Pyl spoke with Asians of Russia cofounder Vasily Matenov about how the campaign has been helping people despite hounding from the Russian Interior Ministry, and why the residents of Russia’s ethnic republics are the most vulnerable to the Russian state.
How a social media page about ethnic cultures grew into a mutual aid project
Asians of Russia came into being five years ago. I am Buryat myself, and my wife is Tuvan. We lived in Novosibirsk for a while. It’s a city where there are many migrants from Central Asia, and yet the locals often have a negative attitude to this. When you say that you come from Irkutsk, they don’t understand how that could be. Five years ago, we decided to create a social media page that would promote the culture of different nations, so that people could see which nations live in Russia and what their lives are like.
At some point, our social media followers started contacting us for help. We began raising money to treat children with serious illnesses, or to pay for tours by ethnic children’s ensembles. The posts that hit home with the public were reposted thousands of times. We recruited volunteers and raised money to fight the forest fires in Yakutia. People began to trust us more and more.
We somehow got the idea to help manufacturers of local products: furniture, clothing, and jewelry. We began traveling to the regions, filmed stories about their enterprises, talked about what products they produce, and how production is organized. This went on for several months. They paid us small amounts of money, and so we earned a little. But we didn’t have any funding or grants at all.
How Asians of Russia helped its followers after the war’s outbreak
On February 24, I immediately started posting photos from the war, images of soldiers and prisoners, on our Instagram page. At first, users wrote that none of it was true. Then people from the regions began to recognize their relatives among the soldiers. A panic arose.
Lawmakers and officials wrote to us and threatened us. Then the law on “fake news” about the military was passed. One follower telephoned us and said that an acquaintance of his at the Interior Ministry’s Department K (which deals with information technology) had told him that they were very interested in us.
After some time, unknown people started knocking on our door. We didn’t open it: we pretended that no one was home. This went on for three days. On the third day, we exited the apartment late at night and left the country. The Zimin Foundation offered us help in getting out of Russia and a little financial support. My wife and I now live in Poland.
We do crowdfunding campaigns as needed. We raised money to pay the fines people had to pay for making anti-war statements and going to anti-war rallies. These fundraisers raised the amounts of money needed in a matter of minutes.
When the mobilization began, we raised money for buses so that people could leave for Kazakhstan or Mongolia. We were able to evacuate a lot of people in concert with other organizations: we joined forces with with both ethnic movements and the Feminist Anti-War Resistance. Together, we looked for taxi drivers or private carriers who would take people to the border.
We also hired lawyers to help contract soldiers legally refuse to do military service, and we helped conscientious objectors and those whose requests to be dismissed from military service were not approved. Over the past year, we have raised fourteen thousand dollars to pay lawyers and get people out of Russia.
From a follower:
Hello dear ones! You can publish my letter, because a lot of people look at your page and the problem I want to write about is very dire for all of us right now!
We live in a small village, and my husband and I have two underage children. My husband and I were orphans, so we live in a private house that we received from the state. I will not describe what terrible quality these houses are: I hope everyone knows and understands this.
During the mobilization, they tried to take my husband to fight. They were not stopped even by the fact that he has a group-three disability.
After consulting with friends, we decided that it would be better for him to go to Kazakhstan than to go to kill and most likely get killed. Our children love Dad very much, they just wouldn’t survive it. We’d rather he be alive far away than dead in the neighborhood cemetery.
He and a friend quickly packed and left for Kazakhstan. Our little ones call him every evening by video link. Everything has gone well for them in Kazakhstan. They found a job that provides them with a room in a hostel, for which I am very grateful to the Kazakhs!
Our small household has now fallen entirely on my shoulders. We have chickens and a cow, which is about to bear offspring. The house is heated by a stove. We burn coal, which costs about three thousand rubles per ton with delivery. There is no water in the house: we have to go to the nearest water pump for water.
I take the children to school myself, because I’m afraid of dogs. We have had several cases of dogs attacking children, it is very scary. The temperature here is now minus thirty degrees. It was minus forty the previous two weeks.
Don’t get me wrong. We are not in the habit of complaining. We were taught that one must endure no matter how hard life is. But if you think about it, do we deserve such a life?
The children and I like to watch travel shows on YouTube and see how people in other countries live. Watching such programs, you begin to realize that we too could have better lives.
I look at the children and imagine what awaits them, what the future will be like, and I cry at night. 😭 I want to give up everything and leave, but where can I go with two small children and with no money? It’s very scary.
I want to appeal to all those who have not yet lost their minds: may you have strength and patience. Take care of yourselves.
How the authorities have been trying to divide the ethnic community
We have always tried to produce high-quality content, to shoot high-quality videos. So, we initially attracted a very high-quality audience: there were almost no supporters of the war among them. The average age of our audience is between twenty-five and forty-five, and it has been growing even since Instagram was blocked in Russia.
There were bot attacks on our public page. At the same time, there was an influx of followers who would disappear after a couple of hours. They could write racist comments, about which they themselves might file complaints so that our public page would be blocked, or so that it would be subject to a shadow ban and would not show up in the feed.
I know people who are mixed up in such things. First, they organize bot attacks, and then they become aides to lawmakers.
