Cossacked

18A so-called Cossack lashes protesters with a plaited whip (nagaika) at the He’s No Tsar to Us opposition protest rally at Pushkin Square in Moscow on May 5, 2018. Photo by Ilya Varlamov

Сossacks Were Not Part of the Plan: Men with Whips Take Offense at the Opposition
Alexander Chernykh
Kommersant
May 8, 2017

The Presidential Human Rights Council (PHRC) plans to find out who the Cossacks were who scuffled with supporters of Alexei Navalny during the unauthorized protest rally on May 5 in Moscow. Meanwhile, the Moscow mayor’s office and the Central Cossack Host claimed they had nothing to do with the Cossacks who attempted to disperse opposition protesters. Kommersant was able to talk with Cossack Vasily Yashchikov, who admitted he was involved in the tussle, but claimed it was provoked by Mr. Navalny’s followers. Human rights defenders reported more than a dozen victims of the Cossacks have filed complaints.

The PHRC plans to ask law enforcement agencies to find out how the massive brawl erupted during the unauthorized protest rally on May 5 in Moscow. PHRC chair Mikhail Fedotov said “circumstances were exacerbated” when Cossacks and activists of the National Liberation Front (NOD) appeared at the opposition rally.

“It led to scenes of violence. We must understand why they were they and who these people were,” said Mr. Fedotov.

“Our main conclusion has not changed: the best means of counteracting unauthorized protest rallies is authorizing them,” he added.

On May 5, unauthorized protest rallies, entitled He’s No Tsar to Us, called for by Alexei Navalny, took place in a number of Russian cities. In Moscow, organizers had applied for a permit to march down Tverskaya Street, but the mayor’s officers suggested moving the march to Sakharov Avenue. Mr. Navalny still called on his supporters to gather at Pushkin Square, where they first engaged in a brawl with NOD activists and persons unknown dressed in Cossack uniforms. Numerous protesters were subsequently detained by regular police. Approximately 700 people were detained in total.

The appearance on Pushkin Square of Cossacks armed with whips has provoked a broad response in Russia and abroad. The Guardian wrote at length about the incident, reminding its readers that Cossacks would be employed as security guards during the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The Bell discovered a Central Cossack Host patch on the uniform of one of the Cossacks photographed during the brawl. According to the Bell, which cites documents from the Moscow mayor’s office, the Central Cossack Host was paid a total of ₽15.9 million for “providing security during large-scale events.”

However, Vladimir Chernikov, head of the Moscow Department of Regional Security, stressed, during an interview with Kommersant FM, that on May 5 “no Cossacks or any other organization were part of the plan and the means of providing security.”

Chernikov said police and the Russian National Guard acted impeccably. Spokesmen for the Central Cossack Host also said they had not dispatched any Cossacks to guard Pushkin Square, and that the Cossacks who, wearing their patches, did go to the square, had “voiced their civic stance.”

Bloggers have published information about the Cossacks they have been able to identify from photos and video footage of the rally. One video depicts a bearded man who grabs a placard, bearing the slogan “Open your eyes, you’re the tsar’s slave!”, from a young oppositionist before arguing with Open Russia coordinator Andrei Pivovarov. The Telegram channel BewareOfThem reported the man was Vasily Yashchikov, member of the Union of Donbass Volunteers. Mr. Yashchikov has confirmed to Kommersant he was, in fact, at the rally and was involved in the brawl with opposition protesters. Yet, he claimed, most of the Cossacks at Pushkin Square had nothing to do with the Central Cossack Host, as claimed by the Bell. According to Mr. Yashchikov, the brawlers mainly consisted of nonregistered (i.e., unaffiliated with the Russian government) Cossacks from two grassroots organizations, the First Hundred and the Crimean Regiment. Moreover, they allegedly showed up at the rally independently of one another.

“The rally was discussed in Cossack groups, and someone suggested we go and talk to people,” Mr. Yashchikov told Kommersant. “We have nearly a hundred people in the  Hundred, but only fifteen decided to go. At the square, we met Cossacks from the Crimean Regiment, which is actually not Crimean, but from the Moscow Region. But our organizations are not friendly, so we were there separately.”

He admitted there were several people from the Central Cossack Host at Pushkin Square, but his group did not interact with them, either.

KMO_165050_00034_1_t218_200833So-called Cossacks at the He’s No Tsar to Us opposition rally at Pushkin Square, Moscow, May 5, 2018. Photo by Alexander Miridonov. Courtesy of Kommersant

According to Mr. Yashchikov, the Cossacks came to Pushkin Square to talk with Mr. Navalny’s supporters, but had no intention of being involved in dispersing the rally.

“There were one and half thousand people there [the Moscow police counted the same number of protesters—Kommersant]. There were thirty-five of us at most, and we had only two whips. You could not have paid us to wade into that crowd,” claimed Mr. Yashchikov.

Mr. Yashchikov claimed he managed to have a friendly chat with Mr. Navalny, but opposition protesters were aggressive, he alleged.

“Someone picked on us, asking why we had come there, that it was their city. Another person tried to knock my cap off, while they swore at other Cossacks and blasphemed the Orthodox faith,” Mr. Yashchikov complained. “Well, we couldn’t take it anymore.”

People who attended the rally have denied his claims.

“The Cossacks acted cohesively, like a single team,” said Darya, who was at the rally [Kommersant has not published her surname, as she is a minor]. “They formed a chain and started pushing us towards the riot police, apparently, to make their job easier. The Cossacks kicked me, while they encircled my boyfriend and beat him. They retreated only when they realized they were being film and photographed.”

