Navalny’s Musicians

13 musicians not allowed to perform at City Day concert in Moscow due to support for Navalny
The Village
Tasya Elfimova
September 11, 2021

The Federal Protective Service (FSO) did not allow several musicians to perform at a concert in honor of City Day in Moscow due to their alleged support of Alexei Navalny.

Sergei Sobyanin and Vladimir Putin were planning to attend the celebration, so the FSO vetted the lists of performers in advance. The FSO did not admit thirteen people to the performance without explaining the reasons. Dmitry Klyuyev, an employee of the State Academic Chapel Choir, believes that it happened because the musicians were in the leaked databases of Alexei Navalny’s projects or had taken part in protest rallies.

Four employees of the chapel choir, three people from the Svetlanov State Orchestra and six people from the team of directors were removed from the concert.

“The organizers are in shock, no one has explained anything to them,” Klyuyev said.

Source: OVD Info

Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexander Gudkov, “Aquatic Disco,” a song inspired by Alexei Navalny’s revelations that the blueprints for “Putin’s palace” contained a room labeled as such

Moscow Police Use Leaked Personal Data To Investigate Navalny Supporters
RFE/RL Russian Service
August 18, 2021

Moscow police are using leaked online personal data from projects linked to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny to investigate people who have supported the Kremlin critic.

The OVD Info website said on August 17 that police had visited some 20 individuals who registered for online projects developed by Navalny associates or donated to Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his other projects.

According to OVD Info, police are demanding explanations from the people as to how their names were included in the leaked data related to Navalny’s online projects and why they are involved with him.

In June, a court in Moscow labeled FBK and Navalny’s other projects and groups extremist and banned them. Under Russian law, cooperation with such groups is considered illegal and may lead to criminal prosecution.

Police have not said how they obtained the people’s personal data from Navalny’s websites.

One person, who was not identified, told OVD Info that police asked him to file a legal complaint against Navalny to accuse him of sharing personal data.

Journalist and municipal lawmaker Ilya Azar, whose personal data was among those leaked, wrote on Telegram late on August 17 that police had tried to visit him as well, but he was not at home.

“They talked to [my] neighbors about some personal data leaked on the Internet,” Azar wrote.

One such leak took place in April, when the online campaign called “Freedom to Navalny” was reportedly compromised.

Navalny associates said at the time that a former FBK worker had “stolen” all the personal data of those who registered at the pro-Navalny site.

After that leak, the Moscow [subway] fired dozens of workers whose personal data turned up among the names of Navalny supporters.

 

Band Practice

Drivers, workers, and policemen play in the Uglich recreation center’s brass band. The vocalist hosts a children’s program on local television, while the drummer performs as Father Frost at New Year’s celebrations.

Most of the musicians played in the October Club Brass Band as children, and the current ensemble is named the Sysoyev Pop and Brass Band in memory of Alexander Sysoyev, who came to town in 1945, after the war, and organized it. When they grew up, the children went to the army, most often serving in military bands, and if they returned to Uglich, they continued to play. There were two brass bands in the city – at the watch factory and at the engineering works.

In the nineties, the factories shut down and the bands broke up: the musicians were not up to playing music, many of them were just trying to survive. A new band featuring the old musicians was formed in the early noughties thanks to the city’s mayor, Eleonora Sheremetyeva.

The band rehearses in the rec center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and sometimes performs in towns for local residents. We hear the stories of the musicians in this documentary film by Yulia Vishnevetskaya, Renato Serrano and Nikita Tatarsky.

“On the corner was the October Club, also called 30 Years of the Komsomol Club. There was a brass band on the second floor, led by Alexander Pavlovich Sysoev. He would recruit us kids. People worked at the watch factory. I ended up in the assembly shop: I assembled watches. The team consisted of forty young women and little old me. It was a great place to work. I worked on the ‘action’: that was one of the jobs.”

“I started leading the band in the late 80s. After a while I went into business and didn’t play for more than ten years, but fate put me back in touch with the band and I returned. I have a transport company. In the mornings, I dispatch cars and buses to places, and sometimes I get behind the wheel myself, and in the evenings I go to practice. Of course, the world of music and the world of transport are completely different things. I don’t usually get distracted when I’m here. You go off into the world of music, and the outside world is somewhere far away: you are only making music… Previously, there were two bands, at the watch factory and at the engineering works. Then, in the early nineties, the factories fell apart. All the musicians came together in a single band: some came from the watch factory, some from the engineering works, someone from somewhere else , someone from the police. Like in Shufutinsky’s song, we have a jazz band, only there is no dentist.”

