Just Business

Source: personal email, December 2022, This is the first time I’ve heard from Raffeisenbank in several years, especially since my account with them has been essentially dormant since well before I left Russia in 2019. ||| TRR


Foreign managers are quitting Petersburg hotels: they are resigning their positions amid the withdrawal of international hotel companies from the Russian market.

In particular, the post of general manager of the five-star Four Seasons Lion Palace has recently been filled by Ekaterina Saburova, who had worked as marketing director at the Four Seasons Moscow Hotel. In an interview with Kommersant-SPb, a spokesman for the Petersburg hotel noted that the previous general manager, Richard Raab, had gone on to work at another hotel in the chain.

Similar personnel changes have taken place at the Grand Moika 22 Hotel, which until recently was part of the Kempinski international chain. The hotel is now headed by Yevgenia Nagimova, and the operations director and Russian staff are responsible for day-to-day operations. The previous general manager, Oliver Kuhn, initially took a similar position at the Kempinski Hotel in Cairo, before running a hotel in the Seychelles. He explained that he had left Russia to transfer to another hotel in the chain. The general director has also been replaced at the Radisson Royal and Park Inn Nevsky: instead of Rune Nordstokke, the hotels are now headed by Mikhail Grobelny, who previously worked as the general manager of the Radisson Blu Belorusskaya Hotel in Moscow.

Experts note that, amidst the departure of international hotel chains [from Russia], industry players have basically lost the need for the position of a general manager responsible for liaising with company management. According to Andrei Petelin, general director of the Hotel Saint Petersburg, the personnel changes may be related to the desire of owners to reduce costs during the crisis [sic], since foreign managers earned more than their Russian counterparts, and also received compensation for housing rental and their children’s education.

Some foreigners still continue to work in Petersburg hotels: Eric Pere, general manager of the Corinthia Hotel St. Petersburg; Gerold Held, general director of the Hotel Astoria and the Angleterre Hotel; and Jaehyuk Yang, manager of Lotte Hotel St. Petersburg. Some industry reps have concerns that further resignations by foreign managers may have a negative impact on the level of service. Andrei Petelin, however, is confident that Petersburg-based managers are able to maintain high standards, because they not only have experience working abroad, but also better understand the needs of Russians coming to the Northern Capital to relax.

Speaking of which, since the beginning of 2022, seven million tourists have visited St. Petersburg. Vice-Governor Boris Piotrovsky noted that in November, bookings at the city’s hotels consistently exceeded the sixty-percent mark.

A few weeks ago, DP wrote about how the Smolny [Petersburg city hall] was again thinking about introducing a resort fee. Hoteliers stated that they considered this step reasonable, but only if the revenues generated were used properly.

Source: “Foreign managers quitting Petersburg hotels in droves,” Delovoi Peterburg, 29 November 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


620,251 views • Dec 2, 2022 • President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is causing major changes back home. Hundreds of thousands of Russian men are being mobilized to fight and tens of thousands have already been killed or injured. Meanwhile, many Russians have left their country and millions of Ukrainians are thought to have arrived. What impact will these changes have on the Russian population? And could the public response lead to Putin’s downfall? We discuss these questions and more with UCLA’s Oleg Itskhoki in this DW Business Special.

Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the heads-up. ||| TRR

Olga Nazarenko: “What Is the Point of Having Principles If You Don’t Act on Them?”

Olga Nazarenko, a university lecturer in Ivanovo, risks going to prison for simply hanging the Ukrainian flag in the window of her own flat. Neighbors from the building opposite regularly complain about her. Nazarenko goes on anti-war pickets, where aggressive fellow citizens attack her. And the pickets have already triggered a criminal case against her. Repeated visits and searches by police officers at night and early in the morning have become routine for her children. Nazarenko sees the situation in Russia as nearly hopeless. She is amazed at how the country’s maternal instinct has even been destroyed: Russians dutifully send their children off to die for nothing. Despite all this, she considers it her duty to talk to people. She remains in Russia, and has no plans to emigrate.

Recently, the police rang at Nazarenko’s door at three o’clock in the morning. They demanded to be let in so that they could remove the Ukrainian flag. It has been hanging for six months on the balcony of the activist’s flat in an ordinary multi-storey residential building in the city of Ivanovo. Nazarenko refused to let the police in without a search warrant. Through the door, the night visitors informed her that neighbors had filed another complaint about the Ukrainian flag. The law enforcement officers left, only to return at seven in the morning and knock on the door for a long time. Nazarenko did not unlock the door, but wrote a complaint against the police to the prosecutor’s office.

Over the past two months, the police have visited the well-known anti-war protester at least four times. In the autumn, two criminal cases were opened against Nazarenko, one of them under the so-called Dadin article of the Russian criminal code. The medical school at which the activist has worked for almost twenty-four years has suspended her employment. The university lecturer is currently listed as a “suspect” by the authorities. Despite the fact that term of her undertaking not to leave the country, which went into effect after the criminal case was launched, has recently expired, she has no plans to leave Russia. She talked to Radio Svoboda about her principled choice.

Olga Nazarenko, holding a placard that reads: “If those who oppose the war are imprisoned, fascism has won.
Alexandra Skochilenko face five to ten years in prison for anti-war stickers…” Photo courtesy of Radio Svoboda

— How did you find out that you had been identified as a suspect in a criminal case?

