Monthly Archives: April 2012

Of Montreal (On the Quebec Student Strike)

Translation of speech by English translation of Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois’s historic March 22nd, 2012 speech to the students. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois is the spokesperson for the Large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (CLASSE) I made this translation with the help of my friend Francis for the Anglophone students who asked for more English coverage of the student strike. Very proud to have Gabriel as our spokesperson.

In recent weeks, I have been fortunate to do several interviews on television, on the radio and in the newspapers, repeating the claims of the student movement, but today … today is a unique moment for me because we are in the hundreds of thousands in the streets, and the strikes are not happening on television sets. The strike is happening in the streets! In recent weeks, the media, the Minister of Education, Mrs. Beauchamp, Minister of Finance, Mr. Bachand and Prime Minister Jean Charest keep hammering that WE are at war with the workers. I have some news for the Liberal government. Since coming into power, it is THEY who continue to attack our working men and women. During the Journal de Montreal lockout, where were the Liberals? Following the Rio Tinto Alcan lockout, where were the Liberals? Following the AVEOS closing, where were the Liberals? THEY were with the bosses! And WE were, and ARE STILL on the side of the working people of Quebec, and against the corrupt and dirty government. It’s not … it’s not the student movement that is at war with the people of Quebec. Those who are at war against the people, is the Liberal government and their economic and political allies WE. ARE. THE. PEOPLE. Mrs. Beauchamp’s glasses may be broken, but it’s the government that is blind to the largest grassroots mobilization in the history of Quebec. One day, when we have free education, our kids will be in school, and when they’ll open their history books to the date of March 22nd 2012, they will speak of this day as the day when the youth of Quebec stood up for accessible education. And when they will speak of spring 2012, it will be called the Student Spring, and it will be the spring of victory! We will, dear friends…WE WILL WIN. We will win, but we have not yet won. Everywhere in the media, and around the corridors of the National Assembly, they say that today’s event was very beautiful, that it’s the only one that will be as massive, and that starting today, the student movement will falter. NO! We must make them liars, starting tomorrow! We must return to our CEGEPs and our universities, and talk about the general strike even more. We must go beyond the general strike if we want to disprove those who say that our movement will falter. We will have to collectively go beyond our streets. We will have to disrupt. We will have to occupy. We will have to shake Québec. Today, hundreds of people bravely blocked the access to the Port of Montreal, because… Why did they do that? Because this government has only one language: money. And if we want to win, THAT is the language we must speak to them. Mr. Charest, Mrs. Beauchamp, Mr. Bachand, you are wrong when you say that the student movement will collapse. In the coming weeks, we will be more numerous than ever before and we will take to the streets even more. We will disturb Quebec more than ever. Mr. Bachand, Mrs. Beauchamp, Mr. Charest, open your eyes, you are surrounded. You only have one option: BACK OFF ON YOUR DECISION.


The Chronicle of Higher Education, “The Biggest Student Strike You’ve Never Heard of”:

On an unseasonably warm day in late March, a quarter of a million postsecondary students and their supporters gathered in the streets of Montreal to protest against the Liberal government’s plan to raise tuition fees by 75% over five years.  As the crowd marched in seemingly endless waves from Place du Canada, dotted with the carrés rouges, or red squares, that have become the symbol of the Quebec student movement, it was plainly obvious that this demonstration was the largest in Quebec’s, and perhaps Canadian, history.

The strike has been supported by near-daily protest actions ranging from family-oriented rallies to building occupations and bridge blockades, and, more recently, by a campaign of political and economic disruption directed against government ministries, crown corporations, and private industry.  Although generally peaceful, these actions have met with increasingly brutal acts of police violence: Student protesters are routinely beaten, pepper-sprayed, and tear-gassed by riot police, and one, Francis Grenier, lost an eye after being hit by a flashbang grenade at close range.  Meanwhile, college and university administrators have deployed a spate of court injunctions and other legal measures in an unsuccessful attempt to break the strike, and Quebec’s premier, Jean Charest, remains intransigent in spite of growing calls for his government to negotiate with student leaders.

So, why haven’t you heard about this yet?

Read the rest of the article here.


