Monthly Archives: January 2013

Valentin Urusov: A Worker’s Struggle

In August 2012, the magazine Russian Reporter published a long, detailed article on Valentin Urusov, a diamond miner and trade union activist from Yakutia who was sentenced to six years in prison for drug possession in 2008. I hadn’t heard of Urusov before. Few in and outside Russia have. Despite efforts over the last four years to increase international pressure to have him freed, Urusov’s plight and that of Russian political prisoners like him get overshadowed by more capitalist friendly names like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the late Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in Russian police custody in 2009, or the more sensational and repackageable Pussy Riot. It’s safe to say we won’t be hearing about the US Congress sponsoring a “Urusov Law,” nor will any of his tormentors find themselves on a US State Department persona non grata list.

Many regard Urusov’s conviction, based on what they allege is planted evidence, as a prime example of the frequent collusion between Russian capital (in this case, the state-owned diamond mining giant Alrosa) and state security organs to stamp out grassroots labor activism. This activism is any case severely handicapped by national trade union umbrella organizations like the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), a holdover from the Soviet era when trade unions were in fact an arm of the state, and its member organizations, such as Profalmaz, the company-approved local labor union that Urusov and his comrades attempted to bypass by creating their own union.  As Valery Sobol, a local Communist Party leader, says at the end of Veselov’s article, “In our country, the authorities and big business are intertwined in a ball. And anyone who gets in their way is crushed. Here in Yakutia, in the provinces, it’s just more clearly felt.  But it’s the same thing all over the country.”

This is why Andrei Veselov’s profile of Urusov is so important. It complements the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) recent effort to get Valentin Urusov released. (In a similar vein, the Russian Confederation of Labour, the Russian LabourStart group, and the IUF, with backing from IndustriALL Global Union, have just nominated Urusov for the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights.) But beyond the particulars of Urusov’s case, it illuminates what Russian labor activists struggling to establish independent trade unions endure in Putin’s Russia.

 Follow Free Valentin Urusov! on Facebook for updates.

Sean Guillory

__________

A Worker’s Struggle
How an attempt to create a real labor union lands you in a penal colony
By Andrei Veselov
Russian Reporter
No. 33 (262) • August 23, 2012
Originally published (in Russian) at: http://rusrep.ru/article/2012/08/22/borba

It is now acceptable to talk about political prisoners in Russia—it has become good form. But for some reason, bankers and financiers now and again end up on lists of “prisoners of conscience.” Their troubles are discussed in great detail, and there is sincere sympathy for them. Little is said about the fact that for the last four years Valentin Urusov, a rank-and-file worker, has been doing time at the penal colony in Verkhny Vestyak, Yakutia, for attempting to establish an independent labor union. Russian Reporter has decided to rectify this.

“When they drove off the road into the taiga, I hear, ‘Take out the plastic sheet so nothing gets splattered.’ That, as they say, is when I bid farewell to life, calmed down and resigned myself. I lay on the floor of the car and waited. Hands cuffed behind my back. They pulled me out, put me on my knees and fired three shots over my head. But they didn’t kill me.”

urusov

Valentin Urusov. Photo by Aleskey Maishev for Russian Reporter


The senior officer for education at the colony listens attentively to my conversation with Valentin Urusov, a prisoner at Penal Colony No. 3 in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) and former leader of the independent labor union local in the town of Udachny. After the interview, the officer comes up to me and says, “You know, maybe he is really innocent. But if five percent are wrongly convicted in America, what can you expect from us?”

“What a terrific job!”

The idea that a full-fledged rather than puppet labor union could emerge in Udachny occurred to Valentin, a rank-and-file employee at Almazenergoremont, a subsidiary of the local mining and processing plant, after the scandalous “affair of the sandblasters.” Urusov himself is a local man, although he was born in Karachay-Cherkessia: he has lived in Yakutia since he was two years old and worked here since he was sixteen, mostly at facilities run by the state-owned diamond mining company Alrosa. There are few other options here.

Udachny is a town fourteen kilometers from the Arctic Circle, and one of the three main sites, along with Mirny and Aikhal, where diamonds are mined. Among the workers involved in the mining process are the so-called abrasive blasters or, more simply, sandblasters, whose job is to work solid surfaces with an abrasive, high-pressure stream of air pumped through a hose. It is not a job that is good for the health of the worker, to say the least: pulmonary silicosis is the occupational illness. Neither a safety helmet nor a [hazmat] suit, like cosmonauts wear, helps.

In 2007, a team of these sandblasters demanded overtime pay, which at that time went chronically unpaid. The workers filed a lawsuit and even managed to win their case: the Labor Code was clearly on their side.

“A special commission arrived in Udachny to arbitrate the dispute directly,” explains Andrei Polyakov, an Alrosa spokesman. “The company agreed with the validity of the claims, an agreement settling all grievances was signed, and compensation was paid out. The managers who were in direct dereliction of their duties were punished.”

This happened, it is true, but later. The main scandal occurred when the dispute was still being settled: the semi-official labor union at Alrosa, Profalmaz, negotiated not on the side of the workers, but on behalf of . . . management. This provoked astonishment and outrage in Udachny.

So, on the one hand, Profalmaz’s authority was undermined. On the other, the feeling arose that one’s labor rights could be protected—moreover, in a civilized manner, through the courts and arbitration, the European way, so to speak.

“I just found it interesting. I’m a generally curious person, and that is probably why I’m in prison,” jokes Valentin. “I went online and came across Sotsprof, a trade union association that is an alternative to the FNPR (the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia). I wrote an email to its leader, who was then Sergei Khramov. He replied by sending me documents on how to create a new union.”

“But why a new one?” I ask. “Was it really impossible to make things work within the existing union?”

“All [organizations] belonging to Mikhail Shmakov’s FNPR, including Profalmaz, are not labor unions but appendages of personnel departments. All they do is allocate vacation vouchers. They will never oppose management.”

“Was the only problem overtime and the fact it wasn’t being paid then?”

“Of course not. There were a lot of problems! And then, you understand, this is very difficult work: you have to work night and day, and on holidays, and take someone else’s shift, whatever management says. But you get paid for an eight-hour day. And then there are the working conditions and safety. In the department where I worked, the equipment should have been scrapped twenty years ago, at best. There are a lot of accidents as a result. The ones that were made public were like a speck in a big heap of sand. I got a big piece of flesh taken out of my hand, and that was nothing. Of course, it’s hard to hush up fatal incidents. But fractures and injuries are different. There are thousands of them and nobody cares. It was a shame that the company was so wealthy, that it built five-star hotels and all kinds of business centers, but scrimped on us.”

