Petersburg Police Sabotage Pussy Riot Video Shoot

Police Sabotage Pussy Riot Video Shoot at Lenfilm Studio
Mediazona
February 9, 2020

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has told Mediazona that police have sabotaged the filming of a video for the Pussy Riot song “Rage” at Lenfilm Studio in Petersburg.

“There are cops and Center ‘E’ officers at the filming of our video at Lenfilm. First, they came and made us sign an obligation not to promote ‘homosexualism’ and ‘extremism,” and then left to talk with Lenfilm management. Half an hour later, the lights were turned off throughout the building. The shoot was scheduled to run from noon to six in the morning. So, the whole thing’s a bust,” Tolokonnikova said.

riotPolice at Lenfilm in Petersburg. Photo by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Courtesy of Mediazona

The producers tried to rent a generator, but they were not permitted to bring it on the premises of the studio.

“Two days before the shoot, plainclothes officers visited Lenfilm and insisted they cancel the shoot. Surprisingly, Lenfilm refused to heed their request, telling them that we had paid and all the paperwork was in order,” the performance artist added.

Tolokonnikova said that feminist activist Nixel Pixel (aka Nika Vodwood), artist Lölja Nordic, and photographer Aleksandr Sofeev were among the people slated to appear in the video.

“There were supposed to be riot cops [OMON] in the video, but a real patrol showed up instead. The song is about resisting the authorities,” Tolokonnikova told Mediazona.

In an interview with Znak.com, Inessa Yurchenko, who was appointed Lenfilm’s new director general two days ago, called Tolokonnikov’s story a provocation.

“The guys were supposed to have actors in police uniforms, so they cannot pass that off as there being police officers there. There are no police officers on the premises of Lenfilm. It’s not nice to show pictures of actors and provoke the public,” she said.

Yurchenko threatened to call the police.

“I won’t be surprised if there are more provocations on their part—then I will be forced to call the police,” she said.

Yurchenko explained that the blackout in the studio had been caused by an accident on the power grid.

“The head of security will now have to follow regulations while the cause of the accident is established, and so he will have to ask [people] to evacuate Lenfilm because it’s a [secure] facility,” she said.

She added that the activists could return to the film studio when the power was restored.

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Scare

scary-2

In Putin’s Russia, the US has been the go-to scapegoat for years now for everything that goes wrong in the country, from crashes in the Moscow subway to, in this recent case, the fact that 15,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the mayor of Tomsk, a major Siberian city, to resign.

Let me repeat that. The shameless scapegoating of the US, usually in the demonic guise of the “Gosdep,” the US State Department, has been going on at all levels of Russian government, mainstream media, and society for many, many years.

It’s actually been going on in certain circles since the mid 1990s. I remember once watching a “documentary” on the local cable access channel back then outlining the CIA’s alleged plan to turn Russian youth onto hard drugs.

Putin, more pointedly, blamed the mighty Gosdep and Hillary Clinton personally for engineering the popular uprising against his regime during the elections of 2011–2012, although there was zero evidence this was the case.

So why haven’t we heard much of anything about this long-running, utterly baseless “red-white-and-blue scare” or “permanent scare”? (I don’t know what else to call it. If you have a better suggestion, let me know).

The scare has claimed lots of real victims, including dozens of Russian NGOs, most of them doing invaluable, irreplaceable work for their own people, not for the Gosdep, on shoestring budgets in terrible conditions, who have been branded “foreign agents” by the Russian Justice Ministry. Many of them have been forced to close up shop or go into exile because they weren’t able to deal with the heavy fines, court hearings, and endless inspections.

But we now have a US president-elect who took literally every opportunity he could during the campaign to gush over Putin and his “strong” leadership. Yet this fact alone—Trump’s flagrant, overt support for a war criminal, crook, and tyrant who has crushed civil society and political opposition in his own country—didn’t automatically disqualify Trump from consideration for the highest office in the land.

Let’s pretend that all the recent skullduggery around Trump isn’t true in the slightest. Would it make any difference?

Trump said time and again that Putin was his idol. Let’s take him at his word and oppose him, among the thousand other reasons we should oppose him, for that huge, steaming, glaring, stinking chunk of very bad, very telling judgment and, more important, not show him the slighest sympathy for the “hard” time he has recently been getting from the press, the White House, the intelligence community, and so on.

