How to Lose a War

The social media video that I had posted in this space in the wee hours of the morning turned out to be five years old (thanks to my faithful reader Jeremy Morris for the heads-up!) and now it has been deleted from Twitter, where I came upon it. So I’ve changed the title of this post from “How to Win a War” (insofar as the video purportedly showed unarmed Ukrainians facing off against armed Russian occupiers or “Russian-backed separatists”) to “How to Lose a War.” And I’ve replaced the video with the latest episode of Masyanya, entitled “Wakizashi,” in which Hryundel tries to keep his friend Lokhmaty from finding out about the war, and Masyanya goes to Putin’s bunker to offer the Russian president the only honorable way out of the disgrace and horror into which he has plunged Ukraine, his country, and the entire world. Posted on March 21, Oleg Kuvaev’s latest masterpiece has already been viewed nearly two million times. ||| This post was updated on 25 March 2022: I replaced the original YouTube video with a new version featuring English subtitles. Thanks to Ira Shevelenko, Yasha Klots and Anselm Bühling for the head-up. TRR

A Message of Solidarity with Ukraine from the White Helmets in Syria

This is a message of solidarity with Ukraine from Raed Al Saleh, the head of The White Helmets humanitarian volunteers. Today, on the 11th anniversary of the Syrian revolution, it drives home why a democratic Syria – free from dictatorship and tyranny – is part of a global cause that must prevail.

[…]

As Ukrainians come under brutal attack by Putin, it is chilling to see Russia using the same strategy and playbook in Ukraine as they use in Syria – attacking fleeing civilians, controlling humanitarian corridors, bombing hospitals and spreading disinformation.

Our volunteer first responders have saved more than 125,000 civilian lives in Syria since 2014, many from direct Russian attacks, and it’s heartbreaking to witness the same tragedies being repeated over and over again. We know the scale of horror that Russian bombings can inflict: no one and nothing is off limits.

In Syria, a concerted Russian disinformation campaign spreads fabricated claims attacking White Helmets volunteers to cover up war crimes. Now Russia is using the same methods to legitimize its attack on the Ukrainian people – using social media to sow doubt about atrocities committed against civilians.

When I saw the aftermath of Russian airstrikes on the maternity hospital in Mariupol last week, including Russia’s immediate disinformation efforts online, it was as if history was repeating itself.

We have witnessed these same horrific scenes and lies during attacks on Syrian hospitals. It angers me to see companies such as Twitter continue to allow accounts to spread falsehoods – and I urge you to join me in calling on Twitter to shut down all accounts, including Russian government accounts, being used to spread harmful disinformation.

A few days ago I spoke to the Washington Post and shared what we have learnt from our experience in case it can be of any help to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. I told them that the GoPro camera is the best way to fight Russian disinformation and report the reality on the ground.

A White Helmets volunteer in Aleppo carries an injured child after an airstrike. Beha el Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images/NPR

I also warned against sharing GPS locations of medical facilities with the United Nations. In Syria the Russians used that information to target hospitals. Ukrainians should also establish small medical and civil defense outposts in secret locations around the city to take the pressure off larger hospitals and mitigate the risk of targeting first responders.

There is no doubt Putin has been emboldened by the impunity he enjoyed in Syria. If Putin is not held accountable for his invasion of Ukraine the whole story will repeat itself again.

Today, we need actions not words from the international community. They must pursue justice relentlessly so no dictator can feel able to shamelessly commit such atrocities.

For the last seven years, the Syrian people have stood up to Russia and have yet to be defeated – so we believe Ukrainians can do so as well. At the end of the day, it is the will of the citizens that is the strongest weapon, even against the mightiest militaries in the world.

