News from Ukraine Bulletin 15

News from Ukraine Bulletin 15 (9 October 2022)

A Digest of News from Ukrainian Sources

News from the territories occupied by Russia:

Invaders want to take children and elderly people out of Kherson Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 8th)

Russia sentences three Ukrainian Jehovah’s Witnesses to six years for ‘threatening state security’ by discussing the Bible  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 7th)

Volodymyr Sakada, Yevhen Zhukov, and Volodymyr Maladyka have been sentenced to six years in prison by a Russian occupation in Sevastopol for being Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Photo: Lutfiye Zudiyeva, Graty. Courtesy of Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Bodies of more tortured victims and Russian torture chambers found in liberated parts of Kharkiv oblast  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 7th)

Mass grave found in liberated Lyman  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 7th)

Two more bodies with traces of torture discovered in Kharkiv region  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 6th)

Over 1.6 million Ukrainians deported to Russia – Zelenskyy (Ukrainska Pravda, October 6th)

Russian atrocities at Bucha may be nothing to those that will be found when Kherson is liberated  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 5th)

Mass graves of civilians found in liberated Lyman  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 5th)

Two bodies tortured by Russian special forces found in liberated Kharkiv Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 5th)

Russian torture chamber discovered in district police department in Kharkiv Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 4th)

Russia refuses to return Ukrainian children taken from Kharkiv oblast  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 4th)

Another torture chamber set up by Russians discovered in Kharkiv Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 3rd)

News from Ukraine – general:

Russia strikes high-rise buildings in Zaporizhzhia with rockets, people trapped under rubble  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 6th)

Open wounds of the Russian-Ukrainian war: Ukrainian victims will share their stories in Milan  (Zmina, October 5th)

13 children killed in Russian attack on civilian convoy in Kharkiv oblast  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, October 3rd)

How Ukraine’s metal industry is powering this city’s fight against Russia (Open Democracy, September 24th)

Donations worth millions fail to reach Ukraine – sparking calls for change  (Open Democracy, September 20th)

Analysis and comment:

Walking a Tightrope on Ukraine: How India Is Balancing Ties to Russia & United States  (Democracy Now, October 6th)

“Leftists” outside Ukraine are used to listening only to people from Moscow: Interview with anarcho-syndicalists in Eastern Ukraine  (Freedom News, October 4th)

“The minimum task is to restore, without losses, all the civil, political, and social rights that we had before the war.” Interview with Serhii Guz  (LeftEast, October 4th)

One Ukrainian Democratic Socialist’s Opinion On The War  (The Real News, September 20th)

It’s Russia and Europe That Have a Problem With Ukraine (Green European Journal, September 7th)

Research of human rights abuses:

Who attacked the Mykolaiv Region Administration building?  (Tribunal for Putin, October 8th)

Establishment of a tribunal on Russian aggression against Ukraine: High level of responsibility as a safeguard against new conflicts in Europe  (Opora, October 5th)

Solidarity actions:

Solidarity With Trade Unions In Ukraine  (LabourNet TV, October 2nd)

Support Ukrainian unions (Solidarity Collectives, 29 September)


This bulletin is put together by labour movement activists in solidarity with Ukrainian resistance. More information at https://ukraine-solidarity.org/. We are also on Twitter. Our aim is to circulate information in English that to the best of our knowledge is reliable. If you have something you think we should include, please send it to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com.

To receive the bulletin regularly, send your email to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com. To stop it, please reply with the word “STOP” in the subject field.  

Ukraine Information Group (News from Ukraine Bulletin)

Press Release

Ukraine Information Group launched

London, 3 October 2022

A group of labour movement activists has launched a unique service to English language readers: up to date information about Ukraine, based primarily on independent Ukrainian voices from the front line and first-hand testimony from Russian-held territory.  

The Ukraine Information Group produces a weekly Bulletin, highlighting material translated by Ukrainian civil society organisations who wish to get their message about, particularly about the areas occupied by Russia.

To receive the Bulletin by e-mail, let us know at 2022ukrainesolidarity[at]gmail.com. The Bulletin is also put out on Twitter and stored online here.

The Group aims, working in the labour movement and civil society organisations, to strengthen solidarity with the Ukrainian people resisting Russian military aggression. 

Its aims state: “Conscious of the ‘propaganda war’ waged on all sides, we aim to make accessible reporting and analysis by voices independent of the state.”  The Group focuses on the Russian-occupied areas because (1) the situation there throws light on Russia’s imperialist war aims and methods of rule, and (2) there are limited sources of reliable information from those areas.”

The Group started in March, with calls by elected local government representatives to support their counterparts in Ukraine who were being intimidated with kidnappings and other violence in areas occupied by the Russian army. Appeals were organised in the UK and in Switzerland.

In July 2022 the Group held two online discussions with Ukrainian civil society activists about the situation in the Russian-occupied areas, attended by supporters from across Europe. Links to recordings are here.

The Ukraine Information Group is hostile, as a matter of principle, to Russia’s imperialist assault on Ukraine. But, on the other hand, it does not automatically give unconditional or unquestioning support to the Kyiv government. The UIG stands in the tradition of socialist internationalism and seeks to work in particular with like-minded progressive organisations throughout Europe.

Convenor Simon Pirani, honorary professor at the University of Durham, said: “With the Russian announcement of annexations we have gone past another dangerous turning point. To do anything here in the UK to support Ukrainian resistance, reliable information and informed analysis is a prerequisite.”

Supporter John Palmer, former Political Director of the European Policy Centre and Europe editor at the Guardian, said: “We are committed to supporting Ukraine’s demands on the United Kingdom and the European Union for greater and continuing military, economic and social support, but we will judge NATO’s military support specifically on whether it is designed to strengthen Ukraine’s struggle against the occupiers rather than pursuing a wider NATO/Russia geo-political military confrontation which could risk the use of nuclear weapons.”        

