Running: the Numbers

Istanbul, December 2022. Photo courtesy of Republic

[…]

500 vacancies for military registration specialists were advertised from late September to last December last year, according to HeadHunter. Previously, this specialization was considered a rather rare and generally not very sought-after profile in the personnel departments of Russian organizations (private and public). For comparison: only 145 such vacancies were advertised in the whole of 2021. The military mobilization has changed the situation: since September — that is, in just three months — the number of such offers on the labor market has increased by about two and a half times (Superjob’s data also show the same thing). The reasons? One of them (apparently, the main one) is an increase in fines for lapses in paperwork: to avoid them, employers are willing to pay applicants for the popular vacancy 70-80 thousand rubles a month. And this is despite the fact that there is a shortage of a number of other specialists on the labor market (and, presumably, they are no less valuable than SMO-era personnel officers). The number of vacancies on Avito Jobs alone, according to a recent company study, increased by 69% in 2022. Most likely, the trend will continue, serving as a natural continuation of the outflow of people and, ultimately, personnel.

50% — the percentage of last year’s sales of existing housing in the Russian Federation made through a notarized power of attorney. This record figure for the entire observable history of the market, as calculated by investment company Flip, who were commissioned by Kommersant, clearly indicates that the sales trend was primarily shaped by property owners who had emigrated. The high volume of such transactions seems to be an anomalous phenomenon. In 2021, a power of attorney was the basis for sale in no more than 20% of deals. In 2020, this figure was 15%. It was 8% in 2019, and 5% in 2018. You ain’t seen nothing yet, though: the ongoing controversy over whether to confiscate the property of openly anti-war Russians who have left the country must be making an additional contribution to the process of selling apartments and houses, which was gaining momentum as it was.

$81.69 billion — the total amount of deposits by Russian nationals in foreign banks as of the end of November of last year, according to the latest data from the Russian Central Bank. (4.989 trillion rubles were recalculated at the exchange rate in effect on that date.) Over the past eleven months, the amount has more than doubled — and this is even if we rely entirely on the statistics of the Central Bank, which may not have a complete picture of what is happening. (Russian laws oblige citizens to report when they open accounts in foreign banks and move funds in them, but we cannot be absolutely sure that everyone strictly obeys them.) While one part of these funds remains in these bank accounts, the other goes to the purchase of real estate that, for the most part, is also located outside the Russian Federation.

16,300 houses and apartments in Turkey were purchased by Russian nationals in 2022, according to data published by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), as studied by RBC. This is not just three times more than in 2021 (when Russian nationals purchased 5,400 housing units in the Turkish Republic), but also more than the total volume of such transactions over the past six years (16,200). It is not surprising that last year, for the first time, Russians took first place among foreigners in buying housing in Turkey, producing almost a quarter of the corresponding demand with their money. Earlier, we wrote that our compatriots purchased two thousand houses and apartments in Turkey in October 2022 alone, overtaking all other foreign home buyers in that country, as reported by TurkStat.

At first glance, the advantages of investing in Turkey are not entire obvious. Inflation in the country, according to TurkStat, exceeded 84% in November, once again breaking records previously established in the autumn of 1998. The Inflation Analysis Group, an independent Turkish entity, estimated that inflation had reached a whopping 170.7% . In addition, prices for real estate, which have rising robustly, can at any moment just as vigorously drop, taking into account, in particular, the rather murky prospects for “Erdonomics,” depending on the results of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. According to Endeksa, in September, the average price for one square meter of housing in Turkey was about 12 thousand Turkish lira (approx. $644), while the average price per housing unit was just over 1.5 million Turkish lira (approx. $83,700). The term of return on investment in housing is estimated at nineteen years, although in the summer this figure was recalculated to seventeen years.

The intense interest on the part of Russian nationals in buying real estate in Turkey is primarily related to the prospect of obtaining Turkish citizenship, Anna Larina, head of the foreign real estate department at NF Group, explained to Republic. (In turn, having a Turkish passport makes it possible to obtain an American E-2 visa, which speeds up the process of immigrating to the United States.) In this sense, it is logical that Russians have become leaders in terms of the number of residence permits issued in Turkey — 153,000, of which, however, as the Turkish Ministry of Migration clarified, 132,000 are short-term tourist residence permits, which are valid for two years.

Turkey is one of the few countries (but not the only country) that is still open to Russian nationals and their private capital. Thus, as 2022 came to a close, Russian citizens took first place among non-residents in buying real estate in Dubai, Bloomberg recently reported, citing figures provided by the brokerage firm Betterhomes.