In solidarity,

Raed Al Saleh

Source: Email newsletter from The Syria Campaign, 15 March 2022. I inserted the Netflix documentary and the photo of the White Helmets volunteer in Aleppo, as well as the links to the articles by the Washington Post and the Intercept about the organization. ||| TRR

“Russophobia” (Abashin, Akunin, Averkiev)

Sergey Abashin, who teaches anthropology at the European University in St. Petersburg: Another reflection on “Russophobia.” Many people are now exercised about external criticism [of Russia], which is often emotional and indiscriminate. For us [in Russia], however, it is more important not to retreat into resentment. Instead, we should think hard and long on what in our public reflections proved to be wrong, why what has happened did happen, and where we made mistakes. Why the Chechen war with its thousands of victims and refugees did not teach us anything. Why we were unable to comprehend all the consequences of the war in Georgia. Why we completely failed to notice the bombing of the civilian population in Syria. Why the disputes over who Crimea belonged to caused us to miss the emergence of a new imperial project with its now terrifying consequences. That’s the task that awaits us after it’s all over.

Source: Sergey Abashin, Facebook, 7 March 2022. Photo courtesy of Central Asia Program. Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

 

I watched this serious conversation between bestselling Russian writer and popular historian Boris Akunin and Russian vlogger and interviewer extraordinaire Yuri Dud last night before I went to sleep. Despite the overall grimness of their discussion, it left me feeling upbeat, oddly. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been subtitled in English, but I have translated the annotation and section headings, as published on YouTube on March 4, 2022. In any case, over 13 million (Russophone) viewers can’t be wrong. ||| TRR

 

vDud
9.92M subscribers

Everyone is blocking everything, so sign up to our Telegram channel https://t.me/yurydud

Boris Akunin https://www.facebook.com/borisakunin

A couple of paid VPNs to choose from https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-vpn-service/

And one free VPN https://protonvpn.com/

0:00 What is this episode about?
1:41 Why did Putin start the war?
5:44 Putin = Nicholas I?
7:47 The Crimean War
11:27 An important announcement
11:36 “Russia has never attacked first.” Really?
12:17 Why is Putin so interested in history?
13:20 Is being an empire bad?
16:09 Why do so many people in Russia support the war?
19:35 WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL THESE PAST 8 YEARS?
21:17 Crackdowns
23:13 Was your grandfather a Chekist?
25:57 “You never need to listen to what a secret service agent tells you”
27.34 Can a KGB officer be president?
28:36 How did Mikhalkov influence the finale of “The State Councilor”?
31:35 Is the West to blame for the war?
34:54 Who breaks promises?
35:36 The bombing of Belgrade, the invasion of Iraq and Syria – is this normal?
37:27 Is America an empire of lies?
38:46 Is the death penalty good or bad?
41:58 Propaganda in Soviet schools
44:16 The (dubious) benefits of censorship
46:44 Opening up of Siberia = colonization of America?
50:42 Does another collapse await Russia due to this war?
55:15 The best period in the history of Russia
56:19 Why does Russia have a special path?
1:01:39 The worst period in the history of Russia
1:04:07 How does Stalin influence Russia today?
1:06:13 Will there be a nuclear war?
1:10:16 Should people flee Russia?
1:11:41 In 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Japan. How do those two countries get along now?
1:13:40 Will Russians and Ukrainians be able to mend their relationship?
1:16:20 Is it right to claim collective responsibility for the war?
1:17:36 What will happen to Russia next?

_________

 

A policeman in Krasynoyarsk (Siberia) erases a “No war!” message written in the snow. Igor Averkiev writes: “People who are losing their minds never realize they’re losing their minds.” When I reposted this on my Facebook page and erroneously attributed the footage to Averkiev’s hometown of Perm, he wrote to me: “No, it’s not in Perm. It’s in Krasnoyarsk. But such ‘everyday madness’ is possible everywhere in Russia today. Of course, this hassle will pass. The question is when and at what human cost.” ||| TRR

100% Herd Immunity

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

[February 5, 2022]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen shot from the animated series Masha and the Bear

https://t.me/RKadyrov_95/1240

[February 14, 2022]

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

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

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

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

https://t.me/RKadyrov_95/1241

[February 15, 2022]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://t.me/tass_agency/108662

[February 15, 2022, 1:11 pm]

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

https://t.me/tass_agency/108663

[February 15, 2022, 1:13 pm]

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

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

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Social Network

Alexander Petrosyan
Facebook
February 16, 2022

How intoxicating the evenings in Russia are

Comments

Omar Bayramov
I’ve never commented on your photos before, Alexander. I’ll now probably incite a whole wave of indignation against myself, but I’m going to say it anyway. I’ve been living in this city for 25 years out of 40 and I can definitely say that I hate it. I try not to be outside unnecessarily, everything I see in my midst is disgusting. Thank you for your photos.

