Protesting the Wars

Since there really isn’t an anti-war movement in Russia, and the Putinist state has been working overtime to persuade scattered dissenters to keep their mouths firmly shut, every time I see evidence of anyone’s having the guts to protest publicly the madness of the past year, I feel a little bit of hope. And the desire to show the opposition in Syria that not all Russians are their enemies. Unfortunately, I have no idea whose these brave women are, and where exactly this protest took place, other than two or three days ago somewhere in or near Moscow. TRR

Source: Alla Frolova

“The Russian Federation has been fighting in other countries for 70 years. A patriarch who blesses war is not a Christian.”
“In Russia, whatever the war, it’s ‘holy.’ But the individual’s life is worth a kopeck.”
“Mercy is what we appeal to. Alexander Men.”
“Schools and hospitals instead of bombs and shells. No to war with Syria and Ukraine.”
“War is a tragedy. Remember the victims. (Syria, Aleppo…)”

No Peace for {NE MIR}

Police Detain Participants of Itinerant Anti-War Exhibition in Moscow
Mediazona
March 13, 2016

Police in downtown Moscow have detained participants of the itinerant pacifist exhibition {NE MIR} (NO PEACE), artist Ekaterina Nenasheva reports on her Facebook page.

According to Nenasheva, paddy wagons accompanied the artists from Kurskaya subway station to the Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art.

{NE MIR} marchers pose with works before boarding police paddy wagon
{NE MIR} marchers pose with works before boarding police paddy wagon

“The exhibition ended at Baumanskaya subway station and continued in a paddy wagon,” the artist wrote.

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Artist Ekaterina Nenasheva inside a police paddy wagon

She said it was the third {NE MIR} exhibition, featuring artists from Moscow, Petersburg, Murmansk, and Krasnodar, as well as Ukraine, Finland, and Austria.

OVD Info reports that fifteen people were detained outside Winzavod, including Nenasheva, Anna Bokler, Mikhail Oskarin, Ksenia Tretyushina, Alexandra Lavrova, Andrei Darklight, Angelina Trinten, Elvira Komarova, Tatyana Sushenkova, Ivan Karamnov, and Nikita Rasskazov.

The participants of the itinerant exhibition have been taken to Basmanny police precinct, where their papers are being checked. In addition, police are examining the artworks.

Nenasheva later informed Mediazona that thirteen artists are being held at the police station.

The police have not given any reasons for the arrests. According to Nenasheva, the artists will likely be charged with violating the rules for holding a public event (Article 20.2 of the Administrative Offenses Code).

Update. Nenasheva has informed Mediazona that the police have formally charged twelve artists with violating Article 20.2 of the Administrative Offenses Code. Their case will be heard in administrative court on March 16.

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Darja Serenko
Facebook
March 16, 2016

The judge refused to give my public defender access to the case file, forbade Gerchikov (who introduced himself as the head designer of the city of Moscow) from sketching in the courtroom (“if you don’t respect the court, then at least respect yourself”: how can you talk that way with the head designer of the city of Moscow), and found me guilty of unauthorized marching with photographic works from house no. 4 to house no. 8. The fine was 20,000 rubles [approx. 260 euros].

The whole day I was working on totally blacking out a little book called the Russian Federal Criminal Procedure Code: I discovered something almost therapeutic about this practice. The hearing was scary and I kept on shading in the book. I felt calmer that way. I did my best blacking out right when the sentence was announced. I am really grateful to everyone who came to draw and to support me (Vanya Simonov, Masha Menshikov, Marja Klinova, Dima the head designer of the city of Moscow, and everyone else), and I thank my civil rights defender.

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Darja Serenko, Blacked-out page of the Russian Federal Criminal Procedure Code, March 16, 2016. The remaining words produce the phrase “Freedom / is conducted in Russian / or another language / depending on the character.”

