The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has approved a chanted prayer for jobseekers for use in regular worship services.
The prayer mentions work that will be of benefit and yield worthy fruits, as well as help [the supplicant] to observe the church commandments, RIA Novosti reports. We have previously written about [which saints] to pray to in such instances, but now there is a single standard [for how to pray to them].
Now we humbly pray to Thee: grant Thy servant (insert name) to do good and all that is useful for Thy glory and for the good of Thy house, and make the fruit worthy of his labors, so that, having prospered in Thy commandments and in Thy love, he will sing and thank Thee, and Thine Eternal Father, and Thy Most Holy and Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
A monument entitled The Happy Family was unveiled in the park near Kaliningrad’s Lower Lake. Located between the Palace of Creativity of Children and Youth and the Regional Trade Unions Federation building, the site was transferred to the church in 2012. In 2022, the Kaliningrad Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church applied to the Kaliningrad administration for permission to beautify the park. However, by that time the square had already actually been landscaped, only the promised sculpture was missing.
The unveiling ceremony took place on Thursday, May 11. The Happy Family is represented by a woman sitting on a bench with a small child surrounded by two more children, a man and a dog. On the same bench there is a sign saying “Do not look for your happiness in other people’s families. You won’t find it there.” A less noticeable sign is attached to the back of the bench, stating that “Happy Family Park was created by the Kaliningrad Diocese with the support of the Governor of the Kaliningrad Region Anton Alikhanov and Yevgeny Verkholaz.” Ivan Melnikov, a sculptor from Samara, authored the composition.
Both Governor Anton Alikhanov and Regional Legislative Assembly deputy Yevgeny Verkholaz joined Archbishop of Kaliningrad and the Baltics Seraphim in unveiling the monument. Verkholaz, in particular, called on everyone wishing for a happy family life to stroke the members of the sculpted nuclear family unit and make a wish, explaining that he himself, for example, had stroked the girl and fathered a daughter.
The event was also attended by the chairman of the Regional Legislative Assembly Andrei Kropotkin, the head of the Kaliningrad administration Elena Dyatlova accompanied by the new head of the city Oleg Aminov, State Duma deputy Marina Orgeeva, and Senator[sic]Alexander Yaroshuk.
Yulia Slavyanskaya is a Russian singer of spiritual and patriotic songs. In 2002, she recorded her first album Wake up, Soul!, which was a real success! The singer attracted numerous fans who value spirituality, a positive attitude, and patriotism in music. Yulia writes her own music based on the poems of contemporary poets and classic poets.
Even the youngest listeners like the songs of this beautiful performer of contemporary songs [sic] about the soul and for the soul, songs about love for each other and for one’s Motherland. Her extraordinary lucid voice cannot be confused with anyone else’s!
For many years, Yulia Slavyanskaya has been performing solo concerts all over Russia. She has been joyfully welcomed in Donetsk, Gorlovka [sic], Belarus, Serbia, Abkhazia, Kirghizia [sic], and Montenegro.
She has been a prizewinner at many Russian and international festivals of spiritual song. She was awarded the Republic of Abkhazia’s highest honor, the Akhdz-Apsha (“Honor and Glory”) medal, in the third degree, and has received numerous awards from municipal, public, and religious organizations in Russia and other countries.
Yulia Slavyanskaya’s concert and performances can be viewed on the TV channels Spas, Soyuz, A Minor, and My Joy. You can also get to know her work on the website юлия-славянская.рф and social networks on the Internet.
Yulia Slavyanskaya’s concerts are attended by whole families. Her work is filled with amazing light and purity! At the concert in St. Petersburg, Yulia will perform songs from all six of her released albums.
By tradition, the little children who attend Yulia Slavyanskaya’s concert will become its active participants.
Source: Bileter.ru, via their weekly email newsletter. Ticket prices for the concert range between 700 and 1,500 rubles. Translated by the Russian Reader
A court in Moscow has remanded the theater director Zhenya Berkovich to custody in a pretrial detention center and almost inevitably will render the same decision about the playwright Svetlana Petriichuk (whose pretrial restrictions hearing is still underway). This is the first criminal case in Russia against the authors of a work over its content. Both are accused of “condoning terrorism” in the play Finist the Brave Falcon, which recounts how Islamists recruited Russian women as wives. Last year, the production was awarded the state-sponsored Golden Mask theater prize in two nominations.
Before the court hearing, it transpired that the case was based on a forensic examination conducted by Roman Silantyev, head of Moscow State Linguistic University’s Destructology Laboratory, and his colleagues.
“Destructology” is a science invented by Silantyev himself. He claims that the new discipline “comprehensively examines extremist and terrorist organizations; psychotic cults and non-religious sects; totalitarian sects and the magical services sector; suicidal games and hobbies; deadly youth subcultures (Columbine, AUE, etc.) and medical dissidence.”
