To make a spectacular entrance from beneath the waters of the Oka River holding photographs of WW2 heroes, the divers from the search and maneuver group had to laminate the photos. However, there were no bystanders at this magnificent spectacle. On shore, only a few volunteer rescuers formed an honor guard to greet the watermen [sic]. The event was specially timed to occur between Diver Day [May 5] and Victory Day [May 9].
This time, professional and volunteer rescuers paid special tribute to those who fought and died for the Motherland far from dry land. This group includes not only sailors and military divers, but also marines, as well as infantrymen who were involved in river crossings under heavy enemy fire. One such hero was pictured on one of the photos.
“One of my ancestors, Dmitry Nikitovich Adoniev, was born on May 9, 1921. The day of the great victory was the same day as his birthday, meaning you could not have thought up a better gift. He is [sic] a Hero of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Hero’s star for crossing the Dnieper,” explained Andrei Nekrasov, head of the Oryol branch of the Russia Student Rescue Corps.
Flowers were laid on the water in honor of those who fell in battle before reaching the shore. The volunteers finished their tribute at the Monument to the Liberators of Oryol. The Emergencies Ministry reported that, despite the restrictions associated with the pandemic, rescuers have several more ways to pay tribute to the memory of heroes and veterans.
Thanks to Andrey Churakov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader
The most monstrous thing currently in the works is the forthcoming ban on imported drugs. Much has been written about it, emotions have flared, and I have nothing to add. I would imagine we have seen nothing like it in recent Russian history. People are cynicallly willing to sacrifice tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of lives, by sending medical care forty or fifty years back in time, in order to increase the profits of several Russian companies.
But what kicked off the other day in Petersburg’s schools is no less vicious, although it is not such an obvious case of cannibalism. As Marina Tkachova, on whose page I saw the link, wrote correctly, a witch hunt has been launched.
In violation of Article 29 of the Russian Consitution,* which directly prohibits forcing people to voice their political views, the Moscow District Administration, assisted by the Center for Psychological, Pedagogical, Medical, and Social Aid, made schoolchildren fill out a questionnaire.
The questionnaire asked the schoolchildren, for example, to voice the extent to which they agreed with the following statements.
Russia’s interests are greater than my own.
I am ready to defend the Motherland and the people [narod = das Volk].
I feel proud of Russia’s current political influence.
I am proud of Russia’s culture and traditions.
I live in Russia and I do not plan to emigrate to another country.
Part 12 of the questionnaire reads, “I don’t consider a person a patriot if . . . ” 1) He experiences no feelings for his country; 2) Believes the interests of ordinary people are more significant than the state’s interests; 3) The historic past of his people makes him ashamed; 4) The policies of our state towards its own citizens abolish patriot sentiments; 5) he want to leave Russia; 6) Other (specify).” Students could chose more than one answer. Photo courtesy of Daniel Alexandrov, Jr.
In addition, the pupils were asked to determine what social phenomena and psychological traits (!) generate nationalist or extremists moods among young people. The people who compiled the questionnaire openly provoked teenagers into violating Article 282 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code [which forbids “inciting the hatred and enmity” against other people based on ethnicity, religion, etc.] by asking them, “Are their religions or ethnic groups you dislike?” and “When faced with people different from you in appearance, ethniicity or religion, you usually . . .” One of the possible answers was, “I act aggressively.”
The fourth and final page of the questionnaire focuses on the attitude of students toward different ethnic, religious, and social groups, thus encouraging them to violate Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, as Mr. Alexandrov points out. Photo courtesy of Daniel Alexandrov, Jr.
The Education Committee at Petersburg City Hall explained to Fontanka.ru that the questionnaire was part of a “comprehensive plan for preventing juvenile delinquency among minors during the 2017–2018 academic year.” It is a program for monitoring and identifying potential “extremists” among schoolchildren.
I have the sense these people either do not realize what they are saying or they do realize it, which is even worse.
Even the Soviet Union was bereft of such idiocy and meanness, as when minors were asked to fill out questionnaires with questions like, “How much do you love the Motherland on a scale from one to five?” or “Whom do you love more, the Motherland or Mom?”
