Responsibility?

In the new episode of the project "The Last Line" Chulpan Khamatova again recites the verse of Alya Khaitlina. In today's poem, she reflects on responsibility, guilt and humility. Already in the first stanza she asks a rhetorical question that many of us have asked and continue to ask ourselves: "Whose fault is it all?"

Read us here - https://spektr.press
You can also find us on:
Telegram - https://t.me/SpektrURGENT
Twitter - https://twitter.com/spektronline
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/spektr.press
VK - https://vk.com/spektr.press

Chulpan Khamatova's social media pages:
https://instagram.com/chulpanofficial
https://www.facebook.com/aboutchulpan

Alya Khaitlina's social pages:
https://www.facebook.com/alya.khaitlina/
https://t.me/alja_hajtlina

The text:

Until nightfall, until nausea, you think, what should be done?
Bags under your eyes, a mouse in a noose in your fridge.
Whose fault is it all? It’s probably yours.
Someone has to take the rap [responsibility] already, right?

You loved the wrong folk. You sought the wrong ways.
At a party you wrinkled your nose and didn’t finish dessert.
Something like this was bound to happen,
Throwing us back a thousand years.

Let them take me away, let them say it's her,
Let them send me to prison, spit on me and sling mud.
But just let this terrible war stop,
Let it live on only in books — in Cyrillic, in Braille, in frilly fonts.

Let them send me to the back of beyond.
To where hell freezes over, to where nothing ever gets off the ground.
Just let the belligerents stop shooting right now,
Let them all drop off the radar, fizzle out, dissolve.

I’ll be doing time in prison, I’ll be sweeping floors,
And at night, to get to sleep, I’ll look at the flock
Of living, lively children who were saved.
Let them hate me if they will.
But let them grow up.

Source: "'Responsibility.' Chulpan Khamatova, Alya Khaitlina. Last Line Project," Spektr Press (YouTube), 27 January 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Ms. Khamatova lives in Riga. Ms. Khaitlina, according to her Facebook page, lives in Munich.

This photo of a Petersburg police officer and patrol van is probably from Zaks.ru’s archives, but it’s what they pinned to this article.

Petersburg law enforcement officers interrupted a solo picket of activist Alevtina Vasilyeva, who took up position facing Gostiny Dvor holding a placard featuring a popular pacifist slogan. This was reported by the human rights project OVD Info, which cited her spouse.

The police took Vasilyeva to the 28th police precinct [a few blocks from my house, which I haven’t seen for four years now].

Apparently, the picketer faces a fine for “discrediting the army” (per Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code). The maximum possible [fine for this offense] is 50 thousand rubles.

UPDATE, 3:35 p.m. Vasilyeva was released from the precinct after being cited for “discrediting the army.”

Source: “Female picketer with pacifist placard detained at Gostiny Dvor,” Zaks.ru, 28 January 2023. Translated by An Otherwise Currently Unemployed Translator Who Could Really Use Your Moral and Financial Support Instead of Your Stony Silence

Take Your Baby by the Ears

Meta wisely prevented me from sharing Ukrainian artist Alevtina Kakhidze’s original post, which it didn’t block.
Then Meta blocked me again when I tried to post a screenshot of its first takedown.

Wang Chung, “Dance Hall Days”
"Dance Hall Days"

Take your baby by the hand
And make her do a high hand stand
And take your baby by the heel
And do the next thing that you feel

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true
I said

Dance hall days, love

Take your baby by the hair
And pull her close and there, there, there
And take your baby by the ears
And play upon her darkest fears

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true
I said

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days
Dance hall days, love

Take your baby by the wrist
And in her mouth, an amethyst
And in her eyes, two sapphires blue
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her
And she needs you

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true
I said

Dance hall days, love

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days

Dance hall days, love.

Source: Jerzy Jay, in a comment to the YouTube video, above

Wang Chung playing “Dance Hall Days” at the Ritz (NYC) on 6 July 1986

Now Meta says I can appeal its absurd decision to the “Oversight Board,” but nowhere in this message to me do they explain how I would do that.

A Little Song about the Physicist Sakharov


A statue of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov was unveiled Monday in St. Petersburg, despite criticism from his widow who said today’s Russia has failed her husband.

The 10 1/2-foot bronze statue depicts the Nobel peace laureate, slightly stooped but with his head held high, standing with hands tied behind his back atop a stone pedestal on a square that was named after him in 1996.

The monument by sculptor Levon Lazarev’s was unveiled a few weeks after a city commission in Moscow gave the green light to a stalled plan for another statue of Sakharov in the capital.

Yelena Bonner was opposed to both statues, saying Russia has failed to live up to Sakharov’s ideals of freedom and democracy since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

“It is out of place to erect a monument to Sakharov in today’s Russia,″ the Interfax news agency quoted Bonner as saying. She said she was not consulted.

“There’s no money to publish his works widely, so that people would finally read them, but they can put up a monument,″ Bonner told Russia’s TVS television by phone from Boston, where she lives.

The unveiling drew about 100 people, among them intellectuals and former dissidents who supported a transition to democracy at the time of the Soviet collapse.

A physicist who helped design the Soviet hydrogen bomb, Sakharov became a staunch promoter of human rights and world peace, and spent seven years in internal exile for speaking out. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

Source: “Monument to Sakharov Unveiled in Russia,” Associated Press, 5 May 2003


A Little Song about the Physicist Sakharov

The physicist Sakharov
Was one bad dude.
Oh, how he made us seethe!
Why do we suffer that fool?

It later suddenly transpired
That he was a real good cat.
We felt sorry for the poor man
And guiltily ate our hats.

Now it’s been ascertained
That he was bad news after all.
We’re seething once again.
Why did we suffer that fool?

If again it turns out
That he was, in fact, a good egg,
Ah, we'll regret it again,
And put on guilty mugs.

8 August 2022

Source: German Lukomnikov, “New Poems,” Volga 1 (2023). Thanks to ES for the suggestion. Translated by the Russian Reader

Russian prosecutors on Monday declared as “undesirable” the U.S.-based foundation that preserves the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov as Moscow continues to crack down on dissent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The activities of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation (ASF) “constitute a threat to the foundation of Russia’s constitutional order and security,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said in a statement.

Under Russian law, individuals believed to have cooperated with an “undesirable” international NGO face steep fines and jail terms.

ASF, based in Springfield, Virginia outside Washington, says its goal is to promote Sakharov’s works to “support peace efforts and anti-war events.”

The organization chaired by mathematician Alexei Semyonov has not yet commented on Russia’s latest designation.

Russian authorities have declared more than 70 organizations — including media outlets focused on exposing fraud and corruption in Russia — “undesirable” between mid-2015 and early 2023.

Sakharov, once feted as a hero of the Soviet defense industry for his role in developing the Soviet nuclear bomb, became one of the U.S.S.R.’s most prominent dissidents from the late 1960s. 

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his work against the nuclear arms race he had helped precipitate, though he was not permitted to leave the Soviet Union to accept the award.

Sakharov became one of the most distinctive personalities of the perestroika era, rising to the status of a national moral authority.

Arrested in 1980 after denouncing the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Sakharov was sent into internal exile in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, then closed to foreigners.

