The Russian National Guard Has Canceled Your Yulia Tsvetkova Solidarity Film Screening

Flacon Design Factory in Moscow. Photo courtesy of Popcornnews.ru

Russian National Guardsmen Disrupt Screening of Film in Support of Yulia Tsvetkova at Flacon Design Factory in Moscow
MBKh Media
September 15, 2020

Russian National Guardsmen have come to the Flacon Design Factory in Moscow and stopped a screening of the [2014 documentary] film Vulva 3.0, an event planned in support of the activist Yulia Tsvetkova. The screening’s curator, Andrei Parshikov, reported the incident to MBKh Media.

According to Parshikov, Petrovka 38 [Moscow police headquarters] had received an anonymous call that so-called propaganda of homosexualism [sic] would take place during the event.

“First, Petrovka 38 got an anonymous call, and then the local police precinct was informed about the call. The precinct commander came to Flacon and said that things looked bad. We told him about the movie. He said that while he understood everything, he couldn’t help us because since Petrovka 38 had received the call, a detachment would be dispatched in any case and they would shut down the screening. The only solution, he said, was to give the local police a screening copy of the film so they could that could look at it and make sure it checked out, but he still could not promise anything. We said, Okay, we’ll give you a screening copy, and we’ll postpone the screening,” Parshikov said.

Subsequently, around twenty Russian National Guardsmen arrived at Flacon. They are patrolling the premises and making it impossible to screen the film.

UPDATE (8:24 p.m.)

The screening of the film has been canceled for today, curator Andrey Parshikov has informed MBKh Media. According to him, the Russian National Guardsmen are still at Flacon. Parshikov added that the film would be sent for a forensic examination tomorrow.

Yulia Tsvetkova is an activist from Komsomolsk-on-Amur. In November 2019, she was charged with “distributing pornography”(under Article 242.3.b of the Russian Criminal Code) over body-positive drawings she published on Vagina Monologues, a social media group page that she moderated. Due to pressure and harassment, she had to close the Merak Children’s Theater [which she ran with her mother].

Law enforcement authorities began their criminal inquiry into Tsvetkova after two criminal complaints were filed against her by Timur Bulatov, who runs the homophobic social media group page Moral Jihad, which mostly publishes threats, insults, and Bulatov’s own derogatory monologues about gays.  [Bulatov] informed the police that Tsvetkova was distributing pornography.

Tsvetkova was subsequently also charged with several administrative offenses for “promoting non-traditional sexual relations” on her personal page on VK and the group pages Komsomolka: Intersectional Feminism and The Last Supper: LGBTQIAPP+on-Amur | 18+.  Tsvetkova was convicted on these charges and fined.

Thanks to Maria Mila for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

Yulia Tsvetkova: “Cuando empezamos a tocar temas relacionados con el feminismo o LGBT inició un tsunami de odio y amenazas”

 

La activista feminista rusa Yulia Tsvetkova. Foto: Cedida por Yulia Tsvetkova.

Yulia Tsvetkova: “Cuando empezamos a tocar temas relacionados con el feminismo o LGBT inició un tsunami de odio y amenazas”
Jose Ángel Sánchez Rocamora y Alona Malakhaeva
El Salto
11 septembre 2020

Yulia Tsvetkova, profesora de arte, feminista y defensora del colectivo LGBTI de una ciudad pequeña de Rusia ha sido acusada de delitos penales al publicar dibujos reivindicativos calificados de “pornografía y propaganda de relaciones sexuales no tradicionales entre menores”. Su caso es un ejemplo mas de la represión y los constantes montajes jurídicos del gobierno ruso contra las activistas. Actualmente se encuentra a la espera de distintos juicios por los que la acusación pública le pide más de siete años de prisión.

Mientras la entrevistamos nos cuenta que le han obligado ha firmar una clausura de no divulgación de información sobre el desarrollo de la investigación judicial por lo que no hemos podido hacerle más preguntas al respecto.

Te han abierto diligencias penales por “distribución de material pornográfico” sobre tu grupo de la red social VK “Los monólogos de la vagina”, pero realmente, ¿qué contenido tenía el grupo?

Toda la historia alrededor de este grupo está llena de mitos. En el grupo publicaba imágenes artísticas con alusiones a órganos femeninos, además no son mis dibujos: son obras de diferentes artistas, en su mayoría mujeres, a veces muy famosas, de todo el mundo. El grupo existió durante un año y medio y tenía 100 suscriptoras, lo había creado después de leer la obra de teatro, me sentí muy identificada porque también he sido víctima de violencia sexual. Así que decidí sacarlo a nivel informativo para compartir con los demás.

Ahora tus dibujos del proyecto “La mujer no es una muñeca” se han vuelto famosos, incluso fuera del país, ¿pensabas que iban a provocar tanta reacción en Rusia?

Sinceramente era un proyecto muy pasajero, ni siquiera lo consideraba como tal. Son una serie de bocetos rápidos sobre el tema body positive, movimiento para la aceptación del cuerpo, que publiqué en mi perfil de VK. ¿Por qué provocaron tanta reacción en Rusia? No lo sé. Los han enviado dos veces al peritaje para confirmar que contenían elementos pornográficos.

El peritaje oficial es un proceso muy complejo, burocráticamente complicado y costoso. El dinero para realizar este peritaje proviene del presupuesto estatal, de nuestros impuestos. Y todo por seis dibujos tan simples. Tengo otros proyectos artísticos mucho más importantes. Así que tanta atención hacia estos dibujos significa que es un tema muy sensible ahora en Rusia. Yo lo relaciono con la educación cultural y social en Rusia. Si una persona conoce por lo menos algo de historia de arte, ha visto algunos cuadros, ha visitado museos, es difícil que le indigne que el cuerpo humano esté desnudo o no, porque el arte se basa en él, aparte de otras cosas. Pero si uno vive en Komsomolsk del Amur, donde sólo tenemos un museo dedicado a los exploradores y colonos de la taiga, ¿de dónde va a sacar esta visión de la belleza y normalización del cuerpo?

