I was walking down Dostoevsky Street when a middle-aged dame jumped right at me from out of Candle Lane and screamed, “What an obnoxious street, solid zigzags! There’s no way I can find the right address!”
Somewhat blown away by the notion of a “zigzag street” in Petersburg, I asked what street she needed.
“Razyezzhaya is over there,” I said, pointing up ahead. “You haven’t reached it yet, but you’re blaming the zigzags, although you can actually break your leg here in South America.”
The woman looked at me unkindly, and quickened her pace. I caught up with her at the intersection of Dostoevsky and Razyezzhaya. She was pestering a young fellow about which way Number 12 was even as she stood right under a sign that showed the range of house numbers on that block. The young man was in fact trying to point the sign out to her.
Then she saw me and charged off in the right direction, gesticulating and repeating, “One moron after another.” And I, waving at her as she walked away, suddenly realized that she had meant Aquaphor, [a water filter store] in the consumer services center on the corner of Razyezzhaya and Bolshaya Moskovskaya, not Ecuador.
“Serving Russia is real work: voluntary service in the armed forces”: a recruitment ad outside Yamskoi Market in downtown Petersburg. Photo by Marina Varchenko, who captioned it on Facebook as follows: “The horrors of our little town.”
Today I wound up in the Metropolitan Garden at the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Even though it’s March, the weather was wintry: sunny, frosty, pretty clouds in a blue sky, birds chirping. It was fine. I wandered around, taking pictures (which I’ll show you later). A fairly young lady came towards me and looked at me and my camera.
“What is there to shoot here?” she said. “Go to Kazakhstan, to such and such city”—I’ve forgotten the name—”there is definitely something to shoot there.”
I was so taken aback that I said nothing in reply, which is strange for me in such circumstances.
Okay, whatever: I’d had my little walk. As I was leaving the garden I saw a twenty-something kid begging pitifully and mournfully for money to buy food. When someone gave him ten rubles, he would ask for twenty. When someone gave him twenty, he would ask for forty. When I handed him a 100-ruble bill, he asked for 200 — so insistently that I decided I wouldn’t give more. So he shouted, “That’s something, at least” at me as I walked away, his voice dripping with mockery. Okay, the day was getting interesting.
I wanted to go to the Fontanka, but I was tired already. I decided to take a bus down Nevsky several stops. The bus was packed. I was shoved up against some old biddy, who immediately asked, “Is this where I get off for the Interior Ministry House of Culture?” That was when I let loose about culture, and the Interior Ministry, and everything else. The passengers responded aggressively. Basically, I didn’t make it to the Fontankа — I got off earlier. Otherwise, I would have risked being charged with defamation.
I walked the rest of the way to the Fontanka. The sun was shining, and it was beautiful. I began to calm down. I saw a decent-looking dude, opposite the Mayakovsky Library, doing number one right into the Fontanka. People were walking by him, trying not to notice. I decided to walk on by too: otherwise, I would have got carried away again. As I walked by I was thinking about culture, of course.
I turned onto Lomonosov Street, then onto Razyezzhaya. Seeing a young woman coming toward me, I tensed up in advance. “Where is Dostoevsky Street, 12?” she asked.
“I don’t know where Number 12 is exactly, but it’s somewhere nearby. But you have just passed Dostoevsky Street, you need to turn around and go back,” I said to her, pointing with my hand.
I went on, but the girl stared at her smartphone. And don’t you know, she took off away from Dostoevsky, not toward it.
Since I was freaking out big-time as it was, I went into a store, hoping that nothing would happen at the final frontier before home. And everything did go well, but while I was unloading my groceries at the checkout, the cashier lady was possessed to congratulate me on the upcoming holiday [International Women’s Day], and I was likewise possessed to reply that I didn’t celebrate communist holidays. In a nutshell, I walked out (ran out) of the store as old women and not only old women screamed at me that they had lived well under the Communists, but “liberasts” like me had ruined everything. Yes, sir, it wasn’t a good day.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a session of the Valdai Discussion Club, acknowledged a decline in the real incomes of our compatriots.
He noted that the issue was being resolved in cooperation with the trade unions, RIA Novosti reports.
