Darya Apahonchich: Closing Doors

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Darya Apahonchich
Facebook
August 13, 2019

Things are so sad I will tell you something sort of funny.

I am an imported Petersburger. I was born in a tiny town, almost a village. It was not the custom there to lock doors. People would close doors to keep out the wind and snow, but not random passersby because we should not hide from other people. On the contrary, we should be ready to help them.

So, people left the doors to their houses open.

Out of provincial habit, I kept my door in Petersburg unlocked up until this year. I have never owned anything valuable. We have always been fairly poor and, sometimes, really poor.

You wonder whether I have been robbed blind or had something stolen? I have been robbed at the hospital, in the library, and at the pediatric clinic, but I have never been robbed at home.

And so, this past spring, when the cops came to our house, beating on the door and yelling, the door was not locked. Can you imagine?

Because it did not occur to us to lock it, just as it did not occur to the cops to turn the doorknob.

So, they banged on the door, but they did not turn the knob.

I have locked the door ever since then. I am not afraid of mosquitoes, people or thieves, but I do not want the police to get in.

Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

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Mercy

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I’m really surprised by people who think it’s an important development that Lev Ponomaryov, the veteran Russian human rights activist who was sentenced to 25 days in jail the other day for, essentially, no particular reason, had his sentence reduced to 16 days in jail.

This is not a meaningful distinction. He shouldn’t have been detained, hauled into a kangaroo court, and jailed in the first place.

Don’t let the Putinist vampires fool you with their little acts of “mercy.” They don’t mean well—ever. And if push comes to shove, God forbid, the judges amongst them will hand out death sentence after death sentence just like in the 1930s. And the FSB will carry out the executions as happily as their esteemed predecessors in the NKVD did in the 1930s.

It’s hard for any society to learn anything from its past and arrange things in the present so the past doesn’t repeat itself, so to speak, but Russian society has every chance of showing us, in the very near future, that it has learned nothing from its past.

The Putin regime has spent the last twenty years doing absolutely nothing but priming the populace for a wholesale bloodbath against the Motherland’s numerous enemies. Let’s keep hoping it has just been “kidding” all this time. {TRR}

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Stay Glued to Your TV Set

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Nobody or almost nobody in the western press talks about the sheer numbers of people leaving Russia, either quietly, as in the case of most people I know who have left, or noisily, as in the case of Altai Territory opposition activist Aidar Kudirmekov.

I think if we took a head count, the numbers would be staggering, especially since the Kremlin boarded the crazy train in the spring of 2014.

I’m nobody important, and yet off the top of my head I can name at least thirty or forty acquaintances who have left the country for good in the last few years.

But all my Western European and North American friends of leftist and liberal views can only complain of the “hysterical anti-Russian coverage” on their TV sets.

What they mean is the unflattering coverage of their secret sharer, Vladimir Putin, who in ways that have never been clear to me has been aiding their mostly imaginary “anti-imperialist” cause.

That there are 144 million other Russians who have subjectivity and agency, and who might actually be even more “hysterically anti-Russian” (i.e., opposed to Putin’s nineteen years of criminally shambolic governance) seemingly never occurs to them, as it almost never occurs to their TV sets, either.

This is not to mention the explicitly or implicitly pro-Putinist coverage you find in vast swaths of the western press, including the Nation, the BBC on bad days, anywhere the ludicrous pro-Kremlin apologists Mary Dejevsky, Seamus Milne, and Stephen Cohen pop up, the Independent (e.g., Robert Fisk’s and Patrick Cockburn’s coverage of the war in Syria, which has been forthrightly pro-Assad and, thus, pro-Putin), and on and on.

On any given day, depending on how many languages you read, you can find numerous western reporters and op-ed writers tossing so many softballs at the Kremlin to bat out of the park, you would be excused for thinking you were at a high school in Iowa in April during ninth-grade phys ed class. // TRR

Image courtesy of Perfect Excellence

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Three Girl Rhumba: Breakthrough, Stagnation, Strife

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Great Breakthroughs: Putin Warns of a Great Exertion
Mikhail Shevchuk
Delovoi Peterburg
May 7, 2018

In his inauguration speech, Vladimir Putin warned the country was in such circumstances that only a decisive breakthrough on all fronts could save it. Nevertheless, there were certain conditions.

