On the eve of the new year of 2023, the Great Worldwide Soviet Republic communicated by radio with the nearest republic on the planet of Mars, inviting delegates from the latter to a celebration and receiving, in turn, an invitation from the Martian Republic.
Earth assigned a total of 415,000 delegates from its five parts, while Mars assigned 630,000 delegates from its seven parts. The delegates boarded airplane trains and headed to the celebration.
The airplane trains took 19 hours and 17 minutes to travel between Earth and Mars.
Earth was lit up for the occasion by the electro-sun invented in 1994 by the electro-engineer Makov, a peasant from the current Kaluga Province in the Russian District. Besides lighting Earth, Makov’s electro-sun gave off heat, but not the intolerable kind, like the real sun did. The electro-sun’s heat was considerably milder, and its light also emitted an unusual aroma that combined all the world’s fragrances.
The Martian comrades were welcomed with music by the World Orchestra via a gramophone organ that transmitted melodies over any distance at the same volume, so the music was as audible on Mars and the other planets as it was on Earth.
After the neighboring planet’s delegation was welcomed, the festivities commenced.
On New Year’s Day 2023, the inhabitants of the two planets were to be dazzled by all the beautiful, magnificent and beyond marvelous things wrought by the collective mind and millions of hands of their creators.
The celebration on Earth was kicked off by a 137-year-old citizen of Petersburg, the worker Prokhorov, a contemporary of Lenin and Trotsky, the founders of the Russian Republic and of the Worldwide Republic that succeeded it. Despite his advanced age, this last Mohican of the RSFSR looked like a young man of 18 years since in that time old age was cured, so to speak, like a garden-variety headache. Thanks to Doctor Patokin’s pills, which had vanquished aging, the residents of Earth in the aforementioned era had the appearance of splendid, strapping youngsters. Death was a quite rare phenomenon: the newspapers reported as an intolerable circumstance that should have no place in the happy Republic.
When Prokhorov took the podium, which was surrounded by mirrors that broadcast the speaker’s reflection to all corners of Earth and Mars, he spoke into a loudspeaker of his own invention. It amplified the sound of the voice such that it could be heard over any distance. (Prokhorov had also invented the gramophone organ mentioned above.)
Prokhorov spoke in detail about the emergence of the First Soviet Socialist Republic, and his account was illustrated by a movie projector whose screen was the sky.
All the events between 1917 and 2023 passed before the eyes of the spectators.
One of them, a 14-year-old citizen, pointed to the moving images and asked his father, who was standing next to him:
“Dad, how tall were people then?”
“People your age were half your size, while adults, on average, would have come up to your shoulder, if they weren’t shorter,” his father replied.
“Poor things,” said the 14-year-old citizen with sincere pity. In terms of height and build, he resembled our undefeated wrestler [Ivan] Poddubny (although he had an ordinary figure for a boy in the year 2023).
The boy grew pensive and sighed deeply.
“Why were they so tiny and weak?” he asked mournfully.
“They had begun living the right way only in 1917 and, at first, only here in Russia. And they had a bad diet — they just ate bread and meat, I think.”
“But didn’t they have life wafers?” the son continued.
“And they didn’t have strength and health extract either?”
“No, they didn’t have them either.”
The boy again felt sorry for them.
“Poor things,” he said, adding, “My school comrade Petya Kominternov told me that at the Antiquities Museum he once saw a men’s shoe from back then that he could get only three toes into, leaving half his foot uncovered. Only this one 5-year-old boy was barely able to put the shoe on. So it’s true?”
“It certainly is,” the father confirmed, adding, “But if it hadn’t been for those feeble-bodied but strong-willed tiny people, then we wouldn’t be so tall and strong, so free and happy, and you wouldn’t see the splendid things you’ll see today.”
After listening to Prokhorov’s reminiscences, the father and son headed to the fair, where an exhibition of various innovations had commenced. The unusual number of improvements and new inventions that were made each year was achieved through the free collective labor and creativity of the Great Worldwide Republic’s happy inhabitants.
You name it, it was there. In full view of the public, truck farmers grew various unusually delicious vegetables in five minutes using a newly developed fertilizer, while flower gardeners, as if they were fairytale wizards, cultivated tropical plants on the Square of the Victims of the Revolution in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. The unceasing sounds of the Petersburger Prokhorov’s gramophone organ complemented an endless, dazzling New Year’s fireworks display, which depicted the events of 1917–1923 — congresses of Soviets, wars, and revolutions — in a series of fiery tableaux. The expositions of technological and mechanical marvels alternated with works of art. A women’s, men’s and children’s beauty pageant provoked merry laughter among participants and spectators alike, for there were no homely people and there was thus no one on whom the prize could be bestowed — all of them were extraordinarily beautiful.
But the highlight of the festivities was an experiment carried out by a group of scientists from Earth and Mars that consisted in mutually attracting the said planets by means of devices that the said scientists had invented. The devices released the appropriate gas from each of the planets, causing them to alter their orbits (their motion through the void of space) and bringing them quite close to each other.
The audience’s delight knew no bounds.
The 14-year-old citizen sat up pensively for a long while after going to bed that night.
“Why aren’t you sleeping, dear?” his father asked tenderly.
“Dad,” the boy said thoughtfully, “how good it would be if Comrade Lenin were alive now.”
“My dear son,” said the father, his voice trembling with tearful, tender emotion, “Lenin is alive. Lenin is immortal. He is part of everything you saw today. Sleep, my boy. Lenin is alive and will never die. Can dynamics or electrification die? No, they can’t. Isn’t Lenin the sum of all of those things? He is everything.”
The starry night quietly descended on January 2, 2023.
The 14-year-old citizen sleeps. He dreams of the Progenitor of worldwide happiness and freedom, the short, stout man in suit and cap, with intelligent, penetrating eyes and the good-natured, sly smile on his lips known to the entire universe.
The boy smiles in his sleep.
“Dear comrade Lenin. Dear Ilyich. Good Ilyich, kind… dear Ilyich…”
Vasily Mikhailovich Andreyev (December 28 (January 9), 1889—October 1, 1942) was a Russian Soviet prose writer, playwright, journalist, and exponent of “ornamental” prose in literature. In the 1940s he was repressed.
He was born in St. Petersburg to the family of a bank teller. His mother was a homemaker. He graduated from a four-grade municipal school. In his youth, he was involved in the revolutionary movement. In 1910, he was convicted of murdering a gendarme (according to the writer’s daughter: “he was covering someone handing out revolutionary leaflets”). From 1910 to 1913 he was exiled in the Turukhansk Region, whence he fled. According to some reports, he helped arrange Stalin’s escape. He was amnestied in connection with the celebration of House of Romanov’s 300th anniversary.
He began publishing in 1916 in newspapers under the pseudonyms Andrei Sunny, Vaska the Newspaperman, Vaska the Editor, etc. Until 1917, he mainly lived in Ligovo, but after the October Revolution he returned to Petrograd and became a professional writer. In the late 1920s, in a letter to S.N. Sergeyev-Tsensky, Maxim Gorky spoke of Andreyev as a writer who was “not susceptible to Americanization.”
A talented writer on social themes who suffered from binge drinking and dearly loved his sickly daughter, there was nothing but a cot and an office desk in his room, and he carried in his empty, beat-up wallet a certificate stating that he had shot a policeman in such-and-such pre-revolutionary year.
