Andrei Nechayevsky: Why I Left Crimea

NechaevskyAndrei Nechayevsky

I am from Donetsk myself. My wife and I moved to Crimea ten years ago. We built a house outside of Kerch, in the backcountry. There isn’t a soul there in winter.

Suddenly, in February 2014, Russian choppers were flying over us every night. Then troops marched through Kerch. I saw it with my own eyes.

There was this fabulous thing: Russian religious pilgrims, columns of buses filled with people who were supposedly traveling en masse to worship Crimea’s Orthodox relics. I watched them change into army uniforms in a church yard.

Kerch was inundated with completely atypical characters: there were a huge number of Cossacks. I was getting hassled in town on the street, something that had never happened before. Drunken, fairly strong men would come up to me and ask, “Where you from, lad?” And this “lad”  is fucking forty-five years old!

I got the feeling that everyone had lost their minds. There were rumors all over Crimea that the Right Sector was coming to kill ethnic Russians. Everyone was nervous they would knock down the statue to Lenin, erect a monument to Stepan Bandera, and force everyone to pray to it. People were completely worked up.

An old friend friend rushed into my arms and cried, “Andryukha! Our boys shot down three Banderite planes today, cheers!”

“You mean, three of our boys were shot down?”

“What, are you on the side of the Banderites?!”

“Well, yes.”

“I’ve long known you somehow weren’t Russian.”

Then all the money I had to live on, forty thousand dollars, was confiscated: my bank account was blocked. When everything went totally south, Dinka (my wife) and I wrote a statement renouncing compulsory Russian citizenship, packed one bag each, and left. I am not sure we locked the door as we left the house.

We certainly did not want to leave. It was our whole life. We were very sad as we walked around the garden we had tended for ten years. Dinka took care of the plants, and I fixed things and pottered about, and even was into amateur radio. I left all my things there. I took two English radio tubes and one capacitor, more for the memories than for anything other reason, really. Maybe we will even try to sneak back there and get everything out.

It was a terrible pity, and it still is a pity. But there are things I cannot tolerate under any circumstances. It is like you wake up in the middle of the night and you are being raped. The guy keeps raping you all night, but in the morning he tells you that now you and he are going to the registrar to get married.

There was nothing good in store for us there. The propaganda phase lasts until the invasion, and after the invasion the mopping up and assimilation phase starts. I have read textbooks on how to invade countries. My grandfather was in SMERSH, he was a colonel in the KGB. He had all these amazing textbooks on integrating occupied territories. When I saw this shit was happening where I lived . . .

Good Lord, I would like to live in a province near the sea, but not in a place where “unreliable elements” are purged. All of these special operations are the same. They are taught the same way they were taught before. It is an old scheme, but it works.

We have now moved to Lvov. We are not exactly thrilled: there is no sea here. But life in the new Crimea was incompatible with my idea of a normal life.  If it hadn’t been Russia [that invaded Crimea], but an aggressive Finland, then I probably would have stayed. But Russia now heads the list of countries where I would not want to be.

I think something went wrong in Russia. and quite a long time ago, but I don’t know how to treat it. Dinka has sister whose husband is a priest. Both of them are very Orthodox, very observant. When the first Maidan happened in 2004,  they left their home and fled to the Volga region, because they had been told that the Ukrainians would now come and kill all the Orthodox believers. The Ukrainians didn’t show up, and they went back. You could have shot a sitcom about it.

For me the whole of human history is divided into two parts: the part that makes me ashamed to be a human being, and the other part, which doesn’t make me ashamed. You read the Malleus Maleficarum (“The Hammer of the Witches”), and you feel very ashamed. But then you read Faust,  for example, and you are not ashamed. What is happening in Russia is right out of “Hammer of the Witches.”

I realize the situation has to be resolved somehow, but I have no idea where to find such a number of psychoanalysts and couches. Dinka and I  imagined it in the form of a Martian landing, which drops the couches in on the first wave of parachutes, and the psychoanalysts on the second wave.

