Nikolai Sentsov and Alexander Orshulevich. Photo by Oleg Zurman. Courtesy of Mediazona and OVD Info
Alexander Orshulevich was sentenced to eight years in a medium-security penal colony, while Alexander Mamayev and Igor Ivanov were sentenced to six years. Although Nikolai Sentsov was sentenced to three years in a work-release colony, he was freed in the courtroom for time served in remand prison.
Orshulevich, Mamayev, and Ivanov were found guilty of making public calls to engage in terrorist and extremist activity, punishable under Articles 205.2 and 280.1, respectively, of the Russian Criminal Code. Orshulevich was also found guilty of creating an extremist community (Article 282.1.1), and Mamayev and Ivanov were found guilty of involvement in a terrorist community (Article 282.1.2). Sentsov was charged only with possession of firearms and explosives, punishable under Articles 222.1 and 222.1.1, respectively.
The prosecutor’s office had asked for sentences between six and ten years in prison for the accused men, who denied all wrongdoing.
aAlexander Mamayev and Igor Ivanov. Photo by Oleg Zurman. Courtesy of Mediazona and OVD Info
Initially, all four men were charged with “extremism,” but then the indictment was changed to more serious charges—organizing and being involved in a “terrorist community.” Orshulevich was then indicted on five charges. In early April, the court reclassified the charges: three of the defendants now faced “extremist community” charges, while Sentsov faced only the possession charge.
Orshulevich, who is accused of organizing BARS, said that during the search of his flat, police put a plastic bag over his head and roughed him up.
The fantastic story of how a small Moscow monastery has contrived to sue the state and take over a huge wing of the Fisheries Research Institute forces us to take a closer look at at a church official who has long remained partly in the shadows, Mother Superior Ksenia (Chernega), abbess of the selfsame St. Alexius Convent that sued the state and, simulaneously, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s legal department. Chernega is not entirely unknown to the public. She has often been quoted in official reports of restitution of large pieces of real estate to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). However, as holder of a “boring” post, she has not been particularly prominent in the public eye.
And that’s too bad. Chernega is not only one of the most influential women in the ROC (in 2013, she took fourth place in an internal church rating) but also a successful raider who skillfully manipulates clerics and laymen alike. The adjudged research institute, a huge building that incorporated part of the foundations and a wall of a demolished church, is the most striking but hardly the largest victory in her career. The 46-year-old Oksana Chernega (her name until 2009, a name she still uses in secular contexts) is probably the longest-serving staff member of the Moscow Patriarchate’s legal office. She has worked there since 1993, while also working in secular law schools, achieving professorial rank. She became a leading authority on church law in the early 2000s. Generations of politicians and MPs have come and gone, but Chernega has the whole time testified at hearings of the relevant parliamentary committees and governmental review boards, lobbying the laws the ROC has wanted passed.
Her main achievement has been the law, signed by President Medvedev in late 2010, “On the Transfer of Religious Assets in State or Municipal Ownership to Religious Organizations.” It is this law under which movable and immovable property has been transferred to the ROC the past six years. Yet the Church has behaved capriciously, taking only what looks good or has real value. The Perm Diocese is unlikely to restore to its former use the huge military institute that took over what used to be its seminary: there are catastrophically few people who want to go into the priesthood, and the poor diocese is incapable of maintaining the enormous premises. But how sweet it is to get a huge building on the river embankment in the city center as a freebie. Whatever you do with it you’re bound to make money.
But not everything has been had so smoothly. The property the ROC has set its sights on has owners, and they are capable of mounting a resistance. That is when Chernega takes the stage. When she announces the Church has set its sights on a piece of real estate, it is usually a bad sign. The day before yesterday, it was St. Isaac’s Cathedral, yesterday it was the Andronikov Monastery, today it is the Fisheries Research Institute. What will it be tomorrow? Anything whatsoever.
On the eve of March 8 [International Women’s Day] and amidst the debates on feminism in Russia, it would seem that Chernegas has pursued a successful, independent career as a woman in the Church. But it’s not as simple as all that.
