Tag Archives: Russia

The Argument Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Wasn’t Allowed to Make at Her Parole Hearing

[Originally published by The Russian Reader]

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Yesterday, April 26, 2013, a district court in Zubova Polyana, Mordovia, denied imprisoned Pussy Riot activist Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s request for parole. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Judge Lidiya Yakovleva agreed with arguments made by prison authorities that it would be “premature” to release Tolokonnikova given that she “had been cited for prison rules violations and expressed no remorse,” and had not participated in such prison activities as the “Miss Charm Prison Camp 14 beauty contest.” Judge Yakovleva made her ruling without allowing the defense to make a closing argument, thus allegedly violating the Criminal Procedure Code. Tolokonnikova had written her statement out in advance. The translation below is of the Russian original as published in full on the web site of RFE/RL’s Russian Service (Radio Svoboda). Photos courtesy of the Free Pussy Riot Facebook page.

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“Has the convict started down the road to rehabilitation?” This is the question asked when a request for parole is reviewed. I would also like us to ask the following question today: What is  this “road to rehabilitation”?

I am absolutely convinced that the only correct road is one on which a person is honest with others and with herself. I have stayed on this road and will not stray from it wherever life takes me. I insisted on this road while I was still on the outside, and I didn’t retreat from it in the Moscow pretrial detention facility. Nothing, not even the camps of Mordovia, where the Soviet-era authorities liked to send political prisoners, can teach me to betray the principle of honesty.

So I have not admitted and will not admit the guilt imputed to me by the Khamovniki district court’s verdict, which was illegal and rendered with an indecent number of procedural violations. At the moment, I am in the process of appealing this verdict in the higher courts. By coercing me into admitting guilt for the sake of parole, the correctional system is pushing me to incriminate myself, and, therefore, to lie. Is the ability to lie a sign that a person has started down the road to rehabilitation?

It states in my sentence that I am a feminist and, therefore, must feel hatred towards religion. Yes, after a year and two months in prison, I am still a feminist, and I am still opposed to the people in charge of the state, but then as now there is no hatred in me. The dozens of women prisoners with whom I attend the Orthodox church at Penal Colony No. 14 cannot see this hatred, either.

What else do I do in the colony? I work: soon after I arrived at Penal Colony No. 14, they put me behind a sewing machine, and now I am a sewing machine operator. Some believe that making political-art actions is easy, that it requires no deliberation or preparation. Based on my years of experience in actionism, I can say that carrying out an action and thinking through the artistic end-product is laborious and often exhausting work. So I know how to work and I love to work. I’m no stranger to the Protestant work ethic. Physically, I don’t find it hard to be a seamstress. And that is what I am. I do everything required of me. But, of course, I cannot help thinking about things while I’m at the sewing machine (including the road to rehabilitation) and, therefore, asking myself questions. For example: why can convicts not be given a choice as to the socially useful work they perform while serving their sentences? [Why can they not chose work] in keeping with their education and interests? Since I have experience teaching in the philosophy department at Moscow State University, I would gladly and enthusiastically put together educational programs and lectures using the books in the library and books sent to me. And by the way, I would unquestioningly do such work for more than the eight hours [a day] stipulated by the Russian Federation Labor Code; I would do this work during all the time left over from scheduled prison activities. Instead, I sew police pants, which of course is also useful, but in this work I’m obviously not as productive as I could be were I conducting educational programs.

In Cancer Ward, Solzhenitsyn describes how a prison camp detective stops one convict from teaching another convict Latin. Unfortunately, the overall attitude to education hasn’t changed much since then.

I often fantasize: what if the correctional system made its priority not the production of police pants or production quotas, but the education, training, and rehabilitation of convicts, as required by the Correctional Code? Then, in order to get parole, you would not have to sew 16 hours a day in the industrial section of the colony, trying to achieve 150% output, but successfully pass several exams after broadening your horizons and knowledge of the world, and getting a general humanities education, which nurtures the ability to adequately assess contemporary reality. I would very much like to see this state of affairs in the colony.

Why not establish courses on contemporary art in the colony?