After six years in exile, during which he undertook several hunger strikes, Sakharov was released over a telephone call by reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Source: “Russia Labels U.S.-Based Sakharov Foundation ‘Undesirable,’” Moscow Times, 24 January 2023

Sledgehammers

Sergei Mironov receives sledgehammer as gift from Yevgeny Prigozhin: “Together we will punch a hole in the Nazi ideology”

Sergei Mironov, leader of the party A Just Russia and a State Duma deputy, thanked Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin for the sledgehammer, which the businessman sent as a gift to the politician. “With its [the tool’s] help, together we will punch a hole in the Nazi ideology, which has set itself the goal of destroying our country. May all our enemies finally realize that they will not succeed,” Mironov wrote on his Telegram channel, adding the hashtag #the_sledgehammer_rules.

The sledgehammer presented to Mironov has a mound of skulls depicted on it and bears the Wagner Group’s trademark stamp. The tool gained notoriety after the death of ex-Wagner fighter and former convict Yevgeny Nuzhin. He was brought back to Russia from Ukrainian captivity and executed with a sledgehammer.

Source: Rotunda (Telegram), 20 January 2023. Translated by TRR


In the early noughties, Oskar Kuchera was the star of Muz TV, a popular music TV channel. Twenty years later, he vigorously criticizes Ukraine, and supports Putin and the Russian army. We met and talked.

0:00 Opening 0:42 Why did Kuchera agree to the interview? 4:47 When people of my generation found out about Kuchera 9:36 A place where it is convenient to work for remote work 12:41 “Soldiers”: a serial about the army in which there was no war 14:40 “I knew what would happen in September 2021.” How? 20:16 Why did Russia start the war? 36:25 Is it okay to bomb infrastructure? 37:08 Are there Nazis in Ukraine? 39:29 The ultra-right is fighting on Russia’s side: Can Russia be denazified? 51:58 “The geopolitical right to be friends with Ukraine” What the heck is that? 59:09 Russia is meddling in Ukraine’s affairs, although it has problems of its own. Is that normal? 1:11:27 Crimea 1:15:30 Why America’s and Europe’s help bad? 1:21:54 Why do you enthusiastically follow the news from the US? 1:25:31 Why does your son have a US passport? 1:27:47 “The Stars Converge” on NTV. What happened? 1:32:17 Did you put up with it for three years for the money? 1:37:13 Why is it a bad thing to flee the war? 1:43:43 How can you support the army but oppose the war? 1:50:15 How would you react if your children were conscripted? 1:51:39 Why do you support Putin? 1:55:12 “I believe we’ll stroll the streets of Berlin and Paris again.” Do you want to conquer Europe? 2:01:51 Germans supported their army in 1939–1945. Were they right? 2:04:25 Is Zelensky bolder than Putin? 2:11:52 Why does Putin lie so often? 2:20:16 Is it normal to support the regime and have real estate in a NATO country? 2:26:32 Why do you need a Telegram channel about politics? 2:29:45 Oh 2:33:56 What future do you see for children? 2:38:21 Does it suit you that you don’t know anything about Putin’s personal life? 2:47:10 Could you have imagined, twenty years ago, that someday you spend three whole hours excusing Putin and the regime?

Source: “The supporter of Russian troops,” vDud (Yuri Dud), YouTube, 16 January 2023, with English subtitles. Annotation translated by TRR. As of today (21 January 2023), the interview has garnered almost sixteen million views.


After an interview with Yuri Dudyu [sic]* (recognized as a foreign agent), the actor and TV presenter Oscar Kuchera fell into a new avalanche of fame. The release of a three-hour conversation, where the actor, including expressing his position on the situation in Ukraine, provoked thousands of posts on social networks. For the most part, the characteristics for Kuchera were not complimentary. On January 18, in an interview with a RIA Novosti correspondent, he told what he thinks about this.

“I did not expect that there would be such an amount of support. And the fact that I support our guys is something I can only be proud of. Well, it’s better to be a fool than a scoundrel,” says Kuchera.

He noted that before the interview, he agreed with Dud to discuss work on Muz-TV and the TV series Soldiers, music and citizenship. In the published three-hour talk, the first three topics are given a few minutes. The rest of the time, Kuchera confusedly explained why he was against military operations, but for the military, who are now in Ukraine.

“But it turned out what happened. Probably, I should have got up and left, but I am a passionate person. So I’m responsible for everything myself, ”the artist complained.

The audience ridiculed Kuchera for his incoherent and illogical speech, as well as for his position. The TV presenter said that he supported Russia, but did not deny that his son was born in Miami and received an American passport. Commentators immediately stated that they recognized their elderly relatives in the hero. The facial expression of Yuri Dud during a conversation with Kuchera also became a meme.

* The Ministry of Justice added Yuri Dud to the list of foreign media agents

Source: Russia Posts English, 18 January 2023

Running: the Numbers

Istanbul, December 2022. Photo courtesy of Republic

[…]

500 vacancies for military registration specialists were advertised from late September to last December last year, according to HeadHunter. Previously, this specialization was considered a rather rare and generally not very sought-after profile in the personnel departments of Russian organizations (private and public). For comparison: only 145 such vacancies were advertised in the whole of 2021. The military mobilization has changed the situation: since September — that is, in just three months — the number of such offers on the labor market has increased by about two and a half times (Superjob’s data also show the same thing). The reasons? One of them (apparently, the main one) is an increase in fines for lapses in paperwork: to avoid them, employers are willing to pay applicants for the popular vacancy 70-80 thousand rubles a month. And this is despite the fact that there is a shortage of a number of other specialists on the labor market (and, presumably, they are no less valuable than SMO-era personnel officers). The number of vacancies on Avito Jobs alone, according to a recent company study, increased by 69% in 2022. Most likely, the trend will continue, serving as a natural continuation of the outflow of people and, ultimately, personnel.

50% — the percentage of last year’s sales of existing housing in the Russian Federation made through a notarized power of attorney. This record figure for the entire observable history of the market, as calculated by investment company Flip, who were commissioned by Kommersant, clearly indicates that the sales trend was primarily shaped by property owners who had emigrated. The high volume of such transactions seems to be an anomalous phenomenon. In 2021, a power of attorney was the basis for sale in no more than 20% of deals. In 2020, this figure was 15%. It was 8% in 2019, and 5% in 2018. You ain’t seen nothing yet, though: the ongoing controversy over whether to confiscate the property of openly anti-war Russians who have left the country must be making an additional contribution to the process of selling apartments and houses, which was gaining momentum as it was.

$81.69 billion — the total amount of deposits by Russian nationals in foreign banks as of the end of November of last year, according to the latest data from the Russian Central Bank. (4.989 trillion rubles were recalculated at the exchange rate in effect on that date.) Over the past eleven months, the amount has more than doubled — and this is even if we rely entirely on the statistics of the Central Bank, which may not have a complete picture of what is happening. (Russian laws oblige citizens to report when they open accounts in foreign banks and move funds in them, but we cannot be absolutely sure that everyone strictly obeys them.) While one part of these funds remains in these bank accounts, the other goes to the purchase of real estate that, for the most part, is also located outside the Russian Federation.

