Cultural politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/18651/all cached version 04/07/2018 11:15:11 en “Contemporary Ukrainian culture is far less contemporary than one hundred years ago” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/vasyl-cherepanyn <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As a recent cultural festival in Kyiv shows, generating new languages of internationalism is more important than ever before. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatyana-bezruk/vasil-cherepanyn-interview-biennial" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/_DSC5558.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/_DSC5558.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vasyl Cherepanyn. Photo: Olga Ivaschenko.</span></span></span>Kyiv’s Visual Culture Research Center recently hosted <a href="http://vcrc.org.ua/en/">The Kyiv International</a>, a biennial comprised of lectures by leading critics and cultural figures. I spoke to Vasyl Cherepanyn, one of the co-organisers of the Biennale, about the programme, Ukrainian modernism and the emergence of new walls in Europe – metaphorical and all too real.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>This isn't the first Kyiv Biennale organised by the Visual Culture Research Centre (VCRC). How did your work as organiser of the Biennale begin?</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">We took up this idea three years ago, when it had already been initiated by someone else, but not us. The first Kyiv Kyiv Biennial – <a href="https://www.e-flux.com/announcements/34314/arsenale-2012/">Arsenale 2012</a> – was held as part of the European Football Championship. As an institution, we participated in it with our own parallel programme. The next Kyiv Biennial was at first postponed because of Maidan, and then later it was cancelled altogether because of the decision of the then-Directorate of the <a href="https://artarsenal.in.ua/en/">Mystetskyi Arsenal</a>. We had previously worked with Hedwig Saxsenhuber and Georg Schöllhammer, the former curators, so we decided to take over the organisation of the <a href="http://theschoolofkyiv.org/">“School of Kyiv”</a> in 2015, completely changing its logic and structure. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Our goal was to visualise, via artistic and educational means, what was absent in Ukraine’s political sphere after Maidan</p><p dir="ltr">At that time, our goal was to visualise, via artistic and educational means, what was absent in Ukraine’s political sphere after Maidan. We wanted to work through the experience of revolution, and this was where the “School of Kyiv” fulfilled its role. We used various discussion platforms: institutions inherited from the Soviet times, new galleries, state cultural institutions, platforms of various initiatives and organisations that work with internally displaced persons, and also establishments that have never previously been associated with the cultural field – for example, the House of Clothing on Lviv Square, Kyiv. This way we managed to create the conditions for a discourse on Kyiv as a new post-revolutionary spot on the European map, and, surely enough, Kyiv did begin to speak. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>Has the first part of the “Kyiv International” been easy, given the experience of organising the last event? </em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Quite the contrary. Today we are in far worse, politically counter-revolutionary conditions. After the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&amp;v=iJmjLOiuqsU">attack on David Chichkan’s exhibition at VCRC</a> in winter last year, we had to decide: should we do the biennial at all, especially with this year’s internationalist theme?Here it is necessary to bear in mind the general situation in Ukraine, when any association with the left side of the political spectrum is simply off limits.</p><p dir="ltr">For the first part of the Kyiv Biennial, in 2017 what was important was that it was the “Kyiv International”. We don’t have a fetishistic commitment to using the biennial format every two years. We are using the biennial framework in order to raise a certain range of problems, and we are attracting international institutional partners in order to create an intersection between artistic, intellectual and political grassroots movements. And, in light of that, we still remain an autonomous institution. All events that took place during last year’s Biennale were organised by the VCRC; we did not invite any external curators. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>You mentioned the word “international”, a notion that is already discredited in Ukraine. How did you introduce this notion into the framework of the Biennial, and how one is supposed to work with it in the first place?</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">“Internationalism” isn’t a discredited word, but rather one that has been pushed out and forgotten. The thing that it signifies is what we are missing the most right now. On the other hand, are there any words that aren’t discredited? “Democracy” is just as discredited a word, it is also a notion that has been used to cover many wars. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/42320942271_da552d58e6_z_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/42320942271_da552d58e6_z_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Poster of the Biennial “Kyiv International”. Source: Facebook.</span></span></span>Take an example from religion, where most notions have been discredited and used to justify mass murders. The field of politics is currently dominated by a combination of transnational global capital and far-right localism. The idea of internationalism has always lead to progressive shifts and emancipatory consequences.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, the very idea of a unified Europe at its core is based on free movement of people, and not only commodities. This idea is aimed at increasing liberty, intensifying communicatory, educational, cultural and political possibilities. Only standing up for yourself, the principle of extreme protectionism – this is a dead end for society.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>Does the “International” provide a universal language for art as well?</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Here we’re dealing with the question of creating a universal political language by means of education and art. Today’s global agenda, of which Ukraine is a part, is based on the following: outsourcing of wars – i.e., carrying them out in the peripheries – raising new walls, and the necropolitics of memory. Meanwhile, the notion of internationalism primarily implies the necessity of international solidarity. </p><p dir="ltr">The idea of internationalism always was and still is revolutionary, and democratic internationalism is also something that is sorely missing in our contemporary status quo. Here we are referring to the revolutionary movements and social protests that are both temporally remote, and contemporary – from Occupy Wall Street and indignados, to the Arab Spring uprisings and Ukraine’s Maidan. The “Kyiv International” is both a proposal and an attempt to develop a common political language – the “common” European space lacks a common vocabulary. Not least, this results in a tendency towards shrinking or even partial disintegration of this space.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Reactionary forces cannot appropriate the idea of internationalism, which always constitutes a political alternative in relation to them</p><p dir="ltr">We are in the process of developing both the vocabulary and the political and intellectual movement. We don’t know what this vocabulary will look like eventually, and what path its development will take, which is why it is the sign of a real emancipatory politics: we have no prescribed recipes and no guaranteed results, we are merely trying things out. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>Are you talking about physical walls?</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Certainly. Today the Schengen system itself is no longer working: several Balkan and East European countries are building new physical walls and surrounding themselves with barbed wire, while their right-wing radical parties are taking the positions of power. This is a very dangerous situation, and today we have to ask ourselves: how can we resist this tendency, and survive these new dark ages? </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/_DSC5631.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/_DSC5631.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Olga Ivaschenko.</span></span></span>Here the “Kyiv International” hits the bull’s eye – by their very definition, reactionary forces cannot appropriate the idea of internationalism, which always constitutes a political alternative in relation to them. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>If the “International” is a tool, then what would be the unifying factor?</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Here we are talking about a certain range of actions in our current social reality – not in some phantom future, nor in a constructed history, but in our present time. </p><p dir="ltr">The most pressing need today – and not only for Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe, as well as the whole world – is stopping war. After all, the Second World War was what gave birth to Europe itself. War is a cancer of politics, a poison that is now unleashed against revolutions. It is no accident that all the countries that were recently shaken up by revolutionary uprisings and civic resistances are now involved in wars. </p><p dir="ltr">Generally all revolutions – including the one in Ukraine – represented the politics of hope. They were aiming at the future, while wars and walls are expelling the very idea of the future altogether. In this context, the idea of “Kyiv International” is aimed at remembering this future.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>To return to the programme, tell us how the “Dish” (the nickname for Kyiv's Institute of Scientific, Technical and Economic Information) at Kyiv’s Lybidska metro station became the main location for the Biennale?</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">In a way, all the main locations we chose existed outside the field of art. As for the “Dish” itself, for a long time one of the protestant sects has been using it as a place for prayer meetings. We found it important both conceptually and politically to direct our attention to the phenomenon of Kyiv modernism. Historically, modernism has always been inherently directed towards utopia, and internationalism has always been at the basis of the former. Modernism is unique because it is both universal and local: after being born in Europe, it spread during the 20th century throughout the whole world, which is why today we have Brazilian, French, Senegalese, and other modernisms. Modernism is global, but it always retains its local specificity.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/_DSC5603.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vasyl Cherepanyn at the "Dish", the Ukrainian Institute of Scientific, Technical and Economic Information, Kyiv. Photo: Olga Ivaschenko.</span></span></span>Being one of the key components of the city, Kyiv modernism – together with Baroque – is currently exposed to vulgar and barbaric renovations. Both the “Dish” and Zhytny Market [another Biennial location] are now threatened by renovation. Because of the primitivising effect of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergey-rumyantsev/a-tale-of-two-revolutions">Ukraine’s decommunisation policy</a>, and low level of artistic consciousness in general, the debates on the value of this architectural heritage are starting only now. By the way, according to its architect Florian Yuryev, the “Dish” has the best acoustics for a public space in Ukraine. It was built in the spirit of avant-garde and was intended as a theatre of light-music, which has its historical origins in Kandinsky’s idea of artistic synesthesia – a synthesis of sound, light, and image.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>And the Zhytnyi market? </strong></p><p dir="ltr">Zhytny market is also a unique construction that draws directly from the so-called international style. For the first time in the context of the Biennale, this market was used to host an art show – the exhibition “Bazaar” was dedicated, among other things, to the architectural tradition of the indoor markets. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/26217721889_3e3d854290_z_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/26217721889_3e3d854290_z_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Opening of the exhibition “Bazaar” in the Zhityny market, October 2017. Photo: Alexander Kovalenko, Daria Nikolenko / Visual Culture Center. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Interestingly enough, on the level of an artistic concept, Zhityny market was constructed as a reflection on the theme of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_route_from_the_Varangians_to_the_Greeks">“trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks”</a>. This imagery is mainly based on the fact that Kyiv was founded on the crossroads of commercial, and, consequently, communicative and cultural routes, which fits the historical location of Zhytnyi market. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>The first part of Kyiv Biennial featured a film programme. Was it an attempt to emphasise the importance of Soviet Ukrainian cinema?</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">A call back to the Ukrainian visual and literary culture of the period of 1910s-1920s is necessary relief in the contemporary Ukrainian context. </p><p dir="ltr">This period gives us a chance to learn what it means to be modern because, as a specific quality, “contemporaneity”is far from being identical to “the present”. Contemporary Ukrainian culture is far less contemporary than it was a hundred years ago. </p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine’s tradition of the artistic and literary avant-garde has been forced out of its once dominant position and remains in the margins to this day. </p><p dir="ltr">European cinema is unthinkable without Dziga Vertov and Olexander Dovzhenko; Olexander Arkhipenko, Kazimir Malevich, and Olexandra Ekster were at the forefront of artistic innovations of their times; while Valerian Pidmohylny and Mykola Khvylevoy brought contemporary urbanism to Ukrainian literature. This cultural avant-garde remains unsurpassed till this day.</p><p dir="ltr">How blind can Ukraine’s decommunisation policy be, cleansing Ukrainian culture of everything connected to the Soviet period, depriving it of its strongest artistic periods! Ukrainian modernism is among one of the most productive, progressive and contemporary periods in the whole history of Ukrainian culture.</p><p dir="ltr">In this sense, the film programme of the “Kyiv International”, curated by Stanyslav Menzelevsky, a researcher at the <a href="http://www.dovzhenkocentre.org/eng/">Dovzhenko Centre</a>, included films by Dovzhenko, Kavaleridze, Dziga Vertov and Kaufman. This programme didn’t only trace an outline of that time, a selection of things that defined Ukraine in the 1920s. It was also a retro-futurist reflection on contemporary Ukraine.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Translation by Tomas Čiučelis.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/liberal-democracy-hard-choice-for-ukraine">Liberal democracy: a hard choice for Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach/that-obscure-object-of-desire-reforms-labour-code-and-progressive-agenda-in-">#DontFuckWithUs: labour reforms and the progressive agenda in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/ukraine-s-ministry-of-internal-hatred">Ukraine’s ministry of internal hatred</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">Critical thinking at (the) stake: Ukraine’s witch hunt against journalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-how-war-in-donbas-has-affected-ukraine">Disconnected society: how the war in the Donbas has affected Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/denis-gorbach/struggle-for-progressive-politics-in-ukraine">The struggle for progressive politics in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergey-rumyantsev/a-tale-of-two-revolutions">A tale of two revolutions, or “decommunisation”, Ukrainian-style</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tetiana Bezruk Ukraine Cultural politics Tue, 12 Jun 2018 14:04:55 +0000 Tetiana Bezruk 118340 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “We refused everything France wanted to give us”: Oksana Shalygina’s first post-prison interview https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatyana-dvornikova/oksana-shalyginas-first-post-prison-interview <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This time last year, performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky and Oksana Shalygina fled Russia under threat of prosecution. Now they’re facing arson charges in Paris. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatiana-dvornikova/shalygina-turma" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Eclairage.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Eclairage.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image courtesy of Pyotr Pavlensky.</span></span></span>Russian performance artist and political activist Pyotr Pavlensky is spending his fourth month in Paris’ Fleury-Mérogis prison. In January 2017, Pavlensky and his associate Oksana Shalygina <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-pavlensky-rape-allegation-flees-russia-artist/28236176.html">left Russia</a> after law enforcement questioned him over a rape allegation. But after <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-41650245">performing an action</a> at a branch of the Banque de France on Paris’ Place de la Bastille in October 2017, Pavlensky was arrested and sent to an isolation unit. Here, he is denied the opportunity to interact with other prisoners, and letters reach him only after considerable delay. All correspondence is checked by the court authorities, and translating Russian letters into French takes time.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Bastille was destroyed by a people in revolution; the people destroyed its symbol of despotism and power. The Banque de France has taken the place of the Bastille, and bankers have taken the place of monarchs” - this was how Pavlensky <a href="https://twitter.com/femeninna/status/919836564372512768">explained</a> rationale behind the action. </p><p dir="ltr">The dangerous property damage case against Pavlensky is being heard in camera, prompting Pavlensky to stage a dry hunger strike (refusing both food and water) last autumn. Nevertheless, Pavlensky’s close friend Oksana Shalygina, who helped Pavlensky organise the stunt and who has also been charged with arson, was released on 5 January. Shalygina remains under investigation and cannot leave France. She and Pavlensky both face up to ten years in prison.</p><p dir="ltr">I visited Shalygina for her first post-release interview.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why were you released?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">When I was detained, one of the reasons for my detention was that I had neither an address nor a phone number. I didn’t give them our address because telling them where we lived was undesirable. But how would the police search for me in that case? They were afraid we’d do a runner. Then my friends found me an apartment so as to obviate the formal grounds for my detention. A major exhibition was held at the Saatchi Gallery around the same time. Our lawyer brought back some exhibition materials to show the judge, who examined the list of exhibition participants and eventually ruled that I had to be released. This came as a surprise, even the lawyer had no idea it would happen.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why hadn’t an apartment been rented for you earlier?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There was no opportunity. Some Russian friends who live here helped us out. They decided the best help they could offer would be to try and secure my release, because I have children and I’d be of more use on the outside. The arrest itself was terrible — we were both of us arrested and separated from our children and each other. Throughout the first month we could communicate only with our lawyer. I needed to get out. The person who was looking after our children throughout that whole period ended up completely overwhelmed. He works, he’s got children of his own. It was a great feat on his part to take care of our kids during those three months. I’m very grateful to him.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why wasn’t Pyotr released for the same reason?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The application documents were filed for me only. Pyotr doesn’t want to compromise with the judicial system in any way, shape or form — and therefore found the release conditions unacceptable.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Will an application be filed for him as well?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">That’ll depend on him. It’s possible that he’ll remain in prison while the investigation is ongoing. Very soon, in mid-February, there’ll be a hearing to decide whether to extend Pyotr’s detention or release him. We’re going to insist on a public hearing.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>But in terms of what happens to you, he’s ok with these kind of compromises?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Yes, he is. I only agreed to this course of action because, number one, we have children, and number two, it doesn’t conflict with his views or mine in this particular instance.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>You weren’t planning on being detained?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I was involved in the technical preparation for the action and physically didn’t have time to make myself scarce. I didn’t want to appear in shot because I don’t like publicity. But we were clean out of luck because the police materialised literally 20 seconds or so after we started — they were driving across the square and stopped by the bank. The French journos ended up behaving in extremely unscrupulous and unprofessional manner, they violated our agreement regarding the format of the video that was set to be appear online. Ditto the copyright of the photos. Everything should be freely available, with no names on the photos.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">If journalists can’t call me Pyotr’s friend, it’s better to be known as his “associate” than as his “wife” or “common-law wife”</p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, they spilled the beans to the police, threw in the towel straight away. But that’s very much the French spirit — the French in general live with fear permanently etched in their eyes.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>So that means only Pyotr should have been visible in shot?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Yes. But I was also captured in CCTV footage and stills. That said, I was difficult to recognise as I was wearing a wig and glasses. I was paying homage to Jacques Mesrine, a French criminal and legend who had his own way of dealing with banks — he robbed them. He resisted his whole life long, refusing to live the life of a slave. He was called a man with a thousand faces, he constantly altered his appearance. By the way, he too was incarcerated in the Fleury-Mérogis prison, where Pyotr is now.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Within the domain of the media, if not elsewhere, you identify as an “associate” of Pyotr’s, and not as an independent artist. Why?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The whole “Pyotr’s associate” label emerged to prevent people from calling me his wife. This isn’t some kind of life stance or role. If journalists can’t call me his partner, it’s better to be known as his “associate” than as his “wife” or “common-law wife”. As for Pyotr himself, he calls me his closest friend. I’m in the business of political propaganda and identify as the head of the Political Propaganda publishing house. I’m not an artist or a performance artist. I’m involved in Pyotr’s stunts in the same way as he’s involved in the publication of the magazine.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How’s your magazine evolving now?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It’s changed massively since launching online in 2012. We’re now bringing out titles by interesting authors via our publishing house. There’s been one constant throughout this period: the magazine has remained absolutely non-buyable and non-saleable. It’s extremely important for us to contribute to the development of the gift economy, so the magazine is free. I had a new book ready for release last autumn, and my arrest came at an extremely inopportune time. That was the last publication we had in the works before we left Russia, and we needed to see it through to the end. It’s intended for a Russian audience. Now we have to resume the publication process, find money to print it, relaunch the site (which stopped working while I was in custody), and arrange a presentation in Russia.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The local bodies prosecuting you both aren’t making any distinctions between you. As far the public sphere is concerned, however, this was Pyotr’s action rather than a joint endeavour. Does this not irk you?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">That’s the way it should be — it doesn’t violate our arrangements in any way. If I’d stood beside him during the action and he alone ended up being talked about, that’d be another matter. But I’d no intention of playing a visible role in the stunt. I help Pyotr as far as I’m able to, and that’s as far as it goes. This isn’t an act of self-actualisation for me, I’m not an artist. Pyotr is an artist who’s making political art.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What’s your current status, and what restrictions are you under?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I’m under investigation, Pyotr and I have been charged under the same article. I cannot leave French territory, nor can I set foot in the 11th and 4th arrondissements (where the action took place), although my children go to school in the 11th. The inconsistency and stupidity of the system made itself felt in this respect as well. I need to check in with the police twice a week. There are no other restrictions.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Your arrest wasn’t captured on video. How did it did take place and what happened afterwards?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I wasn’t allowed to be filmed, and I’m glad that in this respect our arrangements were respected. I was handcuffed, bundled into a car and driven to a police station on the Place de la Bastille. The following day I was taken to another station in the 19th. They drew up some documents, took my fingerprints, took some photographs. The way they arrested Pyotr was more brutal. We were driven to the station in separate cars. They put us in the same corridor but in separate cells. The grime was horrific, I hadn’t seen anything like it for a long time. Conditions in the cell were fairly harsh — you couldn’t stretch your legs, the bed was two foot long. You go to the toilet and there’s a cop standing over you. Takes getting used to.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What form did the interrogations take?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">They took place in the presence of my lawyer, but they’ve got a slightly different system here: in contrast to the way it normally happens in Russia, you can’t consult your lawyer during the course of the interrogation — he can only advise you beforehand. The investigators quickly ascertained who Pyotr was — and, as it seems to me, treated us differently as a result. If he wasn’t an artist, I think he’d have been slapped with terrorism charges. But they didn’t go to that extreme.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">I don’t go around asking them why they’re so fat yet work for the police. I for one don’t think this is acceptable</p><p dir="ltr">During the interrogations I was asked about why we had no permanent official address, work, or telephone numbers. To add to that, an interview that came out two weeks prior to our arrest featured Pyotr talking about our life in Paris, about how we got our food, where we were living, why we weren’t paying for anything. I refused to answer such questions — after all, I don’t go around asking them why they’re so fat yet work for the police. I for one don’t think this is acceptable. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What does the courtroom look like?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It’s a small space. You’ve got the judge, prosecutor and clerk, with a cop standing behind along with the individual under investigation and their lawyer. It’s reminiscent of Stalinist times: the trial takes place behind closed doors. When I came to court in November and demanded a public trial, the judge said she would under no circumstances provide me with a platform for my political pronouncements.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Did you and Pyotr manage to talk prior to being imprisoned?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We talked when we were sitting in a prison truck, and I knew that he’d gone on hunger strike. He told the judge that he was outraged that the principle of transparency had been violated and demanded a public trial. The judge just laughed in response. As a result, he kept up his hunger strike for thirteen days. And then he was put in a restraint bed. He yanked out his IVs and bled everywhere. He was then forcibly fed through IVs for two days. It was clear that they’d broken his hunger strike and that there was no point trying to keep it up any longer. He started eating and drinking again.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is there a possibility that you’ll go back to Russia?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There isn’t, no. We can’t be deported. The maximum sentence we face is 10 years’ imprisonment.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>This is your first experience of prison. What did you go through when you wound up in a French jail?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Initially it was difficult — I spent the first month alone in a two-person cell and was allowed no visitors whatsoever. I couldn’t even communicate with my kids. The authorities wanted to turn up the heat on us, which is why we were kept in isolation. And Pyotr is still in a solitary-confinement cell today. When they tried to make him eat, he retaliated. He was initially put into a disciplinary cell and then into solitary.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What conditions were you kept in?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">What prevailed initially was a day-to-day vacuum: no books, nothing to do. There was just a TV in the cell, and you were given two envelopes and a couples of sheets of paper. It was up to the inmate to order more paper, and it’d never arrive quickly. There was no shampoo or deodorant either, which made life a challenge on a run-of-the-mill kind of level — you were issued only with a toothbrush and toothpaste (both unfit for purpose) plus shower gel. Which was all meant to make you feel that even everyday trivialities were beyond your control.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The maximum sentence we face is 10 years’ imprisonment</p><p dir="ltr">There’s no cash in French prisons, everyone’s got an account. The money I had on me was transferred into my account, but it didn’t go through immediately, which meant problems with food. Overall, the food on offer was fine. You could order food from the shop — you’d get a list of items you could choose from. But if you had no money for the shop, you could get by well on enough on prison food as well.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Did you interact with anyone?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I interacted with everyone I happened to encounter — there’s a real dearth of basic human communication in prison. This normally happens during assemblies, when you’re awaiting yet another bureaucratic procedure, at the medical station, or when you’re on your way to court.</p><p dir="ltr">These conversations can be pivotal. For example, you can find out what the deal is with the mobile situation. Smuggling an ordinary mobile into prison costs 200 euros, while smuggling in a smartphone costs 800.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/oxsh_pp.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pyotr Pavlensky and Oksana Shalygina in Paris. Image courtesy of Pyotr Pavlensky.</span></span></span>These subtleties, which you’re initially unfamiliar with and which can only be grasped by way of face-to-face contact, are many and various.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Were you asked about your crime?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Not so much about my crime as about what I was there for. When I began to explain that banks are the new prisons, people immediately understood and agreed. Some only managed to grasp the second time around what political art was and what purpose it actually served.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What about time in the open air?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I didn’t go out that often as I didn’t find it particularly stimulating. When you’re confined in a small space for a long time, you hardly move about at all. And when you emerge in the open air you start feeling dizzy and tired. There was stuff to do inside — you could read books and learn French and English. I devoted a lot of time in prison to studying French. There was a library, but I only got access to it a month in. Literature-wise things weren’t great. There were only five books in Russian — a couple of God-awful novels and some poetry: Mandelstam, Babel. I devoured it all straight away.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Did you interact with the warders?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">When I first arrived, I was received by five people — they noticed that I was missing a finger, which never catches anyone’s attention. I reckon they must’ve known what happened, and they received me very hospitably, if you can speak about prison in such terms. They don’t interact with arrestees, though, but only with long-term inmates who do tasks such as cleaning the premises and handing round food. Prisoners who do this sort of thing are known in Russia as kozly [literally “goats”, slang for inmates who collaborate with the prison authorities].</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What’s the makeup of the prison population?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The inmates were almost all foreign: people of colour, Arabs, Romanians, Serbians, Italians, Brazilians. Many had been arrested on terrorism charges. There was a Serbian girl named Esmeralda Medovic who’d served 17 stints in Fleury-Mérogis. There was a woman who knifed her friend because he raped her kid — and she was happy she’d done it, happy she’d dealt with the problem herself. Two Russian speakers were brought in just before I was released. Generally, you’re laughing and joking around a lot with your fellow inmates, and if you’re looking down someone will always ask what happened and try and cheer you up. It’s a sisterhood of sorts. During yard time you’re often all singing or even dancing. Makes your heart melt.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Who were your cellmates?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">My first one had had a mental breakdown. She refused to talk to me and would do nothing but eat, sleep, relieve herself and lie on her bed. Co-existing with her in a cell that measured three metres by four was a challenge. You need to be exchanging words here and there throughout the day, otherwise you’re inviting tension. If I asked her a question she wouldn’t reply — but if she wanted to tell me something she’d frequently scream. That really got to me. I spent a week getting the measure of her — and then solved the problem: breaking a mop against her did the trick.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">We don’t need any help from the state. The state is power, and we want nothing to do with that power</p><p dir="ltr">Then they paired me up with a decent Romanian girl. We communicated in a mixture of English and French and got on like a house on fire.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Was there anything to do other than watch TV?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">You could sign up to do work, to play sport, and there was a bunch of clubs to join as well. I went for sport — there was a huge hall where you could do tennis, yoga, boxing, karate. It made a nice change from the dullness of everyday prison existence. But I only went for a week. I was released after that.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Which country has the easier prison conditions, Russia or France?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">France, of course. By Russian standards this is a veritable holiday retreat. Yes, you’re a prisoner, you’re limited in what you can do, but you’re still a human being. The warders are polite and keep their distance.</p><p dir="ltr">You got political asylum here, and many people began to use this fact as the main plank in their criticism: France isn’t Russia, you’ve analogised structurally different entities, and at any rate, it’s uncalled-for to bite the hand that feeds you.</p><p dir="ltr">First of all, we refused everything France wanted to give us. In fact, all we actually accepted from France were our identity cards. We refused all social security benefits, refused their offers of financial assistance and accommodation. We don’t need any help from the state. The state is power, and we want nothing to do with that power.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Eclairage_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Eclairage_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image courtesy of Pyotr Pavlensky.</span></span></span>The action also came in for criticism from erstwhile supporters of yours. Many thought it strange that you decided to attack a bank in a country that isn’t the principal stronghold of capitalism.</p><p dir="ltr">We made a lot of enemies on leaving Russia and now seem to have even more. But I’ve heard many words of support from those who understand us — and this is more important for me than the mass of people who are just lazily chewing this over. If you’re a worthy human being, I can hear out your opinion. I don’t think there’s any principal stronghold. People wanted to heroise Pyotr but didn’t succeed in doing so. I can’t speak for Pyotr, there’s a text accompanying the action where he explains everything in detail. In my view, though, it was a truly leftist stunt against the backdrop of the advancing right-wing narrative that is taking over the world. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>When you were leaving Russia, you said you didn’t want to put your children at risk — if you were to be prosecuted, they could be sent away to an orphanage. When you wound up behind bars here in France, your children were left all alone. Do you not think this puts them in jeopardy?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">If we thought this way, we’d never have achieved anything whatsoever in our lives. We don’t regard our children as something through which we can be manipulated. If we did, they’d cease to be our beloved children and become levers of control. We cannot be manipulated. And it wasn’t for the sake of our kids that we left Russia — we left because we didn’t want to serve time for a crime we didn’t commit. Now the situation is fundamentally different: we’re not about to take off anywhere. </p><p dir="ltr">The children are attending school here purely so they can learn French. When they’ve mastered the language, they may well stop attending – that’ll depend on what they decide. But if do they decide to stop going to school, we’ll only support them in their decision. In my opinion, their minds are atrophying there — the school doesn’t offer them any depth of knowledge. Pyotr and I got them studying serious disciplines: drawing, literature, poetry, chess, boxing.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Do you have any desire to return to Russia?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">When we left for Europe, we weren’t labouring under any illusions. We knew we weren’t swapping hell for heaven. Our life hasn’t changed in any way, and it’s all the same to us where we’re based. We’ve got a baseline of life, a set of principles we live by: never work for anyone, use your precious time usefully, carry on the work begun in 2012. We might well want to return, but we can’t, so we won’t. And so we entertain no emotions in this regard. It is what it is. It makes no difference what country we’re in.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Translated by Leo Shtutin. </em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kalikh/hope-for-russias-hopeless-elections">Hope for Russia’s hopeless elections</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-inside-story-of-russias-failed-social-media-revolution">The inside story of Russia’s failed social media revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/on-prison-and-liberty-interview-with-pyotr-pavlensky">On prison and liberty: an interview with Pyotr Pavlensky</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tatyana Dvornikova Human rights Cultural politics Thu, 25 Jan 2018 11:10:05 +0000 Tatyana Dvornikova 115811 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Serebrennikov and the attack of the Russian state-security chimera https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergey-damberg/serebrennikov-attack <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There’s a chimera coming for Russian theatre – and it’s not corruption, but a bloated state apparatus. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergey-damberg/himia-himera" target="_blank">RU</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559247/Serebr_court_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559247/Serebr_court_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kirill Serebrennikov near Basmanny Court in Moscow on 4 September. Image: (c) Ramil Sitdikov/RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Theatre tends to prompt the asking of two questions. Is it appropriate to spend public money on creative experiments? And can the performing arts generate profits? It’s the done thing to judge theatre through the prism of money.</p><p dir="ltr">But in a country where the state doesn’t fulfill its technical functions so much as it simply rules over everyone, there’s no taxpayers’ money in the budget. There’s officials’ money and there’s state money - money that’s been taken away from taxpayers once and for all. And the directors of every state institution must try and get their hands on as much of that money as possible - wheedle and acquire it; such are the official rules.</p><h2>The actual state of Russian theatre</h2><p dir="ltr">Whichever way you slice it, most theatrical genres require subsidies. Now, musicals do sometimes bring in profits. Widely publicised, long-running productions at well-patronised 1000-seater-plus venues can amass handsome box office takings… provided the songs are accompanied by recorded music. But throw in a live orchestra – and the concomitant wage bill - and all said profits will disappear.</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, scandals around so-called “stolen stage millions” must surely please our quasi-military officialdom: anything to distract the populace’s attention from the question of “defence billions”, with their cozy mysteriousness and dubious returns. Take a look at this year’s budget: a mere fraction thereof - just over 0.5% - has been allocated for culture, an order of magnitude more for defense, and 13 times more for “security and law enforcement”. Both the army and the National Guard receive a trillion plus - but what do you know about this money? Is it “public” as well?</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Most theatres are devoid of experimentation; they exist in the service of clichés as required by the audience</p><p dir="ltr">Secondly, there’s the issue of “experimentation”. Creative experimentation is a pleonasm. A director can, of course, stage any play without experimenting: the text is there to be used, along with long-established stereotypes regarding costumes and décor. And most theatres are indeed devoid of experimentation; they exist in the service of clichés as required by the audience. In the provinces, where great works are parasitised by directors, theatres often remain half-empty. You don’t head to a provincial theatre to catch a show; you head there to show off your new dress, civilise your husband and to pretend you’re actually middle-class. But even provincial stage veterans will tell you that they were staging nudity as long ago as the late sixties, that they appreciate and value experimentation, and that they’re being forced into wilful bungling of the art form.