I have learned the schools on Vasilyevsky Island have not administered the questionnaire—yet—but since the Education Committee has adopted the plan, it means the questionnaire will be administered, if not now, then in September.
This cannot be ignored. We cannot stay silent about this. Interrogating schoolchildren about their love of the Motherland and their willingness to sacrifice themselves, and suggesting they should rat on themselves are real manifestations of fascism, and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Friends, city council members, human rights activists, public figures, and local journalists: do something about it.
1. Everyone shall be guaranteed freedom of ideas and speech.
2. Propaganda or agitation instigating social, racial, national or religious hatred and strife shall not be allowed. Propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic supremacy shall be banned.
3. No one may be forced to express his views and convictions or eject them.
4. Everyone shall have the right to freely look for, receive, transmit, produce and distribute information by any legal means. The list of data comprising state secrets shall be determined by federal law.
5. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be banned.
Thanks to Valery Dymshits for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. I slightly edited the excerpted quotation from the Russian Constitution to make it more readable.
A Circus, Psychopaths, and a Great Power: We Found Out What You Associate Russia With Guberniya Daily (Petrozavodsk)
June 14, 2016
On Friday [June 10], on the eve of Russia Day, we asked what you associate our country with. We suggested more or less decent answers and waited for the results to roll in. Ultimately, we learned that many of you associate our country with “a circus,” “psychopaths,” and “corruption.” And also with Putin. We got the impression that the respondents lived in different countries: some had it all bad, while others, on the contrary, had it all good. That is why a serious discussion, numbering over a hundred comments, broke out below the survey. So let us have a look at what many people associate Russia with.
First, the results of the survey:
As you can see, the answer “Putin” came in first place, “Bears, balalaikas, and vodka,” second, and “Birch trees,” third. It was in the comments that things got complicated.
Here are just a few of your answers (the original spelling and punctuation have been preserved):
I would like to associate it with birch trees. But, alas, I associate it with Krushchev-era blocks of flats [khrushchovki] and Brezhnev-era blocks of flats [brezhnevki] ))
With a complete lack of prospects for a decent life.
A country where happiness is forever in the future.
Where can I answer “with a total f–ing mess”?
With beautiful girls
With bad roads and a country where it is extremely hard to find a good job (even with a university degree)
The Motherland, just the Motherland
With a slave mentality, neo-feudalism, the lack of a future, vatniks,* and a huge ego trip about its “greatness”
Recently, only with “seagulls,” cellos, and Panama hats . . .**
alas, I feel like splitting from here like Peter the Pig, a typical post-Soviet space with khrushchovki and rutted roads and yards that have not been repaired since Soviet times
With people who work and earn less than a living wage.
With corruption, drunkenness, and parasitism . . .
Motherland, history, childhood, family . . .
Minus all the sarcasm and crap written [here]. MOTHERLAND to me is MOM, CHILDHOOD AS A YOUNG PIONEER, THE COMMUNIST YOUTH LEAGUE, BIRCH TREES AND LAKES, SAYING FAREWELL TO KINDERGARTEN IN THE VILLAGE OF SNEZHNOYE, AND THE SIMPLE PRIDE THAT I AM A RUSSIAN
With a strong country!!! And Putin.
Strange that nearly everyone answers in the present tense.=) Or is that how we should answer? Then, apparently, I didn’t understand the question. The country is ancient and large, with a difficult destiny and history. Loving the Motherland . . . in my view you love it no matter who rules it. True, then your love manifests itself differently at different times. What you cannot take away from it is the natural beauty and the people . . . The people in this country are still good. The times are often complicated. But you can get through them by looking at the beauty of nature and the spiritual beauty of people.=) Something like that.
To answer simply and cornily, Russia is the place where I learned to walk and talk. But to answer the question from the viewpoint of a person who is a citizen of Planet Earth: Russia is a multiethnic, multi-party country. It has become the rage in Russia to say what one thinks about Putin, about world politics and foreign policy. I am afraid it will soon become a ritual, like the morning conversation about the weather among the English.