There are many experts in Russia whose findings are used by the security forces to imprison people for what they say and write. Often such experts are ignorant, their conclusions are unscientific, and their public statements are frankly obscurantist.
But Roman Silantyev stands out even in this crowd.
A former employee of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Ecclesiastical Relations (the church’s equivalent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), at the outset of his expert career, Silantyev presented himself as a specialist in Islam. In 2005, the publication of his book “The Modern History of the Russian Islamic Community” triggered a scandal: Russia’s Council of Muftis wrote that the author’s stance was at odds “with the most elementary norms of universal ethics and morality.”
To understand the outrage of the muftis, we should take a look at Silantyev’s statements. For example, he said that in order to fight the Wahhabis, “physical force—destruction and gouging—is maximally effective” and dreamed that “law enforcement agencies would finally realize that in this case it is better to cross the line than to come up short.”
Over time, Silantyev felt that he had outgrown his narrow remit as a scholar specializing in Islam and since then he has been commenting on everything. He has opposed Star Wars (callingJediism an “anti-Christian multifunctional propaganda project”), claimed that Ukrainians profess the “religion of Ukrainianism,” and called for a legislative ban on Satanism in Russia, accusing Ukraine of spreading it.
In 2020, Silantyev traveled around Russia giving lectures on “extremism prevention.” He boasts that he has taught classes to officers and staffers at the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), and the Interior Ministry. And they seem to actually pay heed to him, or at least to successfully use him for their own purposes. It seems that Silantyev has already helped to send dozens (if not hundreds) of people to prison, including Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
And now he has helped send artists to jail. In their expert report, Silantyev and his fellow destructologists write that Berkovich and Petriichuk’s play contains “traces of the ISIS ideology, as well as the subculture of Russian Muslim neophytes.” In addition, the experts detected the “ideology of radical feminism” in the play.
“The ideology of radical feminism, based on the idea of women’s immanent humiliation, is far from harmless. Destructological science has recorded cases in which adoption of this ideology led to the deliberate planning and execution of a terrorist act,” the self-styled experts teach us. And the court, by sending artists to jail, seems to share this opinion.
Alexander Beglov, the governor of St. Petersburg, congratulated all Orthodox Christians on yesterday’s Easter holiday during his weekly program on Radio Russia, wishing them peace and health.
“Easter is a symbol of the victory of life over death, light over darkness, good over evil. Today, our soldiers are defending by force of arms the ideals of goodness and justice, and protecting the historical truth and our culture,” the official added.
In his opinion, it was observance of the ancient Christian traditions that made Russia “strong and invincible.”
Announcing his upcoming trip to the St. Petersburg Days celebration in Belarus, Beglov said that both countries opposed fascism. This year, the city will be sending its largest delegation in the history of Petersburg-Belarusian bilateral relations to the neighboring state.
Basically, what I want to say is that I have been incredibly lucky when it comes to people. It is the only real thing, the future. The rest is hell.
Source: An Easter greeting sent to me by an old friend and lifelong resident of St. Petersburg. Translated by TRR
Petersburg mayor [sic] Alexander Beglov and the head of the city’s parliament [sic] Alexander Belsky addressed the residents of the Northern Capital on the occasion of the Orthodox holiday of Easter. The speeches made by the politicians were quoted by the press service for the Smolny.
Beglov and Belsky spent last night at a service in Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral.
Metropolitan Varsonofy conducted the service. Addressing the residents of St. Petersburg, the mayor [sic] recalled the special military operation.
“Today our country is undertaking a special mission. Our military has been facing difficult trials in the name of justice and the future of our children. Our hearts are with them. Our prayers are for them!” the governor said.
In his address, Beglov mentioned Mariupol, St. Petersburg’s sister city, as well as the involvement of Russians in the SMO.
“Our Church prays for them, for the soldiers, for all who are united with us in our values,” Beglov concluded.
On Friday, January 27, 2023, the Russian Justice Ministry placed Telo Tulku Rinpoche (Erdni-Basan Ombadykov) on its registry of “foreign agents.” Rinpoche is еру president of the Association of Buddhists of Kalmykia and the 14th Dalai Lama’s official representative in Russia, Mongolia and the CIS countries. The ministry’s press service said that the Buddhist leader had been placed on the list because he had “spoken out against the special military operation in Ukraine and openly spoken in support of Ukraine,” and also because he “is a US citizen and lives outside the Russian Federation.”
The following day, January 28, Telo Tulku Rinpoche announced that he had resigned his post as the Supreme Lama of Kalmykia.