In Moscow I met with Sergei Khramov, to whom Valentin had sent the email and who had instructed him on creating a union local.

Udachnaya_pipe

The open pit of the Udachnaya Diamond Mine, Russia, from a helicopter,
July 17, 2004. Photo by Alexander Stepanov


“Add to this the aggressive water in the gully where they mine diamonds.” Khramov hands me a complaint from Udachny miners addressed to Vladimir Putin. “It’s nearly acid and it penetrates their rubber suits. Here they write, ‘We don’t know what it is we are breathing when the ventilation equipment is lubricated with used oil.’ Or there’s this one: ‘Cold, unheated air is pumped into the mine, even in winter.’ And it’s minus forty-fifty in winter there. What a terrific job!”

How to frighten a republic’s leadership

Right at this time, in August 2008, the so-called Siberian Social Forum was held in Irkutsk. “Free” trade unions were among the forum’s founders. Urusov’s new acquaintances invited him there, too. In fact, it was a small event, attended by no more than two hundred people, but it made a strong impression on Valentin.

“[Civil rights lawyer] Stanislav Markelov, who was later murdered in Moscow, lectured on legal issues. He was a very competent, energetic, lively man—it’s a shame [what happened] to him. He talked about how to act in this or that situation so as not to set oneself up and achieve [your goals] at the same time. And then the call came. Problems with pay had begun at the second motor depot, and the guys had decided to organize a strike.”

Events unfolded rapidly. In a small suburban home outside of Udachny, Urusov met with motor depot drivers and mechanics in an almost conspiratorial atmosphere and began persuading them to join the union. Armed with new knowledge, Urusov tried to prove to his comrades that if a strike began they would immediately be fired for trumped-up excuses, and there would be no one left to work on getting them reinstated. During the second “conspiratorial” meeting, sixty-two people joined Urusov’s union local.

There were two options as to how to proceed. First, a classic strike. But the Udachny miners had no experience with strikes, and therefore they could easily have been fired for “absenteeism.” And even if they had managed to get fired workers reinstated, they would have lost the initiative, and the remaining workers would have been demoralized. The second option was a hunger strike. Everyone goes to work; there is no downtime and, therefore, nothing for management to complain about. But demands are loudly declared and, basically, a scandal erupts. They chose the second option.

“At first, [management] demonstratively paid no attention to us. Then they see we aren’t going to back down. That is when they began dropping by,” Urusov laughs. “People came from the police, from plant security, from the company itself, trying to talk us out of it. In exchange for setting up a conciliation commission, we suspended the hunger strike.”

However, the commission was unable to achieve a compromise. Management made no concessions.

“We decided to hold an open union meeting right on the town’s central square. It wasn’t a [protest] rally, and by law we weren’t required to notify anyone. On the first day, all the motor depot workers came, plus another two hundred people. The director of the plant came and tried to say something. But he couldn’t answer a single question and left. And right there on the square, people began joining the union. By the end of the day something like three hundred people had joined. We decided to repeat the meeting. The second time, more than eight hundred people gathered. There was no rioting and no laws were broken. We didn’t even have a loudspeaker. By evening, I remember it even now, 1,012 people had joined the union.”

We have to remember that Udachny is a very small town with a population of slightly over ten thousand, and such developments outright scared both the local authorities and certain people in high places. The situation was headed towards a citywide strike and a potential stoppage of diamond mining in the Udachnaya kimberlite pipe—the largest in the world, by the way.

“We have enormous enterprises in our country. Often [they] monopolize their regions, and so a strike or simply a large [industrial] action could freeze an entire industry,” explains Alexander Zakharin, Urusov’s friend and colleague, and chair of the Sotsprof local in Surgut. “And if you organize such an action, you risk running into a brutal response. From the owners and from the authorities. But it happens that milder measures don’t work. Then you need to choose: take a risk or keep your mouth shut.”

At Alrosa itself, the union’s activities in Udachny are seen primarily as an attempt at self-promotion.

“A media effect—promoting awareness of Sotsprof and the number of times it got mentioned in the press—was probably the main objective for some of its executives,” argues company spokesman Polyakov.

As during the [dispute in 2007], Profalmaz adopted a peculiar position in the new confrontation. Its leader, Il Tumen (Sakha Republic State Assembly) deputy Pavel Tretyakov, not only failed to help the workers, but also asked the republic’s leaders to reason with the “rebels.” Profalmaz’s executive committee sent an appeal to the President of Yakutia, Vyacheslav Shtyrov, and FNPR head [Mikhail] Shmakov asking them to prevent “incitement of a conflict.”

Tretyakov later, in a similar vein, told Vasily Gabyshev, the Mirny town prosecutor, “It’s surprising that law enforcement authorities didn’t respond to attempts by various persons to artificially incite conflicts, to calls for illegal hunger strikes and [labor] strikes.”

The Yakutia presidential administration composed a panicked memo on the basis of Tretyakov’s appeals. The President instructed law enforcement agencies to figure out what was happening. (Russian Reporter has all these documents in its possession.) What exactly Shtyrov wanted from the security services is still unclear, but the local office of the FSKN (the Federal Drug Control Service) reacted to the situation, let’s say, in an extremely original way.

Udachny—Aikhal—Mirny

“Then what happened? Then the third of September came. I was leaving my place. I heard a car door open. I instinctively turned around.  It was a simple UAZ[-452], a “Pill” [i.e., a van] with tinted windows. Out came three guys in leather jackets and jeans with shaved heads. I didn’t know them. I immediately knew something was wrong and ran. They caught up to me and knocked me down.”

“Did they show you any identification?”

“Absolutely nothing. They restrained me and brought me to the van. First they handcuffed me with my hands in front. Later, in the van, they tried to cuff me with my hands behind my back. I clasped my hands and held on. They pulled and pulled, broke my finger, and finally handcuffed my hands behind my back. They threw me to the floor and one of them sat on top of me. We drove for a long time.”

It subsequently emerged that Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Rudov, the head of drug control in the Mirny District, had personally led this “operation.” In order to apprehend Urusov, he and his subordinates had driven six hundred kilometers [to Udachny]: [his] “Hunter” [i.e., jeep] was waiting for the “Pill” on the outskirts of the town. In court, Rudov claimed to have had “operational information” that Urusov was involved in selling drugs.

