The Living End (Russia Day 2022)

“A week of discounts from domestic brands! We’re celebrating Russia Day! Russian goods at discounts from 12%” A screenshot of the email flyer I received earlier today from Ozon, Russia’s answer to Amazon.


I read with my own eyes a post by a journalist (a well-read woman and so on) that there have been shortages of Dijon mustard in France (the seeds came from Ukraine). She says it’s not good to gloat, but it’s still somehow hard to resist.

Since the norms of behavior forbid us to analyze the psyches of strangers without their asking, it remains only to say in the words of one classic author, addressed to another classic author:

God, how sad our Russia is!

Source: Anna Narinskaya, Facebook, 11 June 2022


“What, should I die and not live?” “Who would I make happier by getting arrested?” “I have my health, elderly parents, mortgage (crossed out), cat (crossed out), students, and deadlines to worry about.” “Why doesn’t Syria get so much sympathy?” “One must stand with one’s country, right or wrong.” (Crossed out.) “We have one life to live, and we should think about eternity and loved ones, not politics.” Have you been saying such things to yourself? I have been, constantly, usually silently, only to myself. But then I think that it is a way of normalizing the abnormal, of normalizing the fascist situation, that it is the next stage in the collapse of my personality, and perhaps of the country, morality, culture, and sociability, a new stage and state into which I and all of us are entering.

Source: Sergey Abashin, Facebook, 12 June 2022


“You’re not Peter the First [Peter the Great], you’re Adolf the Second.” Source: Rustem Adagamov, Twitter, 12 June 2022: “The town of Siversky, near St. Petersburg.”


A close female friend writes to me from Moscow that “fun” is in the air again there on the streets and “in the corridors.” “The war has boiled over and cooled down”: it has been put on the back burner. The shock has passed and “the war is somewhere else.” The summer routine has overtaken it. “Well yeah, there’s the war, but does that mean we’re now supposed to stop living?”

Source: Alexander Morozov, Facebook, 11 June 2022


“Wait [for his death]. Press the button to cross the road.” Source: @d_valkovich, Twitter, 11 June 2022: “The voice of the Moscow streets.”


So you bitches are enjoying the summer, right? The birds are singing, the lilacs are blooming, the mosquitoes are buzzing… But it’s no fucking summer, it’s your eternal black February in summer guise, it’s the horseman of the apocalypse pounding his hooves, you see a cloud of dust in the distance… These are the end times.

Source: Roman Osminkin, Twitter, 11 June 2022


Sometimes I have dreams where someone falls off a roof or gets hit by a train. I never see the death itself, but only sense that something irreparable has happened. Something very scary, because it is forever. Then I wake up.

Like many people, I am waiting for this horror to end. The fact that the end exists at all gives us some hope in our helplessness. But we’re not going back to a world where none of this happened. Something irreparable has happened. Tens of thousands have been killed, and probably hundreds of thousands have been crippled in one way or another. It is forever. It cannot “end.”

________________

A dog near its house, which was destroyed by a shell, Kostiantynivka. Photo: Gleb Garanich for Reuters/Scanpix/LENTA

Source: Natalia Vvedenskaya, Facebook, 12 June 2022


All translations by the Russian Reader

Selling Eclairs at the Gates of Auschwitz

I am subscribed to a number of email newsletters from theaters, publishers, and clubs, including Russian ones.

And until recently, I myself came up with advertising for the books that we released.

But certain things have changed, haven’t they? Many, of course, have stopped sending newsletters, but some continue. Here is a letter from the International Baltic House Theater Festival [in Petersburg], summoning people to its performances as if nothing has happened. And the venerable publishers Ad Marginem fervently invite people to their tent at the Red Square Book Festival. It’s right on Red Square, where the earth is the roundest!

Hello, friends, have you lost your fucking minds by any chance? I don’t know how it looks in Moscow or Petersburg, but from where I’m sitting, it looks as appropriate as selling eclairs at the gates of Auschwitz.

Source: Dmitry Volchek, Facebook, 2 June 2022. Screenshot and translation by the Russian Reader


Approaching the 100-day mark in a war that he refuses to call by its name, Russian President Vladimir Putin is a man intent on conveying the impression of business as usual.