“I worked in the militia [the previous name for the Russian police] for twenty-five years, and then transferred to the police in 2011 [meaning, when it was renamed]. I might have retired already, but I have a kid to educate, and we pay for his tuition. I do forensic examinations: I’m qualified to analyze fingerprints, trace evidence, and bladed weapons. I hadn’t picked up an instrument for seventeen years. I listened to the band play once, twice, and I thought that I also used to know all this stuff. It was a good thing that the band believed me and let me join. I had to look around on Avito for a horn just like the one I had before. I took the bus to Moscow to buy it… I don’t remember the thefts, but I do remember the murders, of course. There was a cruel murder: a man was hacked with an axe. I can talk about it because the trial has happened. The man didn’t have a head: it was in two pieces. Then a man was strangled. We found the criminal through fingerprints. Bottles were confiscated, and I found handprints and fingerprints on them, which we ran through the computer. The computer doesn’t do things as quickly as in the movies. They’re just fooling people: it’s not comparable. If they showed the way it really worked, no one would watch them. It’s very painstaking work. They brought me several boxes of bottles. I had to process each one of them — lift the prints from them, weed out the witnesses and victims who could have drunk from those bottles. Consequently, we found the people who strangled him in the woods: they had a conflict. Traces are always left behind: trace scents, body oil and sweat, DNA. If there are no fingerprints, there are shoe prints, tire prints, traces left by burglary tools. I have twenty years of experience… People aren’t lined up to replace me. People retire, but there’s no one to replace them. People can’t take it: they’re not machines. I come here and play, so it seems I want to go on living. The negative effects of work build up all the same. When I perform I get goosebumps, honestly. If I have goosebumps, it means we’ve played well.”

Source: Radio Svoboda. Photos of the Sysoyev Pop and Brass Band courtesy of Uglich-Online. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

#FreeIrdorath

Yulya Tsimafeyeva
Facebook
August 14, 2021

#FreeIrdorath

It’s known now that Uladzimir Kalach, Nadzeya Kalach, Anton Shnip, my brother Piatro Marchanka and his wife Yuliya Marchanka (Yunitskaya) are imprisoned in the pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Valadarskaha street [in Minsk].

You can send them telegrams, letters and postcards. Getting a letter from the outside world is one of the best things the imprisoned can have there.

Piatro has his birthday on Monday, August 16. Please send him some birthday wishes.

Some important tips. (I’m also using the information from the website politzek.me.)

1) Your letter should be in Russian or Belarusian only. At every prison or detention center there is a censor check of all the mail the prisoners get. Usually those censors do not read any other languages, so the letter can just be thrown away. I think Google Translate can help.

Please write surnames, first names, patronymics and address in Cyrillic. Like this:

Владимир Александрович Калач
Надежда Робертовна Калач
Пётр Петрович Марченко
Юлия Анатольевна Марченко
Антон Валерьевич Шнип
СИЗО-1
ул. Володарского 2,
Минск
220030
Belarus

2) Some technical tips:

a) Put blank paper and an empty reply envelope into your mail. Sometimes prisoners have difficulty obtaining paper and envelopes.

But if they do not have Belarusian international stamps it could be complicated for them to send a reply to you abroad. They need a special kind of the stamp (with the letter P). The stamps can be bought here online:

https://shop.belpost.by/Catalog/Product/959
https://shop.belpost.by/Catalog/Product/141217

But I do not know if Belarusian post sends them abroad. Maybe you can ask anyone in Belarus to send them to you? Or you can just hope that the prisoners will buy the stamps themselves. It’s a crazy system, I know. But believe me, even if you do not get any reply, your letter still could bring a lot of joy to those behind the bars.

b) Structure your mail flow. In each letter, put the date and number, so it will be immediately clear which letter did not reach its addressee.

c) It is better to photograph all the letters – answers may come in 3-4 weeks. Do you remember what you wrote to a friend the day before yesterday? Unlikely. And then weeks!

3) What to write about?

Write about yourself and your life, write about some national or international news. People in jail lack the information from the outer world. But do not put in any intimate details and exclude the political context. You shouldn’t write “Long live Belarus” or the names of officials. Don’t forget that your letter will be read by a strict and unfriendly censor first. He (or she) might just throw it away.

Some more tips about writing to political prisoners you can find here: https://www.politzek.me/help/mails

You can also write a letter online through this free service: https://vkletochku.org/en (but the musicians in Irdorath are not in their database yet)

To read about other political prisoners and find their addresses you can look here:

https://prisoners.spring96.org/en
https://dissidentby.com/en

#MusicIsNotACrime #ArtIsNotACrime

This post has been very lightly edited for the sake of clarity. ||| TRR

It’s the Apocalypse, and We’ve Got Our iPhones

A still image from the DDT video “Shadow on the Wall.” Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

It’s the Apocalypse, and We’ve Got Our iPhones
The Summer’s Best Music Videos: Aquarium, DDT, Oxxxymiron, Vasya Oblomov, and Amen
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
July 14, 2021

There are almost no concerts, albums are released rarely, because they require significant outlays of cash, and everyone is running out of money. And peace of mind ran out long ago. But the ancient art of the music video has suddenly blossomed amidst the apocalyptic coronavirus climate. Dozens of worthy clips have come out one after another this summer. We have chosen five. They are very different, but their subject, if you think about it, is one and the same: saying goodbye to the past and fear of what may be about to come.

Aquarium, “Masala Dosa”

This is almost the only item in Boris Grebenshchikov’s gigantic chest of songs with obvious gangster music motifs, something like “Fried Chicken.” The lyrics, which Loza has already dubbed a meaningless jumble of words, find BG up to to his usual absurdist playfulness: there are mentions of Indian tea, a People’s Commissariat of Education office, and Kali Yuga. It’s a bizarre canvas that seemingly has nothing to do with what is happening here and now, but it does. The line “And if they ask why we are sitting here, say, ‘I don’t know, but the people are invincible!'” is about the present moment. We are firmly sitting our hearts out, “invincible.”

