Tag Archives: DSPA

Russian Sounds

Russian Sounds

Activist Film Studio, 2011

 

Concept and editing: Dmitry Vilensky (Chto Delat)

Production collective (research, screenplay, and direction): Sonya Akimova and Max Kulaev (DSPA); Pavel Arseniev, Dina Gatina, Roman Osminkin (Laboratory of Poetic Actionism); Nikolay Oleynikov, Dmitry Vilensky, Foma (Chto Delat); Oleg Zhuravlyev

This film was inspired by the editing, audio and narrative techniques used by Jean-Luc Godard in his film British Sounds (1969). Our film is an attempt to find out whether the spirit (if not the letter) of Godard’s experiments could be transferred to the suffocating reality of Russia on the eve of the 2011-2012 parliamentary and presidential elections. Godard’s film was released during a boisterous, revolutionary period in British politics and society. It was a manifesto for a new agitational cinema capable of describing the totality of social transformations in their dialectical emergence. Are we capable, in the midst of profound political and social reaction, of critically sharing Godard’s vision and aesthetics?

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Activist Film Studio aims to produce and distribute films dealing with activism and with different forms of (re)presenting and internally critiquing protest actions through experiments with the idiom of video art.

The studio’s films are not only educational experiences for viewers. They are the result of a learning process involving the entire collective researching and producing the films.

Activist Film Studio was initiated by Dmitry Vilensky (Chto Delat). It was inspired by previous work on a series of activist films produced by the Chto Delat platform in cooperation with a number of Russian and international activist projects.

Activist Film Studio’s films are produced by filmmakers who value the process of collective filmmaking and by people involved in the production and distribution of activist knowledge by means of cinematic narrative.

Activist Film Studio’s films are freely available on the Internet. They are meant to be screened in seminars and other educational contexts. In any case, public screenings of our films should be followed by open, public discussions.

Activist Film Studio is open to everyone interested in developing the (re)presentation of activist practices and ready to make films collectively. We encourage everyone to contact us for help in realizing their own film projects.

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“Kind of a sticky situation”: RT on Police Repression of Khimki Forest Defenders

The squeaky clean, neatly coiffured Anglophone kiddies on RT (formerly known as Russia Today) offer up a four-and-a-half-minute lesson in collaborationism:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Back in the non-RT-filtered real world, “security guards,” unidentified thugs, and “the police” continue to whack on the Khimki Forest defenders, both on and off the court:

www.ikd.ru

In the early hours of May 14, around 3 a.m., one of the members of the environmentalist camp [in the Khimki Forest], Yuri Petin, was subjected to a vicious attack. Around three in the morning, Yuri was near the grocery store on Vashutino Highway (in the Khimki municipal district), trying to hitch a ride in order to go home. Right at this moment a black Hyundai sedan (whose license number was either х531см or х513см) pulled up. Four men got out of the car and rushed towards Yuri, crying, “Now we’ve got you!” They began to beat Yuri. They threw the activist to the ground and ordered him not to look at them, threatening him with bodily harm.

A man wearing a uniform from the private security firm Vityaz approached the assailants, who began to give him orders in a commanding tone. “I got the impression that they were coordinating the actions of the security guard. Concretely, they told the security guard the following: ‘Tell the police that he [Petin] was tossing firecrackers in the Khimki Forest.’ Then the police drove up. The policemen began chatting with the men who had been beating me and security firm employees. I was then taken to police precinct No. 2, at Kudryatsev Street, 4, in the town of Khimki,” Yuri recounts.