This dialogue continues. We see that people’s nominal incomes are growing, but real incomes have become slightly lower. Bearing in mind the state of the Russian economy, we can solve these problems and should do so in accordance with the existing plans of the Russian government.
Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation
The head of state also said that it was necessary to fight for wage increases. At the same time, he addressed his appeal to both Russians and “ordinary citizens” of the United States and Europe.
Since the start of the special operation by Russian troops in Ukraine, people have experienced a loss of income and savings. Putin also noted earlier that many Russians were at risk of layoffs.
“There are more than 485 air fresheners in operation: they were installed in the air ducts of the climate control system. They spread the fragrance around the car every ten minutes. The fragrance is called ‘Moscow Metro,'” explain the metro’s press service , stressing that all the aromas were safe, hypoallergenic, and complied with regulations.
In 2019, during a vote on the project’s implementation, ninety percent of passengers surveyed said they would prefer an air-freshened carriage to a regular one. Muscovites especially wanted the smell of cherry blossoms in the subway.
What attracts people [to the shot bar Fedya, the Wildfowl!]? The irony and the simplicity, but at the same time the pleasant crowd. Here you can meet people who, the day before, dined on sets [sic] of scallops and dill sauce at designer restaurants, but they are glad to eat belyash and kvass at Fedya’s. Every other table orders kebabs (from 325 rubles) and drinks tinctures and macerations. Security guards monitor everything: if you swear loudly, they will politely ask you to leave.
Despite its declared war on “satanic” western values, Putinist Russia continues to slavishly imitate all the worst the mythical west has to offer, including “Black Friday,” as exemplified by this image from an email flyer sent to me earlier today by the major online retailer Ozon, featuring the pop singer Dmitry Malikov. Nor has Putin’s “proxy war” with the west stopped the pidginization of the Russian language, as seen in the second-to-last piece in this grim holiday collage. ||| TRR
The expected tourist flow from Iran may amount to approximately two thousand people a week starting in the spring of 2023, director of the municipal tourist information bureau Yuri Bogdanov said on November 24. According to him, relevant negotiations are underway with air carriers.
“We are negotiating with airlines that want to provide direct flights between Iranian cities and St. Petersburg. We hope that there will be six flights per week with an average number of around 300 seats on board. This is already about two thousand people a week. We expect that, beginning in the spring, these airlines will supply their airplanes,” TASS quoted Bogdanov as saying.
The expert clarified that there were more flights before the pandemic and six thousand tourists used to arrive from Iran every week.
According to Bogdanov, the flow of tourists may return to its pre-covid levels in St. Petersburg by about 2026, but at the same time primarily due to guests from Russia, and not from foreign countries. According to the figures he cited, in 2019, about five million Russians and 5.5 million foreigners visited the Northern Capital, while 6.4 million Russians and 150–200 thousand foreigners visited the city in the first nine months of 2022.
“We have reformatted the priorities for domestic tourism — we want to reach the same 10.5 million tourists a year. There is every ground for this to happen,” Bogdanov opined.
Earlier, the State Duma Budget and Taxes Committee recommended that St. Petersburg be included in the list of regions that charge tourists a resort fee.
At least 58 children, some reportedly as young as eight, have been killed in Iran since anti-regime protests broke out in the country two months ago.
According to Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA), 46 boys and 12 girls under 18 have been killed since the protests began on 16 September, sparked by the death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody.
In the past week alone, five children were reportedly killed by security forces as violence continued across the country.
Speaking at Kian’s funeral on Friday, his family said security services had opened fire on the family car, where Kian was sitting next to his father. Iranian security services have denied responsibility for his death, blaming the shooting on “terrorists”.
Iran’s mounting child death toll comes amid escalating violence in cities across the country, with protests showing no sign of abating.
Young people have been at the forefront of anti-regime protests, which started after Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police. She had been arrested for not wearing her hijab correctly.
The deaths of two teenage girls, Nika Shakamari and Sarina Esmailzadeh, both allegedly beaten to death by security forces for protesting, provoked further outrage.