Would that work were not a debt, but activity that was spiritual and useful in a poetic sense. Would that the organizational constraints and inertia of the old system were overcome, and values like individuality could be instilled in the workplace. The prison camp is the face of the country, and if we managed to get beyond the old conservative and totally unifying categories even in the prison camp, then throughout Russia we would see the growth of intellectual, high-tech manufacturing, something we would all like to see in order to break out of the natural resources trap. Then something like Silicon Valley could be born in Russia, a haven for risky and talented people. All this would be possible if the panic experienced in Russia at the state level towards human experimentation and creativity would give way to an attentive and respectful attitude towards the individual’s creative and critical potential. Tolerance towards others and respect for diversity provide an environment conducive to the development and productive use of the talent inherent in citizens (even if these citizens are convicts). Repressive conservation and rigidity in the legal, correctional, and other state systems of the Russian Federation, laws on registration [of one’s residence] and promotion of homosexuality lead to stagnation and a “brain drain.”

However, I am convinced that this senseless reaction in which we now forced to live is temporary. It is mortal, and this mortality is immediate. I am also certain that all of us—including the prisoners of Bolotnaya Square, my brave comrade in arms Maria Alyokhina, and Alexei Navalny—have the strength, commitment, and tenacity to survive this reaction and emerge victorious.

I am truly grateful to the people I have encountered in my life behind barbed wire. Thanks to some of them, I will never call my time in prison time lost. During the year and two months of my imprisonment, I have not had a single conflict, either in the pretrial detention facility or in prison. Not a single one. In my opinion, this shows that I am perfectly safe for any society. And also the fact that people do not buy into state media propaganda and are not willing to hate me just because a federal channel said that I’m a bad person. Lying does not always lead to victory.

Recently, I got a letter containing a parable that has become important to me. What happens to things different in nature when they are placed in boiling water? Brittle things, like eggs, become hard. Hard things, like carrots, become soft. Coffee dissolves and permeates everything. The point of the parable was this: be like coffee. In prison, I am like that coffee.

I want the people who have put me and dozens of other political activists behind bars to understand one simple thing: there are no insurmountable obstacles for a person whose values  consist, first, of her principles and, second, of work and creativity based on these principles. If you strongly believe in something, this faith will help you survive and remain a human being anywhere.

I will surely use my experience in Mordovia in my future work and, although this will not happen until completion of my sentence, I will implement it in projects that will be stronger and politically larger in scale than everything that has happened to me before.

Despite the fact that imprisonment is a quite daunting experience, as a result of having it we political prisoners only become stronger, braver, and more tenacious. And so I ask the last question for today: what, then, is the point of keeping us here?

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Harlem Shake Illegal in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s Cultural Capital

Teen Faces Fine Over Dance
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
March 6, 2013

A teenager was charged with holding an unauthorized assembly after being detained at a Harlem Shake flash mob in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

Vasily Zabelov, 17, is seen on a video on the Fontanka.ru website being led by two policemen to a police car following the flash mob, which drew hundreds to a site near the Galereya shopping center next to the Moscow Railway Station on Ligovsky Prospekt.

In answer to a question from a reporter asking what Zabelov was being detained for, one of the policemen in the video tells the reporter to contact the police’s press service.

Speaking on Tuesday, Zabelov said he was held for two-and-a-half hours at a police precinct before charges were pressed. He said that his case will be heard by the commission of minors’ affairs, rather than in court, because of his age.

He described himself as the event’s chief organizer, saying that he used some help from a friend to get sound equipment and a camera.

According to Zabelov, the event drew 300 people, who were then joined by passers-by, increasing the number to 500. He said he was a student welder at the Russian College of Traditional Culture.

Earlier, Zabelov told the RIA Novosti news agency that he faced a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 rubles ($325-$1,630) and that he would appeal to online communities if fined.

Zabelov said he took his detention “in a negative way.”

“In my view, the government should give people the right to relax and have some fun. It’s not a political rally or anything, is it?” he said.

Harlem Shake is an Internet meme that peaked in popularity last month.