He deserves as good as he dishes outs, and what he has been dishing out for the last two years is pure, destructive fascist evil. That will remain true whether the Kremlin hacked anything or slapped together some kompromat on him or it didn’t do anything of the sort.

Trump doesn’t deserve a fair deal for the simple reason that he doesn’t want a fair deal for so many of his fellow Americans and lots of other people, starting with the Mexicans. Let’s treat him like the enemy he is instead of inadvertently defending him and Putinist tyranny to boot by conjuring up equally nonexistent “CIA coups” and God knows what else. TRR

________

Hunter Heaney: Open Letter to Vladimir Putin

Oleg Sentsov. Photo courtesy of Sergei Fadeichev/TASS
Oleg Sentsov. Photo courtesy of Sergei Fadeichev/TASS

Open Letter to Vladimir Putin
The Voice Project
December 7, 2016

On Friday, Vladimir Putin met with artists and cultural figures at a joint session of the Council for Culture and Art and the Council for the Russian Language in St. Petersburg. He added in his response to entreaties for filmmaker Oleg Sentsov’s freedom that Sentsov, one of the subjects of The Voice Project’s “Imprisoned for Art” campaign, was “convicted not for art, but for taking other functions, as investigative and court bodies say, and particularly in fact he devoted his life to terrorist activity,” that “no one convicted him for his views or his position.”

He went on to say, “We should rely on that we live in a state governed by the rule of law and such issues should be of course decided by the court system,” but that “officials who interpret works of arts may take action” because “we don’t want what happened in Paris [at Charlie Hebdo] to be repeated here.” He speculated that “maybe the artists didn’t intend to offend anybody, but they did,” and that “we must bear that in mind, and not allow that, not split the society.”

The state news agency, TASS, immediately ran the headline, “Putin says Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov convicted for terrorism, not art.” This is our response.

* * *

December 7, 2016

President Vladimir Putin
23, Ilyinka Street,
Moscow, 103132, Russia

Dear President Putin:

Authoritarians around the globe almost always use the same playbook—the same tactics to stifle dissent, the same type excuses to imprison those who speak out against them, even the same words. It is not original and it is quite predictable when you see enough of it, as we do in our work.

A common play is that outspoken dissidents, especially known figures such as artists, are arrested on spurious charges and imprisoned following show trials. The tactic is to make an example of the individual dissident in order to stifle dissent more widely, and it is most easily efficacious when applied to those already in the public eye, well known for their art or activism or leadership in another field. Notoriety of the target, though, is not a sine qua non, as the act of persecution and the proceedings of prosecution can themselves be heavily publicized, especially with the aid of a compliant state controlled media. The pretense for prosecution is often laughable, but the absurdity as well sends a message: that the authoritarian and the authoritarian system are not bound by rule of law, but rather rule through systemic power, and that one’s safety and well-being within the society depend on compliance, conformity and loyalty to the ruling power.

We see these tactics employed the world over and throughout history, and often now in Russia under your leadership. Pussy Riot were imprisoned not for singing a song that called you and your cronies “shit”, but rather for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”; Maria Baronova was arrested not for yelling at Bolotnaya Square, but for “inciting mass riots”; Sergei Magnitsky was arrested, tortured and killed not for exposing the pervasive corruption of a kleptocracy, but for “colluding with a tax evader.” And Journalist Kieron Bryan of the “Arctic 30” evidently ran afoul of your piracy laws? No, of course not, and likewise, as Heather McGill at Amnesty International has noted, the “fatally flawed” trial of filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, a figure well known because of his art, “was designed to send a message. It played into Russia’s propaganda war against Ukraine and was redolent of Stalinist-era show trials of dissidents.”

As Ms. McGill alludes to, you are far from the first to use this tactic on dissidents. Arseny Roginsky was arrested for forgery, Gunārs Astra for spying, Andrei Amalrik for pornography, Nikolay Gumilyov for conspiracy, Ephraim Kholmyansky for possession of ammunition, and Alexander Lavut for possession of a book. The tactic is not new and it is not region specific. Mussolini had Gramsci arrested in Italy not for his writings, but for supposed involvement in an assassination plot. Muhammadu Buhari imprisoned Fela Kuti in Nigeria not for being a singer of truths, but for being a smuggler of currency. As the biblical saying goes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Oleg Sentsov’s views and activism made him a target; the notoriety from his art made him a good one.

