Church and State

vladimir sunset

Nearly Fifty Russian Orthodox Church Affiliates Awarded Presidential Grants
Vedomosti
Yelena Mukhametshina
October 31, 2018

At least 47 organizations affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) have been awarded presidential grants totalling 55.3 million rubles [approx. 734,000 euros] in the latest NGO grants competition, according to the Presidential Grants for Civil Society Development Foundation website. They include lay religious organizations, monasteries, parishes, and dioceses.

Thus, the parish of the Church of the New Russian Martyrs and Confessors in Smolensk has been awarded 2.2 million rubles for a project entitled “The Pearl Necklace of Holy Russia,” meant to encourage youth tourism and cooperation with the Belarusian Orthodox Church. The ROC’s Yakutia Diocese has been awarded 2.5 million rubles for a project entitled “Yakutia’s Churches Are Russia’s Historic Legacy.” The grant winners plan to produce three documentary films, ten videos in a series entitled “Reading the Gospel Together,” and one video about Easter. The largest grant awarded to these NGOS was 10 million rubles. Mercy, an ROC organization that helps homeless people, won this grant.

According to Ilya Chukalin, executive director of the Presidential Grants for Civil Society Development Foundation, it is easy to explain why organizations associated with the ROC have won grants. The Orthodox Initiative Grant Competition has been held in Russia since 2005, so these NGOs have know-how in writing grants and also submit numerous grant applications. As Chukalin explains, the more applications submitted, the better the chances of winning.

“Besides, the grant applications are mainly submitted by church parishes, often in villages. Grants have to be submitted by legal entities, and there are only two types of legal entities in small villages: local governments and church parishes. Usually, they apply for small grants—for example, to build a park or sports facilities in the village,” Chukalin said.

Chukalin, however, underscored the fact that Muslim and Jewish projects have also been awarded grants.

Grants totalling 41 million rubles [appox. 554,000 euros] were awarded to eleven branches of the Combat Brotherhood, headed by Boris Gromov, former governor of Moscow Region, and Russian MP Dmitry Sablin. The Combat Brotherhood’s head office won the largest grant, worth approximately 20 million rubles, for a project entitled “Memory Is Stronger than Time,” dedicated to the thirtieth anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. The Russian Union of Youth (RSM) has been awarded 63.5 million rubles [approx. 843,000 euros] to involve young people in developing small towns and settlements.

The largest grant in the competition overall was awarded to the Concerts, Festivals, and Master Classes Agency, which will spend nearly 112 million rubles on a project entitled “Yuri Bashmet to Russia’s Young Talents.”

A total of 19,000 applications was submitted to two competitions in 2018. 3,573 projects were awarded grants. The total amount awarded was 7.8 billion rubles [approx. 103.6 million euros].

fullscreen-1rf7

The largest presidential grants awarded to NGOs. 1) Concerts, Festivals, and Master Classes Agency, “Yuri Bashmet to Russia’s Young Talents,” 111.97 million rubles; 2) Association of Art and Culture Schools, “Second Tertiary Degrees for Creative Professionals,” 80.64 million rubles; 3) New Names Foundation, “Russia’s New Names,” 68.96 million rubles; 4) Russian Union of Youth, “The Space of Development,” 63.51 million rubles; 5) Golden Mask Festival, National Theatrical Prize, 50 million rubles; 6) Northern Capital Foundation, “A Road through War,” 40.97 million rubles; 7) Elena Obraztsova Foundation, International Competition for Young Opera Singers, 40.72 million rubles; 8) Butterfly Children Foundation, Compiling a Registry of Epidermolysis Bullosa Patients, 35 million rubles; 9) Tyumen Development Foundation, Local Community Development Centers, 27.04 million rubles; Peace Avenue Foundation, “The Country’s Main Law,” 24.92 million rubles; Urals Musicians Association, Urals Music Night International Festival, 23.86 milliion rubles. Source: Presidential Grants for Civil Society Development Foundation, October 2018

Alexei Makarkin argues that this way of awarding grants has its own rational. The ROC has long been an ally of the government, which can help it implement small projects, for example, to encourage an energetic priest.

