Mikola Dziadok: “Any sentence doesn’t seem so daunting anymore”

Mikola Dziadok
Facebook
November 26, 2021

Мікола Дзядок аб сваім прысудзе

Прысуд не выклікаў у мяне асаблівых эмоцый. Калі мяне судзілі першы раз, у 2011 годзе, і другі раз, у 2015 годзе, я моцна хваляваўся. Цяпер гэтага не было. Я быў гатовы атрымаць як больш, так і менш.

Я стараюся сябе прывучаць глядзець на гэта зусім з іншай шкалой, разумець, што мой прысуд – гэта толькі эпізод каласальнага па велічыні гістарычнага працэсу. Я стараюся не аддзяляць свой лёс ад лёсу сваёй краіны і анархічнага руху. Калі думаеш такім чынам – усё ўяўляецца ў зусім іншым святле. Любыя тэрміны перастаюць пужаць.

Зараз за кратамі вялізная колькасць выпадковых людзей: сімпатызантаў руху за перамены, якія не планавалі сядзець у турме за каментар і адно выйсце на праезную частку. Гэтым людзям я спачуваю больш за ўсіх і не дзіўлюся, што многія з іх здаюцца, паддаюцца песімізму і паніцы. А ўсім, хто лічыць барацьбу за лепшы свет сваім прызначэннем, трэба проста набрацца цярпення і ўспрыняць тое, што адбываецца, як заканамерны этап у жыцці. Я думаю варта натхняцца як прыкладамі з мінулага, так і прыкладамі барацьбы ў іншых аўтарытарных краінах – Іран, Венесуэла, М’янма.

Яшчэ я імкнуся не забываць, што турма – гэта ідэальнае месца для працы над сабой. Тут можна бесперашкодна вывучаць сябе, сваю псіхіку, пазнаваць людзей, з якімі ніколі б не сышоўся на волі. Гэтым я і стараюся займацца: выхоўваць сябе, займацца самаадукацыяй і адточваць валявыя якасці кожны дзень. Тады нават знаходжанне ў ізаляцыі набывае сэнс.

_____

In general, the verdict did not cause me much emotion. I remembered that when I was tried the first time in 2011 and the second time in 2015, I was very nervous. That wasn’t the case now. I was ready to get both a stricter and a softer sentence. I didn’t care much whether they would sentence me to 5, 7 or 10 years. I am trying to get into a mindset and train myself to look at it on a completely different level. Then you realize that your sentence is just an episode of a colossal historical process. I try not to separate my fate from that of my country and the anarchist movement. And when you think about it like that, everything is seen in a completely different light. Any sentence doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.

There is a huge number of random people behind bars right now who are sympathisers of the movement for change, who weren’t planning to go to prison for a comment and stepping on a roadway once. Frankly, these are the people I sympathise with the most and I am not surprised that many of them give up, succumb to pessimism and panic. Well, all those who believe the fight for a better world is their vocation just need to be patient and accept what is happening as a logical step in their lives.

I think it’s worth taking inspiration from examples from the past, but also struggles in other authoritarian countries such as Iran, Venezuela and Myanmar. And personally, I try never to forget that prison is an ideal place to work on yourself. Here you can freely explore yourself and your psyche, get to know people you would never get to know on the outside. This is what I try to do: strengthen, educate myself and hone my willpower every day. Then even being in isolation makes sense.

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

Lights Out for the Territory

Dmitry Strotsev
Facebook
November 22, 2021

Lukashenko is obliged to take in the people whom he let into Belarus with a one-way ticket. He is obliged to give them a roof over their heads, find them jobs, and provide them with medical care and social protections. Otherwise, he must admit his irresponsibility and resign. But we all understand that neither the one nor the other will happen. Belarusians, regardless of their political stance, will share responsibility for the criminal actions of the illegitimate authorities. What lies in store for Belarus is a new stage of the humanitarian catastrophe, which will affect everyone, no matter what they think about the migrants.

