Yuri Leiderman: The Black General

Yuri Leiderman
Facebook
September 29, 2021

“The Black General”
I arrived in the city of Heraklion and checked into the hotel. I turned on the TV while I got settled in. On TV5Monde, a group of intellectuals in well-chosen nonchalant jackets was discussing Rimbaud, Kafka and Gallimard’s new releases.

I should have been like them, I thought enviously.

I could have become like them, I thought, horrified.

There is no Pinochet to reign them in,
No Black Colonel,
No Black General,
I thought with a grin.

So I am the very last Black General, overgrown and useless and grassy, I thought without much emotion, after appending hands, palms, and wrists, like claws, like threads, to the seams.

Translated and reproduced here with the artist’s kind permission by the Russian Reader

Bad List Updates

Marta Hillers’s Book A Woman in Berlin Placed on List of Extremist Materials
Wonderzine
November 23, 2021

Sota reports that the Russian Justice Ministry has placed A Woman in Berlin, a book by Marta Hillers, on its list of extremist materials. In the book, the writer recounts the end of World War II and the mass rapes of German women by Soviet soldiers. The Abakan City Court in the Republic of Khakassia had petitioned to have the book placed on the register.

Sota also draws attention to the fact that in 2008 the book was adapted for the screen. The film is not mentioned in the list of extremist materials.

“Kill the Beggars,” a song by the group Pornofilmy, and eight other materials were also placed on the register. The list was published by a Telegram channel about updates to the list of extremist materials [and “extremists” and “terrorists”], maintained by the programmer Ivan Shukshin.

Thanks to Anna Romashchenko for the heads-up. Image courtesy of Kinopoisk. Translated by the Russian Reader

“Kill the Beggars!”

Come on!

Progress and efficiency have triumphed. And how!
Today we have a neutron bomb
We’ll destroy our surplus enemies quickly
Without touching their property, we’ll do everything cleanly

Well, it didn’t come in handy in the war
It will come in handy at home — both for you and for me

Kill the poor!
Exterminate, destroy them!
Chew them up, crush them! Come on!
They’re not afraid to die
The beggars will be only too glad
Every beggar goes to heaven
Kill the beggars!

Come on!

The sun laughs in gasoline puddles
We don’t need a war tax anymore
The slums are on fire, burning perfectly
And a million unemployed people have just disappeared

Well, look: the country is rising from its knees
Unemployment is defeated

Kill the poor!
Exterminate, destroy them!
Chew them up, crush them! Come on!
They’re not afraid to die
The beggars will be only too glad
Every beggar goes to heaven
Kill the beggars!

Come on!
Fucking do it!

Champagne splashes, joy and pride
Crime is falling. Breathe freely!
Smiles frozen on the faces of the fortunate
And Putin said that we have won

Let’s get dressed up! Shout “Hurrah!”
We’ll dance until morning

Kill the poor!
Exterminate, destroy them!
Chew them up, crush them! Come on!
They’re not afraid to die
The beggars will be only too glad
Every beggar goes to heaven
Kill the beggars!

Come on!
Come on!
Come on!
Kill the beggars!

Source: AZ. Translated by the Russian Reader

Subtle Forms of Utter Hogwash

Dostoevsky and the Russian Soul

Rowan Williams’ fascination with Russia began when, as a boy, he watched Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible on television. After that he became a born again Russophile, learned the language, and even completed a doctorate on Russian Christianity. But no Russian figure has held his fascination more than Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Dostoevsky is still considered among the greatest novelists the world has ever produced. But his talent for writing complex, often contradictory characters is rooted in a single traumatic moment when, as a young man, he found himself before a firing squad. The event changed his life, his writing, and his views on Russia’s place in the world.

Now that tensions between Russia and the West are once again running high, Rowan considers what the author’s life and thought can tell us about the country today.

Ultimately, Rowan finds, what makes Dostoevsky such a wonderful novelist is his humanity. At a time of deep divides, this is a writer with something to offer us all.

Source: BBC Radio 4

Source: Twitter.com

“They were right to shoot people”

Natalia Vvedenskaya
Facebook
November 12, 2021

In the early 2000s, our computer broke down. There were few computer repairmen back then, and a passing acquaintance suggested her husband for the job. The young man came over and quickly fixed everything. Over tea it transpired that he worked at the FSB.