“We asked the court to confirm or refute Rudov’s testimony, and requested written confirmation that the ‘operational information’ had been registered in the police operational ledger,” says Urusov’s attorney Yevgeny Chernousov, a former police colonel who specializes in narcotics cases. “We didn’t demand that this information itself or its source be revealed. We just wanted to confirm that the information had existed. The court did not fulfill our request. There is thus no evidence of its existence. In light of this, Rudov’s unwarranted trip to Udachny and back seems more than suspicious.”

Valentin says that Rudov was on the phone with a certain Alexei Yurevich or Yuri Alexeyevich the whole time, reporting to him that they had “taken” Urusov and wanting to know what to do next. After one of these conversations, the van pulled off into the taiga. There the narcotics officers spread out plastic sheeting and fired a few shots over Urusov’s head, recounts Urusov.

“They were shooting the whole time,” says Valentin. “They shot at birds, and at trees. Apparently, they wanted to frighten me. We had already driven far from town, and basically they could have done whatever they wanted with me.”

At a fork in the Udachny-Aikhal-Mirny road, the car of Grigory Pustovetov, head of security at the Aikhal mining and processing plant, drove up to Rudov’s group “entirely by accident.” Only then did the police decide to search Urusov for drugs. Pustovetov and his driver acted as official witnesses. The search was a complete success: sixty-six grams of hashish oil were found in the union activist’s pocket.

“A number of questions arise,” says an outraged Chernousov. “First, when the arrest happens in one place, but the [official] search with witnesses happens dozens of kilometers away, it’s a clear sign that the drugs could have been planted. Second, if the head of one of a company’s security units serves as a witness when an employee in a labor dispute with that company is being searched, it also gives rise to the most unpleasant thoughts.”

Urusov himself claims the hashish was planted on him in the car after the fake execution. He says that hash oil was specially applied to his hands so that traces of the drug would later be detected when his hands were swabbed.

“When we were organizing the miners’ union in Neryungri (a major industrial center in Yakutia), I was reminded of this story,” says Valery Sobol, first secretary of the Neryungri Communist Party City Committee. “I won’t name the names [of the persons involved] because I live there. Employees of the so-called organs [i.e., the security services] invited me to a pub. We hung out there for a while. Then at another place, and then another. I myself didn’t drink, [but] they drank a lot. And, as if it was an afterthought, though they had summoned me there [to deliver just this message], one of them says, ‘You remember that thing with Urusov? You also better not be naughty. If anything happens, we’ll plant a gun [on you] or whatever.’ And then he laughed. Like it was a joke.”

Several months ago, Sobol nearly won the election for the head of the Neryungri District. He came in second by only a small margin. And if a potential district head can be threatened almost openly, then the kidnapping of a simple working stiff like Urusov, who has no political backing at all, does not seem farfetched.

Sobol and I sat in the kitchen of Sergei Yurkov, an engineer, businessman, and leader of [an organization called] the Russian Community of Yakutia. He met Urusov in a pre-trial detention facility. I ask him how he had ended up there.

“My story is simple. Transneft were building a pipeline here. They didn’t want to pay normal wages to the locals. So when the locals balked, they brought in rural Chinese willing to work for peanuts and live in barracks. When we organized a rally and put up flyers saying this wasn’t how things were done, I was arrested under Article 282 of the Criminal Code for ‘incitement of interethnic hatred.’ What does ‘incitement’ have to do with it? I was sentenced to two years in prison.”

Drugs via the Special Courier Service?

It must be said that the theme of drugs, with which they decided to shut Urusov up, did not arise by accident. Drug use is a local scourge. And this makes sense. There are few other ways to have fun in small towns and villages in the North. That is why on the surface Urusov’s prosecution under a drug statute was meant to have appeared more or less plausible.

“It’s a big problem here, as is drinking,” says Maxim Mestnikov, a Sotsprof spokesman in Yakutia. “When Friday comes, hang onto your head: there is a deluge of knife wounds [and] head injuries.”

But Urusov, in fact, never had the reputation of a mischievous drug addict. In his youth, at the beginning of the 2000s, he and a few friends created an organization called Youth for an Athletic Movement—North, whose activists patrolled the city monitoring places where drugs were sold. Eventually, the mayor of Udachny even suggested that they create a branch of City Without Drugs on the line of [Yevgeny] Roizman’s [controversial anti-drugs organization].

The relationship between certain local [Alrosa] subcontractors and drug dealers, however, may require a separate investigation. Russian Reporter has in its possession an official memo written by Sergei Denisov, predecessor of [Grigory] Pustovetov (the man who acted as a witness during the police search of Urusov) as head of security at the Aikhal mining and processing plant.

The memo is addressed to Yuri Ionov, former vice-president for security at Alrosa, and it deals with the overall crime situation in the area. Among many others, the memo contains the following passage: “It is impossible to ignore the fact that a drug trafficking network has developed in the village. According to operational information from the Mirny office of the FSB, the delivery of drugs is carried out by the [Federal] Special Courier Service, with which Alrosa has a contractual relationship for the transportation of diamonds.” Moreover, the memo shows that confidential and friendly relations exist between certain high-ranking Alrosa executives, law enforcement officers, and outright criminals.

“I’ll say this: the criminal world is generally in first place here,” [Sotsprof’s] Mestnikov says with conviction. “In this respect it is still the nineties here. Something needs to be done so you go to them and they handle it. And this could also have happened with Valentin. Perhaps it was better that they sicked the cops on him and not the wise guys.”

After he presented the memo to Ionov, Denisov was forced to resign and move to Novosibirsk.

“No decision was taken on my report. Ionov showed me the door and said he didn’t need any unnecessary problems. As for Urusov, I can say that it’s a pure frame-up,” [Denisov says].

In May 2010, Lieutenant Colonel Rudov was sentenced to three years probation for fraud and abuse of authority. According to [Urusov’s other] lawyer Inga Reitenbakh, “He was charged with receiving 2.5 million rubles from Alrosa for the purchase of an apartment in Mirny.” The investigators and Rudov himself categorically denied any connection between this case and the Urusov case. Nevertheless, the funds were allocated to Rudov shortly after Urusov’s arrest. According to Russian Reporter’s source, Rudov now works as a procurements specialist in the repair and construction office at the Mirny mining and processing plant.

