“We Had a Delightful Crew in the Paddy Wagon”: An 80-Year-Old Petersburg Anti-War Activist Tells Her Story

Liudmila Vasilyeva is detained at an anti-war February 24 at Gostiny Dvor. Her placard reads, “No war, please” Photo: Artyom Leshko/Novaya Gazeta

We met with Liudmila Nikolaevna Vasilyeva in between demonstrations. On February 24 she—a survivor of the WWII-era Siege of Leningrad and a Soviet veteran of labor—was arrested outside the Gostiny Dvor shopping center and taken to a paddy wagon. Her plan for February 27 was to buy flowers, take them to the Solovetsky Stone, and then to be on Nevsky Prospect [the main drag in St Petersburg] with the other protesters by 4 p.m. 

“I managed to go to the hairdresser’s this morning before you came. I hadn’t had a haircut for nearly a year because of covid.” 

Wearing a sober black dress and pearl necklace, Liudmila ushered me into her apartment. At the entrance we were met by her tomcat Africus and a kitten named Flash Drive recently picked up on the street. 

“They woke me up the morning of the 24th, they were meowing,” Liudmila recalls. “I turned on TV Rain right away, where I heard about the war. My tears came flooding out, my blood pressure went up to 200—I haven’t experienced anything like that in ages. Back in 2014 when it was all just starting with Crimea and they hadn’t started fighting in Donbas, I asked my son Denis to print out a poster saying “No to the fratricidal war” and went out to picket. Vitaly Milonov called me a Banderovite then, but I was just talking to people: ‘Mothers, how can you be silent and not come out in protest, it’s your sons who will be killed!’ At work my co-workers kept assuring me ‘Liuda, there won’t be a war!’ But I could see what was going on and I remember everything as if it was happening right now.”

“I don’t believe there are Nazis in Ukraine,” Liudmila continues. “People there want freedom, while Putin wants to re-establish an empire. My heart hurts for everyone: for our boys who’ve been sent to fight, and for the Ukrainians. How could I not go to the demonstration?”

Her son Denis told her over the phone where and when the solo pickets would be happening. He currently lives in Germany.

“I felt helpless for a long time, kept asking myself: what can I do, how can I stop this? When my son called on the morning of the 24th, I told him right away, ‘I’m going out to protest! Just tell me where to go and when!’ And then I got ready and headed out. I got out of the subway and saw girls with placards. They didn’t even have time to unfold them—they were all arrested immediately. I said, ‘Give me your placard—I’ll stand there in your place!’ Of course, the police came running up right away. But I didn’t hand over the placard, so they took me off to the paddy wagon with it unfolded.”

“We had a delightful crew in the paddy wagon,” Liudmila smiled. “The girls were already there, some twenty-year-old boys with a bouquet of carnations—not even my children’s age, my grandchildren’s. We said hello and I suggested, ‘Why stay silent, let’s yell “No war!”’ And we yelled really really loud in the paddy wagon—maybe they could even hear us out on the street. One of the girls recited some of her poetry, I recited ‘Where does Russia begin’ by Viktor Bokov, and we all sang [Boris] Grebenshchikov’s ’Train on Fire’. When I hang out with young people I become younger myself. And then I started teaching the ones in masks and helmets a lesson: ‘Guys, look who you’ve arrested. Kids! It’s easy enough for you to wage war with them, but for some reason you’re afraid of [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov.”

“They took my [internal] passport and at this point, evidently, they realized that I really am a survivor of the Siege—it’s written there in my passport where and when I was born. They started asking me whether maybe they should call an ambulance for me. I said, ‘I don’t need any ambulance, and I’m not going anywhere—I’m staying here with the young people.’Then they came in again: ‘Let’s go!’ And this time the kids said ‘Go on, go on.’ So I went—got out of the paddy wagon and once again started yelling ‘No war!’, and told the young folks in parting, ‘I love you. You’re marvelous!’”

After releasing her, the police decided to drive Liudmila home in their police car.

“At first I said that I didn’t want their help and asked them to let me out by the subway.”

She added: “I don’t need a ride: you’ll try to plant drugs on me.”

“But they said they’d been ordered to do it. Then I started talking with them. One of them was silent the whole time, but the other one talked with me.”

On the way home Liudmila softened and invited the policemen in for tea, but they declined, saying that they weren’t allowed when in uniform.

“And then—I had already gone to bed—the doorbell rang. I put my robe on and peeked in the peephole—there were two people, not in uniform, a man and a woman carrying a bag. They said they came from police headquarters to apologize and had brought something sweet to eat. I’m not supposed to have sweets because of my age, but I made tea and had a ‘preventive conversation with them—we spent more than an hour sitting in the kitchen. They claimed that the men who had detained me were not police, but [Russian National Guardsmen]. I said it was all the same outfit. They appeared to more or less agree with me. I sent them off with the wish that they live in such a way that they would not be ashamed of what they were doing.”

“You see, I talk with everyone,” Liudmila explained. “We are people and we must try to get through to everyone. I can give examples: they earn practically nothing, while Sechin gets a million a day, at their expense. They’re all kids to me. And they have their own kids. I try to awaken a little goodness in them, so that the police hear something humane instead of aggression in response. I urge them to read the news from various sources, to have an opinion of their own instead of one imposed on them—many of them reply to me with phrases straight from the TV.”

Liudmila calls herself a “progressive lady”: she watches RBC, Euronews, and the Culture channel, reads the news from several different media sources, and listens to podcasts on her laptop.

“I tried to watch Russia 1 and RT to see what they’re saying there, but I couldn’t listen for more than three minutes: they’re roaring, calling names, so much noise and aggression and not a single true word. We are threatening the entire world and have gotten to the point that every single one of our words has to be fact-checked. But I don’t just watch the news, don’t get the wrong idea. I read books too. I started reading Nabokov’s Lolita but haven’t been able to finish it because of everything that’s going on.”

“Boris, my husband, loved to read,” Liudmila goes on. “When we visited people he always went straight to the bookshelves—to see whether he might borrow something. It’s too bad that he passed away nearly twenty years ago. He was very clever and erudite—and he educated me when we first met. I was an idealistic Soviet girl. I listened to what they told us—by the way, it’s practically the same as now: enemies all around, we’re defending ourselves all alone. I would say to Boris, ‘But in the paper it says this, on TV they say…’ And he’d reply, ‘And have you seen what’s written on the fences?’ He taught me to think. So when I was invited to join the Party, I said no: ‘As long as the Party people are like you, I’m not joining. You say one thing but in fact you’re fawning and two-faced.'”

