“Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense). A Long Happy Life.” Images courtesy of RedBubble
A Long Happy Life No to commotions and celebrations No to horizons and celebrations No to inspirations and celebrations, no, no, no No fish in the golden polynya Omnipresence of petty intrigues Evil twilight of an immortal day A long and happy life Such a long and happy life From now on a long and happy life For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us Ruthless depths of wrinkles Mariana trenches of eyes Martian chronicles of us, us, us Among the identical walls In the faraway coffin-like houses In the impenetrable icy silence A long and happy life Such a long and happy life From now on a long and happy life For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us No to temptations and celebrations No to crimes and celebrations No to exceptions and celebrations, no, no, no On the seven sharp drafts Through the swamps, through the deserts and steppes Through the snow piles, through dirt and through land A long and happy life Such a long and happy life From now on a long and happy life For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us A long and happy life Such a long and happy life From now on a long and happy life For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us A long and happy life Such a long and happy life From now on a long and happy life For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us A long and happy life Such a long and happy life From now on a long and happy life For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us A long and happy life Such a long and happy life From now on a long and happy life For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us For every one of us
Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense), “A Long Happy Life” (2004)
Victor looked out the window at the barge passing by, thinking that everything was still ahead of him, and that the most important thing that should happen in every person’s life would happen to him. And he was convinced of this, although each time he lost more than he found.
NB (23.10.22). The version of the film on YouTube that once occupied this space seems to have disappeared, so for now I recommend watching it here on VK, although you might need a VK account to do so. There is a hideous “colorized” version of the film freely available on YouTube, but I can neither recommend it nor defile what I regard as a masterpiece by sharing it here. I did, however, find this clip of the “twist” scene from the film in the original black and white:
Gennady Shpalikov’s first movie as a director, based on his own script, went down in the history of Soviet cinema as an absolutely unique phenomenon. Socialist propaganda seemed to have no power over Shpalikov’s work. Free from cliches, it was like a breath of fresh air in a country that was tightly closed off from the whole world by an iron curtain. A Long Happy Life resembles the films of the French New Wave rather than other Soviet films that were shot at the time.
Returning from an expedition, a geologist named Victor finds himself in a small provincial town, where he meets a girl named Lena. What is commonly called love at first sight arises between them. Sensing that they are kindred souls, they spend the evening and night together, sharing all the most intimate things: thoughts about life, happiness and love. However, either the morning or their inner fears of this selfsame long happy life cancel out all their plans and dreams.
True, it’s a really simple figure, but when I hear it I want to hear more figures. What percentage of Russians have tortured someone? What percentage of Russians have ordered someone tortured? What percentage of Russians said nothing although they knew someone was being tortured? What percentage of Russians share a home with people who torture other people at work? Do torturers beat their wives, children, and elderly parents?
At first, I wanted to fashion Russia from a single piece of cardboard, but then I realized I had no sense of how I could unify the country except with borders, frontier guards, and barbed wire. I know tons of different Russias. I know academic Russia and literary Russia. I know the Russia of forests and mushrooms. I know the Russia of poor people and factories. I know the elegant Russia of rich people. All of these Russias have one thing in common: the violence of torture and the fear of torture. So, I assembled the map from scraps of cardboard.
Ms. Apahoncich writing the names of Ukrainian and Crimean political prisoners imprisoned in Russian jails and prisons on the wall below a hand-drawn map of occupied Crimea. Photo courtesy of Ms. Apahonchich
I didn’t know what to do with Crimea. I couldn’t include it since I don’t consider its presence on a map of Russia legal, but I also had no choice but to include it because people are tortured there as well, and the people doing the torturing have Russian passports. So, I drew Crimea on the wall in pencil and wrote a list of Ukrainian political prisoners under it. The list was terrifyingly long.
I spelled the word “torture chamber” as it is pronounced in received Moscow standard [pytoshnaya instead of pytochnaya], although maybe no one speaks that way anymore. I would imagine I don’t need to explain why.
It’s a sad piece. If it were carnival now, I would burn it instead of a straw puppet.
Thanks to Alina for the photographs.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Ms. Apahonchich for her permission to translate and publish her post here. Thanks to Nastia Nek for the link to the article on the Levada Center study.
Policemen visited the exhibition at the end of its first day. Witnesses said it was the coolest performance in the show. The soloist was Senior Lieutenant Ruslan Sentemov aka Mister Policeman. According to people who took part in the protest action Immortal Gulag, Sentemov insisted this was how the president obliged them to address him when he was detaining them.
The phrase turned into a meme, and Sentemov became the target of parodies and epigrams. It is rare when people are detained at protest rallies in Petersburg and he is not involved. In 2017, 561 people were detained during a protest against corruption. All of them were charged with disobeying the lawful demands of a police officer, and in all 561 cases, that officer was Lieutenant Sentemov. Petersburg civil rights activist Dinar Idrisov claimed each of the ensuing 561 court case files contained a copy of Sentemov’s police ID and his handwritten, signed testimony.