“He shoots before he thinks”

Urusov was also unlucky in that he had set about creating a Sotsprof local in Udachny exactly when the union’s leadership had entered the complex process of building relations with the Kremlin.

“Beginning in 2007, people from the Russian Presidential Administration began to pressure us very actively,” says Sergei Khramov. “We were strongly recommended to name Sergei Vostretsov from the United Russia party as [our] new leader. I had good reason to believe that if we didn’t, we would simply be destroyed. And I figured, the heck with him, let Vostretsov be leader and do public relations, while I, as Sotsprof’s general labor inspector, will do the day-to-day work.”

The first outcome of this “castling” move was that the formerly oppositional Sotsprof supported Dmitry Medvedev in the 2008 presidential elections.

”And when they began pressuring Valentin, Vostretsov told me not to make any unnecessary noise, because he would fix everything anyway. I knew that the Vostretsov family—his younger brother was the youngest FSB colonel in the country—was very close to General Alexander Mikhailov, the then-director of the Federal Drug Control Service. I thought that Valentin’s case would be decided with a single phone call.”

For the sake of fairness, we should note that complicated events were underway at the Federal Drug Control Service at the time. Viktor Ivanov had replaced Viktor Cherkesov, who had famously publicized the existence of a war within the security services in an article [entitled “We Can’t Let Warriors Turn into Traders”]. In October, General Mikhailov left the FSKN as well. There was simply no one left to make that “single phone call.”

Subsequently, Vostretsov pushed Khramov out of Sotsprof altogether, and the organization became completely loyal to the Kremlin.

In December 2008, the Mirny District Court sentenced Valentin Urusov to six years in prison for drug possession. Vostretsov tried to fight it, but more from behind the scenes: he met with officials from the Yakutia administration and officials of the security services, and even, allegedly, raised the issue of Urusov with Medvedev. It was no use.

Khramov, in contrast, acted publicly. It was he who got the famous lawyer Chernousov to take the case. Chernousov convinced the Yakutia Supreme Court to overturn the verdict (on procedural grounds: the judge had not retired to chambers while considering a motion to dismiss), after which the case was retried.

“I had absolutely no illusions,” Valentin smiles. “After the Supreme Court decision, many people thought I would be exonerated.  I was certain of the opposite, that now I would be ‘shut down’ for sure. This was evident from the faces of those in the courtroom at the second trial. After the first hearing, I gathered my belongings, put on the track suit I’d been wearing while traveling between pre-trial detention facilities and prisons, and from then on I went to hearings in this outfit.”

In Udachny, there is a small newspaper with the humorous name of Gorodok [“The Burg”], edited by a local journalist named Alla Demidova. After Urusov was released, she published a short article. Immediately, the very same day, she got a call from Maxim Dobarkin, one of the police investigators who had participated in Urusov’s “arrest.”

“Dobarkin called me at home,” says Demidova. “Drunk. He told me how many bullets he would put in me, said that ‘he shoots before he thinks,’ that he knows where I live, and that he would ‘get’ me ‘whether in Udachny or in Sochi.’”

“What did you do?”

“I filed a complaint with the FSB.”

“Did they respond?”

“They responded by sending me a one-line answer: ‘There is no threat.’”

Dobarkin, however, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and together with Rudov took command of the Federal Drug Control Service’s interdistrict department in Mirny.

Another Yakutia journalist, Aitalina Nikiforova, was also threatened for covering Urusov’s case.

“I reported on every hearing during the trial from the courtroom. Rudov called me over during one of the hearings and said word for word, ‘Your oldest daughter is fifteen. It would be interesting to see how you’ll defend Urusov after some old drug dealers drug her up and pass her around.’ This definitely sounded like a threat. At the time I was working as editor-in-chief at the only independent newspaper in Mirny, Moya gazeta. The only printing plant in town refused to print us. Local Federal Drug Control Service agents began coming to my house, allegedly because of anonymous tips that I also used and dealt drugs. Some of [the agents] were insolent and rude; others were ashamed, because the last visits took place when I was six to seven months pregnant with my third child.”

After that Nikiforova decided it would be safer to leave her hometown and move to Yakutsk.

In June 2009, the Mirny District Court delivered a new verdict in the Urusov case that completely upheld the previous verdict, but in September the Yakutia Supreme Court lightened Urusov’s prison sentence by one year. The Sotsprof local in Udachny had been crushed. The second motor depot has been completely shut down. The company has had no more problems with the workforce in this town.

“Valentin, whom do you tend to blame for what happened to you?” I finally asked.

“Alrosa is a state-run company. It is owned by the government, by the state, so . . . you understand.”

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Valentin Urusov. Photo by Aleskey Maishev for Russian Reporter


***

“Our government is fascist,” Yurkov, the leader of the Russian Community of Yakutia, suddenly declares, and it sounds quite equivocal.

Sobol, the man who missed becoming head of the Neryungri District by a heartbeat, turns and stops smoking next to the window.

“We have to be precise with our terms: neither Nazi nor nationalist, but precisely fascist as it is understood in Mussolini’s theory of the corporate state, as Franco, Salazar and even Pinochet understood it. In our country, the authorities and big business are intertwined in a ball. And anyone who gets in their way is crushed. Here in Yakutia, in the provinces, it’s just more clearly felt.  But it’s the same thing all over the country.”


Translated by Sean Guillory and
Chtodelat News. Slightly different versions of the same translation have been published by n+1 and Sean’s Russian Blog.

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Filed under political repression, Russian society, trade unions

International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina

CHERNOV’S CHOICE
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
January 16, 2013

St. Petersburg will demonstrate solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, an imprisoned member of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, by holding a roundtable titled “Class, Gender, Politics: Russia After Pussy Riot.”

International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina will be held Wednesday, with solidarity events planned in such cities as Berlin, Bonn, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Munich, Paris and Stockholm. Check www.freepussyriot.org for more information about the events.

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The campaign is scheduled to coincide with a court hearing called to decide whether Alyokhina deserves to be released, with her sentence exchanged for a suspended one, on the grounds that she is a single mother of a young child.

The hearing will take place in the IK-28 female prison colony in Berezniki in the Perm Krai, some 2,000 kilometers southeast of St. Petersburg.

Alyokhina has reportedly encountered particularly harsh conditions in her prison colony, being repeatedly punished for alleged “oversleeping” and confined to a solitary cell. There have also been reports of hostile attitudes toward her from her fellow inmates.