Author
Alexander Petrosyan
I think that here, like everywhere, you can find both things to love and things to hate. It depends on your current state of mind.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“One Person and God Are Already a Majority”: The Petersburg Teacher Fired for Reading Kharms and Vvedensky to High-Schoolers

“She had never read Vvedensky. It was so disgusting that I still feel physically sick.”Teacher Serafima Saprykina recounts how Kharms and Vvedensky were put on trial during an emergency meeting at a Petersburg high school • Venera Galeyeva • Fontanka.ru • February 6, 2022

The class in which tenth graders listened to poems written by “fascist accomplices” and “enemies of the people” was guest-taught by the young teacher-organizer, who had been invited by the social studies teacher. Everything started because the school’s “literary sector was lagging” and they had been having a hard time finding a library director.

Serafima Saprykina, whose Facebook post detailing the unusual approach of the 168th Gymnasium’s principal to the avant-garde OBERIU poets has gone viral, spoke to us about what exactly the director didn’t like about the work of [poets Daniil] Kharms and [Alexander] Vvedensky, why she decided to make the story public only now, and what she hopes will come about as a result.

Serafima Saprykina

Serafima, why did you decide to tell the story of your departure from Gymnasium No. 168 just now?

I watched the latest film from [journalist] Katerina Gordeyeva, about the children of people who were persecuted [under Stalin]: Mama Won’t Come Back: Women of the Gulag. I became terribly ashamed, I even started crying. I realized that I was doing the wrong thing. I had a chance to stand up for the repressed and I didn’t do it. I don’t hold a personal grudge against the person who fired me, otherwise I would have made the situation public right away. I just want evil to be called by name.

So why did you keep mum back in December?

I figured that I would go on working in the school, or maybe in a different one. And if I told the story no school would ever hire me. But after working in various schools for seven years I have seen all kinds of things and I understand that school, the system that schools are part of, is not going to change. When I was in school in Volgograd I was subjected to bullying. I was different, I read a lot and my classmates disliked me. I would never have thought that I would become a teacher myself but at a certain point I found my calling there.

How did you come to teach the OBERIU poets?

I wrote a dissertation about religious imagery in the work of the OBERIU poets for my master’s at the St. Petersburg State University philosophy department. I’ve been into this topic for a long time and wanted to tell the kids about it. But this wasn’t a one-off lecture, it was part of a series of lessons. The first one was about the [classical modernist] Silver Age poets, then the OBERIU poets, then a lesson about the stadium poets [of the late 1950s—Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Bella Akhmadulina, and others—trans.] and [Joseph] Brodsky, with contemporary literature at the end. Unfortunately, I only got to the second lesson. The series had been officially approved and accepted by my immediate supervisor, head teacher Tatyana Nikolayevna Golerbakh.

The lesson on the OBERIU poets came after the students’ regular classes?

No, I taught it in place of their social studies class—the teacher had invited me to take over that hour. This is standard procedure at the school, the librarian must ask the other teachers for permission to run a “library hour” during their classes. But I didn’t talk to the kids about the precise circumstances in which Kharms and Vvedensky died after their arrests in 1941, or about the arrests either. What’s the point in scaring the kids like that, anyway? I told them about the OBERIU group.

OBERIU (the Association of Real Art—Obedinenie realnogo iskusstva) was a group of writers and cultural figures that existed between 1927 and the early 1930s in Leningrad (now Petersburg).