Withdrawing funds and setting up a new life abroad eloquently testify to the sentiments prevailing among the Russian urban middle class, primarily. Not all people who sell Russian real estate and buy foreign real estate are necessarily irreconcilable opponents of the regime. And yet, it is clear that the vast majority of these people do not want to live and raise children in Putin’s version of the future, which is practically incompatible with modern civilization. In its own way, it is symptomatic that Russians who support the government and dutifully follow it into its deadly adventures are also dissatisfied with what is happening. If it were possible, they would rather return to the past, to a point in time thirty, forty, or fifty years ago.

63% — the percentage of Russians, according to a December poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), who regret the collapse of the USSR — that is, more than three decades after the event known in Kremlin mythology as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” Strictly speaking, the current longing for Soviet times cannot be considered a record: after the August 1998 ruble default, there were noticeably more Russians nostalgic for the Soviet Union — 85%. Nevertheless, an important indicator of public attitudes (as recorded, we should underscore, by a quasi-state polling service) is on the rise again, having increased by twelve percentage points since 2011.

It is clear that this sentiment is primarily voiced by the 46–60 age group (88% of whom are “nostalgic”) and to some extent, people aged 31–45 years (79% of whom are “nostalgic”), assuming that a considerable portion of these people associate the late USSR with their happy childhoods and wild youths. However, according to the poll, even today’s Russian youth, that is, people aged 18–30, mostly (64%) consider the Soviet era “generally a good time.” Of course, their judgments are based on the stories of older generations, and most importantly, on the inevitable comparison with what is happening with the largest post-Soviet country right now.

Source: Yevgeny Karasyuk, “Salvation in foreign real estate and a new bout of nostalgia for the USSR: timely numbers from Russia… and a few from Turkey,” Republic, 20 January 2023. Translated by Hambone Brewster, who is still implacably opposed to the Russian “pollocracy” and continues to be surprised that even otherwise smart cookies like Mr. Karasyuk continue to cite Russian “public opinion polls” as reliable sources of real information — rather than, at best, records of sustained trauma and unfreedom.

Armen Aramyan: Russians Are Not Chimpanzees

These are scenes from a May 2008 session of Petersburg’s Street University, a grassroots undertaking that I helped launch in response to the Putin regime’s sudden, underhanded shutdown of the nearby European University in February 2008. I unearthed these snapshots from my long-dormant Photobucket account, about whose existence I was reminded by an email from the service that I found by accident in my spam folder whilst working on this post earlier this morning. I think it’s a nice illustration of the point made, below, by Armen Aramyan, who must have been nearly the same age as Tasya, the little girl in the second and third pictures, when I took them. If the war can be stopped and Russian society can be salvaged in the foreseeable future, however, it will require a lot more than creative “sociology,” the right combination of critical theories, the power of (“progressive”) positive thinking, and hypervigilant discursive gatekeeping. At minimum, it will require a massive manifestation. This would be different in kind and magnitude from the current instances of grassroots resistance that Mr. Aramyan enumerates below, which are almost entirely the work of lone individuals, not the actions of a seriously mobilized grassroots or, much less, of a more or less widespread and vigorous “anti-war movement.” ||| TRR


Hi, this is Armen Aramyan!

On Monday, iStories published a column by its editor, Roman Anin, in which he laments the moral degradation that “has engulfed not only the so-called elites, but also society.” He claims that the majority of Russians support military aggression, and that the political system is in such decline that we can make predictions about Russia’s future by invoking the discourse of primatology.

“Human DNA is 99% the same as the DNA of chimpanzees, whose entire polity revolves around the alpha male. While the alpha male is young and strong, he keeps the whole pack at bay, manages the distribution of resources, mates with all the females, and severely punishes those who question his authority. But as soon as the alpha male begins to age and show signs of weakness, a fierce war to take his place ensues. […] In my opinion, the Russian political system today is not much different from the power arrangements in chimpanzee troops.”

There is no grassroots resistance in the Russia about which Anin writes. There is no torching of military enlistment offices, no teachers who refuse to conduct propaganda lessons, no activists who assist Ukrainians in getting out of Russia. There are no people prosecuted for speaking out and acting against the authorities. There are only big shots who divvy up the loot behind closed doors.

But activists and anti-war resistance do exist, and [some] sociologists have claimed that the pro-war segment of Russian society is a small minority that is averse to political action of any kind.

Why do we continue to encounter such remarks?

I would suggest calling the worldview that informs such remarks Naive Anti-Putinism, or NAP.

NAP sees Russia as a fringe country. The processes in it can be explained only through allusions to fantasy novels, such as dubbing Russia “Mordor,” from The Lord of the Rings, or referencing the Harry Potter universe. (Have the images from fantasy novels run out and we are now on the Planet of the Apes?) Russia is so unique that there are processes taking place in it that don’t exist anywhere else (with the possible exception of North Korea). This Russia suffers from a patriarchal regime and a total absence of democratic institutions. (That is, power belongs to individual groups and their leaders, who do not rely on any institutions). The enlightened achievements of European democracies have not yet reached Russia, and so now we are doomed to live amidst an endless Games of Thrones (to invoke yet another fantasy novel comparison). In this system, all that remains for us is to analyze what intrigues the different Kremlin clans are pursuing.