It is well known in ecclesiastical circles that Chernega acts in tandem with a notable priest, Artemy Vladimirov. He is not only confessor at the St. Alexius Convent but is also well known throughout the Church. A graduate of Moscow State University’s philolology department and rector of All Saints Church (a neighbor of the convent and the reclaimed fisheries institute), Vladimirov is a glib preacher who specializes in denouncing fornication; he is, therefore, a member of the Patriarchal Council on Family and Motherhood. The council has become a haven for the Church’s choicest monarchistically inclined conservatives, including Dmitry Smirnov, who has led an aggressive campaign against Silver Rain radio station, Konstantin Malofeev, Igor Girkin‘s ex-boss and, concurrently, an expert on web-based pedophilia, and the wife of Vladimir Yakunin, former director of Russian Railways, a billionaire, and former KGB officer.
Vladimirov vigorously espouses monarchist views and has made a huge number of basically stupid public statements, such as the demand to remove a number of works by Chekhov and Bunin from the school curriculum and a call to campaign against Coca-Cola. Such radicalism is not rare in the ROC, however, Since the late 1990s and the publication of the novel Celibacy by church journalist Natalya Babasyan, Vladimirov has served as a clear example for many observant and quasi-observant Orthodox believers of where the line should be drawn in interactions between a priest and his flock, especially his young, female parishioners.
Because of this reputation, Vladimirov has remained in the background even during periods when the grouping of monarchists and Russian nationalists to which he has belonged has had the upper hand in the ROC. But if you can’t do something directly, you can do it indirectly, and Oksana Chernega has come in very handy in this case. As is typical of a young woman in the modern ROC, she is utterly dependent on her confessor. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Orthodox fundamentalists and monarchist heterosexuals developed a curious lifestyle. Young and handsome, usually university grads with the gift of gab, and often married, many of them newly arrived in the Church, they formed small “communities” consisting of young women, communities with unclear or flexible status in terms of ecclesiastical law.
In theory, a convent is established by order of a bishop, and a married or elderly priest is appointed as the convent’s confessor. He does not live on the convent’s grounds and is present there during “working hours,” when he has to serve mass and take confession from the women who inhabit the convent. As part of the so-called Orthodox revival, a monk or a young priest who had “complicated” relations with his wife would first form a group of female “adorers” in the church, later organizing them into a “sisterhood” and then a “convent community,” which he would settle in a building reclaimed from local authorities, sometimes the site of a former convent, sometimes not. He would immediately take up residence there himself in order to “revive Orthodoxy” and denounce fornicators and homosexuals in the outside world. The record holder in this respect was Archimandrite Ambrosius (Yurasov) of the Ivanovo Diocese, who built a huge convent in Ivanovo, where he officially lived in the same house as the mother superior and yet never left the apartments of the rapturous Moscow women whom he had pushed to come live with him after they had bequeathed their dwellings to the convent.
For those who did not want to leave the capital even nominally, historical buildings in the city center were found. That, for example, was the story of the ultra-fundamentalist Abbot Kirill (Sakharov), who took over St. Nicholas Church on Bersenevka opposite the Kremlin. There, according to a correspondent of mine, “the Old Believer girls creatively accessorized their robes with manicures.” In Petersburg, the so-called Leushinskaya community, led by the main local monarchist Archpriest Gennady Belobolov, has been “restoring” a church townhouse for twenty years. However, the archpriest himself lives on site, while his wife raises their children somewhere else in town. It is a good arrangement for a young man from the provinces: come to the capital, occupy a large building in the city center under a plausible pretext, and shack up there with attractive and spiritually congenial sisters in the faith while putting on shows at press conferences stacked with selected reporters and confessing pious female sponsors who are thrilled by their pastor’s superficial strictness and inaccessibility.
So in this system of interwoven personal and political interests how could one not help out a dear friend? The affairs of the alliance between Vladimirov and Chernega, especially when it comes to dispensing other people’s property, are so broad and varied that observers sometimes wonder whether it isn’t time for police investigators to have a crack at them.
Where do you think the part of the church community sympathetic to Belovolov’s plight would want to transfer such a managerially gifted and cultured pastor, a pastor capable of creating a little museum and one who knows a thing or two about restoration? To St. Isaac’s Cathedral, of course, and the post of sexton, the chief steward of the church and its property. What would Chernega, who is coordinating the legal aspects of transferring such a huge chunk of public property, have to do with this? Formally, of course, nothing, and it isn’t a sure bet that the appointment will take place, just as it’s not a sure bet the ROC will get its hands on the entire cathedral.