The purpose of these bots is not just to block our profile, but to divide society so that there is no consensus on any issue. You can write any old nonsense. One of our followers admitted that he had worked in such a troll factory. They were told that they could even write that they opposed the authorities. What mattered was that they avoided coming to a unified stance in the comments.
Why Russia’s ethnic regions are the most vulnerable
The authorities understand that if there were a unity of opinion and a common cause in the ethnic regions, everything could flare up like a match. Therefore, propaganda is stronger here: there is not a single independent media outlet. We were in Georgia, and the Georgians said that god forbid the authorities would do something that the people did not like: everyone would immediately go to the parliament to protest. This happens because there is a national cause in Georgia.
There are very close family and friendship ties in the ethnic republics. It is customary in our part of the world to be in touch with fourth cousins and go visit them . It is vital for us to stand up for each other. The authorities have been doing everything possible to destroy this unity in the regions.
That is why all discontent and all protest in Russia is nipped in the bud. For example, when Dmitry Trapeznikov, who had been among the leaders of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” was appointed acting mayor of Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, the whole region rose up to oppose him. The residents of Elista packed the city’s main square every day for a month. Consequently, Russian National Guardsmen from Moscow were brought to Kalmykia to break up the protest, and then all the protest leaders were put on trial. Since then, people in other regions have simply been afraid to take to the streets in protest.
The residents of the Russia’s ethnic republics are the most vulnerable part of the country’s population. They don’t know their rights well. There is no internet in the villages, and people speak Russian poorly. If the authorities go to the villages to mobilize young men for the war, how can they protect themselves? So, we must develop democracy in Russia, starting with the regions.
I’m not a politician or a political scientist. I don’t know exactly how to restructure Russia after Ukraine’s victory, or whether the ethnic republics will secede and how to do that. But I do know that, without independence, nations perish. For example, there are fewer than ten thousand Shors left in Russia, although they are an ethnic group that has existed for two thousand years, since before there were ethnic Russians.
If Russia wins the war, it will only get worse. We must not just turn out for rallies for a free Russia. We must make sure that Ukraine wins. Only then can we take up the vital task of preserving the independence of the nations living now as part of Russia.
Artist and activist Yelena Osipova holding a handmade placard that reads, “PUTIN IS WAR. WE DON’T WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN/WE DON’T WANT TO DIE FOR PUTIN,” and standing next to a Russian flag emblazoned with the slogan “NO WAR.” Ms. Osipova is standing outside Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral in downtown Petersburg, but it is unclear when, exactly, this photo was taken. Photo courtesy of Astra and the St. Petersburg Aid to Detainees Group.
The St. Petersburg Aid to Detainees Group reports:
“The elderly artist and activist Yelena Osipova was detained in Petersburg after taking to the streets with anti-war posters. The police promise to take her home, while stopping along the way at the police department to ‘sign papers.'”
Meanwhile, in other news, one of Petersburg’s most well-known “opposition” political scientists reported earlier today that personally he was having a fantastic day today (which is the first anniversary of his country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine for no other reason than it could) because one of his grad students has had an article accepted for publication in a prestigious academic journal.
That’s everything you need to know about the Russian liberal intelligentsia today: they’re continuing to live their best lives (at home, and abroad) while social “losers” and nobodies like Yelena Osipova fight the good fight. ||| TRR
19-year-old Valeria Zotova was detained in the wee hours of February 17. She is accused of planning to set fire to a warehouse from which supplies are sent to military personnel involved in the war against Ukraine. According to the security forces, the young woman has been charged with committing a “terrorist act” (per Article 205 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code).
You can support Valeria Zotova right now by writing her a letter!
Address for letters:
Zotova Valeria Igorevna (born 2003) 53 ul. Portovaya nab., SIZO-1 Yaroslavl 150001 Russian Federation
(It is possible to send letters via the electronic services FSIN-Pismo and Zonatelecom.)
Source: Solidarity Zone (Facebook), 21 February 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Sergey Ogurtsov for the heads-up.People living outside Russia will find it difficult or impossible to use the FSIN-Pismo and Zonatelecom services. In many cases, however, you can send letters (which must be written in Russian or translated into Russian) via the free, volunteer-run service RosUznik. As of this writing, however, Ms. Zotova has not appeared on their list of supported addressees. You can also ask me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance and advice in sending letters to Russian political prisoners.
The Yaroslavl District Court has remanded in custody 19-year-old Valeria Zotova, accused of attempted terrorism (per Article 30.3 and Article 205.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code), reports TASS, citing the press service of the Yaroslavl Regional Court.
A day earlier, Zotova’s mother told OVD Info that her daughter had left the house on the evening of February 16, saying that she was going for a walk with friends, but did not return home. At about one o’clock in the morning, security forces came to search the Zotov home. The officers did not identify themselves and did not state the grounds for their investigation.
The young woman was taken to Yaroslavl’s Pretrial Detention Center No. 1. On February 20, a Telegram channel linked to the local security forces posted a video of Zotova’s arrest. The report said that she had been charged with terrorism (per Article 205.1 of the Criminal Code). If convicted on this charge, she could face between ten and fifteen years in prison.
