of water), the examination of the witness was continued by Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya. Safonova was forced to admit that among the sources against which she checked Sasha’s messages, only the Defense Ministry’s website corresponded to her own definition of an official source — unlike the website and anonymous Telegram channels. She also could not answer a school curriculum-level question about impersonal sentences, although their erroneous definition in the forensic examination is one of the “proofs” of Sasha’s guilt.

In addition to pointing out the errors in the forensic examination and its noncompliance with government standards, Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya recalled that, according to the Justice Ministry’s methodological recommendations, when an expert strays beyond their area of professional competence, it is a procedural error and is inadmissible [as evidence in court]. Safonova was forced to agree. Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya followed this up by asking a direct question: “Can you, as an expert, prove conclusively that Skochilenko knowingly falsified information?”

Safonova replied that she could not.

The new prosecutor abruptly interrupted her and requested that the hearing be postponed.

You can come out and support Sasha at 11:30 a.m on June 13. Many thanks to everyone who continues to attend the trial, shares information about the case, and donates money to pay the lawyers and buy food and medicine care packages! You can help Sasha financially here:


(Sofia S., Sberbank)



Source: Nadezhda Skochilenko (Facebook), 25 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. The details for donating money to Ms. Skochilenko’s defense fund are only for people based in Russia.


Olga Safonova. Photo courtesy of The Village

In the late 1990s, St. Petersburg State University, for reasons unknown, gave away one of its dormitories on Vasilievsky Island — 10 Bering Street — with a two-story attic built on. Later, one of the university’s vice-rectors regretfully claimed that if the building had not been given away, the university would have had room to house over 500 students. Today, the building houses apartments (a three-bedroom flat there will run you 20 million rubles) and offices. It is owned by the Bering-10 Condominium Association, whose chair is Olga Diomidovna Safonova. She has the exact same name as an associate professor in the Faculty of Political Science at St. Petersburg State University.

Safonova has been involved as an expert witness in the criminal cases against [Petersburg anti-war protesters] Victoria Petrova, Sasha Skochilenko, and Vsevolod Korolev. They face up to ten years in prison if convicted. These are quotations from the expert analysis in the case against Victoria Petrova:

“Objective facts indicate that the war crimes against the civilian population of Ukraine have not been committed by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, but by the Kiev regime and the armed formations controlled by it.”

“The practical intent and purpose of the statements under examination [i.e., Victoria Petrova’s posts] consists in generating false ideas among readers (listeners) that the actions of the Russian federal leadership are condemned by society, as manifested by the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and against European countries. […] In the materials submitted for examination, the negative assessment of the policy of Russian federal state bodies vis-a-vis their deployment of Russian federal armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens and maintain international peace and security, is not supported by arguments and evidence.”

Safonova graduated first from St. Petersburg State University’s law faculty, then from its philology faculty. In 2005, she defended her dissertation in political science. Here is a quote from the abstract: “Social deprivation has become a characteristic feature of the lifestyle of a significant portion of the Russian populace. A drop in the level of real monetary income has entailed increased competition for survival, thereby generating an increase in the stratum of people whose intentions have become criminal, i.e., unlawful.”

At least until the mid-2010s, Safonova led an active social life. The Village found the academic’s picture in a dozen photo reportages from different parties, as published by and Geometria. Here she is at a presentation by the jewelry house Freywille; here, at the (now-closed) restaurant Gusto’s birthday party; and here, at the opening of XXXX Baltika Brew.

The Village spoke about Safonova with graduates of various faculties at St. Petersburg State University: their assessments of her were contradictory. Journalist Anastasia Romanova, who took Safonova’s lecture course on political science, remembered her as “the toughest teacher, whose pass-fail exam was very hard to pass.” “She honestly read the whole class the riot act,” said Romanova. “It was very scary to go to her.” Emile, a graduate of the political science faculty, where Safonova taught a course on law, recalls, on the contrary, that “the course was a formality,” and “at some point that woman just disappeared.” It was one of the easiest subjects to pass,” he said.

In 2012, commenting to Delovoi Peterburg on the newly adopted law on foreign agents, Safonova said, “There are many organizations that, under plausible pretexts, are engaged in near-subversive activities. We as a state should be concerned about this, and it’s good that this issue has been addressed.”

“I remember that Safonova gave what I thought were absurd descriptions of the political regimes in other countries. She said there was no democracy anywhere. It seems to me that most students found her unpleasant both as a teacher and as an apologist for the regime. A couple of days ago, a classmate sent me an article in Rotunda about her involvement in the expert analysis [in the case of Victoria Petrova]. I wasn’t surprised,” says Emile. Romanova adds, “She didn’t give the impression of being a stupid person. Arrogant, yes. I think she understands perfectly well what is happening now.”


Source: Julia Galkina, “Meet the experts who help jail anti-war protesters in Petersburg. They teach at St. Petersburg State University,” The Village, 14 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

A Prayer for Jobseekers

The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has approved a chanted prayer for jobseekers for use in regular worship services.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. Photo: iStock via

The prayer mentions work that will be of benefit and yield worthy fruits, as well as help [the supplicant] to observe the church commandments, RIA Novosti reports. We have previously written about [which saints] to pray to in such instances, but now there is a single standard [for how to pray to them].