Darya planned to file a complaint with the police charging the Cossacks with causing her bodily harm. Currently, human rights defenders from Agora, Zona Prava, and Public Verdict have documented more than fifteen assault complaints filed against the Cossacks.

Oppositionists have claimed the police mainly detained protesters, allegedly paying almost no attention to the Cossacks and NOD activists. Kirill Grigoriev, an Open Russia activist detained at the rally, recounted that, at the police station where he was taken after he was detained, he pretended to be a NOD member, and he was released by police without their filing an incident report.

“When we arrived at the Alexeyevsky Police Precinct, a policeman immediately asked who of us was from NOD. I jokingly pointed at myself. He took me into a hallway and asked me to write down the surnames of other members of the organization,” said Mr. Grigoriev.

He wrote down the surnames of ten people, after which everyone on the list was given back their internal Russian passports and released.

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Cossacks Confront Navalny Supporters for First Time
Regime Prepares for Fresh Protests, Including Non-Political Ones, Analysts Argue 
Yelena Mukhametshina and Alexei Nikolsky
Vedomosti
May 6, 2018

He’s No Tsar to Us, the unauthorized protest rally in Moscow held by Alexei Navalny’s supporters, differed from previous such rallies. On Tverskaya Street, provocateurs demanded journalists surrender their cameras. By 2:00 p.m., the monument to Pushkin was surrounded by activists of the National Liberation Front (NOD). When protesters chanted, “Down with the tsar!” they yelled “Maidan shall not pass!” in reply. Behind the monument were groups of Cossacks, who had never attended such rallies. In addition, for the first time, the police warned people they intended to use riot control weapons and physical force, and indeed the actions of the security forces were unprecedentedly rough. The riot police (OMON) detained protesters by the hundreds, and Cossacks lashed them with plaited whips.

The Moscow police counted 1,500 protesters at the rally, while organizers failed to provide their own count of the number of attendees. Navalny said the nationwide rallies were a success. His close associate Leonid Volkov argued that “in terms of numbers, content, and fighting spirit, records were broken,” also noting the police’s unprecedented brutality. According to OVD Info, around 700 people were detained in Moscow, and nearly 1,600 people in 27 cities nationwide. Citing the PHRC, TASS reported that 658 people were detained in Moscow.

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“He’s No Tsar to Us, May 5: A Map of Arrests. 1,597 people were detained during protest rallies on May 5, 2018, in 27 Russian cities, according to OVD Info. According to human right activists, during nationwide anti-corruption protests on March 26, 2017, more than 1,500 people were detained. Source: OVD Info.” Courtesy of Vedomosti

PHRC member Maxim Shevchenko demanded the council be urgently convoked due to “the regime’s use of Black Hundreds and fascist militants.” According to a police spokesman, the appearance at the rally of “members of different social groups” was not engineered by the police, while the warning that police would use special riot control weapons was, apparently, dictated by the choice of tactics and the desire to avoid the adverse consequences of the use of tear gas.

According to NOD’s leader, MP Yevgeny Fyodorov, 1,000 members of the movement were involved in Saturday’s rally.

“We wanted to meet and discuss the fact the president must be able to implement his reforms. Because we have been talking about de-offshorization and withdrawing from a unipolar world for five years running, but things have not budged an inch,” said Fyodorov.

NOD did not vet their actions with the Kremlin, the leadership of the State Duma or the Moscow mayor’s office, Fyodorov assured reporters.

On Sunday, the Telegram channel Miracles of OSINT reported that, in 2016–2018, the Central Cossack Host, whose members were at the rally, received three contracts worth nearly ₽16 million from the Moscow Department for Ethnic Policy for training in the enforcement of order at public events. As Vedomosti has learned, according to the government procurement website, the Central Cossack Host received eleven contracts, worth nearly ₽38 million, from the Moscow mayor’s office over the same period.

Gleb Kuznetsov, head of the Social Research Expert Institute (EISI), which has ties to the Kremlin, argued there was no brutality at the rally.

“In Paris, the scale of protests is currently an order of magnitude higher, but no one speaks about their particular brutality. In Russia, so far the confrontation has been cute, moderate, and provincial. The only strange thing is that, in Russia, people who are involved in such protests, which are aimed at maximum mutual violence, are regarded as children. But this is not so. Everything conformed to the rules of the game, common to the whole world. If you jump a policeman, don’t be surprised if he responds with his truncheon,” said Kuznetsov.*

The Russian government has allied itself with the Cossacks and NOD, which are essentially illegal armed formations, argued Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Moscow Carnegie Center.

“This does not bode well. Apparently, in the future, such formations will be used to crack down on protests,” said Kolesnikov.

The authorities are preparing for the eventuality there will be more protests. Even now the occasions for them have become more diverse, and they are spreading geographically, noted Kolesnikov.

Grassroots activism has been growing, and the authorities have realized this, political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov concurred. They are always nervous before inaugurations. In 2012, there was fear of a virtual Maidan, while now the example of Armenia is fresh in everyone’s minds, he said.

“The security services had to flex their muscles before the new cabinet was appointed. Although, in view of the upcoming FIFA World Cup, law enforcement hung the regime out to dry contentwise,” said Vinogradov.

* In September 2017, the Bell reported that state corporations Rosatom and RusHydro were financing EISI to the tune of ₽400 million each, and it could not be ruled out that the so-called social research institute was receiving subsidies from other state companies.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Pavel Chikov: A Managed Thaw

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Is a new thaw on the way?