But then we realized it wouldn’t work. An individual approach is needed.  You cannot cure this thing with another propaganda campaign and another brainwashing: by the time it was over no one would have any brains left. In this case you have got to take each person by the hand, serve them tea, put a plaid throw over them and say, “That’s it. This shit is fucked. It’s all over. We’re going to kill you now. Everything is fine.”

If you asked me whom I pitied more, the Ukrainians or the Russians, I would say the Russians. Because the Ukrainians have a chance of getting out of this dreary shit in which they are sitting. But the Russians, on the contrary, are sinking ever deeper into it.

Do I find any Ukrainian  politicians likable? I like the fact they exist and they are at each other’s throats. As long as there is a real political struggle, adversarial decision-making, there is a chance things will develop. Imagine: people shit every day. Do I find the rectum likable because it does this? No, but I’m really glad it exists.

I would be happy if there were parliamentary elections once a month in Ukraine, and presidential elections every two months. Because the degree to which the body [politic] is intoxicated is such that it needs constant transfusions of blood and lymph.

It’s a shitty place, in fact, the corpse of the Soviet Union, where we live. Not a single country has emerged here yet. In my opinion, Ukraine has only been parasitizing this corpse all these years. But Russia tries with all its might to pretend this corpse is the best place on earth.

Mr. Nechayevsky’s testimonial is one of several such stories by Crimeans opposed to Russia’s annexation of the peninsula, published on the website Julia & Winston under the title “It’s All Captivity: Life in Occupied Crimea,” on July 23, 2015. Before leaving for Lvov, Nechayevsky and his wife lived in the village of Osoviny, in the far eastern region of the peninsula. Nechayevsky is forty-five years old. Photo courtesy of Julia & Winston.

A Letter from Socrates in Prison

A Letter from Socrates

You can imprison us but you can never break us. We are not neo-Nazis who when they find themselves in prison try to slash their wrists, hang themselves, and swallow razor blades right off the bat. And who in the camps  quickly join the “goats” (kozlyatnya), the prison household work brigades. We can be part of the general prison population. We don’t have to fear that our fingers will be beaten off with a hammer or we will be whacked upside the head with a slipper, because we haven’t done anything “gross.” We don’t judge people by ethnicity, color, and creed. Here in prison we are all “wogs” and “bandits” in the eyes of the law, because we valued honor and truth  more than liberty. We are not Moscow chumps who imagined they were Aryan Vikings, but who as soon they went into the system realized they were not fascists but were like everyone else here. No, in Russia there will never be an Aryan Brotherhood like in the US. In our prisons there is a friendship of peoples.

sokrat_bwAlexei Sutuga

Moscow Babylon has seduced, hoodwinked, and punished all the poor fellows from all over the Soviet Union. Now we all hate those greasy pushers in suits flashing IDs, the stupid cops who have involuntarily become polizei, and we laugh at each other when we tell the stories of how we ended up here. Now, as in the years of the Soviet-era Great Terror, there are entire social groups getting run through the system for the same crimes. This is no fight against crime. It is a war with competitors for control of business and against their own (potential) poverty. The law enforcement agencies are doing business when they jail businessmen and officials for fraud (Article 159 of the Criminal Code). They nick their businesses from them and get rid of competitors who got caught with their hands in the till and did not cut them in on the action. Since the entire Russian business world is built on financial scams and fraudulent schemes, there is no shortage of new criminal cases.

The same is true in drugs trafficking. The terrible Criminal Code Article 228, Parts 3 and 4 (drug dealing), introduced by the president, has made it possible to populate the prisons and camps with Central Asian nationals, which has done nothing at all to disrupt the well-regulated flow of drugs, but justifies the work of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service and the entire Russian Federal Penitentiary Service. And such a time-honored crime among  prisoners as theft (Article 158) gives police investigators wide berth for padding solved cases stats and packing the penitentiaries with mobs of working stiffs and poor folk, who bust their humps in the prison colonies, thus directly lining the pockets of the wardens.