</p><p dir="ltr">There are approximately 600 to 700 theatres in Russia (a number that doesn’t include several hundred non-state theatres with no stages of their own). Of these, perhaps one hundred at most enjoy wide renown, and even the most forward-minded of theatre connoisseurs would struggle to name more than two hundred. All the rest simply amuse their audiences with sitcoms and comedies of manners. Molière? Just a bunch of uproarious comedies. Beaumarchais? Ditto. Richard III? Pantomime freak.</p><p dir="ltr">If there’s no experimentation to be seen onstage, there’s none at management level either. Most theatres are run by old-timers who’ve long since turned their offices into holiday retreats for the elderly. They’ll never be a thorn in the side of any governor, and you’ll never find out their surnames. Their theatres wither and die - but who cares?</p><p dir="ltr">Say some artistic director decides to put on a stage version of Snow White for the fifth time. This means he’ll be pocketing extra roubles on top of his basic salary - something like 1.5 million for the adaptation, the set design and the costumes. Of course, the whole thing is utter garbage: the adaptation is vacuous, the set wouldn’t be out of place in a middling school production, and the costumes even more so - but the director has connections and years of experience. So the guy gets his way. Come New Year’s, he might award everyone bonuses of 5,700 roubles - and a 750,000-rouble bonus for himself. And only the committee chair ever gets to see the figures. The director’s nephew, meanwhile, has opened a touring agency and taken the theatre abroad - making use of Culture Ministry grants all the way, of course.</p><p dir="ltr">Murky money; obscure festivals; expensive tours embarked upon for the sake of a three-show run; grants awarded to the same “trusted individuals” year in, year out - all this smoke-and-mirror stuff corrupts management and eats up hundreds of millions of roubles every year. Roubles that wouldn’t need to be spent if the state stopped trying to control theatres and, indeed, culture in general.</p><h2>Committee Culture</h2><p dir="ltr">There are three strata of cultural administration in Russia: the Ministry of Culture, at the top of the pile, is followed by regional committees at the intermediate level and municipal departments and committees at the bottom.</p><p dir="ltr">The primary objective across all these strata is the implementation of cultural policy. But it doesn’t exist even at the federal level (save for the usual comic backwardness the Russian public is occasionally witness to) - and its aims on the municipal level are entertainment-driven at best. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The principal task of any cultural committee is a time-honoured one: it must ensure that official holidays are marked in appropriate fashion. Insipid song concerts are very convenient to organise: every town has its own concert hall, little orchestra and amateur choir - and, needless to say, it’s thanks to cultural committees that all these Soviet-era trappings are still flourishing. To say nothing of separate budgets for Flag Day, National Unity Day and so on and so forth.</p><p dir="ltr">Secondly, committees have to distribute money. They inherit and come up with a load of accounting documents, each with its own disputable meaning. Officials understand that they don’t need to evaluate the quality of performances - so they evaluate quantity instead, and do so in the following way: too few means you’re doing a bad job, too many means you’re being greedy. Which means you need to put on 280 performances a year. Yes, a normative standard exists even for this. An entirely arbitrary one. Committees concoct rules regarding how theatres should function, and the theatres manoeuvre as best they can. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">For example, the state decrees that a theatre’s average attendance must be 80% of capacity. Someone concocts the rule, someone gives it the green light - and so cadets, schoolkids and “theatre fans” head to the stalls, arms twisted behind their backs. And there are yet more cunning ways of achieving that 80% figure; ticket sales, for instance, can be limited to 100 per performance, allegedly for “artistic reasons”. Why control such variables? Could it really be that this is how officials motivate theatres to seek out their audiences? Of course not: for officials, control is an end, not a means.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Culture committees are bodies of power unburdened of objectively necessary tasks, methodologies and undertakings. They can dispense money to some and withhold it from others</p><p dir="ltr">And here’s another such rule: all state money must be distributed by means of funding competitions. In requiring these competitions to be held, our honourable lawmakers steer &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;cultural administrators away from familiar, tried-and-tested contracts and towards unknowns. But they also provide a load of loopholes: yes, the competition must take place – but you can still enter into contract with just one single producer – but don’t conclude too many of them – but make sure the whole thing’s arranged correctly… Why all these “buts”? Why do the authorities seek control over these procedures? Same reason as above, of course: control is power.</p><p dir="ltr">Far from stymying corruption, these rules stimulate it.</p><p dir="ltr">Everything culture committees do – with the exception of actual budget transfers – constitutes corruption. Their officials sit in working groups, decide to construct some new theatre venue, put up a memorial plaque, rename a street. Why do these specific people get these jobs? Only because they work in culture committees. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">If, officially speaking, rank-and-file experts are competitively selected, committee chairs are appointed without any public procedures whatsoever. The right to influence the selection of a committee chair is an eminently corrupt privilege: the appointment sometimes arises out of complicated bargaining between the governor and the Ministry of Culture, senators and party officials. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559247/pskov_banshik_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559247/pskov_banshik_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The "Pskov Bath Attendant" performance directed by Varvara Fire, was canceled when Sergey Damberg and the Pskov Drama artistic director Vasily Senin were forced to leave the theatre. Image: Che TV / YouTube. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Culture committees are bodies of power unburdened of objectively necessary tasks, methodologies and undertakings. They can dispense money to some and withhold it from others; they can give a theatre 100 million, or they can give it 50. And so GR -government relations - becomes the most important of the arts for us. It works a little something like this:</p><p dir="ltr">The conductor of a symphony orchestra calls up to find out about what’s going on with his orchestra’s application for a contest - and gets through to an “expert” who, with qualifications from music school and the ministry of culture under her belt, has been pushing papers around in this government body for the past zillion years or so.</p><p dir="ltr">“You’re really floating our boat!” she says. “Yes, you gave a wonderful performance at the opening of Chelyabinsk Days in Chelyabinsk - well done, guys!”</p><p dir="ltr">“Oh, I’m so glad you’re happy, honestly, I don’t even know...”</p><p dir="ltr">“Though you did upset me the other week. Yes, you upset me!” (always a bit of sweet talk before the reprimand)</p><p dir="ltr">“Oh God, what was it??”</p><p dir="ltr">“I took a look at your report on the disabled - you didn’t create a single position for them, there’s still no mention of anything in the report. I did warn you, you’re like little children, I have to scold you every time!”</p><p dir="ltr">“Oh, will you find it in your heart to forgive me?” (And so on and so forth.)</p><p dir="ltr">This is passive “GR”. Active GR, meanwhile, could be termed Kekhman’s Syndrome.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Great theatre director Mezdrich is sacked; brilliant theatre director Itin prostrates himself before investigators; fantastic theatre director Serebrennikov finds himself under arrest. The state accepts only the Kekhmans of this world</p><p dir="ltr">There was once a Russian banana mogul, Vladimir Kekhman, and he went bankrupt. But he bounced back by managing to become director of two (!) opera houses, one in Europe, one in Asia. How did he do it? Well, he had a knack for making friends. Get chummy with an official with the power to appoint you to some post or other and everything else becomes quite meaningless. It really works, funnily enough. The great theatre director Boris Mezdrich is sacked; the brilliant theatre director Yury Itin prostrates himself before investigators; the fantastic theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov finds himself under arrest. The state accepts only the Kekhmans of this world. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In a healthy state, government relations constitute a partnership between business, NGOs and the state. Here in Russia, on the other hand, GR exists as a competition within the public sector: everyone’s studying Kekhman’s Syndrome and trying to apply it in practice.</p><p dir="ltr">What do we need instead of these culture committees? Nothing but simple and transparent agencies that would distribute equal, preliminarily announced grants to contest winners. Production grants. Festival grants. Theatre building maintenance grants. The latter are easy to calculate: the standrd norms are multiplied by square footage and a special coefficient, if you’re talking about a historic building. Not exactly rocket science, is it?</p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, all the committees’ strategic functions - the discussion and implementation of cultural policy, the assembling of competition juries, decisions regarding construction and perpetuation - must be transferred in toto from the state to the third sector, that has its creative unions, human rights movements, veteran organisations, and so on. But this won’t happen as long as theatres remain under the control of the state-security chimera.</p><h2>The state-security chimera</h2><p dir="ltr">What exactly led to the arrest of the popular and much-loved Serebrennikov?</p><p dir="ltr">Consider this: Soviet people lived by simple stereotypes, the most important of these being the notion of the state as the foundation of the entire societal edifice on one hand, and the source of justice, pensions and television on the other. Decommunisation didn’t really happen in Russia - leaving us with a state qualitatively different to those throughout the rest of Europe. For our state, functionality is secondary; what truly matters is status and greatness.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559247/fsb_court_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559247/fsb_court_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A pro-Serebrennikov protester near Basmanny Court in Moscow. Image: Youtube / Radio Svoboda. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The culture of state grandeur and the belief in the sacredness of all things governmental converge in the phenomenon of "state security". This has been all-encompassing throughout Russian history, its structures proliferating far beyond the FSB.</p><p dir="ltr">The state security apparatus is a club for the elites of officialdom; everyone within it exists above and beyond their professions, their industry expertise, their technical skills - they’re masters of "communication", that is, of subjugating and being subjugated. And of course they exist alongside thousands of their charges: investigators, security guards, diplomats, protocol assistants, awards departments, narks, political officers… &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Functionally speaking, only the budget transfer side of things is truly indispensable</p><p dir="ltr">The state-security club first came to power in 2000. Ivan IV wasn’t an oprichnik (that is, a member of the imperial Russian police force), Nicholas II wasn’t a gendarme, Stalin wasn’t a Chekist. So if Andropov’s abortive term can be considered a farce, then Putin’s is a veritable tragedy. The tragedy stems from the fact that the very existence of a state where high-status demagoguery trumps any institutional functions is criminal through and through. Criminal, too, are said state’s component structures: convicts are abused in prisons; ditto international law in the embassies; ditto army conscripts in the regiments; ditto penurious regions and municipalities in tax administration offices; ditto libraries, newspapers, hospitals and farmers in the regional administrations; and so on.</p><p dir="ltr">But not everyone’s a criminal, are they? The majority of people are actually very decent! I’ve observed the work of several cultural committees in several regions. Not a single committee was devoid of sensible, right-minded people; not a single committee boasted a majority thereof; not a single committee operated in anything other than a friendly atmosphere; not a single committee had enemies of culture and creative freedom in its ranks; not a single committee was chaired by an individual without manifold positive qualities; and not a single committee was in any way indispensable. Not one generated obviously useful results for the industry. Not one was responsible for any breakthrough achievements. Their sudden dissolution wouldn’t paralyse the industry even for a day. Not a single day. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Functionally speaking, only the budget transfer side of things is truly indispensable. As for the committees and departments, the audit chambers and the dozens of different inspectorates, they’re entirely surplus to requirements. They are, in fact, dysfunctional.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Serebrennikov was arrested by state security because we believe that state security is a necessary thing</p><p dir="ltr">Dysfunction doesn’t destroy society; society can neither materialise nor perish - it only mutates. Our own society is mutating very slowly and tortuously because it is paralysed by the culture of state security. Here, people believe that the driver of commerce isn’t advertising but some commerce development committee - and they believe that culture is created in culture committees.</p><p dir="ltr">In the twenty-first century, maintaining this kind of state is beyond anyone’s means. Its eternal culture of state security perpetuates poverty and rightlessness. Today we need nothing more than mechanisms for the centralised redistribution of resources. The most complicated of these is competition among public experts, conducted with the involvement of the media and the general public. We’re seriously lacking experience in this regard, and we need to gain it quickly. Before we do so, however, we must dismantle status structures that are incapable of working properly.</p><p dir="ltr">Don’t ask how this is to be done. First and foremost, we have to stop believing in the state and in the idea that its security structures are of benefit to anyone. We have to stop believing that the suspicions of the investigator are of greater consequence than the convictions of the theatre director. And that case materials are more substantial than the live materials utilised by theatre.</p><p dir="ltr">At the end of the day, Serebrennikov was arrested by the state security apparatus because we believe that said apparatus is a necessary thing. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Translated by Leo Shtutin</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/freemalobrodsky">#FreeMalobrodsky</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/elizaveta-spivakovskaya/what-russian-theatre-critics-won-t-tell-you">What the Russian theatre critics won’t tell you</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-ovsyannikova/moscow-s-authoritarian-future">Moscow’s authoritarian future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Sergey Damberg Russia Cultural politics Wed, 13 Sep 2017 15:01:59 +0000 Sergey Damberg 113320 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A culinary conflict in the South Caucasus https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ruzanna-tsaturyan/culinary-conflict-south-caucasus-karabakh <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How national cuisines became yet another battlefield in the enmity between Armenia and Azerbaijan. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ruzanna-tsaturyan/kulinarnaya-voina-armenia-azerbaijan" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00433541.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00433541.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dolma or Tolma? This name of this dish has led to more than a few heated disputes. Photo (c): Vitaly Arutyunov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Is the popular dish consisting of vine leaves stuffed with rice and/or meat called <em>dolma</em> or <em>tolma</em>? You may think this is a purely culinary question, but you’d be mistaken. Presidents, politicians, ministers, community organisations and the media are all engaged in a heated debate over the preparation of tolma/dolma in the South Caucasus, and particularly in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has hit the kitchens.</p><p>On 27 April 2011, the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev fired the first salvo by <a href="http://www.trend.az/azerbaijan/politics/1867318.html" target="_blank">stating</a> at the annual conference of his country’s Academy of Sciences that: “if you ask an Armenian what ‘dolma’ means in their language, they won’t be able to answer. It’s like ‘Karabakh’ for them – a meaningless word”. A few months later, Armenia responded by holding its own “tolma” (not dolma) festival as part of the “Golden Apricot” international film festival. The festival organisers, the “Society for the Preservation and Development of Armenian Culinary Traditions” <a href="http://www.aysor.am/am/news/2011/12/07/sedrak-mamulyan/374067" target="_blank">explained</a>&nbsp;(link to Armenian language site):</p><p>“The aim of the festival is to popularise traditional Armenian dishes and the idea of tolma as part of our national cuisine, contrary to the received opinion that it has Turkish roots. After our organisation held its tolma festival, which was <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdJd3Nx_nxA" target="_blank">reported on CNN</a>, the Azerbaijanis fell silent – we had dealt them a knockout blow”. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">While no one argues about what country a national anthem or flag belongs to, there is no consensus on the provenance of certain kinds of food. </p><p>The debates over the “nationality” of dishes had been developing over many years before the outbreak of the “tolma war”. A rise in ethnic consciousness, an overemphasis on national culture and issues around national identity and anything that might threaten it are all hangovers from the colonial (in this case, Soviet) past.</p><p>In the Soviet years, cookbooks based on regional cuisines defined the borders of their cultures and encouraged culinary nationalism. Cookbooks, as structured collections of the directions post-Soviet dining should take, have become the main weapons in the South Caucasus culinary wars. It is true, though, that while no one argues about what country a national anthem or flag belongs to, there is no consensus on the provenance of certain kinds of food. </p><p>Today’s conflicts provide a multitude of examples of culinary wars in areas with unresolved border issues. One of the best known and most studied regions in this context is the Balkans, where disputes over its Ottoman legacy are still active. And there is the more recent example of the “<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/07/18/483715410/give-chickpeas-a-chance-why-hummus-unites-and-divides-the-mideast" target="_blank">hummus wars</a>” being fought between Arabs and Israelis. </p><p>An analysis of Armenian-Azerbaijani culinary clashes shows that this conflict itself is leading to an exacerbation of the spilt in national gastronomic traditions, where each side insists that it has the historic right of “ownership” of a given dish. </p><h2>The rules of engagement</h2><p>In 2011 I began looking at the Armenian-Azerbaijani national food war and received a grant from the South Caucasus branch of the Heinrich Böll Foundation to pursue my research further. I began to realise that culinary wars also have their own rules for attack and defence, as well as their generals and troops and, depending on the outcome of their battles, dishes that have fallen on the field of battle or been taken prisoner. </p><p>The South Caucasus culinary wars have been going on for many years and on all fronts. In 2011, for example, on the eve of a visit to Armenia by the then President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili, there were articles in the press about Georgia-Armenian “culinary appropriations” and mutual recriminations. Their headlines themselves reflected their subjects: “In Yerevan, will Saakashvili try to stand up for khachapuri cheese bread and Saperavi wine?”, “Will Saakashvili discuss the questions of churchkhela [a traditional sweet of nuts encased in a dried fruit paste – ed.] and khachapuri?” and so on.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00790353.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00790353.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="317" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Armenian soldiers prepare kebabs near the frontline in Martakert Region. Nagorno-Karabakh, 1992. Photo (c): R. Mangasaryan / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>In this case the Georgian-Armenian conflict was more about brand names and marketing, as well known delicacies were involved – Georgian varieties of wine and churchkhela, which is popular in both Armenia and Georgia. And in general, Georgian-Armenian culinary arguments are sporadic and rarely go beyond media altercations (and chiefly on social media at that). </p><p>On the Armenian-Azerbaijani gastronomic front, passions are more unbridled, and have long since strayed into the real political arena. In Azerbaijan, the war is waged directly from government offices, while in Armenia the media and the third sector are mainly focused on their neighbour’s “culinary appropriations”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Azerbaijan’s National Culinary Centre, which receives government funding, is accusing the Armenians of stealing its national cuisine</p><p>Azerbaijan, for example, has a “<a href="https://www.azernews.az/tags/9641/" target="_blank">National Culinary Centre</a>”, whose CEO Tahir Amiraslanov actively promotes publications devoted to Azerbaijan’s national cuisine and an analysis of alleged Armenian pretentions and takeover attempts in the culinary sphere. His organisation, which receives government funding, publishes material accusing the Armenians of stealing Azerbaijan’s national cuisine. He told one interviewer that “Since 1989, the issue of Armenian pretentions towards Azerbaijan’s culinary traditions has been discussed at the highest level, by specialists and academics, many times. Every pan-Turkish, Islamic dish, including those from Azerbaijan, is claimed as Armenian – they are trying to prove that an Armenian culinary tradition exists.</p><p>Meanwhile, Armenia is busy working out a defence. There are a number of forces engaged in this exercise: its “Society for the Preservation and Development of Armenian Culinary Traditions”; its academic community, represented by both nutricians and ethnographers, and its media, which often fuel public demand for incisive debates on the “ Armenian-ness” of various dishes.</p><h2>Historical tolma</h2><p>The main dishes affected by the culinary wars are those with a clearly symbolic ethnic significance: tolma/dolma, lavash [flatbread], harisa [a thick, meaty porridge], kofta [meatballs], pahlava [a sweet dessert based on filo pastry] and other dishes with a ritual or celebratory history. </p><p>The tolma/dolma dichotomy is still at the centre of gastro-nationalist discussion in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The involvement of well known international cultural heritage organisations such as UNESCO has intensified the zeal on both sides. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Culture, in answer to “Armenia’s attempt to lay claim to lavash”, in 2016 fired off a request to UNESCO (entitled “The culture of the preparation of dolma and its classification as a marker of culture identity”) to have the dish included in the organisation’s <a href="https://ich.unesco.org/en/lists" target="_blank">intangible cultural heritage list</a>. The request will be considered by UNESCO at its meeting in November.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6903939680_1e4e0fd6fd_b-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6903939680_1e4e0fd6fd_b-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Churchkhela at a bazaar in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. This traditional delicacy is prepared by pouring grape syrup over a string of walnuts and leaving it to set. Photo CC-by-4.0: Gabriella Opraz / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Meanwhile, Armenia has been celebrating its annual tolma (not dolma) festival. It is telling that the choice of location for the festival always has a symbolic significance. The first one, in 2011, took place at the Sardarabad memorial complex – the site of a battle in 1918 that halted an attack by Turkish troops and laid the foundation for the independent, and short-lived, Democratic Republic of Armenia.</p><p>“This is a place that symbolises self-defence”, Sedrak Mamulyan, one of the festival organisers, said in an interview. “Our national cuisine is where we can develop this self protection. It’s is among the oldest and most famous in the world, and acted as a donor for our neighbours: all our neighbours have adopted Armenian dishes”. </p><p>In 2017, Armenia’s Ministry of Culture chose the village of Hnaberd, near the site of the country’s medieval capital Dvin, as the venue for the tolma festival. Chefs prepared a 60 metre long tolma (the usual length is 10cm), while bands and dance groups in national costume entertained the public – the festival is a hit with locals and tourists alike. Pastry cooks also constructed a model of the ancient Temple of Garni (the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in the former Soviet Union); Mount Ararat, sacred to Armenians although situated in modern Turkey; the fertile Ararat valley and other historical symbols – all out of tolma. And they also demonstrated their expertise by combining tolma with another “conflicted” dish – the kebab. </p><h2>Down the grapevine</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/374px-Garni_Temple_made_from_lavash-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/374px-Garni_Temple_made_from_lavash-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A model of the ancient temple of Garni, Armenia, made of Lavash. ArmExpo, Yerevan, 2013. Photo CC-by-2.0: Armine Aghayan / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Why is it dolma/tolma, lavash and harisa porridge that have become the symbols of national discord? It is because they represent territorial aspirations: as the tolma festival organiser explains, “The roots of an indigenous people and their right to the territory they occupy is inextricably linked with their national cuisine. And tolma is a typical dish of a settled, and therefore indigenous people”. </p><p>Azerbaijanis are equally convinced that their national dishes prove that they are indigenous to their lands. Azerbaijan’s reaction to a “Karabakh Cuisine” festival held in Moscow was, not surprisingly, chilly. In an article entitled “Karabakh separatists have decided to introduce Moscow to ‘Karabakh Cuisine’”, the CEO of Azerbaijan’s National Culinary Centre wrote that “Karabakh is an Azerbaijani territory, so any dishes developed there are part of our heritage. The Armenians settled in the area later and learned how to cook from us.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Dishes made of wheat can only have been created by people living a settled way of life – and therefore must be Armenian”</p><p>How, then, can you disprove national belonging through food? The Armenian side’s main argument is that to make tolma you need vine leaves, which is evidence of early agricultural development: there is also clear archeological evidence for viticulture and wine-drinking in ancient Armenia. Another stumbling block for the Azerbaijani side in this context is the fact that dishes based on wheat are a sure sign of cereal production, which in its turn points to a settled people. The thick, meaty porridge harisa is a very popular dish in Armenia (a similar dish known as keshkek is widely eaten in Turkey).</p><p>In Armenia, the inclusion of keshkek in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list has provoked hot debate, in the course of which the organisation has been pilloried and accused of involvement in “caviar diplomacy”. There’s been discussion of the apparent incompatibility between Turkic nomadic traditions and authentic wheat-based dishes: “dishes made of wheat can only have been created by people living a settled way of life – and therefore must be Armenian.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1200px-Azərbaycan_Lavaşı-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1200px-Azərbaycan_Lavaşı-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An elderly woman prepares Lavash. Azerbaijan, 2014. Photo CC-by-4.0: Elxan Qəniyev / Flickr. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Debate on the way lavash is baked in a “tonir” – a clay oven sunk into the ground – has provoked <a href="http://www.tert.am/ru/news/2014/11/27/armenia-lavash-27/1517807" target="_blank">arguments</a> (link to Russian language site) around territorial rights: “Lavash was only ever baked in a tonir, and a tonir is a characteristic of a settled society, but not of a nomadic one like the Turks”. Discussions like this on the culinary-political claims of their neighbours can end up looking like direct threats to Armenian indigenous identity: “<a href="http://www.arminfo.info/russian/culture/article/20-03-2012/14-20-00" target="_blank">the next thing will be claims that the Turks always used tonirs</a>” (link to Russian language site).</p><p>In 2015, another discussion on the “takeover” of lavash by the Azerbaijani side – as part of a multi-national request to UNESCO to recognise traditional flatbread – drew attention yet again to the contrast between settlement and nomadism, seen by Armenians as a lower stage of development. The main thrust of the Armenian media discussions was that Turks and Azerbaijanis only sought to claim the dishes of “settled” societies, apparently showing how keen they were to conceal their nomadic existence”. </p><p>These debates echo a developmentalist tradition of demonstrating a settled population’s apparent superiority over a nomadic one – a mode of thinking which developed in the pre-Soviet and Soviet periods. State’s policy boiled down to an official adoption of this position. Nomads, as a rule, were seen as “destroyers of advanced civilisations” &nbsp;– hence evidence of ancient agricultural development is cherished by nationalists on both sides.</p><p>It is hard here to avoid quoting the famous anthropologist Mary Douglas: “national food cultures become a blinding fetish which, if disregarded, may be as dangerous as an explosion”.</p><h2>The proof is in the pudding</h2><p>Tolma or dolma – these forms are also not just variations on a single word, but a long road back into history, and another turn in the discussion about settlement and nomadism. </p><p>Back in the 1960s, the historian Suren Yeremyan, studying the origins and development of Armenian food culture, was already looking at early settlement and agricultural practice in Armenia through the meaning of the word “tolma”: “In Armenia we can still find wild grape vines, known as ‘toli’ (from the Urartu ‘uduli’ – grape), and many are still producing fruit”. The word “uduli” was chosen as the name of the annual tolma festival because it was a good fit with the philosophy behind the event: to show Armenian cuisine as authentic, ancient and the result of unbroken cultural continuity. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">The present Armenian-Azerbaijani food wars are the legacy of an indigenous, historical, linguistic and cultural continuity </p><p>In contrast, Azerbaijani sources point to words of Turkic origin: “the name dolma comes from the Turkish verb ‘dolmag’, which can be translated as ‘to fill up’”. There is a clear link between the Turkish version of the word and the way the dish is made. The Azeri language also contains the verb ‘dolamag’ – ‘to roll up’. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Dolma_Stamp_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Dolma_Stamp_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="208" height="150" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Our dolma. Postage stamp from Azerbaijan. Photo CC: H. MIrzoyev / Azermarka. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>It can also, however, be used in the context of making dolma, as Tahir Amiraslanov of Azerbaijan’s National Culinary Centre explained while <a href="http://open.az/2008/01/24/page,1,3,armjanskaja-kukhnja-razjasnenija-k.html" target="_blank">discussing a book about Armenian cuisine</a> (link to Russian site). These discussions are repeated, almost word for word, on media platforms and in forums, where there are passionate discussions about the “authentic” way of preparing the dish: the tolma is a rice and/or rice mixture wrapped in vine leaves, whereas the dolma is vegetables stuffed with a similar mixture. </p><p>The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has certainly left its mark on the development of a discourse around food in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The present Armenian-Azerbaijani food wars are the legacy of an indigenous, historical, linguistic and cultural continuity. They continue a process of incorporating the past into the present – though tastes and smells of which the very mention evokes strong sensations. </p><p>Serving as a means of consolidating and mobilising internal public and ethnic sensibilities, the food wars act as a barrier to the formation of a common historical narrative – along with a common present and future. They intensify the polarisation of the two sides, as exemplified by a famous line in the 1970s Soviet cult film comedy “Mimino”: “you don’t know how to make dolma here.”</p><p><em>Translated by Liz Barnes</em></p><p><strong><em>Find out more about conflict behind the frontline in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/christina-soloyan/in-armenia-front-line-starts-at-school" target="_blank">Christina Soloyan’s article on the Karabakh conflict in Armenia’s schoolrooms and school textbooks</a></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/christina-soloyan/in-armenia-front-line-starts-at-school">In Armenia, the frontline starts at school</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/sabir-akhundov/azerbaijanism">“Azerbaijanism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/georgi-derluguian/on-25-years-of-postmodernity-in-south-caucasus">On 25 years of postmodernity in the South Caucasus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/baba-hadji-symbol-of-ethnic-harmony">Baba-Hadji, symbol of ethnic harmony</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ruzanna Tsaturyan Cultural politics Caucasus Azerbaijan Armenia Fri, 23 Jun 2017 08:08:42 +0000 Ruzanna Tsaturyan 111834 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The rise of Andrei Zvyagintsev https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-kuvshinova/rise-of-andrei-zvyagintsev <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">The recent successes of Russian film director Andrei Zvyagintsev is a reminder of how artists are pigeon-holed into national frames — and how Russian culture has become all-too parochial.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-31495996.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Director Andrey Zvyagintsev poses after winning the Cannes Jury Prize Award for "Loveless". (c) Xu Jinquan/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Russian film director Andrei Zvyagintsev recently <a href="https://www.calvertjournal.com/news/show/8342/russian-director-andrey-zvyagintsev-wins-jury-prize-at-cannes">won the Cannes festival jury prize</a> for his film Loveless. In his (dis-) honour, we translate <a href="http://www.colta.ru/articles/society/15073">this essay</a> from our partners at Colta.ru.</em></p><p dir="ltr">It’s a paradox of our globalised world: on the one hand, the tropes of “Russian hackers”, “the Russian spy Donald Trump” and “Russian agent Marine Le Pen” are all part of their own countries’ internal debate and aren’t connected to Russia’s real influence. On the other, the consequences of our pranks are delayed, and not all of them are negative.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Naturally, there is no monolithic west, but there is a media sphere, a general impression. Europe is another matter, but the emergence in the American media (starting with the 2014 Sochi Olympics and Pussy Riot) of something called “Russia”, of which little had been heard since 1991, has led to its being superimposed on other current trends. How does this happen?</p><p dir="ltr">There is, for example, a general demand nowadays for a feminist reinterpretation of history and the rediscovery of underrated women of both the past and the present. Institutions have been hard at work in this field, and now we have English translations, in two different editions, of works by the early 20th century writer <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/teffi-memories-women-russian-revolution">Teffi</a> (described as a “female Chekhov”) and the American video distribution company Criterion is <a href="https://www.criterion.com/boxsets/75-eclipse-series-11-larisa-shepitko">bringing out a DVD set of the films of Larisa Shepitko</a>, an icon of sixties and seventies Soviet cinema who was killed in a car crash at the age of 40. Scouts from Vogue have discovered a <a href="http://www.vogue.com/article/russia-fashion-brand-narvskaya-dostava-feminism">microscopic feminist fashion brand</a> in St Petersburg, so that they can talk to its creator about the fate of women under Putin and write two features on it in quick succession.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Major publishers are meanwhile showing great interest in Russia-linked subjects on the borders of politics and culture: the New York Times <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/03/world/europe/russia-matilda-natalia-poklonskaya-aleksei-uchitel.html?mwrsm=Facebook&amp;_r=0">devoted a long article</a> to the public conflict between film director Alexei Uchitel and Duma Member (and former Crimean General Prosecutor) Natalia Poklonskaya.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">But these are merely individual attempts to extract headlines from the situation in the supposedly intellectual landscape. America’s general view of us is more widely available from the sketches on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, where Putin appears stripped to the waist with a cross round his neck, his childhood friends wear traditional high fur caps and the brilliant Kate McKinnon appears, in dowdy clothes and a headscarf, as <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL-jAGc0kiU">“Olya Povlatsky”</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hL-jAGc0kiU" frameborder="0"></iframe><em>Kate McKinnon plays Olya Povlatsky for SNL. Source: Saturday Night Live / Youtube. </em></p> <p dir="ltr">This is a woman from a provincial Russian village, who wheezes horribly when she tries to laugh, spends her life asking god to take her out of Russia, has been planning her funeral since she was a child, tries (unsuccessfully) to go on holiday to Donetsk, doesn’t know the meaning of the word “dream”, is dating a dog and once went to Sochi to drown herself in the sea, but couldn’t reach the water as the queue of aspirant suicides was too long. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">These sketches reach us now and then and are even translated by enthusiasts. But we need to understand that there is nothing specifically defamatory about them: they feed into the general SNL context where everything and everybody is there to be mocked — the show is a grand project aimed at thinking through the contradictions of the day. (And despite the quality of some editions of SNL’s Russian clone Evening Urgant, fronted by popular host Ivan Urgant, its lack of freedom and a mission will never allow it to approach the brilliance of the original.) Olya Povlatsky lines up next to homophobes, the old bag who called Obama by the N-word, Trump, Hillary and an elderly actress who began her career in patriarchal Hollywood as a prop. So that’s what we look like. As Olya Povlatsky herself says: “What can Russia export, apart from snow and homophobia”? &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The collapse of the Soviet project made Russian culture parochial, and condemned perceptions of it to the ghetto of national stereotypes</p><p dir="ltr">The enthusiasm of Perestroika has long evaporated. We’ve had no success in integrating into civilisation and Russia, rising again out of the waves of news, has gradually begun to be seen as an anti-space hostile to humans — which makes you cringe, but forces you to stare into it There’s nothing new in this: Thomas Mann saw Russia in exactly the same terms, writing about eastern Europe with a mixture of entrancement and repugnance. On the one hand, there were uncouth students with no underwear beneath their trousers; on the other, the “slightly Asiatic-slanting eyes” of Clavdia Chauchat. On the one hand were vodka, salted mushrooms and cheap cigarettes; on the other, Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Leskov, Tolstoy and “holy Russian literature”.</p><p dir="ltr">The phenomenon of Andrei Zvyagintsev is directly related to this.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The collapse of the Soviet project <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/eternally-wonderful-present-or-russia-s-need-for-new-culture">made Russian culture parochial</a>, and condemned perceptions of it to the ghetto of national stereotypes. A major film festival is a showcase which always has a sales stall behind it. Any ambitious auteur from outside the big centres needs to be able to sell his or her background without disappointing their international audience. There’s nothing wrong with this: a superficial glance, ignoring unnecessary detail and justification, can sometimes be the surest one. Among those who have got to the top of this game in our new millennium are, apart from Zvyagintsev, Paolo Sorrentino and Yorgos Lanthimos, who have succeeded in transcending their national specifics to win the right to an independent voice, international finance and the ability to attract American, British and French stars. However, while Lanthimos had to move from Greece to London with all his philosophical concepts, Sorrentino had the Italian cinema industry, embedded in the European market, behind him.</p><p dir="ltr">But when a director has little or nothing behind them, it’s difficult to scale the heights of auteurship. The fractured humanism and individual style of such true Russian artists as Alexei Balabanov and Alexander Mindadze are completely expendable or only formally required (Barabanov, whose gravestone reads “director, member of the European Film Academy”, was deeply hurt to discover that he wasn’t admitted to the Academy for his work, but to fill a quota).</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/t2IEXUspJVg" height="259" width="460"></iframe><em>The trailer for Alexander Sokurov's Francofonia. Source: Music Box Films / Youtube.</em></p> <p dir="ltr">The only master who was permitted was the fresh winner of an honorary Euro-“Oscar”, Alexander Sokurov, who spoke about French wartime collaboration in French with French people in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/sep/04/francofonia-review-venice-film-festival">“Francofonia”</a>&nbsp;and always shut down standing ovations. But Sokurov earned his right long ago, long before the first Putin term, and still fuelled largely by the energy given out by perceptions of Perestroika.</p><p dir="ltr">All the rest, even director Kirill Serebrennikov, who has staged theatre productions all over Europe, are seen as second rate at international film festivals, part of a large international chorus. It’s not just a question of politics: <a href="http://seance.ru/blog/russians-are-coming-not/">content and style also play their part</a>. We are still insufficiently savage to have a barbarian charm, but already insufficiently civilised to talk to the art establishment in their own language. What does a person with (or without) a Russian State Institute of Cinematography degree have to offer the French, for example, with their school leaving Baccalaureates that include an obligatory Philosophy exam?