Los investigadores, los policías, los jueces, los administradores en su mayoría son hombres que están acostumbrados a la percepción sexualizada del cuerpo femenino. Vas por la calle y ves un montón de publicidad con mujeres semidesnudas, con eslóganes sexistas, una publicidad que están prohibiendo ya en muchos países, pero en Rusia no. Para ellos es algo “normal” ya que están acostumbrados a ver el cuerpo de esta manera. Luego ven mis dibujos y ven un cuerpo que no está para su consumo entonces lo entienden como un desafío contra su normalidad, por eso lo ven como pornografía. Otro objetivo podría consistir en incriminarme un delito vergonzoso para darme una mala imagen a pesar de que saben perfectamente que mis dibujos no contienen pornografía.

Actualmente, ¿qué investigaciones hay en contra tuyo y qué delitos supondrían?

Una investigación penal sobre “pornografía” y varias investigaciones administrativas por propaganda de valores no tradicionales entre menores de edad. Algunos de los dibujos son de apoyo a familias diversas, incluso varios de estos no son míos, es por publicarlos en mi perfil de VK. Ya he pagado dos multas de 100.000 rublos en total, aproximadamente 1.200 euros. Aunque creo que las administrativas sirven más para alimentar la acusación penal porque cuentan como agravante para el juez, o sea para atestiguar que soy reincidente múltiple. En realidad, debería de haber más investigaciones contra mí, porque hubo más denuncias, tres o cuatro sobre extremismo, propaganda y pornografía, pero menos mal no han prosperado.

“Las mujeres no son muñecas”, dibujos de Yulia denunciados por contener pornografía.

Komsomolsk del Amur es una ciudad pequeña de 270.000 habitantes donde promover iniciativas sociales es muy distinto en comparación con Moscú o San Petersburgo, a parte del activismo en redes sociales ¿realizabas otro tipo de actividades sociales donde también hubo represión?

Sí, principalmente en el arte comunitario y mi objetivo siempre fue hacer algo al respecto en mi ciudad. Es verdad que hay mucha diferencia entre Moscú y Komsomolsk del Amur: ésta es una cuidad lejana, aislada, rodeada de taiga donde sólo hay una carretera que acaba en Komsomolsk y tardas seis horas para llegar hasta el aeropuerto mas cercano. Aquí no hay ninguna organización social ni activismo de ningún tipo. El principal problema es la fuga de la juventud, es decir, los que pueden irse, se van, la juventud, la gente que tiene un pensamiento más crítico o que tiene ideas más allá de lo tradicional. La mayoría vive pensando que en Komsomolsk no se puede hacer nada. Es el pensamiento que yo quise cambiar, así es como surgieron talleres feministas, el teatro activista “Merak” y el centro social comunitario. Es decir todo lo que hicimos tenia implícito el mensaje de “¿por qué no?”. ¿Quién dijo que por ser una ciudad pequeña no se necesita un espacio comunitario? Al revés, es muy necesario.

Estos proyectos sociales los montaba yo sola o con la ayuda de mi madre y con un colectivo de niñas, niños y adolescentes de unos 12-17 años. Eran actividades teatrales, de ecología o de urbanismo social, por ejemplo, hicimos unas esculturas que llamaban la atención al problema de la contaminación en la ciudad, casi todo era educativo, era el único espacio social que había. También teníamos programas dirigidos a la orientación laboral. Dedicábamos mucho tiempo al arte, exposiciones, ferias, expresión artística, todo por supuesto desde una lógica asamblearia y autogestionada, el centro funcionó durante casi dos años incluso un par de meses después de la apertura de las investigaciones penales contra mí.

¿Cómo fue recibida la iniciativa de crear el centro social?

La primera reacción fue muy positiva porque tenía el apoyo de mi madre que llevaba más de 20 años trabajando en un centro educativo. Es decir, tenía personas que me apoyaban y que tenían una visión más abierta. El teatro, por ejemplo, arrancó muy rápido, enseguida hicimos espectáculos en el teatro municipal, el mayor escenario de la ciudad. Los medios de comunicación hablaban muy bien de nosotras, como la ciudad es muy pequeña, cualquier actividad distinta llama mucho la atención, así que en un par de meses empezó a seguirnos mucha gente.

Más tarde empezamos a tocar temas relacionados con el feminismo o LGBTI, esto provocó un tsunami de odio y amenazas tanto en redes sociales como en persona, un ejemplo fue cuando intentamos hacer la primera cafeta feminista no mixta, sobre todo por el anuncio que ponía que la entrada era únicamente para mujeres, que es lógico en este tipo de eventos.

Las principales dificultades comenzaron con el festival de teatro “Flor de Azafrán” que organizaste, en concreto por uno de los espectáculos llamado “Rosas y Azules”. ¿Qué es lo que sucedió?

Es cierto que los problemas empezaron por el festival, a pesar de que no sabemos exactamente qué sirvió de detonador para todo el escándalo, ya que teníamos varios espectáculos que tocaban temas sociales como la obra sobre los estereotipos de género que por casualidad se llamaba “Rosas y Azules” (en ruso estos colores aparte de ser colores esteriotípicos de los dos géneros son eufemismos para las palabras “lesbiana” y “gay”), o el que tenía un mensaje antimilitarista donde se dejaba claro que el eslogan oficial “¡Podemos repetir!” del día de la Victoria en la segunda guerra mundial (una de las fiestas principales en Rusia) es totalmente nefasto ya que representa la guerra como algo deseable.

