The Singuniversal Wages of Glocalism

“The Slavic peoples are like one family. I can’t bear the idea of fighting with Ukraine.”
— Man skating on Moscow’s “packed” outdoor ice rink, quoted on “PM,” BBC Radio 4, 20 December 2021

A still from the film Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018)

Beyond freedom and justice, peace on earth is the ultimate purpose of political action. Violence and aggressivity are among the instincts that our nature has equipped us with to achieve the purpose of peace via devious and costly ways. This is Kant’s thesis in Idea of a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View. I find it realistic, politically. Art is ridiculously powerless on the political level. Its domain is the purposiveness without the purpose. It places its bets on sensus communis, the faculty of agreeing by dint of feeling, as if it were an instinct, knowing well that the chances are great that it is merely an idea. My talk, I realise, is a plea for empirical pessimism combined with transcendental optimism, which is why I embraced neither the optimistic nor the pessimistic view of today’s glocal art world. I am the observer who reflects on the situation. But I am a militant when I claim that there is a difference between the expanding glocal communities involved by the various art biennials and the singuniversal community demanded by the aesthetic judgement when it is uttered as ‘this is art.’ The latter community is humanity itself, all of us.
— Thierry de Duve, “The Glocal and the Singuniversal: Reflections on Art and Culture in the Global World,” Third Text, vol. 21, no. 6 (2007), pp. 687–88

_________

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 website Bumaga.

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.
— “Kirill Kalugin: ‘My Freedom Defends Yours,'” The Russian Reader, 5 August 2014

_________

Alexander Hotz
Facebook
December 17, 2021

A Treaty on the “End of History”

Over time, it has become clearer why the Putin regime started rattling military hardware near the borders with Ukraine. It’s not only about the fear of “NATO expansion” and the struggle for a sphere of imperial influence, as it had seemed at first.

Putin’s “draft treaty” with the collective west is a more profound, existential document, reflecting the regime’s fear of the logic of history, which naturally pushes Russia along the path of European progress and demolition of the dictatorship.

A desperate Putin has offered the west something in the spirit of Fukuyama that would secure the “end of history” and guarantee that the “political system” of Putin’s Russia would remain unchanged. The belief in the power of a document that would stop historical progress is somehow touching in its naivety.

Fully in keeping with Saltykov-Shchedrin’s imaginary town of Glupov, where “history has stopped flowing,” the Putin regime does not propose ruling out “NATO expansion” as such. Rather, it dreams of consolidating the rejection of support for “color revolutions” in Russia, as if revolutions were fueled not by the system’s rottenness, but by the insidious west.

That is the funniest thing about the draft “treaty.” It transpires that it has nothing at all to do with NATO and imperial ambitions in the spirit of a “Yalta 2.” It has everything to do with humdrum fear for the internal stability of Putin’s political system. The deal proposed to the west is not fueled by imperial ambitions (although lip service is paid to them in the treaty, it is unlikely that its authors themselves believe that Ukraine can be returned to Russia’s imperial orbit), but by fear of impending revolutionary change.

It is especially comical that a whole paragraph of the preamble is dedicated personally to Alexei Navalny, his regional organizations, and the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK).

Navalny’s surname is not mentioned, but it sticks out of the draft treaty like a sore thumb. Putin demands “strict compliance with the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs, including refraining from supporting organizations, groups or individuals calling for an unconstitutional change of power, as well as from undertaking any actions aimed at changing the political or social system of one of the Contracting Parties[.]”

The Putin system’s fear of “individuals,” which has even seeped into the text of an international document, is impressive in its scale.

All is in order with the demagoguery here too. It is a con man’s clever trick to tear up the Russian Constitution through a “plebiscite,” change the political system, and then demand respect from the west for it. (Redraw the borders, grab Crimea, and then yell about the “principle of non-interference.”)

We are going back to the bad old Soviet Union in terms of international agreements. What kind of language is this? “Changing the political system”: as if we were not talking about democracy (something shared by Russia and the west), but about the struggle between two political economic formations — between capitalism and socialism.

It is no accident that the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” has wormed its way into the “treaty” in homage to the glorious Soviet past, for which the Russian kleptocracy yearns. In the 1970s, however, the Kremlin demanded that the west keep its hands off its socialist ideology. Today, the demand is different: “Keep your hands off our kleptocracy!”

The Kremlin stubbornly reproduces the worldview which collapsed along with the USSR a long time ago. Putin has not learned any lessons from history, however.