“In the last two days, many people have expressed concern and sympathy over my inclusion in the registry of foreign agents. I am sincerely grateful to them for their involvement in and appreciation of my work. In these difficult times, I would like the people of Kalmykia and all followers of Buddhism to maintain courage, steadfastness and commitment to the ideals of compassion, love and nonviolence that form the basis of the Teaching of the Buddha that we profess. […] In my thoughts, deeds and prayers, I remain entirely with the Kalmyk people and Buddhists all over Russia, to whose service I have devoted my life,” the monk said.
Who Is Telo Tulku Rinpoche?
Telo Tulku Rinpoche (Erdni-Basan Ombadykov) was born in the United States in 1972 to a family of Kalmyk immigrants, according to the lama’s biography on the Kalmykian Buddhist community’s website.
In 1991, Rinpoche visited Kalmykia for the first time as part of a delegation led by the 14th Dalai Lama. Shortly after the visit, which the website refers to as “the starting point for the restoration of Buddhism in the republic,” Rinpoche was chosen as the supreme lama of the region, the Shajin Lama.
“While serving as the Shajin Lama, Telo Tulku Rinpoche has made great efforts to strengthen the religious and cultural ties that have existed for centuries between the traditionally Buddhist regions of Russia and the Tibetan community, led by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama XIV,” the website notes.
Another highlight of Rinpoche’s tenure as the Shajin Lama has been, according to the website, “comprehensive support for peaceful coexistence and cooperation among members of Kalmykia’s traditional confessions — Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.” In addition, under the lama’s leadership, more than thirty temples and prayer houses were erected in Kalmykia.
Rinpoche is a US citizen. He was applying for Russian citizenship, and was scheduled for an interview on February 24, 2022, but it was canceled due to the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian Buddhists and the War
In an interview posted on the YouTube channel Alchemy of Soul on September 30, 2022, Rinpoche openly opposed the “special operation.”
“I think it’s wrong,” he said. “This war is needless. […] I think that the Ukrainian side is in the right. It is defending its country, its land, its rights, its Constitution, its people.”
The lama explained that he had not spoken out against the war earlier because he had been worried about the safety of Buddhists in Russia and their families.
“I didn’t want to spoil the relationship between the authorities and our Buddhists. I didn’t say anything, but nevertheless, every morning I always prayed for everyone, both Buddhists and non-Buddhists,” Rinpoche explained.
The monk said that he had left Kalmykia and was in Mongolia, where he was helping Russians fleeing the military mobilization. Rinpoche was negotiating an extension of the visa-free regime for Russian nationals and helping with their accommodation and the purchase of sleeping bags.
However, not all Buddhists share Rinpoche’s opinion about the “special operation.” Damba (Vasily) Ayusheev, head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia, explained that the lama’s anti-war stance had to do with the fact that he is a US national.
Ayusheev himself voiced his own support for the war in Ukraine on February 28.
“We live in a single Russian state and defend the interests of our country, against which a dirty information war is being waged. […] We must have a strong and reliable home front. Our sahyusan [dharmapala] are on our side, our Great Khambo Lamas are on our side, and Buddha is on our side,” Ayusheev said on Buryad FM Radio on February 28, according to Infpol.
“It is a sacred duty. We Buddhists must defend our homeland. […] In our system, in Buddhism, the man must defend [the homeland, and] if necessary, go to war, be victorious, and return to his family, to his homeland,” Ayusheev said on September 30 in a conversation with Izvestia. The Buddhist added that he was proud of his co-religionists’ involvement in the war, and called the annexation of the Ukrainian regions to Russia a “historic moment” and a “great event.”
Jampa Donied (Buda Badmayev), the deputy head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha for Russia’s Northwestern Federal District, also argues that Buddhists are involved in the “special operation” to defend their spiritual values.
On March 16, 2022, an “initiative group of Buddhists and sympathizers of Buddhism” published an open letter in support of [the Russian government’s] military actions in Ukraine on a VK group page.
“Buddhism — which is undoubtedly a peaceful doctrine — teaches us to calm the mind, maintain internal balance and find peace in all worlds. But Buddhism is not a doctrine of non-resistance to evil, if evil is ready to destroy everything its midst. […] In response to evil, we must not trigger negative emotions of anger and malice in ourselves, but we should be able to resist aggressive attacks from external forces in a calm state of mind. We must defend ourselves without letting evil into our hearts.”
The activists called upon people to sign the letter to “express solidarity with the President of Russia’s decision to pacify Ukraine, making it possible to establish peaceful and neighborly relations with this country.”
As of March 26, 2022, forty-two people from different regions of Russia had signed the letter. Three more people have signed it since then.