Videos of schoolgirls across the country protesting against their killing by removing their hijabs and taking down pictures of Iran’s supreme leaders went viral on social media, leading to raids on schools where children were beaten and detained. According to Iran’s teachers union, another 16-year-old girl, Asra Panahi, died after she was attacked by security forces in her classroom in the north-western town of Ardabil on 18 October.
The attacks on children in schools is continuing, according to Hengaw, which said a 16-year-old girl from Kurdistan is on life support after throwing herself from a school van, having been arrested at her school last week.
HRA says more than 380 protesters have been killed since the protests began and more than 16,000 people have been detained, including children. The figure is disputed by the authorities.
On November 21, the opening of the food hall [fud-kholl] Vokzal 1853 took place in the building of the former Warsaw railway station.
It is the largest gastronomic space in St. Petersburg and, so its creators claim, in Europe.
So far, not all the establishments in the eater have opened — the launch . The event zone [event-zona] is designed for to accommodate 2.5 thousand guests and have 4 thousand seats, while the entrance to the second floor is still closed.
The cost of renovating the former railway station exceeded 1.5 billion rubles. The Vokzal 1853 food hall [fud-kholl] is a project of the Adamant holding company and restaurateur Alexei Vasilchuk. In total, as stated earlier, more than 90 restaurant concepts [restorannykh konseptsii] will await visitors, and the total area of the food hall will be about 34 thousand square meter.
The company plans to open a concert venue, craft [kraftovye] shops, and a coworking [kovorking — sic] in the space.
Earlier, DP reported that its creators had conceived the decoration of the premises to suggest the atmosphere of nineteenth-century railways stations, and visitors would find themselves in the “epicenter of a bustling creative life.”
Ukraine continued to reckon with the fallout from Russia’s air strikes on its energy infrastructure, with much of the country still struggling with blackouts. Residents in Kyiv, the capital, were told to prepare for more attacks. Russian missiles damaged a hospital on the outskirts of Zaporizhia, a Ukrainian-held city not far from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, controlled by Russia. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia was heavily shelling Kherson, the southern city recaptured by Ukrainian forces in early November. Local officials said that strikes killed seven people in the city on Thursday.
Source: The Economist, “The World in Brief” email newsletter, 25 November 2022
This is a wildly disappointing exercise in sophism and self-deception by the usually much more lucid Maxim Katz. Russia has arrived at its present murderous and self-destructive bad end not through rigorous and ruthless totalitarian indoctrination and psychological manipulation, as suggested by Katz’s invocation of Ron Jones’s 1967 Third Wave experiment in a California high school, but through a chaotic, consistent indulgence of opportunism, consumerism, escapism, ressentiment, hipsterism, “westernism,” capitalism, cynicism, nihilism, and thuggery by the elites and the much of the so-called intelligentsia, thus almost completely overwhelming the decent, democratic, and egalitarian impulses and undertakings of differently minded and empowered “other Russians” from all walks of life and all parts of the country. It has been one of the missions of this website to bear witness to both these tendencies in their extreme and trite manifestations. You’ll find vanishingly little of what Katz describes in my chronicles of the last fifteen years here and on The Russian Reader‘s sister blog Chtodelat News. You will find, however, plenty of stories of brave grassroots resistance and movement building blunted and, ultimately, murdered by a police state whose PR wing has urged Russians to trade their freedom for food courts. ||| TRR
Although I met dozens if not hundreds of people through my late friend Dmitry (“Dima”) Vorobyev (1974–2022), some of whom would become real friends, I cannot for the life of me remember when and how exactly I met Dima himself. It must have been sometime in 2005 or 2006, at the latest, because by the spring of 2007 we were already well enough acquainted to give a talk on our beloved city’s “anti-regeneration” movements at a conference on art and urbanism in Hamburg. Benedict Seymour, one of the editors of Mute magazine, was at the conference, and he kindly asked us to turn our talk into a full-fledged article, which we did. It was published the next year, somehow appropriately, in an issue featuring a picture of a cute kitten on the cover. Dima loved cats.
