The Fix Is In: “Killing Your Children’s Future”

Polling Station 475, Kletnya, Bryansk Region:
“A member of the [election] commission, [her head] covered with a hood, tosses bundles of ballots for the party of the beloved President [into the ballot box]. That’s how they’re killing your future and your children’s future.”

The Fix Is In (Social Distancing)

More evidence that #TheFixIsIn in the 2021 Russian elections, this time from Novaya Gazeta via election observers from A Just Russia party: “The head of the Central Elections Commission, Ella Pamfilova, said that the three-day voting is necessary so that voters can observe social distancing. These are photos of Polling Station No. 343, in Petersburg’s Vyborg district, in the middle of a working day.”

 

The Fix Is In

Ballot box stuffing in Petersburg, captured on video by Irina Fatyanova and published by the indispensable Mediazona: “This video from Petersburg shows a man in a medical mask and a cap coming out of a curtained booth and having a hard time shoving a pack of ballots into the ballot box.”

From the Lives of the People


George Losev
Facebook
September 14, 2021

I chatted with an 86-year-old woman while I was changing the power outlet on her kitchen stove. She was from a village near Vologda and still pronounced her unstressed o’s as full o’s. She worked for 58 years on construction sites. She started working in ’54 or ’55. She worked for three years as an unskilled laborer, then for eight years as a painter before making the switch to plastering.

“I really liked this work. But then everything fell apart, and anyone could get the job. If you could hold a brush, you could go to work as a painter.”

If I understood her correctly, she said that, in the fifties, sixties and seventies, without a specialized education, it was impossible to get a job anywhere except as a helper.

She said that they had lived quite poorly, that the foreman earned 15 rubles a month. I didn’t understand how this could be and so I expressly asked her again, and she confirmed what she’d said.

In the seventies, the planning got better, and life became easier. But she had still spent her entire life “in poverty.”

“My legs began to give out, and I was forbidden to work. Otherwise I would have kept working. I was already used to this being how things were, that we were working stiffs and this was how we lived.”

Her husband also worked on construction sites, as a finisher. She has a daughter. She lives in her son-in-law’s two-room apartment, renting out one of the rooms. Despite her obvious and visible poverty, the apartment was very clean. She tried to pay me generously, but I didn’t take any money.

We started talking about migrants. She said they were good, hard-working, polite people. They always helped her, carried her groceries. Migrants had saved her life after she had her first or second stroke, which had happened outside. Russians had walked on by, but “Georgians or migrants, basically two non-Russians” had come to her aid, telephoning an ambulance and waiting with her.

“I don’t want to badmouth migrants. I just wonder where our people are, Russians? Have they really all retired? Or don’t they want to work?”

George Losev is a housing authority electrician, veteran grassroots activist and DIY football enthusiast in Petersburg. Thanks to Jeremy Morris for helpful comments on the translation. Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

Navalny’s Musicians

13 musicians not allowed to perform at City Day concert in Moscow due to support for Navalny
The Village
Tasya Elfimova
September 11, 2021

The Federal Protective Service (FSO) did not allow several musicians to perform at a concert in honor of City Day in Moscow due to their alleged support of Alexei Navalny.

Sergei Sobyanin and Vladimir Putin were planning to attend the celebration, so the FSO vetted the lists of performers in advance. The FSO did not admit thirteen people to the performance without explaining the reasons. Dmitry Klyuyev, an employee of the State Academic Chapel Choir, believes that it happened because the musicians were in the leaked databases of Alexei Navalny’s projects or had taken part in protest rallies.

Four employees of the chapel choir, three people from the Svetlanov State Orchestra and six people from the team of directors were removed from the concert.

“The organizers are in shock, no one has explained anything to them,” Klyuyev said.

Source: OVD Info

Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexander Gudkov, “Aquatic Disco,” a song inspired by Alexei Navalny’s revelations that the blueprints for “Putin’s palace” contained a room labeled as such

Moscow Police Use Leaked Personal Data To Investigate Navalny Supporters
RFE/RL Russian Service
August 18, 2021

Moscow police are using leaked online personal data from projects linked to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny to investigate people who have supported the Kremlin critic.

The OVD Info website said on August 17 that police had visited some 20 individuals who registered for online projects developed by Navalny associates or donated to Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his other projects.

According to OVD Info, police are demanding explanations from the people as to how their names were included in the leaked data related to Navalny’s online projects and why they are involved with him.

In June, a court in Moscow labeled FBK and Navalny’s other projects and groups extremist and banned them. Under Russian law, cooperation with such groups is considered illegal and may lead to criminal prosecution.

Police have not said how they obtained the people’s personal data from Navalny’s websites.

One person, who was not identified, told OVD Info that police asked him to file a legal complaint against Navalny to accuse him of sharing personal data.

