Thanksgiving: Petersburg’s Culture Laundromat

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The English Lesson

Jenya Kulakova
Facebook
November 18, 2021

A trifle, but an unpleasant one all the same.

According to the Russian Penal Code, convicted foreign nationals have the right to communicate with prison wardens in any language they speak and receive a response in that language. Vitya [Viktor Filinkov], as you know, is a citizen of Kazakhstan. In response to the razor blades planted [and “found”] by prison officials in his cell on his birthday, he wrote a statement in English.

And what do you think happened? The penal colony found an English teacher, Nadezhda Ivanovna Zhavikova, who works at Night School No. 13. in Orenburg, who “checked” Vitya’s composition and “corrected” the “mistakes” in it so that the text would better suit the wardens. The only thing she didn’t do, unfortunately, was grade the composition. But the prison staff probably gave her an A.

Vitya writes, “Before I started, current inspector had said that I should REPLACE my prison uniform. I DECLINED but he took it and gave me new one.”

The meaning is clear. What does Nadezhda Ivanovna write in [her] translation?

“Before that, the duty inspector told me to PUT my clothes in ORDER. I SUGGESTED that he take it away and give me a new one in return.”

At issue here is the tunic that was replaced against Vitya’s will before he went to the baths. After he came back, prison officials “found” a shard of a blade in the seam of the tunic. It thus transpires that it was Vitya who asked for it to be replaced.

Vitya ends his statement with an appreciation of the production staged by the Correctional Colony No. 1 troupe: “I didn’t brake the razor, it’s a play. Good scenario, actors. Good game, well played.”

Nadezhda Ivanovna feigns that she didn’t understand what was at issue, and translates [the passage] as if Vitya was bragging about his own play-acting: “I didn’t break the razor, it’s a game. A good acting script. A good performance, well ACTED [by Vitya, apparently [because the verb is the singular in Russian, not the plural —TRR]].”

Maybe, of course, the teacher didn’t do it out of spite, but simply couldn’t make sense [of Filinkov’s statement]. But somehow it seems to me that she made perfect sense of it and even made it over [to satisfy the wardens].

UPDATE. On a more practical note, if you have a translator’s diploma and would like to write a specialist’s opinion for the upcoming hearing appealing Vitya’s transfer to a single-cell facility for a month, you’re welcome!

Team Navalny
Instagram
November 15, 2021

❗️ Viktor Filinkov and the torture colony

Viktor is a political prisoner in the Network case. The case is about a “terrorist community” of young men who were fond of airsoft and openly voiced opposition to Putin.

The FSB took these two facts and cooked up charges that got the defendants sent to prison for terms from six to eighteen years. Allegedly, the young men were divided into combat groups that were supposed to organize bombings in order to “sway the masses for further destabilization of the political situation in the country.”

The defendants claim that they were tortured into confessing, and that the evidence in the case was completely manufactured by the security forces.

The verdicts were announced in February 2020. But the matter did not end when the young men were sent to penal colonies: the authorities began bullying them there. We know the most about their treatment of Viktor Filinkov.

For the slightest offense — such as “didn’t say hello ten times a day to a prison employee,” “washed ten minutes earlier than he was supposed to,” “left his work station during work (he went to the work station next to his to ask how to use the machine because he hadn’t been properly instructed)” —  Viktor is sent to a punitive detention cell. Letters from [Viktor’s] friends and relatives are opened, shown to other prisoners, and even replies to them are forged.

Things are so over the top that when there was a scabies outbreak in [Viktor’s] cell, his cellmates were given ointment, but Viktor himself was not, because “he complained.”

Now Viktor is being transferred to Correctional Colony No. 5 in Novotroitsk, to an isolated solitary cell, for repeatedly violating those supremely absurd rules. This colony is a torture colony, one of the most violent in Russia. In June, twelve inmates there engaged in a “collective act of self-mutilation” to protest the torture.

The Putin regime is a regime of vengeful scum. No one is safe from their lawlessness. This nightmare will become more and more commonplace with every passing day. Don’t let that happen.

More information about how Victor is being bullied can be found in the article linked to in stories.

Release political prisoners!

Translated by the Russian Reader

Five Years in Prison for Belarusian Anarchist Blogger Mikola Dziadok

The Regime Sentences Anarchist and Blogger Mikola Dziadok
Pramen
November 10, 2021

Today, the last hearing in the trial of Mikola Dziadok took place. He was found guilty on all charges and sent to a medium-security penal colony for 5 years. The sentence was fully consistent with what the prosecutor requested.

Last year, the anarchist was targeted by the GUBOPiK for his numerous publications about this organization of pro-Lukashenko activists. From July 2020 until his arrest in November 2020, Mikola was in hiding: the repressive apparatus searched for him for almost five months with all the forces at its disposal.

When he was arrested, Dziadok was tortured to gain access to encrypted data on his computer. In many ways, the torture itself was the revenge of the security services on the blogger and anarchist activist for his political work.

