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

From the Lives of the People


George Losev
Facebook
September 14, 2021

I chatted with an 86-year-old woman while I was changing the power outlet on her kitchen stove. She was from a village near Vologda and still pronounced her unstressed o’s as full o’s. She worked for 58 years on construction sites. She started working in ’54 or ’55. She worked for three years as an unskilled laborer, then for eight years as a painter before making the switch to plastering.

“I really liked this work. But then everything fell apart, and anyone could get the job. If you could hold a brush, you could go to work as a painter.”

If I understood her correctly, she said that, in the fifties, sixties and seventies, without a specialized education, it was impossible to get a job anywhere except as a helper.

She said that they had lived quite poorly, that the foreman earned 15 rubles a month. I didn’t understand how this could be and so I expressly asked her again, and she confirmed what she’d said.

In the seventies, the planning got better, and life became easier. But she had still spent her entire life “in poverty.”

“My legs began to give out, and I was forbidden to work. Otherwise I would have kept working. I was already used to this being how things were, that we were working stiffs and this was how we lived.”

Her husband also worked on construction sites, as a finisher. She has a daughter. She lives in her son-in-law’s two-room apartment, renting out one of the rooms. Despite her obvious and visible poverty, the apartment was very clean. She tried to pay me generously, but I didn’t take any money.

We started talking about migrants. She said they were good, hard-working, polite people. They always helped her, carried her groceries. Migrants had saved her life after she had her first or second stroke, which had happened outside. Russians had walked on by, but “Georgians or migrants, basically two non-Russians” had come to her aid, telephoning an ambulance and waiting with her.

“I don’t want to badmouth migrants. I just wonder where our people are, Russians? Have they really all retired? Or don’t they want to work?”

George Losev is a housing authority electrician, veteran grassroots activist and DIY football enthusiast in Petersburg. Thanks to Jeremy Morris for helpful comments on the translation. Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

Death to F—-ts

“Death to faggots.” Photo courtesy of Baza via Mediazona

Performers at show in honor of Yaroslavl patriotic club’s 20th anniversary smash stage prop with the inscription “Death to faggots” using sledgehammer 
Mediazona
August 31, 2021

During a performance by the military patriotic club Paratrooper in Yaroslavl, the regional news website 76.ru has reported, the performers used a sledgehammer to smash a stage-prop brick inscribed with the phrase “Death to faggots.”

According to the website, a performance in honor of the club’s 20th anniversary was held at the Dobrynin Palace of Culture in Yaroslavl on August 29. The performers took their comrade, placed a prop shaped like a white brick, inscribed with the phrase “Death to faggots,” on him and smashed it with a sledgehammer.

Andrei Palachev, the head of Paratrooper, explained to 76.ru that the club members had been joking.

“The kids just decided to make a joke and drew this inscription at the last moment. Faggots have no business being in Russia at all. […] And why should [the performers] be punished? They just don’t like fudge packers, and I don’t like them either. The family should be traditional: a boy and a girl, and not all this faggotry,” Palachev said.

Igor Derbin, the palace of culture’s director, stressed that this part of the performance had not been vetted with him.

“We are outraged. Initially, the event was supposed to be pleasant and joyful. We weren’t expecting their stunt. It was not planned in advance or agreed upon, because they knew that we would not allow it. By doing what they did, they canceled all the good impressions made by the event,” he added.

Taras Sidorin, the head of the Yaroslavl branch of the veterans organization Defender, said that he had filed a complaint with the police about the incident. “We consider such outburst incitement to murder. […] There were small children in the audience. This behavior is simply unacceptable,” he said.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“Joking Is Not a Crime”: Standing Up for Stand-Up Comedy in Russia

“Idrak is not the enemy”: stand-up comedians of different ethnicities support Idrak Mirzalizade, jailed for a joke about ethnic Russians
Novaya Gazeta
13 August 2021

Russian stand-up comedians Garik Oganesyan, Mikhail Shats, Danila Pererechny, Ilya Sobolev, Alexei Smirnov, Timur Karginov, Ruslan Bely, Slava Komissarenko, Alexei Shcherbakov, Garik Hovhannisyan and others have released a video in support of their colleague Idrak Mirzalizade, who has been jailed for ten days for joking about renting an apartment and ethnic Russians.

