Responsibility?

In the new episode of the project "The Last Line" Chulpan Khamatova again recites the verse of Alya Khaitlina. In today's poem, she reflects on responsibility, guilt and humility. Already in the first stanza she asks a rhetorical question that many of us have asked and continue to ask ourselves: "Whose fault is it all?"

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The text:

Until nightfall, until nausea, you think, what should be done?
Bags under your eyes, a mouse in a noose in your fridge.
Whose fault is it all? It’s probably yours.
Someone has to take the rap [responsibility] already, right?

You loved the wrong folk. You sought the wrong ways.
At a party you wrinkled your nose and didn’t finish dessert.
Something like this was bound to happen,
Throwing us back a thousand years.

Let them take me away, let them say it's her,
Let them send me to prison, spit on me and sling mud.
But just let this terrible war stop,
Let it live on only in books — in Cyrillic, in Braille, in frilly fonts.

Let them send me to the back of beyond.
To where hell freezes over, to where nothing ever gets off the ground.
Just let the belligerents stop shooting right now,
Let them all drop off the radar, fizzle out, dissolve.

I’ll be doing time in prison, I’ll be sweeping floors,
And at night, to get to sleep, I’ll look at the flock
Of living, lively children who were saved.
Let them hate me if they will.
But let them grow up.

Source: "'Responsibility.' Chulpan Khamatova, Alya Khaitlina. Last Line Project," Spektr Press (YouTube), 27 January 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. Ms. Khamatova lives in Riga. Ms. Khaitlina, according to her Facebook page, lives in Munich.

This photo of a Petersburg police officer and patrol van is probably from Zaks.ru’s archives, but it’s what they pinned to this article.

Petersburg law enforcement officers interrupted a solo picket of activist Alevtina Vasilyeva, who took up position facing Gostiny Dvor holding a placard featuring a popular pacifist slogan. This was reported by the human rights project OVD Info, which cited her spouse.

The police took Vasilyeva to the 28th police precinct [a few blocks from my house, which I haven’t seen for four years now].

Apparently, the picketer faces a fine for “discrediting the army” (per Article 20.3.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code). The maximum possible [fine for this offense] is 50 thousand rubles.

UPDATE, 3:35 p.m. Vasilyeva was released from the precinct after being cited for “discrediting the army.”

Source: “Female picketer with pacifist placard detained at Gostiny Dvor,” Zaks.ru, 28 January 2023. Translated by An Otherwise Currently Unemployed Translator Who Could Really Use Your Moral and Financial Support Instead of Your Stony Silence

Take Your Baby by the Ears

Meta wisely prevented me from sharing Ukrainian artist Alevtina Kakhidze’s original post, which it didn’t block.
Then Meta blocked me again when I tried to post a screenshot of its first takedown.

Wang Chung, “Dance Hall Days”
"Dance Hall Days"

Take your baby by the hand
And make her do a high hand stand
And take your baby by the heel
And do the next thing that you feel

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true
I said

Dance hall days, love

Take your baby by the hair
And pull her close and there, there, there
And take your baby by the ears
And play upon her darkest fears

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true
I said

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days
Dance hall days, love

Take your baby by the wrist
And in her mouth, an amethyst
And in her eyes, two sapphires blue
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her
And she needs you

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true
I said

Dance hall days, love

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days

Dance hall days, love.

Source: Jerzy Jay, in a comment to the YouTube video, above

Wang Chung playing “Dance Hall Days” at the Ritz (NYC) on 6 July 1986

Now Meta says I can appeal its absurd decision to the “Oversight Board,” but nowhere in this message to me do they explain how I would do that.

Sledgehammers

Sergei Mironov receives sledgehammer as gift from Yevgeny Prigozhin: “Together we will punch a hole in the Nazi ideology”

Sergei Mironov, leader of the party A Just Russia and a State Duma deputy, thanked Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin for the sledgehammer, which the businessman sent as a gift to the politician. “With its [the tool’s] help, together we will punch a hole in the Nazi ideology, which has set itself the goal of destroying our country. May all our enemies finally realize that they will not succeed,” Mironov wrote on his Telegram channel, adding the hashtag #the_sledgehammer_rules.

The sledgehammer presented to Mironov has a mound of skulls depicted on it and bears the Wagner Group’s trademark stamp. The tool gained notoriety after the death of ex-Wagner fighter and former convict Yevgeny Nuzhin. He was brought back to Russia from Ukrainian captivity and executed with a sledgehammer.

Source: Rotunda (Telegram), 20 January 2023. Translated by TRR


In the early noughties, Oskar Kuchera was the star of Muz TV, a popular music TV channel. Twenty years later, he vigorously criticizes Ukraine, and supports Putin and the Russian army. We met and talked.

0:00 Opening 0:42 Why did Kuchera agree to the interview? 4:47 When people of my generation found out about Kuchera 9:36 A place where it is convenient to work for remote work 12:41 “Soldiers”: a serial about the army in which there was no war 14:40 “I knew what would happen in September 2021.” How? 20:16 Why did Russia start the war? 36:25 Is it okay to bomb infrastructure? 37:08 Are there Nazis in Ukraine? 39:29 The ultra-right is fighting on Russia’s side: Can Russia be denazified? 51:58 “The geopolitical right to be friends with Ukraine” What the heck is that? 59:09 Russia is meddling in Ukraine’s affairs, although it has problems of its own. Is that normal? 1:11:27 Crimea 1:15:30 Why America’s and Europe’s help bad? 1:21:54 Why do you enthusiastically follow the news from the US? 1:25:31 Why does your son have a US passport? 1:27:47 “The Stars Converge” on NTV. What happened? 1:32:17 Did you put up with it for three years for the money? 1:37:13 Why is it a bad thing to flee the war? 1:43:43 How can you support the army but oppose the war? 1:50:15 How would you react if your children were conscripted? 1:51:39 Why do you support Putin? 1:55:12 “I believe we’ll stroll the streets of Berlin and Paris again.” Do you want to conquer Europe? 2:01:51 Germans supported their army in 1939–1945. Were they right? 2:04:25 Is Zelensky bolder than Putin? 2:11:52 Why does Putin lie so often? 2:20:16 Is it normal to support the regime and have real estate in a NATO country? 2:26:32 Why do you need a Telegram channel about politics? 2:29:45 Oh 2:33:56 What future do you see for children? 2:38:21 Does it suit you that you don’t know anything about Putin’s personal life? 2:47:10 Could you have imagined, twenty years ago, that someday you spend three whole hours excusing Putin and the regime?

Source: “The supporter of Russian troops,” vDud (Yuri Dud), YouTube, 16 January 2023, with English subtitles. Annotation translated by TRR. As of today (21 January 2023), the interview has garnered almost sixteen million views.


After an interview with Yuri Dudyu [sic]* (recognized as a foreign agent), the actor and TV presenter Oscar Kuchera fell into a new avalanche of fame. The release of a three-hour conversation, where the actor, including expressing his position on the situation in Ukraine, provoked thousands of posts on social networks. For the most part, the characteristics for Kuchera were not complimentary. On January 18, in an interview with a RIA Novosti correspondent, he told what he thinks about this.

“I did not expect that there would be such an amount of support. And the fact that I support our guys is something I can only be proud of. Well, it’s better to be a fool than a scoundrel,” says Kuchera.

He noted that before the interview, he agreed with Dud to discuss work on Muz-TV and the TV series Soldiers, music and citizenship. In the published three-hour talk, the first three topics are given a few minutes. The rest of the time, Kuchera confusedly explained why he was against military operations, but for the military, who are now in Ukraine.

“But it turned out what happened. Probably, I should have got up and left, but I am a passionate person. So I’m responsible for everything myself, ”the artist complained.

The audience ridiculed Kuchera for his incoherent and illogical speech, as well as for his position. The TV presenter said that he supported Russia, but did not deny that his son was born in Miami and received an American passport. Commentators immediately stated that they recognized their elderly relatives in the hero. The facial expression of Yuri Dud during a conversation with Kuchera also became a meme.