The Combat Brotherhood has also been working with the government a long time, and this year marks the anniversary of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

The large grant awarded to the RSM, however, may have been triggered by the protest votes cast in many small towns during the recent local and regional elections, argues Makarkin.

“The hinterland is also vital, because in many small towns there is the sense of having reached the edge. There are no more budget cuts that can be made, and reforms will hit them hard. Therefore, the idea is to support local activists, whose projects do not require a lot of money,” Makarkin said.

Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

OVD Info: He’s No Tsar to Us in Facts and Figures

traffic sign in spbSlava Ptrk, Traffic Sign in Petersburg, 2018. Photo courtesy of OVD Info

OVD Info, That Was the Week That Was Email Newsletter, Special Edition:
How the He’s No Tsar to Us Protests Played Out Nationwide

Saturday, May 5, 2018, witnessed large-scale, nationwide protests by supporters of Alexei Navalny, who voiced their opposition to Vladimir Putin’s new term as president. This was how the protests went down in facts and figures.

The police behaved roughly. They detained not only demonstrators but also random passerby, children and reporters, and OVD Info’s hotline got more than one call about police brutality. In Moscow, so-called Cossacks joined regular police in dispersing the rally.  The so-called Cossacks beat people using whips, and a man with a raccoon was among the detainees. The Bell discovered the so-called Cossacks had ties with the mayor’s office. In Chelyabinsk, local activists were detained before the protest rally on suspicion of theft, while in Saratov, police detained a 12-year-old boy.

According to the information we have available, a total of 1,600 people were detained in 27 cities. Around 300 spent the night in police stations.*

  • 719 detainees in Moscow were taken to 42 police stations; around 154 people spent the night in custody.
  • 217 detainees in Petersburg were taken to 29 police stations; around 95 people spent the night in custody.
  • 185 people were detained in Chelyabinsk.
  • 75 people were detained in Yakutsk.
  • 64 people were detained in Krasnodar.
  • 63 people were detained in Togliatti, half of them minors.
  • 48 people were detained in Voronezh.
  • 45 people were detained in Krasnoyarsk.
  • 28 people were detained in Kaluga.
  • 24 people were detained in Astrakhan.
  • 22 people were detained in Novokuznetsk.
  • 20 people were detained in Belgorod.
  • 18 people were detained in Vladimir.
  • 16 people were detained in Samara.
  • 10 people each were detained in Barnaul and Blagoveshchensk.
  • 9 people were detained in Penza.
  • 6 people each were detained in Tver and Kurgan.
  • 5 people were detained in Sochi.
  • 2 people each were detained in Kemerovo, Naberezhnye Chelny, and Rostov-on-Don.
  • 1 person each was detained in Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Smolensk, and Tomsk.
*You can view the complete list of detainees, including names and the police stations where they were taken, here.

In the aftermath of the rallies, criminal charges have been filed against one detainee.  In Petersburg, a policeman named Sukhorukov has accused Mikhail Tsakunov of knocking out his tooth “deliberately, motivated by enmity.” Charges were filed under Article 318 Part 2 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code: health- or life-threatening violence against a police office. Tsakunov could be sent to prison for ten years if found guilty. Video footage of the young man’s arrest can be viewed here.

The detainees were tried on Sunday in Petersburg, Vladimir, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, and Chelyabinsk. 

Alexei Navalny was detained on Pushkin Square in Moscow. At the police station, he was written up for two administrative offenses: repeated violation of the procedures for holding public events and failure to obey a police officer’s lawful order. He was not kept in the police station overnight. His court hearing will take place on May 11.

What Did We Do?

We helped detainees in twenty police stations in Moscow and coordinated the rendering of legal aid in Chelyabinsk, Kaluga, and Krasnoyarsk.

In the space of twenty-four hours,* our hotline received 2,156 calls for a total duration of 64 hours and 45 minutes.

