Your guide will meet you at your hotel and bring you either by metro or onboard a classic Soviet military van (option) to our shooting range. There, you will learn to master 3 iconic Soviet weapons, under supervision of a professional trainer. Discover the thrill of shooting military grade weapons loaded with live bullets! We bring at your trigger finger: 1) The Yarygin Pistol – Standard Russian military sidearm. Caliber 9mm 2) The Kalashnikov AK-47 – Legendary Russian assault rifle, will surely shake your foundations. Caliber 7.62×39 3) The Dragunov sniper rifle – Iconic Russian sniper, in service for more than 50 years! The Dragunov is a semi-automatic rifle with massive power! Get your adrenaline shot firing its 7.62×54 rounds!
Source: Trip Advisor
Imagine there’s an aggressive, martial society that sends its soldiers around the world, intervening here and there, undermining all global democratic institutions and norms for arbitrating conflict, reserving for itself the sole right to decide which governments are legitimate, and defending the wealth of a small handful of nations—its own especially—against the interests of the vast majority.
Imagine further that the government of this nation, which so carelessly throws its soldiers into wars of choice in the pursuit of political and economic power, creates a propaganda campaign to convince the public that it is their civic duty to gush and fawn over veterans, to thank them for their “service,” to honor their “sacrifices,” and to never question the purpose of their missions, because to do so would disrespect the lives squandered in the pursuit of such noble goals.
Now imagine there’s a holiday, exclusively reserved for celebrating all of this propaganda.
What an impressive system that would be, completely impenetrable from outside critique. Global aggression masked as a noble mission, brutal violence reframed as a necessary means to an honorable end. War after war, foreign nations ravaged, one after another, and the public can only wince at the same time it thanks its veterans for their service.
What’s more impressive is that it’s a system that perpetuates itself. Through the celebration of warrior holidays, everyone practices their roles and each new generation finds their place in the pageantry. Civilians’ relationship to the military is basically one of cheerleadership. Soldiers are forever trapped as the sacrificial lambs of their society, sent to die for the wealth and power of their leaders (but everyone is taught to call it “defense”). And those who survive are celebrated as the sacred symbol of the nation itself, who civilians must praise and who children learn to revere.
So, if you’ve followed me through the allegory, obviously this is crazy and this can’t continue to go on like this.
September 14, 2021
I chatted with an 86-year-old woman while I was changing the power outlet on her kitchen stove. She was from a village near Vologda and still pronounced her unstressed o’s as full o’s. She worked for 58 years on construction sites. She started working in ’54 or ’55. She worked for three years as an unskilled laborer, then for eight years as a painter before making the switch to plastering.
“I really liked this work. But then everything fell apart, and anyone could get the job. If you could hold a brush, you could go to work as a painter.”
If I understood her correctly, she said that, in the fifties, sixties and seventies, without a specialized education, it was impossible to get a job anywhere except as a helper.
She said that they had lived quite poorly, that the foreman earned 15 rubles a month. I didn’t understand how this could be and so I expressly asked her again, and she confirmed what she’d said.
In the seventies, the planning got better, and life became easier. But she had still spent her entire life “in poverty.”
“My legs began to give out, and I was forbidden to work. Otherwise I would have kept working. I was already used to this being how things were, that we were working stiffs and this was how we lived.”
Her husband also worked on construction sites, as a finisher. She has a daughter. She lives in her son-in-law’s two-room apartment, renting out one of the rooms. Despite her obvious and visible poverty, the apartment was very clean. She tried to pay me generously, but I didn’t take any money.
We started talking about migrants. She said they were good, hard-working, polite people. They always helped her, carried her groceries. Migrants had saved her life after she had her first or second stroke, which had happened outside. Russians had walked on by, but “Georgians or migrants, basically two non-Russians” had come to her aid, telephoning an ambulance and waiting with her.
“I don’t want to badmouth migrants. I just wonder where our people are, Russians? Have they really all retired? Or don’t they want to work?”
George Losev is a housing authority electrician, veteran grassroots activist and DIY football enthusiast in Petersburg. Thanks to Jeremy Morris for helpful comments on the translation. Photo and translation by the Russian Reader
September 8, 2018
I don’t care what they call themselves or what names they are called — liberals, intellectuals, anarchists, communists, socialists, plain old good people — but given the utter silencing of the topic of Syria in the provisionally anti-Putin grassroots and political discourse in Russia, it is difficult to see these various democratic and progressive forces as a force per se, and even more so as a force for good and renewal. The full picture of what is happening nowadays includes the bombing of Idlib, and not only the beloved “social agenda” vis-a-vis the unpopular pension reform, if only because the regime has had to find the money for the bombs, missiles and planes in people’s pockets. But everyone keeps their lips sealed, not realizing that cowardice on this occasion is read as cowardice on all occasions among “the common folk” that they are perpetually trying to save.