Now we humbly pray to Thee: grant Thy servant (insert name) to do good and all that is useful for Thy glory and for the good of Thy house, and make the fruit worthy of his labors, so that, having prospered in Thy commandments and in Thy love, he will sing and thank Thee, and Thine Eternal Father, and Thy Most Holy and Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Text of a prayer for people seeking work

We remind you that after praying, you can make use, among other things, of our urgent job search service.

Despite the fact that there is a record-breaking personnel shortage in Russia now, it can be difficult for young people to find a job, and during a crisis people are afraid of layoffs.

Source: Andrei Gorelikov, “ROC approves prayer for jobseekers: text will be distributed to parishes,” Just Work (, 18 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

Don’t Press the Button

I read on social media yesterday that Russian ebook giant LitRes had added a button on its website for readers who want to file a complaint against any of the books it offers for violating Russian laws. To see whether this was true, I punched up the most popular recent Russian book among readers of this website, Katerina Silvanova and Elena Malisova’s runaway LGBTQ+ romance bestseller A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie.

Indeed, there is such a button, located below the book’s description and right next to a summary of its front matter. In the screenshot I took, above, I’ve drawn a black box around the button, which reads, “Does the book violate the law? Complain about the book.”

If you do the unthinkable and press the button, a window pops up:

“What do you want to complain about?” the prompt asks. The choices are “Promotion of narcotics,” “Promotion of suicide,” “Violence/extremism,” “Copyright violation,” and “Promotion of LGBT and/or Pedophilia.” You are then asked to “describe the violation” in 1,500 characters or less and dispatch your complaint to LitRes’s law-abiding overlords by hitting the big orange-red “Complain” button.

A quick scan of the 113 titles in my own “bookshelf” on LitRes and some of the book’s suggested to me by the service revealed, however, that readers cannot file a complaint against any book they wish. Anna Akhmatova’s Requiem, for example, is beyond suspicion, as you can see in the screenshot, below. ||| TRR

Circassian Day of Mourning (May 21)

On the day of the end of the Russian-Caucasian war of 1763–1864, on the day of memory and sorrow of the Circassians, we publish another album-manifesto from Jrpjej.

In addition to music, the album is accompanied by a pdf-zine with our reflection on Circassian songs of the 20th century and their relevance today

“Sefitse” is a line from the song “Quedzoqo Tole Tsiku.”

In the Adyghe language, “se” is a homonym that means both milk and bullet. To intensify the tragedy, the bullet in the song is called black. We found this metaphor and wordplay profound. Death and the life-giving drink go hand in hand, as death permeates the everyday life of wartime.

It is important for us to release this album on May 21st, the Day of Remembrance for the Adygs. For several years now, we have been releasing special albums on this day. Most often, these are songs from the period of the Russo-Caucasian War. The accompanying text to these albums hardly changes, just as the official discourse in the political space of the North Caucasus does not change. In fact, it has only gotten worse — the 2022 Jrpjej album was our protest against the ban on the mourning procession in Nalchik.

In 2023, the traditional procession is once again officially banned for fabricated reasons. Therefore, any action that helps people remember and resist assimilation seems particularly important to us.

Songs about the executed Zalimgery Keref, the battle of Kars, of Tole Kodzoko bleeding in the trench, and others tell us that the methods of repression do not change. But no matter how much our voices are drowned out, these songs still resonate. One hundred years ago and right now.

This album is about memory, action, and solidarity.

Timur Kodzoko
Daiana Kulova
Alan Shawdjan
Gupsa Pashtova
Astemir Ashiboko
Zaurkan Mazlo

Session musicians:
Aslan Tashu
Dzhanet Siukhova
Iland Khadjaev

Recorded on September 2022 and April 2023.
Recording location: Dom Radio, Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria

Sound and mixing: Timur Kodzoko
Cover art: Milana Khalilova
Liner notes: Bulat Khalilov
Translation: Bella Mirzoeva

Source: Ored Recordings (Bandcamp) Please consider paying (whatever you like) at the link and thus being able to download a high-quality mp3 file of the album, which includes a fascinating 47-page illustrated booklet in Russian and English. ||| ••• TRR •••


Unlike Inversia, Nalchik’s Platform festival was conceived, organized and launched literally on the fly. In the summer of 2019, Bulat Khalilov and Timur Kodzokov, the founders of the ethnographic music label Ored Recordings, specializing in the traditional music of the peoples of the Caucasus, came up with the idea of holding an educational and musical marathon in their hometown of Nalchik. They appealed for support to Oksana Shukhostanova from the Art Hall Platform Urban Development Institute, an agency under the municipal administration, who acted as an intermediary between the mayor’s office and festival organizers, and also gave the event its name.

“Platform is primarily a festival of urban culture, and music is only one of its components”, Khalilov says. “In terms of engaging with urban spaces and communities, we have both strengths and points that are sagging and need to be improved. For example, we open new places for fun-filled informal events. So, the first festival breathed life into the almost-forgotten but once-popular Dance Hall. It had been a long time since live music was played there, especially in this format.”