A Managed Thaw: What the Reversal of Verdicts in the Dadin and Chudnovets Cases Means
Pavel Chikov
RBC
March 6, 2017

The Kurgan Regional Court quashed the verdict against Yevgenia Chudnovets and released her from a penal colony, where she had served four months of a five-month sentence for, allegedly, disseminating child pornography on the web. The Russian Deputy Prosecutor General almost literally copied the arguments made in the appeal by Chudnovets’s attoreny. Previously, during its consideration of the appeal, the selfsame Kurgan Regional Court had refused to release Chudnovets at the request of both the prosecutor and defense attorneys. The same court then denied the appeal against the verdict. The verdict was reversed only after the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Supreme Court intervened. Now Chudnovets will have the right to compensation for the harm caused her by illegal criminal prosecution.

The Chudnovets story unfolded at the same time as the even more high-profile case of Ildar Dadin. Dadin’s case was the first criminal case filed under the newly minted law on violating the law on public rallies, the first guilty verdict handed down under the new law. Dadin was taken into custody in the courtroom. Then came the shocking sentence of three years in a medium-security penal colony for a first offense, a moderately severe offense whose underlying cause was purely political, in a case tried in Moscow under the glare of all the media. During the appeals phase, the verdict was altered slightly, and the sentence reduced a bit. But then there was the drama of Dadin’s transfer to the penal colony, his arrival in a Karelian prison camp infamous for its severe conditions, the immense scandal that erupted after he claimed he had been tortured, and the harsh reaction to these revelations by the Federal Penitentiary Service. Then Dadin was secretly transferred to a remote penal colony in Altai over a demonstratively long period, after which the Constitutional Court, in open session, ruled that the relevant article of the Criminal Code had been wrongly interpreted in Dadin’s case. After this, the Supreme Court jumped quickly into the fray, granting a writ of certiorari, aquitting Dadin, and freeing him from the penal colony.

Politically Motivated Releases
The judicial system acted with phenomenal alacrity in both the Chudnovets and Dadin cases. Chudnovets’s criminal case was literally flown round trip from Kurgan to Moscow and back. Given current realities, this could only have been possible under the so-called manual mode of governance and with authorization at the highest level.

It calls to mind the instantaneous release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky from the same Karelian prison colony in December 2013, and the same sudden early releases, under amnesty, of the Greenpeace activists, convicted in the Arctic Sunrise case, and Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, two months before their sentences were up. Of course, the record holder in this sense is the Kirov Regional Court, which in the summer of 2013 quashed Alexei Navalny’s five-year sentence in the Kirovles case.

In all these previous cases, the causes of the system’s sudden softness were self-explanatory. The thaw of December 2013 was due to the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Navalny’s pardon was clearly connected with his being able to run in the Moscow mayoral elections. It was hard not to doubt the narrowly political, tactical objectives of these targeted releases.

The latest indulgences—the sudden releases of Dadin and Chudnovets, the transfer of the last defendant in the Bolotnaya Square case, Dmitry Buchenkov, and the Yekaterinburg Pokémon catcher, Ruslan Sokolovsky, from custody in pretrial detention facilities to house arrest—have been greeted with a roar of approval from the progressive public. The liberal genie would have burst out of its bottle altogether were it not for the eleven-hour police search of the home of human rights activist Zoya Svetova in connection with the ancient Yukos case. The search was as sudden and hard to explain as the releases described above.

Federal officials have not tried to dampen the talk of a thaw. On the contrary, they have encouraged it. The president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, Supreme Court Chief Justice Vyacheslav Lebedev, federal human right’s ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova, and Justice Ministry spokespeople have publicly supported decriminalizing the Criminal Code article under which Dadin was convicted.

Putting the Brakes On
Even earlier we had noticed that the number of politically motivated criminal cases had stopped increasing. Twelve years of defending grassroots activists, human rights activists, journalists, and heads of local NGOs mean we are sensitive to changes in which way the wind blows. It would be wrong to speak of an improvement. Rather, the brakes have been put on the slide into deterioration. There are still dozens of political prisoners doing time in Russia’s prisons.

Political scientists have spoken of an unloosening of the screws; lawyers, of necessary legal reforms. One way or another, it is clear these events did not began in February, and the changes have been implemented from the top, quite deliberately, but without any explanation.

Given the tactial objectives pursued in previous reversals of high-profile cases, there are serious grounds for assuming recent events are due to next year’s main political event, the presidential election.

Preparations for the election began last spring with a shakeup of the law enforcement agencies. The superfluous Migration Service and Gosnarkokontrol (Federal Agency for Drug Trafficking Control) were eliminated. A new political special forces unit, the National Guard of Russia, was established. The influence of the Investigative Committee has been sharply reduced, although from 2012 to 2016 it had been the Investigative Committee that served as the main vehicle for domestic political crackdowns.

The old framework has gradually ceased functioning. The effectiveness of show trials has waned. Leading opposition figures have grown accustomed to working with the permanent risk of criminal prosecution hanging over them. Some have left the country and thus are beyond the reach of the security forces, but they have exited politics as well. Protest rallies have not attracted big numbers for a long time, and NGOs have been demoralized by the law on “foreign agents.” The stats for cases of “extremism” are mainly padded by the online statements of web users in the provinces and “non-traditional” Muslims.