As his army fought its way into the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk this week, Putin was making awkward small talk in a televised ceremony to honor parents of exceptionally large families.

Since the start of May, he has met – mostly online – with educators, oil and transport bosses, officials responsible for tackling forest fires, and the heads of at least a dozen Russian regions, many of them thousands of miles from Ukraine.

Along with several sessions of his Security Council and a series of calls with foreign leaders, he found time for a video address to players, trainers and spectators of the All-Russian Night Hockey League.

The appearance of solid, even boring routine is consistent with the Kremlin’s narrative that it is not fighting a war – merely waging a “special military operation” to bring a troublesome neighbor to heel.

For a man whose army has heavily underperformed in Ukraine and been beaten back from its two biggest cities, suffering untold thousands of casualties, Putin shows no visible sign of stress.

In contrast with the run-up to the Feb. 24 invasion, when he denounced Ukraine and the West in bitter, angry speeches, his rhetoric is restrained. The 69-year-old appears calm, focused and fully in command of data and details.

While acknowledging the impact of Western sanctions, he tells Russians their economy will emerge stronger and more self-sufficient, while the West will suffer a boomerang effect from spiraling food and fuel prices.

[…]

But as the war grinds on with no end in sight, Putin faces an increasing challenge to maintain the semblance of normality.

Economically, the situation will worsen as sanctions bite harder and Russia heads towards recession.

[…]

The words “war” and “Ukraine” were never spoken during Putin’s 40-minute video encounter on Wednesday with the prolific families, including Vadim and Larisa Kadzayev with their 15 children from Beslan in the North Caucasus region.

Wearing their best dresses and suits, the families sat stiffly at tables laden with flowers and food as Putin called on them in turn to introduce themselves. On the same day, eight empty school buses pulled into the main square of Lviv in western Ukraine to serve as a reminder of 243 Ukrainian children killed since the start of Putin’s invasion.

The closest he came to acknowledging the war was in a pair of references to the plight of children in Donbas and the “extraordinary situation” there.

Russia had many problems but that was always the case, he said as he wrapped up the online meeting. “Nothing unusual is actually happening here.”

Source: Mark Trevelyan, “Putin clings to semblance of normality as his war grinds on,” Reuters, 2 June 2022


Simon Pirani:

‘At least as bad as Russia itself are the areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian armed forces in 2014 – Crimea and the so called “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk – and the small amount of territory Russia has taken this year. In Crimea, all civic activism, especially by the Tatar community, has been savagely punished. People are being sent to jail for many years for something they posted on line. The “republics” are ruled by lawless, quasi-state administrations. The list of human rights abuses – torture, illegal imprisonment, forced labour, terrorism against political opponents – is long. Most of the population of the “republics” left, years ago. Industry has collapsed. As for Kherson and other areas occupied this year, local government and civil society has been assaulted, opponents of Russian rule assassinated and kidnapped, and demonstrations broken up. Putin forecast that Ukrainians would welcome his army with open arms; I literally do not know of one single example of that happening. If people are looking for explanations about Ukrainians’ heightened sense of nationalism, part of it may be in the horrendous conditions in the parts of their country occupied by Russia. Who would welcome being ruled by a bunch of cynical, lawless thugs?’

Source: “In Quillversation: A Russian Imperial Project (Simon Pirani and Anthony McIntyre Discuss the Russian War on Ukraine),” The Pensive Quill, 1 June 2022

Russian Ways of Death

The grave of Mikhail Vasilyevich Sergeyev, the author’s grandfather

If you’re looking for something that binds the Russian people, it is, perhaps, the cult of the dead. I’m coming back now from the cemetery where my grandfather is buried. The number of bright plastic flowers, pots, baskets, and wreaths per square meter there is off the charts. As long as a person is alive, you can torment them, shout obscenities at them, and even get good and drunk and beat them up. But as soon as he or she is gone, a competition breaks out to make the most solemn graveside speeches and sumptuous graves. In a way, this is the underside of human life’s insecurity and lack of value. Death is a stable condition. As my grandfather’s widow told my father, “You can sit on the bench by a grave. The owners are unlikely to object.”