In regard to your comments that you have not the power to free Oleg, you are right, in ways you don’t understand. You so graciously let Pussy Riot out just two months before the completion of their two-year term, but Nadya’s right here and says, “You can shove your amnesty up your ass.” Similarly, Oleg does not want us to beg for your clemency, but would rather we parade your glib hypocrisy. You misunderstand us if you think we ask for his freedom through your benevolence, rather, we demand it from your discreditation. That is what we mean by #FreeOlegSentsov.

In regard to your comment that freedom of expression requires the responsibility not to offend, you pretend to not understand that freedom requires the ability to do so. We hear this from your kind all the time, it is an old song to a bad tune—the authoritarian pretending to be a champion of freedom that is not freedom.

Your doublespeak attempts to engender doublethink. You are not the first and you are not alone in this either. You have your political technologists, your state media, and your embarrassing troll factories, the US has its think tanks, corporate media and its own embarrassing trolls, sometimes disguised as clowny demagogues who spray tan on ephemeral ideologies and syllogistic hyperbole of various offensive hues. Orwell predicted that the very concept of objective truth would fade from the world, and your kind seem hard at work to make it so, but many of us believe that in the end the truth does out because it is existentially, ontologically superior to lies. You’ve heard this before, but it doesn’t sink in. You think that imprisoning artists silences them, but each speaks more loudly because of it, loud enough for the world to hear. You think repression and brutality invoke fear, but they inspire courage and embolden action. Russia has one of the greatest traditions of dissidents of any nation on earth, you and your predecessors did that. These lessons your kind seldom learns.

As for those of us here in the States, we’ll likely have our own taste of authoritarianism before long, but we are not afraid. We have many warriors here. They are standing right now in the snow, unbroken, on the Great Plains of North Dakota. And luckily, we have learned the lessons from those like you, so we’ll act accordingly. In the meantime, we’ll abide by, and learn from the words of Oleg himself:

There is no need to pull us out of here at all costs. This wouldn’t bring victory any closer. Yet using us as a weapon against the enemy will. You must know: we are not your weak point. If we’re supposed to become the nails in the coffin of a tyrant, I’d like to become one of those nails. Just know that this particular one will not bend.

Sincerely,

Hunter Mora Heaney
Executive Director
The Voice Project

My thanks to Mr. Heaney for his kind permission to republish this letter here. TRR

Masha Alyokhina: Speech in Parliament

olegsentsov
Oleg Sentsov at the 2012 Rotterdam Film Festival. Photo courtesy of De Telegraaf and nvt

Masha Alyokhina
Speech in the British Parliament
October 10, 2016

Because of the Pussy Riot case, I spent two years in prison. In recent months, I have been performing every night on stage as an actress with the Belarus Free Theatre. Every night, I have been trying to convey to the audience part of my life in prison. I do this so people understand and experience the mundane hellishness all political prisoners go through in Russia.

One such prisoner is Oleg Sentsov.

Oleg is a well-known, talented Ukrainian filmmaker. Perhaps he could have been debuting a new movie at the film festival taking place in London this week, but instead he is isolated in a penal colony in faraway Siberia. After being tortured, he was sentenced to twenty years in a maximum security prison on charges of terrorism. He was accused of planning to blow up a monument to Lenin in Crimea. The charges are absurd, total nonsense.

Masha Alyokhina speaking in Parliament, October 16, 2016. Photo courtesy of her Facebook page
Masha Alyokhina speaking in the British Parliament, October 16, 2016. Photo courtesy of her Facebook page

We need to stop talking and start acting. We need to get Oleg Sentsov released from prison and save his life. When I was in prison, it was thanks to your support and scrutiny that nothing threatened my life. In Sentsov’s case, there is not enough scrutiny, and there is such a threat to his life. That has to change.

Sentsov’s trial was not just yet another instance of political persecution by the Russian regime. It was a symbolic attack on the liberties and values you espouse. Oleg still has eighteen years left to serve in prison. He was given this sentence only because he is a brave man who spoke out on behalf of these same values. We can learn a lot from him and what he did, but we must not accept the fact he remains imprisoned. We must pressure the Russian authorities. I am here to urge you to make Sentsov’s release our common cause. I am confident we can see this cause through to the end and free Oleg from prison.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Masha Alyohkina for her kind permission to translate the original Russian text of her speech and publish it here.

Alexander (Winter of the Patriarch)

Masha Alyokhina
Masha Alyokhina. The inscription on her t-shirt reads, “Tell everyone that Jesus lives.”

