Tag Archives: Saint Petersburg

Marxism Today (or, The Soft Power Approach to Changing Perceptions of Russia)

marxism 2day

Join us for the first stage of Sarajevo-born artist Nada Prlja’s new commission Subversion to Red, a performative round-table discussion reflecting upon the relevance and application of socialist and Marxist ideals today.

Speakers include: Dave Beech, Hannah Black, Gail Day, Mark Fisher and Nina Power. Chaired by Vlad Morariu

As part of First Thursdays the gallery will be open until 9pm.

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In March 2011 the London arts foundation Calvert 22 and the Russian investment company VTB Capital have announced a strategic partnership designed to showcase cutting-edge Russian artists in London and widen the exposure of the British public to creative Russian culture as part of a wider artistic programme that presents culture from Russia, Central and Eastern Europe.

VTB Capital is positioned as Calvert 22’s primary strategic partner, providing support for the artistic vision and core activities of the organization. Calvert 22 and VTB Capital are committed to promoting global co-operation through cultural understanding. 

VTB Capital is the recognized leader in Russian investment banking, and one of the company’s key objectives is to promote Russian culture throughout the world. VTB Capital’s partnership with Calvert 22 provides a unique opportunity to engage an open dialogue with the British audience.

Working together, VTB Capital and Calvert 22 are committed to promoting and developing new possibilities for global cooperation through cross-cultural understanding and exchange by implementing an ambitious artistic programme that is part of the company’s soft power approach to the global community.

Nonna Materkova, Founder/Director of Calvert 22, comments:
“I am delighted to announce VTB Capital as our primary strategic partner and proud to be associated with such a highly regarded, trailblazing organisation. This partnership marks a truly exciting and significant new phase in Calvert 22’s development and one that will ensure the foundation continues to present the very best of contemporary Russian, Central and Eastern European art as well as supporting new artists and cultural practice from these regions so as to genuinely introduce fresh and original perspectives to the UK. We are immensely grateful for their support and look forward to working together.”

Olga Podoinitsyna, Member of the Board at VTB Capital, comments:
“Throughout the nearly 3 years of partnership between VTB Capital and Calvert 22 Foundation, we have made a considerable contribution to the showcasing of Russian art in London, and also promoting the understanding of Russia as part of the global community. We support Calvert 22 as a unique vehicle for bringing contemporary Russian culture to Britain, putting people in touch with the actual trends in the country and offering them a new perspective on Russia. Our company plays an important role in strengthening ties between the Russian and British business communities and the partnership with Calvert 22 is a key part of VTB Capital’s soft power approach to changing perceptions of Russia.

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VTB Bank (Russian: ОАО Банк ВТБ, former Vneshtorgbank) is one of the leading universal banks of Russia. VTB Bank and its subsidiaries form a leading Russian financial group – VTB Group, offering a wide range of banking services and products in Russia, CIS, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the U.S. The Group’s largest subsidiaries in Russia are VTB24, Bank of Moscow, and TransCreditBank.

VTB was ranked 236th on the FT Global 500 2011, The Financial Times’ annual snapshot of the world’s largest companies. It climbed to 82nd in the ranking of the 500 largest companies in Europe, the FT Europe 500 2011, and to 38th in the FT Emerging 500 2011, the list of the 500 largest companies on the world’s emerging markets. The Moscow-based bank is registered in St. Petersburg and came 65th in the British magazine The Banker’s Top 1000 World Banks in terms of capital in 2010.

[…]

The main shareholder of VTB is the Russian Government, which owns 75.5% of the lender through its Federal Agency for State Property Management. The remaining shares are split between holders of its Global Depository Receipts and minority shareholders, both individuals and companies.

In February 2011, the Government floated an additional 10% minus two shares of VTB Bank. The private investors, who paid a total of 95.7 billion roubles ($3.1 billion) for the assets, included the investment funds Generali, TPG Capital, China Investment Corp, a sovereign wealth fund responsible for managing China’s foreign exchange reserves, and companies affiliated with businessman Suleiman Kerimov.