</p><p dir="ltr">And now, against this backdrop, we see Andrei Zvyagintsev, who quotes Kierkegaard in his interviews and references Brueghel and Dürer in his films. In terms of content, his 2003 film <i>The Return</i>, which won him a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, was seen in other countries as a political work (which flummoxed Russian critics as well as the director himself, whose mind was on more eternal matters), a reflection of nostalgia for a strong hand (his father, Stalin) and an analysis of Putin, who was still a complete enigma at the time. In aesthetic terms, the film seemed to have a familiar visual echo running the spectrum from Tarkovsky to, again, Dürer; as something that rings a bell.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">After the success of <i>The Return</i>, the naïve auteur imagined he would now be permitted to be an independent artist, without reference to his nationality, and in 2007 made <i>The Banishment</i> — an extremely vague existential drama based on a short story by William Saroyan and with a Swedish actress in the central role. It was received coolly (despite a Cannes prize for the leading lady) and Zvyagintsev quickly corrected his mistake and switched to focusing on Russian reality for his next three works.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Doomed artists, complex artists and original thinkers can only exist where there is banality and normality and where any deviation entrances and shocks — this is why horror movies have never been popular in Russia. A representative of anti-space has, however, to show the world this anti-space, inhabited not by humans but by anti-material, and do it in a sober, orderly manner, without creative twists and turns and with familiar quotations — and all this <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/film/cannes-2017-loveless-film-review-from-russia-without-love-a3542396.html">from Russia without love</a> is to be produced by the Dardenne brothers, whose own films again and again scale new heights of humanism. The audience will spend two hours gazing into the abyss, be blown away and return to the light — it’s interesting and thrilling and just as safe as cursing Putin for his attacks on the Gogol Center from a stage in Paris.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Zvyagintsev himself has, of course, nothing to answer for and is in general a far from a calculating person. But his rise during Putin’s first term doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me, and the superficial analogies of <i>The Return</i> audience turned out to be true, like everything superficial. In my imagination Putin, his Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky and Zvyagintsev often merge into one person — a lover of beauty (in his own conception of the word) dreaming of speaking to the whole world; a post-Soviet man without much confidence in himself who just happened to be in the right place at the right time and in the depths of his soul knows this. They go together: Putin and Medinsky create the anti-space and Zvyagintsev describes it in well-chosen international Esperanto. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_Николая.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zvyagintsev's 2014 Leviathan caused uproar for its unflinching depiction of "Russian reality", even though it was based on a real life story from the United States. Source: CC BY-SA 4.0 Roman Yurochkin / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This ambivalence around Zvyagintsev’s success is probably well understood by even his hottest fans, who time and again try to prove something to invisible opponents by brandishing festival awards and foreign newspapers at them. The mass hysteria around these films makes any serious discussion of them impossible: a couple of years ago two critics, out of an audience of 100 people, tried to analyse his 2014 film <i>Leviathan</i>, using quotations from the book of the same name written by Thomas Hobbes, as well as showing clips of films by director Sam Peckinpah, but the audience, realising that the critics didn’t share their delight, immediately began to look and behave like extras from The Walking Dead; I have never seen so many red, rolling eyes at one time. Are these films good or bad? The status of their maker is such that the answer is unimportant.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s pure chance: we have never known Zvyagintsev outside his international fame. After two Golden Lions from Venice in 2003 he was re-exported to Russia as a star of global significance and a “new Tarkovsky”. And I feel that the passionate defence of a director who is generally doing well is an attempt to identify with a Russia that enjoys legitimate representation in the world, and to feel part of a context where we are at the receiving end of Golden Palms, and not sanctions. We wear tuxedos, not tarpaulin boots. We have very few opportunities for such self-identification these days — basically, Zvyagintsev is all we’ve got. And those who call him a vilifier and Russophobe (as though you could vilify Russia’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/bulat-mukhamedzhanov/russia-s-prison-service-is-keeping-its-abuses-under-lock-and-key">Federal Penitentiary Service</a>, heir to Stalin’s Gulag; prisons for gays; asset grabbing or an average monthly pension equivalent to 200 Euros) are in fact attempting to bolster their own self-esteem in the same international field (by denying his abilities) and pretty much claiming “we couldn’t be bothered”. Olya Povlatsky also wants to speak to the city and the world.</p><p dir="ltr">In the future, Zvyagintsev will probably make a few more attempts to ditch the balalaika and join the Bergmans of the film world. But it would be so much more interesting to watch this <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antaeus">Antaeus</a> battling heroically with the country that bore him. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p> <em>Translated by Liz Barnes.</em></p><p><em><span style="color: #434343; font-style: normal; font-weight: bold;">Read on: in an age of disinformation, sincerity is political. The films of Andrei Zvyagintsev are <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-antonova/andrei-zvyagintsev-not-your-token-russian">powerful precisely because of this</a>.</span></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.colta.ru"><img src="http://www.colta.ru/assets/logo-afb684c3d35fc1f6f103f9fb638c8ec1.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/eternally-wonderful-present-or-russia-s-need-for-new-culture">The Eternally Wonderful Present, or Russia’s need for a new culture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-arutunyan/real-%E2%80%98leviathan%E2%80%99">The real ‘Leviathan’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/marina-mikhneva/five-forbidden-russian-words-on-stage-and-screen">The five forbidden Russian words on stage and screen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/elizaveta-spivakovskaya/what-russian-theatre-critics-won-t-tell-you">What the Russian theatre critics won’t tell you</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maria Kuvshinova Colta.ru Cultural politics Thu, 22 Jun 2017 10:31:26 +0000 Maria Kuvshinova 111827 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russifying revolutionary art at the Royal Academy https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/uilleam-blacker/imperialism-at-royal-academy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This year, many institutions are marking 100 years of the Russian Revolution. A recent exhibition about Russia's revolutionary art reminds us of the academy's cultural blindspots. &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Artwork_by_El_Lissitzky_1919.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="364" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (1919), by El Lissitzsky. Wikipedia / Public Domain.</span></span></span>The Royal Academy’s new blockbuster show <a href="https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/revolution-russian-art">“Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932”</a> is a disorienting experience. Caught between bombastic propaganda — albeit made with irresistible avant-garde panache — and the works of great modernist painters like Chagall, Kandinsky or Malevich, one is never quite sure what the exhibition’s purpose is. Is it to showcase early Soviet art? Or to speak more broadly about modernist and avant-garde art in Russia in the years after the Revolution?&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, for some of the artists presented, this distinction is meaningless. Russia’s avant-garde and the October Revolution went hand in hand. Yet the label we use to describe this art is a matter that goes beyond an artist’s ideological affiliation with the Soviet state. It may also be worth interrogating the use of the term “Russian”.&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the Royal Academy’s main attractions is a room full of paintings by Kazimir Malevich, an artist who made his name in Russia, but who was born to a Polish family in Ukraine — his parents would have known him as Kazimierz. </p><p>Beyond the Black Square for which he’s famous, Malevich’s striking images of blank-faced peasants (1930-1932) depict, as the exhibition suggests, a class of people drained of their identity by ill-conceived and brutal Soviet agricultural policies. Malevich’s origins in Ukraine, which suffered the brunt of Soviet agricultural terror, culminating in millions dead in the Holodomor of 1932-33, is surely significant for understanding his preoccupation with the fate of Soviet peasants.<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Malevich142.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="220" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mower (1930) by Kazimir Malevich. Wikipedia / Public Domain.</span></span></span></p><p>Yet Malevich’s origins are not mentioned in the exhibition. In the room devoted to peasants, the mass casualties of Soviet policy are mentioned in a rather vague account of collectivisation, but Ukraine, the epicentre of this tragedy, is not. By way of explanation, the exhibition catalogue’s timeline euphemistically mentions a “famine crisis in Ukraine”.</p> <p>Peasants come up again in a later room, which pauses the revolutionary fervour to account for artists who expressed nostalgia for “eternal Russia”. </p><p>This room is filled with paintings of domed churches and scenes from traditional rural life. The undoubted star attraction here is Marc Chagall’s <em>Promenade</em> (1917-1918). The painter, holding the hand of his floating wife Bella, stands in front of a small-town landscape: not “eternal Russia”, but Vitebsk in Belarus. And it comes from a time when Chagall was rediscovering the Jewish culture of his origins in the Pale of Settlement — hence the return to his native Vitebsk. The Jewish and Belarusian dimensions here are subsumed under a general longing for “eternal Russia”.</p><p>Chagall’s Jewish identity and Belarusian connections are relatively well known. But there are many less famous artists here who are not straightforwardly Russian, and whose origins are entirely ignored. One of the most striking images of all is Kliment (or Klyment) Redko’s 1925 “Insurrection”, a startling geometric composition showing all the leading Bolsheviks alongside their foot soldiers in a fiery urban landscape. The image owes as much to the avant-garde as it does to Redko’s training as an icon painter in his native Ukraine (he was, in fact, born in what is now Poland).&nbsp;</p> <p>A case analogous with Chagall is that of Dziga Vertov, whose films are shown in the first room of the exhibition. Vertov was born David Kaufman to a Jewish family in Bialystok, and did some of his most important work in Ukraine. Vertov’s <em>Man with a Movie Camera </em>(1929), shot largely in Odessa, Kharkiv and Kyiv (and also in Moscow), and shown here, is one of the most influential in world cinema. His <em>Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbas</em>, which depicts the industrialisation of that region, is displayed here alongside a remarkable poster by Aleksandr Deineka (a Russian artist who was trained in Ukraine and features prominently throughout the exhibition) on the same topic. These works have powerful resonances for events in that region today, providing insight into the Donbas’s still-powerful sense of proletarian identity. But once again, the Ukrainian context is largely ignored.</p> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vUInm2dC6Ug" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><em>Dziga Vertov's Enthusiasm, or Symphony of the Donbas (1931).</em> <p>There is one point in the exhibition where a non-Russian artist is identified. The Ukrainian film director Oleskandr Dovzhenko is described as “Ukrainian-born”. Why Dovzhenko, who was not only born in Ukraine, but thought of himself as Ukrainian, made films about Ukraine, and worked extensively in Ukraine, should not be described simply a “Ukrainian” is unclear. It reminds one of the traditional Russian (and also western) view of Dovzhenko’s countryman, Nikolai Gogol: Gogol’s early works (which are all about Ukraine) are seen as juvenilia, a prelude to his proper, more serious work (which is about Russia).&nbsp;</p> <p>The most concerning instance of nationalisation of the non-Russian as Russian, however, comes at the end of the exhibition, and is not related directly to art. Until this point in the show, the fact that the Soviet Union put extreme pressure on, and eventually murdered its artists on a mass scale, is barely hinted at. But as you exit the show a small, dark “room of memory” displays prison photographs of ordinary people and cultural figures who ended up in prison or were executed by the Soviet regime. On the wall outside we are told that “millions of Russians died at the hands of Stalin’s brutal regime”.&nbsp;</p> <p>This statement is true: Soviet Russian citizens suffered terribly under Stalin. But it is only part of the story. The Soviet Union was a vast, multinational empire, and the victims of its crimes were not only Russian. Of course, Russians made up the largest group numerically, but they were proportionally less likely to fall victim to Soviet oppression than some other national groups: for Stalin, after all, there was little distinction between the class category of kulak — the main target of his devastating collectivisation policies ‘ and the national category of Ukrainian, while others, like Chechens or Crimean Tatars, were also specifically targeted.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Being able to claim a great artist as the heritage of your nation, and thus of your state, is no trivial matter. It affords great soft-power possibilities</p> <p>It may seem that accuracy over the identities of war dead or the victims of Soviet executions is different from accuracy over the identities of artists, and that these issues should not be conflated. Unfortunately, many of those artists <em>became</em> the victims of executions. And often precisely because of their nationality. Ukraine’s own avant-garde movement (which could do with its own exhibition in the RA some day) was completely devastated by Stalin in the 1930s to a large extent because it was a self-consciously Ukrainian movement.</p> <p>There is more to this question, then, than nitpicking over the arguably inconsequential factors of national identity or place of birth. But this is not only a question of historical importance. Being able to claim a great artist as the heritage of your nation, and thus of your state, is no trivial matter. It affords great soft-power possibilities. The Russian state is acutely aware of this, and it has consistently used it as a counterbalance to its aggressive foreign policies and oppressive domestic ones. (One need only think of the enormous lengths taken to arrange the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/boris-filanovsky/bach-among-palmyra-s-ruins">spectacle of Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky orchestra at Palmyra</a> as evidence). Allowing the Russian Federation to claim as many great artists and writers as possible simply helps it build up its ammunition stocks in the soft-power war.&nbsp;</p> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Z5E_Fr8ccQo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><em>May 2016: Valery Gergiev leads the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in Palmyra, Syria. Source: RT.</em> <p>It is not only in the field of art, or culture, that this question matters. More important is the misuse of the term Russian in other historical contexts, and most notably that of the Second World War. It is common to hear western journalists, academics and politicians speak of “Russia” defeating Hitler, of the huge numbers of Russians who died in the war. Russians did sacrifice a great deal in the war. As did Ukrainians, Belarusians and many others as part of the Soviet war effort. There were millions of non-Russians in the Soviet armed forces, while non-Russian civilians, in Ukraine and Belarus, which were both entirely occupied by the Nazis, suffered proportionally more heavily.</p> <p>This latter question matters because misdesignating millions of soviet war dead as Russian not only annuls the wartime experience of other groups. It also allows the contemporary Russian state to stack up its tally of sacrifices, bolstering its claim to the international moral high ground as heir to the Soviet Union’s title as defeater of fascism in Europe. This is crucial because this very myth, of the great Russian victory over (European!) fascism is at the heart of Putin’s rhetoric of rebuilding a Greater Russia.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">You’d be forgiven for thinking that in Britain today we would be able to deal with a bit of post-imperial nuance</p> <p>The nationalising frame of the Royal Academy exhibition is symptomatic of the fact that in the UK, and throughout the west, Russia and the Soviet Union are still, for many, synonymous. Why this simplification should be so common and even find its way into the work of major cultural institutions is puzzling. Perhaps it is the inherently imperial orientation of the British worldview: the agents of history are the great powers, and those small, peculiar nations “of whom we know nothing”, as one British statesman once put it, fall between the geopolitical and geocultural cracks. You’d be forgiven for thinking that in Britain today we would be able to deal with a bit of post-imperial nuance.</p> <p>If we transfer the dynamics of the presentation of “Russian art” in the RA’s exhibition to our own context, its problematic nature becomes clearer. Let’s imagine a major exhibition of modernist art form the British Isles that encompassed artists not only from England, but also from Scotland, Wales and Ireland, perhaps even some from the distant colonies (after all, many artists from the “peripheral” states made their way to London to further their careers). And let’s imagine, for a moment, that the Irish Potato Famine had occurred not in the mid-19<sup>th</sup> century, but in the early 1930s. Then let’s imagine that Ireland is not mentioned in a room containing art that dealt with the fate of the peasantry in the British Isles, and neither is the background of the most prominent artist in the room, who is an Ulster Scot. And finally, let’s imagine that the exhibition is called “English Modernist Art”.&nbsp;</p> <p>It would never happen. If it did, this kind of oversight would no doubt ruffle some feathers in political debates, though they would remain largely a question for cultural critics and academics to quarrel over. It would not be a matter of life and death.</p> <p>In the case of Russia today, which wastes no expense or effort in mobilising cultural resources for soft-power purposes, and capitalises on simplified, nationalised interpretations of complex, multinational histories to justify very real wars, the question of accuracy becomes slightly more urgent.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-polouektova-krimer/unearthing-russia-s-dead-over-and-over-again">Unearthing Russia’s war dead, over and over again</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/dance-me-to-end-of-history">Dance me to the end of history</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dmitry-okrest/stalins-back">Stalin&#039;s back</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/eternally-wonderful-present-or-russia-s-need-for-new-culture">The Eternally Wonderful Present, or Russia’s need for a new culture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/boris-filanovsky/bach-among-palmyra-s-ruins">Bach among Palmyra’s ruins</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Uilleam Blacker Cultural politics Fri, 14 Apr 2017 09:30:37 +0000 Uilleam Blacker 110144 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Putin's nation-building project offers reconciliation without truth https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-lipman/putins-nation-building-project-reconciliation-without-truth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Kremlin has resorted to obfuscating the past in the name of national reconciliation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 11.41.25.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>December 2016: Vladimir Putin delivers the Annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. Source: Kremlin.ru.</span></span></span>Late last year when Russian president Vladimir Putin was about to deliver his State of the Nation address, commentators expected he would devote a large part of it to the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Yet Putin limited himself to just a few sentences. “We need history’s lessons primarily for reconciliation and for strengthening the social, political and civil concord that we have managed to achieve,” he <a href="http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53379">said</a>. “It is unacceptable,” Putin added, “to drag the grudges, anger and bitterness of the past into our life today, and in pursuit of one’s own political and other interests to speculate on tragedies… Let us remember that we are a single people, a united people, and we have only one Russia.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Reducing the meaning of the Bolshevik Revolution — a series of events that had enormous impact on Russia and the world — to its significance for national unity is well suited to Putin’s nation-building project. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia’s territory shrunk, its sphere of influence was gone; its economy was in permanent downfall, and its politics torn by fierce rivalry that led twice to state coup attempts. When Putin became Russia’s acting president in 2000, he saw his mission in consolidating political power and improving economic development.&nbsp;</p> <p>Russia needed to build <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/marlene-laruelle/putinism-as-gaullism">a new state identity after its imperial statehood was lost</a>. It is hardly surprising that concern about national reconciliation and unity has been fairly high on Putin’s list of priorities since very early in his presidency.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Civil war in mass consciousness</strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p>In his programmatic <a href="http://www.ng.ru/politics/1999-12-30/4_millenium.html%20">Millenium article</a>, published in late December 1999 when Putin was preparing to act as Russia’s president, he wrote that “fruitful, creative work” for the benefit of the fatherland “is impossible in a society that finds itself in a condition of division, internally separated.” In order to “make the new, market mechanisms work to full capacity”, Putin wrote, Russia needs to “overcome the still deep ideological and political split in society”.</p> <p>Putin would return to this theme repeatedly in later years. In 2012, for instance, when he was about to start his third presidential term, he referred to “a civil war… &nbsp;ongoing in the consciousness of many people”, and emphasized the need for “subtle cultural therapy”.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Back in the late 1980s and the early period following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it was common to trace Russia's national trauma to the Communist terror</p> <p>Putin’s “civil war” metaphor evoked the memory of the bloody fratricidal war that followed the Bolshevik revolution. But in his pursuit of national reconciliation, Putin apparently seeks to overcome the “grudges, anger and bitterness” caused by another major upheaval of the 20th century — the collapse of the Soviet Union, which he, rightly, sees as a national trauma.</p> <p>Back in the late 1980s and the early period following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it was common to trace Russia's national trauma to the Communist terror. The remedy to Soviet society’s ills was to be found in the exposure of dark truths about the Communist regime, and Russia was inundated with evidence of Communist crimes.</p> <p>Truth, however, failed to bring reconciliation. Disclosures about Communist crimes increasingly left people indifferent or resentful. And since very early in his presidency, Putin has resorted to another remedy — that of obfuscation and oblivion, a reconciliation without truth.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Reverting the river to its authoritarian course</strong></h2> <p>In 1999, the dominant popular sentiment in Russia was profound disillusionment with market reforms and deep distrust of all government institutions. Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin saw his popularity drop to single-digit numbers; he narrowly escaped impeachment, stepped down and anointed Putin as his successor.&nbsp;</p> <p>Inheriting Russia in a state of misery and political turmoil, Putin responded to public frustration by re-instating Russia’s “traditional order” — he re-established centralised political controls and eviscerated the nominally existing checks and balances. In the words of Russia’s leading pollster Aleksandr Oslon, Putin “let the river revert to its authoritarian course.” “You can't go against the tide for too long,” he added.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/f16_337_020_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Boris Yeltsin on a visit to Novozybkov, Bryansk Region, in January 1992. Photo: <a href=www.yeltsin.ru>Yeltsin Center</a>. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Putin saw the societal divisions and confrontational politics as hurdles that had to be removed, but he was not an ideological leader. He sought to calm the passions unleashed by the political and ideological turmoil of the 1990s — yet his reconciliation policy was not about offering a unifying idea. Instead, the Russian president marginalised discussions of divisive and disquieting subjects, such as Stalin’s crimes, or the revision of the USSR policies in Europe before and after the Second World War, or excessive criticism of his government’s performance.&nbsp;</p> <p>Putin capitalised on the Russian people’s yearning for stability after the turbulence of the 1990s. And his immense stroke of luck in the form of the steadily growing price of oil greatly facilitated his task of taking politics under control, muffling the existing differences and keeping people acquiescent and demobilised.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Putin’s nation-building project gained new urgency after the Ukraine crisis and the annexation of Crimea</p><p>National television thus shaped the image of Putin as the country’s leader to whom there was no alternative, and put a strong emphasis on World War Two; national celebrations of the 9 May Victory Day <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-polouektova-krimer/unearthing-russia-s-dead-over-and-over-again">got grander by the year</a>. But beyond that the Kremlin paid little attention to nation-building.</p> <p>7 November, the day of the Bolshevik Revolution that for seven decades had been the Soviet Union’s ”origin myth”, remained a holiday. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation still celebrated it as the day of the revolution. Officially, however, it had been renamed back in the nineties the Day of Reconciliation and Accord, but there was no publicly shared narrative of a “reconciliation” associated with that date.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-29029832_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In Russia, the place of Lenin's interment remains a political football. (c) Alexander Zemlianichenko AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In order to strip the Russian Communist party of the “monopoly” on the November holiday, a new one, (4 November) was introduced in mid-2000s. It concerned events in the early 17th century and was titled the Day of National Unity, but no clear narrative was offered this time either. Nor did the Kremlin care to explain why after celebrating “national unity” on 4 November, the Russian people should be celebrating “accord and reconciliation” three days later.</p> <h2><strong>The Kremlin turns ideological</strong></h2> <p>In late 2011, the public’s general quiescence gave way to mass anti-Putin protests in Moscow and other large urban centers. The government switched to a more repressive and “ideological” gear, condemning the protesters as immoral and unpatriotic and pitting the more conservative majority against them. Besides, the economic slowdown meant that the government could no longer afford generous social spending, and “ideological” tools came in useful as a substitute source of legitimacy.</p> <p>Putin’s nation-building project gained new urgency after the Ukraine crisis and the annexation of Crimea. Russia became a ”fortress under siege” surrounded by the western enemy. Rallying round the leader was not just a matter of loyalty, but of national security and even national identity. To be a true Russian was to support Putin and celebrate the return of Crimea to the Russian fold. To feel otherwise was to be un-Russian, unpatriotic, maybe even a traitor. The rallying effect remained in place even after the propaganda campaign grew less intense.</p> <p>The nation-building effort assumed a more peaceful course. The unified concept of teaching history that in the 2000s had been often talked about, but not implemented, was commissioned by Putin and soon approved under his watch. The first school books based on this new concept have been published in time for the current academic year.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Putin’s reluctance to discuss the causes and meaning of the Bolshevik Revolution is part of his nation-building strategy, which condemns opposition to the existing political order and keeps “difficult” historical issues blurred or unheeded.</p> <p>Central to the school history discourse is the anti-revolution message that echoes Putin’s <span>earlier statement</span>: “Too often in the national history instead of an opposition to the government, we face opposition to Russia itself. And we know how it ends: with the destruction of the state itself.”&nbsp;</p> <p>This counter-revolutionary discourse has it that autonomous public action can only lead to bloody tragedies and should be avoided at any cost<strong>. </strong>Indeed in recent years the government has waged a campaign against autonomous non-government organisations, and demonstrated intolerance toward public activism deemed even remotely “political”. Over three dozen participants&nbsp;of a 2012 peaceful mass rally were prosecuted; about twenty were convicted, some from 2.5 to 4.5 years in jail. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>The schoolbooks are not fully silent on the dark pages of the Russian history, but they are thoroughly counterbalanced by brighter developments, lest they undermine the government’s legitimacy.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 11.50.50.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An advert for Russia. My History exhibition at Moscow's Exhibition Centre. Source: <a href=http://vdnh.ru/events/vystavki/obrazovatelno-vystavochnyy-kompleks-rossiya-moya-istoriya-/>VDNKh</a>. </span></span></span>Putin’s aforementioned warning against opposing the government looms large in the history park called Russia. My History, which <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mark-galeotti/education-in-putin-s-russia-isn-t-about-history-but-scripture">recently opened in Moscow</a>. The infallibility of the ruler is the exhibition’s main theme: pre-revolutionary Russian history is presented as an unabashed eulogy of all Russian czars and princes.</p> <p>Those who ever rose up against the monarchy — from peasant rebels of the 18th century to the members of the aristocratic Decembrists uprising in the early 19th century or<strong> </strong>the members of the People’s Will revolutionaries in the 1870s — are unequivocally condemned as subversive, and their causes are disregarded. The exhibition was organised by the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Ministry of Education has <a href="https://ria.ru/religion/20161110/1481121365.html">recently recommended that school teachers use its material in class</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Read: how residents of Makhachkala, Dagestan are <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svetlana-anokhina/makhachkala-citizen-city">resisting plans to build a patriotic history park in the city centre</a>.&nbsp;</em></strong></p> <p>Putin’s reluctance to discuss the causes and meaning of the Bolshevik Revolution is part of his nation-building strategy, which condemns opposition to the existing political order and keeps “difficult” historical issues blurred or unheeded.&nbsp;</p> <p>Putin’s stance is readily picked by the political establishment and a broad range of loyalists. The Russian Orthodox Church, which seeks to assert itself as the government's ideological arm, devoted its annual public conference to “1917-2017: Lessons of the century”. The resolution of the conference <a href="http://kubanpokrov.ru/itogovaya-rezolyuciya-uchastnikov-xxv-mezhdunarodnyx-rozhdestvenskix-obrazovatelnyx-chtenij-1917-2017-uroki-stoletiya/">mentions</a> “the widespread apostasy, the loss of spiritual foundations and Christian moral guidelines, and the deliberate persecution of the Orthodox Church… in the period after 1917.” But, in the reconciliation vein, the focus is not on what actually transpired in 1917, but on the providential forces that enabled the nation to get over those unnamed misfortunes, come together and rebuild.</p> <h2><strong>Ideological uncertainty: an asset and a problem</strong></h2> <p>As part of the commemoration of the revolution anniversary, the Orthodox Church plans to carry around Russia a reliquary with the relics of the “new martyrs” — the church hierarchs and priests executed by the Communists and canonised after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet, the Church keeps silent on the perpetrators, let alone the Communist regime, which systematically exterminated the Russian clergy.</p> <p>In March this year, a high-ranking Church official <a href="http://www.interfax.ru/russia/553918">spoke against removing Lenin’s body from the mausoleum.</a> Lenin was the mastermind of the mass killings of clergymen, but he is still venerated by the Russian Communist party whose leaders, while remaining Putin’s loyalists provide an outlet for aggrieved Soviet-minded constituencies and thus contribute to national reconciliation.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-22952391-1_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May 2015: members of an excavation team searching for the remains of Soviet soldiers killed during WWII uncover remains of Soviet soldiers in a swamp east of St Petersburg. (c) Dmitry Lovetsky / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>While Putin’s Kremlin draws on the Orthodox Church as the pillar of Russian statehood, it would not upset the Communist party either. And neither would the Russian Orthodox Church. Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church dismiss their past differences as minor and cordially greet each other.</p> <p>There’s barely anything unusual about re-interpreting the past for nation-building purposes. And national reconciliation is, of course, a worthy goal.&nbsp;</p> <p>A peculiar feature of Putin reinterpretation of the Russian history is its uncertainty. His “reconciliation without truth” project is based on avoiding facts and names and reducing the role of people to either unquestioning supporters of the powers that be or dangerous troublemakers. Except for the genuinely shared pride in the victory of World War Two, Russia still has no consensual historical narrative or nationally recognised heroes.&nbsp;</p> <p>This uncertainty may be seen as an asset as it provides the regime with elasticity and a freedom of ideological maneuver. One can glorify Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, or Russian monarchs and princes, worship the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II and celebrate the early Soviet secret police who executed him and his family. As long as the message remains anti-western, anti-liberal and implies full allegiance to the Russian state, the regime can keep all these dissonant voices as its supporters, not opponents.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The obfuscation and evasions of the official discourse every now and then provoke historical initiatives that offer a distinct vision where the official discourse remains blurred</p> <p>And yet, the absence of a shared pantheon of national heroes has engendered bizarre ideas. For instance, the governor of Oryol had a statue of Ivan the Terrible erected in his capital. The commemoration of the 16th century Tsar notorious for his brutality had been hardly endorsed by the Kremlin and led to public protests in Oryol — directly counter to Putin’s policy of reconciliation.&nbsp;</p> <p>While the government undertakes to inculcate a single vision of history through school books, history parks, legal constraints and zealous loyalists, professional historians created the Free Historical Society which, in the words of its member Ivan Kurilla “wages counter-attacks to defend their professional integrity”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-28915326_0_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russia’s first monument to Ivan the Terrible was recently unveiled in the town of Oryol. (с) Howard Amos AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The obfuscation and evasions of the official discourse every now and then provoke historical initiatives that offer a distinct vision where the official discourse remains blurred. Such initiatives range from new Stalin statues erected locally by his staunch admirers to “The Last Address” activists <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35626990">who install memorial plaques on the buildings</a> from which Stalin’s victims were taken away to be executed.&nbsp;</p> <p>Putin is evasive on Stalin, but the Communist dictator is still buried next to the Kremlin wall, and Zyuganov routinely lays flowers on his grave. The Federal Security Service (FSB), the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/pavel-chikov/russia-s-security-services-are-reforming-their-way-out-of-shadows">most powerful agency in today’s Russia</a>, prides itself on being the successor of the Soviet secret police that conducted mass executions of Soviet citizens.&nbsp;</p><p>In a recent public opinion poll, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/russian/russia/2016/03/160325_stalin_poll_analysis%20">almost half of Russian citizens surveyed</a> (more than ever in the post-Soviet years) said they had a positive, rather than negative view of Stalin — arguably, the result of the emphasis on the victory in World War Two and Russia’s reinstated greatness.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Putin has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/russia%E2%80%99s-repressive-monument-to-victims-of-political-repression">ordered a memorial to victims of mass repressions to be built on Moscow’s Andrei Sakharov avenue</a>. Sakharov, a renowned designer of thermonuclear weapons who became an uncompromising opponent of the Soviet government, is a name that is hard to accommodate with the current discourse of unity and reconciliation. Although Moscow has a street named after him, for the Russian public, he is not regarded as a hero and is barely mentioned at all.</p> <p>The “social, political and civil concord” that Putin claims to have achieved draws, first and foremost, on his own uncontested power and overwhelming public support. He is the only undisputed inhabitant of Russia’s post-Communist pantheon. “If there’s no Putin, there’s no Russia,” a senior Kremlin official said in 2014. Which is tantamount to admitting that Russia’s post-Communist identity is still blurred and new, yet unknown turns in nation-building lie ahead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-polouektova-krimer/unearthing-russia-s-dead-over-and-over-again">Unearthing Russia’s war dead, over and over again</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-antonova/kremlinphobia-russophobia-and-other-states-of-paranoia">Kremlinphobia, russophobia and other states of paranoia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/russia%E2%80%99s-repressive-monument-to-victims-of-political-repression">Russia’s repressive monument to victims of political repression </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mark-galeotti/education-in-putin-s-russia-isn-t-about-history-but-scripture">Education in Putin’s Russia isn’t about history, but scripture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/welcome-to-post-post-soviet-era">Welcome to the post-post-Soviet era</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maria Lipman Russia History Cultural politics Wed, 12 Apr 2017 10:42:25 +0000 Maria Lipman 110077 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What the Russian theatre critics won’t tell you https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elizaveta-spivakovskaya/what-russian-theatre-critics-won-t-tell-you <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This new Moscow online journal is devoted to theatre. But it’s more like an activist project than a traditional arts magazine.<strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elizaveta-spivakovskaya/o-chem-molchat-kritiki" target="_blank"> Русский</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Russian_stage_set_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Russian_stage_set_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Set design from the archives of the State Museum of Children’s Theatre, Moscow. Photo CC-by-NC-2.0: Elizabeth / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><br />The first issue of<em> </em><a href="http://www.giraffee.ru/" target="_blank"><em>Giraffe</em> magazine</a>, launched in November 2016, was a manifesto. The publication sets a distinctive tone — it’s all Sunday afternoon nonchalance and self-deprecating irony. <em>Giraffe</em>’s texts are generally on theatrical themes, but they touch on much more: the time we live in, the links between theatre and other forms of art and spheres of life.</p><p>The articles published by <em>Giraffe</em> magazine aren’t strictly academic, nor are they journalistic in style. Instead, they’re connected by the environment of free-thinking that produced their authors —&nbsp;the majority of <em>Giraffe</em>’s authors hail from the faculty of theatrical history and criticism at GITIS, the Russian Academy of Theatrical Arts based in Moscow. Indeed, GITIS has been in the headlines in recent months due to a <a href="http://www.colta.ru/news/13494" target="_blank">high-profile student protest</a> after the newly appointed rector announced the merger of two faculties, the faculty of theatre history and criticism and the faculty of theatre management and production.</p><p><strong>Anya Zhuk</strong>, the chief editor (and ideologue) of <em>Giraffe</em>, is a recent graduate of the faculty of theatrical history, and told me more about the origins and aims of this magazine.</p><p><strong>I’ve seen your manifesto, but what needs to be read between the lines? What’s Giraffe’s mission?</strong></p><p><em>Giraffe</em> was created in order to listen to how we should respond to life. For me, with my background and education, that means artistic life. But I’m convinced that in some moments a person becomes more than they are.</p><p>After this recent incident at GITIS, for example, many people realised that they had to do something — and that meant breaking their personal boundaries. Before practicing absolute anonymity (for the first month we didn’t attribute authors’ texts), we simply uploaded two large portraits — that was our opinions in their purest form.</p><p>These days, in the media practically everybody writes texts in reaction to specific developments and events. It seems to me that people have grown hungry for their own rhythm, which is as necessary as news itself</p><p>The reality we live in isn’t an easy one, and I want to create a space that will react to it in a lively way. When I founded <em>Giraffe</em>, I wanted to open up a discussion that I’d like to participate in myself.</p><p><strong>How does <em>Giraffe</em> differ from all the other online publications about art and culture? What did you feeling was missing in them, as a reader?

