Morning in a Pine Forest

A morning in a pine forest is luscious in these comfy slippers.

The number of mentions of the military operation in Ukraine in the Russian media and Russian-language segments of social networks has been falling for the second month in a row, as evidenced by the data gathered by Medialogy.

According to Medialogy, a decrease in the number of publications dealing with the military operation has been observed for the second month in a row. If between March 1 and 15, users of social networks made 3.16 million posts [mentioning the war], then in the first half of April they made only 2.46 million (22% less), according to RBC.

Meanwhile, the mention of the war in social networks from May 1 to May 15 decreased by 52% compared to the same period in March, and amounted to 1.52 million messages, according to Medialogy’s figures.

Medialogy used its own proprietary algorithms to count mentions of the word “special operation” in the Russian-language segments of Telegram, VKontakte, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, OK, Rutube, Likee, Yappy, messengers, blogs, and forums, as well as Instagram and Facebook (which are owned by Meta, a company that has been deemed an extremist organization and banned in Russia) while also excluding other possible synonyms.

Medialogy also recorded a decrease in the number of mentions of the so-called special military operation in the Russian media. In the first half of May, the special operation was the subject of more than 147 thousand pieces. This is 26% less than during the same period in April, and two times less than in March. Between March 1 and 15, more than 305 thousand items [on the war] were published in the media.

In total, in March, journalists dealt with the topic of the military operation in over 572 thousand pieces. In April, this number had dropped to 375 thousand, and from May 1 to May 22, to 214 thousand.

Source: “Military actions in Ukraine mentioned less and less in Russian media,” thinktanks.by, 28 May 2022. Thanks to Paul Goble for the link. Image found in a sponsored ad for Topdrawer on Facebook. Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexander Yegorov’s Funeral

On May 26, Kirishi bid farewell to Alexander Yegorov, a contract-service marine who was killed in Ukraine. Our correspondent describes Alexander’s funeral and what his loved ones say about his military service and the circumstances of his death.

Alexander Yegorov. Photo courtesy of VKontakte and Bumaga

Groups of people gather outside the Sunrise Youth and Leisure Center in Kirishi. Almost everyone is holding red carnations — they have come to a civil memorial service for guards marine Alexander Yegorov. One of the deceased man’s twenty-year-old friends has brought black roses. Yegorov’s friends and classmates are followed by a group of distant relatives and teachers. Russian National Guardsmen and military servicemen stand each in their separate groups. Gradually, people converge in a long queue. The queue is headed by a boy of about ten years old in a camouflage uniform, combat boots, and beret, along with an old woman wearing a headscarf.

A military band greets those entering the funeral hall. People lay flowers on a table near the coffin, which is upholstered in red cloth. A Russian flag has been draped over the coffin. Yegorov’s father, mother, and twelve-year-old sister are seated near the coffin. People go up to them, express their condolences, and hug them.

Opposite Yegorov’s close relatives stand medal-bedecked military men, solemnly holding their caps in their hands. The ten-year-old boy in camouflage uniform stands in the center of the hall. Like the adults, he holds his beret in his hand. Two young guards armed with machine guns stand on honor duty near the coffin.

Photo: Pavel K. for Bumaga

A local councilman in a suit jacket ushers the father of the deceased to the microphone. It is hard for him to talk. He cries, barely able to stand on his feet.

“He wanted this himself. He went on his own accord — a real man. As they said, he saved a comrade… I have also been in combat, I know what it is like. Our friend, our son, is no longer with us. I can’t say anything more.”

Yegorov’s father is followed by members of the Kirishi district council. The words “demilitarization” and “denazification” crop up often in their speeches. “We watch TV, we know everything,” one of them says. Another ends his speech by repeating the president’s quote from the Gospel: “There is no greater love than if someone gives his soul for his friends.”

A minute of silence follows. Then a vocational college teacher recalls that Alexander was “not a hooligan” as a student. He says that Alexander would have been an excellent welder.

One of the military men haltingly recounts Yegorov’s act of heroism. Alexander “personally knocked out two enemy tanks” and went to provide first aid to a comrade, but died on the battlefield “as a result of hostile artillery fire.” The military man announces that Alexander has been awarded the Order of Courage posthumously by presidential decree for his courage and heroism.

Anton, a close friend of the deceased, is the last to speak. He is wearing an overcoat and black gloves. It was he who brought the black roses.

Alexander Yegorov’s childhood friend Anton. Photo: Pavel K. for Bumaga

Alexander’s friend Anton:

“Sasha loved style and was well-groomed. He always wore black gloves, chains, and watches, and loved expensive whiskey. He was quite pretentious and finicky. He was obsessed with business. He was an unusual guy. Since he was charismatic and handsome, many girls fell in love with him, almost all of them. He should have worked as a model. We’ve known each other for fourteen years, we went to the same school. Then we went to vocational college. Sasha studied to be a welder, while I studied to be an auto mechanic, but we saw each other often. He was really into personal growth. He was interested in relationship psychology, business, and marketing, and was an excellent binary options trader. He was always on the lookout for information and constantly learning things. He liked to read books. He really liked the books The Richest Man in Babylon and Personal Development for Smart People. And he gave me relationship advice and helped me find girls, like a personal psychologist.”

Photo: Pavel K. for Bumaga

In his eulogy, Anton admits that he had a falling out with the deceased a year ago, that he would like to ask him for forgiveness and hopes that all his friends will forgive Alexander and that Alexander will forgive all of them.

Someone in the audience shouts, “What are you talking about, you fucking idiot!?”

The speeches are over. The military band plays. One of the council members invites everyone to travel to the Meryatino cemetery.

Alexander’s friend Anton:

“He wanted to dodge the draft at first, to not join the army, but last year he decided to go. I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe it was quarrels with friends that incited him. He had begun to behave very rudely and disrespectfully towards me and often had arguments with others. He and I communicated less often — he was a high-maintenance guy.

