100% Herd Immunity

https://paperpaper.ru/papernews/2022/2/15/vlasti-zayavili-chto-peterburg-dostig-k/

[February 5, 2022]

The authorities say that Petersburg has achieved 100% herd immunity. Is it true?

The number of people who been vaccinated and people who have recovered from covid-19 in Petersburg speaks to the fact that the city has achieved 100% herd immunity, first deputy chair of the Health Committee Andrei Sarana said on the St. Petersburg TV channel.

Referring to the Health Ministry’s website, Sarana said that Petersburg had reached 100% collective immunity. According to the official, 3.14 million people, including more than 2,400 children, had been fully vaccinated in Petersburg.

According to Health Ministry’s guidelines, Petersburg has to vaccinate 80% of its entire population, excluding children and adults who cannot be vaccinated — this amounts to 3.5 million people. At the same time, it is not known how this approach works and whether it takes into account people who, for example, were vaccinated more than a year ago.

In fact, 2.9 million residents have undergone a full vaccination cycle in Petersburg, which is equal to only 55% of the total number of people officially residing in St. Petersburg (5.3 million people), according to city hall’s website. Only the covid crisis center reports that 3.5 million people in Petersburg have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

In mid-January, the authorities were already claiming that herd immunity in Petersburg, according to various calculation methods, was at either 88% or 100%. Bumaga discovered then that they were talking about a portion of the total number of the city’s residents. Read more here.

Screen shot from the animated series Masha and the Bear

https://t.me/RKadyrov_95/1240

[February 14, 2022]

Dear compatriots! So as not to give my detractors cause for hysteria that I am exceeding my powers, I officially declare that this is my personal opinion, the humble opinion of Russian citizen Ramzan Kadyrov.

In my appeal there are two messages to two addressees — to the Ukrainian authorities and to the Ukrainian people.

Mr. Zelensky! The time for clowning has come to an end. The hour has come to fulfill one’s duty to one’s own people in order to avoid irreversible consequences. That is, today, more than ever, there is a need to implement the Minsk Accords, which were signed not only by the President of Russia, but also by the President of Ukraine. The strict implementation of the provisions spelled out in this document is the first important step in a political settlement of the growing confrontation not only between our countries, but also in reducing general tension in the global sense of the word. In this regard, you, as the guarantor of the Constitution and the security of your people and state, are simply obliged to do everything in your power to avoid bloodshed and establish peace. President Vladimir Putin and the peoples of Russia do not want war: we know firsthand the meaning of this terrible word. Be reasonable, Mr. Zelensky!

And now I want to address Ukrainians. My dear ones! I love Ukraine and its kind people. From the Soviet history class that I took at school, I know that Kievan Rus is the cradle of Russian statehood and Orthodoxy. Russians and Ukrainians are a single Slavic people with a common history, culture and religion. I will never believe that Ukrainians consider themselves part of the so-called Western world with all its degenerate “values” and Russophobic hysteria. Yes, that’s right, despite the fact that the current anti-national regime and its propaganda are doing everything to erase this sense of community. Somewhere in the depths of my soul I have a glimmer of hope that this historical justice [sic] will be restored by the Ukrainian people themselves without anyone’s help from outside. It cannot be that the spiritual and historical heirs of the great Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky and the brilliant writer Nikolai Gogol would not want eternal peace with fraternal Russia!

https://t.me/RKadyrov_95/1241

[February 15, 2022]

I fully support the decision of the State Duma to ask the President of the Russian Federation to recognize the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

I believe that the Supreme Commander-in-Chief will grant the request and our country will recognize the independent status of both republics. Vladimir Vladimirovich is a far-sighted and wise politician. I think he will definitely take such an important step for the advent of peace.

I am sure that this is not only my opinion, but also that of the majority of Russians. Residents of the DPR and LPR have been living under the yoke of lawlessness for many years, their right to self-determination ignored. In this situation, it is recognition of independence that will determine their status in the international arena and put an end to many years of confrontation and bloodshed.

The Chechen people perfectly remember what mayhem, violence and continuous fighting can lead to. We clearly remember the unenviable feeling of hopelessness and believe that only such a logical endpoint will save the inhabitants of these two republics.

A large-scale information campaign has been launched against Russia and the two republics. Every day, fakes [sic] are disseminated about a new date for the crossing of the Ukrainian border by Russian troops and the declaration of war. But everyone has forgotten that Ukraine has been waging such a war with its neighbors for eight years. The foreign media prefer to keep quiet about this.