Supporter Mike Phipps, who writes for the Labour Hub website, said: “We’re not in competition with other organisations that are doing excellent work in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Our aim is to play a specific role – bringing to a wider audience news and analysis from Ukrainian sources that can help people in the UK understand the dynamics of the situation.”

To get in touch with the Group, e-mail 2022ukrainesolidarity[at]gmail.com. Follow on Twitter @UkraineIG


Pacific Grove, California, 17 June 2022. Photo by the Russian Reader

News from Ukraine Bulletin 14 (2 October 2022)

A Digest of News from Ukrainian Sources

News from the territories occupied by Russia:

Ukraine war: Tortured for refusing to teach in Russian  (BBC News, October 1st)

Russian occupation means 14-year sentences for being Ukrainian and refusing to ‘confess’ to insane charges  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, September 30th)

Russian occupiers force doctors and teachers of Mariupol to hand over their Ukrainian passports (Ukrainska Pravda, September 29th)

More than 500 Russian war crimes recorded in liberated Kharkiv Oblast (Ukrainska Pravda, September 28th)

“Grenade under every pillow”: occupiers mine houses and schools in Kharkiv Oblast  (Ukrainska Pravda, September 28th)

Mutilated bodies in Izium mass graves and other atrocities after Russian invaders driven out (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, September 28th)

Teenager among six killed in shelling of Donetsk market  (Reuters, September 22nd)

About the referendums on joining the Russian Federation:

Dead souls and infants ‘voted’ in Russia’s sham ‘referendums’ on annexing Ukrainian territory  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, September 30th)

Ukrainians evicted from their homes for refusing to participate in Russia-organised sham referendums  (Ukrainska Pravda, September 29th)

After destroying Mariupol, Russia claims its residents ‘voted’ for annexation and mobilizes them to fight Ukraine  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, September 28th)

Russia needs sham ‘referendums’ on occupied territory to forcibly mobilize Ukrainians as cannon fodder  (Tribunal for Putin, September 27th)

‘Vote to join Russia’ or armed soldiers will come for you   (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, September 26th)

Sham referendum in Melitopol: people are forced to “vote” instead of their absent relatives and neighbours  (Ukrainska Pravda, September 26th)

Sham referendums: Russian occupiers stage a farce with fake employees near ZNPP (Ukrainska Pravda, September 26th)

News from Ukraine – general:

Civilian car convoy attacked in Kharkiv Oblast: 24 dead, including a pregnant woman and 13 children  (Ukrainska Pravda, October 1st)

Analysis and comment:

The Ukrainian State under Russian Aggression: Resilience and Resistance  (by Serhiy Kudelia in Current History, October 2022)

How Can Labour Help Ukraine Win  – recording of Labour Party fringe meeting by the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign  (September 29th)

Ukraine: bogus ‘anti-imperialism’ serves the Kremlin (People and Nature, September 28th)

What’s the future of Russia’s Ukraine war?  (Open Democracy, September 26th)

Taras Bilous on motives for Russian intervention  (Twitter, September 23rd

Positions of the global left over the abyss of imperialist escalation  (Commons journal, September 6th)

Analytical review of civilian casualties:

Firearms attacks during the Russo-Ukrainian war  (Tribunal for Putin, September 26th)


This bulletin is put together by labour movement activists in solidarity with Ukrainian resistance. More information at https://ukraine-solidarity.org/. We are also on Twitter. Our aim is to circulate information in English that to the best of our knowledge is reliable. If you have something you think we should include, please send it to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com.

To receive the bulletin regularly, send your email to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com. To stop it, please reply with the word “STOP” in the subject field.  

Thanks to Simon Pirani for the heads-up. ||| TRR

The Hegemony of the Mop

Almost a fifth of households in Moscow and St. Petersburg, even those with average incomes, regularly resort to the services of female domestic workers. Most often they need help around the house, as well as looking after the elderly and children. In most cases, Russians from the region where the employers reside are hired to do this work. A study by researchers at HSE and RANEPA shows that hired female household labor, which is considered a non-essential form of employment, is a vital part of urban economies.

Photo: Yevgeny Pavlenko/Kommersant

Almost one fifth of households in Moscow and St. Petersburg, having mainly an average income, employ female labor. This is the conclusion reached by Yulia Florinskaya, Nikita Mkrtchyan and Marina Kartseva (researchers at the Higher School of Economics and RANEPA) in the article “Women as hired workers in the households of Moscow and St. Petersburg,” published in the scholarly journal Woman in Russian Society (No. 2, 2022).

The first attempt in Russia to define the scale of wage labor in households in Russia’s megalopolises, the research study was based on a survey of residents of those cities who over the past three years have employed other people to do work usually performed by family members. Three thousand eight hundred people took part in the survey; their phone numbers were selected using systematic stratified random sampling. The results of the survey are unusual: although Russians generally believe that housekeepers, domestic help, and hired staff in a household involves a high family income and migrant labor and is a rare thing, it is, in reality, a fairly common practice among middle-income households in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and it is residents of the two capitals who are mainly hired to do such work.

First of all, hiring third parties to perform work in the household is a widespread practice in Russia’s two largest cities.

According to the survey results, female workers were employed by seventeen percent of households. Formally, men are employed by households much more. In fact, respondents were asking about paid employment in the household, including for such types of work as renovations and repairs, where men predominated. (Twenty-eight percent of the households surveyed had hired male hands.) Among “household chores,” “female” specializations were also discovered that would ordinarily not be thought of as “domestic help” — tutoring, primarily. In any case, seventeen percent of Moscow and Petersburg families employed female labor in households, a figure that dropped to around seven to eight percent when tutoring and repairs were factored out. Even with this proviso, however, the phenomenon goes beyond “elite consumption for the wealthy few.”