According to Alchemy of Soul presenter Anzhela Kalsynova, Rinpoche is the only [Russian] Buddhist leader who has publicly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And yet, the lama himself suggests that his co-religionists do not support the war, but are not openly opposing it due to concerns for their own safety.
The law on “foreign agents” in Russia is discriminatory and is used to combat those who have fallen out of favor with the authorities. All “foreign agents” are required to report their activities, income and expenses to the Russia Justice Ministry. They are restricted in their ability to disseminate information and find sources of funding. They face increased official oversight and lose their working partnerships. Like Rinpoche, they are deprived of the opportunity to continue their life’s work.
Made of large logs of pine, spruce or larch, a tall and spacious northern izba (log-house) was heated by a huge Russian stove. If the stove was the heart of the Russian house, its soul was the Red Corner (red [krasny] meaning beautiful in old Russian) where the family’s sacred objects sat.
This area included holy icons draped over with the embroidered bozhnik (godly-towel), a Bible—if there was a literate person in the household—and occasionally a figurine of a saint brought from a pilgrimage by a pious relative. Wooden representations of St. Nilus of Stolben were common. An oil lamp suspended from the ceiling burned in front of the icons.
Source: TMORA (The Museum of Russian Art, Minneapolis)
During the era of Soviet power, the ‘Red Corner’ was the name given to the place at a factory, plant, school, and in general at any establishment, that was equipped to carry out ‘agitation and propaganda’ of the new ideology, new communist ideas. The first post-revolutionary ‘Red Corners’ were places where ‘political enlightenment’ of the masses was conducted, lectures were arranged about the projects and plans of the new power, the bright future which awaited all workers during Communism was discussed. Slogans and posters were hung on the walls of these ‘corners,’ and banners were arranged in the ‘Red Corner’ near portraits of leaders, pamphlets with speeches by Lenin, Trotsky were placed on tables …
Gradually these ‘Red Corners’ turned into unique sorts of chapels of the new religion, and they became subordinate to the ideological department of the Party Committee of each factory, collective farm, etc. They became a place for mandatory meetings of the ‘Party collective,’ a meeting place for delegates, a place for elections.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, life in these club-temples gradually began to die out, the ‘cult’ dwindled, and the stands and posters that were more and more depressing and mechanical gradually decayed, and everything taken together – the ritual, the design, and the paints – turned into a depressing ceremony that was no longer of use to anyone.
Many human rights activists expected that with the start of the war in Ukraine, Russian officials would refocus their repressive efforts away from the Jehovah’s Witnesses; but those expectations have proved untrue. And Putin’s campaign against the Witnesses has continued unabated.
As of now, 404 of the 538 structures classified as terrorists or extremists by the Russian government are Jehovah’s Witnesses; the number of searches in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ homes have increased and now number some 1800 in 71 federal subjects; and the number of Witnesses sentenced to camps rose from 32 to 45 between 2021 and 2022.
But Sergey Davidis, head of Memorial’s “Support Political Prisoners” project, argues that there are three main reasons why the Putin regime continues to persecute the Jehovah’s Witnesses:
First of all, he says, “the Russian authorities are intolerant of any independent organization, especially a large one which has its own ideology” and in particular those whose centers are outside the borders of the Russian Federation, a reflection of the leadership’s paranoia about any independent group.
Second, he continues, many in Russia see the Jehovah’s Witnesses as being at odds with Russian traditions and so accept their persecution as a legitimate form of the defense of the latter. And third, going after the Witnesses allows the security services to make themselves look good statistically. After all, it is easy to go after those who don’t hide and don’t resist.
Thus the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is likely to continue or even grow, despite the fact that the Witnesses themselves provide no justification for such actions.
The service proper concluded w/ an early Franciscan benediction which I had never heard and like a lot:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.”
Amen! To which I will only add that while I think my foolishness quotient actually surpasses the level of “enough,” applying it regularly toward Francis’ ends remains a challenge.
Source: Mark H. Teeter (Facebook), 22 January 2023. Thanks to Mark for his kind permission to let me reproduce his original post (minus three images) here. ||| TRR
In one of his interviews from the dungeons of the Rostov pretrial detention center, Dagestani journalist Abdulmumin Hajiyev commented on the everyday lives of inmates: “Lately, I’ve been thinking about taking cooking lessons. For some reason, there has been a skilled cook in every cell I’ve inhabited since Makhachkala. Sirazhutdin (Kumyk), Magomed (Avar), Rutem and Alim (Crimean Tatars) — I always admired the enthusiasm and care with which those guys spent several hours every day cooking something delicious for their cellmates with only a bucket and an immersion hot-water boiler to hand. Hajiyev also mentions Alim Karimov, a defendant in the Crimean Hizb ut-Tahrir case, with whom he has shared a cell for a over year a year. Over this time, Alim has learned Arabic.