The video’s director, Sergei Debizhev, is no stranger to Aquarium. He shot Grebenshchikov back in the 80s at the Leningrad Documentary Film Studio. Debizhev’s most famous feature film is Two Captains 2, starring Sergei Kuryokhin and BG. The film is an enchanting parody of everything at once: the early Soviet aesthetic, silent cinema, the heroics of dangerous journeys, and adventure bombast in general.

There is something of Two Captains 2 in “Masala.” Grebenshchikov was filmed in a Petersburg garage with a vintage car in the background, and then documentary footage was added to the mix: machines operating, a woman taking bath, the bolt of a weapon clicking, a blast furnace blazing, X-ray skeletons dancing. Some will see irony in all this, while others will see references to the broken wheel of history.

DDT, “Shadow on the Wall”

DDT is not the most cheerful group, especially recently. Their videos are always frankly gloomy, albeit with glimmers of a hope that fades and fades. But even against this background, “Shadow on the Wall” is something beyond hopeless. For seven minutes, a man walks along a country road among hills to meditative trip hop, eventually arriving nowhere. The key line is “I couldn’t do it, but I tried.” And yet, this is one of the most powerful and majestic works by DDT in recent years. Because the “tried” turns out to be more important than “couldn’t do it.” Life is, in fact, about trying.

The images in the black-and-white video, directed by Timofei Zhalnin, match the lyrics: we see a food delivery courier going nowhere, a young blindfolded man weaving from side to side, men pointlessly hammering posts into the ground, and a riot policeman pointlessly performing somersaults. You get the sense that, camouflaged and wielding a baton, he is attacking himself.

Fans have identified the location where the video was shot as the Koltushy Heights, ancient sand hills in the Leningrad Region, a Unesco-protected natural monument. Today, their existence is under threat. Greedy developers want to build residential complexes on the heights, basically destroying them. Activists have been fighting back, of course, but the fight is clearly one-sided: “I couldn’t do it, but I tried.”

Oxxxymiron, “Verses on the Unknown Soldier”

Oxxxymiron has not released anything new since 2015, since the legendary album Gorgorod, that is, for six years. This track is an exception: it was recorded specifically for the January tribute album Preserve My Words Forever, in honor of the 130th anniversary of Osip Mandelstam’s birth, featuring Shortparis, Noize MC, Ilya Lagutenko, Tequilajazz, Pornofilms and other first-class artists.

The video was shot by Dmitry Maseykin, a music video director who has worked with Monetochka and Husky, and received Cannes Lions and other awards in his time. As interpreted by Maseykin (and writer-producer Roma Liberov), “Verses” is about the clash of world religions and civilizations, followed by the apocalypse. It’s a dicey interpretation: it is hardly what Mandelstam meant when he wrote about “millions killed cheaply.” And the Jewish theme, accentuated in the video, is definitely not in the poem. But what Mandelstam and Oxxxymiron/Maseykin share is a premonition of slaughter and apocalypse. The poem, one of the most poignant anti-war texts, was written in 1937. Mandelstam would die a year later, and a year after that the Second World War would break out.

It’s the apocalypse, and we have our iPhones. When you read “Unknown Soldier,” the horror of Mandelstam’s prophecies  overwhelms you: “There will be cold frail people / Who will kill, starve and become colder”; “Am I the one who drinks this broth with no choice, / And under fire do I eat my own head?” Even more terrifying are the famous lines “—I was born in ninety–four, / —I was born in ninety–two…” People born in [nineteen] ninety-two, ninety-four and ninety-one, like Mandelstam [born in 1891], walk the same streets as we do. I don’t even want to think about what awaits them.

But when you watch the video, you feel no terror. It is grounded in something else — in the grandeur, solemnity, and significance of events. So, after watching it, I felt like saying, “The apocalypse is cool.” Maybe, but not for those who will live to see it.

Vasya Oblomov, “Youth”

This is a rare instance for Vasya Oblomov: Russia’s principal musical satirist and feuilletonist has recorded an unusually kind, touching and lyrical song. It’s not like he doesn’t have any such things in his repertoire. They exist, of course, but they are far and few between.

The video and the song are about the time “when you are seventeen years old / And the answer to any question / Comes,” about a time of endless and inevitable happiness: “I close my eyes / And I see twenty-five years ago, / How happiness simply, without obstacles / Finds us.” Here’s what Oblomov told Novaya Gazeta about making the video:

“In the video, my friends and I are recording the first songs by our group, Cheboza, in the studio in Rostov-on-Don in 2000. These are people who are dear to my heart, with whom I started my musical journey, people without whom I would not have become what I became. It was captured on film because Ilya Filippov (one of us, he is sometimes present on screen and shot the footage) got a video camera somewhere. The tape lay in the closet for twenty-one years and was put to good use in ‘Youth,’ which I dedicated to my friends. After the video was made, I sent the link to it to the people in it asking them to film themselves watching it for the first time. I think it turned out great.”

The magic of the shoot is incredible. The band members are all young, happy, and silly, and there is light and love in their eyes. When you again feel the urge to write on social networks that Vasya Oblomov is a spiteful person, says nasty things about everyone, doesn’t like people, and mocks the Motherland and its underpinning, just watch “Youth” and take those words back.

