Sticks and stones: the blogs of Oleg Kashin

Oleg Kashin, a journalist for Kommersant newspaper, was brutally beaten in Moscow last weekend. Unknown assailants broke his jaw, legs and bent his fingers. He remains critically ill. Here we publish a selection of Kashin’s blog entries.

"An end to impunity for crimes against journalists" — Kashin's friends and colleagues have for several days been picketing the Moscow  Department of Internal Affairs. Photo: Hegtor

As a generalist, Oleg Kashin covered almost any topic: the singer Zemfira, the director Nikita Mikhalkov, the Kremlin mores of the era of Stalin and Putin, the defenders of the Khimki forest, and politicians, from Gaidar to Chernomyrdin. His articles were published in Kommersant, both in the newspaper and separate blog. Kashin had a column in the Russian version of Forbes, and a full list of his articles and commentaries can be read on his two blogs on LiveJournal.com. His diverse and omnivorous activity complicates the work of investigators, who cannot understand for sure where the blow to Oleg Kashin came from.

16 August 2010

Kashin once published an unflattering report about the governor of the Pskov Oblast, Andrei Turchak, who demanded an apology for the comments. Turchak was particularly offended at the word “shitty”, used about him in passing. Five hours after his original post, the Pskov governor unexpectedly appeared in the comments:

“Young man, you have 24 hours to apologize. You can do this here in this branch or with a separate post. The countdown has begun.”

“Excuse me, is this a threat?”, Kashin replied:

“I think that your appointment was an insult to federalism, common sense and other things of this kind. I believe that being related to our friend Putin is not sufficient grounds to be head of a region. I am certain that at any free elections in any region, you would not even have got 5 percent. I don’t have anything against you personally. Do you think I should apologize? What will happen if I don’t apologize?”

The governor’s reply came only the next day:

Dear Oleg, it’s great that you don’t have anything personal against me)) So it won’t be difficult for you to apologize for the personal insult. As for your assessment of my modest work in the position of governor of the Pskov Oblast, fortunately it is not you who assesses my work, but the population of our Oblast. As for you, dear Oleg, I can offer you to come to visit me for a few days, in order to dispel all the myths about my appointment and my current work. Good luck to you

http://kashin.livejournal.com/2795518.html?thread=20862718#t20862718

25 August 2010

Kashin wrote widely about pro-Kremlin youth movements:

Two years ago, when Dmitry Medvedev, considered a liberal politician, became president, many people expected that the first steps of the new president would include curtailing the most odious political projects of the “old” Kremlin, above all the youth projects. We kept hearing from Kommersant’s “source in the Kremlin” that “jubilant rabble was no longer needed by anyone in the new conditions”. But days, weeks and months went by, and no one dissolved either “Nashi” or “Molodaya Gvardiya”. Yakemenko’s Russian Youth Ministry is a new state body of Medvedev’s time, and the president himself even danced this summer in Seliger with the “jubilant rabble”. And it began to seem that nothing would change, that this was all going to stay like this for good. But a month later, everything suddenly dissolved.

 Kashin was often quite targeted in criticism:

Senator Ruslan Gattarov, who is the head of the youth division of the ruling United Russia party, took part in fighting fires, and so successfully that everyone immediately paid attention – the senator first set fire to a tree in a forest that was not on fire, and then heroically put it out. The newspapers are now writing that the senator’s career, according to data from sources, is about to end.

Kashin once dug out an unflattering story about intimate relations between the head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, and controversial activist Vasily Yakemenko and the commissar of the Nashi movement Anastasia Korchevskaya. According to this story, Yakemenko and Korchevskaya, when she was at school and was a minor, had sex in a tent.

The blogger vg_vg, whom members of the Nashi movement identify with the head of the Federal agency for youth affairs Vasily Yakemenko, admitted in Live Journal that he sleeps with underage activists of youth movements… It turns out that in order to get into politics, special decisions by the president or someone else are not required – you simply need to wait until negative selection does its job.

http://www.forbes.ru/node/55139/print

26 August 2010

Kashin was known to criticize Prime Minister Putin. Here he writes about his relationship with secret friends, and his role in the aborted plans to run a highway through Khimki forest.

Vladimir Putin has a number of trusted businessmen, and among them are the Rotenberg brothers. They are debutantes in the Forbes ratings, and are not pop figures like Prokhorov and Abramovich, but people who like peace and quiet and avoid adventures. The Moscow-Petersburg highway, for example, was forced on them — they do not need it, they have Gazprom contracts and a great deal more besides, and they do not need any forest. The highway is primarily needed by Putin, and who can refuse him? No one can, least of all trusted businessmen. But circumstances prevailed — the attack on the Khimki local administration, the disturbances and protests, the rock concerts and complaints by Bono, and so United Russia itself eventually shouted  that the forest should not be felled, the road should not be built, and nothing should be done at all.

http://www.forbes.ru/ekonomika-column/vlast/55232-slishkom-dobrye-sily-dobra-i-slishkom-zlye-sily-zla

07 September 2010

On the parallels between Putin and Stalinist propaganda:

Comparing Putin and Stalin is a rhetorical method with the same degree of accuracy as bringing up a cargo cult when describing modern Russian reality, so I would ask forgiveness in advance for what I write below. But this is a case when you cannot avoid a comparison. The genre of annual meetings between Vladimir Putin and foreign experts from the Valdai club – the last of these took place on 6 September – was literally copied from the legacy of Joseph Stalin. Of course, all Soviet and post-Soviet leaders met with foreign journalists and experts, but for Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Medvedev these meetings have not been something extraordinary. For Stalin, of course, this was a separate genre: he was a completely different person in the company of enlightened foreigners.

http://www.forbes.ru/ekonomika-column/vlast/55954-prodolzhaite-mister-putin-ochen-interesno

08 October 2010

On the occasion of Putin’s birthday and the “presents” that students from the Moscow State University’s Journalism faculty had prepared for him.