On August 27, 1941, Andreyev left his house and did not return. As transpired later, in response to a query sent to the KGB by the literary critic Vladimir Bakhtin, Andreyev had been arrested by the Leningrad Regional NKVD. He was charged under Article 58-10 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (“anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”). He was later transferred to the city of Mariinsk, Novosibirsk Region, where he died on October 1, 1942, of “cardiac arrest due to beriberi.”
More than 200 thousand copies have been sold — an absolute bestseller. Its authors, Katerina Silvanova and Elena Malisova, did not expect the novel to take off. In 2021, one of the readers of A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie made a TikTok based on the book that went viral. “We had a wild number of views — it was surreal,” recalls Katya. A month after its publication, homophobes drew attention to the book: threats to imprison, rape, kill, burn, and drown the authors along with their novel rained down on social networks. By the end of this summer, the scandal around LVPG [as the novel is known to fans] had ballooned to calls to remove the book from stores, while politicians in the regions went so far as to burn copies of the book. Russia has now adopted the most scandalous law of recent years — a complete ban on LGBT propaganda [see below]. A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie has again been cited by officials as the [negative] “gold standard”: this is what has been target by the state’s hatred.
Who are Katerina Silvanova and Elena Malisova? Where are they from? How did they become writers? How did they manage to write the year’s biggest book? Special to The Village, journalist Anya Kuznetsova traced their real-life stories from childhood to the present day.
In brief: what is the book itself about?
The plot centers around the relationship between two young men — Young Pioneer Yura and camp counselor Volodya. They meet at the Ukrainian summer camp Swallow in 1986, forming a friendship that eventually blossoms into a teenage romance. It is difficult for the characters to accept their homosexuality. Volodya suffers from internal homophobia and worries that he is “seducing” the Young Pioneer, while Yura does not understand what his lover feels and tries to conceal his affection.
The authors of the novel raise topics that are sticky in post-Soviet society: the stigmatization of LGBT people, the inability to openly build relationships, and the need to constantly ensure that they are not disclosed. This is clearly seen in the episode when one of the Young Pioneers, Masha, tries to report Yura and Volodya’s relationship to the authorities, which may threaten the counselor with expulsion from university.
Another feature of this text is a style typical of fan fiction. Using a simple, accessible language, Elena and Katerina have created a text unique in Russophone literature. Yes, the topic of same-sex love has been raised before — for example, by the poets Mikhail Kuzmin and Sofia Parnok — and critics have detected homoerotic motifs even in the fiction of Gogol and Tolstoy. But the authors of LVPG have been, perhaps, the first to succeed in producing a genuinely popular Russian-language text directly describing a romantic relationship between men — so much so that it has been banned.
A year later, in the midst of the hype around LVPG, Popcorn Books published a sequel to the novel, What the Swallow Won’t Say (aka OCHML). The events in the new novel unfold twenty years after Yura and Volodya parted: they never managed to meet again after their time at summer camp.
The characters are now adults, living their own lives. Volodya runs his father’s construction company and is in an abusive relationship with a married man, while Yura has moved to Germany and writes music. They accidentally meet again and try to build a relationship, but it’s not so simple. Yura suffers from writer’s block and alcoholism, while Volodya suffers from self-harm and controlling behavior.
Although OCHML continues the plot line started in LVPG, the book is anything but an easy read: the authors delve deeper into the stigmatization of the LGBT community, while simultaneously exploring addiction, abuse, violence, and conversion therapy. You can read more about the second part in Bolshoi Gorod.
Part 1. Lena Malisova’s story: Childhood at a sawmill, abuse, and the death of her father
Kirov in the 1990s is where the future writer grew up. Lena’s parents owned a sawmill in the village of Suzum (Kirov Region) and took their daughter with them, says Malisova.
“The sawmill was in the forest, and I often walked through this forest at night. A stunning starry sky, snakes hiding in the grass. It seemed to me them that I only had to go outside and I would definitely encounter a goblin or a little mermaid.”
At first, Lena’s parents read to her, but later she read to herself. She read the tales of Hoffmann, the Brothers Grimm, and Andersen, Gerhart Hauptmann‘s novels Atlantis and The Whirlwind of Vocation and, later, Goethe’s The Sufferings of Young Werther.
As a teenager, Lena became interested in heavy music, and wore torn jeans and a bandana. Goths, metal heads and bikers emerged in Kirov. Lena listened to black metal, Lacrimosa, and Korol i Shut, and started hanging out with the “informals” who met at the Kalinka store to play guitar and discuss music. It was there that she met Vlad, her future boyfriend.
“He seemed nice and gallant to me, and paid me a lot of attention. He said he couldn’t live without me, and at the time I took those words seriously. Together we listened to music and watched music videos, and he copied magazine pages for me. At the time I believed that I was difficult to fall in love with, and his attentions won me over,” the writer says.
Over time, Vlad’s attitude towards Lena changed. According to her, the young man didn’t like her friends, calling them whores and asking her to stop hanging out with them. Vlad was jealous of Lena and tried to get her to develop complexes, calling her fat, and if she hung out with other guys, he said that she was a whore. It was then that Vlad hit her for the first time.
“When something bad happened to him, he projected his emotions onto me. For example, I wouldn’t ask how his day had been, or I’d talk to another guy, and he would light up, thinking I didn’t love him or was cheating on him. It was the whole circle of abuse: the outburst, the beating, the promise to improve, and the reconciliation, and after a while everything would repeat again. I understood I was in a bad relationship, but I couldn’t explain why. I thought that if I broke up with him, no one would want me. It was painful without him, but it was worse with him. I hid the bruises and deceived my loved ones,” Lena recalls.
Hanging out with peers helped Lena to get out of the relationship. A club was started at her school in which the kids involved organized celebrations and came up with contests. Hanging out with other teenagers, Lena realized that there was a life without humiliation and aggression, that there was friendship, support, and mutual assistance. Vlad noticed that she was moving away, and there were more quarrels and violence. When it had reached a critical point, they broke up.
“I am convinced that my desire to write texts about LGBT people is connected with the abusive relationships in my youth. I understand that victims of violence and LGBT people living in a homophobic environment are oppressed. They are in a terrible situation, they can’t do anything: they can’t help themselves and no one can help them. When I think about it, I remember my personal experience. And I want to support them emotionally, to say that they are not alone, here is my hand of support. I believe that literature can change the world,” the writer explains.
After leaving abusive relationships and going to high school, Lena met her future husband Ilya. They were also connected by music — Ilya played the guitar. When Lena turned eighteen, the couple decided to get married. The wedding was scheduled for December 2006. But a month before that, a tragedy occurred in the young woman’s family: her dad died in a fire at the sawmill.
“That night, during the fire, Dad was at the sawmill, and we did not completely believe that he had been there. A body was found in the morning. I couldn’t believe for a long time that my father was dead. He often went on business trips, so I thought that he had just gone away this time as well. We buried Dad in a closed coffin,” Lena recalls.
She says that she still could not acknowledge his death. When her father-in-law died, she cried for several days. This was her way of mourning her father.
Part 2. Katya Silvanova’s story: Childhood in Kharkiv and acceptance of her bisexuality
Katya is four years younger than Lena. She spent her childhood in Ukraine, in her hometown of Kharkiv. Currently, the Kharkiv region is being shelled by the Russian military. The lights are constantly turned off in the city for several hours at a time, and the metro comes to a standstill.