El antimilitarismo siempre era y sigue siendo uno de los temas principales del centro social comunitario.

Komsomolsk fue la capital del Gulag en el Lejano Oriente. Es la mayor parte de la historia de toda la ciudad, pero respecto a esto hay un problema con la memoria histórica, todos fingen que aquí no ha pasado nada. Entonces me sigo preguntando ¿cuál es la obra que les pareció más peligrosa? ¿Una conversación sobre el autoconocimiento o una reflexión sobre la paz y la no violencia? A lo mejor las dos cosas juntas. Puede ser que les haya asustado el hecho de que hubiéramos tenido esta iniciativa, incluso en la administración cuando me reprendieron sobre lo ocurrido, me preguntaron justo eso, ¿para qué había que organizar nada? Pero sí, puedo afirmar que este ha sido el punto de no retorno, a partir de aquel momento me llaman para que acuda a la comisaría cada dos por tres aunque lo que más me ha indignado fue cuando los policías empezaron a hacer preguntas a las y los niños del teatro.

Después de todo lo ocurrido aún hay personas que todavía me siguen apoyando mucho pero también hay otras que repiten la opinión de la mayoría y si la sociedad nos juzga por lo que hacemos ellas también estarán en contra. Por otro lado la censura es muy fuerte y la opinión pública se somete mucho a la opinión del gobierno.

Un día entraron al instituto, sacaron a una niña de su clase y la interrogaron entre cinco personas durante tres horas, amenazando con qué no iba a acabar la secundaria, le preguntaron sobre LGBT y feminismo, a los demás niños les pasó lo mismo.

¿Cómo interrogaron a menores de edad?

Sin ninguna denuncia, sin orden judicial, fue completamente ilegal, ni siquiera tenían el consentimiento de los padres. Un día entraron al instituto, sacaron a una niña de su clase y la interrogaron entre cinco personas durante tres horas, la tenían sin comida, sin poder llamar a sus padres, amenazando con qué no iba a acabar la secundaria, le preguntaron sobre LGBT y feminismo, a los demás niños les pasó lo mismo, la mitad de ellos escucharon por primera vez esta abreviatura. Al final hicimos el festival cerrado para los padres donde grabamos un vídeo y luego lo mostrábamos en otros festivales o centros sociales de Rusia. A pesar de que lo hicimos así, la policía apareció en las presentaciones por las denuncias de los homófobos, para buscar a menores de edad, a pesar de que los eventos eran para mayores de 18 años.

¿Quienes te han amenazado?

Muchas veces Timur Bulatov (uno de los mayores activistas homofóbos de Rusia que trabaja en la creación de denuncias falsas y montajes judiciales, autoproclamado “yihadista moral” y creador de la página “LGBT CRIMINAL” donde publica datos personales de activistas), SERB (colectivo de ideología nazi ruso-ucraniano), PILA, (organización de “cazadores” LGBT, presuntos asesinos de la activista Yelena Grigórieva) y el Estado Masculino (organización nacionalista y misógina).

¿Has tenido apoyos en Rusia?

Sí, he tenido muchos, sobre todo del Centro Social LGBT de Moscú, la Red LGBT Rusa, la organización social Costillas de Eva y la de memoria histórica, “Memorial”, me ha reconocido como presa política. También Amnistía Internacional me ha dado mucho apoyo mediático y me han concedido el premio Freedom of Expression de Index on Censorship, cuando estaba bajo arresto domiciliario, esto tuvo mucho significado porque la otra vez que lo dieron en Rusia fue a la periodista asesinada Anna Politkóvskaya. Aunque para mí el más importante ha sido el de activistas independientes, ya que en Rusia manifestarte sola es muy peligroso a pesar de que es legal, de hecho, la única forma legal de manifestarse es individualmente.

Otra de las formas de solidaridad han sido las campañas mediáticas en redes sociales, algo totalmente nuevo para Rusia, en donde he podido ver no sólo como me apoyaban, sino como repetían mis ideas sobre body positive, feminismo o LGTB. Hace dos años no me habría podido imaginar que se hablara a nivel nacional tanto sobre esos temas y que no fuera para juzgarlo o condenarlo. Hay que tener mucho coraje para organizarlo porque pronunciarse a favor es muy peligroso, durante la manifestaciones en contra de mi proceso judicial aparecieron miembros del grupo homófobo ultraortodoxo “Sórok sorokov” y atacaron e insultaron a las feministas, la policía en vez de detenerlos o impedir la violencia detuvo a todas las mujeres que se estaban manifestando. La violencia policial aquel día sorprendió hasta a las activistas más experimentadas.

¿Cuáles son tus expectativas de cara al futuro?

Todos esperan algo de mí, pero yo ya no espero nada. En este sentido me siento muy pragmática ahora, estoy preparando mi defensa en el juicio, intentando mantener las emociones al margen. Sé que es importante seguir hablando de mi situación para demostrar cuánto falta hacer todavía respecto a la aceptación del cuerpo femenino y a la libertad de sexualidad de las mujeres. Es importante que se sepa que un país que se supone que es democrático, está dispuesto a encarcelar a una mujer por aceptar su cuerpo. Ésta ya es una pequeña pero gran victoria, sobre todo que la gente entienda que no son temas vergonzosos y sucios, que el cuerpo de una no es pornografía.