On Wednesday 6 October, the day before Putin’s birthday, photographs appeared on LiveJournal.com of a 2011 wall calendar with photographs of 12 girls, each one of which made a brief greeting to Putin. The idea of the greetings was that each of the girls photographed was ready to give themselves to Putin. All the girls were were photographed scantily clad in their underwear.

 The very next day, another calendar appeared on the blogs with female students of the journalism faculty. There were now six students (two months for each one), and they were photographed wearing clothes (mainly black), and with their mouths taped over. Instead of saying that they wanted to give themselves to Putin, these students asked intentionally uncomfortable questions such as “When will Khodorkovsky be freed?” or “Who killed Anna Politkovskaya?” This calendar was advertised as an attempt to maintain the honor of the faculty, in the sense that journalists should not offer their bodies, but ask unpleasant questions.

 We have over the last 10 years become awfully tired of the official propaganda image of the former president as a sex symbol. The older Putin gets, the more vulgar and disgusting this looks – he is not yet like Brezhnev, but it is still quite laughable and pathetic. Indeed, even if this calendar was initiated from below, its authors are simply mean to deceive Putin about all women wanting him.

http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1518087

13 October 2010

An open appeal to the director of the Federal Security Service, General Yevgeny Murov (the FSS is responsible for the security of heads of state - Eds).

General Murov! Perhaps you could inform me if your service understands expiry dates? Perhaps you could tell me what I have to do to get my name removed from your extremist database?

Your employees keep lying to me, by the way — claiming that their scanner has broken, telling me that because I’m “on the database”, that is it. Well, this “database” is constantly interfering with my work and I need things changed.

General Murov, do me a favour and update your databases. Perhaps they still say that Basaev and Maskhadov are alive? Perhaps they say that Hitler is alive and well?

It seems to me, General Murov, that your service is not coping with its obligations very well.

http://kashin.livejournal.com/2279179.html

21 October 2010

Some commentators believe Oleg Kashin may have been attacked for his publications on the activists who successfully saved Khimki forest from highway construction. This is one of his entries from his Kommersant blog:

On Wednesday, I interviewed the “Khimki hostage”, Maxim Solopov, the anti-fascist who was released on bail and under pledge not to leave the city. This was the first interview after his release, and perhaps the first interview in his life.

Just to recap: the anti-fascists ran a campaign pelting the Khimki city administration building with smoke caps and rocks.  The police didn’t arrest anyone on the scene. It was only two days later they arrested two guys - Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov -believed to have some prominence in the anti-fascist movement generally. They were hostages – the police seemed to be thinking that if it was not possible to catch the organizers of the attack on the Khimki administration, these two men may as well go to jail.

I met Maxim Solopov yesterday. He’s 21, is a student at the Russian State Humanities University, and is studying Latin American history. His father is a former policeman, and his mother is an accountant. Although he is free, Solopov in truth still remains a hostage. All too often, a pledge not to leave the city becomes the intermediary step between arrest and a real sentence of several years in jail. 

http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?docsID=1526015

29 October 2010

On why the country cannot seem to rid itself of its Stalinist shackles:

The inability to reject the past. The inability to reject waste. The desire to constantly chew over the same thing. The fear of the future and the new. It is as if Stalin is still alive, with the authorities to leading crowds of hamsters under the slogan “To Berlin!”. But Victory was, excuse me, 65 years ago. And the rabble of today, the ones who attach stickers to used Opals saying “Thank you Granddad for victory”, they have nothing in common with the people who beat Hitler, yet proved unable to beat Stalin.

http://kashin.livejournal.com/

3 November 2010

On the death of the former Prime Minister of Russia and ally of Boris Yeltsin, Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Death has always been an important factor of life. The death of a politician, even a retired one, is always an important factor of current politics. In saying goodbye to Viktor Chernomyrdin, you see, the Russian regime cannot avoid looking into itself, if only out of the consideration that “we’ll all be there in the end”.

And when they look at Chernomyrdin, what do they see? First they see the founder of Gazprom. The company which, during the Putin years, held literally everything together. Why Chernomyrdin was compelled to reform his ministry into the first of the now customary state corporations is, of course, one of the the biggest mysteries of perestroika. Yet Gazprom he created, and created alone. You can certainly imagine that within the words of farewell from the Kremlin there is probably a genuine “thank you” for the material legacy that Chernomyrdin left them.

http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1534225

 

About the author

Mumin Shakirov is Moscow based, former Liberty Radio journalist. He is also a book writer and film director.

Read On

A Dirty War: a Russian reporter in Chechnya by Anna Politkovskaya translated by John Crowfoot, Harvill Press, 2001

A Russian Diary, A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia, written by Anna Politkovskaya,  translated by Arch Tait, Random house, 400 pages, 2007

Blowing Up Russia, by Alexander Litvinenko & Yuri Felshtinsky, Publisher: Encounter Books, 2007, 322 pages

Partial Justice, An Inquiry Into the Death of Journalists in Russia, 1993-2009, International Federation of Journalists, 2009

Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB, by Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko, Publisher: The Free Press, 2007, 369 pages

The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia's Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB, by Irina Borogan & Andrei Soldatov, Publisher: PublicAffairs, 2010, 320 pages

More On

"Regrettably, this is not an isolated incident. Our research shows that over 100 journalists in Russia have been targeted in exactly the same way since 2005."

Aidan White, International Federation of  Journalists