There is also a lot of ground for indulging in superstition. Should the cross on a gravestone be on the left or on the right? Can you visit a cemetery after two in the afternoon? Should a temporary cross be thrown in the trash or should it be burned? Can you drink vodka in remembrance of the dead and leave them sweets? These customs are mostly pagan, partly Soviet, and they are widespread. Nobody wants to die, and superstitions give us firm ground to stand on. They are like rules and magical charms.

And death is a serious business, of course. Less than ten minutes after I arrived, a cemetery employee drove up on a bicycle and offered his services.

Source: Alexei Sergeyev, Facebook, 21 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


In March, the Krasnoyarsk photographer Maria Minina got a phone call from an unknown woman. She did not give her name — she only said that she had suffered two strokes. Minina’s caller asked her to do a “Vogue-style photo shoot,” only the woman needed the pictures for her own tombstone. So Maria began providing a new service — photographing people for their gravestones. Takie Dela talked to the photographer and her clients about how they feel during such shoots and why they do them.

“I’m afraid that every day might be my last”
This past winter, Minina dreamed that she died. In her dream, she found out about her death from a work chat in which money was raised for her funeral. The dream made a huge impression on Maria, and she began thinking about what she would leave behind when she was gone. Just then she got a call from her first client who asked to take a picture of her for a future tombstone. She asked her to take the pictures in the Vogue style in which Minina works.

A “Vogue-style” photo by Maria Minina. Courtesy of Takie Dela

“I came to Masha’s photo shoot after having two strokes,” says Minina’s client Anna R., whose name we have changed at her request. “I wanted to memorialize myself as beautiful in life, I wanted to have glossy-style photos. I’m afraid that every day may be my last, so I’m doing everything to live to the fullest.”

Anna asked Minina to do a photo shoot of her for her gravestone. Firstly, she wanted to have a photo of her ready in case she died. Secondly, she decided to “train [her] psyche.”

“I thought that I would be sad, that I would feel my imminent departure, but Masha did not let me think about death for a second. During the photo shoot, I felt like a model and a woman being photographed on the red carpet. The feelings were quite strange, but I liked them.”

“They will bury me, and everything will be fine”
After Anna’s photo shoot, Minina told her subscribers on social media that she could do a similar shoot for anyone else.

“In fact, many relatives of people who have passed away ask this question: where can I find decent photos?” Maria explains. “About four months ago, my uncle’s sister passed away, and relatives could not find good photos of her, although she had lived for over sixty years. That is, there were no high-quality photos of just her.”

Maria wants to use the photo shoots to ease some of the burden experienced by the relatives of deceased people. Relatives who are preparing for a funeral will, at least, not have to look for a suitable picture, she hopes.

One of Maria’s clients is the well-known Krasnoyarsk blogger Rustam Umarov, whose Instagram account has 370,000 subscribers. He has stage four cancer, and the doctors told him that he had six months to live. That was six months ago. The diagnosis and prognoses shocked Rustam. When he got over the shock, he decided to take care of his own funeral to relieve his beloved wife of the hardship of having to organize it.

Rustam Umarov. Photo: Maria Minina. Courtesy of Takie Dela

“I have already made arrangements with a funeral service. So that if something happens to me, my wife doesn’t panic and go into hysterics. So that they call her and say, ‘Anna Igorevna, we will take care of everything. We don’t need anything from you — no money, no worries.’ They will bury me, and everything will be fine,” says Rustam.

Having set about organizing his future funeral, Umarov thought about a photo for his tombstone. He says that when he buried his mother three years ago, he could not find a single good picture of her. Because of his diagnosis, Rustam decided to do a photo shoot.

“I don’t want people to cry at my funeral. I want people to dance and smile at my funeral. I’m not going to the worms in hell, I’m going somewhere that is maybe a million times better, so why worry?” says Rustam. “Everyone has their own time on this earth. I have talked to my children and my wife. They know that I have a terminal illness, that I can die at any moment, and for them, at least, it will not be a shock. Even at the photo shoot, they knew that it was partly being done for my funeral, and partly for my family, for memory’s sake.”

“Each of our days is unique
Maria herself is certain “there is a calm acceptance of death” in the tombstone photo shoots. But, in her opinion, a person begins to work out their attitude to life’s finiteness even before meeting with the photographer, not during the shoot.

