Monthly Archives: January 2009

Our Silence = Complicity (Moscow & Elsewhere, February 1)

Here is a translation of the leaflet that will be handed out on Sunday, February 1, at the rally against political terror in Moscow at Chistye Prudy. The original text (in Russian) can be found here and here. Feel free to use and adapt this text for your own protest memorials in other parts of the world. Russian social activists and human rights advocates (and just plain ordinary people) need to see that the rest of the world cares.


Stop Political Murders in Russia!

Our Silence = Acquittal of the Murderers

Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were murdered on January 19 in the center of Moscow.

Why do their murders concern each person who lives in Russia, each person who aspires to have the rights for which people like Markelov and Baburova fight? Why should we come together to share this pain and express our outrage?

Because our silence is tantamount to acquitting the people who terrorize us. It is tantamount to admitting that they are right. They terrorize us with these murders, which are the latest in a long series of violent acts against social and political activists. These terrorist acts have become the dangerously familiar backdrop to our daily lives.

After such outrageous murders, the time has come for us to decide: do we want this violence to continue in our country? Are we prepared to make our peace with the fact that criminal investigations into violent attacks against social and political activists never lead to convictions?

You lose your job. You lose your home. You lose your rights. The people who defend you are murdered. How far must this humiliation go before you stop putting up with it in silence?

People who say or think that such things are typical the world over are mistaken. Russia ranks third (after Iraq and Algeria) in numbers of murdered journalists. In every country that has gone through a similar phase in its history, people took to the streets in order to change their country.

It is enough for thousands of people to take to the streets in order to put an end to this “criminal immunity”—immunity for those people who terrorize free society. We need mass protests to reverse the direction our society is headed.

Come with your friends and family to share this pain, to cope with it, to express your outrage, to change the situation.

3:00 p.m., Sunday, February 1. The Griboedov Monument at Chistie Prudy (Moscow)

The demonstration will be attended by concerned citizens, anarchists, anti-fascists, The Institute for Collective Action, The Moscow and Mosow Region Dormitories Movement, The Council of Initiative Groups, The Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, Left Front, The Council of Coordinating Councils, Vpered Socialist Movement, Socialist Resistance, The Revolutionary Workers Party, Leftist Socialist Action, Memorial Human Rights Center, The Anti-War Club, RKP-CPSS, For Human Rights Movement, and other civic organizations.

STANISLAV MARKELOV was no ordinary lawyer. He was one of a handful of lawyers who defended workers, railroad men, evicted dormitory residents, cheated apartment co-op members, anti-fascists, refugees, and victims of police abuse. He fought for the rights of Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Khimki Pravda, who was viciously beaten this past autumn for criticizing the local administration. Markelov took on the cases of social activists, whose work is invaluable for our society. Markelov helped many of them pro bono.

Stanislav represented the victims in the trial of Colonel Yuri Budanov; the Nord-Ost hostage tragedy; neofascist attacks on anti-fascists and migrants; and the massive police pogrom against the residents of Blagoveshchensk. He worked with Anna Politkovskaya, traveled to Chechnya on many occasions, wrote critical articles, and participated in environmental protest camps.

He understood that society is something you have to build yourself, and so he organized the Rule of Law Institute, which gives legal assistance to journalists, lawyers, activists, homeowners, and workers.

ANASTASIA BABUROVA was a fifth-year student in the journalism faculty at Moscow State University. She worked for Izvestia, Novaya Gazeta, and several other publications. She was an activist in the anarchist and environmental movements. She participated in many protest actions and civic initiatives, in particular, the European Social Forum in Malmö (2008). Nastya covered non-mainstream youth movements, street actions and protests, and court trials.

Stanislav was thirty-four; Nastya, twenty-five. Both of them were just beginning their work: they could have accomplished a lot more had they not been killed. They took on toughest, most important problems of our time. They were people who understood quite clearly that freedom in our society could only be fought for and won—fought for and won by citizens themselves. If citizens don’t fight for this freedom, it will become less and less, until society is strangled by totalitarianism or fascism.


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February 1: Stop the Terror!

February 1

Stop the Terror! An International Campaign of Solidarity with Russian Social Activists

On February 1, in Moscow (3:00 p.m.), Paris (3:00 p.m.), Rome (5:00 pm), and other Russian and European cities, protest demonstrations will be held in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, and in solidarity with all those bold, active people who do not merely live in our society, but who also try to change it for the better, to make it a freer and more just place.

What is the point of going to a demonstration? Why do people in different cities assemble and discuss such things with each other if


  • Because we won’t bring Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova back to life this way;
  • because we won’t shed any light on this case by standing in the streets;
  • because we will also be demonstrating against ourselves—
  • because in fact we are also responsible for their deaths:
  • because we allowed someone to think that it is possible to murder people in broad daylight in Russia, in the center of Moscow, without upsetting anyone.

Stanislav Markelov defended the rule of law. Anastasia Baburova covered crimes against justice in the press. They defended our rights, the rights of the citizens of Russia. The rights of young people who are not content with arbitrary treatment and abuse by the authorities. The rights of adults who have been persecuted. They stood up for us, and we lost them.

So why go out on the streets? Because


We won’t give those people who want us to wait the storm out at home another chance!