This trial has once again shown that the Lukashenko regime is afraid not only of physical confrontation on the streets, but also of confrontation in the information realm. After all, in 2020 it was words that Mikola used to fight the dictatorship in our country. Moreover, he did not leave the country, as other bloggers did, but stayed.

We hope that Mikola, like all the other prisoners of the revolution, will not have to wait long for freedom, and very soon we will meet them on the outside!

Thanks to Antti Rautiainen for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Disappeared: Abror Azimov

Abror Azimov. Photo courtesy of The Insider

Abror Azimov, sentenced to life in prison for Petersburg subway bombing, disappears during transfer: there has been no news of him for a month
The Insider
November 2, 2021

Abror Azimov, sentenced to life imprisonment in the case of the Petersburg subway bombing, has disappeared on his way to a penal colony. The convicted man’s father Ahral Azimov has told The Insider that nothing has been known about his whereabouts for over a month.

In mid-September, Abror Azimov was allegedly transferred from the Crosses pre-trial detention center in Petersburg. By verdict of the court, he was to be delivered to a high-security penal colony. The other defendants in the case have already been taken to various penitentiary facilities, including Abror’s brother Akram Azimov.

The last time Abror Azimov telephoned his parents was on September 14 from the Crosses. He said then that all the other defendants in the case had been transferred, and suggested that he would probably be transferred soon, too, the convict’s father said.

According to Petersburg philologist Elena Efros, who has been corresponding with Azimov, the last letter she received from him was from the Butyrka pre-trial detention center in Moscow on September 29, the day he was sent to the next transit prison. “There he writes that he would let me or his father know as soon as he arrived, but so far we’ve heard nothing,” Efros said.

Abror’s father sent several appeals to the authorities asking them to inform him which colony his son was sent to. On October 26, a response came from the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service office for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, in which they claim that the wardens at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1 (The Crosses) had sent a letter to the convicted man’s father informing him about the place where his son was serving his sentence. Ahral Azimov says he has not received any letter. In this regard, he submitted an appeal to the prosecutor’s office, requesting they conduct an inquiry.

Abror Azimov’s lawyer Jargalma Dorzhiyeva told The Insider that she also has no information about his whereabouts. “I have no information about where Azimov is. Currently, I only have his consent to file a cassation appeal,” the lawyer said.

In December 2019, Azimov was sentenced to life in prison. His brother Akram Azimov and another defendant in the case, Muhamadusup Ermatov, were sentenced to 28 years in a maximum-security penal colony. Eight more defendants were sentenced to prison term of up to 19 years. All of them denied any wrongdoing, and four of them, including Abror and Akram Azimov, reported that they had been brutally tortured.

The blast on the line between the subway stations Sennaya Ploshchad and Tekhnologicheskii Institut occurred on 3 April  2017. Sixteen people were killed and fifty more were [hospitalized].

Abror Azimov reported that he and Akram were abducted and tortured in a secret FSB prison in the Moscow Region before their official detention. During the trial, he testified that he had been tortured into confessing to organizing the terrorist attack. The other defendants in the case have also repeatedly stated that they had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. All of them had come to Russia at different times to earn money: they worked on construction sites, in cafes and as taxi divers. At one of the first hearings in the trial, they pressed sheets of paper against the glass of the cage on which they had written “We were framed,” “We are not guilty,” and “You will see that there is nothing on us.”

Read more about this case in The Insider article “‘My brother’s screams were audible from the next cell’: torture, secret FSB prisons and falsification of evidence in the case of the terrorist attack in the Petersburg subway.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the presumed terrorist attack in the Petersburg subway, the case against its alleged “financiers and planners,” its roots in the Islamophobia that has infected Russia under Putin, and the shocking lack of local and international solidarity with the eleven Central Asian migrant workers scapegoated and convicted in the case.

Doppelganger

“It’s kind of a dystopia. In some respects. Of course, it has nothing to do with reality. The world is shrinking and becoming cramped. Something or someone is always offended in close quarters. And there’s always someone pointing a gun at your head. Sometimes it’s you.”

Masyanya, Episode 152: “Doppelganger.” (Toggle the “CC” button for English subtitles)

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The caste of those deprived of their civil rights — foreign agents, undesirable organizations, extremists of all stripes — will constantly expand. Social stigmatization will be strongly encouraged. The number of persons on different registries and lists, and under police watch will grow exponentially. Legal restrictions — bans on participating in elections, serving on various public councils, founding mass media, attending football matches, working in certain areas, and so on — will be supplemented by defamation campaigns. The separation of the estates in terms of legal and social status will be vigorously encouraged by the authorities.

Source: Pavel Chikov, “Not a Tyranny Yet: A Prognosis for the Rest of Putin’s Fourth Term,” Republic, 19 October 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

____________

 

Artist unknown, Russian National Guardsmen in Their Free Time. Posted by Dmitry Vrubel on Facebook. Thanks to Sergei Damberg for the heads-up

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Security forces raided a gathering to write letters to political prisoners at the Vogel Bar. They showed up along with Rospotrebnadzor officials for a surprise inspection on the evening of October 24. After managing to tally forty-five people on the premises and not find markings on the floor mats, the officials sealed the establishment prior to a court hearing. The bar’s management fears bankruptcy and plans to open a new bar in a new location.