* The Ministry of Justice added Yuri Dud to the list of foreign media agents

Source: Russia Posts English, 18 January 2023

Running: the Numbers

Istanbul, December 2022. Photo courtesy of Republic

[…]

500 vacancies for military registration specialists were advertised from late September to last December last year, according to HeadHunter. Previously, this specialization was considered a rather rare and generally not very sought-after profile in the personnel departments of Russian organizations (private and public). For comparison: only 145 such vacancies were advertised in the whole of 2021. The military mobilization has changed the situation: since September — that is, in just three months — the number of such offers on the labor market has increased by about two and a half times (Superjob’s data also show the same thing). The reasons? One of them (apparently, the main one) is an increase in fines for lapses in paperwork: to avoid them, employers are willing to pay applicants for the popular vacancy 70-80 thousand rubles a month. And this is despite the fact that there is a shortage of a number of other specialists on the labor market (and, presumably, they are no less valuable than SMO-era personnel officers). The number of vacancies on Avito Jobs alone, according to a recent company study, increased by 69% in 2022. Most likely, the trend will continue, serving as a natural continuation of the outflow of people and, ultimately, personnel.

50% — the percentage of last year’s sales of existing housing in the Russian Federation made through a notarized power of attorney. This record figure for the entire observable history of the market, as calculated by investment company Flip, who were commissioned by Kommersant, clearly indicates that the sales trend was primarily shaped by property owners who had emigrated. The high volume of such transactions seems to be an anomalous phenomenon. In 2021, a power of attorney was the basis for sale in no more than 20% of deals. In 2020, this figure was 15%. It was 8% in 2019, and 5% in 2018. You ain’t seen nothing yet, though: the ongoing controversy over whether to confiscate the property of openly anti-war Russians who have left the country must be making an additional contribution to the process of selling apartments and houses, which was gaining momentum as it was.

$81.69 billion — the total amount of deposits by Russian nationals in foreign banks as of the end of November of last year, according to the latest data from the Russian Central Bank. (4.989 trillion rubles were recalculated at the exchange rate in effect on that date.) Over the past eleven months, the amount has more than doubled — and this is even if we rely entirely on the statistics of the Central Bank, which may not have a complete picture of what is happening. (Russian laws oblige citizens to report when they open accounts in foreign banks and move funds in them, but we cannot be absolutely sure that everyone strictly obeys them.) While one part of these funds remains in these bank accounts, the other goes to the purchase of real estate that, for the most part, is also located outside the Russian Federation.

16,300 houses and apartments in Turkey were purchased by Russian nationals in 2022, according to data published by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), as studied by RBC. This is not just three times more than in 2021 (when Russian nationals purchased 5,400 housing units in the Turkish Republic), but also more than the total volume of such transactions over the past six years (16,200). It is not surprising that last year, for the first time, Russians took first place among foreigners in buying housing in Turkey, producing almost a quarter of the corresponding demand with their money. Earlier, we wrote that our compatriots purchased two thousand houses and apartments in Turkey in October 2022 alone, overtaking all other foreign home buyers in that country, as reported by TurkStat.

At first glance, the advantages of investing in Turkey are not entire obvious. Inflation in the country, according to TurkStat, exceeded 84% in November, once again breaking records previously established in the autumn of 1998. The Inflation Analysis Group, an independent Turkish entity, estimated that inflation had reached a whopping 170.7% . In addition, prices for real estate, which have rising robustly, can at any moment just as vigorously drop, taking into account, in particular, the rather murky prospects for “Erdonomics,” depending on the results of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. According to Endeksa, in September, the average price for one square meter of housing in Turkey was about 12 thousand Turkish lira (approx. $644), while the average price per housing unit was just over 1.5 million Turkish lira (approx. $83,700). The term of return on investment in housing is estimated at nineteen years, although in the summer this figure was recalculated to seventeen years.

The intense interest on the part of Russian nationals in buying real estate in Turkey is primarily related to the prospect of obtaining Turkish citizenship, Anna Larina, head of the foreign real estate department at NF Group, explained to Republic. (In turn, having a Turkish passport makes it possible to obtain an American E-2 visa, which speeds up the process of immigrating to the United States.) In this sense, it is logical that Russians have become leaders in terms of the number of residence permits issued in Turkey — 153,000, of which, however, as the Turkish Ministry of Migration clarified, 132,000 are short-term tourist residence permits, which are valid for two years.

Turkey is one of the few countries (but not the only country) that is still open to Russian nationals and their private capital. Thus, as 2022 came to a close, Russian citizens took first place among non-residents in buying real estate in Dubai, Bloomberg recently reported, citing figures provided by the brokerage firm Betterhomes.

Withdrawing funds and setting up a new life abroad eloquently testify to the sentiments prevailing among the Russian urban middle class, primarily. Not all people who sell Russian real estate and buy foreign real estate are necessarily irreconcilable opponents of the regime. And yet, it is clear that the vast majority of these people do not want to live and raise children in Putin’s version of the future, which is practically incompatible with modern civilization. In its own way, it is symptomatic that Russians who support the government and dutifully follow it into its deadly adventures are also dissatisfied with what is happening. If it were possible, they would rather return to the past, to a point in time thirty, forty, or fifty years ago.

63% — the percentage of Russians, according to a December poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), who regret the collapse of the USSR — that is, more than three decades after the event known in Kremlin mythology as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” Strictly speaking, the current longing for Soviet times cannot be considered a record: after the August 1998 ruble default, there were noticeably more Russians nostalgic for the Soviet Union — 85%. Nevertheless, an important indicator of public attitudes (as recorded, we should underscore, by a quasi-state polling service) is on the rise again, having increased by twelve percentage points since 2011.

It is clear that this sentiment is primarily voiced by the 46–60 age group (88% of whom are “nostalgic”) and to some extent, people aged 31–45 years (79% of whom are “nostalgic”), assuming that a considerable portion of these people associate the late USSR with their happy childhoods and wild youths. However, according to the poll, even today’s Russian youth, that is, people aged 18–30, mostly (64%) consider the Soviet era “generally a good time.” Of course, their judgments are based on the stories of older generations, and most importantly, on the inevitable comparison with what is happening with the largest post-Soviet country right now.

Source: Yevgeny Karasyuk, “Salvation in foreign real estate and a new bout of nostalgia for the USSR: timely numbers from Russia… and a few from Turkey,” Republic, 20 January 2023. Translated by Hambone Brewster, who is still implacably opposed to the Russian “pollocracy” and continues to be surprised that even otherwise smart cookies like Mr. Karasyuk continue to cite Russian “public opinion polls” as reliable sources of real information — rather than, at best, records of sustained trauma and unfreedom.

You’re Not Invited to Our Molotov Cocktail Party

Does it make sense to torch military enlistment offices? The short answer is no. And here’s why not.

From the outset of the mobilization in Russia, military enlistment offices have been targeted by arson attacks. We realized that this appears striking and effective and may seem like a good way to voice your protest. But is this really the case? Let’s unpack it.

1. It is ineffective. Most often, arson does not damage individual records in any way — the fire is either put out in time, or there is no fire at all. There are no exact statistics here, but an analysis of news reports about the arson attacks confirms that in most cases they didn’t accomplish anything.

Moreover, the authorities have now started digitizing conscript databases, which will soon render the destruction of paper files meaningless.

2. It involves very (!) high risks. Statistics show that arsonists are very often tracked down by the police: 48% of activists involved in arson attacks have been detained.

If you are caught, a criminal case and a hefty prison sentence are virtually inevitable. Moreover, these arson attacks are most often charged as “terrorism” — and the people charged face up to fifteen years in prison if convicted.

3. It endangers others. Military enlistment offices are often guarded, which means that the watchmen may suffer. In addition, military enlistment offices are sometimes located in or near residential buildings, and the fire can spread to them.

4. There are other ways to resist that are safer and more effective. Considering all of the above, simply talking to friends and relatives (and writing on social media) about how to avoid mobilization seems to be a much more effective and safer means of resistance.

We have compiled a complete list of methods of online and offline resistance here.

What protest methods you choose is your decision alone, of course. But we urge you to be aware and prudent in this matter and not to give in to emotions. Much more good comes from activists who aren’t in jail.

Take care of yourself.💚

Source: Vesna Movement (Telegram), 10 January 2023. Translated by Hecksinductionhour


“Russian Army: A Time of Heroes Has Chosen Us.” Source: Igor Stomakhin, Facebook, 5 January 2023

On January 11, Vesna surprised me more than ever. Have you already read the post [translated, above] with (almost) the same name?

