“No Future”: Popular Reactions to Putin’s Mobilization

Outside Gostiny Dvor [metro station and shopping center, in downtown Petersburg]. The police are plucking out the protesters one by one and dragging them away.

Passersby ask, “What happened?”

Most either don’t read the news or support the mobilization.

They look at us like we’re idiots.

I asked a middle-aged woman whether she had any children.

“Two sons, so what?” she answered me defiantly.

Today I thought for the first time that there is no future.

[Comments]

Natalia Vvedenskaya

Just for balance. Today, in the supermarket, I quietly eavesdropped on the conversations among the saleswomen (these were two different conversations). Irritated and indignant, these middle-aged women said that the members of parliament [who quickly passed laws enforcing Putin’s mobilization] should go to war themselves.

Source: Galina Artemenko, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the bus. A middle-aged woman in the front seat yells into the phone, not mincing her words. She says that there is a panic at work, that they have seven days to keep the guys from getting drafted. This was followed by instructions for direct action. The young fellow sitting with his back to her listened attentively, while the girls opposite him could not have cared less.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a trusted source and occasional contributor to this website, identified here as “AR” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


This hurts a lot. I console myself with the fact that, as in private life, the most vital and beautiful thing is the process itself, when you are initially in a hole, but you fight to make things better. But can I please go back to the time when I have to confront myself, and not a crazy autocrat with a nuclear button?

I try to shift my focus from irritation towards Russians who support the war, and the collective Europe playing along [sic], to endless love. First of all, to people who are in Russia and are not afraid to speak out against the war. I am glad that I am living at the same time as you. Of course, we are far from being Iran, where people take deadly risks for their beliefs. But we’re cool, too. We’re doing what we can. If everyone in Russia were like us, the war would have ended today. Now, when it is important to support myself, I console myself with this thought, and I advise you to do the same.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a grassroots activist in Petersburg, identified here as “JA” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader


On the evening of September 21, in Petersburg, as in other cities, a protest was held against the mobilization of Russians for the war in Ukraine. The protest was called by the Vesna Movement. The protesters gathered at 7 p.m. on St. Isaac’s Square.

Riot police vigorously detained protesters, beat them with batons, dragged them on the ground, and put them on their knees. According to OVD Info, at least 444 people were detained in St. Petersburg.

Bumaga has put together a photo chronicle of the first popular protest in the city in the last six months.

Source: “How an anti-mobilization rally — the first mass protest in six months — took place in Petersburg,” Bumaga, 21 September 2022. There are several more photographs of the protest rally at the link, including photos from a second, separate protest the same evening outside Gostiny Dvor (as described by Galina Artemenko, above). Translated by the Russian Reader


Conscription Notice Russia. This channel was created to inform the residents of Russia about the delivery of conscription notices in our city! [sic] Write here with information about which addresses conscription notices in Russia are being sent — @maks_ge

“Prospect Mira. A conscription notice was just served to a man approximately 40-45 years of age. He was strolling with his wife and dog. Then they [the police?] went up to some young guys sitting on a bench and had a chat with them.”

“They’ve already started handing out conscription notices at the factories in the town of Gatchina in Leningrad Region.”

“The Gazpromneft filling station at Amurskaya 15A. Two men got into a scrap, and the attendant called the police. The cops came and gave them tickets. They threatened the men, saying that tomorrow, other people in uniform would come visit them at home — I think they meant the military conscription office.”

Source: Screenshot of the Telegram channel Where Draft Papers Are Being Handed Out — Russia. The channel was created on August 13, but only started posting on September 21. It already has over ten thousand subscribers. Thanks to VL for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader


Well, my prognosis was mistaken. I underestimated the regime’s vileness and meanness. As the supreme ruler declared a partial mobilization, the local military enlistment offices issued decrees concerning all reservists without exception.

This is totally fucked up. For example, “temporary residents must depart for their legal place of residence.” Accordingly, millions of unregistered men or men registered at their temporary residences in large cities must leave for their hometowns or home regions. Accordingly, all these millions of men are “lawbreakers” — they can be seized in dragnets, blackmailed with prison terms, locked up, beaten up, and anything else that our cops do with our citizens. When [the cops] are faced with passive resistance, they will indiscriminately rake in whomever they catch.