This also shows that, according to the survey data, most of the households (61%) who employed female workers estimated their incomes as average. When answering the standard question about their income (used, among others, by Rosstat in its questionnaires), they indicated that they had enough money for food, clothing, and household appliances. Twenty-three percent of respondents rated their incomes as high (in particular, as sufficient to buy a car or more) while sixteen percent rated them as low, since they were only enough to buy food. Thus, hired domestic workers are the preserve of the middle class rather than the income elite.

The prevalence of foreign nationals or, at least, migrant workers from other regions of Russia, among domestic workers has also been greatly exaggerated. According to the survey, almost two thirds (64%) of households that purchase women’s services [sic] in the household give jobs to women permanently residing in Moscow or St. Petersburg, where they themselves live.

Only in fourteen percent of households in the two cities was the employed woman a Russian national from another region, and in sixteen percent, a foreign national. (No breakdown by nationality is given.)

However, this fact is well known within the households and is clearly discussed by them. Only six percent of respondents who had dealings with female domestic workers were not aware whether she was a Muscovite [sic], a nonresident, or a foreign national.

Of course, households most often hired residents of their own region as tutors. Among domestic migrants this type of employment was two and a half times less common, while it was practically nonexistent among foreign women. At the same time, foreign women were twice as likely to be hired to do housework as Russian women, both local and migrant. However, domestic workers in the strict sense of the term — that is, those doing “housework” (cleaning, laundry, cooking, caring, and looking after children)— are still Muscovites and Petersburgers in most cases; residents of Krasnoyarsk and Samarkand [that is, domestic and foreign migrant workers, respectively] are in the minority. The authors of the study suggest that children are a “sensitive” area for households, and local women have in this instance an advantage over migrants: households are less likely to “trust” the latter. (The authors of the study avoid reaching an alternative conclusion: that this choice is a consequence of the phobias experienced by a significant part of the middle class towards migrants — phobias that are commonly denied in the middle-class milieu, as least in Moscow.)

Residents of other regions and countries are preferred only as caregivers, and the share of this type of employment among foreign women is three times higher than among women from the same region as their employers.

Florinskaya, Mkrtchyan and Kartseva describe a rather vital social phenomenon: migrant caregivers ask for their work, which is in demand among all strata of society, significantly less pay than do Russian nationals, and for most relatively poor households there is no alternative to hiring them, as they simply cannot afford a nurse from Moscow. But to carry out repair work, local women and migrants were hired with approximately the same frequency: the wallpaper pasted by a Ukrainian woman cannot be distinguished from the wallpaper pasted by a Petersburg woman, even by a specialist.

Finally, wage labor in households is extremely informal. Most often households hired female employees using recommendations from their acquaintances or relatives (63%), and more than two thirds of the households draw up written contracts when hiring female employees. The xenophobia of Muscovites has been exaggerated: female foreign workers lived in the household in a third of cases. (By contrast, 2.4% of households provided housing to residents of their own region, and 18.8% to migrants from within Russian Federation.)

The cautious attitude of Russians to hiring female employees to work in their households is, rather, a late Soviet legacy. After the tradition of employing “servants,” which was relatively common in large Soviet cities among the middle class, disappeared in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the term sounded somewhat insulting from the 1960s until today, and was replaced by euphemisms like “a woman who comes over.” The restoration of the practice is expected, and yet, as the study shows, this phenomenon (if only by virtue of its magnitude) is a vital albeit understated part of the modern urban economy of Russia’s megalopolises.

Source: Anastasia Manuilova and Dmitry Butrin, “Hegemony of the mop: domestic workers discovered in every fifth Moscow household,” Kommersant, 15 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Up to two-thirds of Russians do not have any savings. Two-thirds of Russians can only afford food and clothes while buying durable consumer goods for them is extremely difficult. Russia is a very poor country, and now, on top of that, we have sanctions that will destroy the lives of ordinary people even further.

Source: “Russian socialist Ilya Matveev: ‘Putin’s war on Ukraine is not about security, it is about imperialist interests,'” Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal, 17 July 2022

A Miniskirt for Every Day

Season after season, minimalism remains trendy. If we also consider the current popularity of 80s and 90s styles, it comes as no surprise that miniskirts are in fashion again. Moreover, they’re fashionable everywhere: they can and should be worn to parties with friends, exhibitions, and work. When you wear them to work, you just have to follow a few simple rules.

Busting myths

There are many myths surrounding the miniskirt. Many people still believe, for example, that discos are the only place you can wear a miniskirt. Yes, partying hard in a plush or stretch skirt to songs by Kombinaciya is super authentic, but today’s cotton, denim and leather miniskirts suit almost any situation.

It’s also worth dismissing the old saw that miniskirts can only be worn by slender, long-legged beauties. No matter how long a skirt is, what matters is that it fits your figure. If you’re having doubts, take a closer look at A-line-silhouette skirts. They can be worn with matching tight tights to visually elongate the lower part of your body.

Как носить короткие юбки на работу в 2022 году

The best combos: shirts and blouses

Shirts and blouses are staples in a female office worker’s wardrobe. Combined with a miniskirt, they will look winning if you choose accented models — blouses with bows or ruffles, shirts with puffy sleeves or turndown collars. Classic stiletto shoes, mules with shot-glass heels, heavy boots, or sneakers will complete the look.

Oversize jackets

Looking like a hand-me-down, an oversize jacket will balance out a short skirt and create a confident image for work. You can tone down this cute pairing with a loose-fitting t-shirt or top—or a tight turtleneck when the weather turns cold. As usual, what item you choose depends on whether it passes muster with your company’s official and implicit dress codes.

Cropped jackets

One of the season’s most daring combinations is a miniskirt and cropped jacket. Ideally, you should find this combo readymade, since combining two separate items into an harmonious outfit is no easy task. Universal advice: a cropped jacket should have a loose fit and a large shoulder line.