Amen, “Sailor Girl”

Although the Moscow band with the strange name Amen has been playing for several years, it is virtually an underground band and not involved in big-time show business. That’s a pity, because their strange and not very typically Russian mix of post-punk, electronica and garage rock, sporting clever, non-linear lyrics, would wow listeners. Amen are crooked, melodic, and brazen and sing about people like us. Amidst all the current clean-cut artists, fawning, servicing and entertaining their audiences, Amen are a big lungful of pure oxygen.

Not only is this song, “Sailor Girl,” good. The entire album Amen put out this year, Let It Be So, is good. You can listen to the whole thing on YouTube

I also recommend the video for “Don’t Get Hung Up,” a kind of locker room exercise in Schopenhauer, an amazing mix of street corner braggadocio and a profound understanding of the foundations of being.

Amen, “Don’t Get Hung Up”

“Sailor Girl” is urban art song in a form that is comprehensible and interesting to current twenty-somethings. The story is simple: the singer’s pal has gone missing and sends a letter: “A sailor girl has carried me away.” You’re living in the urban jungle when suddenly you fall into another world.

The video, featuring crazy dancing in sweatpants, was shot at the Event Theater by director Yurate Shunyavichute. And it is really an event. It is not so often that artists with their own aesthetic and their own voice emerge in our country.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Amen, Let It Be So (LP 2021)

Adaptatsiya, “Life in a Police State”

Adaptatsiya performing “Life in a Police State” at Hanger 49 in Berlin on April 13, 2013

The same old faces in newspapers and on screens
We have nowhere to go and nowhere to hide
Some leave the country, having in reserve
Another homeland, but
Not everyone is so lucky, someone has to stay
And resist all the nastiness
Not let them destroy themselves and others
To prevent another 1937

Life in a police state

A friend of mine lost his job
Now he’s sinking to the bottom
His family has gone begging in the streets
And he’s started boozing, cursing fate
Seeing no ray of light in the pitch-black stupor
More and more innocent people
Commit suicide or worse
They give birth to abnormal children

Life in a police state

And my mother protected me from my father’s beatings
You were one of the few who pushed on till the end
And when everyone was tired, you rushed forward
But blocking your way were
Mobs of dirty soldiers and hateful cops
They serve the regime of assholes like them
The ones who build palaces and move capitals
And you’re so eager to go off and tune out

Life in a police state

And if you ask me what will happen next
I will keep my counsel because it’s a slippery slope
There is no cause for optimism and faith
There are prisons, fences, bars and walls
I still have friends and a beloved broad
But I’m one of those who doesn’t find that enough
I am afraid for all my loved ones
I see and I know where we are headed

Life in a police state

Source: Megalyrics. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Pasosh, “All My Friends”

Pasosh performing “All My Friends” live in concert in Moscow in October 2016

Pasosh, “All My Friends” (2016)

[Verse 1]
All my friends don’t do shit
They drink from night to morning and wait for the next day to come
My friends are complete assholes
Assholes like you, if that doesn’t mean I’m just like them
My friends sit at home without jobs
They’re fucking up their best years and waiting for the money to come to them
My friends don’t do shit
They drink from night to morning and wait for the next day to come

[Chorus]
All is wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, all is wasted
All is wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, all is wasted
All is wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, all is wasted
All is wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, all is wasted

[Verse 2]
All my friends do nothing
Nothing but one thing
They wait for Saturday to get shit-faced drunk
My friends are complete assholes
Assholes like you, if that doesn’t mean I’m just like them
My friends sit in bed all day
Waiting for someone to tell them “enough”
And give them a reason to get up
My friends don’t do shit
They drink from night to morning and wait for the next day to come

[Chorus]
All is wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, all is wasted
All is wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, all is wasted
All is wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, all is wasted
All is wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted, all is wasted

[Outro]
All my friends
All my friends
All my friends
All my friends

Source: Genius. Translated by the Russian Reader

Pasosh performing “All My Friends” on Ebemol Live in 2018

 

Pasosh. Photo: Dürer Kert

A Long Happy Life

“Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense). A Long Happy Life.” Images courtesy of RedBubble

A Long Happy Life
No to commotions and celebrations
No to horizons and celebrations
No to inspirations and celebrations, no, no, no
No fish in the golden polynya
Omnipresence of petty intrigues
Evil twilight of an immortal day
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
Ruthless depths of wrinkles
Mariana trenches of eyes
Martian chronicles of us, us, us
Among the identical walls
In the faraway coffin-like houses
In the impenetrable icy silence
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
No to temptations and celebrations
No to crimes and celebrations
No to exceptions and celebrations, no, no, no
On the seven sharp drafts
Through the swamps, through the deserts and steppes
Through the snow piles, through dirt and through land
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
A long and happy life
Such a long and happy life
From now on a long and happy life
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us
For every one of us

Source: Lyrics Translate

 

Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense), “A Long Happy Life” (2004)

 

_______________________

Victor looked out the window at the barge passing by, thinking that everything was still ahead of him, and that the most important thing that should happen in every person’s life would happen to him. And he was convinced of this, although each time he lost more than he found.

Source: Gennady Shpalikov, “A Long Happy Life” (screenplay)

Gennady Shpalikov (director), A Long Happy Life (1966)

Gennady Shpalikov’s first movie as a director, based on his own script, went down in the history of Soviet cinema as an absolutely unique phenomenon. Socialist propaganda seemed to have no power over Shpalikov’s work. Free from cliches, it was like a breath of fresh air in a country that was tightly closed off from the whole world by an iron curtain. A Long Happy Life resembles the films of the French New Wave rather than other Soviet films that were shot at the time. 

