This Russian Life

medicinal lettersFeatured Letter: But There Is Sun in the Countryside! ‘You know how hard life in the countryside can be, especially in the winter when the snow drifts so badly you cannot leave the house. All the more so because I needed to help the young folks when our granddaughter was born. We moved to the city, but we could not live there long. Of course, the stores and the clinic were nearby, and that was convenient, but what was the point? It’s abnormal to breathe exhaust fumes from cars and gaze all winter at a grey, gloomy sky. You cannot open the window because of the noise and soot. And the ailments you get when you are trapped between four walls are not slow in coming. In the countryside, the sun makes an appearance every day, even in the winter, the pure snow glitters, and the air is like a salve. And we get Medicinal Letters regularly, in which there are prescriptions for nearly any ailment. It was a good thing we didn’t sell the house. Our son had to fix it up and insulate it, and now everyone is happy. Our granddaughter comes for frequent visits. We have everything for her: a sled, skies, and skates. The girl is сheerful and kind, and Grandma and Grandpa’s little helper, not something you can say about every city kid. May God bless you and your loved ones with health and happiness. A.E. Vikhrova, Perm.’ Our Readers Know How to Be Healthy.” Cover page of Medicinal Letters 4 (400), February 2018

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rita-evilScreenshot from Danish TV series Rita. Courtesy of Netflix

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wine-dear or cheap“Should you cook with cheap wine or expensive wine?” Source unknown

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fridge magnet calendar2018 refrigerator magnet tear calendar. Published by Bronze Horseman Publishers (www.mvsadnik.ru) in an edition of 3,000 copies. Rated 0+

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destroy floridaScreenshot of the imaginary obliteration of Florida by Russian missiles, as broadcast live on RT at 1:24 p.m. MSK, 1 March 2018. Video courtesy of the Daily Star,  1 March 2018

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fdd choco bar.jpeg“February 23. Fatherland Defenders Day. Dark Chocolate.” Manufacturer unknown. Purchased at Bukvoyed Bookstore in Galeria Shopping Center, 30A Ligovsky Prospect, St. Petersburg, for ₽121 (approx. €1.73) on 23 February 2018

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tokarev's eyesVasily Yegorovich Tokarev, Arkhangelsk. Right after the army I got a job as a welder. I worked for many years in the tundra on various gas and oil pipelines. The job was hard on the eyes in itself. There were the constant flashes from the welding equipment, and the weather conditions in the north were also extreme. So, I would get conjuctivitis and styes from time to time. My eyes were always red and caked with pus, and nothing could relieve the gritty feeling and smarting. Farsightedness became a problem, and I had to drag glasses with me everywhere. During a routine exam, the doctor diagnosed glaucoma! I went through all the drugs available at the chemist’s, but the payoff was practically nonexistent. That was when I decided to try Okapin drops. At first, I went through a whole course of treatment, but now I only use them sometimes as preventative. The results have been excellent. My eyes are not red and inflamed, I no longer have that feeling of burning and grittiness, and my eyesight has rebounded so that I no longer have any need of glasses or doctors. The pressure in my eyes has dropped to 17 mmHg. I see great both far and up close, I don’t squint, and nothing bothers me!” Excerpted from the front page of the Health Herald [March 2018], an advertising circular disguised as a newspaper.

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sms.jpg“March 18 is the election of the president of the Russian Federation. You can choose a voting station in advance, including the one assigned to your registered domicile. To do this, before March 12 you must submit—.” Excerpt from an SMS received on my mobile phone at 1:24 p.m. MSK, 3 March 2018.

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all goes well 1Refrigerator magnet “All Goes Well.” On the reverse side of the magnet, the human being is identified as “The President of the Russian Federation. Vladimir Putin.” The dog is not identified by name.

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Old Woman Crossing Street on Cold Day in Petersburg, 27 February 2018. Photo by the Russian Reader

Assembled and translated by the Russian Reader. Dedicated to Comrade SG on his birthday

Dmitry Kalugin: Bruce Willis vs. Brad Pitt

you can trust bruce willis“Bruce Willis. A loan in ten minutes. Trust Bank.” Mayakovsky Street, Petersburg, April 22, 2012. Trust Bank’s managers and employees were charged with fraud in April 2015. The bank received a $500 million emergency bailout from the Russian Central Bank in December 2014. Photo by the Russian Reader

Dmitry Kalugin
Facebook
December 15, 2017

Yesterday, I got chatting with the saleswoman in the basement where I buy smuggled coffee. Looking at my gray face, she saw signs I had not been getting enough shut-eye.