Together with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, Alyokhina was sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism motivated by hatred for a religious group.”

The Kafkaesque trial, which ended in August in Moscow, saw the defendants deprived of food, water and sleep, defense witnesses ejected from the court so that they could not testify, police dogs in the courtroom and the arrests of Pussy Riot supporters outside the court — most infamously that of former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who was then accused of biting a police officer.

Samutsevich was later released on a suspended sentence.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have been in prison since March 3, 2012, when they were arrested on the eve of the Russian presidential election.

Some see the unusually severe treatment of the band’s members as revenge by Vladimir Putin, whom the band confronted and ridiculed in their performances and videos.

Pussy Riot’s support group has urged people to organize readings, music festivals of support or public events. “Any sharing of information about the lawless imprisonment of Maria is helpful and may persuade the judge to release Maria,” they wrote in a statement.

St. Petersburg’s roundtable will be held at the Center for Independent Social Research at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

One of the topics of discussion will be whether Pussy Riot’s feminism really threatened the Russian constitution, which guarantees equal rights for men and women, as the Moscow court claimed.

[…]

Poster courtesy of Las Piqueteras, a socialist organization for working women. They will be picketing the Russian Federation embassy in Buenos Aires today.

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Filed under activism, feminism, gay rights, international affairs, political repression, protests, Russian society

ECONOMY (Edinburgh/Glasgow)

jan15_stills_img.jpg

Image: Dani Marti, “Good Dog,” 2012.

ECONOMY

Stills, Edinburgh
Saturday 19 January–Sunday 21 April 2013
Opening: 18 January, 6pm

Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Glasgow
Saturday 26 January–Saturday 23 March 2013
Opening: 25 January, 7pm

www.economyexhibition.net

In the 21st century the economy has come to provide the ground zero of our sense of self. But what does this experience of a life dominated by economic relations feel or even look like?

Two parallel exhibitions make the core of a curatorial project which examines why, and how, art since the 1990s has revealed the economy to be the axis of contemporary existence.  Presented at Stills in Edinburgh and the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Glasgow, ECONOMY features works by over 40 international artists including new commissions by the Austrian collective WochenKlausur and Scottish photographer Owen Logan. A reflective follow-up to the curatorial project, the volume ECONOMY: Art and the Subject after Postmodernism is forthcoming from Liverpool University Press.

Exhibitions David Aronowitsch & Hanna Heilborn | Ursula Biemann | Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz | Tracey Emin | Andrea Fraser | Claire Fontaine | Melanie Gilligan | Johan Grimonprez | Andreas Gursky | Kai Kaljo | Owen Logan | Rick Lowe | Jenny Marketou | Dani Marti | Angela Melitopoulos | Marge Monko | Tanja Ostojić | Anu Pennanen | Stéphane Querrec | Raqs Media Collective | Martha Rosler | Hito Steyerl | Mitra Tabrizian | WochenKlausur | Paolo Woods

Film Lounge Dario Azzellini & Oliver Ressler | Jeremy Deller & Mike Figgis | Marcelo Expósito & Nuria Vila | Yevgeniy Fiks, Olga Kopenkina & Sasha Lerman | Christos Georgiou | Michael Glawogger | Francesco Jodice | Ernest Larsen & Sherry Millner | Jesper Nordahl | Maria Ruido | Yorgos Zois

The end of the Cold War, represented by the fall of the Berlin Wall, generated a number of ‘turns’ in the context of contemporary art: turns to collectivism, to activism, to archives, to social bonds, relations and communities, to labour, to biopolitics and the document, to struggle. This restless quest for the right ‘tag’ has been one way of saying that contemporary art is, finally, becoming new. Navigating art’s current shift to materialist aesthetics, the ECONOMY exhibitions and film programme showcase strategies deployed over the past two decades to chart capitalism’s most advanced frontier: ourselves. The artworks presented—and often re-interpreted—illuminate the diverse ways in which our lives and sense of self are shaped by and through capital’s internalised rule, from our childhood experiences to the way we labour, play and make love or war.

Guided by a set of seven keywords (work, sex, life, enclosures, crisis, spectres, exodus) widely used in recent analyses of capitalism and potential alternatives, ECONOMY draws together a small selection of the many artists whose work attends to capitalism’s far-reaching transformation in its global moment. Paolo Woods’ photographs of Africa’s takeover by Chinese businessmen are set against Martha Rosler’s documentation of airport design as soul narcotic; and Raqs Media Collective’s investigation of happiness is a critique of capitalist subjectivities as much as Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s queer articulation of labour and desire. Presented for the first time in Britain, Tanja Ostojić’s devastating portrayal of the post-socialist migrant’s sexualisation meets Melanie Gilligan’s capital as pure Spirit and the relentless intensity of Anu Pennanen’s depiction of a Parisian shopping mall. Tracey Emin’s self-portrait with money complements Mitra Tabrizian’s City bankers of year 2008 as guilty or not and Andrea Fraser’s anatomy of art-world production values. Jenny Marketou’s children-art collectors share the planet’s future with David Aronowitsch and Hanna Heilborn’s children-slaves—a planet which Ursula Biemann and Johan Grimonprez find in poor environmental shape. These are just some of the ways in which ECONOMY artists have registered multiplying social divisions as capital has been claiming the earth. In doing so, they give us also reasons to think about the paradigm of art after postmodernism—one where proliferating forms of economic otherness have replaced postmodernism’s iteration of cultural difference.

The independent ECONOMY website is an integral part of the project.  As well as offering further information about the accompanying programme of screenings, public forums, talks and performances, the Public Forum section facilitates collective investigations into how we interpret our relationship with capitalism and the possibility of alternatives. Users can upload photographs to the Image Archive, exchange views on themes raised in the debate section and consult the material in the Reading Room. To see, hear and speak out, visit www.economyexhibition.net.

ECONOMY is a collaboration between Stills, CCA and the University of Edinburgh.

Curated by Angela Dimitrakaki and Kirsten Lloyd: curators@economyexhibition.net

Stills
Saturday 19 January–Sunday 21 April 2013
23 Cockburn Street
Edinburgh EH1 1BP
Hours: Monday–Sunday, 11–6pm. Free.
www.stills.org

CCA  Glasgow
Saturday 26 January–Sunday 23 March 2013
350 Sauchiehall Street
Glasgow G2 3JD
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11–6pm. Free.
www.cca-glasgow.com

ECONOMY is generously supported by The Association of Art Historians | The Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust | Creative Scotland | Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e. V. | Austrian Cultural Forum London | Goethe Institut Glasgow | Finnish Institute in London | Arts Council of Finland | Inigo | City of Edinburgh Council | Glasgow Life | The Nancie Massey Chartable Trust | Scottish Contemporary Art Network.

