A statue of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov was unveiled Monday in St. Petersburg, despite criticism from his widow who said today’s Russia has failed her husband.
The 10 1/2-foot bronze statue depicts the Nobel peace laureate, slightly stooped but with his head held high, standing with hands tied behind his back atop a stone pedestal on a square that was named after him in 1996.
The monument by sculptor Levon Lazarev’s was unveiled a few weeks after a city commission in Moscow gave the green light to a stalled plan for another statue of Sakharov in the capital.
Yelena Bonner was opposed to both statues, saying Russia has failed to live up to Sakharov’s ideals of freedom and democracy since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
“It is out of place to erect a monument to Sakharov in today’s Russia,″ the Interfax news agency quoted Bonner as saying. She said she was not consulted.
“There’s no money to publish his works widely, so that people would finally read them, but they can put up a monument,″ Bonner told Russia’s TVS television by phone from Boston, where she lives.
The unveiling drew about 100 people, among them intellectuals and former dissidents who supported a transition to democracy at the time of the Soviet collapse.
A physicist who helped design the Soviet hydrogen bomb, Sakharov became a staunch promoter of human rights and world peace, and spent seven years in internal exile for speaking out. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
A Little Song about the Physicist Sakharov
The physicist Sakharov
Was one bad dude.
Oh, how he made us seethe!
Why do we suffer that fool?
It later suddenly transpired
That he was a real good cat.
We felt sorry for the poor man
And guiltily ate our hats.
Now it’s been ascertained
That he was bad news after all.
We’re seething once again.
Why did we suffer that fool?
If again it turns out
That he was, in fact, a good egg,
Ah, we'll regret it again,
And put on guilty mugs.
8 August 2022
Source: German Lukomnikov, “New Poems,” Volga 1 (2023). Thanks to ES for the suggestion. Translated by the Russian Reader
Russian prosecutors on Monday declared as “undesirable” the U.S.-based foundation that preserves the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov as Moscow continues to crack down on dissent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The activities of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation (ASF) “constitute a threat to the foundation of Russia’s constitutional order and security,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said in a statement.
Under Russian law, individuals believed to have cooperated with an “undesirable” international NGO face steep fines and jail terms.
ASF, based in Springfield, Virginia outside Washington, says its goal is to promote Sakharov’s works to “support peace efforts and anti-war events.”
The organization chaired by mathematician Alexei Semyonov has not yet commented on Russia’s latest designation.
Russian authorities have declared more than 70 organizations — including media outlets focused on exposing fraud and corruption in Russia — “undesirable” between mid-2015 and early 2023.
Sakharov, once feted as a hero of the Soviet defense industry for his role in developing the Soviet nuclear bomb, became one of the U.S.S.R.’s most prominent dissidents from the late 1960s.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his work against the nuclear arms race he had helped precipitate, though he was not permitted to leave the Soviet Union to accept the award.
Sakharov became one of the most distinctive personalities of the perestroika era, rising to the status of a national moral authority.
Arrested in 1980 after denouncing the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Sakharov was sent into internal exile in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, then closed to foreigners.
After six years in exile, during which he undertook several hunger strikes, Sakharov was released over a telephone call by reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
So much for the idea of not giving a platform to out-and-out fascists like Alexander Dugin, whose “academic” credentials are borne out by serious-sounding nonsense like the following, as found in Last War of the World-Island and translated by John Bryant:
In all the principal parameters, the Russian Federation is the geopolitical heir to the preceding historical, political, and social forms that took shape around the territory of the Russian plain: Kievan Rus, the Golden Horde, the Muscovite Czardom, the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union. This continuity is not only territorial, but also historical, social, spiritual, political, and ethnic. From ancient times, the Russian government began to form in the Heartland, gradually expanding, until it occupied the entire Heartland and the zones adjoining it. The spatial expansion of Russian control over Eurasian territories was accompanied by a parallel sociological process: the strengthening in Russian society of “land-based” social arrangements, characteristic of a civilization of the continental type. The fundamental features of this civilization are:
• conservatism; • holism; • collective anthropology (the narod is more important than the individual);
• sacrifice; • an idealistic orientation; • the values of faithfulness, asceticism, honor, and loyalty.