September 8, 2017
“However, his new position as head of the local police will not bring the main character the peace for whose sake he pursued it. After the opening of an oil refinery, the city is plunged into the chaos of crime. Attempts to deal with the oil company lead to disastrous consequences for his entire family. The tragedy forces the hero to compromise his principles and set out on the path of revenge.”
September 8, 2016
From the annals of Russian pollocracy, which I’ve decided to redub poleaxeocracy.
File this one under “aiding and comforting the enemy.”
Stalin was “quite popular,” too. God only knows how that ended up.
In any case, “being popular” and “good governance” are two entirely different things.
It’s strange how much capital of all kinds has been spent over the past 17 years to convince the Russian people and everyone else this isn’t the case.
So if US researchers really were wasting their time trying to figure out whether Putin is “in fact popular,” this only goes to show . . .
What? That either the researchers have fallen for this stupidity or they think Russians are degenerate morons.
There are no circumstances under which you can objectively determine whether Putin is “in fact popular,” because the question itself is irrelevant.
It’s like asking people whether they think Michael Corleone is “really handsome.”
Michael Corleone’s job is not “being handsome.” It’s running the Corleone mob.
September 8, 2016
A wonderful story. I have just been sent confirmation of my text yesterday about the Levada Center of a sort that I couldn’t have hoped for.
If you remember, the Justice Ministry has been hassling the Levada Center over a study conducted jointly with the University of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin is somehow supported by the Pentagon, and from this it follows that Pentagon money directly lands in the pocket of the Levadovites, who in return report secrets about Russian public opinion. We won’t bother discussing this paranoia, so let’s move on.
The joint project with Wisconsin most likely refers to the research that Scott Gelbach from Wisconsin did with the Levada Center’s involvement. A colleague sent me an article on this research that has just been published. Actually, the goal of Gelbach, Timothy Frye from Columbia University and their team was to find out “Is Putin’s popularity real?” (as their article is entitled). They needed the Levada Center as a partner for conducting an “experiment” as part of a public opinion poll. In this experiment, they wanted to rule out the “fear factor” on the part of the respondents. (I’ll be writing a separate post about the “experiment.”) As a result of the experiment, it transpired that “Putin is in fact quite popular.” Moreover, they claim that, in reality, Putin’s ratings, per their experiment, may even be somewhat underestimated due to “artificial deflation.”
Once again, read these lines: the authorities want to shut down the Levada Center because of a study that claims that Putin is “in fact” even more popular than people think!
And not just claims, but informs the whole world about it in perfect English. I wonder if the Anti-Maidan movement knows about this?
September 8, 2016
“So begins a yearlong series of plays chronicling Russian leaders.”
Enough already. I’d like to hear a play or program about the history of Portugal or Mali or Ecuador or Malaysia.
BBC Radio 4 and all the other high-tone media outlets in the so-called western world have so-called Russian history and culture coming out of their ears and noses.
This only works to the advantage of the Putinists, because, almost without exception, these various “serious” entertainments and furrowed-brow documentaries and exposés simply reinforce the tired home truths (i.e., lies) about Russia’s history and present that the regime itself is fond of shoving down everyone’s throats. Not to mention the fact that getting so much attention satisfies the vanity of the Russian powers that be.
But really, there is a big, big world out there we’d like to hear about more often. A world without Putin and “Russia.”
September 8, 2015
Over-the-top late-Soviet “ritual” lacquered panels, commissioned by the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism in Leningrad in the early nineteen-eighties, and brilliantly and flawlessly executed by a group of six “retooled” icon painters from the village of Mstyora, near Suzdal, a place famed for its distinctive school of icon and lacquered box painting.
Although the panels were officially commissioned, they have not been exhibited until now, apparently. Head to the revamped Museum of the History of Religion (nowadays, sans the atheism) in downtown Petersburg to check them out.
Photos by Comrade Koganzon. Translated, where necessary, by the Russian Reader
August 28, 2021
Here’s what’s new.
Suddenly, I realized that five years ago, when I started doing this, the charges of espionage and terrorist propaganda [made against many victims of the Great Terror] seemed to be the distant past, a clear marker of Stalin’s hysterical spy mania. It seemed, well, unreal, hard to believe. What must have it been like to live in such darkness, huh?
The years have gone by, but, people have asked, does it still seem unreal?
This is Natalia Totskaya, a graduate of an Institute for Noble Maidens. She was a teacher of foreign languages and translator. She corresponded with her sister, who had emigrated.