*

                                For Alexander Skidan

in the autumn park
hungry eyes
leftovers
on
a newspaper
among us
animals breathing
growling in a cage
a rib cage continuous
vagrants german shepherds
among us
say it say it
I am
among
you

September 14, 2009

Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

Our Blood Is Wine

Earlier this afternoon, my dog was feeling “agitated,” as she put it, so she asked me to lie down on the couch with her and watch this doco. Emily Railsback’s Our Blood Is Wine is unpretentiously lovely and informative and reassuring. It’s a treat for people like me who love Georgian wine, food, music, cinema and culture. You should watch it too, especially if you know nothing about Georgia. See below for a hint on signing up to the streaming service I watched it on. NB. This is not a paid endorsement of this service. ||| TRR

Our Blood is Wine
A Film by Emily Railsback

“Embraces both its subjects and the audience in a kind of cultural exchange that you rarely find.”
—Third Coast Review

Filmmaker Emily Railsback and award-winning sommelier Jeremy Quinn provide intimate access to rural family life in the Republic of Georgia as they explore the rebirth of 8,000-year-old winemaking traditions almost lost during the period of Soviet rule.

By using unobtrusive iPhone technology, Railsback brings the voices and ancestral legacies of modern Georgians directly to the viewer, revealing an intricate and resilient society that has survived regular foreign invasion and repeated attempts to erase Georgian culture. The revival of traditional winemaking is the central force driving this powerful, independent and autonomous nation to find its 21st century identity.

Source: Ovid Email Newsletter, 19 November 2021

Give the gift of OVID and your friends and family will be able to watch over 1,300 documentaries and films from around the world! From now until December 18th, get 50% off – just enter the promo code JOYFUL at checkout.
Purchase now: https://misc.ovid.tv/gift.html

Source: Facebook

The English Lesson

Jenya Kulakova
Facebook
November 18, 2021

A trifle, but an unpleasant one all the same.

According to the Russian Penal Code, convicted foreign nationals have the right to communicate with prison wardens in any language they speak and receive a response in that language. Vitya [Viktor Filinkov], as you know, is a citizen of Kazakhstan. In response to the razor blades planted [and “found”] by prison officials in his cell on his birthday, he wrote a statement in English.

And what do you think happened? The penal colony found an English teacher, Nadezhda Ivanovna Zhavikova, who works at Night School No. 13. in Orenburg, who “checked” Vitya’s composition and “corrected” the “mistakes” in it so that the text would better suit the wardens. The only thing she didn’t do, unfortunately, was grade the composition. But the prison staff probably gave her an A.

Vitya writes, “Before I started, current inspector had said that I should REPLACE my prison uniform. I DECLINED but he took it and gave me new one.”

The meaning is clear. What does Nadezhda Ivanovna write in [her] translation?

“Before that, the duty inspector told me to PUT my clothes in ORDER. I SUGGESTED that he take it away and give me a new one in return.”

At issue here is the tunic that was replaced against Vitya’s will before he went to the baths. After he came back, prison officials “found” a shard of a blade in the seam of the tunic. It thus transpires that it was Vitya who asked for it to be replaced.

Vitya ends his statement with an appreciation of the production staged by the Correctional Colony No. 1 troupe: “I didn’t brake the razor, it’s a play. Good scenario, actors. Good game, well played.”

Nadezhda Ivanovna feigns that she didn’t understand what was at issue, and translates [the passage] as if Vitya was bragging about his own play-acting: “I didn’t break the razor, it’s a game. A good acting script. A good performance, well ACTED [by Vitya, apparently [because the verb is the singular in Russian, not the plural —TRR]].”

Maybe, of course, the teacher didn’t do it out of spite, but simply couldn’t make sense [of Filinkov’s statement]. But somehow it seems to me that she made perfect sense of it and even made it over [to satisfy the wardens].

UPDATE. On a more practical note, if you have a translator’s diploma and would like to write a specialist’s opinion for the upcoming hearing appealing Vitya’s transfer to a single-cell facility for a month, you’re welcome!

Team Navalny
Instagram
November 15, 2021

❗️ Viktor Filinkov and the torture colony

Viktor is a political prisoner in the Network case. The case is about a “terrorist community” of young men who were fond of airsoft and openly voiced opposition to Putin.

The FSB took these two facts and cooked up charges that got the defendants sent to prison for terms from six to eighteen years. Allegedly, the young men were divided into combat groups that were supposed to organize bombings in order to “sway the masses for further destabilization of the political situation in the country.”

The defendants claim that they were tortured into confessing, and that the evidence in the case was completely manufactured by the security forces.

The verdicts were announced in February 2020. But the matter did not end when the young men were sent to penal colonies: the authorities began bullying them there. We know the most about their treatment of Viktor Filinkov.

For the slightest offense — such as “didn’t say hello ten times a day to a prison employee,” “washed ten minutes earlier than he was supposed to,” “left his work station during work (he went to the work station next to his to ask how to use the machine because he hadn’t been properly instructed)” —  Viktor is sent to a punitive detention cell. Letters from [Viktor’s] friends and relatives are opened, shown to other prisoners, and even replies to them are forged.