Remembering her Kharkiv childhood in the late 90s and early 2000s, Katya says that she was outside in the courtyard a lot. She hung out a lot with the neighborhood kids and constantly rescued animals.
“There was a cat Frosya on our street who suddenly began giving birth. My friend and I stole milk from the house, delivered the kittens, and got them on their feet. Then we picked up a dog that someone had thrown out of the car. We raised money and took it to the vet. And I often went to visit my grandmother in Kryvyi Rih, where I played with the chickens and goats.”
Katya was closest to her mother.
“She read a lot and watched auteur cinema. I always wanted to be with her and her friends. My relationship with my father didn’t work out — he drank and cheated on my mother,” says Katya.
Katya also became interested in reading thanks to her mother — she bought the girl Jules Verne’s In Search of the Castaways. It was followed by Tom Sawyer and, later, Harry Potter,Tanya Grotter, Night Watch, and fantasy novels. It was then that the future writer began inventing worlds, generating ideas from what she viewed and read, and developing characters.
Some readers have criticized LVPG for being written by two heterosexual women. It’s not like that: Katya is bisexual. She thought about her sexuality for the first time in the tenth grade.
“A new girl transferred to our school, and we became friends because we were interested in anime and read manga and fan fiction. I can’t say for sure why yaoi and yuri manga didn’t cause me any surprise. At the age of fifteen, I just accepted as a fact that this exists, that these people exist, and they are no different from us. And then my friend kissed me. That’s how I realized I was bisexual.”
It was not easy for Katya to accept her orientation.
“When people in my group of friends found out that I liked girls, they looked at me strange. When I tried to talk to my parents about LGBT people — not specifically about myself, but in general — their reaction was abrupt and negative.”
The reaction of those around her triggered internal homophobia: Katya began to think something was wrong with her.
Literary representations of her experience helped Katya to cope.
“There are now a lot of LGBT books, films and TV series. But back then I found representations in the yaoi and yuri fan fiction based on Naruto, the comedy manga series Gravitation, and the old anime series of Ai no Kusabi.”
Writing LVPG helped Katya reconcile her parents with her sexuality.
“I told my mom that I like women this year. It took me a long time to work up to it. She was influenced by LVPG — when she was reading the novel, she asked me to explain everything, and I worked on destroying her stereotypes for several years. But in the end, when I told her about myself, she wasn’t surprised. She boldly accepted everything.”
“I now relate to the LGBT community positively and even sympathetically. But it wasn’t always like that. My attitude and acceptance of this topic was completely shaped by Katya. When she was writing the book and I was reading it, we talked a lot, arguing and discussing things. It wasn’t easy to read at first: I was constantly tripped up by the idea that we were talking about two guys. But her talent won me over, and I read the second part of the book excitedly,” says Katya’s mother.
Katya’s maternal grandmother also read LVPG and easily accepted the book’s homoerotic relationships.
“So the lads love each other? Then let them love each other. What’s the big deal? It’s basically a wonderful book,” she argues.
When Katya turned twenty-two, the Euromaidan happened. Due to a fall in the value of the dollar, the trading business owned her by mother was threatened, and the family did not have enough money to buy new pants to replace torn ones. At the time, the future writer had been dating a guy from Nizhny Novgorod and decided to go and stay with him. She recalls the move as fraught with anxiety.
“People were condescending when they found out that I was from Ukraine. But it wasn’t sympathy — they considered me a refugee. It was not an equal relationship, in fact: they put themselves above me, saying that I was poor and unhappy, that I had come to seek shelter in Russia, because allegedly Ukraine was bombing us. Of course, not everyone was like that, but I often encountered a dismissively sympathetic attitude.”
Part 3. Ficbook: Meeting and Working on “Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie”
The young women met in 2016 thanks to Ficbook — a website where non-professional authors post their fan fiction, that is, new works based on famous works or characters that are not in any way approved by the authors of the originals. Both Katya and Lena found their way to Ficbook by reading LGBT literature: Katya was looking for representations of same-sex relationships, while Lena wanted to learn more about the lives of LGBT people.
“I was then working at a company where I made friends with a gay guy who was HIV positive. I was shocked and worried and wanted to find out how to help him. I was looking for information, for diaries of people with HIV, and eventually came across Ficbook,” says Lena.
Over time, the young women found the website’s “Originals” section, where authors publish works based not on existing works, but involving completely fictional worlds. Katya and Lena began posting their texts, and having stumbled upon each other’s work, they met on Skype call, during which the authors discussed their works.
“Katya won me over. We were in an environment in which everyone would try to offend and criticize each other. Katya is not like that, that’s why I liked her. I was reading her texts and knew her as an author even before I met her, and in her works I had seen a lot of similarities with my own — she focuses on the same details as me. We rang each other up to read our texts to each other,” Lena recalls.
“It was the first time I felt synergy,” Katya adds. “Lena is very smart. All you need to know about her is that we once sat down to watch a three-hour film about Alexander the Great, but the viewing dragged on for almost five hours. Lena was constantly pausing the video and saying things like, ‘That is the phalanx of Alexander the Great: I will now draw a diagram to show how it works.'”
The idea to write something about a Young Pioneer camp came from Lena, who was working a lot at the time and wanted to read a summer novel in her spare time. She asked Katya to write such a work, but in the end they decided to work on it together. They telephoned each other, outlined a plan, and divvied up the responsibilities. Most of the text was written when Katya traveled to Moscow to visit Lena. When the book was finished, the young women decided to publish a small edition for themselves and friends: they chipped in and printed four hundred copies.
The writers began getting. messages, suggesting that they send their manuscript to Popcorn Books.
“Our thought then was, Come on, this is a real publishing house that publishes books by André Aciman and other famous foreign authors. Where do we fit in? Plus, we believed that no one would publish a Russian LGBT book. But when Popcorn Books started soliciting works from Russian-speaking authors, Lena said, ‘Yes, let’s give it a try. They will turn us down in any case, but they promise feedback — let’s treat this as experience,'” recalls Katya.
In response to the submission, the young women received a letter that read: “Hello, we really liked your book, and we want to publish it.”
“I sat stupefied for ten minutes, thinking that I had read it wrong,” Katya says. “I sent it to Lena, and then the screaming started. We couldn’t believe it. Lena said, ‘Do you mean to say that my book will be sold in a bookstore?'”
Part 4. “Of course, I didn’t read the Young Pioneer camp faggotry”: How homophobes have reacted to the book
Reactions to the book have varied. In addition to letters of support, the young women have received a lot of hate mail. They have been criticized by film director Nikita Mikhalkov, writer Zakhar Prilepin, journalist and writer Mikhail Shakhnazarov, and Vostok Battalion blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, among many others. Some of the posts were threatening and offensive. Prilepin said he wanted to burn down Popcorn Books, while Tatarsky called the writers “two broads” who look “as if they had come to a casting of Battle of the Psychics without masking their witchy essence much.”
The Village contacted Tatarsky.
“Of course, I didn’t read the Young Pioneer camp faggotry. There is nothing edifying about hyping the topic of homosexual relations. That’s all. If the book even discusses the pedophile movement neutrally, it clearly puts the topic on the [public] agenda,” he says.
We were unable to contact Prilepin, who hung up the phone when we called him.
Shakhnazarov also refused to be interviewed by The Village.
“I familiarized myself with your publication and with your questions,” he wrote. “Do you understand what’s the matter? Your readers are unlikely to understand and accept my answers, and therefore an interview is pointless. One thing I can say for sure. Summer… is not even a literary composition. It’s neither pulp fiction nor literature. And if it has no artistic value, there is nothing for us to talk about.”