These people will certainly “engage in combat,” but that will happen later. What matters now is filling the quotas.

Source: George Losev, Facebook, 21 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Putin has announced a “partial mobilization.” Only time will tell how “partial” it is, but it is already clear that the mobilization will affect many people. What options do those whom the Kremlin wants to mobilize have?

  1. Become cannon fodder.
  2. Go to jail.
  3. Illegally flee the country. If you fail, you go to jail.
  4. Go underground. If you fail, you go to jail.
  5. Go underground and become a guerrilla. You could also go to jail.

I do not consider legal ways to avoid mobilization, since the rules of the game can change at any moment, and those who were not subject to mobilization yesterday will be subject to it tomorrow.

The choice isn’t great, but there is a choice.

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 21 September. Mr. Astashin is a former political prisoner and human rights activist who now seems to be living in exile in Berlin. Translated by the Russian Reader


In the kitchen of a communal flat:

— Soooo, you live closer to the front door, don’t open it to anyone. If they come, tell them there are no men living here.

— I’ve been dodging the draft for so long I don’t even remember how to do it anymore. I’ve had so many chronic illnesses since then. Do you think it will help?

— At my work, a friend of a friend of a friend of a colleague is offering to drive [men] to Finland for 50 thousand rubles [approx. 855 euros]. Any takers?

— He’s definitely going to Finland? That’s too cheap somehow. What if he takes you to the military enlistment office?

— My pop says that he would volunteer himself, but he’s already sixty-seven, they won’t take him. But he’s weird that way. He never goes to the welfare office, because he believes you have to have pride: he didn’t work all his life to ask the state for something in his old age! His pension is 25 thousand rubles a month [approx. 440 euros].

— Maybe he is also one of those people who have nothing, and who donates money to buy socks for soldiers?

— No, he believes that we have the strongest army and does not give them a kopeck. He says the people asking for that money are scammers.

Source: Friends-only post on Facebook by a veteran human rights activist in Petersburg, identified here as “NN” for future reference. Translated by the Russian Reader

Fairy with a Velvet Core

Maria Butina, a “State Duma deputy” and a “fairy with a velvet core,” is featured on the cover of the September 2022 issue of Semya (“Family”) magazine, wearing an outfit designed by the Russian women’s clothing brand Feminelli [sic] and produced in Kirov. Thanks to Sergei Medvedev for the heads-up.


Maria Butina, a Duma deputy who early gained notoriety as a pro-gun Russian operative in the United States, says that Russia schools should teach young people how to “profile” enemies of the state and then turn them in before they can do any further damage to their country.

Such “civic vigilance,” she says, can be taught and must not be confused with snitching about what someone says or does. Instead, it is about examining people at a glance and recognizing them as enemies (mk.ru/social/2022/09/07/mariya-butina-pedlozhila-vvesti-v-shkolakh-uroki-profaylinga-dlya-vychisleniya-vragov.html).

In reporting this, Anna Belova of Moskovsky komsomolets says that it is far from clear how children will be taught to do something that even professionals struggle with but that one thing is clear: it will only elevate the level of suspiciousness among Russians toward anyone who is different from the majority in any way, ethnically, religiously or behaviorally.

And that of course is precisely what Butina seems committed to doing. 

Source: Paul Goble, “Russian Schools Must Teach Youngsters How to ‘Profile’ Enemies of the State, Butina Says,” Window on Eurasia — New Series, 15 September 2022

Belly Dance

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

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

Kurgan residents perform belly dance in camouflage Z-suits

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

Video courtesy of Tatiana Bikbova’s social media page


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Vorobyov: No Gods No Masters

Dronningen og putinen

Everyone is so anguished about the English Queen, as if she were not from a universe parallel to theirs, but their own mother. How does whether the queen exists or not affect the life of the ordinary little guy? All those kings, presidents, princes, etc., live in luxury at the expense of the working person who, in order to live decently, has to work every day from morning till evening, and no state budget pays for their expenses. But if you get sick or something else happens, and you can’t pay for yourself, then this state built by kings will immediately play hardball with you. So believe me, the fewer Kings and Bosses there are, the better and more freely a person can live. No gods no masters.