— I learned that a criminal case had been launched against me under Article 280.3 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“Public actions aimed at discrediting the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”) from the Center “E” officers who came to my workplace at around eleven a.m. on September 20. They obliged my colleagues to to serve as witnesses, searched my desk, and found two placards. Before that, my laptop was seized without my knowledge. The bigwigs at the medical school wanted to conceal it at first, but I made a fuss. It transpired that the Center “E” officers did not even give our management rep a copy of the report for the seizure of the laptop, nor did he demand one from them. Then we went to my house; fortunately, there were no handcuffs on me. There they carefully rummaged for a long time: they took our phones (even the phone of my young son), a computer, old leaflets, our personal money, and the savings of our daughter, who is a university student. The money was returned to her, but the police kept our funds for themselves, and they are not planning to give them back to us, apparently.

— How did your children react to the search of your home?

— My son was in a little shock, especially since they took something that belonged to him. My daughter behaved calmly. She talked to the police a little. She asked whether their “assistant” was an adult: the computer technician they brought with them looked quite young. A Center “E” officer replied tersely that they were all adults and all officers. My daughter is already an adult, and she understands everything and supports me. My family took the search well, because this was not my first encounter with the relevant authorities due to politics. In the spring, at seven a.m., the riot police came to search the flat since I had been identified as a witness in a vandalism cased launched against another activist. Then they tried to prevent me from calling a lawyer, seized my phone, my computer, 138 posters, and the Ukrainian flag from the window. The law enforcement agencies’ interest in me had already become something routine.

Оlga Nazarenko in her office at the medical school. Photo by Oskar Cherdzhiyev. Courtesy of Radio Svoboda

— How long has the Ukrainian flag been hanging in the window of your flat?

— Every year since 2014, I had hung up the flag of Ukraine on the country’s Independence Day. Last year, I put it in the window and decided not to take it down. Police officers visited me after complaints were made, and they demanded explanations about the flag. I refused to explain anything to them. In the spring, after my apartment was searched, and they took the Ukrainian flag with them. I sewed a new one and hung it in the window again. I did the same thing after the search in the autumn.

— Why did you do that?

— For reasons of principle: if I support Ukraine, then I support it. And most importantly: no one in uniform and flashing a badge gets to decide what hangs in my window.

— What was the first criminal case brought against you for?

— They think that I posted anti-war leaflets in Ivanovo. I refused to give evidence by citing Article 51 of the Constitution.

— Were you not intimidated when they launched a criminal case and searched your flat?

— All this was to be expected. And no, it didn’t intimidate me. I continued going to anti-war pickets and rallies in support of those who have been persecuted for making anti-war statements, and I talked to people on the streets. A second criminal case was soon launched against me under the so-called Dadin article (i.e., Article 212.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code: “repeated violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, march, or picket”). In October, Center “E” officers and the investigator who was running the first criminal case against me came again to search my flat. They were accompanied by several people in black masks and bulletproof vests. It’s hot in our flat, and I saw sweat on their faces, probably from overexertion. I even felt sorry for them. The search was superficial; they didn’t see anything new, apparently. They again seized our phones and a couple of posters. Once they got into the flat, they immediately rushed to the balcony and again pulled down the Ukrainian flag. I told them that I hadn’t violated the law when I hung up the flag, since I wasn’t infringing on the building’s communal property. The Center “E” guys replied that I should understand how turbulent the situation was now. They asked me why I was hanging the flag up. I said that it reflected my position and my aesthetic tastes.

— Do you like the colors yellow and blue?

— Yes, they are my favorite colors: the sky and the sun. The next day I sewed another Ukrainian flag and hung it out.

— Do you usually sew Ukrainian flags on a sewing machine?

— Yes. There are many shops in Ivanovo where you can buy fabric. I found a good one and bought three sets at once. It will last for a long time.

— Why do you think that it is the neighbors who filed complaints against over the flag?

— Only residents of the house located opposite mine can see the flag all the time. The denunciations are probably written by neighbors and residents of the neighboring house. I saw one complaint. The poor lady wrote: “I see the Ukrainian flag every morning and I consider it unacceptable in such a situation as we have now.” I even felt sorry for her. After I hung out the Ukrainian flag, the neighbors living in the apartments below and above mine hung out Russian flags. After the search, a “Z” was again written on my apartment’s mailbox and a note was tossed in it that said, “Ukraine is no more. Take down your rag and dry yourself with it.”

– How did the medical school react to the criminal cases against you?

– The management suspended me on the grounds that the articles of the Criminal Code brought against me hinder my work as a lecturer. My colleagues were upset. We have worked together for many years. Besides, now they have to do my duties. My colleagues do not talk about politics. Most of my colleagues are apolitical. But they have voiced their support to me and hope that everything will be resolved somehow. I studied at the medical school for six years, and after graduation I stayed on there to work. That is, my entire adult life, almost thirty years, has been connected with the medical school.

— Have you been able to get another job?

— Due to the criminal cases, I cannot tell an employer how long I would be able to work for them. So, I will look for something temporary, and then my professional career will depend on the court’s decision.