In recent years, the state has delegated its function of intimidation and targeted crackdowns to pro-regime para-public organizations. Navalny is no longer pursued by Alexander Bastrykin, but by organizations like NOD (National Liberation Movement) and Anti-Maidan.

Under a Watchful Eye
The foreground is no longer occcupied by the need to intimidate and crack down on dissidents, but by information gathering and protest prevention, and that is the competence of different government bodies altogether. It is the FSB that has recently concentrated the main function of monitoring domestic politics in its hands. FSB officers have been arresting governors, generals, and heavyweight businesmen, destroying the reputations of companies and government agencies, and defending the internet from the west’s baleful influence.

Nothing adds to the work of the FSB’s units like a managed thaw. Bold public statements, new leaders and pressure groups, and planned and envisioned protest rallies immediately attract attention. The upcoming presidential election, the rollout of the campaign, and good news from the courts as spring arrives cannot help but awaken dormant civic protest. Its gradual rise will continue until its apogee in March of next year [when the presidential election is scheduled]. Information will be collected, analyzed, and sent to the relevant decision makers by the summer of 2018. And by the autumn of 2018 lawyers will again have more work than they can handle. This scenario needs to be taken into account.

There is, of course, another option: the Kremlin’s liberal signals may be addressed not to the domestic audience, but to a foreign one. Foreign policy, which has remained the president’s focus, is in a state of turbulence. Vladimir Putin is viewed by the western liberal public as a dark force threatening the world order. Sudden moves toward democratization can only add to the uncertainty and, consequently, the Kremlin can gain a tactical advantage in the game of diplomacy. Considering the fact there are lots of politicians in the world who are happy to be fooled, the ranks of the Russian president’s supporters will only swell.

Pavel Chikov is head of Agora, an international human rights group. Thanks to Comrade AK for the heads-up. Translation and photograph by the Russian Reader

Petersburg: Where Fascists Roam the Streets at Will

NODite who assaulted Petersburg reporter David Frenkel yesterday in plain sight of several witnesses, including policemen standing nearby. Photo courtesy of David Frenkel
NODite who assaulted Petersburg reporter David Frenkel yesterday in plain sight of several witnesses, including policemen standing nearby. Photo courtesy of David Frenkel

David Frenkel
Facebook
December 12, 2016

I read in the news what happened to me today [Sunday]. I was surprised by a lot of what I read and decided to write my own account.

I had been taking pictures of an unauthorized LGBT march in support of social and labor protests on Nevsky Prospect. The march ended in the Catherine Garden. After it was over, some of the activists, who had folded up their banners and placards, and the journalists crossed the street to Malaya Sadovaya, where the National Liberation Movement (NOD) were holding a rally. The NODites and activists got into a war of words, and I pulled out my my camera. In particular, I photographed a colorful NODite in a fur hat who immediately hit my camera before kicking me several times (One of the blows was captured on Arseniy Vesnin’s video). The NODites also shouted that I was a “little Yid.”

The NODites often insult other people and let their fists and feet do the talking (the most striking example was the attack on Arseniy Vesin himself), and I asked the policemen standing nearby whether they could do something about the assailant. They refused to register my complaint, and so I called for a police patrol to come to the scene. They arrived very quickly, but they refused either to detain the assailant or even check his papers. Instead, they checked my papers. After I asked them repeatedly, they finally gave me a pen and paper so I could file a complaint.

When I had finished writing the complaint, it transpired the NODite had already escaped. I was told I could go to the police precinct [to file the complaint] whenever I liked. I stepped away to discuss with Arseniy whether it was worth going to the precinct right then. The police came over to me and said one of the female NODites had filed a complaint against me for attempting to disrupt their authorized rally. The police took me to the 78th precinct, on Chekhov Street.

At the station, the police almost immediately drew up papers stating I had been delivered to the precinct, and then I went to give testimony about my own complaint. Initially, everything was cool, only they kept asking me questions about the LGBT rally. How had I found out about it? How had I met with them? Where had been going?

I refused to answer these questions. The police responded by asking me whether I was in my right mind. Then the deputy commander of the precinct showed up. First, he demanded I turned off my phone (I refused), and then he came down hard on me, saying I was not a journalist, that I could not prove I worked for Kommersant.  (I really did not have my ID on me, but I had contacted the editors, and I knew they had telephoned the precinct and confirmed my testimony.)

The deputy commander kept “poking” me, saying I had no respect for the authorities, elders, and the police. I agreed with this, reminding that my assailant had not been detained. When our argument turned more emotional, he threatened to call an ambulance brigade to check my mental competence. Then he left.

The police finished taking my testimony and left me to wait, god knows for what. The whole time Varya Mikhailova and my dad were at the front desk. They were told I had not been detained, but delivered to the police station, and that I would be released any minute now. Arseniy Vesnin, who had testified that the NODite had assaulted me and had tried to give his video to the police, was also at the station.

For a while, nothing happened. Then suddenly an ambulance brigade showed up. They immediately grabbed my papers from the table. When I protested, they told me to move to another chair. I had been sitting right under the surveillance camera and for my own safety I didn’t want to move to another chair, which I told them. So they tried to move me by force. When I resisted, the doctor attempted to strangle me, and two orderlies twisted my fingers and tried to tie my hands with a tourniquet. Yet they could not manage to move me to another chair. I stayed where I was. They also tried to confiscate my camera bag, which I held onto with my elbows. I said they would take it away from me over my dead body.

“No problem,” they replied.

The whole time I was shouting and calling for help, but the police were laughing and filming the incident on video.