Sociology, following Sombart, calls this a “heroic civilization.” According to the sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, it is the ideal sociocultural system. This sociological trait was expressed in various political forms, which had a common denominator: the constant reproduction of civilizational constants and basic values, historically expressed in different ways. The political system of Kievan Rus differs qualitatively from the politics of the Horde, and that, in turn, from the Muscovite Czardom. After Peter I, the political system sharply changed again, and the October Revolution of 1917 also led to the emergence of a radically new type of statehood. After the collapse of the USSR there arose on the territory of the Heartland another government, again differing from the previous ones: today’s Russian Federation.
But throughout Russian political history, all these political forms, which have qualitative differences and are founded on different and sometimes directly contradictory ideological principles, had a set of common traits. Everywhere, we see the political expression of the social arrangements characteristic of a society of the continental, “land-based,” heroic type. These sociological peculiarities emerged in politics through the phenomenon that the philosopher-Eurasianists of the 1920s called “ideocracy.” The ideational model in the sociocultural sphere, as a general trait of Russian society throughout its history, was expressed in politics as ideocracy, which also had different ideological forms, but preserved a vertical, hierarchical, “messianic” structure of government.
Alexander Kharichev, head of the Presidential Department for Supporting the Work of the State Council, and three other experts have published a scholarly article entitled “Perception of basic values, factors, and structures of Russia’s socio-historical development, as based on research and testing.” As part of the study, seventy people from the student bodies of Moscow State University and the Higher School of Economics and the teaching staff of a conference in Sevastopol [sic] were interviewed. Among the metaphors of the future they proposed was the burnt second volume of Dead Souls; among the concepts of the modern state, “the Motherland with a laser sword”; among the concepts of the future, “Russia as the world’s ‘guardian of good” and “Pasty” [sic: “Pirozhok”]. The authors concluded that the dominant value for the Russian family is the people of Russia, which itself is a “family of families.”
Mr. Kharichev’s co-authors were Andrei Shutov, dean of the faculty of political science at Moscow State University; Andrei Polosin, doctor of political science and head of Rosatom’s regional interaction department; and Ekaterina Sokolova, deputy executive director for strategy and forecasting at the Expert Institute for Social Research. The article was published in October in the Journal of Political Studies.
The study was conducted by means of group discussions from March to May. The seventy participants answered questions about what Russian statehood is, what would happen to the country in ten years, what our future is, and a number of others.
Based on the discussions, the researchers formed a five-level “pentabasis”: person—family—society—state—country. Dominant values were formed for each level. For the country, [this dominant value] is patriotism; for the state, it is trust in the institutions of power; for the family, it is the people of Russia; for society, it is harmony; for the person, it is creativity. “The thesis was voiced that European society is individualistic, whereas our main value is family + family with friends, which leads to the emergence of the thesis ‘family as a level.’ The dominant value: the people of the Russian Federation as a family of families. Stimulating the birth rate and the concept of a ‘big family,’ the article says [just as incoherently in the original as in this translation].
Metaphors of Russia’s future. “The state as a novel” (written collectively by citizens, it has alternative endings); “the Russian future as the second part of Dead Souls, burned by Gogol,” “the state as the Firebird.”
Concepts of the modern state. “[The] Motherland with a laser sword” (a source of pride for the Russian spirit and a guide to the future), “the friendly service state.”
Messianic concepts of the future state. “Russia as a ‘prophet country’ (opposed to the Grand Inquisitor), “Russia as the world guardian, the ‘guardian of good.'”
Idealistic concepts of the future state. “Wondrous City” ([i.e., promoting] inclusivity, coexistence, acceptance of others as equals; “in no case to be confused with the term ‘tolerance'”), “Pasty” (harmoniously combines different things).
Mechanistic concepts of the future state. “Kaleidoscope” (a multifaceted future), “a medium-sized magnet state” (generates a field for a particular community).
The study participants concluded that the person in the “Russia of the Future” is “proud of his country, influential and highly employable, financially secure, [and] free within certain community rules.” According to the authors of the article, the ideas of self-realization in the Russian Federation are very different from those common in the Western world.
“In the Russian case, self-realization or mission means that an individual contributes to the country’s development. Capitalizing [on one’s] mission is an optional stage,” the authors write.