Groups of costumed people gather unexpectedly at different, often unlikely locations across the world to perform a wild dance to the track “Harlem Shake” by American DJ and producer Baauer. Videos of the event are later uploaded to the Internet.

The police said that “policemen stopped the unsanctioned event,” Interfax reported, but the police’s claim was denied by Zabelov and other participants who say police stepped in after the event finished. Two St. Petersburg residents were said to have called police, saying that that the event obstructed pedestrians.

In the past 12 months, St. Petersburg police have dispersed — and detained some participants of — a number of unlikely non-political events held by local teenagers. These included a pillow fight, a snowball fight and a Michael Jackson memorial event.

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Nineteen, in Kyiv, and in Danger: An Interview with Filipp Dolbunov

publicpost.ru

February 23, 2013

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
— Yegor Letov, “We’re Getting Stronger”

Until recently, the habit that young left-wing activists have of dreaming up conspiratorial nicknames for themselves seemed mere child’s play, a tribute to a red romanticism long out of fashion. I spoke with Filipp Dolbunov, better known as Filipp Galtsov and whom I’m used to calling just plain Filippok, the day before the latest pogrom-like police search took place in his Moscow apartment. He is nineteen years old, in Kyiv, and in danger. The Russian government wants to put him in jail. He is a revolutionary.

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Filipp Dolbunov

 

— First of all, I wanted to ask whether you’re safe.

No, I’m not safe now. I’m experiencing unhealthy attention from the Russian and Ukrainian security services. In particular, as I’ve learned, I’ve secretly been put on the wanted list in Russia. My parents are visited once a week by the police, people from Center “E”, and perhaps the FSB. In Ukraine, I am being followed by the SBU.

I also don’t feel safe because the UNHCR does not respond to my requests for asylum.

— Are you afraid you could be deported?

Yes, that possibility exists. After Leonid Razvozzhayev’s abduction in Kyiv and considering that the Ukraine’s statistics for deporting refugees are high, it’s quite possible. And knowing what close friends the SBU are with the FSB and Center “E”, I would raise the likelihood of this several times.

— You say you’re being followed. What does that look like?

On February 6, for example, I was followed from the building of the Ukraine Migration Service right to the place where I’m staying. Three men bearing a strong resemblance to police investigators followed me at a distance of forty meters. They periodically stopped and pretended to talk. In the subway, they got into the car next to mine and glared at me the whole way. They got out at the same station as I did and took the same street as I did. Only when we were approaching the house did I shake them. I saw one of them running after me, but I managed to escape. Kyiv police officers are now periodically staked out near the house.

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“Honor the UN convention on the rights of refugees”

— Why do you think the security services are so interested in you?

I think the security services are now paying special attention to people with leftist views. If a person defends his position not only in theory but also in practice, this interest often leads to something unhealthy from their point of view. The economic situation in Russia is now rather dodgy. The government is cutting spending on education, health care and other social needs. Unlike the liberals, who are enthusiastic only about “Russia without Putin,” the left speak loudly about these problems. The authorities are most afraid of a societal explosion. Hence the persecution, crackdowns, and intimidation on the part of the security services.

— What did you personally do to annoy them?

Lately I’ve been active in social movements, for example, the defense of the Khimki and Tsagovsky forests, support for workers’ dormitory residents [facing eviction] in Moscow, and the movement for fair elections. I have also been involved in some unsanctioned protest actions, but of course I didn’t do what they’re charging me with.

— What was your real role in the events of May 6, and what are you accused of doing?

As the lawyers and civil rights advocates tell me, I might be facing the charge of “organizing a riot.” The investigation is seriously basing itself on Leonid Razvozzhayev’s confession of guilt [whose authenticity has been disputed, first of all by Razvozzhayev himself], where I was identified as someone who allegedly led a column of anarchists. In fact, that day I marched in the column of the Russian Socialist Movement, of which I’m a member. I used no violence against police officers, all the more so because there was no “rioting” on Bolotnaya Square.