“In the army, he wrote that he felt abandoned. I would guess that he joined the army for the money, and he needed the money to implement his big plans. He wanted to create his own clothing brand, launch a business of some kind, and get rich himself to help others get rich.

“It is possible that his father urged him to serve in the army, like, ‘it’ll make you a man,’ and his father was an authority figure to him. Not that he actually said, “Go into the army, you need to become a man,” but Sasha took his words to heart. He was always independent. He hadn’t wanted to join the army until the last moment, but either his father said something to him, or he just wanted to avoid the difficulties that could arise when applying for a job [for failing to perform his mandatory military service].

Photo: Pavel K. for Bumaga

On the way to the cemetery, a military UAZ off-road vehicle with an open top, the letters Z and V pasted on its sides and flying three flags, cruises behind the van carrying the coffin. In the car, among people in military uniform, sits the father of the deceased in civilian clothes, his face turned into the wind.

Photo: Pavel K. for Bumaga

At the cemetery, the zinc coffin’s lid is removed. There is a small aperture around the deceased’s face, and a photo of Alexander in military uniform has been placed on the center of the coffin. We are seemingly given the chance to compare the person before he went into the army and afterwards. People stand by the coffin for a long time, peering at it and saying their farewells.

“Mom, this is our little son!” the father of the deceased screams, turning to his wife. Both of them fall on the coffin, hugging the zinc.

Photo: Pavel K. for Bumaga

The burial rites begin. The father becomes faint and falls over. People prop him up and put him in the military vehicle, where he sits with his eyes half closed. Two girls sing “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death by dying.” Some people cross themselves. Nearby, a group of military men discuss the circumstances of Alexander’s death in a low voice. One of them has served in Ukraine, apparently.

“A large piece of shrapnel got under his helmet, and small pieces, minor stuff, struck his bulletproof vest. They broke his ribs.”

“And the one he saved, did he survive?”

“I don’t know, he’s in the hospital. They [Ukrainians] were prepared. Everything there is dug up, crisscrossed with trenches. There was preparation.”

The knowledgeable young man continues.

“Not that there are no connections. Using phones is forbidden. There are cellular connections only in certain places. If they [soldiers] go up to a cell tower [to get a better connection], sooner or later [the Ukrainians] get a fix on them, just like our guys get a fix on them.”

Alexander’s friend Anton:

“As I was told, Alexander at first served in Kaliningrad in the motorized infantry, but then he was sent to a repair battalion when they found out that he was a welder. While he was doing his [obligatory] service, he signed a contract [to continue his service as a paid volunteer serviceman], thinking that he would go to Syria. Who knew that the war would begin? He had signed a contract. The war began and [instead of] Syria, he was sent to Ukraine.

“We did not communicate when he was serving in the army, but four months later he called me and apologized for everything. He seemed to have said goodbye to everyone in advance, saying that he would soon be gone. He wrote me big congratulatory ‘poems,’ and said he missed me. And he wrote messages to everyone about how he wanted to see them take off. He told me that he hoped I would become a hotshot masseur. He told a friend that she would be able to become a streamer, and told another friend to find himself. That’s what he is like — a spiritual mentor. Shortly before his death, he wrote a very heartfelt letter to his parents, but no one read it except his father. It was probably quite personal.”

Photo: Pavel K. for Bumaga

The burial rites end, the funeral march plays. The father of the deceased has come to his senses. He approaches the coffin again and hugs his wife. At this moment, everyone shudders as shots are fired. The honor guard is concealed from Yegorov’s relatives and friends by the funeral home van — no one expected the shots. People instinctively duck, and the father covers his ears with his hands.

The coffin is lowered into the grave.

“The Snickers! They forgot to put in the Snickers!” he screams.

People reassure that the Snickers have been put in the coffin, but the father rushes at the grave anyway.

“Forgive me, son, I didn’t want to get you…”

Two comrades try to hold him back by force. The people around him admonish him.

“Your son is a hero, but you…”

Three gravediggers begin filling in the hole. The father escapes and runs up to it again. One of the gravediggers roughly pushes him away. The father falls.

“Someone give him smelling salts.”

Alexander’s friend Anton:

“[Alexander] told me that a phone had been found on someone in his unit. They wanted to arrest the guy, because phones are banned in their unit. But Sasha made an agreement with the person who wanted to arrest him, and gave him his own phone so that there would be no problems for the other guy. Sasha always stood up for his friends. He gave a lot of things away and protected his friends — friends were very important to him. He sacrificed a lot and shared a lot, whether it was money or knowledge. He wanted his friends to be successful too. He wanted to help them grow up and achieve something, to find themselves, to help them start doing something. I told him quite often during his lifetime that I loved him. Many people loved him, and he loved them too.”

Photo: Pavel K. for Bumaga

The gravediggers cover the mound of dirt with fir branches, and then people come up and lay flowers atop the branches. Having calmed down, the father holds his own tiny, intimate ceremony involving church candles. Then he turns to the young people in the crowd, his son’s classmates, and invites them to the wake.

“Aren’t you friends of Sasha? Come with us to the Eden.”

As you leave the town of Kirishi, on the left side of the highway, you see the ruins of a building that has not been completely demolished. Coming closer, you realize that this is the Echo of War monument: the ruins of a pre-war factory boiler room. The description says that the monument serves as a reminder to future generations of war’s horrific consequences.


Source: Pavel K., “‘He said goodbye to everyone in advance, saying that he would soon be gone’: how Kirishi buried Alexander Yegorov, killed in Ukraine,” Bumaga, 28 May 2022. The article’s author (and photographer) is identified here by a pseudonym for reasons of personal safety. Thanks to JG for the heads-up and KA for the encouragement. Translated by Thomas Campbell, who has edited this website for the last fifteen years and has no reason to be afraid of identifying himself, something that he mostly avoided doing during this website’s first twelve years, when it was produced in Petersburg, Russia.