Liudmila Vasilyev shows us her Leningrad Siege survivor ID. Photo: Artyom Leshko/Novaya Gazeta

When the war [WWII] started, Liudmila was two months old. She stayed in Leningrad with her mother.

“Of course I don’t remember anything from the first years, but I do have fragmented memories from closer to the end of the Siege,” she said.

“I remember how ice from the kitchen sink reached all the way to the floor, how we ate potato peels, I remember the rats running around.”

“The Second World War was one enormous tragedy. Mama always fought for us and didn’t lose her optimism—she was always cheerful, didn’t cry, but if you woke up at night you could see her lying in bed with her eyes open and tears running down her cheeks. Her husband’s uncle was on the Leningrad front. He and mama were saints. They’re the ones who were victorious! But the way our government is exploiting the war and the victory over Nazism these days: it would be better not to talk about it.”

[…]

“I’m going out again on the 27th for the March in memory of [Boris] Nemtsov,” Liudmila shares her upcoming plans. “I’ll buy flowers and go to the Solovetsky Stone. I do that every year. And every year on August 19th I go to the Mariinsky Palace, even though it was so long ago. During the [attempted coup in August 1991] my sister said, ‘Liudmila, they’ll kill you there.’ But I told her I can’t just stand there and not do anything. In 1991 the whole square was packed, but now people don’t come out to protest as much. All the more reason to go. Even if no one else was there, I would still go. And what do I have to fear now? I’m 80. My blood pressure has gone up—so what. I lived through yesterday and did it with style. Talked to the young people, gathered more strength. I saw their faces, their beautiful eyes. They’re still full of vim and vigor—they want to change something. I do too. And I want to take part in this, to speak out, to stop the war, so that people don’t die. The world is made up of people. Without them there’s nothing there. And to save even one life I will go on talking with just about anybody.”

Liudmila Vasilyeva at the February 27 anti-war rally at Gostiny Dvor

P.S. On February 27 at 4:00 p.m., Liudmila was arrested again at Gostiny Dvor. This time she was standing with no sign, a small woman surrounded by five riot police officers. She opened her arms wide and said, “Well, what are you waiting for? Arrest me!” They did. 

Source: Artyom Leshko, Novaya Gazeta, 27 February 2022. Photos by Artyom Leshko/Novaya Gazeta. Translated by the Fabulous AM

Monument to a Tiny Fish

An inconspicuous monument to the tiny fish that saved tens of thousands of lives during the Siege • Stanislav Mikov • LiveJournal • May 21, 2020

If you are strolling around Kronstadt and walk over the Obvodny Canal via the Blue Bridge, take a closer look. You may not have noticed an amazing monument to one tiny species of fish.

Its modest size is absolutely out of proportion to the considerable role that this fish, the stickleback, played in the history of wartime Kronstadt and Leningrad.

So let’s stop here for a moment, look down the canal, and find out what this fish is known for.

Как видите, памятник приходится специально обвести, иначе его просто не заметите
As you can see, I had to specially circle the monument. Otherwise, you wouldn’t notice it.

First of all, let’s deal with the name of the fish itself, so that there is no confusion. This article is about the stickleback [kolyushka, in Russian]. There is another fish with a similar name — smelt [koryushka, in Russian] — and it is even one of the city’s unofficial mascots. But that’s not the fish in question.

During the Siege, the populace quickly faced a shortage of food, so they had to make the most of all available resources.

Commercial fish soon ran out in both the Gulf of Finland and Leningrad’s river and canal system, so attention turned to a tiny fish that had always been considered waste — the stickleback.

In peacetime, this fish had not mattered at all. Due to its tiny size (3-4 centimeters), sharp spines, and bony fins, and the impossibility of fishing it with a net, the fish was not even used to feed cats. If fishermen accidentally caught it, they usually would immediately throw it away.

During the Siege, however, the stickleback suddenly became one of the most valuable resources.

Памятник колюшке
The monument to the stickleback

The residents of the besieged Kronstadt and Leningrad set to fishing the stickleback. Special teams were even organized that caught stickleback using wicker baskets and nets made of fabric and, sometimes, clothes. The maximum catch was obtained in the spring, during the ice run. It was possible to catch 4-6 kilograms in 3-5 hours.

The stickleback was used to make soup, and cutlets were made from the minced meat. It was also used to produce fish meal, and fish oil was extracted from it.

Stickleback oil was used not only for cooking, but also for treating wounds and burns — a special ointment based on it was developed at the Second Leningrad Medical Institute.

The monument was erected in Kronstadt in 2005. Initially the fish were painted silver, but a few years ago they changed their color to gold.

The memorial plaque located on the opposite side of the canal features a quotation from Maria Aminova’s poem “To the Siege Stickleback.”

To the Siege Stickleback

The shelling has stopped and so has the bombing,
But praise still sounds
For the little Siege fish
That helped people survive…

M.G. Aminova

The memorial plaque “To the Siege Stickleback” was made at the behest of the Kronstadt Council of Veterans

Translated by the Russian Reader

Paranoid Android

Snipers, security cameras covered with masking tape, and disinfected snowbanks: a Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery employee talks about the unprecedented security measures for the president’s visit • Galina Artemenko • Novaya Gazeta in Petersburg • 28 January 2022

On January 27, St. Petersburg celebrated the 78th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad. Vladimir Putin came to the city to visit the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. On the same day, a video was posted on the web showing how veterans who had come with flowers were not allowed to enter the cemetery. A young woman in an orange jacket explained to them, “People who have come just to lay flowers will not get in until three o’clock.”

Novaya Gazeta found the young woman: she turned out to be Piskaryovsky Memorial Complex (PMC) employee Margarita Nikolayeva. We asked here to explain why veterans were not allowed in and who was responsible for what during the president’s visit.

Vladimir Putin in a cordoned-off Piskaryovskoye Cemetery in St. Petersburg. On the roof of the pavilion there is a group of FSO (Federal Protective Service) officers and two snipers. Photo: Alexander Demyanchuk/TASS

How many days’ notification do you usually get that the president is coming to the cemetery?