[Petin] was delivered to the police station at 5:30 a.m. and taken to the on-duty interrogating officer. The officer refused to let Yuri file assault charges and began accusing him of setting off firecrackers in the forest. The officer then took a statement from Yuri and questioned the security guards. Police attempted to photograph Yuri and take his fingerprints, threatening to send him to a pre-trial detention facility, but he refused to let them do this. Yuri was held in the police station until 12:00 p.m. At noon, Yuri was sent home, accompanied by police officers, to retrieve his [internal] passport, and at 1:00 p.m. he returned to the police precinct. There Yuri was turned over to a second interrogating officer, who drew up an arrest protocol alleging that Yuri had violated fire safety rules. The officer told Yuri that the protocol would be sent to the fire inspectorate. The accused activist was not given a copy of the protocol. “The interrogating officer told me that he could do with me anything he wanted, that if he wanted he could plant narcotics or a weapon on me and send me to prison,” explains Yuri.

The victim has petitioned the prosecutor’s office, demanding the arrest of the people who attacked him. He has also demanded that the prosecutor take measures against the assailants and Khimki police officers, who violated the law on the police and refused to file assault charges, as well as against the private security guards who gave false testimony to police officers.

Yesterday (May 15), a dozen or so activists from the Russian Socialist Movement, Left Front, and the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA) carried out what is fondly known in Russia as an “unsanctioned” march to protest the new round of illegal felling in the Khimki Forest. Five activists were almost immediately arrested by police, and four of the arrestees were later charged with “disobeying the police” and released with a summons to appear later in court. IKD has the details (in Russian).

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How to help the Khimki Forest defenders, who are risking life and limb in the forest

khimkiforest.org

The situation in Khimki Forest near Moscow is very serious. Several times during the last month activists have succeeded in stopping illegal preparatory works for a motorway being carried out at the site, but at the price of repeatedly being beaten and arrested. Every day, activists get beaten up and injured. This morning, Yevgenia Chirikova suffered a leg injury which doesn’t allow her to move for the next 2 days.

Despite all these attacks, the camp in Khimki Forest is still continuing.

Please help and protest:

Ask the Russian government or the Russian embassy in your country to stop immediately this shameful involvement in illegal forest destruction and covering up of criminals! Attacks against activists must be stopped and investigated.

Russian embassy contacts can be found at:
http://www.rusembassy.org/

You can also send a letter to President Medvedev through the online form at:
http://eng.letters.kremlin.ru/

Ask the involved French international construction company Vinci to stop being involved into the Moscow-St.Petersburg road construction project which is clearly associated with violation of civil and human rights, corruption, arbitrary and unlawfulness.

Vinci contacts can be found at:
http://www.vinci.com/vinci.nsf/en/locations/pages/homepage.htm

Petitions are ongoing at: (aimed at Vinci)
http://www.change.org/petitions/save-khimki-forest-stand-with-russias-hu…

and (aimed at President Medvedev):
http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_khimki_forest?vc

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May Day: The Missing Stanza (Saint Petersburg)

May Day: The Missing Stanza

Directed by S. Krainykhvzlgliadov and Eugene Nevermind; voiceover texts by the directors and Bertolt Brecht

Who? The [May Day] column organized by the Center for Workers’ Mutual Aid (TsVR)

Today is May 1, 2011. The place: Petersburg.

TsVR’s column has been given a permit [to march] by the authorities. The groups planning to march in this column include trade unionists, the Rubezh union [of co-op garage owners], Novoprof [a newly formed trade unions association], organizations protesting the eviction of residents from [former factory and workers’] dormitories, the Petersburg Parents organization and school teachers, as well as university students and instructors who are in solidarity with them, leftist political groups, Autonomous Action, anarchists, the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA), and the Russian Socialist Movement.

May 1 is [officially known as] the Day of Labor and Spring, but the majority have come for a demonstration. May 1 is the only day of the year in Petersburg when it is permitted to march down the city’s central thoroughfare and voice one’s demands. All the other days of the year, the city is shut down tight against such demands. City Hall diverts protest actions to the ghetto of the bedroom districts and encircles them with metal detectors and ranks of riot police.

Activist: First, we’ve come to once again voice our civic stance. We’ve merged with TsVR’s May Day column in order to say once again to the authorities that we remember everything. We remember Parnas, and sooner or later someone will have to pay for this.