— You were a witness in the case of another person charged in the Bolotnaya Square case, Stepan Zimin? Have you been pressured in this connection?

Yes, I volunteered to be a witness in Stepan’s case. On October 25, I was abducted from my home by several Center “E” officers, who tried to force me into testifying against Konstantin Lebedev, Razvozzhayev and Sergei Udaltsov [during an interrogation] at the Investigative Committee. My apartment was searched. The same day I was released, with them telling me my procedural status was not clear. That is, it was difficult to understand whether I was a witness or a suspect. A week later, I finally received a [legal, written] summons from Investigator Marukyan. In my testimony, I said that Stepan had not thrown stones, had not used violence against police officers, and had not taken part in any rioting. During the questioning, Markuyan threatened to send me to the army if I didn’t, to borrow his expression, “stop talking nonsense.”

— Why did you decide to leave Russia right at this moment?

They had begun pressuring my relatives — my mother, grandmother, and grandfather. During the October 25 search, the eshniki [Center “E” officers] threatened that if my relatives continued to interfere with their “work,” they would be sent to the Investigative Committee for questioning. I left because too many facts had piled up that pointed to the possibility of my being arrested. From November to early January, people from Center “E” and the FSB came to my house once a week: they would ask where I was and threaten and intimidate my relatives. And recently, on February 12, they dragged my grandmother, who is seventy years old, in for questioning.

— How did you become a leftist? What influenced you?

I once was at a Grazhdanskaya Oborona concert, where I met really interesting people who were wearing hammer and sickle or anarchy patches. Then I gradually started reading, following the news, and looking at what was happening around me, and I realized that it was not even the country that had to be changed, but the whole world, the [entire] system of economic, human and spiritual relations.

— What’s your favorite Yegor Letov song?

Well, I have two favorites: “Sing, Revolution” and “We’re Getting Stronger.”

— You are applying for refugee status? How are things going?

At the moment I’m looking to be resettled in a third country, because I absolutely don’t feel safe here. Things are going badly, because the UNHCR does not react to reports of persecution on the part of the Ukrainian authorities. I don’t know how to explain this. The head of the local UNHCR office has said in the press that Ukraine is not a safe country for refugees. But considering the circumstances that I and other political refugees from Russia find ourselves in, I cannot understand why they can’t provide us with additional protection.

Besides me, Other Russia activist Alexei Devyatkin, journalist Jenny Kurpen, and Solidarity activist Mikhail Maglov are in Ukraine [applying for political asylum]. You can help us in this situation, first of all, by drawing attention to the problem of Russian refugees, especially at the international level.

— What would you wish or advise your comrades in Russia? Both those who are free and those already in prison.

I would like to wish my comrades success in the struggle. I wish a speedy release for the prisoners. You guys are such a big help. I really miss you and hope to see you soon.

— Probably somewhere in Switzerland.

No, in Russia.

Interview prepared by Ivan Ovsyannikov

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Welcome to Brazil!

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“Civil unrest”?

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The Chtodelat News Challenge: A Friday Night on the Town in Petersburg’s Cultural Capital

As an exercise in close reading, we’d like to see what you, our readers, can make of these two hyper-fresh dispatches from Petersburg, Russia’s so-called cultural capital.

Mosque Raid Causes Outrage
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Human rights organizations in Russia, Tajikistan and Georgia on Tuesday protested mass arrests and reported harassment and beatings of mostly Central Asian and North Caucasus migrant workers during Friday’s raid on a marketplace in central St. Petersburg.

They are demanding a thorough investigation by Russian and Tajik authorities into the actions of law-enforcement officers who raided Apraksin Dvor, the marketplace in downtown St. Petersburg, during a service at a mosque on the market’s territory.

The Investigative Committee put the number of those detained at 271, but Fontanka.ru reported that “no less than 700” had been arrested, while human rights activists say that the number of arrests could be as high as 1,000.

Officially, the raid was part of a criminal investigation into “public incitement to terrorist activities or public justification of terrorism” and “inciting hatred or hostility as well as humiliation of human dignity” and was conducted jointly by several law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Security Service (FSB) and counter-extremism Center E. Smaller raids were held elsewhere in the city.