Resistance, grassroots movements, the struggle for democracy, and revolution are impossible in this reality. So, all that naive anti-Putinists are capable of doing is resorting to moral critiques delivered from a superior position and continuing to admonish us that the common folk in Russia are bad, having failed to accept the enlightened achievements of European democracies. If there is no democracy [in Russia], [that is because] the ordinary folk simply don’t want it. That is NAP’s entire explanatory arsenal.

Naive Anti-Putinism does not envision the possibility of change in Russia, much less revolution or the destruction of Putin’s elite. It is a readymade scheme that enables certain groups in society to make peace with reality and continue to watch the new season of Game of Thrones.

For example, if you are a businessman or an IT worker who relocated [to another country] after the war’s outbreak and invested all your resources in adapting to a new place (most likely — quite successfully), you probably don’t really want to figure out how to build democracy in Russia and support the grassroots resistance.

But you can also imagine another situation: you are a researcher who has spent a great deal of time and effort investigating how the power elite throws bags of money around. Probably, at some point, you might imagine that there is nothing else besides this cynical redistribution of the loot.

Alexander Zamyatin, in a discussion of the emigration on the podcast This Is the Base, makes a great point: “You can’t be a gravedigger of the old regime while grieving for its missed opportunities.” We can speculate for a long time about NAP’s origins, and why many members of the anti-war movement espouse this position.

But if we want to end the war and build democracy in Russia, we need to think differently. Even if we imagine that this is impossible right now, do we really think that democracy is altogether impossible in Russia? And if it is possible, what would it look like in reality? What movements would be needed to make it happen? How would they gain power? How would this power be redistributed and how to make sure that it is not abused? These are the questions that should concern all of us members of the anti-war movement on a daily basis.

Centuries of class, colonial, and gender oppression led to the emergence of strong theories elucidating the structure of power in modern societies. The crises of the nineteenth century spurred the elaboration of theories about class and capitalism. Representattives colonized peoples, as well as their allies in the West, formulated theories about how imperialism and colonialism function. Activists and theorists of women’s movements offered accounts of how gender dominance operates in modern societies.

If we reject the entire legacy of critical theory, as many NAPpers do, then we need to propose something else. But this something is definitely not primatology or allusions to Harry Potter. But one might have to read other books to to find this something else.

P. S. But also do not assume that the animal kingdom — and in particular the political systems of primates — is so primitive. Usually, reducing people to animals is a conservative move whose purpose is to show that human relations are grounded in competition and the struggle for survival, in which the strongest win. I recommend reading this essay by the anthropologist David Graeber, in which he argues that this is not at all the case.

Source: Armen Aramyan, DOXA Anti-War Newsletter #313 (10 January 2023). Mr. Aramyan is one of the editors of the online anti-war magazine DOXA. In April 2021, he and three other editors of the then-student magazine were sentenced to two years of “correctional labor” (i.e., community service) over a video questioning whether it was right for teachers to discourage students from attending rallies protesting opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s incarceration. Translated by the Russian Reader

Fascism with a Human Face

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a session of the Valdai Discussion Club, acknowledged a decline in the real incomes of our compatriots.

He noted that the issue was being resolved in cooperation with the trade unions, RIA Novosti reports.

This dialogue continues. We see that people’s nominal incomes are growing, but real incomes have become slightly lower. Bearing in mind the state of the Russian economy, we can solve these problems and should do so in accordance with the existing plans of the Russian government.

Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation

The head of state also said that it was necessary to fight for wage increases. At the same time, he addressed his appeal to both Russians and “ordinary citizens” of the United States and Europe.

Since the start of the special operation by Russian troops in Ukraine, people have experienced a loss of income and savings. Putin also noted earlier that many Russians were at risk of layoffs.

Source: Andrei Gorelikov, “Putin urged both Russians and citizens of western countries to fight for higher salaries,” Rabota.ru, 28 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


“There are more than 485 air fresheners in operation: they were installed in the air ducts of the climate control system. They spread the fragrance around the car every ten minutes. The fragrance is called ‘Moscow Metro,'” explain the metro’s press service , stressing that all the aromas were safe, hypoallergenic, and complied with regulations.

In 2019, during a vote on the project’s implementation, ninety percent of passengers surveyed said they would prefer an air-freshened carriage to a regular one. Muscovites especially wanted the smell of cherry blossoms in the subway.