  • 5 hours and 24 minutes of that time was taken up by 93 legal consultations.
  • We were called 1,014 times.
  • We called back to verify information 1,142 times.

* From six in the morning on May 5 to six in the morning on May 6.

We do intake not only on our hotline but also using our Law Bot and our Red Button application.

  • 147 people reported being detained through Law Bot.
  • 78 reports of people being detained were received through the Red Button.
  • 1,993 people had installed the bot as of May 3.

43 volunteers helped us gather information on the detentions, putting in approximately 260 hours of work. You can sign up to join our team of volunteers here.

We can help a lot of people, but we need money to do it. Donations keep the 24-hour  hotline running. They pay for legal services. They pay people to write the news and analyze human rights violations in Russia. You can support us here.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Watching the Watchers

Sveta Erpyleva after finishing her 24-hour shift as elections observer in the wee hours of Monday morning. Photo courtesy of the author
Sveta Erpyleva after finishing her 24-hour shift as an elections observer in the wee hours of Monday morning. Photo courtesy of the author

Sveta Erpyleva
Watching the Watchers
September 20, 2016

I want to articulate a few ideas about the practice of working as an elections observer from a slightly different perspective than people usually write about it. In my view, there are two things that make the practice attractive to many of us.

The first thing is the indescribable feeling of belonging to an anonymous community, a team of strangers involved in an important cause. Such communities are nearly absent in our everyday lives. We have friends and families, but that is not the same thing, of course. We have colleagues and people who share our interests. We might not know them personally, either, but we never come together with them to touch on something that affects the entire country. In this case, however, over the course of twenty-four hours we experience the same events and emotions as hundreds of other observers in different parts of the country. We share our impressions with each other in comments sections on social networks, we all stay awake for days on end, and together we quarrel with members of electoral commissions. It is a very unusual and powerful sensation. I think many people have experienced it, whether they were aware of it or not.

The second thing is the chance to feel we are not couch potato dissidents or whatever it is called, but real citizens, conscientious citizens. We voluntarily get up early in the morning, we wrestle with a large group of people on our lonesome, and we struggle mightily with fatigue. And then, naturally, we write about it, hearing in reply all sorts of compliments from loved ones and acquaintances. But that is what we expected to hear, isn’t it?

In connection with these two things, I think it is important we be aware of the following. An anonymous political community is groovy, but sometimes it is not worth getting carried away with it. Are we certain we want the exact same things as the conscientious, get-up-and-go people who seem so much like us on elections day?

I chatted with a pleasant, conscientious young man who, like me, had come of his own free will to work as an observer at my polling station. Nope, his way was not my way, I discovered. We wanted different things.

As for the second thing, it is quite simple to selflessly surrender twenty-four hours of your life to “civil society” once every two or three years and then hear lots of nice things about yourself. Meanwhile, there are people in our midst who selflessly give up several hours every day to political struggles and social activism. Ninety-five percent of that time vanishes into the mist, because that is the nature of modern politics. These people do not get any doughnuts in the guise of society’s approval for ninety-five percent of their work. I admire people like this if their views are congenial to mine rather than people who have worked as election observers. Sorry.

I am not saying you should not go work as an elections observer. I did it myself, and I imagine I will go and do it the next time round. What I mean to say is that, first and foremost, we should not look at ourselves through rose-colored glasses.

Sveta Erpyleva is a sociologist who works at the PS Lab (Public Sociology Laboratory) in Petersburg. This past Sunday, she volunteered as an elections observer at a polling station in the city’s Central District. My thanks to her for allowing me to translate and publish her remarks here.