But only one person of the hundreds who were arrested is a suspect in that case.

Mass beatings were reported to have taken place during the raid at Apraksin Dvor.

“People who were victims of the mosque raid there and their relatives keep approaching us since the raid took place,” said Anna Udyarova, a lawyer with the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, on Tuesday.

“For instance, one citizen of Uzbekistan said he had gone there with his sons, the youngest of whom was 10, and security service officers had used force against him, had beaten him as well as his adult sons, and all this had happened before the eyes of his 10-year-old son.

“Witnesses who work nearby in Apraksin Dvor said about 200 people were beaten, and some sustained injuries as serious as broken arms and legs, but they refuse to file official complaints or document their injuries because they’re afraid of how the authorities will respond. But in conversation with us, they say that all the men who were at the mosque during the service were beaten.”

The only person detained as a suspect within the investigation, according to the Investigative Committee, was Murat Sarbyshev, born in Kabardino-Balkaria (a republic in the south of the Russian Federation) in 1988. He is suspected of having uploaded “extremist literature and videos depicting terrorist attacks on the Internet in a period between October 2010 and April 2011,” the Investigative Committee said in a statement Saturday.

“We are trying to understand why such a large-scale special operation was held to detain just one person — who turned out to be a citizen of Russia — and with such a large number of people suffering as the result of harassment and beatings,” Udyarova said.

“It had an intimidating effect not only on those who were at the mosque at the time, but also on all the foreign citizens, mainly of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, who are based in St. Petersburg and Russia, who learned about this incident and perceived it as a threat to themselves.”

According to Udyarova, up to 1,000 people may have been detained in the city on Friday.

“We were told that about 1,000 were detained, because this special operation took place not only in Apraksin Dvor, but in other places in the city simultaneously,” she said.

“Differences in numbers can be explained by the fact that not everybody who was detained was taken to a police precinct; only those who had problems regarding their immigration documents.

“Even if, as the Interior Ministry’s representative claimed, the objective of this campaign was not to expose illegal migrants and they were in fact looking for suspects in a criminal investigation, as usual, innocent people — foreigners — who were there are the ones who suffered.”

She said the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center will provide legal support if at least one person who is not intimidated enough to file a complaint is found.

According to the Investigative Committee, those detained included citizens of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and the regions of the North Caucasus, as well as one citizen of Egypt and one citizen of Afghanistan. Ten had personal documents showing signs of forgery, and twenty had no documents at all, the agency said in a statement Saturday.

Of those detained, seven were deported and one more was awaiting deportation in a detention center for foreigners, Interfax news agency reported Monday, citing a source in the police.

With the exception of them and the suspect Sarbyshev, all those detained during the raid were released with no charges pressed, it said.

Late on Tuesday, Interfax quoted a source with the FSB who claimed that the deported seven had links to an “international terrorist organization.”

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[…]

The polarisation of Russian nightlife is undoubtedly tied to the polarisation of wealth in Russian society. Is the arrival of places like Dom Byta [in Petersburg] — that shun the glitzy veneer that has been the hallmark aesthetic of Russian affluence since the Nineties — evidence of the emergence of a new middle class? Burtsev certainly thinks so. “A new generation has arrived that can travel, that can do projects, and the people remaining from the old generation are also willing to give things a go. They’ve made it possible to create this sort of good community.” For Burtsev, this change is starting to have a real impact on city life. “This young generation has already created its own space online,” he says. “They work in jobs like design, in a space beyond the reach of the government. And now we’re seeing people moving gradually, very gradually, to doing projects in real, concrete spaces.”

The transformation of Russia’s entertainment scene is dependent on two factors: time and travel. During the Soviet period, isolation, centralisation and a certain puritanism pushed Russian food culture to the brink of extinction: as a result foreign imports, like the ubiquitous sushi, have dominated the restaurant scene for the past two decades. But open borders have also allowed young Russian chefs, barmen and entrepreneurs to pick up best practice in Europe and America. Frequent trips to Paris, Madrid and Rome have also educated their potential audience. Along with new infrastructure such as better farms, catering schools and supply networks, which all take time to bear fruit, it’s this cosmopolitanism that has laid the foundation for the current renaissance in Russian food and drink.