This was still amazing then, so we naively asked him how he could work in such a place, for the heirs of criminals and all that. And this twenty-five-year-old man literally said, “They were right to shoot people. They just should have done it more quietly.”

Now the whole country from top to bottom is run by people from the FSB. Of course, they want to ban Memorial. What need is there to remember if it was “right” to shoot people? What need is there to defend human rights if it is “right” to imprison people now?

The liquidation of Memorial is just the final whistle: the boat is leaving the dock. We’ll still put up a bit of a fight, of course. What else can we do?  But all the same.

___________

The acquaintance soon divorced the man because he had begun beating their child.

____________

The document, above, is from the family archive. Roman Troshchenko, a priest, worked as a physician’s assistant in an orphanage after serving time in the camps. He was shot, allegedly, for “spreading rumors among the children and the populace that the Soviet regime would fall and the fascists would come to power.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

The History Lesson

Natalya Pavlishcheva, Forbidden Rus’, 9th Edition: 10,000 Years of Our History from the Flood to Rurik 

THE NINTH EDITION of the super-bestseller that has sold record numbers of copies! A sensational book that has overturned over all the usual ideas about the history of Russia, which is not 1,200 to 1,500 years old, as the textbooks lie, but ten times longer!

This “prehistoric” Russia is actually under a complete ban in “scholarly circles.” “Professional historians” do not believe in it. Its existence is denied by “serious academics.” Its traces are diligently ignored by Ph.D.’s and academicians who are accustomed to hush up inconvenient facts that do not fit into the Procrustean bed of scholarly officialdom, although there are more and more such facts with every passing year.

Flying in the teeth of implicit censorship and “professional” taboos, and based not on the retelling of hoary “scholarly” myths, but on the latest data from archaeology, climatology and even genetics, this book offers a new, revolutionary look at the origins of Ancient Rus’ and the deepest roots of the Russian people. It unravels the principal secrets of our past, breaks through the conspiracy of silence and exposes the poverty of historical officialdom!

The book was previously published under the title 10,000 Years of Russian History: From the Flood to the Christianization of Rus’.

Source: Litres. Translated by the Russian Reader

Brighten the Corners

Ginza Project opens food park with more than 20 corners at Mercury Shopping Mall near Begovaya subway station 🍲🥤
Bumaga
September 26, 2021

Ginza Project restaurant group has launched its first food hall in Petersburg. This week, a food park was opened in the Mercury shopping and entertainment complex near the Begovaya subway station. It is a joint project of Ginza Project and Adamant, according to the restaurant group’s website.

The gastronomic space occupies 3,000 square meters. In addition to restaurant concepts [sic], there is a grocery market and a children’s entertainment center.

There are more than 20 corners with food and drinks in the food park. Among the residents are Koreana Light, Bo and Bao Mochi, Easy Hummus, Pa Pa Power, British Bakeries, Buro and Salad Bar. You can try the French grill at The Vixen Has Come, smoothies at Simple Blend and French baked potatoes at Potato Papa.

In addition, Ginza Project has opened three of its own corners in the food park: I Want Kharcho and Khachapuri, featuring Georgian cuisine; Ginza Small, featuring Japanese food; and Pancake and Dumpling, feature Russian fare.

The food park is located on the third floor of the Mercury Shopping Mall. You can learn more about it on the project’s website and its group page on VKontakte.

The image, above, is a screenshot of Ginza Project’s promo video for Food Park Mercury on VKontakte. All underlined words are in Rusglish or Latin characters in the original. Translated by the Russian Reader

_____________

At 12 p.m. on Sunday, October 3, a Last Address plaque in memory of the schoolboy Boris Bumagin, who died in exile, will be installed at 20 English Embankment in  Petersburg.