Following the footage of the detention, a “confession” appears on the video: Valeria Zotova says that she transmitted information, coordinates and photos of a building for a monetary reward. According to her, [the people who paid her the money] “wanted to set fire to this building,” in which “parcels for the mobilized are collected and sent to Donbas.”
Svetlana Zotova said that in October of last year she herself had been fined for “discrediting” the army (per Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code) over a “No war” message, graffitied on a local kiosk. During the search, the security forces threatened to make her a suspect in her daughter’s case, claiming that she had been involved in anti-war rallies. The woman stated that she was not involved in anti-war protests, despite her views. Before the invasion of Ukraine, she had picketed in support of politician Alexei Navalny and the Khabarovsk protesters.
In the 1960s, a wave of newly independent African states found themselves courted by a far-flung friend: the Soviet Union. Alexander Markov’s engrossing archival documentary, assembled from footage shot by Soviet crews between 1960 and 1990, charts the breadth of Moscow’s project to export socialism to the African continent. Red Africa threads dignitary visits, infrastructure projects, and Cold War–era cultural exchange into the excavation of a single soft-power machine, while also demonstrating the power of the cinematic image to propel myth-making at home up until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Closer afield, We Love Life, which opens the screening program, revisits propaganda and home movie footage of the Spartakiads, a mass sporting event held in communist Czechoslovakia from World War II to the Velvet Revolution. Through the film’s kaleidoscopic editing, its scores of synchronized bodies vibrate as a site where ideology, collective memory, and personal experience converge.
We Love Life. 2022. Great Britain. Directed by Hana Vojáčková. North American premiere. In Czech, Slovak, English; English subtitles. 29 min.
Krasnaya Afrika (Red Africa). 2022. Russia/Portugal. Written and directed by Alexander Markov. North American premiere. In Russian, Portuguese; English subtitles. 65 min.
Thu, Feb 23, 4:30 p.m. • Introduced by Hana Vojáčková • MoMA, Floor T2/T1, Theater 2
DDT frontman Yuri Shevchuk has released the video “Motherland, Come Home.” In the new single, he calls on his country to stop the war and go about its own business. The video was shot by Shevchuk in collaboration with producer and composer Dmitry Yemelyanov.
Yuri Shevchuk wrote the poem “Motherland, Come Home” in the summer of 2022, a few months after Russia had launched its invasion of Ukraine. In the run-up to the invasion’s anniversary, the rocker set it to music and recorded the song. “Don’t go crazy, this is not your war,” Shevchuk urges listeners.
Shevchuk has repeatedly spoken out against the war in Ukraine. He has consistently taken a pacifist stance and opposed all wars, including the military operations in Chechnya, South Ossetia, and anywhere else in the world.
In 2022, Shevchuk was fined fifty thousand rubles after he was found guilty of “discrediting” the actions of the Russian army. The occasion for the fine was an anti-war statement he made in May at a concert in Ufa. After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, concerts by his band, DDT, in Russia have often been postponed or canceled “due to technical difficulties.”
In the summer of 2022, the media reported the existence of a list of “banned” Russian artists who had opposed the war in Ukraine, including the bands DDT, B2, Aquarium, and Pornofilms, the rappers Face and Oxxxymiron, and the solo performers Zemfira, Monetochka, and Vasya Oblomov. There were more than fifty names on the list. Many of the musicians have already faced the cancellation of concerts, and some have been designated “foreign agents” by the Russian Justice Ministry.
The Golendras (Olendry, Holendry) of Siberia are a unique people. They originate from Germany or even Holland, to which their name alludes. In former times they lived in Poland, eventually ending up in the western part of the Russian Empire — approximately where the borders of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine now meet, near the Western Bug River.
The Golendras are Lutherans by religion, their prayer book is in Polish and they have German surnames. They adopted a mixture of Polish, Ukrainian and Belarusian as their language. Their songs are sung in this dialect. During the Stolypin agrarian reforms, a part of the Golendras moved to the Irkutsk Region in Siberia, where they founded settlements — Zamusteche (Zamóstecze, whose modern name is Pikhtinsky), Novyny (Nowyny, whose modern name is Srednepikhtinsky) and Dagnik (its name has not changed).
Kvitochka (Kwitoczka, “Little Flower”) Ensemble emerged in 2005 at the Srednepikhtinsky House of Culture. It has the status of a family band, since all the participants are relatives to various degrees.
The ensemble members (on the album cover photo from left to right):
1. Nina Kunz
2. Valentina Zelent
3. Irina Prokopyeva
4. Larisa Bendik
5. Svetlana Ludwig
6. Olga Kunz
7. Elena Vas. Ludwig
8. Vera Kunz
9. Elena Vlad. Ludwig (leader)
10. Natalya Ludwig
The original song titles are given in their Polish spelling.
The names of the older generation people, thanks to whom these songs have been preserved: Emma Pastrik, Anelia Gildebrant, Alvina Zelent, Natalya Kunz, Zuzanna Ludwig, Elizaveta Gildebrant, Adolf Kunz, Alvina Kunz, Bronislava Ludwig, Ivan Zelent.
Recorded at the Srednepikhtinsky House of Culture on July 7, 2022, except for tracks 1 and 26, which were recorded in Dagnik on July 8, 2022, and performed by Anatoly Ludwig.
