Eat Y’Self Fitter

zeitfur“Time for the girlfriend.”

More bad news from Russia’s Northern Capital:

Количество фитнес–клубов в Петербурге превышает спрос. По данным “ДП” их услугами по–прежнему пользуется небольшая часть населения Северной столицы. В настоящее время в Петербурге спортом в фитнес–клубах регулярно занимаются не более 4,8% населения, в то время как в Лондоне их посещают 20% жителей, в Барселоне — 35%, а в Берлине — почти 60%.

“The number of fitness clubs in St. Petersburg exceeds demand. According to Delovoi Petersburg newspaper their services are, as before, enjoyed by a small segment of the Northern Capital’s populace. Currently, no more than 4.8% of Petersburgers work out in fitness clubs, as opposed to 20% of Londoners, 35% of Barcelonians, and nearly 60% of Berliners.”

ATTENTION! Why do you think this is the case? The first person to send me the correct answer in the comments, below, will get a special prize, dispatched via the mails from Berlin, where I am among the 40% of losers who do not work out in fitness clubs.

Please don’t use Google or other artificial intelligences to answer the question. Instead, use the brains the good Lord gave you.

Photo by the Russian Reader 

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Kicker Conspiracy

Go to Russia for a few World Cup fixtures, get rip-roaring drunk, hit on a married Russian woman, and you are an instant “Russia expert,” fit for print in the bloody Guardian.

And don’t forget to thank the Russian security forces for their professionalism in keeping your jet-setting, neo-colonialist, neo-imperialist ass safe while you’re making an ass of yourself.

Huge congratulations must go to the law enforcement that’s been put in place to stop both the most fighty Russians and the most fighty English from making their presence felt. But those responsible for the headlines with TOO MANY CAPITAL LETTERS should be ashamed. Not just for denying England fans these experiences, but for allowing the Russian people to feel demonised, and indeed for allowing Putin to capitalise on this othering of the Russian people to support his us-against-them narrative. Every English person that has a positive interaction with a Russian person is a step further away from letting the people in power turn us against each other … is what I drunkenly mumbled into Anastasia’s ear a few minutes before I learned she had a husband, and a few minutes after she’d said there are no good computer hackers in Russia, and about 20 minutes after I’d been singing “Football’s coming home”. We’re all living in our own fantasies I suppose.

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I wish everyone could read this detailed interview with the fearless Russian human rights activist Anatoly Kalyapin and head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture about the nearly ubiquitous use of torture by Russian law enforcement.

Under ordinary circumstances, I might even think about translating the interview and publishing it on this website.

But these are not ordinary circumstances. As the Putin regime ratchets up its “Great Terror Lite” apparatus, a frighteningly large segment of apparently educated and even liberal Russians and non-Russians have persuaded me that having fun, partying like it’s 1999, and staying glued to their TV sets watching World Cup fixtures trump petty considerations like human rights and international solidarity.

So, if you’d like to read this interview with a knowledgeable, brave man, run it through whatever online translation machine you prefer and see what miserable gobbledygook comes out the other end.

It has finally dawned on me how few people, both inside and outside Russia, really care to know anything about the real Russia, especially since Don Putin started kicking magical, psychedelic, multi-colored sand in their face with his twelve-billion-dollar “kicker conspiracy.”

I have no hope for a planet whose most powerful, empowered, and well-off inhabitants have such a strong will to be fooled and such an insuperable desire to kick up their heels as if they were teenagers. // TRR

Thanks to Lika Frenkel for the heads-up and the late Mark E. Smith (March 5, 1957–January 24,  2018) for not refusing his vision and sharing it with us so generously for so many years.

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Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy
Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

J. Hill’s satanic reign
Ass-lickers, Keegan’s Team

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

In the marble halls of the charm school
How flair is punished
Under Marble Millichip, the F.A. broods 
On how flair can be punished
Their guest is a Euro-State magnate
Corporate-u-lent

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy 

In the booze club, George Best does rule
How flair is punished
His downfall was a blonde girl,
but that’s none of your business!

