Speak Speech, Speaker (The Imperialist Mindset)

One day, I hope, someone will explain to me why “progressive” Russians find the English words speak, speaker, speech, etc., so sexy and exciting that they have to incorporate them needlessly into Russian every chance they get.

Do they know that, in English, these words are less evocative than three-day-old bread, duller than dishwater?

In this case, hilariously (and awkwardly, too: “speak” appears after chas, generating an awkward phrase that translates as “hour of speak” or “speak hour,” although it’s supposed to be a play on the idiomatic phrase chas pik, meaning “rush hour”), the word “speak” adorns Sergei Medvedev’s reflections on the “imperial mindset.”

Indeed.

Thanks to TP for this gem of Rusglish.

Below, you can watch the actual interview (in Russian, not Rusglish — well, almost), which, if for no other reason, is interesting because it was posted almost three months before Russia invaded Ukraine. ||| TRR


Historian and writer Sergei Medvedev is the program’s guest.

In an interview with Nikita Rudakov, he explained:

Why the idea of Russia’s “civilizational superiority” is so popular

Why propaganda encourages the ideological complexes of Russians

How the elite of the 2000s is trying to turn back history.

00:00 Chas Speak: Sergei Medvedev 01:40 The imperialist mindset and the idea of Russia’s greatness 06:10 Is there no place for nationalism in the imperialist mindset? 08:05 “Russia colonized itself” 14:03 The superiority of big ideas: why didn’t the USA become an empire? 21:02 The ideological complexes of Russians 25:41 “We rise from our knees via military achievements and parades on Red Square” 26:50 “Lukashenko does with us what he will”: Russia and Belarus 30:56 “Russia wants to live in the myth of 1945” 34:40 “We were unable to create a nation state”

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Source: “Sergei Medvedev: ‘We don’t have a state. We only have an imperialist format’ // Chas Speak,” RTVI Entertainment (YouTube), 9 December 2022. Annotation translated by Thomas Campbell

Manuscripts Don’t Burn (Tamizdat Project)

“MANUSCRIPTS DON’T BURN” FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN TO SUPPORT STUDENTS FROM UKRAINE, BELARUS, AND RUSSIA AFFECTED BY WAR OR PERSECUTION

Tamizdat Project Inc. is launching a two-month campaign “Manuscripts Don’t Burn” to support undergraduate students forced to leave their home countries due to Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine or persecution in Belarus and Russia for their anti-war stance.

  • On January 30, 2023, we are opening two online charity book auctions and a donation campaign to help these students pursue their academic careers in a safe environment. We are inviting the public to join our Rare Books Auction, which features a variety of first editions of “contraband” literature from behind the Iron Curtain and books by émigré authors, a Signed and Inscribed Books Auction with nearly 300 titles inscribed or signed for our cause by over 100 contemporary writers and scholars, and a “Manuscripts Don’t Burn” online fundraiser.
  • Since February 24, 2022, many initiatives have been launched across American campuses to support scholars at risk. Very few, however, have been set up for students, who have not yet established themselves in academia but have also been forced to leave home and need to continue their education elsewhere. Tamizdat Project Inc. has taken the initiative to help the next generation of scholars when they most need it.
  • The proceeds will be distributed to undergraduate students to help them pay for tuition and living expenses while studying in the U.S. (e.g., we will pay their dormitory bills or offer stipends to participate in Tamizdat Project). We will work with the colleges and universities that have admitted them to make this goal a reality. A breakdown of how the funds will be distributed will be provided at a later date. Our campaign brings together prominent writers and academics in the diaspora to help today’s refugees, much as we wish no such effort was ever necessary. We are joined by Nobel Prize Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, director of Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute Serhii Plokhy, émigré writer and critic Alexander Genis, rap singer Noize MC, to name but a few.

“On the last day of 2022, as we all were getting ready to celebrate the arrival of the new year the Russian missile attack hit Kyiv, causing serious damage to the buildings and properties of the Kyiv University. It had become the worst year for the higher education since the end of World War II. Any assistance we can provide for students of Ukraine will be greatly appreciated by the students in the universities under fire and the students-refugees in Ukraine and abroad.” — Serhii Plokhy, professor of Ukrainian history, Harvard University

“I am glad to take part in this project. After all, the auction that Tamizdat Project has put together is not just about rare books that make any library more precious and interesting. It is also part of the living history of free literature and thought, uninterrupted even today. These books, as dissidents used to say, are relics of the struggle ‘for our freedom and yours.’ They unite authors and readers, turning even those unfamiliar with each other into allies.” — Alexander Genis, author

Tamizdat Project is a not-for-profit public scholarship and charity initiative devoted to the study of banned books from the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War (“tamizdat” means literally “published over there,” that is, abroad). Today, these books remind us that freedom and education know no boundaries. We are a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization with a tax-exempt status: donations and gifts are deductible to the extent allowable by the IRS.

