Belly Dance

Source: Vit Ivanov, “Belly dance performed in camouflage Z-suits in Kurgan,” YouTube, 20 July 2022
“A video appeared a Kurgan community social media page, showing on which four women performing a belly dance with the letter Z on their backs. The footage was published on the community page ‘Oh, Kurgan’ on the VKontakte social network.”

I was alerted to this video by the Facebook feed of 7 x 7, an independent Russian media outlet that focuses on grassroots regional news, who described it as follows:

Kurgan residents perform belly dance in camouflage Z-suits

The students of the Roksolana Belly Dance Studio, along with their coach Tatiana Bikbova, performed a number at Museum Night. They even received a letter of thanks from the Kurgan Museum Association for their performance.

Video courtesy of Tatiana Bikbova’s social media page


100% of my female friends are feminists and activists. A significant portion of my friends are involved in social theater. And it would be great if everyone [in Russia] was like that. But it is obvious that this would be a false extrapolation.

When I say that the Russian people don’t give a shit about the war, a murmur of indignation arises: “But here, on Facebook, they do give a shit!” But if we look closely at Facebook, we see that it has only 9 million users in the Russian Federation. And we definitely filter our friends in terms of their views.

You know who gives a shit? Georgians give a shit. I visit a pediatrician, and she has children’s drawings hanging above her desk. [One of them featured] a yellow field, a blue sky, and the slogan “Stop Russia” [in English]. A female friend of mine goes to see a a fifty-year-old female GP, and she outlines a plan for an armed uprising to my friend. Over the last six months in Georgia, I have not met a single person who would say “I have nothing to do with politics” or “Where have you been for eight years?” Young Georgians understand Russian history better than Russians do and can tell you what kind of education one or another Russian political spin doctor had. These have been random [encounters], not friends from FB.

When I [was] going to Russia, the highway in the south [of the country] was full of military vehicles marked with the Z. The vehicles going in both directions had black license plates [indicating they belonged to the Russian military]. They slept in the parking lot next to me. Then I got to Petersburg, which has always been my home. And there [were] 5 million people walking around as if nothing [was] happening at all. Nothing had changed at all.

Nothing changed when elections were abolished. Nor when people were jailed [for protests and other political crimes]. Nor when Crimea was hijacked. And especially now.

And a hundred of our friends do not affect the result in any way.

Source: Leda Garina, Facebook, 10 September 2022. Ms. Garina is a theater director and feminist activist from Petersburg, currently living in Tbilisi, who recently traveled back home to regain custody of her teenaged daughter. Translated by the Russian Reader

A Bill of Goods

“Commander [watch]. Death to spies: commissioned by the GRU of the USSR.”
Source: Kitenhome, where the watch is identified as a “vintage men’s wrist watch” from 1990. It is priced to sell at $29.99.

Only the blind can claim that Vladimir Putin wants to revive the Soviet Union. On the contrary, he has built one of the most Darwinian and irresponsible capitalist systems on the planet. Only its imperial ambitions and the normalization of permanent theft bear any relation to the late Soviet state. Only the fear of the return of a totalitarian regime, which struck several generations in Russia, has delayed a left turn among the young. But the war has finally started it.

After February 24, the protest against the Putin regime, amplified by antiwar sentiment, was embodied in a digital resistance movement. The global media has been largely silent about this fact, but military commissariats in Russia burn down every few days, freight trains with weapons or raw materials for military factories derail, and the walls of houses and fences are covered with huge pro-Ukrainian graffiti at night. Volunteers take care of Ukrainians forcibly displaced to Russia and help them flow to Europe. This resistance is horizontal and egalitarian, and it is mainly engaged in by twenty- to thirty-year-olds. What values drive them?

[…]

The range of the views of this new left is wide — from anarcho-federalism to social liberalism — but at its heart is a clear demand for equality and a restart of the state with an economy focused on personal self-realization, the satisfaction of basic needs, and the protection of rights. As Russians come to accept responsibility for the terror inflicted on Ukraine, we can expect turbulence to last for decades. But one reason for optimism is the likely fact that any new Russia — or several Russias — will be leftist.

Source: Nikolay V. Kononov, “The Russian Left Is Standing Against Putin’s War in Ukraine,” Jacobin, 4 September 2022. Thanks to Charles Keener and Marxmail for the heads-up. This same article was published in Tribune on 29 August 2022.


Mr. Kononov is identified by Tribune as the “editor-in-chief of Teplitsa Journal, a Russian-language media outlet about activism.” I had trouble finding this “journal” online until my boon companion suggested it might have something to do with the so-called Teplitsa sotsial’nykh teknologii (“Greenhouse of Social Technologies”), an organization that describes itself as a “support system for NGOs and activists.” Teplitsa Journal is only referred to as such in Mr. Kononov’s Anglophonic ventures outside the “hothouse” of Russia’s overhyped (and in fact mostly nonexistent) “anti-war movement.” Teplitsa Journal is not a “Russian-language media outlet,” but a section on Teplitsa’s website.