If officials in Kiev are not going to implement the Minsk Accords, are not attempting to settle the issue peacefully, issue, are heating up the situation, and not looking for ways to solve the crisis, then it is more than logical that our President Vladimir Putin should take over the peacekeeping mission in this difficult political situation.

Peace will come to Donetsk and Lugansk after you say your WORD, Vladimir Vladimirovich!

https://t.me/tass_agency/108662

[February 15, 2022, 1:11 pm]

Russia will not abandon the residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics alone in the event of an invasion of their territory by the Ukrainian army — the response will be commensurate with the scale of aggression, Federation Council Chair Valentina Matviyenko said.

https://t.me/tass_agency/108663

[February 15, 2022, 1:13 pm]

Valentina Matviyenko called even the idea of a war with Ukraine wild, noting that Russia would do everything on its part to prevent such a development of events.

“Our position has been clearly set out by the head of the Russian state: for our part, we will do everything so that there is no war with Ukraine. Not today, not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow, never!” said the speaker of the Federation Council in an interview with Parlamentskaya Gazeta.

Translated by the Russian Reader

On This Day

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

_____________

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subtle Forms of Utter Hogwash

Dostoevsky and the Russian Soul

Rowan Williams’ fascination with Russia began when, as a boy, he watched Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible on television. After that he became a born again Russophile, learned the language, and even completed a doctorate on Russian Christianity. But no Russian figure has held his fascination more than Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Dostoevsky is still considered among the greatest novelists the world has ever produced. But his talent for writing complex, often contradictory characters is rooted in a single traumatic moment when, as a young man, he found himself before a firing squad. The event changed his life, his writing, and his views on Russia’s place in the world.

Now that tensions between Russia and the West are once again running high, Rowan considers what the author’s life and thought can tell us about the country today.

Ultimately, Rowan finds, what makes Dostoevsky such a wonderful novelist is his humanity. At a time of deep divides, this is a writer with something to offer us all.

Source: BBC Radio 4

Source: Twitter.com

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THE WORLD OF WOMEN
About the little that a woman needs in life

About the little that a woman needs in life. Style, fashion, success. Fitness as a way of life. Psychology of relationships.

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Your troubles

Any problems that have worried you, your troubles that have caused anxiety and pain are a reason to seek help. I’ll do what I can to help! I will suggest how to act in this or that life situation. Dr. Vladimir Stepanovich Khoroshev.

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Source: Subscribe.Ru “News” mailing list for 15 November 2021. Archival photo of a car crash at a summer beer garden on Pushkinskaya Street in Petersburg [circa 2003] by the Russian Reader. Translated by the Russian Reader

Today’s Mail Bag (How Russia Was Betrayed)

Nikolai Starikov
How Russia Was Betrayed

Who is the culprit of Russia’s troubles in the last three hundred years? Why do we show benevolence and generosity to those who betray us? Leading historian and opinion journalist Nikolai Starikov explores the history of Russia’s relations with the leading countries of the world and answers these questions. This book is a collection of shocking facts about the treachery and cynicism of most countries in Europe and the United States, which will not leave even those who are remote from history and politics unmoved.

__________

A leading public historian of Russia, writer, economist and politician explores the history of Russia’s relations with the leading countries of the world.

This wonderful book gives a comprehensive answer to the question: why today, as a hundred years ago, as two hundred years ago, does Russia have only two allies, its army and navy?

Are we the problem? Is it our naivety? Our almost complete lack of rancor? Our generosity and benevolence?

Yes, partly.

But mostly the problem is the guile and cynicism of most countries in Europe and the United States.

Starikov’s book calmly, step by step, argument by argument, reveals the damning truth about Russia’s relations with so-called allies, partners and brothers.

The reader will discover a lot of unusual, shocking facts in this book. Consequently, it will open everyone’s eyes and reveal the main secret of the ages: who is the culprit of our troubles over the past three hundred years?

Source: Litres email newsletter, 7 October 2021 + website

Were you surprised when you found out about all the offshore companies that Ernst, Chemezov and others own? We weren’t particularly surprised. It has long been clear why Putin and his friends need power: to steal. They don’t do anything useful, but all of them are billionaires. Their children are billionaires, and even their mistresses are billionaires. They made themselves rich at the expense of the federal budget.

The owners of offshore companies are very unhappy when they are not allowed to steal quietly, when they are prevented from disposing of the country as if it were their property. Therefore, they brand all dissatisfied people as “foreign agents” and “extremists” and declare them enemies of Russia.

