Ilya Budraitskis: “Trial”

“Trial”
Ilya Budraitskis
July 24, 2014
OpenLeft.Ru

Udaltsov: four and a half years in prison. Razvozzhayev: four and a half years in prison.

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“You were paid to come here, right?” the girl in uniform at the entrance to Moscow City Court asked out of habit. Then came the long hours of standing with sympathizers, acquaintances, and strangers listening as the sentence in the trial of Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev was read out. The Bolotnaya Square case is only two years old, but it seems a whole lifetime has passed.

Slurring the words, Judge Alexander Zamashnyuk and his henchmen took turns reading out the full version of the idiotic detective story, a puzzle whose pieces have finally fallen into place: long-cherished dreams of violent revolution, the heady atmosphere of the Movement for Fair Elections, the connection with Georgian intelligence and clandestine seminars on how Maidan was organized (then it was still the previous Maidan), the columns of “anarchists and nationalists” on May 6, 2012, in Moscow, the “riots,” with all their participants and “hallmarks.”

The absurd picture of a conspiracy, which just recently provoked laughter, now finds support and understanding in the eyes of the frightened and brutalized “new Putin majority,” who seemingly think it is nice everything ended on May 6, 2012, and that the prison sentences and frame-ups are the price that must be paid for perpetual Russian stability.

Like the other Bolotnaya Square prisoners, Sergei Udaltsov is no longer a symbol of a movement that served its purpose but something much more than that. He is a reminder that resisting, dissenting, and undermining the false unity of the people and the state continue to be historical possibilities.

Free Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev!

Russian Folk Art

Here is an amazing bit of “folk art” I just captured on Facebook. What’s amazing about it is that it turns on their head all the impossible contortions that Russian state and mainstream media, and segments of Russian social media have been going through, over the past week, to befuddle the Russian public as to who might have shot down Flight MH17 (as described here, for example, by the indispensable Peter Pomerantsev), attributing them instead to US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. In the past couple months, Psaki has been elevated by the “pro-Russian” crowd (meaning the same state/”grassroots” media synergy behind the contortionist act) into a Great Satan figure, emblematic of American stupidity and ignorance.
folk art

The missile that shot down the Boeing was launched from the cruiser Aurora, which, under the cover of night, and escorted by the FSB, arrived on the shores of Belarus. It launched the missile and just as quietly rowed back, via the Great Rostov Ridge, to Petersburg.

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On the so-called Psaking phenomenon:

Jen Psaki became one of the favorite targets of the Russian media. RG.ru published an article entitled “Jen Psaki found mountains in Rostov Oblast.” The article attributes direct quotes supposedly obtained by journalist Matt Lee about Ukrainian refugees to Russia, whom Psaki was said to have referred to as “tourists traveling to enjoy Rostov’ mountains.” Matt Lee promptly denied ever having such a conversation with Psaki, asserting that the claims in the article were false. In spite of Lee refuting claims in the article, the same allegations were regurgitated by Komsomolskaya Pravda and other news outlets, some of which attributed the fake quotes to Associated Press. Lenta.ru published an apology to Jen Psaki for re-printing the said false claims. None of the other outlets apologized, but instead went on to pontificate about Psaki’s prior commentary, continuing to attack her credibility.

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While society at large is complicit in this hysteria, to say the least, it cannot be stressed too many times how much of this “folk wisdom” about current affairs and “popular support” for whatever way the Putinist line is bending, has been generated either by state media outright or by covert paid commentators (i.e., Internet trolls), operating out of offices like this in the Petersburg suburb of Olgino:

Local reporters have infiltrated a covert organization that hired young people as “Internet operators” near St. Petersburg and discovered that the employees are being paid to write pro-Kremlin postings and comments on the Internet, smearing opposition leader Alexei Navalny and U.S. politics and culture.

Journalists from the MR7.ru website and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper have reacted to a posting by St. Petersburg local Natalya Lvova, who wrote on the Russian VKontakte social network about an interview she attended on Aug. 30 at what she described as a “posh cottage with glass walls” in Olgino, a village in St. Petersburg’s Kurortny District.

According to Lvova, the office occupying two rooms reminded her of an “internet club with lots of computers and people.” Employees in one room wrote blog posts for social networks, while those in the other room specialized in comments.

“To my question about a technical task — what exactly should be written in the comments — a young guy, a coordinator, told me, briefly and clearly, that they were having busy days at the moment and that yesterday they all wrote in support of [Moscow acting mayor Sergei] Sobyanin, while ‘today we shit on Navalny,’” she wrote on her VKontakte page.

According to Lvova, each commenter was to write no less than 100 comments a day, while people in the other room were to write four postings a day, which then went to the other employees whose job was to post them on social networks as widely as possible.