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

Football fan at the bus stop
Stretched on the balls of his feet
In the Christmas rush
Had in his hands two lager cans
Talks to himself
At the back
At the top

But in the pavement on the club unit
Plastic, Slime, Partitions, Cocktail, Zig-Zag, Tudor Bar

Pat McCat. Pat McCat, the very famous sports reporter is
talking there.

Fans remember, you are abroad!
Remember the police are rough!
Remember the unemployed!
Remember my expense account!

Hot dogs and seat for Mr. Hogg!
Hot dogs and seat for Mr. Hogg
And his grotty spawn!

Lurid brochures for ground unit
How style is punished

Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy
Remember, don’t collect with the rough
Kicker, Kicker Conspiracy

Kicker, destroy the facilities!

Kicker Conspiracy

Source: The Fall, “Kicker Conspiracy” (1983); lyrics courtesy of The Annotated Fall

Andrey Kalikh: It’s Good to Live in the Country

48763870One view of the Russian countryside

Andrey Kalikh
Facebook
December 31, 2017

Four and half years ago, we got the hell out of the city and settled in the country. Three circumstances happily combined to facilitate this: the issue of an apartment, which had been suffocating us; metal fatigue, so to speak; and the lack of the need to go to the office.

By this time I was grazing on the abundant meadows of freelancing, earning money as I had never earned by translating from German, writing articles for the German media, and working as a fixer for German reporters. After the tedium of an office human rights job, I had the sense I had finally yielded to sin, and my fall was as predictable as it was sweet.

Since then, the four of us have become five, the kids play in a two-story house, and I have my own study, where I pen valuable eternities, like Solzhenitsyn in Vermont. And then I go outside and deal with eternal values, like the roof, the sewer, firewood, sawdust, and so on.

I’ve long been able to earn a living without leaving the house, and increasingly I have no idea why I should go to the city. More and more often, my trips to the city are limited to the airport.

Time and distance have a salutary effect on mind and nerves. I have a nervous mind, and the big city and its hysterical intensity were claiming both my mind and my nerves. Life in the country is wonderful for its emptiness. It is your personal responsibility to fill the emptiness.

So, despite outward deprivations, my year has been peaceful and successful thanks to new ideas and the new wonderful people who have appeared in our midst recently, most of them in virtual space. In 2018, I would like to devirtualize my relationships with most of you. As for old friends, I would just like to see you.

With the beautiful Natasha Panova, without whom none of this would have happened.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of panoramio.com

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Keep Calm and Just Step Sideways

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Muscovites are pretenaturally calm and dressed unseasonably warmly as the world hurtless toward senseless nuclear conflagration. Photo courtesy of RBC

I am only sharing this news flash from RBC with you because of the fabulous photo that accompanied it on RBC’s Facebook news feed, and the way it illustrates the article’s point—sideways, as it were.

“‘It is necessary to remain calm,’ the Russian Foreign Ministry said after North Korea tested a hydrogen bomb. The ministry called for a return to dialogue as ‘the only possible way of comprehensively settling the Korean Peninsula’s problems.'”

That sounds great albeit weirdly kumbayaish from folks whose usual idea of a “comprehensive settlement” is invasion and occupation of a peaceful neighboring country, aiding and abetting a bloody Arab tyrant in crushing a popular revolution, sowing racist and Islamophobic mayhem throughout the world via fake news and bots, especially after the meltdown in Charlottesville, messing with elections in other countries, including plans to assassinate one of the candidates, the incumbent PM, ruthlessly and routinely crushing dissent and protest in their own country, and implicitly declaring anti-Americanism the official state ideology not because they thought it would go down well with the rank and file, or because they themselves hate America so much (it doesn’t, and they don’t), but because it was the only way they could think of keeping Putin in the Kremlin for another six years.

Remember, comrades: he’s already been in the Kremlin for eighteen years.

But the photo is terrific. The people in it are not calm. They could not care less about anything.

Or if they do care, they are not going to let on to it whilst walking down the street in the middle of Moscow.

In any case, RBC originally ran this photo in April of this year to accompany an article about how my friends at Mediazona were suing the Foreign Ministry for refusing to reply to its written request for information about contacts between Russian diplomats in the US and members of the Trump presidential campaign.