Antonia Maioni, “Charest’s Marie Antoinette moment,” The Globe and Mail, April 24, 2012″:

Last Friday, the contrast between Quebec students and their provincial government could not have been sharper: Outside, tear gas filled the streets as riot police scuffled with young protesters; inside, at a business lunch on his plan to develop Quebec’s north, Premier Jean Charest joked that “we could offer them a job … in the North, as far as possible.”

As Mr. Charest reaches his Marie Antoinette moment, there still seems to be some skepticism in the rest of Canada about what’s taking place in this “Quebec Spring,” some of it incredulity, much of it incomprehension. But like a lot of others things, the politics of higher education is different in Quebec.

Access to universities and colleges is an important legacy of the Quiet Revolution. The mid-sixties’ Parent Report, which laid the basis for sweeping education reform in Quebec, recommended the abolition of university fees. While it didn’t happen for universities, it did for the two-year colleges (CEGEP) that serve as prep courses for some, and as professional or vocational training for others.

The ensuing protests of 1968 reflected a radicalization of the student movement, with an emphasis on the role of higher education in breaking down barriers to socio-economic disparities and language status. The spirit behind the notion of free tuition – that higher education needed to be democratized and that money should not impede equal access – remained a powerful force for decades…

Read the rest of the article here.


Violence breaks out during student protest
April 25, 2012

MONTREAL — Starting out peacefully, another chaotic student protest overtook Montreal’s downtown on Wednesday night after Quebec’s three student federations broke off negotiations with Education Minister Line Beauchamp.

Angry at the exclusion of CLASSE from the minister’s negotiations only hours earlier, over 5,000 took in the streets to show support for the province’s more militant student federation.

With a “truce” declared between the student federations and the Quebec government, Beauchamp expelled CLASSE after an uproarious protest on Tuesday saw five arrests, an injured police officer and the window of a bank smashed.

There were more disruptions Wednesday morning, with a pair of smoke bombs tossed in the Montreal subway system, while there were several protests in the city. According to Beauchamp, CLASSE’s announcement of the protests on its website broke the truce.

Wednesday’s protest

While the students gathering at Place Emilie-Gamelin, near Berri-UQAM metro, were mostly peaceful at the start of Wednesday night, the protest slowly began to unravel as the crowd marched west, heading toward Premier Jean Charest’s office.

Organized by the association representing UQAM’s political science and law students, the march began 45 minutes late, at 9:15 p.m. The students did not provide a route to the Montreal police before the protest—something not unusual over the past 11 weeks of protests.

The first hour of the protest was relatively peaceful, with students chanting against Beauchamp and Charest.

Bank windows began to shatter an hour into the protest as some protesters began to throw rocks. With cars being hit by paint and store windows breaking, the protest was declared illegal at around 10 p.m.

A showdown soon developed near the corner of Stanley St. and Ste. Catherine St. as pepper spray and rocks were exchanged. A window of the nearby Chapter’s bookstore was broken as a car was set on fire at the intersection.

Encircling the crowd, Montreal police ordered the protesters to disperse. While some rocks and bricks continued to be thrown, the majority of the protesters began to disperse before 11 p.m.

Several journalists were hit by pepper spray during the protest, including one of CTV Montreal’s cameramen. Earlier in the evening, protesters targeted photojournalists with paint balls.

The Montreal police have yet to report on any arrests or injuries from the clash on one of the city’s main commercial arteries.

A smaller protest was organized on the steps of the National Assembly earlier on Wednesday afternoon.

The situation is still developing.


@CUTVnews – Montreal says “NO!”, protestors confront police in the streets

Tonight, an estimated 10,000 Montreal residents took to the streets to protest against Minister of Education Line Beauchamp following her rejection of CLASSE in the ongoing negotions. FECQ and FEUQ dropped out of negotiations with the Minister as a show of solidarity with CLASSE.

Watch live video of last night’s protests here.


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Bellona: The Tsagovsky Beatings

The Tsagovsky beatings: How authorities in Russia instigate violence and trample the rule of law


Source: Anton Korbutyak @akute

MOSCOW – Last Saturday, the Tsagovsky forest stand-off escalated to a veritable carnage as protesters, desperate to stop the unlawful clear-cutting – an uphill, if not futile, battle that is all too familiar to anyone who has heard of the Khimki campaign – took to knocking down the barbed wire fences put up by the logging company. Security guards responded with force, injuring dozens of activists. The fight that ensued, and everything that preceded the beatings, is an outrage for which the state is fully responsible.