16,300 houses and apartments in Turkey were purchased by Russian nationals in 2022, according to data published by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), as studied by RBC. This is not just three times more than in 2021 (when Russian nationals purchased 5,400 housing units in the Turkish Republic), but also more than the total volume of such transactions over the past six years (16,200). It is not surprising that last year, for the first time, Russians took first place among foreigners in buying housing in Turkey, producing almost a quarter of the corresponding demand with their money. Earlier, we wrote that our compatriots purchased two thousand houses and apartments in Turkey in October 2022 alone, overtaking all other foreign home buyers in that country, as reported by TurkStat.

At first glance, the advantages of investing in Turkey are not entire obvious. Inflation in the country, according to TurkStat, exceeded 84% in November, once again breaking records previously established in the autumn of 1998. The Inflation Analysis Group, an independent Turkish entity, estimated that inflation had reached a whopping 170.7% . In addition, prices for real estate, which have rising robustly, can at any moment just as vigorously drop, taking into account, in particular, the rather murky prospects for “Erdonomics,” depending on the results of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. According to Endeksa, in September, the average price for one square meter of housing in Turkey was about 12 thousand Turkish lira (approx. $644), while the average price per housing unit was just over 1.5 million Turkish lira (approx. $83,700). The term of return on investment in housing is estimated at nineteen years, although in the summer this figure was recalculated to seventeen years.

The intense interest on the part of Russian nationals in buying real estate in Turkey is primarily related to the prospect of obtaining Turkish citizenship, Anna Larina, head of the foreign real estate department at NF Group, explained to Republic. (In turn, having a Turkish passport makes it possible to obtain an American E-2 visa, which speeds up the process of immigrating to the United States.) In this sense, it is logical that Russians have become leaders in terms of the number of residence permits issued in Turkey — 153,000, of which, however, as the Turkish Ministry of Migration clarified, 132,000 are short-term tourist residence permits, which are valid for two years.

Turkey is one of the few countries (but not the only country) that is still open to Russian nationals and their private capital. Thus, as 2022 came to a close, Russian citizens took first place among non-residents in buying real estate in Dubai, Bloomberg recently reported, citing figures provided by the brokerage firm Betterhomes.

Withdrawing funds and setting up a new life abroad eloquently testify to the sentiments prevailing among the Russian urban middle class, primarily. Not all people who sell Russian real estate and buy foreign real estate are necessarily irreconcilable opponents of the regime. And yet, it is clear that the vast majority of these people do not want to live and raise children in Putin’s version of the future, which is practically incompatible with modern civilization. In its own way, it is symptomatic that Russians who support the government and dutifully follow it into its deadly adventures are also dissatisfied with what is happening. If it were possible, they would rather return to the past, to a point in time thirty, forty, or fifty years ago.

63% — the percentage of Russians, according to a December poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), who regret the collapse of the USSR — that is, more than three decades after the event known in Kremlin mythology as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” Strictly speaking, the current longing for Soviet times cannot be considered a record: after the August 1998 ruble default, there were noticeably more Russians nostalgic for the Soviet Union — 85%. Nevertheless, an important indicator of public attitudes (as recorded, we should underscore, by a quasi-state polling service) is on the rise again, having increased by twelve percentage points since 2011.

It is clear that this sentiment is primarily voiced by the 46–60 age group (88% of whom are “nostalgic”) and to some extent, people aged 31–45 years (79% of whom are “nostalgic”), assuming that a considerable portion of these people associate the late USSR with their happy childhoods and wild youths. However, according to the poll, even today’s Russian youth, that is, people aged 18–30, mostly (64%) consider the Soviet era “generally a good time.” Of course, their judgments are based on the stories of older generations, and most importantly, on the inevitable comparison with what is happening with the largest post-Soviet country right now.

Source: Yevgeny Karasyuk, “Salvation in foreign real estate and a new bout of nostalgia for the USSR: timely numbers from Russia… and a few from Turkey,” Republic, 20 January 2023. Translated by Hambone Brewster, who is still implacably opposed to the Russian “pollocracy” and continues to be surprised that even otherwise smart cookies like Mr. Karasyuk continue to cite Russian “public opinion polls” as reliable sources of real information — rather than, at best, records of sustained trauma and unfreedom.

What Mobilization Has Done to the Sverdlovsk Region

The Sverdlovsk Region is one of the leading Russian regions in terms of the number of casualties among mobilized men. Many of them perished in the Kherson Region, from whose capital Russian army retreated after eight months of occupation. Relatives of the mobilized men said that, despite the fact that the authorities promised not to send untrained soldiers to the front line, their loved ones were killed a week after they were drafted. Some were killed literally within a few days. Despite this, the mothers, wives and children of the mobilized men support the war and thank Putin. Our film explains why.

00:00 Sverdlovsk Region is among the leaders in numbers of mobilized men killed 01:15 “They were quickly dispatched to the Kherson Region” 04:57 A man who had four children was taken away 08:43 How a father went to fight instead of his conscript son 13:10 “We had a funeral, but we didn’t see who we were burying” 14:55 What relatives of dead draftees receive 16:40 The mobilization’s end result

Source: “The Mobilization’s Aftermath: What the War Has Done to Russia,” iStories (YouTube), 14 January 2023 (in Russian, with Russian closed captions).


Alexei Rozhkov responded with Molotov cocktails to the decision by the Russian authorities to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. On March 11, he set fire to a military enlistment office in the suburbs of Yekaterinburg. He was detained the same day and charged with “attempted murder”: allegedly, there had been a watchman in the building at the time. The young man faced up to fifteen years in prison.

Alexei was held in a pretrial detention center for six months. The charges were then unexpectedly reduced to a less serious crime — “property damage” — and the insurgent was released on his own recognizance. After a time, thanks to the support of a human rights organization, Rozhkov left Russia, and we were able to speak to him.

Tell me what you did before February 24. Did you have a job? Any hobbies? Were you interested in politics?

Rozhkov: I lived in the city of Beryozovsky, a suburb of Yekaterinburg with a population of about 100 thousand. Yekaterinburg itself can be reached by bus in twenty or thirty minutes. I worked as a sales consultant at a DNS store.

I was fond of music — I’m a guitarist, a bassist. About six years ago, I had a band, Tell Me the Reason. I started recording a solo album [before February 24], which is still not finished due to the war, having to moving around, and being in prison.

I love dynamic, energetic music: it invigorates me, helps me get out of depression, and gets me warmed up and excited.

I have been interested in politics since I was fourteen. [Alexei is now twenty-five.] My views have changed over time. Previously, they were more democratic or something, more legal. Now I can call myself a left-wing anarchist. I have always campaigned to open people’s eyes and make them see what is happening with the country — for example, with the standard of living. I talked to my family and acquaintances, friends and even strangers. I drew leaflets and spray-painted walls. Do you know those big advertising banners? At night, I would climb up and write “Putin is a thief” on them. At the time, he was merely a thief. But now, of course, he is not just a thief but also a murderer. I wrote on such billboards at night so that people would also start asking questions and arrive at the same opinion.

Tell me why you decided to set fire to the military enlistment office. What did you hope to achieve?