Contact: Yasha Klots • Tamizdat Project Inc. • tamizdatproject@gmail.com

In One Hundred Years

In One Hundred Years (A New Year’s Fantasy)

On the eve of the new year of 2023, the Great Worldwide Soviet Republic communicated by radio with the nearest republic on the planet of Mars, inviting delegates from the latter to a celebration and receiving, in turn, an invitation from the Martian Republic.

Earth assigned a total of 415,000 delegates from its five parts, while Mars assigned 630,000 delegates from its seven parts. The delegates boarded airplane trains and headed to the celebration.

The airplane trains took 19 hours and 17 minutes to travel between Earth and Mars.

Earth was lit up for the occasion by the electro-sun invented in 1994 by the electro-engineer Makov, a peasant from the current Kaluga Province in the Russian District. Besides lighting Earth, Makov’s electro-sun gave off heat, but not the intolerable kind, like the real sun did. The electro-sun’s heat was considerably milder, and its light also emitted an unusual aroma that combined all the world’s fragrances.

The Martian comrades were welcomed with music by the World Orchestra via a gramophone organ that transmitted melodies over any distance at the same volume, so the music was as audible on Mars and the other planets as it was on Earth.

After the neighboring planet’s delegation was welcomed, the festivities commenced.

________

On New Year’s Day 2023, the inhabitants of the two planets were to be dazzled by all the beautiful, magnificent and beyond marvelous things wrought by the collective mind and millions of hands of their creators.

The celebration on Earth was kicked off by a 137-year-old citizen of Petersburg, the worker Prokhorov, a contemporary of Lenin and Trotsky, the founders of the Russian Republic and of the Worldwide Republic that succeeded it. Despite his advanced age, this last Mohican of the RSFSR looked like a young man of 18 years since in that time old age was cured, so to speak, like a garden-variety headache. Thanks to Doctor Patokin’s pills, which had vanquished aging, the residents of Earth in the aforementioned era had the appearance of splendid, strapping youngsters. Death was a quite rare phenomenon: the newspapers reported as an intolerable circumstance that should have no place in the happy Republic.

When Prokhorov took the podium, which was surrounded by mirrors that broadcast the speaker’s reflection to all corners of Earth and Mars, he spoke into a loudspeaker of his own invention. It amplified the sound of the voice such that it could be heard over any distance. (Prokhorov had also invented the gramophone organ mentioned above.)

Prokhorov spoke in detail about the emergence of the First Soviet Socialist Republic, and his account was illustrated by a movie projector whose screen was the sky.

All the events between 1917 and 2023 passed before the eyes of the spectators.

One of them, a 14-year-old citizen, pointed to the moving images and asked his father, who was standing next to him:

“Dad, how tall were people then?”

“People your age were half your size, while adults, on average, would have come up to your shoulder, if they weren’t shorter,” his father replied.

“Poor things,” said the 14-year-old citizen with sincere pity. In terms of height and build, he resembled our undefeated wrestler [Ivan] Poddubny (although he had an ordinary figure for a boy in the year 2023).

The boy grew pensive and sighed deeply.

“Why were they so tiny and weak?” he asked mournfully.

“They had begun living the right way only in 1917 and, at first, only here in Russia. And they had a bad diet — they just ate bread and meat, I think.”

“But didn’t they have life wafers?” the son continued.

“No.”

“And they didn’t have strength and health extract either?”

“No, they didn’t have them either.”

The boy again felt sorry for them.

“Poor things,” he said, adding, “My school comrade Petya Kominternov told me that at the Antiquities Museum he once saw a men’s shoe from back then that he could get only three toes into, leaving half his foot uncovered. Only this one 5-year-old boy was barely able to put the shoe on. So it’s true?”

“It certainly is,” the father confirmed, adding, “But if it hadn’t been for those feeble-bodied but strong-willed tiny people, then we wouldn’t be so tall and strong, so free and happy, and you wouldn’t see the splendid things you’ll see today.”

________

After listening to Prokhorov’s reminiscences, the father and son headed to the fair, where an exhibition of various innovations had commenced. The unusual number of improvements and new inventions that were made each year was achieved through the free collective labor and creativity of the Great Worldwide Republic’s happy inhabitants.

You name it, it was there. In full view of the public, truck farmers grew various unusually delicious vegetables in five minutes using a newly developed fertilizer, while flower gardeners, as if they were fairytale wizards, cultivated tropical plants on the Square of the Victims of the Revolution in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. The unceasing sounds of the Petersburger Prokhorov’s gramophone organ complemented an endless, dazzling New Year’s fireworks display, which depicted the events of 1917–1923 — congresses of Soviets, wars, and revolutions — in a series of fiery tableaux. The expositions of technological and mechanical marvels alternated with works of art. A women’s, men’s and children’s beauty pageant provoked merry laughter among participants and spectators alike, for there were no homely people and there was thus no one on whom the prize could be bestowed — all of them were extraordinarily beautiful.