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Charming for the Revolution: A Congress for Gender Talents and Wildness (Tate Modern)

www.tate.org.uk
Charming for the Revolution: A Congress for Gender Talents and Wildness
The Tanks at Tate Modern
Tate Modern
Friday 1 February – Saturday 2 February 2013

Charming for the Revolution is an experimental Congress of artists, activists and thinkers, seeking to unpick underpinning, pressing questions of contemporary sexual and gender politics; exploring strategies that divert and destabilise normative gender and its representations.

The series of events features films, a performance and a symposium and brings together the UK premiere of Wu Tsang’s award-winning film Wildness; a symposium convened by Carlos Motta with Xabier Arakistain, Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad, Giuseppe Campuzano, J. Jack Halberstam, Beatriz Preciado, Dean Spade, Terre Thaemlitz, Wu Tsang and Del LaGrace Volcano; a performance by Carlos Motta and Matthias Sperling; and a screening of works by Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz.

A discounted combined ticket is available for Gender Talents: A Special Address, Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz screening, and Wu Tsang screening. £20 adult / £15 concessions. Please call 020 7887 8888 to book this offer.

Presented in collaboration with Electra

Tate Film is supported by Maja Hoffmann / LUMA Foundation

Events in this series

Film
Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz
Friday 1 February 2013, 19.00

Wu Tsang: Wildness
Saturday 2 February 2013, 20.00

Conference
Gender talents: A special address
Saturday 2 February 2013, 11.00 – 17.00

Music and live performance
Carlos Motta and Matthias Sperling: The Movers
Saturday 2 February 2013, 17.00

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Second World Urbanity: Between Capitalist and Communist Utopias (call for papers)

secondworldurbanity.umwblogs.org

Call for Papers

Second World Urbanity: Between Capitalist and Communist Utopias

June 21-23, 2013
Location: The Centre for the History and Culture of East Central Europe, Leipzig, Germany

In 1967 the architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable published a long piece in the New York Times on Soviet advances in urban planning and construction. Surprisingly for the Cold War era, the author openly praised the Soviets for creating a country-wide system of mass production of standardised prefabricated cheap housing, ‘an architectural sputnik’  in her own words. She claimed with great enthusiasm, ‘In size, scope and boldness, in spite of crudities, failure and sometimes ludicrous imperfections it is a singularly important undertaking of the 20th century.’ Moreover, she noted, ‘the latest product is acceptable as architecture.’ Describing new residential neighborhoods mushrooming all across the Soviet Union, she wrote: ‘There is no scale, no variety, no surprise. It is monotony with light, air, sun, and greenery in season, and on sum, that effect is no worse and sometimes a good deal better than a lot of construction on the outskirts of large American cities.’ Admitting all the flaws of current Soviet construction she urged her readers to pay closer attention to this ‘special brand of modern architecture [that] is reshaping the Soviet World.’

Second World Urbanity: Between Capitalist and Communist Utopias seeks to investigate the history of the radical reshaping of the Soviet World (in our words – the Second World), that Ada Louise Huxtable reported on in the late 1960s. This project aims to bring together scholarly contributions on the various endeavors in the Second World to conceive, build, and inhabit a socialist cityscape that was an alternative to the segregated spaces of capitalist cities and  the atomized world of suburbia. Imagining and designing urban space were undeniably powerful instruments of forging socialist modernity. Second World Urbanity pays close attention to the tensions between global challenges and locally driven agendas that made architects, planners, and ordinary dwellers alter socialist modernity according to more particular interests. What were the visions and meanings that architects and urban planners sought to communicate through their work? What pre-existing styles did they draw on, reject, and appropriate, and was there a Second World postmodernism?  To what degree was the socialist cityscape a product of negotiation between its dwellers and its designers? Where did other local players–such as major industries and local party bosses–fit in such negotiations over the design and construction of the socialist city?

As a venue for opening a conversation about the new approaches to urbanity and planning, this project goes beyond the geographic boundaries of the Eastern Bloc and seeks transnational, comparative, and global approaches to the study of the socialist city. We propose to think of socialist urban planning from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union to China and Cuba as a distinct and multifaceted division of global urban planning trends. Just as the geographic scope is broad so, too, is our chronological reach, which will span the early post-World War II period through the collapse of state socialism and beyond to the present day. Was there a common denominator to the variety of projects and planning efforts implemented from Cuba to China, from the Urals to Belgrade? Was it socialist in form and national in content as the common formula of Socialist Realism suggested? Or was it modern in form and undefined in content, to paraphrase the formula Kevin Plath and Benjamin Nathans recently coined for describing the nature of late-Soviet culture? In exploring such questions, what do we – urban historians and historians of architecture – have new to say on the history of the Second World? What are the new research questions that our subfield has generated in recent years?

The present stage in our project is a conference that will be hosted at the The Center for the History and Culture of East Central Europe, in Leipzig, Germany, June 21-23, 2013. Paper proposals are solicited for this conference and an edited volume of selected papers on a wide range of topics from (but not limited to) the history of professional networks and institutional organization, monumental projects, mass housing schemes, transfers of technologies and styles, the organization of public and private spaces, the political engagement of urban planning professionals, the treatment of gender, ethnic, and class differences in the socialist cityscape, the role of the state, the ideological premises of urban schemes and visionary projects, everyday life, urban residents’ (mis)uses of planned urban spaces. Papers from all disciplines in the social sciences and humanities will be considered.

Critical information:

Please send paper proposals (a 300-500 word abstract and a 1-page cv) to swurbanity@gmail.com by February 1, 2013. Paper proposals will be reviewed by the project’s organizers and program committee. We will announce the papers that have been accepted on March 1, 2013.

If your paper is accepted for the conference, the deadline for submitting your paper will be May 20, 2013. Papers should be no longer than 5,000 words including footnotes or endnotes. Papers will be distributed to conference participants ahead of the conference via our project’s blog.

The project is presently soliciting funds to cover some of the transportation and/or housing costs of participants. We will know whether such funds are available only in Spring 2013. Therefore, interested participants should plan for covering costs through their home institutions. The conference will not have a conference fee.