“Are We Still Alive?”: Olga Serebryanaya on Russia’s New Ideology

Are We Still Alive? Why the Thirty- and Forty-Something Generation Has Retreated into Political Oblivion
Olga Serebryanaya
October 2, 2014
Snob.ru

Ten years ago or so, the current thirty- and fortysomethings would often have to ask the question, Is he (or she) really still alive? Sometimes this led to amusing blitz investigations. I remember how my friends and I checked whether Soviet crooner Eduard Hill was still alive while sitting on the far terrace of a restaurant where a wedding was being celebrated with a live performance of Hill’s songs. After listening for an hour, we hazarded the guess that only Hill himself could perform Hill’s entire repertoire. The Internet was slow back then, and we three liberal arts people stared spellbound for a long time at the tiny screen of a mobile telephone to ascertain that Hill was indeed alive. It was a good learning experience: when “Trololo” rang out, we were no longer asking the embarrassing question. But it didn’t prevent me, some time later, from saying with genuine surprise to a regular contributor to the literary journal Novy Mir, “Novy Mir still comes out?!” People continue to recall journalist Oleg Kashin’s reaction to a news item about writer Vladimir Voinovich: “What, he’s still alive?”

That was an elegiac sketch about bygone days. Nowadays, one wouldn’t ask whether poet Yunna Moritz were alive, whether theater director Yuri Lyubimov* were well, whether children’s writer Eduard Uspensky were still with us, and whether writer and Literary Gazette editor Yuri Polyakov still walked the face of the earth, not to mention Voinovich. Nowadays, it is easier to doubt in one’s own existence than ask the reasonable question about the relevance of the political commentary given by all these mentioned and unmentioned elders. But since thirty- and forty-somethings have retreated into political oblivion at present, we can ask (from the viewpoint of eternity as it were) why this is so.

The answer is obvious: there is nothing genuine in current Russian reality. Only antiques are “genuine” in our country. People in Kharkov topple a statue of Lenin—and then people in Russia discuss Lenin’s role in Russian history for a week. Russia annexes Crimea, and anyone capable of writing in this country spends the following six months compiling a chronicle of various annexations. We know what all the cultural greats of the stagnation era think about Ukraine. If one of them hasn’t spoken out yet, it just means he or she has already died.

However, the lack of genuineness in the realm of public opinion, just like this realm’s spectral existence itself, does not mean that nothing happens or is accomplished in Russia. On the contrary, things happen and are accomplished, and quite quickly. Exactly one week passed between the news that Arkady Rotenberg’s villas in Italy had been seized by the authorities there and the Russian cabinet’s positive appraisal of the bill for the so-called Rotenberg law. The government’s decision did not even need to be discussed or simply justified; it was sufficient to refer to the urgency. “What seemed to be not so urgent only four months ago, now, given the increased risk of miscarriages of justice, appears differently,” Vedomosti quoted a source on the Russian White House staff as saying.

As soon as the question arises as to where in the budget the money will come from to compensate seized villas and loss of profits, solutions are found just like that: abolish the “maternity capital” program, make cuts here, here, and there, raise this and that. Justifications do not matter: one can safely say that the maternity capital program “does not increase the number of children, but merely shifts the calendars of births” without giving a thought to the fact that pensions, basically, merely shift the “calendar of deaths,” but do not abolish them. We are faced with a situation in which what really happens is successfully accomplished without being enunciated, whereas enunciation revolves around an unreal past. But how is this reality possible? Why does Rotenberg manage to break into reality, while this is such a daunting task for the public?  There should be solid foundations for this, no?

And there are. For all their seeming lack of principle, the current Russian authorities have one firm principle, a symbol of faith, one might even say. It consists in the fact that they never abandon their own kind. The principle has even graced a billboard: “It is important to use every opportunity to help concrete people.” “Concrete people” really means concrete people, and we even know how many of these concrete people there are in Russia.

ozero2

List of founders of the Ozera dacha cooperative

The fundamental difference between Putin and the public, which is choking on the fumes of the past, does not consist in the fact that he holds all the power, while the public is disempowered. The real difference is that the authorities firmly believe in their principle of protecting their own, whereas the public believes in nothing. For the public, civil liberties, democratic elections of public officials, and the equality of all before the law are phrases that have repeatedly figured in history, rather than basic principles of social organization with which reality should be brought into line.