The latest gathering to letters to political prisoners at the Vogel this time ended with a visit by regulatory authorities. The police officers who arrived twenty minutes after the event started immediately stated that the 76th police precinct had received a complaint alleging that the bar was not in compliance with the mask mandate. At that moment, the gathering, at which attendees were to write letters to the performance artist Pavel Krisevich, jailed on charges of disorderly conduct after a performance on Red Square in which he pretended to shoot himself, had just begun. That evening, Krisevich’s friends and acquaintances, as well as former political prisoners, were to speak to the guests. One of the bar’s co-founders, Valentin Khoroshenin, told Zaks.Ru that the complaint claimed that a “meeting of anti-covidniks” was planned for that evening at the Vogel. He believes that this was just an excuse to find non-existent violations and close the bar.

The inspection report indicated that more than forty-five people were present in the room at the time. The bar’s management are adamant that this was not the case. The Vogel’s owners have already studied surveillance camera tapes and counted less than forty people on the premises, including the police officers.

Other violations included the absence of markings on floor mats and an insufficient supply of medical masks. According to regulations, such establishments should have a five days’ supply of personal protective equipment. The available supply was only enough for one day. Rospotrebnadzor officials did not enter the kitchen. According to Khoroshenin, they claimed they were too tired to do so.

Vogel Bar has been in business since March 2021. From the very beginning it advertised itself as a venue for activists: political lectures, discussions and debates were held there. During this entire time, Rospotrebnadzor never carried out inspections. But the Interior Ministry regularly sent its people there. For example, Center “E” officers attended the debates. The security forces showed up for other letter-writing gatherings, but everything had ended without trouble.

Text & photos: Konstantin Lenkov, Zaks.ru, 25 October 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

____________

We have been preparing an investigation into torture in Russian prisons for almost a year. It took a lot of time to track down, earn the trust of, and obtain testimonies from former inmates of the penal colony in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Siberia, thousands of kilometers from central Russia. Simultaneously with The Insider’s investigation, Russian human rights activists published an archive of video footage depicting torture being inflicted on prisoners across Russia. The clips, obtained from the FSB and FSIN secret archive, show prisoners from Irkutsk, Saratov, Belgorod, Rostov and other Russian regions being raped, beaten and humiliated. Torture victims explain their torturers’ motives by their desire to break their will in order to obtain material for blackmailing other prisoners, make them confess to crimes, pay tribute, or even to start torturing other prisoners themselves. This all takes place in the modern world, in a country where there is no war, where torturers are not tasked with extracting valuable military information from prisoners at any cost. Torture is rampant in Russia, a country that has signed a number of human rights and anti-torture conventions and seems to enjoy a peaceful life. We have long known that in Russia, prison is not a place of correction, but rather a strange world separate from everything else, where guards and inmates resurrect on a daily basis the practices of the Stalinist Gulag. This has not always been the case. As early as ten years ago there was serious talk in Russia about the need to reform and humanize the penitentiary system. Now things are different. The authorities have been clearly and unambiguously showing how they prefer to rule the country. That is mainly by fear. Investigations into torture have hardly been a revelation, but in a split instant, they made it impossible to ignore torture and pretend it only concerns those behind bars. Of course, the situation will not change overnight, but one thing is certain – this knowledge has now become an integral part of our society. In the following article, we bring you the raw testimony of people who have experienced torture in Russian prisons. They share their thoughts on why it is used, the impact on them, and recount the involvement even of doctors in their ordeal.

Source: The Insider, 19 October 2021. Thanks to Antti Rautiainen for the heads-up

The October Counter-Revolution

Yes, I know that Boris Kagarlitsky is completely beyond the pale after his vigorous defense of the Kremlin’s misadventures in Ukraine. But as my friend Vlad Tupikin has reminded me, solidarity is not about supporting our close friends and people whose views are identical to our own. And things in Russia are so out of control right now that even Kagarlitsky deserves solidarity and support. Photo courtesy of The Nation. ||| TRR

Volja. Telegram. 1 October 2021

We usually do not repost entire texts by third-party authors produced for other platforms and other channels. But now a new time has arrived, a time for solidarity, so such content will naturally appear here.

We begin with a text by the political scientist Boris Kagarlitsky, who was sentenced yesterday to ten days in jail posting on social media about the protests by [Valery] Rashkin and the Communist Party.

So, we yield the floor to Kagarlitsky. This was the last text he published before his arrest.

