Solving Problems

Grigorii Golosov
Facebook
October 14, 2021

Yesterday, President Putin, driven mainly by the curiosity of journalists, publicly tried to solve problems. There are a lot of problems, he noted: they are literally “raining down.” He named only two: the decline in incomes among the population and the population’s rapid decline (the “demographic” problem). He promised to solve the first one non-linearly, i.e., not by growing incomes per se, but through economic growth. As you know, the Russian economy grows rarely and slowly, but when it does grow (which has happened over the past ten years), then for some reason this has no effect on the incomes of the population. However, it depends on whom we understand by “the population.” There is definitely a population of several thousand people constantly getting richer, although this population is more often outside of Russia than inside it. Putin did not elucidate his methods for solving the second problem, but he is certain that they will also be nonlinear. There are no other problems in Russia, however. There is no problem with political prisoners: they are all criminals. I would probably doubt that. But I totally agree with Putin that there is no problem with democracy in Russia. If there is no democracy, there is no problem with it. Verily, “if you don’t have an aunt, then you won’t lose her.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia — one of the world’s biggest producers of oil and gas — is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060.

“Russia in practice will strive for carbon neutrality of its economy,” he said at an energy forum in Moscow.

“And we set a benchmark for this — no later than 2060.”

Source: AFP/Moscow Times

Russia’s natural population underwent its largest peacetime decline in recorded history over the last 12 months, an analysis of official government statistics has shown.

Russia’s natural population — a figure which counts registered deaths and births, excluding the effects of migration — declined by 997,000 between October 2020 and September 2021, demographer Alexei Raksha calculated.

The stark drop comes as Russia, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls, continues to see record numbers of lives lost to the pandemic. The country has recorded at least 660,000 excess deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Russia’s total population of around 145 million is lower than it was when President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000 despite Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 which added 2 million to Russia’s official population statistics.

Source: Moscow Times

Only 12 World Leaders Greet Putin on His 69th Birthday. In another sign of Putin’s isolation, only 12 world leaders sent him greetings on his birthday this year. None at all came from the US or from EU countries (business-gazeta.ru/article/524870).

Source: Window on Eurasia (Paul Goble)

Where Will Sergei Usoltsev Find 60,000 Rubles to Pay His Fine for Insulting Putin and Valentina Tereshkova?

Sergei Usoltsev. Photo: Kommersant/Activatica

Activatica.org
Facebook
October 6, 2021

Sergei Usoltsev, a resident of Sverdlovsk Region, was fined 60 thousand rubles [approx. 716 euros] for “insulting the authorities” (punishable under Article 20.1.3 of the Administrative Offenses Code).

The Sverdlovsk Regional Court rejected the defense’s appeal against the decision of the Shalya City Court, which in June ordered Usoltsev to pay 60 thousand rubles for a comment he made on the social network VKontakte. According to the prosecution, the comment insulted the authorities, specifically, Vladimir Putin and Valentina Tereshkova.

Activists have launched a fundraiser for Usoltsev, who lives in the village of Gora, 40 kilometers from the town of Shalya, Sverdlovsk Region. Recently, Usoltsev’s seriously ill wife, whom he was caring for, died.

The Ministry of Social Policy was paying Usoltsev a social pension of 1,380 rubles [approx. 16 euros] a month as a caregiver, but now he no longer has this income either. Usoltsev will soon be sixty years old, but, according to the new laws, he is eligible to retire only in 2024. He has also been unable to get a job: he is near retirement age, and there is not enough work even for young people in his village.

If Usoltsev does not pay the fine within 60 days, either the fine will be doubled or he will be placed under administrative arrest.

Source: ROSshtraf

Translated by the Russian Reader

UPDATE (9 October 2021). ROSshtaf has reported on its Telegram account that it raised the 60,000 rubles to pay Mr. Usoltsev’s fine in a single day!

The October Counter-Revolution

Yes, I know that Boris Kagarlitsky is completely beyond the pale after his vigorous defense of the Kremlin’s misadventures in Ukraine. But as my friend Vlad Tupikin has reminded me, solidarity is not about supporting our close friends and people whose views are identical to our own. And things in Russia are so out of control right now that even Kagarlitsky deserves solidarity and support. Photo courtesy of The Nation. ||| TRR

Volja. Telegram. 1 October 2021

We usually do not repost entire texts by third-party authors produced for other platforms and other channels. But now a new time has arrived, a time for solidarity, so such content will naturally appear here.

We begin with a text by the political scientist Boris Kagarlitsky, who was sentenced yesterday to ten days in jail posting on social media about the protests by [Valery] Rashkin and the Communist Party.