— How many pickets did you hold in the autumn?

— In September and October, I held four or five pickets. Since the second criminal case was launched, I have not yet gone out to protest, but I’m going to continue to voice my civic stance.

— Why are you going to continue to hold anti-war pickets, despite the serious risks of ending up in a Russian prison?

– I have beliefs, and I will act in keeping with them. As long as I can talk, I’ll keep doing it. What is the point of having principles if you don’t act on them, regardless of the risks?

— Do you have the support of friends, family, and associates?

— I have moral support from friends, and there are also simple acquaintances who support me and help me raise the money for fines. I am being defended by attorney Oskar Cherdzhiyev.

Aren’t you annoyed by like-minded people who emigrated instead of getting involved in anti-war protests with you?

— If the question is about ordinary Russian citizens, and not about protest leaders, then I’m not annoyed. I understand that nothing will change in the near future. People in difficult circumstances choose the best option for themselves. We have one life, and everyone has the right to live it as they please. Besides, emigration is now a rational, appropriate solution. Many of those who have gone abroad continue their protest activities: they go to anti-war protests at Russian embassies, help refugees from Ukraine and Russia, and work on publicity.

— But why is it the best option for you to stay in Russia and go to anti-war pickets, rather than worry about your own safety?

— My choice is based on the fact that I can do more in terms of working with people in Russia than I could in emigration. I’m rubbish at information technology. It’s easier for me to talk to passersby at street protests in the hope of getting my message to them. Russia is my country, and I won’t let them kick me out. I have the right to my own country and I don’t want to leave Russia for anywhere else. I will stay here and do what I think is necessary, voice my position. If I left, I would feel bad because I got scared and ran away.

— Do you think your long-term street activism has produced any results?

— If we’re talking about changing people’s minds, I don’t see any particular results. The war is so propagandized that a few people who publicly voice a different viewpoint cannot shift the minds of the majority in the other direction. My protests are meant to have an effect on the people who are having doubts. I have succeeded in making such people think. But the main purpose of my protests is to support like-minded people among Russians and Ukrainians. Thanks to my actions, among other things, friends in Ukraine know that not everyone in Russia is an “orc.”

— How has the reaction of passersby to your pickets changed since the war with Ukraine began?

— I’ve observed that people have become more guarded and scared. They usually dash past me quickly, averting their eyes. The reactions of those who do not hide them have become quite polarized. Either passersby are emotionally grateful, or they almost pounce on me, fists flying, and call me a Banderite. At the last picket, a man grabbed my placard and tore it up. There have been more negative reactions to my pickets than friendly ones, but this is not surprising. It is amazing how, with such propaganda, one hundred percent of people don’t react negatively to anti-war protests.

— How do you manage to be so tolerant towards people whose views differ from yours?

— I would not call my attitude towards them tolerant. I just understand what motivates their behavior: a lack of critical thinking skills, plus the fear and the reverence for the authorities that is inscribed in their subcortex. Powerful state propaganda combines with excessive loyalty to those in power. Thus, Russian citizens support all decisions by high-ranking officials.

Olga Nazarenko in the lobby of the Ivanovo Regional Office of the Interior Ministry. Photo by Oskar Cherdzhiyev. Courtesy of Radio Svoboda

Are you able to understand why the parents of conscripts did not come out in droves to protests after the mobilization was announced?

— It’s beyond my comprehension. The maternal instinct is a powerful biological mechanism. As conceived by nature, it should be stronger than any propaganda. Apparently, there has been a real degradation in our society over the past twenty years. Total state propaganda, which includes not only the media, but also the education system, has aimed to completely distort values. Fear and reverence for power, submission to it, which never disappeared in many Russians, have now resurfaced especially strongly. Unfortunately, learned helplessness has overcome the maternal instinct. I do not know if such people can change anything.

— This is not the first year that you have been constantly going out to protest. Perhaps you have a hope that Russia will become a free country?

— It’s hard to say. Historically, Russia has been going in circles all the time, rather than developing in a spiral. But I still want to hope that Russia will become a developed and free country. However, this won’t happen soon, perhaps in one hundred years.

Source: Daria Yegorova, ‘Why have principles if you don’t act?’: A fight over the Ukrainian flag in Ivanovo,” Radio Svoboda, 29 October 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexander Zamyatin: Emigration Is Reactionary, Not Revolutionary

At first glance, massive emigration reduces the potential for political change, because it mechanically subtracts from society the part of society that is critical of the authorities. To a large extent, of course, this is true, but we shouldn’t overestimate this factor.

My subjective observations tell me that one of the leading motives for emigration (let’s put the existential threat of mobilization aside for now) has been the loss of hope for a “normal” life. People have been fleeing because they felt things would only get worse, and that their former relatively prosperous (and sometimes quite lovely and promising) lives were collapsing, along with all their plans.

If you think about it, there is no potential for political change in this worldview. You can’t be a gravedigger of the old regime at the same time as you grieve for the opportunities lost in it.

