Ilya Kapustin: “When the Stamp Thudded in My Passport, It Was Like a Huge Weight Had Been Lifted from My Shoulders”

 

iljasuomessa1_ulRussian activist Ilya Kapustin has fled to Finland, where he is currently seeking asylum. Photo by Pasi Liesimaa. Courtesy of Iltalehti

Russian Activist Ilya Kapustin, Seeking Asylum in Finland: “When the Stamp Thudded in My Passport, It Was Like a Huge Weight Had Been Lifted from My Shoulders”
Nina Järvenkylä
Iltalehti
March 10, 2018

A familiar looking man sits opposite me. We have met earlier via video link, but now there are coffee cups between us.

“I now feel considerably better than in Russia,” says Ilya Kapustin, 25, but he grasps for words when I ask how things are going.

Iltalehti interviewed Kapustin in early February, just a few days after Russia’s security service, the FSB, most likely abducted and tortured him. At the time, Kapustin was still in Petersburg, and the interview was conducted via video link. Kapustin is currently in Finland. He has applied for asylum.

Kapustin is still the same quiet and slightly nervous man as when we spoke the last time.

“I feel a bit shakey. I still sleep badly and cannot get to sleep. But the situation in Russia was even worse,” Kapustin says at first.

He says he also feels sad.

“I may never return to Russia.”

“More importantly, however, there is no threat to my freedom,” he continues.

Kapustin said earlier he was not terribly politically active. Now he can speak more freely because he has left Russia. The connections with terrorism, alleged by the FSB, are absurd. Kapustin has been involved in politics, however. He has been involved in activities opposed to Putin’s regime and the dominant power structures in Russia.

Due to the trumped-charges against them, his fellow activists in Russia could be facing as many as dozens of years in prison.

Escape to Finland
Kapustin decided to escape from Russia to Finland, like many other Russian dissidents and members of minorities have done in recent times.

In an interview with Yle, Esko Repo, head of the Finnish Migration Service’s asylum, said that as a whole it was a matter of hundreds of Russians who had applied for asylum in Finland. In 2016, the number was 192, and last year it was over 400. Repo told Yle there had been 73 applications since the beginning of the year.

Last year, 21 Russians had their applications approved, and 12 of these were asylum seekers.

Kapustin traveled to Finland in a quite ordinary  way. He bought a ticket for one of the minibuses that circulate often between Finland and Russia. The mode of travel was humdrum albeit nerve-wracking in Kapustin’s circumstances.

“At the border, one man was questioned for fifteen minutes,” Kapustin recounts how things went on the Russian side of the frontier.

He was afraid that he, too, would end up being grilled by officials. Luck was on his side, however.

“I noticed a second queue had been opened at the border checkpoint. I quickly moved over to it.”

“When the stamp thudded in my passport and the trip continued on the Finnish side, it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders,” Kapustin says.

Ilja Kapustin yrittää nyt järjestellä elämänsä Suomeen.Ilya Kapustin is now trying to put his life together in Finland. Photo by Pasi Liesimaa. Courtesy of Iltalehti 

“My Mind Was Playing Tricks on Me”
Just a day before his escape, their minds had been playing tricks on Kapustin and his loved ones.

Kapustin fled to Finland as soon as his visa was ready. The last night at his sister’s home had been excruciating, however. Kapustin can now smile at what happened, but that night nearly a month ago was as frightening living through a nightmare.

A minivan with dark-tinted windows was parked on the street in front of his sister’s flat. His sister and her husband did not recognize the vehicle, but it was quite reminiscent of the one in which Kapustin had been kidnapped and tortured in January.

“I was really afraid. I immediately packed my belongings and left their place in the morning,” Kapustin recounts.

It later transpired the vehicle parked in the street was owned by his sister’s neighbor.

“He had bought a new vehicle,” Kapustin laughs.

“My mind, however, was playing tricks on me, because I was really afraid at the time. Until I arrived in Finland I wondered who was in the vehicle lest they do anything to my sister’s family.”