When we got to Vvedensky, I gave the kids his poem “I regret that I’m not a beast” [Mne zhalko, chto ia ne zver’]. And that really sparked the whole situation that followed. All the people who participated in the emergency meeting called by the principal, including the director of the school museum, had been working with me for half a year and had nothing but praise for me. If the principal had said that I needed to quit because she didn’t approve of my work, I would have understood. But she said, “What a filthy title: he regrets, you know, that he’s not a beast.” She had never read Vvedensky. It was so disgusting that I still feel physically sick.

Actor Boris Dragilev reading Alexander Vvedensky’s poem “I regret that I’m not a beast” at the Anna Akhmatova Museum at Fountain House in Petersburg in 2013. Courtesy of Fontanka.ru

Your Facebook post went viral within three hours, it’s all over social networks and the media. What has changed in your life since then?

Absolutely everything in my world has changed. When I was writing the post, I thought that I’d get like five likes and three comments, with two of those claiming I was making it all up. I didn’t think that my post would elicit such a response and that people would start calling me a hero. What kind of hero am I? I haven’t even read all the messages and comments yet. But I am sure that the homeroom teacher for the tenth-grade class where I taught the Kharms/Vvedensky class will confirm that I didn’t tell the kids anything horrible during the lesson.

How long did you work at the 168th?

I was hired there in late August of 2021. The school was looking for a library director, and they saw my resume on a recruiting site and liked it. The principal called me and said that the school was very interested in me. At the interview she explained that their literary curriculum was lagging, and they really needed lessons on extracurricular reading, which I as library director could teach. When I came in to get registered for employment, it turned out that they couldn’t hire me as director without my having librarian experience or education, so they hired me as a teacher-organizer and tacked on 25% of the librarian salary.

Surely that is no grounds for firing someone?

Within this system it’s enough for there to be even a hint that they don’t want you around anymore. And whatever you do after that, however hard you try, you just have to leave. I’ve never had a serious conflict with anyone in my life, that’s just not who I am. This is just the systematic stigmatization of teachers with initiative. It’s happening everywhere.  

What exactly were your duties at the 168th?

What does the school library director do? There are two options. Either she just sits there and doesn’t let anyone into the library, and if a pupil comes and asks for a book, silently hands it over. Or she doesn’t [hand it over], if the book isn’t in the library. Or the director runs classes on extracurricular reading, reading competitions, talks about what’s going on in contemporary literature. For instance, I invited Kira Anatolyevna Groznaya, head editor of [youth journal] Aurora, and she talked to the kids about literary journals and how to publish in them. They really liked it.

And how much were you paid for this work?

Schools pay well, I never had any problems with how I was paid. But I won’t tell you exactly how much. Even if I never have work ever again, it won’t turn me into a person who thinks the wrong way. I really want to do research, to do graduate study. And more than anything I would like to work for Memorial (an organization declared to be an “NGO-foreign agent” by the Russian Justice Ministry and liquidated in December 2021 by order of the Russian Supreme Court—Fontanka.ru), to help keep alive the memory of repressed people. But Memorial is gone. I really love my country and don’t want to emigrate. Everyone is ruled by fear right now. You asked what I experienced in the three hours after publishing my post. It would be better to ask what I experienced during the month and a half since getting fired. And what I experienced was, probably, everything that a person in the 1930s experienced.

Why? No one’s being lined up for the firing squad and there’s no Gulag, right?

It seems like that, yeah. But meanwhile I’m being fired for reading poems by “enemies of the people.” And I’m afraid that no one will hire me again if I speak up. But what does it mean for me to speak up? My voice is the voice of one little person who wants to live her little life. I’m not a hero. I’m a coward who was brave enough to speak up one time. But the worst thing already happened — I got fired, because the principal thinks that Kharms and Vvedensky are “German accomplices” and “enemies of the people.” There is plenty of work out there, I’ll find something. And if I can’t, I’ll just live with my husband. But maybe with my silly little voice I can inspire others to speak up as well. And then we definitely won’t find ourselves back in 1937.  

Are you not afraid that the school will accuse you of making everything up? You don’t have a recording of that meeting, after all.

No, I’m not afraid. I know I’m telling the truth. One person and God are already a majority. Now I’m not afraid of anything. And you shouldn’t be either.