We will no longer put up with all this in silence. We do care about what is happening!

We will come together for these demonstrations. Bring your friends and acquaintances!

Journalists, anti-fascists, and foreigners are being attacked on the streets of Russian cities. People who did something for all of us have been murdered in the heart of Moscow. These people did something for us, people who live in Russia, and so their murders affect us directly, even if we’d rather close our eyes and slink into the shadows. Because this didn’t happen somewhere beyond the horizon, to people we don’t know anything about. This is our life, this is our country. In days past, it was still possible to sit things out at home, waiting for the streets to become safe again. But now it is inaction and silence that are dangerous. They are even more dangerous than the desire to say something. Silence is a signal to the criminals and murderers: everything is fine, you may go on doing what you’re doing. The people of Paris and Rome are prepared to support you. This includes activists of various political persuasions and age groups, scholars, journalists, lawyers, and human rights activists. They will be joined by people who have heard about the Moscow tragedy from their friends, people who read it about in blogs and newspapers and have decided not to remain indifferent. All of these people have their own problems. But they, too, care about what is happening: they will demonstrate in solidarity with everyone who takes to the streets in the cities of Russia. They understand that something is wrong in Russia when social activists are gunned down in the streets. We understand this ourselves. The murders of Markelov and Baburova have shown us the cost of our silence. We will go into the streets and look each other in the eyes. And there we will see not fear and obedience, but solidarity, the faith that change is possible, and the readiness to defend our common values. We will find the words to say and the courage to say them on February 1.

Slogans for Our Demonstrations:

  • Put an End to Political Murders!
  • Stand Up for Stanislav Markelov and the Rule of Law!
  • Stand Up for Anastasia Baburov and Fearless Journalism!
  • Stop the Violence against People Who Fight for Justice!
  • Solidarity with Activists Who Fight for Our Rights and Freedoms!
  • I Am a Social Activist, Too!
  • We Are Not Extremists or Victims! Our Weapon Is Solidarity!
  • We Are Not Extremists or Victims! We Will Put an End to Political Murders!
  • Say No to Crimes against Justice!
  • Solidarity Is Our Weapon!

In Italian:

  • No al silenzio sui crimini contro la giustizia in Russia!
  • Basta con gli assassinii politici!
  • Solidarieta per i militanti russi esposti alle violenze!

In French:

  • Assassinats politiqes: ASSEZ!
  • NON aux crimes contre la justice!
  • SOLIDARITÉ avec les militants russes exposés aux violences et persécutions!

Leaflet for Distribution at Demonstrations in Russia, with Information about Stanislav and Anastasia (.pdf file, in Russian)
Information about the Memorial Actions in Moscow and Elsewhere (website of the Institute for Collective Action; in Russian)

What You Can Do:

If You Go to a Demonstration: 
If you have a printer at home or work, choose a slogan you like, print it out on a sheet of paper, and bring it with you to the demonstration. If you plan to attend one of the demonstrations (whether in Moscow, Rome, Paris or elsewhere), you can find downloadable .pdf files with these slogans (in Russian) on the website of If you plan to attend a demonstration outside of Russia, it makes sense to print out, as you like, slogans in your local language as well as in Russian and English, considering that (we hope) these events will be covered by the foreign press as well.

In Moscow, Paris, and Rome, there will be lots of strollers and passerby in the places we gather on Sunday. Do you think that all of them have heard about what has happened? You will be both surprised and discouraged by what they say. Many people probably have heard something, but they know few details and know nothing about the protests and solidarity actions. If you are in Russia, please print out several copies of  this leaflet, which contains information about Stanislava and Anastasia (in Russian). If you are outside of Russia, you may use any of the articles published on this blog or on the Internet at large. Pass the leaflets out to people and talk to them about what it all means. Solidarity begins with conversation. (Editor’s Note: We will try to have a translation of this leaflet posted and available in English translation by the end of today.)

  • In Moscow, our demonstration will take place at the Griboedov monument in Chistye Prudy (Metro station Chistye Prudy), at 3:00 p.m.
  • In Paris, our demonstration will take place at La Fontaine des Innocents (Les Halles district, 1st Arrondissement), at 3:00 pm. For more information, write to
  • In Rome, our demonstration will take place on Piazza Cavour, next to the Adriano movie theater and opposite the Palazzo di Giustizia, at 5:00 p.m. 
  • In Krasnodar, our demonstration will take place at 2:00 p.m. near the Pushkin monument. Notification for the demonstration was submitted to the Krasnodar municipal adminstration on January 28. For updates (in Russian), go here.