Program committee: Andres Kurg, Brigitte Le Normand, Daria Bocharnikova, Kimberly Elman Zarecor, Marie Alice L’Heureux, Steven Harris, Vladimir Kulic

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Victoria Lomasko, 2012: A Chronicle of Resistance

vika & vlad

Victoria Lomasko
2012: A Chronicle of Resistance

2012 was marked by heavily attended protests by the Russian opposition. For the first time since the early 1990s, the protest movement in Russian attracted worldwide attention. Many people anticipated an “orange” revolution.

Beginning with the elections to the State Duma, on December 4, 2011, and until November 2012, I kept a graphic “chronicle of resistance” in which I made on-the-spot sketches of all important protest-related events. I will try now to recall and describe the protests, in which I was involved as a rank-and-file albeit regular participant.

United Russia election observer


December 4, 2011.
On election day, I worked as a artist/reporter in Khimki. At my polling station, journalists and all observers, except those from the United Russia party, were removed under various pretexts, but the female artist was allowed to stay as an amusing oddity. I witnessed one bus after another bringing people who voted with absentee ballots. The people were from various enterprises and quite often from other towns. The drivers shouted at them to vote faster because they had to get them to the next polling station. Ordinary residents who had come to vote on their own were unable to get through to the table where ballots were issued.

By evening and in the days to come, the Internet was chockablock with photo and video evidence of election fraud. Observers wrote about gross violations. Coupled with Putin’s decision to become president again, this evidence undermined any illusions about civil liberties in Russia and hopes for change.

Women on phone: “We’re yelling at an opposition rally.”
Man with megaphone: “Russia! Putin! Medvedev!”


December 6, 2011.
I missed the December 5 rally at Chistye Prudy. The same evening, protesters created an event on the social networks—a rally on December 6 on Triumfalnaya Square. Protests in defense of the freedom of assembly, launched by [Eduard] Limonov, have taken place on Triumfalnaya since 2009. Although the December 6 rally was not allowed by the authorities, thousands of people gathered for it. At the exit from the subway, people were greeted by Nashi members pounding drums and battalions of police in “diving suits.” Police were rough when detaining protesters. Security services officers in plainclothes and Nashi members videotaped the proceedings from the other side of the barriers. I stood next to them: I was taken for a Nashi member and praised for my talent. I added the speech bubbles later at home.

“We’re fucking tired of them”


December 10, 2011.
News of the arrests on Triumfalnaya added even more fire to the desire to protest. Around forty thousand people signed up for a “Rally for Honest Elections” on Facebook.  Revolution Square was the meeting place. On the Internet, in kitchens and offices, people discussed the possibility of revolution and the likelihood that the demonstration would be dispersed by force of arms. Liberal leaders (Nemtsov, Parkhomenko and Ryzhkov) made a deal with the authorities that the rally would be allowed if the protesters were moved to Bolotnaya Square and away from the Kremlin. On December 10, the first opposition rally since the early 1990s involving tens of thousands of people took place, and the police did not detain anyone. I think many people were so excited to be present in the throng of the one-hundred-thousand-strong demonstration and so impressed by the beauty of the march under flags of various colors that they ceased to critically evaluate what was happening.

Woman on phone: “All of Moscow is here.”


December 24, 2011.
The December 24 rally on Sakharov Avenue was memorable because of the clear presence of the “common people”—folks without iPhones, poorly dressed, and without party allegiances. The “people” took to the streets without creative placards and used foul language when commenting on Ksenia Sobchak and Alexei Kudrin, who addressed the rally from the stage.

Caption (upper left): We beat Hitler, we’ll beat Putin!


February 4, 2012.
On a frosty afternoon, the March for Fair Elections proceeded from Bolshaya Yakimanka to Bolotnaya Square in four columns—a non-aligned “civic” column, liberals, right-wingers and leftists.


February 26, 2012.
The grassroots “White Circle” flash mob resembled an unwitting reprisal of the 2007 action “White Line,” when artists from the so-called Trade Union of Street Art enclosed the Garden Ring in a white chalk line. During “White Circle,” protesters sporting white symbols joined hands along the entire length of the Garden Ring. White clothes, white balloons, white flowers, white toys, white dogs, white ribbons waved from passing cars, and the falling snow: the mood was bright. It was spoiled only by Nashi members holding placards that read, “Only 8 days left until Putin’s victory.” After “White Circle,” Sergei Udaltsov and his supporters led protest round-dances on Revolution Square.

Election observers observing the vote count


March 4, 2012.
Thousands of activist observers worked during the presidential election. I was part of a mobile group organized by the Citizen Observer project. Shuttling between polling stations, we saw rows of buses from Belgorod, Vladimir, Saratov and many other towns; at the polling stations themselves, we saw lines of provincial workers and students with absentee ballots. A festive concert on Manezh Square awaited them in the evening.

Despite the fact that all opposition forces were mobilized in the сapital, Putin mustered 48.25% of the vote in Moscow, and 63.6% nationwide.

We will begin carrying out peaceful acts of civil disobedience


March 5, 2012.
The next day, Pushkin Square was the site of another For Fair Elections rally. There were fewer creative placards and more anger—people shared their impressions of the election. We stood in the cold, knee-deep in snow under a full moon. Udaltsov urged protesters not to go home “until Putin leaves.” Police dispersed the several hundred people who heeded his call and stayed. Many of them were sentenced to fifteen days in jail.

Valentina, 73 years old
“Well done, Pussy Riot! I’d sing ‘Mother of God, Drive Putin Out!’ with them.”
Placard: What a talent for treating the people like idiots


March 10, 2012.
The last For Fair Elections rally took place on Novy Arbat. Maxim Katz and other victors in municipal district council elections urged the crowd not to despair and switch to solving social issues. Speakers mentioned the political prisoners from Pussy Riot, and the first placards supporting the group appeared amidst the crowd. The next protest was scheduled for May 6.

Nadya Tolokonnikova: “I wish those who put us here a life like ours in prison.”

In between the thousands-strong rallies, “Pussy Riot Court Festivals” were held outside courthouses where hearings in the Pussy Riot case took place. Artists were heavily involved in these protests, producing leaflets and placards, and organizing performances.