But they are not Russia. We are Russia. While they are crooks and enemies of our country.

Support Team Navalny, and we promise to spend every ruble to fight Putin and his offshore friends. As always.

Attention! Do not use PayPal if you have a Russian account. We advise everyone who lives in Russia to donate in cryptocurrency: it is the safest way right now. And we also advise you to install a VPN if you cannot open our links: then no blocking will be able to prevent you from opening them.

Thank you for being on our side!
Team Navalny

 

“Navalny has been in prison for 261 days.”

Source: Anti-Corruption Foundation/Team Navalny email newsletter, 7 October 2021

Central image courtesy of Ozon.ru email newsletter. Translated by the Russian Reader, who received these images and texts via email this morning.

The History Lesson

Natalya Pavlishcheva, Forbidden Rus’, 9th Edition: 10,000 Years of Our History from the Flood to Rurik 

THE NINTH EDITION of the super-bestseller that has sold record numbers of copies! A sensational book that has overturned over all the usual ideas about the history of Russia, which is not 1,200 to 1,500 years old, as the textbooks lie, but ten times longer!

This “prehistoric” Russia is actually under a complete ban in “scholarly circles.” “Professional historians” do not believe in it. Its existence is denied by “serious academics.” Its traces are diligently ignored by Ph.D.’s and academicians who are accustomed to hush up inconvenient facts that do not fit into the Procrustean bed of scholarly officialdom, although there are more and more such facts with every passing year.

Flying in the teeth of implicit censorship and “professional” taboos, and based not on the retelling of hoary “scholarly” myths, but on the latest data from archaeology, climatology and even genetics, this book offers a new, revolutionary look at the origins of Ancient Rus’ and the deepest roots of the Russian people. It unravels the principal secrets of our past, breaks through the conspiracy of silence and exposes the poverty of historical officialdom!

The book was previously published under the title 10,000 Years of Russian History: From the Flood to the Christianization of Rus’.

Source: Litres. Translated by the Russian Reader

Family Values

State Duma Asked to Ban Promotion of Sex Change
RIA Novosti
March 4, 2021

Parliamentarians and public figures have adopted a draft resolution in which they ask the State Duma, in particular, to legislate a ban on the promotion of sex change and transgenderism, as well as to introduce the concept of “human fetus” and the concept of “criminal (illegal) abortion” in the Russian Federal Criminal Code and establish criminal liability for abortions.

The draft resolution was adopted during the conference “Legal and Legislative Aspects of Support for Families and Family Values in the Russian Federation,” which was held in Moscow on Thursday as part of the United Russia party’s Strong Family project.

In particular, the resolution (which RIA Novosti has obtained a copy of) proposes amending the law “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” by instituting a ban on the promotion of sex change, bisexuality, transgenderism (transsexualism), and polyamory (civil marriages with multiple partners). In addition, the conference participants insist on tougher administrative responsibility for promoting non-traditional relationships, as well as instituting a ban on LGBT symbols in public institutions.

In addition, the resolution proposes banning information that promotes abortion, calls for abortion, and promotes the safety of abortions.

At the same time, the resolution contains a proposal to introduce a “ban on information that insults family values, motherhood, having many children [mnogodetnost’] and childhood.”

In order to prevent infertility and reduce abortions, the conference participants propose amending the Russian Federal Criminal Code by introducing the concept of “human fetus” and the concept of “criminal (illegal) abortion,” establishing criminal liability for the performance of abortions. Legislative initiatives are also proposed that would remove abortions from coverage by the mandatory health insurance system, as well as stopping payment of abortions by regional health insurance funds. The resolution also includes a proposal to “change the routing of patients who terminate pregnancy and those who maintain pregnancy.”

The resolution also contains a set of proposals to amend the law “On Biological Safety in the Russian Federation.” It is proposed that the law should be amended “to regulate issues of vaccination, determine the status of ’embryo’ and ‘human fetus,’ and institute a ban on euthanasia.” In addition, it is proposed to “establish state control over experiments on genomic technologies, including human genetic editing.” The signatories to the resolution also consider it necessary to “establish a procedure for regulating the circulation of biomaterial and the transactions of biobanks.”

Photo courtesy of Vechernii Bobruysk. Translated by the Russian Reader

Kill the Bill (That Will Kill Independent Culture and Education and Introduce Total Censorship in Russia)

“This is direct censorship. Withdraw the bill—don’t disgrace yourselves!”
Nikolai Nelyubin
Fontanka.ru
February 8, 2021

Vladimir Putin has received a letter from the progressive intelligentsia. The masters of culture, science and education have asked the guarantor not to touch the law on education by introducing “licenses for educational outreach.” For the depths are lower, and Gorky has nothing to do with it.