Kagarlitsky Letters. Telegram. 29 September 2021

The actions of the Russian authorities in the wake of the elections appear, at first glance, clearly excessive vis-a-vis the political circumstances. In fact, almost everyone who was promised a seat was elected to the State Duma, and the opposition was routed, and even the internet is largely under control, but for some reason they still have been carrying out lawless raids on Communist Party lawyers, chasing down individual activists, expanding the lists of “undesirable organizations,” and opening new criminal cases against those who are already in prison or have fled abroad. They are behaving as if everything is about to collapse. Why? What is the source of their hysteria?

Without reliable information about what is happening inside the Kremlin, we can only draw some conclusions based on history and psychology. It seems that the reason for the regime’s nervousness is the regime itself, its own internal and insoluble contradictions.

Political scientists have been contemplating the prospects of Putin’s so-called transit for more than a year. Will Putin appoint an heir? Who will it be? The ruler’s health clearly leaves much to be desired, and the question of how long he will be able to exercise his powers is probably a matter of concern not only for pundits. Naturally, preparations for the transit have begun, and Putin himself must be involved in them in one way or another. But even if the president promises his entourage that he will take care of the future, he knows for certain that as soon as a successor is named, the current ruler’s [sic] grip on power will be shaken. Therefore, the transit will be readied, but it will not take place. As long as Putin is alive, he will not permit any final decisions to be made. If something happens to him, it will be too late to make decisions, and the process will develop spontaneously and catastrophically.

It is no surprise that this state of affairs has generated the most severe neurosis among people in and around the Kremlin. The transit has begun, but it does not end. Vital decisions are discussed and readied, but not made. The cruelest intrigues and conspiracies are hatched within the ruler’s entourage, but nothing comes of them. Threatening, unbearable uncertainty becomes an all-consuming element that ravages the mind. Everyone is afraid of everyone else; no one trusts anyone. Exactly as Freud would have it, fears and complexes are displaced. The form of this displacement is a crackdown against members of the opposition or those who have been labeled members of the opposition.

Irrational actions generate unforeseen, but absolutely predictable consequences. Loyal functionaries from the leadership of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) are being pushed into the radical opposition’s vacated niche, which is just as psychologically and emotionally unbearable for them as the endless transit, going nowhere, is for government officials. Maxim Kalashnikov has compared this to a situation in which a very weak radio receives a signal too strong for it, which totally fries its circuits. I think this analogy describes quite accurately what has been happening among Communist Party executives and staffers.

Political rationality requires the Kremlin to stop escalating the crackdown, take a breath and at least weigh the consequences of its decisions. But this will not happen, because the rationale for the regime’s behavior has nothing to do with managing the political process. It is no longer political scientists, but psychiatrists who should analyze the actions of the ruling circles.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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A court in Moscow has sentenced Marxist theoretician and sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky to 10 days in jail for sharing content on social media promoting unpermitted protests by the Communist Party (KPRF) against the results of Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. Police arrested Kagarlitsky on Wednesday on his way to the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, where he is a lecturer.

Boris Kagarlitsky is also the director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, which Russia’s Justice Ministry designated as a “foreign agent” in 2018.

KPRF has refused to recognize the official results of electronic voting in Moscow, where online ballots propelled several candidates backed by the Mayor’s Office to victories over oppositionists. The Communist Party staged small protests on September 20 and 25, prompting a sweeping police crackdown in the days that followed.

Source: Meduza, 30 September 2021

Solidarity

Courtesy of PADI Pros

Yesterday, the Russian Justice Ministry placed several more publications and more than two dozen people on its register of “foreign agent media outlets.” This time the label was given to Mediazona and OVD Info media outlets that, among other things, continue to cover protest events and speak out in support of convicts. The media outlets and journalists included in this list there are 72 of them so far are required to report their income every quarter, are required to undergo an audit, and are required to accompany each of their messages or reports with a loud disclaimer. This year alone, 54 new names have been placed on the list, including Meduza, VTimes and The Insider.

The editors of Inc. Russia empathize with their fellow journalists who find themselves in a difficult situation. We look anxiously into the future and expect that the law on foreign media, as well as the registry itself, will be at least revised. As our texts of the week, we suggest reading the work of the newly minted “foreign agents” from Mediazona and OVD Info. For each of these articles their authors were awarded an Editorial Board journalism prize. The prize was established by Boris Zimin’s Sreda Foundation.

The Editors, Inc. Russia

A sea of hermitages: How a US citizen, on the advice of her Old Believer relatives, came to “see Russia” and was imprisoned in a taiga monastery for 15 years [8 March 2017]

This is the monologue of a young American woman who managed to escape from an Old Believer settlement. Elizabeth’s story was recorded by Yegor Skovoroda for Mediazona (included in the list of foreign agents).

“There were rumors in the village.” Why are women killed by their relatives in the North Caucasus? How are honor killings investigated? [28 July 2017]

Journalists Maria Klimova and Yulia Sugueva reveal how women in the North Caucasus are murdered for “immoral” behavior. Neighbors and loved ones do not turn to the police for help, and the standing in the community of families capable of killing for the sake of honor only grows. The text was published on Mediazona (included in the list of foreign agents).