What? The police

Come here, they say.
You’re a good man.
You’re incorruptible.
But so is the lightning that strikes a house.
You don’t back down from what you said before.
But what was it that you said?
You’re honest: you say what’s on your mind.
But what’s on your mind?

Who? The oppressed

The classical Marxist definition of the state as a coercive apparatus remains true for Russia today. The police, the militia, and other [expletive deleted] are incapable of countenancing a critical stance towards the world they defend. Their argument is the billy club and superior numbers. [Russian] society has become inured to direct violence on the part of the state and right-wingers. The use of brute force has become the norm in politics. The crisis of political power and society exposes chains adorned with flowers.

Man off camera: He cannot tell me why those people were detained.
Police commander: So you’ve stopped your column and don’t want to go any further, right? So now you have to fold up your flags and disperse, or else you’ll be charged with an administrative offense.

You are bold,
But in the struggle against whom?
You are intelligent,
But whom does your intelligence serve?
You are not concerned about your own gain,
But whose gain are you concerned about?
You are a good friend,
But are you a good friend of good people?
Listen, friend!
We know you are our enemy.

Police commander: …cans of mace, paint cans, knives, and so forth – things [the law says] have to be investigated at a police precinct. […] As far as I know it was anarchists who were detained, on whom we found knives, cans of mace….
Man off camera: What sorts of knives?! Hunting knives? I also have a knife in my pocket: I always carry it.
Police commander: Well, I don’t [carry a knife].
Second man off camera: Did you search the fascists to see what they’re carrying?
Police commander: Fascists? There are no fascists here.

Who? Those who show solidarity

Activist: We have to stay here as long as possible, until a confrontation begins.
Man off camera: But what are we going to do if they took [the anarchists] away?
Activist: Let [the police] bring them back. It’s their fucking problem: they arrested part of [our] column.

Activist with megaphone: [This is] lawlessness directed against absolutely innocent people, against the participants of this demonstration. Comrades of ours who were marching in our TsVR column have just been arrested. These actions on the part of the police were not explained in any way. Therefore we are not moving this spot until our comrades and fellow marchers are released.

Forty members of our May Day demonstration have been arrested. For us, the demonstration is not a demonstration if our friends are not with us. Solidarity. So-li-da-ri-ty. It’s not a empty word for us, but rather the only means for confronting violence.

Petersburg, 2011

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Anarchists Arrested Ahead of May Day Celebrations
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
May 4, 2011

St. Petersburg authorities arrested dozens of anarchists and left-wing activists to prevent them from marching as part of the May Day demonstrations on Nevsky Prospekt on Sunday.

Spearheaded by St. Petersburg Governor and pro-Kremlin party United Russia member Valentina Matviyenko, a wide range of political parties and movements, trade unions and pressure groups took part in the demonstrations.

The main demands of the opposition in St. Petersburg were the dismissal of Matviyenko and the restoration of gubernatorial elections that were abolished by then-President Vladimir Putin in 2005.

More than 50 anarchists, including 14 minors, were approached by the police at the assembly point on Ligovsky Prospekt and arrested without any reason given, they say. Videos uploaded on anarchists’ web sites show them being dragged roughly into a police bus while trying to raise an anti-Nazi banner and shouting, “Down with the police state!”

The arrested activists were due to march as part of a column of leftist groups led by the Center for Workers’ Mutual Aid (TsVR), which had been authorized by City Hall. The other activists in the column refused to march until the anarchists were released, and remained at the gathering point, preventing columns of democrats and nationalists from moving forward for some time.

In a report on the TsVR Livejournal.com community blog, they said they stood on the spot for an hour and a half and left only when police threatened to disperse and arrest them.

According to Tatyana, an anarchist who did not wish her last name to appear in print, the arrested activists were charged with violating the regulations on holding public events and failing to obey police orders.