Our entire penitentiary system is a post-Soviet Gulag that has not fully embarked on the capitalist path. Formally, all the system’s rules and regulations have remained as they were in Soviet times, but the current Federal Penitentiary Service employees has no clue how to rehabilitate us. On the other hand, they have learned how to make money off us, from embezzling allocated funds to the personal deals made by criminal investigators at the local level. Russia now has commercial prisons. If you have money, you can forget about the unwritten “understandings” that once reigned. Watch TV and tuck into groceries ordered from the cops’ online store at inflated prices. Almost anything can be bought.  Just don’t rock the system.

Prison is a mirror of our society. But the atomization of the individual is not as forceful as it is on the outside. It is harder to survive alone. That is why it is better to live in “families” than to go crazy alone between four walls. For a long time there has been no doubt that the regime plans to combat and jail us anarchists and anti-fascists. For the time being they are only jailing us. Though now we are not such a big threat to the state, we justifiy the existence of the Center for Extremism Prevention (Center “E”), which does everything it can to defend its beloved regime. Although in most cases this amounts to combating seditious posts on the Internet.

sokrat_pismoManuscript of Sutuga’s letter

Our country is big, and things like the riots on Bolotnaya Square or the capture of ruthless antifa hooligan do not happen every months. So for the time we are the smallest group in the prison community. And yet the anti-extremism police eat their government-issued bread for nothing. They are unscrupulous. Although they are clumsy at fabricating cases,  they are doing quite well for themselves. And so every criminal case against a comrade of ours must be turned into a campaign to defend the individual from the state’s power over him or her. All the punitive institutions of the state should be subjected to attack. We and the people are on one side, and this leviathan with legs and dressed in a uniform is on the other.

Alexei “Socrates” Sutuga

*****

This letter was originally written as an article, entitled “Alexei Sutuga’s Letter from Behind Bars,” and published on July 19, 2015,in Avtonom 36 (2015).

Images, above, courtesy of Autonomous Action

Thanks to Vladimir Akimenkov for the heads-up. If you follow this last link  you will find information, in Russian, about Sutuga’s address at the prison colony in Angarsk where he is currently serving his sentence, where and how to send letters to him, and how you can help him and his family financially.

OVDInfo.org has published the following summary of Sutuga’s case:

Alexei Sutuga is an anti-fascist and member of the Autonomous Action anarchist movement. In April 2012, he was arrested on suspicion that on December 4, 2011, he and a group of anti-fascists had assaulted a group of young nationalists, and that on December 17, 2011, he and his friend the anti-fascist Alexei Olesinov had assaulted security guards at the Vozdukh Club in Moscow. The accused and people who had been attending a concert at the club testified that the security guards had themselves provoked the fight and used weapons. In 2013, police investigators admitted that Sutuga had had nothing to do with the incident on December 4, 2011. In  the summer of 2013, he was released on bail from remand prison, and in January 2014 the case against him was closed as part of an amnesty. Afterwards, according to Sutuga, Center “E” officers threatened him with “problems.”

In April 2014, Sutuga was detained  by Center “E” operatives after an anti-fascist concert in Moscow’s Izmailovo district. According to a report by the For Human Rights Movement, ten other people were detained besides Sutuga. The pretext was a crime committed by a person unknown in the vicinity of the concert, but according to the human rights activists, there were no grounds for suspecting the anti-fascists. Sutuga was asked about a trip to Maidan as he was being detained. All the other detainees were soon released, but a disorderly conduct report was filed against Sutuga and he was kept at the police station.  He was later charged with having delivered multiple blows with a chair, his feet, and an improvised hammer to several people during a fight at a Sbarro chain restaurant outlet on January 2, 2014. Sutuga himself claimed that he had been trying to separate the people involved in the fight, which, according to him, had taken place between a group of right-wing youth and another group of young people, and that in the process of pulling them apart he had struck someone once. On October 1, 2014, Sutuga was sentenced to three years and one month in a medium-security penal colony. On December  17, 2014, an appeals court upheld the judgment.