“I always try to make the shoot itself a celebration — no matter what we are getting photographed for. It is a mood-lifting therapy, a means of working out that each of our days is unique. No one in this world is immortal — the wheel of fortune can break, and life can turn abruptly in the other direction,” Minina notes.

According to her, such shoots provide psychological relief to people with incurable diseases. But among Minina’s clients there are also people who are not getting ready to die, but working through psychological problems, for example. This was why Elena D. signed up for a photo shoot with Maria. (Elena’s name has been changed at her request.)

“I asked Maria to do a Vogue magazine-style photo shoot of me for a tombstone,” says the client. “Before that, I had had a nervous breakdown. I decided to let it all hang out. I wouldn’t go to a spa or a club, but to a photo shoot with Masha! By pure chance I came across her advertisement and called her. To be honest, I don’t regret it at all.”

Maria believes that such photo shoots can interest different people for different reasons. According to her, some people really are preparing for death in advance or want to overcome psychological difficulties in this way, while others are trying to shock the people in their lives.

“Perhaps Insta divas will want to look on their tombstones the way they do now. They will want everything to be clear and beautiful. Or some will want to update their content and shock people. A blogger gets their picture taken and tells [subscribers] that it’s going to be on their tombstone, and their account goes viral,” the photographer says.

Maria is also using her new service to work through her own fear of death.

“Gradually, I began to accept that sooner or later we all find ourselves on the other side of life, but we don’t know when and how it will happen. Perhaps I will help people with the service I provide.”

“It can be important and thrillingly reconciling”
Psychotherapist Lisa Zaslavskaya deals with subject of dealing with death. The specialist notes that techniques involving photographs can actually be used in psychotherapy. These can be photos from a family archive, self-portraits or just pictures of clients taken by another person. Psychologists use such photos during therapy to treat various conditions. Zaslavskaya notes that taking pictures for a tombstone can be a therapeutic process. It can help people to realize that “death is near, that perhaps it will come soon,” and to live through it.

“It is one of the ways of abiding in the real world. And it can be useful for loved ones. After all, if this issue is talked through, if it is discussed that I am doing a photo shoot for a tombstone, it may be important for relationships — within the family, with loved ones. It can be another occasion to tell each other about your feelings and desires. It can be important and thrillingly reconciling,” the specialist argues.

When a person is photographed for their tombstone, they touch on the various fears evoked by death. Because of this, it can be difficult for others to accept the process.

“It is also important to take into account the modern context. The topic of death is taboo, and if in the past, theoretically, people saw other people dying and died at home, nowadays there are specialized institutions for this and people often die in hospitals, ambulances, or hospices. Even if a person dies at home, they are taken away. They are not left in the home after they die, as used to be the case. So, death scares us, of course. It is tabooed and concealed in everyday life,” the psychotherapist argues.

Zaslavskaya notes that there are different ways of coming to terms with death, and not all of them suit a particular person. In her opinion, the most important thing about the process is a sensitive attitude towards oneself and others.

“We need to somehow measure [how much a person is able to] withstand this confrontation with death,” she argues. “A photo shoot like this is suitable for some people, but not for others — everyone decides for themselves. There is no universal [way of making peace] with death. If it is matters for someone to be remembered in this way, in this style, it is their right.”

Source: Sabina Babayeva, “‘I don’t want people to cry at my funeral’: How Russians order glossy photo shoots for their tombstones,” Takie Dela, 17 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The three Last Address plaques in the gateway to our house in Petersburg’s Central District

On Sunday, May 22, four new Last Address plaques will be installed in downtown Petersburg.

At 11 a.m., residents of Zagorodny Prospekt, 24, will install three plaques memorializing people who lived in their house and were shot during the Great Terror.

35-year-old Elizaveta Ivanovna Mullo, an ethnic Finn and at teacher at School No. 16 in Leningrad’s Volodarsky District of Leningrad, was arrested on September 5, 1937. She was shot on November 15, 1937, after being sentenced to death by a “twosome” [an NKVD officer and a prosecutor]. Her three-year-old Albert was left motherless.

Iosif Abramovich Dorner, a 45-year-old Jew, was head of the sales office at the Printing House. He was arrested on November 2, 1937, and shot on May 5, 1938. He was survived by his wife Sarra and four-year-old daughter Larisa.