Meanwhile, the orderlies whispered in my ear that they would “fuck [me] up” and “kick [me] in the balls.” Just like the NODites, the medics made fun of the fact I was Jewish. They asked me something about the “Christmas seder” (?) and made several jokes about circumcision.

As I learned later, the deputy precinct commander was chatting with my father while this was going in. The policeman was trying to persuade Dad I was a “difficult boy.” He asked him something about fights, alcohol, and drugs. He said I was behaving inappropriately: I was, allegedly, sitting hunched up and constantly making phone calls. The doctor later told my father that I had not been taken away to the insane asylum only because he, my father, had turned up at the precinct.

After half an hour of “conversing” with the medics, the sense of which I still have not figured out, I was untied and released from the precinct. The misdemeanor charges filed against me by the female NODite were dropped.

At the trauma bay, the bruises on my neck and arms, and the scrapes and scratches on my fingers were photographed and registered.

Such is the work of a journalist. I’ll post the report from the march a bit later.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Yaroslav Leontiev: Open Letter to NOD

Prizewinners and mentors at the awards ceremony for the 2012 history research competition The Individual in History: Russia in the 20th Century.
Prizewinners and mentors at the awards ceremony for the 2012 history research competition for high school seniors, The Individual in History: Russia in the 20th Century.

Yaroslav V. Leontiev, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, Moscow State University
Open Letter to the Headquarters of the National Liberation Movement (NOD)
Facebook
June 29, 2016

A year ago, a friend of mine joked on the topic of what the participants in its school program and their schoolteacher mentors would be called after the International Memorial Society was declared a “foreign agent”? Accomplices of “foreign agents” or what? He was joking, but the idiots have taken it at face value.

So, messieurs idiots, with your escapade [see article, below] you have insulted, first of all, the cherished memory of Sigurd Ottovich Schmidt, the longtime jury chair of The Individual in History: Russia in the 20th Century, a nationwide historical research competition for high school seniors. The son of a Hero of the Soviet Union, the legendary polar explorer and scientist Otto Schmidt, Sigurd Ottovich Schmidt was a Teacher and a Historian with a capital “t” and a capital “h,” a man who educated many generations of professional source studies experts, archivists, and local history specialists. Schmidt was the founder and chair of the Russian Union of Local Historians.

At the same time, you have insulted the memory of the son of another Hero of the Soviet Union, a man decorated with the Gold Hero Star for the Berlin operation, Gennady Demyanovich Kuzov. Kuzov and I handed out the awards to the young participants of a previous competition onstage together.

For many years, I, a pupil of Sigurd Ottovich Schmidt, served as an expert for the competition The Individual in History: Russia in the 20th Century. I personally pored over hundreds of submitted works, and I detected no “national treachery” or “rewriting of history” in any of them.

The competition was a ticket into big-time scholarship for Lyosha Rakov, a wonderful boy from the Ural backwoods who was a winner of the first contest. While still a high schooler, he did a serious research project on the dispossessed kulaks and exiled special settlers who built the manufacturing plants in Chelyabinsk. Nowadays, Alexey Rakov has a Ph.D. in history and is an associate professor at the Higher School of Economics.

It was at the competition that I met a magnificent educator from the town of Kashin, history teacher Tatyana Mikhailovna Golubyova, who now heads the local history society. Along with her and her pupils, I walked hundreds of kilometers during historical hiking trips to study the military campaigns against the Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the early seventeenth century.

The same competition was the occasion for several encounters with Nikolai Makarov, a village schoolteacher from Voronezh Region who had compiled a genuine encyclopedia of the local villages and towns along with his pupils. The anthology We Are All from the Same Village, written by schoolchildren from the town of Novyi Kurlak in the Anna District, has been one of the best works on the history of everyday life published by Memorial.

And how can I forget the mother of a large family from the town of Likhoslavl, capital of the Tver Karelians, who herself served as a mentor for the competition, and her children, who were winners several years in a row? Or the girl from the Old Believers trading post of Sym? On the map of our immense country there is such a town on the Yenisei River, reachable only by helicopter. She wrote what is perhaps the only documentary history of the most remote and northerly point of the Yeniseysk District of Krasnoyarsk Territory.

Today, you gave these already-grown children a slap in the face, just as you gave a slap in the face to the hundreds of other children who visited Moscow for the first time thanks to this contest, and then went on to enroll in universities and become friends for years. You have insulted the dozens of teachers from the Russian hinterland, including those who went on to become winners of the nationwide Russian Teacher of the Year contest. (Such as Tatyana Mikhailovna Golubyova, whom I have already mentioned, but she is not alone.)

It is not for you idiots to teach them and me love for the Motherland and the graves of our ancestors. I happen to have spearheaded the raising of a monument to the heroic military commander of the Time of Troubles Prince Mikhail Vasilyevich Skopin-Shuisky in the town of Kalyazin, the second and most famous such monument in the country. In many respects, I spearheaded the raising of the first monument to the heroes of the First World War in Tver Region, the unveiling of a memorial plaque on the anniversary of Sergei Yesenin’s visit to Tver, and a number of other memorials honoring the heroes of the past in Tver, Vladimir, and Yaroslavl Regions. My ancestor was awarded the highest military honor for regimental priests, a gold pectoral cross on a Saint George’s Ribbon. The heroes of the First World War were later “awarded” arrests and exile. Our common ancestor had been decorated for the capture of Paris in 1814. My grandfather was awarded the main decoration for soldiers, the Medal for Valor, and two holes in his body, made by fascist bullets and shrapnel, that never did heal over.