I’ll admit that I didn’t even know about this movement until February 24. But after the start of they full-scale invasion, they proved their mettle, unlike other public movements. From the earliest days of the war, they spoke out against the invasion and urged people to protest. Vesna announced mass protests while other liberal democratic organizations took no decisive action. Neither [Alexei Navalny’s] Anti-Corruption Foundation nor [opposition liberal party] Yabloko, for example, supported the call for mass street protests then. Vesna called for and was involved in the protests themselves, for which its members were persecuted and the movement was designated “extremist” by the authorities.

I try not to criticize methods and approaches to anti-war protests: everyone has the right to protest and resist as they are able and see fit. Today, however I want to speak critically about Vesna and respond to the piece, entitled “Does it make sense to torch military enlistment offices? The short answer is no. And here’s why not.”

Let’s analyze the arguments made in the post.

1. Ineffectiveness. Vesna claims that torching military enlistment offices makes no sense, since military enlistment records are not destroyed as a result of these actions. Indeed, many arson attacks on military enlistment offices have caused quite superficial damage: the flames did not spread into the offices where the paper files of conscripts might have been stored. However, this has not always been the case. For example, as a result of the actions taken by Ilya Farber (a village schoolteacher), the room in a military enlistment office where official documents were stored was destroyed by fire, as was a room at a recruiting office containing the personal belongings of employees. Moreover, we should bear in mind that the authorities and propagandists have a stake in downplaying the damage from such attacks.

When analyzing direct actions, it is also important to take into account what the guerrillas themselves say, and not to talk about the abstract results of possible actions. Did they want to destroy records at all? Moreover, it is not only military enlistment offices that are set on fire. For example, Bogdan Ziza, who threw a Molotov cocktail into a municipal administration building in Crimea, explained his motives as follows: “[I did it] so that those who are against this war, who are sitting at home and are afraid to voice their opinion, see that they are not alone.” And Alexei Rozhkov, who torched a military enlistment office on March 11, argues that the actions of guerrillas forced the authorities to withdraw conscripts from the combat zone.

If we talk about effectiveness in terms of direct action, then Vesna’s criticism is patently ridiculous: the movement has never proposed direct action tactics. If the railway saboteurs, for example, argued that torching military enlistment offices was “ineffective,” that would be a different conversation.

As for the digitization of draftee records, at the moment there is no information that it has been successfully implemented, except for claims by the authorities about staring the process. On the basis of the first wave of mobilization, the Moscow Times explained why rapid digitization of the Russian draft registration system is impossible under present conditions.

2. High risks. Indeed, people are persecuted for torching military enlistment offices. But anything else you do to counteract the Russian military machine is also fraught with high risks. You can now get a long stint in prison for the things you say. Not only Moscow municipal district councilor Alexei Gorinov (7 years) and politician Ilya Yashin (8.5 years) but also Vologda engineer [sic] Vladimir Rumyantsev (3 years) have already been handed harsh prison sentences for, allegedly, disseminating “fake news” about the army. To date, these sentences have been even harsher than those already handed down for anti-war arson. It is impossible to assess in which case it would be easier for the state to track you down and persecute you — after you torched a military enlistment office, or after you publicly posted the truth about the war. It all depends, primarily, on the security precautions you take.

3. Endangering lives. Vesna’s arguments on this score completely echo the wording of pro-government media and prosecutors’ speeches: allegedly, when a military enlistment office is torched, people could get hurt. Attention! Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, guerrillas have carried out more than eighty anti-war arson attacks and not a single living being has been harmed! The guerrillas carry out their actions at night and plan attacks so that people do not get hurt. This is how they are discussed on the direct action Telegram channels, and the guerrillas themselves say the same thing.

4, Unsafe and ineffective. As an alternative to arson, Vesna suggests educating friends and relatives about how to avoid mobilization. Educating is, of course, an important and necessary thing to do. However, it alone is not enough to stop the war. They mention no other effective methods of resistance in their post.

I have already said a few words at the outset about evaluating the effectiveness of military enlistment offices. I will also quote Peter Gelderloos in this case: “But beyond the strategic necessity of attacking the state with all means available to us, have those of us not faced with daily police intimidation, degradation, and subordination considered the uplifting effect of forcefully fighting back?”

I would suggest that you draw your own conclusions.

Finally, I have a few wishes. If you are planning any action that the state may regard as a criminal offense — a guerrilla action or an anti-war statement — please assess the risks and take all possible security precautions. To do this, use the guides that have been compiled online and study the know-how of forerunners. Keep in mind that even this may not be enough. Recommendations on physical security from the Combat Organization of Anarcho-Communists (BOAK) can be found in this article published DOXA. And to learn the basics of digital security, take a look the website Security in a Box.

You can find even more guides to security on the internet: don’t neglect perusing them and follow the rules they establish daily. The time you spend working through questions of security will in any case be less than the time spent in police custody in the event of your arrest after a protest action or a careless statement on the internet.

P.S. Vesna, please read How Nonviolence Protects the State, by Peter Gelderloos.

[…]

What can you do?

Study the safety guides mentioned in the introduction, if you thought it was not so important or had put it off for later.

How сan you take your minds off things?

Listen to the 10th edition of the podcast Zhenskii srok (“Women’s Prison Stint”) about how women revolutionaries fought the good fight and how they did time in Tsarist Russia. Among other things, the podcast explains what was mean by the term “oranges” back then and why officials and security forces were afraid of “oranges.”

Source: Ivan Astashin, DOXA Anti-War Newsletter #314, 11 January 2023. Translated by TRR


“White, Red, Black, Pale: Waiting for Horsemen.” Source: Igor Stomakhin, Facebook, 5 January 202

A column by ARMEN ARAMYAN, editor of DOXApublished by DOXA on 13 January in Russian.  

For many years the Russian opposition propagandised a particular manner of protest: clean, peaceful protest of the urban class, not dirtied with violence or even any pretension to violence. I was politicised at that time. I am 25, and I first went to a street demonstration when I was 17, in the second year of study at university. And I learned the lessons conscientiously: when somebody urges people to free a demonstrator who is being detained – that’s a provocation. If someone proposes to stay put on a square and not leave, or to occupy a government building – that’s a provocateur, and that person should be paid no heed.

We are better than them, because we do not use violence, and they do. Let everyone see us and our principles as unarmed, peaceful protesters, who are beaten by cosmonauts [Russian riot police] in full combat gear. Then they will understand what is going on. Why go on a demonstration? To express our opinion, to show that we are here. And if there are enough of us, that will produce a split in the elite.

Evidently, this strategy didn’t work. Whether it worked at one time is probably not so important now. I am convinced, by my own life experience, that it has failed. A year and a half ago, I recorded an inoffensive video to support student protests – and for that got a year’s house arrest. [Reported here, SP.] And in that year, the Russian authorities succeeded in destroying the remains of the electoral system, and invading Ukraine. No peaceful protest could stop them.

During that time, as the anti-Putin opposition de-escalated protests and adapted to new prohibitions — you need to give advance notice about a demo? OK. You need to set up metal detectors on site? Very good — the authorities, by contrast, escalated the conflict with society. They pursued ever-more-contrived legal cases — for actions ranging from throwing a plastic cup at a cop, to liking stuff or joking on Twitter.

We have been retreating tactically for a long time, and finally wound up on the edge of a precipice —in a situation where not to protest would be immoral, but where, at the same time, the most inoffensive action could result in the most serious sanctions. The neurosis in which a large part of Russian society now finds itself — all those arguments about who is more ethically immaculate: those who have left, those who have stayed, those who have half-left or one-quarter-stayed; who has the moral right to speak about something and who doesn’t — all this is a result of living in a paradox. 

For the first few weeks after the invasion, this logic of conflict — that the opposition de-escalates and the state escalates — reached its limits. Peaceful protests came to an end. Resistance didn’t stop: several hundred people, at a minimum, set fire to military recruitment offices or dismantled railways on which the Russian army was sending arms, and soldiers, to the front.

And when this started to happen, a big part of the opposition had nothing to say. Our editorial group was one of the first to try to report on these actions, despite the shortage of information. We were even able to speak to some of the railway partisans in Russia. But much of the independent media and opposition politicians were silent.

The silence ended on 4 October, when [Alexei] Navalny’s team announced that it would again open branches across the whole country, and support different methods of protest, including setting fire to recruitment centres. A month before that, in an interview with Ilya Azara [of Novaya Gazeta, SP], Leonid Volkov [leading member of Navalny’s team, SP] answered a question about radical actions in this way:

I am ready to congratulate everyone who goes to set fire to a recruitment office or derail a train. But I don’t understand where these people have come from, where to find them, or whether it’s possible to organise them.