So, we yield the floor to Kagarlitsky. This was the last text he published before his arrest.

Kagarlitsky Letters. Telegram. 29 September 2021

The actions of the Russian authorities in the wake of the elections appear, at first glance, clearly excessive vis-a-vis the political circumstances. In fact, almost everyone who was promised a seat was elected to the State Duma, and the opposition was routed, and even the internet is largely under control, but for some reason they still have been carrying out lawless raids on Communist Party lawyers, chasing down individual activists, expanding the lists of “undesirable organizations,” and opening new criminal cases against those who are already in prison or have fled abroad. They are behaving as if everything is about to collapse. Why? What is the source of their hysteria?

Without reliable information about what is happening inside the Kremlin, we can only draw some conclusions based on history and psychology. It seems that the reason for the regime’s nervousness is the regime itself, its own internal and insoluble contradictions.

Political scientists have been contemplating the prospects of Putin’s so-called transit for more than a year. Will Putin appoint an heir? Who will it be? The ruler’s health clearly leaves much to be desired, and the question of how long he will be able to exercise his powers is probably a matter of concern not only for pundits. Naturally, preparations for the transit have begun, and Putin himself must be involved in them in one way or another. But even if the president promises his entourage that he will take care of the future, he knows for certain that as soon as a successor is named, the current ruler’s [sic] grip on power will be shaken. Therefore, the transit will be readied, but it will not take place. As long as Putin is alive, he will not permit any final decisions to be made. If something happens to him, it will be too late to make decisions, and the process will develop spontaneously and catastrophically.

It is no surprise that this state of affairs has generated the most severe neurosis among people in and around the Kremlin. The transit has begun, but it does not end. Vital decisions are discussed and readied, but not made. The cruelest intrigues and conspiracies are hatched within the ruler’s entourage, but nothing comes of them. Threatening, unbearable uncertainty becomes an all-consuming element that ravages the mind. Everyone is afraid of everyone else; no one trusts anyone. Exactly as Freud would have it, fears and complexes are displaced. The form of this displacement is a crackdown against members of the opposition or those who have been labeled members of the opposition.

Irrational actions generate unforeseen, but absolutely predictable consequences. Loyal functionaries from the leadership of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) are being pushed into the radical opposition’s vacated niche, which is just as psychologically and emotionally unbearable for them as the endless transit, going nowhere, is for government officials. Maxim Kalashnikov has compared this to a situation in which a very weak radio receives a signal too strong for it, which totally fries its circuits. I think this analogy describes quite accurately what has been happening among Communist Party executives and staffers.

Political rationality requires the Kremlin to stop escalating the crackdown, take a breath and at least weigh the consequences of its decisions. But this will not happen, because the rationale for the regime’s behavior has nothing to do with managing the political process. It is no longer political scientists, but psychiatrists who should analyze the actions of the ruling circles.

Translated by the Russian Reader

_____________

A court in Moscow has sentenced Marxist theoretician and sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky to 10 days in jail for sharing content on social media promoting unpermitted protests by the Communist Party (KPRF) against the results of Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. Police arrested Kagarlitsky on Wednesday on his way to the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, where he is a lecturer.

Boris Kagarlitsky is also the director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, which Russia’s Justice Ministry designated as a “foreign agent” in 2018.

KPRF has refused to recognize the official results of electronic voting in Moscow, where online ballots propelled several candidates backed by the Mayor’s Office to victories over oppositionists. The Communist Party staged small protests on September 20 and 25, prompting a sweeping police crackdown in the days that followed.

Source: Meduza, 30 September 2021

Navalny’s Musicians

13 musicians not allowed to perform at City Day concert in Moscow due to support for Navalny
The Village
Tasya Elfimova
September 11, 2021

The Federal Protective Service (FSO) did not allow several musicians to perform at a concert in honor of City Day in Moscow due to their alleged support of Alexei Navalny.

Sergei Sobyanin and Vladimir Putin were planning to attend the celebration, so the FSO vetted the lists of performers in advance. The FSO did not admit thirteen people to the performance without explaining the reasons. Dmitry Klyuyev, an employee of the State Academic Chapel Choir, believes that it happened because the musicians were in the leaked databases of Alexei Navalny’s projects or had taken part in protest rallies.

Four employees of the chapel choir, three people from the Svetlanov State Orchestra and six people from the team of directors were removed from the concert.

“The organizers are in shock, no one has explained anything to them,” Klyuyev said.