Source: Jesus Vorobyov, Facebook, 8 September 2022. Photo courtesy of the author. The italicized passage was in English in the original. Mr. Vorobyov shot to momentary fame during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in Moscow. Translated by the Russian Reader.

A Bill of Goods

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

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

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

[…]

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

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


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

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

— What is the source of the war?

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

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

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

— And what are these factors?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[…]

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

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

[…]

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

Cancel(ed) Culture in Petersburg and Moscow

Polina Osetinskaya

A concert by the famous and talented pianist Polina Osetinskaya at the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic has been canceled.

“I think everything is clear to everyone. Thank you for your concern,” Polina wrote on social media.

What could be clearer? At outset of the “special operation,” Osetinskaya wrote about her attitude to it, about what she really thinks.

And now, like many other artists whose conscience did not permit them to remain silent, she has been excommunicated from her work.

But our TV screens and concert halls are still full of those artists who have no conscience at all. Either they had one, or it atrophied from disuse.

Source: Boris Vishnevsky, Facebook, 2 September 2022. Photo of Ms. Osetinskaya courtesy of her website. Translated by the Russian Reader

Polina Osetinskaya playing Arvo Pärt, Valentin Silvestrov and Giya Kancheli at DK Rassvet in Moscow on 31 May 2022

Vsevolod Lisovsky

Moscow police on Friday evening detained the director, actors and audience of a theatrical street performance — a total of fourteen people, reports OVD Info. The reason for the arrests is not yet known.

Based on Bertolt Brecht’s play Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, the operetta Judicial Process was supposed to take place in a pedestrian underpass on Prospect Mira, but the police interrupted the performance.

The operetta has been produced by the Moscow troupe Theater of the Transitional Period and director Vsevolod Lisovsky. He chose the format of street performances in pedestrian underpasses a few months ago. He decided to stage the Brecht play, he said, “because you can’t think of anything more resonant with the time.”

Written by Brecht in 1934–1938, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich is based on eyewitness accounts and newspaper articles. It deals with fascism’s gradual penetration of all areas of life in Nazi Germany, thus discrediting justice and undermining morality.

Vsevolod Lisovsky is an experimental theater director and playwright who worked for many years at Teatr.doc in Moscow. He established a new venue for the theater, Transformator.doc. Lisovsky is is a two-time winner of the Golden Mask Award.

Source: “Moscow street performance’s director, actors and audience detained,” Radio Svoboda, 2 September 2022. Photo courtesy of Teatr magazine. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Day of Knowledge: “It’s Not Scary to Die for the Motherland”

In twenty regions of Russia, a school pupil’s start-of-the-year supplies costs more than the average monthly per person income.
This schematic map of the country show how much of the average per capita income has to be spent to ready a pupil for the school year.
Source: Unified Interagency Statistical Information System (EMISS), Russian Federal Statistics Service (Rosstat); calculations by iStories

About one hundred thousand Russians have signed a petition to the president demanding that they be paid 10 thousand rubles [approx. 163 euros] for children’s school expenses as was the case in 2021.

But instead of Russian families, this year parents of schoolchildren from the parts of Ukraine occupied by the Russian army will receive 10 thousand rubles each, while Russian citizens are being expressly told to go to war so that they can afford to send their child to school.

We calculated how much it would cost to send off a pupil to school in Russia’s regions, and we talked with the parents of schoolchildren.

What we learned:

In twenty regions of Russia, buying everything needed for school costs more than the average per capita income for a whole month. For example, in Tyva, one family member has an average income of 15.5 thousand rubles [approx. 253 euros] per month.

This money is usually spent on the bare necessities: food, clothing, medical treatment, transport and other needs. A schoolchild’s kit in Tyva costs almost 24 thousand rubles [approx. 393 euros] — money that parents don’t know where to get. In another fourteen regions, more than ninety percent of income will be spent on school-related expenses.