Although there was nothing really scary about our case and now it has turned into a bloated media blip that will survive for a week in opposition media, I think it was worth it. And our self-existent exhibition inside the courtroom was also lovely and reminded me of Harald Szeemann and his exhibition project, in which everyone brought their works literally right off the street into the gallery, and the curator found a place for the works. Because of all the noise made by the media, everyone forgot about the pictures. In this case, they are only EVIDENCE. Everyone is interested in the court hearing and certain heroic artists. I am not an artist. I am a mini-curator, and I was stunned by certain works and their power. I would organize an exhibition like this in the well-known spaces where I work. The exhibition {NE MIR} is the best work with space (in the broad sense of the word) I have seen. I hope we will get our hands on the work and be able to show it.

What matters is not whether it is an anti-war exhibition or a protest rally or not, but the fundamental fact that in our country the classic format of the outdoor exhibition is still imagined almost as a terrorist act. In my opinion, everyone should have already had their fill of the format: the outdoor exhibition should be an art object invisible to everyone. But a renewed political discourse has updated the format as well.

After the court hearing, I took the subway and found myself in an exhibition car: the Russian Geographical Society and Miklouho-Maclay were on display. I laughed hysterically. It was also basically an itinerant exhibition. It moved almost by itself, wonder of wonders.

When we were still outside the courthouse smoking, a man came up to us. He said he had just been freed and asked us for money. When we gave him some, he told us our fortunes and recited psalms. I am going to have two husbands. The first one will cheat on me, the second will cheat on me, but the third won’t cheat on me, despite the fact that I am going to have two husbands all the same. While he was telling our fortunes, a policeman who worked at the courthouse came up to us and asked what sort of gathering we were having. I think someone known as the Director of the City of Moscow orchestrated this day.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Video courtesy of Radio Svoboda. Images courtesy of OVD Info, Ekaterina Nenasheva, and Darja Serenko. Thanks to Vadim F. Lurie for the heads-up.

Artists Say No to War with Posters in Petersburg Subway

Anonymous Poster Artists Talk about Their Fatherland Defenders Day Protest in the Subway 
Andrei Sobol
February 24, 2015
paperpaper.ru

Yesterday, February 23, anti-war posters appeared in ad slots in subway cars. Anonymous activists hung three series of posters: quotations by famous authors about war; pastiches of children’s drawings; and avant-garde posters.

Organizers told Paper why they did it, how patriotism can be a bad thing, and where to look for the fruits of this anonymous partisan protest.

The first series of posters featured anti-war quotations by Erich Maria Remarque, Jaroslav Hašek, and Ernest Hemingway. The unknown artists pasted them over municipal government posters.

The second series of work, pastiches of children’s drawings, deal with the impact of war propaganda on children. The artists have tried to convey children’s vision of war.


(left panel) “My brother was killed in the army during peacetime. When I grow up is that also where I’ll end up?” (right panel) “My dad is very strong. He killed enemies, and now he beats me and Mom. Katya, 8 years old.”

“They told me I have to grow up to be a real man. When I grow up I’ll go to war, and I’ll rape and kill! Artyom, 7 years old.”

“My dad is a hero, but he doesn’t have arms anymore. God, let him grow new arms!!!”
“My dad came back from the war without legs. Now he says he’d be better off dead.”

In the third series of works, the anonymous artists decided to shift the focus from the celebration of Fatherland Defenders Day by recalling what else we commemorate on February 23rd: for example, the birthday of the Russian and Soviet avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich.


“K. Malevich was born on February 23. Happy otherness day!”

According to the protesters, who claimed responsibility for all three series, the posters were posted near the subways stations Lesnaya, Ploshchad Muzhestva, and Vyborgskaya. A total of twenty-six works were produced and put up.