Source: OVD Info

Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexander Gudkov, “Aquatic Disco,” a song inspired by Alexei Navalny’s revelations that the blueprints for “Putin’s palace” contained a room labeled as such

Moscow Police Use Leaked Personal Data To Investigate Navalny Supporters
RFE/RL Russian Service
August 18, 2021

Moscow police are using leaked online personal data from projects linked to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny to investigate people who have supported the Kremlin critic.

The OVD Info website said on August 17 that police had visited some 20 individuals who registered for online projects developed by Navalny associates or donated to Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his other projects.

According to OVD Info, police are demanding explanations from the people as to how their names were included in the leaked data related to Navalny’s online projects and why they are involved with him.

In June, a court in Moscow labeled FBK and Navalny’s other projects and groups extremist and banned them. Under Russian law, cooperation with such groups is considered illegal and may lead to criminal prosecution.

Police have not said how they obtained the people’s personal data from Navalny’s websites.

One person, who was not identified, told OVD Info that police asked him to file a legal complaint against Navalny to accuse him of sharing personal data.

Journalist and municipal lawmaker Ilya Azar, whose personal data was among those leaked, wrote on Telegram late on August 17 that police had tried to visit him as well, but he was not at home.

“They talked to [my] neighbors about some personal data leaked on the Internet,” Azar wrote.

One such leak took place in April, when the online campaign called “Freedom to Navalny” was reportedly compromised.

Navalny associates said at the time that a former FBK worker had “stolen” all the personal data of those who registered at the pro-Navalny site.

After that leak, the Moscow [subway] fired dozens of workers whose personal data turned up among the names of Navalny supporters.

 

Putin Threatened by Estonian Hippies

Mihkel Ram Tamm (center) was a guru for hippies in Estonia and other parts of the Soviet Union. Courtesy of Vladimir Wiedemann and the Guardian

Reading of Durnenkov Play Banned in Vladivostok 
Vitalia Bob
Teatr
September 1, 2021

A reading of Mikhail Durnenkov’s play How Estonian Hippies Destroyed the Soviet Union at the Primorsky Youth Theater [in Vladivostok] has been banned [sic].

The Primorsky Youth Theater’s new season was to open on September. The theater had announced this event a long time ago: it was planned for the theater’s courtyard and featured a reading of Mikhail Durnenkov’s play How Estonian Hippies Destroyed the Soviet Union. According to Maritime Territory media, yesterday, August 31, on the eve of the Russian president’s visit to Vladivostok, the management of the Youth Theater was forced to cancel the reading of the play and all events scheduled for September 2 after getting a call from the Maritime Territory Ministry of Culture and Archives.

Sergei Matlin, former head of the regional department of culture, commented on the reading’s cancellation on social media.

“It’s disgusting. This, by the way, is exactly what is meant by vicarious embarrassment. That is, when someone else does something, but for some reason you feel ashamed… The ministry actually doesn’t have the right to ban the reading of the play. Since this production definitely doesn’t qualify as a state commission, that means it is not financed from the budget. In any case, even if there were some controversial aspects about the text of the play, this is a creative issue and should definitely not be solved in the offices of bureaucrats. What has happened sets a dangerous precedent. If we do not fight back today, then tomorrow officials will want to veil nude pictures in a gallery, the day after tomorrow — to edit the wording of signage they don’t like in a museum exposition, and a couple of days later — to alter the costumes of characters at the Puppet Theater,” Matlin wrote.

Matlin also noted that Durnenkov’s play is currently being staged at the Meyerhold Center in Moscow with financing from the Presidential Grants Fund.

Lydia Vasilenko, the Youth Theater’s artistic director, declined to comment, but wrote on her Facebook page, “I’m having a hard time, a really hard time. Today, the reading of the Durnenkov play has been canceled. I’m at a loss.”

____________________

How Estonian Hippies Destroyed the Soviet Union is a tragicomedy about the adventures of six Estonian hippies who are hungry for freedom and love. Despite the fact that the reading was canceled in Vladivostok, the play, produced with money from a presidential grant, is currently running at the Meyerhold Center in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin has repeatedly expressed regret about the collapse of the Soviet Union, calling it “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” He touched on this topic at his meeting with schoolchildren yesterday.

Source: Radio Svoboda

Translated by the Russian Reader

The play most suited to a large stage would have to be Mikhail Durnenkov’s How Estonian Hippies Destroyed the Soviet Union, which was written on commission for a theatre in Estonia. It is a dream-like psychedelic journey where reality and the imaginary become entangled, only disentangling at the play’s denouement, when it becomes clear that while the eponymous Estonian hippies may be forced to physically submit to the will of authority, it is their ideals of love and freedom that ultimately collapse the Soviet project from within, at the level of the individual. 