In April of this year, Antti Rautiainen reported the following to Infoshop News (which I have summarized).

Sutuga has been transferred to the Irkutsk Region. He has refused to do household work in prison (which could reduce his sentence), unlike neo-Nazis Maxim Martsinkevich and Roman Zheleznov, as this form of collaborating with prison wardens is impossible for an anarchist.

Sutuga is twenty-nine years old. His sentence will end in May 2017.

On March 17, Sutuga went on hunger strike, demanding that his confiscated letters and books be returned to him and that he be transferred from the remand prison in Irkutsk, where he was incarcerated, to a prison colony.

On March 22, Sutuga was transferred to Prison Colony No.14 in Angarsk.

The Memorial Human Rights Center declared Sutuga a political prisoner on March 20.

Sutuga has a wife and child who live in Ukraine. His spouse is studying for a PhD and raising their child.

The cost of a two-way flight to Angarsk for his wife and son is about 60,000 rubles (approx. 1,200 euros). Only one long-term conjugal/family visit is permitted every three months. Alexei’s family needs money for sending parcels of food and other necessities to the prison colony.

To Remember: Last Address Returns to Petersburg

Чтобы помнили

To Remember
Natalya Shkurenok
June 27, 2015
Novaya Gazeta Saint Petersburg

Last Address’s installation of memorial plaques brings us back to real history, to understanding the past and the present, without which the future is impossible.

In Petersburg this past weekend, memorial plaques appeared on six more houses, memorializing nine more people and reminding the living about the terrible turns Russian history has taken. It would be no exaggeration to call these people the cream of the crop, the salt of the earth: academics, engineers, artists, teachers, and physicians. Without people like them, no society can survive, but these people do not even have graves.  But there are relatives, friends, and kindred spirits whose hearts are moved by the ashes of the innocent victims.

On the Basis of Ethnicity

“I am attending my father’s funeral after seventy-eight years,” says a tall elderly man holding a bouquet of red roses and barely hold backing his tears.

Then he falls silent, places the flowers on the pavement next to the wall of house No. 1 on Maly Prospect, Petrograd Side, and steps away, covering his face with his hands.

When Stanislaw Kozlowski, an engineer at the Plastics Factory, was arrested in the summer of 1937, his son had been born only a month earlier. Two weeks later, his father was shot. His mother’s sister, who took him in, saved little Henryk from life in the camps. His mother was released only in 1947, followed by the 101st kilometer, a ban on living in Leningrad, and a life in Volkhov, an industrial town 122 kilometers east of Leningrad. During Khrushchev’s Thaw, as former victims of political repression, they were given a room in Leningrad, but by that time Henryk had already graduated from the Polytechnic Institute, and sharing a room with his mother was uncomfortable. He first worked at Krasnoyarsk, Bratsk, and Ust-Ilim hydroelectric stations, then in Syria.

“My father was a Pole. He went to the Polish school at Saint Catherine’s Church on Nevsky,” Henryk Kozlowski told Novaya Gazeta. “Eight of them were shot dead all at once. They had gone to school together and maintained relations. They were declared spies, just like everyone else then. But if it had only been them! Do you see that stadium over there? Imagine that in just two years, 1937 and 1938, two such stadiums of people were shot, nearly 42,000 people.”

Before the war, the well-known Leningrad artist Bronislaw Malachowski had lived in the same building. He was the same Malachowski who conceived and drew Smart Masha, the heroine of very popular children’s comics strip. The prototype of Smart Masha was the artist’s own daughter Katya. Malachowski also modeled Malvina and Buratino, for Alexei Tolstoy’s new book, on his own children, Katya and Dima.