The critics were later joined by the authorities, who proposed a law that would completely ban LGBT literature.
“We were monitoring every hour what appeared in the news. We watched this chimera grow. First there was Prilepin, then the Sevastopol [State Duma] deputy who proposed the law. The trigger was not the book, but the sudden realization by people in power that such literature was being read, that it was popular. They can’t get their heads around it. While I have a strong sense of guilt and blame myself for everything in the world, I don’t blame myself for this law. It is not us who should be blamed, but the people who passed it,” Katya argues.
Tatarsky, who supported the law’s passage, when asked about the connection between the law bill and the novel, argued that everything was complicated.
“Everything in Russia is contradictory,” he said. “We have a law on LGBT propaganda, but they take a gay man [Anton Krasovsky] and make him director of RT, showing that you can be successful while being gay. Everything happens inconsistently in Russia.”
“LVPG has become a litmus test,” Lena replies. “It has highlighted the fact that the authorities were wrong in how they thought about LGBT. For a long time it was hammered into everyone’s heads that the entire Russian society was solidly against LGBT people. But our book has shown that this is not the case, that there are many more humanists and sympathizers than they thought.”
Part 5. War: A grandmother in Kharkiv and leaving Russia
On February 24, Katya woke up to a message from a close friend in Kharkiv: “He [Putin] started bombing.”
“I got onto the news and found out the whole story. I went to call my mom,” Katya says.
“In the morning, I opened my eyes and immediately closed them with the thought, No, I don’t want to wake up, because there is war. I think all Ukrainians felt about the same,” Katya’s mother recalls. “My family and all my friends were in Kharkiv, which was bombed daily. I experienced every attack together with them. Also, my Katya was in the country that had attacked us. Daily Skype conversations with her helped me to stay afloat and not go crazy.”
On the evening of February 24, Katya got more terrible news: her paternal grandmother had died during the bombing.
“When Kharkiv was bombed, my grandmother was scared. She didn’t know what to do. She ran out of the house, thinking about whether to go down to the basement or not. She had a heart attack,” Katya says.
The body was not retrieved for two days — the police, who handle such things, refused to go outside while bombing was underway.
On the second day of the war, Katya traveled to Lena’s house. Together they doomscrolled and watched YouTube. The young women say that mutual support helped them survive this period.
“Lena knows how to take care of others,” says Katya. “She doesn’t ask you how things are going when things are bad. She says, ‘If you want, come over. We’ll pretend that everything is fine and distract ourselves. If you don’t want to pretend everything is fine, we’ll look at the news bulletins from the front and have a beer.’ [To cheer me up] she can write one more time that [Putin] will kick the bucket soon.”
Katya says that since the beginning of the war she had been thinking a lot about leaving for Ukraine.
“Every day I was calling my mother and a friend who wrote to me hysterically from a basement. It was impossible: I would call my mom, and there was a window opening behind her. I kept thinking: what if a rocket hits her now?”
In the summer, in the wake of the hate campaign against LVPG, Katya decided to leave Russia. She has been in Ukraine for more than two months.
“When you can’t help your family and friends, and they write and tell you what’s going on, it’s much worse for you. Maybe I’m in more physical danger now, but mentally I’m much better,” she says.
“I did not pass through hot spots, but I did go through checkpoints. There were military men on the bus with me — whether they were police or AFU, I don’t know. The bus was going to Zaporizhzhia, the closest point to the front. This was the most vivid testament to the fact that the country was at war,” Katya says, adding, “Another vivid impression has been the people. I’m used to the fact that in bureaucratic organizations, in stores, and on the street [in Russia], you’re afraid to say too much, because people might suddenly turn out to be vatniks. Everything is different in Ukraine: I go to the store, and everyone smiles and is helpful. When I was getting my papers sorted, I said that I was from Russia and I thought they would rip me to shreds there and then. But ultimately, they explained everything decently. They told me not to worry and calmed my mother.”
Katya Silvanova is still in Kharkiv.
“When the war began,” she says, “we received many messages from Ukrainians, for whom this text was an outlet in a terrible time. I got a letter from girl from Mariupol who read LVPG during the bombing. We write for the sake of such reactions.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law expanding the existing ban on the prohibition of “LGBT propaganda” to children to include the entire population on Monday.
People of all ages are now banned from accessing certain content under the new legislation. From now on, LGBT relationships and “lifestyles” cannot be displayed or mentioned, according to activists.
The display of LGBT relationships is also banned from advertising campaigns, films, video games, books and media publications. Outlets that break the new law could be fined or shut down by the government.
Organizations could be fined up to 4 million rubles for spreading information about “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors or exhibiting information that “can make minors want to change their gender.”
Under the new law, foreigners who break the law would be expelled from the country.
As part of the Kremlin’s conservative agenda, Russia banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” toward minors in 2013. A fine or 15 days in prison may be imposed for such “propaganda,” under current laws.
In Russia, homosexuality was a crime until 1993, and until 1999 it was regarded as a mental illness.
Every Wednesday we tell you about an article that has proved the most interesting to one of our staffers.
Yulia Holtobina, manager of the Subscribers’ News project, has shared an article with us today.
Does modern society need cultural goods? In my opinion, they are simply necessary for people to grow spiritually and achieve inner harmony. Culture is the environment in which the life of the individual and the life of society take place. Culture makes a person a personality.
In our difficult time, people increasingly want to distract themselves, to get away from fatigue and the problems that have piled up. Theaters, cinemas, and museums are the cultural spaces where they can relax, feel joy, find positive energy and inspiration, and return to a stable life.
Delovoi Peterburg thus writes that the preferences of Petersburgers have not changed. People still enjoy going to theaters, museums, exhibitions, and St. Petersburg’s other cultural spaces.
Source: Delovoi Peterburg email newsletter, 16 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Theatergoers south of Moscow were held “hostage” and shot at by actors playing Ukrainian soldiers during an immersive play that glorifies Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, local media reported Tuesday.
Opening scenes from the production titled “Polite People” showed actors dressed in Ukrainian military uniforms violently capturing audience members and shooting them with what appeared to be prop assault rifles.
One female captive can be heard screaming “it hurts” and “let go” as the actors drag her onstage.
“Polite People” is a euphemism for the Russian soldiers without insignia who occupied Crimea before Moscow annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.
“The creators wanted to immerse the audience into the atmosphere of what Donbas residents had experienced for eight years,” the Kaluga region’s Nika TV broadcaster said, using the term for eastern Ukraine’s separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Actor Vilen Babichev, who portrays one of the Ukrainian troops, told Nika TV the play aims to show Russian audiences “the nature of the enemy that invaded our territories eight and a half years ago.”
President Vladimir Putin has justified Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine with unbacked claims that Kyiv is committing “genocide” against Russian-speaking residents of the Donbas.
“Polite People” is funded through a 10.1-million ruble ($165,000) Russian presidential grant.
Its author, Luhansk-based musician and film studio director Roman Razum, said the project aims to “create positive content to counteract negative content that carries an immoral ideology and counters the Russian cultural code.”
“We show that these aren’t just Ukrainian [soldiers], but fighters fully trained by NATO and supplied with weapons for many years,” Razum told Nika TV.
The play premiered in Kaluga on Monday following dates in occupied Luhansk and four Russian cities in late October and early November. It is expected to go on tour across a handful of other Russian cities until late November.