Yakov Venediktovich Adamchik, a 55-year-old Pole and train conductor, was arrested on January 18, 1938, and shot on April 2, 1938. He was survived by his wife Feodosia and their four children — Olga, Mikhail, Lydia, and Nina.

All three victims were later officially exonerated for lack of evidence of a crime — Yakov Adamchik and Iosif Dorner, in 1957 and 1958, respectively; and Elizaveta Mullo, in 1989.

At 12 noon at Kuznechny Lane, 8, next to the plaque installed in 2016 for Nikolai Ivanovich Konyaev, a memorial plaque for his relative Boris Petrovich Matskevich will be installed. They lived in the same apartment and were arrested on the same day (March 11, 1935) as “socially dangerous elements.” A technician at an enterprise and a former Tsarist army colonel, Boris Petrovich was exiled to Kazakhstan for five years. In 1938, he was arrested in Atbasar and sentenced to death by firing squad. He was exonerated in both cases in 1959 and 1960, respectively. His granddaughter will be installing the plaque in his memory.

We invite you to join the installation ceremonies.

Source: Last Address in Petersburg email newsletter, 17 May 2022. Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

The People You Meet

Prison camp acquaintances, of course, slightly tweak the picture that can take shape when you read only anti-war media.

I talked to a friend from Krasnoyarsk today. He is currently doing time in a camp in Mari El (he was transferred there from Krasnoyarsk). He says, “A lot of people have left Mari El [for the war].” “Voluntarily?” I ask. “Voluntarily. And why not, the money is good, so they go. Plus there’s looting: they drag things back from there too.” In response to my remark that they might come back home in a coffin, he tries to explain, although he himself does not approve of their actions. “Well, a one-way ticket… People have been pushed to the limit. There’s nothing to live on. But there you can make decent money.”

Basically, you can’t argue with the material attractiveness of going to fight in the war. Here, in the countryside, some earn 20 thousand rubles a month [approx. 300 euros], but there they are promised 200 thousand [approx. 3,000 euros]. Plus looting. And there is seemingly nothing you can do about it. If they are paid, they will go. Especially because it has become harder to survive.

Source: privately posted social media entry whose author is afraid that it could be grounds for charging them with violating Russian Criminal Code Article 207.3. (‘”Public dissemination of knowingly false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” The new law provides for a prison sentence of up to 15 years for knowingly disseminating false information about the Russian Armed Forces.’) Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

Convictions

https://vimeo.com/197503611

Convictions, doc, 2016

Password: beliefs

The 15th of May is Conscientious Objectors’ Day.

We started to make this film in 2014 during the annexation of Crimea by Russia. it seemed that by 2022 only the epigraph would remain relevant.

“You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men.”

Watching the first war crimes trial in Ukraine over Vadim Shishimarin, it becomes quite obvious that this war is also being waged by children under the control of vile old men.

I understand how and why Russian guys from the provinces ended up in Ukraine.

Source: Tatiana Chistova, Facebook, 15 May 2022. Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the heads-up and so much more. NB. This film is freely viewable on Vimeo only today, 15 May, apparently. Since it is a “private” video, I was unable to embed it here. UPDATE (17 MAY 2022) The film seems to be indefinitely viewable, so please take the opportunity to watch it using the URL and password listed, above. An acquaintance described it as “deadly serious and very funny too.” ||| TRR

Cat Scratch Fever

If I didn’t know it would get me into big trouble with the law, I would devote the rest of my life to physically assaulting Russian fascists until they finally cried, “Uncle!” and let this country breathe again. As it is, they and their supreme leader are quickly suffocating it.

By “Russian fascists” I don’t mean people who celebrate Hitler’s birthday and march around in silly outfits. I mean Putin’s mainly middle-class, fairly well-off, professionally educated supporters, without whom he would never have got anywhere in his ascent to immortality.

A particularly ugly encounter this evening at a shindig persuaded me once again that these people, who live mostly in the two capitals [Petersburg and Moscow], are Putin’s real base, not the mostly poor, disempowered, and utterly disabused people who live in the completely imaginary “Russian heartlands.”

What surprises me is how savvier folk than me haven’t been writing more and more often about this fact of life in Russia, which has been staring at us in the face for years.