Vladimir Putin has not come for the last couple of years. We knew for sure that the president would come this year on January 24. On the same day, we posted an announcement on the PMC’s official website that the memorial would be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. o’clock. This information was given to us by the FSO (Federal Protective Services). Our employees shared the same information with everyone who telephoned to find out about the possibility of visiting the PMC on January 27. Several dozen people called a day.

Did you announce this on radio and TV, where it was more likely that older people who do not use the Internet would hear the news?

No, as far as I know, we didn’t.

In the comments under the video on the internet, you are accused of being the one who ordered not to let anyone in. What really happened?

It’s not my first year working for the PMC, and I know that every year there are people who come to lay flowers but have not looked at our the website, and they have to be told that it’s pointless to wait outside, especially in the cold. So I went up to the police and asked what to say to people who were expecting to be let through any minute. They pointed to the FSO officers: they said they were in charge.

The FSO officers clearly replied that no one would be allowed on the grounds until three in the afternoon. I exited the perimeter and told this to the people waiting outside.

Had it ever happened before that people came on January 27, but were not allowed in?

Yes, and last year it was like that too. People would come and wait for the delegation (Beglov, the Legislative Assembly, and other dignitaries) to go through, and then they would be let in, usually around noon. I believe that on such an important day for Petersburgers, everyone should be let into the cemetery without restrictions. But this is my personal point of view. Unfortunately, I do not decide such matters.

But this year everything was complicated because of the president’s visit. It was announced that the cemetery would be closed until three. In fact, they began letting people in not at 3:00 p.m., as the FSO had said they would, but at 1:30 p.m., when the president left the memorial. But still many people stood in the cold for two hours or so. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said people waited for ten minutes. That wasn’t so.

People were just left to stand outside at the entrance? Were they not invited inside the pavilion to warm up and drink hot tea?

No.

Photo: Alexander Demyanchuk/TASS

How is the commemorative ceremony involving high-ranking officials organized?

Usually, the Smolny’s social policy committee sends us a list of organizations: the governor, the Legislative Assembly, the Federal Assembly, and the judges of the Constitutional Court are all arranged in hierarchical order. We print their names on pieces of paper, put them on music stands, take them outside, and arrange them so that no one, for example, stands in front of the governor.

I know that the social policy committee (which is in charge of the PMC) starts making the lists around two weeks before the ceremony. [Current Petersburg governor Alexander] Beglov is included automatically. I also never noticed any special preparations before visits by [former Petersburg governor] Valentina Matviyenko. At most, her protocol staff would come to the PMC to find out the details of the ceremony.

How was this presidential visit to the cemetery different from the previous ones?

The fact that he (the president) walked completely alone, that the security cameras were covered with tape, that the wreath stand was moved away from the sculptures, and that the snow was disinfected. The harshest preparations began at 8:30 a.m. on January 27. Metal detectors were set up: this had never been done before. A metal fence was set up on the opposite side of the Avenue of the Unvanquished, and public transport stopped making stops at the cemetery in the early morning.

They covered the security cameras with tape? Why?

The ones that were next to the Motherland monument, where the wreath laying took place, were covered with ordinary masking tape. We didn’t ask why. Probably for security reasons: so that [FSO] officers could not be seen next to the president.

We have a sound engineer’s room, and the cameras that were taped up feed into this room. The sound engineer turns on the music, the metronome, and the anthem, unless a military band is playing. To turn everything at the right time, he needs to have a view of the grounds. So, after the security cameras were covered with tape, they left him a small window so that he could see only the spot to which the president walked.

A photo of snipers standing on the roof of the museum pavilion has been posted on the web. Is it a fake?

Snipers on the roof of the museum pavilion at the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. Photo: Fontanka.ru

No, it’s not a fake. I saw them with my own eyes on the roof of the pavilion (the pavilion on the right side, if you stand with your back to the Avenue of the Unvanquished). There were also snipers in previous years. The picture was taken from inside the memorial: the snipers were aiming towards the Motherland sculpture, that is, where the laying of flowers would take place.

You mentioned that the snowdrifts were disinfected. It sounds funny, although in fact, what’s so funny about it? What did it look like? How many people were involved? Did the snow color change from this treatment? Did it smell? Was the snow treated in previous years?

I can’t say for sure. I wasn’t on site at that moment, my colleagues were there. About half an hour [before the ceremony], a special vehicle arrived: people got out, treated the snowdrifts with something, and left. The snow has never been treated before. There were other precautions: the wreath-bearers were brought from Moscow, where they were quarantined for two weeks. They were brought to the cemetery in a special vehicle and dropped off. They rehearsed with the wreath at a distance from everyone else.

All images courtesy of Novaya Gazeta. Translated by the Russian Reader

Popular Opinion

“Any action that dispels the illusions of order and resignation is a spell for more of the same.” Photo by the Russian Reader

________

Вообще, ходить вокруг соседа, помахивая битой и приговаривая «че ты дергаешься-то, че дергаешься, я еще ничего не сделал» – так же отвратительно.
________

В правильном мире из братской могилы на Пискаревском кладбище поднялись бы тысячи рук и разорвали бы этого лицемера на атомы.

Source: Natalia Vvedenskaya, Facebook, 27 January 2022

The fact is that hovering around a neighbor, waving a bat, and saying “Why you so jumpy? Why you so jumpy? I ain’t done anything yet” is just as disgusting.
________

In a proper world, thousands of hands would have risen from the mass grave at Piskaryovskoye Cemetery* and torn this hypocrite into atoms.

________

* Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery (Russian: Пискарёвское мемориа́льное кла́дбище) is located in Saint Petersburg, on the Avenue of the Unvanquished (Проспект Непокорённых), dedicated mostly to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad.

[…]

The memorial complex designed by Alexander Vasiliev and Yevgeny Levinson was opened on May 9, 1960. About 420,000 civilians and 50,000 soldiers of the Leningrad Front were buried in 186 mass graves. Near the entrance an eternal flame is located. A marble plate affirms that from September 4, 1941 to January 22, 1944 107,158 air bombs were dropped on the city, 148,478 shells were fired, 16,744 men died, 33,782 were wounded and 641,803 died of starvation.