Professionals in culture, education and research involved in educational outreach work in our country, are concerned about the future of culture, education, and research. The reason is the draft law “On Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On Education in the Russian Federation,'” adopted by the State Duma in its first reading, which, in particular, would make official vetting of “educational outreach programs” mandatory.

On February 8, more than a thousand Russian professionals in the field of educational outreach published an open letter to the authorities demanding that they reject the amendments, since they  would “open the door to repressive regulation and censorship.” [See my translation of the open letter, below—TRR.]

On February 9, the details of the legislative initiative are slated for consideration by the State Duma Committee on Education and Science, chaired by Vyacheslav Molotov’s grandson Vyacheslav Nikonov. The bill could pass its second reading as early as February 10.

A co-author of the legislation, Dmitry Alshevskikh, a United Russia MP representing Sverdlovsk Region, earlier shared with Fontanka.ru his arguments for adopting the new norms, which would destroy “anti-Russian propaganda” disguised as “educational outreach.”

“Certain forces are trying to introduce Bandera,” the people’s deputy explained.

The authors of the open letter to President Putin, Prime Minister Mishustin, State Duma Speaker Volodin, and all the co-sponsors of the sensational bill are no strangers to post-postmodernism in art, but in this case they are unanimous. There is nothing to be quibble about: we are getting closer to obscurantism and pathological tendencies that are better to nip in the bud.

It will be more difficult to work
Supporters of the independent cultural scene are convinced that the regulations governing educational outreach would complicate the work of people who organize exhibitions, lectures, discussions, and other public events.

“There are currently no requirements for vetting exhibition projects and the educational programs that accompany them (lectures, seminars, and meetings) except for cases when the project is funded by state grants,” says Tatiana Pinchuk, director of Petersburg’s Street Art Museum, about the current state of affairs.

Natalia Karasyova and Elizaveta Zinovieva, co-founders of the Big City Art project, which holds “art breakfasts” featuring lectures and excursions, are afraid of the vagueness of the mechanisms for obtaining a license, the lack of a list of documents for making such application, and, importantly, the cost of the entire procedure.

“It will be virtually impossible to obtain a license due to the cost and bureaucratic hurdles. So, we will be operating outside of the law,” they say.

Moreover, players on the independent education market cannot understand what exactly they would have to license.

“It is not clear from the bill what exactly ‘educational outreach’ includes,” wonder the women at Big City Art. “It is one thing to get a license for an educational center, and another thing to get one for small-scale meetings and blogging.”

Art scholar Anastasia Pronina also argues that the bill is vaguely worded.

“Officials would have additional levers for pressuring and regulating us, while those engaged in educational outreach work would find themselves in a tough spot,” says the curator. “If the bill is passed into law, it will be a problem to vet the topics announced by our speakers, and we will be obliged to draw up contracts for all our lectures and public events. The lectures at Benoit 1890 Cultural Center are educational in nature and free to attend. During the pandemic, we have introduced a nominal entry fee to regulate attendance. Our project promotes contemporary art in a bedroom community in Petersburg. I think it is clear that this is not an easy job, and we are grateful to all the lecturers who speak to our audiences for free.”

Curator Lizaveta Matveeva notes that a separate item in the draft law would require organizations that partner with and hire foreign specialists to obtain special permits.

“This is another go-round in our government’s maniacal desire to rid us of the presence of foreign colleagues and stop the dissemination of their ‘values and information,'” Matveeva argues. “My field cannot function without interaction with foreign colleagues, without a bilateral exchange of know-how. Culture and art cannot survive in isolation. Our country has already been through this experience, and it led to nothing good.”

Where have the censors been rummaging?
“The more vague a law is, the more repressive it is,” Matveeva argues. “Currently, oversight is implemented correctively, but there are concerns that this draft law and subsequent secondary laws may introduce preventive regulation that would require vetting educational materials before they are published, and this is real censorship.”

“It could reach the point that talking about Andy Warhol’s paintings would be considered promotion of the western way of life,” say Karasyova and Zinovieva. “It is absurd, but it is possible.”

According to the organizers of informal cultural events, censorship can manifest itself even more easily in the field of contemporary art. The young women give examples.

“This could concern projects that criticize the government by artistic means, or projects produced in cooperation with foreign colleagues,” they say.

