Who Cares, Right?

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Novaya Gazeta in Petersburg reported yesterday that Petersburgers who worked security at the football stadium in Nizhny Novgorod during the 2018 FIFA World Cup have not been paid their wages.

Since July 10, they have been living at the local train station. They have spent all their savings and now have no money to make the trip back home.

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Before they decamped to the train station, they were housed in the stadium itself in conditions as depicted in the photograph, above.

But you were glued to your TV sets the whole time, so what do you care? || TRR

Photos courtesy of the Express and KozaPress

Anything Goes

DSCN6137A monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet secret police, in central Petersburg, 6 May 2018. Photo by the Russian Reader

Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov has been on hunger strike for sixty-six days.

Can you imagine not eating for sixty-sixty days? I can’t.

Instead of supporting Mr. Sentsov, most of the world decided to turn its back on him by staying glued to their TV sets during Vladimir Putin’s expensive celebration of his despotic regime’s extraordinary ability to pull the wool over nearly everyone’s eyes.

Certainly he didn’t get any pushback yesterday from the putative “leader of the free world,” who is a vain, spineless traitor who has probably never heard of Oleg Sentsov.

Solidarity with Oleg Sentsov doesn’t mean you have to stop eating, too, but it should mean not having your cake and eating it, too.

The World Cup was cake. Nobody can live for a month on a diet of cake without getting sick. The world has just done it, and now, at least as I see it, the world is a lot sicker than before the World Cup.

When infants are baptized in the Lutheran church, the priest asks the godparents and parents whether they “renouce the Devil and all his ways.”

Putin is a devil. You cannot embrace some of his ways while denouncing others. You either take the whole package or reject it. If you reject it, you show a little bit of willpower—for the sake of Crimean political prisoners Vladimir Balukh and Oleg Sentsov, for the sake of people bombed by the Russian airforce in Syria, for the sake of persecuted Karelian historian Yuri Dmitriev, for the sake of Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses, now branded “extremists” and subject to increasingly numerous arrests, for the sake of the innocent young people framed in the New Greatness and Network “terrorist” cases, for the sake of ordinary Russians everywhere fighting the government’s plans to drastically raise the pension age—and you don’t have anything to do with the World Cup or anything else sponsored, promoted, and supported by the current Russian regime.

The sheer number of people, including my own acquaintances, who could not bear to show solidarity with any of these people at all, if only for one month, has shocked me.

Please don’t pretend now that you’re really opposed to the Putin regime. You’ve shown your true colors.

Anything goes, right? || TRR

Kicker Conspiracy

Go to Russia for a few World Cup fixtures, get rip-roaring drunk, hit on a married Russian woman, and you are an instant “Russia expert,” fit for print in the bloody Guardian.

And don’t forget to thank the Russian security forces for their professionalism in keeping your jet-setting, neo-colonialist, neo-imperialist ass safe while you’re making an ass of yourself.

Huge congratulations must go to the law enforcement that’s been put in place to stop both the most fighty Russians and the most fighty English from making their presence felt. But those responsible for the headlines with TOO MANY CAPITAL LETTERS should be ashamed. Not just for denying England fans these experiences, but for allowing the Russian people to feel demonised, and indeed for allowing Putin to capitalise on this othering of the Russian people to support his us-against-them narrative. Every English person that has a positive interaction with a Russian person is a step further away from letting the people in power turn us against each other … is what I drunkenly mumbled into Anastasia’s ear a few minutes before I learned she had a husband, and a few minutes after she’d said there are no good computer hackers in Russia, and about 20 minutes after I’d been singing “Football’s coming home”. We’re all living in our own fantasies I suppose.

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I wish everyone could read this detailed interview with the fearless Russian human rights activist Anatoly Kalyapin and head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture about the nearly ubiquitous use of torture by Russian law enforcement.

Under ordinary circumstances, I might even think about translating the interview and publishing it on this website.

But these are not ordinary circumstances. As the Putin regime ratchets up its “Great Terror Lite” apparatus, a frighteningly large segment of apparently educated and even liberal Russians and non-Russians have persuaded me that having fun, partying like it’s 1999, and staying glued to their TV sets watching World Cup fixtures trump petty considerations like human rights and international solidarity.