Gracias a Maria Mila por publicar este artículo en Facebook. // TRR

Wake Up! (Appeal from Belarusian Women)

 

 

The references to “drunken juveniles, hoodlums,” etc., allude to claims by President Lukashenko that only such marginal elements are behind the nationwide popular protests in Belarus. Thanks to many friends on Facebook for the heads-up. // TRR

Learn more about the events in Belarus:

 

belarusian women“Video footage shared on social media showed opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova joining the female protesters in Minsk, holding a bunch of flowers.” Courtesy of BBC

Darya Apahonchich: Did The Police Have Nothing More Important to Do?

apaDarya Apahonchich is greeted by supporters outside the October District Court in Petersburg, August 4, 2020

Darya Apahonchich
Facebook
August 5, 2020

So, here is a more detailed account of my arrest and trial.

Yesterday, I was stopped by police officers on the street near work. They would not let me pass, grabbing my scooter and saying that I should go with them, because they had “material” on me. I said I wasn’t going anywhere, so they just forced me into a vehicle.

In the vehicle, they refused to tell me what the reason was for detaining me. We drove to the first police precinct for a very long time, and the car broke down along the way. All the way, I scolded them, appealing to their conscience and reason. There were four of them and a vehicle, they had spent the whole day on me (probably more than one): did they have nothing more important to do? Later, I found out that they had been waiting for me since 5:30 in the morning, but I had left the house only at 2:00 in the afternoon. (So many resources wasted on me! Whatever for?) By the way, it’s funny that they were waiting for me near my house, but they only arrested me near my work, because I when I left the house I immediately jumped on my scooter, so they probably didn’t have time to grab me there. I can imagine how annoyed they were.

Varya Mikhailova, a community public defender, came and found me at the precinct, where I was handed charge sheets, concocted on the spot, for two street performances: the vulva ballet in support of Yulia Tsvetkova, and the road to the ocean of blood in support of the Khachaturyan sisters. There were a lot of mistakes in the charge sheets, which Varya had better tell you about, and I just refused to testify against myself.

vardarVarya Mikhailova and Darya Apahonchich waiting for her hearing at the October District Court in Petersburg, August 4, 2020. Photo courtesy of Ms. Mikhailova’s Facebook page

Around six o’clock, I was taken to court and tried on the two charges at once. It was there that I had a gander at my case files. They were quite hilarious. There was a touching insert from Center “E” [the “anti-extremism” police] where you could see the photos from all my old [internal] passports, in which I was fifteen, twenty-one, and so on. Then there were screenshots of videos, and disks containing these same videos. In short, it was a cool folder, better than my pathetic portfolio. Another funny thing was that all the performances had been taken from a page on the MBKh Media Northwest website. They also wrote in my file how many likes and comments there were. There were very few likes.

The judge’s assistant showed the video and read aloud the text of the performance “this road leads to an ocean of blood.” She read very well, after which everyone fell silent. I really liked it, I would also add it to my portfolio.

I was found guilty (under Article 20.2, Part 5 of the Administrative Offenses Code of the Russian Federation [“violation by a participant of a public event of the established procedure for holding an assembly, rally, demonstration, march or picket”] and was sentenced to pay two fines of 10,000 rubles each [approx. 230 euros]. We will appeal the fines, of course, and I think we will also file a complaint against police officers for unlawful arrest.

***

I am upset, of course. (My “joking” program clicks on in such situations, but then when I get home, the “get scared” program turns on.) I don’t like living in a world where people in uniform grab you on the street and shove you into a paddy wagon. (I told them, “Don’t touch my scooter!” They said, “We’re not touching it!”—and then they grabbed the scooter.) I’m also sorry, of course, that I said I worked at the Red Cross. In the past, I usually didn’t tell them where I worked, but I didn’t get picked up on the street like this in the past. It’s an important lesson for everyone who has a “civilian” job: don’t tell the police about it.

I’m also upset that I have to constantly be ready for violence from all directions. Today, I have again been getting messages containing insults from strangers. Thank you for only sending messages. I categorically don’t like that, in this world, I constantly have to prove I have the right to voice my opinion. You see, the system thinks that if you are a teacher, a mother, then okay, that is a normal job, a normal life, you have the right to be (a little) dissatisfied, to engage in a little activism. (Moms cannot be held overnight at police stations on administrative charges.) But employers rarely like it when you are an activist. This system is very complicated and stifling.)

But I cannot help doing what I do. My support for Yulia Tsvetkova, for Angelina, Maria, and Krestina Khachaturyan is a very important part of my life. It is my freedom, my fight for the safety of all women, and my contribution to my children’s future. (I am really, really worried that my daughter is growing up in an unsafe world, that my son is growing up in an unsafe world, that society imposes places on them in the hierarchical meat grinder.) I am still going to be involved in activism: I cannot do it any other way.

(I had a year in my life when I worked at a college and was quite afraid that my name would be googled at work and I would be fired. Consequently, I tried not to do performances, and then I was fired anyway, because the college was shuttered, and my students were deported to boot.)

I want to say a huge thank you for your support. Yesterday, I got calls and emails, and my wonderful friends came to the courthouse. (No one was allowed inside, but we met outside when it was all over.) I am very glad for this a world of solidarity, thank you.

***

My  public defender suggested that I should immediately announce that I was soliciting donations to pay the fines. I decided this was probably reasonable. There is hope that we will be able to get the fines reversed. In this case, I will transfer all money donated to Yulia Tsvetkova and Mediazona.

So here’s my card number. 4276 5500 7321 7849.

(This photo was taken near the courthouse. I found it on the Telegram channel  https://t.me/armageddonna.)