If You Cannot Make It to a Demonstration, Live in Another City or Feel That It Is Important to Do Something:

  • Print out a leaflet (above) and post it in the lobby of your apartment building, on a notice board, in a shop, at a bus stop, at your university, at your workplace. Make people stop for a minute and think about what has happened.
  • Print out one of the slogans (in any language), put it an envelope, and mail it to the Russian Federation Prosecutor General’s Office. Mail another copy to the Russian Federation Interior Ministry. You might ask: who there is going to read these letters? In all likelihood, no one. But they will open the envelope. Your next question: but won’t they toss the contents of the envelope into the trash? Probably. Then what is the point? The point is in the number of such letters they receive. The point is to make them feel our rage over the murders of Stanislav and Anastasia and our solidarity with them. When the Prosecutor’s Office and the Interior Ministry get fifty or five hundred such letters, their trash bins will fill up. And then, perhaps, the high officials there will realize that they can no longer keep silent. Let them know that you care. Here are the addresses:

Russian Federation Prosecutor General
GSP-3 125993 Moscow
ul. Bolshaya Dmitrovka
Attn: Yuri Chaika, Prosecutor General

Russian Federation Interior Ministry
119049 Moscow
ul. Zhitnaya, 16
Attn: Rashid Nurgaliev, Interior Minister

We will update this information as needed. Watch for updates and breaking news here at Chtodelat News, as well as (in Russian and Italian) at:

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Porridge on the Brain: In Praise of Authoritarianism

imagesThe Russian language is rich with picturesque expressions. One of the most common is каша в голове—literally, “porridge on the brain.” Someone with porridge on the brain is someone who has “lost his marbles.”

A subscriber to our e-mail platform evoked this expression to characterize the following fragments from an interview with members of the Moscow rock group Obshchezhitie (Dormitory):

I wrote this piece while thinking about the Soviet Union and the nineties, when all of us were dragged face down through the mud, across the pavement, and then once more through the mud. I was a kid in the nineties; I watched TV all the time with my grandmother. I really took to heart what was being shown. I remember feeling fear, humiliation, ignorance, depression, an indescribable thirst for vengeance. In the first place, [I wanted to take] vengeance on all of us for the weakness that led to this dark state of affairs. Concrete individuals—Chubais, Gaidar, Grachev—should of course be put against the wall, but the main point of what I’m saying is metaphysical: overcoming oneself, rising from the dead. Resurrection. And so when I’d finished writing this song, the horror of memories from those days flooded away from me. I had the sense that, in the song, I managed to put everything in its place, to restore order, to punish the guilty and so forth.

Propaganda of totalitarianism is not a very precise definition [of our music]; [propaganda of] authoritarianism would be a better definition. The Russian individual needs a tsar. We need a tsar. Without a tsar, Russia suffers catastrophes. And I’m not talking literally about reviving the monarchy, but rather about a force that takes the lead. The authoritarianism that we praise is, in fact, a stage on the road to freedom, to communism, to Kropotkin’s anarchy. What democracy and liberal western doctrine has led the world to is unacceptable, and we are against it, of course.  In essence, though, authoritarian power is a stage in the education of man, in his preparation for a free life in harmony with nature and with himself. Our pro-authoritarian protest is also a protest against integral spirituality (that is, the liberal absence of spirituality), the understanding that, without Orthodoxy, without a sincere faith in God, nothing at all will work out for us in Russia, and everything we do is in vain.

That is quite a mouthful of . . . porridge. While you’re digesting it, you might want to check out Sean Guillory’s discussion of a new study in the Lancet, which argues that the economic shock therapy of the nineties led to three million premature deaths in Eastern Europe and the FSU. As he argues there, it is hard not see a link between massive impoverishment and the ideological symptoms so richly presented, in this case, by these young musicians.


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Despite Everything

We got this reflection on reactions to the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova from Comrade A., a student, writer, and activist in Petersburg.

I usually don’t swear, and I don’t know what to think when I come across an abundance of such words—or even more ambivalently, one such word—in a text. But now I realize that all I can do is swear—in letters, blog posts, and articles.

Wise gentlemen reproach the anarchists who marched in Moscow in memory of Stas and Nastya in Moscow: “Grief is grief, but why smash shop windows?” Well, one wants to smash the fuck of out everything in Russia right now.

And it is not just a matter of grief.

Oleg and I return to the city, and Sveta informs us the news right there in the bar: “Markelov has been murdered.” Nastya Baburova, an anarchist who was accompanying him, tried to “detain” the killer and took a second bullet—in her head—and was at that moment dying in the intensive care ward.

I will write only about myself. Perhaps this is the most honest thing now, when completely predictable memorial rituals commence and threaten to obscure what happened. I really didn’t now either Markelov (aside from the fact that he was “the only leftist lawyer in the country”) or Nastya (although she was part of the Russian delegation I traveled with this past fall to the European Social Forum, in Malmö). But this doesn’t matter either, because in this mode of distanced engagement you can ponder things a bit more soberly, without “understanding the pain of the loss” one bit less. However, I would hope that our understanding would not be limited to this. While this is definitely a tragedy, we need, despite everything, to make it an occasion, a cause. A cause for what? That is what I will explain in what follows.

All the more so that the co-optation really happens instantly and “unconsciously.” It already turns out (I see this in the photos of the first memorial in Moscow) that “they perished for Russia’s freedom.” There is seemingly nothing wrong with this phrase, but in fact there is. Liberal circles are good at quickly commencing their self-satisfied ruminations. True, in this situation all that leftists can do as well is chew over their own helplessness: their numbers make them more a collection of political freaks than a movement. A situation like this is as demoralizing as ending up in a weak class or school (for anyone with half a brain).

When your city (a place where a socialist revolution took place ninety years ago) turns out a hundred people at most for an action in memory of the victims of a political murder (there is no need here to remember the horrors of Soviet times and the valiant dissidents: this time there has been sufficient information about the murders in all the media, although it was given the correct ideological spin of course), then all you can do is swear.

