First, if you know someone who might like this newsletter, please forward it to them.
Next, the story. I know many people this week are focused on the killing of Russian blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in St Petersburg. We are working on that (stay tuned).
But I want to talk about the long-term impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine and the social crisis it has caused in my country.
In this case, it’s about Ukraine’s teachers, who are facing serious salary cuts against a backdrop of high inflation, prices, rents and costs of basic services.
It’s a story about who is paying the price of Russia’s war, which has caused hundreds of billions of dollars of direct and indirect damage to Ukraine.
To do it, I spoke to teachers, local officials and trade union activists to find out how the Ukrainian government is being forced to pursue austerity – and what that means for hard-working people across the country.
I found that some local authorities are managing to pick up the shortfall in central grants – while others just can’t do it, as tax income has dropped off following the invasion.
Either way, local officials know it’s political suicide to fire people en masse, and have to scramble and scrape to get through the funding shortfall.
But it feels like a crisis postponed – rather than solved.
This tool is called a chicken debeaker. It does exactly what you would expect with a name like that…it partially removes the beaks of chickens in order to reduce cannibalism, egg cracking, and feather pecking. This debeaker would be plugged into an electrical outlet which would heat the opening, like a hot guillotine. The chicken would then be held in place by a human with their beak in the opening. The human would then close the opening by stepping on the foot pedal on the ground thus trimming off a portion of the chicken’s beak. Debeaking is a common practice today in many egg laying facilities although the ethics of this practice has been called into question by many opponents of debeaking.
Source: Murray County Historical Museum, Facebook, 18 October 2022. Lightly edited to eliminate typos.
We are announcing a contest for the most interesting story about how you learn Russian!
To enter, you need to publish a post or shoot a video in which you talk in Russian how and why you started learning Russian. You can tell us what difficulties you have encountered and what funny stories have happened to you during your acquaintance with the “great and mighty” language. If you have something to share, then we are waiting for your post.
Be sure to tag the Rossotrudnichestvo account and add the hashtags #ILearnRussianRS #RussianHouse #Rossotrudnichestvo.
The contest will run from October 15 to November 15. On November 22, we will announce three winners on our social media accounts. They receive an annual subscription to the electronic and audiobook service ru.bookmate.com.
The Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Russian: Федеральное агентство по делам Содружества Независимых Государств, соотечественников, проживающих за рубежом, и по международному гуманитарному сотрудничеству), commonly known as Rossotrudnichestvo (Russian: Россотрудничество), is an autonomous Russian federal government agency under the jurisdiction of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and cultural exchange. Rossotrudnichestvo operates in Central Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe (but mostly in the Commonwealth of Independent States).
The agency was created from its predecessor agency by Presidential decree, signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on 6 September 2008, with the aim of maintaining Russia’s influence in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and to foster friendly ties for the advancement of Russia’s political and economic interests in foreign states.
According to OECD estimates, 2019 official development assistance from Russia increased to US$1.2 billion.
Rossotrudnichestvo was assessed by expert observers to be organising and orchestrating synchronous pro-Russian public rallies, demonstrations, and vehicle convoys across Europe in April 2022 in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Demonstrations were held simultaneously in Dublin (Ireland), Berlin, Hanover, Frankfurt (Germany), Limassol (Cyprus), and Athens (Greece).
Specialists from Russian Ministry of Defense have started construction of 12 residential buildings in Mariupol in June 2022. About 2.5 thousand residents will occupy more than a thousand apartments in new five-storey buildings. The flats will be fully renovated.
Commercial and non-commercial property and social facilities, such as shops, will be on the ground floors. There will be recreation areas, children’s and sports grounds with full equipment, including play and exercise facilities.
In Mariupol, it will be one of the first such complexes.
Source: Russia House in Kathmandu, Facebook, 17 July 2022
So, what’s to be done? The United States needs to open a diplomatic channel with Moscow to get a clearer sense of what would be an acceptable settlement for all parties. Right before the invasion, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman indicated “possible support” for an approach in which Ukraine would pledge military neutrality and give up its bid for NATO membership. If it will stop the suffering of ordinary Ukrainians, why should the United States not encourage Ukraine to put that back on the table now? Given its ongoing struggles with corruption and undemocratic practices, Ukraine is still far from meeting the democratic criteria of NATO membership anyway.