Is there room left in life for celebrating and if so, for what kind of celebrating? DP found out how the preferences of consumers of culture have changed this year.
The Social and Artistic Theater (SHT) told DP that its new season had got off to a good start. “I would say that audiences are going to the theater more, but the decision to go is made at the last moment. Our productions of Anne Frank, The Émigrés, and Cynicsare now quite popular. Our classic production is still WITHOUT [An idiot], based on F.M. Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot,” SHT director Alina Korol said.
No scarier than covid
The Bolshoi Puppet Theater (BTK) said that its audiences did not have any particular new preferences. There are traditionally sold-out performances at the theater, and less popular ones, but they have not noticed any new trends.
“After the start of the SMO, there was a drop-off in attendance that lasted a couple of months, maybe one and a half. If anything has changed post mobilization, it has been insignificant. But when a new wave of covid started in mid-September, many people began to get sick and the flow decreased,” the BTK’s sales department emphasized.
“People want to return to a stable life for at least a few hours, so they go to the theater. We almost always have full houses, and preferences have not changed,” commented Tatiana Troyanskaya, a public relations specialist at the Studio Theater. Among the favorites at the Studio are productions by the theater’s artistic director Grigory Kozlov (The Elder Son, Tartuffe, The Days of the Turbins, Quiet Flows the Don, as well as comedies (Our Avlabar; Dreams of Love, or the Marriage of Balzaminov), and productions for children.
Vladimir Kantor, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Petersburg Theatergoer and the head of the literary department at Saturday Theater, did not notice any new trends in the theater.
“I am familiar with the repertoire of other theaters, but I haven’t noticed any serious changes in audiences. Autumn and winter are the times when people traditionally go to the theater. I cannot mention any changes in the repertoire that can be described as trends. There were enough productions about war before the start of the SMO, as well as dystopias. I can’t name any productions about the new emigration at all,” he commented.
DP also sent requests for comment to several state theaters, including the Young People’s Theater (TYUZ) and the Alexandrinsky Theater, but did not receive responses. Meanwhile, the Alexandrinsky has removed Boris Akunin‘s name from the announcement of the premiere of One Eight Eight One. Akunin wrote the play specifically for the Alexandrinsky, but his name disappeared from playbills at the behest of the Ministry of Culture. Back in August, the audience received an email with a reminder about the upcoming premiere of One Eight Eight One — as “staged by Valery Fokin, with music by Vyacheslav Butusov, to the text by Boris Akunin.” A similar situation occurred in Moscow, at the Russian Youth Academic Theater (RAMT), where there are four productions of plays penned by the writer.
Akunin himself is aware of what has happened and does not condemn the theaters. “I sympathize with the heads of theaters… If a person has decided that the cause you serve is more important than damage to your reputation — this is a difficult choice from which you yourself suffer, but not your team and not your audience,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.
According to the writer, he has not demanded that uncredited productions be removed from the repertoire. On the contrary, they can go on until they are finally banned and even with no compensation to him. As Akunin noted, the Alexandrinsky Theater cannot pay him royalties due to sanctions.
Among private institutions, Beyond the Black River Theater and the City Theater declined to comment. On October 20, a performance of 1984 was canceled at the City Theater — as noted on its social media accounts, “for reasons beyond the theater’s control.” On October 31, the same production was presented to the audience in a new way: in a video format and featuring an encounter with the director and the actors. The theater’s management clarified that “this is probably the last time it would be possible to see 1984.” The theater also said goodbye to the anti-war production A Red Flower, based on the stories of Vsevolod Garshin.
Alexander Prokopovich, editor–in-chief at the publishing house Astrel SPb, says that readers’ preferences had begun to change even before early February, during the pandemic, but the trends have persisted. According to him, classics and so-called longreads [longridy] — that is, literature that is demand at all times — have remained relevant, while speculative texts and fashionable literature [sic] have been losing ground.
“Readers reared their heads, rather, by remaining true to their interests in new titles; perhaps for obvious reasons, interest in new titles from the translated literature segment has increased. I have not encountered any restrictions. Writing is a strategic activity: it can take years to create a book, so it is not worth waiting for a sudden change in the subject matter of the fiction we publish. It is another matter that the events [of this year] are so emotionally charged that many authors have simply stopped writing. It is not our publishing housing that is in demand, but the books which we publish. Nothing has changed here: demand for them is determined by the quality of the texts. This has been the case in the past, and it will be the case in the future,” Prokopovich said.
Some authors claim that their works have disappeared from bookstores — for example, collections of poems by the poet Vera Polozkova. She left Russia in March. Over her fifteen-year career, Polozkova has written five books, published in a total of 280 thousand copies. On her social media accounts, the poet noted, “It would be strange to expect them [the authorities] not to touch the books after everything I’ve said and done.” She believes that she will be able to publish abroad either through crowdfunding or self-publishing [samizdat].
On the other side of the cultural barricades is RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan. A month ago, the TV channel presented a collection of front-line poems, Poetry of the Russian Summer, but a few weeks later it transpired that Russian publishers were not willing to publish a book with the letter Z on the cover. Simonyan, on her Telegram channel, called it “a verdict on us all.”
Cinema depends on the weather
Cinemas were reluctant to comment on the situation. Aurora and Rodina did not answer DP’s questions, but Lenfilm did give an assessment of attendance factors. The cinema center’s management said that Lenfilm is difficult to compare with mass multiplex cinemas. “We show festival films, auteur cinema, and retrospectives. Therefore, aside from a general decrease in the number of viewers, the situation has not affected us so much, since our repertoire has stayed the same, and our audience has remained our audience. We are more dependent on the weather. After big news days, the attendance drops at first, but then it more or less levels off,” the studio commented.
Katerina Silvanova was born and raised in Kharkiv, but moved to Russia at the age of twenty-two. She majored in forestry engineering, but never finished her studies. She has worked in sales all her life. Elena Malisova is a Muscovite and married, and works in IT. The girls [sic] had never been associated with literature, but both have had a passion for writing since childhood. One day, chatting on the internet after a hard day’s work, the friends agreed that they had to do something together. So, the idea of the novel A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie was born.
Musician Yuri Konev arrives at the abandoned Swallow Young Pioneer Camp in the Kharkiv region to encounter the ghosts of his past. Something happened there that turned his life upside down, changing it forever. There he met the camp counselor Volodya, who became more than a friend to the teenager.
Walking through streets of the camp, overgrown with grass, Yura recalls how rapidly and stormily his relationship with Volodya developed, how they had been afraid of what was happening between them. And yet, they had gravitated to each other. The trip to the camp is a new revelation for Yura. He was sure he had buried the past there, that its rebellious echo would never again disturb him . And yet, Konev will have to come face to face again with what already turned his life around once. Apparently, not all the ghosts of the past are willing to hide in memory’s back alleys forever.
Why should you read A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie?
It’s a new extraordinary look at the late Soviet period of history.
It’s a novel about sincere first feelings, cloaked in mystery and shame, condemnation and doubts.
It’s an absolute bestseller, one of the year’s most anticipated and controversial books.
Book Description Yura returns to the Young Pioneer camp of his youth after twenty years. In the ruins of the past, he hopes to find a path back to the present, to the person he once loved. This story is about the fact that not everything in the USSR was smooth, straight-laced, and impersonal, that there were experiences, passions, drives, and feelings that did not fit into the moral framework leading to the “bright future,” and that this future was not so bright.