Journalist and municipal lawmaker Ilya Azar, whose personal data was among those leaked, wrote on Telegram late on August 17 that police had tried to visit him as well, but he was not at home.

“They talked to [my] neighbors about some personal data leaked on the Internet,” Azar wrote.

One such leak took place in April, when the online campaign called “Freedom to Navalny” was reportedly compromised.

Navalny associates said at the time that a former FBK worker had “stolen” all the personal data of those who registered at the pro-Navalny site.

After that leak, the Moscow [subway] fired dozens of workers whose personal data turned up among the names of Navalny supporters.

 

Band Practice

Drivers, workers, and policemen play in the Uglich recreation center’s brass band. The vocalist hosts a children’s program on local television, while the drummer performs as Father Frost at New Year’s celebrations.

Most of the musicians played in the October Club Brass Band as children, and the current ensemble is named the Sysoyev Pop and Brass Band in memory of Alexander Sysoyev, who came to town in 1945, after the war, and organized it. When they grew up, the children went to the army, most often serving in military bands, and if they returned to Uglich, they continued to play. There were two brass bands in the city – at the watch factory and at the engineering works.

In the nineties, the factories shut down and the bands broke up: the musicians were not up to playing music, many of them were just trying to survive. A new band featuring the old musicians was formed in the early noughties thanks to the city’s mayor, Eleonora Sheremetyeva.

The band rehearses in the rec center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and sometimes performs in towns for local residents. We hear the stories of the musicians in this documentary film by Yulia Vishnevetskaya, Renato Serrano and Nikita Tatarsky.

“On the corner was the October Club, also called 30 Years of the Komsomol Club. There was a brass band on the second floor, led by Alexander Pavlovich Sysoev. He would recruit us kids. People worked at the watch factory. I ended up in the assembly shop: I assembled watches. The team consisted of forty young women and little old me. It was a great place to work. I worked on the ‘action’: that was one of the jobs.”

“I started leading the band in the late 80s. After a while I went into business and didn’t play for more than ten years, but fate put me back in touch with the band and I returned. I have a transport company. In the mornings, I dispatch cars and buses to places, and sometimes I get behind the wheel myself, and in the evenings I go to practice. Of course, the world of music and the world of transport are completely different things. I don’t usually get distracted when I’m here. You go off into the world of music, and the outside world is somewhere far away: you are only making music… Previously, there were two bands, at the watch factory and at the engineering works. Then, in the early nineties, the factories fell apart. All the musicians came together in a single band: some came from the watch factory, some from the engineering works, someone from somewhere else , someone from the police. Like in Shufutinsky’s song, we have a jazz band, only there is no dentist.”

“I worked in the militia [the previous name for the Russian police] for twenty-five years, and then transferred to the police in 2011 [meaning, when it was renamed]. I might have retired already, but I have a kid to educate, and we pay for his tuition. I do forensic examinations: I’m qualified to analyze fingerprints, trace evidence, and bladed weapons. I hadn’t picked up an instrument for seventeen years. I listened to the band play once, twice, and I thought that I also used to know all this stuff. It was a good thing that the band believed me and let me join. I had to look around on Avito for a horn just like the one I had before. I took the bus to Moscow to buy it… I don’t remember the thefts, but I do remember the murders, of course. There was a cruel murder: a man was hacked with an axe. I can talk about it because the trial has happened. The man didn’t have a head: it was in two pieces. Then a man was strangled. We found the criminal through fingerprints. Bottles were confiscated, and I found handprints and fingerprints on them, which we ran through the computer. The computer doesn’t do things as quickly as in the movies. They’re just fooling people: it’s not comparable. If they showed the way it really worked, no one would watch them. It’s very painstaking work. They brought me several boxes of bottles. I had to process each one of them — lift the prints from them, weed out the witnesses and victims who could have drunk from those bottles. Consequently, we found the people who strangled him in the woods: they had a conflict. Traces are always left behind: trace scents, body oil and sweat, DNA. If there are no fingerprints, there are shoe prints, tire prints, traces left by burglary tools. I have twenty years of experience… People aren’t lined up to replace me. People retire, but there’s no one to replace them. People can’t take it: they’re not machines. I come here and play, so it seems I want to go on living. The negative effects of work build up all the same. When I perform I get goosebumps, honestly. If I have goosebumps, it means we’ve played well.”

Source: Radio Svoboda. Photos of the Sysoyev Pop and Brass Band courtesy of Uglich-Online. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

The War on Terror in Russia

Mother-in-law of Rostov woman who left Russia to avoid criminal charges denied custody of her children, who are left in orphanage
Mediazona
September 6, 2021

The administration of Rostov-on-Don’s Lenin District has formally denied a request by the grandmother of the children of Rostov resident Alyona Sukhikh to take custody of them and collect them from an orphanage in Taganrog. Mediazona has a copy of the refusal at its disposal.