Almost a fifth of households in Moscow and St. Petersburg, even those with average incomes, regularly resort to the services of female domestic workers. Most often they need help around the house, as well as looking after the elderly and children. In most cases, Russians from the region where the employers reside are hired to do this work. A study by researchers at HSE and RANEPA shows that hired female household labor, which is considered a non-essential form of employment, is a vital part of urban economies.
The first attempt in Russia to define the scale of wage labor in households in Russia’s megalopolises, the research study was based on a survey of residents of those cities who over the past three years have employed other people to do work usually performed by family members. Three thousand eight hundred people took part in the survey; their phone numbers were selected using systematic stratified random sampling. The results of the survey are unusual: although Russians generally believe that housekeepers, domestic help, and hired staff in a household involves a high family income and migrant labor and is a rare thing, it is, in reality, a fairly common practice among middle-income households in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and it is residents of the two capitals who are mainly hired to do such work.
First of all, hiring third parties to perform work in the household is a widespread practice in Russia’s two largest cities.
According to the survey results, female workers were employed by seventeen percent of households. Formally, men are employed by households much more. In fact, respondents were asking about paid employment in the household, including for such types of work as renovations and repairs, where men predominated. (Twenty-eight percent of the households surveyed had hired male hands.) Among “household chores,” “female” specializations were also discovered that would ordinarily not be thought of as “domestic help” — tutoring, primarily. In any case, seventeen percent of Moscow and Petersburg families employed female labor in households, a figure that dropped to around seven to eight percent when tutoring and repairs were factored out. Even with this proviso, however, the phenomenon goes beyond “elite consumption for the wealthy few.”
This also shows that, according to the survey data, most of the households (61%) who employed female workers estimated their incomes as average. When answering the standard question about their income (used, among others, by Rosstat in its questionnaires), they indicated that they had enough money for food, clothing, and household appliances. Twenty-three percent of respondents rated their incomes as high (in particular, as sufficient to buy a car or more) while sixteen percent rated them as low, since they were only enough to buy food. Thus, hired domestic workers are the preserve of the middle class rather than the income elite.
The prevalence of foreign nationals or, at least, migrant workers from other regions of Russia, among domestic workers has also been greatly exaggerated. According to the survey, almost two thirds (64%) of households that purchase women’s services [sic] in the household give jobs to women permanently residing in Moscow or St. Petersburg, where they themselves live.
Only in fourteen percent of households in the two cities was the employed woman a Russian national from another region, and in sixteen percent, a foreign national. (No breakdown by nationality is given.)
However, this fact is well known within the households and is clearly discussed by them. Only six percent of respondents who had dealings with female domestic workers were not aware whether she was a Muscovite [sic], a nonresident, or a foreign national.
Of course, households most often hired residents of their own region as tutors. Among domestic migrants this type of employment was two and a half times less common, while it was practically nonexistent among foreign women. At the same time, foreign women were twice as likely to be hired to do housework as Russian women, both local and migrant. However, domestic workers in the strict sense of the term — that is, those doing “housework” (cleaning, laundry, cooking, caring, and looking after children)— are still Muscovites and Petersburgers in most cases; residents of Krasnoyarsk and Samarkand [that is, domestic and foreign migrant workers, respectively] are in the minority. The authors of the study suggest that children are a “sensitive” area for households, and local women have in this instance an advantage over migrants: households are less likely to “trust” the latter. (The authors of the study avoid reaching an alternative conclusion: that this choice is a consequence of the phobias experienced by a significant part of the middle class towards migrants — phobias that are commonly denied in the middle-class milieu, as least in Moscow.)
Residents of other regions and countries are preferred only as caregivers, and the share of this type of employment among foreign women is three times higher than among women from the same region as their employers.
Florinskaya, Mkrtchyan and Kartseva describe a rather vital social phenomenon: migrant caregivers ask for their work, which is in demand among all strata of society, significantly less pay than do Russian nationals, and for most relatively poor households there is no alternative to hiring them, as they simply cannot afford a nurse from Moscow. But to carry out repair work, local women and migrants were hired with approximately the same frequency: the wallpaper pasted by a Ukrainian woman cannot be distinguished from the wallpaper pasted by a Petersburg woman, even by a specialist.
Finally, wage labor in households is extremely informal. Most often households hired female employees using recommendations from their acquaintances or relatives (63%), and more than two thirds of the households draw up written contracts when hiring female employees. The xenophobia of Muscovites has been exaggerated: female foreign workers lived in the household in a third of cases. (By contrast, 2.4% of households provided housing to residents of their own region, and 18.8% to migrants from within Russian Federation.)