Sweaters, jumpers, cardigans, sweatshirts
Summer is not the only season for wearing a short skirt. In autumn and winter, you should wear a mini with chunky-knit sweaters, jumpers, cardigans, and sweatshirts. You can either tuck in the front of your top, or wear it untucked. In the second case, if you choose a pleated plaid skirt and combine it with a shirt and a cardigan, you’ll get the look of an American high school student.

T-shirts

If your work dress code is not particularly strict or casual Friday is coming up, grab a short denim skirt and a loose-fitting t-shirt from your wardrobe. Monochrome or minimalist graphic print t-shirts are suitable for the office. The sleeves can be long and, thus, easily rolled up at any moment—convertible items have been trending for more than a year. The skirt itself can be either the usual blue denim color, or black, or white. City sneakers or loafers provide the final notes in this outfit.

Source: Maria Gureyeva, “How to wear short skirts to work: a mini for every day,” Rabota.ru, 11 July 2022. Photos courtesy of iStock and Rabota.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader


Somewhere in central Petersburg, 8 July 2017. Photo by the Russian Reader

A few words of explanation.

I’m still reeling from the fact that, as a much savvier IT friend from Petersburg has patiently explained to me, this website was just switched off in Russia by WordPress (Automattic), acting on orders from Rozkomnadzor, the Russian federal communications watchdog.

It makes me wonder whether I should switch to producing more “Russia-friendly” content, as exemplified by the breezy little item above the fold. It also makes me wonder whether I shouldn’t switch to a hosting platform that is more friendly to content that is critical of the current Russian tyranny.

In any case, I’ve realized that WordPress doesn’t always practice what it preaches.

Access to the Internet is subject to restrictions in many countries. These range from the ‘Great Firewall of China’, to default content filtering systems in place in the UK. As a result, WordPress.com blogs can sometimes be inaccessible in these places. As far as we are concerned, that’s BS.

If any of you know about an affordable and rigorously pro-free speech hosting platform where I could move this blog, please write to me at avvakum (at) pm.me.

How else can you help me keeping this slightly waterlogged boat from sinking altogether?

First, you can hare my posts with friends and colleagues and on your social media accounts. The only way I know for sure that this is worth doing is when I see consistently large readership numbers.

Second, please send me your (positive or constructive) feedback in the comments below each post or at avvakum (at) pm.me.

Finally, you can donate money—via PayPal or Ko-Fi—to support the continuing production of this website.

What do I need the money for? First, I have to pay for this website’s hosting and for the internet, which now runs me around a thousand dollars a year. Second, I would love to be able to pay a small fee to my occasional guest translators and certain contributors. Finally, I’d like to pay myself for the long hours I put into this endeavor.

What would be a fair amount? Consider the fact that, so far this year, The Russian Reader has had over 155,000 views. If I were to get a mere ten cents for each view, that would come to 15,500 dollars. The money would be especially welcome now that, since February, my income from my “real” job as a freelance translator and editor has dwindled to practically nothing, as most of my steady clients were more or less progressive Russian art and academic institutions that have gone into international hibernation due to the war. In any case, I would share this (for now, imaginary) “minimum wage” with guest translators and contributors, as well as using it to pay for more supportive and reliable hosting.

Speaking of jobs and work, I was made party to the strange (and depressingly reactionary) item, translated above, because, around a year ago, the website Rabota.ru (“Work.ru.,” an affiliate of the state-owned Sberbank) decided that I was a forty-six-year-old geologist named Semyon Avvakumov. The real Comrade Avvakumov used my personal email address, apparently and unaccountably, to start an account and file job applications through Rabota.ru, not realizing that the address was already taken. So, I now get Rabota.ru’s job listings and newsletters several times a week—as well as, much more occasionally, rejection letters from Comrade Avvakumov’s potential employers. The articles on Rabota.ru shed a revealing, if not always flattering, light on all things work-related in Russia, so I’m glad to have acquired this double. ||| TRR, 12 July 2022

Life Under Fascism

What is life like for us under fascism? It’s fine. I eat, sleep, work, play computer games and football, and get laid.

Repairs have begun on the roofs of the Soviet high-rise buildings on my work beat. The contractor drags powerful electric roofing kettles onto the roof, hacks away the old tar, melts it down, and immediately pours it back onto the roof. The kettles are powerful—advanced technology that works quickly and efficiently.

The kettles are also five years old. They are left right on the roofs over the winter, and so they are rotted and burned out. The molten tar splashes onto the cables, and everything in the vicinity burns and smokes. It is no exaggeration to say that you can smell the stench two blocks away. It is unlikely that there is anything healthy in the fumes generated by the molten tar. It is Uzbeks who work on the roofs: their bosses persist in calling them jigits. They work without safeguards or personal protective equipment. On the first day, they asked their bosses for water. Their bosses told them to get it themselves—”otherwise, next time they’ll be asking for broads in bikinis.”

Yesterday the cops nabbed them. The cops told them, “Your registration isn’t in our database. So, you either spend a couple days in jail until we figure it out, or you each cough up 5,000 rubles now.” [At the current—official—exchange rate, 5,000 rubles is approximately 88 euros.]

Do you think there is a database somewhere that says that you are just a human being?

Their electrician is from Bashkiria, a skinny kid in glasses with a typical whistling accent. He graduated from an architectural college back home, came to Petersburg, and worked on a low-voltage network for a couple of months, but now has been hired as an electrician servicing the three-phase fifty-kilowatt kettles. On the first day, he regarded the whole setup with mortal dismay. In his bag he has a set of screwdrivers and a crimper for patch cords. Now he dives into the overheated equipment, changes the burnt-out heating elements, and splices the burnt, beaten cables. Then he unsuccessfully tries for hours to wash off the oil stench.

“Who will pay for your disability?” I ask him.

“They can’t pay us overtime.”