Among other things, Mr. Kononov recently published an interview there with the philosopher Artemy Magun. This passage in particular struck me as another “bill of goods,” this one intended not for wobbly-kneed western leftists, but for Russian “dissidents” eager to blame anyone else but the Russian regime and an overwhelmingly compliant Russian society for the brutal, utterly unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

— What is the source of the war?

— A mutual misunderstanding among three countries and cultures: Ukraine, Russia, or rather its leadership, and the West, by which I mean Europe and the US plus Japan and South Korea. Imperial chauvinism comes from Russia, nationalism comes from Ukraine. And on the third hand, there is the as it were universal imperialism of the United States, infused with their special version of civic nationalism.

US relations with other countries are based on soft power, hegemony. This involves not only the dominance of the dollar and financial institutions, not only technological innovations, but also the assertion of national democratic and humanistic values.

As for Russia, it is not only the collapse of one ideology and the misunderstanding of another, but also economic dependence. Russia does not have high-tech products, not only due to backwardness and corruption, but also because many markets have not been opened to it. The free trade space turned out to be not entirely free. For example, Russia was not admitted into the European Union, by and large, except for its energy resources. Do you remember the conversation with Ukraine in 2013–2014 about the common customs zone? Ukraine then refused to join the Russian-Belarusian customs union and was going to sign an association agreement with the European Union, and the Russian elites argued that the loss of its partners in production chains would be economically painful — and it really would have been. Why am I saying this? Imperialism as political economic rivalry among capitalist powers — this situation exists, it is not contrived. And until 2022, everything really did resemble the beginning of the twentieth century, before the First World War. But that’s why it seems to me that the economic factors that led to the war cannot be considered the main ones. Ideological and political [factors], in my opinion, were more important.

— And what are these factors?

— [After the collapse of the USSR and a sharp decline in its influence in the world], the rejection of communism or socialism as a kind of humanistic perspective became a framework factor. Instead, a liberal democratic ideology was proposed that is contradictory. It asserts a universal order of human rights, and at the same time electoral democracy, which is based on national sovereignty. Plus neoliberalism, which asserts the autonomy of economic entities and total competition among [them].

Now there is pressure from the West under the auspices of the universalist empire, aimed at building global liberal democratic institutions. The trick is that this global program and policy is not entirely global. The West, arriving [in the former Soviet bloc] with the universal idea of democracy, did not fully implement its program. They entered undemocratic countries, tried to build democracies there, but they were in no hurry to spend money — nothing like the Marshall Plan was offered anywhere else. Instead of strong support for these countries, a neoliberal political economy was devised, which played a disastrous role by turning their populace away from America.

Source: “In Russia, activism is an existential, heroic choice,” Teplitsa sotsial’nykh tekhnologii, 15 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The most discussed session at the congress was the session featuring spokespeople from grassroots anti-war initiatives, who were allotted the standard hour and a half for six presentations. Vika Fas of Feminist Anti-War Resistance (FAS) boasted that the movement, founded by activists on February 25, already had sixty cells in Russia and thirty abroad.

“If you don’t know about FAS yet, you should read about us on Wikipedia. I think it’s interesting to observe a grassroots initiative that has become so popular in six months… Feminism was not taken seriously until we gained media weight, but we need international support for our communities and assistance in the form of grants,” she said in a passive-aggressive manner.

Alexander Belik, a spokesperson for the Movement of Conscientious Objectors to Military Service, said that after February 24, they had fielded a good number of requests for assistance from military personnel already deployed in Ukraine.

“Everything is happening quite successfully: you can still refuse conscription and even from serving if you’re already serving there. Everything is possible with due perseverance,” he said.

The recorded live stream of the Congress of Free Russia (Vilnius, 31 August 2022).
The panel discussed by Ilya Azar begins at the 2:54:00 mark.

Maria Novikova thanked [the organizers] for maintaining gender balance at the session and explained that the NITKA project had tried out different formats, but had settled on an “unusual and creative” TikTok account.

“Our audience is not intellectuals who get everything as it is, but ordinary people who need enlightenment. Not only cringeworthy videos about Putin’s battalions are popular [on our account], but also serious videos about various aspects of the war in Ukraine and the crackdown in Russia,” she said.

NITKA, Novikova says, has already garnered more than nine thousand subscribers, and one video has been clicked more than two million times.

The project Media Partisans, according to Olga Demidova, arose when it became clear that due to the fact that large numbers of protesters were being detained by police during protests, “it [was] pointless to take to the streets in Russia.”

“At first, everyone [sic] wanted to stop the war and Putin, but it takes time.”

“Many saw that their protest did not bring results, and they were disappointed, so you need to choose small goals and set realistic tasks,” she explained.

Media Partisans has seven projects: for example, a Telegram channel featuring anti-war artwork and instructions on how to safely distribute leaflets and stickers, as well as the Brave Partisans bot (@bravepartizanbot), where you can get an assignment for a performance or posting leaflets.

Timofey Martynenko of the Vesna Movement boasted that the anti-war rallies and marches in late February and early March were held at the behest of his movement, and talked about other projects, in particular a service for sending appeals to State Duma deputies.

