“Combating Terrorism” in Petersburg

Metal detectors in the vestibule of a Petersburg subway station. Photo courtesy of Fontanka.ru
Passengers walking through metal dectors in the lobby of a Petersburg subway station. Photo courtesy of Fontanka.ru

“The pair discussed combating terrorism[.]”
Christi Parsons and Tracy Wilkinson, “Trump and Putin have first official phone conversation amid European anxiety about future relations,” Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2017

From April You’ll Need a Doctor’s Certificate to Get through Metal Detectors in Petersburg Subway
January 25, 2017

Starting March 30, the Petersburg subway will be equipped with special barriers to stop people, including those whose medical conditions prevent them from walking through metal detectors.

The Petersburg subway’s press service told Fontanka.ru the special barriers had begun to be installed last year as part of the Federal Law on Transportation Security. They were tested at the Tekhnologichesky Institut station, and during the entire time they were in service, no conflicts with passengers arose, subway management insists.

Since the new year, the barriers have been installed at several more stations. Passengers with pacemakers and metal implants should proceed as follows at these stations: they should press a special button on the barrier to summon a trained staff member. The staff member is obliged to check the relevant doctor’s certificate and, if there are any more questions for the passenger, send him to have his personal belongings inspected. Passengers without doctor’s certificates will not be allowed to enter the subway, warns subway management.

Not all passengers are aware of the changes, and they have had trouble getting through the turnstiles. A Fontanka.ru reader has told us that, on the morning of January 25, he had been unable to bypass the metal detector at the Grazhdansky Prospekt subway station, as he had been able to do on previously. The man, who had metal implants installed in his head during an operation, claims he waited ten minutes for a subway staffer to personally inspect his belongings. When the subway employee arrived, he told the man that, according to regulations, he would not let him into the subway without a doctor’s certificate.

“No warnings had been posted in advance,” writes the reader, angry at having wasted so much time.

Subway management could not confirm additional efforts would be made to inform passengers, noting the necessary signage had already been posted in station lobbies.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Noma Is an Island

A typical street scene in central Petersburg, 27 January 2017. Photo by TRR

Culinary Nomalism has finally blazed a trail to lowly Petersburg, ex-capital of All the Russias.

EM is a unique modernist [sic] cuisine restaurant where everything from the bread to the coffee is prepared on an AGA cooker in the open-kitchen dining room.

December — January


Spinach brioche with black caviar and edamame cream


Shrimps with cauliflower and red tea sauce


Neat’s tongue with baked portobello and blue tea chips


Walnut with prunes mousse and powdered porcini


Sterlet with grey cheesecake and raspberry sauce

Stewed lamb with yellow tomatoes in different textures


Sea buckthorn souffle with coconut


Source: EM

Since just about everyone in Petersburg is (not) rolling in money, Nomalism’s advent in the city, which has just been celebrating the latest anniversary of the lifting of the 900-day Nazi Siege that killed off half its population in living memory, could not be timelier. At this eatery, the bimonthly non-vegan set menu (“Classic Set”), as listed above, will cost you 3,500 rubles (approx. 55 euros), sans wine.

That would be a steal for the actual Noma crowd, of course, but not so cheap for the vast majority of the city’s population. The average monthly old age pension in Petersburg is, supposedly, around 12,000 rubles (approx. 188 euros), while the average monthly salary is around 31,000 rubles (approx. 485 euros).

Who, then, are the clientele for this haute bourgeois splurgery?

These middle-aged women, picking their way across pavements caked with sand and dotted with islets of ice, hard-trodden snow, and frozen slush, because the city government is too poor or too feeble to remove them the good old-fashioned way?

Another typical street scene in central Petersburg, 27 January 2017. Photo by TRR
Another typical street scene in central Petersburg, 27 January 2017. Photo by TRR

A Word from Our Sponsor

And now, a word from our sponsor, the common cause.


Constructing life, however, is undoubtedly tantamount to producing culture. The life that man constructs consciously is, in fact, culture. Culture is the totality of man’s advances in transfiguring the world. Culture is the world, altered by man according to his mind’s ideals.