The cautious attitude of Russians to hiring female employees to work in their households is, rather, a late Soviet legacy. After the tradition of employing “servants,” which was relatively common in large Soviet cities among the middle class, disappeared in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the term sounded somewhat insulting from the 1960s until today, and was replaced by euphemisms like “a woman who comes over.” The restoration of the practice is expected, and yet, as the study shows, this phenomenon (if only by virtue of its magnitude) is a vital albeit understated part of the modern urban economy of Russia’s megalopolises.
Up to two-thirds of Russians do not have any savings. Two-thirds of Russians can only afford food and clothes while buying durable consumer goods for them is extremely difficult. Russia is a very poor country, and now, on top of that, we have sanctions that will destroy the lives of ordinary people even further.
Olga Nazarenko, a lecturer at medical university in Ivanovo, got involved in protests supporting Ukraine back in 2018. Since February 24 of this year, she has gone on an anti-war picket almost every week. Over this time, five cases have been opened against her for administrative offenses. Recently, Nazarenko was fined 150 thousand rubles [approx. 2,350 euros] for an anti-war picket. Only a few people in Ivanovo support the lecturer, so she usually stands alone with a placard. There are incomparably more people in her city who disagree with her position. Once, when Nazarenko was returning home, a passerby doused her face with spray paint on a dark street. People have written the Z symbol and the words “Ukrainian scum” on the associate professor’s mailbox. Nazarenko paints over the insults with yellow and blue flowers.
Nazarenko spoke to Radio Svoboda about her resistance to the war.
– What was February 24 like for you?
– I didn’t believe until the last moment that war was possible. I can describe my reaction to the news about the outbreak of war with Ukraine only with obscene language. That same day, I went on a solo picket with an anti-war placard, and the next day too. Since then, I have been going on pickets every week, sometimes once every two weeks.
– You have already been convicted once for “discrediting the armed forces.” Why do you risk being prosecuted?
– My conscience won’t let me do otherwise. In the twenty-first century, problems in interstate relations are not solved by war. It’s barbaric. This war is an injustice on Russia’s part, and I cannot remain silent when I see injustice. A [solo] picket is now the only way to voice one’s stance publicly. Yes, most passersby do not voice their opinion in any way while I am picketing. But at each picket I see that two or three people support me. I understand that it is vital for each of them to see that they are not alone. Also, I have friends and acquaintances living in Ukraine. I worry about them, of course, and I know that for them my support — at least in the sense that I am not silent — is also vital.
– What was the trial at which you were fined 150 thousand rubles like?
– On February 27, I went out with a placard that read, “I’m a Russian citizen who opposes the war. Send Putin to The Hague!” Half an hour later, I was detained after a disgruntled passerby denounced me to the police. In April, the court recognized that my right to a defense had been violated due to the fact that my lawyer was not given the charge sheet to sign. The police appealed this decision, and the court found me guilty under Article 20.2 of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code for, allegedly, “organizing a public event” and fined me 150 thousand rubles. I told the court about my anti-war stance and that our courts are cemented into the power vertical, and so they make the rulings that the Russian authorities need them to make. I also told the court that Russia is waging an unjust war against Ukraine, that people are dying, and that I opposed it. In my opinion, the judge’s ruling had been made in advance.
– Do passersby often react aggressively to your anti-war pickets?
– Of course, there are people who react aggressively to my position. They drew the Z symbol and wrote “Ukrainian scum” on my mailbox. I painted over the inscription with yellow and blue flowers, making it beautiful. Once on the street late at night, a young man doused my face and clothes with spray paint. Fortunately, my glasses protected my eyes from injury, while my clothes turned a golden color. My down jacket even became beautiful, iridescent, but only on one side, sadly. Once, at a picket in support of the boys from the Network Case, a man came up and said that people like me should be shot. He tried to take my placard away and hurt my finger in the scuffle. But I kept him from getting my placard.
– At what point did you decide to go on pickets?