Kickbacks and dog and pony shows.
With the permafrost.
* vatnik = “Russian patriot and nationalist (An outspoken follower of Putin, who aims to compensate his meaningless life by glorifying the motherland. This insulting term derives from the name of an iconic Soviet padded uniform jacket issued during WWII.” Source: Multitran.ru
** A reference to Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika (his surname means “seagull” in Russian), recently reappointed to another five-year term despite substantial allegations of corruptions against him and his family, and cellist Sergei Roldugin, implicated as Putin’s bagman in the Panama Files.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade VZ for the heads-up
This minute-long excerpt from a program on the Russia channel is an excellent illustration of what some people have been trying to turn patriotism into recently.
First, the smug presenter fudges the surname of his colleague, one of the country’s best sports commentators. Then, instead of apologizing, he says it is no big deal, because the commentator did not hear him in any case, and basically who cares what his name is. Next, he claims, seemingly is passing, it was the English who attacked the Russian sector in Marseille, although we know it was the other way around. Finally, the commentator, Vladimir Stognienko, is accused of not supporting Russia, just because he refuses to back up this lie on the air. The studio audience applauds.
It so happened that today we rode back from the match in Lille in the same bus as Vladimir Stognienko. Later, we discussed the fact that he was, seemingly, the most upset about the defeat [against Slovakia]. Anyone who has heard his play-by-plays knows how emotional he gets about the Russian squad. For the presenter of the TV show, it boils down to the fact we lost, we chatted about it, and now we have moved on, but a commentator lives for football. Maybe Stognienko has dreamed his whole life of someday doing the play-by-play of a European Championship final involving the Russian team.
Two hours later, Stognienko goes on the air from downtown Lille and hears from the presenters that he does not support Russia and is basically a traitor. As they say this, the presenters flash sparkling white smiles. I am curious: what are they so happy about? Our team lost, and they did not play particularly strongly.
A strange kind of patriotism has emerged recently in Russia. For the new breed of “patriots,” supporting Russia and telling the truth are incompatible. Yet they somehow feel entitled to tell others who is a patriot and who is not.
It does not occur to these people that saying a honest man cannot be a patriot is tantamount to insulting one’s country. That the slogan “you are either for the truth or for our side” demeans Russia.
In my opinion, Stognienko summed up the basic principle of the real patriot.
“If there is a problem, you have to talk about the problem,” he said.
Honest professionals have always been and will always be the main patriots in Russia.
And yes, our day will definitely come.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy ofRusfootball
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 ofMemorial
Human Rights Event Attacked in Moscow
Anastasia Bazenkova Moscow Times
April 28, 2016
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
Putin Proclaims National Idea Fontanka.ru
February 3, 2016
In Russia, there can be no other unifying idea than patriotism, argues President Vladimir Putin, as reported by TASS.
“This is, in fact, the national idea,” the head of state announced during a meeting with the Leaders Club, which brings together entrepreneurs from forty of the country’s regions.
According to Putin, this idea is not ideologized and is not linked to the work of a particular party, reports RIA Novosti.
“It is a common rallying point. If we want to live better, the country has to be more attractive to all citizens and more effective,” the president stressed.
Who Killed a Transsexual in Ufa and Why? Ufa1.ru
February 2, 2016
On Monday, February 1, Angela Likina was stabbed in the chest and killed in Ufa. The Ufa resident had gained notoriety in 2014, when a video recorded on a traffic police dashcam entitled “Ufa Traffic Cops Stop a Transvestite” [sic] went viral on the Web. Ufa1.ru found out who killed Oleg Vorobyov, who had changed his sex and become Angela Likina, and why.
The controversial video from the traffic police car dashcam recorded an inspector checking the papers of a female motorist. It transpired, however, that the motorist’s name, according to his internal passport, was Oleg Vorobyov. The inspector was very surprised by this. The motorist was a transsexual who had been preparing for a sex change operation for several years, becoming Angela Likina. The restricted video was leaked to the Web.
Later, the State Auto Inspectorate conducted a review of the incident, because the restricted footage should have not ended up on the Web. Angela Likina also commented on the video herself. She was surprised the incident had provoked so much interest among Web users.