But the highlight of the festivities was an experiment carried out by a group of scientists from Earth and Mars that consisted in mutually attracting the said planets by means of devices that the said scientists had invented. The devices released the appropriate gas from each of the planets, causing them to alter their orbits (their motion through the void of space) and bringing them quite close to each other.

The audience’s delight knew no bounds.

The 14-year-old citizen sat up pensively for a long while after going to bed that night.

“Why aren’t you sleeping, dear?” his father asked tenderly.

“Dad,” the boy said thoughtfully, “how good it would be if Comrade Lenin were alive now.”

“My dear son,” said the father, his voice trembling with tearful, tender emotion, “Lenin is alive. Lenin is immortal. He is part of everything you saw today. Sleep, my boy. Lenin is alive and will never die. Can dynamics or electrification die? No, they can’t. Isn’t Lenin the sum of all of those things? He is everything.”

The starry night quietly descended on January 2, 2023.

The 14-year-old citizen sleeps. He dreams of the Progenitor of worldwide happiness and freedom, the short, stout man in suit and cap, with intelligent, penetrating eyes and the good-natured, sly smile on his lips known to the entire universe.

The boy smiles in his sleep.

“Dear comrade Lenin. Dear Ilyich. Good Ilyich, kind… dear Ilyich…”

Vasily Andreyev

Source: Krasnaya Zvezda 254 (299), 31 December 1922–1 January 1923, p. 3. Thanks to Szarapow for unearthing and sharing this gem. Translated by the Russian Reader


Vasily Mikhailovich Andreyev (December 28 (January 9), 1889—October 1, 1942) was a Russian Soviet prose writer, playwright, journalist, and exponent of “ornamental” prose in literature. In the 1940s he was repressed.

He was born in St. Petersburg to the family of a bank teller. His mother was a homemaker. He graduated from a four-grade municipal school. In his youth, he was involved in the revolutionary movement. In 1910, he was convicted of murdering a gendarme (according to the writer’s daughter: “he was covering someone handing out revolutionary leaflets”). From 1910 to 1913 he was exiled in the Turukhansk Region, whence he fled. According to some reports, he helped arrange Stalin’s escape. He was amnestied in connection with the celebration of House of Romanov’s 300th anniversary.

He began publishing in 1916 in newspapers under the pseudonyms Andrei Sunny, Vaska the Newspaperman, Vaska the Editor, etc. Until 1917, he mainly lived in Ligovo, but after the October Revolution he returned to Petrograd and became a professional writer. In the late 1920s, in a letter to S.N. Sergeyev-Tsensky, Maxim Gorky spoke of Andreyev as a writer who was “not susceptible to Americanization.”

A talented writer on social themes who suffered from binge drinking and dearly loved his sickly daughter, there was nothing but a cot and an office desk in his room, and he carried in his empty, beat-up wallet a certificate stating that he had shot a policeman in such-and-such pre-revolutionary year.

[…]

On August 27, 1941, Andreyev left his house and did not return. As transpired later, in response to a query sent to the KGB by the literary critic Vladimir Bakhtin, Andreyev had been arrested by the Leningrad Regional NKVD. He was charged under Article 58-10 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (“anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”). He was later transferred to the city of Mariinsk, Novosibirsk Region, where he died on October 1, 1942, of “cardiac arrest due to beriberi.”

He was exonerated on January 23, 2001.

[…]

Source: Wikipedia. Translated by TRR

Last Address in Petersburg: Pavel Tsesinsky and Solomon Davidson

Three Last Address plaques on Dostoevsky Street in downtown Petersburg, autumn 2018. Photo by the Russian Reader

Dear participants of the Last Address project!

This coming Sunday, December 4, new Last Address plaques will be installed in St. Petersburg.

At 12:00 p.m. a plaque in memory of Pavel Markovich Tsesinsky, an accountant at the Red Triangle factory, will be mounted at 47 Bolshoi Prospekt, Petrograd Side. Tsesinsky was arrested on September 21, 1937 and shot less than a month later, on October 15, 1937. His wife Bella and five-year-old son Volodar were exiled to the Arkhangelsk region, where his wife was arrested and died, and his son was sent to an orphanage. Another son, Ernest, who was only six months old, was adopted by relatives. The brothers were reunited only eighteen years later. Pavel Markovich’s eldest son is now ninety years old.

At 1:00 p.m., at 15 Tchaikovsky Street, relatives will install a plaque memorializing Solomon Borisovich Davidson, head of procurement at the Bolshevik factory. He was first arrested in 1935, but released a year later, and the case was dismissed. He was re-arrested on July 26, 1938, and shot on October 8, 1938, on charges of espionage. His wife Elizabeth died in 1942 in the Siege of Leningrad, but their daughters Irina and Mariana were evacuated and were able to return to Leningrad after the war.

Pavel Tselinsky was exonerated in 1957, while Solomon Davidson was exonerated in 1964.

We invite you to join the installation ceremonies.