On Saturday, the corner house, Maly Prospect, Petrograd Side, 1/3 (at the intersection with Zhdanovka Embankment), looked like a street exhibition on opening day, complete with stands containing photos, original graphic works on easels or simply propped against the wall, and a dense ring of viewers, perusing photos and works that few of them had seen before.

“That is my grandpa, and that is Nappelbaum, and here is my grandmother,” says Vasily Malachowski, Bronislaw’s grandson, pointing to the photographs. “Leningrad artists, actors, and writers often gathered at their house, and Grandpa was friends with Alexei Tolstoy.”

In the summer of 1937, when parents and children were vacationing in the Pushkin Hills, Bronislaw was taken, never to be seen again by his family.  His wife, Maria, and son and daughter were deported from Leningrad, first to Kazakhstan. Later, they moved to the Perm Region. Soon Malachowski was shot. His descendants never returned to the apartment on the Petrograd Side. The NKVD confiscated the artist’s entire archive, including his artworks, sketches, and architectural designs. What happened to the archive is still unknown. Maria died in 1948. She was back in prison again for violating passport regulations.

The children were adopted by the famous artist Natan Altman and his wife, who was the aunt of the Malachowski children. Katya studied at a ballet school in Moscow, while Dima stayed with the Altmans. A graduate of the geography department, he defended his doctoral dissertation. His son, Vasily, the artist’s grandson, studied at the Leningrad State University geology department. But his daughter Stanislava has followed in her great-grandfather’s footsteps. A graduate of the Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy, she has collected a huge amount of material on her family’s history and its Polish roots.

“Grandfather and grandmother were innocent victims,” argues Vasily. “Unfortunately, their lives were short and tragic. But now people who never knew them have taken an interest in them and begun to love them, and this is an instance of immortality. If the soul is kind and good, it always manifests itself and will go on living in kind hearts.”

Science? Kill It!

Perhaps only a few people now remember the name of Arkady Borodin, a professor of history and law. Scant records of his life have been preserved in the archives of the Library of the Academy of Sciences (BAN), where he worked in his final years, and in the case files of the so-called Academic Affair, a tragic page in the history of Russian scholarship. Between 1929 and 1931, the OGPU fabricated a criminal case against a group of scholars in Leningrad. In 1924, Borodin was dismissed from the university as a hereditary nobleman, and from 1925 to 1929 he was in charge of the alphabetical card catalogue at the BAN. In 1931, Borodin was sentenced to ten years in prison. He served part of his sentence in the Solovki prison camp before being transferred to construction of the White Sea Canal. He died near Medvezhyegorsk in 1932. Borodin’s last address was Bolshaya Pushkarskaya, 1. Now, at the behest of his granddaughter, a memorial plaque has been erected there.

A memorial plaque has also appeared on the 11th Line of Vasilyevsky Island, No. 44, whence the famous mathematician and meteorologist Boris Izvekov set out on his final journey.

“I saw my father for the last time from way over there, on the 10th Line,” says Tatyana Bulakh-Izvekova, the scientist’s daughter, pointing. “We left the house, and Dad saw us off, gazing out the window. We never saw each other again. This was his last address. He was arrested here. The two windows on the third floor were his study.”

Case No. 555 is a terrible testimony to the destruction of scientists in Leningrad at the very beginning of the war. This story began in the late 1930s, however. In the mid 1990s, the famous Russian writer Yaroslav Golovanov published an article entitled “Executioners and Victims: Case No. 555” in the magazine Ogonyok. The article discusses NKVD staff informant Yevgeny Merkulov, also known as TV. In the late 1930s, his insinuations led to the arrests and imprisonment of over thirty scientists. But at the beginning of the war, in late 1941, the Leningrad NKVD launched a massive case against the “counterrevolutionary activity” of corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences Ignatovsky and his “group” in order to prove its need to stay in the rear. Based on TV’s denunciations, between the fall of 1941 and the winter of 1942, over 130 scientists, professors, and lecturers (physicists, mathematicians, and geophysicists) were arrested, shot, tortured, and sent to labor camps.