– I have been actively voicing my position since 2014. I was outraged that Russia, at a difficult moment for Ukraine, committed a treacherous act against it by annexing Crimea. This was the first thing that angered me, and the second was the lies that supported it. I realized that in such circumstances I could not remain silent. At first, I went to various protest rallies and marches. But they were held rarely and I wanted to voice my civic stance more often. At first, I was bashful about going out on solo pickets. But on social media I saw that people were doing solo pickets. At some point I decided to try to picket too and got sucked into it.
I have been going on pickets in support of Ukraine since 2018. A friend of mine and I protested for the release of the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. After all, a hybrid war had essentially been waged since 2014, and I had always opposed it. I was brought up on the principle that you couldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you, which also applied to international relations. Crimea is Ukrainian by all international standards. I could not approve of Russia’s interference in the affairs of a sovereign state, and from that moment I took an unambiguous stance. On February 24, everything became completely transparent.
– I believe that the FSB now holds all the power in our country, because Putin is from the FSB. So, the FSB lets itself break any law and torture people with impunity — such as, for example, the defendants in the Network Case. I think it important to voice my negative attitude to this. The banner hung for about half an hour until police officers arrived and tore it down.
I was detained right there and taken to the police department, where they took my statement and released me. This is not the first time I have publicly condemned the actions of the FSB. For example, I picketed against the Network Case outside the FSB headquarters in Ivanovo.
– Aren’t you afraid to publicly criticize the FSB?
– Yes, that organization has a lot of power, but I have no respect for it.
– I know that you sued Center “E” last year. Please tell us how that happened.
– I was doing community service at the zoo for a video in which I had talked about the problems of our region and called for peaceful protest. I was charged with “organizing an unauthorized event” for these actions. Right when I was cleaning the bird cages, a Center “E” officer came and videotaped me without my permission. The video was posted on the Telegram channel “A Cop’s Life: Ivanovo,” along with what they imagined was a funny comment. I decided that the Center “E” officer had violated my right to privacy. I filed an administrative lawsuit against the Interior Ministry, but my suit was dismissed.
– Not long ago, you were accused of resisting the police because you tried to help a friend at an anti-war picket. What did you do then?
– A female acquaintance decided to go on a picket on February 24 and asked on a chat for support. I responded to this request and arrived at the picket site. As soon as the young woman held up her placard, a policeman approached her and tried to detain her. She was opposed to being detained, so I got between her and the policeman. Consequently, we were both detained. The next day, I was taken to the police department, charged with resisting the police, and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. I’ve already done them. But soon I will have to do another 180 hours for a fresh administrative offense related to publicly voicing my anti-war position.
– How do the heads of the medical school where you work look at your pickets and court hearings?
– They are still relatively friendly to me at work. The bosses said that I could do anything as long as it was not during working hours. I never engage in activism to the detriment of my work: I don’t lobby anyone in the classroom. So I have no problems at the university now. For the time being I can juggle work and activism.
– Does your family support your anti-war position?
– My loved ones worry about me, but they don’t try to dissuade me. My husband and I try not to talk about politics. His point of view runs counter to mine, and we don’t discuss politics to avoid spoiling our relationship. As it is, there are so many situations in which I have to get harsh to defend my position, but at home I want to live in peace and tranquility. My little son and adult daughter worry about me and support me emotionally.
– How are you going to pay the 150 thousand ruble fine?
– Friends and friends of friends helped me to pay the previous fine of 75 thousand. I don’t know yet how I will raise this amount. I’ll probably have to turn to public organizations for help.
– Putin recently passed laws that give [law enforcement] even more possibilities to crack down on grassroots activists. Aren’t you afraid to continue going on pickets when this is the reality?
– It’s too late for me to be afraid. If the security forces want to sanction me, they have enough material against me. I have already passed the phase of being afraid.
– Do you think your numerous pickets have affected the attitude people in Ivanovo have toward the war with Ukraine?
– Everything in society has only gotten worse over the years. In the big scheme of things, such protests cannot change a thing. They matter only to the person who does them and to people who think the same way, as well as for those supported by them.
– Why are you taking such a big risk in this instance?
– I just act on the principle that you do what you have to do, come what may. This is how I was brought up as a child. I realize that there could be unpleasant consequences for me, but I don’t think about it.
– But many Russians have read those books. Aren’t you angry that so few Russians protest publicly?
– I am a little annoyed, rather, that people cannot act in keeping with their conscience. And I realize that if more Russians had openly voiced their position when it was not less dangerous, the situation would be slightly different now.