Putin kicked off his fourth term as Russia’s president with an inauguration at the Great Kremlin Palace. The scenario was almost the same as during previous inaugurations, except, perhaps, that TV viewers were shown the president getting up from his chair in his office, donning a blazer, and setting off down the hallways of the Kremlin, finally to descend a staircase, get in a car, and make the short trip to the Great Kremlin Palace in a motorcade.

In rituals, every particular has symbolic import, I guess, and the blazer and the solitude and the utter silence in which Putin walked along the corridors were probably meant to suggest the absoluteness of Putin’s power.

“In Russia, the president is the person responsible for everything”: Putin led off his inauguration speech with this phrase eighteen years ago. He ended the speech as follows: “We have one future in common.” Back then, very few people could have guessed how literally these words were meant.

As the president walked unperturbed down the enfilade of the Great Kremlin Palace on his way to the Great Hall of St. Andrew, he was greeted by guests. There were many more guests compared to his inauguration in 2000, and as he passed by them, every other guest took a snaphot of Putin on their smartphones. This was meant to show us two things, apparently: their telephones had not been confiscated at the entrance, despite the gravity of the occasion, and the fact people could take pictures symbolized the rights and freedom Russians supposedly enjoyed.

During his speech, it transpired Putin still felt “colossal responsibility.” This responsibility had only become greater over the years. Naturally, only faithfulness to the legacy of his forebears could help him cope with it now.

Yet the word Putin invoked most often in his speech was “breakthrough.” On five occasions, Putin mentioned the need for a breakthrough in all areas of life and the need to shape an agenda focused on breakthroughs. He repeated the adjective “intense” three times. To make his point clear to everyone, he said the country had to achieve breakthroughs and large-scale transformations (for the better) in its cities and villages. There was no time for warming up. The president laid particular stress on this phrase.

Not so long ago, during the so-called fat years, the prevailing view among the authorities was Russia should not make any sudden moves. “Not revolution, but evolution,” as the Kremlin’s spin doctors would put it. The concept has now apparently changed. Revolution is now called for again. Quietly and peacefully evolving doesn’t work. Once more, we have to catch up, and once again there is no time to warm up.

We will fulfill the five-year-plan in four years!

The regime’s vocabulary has come to resembe the militaristic vocabulary of Soviet leaders, who went into a state of permanent breakthrough in the 1920s and never came out of it. The word “breakthrough” implies we are surrounded. Official propaganda tells us that we are, in fact, encircled, but, just like sixty years ago, it is deemed inappropriate to ask who got us where we are today.

Putin had a lot to say about the conditions of the imminent breakthrough. What he said witnessed to the fact he more or less understood why things had turned out this way, and why circumstances had emerged which we needed to break through. We must, he said, reject “stagnation, crass conservatism, and bureaucratic deadness,” and give more freedom to everyone who yearned for renewal.

Yet the president stipulated time and again that, even as we change, we must not break away from our roots. Our country’s beauty and strength lay in its distinctness. Even “daring young people,” on whom he placed great hopes, must see the limits of their audacity and be faithful to traditional values.

In fact, two days before the inauguaration, Putin’s sentiments were clearly illustrated on the streets of Russia’s cities. Especially audacious young people were dragged along the pavement by crass conservatives whom no one has thought to reject for the time being.

What should we do if stagnation is considered a traditional value? The president had no answer to that question.

“For over a thousand years, Russia has faced periods of strife and trial, and has always been reborn like a phoenix,” Putin reminded his listeners.

It sounded alarming. Rebirth, it turned out, must inevitably be preceded by strife.

Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

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Three Girl Rhumba

Think of a number
Divide it by two
Something is nothing
Nothing is nothing
Open a box
Tear off the lid
Then think of a number
Don’t think of an answer
Open your eyes
Think of a number
Don’t get swept under
A number’s a number
A chance encounter you want to avoid
The inevitable
So you do, oh yes you do
The impossible
Now you ain’t got a number
You just want to rhumba
And there ain’t no way you’re gonna go under
Go under, go under
Go under, go under
You tear me asunder
Go under, go under
Go under, yeah