Subsequently, the festival was held in one of the halls at the House of Trade Unions in the city center, where, according to the event’s organizers, no cultural events had ever been held at all.

“It is quite odd, because both the pompous Soviet-style building itself and the hall, with its excellent acoustics, were begging for something interesting to happen in them. Last year, at this location, we staged performances by Utro, Pasosh, Fyodor’s Garden, Alina Petrova and Sergei Khramtsevich, and Foresteppe. And most recently (in January 2021), Platform had a cool spin-off – a collaboration between Ored Recordings and Le Guess Who? For this project, Platform and Ored swapped places: the label was the organizer, while the institution was the partner. A mini-festival of contemporary Circassian music – from traditional to black – was held in the concert studio of Radio House, where folk choirs, orchestras and many more musicians were recorded in Soviet times. Now we (Ored and Platform) are planning to work with regional radio, so we want to continue to do something interesting in these spaces.”

On the other hand, Platform has not yet able to utilize several venues at once, thus immersing the whole of Nalchik in an atmosphere of musical celebration. Khalilov argues that this is a problem of scale and resources: at this stage, the organizers cannot afford to invite many musicians and hold a large number of other activities in the city – for example, educational events (lectures, seminars, master classes, film screenings) and interdisciplinary events (exhibitions, audiovisual performances, theater productions) – in order to engage more locations and more diverse sites.

“I see a problem in the fact that we don’t always manage to involve local communities,” says Bulat. “In terms of music, this happens because the local scene is still in its infancy: we have almost no musicians that we could put in the same line-up with Brom or Utro without compromising the quality. The exceptions are the local traditional music and rare gems like the vinyl DJ RK.”

The organizers also note that interacting with city hall is one of the most difficult aspects of their work. As in the case of Inversia, communication with the authorities often comes down to solving formal issues and proving to officials that the festival has great potential for developing the city, improving its image, boosting tourism in the region, and so on. The Platform team admits, however, that the Nalchik administration provides all possible assistance to their undertaking: the festival receives a considerable chunk of its budget through city hall. And yet, they say, the cooperation could be closer and more productive, thus benefiting, first of all, the city itself. Because, as Platform’s curators emphasize, the main goal of the festival, as well as of Ored Recordings, is to build a community or environment for traditional music that would fit into a contemporary context – that is, to generate conditions in which performers understand how and why to make music, and listeners, where to listen to it. Platform aims to grow communities in Nalchik that will nurture profoundly local phenomena (in music, literature, etc.) that are in demand both at home and globally.

“That’s why we combine traditional music and the provisional ‘stars’ of independent music in the line-up,” Khalilov says. “Having Pasosh and Susanna Talijokova on the same stage with dance performances is strange even by the standards of local music lovers. I’m not sure that our audience deciphers this message, but with each subsequent festival, it is noticeable how the teenagers who have come for the post-punk and fans of Circassian music get used to each other and do not perceive different music as something strange.”

Finally, the Platform team regards the negative experience of interacting with local non-folk musicians as another problem. “Many of them send applications to play at the festival, but rarely come to the festival itself,” says Bulat. “It’s strange when people seem to want their moment of glory at the festival, but they don’t seem to need it.” He notes that, perhaps, it is a matter of time and soon there will be groups of a suitable format in Nalchik, or maybe something deeply local in contrast to Platform, since the festival is focused on a somewhat narrow albeit woke audience. (According to him, there are other events in Nalchik for mass audiences, including Art Bazaar, Gastrofest, and the Festival of Flowers.) Any of those outcomes would be tantamount to progress in Khalilov’s eyes.

“In terms of interacting with the city and the local community, we look at festivals like Le Guess Who? and Unsound, and among the Russian festivals we are inspired by Bol and Inversia,” Khalilov continues. “Although it’s a young festival, Platform copes with this job at some level. We always have something local on stage. If the festival had more resources, it would be possible to recruit more local musicians to various projects. We are working in this direction, but it is also vital that local content is presented not only as part of a quota or due to having a local residence permit. You cannot make allowances for a musician because they live in Nalchik. I am sure that Jrpjej is invited to major festivals not because they’re ‘exotic’ (although some of the audience, of course, perceives them as these weird Circassians), but because of their unique sound and good material. We think it’s important to show local residents and local musicians that, musically speaking, geography and your home address are not big obstacles. You can find more advantages than obstacles in living in Nalchik.”

Platform’s impact on Nalchik’s cultural image is still difficult to assess — the festival is too new. There are a lot of people in the city who haven’t even heard of it. The organizers are sure that their project and Ored Recordings reveal and highlight an important problem: in fact, there is neither a culture industry nor a clearly delineated media space in Nalchik.

“If you’re promoting a concert at DOM or Shagi in Moscow, I understand that you have to send announcements to Afisha and The Village, and post info on the right Telegram channels and VK community pages, but it’s not entirely clear how you convey information to the Nalchik audience,” Bulat says. “There are no information channels, everything is as spontaneous and quirky as possible. We are working on this aspect, which is also a good thing.”