But culture, in this case, includes not only theoretical and symbolic endeavors, as encapsulated in science and art. A significant and essential part of culture are those modes of work that really change the world around us, not merely in thought and imagination. They include economics, production, agriculture, engineering, medicine, eugenics, practical biology, education, and so on. Indeed, an overview of all the current research and trends makes plain that culture’s contents are revealed as the things people actually to change reality using these means. Culture is not only pure science and pure art, but definitely consists in applying them to production, the mining and processing industry, labor, and technology. Hence, we can say that culture’s ultimate meaning and goal are actually to improve and transform the world through nature’s rational management.

The new culture of the future involves nothing other than identifying this universal culture, revealing it as the work of transfiguring the world.

It follows that the first task, which precedes all construction and organization, is expanding the common notion of culture and including in it the modes of human endeavor that have previously been regarded as outside its scope. In other words, what must vanish are the current disjunction between culture and life, and the consequent separation of theoretical and symbolic work, which generates expressions of knowledge and ideal patterns, from work that really, by means of action, changes our environment.

To this end, we must first clearly understand the source of this pernicious disjunction. Its roots undoubtedly lie in the ancient division of the world into the supernatural world, accessible only to the mind and imagination, and the earthly, material world where human action takes place.

Due to the limitations of his outlook and the feebleness of his power over nature, man was unable to effect a real, comprehensive transformation of the environment, and so he marked off a special field of endeavor where he found it relatively easier to enact the kingdom of his reason and his moral and aesthetic ideals. This was the realm of pure knowledge and the similar realm of pure art. Here, in a special world generated by the mind and imagination, man produced the ideas and images he wanted while passively contemplating external reality and acting on it only in his own inner world by enriching his intellect and furthering his aesthetic powers. In this segregated realm, he scored victories over unreasoning, vicious nature, but what these successes lacked was the fact they led to no changes in real life except for producing generations of especially sophisticated, accomplished people who were quite remote from the mass of humanity, who continued to languish in the grip of a life that was impoverished, meaningless, and misshapen. Thus did passive contemplation and abstract philosophizing evolve. They were joined by pure science and pure art. Scientists have engaged in pure theory, forgetting their work makes sense only insofar as it really transfigures the world, and that they, accordingly, are not a self-sufficient corporation, but merely a committee of sorts, designated by humanity for a particular goal: drafting a project for the world’s transfiguration. For their part, artists have surrendered to the symbolism of images and forgotten they only make sense insofar as they are linked to reality, and that art’s purpose is to provide people with an ideal of a better world and assist in actually converting the present into such a future. Consequently, culture has become detached from life and enclosed in the narrow confines of pure creativity, remote from reality.

The outcome of the disjunction between symbolic and theoretical endeavors and real cultural work has been equally detrimental to both. Without thought, action is meaningless; thought without movement is ineffective; while knowledge, since it is applied to nothing, degenerates into abstract intellectualizing; science that has no practical end ultimately turns into an exposition of methods that have no purpose; and art that produces only dead likenesses turns into a harmful amusement. On the other hand, lawmaking and economics, as endeavors that change the material world; medicine and eugenics, which change the nature of living beings; and education, which changes their mental nature, are likewise bereft of a particular purpose and come to serve private and individual interests instead of pursuing the task of transfiguring the world.

The outcome is humanity’s atomization into a number of warring centers. Culture is no longer produced as the common cause of human efforts, while the latter develop, each in its own field, as self-contained strivings. Hence the birth of the destructive particularism we find at the heart of cultural liberalism, which was proclaimed during the Renaissance and has evolved into modern cultural chaos. In this state, the common conscious action of people, instead of blazing a course for itself through history as a single, powerful stream, has trickled away into a thousand rivulets, which have mostly ended up as standing puddles of fetid water. Each man lives only for his selfish purposes. A number of dead ends arise, discrete lives fenced off from the rest. An idol in the guise of personal prejudice or passion is erected in each such dead end. Mutual bloody war erupts in the name of the idols, tearing humanity apart with strife. However, at the same time, people are united by irrational factors, but this unity is usually based on narrow-mindedness and passivity, and crumbles when it encounters consciousness, even in its primary selfish, individual form.

