Popular Opinion

“Any action that dispels the illusions of order and resignation is a spell for more of the same.” Photo by the Russian Reader

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Вообще, ходить вокруг соседа, помахивая битой и приговаривая «че ты дергаешься-то, че дергаешься, я еще ничего не сделал» – так же отвратительно.
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В правильном мире из братской могилы на Пискаревском кладбище поднялись бы тысячи рук и разорвали бы этого лицемера на атомы.

Source: Natalia Vvedenskaya, Facebook, 27 January 2022

The fact is that hovering around a neighbor, waving a bat, and saying “Why you so jumpy? Why you so jumpy? I ain’t done anything yet” is just as disgusting.
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In a proper world, thousands of hands would have risen from the mass grave at Piskaryovskoye Cemetery* and torn this hypocrite into atoms.

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* Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery (Russian: Пискарёвское мемориа́льное кла́дбище) is located in Saint Petersburg, on the Avenue of the Unvanquished (Проспект Непокорённых), dedicated mostly to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad.

[…]

The memorial complex designed by Alexander Vasiliev and Yevgeny Levinson was opened on May 9, 1960. About 420,000 civilians and 50,000 soldiers of the Leningrad Front were buried in 186 mass graves. Near the entrance an eternal flame is located. A marble plate affirms that from September 4, 1941 to January 22, 1944 107,158 air bombs were dropped on the city, 148,478 shells were fired, 16,744 men died, 33,782 were wounded and 641,803 died of starvation.

Source: Wikipedia

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I don’t know why, but I have come across ladies with dogs so many times that I could do an entire exhibition on the subject. And yet, for example, I have never encountered an old man with a cat! That’s as good a topic for a large-scale sociological study as any other! 🤓

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Real “popular opinion” is what people say and do unrehearsed and uncoerced not the dodgy sentiments that the Kremlin, Levada Center, and self-appointed Russia experts put in their mouths. ||| TRR

Social media posts translated by the Russian Reader

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Update (27.01.2022). This, apparently, was the subtext for Ms. Vvedenskaya’s remarks, above:

Photo of the day: Vladimir Putin came to lay flowers at the Piskaryovskoye cemetery in St. Petersburg  in honor of the 78th anniversary of the complete liberation of the city from the fascist siege. The Siege survivors themselves were not allowed into the cemetery — they were left standing behind the fence. Photo: Alexander Demyanchuk / TASS

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

Pancake Batter’s Getting Thick

You wanna fist, you wanna ride
Go to school so you can hide
Hop on the bus & be rewarded
Get off fast & yer retarded
Last off, last in line
Chameleon, you’re doin’ fine

Second hand will tick
Pancake batter’s gettin’ thick
Cut my finger on a butter knife
Watch the blood flow down just like
The blood that I see on your hands

Bloody foot print swollen tongue
Scaly skid mark better run
Bitter swallow get you numb
What is gold? Silver bullets

Source: Drive Like Jehu, “Step On Chameleon” lyrics (slightly edited)

Beyond such basic political engagement, there’s the deeper public diplomacy that would initiate a conversation with ordinary Russians about how they see the country’s future place in the world. How many Russians just want to be part of a normal country, shorn of its cycles of oppression and lashing out? When Dicks analysed German POWs, he found that not all were all were beholden to the Nazi psychic see-saw of bullying and humiliation. He thought these other social groups would be the ones who could rebuild Germany after the war.

There are many Russians—artists, academics, film-makers—who already do a great job of excavating the Russian unconscious. They are often given minimal support by their own government, and some have had to leave the country. There should be a transatlantic fund, independent of any state, to support their work. Likewise we should be thinking of the future generation, and establish a Russian language university safe for critical inquiry.

Source: Peter Pomerantsev, “What the West Will Never Understand About Putin’s Ukraine Obsession,” Time, 22 January 2022

Yes, what Russia needs is more opportunities for the creative intelligentsia to escape the country and perpetuate myths about the authoritarian tendencies of ordinary Russians to gullible, eager (and similarly snobbish and misguided) westerners. When in fact Putin and his regime would have not stayed in power so long without the fulsome and enthusiastic support of a good chunk of the country’s best and brightest. “The people” have had very little to do with it. ||| TRR

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

Thanksgiving: Petersburg’s Culture Laundromat

Five years ago, Vanya Lendyashov, Nochlezhka’s engineer, sent a letter to David Papaskiri, the owner of Prachka.com, a chain of laundromats. Vanya wrote to ask how best to organize a mobile laundry point, a kind of laundry on wheels where homeless people could get their clothes clean for free. David responded by offering to set up a full-fledged laundromat with washing machines and dryers, just like the ones in his chain, especially for Nochlezhka. He decided to give us the equipment for free—we only had to find a suitable building. Our volunteers joined the search and soon found a space at Borovaya, 116, not far from Nochlezhka’s shelter.