So, if you’d like to read this interview with a knowledgeable, brave man, run it through whatever online translation machine you prefer and see what miserable gobbledygook comes out the other end.

It has finally dawned on me how few people, both inside and outside Russia, really care to know anything about the real Russia, especially since Don Putin started kicking magical, psychedelic, multi-colored sand in their face with his twelve-billion-dollar “kicker conspiracy.”

I have no hope for a planet whose most powerful, empowered, and well-off inhabitants have such a strong will to be fooled and such an insuperable desire to kick up their heels as if they were teenagers. // TRR

Thanks to Lika Frenkel for the heads-up and the late Mark E. Smith (March 5, 1957–January 24,  2018) for not refusing his vision and sharing it with us so generously for so many years.

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Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy
Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

J. Hill’s satanic reign
Ass-lickers, Keegan’s Team

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

In the marble halls of the charm school
How flair is punished
Under Marble Millichip, the F.A. broods 
On how flair can be punished
Their guest is a Euro-State magnate
Corporate-u-lent

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy 

In the booze club, George Best does rule
How flair is punished
His downfall was a blonde girl,
but that’s none of your business!

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

Football fan at the bus stop
Stretched on the balls of his feet
In the Christmas rush
Had in his hands two lager cans
Talks to himself
At the back
At the top

But in the pavement on the club unit
Plastic, Slime, Partitions, Cocktail, Zig-Zag, Tudor Bar

Pat McCat. Pat McCat, the very famous sports reporter is
talking there.

Fans remember, you are abroad!
Remember the police are rough!
Remember the unemployed!
Remember my expense account!

Hot dogs and seat for Mr. Hogg!
Hot dogs and seat for Mr. Hogg
And his grotty spawn!

Lurid brochures for ground unit
How style is punished

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy
Remember, don’t collect with the rough
Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

Kicker, destroy the facilities!

Kicker Conspiracy

Source: The Fall, “Kicker Conspiracy” (1983); lyrics courtesy of The Annotated Fall

45 Days

word-image-49This map, published by Amnesty International, shows the geography of Oleg Sentsov’s ordeal, from his arrest in occupied Crimea, in May 2014, to his arrival at the Labytnangi Correctional Colony, north of the Arctic Circle, in October 2017. Courtesy of Let My People Go!

#SaveSentsov
#FreeOlegSentsov

Ukrainian film director and political prisoner Oleg Sentsov is in the midst of his forty-fifth day on hunger strike in the maximum security penal colony, north of the Arctic Circle, where the Putin regime sentenced him to twenty years for the thought crime of not approving its illegal occupation of Crimea in 2014.

Sentsov’s only demand is that the Putin regime release the several dozen other Ukrainian political prisoners it has imprisoned.

It should also release Mr. Sentsov, made to suffer for a crime he did not commit. (He was convicted on terrorism charges). It would be a gesture of peace and reconciliation appreciated round the world, especially during the World Cup, which Russia is currently hosting.

But I am not holding my breath. Russia has been misruled for the last twenty years by a clique of KGB officers who morphed into some of the most reckless and impudent gangsters the world has ever seen once the Soviet Union collapsed. Yet this utterly destructive regime gets oodles of aid and comfort from the international far left and far right, as well as corrupt entities like FIFA and the London City, who want to partake in Russia’s embezzled riches.

A wiseguy like Putin knows this and, I am afraid, has calculated that the fallout from Sentsov’s death in prison is an acceptable risk. Releasing Sentsov, on the other hand, would show that Putin is susceptible to pressure from the outside world. Unless I am misreading him, he is loath to do this, at least in an obvious way. // TRR

 

Where Did You Go? (Day 44)

44th day“The forty-fourth day of Sentsov’s hunger strike.” Post on filmmaker Askold Kurov’s Facebook page

Ukrainian political prisoner and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has completed the forty-third day of his hunger strike. His only demand is that Russian authorities release the other Russian political prisoners they have imprisoned during their illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Unfortunately, I have the growing sense that even the most progressive Russians, whatever that means, are so impressed by the nonstop international football party that has been unleashed on the streets of their major cities that they are less and less able to focus on what matters in the near term (the government’s plan to raise the retirement age, the pending retrial of Yuri Dmitriev, the mind-bending Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case, Sentsov’s hunger strike, six more years of pitch-black Putinist reaction). They behave and talk like people who have richly earned a celebration.