FADN Called on to Protect Ethnic Russians
Irina Nagornykh Kommersant
July 27, 2016
Nine percent of Russian citizens feel they are discriminated against ethnically. In some regions, for example, Tuva, such citizens constitute as many as twenty-six percent, and they hail from the Russian-speaking population. These figures were arrived at by pollsters commissioned by the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs (FADN), Igor Barinov, the agency’s head, said yesterday at the Terra Scientia camp. Barinov promised to protect the ethnic Russian population in such regions, and said next year the agency planned to earmark 170 million rubles [approx. 2.3 million euros] on grants for projects in the field of interethnic relations.
Barinov cited the results of a сlassified Georating survey conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) while speaking to young people at the Terra Scientia Russian Education Youth Forum on the Klyazma River on the last day of a session that brought together young experts in the field of interethnic relations. According to Barinov, the poll was conducted in June at the FADN’s behest. Pollsters discovered that, on average nationwide, nine percent of the population experienced ethnic discrimination. In certain regions, however, such as Karachay-Cherkessia and Tuva, the situation was more tense. In Tuva, twenty-six percent of citizens complained of ethnic discrimination.
According to Barinov, the number coincided with the number of Russian speakers resident in Tuva, which means we can assume it was this segment of the population who felt they were ethnically discriminated against. Barinov was asked who would protect the interests of ethnic Russians. According to some young people in the audience, ethnic Russian were not as well organized in defending their interests as other ethnic groups in Russia. Barinov cited the fact that 115 million ethnic Russians resided in the Russian Federation, which constituted eighty percent of the country’s population, and in places where the ethnic Russian population predominated, as in Central Russia, this assistance was social and economic in nature. But in regions like Karachay-Cherkessia and Tuva, he promised to protect ethnic Russians.
“We have the authority,” he stressed.
Responding to the same question, Magomedsalam Magomedov, who oversees ethnic relations in the presidential administration, said the “Russian people’s historical mission [was] to unite Russia’s ethnic groups,” and the outcome was the “emergence of a unique civilization whose national leader is President Vladimir Putin.”
“None of the ethnic groups in Russia can feel good if the Russian people feels bad,” concluded to Mr. Magomedov.
According to Barinov, next year the FADN plans to allocate around 170 million rubles on grants for projects in the field of ethnic relations.
“If everything is okay with the budget. We’re at the head of the Finance Ministry’s queue,” he added, reminding the audience that the FADN is awaiting the transfer of the part of the Federally Targeted Program for developing Crimea that concerns the rehabilitation of ethnic groups repressed during Soviet times.
Campers will receive several grants in the amounts of 300,000, 200,000, and 100,000 rubles to support existing interethnic policy projects in the country’s regions from the camp’s organizers: the Russian Federal Public Chamber, Rosmolodezh (Russian Federal Agency for Youth Affairs), and the presidential administration’s Office for Domestic Policy. Moreover, the FADN plans to summarized suggestions made by the campers on concepts for celebrating National Unity Day (November 4), including the brand Russian Braid, which would weave together all the peoples of Russia, comics about different ethnic groups on buses, video clips in airports, and the project Travel with Purpose, which would involve ethnic youth exchange tourism. Session participants plan to appeal to the present not to limit the celebrations to one day a war, but to declare an entire “year of national unity.”
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the heads-up
Who Is Ahtem Chiygoz? The Story of a Crimean Tatar Political Prisoner
Ehor Vasylyev 112 UA
July 29, 2016
A Case That Will Last for Years
Ahtem Chiygoz was arrested on January 29, 2015, as part of the so-called February 26 case. That day he went to the State Investigative Committee in Crimea for questioning, and in the evening the illegitimate Kyiv District Court of Simferopol sentenced him to three months in police custody.
Chiygoz was charged under Article 212.1 of Criminal Code of the Russian Federation: organization of riots accompanied by violence and destruction of property.
Russia accuses activists of being involved in the “riots” on February 26, 2014, which arose near the Crimean parliament during two rallies, one held by the supporters of Ukraine’s territorial integrity , another, by activists of the party Russian Unity.
Since Chiygoz’s arrest, the Crimean courts have been periodically extending his time in police custody. (The last time it was extended until October 8, 2016.)
From March 8 to March 11, 2016, Chiygoz was a hostage: a so-called judge of the Crimean Supreme Court, Galina Redko, arbitrarily (extrajudicially) extended his time in jail.