On the other hand, Platform has formed its own audience, which waits for the festival to come around each year and asks the organizers to invite specific performers (from Ivan Dorn to M8L8TH). There are also fans from other regions who come to Nalchik specifically for Platform. And, finally, there is attention from the media. So, for some locals and outsiders, Nalchik has already become a more comfortable and interesting place to live and visit.


Source: Kristina Sarkhanyants, “South by Northeast: Music Festivals and the Cultural Cachet of Mid-Size Russian Cities,” trans. Thomas H. Campbell, V–A–C Sreda, no. 20 (May 2021)

The authorities of Kabardino-Balkaria have banned holding events in memory of the victims of the Caucasian War, threatening responsibility for violating the ban, reports Aslan Beshto, the chair of the Coordinating Council of Adyghe Public Associations.

Caucasian Knot has reported that in 2022, the authorities of Kabardino-Balkaria refused to sanction a march in memory of the victims of the Caucasian War. Despite the ban, on May 21, a mourning meeting was held at the “Tree of Life” monument, and several dozen young people held a march in memory of the victims of the Caucasian War on the streets of Nalchik. The police drew up a report on the violation of public order against a horseman who took part in the march.

On May 20, 2022, participants of the mourning events held at the “Tree of Life” monument in Nalchik lit 101 candles. The activists criticized the republic’s authorities for cancelling the march on the Circassian Day of Mourning.

According to Aslan Beshto, the chair of the Coordinating Council of Adyghe Public Associations, he was warned that if organizers held an unsanctioned rally, they would be brough to responsibility under the “rally” article, Kavkaz.Realii reports.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet [news] agency Caucasian Knot on May 14, 2023 at 01:08 pm MSK. To access the full text of the article [in Russian], click here.

Source: “Nalchik activists refused [i.e., were denied permission] to hold events on Circassian Day of Mourning,” Caucasian Knot, 15 May 2023


Events have been held in Nalchik to commemorate the Circassian Day of Mourning, including a march through the streets of the city that was not permitted by the authorities. The people involved in the events considered it vital to preserve Adyghe traditions.

As Caucasian Knot has reported, May 21, the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Caucasian War, was officially declared a holiday in Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, where Circassians are the titular nation. This year, the authorities in Kabardino-Balkaria banned holding events in memory of the victims of the Caucasian War on May 20 and 21, threatening to prosecute those who violated the ban, said Aslan Beshto, chair of the Coordinating Council of Adyghe Public Associations.

Adyghe (Circassians) is the common name for a people living in Russia and abroad, who have been divided into Kabardians, Circassians, and Adygeans. May 21 is celebrated annually as Circassian Day of Mourning, according to the Caucasian Knot reference guide.

Several events were held in Nalchik to commemorate the Circassian Day of Mourning

Events commemorating the 159th anniversary of the end of the Caucasian War began in Nalchik on the evening of May 20 at the Tree of Life Memorial. There, the republic’s musical groups performed folk songs about the dramatic events of the Caucasian War, and 159 candles were lit. Traditional funeral treats, lakum, were handed out to attendees our correspondent reported.

Today, the main events took place in Nalchik, including an unauthorized march by several dozen people through downtown Nalchik from the railway station to Abkhazia Square, and from there to the Tree of Life Memorial. The marchers carried [Circassian] flags and periodically shouted the phrase “the Adyghe tribe is alive” in their native language. Although the march had not been permitted by authorities, no one stopped them.

The Caucasian War, which lasted from 1763 to 1864, brought the Adyghe peoples to the brink of extinction. After the war and the mass deportation of Adyghe to the Ottoman Empire, a little more than 50,000 Adyghe remained in their homeland. The Russian authorities have not yet acknowledged the Circassian genocide during the war.

Several hundred people gathered in the park near the Tree of Life Memorial. At twelve noon Moscow time, a rally began. It was kicked off by Mukhadin Kumakhov, Kabardino-Balkaria’s minister of culture. He explained that the head of the republic, veterans, members of parliament, members of the government, heads of administration of districts and villages, clergy and elders had came to honor the memory of their ancestors.

Most of the speech given by Houti Sokhrokov, president of the International Circassian Association, was in Kabardian. In Russian, he said that 159 years had passed “since the bloodiest war.” “We stand today in a place sacred to all the Adyghe, the Tree of Life Memorial, and remember those who fell in that war. We shall cherish the memory of their courage in our hearts, and pray that this never happen to any nation again,” he said.

Sokhrokov then asked for a minute of silence, after which continued his speech. “As we remember today the events of those distant years, we pay tribute to the wisdom, foresight, fortitude and perseverance of our ancestors, who, despite all their hardships, saved the Adyghe people, remained faithful to the fateful choice they had made once upon a time, and preserved their historical homeland for future generations. This historical continuity has not been severed. It is only thanks to this that the Adyghe have preserved their language, traditions and culture,” he said.

The republic’s leading Muslim clerics performed a dua, a memorial prayer ritual, after which flowers were laid at the memorial, our correspondent reported.

Nalchik residents pointed out the importance of preserving Adyghe traditions

The date is a sad one for Adyghe, Timur Shardanov, chair of the Council of Veterans of the War in Abkhazia told our correspondent. “Today is a sad day for us Adyghe. We war veterans have come to honor the memory of ancestors who passed away at that time. We cherish their memory and try to pass it on to our [children]. We must do this so that it does not happen again somewhere. We know what war is, and we don’t want our children to see it,” he said.