When you realize that even the march of the anarchists in Moscow and their window-breaking caused bewilderment in some people or (a more complicated case) provoked some others to strategically warn them against scaring off the population (but if the population is frightened by shattered shop windows and not by the fact that someone was shot in the back of the head in the middle of the capital or by the fact that the only person who tried to stop the killer was a 25-year-old anarchist . . .), then you can no longer help but smash shop windows.

But when you realize that once again nothing will come of this—that everyone walked the walk with their candles (in Petersburg) or flares (in Moscow), but that this is the extent of what they are prepared to do—then you cannot help but realize that we need to create an organization.

Despite the total passivity of the population. Despite the fact that this is not the first time this thought has occurred to you, despite the fact that some work is even being done in this direction. Despite the fact that “revolution is always impossible—you have to make it.”


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Shattered Windows

img_0841Yesterday (January 26, 2009), Novaya Gazeta published a short compendium of joyous LiveJournal reactions to news of the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova on the part of Russia fascists and neo-Nazis. We simply don’t have the heart to reproduce even the slightest bit of that hate-fest on these pages. If you want to test your knowledge of sub-standard Russian hate speech, then you’re welcome to go here. Be warned: it is not for the faint of heart. The editors of Novaya Gazeta say as much in their brief introduction to the publication. The only point of their intervention, they write, is to make one thing perfectly clear to their readers: a war is on.

In a sidebar piece entitled “The Nazi Chronicles: December 2008−January 2009,” they show why this war is not just a matter of the “sensational” murders of Markelov and Baburova and similar infamous cases. Last year in Russia, no fewer than 87 people were murdered by Nazis, while 387 people were injured in neo-fascist attacks. In the past two months alone, at least 50 people have fallen victim to such attacks: 26 of them were killed; the other 24 were injured.

So now we know the reaction of the fascists to the latest episodes in this civil war, and we know the reaction of Novaya Gazeta. But what about the rest of Russia?

In a footnote to the Nazi hate-fest piece, Novaya Gazeta makes a point of quoting a Russian Foreign Ministry press release. Their spokespeople are concerned that the murder of Baburova is being “artificially politicized” in order to discredit Russia. This, in turn, explains the most remarkable non-event of the past week: the total absence of a response to the murders on the part of the President and Prime Minister. For them to say anything at all, then, would be tantamount to admitting that there was something in the politics of Markelov and Baburova either to warrant killing them or to warrant talking about their murders. We are thus left to make three (perhaps mutually inclusive) conclusions. 1. They could care less. 2. They approve. 3. They have completely lost control of their country—and thus are loath to “politicize” this awful fact by admitting they both care and disapprove.

But what about everyone else? When we add up the Nazis; the staff at Novaya Gazeta; assorted editorialists, journalists, and TV reporters; some deputies in the State Duma; human rights activists; all the folks who have attended various memorials, marches, and protests countrywide (the bulletins on the Institute for Collective Action website are a good source here), I think we’ll barely make a dent in the 142,008,838 people estimated to be living in Russia.

So what gives?

Something’s got to give. For example, the windows. . .

Shattered Windows

On the news wires I read that the anti-fascists and anarchists who came [to downtown Moscow] yesterday to honor the memory of the murdered human rights activists smashed shop windows in a fit of rage and caused a pogrom in the metro. To my great surprise, I detected solidarity in my heart with these barbaric actions, and I even felt regret that I hadn’t been there myself and smashed everything up. And this despite the fact I’m not an extremist at all, and not even a leftist activist, but an ordinary, quiet university teacher. I like going to department store sales and drinking coffee on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. And I am against such actions in principle. But in this case I got it: this is righteous anger, justifiable rage, a reaction against contempt for our lives, for our feelings, for our intellectual life. When people begin to publicly smash up a city, this means that they no longer have any other way to draw attention to the problems that trouble them. When French hooligans burn cars, schools, and libraries in their own cities, they do this because snobby French politicians don’t consider the problems of these poorly educated and unemployed people important or a priority. The same thing is happening in Russia. The entire population of the country—including highly educated people, the intelligentsia, and all those whose personal political culture has taken on the semblance of views and convictions—is treated with nothing but contempt. The most horrible thing about all this is that we have heard about the LATEST political murder. No one is surprised anymore: that is the terrifying thing. Comparisons are made with [the murders of] Politkovskaya and Starovoitova, with the beatings of this person or that. The cases are analyzed—what is similar, what is dissimilar. . . In terms of the quantity and quality of all these murders, Russia is probably already on a par with Pakistan or Lebanon. There is nothing at all here that even smacks of Europe. Notwithstanding my respect for the country of which I am a citizen, Russia was and remains one big prison camp. When distinguished, famous people, supremely professional people, are “taken out” in broad daylight simply to scare everyone else, and everyone understands that nothing will happen, and all that remains is to wait for the next such criminal act; when our intellectual efforts are of no avail, and no one has any use for our brains and even less use for our conscience (it might  just as well be flushed down a toilet), then apparently all that remains for us is to smash shop windows. Because this way we can vent our aggression against this humiliating situation we all find ourselves in.