Anonymous artist, organizer of the anti-war protest in the Petersburg subway: “Our government has greatly increased spending on militarization, which leads to the allocation of ever smaller sums for the social needs of Russian citizens. Hospitals and schools are being closed, and the educational sector as a whole is suffering. The idea of doing one series of posters as pastiches of children’s drawings was borne out of this. Poverty and unemployment are growing, while aggressive, conservative patriotism is becoming more and more noticeable with every passing day. Incidents of xenophobia and sexism have become more frequent, women are not allowed to control their own bodies, and attempts are being made to ban abortions. The government has apparently forgotten about its own citizens as it thinks only about war and external enemies.

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0TGhhhrWVcM“The army kills. Happy Fatherland Defenders Day!”
SzS8U7CfvosMy dad is a soldier. He kills and rapes. Happy February 23rd! Misha, 6 years old.”
Txk0FImHFHIAn anti-war quotation by Hemingway pasted over a municipal government ad that reads, “On the 70th anniversary of the Victory during Literature Year. […] Together we are reading [sic] Petersburg!”

Additional images courtesy of Left News

Kado Cornet: Russia, the General, and Other Folks

Kado Cornet
The Story of Russia, the General, and Other Folks
www.facebook.com
September 8, 2014

The General is the man who attempted to revive Russia.

“I’m the General, I served in Rostov!” is how he later introduced himself.

Actually, I feel terribly uncomfortable because I had called him a “homeless alcoholic” or “drunk tramp” (in an English-language post). These words carry many negative connotations, unfortunately. It was just difficult to succinctly and neutrally define his social position and state of mind or something. But by no means do I want this description to belittle him in the eyes of an outside observer.

Some people have suggested the General’s role in the performance was planned. But that is not the case at all. Before I appeared, he was sleeping peacefully on the windowsill of the Yeliseyevsky store. To be honest, I had turned onto Malaya Sadovaya completely by accident, because I really was blindfolded.

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“What the f#ck you waking me up for?” the poor guy said, outraged, in response to my cries.

I decided to fall down after I heard someone say, “Just f#ck her, what is the bitch doing?” and felt that someone, either one of the homeless people or a cop, had grabbed my arm.

Lying on the pavement, I listened to a very serious dialogue between a little boy and his mother about what was happening. I promised myself to remember it, but alas, I wasn’t able to. It’s too bad.

“Is she dead or something?” the General asked, bewildered, and began feeling my pulse. The crowd laughed and took pictures.

I don’t know what the story is with his generalship, but the guy clearly knows first aid. He found the pulse on my arm and neck, removed my blindfold, pulled my eyes open, and checked my pupils (“Ha-ha, you’re not dead! Get up and quit pretending!”). Then he slapped my face (it hurt!) and pulled me up by the arms. He didn’t even spare his booze, pouring it all over my face. My eyes stung for the rest of the day.

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“Kiss her!” someone cried out from the crowd.

To my great relief, the General didn’t dare. A moment later, Russia miraculously awoke, finally, from her sleep.

It turned out that a policeman had already called an ambulance. He kept guard over me until it came, not believing me when I said I was fine. The General solicitously questioned me about the incident.

“What did you fall down for? I was really scared! And why are your hands red? I got all dirty while I was resuscitating you! Now I’m all red, too!”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why did you fall? Did something happen to you?”

“I was feeling bad, but you saved me.”

“Here, at least put on my shoes. You’re sitting there barefoot.”

He started taking off his shoes and proffering them to me. It wasn’t cold, but I had to get out my shoes and put them on to calm him down.

Two women butted into our conversation.

“Quit bothering her! Leave her alone!”

“He just wants to help her!”

“What do you want?”

“I don’t want anything, I’m just—”

“Even cats don’t just f#ck.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

“I will always help you! Do you need money? Take some money!” said the General, pulling a crumpled ten-ruble bill from his pocket.

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“Aha, you’re getting paid!” said a man in the crowd, catching me red-handed.

 “Now I am, as you can see.”