An avowed Anglophile — Dom Byta has English beer on tap — Burtsev, who is just shy of 40, exemplifies the impact of Russia’s new-found wanderlust. “When we opened Solyanka six or seven years ago we were really influenced by places in London, in Shoreditch,” he says. “We would look at the people, at little details, at the general atmosphere.” His establishments meet the needs of a more educated audience: “The more people travel the more they get used to things: in London or elsewhere in Europe you can just pop in somewhere nice and get a bite to eat, or sit down and work with your laptop and feel relaxed about it.

[…]

Jamie Rann, “High spirits: what’s fuelling St Petersburg’s bar renaissance?,” The Calvert Journal

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How would you, dear readers, read these two stories together? Send us your answer (500 words or less) to our email address (chtodelatnews [at] googlemail [dot] com) or in the comments, below. We’ll post the most convincing entry on this blog as a separate, headlined posting. We’ll also mail the winner a complete set of the Chto Delat group’s popular, award-winning  songspiel films on DVD. And, as if that weren’t enough, we’ll treat the winner to a night on the town in Russia’s stunning cultural capital, Petersburg, including dinner at a restaurant featuring the cuisine of one of the city’s beloved ethnic minorities, followed by all the English tap beer they can drink at Dom Byta. (If “face control” lets us in, that is, and provided, of course, that the winner makes their own way to Petersburg.) The deadline for entries is next Friday at midnight Petersburg time (GMT + 0400).

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Stop the Crackdown against Russian Anti-Fascists! (open letter)

Original in Russian published here: www.colta.ru/docs/7991

The crackdown against anti-fascists in Russia has recently gained momentum. The country’s repressive law enforcement authorities view involvement in the anti-fascist movement as a crime in itself.

Moscow anti-fascists Alexey Sutuga, Alexey Olesinov, Igor Kharchenko and Irina Lipskaya are currently in jail in connection with dubious and unproven accusations of “disorderly conduct.” Anti-fascists Alexandra Dukhanina, Stepan Zimin, Alexey Polikhovich and Vladimir Akimenkov are among those accused of involvement in “mass riots” on Bolotnaya Square on May 6 in Moscow, when riot police brutally dispersed an authorized opposition rally. Clear evidence of their guilt still has not been presented.

In Nizhny Novgorod, law enforcement authorities are attempting to have anti-fascists declared an “extremist group.” Although on October 18 a court sent the case against the fictional organization “Antifa-RASH” (whose alleged IDs “anti-extremist” police detectives planted on activists during a search) back to the police for further investigation, the Nizhny Novgorod political police are unlikely to leave the activists alone. Igor Kharchenko has also been charged under this same article of the Russian criminal code (“involvement in the the activities of an extremist group”). Alexey Olesinov and Alexey Sutuga’s defense attorneys also expect that authorities will attempt to have their clients declared “extremists.”

The attorneys and comrades of the arrested activists believe this is being done to make it easier for police to prosecute anti-fascists and social activists. If guilty verdicts are returned in the Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod cases, a wave of similar “extremist” cases will follow all over Russia. Anti-fascists are today officially stigmatized as “extremists.” What is next? A court ban on anti-fascist views?

We consider it unacceptable that an individual can be persecuted simply for political views and activities dedicated to the fight against racism. We demand a fair and partial investigation in these criminal cases, and prosecution of all law enforcement officers who abuse their authority and flagrantly fabricate criminal cases against civil society activists.