Later, seven more anarchists were arrested when they attempted to block the United Russia column — the largest group in the march, estimated by officials to number between 15,000 and 20,000 supporters — on Nevsky Prospekt. The police promptly dragged the anarchists away after they lay down on the ground and interlocked their arms. Later, two managed to escape from the police precinct they were taken to, while another two were sentenced to two and three days in prison, respectively.

Two years ago, more than 100 anarchists were arrested in a similar manner — despite having a permit from City Hall — before they started their May Day march, but last year they were allowed to march on Nevsky Prospekt. They moved down the street in a close group wrapped in banners, with their arms interlocked to counteract possible arrests.

Commenting on the arrests on 100 TV channel the same day, Matviyenko claimed that “every political party or group that was legal was allowed to march on Nevsky.”

Under the Soviets, people were asked to participate in marches to demonstrate their support for the state and the party either to obtain benefits or under mild threat. In modern Russia, the holiday has remained, though it has been renamed from International Workers’ Solidarity Day to Spring and Labor Day.

Although the ultranationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) was banned by Moscow City Court a week ahead of May Day, the nationalists had no problem in marching in St. Petersburg on Sunday. City Hall had authorized their demo when they applied as private citizens.

In the same television interview, Matviyenko denied that nationalists had taken part in the rallies, despite the fact that they marched on Nevsky with “imperial” Russian flags and nationalist banners.

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) activists were not authorized to take part in the marches by City Hall. They were invited to hold a standup meeting instead in a distant park, but late last week they were told that the site would be occupied by a different event.

City Hall’s new suggestion for the LGBT group Ravnopraviye (Equality) was to hold a meeting outside the city, at a location described by an activist as a field between a forest and a lake.

Eventually, a small group of LGBT activists joined the democratic group featuring the Yabloko Democratic Party and Solidarity Democratic Movement, marching with rainbow flags and posters.

One hundred and eighty activists of The Other Russia party, twelve members of which are under criminal investigation for alleged extremism, marched with the banner “You Can’t Jail Everybody” and shouted slogans against Putin and Matviyenko. No one was arrested.

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Defenders of the Fatherland (Rogov House, Petersburg)

“This Demolition Is Illegal”/“Petersburg Is Being Murdered Here”

Yesterday (February 23) was celebrated as Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia. Once upon a time not so long ago, February 23 was known as Red Army and Fleet Day. Now, apparently as a counterbalance to “International Women’s Day” (March 8), a holiday utterly emptied of its original radical/progressive/feminist content by the forces of consumerism and patriarchal reaction in Russia, February 23rd has become a kind of one-size-fits-all “men’s day.” The homely and sexual virtues of women are thus celebrated on March 8, while on February 23 the allegedly warrior-like traits of men are honored.

The reality of gender roles is, of course, more complicated. As is the question of what “defending the fatherland” means today. We would argue that this defense now entails work on very different fronts, such as the struggle against neofascism, rampant police abuse and violence, and lawless, union-busting employers. A no less important front in Russia today is the fight for the right to the city, whether this means battling  to save a humble albeit leafy courtyard in Petersburg’s new estates from the developers’ chainsaws and bulldozers, trying to stop the erection of a 400-meter-high skyscraper that would rape the city’s sublime skyline forever or, as you’ll read about below, keeping watch over historic landmarks that stand in the way of mindless redevelopment. This particular struggle is fought by men and women, the old and the young, communists, anarchists, and liberals alike.

Finally, we should stress that the “little” motherland/fatherland at issue here (Saint Petersburg) is the common property of all humanity (as our comrades from DSPA point out, below): the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re unhappy with what the combined forces of stupidity, greed, and bureaucratic corruption are doing to our common property, please write to UNESCO. Please write to us (at the e-mail address in the sidebar) if you need more information about the destruction of Saint Petersburg.

Vigil Set Up To Stop Demolition Of Building
The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1550 (11), Wednesday, February 24, 2010
By Sergey Chernov
Staff Writer

A round-the-clock vigil has been established in central St. Petersburg by concerned locals attempting to prevent the demolition of a historic building.