I couldn’t have got away with lying: there were too many witnesses. I managed to return the money later, although not right away. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything with me except a subway token. Getting taken to the police station with cash on you is bad luck.

That’s when the ambulance pulled up.

“What you got here?” the doctor asked.

“This girl here was yelling and lunging at people,” the policeman said.

 “Was she screaming anti-government things?”

 “Uh-huh.”

“Maybe you should take her in, then?”

“No, you’d better examine her.”

“I am so fed up with all this stuff.”

They led me to the ambulance. The male doctor was skeptical, the female doctor, supportive. They politely asked me about my occupation, attitude towards alcohol, education, health, source of income, and, finally, the meaning of my performance.

The female doctor tossed me a couple of interesting ideas.

“Well, I understand you wanted to show suffering Russia. You should have done it so that people would understand and not get worried about you! And warn the policeman ahead of time.”

I apologized to them at length for the inconvenience.

“Alright, sign this and get out of here.”

The doctor handed me a document stating I had declined hospitalization.

While recording my passport information, the policeman asked, hopefully, “Now you’re going to go home, young lady?”

“Yes!”

I didn’t want to upset him any more than I already had.

In conclusion, here is a small vignette as told by Vadim Lurie.

Three young Armenian men in their forties were watching the performance. Two of them soon decided to move on, but one was so fascinated they had to call out to him.

“Let’s go already, Odysseus!”

Translated by Bela Shaveyich and edited by the Russian Reader.

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Activist Stages Dramatic Protest Against Russia’s Policies on Ukraine
Anna Dolgov
The Moscow Times
September 8, 2014

A peace activist has staged an emotive protest against the Kremlin’s policies on Ukraine by wandering blindfolded through St. Petersburg with her hands stained blood-red.

The activist, who goes by pseudonym Kado Cornet, was captured in a YouTube video walking barefoot down St. Petersburg’s central Nevsky Prospect, clad in a red skirt, blue shirt and a white headscarf — the colors of the Russian flag.

Cornet also wore on her wrists the orange-and-black ribbons of St. George — a Russian symbol of military valor — and a blindfold over her eyes, while walking with her outstretched hands stained in red.

“This is my Motherland. Blinded, insane, screaming in agony,” the activist said Saturday on her Facebook page. “It does not know where it is going, but it is sure that everyone should be afraid of its hands, which are stained in blood — others’ and its own.”

Passersby stopped in their tracks to watch the young woman as she staggered forward, emitting screams, witnesses said.

“This action made a most powerful impression on me,” Vadim Lurie from St. Petersburg said on his Facebook page. “Kado walked and screamed, and her scream could not be ignored. People received this action much more readily than any [protest] sign.”

The action titled “Russia’s Scream” ended after Cornet collapsed near the renowned Yeliseyevsky food store, lying motionlessly on the pavement, according to social media accounts.

While some passersby expressed concerns that the young woman may have fallen ill, nobody appeared willing to approach her except a homeless man, the protester and witnesses reported.

“When [Russia] falls, it will turn out that nobody except a homeless drunk is able to come to its aid,” Cornet said via Facebook.

A police officer summoned to the scene called an ambulance, Lurye said, though the protester appeared to be in good health, saying later on her Facebook page that she planned to travel around the country and eastern Europe in the coming days.

The artistic action was received positively by a number of Facebook users.

One woman praised the “fragile young woman, who is stronger than a million healthy men who are quietly watching from the side or yapping support for the authorities.”

“Brave girl, well done,” wrote another Facebook user.

The West has repeatedly accused the Kremlin of supplying arms to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, leading to a conflict with government forces that has left thousands dead and many more displaced. The Kremlin has denied the charges.

But Cornet in her Facebook message was keen to underline that her protest was not just directed at those in power: “No one who has tried to turn a deaf ear to this scream will be able to wash off the blood,” she wrote.