Most people let their personal interests outweigh [other things], and this is normal. My instinct for self-preservation is a little dull, and perhaps this is not entirely normal. I don’t condemn Russians, but still I think that, in the current situation, it is impossible to remain silent.
– Now, after almost five months of war in Ukraine, many Russian activists complain of burnout and fatigue. Do you have such problems?
– I don’t have burnout and depression, but nor do I have any hope that things will change quickly. Perhaps in a hundred years our great-grandchildren will be able to change something — if we manage to raise our children the right way, and then they raise their children the right way. At some point, there will be enough people to change things here. But my generation won’t live to see it.
– Are you not planning to leave the country if a criminal case is opened against you?
– I’m not going anywhere. Russia is my country: it doesn’t belong only to those in power and their supporters. I won’t let anyone kick me out of my own country. I’m ready for a possible prison sentence. If it happens, I will serve my time, and then I will get out and continue my pickets. I’m not too afraid of prison: people somehow live in there too. You can’t jail everyone, and you can’t shut everyone up.
Source: Darya Yegorova, “‘It’s too late for me to be afraid’: Olga Nazarenko’s solo pickets,” Radio Svoboda, 16 July 2022. All images courtesy of Ms. Nazarenko via Radio Svoboda. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader
There are fewer than 2,000 Tubalars, a Turkic nation in the Altai, but they have effectively been collectively declared a foreign agent with the banning of their national cultural public organization, the latest abuse of a little-notice people far from the center of Russia.
As Ilya Azar of Novaya gazeta reports, “the Russian authorities, the Church, private business and even scientific and technical progress have consistently deprived the Tubalars of the[ir] accustomed milieu, their health and their national-cultural autonomy.” Labelling them foreign agents is the logical next step (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2022/03/22/inoagent-komarik).
In a 12,000-word article about one of the least known peoples of the Russian Federation, Azar says that Moscow banned the organization which unites almost all Tubalars as a foreign agent because it accepted money from the World Wildlife Fund and from other foreign groups to protect the cedar trees and animals that are the basis of Tubalar life.
But the Russian journalist reports that many Tubalars assume the call for this action came from others in the Altai Republic because in their view no one in Moscow knows enough about or cares what happens to them. Consequently, someone local is to blame, although that person still unknown is relying on Russian laws to gain access to resources the Tubalars control.
One likely consequence of this action by the Russian justice ministry is that the continued presence of the Tubalars on the list of protected numerically small nationalities is at risk. Without the aid they have received as a result of being included on that list, the Tubalars face a bleak future.
Their language is already dying out, their national traditions are under attack, and outsiders, predominantly ethnic Russians are coming in. Thus, for them, being labelled foreign agents is a sign that the passing of a people who have lived in the Altai from time immemorial is rapidly approaching.
Neither Putin’s speech preceding the invasion (where he stated that the very idea of Ukrainian statehood was a fiction), nor the invasion itself are something new or unseen – they are merely the next steps in a long history of the Russian colonial perception of Ukraine and Ukrainian culture as a threat that has to be destroyed.
Regardless of this, there are still numerous voices, especially among the “westerners”, calling for the separation of Russian culture from what they call “Putin’s aggression”. One of the most illustrious examples of such shortsightedness is the open letter by PEN-Deutschland, which explicitly states that “the enemy is Putin, not Pushkin or Tolstoy”, and in regard to the calls for boycotting Russian culture notes that “іf we allow ourselves to be carried away by such reflexes, by generalizations and hostility against Russians, madness has triumphed, reason and humanity have lost”. Thus, not only does this statement infantilize the whole of Russian society and redirect the guilt of warmongering onto a single person, but also, on a larger scale, it seems to completely ignore the fact that precisely Pushkin and precisely Tolstoy – among many others – were vocal promoters of the Russian imperial myth and colonial wars.
The historical lack of understanding of Russian culture as imperial and colonial by nature, and of its bearers as people who belong to a privileged group, along with the firmly engraved perception of Russian culture being more important in comparison with the cultures of neighbouring countries has resulted in the current Western belief that the suffering of Ukrainians, killed by Russian artillery and bombing, are largely equal to the inconveniences of Russian civilians. Through this lens, both Ukrainians and Russians are equally considered to be the victims of Putin’s criminal regime. And thus we see a rise in Western emergency residencies and scholarships for artists and scholars from Ukraine AND Russia. We also see plenty of panel discussions on the ongoing war where Western organizers invite participants both from Ukraine and Russia.