Let’s take a hypothetical employee of the progressive wing of the Moscow Department of Transport (or any other corporation, bank, etc.) with liberal views, who remembers what a cool project he worked on in 2018 (or even in 2022), but now is leaving the country, because such projects will definitely not happen in the future. He went to protest rallies, voted for the opposition, watched [Maxim] Katz’s YouTube channel, and donated to OVD Info, so his departure is a loss for the opposition. But it’s not a loss for the revolution, because “I want everything to be the way it was before, only with no war and crackdowns, but with fair courts and honest elections” is essentially a reactionary demand. It’s about preserving things, not changing them..

It would be a mistake to think that revolution leaves us along with the emigration: resentment over the supposedly lost prospect of a prosperous Russia, which was stolen from us, is unsuitable fuel for revolution. The political emigration has no political program, because there is no bridge to the “normality” that supposedly existed before 2022 (or 2020, 2018, 2014, 2011, etc.). The emigration’s picture of the world completely excludes the social, economic and political contradictions that have brought us to the present moment and are leading us further, so now it contains nothing but shock, fear, and individual salvation.

Revolution cannot emerge from the failure of an evolutionary project. It will emerge as an alternative to the brutal dictatorship at a fatal crossroads in the country’s history, prompted by the need to radically solve the pressing issues of our coexistence. But the remnants of failed evolutionary trends will surely still play their own reactionary role.

Source: Alexander Zamyatin, Facebook, 29 September 2022. Mr. Zamyatin is a popularly elected member of the Zyuzino Municipal District Council in Moscow and the editor-in-chief of the website Zerkalo. Translated by the Russian Reader

I’m Staying

Gray cat, on right: “Tamara! We forgot the fish!” Goldfish, on left: “We’re staying…”
I’M STAYING, 27 AUGUST, 8:00 P.M. WRITE TO SASHA @arossius

Six months ago, my friends started leaving Russia. More and more loved ones ended up far, far away from me. I had to make a difficult decision. Did want to leave with the others, or should I stay in Russia?

After much thought, I came to the conclusion that I had to stay. In those days, I listened to Anatoly Krupnov’s song “I’m Staying” all the time and was amazed at how accurately the song conveyed my feelings. Therefore, when the girls and I were developing the concept of a support group for activists who, like us, had decided not to leave, I suggested calling our project “I’m Staying.”

The “I’m Staying” community has been around for four months. In addition to the support groups, we also became a kind of cultural project. We held a concert, and in the near future we are going to put on a theatrical performance.

But recently, the song “I’m Staying” has been used by completely different people for completely different purposes. Many people have seen the cover of this song by pro-government musicians. In my opinion, it’s a very bad cover, but that’s not the point. They now want to make the song “I’m Staying” a tool of propaganda, completely distorting its original message.

I don’t want to let propaganda steal the song from us. Therefore, I remind you that “I’m Staying” is us. And our next meeting, the twenty-first in a row, will take place this Saturday, August 27. If you want to come, write to me on Telegram @acrossius and send me links to your social networks.

See you!

Source: Aleksandra Rossius, Facebook, 26 August 2022. Thanks to Yana Teplitskaya for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader


Anatoly Krupnov and Black Obelisk, “I’m Staying” (1994; remixed, 2018)

We are at a standstill again, and there is water in the hold,
And you keep telling me to run again,
And you’re saying again that you have to go there,
Where the keel is even, it is dry, and there is air to breathe.
But even here there is a chance, albeit one in ten,
Maybe time moves forward here at a crawl, not a run,
And maybe it’s more difficult to stay here than to leave,
I still believe that I will be lucky…

And I-I-I-I-I, I’m staying,
Where I want to be,
And even though I’m a little afraid,
But I, I’m staying,
I’m staying to live!

You say there’s enough evil here,
And you’re in a hurry to get out as soon as possible,
You say that bondage is sweet to me,
And you firmly believe in the truth of the other way,
Run, swim, fly — where it doesn’t matter,
If only to where we are not and haven’t been,
You say everything died here a long time ago,
And there are too many strangers among us…

But I,
I’m staying,
Where I want to be,
And even though I’m a little afraid,
But I, I, I’m staying,
I’m staying to live!
I’m staying!
I’m staying!

I’m used to it here, even though it’s like I’m in the service,
I can see everything, even though there are few lights here,
And here I stand so firmly on my feet,
And to stand, I have to stick to my roots.
I’m used to it here, I’m not so lonely here,
At least sometimes I see my kind,
When the last bell starts ringing,
I’ll be here if I’m alive…

For I,
I’m staying,
Where I want to be,
And even though I’m a little afraid,
But I, I’m staying,
I’m staying to live!
I’m staying!
I’m staying!

Source: Teksty Pesenok. Translated by the Russian Reader. Anatoly Krupnov died in February 1997, aged thirty-two, from a heart attack.

May the Good Lord Take a Liking to You and Blow You Up Real Soon

This is “social democracy,” Russian fascist style, as exemplified by A Just Russia — For Truth party leader Sergei Mironov, as translated by a mindless unpaid robot:

The leader of the Fair Russia — For Truth party, Sergei Mironov, proposed to take away the property of Russians who decided to emigrate from Russia.

He noted that this can be done within the framework of the presidential decree of March 1, 2022 “On additional temporary economic measures to ensure the financial stability of the Russian Federation.” According to it, Russian citizens who “have left or live in unfriendly countries cannot dispose of their real estate on the territory of Russia.”