A plaque bearing her name and four dates — of her birth, arrest, execution and exoneration — will be installed and dedicated tomorrow, Sunday, 3:00 p.m, at 1/2 Solyanka Street, bldg. 1 [in Moscow].
Please come and join us!
Thanks to Marina Bobrik for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader
Back in the USSR: Sluggish Schizophrenia
LiveJournal (Alexei Nasedkin)
July 26, 2021
The man in the photo is Dmitry Nadein, a grassroots political activist from Irkutsk. He’s not just an activist, but was once a volunteer at Alexei Navalny’s local headquarters. Russian law enforcement agencies could not overlook such a dangerous criminal, of course, and, putting aside all their other business, they rushed into battle with him.
Nadein was arrested on February 4 on charges of “condoning terrorism,” in a case launched by FSB investigators. Taiga.Info reported that, on November 21 of last year, Nadein published on his Vkontakte page the news that a military court had sentenced Lyudmila Stech, a Kaliningrad resident, to pay a large fine for “condoning” the “Arkhangelsk terrorist.”
In early April, Nadein was forced to undergo a forensic psychiatric examination: he was diagnosed with “sluggish schizophrenia” and labeled “especially dangerous to society.” And today, thanks to OVD Info, it transpired that [on July 19] the First Eastern District Military Court had ordered Dmitry to undergo compulsory psychiatric treatment.
I’ll take this opportunity to note that there is no such thing as “sluggish schizophrenia” at all. It is a typical Soviet diagnosis, dreamed up by Andrei Snezhnevsky back in 1969 by analogy with Eugen Bleuler’s “latent schizophrenia,” which today is listed as one variety of “schizotypal disorder” (coded as F21 in the ICD-10). Beginning in the 1960s, many ideological opponents of the Soviet Communist Party found themselves under this psychiatric stigma. About a third of all political prisoners were forcibly “treated,” crippling their lives. By the way, this treatment was applied not only to political dissidents per se, but also to “deviants” more generally, as well as to many homeless people and those who avoided military service. Need I mention how many of their civil liberties were violated and how their health was ruined?
Today, step by step, the Soviet model of punitive psychiatry is being restored and modified to new realities. After all, no holds are barred when it comes to “mopping up” the political landscape.
Translated by the Russian Reader
May 9, 2021
Here is what I’ve been thinking about on this day. I seem to understand why every year on May 9, everyone engages in such jealous and painful arguments about whose victory it was and whether it was a victory at all. Everyone wants to prove that the good guys, that is, people like them, won the war. The bad guys —Hitler and Stalin — lost. The bad guys from the other side and the bad guys from our side lost.
But that’s not how it was. The soldiers who won the war at the cost of enormous bloodshed saved everyone, both good and bad. The victory in 1945 was a victory of life over death. Not of a good life (this is the answer to the question “Why do we live so badly if we won?”), but mere life, life as such. People stopped dying. Wasn’t that enough?
I have seen many times how good deeds were done by the wrong people. A person who does not love the motherland can put out a fire. A man who beats his wife will save someone else’s child. And so on. On the one hand, he saved the child, and on the other hand he has beaten his wife again. What conclusions should we draw from this?
None. It doesn’t change anything. Saving children is still the right thing to do, but beating your wife is not. One does not negate the other.
And the child, by the way, can grow up to be a criminal. And so what? Should it not be saved now?
People are different. What matters is not what they are, but what they do. Seventy-six years ago, they saved the world. And what happened to them afterwards is up to the people they saved, it is our choice.
I remember the grief, the huge amount of blood shed, and the losses. But still, today is a holiday, because we were saved: it’s a joyful occasion. And today is also a time to think about whether we have saved anyone.
May 8, 2021
There are two main reasons for all the pomp around May 9.
First, the more magnificent the holiday, the more money you can allocate from the state coffers [and embezzle]. Officials are just plain greedy.
The second is that the Russian Federation is an imperialist country. Like any imperialist, the Russian Federation tries to expand and prepares for war, generating the appropriate ideology in the process. The construction is quite simple: either a major historical military victory or a major defeat is taken, and the sense of pride or desire for revenge [occasioned by the victory or defeat] is stoked. A typical example is Germany and France before the First World War. Both sides fanned the flames of the Franco-Prussian War as a subject. On the eve of the First World War in the Russian Empire, the subject of 1812 [i.e., Russia’s victory over Napoleon in the so-called Fatherland War] was also hyped.
The Olympics, big construction projects, and so on serve the same purpose, but it is past wars that best fit the bill.