“There is a punishment for a comedian: if he tells an unfunny joke, no one laughs at that moment. But you can’t deprive people of their freedom for a joke. […] Being jailed for jokes is the penultimate step before being jailed for scientific theories. The ten days [in jail] that the court imposed on [Mirzalizade] is not a terrible punishment, but a very terrible precedent that says that it will now be officially possible to jail or punish someone for making joke. […] Today it’s us, tomorrow it’s you,” the stand-up comedians say in the video.

“Joking is not a crime”: #IdrakIsNotTheEnemy: the YouTube video released on August 13 by Russian comedians in solidarity with Idrak Mirzalizade, jailed for ten days on August 9 for insulting ethnic Russians

Among those who have stood up for Mirzalizade are his colleagues of different ethnicities: Russians, Armenians, Ossetians, Jews, and Yakuts. And yet Idrak himself has been jailed for “inciting hatred or enmity,” punishable under Article 20.3.1 of the Administrative Offenses Code.

On August 9, the Taganka District Court in Moscow jailed Mirzalizade for ten days for a joke about a mattress stained by ethnic Russians. He pleaded not guilty to inciting ethnic hatred. “The performance was humorous and was meant to ridicule xenophobia, in fact,” the comedian said. According to him, people of different ethnicities were present in the audience during his stand-up routine and they understood that the joke was directed against xenophobia. On appeal, the court refused to repeal the jail sentence.

The prosecutor’s office announced on July 30 that it had found “signs of humiliation of a group of persons singled out on an ethnic basis, as well as propaganda of their inferiority” in Mirzalizade’s joke about a mattress that ethnic Russian tenants had stained with feces. In the joke, the comedian is outraged that an ethnic Slavic neighbor looked at him with contempt while he and his brother threw out the mattress.

In late June, the comedian reported that unknown people had attacked him for a reward of fifty thousand rubles. He also stated that he had received numerous threats.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Idrak Mirzalizade. Courtesy of RFE/RL

Comedian Of Azerbaijani Origin Jailed Over ‘Anti-Russian’ Performance
RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service
August 9, 2021

A court in Moscow has sentenced a Russian stand-up comic of Azerbaijani origin, Idrak Mirzalizade, to 10 days in jail for allegedly inciting ethnic hatred.

The Taganka district court issued the ruling on August 9 after several pro-government media outlets accused Mirzalizade of insulting ethnic Russians in one of his performances.

Mirzalizade pleaded not guilty to the charges, but offered apologies to “all who felt insulted by some parts of my performance which were taken out of context.”

In June, he wrote on Instagram that two unknown men attacked him after he received several threats because of his performance.

He also posted a video showing the moment of the attack.

‘Over the past three weeks, I have received several thousand threats. A man went to a solo picket in Penza carrying a placard with the slogan “Idrak Mirzalizade is an enemy of the Russian people!” And a monetary reward was announced for my head, due to which I was attacked on June 23 in downtown Moscow. In this video, I tell you what happened.’  Posted on June 27, 2021, by Idrak Mirzalizade

Mirzalizade has said the performance that caused the controversy was about problems faced by non-Russians when they want to rent an apartment in the Russian capital.

In his performance, the comedian joked about what would happen if the perception of Russians by others was based on separate incidents, drawing a parallel with situations that shape prejudices about non-Russians living among Russians.

Recipes for Domestic Bliss

VkusVill removes ad featuring queer family, apologizing to customers and suppliers for “hurt feelings”
Takie Dela
July 4, 2021

The retail chain VkusVill has apologized for an advertisement featuring a queer family. The company’s press release notes that the deleted piece “hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.” In the release, which was signed by company’s founder and its regional managers, the advertisement was dubbed a “mistake that manifested the unprofessionalism of individual employees.”

On June 30, VkusVill published on its website the story of a family consisting of a mother and two daughters [sic], one of whom is engaged to a young woman [sic]. In addition, the “Consumer School” section contained stories from other customers of the store: a woman who lives with a dog, a couple without children, a large family, and a single mother. They talked about themselves and their favorite VkusVill products.

After the advertisement was published, VkusVill and the queer heroines of the article began to receive threats.