Thanks to Elena Ludwig, the whole ensemble, Lyudmila Gerda, Natalya Dmitrieva, Lyubov Vasilchenko, and Iwan Strutynski.
A people called the Golendry (translated presumably as “Hollanders,” “Dutch”) has been living in the remote Siberian taiga for more than a century. The people speaks a mix of Belarusian and Ukrainian, prays in Polish, and has German surnames. They live in the Zalari District of Irkutsk Region and are a true cultural phenomenon. Key to Baikal will tell you what kind of people they are and how they got here.
The History of the Golendry
Several dozen families of Golendry moved to Siberia from the Bug River basin at the beginning of the 20th century, during Stolypin’s agrarian reforms. Back then, the place of the people’s residence was a part of the Russian Empire, but now the territory encompasses the borderlands of Belarus, Ukraine and Poland. There are two explanations of the origins of the word golendry. This term emerged in the early seventeenth century: the Dutch identified themselves in similar fashion (hollandi in Latin). The other explanation is based on the word gautland, meaning a developed land (paseka in Polish), a settlement on deforested land, established by colonists who were called golendry (that is, “stumpers” or “woodcutters,” not “Dutch”). The researcher Eduard Byutov came up with a serious argument against the second explanation, saying that these people were the members of a Dutch community living under “Dutch law” and observing Dutch culture. Byutov emphasized the fact that, in medieval Poland, the social stratum of peasants were called golendry (olendry), and the settlers possessed a special social and legal status. Thus, the term olendry is derived from a lexeme with the same meaning as the ethnonym for “Dutch” in Polish. It was used to designate a special social group of mixed ethnic composition.
Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle, because the term golendry never served to designate any particular ethnic group. From the very beginning it meant a special social group of mixed ethnic composition. Nevertheless, the ethnic composition of this social group evidently included the Dutch, because many of their cultural elements point tto this.
By the beginning of the twentieth century the Golendry had retained their distinctive identity, which differed from neighboring peoples: despite the fact that they spoke local dialects, their religion was different from the surrounding population. They were Lutherans, unlike the Catholic Poles and the Orthodox Belarusians and Ukrainians.
A part of the Golendry migrated to Siberia, primarily due to the lack of land. The settlers gave old names to their new places of residence: Zamusteche, Novyna and Dakhny, in memory of those times when they lived on the Bug. The villages were renamed in Soviet times (now they are known as Pikhtinsk, Srednepikhtinsk and Dagnik).
It is curious that no one was particularly interested in the Pikhtinsk Golendry before the early 1990s. Only in the 1930s and during the Great Patriotic War did their obviously German names and surnames attract the attention of state authorities, which led to certain consequences. Luckily, however, the Golendry were not deported (because they already lived in the taiga) and were not shot. During peacetime, the Golendry were little different from other Soviet people, except that the two Pikhtinsk collective farms consistently produced high yields, year after year. In the 1970s they were doing so well that former residents of Pikhtinsk returned to their native villages from the cities: they built a branch of a clothing factory, a bakery, and a post office there. There were three large elementary schools for the three villages, a rural medical station, shops, and a kindergarten. After perestroika, their prosperity came to an end, however, and the residents of Pikhtinsk once again moved back to the cities. Nowadays, the number of people registered in the villages is larger than that of people actually living there, and the number of inhabitants of these settlements decreases every year.
Emptying villages are a widespread phenomenon in Russia, with only one difference: the Golendry are famous now; they will not disappear into obscurity. By the way, the Golendry were “discovered” by scholars by pure accident, thanks to their houses. In 1993-1994, the Irkutsk Central Commission for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Heritage visited these remote taiga villages and paid due attention to the unconventional architecture of the buildings in Pikhtinsk, Srednepikhtinsk and Dagnik. The architecture entailed an exploration of the rest of their culture, and the Golendry were declared a “sensation.”
Customs and traditions
Two museums were established in Srednepikhtinsk: these let people have a look inside a real Golendry house without disturbing their personal space. According to the Lutheran faith of the Golendry, they worship in Polish using the Bible and prayer books. The old people are more religious, while the young people are less so: the situation is common today. So, the holy books in Polish, exhibited in the museums, are now read only by old people, and even not all of those old people can read them. It is curious that the Golendry use the Julian calendar, just like Orthodox people.
The Lutheran Golendry do not have a tradition of regularly visiting cemeteries and taking care of graves. However, the Russian traditions have gradually come to predominate: elaborate headstones have been erected on some graves of the Pikhtinsk Golendry, and the relatives of the deceased can sometimes be seen at the cemetery. Nevertheless, you should not go to the cemetery of the Golendry out of idle curiosity: the residents of Pikhtinsk hate it when someone disturbs the peace of the dead.
The Lutheran Golendry never had any churches of their own in Siberia. They prayed at home in the old days, and still do so now. There is a Lutheran prayer hall in Irkutsk, and the local pastor periodically visits the residents of Pikhtinsk. However, the main rite — baptism — is conducted not by a pastor, but by a local resident. The residents of Pikhtinsk themselves find it difficult to answer why they chose that person exactly. Most likely, because he is a pious man and is respected by everyone. In addition, waiting for the pastor to come or taking the babies to Irkutsk is simply inconvenient.