The Russian Federation now simply has no other choice but the Second World War. First, because of the scale. Secondly, after it, the USSR and the Russian Federation engaged in seven wars (the USSR fought in Afghanistan, while the Russian Federation has two Chechen wars, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, and Libya to its credit), all of which ended with the emergence of “gray” zones, sites of constantly smoldering conflict. Creating such zones is the goal of the current imperialist countries, but they cannot be cited as [positive] examples. They cannot serve as a justification of the regime’s actions, because they themselves are in need of justification. Why should Russians be glad to remember the actions of Russian mercenaries in Libya? Or the [Russian] bombing of Syrian cities?
Hence the Second World War.
But as it makes this choice, the Russian Federation has one problem.
Putin’s regime represents, rather, the side that the USSR fought against during World War Two rather than acting as the successor to the Soviet Union. It is the side of monopolistic capital, militarism, and institutionalized racism.
The Soviet Union built schools and hospitals, while the Putin regime has been closing them down. The USSR nationalized property in the territories it liberated, while the Russian Federation has privatized it.
Therefore, the ideological construction becomes more complicated.
The very fact of victory is magnified, and everything else is either hushed up or slimed.
This is the root of the apparent schizophrenia in which the ideological elite of Putin’s Russia has been dwelling for many years, all those TV presenters, priests, Mikhalkovs and writer-directors of endless series about the war, in which Soviet soldiers and commanders are shown as complete degenerates, cowards and traitors.
All these “cultural figures” realize that they are forced to exalt those who essentially fought against them. So there is a huge difference between my annoyance at the hype and the pathos on the eve of May 9, and the fierce hatred that Putin’s ideological minions radiate.
I don’t like marches by kindergarten children in Red Army forage caps: they would be more appropriate in Nazi Germany.
The Putinists do not like the mass heroism of the Soviet people. They hate the Communists, who accounted for one-third to one-half of all Soviet combat losses.
May 9, 2021
I remember a story, funny and sad at the same time, which was told to me many years ago by the musician Mark Lvovich Rubanenko. He was a young man in the pre-war years, and back then he played in Leningrad in an orchestra with other young musicians like him. All of them were fun-loving: they liked to drink, make jokes, and pull pranks. Once, during a friendly gathering, they were flipping through the phone book and found a surname that seemed funny to them – Kurochkin [“Hen-kin”]. One of the musicians dialed the number of the man with the funny last name.
“Yes,” said a voice on the other end of the phone.
“Greetings from Petushkov [“Rooster-ov”],” the caller said and hung up.
After that, the musicians began phoning Kurochkin from different places and at different times of the day, even at night. They usually asked the question”Comrade Kurochkin?” and when he responded, they would say, “Greetings from Petushkov.”
Then the war broke out, and all the band members went to the front. Rubanenko made it all the way to Berlin. After the war, the musicians gathered again in Leningrad. Not everyone had come back alive. They drank vodka and remembered their dead friends. And then someone remembered: “And how is our Kurochkin?” Excited, they picked up the phone and dialed the familiar number.
“Greetings from Petushkov.”
The voice on the other end of the phone was silent for a while. Then it yelled: “You bastard! You’re still alive! So many good people have died, but you’re alive!”
The musicians hung up. They never called Kurochkin again.
May 9, 2021
Recently, my mother told me about her stepfather, a front-line soldier. He was wounded, captured, and sent to a Nazi prison camp, and after the war he was sent to a Soviet labor camp in Kolyma. There he met my grandmother, who was also a victim of political repression. The man was, according to my mother, cheerful (which is not surprising), only he frightened her as a child when he would began raving in German in his sleep. He had dreams about the German prison camp while in exile in the Soviet Union. He was also involved in Komsomol weddings.*
[The inscription on the invitation, pictured above, reads: “Dear Comrade V.D. Nigdeyev! We invite you and your spouse to a Komsomol wedding. The wedding will take place at the Tatyana Malandina Club at 19:30 on August 22, 1964.”]