The Echo of War monument in Kirishi, Leningrad Region, Russia. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, which notes: “During the war, the front line passed through the city of Kirishi. The fiercest battles took place in Kirishi in December 1941, during which most of the town’s buildings were destroyed. The front line constantly passed through Kirishi for about two years.”

There Will Be No Irina Slavina Square in Nizhny Novgorod

Irina Slavina

The Nizhny Novgorod authorities have refused to memorialize journalist Irina Slavina, who committed self-immolation on October 2, 2020, blaming the Russian state for her death. The journalist’s death was preceded by a search at her house as part of a criminal investigation into local businessman Mikhail Iosilevich, who was charged with “[carrying out the work of] an undesirable organization” (per Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code). In 2019, Slavina was sentenced to pay a fine of 70 thousand rubles for “involvement in the work of an undesirable organization.”

After Slavina’s death, human rights activists attempted to get the Investigative Committee to launch a criminal investigation of possible “incitement to suicide,” but the Committee turned them down on three occasions. The first time it argued that the journalist had suffered, possibly, from a “mixed personality disorder,” while the second time the Committee ruled that the suicide was the result of “emotional turmoil and a conscious wish to die.”

One of the projects undertaken by Irina Slavina, editor-in-chief of the independent Nizhny Novgorod publication Koza Press and a grassroots activist, was the rescue in 2015-2018 of a green zone near her house where the city authorities had decided to build a shopping center. The developer cut down dozens of trees, but the construction itself was stopped through the efforts of grassroots activists.

After Slavina’s self-immolation, Nizhny Novgorod residents began bringing flowers to the place of her death every Friday. Friends of the journalist planted flowers and seedlings in a small park near her house, dubbing the site “Slavina Square.”

Инициативная группа со созданию сквера имени Ирины Славиной
Irina Slavina Square pressure group

At the same time, activists gathered signatures on a petition asking that the place Slavina had fought to save from redevelopment officially bear her name. The greenery in the square was also restored by the heads of the city’s Nizhegorodsky district. But these officials did not support the idea to naming the square after the journalist. They decided instead to name it in honor of the local architect Vadim Voronkov.

One of the initiators of the idea of naming the square after Irina Slavina was the Dront Ecological Center, whose employees petitioned the mayor’s office. But the authorities turned the request down, explaining that Slavina was not “an outstanding statesman and public figure or a spokesperson for science, culture, art and other public spheres who deserved broad recognition for her work.”

Local media recall that Nizhny Novgorod regional governor Gleb Nikitin had once presented Slavina with an official certificate of gratitude for her professional journalistic work and personal service and had earlier promised that he would make every effort “to ensure that the investigation of the circumstances that led to the tragedy is supervised at the highest level.”

Дочь Ирины Славиной Маргарита
Irina Slavina’s daughter Margarita, holding a placard that reads, “While my mom was burning alive, you were silent.”

In April of this year, Dront began collecting signatures from ordinary Nizhny Novgorod residents who would like to see a Slavina Square in the city. The petition drive is still ongoing, but officials have already made their decision.

According to the newspaper Kommersant-Privolzhye, new trees were planted in the square a few days ago. The daughter of architect Vadim Voronkov, who was employed as the city’s chief architect for twenty years [in Soviet times, when it was still the closed city of Gorky], took part in the planting ceremony, which was organized by the Nizhny Novgorod State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering.

Alexei Fomenko, an activist with the project 42 — I Have the Right, called this decision by the authorities “a special operation on Slavina Boulevard.”

“For several decades, no one cared about the boulevard or the architect Voronkov. At one time, it was even decided to build the boulevard over. But then, suddenly, there is a ceremony, tree planting, and children. The mayor’s office and the deputies of the City Duma, realizing that we would not back down, and having no desire, on the one hand, to get a kick in the butt from their superiors, and on the other, getting their mugs dirty yet again, decided to resort to the good old ruse of round up some public employees, holding the necessary event hugger-mugger, and formalizing everything properly,” says Fomenko.

The plan of the authorities has not been welcomed on social media. Irina Slavina’s husband Alexei Murakhtayev was categorical in his condemnation.

“The authorities are once again doing something stupid. I do not know who the architect Voronkov was and what he has to do with this square. There must be some kind of cause and effect relationship! There is no cause, however, but the effect will be people’s discontent,” the deceased journalist’s husband argues.

The Nizhny Novgorod authorities explained their refusal to memorialize Slavina by claiming that her work “did not deserve broad recognition.” Vladimir Iordan, a friend of the journalist and a lecturer at the Nizhny Novgorod Theater School, does not agree with their appraisal.

“I have never met a more outstanding public figure capable of sacrificing their life for the sake of the ideals of justice, a more implacable campaigner against corruption and totalitarianism, a more honest and caring person. Slavina’s articles disciplined officials and deputies, and they exposed embezzlers. Governor Nikitin, when it was advantageous to him, liked to underscore that he reacted to all of Ira’s articles and requests. But Slavina was more than just a journalist — she was a real public figure in the original sense of the phrase. She was a driving force in many grassroots campaigns — against the lawlessness of tow truck operators, against the punitive beautification of parks and squares, against the redevelopment of Nizhny Novgorod’s historic center. She was a sensitive person who completely rejected injustice, lies, and hypocrisy,” says Iordan.

German Knyazev, an entrepreneur, public figure, and friend of Slavina, is sure that Slavina will not be memorialized under the current political regime.

“I think her main achievement was doing independent journalism in a totalitarian state, and my prediction is that this totalitarian state will never name a square after her,” Knyazev argues.

