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

Down the Streets the Trams Were Rolling

Ivan Burkov, “Saint Petersburg: Ligovsky Prospekt from the Cab of a Tram,” August 27, 2016. (Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up.)

Nol, “Down the Streets the Trams Were Rolling”

Early in the month of May one spring
Rumbling, screeching, dusty godsends
Down the streets the trams were rolling
They were going off to die
Down the streets the trams were rolling
They were going off to die

But up ahead the rumbling cars were racing
The cars were smelly, the cars were filthy
And the trees they cried and sobbed
While, spitting shit, the tires whispered

And the trees they cried and sobbed
While, spitting shit, the tires whispered

Such, my friends, was the whim of nature
Everyone had to run to work on foot
Down the streets the trams were rolling
They were going off to die
Down the streets the trams were rolling
Heading down to the depot to die

Fyodor Chistyakov and Nol performing “Trams” in 1992

The Rain Came Down

 

 

TV Rain, April 8, 2020. “Three years after the first terrorist attack in the Petersburg subway, the court sent eleven people to prison—an entire terrorist network. We studied the evidence, talked to witnesses in Russia and Kyrgyzstan, and realized that there are too many secrets and questions left in the case. We assembled our own jury to decide whether the case should be reopened.”

People Freaked Out in a Good Way
Ilya Ershov spoke with TV Rain reporter Yevgenia Zobnina about her documentary film on the strange investigation of the April 3, 2017, terrorist attack in the Petersburg subway.
Open Space

Why did you decide to tackle this topic?

I was working as a correspondent for TV Rain in Petersburg and spent the whole day [of April 3, 2017] outside the Tekhnologicheskii Institut subway station. The most amazing thing was what happened afterward. The entire city raised money [for the victims and their families], government-organized rallies were held, and then somehow everyone abruptly forgot about it . Then there were fragmentary reports that the culprits had been caught. Next there was the trial. On the first day, reporters came running to film and photograph those eleven [defendants]. That was it. And then there was the verdict. There has been a good trend in journalism, on YouTube, of returning to the sore spots in our history. It seemed to me that this story should also be told.

Were there things you found out when shooting the film that didn’t end up in the film?

There was this thing with one of the relatives of the Azimov brothers, who had been corresponding on WhatsApp with unknown numbers. The investigation used some of them as evidence of [the brothers’] connection with terrorists. One of the relatives said, This is my number, I exist, I live in Ukraine, I am not a terrorist. If Ukraine had not gone into quarantine, we could have found more witnesses there.

How many people refused to talk to you?

It was a big problem for the relatives of the defendants to give their relatives’ contacts, because everyone is scared. None of the relatives turned us down. They were happy that someone was interested in their lives. They say that if their relatives were terrorists, the local security service would not have left them alone. But they came once, took their information, and never showed up again.

zobninaYevgenia Zobnina. Photo courtesy of her Facebook page

How openly were Kyrgyzstan’s human rights defenders ready to communicate with you? Were they and the relatives [of the defendants] under pressure from the local security services?

It was a great surprise for me to talk with Sardorbek, a lawyer at the [Kyrgyz] human rights organization Justice. He says that they know how to assert their rights. In Kyrgyzstan, there are laws that enable one to defend one’s rights. When they found out about the disappearance of their relatives, the Azimov family practically lived in the offices of the human rights defenders for several days, and no one came and tried to take them away. But we did not find any attempts by [the governments of] Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to stand up for their citizens.

Have the Russian authorities reacted to the film?

We made official inquiries even as we were making the film, but we didn’t get any answers. This film was made for society, not for the state.

What kind of reactions have their been to the film in general?

People have freaked out in a good way. Their reaction has been, “Wow, why is it like that in our country?”

You staged a jury trial in the film? Are such trials the future?

There should be jury trials at some stage. But there will never be a jury trial in this case. [On the day the verdict in the real trial was announced] Putin came to Petersburg: how could those people have not been convicted? In the film, the jury was there to keep us from turning into accusers of the FSB. We thought it vital to turn this into a conversation about what was wrong with the case. Jury trials are demonstrative. Every detail of a case is examined carefully, because both sides understand that they are facing people who do not understand anything about it. The verdict depends on how you explain the evidence. When we begin to explain what happened in the investigation of the terrorist attack, everything immediately becomes clear.