Returning from an expedition, a geologist named Victor finds himself in a small provincial town, where he meets a girl named Lena. What is commonly called love at first sight arises between them. Sensing that they are kindred souls, they spend the evening and night together, sharing all the most intimate things: thoughts about life, happiness and love. However, either the morning or their inner fears of this selfsame long happy life cancel out all their plans and dreams.

Source: IVI

Mashed up and (partly) translated by the Russian Reader

Song and Dance

“Horses, men and nonsense”: song and dance as matters of state
Ivan Davydov
Republic
April 4, 2021

I must admit that I am quite unfamiliar with the work of Dima Bilan. You could even say that I’m not familiar with his work at all. It’s probably nothing to brag about, but it is what it is. I am truly grateful to Dima Bilan, however. It was he who jumped out of the piano with a violin (possibly on skates) and gifted Russia a few years of not having to discuss the “Russophobic conspiracy” at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Or maybe it was not Bilan who jumped out of the piano. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Eurovision either, and I could have mixed up the details. But Bilan definitely won the 2008 contest in Belgrade, after which Russians calmed down a little, putting up with Eurovision for the next two or even three years.

Eurovision does strange things to people. Once a year, even people with decent taste who listen to normal music in real life, and not what Russia (like all the other participating countries) sends to the contest, suddenly start following the antics of comically dressed people, counting up the points and muttering to themselves, “Ukraine… The hell with them… What can you expect from them? But the Armenians?! How could the Armenians not vote for us?”

Then, for another week, the results of the competition are discussed not only on TV talk shows, but even in serious publications, not to mention social media.

New trends
Before Bilan’s victory, Russians every year rediscovered Europe’s alleged dislike of Russia: they would suffer fits of outrage and curse a blue streak, wasting time and fraying their nerves. Bilan broke the goddamn chain: Russians calmed down and, for a few years, reconciled themselves to the musical freak show. At first, they were proud of Bilan’s victory and, the following year, of the incredible show (costing many billions of rubles) that Moscow put on. Then… Well, to me, an inattentive observer, it at least seemed that the controversy around the contest had subsided, and only sincere fans of bad music were still getting worked up about it.

Now the contest has not even started, and yet passions are already boiling. The singer Manizha, who will represent Russia at the Eurovision Song Contest this year, has been threatened. The lyrics of her song have been analyzed by members of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, at their sittings, and spokesmen for the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Muslim leaders have weighed and judged the song before TV viewers have even voted. Hired and voluntary Twitter campaigners against “Ukrainian fascism” have forgotten their vocation, denouncing Manizha without mincing their words. I won’t even quote them: there is not a word in what they’ve written that is not punishable under the Russian Criminal Code. (By the way, have you noticed that professional Russian fighters against “fascism” are mostly brownshirts and smell accordingly?)

Interestingly, drift of the polemics has changed. Previously, people looked for a conspiracy after the contest was over, and they looked for it outside Russia. Now we have achieved total clarity about the conspiracy “from without”: all high-ranking officials talk about the “hybrid war” against Russia every day in unison, and to prove its existence, they no longer need to refer to the results of the Eurovision Song Contest. Now they are hunting for internal enemies, and prior to any international vote.

Manizha, “Russian Woman,” Russia’s entry for the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest

I know the work of the singer Manizha a little better than I know the work of Dima Bilan, because I listened to the song about Russian women that is going to the contest. But I don’t want to pretend to be a music critic. I’m not going to discuss the song’s merits of the composition. Instead, I intend to talk about the reaction of high-ranking Russian officials.

Offended women
I wasn’t joking about the discussion in the Federation Council. Elena Afanasyeva, a member of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee (Eurovision is an international event, after all!) subjected Manizha to a withering critique: “The song has no meaning. It is a random set of phrases by an immature thirty-year-old girl with unresolved personal problems who doesn’t know what she wants. Excuse me, what does this have to do with Russian women? The style of the performance, African-American dances, a costume similar to that of an American prison inmate. Aggressiveness, senselessness, a negative image of the Russian family.”

That is, the song smacks of a provocation: it is an obvious machination on the part of Russia’s internal enemies.

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the Federation Council, supported her colleague: “I recommend anyone who is not familiar with the lyrics of the song [to read them]. It’s about horses and men, and is basically nonsense. I don’t understand at all what it means.”

The speaker also demanded an inquiry to find out who had selected the song for the competition and how it was selected.

High-ranking Russian women have thus taken offense at the song “Russian Woman.” By the way, there is no mention of “horses” in the song, but it is quite clear why Matviyenko thought of them. They come from Mikhail Lermontov’s poem “Borodino”:

The ground shook like our breasts,
Horses and men mingled in the battle,
And the volleys of a thousand guns
Merged into a long-drawn-out howl.

So, even oblique associations put the speaker on the warpath.

Konstantin Ernst (after all, the song was chosen on Channel One) was forced to explain that the audience had voted: nothing could be done, it was will of the people. Ernst’s strategy is clear: we remember how in 2014, on the eve of the occupation of Crimea and the war against Ukraine, he managed to sell the world the image of a kind-hearted and open-minded Russia by putting on a show at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sochi. A song about the plight of a woman crushed by the patriarchal world, performed in Russian and English by an ethnic minority singer, is a similar move (and alas, it is possible that it is also being made on the eve of a new war). It is quite consistent with European trends, and could work. But it’s not a matter of trends. Europe is the same, but Russia has changed.