He also adored his hometown, Petersburg, in a wide-eyed, insatiably curious, panamorous fashion that meant endlessly exploring and enthusiastically embracing all its nooks, crannies, back alleys, abandoned lots, outskirts, dive bars, suburbs, new estates, subcultures, and courtyards. A geologist turned sociologist, he turned his “teleporting” (his coinage) from the imperial city center to the “provinces” (some of which, as it transpired, were also in the city center) into an undertaking called Sunday Cafe (in Russian, Voskresnoe kafe or V-kafe for short), a constantly mutating ensemble of serious urbanists and flighty flaneurs who went on long walks through the city that invariably featured a more or less elaborate “coffee break,” which often as not, happened outside, using a tiny camping stove and a Turkish coffee pot to make the coffee.
These walks were not “drifts” in the Situationist sense of the term. They almost always had well-defined beginning and end points (usually, subway or train stations, thus making it easier for the walkers to gather and disperse), and they often had more or less planned routes and even themes. For example, Dima and I did two “Leninist” walks as part of Sunday Cafe. The first, inspired by a book of Lenin-related addresses in Leningrad-Petersburg that I had picked up somewhere, was a fairly comprehensive tour of the Petrograd Side to all the places listed in the book while, periodically, stopping to read aloud choice passages from Lenin’s writings. The second, similarly inspired by a found bit of Leniniana (a late Soviet-era map for teenagers), recreated Lenin’s fateful journey, in October 1917, from his hideout in the Vyborg District to the Smolny Institute. Although several dozen people were with us at the start of this second Lenin walk, only five or six of us made it, several hours later, to the Smolny. I sarcastically thought at the time that this was a stark illustration of modern-day Russia’s utter lack of “revolutionary potential,” and subsequent events have only confirmed my intuition.
Like the nineteenth-century Russian revolutionary movement, Sunday Cafe was nearly always a marathon of sorts and thus prey to attrition and low attendance, especially in the “unseasonable” part of the year, which often makes up most of the year in Petersburg. But sometimes these marathons didn’t entail walking for hours “god knows where” in deplorable weather. In a memorable series of walks, Sunday Cafe saw everything there was to see on the two blocks of Pushkinskaya and three blocks of Kolomenskaya, two adjoining streets (where we both also happened to live at the time) in the city center, conducted over three Sundays in gloriously perfect summer weather. There were whole other words right under our noses, as we discovered, and to sharpen our focus Dima had printed out little tags, reading “This is good” and “This is bad,” to affix to the good and bad things we found along the way, including cars parked on sidewalks (bad) and grassroots efforts to turn parts of the downtown’s notorious labyrinth of courtyards into little oases of greenery and recreation (good).
It was also Dima who dragged me, finally, into the Soviet-era ryumochnaya (“shot bar”) right across the street from our house, the now (supposedly) “legendary” Dvadtsatochka (it was nicknamed that because it was in the commercial, first floor of house no. 20 — dvadtsat’, in Russian — on our street). For years, I had been too afraid to go in there alone, having witnessed many an outright fight there from our balcony, and seen several men removed from the establishment feet first after such scuffles or after particularly earnest drinking bouts. Dima enticed me there with the promise of cheap drinks and eats and a supremely colorful cast of regulars and staff. Although the two of us stuck out like sore thumbs — like the one and a half sociologists we were at the time — nobody minded us being there at all, while I, for one, appreciated being somewhere that the city’s burgeoning pseudo-middle class and then-upsurging hipsters still feared to tread. Unfortunately, the bar was shut down, a few years later, by the discount supermarket chain that had already taken over the old-style neighborhood grocery next door. Fittingly, just after Dvadtsatochka shut down, it served for a week as a location for a retro crime drama that was shooting in the city. Even more fittingly, my tender friend Dima persuaded the outgoing owners to give him the official sign board that had hung just inside the bar’s entrance, seemingly for decades. Among other helpful information, the board listed the categories of patrons who were entitled to be served without queuing: as I recall, they included veterans of the Great Fatherland War (World War Two) and exonerated former political prisoners, along with “invalids” (i.e., people with disabilities). Knowing how much I (literally) admired this sign, Dima presented it to me as a Christmas or New Year’s gift later that year.