Vladimir Slivyak, 25/04-2012 — Translated by Maria Kaminskaya

As the Prague-based Radio Svoboda reports (in Russian), residents of Zhukovsky, a town in Moscow Region where the forest is located, turned out in hundreds at the site on Saturday in a massive show of support for the activists, who have been resisting the clear-cutting for weeks. When they attempted to dismantle the fences, guards employed by a private security firm called Vityaz reacted with brutal force – and were in turn met with fierce opposition. A violent fight erupted, pieces of logs and even tear gas were used. Police arrived, only to observe the beatings from afar, then arrest activists who were already beaten – or anyone who happened to be in their way. Some 50 people were detained, including, according to Radio Ekho Moskvy (in Russian), pensioners and school children on bike rides, the Tsagovsky forest being a popular recreation spot.

Last Saturday, Radio Svoboda adds, marked a month since clear-cutting had started in the forest – a park that serves as a breathing space between Zhukovsky’s residential areas and industrial sector – and two weeks since environmentalists had set up a protest camp in an attempt to stop the logging for which they insist they have yet to see any permits.

It’s not that attacks on Tsagovsky activists have not taken place before in these past weeks – they have, and repeatedly. And they could only have resulted in what they eventually resulted in – further violence. The guards, who are not from Zhukovsky, took to roughing up anyone they didn’t like the looks of, and got away with it. But up to a point. When enough was enough, residents fought back. Quite logical, really, that sooner or later, people will want to defend their health and their lives, not just a forest they have grown to like to picnic out in or take a walk through on their way to work.

Those who have permitted this violence against citizens whose only fault was that they care – their own voters – made a huge mistake. I visited the Tsagovsky forest the previous weekend and saw what these private security guards are like. In no way would these burly guys in black coveralls touch anyone without a nod from above, if only because initiative of this sort could easily buy them a hefty prison sentence for inflicting severe bodily harm. It’s obvious that only one of two possible things could have happened here: Either the local administration turned a blind eye on the beatings that residents of the town whose well-being this administration is entrusted with regularly suffer at the hands of these guards – or they sanctioned these beatings directly. Which is, for all intents and purposes, one and the same. What were they thinking when they made this decision? Didn’t they realize that violence would only breed more violence?

The rulers of Zhukovsky must be some adventurous folk, itching as they apparently were to see if the locals dare take on a gang of out-of-town bullies throwing their fists around. Do they want to bet, while they’re at it, how many friends the Muscovites flocking to Zhukovsky to help out the forest defenders bring along next time?

What the administration is asking for, signaling their silent approval of the violence that’s been taking place, is a confrontation on a much larger scale. And should it happen, it will be fully on the conscience of those who have started the felling and the pummeling of those who object to the felling. These are the people who have unilaterally fenced out a patch of forest and declared it outside the rule of law – a no man’s land where the only law that applies is the boss’s go-ahead to beat up anyone who comes close enough.

And here is a word for those who think that the activists got what was coming to them because they were violating the law. Security guards do not have the right to do whatever they feel like, regardless of whether they think they are being provoked. Excessive force or not, fists or feet or batons, private security firms do not have the right to beat people up. It’s as simple as that. It’s not up to security guards to take the law in their own hands. Whether the protesters’ actions were against the law or not, the responsible thing to do was not to start an all-out brawl where people could get hurt or even killed, but to step aside and call the police to sort the matter out. This would be the civilized way of dealing with the situation. This would be the way of the law.

Of course, as witnesses say, when the police did arrive eventually, they were so without a clue as to what to do they were just standing around watching the guards stomping and clobbering people.

There’s another thing. Lawyers don’t usually work in security. In other words, private security employees can unlikely be expected to have enough competence to assess the legality of this or that action. So any action they themselves attempt at the scene that they might intend as prevention of a criminal act could in fact turn out to be a criminal act in itself. God have mercy on a country where it’s a security guard and not the judge and jury who decides what is and what is not a crime – and goes all vigilante on a group of townspeople gathered for a protest rally in the park.