Source: Wikipedia

________

I don’t know why, but I have come across ladies with dogs so many times that I could do an entire exhibition on the subject. And yet, for example, I have never encountered an old man with a cat! That’s as good a topic for a large-scale sociological study as any other! 🤓

________

Real “popular opinion” is what people say and do unrehearsed and uncoerced not the dodgy sentiments that the Kremlin, Levada Center, and self-appointed Russia experts put in their mouths. ||| TRR

Social media posts translated by the Russian Reader

________

Update (27.01.2022). This, apparently, was the subtext for Ms. Vvedenskaya’s remarks, above:

Photo of the day: Vladimir Putin came to lay flowers at the Piskaryovskoye cemetery in St. Petersburg  in honor of the 78th anniversary of the complete liberation of the city from the fascist siege. The Siege survivors themselves were not allowed into the cemetery — they were left standing behind the fence. Photo: Alexander Demyanchuk / TASS

The Siege

Monument to workers and staff at the Ivan Fyodorov printing plant in Leningrad who gave their lives during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad by the Nazis. Photo by Alexey Chernov

Hello, dear friend!

You may have already run into problems when you tried to visit the OVD Info website, or seen disturbing news headlines about our project. We would lie to ell you what we know about the problem at the current moment.

What happened?

On Saturday morning, our website was blocked by decision of the Lukhovitsy City Court. Later, Roskomnadzor sent a request to social networks to block our accounts. We have not received any official notification.

Later, comments made by a Roskomnadzor official to the media made us aware of the reason Roskomnadzor had ordered our website blocked, and had also sent a request to the administrators of social networks to block our accounts.

It follows from the Roskomnadzor official’s statement that our site has been placed on the registry of sites featuring prohibited information, although it is not on the list yet. It does NOT FOLLOW from this same statement that our project has been deemed “extremist” or “terrorist,” nor does it follow from the court ruling. At most, some of our publications have been deemed prohibited matter. We do not yet know which publications these are.

We still have not received any official notification. Grigory Okhotin, OVD Info co-founder and the website’s proprietor, was not informed about the investigation, the court hearing, or the blocking of the site, although his lawyer responded on December 14 to a summons by traveling to the Lukhovitsy prosecutor’s office, which filed the lawsuit, where he tried to obtain information about the details of the complaint.

We regard this as a continuation of the Russian state’s attack on civil society. There is nothing surprising in the fact that OVD Info has now been targeted, since our project is probably the largest human rights project in Russia. In addition, OVD Info is the driving force behind the campaign to abolish the law on “foreign agents.” After our petition calling on the authorities to abolish the law went public, we were placed on the list of “foreign agents”; after a bill that would abolish the law was submitted to the State Duma, our website was blocked. We can conclude that this is how the authorities consult with the professional human rights community.

We cannot say that we did not anticipate this attack. After the attack on the Memorial Human Rights Center and the lodging of similar claims against it, we realized that we would be next. However, unlike the Memorial case, where formal legal procedures have been followed, at least, our website was blocked in violation of all possible norms.

What’s next?

  1. We will seek to clarify the situation and defend ourselves in a legal manner. Naturally, we do not promote or condone terrorism or extremism. OVD Info is an independent human rights media project and we are confident that all our information is reliable and does not violate laws. We have always operate and will continue to operate in compliance with the law.
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We hope that we will be able to gladden you with good news this year! Thank you for staying with us!

Yours as always,

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The indepedent human rights media project OVD Info
https://donate.ovdinfo.orgdonate@ovdinfo.org 

You received this letter because you support OVD Info.

 On 29 September 2021, the Russia Justice Ministry placed OVD Info on its “registry of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent.” We include this disclaimer, among other things, so that your donations do not go towards paying fines for its absence.

But you can help us get rid of it.

Source: OVD Info email newsletter, 25 December 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader


Five hundred years ago, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that it is best for a ruler to be both loved and feared, but ‘it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both’. The Kremlin seems to share this belief. Since the government’s economic policy is aimed at maintaining ‘stable stagnation’ rather than economic growth, it won’t be able to buy the population’s complacency. On the other hand, although the government’s propaganda is still working, its long-term performance is questionable. The share of Russians who obtain information through television has decreased by 25% in the seven years since March 2014. At the same time, citizens’ trust in information from social media and online publications is growing. Against this backdrop, along with the consolidation of online censorship, the politics of fear is becoming an increasingly attractive tool for controlling public sentiment.

Lauren Young, a professor at the University of California, Davis, demonstrated in her recent study how repression works and what dividends a dictator can reap from it. Citizens are more likely to feel fear when witnessing violence used by the authorities. Fear, in turn, leads to pessimism about the prospects for collective action (‘no one will take to the streets, and I won’t either’) and a lower willingness to take risks. All of this diminishes citizens’ desire to express disloyalty to the authorities. In the case of Russia, the politics of fear is also amplified by the fact that many Russians depend on payments from the state budget. As studies show, state-sector professionals, all other things being equal, are less likely to protest and are also less supportive of democracy.

Yes, repressions undermine the legitimacy of state institutions and can even, albeit with very low probability, lead to the opposite effect when people lose patience and pour into the streets. But the year 2021 showed that the Russian regime will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo.

Source: Mikhail Turchenko, “One year in the life of a consolidated personalist dictatorship,” Riddle, 20 December 2021

The Vitamin Pharmacy

Olga Vasilieva, The Vitamin Pharmacy: Temporary Structures, 2021. Ink on paper, 52 х 32 cm. Courtesy of the Facebook public groups Petersburg in the Year Twenty-One: Line Art and St. Petersburger Ansichten in allen Variationen der Kunst
* * * * *

The E.E. Brömme Mansion is a historic mansion in St. Petersburg. It is located in the Vasilyevsky Island District, at 41 12th Line, Building 1-Zh. An official regional cultural landmark, it is one of the few surviving wooden mansions in the city’s historic center. It is also known as one of the “Siege addresses”: the so-called Vitamin Pharmacy operated in the mansion during the Siege of Leningrad.

[…]

In 1893, the lot was purchased by the brothers Eduard, Robert and Wilhelm Brömme. They were the sons of the German architect Eduard Georg Christian Brömme, who had settled in St. Petersburg in the early nineteenth century. The Brömme brothers were related to the famous Poehle family of Petersburg pharmacists Pele: their father was married to Wilhelm Poehle’s sister Wilhelmina Maria, and one of the brothers, Eduard, to his daughter Emilia.