He put up with this as long as he could before breaking down and going on a drinking binge. He squandered all his money, arriving back at work with a black eye and his left cheek puffed up like a pillow. His glasses were still intact, however. He asked me to lend him money for beer.

“How much do they pay you?” I ask.

“They promise mountains of gold.”

“Could you be more specific?”

“It’s daily work. 2,500 rubles a day.”

The word he was looking for in Russia was “daywork” [podënnaia], not “daily work” [podnevnaia]. There is such a thing as “daywork” and “dayworkers.” Who make sixteen dollars a day if you calculate their pay in terms of the actual exchange rate.

How much does the Russian lad Vitya, who made the remark about the “broads in bikinis,” make? How much does their supervisor, a handsome, businesslike, quick-thinking middle-aged man with shifty eyes, make?

What will they buy for themselves by pinching the money budgeted for roof repairs? A car? A tiled path for their dacha? When they walk on this path, will they think about the people whose health has been permanently scarred by tar on hot roofs? I doubt it.

Fascist brutality springs from this everyday, workaday brutality. Indifference to people as individuals grows from this virtually legalized slavery.

Source: George Losev, Facebook, 28 June 2022. Mr. Losev works as an on-duty electrician for the housing authority in Petersburg. He points out that the roofing tar kettles he describes are nothing like the one in the video I inserted, above. They are much larger and electric-powered. This is not to mention that “Alfredo the kettle man” (in the video) is wearing protective equipment, unlike the Uzbek workers in Mr. Losev’s story. Translated by the Russian Reader


I was asked to show how to make a “syllable tram.”

I scanned the roadway (see the links, below). The drawings were quite hastily done, right before class. (

The strip should be glued with adhesive tape on the reverse side. (Leave a millimeter between the sections so that it is easier to fold and store.) The tram, which is approximately 290 mm wide (nearly the same width as an A4 sheet of paper) and 85 mm high, is fitted onto the strip. One window in the tram is cut out, and a transparent sleeve is pasted on the other, into which a consonant is inserted.

The strip needs to be fastened with something. (I fastened it to the table with tape.)

The tram travels from right to left. When it reaches a marked stop, a vowel appears in the cut-out window. When you make the tram, test it and draw the letters on the strip so that they appear in the exact same place as the empty spot.

The roadway:

https://disk.yandex.ru/i/dGXik7Z3Nmwpgg (Yandex Disk)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/13k0cDuhXD-hAzytGpGYgpsZEdR9jmsVd/view (Google Drive)

Source: Natalia Vvedenskaya, Facebook, 28 June 2022. Ms. Vvedenskaya teaches Russian to immigrant children at the St. Petersburg Jewish Community Center. Most of these children are originally from Central Asia, like the workers in Mr. Losev’s story. The first image, above, is a screenshot of a short video that Ms. Vvedenskaya included in her original post, showing her pupils playing with her “syllable tram.” Translated by the Russian Reader

Kazahkstan’s State Oil and Gas Company Besieged by Striking Oil Workers from Zhanaozen

Employees of the Zhanaozen oilfield service company Kezbi LLP were in the capital demanding higher wages and better working conditions for over two weeks. The reason for the workers’ march on Nur-Sultan was the sacking of some strikers and management’s unwillingness to settle the labor dispute at the company.

Striking Zhanaozen oil workers outside KazMunayGas headquarters in Nur-Sultan

A strike of workers at Kezbi LLP in Zhanaozen has been underway since April 18. More than 300 people are involved in the protest. For almost a month, workers have demanded improved working conditions and wage increases. On the seventeenth day of the labor dispute, the company filed a lawsuit against twenty-one employees, and twelve employees were fired for participating in a strike that had earlier been ruled unlawful by a court.

Nevertheless, despite the pressure, the workers have refused to end the strike.

According to the protesters, they are dissatisfied with low wages, numerous violations of their labor rights, and discrimination. Separately, the employees highlight the serious wear and tear of production equipment, which poses a danger to their lives.

Amid the escalation of the conflict, a group of delegates went to Kazahstan’s capital in early May to get the truth [sic]. Twenty-six workers visited the Energy Ministry, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the state-owned oil and gas company KazMunayGas. The oil workers reported that, during negotiations, the Ministry asked to give them time to resolve the issue.

However, without waiting for any concrete actions to resolve the labor dispute on the part of state representatives, the workers moved to “besiege” state agencies and the offices of KazMunayGas.

According to the protesters, there should have been many more envoys, but a number of Kezbi employees who had also planned to fly to the protest site to support their colleagues were unlawfully detained by regional law enforcement agencies. Some of them were threatened as well.

On May 16, after a whole day of silence by agencies and officials and heightened attention from the capital’s civil society groups, the authorities announced that they had created a commission that would be charged with resolving the labor dispute. According to the workers, the working group includes the chief state labor inspector, inspectors from other regions of the country, and officials from KazMunayGas, who have already left for Zhanaozen.

Satisfied with this response, the protesters left the KazMunayGas offices and headed home.

The workers hope that the main issues will be resolved in dialogue with commission. They want to be paid for a twelve-hour working day, receive a wage increase, sign a collective labor agreement, and be transferred to the staff of Ozenmunaigas.

Law enforcement officers watched the protesters the entire time but did not intervene.

Source: Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, 17 May 2022. Thanks to Kirill Buketov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. Watch this space for a subtitled version of this recent documentary film about the massacre of striking oil workers in Zhanaozen in December 2011 and its aftermath. I translated the subtitles of this detailed, harrowing film earlier this year.

You Don’t Have It So Bad

Protests by Berlin-based artists over the curator of “Diversity United,” a traveling exhibition with ties to right-wing politicians, have led some prominent participants in the show to drop out.