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March of the Assenters (Petersburg, January 25, 2009)

3It has been a grim week for leftist activists in Russia. So it was encouraging to see that not everyone in the community has completely lost their courage—or their sense of humor. Yesterday (January 25, 2009) several dozen anti-fascists, leftists, and preservationist activists took to the streets of Saint Petersburg to express their total assent to state policies.

Well, since they totally agree with Plan Putin and all its ways, they had to do everything by the books. First of all, that meant applying in advance for a permit for their march. (We should note that this action was planned well before news came of the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova.) Second, that meant agreeing to the march route proposed to them by the police—in this case, two hundred meters of a lonely snowbound street on the far end of Vasilievsky Island, right next to the icebound Gulf of Finland. Third, that meant (more or less) “cheerfully” not resisting arrest by the police. Because, despite their enthusiastically demonstrated support of Russia’s oligarchic police state, five of the demonstrators ended up being taken to the hoosegow. Although they were later all released, they were charged were breaking the agreed rules for holding a demonstration—i.e., for crossing the road (a common charge made in the absence of any real violations), while a sixth “assenter” (who showed up at the precinct to get them out) was charged with desecrating the Russian flag (see below).

Still, one cannot help but be gladdened by the absolute precision of yesterday’s action. Subversive affirmation gets overused in protests and quasi-protest artist interventions, but this was one instance of its use when the message will be absolutely clear to anyone who reads or sees press accounts of the event. And the organizers were savvy enough to get a good press presence there for their act of utter self-abnegation. For example, local Channel 100 aired this report in its evening news broadcast:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The fetching news reader explains that the march was organized by anti-fascists and that around fifty people took part in it.

March co-organizer Alexei Yarema (whose name is misspelled in the captions) tells the Channel 100 reporter: “Right now there is nothing more important than saving the national economy. And for its sake we’re ready to sacrifice everything, including paying however much money for anything whatsoever.”

In this video, we see in the march in progress. Another of the march’s co-organizers bellows out a text expressing the marchers’ complete confidence in the ability of the country’s leadership to bring the country out of the crisis. This is followed by scenes of the arrest of him and another assenter. The cheerful anti-fascist who now has the megaphone registers his surprise that people who support the government should be arrested by the police. The clip ends with a young man, a “Saint Vladimir” icon on his chest, shouting, “Long live the dictatorship of the banks!”

An activist from DSPA (Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement) posted the following account of the day’s events on their LiveJournal page:

March of the Assenters
Yes, now even rank-and-file citizens have understood how heavy is the lot of activists from the Nashi and Young Guards youth movements. It turns out that it’s not so easy to carry out an action in support of the Russian government in the Northern Capital. Nevertheless, during this difficult hour for the country, simple laborers found the strength to assemble at a specially designated site on the Maritime Embankment and declare their sincere, passionate support for all the initiatives of our dearly beloved government.

After they had assembled at this lively, crowded spot (practically on the ice in the Gulf of Finland), the demonstrators raised their banners, standards, and placards in an outpouring of unanimity. They brandished such slogans as “Yes to Price Increases for Basic Products!” “Yes to Utility-Rate Hikes!” “Yes to a Twelve-Hour Workday!” “Yes!!!” “Life Has Become Better, Life Has Become Merrier!”

Chanting “More Work, Less Pay!” and “Crisis, Crisis, Go Away!” in a fit of patriotic ecstasy, the demonstrators marched the two hundred meters of their sanctioned route under the trusty protection of the police, who outnumbered them several times over. In their speeches, the action’s organizers appealed to the government to impose a tax on air and introduce an eight-day work week.

Stopping next to a picturesque bio-toilet, the martyrs were on the point of marching back in the other direction when suddenly a vigilant policeman detected in the actions of the Assenters illegal use and even desecration of the Russian Federation national flag. The fact of the matter was that some irresponsible citizen had written the phrase “We Agree to Everything!” on the flag. It was for this offense that several demonstrators, including DSPA activists, were arrested.

Moreover, the Assenters quite quickly assented to this decision on the part of the brave police and, after demonstrating a bit more, they went home. And that was the right thing to do, gentleman! If the police believe that those who support the authorities have to be put behind bars, then that’s the way it is—because the police are always right. 

The more diligently our police do their jobs, the fewer people there will be who agree with the authorities! Hurrah!

You can find more coverage (photos, videos, articles—in Russian) here:

Humorous Action by Leftist Radicals in Saint Petersburg (Israeli site)

Petersburg Indymedia

In Petersburg, 5 People Are Arrested for Desecrating the Flag (Polit.Ru)

Petersburg Police Arrest Five People for Desecrating the Flag (Gazeta.Ru)

Photo Reportage: “We Agree to Everything” (Fontanka.Ru)

Local Protest Chronicler Vladimir Volokhonsky’s Account

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Warning! Gypsies Are in the Station!

080415The SOVA Center reports:

On January 22, 2009, in Saint Petersburg, at the Dostoevskaya metro station, a staff member announced over the loudspeaker, “Warning! Gypsies are in the station!

At this moment, a group of [Roma] were walking through the transfer tube between the Vladimirskaya and Dostoevskaya stations.