Source: LitRes. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader
Leto v pionerskom galstuke (LVPG) [A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie] is a novel co-written by Elena Malisova and Katerina Silvanova. The book deals with the relationship between two young men, the Young Pioneer [sic] Yura and Volodya, who meet at Young Pioneer camp in the summer of 1986.
Twenty years later, the musician Yuri Konev returns to the place where the Swallow Young Pioneer Camp was once located, recalling the summer of 1986, which spent there, and his love for the MGIMO student and camp counselor Vladimir Davydov. Yura and Volodya were jointly involved in staging a play, and a strong friendship arose between them, which gradually developed into teenage love. Throughout the book, Volodya refuses to accept his homosexual orientation, periodically insisting on ending the relationship and explaining that he is trying to “steer Yura off the right path” and that he is homophobic himself. At the end of the their stay at the camp, the young men bury a kind of time capsule under a willow tree, agreeing to dig it up in ten years. After parting, Yura and Volodya continue to communicate by correspondence for some time, but after a while they lose touch with each other. In 2006, after finding the time capsule, Yura learns in a letter that Volodya sends him that he had failed to “overcome” his orientation and still loves Yura.
The novel, which was originally posted on the website Ficbook.net, was published by Popcorn Books in 2021. By the end of May 2022, the book had sold more than 200,000 copies, not counting electronic sales. The novel took second place in the list of the most popular books among Russians in the first half of 2022, compiled by the Russian Book Union, and sales of the book amounted to about 50 million rubles. August 2022 saw the release of a sequel, What the Swallow Won’t Say, which takes place twenty years after the events described in A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie.
Critic Galina Yuzefovich gave a generally positive review of the novel, noting that “life in the Soviet Union differed little from life today, and emotions, relationships, and the desire to love and be loved do not depend on ideology.” Book blogger Anthony Yulai (Anton Ulyanov) rated the novel positively on the whole, noting that the authors keep the reader “in a state of emotional shock due to the alternation of sweet moments with sad ones and an abrupt change in the tone of the narrative towards the novel’s end.”
Zakhar Prilepin harshly condemned the book and its publishers on his Telegram channel: “Popcorn Books (which inevitably suggests “porn books”) is are celebrating their triumph and counting their profits. They will regard this post as good fortune, too. That’s what they were counting on. I won’t hide it: I’d burn down your whole office while you’re sleeping at home!” A video featuring a negative review of the book was released by Nikita Mikhalkov. He read aloud an excerpt from the novel and deems its publication a “violation of the Constitution.” He also noted that the abbreviation “LVPG,” as the novel is known among fans, is very similar to “LGBT.”
N.A. Ostanina, chair of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children, sent a request to Roskomnadzor to examine the contents of the book to determine whether a criminal case could be launched against it in the future. A similar request was sent by the news agency RIA Ivan-Chai, but received a negative response.
Source: Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader
“Aren’t you exaggerating?”
Seeing Volodya’s slightly condescending smile, Yurka was embarrassed. He probably thought that Yurka remembered their dance too well and was still jealous, so he was ready to accuse Masha of anything. And if Volodya really thought so, then he was right. Yurka’s ardent desire to jump out of the bushes and catch the spy red-handed was caused precisely by jealousy. But Yurka also had arguments in defense of his theory.
“It’s not the first time she’s been out at night. Do you remember when Ira came to the theater and attacked me, asking me what I’d been doing with Masha and where I’d been walking? And it’s true, no matter where we are, she’s always there. Volodya, we have to tell them about her walks!”
“Deal with Irina first.”
Yurka did go find her almost immediately. All the same, his mood was spoiled, and Volodya was paranoid again, and he constantly froze, listening and looking around and not even letting him touch his hand. And the evening was already coming to an end.
After hastily saying goodbye to Volodya, Yurka returned to his unit and found the counselor. He expected her to frown and scream at him as soon as he walked in. He was already ready to babble excuses, but Ira stared at him in surprise.
“Actually, no, I wasn’t looking for you,” she said. Yurka had already put his hands up to stop his jaw from dropping, when Ira yelled.
“Where have you been, by the way?”
“Did you even notice what time it is?! Yura, who are they playing lights out for?! If you’re going to be late, you have to warn me!”
Yurka fell asleep, struggling with mixed feelings full of anxiety. Volodya was constantly surrounded by girls, but it seemed to Yurka that Masha popped up too often. It must be jealousy after all. And to top it all off, he apparently had been infected with Volodya’s paranoia.
Source: Elena Malisova and Katerina Silvanova, A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie (Popcorn Books, 2021), p. 155, as chosen by the True Random Number Generator. Translated by the Russian Reader
In an industrial block in northeastern Moscow on a recent Friday night, organizers of an L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly art festival were assiduously checking IDs. No one under 18 allowed. They were trying to comply with a 2013 Russian law that bans exposing minors to anything that could be considered “gay propaganda.”
The organizers had good reason to be wary: Life has been challenging for gay Russians since the law passed, as the government has treated gay life as a Western import that is harmful to traditional Russian values and society.
Now Russia’s Parliament is set to pass a legislative package that would ban all “gay propaganda,” signaling an even more difficult period ahead for a stigmatized segment of society.
The laws would prohibit representation of L.G.B.T.Q. relationships in any media — streaming services, social platforms, books, music, posters, billboards and films — and, activists fear, in any public space as well. That’s a daunting prospect for queer people searching for community, validation or an audience.
“I’m afraid for my future, because with these kinds of developments, it won’t be as bright as I would like it to be,” said a drag artist who uses the stage name Taylor. Taylor’s performance on Friday before a small but enthusiastic crowd tackled themes of domestic violence, mental health and AIDS.
The proposed laws are part of an intensifying effort by President Vladimir V. Putin to cast Russia as fighting a civilizational struggle against the West, which he accuses of trying to export corrosive values.
The Kremlin is coupling the crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. expression with its rationale for the war in Ukraine, insisting that Russia is fighting not just Ukraine but all of NATO, a Western alliance that represents a threat to the motherland.
Natalia Kharakoz, Evgen Bal, and Bohdan Slyushchynsky all died in March or April.
The story of Evgen Bal’s death is quite terrible. An elderly former submariner, the famous writer was tortured by the Russians over photos with guys from the Azov Battalion. They beat the elderly man with their rifle butts, breaking several ribs.
Source: We Survived in Mariupol, Telegram, 25 July 2022, 1:09 p.m. & 1:28 p.m. Translated by the Russian Reader
78-year-old Ukrainian military pensioner, journalist and writer Evgen Bal died on April 2 after being tortured for days in captivity by the Russian military. The reason for the detention and bullying was the journalist’s friendly relations with Ukrainian servicemen.
The aggressor seeks to wipe out any mention of his crimes from the face of the earth. Therefore, they kill all possible witnesses — military, civilians and journalists.
If Yevgeny [sic] Bal had not died, he could have told about the crimes of the Russian army in Mariupol and its environs.
He would talk about the inhuman conditions in which the Russians are holding captured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.
Through his articles and books, the world would know how the Ukrainian military, his friends, resisted the Russian invasion of the besieged Mariupol.
He could show how barbaric Russians behaved in the homes of ordinary Ukrainians.
Killings and shootings of journalists are a gross violation of international law. The enemy can turn a blind eye to laws, but he will not be able to close the eyes of the world to crimes. After all, honouring the memory of those who died for the truth, we will continue to tell their immortal stories.
