Be There or Here or Be Square

“Free Navalny! 12:00 p.m., January 31”

Thanks to Leonid Volkov for the image. Appropriately, this is my 1,801th post on this website. If you enjoy reading news and views from the other Russias, please consider making a donation via PayPal or Ko-fi to help offset the costs of my labor and the work of my occasional guest translators, as well as for internet hosting (which amounts to a few hundred dollars a year). If you are unable to make a donation, you can help out by encouraging comrades and colleagues to check out our coverage of grassroots Russia. My readership grew by leaps and bounds last year, I’m amazed to say, but it still has a long way to go before it makes a proper dent in how Russia and Russians are seen by the outside world, so any way you can support my project and make it more visible is greatly appreciated. \\ TRR

The Helmets Come Off

The Helmets Come Off
Alexander Skobov
Grani.ru
January 24, 2021

Alexander Skobov. Photo: Anna Plitman/Grani.ru

Ksenia Sobchak has equated the cruelty and violence against a woman who was kicked in the stomach by a riot policeman with the violence and cruelty against a riot policeman’s helmet, which was kicked around [during Saturday’s anti-Putin rallies] by “radicals.”

“This is all, or almost all, that you need to know about Ksenia Sobchak’s mental makeup,” writes Igor Yakovenko. It’s almost everything, because Sobchak’s short text contains another interesting tidbit. She also argues that resistance to tyranny is not only futile, but also harmful, because it pushes tyranny to get tougher. The “unbroken generation” will simply have to be “broken.” The bloodthirsty lady recommends relaxing and having fun.

In some ways, however, it is worth heeding Sobchak. We should not, indeed, hope for a “thaw,” for concessions from the authorities. The Putin regime is organically incapable of this, for the whole thing is built on criminal grandstanding. The very flesh and blood of the “new Putin elite,” Sobchak knows what she is talking about.

The criminal grandstanding is just a shell. The bottom line is that Putin’s regime  carried the germ of fascism from the get-go, and now this “alien” is finally hatching from the egg. The ruling class abhors liberal democracy, with its rule of law and its prioritization of human rights. It hates everything that limits its power over the serfs, and now it is trying to finally tear off the “hybrid” liberal-democratic bunting.

A riot policeman in Petersburg kicks a woman in the stomach when she attempts to ask why they have detained the young man they are escorting, January 23, 2021. Video: Fontanka.ru. Courtesy of Mediazona

Of course, the regime will respond to the protests with a further tightening of the screws—with new criminal cases, with new pogroms of opposition organizations, with new repressive and prohibitive laws. It will try and break the unbroken generation broken. I’m afraid that the new generation will not manage to avoid having this life experience. It must firmly understand that the current regime is an enemy with which compromise is impossible, and so everyone is faced with an extremely simple and tough choice of what way to choose in life.

One way is to capitulate, relax, have fun, and eventually become an accomplice of riot policemen who kick women in the stomach. The other way is to stand up for your own dignity, despite the price you have to pay for it, to resist by all available means, and ultimately to overthrow Putin’s fascist regime. And not worry about the fact that, meanwhile, some people are kicking a riot policeman’s helmet around.

The prospect of such a tough choice scares those who are used to living according to the principle voiced by a character in the epoch-making TV series Gangster Petersburg, a corrupt cop who was fond of saying, “I’m mean, but in moderation.” The fascist system increasingly and imperiously demands that they go beyond the moderate meanness that they are used to deeming permissible for themselves. And they feel uncomfortable about it.

Hence Sobchak’s long-standing complaints about escalating confrontation and mutual bitterness, about black-and-white thinking that admits no shades of gray. She now has to solve a truly existential question: who is she? A woman, or a riot police helmet?

Sobchak has not said anything fundamentally new. She has consistently defended the Putin regime from revolution. After all, revolution is worse than when a woman is kicked in the stomach. Revolution is when a riot policeman’s helmet is kicked around.

Protesters snowballing riot police on Tsvetnoy Boulevard in Moscow yesterday, January 23, 2021. Courtesy of Ksenia Larina’s Facebook page

The power of today’s protest was far from enough for revolution. Its reserves of strengths are unknown. In any case, it proved much more powerful than those who believed Fukuyama had expected. No one can predict when and why Putin’s autocratic fascist regime will be overthrown, and who will overthrow it. We must be prepared for a long period of resistance under a repressive dictatorship.

To avoid coming apart during this period, we must nurture in ourselves not only faith in the beautiful Russia of the future, but also a hatred of lies, meanness, and violence—a hatred for the powerful scoundrels who have trampled law and justice to death, a hatred for riot police who kick a woman in stomach, and a hatred for their helmets.

Five days ago, Alexander Skobov reported on his Facebook page that he had been summoned by the FSB for questioning at 2 p.m., January 27, 2021, at its Petersburg headquarters. Translated by the Russian Reader

Don’t Let Strangers Wreck Their Minds (Putin’s Palace)

“Protect your children. Don’t let strangers wreck their minds and their lives.” Screenshot of a social media post by the Udelnaya Library of the Vyborg District Centralized Library System in Petersburg. Courtesy of dp.ru

“Protect your children”: Smolny launches mass posting before rally
Delovoi Peterburg
January 21, 2021

On January 21, the social network pages of Petersburg’s district administrations, as well as of municipal schools, libraries, and educational organization, published the same message, appealing to parents not to let their children attend the rally urging the release of politician Alexei Navalny.

“Protect your children from being dragged into destructive actions that can lead to psychological problems in the future, but also to unpredictable consequences in their lives today,” the text of the mass posting says. It stresses that the upcoming rally is a “blatant provocation.”

A search for the phrase “protect your children from being dragged into destructive actions” yielded around a hundred hits on the social media pages of municipal organizations. At the time of writing, the post had been published on the VK pages of the Kolpino and Vyborg districts, as well as the press services of the Shuvalovo-Ozerki, Posadsky, Kronverk, and Sampsonievsky municipal districts, and dozens of schools.

Earlier today, First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Gorovoy said that the Russian Interior Ministry has “all legal grounds” to charge with misdemeanors those who “in person, on the internet, [or] by sending written appeals” call on people to attend the rally [sic]. The Prosecutor General’s Office ordered the blocking of websites containing posts with calls to attend the [rallies].

Alexey Navalny recently published a large-scale investigation dealing with the construction of a grand residence on the Black Sea. The Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) founder claims that the palace was built for Vladimir Putin. Navalny and his FBK team have called on their supporters to come out to protest on January 23. He has been supported by bloggers on Instagram and TikTok who have over a million followers.

________________________

Alexei Navalny, Putin’s Palace: The Story of the World’s Largest Bribe, January 19, 2021. [There were over 51 million views as of 1:00 a.m. Moscow time, January 22, 2021]

The printed text of the investigation, including all relevant documents, is here: https://palace.navalny.com/

Navalny recorded this video before his return to Russia, but we immediately agreed that we would release it after he returned: Alexei did not want the protagonist of this investigation—Vladimir Putin—to think that we were afraid of him and that we were telling his biggest secret from abroad.

Today, you will see something that is considered impossible to see up close. Along with us, you will go where no one is allowed. We will go for a visit to Putin’s house. With our own eyes, we will see that, in his craving for luxury and wealth, Putin has completely lost his mind. We will find out whose money has financed this luxury and how it was done. And we will learn how, over the past fifteen years, the biggest bribe in history was paid and the most expensive palace in the world was built.

Alexey was detained at the airport [in Moscow], where he arrived after five months of medical treatment in Germany. He went to Germany after Putin tried to kill him. On January 18, Navalny was illegally arrested and placed in a pre-trial detention center.

Alexei has always fought for our rights, and now we have to fight for his. Vladimir Putin must answer for all his crimes.

At 2:00 p.m. on January 23, go to the central streets of your cities. Don’t stand on the sidelines.

Here is a link to information about the rallies in different cities (this post will be updated): https://navalny.com/p/6454/

Translated by the Russian Reader

“Free Navalny! 2:00 p.m., January 23.” Image courtesy of navalny.com

David Frenkel: The Year 2020 in Pictures

David Frenkel
Facebook
December 30, 2020

I had a poor year shooting photographs: there were few events in [Petersburg], and I missed some important stories due to my arm being broken. But in the end, it seems that the photos still piled up.

January 19, 2020. Activists of the Vesna Movement say goodbye to the Russia Constitution near the Constitutional Court in Petersburg.

January 31, 2020. Authorities analyze the debris after the Sport and Concert Complex (SKK) in Petersburg collapses.

February 1, 2020. Police detain a man for a picketing against proposed amendments to the Russian Constitution on Senate Square in Petersburg.

February 9, 2020. A solo picket in Penza before the verdict in the Network Case was announced.

February 10, 2020. Defendants in the Network Case after the verdict was announced in the Penza Regional Court.

Continue reading “David Frenkel: The Year 2020 in Pictures”

Arkady Kots: We Will Have to Fight for the Future

Arkady Kots, The Belarusian Collection
Dec 28, 2020

We support rebellious Belarus. We hope that Belarusian workers, “social parasites,” women, students, pensioners, and the entire Belarusian nation wrest power from the bat-brained dictator and don’t surrender it to anyone.

00:00 – Solidarity
03:20 – Bella Ciao
06:28 – Walls
10:11 – Prison Song
13:01 – Song of the Jewish Partisans (“Zog nit keyn mol”)
19:22 – There Is Power in a Union
22:56 – Women’s Song (“L’hymne des femmes”)
25:19 – Counterattack
29:19 – Lusya
33:06 – Forest Song
35:55 – Peramozham
38:53 – Fog
41:10 – Who Shoots at Workers
44:44 – Nothing Works Without Love

#ArkadyKots #Walls #BelarusianCollection

_______________________________

“We Will Have to Fight for the Future!”
Arkady Kots premieres an album in support of Belarusian protesters on the Novaya Gazeta website
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
December 28, 2020

Nikolay Oleynikov, musician, artist, and soloist in the group Arkady Kots:

We have been following the protests in Belarus from the outset. We were happy when our song “Walls” became one of the main [protest] songs there. And we were about to go to Minsk, everything was ready, but then the guys who invited us and promised to organize several concerts at factory gates wrote: “Stand down, all the factory gates have been occupied by the police.”

It is a pity that we were not able [to do the concerts], but it increased our desire to help Belarusians from here.

We saw that our government basically supports Lukashenko, and we thought it important to sing on behalf of those Russians who are unequivocally against the rout of the elections, against the savage crackdown, who support an independent Belarus, a country near and dear to us. Both our new songs and old ones gradually formed a statement that eventually turned into The Belarusian Collection.

First we understood how to make a Russian version of a song we had been trying to do for a long time—“Solidarity,” by the English punk band Angelic Upstarts, written in the 80s in support of the Polish trade unions. It has this interesting moment, atypical for protest songs, especially leftist ones—a reference to religion. “And we’ll pray for our nation through its darkest times,” they sing in the original. Sincere faith can drive a protest very far: priests played a big role in the Polish Solidarity  movement of the 70s and 80s. That victory, by the way, has shown its flip side today. The conservatives [in Poland] are trying to deprive women of the right to abortion, the right is in power, and the system is clearly distant from what the trade unionists fought for back in the day against the regime and the bureaucracy. But when we see how the priests in Minsk have been supporting the protesters, hiding them from the riot police in churches, this is what we want to sing.

Well, and then there are the workers who came to the forefront of the political struggle in Belarus at some point: that’s another great story, of course, and, I hope, it’s a story that hasn’t ended. Without the workers, a revolution is doomed: new elites seize power and continue to exploit people under new slogans.

We saw how our friends from the leftist party A Just World were bullied and imprisoned: two years ago, we recorded our version of the famous Chilean anthem “Venceremos” in Belarusian (“Peramozham”) for them. Masha Shakuro, who is from the Minsk group Boston Tea Party and, simultaneously, the captain of the Belarusian national rugby team, spent two weeks in prison. Two years ago, she and her band to Moscow for our festival Punk Against Electroshock Torture.

We were involved in PartiZan Fest, which, due to the pressure the authorities put on the clubs, could not be held live. Consequently, the festival was broadcast on TV Rain, and they managed to raise $30,000 for victims of the crackdown in Belarus.

In parallel, we have been recording with European musicians. The Partisan Album features anti-fascist songs from the Second World War, which, of course, included the Belarusian “Forest Song” (“Birches and Pines”), as well as our version of “Bella Ciao,” which contains a reference to the Belarusian partisans. Then there are two completely new tracks that you will hear in this anthology: “Jewish Song” by Hirsch Glick, a poet of the Vilna Ghetto, and the experimental composition “Counterattack,” set to a poem by the Warsaw Ghetto poet Władysław Szlengel, who died during the Uprising. The video for “Counterattack” was made by the Belarusian artist and historian Aliaksandra Osipova, who is from Pinsk. Although she realized that she was taking a risk, Aliaksandra agreed to direct a short film for this track. “The main idea was to combine the moving masses of color and the masses of people, to show the tension between the universality of the struggle and the concreteness of the gestures of resistance and defiance,” she says.

It is interesting how at such moments non-obvious connections and identities are actualized, and it turns out that you have many friends with Belarusian roots. Guys from the diaspora have given us “honorary Belarusians” certificates. I sing in Belarusian as a sign of anti-imperial solidarity, while Kirill Medvedev recalls his great-grandfather Semyon Ilyushenko from near Vitebsk, who fought in the Red Army under Frunze, and then created Soviet jet fuel in a sharashka.

In this covid year, it is as if the old map of Europe has been redrawn for us. New lines are emerging, Soviet and non-Soviet roots are connecting into something new, into a future for which we will still have to fight, and not only with songs.

Speaking of fascism. The other day, our bandmate Oleg Zhuravlev, a sociologist and co-founder of Arkady Kots, was brutally beaten and robbed by the cops in Petersburg, after which he was kept out in the cold all night in a cage with the window wide open. And yesterday exactly the same thing happened to the Petersburg historian Pavel Demchenko, in the very same 28th police precinct on Marat Street [in downtown Petersburg]. Now the guys are combining their cases, and communicating with lawyers to make as big a dent as possible in police lawlessness. The Russian police have recently been rapidly rushing down the road to hell, trying to compete with Lukashenko’s police, apparently.

In the meantime, I want to congratulate everyone on the passing year, a year of many terrible deaths, extreme violence and heroism. I hope the future will be peaceful and beautiful. Listen to The Belarusian Collection!

Translated by the Russian Reader. Image (below) courtesy of the Arkady Kots Bandcamp page

Thanks, Rashid

Rashid Alimov

Thanks, Rashid: How We Remember Rashid Alimov
Greenpeace Russia
December 18, 2020

Violetta Ryabko, head of Greenpeace Russia’s media department
“Better not open the refrigerator: I brought back radioactive mushrooms from Bryansk Region for analysis!” Rashid once said. I remember how, at the office, I had voiced my desire to go picking mushrooms, and Rashid replied, “Brilliant! We need to make a map of where the radioactive mushrooms near Petersburg are, and where it is better not to pick them.”

Rashid had so much energy and desire to solve the environmental problems he was dealing with. He could spend days and nights reading thousands of pages of reports to find the truth, as he did with the 2017 ruthenium leak, whose cause was revealed to the world by Rashid. He knew how not to give into despair and write about each new attempt to import uranium tailings into Russia. He was attentive to every detail, word, and comma in the materials that we prepared. We wrote a lot of releases together, fought against the construction of a waste incinerator, and issued a brochure that is still used by activists all over the country. It was never just a job. We supported each other, made each other laugh, and figured out how not to burn out and maintain our enthusiasm, even when things didn’t work out.

I remember how once Rashid was trying to obtain a official report from yet another Russian ministry. (I forgot which one, and there is no one else to ask.) His latest request was sent back with something like the following runaround from a ministry secretary: “Lyudmila Petrovna would be very dissatisfied were these data published.” Rashid said that he had no idea who Lyudmila Petrovna was, and could not understand why the data that the ministry was required to send by law had not been provided. He then looked at me enigmatically and asked, “What’s your middle name?” He dashed off the following email: “Violetta Vladimirovna is extremely concerned that the documents have not been sent on time and promises to take immediate action.” We had the documents the next day.

Rashid was a very principled man and a consistent opponent of nuclear energy. I knew that I would always find the answer to any question by asking him. This year alone, he made several hundred comments to media outlets that were not afraid to cover the problems with construction of the Northeast Expressway in Moscow and the importation of uranium tailings for storage in Russia.

But not everyone was so honest. I remember receiving a message from him: “Guess who might be the subject of article entitled ‘A Story of Ordinary Fascism’?” It was a disgraceful, slanderous article about Rashid on the website of pseudo-environmentalists. Later, television presenter Vladimir Solovyov took to the air to say that, while he had been unable to find any compromising material on Rashid, he had learned that Rashid had graduated from the faculty of Oriental studies at Petersburg State University. Rashid really did speak several languages perfectly, which only aided him in becoming a brilliant expert and doing research in a variety of languages.

I remember how I was angry at Rashid for something stupid and wrote a message about it to a colleague, but ultimately I accidentally sent it to Rashid himself. He read it and thanked me. I was so ashamed and amused, and later we would remember this story and laugh. He was such a wonderful, intelligent man. I don’t believe I’m writing about him in the past tense.

Alexei Kiselyov, head of Greenpeace Russia’s toxic waste program
I would start with the fact that Rashid is the person whom we have to thank for the fact that garbage is not burned in Petersburg. He also made sure that public hearings on the proposed incineration plant in Petersburg were canceled, the investor bailed, and the governor rejected the project.

Rashid Alimov (center, standing) at public hearings on the proposed construction of a solid waste incineration plant in St. Petersburg

It was Rashid who wrote the pamphlet “What to Do with the Garbage in Russia,” which is still used by thousands of activists around the country.

Rashid was one of the few people for whom the tragedy of the village of Muslyumovo was personal and who always tried to help them. As well as the city of Novozybkov in Bryansk Region, which suffered from the Chernobyl accident. It’s very hard to believe that he is gone.

Kostya Fomin, media coordinator at OVD Info, former media coordinator at Greenpeace Russia
Rashid was the person with whom I seemingly found it easiest to get along at Greenpeace. At first glance, he was calm, intelligent, and even quiet, but he was terribly in love with his work, purposeful, and assertive. He was never an anti-nuclear fanatic. On the contrary, he always advocated careful, sensitive language. But he was a staunch opponent of dangerous technologies that had misfired many times, ruined people’s lives, and poisoned everything in sight for many years to come. He was a genuine old-school Greenpeace activist.

He was irrepressible in a good way and took on seemingly doomed cases. Not always, but not so rarely, either, he got good results, and I am very glad that I was able be with him at those moments and help in any way I could. I remember how he told me about Petersburg poets and revolutionaries as we walked along the embankment, and boatloads of Greenpeace activists sailed toward a floating nuclear power plant: in the end we made sure that its reactors were not activated in Petersburg, a city of five million people. I remember how a guard at a hospital in Arkhangelsk tried to detain us as we measured the background radiation in the yard, where bags of corpses had been piled after the incident in Nenoksa. I remember how we drew a bucket of water from the radioactive Techa River, in Chelyabinsk Region, to prove that people from the surrounding villages were still in danger. I remember how we spent all day and half the night negotiating a press release reporting that Roshydromet recognized that ten of its weather stations had recorded extreme levels of ruthenium in the atmosphere, and in the morning at the airport, I heard our words repeated on REN TV.

Yesterday, Facebook reminded me that exactly a year ago, Rashid and I had been together too. Activists opposed to the import of uranium tailings to Russia set up barrels marked with radiation danger signs outside Gostiny Dvor, in downtown Petersburg, and Rashid had stood next to them holding a poster. No one was detained, and we celebrated the successful protest at a bar. But when Rashid went home, he telephoned to say that a whole squad of police had caught up with him at the front door of his house. Why the front door? Because they had tried to trick their way into his house, but Rashid’s daughter wouldn’t let them in, and the whole ridiculous “tactical team” had to freeze to death. My friends and I thought that Rashid had raised his daughter well. We’ll all miss you.

Rashid Alimov protesting the importat of radioactive waste from Germany, outside Gostiny Dvor in Petersburg, on December 17, 2029

Vladimir Chuprov, project director, Greenpeace Russia
I spent a long time forcing myself to start writing these lines. I couldn’t even imagine that I would have to do this. I don’t want to say anything trivial: Rashid, of course, deserves more. Such blows make you stop and think about how fleeting life is, and how important it is to appreciate each other here and now, in this life. Rashid knew how to do it. With a kind of incomprehensible oriental inner contemplation, he would calmly accept the most unpleasant news and difficult tasks. He would shrug, hunch his shoulders more than usual, and start listening. Being able to hear means being able to hear life, to halt its quiet elusive moments, even if they are compressed in a telephone receiver’s silence.

Reproaches and complaints to others were all things that Rashid somehow knew how to avoid. Or they bypassed him. Sometimes, I would get mad at something or someone, then I would look at how Rashid reacted to it, and realize that it was all a passing trifle. The nuclear power issue has always been difficult and in many ways thankless, since it is almost impossible to help people affected by radiation: the forces are too unequal, and the inhuman system that Rashid struggled with is too clumsy. But it was Rashid who managed to work calmly in the face of this abyss of grief and powerlessness and give people hope.

I am grateful that I was able to work with Rashid for many years and, most importantly, that I was able to communicate with him in his final days. He conversed with me cheerfully and humorously as always, the way he knew how. It is a pity that Rashid did not live to see what he fought for: a harmonious green world without landfills and smog. May the atheists forgive me when I say this, but although we shall not see Rashid, Rashid will listen to us just as calmly tomorrow and the day after. One day I will tell him how he did it. Just wait, Rashid.

Yevgeny Usov, investigative research and expertise specialist, Greenpeace Russia
Rashid and I first became closely acquainted many years ago while inspecting an illegal landfill in the Kingisepp District, where I filmed an interview with him for television. Then there were trips with him to attend a rally in Pushkin and sample radioactivity in Bryansk Region, expert work for the Presidential Human Rights Council and air quality research in Petersburg, long conversations about various matters and editing international reports.

Calm, reasonable, and interested in many different and surprising subjects—that was Rashid. He did many extremely important things for Russia.

Rashid measured the concentration of solid particles outside the window, the level of radiation in the mushrooms picked by his grandmother, was involved in the blockade of a German train, loaded with radioactive waste, going to Russia, investigated the true size of the country’s mountains of industrial waste, and dug up the truth and helped the truth make its way to people.

Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair, Ecodefense
I met Rashid about fifteen years ago when Ecodefense organized a campaign against the importation of uranium tailings. He was a journalist. In 2007, he joined the campaign and organized protests in Petersburg, where uranium waste was delivered by sea. By 2009, we had managed to stop the import of tailings from Germany, and Rashid made a huge contribution to this victory. Later, we interacted a lot in various campaigns against dangerous nuclear projects.

Rashid was one of the most important people in the Russian anti-nuclear movement. An uncompromising activist, he always adhered to the principle of protecting the public interest come what may. Last year and this year, we corroborated a lot as part of a new campaign against the import of uranium tailings from Germany: we organized a number of protests in Russia and Germany, and, in the end, Germany decided to temporarily suspend this activity. I am certain that Ecodefense and other organizations that were involved in the campaign will continue to fight if the imports are resumed—not only for the sake of preventing harm, but also in memory of Rashid. He would have liked that.

Rashid’s family, as well as the environmental movement in Russia, have suffered an irreparable loss. There is no way to compensate for it. We will remember Rashid as a man who made a huge contribution to the fight against dangerous nuclear projects in Russia and other countries, as a great friend and knowledgeable colleague. It is impossible to repair what has happened, but the memory of our beloved friend Rashid will live on, and we will continue to do what we did with him and in his memory.

Elena Sakirko, head of Greenpeace Russia’s energy department
When I became part of the Greenpeace team, Rashid was almost the first person I met. That was when thirty of our colleagues were in the Murmansk pre-trial detention center and a support group was organized in the city. We had to work with lawyers and journalists, and also get letters, food, and clothes (everything they needed) to the detained activists . I was the translator, and Rashid organized the deliveries. Working almost around the clock, we still found time to communicate. Rashid talked about Greenpeace and environmental protection in Russia: it seemed that he knew everything and was acquainted with all the activists and experts.

From the very first day, Rashid radiation so much warmth and attention, so much patience and endurance, that I just wanted to be as brave and calm, as well-versed in environmental issues as him. Another quality of his that saved me was his amazing sense of humor, his ability in the most difficult situations to look deeply and see what mattered the most. And there was his constant willingness to help. The Murmansk period and the case of the so-called Arctic 30 came to an end—all the activists were released and returned to their homes—but the most important thing about Greenpeace for me seems to reside in the calmness, kindness and courage of Rashid, something that put me in touch then with environmental protection.

Then there was my first picket, in which I stood with Rashid on the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. There were also collaborations and projects where we did not intersect, but every time I went to Petersburg, I knew exactly who I wanted to see and with whom I could discuss all my difficulties and problems, who could take me on interesting walks in the city and tell me so much. I think people like Rashid just cannot disappear, they have so much energy and goodness that they shared with us—a whole world.

Rashid had his life’s work to do: regardless of the projects he was involved in, the most important thing for him was always radiation safety. I think it’s very important to continue this work.

Environmentalist and Activist Rashid Alimov Has Died
Activatica
December 18, 2020

Rashid Alimov, an environmentalist, anti-nuclear and climate activist, and project manager of Greenpeace Russia’s energy program, died last night. His death was reported to his wife Olga Krivonos by the doctor on duty at the intensive care unit of the hospital in St. Petersburg where Rashid was being treated for complications of the coronavirus.

Exactly a year ago, on December 17, 20198, Rashid Alimov held a protest action entitled “Russia Is Not a Nuclear Dump” on Nevsky Prospekt outside of Gostiny Dvor. Alimov stood with a banner reading “Russia is not a nuclear dump” at the central entrance to the Gostiny Dvor shopping center. Behind him were activists eleven metal barrels painted with the radioactive danger sign and letters forming inscription “Happy New Year.”

Alimov had worked in environmental organizations since 2001. He was the author and editor of numerous publications on environmental issues, including radiation safety. From 2005 to 2011, he led a campaign in Petersburg against the import of depleted uranium hexafluoride into Russia, as well as the construction of new nuclear power plants. He was involved in Below Two Degrees, a bulletin issued by Russian observers at the UN climate talks.

“Rashid was involved in dealing with issues of waste management, air pollution and nuclear energy. He helped close several landfills, and thanks to Rashid’s work, public hearings on a planned trash incinerator in St. Petersburg were canceled and the governor abandoned the project. Rashid wrote a pamphlet, “What to Do with the Garbage in Russia”, which is still used by thousands of activists throughout the country,” Greenpeace Russia wrote in its obituary.

Two pages from What to Do with the Garbage in Russia, a Greenpeace pamphlet written by Rashid Alimov

Alimov was one of the leading experts in Russia on the problems of toxic environmental pollution. He was a very kind, honest and humble man.

Rashid is survived by his wife, parents, daughter, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.

Photos courtesy of Greenpeace Russia and Activatica. Translated by the Russian Reader

Partyzanski Praspekt, “August”

partyzanski praspekt-logo

On Sunday, December 6, 2020, the Belarusian poet and performer Uladzimir Liankevič was detained on his way home from his band’s rehearsal. The next day, he was sentenced to 15 days in jail. 23.34 and 23.4 are the two articles of the criminal code under which he was convicted by the court or, rather, by its grotesque totalitarian parody. Belarusians know all too well what these numbers mean: “violating the procedure for organizing or holding mass events” and “disobeying a law enforcement officer.”

Liankevič was previously detained in September, spending six days in the Zhodzina Temporary Detention Facility.

Released on November 14, 2020, the recent song by Liankevič’s band Partyzanski Praspekt bears the anachronistic title “August.” Why would they sing about August in November?

This is the explanation that the band wrote on its Facebook page, alluding to the state terror that erupted in Belarus following the failed presidential election of August 9, 2020:

Everything that is happening in our midst cannot fail to move us. So we wrote a new song titled “August.” We wanted the events of that month to stay there, but they, unfortunately, have continued.

The song depicts the parallel lives of two modern Belarusian revolutionaries, whose civic awakening takes place after the government deployed tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, and stun grenades against the peaceful protesters.

The lyrics contain the following local references:

  1. Minsk toponyms that have symbolic significance in the geography of protest: the Stela or Minsk Hero City Obelisk, Nyamiha Street, and Masherau Avenue.
  2. Two of the country’s most infamous detention facilities, Okrestina and Zhodzina.
  3. The minivans used by the riot police as transportation.
  4. “Blue fingers”: a meme alluding to the dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s quip that he would not keep his grip on power until his fingers turned blue.
  5. The letter at the end of the video is addressed to “TsIP,” the “offender isolation center” (literally) or “temporary detention facility.”

Жнівень

Здымная хата
На апошняй станцыi метро
Чарговая праца
На якой ен для начальнiка нiхто
Ен цярпеў i нават не марыў
Адарваць чужыя пальцы сiнiя ад шыi
Ды спачатку голас скралi
А потым прабудзiлi
Светлашумавы

Лiчы што не жыў
Лiчы што не жыў
Да гэтага жнiўня

Калi прагучалi
Першыя стрэлы
Ты мог яго бачыць на Стэле
Калi прыпынiлiся бусы паблiзу
Ен быў разам з табой на Нямiзе
Ты дома сядзеў духам упаўшы
Ен iшоў за цябе
Па Машэрава
Маршам

Газ вадаметы на суткi за краты
Ягоныя вочы найлепшы з плакатаў
З яго галавы волас ня ўпала
Анiводзiна
Аднак ен быў сiнi весь
Як выходзiў з Жодзiна
Сцяна сцяна
Дзверы
Насупраць сцяна
Гэта сведкi таго
Што з iм было на Акрэсцiна

Яна паступiла
У сталiчны унiвер
За некалькi курсаў
Да гнiлой сiстэмы страцiла давер
Знiкла прага да жыцця
Знiклi мары
Маркота раз’ядала да той самай суботы

Яе спачатку ўразiлi людзi
А потым прабудзiлi
Газ i вадаметы

Не хацелася жыць
Не хацелася жыць
Да гэтага жнiўня

Калi прагучалi
Першыя стрэлы
Ты мог яе бачыць на Стэле
Калi прыпынiлiся бусы паблiзу
Яна была разам з табой на Нямiзе
Ты дома сядзеў духам упаушы
Яна шла за табой па Машэрава маршам

Газ вадаметы на суткi за краты
Ейныя вочы найлепшы з плакатаў
З яе галавы волас ня ўпала
Анiводзiна
Аднак яна сiняя ўся
Выходзiла з Жодзiна
Сцяна сцяна дзверы
Насупраць сцяна
Гэта сведкi таго
што з ей было на Акрэсцiнa

August

A rented apartment
At the last metro station
Another job
Where he means nothing to his boss
He put up with it and did not even dream
Of tearing someone’s blue fingers from his neck
But first his vote was stolen
And then the stun grenades awoke him

Consider that he didn’t live
Consider that he didn’t live
Until this August

But when the first shots were fired
You could see him at the Stela
When the minivans parked nearby
He was with you on Nyamiha
Crestfallen, you stayed at home
But he marched for you
Down Masherau Avenue

Tear gas and water cannons
They threw him behind bars
His eyes are the best protest art
Not a single hair fell from his head
Not a single one
However, he was all blue
That’s how he left his jail cell in Zhodzina
A wall a wall a door
And another wall opposite
These witnessed
What happened to him
On Okrestina

She enrolled in a Minsk university
During the first years
She lost her faith in a rotten system
Her desire to live was gone
And her dreams were gone
The depression held her until that Saturday

At first, she was surprised by her people
And then the tear gas and water cannons
woke her up

She didn’t want to live
She didn’t want to live
Until this August

But when the first shots were fired
You could see her at the Stela
When the minivans parked nearby
She was with you on Nyamiha
Crestfallen, you stayed at home
But she marched for you
Down Masherau Avenue

Tea gas and water cannons
They threw her behind bars
Her eyes are the best protest art
Not a single hair fell from her head
Not a single one
However, she was all blue
That’s how she left her jail cell in Zhodzina
A wall a wall a door
And another wall opposite
These witnessed
What happened to her
On Okrestina

Introduction, commentary and translation from the Belarusian by Sasha Razor

Come Out for a Walk

Come out, come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out, come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me

We gather freely and walk where we will
Come out for a walk, just come out for a walk
We gather freely, though we’re a little scared shitless
Come out for a walk, just come out for a walk
We’ll write the word “Enough!” on the pavement in white chalk
You can take your little sister, my little brother is coming with me
Don’t take toys with you, there are tanks and soldiers
More interesting than walking, there are no more important classes

We gather freely and walk where we will
Come out for a walk, just come out for a walk
We gather freely, though we’re a little scared shitless
Come out for a walk, just come out for a walk
Let them point a finger at us. So what if we get punished?
So what if we get wet and shiver and get goosebumps?
Don’t be afraid, there won’t be enough zelyonka or poop for everyone
Of course, stay at home if you’re younger

Come out, come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out, come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me

Squirt guns, nerf blasters and spitball shooters
Don’t take anything, just come out for a walk
Smoke bombs and slingshots, sticks and jump ropes
Don’t take anything, just come out for a walk
There are cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians
Come out for a walk. Why you sitting on the windowsill?
You can do it on roller skates, but we’ll be shooting videos
There are helmets, elbow pads. In noughts and crosses
We play noughts, don’t put a cross on the noughts
If you want to give them a kick in the ass, you’ll get three years in the pen

They will cut us, they will beat us, be patient and calm
You still need to drive, get out of the house
On the golden porch sat the tsar, the tsarevich, the king’s son
They twist and turn the carousel, and you won’t change anything
One, two, three, four, five, here they come looking for me
I didn’t hide—it wasn’t my fault

Come out, come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out, come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out for a walk with me
Come out

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriter: Andrei Pasechny


A still from the Kasta video “Come Out for a Walk.” Courtesy of YouTube

Red Red Blood: Kasta’s Video and the End of Post-Soviet Pop Culture
Andrei Arkhangelsky
Republic
December 1, 2020

Kasta’s new video “Come Out for a Walk”—about a riot policeman whose body and even clothes bleed, like the people he beats—has already garnered two and a half million views and tens of thousands of comments. Although the song was written a long time ago, the plot of the video, according to Kasta member Shym, was inspired by the police beatings of peaceful protesters in Belarus.

The idea of the video is painfully simple: everything hidden will be revealed sooner or later. In our hyper-speed age, “sooner or later” means in a couple of hours, days, or weeks, at most. But pop culture artists, as we know, always tell us more than they mean to say. The video’s release says several symbolic things that are vital for all of post-Soviet culture.

In this video, it is not people, but blood that plays the starring role. Blood is a silent substance, but as an image it acts magically on us, because it requires no explanation. It captures our attention, fascinating and hypnotizing us. It is like fire or water in this sense: we can’t get away from it.

This is surprising to hear, of course, if you remember how many liters of fake blood are shed every day, for example, in “patriotic” movies. The blood there, however, does not make such an impression, because in its own context it is “normal,” meaning that it is shed “for a just cause.” Violence in peacetime is something fundamentally different: propaganda tries to hide this, instilling in us the need to live in peacetime under military law. Violence in peacetime makes personable poses, primps and preens, dresses in different guises, including white, and sometimes it pulls it off. The idea that for the sake of the country’s “stability” we can shed a couple of “non–fatal” liters of blood, precisely for educational purposes, was until recently considered an unspoken norm in our country. Now, in the public view, it is wrong. Kasta’s video captures this sea change in the public mood, cancelling the previous unspoken agreements between state and society.

In a broad sense, this ubiquitous, oozing, flowing blood is an even more global metaphor for all Russian popular entertainment of the past twenty years. In fact, this entertainment, starting with the historical series of the noughties (the TV adaptations of Rybakov’s Children of the Arbat and even Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle) was a story about the tons of blood spilled by the Stalinist state. However, on screen, this blood was, figuratively speaking, packed in sealed, leak-proof containers and sold to the post-Soviet audience in the form of little hearts—stuffed with love, friendship, loyalty, and so on.

“There was violence, but there were also good things”: this, approximately, is the golden formula of reconciliation (reconciliation with violence, simply put) that worked and still works in popular entertainment. State violence in movies and TV shows is always balanced by a sacrifice made in the name of the common good (the Chekist who committed injustices goes to war and washes away the sin with his own blood) or in the form of a deus ex machina (“the Party sorted the matter out and released the man, who was roughed up but alive”).

All Russian serials about the Soviet era are made with the acceptance of “history as it is,” and with the simultaneous understanding that “this is your motherland,” as former culture minister and current presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky recently suggested. Evoking Kasta’s metaphor, we can say that the blood flows moderately in Stalinist TV series: the Chekist bends over the innocent prisoner and hits him a couple of times, or even kicks him, but he does not beat the man to death. All these series are made exactly in this way: nothing is done “to death.” And so the viewer who watches them gets the feeling that while it is not easy to live with shedding a little blood, it is basically permissible.

Consequently, post-Soviet society has not had a conversation about violence as the vicious underpinning of the former ruling ideology. In contemporary cinema, police and secret service officers are presented as reflective intellectuals, as in the recent TV series Dyatlov Pass. They are tormented by life’s unsolvable problems, not to mention the fact that they are generally positive characters. We should admit that the conversation about violence has been swept under the rug over the past twenty years through targeted ideological work involving popular entertainment.

But the social trauma itself has not disappeared. The habit of violence has remained, and now it has literally leaked out in the form of the real sadism at the jail on Okrestin Street in Minsk, which can be considered a universal symbol for many post-Soviet countries. This sadism is now running down, soaking “through the gold of uniforms”: this is how it could be formulated in a broader context, not only in Belarus.

On the other hand, there is protest. In western culture, it has long been established as a social norm, nor are artists necessarily on the side of the protesters. Pasolini has a poem about police officers who beat up students at a demonstration. It includes the lines, “When you were at the Valle Giulia yesterday you brawled with the police, I sympathized with the policemen!” Then Pasolini explains why:

I know well,
I know how they were as little kids and young men,
the precious penny, the father who never grew up,
because poverty does not bestow authority.
The mother calloused like a porter, or tender,
because of some disease, like a little bird.

The conflict between police and students (protestors) is always unresolvable in some sense, but it is also normal. This paradox is typical of democracy, where, as we know, everything that is not forbidden is allowed. A free society constantly tests the authorities as to what is acceptable and unacceptable, but the very essence of democracy manifests itself in this “qual,” to borrow a term from rap culture.

Popular culture’s natural instinct again, is to discuss and reflect on protest. In Russian movies, however, the topic is taboo or ridiculed. Protest is imagined as a testosterone-fueled fad, something for people with nothing better to do, or as a form of manipulation, but most often protests are not depicted in Russian cinema at all. When we are told that popular entertainment is not to blame and owes nothing to anyone, we should respond by recalling that the silencing of socially important topics today is a way to encourage evil. When we try to answer the question of where this sadism comes from, we can mull over it for a long time in the same old lofty terms: unarticulated trauma, the post-Soviet syndrome.

But there is a simpler explanation. The same riot police officer who beats people because circumstances allow him to do it “does not know,” broadly speaking, that it is wrong precisely because popular culture has never, in the last twenty years, transmitted this simple idea to him. It has not told him that protesting is normal and shedding blood is wrong. What is worse, popular entertainment in Russia has been looking for various sophisticated ways to justify the shedding of innocent blood in the name of higher causes. And since Belarusian and Russian riot policemen have consumed this pop culture in equal measure, the outcome is roughly the same.

Just as the red substance in the video flows from helmets and riot batons, so reality itself today reminds us of its existence despite all the attempts to hide it. While you are controlling the big screen, the truth will leak out on the small screen: this is the video’s symbolic sense. When the time comes, what has been hidden will pour from the screens just as uncompromisingly. It will again be a shock to the audience, like, say, the articles about Stalinism in the perestroika-era press were to readers back then. The blood in the video is a metaphor for truth (or reality) itself, a truth that cannot be canceled in any way. This hidden thing will sooner or later burst the dam, and it will not be subdued, just as it is impossible to stanch the blood flowing in Kasta’s video.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Mikola Dziadok: A Tortured Political Prisoner in Belarus

Lawyer on Dziadok’s Condition: “Injuries from Handcuffs on the Hands, Huge Bruises on the Thighs and Back”
Viasna
November 19, 2020

Novy Chas journalist and blogger Mikola Dziadok was detained on November 12 in the village of Sosnovy in the Asipovichi District. In a video that was circulated by the Belarusian Interior Ministry, it is clear that Dziadok had been beaten. His lawyer, Natalya Matskevich, has announced that she has filed a motion to order a forensic medical examination in respect of Dziadok. Novy Chas contacted Matskevich to find out more about what is happening with Dziadok.

Mikola Dziadok, as seen in the notorious Belarusian Interior Ministry video published after his arrest

Where is Mikola now? What is his condition?

On November 17, Mikola was transferred from the temporary detention center on Okrestin Street to Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1 on Volodarsky Street in Minsk. For the time being he is in quarantine. His physical condition can now be called normal, and emotionally he is also holding up well: he is cheerful. He says that he remains true to his beliefs and principles.

Did he tell you how he was detained?

Before his arrest, Mikola had rented an apartment in the village of Sosnovy for several months. He was not hiding from anyone, but he understood that in the current circumstances it was better for him not to be in Minsk, since for the past several years he had been closely watched by GUBOPiK [the Department for Organized Crime and Corruption Prevention], solely in connection with his [political] views and stance, which he expressed publicly. According to Mikola, on November 11, at about eleven in the evening, seven masked law enforcement officers broke into his second-floor apartment by breaking a window. After capturing him, they used physical violence and special equipment until they got him to “confess” on camera. Then they took him to Minsk, where they worked him over for several hours, demanding access to a computer disk and [his] Telegram channels. It was only after five in the morning that they took him to the temporary detention center.

What methods were used to make him talk? How forceful were they?

I will not go into details: I will be filing an appropriate procedural motion to this effect. I can say that I have had several clients who fled Chechnya after being tortured and were detained in Belarus for deportation. But I never thought that I would hear stories about such things happening in our own country.

As Mikola told me, a few hours after his arrest, when he was lying on the floor in one of the [law enforcement] departments, he was made to swear that he would not speak about GUBOPiK. Let’s say that happened. Moreover, we do not know yet the names of those who made the arrest. But on November 12, it was this department that reported on its actions in detaining Dziadok and [published] videos showing Mikola’s state after he was detained. Even a slightly experienced person will immediately notice traces of tear gas use at close range in the first video, and the second video clearly shows a hematoma around [Mikola’s] left eye. What else did I see in the temporary detention center? Injuries from handcuffs on his hands, and huge bruises on his thighs and back.

I think that, taking into account the fact that several law enforcement officers detained the unarmed Dziadok unexpectedly, the question of the proportionate use of force for the purpose of detention should not be considered at all. Rather, there should be a legal assessment of whether there was an abuse of power and legal authority.

All [of Mikola’s] visible injuries were documented, at least, when he entered the pre-trial detention center. Investigators have sufficient grounds for conducting an inquiry and deciding whether to initiate a criminal case [against the officers who detained Dziadok].

Do you expect such an investigation, given that there were thousands of allegations of violence against people by law enforcement officers in August of this year, but not a single criminal case was opened?

It’s hard to be sure of the results. Even in 2017, when after Mikola was detained on his way to a Freedom Day rally, he was taken to the emergency hospital with a concussion, which was absolute proof of the use of violence by the police, no criminal case was initiated. Then, after an official inquiry, the authorities issued an opinion that Mikola already had these injuries when he was detained. We appealed this decision both through the prosecutor’s office and in the courts, but to no avail. The case is currently under review by the UN Human Rights Committee.

As far as the current situation is concerned, the investigators are obliged to respond in an appropriate procedural manner. The international standard for investigating torture is a prompt, independent, objective and effective investigation, provided that the victim is protected from possible threats in connection with the investigation. The Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Belarus also contains these principles. So let’s see how principled the Investigative Committee will be in its actions.

What can you say about the “Molotov cocktails” and “cold weapons” that GUBOPiK allegedly found in Mikola’s apartment?

Are you referring to the bottles shown in the Interior Ministry’s video? How do they know what was in them? Who performed the expert analysis on the “cold weapons”? If you recall the notorious case of the White Legion, state TV channels then showed viewers a whole trunkload of bottles filled with liquids, and some knives, too. And where are they now? Mikola told me that he did not have these bottles. We should ask simple logical questions, taking into account that Dedok has not recently been involved in any marches and rallies, and has not called for violent actions. Why would he have needed “Molotov cocktails” in the village of Sosnovy? Would he have taken them by bus to Minsk?

Can you tell us what the charges against Dziadok are?

As of today, we only know what the Interior Ministry said in its communique. As long as there is no specific description of the criminal acts alleged to have been committed by Dziadok, there is no way I can comment on anything. From what was said in the Interior Ministry’s communique—”[he] actively administered a radical Telegram channel, where he publicly called for participation in mass riots”—we can conclude that he is being criminally prosecuted for making certain statements, for expressing a certain opinion. But I don’t think that any of Dziadok’s publications can be objectively assessed as calls for violent action.

You can write letters to Mikola Dziadok at SIZO-1, ul. Volodarskgo, 2, Minsk, 220030, Belarus.

Thanks to Comrade NN for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Dmitry Strotsev: 13.11.2020

Dmitry Strotsev
Facebook
November 13, 2020

*

bees are certain
said Tolstoy
that they are gathering honey for themselves

but in fact
they are pollinating the garden

Belarusians think
says Christ
that they are rallying their land

but in fact
they are healing the world

13.11.2020

“Let’s call it what it is: Roman Bondarenko was murdered.” Photo courtesy of BelarusFeed and TUT.BY

Dmitry Strotsev
Facebook
November 13, 2020

For Matches

going out
for matches

leaving the house
for any necessity

dress
carefully

pack as if
you might be gone for ten,
fifteen days

you never know
where terror’s claw
will grab you

the ever-watchful eye
can see you
everywhere

13.11.2020

Translated by the Russian Reader