Meanwhile, the Iosilevich case, responsible for the humiliating search took place at Slavina’s home the day before her death, continues. Entrepreneur and activist Mikhail Iosilevich is on trial, accused of collaborating with Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia and threatening a witness. Despite the flimsy evidence, the prosecutor has requested four and half years in a minimum security prison camp for Iosilevich. On the eve of his trial he tried to leave Russia using an Israeli passport. The attempt was unsuccessful: Iosilevich was removed from a plane bound for Tel Aviv. According to the activist, his departure would have been the “ideal option” for all parties in the trial. “But no it is then! We will go on with the oral arguments, the rebuttals, the final statement . . . and the conviction of an innocent man,” Iosilevich wrote in a telegram.

Immediately after Slavina’s self-immolation, the Nizhny Novgorod regional prosecutor’s office ruled that the search in her apartment had been lawful. The search was part of the investigation into Iosilevich, which was prompted by his alleged cooperation with Open Russia. It is still not clear what form this “cooperation” took, however.

“Today, at 6:00 a.m., 12 people entered my apartment using a blowtorch and a crowbar: Russian Investigative Committee officers, police, SWAT officers, [official] witnesses. My husband opened the door. I, being naked, got dressed under the supervision of a woman I didn’t know. A search was carried out. We were not allowed to call a lawyer. They were looking for pamphlets, leaflets, Open Russia accounts, perhaps an icon with the face of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. I don’t have any of these things,” Slavina wrote [on Facebook that day].

The next day, Slavina burned herself outside the Interior Ministry headquarters in Nizhny Novgorod. She left a suicide note on Facebook: “I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death.”

Source: Alexander Lugov, Radio Svoboda, 12 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Young, Poor, Dead

IStories
Young, Poor, Dead

The war against Ukraine has entered its third month, but there is still no public list in Russia of the soldiers killed. Isolated cases have been reported by the heads of regions or districts where soldiers lived, or by the schools and sports clubs where they studied and trained.

We compiled our list by studying and rechecking reports from open sources. As of this writing, we have confirmed the deaths of 1,855 men.

What we have learned
It is mostly young soldiers who have perished in the war: their average age is 28. More than 80% were between the ages of 18 and 35, and 40% were younger than 25.

Due to the war, the mortality rate among young men in Russia has already increased by more than a quarter, and by several times in those regions with the most war dead. (For example, in Buryatia, the number of deaths of men under 30 has already increased by more than two and half times.)

Russian regions with the highest number of confirmed war dead in Ukraine

Per 100 thousand men between 18 to 45 years old: Buryatia, 46 men; Tyva, 44; North Ossetia, 40; Kostroma Region, 28; Altai, 25; Jewish Autonomous Region, 25; Pskov Region, 21; Dagestan, 19; Transbaikal Territory, 19; Orenburg Region, 18

In absolute numbers: Dagestan, 123 men; Buryatia, 91; Volgograd Region, 75; Orenburg Region, 64; North Ossetia, 52; Chelyabinsk Region, 49; Bashkortostan, 49; Saratov Region, 46; Krasnodar Territory, 44; Stavropol Territory, 43

Source: Istories, Telegram channel Goryushko

The deaths of young men in the war will eventually cause demographic problems for Russia: the birth rate will drop sharply, which means that the population will decrease. Demographer Alexei Raksha argues that in 2023 we may face the lowest number of births in the entire recent history of Russia.

Military service in Russia is an extremely low prestige job, but new people are constantly going into the army. Why?

What is the quality of life in the regions with the largest numbers of war dead in Ukraine?

Read the investigative report on our website.

Source: I(mportant)Stories, email newsletter, 4 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

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Most Russians are getting a distorted picture of what Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Even the use of the words “war” or “invasion” is prohibited and state-controlled TV does not acknowledge that Russian troops are attacking civilians. Russian soldiers aren’t allowed to call home from Ukraine, and the military authorities are tight-lipped, even when their soldiers are taken prisoner. So how can Russian families find out what’s become of their sons? Some search for help through a Ukrainian website, which posts pictures and videos of dead and captured Russian soldiers on the internet. Tim Whewell follows the stories of two Russian families – one from western Russia whose son was taken prisoner in the early days of the war. And one from the very far east whose family worry about how his frame of mind is holding up against the relentless onslaught of anti-Ukrainian propaganda.

Source: BBC Radio 4, 3 May 2022

Support The Moscow Times!

Dear friend,

Life in Russia changed forever on February 24th 2022 — and The Moscow Times has felt this to its core. As the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues, sinking Russia further into isolation not seen since the Soviet era, it is more important than ever to keep independent reporting alive.

The Moscow Times has operated from Moscow for the past 30 years. As Russia’s oldest independent English-language media, we have always worked to give the world an unbiased perspective on Russian life and politics.

But as Russia has tightened its grip on the free press — punishing those who call the war “war” with prison — our team has had to leave the country.

Amid the crackdown as well as a flood of disinformation exacerbated by hundreds of journalists fleeing Russia, it is more important than ever to provide the global community with accessible and informative stories about the region and offer a nuanced view free of stereotypes and prejudices.

Despite the unprecedented challenges, The Moscow Times continues to cover Russia – but we need your support.

We hope you will support us on this difficult journey!

Support The Moscow Times

Source: Moscow Times email newsletter, 17 March 2022. Please consider pressing the link to the newspaper’s donations page, above, to support their vital mission. You can use a credit card or PayPal to make your donation. I used the latter, and it took me less than a minute to donate. To remind you of the great work they do, I’ve attached a recent story to this blog — as I’ve done several times over the last fifteen years on this post, especially when their now-defunct sister newspaper in Petersburg was still operating. ||| TRR

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She Signed an Open Letter Calling for Peace. Then Got Fired.
Russians who signed petitions against Russia’s war in Ukraine are losing their jobs.
Jake Cordell
The Moscow Times
March 3, 2022

Yekaterina Dolinina. Photo: Facebook/Moscow Times

Like many people around the world, Yekaterina Dolinina woke up on Feb. 24 to a barrage of notifications and messages on her phone.