— Alex Trustrum Thomas, “Moscow’s 2018 Liubimovka Festival: New Trends, Old Problems,” The Theatre Times, 12 October 2018

 

Flowers and hair grow everywhere! A wild flower power ride on the footprints of the Soviet hippie movement take you into the psychedelic underground of 1970s. In search of freedom and happiness under the thumb of the strict political regime a colorful crowd of artists, musicians, freaks, vagabonds and other long-haired drop-outs created their own System in the Soviet Union. Years later, a group of eccentric hippies take a road journey to Moscow where people still gather annually on the 1st of June to commemorate a tragic event in 1971, when thousands of hippies were arrested by the KGB. Directed by Terje Toomistu.

Juneteenth a la russe

Four solo picketers detained in Moscow demanding that authorities not exacerbate the epidemic 
OVD Info
June 19, 2021

Alexander Rimov has informed OVD Info that four people involved in a series of solo pickets demanding that authorities not worsen the epidemiological situation have been detained.

During the United Russia party congress, taking place at Moscow’s Expo Center, several people took turns holding up a placard containing a message encrypted using a QR code. The protesters urged the authorities not to worsen the epidemiological situation and postpone the elections so that the ruling party does not endanger the electorate.

Among the detainees, according to Rimov, are two virologists, a law enforcement officer and a municipal employee. They were taken to the police department in the city’s Arbat district, where they were cited for violating the rules for holding public events (per Article 20.2.5 of the Administrative Code).

UPDATE 10:00 P.M. After the charges were filed, the detainees were released, a friend of theirs has told OVD Info.

During the United Russia congress, President Putin announced the first five names on the party’s federal list for the upcoming State Duma elections.

Thanks to Activatica for the link and the Kamchatka Krai branch of the United Russian party for the photo of the congress venue. Translated by the Russian Reader

United Russia has set itself goal of winning the elections, but this is not an end in itself. The main thing is to achieve more for the country, Vladimir Putin said.

He noted that the platform of United Russia, as a leading party, should be truly popular.

In the top five of United Russia’s federal list in the elections, there should be both political heavyweights and relative newcomers, Putin believes. The Russian president named Shoigu among those whom he sees at the top of United Russia’s federal list in the elections.

Putin also said that Protsenko, Lavrov, Shmeleva and Kuznetsova should be among the names at the top of the federal list.

Source: TASS, June 19, 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader. Mediazona editor Yegor Skovoroda writes that new data from Rosstat, the Russian federal statistics service, shows how authorities in many of Russia’s regions have been hiding covid-19 deaths by passing them off as mortalities from respiratory and circulatory diseases. In Chechnya, for example, such deaths suddenly increased by 674%, while in the Samara region they increased by 202%. It was mostly the elderly that have been dying from these alleged causes, prompting Skovoroda to call the phenomenon a “nightmarish variety of ‘pension reform.’” All the particulars are contained in Mediazona’s survey of the stats, published on June 18, 2021.

Kira Yarmysh: People Usually Avoid the Word “Dying”

Kira Yarmysh

Kira Yarmysh
Facebook
April 17, 2021

When Alexei [Navalny] came to after the coma, and everything began to gradually improve, I thought that I would not soon have to endure minutes worse than I had in the plane from Tomsk as it was landing in Omsk. Things didn’t happen like that. It was a law of life, or something. Such powerful emotional experiences didn’t happen one after another.

But now eight months have passed, and I’m back on that plane, only this time it is landing very slowly.

People usually avoid the word “dying.” Some avoid it out of superstition. I personally avoid it because loud words like that shouldn’t be used lightly.

But Alexei is now dying. In his condition, it’s a matter of days. The lawyers just can’t get into [the prison] to see him at the weekend, yet no one knows what will happen on Monday.

We witnessed tremendous support in Omsk. Alexei himself later said many times in interviews that Putin had let him to be taken abroad for treatment because he realized it would do him no good to have Navalny die “live on the air.”

Now he is dying in exactly the same way, in plain view of everyone, only this time more slowly, and access to Alexei is much more difficult. Apparently, that’s why it seems to everyone that nothing terrible is happening. The hunger strike has lasted for eighteen days, Navalny has been gradually losing the feeling in his arms and legs, and some tests have been done. All this has been blurred in time, and people don’t have the sense that they are again witnessing a murder.

In 2015, we were organizing a big spring protest rally and heavily promoting it. Alexei himself handed out leaflets in the subway, which landed him in jail for fifteen days. But then [Boris] Nemtsov was murdered. In the end, the rally did take place, and it was huge, only the occasion for the rally had changed altogether.