Thanks to Ilya Ershov for the heads-up and for permission to translate and publish this interview here. Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the terrorist attack, the case against its alleged financiers and planners, its roots in the Islamophobia that has infected Russia under Putin, and the shocking absence of local and international solidarity with the eleven people convicted and sentenced to long prison terms in the case:

 

Mama Anarchy

 

Kino, “Mother Anarchy”

A soldier was walking home down the street and saw these guys.
“Who’s your mama, guys?” the soldier asked the guys.

Refrain
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.

portvein

The once-ubiquitous Port 777 should not be confused with its distant Portuguese cousin. In quality and flavor, it bears more of a resemblance to Mad Dog 20/20.

All of them wore leather jackets, all of them were small,
The soldier wanted to walk on by, but it wasn’t easy.

Refrain
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.

Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.

The boys played quite a fun joke on the soldier.
They painted him red and blue, and forced him to use foul language.

Refrain
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.

Original lyrics courtesy of gl5.ru. Image courtesy of Soviet Visuals. Translated by the Russian Reader

Masyanya in Isolation

 

Oleg Kuvaev and patrons present
Masyanya, Episode 142: “Isolation”

Masyanya: That’s that. We’re not going outside. It’s a full quarantine. We’re never going outside again.
Uncle Badya: What, never again?
Masyanya: Oh, come on. There was never anything good about the outside. “Outside.” Even the word says it: “outside” is a nasty word. “Outside” is violence, disease, politics, filth, viruses, rudeness, thievery, and other shit. There’s nothing good out there. Forget it, we’ve over it. Yeah, by the way, this is Brodsky. He’s going to stay on our couch for a while.
Grundel: What? What Brodsky? What the hell! No one asked me.
Brodsky: Don’t leave the room, don’t make the mistake and run.
Grundel: You shut up, bro!
Masyanya: We don’t get asked much in this life. There’s nothing to be done about it, Grundel. You’ll have to live with him.
Brodsky: Things are silly out there . . .

Grundel: And how are we going to get the groceries from the courier?
Masyanya: You cut a little hatch on the bottom so only a box can get through.
Grundel: But I don’t want to ruin the door!
Masyanya: Well, then we’re going to order only thin-crust pizza, so it slides under the door. It’s much tastier, too.

Masyanya: We should have a regimen.
Grundel: We’re lying down, that’s our regimen.
Masyanya: We should do calisthenics every day.
Grundel: Kid now . . . but better at night.
Masyanya: And get up at eight in the morning.
Grundel: And go to bed at eighteen in the evening.
Masyanya: And learn Japanese.
Grundel: Well, kid now, go crazy. Arigato gozaimasu, sou desu ka . . .

Masyanya and Grundel: It’s you again . . .
Masyanya: Stop, bitch! I know it’s you again.

Masyanya: I’ve woken up. And the question is, what the heck for?

Masyanya: I didn’t know you were such a sprat lover, Grundel. Is your maiden name Spratman, by chance?

Grundel: Why the hell do you need so much wine, Masyanya?
Masyanya: The dumbest thing you can do when the world ends, Grundel, is be sober. Capeesh?

Masyanya: Things are going badly, my Japanese friend.

Masyanya and Grundel: It’s you again . . .

Masyanya: So listen to me, people of Cell No. 15, and hear what I say. Basically, there was writer and traveler, Thor Heyerdahl.
Grundel: Sorry, who was “high”?
Masyanya: Cover your ears, children. Heyer, Heyerdahl. That’s a last name, damn it. Open your ears, children. Wait, did you hear that? Whatever. Basically, Thor Heyerdahl . . . sailed off. Cut, cut, cut! So, basically, Thor Heyerdahl, traveler, wrote in his book about traveling on the Kon-Tiki that the crew would sometimes lower on a rope from the back of the ship this little sloop . . .
Grundel: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Sloo-oop.
Grundel: Sloo-oop, Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Quiet! Sloo-oop.
Thor Heyerdahl: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Sloo-oop.
Grundel: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Basically, there would a dude in the sloop who had bugged the shit out of the whole crew, and he’d have a little break from the company of his dear loved ones. Got it? We’re in a similar situation, and so the bedroom is now a sloop.
Grundel: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Sloo-oop. Quiet!
Grundel: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Basically, if when anyone gets sick of our company, they have the right to say they have problems, and go there and sit alone. Is everyone clear? Dibs! I’m first!