Promises of unlimited support only embolden what is starting to be seen as the Ukrainian president’s “reckless stubbornness” in outright rejecting the possibility of territorial concessions. President Biden has repeatedly expressed that there are limits to U.S. assistance — it does not help Ukraine to pretend otherwise. It is rare that a war ends in total defeat, and it is not realistic to expect Moscow will fully retreat. U.S. policy must now shift to embrace this reality, and plan for the months ahead when deep divisions within the Western coalition grow, and when, in a lopsided war of attrition, Ukraine might lose even more ground.
Mark was born and raised on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He received a BA from UPenn, an MA from Columbia, and a PhD from USC’s Annenberg School. His doctoral research examined international transitions of journalism from statist to capitalist media models.
Mark worked on John Kerry’s presidential campaign and the 2008 Obama campaign. During the Obama administration, he regularly provided political and policy analysis on MSNBC, FOX News, and CNBC. His writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, TIME Magazine, PBS, Politico, The Huffington Post, NBCNews.com, and elsewhere.
His knowledge about the role which media play in driving — and sometimes thwarting — democratic progress was what first caught the eye of EGF. And Mark was excited by the innovative and important work being led by Allyn Summa and Ian Bremmer at the new organization. Mark wanted to work in the world of ideas, but also knew that world all too often seemed unapproachable to most Americans. He wanted to help foster a conversation around the urgent foreign policy challenges our country currently confronts. EGF has enabled him to do just that.
He currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two young sons. After a childhood on Cape Cod, he enjoys spending as much of his free time as possible at one beach or another. He is learning to whittle, but despite being from a long line of carpenters, has found it to be quite challenging. He loves reading, and George Saunders, Philip Roth and Marilynne Robinson are among his favorite authors.
What strikes me as particularly undeniable is that the absence of the feeling of belonging to a class is characteristic of children of the bourgeoisie. People in a dominant class position do not notice that they are positioned, situated, within a specific world (just as someone who is white isn’t necessarily aware of being so, or someone heterosexual). Read in this light, Aron’s remark can be seen for what it is, the naive confession offered by a person of privilege who imagines he is writing sociology when all he is doing is describing his own social status. I only met him once in my life, and immediately felt a strong aversion towards him. The very moment I set eyes on him, I loathed his ingratiating smile, his soothing voice, his way of demonstrating how reasonable and rational he was, everything about him that displayed his bourgeois ethos of decorum and propriety, of ideological moderation.
Kateryna burst into tears when describing how she saw some 2,000 dead bodies with her own eyes. The shooting made it impossible to go in and help, despite the desperate pleas of bystanders.
“Russian units were occupying our flats, and I saw them shooting at civilians from the streets from the apartments. I was travelling around with a medical kit, trying to evacuate them to the main hospital, but then the Russian soldiers captured it too, using the patients and medical staff as human shields.”
On her last day in Mariupol, the road was destroyed, so she had to travel on foot. She saw a car that had hit a tree, with the driver already dead inside.
But then she spotted a teenage girl sitting in the back of the car. “Get out, we need to leave, they’re bombing here,” Kateryna told the teenage girl. On the other side of the car, a woman was lying in a pool of blood, moaning.
She realised that these were the girl’s parents, but she knew that with projectiles flying overhead she could only help one person — so she had to make the horrifying choice between saving the mother or the daughter.
Seeing that the younger woman was still able to walk, she chose the daughter. When she got her down the stairs of the shelter, Kateryna saw that the woman’s shirt was so full of blood that she was not able to wring it out.
When she was finally evacuated from the Black Sea port city, thousands of dead bodies were still on the streets, but she received messages from friends saying that Russian soldiers forced the remaining civilians to clean up the bodies to hide their crimes.
Now safe in Warsaw, Kataryna believes she will never forget what she has seen.
Source: James Jackson, “‘I was praying we would die quickly,’ Mariupol survivor says,” Euronews, 12 July 2022
As of the morning of May 1, around a hundred billboards featuring the image of the iconic pensioner who gained famed after the events in Ukraine [sic] had been installed in different districts in Petersburg. Fontanka.ru has analyzed the scale of this visual statement. The news-related intrigue lies in the fact that state agencies have nothing to do with the campaign.
In the early hours of May 1, identical posters bearing the image of the famous pensioner holding a Soviet banner were officially installed in about one hundred outdoor media displays in Petersburg.
News about the woman broke out back in April, when she went out with a red banner to greet servicemen in Ukraine, confusing them with Russian soldiers. Her age, her deed, the reaction of the Ukrainian soldiers, and the video that went viral on the Net immediately turned her into a symbol of victory. The old woman’s face has appeared on DPR postage stamps, graffiti artists began to draw her in different cities in Russia, and so on. Even the Russian Federation’s delegate at the UN Security Council talked about her.