Mediazona has previously written in detail about the case. In the spring of 2021, 33-year-old Alyona Sukhikh was accused of financing terrorism: according to investigators, eight years ago, she transferred 2,360 rubles [approx. 27 euros] to a militant who was going to go to Syria to join Islamic State, an officially recognized terrorist organization.

Soon after the criminal case was launched, Sukhikh left for Turkey along with her youngest child and her husband. Her mother-in-law, Ekaterina Sadulayeva, was supposed to take the remaining children to them. The police took the children — a ten-year-old boy and two girls aged six and five — from their grandmother and placed them in an orphanage in Taganrog.

Sadulayeva tried to arrange preliminary custody of the children even before they were removed, but the local authorities dragged their feet, according to her. After the children had been taken away and placed in the orphanage, the pensioner was refused custody. Officials cited the fact that she is the biological grandmother of only one of the girls. Also, she does not have a residence registration permit for Rostov-on-Don, and her living conditions are allegedly “unpropitious.”

Among the reasons for the refusal, a letter from the local FSB field office was also cited: the security forces claimed that the grandmother had tried to “illegally remove the children from the Rostov region.”

Alyona Sukhikh has told Mediazona that other close family members would now seek custody of the children.

Ilmira Bikbayeva

Ufa court sentences pensioner to probation for financing extremism: she transferred six thousand rubles to political prisoner’s mother
Takie Dela
September 6, 2021

Idel.Realii reports that Ufa’s October District Court of Ufa has sentenced pensioner Ilmira Bikbayeva to three years of probation for financing extremism: the woman had transferred money to the family of political prisoner Ayrat Dilmukhametov.

According to the FSB’s Bashkiria field office, Bikbayeva made two payments to the bank card of Dilmukhametov’s mother in the amounts of 1,500 and 4,500 rubles [approx. 17 euros and 52 euros, respectively] in 2018 and 2019.  According to the security forces, Bikbayeva thus “provided funds deliberately earmarked for the preparation and commission of extremist crimes by Dilmukhametov.”

Investigators also concluded that Bikbayeva had supported Dilmukhametov by publishing materials on Facebook aimed at raising money for extremist crimes.

A criminal case was opened against Bikbayeva on suspicions of financing extremism, and the charge was filed in December 2020. The pensioner admitted no wrongdoing. According to her, she was helping Dilmukhametov’s mother, who experienced financial difficulties after her son’s arrest.

Bikbaeva explained that, in 2018, she transferred money to pay for a trip by Dilmukhametov and her father, the Bashkir writer Zigat Sultanov, to the village of Sunarchi in the Orenburg region, where they were supposed to erect a monument to victims of the genocide of the Bashkir population in May 1736. The second transfer was made as Bikbayeva’s contribution to the installation of the memorial.

Bikbayeva noted that she made the transfers after Dilmukhametov had been arrested. He was in solitary confinement and, as the pensioner said, could not have engaged in extremism.

The FSB detained Dilmukhametov on March 14, 2019, charging him with calling for separatism. The occasion was his on-air statement, broadcast on the radio station Echo of Moscow in Ufa, that it was necessary to create a “Fourth Bashkir Republic.” In April 2019, Dilmukhametov was charged with publicly calling for extremism and terrorism. In January 2020, charges of financing extremist activities were filed for a post on VKontakte containing the details of his mother’s bank card.

In August 2020, Dilmukhametov was sentenced to nine years in a maximum security penal colony.

Photo courtesy of RFE/RL. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Depths

This is a map of the Petersburg subway, by Alexei Goncharov, showing the depth (in meters) and construction type (“single-vault,” etc.) of each station. The deepest station is Admiralteyskaya, at 86 meters, in downtown Petersburg. The station, which opened in 2011, has a troubled history. For many years, it was a “ghost” station, briefly glimpsed during the long dark transit from Sadovaya to Sportivnaya. Image courtesy of Natalia Yuda and St. Petersburg Photo Diary.

Bad Memories, Unpopular Opinions, Wacky Icons

September 8, 2018
I don’t care what they call themselves or what names they are called — liberals, intellectuals, anarchists, communists, socialists, plain old good people — but given the utter silencing of the topic of Syria in the provisionally anti-Putin grassroots and political discourse in Russia, it is difficult to see these various democratic and progressive forces as a force per se, and even more so as a force for good and renewal. The full picture of what is happening nowadays includes the bombing of Idlib, and not only the beloved “social agenda” vis-a-vis the unpopular pension reform, if only because the regime has had to find the money for the bombs, missiles and planes in people’s pockets. But everyone keeps their lips sealed, not realizing that cowardice on this occasion is read as cowardice on all occasions among “the common folk” that they are perpetually trying to save.