</strong></p><p>These days, in the media practically everybody writes texts in reaction to specific developments and events. It seems to me that people have grown hungry for their own rhythm, which is as necessary as news itself. I wanted a publication with a slower rhythm… unhurried, but still productive.

</p><p><strong>Who writes for <em>Giraffe</em>? Is there some regular pool of contributors?

</strong></p><p>I want to gather people from different professions linked to art criticism under one roof. And I hope that there are enough such people that every one of them can write something personal, in their own handwriting and their own style. I’m looking for people with very different intuitions, topics of interest and rhythms — so that the reader can always find something that speaks to them. One by one, our audience will come to appreciate and trust the publication.</p><p>We have developed our own aesthetic of anonymity: when we wrote our first articles, we signed them under our own names. And then when authors contribute their second articles, we attribute them to “(first name) <em>Giraffe</em>”, highlighting their belonging to a certain community of ideas.</p><p><strong>Where do the boundaries, if any, of <em>Giraffe</em>’s interests lie?</strong></p><p>Well, in a life that revolves around theatre, there are a certain number of topics to talk about. The process of identifying an entirely new trend or theme is very tough — indeed, it can last a lifetime. A vivid example of this for me is the theatre critic Alena Karas, who brought the subjects of <a href="https://www.sakharov-center.ru/discussions/?id=2669" target="_blank">memory</a> and <a href="http://oteatre.info/russkij-nemez-i-polyak/" target="_blank">trauma</a> [links in Russian] to our theatrical discourse. Of course, these are incredibly important topics, but it was only after several years of constantly seeing her public performances that I understood how crucial they are to theatrical life.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A Russian artist needs a home to work in. These days, it’s easier live in another country and then long to be back in your own home(land), rather than see it doesn’t care for you at all</p><p>The most important thing for me is that everybody finds their own source, their own inspiration as an author. So, we started to discuss what pains us. And that’s how the theme of the first “issue” came into being — emigration.