The museums illustrate the wedding ceremony in great detail: The Golendry still celebrate their weddings in keeping with the old traditions. A cap, the most memorable detail of the local women’s attire, is also associated with the wedding. Women wear a cap instead of a veil on the second day of marriage. There is also a tradition of burying women with their cap on. During the rest of the time the capes are no longer worn, except that they can be worn for tourists.
If you want to get acquainted with the life and traditions of the Golendry, you will have to drive almost 300 kilometers from Irkutsk, or take a train to Zalari Station and then travel the remaining 93 kilometers to Srednepikhtinsk. After this people was “discovered,” it became much easier to get to the places where it resides, but one should book a tour and overnight stay in advance.
Source: Key to Baikal. I have edited the original article for clarity and readability. ||| TRR
An abundance of news — especially bad news — sometimes robs a person of empathy. They have no compassion for anyone and do not want to help. They pay no mind to important events such as the military operations in Ukraine or disasters around the world. If this happens to loved ones, they seem callous to us, as if they are hiding their heads in the sand and refusing to look at reality. But when it concerns someone personally, they may wonder whether everything is okay with them.
Contemplative practices teacher Viktor Shiryaev explained to 7×7 why feelings disappear, how to bring them back, and why.
Viktor Shiryaev is a teacher of modern contemplative and somatic practices, a mindfulness instructor [instruktor maindfulnes], and an expert in adult maturation. He runs the Telegram channel Act of Presence, where he discusses mindfulness and meditation techniques, and does consultations.
— Is it normal to read the news and not to feel anything? How can people not have an emotional response to photos from Mariupol, to stories about injustice or emergencies?
— I think it’s fine. Everything that happens to people is governed by certain mechanisms. There are several of them involved here.
First, things regarded as “close to home” are felt more acutely. Photos of an earthquake in Turkey or a tsunami in Haiti that causes thousands of deaths are very poorly registered by our minds. People who have no relatives or direct contacts in Mariupol may not feel anything — and not because they lack empathy, but because it is happening to someone else and is therefore abstract.
The second mechanism is numbness, withdrawal. This is also a normal stress reaction, a defense mechanism. If you worry all the time, it is impossible to live and work normally. During our lifetimes, there has not been a single day that there were no wars on the planet. If you feel all this and constantly suffer from it — after all, empathy is generally premised on the idea that “when you hurt, I hurt too” — life will be uncomfortable.
The third mechanism is rationalization — that is, persuading yourself that what is happening is normal. This reduces empathy and sensitivity. For example, you think, “They’re all Nazis, it’s okay.” The fact that they are human beings is obscured by this “rational” argument.
The fourth mechanism is hardening. We are going through a collective trauma. Russians [rossiyane, i.e., Russian citizens] throughout the post-Soviet space [sic] are the result of the negative selection that has occurred over the last one hundred years: dekulakization, the Stalinist purges, the Holodomor, the forcible transfer of populations, World War II, the Stalinist crackdowns, the anti-cosmopolitan campaign, the Doctors’ Plot, the Afghan and Chechen wars, and so on. All this leaves scars on the psyche and on people’s behavior. Scar tissue is qualitatively different from normal skin. And while the idea of self-care and letting go of the past is more clearly expressed in the west, people in Russia become callous because they just put up with things: “I can take it,” “I’m no weakling,” “Hit me harder.”
— Do people come to you and say, “I don’t feel anything and I want to fix it”?
— Sensitive people who are trying to live in the midst of all the horror and stress, without turning away from it and disengaging, come to me more often. The complaint “I don’t feel anything” is a more advanced case. A person should not only take note of this, but also understand that it causes them harm. There is this meme:
Decreased sensitivity ultimately complicates life, because it affects both your emotions and your body. It makes your life poorer.
— What should I do if earlier I took a keen interest in the news but now I don’t feel anything — if numbness, as you call it, has set in? Is it worth deliberately reading even more news to make myself feel something?
— You should not specifically trigger [triggerit’] yourself by reading the news, looking at war photos or something like that. This is pointless, because if the “chill” arose due to our unwillingness and inability to see things, then by forcibly increasing the intensity of the stimulus we will only make ourselves feel worse.
What makes sense is gently restoring your sensitivity per se.
How to regain sensitivity Viktor Shiryaev’s advice
Observe the sensations in your body — name them: touching, warm, smooth.
Observe your state of mind — try to name it: tense, calm, flustered, pleased.
Ask yourself how you are doing now more often. Give a specific answer.
Deploy scenarios to wind down the stress cycle: bath/massage, shaking [sheiking], physiological sigh, time with no phone and TV in the company of loved ones and/or in nature, high-quality physical activity.
— So, freezing up is a normal reaction on the part of the psyche? Or is it an occasion to consult with a psychologist?
— Ideally, of course, it should not come to this. So-called preventive medicine is much better than treating a disorder that has already taken hold.
Regular psycho-emotional fitness training — all kinds of methods of skillful self-support, meditation, mindfulness practice, physical training, and therapy — help to ready us for higher psycho-emotional loads. It works the same way as physical exercise: a trained body copes with challenges more easily.