Russia doesn’t need a proper bourgeois revolution. It needs a revolution to unseat the reflexively nationalist, increasingly fascistic bourgeoisie generated by the Putinist counterrevolution and, of course, the Putinist elite that manages and cultivates this fairly tiny nationalist bourgeoisie. Otherwise, the richest country on earth is doomed to collapse. ||| TRR, 13 May 2018, Petrograd. Photo by the Russian Reader

Moscow, May 9

For the first time in my life (I swear!) I went to the Immortal Regiment march today. Let’s just say I was strongly encouraged to do it. I hesitated, I thought it over, but in the end my curiosity won out. I have been shooting almost nothing for more than two months, because I simply lost any sense of how to go on documenting urban life and civic activism in the new reality. What did I see and hear today? I found super polite people of all ages portraying the ideal “Russian world” in its peaceful aspect. “Nobody here wants war,” a man of about forty-five, holding a portrait of his grandfather and a flag emblazoned with an image of Stalin, told me. He is one of those who sees “pros and cons” in everything and everyone, and who, although experiencing some discomfort, still fully trusts the vision of the country’s leadership. Maybe some of the marchers were forced by their employers to go to the rally, but it seemed to me that people had gone there quite willingly. They were given free food and beverages: in exchange for such generosity, one can walk in the rain and sun for a couple of hours. The Uzbek workers seemed to be happy, because on Victory Day they are allowed to join the people of Great Russia, who for the rest of the year carefully monitor and maintain the existing division of society into “homeboys” and “aliens.” When, instead of periodic enthusiastic shouts of “Hur-ra-a-a-a-h!” or “Ru-u-u-u-sia!”, the crowd started chanting “fascism will not pass” behind me, I should have fought the good fight, but instead my instinct of self-preservation kicked in and I stupidly continued to shoot.

“NOD” = the so-called National Liberation Movement

Source: anatrrra, LiveJournal, 10 May 2022. Introductory text translated and photos reprinted with the author’s kind permission. Go to the original post to see their completely stunning photo reportage in full. Translated by the Russian Reader

Support

There wasn’t much left of Russian army Sgt. Andrei Akhromov’s body when it arrived in a zinc coffin at his hometown, a four-hour drive south of Moscow, relatives said. The 21-year-old died in April near the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv when his tank was hit by enemy fire.

Sgt. Akhromov’s cousin, Sergei Akhromov, said a representative of the regional governor’s office told the family it took the armed forces three weeks to identify what remained of him using DNA analysis. Loved ones didn’t look into the casket before burying him last week, he said.

“I only blame America—not Ukraine, not Russia,” Mr. Akhromov, a 32-year-old parks-and-recreation worker, said. “Biden, or however he is called, allowed for Nazism to flourish in Ukraine, and so Russia had to fight not only to protect its people and borders, but also the Ukrainian people, women, children, elderly.”

Source: Evan Gershkovich, “As Coffins Come Home, Russians Confront Toll of Ukraine Invasion,” Wall Street Journal, 4 May 2022

I see that there is a struggle underway over the numbers [of Russians] supporting the war. We are all asked whether Russians want war, how different segments of society relate to the war, etc. There is a temptation (a natural desire) to find grounds — everyone has their own — for our “sense of society’s reaction to the war.” The old liberal circles in Moscow, of course, do not want to reconcile themselves to the fact that society in a patriotic frenzy sincerely supports all the monstrous violence, destruction, and sowing of death and grief produced by Russia’s political leadership and army. Hence the struggle arises. VTsIOM says 75% [of Russians support the war], but independent sociologists says it’s 58-59%. And look at Levada’s figures: by the end of the second month [of the war], support had fallen from 74% to 68%. And so on.

However, if you think about it, what is the political significance of this struggle over the sociological grounds for “non-support”? There is none, since there is no way to mold “non-support” into a political factor. It’s like when the Polish uprising of 1863 was put down. Russian society, including the educated classes, experienced a patriotic upsurge. This is a historical fact. Some people, of course, did not support it, but politically that didn’t mean anything. Therefore, no “figures” or “focus groups” change anything now. They do not enable one to shift Russian society’s attitudes to the war from where they are now. This society is currently under martial law – undeclared, but de facto — because the norms of military censorship have been been instituted, economic data has been partly made off-limits, and civil rights have been completely restricted. Under martial law, “non-support” is tantamount to desertion, “alarmism,” sabotage, and treason. Under martial law, there are no civil institutions within which you can politically voice your “non-support.” Therefore, what are we talking about when we raise the question of who supports the war and why they support it?