What goes around comes around, so just step sideways. TRR

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Jerusalem

Waterspout on the Gulf of Finland, June 16, 2016. Photo courtesy of Nation News
Waterspout on the Gulf of Finland, June 16, 2016. Photo courtesy of Nation News

Novaya Gazeta reports the Russian government is planning to cut spending on health care by 33% in 2017.

This reemergent supah powah thing is going really, really well.

But as I was told by a Russian cabbie today, all of the country’s problems, including problems with housing maintenance, actually stem from the “fact” that the current constitution (adopted in 1993) was “dictated by the Americans.”

Whenever I hear something like this, I’m reminded of Mark E. Smith endlessly repeating, “It was the fault of the government. It was the fault of the government…” in the song “Jerusalem” on the glorious album I Am Kurious Oranj (1988).

But in Russia, it’s always the fault of someone else’s government, especially, in recent decades, the US government.

This is total infantilism, and there is no excuse for it anymore, especially with the Russian bombs raining down on Aleppo like there’s no tomorrow.

But isn’t that the point? Putinism has no future. Or rather, its continued existence postpones the future indefinitely. So why not go for the gusto and slash health care for your own citizens while bombing the crap out of people (I will never tire of repeating) who have never harmed a single hair on a single Russian’s head. Maybe something will come of it. Or maybe everything will go up in smoke. Whatever the case, like a two-year-old, you could give a flying fuck.

Leave the Capital!

Emergency Situations Ministry Recommends Residents Leave Yekaterinburg, Advises Those Who Stay Not to Leave the Apartment and Gargle
URA.Ru
July 23, 2016

Smog has enveloped Yekaterinburg. Photo: Vladimir Zhabrikov © URA.Ru

The Emergency Situations Ministry (EMERCOM) office for Sverdlovsk Region has made a special appeal to the region’s residents, which it has posted on the agency’s official website.

As our own correspondent reports, the rescue service has warned that adverse weather conditions of the first level of hazardousness have settled over the region until 8 p.m., June 26. During this time, calm weather and high temperatures will facilitate the formation of smog in the air.

Mayors have been advised to closely monitor industrial emissions, and motorists, to abandon the use of private vehicles and switch to public transport. Monitoring of unauthorized waste incineration has been increased.

To date, the rescue service has not recorded levels above the maximum allowable concentration of pollutants in the air. Nevertheless, they have asked the public to take the following precautions.

The public has been advised to leave the city during this time. (The message does not indicate which city. Apparently, Yekaterinburg is meant.) If this is impossible, then people are advised to go outside as little as possible and keep doors and windows closed, and when leaving the house, people should put on a dampened cotton-gauze bandage. After being outside, it is advised to take a shower and change one’s clothes or thoroughly wash up and rinse one’s throat.

As URA.ru has previously reported, a dense smog, due, allegedly, to forest fires in Siberia, has enveloped Yekaterinburg the last several days.

NB. Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city, has an estimated population of one and a half million people. TRR

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AK for the heads-up. See “Greenpeace Russia: The Far East and Siberia Are Burning,” Russian Reader, May 25, 2016.

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Sparta F.C.

Russian football hooligans attacking an opponet in Marseille. Photo courtesy of tribuna.sports.ru
Russian football hooligans attacking an opponent in Marseille. Photo courtesy of tribuna.sports.ru

Come on I will show you how I will change
When you give me something to slaughter
Shepherd boy (Hey!)
Everybody sing (Hey!)
Better act quick (Hey!)

Be my toy
Come on have a bet
We live on blood
We are Sparta F.C.

The Russian National Football Hooligans Squad: The Russia They Represent in Marseille
Sergei Medvedev
Forbes.ru
June 14, 2016

Russia has fought yet another small victorious war. On the eve of the national squad’s first match in Euro 2015, a couple dozen Russian fans routed the numerically superior forces of the English fans in the Old Port of Marseille. A day later, right after the match, they went berserk in the English sector at the stadium, beating up everyone in their path, including spectators with families and elderly people. The results were distressing. At least thirty-five people were injured, and a fifty-year-old English fan who was crowbarred over the head is at death’s door. As punishment, UEFA has provisionally suspended the Russian team until the end of Euro 2016 (if the violations are repeated, we will be completely disqualified from the championship) and fined the Russian Football Union 150,000 euros, including for the racist behavior of the Russian sector during the match against England. On June 14, French police detained fifty people from the Russian Union of Supporters, led by the notorious Alexander Shprygin (aka Kamancha) and held them for twenty-four hours. Russian fans made the top world news headlines (isn’t it what they wanted?), and Russia’s chances of losing the right to host the 2018 World Cup have seriously increased.