In addition to Chiygoz, other Crimean Tatars have been charged with involvement in the “riots”: Ali Asanov, Mustafa Degermendzhi, Eskender Kantemirov, Arsene Yunusov, and Eskender Emirvaliev.
The first two have been in police custody for over a year. Another two men, Eskender Nebiev and Talat Yunusov, have already been convicted and sentenced to probation.
In February 2016, two years after the events, the court decided to re-investigate the case. Chiygoz, Asanov, and Degermendzhi were forced to remain in custody.
On July 20, the preliminary hearing began, but it was closed to the public. The Supreme Court of Crimea proposed to divide the case and try Chiygoz separately from the other defendants.
“There are 80 injured parties and witnesses: the case could drag on for years. The court usually questions one or two witnesses a day,” says one of Chiygoz’s lawyers, Emil Kurbedinov.
An Alien Land
Russian prosecutors accuse Ahtem Chiygoz of acts carried out in Ukraine by a Ukrainian citizen against other Ukrainian citizens. Russian prosecutors have prosecuted only Crimean Tatars.
The prosecution is trying to assert the right of the Russian justice system to react to the February 26 rally, which was allegedly directed against Russian interests. The prosecutor general says Russian Unity had a special permit for holding a rally, while the Mejlis did not have such a document.
In addition to violence during the riots, Chiygoz is accused of destruction of property.
“Unidentified Crimean Tatars rushed into the Crimean Parliament, damaged and destroyed its property in the amount of 9,730 rubles,” claims one of the court documents. However, a few hours after the incident, armed Russians occupied the Crimean Parliament and also damaged property.
“Ahtem Chiygoz at first took a moderately radical position. The prosecutor’s office called him a man ‘in charge of the Mejlis power bloc.’ In winter 2014, he openly expressed the quite radical position that we should not recognize anything,” noted First Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis Nariman Jalal.
In fact, Chiygoz’s position coincides with the opinion of Ilmi Umerov, who is known as an experienced, fairly moderate politician. Ilmi Umerov is quite close to Chiygoz. They both belong to the Bakhchisarai wing of the Mejlis.
“In 2014, we organized many pickets, along the roads, near the military units. Ahtem was actively involved in organizing these events,” says Umerov.
Chiygoz was warned about avoiding “extremist activity,” and some people even complained about him to the Russian FSB. However, Chiygoz did not stop his work, and a month before his arrest, he attended a meeting between Crimean leaders Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov and Ukrainian President Poroshenko.
“Chubarov had five deputies, and Ahtem was the main one,” Umerov explains.
Dzhemilev and Chubarov were refused entry to Crimea as a part of a Russian plan. The Mejlis should be headed by a collaborator. Ahtem Chiygoz was the main obstacle to implementing this plan.
“The Russians believed that Chiygoz encouraged them to rebel. That was why they decided to remove him. At the same time, Chiygoz has been a ‘show’ victim: do not stick your heads out, otherwise your fate will be the same,” stresses Nariman Jalal.
But the plans to co-opt the Mejlis have failed.
“It was a miscalculation. They thought Chiygoz was a kind of central link. They failed to realize the majority of the members of the Mejlis took the same position as Chiygoz; they did not want to be co-opted,” adds the First Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis.
Chiygoz called upon all Crimean Tatars to harshly boycott compatriots who collaborated with the occupying power.
“Different challenges have befallen our people. And we deal with them with honor! No one can break us with prisons or camps! We are not afraid of searches and arrests! We cannot be fooled by puppets! Crimea will never be without the Crimean Tatars,” Chiygoz has written from prison.
And his name is etched in gold in the history of Crimea.
The original of this article was published, in Russian, by Ukrainska Pravda. I have lightly edited the heavily abridged English translation, above, to make it more readable. TRR
Alexander Pushkin was like the Prophet Elijah or something, and a Putinist avant la lettre, according to Sergei Nekrasov, director of the National Pushkin Museum in Petersburg, as quoted by the dubious FAN (Federal News Agency):**
Пушкин предугадал постоянные столкновения с Западной Европой и вообще с Западом. Он предугадал бездуховное, но мощное и наступательное развитие Северо-Американских Соединенных Штатов, как тогда говорили. Он не питал иллюзий по поводу США. Все говорили: «Ах, новая страна! Демократия!» — и так далее. Но Пушкин в своих записках в этом крепко усомнился.