Kirill Kalugin: “My Freedom Defends Yours”

On August 2, 2013, Russian Paratroopers Day, Kirill Kalugin, a Petersburg university student, took to the city’s Palace Square alone to protest the country’s new anti-gay laws. He was immediately set upon by reveling paratroopers (or as he himself suggested, by national activists masquerading as paratroopers), an incident captured on video by Petersburg news web site Paper Paper.

Kalugin returned to Palace Square this year on August 2 to protest Russia’s increasing militarism and imperialist misadventures in Ukraine. He was roughly detained by police some fifteen seconds after attempting to unfurl a rainbow flag emblazoned with the slogan, “My freedom defends yours.” Despite the fact that Kalugin held his anniversary protest right next to Manifesta 10’s provocative metallic Xmas tree, his protest has so far gone unremarked by progressive humanity (i.e., the international contemporary arts community) and the foreign press.

The interview below was published in August 2013 on the local Petersburg news web site Rosbalt three weeks after Kalugin’s first protest on Palace Square. Unfortunately, it hasn’t lost any of its timeliness, especially given the total absence of an anti-war movement in Russia and the singularity of Kalugin’s bravery and insight.

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Saint Petersburg State University student Kirill Kalugin is half the age of his eminent opponent, Petersburg Legislative Assembly member Vitaly Milonov, although he is also a redhead. But hair color is not the only thing the outspoken homophobe and outspoken gay have in common. Both claim they love their motherland Russia and will never leave it. 

Rosbalt’s Yevgeny Zubarev met with Kalugin in the city center, on Arts Square. It’s a safe place because it is always chockablock with police. There were also lots of police on Palace Square on August 2, [2013], when Kalugin came there alone and unfurled a rainbow flag, but even a platoon of riot police was not immediately able to wrest him away from an agitated crowd dressed in striped shirts for Russian Paratroopers Day.

 — Why did you do it, Kirill? Weren’t you frightened?

— I was frightened. Actually, there were supposed to be four of us out there, but then I ended up going out alone. If there had been several people, the police could have charged us with holding an unauthorized rally, but this way it was a solo picket, which doesn’t require permission. As soon as I unfurled the rainbow flag, men in [traditional Russian paratrooper] striped shirts grabbed me. But I don’t think they were paratroopers: I had seen many of the assailants earlier at anti-LGBT protests. I think they were nationalist activists masquerading as paratroopers. The police pulled me from the crowd and put me in a car, but we couldn’t leave right away: the crowd blocked the car, demanding that the police give me up. The riot police intervened and cleared a path, and I was taken to the 78th police precinct.

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— What did police charge you with? How were you punished?

— I don’t understand it myself. At first they wouldn’t let me make a phone call. The sergeants behaved rudely, and I couldn’t figure out what my status was, whether I had been detained, arrested or was considered a suspect. Right there at the police station one of the detained paratroopers rushed me: he wanted to beat me up, but the police held him back. Then the brass arrived and everything immediately changed: the police started talking with me politely. It turned out I wasn’t being charged with anything. They even let me file an assault complaint. But how that case has turned out, I don’t know: it has been twenty days, but I have had no word from the police.

— After this incident, Russian Orthodox patriots wrote several petitions to Saint Petersburg State University demanding your expulsion.

— I’m a student in the physics department, specializing in medical physics and bioengineering. It’s a tough department, and there is a lot of studying to do. What matters to the deans is that students take all their exams and tests on time, but they are unconcerned about their private lives. Generally, it is not kosher in the scientific community to tell people how they should behave in the intimate realm. So I’m confident all these petitions are pointless.

— Your family must have seen how you were beaten on Palace Square on the Web or on TV. What was their reaction?

— I was born to an ordinary Russian family in the town of Krasnoturyinsk in the Urals. My father is an officer in the Russian armed forces, my mother, a philologist. After the 2008 crisis, life in our town got really bad and we moved to Petersburg, where I finished high school, enrolled at the university, and began to live separately from my family. It was only then I told my parents I was gay. My parents were upset, especially my father, but they recognized my right to live as I see fit. My brother also said it was my choice. When I went out on Palace Square, they heard about it in the media. They called me and were worried, of course. But I assured them I was not in danger.