“The same people are seated in the State Duma, and it is vital to show them that a huge number of people oppose the war,” said the activist.

At the end of his talk, Martynenko said that Vesna does not believe that Russians have a “slave mentality” or that there is a “bloodthirsty ‘deep folk’ who love Putin.”

“It is vital to talk about the depoliticization of Russian society, about civic involvement, about how democratic institutions and the media have been destroyed.”

“The problem is not that we are monstrous imperialists at the genetic level, but the monstrous centralization of Russia and the destruction of local self-government,” Martynenko tried to persuade the audience.

Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, conversations about TikTok and a service for sending appeals to Russian MPs seemed frankly lightweight, but the young people were clearly pleased with themselves. After the session, I asked the chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Refat Chubarov, who had traveled [to the congress] from Kyiv, what he thought about the anti-war movement in Russia.

“I would thank them for what they are doing, and it would be sincere. But it’s all very childish. And they also have to be very careful, because an incorrect diagnosis can lead to incorrect treatment,” Chubarov replied.

The head of the Mejlis said that he had gone up and talked to Martynenko because he strongly disagreed with his “pompous claims that Russians do not suffer from imperialism and servility.”

“About a million Russian nationals [sic] pulled up stakes and settled in occupied Crimea without any remorse. What the fuck? That’s what imperialism is. When we [Crimean Tatars] returned [to Crimea] in the late [19]80s, we didn’t evict a single [Russian] family. I personally purchased the rooms where my mom had been born. When we return to Crimea again, none of those who settled there after 2014 will [be allowed to] live in Crimea. No servility? But what is it when a mother says that her son is being held [as a POW in Ukraine], but immediately adds that he is defending Russian interests? What Russian interests?” said Chubarov.

Source: Ilya Azar, “On the threshold of great achievements: a congress of the Russian emigration took place in Vilnius,” Novaya Gazeta Europe, 4 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


[…]

The ballrooms of the Grand Vilnius Resort, set on a golf course on the outskirts of the Lithuanian capital, were a universe away from the front lines in the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Donbas. And while the motto of the Congress of Free Russia was “Be Brave Like Ukraine,” this was a gathering of Russians who have fled their country out of fear of what Mr. Putin’s regime might do to them.

Hanging over the three-day gathering was the knowledge that — while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been hailed as a hero for refusing to flee Kyiv — many Russian dissidents who have stood their ground are either dead, or jailed by their government.

[…]

Source: Mark Mackinnon, “Russian dissidents squabble over how to ensure Putin’s defeat,” The Globe and Mail, 2 September 2022

I Want a Story

On August 28, 1946, the amazing Lev Shcheglov was born in Petersburg. Alas, in December 2020, the damn covid took him away. We remember him. How could we forget him? He was the only one like him.

A quote from Dmitry Bykov’s conversation with Lev Shcheglov in 2018: “But look at the faces everyone makes when they look at each other — on public transport, behind the wheel, just walking down street! Look at what a weighty mass of irritation hangs over every city: Moscow and Petersburg in this sense are no better than any impoverished provincial town. This mass of malice — which is completely gratuitous, by the way — puts pressure on everyone and demands to be let out.”

Source: Marina Varchenko, Facebook, 28 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Source: Zhenya Oliinyk (@evilpinkpics), Instagram, 15 April 2022. Thanks to Bosla Arts for the heads-up. I took the liberty of cropping the seven panels of Ms. Oliinyk’s original message (which I very much took to heart) and stacking them into a single image/text.


Diana and Lena

The group Ranetki, moving to Argentina and the birth of a child — everything about this news story is terrific.

The series Ranetki provided the soundtrack to our youth, but that is a thing of the past. The news is that From the new: Lena Tretyakova (who played the bass guitarist [in the show’s eponymous pop-rock band]) has left Russia for Argentina and become a mother.

Lena recently told her subscribers that she had legalized her relationship with her girlfriend Diana. They got married in Argentina, where their son Lionel was born.

Now Lena is joking about motherhood on her Instagram and sharing photos of her family, and this is such a sweet thing, we tell you!

Source: Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, Facebook, 24 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


In the six months since Russia invaded, the state media’s emphasis in reporting the war has gradually shifted. Gone are predictions of a lightning offensive that would obliterate Ukraine. There is less talk of being embraced as liberators who must “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine, though the “fascist” label is still flung about with abandon.

Instead, in the Kremlin version — the only one most Russians see, with all others outlawed — the battlefields of Ukraine are one facet of a wider civilizational war being waged against Russia.

The reporting is less about Ukraine than “about opposing Western plans to get control of Mother Russia,” said Stanislav Kucher, a veteran Russian television host now consulting on a project to get Russians better access to banned news outlets.

On state media, Russia is a pillar of traditional values, bound to prevail over the moral swamp that is the West. But the extent of Russia’s staggering casualties in Ukraine remains veiled; only the Ukrainian military suffers extensive losses.