In the mid-1890s, the trading company Brömme Brothers founded a factory for the production of essential oils and chemicals. In 1897-1898, additional factory buildings, designed by the architect A.P. Soskov, were constructed in brick on the lot where the mansion was located. The Brömme factory produced essential oils for perfumes and pharmaceuticals, fruit essences used in the manufacture of soda pop and confectionery, and aniline dyes.

The wooden one-story mansion with a mezzanine floor, which at that time belonged to Eduard Brömme and also served as the factory’s office building, was redesigned in 1906 by the architect V.S. Karpovich. The building was adorned with carved neoclassical decor, as well as two majolica panels and a majolica figured medallion featuring floral motifs, in a wooden frame containing the figures of griffins. All three ornaments were made at the Geldwein-Vaulin ceramic workshop by Pyotr Vaulin. The mansion and its fence faced the building setback line on the 12th Line, while the garden surrounding it served as a buffer zone between the house and the factory.

After the Revolution, the factory was nationalized. In the 1920s, it was known as the Fruit Aroma factory. In 1931-1935, the chemical plant of Politkatorzhanin, an industrial firm run by the Leningrad regional branch of the Society of Former Political Prisoners and Exiled Settlers, operated in the same facilities. The plant produced essences and oils for the food industry. After the society was liquidated, the plant was transferred to the People’s Commissariat of the Food Industry and converted into a vitamin-manufacturing plant (Leningrad Vitamin Plant No. 1). The wooden mansion was repurposed as cafeteria for workers and a kitchen, and was also used as an administrative building.

“The Vitamin Pharmacy”
At the outset of the Siege, Leningrad’s chemists and doctors said that, in addition to hunger, the inhabitants of the besieged city were threatened by diseases caused by a lack of vitamins in the diet — in particular, by scurvy. A research group was organized that included chemists, biochemists and engineers. Alexei Bezzubov, the director of the chemical engineering department at the Vitamin Industry Research Institute and a consultant for the Leningrad Front board of health, was appointed head of the research group. On October 15, 1941, it released draft regulations for the production of conifer infusions — a remedy for vitamin C deficiency. On November 18, 1941, the Leningrad Executive Committee issued a decree entitled “On measures to prevent vitamin deficiency.” Pine and spruce needles for the production of infusions were harvested on the outskirts of the city by teams of women. Carotene was also obtained from the needles. Later, the production of yeast from wood rich in B vitamins and the processing of saltbush, hogweed, cow parsley, sorrel, nettle, and dandelions were established. Infusions from these plants saved the servicemen defending the city from night blindness caused by a lack of vitamin A. Tobacco dust, found in Leningrad’s tobacco factories, was used to produce nicotinic acid for treating pellagra.

All these drugs were produced at specialized enterprises in the city, including the Mikoyan confectionery factory and Leningrad Vitamin Plant No. 1. The plant’s administrative building — the Brömme mansion — also functioned as the outlet where city dweller received their vitamin rations and was popularly known as the “vitamin pharmacy.” Vitamin plant employees warmed up and partially lived in the mansion, since it was easier to heat than the factory workshops.

Leningrad Vitamin Plant No. 1 on the 12th Line continued to operate after the war. From 1977 to 1987, it was one of the production facilities of the Farmakon chemical pharmaceutical company.

[…]

People’s Memorial
Despite the fact that there has never been a memorial plaque on the building, Petersburgers remember the Brömme mansion as the “vitamin pharmacy,” a “Siege address.” There is a tradition of laying flowers outside the building on the commemorative dates of September 8 (the day the Siege of Leningrad began) and January 27 (the day the Siege was lifted). In 2021, residents of Vasilyevsky Island who are members of the Facebook group From the Spit to the Harbor organized a commemorative action that lasted from January 18 (the day the Siege was broken) to January 27.

“On January 18, we will bring photos of our relatives who went through the Siege on Vasilyevsky. We are not planning any big meetings or gatherings, but we hope that between the two Siege anniversaries, everyone who wants to join the action will bring photos of their relatives: those who stayed on the Island during the Siege; those who left the Island to defend Leningrad; and Siege survivors and veterans who themselves had nothing to do with the Island, but whose descendants now live on Vasilievsky Island. You can bring your photos on any day of the action and at any time. On January 27, we will collect all the photos (the memorial is intended as a temporary one) and keep them until next January.”

Consequently, flowers and wreaths were laid outside the Brömme mansion, and photographs of Leningraders who survived the Siege were posted on the mansion’s fence. A homemade plaque memorializing the Siege chemists and the “vitamin pharmacy” was also mounted on the mansion’s wall.

Source: “E.E. Brömme Mansion,” ru.wikipedia.org. Translated by the Russian Reader

Vasily Kaluzhnin: There Lived an Artist on Liteiny

Vasily Kaluzhin: There Lived an Artist on Liteiny. Poster for the exhibition at the Anna Akhmatova Museum in Fountain House (St. Petersburg), 19 March-18 April 2021

Svetlana Smaznova
Facebook
March 19, 2021

The honor of discovering Vasily Kaluzhnin belongs to the Petersburg writer Semyon Laskin (1930-2005). His novel The Hostage of Eternity recounts the tragic life of the Leningrad artist Vasily Kaluzhnin, a friend of Yesenin, Akhmatova, and Klyuev.

Vasily Kaluzhnin, Palace Square in the Siege, 1941. Tempera on canvas. Photo by Svetlana Smaznova

Vasily Kaluzhnin, Nevsky Prospekt in the Siege, 1941. Tempera on canvas. Photo by Svetlana Smaznova

Vasily Kaluzhnin, Portrait of a Woman, 1920s-1930s. Charcoal on paper. Photo by Svetlana Smaznova

________________

“Damn it, old man! Well, why aren’t you painting?” reads the handwritten inscription on one of Vasily Kaluzhnin’s self-portraits. Addressed to himself, Kaluzhnin’s words sound like a confession of faith. Painting was his only god, and this deity’s temple was a room in a communal apartment on Liteiny Prospect, chockablock with paintings.

The word “miracle” suits best what we know about the artist Vasily Kaluzhnin (1890-1967). He miraculously survived the Siege of Leningrad and the Stalinist crackdowns, and his body of works has been miraculously preserved. Most important is the miracle of his paintings and drawings. Black charcoal “lace,” sanguine drawings, now thick and almost brick-colored, now delicate and transparent. The besieged city, a pearly fog on the Nevsky, emptiness and grandeur. Post-war landscapes of Leningrad and Murmansk, portraits, and genre scenes, painted freely, without fear of being accused of “formalism.”