Masha [Alyokhina]
Facebook
May 29, 2016

A month ago, an acquaintance invited me to his house.

“I want to tell you a story,” he wrote.

We met. We left the kitchen, where there were a lot of people, and went to an empty room. He stood by the window and told his story.

“Recently, I met a guy at this party. We had some drinks, and he tells me he used to work in the security organs. So, in February 2012, they were called to an emergency meeting. Meetings like this are rare thing. They have them when there is a terrorist attack or something like that. So they called them to the meeting and said that some girls had danced in a church, and the patriarch was furious and had rung up Kolokoltsev, who was then the [Moscow Police Commissioner], and demanded to find them.”

To find us.

 “‘And I found the blonde,’ he told me.”

“‘Alyokhina?’”

“‘Yeah. When I realized it was her, that it was her IP address, I thought for a moment about what to do next.’”

“‘Did you know she had a kid?’”

“‘I knew. But I did my job.’”

“And then he tells me,” my acquaintance went on, “that during the trial, they got them together and showed them a special speech that the patriarch had videotaped for them in gratitude. Like, you guys are doing important work.”

“How did he decide to resign?” I asked.

“That was how he decided to resign,” my acquaintance replied.

“Does he have a name?” I asked.

“Yes. It’s Alexander.”

That was the story.

Translated by the Russian Reader

This Ain’t No Disco

Police Major General Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia's newly minted federal human rights ombudsman. Photo courtesy of zampolit.com
Police Major General Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s newly minted federal human rights ombudsman. Photo courtesy of zampolit.com

As the free world mourns the passing of Prince Rogers Nelson, the Russian State Duma has appointed a former (?) police general, Tatyana Moskalkova, to the post of Russian federal human rights ombudsman.

Appearing in the State Duma, Moskalkova spoke of the need to raise the prestige of the Russian ombudsman to the world level.

“The topic of human rights has been actively used by western and American organizations as a weapon for blackmail, speculation, and threats, as a weapon for attempting to destabilize and pressure Russia,” TV Rain quotes her as saying.

The new ombudsmen added that “compatriots living abroad” are in need of her protection.

“Russian schools have been closed. The basic rights of Russian citizens living abroad—political, social, economic, and other rights—have been infringed. The human rights ombudsman should take up this problem.”

In 2012, as the trial of punk rock group Pussy Riot was taking place, Moskalkova proposed criminalizing “assaults on morality,” but the State Duma did not support her bill. In April 2015, she also proposed renaming the Interior Ministry the Cheka and giving the police the “appropriate powers for restoring order and preserving the country’s peace and security” in connection with the crisis.

According to the information on her website, she served 27 years in the Interior Ministry [i.e., the Russian police].

Source: Mediazona

Translated by the Friends of the People

________

The Russian National Idea

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.

2-z23-8ba7384a-0952-45c2-a705-e03be67de8d4
Angela Likina. Photo courtesy of Ufa1.ru

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.

Source: Radio Azzatyk

__________

The four-minute-and-twenty-five-second rap version of Alexei Navalny’s exposé of Russian prosecutor general Yuri Chaika, as performed by Nadya Tolokonnikova. Thanks to Comrade SC for the heads-up.

_________

[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

Pyotr Pavlensky: “The FSB Has Hammered an Iron Curtain Around Itself”

Pyotr Pavlensky: “The FSB Has Hammered an Iron Curtain Around Itself”  
Elena Kostyuchenko and Ekaterina Fomina
December 10, 2015
Novaya Gazeta

An exclusive interview with the arrested artist

He stands accused of vandalism for setting fire to the door of the FSB building. Pavlensky himself has requested he be tried as a terrorist as a gesture of solidarity with convicted terrorists Oleg Sentsov and Alexander Kolchenko. Observing a vow of silence, Pyotr Pavlensky refused to answer the court’s questions. He did, however, answer Novaya Gazeta’s questions.


Photo: Yevgeny Feldman / Novaya Gazeta

Pyotr Pavlensky’s Works

Seam, July 2012. Pavlensky sewed his mouth shut with a coarse thread and stood for an hour and a half in front of Saint Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral holding a placard that read, “Pussy Riot’s performance was a reenactment of Jesus Christ’s famous performance.”

Carcass, May 2013.  Absolutely naked and not responding to anything, Pavlensky lay wrapped in barbed wired outside the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly. The artist attempted to show the new position Russian citizens had found themselves in after the adoption of repressive legislation.