The controversy over the show is related to protests surrounding the Kunsthalle Berlin, a new, temporary museum at the abandoned Tempelhof airport. Calling the Kunsthalle Berlin a “cynical, neoliberal machine,” Berlin-based artists took issue with the space’s founder, the curator Walter Smerling, who organized “Diversity United” in its initial showing at the airport. According to Candice Breitz, an artist who has been among those leading a movement known as Boycott Kunsthalle Berlin, at least 9 of the 90 participants have pulled out the show, which is now at the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Artists associated with Boycott Kunsthalle Berlin claimed that the organizers of “Diversity United” failed to appropriately compensate many of the participating artists, and that the show had traveled to Russia with the explicit approval of President Vladimir Putin. The show, which aspires to showcase how the “artistic face of Europe is complex, diverse and permanently in flux,” was first staged in 2021 at the Tempelhof airport and is slated to travel to Paris after appearing in Moscow.

According to Breitz, Yael Bartana, Mona Hatoum, Aleksandra Domanović, Katja Novitskova, Ahmet Öğüt, Agnieszka Polska, Martina Vacheva, Dan Perjovschi, and Constant Dullaart are among those who have withdrawn—and there are others who have pulled out or intend to do so, but don’t want to go public, according to Breitz. Additional, artist caner teker is declining a prize for emerging artists being given out by a Bonn-based foundation run by Smerling.

“The artists who’ve thus far withdrawn from ‘Diversity United’ have tended to first formally communicate their intentions to the curatorial team behind the exhibition before reaching out to vocal members of the boycott group (#BoycottKunsthalleBerlin), to give us permission to share their decisions with a broader public,” Breitz said in an interview. “We’ve taken great care to ensure that we have their blessing before going public with their names.”

The Boycott Kunsthalle Berlin movement aims to highlight Smerling’s connections to right-wing politicians. “Diversity United” received support from former German officials like Armin Laschet and Gerhard Schröder. A key funder of the show, entrepreneur Lars Windhorst, has been implicated in both the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers. The political connections of the show and artists’ dashed hopes of making use of the Tempelhof airport for themselves spurred some to act.

In an email to ARTnews, Smerling wrote, “I have no understanding for the boycott. Boycotting is not a solution, for anyone. The solution is to find common ways. There must be opportunities for private, public and cooperative exhibitions. Incidentally, I find it highly disrespectful and undignified when artists want to prevent other artists from being seen.”

Smerling also defended the show’s connections with Putin, even as tensions increase in Russia due to the situation in the Ukraine. “The claim of ‘Diversity United’ is to build bridges with art, open the possibility for dialogue, where everything else fails,” Smerling wrote. “Maybe that is why the foreign ministry and the president of the federal republic of Germany support this exhibition, fully aware of its patrons.”

Smerling received 1 million euros in funds from the German Foreign Federal Office to organize the “Diversity United” show, which is more than the National Gallery in Berlin has within its annual acquisition fund. While the show was organized around the theme of diversity, all of the 10 curators of the show and all of the financial backers were white. “There was significant frustration around ‘Diversity United’ when it was installed in Berlin, but the constellation of power behind the exhibition made it very intimidating for people to speak out,” Breitz said.

Smerling had been given access to two hangars in the Tempelhof Airport rent-free. And while there had initially been claims that Smerling had to find private funding to cover the Kunsthalle Berlin’s operating costs, which can run to as much as 100,000 euros a month due to the lack of infrastructure and the old age of the building, it turned out that the government had agreed to cover half the costs, according to the German publication Monopol. (These funds had come out of a pool of money for buildings and real estate, not one for public museums.) Christoph Gröner, a real estate developer who Breitz alleges is responsible for hundreds of evictions over the years, footed the other half of the bill for the running costs of Kunsthalle Berlin.

Asked about the show’s funding, Smerling argued that these facts don’t represent the full picture, saying, “Each art exhibition costs us far more than just the operating costs for the halls and, depending on the number of visitors, also more than the operating subsidy we receive. This is all our risk.”

Smerling has said he welcomes a “dialogue” with the artists, but Breitz believes this overture came too late. “Until a couple of weeks before it opened, nobody had even heard that we would be getting a ‘Kunsthalle Berlin,’ including our top museum directors and curators at public institutions. That is absolutely unacceptable. The purpose of a boycott is to seek to alter a situation that is unacceptable.”

Source: Shanti Escalante-De Mattei, “Amid Kunsthalle Berlin Protests, Artists Withdraw from Controversial ‘Diversity United’ Exhibition,” ARTnews, February 9, 2022

An escalator in the Petersburg subway, 11 February 2017. Photo by the Russian Reader

I once gave an interview about the situation in Zhanaozen to Gulzhan Yergaliyeva for the website Guljan.org. After the interview was published, the local police inspector came to see me. He said that the deputy head of the regional police department had arrived from Aktau and really wanted to talk to me. I said I would meet him. I went to the meeting, and this police chief demanded that I send all the strikers home and stop the strike. “You’re an activist!” he told me. I told him that it was impossible: no one would go along with me, and I personally wouldn’t agree to stop the strike. That was the end of it. As soon as I arrived home from this meeting, as soon as I got out of the car and went into the landing of my building, two guys ran after me and began to beat me. They knocked me to the floor and started kicking me. When I mixed it up with them, one of them took out a traumatic pistol and shot me twice in the head. That’s when I lost consciousness. It turns out that on the exact same day exactly the same attack was carried out on Orken and Asan, journalists from Radio Azattyk. They were also shot with traumatic pistols and beaten with bats.

The murder of Zhaksylyk Turbayev, who was a trade union leader at Munai Field Service, ratcheted things up. He said that the workers at his company would support the strike and the people on the square. After he made this statement, he was killed in a trailer at his workplace.

How was he killed?

He was beaten to death with rebar rods in a trailer. The entire trailer was covered in blood.

Has this crime been solved?

No, it hasn’t been solved.

After Zhaksylyk Turbayev’s murder, literally the next month, Zhansaule Karabalayeva was murdered. She was 18 years old. The oil workers saw it as a murder meant to intimidate them, because Zhansaule’s father was among the trade unionists who constantly were here on the Alan.