Things are so over the top that when there was a scabies outbreak in [Viktor’s] cell, his cellmates were given ointment, but Viktor himself was not, because “he complained.”

Now Viktor is being transferred to Correctional Colony No. 5 in Novotroitsk, to an isolated solitary cell, for repeatedly violating those supremely absurd rules. This colony is a torture colony, one of the most violent in Russia. In June, twelve inmates there engaged in a “collective act of self-mutilation” to protest the torture.

The Putin regime is a regime of vengeful scum. No one is safe from their lawlessness. This nightmare will become more and more commonplace with every passing day. Don’t let that happen.

More information about how Victor is being bullied can be found in the article linked to in stories.

Release political prisoners!

Translated by the Russian Reader

Courage

COURAGE
In the course of the presidential elections in Belarus in the summer of 2020, three actors from an underground theatre, Belarus Free Theatre in Minsk, get caught up in the maelstrom of mass protests. They are drawn to the wide streets of Minsk to protest vociferously for freedom of speech and the long-awaited change of power. But the people‘s voice is brutally crushed by the regime‘s security apparatus. Members of the theatre group and many other people get arrested. The country is on the brink of civil war. COURAGE accompanies the courageous and peaceful resistance of Maryna, Pavel and Denis before and during the protests. The film takes a very personal look at the events and thus provides a close and gripping insight into the lives of people in today‘s Belarus who are fighting for their freedom and the right to democracy.

Director: Aliaksei Paluyan
Producer: Jörn Möllenkamp
Writer: Aliaksei Paluyan
Cast: Maryna Yakubovich, Pavel Haradnizky, Denis Tarasenka

Running through Thursday, November 18, at Laemmle Glendale in Glendale, California. Thanks to Sasha Razor for the heads-up. ||| TRR

Five Years in Prison for Belarusian Anarchist Blogger Mikola Dziadok

The Regime Sentences Anarchist and Blogger Mikola Dziadok
Pramen
November 10, 2021

Today, the last hearing in the trial of Mikola Dziadok took place. He was found guilty on all charges and sent to a medium-security penal colony for 5 years. The sentence was fully consistent with what the prosecutor requested.

Last year, the anarchist was targeted by the GUBOPiK for his numerous publications about this organization of pro-Lukashenko activists. From July 2020 until his arrest in November 2020, Mikola was in hiding: the repressive apparatus searched for him for almost five months with all the forces at its disposal.

When he was arrested, Dziadok was tortured to gain access to encrypted data on his computer. In many ways, the torture itself was the revenge of the security services on the blogger and anarchist activist for his political work.

This trial has once again shown that the Lukashenko regime is afraid not only of physical confrontation on the streets, but also of confrontation in the information realm. After all, in 2020 it was words that Mikola used to fight the dictatorship in our country. Moreover, he did not leave the country, as other bloggers did, but stayed.

We hope that Mikola, like all the other prisoners of the revolution, will not have to wait long for freedom, and very soon we will meet them on the outside!

Thanks to Antti Rautiainen for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Cardiff Album

These are two of my favorite snapshots. I’m pictured here with the phenomenally brilliant Babi Badalov at the opening of his show The Cardiff Album at the Freud Museum of Dreams in Petersburg on November 3, 2008. The pictures were taken by the equally phenomenal Sergey Chernov. Below the second photo is the intro I wrote for the show. ||| TRR

Born in Lerik, Azerbaijan, in 1959, Babi (Babakhan) Badalov is a living embodiment of cosmopolitanism’s dark and spontaneously convivial underbelly. In his world, people do not travel from one country to another with polished ease, flashing their passports to the guards as they pass effortlessly through frontiers and effecting the shift from one language to another with fluency and grace. On the contrary, when you are a refugee, exile, migrant worker or itinerant artist, you manage these transitions as best you can, mangling the new idioms you learn and fusing them with half-remembered tongues you picked up along the way, mingling them with memories of a mother tongue that never matured into adulthood because at a tender age you left your mountain village for the capitals, where encounters with countrymen were few and furtive and somewhat beside the point. In the provincial capital, you learned the official language of artificial nationhood along with the (un)official language of the anti-imperial empire, neither of them your own, both of them suspicious (of you and of themselves). This was violence to be sure, but you turned this violence back upon itself, never fully learning any of these codes well enough to pass for a native. Nativity, after all, is naïveté, an identification both outwardly enforced and grimly self-willed. For an artist, whether of life or the brush, submitting to too many of these identity checks means submitting to kitsch and cliché.