State television has played down the mounting Ukrainian attacks on the strategically and symbolically important Crimean peninsula, but the images on social media of antiaircraft fire erupting over Crimea began to put domestic political pressure on the Kremlin.

The visceral reality of the war, especially the fact that Russian-claimed territory was not immune, was brought home both by the strikes on Crimea and by what investigators called a premeditated assassination in Moscow.

[…]

Glimpses of the war’s cost, however, remain the exception, as news and talk shows have branched into myriad economic and social topics to try to hammer home the idea that Russia is locked in a broad conflict with the West.

Lev Gudkov, the research director at the Levada Center, an independent polling organization, said the government explains European and American hostility by saying that “Russia is getting stronger and that is why the West is trying to get in Russia’s way,” part of a general rhetorical line he described as “blatant lies and demagogy.”

As state television stokes confrontation, the talk show warriors are getting “angrier and more aggressive,” said Ilya Shepelin, who broadcasts a Russian press review on YouTube for the opposition organization founded by the imprisoned Kremlin critic Aleksei A. Navalny.

Source: Neil McFarquhar, “Russian news media covers the war with ‘blatant lies and demagogy,'” New York Times, 26 August 2022


Rediscovering Russia
We have prepared a great guide to our country. We introduce you to amazing people who are not afraid to make discoveries, launch small-scale manufacturing companies, and fly airplanes. We tell success stories and inspire you to travel.

A female pilot of a Boeing 777 aircraft about her work
Pilot Svetlana Slegtina told us about her path to the profession and the difficulties she has had to face during her studies and work.
Read the interview

Who makes cool shoes in Russia
From leather shoes to sneakers made from eco-friendly materials.
Discover

What to show children in Moscow: rare places
We have compiled a list of interesting and free places
Show

Quilted jackets from Russian manufacturers
We selected 10 different models.
Look

Source: Excerpt from a 29 August 2022 email advertising circular from Ozon, a major Russian online retailer. Translated by the Russian Reader


Photographer Dmitry Markov’s friend Alexei, aka Lyosha, aka Lyokha

I have a friend named Lyosha. He lives an ordinary inconspicuous life, but his past terrifies not only the respectable citizens, but also the petty criminals in our glorious city. Lech has managed to gain a bad reputation even among the Narcotics Anonymous community, which preaches open-mindedness as one of its principles. I can’t remember how many times they have stopped me on the street or taken me aside at a meeting and said: “Do you even know who Lyokha is and what he’s capable of? Do you know the things he’s done?”

Yes, I knew what Lyokha had done and how he had done it — mostly from Lyokha himself. We had often sat in my kitchen (not very sober, but very cheerful), and Alexei had entertained me with yet another tall tale about how he had gone visiting and left in someone else’s expensive sneakers. I was won over by the fact that Lyosha did not allow himself to do anything like that to me, and even if I was no pushover myself, Alexei’s skill in duping those around him reached heights only the snow caps of the seven mountain peaks exceeded. Once he was taken to rehab, and the cops came after him and tried to reason with the management of the place. “Do you have any clue who you taken in?” they said. “He’s a stone-cold crook who will burgle your entire place in a single evening.”

Basically, despite his past, I have remained very close to Lyosha. Moreover, when a fucking ugly overdose happened, and an ordinary junkie would most likely have walked away from his dormant co-user, Alexei belabored himself with my body, keeping me as conscious as possible until the ambulance arrived, after which he lay down for the night in the next room and every half hour pounded on the wall shouting, “Dimarik, are you alive in there?”

So, he is my friend, and I feel a certain obligation towards him. And it has nothing to do with that fucking “a life for a life” romanticism and all that stuff… Lyokha is my friend because by his example he shows me that changes happen. That you can become a different person, even if previously your own mother said to her only son: “Lord, would that you’d make it snappy and die! You’d stop tormenting me, and you’d suffer less yourself.”

Nevertheless, years of prison and severe drug addiction take their toll even on the hardiest. Therefore, it is especially important to me that Lyokha is alive and stays close. After all, if he succeeded, maybe sooner or later, I will succeed…

P.S. I forgot to explain the context: Lyosha saved me from an overdose last week.

Source: Dmitry Markov, Facebook, 27 August 2022. Dmitry Markov is a world-renowned photographer who lives in Pskov. Translated by the Russian Reader

Calcium Carbonate

Two women are talking on a bus. One is going to Kyiv, the other to Riga.

— Why are you going back?

— Oh that. I have to bury the husband, at last. He’s been lying in the crematorium for four months. They’ve finally cleared the cemetery of mines.

— …

Source: Anastasia Magazova, Facebook, 10 August 2022. In the original, the dialogue between the two women is in Russian, while the two introductory sentences are in Ukrainian. Translated by the Russian Reader


The grille of the railing on Singers Bridge (Pevcheskii most) in central Petersburg. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

We were cruising the Moika by boat and came upon three military men standing on the hump of Singers Bridge — an infantry officer, a naval officer, and an aviator in the Syrian Army. They smiled at us and waved. At the last moment the sailor also shouted, nearly without an accent, “Glory to Russia!” FML

Source: Nikolay Konashenok, Facebook, 11 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


A Russian National Guard special rapid deployment force unit in Petersburg. Photo courtesy of Militaryimages.net

while I was feeding the baby, the culture channel showed the culture news. a priest said, but our parish’s residents (we heard “rapists”) defended Russia in Chechnya and other wars. images of icons featuring saints in military uniforms flashed on the screen. such are the culture news in the russian federation.