“I don’t know where father died. Golovanov wrote that it happened during transportation to the camps, but I never have found out where and when,” says Tatyana. “Most likely, he died in an internal NKVD prison. I am so glad that I have at least some memorial in place of a grave.”

Rereading Him Again

Grigory Gukovsky, a prominent Soviet literary scholar, university lecturer, and Pushkin House fellow also has no grave. Gukovsky was arrested twice: in 1941, for “counterrevolutionary propaganda” (but was soon released for lack of evidence), and in July 1949, as part of the fight against “cosmopolitanism.”

“There was an arrest and search,” recounts Gukovsky’s great-granddaughter Kira Dolinina, a well-known Petersburg art historian, critic, and lecturer at the European University. “The case was closed due to his death. All this papers were destroyed, including manuscripts of articles and books he was working on. Our family doesn’t have a single document about the family. The man was left to rot, the documents went missing.”

Dolinina and her mother read Gukovsky’s case file in the FSB archives. The telling interrogation reports produced a terrible impression: the interrogation lasted eight hours, but the minutes take up only two pages.

“What were they doing the rest of the time? Torturing him, beating him?” asks Dolinina. “What we were able to read confirmed our guess: my great-grandfather and his brother Matvei Gukovsky were arrested as part of the Leningrad Affair. Hence the investigator for special affairs, and the fact the case was investigated in Moscow. All the case material makes it clear the NKVD was interested in Alexander Voznesensky, rector of the university. So it was not a matter of ‘combating cosmopolitanism.’”

Yuri Lotman, Georgy Makogonenko, and Grigory Byaly were Gukovsky’s students. When information spread on the internet that a memorial plaque to Gukovsky would appear on the house that now stands at 13th Line, 56, his relatives began receiving poignant letters.

“Hello, Kira! My name is Nelly Venskaya. I am eighty-seven years old and studied with your renowned great-grandfather. […] It was not easy to get into Gukovsky’s lectures in 1949. Places in the auditorium were occupied in advance, because, in addition to Leningrad University students, students from all the institutes of higher learning tried to cram in, students from the construction institute, the medical schools, the pedagogical institute, and the polytechnic. They sat on the windowsills, the floor, and the piano, under the piano. The lectures were broadcast in the corridors and the lobby. […] The last cycle that we were lucky enough to hear were his brilliant lectures on Pushkin. The next subject was Gogol, and we were looking forward to the explosion of wit, unexpected comparisons, and profound revelations. […] But no one ever heard that cycle.”

“In Russian literature studies Gukovsky was the principal researcher of eighteenth-century literature,” says Andrei Kostin, academic secretary at Pushkin House. “He got the collected works of Radishchev published, and was a brilliant researcher. Gukovsky shaped the Soviet view of the entire eighteenth century. His death and the loss of his manuscripts are an enormous tragedy for Russian scholarship.”

Family Saves the World

The Belenky-Bogdanov family has preserved the memory of their forebears, who lived at Bolshaya Pushkarskaya, 39, on the Petrograd Side, in the late 1930s. One summer morning in 1937, first the father, Pavel Belenky, a bookkeeper, was taken away from their small room in a communal flat, then the mother, Lydia Bogdanova, a housewife. Their son Vladimir survived. He is is now eighty-five years and lives in Moscow. Because of poor health Vladimir was unable to attend the installation of the commerorative plaque. Instead, his grandson Arseny, great-grandson of the murdered Lydia Bogdanov and Pavel Belenky, came to Petersburg for the ceremony.

“I remember this. I think it is impossible to forget,” said Arseny Belenky during the installation ceremony. “I have a son, whom I will definitely bring to Petersburg and show him the house where his ancestors once lived.”