“I couldn’t immediately figure it all out. It probably took about 15 minutes to process everything,” the 29-year-old director of two central Moscow cinemas told The Moscow Times.

“But then I realized what it meant. Then the pain came immediately. I felt scared and anxious.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin had just given a pre-dawn address to the nation announcing the start of a “special operation” in Ukraine — an aggressive war on Russia’s pro-European neighbor that has killed thousands, including civilians and children, in its first week.

“I didn’t understand what to do next. How could I go to work like nothing had happened? How could I carry on living my life,” Dolinina said.

The next day, she added her name to an anti-war petition — one of dozens of open letters from different professional spheres addressing Putin and calling for him to back down. Dolinina signed one circulating among cultural and artistic professionals. Similar letters were signed by economists, teachers, doctors and a number of other groups in what has grown into a sizable show of opposition to the war.

On Monday, she was hauled into an early-morning meeting by her employers — the MosKino cinema hall — and given a choice. Make a public statement saying that your name was added by mistake, or quit. If she refused to go of her own accord, she said, her bosses threatened to make her dismissal “very unpleasant.”

MosKino did not respond to a request to comment.

“I didn’t waver over signing it and I don’t regret it. But I didn’t expect that it would result in forced dismissal,” Dolinina said in an interview.

“I knew, as somebody working in a cultural institute connected to the government, that if I was detained at a protest or posted something aggressive on social media I could get fired. But I never guessed it would happen for signing an open letter calling for peace.”

“But that’s a sign of the new world we’re all living in now.”

While the Russian military wages war abroad, the government has stepped up a campaign of censorship and repression at home. Independent media outlets are threatened with being blocked or fined from calling Russia’s war in Ukraine a “war” or “invasion.” Russia’s media watchdog blocked the websites of two leading independent broadcasters — radio station Ekho Moskvy and the Dozhd television channel — for flouting those rules.

A law under consideration in Russia’s parliament — that could be passed as early as Friday — would make publishing what the Russian government deems “fake information” a criminal offense, punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

On the streets, anti-war protesters have been met with a tough police resistance, with almost 7,000 people detained in a week of small-scale rallies and demonstrations in cities across the country.

“They said that it wasn’t their choice, that they had tried to protect me. But the order came from above. They couldn’t do anything about it,” Dolinina said of her forced resignation.

In text messages seen by The Moscow Times, her employers wrote in a company-wide chat later that day: “Dear colleagues. Please refrain from making posts about political topics on Facebook, and do not add flags to your profile picture.”

In Russia, forced dismissals are not a new tactic as retribution for political dissent. Last year, the Moscow metro reportedly fired dozens of workers for signing a petition in favor of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

And amid the current war, Dolinina’s case is not unique. Many Russians — especially in the arts and cultural space — have reported being forced to resign in recent days from their work after coming out publicly against the war in Ukraine.

Others are resigning and packing up of their own accord, unwilling to stay in a country at war and facing a devastating economic crisis and unprecedented international isolation.

“I thought about leaving,” said Dolinina. “But even though it hurts to follow what’s happening in our country at the moment, this is a place where I’ve invested lots of love and energy.”

At the Newsstand (A Wave of Patriotism)

A newsstand in Moscow. Photo: Moskva Tsentr

A Wave of Patriotism

A conversation at a newsstand, today, March 4, 2022, Moscow:

Novaya Gazeta, please.

– And why is everyone pouncing on this Novaya Gazeta and snatching it up?

– Nothing surprising about that. It’s the last honest newspaper in Russia.

– Honest? Can Jews honestly write about Russia?! It’s a Jewish newspaper!

– What do you mean, Jewish? It’s not Jewish.

– It’s Jewish! They are enemies of Russia!

– Then why are you selling it?

– I am not selling it [as she hands over the paper in exchange for money]. I am… [Pauses to think.] I am… blocking it! [Carefully straightens out the two remaining copies.]

– You just sold it to me. But okay, I’ll be going to another kiosk from now on.

[Hysterically, segueing into a scream and spraying saliva] You’re the enemy!!!

– Why the familiarity? What’s your proof?

– You’re an enemy of Russia!!!

– Stick your filthy tongue up your ass.

Instead of answering, the saleswoman slams the kiosk’s glass window shut. The window frame rattles and jingles threateningly. At least it’s not caused by an explosion. Not yet.

Communication breakdown.

Alphabet:

А is for anti-Semitism.

W and P are for wave of patriotism.

S is for schizophrenia, as was said.

I.B.

p.s.

Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense), “Wave of Patriotism”:

“Rock and roll is an enemy of the people”

Source: Volja, Telegram, 4 March 2022. Thanks to Anatrr Ra for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

On This Day

Petersburg, February 2, 2018. Photo by the Russian Reader

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Just “for practice,” the Russian media, backed by Russian-language social media, has been lying for years about how Russian children and parents are treated by child welfare services in Finland. In most of these instances, their sole witness has been Finnish “human rights activist” Johan Bäckman, who has fed the baseless horror stories to the Russian media, many of them “reputable” outlets (e.g., Echo of Moscow).

The Russian media has published and broadcast them as was with absolutely no corroboration and without making any attempt to double-check Bäckman’s “facts.”

From time to time, to make it seem as if there really were something going on in nefarious Finland, the absurd Russian federal children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov (who played the judge on the first Russian court show) has fulminated against the Finnish authorities or made some demands or gone on a “fact-finding mission” there.

A few years ago, when Bäckman pushed too many people’s buttons at the same time, there was a brief period when a couple of Russian media outlets (including, unbelievably, Izvestia) ran pieces exposing Bäckman as a dangerous fraud. Then “polite people” brought Crimea back into the fold, and all was forgotten and forgiven when it came to Bäckman.

We now see that this was all a dry run for the full-scale Russian media attack now being waged on Germany in the name of Islamophobia and racism.