Translated by the Fabulous AM. Photo courtesy of Fontanka.ru via Serafima Saprykina

Of Pigs and Men

I’m not sure what you get if you place the winning bid on this photograph by the fantastic Pskov photographer Dmitry Markov. (An NTF? A .jpeg file? A real print?) It should be in a museum. Source: OpenSea

⊕ ⊗ ⊕ ⊗ ⊕

 

Revolt Pimenov:

A quote about the first months of a certain war:

“I tried to read in the faces of the thousands what was in their minds this Easter day. But their faces looked blank. Obviously they do not like the war, but they will do what they’re told. Die, for instance.”

I won’t cite the source.

Dmitry Bulatov:

My dear Ukrainian friends! I want to express my support to you in connection with numerous reports about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. You should know that the vast majority of my friends in the art profession are not only against such aggressive behavior, but also strongly condemn it. We see that by increasing its military presence on the border, the Kremlin hopes to intimidate Ukraine and push Europe. This gang of people in power has long ago lost all sense of decent behavior, having completely turned into goons in terms of their mindset. The only deterrent for them is a united stance by the western countries on this issue. I really hope that after seeing this unity, they will crawl back to their lair, not daring to unleash hostilities. In any case, please accept my words of support and know that there are a lot of people in Russia who have not supported and are not going to support this government and its insane aggressive ambitions.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Update (28 January 2022):

The Pig Hut, as this exhibit is known, is the work of Rosemarie Trockel and Carsten Höller, and they, like Herr Weinberger, have an explanation for this work. Pigs and humans have similar nervous systems, they say, so they probably feel the same things. The stream has no way to know the psychomedical part of the reasoning. It approaches under the auspices of art and so it recognizes the pigs as readymades: humble, ordinary objects imported into this festively aesthetic space and thus invested with the condition of “art” by the mere fact of occupying its domain. By the same token, of course, the reflection in the glass renders the visitors themselves into readymades, making the corrupted stream even dirtier as it flows on toward the first of Documenta’s official buildings, Kassel’s Fridericianum.

Source: Rosalind E. Krauss, Under Blue Cup, p. 55

Will Covid QR Codes Cause Petersburg to Explode?

George Losev • Facebook • January 11, 2022

It is the first working week after the tightening of anti-covid rules, and amid a new rise in infections, we can draw preliminary conclusions.

During this entire time, my QR code has been checked three times. The first and only time it was done thoroughly was at a football match at a state-owned facility on January 3. The second time was at the entrance to a Leroy Merlin store. It had been refitted so that it was impossible to enter the store otherwise, but they didn’t verify my name. The third time was at a bakery, where they also didn’t check my name.

That is, on a standard working day, I first travel an hour in a packed subway car and then in a packed minibus, then I sit in a room packed with elderly colleagues at the daily briefing, then I do the rounds of apartments [to make electrical repairs], then I travel home for another hour. And all this happens without anyone checking any QR codes. But if I stop by a Rainbow Smile cosmetics store on the way home and accidentally forget my phone, which contains my QR code, then I won’t be served.

Why not? So that I cannot infect other customers at Rainbow Smile. Or at the bakery. But I would have already infected three times as many people in the subway, on the minibus, and in the apartments I visited (although I was masked).

It is obviously no accident that people have been calling the QR codes “PR codes.” The idea may have been sound, but it has been implemented as idiotically as possible, like everything our authorities undertake, except military interventions.

On the web, I have been observing unusually ferocious and surprisingly cookie-cutter attacks on the owners and staff of establishments that have announced they are doing QR code checks.

I definitely get the feeling that Prigozhin’s trolls are carrying out a coordinated attack on these establishments — possibly with the goal of getting ahead of the curve (anti-covid riots have already happened in other countries) and channeling popular anger in the most negative direction. The focus of rage thus shifts from the authorities to the establishments forced to obey the rules.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of natural-born anti-vaxxers in our society, but the uniformity, absurd rage, and standard advice (e.g., “hire a lawyer and take them to court”) evinced by at least some of the social media commentators expose them as Prigozhin’s trolls.