Defenders of St. Petersburg’s cultural heritage set up camp near the Rogov House on the corner of Zagorodny Prospekt and Shcherbakov Pereulok as attempts to demolish the building continued during the weekend and into this week.

Sergey Chernov / The St. Petersburg Times
The Rogov House pictured on Monday, following demolition work that began over the weekend.

At every attempt by workers to start demolition, which the protesters describe as “illegal,” the activists called the police, who repeatedly came and stopped the work because the workers had no demolition permit.

But the workers, equipped with a hydraulic excavator labeled “Building Demolition Association,” managed to almost completely destroy the top floor of the three-story historic building in one sweep on Saturday and two sweeps on Monday.

On Saturday, two cars parked on Shcherbakov Pereulok were reported to have been damaged by falling stones due to the haste with which the work was carried out. After the third sweep on Monday, the workers present at the site were detained by the police, who ordered them to write explanatory statements.

The protesters say that Prestizh, which bought the right to develop the site from the city, deliberately started demolition work at the beginning of the long holiday weekend in order to complete demolition unhindered before Wednesday, when a court hearing about the legality of stripping the the Rogov House of its cultural heritage status is scheduled.

Prestizh is planning to build a seven-story business center with underground parking on the site.

The Rogov House, named after the merchant who built it in the late 18th to early 19th century, is the oldest building on Vladimirskaya Ploshchad. Located next to the Delvig House, it is valued as a relic of Pushkin-era St. Petersburg.

“The exact year of construction is unknown, which is often the case with buildings from that era,” Alexander Kononov, deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Association for the Protection of Monuments (VOOPIK,) said by phone on Tuesday.

“It was built between 1798 and 1808, because on the 1798 map of St. Petersburg this building isn’t yet featured, but it is already on the 1808 map of St. Petersburg — with the same dimensions and configuration as it has now.”

According to Kononov, the building is the oldest in the Vladimirskaya Ploshchad ensemble — older than the Delvig House, which was built from 1811 to 1813 — and, unlike the Delvig House, it has never undergone major renovation or reconstruction work.

“It has all the authentic elements of construction and decor inside and out — the staircase and everything — including large wooden cross-beams,” he said.

“It is precisely as it was built, except for minor changes on the first floor due to doorways having been moved.”

The Rogov House has been under threat since the 1980s, when it was damaged during the construction of Dostoyevskaya metro station. Kononov insists that the building could have been restored, but City Hall’s heritage committee stripped it off its heritage status in November last year.

According to Kononov, organizations such as Lenmetrogiprotrans (Leningrad Metropolitan State Institute for Transportation Design and Planning) and Giprostroimost (Institute for Bridge Design and Construction) said in writing that they were ready to design projects for the repair and preservation of the building, including strengthening weight-bearing structures and the foundations.

“Unfortunately, Prestizh, which currently manages the site, doesn’t want to get in touch with the organizations that are ready to preserve the building — quite the opposite, they look for experts who will say that it is impossible to preserve the building and that it is in a dangerous state of repair,” Kononov said.

Prestizh was not available for comment on Tuesday.

According to the preservationist organization Living City, more than 100 historic buildings have been destroyed in the center, including six on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, since Governor Valentina Matviyenko took office in 2003. [You can see more of Sergey Chernov’s photos of the Rogov House demolition here.]

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Here Alexander Kononov talks to Petersburg Channel 100 about the battle over the Rogov House. Even if you don’t understand Russian, it’s worth a look for the visuals at the end of the segment, when the Channel 100 anchor reads off a short list of the more than one hundred historic buildings demolished during the reign of Valentina Matviyenko.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

*****

On the morning of February 23, activists from the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA) hung the following banner on the threatened Rogov House:

The text on the banner (“Citizens! Under Matviyenko’s Administration, This Side of the Street Is the Most Dangerous”) refers to the famous warnings stenciled on buildings during the Siege of Leningrad: “Сitizens! During bombardment this side of the street is the most dangerous.” Beginning in the early sixties, these stencils were restored on several buildings in the city, including the most well-known example, on the building at Nevsky Prospekt, 14.