Now, too, a rally is being organized to demand Alexei’s release, and it will be huge as well. But I don’t want it to happen for any other reason.

Putin reacts only to mass street protests. Even the threat of them scares him. The Kremlin has also been looking at the counter of people [who have pledged to attend the protest] on the Free Navalny website and thinking, Aha, the pace has slowed down, there is no reason to be worried, we can keep going. Navalny is dying: let him die. We won’t let a doctor see him. We won’t allow him to be treated. We should push even harder: we’ll declare his supporters extremists to keep them quiet.

This rally is no longer Navalny’s chance for freedom. It is a condition of keeping him alive. And every new day could be the last.

Register now. We need to reach 500,000 people as soon as possible.

https://free.navalny.com/

Kira Yarmysh is Alexei Navalny’s press secretary. As of today (April 17, 2021), nearly 453,000 Russians had pledged to attend protests demanding Navalny’s release (see the screenshot, below). Photo of Yarmysh courtesy of Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader

Slugfest

I usually like what Kirill Martynov writes, but the screed, below, is overdoing it. DOXA are just four nice smart, brave kids, not the Red Army Faction. They shouldn’t have to bring down the Putin regime on their own. This is not to mention the fact that Russia has been an “ordinary dictatorship” since 2012, if not much earlier. || TRR

___________________

Kirill Martynov
Facebook
April 16, 2021

At work, I have to constantly write about the “socio-political situation.”

My thoughts are now as transparent as Patrushev’s tear: we have arrived at an ordinary dictatorship with a president for life, prisons and a ban on practicing their professions for dissenters, and the subsequent collapse of the state—after this patriotic feast ends with some pathetic and shameful event, as usually happens to dictatorships.

Accordingly, there is practically nothing to write, except for specific stories—for example, about when they try to block YouTube or how they will simulate elections under the new circumstances.

The DOXA case should be read in this light: this is not about random “siloviki going after a student magazine,” but about the dictatorship purging education and the media. It is impossible to win a trial against the dictatorship, so further bets will hinge on whether everyone remains free or not.

The advantage in this case is that “DOXA’s criminal video” says nothing except the that students also have the right to take a civic stance, and university administrations should not try to persecute them for this. It looks like the kind of case that should end in a suspended sentence, which, by Russian standards, is tantamount to an acquittal.

However, so far the state has imposed special pre-trial restraining measures on DOXA. All four editors can leave their homes for one minute a day, from 11:59 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. (so as to avoid putting them under house arrest for some reason).* All four of them have already been issued summonses for more than twenty interrogations, scheduled for every working day between now and late May.


In a better world, Summit Brewing Co.’s fabulous Slugfest IPA would be my new sponsor. Instead, it only dulls the pain I feel when contemplating the one-sided slugfest happening in the world’s biggest country. Image courtesy of Summit Brewing Co., St. Paul, Minn.

Armen Aramyan wrote his honor’s thesis in epistemology with me as his academic advisor. I hope that the investigator will have time to talk with him about this interesting subject. (“Why so many books?” the police asked when they searched his apartment.)

So from an epistemological point of view, the situation looks something like this. The authorities are now able to kill DOXA’s entire support line in a matter of days: the state will simply devour a few lives and go on, thus maintaining “stability.” But the state’s weakness is that it has no idea what phenomenon it is facing.

It has no idea how these people think, what they want, and what to use to “break” them. When the Americans were at war with Japan, they commissioned anthropologists to study Japanese culture. Our state is waging a war on young people blindly, like a drunken gangster in a dark alley.

I have no idea at all what DOXA—a horizontal student editorial board that writes about modern philosophy and harassment—looks like to police investigators.

And while the state is trying to figure out this unknown quantity, to unravel how it can be bought off or destroyed, many more interesting things will happen.

* As reader Pavel Kudyukin pointed out to me, house arrest was not imposed in this case so that its duration could not later be subtracted (as “time served”) from a sentence of imprisonment or probation imposed after a trial and guilty verdict. This suggests, he argued, that the powers that be have already decided to convict the four DOXA editors and send them to prison. || TRR

April 16, 2021

Covid is raging in Russia: over the past twelve months, there have been about 500,000 unexplained excess deaths. Putin is killing Navalny in prison, right now, literally. And this is the scene today, Friday, at 11:15 p.m., on Pyatnitskaya Street in downtown Moscow. How is this possible?!