Principles, objectives, and ideals have their own reality, which in some sense is more solid than what we usually denote with the term “current events.” It is principles, objectives, and ideals that pull history into a line directed towards the future. When they are absent, time coils into a loop, and the only point of national history is to preserve Rotenberg’s wealth. No one would ever think to ask about him, “What, he’s still alive?”

* Editor’s Note. Renowned Russian theater director Yuri Lyubimov died a few days after this column was published.

__________

“Helping Concrete People,” like Arkady Rotenberg
Olga Serebryanaya
October 9, 2014
online812.ru

In late September, the newspapers wrote about the seizure of real estate owned by Russian businessman and Putin ally Arkady Rotenberg: the sanctions imposed by the US and EU had started to work. The real estate in question included an apartment and three villas in Sardinia, and a hotel in Rome. (Good Lord, why did he need three villas? the Net groaned in unison.)

The topic would have been good only for a half a day’s worth of jokes along the lines of “soon he’ll be darning stockings” if the next day the Net had not learned about the rapid resuscitation in the State Duma of a bill from last year guaranteeing compensation from the federal budget for Russian citizens and companies who fall victim to “unjust decisions by foreign courts.”

As Georgy Alburov wrote, “Now the budget will pay for Rotenberg’s villas twice—when they are purchased and when compensation for them is paid out.” And when the cabinet announced its unconditional approval of the draft law, and the Economic Development Ministry hinted it would be inexpedient to continue the “maternity capital” program, everyone got it. “All the maternity capital will be paid out to Rotenberg’s mother as a reward for having such a wonderful son,” wrote Anton Semakin. (In fact, she has two such sons.)

And it does not matter that the law would not help the Rotenbergs, because their properties are registered with foreign companies. What matters are the openness and shamelessness with which the bill has been submitted for consideration.

Nobody doubted the federal budget would compensate the Rotenbergs even without such a law being passed, and that if necessary, the compensation would even be shipped to them in white Kamaz trucks with masked license plates. Openly discussed, the law compensating people who do not have it all that bad at the expense of the poorest people has been a kind of watershed. Even morons have realized that now Russian citizens are required not just to silently tolerate rampant theft but to loudly voice their approval of it.

The most active among them have already begun to do this. In a column on the web site Pravoslavie.ru entitled “In Defense of Crooks and Thieves,” Dmitry Sokolov-Mitrich wrote, “You can award me second place in a moron contest, but I really do believe that an alliance of crooks, thieves, and our perpetually underrated technical intelligentsia is a force still capable of pulling Russia out of the hole in which we wound up twenty years ago. Yes, these people act slowly and clumsily, and they constantly try and exceed the bounds of legality, but act they do, and that is why I find them sympathetic.”

This is the voice, so to speak, of the new conscious Russian. Ivan Davydov has vividly described the methods of coercion that will be applied to everyone else.

“There is a crowd outside Christ the Punisher Cathedral, a flock of beggars. Or maybe they are not beggars. After all, you cannot tell nowadays who is a beggar, and who a victim of inhuman sanctions. There is a podium in front of the cathedral, and people are making the right speeches. […] And here is an old woman who really is a beggar. The poor thing is completely hunched over. She holds out her hand. ‘Dear, I am not asking for myself. Everything we collect today is for Little Arkady. That is what the capo from the cathedral said, you know, the one who confiscates our daily take. Today it’s all for darling Little Arkady. What a squeeze they’ve put on him over there! He is the one who is in real misery. We’ll muddle through, we will, but that little darling…’ The old woman is crying. I give her a ten-ruble coin.”

This only seems like a parody. The new Russian ideology, for which people searched in vain during the 1990s, has finally been found. Putin formulated it: “It is important to use every opportunity to help concrete people.” This phrase refers not only to Rotenberg; it is the indisputable principle of the new national mindset. Just as earlier everyone had to believe in communism’s inevitable triumph, now the entire politically trustworthy segment of the populace must sincerely believe in this principle’s inerrancy and omnipotence. True, the horizons of state ideology have narrowed markedly. But its totalizing nature remains the same.