Roman Polyakov, the manager of the store’s content factory, told Takie Dela that the store’s employees regularly touch on hot-button topics, including the problems of refugees, people with autism, and people with Down syndrome, and the topic of garbage recycling. He told Takie Dela that VkusVill valued examining issues from different sides.

He added that “it would be untrue” to say that there are no such families among VkusVill’s clients, so he had decided to include [the queer family] in the feature.

According to Polyakov, employees of the content factory consulted with lawyers on how to correctly submit information about LGBT people from the legal point of view, and also discussed with smm specialists and hotline employees how to react to customer dissatisfaction.

Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

A screenshot of the page containing VkusVill’s abject apology to violent Russian homophobes for their queer-positive ad. The page is entitled “Recipes for Domestic Bliss.”

This page contained an article that has hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.

We regret that this happened, and we consider this publication our mistake, which manifested the unprofessionalism of individual employees.

Our company’s goal is to enable our customers to receive fresh and delicious products every day, not to publish articles that reflect political or social views. In no way did we want to become a source of discord and hatred.

We sincerely apologize to all our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.

Respectfully,

Andrey Krivenko, Founder
Valera Razgulyaev, Information Manager
Alyona Nesiforova, Unified Concept Manager
Yevgeny Kurvyakov, Development Manager
Yevgeny Rimsky, Quality and Procurement Manager
Tatyana Berestova, Regional Manager
Lyubov Frolova, Regional Manager
Renata Yurash, Regional Manager
Svetlana Lopatina, Regional Manager
Larisa Romanovskaya, E-Commerce Manager
Kirill Shcherbakov, Micromarket Department Director
Maxim Fedorov, Order Manager

Source: VkusVill website. Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

VkusVill’s ad spotlights a “matriarch,” her partner and two daughters who practice ethical veganism, support fair trade and provide shelter to LGBT people in need. Image: VkusVill Natural Products/Facebook/Moscow Times

Russian Food Retailer Defies ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law With LGBT Family-Featuring Ad
Moscow Times
July 2, 2021

Russian organic food retailer VkusVill has featured an LGBT family in its new promotional material this week, defying the country’s law against “gay propaganda toward minors.”

As part of a series of health-conscious families, VkusVill spotlights a “matriarch” Yuma, her partner Zhenya and two daughters Mila and Alina, who practice ethical veganism, support fair trade and provide shelter to LGBT people struggling to find acceptance in their own families.

“We believe not featuring the families of our real customers would be hypocritical,” VkusVill said, warning readers to “weigh all the pros and cons” before continuing further.

The popular retail chain marked its June 30 promotional piece with an “18+” label to comply with the anti-LGBT propaganda law.

“Family is blood ties or a stamp in a passport. Let’s rethink this. In the 21st century, it’s primarily people who love us, those who will always shield us, people with whom we go through life together,” the promotion says.

Law enforcement authorities, who usually file misdemeanor charges against violators — the most recent of which were the authors of a Dolce & Gabbana Instagram ad showing kissing same-sex couples — have not yet commented on VkusVill’s publication.

Notorious anti-gay St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov took to social media to condemn the “pagan” ad.

Other social media users — which the MBKh Media news website reported swarmed VkusVill’s social media after a notorious anti-LGBT hate group reposted the article — posted threats against the chain.

Western countries and human rights activists have criticized Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law as well as 2020 constitutional changes that contain a clause defining marriage as between a man and a woman only.

_________

yumalevel
Perhaps the most important thing to our family is care and acceptance. And we also fiercely protect each other and all support each other as much as possible. And we also try to help others. And today @vkusvill_ru posted a piece featuring us, and I’m amazed at how much support I saw there!!! “Others” are not so different at all))) it turns out that we are all our kind!!!

I love you! Kind, caring, accepting, gutsy, brave, making the world a world)
💞 💞 💞 💞 💞 💞 💞

Source: Instagram/Moscow Times. Translated by the Russian Reader

Kira Yarmysh: People Usually Avoid the Word “Dying”

Kira Yarmysh

Kira Yarmysh
Facebook
April 17, 2021

When Alexei [Navalny] came to after the coma, and everything began to gradually improve, I thought that I would not soon have to endure minutes worse than I had in the plane from Tomsk as it was landing in Omsk. Things didn’t happen like that. It was a law of life, or something. Such powerful emotional experiences didn’t happen one after another.