What puzzles me is why both the generals and the foot soldiers think there is not going to be any blowback from their hateful little escapade. Do they really think everyone but them is such a gullible pushover? ||| TRR, February 2, 2016

Article 354

Boris Vishnevsky writes:

Ms. Simonyan, who heads the state propaganda channel, publicly asks Lavrov “when we’re going to whack Washington,” and “how much snot we’re going to chew” [i.e., how long we’re going to dillydally]. She is certain that Article 354 of the Russian Criminal Code doesn’t apply to her. Today, no, it doesn’t. But there’s always tomorrow.

Margarita Simonyan writes:

We have finished the interview with Lavrov. I asked what you asked: will there be a war, “when we’re going to whack Washington,” and “how much snot will we chew.”

________

Article 354 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Public calls to unleash a war of aggression

1. Public calls to unleash a war of a aggression are punishable by a fine in the amount of up to three hundred thousand rubles or in the amount of wages or other income of the convicted person for a period of up to two years or imprisonment for up to three years.

2. The same acts committed with the use of mass media or by a person holding a governmental post in the Russian Federation or a governmental post in an official region of the Russian Federation are punishable by a fine in the amount of one hundred thousand to five hundred thousand rubles or in the amount of the salary or other income of the convicted person for a period of one to three years or imprisonment for up to five years with deprivation of the right to hold certain posts or engage in certain activities for up to three years.

Source: KonsultantPlus. All translations by the Russian Reader

 

Ukraine: “Condemn Russia’s Imperialist Threat”

Ukraine: ‘condemn Russia’s imperialist threat’ • People and Nature • 24 January 2022

Ukrainian socialists are urging international unity against the Russian government’s imperialist policies that threaten a new war.

The Social Movement, a group of mainly labour activists in Ukraine, calls in a statement for “solidarity with people who have suffered from the war that has lasted almost eight years, and who may suffer from a new one”.

The statement expresses “gratitude and solidarity to Russian left-wing activists who oppose the imperialist policies of the Kremlin and are fighting for democratic and social transformations in their country”.

“Our house was stolen by war”: one of Ukraine’s 1.5 million internally displaced people. Photo from commons.com.ua

The Social Movement denounces the “myth, popular among some Western leftists”, that the Russian-supported “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk are “the result of popular will”. Their statement says:

The heads of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” are integrated into the ranks of the ruling elite of the Russian Federation and have become the mouthpiece of the Kremlin’s most aggressive predatory sentiments. In the “republics” themselves, any opposition political activity, even the most loyal to the Russian government, is suppressed.

In my view, this statement would be a good place to start discussion about how to build solidarity in the face of war, with working-class communities in Ukraine, and with labour and social movements there. So would the principled statement of opposition to Putin’s war drive by the Russian Socialist Movement, which I posted just before the new year.

The (Ukrainian) Social Movement statement concludes with a call for “complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Donbas”. It says that “one of the best means of pressure on the leaders of the Russian Federation would be the seizure of the property and assets of Russian oligarchs and officials in London and other places”.

It calls for “revision of the socio-economic course proposed to Ukraine by the West: instead of destructive neoliberal reforms under the pressure of the IMF – the cancellation of Ukraine’s external debt”. And it urges “more inclusive and progressive humanitarian policies in Ukraine, ending impunity for the Ukrainian far right, and abolition of the ‘de-communisation’ laws”.

One thing many Ukrainians find grotesque is the sight of their country’s fate being discussed by the US and Russia, as though the Ukrainian state did not exist. This is the focus of an article, “Moscow and Washington should not determine Ukraine’s future”, by socialist activist Taras Bilous.

Bilous’s earlier analysis of the breakdown of the Minsk accords is also worth reading.

So is a facebook post written on 20 January by Marko Bojcun, the socialist historian of Ukraine, which I reproduce here with his permission:

Though Putin, the artful player, has several options in his hand, his ultimate objective has been to get the US to join an expanded Normandy format and the Minsk negotiations, and there to help force Ukraine to accept further limitations to its state sovereignty. Basically, that means Kyiv would accept the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” as internationally recognised autonomous state institutions within Ukraine, but in reality bodies that continue to be run by Russian state ministries – as they already are in a concealed manner. Russia would use them to lever Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policies.

Putin recognises that he can achieve his main goal only with US endorsement. He needs the US to join him in twisting the arms of the stubborn Ukrainians. That has been the point of all these Russian troop movements to Ukraine’s current borders: to get the Americans to weigh in, to keep Ukraine out of any direct talks and to conclude a deal over their heads.

Ukraine is critical to Russia’s long term project of economic, military and diplomatic recovery, its resumption as a Great Power. That means Russia will not stop its drive until it achieves much more. The present conjuncture resembles in some way another historical moment, in 1938, when Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, met Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Nazi Germany’s foreign minister, over the Czechoslovak crisis. Chamberlain came out of that meeting, waved a scrap of paper in his hand and declared peace in their time. I wonder what US foreign secretary Anthony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov will have to say after their meeting tomorrow?

The answer to that last question turned out to be: nothing much. Blinken offered Lavrov the carrot of a meeting between the US and Russian presidents, something Putin has long craved in his efforts to claim Russia’s “great power” status.

For a substantial analysis from a Marxist standpoint, Bojcun’s 2016 article on “The causes of the Ukrainian crisis” is essential reading.

More things to read in English

Friends are asking where they can find alternative, radical analyses, and views, of the war danger in English. Here are some more suggestions.

□ The Russian sociologist Greg Yudin’s view of “why Putin’s Russia is threatening Ukraine” is on Open Democracy Russia, which features a range of alternative viewpoints from across the former Soviet Union.