Source: Roman Osminkin, Twitter, 11 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


While waiting for a friend in Kuzminki, I overheard a conversation between two old men. (Chemists?)

— Do you mean to say, Mikhail Innokentyevich, that collective responsibility doesn’t exist?

— Why not? It does exist. But you can’t dissolve in it or engage in handwringing. You have to be firm whenever you can.

— But the proportion of such a solution is what matters to me. When should one dissolve, and when should one remain a solid substance with one’s own interests?

— Well, let’s suppose it’s CaCO3.

— And what do we use to dissolve it? Water? Or hydrochloric acid?

— Hmm, hydrochloric acid, probably. But what do we do now? Can’t we even precipitate?

Source: Zhanna Chernenko, Facebook, 12 August 2022. In Russian, the set phrase vypast’ v’ osadok, aside from its literal, “chemical,” meaning — “(to) precipitate (out of a solution)” — can also mean 1) (to) be very surprised; 2) (to) break with one’s circle; and 3) (to) get very drunk. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Hegemony of the Mop

Almost a fifth of households in Moscow and St. Petersburg, even those with average incomes, regularly resort to the services of female domestic workers. Most often they need help around the house, as well as looking after the elderly and children. In most cases, Russians from the region where the employers reside are hired to do this work. A study by researchers at HSE and RANEPA shows that hired female household labor, which is considered a non-essential form of employment, is a vital part of urban economies.

Photo: Yevgeny Pavlenko/Kommersant

Almost one fifth of households in Moscow and St. Petersburg, having mainly an average income, employ female labor. This is the conclusion reached by Yulia Florinskaya, Nikita Mkrtchyan and Marina Kartseva (researchers at the Higher School of Economics and RANEPA) in the article “Women as hired workers in the households of Moscow and St. Petersburg,” published in the scholarly journal Woman in Russian Society (No. 2, 2022).

The first attempt in Russia to define the scale of wage labor in households in Russia’s megalopolises, the research study was based on a survey of residents of those cities who over the past three years have employed other people to do work usually performed by family members. Three thousand eight hundred people took part in the survey; their phone numbers were selected using systematic stratified random sampling. The results of the survey are unusual: although Russians generally believe that housekeepers, domestic help, and hired staff in a household involves a high family income and migrant labor and is a rare thing, it is, in reality, a fairly common practice among middle-income households in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and it is residents of the two capitals who are mainly hired to do such work.

First of all, hiring third parties to perform work in the household is a widespread practice in Russia’s two largest cities.

According to the survey results, female workers were employed by seventeen percent of households. Formally, men are employed by households much more. In fact, respondents were asking about paid employment in the household, including for such types of work as renovations and repairs, where men predominated. (Twenty-eight percent of the households surveyed had hired male hands.) Among “household chores,” “female” specializations were also discovered that would ordinarily not be thought of as “domestic help” — tutoring, primarily. In any case, seventeen percent of Moscow and Petersburg families employed female labor in households, a figure that dropped to around seven to eight percent when tutoring and repairs were factored out. Even with this proviso, however, the phenomenon goes beyond “elite consumption for the wealthy few.”

This also shows that, according to the survey data, most of the households (61%) who employed female workers estimated their incomes as average. When answering the standard question about their income (used, among others, by Rosstat in its questionnaires), they indicated that they had enough money for food, clothing, and household appliances. Twenty-three percent of respondents rated their incomes as high (in particular, as sufficient to buy a car or more) while sixteen percent rated them as low, since they were only enough to buy food. Thus, hired domestic workers are the preserve of the middle class rather than the income elite.

The prevalence of foreign nationals or, at least, migrant workers from other regions of Russia, among domestic workers has also been greatly exaggerated. According to the survey, almost two thirds (64%) of households that purchase women’s services [sic] in the household give jobs to women permanently residing in Moscow or St. Petersburg, where they themselves live.

Only in fourteen percent of households in the two cities was the employed woman a Russian national from another region, and in sixteen percent, a foreign national. (No breakdown by nationality is given.)

However, this fact is well known within the households and is clearly discussed by them. Only six percent of respondents who had dealings with female domestic workers were not aware whether she was a Muscovite [sic], a nonresident, or a foreign national.