Employees at the company, located at 131 Lakhtinsky Prospekt, were paid 1,180 rubles ($36.50) for a full 8-hour day and received a free lunch, Lvova wrote.

source: St. Petersburg Times

 

The Shipping Forecast

While Manifesta 10′s “public” program sets all that is left of progressive humanity (i.e., the contemporary art world) on fire with its overly provocative metallic Xmas trees, actual public and political life stubbornly and unattractively creaks on in the city that progress and progressive humanity have forgotten, Saint Petersburg, former capital of All the Russias.

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This life is of no interest to almost anyone, practically, even in Petersburg itself, so take what follows the way I and many other radio listeners the world over consume the beloved “Shipping Forecast” on BBC Radio 4—as a series of pleasant but ultimately meaningless vocables that have absolutely nothing to do with the way we self-satisfied landlubbers lead our rich, perfectly dry lives.

Gubernatorial and municipal district council elections are scheduled for September 14 in Saint Petersburg. However, even before the pretenders began formally declaring their candidacies this month, many observers, including liberal journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, argued that the fix was in, and the Smolny would never allow any serious opposition to the incumbent (the unelected Kremlin appointee Georgy Poltavchenko) or whatever other candidate the Kremlin might suddenly choose to run for the job.

And indeed that it was has happened. Perhaps the only (mildly) oppositional candidate with the popularity and support to make the race real, Oksana Dmitrieva of A Just Russia party, was nixed before she got to the starting blocks. She didn’t pass the so-called municipal filter—formal approval of her candidacy by a minimum of 156 district council deputies.

I couldn’t find any report about any of this monkey business in English, but hilariously I did find a badly translated statement from the United Russia ruling party angrily denouncing Dmitrieva for having the temerity to suggest there was something fishy about her failing to get through the filter and demanding an apology from her.

Well, sayonara, fair Oksana. We, the enlightened Petersburg “public,” barely knew who you were anyway, so we won’t miss you.

However, really serious candidates, like Takhir Bikbayev of the “Greens Ecological Party,” a man whose name is synonymous in the minds of Petersburg voters with all things environmental and progressive, (that’s a joke: I really have never heard of him before nor, I gather, has anyone else), easily passed through the dreaded filter.

Meanwhile, opposition candidates are being purged right and left from the district council races or otherwise prevented from registering. One such victim of Putinist vigilance is Fyodor Gorozhanko, a well-known local grassroots housing rights advocate, who was dismissed from the elections after United Russia complained he had “misled” voters who signed a petition supporting his candidacy. A court has upheld the complaint.

How exactly did Gorozhanko “mislead” voters? On the standard-issue petition sheets voters sign to get candidates on the ballot, there is a blank where the candidate has to state whether he or she is “employed” and where. Since Gorozhanko works a volunteer aide to Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy Maxim Reznik, he crossed out the word “employed” and pencilled in what he does now in lieu of gainful employment. This is how he “misled” voters. Gorozhanko plans to appeal the court’s decision…

Man, this local politics shit is so, so boring. I’m going to switch on the “Shipping Forecast” and wait for a contemporary artist to make another provocative statement in public space about public space and history. Now that will be something to talk about.

P.S. While I was gussying up this post, incumbent Georgy Poltavchenko officially declared his candidacy. He will face stiff competition on September 14 from Irina Ivanova (CPRF), Konstantin Sukhenko (LDPR), Takhir Bikbayev (Greens), and Andrei Petrov (Motherland). I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of Petersburg will have never heard of any of these candidates except for Poltavchenko, of course, although Ivanova and Sukhenko are deputies in the city’s legislative assembly.

Oksana Dmitrieva (A Just Russia) and Anatoly Golov (Yabloko) were refused registration. Dmitrieva has claimed that Poltavchenko pressured municipal deputies into not supporting her candidacy and has filed complaints with the prosecutor general’s office and the central electoral commission. 

Oleg Dorman: The One Hundred and Two Point Seven Percent

This comment on his Facebook page by film director Oleg Dorman suffers from many of the clichés and falls into many well-worn tropes of recent Russian “intelligentsia vs. ordinary people” discourse (including the suspiciously popular device of getting the skinny on what “ordinary people” think from taxi drivers). Unfortunately, his explanation of why Putin has been enjoying sky-high ratings sounds more plausible, given our own experience discussing politics (with lots of people who are not taxi drivers) than many others out there, and that is why we felt like translating and publishing it here. And in reality, Dorman’s remarks apply equally or even more so to the so-called intelligentsia, middle classes, and creative classes, something he probably doesn’t need us to tell him, given his wonderful film about renowned translator Liliana Lungina.

Thanks to Comrade ASK for the heads-up.

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Oleg Dorman

A little more philistinism.