Thus began the story of our Culture Laundromat, which has been running like clockwork for five years. Over the years, three and half thousand people have used the laundromat, whose washers and dryers have run over twenty-seven thousand cycles. The laundromat has helped our patrons to go to interviews in clean clothes and get a job, to feel like normal people, to save money, and to avoid condemnation and hatred.

A video about how the Culture Laundromat is organized, and about the people who come there for help

The project got its name thanks to the famous joke “Hello, is this the laundromat?” Jokes aside, the place really has become not just a laundromat, but a genuine space for culture. During off hours, a theater studio has rehearsed there, volunteers with the Persimmon project have gathered there to knit warm clothes for homeless people, an apartment concert has been staged there, and the Notyetpozner team filmed an episode there featuring Shortparis lead singer Nikolai Komyagin.

 

There are shelves of books at the Culture Laundromat and stacks of newspapers and crosswords. Indoor plants turn green on a whatnot in the back. It’s a great place to wash off the grit and grime of hard, terrible days and put on warm clean clothes before going out the door and continuing the path to home from the streets.

Like all our other projects, the Culture Laundromat operates thanks to the people who support us. Thank you for this anniversary and for every day that Nochlezhka is up and running.

Source: Masha Kalinkina, Nochlezhka email newsletter, 25 November 2021. Photo and videos courtesy of Nochlezhka. You can support Nochlezhka by making a donation (via Visa, Mastercard, Apple Pay, Google Pay or PayPal) here. Translated by the Russian Reader

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Source: Subscribe.Ru “News” mailing list for 15 November 2021. Archival photo of a car crash at a summer beer garden on Pushkinskaya Street in Petersburg [circa 2003] by the Russian Reader. Translated by the Russian Reader

Anti-Coders (#SegregationInAction)

This Instagram post by Roebuck Cafe in Petersburg, explaining that it would be serving only customers with QR codes showing they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or recovered from covid-19, and urging people to telephone 122 and sign up for a jab, elicited the ire of user Izarets, for example, who said they wouldn’t be darkening the cafe’s door anymore, even if they did have a “peekaboo code.”

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Opponents of QR codes stage flash mob on social networks, tagging the posts of companies #WeDon’tPatronizeThem. Etazhi in Petersburg has been targeted ||| Bumaga ||| October 27, 2021 ||| Translated by the Russian Reader

Opponents of the QR code system have launched a flash mob on social media, commenting on the posts of shopping malls, cafes and cultural clusters with the hashtags #WeDon’tPatronizeThem and #SegregationInAction.

The flash mobsters dub the QR codes “peekaboo codes” and “cuckoo codes,” criticizing businesses that have agreed to check whether their customers and patrons have them. The action has touched different cities in Russia, from Noyabrsk, located in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, to St. Petersburg.

For example, the flash mobsters commented a post on Instagram by the Petersburg cultural center Etazhi, announcing that it would be open during the lockdown, but people would be admitted to its exhibitions and observation deck only by presenting a QR code. “It is a pity that you support segregating the population too. We won’t be patronizing you anymore,” wrote one female user. Similar messages appeared under posts by Roebuck Cafe, the Youth Theater on the Fontanka, and other establishments.

Bumaga has explained in detail how the QR code system in St. Petersburg will work.

Read more about it:

  • Why do Russians not get vaccinated? How does the anti-vaxxer community operate? How do you argue with an opponent of vaccines? An anti-pseudoscience campaigner and a scholar who researches fakes answer these questions.

COVID-free

Dear viewers,

Due to the spread of the coronavirus, a period of non-working days will be in effect in Moscow from October 28 to November 7. There will be no changes in our repertoire: we plan to hold all scheduled performances.

PLEASE NOTE!
🔻 From October 28, all performances for viewers over the age of 18 will be COVID-free [in English in the original]: you can attend these performances only if you have a QR code (confirming you are protected from COVID-19).
🔻 A QR code can be obtained:
🔻 after you have been vaccinated.
🔻 by doing a PCR test (valid for 72 hours)
🔻 after recently being ill with COVID-19 (valid for 6 months from the date of recovery).

If you do not have time to get a QR code before your planned outing to the theater, you can present a certificate showing you have received the first dose of a vaccine.

Our partners for ticket refunds:

RAMT website – https://ramt.ru/orders/
Yandex.Afisha – https://widget.afisha.yandex.ru/refund
Kassir.ru – https://msk.kassir.ru/pages/refund
Listim.com – https://listim.com/pages/for_clients_e_ticket
Ticketland.ru – return by registry tickets@ramt.ru

Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience and be healthy!