At the same time, Mironov proposed not to be limited only to “unfriendly” states and to apply a measure in the event of a person leaving for any country.

The essence of their act does not change from this. I think it makes sense to extend the restrictions to all travelers, regardless of where exactly they have pricked up their skis.

The head of the party added that he considers the current flight of “our homegrown rich people” abroad to be a cleansing of society. In his opinion, only “obvious traitors” or “owners of criminally obtained fortunes” can leave Russia.

“Although one easily combines with the other. So I see only a positive aspect in the fact that these gentlemen are ridding us of their presence. The air will be cleaner,” he concluded.

Russian “social democrat” Sergei Mironov. Photo courtesy of the Moskva Agency and the Moscow Times

Here are the “social democratic” fascist robot’s remarks in the original Russian:

Лидер партии «Справедливая Россия — За правду» Сергей Миронов предложил отбирать собственность россиян, решивших эмигрировать из России.

Он отметил, что это можно делать в рамках указа президента от 1 марта 2022 года «О дополнительных временных мерах экономического характера по обеспечению финансовой стабильности РФ». Согласно нему, российские граждане, которые «уехали или живут в недружественных странах, не могут распоряжаться своей недвижимостью на территории России».

При этом Миронов предложил не ограничиваться только «недружественными» государствами и применять меру в случае отъезда человека в любую страну.

“Суть их поступка от этого не меняется. Полагаю, есть смысл распространить ограничения на всех выезжанцев в независимости от того, куда именно они навострили лыжи.”

Руководитель партии добавил, что считает очищением общества нынешнее бегство «наших доморощенных богатеев» за границу. По его мнению, из России могут уехать лишь «очевидные предатели» или «обладатели состояний, полученных криминальным путем».

«Хотя одно легко сочетается с другим. Так что в том, что эти господа избавляют нас от своего присутствия, я вижу только положительной момент. Воздух будет чище», — заключил он.

Source: Moscow Times, 16 June 2022


John Candy and Joe Flaherty have a finer grasp of Russian social revolutionary traditions than Sergei Mironov does. If Mr. Mironov’s (thoroughly counterrevolutionary and reactionary) compatriots weren’t so similar unmindful of their own history, Mr. Mironov might have thought twice before making the transformation from a mild nuisance to an enthusiastic Putinist henchman.

Staying

We have made the difficult decision to stay in Russia. I can’t leave my beloved parents. I can’t leave my younger sister, who is planning to apply to the Academy of Arts this year. They are dear to our own little family, and we are dear to them. Why do we need another, freer life if our loved ones will be far away? How can I deprive my children of unconditional love and their extended family?

If we leave, who will stay here? Everyone is fleeing thinking that it won’t be for long, that they will return home. But I feel that it will be a one-way ticket for many.

I look at the Ukrainian refugee families who are rushing home from Europe, even though their homes are no longer there, at those Ukrainians who won’t agree to go even to the most hospitable homes and remain under bombardment with their relatives.

I look at those who are fleeing Russia, because it is difficult to endure the tension, shame, fear, condemnation, and uncertainty.

I think that this is the first time that I have felt such love for my unhappy country and the people here.

We are not afraid of everyday troubles and the danger of losing our jobs. Much more terrible is the fact that people are voluntarily drawing the symbol of the war [“Z”] on their cars. The criminalization of society, which is already beginning to gain momentum, is frightening. The propaganda in the schools scares me.

I have friends who have gone from being poor to being almost beggars. There are those whom I can help just with my presence, hugs, and the opportunity to say what they think.

This disaster has united us even more, and I will live in the hope that together we will survive it all.

[…]

I’m sorry that I’m writing incoherently — I don’t even remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep.

Source: a private communication to a close friend of mine from an acquaintance in Petersburg, 8 March 2022. Although the author gave me permission to translate and publish the letter, and to identify them by name, I decided to conceal their identity for their own safety and to omit certain parts of the letter. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

The Theory of Small Deeds: The Case of Chulpan Khamatova

Yigal Levin
Facebook
March 21, 2022

Mitya is infinitely right. All these years I have been constantly saying that all people of good will should leave the Russian Federation. How can one imagine a “theory of small deeds,” say, in the Third Reich? All conscientious Germans left Germany in the 30s, and to one degree or another joined various resistance forces. Such regimes are not destroyed from the inside, but only by blows from outside —military, economic, political and cultural.

Russia delenda est

Mitya Raevsky
Facebook
March 21, 2022

Until recently, a segment of the Russian intelligentsia and the upper middle class had a favorite toy — the “theory of small deeds.” In practice, it meant that they said: yes, we cannot defeat the dictatorship, which means we need to do something useful in spite of that — save sick children, create foundations, hold cultural events, publish literature, defend human rights wherever possible. They had the hope that everyone would be able to influence the state and society as a whole doing what they do best, and these little drops would come together to make a sea, so to speak. Well, in the process, of course, they would have to cooperate with the state.

It all turned out to be baloney. Here is another historical lesson — do not collaborate with tyrants. Never. Under any circumstances. Don’t lend them legitimacy. Even for the sake of sick children.