Currently, the images of the heroic old woman have been installed in the Central, Admiralty, Petrograd, Vyborg, Maritime, Kalinin, and Moscow districts. These include both large billboards and typical demonstrative surfaces [sic] along the roadways.
The urban spaces chosen for this campaign can be analyzed. The images have been installed near places of authority: on Suvorov Prospekt, next to the Smolny [Petersburg city hall], the seat of the Leningrad Region government, and the Interior Ministry building; on Tapestry Street, near the FSB building; on Horse Guards Boulevard, near St. Isaac’s Cathedral; and around the monument to Alexander Nevsky, outside the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
However, many similar phenomena [sic] have popped up on Moscow Prospekt, Pulkovo Highway, and the October and Vyborg embankments.
Fontanka.ru has learned that state (regional or federal) agencies did not pay for the campaign. Petersburg advertising market insiders, on terms of confidentiality, informed our correspondent that they had heard about the proposal from representatives of a private individual in mid-April. “It’s definitely a businessman. We are sure of this at least, since we called each other when we began receiving preliminary inquiries,” one of the insiders said.
As for the scale, according to the information we have obtained, the order received was for the placement of one hundred billboards at an approximate cost of around ten million rubles [approx. 139,000 euros]. “And that’s if they got a discount,” one source added. Several of our experts more or less agreed with this figure.
If someone in the advertising market has more accurate information, Fontanka.ru is ready to listen to it with a full guarantee of anonymity.
Source: Fontanka.ru, 1 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
A Cult of Dementia
Putin’s red-brown ideology has taken the worst of Nazism and Bolshevism and mixed it with the cartoonish oligarchy from Dunno on the Moon. The final product has no equals anywhere in the world.
Just think about it. For several months now, Russian propaganda has been chewing over the image of a traitorous old Ukrainian woman who was waiting for the invaders with a Soviet flag. Compassionate Ukrainian soldiers gave her food, but took away her flag. That’s the whole story.
But no, the story didn’t end there. In Russia, the crazy old woman was made a real hero, and her image began to appear on buildings. But the occupiers have driven themselves into an ideological trap: no one except such “young Komsomol women” was looking forward to seeing them in Ukraine. The invaders were not greeted with flowers and bread, but were treated to Molotov cocktails and poisoned pies.
If you think about this story more deeply, the old lady with the Soviet flag perfectly reflects the main watchword of Putin’s Russia, its underlying doctrine, and the true purpose of invading Ukraine: our lives have sucked and we won’t let anyone else live either.
She is thus undoubtedly a hero to Russia, as is Pavlik Morozov. Russia has nothing to offer the world. It offers a rollback to the past and endless attempts to cash in on lost “greatness” instead of progress, old age instead of youth, betrayal instead of loyalty, and humiliation instead of pride. So, an old woman holding a Soviet flag is the most accurate symbolic depiction of modern Russia.
It’s funny, because the propagandists don’t care about Russian pensioners or about veterans of the Second World War. Old people in Russia live out their days (they live them out, they don’t live) in want and humiliation, in terrible conditions and hopelessness.
Source: Andrey Churakov, Facebook, 2 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader
The Zombie box. Smart people have been trying to persuade me that it is not a matter of propaganda at all, but that it has to do with the peculiarities of Russian culture and history, or with the psychology of the Russian populace, with complexes and resentments. As for the latter, I don’t really understand how one can deduce a particular reaction to current political events from such general categories as “culture,” which consists of many different things, nor do I really understand how so many complexes and resentments about Russia and the world naturally arise in the head of a specific person who mainly thinks about their own everyday problems. But as for the former — that is, propaganda — there is no theory for me here. Instead, there is the daily practice of observing my nearest and dearest: how this dark force literally enchains them, how this poison contaminates their minds, how these people repeat verbatim all the stock propaganda phrases and figures of speech, passing them off as information and arguments, and how they lose the ability to hear objections. Perhaps it isn’t the Zombie box that is the matter, but just in case, I advise you to turn it off and try to expel Saruman from your brains.
Vladimir Putin’s speech at the concert and rally in Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, 18 March 2022
Putin Marks Crimea Anniversary, Defends ‘Special Operation’ in Ukraine in Stadium Rally Moscow Times March 18, 2022
Russian President Vladimir Putin led a pro-government rally that was beset by “technical difficulties” and reports of people being forced to attend.
The event marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which is not recognized by most countries, came three weeks into Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine that has sparked fierce international condemnation.