Source: Alexander Morozov, Facebook, 4 May 2022. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

Red Flag

As of the morning of May 1, around a hundred billboards featuring the image of the iconic pensioner who gained famed after the events in Ukraine [sic] had been installed in different districts in Petersburg. Fontanka.ru has analyzed the scale of this visual statement. The news-related intrigue lies in the fact that state agencies have nothing to do with the campaign.

“Under the banner of victory!” All images courtesy of Fontanka.ru

In the early hours of May 1, identical posters bearing the image of the famous pensioner holding a Soviet banner were officially installed in about one hundred outdoor media displays in Petersburg.

News about the woman broke out back in April, when she went out with a red banner to greet servicemen in Ukraine, confusing them with Russian soldiers. Her age, her deed, the reaction of the Ukrainian soldiers, and the video that went viral on the Net immediately turned her into a symbol of victory. The old woman’s face has appeared on DPR postage stamps, graffiti artists began to draw her in different cities in Russia, and so on. Even the Russian Federation’s delegate at the UN Security Council talked about her.

Currently, the images of the heroic old woman have been installed in the Central, Admiralty, Petrograd, Vyborg, Maritime, Kalinin, and Moscow districts. These include both large billboards and typical demonstrative surfaces [sic] along the roadways.

The urban spaces chosen for this campaign can be analyzed. The images have been installed near places of authority: on Suvorov Prospekt, next to the Smolny [Petersburg city hall], the seat of the Leningrad Region government, and the Interior Ministry building; on Tapestry Street, near the FSB building; on Horse Guards Boulevard, near St. Isaac’s Cathedral; and around the monument to Alexander Nevsky, outside the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

However, many similar phenomena [sic] have popped up on Moscow Prospekt, Pulkovo Highway, and the October and Vyborg embankments.

Fontanka.ru has learned that state (regional or federal) agencies did not pay for the campaign. Petersburg advertising market insiders, on terms of confidentiality, informed our correspondent that they had heard about the proposal from representatives of a private individual in mid-April. “It’s definitely a businessman. We are sure of this at least, since we called each other when we began receiving preliminary inquiries,” one of the insiders said.

As for the scale, according to the information we have obtained, the order received was for the placement of one hundred billboards at an approximate cost of around ten million rubles [approx. 139,000 euros]. “And that’s if they got a discount,” one source added. Several of our experts more or less agreed with this figure.

If someone in the advertising market has more accurate information, Fontanka.ru is ready to listen to it with a full guarantee of anonymity.

Source: Fontanka.ru, 1 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


A Cult of Dementia

Putin’s red-brown ideology has taken the worst of Nazism and Bolshevism and mixed it with the cartoonish oligarchy from Dunno on the Moon. The final product has no equals anywhere in the world.

Just think about it. For several months now, Russian propaganda has been chewing over the image of a traitorous old Ukrainian woman who was waiting for the invaders with a Soviet flag. Compassionate Ukrainian soldiers gave her food, but took away her flag. That’s the whole story.

But no, the story didn’t end there. In Russia, the crazy old woman was made a real hero, and her image began to appear on buildings. But the occupiers have driven themselves into an ideological trap: no one except such “young Komsomol women” was looking forward to seeing them in Ukraine. The invaders were not greeted with flowers and bread, but were treated to Molotov cocktails and poisoned pies.

If you think about this story more deeply, the old lady with the Soviet flag perfectly reflects the main watchword of Putin’s Russia, its underlying doctrine, and the true purpose of invading Ukraine: our lives have sucked and we won’t let anyone else live either.

She is thus undoubtedly a hero to Russia, as is Pavlik Morozov. Russia has nothing to offer the world. It offers a rollback to the past and endless attempts to cash in on lost “greatness” instead of progress, old age instead of youth, betrayal instead of loyalty, and humiliation instead of pride. So, an old woman holding a Soviet flag is the most accurate symbolic depiction of modern Russia.