Of course you submit to these as well—you cannot help but submit: you are an artist, not a fighter—but when you succumb you always go too far, giving the lie to the endlessly tautological chains of self-identity that pass for human speech, which, as Lacan and others tell us, is the inhuman machinery that undergirds and overdetermines our visibly silly search for selfhood. You do not need Lacan to tell you this, though, because you are confronted daily with its external effects, masked as real people in real lifeworlds, who are kind or cruel or indifferent but rarely anything other than language machines. In your poems, you disassemble these machines, heap their parts into great, disorderly piles, and then begin putting them back together in defiance of common sense and good taste and the rules of art. It is worse than that. You get the words all wrong: you pronounce them with the wrong accent; you confuse tenses, case endings, conjugations, and registers. You use, illicitly, the Latin alphabet when you write in Russian, and most of your Russian texts are chockablock with English. When you declaim your poems, whether aloud, in a smoke-filled room crowded with alcoholic crypto-nationalists, or with paste and scissors, as in your collages, it is hard not to escape the impression that a faulty robot has arrived from the island of misfit toys to tell us something we would rather not hear—that all our projects of empire- and nation-building have failed.

Your art is political, personal and politically (in)correct. This is what Adorno meant by the autonomy of art, but if he had met you he probably would have turned away in horror, as he did when his well-meaning German students enjoined him to join them on the barricades.

You ask us to join you on the barricades, but what does solidarity look like from there? It looks like this. For years, you live in wretched conditions in a magnificent squat in the middle of Petersburg. Outside, in the square, stands a monument to the greatest African-American poet of them all, Alexander Pushkin. Your comrades-in-arms are artistic scapegrace outlaws, and their ambitiously unambitious version of conviviality will finally lead to their tiny island’s recuperation by the new powers that be, for whom art is just window dressing for real estate and financial speculation. So when this experiment in direct democracy goes awry, you are induced by your family to return to your “homeland” of Azerbaijan and live the straight life. This is almost too much for me to imagine: for me you are the gayest man on the planet, in all senses of the word. When this becomes unbearable, you use the second half of a double-entry visa to make your way to England, that green and pleasant land that would have been a much duller place throughout its history without adventurers like you.

But you plan this particular adventure all wrong, just as you write poetry the wrong way. You declare asylum as soon as you arrive, but in the New Labour UK—in the midst of a war on terror that has also opened a front running straight down the middle of the country—you are treated both as a potential combatant and an obscure object of bureaucratic desire. At the first asylum center (prison) to which they send you, a riot—complete with helicopters, media coverage, and armored police—breaks out. When you tell the story later, it is quite funny, though of course there is nothing funny about it. After a grand tour of Britain with brief sojourns in another few such oases, your case is officially accepted for review and you are dispatched to Cardiff, where you are given a tiny stipend and a council flat. It is all very civil, except for the weekly check-ins with the UK Border Agency, the more or less constant threat of deportation, and the grinding poverty. That does not faze you, however; or rather it does, but you turn that fazing into art. What kind of art? Dolls made from scraps of fabric; dogs fashioned from Wellington boots; and “visual poems” patched together from clippings and other printed detritus, embroidered with whorls of off-kilter, ham-fisted linguistic ravings, and asylumed on the pages of an old photo album you pick out of a rubbish bin.

This is the Cardiff Album, the diary of your journey through the underside of UK immigration policy. You are the Persian Ambassador (a role you played at an evening in solidarity with Salman Rushdie held in the former Persian embassy in Petersburg in 1995), but the marvels you record on your visits to strange lands look like nothing so much as the end of history having its revenge on the last romantics. Your ambassadorial credentials are recognized only by a ragtag band of Welsh anarchists who make your case their cause célèbre, even though you are a celebrity only in the minds of the people you have stitched together in your wanderings and in “alternative” Azeri news outlets starved for news. When it looks certain that you will be deported, the first half of this inoperative community begins bombarding bureaucrats, parliamentarians, and airline officials with faxes, letters, and e-mails. I have not seen you in years, but I would rather not see you again in such circumstances, so I spend half an hour on the phone telling a Pakistani (or was he Bangladeshi?) call center operator that he should not be party to this horrible crime against human freedom that his airline is about to commit. I tell him to get up from his desk and leave work. What right did I have to tell him that? Rights are not given, they are taken. (Did Bakunin say that? Or was it Kropotkin? Or perhaps it was Gorky? Or maybe no one said it?)