Boris Grigoryevich Bumagin was born in 1935, the son of the Leningrad Communist Party leader Grigory Kharitonovich Bumagin, who led guerrilla forces in the occupied areas of the Leningrad Region during the Second World War. In October 1949, Grigory Kharitonovich was arrested as part of the Leningrad Affair and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Fifteen-year-old eighth-grader Boris Bumagin was arrested on 14 March 1951 as the “son of a convicted member of the G.Kh. Bumagin anti-Soviet wreckers group.” Boris and his sister were exiled for five years to Krasnoyarsk Territory, where their mother was already in exile. In August 1952, Boris tragically drowned in the Taseyeva River. His father, who was in prison, learned about his son’s death a year later in a letter from his wife.

Two years after his death, Boris Bumagin was exonerated for lack of evidence of a crime. His father was released at the same time, in 1954, and exonerated in 1956.  A plaque in memory of Grigory Bumagin was installed at 20 English Embankment in 1985. Now a memorial plaque for his son Boris will be installed at the same house. Boris’s great-niece Alina Tukkalo has arranged for the installation.

We invite you to attend the installation ceremony and remind you of the need to practice social distancing and to wear masks when socializing. Stay healthy!

Source: Last Address Petersburg email newsletter, 27 September 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

Last Address (Moscow): Natalia Totskaya

A photograph of the young Natalia Totskaya, taken at a photo studio in Irkutsk. On January 2, 1938, Totskaya was executed for “counterrevolutionary terrorist propaganda” and “espionage.” Courtesy of Oksana Matiyevskaya

Oksana Matiyevskaya
Facebook
August 28, 2021

Here’s what’s new.

I was just writing an announcement for tomorrow’s Last Address ceremony for a neighborhood group.

Suddenly, I realized that five years ago, when I started doing this, the charges of espionage and terrorist propaganda [made against many victims of the Great Terror] seemed to be the distant past, a clear marker of Stalin’s hysterical spy mania. It seemed, well, unreal, hard to believe. What must have it been like to live in such darkness, huh?

The years have gone by, but, people have asked, does it still seem unreal?

This is Natalia Totskaya, a graduate of an Institute for Noble Maidens. She was a teacher of foreign languages and translator. She corresponded with her sister, who had emigrated.

A plaque bearing her name and four dates — of her birth, arrest, execution and exoneration — will be installed and dedicated tomorrow, Sunday, 3:00 p.m, at 1/2 Solyanka Street, bldg. 1 [in Moscow].

Please come and join us!

Thanks to Marina Bobrik for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Real Rusha

The success of Putin’s Russia has been determined by a correct-minded approach to solving problems of the development of Russia. Putin’s domestic, socio-economic and international policy ensured great support for him from the majority of Russian citizens. He was supported by the nation not only as a politician, but first of all as a national statesman, responsible for the country and its development.

—Ivan S. Kuznetsov, Elena V. Katyshevtseva (Nikulina), and James Douglas Stuber, Modern Russian History: A Textbook, trans. Liudmila I. Katyshevtseva (Gwangju: Chonnam National University Press, 2012), p. 188

Since the beginning of the year, the number of political prisoners in Russia has increased from 349 to 410. According to the Memorial Human Rights Center (included in the register of foreign agents), the vast majority of them were deprived of their liberty due to their religious affiliation. The list also includes people who were deprived of their liberty after participating in protests in support of Alexey Navalny in January of this year.

—Alina Pinchuk, “‘The growing repressiveness of the regime’: there are more political prisoners,” Radio Svoboda, August 17, 2021

Photo and translation of second quotation by the Russian Reader

Doing the Right Thing (Victory Day)

Yan Shenkman
Facebook
May 9, 2021

Here is what I’ve been thinking about on this day. I seem to understand why every year on May 9, everyone engages in such jealous and painful arguments about whose victory it was and whether it was a victory at all. Everyone wants to prove that the good guys, that is, people like them, won the war. The bad guys —Hitler and Stalin — lost. The bad guys from the other side and the bad guys from our side lost.

But that’s not how it was. The soldiers who won the war at the cost of enormous bloodshed saved everyone, both good and bad. The victory in 1945 was a victory of life over death. Not of a good life (this is the answer to the question “Why do we live so badly if we won?”), but mere life, life as such. People stopped dying. Wasn’t that enough?