But now eight months have passed, and I’m back on that plane, only this time it is landing very slowly.

People usually avoid the word “dying.” Some avoid it out of superstition. I personally avoid it because loud words like that shouldn’t be used lightly.

But Alexei is now dying. In his condition, it’s a matter of days. The lawyers just can’t get into [the prison] to see him at the weekend, yet no one knows what will happen on Monday.

We witnessed tremendous support in Omsk. Alexei himself later said many times in interviews that Putin had let him to be taken abroad for treatment because he realized it would do him no good to have Navalny die “live on the air.”

Now he is dying in exactly the same way, in plain view of everyone, only this time more slowly, and access to Alexei is much more difficult. Apparently, that’s why it seems to everyone that nothing terrible is happening. The hunger strike has lasted for eighteen days, Navalny has been gradually losing the feeling in his arms and legs, and some tests have been done. All this has been blurred in time, and people don’t have the sense that they are again witnessing a murder.

In 2015, we were organizing a big spring protest rally and heavily promoting it. Alexei himself handed out leaflets in the subway, which landed him in jail for fifteen days. But then [Boris] Nemtsov was murdered. In the end, the rally did take place, and it was huge, only the occasion for the rally had changed altogether.

Now, too, a rally is being organized to demand Alexei’s release, and it will be huge as well. But I don’t want it to happen for any other reason.

Putin reacts only to mass street protests. Even the threat of them scares him. The Kremlin has also been looking at the counter of people [who have pledged to attend the protest] on the Free Navalny website and thinking, Aha, the pace has slowed down, there is no reason to be worried, we can keep going. Navalny is dying: let him die. We won’t let a doctor see him. We won’t allow him to be treated. We should push even harder: we’ll declare his supporters extremists to keep them quiet.

This rally is no longer Navalny’s chance for freedom. It is a condition of keeping him alive. And every new day could be the last.

Register now. We need to reach 500,000 people as soon as possible.

https://free.navalny.com/

Kira Yarmysh is Alexei Navalny’s press secretary. As of today (April 17, 2021), nearly 453,000 Russians had pledged to attend protests demanding Navalny’s release (see the screenshot, below). Photo of Yarmysh courtesy of Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader

Our Thaw

Sergei Yolkin, “Thaw.” Courtesy of RFE/RL via Radikal.ru

Our Thaw: a fair court decision as evidence of a catastrophe
The cautionary tale of an “extremist” comment
Ivan Davydov
Republic
April 11, 2021

Let’s start with the good news: “The Kalinin District Court of St. Petersburg refused to grant investigators their request to place under house arrest a local resident accused of exonerating terrorism. This was reported on Friday by the joint press service of the city’s courts. The court imposed a preventive measure against the defendant, Alexander Ovchinnikov, by forbidding him from doing certain things until June 6. In particular, Ovchinnikov is not allowed to leave his apartment between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am, to be in places where mass public events are held and to use the internet.”

We should make it clear that we are talking about a terrible state criminal: “The 48-year-old Ovchinnikov was detained on April 7. Law enforcement agencies believe that in August 2020 he posted ‘comments justifying terrorism’ on the RT News in Russian community page on VKontakte.”

First, let us note the uncharacteristic humanity exhibited by the investigators in the case. They could have tried to get Ovchinnikov remanded in custody for such actions, but no, they reined themselves in and only sought house arrest for the perp. Second, this really is good news. The court refused to put Citizen Ovchinnikov under house arrest, deigning instead only to slightly complicate his life. Staying at home at night is much better than staying at home all the time. And sitting around with no internet is incomparably better than sitting in jail.

The court did not make a cannibalistic ruling at all – another reason to rejoice!

When hearing such news, it is customary to joke, “It’s the Thaw all over again.” And also to say (just as jocularly), “Another victory for civil society!” But in this particular case, the second joke is not particularly appropriate. Civil society was not interested in Ovchinnikov’s plight, and no one made any effort to fight for his freedom.

This does not mean that the criminal will escape punishment: the investigators are working, and the court is waiting. There is a good possibility that for his terrible acts (“committed using the media or electronic or information and telecommunications networks, including the internet”), Ovchinnikov could face a heavy fine measuring in the millions of rubles (it’s the going thing nowadays: the big bosses would do not agree to less — times are difficult, the state coffers are empty, people are the new petroleum) or even a stint in prison.