Brodsky: Don’t leave the room, feign that you’ve caught a chill.
Grundel: Hey, Masyanya, is bro going to have a turn, too?
Brodsky: Don’t be a fool! Don’t be like the others.
Grundel: That’s an interesting thought.

Masyanya: What’s going on outside? Any zombies?
Grundel: No, there’s no one at all.
Masyanya: Uh, what a virus, man, it sucks.

Masyanya: Damn, they don’t have that, they don’t have that, and they don’t have that, either. What are we going to do for chow?
Grundel: I can eat beer.

Grundel: Hey, Shaggy, what are you doing?
Shaggy: I’m fine, I’m dating girls. I even like it better this way.

Grundel: Оh, you’re playing GTA! Basically, you have to shoot everyone, break in there and rob it, and then steal a car . . .
Masyanya: Uh, wait, I’m just strolling. I’m going to the beach, then stop by the store and the café. Why do I need to shoot, kill, and chop up people? That was fun before the virus.

A YEAR HAS PASSED

Masyanya: What, just go outside like that?
Grundel: Yes, the quarantine has been lifted. Go ahead, go for a walk!
Masyanya: Outside . . . Ah, what is that? The sky? Ugh . . . what shit! Listen, Grundel, the outside is nothing but trouble. I’ll show you a forest in VR. It rocks! It’s pretty and there’s no shit. Let’s go back. Let’s nail it back up . . . It was nice.
Brodsky: Lock up and let the armoire keep chronos, cosmos, eros, race, and virus from getting in the door . . . Ouch!
Masyanya: You get the heck out of here, bro. You were to blame from the very beginning. Beat it, bro!

Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up and transcribing the Russian. Image courtesy of Masyanya website. Translated by the Russian Reader

mas_fla

 

Petersburg Police Sabotage Pussy Riot Video Shoot

Police Sabotage Pussy Riot Video Shoot at Lenfilm Studio
Mediazona
February 9, 2020

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has told Mediazona that police have sabotaged the filming of a video for the Pussy Riot song “Rage” at Lenfilm Studio in Petersburg.

“There are cops and Center ‘E’ officers at the filming of our video at Lenfilm. First, they came and made us sign an obligation not to promote ‘homosexualism’ and ‘extremism,” and then left to talk with Lenfilm management. Half an hour later, the lights were turned off throughout the building. The shoot was scheduled to run from noon to six in the morning. So, the whole thing’s a bust,” Tolokonnikova said.

riotPolice at Lenfilm in Petersburg. Photo by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Courtesy of Mediazona

The producers tried to rent a generator, but they were not permitted to bring it on the premises of the studio.

“Two days before the shoot, plainclothes officers visited Lenfilm and insisted they cancel the shoot. Surprisingly, Lenfilm refused to heed their request, telling them that we had paid and all the paperwork was in order,” the performance artist added.

Tolokonnikova said that feminist activist Nixel Pixel (aka Nika Vodwood), artist Lölja Nordic, and photographer Aleksandr Sofeev were among the people slated to appear in the video.

“There were supposed to be riot cops [OMON] in the video, but a real patrol showed up instead. The song is about resisting the authorities,” Tolokonnikova told Mediazona.

In an interview with Znak.com, Inessa Yurchenko, who was appointed Lenfilm’s new director general two days ago, called Tolokonnikov’s story a provocation.

“The guys were supposed to have actors in police uniforms, so they cannot pass that off as there being police officers there. There are no police officers on the premises of Lenfilm. It’s not nice to show pictures of actors and provoke the public,” she said.

Yurchenko threatened to call the police.

“I won’t be surprised if there are more provocations on their part—then I will be forced to call the police,” she said.