Woman on left: “I’m trying to dissuade my husband from emigrating—I want to raise the kids here.”
Placard: It’s important to believe in a happy future
Woman on right: “I want to live in Russia.”
Placard: Changes have already taken place in our hearts 


May 6, 2012.
Despite the start of the summer dacha season, around fifty thousand people gathered for the March of Millions. For the first time during the recent large rallies, the police dispersed people with billy clubs and tear gas. Right in front of me, police hit a young man over the head, and he fell to the ground bleeding. “They have murdered him! They have murdered him!” women wailed. Several protesters overturned portable toilets, and the shit from them flowed under policemen’s feet.  The police divided protesters into groups, drove them through the streets, beat and detained them, but they were unable to force people to leave the area between Bolotnaya Square and the Tretyakov Gallery until nightfall. At present, nineteen people who attended the rally, arbitrarily chosen by the police, have been charged with organizing a riot. Twelve of them are in jail. One of the so-called prisoners of May 6, Maxim Luzyanin, has already been sentenced to four and a half years in a penal colony.

Woman: “Why are there riot police everywhere?”
Policeman: “Because of the folk festivals.”


May 7, 2012.
Putin once again became president of Russia on this day, but disgruntled citizens began holding round-the-clock “folk festivals” in downtown Moscow in protest.

Pushkin Square (Moscow), May 9
Veteran: “We defended the motherland!”
Riot Cop: “And we’re clearing the square.”


May 9, 2012.
On May 9, it seemed like Moscow was celebrating Police Occupation Day, not Victory Day.

By midday, the opposition—people from the “folk festivals,” mainly—had begun closing ranks at Chistye Prudy. In the evening, paddy wagons appeared on both sides of Chistoprudny Boulevard. The police for some reason did not disperse the fifteen hundred activists. Despite the threat of arrest, at least a hundred people spent the night at Chistye Prudy around the monument to Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbayev.

Lecture on civil disobedience

May 10, 2012. The Occupy Abai camp took shape at Chistye Prudy the next morning. It was organized by civic activists, liberals, leftists, anarchists, nationalists, members of the LGBT community and others. The core Occupy Abai activists almost never left the camp during its existence; they slept on the ground in sleeping bags. They took responsibility for cleaning the camp, running a people’s kitchen fueled by donations, and maintaining order. Other members of the protest movement also tried to spend as much time as possible in the camp; many of them blew off classes or took a vacation from work. Every day, activists gave free lectures on political and social issues. Some people came to the camp with guitars and organized improvised concerts: they sang about freedom. Poets held a reading of civic poety, Theater.Doc performed a play entitled “BerlusPutin,” and I had a show of drawings, Everyday Occupy Abai. People of different political persuasions discussed the prospects of the protest. Occupy Abai was crowded even in the cold and rain. Everyone regarded the camp’s existence as a miracle.

On May 13, tens of thousands of people joined the “Test Stroll” organized by writers, which went from Pushkin Square to Chistye Prudy. At the end of the stroll, many people remained at Occupy Abai.

Man: “I left my business six months ago to take part in the protests with my girlfriend.”


May 16, 2012.
At five o’clock in the morning on May 16, Occupy Abai was dispersed by the police. The pretext was a suit filed in the Basmanny District Court by several residents of house no. 9 on Chistoprudny Boulevard, who complained of “noise, filth and trampled lawns.” Occupy moved to Barrikadnaya, but it proved impossible to organize a kitchen and sleeping space at the new location and thus live in the camp round the clock. Most activists came only in the evening for the general assemblies, during which further plans were discussed; everyone could express their opinion, and decisions were made by voting. Unity among people could still be sensed at Occupy Barrikadnaya. I remember a young woman who would come with plastic bags stuffed with sandwiches to feed the hungry activists.  Her sandwich gave me the strength to continue drawing for another couple hours. Another time, it started to rain, and nationalists gave me a raincoat. It was the police who poisoned life in the Occupy camp: they detained people, stole food, and once they seized a donations box for the camp. On May 19, Occupy Barrikadnaya was also dispersed by the police. In the following days there were attempts to reestablish the camp, but each time they were stopped by the police. Some protesters relocated to the Old Arbat, where Occupy degenerated into street gatherings involving peaceful songs accompanied by guitar, flirting, and idle conversations about various topics.

People on right: “Antifa are fags!”


June 12, 2012
. The second March of the Millions started on Pushkin Square. Columns of anarchists and nationalists marched on opposite sides of the boulevard ring, with the neo-Nazis shouting insults at the antifa. The march ended on Sakharov Avenue. The Interior Ministry estimated that 18,000 people attended the event, while organizers put the number at around 100,000.

Policeman: “Citizens, keep the peace!”
Crowd: “Mother of God, drive Putin out!”


August 17, 2012.
The verdict in the Pussy Riot case was announced in the Khamovniki District Court. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in prison. Hundreds of the punk group’s supporters surrounded the courthouse, and a spontaneous demonstration began. Police pulled people from the crowd—teenagers in colored balaclavas, old women with placards, and prominent opposition figures—and threw them into paddy wagons.

Nationalists: “Moscow without wogs!”


September 15, 2012.
After a summer lull, the third March of the Millions, the least well attended, took place. It repeated the route of the previous march. A fight between nationalists and anti-fascists broke out. People in the communist column blamed liberals for the petering-out of the protests. Liberals expressed their fear of both rightists and leftists. The event was scheduled to last until ten in the evening, but by five o’clock people had already begun to go home.  Sergei Udaltsov urged the hundred or so protesters who remained to organized a Maidan or veche. Udaltsov was arrested at 10:01 p.m.


2012 was an eventful year in Russia politically. What did the thousands-strong rallies and marches, the Occupy camps in Moscow, and the Pussy Riot trial change?

We have the trials of the “prisoners of May 6,” one of whom has already been sentenced to prison; the new laws on rallies; opposition leaders who are inscrutable (and unpleasant) to most of the Russian population; and the provinces, practically untouched by the protests. On the other hand, we see a growth in social activism and political awareness, which would hardly have been possible without the massive involvement of citizens in opposition rallies and protest actions. I feel that involvement in the protests has greatly changed me, and I see that my acquaintances who were involved in the protests have also changed.  The overall growth of civic consciousness cannot be measured in numbers, but we can hope that it will make itself felt again.


Editor’s Note
. Originally published (in Russian) in Volya 8 (40), December 2012; subsequently published on Liva.com.ua. Photo of Victoria Lomasko (with Volya editor Vlad Tupikin on her left) by Vlad Chizhenkov. Thanks to Victoria Lomasko for her permission to translate her chronicle and reprint her drawings here.

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