These phenomena have caused the crisis now experienced by European culture. It is clear it cannot stay in a state of modern individual atomization, and just as clear that the way to past attempts at unification, based on extinguishing consciousness, is forbidden to it due to its hypertrophied modern evolution. The only way left is to produce a culture in which consciousness would not be removed from life but would projectively manage it, moreover, manage it not in the sense of separating people from each other, but, on the contrary, in the sense of uniting them as completely as possible on the basis of a common cause.

That was an excerpt from Valerian Muravyov, “A Universal Productive Mathematics” (1923), in Boris Groys, ed., Russkii kozmism (Moscow: Ad Marginem Press,  2015), 180–184

Translated by the Russian Reader

God Is Great

Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat.


[At Kuzyna House on New Holland] Asian, European, Mediterranean, and even South Americans are combined in the simple food [sic] tradition. For example, starters include burrata with honey, persimmon, and truffle oil (780 rubles), and the main courses include poached salmon with a champagne and caviar cream sauce (990 rubles), marinated Korean barbecue ribs (750 rubles), and grilled chicken with green salsa (620 rubles).


The intellectual cluster [sic] A Beautiful Mind was conceived by psychotherapist Andrei Kurpatov, famous for his TV show on Channel One. Alexei Yermakov (El Copitas) is in charge of the kitchen.

Source: “December’s 22 Cafes, Bars, and Restaurants (Petersburg),” The Village, 28 December 2016

"10 Serials for the New Year's Holidays: Fontanka.ru's Choice."
“10 Serials for the New Year’s Holidays: Fontanka.ru’s Choice.”

Source: Fontanka.ru

Needless to say, all ten serials in question are either British or US serials.

Photo by the Russian Reader

Turn off the News

"Maximus Paintball Club. Pirate Village Facility: Children's Parties, Birthdays, Office Parties," Petrovsky Island, Petersburg, 26 April 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
“Maximus Paintball Club. Pirate Village Facility: Children’s Parties, Birthdays, Office Parties,” Petrovsky Island, Petersburg, 26 April 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader

Here is a snapshot of Rosbalt news agency’s Petersburg regional news wire for yesterday, 28 December 2016. TRR

Source: Rosbalt

Thanks to Lola Preobrazhenskaya for the heads-up. Headlines translated by the Russian Reader

Miru Mir (We Don’t Care)

“Peace to the world.” Central Petrograd, December 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader

Andrey Loshak
December 25, 2016

I will perform my familiar role as Captain Obvious. The Alexandrov Ensemble, Doctor Liza, the ambassador to Ankara, and the two hundred and seventeen people flying back to Petersburg from Egypt over a year ago would still be alive if President Putin had not personally ordered our troops into combat in Syria.

It is impossible to calculate how many Syrian women and children were killed by Russian bombs, but nobody in Russia gives a shit about it. The Vesti TV news program said they were smearing their faces with tomato juice instead of blood, and everyone believed it, because it is easier that way. But it is odd that over the past year no one has bothered to ask Putin what higher purpose was served by the death of the twenty-five Russian children flying in the plane from Egypt that was blown up by Islamic State. It was possible to explain the Chechen terrorist attacks in Moscow by invoking the battle for Russia’s so-called territorial integrity. The hybrid war in Eastern Ukraine had something to do with Ukraine’s being our nearest neighbor and the so-called Russian world. (Although that would be cold comfort to the families of the passengers of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, blown to smithereens by a Russian rocket.) But no one in Russia has any clue why our army has put itself in the middle of the latest bloodbath in the Middle East. Ask anyone on the street. They won’t know what to say: I have checked. No one believes in the fairy tale about fighting Islamic State.

People believe more in the spiel about supporting the vampire Assad, but it doesn’t come across as persuasive either. After all, Assad is not Yanukovych, who, at least, was right next door and bought natural gas from us. More people believe we are involved in a tactical war with America. We have supposedly shown the Yanks we know a few tricks ourselves. That was the explanation given to me by a guy in Michurinsk. Yet he felt no indignation whatsoever, by the way. Hundreds of Russians have been killed in this war, a war the country is fighting the fuck knows where and the fuck knows why. You have to be utterly brainless, of course, to know everything we know about Afghanistan and get bogged down in the same deal again. But that is the saddest part: no one could give a flying fuck.