Yours,

The Last Address Team in St. Petersburg

Source: Last Address in Petersburg email newsletter, 27 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Love in a Young Pioneer’s Tie

The cover of “A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie,” as designed by Adams Carvalho

Katerina Silvanova was born and raised in Kharkiv, but moved to Russia at the age of twenty-two. She majored in forestry engineering, but never finished her studies. She has worked in sales all her life. Elena Malisova is a Muscovite and married, and works in IT. The girls [sic] had never been associated with literature, but both have had a passion for writing since childhood. One day, chatting on the internet after a hard day’s work, the friends agreed that they had to do something together. So, the idea of the novel A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie was born.

Musician Yuri Konev arrives at the abandoned Swallow Young Pioneer Camp in the Kharkiv region to encounter the ghosts of his past. Something happened there that turned his life upside down, changing it forever. There he met the camp counselor Volodya, who became more than a friend to the teenager.

Walking through streets of the camp, overgrown with grass, Yura recalls how rapidly and stormily his relationship with Volodya developed, how they had been afraid of what was happening between them. And yet, they had gravitated to each other. The trip to the camp is a new revelation for Yura. He was sure he had buried the past there, that its rebellious echo would never again disturb him . And yet, Konev will have to come face to face again with what already turned his life around once. Apparently, not all the ghosts of the past are willing to hide in memory’s back alleys forever.

Why should you read A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie?

  1. It’s a new extraordinary look at the late Soviet period of history.
  2. It’s a novel about sincere first feelings, cloaked in mystery and shame, condemnation and doubts.
  3. It’s an absolute bestseller, one of the year’s most anticipated and controversial books.

Book Description
Yura returns to the Young Pioneer camp of his youth after twenty years. In the ruins of the past, he hopes to find a path back to the present, to the person he once loved. This story is about the fact that not everything in the USSR was smooth, straight-laced, and impersonal, that there were experiences, passions, drives, and feelings that did not fit into the moral framework leading to the “bright future,” and that this future was not so bright.

Source: LitRes. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader


Leto v pionerskom galstuke (LVPG) [A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie] is a novel co-written by Elena Malisova and Katerina Silvanova. The book deals with the relationship between two young men, the Young Pioneer [sic] Yura and Volodya, who meet at Young Pioneer camp in the summer of 1986.

[…]

Twenty years later, the musician Yuri Konev returns to the place where the Swallow Young Pioneer Camp was once located, recalling the summer of 1986, which spent there, and his love for the MGIMO student and camp counselor Vladimir Davydov. Yura and Volodya were jointly involved in staging a play, and a strong friendship arose between them, which gradually developed into teenage love. Throughout the book, Volodya refuses to accept his homosexual orientation, periodically insisting on ending the relationship and explaining that he is trying to “steer Yura off the right path” and that he is homophobic himself. At the end of the their stay at the camp, the young men bury a kind of time capsule under a willow tree, agreeing to dig it up in ten years. After parting, Yura and Volodya continue to communicate by correspondence for some time, but after a while they lose touch with each other. In 2006, after finding the time capsule, Yura learns in a letter that Volodya sends him that he had failed to “overcome” his orientation and still loves Yura.

The novel, which was originally posted on the website Ficbook.net, was published by Popcorn Books in 2021. By the end of May 2022, the book had sold more than 200,000 copies, not counting electronic sales. The novel took second place in the list of the most popular books among Russians in the first half of 2022, compiled by the Russian Book Union, and sales of the book amounted to about 50 million rubles. August 2022 saw the release of a sequel, What the Swallow Won’t Say, which takes place twenty years after the events described in A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie.

[…]

Critic Galina Yuzefovich gave a generally positive review of the novel, noting that “life in the Soviet Union differed little from life today, and emotions, relationships, and the desire to love and be loved do not depend on ideology.” Book blogger Anthony Yulai (Anton Ulyanov) rated the novel positively on the whole, noting that the authors keep the reader “in a state of emotional shock due to the alternation of sweet moments with sad ones and an abrupt change in the tone of the narrative towards the novel’s end.”

Zakhar Prilepin harshly condemned the book and its publishers on his Telegram channel: “Popcorn Books (which inevitably suggests “porn books”) is are celebrating their triumph and counting their profits. They will regard this post as good fortune, too. That’s what they were counting on. I won’t hide it: I’d burn down your whole office while you’re sleeping at home!” A video featuring a negative review of the book was released by Nikita Mikhalkov. He read aloud an excerpt from the novel and deems its publication a “violation of the Constitution.” He also noted that the abbreviation “LVPG,” as the novel is known among fans, is very similar to “LGBT.”

N.A. Ostanina, chair of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children, sent a request to Roskomnadzor to examine the contents of the book to determine whether a criminal case could be launched against it in the future. A similar request was sent by the news agency RIA Ivan-Chai, but received a negative response.

Source: Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader


A map of the Zina Portnova Memorial Swallow Young Pioneer Camp in 1986, as featured in the novel’s front matter.

“Aren’t you exaggerating?”