The future will depend on how the QR code campaign goes. If the procedure becomes a routine matter, they start checking full names, counterfeiters are subjected to crackdowns, and everyone gradually gets used to it, then most of the population will get vaccinated.

Another option is that everyone gradually stops being afraid, and QR code checks become more and more a formality and gradually come to naught.

If revolts suddenly occur, then the left will have to decide whether to get involved in them. Most people on the left are likely to condemn the riots as conservative (the right will undoubtedly be involved), destructive (the anger will be directed against specific businesses), and harmful to the fight against the epidemic.

In my opinion, the left should be involved in such revolts as much as possible by shifting the focus to the true culprits — the authorities — and coming out with a constructive program as to what should be done.

Infographic courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle. Translated by the Russian Reader


The people are upset: Is Petersburg threatened by grassroots protests over QR codes? • Darya Kovalyonok • Delovoi Peterburg • January 12, 2022

QR codes have been mandatory for gaining entry to dining establishments and non-food stores in Petersburg since January 2. While most restaurants and retail outlets have been coping with cursing customers, counterfeit codes, and long queues, a little more than a hundred others have openly declared that they would be ignoring the new requirements. Alexander Konovalov, a Petersburg restaurateur who became famous for publishing a “map of resistance” a year ago, has now launched a website with a list of establishments that are ready to welcome customers without vaccination and immunity certificates. As this issue went to press, there were 118 establishments on the list who promised not to ask for a QR code at the entrance.

Incidentally, Konovalov’s initiative has significantly facilitated the work of the Smolny [Petersburg city hall], which has weaponized the website containing the names of the bars and shops that ignore the QR code by regularly carrying out raids on them. For its part, the Petersburg prosecutor’s office has reacted to the boycott by these establishments by reminding them that they could face administrative and criminal charges for violating the QR-code regime and other restrictive measures.

Nevertheless, in many cases, the QR-code regime is either enforced nominally or not enforced at all. Earlier this week, our correspondent interviewed more than a dozen Petersburg residents who had patronized cafes and restaurants over the holidays. The upshot is that business ask to see QR codes about half of the time, and after asking for them, they often don’t even scan them. Even in the shops and dining establishments where customers are asked to show a QR code, the customer’s identify is not always checked. Many Petersburgers who patronize such establishments take advantage of this to use someone else’s QR codes.

At the same time, the experts note, the negative attitude of Petersburgers to QR codes is not always tantamount to rejecting vaccination. Maria Matskevich, a senior researcher at the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, draws attention to the fact that skepticism about the new regulations comes not only from diners and shoppers, but also from those who have to check for QR codes.

“Moreover, unlike in other countries, this practice is not accepted in our country even by those who are forced to check whether people are complying with requirements. It is a game in which there is a mutual understanding on both sides of the measure’s futility. The procedure for checking QR codes is performed with detachment: people on both sides show that this is not their own undertaking, unlike vaccination. When conflicts arise, the people performing the role of inspectors apologize for their actions, which is incomparable, for example, with a traffic police inspector fining a violator for an offense. For the time being, [the checking of QR codes] is more like a game played according to rules that are intuited by all parties,” says Matskevich.

Although the experts doubt that the QR codes themselves can trigger popular unrest, in the current circumstances, the growth of discontent is palpable at the everyday level without sociological surveys.

Vladimir Sokratilin, executive director of Solution, a consulting company, notes that the level of tension in society is rarely determined by any one factor; most often the causes are complex. Nevertheless, in the public’s mind, all these factors form an image that is denoted at the everyday level by the term “injustice.” Sokratilin argues that the point is not that people’s real incomes are stagnant or even declining, but that the majority of people imagine that “wrong actions on the part of the authorities” are the reason for this decline.

“Tension in society does not necessarily mean that people will take to the streets and protest. However, the higher the degree of tension in society, the higher the probability that society will explode. If there are opportunities and channels for interaction between the authorities and society, then the most dangerous thing that the country can expect is a political crisis. But we have observed in Kazakhstan what happens when there are no channels for negotiating.