No black jack
The overripe Putinism of 2021 is not remotely the equivalent of the Putinism of 2014. Today’s Russia not only aspires to total control over anything its citizens do, but has been trying to exercise this control in practice. And so a pleasant freak show has been turned into a national affair in which the fatherland’s prestige is at stake. What we need now, supposedly, are not pop songs, but a solemn oratorio about the Russian nation’s acts of valor during the Second World War.

I would, by the way, send Dmitry Rogozin to the contest. He could handle the mission: it is not too late to dial everything back. It’s a shame to waste such an enormous talent.

The Eurovision Song Contest scandal has become a purely political story, another example of what the Russian state has been turning into. And yes, of course, the desire to interfere in cultural life is very important here, because the Russian state, which claims to be total, considers culture to be its exclusive bailiwick. This was the case back in the twentieth century, and the current proprietors of the state are in awe of Soviet best practices. We ordinary people hear a song that we like, dislike, or could not care less about, but they think about ideology, influencing opinion, and the blow to Russia’s image. And they see nothing else.

Dmitry Peskov, the president’s press secretary, thus sounded surprisingly reasonable when he commented on Matviyenko’s initiative: “We are talking about a show business competition at which different images are presented: there is a bearded woman performing, there are singers in chicken outfits… We do not consider it possible to comment on this or to intervene in any way.”

But let’s not forget that Peskov’s immediate superior once bluntly said that Peskov often “talks rubbish,” and his comments do not necessarily reflect the innermost thoughts of the best friend of singers and composers. The president met with young cultural figures not so long ago. Although they did not discuss Manizha, of course, the context was still legible. One of people at the meeting, the pianist Oleg Akkuratov, voiced a sore point to the supreme leader: “There is another problem. I really love songs in Russian, which are in short supply right now: at all competitions, including children’s ones, a lot of songs are sung in English. But I think that’s wrong. We need to encourage love for the Motherland, love for our country, love for our native tongue, because I think this is important for all of us. Maybe what we are missing is a Russian-language song contest? We have not, of course, completely lost our love for Soviet poetry, especially Russian poetry. But what we hear today is not meant for our ears, and especially not for children, because it is, of course, horrible.”

“I will immediately start with what I think is a large-scale and important idea – a Russian-language song contest: we will definitely think about it. I ask my colleagues in the Government and in the Administration to submit relevant proposals,” Putin replied.

Let’s have our own patriotic “Eurovision” without bearded women! Belarus, I am sure, will support us, and if we are lucky, Kazakhstan will close ranks with us, too.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Manizha, “Russian Woman” (Russia ESC 2021). Lyrics and music: Manizha, Ori Kaplan, Ori Avni

Russian text

English translation

Поле поле поле
Я ж мала
Поле поле поле
Так мала
Как пройти по полю из огня
Как пройти по полю если ты одна?
А-а-а?
Ждать ли чьей-то ручечки, ручки?
А-а-а?
Кто подаст мне ручку девочки?
Из покон веков
С ночи до утра
С ночи-ночи
Ждем мы корабля
Ждем мы корабля
Очень очень
С ночи до утра
Ждем мы корабля
Ждем бы корабля
А что ждать?
Встала и пошла.

Every Russian Woman
Needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall

Шо там хорохорится?
Ой, красавица?
Ждешь своего юнца?
Ой, красавица
Тебе уж за 30
Ало? Где же дети?
Ты в целом красива
Но вот бы похудеть бы
Надень подлиннее
Надень покороче
Росла без отца
Делай то, что не хочешь
Ты точно не хочешь?
Не хочешь?
А надо.
Послушайте, правда.
Мы с вами не стадо
Вороны пщ-щ-щ пыщ-щ-щ
Отвалите
Теперь зарубите себе на носу
Я вас не виню
А себя я чертовски люблю
Борются, борются
Все по кругу борются
Да не молятся
Сын без отца
Дочь без отца
Но сломанной Family
Не сломать меня
You gonna
You gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman
Needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman
Needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wallHey, Russian woman
Don’t be afraid, girl
You’re strong enough
You’re strong enough
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid

Борются, борются
Все по кругу борются
Да не молятся
Сын без отца
Дочь без отца
Но сломанной Family
Не сломать меня

Fields, fields, fields
I’m so small
Fields, fields, fields
I’m too small
How do you cross a field through the fire?
How do you cross the field if you’re alone?
Heeeey?
Should I wait for a helpful hand?
Whaaat?
Who will stretch out for me, girls?
For ages now
From night till dawn
From the deepest of the night
We are waiting for a ship
A Sailing ship
Waiting very much
From night till dawn
Waiting for a ship
Waiting for a ship
But what’s the wait?
Stand up, let’s go!

Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall

What’s the rattling about?
Hey, beauty!
Are you waiting for your prince?
Hey, beauty!
You’re 30!
Hello? Where are your kids?
You are cute overall
But should lose some weight
Wear something longer
Wear something shorter
Oh you grew up without a father?
You should do what you don’t want to
You sure you’d don’t want to?
Don’t want to?
You SHOULD!
Listen up, really!
We’re not a flock
Hey, crows, shoo!
Leave me alone (give me a break)
Now learn it by heart:
I don’t blame you a bit
But damn do I like myself

They just fight, always fight
Go round and round to just fight
But never pray
Boy without a father
Girl with no dad
But this broken family
Can’t break me

Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall

Hey, Russian woman
Don’t be afraid, girl
You’re strong enough
You’re strong enough
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid

They are fighting, they are fighting
Everyone around is fighting
Yes, they don’t pray
Son without father
Daughter without father
But a broken family
Does not break me

Source: Wiwibloggs

Tattered Sails (The History of Ashgabat Rock)

Tattered Sails (Rvanye parusa) performing at First Park in Ashgabat in 1998. Posted on the YouTube channel Ashgabat Rock Club. A billion thanks to Sofiko Arifdzhanova for posting this priceless gem on Facebook. || TRR

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimumahmedow. Image courtesy of Yandex

Ten Things Ashgabat has Banned in Neo-Totalitarian Turkmenistan
Window on Eurasia
February 16, 2021

Staunton, February 15 – One of the most powerful descriptions of what authoritarian regimes with totalitarian aspirations do when they come to power is at the end of Costa-Gavras’ 1969 film Z when the screen goes blank after the colonels take power in Greece and ban everything from Plato to mini-skirts.

While what has been happening in Turkmenistan seldom gets as much attention – it is after all the most closed off post-Soviet country about which what reporting there is often has been dismissed because there is not corroborating information – its record of bans is increasingly lengthy and disturbing.

Russia’s Zen.Yandex Central Asia portal has provided a useful listing of ten of the most noteworthy of the bans that the government there has imposed both under the country’s former leader Saparmurat Niyazov and under its current one, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow:

· People in Turkmenistan cannot use newspapers containing a photograph of the president as toilet paper. Given that almost every issue does, that limits the supply of what is a critical sanitary option.
· They cannot use air conditioners despite the fact that the country experiences extremely high temperatures in the summertime. This ban is intended to prevent excessive demand on the country’s weak power grid.
· People in that country cannot talk about politics on the telephone. Doing so would be unwise in any case given the monitoring the regime has put in place.
· Visitors to Turkmenistan have to go into quarantine to prevent the spread of a disease which Ashgabat says does not exist there.
· Turkmens are banned from using cosmetics or dressing in stylish clothes.
· They are banned from taking photographs on the street.
· No one is allowed to import black cars.
· No Turkmen is permitted to leave the country without special permission as a means of ensuring there will be enough workers for the economy.
· All social media are banned in Turkmenistan.
· No one is allowed to produce or disseminate anything that might be considered erotic. Men who run afoul of this rule are punished, but women who do are punished far more severely.

When the Night Lanterns Sway

When the Night Lanterns Sway: It’s Useless to Try and Beat the State on Its Own “Legal Turf”
Alexander Skobov
Kasparov.ru
February 13, 2021

On February 9, Leonid Volkov, head of Navalny’s network of local teams, announced a flash mob for February 14, Valentine’s Day: residents of large cities should go into their courtyards at 8 p.m. and turn on their mobile phone flashlights. This is an attempt to adopt Belarusian know-how [see the article, below]. The idea is that residents of the same yard who are sympathetic to the protest movement but don’t know each other can get acquainted and create a grassroots network for rapid notification and mobilization.

Putin’s occupation army has reacted hysterically to the undertaking. A yahoo from the Assembly for Approving the Cutie Pie Slutsky’s Sexual Harassment (colloquially known as the State Skank) compared the flashlights in the courtyards with the signals of saboteurs guiding German bombers to their targets. The Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry, and the Prosecutor General’s Office declared it a call for “mass rioting” and threatened potential flash mob participants with criminal charges. Roskomnadzor has been chasing down internet media officially operating in Russian Federation and forcing them to delete reports about the planned event.

The point here is not a “shutdown of law in Russia,” which, according to Vladimir Pastukhov, occurred after Navalny’s return. A completely anti-legal, multi-level system for cracking down on street activism has long been erected in Russia. It consists of three elements: 1) laws aimed at restricting the right to public expression of opinion; 2) a dishonest and broad interpretation of these laws by the police and the courts; 3) and pure lawlessness, as when the police engage directly in frame-ups and fakery, and the obedient courts pretend not to see it.

Those who tried to defend the Article 31 of the Russian Constitution [“Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to gather peacefully, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets”] focused mainly on the third element and sluggishly butted heads with the authorities over the second element, while almost ignoring the first element. Meanwhile, it was all about the first element. The second and third elements were just an appendix to it.

The Code of Administrative Offenses contains an article that punishes involvement in unauthorized events. The shapes and features of this involvement are not described. They are listed in Federal Law No. 54 (“On Mass Events”). In particular, it says that at a mass public event, participants express their attitude to current socio-political problems by chanting slogans and holding up placards.

For many years, opposition activists have been looking for an “unauthorized” way to publicly voice their opinions that would not get them detained. For a long time, they unsuccessfully tried to prove in the courts that if they did not chant slogans and did not hold up placards, there was no protest rally as such. However, the list of ways of participating in a rally, as enumerated in Federal Law No. 54, is not exhaustive. That is, any way of voicing one’s stance is considered an indication of having participated in a public event. That is, expression of a position as such is considered “participation.”