Fixation, November 2013. Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to a cobblestone on Red Square and sat motionless looking at it. “It is a metaphor for the apathy and political indifference of Russian society,” the artist explained. Pavlensky timed his action to coinicide with Police Day.

Freedom, February 2014. Pavlensky and a group of activists burned around fifty tires on Mal0-Konyushenny Bridge in Saint Bridge, thus reconstructing the Maidan in Kyiv.

Segregation, October 2014. Pavlensky cut off his earlobe while sitting naked on the fence of the Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry. The action was a protest against punitive psychiatry.

Threat, November 9, 2015. Pavlensky set fire to the main entrance of the FSB headquarters on Lubyanka Square. The artist stood before the burning door holding a fuel canister.

What is fear?

I think fear is an animal instinct. You find an example of how fear itself turns into an immediate threat to life in Hannah Arendt’s book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The question she returns to time and again there is, who was more to blame for the death to which a hundred concentration camp prisoners were led, the two guards who escorted them there or the prisoners themselves? Because they went willingly to their deaths, making no attempt to kill the guards or escape. Fear is dangerous because it suppresses free will. Without free will man becomes something like a domesticated beast of burden, which is not finished off and turned into food while there is the need to keep working it.

How and when did you conceive Threat?

[The answer has not been published in keeping with the requirements of Russian federal law.]

What did the preparation involve?

The choice of the site, the date, and time were the main things. When they have been determined, all that remains is the technical preparation, in which I try to do with the most minimal means.

Was Threat successful?  What constitutes success? Were the other actions successful?

I find it difficult to talk about, because my access to information is limited. But the fact alone that I managed to do it could be considered a big success.

Is there a common theme running through your works? Have your stance and objectives changed?

Yes, in all my works I talk about the prison of everyday life and the possibility of release from this prison. Seam, Carcass, Fixation, and Segregation are the prison of everyday life. Freedom is the possibility of release. But Threat is the power of coercion in this prison, meaning that it is the main threat to free will.

In most of your actions you haven chosen your own body as the object. Why did you decide to choose an external object this time?

This is not true. I have used my body when talking about the prison of everyday life. The statement about emancipation was constructed completely differently. Freedom was implemented by a collective subject. Now I have discussed the threat hanging over every member of society. This is a direct threat to the manifestation of everyone’s free will. I never said I was doing performance art or body art. I work with the tools of power, and what I do is political art.


Freedom.Photo: Pyotr Kovalyov / Interpress / TASS 

Whom are you addressing?

Society. I do not address people in power. I use them as material for undermining the scenery of power. My objective is to call into question the entire façade concealing the ruthless mechanics of control and administration.

Do you identify with the the society you previously depicted (Fixation and Carcass)? If not, where are you?

Well, now I am actually in jail. But if we talk about how much I feel myself to be part of society, then to the extent that we all are part of the same regime. I travel on the same public transportation, I watch the same news, and I hear the same advertisements. The informational field is the same,  and I have worked with elements of it. I take something from one context and transfer it to another context. The contexts collide and new meanings are produced. In this way I identify the discrepancy between the scenery and mechanics of power.

Do you know how people have responded to Threat? Can you follow events from jail?  How do you get the idea across when discussion of the action itself (the scrotum, the door) becomes primary?

No, I know very little about the reactions. But I did find out about the most interesting reaction: the entrance to Lubyanka was covered in aluminum. I have been told that “Lubyanka behind the iron curtain” is what the authorities called their action. The regime is erecting this curtain around itself with its own hands. No, it is still not easy for me to keep track of what is happening. I am partly cut off from communications. I get letters, and my lawyers can tell me some things. Other prisoners also tell me things, but generally the information is very sketchy.


Segregation. Photo: Oksana Shalygina / Facebook

Some say that the action could have caused harm to employees who were inside the building. Did you think about this?

No, I had no such fears. We could discuss such a threat if I had employed heavy artillery instead of a fuel canister.

You have called the FSB a “terrorist organization.” You see no difference between a suicide bomber at Domodedovo Airport and an FSB employee?

The FSB [excised in keeping with the requirements of Russian federal law] is a militarized, well-equipped, armed organization. And it combats its competitors, people who would like to take its place but who simply lack the resources. I think any state is a political institution that has formed as an outcome of long-term political terror.

Whic actionist artists (past or present) do you like?