[signed:]
Svetlana Reiter, journalist
Pavel Chikov, civil rights activist
Andrei Loshak, journalist
Oleg Kashin, journalist
Artyom Loskutov, artist
Pavel Pryanikov, gardener, journalist
Shura Burtin, journalist
Arkady Babchenko, war correspondent
Igor Gulin, poet, literary critic
Maria Kiselyova, artist
Ilya Budraitskis, leftist activist
Alexander Chernykh, journalist
Victoria Lomasko, artist
Anna Sarang, sociologist
Tatyana Sushenkova, photographer, artist
Jenny Curpen, journalist, political exile
Sergei Devyatkin, journalist, political exile
Mikhail Maglov, civic activist
Pavel Nikulin, journalist
Alexei Yorsh, artist,
Maria Klimova, journalist
Nikolay Oleynikov, artist
Alexander Tushkin, journalist
Daniil Dugum, journalist, anarchist
Andrei Krasnyi, artist
Dmitry Grin, artist
Alexander Litinsky, journalist
Isabelle Makgoeva, leftist activist
Yuliana Lizer, journalist, documentary filmmaker
Dmitry Vilensky, artist
Ilya Shepelin, artist
Tasya Krugovykh, photographer, filmmaker
Vyacheslav Danilov, political scientist
Tatyana Volkova, art critic
Yegor Skovoroda, journalist
Georgy Rafailov, leftist activist
Dmitry Tkachov, editor, journalist
Alexander Delfinov (Smirnov), poet, journalist
Nadezhda Prusenkova, journalist
Anton Nikolaev, artist
Yulia Bashinova, journalist
Denis Mustafin, artist
Matvei Krylov, artist
Olesya Gerasimenko, journalist
Grigory Tumanov, journalist

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Articles (in Russian) on the cases mentioned above:

“Antifa-RASH” case
«Лента.ру»: Экстремисты из Нижнего
Открытое информагентство: Свидетель обвинения дал показания против оперативников Центра «Э»
«РБК daily»: В Поволжье судят «придуманных» экстремистов
«Автономное действие»: Нижегородское дело

The case against Alexey Olesinov and Alexey Sutuga
«Новая газета»: Когда я спросила, почему Алексею не разрешили позвонить, следователь промолчал
«Новая газета»: В Москве продлили срок ареста двум антифашистам

The case against Igor Kharchenko and Denis Solopov
«Известия»: Антифашиста хотят вернуть в Россию новым уголовным делом
«Газета.ру»: Четыре статьи за ненависть к националистам
«Новая газета»: Игорю Харченко снова продлен срок содержания под стражей

The case against Irina Lipskaya
«Каспаров.ру»: Задержанные антифашисты проведут 2 месяца в СИЗО
«Автономное действие»: Дело об инциденте у клуба «Баррикада»: двое антифашистов заключены под стражу

The case against the screening of the “extremist” film “Russian Anti-Racist Skinheads” in Vladimir
Openspace: Кино на букву «Э»
Открытое информагентство: Эксперты нашли в фильме москвича призывы к действиям против скинхедов и пропаганду их неполноценности

On attempts to have the entire Russian anti-fascist movement declared “extremist”
«РБК daily»: МВД «повысит» статус антифашистов с хулиганов до экстремистов
«Большой город»: Социальная группа «гопники»
«Эхо Москвы»: Фанаты-единороссы, «удостоверение анархиста» и другие способы посадить антифашиста
«Новая газета»: Антифашистов пытаются объявить вне закона

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Why Did a Danish NGO Finance a Manual Depicting Migrant Workers in Russia as Tools?

As first reported on social networks yesterday and then later picked up by local online media outlets Fontanka.ru and The Village, Petersburg city hall has recently been involved in the publication and distribution of a “Manual for Migrant Workers” in which the migrant workers, presumably from the former Central Asian Soviet republics, are depicted as a paint roller, a whisk, a spatula and a paint brush.

The manual is available in four languages—Russian, Tajik, Uzbek and Kyrgyz—and can be downloaded as a .pdf file from the web site of Petersburg city hall’s “Tolerance” program, where it was apparently posted on August 30 of this year.

An accompanying text explains that the brochure was published by the “regional public organization Future Outlook” with support from the Petersburg and Leningrad Regional office of the Federal Migration Service and the [Petersburg] Municipal Center for the Prevention and Monitoring of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Diseases. Its stated aim is to promote “social adaptation and HIV/AIDS prevention among migrant workers from Central Asia.” To this end, the brochure has, allegedly, been made available at several locations around Petersburg and distributed at “training sessions” for migrants, also conducted by by Future Outlook.