Vasily Kluzhnin, Murmansk, 1950s-1960s. Tempera on cardboard. Courtesy of Mikhail Ankundinova. Image courtesy of the Akhmatova Museum at Fountain House

The work of the artist Vasily Kaluzhnin is presented in the museum of the poet Anna Akhmatova for a reason: Akhmatova and Kaluzhnin were neighbors. And not so much geographically (the artist lived most of his life at Liteiny, 16, across the street from Akhmatova), as in the sense that they inhabited the same cultural and historical space. Their destinies were connected by invisible threads, and their lives were lived in close proximity to each other. They were born and died within a year of each other. Both of them lived long lives, sharing with their generation the full fate of the twentieth century. Both felt a sense of belonging to world culture, in whose space the paths of the poet and the artist so often intersected.

A photo from the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of Mikhail Kuzmin’s literary career (1925) is the only document that records the fact that Akhmatova and Kaluzhnin were acquainted, along with a small dark drawing, made with thick charcoal, depicting either Akhmatova or Dante in profile. For Kaluzhnin, the poet who lived across the street from him was of the same magnitude as the great Dante Alighieri. The drawing was probably produced in the 1920s.

Vasily Kluzhnin, Sunbathing, 1930s. Charcoal and sauce on paper. Courtesy of Mikhail Ankundinov. Image courtesy of the Anna Akhmatova Museum at Fountain House

The exhibition represents only a small part of Kaluzhnin’s artistic legacy: ballet and theater sketches, nudes, landscapes, and portraits from the 1920s to the 1960s. One of the important themes is the besieged city and the evacuation of paintings from the Hermitage, made in different versions and media, from colored pencil to paints. The exhibition also includes rare photographs and documents from private collections.

Source: Akhmatova Museum at Fountain House

Thanks to the Five Corners community Facebook page for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Andrei Kolesnikov: Hooked on Militarism?

new hope“New Hope. All drug addicts quit using. Some manage to do it while alive.” Photo by the Russian Reader

Where Militaristic Infantilism Leads
Society’s Losing Its Fear of War Is More Dangerous Than What Happens in the Absence of an Anti-War Movement
Andrei Kolesnikov
Vedomosti
November 28, 2018

The “polite people” in the Russian military have taken to ramming ships, shedding their politesse. A military coming out has happened. Either so-called hybrid war has become more hybridized in terms of the variety of its methods or it has become more like good old-fashioned war, involving actual armed clashes. Politically, Russia has become not merely toxic but hypertoxic. A premonition of war prevails among more timid folks, although the footage of the ramming at sea, as painless and triumphal as a military parade on Red Square or a football match (“Crush him!”), still make military operations appear unscary and toylike. We will carry the day in any case, sans victims and blood (ours, that is), as in a cartoon by Putin.

This militaristic infantilism—the loss of the fear of war, the loss of the idea that war is terrible—is the worst outcome of our country’s daily intoxication with the thought of its own greatness for several years running. The army is greatly respected nowadays. People need to trust someone, and the armed forces have bypassed another institution, the presidency, in trustworthiness ratings.

Does this mean Russians are ready for a real war? To put it more plainly, are Russian parents willing to let their eighteen-year-old boys be called up to fight Ukrainian boys just like them? Does anyone understand what they would be fighting for? Is it really all about cementing the nation, “Crimea is ours!” and the personal ambitions of several high-ranking figures in the Russian establishment?

Since 2012, Russia’s collective identity has been built on negative foundations, on awakened resentment, which had been dozing, but had no thought of waking up. The plan has worked quite well. This resentment, however, is verbal and fictitous. Public opinion supported “coal miners” and “tractor drivers” verbally. In Syria, the official army and private military companies fought, or so Russians imagined, at their own risk. The proxy war with the US has gone very far at times, but in the summer of 2018 it did not stop the majority of Russians from abruptly improving their attitude [sic] to the States and the west in general.

But suddenly there is the threat of a real war. On the other side of the border, in the country [i.e., Ukraine] that the Russian imperialist mind never really considered sovereign, a mobilization is underway and martial law has been declared. Is this reality capable of changing popular opinion and rousing Russian civil society, which has a lot going for it except an anti-war movement? No, because so far the war has not been regarded as real.

Identification with the military is the last bullet in the Russian regime’s gun, but it is a blank or, rather, a prop. Exploiting what Russians regard as sacred—i.e., privatization of the memory of the Great Patriotic War [WWII] by a particular group—is a tool that is still in play, but militarism as such has lost its power to mobilize and consolidate Russians. If “German POWs” are marched around Novgorod on January 20, 2019, in an absurd attempt to reenact the NKVD’s Operation Grand Waltz, and on January 29, a military parade is held in St. Petersburg to mark the latest anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad, it will not raise Putin’s approval rating from 66% to 80%. Those days are gone. So, the props have been dropped in favor of direct action in the Kerch Strait, but its power to mobilize people is not at all obvious.

You can cynically throw the ashes of those who perished in the Siege of Leningrad to stoke the furnace of fading ratings as much as you want. You can march people dressed up as German POWs round Novgorod as much as you like. When, however, pollsters ask Russians between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four what countries they regard as role models, they list Germany, China, and the US. This is not because young Russians are unpatriotic, but because not everything comes to down to the top brass feeding on the poisonous corpse of the Stalinist past. The present day, progress, and visions for the future matter, too.

Can we do it again? We cannot. Nor is there any reason to do it. Infantilized by the regime, Russian society’s maturation will be measured by the numbers of people who are convinced that we cannot and should not do it again.

Andrei Kolesnikov is program director at the Moscow Carnegie Center. Translated by the Russian Reader

Solomon Yudovin at the St. Petersburg Jewish Community Center

The Three Yudovins and Yet Another One
Valery Dymshits
lechaim.ru
December 17, 2017

An artist is defined by the context in which people find him interesting and appreciate his work. This is not a new idea, but it is no less true for all that.

A native of the Belarusian shtetl Beshenkovichi, Leningrad graphic artist Solomon Yudovin (1892–1954) has not been forgotten, exactly, but nor is he widely known, and all because his oeure occupies several nonoverlapping contexts.