You definitely need to go to specialists when you can’t “ride it out.” They have ways to help you.
— There are situations when one person in a couple, a group of friends or a family avidly watches the news, reacts to it and wants to discuss it, while the others don’t want to delve into anything and go about their business, saying that it doesn’t concern them and they don’t want to get bogged down in other people’s troubles. What should one do when there are different levels of sensitivity and different needs, when it is important for one person to experience and feel, while the other person wants to remain neutral?
— Respect the other’s feelings and needs. Talk about your feelings without trying to convince the other person and prove that your way of doing things is “right.” It is possible that it is only right for you. It is possible that you’re right on principle. But when we feel that we are being attacked, we want to defend ourselves, not to open up to the other person.
Dialogue — the opportunity to be seen, heard and accepted — involves opening up towards each other, thawing out.
— If a person is worried whether everything is okay with them, how can they can validate [validirovat’] their “feeling of insensitivity”?
— Everything that happens to us is normal. Not in the sense of being “good,” but in the sense of that’s how things are. It is normal to “freeze up” in moments of acute stress or amidst prolonged stress, because this is how the self-preservation instinct works.
The self-preservation instinct is much bigger and older than us. Even relatively feeble emotions diminish access to the rational and adult parts of the psyche — we are “captured” by emotions, let alone by truly tragic events.
It is important to understand and accept this, to carefully and gently regain access to your emotions. Not through force, violence and “overriding,” but through a kind attitude, gentleness and love.
The little green van sped down the road, the Russian forces just across the river. Inside, Halyna Luhova, the mayor of Kherson, cradled a helmet in her lap and gazed out the bulletproof window.
When the first shell ripped open, directly in the path of the van, maybe 200 yards ahead, her driver locked his elbows and tightened his grip on the wheel and drove straight through the cloud of fresh black smoke.
“Oh my god,” Ms. Luhova said, as we raced with her through the city. “They’re hunting me.”
The second shell landed even closer.
She’s been almost killed six times. She sleeps on a cot in a hallway. She makes $375 a month, and her city in southern Ukraine has become one of the war’s most pummeled places, fired on by Russian artillery nearly every hour.
But Ms. Luhova, the only female mayor of a major city in Ukraine, remains determined to project a sense of normality even though Kherson is anything but normal. She holds regular meetings — in underground bunkers. She excoriates department heads — for taking too long to set up bomb shelters. She circulates in neighborhoods and chit-chats with residents — whose lives have been torn apart by explosions.
She chalks up any complaints about corruption or mismanagement — and there are plenty — to rumor-mongering by Russian-backed collaborators who are paid to frustrate her administration.
Kherson, a port city on the Dnipro River, was captured by Russian forces in March; liberated by Ukrainian forces in November; and now, three months later, lies nearly deserted. Packs of out-of-school children roam the empty boulevards lined with leafless trees and centuries-old buildings cracked in half.
The Order is a group narrative therapy service. Uncertainty, wars, stress, trauma, isolation — you don’t have to cope with these difficulties in life alone. We’ll help you keep from losing yourself and regain control over your life’s story.
What does group therapy offer?
You reflect on and accept what you have experienced in a safe environment
You sort out the mess of your attitudes and fears
You get the support of professional psychologists and mentors [mentorov]
You see yourself from a new angle — through the eyes and experience of others
You find your own network of supportive people
You improve your communication skills and escape social isolation
You realize the value of your own life and relationships
You gain the inner strength to go on living
Feedback from group members
These art therapy sessions are literally an experiment in collective self-healing using creative improvised means that release everyone’s creative impulses. It’s an incredible experience of uniting people, one so necessary in our strange time. Despite the extreme difficulty of attending online sessions due to the blackouts in Kyiv, I look forward to each one and get ready knowing that I’m going to touch a miracle. The amazing original technique and wonderful company keep my soul warm and light for a long time after. Thank you for being there!
JOURNALIST, WRITER, TEACHER
It’s a very strange feeling doing group therapy on Zoom: it’s like watching a TV series. Kit Loring has so much sincerity and empathy — I couldn’t believe what was happening was real, because I hadn’t met such people before. And the careful way he uses words and his tone were alarming at first. I got used to it over time. I like watching how people open up inside [sic] the session. And if a connection is established with the members of the group, it becomes very easy to trust them and speak openly. You understand that everyone has their own pain, but it’s also familiar to you now or it was familiar in the past.
After the initial sessions, I feel that I’ve started to undergo psychological metamorphoses. Thanks to correctly posed questions and images, I am able to get in touch with experiences and sensitive moments, to “unpack” my emotions. Everything is done as carefully as possible: Kit Loring and the curators create a safe space in which it’s not scary to open up and be heard. I recommend it to everyone who wants to look inside themselves through the prism of creativity and start working with deep experiences using the tools of words, colors and images.
The group sessions with Kit Loring are incredibly fulfilling and healing. It’s like a healing touch. The warmth of understanding spreads throughout the body. It really is like magic. Pulling out your painful experiences, opening up to other people in the group, all of them so different, and helping them too, you become stronger and begin to understand what else you can do with all of it. Complicated events and memories are no longer so complicated and forbidden. And, it seems, I no longer want to cover my eyes with my hands, I want to look into someone else’s eyes.