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These Shards Are Our Tears

89864e4dChtodelat News doesn’t endorse vandalism. However, it is remarkable how much attention has been paid to the fact that, during the antifa march in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova in Moscow this past Tuesday, some of the marchers smashed a few shop windows along their route and some lampshades on the escalator as they escaped from police into the underground. If you read accounts of the march on LiveJournal, such as Vlad Tupikin’s, you will be struck by the debate raging there, in the comments, about the advisability of this sort of behavior.

What you won’t find much of, either there or in the society at large, is a debate raging over the essential questions. Why are so many (opposition) social and political activists beaten and killed in Russia? Why are so many migrant workers, foreign students, antifa activists, and members of ethnic minorities beaten or killed? Why are the police so keen to send in the tanks (so to speak—so far, that is) at the slightest threat of a demonstration numbering more than a few people (and even then)? Why such a reaction? Why is there so little reaction to all these things on the part of the authorities, on the part of ordinary folks?

Actually, the answer to all these questions is pretty clear. Russia has descended into political reaction, and violence against dissenters and the defenseless is one instrument of that reaction. Russia is not unique in this respect, neither now nor historically. But the velocity with which this reaction is progressing is hard not to notice, just as it is hard not to notice the centripetal effect this has on the space of politics. When an active public political or social stance is, often as not, rewarded with a bullet to the back of the head or a beating that leaves its victim in a coma, then it is clear that the less bold will think twice before signing a petition, going to a demonstration, making an elementary show of solidarity.

That is why we are pleased to publish the following translation of one Moscow marcher’s reaction to this reaction. The author asks all the right questions and gives all the right answers.

The boldfacing and italics of the original have been preserved. The Russian original can be found here. Along with the mind-numbing “debate” in the comments.


These Shards Are Our Tears

Today I was asked severely, “Why did they smash shop windows?” Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond. Usually, I really don’t smash windows or lamps in the metro; I don’t even disturb trash urns. Then, for fifteen minutes, I listened to two adults anxiously discuss various aspects of street violence and civil society—all because of our shop windows. Honestly, I could not get my head around why they were so obsessed with those windows and bits of plastic, which at most are worth one thousandth of a commercial bank’s daily profits, when two very good people had been murdered and these people weren’t even strangers to the marchers.

Then, in the blogosphere, I read the opinions of ironic liberals and professional bullshitters. The general idea was that this is not how the dead are remembered. A pogrom is ugly; it doesn’t reflect the tragedy of the situation. We should stay at home, drink memorial shots of vodka, and meekly weep for the innocent martyrs. And then, apparently, we should once again dry our tears and head off to our Moscow burrows and offices. We should earn our little rubles and curse the authorities in our kitchens and on the way to the metro. In our “free country” it is also permitted to submit “petitions.” And, if their majesties the powers that be “approve” our “petitions,” we can crowd (after being searched) into a fenced-off kennel in order to tell each other the very same things that we’d long ago talked to death in our kitchens and on our blogs—only a bit louder than usual and in the great outdoors.

Over the past twenty-four hours [since the murders of Markelov and Baburova] we had drunk and kept silent and brought flowers to Prechistenka. But what use was this to those who knew the victims and were deeply, personally affected by their deaths?! But we also made a “date” downtown and found someone who could quickly make a banner. One thing we didn’t do was worry about what political spin doctors and other scum “would think” since we hate all those riffraff for being sell-outs and cynics. We were gripped by another thought: how to go on living in a country like this?

Two OMON trucks turned up at our meeting point. Then we moved to the second meeting site, next to the Duma, but the “cosmonauts” almost immediately showed up there as well. Apparently, they were expecting political actions near government buildings that evening. Men in camouflage surrounded fifteen people and put them on the pavement; everyone else successfully pretended they were passersby. At the Okhotny Ryad metro station, there were more arrests: they snatched people because of the way they looked. While there were still only a small number of OMON troops on the scene, we even managed to grab a few of our people from their clutches. We activated “Plan No. 3” and headed for Novokuznetskaya metro station.

Let me make it perfectly clear. The object of our hatred was and remains the authorities—“thanks” to whom there are so many fascists in our country (say thanks to “patriotic education” and discrimination against migrants, which is already taken as a given); “thanks” to whom the people who order political murders are never found; “thanks” to whom the individual is relegated to the role of a mindless extra. It is because of them, finally, that Stas and Nastya perished. Just like tens of thousands of other people—in the Chechen War, in the explosions of the apartment buildings, in destitute hospitals, in dilapidated mines, at the hands of the cops and the bandits they run protection for.

This hatred is also already implanted in the heads of the sixteen-year-olds. For now, what matters most to them is that an action be “fun.” They don’t know the “right words,” but they have an excellent sense of all the humiliation a person endures when he collides with “the system.” What alt-culture type hasn’t at least once been nabbed and messed with by the cops—just like that, for fun or to pad the statistics? Some people dust themselves off and forget about it. Others ask themselves a question: why?

The unfortunate shop windows are really beside the point. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Things happen this way, too. Our actions didn’t threaten the health and safety of “civilians” one iota. Unlike the actions of your average OMON officer, who without a second’s thought will start going at them with his fists and billy club.