[“Pushkin foresaw the constant clashes with Western Europe and the West in general. He foresaw the soulless but powerful and aggressive evolution of the United States of North America, as they were then called. He had no illusions about the United States. Everyone said, ‘Ah, a new country! Democracy!’ and so on. But in his memoirs Pushkin strongly questioned this.”]
Today, June 6, is Pushkin’s birthday, by the way. If the great poet had not been gunned down by French national Georges d’Anthès in 1837 as part of a plot engineered by fifth columnists, foreign agents, and foreign-funded local NGOS, he would have been 216 today and still, no doubt, thrilling us with his poignant verses and chilling prophecies.
Maybe he would have even been a contestant on the reality TV show Битва экстрасенсов (Battle of the Psychics).
Thanks to KV, a true connoisseur of Russian language and literature, for the heads-up.
** She pointed to a board that displayed a makeshift directory of the building’s current occupants. The names were printed out on small scraps of paper, and none of them were Internet Research. But I did recognize one: “FAN,” or Federal News Agency. I had read some news articles claiming that FAN was part of a network of pro-Kremlin news sites run out of 55 Savushkina, also funded by Evgeny Prigozhin. Former Internet Research Agency employees I had spoken to said they believed FAN was another wing of the same operation, under a different name. I asked to speak to someone from FAN. To my surprise, the receptionist picked up the phone, spoke into it for a few seconds and then informed us that Evgeny Zubarev, the editor in chief of FAN, would be right out to meet us. (Adrian Chen, “The Agency,” The New York Times Magazine, June 2, 2015)
BORN: A Graphic Reportage by Victoria Lomasko How the most brutal nationalist gang in Russia was tried Apri1 21, 2015 Meduza
On Tuesday, April 21, the Moscow Regional Court will render its verdict in the trial of the Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists (BORN), one of the most violent nationalist gangs in Russia. They have a series of murders of immigrants and antifascists to their credit, as well as numerous attempted murders. In addition, BORN members murdered a federal judge, Eduard Chuvashov. A jury tried the members of the gang. In their verdict, the jury acquitted one of the defendants, Yuri Tikhomirov (who continues to serve a sentence, handed down earlier, for involvement in the murder of antifascist Ilya Dzhaparidze). The three other defendants—Mikhail Volkov, Vyacheslav Isayev, and Maxim Baklagin—were declared wholly or partially guilty, but deserving of leniency for most of the counts of the indictment. However, prosecutors have requested life sentences for Baklagin and Isayev, and twenty-five years in a maximum-security facility for Volkov. The final decision is now up to the judge.
Throughout the trial, artist Victoria Lomasko worked in the courtroom. Meduza presents her graphic reportage on the BORN trial. Meduza special correspondent Andrei Kozenko, who also followed the trial, has annotated the drawings.
Photography was strictly forbidden at the trial. It was Tikhomirov who petitioned the court to ban photography; he was the only of the four who completely denied involvement in the gang. The other defendants supported his claim. They said that Tikhomirov was “slow on the uptake,” and was of no use at all in serious matters, such as planning murders.
Moscow Regional Court Judge Alexander Kozlov presided over the trial. Overall, he was exceptionally tactful and pointedly polite.
“I understand nationalism and all that, but why did you have to kill?” he asked at one point.
Only one thing was forbidden in Kozlov’s courtroom: mentioning that the criminal case had obvious political overtones, that the ultra-rightists had been communicating with people from the presidential administration through a series of intermediaries, and that BORN itself was a project that could not have been conceived without their involvement. Kozlov ruthlessly barred all attempts to discuss this.
Baklagin is a lawyer by training. He honestly testified that one of the murders was committed on a particular day, because on other days he had to be in court early in the morning. Baklagin was charged with six counts of murder, accessory to murder, and attempted murder. He said that he committed the crimes to restore the justice that was absent in the Russian state.
Mikhail Volkov is a veteran football hooligan and member of the skinhead gang OB-88. He did hard time for a nationalist pogrom at the Tsaritsyno Market in 2002. Several times he was forced to explain he got neo-Nazi tattoos when he was “young and stupid,” but had later changed his views. Volkov was charged with one murder committed on his own and another murder committed with an accomplice. He himself said that his motives were about the same as those of Robin Hood.