Almost the entire Dauman family gathered in Petersburg for the first time since 1937 for the installation of a plaque commemorating their forebears. Abram Dauman, who received his education as a surgeon in Germany, operated on the wounded on the front during the First World War. For this he received personal nobility and personal arms, and was awarded the Orders of Saint Stanislaus and Saint George. Learning about the awards, his colleagues commissioned the orders from respected jewelers at their own expense and presented them to Dauman as a token of their profound respect.

Ilya Dauman practiced shorthand. He had his own technique on which he wrote a textbook.

The Dauman brothers moved to Nekrasov Street, 6, in 1924. The whirlwinds of the revolution had brought them from Harbin.

“From my father’s stories I know that when they came to arrest grandfather, my father, who was still little, was told, ‘And you, boy, go to sleep,’” recounts Alexei, grandson of the murdered Abram Dauman. “My dad was taken in by his aunt’s family, although her husband was also arrested, interrogated, and tortured. They cut off four of his fingers, but he did not confess to anything, signed no papers, and was ultimately released.”

First, the older brother, Abram, was arrested. The younger brother, Ilya, was on a business trip in Yekaterinburg at the time.

“His relatives wrote to him not to come back, that his brother had been arrested,” recounts William Rozenson, nephew of the murdered men. “But he replied that he hadn’t done anything and he came back. He was arrested immediately. His wife, although she had divorced him, did not abandon her husband and was also exiled.”

Descendants of the family live in different Russian cities and different countries. One of them could not make the trip to Petersburg from Brazil. But for all of them this house on Nekrasov Street is one of the most important places on earth.

Photos by Yelena Lukyanova

Translated by The Russian Reader. You can read about the Last Address project’s first visit to Petersburg, in the spring of this year, here.

Irina Bogatyreva: How Opinion Polls Are Conducted in Russia

How Opinion Polls Are Conducted in Russia
Irina Bogatyreva
July 23, 2015
About Russia

11151029_877218092326378_2792365210284757073_nIrina Bogatyreva

I just took part in one of the famous polls by VTsIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Center). They actually exist!

You are warned the survey is anonymous. First, you are asked your name (no surname), whether you are a citizen of the Russian Federation, whether you have a residence permit and whether you have had it for long, your age, education, and, finally, your occupation, income level, and your address, after all.

I was warned the survey would be about the erection of monuments, but in the event I was asked about my attitude to the president, the prime minister, the government, and the mayor, which party I intended to vote for at the elections, about Moscow’s problems, about [the incredibly controversial compulsory residential housing renovations fee, now included in monthly housing maintenance payments in Moscow], whether I am planning to emigrate abroad, and whether I consider emigrants traitors.

This was all prefaced with the phrase, “Of course, maybe you consider questions about politics uninteresting, but . . .”

I was asked twice about the monument to Dzerzhinsky, at the beginning and the end. (“Why twice?” “I don’t know, I’m just the interviewer.”) The first time I could reply as I chose, the second time, I could not. I wonder: if people give different answers, which one counts?

[Translator’s Note. It appears the Communist Party itself has just called off its proposed referendum which would have asked Muscovites whether they wanted a controversial monument to Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinsky, torn down in August 1991, returned to its former site on Lubyanka Square.]

There were three possible answers to the question of [where to place a 24-meter-tall monument to Prince Vladimir, which has caused a huge public outcry in Moscow]: on Lubyanka, on Borovitskaya Square, in the Sparrow Hills. Saying “I don’t want it at all” was not an option.

Here and there, the survey was worded quite quaintly. For example, “Which party, in your view, has made the greater contribution to Moscow’s development?” All the existing parties where listed off, although only the Udrussians [United Russians], the commies, and one Zhirinovskyite sit in the Moscow City Duma. (“Your question is worded incorrectly.” “I don’t know anything, I’m just the interviewer.”)

They rang me at 1:00 p.m. I just happened to be at home. Working people are usually at work at this time, while it is pensioners and housewives who are at home then. I have long suspected that it is these people who “shape” all these polls.