Of course, households most often hired residents of their own region as tutors. Among domestic migrants this type of employment was two and a half times less common, while it was practically nonexistent among foreign women. At the same time, foreign women were twice as likely to be hired to do housework as Russian women, both local and migrant. However, domestic workers in the strict sense of the term — that is, those doing “housework” (cleaning, laundry, cooking, caring, and looking after children)— are still Muscovites and Petersburgers in most cases; residents of Krasnoyarsk and Samarkand [that is, domestic and foreign migrant workers, respectively] are in the minority. The authors of the study suggest that children are a “sensitive” area for households, and local women have in this instance an advantage over migrants: households are less likely to “trust” the latter. (The authors of the study avoid reaching an alternative conclusion: that this choice is a consequence of the phobias experienced by a significant part of the middle class towards migrants — phobias that are commonly denied in the middle-class milieu, as least in Moscow.)

Residents of other regions and countries are preferred only as caregivers, and the share of this type of employment among foreign women is three times higher than among women from the same region as their employers.

Florinskaya, Mkrtchyan and Kartseva describe a rather vital social phenomenon: migrant caregivers ask for their work, which is in demand among all strata of society, significantly less pay than do Russian nationals, and for most relatively poor households there is no alternative to hiring them, as they simply cannot afford a nurse from Moscow. But to carry out repair work, local women and migrants were hired with approximately the same frequency: the wallpaper pasted by a Ukrainian woman cannot be distinguished from the wallpaper pasted by a Petersburg woman, even by a specialist.

Finally, wage labor in households is extremely informal. Most often households hired female employees using recommendations from their acquaintances or relatives (63%), and more than two thirds of the households draw up written contracts when hiring female employees. The xenophobia of Muscovites has been exaggerated: female foreign workers lived in the household in a third of cases. (By contrast, 2.4% of households provided housing to residents of their own region, and 18.8% to migrants from within Russian Federation.)

The cautious attitude of Russians to hiring female employees to work in their households is, rather, a late Soviet legacy. After the tradition of employing “servants,” which was relatively common in large Soviet cities among the middle class, disappeared in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the term sounded somewhat insulting from the 1960s until today, and was replaced by euphemisms like “a woman who comes over.” The restoration of the practice is expected, and yet, as the study shows, this phenomenon (if only by virtue of its magnitude) is a vital albeit understated part of the modern urban economy of Russia’s megalopolises.

Source: Anastasia Manuilova and Dmitry Butrin, “Hegemony of the mop: domestic workers discovered in every fifth Moscow household,” Kommersant, 15 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Up to two-thirds of Russians do not have any savings. Two-thirds of Russians can only afford food and clothes while buying durable consumer goods for them is extremely difficult. Russia is a very poor country, and now, on top of that, we have sanctions that will destroy the lives of ordinary people even further.

Source: “Russian socialist Ilya Matveev: ‘Putin’s war on Ukraine is not about security, it is about imperialist interests,'” Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal, 17 July 2022

Hellbent

Hellbent on having fun in the midst of a terrible war — a frightening panorama of Petersburg by virtuoso photographer Alexander Petrosyan. Source: Alexander Petrosyan, Facebook, 7 August 2022


As Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds into its fifth month, Moscow is a city doing everything it can to turn a blind eye to the conflict. It is a champagne-soaked summer like any other in the Russian capital, despite the thousands of dead and many more wounded in a war increasingly marked by acts of savage brutality.

In Gorky Park, outdoor festivals, cinemas and bars were all jammed on a recent evening, with young couples twirling to ballroom dance music as others stopped for selfies along the Moscow river nearby.

“Yes, we are having a party,” said Anna Mitrokhina, one of the dancers at an outdoor dance platform on the Moscow river, wearing a blue-sequin dress and heavy eye-makeup. “We are outside of politics, we want to dance, to feel and have fun. I can’t worry any more and this helps me forget.”

Walk through the city or switch on a VPN to scroll through Instagram or Facebook and you might not even know the country’s at war, a word that the Russian censors have banned from local media and that, even among many friends, has become taboo.

A lifestyle Instagram blogger with more than 100,000 followers who was opposed to the war said that she had consciously decided to stop speaking about the topic — because of the official restrictions but also the backlash she received from subscribers.

“Nobody wants to hear about the war, the special military operation, any more, they tell me to stop talking about this and get back to normal topics like beauty and fitness,” she said, asking that her name not be used. “Every time I mentioned it I would get so much hate in my messages. It hurts me, it hurts my business. I stopped mentioning it. It just doesn’t exist for many people.”

“What hurts the most is it is not really [because of the law], there is just no desire to talk about this,” she said. “People are turning off.”

[…]

Source: Andrew Roth, “‘People are turning off’: Muscovites put the war aside and enjoy summer,” The Guardian, 30 July 2022

Victor in Broad Daylight

Victor in broad daylight.

My roommate Victor is a completely unique person. He is sixty-seven years old and an absolute image of our Soviet life from the 1970s to the 2010s, with all the paradoxes peculiar to the time. He is a fervent [Russian Orthodox] believer and yet he believes everything said on the radio about the atrocities committed the Ukrainian army. On the other hand, he is perplexed how military operations were launched without consultations. Victor worked as a driver, but also played music in bands. He knows all the western groups of the 70s and all the stars in both the West and Russia. He has seen every Soviet film and remembers all the scenes, all the actors, all the songs. A lot of happy memories are consolidated in him, as well as a lot of regrets about the past. Basically, he’s a typical chip off the old Soviet block. In him you have the songs, you have Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones and Alla Pugacheva and Eldar Ryazanov and [Leonid] Gaidai and Muslim Magomayev and everyone else, down to the last detail. You might say that he and I are living in the USSR from Khrushchev to Putin. It’s funny, but interesting. It’s Russia.