Due to traumas, it had become difficult for me to create (and often function), but in The Order, unexpectedly, I was pleased to find an accepting online space and validation [validatsiia] of my opinions and experiences. The meetings create a trusting atmosphere and mutual understanding. After the sessions, I have a pleasant feeling of unity with people, albeit strangers. Every time this magic happens in my mind —”Oh, I’m not the only one who feels and thinks like this” — and it’s worth a lot. I recommend these groups if you’re lonely and you find it difficult to talk about your traumas and thoughts with others.
How does it work?
You go through testing that helps you formulate your goals and helps us place you in a mini-group
We break the cohort into small groups. You have your own separate chat and meetings once a week
CONTRACT WITH YOURSELF
Signing a contract with yourself and supporting each other’s efforts is a vital part of the healing
ONLINE SESSIONS EVERY WEEK
The cohort first meets with an expert on Zoom, and then the groups move on to intimate interaction — all this lasts two and a half to three hours
MATERIALS FOR HEALING
Regular exercises designed by our specialists enable you to rethink significant events and attitudes
REWRITING YOUR STORY
Practices and tools, songs, drawing, communication and poems help you process fears and anxieties
SUPPORT AND CARE
You are guided by psychologists and curators to whom you always turn for advice
You rethink difficulties with the healing power of creativity and find your own bearings
Each cohort is led by experienced psychotherapists and psychologists, experts, lecturers and mentors who help you transform your experiences.
Certified British clinical art therapist, clinical supervisor and trainer, member of the British Association of Drama Therapists, co-founder and co-director of the humanitarian art therapy organization Ragamuffin International (South Wales, UK).
Senior expert at Meta, a service for selecting proven psychotherapists. Over 12 years of experience in the field of psychotherapy. Over 8 years of experience as a therapist working with psychological trauma. Over 5 years of experience consulting and evaluating midlevel and senior managers.
CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE
Organizer and leader of art therapy groups and support groups. I use an integrative approach in my work, relying on both research and cultural aspects. Lecturer for several youth organizations, designer of psychological games. Over five years of experience working with trauma.
JOURNALIST, REPORTER AND FILMMAKER
A star of American journalism who has worked for the world’s best publications — The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times Magazine. He has twice received the Peabody Award, one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in journalism, and his bestseller There Are No Children Here was included in a list of the 150 most influential books of the twentieth century.
JOURNALIST, REPORTER, WRITER
He became famous for his debut book about the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, one of the bloodiest in the history of mankind. For more than 30 years, he has been telling poignant stories from all over the world, has received dozens of professional awards and has written four books. He has been published in The New Yorker and edited the magazine The Paris Review.
ART MENTOR, CONTEMPORARY ARTIST, CURATOR
Lecturer at the Moscow School of Contemporary Art (MSCA) and the British Higher School of Art & Design (BHSAD). Did her master’s at Saint Martins. Collaborated with the Tate Museum in London. Zhanna’s projects have been exhibited at Saatchi, Tate Modern, Kochi Biennale, Moscow Biennale, Cube and many other venues. Her works are in the collection of the Russian Museum and private collections around the world.
We were discussing the connection between narrative and trauma, and a female colleague of mine asked why we reassemble our identity after traumatic events. Why do we give up our previous identity? I found the comments of the other participants very interesting.
Many of the responses focused on the fact that the reassembling one’s identity is necessary, because otherwise the unprocessed trauma would begin to burst out in unexpected places, and you would feel it pulling you down. Along with this, the question arose: Can an identity be false? Here, the answers focused on the fact that self-deception won’t help, because you know the truth. Many of the participants concluded that false identity = problems that (do not) express themselves in reality and that poison life.
I thought about this discussion for a long time (I don’t always manage to get involved in the moment), and the responses made me ask even more questions:
Do I know the truth about what has happened and is happening to me?
If for some reason I decide to create a “false” identity for myself, then maybe it functions after all? And if it does function, then how?
First: Do I know the truth about what has happened and is happening to me?
I can say with confidence that I am aware of what has happened to me in my life, when it happened, and how it happened like no one else. It is on this understanding that I string together my narrative about myself. But to be honest, some of the stories that I know about myself in detail I either relate to others and sometimes to myself in abridged form, or I change the conclusions that I had once come to.
Sometimes my conclusions change in the process of growing up, which means that the truth can also be flexible. And it doesn’t happen because I cannot or do no want to be honest with myself or with others. Everything I tell is my truth, what I know myself. But some of the events in my life are imprinted in my memory, as if I saw them from the outside, and some through the eyes of my parents, while still other stories I remember vaguely.
Is it possible in this case to talk about a division between true and false narratives, even if I am not sure myself where the boundaries of truth lie?
Second: If for some reason I create a “false” identity for myself, then maybe it functions after all?
I will give the stupidest example on the planet. It’s from the TV series Hunters, which I decided to watch to take my mind off things.
Attention: there will be a spoiler next, which will be highlighted in color in the newsletter.