“People die in accidents, children get hurt, cars are stolen, blood is needed to save someone’s life. Gentlemen, why are you setting records for likes and reposts about me? I honestly don’t understand,” said Likina, adding, “I don’t care how you live, what you do, and so on, so long as you are alive, healthy, and happy. But my life does not concern you in absolutely any way.”
How Did Oleg Live?
Ufa1.ru spoke with friends and acquaintances of Angela Likina, who talked about the life of the murdered woman. We found out this sad ending had emerged from a number of factors. Before becoming Angela Likina, Oleg Vorobyov had been married. Acquaintances confess that, outwardly, the couple were seemingly happy. They were raising two daughters, now aged fourteen and nine. The family lived in a private house, which also housed Oleg’s auto repair garage. Many of the people with whom we spoke said automobile owners were satisfied with Oleg’s work, that he had a magic touch.
Over five years ago, Oleg realized he was living in someone else’s body. He understood he wanted to change his sex and become the person he thought he was. Oleg began calling himself Angela Likina and started the complicated process of preparing to change his sex. He took hormone pills and began dressing like a woman. According to his internal passport, however, he remained Oleg Vorobyov. He could only change his name after finally changing his sex.
Five years ago, the Vorobyovs divorced, but the former husband and wife and their two children kept living under the same roof. The house was the wife’s property, and her former husband had an established business there. Several of the family’s acquaintances believe that Angela did not want to lose her income from the auto repair garage and spend money on renting a place to live. After all, she had to save up a large sum of money for the operation, and the medicines she took to prepare for the procedure were expensive. Close friends emphasize that Angela worked a lot, sometimes seven days a week.
At the same time, Ufa1.ru’s sources noted the Ufa resident simply had no choice.
“He once tried to rent a flat, but was kicked out. A neighbor had said, ‘I don’t want my children to see this!’ Consequently, he was evicted and didn’t even get his money back,” said one of our sources.
Friends of the family noted that those who have lived under the same roof with ex-spouses can imagine the atmosphere that prevailed in the Vorobyov house. Some say that the rows over living arrangements caused the Vorobyovs to come to blows. Things were aggravated by the fact that the head of the family had become a woman. Their children also became the targets of reproaches and ridicule at school.
“They would come home in tears, and sometimes refuse to go to school, but Angela loved her daughters and gave them a lot of time,” acquaintances noted.
Who Killed Angela?
According to friends, a boyfriend came to visit Oleg’s ex-wife on the ill-fated evening. The criminal investigation will shed more light on what exactly happened in the house. For now, the family’s acquaintances have their own hypotheses. Perhaps the man intervened in yet another family row. Maybe he stood up for his girlfriend and wanted to intimidate Angela by demanding she pack her things and leave. The row, however, escalated into something bigger.
“She was stabbed in the chest near the heart. She did not die immediately. She made it to a neighbor’s house, told him what had happened and who had done it, and an ambulance was summoned. Then Angela died in the neighbor’s arms. It was apparently too late to help her. I don’t know what was happening in the family. Angela was a good person, but strangers often beat her up. Her neighbors respected her choice. It is a bad thing when a person steals, kills or rapes, but everything else is a private matter,” said an acquaintance of Angela’s.
“The best human qualities—kindness, fairness, compassion, and unselfishness—were powerfully manifested in her. Unfortunately, that is a rarity nowadays. And she really never held a grudge against anyone, although there were a fairly large number of people who wished her ill. Most of them, it is true, were people who did not know her at all. They insulted and mocked her. You could say she was understanding about it: far from everyone in our city, or even our country, is ready to comprehend the decision to have a sex change. And that is another reason I have endless respect for her: the determination to go her own way to the end, to change her life fundamentally, the willingness to take one and overcome all the difficulties,” another girlfriend of Angela’s confided to Ufa1.ru.
“Apparently, Angela sensed her impending death. Not long before this she had asked forgiveness from her wife for all the rows that had happened between them,” said another family acquaintance.