It’s funny, because the propagandists don’t care about Russian pensioners or about veterans of the Second World War. Old people in Russia live out their days (they live them out, they don’t live) in want and humiliation, in terrible conditions and hopelessness.

Source: Andrey Churakov, Facebook, 2 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Broken Glass Cake

At the request of the Comintern, a smaller counter-exhibition entitled The Truth on the Colonies, organized by the Communist Party and the CGTU, attracted very few visitors (5000 in 8 months). The first section was dedicated to abuses committed during the colonial conquests, and quoted Albert Londres and André Gide’s criticisms of forced labour in the colonies while the second one made a comparison of Soviet “nationalities policy” to “imperialist colonialism.”

Source: “Paris Colonial Exposition,” Wikipedia


Broken Glass Cake

Ingredients:
▫ sour cream 400 g
▫ condensed milk 300 g
▫gelatin 25 g + water 150 ml

For the jello:
▫ different flavors of gelatin
▫ hot water

DIRECTIONS:
1️⃣ Prepare the jello per the directions on the packet. Pour into a dish, add hot water, mix until cool and leave in the refrigerator for ~ 3 hours. You can already pull the condensed milk and sour cream from the icebox so they will be at room temperature.
2️⃣ When the jello has set up, cut it into cubes right in the dish.
3️⃣ Dissolve 25 g of gelatin in 150 ml of water.
4️⃣ Mix the sour cream, condensed milk and gelatin.
And then just assemble the parts as in the video. Dispatch it to the refrigerator for about 4 hours. I put a layer of cookies on the bottom, but you don’t have to add them if you don’t want to. Yes, it’s quick to prepare, but you will definitely like it :)

Translated by the Russian Reader


It is likely that in the autumn, or already in the summer, there will be tension in the country over a significant downturn in the incomes of people employed in production, in particular, due to layoffs (in some places, massive layoffs). There is the potential for protests here. [The authorities] won’t be able to contain them, as [they did] in the nineties. I think, however, that it will be difficult to translate this potential into political change. Apart from the fact that it has been organizationally routed, the liberal and democratic opposition has an agenda that is far removed from the problems of this social stratum. The left is mainly interested in theoretical discussions and, frankly speaking, they are not merely absent as a political factor in Russia, but represent something like a negative quantity. There is no Russian [Lech] Wałęsa even visible on the horizon. But might it not happen that, if and when he appears, he will turn out to be a nationalist, blaming the authorities not for what they did, but for what they failed to do?

Source: Grigorii Golosov, Facebook, 28 April 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


A huge St. George ribbon in the shape of the letter Z has been hung on the building housing the Omsk Public Chamber.

It serves as the backdrop for an announcement of the show “An Orc in the Virtual World.”

Source: Kholod, Facebook, 28 April 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Russia and the people who live in Russia are becoming more reactionary not by the day, but by the hour. The problem is that almost no one notices this. Every day Putin and his gang remain in power sends Russian society backwards another year in terms of how people think about politics, justice, religion, ethnicity, culture, industrial relations, war and peace, and the rest of the world.

At this rate, if and when the Putin regime does disappear from view, nearly everyone who lives in Russia will have to be reprogrammed to deal more or less ably with the world the rest of us inhabit.

This is not an endorsement of our world’s virtues. But you simply cannot imagine the depths and breadth of the black political reaction that has engulfed Russia until you have lived there a long time (preferably, starting well before the reaction ensued) and thus have the eyes to see and the ears to hear a country that it is well on its way to utterly rejecting progress in all its forms.

This is especially true of the so-called intelligentsia, even those of its members who imagine themselves to be liberals, leftists, scholars, artists or professionals.

Try explaining to them one little thing — for example, why the Putin regime’s crazed, full-fledged persecution of Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, now involving hard prison time, torture, and early morning raids on the homes of these extraordinarily peaceable “extremists” — is a symptom of a fascist or proto-fascist state.

They won’t understand what you’re saying. At best, your discussion will end with them making a joke about the whole thing, as if being waterboarded for the “crime” of being a Jehovah’s Witness were a laughing matter.

That this Russian fascism has started to spill out into other parts of the world, and most educated Russians continue to have nothing to say about it, is alarming. ||| 28 April 2019, TRR