</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/-Москва_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/-Москва_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="275" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A giraffe at the Moscow Zoo, 2005. Photo: Dmitry Fedoseev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It’s a subject to be understood in the broadest possible sense — as the transition from one space to another. A Russian artist needs a home to work in. And these days, it’s much easier live in another country and then long for that home(land), rather than see how that home doesn’t care for you at all.</p><p>Our relationships with our parents and our homes are always the most complicated. I founded Giraffe with the “here and now” on my mind, and that’s what I discussed with the authors. At the moment, we’re preparing an English-language version of the site.</p><p><strong>What exactly does “issue” mean here — that the site is updated on a weekly basis?

</strong></p><p>For us, an issue is simply a topic we’ve found. We work with a lot of people connected to the theatre, cinema, music. We’ve also published a <a href="http://www.giraffee.ru/single-post/2017/01/15/%D0%BF%D1%83%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B0" target="_blank">video loop</a> about graffiti, for example. The author Tanya Morales graduated from the Rodchenko Art School in Moscow, and then moved on to the British Higher School of Design. She’s experienced two attitudes to modern life that don’t combine too easily; at the British school, they’re taught that art is a product, and that if you can’t sell it successfully, you’re not worthwhile. The Rodchenko school teaches the very opposite.</p><p>One of our tasks at <em>Giraffe</em> is to create a journal that can address these various — commercial, non-commercial — art forms, but doesn’t become a product itself.</p><p><strong>

Who are “we”? Tell me a little about your fellow editors.</strong></p><p>We have two editorial boards. One is responsible for editing texts, for stylistic changes. The other is the design collective, which ensures that the essence remains unchanged. My personal example here is Amy Winehouse. When she went on stage, she just sang. She couldn’t really do anything else — that was her essence. She wasn’t able to create a product herself; her entire image was created by others — directors, choreographers, musicians. And without that form, there would have been no performance. I’d like authors from<em> Giraffe</em> to sing well, but I still spend a lot of time on giving the publication a unified form.

</p><p><strong>What’s your audience? Who are you writing for?

</strong></p><p>We founded our publication for the intuitive and intellectual reader. As I see it, there are two types of people — some understand the world through essence, others through form. I want <em>Giraffe</em> to appeal to both, to people on different wavelengths. These days, readers are tired of incessant advertisements, and of native advertising mixed in with real articles by real authors. We want to create “a zone of trust” between the reader and publication. It’s important for us to maintain independent expert opinion on the site.</p><p>We also ask that our judgements not be seen as political. When we’re critical, it means we want movements and tendencies [in art] to continue and adapt, not to die out. We work to create art anew, not to destroy the old. Our goal is simply to observe the fascinating development of art, in all its directions. We seek readers who are interested to watch that process alongside us. </p><p><strong>
The debate around the GITIS faculty of theatrical history and criticism was closely connected to the current rector’s belief that theatre criticism is a field in crisis, and is in need of renewal. What do you make of his declaration?
</strong></p><p>As I see it, the protest at the faculty of theatrical history and criticism was a reaction to the rector’s view that the faculty needs to “identify itself”, as it were.</p><p>But there’s no problem with identity here. In fact, the field faces exactly the opposite problem — theatrical criticism is extremely closed, perhaps even self-obsessed, and has shuttered itself away from change and new ideas. Any other criticism could have been made, but don’t tell theatre critics that they don’t know who they are. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/jpg_5." rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/jpg_5." alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theatre students from St. Petersburg protesting in defence of their colleagues at GITIS. Photo: tvc.ru / YouTube. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Producers and theatre managers are exactly the same — they know very well who they are. It’s not that the two fields and faculties have fallen out, it’s that they both need change in very different ways. In that sense, the protest was logical enough — it’s becoming clearer that the rector’s policy is more aimed at blurring disciplinary boundaries and attracting Big Names to the institution, rather than addressing existing problems.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There’s a global division afoot between mass professions and individual jobs. The latter, where the skills and gifts required for success occur once every few years, have to survive in globalisation

</p><p>When it comes to education at the faculty, I’ve nothing to say against the theatre experts and dramatists — but I do see big problems in the press. I gathered together writers in the field who hadn’t yet been able to find proper work (or hadn’t tried to). Several had already written dissertations, so I asked them to write their thoughts. They turned out to be very impressive specialists. A cultural critic, after all, isn’t somebody who rushes around, chasing stories, but somebody who takes the time to reflect and lead a reader through their thoughts. 

</p><p><strong>What kind of place does <em>Giraffe</em> magazine give authors to find their own voice, to write about theatre or whatever their particular passion? </strong></p><p>

I saw “<a href="https://www.schaubuehne.de/en/produktionen/atmen.html" target="_blank">Lungs</a>”, Katie Mitchell’s play, in Berlin. It was a minimalist installation featuring two small black wooden tables, upon which actors sat on bicycles, pedalling and chatting to one another. They talked about ecology, giving birth to children, and any number of other topics. For the first couple of minutes I felt that I’d got the point and was already a bit bored. Over the course of the next three days in Berlin, I almost forgot that I had seen the production at all. But it seemed to me as if I was overhearing the heroes’ discussions in crowds; that I had simply taken in the chatter of this city as if by osmosis. Over four days, the play had gradually and imperceptibly opened itself up before me, and I saw that it had been a very modern, very perceptive piece of art. That’s when I understood that we shouldn’t write immediately about plays we have just seen.</p><p>Many theatre critics see a play, go back home and resume talking about whatever they want to talk about. And I’m left wondering what the authors of that play left “for themselves” after they wrote it.

</p><p><strong>Is <em>Giraffe</em> magazine a volunteer-run project?</strong></p><p>

No. All of our authors are also motivated by a financial interest. In some ways, <em>Giraffe</em> is an attempt to run a creative project as a business model. A volunteer-run creative endeavour, unsupported by a coherent internal structure, is doomed to fail — sooner or later. We’re now looking for sponsors, and although there is a commercial aspect, I still want our project to be an artistic and creative space. We’re looking for partners who value their reputation and have a high sense of creativity in their work. It’s a small project, so I think we’ll find something.

</p><p><strong>You said that you’ve already decided on the topics of the next two issues?

 </strong></p><p>Yes, we’ve identified two issues that we’re really itching to cover. One is, simply, “time”. Or rather, time as a category of time, in terms of how it’s interpreted and performed in different artistic genres; its changes and leaps. </p><p>We also want to talk about education, the transfer of knowledge. And that’s not simply about official systems of education, schools and universities — for example, we’d like to reflect on how different cultures are transmitted among populations, and different concepts of education: whether teacher-student, self-learning, or the movement towards online study. 