□ A recent comment article by the journalist James Meek is on the London Review of Books web site, on open access. Meek and Paul Mason are among the panelists appearing at an event organised by the Ukrainian Institute in London about the war danger, on Wednesday 16 February. (The Institute, run in the distant past by cold-warrior right wingers, is now managed by liberal, post-Soviet Ukrainians. Its educational and informational events are well worth looking out for.)

□ The London-based, official-labour-movement-focused Ukraine Solidarity Campaign regularly publishes information.

□ The biggest gap in English-language coverage is about what is going on in eastern Ukraine. I have occasionally translated and published stuff on this blog (see e.g. a recent post here, and, from further back, herehere and here).

□ The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group web site has excellent, and accurate, coverage of an appalling range of repressive state and military activities – see, e.g., their tags on Crimea and “terrorism” (which includes those “people’s republics”), but note, too, their more general reporting on human rights abuses in Ukraine and Russia.

□ It is a job of work to counter the stream of deceit and misinformation from Putin-ists in the UK labour movement. I summed up the arguments in a recent blog post here. I even wrote to the Morning Star, about one of its more grotesque lies – that “hundreds of trade union leaders” were killed by the post-2014 Ukrainian government. Accuracy about dead bodies is not their big thing, it seems. My letter is reproduced below. SP, 24 January 2022.

False reporting of “hundreds” of trades unionists’ deaths

I I sent this letter to the Morning Star newspaper, which claims its favours “peace and socialism”. It was published, in the print & pdf edition only, on 17 January

Dear Editor,

In the article “Opinion: US and NATO play with fire in their latest anti-Russia campaign”, 9 December, John Wojcik stated: “Hundreds of trade union leaders and activists were murdered by the new right-wing Ukrainian government shortly after it came to power [in 2014].”

This is incorrect. The two major Ukrainian union federations reported no such deaths of union leaders. Nor did the detailed reports by the UN High Commission for Human Rights on civil rights in Ukraine. Some activists were killed in this period, during numerous civil disturbances, but there is no evidence that the government was responsible. (Many people were killed, by Ukrainian, Russian and separatist forces, in the military conflict that began in the summer of 2014. This is not what Wojcik is referring to.)

Many of your readers will have mourned the death of friends and comrades killed for their trade union activity. It would be disrespectful to them to leave uncorrected the statement that hundreds of union leaders were killed.

The article also states that the new Ukrainian government “banned the use of the Russian language”. This is incorrect. A law making Ukrainian the single state language was adopted in 2019. It requires Ukrainian to be used – but not exclusively, i.e. it can be used together with other languages – in certain public spaces. It will be applied to educational institutions and the media, but not to private or religious life. Many Ukrainian socialists are opposed to it. But exaggerating its effect can only help to exacerbate differences between working people on grounds of nationality and language, that historically the labour movement has endeavoured to overcome.

Simon Pirani, London. 

Correction. This article has been corrected on 4 February, to reflect the fact that this letter was published in the Morning Star’s print & pdf editions. It was not published in the on-line edition.

Brainwashing vs. Reverse Language Localization

“Brainwashing” California-style, from my morning post

“Brainwashing”, “an old Soviet tradition,” and the absence of inconveniences: why are Russian speakers in no hurry to get vaccinated against the coronavirus?

The share of native foreign-language speakers among the unvaccinated residents of Finland continues to grow. The Yle newsroom found Russian speakers who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19, and found out their reasons

Jevgeni Bogdanov • Yle • 19 January 2022

With the advent of omicron, the Finnish authorities expressed particular concern for the republic’s foreign-born residents: there are many infections among them and a noticeable number of people who have refused vaccination.

Special attention paid to native foreign-language speakers

The vaccination rate continues to grow in Finland, including among residents whose native language is not the official Finnish, Swedish, or Sami. According to estimates by THL (Department of Health and Social Development), this indicator does not differ much among Russian speakers than from other native foreign-language speakers.

At the same time, the proportion of native foreign-language speakers among the unvaccinated has increased.

“In October, people who speak foreign languages [as native languages] accounted for 21% of all unvaccinated people in Finland. In mid-December, this figure rose by a couple of percent points,” said Natalia Skogberg, research director of THL’s group on COVID-19 among people of foreign origin.

Skogberg notes that the reasons for refusing to be vaccinated can be very different: doubts about the safety of the vaccines, confidence in one’s own health and the lack of risk from the virus, distrust of public officials, difficulties with the Finnish language, and the inability to distinguish misinformation from reliable information. She argues that the opportunity to get answers in one’s native language is a “big plus.”

“The authorities have published a lot of information in different languages. Information and recommendations have varied depending on the stage of the epidemic and, for example, the level of vaccination,” Skogberg assured us.

A Finnish health service video about coronavirus vaccines with Russian voiceover

THL’s travel recommendations in Russian have been viewed 16,000 times during the pandemic. More than 4,000 people have viewed its Russian-language page about the coronavirus, and a video about the vaccines with a Russian voiceover has garnered almost 1,700 views. THL noted that they have been trying to convey information through Russophone organizations and targeted advertising on social networks.

Russophone anti-vaxxers have their say

Kymsoten koronarokotuspistellä istuvia henkilöitä Kauppakeskus Hansassa Kouvolassa.
A vaccination center at a shopping mall in Kouvola. Photo: Antro Valo / Yle

The topic of vaccination is raised not only in THL bulletins. Heated debates for and against vaccinations take place on forums and online communities for Finland’s Russian-speaking residents. A Yle News journalist sent dozens of messages to those who opposed vaccination on the internet, asking them to substantiate their position for this article. Many of them turned us down. One person explained that they had rejected our request because our questions about vaccinations were “quite provocative.” Another person said they did not want to be involved in “brainwashing.” A third person called the work of the authorities and the media during the pandemic “one hundred percent misinformation” and “a crime against [human] rights and humanity.” One of our interlocutors was hospitalized with the coronavirus during our correspondence.

However, there were also those who were willing and able to express their opinions.