DSPA issued the following communiqué in connection with this action:

By destroying Petersburg’s historic built environment and demolishing old buildings, the authorities violate the people’s right to aesthetic pleasure, which is no less meaningful than other civil and political rights.

The days when hi-tech buildings served as futuristic manifestos have long since passed; today’s glass boxes are built by dull and greedy bourgeois. They find it more profitable to demolish a historic building and erect a new one in its place: investing money in the restoration of an old building is too expensive. They thus infringe on the cultural property of all humanity.

A typical example of this infringement is the case of the Rogov House (Zagorodny Prospekt 3/17), an officially listed architectural landmark. Strictly speaking, little has survived of this neoclassical building complex, erected in the late eighteenth century: only the street-side wing remains; the rest of the building was barbarically destroyed during construction of the Dostoevskaya metro station in 1987. Preservationists successfully defended this part of the building, but in the twenty-some years that followed, the authorities dreamt not of restoring it to a condition befitting its landmark status, but of destroying it completely. Despite the fact that, in 2009, independent experts showed that it was still quite possible to restore the building, attempts to force through a demolition in order to build yet another commercial building on the site resumed with renewed vigor late last year.

During the six or so years of Governor Matviyenko’s administration, Petersburg itself has “shrunk“ considerably: the preservation zone in the central districts has been reduced by a factor of 4.5; the city has rid itself of 144 architectural landmarks and other historic buildings, as well as several dozen squares and green spaces; and the city’s central plazas — Sennaya, Kazanskaya, Vladimirskaya, and St. Isaac’s — have been irreparably disfigured.

We realize, however, that it is not so much Matviyenko herself who is personally to blame for all this, as it is the economic system of capitalism. The governor is merely a small fry in the big pond of the Market and a servant of High Profits. Only greed and the desire for profit are capable of demolishing works of art and erecting lackluster business centers. Big money is the only cause of all the horrible things that are happening to our city.

Governors come and governors go, but their policies remain the same. And during each of their reigns, both sides of every street remain the most dangerous.

There is only one solution — resistance!

Today, the Rogov House got a reprieve when a Petersburg district court declared a temporary halt to an earlier decision (on February 2) by the city’s heritage preservation committee (the now-notorious KGIOP, whose mission in recent years has been to rubber-stamp whatever atrocities the hearts of developers desire) to strip the building of its protected status. All the details of the suit, filed on behalf of the house by representatives of VOOPIK, can be found here (in Russian). The next court hearing of the case will take place on March 9. Activists, however, have promised to continue their vigil at the house.

alert-dog.livejournal.com/100900.html

“The Rogov House: Don’t Demolish It, Restore It!”

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Petersburg: Flying Demos and Illegal Flyers

This just in from our comrades in the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA):

At 7:00 p.m. today (February 20), outside the Akademicheskaya metro station in Petersburg, anarchists and DSPA activists carried out their latest action. This action, dubbed a “flying demo,” has long ago shown itself to be a eye-catching, effective, and safe way of bringing the revolutionary word to drowsy citizens and citizenettes.

dpp_38952Around a dozen young people suddenly appeared opposite the exit from the metro station. They quickly unfurled a banner bearing Kropotkin’s famous slogan and lighted flares. One of the activists mounted the pedestal of a non-functioning electronic advertising billboard and addressed bewildered city dwellers streaming from the subway. His fiery speech went something like this:

Citizens, stop! The economic crisis is advancing on our country. The authorities are lying to you. Assistance is going only to the capitalists. Prices are rising; a wave of layoffs is under way. Things are only getting worse for the common man. Enough of being patient! We must decide everything ourselves. We must unite in order to become a force: only then will we be able to change our lives for the better. Begin with little things. Don’t abandon your colleague who has been laid off. Help your hungry neighbor. Form mutual aid councils!