The price of meekness
To be honest, I don’t know what kind of comment Citizen Ovchinnikov left on “RT’s official page.” It is quite possible that it was something stupid. And this is a telling aspect of the story: as part of my job, I have to keep track of trending news via feeds from the wire services. A few years ago, Ovchinnikov would have been a star. All the sane outlets would have written indignantly that a person was being tried for a social media comment. The insane outlets would have written something like, “A dangerous accomplice of terrorists was neutralized by valiant law enforcement officers in the president’s hometown.” We would know, perhaps, not only what exactly Alexander Ovchinnikov did to upset Margarita Simonyan’s underlings, but also all the details of his biography.

Nowadays, however, Ovchinnikov’s case is routine. There are dozens of such cases underway, and you can’t keep track of all of them. A story like this would only arouse interest if a more or less well-known person was under attack. Or the context would matter. We shouldn’t forget that among the criminal cases opened in the wake of January’s pro-Navalny protests, there are two that directly involve social network posts – the so-called Sanitary Case* and the “Involving Minors in Unauthorized Protests” Case. People will be put on trial, and they will be sentenced to prison, fines or probation.

The lack of public interest is understandable and even, perhaps, excusable. But it says a lot about how the Russian state and Russian society have mutated. Everyone regards cases like Ovchinnikov’s as commonplace. Meanwhile, the powers that be have usurped the right to punish people for their words, including words that are obviously insignificant. (Terrorism, of course, is a disgusting thing, but it is unlikely that a comment, even on the page of a propaganda TV channel, will somehow contribute particularly strongly to the success of world terrorism, and I assure you that those who are eager to jail people for social media comments also get this.) The authorities have come up with a lot of different reasons to punish people for their words. Thousands of specialists are busy searching for the wrong words, lives are broken, and careers are made.

But for us civilians it has also become commonplace. We have got used to it, recognized the right of the authorities to do as they like, and stopped being particularly indignant.

When the state is focused on lawlessness, norms are shaped not by deliberately repressive laws, but by our willingness to put up with how they are applied.

Norms and savagery
Fining or jailing people for the comments they make on social networks is savage, after all. Savage but normal. In a short while we’ll be telling ourselves that it’s always been like this. For the time being, however, searching the homes of opposition activists’ parents who have nothing to do with their children’s activism, interrogating journalists and political activists in the middle of the night, and torturing detainees after peaceful protests do not seem to be the norm. But it’s a matter of time — that is, a matter of habit. None of these things have sparked outsized outrage, so they too will become the norm.

But I have a sense that harsh crackdowns on peaceful protests have almost become the norm. What is surprising is when the security forces behave like human beings, as was the case during the Khabarovsk protests, for example. You mean the police didn’t break up the demo? What do you mean, they didn’t beat you? Was something the matter?

I remember how I was struck by a news item reported by state-controlled wire services after the first rally in support of Sergei Furgal: a little girl was lost in the crowd, and the National Guard helped her find her parents. The cops did their jobs, for a change, and that was amazing. The normal performance of their duties by the security forces looked like something completely crazy. Going back to the beginning of our conversation, we are now surprised when a court makes an utterly meaningless ruling that is not at all cannibalistic. It’s the Thaw all over again!

The norm looks wild, and wildness is the norm. So, perhaps, it is possible to describe where the Putinist state has arrived in its political devolution over the past few years. This is its supreme accomplishment.

If we follow the dictionary definitions, we should conclude there has been no state in Russia for some time. This is a different, new growth, and it is most likely malignant.

But this only works in one case – if society capitulates. A creepy monster like ours can only flourish in the ruins of society.

P.S. A trenchant critic might object: as if “they” do not have such a thing — putting people on trial for their words, and persecute for comments. Yes, it happens, of course, it happens. The most democratic of the democratic countries are not averse to biting off a little piece of their people’s freedoms, while grassroots activists, militants guided by the loftiest ideals, are happy to trample on other people’s freedom, and new centers of power, like the social networks, do not want to lag behind.