If we could have found the killer, we would have strangled him without jury or trial. This man killed cold-bloodedly and consciously, and here there’s nothing more to discuss. But he didn’t come out of “nowhere”: there were reasons that brought him to the vicinity of Kropotinskaya metro station, and there were people who taught him how to kill. The certainty in his mind that he had the right to do this came from somewhere, and the root of this certainty was a sense of his own supremacy. This same source feeds the ideology of the Nazis and the authorities. By their own admission, the Nazis do “the dirty work,” and this is so convenient for the authorities. For there is nothing more convenient for governance than a society that lives in constant fear.

But we cannot find the murderer and take revenge on him. We can only scream: People, look around! What use do you have for all this if the best and the brightest are murdered on the streets because they dare to speak their minds? Stas and Nastya were the most honest and smartest of us all. These shards are the tears that we shed for them. The tears of our rage. Tears with sharp edges, tears that will never dry.

This short march that no one understood is our desperate cry. I could care less what what other people will think about us. A cry of desperation isn’t pleasant. You can plug your ears for comfort, but then be prepared for the fact that your own cry for help won’t be heard.

I know that Nastya and Stas will continue to live—at those moments when we march in this “inappropriate,” “senseless,” confrontational way. Because that is what they were like themselves: inappropriate from the viewpoint of philistines, unwilling to submit, disinclined to fit the mold.

Many times I wanted to say, “Stas, why aren’t you afraid?” I said it only once. He shrugged. I think he had long ago made up his mind.

Sleep peacefully, Stas and Nastyas, friends and comrades. We won’t forget you.


Filed under anti-racism, anti-fascism, political repression, protests, Russian society

Stanislav Markelov: Two Worlds, Two Deaths

0-stas1It is a bitter irony that the last article Stanislav Markelov published on the website of the Rule of Law Institute (which he founded and headed) was a reflection on the official, media, and public reactions to two recent deaths in two different countries—the death of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II (December 5, 2008) and the murder of the Greek teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulous (December 6, 2008), which touched off a wave of riots, demonstrations, and strikes that still has not ended. 

It cannot be said that in Russia there has been no reaction to Markelov’s murder. TV channels are reporting it, newspapers are writing about it, bloggers are arguing about it. Parts of the Russian establishment have even expressed their outrage, although the President and Prime Minister, true to form, remain silent.

But what about “spontaneous outpourings of public grief and outrage”? The day after the murders of Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, a candle and flowers vigil at the site of the crimes was attended by hundreds in Moscow. Later in the day, Moscow antifa had to break out of an OMON encirclement before they could carry out their memorial march in downtown Moscow; according to reports, several dozen of the hundred some marchers were detained by police. That same evening in Petersburg, the hundred or so people who showed to up at the gathering site of a spontaneously organized march were also greeted by a heavy police presence. The marchers had to negotiate with police before they were allowed to march to the Field of Mars, which in 1917 was made into a memorial to Victims of the Revolution. By agreement with the police, the marchers were not allowed to carry lighted candles or pictures of the newest victims of Russia’s recent wave of political terror. The police explained that failure to honor this agreement would qualify the march as an (unsanctioned political) “action.” And God forbid that any passersby en route would get the idea, however meekly expressed, that it is okay to be publicly, collectively at odds with how the powers that be and their enforcers dispense with dissidents, leftist lawyers, journalists, activists, and the ordinary people who make common cause with them.

Yesterday, in Novosibirsk, a group of twenty or so antifa members were not dispersed by the police when they attempted to march in memory of Stanislav and Anastasia towards the downtown. Instead, they were attacked by a group of skinheads armed with sticks and billy clubs. As reported on the Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty) website, two of the marchers were seriously injured in the fight that ensued.

Stanislav Markelov’s funeral will be held today (January 23) at the Ostankino Cemetery in Moscow. It is pointless and, perhaps, inappropriate to speculate beforehand about what kind of demonstration of public grief will be seen there and what it might mean. However, I can’t help remembering that, in a more hopeful time not so long ago, the deaths of such very different heroes of perestroika as dissident Andrei Sakharov, Father Alexander Men, and TV journalist Vladislav Listyev (the latter two were murdered) were in fact occasions for spontaneous, mass outpourings of public grief and outrage. As a veteran Petersburg dissident recalled to my wife during the memorial march there on Tuesday, after Sakharov’s death a hundred thousand people marched down Nevsky and onto Palace Square.

That was a different world and, thus, those were different deaths. Nowadays, the streets are reserved for traffic jams and shoppers: when denying permits for marches, the authorities quite often cite inconvenience to motorists and consumers as the reason. In the new era of vigorously enforced “stability,” the causes that Stanislav Markelov promoted and defended—justice for victims of war crimes, justice for victims of ne0-Nazi violence, justice for social and political activists—are deeply unpopular, objects of police surveillance and political ridicule, targets of lethal violence.

The murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova should have ignited another Greece, just as the misery, violence, corruption, and repression of the last ten years (and more) should have set off a thousand Greeces. But in the new “cold” civil war in Russia, people with a vision of a better way are picked off one by one, while most of the population looks on (or doesn’t) in silence.