Yurchenko explained that the blackout in the studio had been caused by an accident on the power grid.

“The head of security will now have to follow regulations while the cause of the accident is established, and so he will have to ask [people] to evacuate Lenfilm because it’s a [secure] facility,” she said.

She added that the activists could return to the film studio when the power was restored.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Children of the Soviet Union

This fascinating documentary, made by Disney in 1987, gives its putative US television audience a glimpse into the daily life of a Leningrad schoolboy, Alyosha Trusov. Alyosha attends Leningrad School No. 185, an English-language magnet school that my boon companion had graduated only a few years before this film was made.

Thanks to Yelena Yoffe for the heads-up.

 

Everything Is Normal: The Life and Times of a Soviet Kid, a recent memoir by the narrator and protagonist’s older half-brother Sergey Grechishkin, also gets my seal of approval. I would especially recommend it to university lecturers teaching courses about everyday life in the late-Soviet period and anyone else who wants to know what childhood was really like for what anthropologist Alexei Yurchak has rightly called “the last Soviet generation.”

Don’t be scared off by Grechiskin’s explicitly pro-capitalist, pro-western stance: he is too good a writer to let that get in the way of the story he has to tell, which he tells much more honestly than most of his compatriots and, certainly, nearly all westerners who have written about the period.

Thanks (again) to Yelena Yoffe for the heads-up. Grechishkin’s book turned several long bus trips in December into supremely pleasant journeys.

grechishkin

This book is both a memoir and a social history. On one hand, it is a light-hearted worm’s-eye-view of the USSR through one middle-class Soviet childhood in the 1970s–1980s. On the other hand, it is a reflection on the mundane deprivations and existential terrors of day-to-day life in Leningrad in the decades preceding the collapse of the USSR.

The author occupies a peculiar place in the Soviet world. He is the son of a dissident father and also the stepson of a politically favored Leningrad University professor and Party member. He also occupies a peculiar place in the literal geographic sense — both his home and school are only a few blocks away from the city’s KGB headquarters, where a yet-unknown officer called Vladimir Putin is learning his trade.

His world is a world without flavor. Food is unseasoned. Bananas are a once a year treat. A pack of instant coffee is precious enough to be more useful as a bribe to a Party official than a consumable. Parents on business trips thousands of miles away from home schlep precious and scarce bottles of soda across the Soviet empire for their kids. Everything is bland: TV, radio, books, music, politics — life itself. The author staves away boredom the best he can, with a little help from his friends. They play in the streets of their beautiful city, still resplendent with pre-Revolutionary glory; make their own toys and gadgets; and, when they get older, pass around forbidden novels and books of poetry.

But occasionally, an infinitely more exciting world makes itself briefly known. A piece of foreign bubble gum with a Disney wrapper. A short Yugoslavian cartoon. A smuggled cassette tape with mind-blowing music by someone named Michael Jackson. And these hints of a completely different life introduce small cracks into the author’s all-pervading late-Soviet boredom — cracks that widen and widen, until reality itself shatters, and a brand new world rushes in.

Judge Not

trialStill from Judge Gramm. Courtesy of YouTube

Activist Karim Yamadayev Could Face Criminal Charges for Video Depicting “Execution” of Sechin and Peskov
Grani.ru
January 3, 2019

Quoting human rights activist Ruzil Mingalimov, MBKh Media reports that the Tatarstan branch of the Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal investigation under Article 319 of the Russian Criminal Code (“insulting a government official”) over an episode of the web series Judge Gramm in which activist Karim Yamadayev, playing a judge, sentences Igor Sechin and Dmitry Peskov.

Judge Gramm (Episode 1)

In the video, the judge reads out sentences to people wearing black bags over their heads and signs reading “Vladimir Putin,” “Dmitry Peskov,” and “Igor Sechin,” respectively. The judge sentences Peskov and Sechin to death before escorting them off camera, taking a gun with him, in Peskov’s case, and an axe, in Sechin’s. Sounds of a gunshot and an axe striking a chopping block are then heard. At the end of the video, the judge says that the trial has been recessed until the following week.