[…]

As of September 2009, the Supervisory Council of VTB Bank consist[ed] of Alexei Kudrin (Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation), Arkady Dvorkovich (Aide to the President of the Russian Federation), Anton Drozdov (Chairman of the Management Board, Russian Pension Fund), Andrey Kostin (President and Chairman of the Management Board, JSC VTB Bank), Alexey Savatyugin (Head of Financial Policy Department of the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation), Vitaly Saveliev (CEO, JSC Aeroflot-Russian Airlines), Alexei Ulyukaev (First Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation), Grigory Glazkov (Independent Consultant), Matthias Warnig (Managing Director, Nord Stream AG), Nikolai Kropachev (Rector of the St. Petersburg State University) and Muhadin Eskindarov (Rector of Finance Academy under the Government of the Russian Federation).

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CALVERT 22 FOUNDATION

Founder and Director
Nonna Materkova

Board of Trustees
Nonna Materkova (Chair)
Alexey Kudrin
Margarita Gluzberg
Innokenty Alekseev
Dominic Sanders
Nigel Nicholson

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From 1990 to 1996, Kudrin worked in the Saint Petersburg Saint Petersburg City Administration under the liberal mayor and reformer Anatoly Sobchak. His first position was Vice Chairman of the Committee for Economic Reform. Until 1993, he worked in various financial positions in the city administration, before he was promoted to Deputy Mayor, in which position he served from 1993 to 1996. Future President Vladimir Putin was the other top Deputy Mayor of Saint Petersburg at the time. Kudrin was also Chairman of the City Administration’s Economic and Finance Committee.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin jokingly called former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin a “slacker” on Thursday [April 25, 2013] for refusing to rejoin his government, as the two jousted on live television over how to revive a weakening economy.

“I offered – he refused,” Putin told a live call-in show after Kudrin took the microphone to criticise his administration’s economic policies. Smiling, Putin added: “He’s a slacker and doesn’t want to work.”

The good-natured exchange indicated that, although Putin remains on good personal terms with Kudrin, who served as finance minister for 11 years before resigning in September 2011, their economic views remain far apart.

Since quitting, Kudrin has publicly sympathised with opposition protests over alleged ballot fraud in the ensuing parliamentary and presidential elections that secured Putin’s return for a third Kremlin term.

His presence in the audience of Putin’s annual question-and-answer session and his tough questions were probably stage-managed to show that Putin could tolerate hard questioning.

Kudrin, a fiscal hawk and economic liberal, told Putin it was important to find political consensus and take into account the concerns of people who want to invest money and create jobs.

source

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The Cradle of Three Revolutions and Russia’s Cultural Capital Bids Farewell to Freedom of Assembly

www.fontanka.ru

Poltavchenko has banned demonstrations on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Isaac’s Square and Palace Square

March 20, 2013

St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko has signed amendments to the law on rallies and demonstrations. The document was signed on March 19 and published on the official website today.

Under the amendments, Nevsky Prospekt, St. Isaac’s Square, and Palace Square will be closed to mass protest actions. It is also prohibited to hold a rally at a distance of 50 meters from buildings where government offices are located.

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On February 20, the Legislative Assembly adopted en bloc amendments to the Law “On Meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations, Marches and Pickets in St. Petersburg,” and the same day submitted them for the Governor to sign.

“This Law of St. Petersburg will enter into force ten days after its publication,” the statement reads.

Photo: Fontanka River, St. Petersburg, March 17, 2013. Courtesy of Chtodelat News

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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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FAQ about Petersburg, Russia’s Cultural Capital

Why was St Petersburg selected as Host for Manifesta 10?

Manifesta is the only roving biennial in the world, changing locations every two years. Its origin is based on addressing the disbalance in between East and West Europe after the fall of the Wall at the end of the 1980’s. St.Petersburg is the crucial European city to question such a disbalance today. Alexander Pushkin called the former capital of Russia the ‘window to Europe’.

Source: manifesta.org

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Why are Petersburgers on the point of being essentially banned from protesting in the center of their own city, the ‘window to Europe,’ recently selected by Manifesta, the ultra-progressive European biennial of contemporary art, to host its 2014 event?