Source: “Air fresheneres installed on the Filyovskaya metro line,” Russkii pioner, 3 November 2022. Photo courtesy of Russkii pioner. Translated by the Russian Reader


What attracts people [to the shot bar Fedya, the Wildfowl!]? The irony and the simplicity, but at the same time the pleasant crowd. Here you can meet people who, the day before, dined on sets [sic] of scallops and dill sauce at designer restaurants, but they are glad to eat belyash and kvass at Fedya’s. Every other table orders kebabs (from 325 rubles) and drinks tinctures and macerations. Security guards monitor everything: if you swear loudly, they will politely ask you to leave.

Source: “From brilliant shot bars to giant food halls: 12 Petersburg openings in 2022 — Vitya Bar, Noise Cabaret, Moskovsky Market, and the inclusive Outside Entrance,” The Village, 5 December 2022. Photo courtesy of The Village. Translated by the Russian Reader


The “Fedya, the wildfowl!” scene from the beloved Soviet comic crime caper The Diamond Arm (1969), starring Andrei Mironov and Yuri Nikulin

Down in the Hole

Oleg Grigoriev
Pit

Digging a pit? 
I was.
Fell in the pit?
 I fell.
Down in the pit? 
I am.
Need a ladder? 
I do.
Wet in the pit? 
It's wet.
How's the head? 
Intact.
So you are safe?
I'm safe.
Well, okay then, I'm off!

Original text. Translated by the Russian Reader



Putin last week took part in a meeting with the mothers of soldiers killed in the war in Ukraine. The title “soldiers’ mother” carries a lot of influence in Russia — and Putin was famously humiliated by a group of soldiers’ relatives in his early years as president. Unsurprisingly, Friday’s meeting included only those trusted to meet Putin and the gathering passed off without awkward questions. Putin — who now rarely communicates with anyone outside of his inner circle — once again demonstrated a complete detachment from reality.

  • The Russian authorities have been nervous of organizations of soldiers’ mothers since the mid-1990s. During the first Chechen war (1994-1996), in which the Russian army was humiliated, the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers was one of the country’s leading anti-war forces and held the state and the military to account.
  • For Putin personally, any encounter with soldiers’ mothers stirs unhappy memories of one of the most dramatic incidents of his first year in the Kremlin. In August 2000, the inexperienced president was subjected to a grilling by the wives and mothers of sailors who died in the Kursk submarine disaster. The transcript of the meeting immediately appeared in the press and a recording was played on Channel One, which was then owned by Kremlin eminence grise Boris Berezovsky. Presenter Sergei Dorenko subsequently claimed that, after the broadcast, Putin called the channel and yelled that the widows were not genuine and that Berezovsky’s colleagues “hired whores for $10.” Ever since that encounter, the Russian president has avoided in-person meetings, favoring stage-managed gatherings with hand-picked members of the public.
  • This time, of course, there were no surprises. The Kremlin carefully selected the soldiers’ mothers who were invited to attend. At least half of those at the meeting turned out to be activists from the ruling United Russia party and members of pro-Kremlin organizations. 
  • The most striking speech at the event was close to parody. It was given by Nina Pshenichkina, a woman from Ukraine’s Luhansk Region whose son was killed in 2019. Pshenchkina later became a member of the Public Chamber of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic and has attended almost every official funeral and official celebration. She told Putin that her son’s last words were: “Let’s go, lads, let’s crop some dill” (in this context, “dill” is an insulting nickname for Ukrainians).
  • Putin’s speech was also striking. First, he told the assembled mothers that Ukrainians were Nazis because they kill mobilized Russians soldiers who did not wish to serve on the front line. Then he embarked on a long, strange discussion about why we should be proud of the dead. “We are all mortal, we all live beneath God and at some point we will all leave this world. It’s inevitable. The question is how we live… after all, how some people live or don’t live, it’s not clear. How they get away from vodka, or something. And then they got away and lived, or did not live, imperceptibly. But your son lived. And he achieved something. This means he did not live his life in vain,” he said to one of the mothers.

Why the world should care

It would be an error to assume that Putin has completely abandoned rational thought. However, it is instructive to watch him at meetings like this, which provide a window onto the sort of information he consumes. At this meeting with fake soldiers’ mothers he quoted fake reports from his Defense Ministry and, seemingly, took it all seriously.

Source: The Bell & The Moscow Times email newsletter, 28 November 2022. Written by Peter Mironenko, translated by Andy Potts, and edited by Howard Amos. Photo, above, by the Russian Reader

Black Friday

Despite its declared war on “satanic” western values, Putinist Russia continues to slavishly imitate all the worst the mythical west has to offer, including “Black Friday,” as exemplified by this image from an email flyer sent to me earlier today by the major online retailer Ozon, featuring the pop singer Dmitry Malikov. Nor has Putin’s “proxy war” with the west stopped the pidginization of the Russian language, as seen in the second-to-last piece in this grim holiday collage. ||| TRR


The expected tourist flow from Iran may amount to approximately two thousand people a week starting in the spring of 2023, director of the municipal tourist information bureau Yuri Bogdanov said on November 24. According to him, relevant negotiations are underway with air carriers.