Evidently, in the course of a month, something changed. In October, the branches began to collect forms from potential supporters, and on 23 December a platform was set up on the dark web, which could only be accessed via a TOR browser. Navalny’s team stated that the platform will not retain any details of its supporters. [In an interview with DOXA, Navalny’s team clarified that the branches would be clandestine online “networks”, SP.]

For some mysterious reason, news of the reopening of the branches, and of the setting-up of the platform, went practically unnoticed in the Russian media. In October, we were apparently the only (!) publication that talked with members of the Navalny team about the reopening of the branches. Organised antiwar resistance did not make it to the top of the news agenda.

It seems to me that, notwithstanding the mass of questions that political activists want to ask Navaly’s team about this, organised resistance is the only way left to us, out of the war and out of Putinism.   

I have had many discussions with antiwar activists and journalists lately, about how they assess their work, nearly a year after the start of full-scale war. The majority of them (of us) are burned out: they don’t see any point in what we are doing. I think part of the problem is that a big part of our activity concerns not resistance, but help and treatment of the symptoms — evacuation and support for refugees. Our activities don’t bring the end of the war nearer, they just alleviate its consequences.

You can count the initiatives focused on resistance on the fingers of two hands. And alas, they are not very effective. A comrade of mine, with whom at the start we put together guides about how to talk to your family members about the war, joked, bitterly:

The Russian army killed another hundred people while we were thinking about how to change the minds of one-and-a-half grandmas.

To get out of this dead end, we must together think of the future that we can achieve by our collective efforts. It’s time to reject fatalism: stop waiting for everything to be decided on the field of battle and putting all our hopes in the Ukrainian armed forces (although much will of course be decided there); stop relying on the prospect that Putin will die soon, that the elite will split and that out of this split shoots of democracy will somehow magically grow. We will not take back for ourselves freedom and the right to shape our own future, unless we ourselves take power away from this elite. The only way that we can do this, under conditions of military dictatorship, is organised resistance.

Such resistance must be based on cooperation between those who have remained in Russia and those who have left. And also those who continue to come and go (and there are many of them). Such resistance can not be coordinated by some allegedly authoritative organisation. It has to be built, by developing cooperation with other antiwar initiatives —especially the feminists and decolonising initiatives, that is, with organisations that have done a huge amount of activity since the all-out invasion and who bring together many thousands of committed supporters.

Most important of all, resistance must expand the boundaries of what we understand by non-violent protest and the permissibility of political violence. We can not allow the dictatorship to impose a language that describes setting fire to a military recruitment office, with no human victims, as “terrorism” and “extremism”.

Political struggle has always required a wide range of instruments, and if we want to defeat a dictatorship we have to learn how to use them; we need to understand clearly what each of them is good for. For many years we have paid no attention to methods of resistance that, although they are not violent, require much more decisiveness and organisation. It is to these methods that we need now to return.

There is no other way of building democracy in Russia (any democracy — liberal or socialist) without a grassroots resistance movement that can win widespread support. If the majority of opposition politicians in the pre-war period hoped that democracy could fall into their laps as a gift from the elite (as a so-called gesture of goodwill), then this year it has become completely clear: we will never have any power, if we can not ourselves take it in to our own hands.

Ulrike Meinhof [a leader of the Red Army Faction in Germany, 1970–72, SP] once quoted the words of a Black Panther activist [probably Fred Hampton, SP], spoken at a conference in February 1968 against the war in Vietnam:

Protest is when I say I don’t like this. Resistance is when I put an end to what I don’t like. Protest is when I say I refuse to go along with this anymore. Resistance is when I make sure everybody else stops going along too.

This comment was published by DOXA, an independent Russian web site that has grown out of a student magazine to become a prominent voice against the war. Translation by Simon Pirani

Source: “Russia: the time for protest has gone, it’s time for resistance,” People and Nature, 17 January 2023. Thanks to Simon Pirani for permission to reprint his invaluable translation here. ||| TRR


Berlin-Friedrichshain, January 2019. Photo by the Russian Reader

There is an interesting controversy on Twitter between DOXA (a left-wing media outlet) and the Vesna Movement (liberals) about violence.

Vesna wheeled out a text arguing that torching military enlistment offices is bad, and DOXA and other leftists responded by explaining why there is no way to do without such tactics now.

In response, the liberals and the publication Kotyol (“Boiler”), which took their side, have deployed a super argument: so why don’t you go to Russia and torch these places yourself, instead of advising others to do it? They also claimed that DOXA embraces Putin’s way of thinking by sending others to get killed instead of themselves.

I’ll join in the fray and answer for myself. First, it’s none of your damn business where I go or don’t go and why.

Second, waging an armed struggle requires financing, training, experience, support bases, and much more. Now of this exists now.

Third, if you liberal assholes had not consistently advocated against every form of illegal resistance for all Putin’s years and decades in power, if you had not demonized “radicals,” just as you are doing now, if you had not readily dubbed “terrorists” all those at whom the authorities pointed a finger, the situation in paragraph 2 would have been different.

Yes, it was you who shat your pants, soiling not only us, but everyone, including the Ukrainians.

The leftists are “talking shit” about violence, but are not traveling to Russia to torch things? Well, at least we’re talking shit!

Look at yourself. The bravest of you, and there are relatively few of those, raise money for the Armed Forces of Ukraine so that Ukrainians will fight and die on your behalf. But you yourselves advocate nonviolence, my ass. Which of us are the hypocrites? Who has embraced Putin’s way of thinking?

If you have at least a drop of conscience, you’ll recall what the liberals wrote in the late nineteenth century about the Decembrists and Narodniks and at least shut your traps on the question of violence.

Source: George Losev (Facebook), 17 January 2023. Translated by Thomas Campbell

What Mobilization Has Done to the Sverdlovsk Region

The Sverdlovsk Region is one of the leading Russian regions in terms of the number of casualties among mobilized men. Many of them perished in the Kherson Region, from whose capital Russian army retreated after eight months of occupation. Relatives of the mobilized men said that, despite the fact that the authorities promised not to send untrained soldiers to the front line, their loved ones were killed a week after they were drafted. Some were killed literally within a few days. Despite this, the mothers, wives and children of the mobilized men support the war and thank Putin. Our film explains why.

00:00 Sverdlovsk Region is among the leaders in numbers of mobilized men killed 01:15 “They were quickly dispatched to the Kherson Region” 04:57 A man who had four children was taken away 08:43 How a father went to fight instead of his conscript son 13:10 “We had a funeral, but we didn’t see who we were burying” 14:55 What relatives of dead draftees receive 16:40 The mobilization’s end result

Source: “The Mobilization’s Aftermath: What the War Has Done to Russia,” iStories (YouTube), 14 January 2023 (in Russian, with Russian closed captions).


Alexei Rozhkov responded with Molotov cocktails to the decision by the Russian authorities to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. On March 11, he set fire to a military enlistment office in the suburbs of Yekaterinburg. He was detained the same day and charged with “attempted murder”: allegedly, there had been a watchman in the building at the time. The young man faced up to fifteen years in prison.

Alexei was held in a pretrial detention center for six months. The charges were then unexpectedly reduced to a less serious crime — “property damage” — and the insurgent was released on his own recognizance. After a time, thanks to the support of a human rights organization, Rozhkov left Russia, and we were able to speak to him.

Tell me what you did before February 24. Did you have a job? Any hobbies? Were you interested in politics?

Rozhkov: I lived in the city of Beryozovsky, a suburb of Yekaterinburg with a population of about 100 thousand. Yekaterinburg itself can be reached by bus in twenty or thirty minutes. I worked as a sales consultant at a DNS store.

I was fond of music — I’m a guitarist, a bassist. About six years ago, I had a band, Tell Me the Reason. I started recording a solo album [before February 24], which is still not finished due to the war, having to moving around, and being in prison.

I love dynamic, energetic music: it invigorates me, helps me get out of depression, and gets me warmed up and excited.

I have been interested in politics since I was fourteen. [Alexei is now twenty-five.] My views have changed over time. Previously, they were more democratic or something, more legal. Now I can call myself a left-wing anarchist. I have always campaigned to open people’s eyes and make them see what is happening with the country — for example, with the standard of living. I talked to my family and acquaintances, friends and even strangers. I drew leaflets and spray-painted walls. Do you know those big advertising banners? At night, I would climb up and write “Putin is a thief” on them. At the time, he was merely a thief. But now, of course, he is not just a thief but also a murderer. I wrote on such billboards at night so that people would also start asking questions and arrive at the same opinion.