In the grand scheme of things, none of us deserve a celebration. We are sinners in the hands of an angry God, and we deserve to be crushed.

Viewing our fallen world more realistically, however, we probably do need to give ourselves a break, no matter how dire the circumstances, every once in a while, but only after we have done our work, especially the collective grassroots work that keeps our societies from slipping over the edge into the abyss of lawlessness, reaction, and fascism.

With few exceptions, Russia’s hyper-educated populace, however, checked out of hands-on politics long ago. They are literally the most holiday-prone bunch I have ever encountered in the world. Nearly everyone I know is endlessly on vacation, on the road, not at home, checked out, off the radar in internal exile, you name it.

This was my roundabout way of saying the truly heroic Mr. Sentsov’s chances do not look good. // TRR

* * * * * * * * * *

Many of my western leftist friends have been having a field day with the White Pride House’s disgusting treatment of immigrant families and children from Latin America, as they should be.

But when it comes to the Kremlin’s disgusting treatment of nearly everyone under its own black hole sun, from Oleg Sentsov and the alleged Penza-Petersburg “terrorists” to Yuri Dmitriev and Oyub Titiev, mum has been word among western leftists.

This is not to mention the Kremlin’s escapades in Syria and Ukraine, the wretched treatment of migrant workers from Central Asia in Russia itself, or the fact Russia is basically off limits to the refugees and asylum seekers whom, in some cases, it has helped to generate, as in Syria.

Meanwhile, Russia has been witness a slow but noticeable exodus of its own asylum seekers and more quiet exiles, including dozens if not hundreds of political activists, and thousands of LGBT people, now that the country has been officially and virulently homophobic for several years.

None of this gets even so much as a look-in from most of my western leftist friends, who, at best, are happy to have me rattle on about these things ad nauseam, but probably think I have been lying or exaggerating these past ten years.

In any case, nothing the Kremlin ever does figures in either their political activism or political thinking (except in complaints about “anti-Russian hysteria” in their local mass media). They are loath to show solidarity with grassroots Russian activists, even Russians in serious trouble like the young antifascists implicated in the total frame-up known as The Network Case.

No, the wroth of western leftists is always and only reserved for the Great Satan, the cause of all evil in the world, the country that invented imperialism, racism, capitalism, nepotism, and daltonism, the United States of America.

Why they should be so implicitly sympathetic to the hyper-reactionary, neo-imperialist, homophobic, anti-working class, rampantly state capitalist, kleptocratic, illiberal, anti-intellectual, wildly corrupt nationalist and racist regime in Russia is beyond my powers to comprehend.

But their silence speaks louder than their words, as does their pointed failure, when it comes to people I know personally, to engage meaningfully with all the things I have written and translated over the last ten years.

This is especially palpable now the World Cup is underway. Even politically engaged liberals among my acquaintances have obviously given the Russian regime a free pass for the month.

Actually, they have been giving it a free pass since 1999, but I won’t mention discuss this long, ugly story now.

What I meant to say was that Ukrainian filmmaker and political prisoner Oleg Sentsov is dying, and the western left pointedly has nothing to say about why he is in “jail” (as the Moscow Times quaintly puts it, although he is actually incarcerated in a maximum security penal colony north of the Arctic Circle) and why he was sent there for twenty years.

It is pathetic. It is also part of the reason why “the masses” generally trust the western left about as far as they can throw it. Because just like Donald Trump and Theresa May, there are species of despotism, tyranny, and even genocide the western left really quite fancies or, at least, can countenance in the name of “anti-imperialism.”