Because you will never turn that debit into a debit. You will save 10 thousand children who have cancer only for the dictatorship to kill 100 thousand children sooner or later. It’s already killing them, and not only Ukrainian children. It’s killing Russian children, too, whom it will now be impossible to save without western drugs and equipment.

In a dictatorship, small deeds happen only in the toilet.

________________

 

Chulpan Khamatova. Kirill Zykov/Moskva News Agency. Courtesy of the Moscow Times

Actress and Activist Chulpan Khamatova Has Left Russia
She joins dozens of Russian cultural figures who have left the country.
Moscow Times
March 21, 2022

The Russian stage and screen actress Chulpan Khamatova told Ekaterina Gordeyeva in an interview released on Monday that she would not be going back to Russia.

Khamatova, who heads the Gift of Life charity foundation, was abroad when Russia began its attack on Ukraine. “For the first few days I didn’t know what to do,” she said in the interview. At first I just wanted to stay some place and wait for it to end, but then I was led to believe that it might not be safe for me to return. I’m in Riga for now. I am certainly not a traitor. I love my homeland very much,” she said.

Khamatova is one of Russia’s most celebrated actresses who has acted in dozens of films and television series — most recently playing the lead role in the screen version of Guzel Yakhina’s novel “Zuleikha.” She also plays Raisa Gorbachev in the hit play “Gorbachev” at the Moscow Theater of Nations.

She is just one of dozens of Russian cultural figures who have left the country since the war began.

Earlier this month the music director of the Bolshoi Theater, Turgan Sokhiev, resigned his post in Moscow and in Toulouse, France. He wrote that he felt he was being forced “to choose between my beloved Russian and beloved French musicians” and so “decided to resign from my positions at both the Bolshoi in Moscow and Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.”

At the same time two foreign ballet dancers at the Bolshoi, Jacopo Tissi and David Motta Soares, put in their resignations.

This was followed by the announcement that Bolshoi prima ballerina Olga Smirnova left for the Dutch National ballet.

Russian television has also lost several of its best-known on-screen personalities: Channel One colleague Zhanna Agalakova quit her job as Europe correspondent for Channel One, and both Lilia Gildeyeva and Vadim Glusker quite NTV. Gildeyeva had worked at the channel since 2006, and Glusker had been there almost from the start, for 30 years.

Dmitry Linkin, the head designer for Channel One for 24 years, also quit. “I was taught that human life is invaluable,” he said.

________________

 

In an interview with Ksenia Sobchak, broadcast on TV Rain in June 2012, Chulpan Khamatova said that she would rather live in “North Korea” than have her own country go through another revolution.

No Political Harmony Among Cultural Elite
Alexander Bratersky
Moscow Times
February 19, 2012

As Prime Minister Vladimir Putin enters the home stretch of his campaign to return to the Kremlin, he is relying on the support not only of the blue-collar electorate, but also members of the cultural elite, who are helping to market his bid for the presidency.

Putin’s extended campaign team has about 500 participants, including famous musicians, actors and writers who appear in pro-Putin commercials and at rallies. But political analysts and experts said their participation has divided the cultural elite itself.

Several dozen prominent celebrities, among them world-famous piano player Denis Matsuyev, St. Petersburg Mariinsky conductor Valery Gergiev, jazz musician Igor Butman and opera star Anna Netrebko have thrown their lot in with Putin.

When contacted to explain the reasons behind their choice of candidate, most have declined to comment. The situation has even split families: in one case a well-known rock musician sided with Putin, while his brother, also a rock star, is for the opposition.

Supporting Putin, who is seen by his opponents as an authoritarian leader, might damage a performer’s reputation and can become a source of controversy. The liberal media has attacked prominent actress Chulpan Khamatova for appearing in a Putin commercial, in which she thanks the prime minister for supporting her charity that aids children with cancer. Although Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Khamatova appeared in the commercial voluntarily, sources at the charity said she was forced into the recording.

The public response against the video was so negative that even liberal Novaya Gazeta had to defend Khamatova in one of its latest articles. Khamatova has declined to discuss her endorsement for Putin. “Let everyone stick to his own vision,” she said, RIA Novosti reported.

Iosif Prigozhin, a prominent music producer and show business insider has also defended the actress.

“Khamatova is an absolutely sincere person. But imagine that I had helped you. Would you do the same for me?” he told The Moscow Times.

Continue reading “The Theory of Small Deeds: The Case of Chulpan Khamatova”

Grigory Sverdlin: This Isn’t Goodbye

Good day, dear friend!

It is very difficult for me to write this letter. I don’t want to say goodbye at all. To my great regret, I was forced to leave Russia and resign as the director of Nochlezhka. Of course, I will help my colleagues remotely as much as I can, but it would be strange to try and run everything from afar. Danya Kramorov, our longtime volunteer, coordinator, and until recently the head of fundraising and PR, will replace me as head of our organization.

Twenty years ago, I came to Nochlezhka myself as a volunteer, and in 2010 I became an employee. Back then it was a lovely and proud little organization. That hasn’t changed, but the scale of our work has. Currently, we are helping 480-490 people in Petersburg and Moscow every day. Together we have opened free showers, laundries, warming-up spots, and rehabilitation shelters. In our approach to helping people in need, we have grown into providing psychological assistance, employment programs, training in new professions, and a dedicated rehabilitation shelter for homeless people suffering from alcohol addiction. Just as twenty years ago, everyone who comes to us for help or provides assistance in any of our current projects is treated like a human being. I’m confident that things will always be like this at Nochlezhka. It is a huge effort by many people, and if you are reading this, you are one of them. I would very much like to list everyone by name, but only last year Nochlezhka was supported by donations from over 20,000 people. Thank you very much!