Tell me why you decided to set fire to the military enlistment office. What did you hope to achieve?

Rozhkov: Since February 22, I had been closely following independent media and social media channels. I expected the war to start in the last week of month, because Russian troops were amassed in Belgorod, Belarus, and other border areas. It was obvious that some kind of movement of troops would begin. And it kicked off on February 24. I began to go into a depression. I was constantly flipping channels and reading the news. I was getting worse every day. I just understood that it was impossible to remain indifferent. What is happening now is illegitimate; it is illegal. Any war means death for ordinary folks. A war in the twenty-first century seems somehow alien to me, especially for such ridiculous, made-up reasons. We annexed Crimea in 2014, and I said already back then that it was wrong. Crimea is not ours and will never be ours. I said there would be consequences. And that’s how it turned out.

It is really awful for me to get my head around the fact that people are getting killed — civilians are dying, and those who do not want to fight, but have been drafted, are also getting killed. I wanted to make some kind of appeal for people to start fighting against this war. I wanted to impact the situation, to do something to stop it all or at least weaken [Russian troops]. So, I set fire to the military enlistment office in the city of Beryozovsky. I didn’t try to burn it down. I threw three Molotov cocktails at the glass doors, which broke. I didn’t even expect them to shatter. Actually, I was thinking that I would just set fire to the door, to the entrance. I was unlucky: at that moment, traffic cops were driving past and noticed what I did. [They] put out the fire, and then they followed me. I couldn’t get far. I ran about a kilometer, and I was blinded by the high beam from their vehicle. I tried to get out of there, to run away, but they threatened to shoot me, and I was forced to surrender.

Tell me how you prepared for this. How spontaneous was this protest?

Rozhkov: It happened quite spontaneously. I didn’t even develop an exit plan and was operating in unfamiliar territory. It seemed to me like some kind of self-sacrifice. I perfectly imagined that I would be held [criminally] liable for this, but I had no fear.

After my protest action was carried out, Putin admitted on Channel One that conscript soldiers had been deployed to the military special operation zone, and [said] that they would be withdrawn from there and that those who had sent them would be punished. It was after my arson attempt that he said this. I was the third person in Russia to set fire to a military enlistment office, and this is [an example of how] several people made an impact to save guys like us, guys our same age. [Conscripts] were not killed in the war. None [of them] were killed: they were simply transferred back to Russia, leaving only contract soldiers [in the war zone].

So you think that the arsons of military enlistment offices also influenced this decision by the authorities?

Rozhkov: Yes, I think so. I’m certain of it.

How did you feel while you were in police custody? Was there any pressure from the investigative authorities? What actually happened after you were detained?

Rozhkov: I was detained, handcuffed, searched, thrown into a paddy wagon, and taken to the police station. I was treated pretty badly at the station. The police chief of the city of Beryozovsky threatened me personally that he would piss on me and beat me with a stick — those were literally his words. But there were also decent people [among the police officers] who did not threaten me and talked to me calmly. They supported me so that I would not go into complete shock.

At Pretrial Detention Center No. 1 in Yekaterinburg, I was quarantined at first. They didn’t issue me bed linens, they didn’t give me a pillow or a blanket — they only gave me a pissed-stained mattress. Thank God I didn’t spend much time there. On the fourth day, the head doctor of the psychiatric ward summoned me. Since I have some ailments, she put herself in my shoes and I was transferred to the hospital wing, to the “psycho hut.” Basically, I liked it there. Despite the fact that some people in my cell were wacky, I had almost no conflicts with them. It wasn’t the first time my cellmates had been in prison. I was the only first-timer.

[In the pretrial detention center] they gave me very strong drugs, which made me feel lousy. One of those drugs was risperidone, which is prescribed to schizophrenics. I was given a triple dose. I suffered from restlessness [akathisia], I had panic attacks, I was short of breath and suffered from insomnia. That is, the treatment wasn’t right for me. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I was sent there, and not to gen pop.

I was a “road worker” [the person in a prison cell or block responsible for the “road,” the illegal system of communication among cells] — they respected me and listened to my opinion. Basically, everything was fine while I was in the joint. The prison staff were mostly supportive: you could talk to them a little bit during inspections or when the gruel was served.

During the period of my imprisonment, I was taken for an inpatient mental competency examination to the psychiatric hospital on the Siberian Route [i.e., Sverdlovsk Regional Clinical Psychiatric Hospital]. I stayed there for twenty-one days. There, on the contrary, the prison staff behaved aggressively and tried to provoke many people, including me, into conflict.

Those who succumbed to provocations were tasered and locked up in solitary confinement. The worst, most deranged prison staff, I believe, were in the tenth ward of the psychiatric regional hospital on the Siberian Route.

Did anyone support you while you were in prison, such as relatives, friends, or maybe human rights campaigners?

Rozhkov: When I was in the pretrial detention center, a lawyer from the Anarchist Back Cross came to visit me and offered their help. They also asked whether I wanted to receive letters, [financial?] assistance, care packages, and publicity for my case. I turned down the assistance and publicity, but decided that it would be nice to get letters from concerned folks who help people like us who are in prison. The letters really gave me a boost. My parents and concerned people from Yekaterinburg helped me by bringing me care packages. I won’t name names, but they helped me and are still helping me.

Why did you decide to turn down the assistance from the Anarchist Black Cross?

Rozhkov: Because I gave into the persuasions of my parents and lawyer. They were against my case being [widely] publicized — allegedly, so as to avoid hounding the investigator in my case. They were afraid that he would toughen the punishment if I attracted public attention. So, due to pressure from [my parents and lawyer], I had to turn down this help.

And yet, when you were in the pretrial detention center, as far as I remember, you were facing the rather harsh charge of attempted murder, right?

Rozhkov: Yes, I had been charged with violating Article 105, part two, in combination with Article 30 — “attempted murder, committed with extreme cruelty, from hooligan motives, in a generally dangerous way.” The crime carries a sentence of between eight years to life in prison.

Do you think that someone’s life was actually threatened as a result of what you did?

Rozhkov: I’m absolutely sure that this wasn’t the case. I doubt that there actually was a woman [night watchperson] of some kind in the military enlistment office building. According to the testimony of the policemen who detained me, who helped extinguish the fire, there were no lights turned anywhere on the premises, and they did not see this woman either. So, I doubt that she was there. In addition, in other such cases — I monitored similar cases — no one was charged under the same article of the criminal code as me. There were no guards there.

When you were released on your own recognizance, you didn’t leave the country immediately. What was holding you back?

Rozhkov: I was promised that the charges against me would be light: Article 167 in combination with Article 30, which translates into “attempted destruction of property,” and carries a maximum sentence of five years. But, after looking at the other cases, I realized that sooner or later, Article 205 [“terrorism”] would be rolled out against all of us.

I also wanted to spend as much time as possible with my family, with relatives and friends, so that I could at least somehow restore our relations and thank them. But ultimately I left. I was evacuated from the country.

How did your relatives react to your actions and to your prosecution?

Rozhkov: They said that I had acted stupidly, that it was impossible to go against the system and that I had let everyone else down. They accused me of suffering from a guilt complex. But I believe that I saved people and that my life is a small sacrifice compared to the number of people who survived thanks to what I did. Even if I had been shot when they were detaining me, I would still have achieved more than anyone else.

How are you feeling right now?

Rozhkov: I feel sad and lonely. I am not in my native country. But I have a friend — I am lucky that he ended up here for the same political reasons — and he helps and supports me. I am also supported by evacuation organizations. I feel pretty bad. But now I’ve purchased the medications prescribed by a psychotherapist, and things are getting easier and easier in my head every day. But sometimes a powerful sadness rolls over me, a melancholy due to the fact that I am lonely and had to leave the country.

Berezovsky and Sverdlovsk Region, on a map of the Russian Federation. Image courtesy of DOXA

When we were agreeing to do this interview, you said that after you had left [Russia], you tattooed the anarchy symbol on the back of your hand. Can you tell me about it for the interview?