Shardanov argues that an equestrian procession is optional on the Day of Mourning. The main thing, in his opinion, is to come to the memorial and stand for a while there.

An injustice was committed against the Adyghe, which consists not only in the expulsion of the people, but “also in an attempt to erase the memory of this page of history,” another attendee, Alexei Bekshokov argues. “The Koran says: I have forbidden injustice to myself and I forbid it to you,” he explained to our correspondent

Bekshokov considers the ban on the equestrian procession an excessive measure. “Nothing would have happened if it had taken place. Horse marches were part of Circassian history,” he said.

In 2022, the authorities in Kabardino-Balkaria turned down a request by a grassroots group to hold a solemn procession in memory of the victims of the Caucasian War. Despite the ban, on 21 May 2022, several dozen young people marched through the streets of Nalchik. The security forces charged a rider who took part in the procession with disturbing the peace. The atmosphere during the march was tense, and the clash between the police and the riders heated it up even more, eyewitnesses said. The march had been held for many years without incident, Martin Kochesoko, the president of [rights group] Habze, noted at the time.

Anatoly Thagapsoev, a resident of Nalchik, argues that the best tribute to the memory of their ancestors would be if the Adyghe did not lose traditions which have been part of their existence for centuries.

“I see that women without headscarves and men without hats have come to the memorial event. This used not to be allowed among the Adyghe. They bring children in ethnic costumes and take pictures of them in front of the memorial, as if it were a holiday. The line between the Adyghe man and the Adyghe woman, the older and younger [generations], is also being erased. Previously, a woman had no right to cross a road in front of a man. When a man passed by, a woman had to stand up, even if it was a boy, for the boy is a future man. These are nuances, but being Adyghe consisted of them,” the Nalchik resident told our correspondent.

Community leader Idar Tsipinov believes that the Adyghe Day of Remembrance contributes to the revival of national consciousness. “Personally, I am opposed to globalization. I believe that the more nations, the more different cultures there are, the more interesting it is. This does not mean that we live in the past. This means that we live in the present, we look to the future, but we don’t forget the past either,” he told our correspondent.

Caucasian Knot collects articles on the situation of Circassians in Russia and abroad on the thematic page “The Circassian Question.” Our “Reference” section also contains the article “The parade in Krasnaya Polyana: How Russia broke the Circassian resistance.”

Source: “Nalchik residents hold march on Circassian Day of Mourning despite ban by authorities,” Caucasian Knot, 21 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Circassian Day of Mourning (Adyghe: Шъыгъо-шӏэжъ маф, Russian: День памяти жертв Кавказской войны) or the Day of Mourning for the Victims of the Circassian Genocide (often censored in Russian media as Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Caucasus War) is mourned every year on 21 May in remembrance of the victims of the Russo-Circassian War and the subsequent Circassian genocide by members of the Circassian diaspora. The choice of the date is due to the fact that on 21 May 1864, General Pavel Grabbe held a military parade in the what is now Krasnaya Polyana in honor of the victory in the Battle of Qbaada.


From 1763 to 1864 the Circassians fought against the Russians in the Russian-Circassian War. During the war, Russian Empire employed a genocidal strategy of massacring Circassian civilians. Only a small percentage who accepted Russification and resettlement within the Russian Empire were completely spared. The remaining Circassian population who refused were variously dispersed or killed en masse. Circassian villages would be located and burnt, systematically starved, or their entire population massacred. Leo Tolstoy reports that Russian soldiers would attack village houses at night. Sir Pelgrave, a British diplomat who witnessed the events, adds that “their only crime was not being Russian.”

A mass deportation was launched against the surviving population before the end of the war in 1864 and it was mostly completed by 1867. Some died from epidemics or starvation among the crowds of deportees and were reportedly eaten by dogs after their death. Others died when the ships underway sank during storms. Calculations, including taking into account the Russian government’s own archival figures, have estimated a loss of 80–97% of the Circassian population in the process. The displaced people were settled primarily to the Ottoman Empire.

In 1914, Nicholas II celebrated the 50th anniversary of the defeat of the Circassians, describing it as one of the empire’s greatest victories. Boris Yeltsin acknowledged in 1996 when signing a peace treaty with Chechnya during the First Chechen War that the war was a tragedy whose responsibility lies with Russia.


In 1990, the Circassians designated 21 May as the Day of Mourning for their people, on which they commemorate the tragedy of the nation. It is memorable and non-working day in the three republics of the Russian Federation  (Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia) as well as in the Circassian villages of the Krasnodar Krai. The government of the partially recognized Republic of Abkhazia also mourns the day of mourning on May 21 (until 2011, it was mourned on May 31).

The day is also widely mourned with rallies and processions in countries with a large Circassian diaspora, such as Turkey, Germany, United States, Jordan and other countries of the Middle East.