“I wanted to howl, to shout to them, What are you doing with my daughter at all? Are you human beings or not?” [29 May 2018]

In 2018, Kommersant journalist Alexander Chernykh did an interview for OVD Info (included in the list of foreign agents) with Yulia, the mother of Anna Pavlikova, a defendant in the New Greatness case. At the time, Pavlikova was 18 years old and had already spent several months in jail. The trial in the case ended only in 2020: Pavlikova received four years of probation.

Nemtsov’s unknown killers: What the investigation missed while investigating the attack on the politician [2 November 2020]

An investigation by Mikhail Maglov, Yegor Skovoroda, Alla Konstantinova and Polina Glukhova for Mediazona (included in the list of foreign agents), published jointly with the Scanner Project. The journalists re-examined the entire case file in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov to figure out whose possible involvement the Russian Investigative Committee could not or did not want to investigate.

Source: Inc. Russia email newsletter, 30 September 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader. Since today, September 30, is International Translation Day, it would be more than appropriate for you, the readers of this and other translations on my website, to share it with your own colleagues, friends, relatives and neighbors. Or pick another translation on this site that has moved you and share it. In any case, doing this much reading and translating — for free, during my “free” time — is only worth it if you’re reading what I publish here and encouraging others to read it. Judging by my viewer numbers this year, that’s not happening so much as it did last year, for example, when I had nearly 175,000 views on the year, as compared to a little over 48,000 so far this year (with only three months left in the year). When International Translation Day comes around this time next year, this blog might not be around to celebrate it. On the contrary, with better viewer numbers and more donations (which have never been frequent, alas), I would have the motivation, the time and the resources to translate the intriguing articles listed above, or pay a small honorarium to a translator colleague to translate them. ||| TRR

OVD Info Named “Foreign Agent”

The amazing and indispensable OVD Info has been placed by the Russian Justice Ministry on its list of “foreign agents.” OVD Info broke the news in this email to its supporters, sent an hour or so ago, as translated by me.

“This message (content) was created and (or) distributed by non-commercial organizations and/or mass media outlets demanding the total repeal of the law on foreign agents.”

We have disturbing news. Today, the Russian Justice Ministry has placed OVD Info on its “register of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent.”

There’s nothing terrible about this, but there’s nothing good about it either.

The attack on our project hasn’t taken us by surprise: for almost ten years we have been writing about politically motivated persecution every day, and it is difficult to surprise us, especially this year. We have seen what the weather is like outside the window: independent media and journalists have been labeled “foreign agents” one after another, and there are few human rights projects in Russia that have not yet received the status of “foreign agent.”

“Foreign agent” status does not impose any additional risks on you. Nothing changes for you: it is safe to support us and other initiatives identified as “foreign agents.”

Are we really someone’s agents?

OVD Info has been and always will be an independent project. This means that we do not depend on any other organizations, be they political movements or international foundations. We do not have major donors either: we are supported by thousands and tens of thousands of small donations, most of which do not exceed 500 rubles [less than six euros].

We are not agents: we don’t do anyone else’s work or do anyone else’s bidding, especially those in foreign countries. We are not foreigners. On the contrary, we are probably the most popular human rights project in Russia. The only thing that OVD Info depends on are the hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens who support us with donations, reposts, volunteering and kind words.

OVD Info appeared on the map in December 2011 as a personal initiative and a response to what was happening in police departments to people detained at protest rallies, and it operated exclusively on a volunteer basis for several years. To this day, OVD Info has remained an initiative powered a huge community of caring people.

To label us “foreign agents” means devaluing ten years of work by a huge number of people — the readers, volunteers, donors, and lawyers who have created this project along with us.

Why is this happening?

The Russian authorities apparently consider our project hostile to them, but we are not fighting the authorities or fighting to take power. We protect the right of Russian citizens to assemble freely, and we assist everyone whose right to assemble freely has been violated. The reasons for protest rallies and the political views of their participants don’t matter to us. We defend everyone who faces a violation of their right to public protest, regardless of the issues they raise and the demands they make. We defend environmental activists, defenders of squares and parks, opponents of the residential housing renovation program and the Plato road tolls system, leftists and rightists, opposition activists and pro-government activists, Navalny supporters and Communist Party supporters, independent journalists and journalists from Russia Today. There are no shades of gray when it comes to human rights protection, there are no good and bad people: there are only people whose rights have been violated.

And we are certain that no country is capable of stable growth if it does not protect the rights of its citizens. The campaign launched by the authorities against civic groups and the media is disastrous not only for Russian civil society, but also for the country itself.

What happens next?

1. We will go on working as we always have. Perhaps, due to the new circumstances, things will be more difficult for us, but society’s need for what we do has not gone away: freedom of information still must be protected, and individuals must still not be left to face the system alone. In order for us to do this, we will have to put a banner on the top of our website notifying readers that we have been placed on the register of “foreign agents.”