Rozhkov: The symbol means a lot to me. I am an anarchist myself, a leftist; I espouse this political position. And although a society without powerful authorities and hierarchies seems like a utopia, we could get there. Power should belong to the people, not to a bunch of corrupt bastards who commit terrible crimes. My symbol also means that I share the views of the people who helped me when I was in prison. It says that I am close to these people. And that I, in turn, will also help political prisoners at the first opportunity.

Maybe you would like to convey something to Ukrainians?

Rozhkov: Yes, I would. I want them to know that there are dissenters, people [in Russia] who do not want war with Ukraine or any war at all. I hope that soon no one else will suffer due to this shit that Putin has made happen. Ukrainians are doing a good job of retaking their territory and destroying Russian troops. I think everything will be fine sooner or later. Ukrainians are very strong, motivated people and will defend their territory to the end. I respect them for that. I would have done the same thing in their place.

Source: Ivan Astashin, “‘I believe I saved people’: an interview with one of the first to torch a military enlistment office in Russia,” DOXA, 22 December 2022. Thanks to Simon Pirani for the heads-up. Translated by Hecksinductionhour

Mikhail Lobanov: Why Police Raided My Home

Mikhail Lobanov in August 2021. Photo by Kirill Medvedev

Why did the police raid my home?

The formal reason — as follows from the court ruling and what people from pro-Kremlin media have heard — is a fictitious “connection” between me and ex-State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev. This is a product of the meager imagination of the security forces. I have not interacted with Ponomarev in any way, either in 2022 or in previous years, neither personally, nor through other people.

Why did the authorities have to intimidate me? I have two possible explanations.

The first and most likely explanation is that Moscow City Hall was behind the raid.

The following facts speak in favor of this explanation.

1) PR support. [The Telegram channel] Kremlin Laundress, which published posts containing threats and attempts to denigrate me (including a week before the raid), is a “drain tank” for the mayor’s office. The secretary of the Communist Party City Committee told me about this more than a year ago: they had been watching [the channel] for a long time and had come to this conclusion.

2) There was no investigator present during the raid. The field agents who were on hand, having unenthusiastically asked me two questions at the outset — whether I was connected with Ponomarev, and whether I had delegated [Vladimir] Zalishchak and [Sergei] Tsukasov to some congress — did not return to this topic during the six hours we spent together. But they did spend a great deal of time trying to persuade me that I should not be involved in politics by making threats (while drawing parallels with [Ilya] Yashin and [Yulia] Galyamina) and giving me “friendly” advice.

3) The mayor [of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin] will run for re-election later this year, and his “victory” may further delegitimize the regime. In 2021–2022, my name was inextricably linked with the most successful opposition election campaigns in Moscow. Teams of like-minded people formed around me during both the municipal and the parliamentary elections. By mobilizing the enthusiasm of thousands of dynamic people, we defeated United Russia and corporate candidates. Political spin doctors and administrative resources were powerless against us. By accumulating the support of ordinary people, we achieved greater results than did candidates with exponentially larger campaign coffers.

Yes, our victories were stolen [through rigging] online voting. But even today, unbowed people can together find a way to use the mayor’s re-election campaign to organize themselves and make his “re-election” problematic.

For some reason, the Kremlin’s foreign policy “successes” in 2022 have not had the effect that the people who allocate tens of billions to state propaganda wanted. If the protest-minded segment of the electorate is mobilized in a minimal way, the construction business and ruling class candidate will enjoy only a Pyrrhic victory, one based on flagrant vote rigging.

A second possible explanation is that the raid on my home and my arrest are part of preparations to transfer power to puppet ultra-right revanchists.

In this case, what is happening to me reflects the fear of people with a consistent democratic anti-war stance on the part of officials, siloviki, and the oligarchs who have fused with them. We are trying to develop real trade unions and push the topic of blatant economic inequality onto the agenda.

After the ruling group’s collapse, the far-right revanchists will try to play the card of virtual “angry patriots” and maintain the existing system of domination. If they succeed, there will be a new dictator, increased crackdowns, a new round of spending on “security,” funded by a shrinking budget and, in the medium term, another senseless war.

But I believe that there are many dynamic people in Russian society who will be able to formulate a convincing left-democratic alternative and inspire tens of millions of other people. I look to the future with hope.

Source: Mikhail Lobanov, Facebook, 9 January 2023. Thanks to Simon Pirani for encouraging me to share this piece with my readers. Translated by the Russian Reader, who is much less hopeful about Russia’s future than is Mr. Lobanov. But more power to him!

News from Ukraine Bulletin 27

A Ukrainian flag at Il Vecchio Italian restaurant in Pacific Grove, California, October 2022. Photo by the Russian Reader

News from Ukraine Bulletin 27 (3 January 2023)

A Digest of News from Ukrainian Sources

News from the territories occupied by Russia:

Russia moves to legislate ‘impunity’ for all war crimes committed in occupied Ukraine  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 30th)

Crimean Tatar civic journalist sentenced to 11 years for refusing to collaborate with Russia’s FSB  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 30th)

Russians kidnapped 30 mayors, 7 of them went missing – Kyiv Mayor  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 30th)

Detention centre employee who helped torture Ukrainians found in Kherson  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 30th)

Abducted Ukrainian civic journalist sentenced to 7 years in brazen show of lawlessness in Russian-occupied Crimea   (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 29th)

Russia plans to imprison soldier who admitted to murder and plunder in Ukraine – for ‘circulating fake news’  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 28th)

“She did everything so that Ukraine could see: Crimeans are still waiting for liberation”: human rights activists called Iryna Danylovych’s sentence fabricated (Zmina, December 28th)

Russians threatened to kill abducted Crimean Tatar’s family if he didn’t sign fake ‘confession’  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 28th)

News from Ukraine – general:

Life during wartime (Alice Zhuravel on Twitter, January 2nd)

Ukraine prepares to give free rein to property developers  (Open Democracy, December 28th)

14 tons of humanitarian aid delivered to Donetsk (Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, 26 December)

Film about the working conditions of Ukrainian railway workers  (Spil’ne / Solidarity Collectives, December 27th)

Trapped in the Trenches in Ukraine  (New Yorker, December 26th)

Analysis and comment:

Special Issue on Ukraine  (Insurgent Notes, January)

“There is nothing cheaper in Russia than human life”  (Der Standard, December 31st)

Russia. Renaissance is not going to happen  (People & Nature, December 28th)

TikTok in service of FSB. How a social network for funny videos turned into a Kremlin propaganda mouthpiece  (The Insider, December 28th)

How Kremlin organizes pro-Putin rallies in Germany and why neo-Nazis participate  (The Insider, December 27th)

Multipolarity, the Mantra of Authoritarianism  (The India Forum, December 20th)

Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict in Ukraine? (Europe Solidaire, December 23rd)

Research of human rights abuses:

Homes and lives destroyed in northern Ukraine (Tribunal for Putin, 28 December)

Ukraine must ratify the Rome Statute now (Tribunal for Putin, 28 December)

“They put him in the basement, tortured him, and tore his tendons.” How Russia terrorizes ZNPP staff to keep a tight grip on the plant  (The Insider, December 22nd)

International solidarity:

Thanks to you  (Solidarity Collectives, December 29th)

==

This bulletin is put together by labour movement activists in solidarity with Ukrainian resistance. More information at https://ukraine-solidarity.org/. We are also on Twitter. Our aim is to circulate information in English that to the best of our knowledge is reliable. If you have something you think we should include, please send it to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com.

To receive the bulletin regularly, send your email to 2022ukrainesolidarity@gmail.com. To stop it, please reply with the word “STOP” in the subject field.  

The Olivier Index

The New Year’s spread on the tables of Petersburgers will be more modest this year than it was in 2021. They won’t have to skimp on ordinary goods yet, but delicacies such as caviar or red fish, as well as premium alcohol, will cost considerably more. Scammers and poachers who offer goods that aren’t readily available on the cheap may try to take advantage of this.

According to the Central Bank, annual inflation, as of November, was 11.98%. During the month, consumer prices increased by 0.37%; fruit and vegetables were among the items that rose most noticeably. Given that they are among the main ingredients in traditional dishes, we should expect that New Year’s Eve purchases will cost more.

Racing against inflation

As Svetlana Kazantseva, associate professor in the Basic Department of Trade Policy at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, told DP, the annual growth rate of food prices in Petersburg was about 10%, according to research data.