— How many times have you been beaten up in Petersburg for being gay?

— Never, except for the incident at Palace Square. My classmates at university and my employers at the restaurant where I work part time as a bartender do not care what I do in bed. Of course, after this incident I could have been recognized on the street and beaten up, but that hasn’t happened yet.

— There are thousands of commentators on the Web who are sure you went out on Palace Square to secure the right to emigrate to the west as a discriminated person.

— I don’t intend to leave Russia. I am sure all these homophobic laws will be repealed sooner or later, and all Russian citizens will be able to live normally regardless of sexual orientation. There were similar laws in Sweden thirty years ago, and gays were persecuted throughout the world the way they now are in Russia. But then the situation changed. I am sure that Russia also has to follow this path, and so I’m not going to leave. But change doesn’t happen by itself—people have to take to the streets and speak out about this problem.

— Why do you act alone? There are lots of public organizations in Russia that support gays. Many of them receive foreign grants. You could get this money to fight for equality and all that, no?

— I don’t want to. I’ve had offers to join various organizations like that, but I don’t want to. I’m not a politician. I just don’t want there to be discrimination against people like me. Besides, it is easier for the state to punish organizations than lone individuals. Organizations are more vulnerable. What are they going to do with an ordinary guy like me?

— When you finish university you’ll find that jobs in your scientific specialty are poorly paid and dead ends. This is another reason, aside from sexual orientation, for going abroad.

— I still won’t leave. I know how things are going with financing for science in Russia, but I don’t want to leave. In the end, there are grants given to scientists for in-demand research. And in fact, Russia is changing for the better; the situation is improving in science, too.

— You have the opportunity to address Rosbalt’s thousands of readers. What would say to all these people?

— I would appeal to people like me. Don’t sit quiet as mice. At least come out. Let your loved ones know that you exist.

 — Why can’t you sit quiet and keep a low profile? Why do you come up with these public protests during which you can be beaten or even killed? After all, there is no practical sense to them.

 — Can I quote Goethe? “He alone deserves liberty and life who daily must win them anew.”

— How old are you?

 — Twenty-one.

Originally published, in Russian, by Rosbalt on August 22, 2013. Photo courtesy of Rosbalt

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Explaining his protest [on August 2, 2014], Kalugin said it was directed against both the lack of civil freedoms and the growing militarism in Russia during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

“The suppression of any civil freedoms and the growth of imperial chauvinism in Russia are interconnected, and the issue has one and the same root,” he said.

“As long as there remains at least one group that is seen as ‘second-rate people’ in the country, the rest cannot call themselves free. Even if they enjoy some preferences now, this system can hit them, too, sooner or later.

“All this has grown so much that it has already started spreading into the neighboring states. The same people, who cried ‘Death to gays’ and hailed the laws banning ‘gay propaganda’ and restricting public assemblies, ended up shouting ‘Crimea is ours’ and going to Donetsk and Luhansk.”

Airborne Troops Day in St. Petersburg is known for the large number of airborne veterans gathering in the city center, drinking, swimming in fountains and, at times, getting out of control, with the police usually ignoring any misconduct.

Kalugin said that he chose to stage his protest on that day because he sees the festivities as the “climax of militarism and chauvinism.” He said it was also his reaction to homophobic jokes, where LGBT people were mockingly invited to hold their protests on Airborne Troops Day—the underlying notion being that they would be immediately be beaten by homophobic airborne veterans.

“It’s an old joke from the times when LGBT pride events were held in Moscow, [Moscow’s anti-gay ex-mayor Yury] Luzhkov used to say that he would only agree if it was held on Aug. 2,” Kalugin said.

source: St. Petersburg Times