Recently, Facebook blocked a page run by a group of Moscow amateur historians who posted a text about the capital’s Khokhlovka district for a month for “hate speech.” Try to guess why. [Because “Khokhlovka” sounds similar to “khokhly,” a derogatory term for Ukrainians — TRR.]

Yes, in some sense, the Motherland, having made it a matter of policy to distance itself from the wider world, is following a global trend, however strange that may sound. Well, so much the worse for “them.” And for us. It is thus all the more important to remember how valuable freedom is.

* “The Sanitary Case is a series of criminal cases initiated for alleged violations sanitary and epidemiological norms during the January 23, 2021, protests in Moscow. It has been recognized by human rights defenders as part of the ongoing political crackdown in the Russian Federation. The defendants in the case are FBK (Anti-Corruption Foundation) employees Lyubov Sobol, Oleg Stepanov and Kira Yarmysh, municipal deputies Lyudmila Stein, Konstantin Yankauskas and Dmitry Baranovsky, Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, Alexei Navalny’s brother Oleg, head of the trade union Alliance of Doctors Anastasia Vasilyeva, and former FBK employee Nikolai Lyaskin.”

Image courtesy of Radikal.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader

Hottest

Olga Balema, Cannibals, 2015, Installation view, Croy Nielsen, Berlin, courtesy: the artist & Croy Nielsen, Berlin

Putin Named Russia’s Hottest Man
Moscow Times
April 2, 2021

The thirst is real for Russians who still want “someone like Putin” after all these years of bare-chested horse riding and rugged hunting excursions.

According to a poll by the Superjob.ru job board published Friday, 18% of men and 17% of women surveyed named President Vladimir Putin as Russia’s most handsome man.

The 68-year-old bachelor is the only individual to receive double digits in the open-ended questionnaire. Nineteen percent of men named themselves as Russia’s most handsome man, while 18% of women said there are no handsome men in Russia.

“Russians still call Vladimir Putin the most attractive famous man in the country,” Superjob.ru declared, despite the 1% dip in his rating from last year.

“Neither actors nor athletes or other politicians can compete with him today,” it said.

Indeed, the commando-in-chief maintained a comfortable lead on his closest competitors actors Dmitry Nagiyev, Danila Kozlovsky and Konstantin Khabensky, whose handsomeness was identified by a mere 2-3% of respondents.

Superjob.ru said it carried out the in-person survey among 1,000 men and 1,000 women in more than 300 Russian cities between March 22-April 1.

The results were published days after lawmakers passed legislation allowing Putin to remain president until 2036, when Russians’ biggest crush turns 83.

Over the years and until quite recently, Vladimir Putin has consistently denied that he would amend the Russian Constitution so that he could remain in the president’s office longer than prescribed by law. But that’s exactly what he did in 2020, and now he’s signed into “law” his coup d’état. Video by Current Time TV. Thanks to @sibirskykot for the heads-up. || TRR

Putin Signs Law Paving Way to Rule Until 2036
Moscow Times
April 5, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation formally granting him the right to stay in power until 2036.

Putin’s second consecutive and fourth overall presidential term ends in 2024, the year when Russia’s previous Constitution would have required him to step down.

But an overhauled Constitution that Russians approved in a nationwide vote last year allows Putin to run for two more six-year presidential terms. If elected both times, he would remain president until 2036, surpassing Josef Stalin as the longest-serving leader of Russia since Peter the Great.

The 68-year-old signed a law Monday that resets his number of terms served, allowing him to extend his 20-year rule until he turns 83.

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, who served in 2008-2012 when Putin was constitutionally mandated to step down after his first two consecutive terms, is also granted the right to run two more times. Putin served as prime minister during Medvedev’s presidency.

Critics slammed last summer’s vote on the sweeping constitutional reforms — which contained populist economic measures and enshrined conservative values in Russia’s basic law — as a pretext to allow Putin to become “president for life.”

Putin has previously said he hasn’t yet decided whether to run for president again, saying 2024 is still far off.

The emphasis, above, is mine. Image courtesy of Frieze. || TRR

P.S. “Protesters in Myanmar took to handing out Easter eggs painted with protest messages at renewed marches in Yangon, the main city, and elsewhere around the country. They oppose the military government that seized power in February. Police shot and killed two men in the capital, Naypyitaw; over 500 people have died since the coup.” (The Economist Espresso, 5 April 2021)