Seeing Volodya’s slightly condescending smile, Yurka was embarrassed. He probably thought that Yurka remembered their dance too well and was still jealous, so he was ready to accuse Masha of anything. And if Volodya really thought so, then he was right. Yurka’s ardent desire to jump out of the bushes and catch the spy red-handed was caused precisely by jealousy. But Yurka also had arguments in defense of his theory.

“It’s not the first time she’s been out at night. Do you remember when Ira came to the theater and attacked me, asking me what I’d been doing with Masha and where I’d been walking? And it’s true, no matter where we are, she’s always there. Volodya, we have to tell them about her walks!”

“Deal with Irina first.”

Yurka did go find her almost immediately. All the same, his mood was spoiled, and Volodya was paranoid again, and he constantly froze, listening and looking around and not even letting him touch his hand. And the evening was already coming to an end.

After hastily saying goodbye to Volodya, Yurka returned to his unit and found the counselor. He expected her to frown and scream at him as soon as he walked in. He was already ready to babble excuses, but Ira stared at him in surprise.

“Actually, no, I wasn’t looking for you,” she said. Yurka had already put his hands up to stop his jaw from dropping, when Ira yelled.

“Where have you been, by the way?”

“With Volodya.”

“Did you even notice what time it is?! Yura, who are they playing lights out for?! If you’re going to be late, you have to warn me!”

Yurka fell asleep, struggling with mixed feelings full of anxiety. Volodya was constantly surrounded by girls, but it seemed to Yurka that Masha popped up too often. It must be jealousy after all. And to top it all off, he apparently had been infected with Volodya’s paranoia.

Source: Elena Malisova and Katerina Silvanova, A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie (Popcorn Books, 2021), p. 155, as chosen by the True Random Number Generator. Translated by the Russian Reader


In an industrial block in northeastern Moscow on a recent Friday night, organizers of an L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly art festival were assiduously checking IDs. No one under 18 allowed. They were trying to comply with a 2013 Russian law that bans exposing minors to anything that could be considered “gay propaganda.”

The organizers had good reason to be wary: Life has been challenging for gay Russians since the law passed, as the government has treated gay life as a Western import that is harmful to traditional Russian values and society.

Now Russia’s Parliament is set to pass a legislative package that would ban all “gay propaganda,” signaling an even more difficult period ahead for a stigmatized segment of society.

The laws would prohibit representation of L.G.B.T.Q. relationships in any media — streaming services, social platforms, books, music, posters, billboards and films — and, activists fear, in any public space as well. That’s a daunting prospect for queer people searching for community, validation or an audience.

“I’m afraid for my future, because with these kinds of developments, it won’t be as bright as I would like it to be,” said a drag artist who uses the stage name Taylor. Taylor’s performance on Friday before a small but enthusiastic crowd tackled themes of domestic violence, mental health and AIDS.

The proposed laws are part of an intensifying effort by President Vladimir V. Putin to cast Russia as fighting a civilizational struggle against the West, which he accuses of trying to export corrosive values.

The Kremlin is coupling the crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. expression with its rationale for the war in Ukraine, insisting that Russia is fighting not just Ukraine but all of NATO, a Western alliance that represents a threat to the motherland.

[…]

Source: Valerie Hopkins and Valeriya Safronova, “‘I’m Afraid for My Future’: Proposed Laws Threaten Gay Life in Russia,” New York Times, 4 November 2022

A More (or Less) Perfect Union

Russian naval vessels on parade on the Neva River in downtown Petersburg, July 2022. Photo: Alexander Petrosyan

I dreamt that all wars had ended and a united humankind was amicably celebrating good’s victory over human nature’s age-old curse.

Since my dream took place in Petersburg, the warships had been turned in recreational vessels, equipped with swimming pools, gyms, spas, dance halls, hotels, bars, restaurants, etc.

The towering masts were outfitted with convenient spots for those wishing to photograph the city’s river embankments from above. The deck was dotted with deck chairs, and the holds, instead of rockets and shells, housed barrels containing every variety of alcohol from around the globe!

I remember strolling around one of these ships, shooting a reportage about the triumphantly heavenly lives of its inhabitants, but I was not able to finish the dream. As always in the morning, the cat’s meowing and the children waking up on time woke me up. Otherwise, I would have been late for my next photo shoot.

Source: Alexander Petrosyan, Facebook, 25 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


[…]

I never would have thought that I would speak out in defense of the Soviet Union. But now I am forced to do it.

I grew up in a small village in the middle of Russia. The adults in my life did not read samizdat and tamizdat, nor did they oppose the system — they just lived their lives. But from their conversations, loose talk, and slips of tongue, I was able to draw conclusions. I realized that I didn’t have to unconditionally believe the agitprop posters and the folks on the TV. Life was more complicated and, apparently, worse than the picture that the big bosses were trying to foist on us.

And yet there were certain things I took for granted. I knew that my country had clear, intelligible notions of good and evil, of how everything should work, and I considered them correct. Socialism had to emerged victorious. We didn’t seem to be doing everything right, but we knew what we were supposed to being doing.