Source: Wikipedia

The Russo-Circassian War (AdygheУрыс-адыгэ зауэromanized: Wurıs-adığə zawə; Russian: Русско-черкесская война; 1763–1864; also known as the Russian invasion of Circassia) was the invasion of Circassia by Russia, starting in July 17, 1763 (O.S) with the Russian Empire assuming authority in Circassia, followed by the Circassian refusal, ending 101 years later with the last army of Circassia defeated on 21 May 1864 (O.S), making it exhausting and casualty-heavy for both sides. The Circassians fought the Russians longer than all the other peoples of the Caucasus, and the Russo-Circassian War was the longest war both Russia and Circassia have ever fought.

During and after the war, the Russian Empire employed a genocidal strategy of systematically massacring civilians which resulted in the Circassian genocide where up to 2,000,000 Circassians (85-97% of the total population) were either killed or expelled to the Ottoman Empire (especially to modern-day Turkey; see Circassians in Turkey), creating the Circassian diaspora. While the war was initially an isolated conflict, Russian expansion through the entire region soon drew a number of other nations in the Caucasus into the conflict. As such, the war is often considered the western half of the Caucasus War.

During the war, the Russian Empire did not recognize Circassia as an independent region, and as a result, it considered Circassia Russian land which was under rebel occupation, despite the fact that the region was not and had never been under Russian control. Russian generals did not refer to the Circassians by their ethnic name, instead, they called the Circassians “mountaineers”, “bandits”, and “mountain scum”. The war has been subjected to historical revisionism and it has also garnered controversy due to the fact that later Russian sources mostly ignored or belittled the conflict, and Russian state media and officials have gone as far as to claim that the conflict “never happened” and they have also claimed that Circassia “voluntarily joined Russia in the 16th century”.


Source: Wikipedia

May 21 marks the Circassian Day of Mourning, a time of remembrance for the victims of the Russo-Circassian War.

In 1864, the Caucasian War ended on this day. The Russian Empire held a prayer service and celebrated the victory. For Circassians this war ended in tragedy: the loss of independence, mass extermination of the population, eviction to the Ottoman Empire, Syria and other countries, the breakdown of the social system, and a colossal trauma.

For Circassians May 21 is more than just a sad date, and the Russo-Circassian War is not a thing of the past. These events still determine our reality. What the official Russian historical science interprets as a military-political conflict or even the pacification of a troubled region, Circassians perceive as genocide.

The events of 1864 and the subsequent colonization of the former Circassia and the North Caucasus remain an acute problem that official authorities ignore.

One can re-read the texts for our releases on May 21 or the posts we have made in past years. They are all relevant and can be reproduced again and again. There are no shifts or new trends in Russian society or the official political course.

There are also alarming signs that discourse is being further constricted. In 2020 and 2021, the traditional mourning procession in Nalchik was canceled due to the pandemic. The Circassian public accepted the extraordinary circumstances, and it did not cause any indignation.

In 2022, the rally was canceled again for strange reasons. The authorities of Kabardino-Balkaria did not clarify them, and the International Circassian Association referred to “difficult times” and “the situation with the special operation in Ukraine”.

The Circassian community was outraged by the absurdity of these statements. And so were we.

Initially, we did not plan to release an album, but make a post about grief and memory. On May 17, we learned that the main Circassian symbolic event in our hometown was canceled. Yes, there will be a minute of silence and other mourning events, but there will be no main unifying procession in which Circassians of different views, confessions, and political orientation stand shoulder to shoulder to make a peaceful democratic statement.

And we decided to record and publish an album with songs of the Russo-Circassian War.

This is our traditional way of memorizing the past, a call for working with heritage and defending our subjectivity. We believe that problems need to be discussed and solved together, and not put off until better times. Otherwise, these better times will never come.

The songs on this album are war and mourning ballads of those who fought for their independence. For us, this is also an anti-militaristic statement, since all this music is set against repression and aggression.

Circassians, who have suffered from imperialism, must understand that colonial optics and repressive methods are unacceptable against any other groups of people, small or large. Every group or community has the right to determine its future.

Timur Kodzoko — guitar, shichepshin, vocals
Alan Shawdjan — vocals, accordion
Daiana Kulova — vocals, shichepshin, percussion

Guest singers:
Zaurbek Kozh
Zaur Nagoy

Sound recording: Timur Kodzoko
Sound editing, mixing: Timur Kodzokov
Cover photo: Elina Karaeva
Cover design: Milana Khalilova
Text: Bulat Khalilov and Bella Mirzoeva
Recorded on May 20-21, 2022
Recording location: Dom Radio, Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria

Except “Тыгъужъыкъо Къызбэч,” recorded by Daan Duurland at Katzwijm Studio, Netherlands, November 2021.

NB. This entry was updated on 22 May 2023. ||| ••• TRR •••

The Spectre

Royal Trux, “The Spectre” (1993)
My faith is in the spectre 
and there it shall remain
The spectre is a surgeon 
and an atomic guide
He haunts the lenses of my eyes
And the chemicals in my brain 

Once there was a rich man 
who drank from the spectre's cup
He always held his head so high 
but he never would look up
The spectre was above his head 
hanging like a sword
The lesson now it must be said
the spectre is its own reward

Lyrics courtesy of: David Gauthier (YouTube)

Three Denver police officers were injured early Friday morning while responding to a call for a welfare check. It began at 12:30 a.m. Friday when one officer arrived for a welfare check in the 600 block of North Pennsylvania Street. 