This shameful episode perhaps should not deserve such attention. Football hooliganism has long ago turned into a sanctuary of violence and a near equivalent of world war. Fans of all countries fight and run rampant, and massacres happen too, like the tragedy at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, which left thirty-nine people dead and led to all English clubs being banned from UEFA competitions for five years. And Marseille well remembers the English fans during the 1998 World Cup, who staged a donnybrook with fans from Tunisia and smashed up half the town.

But the difference lies elsewhere. While in England, supporters are unanimously condemned by society and politicians in the wake of such scandals, over the last few days the football hooligans have figured almost as national heroes in Russia. Dmitry Yegorov, a reporter for Soviet Sport, live tweeted the carnage, commenting it like a football match and admiring the organization and physical training of the Russians. Social media have been buzzing with approval for the supporter, who smacked the spineless English upside the head and stood up for Russia like the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae. A blog by sports journalist Andrei Malosolov entitled “Why the Victory of Russian Supporters in the Port of Marseille Is Cool!” has been especially popular.

What is even more curious, the Russian hooligans have enjoyed the backing of high-ranking officials. Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin commented on the reaction of the Marseille authorities on Twitter, calling the Russian fans “well-trained fighters.”

“A normal man, as he should be, surprises them,” he wrote. “They’re used to seeing ‘men’ at gay parades.”

LDPR State Duma deputy Igor Lebedev (whose aides include Shprygin aka Kamancha), a member of the Russian Football Union’s executive committee, wrote, “I don’t see anything terrible about fans fighting. On the contrary, our guys were great. Keep it up!”

“If [Russian sports minister Vitaly] Mutko had been with the fans in the stands, he would have fought too,” Lebedev suggested later, in an interview.

Here we have to acknowledge one unpleasant thing. The fans in Marseille supply a honest picture of official policy and conventional wisdom in post-Crimea Russia.

They are waging the same hybrid so popular in our propaganda, infiltrating well-trained fighters, skilled in hand-to-hand combat and disguised as “holidaymakers,” into France, using force selectively and purposefully, attacking in unexpected places. The web is now full of rumors the hooligans were really Russian military intelligence (GRU) special ops units, who had infiltrated the championship to intimidate Europeans, so pumped-up, organized, and sober did the Russian hooligans appear in the numerous videos, but we shall leave this hypothesis to fans of conspiracy theories. As I imagine it, a joint detachment of so-called ultras from different “firms” of fans, fighters experienced in street brawling, converged in Marseille, attacking beer-bellied English “Kuzmiches,” i.e., simple fans who had come not fight, but to cheer and show off, some accompanied by their families.

One Russian fan admitted as much in an interview that our guys had come to fight.

“It doesn’t matter what cities our fans are from and what teams they support. What matters is that we are from Russia and are going to fight against the English. They have always said they are the main football hooligans. We are here to show that English fans are girls.”

Russian football hooligans displaying captured English flags. Photo courtesy of tribuna.sports.ru
Russian football hooligans displaying captured English flags. Photo courtesy of tribuna.sports.ru

So even if the Russian assault was not really a planned military operation, such rumors do not come out of nowhere. First, Russia is not a novice at “hybrid” interventions in social movements in Europe. It has organized rallies and agitprop campaigns, worked skillfully through the media to fuel anti-immigrant sentiments, cooperated with right-wing radical and neofascist movements, and supported scandalous populists and European separatists. Just as in Soviet times the Comintern engaged in subversion in western countries, Russia has been worming its way into the cracks and fissures of European society. It has been trying to weaken the west from within, explaining it in terms of a total “information war.” Alarmed Europeans see the Russian ultras in this light.