Source: Anatoly Zaslavsky, Facebook, 5 August 2022. Mr. Zaslavsky is a well-known Petersburg painter currently undergoing treatment at the city’s Botkin Hospital. Victor is his roommate at the hospital and has already featured in earlier social media dispatches. Translated by the Russian Reader

____________

The folding seats clapped,
The October’s curtains came down.
The rider finally galloped
Off toward the radiant dawn,

Faded show bills on the wall,
Blue ticket stubs on the floor.
Dusk on Nevsky had almost fallen
As we came out on the corner.

The jeans were Polish, the beret a sham.
Wow, we had enough for Kagor.
We had to live. Return bottles and pass exams.
To live and live till we got to here.

5 August 22

Source: Vadim Zhuk, Facebook, 5 August 2022. Mr. Zhuk is is a well-known Russian actor, screenwriter, TV presenter, and poet, whose poem “A Skeleton in the Closet” was published here last month. Translated by the Russian Reader

____________

On March 18, Irina Gen, a teacher of English in Penza, made an anti-war speech to her eighth-graders while explaining why they would not be able to travel to competitions in the Czech Republic. She told them about the shelling of the maternity hospital in Mariupol and the downed Boeing. One of the pupils recorded the teacher’s speech on a dictaphone and sent the recording to the security forces. A criminal case was opened against Gen ten days later. Today she was sentenced to five years of probation with a ban on teaching for three years. She had [originally] pleaded not guilty.

Source: Dmitry Tkachev, Facebook, 4 August 2022. Mr. Tkachev cites, in the comments, this article about Ms. Gen’s case, published in Mediazona the same day. Translated by the Russian Reader

Puppies

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 19 July 2022
As Western sanctions tighten against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, RFE/RL asked Muscovites how Russia’s isolation affects their daily lives. Originally published at https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-moscow-residents-west-weapons-ukraine/31950589.html

The Ukrainian authorities would never control the liberated areas of the Kharkiv region again, said the head of the temporary civilian administration of the Kharkiv region Vitaly Ganchev.

“We will receive comprehensive assistance. That is, Ukraine is not coming back here. And every time I am asked whether the Ukrainian authorities will return, whether we can feel calm, I […] tell everyone that no, none of those Nazis will be coming back here, we are going to build a decent life,” he said.

Source: TASS, Telegram, 20 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The behavior of some Western countries is comparable to the behavior of these puppies. When the special military operation in Ukraine began, everyone seemingly barked in unison, spewing columns of flame and, periodically, sanctions. Realizing the futility of their actions, silence momentarily ensued, and then a plaintive whining was heard. All their supposedly noble efforts had played a cruel joke on them.

Thinking before doing is a luxury beyond the reach of some Western leaders. Who would have thought that an unprecedented number of sanctions against Russia would do absolutely nothing. The people are not rebelling, gasoline prices have not soared, and store shelves are chockablock with a variety of products. The analogy with the feckless barking of small puppies is more than apt, although it is an invidious comparison.

Source: Ramzan Kadyrov (“Kadyrov _95”), Telegram, 20 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


An artful juxtaposition of a poster advertising a theatrical performance of Dostoevsky’s The Devils (left), and a Zwastika on a touchscreen map of the Petersburg subway (right), taken at the Tekhnologicheskii institut station by PZ, a grassroots activist. Unfortunately, I know the station well as it was my “home” station for four years.

Truly revolutionary transformations are gaining ever greater momentum… These colossal changes are, of course, irreversible. Both at the national and global levels, the foundations and principles of a harmonious, more just, socially oriented, and secure world order are being developed — an alternative to the unipolar world order that has existed so far, which by its nature, of course, has become a brake on the development of civilization.

The model of total domination by the so-called golden billion is unfair. Why should this “golden billion” dominate the entire population of the planet, impose their own rules of behavior based on the illusion of exclusivity?! It divides peoples into first and second class, and therefore is racist and neocolonial in its essence, and the globalist, supposedly liberal ideology underlying it has increasingly taken on the features of totalitarianism, restraining creative endeavors [and] free historical creation!

One gets the impression that the West simply has no model of the future of its own to offer the world. Yes, of course, it is no coincidence that this “golden billion” became “golden,” that it achieved a lot, but it took up its positions not only thanks to certain ideas that it implemented. To a large extent it took up its positions by robbing other peoples in Asia and Africa! That’s how it was! India was robbed so much! Therefore, even today, the elites of this “golden billion” are terrified that other centers of global change could present their own scenarios!

No matter how much Western and supranational elites strive to maintain the existing order of things, a new era is coming, a new stage in world history!