Rozhkov: Since February 22, I had been closely following independent media and social media channels. I expected the war to start in the last week of month, because Russian troops were amassed in Belgorod, Belarus, and other border areas. It was obvious that some kind of movement of troops would begin. And it kicked off on February 24. I began to go into a depression. I was constantly flipping channels and reading the news. I was getting worse every day. I just understood that it was impossible to remain indifferent. What is happening now is illegitimate; it is illegal. Any war means death for ordinary folks. A war in the twenty-first century seems somehow alien to me, especially for such ridiculous, made-up reasons. We annexed Crimea in 2014, and I said already back then that it was wrong. Crimea is not ours and will never be ours. I said there would be consequences. And that’s how it turned out.

It is really awful for me to get my head around the fact that people are getting killed — civilians are dying, and those who do not want to fight, but have been drafted, are also getting killed. I wanted to make some kind of appeal for people to start fighting against this war. I wanted to impact the situation, to do something to stop it all or at least weaken [Russian troops]. So, I set fire to the military enlistment office in the city of Beryozovsky. I didn’t try to burn it down. I threw three Molotov cocktails at the glass doors, which broke. I didn’t even expect them to shatter. Actually, I was thinking that I would just set fire to the door, to the entrance. I was unlucky: at that moment, traffic cops were driving past and noticed what I did. [They] put out the fire, and then they followed me. I couldn’t get far. I ran about a kilometer, and I was blinded by the high beam from their vehicle. I tried to get out of there, to run away, but they threatened to shoot me, and I was forced to surrender.

Tell me how you prepared for this. How spontaneous was this protest?

Rozhkov: It happened quite spontaneously. I didn’t even develop an exit plan and was operating in unfamiliar territory. It seemed to me like some kind of self-sacrifice. I perfectly imagined that I would be held [criminally] liable for this, but I had no fear.

After my protest action was carried out, Putin admitted on Channel One that conscript soldiers had been deployed to the military special operation zone, and [said] that they would be withdrawn from there and that those who had sent them would be punished. It was after my arson attempt that he said this. I was the third person in Russia to set fire to a military enlistment office, and this is [an example of how] several people made an impact to save guys like us, guys our same age. [Conscripts] were not killed in the war. None [of them] were killed: they were simply transferred back to Russia, leaving only contract soldiers [in the war zone].

So you think that the arsons of military enlistment offices also influenced this decision by the authorities?

Rozhkov: Yes, I think so. I’m certain of it.

How did you feel while you were in police custody? Was there any pressure from the investigative authorities? What actually happened after you were detained?

Rozhkov: I was detained, handcuffed, searched, thrown into a paddy wagon, and taken to the police station. I was treated pretty badly at the station. The police chief of the city of Beryozovsky threatened me personally that he would piss on me and beat me with a stick — those were literally his words. But there were also decent people [among the police officers] who did not threaten me and talked to me calmly. They supported me so that I would not go into complete shock.

At Pretrial Detention Center No. 1 in Yekaterinburg, I was quarantined at first. They didn’t issue me bed linens, they didn’t give me a pillow or a blanket — they only gave me a pissed-stained mattress. Thank God I didn’t spend much time there. On the fourth day, the head doctor of the psychiatric ward summoned me. Since I have some ailments, she put herself in my shoes and I was transferred to the hospital wing, to the “psycho hut.” Basically, I liked it there. Despite the fact that some people in my cell were wacky, I had almost no conflicts with them. It wasn’t the first time my cellmates had been in prison. I was the only first-timer.

[In the pretrial detention center] they gave me very strong drugs, which made me feel lousy. One of those drugs was risperidone, which is prescribed to schizophrenics. I was given a triple dose. I suffered from restlessness [akathisia], I had panic attacks, I was short of breath and suffered from insomnia. That is, the treatment wasn’t right for me. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I was sent there, and not to gen pop.

I was a “road worker” [the person in a prison cell or block responsible for the “road,” the illegal system of communication among cells] — they respected me and listened to my opinion. Basically, everything was fine while I was in the joint. The prison staff were mostly supportive: you could talk to them a little bit during inspections or when the gruel was served.

During the period of my imprisonment, I was taken for an inpatient mental competency examination to the psychiatric hospital on the Siberian Route [i.e., Sverdlovsk Regional Clinical Psychiatric Hospital]. I stayed there for twenty-one days. There, on the contrary, the prison staff behaved aggressively and tried to provoke many people, including me, into conflict.

Those who succumbed to provocations were tasered and locked up in solitary confinement. The worst, most deranged prison staff, I believe, were in the tenth ward of the psychiatric regional hospital on the Siberian Route.

Did anyone support you while you were in prison, such as relatives, friends, or maybe human rights campaigners?

Rozhkov: When I was in the pretrial detention center, a lawyer from the Anarchist Back Cross came to visit me and offered their help. They also asked whether I wanted to receive letters, [financial?] assistance, care packages, and publicity for my case. I turned down the assistance and publicity, but decided that it would be nice to get letters from concerned folks who help people like us who are in prison. The letters really gave me a boost. My parents and concerned people from Yekaterinburg helped me by bringing me care packages. I won’t name names, but they helped me and are still helping me.

Why did you decide to turn down the assistance from the Anarchist Black Cross?

Rozhkov: Because I gave into the persuasions of my parents and lawyer. They were against my case being [widely] publicized — allegedly, so as to avoid hounding the investigator in my case. They were afraid that he would toughen the punishment if I attracted public attention. So, due to pressure from [my parents and lawyer], I had to turn down this help.

And yet, when you were in the pretrial detention center, as far as I remember, you were facing the rather harsh charge of attempted murder, right?

Rozhkov: Yes, I had been charged with violating Article 105, part two, in combination with Article 30 — “attempted murder, committed with extreme cruelty, from hooligan motives, in a generally dangerous way.” The crime carries a sentence of between eight years to life in prison.

Do you think that someone’s life was actually threatened as a result of what you did?

Rozhkov: I’m absolutely sure that this wasn’t the case. I doubt that there actually was a woman [night watchperson] of some kind in the military enlistment office building. According to the testimony of the policemen who detained me, who helped extinguish the fire, there were no lights turned anywhere on the premises, and they did not see this woman either. So, I doubt that she was there. In addition, in other such cases — I monitored similar cases — no one was charged under the same article of the criminal code as me. There were no guards there.

When you were released on your own recognizance, you didn’t leave the country immediately. What was holding you back?

Rozhkov: I was promised that the charges against me would be light: Article 167 in combination with Article 30, which translates into “attempted destruction of property,” and carries a maximum sentence of five years. But, after looking at the other cases, I realized that sooner or later, Article 205 [“terrorism”] would be rolled out against all of us.

I also wanted to spend as much time as possible with my family, with relatives and friends, so that I could at least somehow restore our relations and thank them. But ultimately I left. I was evacuated from the country.

How did your relatives react to your actions and to your prosecution?

Rozhkov: They said that I had acted stupidly, that it was impossible to go against the system and that I had let everyone else down. They accused me of suffering from a guilt complex. But I believe that I saved people and that my life is a small sacrifice compared to the number of people who survived thanks to what I did. Even if I had been shot when they were detaining me, I would still have achieved more than anyone else.