In fact, the whole draft “treaty” with the west is a desperate call to stop history, freezing Putinism’s collapse due to its internal depravity. It is an attempt to pretend that the reason for the failures of the “social system” is the west’s influence and support of Navalny. It was the same way in the USSR, which sought the cause of its own decrepitude in dissidents, “anti-Soviet agitation,” and “western propaganda.” But the cause was much simpler. Everyone was fed up with the Soviet regime: that was why it collapsed.

The “elites” of the “Pu dynasty” have learned nothing. They want everything to be as it was under “granddad” (Leonid Brezhnev), offering the west an immoral and anti-historical picture of the world in which there is no place for living history with its logic of progress, only for the “insidious influence” of secret services and foreign agents.

They have “Chekism on the brain,” as has been said. A fatal case of it.

But there is an upside to this ridiculous document and its proposal to put the “end of history” down on paper à la Ugryum-Burcheev. It gives us a glimpse of the finale awaiting a “political system” which has lost touch with reality and lives in a dream world.

If you don’t understand where history is headed, have a mystical dread of progress, and are nostalgic for the bad old Soviet Union, then ultimately you’ll get another “geopolitical catastrophe,” one for which you will be to blame, not Navalny or the United States.

Strange as it may sound, Putin wants the United States to subscribe to his version of history. This is not a dispute over spheres of influence, but over what kind of world we live in. The madman wants the doctors to recognize his hallucinations as the norm. (The doctors don’t know what to do with the patient yet: he is not alone in the ward and has a knife in his pocket.)

But regardless of how things turn out for the “crazy old man,” kudos to Alexei Navalny. It is not given to just anyone to be identified in Russian Foreign Ministry documents as the principal threat to Russia and its “political system.”

Thanks to Alexander Skobov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Paratroopers Day: LGBT Protest on Palace Square in Petersburg

LGBT Activists Protest on Palace Square on Paratroopers Day
David Frenkel
Special to The Russian Reader
August 5, 2015

Local LGBT activists bearing flags and posters took to Saint Petersburg’s Palace Square on Sunday, August 2, Russian Paratroopers Day, to defend their rights.

In August 2013 and 2014, young local LGBT activist Kirill Kalugin held solo protests on Palace Square on Paratroopers Day, but he left Russia in late November 2014, applying for political asylum in Germany.

This year, LGBT activists tried to get permission for an event but were turned down three times by city officials.

Yuri Gavrikov, leader of the local LGBT organization Ravnopravie (“Equal Rights”) thus decided to go to Palace Square alone with an LGBT flag. He was arrested in the morning, however, for “swearing in public” as he was riding his bicycle toward the city center.

Nevertheless, several of his comrades came to Palace Square sporting flags and posters, and demanding Gavrikov’s release.

palace-1

The first to take to the square was activist Olga Panova. She unfurled the LGBT rainbow flag before being arrested by the police a few minutes later.

palace-2

Panova managed to pass the flag to another activist, Valery Ugarov, who was immediately arrested as well.

Policemen claimed the arrests had been made at the “behest of citizens,” although at the time, around two o’clock in the afternoon, only a few paratroopers were still left on Palace Square celebrating their holiday. They paid no attention to the LGBT activists.

Journalists from state media outlets approached the paratroopers and asked them their opinion of the protest, making no secret of their own disgust and dubbing the activists “drunk.” The paratroopers, however, merely dubbed the protest a “provocation” and avoided engaging in any violence towards the activists.

The next activist to take to the square with the flag was Mikhail Gerasimov from the Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT for Equal Rights. Police also detained him.

palace-3

Police initially charged all the detained activists with “promoting homosexuality among minors,” but later dropped the charges for lack of evidence, claiming that a child who had been strolling through the square with his mother had taken no interest in the flag’s “meaning.”

Police released all the activists later in the day.

As Gerasimov was being arrested, activists Alexei Nazarov and Alexei Sergeyev emerged from the crowd holding posters that read, respectively, “Free Yuri Gavrikov,” “Three ‘rejections’ from the Smolny [Petersburg city hall]: lawlessness and discrimination of Russian citizens,” and “‘Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance.’ Charlie Chaplin.” (The last is a quotation from the Jewish Barber’s speech in Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator.)

palace-4

A few men wearing the trademark baby-blue berets and navy blue-and-white striped sleeveless t-shirts of the Russian paratroopers and casual clothing suddenly rushed Nazarov and Sergeyev, grabbing their posters and ripping them up.

palace-5

The LGBT activists kept producing new posters, and the would-be paratroopers ultimately tore up five posters.

palace-6

Police ignored the assaults on the activists, even laughing as they tried to defend themselves.

palace-7

No one from either party to the scuffle was arrested.

All photos by and courtesy of David Frenkel

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.

__________

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.

kNxhDMBR-650

— 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

__________

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