Yesterday, a Russian court sentenced Karimov and four other defendants, among whom there are pensioners with disabilities, to thirteen years in prison each. The two years it took to try the case on the merits were memorable in several ways. There was an ambulance present at the hearings, but its crew did not provide qualified medical care to the defendants, who were forbidden to speak Crimean Tatar during the proceedings. Putting old men in the dock for talking about Islam had nothing to do with the letter of the law. Instead, it speaks to Islamophobia cloaking itself in the law’s guise, and to the disgrace of the foot soldiers who executed this drama.
A few days ago, my fellow journalist had the opportunity to hand over to me his new articles, one of which tells the story of Ernes Ametov, a cellmate from Crimea, who was sentenced to eleven years in prison by a military court in late December because he would not do a deal with a lie.
Today, Russia’s Southern District Military Court again handed down a verdict to a Crimean Tatar religious figure. Imam Raif Fevziev was sentenced to seventeen years in a high-security penal colony (with the first three years to be served in an ordinary prison) for having a seventy-minute conversation about religion. His trial took place at the same time as the trial of Crimean defendants in another criminal case. Friends and colleagues of Fevziev’s — the religious figures Ismet Ibragimov, Vadim Bektemirov, Aider Dzhapparov, and Lenur Khalilov — had earlier been sentenced to brutal terms of imprisonment by the very same court. These are textbook political persecutions: the NKVD used the same methods, in the past, to eradicate and destroy religious and public figures who had influence among the people.
It is quite difficult to cope with such a merciless chronicle of crackdowns. But when you see and feel what kind of regime you have come face to face with, and how the political prisoners, their families, and a whole people wisely and peacefully oppose it, you have no choice but to recharge your batteries, be more resilient, and go on working, while believing ever more fiercely that change will come.
I read in a book that a system based on segregation and tyranny is a large-scale manmade disaster. The people involved in perpetuating it may well understand that the breakdown of such a “juggernaut” is inevitable, and that they themselves, collectively, are causing the breakdown. But each of them assumes that it’s not their own personal fault, but everyone else’s. Each of them, on the contrary, believes that they are trying to save it — through cruelty, by cracking down on those dubbed “enemies” and “undesirables.” Ultimately, however, they fail to save it.
Source: Mumine Saliyeva, Facebook, 12 January 2023. Translated by Hecksinductionhour
Today in St. Petersburg, the trial in the case of the defrocked Orthodox priest Ioann Kurmoyarov on charges of disseminating “fake news” about the army continued. Kurmoyarov had claimed that those who invaded Ukraine would go to hell.
A theological discussion unfolded in court. Imam Fayzulla Karimov, who barely speaks Russian but was revealed to be the “expert linguist” who had assessed Kurmoyarov’s theological videos, testified as a witness for the prosecution.
It transpired that a specialist of his profile was required by the investigation to evaluate Kurmoyarov’s statement that “those who consider themselves Christians and support this war should change their religion and convert to Islam,” thus, allegedly, “inciting interfaith discord.”
From the questions posed to the “expert witness,” it transpired that he, as a native of Tajikistan, had not formally studied Russian, but had graduated from the Faculty of Philology in Dushanbe in 2004 and the Islamic University in 2014.
Kurmoyarov had been bringing the imam round to the idea that Islam, unlike Christianity, has a concept of holy war in the literal sense of the word, but the judge struck down his questions.
Here is an example of the dialogue between the judge and imam, demonstrating the latter’s level of knowledge of the Russian language (although he travels to Russia for short visits, he lives permanently in Tajikistan):
Judge: Are you acquainted with Kurmoyarov? Imam: I am acquainted. Judge (forcefully): Are you acquainted with Kurmoyarov? Imam: I am not acquainted.
On the early morning of November 30, the security forces came to the home of Tomsk musician and teacher Anna Chagina: this was how she found out that she been charged with the criminal offense of “discrediting the army.” Chagina had been detained at an anti-war rally on March 6. In September, the Prosecutor General’s Office blocked Chagina’s page on VK over anti-war posts, which have now served as the grounds for the criminal charges against her under Article 280.3.1 of the Criminal Code. The maximum penalty is up to three years in prison.
On December 1, the court imposed pretrial restrictions on Chagina: she was banned from using the internet and mail, leaving home after ten o’clock in the evening, and attending mass events. On the evening of December 1, after the court hearing, Chagina talked to Sibir.Realii’s correspondent about her criminal case and her scenarios for how and when the war would end.