Photo courtesy of Ms. Apahonchich’s Facebook page. Translated by the Russian Reader

What the Flowers Would Say

Urodiny
Facebook
July 29, 2020

Protest Botany

What would the flowers say if they could? They would demand the release of Yulia Tsvetkova, of course! The reproductive organs of all living beings are important and worthy of respect, and disseminating information about them is not a crime. This is clear to everyone, from the youngest begonia tubers to the huge redwoods. The time has come for people to understand this. And if, instead of persecuting female activists, the law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation would take up gardening, how pretty the world would be! Elect a Scotch marigold president and begonias to parliament! Grow your own gardens! Leave others alone! Free Yulia Tsvetkova!

ur-1Caution! Your children could see the sexual organs of these French marigolds!

ur-2These daisies demand an end to the persecution of Yulia Tsvetkova!

ur-3These nettles support sex education for children, adults, and police officers.

ur-4You can use the stamens and pistils of these lilies explain to children where they came from and not go to prison for it.

ur-5These smart violets know that a schematic drawing of a vulva is not pornography.

ur-6These Scotch marigolds insist that you should plant flowers, not jail female artists.

ur-7These petunias permit you to seek and disseminate information about the female reproductive system.

Yulia Tsvetkova’s surname is based on the Russian word for “flower,” tsvet. You can read more about the Putinist state’s case against her and join the international solidarity campaign that has arisen in her defense at Free Yulia Tsvetkova. Thanks to Darya Apahonchich. Translated by the Russian Reader 

Anna Tereshkina: Earth Digger

Anna Tereshkina has always epitomized, for me, the radical core of the Petersburg underground. Especially since she comes from Omsk, in Siberia. If Chernyshevsky were writing the novel of our times, Tereshkina would be Vera Pavlovna and Rakhmetov all at once.

tereshkina-photo (anastasia makarenko)Anna Tereshkina. Photo by Anastasia Makarenko. Courtesy of Ms. Tereshkina’s Facebook page

Tereshkina is an incredibly prolific artist, curator, musician, and poet. She is dedicated to universal justice and solidarity and is particularly attuned to the aesthetic and political performative discourses of queer-feminism. Her work and, most importantly, her life as a work (of art and politics) have been among the most formative for me in terms of opening up to my own queer body and writing.

Among Tereshkina’s most important projects are:

The first translation is from Tereshkina’s incredible recent collection in the online journal F-Writing. The second is one of Red Dawns’ songs.

_________________________________

relaxation as the result of many days of effort.
many years of effort.
I come here, into the world of feminine bodies
to erase my sex,
to look at them carefully,
so calm,
escaping for a couple hours
children, husbands, grandsons, debts,
poverty and bosses,
patience and despair.
into the kingdom of heat and silence.
everyone is silent, they just breathe like stoves.*
and I need to breathe this way, too.
today I showed a new woman the ladle and mitt, so she could give us more steam.
she said: “toss more,” and I didn’t understand.**
then I thought about the division of language and feelings:
you can pick over them like grains
or you can share them with someone.
or eat your kasha with black dots,
if you like dots, in particular black ones.***
there’s a strong woman washing her old mother,
after the steam room she tells her: sit here a bit.
will I ever wash my mother?
mine never goes to the banya alone.
and then I hear, hear, hear everything
breath and motion, breath and motion
the electric current pulls the water pumps
and the water runs off into the drain.
I want to be huge like a stove,
so no one can put me in their pocket.

* The poem describes a scene in a Russian public bathhouse or banya on a women’s day. The banya is heated by a large brick stove or pech.

** These lines contrast two infinitives, describing the act of throwing water on the stones in the stove to produce steam. On the one hand, poddavat (to add or increase the steam, with the root meaning “to give”), and on the other hand, podkinut (to toss or throw the steam). Tereshkina told me she had never heard this usage of the second verb before the scene described.

*** The reference is to the black grains that can often be found in a bag of buckwheat kasha. They can be separated out before cooking or simply eaten along with the rest.

tereshkina-self portraitAnna Tereshkina, Self-Portrait. Courtesy of the artist

https://krasnyezori.bandcamp.com/track/shrew

Mama, I want a tattoo,
Mama, I’m embarrassed before you
Like usual, because I was born,
And forced to steal your youth.
It was so scary in the 1990s,
no scarier than now, lying down
looking back, looking forward,
We don’t know which of us
Lies the most to the other
We don’t know which of us
Lies the most to themselves.

I like being a girl,
but it’s better to be a zemleroika,
Anyone born in perestroika,
Remains forever there.
I like being a girl,
who has such little air
underwater, everything squeezing me,
and no one waiting up above
It’s already too late.

Mama, I want to get my nose pierced,
so everyone can see I’m grown up
and I can pierce everything I want, if I want.
Mama, can I come back
into your matrix, peek in with one eye,
so I can rest,
so I don’t have to breathe,
so I can run away.
Is it shameful to dream of such things?

I like being a girl,
but it’s better to be a zemleroika,
Whoever was born in perestroika,
Remains forever there.
I like being a girl
who has such little air
underwater, everything squeezing me,
and no one waiting up above
It’s already too late.

* The Russian for “shrew” is zemleroika, which literally means “earth digger,” recalling Hegel’s appropriation of Hamlet’s “old mole” to name the spirit of history. Since “shrew” has such misogynistic connotations in English (and none in Russian), I have left the original word in the translation. Please learn this word (rhymes with perestroika!) and use it in English to replace the dead word “shrew” if you are speaking of a tough, assertive woman.

Translation and commentary by Joan Brooks. If you would like to support the author’s work, please consider donating. Any amount helps. Please include “Tereshkina” in the memo line of your contribution.

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Three Sisters

this road leads straight to an ocean of blood
the girls are driven down it by their father’s fists and his cries: stop! shut up! you’re going to suck me!
here are the first steps, here are the mother’s screams, here is the father, licking his lips, calling them to the bedroom. we can already hear the ocean of blood, but whose is it? his or theirs? there is no turning off.
three girls, please save yourselves from this terrible sea.