The phrase “expressed [his/her] attitude to current socio-political problems” is often found in police reports on the arrest of people involved in unauthorized public events. The phrase sounds crazy and comical when it comes to legally justifying arresting people and charging them with administrative offenses. It was not invented by the police goons, however. It was borrowed from the definition of a protest rally contained in Federal Law No. 54.

In fact, this coinage, found in police reports and “court” rulings, expresses the collective unconscious of the bureaucratic police regime—its dream, its loftiest ideal. Ordinary citizens should not publicly voice their opinions on current socio-political issues. It is better for them not to have such opinions at all. Voicing opinions is the prerogative of the authorities.

Hence, the very fact that an ordinary citizen voices their socio-political position is considered an anomaly, a deviation from the norm, a violation of public order. And when you start arguing with the authorities at the police station or in “court,” asking them what socially dangerous or simply harmful actions were committed by a citizen who was detained for publicly expressing their position by attending an outdoor rally, they sincerely don’t understand what you are talking about. It is clear to them that publicly voicing a position itself is a socially harmful action if ever there was one.

Since (they say) the greatest geopolitical catastrophe happened, and we are now forced to temporarily recognize a citizen’s right to voice their position at least formally, we’ll load your opportunity to exercise this right with so many conditions that you’ll rue the day you tried to do it. And they really have been doing just this—purposefully, consistently, for the entire length of Putin’s rule.

The lawless authorities refuse to authorize opposition rallies at central and iconic locations under completely far-fetched and false pretexts, and our “managed” injustice system almost always takes the side of the authorities. On the other hand, the “legislators” in the State Skank seek to block any chance people have to publicly voice their stance without prior approval. As soon as the opposition finds a new way of protesting, enabling it to circumvent previously imposed bans, a new amendment or a new law immediately follows, sealing this loophole as well.

It is useless to try to win against the state on its own “legal turf” as long as it has the will and power to shut society up. The state’s will can be opposed only by society’s will not to obey anti-legal prohibitions. The point of unauthorized public events is that they demonstratively violate prohibitions on “unauthorized” expressions of one’s opinion.

I have already had occasion to write that prohibiting people from publicly expressing their attitude to current socio-political issues without permission is an important part of the system for manipulating the admission of players to the “political market.” The entire social and political system that has taken shape in Russia is based on this system of manipulation. In order to reliably guarantee citizens their constitutional right to freely express their attitude to socio-political issues peacefully and unarmed, we have to replace the entire socio-political system.

Translated by the Russian Reader

When the Night Lanterns Sing

When the night lanterns swing,
And it’s dangerous for you to walk the dark streets,
I’m coming from the pub,
I’m not expecting anyone,
I can’t love anyone anymore.

The girls kissed my feet like they were crazy,
A widow and I drank through my father’s  house.
And my cheeky laugh
Was always a success,
And my youth has cracked like a nut!

I sit on a bunk like a king at a birthday party,
And I dream of getting a drab ration.
I look out the window like an owl:
Now I don’t care!
I’m ready to put out my torch before anyone else.

When the night lanterns swing,
And the black cat runs down the street like the devil,
I’m coming from the pub,
I’m not expecting anyone,
I’ve broken my lifetime record forever!

Lyrics by Gleb Gorbovsky. Source: a-pesni. Performance by Beseder and Lyonchik. Translated by the Russian Reader

A protest in Minsk. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS. Courtesy of MBKh Media

Belarusian Courtyard Protests Model for Latest Navalny Tactic
Window on Eurasia
February 13, 2021

Staunton, February 11 — The Navalny organization’s decision to shift at least for a time from mass public protests to smaller but perhaps even more numerous demonstrations in the courtyards of Russian apartment blocks is not a unique Russian innovation. Instead, it has its roots in what Belarusian protesters have been doing since last fall.

In Belarusian cities, MBKh journalist Arina Kochemarova says, this shift has led to the emergence of whole areas devoted to protests and to the first flowering of what many people there hope will result in the formation of local self-administration, yet another way they hope to undermine Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime.

In these Belarusian courtyards, she points out, places that people have christened “squares of change,” people fly the white-red-white Belarusian flag, organize concerns and flash mobs, and in many cases get to know their neighbors better than they ever have in the past, something that by itself promotes solidarity against the government.

Yegor Martinovich, editor of Belarusian Nasha Niva newspaper, says that Belarusians made the shift because of the rising tide of repression and arrests of those taking part in major demonstrations. Fewer people are taking part in the courtyard protests, but at the same time, he suggests, courtyard meetings are forming a sense of solidarity for the future.

Courtyard protests are not only harder for the authorities to counter, but they also can take a variety of formats ranging from flash mobs to the emergence of genuinely independent community organization. “Civil society has begun to flourish everywhere which in general is a good thing. People have begun to unite,” the editor says.

The biggest problem with this shift, Martinovich says, is that the media pays a great deal more attention to one big demonstration than it does to many smaller ones, even if the smaller ones collectively include more people and have a greater impact. Moreover, Lukashenka is learning how to react, cutting off utilities where there are white-red-white flags.

Now, this Belarusian tactic is coming to Russia, intensifying fears among the authorities that the Navalny movement could develop the way in which the Belarusian one has. Russian officials have already made clear that they will crack down hard early on lest the shift from the streets to the courtyards takes off.