</p><p>In recent decades, the global need for higher education has radically altered, turning traditional structures of education upside-down. There’s a global division afoot between mass professions and individual jobs. The latter, where the skills and gifts required to be successful occur once every few years, have to survive in globalisation. 
For that, we need the state to pay attention and lend a hand in the difficult process of keeping institutions like GITIS afloat.</p><p>I believe that theatrical education can still attract the attention from government officials in Russia, especially if they’re interested in maintaining a high level of expert specialists. But the overarching theme here is freedom of choice for young people. How is tradition passed down, and how is this freedom affected? You’ll soon be able to read our authors’, our giraffes’ thoughts on this. And they’re likely to be of very different positions — we’re a very diverse crowd, and we love to argue with one another.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards-andrei-urodov/russia-without-whom">Russia without whom?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vladimir-itkin/ordinary-yet-exceptional-people-of-russia-s-provinces">The ordinary, yet exceptional people of Russia’s provinces</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/columnist-s-work-is-never-done">A columnist’s work is never done</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Elizaveta Spivakovskaya Unlikely Media Russia Beyond propaganda Cultural politics Thu, 02 Mar 2017 10:29:08 +0000 Elizaveta Spivakovskaya 109177 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The politics of Russia’s armed forces day https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mischa-gabowitsch-editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/the-politics-of-russia-s-arm <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the symbolism of Defender of the Fatherland Day, a celebration of Russia’s armed forces and de-facto Men’s Day. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mischa-gabowitsch-editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/23-fevralya">Русский</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01387667.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="355" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>23 February 2013: Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu at Armed Forces Day, Moscow. (c) Alexey Nikolsky / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Every year, on 23 February, Russia celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day. The holiday was initially known as Soviet Army and Navy Day, and became to all intents and purposes a celebration of the USSR’s armed forces. But it’s long since lost this historical meaning. In fact, it’s become a de-facto "Men’s Day" in Russia, a counterpart to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-antonova/8-march-in-praise-of-russian-women">International Women’s Day on 8 March</a></em><span>.</span><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>oDR spoke to sociologist and author of the “Monument and Celebration: the ethnography of Victory Day” research project Mischa Gabowitsch about how this holiday has been transformed in the public mind and what role the army has played in this.</em></p><p><strong>Mikhail, your research group has carried out a huge project focusing on 9 May (when victory over Nazi Germany and its allies in 1945 is celebrated). You have shown that this celebration is surrounded by a vast spectrum of what you refer to as “commemorative practices” – ceremonies, rituals, collective emotions. But what happens on 23 February? What kind of commemoration is it? What meaning does it have for people today?</strong></p><p>There are hardly any specifically commemorative practices associated with this day, at least beyond the army itself. Nobody recalls the Red Army’s mythical “victory over the Kaiser’s troops” that the law requires us to celebrate on this date. At most, people will sporadically replicate practices usually associated with 9 May or 22 June, such as burying recently discovered remains of World War II soldiers or honouring “all those who defended the fatherland throughout history”.</p><p>9 May refers to a concrete date, despite the fact that it increasingly resembles a cyclical ritual such as Easter. But 23 February has become a thematic celebration disconnected from any specific events. It’s interesting to follow its evolution: its name was formally changed from Soviet Army and Navy Day to Defender of the Fatherland Day, but in fact it has become a de facto “Men’s Day” – the male equivalent of 8 March for women. Even when I worked at the liberal New Literary Review publishing house in Moscow, all the male staff were presented with vodka and perfume on that day. So any connection, with not just the Civil War but with any historical event, has simply been lost.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Army has been rewarded with enormous symbolic significance – but at the price of total subservience to the political leadership</p><p>In this sense 23 February illustrates the dissemination of militarism throughout Russian society. Much of what has become part of the shared social repertoire, including the commemoration of 23 February and 9 May, initially grew out of internal army practice. Many of the practices that formed the basis of Brezhnev’s Victory cult in the 1960s and 70s were initially of interest mostly to active service members. Immediately after World War II the army often built war memorials itself, and often for itself. In Russia many of the first memorials glorified generals or marshals, and even monuments to specific army corps were placed in front of Officers‘ Clubs. None of this had much significance for conscripts and volunteers who returned from the war and melted back into civilian life: it was done for the Soviet army, for professional soldiers. Much the same goes for 23 February and other commemorative dates and practices – they initially existed for active servicemen, but then, because of the Army’s important symbolic role, acquired a shared significance.</p><p>There’s another important point here, which has to do with the distribution of power. Liberal critics looking at Russia often claim that institutions such as the Army, and now the Orthodox Church as well, wield enormous power. But in fact they hardly have real political power at all. I’ve never heard, for example, of a regional governor being dismissed because of pressure from the Church. But of course the Church does have a great deal of symbolic power: you won’t find a single celebration, a single cemetery, a single new memorial inaugurated without Church involvement.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Military Cemetery_Church.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sergei Radonezhsky Church at the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery, Moscow. CC-BY-4.0: Mil.ru / Wikimedia Commons. Several rights reserved.</span></span></span>The same goes for the Army. There has never been a single successful military coup in Russia’s entire history, unlike, say, in Turkey or Egypt. Nor, really, are there any examples of the Army leadership acting taking successful action on the political stage independently, rather than as allies of political leaders. In 1953-56, for example, Khrushchev used the recently disgraced Marshall Zhukov’s reputation for his own ends, to win an internal Party battle, and soon afterwards demoted him again. There was not the slightest indication here that the military might play an autonomous political role.</p><p>Yet at the same time, the Army’s symbolic role continues to grow. Celebrations connected with military victories become national holidays.&nbsp;<a href="http://spps-jspps.autorenbetreuung.de/files/04_gabowitsch_komplett.pdf">We can see this now in the case of the new National Cemetery</a>. It was built at the initiative of the Ministry of Defence and is administered by it; it is officially called the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery. This is the cemetery where, supposedly, the Russian president and other important figures will be buried – but a lot of people are not even aware of its existence. The Army initiated and supervised its construction and determined its symbolism. But the site has a very low public profile. In other words, the Army has been rewarded with enormous symbolic significance – but at the price of total subservience to the political leadership.</p><p><span>What role does the Army play in the commemorative practices that you are studying – processions, rituals, demonstrations?</span></p><p>Visually, it has a very strong presence. In many places where we conducted research, a real-time relay of the Moscow parade, for example, or local processions timed to coincide with it, were a very important part of the celebrations. And here, of course, troops, military hardware and so on play a big part.</p> <p>But at the same time, the army plays no more than a supporting role in the organisation of celebrations, and this role is getting smaller year by year. Active servicemen are eclipsed by veterans; these days it’s those of the Afghan and Chechen wars. The veterans are often the principal organisers of celebrations, memorial construction and so on. Historical re-enactors are also increasingly prominent, as are various military paraphernalia – uniforms, military hats worn by children and, of course, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribbon_of_Saint_George">St George’s Ribbons</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Since 2005, on the initiative of a Moscow journalist, the St George’s Ribbon has been turned into a symbol of everything that is worn by everyone, including cats, dogs and strippers</p><p> Those in the military were often very reticent to accept contemporary uses of that ribbon, because they know that the Guards‘ ribbon upon which it is based is a decoration, a specific award for acts of bravery. But since 2005, not on the military’s initiative but on that of a Moscow journalist, the St George’s Ribbon has been turned into a symbol of everything that is worn by everyone, including cats, dogs and strippers. If anyone had asked the generals to approve this symbol, they would have banned it. But the generals had no say in the matter.</p> <p>Let’s look at another example, the <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10758216.2016.1250604?needAccess=true">“Immortal Regiment”</a>. Although this movement, whose members annually commemorate relatives who fought in WW II, was created by liberal, critically minded Tomsk journalists, it is infused with militarism: the language used on its web site illustrates this, as does the very format of a commemorative parade or march. Of course this is rooted in the experience of a specific generation of Russian men who went through compulsory military service – but the symbols and language of these commemorative rituals has very little to do with the present-day army. To put it bluntly, while symbolic militarism are spreading across society, the real-life army’s impact on them is on the decline.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>But is the army itself – today’s combat forces – in any condition to come up with any new practices of its own? Has it created its own foundation myth? </strong></p><p>Of course it does. But I think that it has relied, to an even greater extent than in the Second World War period, on dialogue with non-military ideologists to help create it. If you think about the <a href="https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=https://izborsk-club.ru/&amp;prev=search">Izborsk Club</a> and other nationalist organisations that have sprung up in the past few years, there are always generals in the army who are sympathetic to their ideology. Or look at radical right-wing intellectual <a href="http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2015/03/04/aleksandr-dugin-putins-rasputin/">Aleksandr Dugin’s relations with the Academy of the General Staff</a> in the late 1990s. Yet the army itself seems largely unable to generate anything like this on its own.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/23_Feb_Poster_Moscow.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/23_Feb_Poster_Moscow.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="605" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Poster for 23 February. Photograph: Ola Cichowlas.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>At the same time, the army is constantly involved in combat operations. Why can’t it build all this into a narrative that would be attractive to the public? </strong></p><p>There is a narrative being built, of course, but not by the people involved. Certainly not by the army leadership, who have adopted a rather passive stance on ideology.</p> <p>Practices developed by former combatants usually reach the public with some delay. Nowadays veterans of the Afghan war are very active in all kinds of commemorations, but they had to fight for this over many years. We can all remember how in the 1980s and 90s their combat service went effectively unrecognised by the public, and they developed their practices and myths more or less in isolation from society at large. And there’s a parallel here with what happened after 1945. </p><p>Commemorative practices developed by ex-servicemen only began to influence the general public after the veterans themselves came to occupy influential positions in society. The same goes for Afghan veterans. They are now in their 40s and 50s, or older, and some of them are senior officials and businessmen, which allows them to put their ideas into practice - they have the resources for it. </p><p>But soldiers returning now from service in Syria can play no such role. They become, at best, passive objects of commemorative policies; and at worst, if we’re talking about the Donbas, their fate is simply hushed up, as was the case in 2014 in Pskov with the <a href="http://rbth.com/international/2014/08/30/rumors_swirl_over_mysterious_funerals_for_russian_paratroopers__39415.html">secret burials of paratroopers</a> who died fighting in Ukraine.&nbsp;</p><p><span>How does Fatherland Defender Day differ in principle from other popular “professional” celebrations – Teachers’ Day, for instance?</span></p><p>Well, 23 February has ceased to be a celebration of a specific professional group – the military – and become a general celebration of men. This probably has to do with the fact that the occupation “member of the armed forces” has dropped off the radar of a large part of the population. Almost everyone, after all, interacts with teachers, in one way or another. But, contrary to a certain public image, far from every adult male has been through military service. There’s a huge class divide – if you have been granted an exemption from mandatory service because you are in higher education or can buy your way out, then you may never come into contact with the army.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There’s a huge class divide in Russia – there are whole swathes of the population with no connection to the army and no idea of what it is like</p><p>There are whole swathes of the population with no connection to the army and no idea of what it is like. And even if someone has done his military service, it’s not the same as being a professional soldier. If he did his service and now works in an office, his professional “day” is office worker’s day. The standing army is made up of a professionalised minority, usually drawn from specific social milieus. So attitudes to 23 February in Moscow or St Petersburg will be very different from those in, say, Pskov, Artyom or other towns or regions where the army is a major employer. So you have both class differences and regional specialisation. </p><p>This is by no means a Russian peculiarity. In the US in the 1970s, protest against the Vietnam War was so massive, among other reasons, because nearly everybody, including campus youth, knew someone who was either in the army, was already serving in Vietnam or might be posted there. Attitudes to the Iraq War were different, following an initial upsurge of protest, because the educated classes no longer had much connection with the armed forces.</p><p><span>You have been studying how people in Russia remember events of the Second World War and commemorate 23 February, and 9 May as Victory over Fascism Day, while yourself living in Germany. How difficult is it to do this, outside Russia?</span></p><p>On the one hand, studying these topics in Germany is quite easy. More than anywhere else, there is a whole industry here that is devoted to the study of memory and public memory discourse. There is also an institutional infrastructure to support it. For example, I am very grateful to the Remembrance, Responsibility and Future Foundation for funding our German volume on the commemoration of 9 May and, no less importantly, the concluding meeting of our research network in Potsdam in November 2016. We’ve also had great support from the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst. This network of institutional support is very dense in Germany and goes far beyond purely academic institutions. </p><p>On the other hand, the very prominence of Germany’s memory discourse has caused me some very specific problems. Here the emphasis tends to be on memory, that is, people’s representations of the past. So when you are studying not memory, but commemoration – what people do rather than what they think about – you sometimes have difficulty making yourself understood. In recent years people here have started to talk a lot about memory culture, Erinnerungskultur in German, and use that concept as a general framework for this kind of research. But this approach isn’t always appropriate for what I’m doing: its focus is on what people think, not what they do. It’s a historian’s approach, focusing on representations rather than actions. What interests me is something else – not whether, and to what extent, people’s recollections differ from what professional historians know about the past, but what we can observe today in people’s practices. </p><p>The question I am interested in answering is: “what do people do when they express an attitude towards the past?” I am not trying to find out whether their way of expressing themselves is right or wrong. But it is sometimes difficult to get this across in Germany, where the concept of “memory culture” is all-powerful. My colleague Manfred Hettling has written that in Germany there are monuments, but no commemoration – monuments are built, then immediately handed over to conservationists. So when we study what happens to these monuments after they have been erected – what ceremonies and rituals take place around them, what emotions they awake in people, what happens on 23 February or 9 May or 3 December, recently proclaimed Day of the Unknown Soldier – people here sometimes fail to understand what is meant. In addition, since memory research in Germany is strongly rooted in attempts to come to terms with the Nazi past, it usually has a strong normative component. </p><p>Those who study commemoration are expected to make their own attitudes very clear. This can have an overly politicising effect on research designs. It is almost as if the presence of anything that is considered ethically unacceptable from the point of view of mainstream memory culture – the appearance of ultra-right wing activists in Berlin's Treptower Park on 9 May, for example – thereby disqualified the event as an object of study. And although as a citizen I largely share the ethical values underlying this attitude, as a researcher I sometimes feel constrained by it. Suppose someone came to a Victory Day event in uniform. Some of my German colleagues would be immediately alienated by it – it’s militarism, so it’s bad. But my task is not to judge the person, but to understand why they put on a uniform, what their motivation was and what they invested in this act. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-polouektova-krimer/unearthing-russia-s-dead-over-and-over-again">Unearthing Russia’s war dead, over and over again</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-sorokin/pacifism-and-patriotism-in-russia">Pacifism and patriotism in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mischa-gabowitsch/putin-s-regimes">Putin’s regimes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mark-galeotti/education-in-putin-s-russia-isn-t-about-history-but-scripture">Education in Putin’s Russia isn’t about history, but scripture</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mischa Gabowitsch Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia Russia Cultural politics Conflict Thu, 23 Feb 2017 19:36:23 +0000 Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia and Mischa Gabowitsch 108999 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Социалистическая любовь: от утопии к прагматизму https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/katerina-liskova/socialist-love-ot-utopii-k-pragmatismu <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Когда в страну приходят танки, они не останавливаются на главной площади - они катятся дальше, прямиком в спальни и будуары мирных граждан. Пражская весна смела утопические идеи о любви - поставив на место мечты смирение. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/katerina-liskova/socialist-love-from-utopia-to-pragmatism">English</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/mama hornice.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="321" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Чехословакия 1950-х: равенство мужчин и женщин в действии. Фото из архива автора.</span></span></span>Что бы люди ни думали, любовь не вечна. Дело не только в том, что эмоция, переживаемая двумя людьми, может сойти на нет (как это часто бывает); меняется само понятие любви как таковое. Оно зависит от времени и места; в разные эпохи и в разных уголках земли оно определяет желания людей, их стремления как в интимной жизни, так и вне ее, а также их восприятие самих себя.</p><p>Что еще более интересно, любовь — сокровенное чувство, которое мы обычно считаем субъективным — связана с социально-политическими структурами, и даже зависима от них. У любви есть политическая сторона.</p><p>В Чехословакии, на протяжении социалистической эры, понятие любви претерпело целый ряд изменений по мере того, как менялся сам режим. В течение всего 40 лет здесь успели возникнуть целых два подхода к романтическим отношениям. Политические события, на первый взгляд не связанные с нежными чувствами, непосредственно и ощутимо влияли на отношения и представления о романтике.</p><h2>Страна свободной любви</h2><p>Придя в Чехословакию, социализм поставил акцент на равенство полов во всех сферах жизни. В начале 1950-х провозглашалось равенство мужчин и женщин не только как работников, но и как супругов и родителей. Новые гражданские нормы кардинально изменили правоспособность женщины и мужчины в браке.</p><p>Закон о Семейном праве 1949 года гласил, что отныне жены имеют равные права со своими мужьями; мужчины утратили свою вековую власть над женщинами и детьми. Закон обязал супругов совместно принимать решения относительно имущества и детей, упростил процедуру развода и освободил женщин от необходимости получать разрешение мужа для устройства на работу.</p><p>Кроме того, из законодательства были изъяты слова о “супружеском долге”, то есть о сексе между супругами. “Закон сознательно не упоминает супружеские обязанности, ибо они, как и обязанность иметь детей, проистекают из самой сути брака как добровольного союза двух людей, связавших свои судьбы затем, чтобы их личная жизнь была полноценной”, сообщал своим читательницам женский журнал в 1950 году. “Долг” вышел из моды - любовь, секс и, как следствие, рождение детей стали добровольным делом.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/gebhard v sexuologickem ustavu.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Институт сексологии в Праге. Фото из архива автора.</span></span></span>Поскольку изменились юридические нормы, должно было измениться и отношение самих людей к браку. Появилась новая научная специальность, представители которой изучали человеческую сексуальность и давали консультации о том, как достичь сексуальной гармонии: сексология. В 1921 году, задолго до того, как Альфред Кинси сумел опубликовать свою первую работу на Западе, в Праге был основан целый Институт Сексологии. Там работали врачи, проводившие клинические исследования и писавшие пособия по супружеской жизни. В этих книгах, опубликованных в 1950-е годы, восхвалялись преимущества равноправных союзов, в которые следует вступать исключительно по любви.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Любовь может существовать лишь среди свободных людей</p><p>"Любовь может существовать лишь среди свободных людей", — заявил в 1948 году Йозеф Гиние, отец-основатель чехословацкой сексологии.</p><p>Его коллеги из Института Сексологии развили эту мысль:</p><p>"Последовательное вовлечение женщин в общественные и рабочие процессы, их экономическая независимость — все это действительно ослабляет супружеские узы. Женщина освобождается от власти своего мужа. Теперь она уже не просто служанка, не просто домохозяйка, не просто представительница прекрасного пола, не просто воспитательница детей, но равный партнер, как в экономическом, так и в социальном отношении &lt;...&gt; Когда брак строится на взаимной любви и уважении, экономическая и социальная самостоятельность каждого из партнеров создает все предпосылки для прочного союза, без лжи и притворства — союза, основанного на добровольном и радостном стремлении разделить с человеком жизнь".</p><p>В результате, в 1950-е годы женщины получили невиданную доселе свободу. Считалось, что мужчины тоже выигрывают от нового общественного порядка; для представителей обоих полов он означал счастливый брак, основанный на искренней любви.</p><p>Нельзя сказать, что на практике все браки резко изменились. На самом деле многие из них, увы, остались такими же, какими были. Но то, что реальность не всегда соответствует ожиданиям, еще не означает, что от ожиданий надо отказаться. Наоборот: сексолог Владимир Бартак советовал молодым неженатым и незамужним людям упорно искать свою истинную любовь. Он считал, что никогда не следует вступать в брак по расчету.</p><h2>Верх глупости</h2><p>Не прошло и пятнадцати лет, а ситуация кардинально изменилась. В начале 1970-х годов самые продаваемые книги о супружеской жизни, изданные сотрудниками все того же Института Сексологии, уже утверждали: "мужчина и женщина не равны ни биологически, ни социально" и советовали принять тот факт, что "несмотря на принцип, утвержденный законом, основную ответственность за ведение домашнего хозяйства и уход за детьми должна нести женщина", а если муж и помогает ей время от времени, то она должна "ценить и уважать помощь мужчины, пусть это и является его законным обязательством". Такое распределение сил уже не предусматривало равенства.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/sedmdesátá-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="363" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Идеальная чешская семья после "нормализации". Фото из архива автора.</span></span></span></p><p>Вместе с "равенством" из дискурса чехословацкой сексологии исчезла и "любовь". Авторы пытались ввести в обиход вроде бы конкретные, но весьма замысловато звучащие термины — такие, как "эмоциональная дисгармония между супругами", "эмоциональная отстраненность", "расстройство эмоциональной сферы в супружеском союзе" или "несоответствие взаимных проявлений нежности и чувств". Все эти выражения не просто оставляли любовь за скобками — они указывали на проблему, на изъян.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Любовь надо оставить искусству</p><p>Если "любовь" и упоминалась, то в основном с негативным оттенком. Сексолог Ярослав Звержина из Института Сексологии выступал против "любовной идеологии сексуальности". По его словам, "как и любое другое чувство, любовь сама по себе ни хороша, ни плоха. Она может стать и такой, и сякой, в зависимости от своих последствий. Я считаю, что любовь надо оставить искусству. Мы должны научить людей нести ответственность за самих себя и свое окружение. Избыток эмоций только ослабляет эту ответственность". Людям предложили забыть о любви и заменить ее дисциплиной.</p><p>Главным апологетом мысли о превосходстве дисциплины над любовью был Мирослав Пльзак — вероятно, самый известный чехословацкий сексолог. В своем знаменитом пособии 1975 года он высмеял идею супружеской любви и счастья, назвав ее "верхом глупости":</p><p>"Мы не желаем ничего слышать о необходимости дисциплины в браке, поскольку над нами до сих пор властвуют идеи эпохи модерна; мы все еще верим, что брак должен быть прежде всего озером любви, в котором романтично плещутся супруги, и не приемлем идею брака как института, как некоего "учреждения".</p><p>Пльзак считал, что супружеская жизнь должна стать механическим процессом, как езда на велосипеде или работа на станке. Людям надо перестать задумываться о своем браке ("счастлив (-а) ли я?", "неужели вот это и есть брак?"), а если им скучно - пусть производят потомство. В конце концов, именно рождение детей и является изначальной функцией брака. А функция женщины — воспитывать детей и следить за домом.</p><h2>Нормализация безнадежности</h2><p>Почему ранняя и поздняя стадии чехословацкого социализма так разительно отличаются друг от друга? В течение первой декады, после смены режима в стране бытовал утопический подход. Послевоенная глубокая вера в то, что надо переделать сами основы мира, сопровождалась необходимостью переосмыслить эти основы. Близкие отношения между мужчиной и женщиной воспринимались как парадигма социальных связей в целом, а в 1950-х люди считали, что социальные связи должны основываться на равенстве и дружбе, перерастающих в любовь.</p><p>1970-е и 1980-е сторонники государственного режима называли периодом "нормализации" — власть хотела "нормализовать" политическую обстановку, дестабилизированную теми процессами, что в 1968 году привели к Пражской весне.&nbsp;</p><p>Волна протестов, которая захлестнула целый народ и привлекла внимание всего мира, проявила себя и в культуре: фильмы Иржи Менцеля, Веры Хитиловой, Милоша Формана и других режиссеров стали известны как "новая волна"; книги Милана Кундеры и Богумила Грабала прославились своей непохожестью на схематичный соцреализм. Новое искусство и новая литература пробили брешь в административно-командной экономике страны, предложив свои реформы (с целью вернуть в систему некоторые элементы рыночной экономики) и просочились в общественную жизнь, пытаясь вернуть обычным гражданам возможность участвовать в политике.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;Авторы пособий для супругов, сами того не желая, сужали кругозор людей и подавляли их ожидания</p><p>После того, как в августе 1968-го все это сгинуло под гусеницами советских танков, люди утратили всякую надежду. Социалистическая утопия подверглась пересмотру еще в 60-е, но теперь, когда настала "нормализация", в ход пошли средства, насильно привязывающие людей к дому и семье; а авторы пособий для супругов, сами того не желая, сужали кругозор людей и подавляли их ожидания. Казалось, их книги говорят: "Оглянитесь вокруг. Не нравится? Но лучше не будет".</p><p>Люди отказались от идеи что-либо изменить как в личной, так и в политической жизни, и стали смотреть на действительность прагматически. Такой подход укреплял состояние "нормализации", гарантировал неизменность установленного порядка. Естественным результатом всего этого стала социальная стабильность, которой больше не угрожали стремления мужчин и женщин, желавших иного расклада в семье и вне ее.</p><p>Нам стоило бы учесть то, как быстро идеалистические порывы уступают место насущным потребностям — и то, как незаметно для самих участников событий происходит эта перемена. В Чехословакии этот переход занял не более десяти лет. Любовь, конечно же, не вечна, но когда мы отказываемся от утопических стремлений, довольствуемся тем, что есть, поддаемся "нормализации" — мы теряем свой шанс на более счастливое будущее. И об этом стоит помнить каждый день, а не только в День святого Валентина.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love-rus">Холодная война или горячая любовь? О столкновении романтических цивилизаций</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Czech Republic </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia Czech Republic Culture Романтические режимы Катерина Лискова Romantic regimes oDR Русский Cultural politics Tue, 21 Feb 2017 10:20:34 +0000 Катерина Лискова 108948 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Холодная война или горячая любовь? О столкновении романтических цивилизаций https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love-rus <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>С распадом Советского Союза произошла революция интимного. Сменился не только политический и экономический режим - сменился режим эмоциональный. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love">English</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Trailer-Doctor_Zhivago-Yuri_Zhivago_and_Lara_1.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Trailer-Doctor_Zhivago-Yuri_Zhivago_and_Lara_1.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="195" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Революция, метель и побег: основные компоненты русской любовной драмы. Юрий Живаго и Лара - образцовые русские любовники, в западном представлении. Источник: Wiki Commons</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">В середине девяностых, совершая ежедневный путь из дома до школы, я часто задерживалась у газетного ларька в метро. Не то, чтобы я хотела что-то купить - скорее, меня завораживал меняющийся, как в калейдоскопе, ассортимент изданий. Одна за другой, обложки с мощными женщинами и не менее мощными автомобилями выпихивали выпуски “Правды” подальше, в задний ряд - пока она не исчезла там окончательно, придавленная “Спид-Инфо”. Там, где раньше сероватая передовица призывала советских женщин и мужчин посвятить каждую минуту своей жизни производительному труду в фабричных цехах и колхозных полях, Cosmo и ELLE теперь звали мужчин и женщин на новые подвиги - по большей части, в спальнях или, на худой конец, за ширмой в коммунальной комнате. “Секс или Шоколад? Всему свое время!” обращался первый русский номер Cosmopolitan к нации, едва успевшей перестать отмерять жизнь пятилетками. Наряду с этим, Cosmo ставил под сомнение необходимость мужа в жизни успешной женщины, и предлагал тест “Насколько хорошо вы знаете вашего партнера”.</p><p dir="ltr">С распадом СССР, бывший советский человек в очередной раз стал объектом “перековки” - на сей раз из фаталистичного коллективиста гомо советикуса в эмоционального капиталиста, измеряющего качество брака по шкале от одной до десяти, отрабатывающего “25 удобных сексуальных позиций для раскладушки” и способного отстоять свои “эмоциональные потребности” на коммунальной кухне. Внезапно, на глазах, рассеялся, как дым, сам словарь любовной страсти. Толстой и Достоевский говорили “любовь” - а Элен и ребята в телевизоре говорили “отношения”; мамы говорили “жених”, а мы говорили “парень”; и, наконец, там, где все интеллигентные люди пожимали плечами и краснели, Cosmo говорил “куннилингус”, “фелляция”, “фистинг” и “оргазм”. Изменился сам привычный курс отношений: вместо “познакомились” - “влюбились” - “поженились”, мы теперь учились “выставлять личные границы”, “давать партнеру шанс” и только потом “вступать в отношения”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/aeca3669d6cbcd190fe943facd5e0fa1_fitted_740x740_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/aeca3669d6cbcd190fe943facd5e0fa1_fitted_740x740_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="590" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Шоколад, секс и свобода от обязательств: основные компоненты западной любовной истории. Космо-герл и Плейбой - образцовые американские любовники, в пост-советском представлении. Источник: cosmo.ru</span></span></span></p><p>Хорошо изученный и раскритикованный на Западе за “потребительское” отношение к чувствам, в России эмоциональный капитализм, впрочем, все еще испытывает серьезное сопротивление со стороны “эмоционального социализма”. Так называемый “терапевтический” язык западной любви - язык поп-психологии и селф-хелпа, описывающий эмоции как измеряемые, познаваемые и контролируемые - нередко перебивается языком русской классики: громом, молниями, кометами и метелями.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">С распадом СССР, бывший советский человек в очередной раз стал объектом “перековки” - на сей раз, в эмоционального капиталиста</p><p>О том, что происходит в процессе этого “цивилизационного столкновения” я поговорила с Юлей Лернер - социологом, доктором наук, профессором Университета Бен-Гуриона в Израиле и бывшей петербурженкой, которая и предложила понятие “эмоционального социализма" в своих работах об эмоциональном языке в масс-медиа.</p><h2>Между “любовью” и “отношениями”</h2><p><strong>&nbsp;Юля, как ты пришла к теме “эмоционального социализма”? Ты сама на себе как-то испытывала столкновение вот этих “советских”, может быть, “русских” представлениях о чувствах, о любви - с западными?</strong></p><p>&nbsp;Я уехала в Израиль, когда мне было 18 лет. Самый пик начала романтических отношений, и я, конечно, искала любовь. Я была влюблена в Израиль, я была влюблена в язык, и я хотела иметь отношения только с израильтянами. Но я совершенно не была готова к тому, как там были устроены первые романтические встречи. Я слышала от израильского молодого человека, например, такое выражение типа “мне это не подходит”, на иврите звучит как “лё матим ли”. И я это совершенно не могла понять, что оно значит, зачем он мне это говорит, и какое развитие отношений это предполагает - типа, позвонит или не позвонит потом? Я понимала иврит, но это выражение было для меня совершенно чужим.</p><p>Что в этом есть в этом “лё матим ли”? Там есть, во первых, некое ясное отдельно стоящее Я. И у этого Я есть какие-то его эмоциональные потребности, у него есть четкое представление о том что и кто подходит, а кто нет. Это банально звучит, но он пришел в супермаркет, и там есть разные женщины, и он выбирает,- но сразу не может решить, поэтому он пробует, и после первой-второй встречи, после секса говорит, нет, вот это - нет, а это - да, может быть. И он совершенно в этом смысле не думает меня обижать. У него есть Я. У этого Я есть потребности. Он - этот Игаль, Омри, Дуду - их знает и постоянно изучает, и поэтому ему кажется, что он меня совершенно не унижает. Просто я ему не подхожу - но это обо мне ничего не говорит. То есть, меня тут нет вообще во всей этой картине. А главное, после того, как человек говорит тебе “лё матим ли”, тебе уже совершенно нечего сказать. Весь романтический сценарий добиваться кого-то - он уже не работает совершенно. Потому что как ты будешь его добиваться? Менять его потребности? Менять себя, чтобы подходило?</p><p class="mag-quote-center">В русской модели, если ты не теряешь голову, то ты не любишь по-настоящему. А в американской - если ты теряешь голову, то это, прежде всего, знак того, что что-то с тобой не порядке.</p><p><strong>В русской версии любви можно любить то, что тебе не подходит. И это не делает тебя нездоровым человеком. Это, как раз, подчеркивает твою человечность. А в западной модели, если ты любишь то, что тебе не подходит, это значит что ты - невротик?</strong></p><p>Да, так и есть. Но различия ощущаются даже когда люди приходят к заключению, что они друг-другу “подходят”. Когда я в итоге была уже замужем за израильтянином, мы все равно совершенно по-разному смотрели на то, что между нами происходило. Я находилась в той модели любви, где действуют свои законы. В первую очередь, она -любовь - либо есть, либо ее нет. А он находился “в отношениях“, над которыми можно и нужно “работать”. Интересно, что несмотря на то, что советский человек работал над собой в разных областях, все же в русском дискурсе над любовью работать нельзя. Она за пределами этого.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/9538058406_70da466337_k_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/9538058406_70da466337_k_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Если бы Анна Каренина больше работала над отношениями, то не было бы никакой драмы. Источник: CC BY-ND 2.0, John E. Branch Jr./Flickr. Отдельные права защищены.</span></span></span></p><p>Вообще, терапевтический менеждмент эмоций - это иллюзия. Потому что, на самом деле, ты ничего не выбираешь. Ты подстраиваешь себя, свое поведение под здоровый норматив. Знаешь, когда я в Америке провела год, у меня было все время такое ощущение, что там все построено на культивации ощущения, что у тебя много выбора. Для того, чтобы ты ни в коем случае не подумал, не догадался, что никакого выбора у тебя нет. И поэтому тебя бесконечно будут спрашивать paper bag или plastic bag - нужно чтобы у тебя было ощущение, что ты уже задохнулся этим выбором.</p><p><strong>Насколько мы свободны в любви, как ты думаешь? Мы живем в этой парадигме, мы задыхаемся этим выбором, как ты говоришь - но насколько это реально?</strong></p><p>Мы сейчас ограничиваемся романтической любовью, да? К чужому, другому человеку, который вдруг по причинам судьбы, или твоего выбора, или потому что он удовлетворяет твои потребности становится для тебя чем-то значимым, и ты хочешь с ним быть, проводить с ним время, трогать его - вот в этом смысле?</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Романтическая любовь, привязанность - они изначально отрицают свободу, они полагают зависимость</p><p>Для меня свобода - это не релевантный вопрос по отношению к этому опыту. Мне кажется, что любовь такого рода, привязанность такого рода - она изначально отрицает свободу, она полагает зависимость. Она полагает компромисс. Просто в российской модели всегда, как правило, на компромисс будет идти женщина, а не мужчина. Но в целом, свобода может быть только ОТ нее, ОТ любви, но такая свобода для меня она сопряжена с несчастьем и пустотой.</p><h2>Потерять голову или заложить душу?</h2><p><strong>Что такое эмоциональный социализм и эмоциональный капитализм? Они существуют на самом деле?</strong></p><p>Начнем с капитализма - он лучше описан и изучен. Эмоциональный капитализм - это очень общее понятие, которое пытается описать продукт взаимодействия разных экономических сил, больших культурных нарративов и социальных институтов. Это такой сплав психологической дисциплины и ее практик, рыночного капитализма и главных жизненных сценариев американской культуры. Тут и протестантский дух, и индивидуальная автономия, и бесконечная идеология выбора. Вот это слияние - это и есть эмоциональный капитализм.</p> <div style="position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 75.0%;"><iframe style="position: absolute; width: 100%; height: 100%; left: 0;" frameborder="0" height="259" width="460" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jdQvVNxnM_s?ecver=2"></iframe></div> <p>Эмоциональный социализм - это тоже сплав, порожденный разными феноменами, существующими в одну историческую эпоху. Во-первых, это экономическая и ценностная система социализма - ее принципы коллективной собственности и служения обществу. Во-вторых, это жизненные сценарии русской, точнее, русскоязычной культуры, в сердце которой лежат нормы литературы 19 века. Кроме того, туда же относятся православие и, конечно, все то, что у советской идеологии было сказать о чувствах и о частной жизни. В этом смысле, эмоциональный социализм не лишен русскости так же, как эмоциональный социализм не лишен американскости. Поэтому когда я говорю об эмоциональном социализме, я не теряю из виду превалирующую в нем роль русской литературы и самого по себе русского языка. То есть, можно работать с понятием эмоционального социализма и на Кубе и в Китае, наверное, но там он будет иным чем в бывшем СССР.</p><p>К “эмоциональному социализму” как реальности, конечно, нужно относиться критически. Любые попытки описать культуру “от обратного” чреваты упрощением: мы начинаем видеть больше различий и меньше сходств. Когда кто-то или что-то начинает восприниматься как Другой, то этот Другой очень быстро превращается в Абсолютного Другого, превращается в полную противоположность. То есть, российский эмоциональный стиль, российский стиль ведения отношений, российский тип любви, таким образом, начинает интерпретироваться как полностью противоположный американскому, западному и так далее.</p><p>Но я не считаю русскую или советскую эмоциональную культуру чем-то экзотичным, что будет совершенно непонятным французу, англичанину или американцу. Поэтому понятие “эмоциональный социализм” сильно упрощает картину. При всем при том, идея эмоционального социализма кажется мне правильной и удобной для анализа. Я вижу, что в пост-советском пространстве люди по-другому думают и говорят про свою частную жизнь, про свои переживания. И это особенно становится явным в русскоязычных эмигрантских пространствах, где есть момент прямого сопоставления и сравнения.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/RIAN_00073638.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/RIAN_00073638.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="471" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>В страданиях советской женщины не было ничего такого, чему не могли бы посочувствовать женщины на Западе. Пример тому: "Оскар", полученный фильмом "Москва слезам не верит" в 1981 году. Источник: РИА Новости. </span></span></span></p><p><strong>Давай вернемся к жизненным сценариям, на которых стоит эмоциональный социализм. Что они из себя представляют? И кто его герои? Какие у них качества? Через какие испытания они проходят?</strong></p><p>Ну, например, мне понятно, что герой сценария русской литературы - он страдает, и страдания его являются его ценностью. То есть, избавление от страданий не является его целью. В современном - не путать с фрейдистским! - терапевтическом сценарии есть идея избавления от страданий. В российском нарративе этого нет, в нем боль и страдания не воспринимаются как помеха, как что-то, что делает жизнь неправильной, не такой, как надо.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Особенность эмоционального социализма - это место такого явления как судьба, предписание, обстоятельства</p><p>Приведу тебе такой пример. Однажды я делала для еврейского агенства “Сохнут“ исследование про то, как же надо представить Израиль для еще оставшихся, неуехавших русских евреев, чтобы они поняли, как им там может быть хорошо. В “Сохнутe“ решили перенять бизнес-стратегию взамен идеологической: у этих евреев, наверняка, есть какие-то неудовлетворенные потребности, а Израиль нужно представить как продукт, который эти потребности удовлетворит.</p><p>Мы сделали огромное количество фокус-групп, и я увидела там то, что меня страшно удивило: люди говорят о своих неразрешенных потребностях, но для них перемена места не является способом разрешения этой проблемы. Большинство из них говорит в той или иной форме, что научиться жить с этими проблемами, привыкнуть к ним, притереться и жить несмотря на них - это более значимый, более ценный опыт. Это для них путь успеха. Это не значит, что миллион людей не уехали - но артикуляция оставшихся именно такая.</p><p>Это вот еще одна особенность эмоционального социализма - это место такого явления как судьба, предписание, обстоятельства. Есть какая-то расстановка сил или какой-то путь, по которому ты идешь, и нужно идти по нему, а не бороться с ним. Приспосабливаться, а не менять.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">В русской модели нельзя стать счастливым без души. И нельзя быть счастливым без ее болей</p><p><strong>Вообще, гомо советикуса, советского человека, часто в западной литературе так и описывают - как подчиненного обстоятельствам, не имеющего того, что в англоязычной литературе называется “agency” - то есть, самоопределения, свободы воли, свободы совершать поступки. Лично мне это прочтение кажется совершенно упрощенным и неверным, поэтому я хочу тебя спросить: в чем заключается эмоциональная свобода, эмоциональная воля человека, воспитанного на эмоциональном социализме?</strong></p><p>Наверное в свободе потерять голову от любви, в свободе любить по-сумасшедшему. Почему в советской литературе, в советском кино был такой культ любви? Ведь было совершенно легитимно снимать фильмы про сумасшедшую любовь, про измену, про уход из семьи.</p><p>Это была как-будто какая-то культивированная ниша: потеря головы, свобода эмоционального самовыражения. Но не с целью “самореализации”, например, а как самоцель. Благополучие и счастья там совсем не следуют за большими аутентичными чувствами. И вообще ничего хорошего, как правило, из них не получается. Может быть, это своего рода тюремные прогулки во дворе. Система, которая всегда держит очень крепко, она все равно, чтобы существовать, должна создавать какие-то ниши, где все это отпускается.</p> <div style="position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 75.0%;"><iframe style="position: absolute; width: 100%; height: 100%; left: 0;" frameborder="0" height="259" width="460" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4ZRRdCCyZ18?ecver=2"></iframe></div> <p><strong>Это получается по Бахтину: карнавал, узаконенный беспредел в мире тотального контроля. Вот эта свобода потерять голову имеет и темную сторону: семейное насилие, брошенные дети, алкоголизм, самое высокое на душу населения количество разводов среди развитых стран. “Потерять голову“ - это свобода или безответственность?</strong></p><p>Это уже вопрос нормативный и он предлагает смотреть на русскую и американскую любовь оценочно. Интеллектуально мысля, я стараюсь не полагать, что русская любовь - это сумасбродство и безалаберность, а американская это ответственная регуляция, сокращающая вред себе и окружающим, или соответственно наоборот - что русская она истинная и глубокая, а американская запрограммированная как у роботов. Хотя в всем личном опыте я чувствую амбивалентность, мое собственное сознание и язык уже очень психологизировано и, возможно, через фантазию о русских эмоциях я пытаюсь противостоять их полной колонизации</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Свобода потерять голову от любви, свобода любить по-сумасшедшему</p><p><strong>Давай тогда поговорим о темной стороне эмоционального капитализма? У нас - беспредел, все понятно. А у них что?</strong></p><p>Я приведу пример из своего любимого фильма “Холодные души”. Там главный герой - американский актер, который играет в спектакле Дядю Ваню Чехова. На него эта роль влияет так сильно, что он впадает в депрессию. И он обнаруживает, что в Нью-Йорке есть такая контора, которая позволяет человеку избавиться от своей души на какое-то время или насовсем, если она ему мешает жить. Он приходит туда, и там есть потрясающая сцена, где ему объясняют цель и процедуру, и он сдает туда свою душу, для того, чтобы, на самом деле, стать счастливым. И это вот удивительная вещь, потому что в русской модели нельзя стать счастливым без души. И нельзя быть счастливым без ее болей. А в этой американской модели, конечно, гиперболизированной, преувеличенной, пародийной, человек может быть счастливым только без души, - и в этом и есть темная сторона терапевтической культуры.</p><p>Но самое интересное, что происходит с героем этого фильма, когда он сдает душу. Он, действительно, начинает отлично функционировать, у него хорошее настроение и так далее. Но он не может делать двух вещей: он не может играть, - искусство не идет, - и он не может заниматься любовью.</p><h2>Эмоциональный НЭП</h2><p><strong>Как меняются жизненные сценарии в пост-советской культуре? Откуда сейчас люди берут представления, как выражать свои чувства, как быть со своими эмоциями?</strong></p><p>Происходит дискурсивный сдвиг. Непонятно стало, где брать смысл, где эти смыслы производятся. Я думаю, что для огромного количества людей блоги и фейсбук - это то, все, что они читают. При этом, социальные медиа невероятно нормативны. Совершенно понятно, что место классической литературы как поставщика сценариев жизни и, в особенности, эмоциональной жизни, очень сильно размыто.</p><p>Главный жизненный сценарий на сегодняшний день - это самореализация, личностный рост. Любопытно, при этом, что этот сценарий приходит прежде всего через технологии селф-хелп и медиа, а не через профессиональную психологию. В России есть терапевтическая культура - но еще нет культуры обращения к терапевту.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Главный жизненный сценарий на сегодняшний день - это самореализация, личностный рост</p><p><strong>В этом селф-хелпе как раз идея свободы от любви как свободы от зависимости очень популярна. При этом, она принимает очень радикальные формы, как в НЛП. Чем ты это можешь объяснить?</strong></p><p>Обычно это связано с ситуацией, в которой хорошо продается поломка старого. Не коррекция - а поломка. Есть исследователи, которые пишут, что понимать советскую цивилизацию нужно именно не через экономику, а как построение нового типа личности. Та советская личность, делалась топором, а то, что ты сейчас описываешь - это попытка ее таким же топором зарубить, вместе с ее эмоциональным социализмом, и построить якобы какой-то новый стиль. И при этом то, когда мы анализируем то, что происходит в медиа-дискурсе, в поп-культуре, то мы видим в нем много советского.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Когда мы анализируем то, что сейчас происходит в медиа-дискурсе, в поп-культуре, то мы видим в нем много советского</p><p><strong>Мы видим формат донесения идей абсолютно советский. Напор и цель - разрушить старое или чужое - абсолютно те же. Я сейчас подумала, раз уж мы говорим про эмоциональный капитализм и эмоциональный социализм, что мы сейчас живем во времена эмоционального НЭПа. Бухарин пришел к рабочим и крестьянам и сказал: “Обогащайтесь!”. И это именно то, что делает пост-советский селф-хелп, который приходят к людям и говорят: вперед, распоряжайтесь своей жизнью, вы никому ничего не должны! Владейте собственностью на свои потребности. Не уступайте места старушками в метро. Замуж выходите только за самцов, приносящих не менее ста тысяч дохода в месяц. Все эти ведические жены и гейши с курсов минета - это же типичные нэпманши.</strong></p><p>Это очень интересная мысль. Но в то же время, я подумала о том, что мы с тобой попали в некую ловушку этого вездесущего эмоционального капитализма. Мы поймались на ее удочку, и усвоили его базовую экономическую метафору. Вот я, например, ходила недавно к университетскому профессиональному коучу - такому специальному человеку, который объяснял мне, как расти в своей профессии. И она меня спрашивала: “А как ты пополняешь свой эмоциональный банк? Давай посмотрим, какие у тебя вклады, какие расходы?”. А я говорю ей, я не хочу говорить в таких понятиях. Я свою душу и свою жизнь не воспринимаю как банк, и не хочу переводить ее понятия “вкладов”. И я не уверена, что это обязательно и это правильно писать про эмоциональную жизнь людей, их переживания в понятиях собственности, капитализм-социализм. Что-то в этом есть неправильное, в принятии этой структуры мышления как основополагающей.</p><p><strong>Давай подытожим. В чем, все-таки, основное различие между любовью “русской” и любовью “западной”? </strong></p><p>В русской модели, если ты не теряешь голову, то ты не любишь по-настоящему и момент счастья тебе такая любовь не принесет. А в американской - если ты теряешь голову, то это, прежде всего, знак того, что что-то с тобой не порядке. Там, чтобы быть счастливым в любви, нужно все время показывать - и себе самой, и партнеру - что “я могу и без тебя”.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-aronson/vy-luchshe-chem">Вы лучше, чем вы думаете</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D1%89%D0%B0%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0/%D1%81%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%82%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87-%D0%B1%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%8C-%D0%B8-%D0%B4%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%BE-%C2%AB%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%8C%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%82%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D1%87%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BA%D0%B0%C2%BB">Светлана Алексиевич: боль и достоинство «маленького постсоветского человека»</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia Russia Юля Лернер Полина Аронсон RomanticRegimes oDR Русский Cultural politics Tue, 14 Feb 2017 12:10:53 +0000 Полина Аронсон and Юля Лернер 108793 at https://www.opendemocracy.net You’re better than you think https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/polina-aronson/you-re-better-than-you-think <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The events of the the past year have convinced many that Russians have lost their capacity for empathy. As though we believe there’s nobody worse than us: cynically and ruthlessly indifferent. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/polina-aronson/vy-luchshe-chem" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/14291866_579957805521983_1605674834156144166_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/14291866_579957805521983_1605674834156144166_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Berlin-based festival for refugees, “it’s good that you’re here”, in which the author took part. September 2016. Source: Schön, dass ihr da seid.</span></span></span></p><div><div>At the end of September, a tenant moved into our Berlin apartment (fourth-floor two bathrooms, central heating). A JavaScript manual in Arabic appeared on the bookshelf, next to double volume of Blok’s poetry. The internet began to slow down under the weight of live streamed Al-Jazeera football matches. The consumption of strawberry jam trebled: Ali, a 25-year old Syrian from Aleppo, would slather it, two centimetres thick, onto bread rolls. My three-year old son watched in near-ecstasy.</div></div><p>Ali lived with us for a month. Our apartment was his home for a while, in between a park bench and finding his own place. Having left the refugees’ dormitory in August, Ali was eligible for benefit payments to find a place of his own. However, somewhere, the system went wrong, and Ali never received them. The promise of a new place vanished, as did his place in the dormitory. Ali ended up on the streets. He didn’t have a sleeping bag. It had been swept into the Mediterranean Sea in the summer of 2015, along with his other possessions: his work laptop, office suit and a kimono with a black belt in mixed martial arts.&nbsp;</p><p>As he wasn’t used to begging favours, Ali continued to sleep on that bench at night, using his boots as a pillow. By day he would cross the city to his former dormitory, where he snuck in to take a shower and get changed for job interviews. We found out that he was sleeping rough thanks to an American friend, who occasionally helped him with translations from Arabic. “He’s welcome to come”, I wrote back. “We have the space.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">I hear the same question: how could you do it? You, as a mother of two children, how could you blithely let some unknown Arab guy into your home?&nbsp;</p><p>To this day I still hear the same question, from Russians, Germans and everyone else who is not necessarily working for <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/en-us" target="_blank">the UN refugee agency</a>: how could you do it? You, as a mother of two children, with a husband who’s an expert on terrorism — how could you blithely let some unknown Arab guy from the streets into your home? Some people called us heroes. Some whisked their index finger around by their heads — “They must be crazy!”. But in both cases, the act of welcoming a refugee to one’s home was discussed as if it manifested some extraordinary personal characteristic: a particular bravery, generosity — or irresponsibility. As I saw it, I was just acting from habit.</p><p>This habit, perhaps, could be called a habit for good — call it empathy or an instinctive willingness to help. I suppose I was lucky: I grew up among people for whom this behaviour was taken for granted. If you ran out of something: salt, matches, time, money until payday others would find it for you.