“After all, the Kazakh authorities met the populace’s demand to reverse the increase in gas prices, but it was unclear with whom and how to negotiate. It is difficult to predict which leaders could come forward in the wake of social protest, and it is even more difficult to predict how they would behave. Let us recall that when Vladimir Lenin arrived in Petrograd in the spring of 1917, his plans were greeted with surprise even by some of his Bolshevik supporters, and many intellectuals considered him an outsider and an eccentric,” Sokratilin argues.

The introduction of QR codes, which the authorities formally declared was a means of slowing the virus’s spread, when in fact they are obviously pursuing other goals, has also become an irritating factor.

“We understand, however, that vaccinated and re-infected people can also spread the infection. So the QR codes are just a way of encouraging the populace to get vaccinated. Consequently, society receives an additional signal that the authorities are deceiving and manipulating them when it comes to a vital issue. Such an inconsistent and opaque position on the part of the authorities does not increase the populace’s confidence in it, but undermines it,” says Sokratilin.

Matskevich argues that it is not yet obvious at the grassroots level what shape dissatisfaction with QR codes could take, since there is no organizing force that would help people to comprehend and politically formalize their dissatisfaction. At the same time, an aggressive reaction has been increasingly occurring at the individual level, exacerbating social polarization.

“When confronting such major problems as the pandemic, people can show either extreme individualism or solidarity. So far, our society has displayed an extreme degree of individualism and lack of unity,” the sociologist notes.

Sokratilin adds that in such circumstances, favorable conditions are generated for unexpected people to become very famous and popular extremely quickly. “For example, the bar owner and ‘bar resistance’ organizer Alexander Konovalov is not a political figure, but a businessman. However, more and more people are avidly keeping track of what he’s doing, regardless of their attitude toward him,” says Sokratilin.

Photo by Sergei Yermokin. Courtesy of Delovoi Peterburg. Translated by the Russian Reader

This Blog Is Gay

Felix Glyukman, as seen in a screen shot of his “controversial” YouTube video, courtesy of Sota

YouTube demands that an LGBT blogger living in the United States remove a video that violates Russian law
OVD Info
January 4, 2022

YouTube has demanded that the blogger Felix Glyukman, who lives in the US, delete his [Russian-language] video “How I Realized I’m Gay.” The news was reported by Sota, who quoted Glyukman’s Facebook post on the matter.

The video hosting service referred to a letter it had received from Roskomnadzor. The notice states that the video, which the blogger posted in 2019, violates the Russian law “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” and contains information prohibited for distribution. YouTube informed Glyukman that it would block the video if he failed to delete it.

“I actually found the video in Roskomnadzor’s registry. By the way, in it I talk about how I became aware of my sexual orientation in adolescence and how my preferences manifested themselves even in childhood. I also recommended the book This Book is Gay. Apparently that’s why the hardworking asses of Roskomnadzor’s staffers caught on fire: because it was about me as a minor,” commented Glyukman.

The blogger adds that he has not lived in Russia since 2017, and shot the video in Miami.

Translated by Thomas H. Campbell

The Siege

Monument to workers and staff at the Ivan Fyodorov printing plant in Leningrad who gave their lives during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad by the Nazis. Photo by Alexey Chernov

Hello, dear friend!

You may have already run into problems when you tried to visit the OVD Info website, or seen disturbing news headlines about our project. We would lie to ell you what we know about the problem at the current moment.

What happened?

On Saturday morning, our website was blocked by decision of the Lukhovitsy City Court. Later, Roskomnadzor sent a request to social networks to block our accounts. We have not received any official notification.

Later, comments made by a Roskomnadzor official to the media made us aware of the reason Roskomnadzor had ordered our website blocked, and had also sent a request to the administrators of social networks to block our accounts.

It follows from the Roskomnadzor official’s statement that our site has been placed on the registry of sites featuring prohibited information, although it is not on the list yet. It does NOT FOLLOW from this same statement that our project has been deemed “extremist” or “terrorist,” nor does it follow from the court ruling. At most, some of our publications have been deemed prohibited matter. We do not yet know which publications these are.