“Gentlemen, this is my house and my rules”
On the eve of the visit from the security forces, Chagina celebrated her birthday, and her guests had left late. She hadn’t sleep half the night because her nineteen-year-old daughter had a fever, and at six a.m. the doorbell rang. Anna opened it and saw an entire brigade: “There were two witnesses, two field officers from the FSB, an investigator, a special forces soldier, and a lawyer.” Only after returning from the temporary detention center, where she had spent the night, did she discover that the peephole in her door had been prudently sealed with a sticker on the stairwell side. At the time, Chagina had been too busy to notice it: she says that fear had made it hard for her to breathe and she was constantly thirsty. The second feeling she had was indignation.
– As soon as they came, I said, “Gentlemen, this is my house and my rules.” I insisted that they take off their shoes. They rifled through all my books and looked through all the folders. I have a lot of papers — printouts, sheet music, archives. They confiscated computer equipment and a bunch of flash drives and phones, including ones that didn’t work.
To calm her nerves, Anna picked up a guitar and put on a concert. She sang children’s songs and Okudzhava.
– Actually, I rarely give concerts, but then and there I realized that there would be no such opportunity anymore. I was trying not to pay attention to them.
– Did you have a lawyer present?
– They brought a lawyer with them. The court-appointed lawyer was both theirs and mine. At my request, she telephoned my friend Igor, but during the search she didn’t tell me, for example, that I could write in the report that I was against their videotaping during the search. We added that when I was already at the Investigative Committee. My daughter had also wanted to film the search on camera, but her smartphone was taken away. I was scared that I would first be locked up in a temporary detention facility for forty-eight hours, and then immediately sent to a pretrial detention center for two months.
The police search of Anna’s house lasted about three hours, after which she and her daughter were taken to the Investigative Committee.
– My daughter had a temperature of 39 [degrees Centigrade — 36.6 degrees Centigrade is considered normal body temperature]. I asked that she be questioned first as a witness and released, and after that they could talk to me. But first I was interrogated for four hours, and my daughter waited ll that time. The court-appointed lawyer told me that with such a temperature she could have refused to go in for questioning, but for some reason she told me that after the fact. Today, my daughter was taken away by ambulance with pneumonia.
– I verbally said that I did not admit any guilt, but, in my opinion, this was not included in the arrest report. They gave me some document about cooperating with the investigation and asked me to read it carefully. But I refused to cooperate, and I wrote on this document that I did not consider it necessary to read it. Copies of the search and arrest reports were not given to me because, they said, the the court-appointed lawyer had photographed them.
– And then you were taken to the pretrial detention center?
– Yes. To have something to do there, I took a pocket Bible with me from home. I was in solitary confinement. It was cold, and the sink and toilet stank. By law, I could be kept there for forty-eight hours, so I asked for cleaning liquid or power to wash the sink and toilet. They brought it in the morning.
The light does not go off at night. Radio Vanya, a pop station, was playing in the cell until ten p.m. I am a musician, and have other musical preferences. To keep this music from seeping into my mind, I meditated. I read the Bible. I spent the time well.
– How did the court hearing go?
– I had petitioned for a change of counsel, and the attorney I had retained was already at the hearing. We were able to keep the hearing open to the public. The investigator asked the court to impose pretrial restrictions that would prohibit me from using all means of communication. The lawyer asked for a mitigation, and I was still permitted to use the telephone.
Chagina is now forbidden to use the internet and mail, leave home after ten o’clock in the evening, or attend mass events.
– They put a Federal Penitentiary Service tracking bracelet on you. How do you like it?
– When I would see such a bracelet on others, I would think, Those are the fetters of Satan! It’s fine so far. I haven’t tried doing yoga in this bracelet yet. I’ll work out, and it’ll be clear how it feels… I’m talking calmly and even joking, but in fact I’m in shock. Once I saw a man who, after an accident, was standing there with a split skull – his brain was clearly visible, but he was talking calmly. He was in shock from the pain. Something similar is happening to me now.
– How much will the court-imposed pretrial restrictions, the ban on using the internet and leaving the house in the evening, complicate your life?
– Things couldn’t have been worse even before the criminal case came along. In September, the Prosecutor General’s Office blocked my VK page, which had a very strong impact on me, because I used this page to advertise private lessons and find music students. I have a very low income. I was selling my apartment to buy a smaller dwelling and pay off my debts, but due to the fact that I am now a criminal defendant, I cannot wrap up the deal.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
Chagina recalls how she gave a concert on the eve of the March anti-war rally.
– There were about a hundred people there. Before playing, I openly spoke out against the war. I played one of my favorite Ukrainian carols on the violin. It was very warmly received. After the concert, a woman from the audience approached me: “My son is going to the [anti-war] rally on March 6th. I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid.” There were others. They were surprised: “You say that war is always bad. That it was Russia who attacked.” But even these people did not condemn me, but shared their misgivings with me.