Source: Darya Apahonchich

khachaturyan

Russian Prosecutors Uphold Khachaturyan Sisters’ Murder Charges
Moscow Times
July 13, 2020

Russian prosecutors have backtracked on their position to drop murder charges against three teenage sisters accused of killing their abusive father, lawyers told news agencies Sunday.

Prosecutors late last year ordered investigators to drop the charges against Krestina, Angelina and Maria Khachaturyan, who admitted to killing their father in July 2018 after he subjected them to years of physical, mental and sexual abuse. The sisters’ lawyers had hoped that investigators would downgrade the charges of premeditated murder, which carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years, to necessary defense charges.

“The Prosecutor General’s Office has approved the Khachaturyan sisters’ indictment,” their lawyer Alexei Liptser told the state-run TASS news agency.

Liptser said the same deputy prosecutor who refused to approve the sisters’ indictment in December has “obviously changed his position.” In May, Russian investigators rejected the prosecutors’ orders to drop the murder charges.

His colleague Mari Davtyan linked the prosecutors’ reversal to “a trend” of raids and arrests of activists and journalists since Russia adopted a slew of controversial constitutional changes on July 1.

In addition to adding socially conservative and economically populist promises to the Constitution, the amendments allow President Vladimir Putin to extend his 20-year rule into 2036 by resetting sitting or former presidents’ term limits.

The Khachaturyan sisters’ other lawyer Alexei Parshin told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that he expects a closed trial.

The sisters’ high-profile case has divided Russian society. Supporters blame Russia’s legal system — which critics say turns a blind eye to domestic abuse — for forcing the teenagers to defend themselves, while opponents view them as murderers.

Their case has also fueled calls for the repeal of a 2017 law that decriminalized first-time domestic abuse offenses.

Photo by Alexander Avilov for Moskva News Agency. Courtesy of the Moscow Times

Mardikor

“Every Day We Go Out on the Road”: A Documentary About the Lives of Female Mardikors Has Been Made in Tajikistan
Fergana
July 2, 2020

Tajik journalists have made the documentary film Mardikor [“Day Laborer” or “Handywoman,” as the filmmakers themselves have translated the term], which details the plight of female day laborers in the city of Bokhtar, 100 kilometres from Dushanbe. The picture was created as part of MediaCAMP (Central Asia Media Program), implemented by Internews with financial support from USAID, writes Asia-Plus.

Pop-up mardikor markets exist in all the cities and major towns of Tajikistan. But whereas earlier only men offered their services there, women’s markets have also recently appeared. Women who are divorced or left without the support of husbands who have gone to work abroad are willing to undertake any hard work for the sake of two or three dollars a day.

“The short film Mardikor tells the story of these women, most of whom are the abandoned wives of migrant workers. Their husbands do not return from the Russian Federation for years on end and do not send money to support their families. The majority of unemployed women at this labor market do not even have a school-leaving certificate. More than half are mothers with many children,” says the film’s director Mahpora Kiromova.

Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the heads-up. Film poster (below) courtesy of Mahpora Kiromova’s Facebook page. Translated by the Russian Reader

mardikor

tellme_sister

nazh-1Elena Nazhmetdinova. Photo from her Instagram page

“Tell Me, Sister”: A Tajik Woman on the Web Urges Young Woman to Speak Out About Harassment
Zarnigor Dadabayeva
Asia Plus
June 30, 2020

When she launched her first blog on Instagram, 23-year-old Elena Nazhmetdinova could not have imagined that it would garner more than 1,500 subscribers in a single day. On the blog, Nazhmetdinova tells the stories of women who have been sexually harassed. She has already posted thirty-six such stories.

“There Are No Such Problems in Tajikistan!”
This is not the first time that Nazhmetdinova has spoken about sexual harassment. She started writing about it a long time ago, when she first started blogging on Facebook.

“But there was no response from the people who were reading me. I think this was due to the fact that Facebook is mainly used by the adult generation. While most of the people on Instagram are young people, who are not unfamiliar with the topic of sexual harassment on the streets. It was there that I decided to find my own voice, and it wasn’t a miscalculation: more than 70% of my audience now is young women,” the blogger says.

nazh-2Elena Nazhmetdinova. Photo from her Instagram page

Recently, according to Nazhmetdinova, young men who could not ignore this painful topic for young women had also started to swell the ranks of her readership.

“But they did not come [to the blog] to support us. On the contrary, they came to insult, humiliate, and hate on us and thus, supposedly, persuade us that there was no sexual harassment in our country. They would say, ‘There are no such problems in Tajikistan!” Nazhmetdinova says, quoting her male readers.

That was why, the young woman explains, she came up with the idea of launching a separate project on Instagram called Tell Me, Sister. This was so that others who have suffered from such humiliation can tell their painful stories along with her. Nazhmetdinova received exactly thirty-six stories within a day.

nazh-3“I’m really scared to go out in the evening, or in revealing clothing.” A story of sexual harassment on the Instagram page tellme_sister

Tellme_sister
“Without knowing it, I was inspired to create this project by male readers whose comments often started with the words ‘Sister, don’t dress like that . . .’, Sister, don’t look up [at men] . . .’, ‘Sister, it’s your own fault . . .’,” Nazhmetdinova explains.

nazh-4Elena Nazhmetdinova. Photo from her Instagram page

“So, I decided to write a post in this vein, and surprisingly it was the most read and the most commented-on post, in the end. It was then that I decided to dub the project Tell Me, Sister,” Nazhmetdinova explains.