Kapustin’s loved ones are under surveillance in Russia. For example, his brother-in-law’s VK social network page has been hacked. He had posted several articles about Kapustin’s case on his page.

“The [hackers] posted only a single link on the page. It led to the site of a well-known reality TV show,” Kapustin says.

In the event, the ludicrous part was that the reality TV show in question, Dom 2, had been hosted by TV presenter and Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak. Kapustin regards the hack as bad police humor.

“They wanted to show us they can do whatever they like.”

Life in Finland
Kapustin’s parents and his sister and her family still live in Petersburg. The family urged Kapustin to flee after he had been abducted and tortured. Nevertheless, Kapustin told them about his escape only after he had arrived in Finland.

“Mom ordered me to leave, but I didn’t tell them ahead of time [when I was leaving] just in case.”

His parents and sister know about the events that led to the escape, but Kapustin did not tell them all the details. He believes the authorities will not go after his family.

“I’m not so interesting to them (the FSB),” he conjectures.

His life is in Finland now. Kapustin worked as an industrial climber in Russia and hopes he can find similar work in Finland.

“I worked in high places. We installed things, cleared snow from rooftops, and washed windows,” Kapustin recounts.

He understands the training he received in Russia is not necessarily valid in Finland and is prepared to study and do other work.

And how will he deal emotionally with the waiting, with going through the asylum application process, and coming to grips with the ways of a new society?

“I’m trying to think of it as an adventure so I can move forward. It is an episode in my life I’ll remember, and now I can remember it as a free man and not in prison,” Kapustin reflects.

Translated, from the Finnish, by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AR for the heads-up.

If you haven’t heard yet about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case, you need to read the following articles and spread the word.

 

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Dno Is Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

This past spring, I posted a translation of an article, originally published on the news and commentary website Grani.ru (which has long been banned in Russia) about the plight of Boris Yakovlev, a singer-songwriter from the town of Dno, in Pskov Region, whom the FSB had charged with “extremism,” allegedly, for the “seditious” content of his songs. Yakovlev has now left the country and applied for political asylum in Finland, where Grani.ru caught up with him.

My personal, unsurprising prediction is that the number of “extremists” will quadruple, if not worse, in the coming year. TRR

____________________

The Herald of Revolution from Dno Station
Grani.ru
October 11, 2017

On October 10, Pskov City Court ordered the arrest of the dangerous [sic] extremist Boris Yakovlev at the request of the FSB. By that time, the 44-year-old Dno resident had ignored an written undertaking to report to court on his own recognizance and applied for asylum in Finland. Criminal charges had been filed against him for anti-Putin songs posted on YouTube and the Russian social network VK. The crime Yakolev has been charged with (calls for extremism on the internet) carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.

The forensic examination in the case was performed by Andrei Pominov, a lecturer at Bashkir State University. He discovered in the lyrics to Yaklovev’s songs “psychological and linguistic means aimed at inducing an unspecified group of persons to carry out extremist actions aimed at forcibly changing the existing state system or seizing power.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

In Helsinki, Boris Yakovlev explains that revolution in Russia is inevitable given the country’s deteriorating economic, political, and social conditions.

Viha Tekee Vihaa, or, The Finnish Class

Khadar Ahmed on the set. Photo courtesy of MTV3 Finland

“In NTV’s report you can by the way suddenly see a Finnish police car driving past, even though it’s about Sweden.”

That’s okay. The home audience just wants to hate on “Europe” and “Muslim terrorists” even if they have been edited, remixed, and totally fabricated out of thin air. The important thing in Putinlandia is to have something and someone to hate intensely all the livelong day.

And if you think this hatred is restricted to the “yobs” and other “uneducated” types, you’d be dead wrong. Over the last glorious seventeen years, I’ve been hearing this free-floating hatred spilling out in increasing quantities from the educated, from professionals, from the so-called intelligentsia.

In fact, I heard it again last night during my Finnish class (not the first time there, either). The remarks were “triggered” by the fact that I had had our group read a Helsingin Sanomat interview with the up-and-coming Somali-Finnish screenwriter and filmmaker Khadar Ahmed, who spoke with an utter lack of bittnerness (and in a totally fluent Finnish that none of us “Aryans” have yet achieved) about the total alienation and discrimination he had experienced as an immigrant to Finland. He’s now relocated to Paris.