Nochlezhka’s 2013 This Side of Life campaign hasn’t lost its relevance. Photo courtesy of Nochlezhka

Nochlezhka is much bigger than Grisha Sverdlin. Nochlezhka is my colleagues, a wonderful, professional team of eighty people. Nochlezhka is the hundreds of volunteers from all over the world who respond to our call. Nochlezhka is the thousands of people who donate money and medicines, food and clothes to us, who read our news and don’t believe the stereotypes [about homeless people and homelessness]. Nochlezhka is the companies that provide their services for free. Nochlezhka is you.

With the help of this huge cool team, just last year we helped 8,165 people in need. No matter what happens, this year we will definitely keep all our projects running so that anyone who turns to us can keep their health and dignity and return to a normal life. Moreover, this summer we will be opening a shelter for elderly homeless people in the Leningrad Region, and in late March we will launch the long-awaited restaurant Street Entrance, where the residents of our rehabilitation shelters will master new trades that will enable them to continue getting their lives back together.

I’m terribly sorry that I won’t be at the grand opening. I had planned to spend most of my salary at our restaurant. It’s incredibly cozy and the food is very, very tasty. But  enjoy yourselves there for me, please! And I will wait for the day when we can meet at the bar and discuss the good news.

Nochlezhka will continue to operate even if the earth crashes into the celestial axis. And I will continue to classify myself as a Nochlezhkin, remaining a volunteer and donor of this organization so dear to my heart. Unfortunately, more and more people will need our help in the coming months. And since that is the case, we will continue to help them, of course.

Yours,

Grisha Sverdlin

Source: Nochlezhka email newsletter, 15 March 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. I was a volunteer at Nochlezhka and its (now defunct) “street newspaper” Na Dne (The Depths) in the mid-nineties. Although I included the original link in Mr. Sverdlin’s letter to Nochlezhka’s donations page, it would seem that people outside Russia can no longer donate money to the organization, as they could only a short time ago. I tried just now to donate 1,000 rubles using a European-issued MasterCard, but the transaction was declined. However, I immediately got a message from Nochlezhka saying that they could see that I had tried to donate but that something had gone wrong on their bank’s end. I write this not by way of soliciting donations for Nochlezhka but to illustrate the difficulties charitable organizations in Russia now find themselves in. And, although he doesn’t mention this in his letter, Mr. Sverdlin has written on social media that he left the country because several reliable sources told him that he was in danger of arrest. ||| TRR

UPDATE (3.15.22) Nochlezhka’s project coordinator has written to me to confirm that, indeed, it is no longer possible to make donations to them using non-Russian bank cards and non-Russian payment systems. She cited the advice to donors that Nochlezhka published on its website earlier today.  The last two paragraphs of that advice read as follows:

Payment via Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay has been blocked for Visa and Mastercard cardholders. This means that one-time and regular donations that were issued in this way are no longer valid. Please re-register your donation if it has been made using one of the methods listed. You can manually sign up for a new donation payment using the form on our website.

Currently, bank cards from foreign banks cannot be used to donate money for our work. We are no longer receiving money transferred through Global Giving and PayPal. We will look for new ways [to donate] for anyone who does not have a Russian bank card, and we will definitely inform you as soon as we find them.

When We Were Ten

15220228-number-ten

Leonid Volkov
Facebook
August 10, 2019

I was ten years old but I remember August 1991 well. And I remember how many people asked, after that unique celebration of unity and freedom, what would have happened had the coup emerged victorious.

Russia 2019 is the answer to this question. It is a country in which the coup has emerged victorious, [a country ruled by] a dozen paranoid old men, their hands trembling in fear.

Yes, the new coup has lasted longer than three days, but not much longer. The first chords of Swan Lake have already sounded.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Image courtesy of 123RF

_______________________________________________

A friend of mine asked me the other day what I thought about the new fair elections protests in Moscow. First, I feel solidarity with the protesters. Otherwise, I would not have bothered to translate and edit eleven posts (so far) about the protests and their ugly aftermath.

But I don’t understand the point made by Alexei Navalny’s comrade Leonid Volkov, an otherwise sensible person, in the Facebook post, as quoted above.

I could very well be wrong, and, actually, I do hope I am wrong, but I see very little difference between the mostly lacksadaisical fair elections protests of 2011–2012 and the relatively fierce but tiny fair elections protests of 2019.

The numbers are, in fact, the main problem. Despite the strange argument made by a talking head from the Carnegie Center Moscow, as quoted in the Moscow Times, that fifty thousand is a number of protesters the Russian authorities cannot ignore, there is no question of their ignoring anything. The Putin regime did not ignore the protests of 2011–2012. It waited until Putin had secured a new term as president before cracking down hard on protesters and quickly adopting a whole raft of laws designed to make public protests and dissent much more dangerous.