As the officer was speaking with the individual who made the call, the person in question came out of the building and attacked the officer, ripping off his police badge and then using it to cut the officer. 

  Neil Hagerty/DENVER POLICE

As responding officers arrived, the man remained combative and injured two other officers. 

The suspect has been identified as Neil Hagerty, 57. He remains in custody for investigation of aggravated assault to a peace officer. 

The three officers involved suffered cuts and abrasions during the struggle. All three have been released from the hospital. 

Source: “3 Denver police officers injured, suspect Neil Hagerty arrested,” CBS News Colorado, 14 April 2023

Manny (left), wearing a Royal Trux: Veterans of Disorder t-shirt during “Grapes of Wrath,” season 1, episode 3 of Black Books

“All cops are bastardi.” Corner of Rigaer Strasse and Liebigstrasse, Berlin-Friedrichshain, 20 May 2019
The now-decimated anarcho-feminist punk squat Liebig 34, which I watched the deliriously awful Berlin police surveil, harass, and raid on a nearly daily basis during the winter and spring of 2019, is visible in the upper left of the photo. Photo by the Russian Reader
A closer view of the exact same street corner, only three days earlier, on 17 May 2019. Photo by the Russian Reader

Last week, we witnessed the deaths of 33 Palestinians in Gaza by an unprovoked Israeli murder campaign — or as they named it, “Operation Shield and Arrow.” The assault on Gaza not only coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, but also underscored the fact that the brutality with which Israel ethnically cleansed some three-quarters of a million Palestinians in 1948 continues to this day.

Palestinians around the world took to the streets not only to protest their governments’ complicity in the latest Israeli massacre, but also to have a space to express their grief and mourn 75 years of violent colonization, apartheid, and displacement. Given that Israel continues to prevent the return of millions of refugees and their descendants, remembering the Nakba is foundational to a Palestinian identity centered around our yearning to be back in our homeland.

Yet in countries like Germany, which is home to thousands of Palestinians, our right to freedom of expression and assembly is dangerously under attack. For the second year in a row, the Berlin police preemptively banned all Nakba commemorations and demonstrations, surpassing the upswing in violent policing tactics being reported elsewhere in Western Europe, including the U.K. The ban was implemented on the basis that the Nakba Day events posed an “immediate danger” of antisemitism and the glorification of violence.

Last year, Berlin police arrested and detained 170 people, including some who did not even participate in a demonstration; in a recent court hearing, a police officer admitted that they targeted people for wearing the keffiyeh, being dressed in the colors of the Palestinian flag, or simply looking like they intended to join a rally.

Following this year’s ban, the only event allowed to take place was a purely cultural one at Berlin’s Hermannplatz last Saturday. But even this was authorized with heavy conditions: police banned all speeches, took down signs at stands that included the words “BDS” or “Nakba,” confiscated political pamphlets, and at one point even told organizers that dabke, the traditional Palestinian dance, was “too political.” Surrounded by dozens of police officers who continuously videotaped the event, Berlin succeeded in making Palestinians feel the chilling effect of full-blown repression.

In the name of tackling “Israel-related antisemitism,” German authorities are doing Israel’s bidding in their own country. Now, however, it seems they are also keen on mimicking Israel’s repressive tactics against all expressions of Palestinian identity. Earlier this year, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir ordered the Israeli police to enforce a ban on the Palestinian flag in public spaces, claiming that the flag is a rallying symbol for “terrorists.” And just last Saturday, the Berlin police banned a gathering that ironically was centered around the historical banning of the Palestinian flag, organized by Palestinian, Jewish, and German women.

With Israel’s encouragement, Germany’s adoption of the stifling IHRA definition of antisemitism and the Bundestag’s passing of the anti-BDS resolution has opened the floodgates to a new wave of repression against all aspects of Palestinian identity, bringing the ongoing Nakba to Europe.

I am the granddaughter of Palestinian refugees who were violently expelled from our ancestral village of Jimzu in the center of historic Palestine. Dispersed all over the world and becoming refugees within Palestine, my family still instilled in me a remembrance of our past and a yearning for our eventual return.

July 9, 1948, the date on which the Yiftach Brigade of the Zionist paramilitary group the Palmach invaded Jimzu, was the beginning of a lifetime of perseverance and resistance for my family and eventually me. Yet I am only one of thousands of Palestinians in Germany with identical stories, all living in a country that values the supreme power of a foreign state over its own citizens and residents.

“We want to die in our homes in Palestine,” my great grandfather, the mukhtar of the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp in Jericho, said in the documentary, “Aqabat Jaber — Peace with No Return?” “Who doesn’t want to live in peace?” he continued. “But there can be no peace without our right to return home. It will take years, it won’t happen now — it will take time, but we’re only here temporarily.”

Source: Hebh Jamal, “Where we can Palestinians mourn our catastrophe?” +972 Magazine, 18 May 2023

Is the European University at St. Petersburg “Extremist”?