The action lasted around two minutes. The activists ended it by shouting, “Rights Aren’t Given, They’re Taken!” They then extinguished their flares and dispersed.

During the action, two activists handed out these flyers [in Russian] to startled bystanders.

News of this flying demo set off a minor mini-debate on the efficacy and purpose of such actions. Well-known Moscow anarchist and journalist Vlad Tupikin, in a post in his LiveJournal entitled “Two Minutes of Fame,” wondered aloud what could be accomplished in two minutes. He concluded that, far from explaining one’s stance to fellow citizens or persuading them to switch sides, all that the flying demonstrators managed to do was carry out a photo shoot and get their LiveJournal account of the action in Yandex’s top of the Internet charts rating. He called the action “pure PR.”

The following day (February 21), as if in confirmation of DSPA’s tactical stance that it is dangerous to assemble in one place for more than two minutes without permission, police detained Stanislav Rudenko, an independent candidate for the 62nd Municipal District (Piskarevka) in Saint Petersburg. As reported by a correspondent on the Legal Team’s LiveJournal, Rudenko was conducting an open-air meeting with potential voters at the intersection of Kondratievsky Prospect and Bliukher Street, when a police squad car pulled up. The policemen explained that that they had information that Rudenko’s campaign flyers were “incorrect.” They detained Rudenko and took him to the 21st Precinct. The correspondent added that, according to Russian law, candidates enjoy (theoretical) immunity from prosecution for the duration of election campaigns. 

Elections for Petersburg’s municipal councils take place March 1. As the journalistic cliché goes, the campaign has been marked by massive irregularities. Dmitry Gryzlov, son of State Duma speaker and United Russia torchbearer Boris Gryzlov, had his candidacy registered by the city’s elections board even after a district board had declared that 100% of the signatures he had gathered were fakes. Would that the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other independent candidates (from the city’s opposition parties and social movements) had such influential fathers. Their support petitions have been struck down en masse (although, in some cases, court challenges have got them reinstated), and now, it appears, police have been going door to door to intimidate some of the folks who signed those petitions. The tone for this latest blitzkrieg in defense of “sovereign democracy” was set on the eve of the campaign by Petersburg’s No. 1 gendarme, Vladislav Piotrovsky. At a local Interior Ministry collegium on January 19, he warned that, in connection with the economic crisis, local human rights organizations and social movements would step up their activities and that they would be helped in this task by the foreign spy services (of course!) that finance their “extremism.” Their primary short-term goal, Piotrovsky explained, would be to win as many spots in the upcoming municipal elections as possible.

After gutting every other remnant of political democracy in Russia, one of the Kremlin’s hobbyhorses in the past few years has been local self-governance (mestnoe samoupravlenie), as expressed (so they said) by (nearly powerless and totally underfunded) district councils and residential building co-ops (which have also been red-taped to death, when they haven’t been subjected to stiffer forms of repression). In fact, any kind of meaningful democracy is a hindrance to the plans of gangster capitalism (is there any other kind?) to turn Russia’s cities into backwater hellholes, its citizens into a docile population of (now no longer very powerful) consumers. So God forbid that a handful of “extremists” on “foreign payrolls” would get the chance to decide which streets in their neighborhoods get paved first.

Rights aren’t given. They’re taken.

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

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

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

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

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petersburg Indymedia

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

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

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

Local Protest Chronicler Vladimir Volokhonsky’s Account

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New Special Issue: Knowledge in Action

Knowledge in Action, a special joint issue of Chto Delat and the Petersburg Street University is now online!

This issue presents a critical selection of activists today who are consciously continuing the tradition of autodidactic initiatives in direct actions. We would like to place this new local experience of today into the international context of independent educational structures and their history.

The issue features articles by and about the Street University, the War Group, DSPA, the New SDS, Copenhagen Free University, and Universidad Nomada, and inspiring graphics by Max Neroda and R.E.P.

Read it online or download it here.

In the coming week, we’ll also be posting articles from the new issue in this blog.

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