Parents told iStories that many goods, especially clothes and notebooks, have risen in price twofold or more. And yet, wages have not increased, and some parents have lost their jobs altogether due to sanctions.

Many parents have had to take out loans for everyday needs (this is corroborated by the data: before the start of the school year, the number of applications for consumer loans increased by 20%) and scrimp on vacations.

Prices have increased by thirty percent, but I have no salary, so I’ve felt the difference enormously. The option that I found this year is credit cards. And we scrimped on vacation, of course. It has become quite expensive to take the children somewhere and liven up their leisure time. Whereas earlier I could afford to spend the weekend with my children somewhere in a holiday home in the Moscow Region, now we choose places without an overnight stay, and we take food along with us.

[…]

You take shoes for physical education, light sneakers. The kids hang out in them all day [anyway], so you save money on school shoes.

[…]

I tried to tell [the children] that war is always a very bad thing, that you should aways try to negotiate.

Natalia, Moscow, who is raising a son and a daughter, both in school

On average, I spent around 35-40 thousand rubles [approx. 660 euros] on everything. Clothes have become much more expensive compared to last year, and the quality has become worse. […] I am now on maternity leave, raising the girls alone. I get alimony. We have spent all the new allowances for children between 8 to 17 years old on school expenses. […] I think we will cope with it all. Everything will end and be fine — [the war] will not affect us in any way. I think that everything is being done here [in Russia] so that we do not feel the effect of special military actions.

Elena, Novgorod Region, who is raising two school-age daughters

In which regions of the country does a schoolchild’s kit cost more than the average per capita monthly income?

Could the Russian state afford to cover the expenses for all 15 million Russian schoolchildren?

Source: iStories, email newsletter, 29 August 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


Igor Stomakhin, from the series When we leave the schoolyard… Moscow, 1980s

My street exhibition will open on the fence of Danilovskaya Alley on September 4 at 1 p.m. as part of the project #SundayKhokhlovskyStandoffs. Photos from my Moscow cycle of the 1980s–1990s will be presented. At 2 p.m., I will give a tour of the show beginning with an account of the capital in that vivid period when Soviet stagnation was replaced by Gorbachev’s perestroika. The defenders of Ivanovo Hill will treat guests to tea from a samovar, so you can bring sweets to share. Address: Kolpachny Lane, between house no. 7 and house no. 9.

Source: Igor Stomakhin, Facebook, 1 September 2022. Click the link to see a dozen more photos from Mr. Stomakhin’s poignant perestroika-era Moscow school series. Translated by the Russian Reader


“It’s not scary to die for the Motherland.”
“Conversations about what matters” — mandatory lessons on love for the Motherland — have been introduced in Russian schools. During these lessons the war in Ukraine will be discussed.
The lessons will be held every Monday before first period after the raising of the flag and the national anthem.
The first “conversation about what matters” will take place on September 5.
Pupils in the first and second grades will be told about nature in Russia. Pupils in the third and fourth grades will be told about how it is necessary to defend the Motherland. The teaching manuals cite proverbs that can be used to explain this to children: “It’s not scary to die for the Motherland,” “Loving the Motherland means serving the Motherland,” and “The happiness of the Motherland is more precious than life.”
On September 12, pupils in grades 5–11 will be told about the war in Ukraine. “We also see manifestations of patriotism nowadays, especially in the special military operation,” it says in the course packet.
And to pupils in the tenth and eleventh grades, the instructors, as they conclude the conversation about the “special operation,” should say the following parting words: “You cannot become a patriot if you only spout slogans. Truly patriotic people are ready to defend their Motherland under arms.”
Attending the “conversations” is presented as mandatory. If pupils skip them, instructors are advised to have a talk with their parents. If talking to them doesn’t do the trick, instructors are advised to cite the law, which states that the school curriculum consists of lessons and extracurricular activities.
By law, pupils may skip extracurricular activities at the request of their parents. Teachers are afraid, however, that in the case of the “conversations about what matter” school administrators will be keeping a close eye on attendance.
“We find ourselves in a reality in which you have to keep your own opinion to yourself to avoid losing your job, at best, or ending up behind bars, at worst,” says a teacher in one Moscow school. “There are those [teachers] who actively support state policy. If a teacher diverges from the subject matter of the ‘conversations,’ he might find himself in a dangerous situation.”