Fire at Moscow workshop kills 12 people, including 3 children Boston Globe
January 31, 2016
ASSOCIATED PRESS, JANUARY 31, 2016, MOSCOW — A fire at a textile workshop in Moscow has killed 12 people, including three children, officials said.
The victims were not identified but were reportedly immigrants.
The Investigative Committee, the top state investigative agency, said the fire broke out late Saturday in northeastern Moscow, damaging more than 32,000 square feet of the structure.
Investigators said they are looking at negligence or arson as possible causes.
Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, said Sunday on his Twitter account that three children were among those who died, including a baby. He said the victims were migrant workers who lived next to their workplace.
Several dozen fire engines responded to the blaze, and it took firefighters about five hours to extinguish the blaze.
Investigators continued to sift through the rubble Sunday for evidence.
Many immigrants work in Russian factories, some of which have been investigated for hazardous working conditions. In April, a blaze on the outskirts of Moscow killed 17 migrant workers.
The death toll of Kyrgyz citizens (according to the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in the Russian Federation):
1. Sajida Masaliyeva, born 1988. Home address: Village of Kyzyl-Bel, Batken District, Batken Region.
2. Toktokan Saliyeva, born 1983. Home address: Village of Tayan, Batken District, Batken Region.
3. Uulkan Saliyeva, born 1997, sister of Toktokan Saliyeva.
4. Isa kizi Aizat, born 1995. According to available information, Isa was a native of the Village of Kaiyndy, Batken Region.
5. Milikajdar uulu Koshonbay, born 1990.
6. Tologon Kozuyev, born 1991.
7. Manas, born 1995; brother of Tologon Kozuyev; no other details.
8. Daniel, 4-5 years old, son of Ergeshbay Japarov, a Russian national who perished in the fire; born in the village of Rout, Batken District, Batken Region; according to the victims, Daniel was a citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic.
[Elena Bobrova:] You are something of a patriot yourself?
[Nikolai Kolyada:] How else should I relate to Russia? I love her whatever she be like. Like Gogol I can tell the whole unvarnished truth about her. And Nikolai Vasilyevich said such awful things about Russia. He sobbed bloody tears when thinking about the country. But not because he hated it. On the contrary, because he loved it. When foreigners start speaking badly about Russia, I begin to boil: “Shut up, it is none of your business. I have the right to say anything about her, but you do not.” Well, it is okay when Europeans or Americans sling mud at us: they have a hard time coping with the fact we are different, unpredictable, and freer than they are. But when our own people hate their own country, that is terrible. This morning, I was reading Facebook and I thought, “Why do you live here if you hate Russia so much?”
[Bobrova:] But you just said yourself we have a right to chew out Russia because we live here.
[Kolyada:] Chew out but not hate. But Facebook is just seething with hatred.
—Excerpted from “20% of the Petersburg audience are loonies,” Gorod 812 (print edition), February 1, 2016, page 34
Items one, two, four, and six translated by the Russian Reader
All holidays are rituals of unity, and it is hard to imagine society functioning without them. November 4, however, is a truly odd day, whose originators ask us to experience unity for its own sake. It reflects the emptiness of official ideology, which claims the role of a national idea.
National Unity Day (Den’ narodnogo edinstva) will never be a truly popular, grassroots holiday. Whatever our attitude to living holidays like International Women’s Day (March 8) or Victory Day (May 9), despite the vulgarity surrounding them and the distortions of their original meaning, they are still bound up with significant societal needs: honoring wives, mothers, and heroic forebears. The sense of unity experienced by millions of people at tables laden with champagne and Olivier salad is maybe illusory but it is not groundless. But who besides thuggish nationalists is capable of feeling the narcissistic pleasure of “unity” as such, especially since it is totally unclear what we are called on to rally around?