Lazar Lazarev, the longtime editor-in-chief of the journal Problems of Literature, and father of Irina Shcherbakov, head of educational programs at Memorial and coordinator of the School Competitions project, was the highly decorated commander of a reconnaissance company. It is not for you idiot mummers to teach us patriotism. Authentic Saint George’s Ribbons are soaked in blood, while the sham ones you wear smack of bad slapstick or, to put it in Russian, of baboonery and buffonery.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Memorial

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Human Rights Event Attacked in Moscow
Anastasia Bazenkova
Moscow Times
April 28, 2016

Photo courtesy of @MemorialMoscow/Twitter

Guests at an event organized by Russia’s leading human rights group Memorial have been attacked by nationalist activists, the organization’s executive director told the Moscow Times Thursday.

Participants at an award ceremony for high school history students were sprayed with disinfectant and ammonia, said executive director Yelena Zhemkova.

“Memorial was holding a very important event at Dom Kino in central Moscow, but the guests and the participants were attacked by a group of aggressive protesters who threw green disinfectant and ammonia at them as they tried to enter the building,” Zhemkova said.

The protests in front of the Dom Kino building were organized by the National Liberation Movement (NOD), local media sources reported.

Roughly twenty NOD activists congregated outside Dom Kino, holding banners reading, “We don’t need alternative history,” and shouting, “Fascists!”

Among those attacked was acclaimed Russian novelist Ludmila Ulitskaya. The writer, who headed the jury at the competition, was sprayed in the face with a green disinfectant.

A number of international guests were also present, including the German ambassador to Russia Rüdiger von Fritsch, Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported. The activists also attacked a delegate from a similar school history contest in Norway.

NOD’s youth wing coordinator, Maria Katasonova, denied the attack on Ulitskaya in an interview with Govorit Moskva radio station.

“We don’t know who sprayed Ulitskaya,” she said. “I only saw her turn around and she was already covered in green disinfectant.”

The high school competition, The Individual in History: Russia in the 20th Century, is an annual event held by Memorial. Students from around the country are encouraged to research local history by studying historical archives, interviewing witnesses, and examining newspapers and other sources.

Winning students are then invited to Moscow, where they visit a number of places and attend events organized by Memorial. The culmination of their Moscow program is the awards ceremony.

Police arriving on the scene said the protest was a one-man picket and took no action.

“Usually, even if it is a real one-man protest, the police will come and put everybody in the back of a van. This time the police did nothing, even though our college suffered an eye injury,” Zhemkova said.

Zhemkova said that although there had been protests during previous Memorial events, it was the first time counter-activists had been so aggressive.

There had been a picket in front of the Sakharov Center, where Memorial held an exhibition dealing with the First Chechen War last month, but no one had been attacked, she said.

NB. I edited this article, because no one at the Moscow Times bothered to do it before publication, thus making it practically unreadable. TRR

The Crime of Speaking Up in Russia: Solidarity with Dadin and Polyudova

Vadim F. Lurie
Facebook
March 23, 2016

The people’s assembly [to publicize an appeals hearing in the case of Ildar Dadin, sentenced in December 2015 to three years in prison for the heretofore unknown offense of “repeat unauthorized protesting”] did not come off. [Nor did Dadin’s appeals hearing in Moscow City Court: it was postponed to a later date.] There were fewer people in attendance than the day before yesterday, the day Nadiya Savchenko was sentenced. But the picketers decided to spread out along the Nevsky, and members of the National Liberation Movement (NOD) wandered around searching for them, trying to pester and troll them.

The most successful at this was a bearded specimen, who yelled, “Look, a real live national traitor! A Maidanite, a Banderite, funded by the State Department!

The passerbys, who usually do not pay much attention to people standing holding placards, mostly regarded them sympathetically thanks to this spiel.

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“What a viper sentenced Dadin! Free Ildar Dadin!” Local police detain veteran democratic activist Igor “Stepanych” Andreyev. Petrograd, March 23, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie
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Petersburg police surround a picketer, demanding he produce his documents. Petrograd, March 23, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie
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A member of the so-called National Liberation Movement (NODS) scans the Nevsky for “national traitors.” Petrograd, March 23, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie
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“Free [Ildar Dadin! No to Article 212.1!” A picketer stands in front of Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral. Petrograd, March 23, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie
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“Free Ildar Dadin!” Petrograd, March 23, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie
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“Down with Article 212.1!* Free Ildar Dadin! Congratulations, Nastya and Ildar!” Petrograd, March 23, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie
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“Free Darya Polyudova,** sentenced to two years in a work-release prison as an extremist for a repost on Vkontakte.” Image of Polyudova with placard: “Ukraine, we are with you.” Petrograd, March 23, 2016. Photo by Vadim F. Lurie

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Vadim F. Lurie for his kind permission to republish his photos here.