To put it bluntly, I am afraid the western left would rather Oleg Sentsov and his ilk just crawled under a rock and died. They only muddy what should be a crystal-clear view of “geopolitics.” // TRR

“9 Stages of the Supreme Leader’s Decomposition” (Solidarity Fundraising Campaign Update)

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Varya Mikhaylova (center, with megaphone), carrying {rodina}’s 9 Stages of the Supreme Leader’s Decomposition as she marched with the Party of the Dead bloc in this year’s May Day demo in Petersburg. Photo by Elena Lukyanova. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

On Friday, June 8, 2018, a Petersburg district court sentenced local feminist and democratic activist Varya Mikhaylova to a fine of 160,000 rubles (approx. 2,180 euros) for carrying a picture at this year’s May Day demonstration, during which she was detained by police.

The court also ordered the picture in question, 9 Stages of the Supreme Leader’s Decomposition, by the Petersburg art group {rodina} (“motherland”), burned.

stages-4{rodina}, 9 Stages of the Supreme Leader’s Decomposition. A Petersburg judge has ordered this artwork torched.

How can you show your solidarity with Varya Mikhaylova? By helping her pay the hefty fine. It would be exorbitant anywhere, but it is purposely burdensome (that is, designed to discourage people from protesting by impoverishing them) in a city where the average monthly salary is around 500 euros.

How can you show your solidarity with {rodina}, whose artwork faces the fiery flames of censorship? By ordering a t-shirt, poster or postcard embossed with 9 Stages of the Supreme Leader’s Decomposition. Proceeds from the sales of these mementos will go towards paying Varya’s fine. Any money left over will be used to make more revolutionary art.

You can order a postcard for 100 rubles (approx. 1.30 euros), an A3-sized poster for 500 rubles (approx. 6.80 euros), and a t-shirt for 1,500 rubles (approx. 20.40 euros).

The cost of shipping your order anywhere in the world via Russian Post is 500 rubles.

Place your orders on {rodina}’s merch page. When you go there you will need to click on the “Message” button and chat with someone who can help you with your order.

{rodina} stalwart Darya Apahonchich modeled the t-shirt recently.

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I was so taken with the 9 Stages t-shirt I already ordered and took receipt of mine. Now I’ll have to wear it on the mean streets of Petrograd while also avoiding sudden arrest.

the shirt

You can also send money directly to Varya via her PayPal account (bukvace@ya.ru). The proceeds will also go towards paying her fine. // TRR

Thanks to Comrade KB for the final photograph and taking delivery of my t-shirt.

Stay Glued to Your TV Set

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Nobody or almost nobody in the western press talks about the sheer numbers of people leaving Russia, either quietly, as in the case of most people I know who have left, or noisily, as in the case of Altai Territory opposition activist Aidar Kudirmekov.

I think if we took a head count, the numbers would be staggering, especially since the Kremlin boarded the crazy train in the spring of 2014.

I’m nobody important, and yet off the top of my head I can name at least thirty or forty acquaintances who have left the country for good in the last few years.

But all my Western European and North American friends of leftist and liberal views can only complain of the “hysterical anti-Russian coverage” on their TV sets.

What they mean is the unflattering coverage of their secret sharer, Vladimir Putin, who in ways that have never been clear to me has been aiding their mostly imaginary “anti-imperialist” cause.

That there are 144 million other Russians who have subjectivity and agency, and who might actually be even more “hysterically anti-Russian” (i.e., opposed to Putin’s nineteen years of criminally shambolic governance) seemingly never occurs to them, as it almost never occurs to their TV sets, either.

This is not to mention the explicitly or implicitly pro-Putinist coverage you find in vast swaths of the western press, including the Nation, the BBC on bad days, anywhere the ludicrous pro-Kremlin apologists Mary Dejevsky, Seamus Milne, and Stephen Cohen pop up, the Independent (e.g., Robert Fisk’s and Patrick Cockburn’s coverage of the war in Syria, which has been forthrightly pro-Assad and, thus, pro-Putin), and on and on.

On any given day, depending on how many languages you read, you can find numerous western reporters and op-ed writers tossing so many softballs at the Kremlin to bat out of the park, you would be excused for thinking you were at a high school in Iowa in April during ninth-grade phys ed class. // TRR

Image courtesy of Perfect Excellence

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