The search for a national idea in post-Soviet Russia has resembled the quest for the philosopher’s stone, and has been just as fruitless. According to the Russian Constitution, the sovereign power in the Russian state is “its multinational people,” who are usually designated by the semi-bureaucratic term rossiyane [citizens of Russia, as opposed to russkie, ethnic Russians]. And yet multiculturalism (the coexistence of different ethnic traditions within a single society) is considered a dirty word, and federalism has finally been shunted aside by the vision of Empire. Promotion of ethnic nationalism, “Russianness,” and its concomitant Russian Orthodoxy, the official “spiritual bond,” has led to the fact that Chechens, Dagestanis, and Buryats, for example, are often not regarded as “citizens of multinational Russia,” but as suspicious foreigners like the migrant workers from the once-fraternal former Soviet republics.
However, as it flirts with Russian ethnic nationalism, which has served it well in Ukraine, the regime at the same time fears its devastating consequences for empire. While reacting morbidly to the most innocent speeches about federalization, the Kremlin also prevents the holding of the so-called Russian Marches. The regime’s rhetoric contains an explosive ambiguity. On the one hand, the regime constantly tells us about the “Russian world,” thus stoking ethnic chauvinism. On the other, it talks about the country’s multinational people and the danger of nationalism.
When they invented a holiday to replace November 7 (Revolution Day), the Kremlin’s ideologues deliberately chose the vaguest phrasing possible: “national unity” or “popular unity” [narodnoe edinstvo]. But what is “the people” [narod] today? The word is hardly equivalent to “nation” or “ethnic group.” In pre-Revolutionary Russia, the word denoted all the non-privileged classes, the “simple folk,” especially the peasants. The people was distinguished from educated society by its special (unique and authentic) way of thinking and living, as well as its perennial disempowerment and oppression. In other words, it was more a class and cultural notion than an ethnic or official legal concept.
Later, a new supranational identity, the Soviet people [sovetskii narod], was constructed. We can argue whether it was a reality or the stillborn offspring of communist propaganda. However, this concept cannot be denied its logical shapeliness. The Soviet people was the unity of working people, freed from the yoke of the past and headed towards a post-capitalist future. Unqiue, authentic tradition gave way to Soviet society’s social authenticity and uniqueness. It had overthrown tsarism and capitalism, successfully defended its independence in the fight against fascism, and was proud of its unprecedented historical mission.
In post-Soviet Russia, however, there are no longer any communal peasants or builders of communism. Russia has no monolithic ethnic foundation or alternative social project that it could show to the world and itself. All that can be said about our society it that it is post-Soviet. But there can be no “post-Soviet” people. The mutilated shards of the imperialist, Soviet, and westernized mindsets have generated a postmodernist mishmash that a disoriented and atomized populace gags on and vomits out. It is not the nation or the people but the unscrupulous regime, which has no other purpose than self-reproduction, that is only the glue binding this stagnant society, a society bereft of guideposts. The November 4 holiday is a vacuum into which the ruling class gazes, a void that will eventually swallow it.
TV Rain: Among [Russian] TV channels who provides an alternative viewpoint in your opinion?
Volin: Among the general access channels, probably no one provides a strongly alternative viewpoint due to the fact that they think about their ratings. A TV channel or mass media outlet that today adopts a unpatriotic viewpoint will simply be economically unsuccessful because the audience will turn away from it.
TV Rain: Excuse me, I seem to be a little confused about terms. We asked you about alternatives, but you talked about being unpatriotic. You mean that an alternative viewpoint is a priori unpatriotic?
Volin: I don’t have the slightest doubt about this.
(A transcript of the interview can be read, in Russian, on journalist Andrei Amalgin’s blog.)
Deputy minister Volin is no stranger to brutal authoritarian “honesty.” This is what he said in his keynote address at a conference held at Moscow State University’s journalism department in February 2013:
A journalist is tasked with making money for those who hired him. And you can only do that by making your resource interesting for your readers, viewers or listeners. The question, then, is, Do mass media serve a propaganda function? Of course they do, to the extent their owners believe appropriate. […] Propaganda should not be obvious; propaganda should be hidden — then and only then can it be effective. We need to make it clear to students that when they leave this building, they are going to go work for The Man. And The Man is going to tell them what to write and what not to write, and how to write about this or that. And The Man has a right to do this because he is paying them. […] You may like what I have told you or not, but it’s objective reality. It’s life. And it’s not like you are ever going to see a different life.