Ruslan Sentemov (right) and another police officer at My Statement Has Been Recorded Accurately, July 7, 2019, Pushinskaya 10 Art Center, Petersburg. Photo by Elena Murganova. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta
In interviews with the press and when he is on camera, Sentemov likes to maintain the image of a “good cop.” He was true to this image at Pushkinskaya 10 as well, upsetting activists, who surrounded him and peppered him with questions about why he had come to the exhibition.
“This is Russia’s cultural capital. But you, young lady, have a very nasty habit of interrupting people and horning in on the conversation,” he said to one of them.
Reassuring activists he was in no hurry, Sentemov set about perusing the show. The police officer who was with him photographed each exhibit in turn.
Jenya Kulakova volunteered to give Sentemov a guided tour.
Yegor Letov and Civil Defense (Grazhdanskaya oborona) performing the song “We Are the Ice under the Major’s Feet” at a concert at the Gorbunov Culture Center in Moscow in November 2004. Courtesy of YouTube
“Here is Viktor Filinkov’s account of being tortured, handwritten by a female artist. This is a postcard made by Yuli Boyarshinov. Did you know that, in prison, defendants are prohibited from using colored pencils and pens?”
“No, I didn’t know that, unfortunately. I will probably have to study up on the topic.”
“We have no money and machine guns, but we do have a herbarium of spinach leaves.” Photo by Jenya Kulakov. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta.
“These are drawings from the trials in the Network case. We have an artist who attends the hearings and draws them. This next piece also draws on the case files.”
“I got it. Let’s speed things up.”
“No, you should read a bit of it. Here’s a passage about how someone was hit on the legs and the back of the head. And this is what the tortures said to Viktor Filinkov as they were torturing him. After that, they gave him a Snickers bar to eat. That was probably humane of them, don’t you think?”
“I’ve already read it.”
After strolling around the room containing works by the [Network defendants], Sentemov admitted what interested him most of all was whether the art had been forensically examined for possible “extremism.”
“Look,” said Ms. Kulakova, “all of this was sent to us from remand prisons. By law, all correspondence going in and going out is vetted by a censor. Do you see this stamp here? Have you ever sent a letter to a remand prison?”
“Unfortunately, I haven’t. Or maybe I should say, fortunately. If you say all of this was vetted by the censor, we will definitely have to verify your claim.”
“You seriously want to verify whether remand prison censors working for the FSB have been doing their jobs?”
“At very least, I’d like to send them an inquiry.”
“Here is an installation entitled just one big torture chamber. You may have heard that Levada Center recently did a survey on torture. One in ten people reported they had experienced torture in their lives.”
Jenya Kulakova (center) gives Lieutenant Sentemov and his colleague a guided tour of My Words Have Been Recorded Correctly, July 7, 2019, Pushkinskaya 10 Art Center, Petersburg. Photo by Elena Murganova. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta
“Have you been tortured by chance?” Sentemov suddenly asked Ms. Kulakova, staring unpleasantly at her.
“My friends have been tortured,” she replied.
“I was asking about you.”
“Why would ask me about that?”
“You just talk about it so enthusiastically.”
Sentemov appreciated the interest among exhibition goers aroused by his appearance and laughed smugly.
“I think I’m getting more attention than all these pictures,” he said.
He brushed aside questions about what had brought the police officers to the exhibition and how they had heard about it.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” he said.
“We gave you a whole guided tour, but you’re just one big mystery,” said Ms. Kulakova disappointedly, fishing for an answer.
“Thank you for such a comprehensive tour. I am quite pleased with the attentiveness of you and your gadgets. Nevertheless, I must leave this wonderful event. I am very pleased you welcomed us so warmly,” Sentemov said in conclusion, turning towards the exit.
Afterword to the Pamphlet of 1942 A film by Stanislav Dorochenkov, 2012 28’46” Featuring Maxim Egorov, O.A. Belobrova, Lydia Smirnova Camera: Boris Belay Editing: Claire Beuneux Directed by Stanislav Dorochenkov Re:voir Films Paris
In 2010’s stifling heat in St. Petersburg, the regime and the mafia orchestrate the destruction of the city’s heritage for the sake of the nouveaux riche’s luxury. The attempt to remember helps me. I present a little known text by someone who defended this city, Dmitry Likhachev. Several times, he saved it alone by opposing the collective decisions of the Communist Party, thus rebutting an old Russian saying that I would translate roughly as “One man cannot fight an army.”
I see the phrase “Death will more likely be afraid of us than we of it,” engraved on one of the three stelae at the Piskaryov Memorial Cemetery, placed over the endless mass graves where the millions who died during the Siege of Leningrad lie.
With my Éclair camera, I walk the city during the White Nights to rediscover themagnificent light of transparent twilight that transforms Petersburg into “the most fantastic city in the world.” The texts of the Russian chronicles (The Hypatian Chronicle, The Laurentian Chronicle, and The Lay of Igor’s Campaign) appear before me, following a broadcast inspired by Likhachev. I become aware of the ancient words, the most accurate account of the disaster of human forgetfulness.