Investigators searched Yamadayev’s home on Friday before taking him to the Russian Investigative Committee. Police also searched an office and the home of Yamadayev’s parents, said Alexei Glukhov, head of Apologia for Protest. Mingalimov reported to Mediazona that Yamadayev was interrogated and qualified as a witness before being released.

During the search, investigators seized computer equipment and a notebook containing passwords to online payment systems.

“[Yamadayev] is afraid the investigators will clean them out,” Mingalimov said.

On December 31, Yamadayev was summoned to the police over the same video.

“They got a tip, which they didn’t show us, by the way. They said they were obliged to react to the tip within seventy-two hours, and so they summoned [Yamadayev],” Mingalimov said.

After making a statement, Yamadayev was released.

96593“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, 1952–2019.” Photo courtesy of Grani.ru

A resident of Naberezhnye Chelny, Yamadayev was jailed on March 12, 2019, for twenty-eight days for, allegedly, setting up a gravestone with Putin’s name outside the city’s Investigative Committee office. Another activist, 32-year-old Nikolai Peresedov, was sentenced to six days in jail over the incident. Yamadayev was found guilty of violating Article 20.2.8 of the Administrative Offenses Code (“repeated violation of the procedure for holding public events”), while Peresedov was found guilty of violating Article 20.2.2 (“holding a public event without prior notification”). Yamadayev went on hunger strike during his time in jail. In September, he filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Side by Side 2019: International LGBT Solidarity vs. Bomb Threats

IMG_9987The crowd at the opening of the Twelfth Side by Side International LGBT Film Festival in Petersburg, 14 November 2019. Photo courtesy of Side by Side

Press Release, 15 November 2019

The Twelfth Side by Side International LGBT Film Festival opened in Petersburg on November 14 despite stubborn attempts by ill-wishers to disrupt it. At 7:00 p.m. on the dot, right at the moment when the festival’s opening ceremony was set to begin, the festival venue, the Sokos Hotel on Birzhevoy Pereulok, received an anonymous phone call about a bomb or other explosive device that had, allegedly, been planted in the building. The numerous people who had come to the festival were evacuated from the building along with the hotel’s guests. For nearly two hours, police and Emergency Ministry officers checked the hotel. Of course, the “warning” proved to be deliberately false.

Despite these criminal attempts to disrupt it, the Twelfth Side by Side Festival began with a necessarily brief but emotionally charged opening ceremony during which the audience was addressed by the festival’s partners and jury, as well as a guest of the festival, Belgian filmmaker Marianne Lambert, whose documentary film I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman will be shown on November 15.

“What I have seen has reaffirmed for me that this is the place where we need to fight for our rights,” Lambert said.

The opening film was the Brazilian drama Hard Paint, which won the Teddy Award as the best LGBTQ-themed feature film at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival. Before the screening, film critic Ksenia Reutova said many interesting things about the film’s co-directors, Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, as well as filling in this stunning picture’s context for the audience, telling them about the special, unenviable position of Porto Alegre, the setting of the film and the filmmakers’ hometown, and the recent conservative turn in Brazilian politics, which is very similar to what has been happening in our country.

The first day of the Twelfth Side by Side Festival was marked by a fighting spirit and an atmosphere of solidarity. The festival will run for another seven days, featuring a wide-ranging program of documentaries, features, and short films, as well as appearances by special guests from Russia and abroad, and discussions about transgender people, transgender parents, LGBT in big-time sports, non-binary people, and the victories and shortcomings of the LGBT movement in Russia and worldwide.

The opening day of the festival

Festival Schedule

Side by Side on Social Media:

VK Facebook Instagram Telegram YouTube

Translated by Thomas Campbell. Thanks to Gulya Sultanova and Side by Side for the press release, photograph, and their indomitable spirit.

Zhilkomservis No. 3: The Central Asian Janitors of Petersburg’s Central District

Central District for a Comfortable Environment
PB Films, 2019
vk.com/pb_films

On National Unity Day, after much deliberation, ordinary janitors agreed to tell us their stories of corruption, slave-like exploitation, “dead souls,” meager salaries, and problems with housing and working conditions.

Everything you see in our film is true.

Join the group Central District for a Comfortable Environment.