There are quite a few artists, and not necessarily actionists. They include the Dadaists, Malevich and Suprematism, the works of Caravaggio, and many others. Chris Burden was one of the few good performance artists. If we talk about actionists, I would include Alexander Brener and the Moscow actionists of the nineties. Voina made a huge breakthrough, followed by Pussy Riot, including their last performance at the Sochi Olympics.

Can art exist separately from politics nowadays?

No, it cannot. Art was forced to served ruling regimes for many centuries. It was an effective apparatus for inculcating ideological paradigms. Art was able to free itself from functional obligations in the twentieth century. But regimes continue to exist, and every year they require thousands of new personnel: they make a lot of effort to produce these units. The very existence of these institutions for producing service personnel is already sufficient demonstration of the link between art and politics.


Carcass. Photo: Sergei Yermokhin / Interpress / TASS

Investigators have on several occasions asked psychiatrists to examine you. Have you ever doubted your own mental competence?

No, I have not yet had any reason to doubt it.

How do you understand the holy fool? Some have called you a holy fool. Can you agree with them?

No, I cannot. I am an artist who does political art. Political art involves methodical research of social responses and sets of codes. Aside from the actions, the work involves dealing with the many tools of the regime: law enforcement, psychiatry, mass media, etc. I do not think you can just call this a way of life. In this sense, early punk culture, the residents of psychiatric hospitals, and hippies like Charles Mansion bore a much greater resemblance to holy fools.

What happened after your arrest?

 Everything was fairly by the book: physical detention, handcuffs, searches, the first attempts at interrogation. Usually, during the first twenty-four hours, investigators try to get as much testimony as possible. That is exactly why you have to pay attention during the first twenty-four hours and say nothing at all. The same thing happens with psychiatrists, only they have more power. But much more important is what it means to me. For me, it is a process of defining the boundaries and forms of political art. And what the regimes calls arrest and paperwork procedures is nothing other than a bureaucratic ritual for producing criminals.

What are your conditions like now? Has pressure been brought to bear on you?

There was only one attempt to get me to sign a confession that I had not wanted to harm and threaten the lives of FSB employees. After an hour of back and forth conversation, they were unable to get what they wanted. I went to lockup to relax, and they left.


Seam. Photo: neva-room.ru

Why did you ask to be charged with terrorism?

 I thought about the action I had carried out and came to the rather interesting conclusion that the action of setting fire to a door was quite similar to what ultimately led to terrorism charges against the s0-called Crimean terrorists and the ABTO group. Only in those cases, the FSB added to these groups people who had made deals with investigators, and as a result of this cooperation, ringerleaders of terrorist organizations and their accomplices emerged. So I decided to demand coherent logic from the court and justice from the judiciary and law enforcement.

Are you going to remain silent in the court?

Yes, I am going to maintain my silence until the lawlessness of the judiciary and law enforcement comes to an end.

Does an action begin when it is actually implemented or afterwards? Is the action still under way now? Do you recognize the state as a co-author?

An act begins during its implementation and ends when the law enforcement system or psychiatrists detain me. But cessation of the action per se marks the beginning of the process by which the boundaries and forms of political art are defined. So we could say that it is not the action that continues but the process of political art.

What do expect from the future? Are you willing to continue living in a stagnated Russia? Have you thought about applying your energies somewhere else? Are you struggling for a better life for yourself or for the country? (And is it a struggle?)

Each of us is responsible for the situation of stagnation. And for this reason alone I do not want to live somewhere else. As for me and my life, it is not a struggle, but the only possible form of existence under state terror. Everything else is personal responsibility for the life of society within the bounds of border and passport control.

P.S. On December 10, Pavlensky was transferred to St. Petersburg, where the case of setting fire to the tires is being examined.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina on the Sentsov-Kolchenko Verdict

Masha Alyokhina
August 25, 2015
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“I don’t know what is worth doing if you cannot die for it,” said Sentsov.

“We are discussing narrow questions,” said the judge, interrupting him.

Our “twofer” was piddly shit compared with this. Just imagine being locked up in a prison colony not for two autumns, but twenty, and for just as many winters. Sentsov is a single father who has been sentenced to twenty years in a maximum security prison by Russia.

His sister says, “We fear Oleg will be forgotten.”

If convicts in Russia can be forgotten by those on the outside, inside they can be killed. I hate this system under which it is so easy to kill.