It has been forty days since Dima died, which is an important milestone in the Russian mourning tradition. Today in Petersburg, Dima’s friends and loved ones convened Sunday Cafe on a route that took them to the cemetery where his remains are buried. As on the day of his funeral, over a month ago, I wish that I could have “teleported” to Petersburg to go on this walk, although, following its progress on social media in the early hours of the morning here on the other side of the planet, I couldn’t help but notice just how sad everyone looked in the photos, naturally. It is not that just Dima, had he been present, would have found way to liven things up. (For example, by lining us against a wall and making us strike absurd poses while having our pictures taken, an entertainment he called (za)bashit’ luki.) He was one of a vanishing breed of Petersburgers, one almost never captured in the city’s world-famous “text.” The characters in the Petersburg-Leningrad writer Konstantin Vaginov‘s novels, published in the late 1920s and early 1930s, have been cited as prototypes for the city’s late-Soviet, perestroika-era and post-perestroika bohemians, and it’s true that when I came across these novels, quite by accident, in the mid-1990s, I had the distinct impression that Vaginov was describing many of my own friends and acquaintances.
But a lot happened in Vaginov’s hometown between his death in 1934 and the childhoods and youths of Leningrad’s “last Soviet generation,” in the 1960s and 1970s. Since I’m definitely not even half of a sociologist anymore, and I’m definitely not an anthropologist, I won’t venture to describe that generation at all. But I will say that its brightest and best members, especially as exemplified by Dima, are worldly, adventurous, warm, funny, open-minded and absurdly well-educated “patriots” of their city in a way that has been utterly at odds with the regime established by its now sadly most famous native son. This blog was conceived, in part, a chronicle of the “cold civil war” between this group of Petersburgers (and Russians) and the regime, a war that now seems to have been conclusively won by the latter.
But even as I write this, solemnly and grimly, I recall an argument I had with Dima after one Sunday Cafe many years ago. We were having supper in a real cafe, a welcoming place in our neighborhood that served cheap, decent food and doubled as a venue for readings, concerts and other events (meaning that it was just the kind of “democratic,” low-profile, grassroots venture that Dima adored and was uniquely capable of discovering in every corner of the city), and there were several other V-kafeshniki with us. I must have been preachifying, as I was wont to do then, about the sad state of civil society in the face of the regime’s growing ugliness and repressiveness. Angered by my sermon, Dima said something to the effect that it wasn’t “our” (Russian? Petersburg?) way to oppose the regime in the sense I was suggesting it should be opposed.
It’s not that now I realize he was right and I was wrong. But Dima knew a thousand times more than I did about the fine grain of Petersburg’s grassroots anti-regime and “a-regime” subcultures, and he hoped, I think, that however bad things actually were then, those communities of grassroots activists, artists and entrepreneurs would still have enough space and light and nourishment to grow into something bigger and better and more powerful that, over time, would simply shunt the regime aside and render it irrelevant.
In any case, as a friend pointed out soon after his death, there was nothing more incompatible than the lifelong pacifist Dima Vorobyev and the regime’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent “mobilization” of Russia’s draft-age population, which, blessedly, kicked off after his death.
But there was a time — which happened to be the time when Dima and I met — when there was a hope, however faint, for a better future. The article that we wrote together reflected that strange interregnum (which was nothing of the sort, of course), and so I will close with a brief excerpt from it, below, and a plea to Dima, wherever he is, that he forgive me for writing so clumsily about him. (This is just a first draft, my friend.) You should have known him. ||| TRR
What has caused ordinarily apolitical Petersburgers to swell the ranks of protest movements headed by political parties whose ideologies otherwise leave them suspicious or cold? The multi-pronged viral assault on the city on the part of bureaucrats and developers that we have briefly described. Strange as it may seem, in contemporary Petersburg, class conflict has been translated into opposed visions of urban renewal and historic preservation. It is precisely the preservation of Petersburg as a gigantic open-air architecture museum and the very particular places people live (with their unique ‘ensembles’ of stairwells, courtyards, archways, streets, squares, and local curiosities) that has become the point around which a more general sense of rampant social injustice has crystallised. A shattering series of crimes and indignities have been visited upon the bodies of Petersburgers in recent decades: widespread corruption, police violence, bureaucratic abuse, racist and xenophobic attacks, the dismantling of the social safety net, alcoholism and drug abuse, a high mortality rate, environmental pollution of all sorts. And yet, since Soviet times, all these risks and dangers have usually been felt to be part of life’s grim ‘common sense’ and thus inaccessible to sustained critical reflection or direct collective intervention.