Source: email newsletter from RAMT (Russian Academic Youth Theater), 22 October 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

Why Russia Is in No Hurry to Get Vaccinated
Kirill Martynov
Rosbalt
October 15, 2021

Vaccination in Russia is at a shamefully low level: according to official statistics, 31.4% of the country’s residents have received two doses of a covid-19 vaccine. By comparison, this figure is now 64% in Germany. In our country, this has translated into a record number of deaths and the transformation of Russia into a reservoir for the virus’s further evolution. The 42% vaccination rate among older Russians is an especially frightening figure: although they’ve had a whole year to do it, they and their relatives could not be bothered to take care of themselves. It’s as if our national motto were Viva la muerte!

But the behavior of anti-vaxxers in a country like ours is apparently rational. The main source of information about the benefits of the vaccines are government agencies and state media, about which everyone knows that, first, they lie constantly, and second, that they are never called on the carpet for their lies. They lied about the absence of Russian troops in Ukraine, and many rejoiced at this military trick. They lied about pension reform, “which will never happen, because the president is against it,” but in this case no one rejoiced.

Russians know that there is no mechanism for punishing liars. If it turned out that the vaccine was dangerous or useless, no one in the Russian government would be held responsible for it. They would just start lying about something else.

Free and fair elections, which liars can lose, are a basic institution for ensuring responsibility, but we don’t have this institution in Russia, nor is it anywhere on the horizon.

When there is a high level of distrust of everything related to the state, it is not surprising that people are in no hurry to get vaccinated. Without trust, the only way to solve this problem is by force, as was done in the Soviet Union.

On the societal scale, trust is even more fragile and valuable thing than in relationships between individuals: it has to be carefully fostered for decades. The Germans managed to pull it off after the Second World War, but we have not even have formulated this task.

This is also not surprising. A high level of trust within society makes a dictatorship impossible: it is instantly opposed by growing solidarity. For example, in Soviet Poland, this happened in particular because the authorities failed to destroy the influence of the Catholic Church and the network of parishes.

Accordingly, it is vital for a dictatorship to keep trust at a minimum level. That’s why Russia is in no hurry to get vaccinated now. It is a byproduct of authoritarianism’s self-defense against “internal enemies.”

Thanks to Paul Goble, a personal hero of mine, for flagging Martynov’s article on his website Window on Eurasia, which has been essential reading for post-Sovietologists and Russianists for the past seventeen years. Get well soon, Paul! Photo by Aleksander Avilov/Moskva News Agency, courtesy of the Moscow Times. Translated by the Russian Reader

Bad Habits

I’m fortunate to be friends, acquaintances and colleagues with many, many Russians from the worlds of contemporary art, academia, literature and social activism (and, sometimes, all of them at once). That’s why I’ve been able to see, time and again over the last dreadful year and a half, the plain truth of the bad habits mentioned by New York Times reporter Anton Troianovski, in his dispatch from Moscow yesterday:

Russia’s most recent high-profile outbreaks involve the inner circle of President Vladimir V. Putin, who has been in isolation himself after several members of his staff tested positive. Many Russians, however, have developed a laissez-faire attitude toward the virus, questioning the need to be vaccinated and often wearing masks around their chins, if at all.

Just yesterday, in fact, I was looking at photos of an art exhibition opening in Siberia, posted on Facebook by a real-life acquaintance (and featuring a wonderful cultural historian and curator I’ve know since 1995). The opening looks like a super-spreader event to me, and it looks exactly like most other such events chronicled by many of my Russian friends during the pandemic.

Thanks to VN for these photos. I’m sure my reading of them is not the takeaway he intended, but having lost two Russian friends and several acquaintances to covid, I feel genuinely distressed about Russian society’s “laissez-faire attitude” to public health and the well-being of their fellow citizens. But since I lived in Russia for half of my adult life, its wanton cruelty and suicidal tendencies are all too familiar to me. ||| TRR

Byudzhetniki

Byudzhetniki (state sector employees), as imagined by Yandex Zen. This image illustrates a 2019 op-ed piece claiming that 51.8% of all workers in Russia are state sector employees or byudzhetniki (and bemoaning that fact because, allegedly, it lowers GDP).

Alexander Skobov | Facebook | September 18, 2021

I am terribly annoyed by the word byudzhetniki [state sector employees], when it is used in relation to those [whose superiors] try and corral them into voting a certain way. And it’s not just that I worked in the public schools for almost twenty years and would have liked to see them try and force me to vote in a certain way. The fact is that the system of coerced corporate loyalty works exactly the same in the private sector as in the state sector. It is exactly the same in private companies. The byudzhetnik is largely a bogey of the liberal mindset. Do you think it is more difficult to make an employee of a private company “fall into rank” than a state employee? Just take a look at Google.

Translated by the Russian Reader