Because, unfortunately, some Petersburgers have in the recent past exercised their constitutional right to free speech and freedom of assembly in a provocative, irresponsible way by calling for things vehemently disapproved of by the vast majority of rank-and-file Petersburgers, things like free and fair elections, gay rights, preservation of historic buildings and green spaces, an end to racist assaults and murders, free public health care and education, freedom of assembly, etc. Also, as Russia’s cultural capital, Petersburg has a special duty to ensure that everyone can enjoy its cultural riches and sights: protesters prevent ordinary people and tourists from doing just that by blocking sidewalks and squares, and generally drawing attention to themselves.

New Local Bill Seeks to Ban Protests in City Center
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
February 27, 2013

Opposition political groups and concerned citizens continue to protest against a new local bill on demonstrations that effectively bans protests in the city center, passed by the Legislative Assembly last week in its third and final reading.

In hopes of preventing Governor Georgy Poltavchenko from signing it, the Yabloko Democratic Party has filed a complaint against the bill, describing it as “outrageous” and “illegal.”

“We are acting to prevent this becoming law, because, once in force, and used even once, the new law will have a devastating impact on the rights of citizens,” said Yabloko’s Nikolai Rybakov in a statement.

Called “On assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, marches and picketing in St. Petersburg,” the bill was passed Feb. 20 by 27 deputies, with 15 voting against.

The bill forbids the holding of rallies on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main street, as well as on Palace Square and St. Isaac’s Square, which had previously been used for rallies, including the now-legendary mass protests against the 1991 anti-reformist coup.

Rallies will also be banned from within 50 meters of the entrances of buildings occupied by state authorities, while one-man demonstrations can only be held if there is no other protester within 50 meters.

According to the bill, the restrictions have been imposed “in order to protect the rights and freedoms of man and citizen, the rule of law, order and public safety.”

In his statement, Grigory Yavlinsky, chair of the Yabloko faction in the city’s Legislative Assembly, stressed that by passing the law, the city parliament ignored not only the negative opinion expressed by the public at the Dec. 3 public hearing and an address by the city’s ombudsman Alexander Shishlov, but also the Constitutional Court’s Feb. 14 ruling. Every amendment proposed by opposition deputies was rejected.

Apart from harsh restrictions on rallies, the bill also states that without authorization from the authorities, no more than 200 demonstrators are allowed to assemble at specially designated sites “for the collective discussion of socially important issues and expression of public opinion.” City Hall has designated a small site on the Field of Mars for such a purpose.

Andrei Dmitriyev, local chair of The Other Russia party, said that the law may obstruct the historic May Day demonstration, a massive event featuring a broad range of political parties and movements, from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party to liberals, communists and nationalists.

“It’s even not clear how they will hold a May Day demonstration this year, when everybody always used to walk down Nevsky Prospekt and then rallied on Palace Square and St. Isaac’s Square,” Dmitriyev said Tuesday.

“It’s essential not only for civic activists, but also for every citizen, because people, when they are unhappy about anything, want to come to protest where the authorities sit, be it the Governor, the Legislative Assembly, district administrations or courts.

“These are places where it’s forbidden to protest now, so they lose any meaning. Of course, it’s all illegal, it contradicts the Constitution, and we think that the main thing is not how the authorities act, but how the opposition and city residents will act.”

He said that the small site on the Field of Mars offered by City Hall as an allegedly liberal concession, allowing small groups to protest there without the necessary authorization, should be boycotted.

“No self-respecting opposition [campaigners] can rally there, but both Yabloko and the nationalists have taken the bait and obediently go there to rally. It makes no sense.”

The State Duma passed a national law harshly restricting the freedom of assembly in June 2012, following a wave of protests against the flawed State Duma and presidential elections that were held in late 2011 and early 2012. It imposed a number of restrictions on public assemblies and abruptly raised fines for holding unsanctioned protests. Local laws followed.

Rights groups have criticized the law as violating both the Russian Constitution and international agreements.

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What is the deal with Petersburg’s so-called anti-gay law? Why does it have people in Melbourne, Australia, of all places, upset?

People in Melbourne, Australia, should mind their own business. The Petersburg law you mention is not directed against gays, but against the promotion of homosexuality amongst minors. Maybe the people of Melbourne, Australia, are happy to leave their kids at the mercy of predatory faggots, pedophiles, and other sexual and political perverts, but in Petersburg we’re crazy about kids and deeply devoted to Russian Orthodox Christian family values.