How was Zhansaule killed, and where was she found?

She was raped and murdered. She was taken to the steppe. She was killed not far from a border post, some kind of military installation outside of town. She was killed and her body was dumped about 300 to 400 meters from this place.

Another incident that inflamed things happened to a woman named Aizhan, who was a staff member of the strike committee. The police broke into her house during her lunch break and forced everyone to lie face down on the floor. Everyone who was at home was thrown on the floor. Aizhan’s 10-year-old son stood up in front of the police and shielded his mother. This boy was punched in the head by a police captain. The child suffered a moderate head injury, a concussion.

Source: 12/16/11: The Truth About What Happened in Zhanaozen 10 Years Ago. Translated by the Russian Reader

Revolt and Repression in Kazahstan

Revolt and repression in Kazakhstan • People and Nature • January 9, 2022

The Kazakh government has unleashed ferocious repression against the uprising that exploded last week.

Security forces opened fire on demonstrators. “Dozens” died, according to media reports, but on 7 January president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev let slip that “hundreds” had been killed. Tokayev also said he gave the order to “shoot to kill without warning” to suppress protests.

There are no accurate figures, because the government has cut off internet access for almost the whole country and imposed an information blockade.

The internal affairs ministry has said that more than 4400 people have been arrested, and warned that sentences of between eight years and life will be imposed. The Kazakh regime has used torture against worker activists before: its forces may be emboldened by the 3000 Russian and other troops flown in to support them.

From social media via The Insider. The security services facing demonstrators in Almaty

It’s difficult, in the midst of this nightmare, to try to analyse the wave of protest and its consequences. Anyway, here are four points, based on what I can see from a distance.

Continue reading “Revolt and Repression in Kazahstan”

The Zhanaozen Massacre: Ten Years Later

Kazakhstan, ten years after the Zhanaozen massacre: oil workers’ fight to organise goes on • People and Nature • 15 December 2021

Ten years after police massacred striking oil workers at Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan, human rights organisations and trades unionists are demanding an international inquiry into the killings.

Even now, the number of victims is unknown. State officials admit that 16 were killed and 64 injured on 16 December 2011 – but campaigners say there were dozens, perhaps hundreds, more.

The initial killings, by police who fired into a peaceful, unarmed crowd, were followed by a three-day reign of terror in Zhanaozen, in the oil-rich Mangistau province in western Kazakhstan, and nearby villages.

Defendants at the 2012 trial of Zhanaozen protesters

The torture and sexual violence used against detainees should also be investigated by an independent international commission, campaigners say.

Although a handful of police officers were tried for “exceeding their powers”, and a detention centre boss was briefly jailed, the Kazakh government has refused to say who ordered the shootings.

The Zhanaozen shootings ended an eight-month strike by the town’s oil workers, one of the largest industrial actions ever in the post-Soviet countries.

Oil workers and their families had demanded better pay and conditions, and the right to organise independent trade unions, at Ozenmunaigaz, a production subsidiary of the national oil company Kazmunaigaz, and contracting firms.

On Saturday 11 December this year, oil workers gathered in Zhanaozen, amidst a heavy police presence, to commemorate the victims. Tomorrow, ten years to the day after the tragedy, activists plan film screenings and other gatherings in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.

Zhanaozen has become a crucial strand in Kazakh working people’s collective memory. On the day of the killings, local residents risked arrest and worse to smuggle out of the locked-down city video clips showing how demonstrators were executed in cold blood. Today, some of the fear has faded, activists say: whole films – such as this one, made in 2013 (commentary in Russian) – are shared on social media.

https://www.facebook.com/daryn.ibraeff/videos/1302525450187459

An international investigation is needed, because, even now, the Kazakh authorities are desperate to cover up the truth, human rights activists who have pursued the truth about Zhanaozen said in interviews with People & Nature.

Evgeny Zhovtis, director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, said “three questions have never been answered” about the events on Alan Square, where the initial shootings took place:

□ Who were the provocateurs who caused trouble on the square?

□ Who exactly gave the order to send in armed interior ministry forces against an unarmed crowd? 

□ Who fired the shots? The authorities have admitted to 15 killings on the square. In each case, [under Kazakh law] an investigation should show either that the officer responsible had opened fire unlawfully, or that he opened fire because his life was threatened.  

Zhovtis said: “The UN commissioner for human rights, Niva Pillay, visited Kazakhstan in 2012 and called for an independent international commission to be set up, to investigate these events. Maina Kiai, the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, also called for such a commission. This has not happened.”

Human rights defenders in Kazakhstan reject the justice ministry’s claim that an adequate investigation had been carried out, Zhovtis said.

Police in Zhanaozen, 16 December 2011. A still from a video smuggled out by residents to make sure the truth reached the outside world

“The leading western governments are largely indifferent to what happens in central Asia. Look at their response both to the Zhanaozen tragedy and the Andijan massacre [of hundreds of protesters in Uzbekistan in May 2005].

“Nevertheless, we simply have to keep demanding justice.”   

Galym Ageleuov of Liberty, the human rights organisation, who has travelled regularly to Zhanaozen since the massacre to gather evidence, said that, in addition to the events on Alan Square, any investigation should cover:

□ The use of torture against oil workers and their supporters detained during the three-day crackdown. Detailed evidence of this had already been made public, especially at a trial of 37 Zhanaozen residents in 2012.

□ Sexual violence against women detainees, including Roza Tuletaeva, an oil workers’ trade union organiser (about her release, see here and here); Zhansaule Karabalaeva, daughter of a trade union activist; Asem Kenzhebaeva, daughter of another activist (the family’s story here, her evidence of sexual violence here); and others. “There is evidence that women and men prisoners were detained naked [in winter], were beaten, and had freezing water poured on them”, Ageleuov said.