In 2019, the crackdown has begun almost immediately, but there is no sign the regime will cave and force the Moscow City Elections Commission to reinstate the candidates it barred in July from running in the September elections to the Moscow City Duma, much less collapse altogether.

Since it is the world’s largest country, it seems funny to say it, but Russia is one of the most insular, isolated places on earth. International news is a genre that barely exists in the country’s mainstream or alternative press nor does it usually make much of an impression on the chatocrats who set the tone in Russia’s remarkably hysterical, dispiriting, troll-infested social media.

It also does not help that places mainly or completely populated by what many Russian liberals regard as subhumans almost never figure in the news in Russia at all. Otherwise, political and media activists like Volkov would think twice before seeing the demise of Putin’s twenty-year-old “putsch” in yet another series of relatively minuscule gatherings of righteous Muscovites brandishing clever placards and getting their pictures taken for Instagram.

If there were real international news in the Russian press, the Russian fair elections movement and its would-be leaders and strategists, like Volkov, would think about the recent, incomparably more numerous, and demonstrably more effective protests in Puerto Rico and Hong Kong, for example. When half a million people protest against the powers that be on an island populated by 3.5 million people, the authorities really cannot ignore them, just as Beijing could not pretend all was well in Hong Kong, a city of 7.3 million people, when two million people there took to the streets to protest the former enclave’s shrinking autonomy and the PRC’s attacks on its laws and democratic institutions.

Puerto Rican officials have already seen the writing on the wall and surrendered to the demands of the fierce, fearless, relentless protest movement there. The Hong Kong protest movement faces a much stronger enemy, of course, but I think there is a far greater chance we will witness democracy emerging all over China in our lifetimes than we will see the reemergence of democracy in Russia.

Despite the fact the Russian intelligentsia likes to hypnotize itself with dubious theories about history and regime change—namely, that great historical turnabouts have always been powered by tiny but energetic minorities—real democratic change in Russia will only happen when many more people join a movement that, in fact, exists only as a notion, not as a real grassroots movement.

A real grassroots movement, after all, would be capable of mobilizing considerably more than fifty thousand people in a city of twelve million people.

The second big problem with the Russian protest non-movement is that, like many of the Russians who make usually brief appearances in its ranks, it is wildly impatient. Liberal, educated Russians regard themselves as the most “European” and “western” people on the planet, hindered from realizing their true destiny as saviors and leading lights of the nonexistent west only by a thousand years of unrelenting, savage tyranny, an endless dark stormy night punctuated only here and there by occasional, short-lived bursts of sunlight.

Since they are essentially not practically “Europeans” and “westerners” (unlike most actual Europeans and westerners, who, in their view, have given up the west’s civilizing mission by letting their countries be overrun by Puerto Ricans, Chinese, and Muslims, among other miserables), many Russians think they deserve to live in a democratic country right now without doing most if any of the things other societies do to establish and fortify democracy and the rule of law at home.

The flip side of this blatantly anti-western “westernism” is that droves (or, at least, very large dribbles) of Russians have been leaving or semi-leaving Russia in recent years, knowing nothing can change for the better under Putin and despairing that the post-Putin era will not dawn anytime soon. Like most of the really important things going in Russia, this story has been underreported, although anyone who has hundreds of Russian acquaintances or who lives in one of the handful of cities on earth that liberal Russians consider civilized (Berlin, Paris, and New York, e.g.) will know what I mean.

In yet another “only in Russia” twist, many people in this new wave of émigrés and exiles are not battle-hardened veterans of the amorphous protest non-movement, but the most politically apathetic people you could ever hope to meet.

This is not to say there are not lots of good eggs among them. Likewise, this blog’s mission has been to reiterate constantly the well-missed point that there are other Russians besides Putin and other Russias besides “Putin’s Russia,” whatever that is. But since I am not a politician and, thus, a sophist, like Leonid Volkov and his friend Alexei Navalny (the first, a well-informed commentator whose reflections I have shared on several occasions with my reader; the second, a smart cookie who might also be nearly the only person in the ragtag Russian opposition who really understands politics and has an inkling of how to build grassroots political movements), I am under no obligation to paint a pretty picture of “democracy in Russia” when what is called for is a horrorshow.

Lastly, fifty thousand people protested in downtown Moscow for the right to vote for their own candidates to a Russian regional parliament in a country where all that parliaments, city councils, municipal district councils, and village councils ever do is rubber-stamp the executive branch’s decisions. At exactly the same time, Russian warplanes were trying hard to finish off the last stronghold of a genuinely popular revolution in what they hoped would be the final chapter in a four-year-long military intervention in a majority Muslim country. And yet Putin’s criminal entanglement of his country’s well-equipped armed forces in Syria has been so uninteresting to liberal Russians that they have never protested in numbers greater than three or four at a time, and you can count those times on one hand.

The irony of this non-coincidence will be lost on Leonid Volkov and his comrades in the Russian protest non-movement, a non-movement that imitates the civil disobedience of the Indian independence movement and the US civil rights movement, for example, while blithely ignoring their superior political, strategic, and organizational aspects. Like the overall ignorance among Russians about today’s protest movements and popular revolutions in Syria, Hong Kong, and Puerto Rico, this might be because they were movements led and sustained by people of color. // TRR