Moreover, the responses to sanctions imposed on Russia and the calls for boycotting its culture more and more frequently come with accusations of discrimination, “russophobia”, and hatred. Thus, a reaction directly caused by military aggression becomes reframed as unprovoked hatred of an ethnic group.
In a new music video by the Russian band Leningrad, today’s position of Russians is compared to the position of Jews in Berlin in 1940. To illustrate this comparison, people in the video wear traditional Russian kosovorotkas with makeshift Stars of David attached to them. Such an interpretation is a blatant insult to the memory of the victims of the Shoah. Moreover, the rhetoric of the band discursively coincides with the manipulative methods of Russian propaganda.
Source: Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, “Not all criticism is Russophobic: on decolonial approach to Russian culture,” Blok, 29 March 2022. Thanks to Alevtina Kakhidze for the heads-up.
Sergey Abashin, who teaches anthropology at the European University in St. Petersburg: Another reflection on “Russophobia.” Many people are now exercised about external criticism [of Russia], which is often emotional and indiscriminate. For us [in Russia], however, it is more important not to retreat into resentment. Instead, we should think hard and long on what in our public reflections proved to be wrong, why what has happened did happen, and where we made mistakes. Why the Chechen war with its thousands of victims and refugees did not teach us anything. Why we were unable to comprehend all the consequences of the war in Georgia. Why we completely failed to notice the bombing of the civilian population in Syria. Why the disputes over who Crimea belonged to caused us to miss the emergence of a new imperial project with its now terrifying consequences. That’s the task that awaits us after it’s all over.
I watched this serious conversation between bestselling Russian writer and popular historian Boris Akunin and Russian vlogger and interviewer extraordinaire Yuri Dud last night before I went to sleep. Despite the overall grimness of their discussion, it left me feeling upbeat, oddly. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been subtitled in English, but I have translated the annotation and section headings, as published on YouTube on March 4, 2022. In any case, over 13 million (Russophone) viewers can’t be wrong. ||| TRR
0:00 What is this episode about?
1:41 Why did Putin start the war?
5:44 Putin = Nicholas I?
7:47 The Crimean War
11:27 An important announcement
11:36 “Russia has never attacked first.” Really?
12:17 Why is Putin so interested in history?
13:20 Is being an empire bad?
16:09 Why do so many people in Russia support the war?
19:35 WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL THESE PAST 8 YEARS?
23:13 Was your grandfather a Chekist?
25:57 “You never need to listen to what a secret service agent tells you”
27.34 Can a KGB officer be president?
28:36 How did Mikhalkov influence the finale of “The State Councilor”?
31:35 Is the West to blame for the war?
34:54 Who breaks promises?
35:36 The bombing of Belgrade, the invasion of Iraq and Syria – is this normal?
37:27 Is America an empire of lies?
38:46 Is the death penalty good or bad?
41:58 Propaganda in Soviet schools
44:16 The (dubious) benefits of censorship
46:44 Opening up of Siberia = colonization of America?
50:42 Does another collapse await Russia due to this war?
55:15 The best period in the history of Russia
56:19 Why does Russia have a special path?
1:01:39 The worst period in the history of Russia
1:04:07 How does Stalin influence Russia today?
1:06:13 Will there be a nuclear war?
1:10:16 Should people flee Russia?
1:11:41 In 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Japan. How do those two countries get along now?
1:13:40 Will Russians and Ukrainians be able to mend their relationship?
1:16:20 Is it right to claim collective responsibility for the war?
1:17:36 What will happen to Russia next?
A policeman in Krasynoyarsk (Siberia) erases a “No war!” message written in the snow. Igor Averkiev writes: “People who are losing their minds never realize they’re losing their minds.” When I reposted this on my Facebook page and erroneously attributed the footage to Averkiev’s hometown of Perm, he wrote to me: “No, it’s not in Perm. It’s in Krasnoyarsk. But such ‘everyday madness’ is possible everywhere in Russia today. Of course, this hassle will pass. The question is when and at what human cost.” ||| TRR
Student expelled from St. Petersburg State University ensemble due to orientation has left Russia Sever.Realii (Radio Svoboda)
December 17, 2021
Maxim Drozhzhin, a St. Petersburg State University student who was earlier expelled from the university folklore ensemble due to [his sexual] orientation, has left Russia, he has informed Sever.Realii. According to him, he left Russia because he was “tired of being afraid.”