On television, they ramble on about GEOPOLITICS. It is now the magic spell, the national idea, the new Russian god that has replaced hydrocarbons, which have proved unreliable. It works like a charm, because any crap on either side of the border can be explained in terms of geopolitical interests. The majority of Russians still imagine that geopolitics is something remote and boring, something Pyotr Tolstoy would discuss on his talk shows, but in fact it has now made itself at home in nearly every Russian household in the shape of incipient poverty, inflation, unemployment, deteriorating medical care and education, rising utilities rates, and, more and more often, the violent deaths of loved ones.

The most surprising thing, however, is that Russia’s so-called geopolitical interests, to which so many victims have been sacrificed, is a myth, a fiction, the latest of Putin’s simulacra. You and I have no interests in Syria, and neither does Russia. All of Russia’s major foreign policy decisions, from the annexation of Crimea to the war in Syria, have initially been made by one man on grounds known only to him. Were rank-and-file Russians terribly worried about whether Crimea was part of Russia or Ukraine until the president took care of the problem? This is not to mention Syria, whose existence was a mystery to many Russians until we launched military operations there.

There is no separating Putin from geopolitics. Putin is geopolitics, and Russia’s so-called geopolitical interests are mainly the interests of Putin, who is guided by a rationale known only to him. God knows what is going on in his brain, but after sixteen years of individual rule, anyone’s brains would warp. This is a typical problem of authoritarian regimes: the illusory reality in the dictator’s overindulged, fevered brain becomes everyone else’s reality, and real people die.

A dictator thinks a thought, and it immediately becomes the national idea. We know that our dictator has long been uninterested in anything except self-assertion in the international arena. At home, he has everything sorted out (he even erected a monument to Prince Vladimir recently), but when it comes to authority on the world stage everything has been totally fucked. He has played the big shot every which way to Sunday, but it has only made those sordid faggots in other countries frown even harder. They have got Putin stuck on the fourth rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: the need for reverence and respect. He cannot move on to the highest stage, the stage of spiritual development, where a lonely Gandhi and the coveted Nobel Peace Prize have long been waiting for him.

Putin sees geopolitics as a gamble in which he has been trying to beat the West by desperately conning it. He sees us as bargaining chips. It is clear he will continue to solve his profoundly personal problems using the entire country as a hammer. Of course he claims to be acting in Russia’s interests, but the trouble is that after so many years of unchecked power it is hard to separate national interests from personal interests. Putin has so fused with the system, he has short-circuited so many public institutions, that you pull him out of politics now and Russia really would crumble. Putin does in fact now equate with Russia, and if you oppose Putin, you oppose Russia—in the shape in which it now exists.

So you won’t get any optimistic pre-New Year’s predictions from me. The Napoleonic tricorn, propped on the head of Little Zaches, will grow so large it will soon completely obscure his view. The quantity of insanity and victims will thus naturally increase.

Andrey Loshak is a well-known Russian journalist. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to a number of friends for the heads-up



Andrey Loshak:

“I wrote a post in which I said Putin was responsible for the crash of the Defense Ministry plane.  There was no malice or disrespect for the memory of the dead in what I wrote, just a take on well-known facts. A hour later, a hellish orgy kicked off in the comments section in which wishes for my immediate death were expressed. Who the heck knows whether they were trolls or not. Some of them were definitely real people. I think that if I had been tied up and handed over to them at that moment, they would have skinned me alive, ripped out my heart, and stomped on it. Such orgies had occurred before, as soon I would write something critical about Putin. You cannot imagine how many insults I have had to read, written by aggressive assholes who had never met me in real life but who nevertheless called me all the names in the book and dispensed idiotic jokes about my surname and my loved ones. I used to take such things ironically, but after my son was born, I have felt like personally smacking everyone in this pack upside the head. My ‘liberasty’ lasted for a long while. For almost eight years, my Facebook page was as open and pluralistic as the Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. I thought it was vital to maintain the possibility of interacting with people who held different views. Unfortunately, however, the absolute majority of them proved capable only of insults. This audience is, probably, what is pejoratively dubbed the vata: an aggressive, mentally limited pack, willing blindly to follow the alpha male anywhere, whether to the edge of the precipice or over the edge. Today I couldn’t stand it and acted liked Putin. I changed the comments settings: now only Facebook friends can leave comments. I must admit my little sociological experiment in establishing a dialogue with society has failed.”