Translated by The Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade SC for the heads-up. This is the latest in a series of occasional posts about the Russian authoritarian regime’s use of public opinion polling, which I have dubbed pollocracy. After all, what kind of “anonymous” polling requires the respondent to identify their address?

Learning Is Fundamentalist

Greg Yudin
June 24, 2015
Facebook

Imagine you are the president of a big country, and you don’t like the fact that foreign foundations are funding your children and acquiring too much influence over them. Can such things happen? Of course they can. What do you do in this case? That’s right, you immediately offer talented young people different options for self-realization and launch funding programs in different areas. And then, all other things being equal, your children will gladly choose domestic funding. After all, they love their country and have dealings with foreign foundations only for lack of something better. What choices do they have?

steig-spiteful-little-man

Now imagine you are spiteful little paranoiac who believes that people can only be bought and intimidated; otherwise, they won’t do anything. If you allow your children to get support from foreign foundations, they will immediately sell you out. For there is no reason to love you. And everything that is happening is meant to spite you and turn everyone against you. So then the first thing you will do is not think about the children but combat your enemies. You’ll say that children who are supported by foreign foundations have fallen into the enemy’s clutches. And you’ll spend money on propaganda so that everyone finds out about this and those children get scared.

Because in Russia there are pitifully few opportunities to break through and get your ideas heard. To do this you usually have to be born in Moscow and have good contacts. How many times have I heard from mayors, administrators, and all sorts of people outside of Moscow that the main problem is there is no way to engage young people, that young people do not know what to take up in life. In fact, young people who have had the courage, patience, and talent to secure support from any foundation are the nation’s gold. They are capable of creating something while overcoming difficulties. And now they are being told they are potential traitors. Because they have a dream and are prepared to go for it.

__________

Putin Accuses Foreign Organizations of Looting Russia’s Brightest Youth
June 24, 2015
The Moscow Times

President Vladimir Putin has accused foreign-backed organizations of pillaging through Russian schools in search of their most talented pupils and then spiriting them away via educational programs abroad, state news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

Speaking at a meeting of the Council for Science and Education, Putin said it was necessary to pay attention to the work of nongovernmental organizations in schools because they threatened to suck Russia dry of its future talent.

“A network of [foreign] organizations has ‘rummaged’ through the schools in the Russian Federation for many years under the guise of supporting talented young people. In reality, they simply hoover everything up like a vacuum,” he was cited as saying by RIA.

Putin was responding to comments by Vladimir Fortov, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who said in March that a “brain drain” was robbing the country of its future talent as educated youngsters sought out lives abroad.

Last year, as relations between Moscow and the West became strained over the crisis in Ukraine, Russia canceled an education exchange partnership with the United States in protest of the alleged adoption of a student by a same-sex couple.

The FLEX — or Future Leaders Exchange — program was established in 1992 and saw more than 8,000 Russian high schoolers travel to the United States for study purposes.

 learning is fundamental

 

[Vladimir Gelman]
Why foreign education does not meet the “highest international standards”
June 22, 2015
grey-dolphin.livejournal.com

The Russian government has decided that educations in political science, history, sociology, and other disciplines received at foreign universities do not meet the “highest international standards.” This follows from the list affirmed by Russian Federal Government Decree No. 1101-r (dated June 15, 2015). The document, which runs to over two hundred pages, includes a list of foreign universities that are among the leaders in the international rankings, a list that has been corrected compared to a similar document adopted a year ago. Whereas last year’s version of the document merely included a list of the universities, the current document specifies which areas and specialties in these institutions are in accordance with the Russian national classification.

What is significant is not which areas and specialties the Russian authorities have deemed as meeting the “highest international standards,” but which of them have not been included in this list. If you follow the government’s list, an education in political science, sociology, history, law, journalism, etc., at Harvard or Oxford does not meet the “highest international standards.” From the viewpoint of the Russian authorities, chemistry, physics, and even “economics and management” can be global, but political science and history are “sovereign” disciplines.

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