“It was hard psychologically in Russia. Hurtful. You study for eight years, you try hard, you get an education, but then you can’t get a job anywhere. They check my social networks and it turns out that I don’t suit them because I’m gay. It’s crazy: you’re not even fit for an amateur group. I’ve also been accused of being an LGBT propagandist and a libertine. It all started at St. Petersburg State University: my department didn’t treat me very well. Everyone knew about the conflict with the ensemble,” Drozhzhin said.
The student added that there are “strong negative sentiments” in Russian society towards people or phenomena that are “disliked” by the authorities.
“Yesterday I called my mom for the first time and said that I had left. The first thing she asked me was, ‘I hope not to Ukraine?’ A lot of bad things are said about Ukraine, and people have a negative image [of it]. It’s the same thing with LGBT people. They can easily label me as a propagandist: they would start writing nasty things about me in the pro-government media, and people would treat me differently. Although I’m not even an LGBT activist—I don’t go on pickets, I don’t work in [LGBT] organizations, I just do creative work. I don’t hide my orientation. In Russia today, if you do not hide your orientation, you’re automatically an activist,” Drozhzhin said.
Maxim is currently living in a refugee center in a European country. (He did not specify where exactly.) According to the student, the conditions there are “very good,” even better than in the St. Petersburg State University dormitory where he had lived. He is the only Russian speaker in the center. He communicates with everyone in “broken” English.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be here. Whether I will be given [refugee] status or not is still unclear. They can say no, go back. But I don’t want to go back. It’s very hard for me in Russia,” Drozhzhin explains.
The student said that in Russia he had received threats from Timur Bulatov, the well-known homophobic activist.
“He wrote to me that they would not do anything physical to me, but they would punish me by law. After that, a certain Zhilina immediately filed a complaint against me with four different officials, and a probe into my posts on social networks was launched,” Maxim says.
He does not know the result of the police probe. Due to his departure he had “dropped out of life” and had not communicated with anyone about it.
In November, the police began probing Maxim Drozhzhin’s social media posts for “LGBT propaganda.” Drozhzhin, after consulting with a lawyer, refused to write an explanatory statement at the dormitory and asked the police to send a summons. Consequently, the student was summoned to the police department. There he learned that the complaint against him had been filed by Nadezhda Zhilina, head of the nonprofit We Are for Change. Zhilina explained to Sever.Realii that she had sent identically worded complaints to Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov, Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and St. Petersburg State University Rector Nikolai Kropochev. In the complaint, Zhilina, on behalf of the “parental, patriotic and Orthodox community,” requested a probe into Drozhzhin for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations, dissemination of personal information, [and] extremist activities directed against the country’s constitutional system.” In addition, she asked officials for information about Drozhzhin’s sources of income and requested that he be declared an individual “foreign agent media outlet.”
Natalya Pavlishcheva, Forbidden Rus’, 9th Edition: 10,000 Years of Our History from the Flood to Rurik
THE NINTH EDITION of the super-bestseller that has sold record numbers of copies! A sensational book that has overturned over all the usual ideas about the history of Russia, which is not 1,200 to 1,500 years old, as the textbooks lie, but ten times longer!
This “prehistoric” Russia is actually under a complete ban in “scholarly circles.” “Professional historians” do not believe in it. Its existence is denied by “serious academics.” Its traces are diligently ignored by Ph.D.’s and academicians who are accustomed to hush up inconvenient facts that do not fit into the Procrustean bed of scholarly officialdom, although there are more and more such facts with every passing year.
Flying in the teeth of implicit censorship and “professional” taboos, and based not on the retelling of hoary “scholarly” myths, but on the latest data from archaeology, climatology and even genetics, this book offers a new, revolutionary look at the origins of Ancient Rus’ and the deepest roots of the Russian people. It unravels the principal secrets of our past, breaks through the conspiracy of silence and exposes the poverty of historical officialdom!
The book was previously published under the title 10,000 Years of Russian History: From the Flood to the Christianization of Rus’.