“We have not had such unity for a long time,” Putin said, referring to the “special military operation” in Ukraine as he addressed the crowd of about 95,000 and another 100,000 outside the stadium, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium was awash with Russian tricolor flags as snippets from Russia’s military insurgency in Crimea flickered across the stadium’s screens, accompanied by songs that celebrated the success of Russia’s military.
A number of guest speakers, including RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, spoke from a stage emblazoned with the phrases “For Russia” and “For a world without Nazism.”
Many guest speakers were wearing orange-and-black St. George’s ribbons in the shape of a Z, a new symbol of support for Russia’s Armed Forces in the wake of the invasion.
Putin’s impassioned speech defended Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, citing the need to protect those in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region from a so-called “genocide.”
“This really was genocide. Stopping that was the goal of the special operation,” said Putin, who was wearing what has been identified as a $15,000 parka.
But the broadcast of his speech came to an abrupt end as Russia 24, the channel broadcasting the event, switched to footage of a military band playing on the same stage.
Russian state television is tightly controlled and such interruptions are highly unusual.
The Kremlin later said that the broadcast was “interrupted due to technical problems on the server.”
Reports prior to the event stated that many of those in attendance had been forced to attend, with state employees used to bolster the annual celebration’s numbers.
“They stuck us in a bus and drove us here,” one woman told the Sota news outlet outside the stadium.
Meanwhile, a photo shared by the Avtozak Live news channel suggested that event-goers were offered 500 rubles to show up to the event.
Videos circulating on social media showed streams of people leaving the stadium some 20 minutes after the event had started.
Crowds were subject to rigorous security checks when entering the stadium, as the atmosphere in Moscow remains tense amid the Kremlin’s decision to launch a military operation in neighboring Ukraine that many Russians have voiced opposition to.
The event’s strict guidelines also banned any symbols associated with Ukraine or the West, according to an unconfirmed report by the Baza Telegram channel.
Despite what appeared to be a festive mood in the crowd, a number of independent journalists were detained near the stadium, according to Sota, all of whom were later released.
In addition to referencing the Bible, Putin closed his address by invoking naval commander Fyodor Ushakov, who is now the patron saint of Russia’s nuclear bomber fleet.
“What a coincidence that the special military operation should fall on [the commander’s] birthday,” the Russian president said, as onlookers whooped in agreement.
Alexander Kynev: “A moment of patriotic joy. I don’t know if there is anything more bogus. Even the Young Pioneer line-ups of my childhood were more natural.”
The video Mr. Kynev has embedded on his Facebook page is entitled “Zapolarye Za Mir” — “The Arctic for Peace.” The activists identify themselves as “residents of the Murmansk Region” (and, indeed, are standing on a hill overlooking Murmansk itself.) In addition to the newfangled Russian “Z” swastika, the hoodies sported by the lead troika of “activists” are also emblazoned with the “We Don’t Abandon Our Own” slogan that featured heavily in Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and has been revived for the new invasion. ||| TRR
“People are to blame…”
I stopped by Perekrestok and was blown away. Bananas were 140 rubles a kilo, pre-washed carrots were 100 rubles a kilo.
The hypermarket itself is open until eleven p.m. nowadays, not around the clock.
“Prices have really gone up. Is this all because of the w*r?” I say to the middle-aged woman at the checkout.
“No, it’s not just because they’ve attacked the neighbors. It’s because of the people.”
“The people who unleashed it all? I hope they will be held responsible…”
“No, because of the people, all of us, who allowed this gang to take over Russia. And each of us will bear our share of responsibility for this. And bananas at 140 a kilo are still just icing on the cake… We are to blame for what happened. Everyone who let this happen. Everyone who ‘wasn’t interested in politics.'”
I’m a translator, an academic, and a US citizen. Over the past week I have received many dozens of emails from people all over Russia who are desperate to leave and looking for any way out of Russia and into a stable academic or arts-related position.
The one I’ve translated here (with permission from the author, whose personal information has been removed) is both characteristic and particularly exhaustive, and reveals a lot about the situation in Russia now. Just as the prospect of a “war in Europe” and “World War III” has activated memories of the Second World War, in Russia the new crackdown on free media and civic protest has dredged up a lot of cultural trauma around Stalin-era repressions, particularly among the intelligentsia. Postmodern apocalypse rules, with totalitarian concentration camps and 1984 rubbing shoulders (see also Nadia Plungian’s piece analyzing the 20th-century’s death-grip on the modern-day cultural imagination in Russia).