Solomon Yudovin, Beshenkovichi, 1933. Courtesy of Boris Faizullin

One of the most successful Soviet graphic artists, an acknowledged master of woodcuts and linocuts, and illustrator of editions of works by numerous Jewish writers, Yudovin showed his work nearly annually and was the subject of two monographs during his lifetime. After he died, he was exhibited and mentioned, but less often. The last major show of Yudovin’s work took place in 1956 in Leningrad.

Then he was remembered anew.

He was primarily recalled in Israel and, later, in Russia, in connection with his relative and mentor S. An-sky (Shloyme Rappoport), a writer and the father of Jewish ethnography. Yudovin was involved, as a photographer and artist, in An-sky’s renowned Jewish folk ethnography expeditions of 1912–1914, and they defined his artistic career over the next quarter century. Yudov’s engravings turned up again in various periodicals and books dealing with Eastern European Jews.  Yudovin was rightly seen as one of the principal artists of the old shetls, as an artist who had depicted their synagogues, old people, artisans, and, most important, the lush decorations on carved tombstones in their cemeteries. Yudovin was essentially the neoacademic alternative to the non-realist expressionist Marc Chagall, regarded as post-Soviet Russia’s primary Jewish artist. Yudovin and Chagall, who had been at loggerheads in Vitebsk during their lifetimes, were once again competitors, so to speak. Yudovin has even stole the limelight from Chagall (a seemingly impossible task) in terms of reproductions and collages on the covers of Jewish-themed books.

From the series Jewish Popular Ornamental Design, 1940. Courtesy of the Petersburg Judaica Center

Regardless of the so-called Jewish revival, Yudovin is remembered by those who write about the Nazi Siege of Leningrad or curate show dealing with the subject. Thanks to the series of linocuts Leningrad during the Great Fatherland War, Yudovin has come to be regarded as one of the most important Siege artists. His black-and-white, intolerably contrasty works from the war years and first postwar years produce a fascinating image of the dead city, whose horrifying beauty was so often described in diaries by people who witnessed the Siege firsthand. Yudovin’s self-portrait—of an artist doggedly laboring in an unheated studio—has become a primary visual symbol of the Siege.

Those who remember the Jewish Yudovin rarely remember the Siege Yudovin, and vice versa, despite the fact they had a lot in common. We could argue that Yudovin, with his skill in producing moribund, balanced compositions, and his powers of concentration, which was at odds with the empirical commotion of impressionism, was best equipped to deal with the topic of death. His famous engraving Burial in a Shtetl anticipated his images of Leningraders, carrying their dead on sledges.

In recent years, yet another, previously unknown aspect of Yudovin’s talent has been discovered. Due to the efforts of the Petersburg Judaica Center (where I have the honor to work), hundreds of photographs taken by Yudovin during the An-sky expeditions have been unearthed and published. These photographs have proven not only highly informative works, but also and primarily works of high art. Solomon Yudovin the pictoriailist has taken an honorary place alongside Alter Kacyzne and Roman Vishnyak, the principal photo portraitists of the vanished world of Eastern European Jewry.  Our only regret is that Yudovin, who produced brilliant photographs in his youth, never again took up a camera. Perhaps he deemed his work as a graphic artist superior to the craft of the photographer. Maybe Yudovin was brought up short by the fact that pictorialism, so attractive to him in his youth, had gone out of fashion and, moreover, was persecuted in the 1920s. Whatever the case, photography was a brief albeit vivid episode in his artistic career. Now, however, the photographs have also occupied a prominent place in numerous Jewish publications of recent years.

Having become a graphic artist, Yudovin ceased being a photographer. However, the photographs he took in the early twentieth century were to play a hidden but significant role in the history of Jewish art. They were a source of motifs and compositions for the graphic works of Yudovin himself (until he gave up Jewish subjects), and then were the basis of illustrations of the works of Sholom Aleichem by the much more famous artist Nathan Altman.

Solomon Yudovin is remembered in his guises as Jewish artist, Siege artist, and art photographer. It turns out, however, that Yudovin had a fourth guise, a most unexpected on.

One of the last Jewish institutions in prewar Leningrad was the Yakov Sverdlov Jewish House of Education (Yevdomprosvet), which survived until 1938 along with similar institutions for other ethnic minorities in the building at 10 Nekrasov Street, the current home of the city’s Bolshoi Puppet Theater. The Yevdomprosvet operated a theater studio in which amateur actors, guided by professional director Lev Mursky, staged plays in Yiddish. Yudovin was the stage and costume designer for two productions by this group: Draftees (1934) and The Call-Up (1936), based on the play by Mendele Mocher Sforim. Mursky’s papers, stored in the archives of the St. Petersburg Jewish Community Center, yielded a set of costume and scenery sketches done by Yudovin. This new, seemingly unrecognizable Yudovin is cheerful, quite lively and, most surprisingly, polychromatic, and there is a touch of the grotesque and satirical in his work. In a word, this is a fourth, hitherto unknown Yudovin.

Tailor, Costume Sketch for Staging of the Play “Draftees,” 1934. Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Jewish Community Center

These four incarnations of Solomon Yudovin are on diplay at the exhibition From Beshenkovichi to Leningrad, which opened on the 125th anniversary of the artist’s birth at the St. Petersburg Jewish Community Center at 3 Rubinstein Street. The Petersburg Judaica Center loaned photographs from the An-sky expeditions and woodcuts from the series Jewish Popular Ornamental Design. Petersburg collector Boris Faizullin supplied drawings and engravings from different periods, including the Siege, while the St. Petersburg Jewish Community Center has exhibited the works for the theater. The show has necessarily taken the shape of a sketch of sorts, but at the same time it is representative. All four Yudovins have finally met. Perhaps someday the Russian Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery or one of Moscow’s Jewish museums will remember the work of the classic Soviet graphic artist, but until that happens, hurry over to Rubinstein Street. From Beshenkovichi to Leningrad runs until mid January.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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This Is Russia

DSCN0810

“This is Russia. This is the Russia that Americans are so scared of.”

In the background of this photo, you can make out the Galeria Shopping Center, located in downtown Petersburg. It’s gigantic, covering the land once occupied by five or six graceful tenement buildings and a cultural center and cinema. They were demolished in the mid 1990s, not to make way for the shopping mall, but so a new train station could be built there, jeek by jowl with the existing Moscow Station, because federal and regional officials wanted to build a high-speed train line between Petersburg and Moscow. Millions of dollars were allocated for the project, but ultimately, the train line was never built nor was the new station erected. No one knows what happened to the millions of dollars allocated for the project. They simply vanished into thin air.