2. We will legally challenge our project’s inclusion on the register of “foreign agents.” We have little hope of a quick victory in the Russian courts, but we believe that sooner or later justice will prevail in the European Court of Human Rights.

3. We call for solidarity with all the initiatives, media outlets and journalists who have been subjected to this same attack in recent months. We are not asking you to support us: thanks to you, we have sufficiently robust resources. But projects that don’t have your support are in particularly dire need of it.

Therefore, we ask you to support with a donation any of the projects that work with us side by side, and that you not be afraid to do it.

We will more and more zealously demand the repeal of the law on “foreign agents” and urge you to join this campaign as well: to begin with, please sign our petition. It is also important to support those who face government pressure. On the website Solidarity.Support, you can choose who you want to support with your rubles: so far, “foreign agent” status does not entail any additional risks for donors and beneficiaries.

Despite the fact that there is no direct threat to us right now, we take what is happening as seriously as possible. The “foreign agent” law enables the authorities to first throw a lasso around any objectionable initiative, and then arbitrarily tighten it. Since 2012, when the first version of the “foreign agent” law was adopted, the requirements for organizations placed on this register have been constantly expanding, while their opportunities for doing their work have been narrowing. In fact, any “foreign agent” can be forcibly liquidated at any time, and its leaders can be arrested.

“Foreign agent” status is not a “seal of approval.” It is a black mark. It not only complicates the life of the “foreign agent,” but divides everyone into “friends” and “strangers” via the most opaque decision-making process. By forcing us to identify ourselves as a “foreign agent,” we are forced to deceive everyone who trusts us, and you are forced to divide the world into black and white. But there are no “friends” or “strangers.”

Don’t forget this, don’t be afraid of anything and stay on our side! You and your trust are the most valuable thing we have.

We are always on your side,
The OVD Info team

Source: OVD Info email newsletter, 29 September 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

Dmitry Glukhovsky: Gelsomino in the Land of Liars

Writer Dmitry Glukhovsky makes unexpected bold speech at GQ Awards
Activatica
September 18, 2021

The writer and journalist Dmitry Glukhovsky made an unexpected speech at the GQ Awards ceremony in the presence of Channel One [talk-show] host Ivan Urgant.

In Glukhovsky’s opinion, the real bestsellers for which the prize should be awarded are George Orwell’s 1984, as well as The Adventures of Cippolino and Gelsomino in the Land of Liars, by Gianni Rodari. These books, according to Glukhovsky, describe the reality in which we live. “If Orwell now occupies the second place in our country [in terms of reader demand], the people are not as stupid as some elected (or non-elected) officials believe,” the writer said.

The cover of a Russian edition of Gianni Rodari’s Adventures of Cippolino and Gelsomino in the Land of Liars. Image courtesy of AliExpress

He also mentioned the “occupation” of the vegetables by the fruits, in The Adventures of Cippolino, and the “country where things cannot be called by their real names,” as described in Gelsomino in the Land of Liars. Reading these works to his children, Glukhovsky was struck, he said, by the similarity to present-day Russia.

“It’s already an act of civic courage not to lie, not to be afraid, not to cheer when others are kicked, and not to pretend… Free the political prisoners!” said the GQ Award winner.

The audience greeted the speech with an ovation. Tension was visible on the emcee Urgant’s face.

Translated by the Russian Reader 

Kacia Karpickaja: A Month in a Minsk Jail

Kacia Karpickaja, courtesy of her Facebook page

Yulya Tsimafeyeva
Facebook
September 18, 2021

Belarusian actress and journalist Kacia Karpickaja spent a month in the detention center in Akrescina street. She has been recently released. Here is her story of how innocent women (about the “crimes” of her cellmates you can read in the end of the posting) are tortured just in these very minutes. I translated her story into English. If you want to share it, please, copy the English text as you could share only the Belarusian variant.

“I am breaking a month of my forced silence that I have spent at Akrescina (pre-trial detention center) with this funny photo. For the sake of additional security, this fact was not reported anywhere.

Why I was taken to the pre-trial detention center is a story for another Facebook post, and in this, I would just like to remind you that along with our political prisoners, people at Akrescina are still being tortured. 30 days there in today’s conditions was enough for me to come out with a bunch of new diseases — from pharyngotracheitis to cystitis and COVID (by the way, it was the vaccination that helped me to overcome the latter quite easily compared to my cellmates). And people spend there up to 60 days or more, depending on how many detention reports the officials would make up for them.

They are in insanitary conditions — they are never taken to the shower and are not even given toothbrushes. Sometimes you have to beg for centimeters of toilet paper.

They are not taken for walks for months (the air could only penetrate to our cell №15 from the corridor through the “feeding trough”, but all the time it was intentionally closed).

They stay there without mattresses (mouldy bread served us as a pillow, it would still be possible to sleep on the bare floor or a bunk bed, but the nights had been wildly cold for a long time – even hugging each other and holding a bottle of hot water between the legs we could not stop trembling. Our nights were full of exercises – squats, push-ups, planking – they helped us to warm up and fall asleep).