Ilya Goryachev’s testimony was billed as one of the key episodes in the whole trial, but it did not turn out that way. Educated as a historian, nationalist and spin-doctor Goryachev is regarded by investigators as the organizer of BORN. His case is being tried separately; it has only just been sent to trial. He served as a witness at the main BORN trial. He was expected to name the names of people close to the Kremlin who had in some way been involved in the Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists. But Goryachev denied everything. He allegedly did not even know any of the defendants.
The testimony of the defendants was riddled with inconsistencies. Judge Kozlov occasionally accused them of trying to shield themselves and evade responsibility. One of their main arguments was that BORN did not exist. Volkov, in particular, insisted he had heard the acronym only after he had committed the crimes.
Yuri Tikhomirov sat quietly and spoke the least of all. He had never heard of any such gang, had been involved in only one point of the indictment, and had received a ten-year sentence for that crime before the others had been charged. The jury believed him.
A significant part of the evidence against the defendants consisted of photos and video. In particular, thanks to surveillance cameras, prosecutors were able to prove that Volkov had committed one of the murders.
Prosecutors repeatedly attacked the ideological aspect of the BORN case. The nationalists did not want Russia to become like France, which was “swamped with immigrants.” However, they themselves had never been to France. And yet they sought information about future victims on ultra-rightist websites and in the media.
The hearing during which the physical evidence—the weapons seized from the gang—was presented was like a trip to a theme park. The BORN members used sawed-off hunting rifles and pistols, manufactured in the early twentieth century. They came by these weapons, apparently, through people who illegally excavate battlegrounds.
The mother of antifascist Ilya Dzhaparidze left Moscow for Georgia after her son was murdered. She could not go back to the flat where she lived with her son. Few cursed the defendants as she did. The defendants only looked away.
Another mitigating argument mustered by the defense was that contemporary antifascists are nothing like the ones we saw in Soviet films about World War Two. They are an aggressive subculture with whom the nationalists would fight, including on the streets. It sounded plausible, but still did not answer the question of why it had been necessary to commit murder.
The defendants’ relatives rarely came to the hearings and never together. They sat with the reporters, glancing occasionally at the ultra-rightists as they gave testimony. They flatly refused to talk to the press.
Baklagin asked to be sent to fight in the Donbas: his blood would atone for what he had done. BORN is closely linked to Ukraine. Volkov had escaped there before being extradited back to Russia. One of the most violent members of BORN, former FSB officer Alexei Korshunov, had escaped to Zaporozhye and died when a grenade he was carrying exploded. Finally, another suspect is still in hiding in Ukraine. According to unconfirmed reports, he is even fighting against the separatists.
Nikita Tikhonov and his common-law wife Yevgenia Khasis gave the most detailed testimony against the BORN members, which visibly irritated the latter. Tikhonov is serving a life sentence for the murders of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. Khasis is serving eighteen years as an accessory to the murders. On the sidelines, the lawyers did not rule out that Tikhonov was taking responsibility for more than what he had done so that he could stay in a Moscow remand prison—near the crime investigation scene—rather than in the transpolar prison for lifers with its incredibly poor living conditions. Khasis just wants to get out early.
It took a very long time to empanel the jury in the BORN trial. Ordinary residents of Moscow Region were not chomping at the bit to serve on the jury. The defendants themselves rejected several candidates for “looking like antifascists.” Nevertheless, a jury was seated and they produced a verdict in the trial. The defendants were found worthy of leniency. But not Baklagin and Isayev, who had shadowed Judge Chuvashov. (The late Korshunov was deeemd to be his killer.) The chance of a life sentence for them persists.
Those who followed the trials called the jury’s verdict a little too soft on some counts. But be that as it may, only Tikhomirov was acquitted.
Court juries have this peculiarity: all parties to the trial focus the attention of jurors less on the legal aspects and try more to play on their emotions. No lawyers are empanelled, after all. Both the prosecutors and the defense asked the jury to be fair. It rendered its verdict. The judge will turn the verdict into specific sentences for the BORN trial defendants.
Editor’s Note. I thank Victoria Lomasko and Meduza for their permission to translate this article and reproduce Ms. Lomasko’s reportage here. All illustrations courtesy of and copyright Victoria Lomasko and Meduza. Translated by the Russian Reader
Editor’s Note. Confused readers might imagine that the following (excerpted) screed from the hilariously named website The Saker (for the ornithologically challenged, the saker is a falcon used in falconry) is an apology for fascism. Actually, they’d be right.