Source: Current Time TV (Radio Svoboda), Instagram, 1 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Continue reading “Day of Knowledge: “It’s Not Scary to Die for the Motherland””

I Want a Story

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

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

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


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


Diana and Lena

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Staying

Gray cat, on right: “Tamara! We forgot the fish!” Goldfish, on left: “We’re staying…”
I’M STAYING, 27 AUGUST, 8:00 P.M. WRITE TO SASHA @arossius

Six months ago, my friends started leaving Russia. More and more loved ones ended up far, far away from me. I had to make a difficult decision. Did want to leave with the others, or should I stay in Russia?

After much thought, I came to the conclusion that I had to stay. In those days, I listened to Anatoly Krupnov’s song “I’m Staying” all the time and was amazed at how accurately the song conveyed my feelings. Therefore, when the girls and I were developing the concept of a support group for activists who, like us, had decided not to leave, I suggested calling our project “I’m Staying.”

The “I’m Staying” community has been around for four months. In addition to the support groups, we also became a kind of cultural project. We held a concert, and in the near future we are going to put on a theatrical performance.

But recently, the song “I’m Staying” has been used by completely different people for completely different purposes. Many people have seen the cover of this song by pro-government musicians. In my opinion, it’s a very bad cover, but that’s not the point. They now want to make the song “I’m Staying” a tool of propaganda, completely distorting its original message.

I don’t want to let propaganda steal the song from us. Therefore, I remind you that “I’m Staying” is us. And our next meeting, the twenty-first in a row, will take place this Saturday, August 27. If you want to come, write to me on Telegram @acrossius and send me links to your social networks.

See you!

Source: Aleksandra Rossius, Facebook, 26 August 2022. Thanks to Yana Teplitskaya for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader


Anatoly Krupnov and Black Obelisk, “I’m Staying” (1994; remixed, 2018)

We are at a standstill again, and there is water in the hold,
And you keep telling me to run again,
And you’re saying again that you have to go there,
Where the keel is even, it is dry, and there is air to breathe.
But even here there is a chance, albeit one in ten,
Maybe time moves forward here at a crawl, not a run,
And maybe it’s more difficult to stay here than to leave,
I still believe that I will be lucky…

And I-I-I-I-I, I’m staying,
Where I want to be,
And even though I’m a little afraid,
But I, I’m staying,
I’m staying to live!

You say there’s enough evil here,
And you’re in a hurry to get out as soon as possible,
You say that bondage is sweet to me,
And you firmly believe in the truth of the other way,
Run, swim, fly — where it doesn’t matter,
If only to where we are not and haven’t been,
You say everything died here a long time ago,
And there are too many strangers among us…

But I,
I’m staying,
Where I want to be,
And even though I’m a little afraid,
But I, I, I’m staying,
I’m staying to live!
I’m staying!
I’m staying!

I’m used to it here, even though it’s like I’m in the service,
I can see everything, even though there are few lights here,
And here I stand so firmly on my feet,
And to stand, I have to stick to my roots.
I’m used to it here, I’m not so lonely here,
At least sometimes I see my kind,
When the last bell starts ringing,
I’ll be here if I’m alive…

For I,
I’m staying,
Where I want to be,
And even though I’m a little afraid,
But I, I’m staying,
I’m staying to live!
I’m staying!
I’m staying!

Source: Teksty Pesenok. Translated by the Russian Reader. Anatoly Krupnov died in February 1997, aged thirty-two, from a heart attack.

Rasha parasha

“A Russian national passport = social stability and security. Kherson Region: We’re together with Russia!” reads this purported (but, sadly, all too believable) billboard in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Kherson, on which someone has written “Russia [rasha] is a shit hole [parasha], ZSU [Armed Forces of Ukraine],” in the lower right corner. Source: Nash Kherson (“Our Kherson”), Facebook, 20 August 2022