The town’s administration, in its turn, must be relying on the old “might is right” principle here, and they could make no bigger mistake than that. Naïvely, they are probably thinking that should push come to shove, the locals would just even the score by giving the guards a few good shiners, and that’ll be that. No harm, no foul – not for the administration, anyway. But however irresponsible that is, it’s not even the main issue. Those who used violence against the activists – both now and before – must be held accountable. Their bosses must be held accountable, and the local administration as well.

Justice must be served here, before residents seek other recourse to defend both their lives and the habitat they are so desperate to preserve. When neither the political system nor the courts can guarantee the rule of law or something as essential as safety to their citizens – and hardly anyone places much faith in these institutions anymore – when the authorities look the other way while mob justice establishes reign over the territory they are in charge of protecting, the only way people see left is resistance by any means possible.

Environmental activists are not a violent kind, and rare is the case when an ecological campaign diverts from a peaceful route. And peaceful is how it was in the Tsagovsky forest, up to a point, until the authorities finally succeeded in stoking enough anger that open hostilities broke out. This will yet come back to haunt them. No society should be forced into a position to defend itself from the state, and only the feeble-minded would think of starting a war with their own people.

It might be that all is not lost yet in the Tsagovsky forest, and the situation could still be defused and resolved peacefully. But in order for that to happen, the conflict will have to be fully investigated, and all those responsible for using aggressive force against Tsagovsky protesters will have to be brought to justice – the guards, their employers, and the town officials who have sanctioned the beatings.

Alas, the authorities may only be interested in further violence, a perfect smokescreen to deflect attention from the illegal logging and civilized dialogue to criminal cases and vandalism charges. For us, when the police side with attackers and beaten-up protesters are bussed away to precincts, it is in our common interest to insist that punishments be doled out to those who truly deserve it.

UPDATE: According to information that became available on Saturday night, an inspection of the security firm’s paperwork had revealed the guards were stationed illegally in the forest. Their contract was only valid for 24 hours, and for a date that had expired a month ago: from March 22 to 23. The guards are still there. So who was violating the law in the Tsagovsky forest?

Vladimir Slivyak, frequent contributor to Bellona, is co-chairman of Ecodefense! and author of the recently published “From Hiroshima to Fukushima,” a compelling account of the nuclear industry’s most recent history, combining a detailed chronicle of the 2011 disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan and an in-depth analysis of the industry’s problems in Russia.


Editor’s Note. On Monday, state channel Rossiya 1 aired a surprisingly positive report on the battle to save the Tsagovsky Forest. We repost it here, without translation, by way of giving our readers more visual background.

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Chto Delat: The Lesson on Dis-Consent

The Lesson on Dis-Consent

This performance was recorded at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden on October 28, 2011.

This piece continues the series of musicals (songspiels) written and produced by Chto Delat and composed by Mikhail Krutik over the past three years.

The occasion for this latest work was the Chto Delat solo show at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden. We could not pass up this opportunity to engage in dialogue with the legacy of Bertolt Brecht, who premiered two works, Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927) and The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent (1929), at the new German chamber music festival in this same city. We wanted to produce a new piece in direct dialogue and debate with the work of this great master.

The piece is based on a critical reading of a number of texts produced by the anti-psychiatry movement, which emerged in the late sixties and early seventies in the Europe and US, especially those of the well-known Socialist Patients’ Collective in Heidelberg. In our performance, a “chorus of patients” that has been invited to appear at the exhibition opening becomes engaged in dialogue with the audience.

It is also noteworthy that Baden-Baden is a city with deep historical ties to Russia, and even today it is frequented by members of the Russian elite, who go there to relax and seek medical treatment. We thought it important to critically reflect this state of affairs: thus, one of the characters in our performance is a “typical” Russian businessman, who argues with the chorus and voices the values of this new class.

Our work critiques the modern concept of a healthy lifestyle and discusses how we might radicalize it and “turn illness into a weapon.”


The Lesson on Dis-Consent will be featured at the Ante-Exhibition on May 5–6, 2012, at the Kirkgate Centre in Shipley, West Yorkshire.