How are you feeling right now?

Rozhkov: I feel sad and lonely. I am not in my native country. But I have a friend — I am lucky that he ended up here for the same political reasons — and he helps and supports me. I am also supported by evacuation organizations. I feel pretty bad. But now I’ve purchased the medications prescribed by a psychotherapist, and things are getting easier and easier in my head every day. But sometimes a powerful sadness rolls over me, a melancholy due to the fact that I am lonely and had to leave the country.

Berezovsky and Sverdlovsk Region, on a map of the Russian Federation. Image courtesy of DOXA

When we were agreeing to do this interview, you said that after you had left [Russia], you tattooed the anarchy symbol on the back of your hand. Can you tell me about it for the interview?

Rozhkov: The symbol means a lot to me. I am an anarchist myself, a leftist; I espouse this political position. And although a society without powerful authorities and hierarchies seems like a utopia, we could get there. Power should belong to the people, not to a bunch of corrupt bastards who commit terrible crimes. My symbol also means that I share the views of the people who helped me when I was in prison. It says that I am close to these people. And that I, in turn, will also help political prisoners at the first opportunity.

Maybe you would like to convey something to Ukrainians?

Rozhkov: Yes, I would. I want them to know that there are dissenters, people [in Russia] who do not want war with Ukraine or any war at all. I hope that soon no one else will suffer due to this shit that Putin has made happen. Ukrainians are doing a good job of retaking their territory and destroying Russian troops. I think everything will be fine sooner or later. Ukrainians are very strong, motivated people and will defend their territory to the end. I respect them for that. I would have done the same thing in their place.

Source: Ivan Astashin, “‘I believe I saved people’: an interview with one of the first to torch a military enlistment office in Russia,” DOXA, 22 December 2022. Thanks to Simon Pirani for the heads-up. Translated by Hecksinductionhour

This Ain’t No Disco

Some schoolchildren thus learned about the existence of Time Machine and DDT.

The Telegram channel Caution, Moscow, citing the parents of students as it sources, writes that a blacklist of artists whose songs are forbidden to play during school disco parties has been distributed in Moscow schools. The list includes artists who have spoken out against the special [military] operation, and some of them have moved abroad.

In the screenshot posted on the Telegram channel, the section is titled “Forbidden music.” In addition to Zemfira and Valery Meladze, it features several dozen artists, including Morgenshtern,* Oxxxymiron, Aquarium, Boris Grebenshchikov, B2, Face, Noize MC,* Little Big, Ivan Dorn, Vera Brezhneva, and Svetlana Loboda. However, the list does not replicate the list of “undesirable” artists that was published in the media this past summer. In any case, Monetochka is not on [the new list].


“Thematic disco parties. We’re going to be holding thematic disco parties quite soon. Every class has a theme. The head boys and head girls of each class should chip in 10 tracks (identifying which class it is). But let’s not forget that the music has to be danceable. Forbidden music: Morgenshtern, Noize MC, Manizha, Oxxxymiron, Nogu Svelo, DDT, Time Machine, Louna, Aquarium, Valery Meladze, B2, Face, Zemfira, Little Big, 2Mashas, Alekseev, Max Barskhikh, Vera Brezhneva, Boris Grebenshchikov, Anacondaz, Nerves, Kasta, Alone in a Canoe, Okean Elzy, Ivan Dorn, Dorofeeva, Svetlana Loboda, Monatik, Potap & Nastya Kamenskikh. There must be no mention of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, narcotics, or adult content [in the songs]!”


According to the parents, the list of banned artists was delivered to the head boys and head girls of classes, who are in charge of the musical program at the New Year’s dance parties. “The children reacted normally. They said, ‘Well, no means no.’ They asked questions about who DDT and Time Machine were and what they sang. But they did want to listen to Morgenshtern,” the parents said.

The [Moscow] Department of Education told Moskvich Mag that they “did not restrict schoolchildren in their choice of music, did not make stop lists, and did not identify performers who were not desirable to feature at events.”

* Has been placed on the Justice Ministry’s list of “foreign agents.”

Source: “Zemfira and Meladze: blacklists of artists for discos issued in Moscow schools,” Moskvich Mag, 15 December 2022. Translated by TRR

Fascism with a Human Face

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.

Source: Andrei Gorelikov, “Putin urged both Russians and citizens of western countries to fight for higher salaries,” Rabota.ru, 28 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


“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.

Source: “Air fresheneres installed on the Filyovskaya metro line,” Russkii pioner, 3 November 2022. Photo courtesy of Russkii pioner. Translated by the Russian Reader


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.

Source: “From brilliant shot bars to giant food halls: 12 Petersburg openings in 2022 — Vitya Bar, Noise Cabaret, Moskovsky Market, and the inclusive Outside Entrance,” The Village, 5 December 2022. Photo courtesy of The Village. Translated by the Russian Reader


The “Fedya, the wildfowl!” scene from the beloved Soviet comic crime caper The Diamond Arm (1969), starring Andrei Mironov and Yuri Nikulin

Lena and Katya, Authors of “Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie”

Lena Malisova and Katya Silvanova

More than 200 thousand copies have been sold — an absolute bestseller. Its authors, Katerina Silvanova and Elena Malisova, did not expect the novel to take off. In 2021, one of the readers of A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie made a TikTok based on the book that went viral. “We had a wild number of views — it was surreal,” recalls Katya. A month after its publication, homophobes drew attention to the book: threats to imprison, rape, kill, burn, and drown the authors along with their novel rained down on social networks. By the end of this summer, the scandal around LVPG [as the novel is known to fans] had ballooned to calls to remove the book from stores, while politicians in the regions went so far as to burn copies of the book. Russia has now adopted the most scandalous law of recent years — a complete ban on LGBT propaganda [see below]. A Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie has again been cited by officials as the [negative] “gold standard”: this is what has been target by the state’s hatred.

Who are Katerina Silvanova and Elena Malisova? Where are they from? How did they become writers? How did they manage to write the year’s biggest book? Special to The Village, journalist Anya Kuznetsova traced their real-life stories from childhood to the present day.


In brief: what is the book itself about?

The plot centers around the relationship between two young men — Young Pioneer Yura and camp counselor Volodya. They meet at the Ukrainian summer camp Swallow in 1986, forming a friendship that eventually blossoms into a teenage romance. It is difficult for the characters to accept their homosexuality. Volodya suffers from internal homophobia and worries that he is “seducing” the Young Pioneer, while Yura does not understand what his lover feels and tries to conceal his affection.

The authors of the novel raise topics that are sticky in post-Soviet society: the stigmatization of LGBT people, the inability to openly build relationships, and the need to constantly ensure that they are not disclosed. This is clearly seen in the episode when one of the Young Pioneers, Masha, tries to report Yura and Volodya’s relationship to the authorities, which may threaten the counselor with expulsion from university.

Another feature of this text is a style typical of fan fiction. Using a simple, accessible language, Elena and Katerina have created a text unique in Russophone literature. Yes, the topic of same-sex love has been raised before — for example, by the poets Mikhail Kuzmin and Sofia Parnok — and critics have detected homoerotic motifs even in the fiction of Gogol and Tolstoy. But the authors of LVPG have been, perhaps, the first to succeed in producing a genuinely popular Russian-language text directly describing a romantic relationship between men — so much so that it has been banned.