My daughter went to a solo anti-war picket on March 3 and was immediately taken away. This was even before the laws were tightened, which occurred on March 5. I was afraid to go out on March 6, but I couldn’t stay away. My friend, who is seriously ill, went to the rally with her family. I can’t tell you her name, because I’m afraid that they will start pulling in everyone again. Her husband was detained. I thought hat she would be detained next. She had come out with a placard that read, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I took the placard from her and held it up. I stood there holding it for ten minutes before they put me in a traffic police car and took me to the Soviet District police department. I was later fined on administrative charges of “discrediting the army.”
– How long have you been in the protest movement?
– Protest rallies are not the most important thing in my life, but I’m used to openly voicing my opinion. I went out to protest for Navalny and for TV2 [the Tomsk independent TV channel shut down by the authorities in 2014 — SR]. In 2014, when Crimea began, I went to a protest rally carrying a placard that read, “Don’t shoot your brothers.”
– Why are you personally against this war?
– I am against any war. Violence cannot solve any conflict. I sincerely admire the martial arts, if it is an honest one-on-one duel without weapons. But you can achieve only universal death through wholesale slaughter.
I rethought a lot of things after February 24. The war enabled me to separate what I love from what I hate. I had wanted to leave Russia for many years before the war. I hate it when a person endlessly tolerates what cannot be tolerated — humiliation, filth, an unseemly life — and does nothing about it. War is an attempt by such people to resolve the logjam of problems through violence and hysteria.
– What do you like about Russia?
– I love the nature. I love a certain kind of simplicity. Not the the kind of simplicity that is worse than thievery, but the kind of simplicity that can be called openness. The war made it possible to find out that there are many honest and decent people among Russians. Before the war, I was little interested in politics, and I didn’t closely follow the events in Donbas. I was busy with my family, my art, and my work.
When the war began, Tomsk showed a new side to me. I have reached a different level of social connection and communication here. Despite the fact that we don’t agree about everything, we still manage to keep in touch. This is very important to me. It is for the sake of this that it is worth going to protest rallies. Love will save the world.
– You had already been found guilty on administrative charges of “discrediting the army” for your posts on VK, which eventually served as the pretext for the criminal charges. Did you understand what the consequences could be?
– I understood. But it was important for me to convey my position to people. I am mentally ready for the fact that the state will punish me for this. I haven’t yet talked in detail to the lawyer who is defending me. But, as far as I understand, I face either a prison sentence or a huge fine. I’m not afraid of either.
I felt like I was being watched, but I couldn’t quite believe it. I saw some people outside, standing below my apartment. The FSB field officer who escorted me today said that he had personally shadowed me. And the investigator said that all the investigators at the Soviet District police department know me. Apparently, they were all here pulling shifts. By Tomsk standards, I have a rather large social media following — more than a thousand people on VK. And I have a lot of acquaintances from very different circles that do not intersect in any way.
– Which posts on VK did they deem “discrediting”?
– I have only read the arrest reports so far, not the stuff in the criminal case file. As far as I understand, the incriminating posts are the ones featuring texts by the Christian thinker Pavel Levushkan and the philosopher Nikolai Karpitsky, as copied from Facebook and posted on my VK page, with the authorship of the texts indicated. Karpitsky is a philosopher who lived in Tomsk and headed the Tomsk Anti-Fascist Committee, but now lives in Ukraine. He talks about necrophilic imperialism and about why Russians behave this way, both in war and in peacetime. Plus the comment “No war!” which I wrote below someone else’s post on VK.
“I am also to blame”
– Anna, why do you think there is no mass anti-war movement in Russia nine months after the start of the war and even in the wake of the mobilization?
– Because no one wants to go to prison. But when mobilization began, the war affected even those who had hoped to remain observer. I am acquainted with a Tomsk family in which the husband works at Gazprom and the wife teaches at a university. The husband earned good money, and the family traveled a lot around the world. But when the war began, they did not object to its officially stated aims, nor were they surprised by the claims of the propagandists that Putin was fighting NATO and gay parades in the west. But then the husband received a conscription summons, and their point of view changed immediately. The husband fled abroad.
– Speaking of emigration. You’d already had an admin. You saw that you were being followed. Why didn’t you leave?
– I had obligations. I didn’t emigrate due to my family. My daughter has health problems. My mom is here. I have a grandmother and a grandfather who are already ninety years old. Finally, my romantic partner is here.
– And you don’t even consider such a possibility for yourself in the future?
– I consider it, of course. More precisely, I would like to travel around the world, immerse myself for a long while in a different culture, in a different linguistic environment, and live in a different climate. I am a very curious person. Before the war, I had such plans: when the children grow up, I’m off! But I wasn’t thinking about the kind of emigration in which you leave and burn all your bridges.