To a large extent, of course, this belief was also based on a complete ignorance of how people actually lived outside the socialist bloc. There were simply no people in our midst who had seen it and could tell us about it. In our village, perhaps the only person who had visited this capitalist hell was my grandfather. He was in Vienna when the war ended. But he died before I was born, and besides, as my elders told me, he was a taciturn person and did not like to reminisce about his life.

I knew — just like Leonid Brezhnev, the guy on TV, who had fought in a real war — that it was wrong to even hint at using nuclear weapons. Nuclear war was terrible and the end of everything.

I also knew that we would never attack anyone. The Soviet Union had a militarist bent, and a sense of the coming war’s inevitability filtered into my childish mind. But there was only one possible scenario: the enemy would come to us, maybe even occupy our country, but then we would throw them out, win the war, and clean up the motherland. There was no other way. We wouldn’t attack first.

The Soviet Union, by the way, was bashful about its wars. It concealed its involvement in conflicts abroad. Only the Afghan War broke through the curtain of lies. I don’t know whether it was because of the magnitude, or because the giant was on its last legs and had even forgotten how to tell a fib.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (far left) and Russian military officers at the consecration of the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, 14 June 2020. Photo courtesy of Spektr

Modern Russia is not shy. Go to the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces in Patriot Park. It is worthwhile and instructive. There are mosaics depicting Russian soldiers and heroes — the heroes of the Battle of Kulikovo, the Patriotic War of 1812, the Great Patriotic War … and a huge panel depicting the heroes of the wars that the Soviet Union waged after the Second World War. The figures in the foreground are easily identifiable as “Afghans,” but the picture’s authors quite clearly hint that it’s not just about veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

Soviet ideology was putrid and phony, but there was also a real humanism in it that filtered through the rot and falsity.

Modern Russia doesn’t even have this going for it.

[…]

Source: Ivan Davydov, “An apology for the Union: which USSR Vladimir Putin is resurrecting,” Republic, 21 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

People of Our City

When you’re a real artist, you make art with whatever comes to hand. Legendary Petersburg artist Oleg Kotelnikov (a driving force behind the New Artists of Leningrad) is definitely the real thing. Here, the late Yuri “Compass” Krasev (of the necrorealists and Pop Mechanics) displays a shower curtain that Mr. Kotelnikov repurposed back in the good bad old days. Photo by the late Oleg Kuptsov, as posted on his Facebook page on 2 June 2015.


The equally legendary Petersburg rock music and grassroots politics journalist Sergey Chernov snapped these latter-day post-Soviet “socialist” icons and posted them on his Facebook page on 3 June 2013.


Sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words, as when a whole time and a place is captured in a single snapshot, as in this one taken in Petersburg by the fantastic photographer, anthropologist, photo archivist, and frequent TRR contributor Vadim F. Lurie, who posted it on his Facebook page on 3 June 2015.


On 3 June 2019, I posted this announcement from Last Address in Petersburg: “Next Thursday, June 6, at 12 p.m., a Last Address plaque will be installed at 12th Line, No. 9, on Vasilievsky Island in Petersburg, in memory of Konstantin Andreyevich Poplavsky, who served as a seaman on the battleship Marat and worked at the Bolshevik Factory. A father of two children, he was shot by order of an NKVD troika on 28 October 1938, a few days after his 28th birthday. His great-granddaughter will install the plaque for him.”

But by way of illustrating this announcement I used a snapshot I had taken in 2018 during an inventory of Last Address plaques in my neighborhood to check on their condition. (The inventory was a citywide affair performed by numerous volunteers.) The plaque pictured above memorializes Andrian Nikolayevich Paparigopulo, whose story is told on the Last Address Foundation’s website (and duplicated on the Open List project’s website):

Andrian Nikolayevich Paparigopulo was born in Narva in 1903 to a family of hereditary nobles. His father was a retired major general who died in 1915. Andrian Nikolayevich and his mother presumably moved to Petrograd in the early 1920s. His investigative file in the archives records that in 1922 they traveled to Estonia to sell a dacha located near Narva that belonged to his mother. After the sale, they went back to Petrograd without having their passports checked at the Soviet Consulate in Reval. This was regarded as an illegal border crossing, for which Andrian Nikolayevich was consequently sentenced to three months of forced labor.

After moving to the city on the Neva, Andrian enrolled at the Institute of Technology, but failed to finish his studies. On 23 March 1935, he was arrested, and later, along with his mother Vera Nikolayevna, he was exiled to Kuibyshev for five years as a “family member of a socially dangerous element.” However, a year later, the Special Council of the NKVD canceled the expulsion order, and the family returned to Leningrad.