The anarchist Kolchenko was sentenced by Russia to ten years hard time.

We must not forget them. They laugh at the verdict of a country that took them hostage.

Ten and twenty years in prison.

Hang in there, please, we are with you.

11889477_1182943075054229_5283665799208464809_nAlexander Kolchenko and Oleg Sentsov

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Nadya Tolokonnikova
August 25, 2015
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“Well, what did you need to go and do that for? You’re a young, pretty girl, and what have you got yourself into? When you get out, who’s going to remember you? Who’s going to want you, silly goose? Why are you so stuck on politics?”

Coppers and screws always talk this way, because they don’t understand how someone could not break down and admit their guilt. After all, if you confess, they promise to reduce your sentence.

Oleg, you will get out earlier, of course. And whatever they say to you in there, we will not forget you.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Masha Alyokhina

“Decent People Rub Prince Lemon the Wrong Way”: Sasha Dukhanina’s Closing Statement at the Bolotnaya Square Trial

Alexandra Naumova (née Dukhanina, usually referred to as Sasha Dukhanina), born 1993, was the first person to be arrested in the Bolotnaya Square case, launched by the Russian authorities after a sanctioned opposition march in downtown Moscow on May 6, 2012, the day before President Putin’s re-inauguration, ended in clashes with police. Dukhanina-Naumova was detained at the Occupy Arbat protest camp in Moscow in late May 2012 and has been under house arrest since that time.

Dukhanina-Naumova and her co-defendants Sergei Krivov, Alexei Polikhovich, Artyom Savyolov, Denis Lutskevich, Andrei Barabanov, Stepan Zimin and Yaroslav Belousov are charged with involvement in mass riots and assaulting police officers. At the January 22, 2014, hearing in the case, prosecutors asked the presiding judge, Natalya Nikishina, to sentence each of them to between five and six years in prison.

Dukhanina-Naumova is specifically accused of throwing chunks of asphalt, one of which, allegedly, struck a police officer, slightly bruising him, and splashing a soft drink (kvass) from a liter-size bottle.

A photograph of a riot cop dragging Dukhanina-Naumova away by the neck on May 6, 2012, taken by famed opposition blogger and photographer Rustem Adagamov (aka Drugoi), himself now in exile, has become, perhaps, the most famous image of the “riots” that took place in Moscow that day. Many opposition activists and independent observers have claimed that what happened was in fact a provocation on the part of the authorities aimed at demoralizing the opposition and selectively punishing those who had tried to spoil Putin’s repeat “coronation” by publicly protesting.

adagamov-dukhanina drag

Before her arrest, Dukhanina-Naumova was a student at Moscow State University, where she majored in translation and interpretation. An anarchist, she had been involved in such causes as the defense of the Tsagovsky Forest, near Moscow, and Food Not Bombs.

On December 19, 2013, four other defendants in the case, Maria Baronova, Vladimir Akimenkov, Nikolai Kavkazsky and Leonid Kovyazin, were released under an “amnesty” that has been regarded by many as a gesture meant to defuse domestic and foreign criticism of the Putin regime’s concerted attacks on human and civil rights, NGOs, gays and lesbians, migrant workers, and opposition activists.

In any case, this amnesty did not fool the several thousand people who marched in Moscow on February 2, 2014, demanding the release of Dukhanina-Naumova and the other Bolotnaya Square defendants.

 

Dukhanina-Naumova made the closing statement, below, during the final hearing in the trial, on February 5, 2014, in Moscow.

After Dukhanina-Naumova and her co-defendants had finished making their closing statements, Judge Nikishina announced she would read out the verdict in the trial on February 21, 2014. This is two days before the end of the Sochi Olympics, President Putin’s wildly expensive showcase of his personal triumph over man, nature, and budgetary common sense.

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Closing Statement by Alexandra Dukhanina-Naumova at the Bolotnaya Square Trial, Zamoskovoretsky District Court, Moscow, February 5, 2014

At first I thought that this whole trial was a crazy mistake, the result of some mix-up. Now, after hearing the prosecutor’s speeches, and considering the length of the prison terms they are asking for us [Bolotnaya Square defendants], I’m starting to see that what the authorities want is revenge. They want revenge because we were there and saw how things really were. We witnessed who instigated the stampede, how people were beaten, and the unjustified violence. They are getting revenge on us for not bowing down to them and repenting for our nonexistent crimes, neither during interrogations nor here, in the courtroom. They are also avenging me for not helping them further their lies, for refusing to answer their questions.