September 8, 2017
“However, his new position as head of the local police will not bring the main character the peace for whose sake he pursued it. After the opening of an oil refinery, the city is plunged into the chaos of crime. Attempts to deal with the oil company lead to disastrous consequences for his entire family. The tragedy forces the hero to compromise his principles and set out on the path of revenge.”

September 8, 2016
From the annals of Russian pollocracy, which I’ve decided to redub poleaxeocracy.

File this one under “aiding and comforting the enemy.”

Stalin was “quite popular,” too. God only knows how that ended up.

In any case, “being popular” and “good governance” are two entirely different things.

It’s strange how much capital of all kinds has been spent over the past 17 years to convince the Russian people and everyone else this isn’t the case.

So if US researchers really were wasting their time trying to figure out whether Putin is “in fact popular,” this only goes to show . . .

What? That either the researchers have fallen for this stupidity or they think Russians are degenerate morons.

There are no circumstances under which you can objectively determine whether Putin is “in fact popular,” because the question itself is irrelevant.

It’s like asking people whether they think Michael Corleone is “really handsome.”

Michael Corleone’s job is not “being handsome.” It’s running the Corleone mob.

Greg Yudin
September 8, 2016
A wonderful story. I have just been sent confirmation of my text yesterday about the Levada Center of a sort that I couldn’t have hoped for.

If you remember, the Justice Ministry has been hassling the Levada Center over a study conducted jointly with the University of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin is somehow supported by the Pentagon, and from this it follows that Pentagon money directly lands in the pocket of the Levadovites, who in return report secrets about Russian public opinion. We won’t bother discussing this paranoia, so let’s move on.

The joint project with Wisconsin most likely refers to the research that Scott Gelbach from Wisconsin did with the Levada Center’s involvement. A colleague sent me an article on this research that has just been published. Actually, the goal of Gelbach, Timothy Frye from Columbia University and their team was to find out “Is Putin’s popularity real?” (as their article is entitled). They needed the Levada Center as a partner for conducting an “experiment” as part of a public opinion poll. In this experiment, they wanted to rule out the “fear factor” on the part of the respondents. (I’ll be writing a separate post about the “experiment.”) As a result of the experiment, it transpired that “Putin is in fact quite popular.” Moreover, they claim that, in reality, Putin’s ratings, per their experiment, may even be somewhat underestimated due to “artificial deflation.”

Once again, read these lines: the authorities want to shut down the Levada Center because of a study that claims that Putin is “in fact” even more popular than people think!

And not just claims, but informs the whole world about it in perfect English. I wonder if the Anti-Maidan movement knows about this?

September 8, 2016
“So begins a yearlong series of plays chronicling Russian leaders.”

Enough already. I’d like to hear a play or program about the history of Portugal or Mali or Ecuador or Malaysia.

BBC Radio 4 and all the other high-tone media outlets in the so-called western world have so-called Russian history and culture coming out of their ears and noses.

This only works to the advantage of the Putinists, because, almost without exception, these various “serious” entertainments and furrowed-brow documentaries and exposés simply reinforce the tired home truths (i.e., lies) about Russia’s history and present that the regime itself is fond of shoving down everyone’s throats. Not to mention the fact that getting so much attention satisfies the vanity of the Russian powers that be.

But really, there is a big, big world out there we’d like to hear about more often. A world without Putin and “Russia.”

September 8, 2015
Over-the-top late-Soviet “ritual” lacquered panels, commissioned by the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism in Leningrad in the early nineteen-eighties, and brilliantly and flawlessly executed by a group of six “retooled” icon painters from the village of Mstyora, near Suzdal, a place famed for its distinctive school of icon and lacquered box painting.

Although the panels were officially commissioned, they have not been exhibited until now, apparently. Head to the revamped Museum of the History of Religion (nowadays, sans the atheism) in downtown Petersburg to check them out.

Photos by Comrade Koganzon. Translated, where necessary, by the Russian Reader

The Doubles

The powers that be in Petersburg (i.e., Putin’s United Russia party) have decided to confuse voters by running two candidates named “Boris Vishnevsky” against the popular liberal city councilman Boris Vishnevsky, pictured on the far right, who is running for re-election on September 19. The two fake candidates (who were known as Alexei Shemlyov and Viktor Bykov before the current campaign and, presumably, will resume their real identities after it) have now also grown beards and mustaches to further muddle Petersburg voters, who will have this poster to look at in their polling stations when they vote in two weeks. As the real Boris Vishnevsky points out, above, it also appears that the photos of his doppelgangers have been retouched to heighten their resemblance to him. ||| TRR