 One of the most memorable episodes from my early childhood was the arrival of distant relatives to St. Petersburg in 1986, from the Gomel Region of Belarus (which lies only 170 km from Chernobyl). Once the news finally made mention of the radioactive “cloud,” my mother picked up the telephone and called them. Names of heavy metals and long-dead uncles and aunts were shouted into the receiver back and forth. but the cry “Come over here!” was the loudest. My parents had set up two folding beds with mattresses in the kitchen of our two-room Khrushchev-era flat. This is where my uncle, aunt, and their eight-year old son, lived that May.</p><p>Not only my family made a habit of doing good. That became very clear to me two years later, when a 30-second earthquake utterly devastated the Armenian city of Spitak. At school, our whole class collected donations — some brought boxes of biscuits, others sent woollen socks. Grandmothers who survived the siege of Leningrad brought matches or bread rusks. My parents packed boxes of children’s clothes and bed linen — it wasn’t new, but it was all they could find in their cupboards. The mountain of boxes in the school lobby grew steadily for a few days, then a postal van came and took them away.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Why the hell are they treating us like poor people?” I cried, when I reached home and my mother opened the door. “Let them take their oranges!”</p><p> 

A few years later, in the winter of 1991, another mountain of boxes appeared in the school lobby — though this time with the emblems of the Red Cross and Salvation Army. All children in my class were given a kilogram of oranges,two German cakes each and a colourful rucksack. I was eleven years old, and ran across the schoolyard in tears. “Why the hell are they treating us like poor people?” I cried, when I reached home and my mother opened the door. “Let them take their oranges!”</p><p>My mother took the bag from my hands and put it on the windowsill, next to the cans of Chinese-made corned beef, which my father was being paid in, in lieu of a salary. “You mustn’t throw away presents”, she said. “When people want to help you, you say ‘thank you’.”</p><p>It turned out that to provide help, you should be able to accept it. Some Russian people still can’t learn this idea, as shown by their refusal to allow foreign emergency services to access the sinking Kursk submarine, and their decision that Russian orphans should not live with American families. 

To help people out of habit doesn’t mean you’ll never have doubts, or that you simply bask in your holiness. I understood this after a week of life with Ali, when due to my husband’s work trips I was left alone in the flat with my two children at night.</p><p>Lying in the darkness, it suddenly came to me that a complete stranger carried the keys to my flat in his jacket pocket, and that at any moment he could open the door, take off his shoes — and what next? Why isn’t he back home at such a late hour? Why didn’t he tell me that he wouldn’t be back for dinner?