Eighty percent support, ninety percent support, one hundred two point seven percent support. This means one thing: mass man has understood that the authorities have him by the apple again. When a Gelendzhik cabbie explained to me that “under Putin” salaries were paid punctually, “and if they don’t pay you for two months, you can go to your boss and threaten to sue,” he thus unconsciously meant his salary depends on Putin. Gelendzhik is an ugly city, like most newish Russian cities, that is, everything manmade is ugly, the houses first of all, despite the fact they are private homes. I think the reason is simple: everyone knows that your home is not yours. They can take it away at any time. They can take away everything. To fuss over the beauty of your lawn, you must be sure your great-grandchildren will inherit it. Otherwise, everything is temporary, accidental: a piece of gray slate, propped up by a rusty headboard. A clear understanding—or rather, animal instinct—that your life is totally dependent on the authorities is what makes mass man watch television continuously. He is not “fooled” at all; on the contrary, he knows that his salary, pension, and the lives of his children and grandchildren depend on what Dmitry Kiselyov says on the tube. And today’s overheated airwaves, which cause the thinking person to rage and protest, evoke a correct understanding in mass man: dangerous times have come again. If you mouth off, you’re a goner. That is why he fiercely replies “Yes, yes, yes!” to a question that essentially should be worded, “Do you support the TV?” It is the fury of a cornered, disenfranchised, scared and soundly beaten person. There is nothing else to the ninety percent approval ratings. Nobody will lift a finger “for Putin” when they come to stuff him back in his bottle. No one will defend the current “state of affairs,” because people defend their executioners only while the executioners are in power. No one cares the slightest about Ukraine, the Crimea, the Americans. It’s even sad in its own way, but it’s true. There is pity for the victims, but this makes TV viewers even more scared for their own children, who are helpless before the authorities. “Nationwide support” is a fatal symptom. Now, like an animal tamer at the circus, the authorities would be wise not to turn their backs on their charges.

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Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: My Country’s Pain

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First, the Russian authorities have gotten so adept at reacting to protests that now they react even to a neighboring country as if it were a demonstration that can and should be dispersed.

Second, in this picture is all the pain of my country in the twentieth century and now in the twenty-first as well. This pain is called the “right of the strong.”

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Conspiracy Theories


Russian humorist and occasional liberal opposition activist Viktor Shenderovich sums up the topsy turvy “explanations” of the MH17 crash now being fed to the Russian public via mainstream media outlets and social networks:

So. On Washington’s instructions, to discredit the Donetsk Republic, a plane filled ahead of time with corpses was specially sent through an area occupied by militants and, as witnessed by a Spanish man, was shot down by two Ukrainian fighter planes, who took it for the Russian president’s plane. Have I forgotten anything?

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Ilya Matveev: The New Putinist Stability?

Events are unfolding in plain sight, and strange as it might seem, the flood of disinformation cannot prevent us from seeing a quite simple picture.

The subway workers’ union had long warned of the danger, and there had generally been a lot of reports in the press on the growing number of accidents in the Moscow Metro, and now there has been a new fatal accident.

The last couple of weeks, Russian media had reported constantly about how deftly the separatists had learned to use the Buk surface-to-air missile system and how many Ukrainian airplanes had been shot down. Just before news of the Malaysian airliner broke, reports had managed to surface—in “Strelkov’s dispatches,” in the media, everywhere—that the militants had shot down another Ukrainian transport plane. The plane turned out to be the civilian jetliner.

Recent articles in Vedomosti newspaper and especially leaks at b0ltai.wordpress.com make it easy to piece together the fiscal and economic situation in Russia. The country is in an “autonomous” recession, meaning one caused by internal factors. The resources for growth have been exhausted, and there is no money for Crimea or for executing Putin’s May 2012 presidential decrees. The government is preparing to respond with austerity measures: the abolition of free medical care for nonworking citizens, tax increases, and another raid on retirement savings. For now the situation is rough but not catastrophic. At the same time the overall trajectory is clear: there will be less and less money, and it will be ordinary people who pay the bills.

However, there is no one to protest: all the country’s internal contradictions, which were somehow politically articulated in 2011-2013, have been crushed by the Crimean steamroller, and the opposition is divided and marginalized. The population has closed ranks around the new Putin “geopolitics,” becoming an aggressively frightened mass. Any possibility of electoral protest has been completely blocked off: with stunning cynicism, the field has been purged in the run-up to municipal elections in Moscow and Petersburg.

We can see that the new system is closed upon itself: the geopolitical adventures are needed, ultimately, only to strengthen Putin’s personal power, to maintain his sky-high rating. The exact same role is performed by mega-events like the Olympics and the 2018 World Cup. Yet the economic cost of the geopolitics and mega-events will be huge, and people themselves will foot the bill (for sanctions, for Crimea, for kickbacks). However, the imperialist ideology surrounding the events for which they are paying out of their pockets will prevent them from articulating their protest politically. It is a paradox, but a paradox that has already been observed in history. Recall, for one, Marx’s remark that Louis Bonaparte ruled in the name of the peasant masses (who supported him at elections) but against the interests of these masses.

This new period of stability might last as long as the previous one. No, it is no longer the apolitical period of stability of the noughties, but it might prove no less stable.

Ilya Matveev is an editor of OpenLeft.Ru, a member of the PS Lab research group, a lecturer in political theory at the North-West Institute of Management (Petersburg), a PhD student at the European University (Petersburg), and a member of the central council of the University Solidarity trade union.