“We are negotiating with airlines that want to provide direct flights between Iranian cities and St. Petersburg. We hope that there will be six flights per week with an average number of around 300 seats on board. This is already about two thousand people a week. We expect that, beginning in the spring, these airlines will supply their airplanes,” TASS quoted Bogdanov as saying.

The expert clarified that there were more flights before the pandemic and six thousand tourists used to arrive from Iran every week.

According to Bogdanov, the flow of tourists may return to its pre-covid levels in St. Petersburg by about 2026, but at the same time primarily due to guests from Russia, and not from foreign countries. According to the figures he cited, in 2019, about five million Russians and 5.5 million foreigners visited the Northern Capital, while 6.4 million Russians and 150–200 thousand foreigners visited the city in the first nine months of 2022.

“We have reformatted the priorities for domestic tourism — we want to reach the same 10.5 million tourists a year. There is every ground for this to happen,” Bogdanov opined.

Earlier, the State Duma Budget and Taxes Committee recommended that St. Petersburg be included in the list of regions that charge tourists a resort fee.

Source: “Petersburg expecting two thousand tourists from Iran weekly from spring,” ZakS.ru, 25 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


At least 58 children, some reportedly as young as eight, have been killed in Iran since anti-regime protests broke out in the country two months ago.

According to Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA), 46 boys and 12 girls under 18 have been killed since the protests began on 16 September, sparked by the death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody.

In the past week alone, five children were reportedly killed by security forces as violence continued across the country.

Those who died last week include the nine-year-old Kian Pirfalak, who was one of seven people – including a 13-year-old child – killed in the western city of Izeh on Wednesday.

Speaking at Kian’s funeral on Friday, his family said security services had opened fire on the family car, where Kian was sitting next to his father. Iranian security services have denied responsibility for his death, blaming the shooting on “terrorists”.

Iran’s mounting child death toll comes amid escalating violence in cities across the country, with protests showing no sign of abating.

[…]

Young people have been at the forefront of anti-regime protests, which started after Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police. She had been arrested for not wearing her hijab correctly.

The deaths of two teenage girls, Nika Shakamari and Sarina Esmailzadeh, both allegedly beaten to death by security forces for protesting, provoked further outrage.

Videos of schoolgirls across the country protesting against their killing by removing their hijabs and taking down pictures of Iran’s supreme leaders went viral on social media, leading to raids on schools where children were beaten and detained. According to Iran’s teachers union, another 16-year-old girl, Asra Panahi, died after she was attacked by security forces in her classroom in the north-western town of Ardabil on 18 October.

The attacks on children in schools is continuing, according to Hengaw, which said a 16-year-old girl from Kurdistan is on life support after throwing herself from a school van, having been arrested at her school last week.

HRA says more than 380 protesters have been killed since the protests began and more than 16,000 people have been detained, including children. The figure is disputed by the authorities.

Source: Deepa Parent, Ghoncheh Habibiazad and Annie Kelly, “At least 58 Iranian children reportedly killed since anti-regime protests began,” The Observer, 20 November 2022. Thanks to Sheen Gleeson for the heads-up.


A view of Vokzal 1853 on opening day. Photo: Sergei Yermokhin/Delovoi Peterburg

On November 21, the opening of the food hall [fud-kholl] Vokzal 1853 took place in the building of the former Warsaw railway station.

It is the largest gastronomic space in St. Petersburg and, so its creators claim, in Europe.

So far, not all the establishments in the eater have opened — the launch . The event zone [event-zona] is designed for to accommodate 2.5 thousand guests and have 4 thousand seats, while the entrance to the second floor is still closed.

The cost of renovating the former railway station exceeded 1.5 billion rubles. The Vokzal 1853 food hall [fud-kholl] is a project of the Adamant holding company and restaurateur Alexei Vasilchuk. In total, as stated earlier, more than 90 restaurant concepts [restorannykh konseptsii] will await visitors, and the total area of the food hall will be about 34 thousand square meter.

The company plans to open a concert venue, craft [kraftovye] shops, and a coworking [kovorking — sic] in the space.

Earlier, DP reported that its creators had conceived the decoration of the premises to suggest the atmosphere of nineteenth-century railways stations, and visitors would find themselves in the “epicenter of a bustling creative life.”

Source: “The largest food hall in St. Petersburg opens in Warsaw railway station building,” Delovoi Peterburg, 22 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Ukraine continued to reckon with the fallout from Russia’s air strikes on its energy infrastructure, with much of the country still struggling with blackouts. Residents in Kyiv, the capital, were told to prepare for more attacks. Russian missiles damaged a hospital on the outskirts of Zaporizhia, a Ukrainian-held city not far from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, controlled by Russia. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia was heavily shelling Kherson, the southern city recaptured by Ukrainian forces in early November. Local officials said that strikes killed seven people in the city on Thursday.