A year later, in the midst of the hype around LVPG, Popcorn Books published a sequel to the novel, What the Swallow Won’t Say (aka OCHML). The events in the new novel unfold twenty years after Yura and Volodya parted: they never managed to meet again after their time at summer camp.

The characters are now adults, living their own lives. Volodya runs his father’s construction company and is in an abusive relationship with a married man, while Yura has moved to Germany and writes music. They accidentally meet again and try to build a relationship, but it’s not so simple. Yura suffers from writer’s block and alcoholism, while Volodya suffers from self-harm and controlling behavior.

Although OCHML continues the plot line started in LVPG, the book is anything but an easy read: the authors delve deeper into the stigmatization of the LGBT community, while simultaneously exploring addiction, abuse, violence, and conversion therapy. You can read more about the second part in Bolshoi Gorod.


Lena Malisova

Part 1. Lena Malisova’s story: Childhood at a sawmill, abuse, and the death of her father

Kirov in the 1990s is where the future writer grew up. Lena’s parents owned a sawmill in the village of Suzum (Kirov Region) and took their daughter with them, says Malisova.

“The sawmill was in the forest, and I often walked through this forest at night. A stunning starry sky, snakes hiding in the grass. It seemed to me them that I only had to go outside and I would definitely encounter a goblin or a little mermaid.”

At first, Lena’s parents read to her, but later she read to herself. She read the tales of Hoffmann, the Brothers Grimm, and Andersen, Gerhart Hauptmann‘s novels Atlantis and The Whirlwind of Vocation and, later, Goethe’s The Sufferings of Young Werther.

As a teenager, Lena became interested in heavy music, and wore torn jeans and a bandana. Goths, metal heads and bikers emerged in Kirov. Lena listened to black metal, Lacrimosa, and Korol i Shut, and started hanging out with the “informals” who met at the Kalinka store to play guitar and discuss music. It was there that she met Vlad, her future boyfriend.

“He seemed nice and gallant to me, and paid me a lot of attention. He said he couldn’t live without me, and at the time I took those words seriously. Together we listened to music and watched music videos, and he copied magazine pages for me. At the time I believed that I was difficult to fall in love with, and his attentions won me over,” the writer says.

Over time, Vlad’s attitude towards Lena changed. According to her, the young man didn’t like her friends, calling them whores and asking her to stop hanging out with them. Vlad was jealous of Lena and tried to get her to develop complexes, calling her fat, and if she hung out with other guys, he said that she was a whore. It was then that Vlad hit her for the first time.

“When something bad happened to him, he projected his emotions onto me. For example, I wouldn’t ask how his day had been, or I’d talk to another guy, and he would light up, thinking I didn’t love him or was cheating on him. It was the whole circle of abuse: the outburst, the beating, the promise to improve, and the reconciliation, and after a while everything would repeat again. I understood I was in a bad relationship, but I couldn’t explain why. I thought that if I broke up with him, no one would want me. It was painful without him, but it was worse with him. I hid the bruises and deceived my loved ones,” Lena recalls.

Hanging out with peers helped Lena to get out of the relationship. A club was started at her school in which the kids involved organized celebrations and came up with contests. Hanging out with other teenagers, Lena realized that there was a life without humiliation and aggression, that there was friendship, support, and mutual assistance. Vlad noticed that she was moving away, and there were more quarrels and violence. When it had reached a critical point, they broke up.

“I am convinced that my desire to write texts about LGBT people is connected with the abusive relationships in my youth. I understand that victims of violence and LGBT people living in a homophobic environment are oppressed. They are in a terrible situation, they can’t do anything: they can’t help themselves and no one can help them. When I think about it, I remember my personal experience. And I want to support them emotionally, to say that they are not alone, here is my hand of support. I believe that literature can change the world,” the writer explains.

After leaving abusive relationships and going to high school, Lena met her future husband Ilya. They were also connected by music — Ilya played the guitar. When Lena turned eighteen, the couple decided to get married. The wedding was scheduled for December 2006. But a month before that, a tragedy occurred in the young woman’s family: her dad died in a fire at the sawmill.

“That night, during the fire, Dad was at the sawmill, and we did not completely believe that he had been there. A body was found in the morning. I couldn’t believe for a long time that my father was dead. He often went on business trips, so I thought that he had just gone away this time as well. We buried Dad in a closed coffin,” Lena recalls.

She says that she still could not acknowledge his death. When her father-in-law died, she cried for several days. This was her way of mourning her father.

Katya Silvanova

Part 2. Katya Silvanova’s story: Childhood in Kharkiv and acceptance of her bisexuality

Katya is four years younger than Lena. She spent her childhood in Ukraine, in her hometown of Kharkiv. Currently, the Kharkiv region is being shelled by the Russian military. The lights are constantly turned off in the city for several hours at a time, and the metro comes to a standstill.

Remembering her Kharkiv childhood in the late 90s and early 2000s, Katya says that she was outside in the courtyard a lot. She hung out a lot with the neighborhood kids and constantly rescued animals.

“There was a cat Frosya on our street who suddenly began giving birth. My friend and I stole milk from the house, delivered the kittens, and got them on their feet. Then we picked up a dog that someone had thrown out of the car. We raised money and took it to the vet. And I often went to visit my grandmother in Kryvyi Rih, where I played with the chickens and goats.”

Katya was closest to her mother.

“She read a lot and watched auteur cinema. I always wanted to be with her and her friends. My relationship with my father didn’t work out — he drank and cheated on my mother,” says Katya.

Katya also became interested in reading thanks to her mother — she bought the girl Jules Verne’s In Search of the Castaways. It was followed by Tom Sawyer and, later, Harry Potter, Tanya Grotter, Night Watch, and fantasy novels. It was then that the future writer began inventing worlds, generating ideas from what she viewed and read, and developing characters.

Some readers have criticized LVPG for being written by two heterosexual women. It’s not like that: Katya is bisexual. She thought about her sexuality for the first time in the tenth grade.

“A new girl transferred to our school, and we became friends because we were interested in anime and read manga and fan fiction. I can’t say for sure why yaoi and yuri manga didn’t cause me any surprise. At the age of fifteen, I just accepted as a fact that this exists, that these people exist, and they are no different from us. And then my friend kissed me. That’s how I realized I was bisexual.”

It was not easy for Katya to accept her orientation.

“When people in my group of friends found out that I liked girls, they looked at me strange. When I tried to talk to my parents about LGBT people — not specifically about myself, but in general — their reaction was abrupt and negative.”

The reaction of those around her triggered internal homophobia: Katya began to think something was wrong with her.

Literary representations of her experience helped Katya to cope.

“There are now a lot of LGBT books, films and TV series. But back then I found representations in the yaoi and yuri fan fiction based on Naruto, the comedy manga series Gravitation, and the old anime series of Ai no Kusabi.”

Writing LVPG helped Katya reconcile her parents with her sexuality.