Translated by the Russian Reader

Song and Dance

“Horses, men and nonsense”: song and dance as matters of state
Ivan Davydov
Republic
April 4, 2021

I must admit that I am quite unfamiliar with the work of Dima Bilan. You could even say that I’m not familiar with his work at all. It’s probably nothing to brag about, but it is what it is. I am truly grateful to Dima Bilan, however. It was he who jumped out of the piano with a violin (possibly on skates) and gifted Russia a few years of not having to discuss the “Russophobic conspiracy” at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Or maybe it was not Bilan who jumped out of the piano. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Eurovision either, and I could have mixed up the details. But Bilan definitely won the 2008 contest in Belgrade, after which Russians calmed down a little, putting up with Eurovision for the next two or even three years.

Eurovision does strange things to people. Once a year, even people with decent taste who listen to normal music in real life, and not what Russia (like all the other participating countries) sends to the contest, suddenly start following the antics of comically dressed people, counting up the points and muttering to themselves, “Ukraine… The hell with them… What can you expect from them? But the Armenians?! How could the Armenians not vote for us?”

Then, for another week, the results of the competition are discussed not only on TV talk shows, but even in serious publications, not to mention social media.

New trends
Before Bilan’s victory, Russians every year rediscovered Europe’s alleged dislike of Russia: they would suffer fits of outrage and curse a blue streak, wasting time and fraying their nerves. Bilan broke the goddamn chain: Russians calmed down and, for a few years, reconciled themselves to the musical freak show. At first, they were proud of Bilan’s victory and, the following year, of the incredible show (costing many billions of rubles) that Moscow put on. Then… Well, to me, an inattentive observer, it at least seemed that the controversy around the contest had subsided, and only sincere fans of bad music were still getting worked up about it.

Now the contest has not even started, and yet passions are already boiling. The singer Manizha, who will represent Russia at the Eurovision Song Contest this year, has been threatened. The lyrics of her song have been analyzed by members of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, at their sittings, and spokesmen for the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Muslim leaders have weighed and judged the song before TV viewers have even voted. Hired and voluntary Twitter campaigners against “Ukrainian fascism” have forgotten their vocation, denouncing Manizha without mincing their words. I won’t even quote them: there is not a word in what they’ve written that is not punishable under the Russian Criminal Code. (By the way, have you noticed that professional Russian fighters against “fascism” are mostly brownshirts and smell accordingly?)

Interestingly, drift of the polemics has changed. Previously, people looked for a conspiracy after the contest was over, and they looked for it outside Russia. Now we have achieved total clarity about the conspiracy “from without”: all high-ranking officials talk about the “hybrid war” against Russia every day in unison, and to prove its existence, they no longer need to refer to the results of the Eurovision Song Contest. Now they are hunting for internal enemies, and prior to any international vote.

Manizha, “Russian Woman,” Russia’s entry for the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest

I know the work of the singer Manizha a little better than I know the work of Dima Bilan, because I listened to the song about Russian women that is going to the contest. But I don’t want to pretend to be a music critic. I’m not going to discuss the song’s merits of the composition. Instead, I intend to talk about the reaction of high-ranking Russian officials.

Offended women
I wasn’t joking about the discussion in the Federation Council. Elena Afanasyeva, a member of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee (Eurovision is an international event, after all!) subjected Manizha to a withering critique: “The song has no meaning. It is a random set of phrases by an immature thirty-year-old girl with unresolved personal problems who doesn’t know what she wants. Excuse me, what does this have to do with Russian women? The style of the performance, African-American dances, a costume similar to that of an American prison inmate. Aggressiveness, senselessness, a negative image of the Russian family.”

That is, the song smacks of a provocation: it is an obvious machination on the part of Russia’s internal enemies.

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the Federation Council, supported her colleague: “I recommend anyone who is not familiar with the lyrics of the song [to read them]. It’s about horses and men, and is basically nonsense. I don’t understand at all what it means.”

The speaker also demanded an inquiry to find out who had selected the song for the competition and how it was selected.

High-ranking Russian women have thus taken offense at the song “Russian Woman.” By the way, there is no mention of “horses” in the song, but it is quite clear why Matviyenko thought of them. They come from Mikhail Lermontov’s poem “Borodino”:

The ground shook like our breasts,
Horses and men mingled in the battle,
And the volleys of a thousand guns
Merged into a long-drawn-out howl.

So, even oblique associations put the speaker on the warpath.

Konstantin Ernst (after all, the song was chosen on Channel One) was forced to explain that the audience had voted: nothing could be done, it was will of the people. Ernst’s strategy is clear: we remember how in 2014, on the eve of the occupation of Crimea and the war against Ukraine, he managed to sell the world the image of a kind-hearted and open-minded Russia by putting on a show at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sochi. A song about the plight of a woman crushed by the patriarchal world, performed in Russian and English by an ethnic minority singer, is a similar move (and alas, it is possible that it is also being made on the eve of a new war). It is quite consistent with European trends, and could work. But it’s not a matter of trends. Europe is the same, but Russia has changed.