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The Disenchantment of Tsagovsky Forest

Now that the dust has cleared after the recent so-called elections in Russia, it seems as if the western media — so breathless and eager to report every move made by the “creative class” or the “emergent middle class” (or whoever all those hundreds of thousands of people were on the streets of Moscow, Petersburg and other Russian cities) as it confronted the powers that be with white ribbons and cries of “We don’t want a revolution!” — has either gone on a well-deserved holiday or has (more likely) gone back to its usual fruitless wanderings in the hallowed halls of Kremlinology, thus missing the stories of conflict and popular resistance that, frankly, also existed in abundance (if not in sheer numbers all in one place) before that exciting “middle class revolt” of December 2011 unfolded.

Here’s a suggestion for those intrepid lovers of evenings at Moscow’s famous Jean Jacques cafe: run, don’t walk, to the Tsagovsky Forest, in the town of Zhukovsky, forty kilometers southeast of Moscow. This is what things looked like there yesterday afternoon (April 21):

As Voice of America’s Russian Service reported yesterday,

On Saturday, April 21, the defenders of the Tsagovsky Forest — the so-called Civilian Monitoring Camp — invited the residents of Zhukovsky to a people’s gathering. They planned to discuss the clear-cutting of the forest, which activists say is illegal, as well as meet with members of the municipal and regional Dumas.

April 21 was exactly one month to the day since the start of the logging. It was then [a month ago] that workers, acting under the protection of private security guards and police, cut down 15 hectares of old-growth pine forest. The camp has been operating in the forest for two weeks now: activists there are trying to prove that the cutting was done illegally and prevent further deforestation.

“There were about three hundred people at the gathering, and around twenty journalists,” the coordinator of the camp’s info center, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Voice of America’s correspondent. The entire logging area is now surrounded by a fence with two rows of barbed wire.

“The police said that the work area must be surrounded by a fence. Workers put up a fence,” the coordinator continues, “but whose workers they are is unclear. They had no documents, not a single one, no work orders, no permits. In the afternoon we went to break the fence.”

The forest’s defenders say that, in the absence of documents, there is no information about how much forest should be cut down and whether the right lot has been fenced off. “We were told that twelve hectares of forest would be cut. But as of today more than fifteen hectares have been cut down,” Andrei Nikolaenya, coordinator of the forest camp, told Voice of America’s Russia Service.

After trying to tear down the fence, people took to the road in order to attract the attention of passing cars. A fight with regular police and OMON riot police broke out, as well as with employees of the private security company Vityaz, which gained notoriety during the clashes in the Khimki Forest.

“The private security guards kicked people and even beat them with batons,” says the information center coordinator. “The police say that they’re citizen volunteers who help them out. Around forty security guards are on duty in the forest day and night. They approach the camp and swear at us. We are afraid that one night they’ll attack the camp. “

In the end, seventeen people were arrested, including journalists and passing cyclists. “We believe that everything going on here is illegal,” says Nikolaenya.

Nikolaenya fears that the camp could be torn down. “The police have said that we’ve gone too far and that they’re going to remove the camp. But if they take down the camp, a guerrilla movement will start here.”

Nikolaenya is optimistic. “We have very positive plans: to continue to fight for our rights, to bring matters to a political solution.”

The struggle for Tsagovsky Forest is already four years old. Since 1982, the forest had a special status as an old-growth forest, and until 2010 Tsagovsky Forest was considered an official local natural monument. Four years ago, the forest was stripped of its protected status: officials declared the decree granting it special status invalid and reclassified the forest an area of [ordinary] “trees and shrubs.” It was at this same time that preparations to build a highway through the forest began.

Officially, the new highway is needed to resolve the traffic situation in the city. In addition, according to a decree issued by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the National Aviation Center will be built in Zhukovsky. The highway is needed to provide access to it, to the Flight Research Institute, and to the venue of the annual Moscow Air Show (MAKS).

Moscow Region authorities have approved the construction of a public road “to the town of Zhukovsky (Gromov Flight Research Institute) from the M-5 Urals Highway.” Zhukovsky will receive compensation of 170 million rubles “for the loss of natural heritage.”

The photo, above, was taken from an online album of yesterday’s dramatic events. More information (in Russian) about the organized resistance to the clear cutting of the Tsagovsky Forest can be found at the web site


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Solidarity with Alexey Sutuga!

Anarchist Alexey Sutuga has been arrested and remanded in Moscow — your help is needed!