Why do we see mass mobilisation in defense of the city rather than against such widespread albeit de-individualised injustices? Is it because the destruction of the city is something specific — a matter of real, lived places, places that can be seen and touched and remembered? Is it because the threat of injustice now takes the form of an alien skyscraper on a horizon that used to be peacefully uncluttered? Is it because people wake up one morning and find a fence erected around the humble square where they used to walk their dogs and play with their kids?
The answer to these questions would seem to be yes. First, the now ubiquitous and visible destruction of the city its residents are used to (which includes ‘unbecoming’ tree-filled green spaces in late-Soviet housing projects as well as neoclassical masterpieces), which we have likened to a kind of cancer or virus, has provoked an ‘anti-viral’ reaction. This reaction has taken very different forms. Future activists have followed a number of routes to mobilisation and collective action. Moreover, their first experiences of political engagement, while not always successful, have usually been ‘safe’ enough to encourage further involvement. The usually high threshold to political participation amongst ‘apathetic’ post-perestroika Russians has thus been lowered considerably.
The tables covered in beer Showbiz whines, minute detail (2) Hand on the shoulder in Leicester Square (3) It’s vaudeville pub back room dusty pictures of White frocked girls and music teachers The beds too clean Water’s poisonous for the system (4)
And you know in your brain Leave the capitol! (5) Exit this Roman Shell! (6) Then you know you must leave the capitol
Straight home, straight home, straight home One room, one room (7)
A Petersburg developer asked not to use the name “Mir” (“Peace”) in advertising its [new] residential complex. The company decided to refrain from using the word, which had “taken on additional meanings.”
RBI’s official website still identifies the residential complex as “Mir,” and this is the case on some other real estate resources as well. And yet, for example, one of the largest industry websites, TsIAN, already refers to it as the residential complex “On Mirgorodskaya, 1.”
Our source at the company told Rotunda that the advertising campaign for the complex had not yet been launched. And that was why they asked their partners — i.e., real estate agencies — “to refrain from directly advertising the sites before the official start of sales.”
Officially, RBI had only the following to say about the meanings implied by the word “Mir”: “As for the word itself, ‘MIR’ in this case refers to the location of the house, as well as to the World of Art [Mir iskusstva] art group.”
Source: Rotunda, 8 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
MIR Club House is a world for connoisseurs of beauty in the very heart of St. Petersburg, a striking house featuring original, artistic architecture.
Compositionally, the complex consists of two buildings: a building of varying heights (six, seven, eight and nine floors) containing 243 apartments, and a small six-story building containing 20 apartments. They are united by a street-facing arch and form a closed courtyard.
The apartments offer picturesque views of Feodorovsky Cathedral, the famous “Kremlin wall of Petersburg,” the historical center, and the new business-class quarter.
Why, even when he knows how to work the right way, does a person actually do everything the way he’s used to doing it—that is, the wrong way? Maxim Dorofeyev explains in simple and accessible language why this happens. When you read his book, you’ll learn how thinking and memory work; why you fritter away your brain’s resources; how to conserve them; and how to concentrate properly, articulate tasks, and reactive yourself for productive work. These practical, proven, and well-founded techniques will help you make your to-do list really work and guarantee that you achieve your goals.
Roof Place is a cultural space located on Vasilievsky Island in the building of a former tannery built in 1893. Since its opening in 2016, the site has attracted creative people and connoisseurs of the active lifestyle and comfortable outdoor recreation. Its powerful audio system and convenient location make it a perfect arena [sic] for parties, concerts, and summer festivals.