I have seen many times how good deeds were done by the wrong people. A person who does not love the motherland can put out a fire. A man who beats his wife will save someone else’s child. And so on. On the one hand, he saved the child, and on the other hand he has beaten his wife again. What conclusions should we draw from this?

None. It doesn’t change anything. Saving children is still the right thing to do, but beating your wife is not. One does not negate the other.

And the child, by the way, can grow up to be a criminal. And so what? Should it not be saved now?

People are different. What matters is not what they are, but what they do. Seventy-six years ago, they saved the world. And what happened to them afterwards is up to the people they saved, it is our choice.

I remember the grief, the huge amount of blood shed, and the losses. But still, today is a holiday, because we were saved: it’s a joyful occasion. And today is also a time to think about whether we have saved anyone.

George Losev
Facebook
May 8, 2021

There are two main reasons for all the pomp around May 9.

First, the more magnificent the holiday, the more money you can allocate from the state coffers [and embezzle]. Officials are just plain greedy.

The second is that the Russian Federation is an imperialist country. Like any imperialist, the Russian Federation tries to expand and prepares for war, generating the appropriate ideology in the process. The construction is quite simple: either a major historical military victory or a major defeat is taken, and the sense of pride or desire for revenge [occasioned by the victory or defeat] is stoked. A typical example is Germany and France before the First World War. Both sides fanned the flames of the Franco-Prussian War as a subject. On the eve of the First World War in the Russian Empire, the subject of 1812 [i.e., Russia’s victory over Napoleon in the so-called Fatherland War] was also hyped.

The Olympics, big construction projects, and so on serve the same purpose, but it is past wars that best fit the bill.

The Russian Federation now simply has no other choice but the Second World War. First, because of the scale. Secondly, after it, the USSR and the Russian Federation engaged in seven wars (the USSR fought in Afghanistan, while the Russian Federation has two Chechen wars, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, and Libya to its credit), all of which ended with the emergence of “gray” zones, sites of constantly smoldering conflict. Creating such zones is the goal of the current imperialist countries, but they cannot be cited as [positive] examples. They cannot serve as a justification of the regime’s actions, because they themselves are in need of justification. Why should Russians be glad to remember the actions of Russian mercenaries in Libya? Or the [Russian] bombing of Syrian cities?

Hence the Second World War.

But as it makes this choice, the Russian Federation has one problem.

Putin’s regime represents, rather, the side that the USSR fought against during World War Two rather than acting as the successor to the Soviet Union. It is the side of monopolistic capital, militarism, and institutionalized racism.

The Soviet Union built schools and hospitals, while the Putin regime has been closing them down. The USSR nationalized property in the territories it liberated, while the Russian Federation has privatized it.

Therefore, the ideological construction becomes more complicated.

The very fact of victory is magnified, and everything else is either hushed up or slimed.

This is the root of the apparent schizophrenia in which the ideological elite of Putin’s Russia has been dwelling for many years, all those TV presenters, priests, Mikhalkovs and writer-directors of endless series about the war, in which Soviet soldiers and commanders are shown as complete degenerates, cowards and traitors.

All these “cultural figures” realize that they are forced to exalt those who essentially fought against them. So there is a huge difference between my annoyance at the hype and the pathos on the eve of May 9, and the fierce hatred that Putin’s ideological minions radiate.

I don’t like marches by kindergarten children in Red Army forage caps: they would be more appropriate in Nazi Germany.

The Putinists do not like the mass heroism of the Soviet people. They hate the Communists, who accounted for one-third to one-half of all Soviet combat losses.

Vyacheslav Dolinin
Facebook
May 9, 2021

I remember a story, funny and sad at the same time, which was told to me many years ago by the musician Mark Lvovich Rubanenko. He was a young man in the pre-war years, and back then he played in Leningrad in an orchestra with other young musicians like him. All of them were fun-loving: they liked to drink, make jokes, and pull pranks. Once, during a friendly gathering, they were flipping through the phone book and found a surname that seemed funny to them – Kurochkin [“Hen-kin”]. One of the musicians dialed the number of the man with the funny last name.

“Comrade Kurochkin?”

“Yes,” said a voice on the other end of the phone.

“Greetings from Petushkov [“Rooster-ov”],” the caller said and hung up.