“If cultural institutions are required to clear every exhibition project involving a cultural program with the state, then implementing any project would turn into a bureaucratic hell,” argues Pinchuk. “Also, it is not clear how broad the powers of the supervisory authorities would be. If they don’t like the theme of an exhibition or the subject of a lecture, would they simply ban it?”

Historian Lev Lurie is horrified.

“Educators also tell us about Ohm’s law, after all,” he says. “The question arises: aren’t they hyping the achievements of foreign scientists? Maybe they underestimate the successes of the virologists from the Vector Center in Novosibirsk? We need balance in the natural sciences, too! So, now we need to expand the training of these facilitators. Retired officers—political workers—can handle it. If, God forbid, [Vyacheslav] Makarov is not re-elected to the [Petersburg] Legislative Assembly, he could well attend such events, because he has a sense of who has the “Siege of Leningrad gene” and who doesn’t. He could run such events himself, but monitoring them is more important.”

Who would be affected by the law?
No one has actually counted how many independent educational platforms there are in Russia today. It is clear that this sector was growing quite dynamically until quite recently. There are professional educational platforms and schools, and there are hobby clubs.

“Meetings and lectures are also held in bookstores, libraries, cafes, independent galleries, and other places,” Matveeva explains.

“Based on the blanket statements [in the draft law] we can surmise that a project dealing with the oeuvre of a single artist and a show of his works would be defined as educational outreach since an analysis of the artist’s career constitutes, in one way or another, dissemination of information about the artist’s know-how and expertise,” argues Pinchuk. “Along with doing exhibition projects, museums, including the Street Art Museum, also do cultural and educational projects, and various events—meetings, seminars, and lectures—are held as part of these projects. During these events, knowledge about art is disseminated, and members of the cultural scene share their know-how and competence. That is, the activities of museums fall under the definition of educational outreach as provided in the draft law.”

It comes down to money
“Russian citizens, including vulnerable segments of the populace, would thus also lose the opportunity to gain knowledge from highly qualified specialists on a regular, often pro bono basis,” it says in the open letter to Russian officials.

Matveeva answers the question “why.”

“If organizers and lecturers have to produce and reproduce paperwork to get permission to hold each of their one-off lectures in a library or a cafe, it would be easier not to organize anything at all and wait for better times to arrive in Russia,” she says. “Many events are organized by enthusiasts, by professionals passionate about their work. Events are often held for free or for a nominal fee. They are attended by people who don’t have the opportunity to pay for an expensive course or time to study, but they can periodically go to lectures to learn something new, and maybe meet and hobnob with other people. Educational events are also popular among the elderly: for them it is a form of leisure.”

Karasyova and Zinovieva agree.

“If commercial educational events simply increase in price and part of the audience peels off, then non-profit organizers are likely to fall by the wayside, as they will not be able to carry the costs,” they say.

Lurie is categorical.

“People will show up and say that you are not telling the right story about hedgehogs. ‘You can’t talk about hedgehogs like that,******!” they will tell you. ‘And if I give you fifty thousand, will I be telling the right story about hedgehogs?’ you will ask. ‘Well, for fifty it would be better, but for sixty it would definitely be a good story about hedgehogs.’ That’s all you need to know about this law,” he says.

What history teaches us
“Increasing the amount of paperwork has never helped the cause of popular education,” Pinchuk argues.

There are also examples in history of how to introduce state control.

“The Cultural Revolution in the USSR at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s,” recalls Lurie. “Then all private NEP outfits were put under control. They became state-owned. They were made part of the overall structure. In particular, the Knowledge Society (Obshchestvo “Znanie”) emerged from this arrangement. Or there were the times of [Konstantin] Pobedonostsev, when a bailiff came to every event and could shut it down.”

“We are being dragged into the Middle Ages. Or into the USSR,” says Marina Rudina, an employee of the Russian Museum who specializes in its educational and research work. “This know-how was perfectly tested back then. There is a persistent sense of obscurantism. And, from my point of view, strange information is flowing from every corner, including from federal and state TV channels. We need protection from extremist influences? There is already a law for this. I don’t understand why we have this business about ‘combating extremism’ in the new law again. Apparently, this is a clear formula: there are only enemies everywhere, and we must defend ourselves from them. Are we going to sacrifice everything?”

Lurie recalls other specific examples.

“We feel great about the valiant deeds of Alexander Matrosov and Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, Valentina Tereshkova and Dmitry Donskoy. We don’t expect anything bad. The problem is that there is imperfect censorship in Russia. There are no firm guidelines, for example, on whether Pobedonostsev and [Georgy] Malenkov are positive characters, and so we don’t know what to expect. There is uncertainty. We are afraid to talk positively about Malenkov. What if suddenly it turns out that he was working against the Motherland?”