They have no dreams (at 2 and 4 am we were waken up to the roll call; there is no need to remind about a bright artificial lighting that is on day and night).

They are not given parcels from relatives (many women were taken from work or their dachas in skirts, dresses, and at night they had to lay on the cold floor until one of those who were to be released soon, took off her sweatshirts or pants or socks and passed to them. The toothbrush I inherited had been used by five people before me <…>).

They are half hungry (I had to pay more than 400 rubles (about 150 euros) for a month of detention, and for the money I had received an empty soup a liquid with a couple of potatoes and potato peels, mouldy bread and half a cup of tea or thin jelly two times a day. How these portions can refresh our men, I can’t imagine).

They are there without adequate medical care (in the cell №15 meant for two at most 20 women were kept – in the cold and stuffy air they all quickly began to get sick. All of them were attacked by coronavirus, which, like other diseases, was treated with paracetamol. Without any ability to move around the cell 3 by 4 meters in area, with poor nutrition all abruptly stopped going to the toilet. Sorry for these details, but in 30 days I was able to poo only three times).

They are kept there like guinea pigs. It even feels creepy to tell you how grown-up women and men, the detention center employees, are thrilled to watch in the peepholes and cameras how we cope with a new experiment invented by them. First, they put lice-ridden Alla Ilinishna and Marinka to our cell and waited that we should start being hysterical. But we found common ground with them, and a few days later, it were the guards who were “hysterical” and had to take so-called marginals from our cell to “roast”, because the situation was close to the epidemic of pediculosis. The staff was very worried about the state of their uniforms — they had to to toss our cell two times a day and fan us out, and it was so easy to catch at least a few insects.

Then another Marina was housed with us — she had intestinal disorders, she was all in shit, and in ulcers that flowed with blood, in the fungus. And she had a severe withdrawal syndrome. The detention-center staff were watching and expecting us to fail. But we just started washing Marinka over the hole in the floor and begged the nurse to give us antiseptic green dye to treat her wounds. We were forbidden to sit and sleep, we were insulted, but we didn’t stop joking and our laughter was heard from the cameras – all this was very annoying to the detention center staff.

I have some more things to remind, but I will describe all the tortures and crimes against Belarusians in detail in complaints to the authorities (although they will later say that these facts have not been confirmed, Azaronka (a notorious propagandist on the state TV) liked Akrescina). But for now, let me just briefly remind you what for so called delinquents in Belarus are tortured:

– For going out in a red dress with a white cape.
– For coming to support Maria Kalesnikava’s dad in the court (they wrote in the report “I wanted to release Maria Kalesnikava”).
– For bringing a flower to the place of Taraikouski’s murder.
– For messaging a news article from “extremist” telegram channels to her husband.
– For filming a demonstration in Lošitsa (district of Minsk).
– For telling a soldier “We will win”.
– For reading books by Belarusian writers on the train.
– For being not wanted by the new authorities of the Academy of Public Administration under the Aegis of the President of the Republic of Belarus.
– For chatting with Lebiadziny (district of Minsk) neighbors.
– For returning from France, where she married a Frenchman.
– For working in “Korpus” (an independent cultural venue), and when GUBAZIK came there, she “disobeyed” them (in fact, of course not).
– For being an IT-specialist who can know cyberpartisans.”

Kacia Karpickaja
Facebook
September 18, 2021

Гэтым вясёлым фота перарываю свой вымушаны месяц маўчання, які правяла на Акрэсціна. У мэтах дадатковай бяспекі факт гэты спецыяльна асабліва нідзе не афішаваўся.

Як я трапіла ў ЦІП – гісторыя на асобны пост, а ў гэтым я проста хацела б нагадаць, што разам з палітзняволенымі па крыміналцы нашых працягваюць катаваць на Акрэсціна. 30 сутак там у сённяшніх умовах мне хапіла, каб выйсці з букетам новых хвароб – ад фарынгатрахеіту да цыстыту і кароны (дарэчы, менавіта прышчэпка дапамагла перанесці апошняе досыць лёгка ў параўнанні з маімі сукамерніцамі). А людзі сядзяць там па 60 сутак і больш, у залежнасці ад таго, колькі пратаколаў ім захочуць накінуць.

Сядзяць у антысанітарыі – іх ніколі не водзяць у душ і не выдаюць нават шчотак з асаблівых рэчаў. Туалетную паперу часам прыходзілася выбіваць па сантыметры.

Сядзяць месяцамі без шпацыроў (паветра ў камеру №15 магло паступаць да нас толькі з калідора праз “кармушку”, але яе спецыяльна ўвесь час зачынялі).

Сядзяць без матрацаў (падушкай нам служыў спляснелы хлеб, а на голай падлозе ці шконцы спаць было б яшчэ магчыма, але ночы даўно дзіка халодныя – нават абдымаючы адна адну і заціскаючы паміж ног бутэльку з гарачай вадой мы не маглі супакоіць дрыжыкі. Ночы ператвараліся ў цыкл фізічных практыкаванняў – прысядаць, паадціскацца, пастаяць у планцы – неяк пагрэцца і заснуць).