Source: The Economist, “The World in Brief” email newsletter, 25 November 2022


Maxim Katz, “Why Russians don’t protest — answered by an old experiment (English subtitles),”1,108,570 views. Nov 23, 2022. “The lack of mass anti-war rallies in Russia is often explained with some psychological defect of the Russian people. But is it truly so? Today we will talk about a social experiment called the Third Wave, and think about whether it is true that it can all be explained with some unique malleability of Russian society.”

This is a wildly disappointing exercise in sophism and self-deception by the usually much more lucid Maxim Katz. Russia has arrived at its present murderous and self-destructive bad end not through rigorous and ruthless totalitarian indoctrination and psychological manipulation, as suggested by Katz’s invocation of Ron Jones’s 1967 Third Wave experiment in a California high school, but through a chaotic, consistent indulgence of opportunism, consumerism, escapism, ressentiment, hipsterism, “westernism,” capitalism, cynicism, nihilism, and thuggery by the elites and the much of the so-called intelligentsia, thus almost completely overwhelming the decent, democratic, and egalitarian impulses and undertakings of differently minded and empowered “other Russians” from all walks of life and all parts of the country. It has been one of the missions of this website to bear witness to both these tendencies in their extreme and trite manifestations. You’ll find vanishingly little of what Katz describes in my chronicles of the last fifteen years here and on The Russian Reader‘s sister blog Chtodelat News. You will find, however, plenty of stories of brave grassroots resistance and movement building blunted and, ultimately, murdered by a police state whose PR wing has urged Russians to trade their freedom for food courts. ||| TRR

It Does Hurt to Dream

“Russian angel carrier, Artillery Museum, Saint Petersburg.” Source: Pavel Pryanikov, Facebook, 6 November 2022

Alexander Kharichev, head of the Presidential Department for Supporting the Work of the State Council, and three other experts have published a scholarly article entitled “Perception of basic values, factors, and structures of Russia’s socio-historical development, as based on research and testing.” As part of the study, seventy people from the student bodies of Moscow State University and the Higher School of Economics and the teaching staff of a conference in Sevastopol [sic] were interviewed. Among the metaphors of the future they proposed was the burnt second volume of Dead Souls; among the concepts of the modern state, “the Motherland with a laser sword”; among the concepts of the future, “Russia as the world’s ‘guardian of good” and “Pasty” [sic: “Pirozhok”]. The authors concluded that the dominant value for the Russian family is the people of Russia, which itself is a “family of families.”

Mr. Kharichev’s co-authors were Andrei Shutov, dean of the faculty of political science at Moscow State University; Andrei Polosin, doctor of political science and head of Rosatom’s regional interaction department; and Ekaterina Sokolova, deputy executive director for strategy and forecasting at the Expert Institute for Social Research. The article was published in October in the Journal of Political Studies.

The study was conducted by means of group discussions from March to May. The seventy participants answered questions about what Russian statehood is, what would happen to the country in ten years, what our future is, and a number of others.

Based on the discussions, the researchers formed a five-level “pentabasis”: person—family—society—state—country. Dominant values were formed for each level. For the country, [this dominant value] is patriotism; for the state, it is trust in the institutions of power; for the family, it is the people of Russia; for society, it is harmony; for the person, it is creativity. “The thesis was voiced that European society is individualistic, whereas our main value is family + family with friends, which leads to the emergence of the thesis ‘family as a level.’ The dominant value: the people of the Russian Federation as a family of families. Stimulating the birth rate and the concept of a ‘big family,’ the article says [just as incoherently in the original as in this translation].

  • Metaphors of Russia’s future. “The state as a novel” (written collectively by citizens, it has alternative endings); “the Russian future as the second part of Dead Souls, burned by Gogol,” “the state as the Firebird.”
  • Concepts of the modern state.[The] Motherland with a laser sword” (a source of pride for the Russian spirit and a guide to the future), “the friendly service state.”
  • Messianic concepts of the future state. “Russia as a ‘prophet country’ (opposed to the Grand Inquisitor), “Russia as the world guardian, the ‘guardian of good.'”
  • Idealistic concepts of the future state. “Wondrous City” ([i.e., promoting] inclusivity, coexistence, acceptance of others as equals; “in no case to be confused with the term ‘tolerance'”), “Pasty” (harmoniously combines different things).
  • Mechanistic concepts of the future state. “Kaleidoscope” (a multifaceted future), “a medium-sized magnet state” (generates a field for a particular community).

The study participants concluded that the person in the “Russia of the Future” is “proud of his country, influential and highly employable, financially secure, [and] free within certain community rules.” According to the authors of the article, the ideas of self-realization in the Russian Federation are very different from those common in the Western world.