Alexey Sutuga, anarchist, anti-fascist and member of Autonomous Action, was arrested on Tuesday evening, April 17, in Moscow. The arrest took place during a fundraising effort in support of anti-fascist prisoners. It was learned almost after a day after the arrest that Alexey is now in Remand Prison No. 2, also known as Butyrka Prison.

The police accuse him of the same crime as anti-fascist Alexey Olesinov, who has already been in custody for a month — complicity in the incident at the Moscow club Vozdukh, on December 17, 2011, when neo-Nazis working security attacked concert goers and then blamed anti-fascists for this assault.

Voluntary donations for the support of anti-fascists in detention, particularly Alexey Olesinov and Igor Kharchenko, were collected in downtown Moscow on April 17. The event was organized by activists of the anti-racist human rights initiative Direct Help. About fifteen people, including Alexey Sutuga, showed up for the event. Two police officers approached the group at 8:30 p.m., according to witnesses. They identified themselves and asked why there were so much garbage around the bench where everyone was gathered.

The police then asked everyone present to show their documents. When people refused to show them, two plain clothes officers appeared instantly out of nowhere, followed shortly by five or six of their colleagues.

One of them presented his ID, muttered something to the effect of “Criminal Investigation Department, guys,” and said, “Get him!” Police officers obeyed him, grabbing Alexey and leading him off towards the highway.

The plain clothes officers immediately followed them, no longer paying any attention to the rest of the crowd, although they had promised to arrest all those who had no documents and take them to a police station. Among those who arrested Alexey was the well-known Moscow FSB agent Yevgeny Platov, better known as “Zhenya the FSB Guy.” (You can read more about him and his persecution of Moscow anarchists here, in Russian:…)

It’s worth noting that a group of anarchists, including Alexey, had been detained a week earlier by the same plain clothes officers, but were released without charges.

Sutuga’s family and friends did not know of his whereabouts for almost twenty-four hours: he didn’t answer his phone. Information about his whereabouts was only released on the evening of April 18. It was reported that he is in Butyrka Prison and, apparently, Basmanny District Court quickly sanctioned his pretrial detention.

He has been charged with “hooliganism” (Article 213, Part 2 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code). The press service of the Moscow police reported that Alexey Sutuga has been charged in connection with the same case as Alexey Olesinov.

Recently, it became known that police are attempting to fabricate a second criminal case against Olesinov. On April 17, police confronted him with a young man who claims to have been attacked by Alexey on December 4, 2011, although on this day Olesinov was posting articles on the Internet. (For more details, in Russian, see:

As a member of Autonomous Action has explained, “The case against the well-known anti-fascist Alexey Olesinov, now remanded, has been investigated for several months and is now collapsing. It seems that the human rights campaign in support of Olesinov has begun to irritate the police. If they had something on Sutuga, they would have followed the legal procedures for this case. And it turns out that they have just arrested a person and held him incommunicado for almost a whole day. It looks as if the police have wild imaginations.”

For more information about the incident at the Vozdukh club, see:

For information about persecution of other anarchists and anti-fascists in Moscow, see: (in Russian)

Funds are urgently needed to defray Sutuga’s legal expenses. You may donate through Anarchist Black Cross of Moscow. Instructions are available here:


Editor’s note. This appeal was originally published, in English, on the Autonomous Action web site. It has been slightly edited to make it more readable.


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Spot the Differences

Nadya Tolokonnikova: Allegedly danced in a church.
Anders Behring Breivik: Terrorist, murdered 77 people.

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All You Need to Know about the Pussy Riot Case, But Were Afraid to Ask

Lev Rubinstein
My Verdict: “Bitches”
April 20, 2012

I’m unhappy with myself when strong, negative emotions begin to prevail over reason, when instead of describing and analyzing events as calmly and disinterestedly as possible, I simply shout an obscene idiom into dead space. So yesterday, when I learned of the court’s decision to extend the jail terms of the three girls from Pussy Riot, I couldn’t think of anything better to do than say the word “bitches” fairly loudly, with at least three exclamation marks.

Of course this wasn’t directed at the girls, or even at the judges. What judges? Are you kidding?

I’ve just written about oxymoron as one of the basic techniques of today’s agitprop. But there is one other linguistic peculiarity of Russian public and political life: homonymy, when identical words denote different things. If, for example, you hear or read the word luk out of context, you won’t be able to tell whether it’s the kind used for shooting [“bow”] or the edible kind [“onion”].