My classmates were totally unimpressed that a road movie based on Ahmed’s screenplay, Saattokeikka, would be hitting screens in Finland in the coming days, or that a previous screenplay of his (Kaupunkilaisia) had been filmed by country’s hottest young filmmaker, Juho Kuosmanen, whose luminous and completely perfect film The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes festival and was submitted by Finland to the 89th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

My classmates had never heard of Kuosmanen or the film, either, although Olli Mäki was screened right down the street from where we were sitting. That was a few months ago during the annual Finnish film festival, paid for by the Finnish government, who have been trying so hard to be besties with the “neighbor to the east,” which just wants to puff out its chest and hate on everybody as a matter of state policy and mundane practice.

We also read another Helsingin Sanomat piece, about the state of the Finnish nation and the state of “Finnishness,” in which well-known Finns were asked to respond to a set of ten questions that pollsters had posed as well to a larger sampling of ordinary Finns. One of the respondents was the Finnish rapper Prinssi Jusuf (aka Iyouseyas Bekele Belayneh), whose family moved from Ethiopia to Finland when Jusuf was two.

Yet my classmates were convinced, for some reason, that Prinssi Jusuf must rap in English, not Finnish, as if Finnish were too complicated for black people to learn.

One of my classmates was also on the verge of making a comment about who Prinssi Jusuf resembled. As an amateur psychic, I could imagine what she was about to say (Barack Obama, although they don’t look a thing alike), but a well-timed glare shut her up.

This is the lovely world that Putinism has built over the last seventeen years, although everyone answers for the garbage in their own heads, ultimately.

By the way, here’s a video of Prinssi Jusuf rapping in what sounds to me like perfectly fluent Finnish. TRR

Thanks to Robert Coalson for the heads-up on the Rinkeby story.

Tags: Border, Shopping

44e88f3a7961f6464b53d26e21c75ecb

Tourists Forced to Leave Four Quintals of Finnish Food at Border

May 11, 2016, 2:25 pm / Tags: Border, Shopping

More than 410 kilograms of animal-derived produce were seized from travelers at the border between Finland and Leningrad Region from May 6 to May 9.

Russians brought pork, fish, sausage, cheese, butter, yoghurt, and cottage cheese back from Suomi, but not everyone stayed within the permitted limit of five kilograms per person. Passengers who exceeded the limit were also lacking Rosselkhoznadzor import permits and veterinary documents.

“Documents for the return of the goods to the Republic of Finland have been drawn up,” reported the press service of Rosselkhoznadzor’s Petersburg regional office.

Source: Fontanka.fi; translated by the Russian Reader

The Same Old Tapes Spin Round in Our Heads

kom

We don’t ever think. We just have a small collection of tapes we stick in slots in the back of our heads when the need to say something “smart” arises.

* * * * *

Russian speakers living in Finland are not a homogeneous group, but one thing unites them strongly: a large number of them regard asylum seekers with a grain of salt.

“I relate to the phenomenon negatively. I think the people coming here do not have the necessary information on how people live here. They are trying to come here with their own traditions and customs, and at the moment this hinders their adaptation,” say Gleb Ulanov, who lives in Helsinki.

[. . .]

Despite the fact that the Russians themselves are immigrants, they do not want to compare themselves to the people now arriving from the Middle East. Russian speakers are of the view that they do not have similar adaptation problems.

“The biggest difference is the mentality. Most Russian speakers adapt, find work, and respect Finnish customs and celebrations. In my experience, only a small minority of people from the east does this. They prefer to form their own communities,” says Grigory Berkinfand, who lives in Helsinki.

[. . .]

Many Russian speakers fear that Finns have a naive attitude toward the asylum seekers, and do not properly distinguish those who are genuinely in need of protection.

Just like Finns, Russians are primarily concerned about safety. Many say that traditionally peaceful Finland is changing at a rapid pace.