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“There are no separate Russia or Ukraine, but one Holy Rus” – Elder Iona of Odessa
The year 2014 saw an unprecedented surge of patriotism in contemporary Russia, which resulted in popularizing the notion of the Russian World. One reason for increased patriotic sentiment was Crimea’s return to the home port after the overwhelmingly positive vote by its majority-Russian residents in a referendum one year ago. The onset of the liberation war in Donbass from the West-backed Kiev regime was the other. This war truly delineated the stakes for the existence of the Russian World. The latter is not an ethnic, but a civilizational concept that encompasses shared culture, history, and language in the Eurasian space within a traditionalist framework. To a certain extent and despite the obvious ideological differences, the Russian Empire and the USSR embodied the same geopolitical entity. A particularly noteworthy aspect of the ongoing crisis in Donbass is the symbolism—religious and historic—that surpasses the commonly used, but outdated Left-Right political spectrum. In the Russian context, this also means overcoming the Red-White divide of the Communist Revolution. That this war pushed Russians to examine their country’s raison d’être is somewhat remarkable: for two decades its citizens did not have an official ideology, prohibited by the Constitution that is based on Western models. The emergence of a new way of thinking in Russia will become clearer once we refer to the meaning of religious insignia, wars—Russian Civil and Great Patriotic, as well as the question of ideology in the Postmodern world.
In fact, post-Liberal ideology is one of the factors that blinds many Westerners to the realities of the liberation war in Donbass. The current Western model of citizenship is an abstract one: it centers around a set of principles in which individuals are interchangeable—as long as they adopt “European values” or the “American way of life”—instead of the more traditional notions of rootedness in the landscape, cultural and linguistic ties, and ancestral bonds. Thus, those who subscribe to this abstraction have difficulties understanding how belonging to the same people (narod) overrides living in two different states—contemporary Russia and Ukraine—haphazardly formed at the time of the Soviet collapse, and why they seem so attached to their language, culture, religion, history, and land that they are willing to die for them. But even for those Russians that lean toward more traditionalist thought, it took this war—the war that was meant to separate—to ideologically and spiritually unite them with others like them across the border, to begin questioning who they really are, uncertain, but hopeful, forging the idea of the Russian World. Beyond Left and Right, Beyond Red and White.
Extractive nationalism is a machine for turning the nation into a resource for the imaginary regeneration of empire (whose present prospects are, nevertheless, ever more real). Hence the demographic policies of the 2000s, the concept of the “Russian world” (now also equipped with the right to intervene militarily on behalf of compatriots abroad), and the precedent of territorial expansion. In this case, there is another, geopolitical aspect to the resource state’s demodernization: a return to the imperial idea, which ignores both the postmodernist model of globalization and the modernist model of the nation-state. (Although the new empire has been assembled under the quasi-national cover of the “Russian world,” the Russian language, and Russian culture, thus papering over the conflict between the national and the imperial.) The conversion of fossil fuels into one of the main instruments in the war for imperial influence is only the most brutal and aggressive version of the total resource-driven mentality we are discussing.
Thus, the logic of the resource state is deeper than Alexander Etkind writes.* It is not merely that the elite triggers demodernization, turning the populace into an object of paternalistic care based on the charitable redistribution of income derived from the sale of natural resources. It also has to do with the fact that the “modernization project,” the official agenda of the 2000s and 2010s, consists in transforming the populace itself into a natural resource, as it comes to be seen in terms of the same pragmatic struggle for limited resources.
“There is increasing competition for resources. And I want to assure you, dear colleagues, and emphasize that [it is a competition] not just for metals, oil, and gas, but primarily for human resources, for intelligence. Who shoots ahead, and who remains an outsider and inevitably loses their independence, will depend not only on economic potential, but first and foremost on the will of every nation, on its intrinsic energy; as Lev Gumilev said, on its passionarity.”**
We are confronted here with a typical example of translating the discourse of nation into the organicist language of energy resources. Victory in international competition is vouchsafed to those who realize that not only natural but also symbolic resources (“spiritual bonds”) are limited and also need to be placed under state control. If Russia’s economic potential is based on metals, oil, and gas, its human resource consists in the capacity for appropriating “intrinsic energy,” the “will of the nation.” Thus the Russian state’s superextractivity can be described not only as the economic exploitation of “natural resources […] almost without the populace’s involvement” (Etkind, p. 164) but also as the political exploitation of the populace, turned into raw material for the reproduction of the elite.