“In the Russian case, self-realization or mission means that an individual contributes to the country’s development. Capitalizing [on one’s] mission is an optional stage,” the authors write.

Source: Leonid Uvarchev, “Alexander Kharichev from the presidential administration wrote an article about imagining Russia’s future,” Kommersant, 7 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

exodos, from ex- ‘out of’ + hodos ‘way’

Lida Monavia

Since Putin’s announcement of the mobilization and other news, our efforts to help refugees in Russia have collapsed. Refugees, Ukrainian civilians, have been fleeing the war. Every day our foundation receives about fifty appeals for assistance, people asking to be clothed and fed. Who has been trying to solve these issues for all these past seven months? Volunteers and philanthropists. Where are those volunteers and benefactors now? In Kazakhstan, in Georgia. Or in Russia, but panicked or depressed and unable to do anything.

I (the foundation’s director and founder) have myself begun to handle applications from refugees as a curator. Today, I called a family — a woman with two small children. In Ukraine, she was a businesswoman, she had her own restaurant and two shops. The war came to her city, and now she has nothing, not even a bra or bed linen. She asked for a duvet cover, at least one. She said that she is renting a room in an apartment. There is one sofa, on which she and her two children sleep “like a jack in a deck of cards”; they have two pillows for three people and not a single duvet cover. We try to help refugees with underwear, so I asked whether she had a bra. She answered proudly, “No, but I’m not complaining, I don’t consider it an essential.” She asked for food and a duvet cover. We try to do something to cheer up children, so I asked whether her children wanted a scooter. She said they really want one: they envy the other children on the playground who have a scooter or a bicycle.

We were so proud that our foundation had 500 volunteer curators who managed refugee issues. Since the mobilization began, around 30% of those curators have dropped out, having left the country. I had a long list of philanthropists who were happy to help refugees in some way. Now about 50% of benefactors respond that they are no longer able to help.

Is there anyone left here [in Russia] who has the resources to help others? If you are here and willing to do something for people who have fled the war, the Refugee Relief Fund is in particular need of help now.

We really need curators — volunteers who are willing to spend an hour a day coordinating assistance to refugees. The application form is here: https://forms.gle/3WroeebLSz4m6guh8

We really need benefactors — people who are willing, starting from one thousand rubles, to donate once or regularly to pay for food, underpants, medicines, etc., for the refugees. If you can help out with money, write us a message in WhatsApp specifying the amount you are willing to donate, and whether you would like to donate on a one-time or monthly basis. We will send you a formal request from specific people whom you can pay online or to whom you can personally donate a pillowcase, chicken, or bottle of Nurofen. Write to Katya Chistyakova (our foundation’s fundraiser), at +7 966 140-8243 on WhatsApp.

If you do not want to help in a targeted manner and talk about specific families with curators, you can make a monthly donation to the foundation: https://mayak.fund/help-with-money

Source: Lidia Moniava, Facebook, 3 October 2022. Ms. Moniava is the co-founder of the Lighthouse Charity Foundation. I don’t think it is possible for people using non-Russian bank cards and western payment systems to make donations to Lighthouse at the moment, but you are welcome to try. Photo courtesy of Ms. Moniava’s Facebook page. Translated by the Russian Reader


As Russian forces laid siege to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol this spring, children fled bombed-out group homes and boarding schools. Separated from their families, they followed neighbors or strangers heading west, seeking the relative safety of central Ukraine.

Instead, at checkpoints around the city, pro-Russia forces intercepted them, according to interviews with the children, witnesses and family members. The authorities put them on buses headed deeper into Russian-held territory.

“I didn’t want to go,” said Anya, 14, who escaped a home for tuberculosis patients in Mariupol and is now with a foster family near Moscow. “But nobody asked me.”

In the rush to flee, she said, she left behind a sketchbook containing her mother’s phone number. All she could remember were the first three digits.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, Russian authorities have announced with patriotic fanfare the transfer of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia to be adopted and become citizens. On state-run television, officials offer teddy bears to new arrivals, who are portrayed as abandoned children being rescued from war.

In fact, this mass transfer of children is a potential war crime, regardless of whether they were orphans. And while many of the children did come from orphanages and group homes, the authorities also took children whose relatives or guardians want them back, according to interviews with children and families on both sides of the border.

As Russian troops pushed into Ukraine, children like Anya who were fleeing newly occupied territories were swept up. Some were taken after their parents had been killed or imprisoned by Russian troops, according to local Ukrainian officials.

This systematic resettlement is part of a broader strategy by the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, to treat Ukraine as a part of Russia and cast his illegal invasion as a noble cause. His government has used children — including the sick, poor and orphaned — as part of a propaganda campaign presenting Russia as a charitable savior.