“I told my mom that I like women this year. It took me a long time to work up to it. She was influenced by LVPG — when she was reading the novel, she asked me to explain everything, and I worked on destroying her stereotypes for several years. But in the end, when I told her about myself, she wasn’t surprised. She boldly accepted everything.”

“I now relate to the LGBT community positively and even sympathetically. But it wasn’t always like that. My attitude and acceptance of this topic was completely shaped by Katya. When she was writing the book and I was reading it, we talked a lot, arguing and discussing things. It wasn’t easy to read at first: I was constantly tripped up by the idea that we were talking about two guys. But her talent won me over, and I read the second part of the book excitedly,” says Katya’s mother.

Katya’s maternal grandmother also read LVPG and easily accepted the book’s homoerotic relationships.

“So the lads love each other? Then let them love each other. What’s the big deal? It’s basically a wonderful book,” she argues.

When Katya turned twenty-two, the Euromaidan happened. Due to a fall in the value of the dollar, the trading business owned her by mother was threatened, and the family did not have enough money to buy new pants to replace torn ones. At the time, the future writer had been dating a guy from Nizhny Novgorod and decided to go and stay with him. She recalls the move as fraught with anxiety.

“People were condescending when they found out that I was from Ukraine. But it wasn’t sympathy — they considered me a refugee. It was not an equal relationship, in fact: they put themselves above me, saying that I was poor and unhappy, that I had come to seek shelter in Russia, because allegedly Ukraine was bombing us. Of course, not everyone was like that, but I often encountered a dismissively sympathetic attitude.”

Part 3. Ficbook: Meeting and Working on “Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie”

The young women met in 2016 thanks to Ficbook — a website where non-professional authors post their fan fiction, that is, new works based on famous works or characters that are not in any way approved by the authors of the originals. Both Katya and Lena found their way to Ficbook by reading LGBT literature: Katya was looking for representations of same-sex relationships, while Lena wanted to learn more about the lives of LGBT people.

“I was then working at a company where I made friends with a gay guy who was HIV positive. I was shocked and worried and wanted to find out how to help him. I was looking for information, for diaries of people with HIV, and eventually came across Ficbook,” says Lena.

Over time, the young women found the website’s “Originals” section, where authors publish works based not on existing works, but involving completely fictional worlds. Katya and Lena began posting their texts, and having stumbled upon each other’s work, they met on Skype call, during which the authors discussed their works.

“Katya won me over. We were in an environment in which everyone would try to offend and criticize each other. Katya is not like that, that’s why I liked her. I was reading her texts and knew her as an author even before I met her, and in her works I had seen a lot of similarities with my own — she focuses on the same details as me. We rang each other up to read our texts to each other,” Lena recalls.

“It was the first time I felt synergy,” Katya adds. “Lena is very smart. All you need to know about her is that we once sat down to watch a three-hour film about Alexander the Great, but the viewing dragged on for almost five hours. Lena was constantly pausing the video and saying things like, ‘That is the phalanx of Alexander the Great: I will now draw a diagram to show how it works.'”

Katya and Lena’s first meeting, Moscow, 2016

The idea to write something about a Young Pioneer camp came from Lena, who was working a lot at the time and wanted to read a summer novel in her spare time. She asked Katya to write such a work, but in the end they decided to work on it together. They telephoned each other, outlined a plan, and divvied up the responsibilities. Most of the text was written when Katya traveled to Moscow to visit Lena. When the book was finished, the young women decided to publish a small edition for themselves and friends: they chipped in and printed four hundred copies.

The writers began getting. messages, suggesting that they send their manuscript to Popcorn Books.

“Our thought then was, Come on, this is a real publishing house that publishes books by André Aciman and other famous foreign authors. Where do we fit in? Plus, we believed that no one would publish a Russian LGBT book. But when Popcorn Books started soliciting works from Russian-speaking authors, Lena said, ‘Yes, let’s give it a try. They will turn us down in any case, but they promise feedback — let’s treat this as experience,'” recalls Katya.

In response to the submission, the young women received a letter that read: “Hello, we really liked your book, and we want to publish it.”

“I sat stupefied for ten minutes, thinking that I had read it wrong,” Katya says. “I sent it to Lena, and then the screaming started. We couldn’t believe it. Lena said, ‘Do you mean to say that my book will be sold in a bookstore?'”

Part 4. “Of course, I didn’t read the Young Pioneer camp faggotry”: How homophobes have reacted to the book

Reactions to the book have varied. In addition to letters of support, the young women have received a lot of hate mail. They have been criticized by film director Nikita Mikhalkov, writer Zakhar Prilepin, journalist and writer Mikhail Shakhnazarov, and Vostok Battalion blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, among many others. Some of the posts were threatening and offensive. Prilepin said he wanted to burn down Popcorn Books, while Tatarsky called the writers “two broads” who look “as if they had come to a casting of Battle of the Psychics without masking their witchy essence much.”

The Village contacted Tatarsky.

“Of course, I didn’t read the Young Pioneer camp faggotry. There is nothing edifying about hyping the topic of homosexual relations. That’s all. If the book even discusses the pedophile movement neutrally, it clearly puts the topic on the [public] agenda,” he says.

We were unable to contact Prilepin, who hung up the phone when we called him.

Shakhnazarov also refused to be interviewed by The Village.

“I familiarized myself with your publication and with your questions,” he wrote. “Do you understand what’s the matter? Your readers are unlikely to understand and accept my answers, and therefore an interview is pointless. One thing I can say for sure. Summer… is not even a literary composition. It’s neither pulp fiction nor literature. And if it has no artistic value, there is nothing for us to talk about.”

The first edition of LVPG

The critics were later joined by the authorities, who proposed a law that would completely ban LGBT literature.

“We were monitoring every hour what appeared in the news. We watched this chimera grow. First there was Prilepin, then the Sevastopol [State Duma] deputy who proposed the law. The trigger was not the book, but the sudden realization by people in power that such literature was being read, that it was popular. They can’t get their heads around it. While I have a strong sense of guilt and blame myself for everything in the world, I don’t blame myself for this law. It is not us who should be blamed, but the people who passed it,” Katya argues.

Tatarsky, who supported the law’s passage, when asked about the connection between the law bill and the novel, argued that everything was complicated.

“Everything in Russia is contradictory,” he said. “We have a law on LGBT propaganda, but they take a gay man [Anton Krasovsky] and make him director of RT, showing that you can be successful while being gay. Everything happens inconsistently in Russia.”

“LVPG has become a litmus test,” Lena replies. “It has highlighted the fact that the authorities were wrong in how they thought about LGBT. For a long time it was hammered into everyone’s heads that the entire Russian society was solidly against LGBT people. But our book has shown that this is not the case, that there are many more humanists and sympathizers than they thought.”

Part 5. War: A grandmother in Kharkiv and leaving Russia

On February 24, Katya woke up to a message from a close friend in Kharkiv: “He [Putin] started bombing.”

“I got onto the news and found out the whole story. I went to call my mom,” Katya says.

“In the morning, I opened my eyes and immediately closed them with the thought, No, I don’t want to wake up, because there is war. I think all Ukrainians felt about the same,” Katya’s mother recalls. “My family and all my friends were in Kharkiv, which was bombed daily. I experienced every attack together with them. Also, my Katya was in the country that had attacked us. Daily Skype conversations with her helped me to stay afloat and not go crazy.”