We still have not received any official notification. Grigory Okhotin, OVD Info co-founder and the website’s proprietor, was not informed about the investigation, the court hearing, or the blocking of the site, although his lawyer responded on December 14 to a summons by traveling to the Lukhovitsy prosecutor’s office, which filed the lawsuit, where he tried to obtain information about the details of the complaint.

We regard this as a continuation of the Russian state’s attack on civil society. There is nothing surprising in the fact that OVD Info has now been targeted, since our project is probably the largest human rights project in Russia. In addition, OVD Info is the driving force behind the campaign to abolish the law on “foreign agents.” After our petition calling on the authorities to abolish the law went public, we were placed on the list of “foreign agents”; after a bill that would abolish the law was submitted to the State Duma, our website was blocked. We can conclude that this is how the authorities consult with the professional human rights community.

We cannot say that we did not anticipate this attack. After the attack on the Memorial Human Rights Center and the lodging of similar claims against it, we realized that we would be next. However, unlike the Memorial case, where formal legal procedures have been followed, at least, our website was blocked in violation of all possible norms.

What’s next?

  1. We will seek to clarify the situation and defend ourselves in a legal manner. Naturally, we do not promote or condone terrorism or extremism. OVD Info is an independent human rights media project and we are confident that all our information is reliable and does not violate laws. We have always operate and will continue to operate in compliance with the law.
  2. We will continue our work. You can still read us on social networks. Even if all our social networks are blocked, we will still provide legal assistance to people who are persecuted for political reasons, receive calls and messages via our bot, and provide legal advice. And we will find a way to convey necessary and important information to you.
  3. We are still counting on your help. The project has existed for over ten years only thanks to public support. No court and no prosecutor’s office can block the help of hundreds of thousands of people. For now, it’s still safe to support us in any way possible. You can subscribe to our social media accounts to follow the news, or you can make a small donation, preferably in cryptocurrency. If something changes and a method of support becomes unsafe, we will immediately tell you about it.

We hope that we will be able to gladden you with good news this year! Thank you for staying with us!

Yours as always,

Grigory Okhotin and the OVD Info team

The indepedent human rights media project OVD Info
https://donate.ovdinfo.orgdonate@ovdinfo.org 

You received this letter because you support OVD Info.

 On 29 September 2021, the Russia Justice Ministry placed OVD Info on its “registry of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent.” We include this disclaimer, among other things, so that your donations do not go towards paying fines for its absence.

But you can help us get rid of it.

Source: OVD Info email newsletter, 25 December 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader


Five hundred years ago, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that it is best for a ruler to be both loved and feared, but ‘it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both’. The Kremlin seems to share this belief. Since the government’s economic policy is aimed at maintaining ‘stable stagnation’ rather than economic growth, it won’t be able to buy the population’s complacency. On the other hand, although the government’s propaganda is still working, its long-term performance is questionable. The share of Russians who obtain information through television has decreased by 25% in the seven years since March 2014. At the same time, citizens’ trust in information from social media and online publications is growing. Against this backdrop, along with the consolidation of online censorship, the politics of fear is becoming an increasingly attractive tool for controlling public sentiment.

Lauren Young, a professor at the University of California, Davis, demonstrated in her recent study how repression works and what dividends a dictator can reap from it. Citizens are more likely to feel fear when witnessing violence used by the authorities. Fear, in turn, leads to pessimism about the prospects for collective action (‘no one will take to the streets, and I won’t either’) and a lower willingness to take risks. All of this diminishes citizens’ desire to express disloyalty to the authorities. In the case of Russia, the politics of fear is also amplified by the fact that many Russians depend on payments from the state budget. As studies show, state-sector professionals, all other things being equal, are less likely to protest and are also less supportive of democracy.

Yes, repressions undermine the legitimacy of state institutions and can even, albeit with very low probability, lead to the opposite effect when people lose patience and pour into the streets. But the year 2021 showed that the Russian regime will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo.

Source: Mikhail Turchenko, “One year in the life of a consolidated personalist dictatorship,” Riddle, 20 December 2021