To avoid this, says Lurie (who even at the start of Putin’s constitutional reforms spoke about the inevitability of total censorship), there must be “special people” who attend excursions and other events, lectures, and quests, either openly or undercover.

The historian sketches a new dystopian novel on the go.

“They will write a note to their superiors. They will have to record everything with surveillance devices so that it won’t be their word against [their opponents]. Then it will transpire that someone berated Matrosov. This means that a regulation stating that Matrosov cannot be derided will be needed. After all, such thoughts about Matrosov could be whispered by the enemy, while an educator might not have known it was forbidden. We must protect educators!”

“Why are they doing this?”
“The bill will drive another nail in the coffin of private cultural institutions in Russia. It seems that the current policy is aimed at ensuring that there are fewer and fewer educated people with a broad outlook, and that knowledge outside of the school curriculum can only be obtained abroad,” Pinchuk argues.

“The censorship and repressive laws already adopted by our government have greatly changed the climate and environment, and have complicated the already extremely difficult lives of cultural professionals,” says Matveeva. “We can no longer publicly and openly touch on certain topics, we cannot work with certain organizations, and it is better for us not to receive grants from international organizations and foundations. Given that the government provides no support to artists, art historians, and other producers of culture and art, it is not quite clear how officialdom expects people to work and support themselves.”

“Why are they doing this?” Rudina asks, immediately answering her own question.

“To completely obliterate education, to make it impossible for there to be flights of thought and broad spaces to think. There should be many opinions, many sources of knowledge and trends. When everything is regulated, is approved by people at the top, this is direct censorship, the exclusion of any opinions other than those ‘approved by the government line.’ Just withdraw the bill—don’t disgrace yourselves!”

Late last year, Petersburg MP Elena Drapeko told Fontanka.ru that voters had asked the State Duma to introduce censorship in Russia.

As of February 9, over 210,00 people had signed a petition against the proposed amendments.

__________

This session of Petersburg’s Street University, held on Elf Square in the city center circa 2008-2009, would have been impossible under the proposed amendments to the Law on Education. 

__________

February 8, 2021

Open Letter

To:

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin

Chairman of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin

Russian Federation Council Members A.A. Klimov, E.V. Afanasyeva, A.V. Vainberg, L.N. Glebova, and O.V. Melnichenko

Russian State Duma Members V.I. Piskarev, A.G. Alshevskikh, N.I. Ryzhak, A.K. Isaev, R.D. Kurbanov, I.V. Belykh, N.V. Poklonskaya, D.I. Savelyev, A.V. Chep, A.L. Shkhagoshev, E.A. Yampolskaya, V.V. Bortko, S.M. Boyarsky, O.M. Kazakova, E.G. Drapenko, A.M. Sholokhov, O.L. Lavrov, S.A. Shargunov, O.M. Germanova, V.Yu. Maksimov, N.N. Pilus, and S.B. Savchenko

Russian Federal Minister of Culture O.B. Lyubimova

Russian Federal First Deputy Minister of Culture S.G. Obryvalin

We, the undersigned, are cultural, educational, and academic professionals engaged in educational outreach work in Russia, as well as Russian citizens concerned about the future of culture, education, and research in our country. We write to you in connection with Draft Law No. 1057895-7 “On Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On Education in the Russian Federation’” (hereinafter referred to as “the Draft Law”), which was passed by the State Duma in its first reading. If the Draft Law becomes law, it will, in our opinion, open the door to repressive regulation and censorship. In its current form, it threatens the constitutional rights of Russian citizens and the growth of our country’s educational and cultural fields due to its vague wording and rawness.

The Explanatory Note to the Draft Law states, “The federal draft law is aimed at improving the legal regulation of educational activities in the Russian Federation,” and “the draft law […] would generate additional conditions for developing human culture, encouraging individual socialization, and motivating individuals to form an active civic stance.” However, it contains no detailed comparative risk-benefit analysis proving that the stated goal would be pursued, rather than its opposite.

At the same time, the rules and regulations that would be issued if the Draft Law were passed, as well as the content of the Draft Law itself, have rightly caused fears among professionals that administrative barriers to educational outreach work would be raised that infringe on constitutionally protected rights and freedoms, including:

  • the right to education (per Article 43, Paragraph 1 of the Russian Federal Constitution)
  • the right to seek out, receive, transmit, produce and disseminate information (per Article 29, Paragraph 4 of the Russian Federal Constitution)
  • and freedom of literary, artistic, scientific, technical and other types of creativity, as well as freedom of instruction (per Article 44, Paragraph 1 of the Russian Federal Constitution).

The Draft Law is extremely restrictive

According to Article 43, Paragraph 5 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, “The Russian Federation establishes federal educational standards, [and] supports various forms of education and self-education.” In its current version, however, the Draft Law and the accompanying regulations adopted if it is implemented (as suggested by the public statements of its authors) are aimed not at supporting but at limiting educational outreach as sponsored by federal cultural and educational organizations, as well as by independent platforms, private organizations, and grassroots groups.

The text of the Draft Law defines educational outreach work as “activities, implemented outside the framework of educational programs, that are aimed at disseminating knowledge, skills, values, know-how and competence in order to develop individuals intellectually, spiritually, morally, creatively, physically and (or) professionally, and meet their educational needs and interests, and that touch on relations regulated by this federal law and other legislative acts of the Russian Federation.” The vagueness of the wording means that educational outreach work can be defined as any public activity in which knowledge and competencies are disseminated. Hence, we can conclude that educational outreach work could include not only individual lectures and workshops organized by licensed educational institutions, but also exhibitions, festivals, conferences, the work of popularizers of science and art, openly accessible blogs and vlogs, and much more.

The Draft Law introduces redundant regulations and opens the door to censoring educational outreach work

The Draft Law prohibits incitement to social, racial, ethnic or religious strife, and incitement to actions contrary to the Russian Federal Constitution. At the same time, the dissemination of information for these purposes is already prohibited by current Russian federal legislation, whose norms are also applicable to educational outreach work (per Article 10 of the Federal Law “On Information,” Article 13 of the Federal Law “On Countering Extremism,” and the corresponding provisions in the Administrative Offenses Code and the Criminal Code).

Currently, oversight is implemented correctively (ex post). We are concerned that the secondary legislation could introduce preventive (ex ante) regulation requiring that educational materials be approved before they are published, thus restricting freedom of opinion, as well as significantly complicating the work of law-abiding educators while not affecting the activities of banned extremist organizations.

The Draft Law is isolationist

The Draft Law obliges educational organizations to obtain the approval of the executive authorities when negotiating educational agreements with foreign organizations and foreign nationals involving expenditures. The provision would cover not only financial contracts involving state educational institutions (to which the laws on public procurement apply), but also other agreements, including non-financial cooperation agreements, which are signed in large numbers by all major educational institutions, as well as contracts made by non-governmental educational organizations.

The introduction of additional restrictions and controls on international exchanges and the engagement of foreign nationals by educational organizations inevitably entails an additional bureaucratic burden that most non-profit independent organizations would not be able to handle because they lack the necessary resources. Consequently, international exchanges would face the threat of significant cuts, leading to the stagnation of culture and research in Russia: growth in these fields is impossible without a constant exchange of know-how and ideas with colleagues from other countries. The lack of an opportunity to build stable, permanent relations with the international professional community would inevitably lead to a lag in the growth of culture, research and education in our country.

Educational outreach is carried out not only by large state institutions, but also by independent non-profit organizations, as well as by grassroots groups who find it difficult to secure the minimal resources needed for engaging foreign colleagues and implementing international projects. In this regard, introducing requirements for obtaining additional permits to engage foreign nationals in educational outreach projects would make it impossible to implement grassroots and non-profit undertakings. Russian citizens, including vulnerable segments of the populace, would thus also lose the opportunity to gain knowledge from highly qualified specialists on a regular, often pro bono basis.

The Draft Law delegates unregulated oversight to the Government

The Draft Law adopted by the State Duma in the first reading is extremely vague: it does not specify procedures and boundaries for overseeing educational outreach work, does not delimit regulatory entities, and does not define the types of international cooperation pursued by educational organizations that would require official approval. Essentially, the State Duma (a legislative body) has wholly delegated policymaking in the educational outreach field to the Government of the Russian Federation (an executive body) without setting any criteria and restrictions. This makes it possible, when adopting secondary legislation, to interpret the will of the legislators quite broadly, in a variety of directions. The vagueness of the wording, as well as the delegation of further rule-making to the Government of the Russian Federation, raises concerns in the professional community that the regulation would be repressive and involve censorship, thus considerably complicating the implementation of educational outreach work.