On the evening of February 24, Katya got more terrible news: her paternal grandmother had died during the bombing.

“When Kharkiv was bombed, my grandmother was scared. She didn’t know what to do. She ran out of the house, thinking about whether to go down to the basement or not. She had a heart attack,” Katya says.

The body was not retrieved for two days — the police, who handle such things, refused to go outside while bombing was underway.

On the second day of the war, Katya traveled to Lena’s house. Together they doomscrolled and watched YouTube. The young women say that mutual support helped them survive this period.

“Lena knows how to take care of others,” says Katya. “She doesn’t ask you how things are going when things are bad. She says, ‘If you want, come over. We’ll pretend that everything is fine and distract ourselves. If you don’t want to pretend everything is fine, we’ll look at the news bulletins from the front and have a beer.’ [To cheer me up] she can write one more time that [Putin] will kick the bucket soon.”

Katya says that since the beginning of the war she had been thinking a lot about leaving for Ukraine.

“Every day I was calling my mother and a friend who wrote to me hysterically from a basement. It was impossible: I would call my mom, and there was a window opening behind her. I kept thinking: what if a rocket hits her now?”

In the summer, in the wake of the hate campaign against LVPG, Katya decided to leave Russia. She has been in Ukraine for more than two months.

“When you can’t help your family and friends, and they write and tell you what’s going on, it’s much worse for you. Maybe I’m in more physical danger now, but mentally I’m much better,” she says.

“I did not pass through hot spots, but I did go through checkpoints. There were military men on the bus with me — whether they were police or AFU, I don’t know. The bus was going to Zaporizhzhia, the closest point to the front. This was the most vivid testament to the fact that the country was at war,” Katya says, adding, “Another vivid impression has been the people. I’m used to the fact that in bureaucratic organizations, in stores, and on the street [in Russia], you’re afraid to say too much, because people might suddenly turn out to be vatniks. Everything is different in Ukraine: I go to the store, and everyone smiles and is helpful. When I was getting my papers sorted, I said that I was from Russia and I thought they would rip me to shreds there and then. But ultimately, they explained everything decently. They told me not to worry and calmed my mother.”

Katya Silvanova is still in Kharkiv.

“When the war began,” she says, “we received many messages from Ukrainians, for whom this text was an outlet in a terrible time. I got a letter from girl from Mariupol who read LVPG during the bombing. We write for the sake of such reactions.”

Source: Anya Kuznetsova, “Who are Lena and Katya, the authors of ‘Summer in a Young Pioneer’s Tie’? Kharkiv, coming out, a sawmill, and haters,” The Village, 1 December 2022. All photos, above, were provided to The Village by Ms. Silvanova and Ms. Malisova. Translated by the Russian Reader


Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law expanding the existing ban on the prohibition of “LGBT propaganda” to children to include the entire population on Monday.

People of all ages are now banned from accessing certain content under the new legislation. From now on, LGBT relationships and “lifestyles” cannot be displayed or mentioned, according to activists.

The display of LGBT relationships is also banned from advertising campaigns, films, video games, books and media publications. Outlets that break the new law could be fined or shut down by the government.

Organizations could be fined up to 4 million rubles for spreading information about “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors or exhibiting information that “can make minors want to change their gender.”

Under the new law, foreigners who break the law would be expelled from the country.

As part of the Kremlin’s conservative agenda, Russia banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” toward minors in 2013. A fine or 15 days in prison may be imposed for such “propaganda,” under current laws.

In Russia, homosexuality was a crime until 1993, and until 1999 it was regarded as a mental illness.

Source: “Putin Signs Expanded Law Banning ‘Gay Propaganda,'” Moscow Times, 5 December 2022

Down in the Hole

Oleg Grigoriev
Pit

Digging a pit? 
I was.
Fell in the pit?
 I fell.
Down in the pit? 
I am.
Need a ladder? 
I do.
Wet in the pit? 
It's wet.
How's the head? 
Intact.
So you are safe?
I'm safe.
Well, okay then, I'm off!

Original text. Translated by the Russian Reader



Putin last week took part in a meeting with the mothers of soldiers killed in the war in Ukraine. The title “soldiers’ mother” carries a lot of influence in Russia — and Putin was famously humiliated by a group of soldiers’ relatives in his early years as president. Unsurprisingly, Friday’s meeting included only those trusted to meet Putin and the gathering passed off without awkward questions. Putin — who now rarely communicates with anyone outside of his inner circle — once again demonstrated a complete detachment from reality.

  • The Russian authorities have been nervous of organizations of soldiers’ mothers since the mid-1990s. During the first Chechen war (1994-1996), in which the Russian army was humiliated, the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers was one of the country’s leading anti-war forces and held the state and the military to account.
  • For Putin personally, any encounter with soldiers’ mothers stirs unhappy memories of one of the most dramatic incidents of his first year in the Kremlin. In August 2000, the inexperienced president was subjected to a grilling by the wives and mothers of sailors who died in the Kursk submarine disaster. The transcript of the meeting immediately appeared in the press and a recording was played on Channel One, which was then owned by Kremlin eminence grise Boris Berezovsky. Presenter Sergei Dorenko subsequently claimed that, after the broadcast, Putin called the channel and yelled that the widows were not genuine and that Berezovsky’s colleagues “hired whores for $10.” Ever since that encounter, the Russian president has avoided in-person meetings, favoring stage-managed gatherings with hand-picked members of the public.
  • This time, of course, there were no surprises. The Kremlin carefully selected the soldiers’ mothers who were invited to attend. At least half of those at the meeting turned out to be activists from the ruling United Russia party and members of pro-Kremlin organizations. 
  • The most striking speech at the event was close to parody. It was given by Nina Pshenichkina, a woman from Ukraine’s Luhansk Region whose son was killed in 2019. Pshenchkina later became a member of the Public Chamber of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic and has attended almost every official funeral and official celebration. She told Putin that her son’s last words were: “Let’s go, lads, let’s crop some dill” (in this context, “dill” is an insulting nickname for Ukrainians).
  • Putin’s speech was also striking. First, he told the assembled mothers that Ukrainians were Nazis because they kill mobilized Russians soldiers who did not wish to serve on the front line. Then he embarked on a long, strange discussion about why we should be proud of the dead. “We are all mortal, we all live beneath God and at some point we will all leave this world. It’s inevitable. The question is how we live… after all, how some people live or don’t live, it’s not clear. How they get away from vodka, or something. And then they got away and lived, or did not live, imperceptibly. But your son lived. And he achieved something. This means he did not live his life in vain,” he said to one of the mothers.

Why the world should care

It would be an error to assume that Putin has completely abandoned rational thought. However, it is instructive to watch him at meetings like this, which provide a window onto the sort of information he consumes. At this meeting with fake soldiers’ mothers he quoted fake reports from his Defense Ministry and, seemingly, took it all seriously.

Source: The Bell & The Moscow Times email newsletter, 28 November 2022. Written by Peter Mironenko, translated by Andy Potts, and edited by Howard Amos. Photo, above, by the Russian Reader