Natalia Kharakoz, journalist, author, member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine and the National Writers’ Union of Ukraine, and head of the Azov Literary Club, died in the russian-blockaded Mariupol in Donetsk region.
This was announced by her relative, Mariupol journalist Anna Kotykhova.
In her comment to an IMI representative, Anna Kotykhova told that Natalia Kharakoz’s house burned down and collapsed. After that, the woman had to live and hide in the basement. In early April, the relatives learned about the woman’s death from her neighbors, but tried to find out the circumstances and causes of death. The lack of communication made it difficult to obtain this information.
“An author of countless books and the editor of my books, on the first day of the invasion she emailed me the draft of my next book with the postscript ‘Sending this while there is still Internet access, save it.’ I did.
But I did not save any of her books. The apartments – both mine and hers – burned to the ground along with all the books. And I don’t know if her lines have survived in at least one library, at least one museum, at least in someone’s intact house.
Now I really want to reread her short story ‘Anyuta’s Letters,’ about how Anyuta lived through the Second World War – same Anyuta after whom I was named. But I can only snatch fragments from memory,” Kotykhova wrote.
As IMI reported, as of April 29, 22 journalists had been killed in shelling by the russian occupiers since the beginning of their full-scale offensive in Ukraine.
The Russian occupiers killed Bohdan Slyushchynsky, a doctor of sociology and professor at Mariupol State University.
This was reported on Facebook by the Department of Philosophy and Sociology of Mariupol State University, Censor.NET informs.
“The Department of Philosophy and Sociology, Mariupol State University and the entire Ukrainian sociological community have suffered irreparable losses — as a result of Russian aggression, Doctor of Sociology, Professor Bohdan Slyushchynsky died.
“Bohdan Vasyliovych was the man who created and actively developed the specialty ‘Sociology’ in the industrial city of Mariupol from scratch. He managed to create a unique atmosphere at the department, when all teachers and students really felt like one family. They came to him with good news and support in difficult times, shared their victories and complained about failures. Bohdan Vasyliovych could find his own approach to each of those words. He raised many real professionals and just decent people. Scientist, teacher, musician, poet, talented manager — it is difficult to list all the talents of Bohdan Vasyliovych.
“On this tragic day, the MSU sociological family longs for its mentor. He will always remain in our hearts! Kingdom of Heaven!” said [the]statement.
Source: “Rashists killed Bohdan Slyushchynsky, professor at Mariupol State University,” Censor.Net, 8 May 2022
Why, even when he knows how to work the right way, does a person actually do everything the way he’s used to doing it—that is, the wrong way? Maxim Dorofeyev explains in simple and accessible language why this happens. When you read his book, you’ll learn how thinking and memory work; why you fritter away your brain’s resources; how to conserve them; and how to concentrate properly, articulate tasks, and reactive yourself for productive work. These practical, proven, and well-founded techniques will help you make your to-do list really work and guarantee that you achieve your goals.
Roof Place is a cultural space located on Vasilievsky Island in the building of a former tannery built in 1893. Since its opening in 2016, the site has attracted creative people and connoisseurs of the active lifestyle and comfortable outdoor recreation. Its powerful audio system and convenient location make it a perfect arena [sic] for parties, concerts, and summer festivals.
Rita Dakota (her real name is Margarita Gerasimovich, and she was born in Minsk in 1990 — not on the Pine Ridge Reservation) will be performing at Roof Place’s Roof Fest on July 19. Tickets run from 46 to 77 euros (per the official, not the actual, exchange rate). Screenshot of the concert’s page on Bileter.ru
The point? That Russia, especially its two capitals (Petersburg and Moscow), was never as slavishly “westernizing” as during Putinism’s full flowering. Even a “proxy war with the west” cannot stop this trend, apparently. Hence the mass exodus of many of the “westernizers” and “westernized” from the country after February 24. (You didn’t think all of them left because they’re wild-eyed dissidents opposed to the war, did you?) And often as not this “westernization” has been marked by needless, wholesale injections of English into Russian. By the way, this didn’t happen in the allegedly more slavishly westernizing nineties that have served as a Putinist stalking horse the last glorious twenty-three years.||| TRR
A powerful body and lusty good looks were Ben Franklin’s ticket to a better life. Born a slave, he was raised to be a stud and then purchased as a bodyguard by the influential liberal Creole, Etienne LeGrand.
LeGrand trusts Ben with his life, educates him, and defends his word against that of Claudette Latham, wife of Dr. Latham, who accuses Ben of rape. Ben clears himself—but not without realizing his physical appearance attracts whites as well as blacks: Claudette had wanted Ben to seduce her.
When the Civil War begins, Ben is further confused by the new concepts of freedom stirred by the election of Lincoln. Why not stay forever with LeGrand in the magnificent New Orleans town house and sprawling plantation? Why not stay close to the startling beauty of the octoroon Odette, whom he loves?
But Odette leaves him to live with an infamous slave dealer. War begins, and Ben is granted his freedom. Rising to the rank of Union Colonel, he finds himself fighting for identity against those who have given him what little identity he has. At the moment when life and freedom become precious, he must face the reality of losing both.
Source: Inside dust jacket blurb on an autographed hardcover copy of John Hicks, The Long Whip(1969), discovered in a Little Free Library in Pacific Grove, California, 30 June 2022
July 1, 2022
Happy Independence Day Weekend!
This weekend while you’re celebrating, I hope you take a moment to think about all the people throughout history who have worked so hard to make America the greatest country in the world. From the Founding Fathers to those who have defended our freedoms in combat, to the farmers who feed our country every day, and so many more. I am thankful for you each and every day.
As always, my office is open and ready to serve constituents of Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District! Please do not hesitate to get in touch if there is anything I can do to help. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July and God bless America. Sincerely,
Michelle Fischbach Member of Congress
Please do not reply to this email, the mailbox is not monitored. To comment further please click here.
Source: Email newsletter from US Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach (R — Minnesota), 1 July 2022; duplicated here.
Hello, friends, have you lost your fucking minds by any chance? I don’t know how it looks in Moscow or Petersburg, but from where I’m sitting, it looks as appropriate as selling eclairs at the gates of Auschwitz.
Source: Dmitry Volchek, Facebook, 2 June 2022. Screenshot and translation by the Russian Reader
Approaching the 100-day mark in a war that he refuses to call by its name, Russian President Vladimir Putin is a man intent on conveying the impression of business as usual.
As his army fought its way into the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk this week, Putin was making awkward small talk in a televised ceremony to honor parents of exceptionally large families.
Since the start of May, he has met – mostly online – with educators, oil and transport bosses, officials responsible for tackling forest fires, and the heads of at least a dozen Russian regions, many of them thousands of miles from Ukraine.
Along with several sessions of his Security Council and a series of calls with foreign leaders, he found time for a video address to players, trainers and spectators of the All-Russian Night Hockey League.
The appearance of solid, even boring routine is consistent with the Kremlin’s narrative that it is not fighting a war – merely waging a “special military operation” to bring a troublesome neighbor to heel.
For a man whose army has heavily underperformed in Ukraine and been beaten back from its two biggest cities, suffering untold thousands of casualties, Putin shows no visible sign of stress.
In contrast with the run-up to the Feb. 24 invasion, when he denounced Ukraine and the West in bitter, angry speeches, his rhetoric is restrained. The 69-year-old appears calm, focused and fully in command of data and details.