As soon as Nazhmetdinova launched the project, she began receiving stories from women and girls that ended the same way: “I haven’t told this to anyone yet.” According to the blogger, her subscribers realized that they could trust her.

nazh-5“As I ran away, I heard [him] shouting in my direction that I was a ‘prostitute,’ ‘not a Muslim,’ and basically a ‘chalab’ [slut].” A story of sexual harassment on the Instagram page tellme_sister

“The main goal of the project is to give women an opportunity to speak out, to give them a virtual shelter where they will be supported and understood. Naturally, I understand that this will not vanquish sexual harassment on the streets. However, I hope that eventually we will be heard, and it will stop being considered a normal thing,” Nazhmetdinova says.

Over the past six days, the number of subscribers to tellme_sister has grown to 2,180, which Nazhmetdinova is sure only points to the problem’s urgency in Tajik society.

Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Coat Hangers for the Health Ministry

chelyab“#Hangers for the Health Ministry,” “Give us a choice,” “Without state-funded abortions there will be backroom abortions,” “The Health Ministry violates human rights,” “Banning abortions is no solution”: a protest installation set up by feminists outside of Hospital No. 1 in Chelyabinsk. Photo by Anastasia Zelentsova. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

“Go Find a Place That Will Give You an Abortion When You Have a Cough like That”: The Challenges Women Face During the Pandemic
Alla Konstantinova
Mediazona
June 4, 2020

Since early April, most hospitals in Russia have been focused on battling the coronavirus pandemic, and the Russian Health Ministry has recommended postponing routine surgeries. Under this pretext some medical facilities have begun refusing to perform abortions and other gynecological operations. Consequently, unemployed women have been forced to take out loans for abortions at private clinics or give birth to children they may not be able to feed.

In April 29-year-old Tatyana Shapovalova, from the village of Solomenny, which is part of Petrozavodsk but is physically separated from the city, found out that she was eight weeks’ pregnant. Shapovalova already has four children, but only the youngest lives with her and her common-law spouse. Her parental rights have been restricted, so one child is being raised by Shapovalova’s sister, and the other two by foster parents.

“Our living conditions are very bad,” Shapovalova says, explaining the decision.

She and her husband decided to end the pregnancy: the village obstetrician-gynecologist sent Shapovalova off for tests, an ultrasound, and a consultation with a psychologist. The trips to the psychologist and doctors and waiting for the test results took a month.

“It took a week for the blood panels to arrive, and a week for everything else,” she says.

The fact that she would have to pass a Covid-19 test before the surgery was something Shapovalova learned from the village gynecologist one week before her appointment at the perinatal center in Petrozavodsk—ending a pregnancy as covered by compulsory health insurance is currently done only at this facility. One building at the Gutkin Municipal Maternity Hospital has been turned into a coronavirus observation ward, while the other has been converted into a coronavirus treatment facility. Tatyana caught a cold and had a strong cough, but she had the Covid-19 test smear.

“Six days later, I got a negative result for the coronavirus. The next day, I traveled to Petrozavodsk to the perinatal center,” Shapovalova continues. “I was already at twelve weeks. But in the reception area they heard my cough and went to consult with the head physician. I sat there for about forty minutes. Then the nurse came out and said, ‘You’re denied hospitalization.’ I said, ‘I have a negative test result for the coronavirus.’ And she replied, ‘Go find a place that will give you an abortion when you have a cough like that.’”

Petrozavodsk residents have at times had to wait even longer—sometimes two weeks—for the results of Covid-19 tests, says Irina Koroleva, the director of Women’s Clinic No. 1.

“For example, on June 1 we received the test results only for May 14. All of the labs in the city have had problems with the reactive agents for the swabs. If check-up results are not provided in time, the perinatal center has the right to refuse a woman service. It is the same with childbirth: if a woman is in labor, she’s sent to the maternity hospital, which has been converted into a coronavirus observation ward. Or the baby will be delivered in a single-bed ward in the perinatal center’s emergency room.”

The head doctor of the perinatal center, Yevgeny Tuchin, explained that Shapovalova had been denied treatment on the basis of a Health Ministry order.

“An artificial termination of pregnancy is not performed when acute infectious diseases and acute inflammatory processes are present in any location, including a woman’s reproductive organs,” he wrote in response to a query from Mediazona. “The abortion is performed after the patient recovers from these illnesses.”

Shapovalova insists that they did not even examine her at the perinatal center, and the only person with whom she spoke was the nurse, who merely heard her cough.

In Russia, an abortion is performed at a woman’s request only within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy; abortions are provided to rape victims “according to social indicators” for up to twenty-two weeks. Because of the delays with tests and the unexpected refusal at the perinatal center, Shapovalova missed this deadline.

Now Shapovalova, who is currently unemployed, lives in an unfinished wooden house, and was already restricted in her parental rights, has to give birth to a fifth child.

[In early April, the Health Ministry recommended that the heads of Russian hospitals “consider postponing” routine surgeries, citing as a reason for the decision the complicated epidemiological conditions in the country. At the same time, the ministry recommended not reducing routine treatment for patients with renal, cardiovascular, or endocrine diseases, or cancer. The Ministry of Health did not mention gynecological diseases or abortions, thereby creating additional problems for Russian women.]

Not Only Karelia
Shapovalova did not demand a written refusal of an abortion from the doctors. Medical lawyer Anna Kryukova says that now it will not be easy to prove the illegality of the doctors’ actions.

“A written refusal is provided after a written inquiry,” says Kryukova. “She didn’t insist on it, and the powers that be took advantage of it.”

In April, a female employee at the No to Violence Center (nasiliu.net) telephoned forty-four Moscow hospitals: only three of them agreed to schedule her for an abortion as paid for by compulsory health insurance. The Moscow Department of Public Health told us that, during the pandemic, many hospitals had classified elective abortions as routine or non-urgent surgeries. Later, the Department of Public Health reported that hospitals that had not been repurposed for treating Covid-19 are performing abortions, as before.