“Yes,” I said, “I’ve been sleeping badly. Nightmares have been messing with my head.”

“Well, the dreams I dream are totally screwed up. Take yesterday, for example. I dreamt I was getting married to Brad Pitt. It was like the thing was settled, the whole megillah. But my heart was topsy-turvy, because I don’t love him.”

“Who do you love?”

“Bruce Willis. I like him more as an actor and as a person.”

“Well,” I said, “if that is the hand dealt you (I’m no expert, of course), Brad Pitt is no bad bet, either.”

“I told myself the same thing. Why you mucking around? You’ve lived your whole life ass-backwards. Finally, a good option comes along: Brad Pitt. What else could you want?”

“Yeah, definitely a good option.”

“On the other hand, no way! Because I like somebody else, Bruce Willis. I realize it looks strange, but I can’t force myself. Basically, things are complicated.”

“So, how did it end? Did you get married?”

“I didn’t get anything. I woke up completely confused.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Mr. Kalugin for his kind permission to translate and publish his feuilleton on this website.

We Have a Saying in Russia

In the queue outside the centre, there is little sympathy for Greenpeace among relatives of other detainees, as they wait to deliver packages. “We have a saying in Russia: you shouldn’t go into someone else’s house and try to live by your own rules,” said one middle-aged woman who had bought a parcel of food for her 33-year-old daughter, who had been inside for five months on charges she did not want to reveal. She had been waiting in freezing temperatures since 4am to ensure she was among the lucky few who got to deliver her package.

Another man, waiting to deliver a package to his brother, suggested the Greenpeace activists were paid by western oil corporations to undermine Russia and should be “shot, or at least sent to a camp”. The opinions reflect surveys which show that the majority of Russians support the piracy charges.

Shaun Walker, “Greenpeace activists await trial among harsh winds, tears and no sympathy,” The Guardian, 18 October 2013

telefon

For some reason, as the country sinks deeper into the Putinist fascist night, this “saying” becomes more and more popular. I’ve personally heard and read it something like six hundred thousand times over the past few years, but it’s hard to remember anyone ever saying such a thing in the nineties. It’s just remarkable how people participate so willingly in their own enslavement and extinction, and with the help of such “sayings.” Yes, “folk wisdom” really does consist in repeating over and over again what some fat cats with soccer teams in England, kids in Swiss schools, and mansions on the Riviera want you to think.

On the other hand, reporters like Shaun Walker wouldn’t have to look that hard for Russians who don’t think this way, even in Murmansk. And it’s pointless, as he does here, and as avid Russian watchers both inside and outside the country love to do, to cite a “public opinion” poll that, allegedly, shows the majority of Russians don’t support the arrested Greenpeace activists. Aside from any other number of methodological and philosophical issues with such polls more generally, not only in Russia, “public opinion” is a nearly meaningless concept in a country lacking all the things that make it a somewhat more meaningful concept in other countries, things like free elections, broadly based political parties, non-astroturfed grassroots groups, much stronger and more militant independent trade unions and, most important, freedom from constant terrorization and brainwashing, in the not-so-distant past and now again, over the past fourteen years, by officialdom, whether in the form of bureaucrats, police or state media.

Why does “the majority” not support the arrested Greenpeace activists? Because they (or, rather, a good number of the people who answered this dubious poll) thought that this was the response expected from them. Why did they think that? Because state and loyalist media have portrayed Greenpeace as the second coming of Al Qaeda, willing dupes of the CIA, and any other baleful thing you can think of. You don’t even have to believe this stuff. You just know that if some “polling organization” calls you up out of the blue, there are strong cues out there in the big media world to which you have access telling you how to respond to such questions. So what’s the point of thinking something different out loud? But then Shaun Walker, hundreds of other reporters, “political analysts,” “sociologists” and so on cite this “public opinion” as if it weren’t obtained under duress. It’s a vicious circle.