*Despite the obstacles, Russia’s opposition continued to organize protests. So last summer in 2014, the Kremlin effectively criminalized all peaceful protests and assemblies. Article 212.1, which went into effect in January 2015, amends the previous law in a considerably more punitive manner, carrying up to 5-year criminal prison terms for repeated protests. This law has a “3 strikes” feature, stating that anyone who has been convicted 3 times for the administrative offense of ‘violating the regulations governing public rallies,’ within a six month period is subject to criminal liability. With these laws and their particular application against political critics, the Putin regime is sending a powerful message heard throughout Russia of a repressive new reality unseen in decades: If you dare to speak out against government policies or leadership, the authorities will ruthlessly treat you as a common criminal and send you away for years in penal colonies. [] A young protester named Ildar Dadin became the first person to be convicted under Article 212.1 for having protested 3 times within a 6-month span. Ildar Dadin engaged in a completely benign peaceful protest, mostly standing alone holding a sign expressing his opinions, specifically about releasing political prisoners, the need to change power in the Kremlin, and to end the war in Ukraine. Until his trial in December, Dadin had been confined to house arrest. But on December 7, Dadin was sentenced to 3 years of actual prison time in a penal colony for simply exercising his constitutional right to express his opinion. Yes, Russia’s Constitution under Articles 29, 30 and 31 guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. But the new laws make those guarantees not worth the paper they’re written on. (Paula Chertok, “New Normal in Russia: Putin Critics Punished with Harsh Prison Terms,” Euromaidan Press, January 6, 2015)

**Dispatches: The Crime of Speaking Up in Russia
Tanya Lokshina, Russian Program Director
Human Rights Watch
December 22, 2015

A left-wing political activist has been convicted of inciting separatism and extremist activities, the latest in a series of criminal prosecutions in Russia against people who dare speak their minds online.

Unless the December 21 ruling by a court in Krasnodar in southern Russia is quashed on appeal, the accused, Darya Polyudova, 26, will spend the next two years behind bars. The charges against her derived from three posts she published on her page in VKontakte (VK), Russia’s most popular social network.

All three posts had to do with Ukraine. The one that triggered the incitement to separatism charge – in Russian law, making “public, online calls aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation” – was not even written by her. It was a flippant comment by another user, which Polyudova shared on her page, about supposed demands by local ethnic Ukrainians of the Krasnodar region to be incorporated into Ukraine.

The second post, deemed by authorities as “public calls to extremist activities,” was a photo of Polyudova with a poster that said, “No war in Ukraine but a revolution in Russia!” The slogan did not include any advocacy of violence.

The third one was a commentary about how the situation in Russia was intolerable and Russians needed to follow the example of Ukraine’s Maidan activists, take to the streets, and bring down the government. These are strong words, but didn’t include any specific action plan.

Polyudova’s VK page has all of 38 followers, and most of her posts draw very few comments. Her words can’t be taken as inciting violence, and they certainly didn’t pose a “danger to the public,” as Russian law requires for criminal prosecution.

Polyudova’s prosecution is one in a growing number of cases where Russians are being punished for speaking their mind. This autumn, a court in Tatarstan sentenced an activistto three years in prison on very similar charges. Since the return of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin in 2012, the Russian government has instituted an unprecedented and sweeping crackdown on critics of the government, and one of its tools has been overbroad and vague anti-extremism legislation. As the space for freedom of speech in the traditional media narrows, the government is now going after the Internet and targeting individuals who try to stir public debate about sensitive issues, especially Ukraine.

Until her trial, Polyudova was relatively unknown. But by criminally prosecuting her, the government is sending a chilling signal to Internet users across country – if you think you can speak your mind online, think again.

Land of NOD

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“Stop American demonocracy! Don’t touch Russia, gentlemen! My country is a great power!” Demonstrators at September 19, 2015, NOD rally on the Field of Mars, Petersburg. Photo by and courtesy of Vadim F. Lurye

Petersburgers, Stop the “Social Bombardment” of the Population!

Coordinator: Tatyana Chuprova

Venue: 4:00 p.m., September 19, 2015, Field of Mars, St. Petersburg

Our President has made significant progress in the struggle to return the sovereignty lost by our country after the defeat of 1991.

The United States could not remain indifferent to a colony’s desire to gain independence. The decline in oil prices, the coup in Ukraine, and the sanctions are all episodes in the economic war declared by the West against our Motherland.

As a result of his commitment to a national course for the country’s development, the head of state’s rating has reached a historic high. Contrary to the expectations of enemies, the people love Vladimir Vladimirovich for his merits.

Therefore, the West has moved on to the next phase, “social bombardment.” The dismissal of police officers, layoffs of doctors, cancellation of welfare benefits, increases in utility rates, and so on are all aimed at undermining our leader’s rating.

The Central Bank is a vital link in the external governance of our country. Under the Constitution, the Central Bank is independent from Russian state authorities. And, according to international agreements, it is subject to the instructions of the IMF. As a consequence, loans in Russia are expensive, the President of Russia’s orders for de-offshoring the economy have been sabotaged, the exchange rate has collapsed, and, along with it, so, too, has the country’s economy.

Let us unite in the face of external threats! Stop “social bombardment”! Let’s express our support for the national leader Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin!

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“Rally, September 19. Stop the social bombardment of the population!” Image courtesy of rusnod.ru

 

Source: Russian National Liberation Movement (NOD) website. Translated by The Russian Reader. See my previous posts about NOD.

“Congratulate Me, I’m a Foreign Agent” (Dront Ecological Center, Nizhny Novgorod)

Congratulate Me, I’m a Foreign Agent
pippilotta-v-r.livejournal.com
May 14, 2015

It was to be expected, of course, and we all knew quite well approximately what would be written in the Ministry of Justice’s certificate of inspection, but for some reason it was unexpected all the same. Like a knife in the back.

Dront’s certificate of inspection was brought to our offices on Tuesday. I felt very bad about it all day. Plus, there was a lampoon on a stupid Nizhny Novgorod site (which I will not advertise here, of course) in which I was targeted personally. I even recalled the favorite joke of my youth, which I haven’t recalled for over ten years.