After that, the musicians began phoning Kurochkin from different places and at different times of the day, even at night. They usually asked the question”Comrade Kurochkin?” and when he responded, they would say, “Greetings from Petushkov.”

Then the war broke out, and all the band members went to the front. Rubanenko made it all the way to Berlin. After the war, the musicians gathered again in Leningrad. Not everyone had come back alive. They drank vodka and remembered their dead friends. And then someone remembered: “And how is our Kurochkin?” Excited, they picked up the phone and dialed the familiar number.

“Comrade Kurochkin?”

“Yes.”

“Greetings from Petushkov.”

The voice on the other end of the phone was silent for a while. Then it yelled: “You bastard! You’re still alive! So many good people have died, but you’re alive!”

The musicians hung up. They never called Kurochkin again.

Ivan Ovsyannikov
Facebook
May 9, 2021

Recently, my mother told me about her stepfather, a front-line soldier. He was wounded, captured, and sent to a Nazi prison camp, and after the war he was sent to a Soviet labor camp in Kolyma. There he met my grandmother, who was also a victim of political repression. The man was, according to my mother, cheerful (which is not surprising), only he frightened her as a child when he would began raving in German in his sleep. He had dreams about the German prison camp while in exile in the Soviet Union. He was also involved in Komsomol weddings.*

[The inscription on the invitation, pictured above, reads: “Dear Comrade V.D. Nigdeyev! We invite you and your spouse to a Komsomol wedding. The wedding will take place at the Tatyana Malandina Club at 19:30 on August 22, 1964.”]

Vladimir Golbraikh
Facebook
May 9, 2021

[Soviet WWII veterans, gathering on] May 9, 1975, on the Field of Mars in Leningrad. Photos by I. Koltsov

Yan Shenkman reports on political trials and popular culture for the independent liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta. George Losev is a housing authority electrician and socialist activist in Petersburg. Vyacheslav Dolinin is a well-known Leningrad-Petersburg Soviet dissident, former Gulag inmate and samizdat researcher. Ivan Ovsyannikov is a journalist and socialist activist in Petersburg. Vladimir Golbraikh, a Petersburg-based sociologist, focuses on his immensely popular Facebook page on unearthing and publishing archival photos of Leningrad-Petersburg during the Soviet era. Translated by the Russian Reader

* ‘Among the events that Komsomol organs planned were Komsomol weddings, a novel ritual for youth that used cultural activities to inculcate not only officially prescribed cultural tastes but also gender norms, part of a broader post-Stalin drive to ascribe civic meaning to ceremonies and ritual. First mentioned in 1954, these wed- dings began to appear across the Soviet Union with the enactment of the 1957 aesthetic upbringing initiative. Official discourse, as expressed by Komsomol’skaia pravda, touted state-sponsored weddings in clubs as a way to undermine religious wedding traditions, in keeping with Khrushchev’s anti-religion campaign, and to minimize the drunkenness and untoward behavior prevalent at private wedding feasts. The authorities also intended Komsomol weddings to ensure the stability of the family. As noted by Shelepin in 1957, private marriages often ended in divorce, but “when someone gets married openly, in front of the people, his friends and comrades—it is another matter altogether.” Such rituals aimed to place relationships between young men and women within the boundaries of government-monitored official collectives, in effect reframing the norms of courting and family life from private to more public settings and ensuring the performance of officially preferred gendered behavior.’ (Gleb Tsipursky, Socialist Fun: Youth, Consumption, and State-Sponsored Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1945–1970, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016, p. 149)

My Motherland

Yuri Korolev, My Motherland, 1972. Smalt mosaic. Photo: Vadim F. Lurie. Used with his permission

Vadim F. Lurie
Facebook
April 26, 2021

It’s a little strange to write about something positive these days, but I saw that, as part of the complete reconstruction of the Central Bus Station in Moscow, they preserved its old mosaic, which is now behind glass. Buses start from the 6th floor of the station, which is located under the same roof as the Shchelkovsky Shopping Center. On the other hand, I wasn’t able to find in my collection photos of the historic Toksovo station, which was demolished, and from which I departed for the dacha half my life.

Translated by the Russian Reader