Rita Dakota (her real name is Margarita Gerasimovich, and she was born in Minsk in 1990 — not on the Pine Ridge Reservation) will be performing at Roof Place’s Roof Fest on July 19. Tickets run from 46 to 77 euros (per the official, not the actual, exchange rate). Screenshot of the concert’s page on Bileter.ru
The point? That Russia, especially its two capitals (Petersburg and Moscow), was never as slavishly “westernizing” as during Putinism’s full flowering. Even a “proxy war with the west” cannot stop this trend, apparently. Hence the mass exodus of many of the “westernizers” and “westernized” from the country after February 24. (You didn’t think all of them left because they’re wild-eyed dissidents opposed to the war, did you?) And often as not this “westernization” has been marked by needless, wholesale injections of English into Russian. By the way, this didn’t happen in the allegedly more slavishly westernizing nineties that have served as a Putinist stalking horse the last glorious twenty-three years.||| TRR
The Nizhny Novgorod authorities have refused to memorialize journalist Irina Slavina, who committed self-immolation on October 2, 2020, blaming the Russian state for her death. The journalist’s death was preceded by a search at her house as part of a criminal investigation into local businessman Mikhail Iosilevich, who was charged with “[carrying out the work of] an undesirable organization” (per Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code). In 2019, Slavina was sentenced to pay a fine of 70 thousand rubles for “involvement in the work of an undesirable organization.”
After Slavina’s death, human rights activists attempted to get the Investigative Committee to launch a criminal investigation of possible “incitement to suicide,” but the Committee turned them down on three occasions. The first time it argued that the journalist had suffered, possibly, from a “mixed personality disorder,” while the second time the Committee ruled that the suicide was the result of “emotional turmoil and a conscious wish to die.”
One of the projects undertaken by Irina Slavina, editor-in-chief of the independent Nizhny Novgorod publication Koza Press and a grassroots activist, was the rescue in 2015-2018 of a green zone near her house where the city authorities had decided to build a shopping center. The developer cut down dozens of trees, but the construction itself was stopped through the efforts of grassroots activists.
After Slavina’s self-immolation, Nizhny Novgorod residents began bringing flowers to the place of her death every Friday. Friends of the journalist planted flowers and seedlings in a small park near her house, dubbing the site “Slavina Square.”
At the same time, activists gathered signatures on a petition asking that the place Slavina had fought to save from redevelopment officially bear her name. The greenery in the square was also restored by the heads of the city’s Nizhegorodsky district. But these officials did not support the idea to naming the square after the journalist. They decided instead to name it in honor of the local architect Vadim Voronkov.
One of the initiators of the idea of naming the square after Irina Slavina was the Dront Ecological Center, whose employees petitioned the mayor’s office. But the authorities turned the request down, explaining that Slavina was not “an outstanding statesman and public figure or a spokesperson for science, culture, art and other public spheres who deserved broad recognition for her work.”
Local media recall that Nizhny Novgorod regional governor Gleb Nikitin had once presented Slavina with an official certificate of gratitude for her professional journalistic work and personal service and had earlier promised that he would make every effort “to ensure that the investigation of the circumstances that led to the tragedy is supervised at the highest level.”
In April of this year, Dront began collecting signatures from ordinary Nizhny Novgorod residents who would like to see a Slavina Square in the city. The petition drive is still ongoing, but officials have already made their decision.
Alexei Fomenko, an activist with the project 42 — I Have the Right, called this decision by the authorities “a special operation on Slavina Boulevard.”
“For several decades, no one cared about the boulevard or the architect Voronkov. At one time, it was even decided to build the boulevard over. But then, suddenly, there is a ceremony, tree planting, and children. The mayor’s office and the deputies of the City Duma, realizing that we would not back down, and having no desire, on the one hand, to get a kick in the butt from their superiors, and on the other, getting their mugs dirty yet again, decided to resort to the good old ruse of round up some public employees, holding the necessary event hugger-mugger, and formalizing everything properly,” says Fomenko.
The plan of the authorities has not been welcomed on social media. Irina Slavina’s husband Alexei Murakhtayev was categorical in his condemnation.
“The authorities are once again doing something stupid. I do not know who the architect Voronkov was and what he has to do with this square. There must be some kind of cause and effect relationship! There is no cause, however, but the effect will be people’s discontent,” the deceased journalist’s husband argues.