While acknowledging the impact of Western sanctions, he tells Russians their economy will emerge stronger and more self-sufficient, while the West will suffer a boomerang effect from spiraling food and fuel prices.
But as the war grinds on with no end in sight, Putin faces an increasing challenge to maintain the semblance of normality.
Economically, the situation will worsen as sanctions bite harder and Russia heads towards recession.
The words “war” and “Ukraine” were never spoken during Putin’s 40-minute video encounter on Wednesday with the prolific families, including Vadim and Larisa Kadzayev with their 15 children from Beslan in the North Caucasus region.
Wearing their best dresses and suits, the families sat stiffly at tables laden with flowers and food as Putin called on them in turn to introduce themselves. On the same day, eight empty school buses pulled into the main square of Lviv in western Ukraine to serve as a reminder of 243 Ukrainian children killed since the start of Putin’s invasion.
The closest he came to acknowledging the war was in a pair of references to the plight of children in Donbas and the “extraordinary situation” there.
Russia had many problems but that was always the case, he said as he wrapped up the online meeting. “Nothing unusual is actually happening here.”
Source: Mark Trevelyan, “Putin clings to semblance of normality as his war grinds on,” Reuters, 2 June 2022
‘At least as bad as Russia itself are the areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian armed forces in 2014 – Crimea and the so called “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk – and the small amount of territory Russia has taken this year. In Crimea, all civic activism, especially by the Tatar community, has been savagely punished. People are being sent to jail for many years for something they posted on line. The “republics” are ruled by lawless, quasi-state administrations. The list of human rights abuses – torture, illegal imprisonment, forced labour, terrorism against political opponents – is long. Most of the population of the “republics” left, years ago. Industry has collapsed. As for Kherson and other areas occupied this year, local government and civil society has been assaulted, opponents of Russian rule assassinated and kidnapped, and demonstrations broken up. Putin forecast that Ukrainians would welcome his army with open arms; I literally do not know of one single example of that happening. If people are looking for explanations about Ukrainians’ heightened sense of nationalism, part of it may be in the horrendous conditions in the parts of their country occupied by Russia. Who would welcome being ruled by a bunch of cynical, lawless thugs?’
Source: “In Quillversation: A Russian Imperial Project (Simon Pirani and Anthony McIntyre Discuss the Russian War on Ukraine),” The Pensive Quill, 1 June 2022
The idol of millions! He went from being an insecure guy who had had a difficult childhood to being one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. This year it was he who won the Oscar for his role in the biopic King Richard. His unique autobiography will tell you about his road to becoming a superstar, and our selection will give you a chance to look at Will Smith’s bookshelf!
Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist
It is this bestseller by Paulo Coelho that the actor often calls his favorite book. This philosophical novel about dreams that defy fate can change the life of any reader.
Source: screenshot of “What Will Smith reads (and recommends you read),” an email newsletter from LitRes, a popular Russian ebook service, 12 April 2022. Will Smith’s other alleged recommendations are Richard Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad, Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Translated by the Russian Reader, who has purchased and downloaded a good number of ebooks from LitRes over the last several years.
Putin’s is a regional politics: it is aimed at defending a particular region and its alleged ethno-cultural identity. Iran and the Islamist movements in general have served as the model for those seeking to banish all things Western in the hope that when you remove them, your true cultural identity (for example, an Islamic identify) will shine forth with its natural light. The same thing is gradually happening now in China and India. Cultural identity is discovered by purging the “Western abominations” that have accumulated like a dense layer on its surface. Russia has repeatedly evinced the desire to purge itself of the West—of Facebook, McDonald’s, modern art, rock music, of everything that the Russian does not need and can do perfectly well without. The belief is that if this stuff is removed, the divine wisdom of the Russian spirit will shine with its own light.
The only problem is (and it is an old problem that has been around since the nineteenth century) that this process of stripping and purging Russia of everything Western can never end. There is a non-European cultural substrate in Iran, India, and China. So, when you purge everything European, something homegrown, something originally non-European, does emerge. I am not saying whether this exists in Russia or not. I can only say that all attempts to find it have proved futile and suicidal. That is, the movement back to origins and the Russian World have proved completely suicidal.
In this sense, Russia has reproduced a well-known trope of German culture. In the nineteenth century, Germans also argued that German culture was inherently different from Western civilization, that German culture should be purged of Western civilization to be manifested in all its might. Upon closer examination, however, it transpired that this power was purely negative. German thinkers reflected on this, even glorifying these suicidal, self-destructive tendencies to some extent. Russian culture did this to some extent, too. We can read about the suicidal search for one’s foundations in Dostoevsky’s works, for example. From a cultural perspective, the new paroxysm to purge things Western and get back to Russianness, which we are now witnessing, is a purely suicidal operation.
Source: Boris Groys (in conversation with Liza Lazerson), “Putin: Restoration of Destruction,” E-Flux Journal, no. 126 (April 2022). Translated by Thomas H. Campbell
Skimping on bags and paper, problems with electric cars, and the rise in price of coffee beans
Skimping on little things. Retailers and catering are reducing the use of certain types of packaging, containers, and consumables. Some things you have to give up against your will.
Tired of waiting for guests. The travel industry wants to get a tax exemption from Petersburg city hall, an extension of cashback, and a new version of Booking.com.
Russians charge slowly but drive fast. Sanctions have blocked the way to Russia for foreign electric cars, but import substitution is already being readied.
Pecking like a bird. Petersburg coffee roasters have faced logistical problems. Green coffee beans have risen in price by 15-50%, which has already affected retail prices.
They keep well. In the current situation, warehouses remain the most stable segment of the commercial real estate market, experts argue.
Have a good day!
Source: Delovoi Peterburg, daily email newsletter to subscribers, 7 April 2022. Photo by Sergei Yermokhin for Delovoi Petersburg. Translated by the Russian Reader
Queen’s hits as played by a symphony orchestra
Show must go on? [sic in English] We agree! Great news for everyone who has dreamed of going to a concert by the legendary Queen. On April 21, the group’s international hits will be performed at Tinkoff Arena by the IP Orchestra under the direction of the brilliant Igor Ponomarenko.
Queen is one of the greatest bands in history: their cultural legacy has changed the world of music forever.
The supremely rich acoustic palette of a symphony orchestra, new arrangements of classic Queen compositions, the wild drive of the musicians on stage, and the charming voice of the soloists — all this is part of the patented “Queen Show. Show Must go on” [sic in English].
The IP Orchestra has long established itself as a brand not only in Russia, but also in the countries of the near and far abroad. The band has toured on five continents, performed at the world’s best venues, and has thousands of admiring viewers and loyal listeners.
To attend this event, you will need a QR code showing that you have been fully vaccinated or have had the disease, or a certificate showing that you have had a full course of a vaccine, or a document confirming that you have been granted a medical exemption from vaccination along with a negative PCR test for participants and guests over eighteen years of age.
Source: Bileter.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader
Unfortunately, for reasons beyond our control, all parts of J. K. Rowling’s famous saga about the boy wizard will be unavailable on LitRes in three days. Only now can you buy them in time with a 25% discount! It is important that every book remains in your personal library forever.
To activate the discount, follow this link or enter ACCIO on the promo code page. The offer is valid until April 8.
Source: LitRes email newsletter for customers, 6 April 2022. Image, above, captured on this page on their website. Translated by the Russian Reader