The entrance to the European University at St. Petersburg, which I’ve walked through hundreds of times.
Photo courtesy of VG from an unidentified source

Rosobrnadzor [the Russian federal education watchdog] and the prosecutor’s office have begun an unscheduled inspection of the European University at St. Petersburg, sources at the university and close to the university have told the BBC. The inspectors are examining publications by the university’s lecturers and the topics of students’ dissertations, especially in political science, history, and sociology, and they are also observing classes. [In December 2016], a similar inspection led to the university’s license being revoked.

That the inspection was underway was confirmed to the BBC on condition of anonymity by eight sources, both within the university itself and among those associated with it. One of the academics told the BBC that the EUSP’s leadership was warned about the unscheduled inspection last Thursday. The inspectors arrived at the university on Monday [May 15].

The university’s rector, Vadim Volkov, responded to our request for comment by writing that he could not speak [about the matter], “especially with the BBC.” Alla Samoletova, chief of staff in the rector’s office and responsible for media contacts, did not respond to the BBC’s calls and messages.

Two of the BBC’s sources claimed that the prosecutor’s office is checking the university “for extremism.” According to one of them, the inspection is part of a campaign to counter extremism and terrorism. The supervisory authorities are interested in the content of academic papers and programs. In particular, the inspectors are looking for extremism in publications by the university’s lecturers, they said. Rosobrnadzor and prosecutor’s office inspectors have been stationed in a computer classroom two days in a row reading documents, as well as sitting in on classes at the university.

A source told the BBC that the inspectors requested a packet of documents for 2020–2023 that included dissertation topics and personal files of the university’s master’s degree and PhD students (the EUSP has no bachelor’s degree program), as well as their individual research plans, as authorized by their academic advisers. Such documents were retrieved from at least four faculties—anthropology, history, sociology, and political science—the source claimed.

The topics of dissertations and their content were always discussed at the university in terms of their compliance with academic standards, but they were not censored, one of the scholars noted. Another said that in recent years, when approving topics, advisers took in account how risky writing and publishing the work would be for the author, their informants, and the university, and whether the thesis could be successfully defended in the current circumstances.

After the outbreak of the war with Ukraine, the EUSP said farewell to foreign teaching staff and [Russian nationals teaching at the university] who fled Russia, sources said. The current audit affects several dozen of the university’s lecturers, as well as several hundred graduate students.

The technique for attacking a university, according to the BBC’s source, is standard: officials usually recruit experts who are willing to detect evidence of “extremist propaganda” and similar violations in research. These experts include people who have themselves been guilty of plagiarizing academic works, as the BBC has reported.

It is almost impossible to challenge such examinations, said a source close to the EUSP. According to them, the results of a similar inspection had led, in the past, to a shakeup of the teaching staff and changes in the curricula at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Smolny College) of St. Petersburg State University.

In 2021, similar audits took place at the Shaninka (Moscow School for the Social and Economic Sciences), and at RANEPA’s Institute of Social Sciences (ION). The prosecutor’s office, as during its audit of Smolny College, asked to see scholarly articles by university staff and a “steering document on disciplinary activity” said a BBC source familiar with the audit.

The European University is a private university founded in St. Petersburg in 1994. It was initially funded by grants from American and European NGOs, including the Soros Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. These organizations are now deemed “undesirable” by the Russian authorities, but the EUSP has not received financing from them for a long time.

The EUSP Board of Trustees is headed by Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage Museum, while former Russian presidential chief of staff Alexander Voloshin and ex-chairman of the Federal Audit Chamber Alexei Kudrin are among the trustees. Kudrin is also a member of the board of trustees at the Shaninka, and he previously served as the dean of Smolny College.

The BBC Russian Service and other independent media have repeatedly reported that the intense focus of the oversight authorities on private universities in Russia (especially the EUSP and the Shaninka) is fueled by the FSB, which is unhappy with their independence and academic contacts with the West.

In 2016, the EUSP was subjected to a similar inspection by the same supervisory authorities. Inspectors then questioned students as well, but it has not come to that yet during the current inspection. Inspectors also then audited academic works for extremism, but could find no evidence of it. The only irregularities that Rosobrnadzor found find at the EUSP had to do with number of practical teachers [sic] in the Faculty of Political Science. The latter led to the revocation of the university’s license, which was reinstated only a year later. The BBC’s sources could not rule out that, this time around, the inspection would lead to the EUSP’s closure or the shuttering of individual programs at the university.

According to the consolidated register of inspections, the EUSP was audited thirteen times between 2016 and 2022, including three times by Rosobrnadzor. In October, the government banned planned inspections in 2023 of legal entities that do not belong to high-risk categories.

The BBC sent a written request for comment to the EUSP’s press service, as well as to the New League of Universities, which includes the EUSP, the Shaninka, the New Economic School (NES), and Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech). The League advertises itself as an association of new Russian universities established in accord with international education standards. The BBC has also contacted Rosobrnadzor and the St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office for comment and is awaiting a response.

Source: Sergei Goryashko, Anastasia Golubeva & Elizaveta Podshivalova,”Prosecutor’s office checks European University in St. Petersburg for ‘extremism,'” BBC News Russian Service, 17 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader