The Sasha Skochilenko Trial: Olga Safonova’s “Slightly Misleading” Expert Analysis

Sasha Skochilenko (center) at her criminal trial in Petersburg, 25 May 2023. Photo: Nadezhda Skochilenko

At today’s hearing [in Sasha Skochilenko’s criminal trial on charges of disseminating knowingly false information about the Russian army], Sasha’s defense lawyers and Svetlana Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya, a linguist who conducted an independent forensic examination and found no knowingly false information in Sasha’s messages, were able to question one of the authors of the linguistic forensic examination [commissioned by the prosecution].

Olga Safonova, a specialist in political science (!), was enlisted to contribute to the linguistic forensic examination. But, as she was instructed to do by a staff member at the forensics expertise center, she evaluated whether what was written [on the anti-war “price tags” that Ms. Skochilenko is alleged to have posted in a Petersburg supermarket] was in line with the Russian Defense Ministry’s position, not whether it was truthful.

[Safonova] admitted that her analysis of one of the messages was “slightly misleading.” She was “at a loss” when asked to respond to the assertion that Sasha faces up to ten years in prison on the basis of such misleading conclusions, among other things.

After a recess (due to her heart problems, Sasha found it difficult to endure the stuffiness and lack of water), the examination of the witness was continued by Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya. Safonova was forced to admit that among the sources against which she checked Sasha’s messages, only the Defense Ministry’s website corresponded to her own definition of an official source — unlike the website Life.ru and anonymous Telegram channels. She also could not answer a school curriculum-level question about impersonal sentences, although their erroneous definition in the forensic examination is one of the “proofs” of Sasha’s guilt.

In addition to pointing out the errors in the forensic examination and its noncompliance with government standards, Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya recalled that, according to the Justice Ministry’s methodological recommendations, when an expert strays beyond their area of professional competence, it is a procedural error and is inadmissible [as evidence in court]. Safonova was forced to agree. Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya followed this up by asking a direct question: “Can you, as an expert, prove conclusively that Skochilenko knowingly falsified information?”

Safonova replied that she could not.

The new prosecutor abruptly interrupted her and requested that the hearing be postponed.

You can come out and support Sasha at 11:30 a.m on June 13. Many thanks to everyone who continues to attend the trial, shares information about the case, and donates money to pay the lawyers and buy food and medicine care packages! You can help Sasha financially here:

+79627117055

(Sofia S., Sberbank)

5469550065976075

(Sberbank)

Source: Nadezhda Skochilenko (Facebook), 25 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. The details for donating money to Ms. Skochilenko’s defense fund are only for people based in Russia.


[…]

Olga Safonova. Photo courtesy of The Village

In the late 1990s, St. Petersburg State University, for reasons unknown, gave away one of its dormitories on Vasilievsky Island — 10 Bering Street — with a two-story attic built on. Later, one of the university’s vice-rectors regretfully claimed that if the building had not been given away, the university would have had room to house over 500 students. Today, the building houses apartments (a three-bedroom flat there will run you 20 million rubles) and offices. It is owned by the Bering-10 Condominium Association, whose chair is Olga Diomidovna Safonova. She has the exact same name as an associate professor in the Faculty of Political Science at St. Petersburg State University.

Safonova has been involved as an expert witness in the criminal cases against [Petersburg anti-war protesters] Victoria Petrova, Sasha Skochilenko, and Vsevolod Korolev. They face up to ten years in prison if convicted. These are quotations from the expert analysis in the case against Victoria Petrova:

“Objective facts indicate that the war crimes against the civilian population of Ukraine have not been committed by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, but by the Kiev regime and the armed formations controlled by it.”

“The practical intent and purpose of the statements under examination [i.e., Victoria Petrova’s posts] consists in generating false ideas among readers (listeners) that the actions of the Russian federal leadership are condemned by society, as manifested by the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and against European countries. […] In the materials submitted for examination, the negative assessment of the policy of Russian federal state bodies vis-a-vis their deployment of Russian federal armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens and maintain international peace and security, is not supported by arguments and evidence.”

Safonova graduated first from St. Petersburg State University’s law faculty, then from its philology faculty. In 2005, she defended her dissertation in political science. Here is a quote from the abstract: “Social deprivation has become a characteristic feature of the lifestyle of a significant portion of the Russian populace. A drop in the level of real monetary income has entailed increased competition for survival, thereby generating an increase in the stratum of people whose intentions have become criminal, i.e., unlawful.”

At least until the mid-2010s, Safonova led an active social life. The Village found the academic’s picture in a dozen photo reportages from different parties, as published by Sobaka.ru and Geometria. Here she is at a presentation by the jewelry house Freywille; here, at the (now-closed) restaurant Gusto’s birthday party; and here, at the opening of XXXX Baltika Brew.

The Village spoke about Safonova with graduates of various faculties at St. Petersburg State University: their assessments of her were contradictory. Journalist Anastasia Romanova, who took Safonova’s lecture course on political science, remembered her as “the toughest teacher, whose pass-fail exam was very hard to pass.” “She honestly read the whole class the riot act,” said Romanova. “It was very scary to go to her.” Emile, a graduate of the political science faculty, where Safonova taught a course on law, recalls, on the contrary, that “the course was a formality,” and “at some point that woman just disappeared.” It was one of the easiest subjects to pass,” he said.

In 2012, commenting to Delovoi Peterburg on the newly adopted law on foreign agents, Safonova said, “There are many organizations that, under plausible pretexts, are engaged in near-subversive activities. We as a state should be concerned about this, and it’s good that this issue has been addressed.”

“I remember that Safonova gave what I thought were absurd descriptions of the political regimes in other countries. She said there was no democracy anywhere. It seems to me that most students found her unpleasant both as a teacher and as an apologist for the regime. A couple of days ago, a classmate sent me an article in Rotunda about her involvement in the expert analysis [in the case of Victoria Petrova]. I wasn’t surprised,” says Emile. Romanova adds, “She didn’t give the impression of being a stupid person. Arrogant, yes. I think she understands perfectly well what is happening now.”

[…]

Source: Julia Galkina, “Meet the experts who help jail anti-war protesters in Petersburg. They teach at St. Petersburg State University,” The Village, 14 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

Made in the USSR (May Day 2023)

A man sporting a “Made in the USSR” tattoo, Liteiny Prospect, Petersburg, May 1, 2023.
Photo by Vadim F. Lurie, reproduced here with his kind permission

Victory Day is a memorable holiday for every citizen of St. Petersburg! During the celebration of the Great Victory, each of us remembers the heroic deeds of our grandfathers. In keeping with a long-established tradition, many musicians dedicate their concerts to this important date.

On May 15, the Lensovet Palace of Culture will host “Echo of Victory,” a soulful solo musical performance by Dmitry Pevtsov and the Pevtsov Orchestra.

Dmitry Pevtsov, “Echo of Victory,” 15 May, Lensovet Palace of Culture

“Echo of Victory” is a new themed concert in which poems and songs of the war years and the best songs of Soviet and modern composers will be performed. The program will feature such songs as “Airplanes First of All,” “From Dawn to Dawn,” and, of course, everyone’s favorite song, which has become a symbol of the celebration of May 9—”Victory Day”!

We invite everyone to the “Echo of Victory” concert on May 15 at the Lensovet Palace of Culture. Let’s remember the great songs of that heroic time and once again feel proud of our great nation!

Directed by Denis Isakov

Duration 1 hour 40 minutes (without intermission)

Source: Bileter.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader


The Russian authorities and Russian propagandists have been competing with each other to recreate something outwardly similar to the Soviet system in our country. The message to Russian society is simple: we are different, we have a different path, don’t look anywhere else, this is our destiny — to be unlike everyone in the world. And yet there are more and more traits of our country’s yesterday in its tomorrow.

For some reason, the speakers at the Knowledge educational forum, starting with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, called directly for Russia’s self-isolation. Mishustin demanded that we achieve independence from foreign designs in the information sphere. The word “independence” has been increasingly used to mean isolation and breaking ties.

Deputies in the State Duma have proposed re-establishing the mandatory three-year “repayment through job placement” for university graduates, and prohibiting those who have not served in the army from working in the civil service.

With Ella Pamfilova, head of the Russian Central Elections Commission, on hand as a friendly observer, Uzbekistan held a referendum on April 30 to decide whether to adopt a new constitution that would grant the current president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the right to de facto lifelong rule by lengthening presidential terms from five to seven years and nullifying Mirziyoyev’s previous terms. The ballot, which involved digital technologies, produced a turnout of 84.54%, and according to preliminary data, 90.21% of voters said yes to the amendments, which would change two-thirds of the Constitution, while 9.35% of voters voted no, and 0.49% of the ballots were disqualified. Although democratic procedures were seemingly followed, Uzbekistan is moving away from democracy.

Something makes us see Pamfilova’s visit to Uzbekistan not only as a trip “to strengthen friendship and cooperation,” but also as a completely practical exchange of know-how in organizing such referendums. Only by adopting a new constitution can the first and second chapters of the current Russian Constitution be amended, and it is the second chapter that enshrines civil rights and freedoms, we should recall.

Alexander Bastrykin, the prominent human rights activist and chair of the Russian Investigative Committee, has proposed adopting a new Russian constitution that would enshrine a state ideology, completely eliminate international law’s precendence over domestic law, and re-envision human rights as an institution alien and hostile to Russia, as something encroaching on its sovereignty. Uzbekistan’s know-how in voting on a new constitution will come in handy for the Russian Central Election Commission.

At seven o’clock this evening live on Citizen TV, we will talk about why, exactly, the Russian authorities are so enthusiastic about Soviet political practice and the Soviet style, and where such intentions can lead our country.

Source: Citizen TV (YouTube), 1 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with the need [for Russia] to develop its own communication protocols instead of foreign TCP/IP to ensure the country’s technological sovereignty and independence.

On Thursday, the head of state held an event at the Rudnevo Industrial Park during which the specifics of the development of domestic unmanned aerial systems were discussed. In this context, Alexander Selyutin, board chair of the Technojet group, spoke about the “Internet from Russia” project.

After listening to the proposals, Putin turned to his aide Maxim Oreshkin.

“Maxim Stanislavovich, talk to your colleagues, then report back to me separately, we need to help. This is obligatory, because if you have advanced proposals, your own, of course, we need to do everything to support them. It means technological sovereignty, and better competitiveness, and independence. […] We will definitely help,” the president said.

Source: “Putin supports creation of Russian communication protocols as alternative to foreign ones: head of state held event at Rudnevo Industrial Park where specifics of developing domestic unmanned aerial systems were discussed,” TASS, 27 April 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Lev Schlosberg for the heads-up.


Those wishing to take part in a virtual LDPR rally at the monument to Vladimir Zhirinovsky created in Minecraft have overloaded the server. The number of applications exceeded twelve thousand, LDPR’s press service informed us.

As Andrei Svintsov, a member of the LDPR faction [in the State Duma], noted, this is only the first such event. The Liberal Democrats plan to continue using [Minecraft] and other gaming platforms to communicate with voters and attract new supporters, becoming in fact “Russia’s first digital party.”

The MP also recalled that experts continue to work on the “Cyber Zhirinovsky” political algorithm, which was previously announced by the party’s current leader Leonid Slutsky.

Photo: Official LDPR Telegram channel

Source: TASS (Telegram), 1 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


In late April, Judge Yevgenia Nikolayeva closed a court hearing at which it was decided how much time to give Alexei Navalny to examine the 196 volumes of the latest criminal case against him. According to the police investigator, this was necessary in order to protect investigatory privilege.

Navalny’s case is not unique. There have been other such decisions recently. Judges closed a court hearing on the killing of the blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, decided the fates of conscientious objectors without witnesses present, ruled on pretrial restrictions in absentia for journalist Ilya Krasilchik, and extended the arrest of politician Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Over the past five years, judges in Russia have increasingly closed court hearings to observers, journalists, and even relatives of defendants. Because of this, defense lawyers cannot inform the public about what happens in these proceedings. Mediazona reviewed the judicial statistics and discovered that, in 2022, judges ruled 25,587 times to hear cases in closed chambers. This was almost twice as often as in 2018, when judges decided 13,172 times to hear cases without outsiders present.

The Constitution actually guarantees that your case should be heard in open court, but there are exceptions. The principal exceptions are cases involving state secrets (which is why all treason and espionage trials are closed), cases against defendants under sixteen years of age, and cases involving sexual offenses. The statistics for all such cases have not changed much in recent years.

But there is one more exception — a trial can be closed to “ensure the safety” of the people involved in the proceedings and their loved ones. This extremely vague wording allows judges to close any court hearing. Judges make vigorous use of it, especially when hearing high-profile cases.

Here’s another example. In September, the Moscow City Court closed the hearing of an appeal against the verdict in the “fake news” trial of municipal district council deputy Alexei Gorinov, who had been sentenced to seven years in prison for an argument over a children’s drawing contest in which he had said that children were dying in the war in Ukraine The judge alleged that the court had received threats, and said that the hearing would have to be closed for the safety of the parties to the proceedings.

Russian judges may be following the lead of their Belarusian colleagues, who have learned how to conduct political trials without outside scrutiny. They cite covid regulations, or fill the gallery with persons unknown, or don’t let anyone except the relatives of the defendants in the courtroom. Russian courts have begun to use many of these methods. And the Belarusian courts can declare a hearing closed without explaining the reasons at all.

The authorities do not want people to know about political trials, to monitor these trials, or to support the accused. That is why, on the contrary, it is important for society today to talk about political prisoners and help them.

Source: I Don’t Get It email newsletter (Mediazona), 1 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


A Russian version of the song by the French left-wing chansonnier Georges Moustaki. Translation: Kirill Medvedev. Guitar: Oleg Zhuravlev. Video: Nikolay Oleynikov

Don’t ask what her name is, she’s
Beloved and tender, but fickle
Very spunky, she’ll wake up and go forward
To a new life that shines and sings

Bullied and branded
Tortured and executed
Well, how much can she suffer!
And she rises up and strikes,
And spends many, many years in prison,
Yes, we betrayed her
But we only love her more and more
And so we want to follow her
Right to the end

What her name is, don’t ask, my friend,
She’s just a mayflower and a wild fruit
She sprouts anywhere, like grass
Her path will take her wherever she wishes

Don’t ask what her name is, she’s
Sometimes beloved, sometimes persecuted, but faithful
This girl that everyone is waiting for
Permanent revolution is her name

Original song by Georges Moustaki

Source: Arkady Kots Group (YouTube), 1 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

Vladimir Kara-Murza: Closing Statement in Court

After two decades spent in Russian politics, after all that I have seen and experienced, I was sure that nothing can surprise me any more. I must admit that I was wrong.

I’ve been surprised by how far my trial, in its secrecy and contempt for legal norms, has surpassed even the “trials” of Soviet dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s. And that’s not even to mention the harsh sentence requested by the prosecution or the talk of “enemies of the state”. In this respect, we’ve gone beyond the 1970s – all the way back to the 1930s.

As a historian, for me this is an occasion for reflection.

At one point during my testimony, the presiding judge reminded me that one of the extenuating circumstances [in my case] was “remorse for what [the accused] has done”. And although there is little that’s funny about my current situation, I couldn’t help but smile: A criminal, of course, must repent of his deeds. I’m in jail for my political views. For speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For many years of struggle against Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship. For facilitating the adoption of personal international sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against human rights violators.

Not only do I not repent of any of this, I am proud of it. I am proud that [assassinated opposition politician] Boris Nemtsov brought me into politics. And I hope that he is not ashamed of me. I support every word that I have spoken and every word of which I have been accused by this court. I blame myself for only one thing: that over the years of my political activity I have not managed to convince enough of my compatriots and enough politicians in the democratic countries of the danger that the current regime in the Kremlin poses for Russia and for the world. Today this is obvious to everyone, but at a terrible price – the price of war.

In their last statements to the court, defendants usually ask for an acquittal. For a person who has not committed any crimes, acquittal would be the only fair verdict. But I do not ask this court for anything. I know the verdict. I knew it a year ago when I saw people in black uniforms and black masks running after my car in the rear view mirror. Such is the price for speaking up in Russia today.

But I also know that the day will come when the darkness over our country will evaporate. When black will be called black and white will be called white; when it will be officially recognised that two times two is still four; when a war will be called a war, and a usurper a usurper; and when those who fostered and unleashed this war will be recognised as criminals, rather than those who tried to stop it.

This day will come as spring comes after even the coldest winter. And then our society will open its eyes and be horrified by what terrible crimes were committed on its behalf. Through this realisation, through this reflection, the long, difficult but vital path toward Russia’s recovery and restoration begins, its return to the community of civilised countries.

Even today, even in the darkness surrounding us, even sitting in this cage, I love my country and believe in our people. I believe that we can walk this path.

Source: Thomas Rowley, “Poignant final defence speech of jailed Russian opposition politician: Vladimir Kara-Murza gave this speech to a Russian court before receiving his 25-year sentence for ‘treason’ and other charges,” openDemocracy, 17 April 2023


A Russian court sentenced opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison on charges of treason and “fake news” Monday, capping a high-profile trial of one of the country’s most defiant anti-war voices.

Moscow City Court found Kara-Murza, 41, guilty of treason, “false information about the Russian army,” and affiliation with an “undesirable organization,” Interfax reported.

“Russia will be free, tell everyone,” Kara-Murza said after the verdict, according to the independent news site Avtozak.info.

Russia has witnessed a widespread wartime crackdown on dissent, but the severity of Kara-Murza’s sentence marks a new record as the Kremlin seeks to muzzle any criticism of its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The Western-educated politician was detained in April 2022 on charges of “spreading false information about the Russian army” in an address to U.S. state legislators a month earlier.

Kara-Murza was later accused of being affiliated with an “undesirable organization” for participating in a conference in support of political prisoners. His treason charges came in October over anti-war comments made at three public events abroad.

Prosecutors had requested a prison sentence of 25 years — the maximum possible jail term — for Kara-Murza.

“My self-esteem even went up [on the prosecutors’ request]. I realized I was doing everything right,” Kara-Murza’s lawyer Maria Eismont recounted her client as saying.

“Twenty-five years is the highest score I could get for what I did, what I believe in as a citizen, as a patriot, as a politician,” Eismont quoted him as saying, adding that he greeted the verdict “with a smile.”

His trial was held behind closed doors.

Monday’s hearing was attended by several Kara-Murza supporters and foreign diplomats including a U.S. embassy official named David Bernstein, according to the Mediazona news site.

The Kremlin declined to comment on Kara-Murza’s prison sentence, which his supporters and Western governments slammed as politically motivated.

U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy called Russia’s criminal prosecution of Kremlin critics “a symbol of weakness, not strength,” while Canadian Ambassador Alison LeClaire said Kara-Murza’s sentence marked a “dark turn” in Russia’s post-Soviet history.

The British Ambassador in Moscow Deborah Bronnert denounced the court ruling and called for the “immediate” release of Kara-Murza, a dual British-Russian citizen.

“The British government expresses solidarity with Vladimir Kara-Murza and his family,” Bronnert told journalists from the steps of the courthouse.

A Russian citizen by birth, Kara-Murza received British citizenship after moving to the United Kingdom with his mother when he was 15.

Russia’s Ambassador in London Andrei Kelin was summoned by the U.K. Foreign Office, which condemned Kara-Murza’s sentence as a violation of his right to a fair trial under international law.

The European Union denounced Kara-Murza’s sentence as “outrageously harsh” and called on Russia to provide access to health care for the ailing Kremlin critic.

The opposition activist suffers from a nerve condition called polyneuropathy which his lawyers say was due to poisoning attempts in 2015 and 2017. 

The condition has worsened in prison, and he was too unwell to attend some of his hearings, his lawyers said.

Kara-Murza says he was poisoned twice because of his political activities, but he continued to spend long periods of time in Russia.

Kara-Murza has said he stands by all of his political statements, including those opposing the Ukraine offensive.

“I subscribe to every word that I have said, that I am incriminated for today,” Kara-Murza said in his final address to court last week, highlighting his fight against the Ukraine offensive and President Vladimir Putin. 

“Not only do I not repent for any of it — I am proud of it,” he said.

Germany condemned the “shocking level repression” in Russia on Monday, and Latvia announced it had banned 10 Russian nationals from traveling to the Baltic country in retaliation to the court ruling.

Source: “Kremlin critic Kara-Murza sentenced to 25 years in prison,” Moscow Times, 17 April 2023

Poetry Recitation

All the swindlers are fleeing Russia:
They have property in the West.
The bandits and sodomites are fleeing
And all those killed by their conscience.

The Judases are running, all going there,
Where there is no love, where there is no Christ.
Where there are gay parades and Nazis,
Liberals and globalists.

God is cleansing Holy Russia,
He protects it himself like his own daughter!
He will not let the evil ones torment us,
May God grant that we keep our faith.
Only an ignoramus doesn't understand
Russia as the last hope.

Let the enemy shout that Putin is bad
And under him all in Russia is bad.
If the whole herd of fleas is mad,
Evidently our Putin has done everything right!

Source: They’re for the War! (Telegram), 6 April 2023. The editor of this channel identifies the boy in the video as a first-grader from the town of Pokrovskoye, Rostov Region. Translated by the Russian Reader

Words and Deeds (577 People)

Yesterday, during a dinner conversation, I was asked why I’d been silent, why I hadn’t been writing anything about the war. Was it because I was afraid of going to jail, or was it something else? These questions were posed point blank albeit sympathetically.

I’ve been asking myself this question for many months. On the one hand, it’s stupid to deny that watching as my acquaintances are given devastating prison sentences does not affect me in any way. It makes an impression, of course.

On the other hand, I wonder what would I write or say now if the level of state terror had remained at least at pre-war levels. I realize that I would still write or say nothing. I can hardly squeeze this text out of myself. I’m just explaining myself because yesterday was not the first time I’ve been asked why I haven’t been writing anything about the war.

I feel that words have lost their meaning.

One of the ideologues of the war, who constantly makes allegations about the “genocide of the Russian language,” writes bezpilotnik, obezpechenie, na primer, and ne obezsud’te. [Instead of the correct spellings bespilotnik, obespechenie, naprimer, and ne obessud’te — meaning, respectively, “drone,” “provisions,” “for example,” and “don’t take it amiss.”] No one corrected him for a year. Compared to him, I’m a total expert on the Russian literary language, but I don’t have the words to stop cruise missiles or send soldiers home, while his bezpilotnik turns residential buildings into ruins in a second.

I do not know what words to find for a mother who, conversing with her POW son, regularly interjects “bitch” and “fuck.” Or for a mother who, as she sees off her son, smiles at the camera and says what actually matters is that she didn’t raise him to be a faggot, and basically, if push comes to shove, she has another child. Moreover, the supplies of such people are really endless.

Now, sadly, only the Ukrainian Armed Forces can “explain” anything. I am not trained in military affairs. So I am silent.

Source: Yevgeny Levkovich (Facebook), 2 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


Separately on Friday, police briefly detained Yevgeny Levkovich, a reporter for Radio Svoboda, RFE/RL’s Russian service, at his home in Moscow, and charged him with “discrediting the army,” according to news reports and Facebook posts by Levkovich.

[…]

In Moscow, police detained Levkovich for about five hours at the Teply Stan police station and charged him under Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative code for allegedly discrediting the army; convictions for that offense can carry a fine of up to 50,000 rubles (US$613).

Levkovich wrote on Facebook that his trial was scheduled for Monday, but he did not plan to attend because he did not “see the point” in contesting the charge.

Radio Svoboda wrote that the charge was likely related to Levkovich’s posts on social media, but did not say whether authorities had specified any posts prompting the charge. On his personal Facebook page, where he has about 36,000 followers, Levkovich recently wrote about Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Source: “Russian journalists labeled as ‘foreign agents,’ detained, and attacked while reporting,” Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 April 2022


These are the numbers. I want to do something so that people don’t get caught, and even more actively support those who do get caught. But in the first case, it is unclear what these people are reading, and where the safety recommendations should be published so that they are accessible to such people. And we are already working on the second case, but we lack the human resources.

Those arrested for radical anti-war protest are heroes, although sometimes the charges are completely trumped-up. In any case, all of them deserve support. Solidarity Zone regularly writes about such political prisoners, publishes addresses where you can send them letters, and raises funds to pay their lawyers. Sign up to get news of what is happening to these people and, if possible, get involved in supporting them.

Source: Ivan Astashin (Facebook), 25 February 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


Solidarity Zone: Numbers

112 people are being prosecuted on charges of carrying out or planning radical anti-war acts.

Solidarity Zone counted how many people have been criminally charged with setting fire to military enlistment offices, sabotaging the railroads and other militant anti-war actions, or planning them, in the year following [Russia’s] full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

What police investigators allege these people have done to warrant criminal prosecution:

1 — “other”

7 — torched vehicles marked with the letter Z

17 — planned arsons of military enlistment or other government offices

36 — sabotaged the railways

51 — torched military enlistment or other government offices

Articles of the Russian criminal code under which these people have been charged:

36 — Article 205: Terrorist Act

31 — Article 167: Destruction of Property

15 — Article 281: Sabotage

14 — Unknown

12 — Article 213: Disorderly Conduct

4 — Other Criminal Code Articles

Of these people:

78 are being held pretrial detention centers (remand prisons).

5 have been sentenced to parole.

4 are serving prison sentences.

1 is under house arrest.

1 has been released on their own recognizance pending trial.

There is no information about 23 of them.

Our statistics are incomplete because the Russian authorities do not always report new criminal cases. Sometimes we only get reports that people have been detained, with no mention of their names or the charges against them, and these reports are thus extremely hard to verify.

Our statistics do not include people who were killed by the security forces during arrest or people prosecuted on administrative charges.

Source: Solidarity Zone (Facebook), 24 February 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Here, by way of comparison, are OVD Info’s statistics for numbers of people criminally (as opposed to administratively) prosecuted for “non-radical” anti-war actions since 24 February 2022:

Total defendants: 465 in 77 regions (we include occupied Crimea and Sevastopol in our data because we monitor activities of repressive Russian government authorities that operate there).

Women among the defendants: 90 (19%)

Minors among the defendants: 6 (1%)

(Section 3, Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code) Prosecuted for “spreading fakes about the Russian army” (ie talking about the war in an unsanctioned manner): 141 (30%)

(Section 3, Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code) Prosecuted for “discrediting the Russian army”: 54 (12%)

Convicted: 119 (26%)

Imprisoned upon conviction: 26 people

In pre-trial detention: 108 people

Under house arrest: 17 people

Convicted and given a non-custodial sentence: 62 people

It thus follows that a total of 577 Russians have faced criminal prosecution for anti-war actions of all kinds (violent and nonviolent) since the start of their country’s invasion of Ukraine. As Ivan Astashin, a former political prisoner himself, argues, above, all these people are, indeed, heroes. It’s another matter that they constitute a statistically insignificant segment of the world’s ninth most populous country. Again, by way of (invidious) comparison, at least 1,003 Americans have been charged with crimes for their alleged involvement in the 6 January 2020 riot at the US capitol.

Meanwhile, in Iran (population: approx. 87 million):

At least 522 people have been killed in four months of anti-government protests in Iran, said a report issued on January 15 by the U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA). Among the dead are 70 minors and 68 security forces, the agency reported. Nearly 20,000 people had been arrested, 110 on charges that could lead to a death sentence, it said. Four have been executed. Protests were triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian Kurdish woman who was arrested by morality police for allegedly not complying with Islamic dress codes. ||| TRR


Evgeny Krupitsky writes:

I would argue that those who were forced to leave Russia due to Putin’s unleashing of illegal aggression against Ukraine could file a class action lawsuit against the Russian Federation or the ruling elite of the Russian Federation demanding compensation for the moral anguish and economic harm suffered as a result of these events. The Russian federal authorities must fully compensate them for expenses incurred by forced relocation, such as the cost of airplane and other tickets, accommodation in hotels and rented accommodation abroad, and other expenses. Compensation could also include the irreparable losses suffered by citizens within the country due to forced relocation — for example, the loss of a job or a business. Compensation for emotional suffering is a separate issue.

Payments could be made from the Russian federal budget, through the sale of the property of officials directly responsible for unleashing the war, or at the expense of business income from entrepreneurs who have directly supported the illegal aggression. Naturally, compensation for this damage is possible only after full payment of the reparations necessary to restore Ukraine’s economy and civil infrastructure. What do you think about this? #nowar#netvoine

[two selected comments + one response by the author]

Zmey Gurevich A difficult question. It’s true that the monstrous war forced me to leave Russia. But to my incredible surprise, I have have become happy here [in emigration]. Perhaps it’s immoral to be happy when rivers of blood overflow their banks. It’s been eating at me. But the painful departure has led me a new happiness. Some vital knots have been untied… No, I have nothing to bill [the Russian authorities] for. My friends empathize with me and ask me how things are going here. I can’t tell them the truth. I am ashamed. But my departure has turned into a happy time for me. I don’t know what will happen next.

Vlad Shipitcyn Zhenya! Did you go to at least one protest rally against Putin in Russia over [the last] 22 years? No, you didn’t. Did you ever stand on the stand on the street holding a [protest] placard? No. So no one owes you anything, not a kopeck. You too are responsible for both the regime and the war. You let them happen. So calm down.

Evgeny Krupitsky Hi! Yes, I am responsible for this war: it happened due to my connivance, indifference and cowardice. And I said it right away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsAFChc2HSI And my protest was that on March 6, exactly a year ago, I left the Russian Federation having abandoned everything, because I felt sick and ashamed. Okay, maybe it’s not such a big deal in terms of significance and courage, but I am proud of my little protest. I know you went to the rallies long before the start of the war, that you were detained, beaten and fined, and I respect and admire you for that! But someone will say that they suffered more than you did, that they did more to prevent this war, etc. We need to consolidate, rather than argue about who is more to blame!

Source: Evgeny Krupitsky (Facebook), 3 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

Evgeny Krupitsky, “My take on what’s happening (2 April 2022) #nowar #netvoine”

Some people in Russia are living a normal life, but they feel the lack of real normality, and this causes them discomfort. Others live with a sense of catastrophe, but they feel the absence of a real catastrophe, and this also causes discomfort. Consequently, everyone is on edge. The sensible approach is to live normally with a sense of disaster. But this useful attitude is hard to achieve, and if you don’t have it, then I do not even advise you to start. When it takes shape, it will no longer be relevant.

Source: Grigorii Golosov (Facebook), 4 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


[…]

The four members of this “countryside hub” are among hundreds of Russian opposition activists of various political leanings who have fled their country to Georgia throughout the past year. Some left in the months prior to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last February as repression grew to unprecedented levels in the Putin era. Others came after the war began, realizing that with their dissenting opinions, they could no longer live in what they deem a fascist totalitarian state. 

In Tbilisi, they have created or joined new anti-war resistance organizations, which operate on Western grants and employ hundreds of volunteers. Working around the clock, these groups offer services in real time to Ukrainians refugees as well as Russian activists and military deserters fleeing their respective countries. The help comes in the form of evacuation routes, therapeutic services, legal guidance, shelters and resettlement plans.

[…]

From her volunteering as an election monitor in Russia’s 2011 elections to offering pro-bono legal support to activists arrested during protests in subsequent years, Burakova’s career followed a linear trajectory. Degrees in political science and law equipped her with the legal know-how to aid political opponents, and now exiles, over how to wrestle with and escape an authoritarian system that often invents new laws to persecute citizens. As of 2022, “discrediting the Russian army” is now an offense that has landed countless people in prison for sharing anti-war posts on social media.

[…]

“To conduct these types of congresses and host mock parliamentary votes on Russia’s future while in exile just looks a bit cringe-ova,” Burakova tells me, using the popular English word that has been appropriated into the Russian language. Her husband Egor Kuroptev shares the sentiment. 

Source: Aron Ouzilevski, “Russian activists in Tbilisi organize to resist Putin’s war,” Institute of Current World Affairs, 1 March 2023. Thanks to Sveta Voskoboinikova for the heads-up. The emphasis is mine. ||| TRR


M., one of my smartest interlocutors, arrived from Moscow Time. “Well, what is your final conclusion? Why?” he asked me. I told him that now I see three points that we simply missed, that ended up in our blind spot. The first point is that of course everyone worked hard during these years, enthusiastically; everyone had an articulated mission in life, etc. But it was seemingly taken as a natural given that each of us was the client of someone a few floors above us. Now everyone looks back and discovers that their mission has been burned for a long time, and their belonging to one or another Moscow (or regional) clan shines forth in their biography. For some reason, it was automatically believed that, in the nineties, we operated in a world in which, when difficulties arose, we should turn to “the man from Kemerovo” (in the words of Grebenshchikov’s song). In the noughties, however, all this was allegedly vanquished. In reality, nothing was “vanquished”: it was simply transformed into large-scale state clans. That is why now everyone who was engaged in charity, book publishing, media development, etc., has suddenly shifted the emphasis in their reflections on life: wait a second, I worked for Abramovich (or Gusinsky, or Potanin, etc.). The system consisted entirely of a network of clients.

The second point: the language of pragmatic communication. It was a completely abusive language. The smash-mouth jargon permeated everything. Roughly speaking, the country was governed in the language of American rappers (i.e., the Solntsevo mob). All communications! Not only the special communications among those in power, but also all communications in the liberal, academic realm, in civil society. The cynical jargon of abuse reigned everywhere, and it was absolutely acceptable even in highly cultured milieux. And we did not see what consequences this would have.

The third point: “populism.” The automatic perception of the “common people” [narod], which had its origins in the late-Soviet and perestroika periods, was a colossal mistake. It was tacitly assumed, first, that there was a “common people”; second, that the “common people” would determine their own fate; and third, that the “common people” naturally triumph over evil because they themselves are good. It was this “populism” that served as the basis for the compromise with the state when it began to take institutional shape in Yeltsin’s wake.

All three of these points were “organic” in some sense. They were a part of ontology: they were taken for granted without any reflection and criticism. And all three played a fatal role in the process of “slowly boiling the frog alive.”

Source: Alexander Morozov (Facebook), 5 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


Aquarium, “The Man from Kemerovo” (2003)
I had problems,
I had gone way too far.
The lower depths of the deepest hell
Didn't seem so deep to me.
I called my mom,
And Mom was right.
She said, "Straightaway you've got to call
The man from Kemerovo."

He is a man of few words, like de Niro.
Only a wacko would argue with him.
You can't pull one over on him,
He knows all the insides and outs.
The sky could crash to the ground,
The grass could stop growing,
He would come and silently fix everything,
The man from Kemerovo.

Adam became a refugee,
Abel got on a mobile connection,
Noah didn't finish what he was building,
Got drunk and fell face down in the mud.
The history of humankind
Wouldn't be so crooked,
If they had thought to get in touch
With the man from Kemerovo.

I got a call from Kyiv,
I got a call from Kathmandu,
I got a call from the opening of the plenum —
I told them I would not come.
You have to drink two liters of water at night,
To have a fresh head in the morning.
After all, today I'm going to drink
With the man from Kemerovo.

Source: ezh108 (YouTube). Lyrics translated by the Russian Reader


Only one conclusion follows from Stalin’s death: woe is the country where tyrants die natural deaths while still in power.

Source: Roman Osminkin (Twitter), 5 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Mr. Osminkin’s remarks were occasioned by the social media commemoration of the anniversary of Stalin’s death, yesterday, which often as not consisted of replicating the meme “That one croaked, and this one will croak too.” This means, apparently, that the entire “plan” of the “Russian anti-war movement” and the “anti-Putin opposition” consists in waiting for the current Russian tyrant to die a natural death. It’s a frank admission to be sure. ||| TRR

Down the Rabbit Hole of Late-Stage Putinism

On February 23, Nikolai Zodchii was detained by police in Khabarovsk for appearing in public with these images of Vladimir Putin, which had originally appeared in broadcasts on state-run Channel One. Thanks to the indomitable VB for the snapshot and the heads-up, and for his personal fortitude in dismal circumstances. ||| TRR


When contacted by the media, the Kommunalnik health resort, located in the Omsk Region, refused to comment on reports of the death of a female Russian national during a speed pancake-eating contest.

Earlier, it was reported that a female contestant at a speed pancake-eating competition in the Omsk Region had choked to death. Currently, the exact cause of death is unknown, but the contestant’s death has been confirmed by law enforcement agencies. The 38-year-old female Russian national [rossiyanka] died before the ambulance arrived.

The celebration at which the pancake-eating competition took place was held at the Kommunalnik health resort in the Omsk Region on Saturday, February 25.

A spokesperson for the health resort refused to comment on reports of the death of the female Russian national and the absence of an ambulance team at the competition site.

In December 2022, it was reported that a 61-year-old resident of the Moscow Region had died after choking on a pancake.

Russians had been warned against overeating pancakes during Shrovetide. According to specialist Boris Mendelevich, overeating pancakes cooked with large amounts of oil is harmful to the body. In addition, heavy food can cause complications in the gastrointestinal tract.

Source: Anna Bondarenko, “Health resort reacts to reports of death at pancake-eating contest,” Kartoteka, 26 February 2023. Translated by TRR


Russia must ensure its security and maintain strategic stability.

President Vladimir Putin said this in an interview for the program “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin” on the TV channel Rossiya 1.

Source: Oleg Zubritsky, “Putin talks about the need to preserve the country and its security,” Kartoteka, 26 February 2023. Translated by TRR. Believe it or not, that was the entire article, which earned its author a well-deserved byline. See the last patch in this crazy quilt, below, for more detail about what Putin said.


Riot police officers in St. Petersburg detained 131 teenagers over a mass brawl that occurred in the Galereya shopping center, the media reports.

The publication [sic], citing police sources, indicated that the PMC Redan teenage subculture was involved in the incident.

It is reported that other minors attacked a teenager in clothes embossed with a spider, which is the symbol of PMC Redan. One teenager was injured during the brawl.

Riot police arrived at the scene and detained 131 individuals. The Galereya shopping center was closed for entry, and shoppers were released only after police checked them.

Earlier, it was reported that Novosibirsk law enforcement officers had staged a dragnet to detain teenagers devotees of the PMC Redan subculture. The raid took place in the eponymous [sic] Galereya shopping center.

Source: Roman Konev, “Riot police detain over one hundred teenagers in Petersburg shopping center,” Kartoteka, 26 February 2023. Translated by TRR


According to the head of the Safe Internet League, PMC Redan (as well as anime in general) is a “depressive-aggressive subculture,” and animeshniks themselves espouse violence and are willing to use it.

Such subcultures emerge, [Ekaterina] Mizulina argues, because teenagers have too much free time, as well as due to the manipulations of irresponsible bloggers and provocateurs who are encouraged by foreign states to engage in them.

In this regard, Mizulina suggests that “it is interesting to package the right meanings for children,” ideologically attack “all these spiders”, and also introduce control over social networks and the media — namely, to prohibit the coverage of “such topics.”

“No one has done more to popularize this local phenomenon than the media and social networks. […] Redan cells are growing like mushrooms after rain from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad,” Mizulina writes.

At the same time, it has been the state-run media that has written most about the activities of the so-called PMC Redan. Before them, information about teenage animeshniks strolling through shopping malls in telltale clothes appeared mainly on local community social media pages.

Source: Alexei Paramonov, “Ekaterina Mizulina urges media ban on PMC Redan,” Kartoteka, 26 February 2023. Translated by TRR. Fontanka.ru published this long, strange tirade-cum-report about the clash between riot police and teenagers at the Galereya shopping center in Petersburg (which is a stone’s throw from our house), on the one hand, and between “redans” and “ofniks,” on the other. If you donate one hundred dollars to this website, I’ll translate and publish that article here, although it left me hardly less befuddled about what happened in my old neighborhood this past weekend than before I’d read it.


The Cheryomushkinsky Court of Moscow placed house arrest on the leader of the Redan youth group

The Cheryomushkinsky Court of Moscow sent one of the leaders of the youth informal group “PMC Redan” under house arrest, reports TASS.

He is accused of attacking a teenager in the metropolitan metro – under part 2 of article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code (Hooliganism with the use of weapons or objects used as weapons), the court noted. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for up to seven years.

According to the agency, initially the investigators demanded that the accused be sent to a pre-trial detention center, but the court did not agree with this. Earlier, the Cheryomushkinsky court sent three more accomplices to the crime under house arrest.

On February 23, a teenager who was a member of the PMC Redan was beaten at the Lubyanka metro station. Teenagers wear long dark hair and spider badges on their clothes. They were inspired by the Genea Redan gang from the Hunter x Hunter manga. The symbol of this group is a spider with the number four. It is specified that young people oppose football fans, natives from the Caucasus and migrants.

Source: admin_l6ma5gusk, “The court appointed house arrest to the leader of ‘PMC Redan,'” Pledge Times, 25 February 2023. I have reprinted this and the following two items as I found them, with no editorial retouching on my part.


PMC REDAN apologizes for the recent events, we had no intention to touch someone’s feelings or oppress someone.

At the moment, all the negativity comes from people who are not far away, PMC REDAN does not spread any calls for action or oppression.

Once again, we apologize to the entire administration.

People who are now insulting someone’s religion, nationality, do not belong to our community.

Source: PMC Redan Ryodan (VK), 24 February 2023


Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged the possibility of Russia facing a breakup in the future, with its population to be divided into separate nations, the country’s news agency TASS reported on Feb. 26.

Putin’s interview with Rossiya 1 TV channel marks the first time that the Russian dictator has publicly commented on the potential disintegration of Russia.

According to him, “if the West manages to make the Russian Federation collapse and to assume control of its fragments,” the Russian people may not survive as a nation.

“If we go down this path (of Russia’s collapse — ed.), I think that the fate of many peoples of Russia, and first of all, of course, the Russian people, may change drastically,” Putin said.

“I even doubt that such an ethnic group as the Russian people will survive as it is today, with some Muscovites, Uralian and others remaining instead.”

In addition, the Russian president claimed that “these plans are set out on paper.”

“But it’s all there, it’s all written, it’s all on a piece of paper,” Putin said.

“Well, now that their attempts to reshape the world exclusively for themselves after the collapse of the USSR have led to this situation, well, of course, we’ll have to respond to this.”

“They have one goal of liquidating the former Soviet Union and its main part, the Russian Federation. And later, [after liquidating Russia] they will probably admit us to the so-called family of civilized peoples, but only by parts, each part separately,” he said.

Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov earlier said that the West has not yet made a final decision on what to do with Russia and does not understand how the full-scale war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine should end. However, the world should prepare for the collapse of Russia.

Previously, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that after the war is over, Russia will disintegrate into separate statelets, while Ukraine will retain its sovereignty and independence.

Source: “Putin unexpectedly mentions the risk of Russia’s collapse,” New Voice of Ukraine, 26 February 2023. Thanks to Boycott Russia Today for the heads-up.

“Motherland, Come Home”

DDT frontman Yuri Shevchuk has released the video “Motherland, Come Home.” In the new single, he calls on his country to stop the war and go about its own business. The video was shot by Shevchuk in collaboration with producer and composer Dmitry Yemelyanov.

Yuri Shevchuk wrote the poem “Motherland, Come Home” in the summer of 2022, a few months after Russia had launched its invasion of Ukraine. In the run-up to the invasion’s anniversary, the rocker set it to music and recorded the song. “Don’t go crazy, this is not your war,” Shevchuk urges listeners.

Yuri Shevchuk & Dmitry Yemelyanov, “Motherland, Come Home”

Shevchuk has repeatedly spoken out against the war in Ukraine. He has consistently taken a pacifist stance and opposed all wars, including the military operations in Chechnya, South Ossetia, and anywhere else in the world.

In 2022, Shevchuk was fined fifty thousand rubles after he was found guilty of “discrediting” the actions of the Russian army. The occasion for the fine was an anti-war statement he made in May at a concert in Ufa. After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, concerts by his band, DDT, in Russia have often been postponed or canceled “due to technical difficulties.”

In the summer of 2022, the media reported the existence of a list of “banned” Russian artists who had opposed the war in Ukraine, including the bands DDT, B2, Aquarium, and Pornofilms, the rappers Face and Oxxxymiron, and the solo performers Zemfira, Monetochka, and Vasya Oblomov. There were more than fifty names on the list. Many of the musicians have already faced the cancellation of concerts, and some have been designated “foreign agents” by the Russian Justice Ministry.

Source: “Yuri Shevchuk releases anti-war video ‘Motherland, Come Home,'” Radio Svoboda, 19 February 2023. Translated by the TRR. Thanks to Kerstin Nickig for the heads-up.


Никотиновый вдох,
Распальцованный взгляд,
Я ещё не подох,
Ещё мои шланги горят.

A nicotine breath,
A swaggering look,
I’m not dead yet,
My hoses are still on fire.

Этой лютой весной
Суета с тишиной
Пульс неровный несут.
Пульс неровный несут
Моё сердце на суд.

This fierce spring
Helter-skelter and silence,
The pulse is uneven.
The pulse is uneven
My heart is on trial.

Опустело село,
Пьёт Рязань из Днепра,
От венков расцвело,
В рыжей глине – дыра.

The village is deserted,
Ryazan drinks from the Dnieper,
The wreaths have burst into blossom,
There is a hole in the red clay.

Маята, как сорняк
Телевизор в печи,
У державы стояк.
У державы стояк,
Воют бабы в ночи.

The torment is like a weed
The TV’s like a furnace,
The empire has a boner.
The empire has a boner,
Women howl in the night.

Тёмен век мой.
Господи, как всё случилось?
Рваный лик твой –
Укололась и забылась.
Не сходи с ума,
Это не твоя война.
Ждут грачи в полях весной.
Родина, вернись домой!

My age is dark.
My God, how did it happen?
Your ragged face,
Pricked and forgotten.
Don’t go crazy,
This is not your war.
Rooks wait in the fields in spring.
Motherland, come home!

Безнадёги иной
Я не переживал,
Коллективной виной –
Сделал шаг и пропал.

Other doom and gloom
Didn’t bother me,
But with collective guilt
I took a step and went MIA.

Давит воздух густой,
Но тебя не забыть,
Мертвецов напоить.
Мертвецов напоить
Родниковой водой.

The air is thick,
But I can’t forget you,
Get the dead drunk.
Get the dead drunk
On spring water.

Голоса белены
Тянут мысль одну:
Ты вернёшься с войны,
Вновь попасть на войну.

Voices are faded white
They dredge up one thought:
You’ll come back from the war
To go to war again.

И летят облака,
Разбиваясь в дали,
О крутые бока
Нашей плоской Земли.

And the clouds are flying,
Crashing in the distance
On the craggy sides
Of our flat Earth.

Тёмен век мой.
Господи, как всё случилось?
Рваный лик твой –
Укололась и забылась.
Не сходи с ума,
Это не твоя война.
Ждут грачи в полях весной.
Родина, вернись домой!

My age is dark.
My God, how did it happen?
Your ragged face,
Pricked and forgotten.
Don’t go crazy,
This is not your war.
Rooks wait in the fields in spring.
Motherland, come home!

Source: Yuri Shevchuk & DDT, “Motherland, Come Home,” Reproduktor. Translated by the Russian Reader


Found archival photo of a Young Pioneer on Mozhaiskaya Street in Leningrad, 1982.
Thanks to VG for posting this find on their now-locked Facebook page

“A Calendar of Revolutionary Names. April: Arlen (“Army of Lenin”), Vilenin (“V.I. Lenin”), Viulen (“V.I. Ulyanov-Lenin”), Lublen (“Love Lenin”), Marenlenst (“Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin”), Motvil (“We’re from V.I. Lenin”), etc.

Source: Sergey Abashin (Facebook), 18 February 2023. He took this snapshot at the Sergei Kirov Museum in St. Petersburg.


VICE News (YouTube), “Nationalism or Nothing: Life in Modern Russia,” 10 Feburary 2023: “President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, has led to a tightening of dictatorial powers within Russia. Free-speech is virtually non-existent and the public realm is now dominated by outspoken nationalists, who want more war, not less.” Thanks to Marxmail for the heads-up

Vox Pop: Do You Support Putin?


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Source: 1420 by Daniil Orain (YouTube), “Do you support Putin? 100 Russians,” 28 January 2023. A huge thanks to Tiina Pasanen and Outi Salovaara for the heads-up.


Source: 1420 by Daniil Orain (YouTube), “Should we give back Karelia to Finland, Kaliningrad to Germany and the Kurils to Japan?” 6 February 2023. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the heads-up.


Source: 1420 by Daniil Orain (YouTube), “Have you seen this recent photo of Navalny in jail?” 9 February 2023. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the heads-up.


You can support 1420 by buying merch here or donating money via the platforms listed above. ||| TRR


Source: 1420 by Daniil Orain (YouTube), “What young Russians in Saint Petersburg think about Putin?” 10 January 2023. Thanks to Outi Salovaara for the heads-up.


My name is Daniil Orain. I’m a YouTuber from Russia, and I run the channel 1420. In my videos, I try to create a montage of everyday Russians and a transparent representation of what they believe. 

Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, people from all over the world have come to my channel to try and understand how Russians think.

Before I started the channel about 2 years ago, I had some skewed thoughts about the world.

At the time, I was working as a software engineer with a three-hour commute, and my perspectives changed when I began to watch on-the-street interviews with people in faraway cities during those rides. Those videos showed me how people from different places and cultures thought, and they played a big part in my self-education.

I started to wonder: Why isn’t there something like this on YouTube but with people from Russia, like me? That’s when my friend and I created 1420.

People often ask me for the story behind the channel’s name, but there’s no secret meaning. It’s just the name of the school we went to together. Our whole goal with the channel was to go out on the streets of Moscow and ask people questions that interested us — things like, “Do you believe in God?” or, “What do you think about Americans?” 

When the conflict in Ukraine began, we suddenly saw a huge increase in viewers.

Our increase came from around the world — not just Europe and America, which had been our main audience. With the increase in viewership, I decided to double down and try to publish videos daily. 

I hired some people to help. My team of six includes editors, translators, and someone in Moscow who asks the questions. Recently, we’ve asked things like: “What do you think about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy?” “Do you want Ukraine to become part of Russia?” and “Are you feeling the sanctions now?

To get enough material for a full video, we have to ask a large number of people. Given the nature of our topics at the moment, a lot of people decline to participate.

When shooting the Zelenskyy video, for example, we had 124 people decline to answer. Only 28 people agreed. Even when they do agree, they often hold back from giving their full thoughts. 

Making these videos is risky, but we haven’t had any problems so far.

Unlike with TikTok and Instagram, access to YouTube is still normal in Russia. In the videos, I’ve always muted certain words (but kept the subtitles) to avoid censorship.

For example, you’re not allowed to say “war” when referring to the situation in Ukraine. We have to say “secret operation” instead. So if someone does say “war,” we mute that word.

Some people in the comments have accused me of being a Russian propaganda channel, so I’ve had to find new ways to show that I’m not. For example, in one recent video, we blurred the faces and changed the voices of the people in it so that they could be honest without fear of repercussions. Also, we started showing longer continuous clips of the interviews so that the viewers didn’t think we purposely cut them to tell a certain narrative.

I have seen a change in how people view not only our channel since the war started — but also our participants.

Just recently, the comments on my YouTube videos said things like, “Russians are just like us.” But as the situation in Ukraine has progressed, they now tend to be more like: “Russians are brainwashed.”

I’m glad people are watching the videos because I know from my experience how helpful YouTube can be. We’re lucky to be able to learn online.

You’ll notice that in my videos, there’s a pretty clear divide between the answers coming from people who grew up in Soviet times and the younger people. When the older generations were growing up, they got their education only from books or teachers — they didn’t have access to the world like people my age do. The position that I’m in, running this channel, wouldn’t have even existed back then.

Today, you can learn things from websites, videos, and even comments.

Just last week, on one of my own videos, one viewer wrote: “You are not scared, not because you are fearless, but because you just haven’t been scared yet.”

That blew my mind. I know what I’m doing is risky, but maybe I don’t feel worried about it because I’ve never actually been that worried. But at the same time, I’m just the storyteller. A lot of people direct-message me asking for my opinion on various topics, but I don’t answer them. 

I see my role as being the person who helps tell people’s stories, and I’ll continue to do so to show how and what Russians feel.

Source: Stefano Montali, “I interview everyday Russians on YouTube. Viewers think we’re brainwashed — I’m trying to show we’re not,” Business Insider, 19 April 2022. Since this interview, Mr. Orain has fled the country, apparently, although he was just as apparently still in Russia two or so months ago. In October of last year, Neil’s Commonplace Book profiled Mr. Orain and tried to determine his whereabouts in the wake of the “partial” mobilization. ||| TRR

Blessed Are the (Un)Happy

I was at an interview on TV Rain last week. We were supposedly going to discuss the Oscars, but suddenly we touched on what is an important topic, I think — how to behave appropriately during the war and amid everything else that is happening now.

I often read comments about how I smile all the time, but there is a war going on. About how I joke on the air, but now is not the time for jokes — Navalny is in prison. Why did I post this or that photo? It’s too glamorous and frivolous. Now is not the time for such things.

The complaints are understandable, but I totally reject the point they’re trying to make. It seems to me that the most destructive, the most incorrect thing we can do now is to don dark clothes, wring our hands and publicly suffer in front of our audience. By no means am I saying that there is no point in suffering in this situation. There is. The war is the most terrible event that has ever happened to us. It is absolutely incomprehensible how to go on living when your country has attacked and is destroying innocent people and destroying their lives forever as the scumbags on Russian national TV hoot and holler for joy. Everyone who is reading this post has experienced all this, I am sure, and of course you have been suffering. And those whom Putin came up with the idea of bombing with missiles and killing have been suffering even more.

Only one thing remains to us: to take all these terrible emotions, all these experiences, and turn them into concrete actions. Not cry on camera, not get hysterical, but to try and stop this horror as soon as possible. Today is better than tomorrow. Tomorrow is better than the day after tomorrow, etc. Each of us knows best of all what we ourselves are capable of doing and how to do it. The main thing is not to give in to despair. Despondency, despair and indifference are exactly what Putin wants from us. Don’t give him that.

I’ve attached a bit of the interview. And a frivolous photo to boot.

Source: Maria Pevchikh, Instagram, 31 January 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


[…]

And where you find a hero, you always find tragedy. The hero is always a vehicle for suffering, pain, rupture and tragedy. There are no happy heroes: all heroes are necessarily unhappy. The hero equals misfortune.

Why? Because being both eternal and temporary, dispassionate and suffering, heavenly and earthly is the most unbearable experience for any being. It is a condition that you wouldn’t wish on your enemy.

Ascetics, martyrs, and saints took the place of heroes in Christianity. There are likewise no happy monks or happy saints. All of them are profoundly unhappy as individuals. But according to another heavenly account, they are blessed. Just as those who weep, those who are exiled, those who suffer slander, and those who hunger and thirst are blessed in the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are the unhappy.

A person is made a hero made by an idea aimed skyward that crashes to the ground. A person is made a hero by suffering and misfortune, which tear him apart, which torment, torture, and harden him, and it has always been thus. This can happen during war or an agonizing death, but it can also happen without war, and without death.

The hero looks for his own war, and if he does not find it, he goes into a monk’s cell, to live as a hermit, and fights there with the real enemy. Because true warfare is spiritual warfare. Arthur Rimbaud wrote about this in Illuminations: “Spiritual combat is as brutal as battle between men.” (Le combat spirituel est aussi brutal que la bataille d’hommes.) He knew what he was talking about.

One hero, as the Neoplatonist Proclus says, is equal to a hundred or even thousands of ordinary souls. He is greater than a human soul because he makes every soul live vertically. This is the heroic dimension to the origins of the theater and, in fact, the ethics of our faith. It is the most important thing, which we should not lose, which we should cherish in others and nurture in ourselves.

Our job is to become deeply, fundamentally and irreversibly unhappy, no matter how scary that sounds. It is the only way we can find salvation.

Source: Alexander Dugin, “The Hero: The Metaphysics of Unhappiness,” Katehon, 3 February 2023. Translated by An Unhappy Translator. Thanks to Pavel Pryanikov for the heads-up


Maria Pevchikh: “In any puzzling situation this is what I choose and suggest that everyone else choose.” Source: Instagram

Now every employee of the Russian embassy in Germany has to think about Navalny on their way to work because they will see a replica of the solitary confinement cell where Alexei has been confined for the eleventh time.

Not only embassy employees see this solitary confinement cell. It is seen by Berlin residents, tourists and journalists. It is seen by readers of the world’s major media outlets. Millions of people see it — and thus learn about the torture chamber in which Navalny is being held. Some will tell their friends about the project, others will join the Free Navalny campaign, while still others will put pressure on local politicians contemplating compromise with Putin. Circles radiate all over the world from this one site.

It is in your power to make these circles spread even wider. Help us achieve freedom for Navalny and for the whole of Russia — support our campaign at acf.international/#donate.

Free Navalny!

Thank you for being on our side! 

The Navalny Team

“Navalny has now been in prison for 745 days.”

Source: FBK (Anti-Corruption Foundation) email newsletter, 2 February 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader


Pevchikh: What Corruption Has Done to Russia / vDud
6,370,703 views • Feb 5, 2023
(In Russian, without subtitles in English — for the time being, I imagine)

Maria Pevchikh is an investigator and associate of Alexei Navalny.

0:00 Let’s go! 0:37 Why we met in London 5:13 How the film Navalny is saving Navalny’s life 9:36 Dud in the Internet’s homeland 13:03 How to turn a photo of a hallway into an investigation 16:17 What is going on with Navalny now? 20:26 The second largest house in the UK is owned by a Russian oligarch 25:30 But why can’t a Russian oligarch buy a house in London? 29:48 The UK is fighting Putin but harboring thieves: is that normal? 37:22 Who are you and where are you from? 42:31 Where did you get the money to study in London? 44:02 What’s wrong with Moscow State University’s sociology faculty 47:19 What did your father do for a living? 48:41 A crash course about British universities (eight lectures a week) 53:16 Alexander Dugin was Maria’s thesis advisor: how did that come about? 1:00:03 Does Putin listen to Dugin? 1:03:05 What Medvedev was like thirteen years ago 1:05:20 “My cat was hit by a car, please sort it out”: what British MPs do 1:08:22 Gadaffi’s son was at university with you 1:14:35 Where did you work before becoming an investigator? 1:16:32 Do you have a flat in London? 1:17:47 How did you meet Navalny? 1:22:50 Why didn’t you mention Skabeyeva and Popov’s mortgage? 1:27:28 How are drones able to fly over Putin’s and Medvedev’s residences? (A question from Nikolai Solodnikov) 1:33:14 Where did you get the conductor Gergiev’s bank statements? 1:36:32 Is it okay to pay a bribe to avoid mobilization? 1:40:54 What is your beef with Fridman? 1:48:13 Is Galitsky an accomplice of the regime? 1:57:18 Can we detest someone for being afraid? 1:58:26 Why does Popular Politics have such sensational headlines? 2:04:08 Is it okay to call a program guest a “fat beast”? 2:08:21 The rude tweet about Durov 2:10:21 Does radicalism prevent the Anti-Corruption Foundation from becoming popular? 2:16:09 Roman Abramovich is a master of reinventing himself 2:24:13 How soft power works 2:29:52 If Abramovich had ended the war would you have forgiven him? 2:31:38 The “List of the 6,000” 2:33:59 Why have you called for sanctions against Sobchak? 2:35:35 Why have you called for sanctions against Venediktov? 2:44:00 What did Oleg Kashin do wrong? 2:46:34 Why were the designers of a facial recognition system removed from the “List of the 6,000”? 2:51:01 Is your father an accomplice of the regime? 2:55:49 How do you do your work without Navalny? 2:57:18 Why were your supporters’ data hacked? 3:05:38 “Carry out a mission in the fight against Putin and get points”: what is that about?! 3:07:53 How do people who work for the regime change sides? 3:15:51 Do you see yourself as a politician? 3:19:44 Do you have a plan for Russia’s future? 3:25:09 Won’t the dictatorship in Russia survive without Putin? 3:30:20 Do you have a UK passport? 3:35:51 What exactly have you done over the past year to overthrow Putin? 3:41:21 “Compromisers” 3:52:07 Russia without Putin 3:56:58 What does it mean to be strong?

Source: vDud (YouTube). Annotation translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for bringing this remarkable video to my attention and persuading me to watch it despite my initial misgivings. When I assembled the first part of this mash-up, a few days ago, I had no idea that Pevchikh and Dugin were so closely connected in real life. For another perspective on the sociology faculty at Moscow State University during roughly the same period as Pevchikh describes, see Oleg Zhuravlyov and Danail Kondov, “Towards a History of the Conflict in the Moscow State University Sociology Department” (2008). ||| TRR

Death to Traitors!

“Donetsk People’s Republic. For your and our freedom!” Berlin-Friedrichshain, 6 February 2023. Photo by the Russian Reader

State Duma deputy Andrei Kolesnik proposes reinstating the death penalty for treason

A proposal has been made in the Russian State Duma to revive the death penalty for those who have left the country and commenced criticizing the Russian authorities. The initiative was launched by deputy Andrei Kolesnik.

In an interview with Moscow Region Today [see translation below], the parliamentarian noted that an exception could be made for those who have simply left the country. According to him, traitors are those who have left and at the same time are waging an information war against Russia.

Security Council deputy chair Dmitry Medvedev said that Russians who fled the country and wish its destruction should be treated in accordance with the law, but the rules of wartime should also be remembered.

Source: Ekaterina Shmakova, “Proposal in State Duma to reinstate death penalty for ‘traitors to Russia,’” Radio 1. Thanks to VB for the heads-up. Translated by TRR


Following Nevzorov, Belotserkovskaya has been sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison for spreading fake news. State Duma deputy Andrei Kolesnik commented on this practice of “absentee sentences.”

“Okay, some people merely fled Russia. There are a lot of yellow bellies. They can stay there and work. But when a person works against Russia, it is called an information war. It’s more serious than a weapon, sometimes. Evil tongues are scarier than a gun,” the deputy said in an interview with Moscow Region Today.

However, Kolesnik stressed that the “traitors to the Motherland” had been punished according to the law: there is evidence, i.e., publications. But the deputy noted that he himself would have dealt with them more harshly.

“This is my personal opinion, although maybe I will voice it in parliament. If a person has committed serious crimes against Russia, then the sentence might be different. And this sentence could be enforced in the place where he (“traitor to the Motherland” — ed.) is located. Combat is currently underway. So, they should behave more carefully,” the deputy said.

When our correspondent asked whether he was talking about the death penalty, Kolesnik replied as follows.

“The [death penalty] can be employed for treason. We currently have a moratorium on the death penalty, although it exists in our laws. The decision to lift the moratorium is made not by the State Duma, but by the court. Although many people in the State Duma are leaning in this direction,” the deputy said.

Earlier, State Duma deputy [Maxim Ivanov] said that the unemployed could be sent to the SMO zone.

Source: Maria Valdaiskaya, “Moratorium against death penalty may be lifted for ‘traitors to the Motherland,'” Moscow Region Today, 6 February 2023. Translated by TRR