The site of the former-future high-speed train station sat vacant for many years behind a tall, ugly construction-site fence. No one could figure out what do to with all that wasteland, which was in the very heart of the city, not in some forgotten outskirts. However, before the money had vanished, and the project was abandoned, construction workers had managed not only to demolish all the tenement buildings on the site but had also dug a foundation pit. Over the long years, this pit filled up with water. Some time after Google Maps had become all the rage, I took a look at our neighborhood via satellite, as it were, and discovered to my great surprise it now had a small lake in it. It was the foundation pit of the former-future high-speed train station, filled to the brim with water.

Good times came to Petersburg in the 2000s, when the country was flush with cash, generated by high oil prices, a flat tax rate of 13%, and runaway corruption. It was then the city’s mothers and fathers (I’m not being ironic: most of Petersburg’s “revival” was presided over by Governor Valentina Matviyenko, a former Communist Youth League functionary who had converted to the gospel of what she herself called “aggressive development”) decided that Petersburg, one of the world’s most beautiful, haunting, enchanting cities, should be extensively redeveloped, despite its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, into a mecca of consumerism that would give pride of place to cars and new highways, since cars had become the new status symbol among the city’s rich and poor alike. They also decided that, since other big cities in the world had lots of high-rise buildings, their city, which did not have almost any high-rise buildings, should have lots of them, too.

Basically, they decided to demolish as much of the inner and outer city as they could get away with—and they could get away with a lot, because they had nearly unlimited political power and lots of the country’s money at their disposal—and redevelop it with high-rise apartment buildings, superhighways, big box stores, and shopping and entertainment centers, each one uglier and bigger than the last. Thanks to their efforts, in a mere fifteen years or so they have gone a long way toward turning a Unesco World Heritage Site into an impossible, unsightly mess.

But let’s get back to our miniature inner-city lake. Finally, developers came up with a plan to convert the site into a giant shopping mall. Even better, the architects who designed the mall were clearly inspired by Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect and a leading Nazi Party member, to turn a rather oversized mall into a celebration of kitsch faux-neoclassicism, precisely the sort of thing Speer had championed in his projects. This, indeed, was a bit ironic, because Petersburg, then known as Leningrad, had survived a 900-day siege by the German army during the Second World War. Considered the longest and most destructive siege in history, it killed at least 800,000 civilians, that is, it killed the grandparents and great-grandparents of many of the people who now enjoy visiting this mall, with its distinctly neo-fascist aesthetic.

Along the sides of the street running down towards the photographer from the Albert Speer Memorial Shopping Center, you see lots of shiny new, fairly expensive cars, parked bumper to bumper. In fact, the Albert Speer has a huge underground car park where you can park your car relatively inexpensively (our neighbor lady, a sensible woman, does it), but most Petersburg car owners actually think parking their cars wherever they want—especially either right next to their residential buildings or, worse, in the tiny, labyrinthine, incredibly charming inner courtyards of these eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings—is their legal right. It isn’t, but they don’t know it or don’t want to know it. I know they think this way because many Petersburg car owners have told me so.

To my mind, the precipitous rise in personal car ownership in Petersburg has done more to degrade the city’s beauty than all the underinspired colossal high-rises put together, because the city was purposely designed by its original builders, beginning with Peter the Great, to have a good number of intersecting and radiating, awe-inspiring, long and clear sightlines or “perspectives.” Hence, many of the city’s longest avenues are called “prospects,” such as Nevsky Prospect (the title of one of Nikolai Gogol’s best stories) and Moskovsky Prospect. Nowadays, however, you gaze down these “perspectives” only to see traffic jams and hectares of other visual pollution in the shape of signs, billboards, banners, and marquees. It’s not a pretty sight.

On the right of the picture, somewhere near the middle, you should be able to spot a small shop sign with the letters “AM” emblazoned on it. It’s one of the dozens of liquor stores that have popped up in our neighborhood after the Kremlin introduced its countersanctions against US and EU sanctions, which were instituted in response to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine. The US and EU sanctions targeted individuals and companies closely allied with the regime. Putin’s countersanctions, in a manner that has come to seem typical of how the Russian president for life’s mind works, were targeted against Russian consumers by banning the import of most western produce into the country. An exception was made for western alcoholic beverages, especially wines and beers, and this meant it was suddenly profitable again to get into the liquor business. The upshot has been that you can exit our house, walk in any direction, even putting on a blindfold if you like, and you will find yourself in a liquor store in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.

Last summer, I tried painting a little verbal and photographic sketch of the effect this massive re-alcoholization has had on our neighborhood, along with other, mostly negative trends in the use and abuse of commercial space in the city.

Finally, there is one other thing you should know about all those new, mostly oversized cars parked on the street. Since the average monthly salary in Russia barely crawls above 600 or 700 euros a month, even in a seemingly wealthy city like Petersburg, most of those gas-guzzling, air-polluting status symbols were bought with borrowed money.

Just the other day, in fact, I translated and posted a tiny article, originally published in the business daily Kommersant, about how people in the Voronezh Region currently owed banks approximately two billion euros in outstanding loans. In 2015, the region’s estimated population was around 2,300,000, so, theoretically, each resident of Voronezh Region now owes the banks 870 euros, which I am sure is more than most people there earn in two or three months. Of course, not every single resident of Voronezh Region has taken out a loan, so the real damage incurred by real individual borrowers is a lot worse.

I could be wrong, but I think what I have just written gives you a rough idea of how you go about reading photographs of today’s Russian cities, their visible aspect in general, turning a snapshot into something meaningful, rather than assuming its meaning is obvious, right there on the surface. You don’t just tweet a photo of a new football stadium or fancy restaurant or street jammed with expensive cars and make that stand for progress, when progress, whether political, economic or social, really has not occurred yet in Russia, despite all the money that has been sloshing around here the last fifteen years. Instead, you talk about the real economic, political, and social relations, which are often quite oppressive, murky, and criminal, that have produced the visible reality you want to highlight.

Doing anything less is tantamount to engaging in boosterism, whataboutism, Russian Worldism, and crypto-Putinism, but certainly not in journalism. That so many journalists, western and Russian, have abandoned real journalism for one or all of the isms I have listed is the really scary thing. TRR

Photograph by the Russian Reader