Please explain: Doyle on anti-gay law
Jason Dowling
The Age
February 23, 2013

LORD mayor Robert Doyle [of Melbourne] has requested an urgent meeting with Russia’s ambassador and a briefing from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to discuss new anti-gay laws in St Petersburg.

The move follows a petition by Carl Katter, half-brother of federal MP Bob Katter, to have Melbourne City Council dump its sister-city relationship with St Petersburg because he said the Russian city had enacted ”horrific” anti-gay laws.

More than 4800 people have signed the petition at Change.org.

The Russian city has introduced broad laws banning ”homosexual propaganda”.

”It is referred to as the gay propaganda law, but it is all-encompassing,” said Mr Katter, a campaigner for marriage equality.

”Melbourne is one of the most progressive cities of the world … and our mayor and council should be proud of that and stand up to such blatant homophobia,” Mr Katter said.

Cr Doyle said, ”I am very aware of the new laws in St Petersburg.

”I have sought a meeting with the Russian ambassador, I will take advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and once we have had those conversations we will be making further comment,” he said.

”Obviously my first position is, it is always best to continue to talk to try and effect outcomes in a positive way.”

The Italian fashion capital Milan is already believed to have frozen its sister-city relationship with St Petersburg over the gay rights issue.

”The community has been watching what has been happening in St Petersburg and the stories that have been coming out have been pretty devastating – and the fact that we are a sister city with them is not a good look,” Mr Katter said.

 

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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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Russia’s Homophobic Laws Will Not Silence Side by Side LGBT Film Festival

www.bok-o-bok.ru

Russia’s Homophobic and Discriminatory Laws Will Not Silence Saint Petersburg’s Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, Which Starts October 25th and Runs through November 3, 2012

In the face of increasing discrimination and violence towards the LGBT community in Russia, organizers of the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival remain defiant. Throughout the festival’s ten days, maximum visibility and openness will be sought in order to bring home to the public and the authorities the message of respect for the human rights of LGBT people in Russia.

The major theme this year is local and global processes of the LGBT movement: we will explore discourses and practices relating to LGBT politics, activism, and sexual and gender identity rights at the local and global levels. In total, 37 films will be screen, and among the countries providing the focus are Russia, Uganda, China, Cuba, Chile and South Africa, places where LGBT movements are still in their infancy and face great opposition.

The Chilean film Young & Wild, directed by Marialy Rivas, opens the festival. After the screening, Rivas will take part in a Q&A with the audience. She states: “I firmly believe Side by Side stands as a necessary voice for the diversity and visibility of the LGBT community. We need to see our stories on the screen to understand who we are and be able to deal with an aspect as profound and delicate as our own sexuality.”

A major topic of discussion this year is state-sponsored homophobia, drawing on the experiences of Uganda and Russia. Following the screening of the hard-hitting documentary and multiple award winner Call Me Kuchu, which documents the courageous efforts of David Kato and his team to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the fight for LGBT rights in Uganda, Stosh Jovan, a human rights activist from Uganda, will participate in the discussion, along with Igor Kochetkov (LGBT Network) from Russia. Also joining in the debate are Andrey Tolmachev a representative of the office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights in St. Petersburg, and Robert Bierdron, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

For the first time in its history, the festival will present a program of Russian films, “The Beginning,” compromised of new work from directors from around the country. The discussion to follow will address the issue of the visibility (or its lack) of LGBT in art and cinema. Seva Galkin, director of the short film Three Times About It, comments: “We need calm conversation. We are, after all, the same as they are. We have the same aspirations, by and large. We fall in love, think about our career, as well as dream of the sea. We are one of them.” And Svetlana Sigalaeva, director of the documentary Not With Us, says, “I learned the lesson the hard way that your country, or your house, can be a prison, if you’re a girl in love with a girl.”

Other guests include Eytan Fox (Israel), Yang Yang (China), organizer of the Beijing Queer Festival, and Michiel van Erp (Netherlands).

In cooperation with the Swedish documentary film festival Tempo, Side by Side will be screening the work of filmmakers Sara Broos (For You Naked) and Mette Aakerholm Gardell (Not a Man in Sight). Both directors will take part in Q&As following the screening.

As part of the festival, Side by Side will be launching an interactive campaign, Stop Homophobia in Russia! Details to follow.

The complete festival schedule can be viewed here.

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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.

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