Oversight and restriction of educational outreach based on extremely vague reasons, thus allowing for varying interpretations “on the ground,” are contrary to the constitutional rights and freedoms of Russian citizens. In this regard, we, cultural, educational, and academic professionals engaged in educational outreach work in Russia, call on you to reject Draft Law No. 1057895-7 “On Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On Education in the Russian Federation,’” as its adoption, in our opinion, would open the door to repressive regulation and censorship due to its vague wording and rawness.

[Signed, in the original, by Lizaveta Matveeva (St. Petersburg), curator of the Main Project of the Seventh International Moscow Youth Biennale, the Art Prospect International Public Art Fair, and the DYI Fair, and 1,002 other signatories]

Thanks to Susan Katz for asking me to translate the open letter and sending me the link to the article from Fontanka.ru. Both texts were translated by the Russian Reader

Whose Bodies? Whose Selves?

Putin Instructs Government to “Strengthen Financial Interest” of Hospitals in Preventing Abortions 
Mediazona
October 27, 2020

President Vladimir Putin has instructed the government to “strengthen the financial interest of medical organizations” in preventing abortions, as follows from the list of instructions published on the president’s website after an expanded meeting of the State Council’s presidium.

Putin appointed Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Governor of the Novgorod Region Andrei Nikitin as his point men in dealing with the issue.

Together with a State Council working group, they must evaluate the work of doctors in preventing abortions and improve its effectiveness, including ensuring that hospitals cooperate with “social service organizations.”

Thanks to Darya Apahonchich for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

People attend a anti-government, pro-abortion demonstration in front of parliament, on April 9, 2016 in Warsaw. Photo: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images via Foreign Policy

Putin Orders Government to Improve Abortion Prevention Efforts
Moscow Times
October 27, 2020

President Vladimir Putin has urged the government to improve abortion prevention strategies in an effort to reduce the number of terminated pregnancies and offset Russia’s population decline.

Putin’s order was made public days after Poland’s top court deemed abortions performed in cases of fetal defects to be unconstitutional. For Poland, which already had some of Europe’s strictest abortion laws, the decision amounted to a near-total ban on the procedure, sparking mass protests in over 150 Polish cities.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and regional heads will be tasked with reassessing Russia’s abortion prevention strategies and developing mechanisms to increase funding for medical organizations that improve their abortion prevention rates, according to Putin’s order published Saturday.

Improving access to legal, psychological and medical assistance through the maternity insurance program is outlined in Putin’s order as a key measure expected to dissuade women from abortion.

Russia, which has one of the world’s highest abortion rates, has named abortion reduction as one of its key demographic policy priorities. In the past five years, pregnancy terminations have decreased by nearly 30%, Deputy Health Minister Oleg Salagai said Tuesday.

Russia’s efforts to improve abortion prevention have largely failed to revert its looming demographic crisis, however, with the country’s population predicted to decline by 352,500 in 2020 compared to a decrease of 32,100 in 2019.

Russia has one of the world’s most liberal abortion laws, with most procedures performed at no cost under the mandatory state health insurance program. Terminating a pregnancy is allowed up until the 12th week, with abortions at later stages only permitted if the pregnancy was a result of rape or for medical reasons.

The Russian Orthodox Church and conservative lawmakers have pushed for an end to state-funded abortions in recent years.

Women’s rights advocates have voiced concern over Russia’s move toward tighter restrictions after the government introduced a mandatory waiting period between the abortion request and the procedure itself in 2011. Some Russian regions also require women to undergo counseling with a priest or a psychologist before the procedure can be performed.

Russian women reported being denied access to free abortions during the coronavirus lockdown this spring when Russian clinics postponed scheduled medical procedures.

No Culture Icons

putin-icon

[File under: You can’t make this stuff up; With friends like these who needs enemies?]

“Though in recent months Putin’s popularity has frayed at the edges, the dearth of comparably powerful and experienced political leaders leaves no doubt that he will continue to be a key political figure. During his tenure as Russia’s President and subsequently as Prime Minister, Putin transcended politics, to become the country’s major cultural icon. This book examines the nature of his iconic status. It explores his public persona as glamorous hero, endowed with vision, wisdom, moral and physical strength—the man uniquely capable of restoring Russia’s reputation as a global power. In analysing cultural representations of Putin, the book assesses the role of the media in constructing and disseminating this image and weighs the Russian populace’s contribution to the extraordinary acclamation he enjoyed throughout the first decade of the new millennium, challenged only by a tiny minority.” (Description of Putin as Celebrity and Cultural Icon, a volume of scholarly essays published by Routledge in 2013; my emphasis.)