Homonyms, whose meanings aren’t entirely clear, are often misleading. And it’s only when you realize that in our country “parties,” “parliament” and “elections” don’t in any way denote parties, parliament and elections, but something else altogether (although they’re written and pronounced the same), that life becomes if not easier and more fun, then at least easier to grasp.

The same goes for “court.” Under our current imitative system, the word “court” can mean anything whatsoever except for [a real] court. And therefore to evaluate the performance of judges in terms of the reasonable and fairness of their verdicts is no more appropriate than to assess the performance of a printing pressing in terms of the form and content of the texts [printed on it].

No, my “verdict” was not addressed to the judges, but to those who poison a social climate already far from germ free with the miasma of obtuse malice, ancient superstitions, salacious shamelessness and nauseating, brazen hypocrisy. It was addressed to those who poison the air and pit people against each other. Indeed, it’s clear that only in this noxious fog can they remain at the feeding troughs of power, wheeling and dealing, kicking around their kickbacks, taking their cuts, raking in the dough and doing all their other great deeds for the glory of Mighty Russia. What young Nadya said as she left the courtroom was on the mark.

“Our best wishes to those who put us here: I want you to have it like we have it now. Since they think we are fine and can be kept in custody, this is not a curse but a wish,” said Tolokonnikova. ”I think we did everything the right way,” she added. As reported on the Twitter account gruppa_voina, when guards led Tolokonnikova out of the courtroom, she said, “And do not blame anyone but Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin for our situation.”

I especially like the fact that against the backdrop of all this rage (which in terms of form and content resembles the delirium brought on by a severe flu), the pretentious debates about whether what the girls did was good or bad continue as if nothing has happened. Was it a pretty thing to do or was it shabby? Should they have or shouldn’t they have? It’s bad, of course, that a girl was raped and murdered, but she was wrong to have worn such a short skirt. Or, say, a reporter deems it not superfluous, in his report on a road accident, to note that the hit-and-run pedestrian victim was dressed quite tastelessly.

A story like this one, which has provoked such stormy passions and such inappropriate excitement on the part of the clerical-punitive mechanism, would have been newsworthy no longer than two or three days in any civilized country. So I ask again for the umpteenth time: where is that we live? And, most important, in what century?

Just recently I was in Austria and Germany, where virtually everyone with whom I spoke, including former compatriots, asked me the same thing: “What is going on in your country? Is such a thing really possible today?” “As you see, it’s possible,” I was forced to reply, “In Russia anything is possible.” And the refrain of a playful, perky (as was said back then) song from the sixties would resurface in my memory: “It’s possible, it’s possible, of course it’s possible. In our country nothing is impossible.” And then, of course, the refrain continued, “La-la-la! La-la-la! La-la-la! La-la-la!” All in all, it’s a fun little ditty.


To get updates about the case, find out about solidarity events in your part of the world, and contribute to the legal defense of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich, who face up to seven years in prison and have been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, go to

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Moscow Police: Prose Is Allowed (But Not Blank Verse?)

Welcome to Moscow, where it is illegal to sing a couple songs outside a courthouse in defense of people (in this case, the three arrested alleged members of Pussy Riot, whose pretrial detention was extended for another two months yesterday by the Tagansky court) you think have been unjustly accused and imprisoned.

Slon.Ru’s reporter on the scene relates this interesting exchange with one of the arresting police officers:

When I asked the officer supervising the arrests on what grounds the musicians [Nikolay Oleynikov and Kirill Medvedev, two members of the revolutionary folk ensemble Arkady Kots] were being detained, he explained that any organized actions are interpreted as [unsanctioned protests], and that outside a court house they are prohibited by law.

So you’d detain [people for reciting] poems?”
“For [reciting] poems as well — for any unsanctioned actions.”
Is it permitted to converse in prose?”
“Prose is allowed.”
 “What about unrhymed blank verse?”

The officer thought hard but gave no reply. But some activists standing nearby suggested that, given the political situation, blank verse was doubly forbidden.


P.S. Arkady Kots continued their performance as they were being transported to a police station along with other lovers of blank verse:

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Filed under activism, censorship, feminism, gay rights, film and video, political repression, protests, Russian society