The Nizhny Novgorod authorities explained their refusal to memorialize Slavina by claiming that her work “did not deserve broad recognition.” Vladimir Iordan, a friend of the journalist and a lecturer at the Nizhny Novgorod Theater School, does not agree with their appraisal.
“I have never met a more outstanding public figure capable of sacrificing their life for the sake of the ideals of justice, a more implacable campaigner against corruption and totalitarianism, a more honest and caring person. Slavina’s articles disciplined officials and deputies, and they exposed embezzlers. Governor Nikitin, when it was advantageous to him, liked to underscore that he reacted to all of Ira’s articles and requests. But Slavina was more than just a journalist — she was a real public figure in the original sense of the phrase. She was a driving force in many grassroots campaigns — against the lawlessness of tow truck operators, against the punitive beautification of parks and squares, against the redevelopment of Nizhny Novgorod’s historic center. She was a sensitive person who completely rejected injustice, lies, and hypocrisy,” says Iordan.
German Knyazev, an entrepreneur, public figure, and friend of Slavina, is sure that Slavina will not be memorialized under the current political regime.
“I think her main achievement was doing independent journalism in a totalitarian state, and my prediction is that this totalitarian state will never name a square after her,” Knyazev argues.
Meanwhile, the Iosilevich case, responsible for the humiliating search took place at Slavina’s home the day before her death, continues. Entrepreneur and activist Mikhail Iosilevich is on trial, accused of collaborating with Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia and threatening a witness. Despite the flimsy evidence, the prosecutor has requested four and half years in a minimum security prison camp for Iosilevich. On the eve of his trial he tried to leave Russia using an Israeli passport. The attempt was unsuccessful: Iosilevich was removed from a plane bound for Tel Aviv. According to the activist, his departure would have been the “ideal option” for all parties in the trial. “But no it is then! We will go on with the oral arguments, the rebuttals, the final statement . . . and the conviction of an innocent man,” Iosilevich wrote in a telegram.
Immediately after Slavina’s self-immolation, the Nizhny Novgorod regional prosecutor’s office ruled that the search in her apartment had been lawful. The search was part of the investigation into Iosilevich, which was prompted by his alleged cooperation with Open Russia. It is still not clear what form this “cooperation” took, however.
“Today, at 6:00 a.m., 12 people entered my apartment using a blowtorch and a crowbar: Russian Investigative Committee officers, police, SWAT officers, [official] witnesses. My husband opened the door. I, being naked, got dressed under the supervision of a woman I didn’t know. A search was carried out. We were not allowed to call a lawyer. They were looking for pamphlets, leaflets, Open Russia accounts, perhaps an icon with the face of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. I don’t have any of these things,” Slavina wrote [on Facebook that day].
The next day, Slavina burned herself outside the Interior Ministry headquarters in Nizhny Novgorod. She left a suicide note on Facebook: “I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death.”
Source: Alexander Lugov, Radio Svoboda, 12 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
Imagine if this pavement were part of your daily walk between home and work, home and school, or home and the shops. Amazing as it might seem, this street on the edge of downtown Petersburg sees extremely heavy pedestrian traffic every day.
Yesterday, I slipped and fell while taking my recycling to the city’s only permanent recyclables collection point, situated in the parking lot of a hypermarket where I buy staples like tea and rice. The collection point and the hypermarket are three blocks from where these pictures were shot.
Fortunately, I’m still young and fit enough that the fall, which was hard and sudden, left me intact. Plus, in my youth, I had been taught how to fall in my tae-kwon-do classes. I feel fine today.
But Petersburg is chockablock with pensioners whom no one looks after. They have to go out into this mess to pay their bills and buy groceries and medicines, for example.
Do none of them fall and break their hips and legs in such conditions? They do — by the dozens and hundreds and thousands every winter.
I gather they pray for snowless winters, like their coeval my mom, who has spent her entire life dealing with southern Minnesota’s cold, snowy, windy winters. ||| TRR, 20 February 2018
Dima Zverev makes gorgeous photographs. Three years ago, he returned home to Tushino, a district in the northwest of Moscow. His photographs of the neighborhood will be on display at the Northern Park there until February 28. (See the album of photos in his announcement, below, for directions.) ||| TRR