The specters of the twentieth century are additionally deleterious in the way they constantly bring back and elevate specifically Russian suffering. While this suffering is linked to real, undeniable and still largely unprocessed trauma, it feeds into the self-absorption and political passivity that underpins the state of things in Russia today (I don’t have to point out certain parallels with the US and mainstream American culture). It’s not my place to blame Russian citizens for what their insane government is fomenting in Ukraine; there is just clearly much work to be done to build civic consciousness and a functioning society.
Although I was born and have spent my whole life in Russia, I am, ethnically speaking, half Russian and half Ukrainian: my grandparents are from Ukraine, and even quite recently I was thinking about applying for Ukrainian citizenship in order to move to a normal, free country, all the more so since I have roots there, but I took too long to decide and now the war has canceled all of those plans. What’s happening right now in Ukraine puts me literally into a state of shock, and what’s happening in Russia makes my hair stand up on end from horror and the realization that this is not a bad dream or nightmare that one might at least eventually wake up from.
This inhumane and senseless war that Putin is waging against Ukraine, which the Russian governmental media insist on calling a “special operation” (while using the word “war” carries the threat of criminal charges), this is only half of the hell, the other half is happening inside Russia. In downtown [city’s name redacted; it is not a capital city], I witnessed the police arresting he small number of people protesting the war. The police used truncheons to shove a grandma holding a “NO WAR!” sign into a paddy wagon. I can’t get my head around the fact that being pro-peace is a crime now. But there are very few protests, the people capable of thinking, the ones who understand how absurd what’s happening is, they’re spooked and scared of protesting lest they end up crippled or have fabricated criminal charges pinned on them.
But the worst thing is that many people, including my former colleagues from the theater, absolutely support this hell that Putin is creating right now in Ukraine, this totally unprovoked and unjustifiable, senseless and bloody slaughter. A huge majority of people has been zombified by the propaganda on TV and are openly welcoming this war, thoughtlessly reproducing the TV propagandists’ fascist, misanthropic slogans. And it’s impossible to convince them otherwise, they brand any rational argument a “fake” and hate the people who argue with them. Today, near my building, I saw that my neighbors had painted the “Z” symbol on their cars, this new swastika that marks the Russian military equipment going to attack Ukraine. They’re all in favor of the hellishness, the blood and death, the war. It’s so scary.
The most absolute insane and absurd madness is being fomented, madness that has no sense and virtually no grounds. Besides this bloody war, besides the sanctions that the entire civilized world has imposed on Russia, here inside the country right now the most severe censorship is being implemented, the last free media outlets that covered the last alternative points of view are shutting down. This is the end. They have been destroyed simply because they called the war a war. There are new laws being passed that threaten fifteen years in prison for telling the truth, and who knows how long it will take before they bring back the firing squad for any kind of freethinking. The prime minister already voiced his support for [restoring] the death penalty. Every day things get worse and worse, and the end is nowhere in sight.
This is a surreal nightmare! Reality just all of the sudden lost its mind. In the blink of an eye everything turned from a vague sort of dictatorship into a totalitarian concentration camp along the lines of Orwell’s 1984, and this is no exaggeration. Soon nothing will be left here besides crowds of insane, poverty-stricken people, completely turned to morons by fascist propaganda, their last bit of reason lost, roaring bloodthirsty slogans, and they will simply destroy anyone who allows themselves to think differently.
I just don’t know how to go on living in this concentration camp that Putin is building here in Russia. Before the start of the war, one could at least try to live one’s life, to be free, to make a living through one’s art and not engage with the universal vector of militarization and dumbing down, to have some kind of hope and plans for the future, but now that’s over, there is no hope left. Navalny is in prison, the opposition has been totally crushed, and the state media, radio and TV, all without exception just repeat one and the same lies, lies, lies and nothing but lies, while the non-governmental sources of information are either already closed or are being destroyed and persecuted. The state is mercilessly rooting out even the weakest rudiments of free speech and of rational thinking in general. It’s terrifying to be here amidst this hell.
While I was writing this I got the news that PayPal and Payoneer announced that they would not be doing business in Russia anymore, and that means I will literally be left without any source of income for my creative projects, while working as an actor in this country involves propaganda in one way or another, because free creative activity has not been possible here for a long time. I became convinced of this myself when I left a theater whose management literally threatened the acting troupe to get us to vote for the candidate they wanted.
I’d like to just live peacefully, make art, learn new things, create beauty, and work to build a bright and joyful future. But now wanting peace will just get you beaten up and thrown in prison. I don’t know what to do and how to go on living.
Translated and prefaced by the Fabulous AM. Photo by the Russian Reader