Сядзяць без сноў (у два і чатыры ночы нас падымалі на пераклічкі; пра тое, што там суткамі гарыць яркае штучнае асвятленне, і нагадваць не трэба).

Сядзяць без перадач (многіх жанчын забіралі з працы ці лецішч у спадніцах, сукенках, і яны так і ляжалі начамі на халоднай падлозе, пакуль нехта з тых, хто выходзіў на волю, не здымаў з сябе байку ці трусы-шкарпэткі. Шчоткай, якая ў спадчыну дасталася мне, карысталася яшчэ чалавек пяць да гэтага, здаецца. А ў майцы хадзіла сама маці “Хлопотного дельца”).

Сядзяць на палову галодныя (за месяц харчавання я мусіла заплаціць больш 400 рублёў (каля 150 еўра), і за гэтыя грошы на абед атрымлівала пусты суп – вадкасць з парай бульбін і лупінай ад яе, спляснелы хлеб і два кубкі гарбаты ці кісель, якія запаўнялі толькі палову кубка. Як мясцовых порцый хапае нашым хлопцам, я не ўяўляю).

Сядзяць без адэкватнай медыцынскай дапамогі (у пікавы момант у двухмеснай камеры №15 утрымлівалася 20 жанчын – у холадзе і духаце ўсе хутка пачыналі хварэць. Усіх атакоўваў каранавірус, які, як і іншыя хваробы, лечыцца там з большага парацатамолам. Без магчымасці рухацца ў хаце 3 на 4 метры, з дрэнным харчаваннем усе рэзка пераставалі хадзіць у туалет. Ужо прабачце за падрабязнасці, але за 30 сутак я змагла зрабіць гэта толькі тры разы).

Сядзяць як паддоследныя. Мне нават неяк не па сабе расказваць, як дарослыя цёткі і дзядзькі з ЦІП кайфуюць, назіраючы ў вочкі і камеры за тым, як мы будзем змагацца з новым прыдуманым выпрабаваннем. Спачатку да вас падсяляюць Аллу Ільінішну і Марынку з вошамі, чакаючы, што ў вас пачнецца істэрыка. Але мы знаходзім з імі агульную мову, і праз некалькі дзён “істэрыка” здараецца ў дзяжурных, якія ўсё ж вядуць так званых маргіналаў з нашых камер на “пражарку”, бо сітуацыя блізкая да эпідэміі педыкулёзу. Супрацоўнікі вельмі перажываюць за стан сваёй формы – яны вымушаныя два разы на суткі праводзіць шмон у нашых камерах і прашчупваць нас, а так лёгка падчапіць як мінімум адзежных насякомых.

Пасля да вас падсяляюць новую Марыну – у яе расстройства кішэчніка, яна ўся ў гаўне, а яшчэ ў язвах, якія сцякаюць крывёю, у грыбку. А яшчэ ў яе жорсткі абстынентны сіндром. Супрацоўнікі ЦІП назіраюць і чакаюць, што мы сарвемся.

Але мы проста бяром і пачынам мыць Марынку над дзіркай у падлозе і выбіваем у медсупрацоўніка зялёнку, каб апрацаваць яе раны. Нам забраняюць сядзець і спаць, абражаюць, але мы працягваем жартаваць і з камер чуецца смех – усё гэта вельмі раздражняе супрацоўнікаў ЦІП.

Мне ёсць яшчэ што згадаць, але больш падрабязна я апішу ўсе катаванні і прамыя злачынствы ў дачыненні да беларусаў у скаргах у дзяржустановы (хоць яны пасля і скажуць, што дадзеныя факты не пацвердзіліся, Азаронку ж у нас падабалася). Але пакуль проста коратка нагадаю, за што ў Беларусі так здекуюцца з людзей у статусе правапарушальнікаў:

-Была на вуліцы ў чырвонай сукенцы з белай накідкай.
-Прыйшла падтрымаць тату Марыі Калеснікавай на суд (у пратаколе напісалі “хацела вызваліць Марыю Калеснікаву”).
-Прынесла кветку да месца забойства Тарайкоўскага.
-Пераслала мужу ў асабістыя навіны з “экстрэмісцкіх” тэлеграм-каналаў.
-Зняла на відэа дваравы марш у Лошыцы.
-Сказала вайскоўцу “Наша возьме”.
-Чытала ў электрычцы кніжкі беларускіх пісьменнікаў.
-Была непажаданай новаму кіраўніцтву Акадэміі кіравання.
-Перапісвалася ў чаце Лебядзінага з суседзямі.
-Вярнулася з Францыі, дзе выйшла замуж за француза.
-Працавала ў “Корпусе”, а калі туды прыехаў ГУБАЗІК, “аказала” ім непадпарадкаванне (насамрэч, вядома, не).
-Айцішніца, якая можа ведаць кіберпартызанаў.