Gleb Ulanov, who in Soviet times lived for about a year in the Caucasus, is of the opinion that merely integrating the refugees is not enough. In addition to telling the asylum seekers about Finnish customs and laws, Finns should also tell the refugees about culture and how they should behave around them.

[. . .]

Even a man from Russian Karelia who is living in a reception center and applying for political asylum questions the motives for coming to Finland of many of the people living with him. The man wished to remain anonymous.

“I can see what is happening here. They do not appreciate either the local culture or the help they receive. The majority are of the opinion that the Finns are obliged to help them. Many of them say that one can live here without working, and everything is given free of charge. They are quarrelsome if they notice they have not been given something and they complain about conditions. For example, I am really satisfied with everything here. I have not received such a warm reception in my own country,” he said.

* * * * *

Excerpted from “Suomen venäläiset varoittavat: Ei kannata olla liian sinisilmäinen turvapaikanhakijoiden suhteen” [Russians warn Finland: do not be too gullible with regard to asylum seekers], YLE, January 30, 2016. Image courtesy of nashehobby.narod.ru. Translated, from the Finnish, by the Russian Reader

Solidarity, Community, Internationalism (and Good Public Broadcasting)

Yle, the Finnish public broadcaster, asked four recent immigrants to Finland, people who are still in the process of studying Finnish and integrating into the society, to interview representatives of the country’s main political parties in the run-up to parliamentary elections, which will take place there on April 19.

The catch was that Yle also asked the parties to send as interviewees party members who were immigrants and had themselves learned Finnish as adults or teenagers. Among other things, the interviewees were asked to explain how they had come to join the particular parties they now represented.

Interestingly and unsurprisingly, the Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset), notorious for its anti-immigrant views, was unable to provide an interviewee for the program.

The Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto) sent as its representative Suldan Said Ahmed, a young entrepreneur and politician originally from Somaliland. (Somaliland is an autonomous region of Somalia that seeks recognition as an independent country from the rest of the world, but as yet hasn’t got it.)

According to Said Ahmed, solidarity, community, and internationalism are the three words that best sum up the Left Alliance for him.

If like me, you are someone studying Finnish, you should love listening to Said Ahmed, because his Finnish is much easier to understand and “correct” than that spoken by “real” Finns, what with their variety of local dialects and reliance on puhekieli (conversational language), which is often shockingly at variance from the “proper” textbook Finnish we foreigners and immigrants learn on courses.

I found a recent article profiling Said Ahmed in the leftist Finnish newspaper Kansan Uutiset.

Selkouutisten+puolueprojekti+Suldaan+Said+vas

Suldaan Said Ahmed. Photo: Kalevi Rytkölä / Yle

It seems Said Ahmed has political ambitions in his native Somaliland as well. He would like to become the youngest MP there and is planning to stand, apparently, in this year’s upcoming parliamentary elections there.

Said Ahmed would also like sometime in the future to be president of Finland, but that job, alas, is constitutionally only open to native-born Finns. (So far, I would like to think for his sake.)

I find all of this so fascinating in part because, just last week, I had to go verbally postal on a few of my classmates in the advanced Finnish course I have been taking here in the former capital of All the Russias. For the second or third time this semester, they regaled the rest of us with dark tales of how Somalians like Said Ahmed are ruining the fair country of Finland by moving there in droves to become—yes—welfare scroungers. Meanwhile, the government has decided, allegedly, not to let more Russians to move to Finland, even though generally it wants to encourage more immigration to the country to help care for its aging population, etc.

You get the drift.

It might rock my classmates’ world to find out that one of the interviewers in the “Let’s Meet the Parties” program (along with a man from the Philippines, a woman from Lithuania, and a woman from South Korea) is Svetlana Siltanen, who emigrated to Finland from Russia last year.

selkouutisten+puolueprojekti

Svetlana Siltanen. Photo: Mikko Kuusisalo / Yle

My “dream a little dream” today would be to put Yle in charge of public broadcasting for a year in Russia. What a difference that could make to people’s outlooks here.