[Soviet WWII veterans, gathering on] May 9, 1975, on the Field of Mars in Leningrad. Photos by I. Koltsov
Yan Shenkman reports on political trials and popular culture for the independent liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta. George Losev is a housing authority electrician and socialist activist in Petersburg. Vyacheslav Dolinin is a well-known Leningrad-Petersburg Soviet dissident, former Gulag inmate and samizdat researcher. Ivan Ovsyannikov is a journalist and socialist activist in Petersburg. Vladimir Golbraikh, a Petersburg-based sociologist, focuses on his immensely popular Facebook page on unearthing and publishing archival photos of Leningrad-Petersburg during the Soviet era. Translated by the Russian Reader
* ‘Among the events that Komsomol organs planned were Komsomol weddings, a novel ritual for youth that used cultural activities to inculcate not only officially prescribed cultural tastes but also gender norms, part of a broader post-Stalin drive to ascribe civic meaning to ceremonies and ritual. First mentioned in 1954, these wed- dings began to appear across the Soviet Union with the enactment of the 1957 aesthetic upbringing initiative. Official discourse, as expressed by Komsomol’skaia pravda, touted state-sponsored weddings in clubs as a way to undermine religious wedding traditions, in keeping with Khrushchev’s anti-religion campaign, and to minimize the drunkenness and untoward behavior prevalent at private wedding feasts. The authorities also intended Komsomol weddings to ensure the stability of the family. As noted by Shelepin in 1957, private marriages often ended in divorce, but “when someone gets married openly, in front of the people, his friends and comrades—it is another matter altogether.” Such rituals aimed to place relationships between young men and women within the boundaries of government-monitored official collectives, in effect reframing the norms of courting and family life from private to more public settings and ensuring the performance of officially preferred gendered behavior.’ (Gleb Tsipursky, Socialist Fun: Youth, Consumption, and State-Sponsored Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1945–1970, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016, p. 149)
It’s a little strange to write about something positive these days, but I saw that, as part of the complete reconstruction of the Central Bus Station in Moscow, they preserved its old mosaic, which is now behind glass. Buses start from the 6th floor of the station, which is located under the same roof as the Shchelkovsky Shopping Center. On the other hand, I wasn’t able to find in my collection photos of the historic Toksovo station, which was demolished, and from which I departed for the dacha half my life.
Translated by the Russian Reader
March 20-21, 2021
Conference to be streamed on Twitch, including discussion/questions and answers
Saturday, March 20, 2021
1) Welcome and opening event – 9:30am Pacific/12:30am Eastern/4:30pm GMT/7:30pm Moscow
2) Historians’ panel – 10:00am Pacific/1:00pm Eastern/5:00pm GMT/8:00pm Moscow
- Konstantin Tarasov, “Kronstadt self-government in 1917”
- Simon Pirani, “Kronstadt and the workers’ movements in Moscow and Petrograd, 1921”
- Dmitriy Ivanov, “Kronstadt 1921 uprising, political identities, and information flows”
- Alexei Gusev, “Kronstadt Uprising of 1921 as a part of the Great Russian Revolution”
Lara Green moderating
3) Panel: “Disinformation and Counter-Revolution, 1921-2021” – 11:30am Pacific/2:30pm Eastern/6:30pm GMT/9:30pm Moscow
- Ramah Kudaimi, “The People Want: Syria’s Uprising”
- Lara el-Kateb, “Disinformation in the age of social media: The case for the Syrian revolution”
- Omar Sabbour, “On the continuities between imperialism and vacuous anti-imperialism”
- Javier Sethness, “Marx/Plekhanov vs. Bakunin; from Kronstadt to Neo-Stalinism”
Shon Meckfessel moderating
4) Film screening: The Russian Revolution in Color (2005) – 1:00pm Pacific/4:00pm Eastern/8:00pm GMT/11:00pm Moscow
Sunday, March 21
1) Welcome and opening event: recap of day 1, and agenda for day 2 – 9:30am Pacific/4:30pm GMT/7:30pm Moscow
2) Panel: “The After-Lives of Kronstadt” – 9:45am Pacific/12:45pm Eastern/4:45pm GMT/7:45pm Moscow
- Mike Harris, “In the Spirit of Kronstadt”
- Danny Evans, “A Spanish Kronstadt? The Barcelona May Days of 1937”
- George Katsiaficas, “Enduring Problems of Communist Parties’ Suppression of Popular Movements”
- Dmitriy Buchenkow, “The problem of power in the anarchist worldview”
Laurence Davis moderating; Irina Sisseikina interpreting
6) Film screening: Maggots and Men (2013) – 11:30am Pacific/2:30pm Eastern/6:30pm GMT/9:30pm Moscow
- Q&A with Cary Cronenwett, Ilona Berger, and Zeph Fishlyn afterward
7) Kronstadt 1921 and the Social Crises of 2021 – 1:00pm Pacific/4:00pm Eastern/8:00pm GMT/11:00pm Moscow
- Lynne Thorndycraft, “Kronstadt: Why It Matters”
- Tom Wetzel, “Worker Congresses as a Form of Working Class Political Power”
- Bill Weinberg, “Syria: Lessons from Kronstadt 1921”
Javier Sethness moderating
8) Closing event with words from cosponsors – 2:30pm Pacific/5:30pm Eastern/9:30pm GMT/12:30am Moscow