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These are serious crimes that carry a penalty of six years in a penal colony. There is no one else who has earned such a severe punishment, just us. They’re afraid of the real criminals—they imprison the strangers who get in their way while they wouldn’t lift a finger against their own. It is up to you, Your Honor, to decide whether to pay for furthering their happiness—promotions, stars, and medals—with our lives.

Why six years? What are these “no fewer than eight targeted throws” I supposedly dealt? Where did they come from? Whom was I aiming at and whom did I hit? Eight different police officers? Or did I hit the two men they’ve painted as the victims eight times? If so, how many times did I hit each of them? Where are the answers to these questions? Isn’t it up to them to describe the attack in detail and prove their case before putting me in prison? After all, this isn’t fun and games; it’s six years of my life at stake. Otherwise, it isn’t even lies, but mendacious demagoguery unsupported by facts, a game played with a human life in the balance. And if they had 188 videos and not eight, would they allege that there were 188 throws?

You’ve seen the two riot police officers who were my so-called victims. Each one of them is two or three times my size, and on top of that, they were in body armor. One of them felt nothing, and the second one was not injured by me at all and has no grievances. Is this the “rioting” and “violence” that have earned me six years of incarceration?

I almost forgot about the kvass. The bottle alone gets me five years, and the eight targeted blows get me the last one. At least let them say so, that way at least I’ll know the price of kvass. They should also tell me where my “mass rioting” ends and my “violence toward the authorities” begins. What’s the difference between the two? I still haven’t understood the charges against me: what did I burn? What pogroms? What destruction of public property? What does any of this have to do with me? What did I blow up? What did I set on fire? What did I destroy? Whom did I conspire with? What’s the evidence? Am I getting four years in accordance with Article 212 just for being there? Is my mere presence at what began as a peaceful demonstration the “rioting” that I was involved in? All I did was show up.

Take a look at these people. They’re not murderers, thieves or con artists. Putting us all in prison is not only unjust, it’s criminal.

Many people have given me the opportunity to repent, apologize, say what the investigators want me to say, but you know, I don’t find it necessary to repent, let alone apologize, to these people. In our country, it’s widely accepted that they are absolutely untouchable despite the well-known cases of their involvement in drug trafficking, prostitution, and rape. Just a few days ago, that happened in the Lipetsk Region.

The narrative of the charges pinned on us isn’t just funny; it is absurd and based solely on the testimony of the riot police officers. What does this mean, that if a person has epaulettes they’re a priori honest and holy?

Your Honor, in the course of the past eight months of this trial, you’ve received such substantial evidence of our innocence that if you send us all to the camps, you will be ruining our lives and futures for nothing.

Is the government really so determined to make an example of us that it is willing to take this step? Letting a pencil pusher, rapist or policeman off for [inaudible] is a matter of course: they’re untouchable, one of your own. We, on the other hand, can handle a prison term. Who are we, after all, we’re not even rich? For some reason, I am convinced that even in prison I will still be more free than any of them because my conscience will be clear, while those who remain on the outside continuing their so-called protection of law, order, and freedom will live in an unbreakable cage with their accomplices.

I can admit to making a mistake. If I were truthfully presented with facts and it were demonstrated to me that I had done something illegal, I would confess to it. However, no one has done any such thing: all I’ve witnessed are lies and brute force. You can suffocate someone with force, drag them [inaudible] and all of this has already been done to me. But lies and violence can’t prove anything. Thus, no one has proven my guilt. I am sure that I am right and that I am innocent.

I’d like to close with a quotation from Gianni Rodari’s Cipollino:

 “My poor father! They’ve thrown you in the pen with thieves and bandits.”

“Hey now, son,” his father tenderly interrupted him. “Prison is chock full of honest people!”

“Why are they in prison? What have they done wrong?”

“Absolutely nothing, son. That’s why they’re in here. Decent people rub Prince Lemon the wrong way.”

“So getting in prison is a great honor?” he asked.

“That’s how it seems. Prisons are built for people who steal and kill, but in Prince Lemon’s kingdom, it’s all topsy-turvy. The thieves and murderers are in his palace, while honest citizens fill the prisons.”

Translated by Bela Shayevich. Originally published, in Russian, on Grani.RuPhotograph of Alexandra Dukhanina-Naumova courtesy of Dmitry Bortko