While the Central Asian migrant workers are depicted throughout the manual as tools typically used in building renovation and maintenance, fields in which such workers are employed in large numbers in Russia’s major cities, the Russian law enforcement, immigration and health officials “welcoming” them to Russia, along with ordinary Russians encountered by the migrant workers during their stay, are depicted as human beings.

“Arrival in Russia”


“Crossing the Border”

“HIV Prevention: ‘Remember, You’re Expected to Arrive Home Healthy!'”

The Central Asian anthropomorphic “tools” are also given “useful advice” and “simple rules” for “feeling comfortable” in “Russia’s cultural capital.” Among other things, they are advised not to “wear ethnic clothing at all times and everywhere,” because it attracts “unwanted attention”; not to “wear sweatsuits constantly,  especially with classic dress shoes”; not to “go outside in a housecoat”; not to “squat on [their] haunches in public”; and not to “spit and litter.”

“Don’t Litter!”

Despite the fact that Central Asian migrant workers (along with other foreigners and members of Russia’s numerous ethnic minorities) have been frequent targets of neo-Nazi violence in recent years (the Moscow-based Sova Center has recorded 490 such assaults and murders in Petersburg during the period from 2004 to late September 2012) and are routinely exploited, conned and abused by Russian employers and government officials, the manual’s authors discourage them from “judging the city as a whole by one or even several unpleasant incidents that have happened to [them] or to people [they] know.”

And indeed, the manual’s final cartoon shows the Russian officials and a stereotypical Russian babuskha giving the Central Asian tools a warm farewell at the airport. The babushka comments, “What a good job you did with the renovations.”

According to an article published earlier today on news web site Newsru.com, spokespeople for Petersburg city hall have denied that it has anything to do with the brochure—even though it remains posted on the web site for the city’s “Tolerance” program as of this writing. In the same article, Gleb Panfilov, identified as the “head” of Future Outlook, the brochure’s publisher, is quoted as claiming that the illustrations provoked no “questions” or “negative emotions” among the migrant workers his organization had worked with, including a “focus group.”

“Generally speaking, when choosing these pictures of construction instruments, we had in mind not migrant workers, but simply helpers. They are helpful illustrations, characters in the booklet, like Clippy in the [Microsoft Office] computer program. And not a single migrant complained to us about this. […] We wanted our project to show that [migrant workers] should be treated as people, not as a labor force,” said Panfilov.

One aspect of the scandal that has so far gone unnoticed by Petersburg media is that the manual was, apparently, published with financial assistance from the Danish NGO DanChurchAid, as indicated by the acknowledgements in the manual’s colophon.

According to a statement on its web site, DanChurchAid’s mission is to “help and be advocates of oppressed, neglected and marginalised groups in poor countries and to strengthen their possibilities of a life in dignity.” Among its programs is one focused on providing relief to “poor migrant workers” from Central Asia and the “fight against HIV/AIDS” amongst such workers.

Is DanChurchAid aware of the content of the “Manual for Migrant Workers,” apparently published with its financial support? If it is aware of this content, does it believe that depicting “poor migrant workers” as construction tools is consistent with own mission?

We urge our readers to contact DanChurchAid for answers to these questions:

DanChurchAid
Nørregade 15
DK-1165 Copenhagen K
Denmark

Email: mail@dca.dk
Phone: +45 3315 2800
Fax: +45 3318 7816

Central Asia Regional Representative
Tatiana Kotova
Email: tk.russia@dca.dk

UPDATE. A reader has alerted us to the fact that the .pdf files of the manual have subsequently been removed from the Petersburg city hall web site. Here they are, in all four language versions, for downloading.

vostok-zapad-rus

vostok-zapad-kyrg

vostok-zapad-uzb

vostok-zapad-tadj

 

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Filed under immigration, international affairs, racism, nationalism, fascism, Russian society