Andrian got a job at the Krasnyi Rabochii [Red Worker] plant as a planning technician. The Great Terror did not spare him: on 23 May 1937, he was arrested for the third time. For nine months, NKVD officers cooked up a case against him that was based on two interrogations that took place in May and September 1937. During the May interrogation, Paparigopulo denies his involvement in counter-revolutionary and espionage work. The September 28th interrogation begins on the same note. But there soon appears in the interrogation record a reference to the testimony of Georgy Kirillovich Kolychev (whom Andrian Nikolayevich mentions as an artist friend in the 1935 case file): “There is a group of artists bonded by their common counter-revolutionary beliefs who organized their c-r gatherings at Paparigopulo’s apartment.” Later in the record, Andrian Nikolayevich admits his guilt: “I have to admit that Kolychev is telling the truth… Indeed, I have been an active member of the c-r fascist group and its leader since 1933.

According to the fabricated evidence, the group’s members included Viktor Konstantinovich Lavrovsky, Georgy Kirillovich Kolychev, Ivan Ivanovich Bogdanov, Mikhail Vasilyevich Ivanov, and Terenty Romanovich Romanov.

On 20 February 1938, a military collegium sentenced Paparigopulo to death in a closed court hearing for involvement in a “terrorist organization.” Andrian Nikolayevich did not admit his guilt at the trial, nor did he corroborate the testimony he had given, allegedly, during the preliminary investigation, calling it phony. He was shot on the day of his sentencing. He was thirty-four years old.

The list of items seized from Paparigopulo during the search of his home includes letters and photographs, as well as four tickets to the Hermitage. The confiscated correspondence was destroyed in its entirety on 13 March 1938, after Andrian Nikolayevich’s execution. His wife (whose name, like his mother’s, was Vera Nikolayevna) was sentenced to eight years in correctional labor camps as a “family member of a traitor to the Motherland.” She served her sentence in Karlag.

Andrian Paparigopulo was fully exonerated only twenty years later, in 1958.

Source: Last Address Foundation, “Malaya Moskovskaya Street, 4, St. Petersburg.” Translated by the Russian Reader. The pictures below were taken by Jenya Kulakova at the ceremony to install Andrian Paparigopulo’s Last Address plaque.

A Completely Different Country

Would-be Young Pioneers in Novosibirsk. Gorky Palace of Culture in Novosibirsk/vk.com. Courtesy of the Moscow Times

This is a completely different country

This social media post about life in the late USSR helps to better understand where we find ourselves today.

The latest insane campaign to create some kind of children’s organization has everyone and their mother cursing their childhoods as Young Pioneers. I won’t do it. There was all kinds of stuff back then, both good and disgusting. 

All these conversations about how the USSR is being reincarnated right now are utter horseshit. There’s almost nothing now that resembles what I witnessed from my birth to 1991. This is a completely different country with a completely different state ideology.

Many of us were naive and lived a life of illusions. We were dazed and confused, sometimes dreadfully so, but we cheerfully scorned the authorities. Not in our wildest nightmares could we have imagined the insane public statements of support you see nowadays. Today’s archaic cannibals were mostly hiding out in their caves back then. And there wasn’t anything like today’s monstrous inequality. Although the costs were terrible, there was actual social mobility in many respects.

Yes, we lived much more poorly than now. The economy was a ridiculous mess, and the whole country worked for the defense industry, and there was all kinds of insanity. But people wanted a peaceful life, not a great empire at any cost.

I wouldn’t want to go back to the USSR for anything in the world. But what’s been built over the past thirty years is worse, way worse.

Source: Nevoina (“No(t)war”), Telegram, 20 May 2022. Translated by the Fabulous AM


Students in Siberia have opened a 50-year-old time capsule containing a wish for peace and international friendship from their Soviet peers, local media reported Thursday.

The Soviet students’ message of hope for a peaceful future was unearthed as Russia faces unprecedented economic and political isolation in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. 

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s founding, members of the Pioneers youth organization in the city of Novosibirsk sealed a time capsule in their school’s walls in May 1972 — to be opened by future students after another 50 years.

Those same Soviet students, now well into adulthood, helped open the time capsule at a ceremony Thursday.


										 					Gorky Palace of Culture in Novosibirsk / vk.com
Photo: Gorky Palace of Culture in Novosibirsk/vk.com. Courtesy of the Moscow Times

In a letter placed inside the time capsule, the Soviet middle schoolers recite the history of the Young Pioneers and boast of the engineering achievements of the U.S.S.R. before wishing their descendants peace and international cooperation.

“Life is so beautiful and amazing, and you have to make it even more wonderful, so don’t waste your time. […] Live your life the same way that the bright sun shines on everyone, so that your thoughts and deeds warm and delight everyone,” the message reads.

“May you have friends all over the world. May there always be peace!” 

The letter’s now-elderly authors read the message themselves on stage, Sibir Media reported

Russia celebrated Thursday the one hundredth anniversary of the Young Pioneers — the Soviet youth organization whose members ranged from age 9 to 15 — with events including costumed parades and speeches at schools.

Source: “Siberian Students Uncover Soviet Peers’ Wish for Peace in 50-Year-Old Time Capsule,” Moscow Times, 20 May 2022.