And only truly sovereign states can ensure dynamic growth, set an example for others in standards of living and quality of life, in defending traditional values, lofty humanistic ideals, and models of development in which the individual is not the means, but the supreme goal!

Sovereignty is the freedom of national development, and therefore [the freedom] of each individual. It is the technological, cultural, intellectual, and educational viability of the state — that’s what it is! And, of course, sovereignty’s most important component is a responsible, industrious, and nationally minded, nationally facing civil society!

Source: Andrei Kolesnikov, “Vladimir Putin spun the turbine at GES-2,” Kommersant, 20 July 2022. I have removed Mr. Kolesnikov’s editorial asides and insertions from the text of the monologue quoted, above. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Leftovers

I have read again ([on the social media pages] of those who have left [Russia], of course) that we [who have stayed in Russia] have no right to rejoice, that we must feel terror and depression all the time. I didn’t want to respond to specific people—I could have snapped and said harsh things—so I will speak out in general. A person who constantly experiences negative emotions is a weak person. All their strength and energy are spent on emoting; they are unable to fight back, unable to do good. Yes, there are people who can draw energy from rage, from anger. But not all people can do this. For example, I cannot; I can only draw energy from positivity. So excuse me, dear departed comrades, but I will go to restaurants and concerts, admire the beauty of the sunset, enjoy an interesting book, and strive to communicate with friends. I will maximize the positive energy in and around me. Because I want to be strong, among other things, so that I can help those who are in trouble. My suffering won’t make their situation any better, but my strength might be useful to them—and to me, too. I woke up the other day with the feeling that I didn’t want to live, so much so that I even got scared. Thank you, but I don’t want any more of this, once was enough. If a person is happy, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the horrors in their midst and those who have ended up in this hell. It just means that they want to survive.

Source: Irina Starodubrovskaya, Facebook, 8 July 2022. Thanks to Alexander Kynev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


“Peace to the world, and an ice cream for you!” PZ, a grassroots activist in Petersburg, recently shared this provocative snapshot of an ice cream, cotton candy, and popcorn stand in a city park with friends on his closed social media account.

How do the prospects for peace look from Europe? There is a consensus that Putin cannot be expected to end the war. Firstly, because the war enables him and a large group of the war’s beneficiaries to transform Russian society to their liking (his confidence rating has risen to 92%). Secondly, because Putin is confident of his superiority over Ukrainians and believes that Europe will not withstand the war’s economic consequences (inflation, the energy crisis, supply chain breakdowns, etc.).

Can we expect the war’s end to come about due to processes in Russian society? That is, can the society pressure Putin into ending the war? The polling numbers (seventy-five, eighty-five, one hundred percent support for the war) drift from one publication to the next, but European decision-makers do not rely on these figures. They rely on so-called agency. The support figures are fictitious. But the factor of “silence” is a political reality. “Silence” is the absence of agency. Europeans look at the situation and say that, in such circumstances, at least one of the three “manifestations of agency” could be expected.

1. Household protests: mothers protesting the deaths of their men and children, “casserole protests,” family-centered grassroots protests.

2. Mass strikes: the war threatens people with unemployment and the closure of their workplaces, prices are rising but wages are not, etc.

3. A revolt by oligarchs, if only in the shape of an alliance formed abroad.

None of these three things has happened. And since agency has not been manifested in any guise, the concept that “society is silent”—i.e., that there is no society [in Russia]—becomes the explanation. (Usually, in these cases, our delegations tell the Europeans that there is totalitarianism in Russia, people are intimidated by the FSB, etc. To which their interlocutors nod sympathetically. But at the same time they think: it’s the same in Turkey, but all those three factors are constantly flaring up there. No one says it out loud, though, so as not to offend us.)

But what is there? We can say that there is a Russian anti-war movement abroad. “There is one” not in the sense that it is large and influential, but only in the sense that it has “shown up.” “There is one” means that you can point your finger at it. Therefore, Europeans are willing to meet, both individually and in groups, with representatives of this movement—because, by European standards, “it is at least something.”

At the same time, however, everyone is eagerly waiting for the Russian people to evince some minimal will to save themselves and to show up in some way. Then it would be possible to say that, no, ninety-two percent of Russians are not “proud of the successes of Russian arms and the liberation of Ukraine from Nazis,” that there is an sensible part of society and here it is, it has “surfaced”—via casserole riots, strike committees, or a conference of oligarchs on Capri. We could then talk about peace, about the war’s end. Without such “showing up,” it is impossible for Europeans to envision peace.

Source: Alexander Morozov, Facebook, 9 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Living End (Russia Day 2022)

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


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

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

God, how sad our Russia is!

Source: Anna Narinskaya, Facebook, 11 June 2022


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

Source: Sergey Abashin, Facebook, 12 June 2022


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


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

Source: Alexander Morozov, Facebook, 11 June 2022


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


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

Source: Roman Osminkin, Twitter, 11 June 2022


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

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

________________

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

Source: Natalia Vvedenskaya, Facebook, 12 June 2022


All translations by the Russian Reader