No black jack
The overripe Putinism of 2021 is not remotely the equivalent of the Putinism of 2014. Today’s Russia not only aspires to total control over anything its citizens do, but has been trying to exercise this control in practice. And so a pleasant freak show has been turned into a national affair in which the fatherland’s prestige is at stake. What we need now, supposedly, are not pop songs, but a solemn oratorio about the Russian nation’s acts of valor during the Second World War.

I would, by the way, send Dmitry Rogozin to the contest. He could handle the mission: it is not too late to dial everything back. It’s a shame to waste such an enormous talent.

The Eurovision Song Contest scandal has become a purely political story, another example of what the Russian state has been turning into. And yes, of course, the desire to interfere in cultural life is very important here, because the Russian state, which claims to be total, considers culture to be its exclusive bailiwick. This was the case back in the twentieth century, and the current proprietors of the state are in awe of Soviet best practices. We ordinary people hear a song that we like, dislike, or could not care less about, but they think about ideology, influencing opinion, and the blow to Russia’s image. And they see nothing else.

Dmitry Peskov, the president’s press secretary, thus sounded surprisingly reasonable when he commented on Matviyenko’s initiative: “We are talking about a show business competition at which different images are presented: there is a bearded woman performing, there are singers in chicken outfits… We do not consider it possible to comment on this or to intervene in any way.”

But let’s not forget that Peskov’s immediate superior once bluntly said that Peskov often “talks rubbish,” and his comments do not necessarily reflect the innermost thoughts of the best friend of singers and composers. The president met with young cultural figures not so long ago. Although they did not discuss Manizha, of course, the context was still legible. One of people at the meeting, the pianist Oleg Akkuratov, voiced a sore point to the supreme leader: “There is another problem. I really love songs in Russian, which are in short supply right now: at all competitions, including children’s ones, a lot of songs are sung in English. But I think that’s wrong. We need to encourage love for the Motherland, love for our country, love for our native tongue, because I think this is important for all of us. Maybe what we are missing is a Russian-language song contest? We have not, of course, completely lost our love for Soviet poetry, especially Russian poetry. But what we hear today is not meant for our ears, and especially not for children, because it is, of course, horrible.”

“I will immediately start with what I think is a large-scale and important idea – a Russian-language song contest: we will definitely think about it. I ask my colleagues in the Government and in the Administration to submit relevant proposals,” Putin replied.

Let’s have our own patriotic “Eurovision” without bearded women! Belarus, I am sure, will support us, and if we are lucky, Kazakhstan will close ranks with us, too.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Manizha, “Russian Woman” (Russia ESC 2021). Lyrics and music: Manizha, Ori Kaplan, Ori Avni

Russian text

English translation

Поле поле поле
Я ж мала
Поле поле поле
Так мала
Как пройти по полю из огня
Как пройти по полю если ты одна?
А-а-а?
Ждать ли чьей-то ручечки, ручки?
А-а-а?
Кто подаст мне ручку девочки?
Из покон веков
С ночи до утра
С ночи-ночи
Ждем мы корабля
Ждем мы корабля
Очень очень
С ночи до утра
Ждем мы корабля
Ждем бы корабля
А что ждать?
Встала и пошла.

Every Russian Woman
Needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall

Шо там хорохорится?
Ой, красавица?
Ждешь своего юнца?
Ой, красавица
Тебе уж за 30
Ало? Где же дети?
Ты в целом красива
Но вот бы похудеть бы
Надень подлиннее
Надень покороче
Росла без отца
Делай то, что не хочешь
Ты точно не хочешь?
Не хочешь?
А надо.
Послушайте, правда.
Мы с вами не стадо
Вороны пщ-щ-щ пыщ-щ-щ
Отвалите
Теперь зарубите себе на носу
Я вас не виню
А себя я чертовски люблю
Борются, борются
Все по кругу борются
Да не молятся
Сын без отца
Дочь без отца
Но сломанной Family
Не сломать меня
You gonna
You gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman
Needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman
Needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wallHey, Russian woman
Don’t be afraid, girl
You’re strong enough
You’re strong enough
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid

Борются, борются
Все по кругу борются
Да не молятся
Сын без отца
Дочь без отца
Но сломанной Family
Не сломать меня

Fields, fields, fields
I’m so small
Fields, fields, fields
I’m too small
How do you cross a field through the fire?
How do you cross the field if you’re alone?
Heeeey?
Should I wait for a helpful hand?
Whaaat?
Who will stretch out for me, girls?
For ages now
From night till dawn
From the deepest of the night
We are waiting for a ship
A Sailing ship
Waiting very much
From night till dawn
Waiting for a ship
Waiting for a ship
But what’s the wait?
Stand up, let’s go!

Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall

What’s the rattling about?
Hey, beauty!
Are you waiting for your prince?
Hey, beauty!
You’re 30!
Hello? Where are your kids?
You are cute overall
But should lose some weight
Wear something longer
Wear something shorter
Oh you grew up without a father?
You should do what you don’t want to
You sure you’d don’t want to?
Don’t want to?
You SHOULD!
Listen up, really!
We’re not a flock
Hey, crows, shoo!
Leave me alone (give me a break)
Now learn it by heart:
I don’t blame you a bit
But damn do I like myself

They just fight, always fight
Go round and round to just fight
But never pray
Boy without a father
Girl with no dad
But this broken family
Can’t break me

Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall
Every Russian Woman needs to know
You’re strong enough, you’re gonna break the wall

Hey, Russian woman
Don’t be afraid, girl
You’re strong enough
You’re strong enough
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid

They are fighting, they are fighting
Everyone around is fighting
Yes, they don’t pray
Son without father
Daughter without father
But a broken family
Does not break me

Source: Wiwibloggs

Hottest

Olga Balema, Cannibals, 2015, Installation view, Croy Nielsen, Berlin, courtesy: the artist & Croy Nielsen, Berlin

Putin Named Russia’s Hottest Man
Moscow Times
April 2, 2021

The thirst is real for Russians who still want “someone like Putin” after all these years of bare-chested horse riding and rugged hunting excursions.

According to a poll by the Superjob.ru job board published Friday, 18% of men and 17% of women surveyed named President Vladimir Putin as Russia’s most handsome man.

The 68-year-old bachelor is the only individual to receive double digits in the open-ended questionnaire. Nineteen percent of men named themselves as Russia’s most handsome man, while 18% of women said there are no handsome men in Russia.

“Russians still call Vladimir Putin the most attractive famous man in the country,” Superjob.ru declared, despite the 1% dip in his rating from last year.

“Neither actors nor athletes or other politicians can compete with him today,” it said.

Indeed, the commando-in-chief maintained a comfortable lead on his closest competitors actors Dmitry Nagiyev, Danila Kozlovsky and Konstantin Khabensky, whose handsomeness was identified by a mere 2-3% of respondents.

Superjob.ru said it carried out the in-person survey among 1,000 men and 1,000 women in more than 300 Russian cities between March 22-April 1.

The results were published days after lawmakers passed legislation allowing Putin to remain president until 2036, when Russians’ biggest crush turns 83.

Over the years and until quite recently, Vladimir Putin has consistently denied that he would amend the Russian Constitution so that he could remain in the president’s office longer than prescribed by law. But that’s exactly what he did in 2020, and now he’s signed into “law” his coup d’état. Video by Current Time TV. Thanks to @sibirskykot for the heads-up. || TRR

Putin Signs Law Paving Way to Rule Until 2036
Moscow Times
April 5, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation formally granting him the right to stay in power until 2036.

Putin’s second consecutive and fourth overall presidential term ends in 2024, the year when Russia’s previous Constitution would have required him to step down.

But an overhauled Constitution that Russians approved in a nationwide vote last year allows Putin to run for two more six-year presidential terms. If elected both times, he would remain president until 2036, surpassing Josef Stalin as the longest-serving leader of Russia since Peter the Great.

The 68-year-old signed a law Monday that resets his number of terms served, allowing him to extend his 20-year rule until he turns 83.

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, who served in 2008-2012 when Putin was constitutionally mandated to step down after his first two consecutive terms, is also granted the right to run two more times. Putin served as prime minister during Medvedev’s presidency.

Critics slammed last summer’s vote on the sweeping constitutional reforms — which contained populist economic measures and enshrined conservative values in Russia’s basic law — as a pretext to allow Putin to become “president for life.”

Putin has previously said he hasn’t yet decided whether to run for president again, saying 2024 is still far off.

The emphasis, above, is mine. Image courtesy of Frieze. || TRR

P.S. “Protesters in Myanmar took to handing out Easter eggs painted with protest messages at renewed marches in Yangon, the main city, and elsewhere around the country. They oppose the military government that seized power in February. Police shot and killed two men in the capital, Naypyitaw; over 500 people have died since the coup.” (The Economist Espresso, 5 April 2021)