Red Flag

As of the morning of May 1, around a hundred billboards featuring the image of the iconic pensioner who gained famed after the events in Ukraine [sic] had been installed in different districts in Petersburg. Fontanka.ru has analyzed the scale of this visual statement. The news-related intrigue lies in the fact that state agencies have nothing to do with the campaign.

“Under the banner of victory!” All images courtesy of Fontanka.ru

In the early hours of May 1, identical posters bearing the image of the famous pensioner holding a Soviet banner were officially installed in about one hundred outdoor media displays in Petersburg.

News about the woman broke out back in April, when she went out with a red banner to greet servicemen in Ukraine, confusing them with Russian soldiers. Her age, her deed, the reaction of the Ukrainian soldiers, and the video that went viral on the Net immediately turned her into a symbol of victory. The old woman’s face has appeared on DPR postage stamps, graffiti artists began to draw her in different cities in Russia, and so on. Even the Russian Federation’s delegate at the UN Security Council talked about her.

Currently, the images of the heroic old woman have been installed in the Central, Admiralty, Petrograd, Vyborg, Maritime, Kalinin, and Moscow districts. These include both large billboards and typical demonstrative surfaces [sic] along the roadways.

The urban spaces chosen for this campaign can be analyzed. The images have been installed near places of authority: on Suvorov Prospekt, next to the Smolny [Petersburg city hall], the seat of the Leningrad Region government, and the Interior Ministry building; on Tapestry Street, near the FSB building; on Horse Guards Boulevard, near St. Isaac’s Cathedral; and around the monument to Alexander Nevsky, outside the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

However, many similar phenomena [sic] have popped up on Moscow Prospekt, Pulkovo Highway, and the October and Vyborg embankments.

Fontanka.ru has learned that state (regional or federal) agencies did not pay for the campaign. Petersburg advertising market insiders, on terms of confidentiality, informed our correspondent that they had heard about the proposal from representatives of a private individual in mid-April. “It’s definitely a businessman. We are sure of this at least, since we called each other when we began receiving preliminary inquiries,” one of the insiders said.

As for the scale, according to the information we have obtained, the order received was for the placement of one hundred billboards at an approximate cost of around ten million rubles [approx. 139,000 euros]. “And that’s if they got a discount,” one source added. Several of our experts more or less agreed with this figure.

If someone in the advertising market has more accurate information, Fontanka.ru is ready to listen to it with a full guarantee of anonymity.

Source: Fontanka.ru, 1 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


A Cult of Dementia

Putin’s red-brown ideology has taken the worst of Nazism and Bolshevism and mixed it with the cartoonish oligarchy from Dunno on the Moon. The final product has no equals anywhere in the world.

Just think about it. For several months now, Russian propaganda has been chewing over the image of a traitorous old Ukrainian woman who was waiting for the invaders with a Soviet flag. Compassionate Ukrainian soldiers gave her food, but took away her flag. That’s the whole story.

But no, the story didn’t end there. In Russia, the crazy old woman was made a real hero, and her image began to appear on buildings. But the occupiers have driven themselves into an ideological trap: no one except such “young Komsomol women” was looking forward to seeing them in Ukraine. The invaders were not greeted with flowers and bread, but were treated to Molotov cocktails and poisoned pies.

If you think about this story more deeply, the old lady with the Soviet flag perfectly reflects the main watchword of Putin’s Russia, its underlying doctrine, and the true purpose of invading Ukraine: our lives have sucked and we won’t let anyone else live either.

She is thus undoubtedly a hero to Russia, as is Pavlik Morozov. Russia has nothing to offer the world. It offers a rollback to the past and endless attempts to cash in on lost “greatness” instead of progress, old age instead of youth, betrayal instead of loyalty, and humiliation instead of pride. So, an old woman holding a Soviet flag is the most accurate symbolic depiction of modern Russia.

It’s funny, because the propagandists don’t care about Russian pensioners or about veterans of the Second World War. Old people in Russia live out their days (they live them out, they don’t live) in want and humiliation, in terrible conditions and hopelessness.

Source: Andrey Churakov, Facebook, 2 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Standers

“Immortal Regiment standers: A3-size + holder, from 550 rubles.” The window of an art supply store in central Petersburg, 14 April 2017. Photo by the Russian Reader

It’s amazing how touchy Russians are about their language. If you have a slight accent or make a grammatical mistake now and then, you are automatically stripped of the right to discuss anything with them at all.

In any case, if you have any of these “speech defects,” Russians never fail to point them out to you. It’s not that they are grammar nazis. No, they’re flesh-and-blood nationalists.

By the way, these are the same Russians who have been ripping their precious language to shreds the last several years by filling it to the brim with unassimilated anglicisms and other garbage, and by utterly abandoning the fine traditions of painstaking translating, editing and scholarship that once existed in this country.

Russia, I’m afraid, is headed straight down the tubes to full-blown fascism. Every other country in the world should make contingency plans for that eventuality. ||| TRR, 14 April 2018