□ The total number of killings in Zhanaozen and nearby villages on 16, 17 and 18 December 2011. Of the 16 admitted by officials, 15 were killed on Alan Square with revolvers, bullets from which usually remain lodged in the body. The authorities have denied responsibility for those killed by automatic gunfire and long-distance sniper fire, including bystanders. Ageleuov said: “There are numerous cases in which bodies were only released to the families of those killed if they accepted death certificates that registered the cause of death as, for example, a heart attack.”

Asem Kenzhebaeva

□ The killing of Torebek Tolegenov in Shetpe, and the wounding of young people who blocked a railroad to protest at the Zhanaozen massacre, needs to be investigated.

□ Multiple reports of bodies being loaded into unmarked graves – including by Yelena Kostiuchenko of Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s prime opposition newspaper, one of the first journalists to get into Zhanaozen after the massacre – have never been followed up. “Any international commission should insist on the exhumation of these bodies”, Ageleuov said.

□ A fire that broke out, inexplicably, at the Ozenmunaigaz offices on the day of the massacre.

The Kazakh labour movement will this week commemorate the Zhanaozen tragedy – at a time when the right to form independent trade unions, a key principle in the 2011 oil workers’ strike, is again at issue in many workplace struggles.

In June, the national oil company Kazmunaigaz tried to scrap an agreement on wages and conditions with the independent Oil Construction Company Workers Union, seeking instead a sweetheart deal with a “union” it had created. That followed an attempt by the authorities to deregister, and effectively put beyond the law, the independent Sectoral Union of Fuel and Energy Workers, a national-level umbrella of which the Oil Construction Company Workers Union is part.

Markhaba Khalmurzaeva, coordinator of the Central Asia Labour Rights Monitoring Mission, said: “There have been several strikes in which workers demanded the right to independent organisation, and in some cases, once the pay dispute was settled, employers even helped to register unions.”

But there is also a constant campaign of repression. “Quite often a strike will be settled, some demands are met, but activists who played a part in organising it are dismissed, and blacklisted.”

These battles for the right to independent organisation flared up earlier this year amidst a wave of strikes over pay and conditions. There were more strikes in the first half of 2021 than in the three years 2018-2020 put together. And this summer, the wave hit the western Kazakhstan oilfield, including Zhanaozen, where 11 firms were on strike simultaneously in July.

In September the Central Asia Labour Rights Monitoring Mission reported:

Most of the strikes are in the rich oil region of Mangistau in western Kazakhstan, although it is not only oil workers who are walking out. The most widespread demand is for wage increases. Some groups of workers demand a 13th wage [i.e. to be paid an extra month’s money each year]; partial or complete funding of sanatorium breaks for those working with toxic chemicals; compensation for Covid-19 tests; and … [a supply of] milk [at work].

In Zhanaozen, in the years after the massacre, the Ozenmunaigaz oil company was reorganised into 14 separate divisions. Many of the strikers were employed in the drilling services division, where pay was raised substantially and today is at more than twice the level of ten years ago.

In an attempt to smother the social discontent that exploded in 2011, the government invested in the town’s infrastructure, providing among other things round-the-clock water supply, where previously water only reached people’s homes for short periods twice a day.

Zhanaozen’s population has also expanded … but not everyone benefits. Unemployment has grown rapidly, and in 2019 young people began to demonstrate at the local authorities’ offices, demanding work at Ozenmunaigaz.

A mass meeting in July this year at KMG Security, one of 11 workplaces on strike in Zhanaozen. Photo: Manas Kalyrtai RFE/RL

Erzhan Elshibayev, who helped to organise these peaceful gatherings, was arrested and jailed for five years. Galym Ageleuov said: “Elshibayev is a victim of political repression. In 2019, he was charged with an offence arising from a fight he was involved in, when he was attacked by four men in 2017 while on his way to work – an incident that gave rise to no charges at the time.

“Elshibayev has been in detention for two years. For the last three months he has been in solitary confinement and no-one has heard from him.” Trade unionists gathered at Bishkek last week at a conference called on the Kazakh authorities to release him immediately.

Ten years after the massacre, labour’s battles against capital continue in the oilfield – for better pay and living conditions, for the right to organise independently at work, for ways to live decently. Exposing the truth about the state repression in 2011, about the chain of command, about the barbaric use of murder and torture in the service of capital, is a part of this wider struggle. SP, 15 December 2021.

■ Statement by human rights organisations in Kazakhstan, 15 December 2021

■ Zhanaozen: worker organisation and repression, by Simon Pirani (Gabriel Levy)

■ Zhanaozen: some lessons by Evgeny Zhovtis

■ They shot to kill. Interview with Galym Ageleuov

■ Kazakh oil workers: index of articles

“Freedom of association is a workers’ right! Free Erzhan Elshibayev! Stop victimising people for being active citizens!”

Originally posted on People & Nature on 15 December 2021. Thanks to its editor, Simon Pirani, for allowing me to repost his article here. ||| TRR

Byudzhetniki

Byudzhetniki (state sector employees), as imagined by Yandex Zen. This image illustrates a 2019 op-ed piece claiming that 51.8% of all workers in Russia are state sector employees or byudzhetniki (and bemoaning that fact because, allegedly, it lowers GDP).

Alexander Skobov | Facebook | September 18, 2021

I am terribly annoyed by the word byudzhetniki [state sector employees], when it is used in relation to those [whose superiors] try and corral them into voting a certain way. And it’s not just that I worked in the public schools for almost twenty years and would have liked to see them try and force me to vote in a certain way. The fact is that the system of coerced corporate loyalty works exactly the same in the private sector as in the state sector. It is exactly the same in private companies. The byudzhetnik is largely a bogey of the liberal mindset. Do you think it is more difficult to make an employee of a private company “fall into rank” than a state employee? Just take a look at Google.

Translated by the Russian Reader