Stanislav Markelov: “Two Worlds, Two Deaths”

In Russia and Europe, people not only live differently, they also die differently. In any case, absolutely different deaths are accorded public significance, and the aftermaths of these tragedies are likewise nearly the opposite. So as not to speak in riddles, I propose that you simply turn on the TV and compare the top stories in news broadcasts here in Russia and on any of the European channels.

funeral_of_patriarch_alexy_ii-13When you take a glance at what’s on TV, you get the impression that Russia is unable to pull itself out of a deep and limitless mourning. In memory of Soviet times, you keep expecting to see Swan Lake, which was invariably danced on our screens in honor of the latest deceased General Secretary. When you catch yourself making a comparison like this, you can’t avoid asking the question—the Patriarch isn’t the General Secretary or the head of state, is he? The church is a voluntary social organization. Why must the entire country plunge into mourning over the death of the head of a social organization? According to official statistics, only 4% of our citizens are active church members. For the rest of the faithful, the church is more a nod to tradition. But if you turn on the TV, you get the sense that we live in an absolute theocracy, and that, except for shipments of icons and holy relics from one worship site to another, nothing else is happening in our country. So certainly when Alexy dies, everyone is obliged to consider it a matter of personal grief. It is a good thing, at least, that the throngs of mourners didn’t crush each other, as happened when Stalin died.

The death of the head of the country’s dominant confession is, undoubtedly, an important public event, and one would very much hope that it occasioned a discussion of serious questions. For example, when Alexy became head of the Church in the Soviet Union’s most problematic region, Estonia, could he have attained such ecclesiastical heights without closely collaborating with the competent organs? Particularly cynical citizens are already quietly humming to themselves Alla Puchageva’s song: “Oh, what a man he was, a genuine colonel!” Or what do the duty-free import of alcohol and cigarettes, which the Church got rich off in the nineties, have to do with Christian values? We could also discuss whether absolutely all the money collected (practically by means of a state racket) from the entire country was used for the reconstruction of the Church of Christ the Savior, in which the funeral of the deceased is being held with such solemnity. Or was there enough money to build a whole town’s worth of Christ the Saviors? But instead of answers to these and many other questions, we are presented with a reality show that practically turns the intimate matter of a man’s death and the personal grief of his family and friends into a serial the likes of Behind the Glass.

Greece RiotsAgainst the backdrop of the desire to hastily canonize Alexy, Russian commentaries on the events in Greece triggered by the tragic death of a teenager struck down by a police bullet are telling. The entire analysis offered by state-controlled journalism boils down to two messages: “They’re too fussy there” and “They’ve gone mad, making such a ruckus over the death of some kid.” Only these commentaries don’t work even as captions to pictures from the Greek revolution. Can you be “too fussy” while also putting yourself in the path of police water cannons and tear gas? If Greek youth are too fussy, then why did the entire country support their demands by declaring a general strike? Or what, did the country itself go mad and collectively decide to be too fussy?

Even the contrast between Russian spirituality and western dissolution that has become our official dogma doesn’t work in this case. Greece is also an Orthodox country, and it is so imbued with the principles of precisely Orthodox Christianity that it could serve as an example even for Russian zealots.

Since we don’t have an official version, let’s try ourselves to explain why there are such different attitudes in Russia and Europe not only to life, but also to death.

In Russia, it is a person’s official status that matters. The higher he has ascended the hierarchy, the more he is respected and, as we now see, the more actively he is nominated for sainthood. In Russia, one becomes a saint by virtue of one’s office, and the wait for the new patriarch resembles the expectation of a new saint. The newspapers are just brimming with headlines like “In Expectation of a New Spiritual Father.” Moreover, these aren’t church-controlled or even religious newspapers, but the most secular newspapers and even tabloids. When people become parents by force, it’s a bad sign. For some reason, I think that each person can decide for himself, if nothing else, who his fathers are, spiritual and otherwise.

According to state doctrine, power is infallible and ringed with a halo of absolute intrinsic value. Those who have attained the highest rank in the power system immediately become fathers of the nation and saints by virtue of their status. We follow precisely the rules of Byzantium, where each new emperor automatically became a saint. This doctrine cannot account for the fact that the death of an ordinary teenager would become a national event, that five thousand people would come to his funeral without being prompted by any advertising whatsoever or round-the-clock reports on TV. In Russia, personal initiative must be sanctioned: it must have state support and be comprehensively covered in the mass media. Only then we do end up with the “well-organized spontaneous outpouring of grief on the part of every Russian.” During Alexy’s funeral, downtown Moscow was blocked off; even the kiosks were closed. Walking the empty streets, unable to buy even a bottle of water, I wondered why I was obliged to suffer because of the death of a man with whom I had nothing to do. In Greece, people suffer inconveniences so that reforms which negatively impact the majority of citizens are repealed. In order to achieve this goal, one can even endure rioting on the streets. But why suffer for a TV show entitled Death of the Patriarch? No, it is better to quickly switch the TV to any non-Russian channel (if, of course, you have access to one) or throw out your TV set altogether.


Filed under political repression, protests, Russian society

In Memoriam: Stanislav Markelov & Anastasia Baburova (Petersburg)

On Tuesday, January 21, the day after the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova in Moscow, Petersburgers gathered at the Bukvoyed bookstore on Ligovsky Prospect, the place where Timur Kacharava was murdered in 2005, and marched to the Field of Mars.

Photos by Sergey Chernov. More photos from the memorial can be found here.










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Filed under anti-racism, anti-fascism, protests, Russian society