The values to which the elite appeals in its search for national identity—the historical past, Russian culture, the Russian language—are turned into the exact same sort of raw materials.*** Its ideological obsession with “spiritual principles,” “historical origins,” “tradition,” and “cultural foundations” is defined by the selfsame chthonic horizon of the earth’s depths as the mineral resources on which the elite’s material prosperity and political stability objectively depend. The dialectic of current Russian (de)modernization involves making Russia’s future dependent on intensively exploiting its past (represented as its natural or cultural heritage). A resource is a condensation of the past; it inhabits the present in concentrated form.
The constructed “national tradition” and de(modernization) are deployed in keeping with a simplified version of the Marxist dogma of base and superstructure. In our case, the base is occupied by resources (mineral resources fuel the economy, while the resources of national tradition drive ideology and cultural policy), while the superstructure emerges through modernizing technology for exploiting these same resources. That is why, in a resource state, modernization inevitably devolves into demodernization—a circular movement that over the longer term will increasingly deplete material resources and thus become more dependent on symbolic resources. Hence the increasingly strident attempts to put them under state control: as the final victory of the resource-driven mentality approaches, the struggle for resources has only exacerbated. Natural resources, public institutions, people, and values are converted into raw materials for strengthening the current political order’s stability.
In the end, extractive nationalism itself is a resource for the production of raw petropatriotism. The petropatria is a homeland for the petromacho in which everyone else has to live as well, that same populace for whom it is time to make their choice between their country and oil.
Not is only Georgy Poltavchenko, Petersburg’s unelected governor, a capable administrator and a pious Orthodox Christian, he is also, as he revealed last week during a passionate speech delivered at a special powwow with law enforcement officials and “representatives of ethnic diasporas,” a psychic, a mind reader or remote viewer capable of hearing what migrant workers in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are saying as they depart for the former capital of All the Russias (apparently, to wreak mayhem, judging by further remarks made the governor and others at the high-level confab):
“So your countrymen travel to our country, to our city, in particular. They travel from distant villages there and so on. And just as they’re about to board the plane or the train going to Russia, they say, ‘We’re going there because the Russians don’t know how to work! They’re all drunkards. They’re all loafers!’ But members of the nation to which I myself belong, the Russian people, over the course of a thousand years created an enormous state along with other peoples. And if those loafers and drunkards hadn’t built the Russian state, who knows what the people who come to our country thinking such thoughts would be doing nowadays. I want everyone to remember what I’m about to say: the Russian people are a people that I won’t permit anyone to walk all over!”*
* As quoted in: Maria Gordyakova, “Make yourselves at home, but don’t forget you’re just visiting,” Gorod 812, December 2, 2013, p. 12; the online version of the article (which has a different title) can be accessed here.
The anti-capitalist movement is stronger than Putin and no matter how many activists end up in jail, Putin can’t stop working class opposition growing daily more visible on the streets of Moscow and elsewhere.
As we reported earlier, the march organizing committee had reached an agreement to ban the participation of nationalist organizations and the use of nationalist slogans. However, today, 15 September, anarchists who came to the march discovered a column from the nationalist group People’s Will carrying a banner that read, “Free, social, national.” Nationalists marching under black banners chanted slogans about “Russian socialism,” as well as anti-feminist and homophobic chants.
After chanting anti-fascist slogans and “Don’t disgrace the black flag” in response, the anarchists, along with members of the Left Socialist Action and Rainbow Association column, decided to leave the event before the start of the march. As they left, they shouted, “We came to AntiCap, / But all we found was crap!”
A number of anarchist and anti-fascist groups had earlier decided to boycott AntiCap because information had appeared on the social networks that nationalists would come to the protest.
The virtual merger of the leftist movement with nationalist groups that attempt to blend incompatible ideas in their propaganda and aesthetic is a trend that cannot help but disturb members of the anti-fascist movement. The mass protests in Russian in 2011–2012 have already led to the legalization of nationalist discourse within the civil protest movement, despite the opposition of anti-fascists. New ways of combating fascist infiltration of the non-systemic opposition to the current regime must be sought.
Homophobes attack activists from the Rainbow Column at the Anti-Capitalism March in Moscow. September 15, 2013. Video by Dmitry Zykov