TW: The Holocaust
The Hunters live in the US in the 1970s and catch Nazis who somehow escaped punishment and live new lives under assumed names. One of the central characters of the series is Meyer Offerman, a former concentration camp inmate and the leader of the Hunters. At the end of the first season, it transpires that Offerman has been impersonated by Wilhelm Zuchs, a Nazi doctor from Auschwitz. After Soviet troops liberated the camp, Zuchs was imprisoned, but was able to escape. He killed the real Offerman, had plastic surgery and started a “new life.” According to Zuchs-Offerman, he “lived like a Jew and became a Jew”: he went to synagogue, learned the language, and read the Torah. As he himself claims, he understands that he cannot atone for his crimes, but neither is he any longer the Nazi he once was.
End of spoiler
Can at least one of the identities we have be false? We might have been different one, two, three years ago, and this doesn’t limit our potential for change. How do we recognize when we’re lying to ourselves? Or not to ourselves, but to others, if this lie doesn’t reinforce the narrative we have already constructed? And why can’t a story that might seem untrue to someone be your story? Who has the last say in determining the veracity of someone’s identity?
I don’t have clear answers to this question. What’s more, I am sure that these questions should be regularly addressed and we should check whether the answers we’ve already given still work. I myself have delved into this discussion to set in motion the already nearly ossified answers in my head. I think checking whether our beliefs correspond to reality is a good exercise for each of us. And here as well an attempt to catch oneself out in a lie might become an artificial restriction on change.
Perhaps the trauma needs to be lived through, perhaps the identity may be false. And yet, I don’t believe that while traumatic events are still ongoing any of us can make definite judgments about our own or someone else’s identity and its truth.
Whether you do a “good job” of living throughh your personal and social traumatic events is up to you to decide, just as it’s up to you evaluate your narratives about yourself. But this doesn’t dissolve us of responsibility for the ethical choices (and their consequences) that I/we make every day.
Source: Dasha Manzhura, Anti-War Newsletter #347 (DOXA), 13 February 2023. Ms. Manzhura is an editor at DOXA. Translated by the Russian Reader
My name is Daniil Orain. I’m a YouTuber from Russia, and I run the channel 1420. In my videos, I try to create a montage of everyday Russians and a transparent representation of what they believe.
Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, people from all over the world have come to my channel to try and understand how Russians think.
Before I started the channel about 2 years ago, I had some skewed thoughts about the world.
At the time, I was working as a software engineer with a three-hour commute, and my perspectives changed when I began to watch on-the-street interviews with people in faraway cities during those rides. Those videos showed me how people from different places and cultures thought, and they played a big part in my self-education.
I started to wonder: Why isn’t there something like this on YouTube but with people from Russia, like me? That’s when my friend and I created 1420.
People often ask me for the story behind the channel’s name, but there’s no secret meaning. It’s just the name of the school we went to together. Our whole goal with the channel was to go out on the streets of Moscow and ask people questions that interested us — things like, “Do you believe in God?” or, “What do you think about Americans?”
When the conflict in Ukraine began, we suddenly saw a huge increase in viewers.
Our increase came from around the world — not just Europe and America, which had been our main audience. With the increase in viewership, I decided to double down and try to publish videos daily.
To get enough material for a full video, we have to ask a large number of people. Given the nature of our topics at the moment, a lot of people decline to participate.
When shooting the Zelenskyy video, for example, we had 124 people decline to answer. Only 28 people agreed. Even when they do agree, they often hold back from giving their full thoughts.
Making these videos is risky, but we haven’t had any problems so far.
Unlike with TikTok and Instagram, access to YouTube is still normal in Russia. In the videos, I’ve always muted certain words (but kept the subtitles) to avoid censorship.
For example, you’re not allowed to say “war” when referring to the situation in Ukraine. We have to say “secret operation” instead. So if someone does say “war,” we mute that word.
Some people in the comments have accused me of being a Russian propaganda channel, so I’ve had to find new ways to show that I’m not. For example, in one recent video, we blurred the faces and changed the voices of the people in it so that they could be honest without fear of repercussions. Also, we started showing longer continuous clips of the interviews so that the viewers didn’t think we purposely cut them to tell a certain narrative.
I have seen a change in how people view not only our channel since the war started — but also our participants.
Just recently, the comments on my YouTube videos said things like, “Russians are just like us.” But as the situation in Ukraine has progressed, they now tend to be more like: “Russians are brainwashed.”
I’m glad people are watching the videos because I know from my experience how helpful YouTube can be. We’re lucky to be able to learn online.
You’ll notice that in my videos, there’s a pretty clear divide between the answers coming from people who grew up in Soviet times and the younger people. When the older generations were growing up, they got their education only from books or teachers — they didn’t have access to the world like people my age do. The position that I’m in, running this channel, wouldn’t have even existed back then.
Today, you can learn things from websites, videos, and even comments.
Just last week, on one of my own videos, one viewer wrote: “You are not scared, not because you are fearless, but because you just haven’t been scared yet.”
That blew my mind. I know what I’m doing is risky, but maybe I don’t feel worried about it because I’ve never actually been that worried. But at the same time, I’m just the storyteller. A lot of people direct-message me asking for my opinion on various topics, but I don’t answer them.
I see my role as being the person who helps tell people’s stories, and I’ll continue to do so to show how and what Russians feel.