Source: Facebook

Tear of a Komsomol Girl

Tear of a Komsomol Girl [cocktail recipe]

Lavender Toilet Water 15 g.
Verbena 15 g.
Herbal Lotion 30 g.
Nail Polish 2 g.
Mouthwash 150 g.
Lemon Soda 150 g.

—Venedikt Erofeev, Moscow to the End of the Line, trans. H.W. Tjalsma (New York: Taplinger, 1980), pp. 6970


Government to Introduce Excise Taxes on Medicinal Tinctures to Combat Alcoholism
Polina Zvezdina
December 13, 2016

The government has proposed imposing excise taxes on medicinal tinctures, household chemicals, and cosmetics containing alcohol. The reason is that the populace consumes them instead of the expensive liquour sold in shops. As RBC has previously reported, approximately 10% of Russians suffer from drugstore alcoholism.

Prescribe and Report
The Finance Ministry has drafted amendments to existing laws and the Tax Code that would impose excise taxes on alcohol-based pharmaceutical products, except for vital and essential drugs (VEDs). The ministry was ordered to do this by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Khloponin, who oversees the alcohol market. In late October, he reported on the matter to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. RBC has a copy of his letter. A spokesperson for Khloponin refused to comment on the document’s authenticity or its contents.

Due to a drop in incomes and an increase in prices for strong alcoholic beverages, Russians have been increasingly been drinking alcohol-based liquids not intended for consumption, Khloponin argues in his proposal. Among such liquids, he lists Cucumber Lotion, Boyara (a tincture of hawthorn and rose hips), and Bread and Wheat, two alcohol-based additives. The sales of such products have recently increased in Tatarstan, Ufa, Samara, Cheboksary, Saransk, and Kaluga, according to the document.

If the deputy prime minister’s undertaking is implemented, it will affect drugs used by the public for their intended purpose, such as Corvalol and Valocordin.

Currently, the Tax Code does not deem alcohol-based medicines, veterinary drugs, food products, and cosmetics sold in packages containing 100 milliliters or less as excisable products.

Vadim Drobiz, former head of the Research Center for the Federal and Regional Alchohol Markets (TsIFFRA), told RBC that between twelve and fifteen million [i.e., approximately 10% of the Russian population] regularly consumes medical tinctures and cosmetic lotions not intended for consumption. The “parallel” alcohol market’s capacity already accounts for around 20% of the official market’s turnover, as RBC reported in an investigation published on November 24.

Specific Proposals
Khloponin has proposed labeling all alcohol-based non-food products as excisable and abolishing the zero-rate excise tax for certain brands of cosmetics and household chemicals. The rate of the excise duty should be the same as that imposed on strong alcoholic beverages. Currently, the excise rate on strong spirits is 500 rubles per one liter of pure alcohol.

The excise taxes should be extended to all alcohol-based medicines, except for medicines included in the VEDs list, writes Khloponin. In addition, the pharmaceutical market should apply the Unified State Automated Information System (EGAIS) for accounting for the production and turnover of alcohol to the distribution of ethanol intended for the production of medicines. According to current laws, the EGAIS will be introduced to the pharmaceutical market from 2017, but it will record only ethanol production.

Khloponin argues that retail sales of the flavor additives Bread and Wheat should be banned altogether. The regions also need to have the authority to independently monitor sales of alcohol-based non-food products.

The Finance Ministry did not respond to RBC’s inquiry. The Health Ministry informed us that as part of the fight against “drugstore alcoholism,” the ministry had drafted a federal law bill banning the sale of alcoholic pharmaceutical products from vending machines [see article, below].