[…]

Source: Emma Bubola, “Using Adoptions, Russia Turns Ukrainian Children Into Spoils of War,” New York Times, 22 October 2022

Russian Soul Music

Since Masha Gessen quite literally believes that the Russian “liberal” intelligentsia is God’s gift to humankind, she writes the following nationalist nonsense with a completely straight face:

In the seven and a half months since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, hundreds of thousands of Russians have left their country. Many of them are journalists, writers, poets, or artists, and they, along with some who are still in Russia, have been producing essays, poems, Facebook posts, and podcasts trying to grapple with the condition of being citizens of a country waging a genocidal colonial war. Some of their Ukrainian counterparts have scoffed at their soul-searching. Ukrainians, indeed, have bigger and more immediate problems. But they also have certainty—they know who they are in the world, while for Russians nothing is as it once seemed to be.

[…]

The last time people were writing in Russian so urgently was in the late nineteen-eighties. Soviet citizens back then had been confronted with their past—the Stalinist terror. That moment gave Russia, among other things, Memorial, the human-rights organization that, along with Ukrainian and Belarusian activists, won the Nobel Peace Prize last week. Now Russian citizens are being confronted with their present. The writers in exile have physically fled their country (as has much of Memorial’s leadership) and are trying to write their way to a new Russia. Their imagination extends far beyond the Russian constitution to a world that’s radically different, and better than not only Putin’s revanchist Russian World but the world we currently inhabit.

Source: Masha Gessen, “The War in Ukraine Launches a New Battle for the Russian Soul,” The New Yorker, 9 October 2022. The emphasis is mine.


“Yoga for your health.” Central Petersburg, 6 July 2017. Photo by the Russian Reader

The queue for the ferry. There are Russian tourists behind me. (If you thought there were none of them [in Europe anymore], think again.) The boat arrives, but there’s not room enough for everyone and the guard closes the barrier just in front of us. Everyone stands there meekly, except my compatriots. As soon as the guard turns around, they dive under the barrier and run onto the crowded ship. They look like Moscow hipsters.

When did these people decide that everything is permitted them and that there are no prohibitions and rules? I missed this moment because the Soviet Untermenschen among whom I grew up considered themselves worse than everyone and were afraid of making a peep. Who instilled this hubris in them? How did they get it into their heads that they could go to war with the whole world and win?

(A spare boat was brought in five minutes later, of course, and it took us all away without any fuss or crush.)

Source: Dmitry Volchek, Facebook, 15 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Mobilization Dragnet Blues

Maxim Sokolov, but not the one the “housing authority” is looking for.

I’ve now had two visits “from the housing authority.” Both times it was middle-aged dames who visited me. The first one was wearing a headscarf, while the one today had a short haircut. The most amazing thing is that they were looking for an apartment with the same number as mine, but in the building next door. But they couldn’t find it, so they came to my apartment.

This is a rough recreation of today’s conversation:

— I need Maxim Sokolov . . .

— Meep! Someone came here asking for him two days ago. Like I said then, you have the wrong building.

— Yes, I know . . . But just in case . . .

— “Just in case” what?

— Well, just in case you’re hiding him under the sofa.

— He lives in another building! I don’t even know him.

— But I can’t find the apartment.

— You do realize that even if you come here ten times, the building number won’t change, and he won’t be here.

— But they send me looking for him so I can serve him a [mobilization] summons.

— Then tell them to buzz off!

She hesitates at the door.

— But there’s another one I can’t find.

And she shows me another summons.

— But there’s a different building number written here, too!

— Yes! But I can’t find it. In the building next door, the numbering starts with apartment no. 23, but here it says apartment no. 1 and apartment no. 3.

— What can I do? Should I write to you that he is not at this address because it’s a different address?

She sighs bitterly and stalks off.

Maxim Sokolov and Comrade Branov (whoever you are) — run, hide under the sofa, don’t live at your official addresses, save yourselves!

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a trusted source and occasional contributor to this website, identified here as “VA” for future reference. Photo of the odious Russian nationalist journalist Maxim Sokolov (who is the first Maxim Sokolov who pops up when you Google the name in Russian) courtesy of the equally odious RT. Translated by the Russian Reader

Cause for Optimism

From left to right, the Trinity (Izmailovsky) Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral, and Singer House, in central Petersburg,
as photographed by Alexander Petrosyan

Yesterday I met a neighbor lady from our floor whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. She was in high spirits, and we talked for a minute about the current realities. I asked her how she managed to maintain such enviable optimism, and her answer amazed me.

“Why be sad?” she said. “We live in the heart of the city, and if they fire a nuclear missile, we would automatically find ourselves in the very epicenter. We would be instantly transformed into elementary particles. Isn’t that what many people can only dream of?”

Source: Alexander Petrosyan, Facebook, 30 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. Our beloved Petersburg neighbor lady Ludmila Borisovna said something strikingly similar during the “tensions” in 2014.