Second, football supporters really are one of the combat units of the regime, which has an irresistible attraction to various groups of mummers who try and make a show of strength, such as Cossacks, bikers, and football supporters. Members of these stern fraternities are invited to drink tea with high officials. They are identified as exemplars of patriotism. They are awarded civil society development grants. And when push comes to shove, they are sent out on so-called Russian Marches and sicked on opposition rallies and individual dissidents. However, the football hooligans are as alien to the football tradition as the Surgeon’s latex bikers, with their Orthodox banners and Saint George’s ribbons, are to the rebellion and freedom of Easy Rider, and the paunchy “Cossacks,” with their glued-on topknots and cardboard medals, specialists in fighting gays and theater productions, are to the honor and glory of Russian Cossacks. They are all fakes in the era of Putin and Pelevin. When “the public” is a total simulation, protest countercultures turn into vehicles for dull officialdom and perfunctory patriotism, into tamed grant recipients.

Finally, the Russian fans (at least the ones who are photographed by reporters) are the readymade products of official propaganda, reproducing on their clothes and bodies all the typical corny kitsch of the era of Crimea and “getting up off our knees”: t-shirts emblazoned with slogans like “polite people” and “we don’t abandon our own,” budyonovkas and earflap caps twinkling with red stars, banners displaying toothy bears and Slavic Siegfrieds, kids in Armata tank t-shirts and, as the apotheosis of all this patriotic trash, a gigantic tricolor, covering half the Russian sector at the stadium, inscribed with the message “YOU’RE FUCKED.” Apparently, these people see this as the new Russia’s national idea.

This mayhem, however, kicked off long before Crimea. Russian fans have usually reserved the most boorish displays of great-power chauvinism and racism for trips abroad. In the Czech Republic, Russian hockey fans unfurled banners emblazoned with tanks and the promise to reprise 1968. In downtown Warsaw in 2012, football supporters staged a march in honor of Russia Day, nearly provoking a battle royal with Polish ultras. Fueled by beer and egged on by propaganda, Russian resentment shows itself to the hilt in the stands at football and hockey matches, taking symbolic revenge for the Soviet empire. Yeah, we forfeited a great power and never have learned how to play football, but we can smash chairs and smack Europeans in the kisser, “kick the shit” (otbutskat) out of them, as Vladimir Putin once put it, invoking a football supporter coinage. Ultimately, wasn’t it Putin who shared a bit of popular wisdom drawn from a tough childhood in Petersburg’s courtyards, i.e., you have to hit first?

The fans in Marseille did just that, and in this sense they are worthy ambassadors of Putin’s Russia.

As MP Lebedev would have it, they should be greeted at the airport as heroes, just as the bikers have been greeted when they return from their patriotic motorcycle rallies. They should be secretly awarded state honors, as the “polite people” were in their time for bringing Crimea back into the fold. And they should be elected to seats in the Public Chamber and State Duma. Football hooliganism is a matter of national importance in hybrid Russia.

The term “football hooliganism” (okolofutbol) quite precisely reflects the essence of events. Despite the adult budgets of its premier league teams and national squad, despite the purchase of international stars (a typical strategy of superficial modernization), Russia has remained an average performer in the world rankings, both in terms of its own national championship and the performances of its national team. Before the start of the Euro 2016, our country was ranked twenty-ninth in FIFA’s world ratings. But, at the same time, a fan movement based on the British model has very quickly and naturally put down roots in Russia. Books by Dougie Brimson, who has written authoritatively on England’s football fan culture, have achieved cult status among Russian supporters. Without becoming a world football power, Russia has succeeded brilliantly in hybrid football hooliganism, spewing its entrenched and publicly recognized culture of violence onto the international arena.

But Russia has been engaged in the same hybrid “football hooliganism” in Ukraine, where it has not been waging an open war, but delegating well-trained groups of fighters, and in Syria, where it arrived with its own agenda and has been bombing targets for reasons known only to it, and in Europe, where it has banked on populism, separatism, and breaking up the European Union.

Football hooliganism substitutes fair play, real work, and the painstaking cultivation of institutions with violent action and demonstrative bullying. This is not the first year the entire Russian state has been playing at football hooliganism. The hooligans in Marseille are merely its away side.

Sergei Medvedev is a journalist, historian, and faculty member at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow. Translated by the Russian Reader

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