Hospital Budgets and Pensions
If the Finance Ministry finalizes its undertaking, the public will suffer, Elena Nevolina, executive director of the National Pharmaceutical Chamber, noted in an interview with RBC. Many popular tinctures, such as valerian, Corvalol, Valocordin, and Votchal drops, are not included in the VEDs list. After excise taxes are imposed, their prices will skyrocket or they will simply vanish from the market, she argues. This might indirectly impact the work of ambulance brigades, since pensioners, accustomed to consuming certain medicines, will be more likely to summon ambulance crews if the medicines are unavailable, Nevolina believes.

Aseptol handwipes. Image courtesy of Reviso

Another alcohol-based medication not included in the VEDs list is Aseptol, a topical solution widely used by medical personnel to disinfect their hands. The retail price for 100 ml of the solution is currently around 35 rubles. After the excise duty is imposed, its price could double, believes Nevolina.

Although hospitals purchase Aseptol in large quantities, it amounts to less than 1% of all sales. According to research by the DSM Group, purchases of Aseptol amounted to 179 million rubles in 2014, 195 million rubles in 2015, and 171 million rubles in the first nine months of 2016. The public procurement market for Aseptol accounted only for 549,000 rubles, 820,000 bules, and 936,000 rubles of these total sales, respectively.

Based on an excise tax rate of 500 rubles per 1 liter of pure alcohol, the price of Corvalol would increase by one and half times, and the price of Carniland (Votchal’s drops) and Valocardin, by a few percent.

The measures proposed by the government will enable better monitoring of the pharmaceutical alcohol market, said Dmitry Dobrov, board chair of the Union of Alcohol Producers.

“EGAIS and excise taxes have proven effective in the alcohol market. Sales and tax revenue have been growing, and illegal production has practically disappeared,” he said.

Major Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Alcohol-Based Drugs
The Industry and Trade Ministry supplied RBC with a list of the major manufacturers of alcohol-based medicinal products. The leaders in terms of sales and production are Gippokrat from Samara (whose 2015 revenue was 980 million rubles and overall production, 51.8 million units); Flora Kavkaza from Karachay-Cherkessia (230.9 million rubles; 13.4 million units); Begrif from Novosibirsk Region (211.7 million rubles; 10.9 million units), the Tula Pharmaceutical Factory (251.5 million rubles; 9.6 million units); and the Ivanovo Pharmaceutical Factory (138.1 million rubles; 7.5 million units).

The market for alcohol-based drugs has been growing from year to year. According to DSM Group, it amounted to 3 billion rubles in 2014, almost 4 billion rubles in 2015, and 3.1 billions rubles in the first nine months of 2016.

Hawthorn lotion dispenser in Izhevsk. Photo courtesy of susanin.udm.ru
Hawthorn “lotion” dispenser in Izhevsk. Photo courtesy of susanin.udm.ru

Boyara 24 Alcodispenser Shows Up at New Location in Izhevsk
Argumenty v Izhevske
October 15, 2016

Yet another dispenser for selling the alcohol-based Hawthorn (Boyaryshnik) liquid has been installed in Izhevsk. As Susanin News Agency reports, the 24-hour sales point, where even a child could shop, has been installed on January 9th Street.

For 20 rubles, the Boyara 24 machine dispenses a bottle of liquid containing 75% ethyl alcohol. Hawthorn Lotion for Oily Skin, as indicated on the label, is designed to cleanse and tone the skin.

But few locals used the alcohol-based liquid as it was intended. The dispenser’s target market is society’s drunken stratum. To obtain a bottle of Hawthorn, you merely have to drop money into a coin slot and turn a handle. The dispenser imposes no limits on the times when the liquid is sold or the age of purchasers. It does not even need electricity to run round the clock.

During an experiment conducted by a Susanin News Agency film crew and concerned citizens, it transpired that the alcodispenser did not work properly. Four attempts were made to purchase Hawthorn Lotion, but the machine dispensed bottles only in two instances. Empirically, therefore, we established that the dispenser sells the alcohol-based liquid for 40 rubles rather than 20.

The first such dispenser showed up in Mechanical Engineers Village approximately two weeks ago. It was successfully dismantled, most likely by penniless alcohol enthusiasts.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo of lavender toilet water courtesy of knigi-janzen.de