“Prices for dairy and meat products are growing more slowly, which is explained by cheaper animal feed. Taking into account the inflationary component and the desire to save money, we can assume that the amount of the average bill [for New Year’s supper], if it does increase, will be an order of magnitude smaller than the rate of annual inflation, that is, about 5–7%,” the expert notes.

Marina Petrova, CEO of Petrova Five Consulting, is partial to other estimates, according to which the New Year’s meal will cost an average of four thousand rubles, which exceeds last year’s level by 12%. The simplest traditional dishes are taken into account: Olivier salad, herring under a fur coat, jellied meat, chicken with potatoes, sausage slices, champagne, and vodka. If the menu is expanded to include roast pork, fish aspic, red caviar, red fish, cheese, and cognac, then the cost will double. But it should be borne in mind that the percentage of consumers who themselves cook the food for their holiday meal has been decreasing every year. Many people have long preferred to buy readymade dishes at the store or order them delivered to their homes. However, this year they are likely to purchase more budget-conscious options. The desire to save money will primarily impact delicacies, seafood, salmon fish, beef, and caviar. The annual growth rate in prices for fish delicacies and caviar is already higher than the inflation rate.

“Traditional New Year’s menu for residents of Petersburg [clockwise, from far left]: Olivier salad, herring under a fur coat, roast chicken, caviar sandwiches, hard alcohol, sliced cheese, sausage and fish, juices, champagne, mineral water, candy, cake, tangerines.”

Beware of fakes!

According to market participants, a decrease in the total volume of red caviar is expected due to a lower salmon catch in the Far East. It will be bring a higher price than in previous years, however. During the pre-New Year sales period, it is possible that we will see an increase in prices of 35–40% compared to last year. On average, pink salmon has risen in price by 25%, chum salmon, by 5%, sockeye salmon, by 15%, and trout, by 10%. According to the Fishing Union, this year the percentage of Pacific salmon red caviar on the Russian market is close to 100%. Prices for grainy caviar from Far Eastern salmon caught in 2022 increased by an average of 10–15%. However, last year’s caviar is also on the market at a more affordable price. According to Nikita Ostrovsky, a purchasing manager at Lakifish LLC, imported red caviar appears only sporadically on the Russian and Petersburg markets.

“We can talk about insignificant amounts imported from neighboring countries, such as Armenia and, to a lesser extent, Kyrgyzstan (red trout caviar is imported from there). This category of goods is in a lower price and quality segment by comparison with trout caviar, for example, from Karelia,” he says. Another factor are the Russian government’s measures to restrict the import of red caviar to stimulate domestic production.

Ostrovsky also warns that, since caviar is considered a mandatory part of New Year’s feasts, it is likely that buyers will look hard for cheaper offers — for example, at illegal points of sale, where it is offered at a price 50% lower than the average market price.

“This can be imitation caviar, which is sold disguised as the real thing. Caviar diluted with sunflower oil. Or obtained by poaching, without the necessary paperwork. In pursuit of profit, people are willing to purchase such products,” he points out.

In fact, imitation caviar is sold legally in many stores.

Participants of the delivery market expect an increase in orders of readymade meals for the New Year’s meal, despite everything. Many of them note that they usually experience an increase in customer activity on December 21.

“We don’t take orders all day, only until 8 p.m., and then we deliver them to customers’ homes. This time round, we expect the number of orders to double compared to normal days. We regularly observes this pattern on holidays. The average bill for orders in Petersburg should grow this year. In any case, last year it grew by about 25–30%,” Vera Pradchenko, CEO of VIP Fish [a service that prepares and delivers Japanese food], told our correspondent.

[From top to bottom of tree]
Cost of Olivier salad: 408 rubles (2021) vs. 455 rubles (2022); cost of herring under a fur coat: 269 rubles (2021) vs. 292 rubles (2022); cost of a no-frills New Year’s meal: 5909 rubles (2021) vs. 6737 rubles (2022); cost of a more expensive New Year’s meal: 8391 rubles (2021) vs. 10,909 rubles (2022). 40% increase in the per bottle price of imported alcohol in the more expensive meal. 20% increase in the price of premium cheese in the more expensive meal. 2.4% increase in the price of domestic salmon caviar in Russia as of October. Consumer price index for groceries in Petersburg in November: 2021 – 111.3%, 2022 – 108.9%; consumer price index for alcoholic beverages in Petersburg in November: 2021 – 102.8%, 2022 – 106.3%; increase in the price of red caviar in Moscow and Petersburg since the beginning of 2022: Moscow – 13.3%, Petersburg – 13.66%

We won’t be left without champagne

Alcoholic beverages are an equally important part of the New Year’s feast. This year, the patterns of purchases in terms of category is almost identical to previous years. Sparkling wines and vodka are still the primary drinks. But there have been changes within the categories. They have been caused primarily by the aftermath of the departure of global brands, explains Dmitry Isachenkov, director of development at Ladoga. “It is safe to say that Russian vodka will be on 90% of Russian New Year’s tables — here consumers prefer domestic products with festive designs,” he says.

After the brands that made up about 50% of the champagne market in Russia left the country, producers less dependent on the political conjuncture began filling the vacant niches. For example, Ladoga signed contracts with three new suppliers and imported 80 thousand bottles in 2022 by year’s end, which is four times more than by the end of last year. So, Russian consumers can easily find real champagne wines in Russia if they wish.

It is worth noting that the share of imports of wines from Champagne [sic] did not exceed 2.8% of the total volume of sparkling wine imports. The choice of the mass consumer will be distributed one way or another among the major Russian producers: Kuban-Vino, Derbent-Vino, Novy Svet, and Inkerman. Affordable imported sparkling wines — Italian proseccos, Spanish cavas, French cremants, and Austrian sekts — will invariably remain popular.

Isachenkov notes that the structure of purchases in the whiskey category has changed significantly — it is this category that has undergone the most powerful changes after the refusal of major brands to do business in Russia. Most consumers were ready to look for a replacement within the category, including among domestic manufacturers. Thus, sales of entirely Russian-made Fowler’s brand whiskey had by year’s end increased four and a half times compared to 2021. Other consumers have shifted to other categories and are choosing rum, tinctures, brandy or vodka. Sales of still wines increased in proportion to the other categories. At the same time, the product range of both importers and Russian wineries has been growing.

“We should not talk about the growth of the average bill, but about the increase in the cost of each item in the bill. For many, this is a long-awaited holiday after the emotional turmoil experienced during the year, and the consumer selects special drinks for celebrations above the usual cost,” the expert argues.

Different things matter

On average, the prices of the ingredients for Olivier salad have increased by 10% in Petersburg. Potatoes and onions have fallen in price, while he price of carrots has not changed. Green peas and mayonnaise have risen the most, by 20% and 17%, respectively. Herring under a fur coat has risen in price by 7%, primarily due to the main ingredient, herring (which has gone up by 20%), while beets have fallen in price by 32% and potatoes by 25%. However, the so-called Olivier index should be treated with caution.

The various indexes are more of a marketing tool to draw attention to the researcher’s brand. There is the lipstick index (launched by Estee Lauder), which is a litmus test showing how women react to changes in the economy. The American manufacturer argues that, when incomes fall, sales of expensive clothes and shoes decline, while sales of luxury cosmetics, on the contrary, grow. There is Deutsche Bank’s cheap date index (based on the costs of taxi rides, lunches at restaurants, and hotel rooms [sic]). There is the latte index (based on the price of a cup at Starbucks, now Stars Coffee in the Russian Federation) and the Big Mac index (based on the price of a hamburger at McDonald’s, now Tasty, Period). The iPod index has become an atavism.

In Russia, the Telegram channel Sugar. Portion. Collect maintains a cup of tea index by charting weekly changes in the average retail price3s of the ingredients in the Russian Federation. Other researchers use the statistics issued by Rosstat as their benchmark when calculating the cost of preparing borscht, Olivier, or herring under a fur coat.

“Any index is an indicator of rising or falling prices. You can use it to calculate how the cost of goods changes from year to year,” says Daria Zhigalina, a business automation services systems analyst at Kontur.Market. “It is important to understand that all indices are real economic indicators, albeit served up in a humorous package. Every year we see how official agencies publish data on the basket of consumer goods. Everyone has been accustomed to this indicator for a long time and knows that it can be used to assess the quality of life in the country and the purchasing power of the populace.”

According to the expert, by assessing the fluctuations in the cost of ingredients, we can analyze the economic situation separately in each region and in Russia as a whole.