– In your opinion, who is to blame for the fact that this war began?
– Putin, first of all. He signs off on all the decisions. But he’s not the only one to blame. I am also to blame. I voted for Putin the first time he was elected. It was the only time I voted for him. He seemed like a man who could do something good for the country. I was very naive, and I didn’t know anything about Putin’s past. The epiphany came when I noticed that Russian reality had begun to resemble C.S. Lewis’s science fiction novel That Hideous Strength. There is this character, the Grey Shadow, in the novel. He is nowhere and everywhere. His henchmen on the ground resemble him and poison the atmosphere. And there, as in Putin’s Russia, they endlessly repair what doesn’t need to be repaired and generate the semblance of busyness.
The “castling move” and even the “nullification” seemed mere absurdities. But I didn’t expect the scale of demonism that we see now. Like Stalin or Hitler, Putin is a demon who stole my country.
– How long can this war last, and how will it end?
– I have three scenarios: reasonable, mystical, and punk/optimistic. Which one would you like to hear?
– Let’s hear all three in turn.
– Reason says that this is going to go on for a long time, for many years. Even if the fighting against Ukraine ends in the foreseeable future — within two years — it is unlikely that everything will end quickly in Russia itself. But I don’t want to talk about a civil war.
The mystical point of view says that the war is part of an ongoing struggle between Good and Evil, which just touched us personally now.
And the punk scenario says that “We will leave the zoo,” as Yegor Letov sang. Lately, before the criminal case, I wanted to forget everything, and just believe that sooner or later we would stop being monkeys who piss on each other. That we would exit our individual cages and become human beings.
– Do you see any rudiments that give you hope that an epiphany, a kind of purification, is possible in Russia?
– I see them. Many of my friends say, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to build something here. This is my homeland, and I won’t surrender it to anyone.” Among them are calm optimists who believe that “this too shall pass,” and determined folks who are ready to fight.
An acquaintance of mine supported Navalny and left for California forever to avoid criminal charges. But his friend, an American, on the contrary, moved to Altai from California ten years ago, became a Russian farmer, and has no plans to leave Russia. I love the Russian language and Russian culture, but I’m not a nationalist — I’m a globalist. I am for a world without borders, and I hope Russia will one day become a part of this world.
– You took a Bible with you to the temporary detention center. Do you consider yourself Orthodox? How do you feel about the fact that the ROC has been stumping for the war?
– I practice integral spirituality, but I still seek guidance in the Orthodox Church and consider myself a Christian. The ROC’s official position [on the war] is a disgrace, and all [other] Orthodox churches have condemned it. Real Russian Orthodoxy and what it is associated with today are heaven and earth. What is the Christian conclusion here? God is merciful. And He is merciful to those who labor under delusions, too. Another thing is that everyone suffers for their delusions, including the deluded themselves.
– All the independent media that reported your arrest wrote that you are a musician. What kind of music do you play?
– I graduated from music college as a violist and I play the viola. I teach violin. I’ve had a bunch of musical groups in the past. I’ve played rock, punk, folk, and Celtic. In addition, I’ve played with an ensemble of violinists. I worked in a symphony orchestra for a year.
– Is there a particular kind of music that serves as a lifeline for you nowadays?
– I’ve been listening to very little music lately — I’ve been overloaded. But Bach is always a lifeline. One of my relatively recent discoveries is the Petersburg singer Sasha Sokolova, who, unfortunately, died of cancer. I can say of her music that it’s about our time.
– Do you imagine that the court could acquit you?
– I’m not counting on it… When I was dozing in the cell at the temporary detention center, I thought it would be cool to open my eyes in the morning and see the ocean, clean and transparent. In exactly the same way I believe that the court could hand down a fair verdict — as in a pipe dream, as in a miracle. I believe this war will end. I admit that a miracle is possible.
Since the new articles of the Criminal Code and the Administrative Offenses Code on discrediting the Russian army and disseminating “fake news” about it came into force, more than 100 criminal cases have been launched in Russia and around 4,500 reports of administrative offenses have been filed, according to Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, speaking at a session of the State Duma on October 19.
According to OVD Info, a total of 352 people are under suspicion or facing charges in so-called anti-war criminal cases launched in Russia between February 24 and November 24. As of 23 November 2022, 5,159 administrative offenses cases have been instituted in Russia under Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code (i.e., for “discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”).
On March 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law criminalizing “fake news” about the actions of the Russian Armed Forces. Russians can be fined up to 1.5 million rubles or imprisoned for up to three years for violating the new Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code, defined as “Public dissemination of deliberately false information about the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes “discrediting” the Russian army, stipulates a sentence of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to a million rubles.