Much as I would rather not seen you again, see you I do a couple days after my stupid conversation with your cleverer immigrant non-brother. You and I have nothing in common, just as no one really has anything in common with anyone else. It is too bad that more people do not realize this sad, happy fact. If more people did, they might actually be able to begin making something in common.

NB. The full Russian version of this text was published in Viktor Mazin, ed., Kabinet Iu: Kartiny mira III (Saint Petersburg: Skifiya, 2010). An abridged English version was published in Babi Badalov, Menilmontant Book (Murcia, Spain: Manifesta 8 & transit.cz, 2010). The Cardiff Album was exhibited in full at the Freud Museum of Dreams (Saint Petersburg) in November–December 2008. Parts of the album have also been exhibited in the group shows Monument to Transformation (City Gallery Prague, 2009); On Geekdom (Benaki Museum, Athens, 2007); Progressive Nostalgia (Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, 2007); and The Return of Memory (Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn, 2007).

Source: Chtodelat.org

The Persecution of Valentina Chupik

Human rights activist Valentina Chupik. Photo courtesy of DW

Human rights activist Valentina Chupik has left Russia
After ECHR decision prohibits Chupik’s deportation to Uzbekistan, the human rights defender was released from a special detention center and allowed to fly to Yerevan
Deutsche Welle
October 2, 2021

The Russian authorities have released human rights activist Valentina Chupik from a special detention center at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. After the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) forbade the Russian authorities from deporting her to Uzbekistan, she was allowed to fly to Armenia, the human rights defender’s assistant Alexander Kim told reporters on Saturday, October 2.

“Uzbekistan has issued Valentina Chupik a new passport. She is currently on board a plane that took off a little over an hour ago for Yerevan. [The Russian authorities] couldn’t hold her anymore,” Kim said.

The human rights defender’s further plans are unknown. Her representatives have submitted an asylum request to the Ukrainian authorities for Chupik and her 84-year-old mother Lyubov Kodentsova, but have not yet received a response. Chupik’s seriously ill mother is still in the Moscow region.

Revenge for human rights work
The 48-year-old Chupik fled to Russia from Uzbekistan after the shooting of demonstrators in Andijan in 2005, fearing torture, and she received political asylum in Russia in 2009. The founder of Tong Jahoni (“Morning of the World”), a migrant rights protection center that provides free legal assistance to migrants facing pressure from the security forces and other problems, Chupik was detained by the FSB at Sheremetyevo Airport last week after arriving from Yerevan.

The Russian authorities had stripped Chupik of her status as a political refugee, banned her from entering Russia for a period of thirty years, and begun the process of deporting her to Uzbekistan. The activist believes that she was punished for criticizing corruption in the Russian Interior Ministry and for her human rights work.

On September 30, the ECHR forbade Chupik’s deportation, invoking Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. This rule is applied as an urgent measure in cases where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm.

Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

Welcome to Estonia

Welcome to Narva (Estonia)! This campaign billboard from the EKRE party (Conservative People’s Party of Estonia) claims (in Russian, not Estonian) that the party will “defend children from LGBT propaganda in kindergartens and schools.”

As the person who posted this on social media explains (in Estonian), among other things the billboard violates the country’s language laws, which dictate that all such ads include text in Estonian that is displayed just as prominently.

Nearly twenty-five percent of the Estonian population is “Russian” — that is, Russophones who moved to the country when it was occupied by the Soviet Union and their descendants. For good or for ill, many of these “accidental” colonizers never bothered to learn Estonian, and the language divide persists there to this day, exploited by nationalists on both sides of the border.

Although I believe that if you deliberately avoid learning the majority language in the country where you live, insisting on your right to speak only the language of the former colonial/occupying power, you are making a very pointed political statement. When it gets entangled with homophobia, etc., that statement becomes altogether obnoxious. Especially when it’s made on behalf of Estonian fascists.

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Raiko Aasa for the heads-up. ||| TRR

[EKRE] has also been labelled “far-right” by Kari Käsper, the Executive Director of Estonian Human Rights Centre, and in foreign media by BBC News and the Christian Science Monitor. According to Fox News Channel, EKRE is a far-right party, “considered by some to have Fascist-Neo-Nazi sympathies similar to many other flourishing nationalist parties in the Baltics and Eastern Europe.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called EKRE youth organization’s annual torchlight procession an “extreme right march.”