For retailers, the New Year’s Eve period is a time when they can increase their revenue. Judging by the foot traffic in stores, the current situation will most likely not affect retail chains negatively since their turnover is growing. At the same time, the structure of sales will be redistributed towards traditional and inexpensive goods. In my opinion, retail has already begun to change the structure of its offerings, reducing the number of goods above the average price. In this regard, premium retail chains may be in a less advantageous position.

—Irina Kapustina, Director, Graduate School of Service and Trade, St. Petersburg Polytechnic University

Caviar has not been imported [to Russia] since 2014, after government restrictions on the import of certain types of food were enacted. Prior to this, Russia imported frozen red caviar from the USA and Canada. Here it was processed and sold in salted form. The salmon catch this year amounted to 300 thousand tons, and 13–14 thousand tons of caviar were produced. Last year, the catch was over 500 thousand tons, while more than 20 thousand tons of caviar were produced. Compared to last year, the shortfall is 30%. Despite the fact that the supply of caviar is much lower than last year, the price has not increased. If there were a further rise in prices, people would simply stop buying it. It is possible that before the New Year some sellers will raise prices, but they will bring them back down after the holiday.

— Alexander Fomin, Vice–President of the Fishing Association

The growth in the price of goods that have always been considered delicacies — caviar and salted salmon— is indicative. They have doubled in price over the year, and the same dynamic is typical for most other frills. This year, salmon will be largely replaced by trout, which is cheaper, and eggplant caviar will be preferred. Real incomes fell in Petersburg by 2.7%, according to official statistics. By my calculations, for a business person, the celebration of the New Year will be about one and half times more expensive than a year ago. The selection has become somewhat smaller, but if you want them, you can find all the goods you need. We should especially not envy pensioners living on their own. The subsistence minimum doesn’t take factor in the cost of such events.

—Anatoly Golov, Co-Chairman of the Consumers Union of Russia

Russians have no reason to skimp on their New Year’s meal. On the contrary, consumer spending on the New Year’s meal may increase due to both inflation and the fact that some Russians will not be able to celebrate the New Year outside the Russian Federation and will spend money at home. Recently, statistics were published that about 15% of the population have experienced an increase in income, while 20% have experienced a decrease. Consequently, some consumers will still increase spending for the New Year and their average spending will grow at a level slightly higher than inflation.

—Artyom Tuzov, Executive Director of the Capital Markets Department at IVA Partners Investment Company

Source: Darya Zaitseva, Darya Dmitrieva & Yevgeny Petrov, “Petersburgers won’t be serving caviar and red fish on their New Year’s tables,” Delovoi Peterburg, 23 December 2022. Infographics, above, courtesy of Delovoi Peterburg. Translated by the Russian Reader


The morning begins with me looking at the light on the computer monitor. If it is on, it means there is still electricity. When I see that the light is on, I immediately get up and go put on the kettle to refill the thermoses. We got hold of the simplest gas stove, and you can of course heat water on it. But first of all, there is not an endless supply of gas and we skimp on it. Secondly, I am afraid of these stoves: over the past month they have exploded four times in our district alone. I walked past the residential buildings where these stoves exploded and saw the broken windows and cracks in the walls. It’s a little scary, let’s just say.

After I put the kettle on, I get on the Telegram channels. I have to find out whether there were [missile and drone] attacks at night, and if so, whether they hit infrastructure. Now this is the most terrible thing, because if it suddenly turns out they hit infrastructure, it means that soon there will be no heating and water. So then I start rushing between washing and drying my hair, charging the power banks and flashlights, getting the laundry going, and cooking food. You never know when the lights will go out and that’s why you do everything quickly, all at once. You feel like a trained circus animal.

When I’m going somewhere, I always put a few flashlights in my backpack. It’s strange to imagine that not so long ago a flashlight was not a mandatory item. Now it is a “must have” (my phone suggests writing “must heh” — heh!), like a medical mask during the time of covid. It’s even more important! When I go outside and travel somewhere, I never know if there will be light where I’m going. Most often there is no light — or cellphone connection for that matter. I hate this feeling of being in a vacuum: there is no mobile internet, no telephone connection, no light, and no matter what happens to you, you won’t even be able to call an ambulance. You’re living “in the moment,” damn it. Where there is no light, the elevators don’t work. I usually walk slowly up to the sixteenth floor by an isolated dark staircase. Somewhere on the eighth floor there is usually an old, peeling stool on which I can sit in the dark and take a break. I usually don’t need such a rest, but sometimes I turn off the flashlight and sit on this stool in the dark and listen to the wind blowing in the stairwell.

Last week I got stuck in the elevator: while I was going up, the lights turned off and the elevator stopped and went dead. There was a chair inside and a box containing water and medicines. I sat down, but quickly froze. Immediately, before the phone connection disappeared, I had telephoned my husband and asked him to call the help hotline so that they would get me out of there. Otherwise, it was possible to get stuck there and sit for four to seven hours. My husband got through to the hotline in half an hour — he was the twentieth in the queue. Half of the city sits in frozen elevators every day. They pulled me out of there.

When I’m returning home in the evening, I make a wish: please let there be light at home. I ride in a minibus and nothing is visible through its windows since neither the streetlights nor the traffic lights are working. I have developed a “sense” of a way that I cannot see, but I know and understand where I’m going and when I need to get out. After walking up and down all these stairs and unlit streets, I really want to find the light on at home for at least half an hour. If, when approaching our building, I see that there is no light, I slow down. There’s nowhere else for me to hurry — it’s dark and pointless everywhere. Life in general has become quite hectic. Although I have hated hurrying and scurrying my whole life, now I have to hurry and scurry.

Sometimes I manage to find a store where the lights haven’t been turned off yet. It’s like going into a church: it’s light and warm there and your mood improves a little just because you’re in a store and it’s bright inside. The prices have been shooting up monstrously and I wander the aisles for a long time figuring out what I can buy to fit my modest daily budget. But basically, since the light began to leave us, I have got used to eating rusks and croutons in different flavors. I’d never bought them before — they’re not my kind of food — but now they are quite handy. First, they are relatively cheap, and second, they come in different flavors. It’s the illusion of variety. Third, they don’t need to be cooked.

I went to see my mom yesterday. We discussed all these common everyday problems of ours. And then Mom decided to make a joke and asked:

“What are you all doing for the New Year?”

Neither she nor I laughed.

Source: Sergey Abashin, Facebook, 15 December 2022. Professor Abashin is quoting a letter he received from a Ukrainian friend or colleague, but he does not identify her by name or mention where exactly she lives. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Siege

[Blue sign] “Citizens! During artillery attacks this side of the street is the most dangerous.” [Small plaque below blue sign]: “This sign has been preserved in memory of the heroism and courage of Leningrad residents during the 900-day siege of the city.” Photo courtesy of Pavel Karavashkin/Fontanka.ru

Alexander Beglov said that Siege survivors “fully support” the fighting in Ukraine

🪖 At the Petersburg municipal government’s final session this year, the celebration of the breakthrough of the Siege [of Leningrad] was discussed. The governor of the city stated: “Veterans and Siege survivors approach the current difficult situation with understanding. They express their full support to our soldiers. Siege survivors from Donetsk have traveled here. In their life there was heroic Leningrad, and today there is the heroic Donbas. All these years they have preserved the memory of their hometown and the Siege.”

Beglov stressed that not a single Siege survivor should freeze during the festive events.

🪖 Elena Tikhomirova, the 88-year-old board chair of the organization Residents of Besieged Leningrad, was invited to the session. She thanked the governor, invited him to tea, and asked him to tackle unpatriotic advertising.

“The only thing I want to say is that you need to pay attention to advertising,” Tikhomirova said. “I ask the heads of districts to pay attention to advertising. We once raised the issue that there should be as little advertising in English as possible. But now the special military operation is underway. We need to be more patriotic, as they say. So that everyone in our city approaches this issue more patriotically.”

🪖 In an interview with a Yevgeny Prigozhin-owned publication, in 2021, Tikhomirova stressed that the most important thing that the Russian authorities had managed to achieve was many years of “peacetime.” “This year is the seventy-sixth anniversary of [victory in the Second World War]. And there has not been a single war since then. [Young people] were gifted life,” she said. She did not mention “peacetime” this year.

Source: Rotunda (Telegram), 27 December 2022. Translated by TRR