Piglet comes to Winnie the Pooh’s house and sees that the whole place is filled with blood. The bear is lying on the floor, his stomach ripped open, his guts hanging from the chandelier.

Piglet anxiously asks, “Winnie, Winnie, do you feel bad?

“Do I feel bad? Do I feel bad? Yes, it’s curtains for me!”

Because the problem is not the obvious disadvantages of this status, which we will legally challenge, of course. The problem is “faith in humanity.”

For an evening I lost my faith in humanity.

What has to be going through a person’s head to seek proof of “political activity” amongst people who protect nature on behalf of all citizens, and hence them as well? What kind of person do you have to be, for example, to classify money paid to do an analysis of a proposal to raise the level of the Cheboksary Reservoir as foreign financing, since the money came from the WWF (the Russian office of WWF, by the way)? I just hope that those three beauties from the Ministry of Justice who inspected us live somewhere in the Leninsky District, and their houses will be flooded when the reservoir rises.

Oh, to find out where they live and never to stand up for that corner of the city again. Let them build all the auto service centers and waste incineration plants right there!

And why do so-called patriots (we were inspected at the behest of the National Liberation Movement) so hate the natural environment in their own country? On the other hand, they love power in all forms. This phenomenon, incidentally, has haunted me for a while. So some people have decided they are “Russian patriots,” and what do they do? That’s right, they set out to spoil the lives of people trying to do something good for their country. I still remember those young men, “Russian patriots,” who six years ago tried to attack me, a pregnant Russian woman, just because my female friends and I were coming back from a protest rally against a nuclear power plant. Of course, there are different views on atomic energy, and debates can be very emotional, but it’s a matter for debate, damn it, not a matter for a fist fight. And they would have attacked us, and maybe even stabbed us with something, but we ran and got on a bus, and the driver closed the door on them. One young man with wicked eyes kept banging his fists against the windows, spewing out his anger and hatred. Roman Zykov, that wasn’t you, by chance? And now you’ve grown up and become an informer?

During its April 17, 2015, broadcast, the NNTV program Itogi nedeli aired a segment on the “foreign agent” case against Nizhny Novgorod’s Dront Ecological Center. The segment begins at the 1:40 mark, with the presenter explaining that the Ministry of Justice launched its audit of Dront after receiving a complaint from Roman Zykov of the National Liberation Organization (NOD). Zykov is interviewed on camera beginning at the 5:25 mark. He is identified as NOD’s “information officer.”

To be honest, I don’t understand any of this. I can’t get my head around it. I don’t believe there are people who really are happy, for example, if a highway or an asphalt plant is built near their home in place of a forest. People can be indifferent to environmental topics or indulge in pessimism because “everything has been decided, nothing can be changed.” I have seen this many times. But for people sincerely to desire the deterioration of their habitat, that I can not imagine. And I don’t understand how it can be called “patriotism.”

Well, the heck with them, the informants.

So the certificate of inspection was delivered to us. Here it is, this wonderful document. Of course, we have proven to be “foreign agents”: the law interprets the concept as broadly as possible. The inspectors had to prove a quite simple theorem: that we have foreign money (we can check off that box), and that we are engaged in political activity, that is, that we haven’t exactly been sitting on our asses but have been doing something. (Here we could check off a hundred boxes if we so desired.)

And the law does not require a logical connection between these parts of the theorem. It matters not a squat that the money was for one thing, and something else was deemed “political activity.”

Damn, when I was in university, “politics” meant being involved in the struggle for power. Nowadays, if you say it would be good idea to amend a law, you’re already a nasty political intriguer. And even if you praise a law, you’re an intriguer as well, because it is none of your damn business to evaluate laws.

You might think that all Russian environmental legislation is absolutely perfect: that it was handed down to us in the sacred tablets, and each word was cast in gold. This, to put it mildly, is not true. Moreover, these laws are constantly amended and changed, meaning the authorities are aware of their imperfections. It suffices to mention the new law on waste management. It was completely turned inside out and redrafted. I don’t really understand why we should stop criticizing  laws.

The whole business with foreign money is also ridiculous.

After all, it doesn’t matter to the inspectors that the funds have been earmarked, for studying turtles, for example. (And, in fact, protection of animals is not deemed political activity, and that is stipulated in the law.) Or for seminars on sustainable development. Or for a public impact assessment of the proposal to raise the level of the Cheboksary Reservoir. No one except the WWF provided any money for this—no state agencies, no legislators, no businessmen—although the entire Nizhny Novgorod Region rose up as one against the proposal.

And it doesn’t matter that all these funds were not only earmarked but were quite small sums (less than one percent of our annual budget) and could not significantly have impacted our operations. We would have criticized the same laws even without this money. But who is interested in logic if you just have to tick off some boxes?

In short, the young female inspectors proved the theorem to their own satisfaction. But I just don’t have the heart to call them lawyers, because, for example, they don’t distinguish between federal and municipal (i.e., local) government. (Maybe employees of the Ministry of Justice don’t necessarily have to have a law degree?) Apparently, the way they see it, all power is sacred and should be beyond criticism.

Well, my depression has passed. It has been nice to see that many people support us and have stood up for us. It has been nice to read your kind words.

P.S. I will not approve any vicious comments, if they show up.

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NB. You can see the list of Russian NGOs included in the registry of “foreign agents” (as of May 15, 2015) here. This list is constantly updated, apparently.