Tatyana (her surname has been withheld at her request), who is a Finnish citizen and lives in Kuopio, said that she did not want to be vaccinated “for personal reasons.”

“I’m not going to get vaccinated either in Finland or in any other country. […] I believe that before they are vaccinated, people with certain health problems or with a history of heart surgery should at least be given a complete physical” said the woman, who works in the cleaning industry.

According to her, this decision has already begun to affect her work, as her boss had threatened to cut her hours. In other areas of life, she did not feel any problems, since she had “no need of pubs and discos.” The woman also noted that she did not need information about vaccination in Russian, as she speaks Finnish.

Vladimir, an information and communications technology specialist living in Porvoo, has also refused to be vaccinated. (He also requested that his last name be withheld.)

“The vaccine is new and the side effects in the long term are unknown, as well as the number of vaccinations that will need to be done,” the young man said when asked to substantiate his position.

He also pointed out that even with three vaccinations, one can get sick with COVID-19, and a vaccinated person can infect people with whom they come in contact.

“I think it is more important to be able to do a test and be sure that you don’t have the virus, that you don’t have the asymptomatic form and won’t infect anyone. I consider [good] hygiene and a medical mask sufficient precautions,” Vladimir argued.

He also pointed out that being unvaccinated did not cause “critical inconveniences” to life in Finland. Among recent difficulties, the ICT specialist recalled that he was not able to eat at a particular restaurant due to the QR-code mandate. The man found a way out: he went instead to a nearby fast food outlet, where he was not asked for a code.

Vladimir argued that dividing people into “the vaccinated with their privileges” and the unvaccinated did not encourage them to sign up for vaccination in any way. He admitted that his position would change only if his employer “obliged” him. The man noted that some of his friends had been vaccinated for this reason.

“News about the coronavirus has turned into background noise, I don’t follow it in detail,” said Vladimir, adding, however, that he had read official recommendations and Yle’s news reports.

THL responds and even agrees

Yle asked THL chief medical officer Hanna Nohynek to comment on the stance of our unvaccinated protagonists. She even agreed with some of their points.

Thus, one of THL’s main COVID-19 spokespeople said that mRNA vaccines were not in widespread use until 2021. At the same time, she noted that the technology itself had been researched for about twenty years, and today hundreds of millions of doses of mRNA vaccines had already been produced.

“Detailed safety monitoring is carried out, so even rare side effects are known. And there has been constant reporting,” Nohynek assured us.

According to her, some restrictions were made for safety reasons. People under the age of forty are better off not getting adenovirus vector vaccines (AstraZeneca, for example), and the Moderna mRNA vaccine is not recommended for men under the age of thirty.

Nohynek also acknowledged the truth of the claim that even with three doses of the COVID-19 drug [sic], one can get sick.

“This is true, but the vaccinations are primarily aimed at preventing severe forms of the coronavirus. […] None of us can know how badly they will suffer from the disease when faced with omicron,” THL’s chief medical officer argued.

Nohynek said that having a medical examination before getting a vaccination was an “old Soviet tradition” that is not considered necessary in Finland. However, she noted that it was important to be aware of allergies. Perhaps it was not worth getting an mRNA vaccine if one had them.

THL’s chief medical officer commented on a specific problem that, judging by the discussion on the internet, Russians face. If a person has already been vaccinated with Sputnik V, can they be vaccinated in Finland?

“It is effective and safe to use different vaccines. Of course, when a large number of doses is involved, more local symptoms may occur, such as short-term fever, muscle pain, and fatigue.”

Nohynek concluded by saying that the protection provided by the vaccine is considerable even for healthy young people.

Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the heads-up. The lead image, courtesy of Montage Health, was not part of the original article. Translated by the Russian Reader



Yle’s Finnish translation of its original Russian-language article is a brilliant example of what I would call “reverse” language localization. Here is a telling passage:

THL:n ylilääkäri Nohynek: rokotteet ovat turvallisia ja niiden tärkein tehtävä on suojata vakavilta tautimuodoilta
Novosti Yle pyysi THL:n ylilääkäri Hanna Nohynekiä kommentoimaan Tatjanan ja Vladimirin väitteitä.
Nohynek kertoo, että mRNA-rokotteita ei ole ollut laajassa käytössä ennen vuotta 2021, mutta itse tekniikkaa on kuitenkin tutkittu jo parikymmentä vuotta. Tähän päivään mennessä mRNA-rokotteita on annettu satoja miljoonia annoksia.

This is my English translation of this excerpt:

THL chief medical officer Nohynek: the vaccines are safe and their main function is to protect against severe forms of the disease
Novosti Yle asked THL’s chief medical officer Hanna Nohynek to comment on Tatyana and Vladimir’s claims.
Nohynek explains that mRNA vaccines were not in widespread use until 2021, but the technology itself has been studied for some twenty years. To date, hundreds of millions of doses of mRNA vaccines have been administered.

Here is the “same” passage in the original Russian article:

THL отвечает и даже соглашается
Редакция Yle попросила главного врача Ведомства здравоохранения и социального развития Ханну Нохинек прокомментировать позицию наших невакцинированных героев. С некоторыми пунктами она даже согласилась.
Так, один из главных спикеров THL по вопросу COVID-19 сообщила, что вакцины, произведенные с использованием технологии мРНК, не были в широком использовании до 2021 года. При этом она отметила, что сама технология изучалась около 20 лет, а на сегодня сделаны уже сотни миллионов доз мРНК-вакцин.

This is my English translation, as above:

THL responds and even agrees

Yle asked THL chief medical officer Hanna Nohynek to comment on the stance of our unvaccinated protagonists. She even agreed with some of their points.

Thus, one of THL’s main COVID-19 spokespeople said that mRNA vaccines were not in widespread use until 2021. At the same time, she noted that the technology itself had been researched for about twenty years, and today hundreds of millions of doses of mRNA vaccines had already been produced.