In an interview with Mediazona, Karina Denisova, a spokesperson for Hospital No. 1 in Chelyabinsk, called a social media announcement that they would no longer be performing abortions in their outpatient clinic a “misprint.” After protests by Chelyabinsk feminists, who set up an installation featuring clothes hangers next to the hospital entrance (in Soviet times, some women performed abortions on themselves using hooks made out of hangers) the hospital admitted that the published information had been “incorrect.”

Like Shapovalova, a resident of Kovrov in the Vladimir Region will also have to give birth. Obstetrician-gynecologist Alexander Rusin says that the woman was also denied an abortion.

“At Kovrov Central Municipal Hospital,” Rusin says. “They said, ‘It’s the coronavirus: we are closed for routine surgeries.’ What did the woman do? Nothing, as far as I know. Well, deadline was nearing, she was at eleven weeks. She left. Of course, I consider [the hospital’s actions] illegal, a violation of the law.”

“I Eat Macaroni to Save Money”
Irina Drozdova of Vsevolozhsk was supposed to have her tubes tied on April 13. Twenty-five-year-old Irina decided on the operation after an exceedingly difficult childbirth.

“The anesthesia for the C-section and the post-natal stress triggered cardiomyopathy,” she says. “Now I take pills that are incompatible with pregnancy, and I’ll be taking them for the rest of my life. Plus, they put me on a defibrillator, and it is just one of the indications for sterilization under compulsory health insurance.”

Getting ready for the operation, Irina underwent dozens of tests, but it was suddenly canceled.

“They refused because of the situation with the coronavirus, but I had spent three months doing the paperwork, consulting with a cardiologist, and undergoing an ultrasound—everything was ready. In order to reschedule, I have to go through another complete workup,” Irina says.

In April, dozens of maternity hospitals across Russia were repurposed to treat the coronavirus, and the Health Ministry recommended that facilities that did not close should do consultations with pregnant women online.

Twenty-nine-year-old Muscovite Anastasia Kirsh, who gave birth to a daughter in May, connected via WhatsApp with her gynecologist in the women’s clinic at the Yeramishantsev Maternity Hospital.

“If I needed to find out test results, get a referral to the infant feeding center, renew a prescription, or had an urgent question, it was possible to resolve that online, which was very convenient. Other services—gynecological exams, measurements, ultrasounds—were performed in the clinic as usual.”

Coda Story has told the tale of a Moscow woman who had to take out a loan for an abortion, because her husband had lost his job when the quarantine started, and the family had no means of support left. At Moscow Hospital No. 40, she was denied a free abortion under compulsory health insurance.

“You should not even count on a surgical abortion under compulsory health insurance. Routine surgeries, except in emergency cases, are currently not being performed,” a doctor told the woman. “Your case is not an emergency: there is no reason to hospitalize you. […] If you want to fight for your rights, you will miss all the deadlines.”

Unemployed single mother Anna Kazakova, from the Moscow suburb of Yegoryevsk, where the maternity hospital had been turned over to battling the pandemic, was faced with a choice: schedule an abortion under compulsory health insurance in Kolomna, fifty kilometers from home, and make numerous trips back and forth, first for tests and then for the operation, or pay to terminate the pregnancy at a private Moscow clinic, which would take a single day.

“They were sending everyone off to give birth fifty kilometers away at the Kolomna perinatal center,” she explains. “But what was I supposed to do with my four-year-old daughter? Drag her back and forth with me? They would start ‘losing’ the tests and making lots of referrals to psychologists, as is usually the case. There is all this hubbub in Russia about supporting families and mothers. But in fact, you have nothing coming to you. And an existing child doesn’t count either. If I tell them I won’t be able to support a second one in such conditions, I won’t get anything but condemnation,” says Anna.

After borrowing 15,000 rubles from a friend, Anna had a medical abortion at a private clinic in Moscow. Now she thinks about how to repay the debt.

“I eat macaroni to save money on food,” she says. “I applied for social security, but they said that I was not eligible for any benefits.”

“They Were Turned Down—and They Left, Sadly Wiping Away Tears”
Medical lawyer Anna Kryukova believes that “no one has directly prohibited” abortions in Russia, but that all the instances of refusal are the consequence of fear and ignorance on the part both of doctors and patients.

“The battle against Covid-19 has been farmed out by the federal government to the regions, but they all still look to Moscow,” Kryukova argues. “Doctors are used to saluting at every turn—god forbid they do something wrong, or they will be dismissed from their posts. This is due to fear: it is easier to follow orders now than to get whacked upside the head for these violations later. The outreach work has also been done very poorly: people are already so frightened of the virus, and nobody is explaining anything to them.”

Many patients need surgical help now, but they are afraid to go to the doctor because of the coronavirus, says Ph.D. in medicine and obstetrician-gynecologist Kamil Bakhtiyarov. He works in a private clinic in Moscow where paid medical and surgical abortions are performed.

“Women are so frightened that they come in for termination of pregnancy practically wearing spacesuits,” he says. “They’re terrified, deeply terrified. The first question they ask is, ‘Are you working with Covid patients?’ For patients who need surgical treatment the problem of hospitalization comes up: in the first place, many clinics have been repurposed to threat Covid cases, and secondly, people themselves are very much afraid. A person doesn’t want to go to an ordinary hospital because there it’s six people to a room.”

Despite the pandemic, patients should insist on their right to medical care, argues Kryukova.

“People should still seek medical care and exercise their rights. The problem is that the victims [mentioned in this article] apparently did not do that,” she says. “Unfortunately, the patient community does not know its rights very well. These women were simply turned down verbally—and they left, sadly wiping away tears. Nobody chases after patients nowadays: for something to change, the person who needs the medical treatment has to take the first step.”

Translated by Mary Rees