Various scenarios played through my mind. What if right now he’s shopping in a drug store for cactus fertiliser, to make a bomb? What if he’s a psychopath? What if he slits my throat, steals my laptop, and then kidnaps my children? In horror, I ran into the corridor and closed the door on the latch. To hell with this Ali, to hell with his Syrian problems and to hell with it all — what the hell was I doing?&nbsp;</p><p>Ten minutes later, I went back into the corridor and unlocked the latch. You can’t stop halfway and play around with trust: either it’s there, or it’s not. And it needs to be instinctive; displays of gratitude needn’t matter.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">You can’t stop halfway and play around with trust: either it’s there, or it’s not</span></p><p>These musts and must nots didn’t occur to me over those ten minutes — others had taught them to me much earlier. Namely, the family who had sheltered by grandfather during the Siege of Leningrad — or my schoolteacher friend, who at the age of 25 adopted an orphaned pupil. Or my own homeroom teacher who gave her son’s old pram to a girl in a class above us who got knocked up at the age of 16. . I realised that I hadn’t let Ali into my house alone; at my side stood those with whom I’d lived and grown up. By what they have done and how they have lived, they have ensured that, when Ali came along, I couldn’t have done anything else.</p><p>It takes years for habits of goodwill to form, and to be passed down from generation to generation. It’s almost impossible for an individual to cultivate them alone. Once somebody has dropped out of a system of mutual assistance, it’s very difficult to return to it — first and foremost because good deeds almost never bring instant rewards, and because the effectiveness of individual acts seems doubtful at first glance.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-4823223-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-4823223-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="268" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Spitak, 1988. (c) Morten Hvaal AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Did the children of Cuba really need the toys which Soviet schoolchildren sent them? Did the single mother with a drinking problem really need that washing machine for which the whole house chipped in? Did refugees like Ali, who had crept through Balkan villages for days, really need all those bottles of water and boxes of apples which (as social media hurried to remind us) lay unused, strewn across Hungarian roads?</p><p>Personally, I’m convinced that they did. They were needed not only by those for whom they were intended, but by those who collected the money, dispatched aid and wrapped up food parcels. They were needed to preserve this same capacity for kindness.</p><p>Just as athletes need more than showing up to the Olympic Games to win a gold medal, but also many hours of monotonous exercises and training, so society needs its everyday, routine instances of mutual help — good deeds which may nevertheless bring unclear results. By definition, these exchanges are discredited once they become the conscious basis for a political ideology.&nbsp;</p><p>We, the people of a Soviet or post-Soviet upbringing, know all too well how easily some can prey on the kindness of others. Those lorries laden with humanitarian aid didn’t always reach Armenia. Paper for recycling, dutifully collected by Soviet-era Pioneers, went soggy in the rain. Medical equipment donated by the Americans and Germans to children’s hospitals ended up in private clinics.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Society needs its everyday, routine instances of mutual help — good deeds which may nevertheless bring unclear results</span><span></span></p><p>We don’t believe appeals to kindness, since all too often, these calls come from the lips of swindlers of all kinds. To us, all too often small acts of kindness smack of a bureaucrat’s office.</p><p>
When faced with mass (or at least public) drives for charity, Russians to ask: “On whose behalf are we supposed to be struggling now?” or “What grand feat do they expect us to perform this time?” Calls for kindness cast a long, dark shadow behind them — a shadow of pathos.</p><p>

We’re justifiably afraid of being used. No surprise that columnists and coaches with psychology degrees assure us that nurturing suspicion is the key to mental health (<a href="https://snob.ru/profile/29516/blog/101892?v=1468569020" target="_blank">link in Russian</a>). For example, if you, despite being exhausted at the end of the day, give up your seat to an old woman on the metro, then you’re told that you have a neurosis — some kind of inferiority complex.</p><p>The debate on the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, which arose under Queen Victoria, could be continued for decades. But that time could be better spent: by familiarising oneself with other people’s woes and embracing them, the better to make an impact. Many Germans take the latter approach.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/12038114_454406428077122_3894530857070566210_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/12038114_454406428077122_3894530857070566210_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: Jason Krüger / Ekvidi. </span></span></span></p><p>Fiercely critical of the state, with its overflowing dormitories, frozen computer systems and lack of schools, Germans are trying to tackle the humanitarian crisis themselves — they teach German after work, organise theatre performances in the dormitories for refugees, and translate for judges and lawyers.

 The bravest of them even give Syrians jobs, by-passing the chicanery of laws, rules and regulations — but not to exploit the refugees, but to allow them to stand on their own two feet. Officially employed as a ‘trainee’ in a Berlin event-managing start-up Ali is working for cash-in-hand salary of a qualified computer programmer he really is.</p><p>Not long ago, Ali rented a flat and bought himself a new cashmere coat. We’re unlikely to ever become friends — our views on life’s important things are radically different, whether it’s bringing up children, pre-marital sex, the right way to make hummus, or Bashar Al-Assad.

 But if we ever end up on opposite sides of the barricades, then we’ll look each other in the eyes, as equals.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Vasily Grossman wrote that this instinctive thirst to help our fellow humans — often contrary to all reason — can overcome the wildest hatred</p><p>
Vasily Grossman wrote that this instinctive thirst to help our fellow humans — often contrary to all reason — can overcome the wildest hatred. I believe him more than I believe experts who claim that Russia is inhabited by existentially cold-hearted people (<a href="https://www.facebook.com/koch.kokh.haus/posts/1647993425497860" target="_blank">link in Russian</a>), whose capacity for empathy, readiness to help and ability to share has frozen over. 
I believe in the power of habitual kindness, and know that it’s impossible to uproot completely — it’s the essence of human nature. The only presidential address to the people I’d like to hear one day would simply be: “Dear Russians! You’re better than you think!”. 

As it’s unlikely we’ll hear these words from our televisions, we should say them to each other. Sooner or later we will start to live in a way which will awaken not our readiness to exploit, but our habit for kindness. Gradually. And without any pathos.</p><p><em>Translated from Russian by Maxim Edwards</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-zavadsky/we-re-all-strangers-here">We’re all strangers here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/welcome-to-post-post-soviet-era">Welcome to the post-post-Soviet era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-davidis/why-aren-t-russians-protesting-against-war-crimes-in-syria">Why aren’t Russians protesting against war crimes in Syria?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-antonova/stop-saying-we-can-do-nothing-about-aleppo">Stop saying “we can do nothing” about Aleppo</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Polina Aronson Russia Cultural politics Tue, 10 Jan 2017 16:39:08 +0000 Polina Aronson 108015 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Words and war: Russian and Ukrainian linguists struggle to find common ground https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/words-and-war-russian-and-ukrainian-linguists-struggle-to-find-common-groun <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Russo-Ukrainian conflict has affected all aspects of relations between the two countries – even the way they talk (or don’t talk) about it. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/figura-umolchania" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Untitled.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Untitled.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has effectively brought contact between linguists in the two countries to a halt. If in the past they held conferences, ran professional exchange programmes, shared information and studied linguistic questions together, now they generally work in isolation. But as the conflict continues, language is constantly responding to what is happening. The linguists know that these linguistic processes need to be documented and studied, but there’s no one to do it.</p><p>And the problem isn’t only in broken contacts. Scholars find it impossible to rise above the fray and engage in pure, disinterested analysis. </p><p>One side (Ukraine) has, for obvious reasons, become too emotionally involved in what is going on, the other (Russia) tends to stick to the official line whenever any linguistic conflict arises. And if linguists from both countries meet at international gatherings, they restrict any discussion to neutral areas. But as time passes, more and more material is left unstudied and is lost and forgotten. </p><h2>Lost links</h2><p>“We mostly meet up in Europe; we avoid sensitive issues and don’t visit each other ‘at home’”, says Olga Severskaya, a senior researcher at the <a href="ruslang.academia.edu/" target="_blank">Russian Academy of Sciences’ Vinogradov Institute</a>, the regulator of the Russian language, about her relations with Ukrainian colleagues. In the spring of 2015 she attended a conference in the Austrian city of Graz, where issues connected with the conflict were discussed, but neither Ukrainian nor Russian delegates touched on its linguistic aspects. </p><p>Yevgenia Karpilovskaya, head of the Structural-Mathematical Linguistics department of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, for example, spoke in her paper on “The Role of Word Formation in the ‘Architectonics’ of the Ukrainian-language Internet”, about the interconnection of online communication and other aspects of the language.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Pechersk_28_09_13_131.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Pechersk_28_09_13_131.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Potebny Institute of Linguistics, at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kyiv. CC A-SA 3.0 Wadco2 / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Severskaya tells me that she is friends with a Ukrainian colleague, but they have avoided any discussion on controversial subjects. Ukrainian and Russian linguists, she insists, have very cordial relations at conferences, as though they want to assure one another that “what’s happening is not our fault”. They still, however, don’t want to analyse this “what’s happening”.</p><p>And at the same time, many contacts have indeed been lost. The Vinogradov Institute used to work in close cooperation with Luhansk University, but since that area came under the control of the self-styled LNR (Luhansk Peoples’ Republic) there have been no conferences held there. The institute also had close ties with other Ukrainian universities – Kherson, Kharkiv, Kyiv – but very little of that remains. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">An international placement is obligatory for people studying for a doctorate, but after the conflict began, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education removed Russia from its list of potential host countries</p><p>Lyudmila Pedchenko, head of Kharkiv University’s Russian department, confirms this – she and her colleagues used to go on exchange programmes with Moscow’s Pushkin State Russian Language Institute and Moscow State University (MGU), and their linguists came to conferences in Kharkiv, but now everything has changed. Exchange visits are out of the question and there is little contact with Russian specialists, even at a personal level. Also, an international placement is obligatory for people studying for a doctorate, but after the conflict began, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education removed Russia from its list of potential host countries.</p><p>“We can get new dictionaries and books on our subject, but only through the internet – that’s our only source of information from Russia”, says Pedchenko. “Naturally, I agree that a linguist ought to study everything relevant to their area, but I realise that in the present situation it’s not easy to be objective, to stand back. Perhaps some time needs to pass for that to happen. Any analysis of this kind requires an impartial approach, whereas we’re too close to the situation to see it objectively”. </p><p>“Some people are still in personal contact, but there are no new contacts developing”, Svetlana Kuranova, a lecturer at Kyiv’s <a href="ukma.edu.ua/eng/" target="_blank">National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy</a> (NAUKMA) tells me. Our university had just a few links with Russia: our postgraduates would spend time at Baikal and MGU, and one of our students got top marks there. She conducted a survey among Polish, Ukrainian and Russian students, looking at the associations the word “patriotism” had for them. But that was before 2014. It’s harder to do that now; not everyone would want to visit Kyiv. But I think it might be possible to organise some kind of internet conference”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Our relations with our Ukrainian colleagues are perfectly friendly; it’s just that the general situation and the problems with air travel have made contacts difficult”</p><p>Leonid Krysin, head of the Modern Russian Language department at the Vinogradov Institute remembers his colleague Dr Leonid Kasatkin visiting Kyiv in 2014, at the height of the Maidan. “He told us that everything was quiet and calm, and that our propaganda exaggerated the situation”, he says. “Our relations with our Ukrainian colleagues are perfectly friendly; it’s just that the general situation and the problems with air travel have made contacts difficult. We had already begun working with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences on a large Russian-Ukrainian dictionary, but had to just drop the project – although the problem here was mostly financial; there just wasn’t any money for it”. </p><p>Nearly all the linguists I asked, in both sides of the border, insisted that there was no final break: cooperation was just “on hold”. In the words of Professor Mikhail Dymarsky of St Petersburg’s Herzen University, “My contacts with colleagues in Kharkiv are currently dormant, but I could revive them at any moment, and I think they would respond immediately”. </p><h2>Russia’s “official” linguistics</h2><p>At the same time we can’t claim that there is no reference to the linguistic aspects of the conflict in the two countries’ academic or media spheres. The issue is written about, but the people that do the writing seem to be stewing in their own juice: they don’t research the issue dispassionately, but base their findings on the official position of whichever side they are on. </p><p>This is particularly the case in Russia. Many of the people I spoke to admitted that when discussing the conflict they don’t stray from the “party line”. This is reflected in articles published in the last three years by the Ekaterinburg periodical “Political Linguistics”, the only serious journal in Russia that covers this field. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PoliticalLinguisticscontents.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PoliticalLinguisticscontents.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="561" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Table of contents from “Political Linguistics”, Issue 5 (59), 2016. </span></span></span>Some do indeed touch on the linguistic aspects of Russo-Ukrainian relations. But “touch on” is the operative word: it’s not easy to find material on specifically linguistic areas of the conflict. You most you can find is an occasional indirect reference in articles on Russia’s image abroad or the language used in propaganda wars. </p><p>The periodical’s third issue of 2015 contained, for example, an article entitled “<a href="https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/ksenostereotipy-v-yazykovoy-kartine-mira-i-v-diskurse-evropeyskogo-parlamenta&amp;prev=search" target="_blank">Xeno-stereotypes in the Linguistic World View and the Discourse of the European Parliament</a>”. The authors’ notes suggest that this discourse needs to be studied, in order to explain the “mechanisms of stereotypical mental models and programmes that are used to influence public opinion on contemporary Russia”. The article itself states that Europeans are fed stereotypes that hark back to the ethno-psychological subconscious, and are usually based on the age-old geopolitical “lusts” of certain political writers. </p><p>The same issue also had an <a href="https://issuu.com/novayagazeta" target="_blank">analysis of the content of the liberal <em>Novaya Gazeta</em> newspaper</a>, which its authors say embodies “a strategy of defending anti-Russian political forces: EU and USA policies aimed against Russia; cultural figures who insult Russian national consciousness and the Orthodox Faith; Ukrainian chauvinists and extremists, and NGOs, subsisting on foreign grants, whose activities are dubious in terms of our national security”.</p><p>Some publications do touch on the issue of hate speech, but only with great caution. The third issue of “Political Linguistics” for 2014 contained an analysis of “the disturbing vocabulary of our time”, in other words slang expressions for ethnic groups: words such as “Moskal” (a traditional derogatory term for a Russian used by Ukrainians) and “Khokhol” (a traditional derogatory term for a Ukrainian used by Russians) that have been revived in the present conflict. The authors of the article looked mainly at students’ language and came to an optimistic conclusion: “In an educated Russian speaking environment the intentional use in speech of slangy terms for ethnic groups as an element of invective is still regarded as impermissible”.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Some publications do touch on the issue of hate speech, but only with great caution</span></p><p>Here it’s worth looking at how how events in Donbas are described. In another article in the same issue of <em>Political Linguistics</em>, its author speaks of a “war” “breaking out”, as though Russia had nothing to do with it. And none of the sources I have read uses the term “annexation” in relation to Crimea – although there are articles about “Crimea’s reunification with the Russian Federation”. </p><p>There is, on the other hand, active engagement between Russia and Crimea. Some linguists from Luhansk University, for example, moved to Crimea after hostilities began and now go to conferences at Moscow universities. </p><p>Others, who have stayed in the officially unrecognised Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics (DNR and LNR), also visit Moscow. One paper at a recent conference at MGU was entitled “A genre-stylistic profile of the public political texts of Novorossiya” [a proposed confederation of the DNR and LNR – ed.] The use of the term Novorossiya was a giveaway – the audience could immediately identify the author’s political position. </p><h2> Ukraine and the importance of self-analysis</h2><p>Ukraine, meanwhile, has had its own slant on the linguistic aspects of the events of the past few turbulent years. But what is interesting is that it’s not linguists but mostly journalists, media specialists and public figures who are engaged with the issue. </p><p>In Ukrainian towns and cities you can find seminars and lectures for media professionals on hate speech and how to avoid it. And the speakers admit that it’s not only Russian propaganda that uses defamatory language, but Ukrainian media as well. </p><p>In September 2015 the Ukrainian National Union of Journalists and the independent Media Trade Union held a conference on “The Problem of Hate Speech in Ukrainian Media” (Ukrainian link) which was effectively devoted to self-criticism and self-analysis. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“We always talk about explicit propaganda and defamatory language in the Russian media, but we pay less attention to the same vocabulary when it’s used by our own side”</p><p>Valery Ivanov, a professor at Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko University and head of the Ukrainian Press Academy, pointed out that Ukrainian journalists were guilty of using hate speech themselves: “We’re always talking about explicit propaganda and defamatory language in the Russian media, but we pay less attention to the same vocabulary when it’s used by our own media. Is our job to inform - or to incite hatred? If the aim of the media is to fulfil their professional responsibility, to inform people about what is happening in our country, then we should avoid using emotive terms. This is an essential for information platforms”. </p><p>Anastasia Stanko, a journalist with the <em>Hromadske TV</em> channel, touched on the same subject at a <a href="http://journalism.ucu.edu.ua/video/4636/" target="_blank">master class at Lviv’s Catholic University</a> (Ukrainian link). Anastasia has reported widely from the conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine, and was even taken prisoner by an LNR militia in summer 2014. </p><p>“We have laughed so much at Russian journos and so often accused them of pushing propaganda, that we have become their little shadows”, she said. “Think, for example, about the formulaic descriptions we hear on many Ukrainian channels – they are “terrorist forces”, while Ukrainian troops are “our heroes”. And anyone who is killed has the right to “fall in battle”, and not be “liquidated”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/16263245611_ffb8933f17_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/16263245611_ffb8933f17_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>After the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, many faculty members from Luhansk University fled to Crimea. CC BY-NC-ND Ekaterina Sotova / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A group of Ukrainian specialists in different areas of the social sciences and humanities – philosophy, languages and literature, sociology, history, psychology, political science and communication – has also set up a portal, <a href="https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://www.liga.net/projects/euromaidan/&amp;prev=search" target="_blank">The Narrative of the Dignity Revolution</a>, and plans to present a historical-semantic dictionary of the events of the Maidan at Kyiv’s annual spring book festival.</p><p>As I have already pointed out, these initiatives are more often the work of journalists and activists than of linguists. But the linguists are also becoming involved in the hate speech issue. In an <a href="http://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/2076622-larisa-masenko-movoznavec-profesor.html" target="_blank">interview on the <em>Ukrinform</em> website</a> (Ukrainian link), Ukrainian linguist Larisa Masenko spoke about how over the last two or three years, a lot of words connected with war and conflict have crept into Ukrainians’ everyday speech: “People have started using various hurtful words and phrases in their conversations. The other side talk about “Ukes” and “Maidan morons”, while we call them “potatriots”, “Colorados” [the orange and black stripes of the pro-Russians’ flags are reminiscent of Colorado beetles and from a Ukrainian viewpoint deserve the same fate – ed.] and so on. This kind of thing is unavoidable in wartime”. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Those few Ukrainian linguists who still go to conferences in Russia often express explicit pro-Moscow views in their work</p><p>Those few Ukrainian linguists who still go to conferences in Russia often express explicit pro-Moscow views in their work. One speaker from Odessa, for example, entitled a presentation he gave at Moscow State University, “The Ukrainian media’s stylistics in a period of acute political and economic crisis”. In it he not only used emotive language (“a disaster”) but said in his conclusion that “political experts and commentators can’t agree on what kind of war is going on in the east of the country. We read and hear the terms “civil war”, “hybrid war”, “war of conquest”, “interethnic war”, “undeclared war”, “internal war” and so on. And there’s no consensus in our government on how to define the tragic events that have been going on in Donbas for over two years”.</p><p>In fact, Ukraine’s rulers reached a consensus on that subject long ago and never refer to it as a “civil war” – this is a term used exclusively by the Russian side. </p><h2>When emotions are no longer useful</h2><p>Russian and Ukrainian linguists who would like to find objective research on the conflict have discovered that their mutual neighbours in Belarus are eager to help. Svetlana Kuranova of Kyiv’s NAUKMA says that, “we are in pretty close contact with our colleagues there. And we can work together on a purely academic level, without politics getting in the way”. </p><p>The Vinogradov Institute’s Olga Severnaya agrees. At a recent conference she attended in Graz, one of the speakers was Aleksandr Lukashanets, chair of the <a href="https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&amp;hl=en&amp;prev=search&amp;rurl=translate.google.co.uk&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/ruwiki/1560258&amp;usg=ALkJrhjkpIpHjou5wty62uHPEam9QJMBpw" target="_blank">International Committee of Slavicists</a>, whose presentation touched on various politically motivated neologisms such as “Khokhlostan”, a derogatory term used by pro-Russian elements for Ukraine (c.f. “Khokhol”, above) and “Downbas”, a derogatory variation on Donbas used by the pro-Ukrainian side (“Down” as in Down’s Syndrome). </p><p>But the linguists believe that the people engaged in both sides of the conflict need to look at what it is doing to their languages. Svetlana Kuranova, for instance, is looking at the issue of linguistic identity and how ideology can influence personal relationships: “in time, scholars will study this issue dispassionately, but for the moment personal relationships get in the way. We need to be singing from the same hymn sheet – to be as objective as we can in our attitudes to one another. But for the moment, subjective non-linguistic factors are too strong for this to happen.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Now we have to look behind the headlines at the underlying reasons for the conflict. And for that we need to look at the language of hate”</p><p>The Russian language specialist and cultural historian Gasan Gusejnov believes that we need to try to rise above our emotions and get on with studying what he sees as an important issue: “The situation is very bad on both sides. The Russian side is of course entirely to blame, but now we have to look behind the headlines at the underlying reasons for the conflict. And for that we need to look at the language of hate. No one will ever know how exactly hate speech arises and spreads. Studies of the language of Nazism would be different without <a href="https://www.timeshighereducation.com/books/the-canon-the-language-of-the-third-reich-by-victor-klemperer/412045.article" target="_blank">Victor Klemperer’s “The Language of the Third Reich”</a>, just as Russian language studies would be without Andrey and Tatyana Fesenko’s “The Russian Language under the Soviets” (<a href="speakrus.ru/mix/fesenko/fesenko.htm" target="_blank">Russian link</a>) or <a href="https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://royallib.com/book/margolin_yuliy/puteshestvie_v_stranu_ze_ka.html&amp;prev=search" target="_blank">Julius Margolin’s “Travel to Ze-Ka”</a>, which describes the language of the Gulag. I wouldn’t like to guess what might happen in the future. Over the spring and summer I hope to write in more detail about the roots and flowers of this linguistic erosion. But the fruits might appear before that”. </p><p>Gusejnov recently finished a collection of essays about hate speech, which he wrote, as he says, to represent not “one side of the conflict”, but the side of “my Russian language from the rich resources of the Russian discourse of today”.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/cultural-cooperation-in-time-of-war-view-from-kyiv">Cultural cooperation in a time of war: the view from Kyiv</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/yury-drakakhrust/whose-side-is-belarus-on-anyway">Whose side is Belarus on anyway?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/crimea-s-ukrainian-underground">Crimea’s Ukrainian underground</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-bondarenko/russian-culture-through-lviv-s-looking-glass">Russian culture through Lviv’s looking glass</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ksenia Turkova Cultural politics Thu, 08 Dec 2016 17:46:48 +0000 Ksenia Turkova 107493 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dance me to the end of history https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/dance-me-to-end-of-history <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MK_oDR-1_0_0.jpg" alt="" width="80" />From one man’s search for his ancestor’s executioners to Holocaust dances&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;here’s how Russia learns to forget. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/dance-me-some-history" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/karagodin-stepan-ivanovich.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/karagodin-stepan-ivanovich.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="374" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>On the night of 1 December 1937, the 56 year-old farmer Stepan Karagodin was arrested by NKVD agents in Tomsk region. He was convicted of espionage, organising sabotage operations and aiding Japanese military intelligence, for which he was sentenced to death. Image courtesy of Denis Karagodin.</span></span></span></p><p>The <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38152561" target="_blank">phenomenal investigation of Denis Karagodin</a> has become one of the hottest news stories of past weeks. The Tomsk resident established the names and ranks of the NKVD agents responsible for the execution of his great-grandfather Stepan Karagodin in January 1938. Moreover, Karagodin intends to hold to account all those responsible for and party to his ancestor’s murder. <br /><br />Karagodin achieved clear results — but his initiative was unique for another reason. Namely, he demonstrated what one ambitious person can achieve alone, as a private individual, motivated by private interests. Karagodin doesn’t speak about “Stalinist repressions” in a broad sense; he dives into his own family’s history and demands justice for his great-grandfather. Importantly, this turned out to be the most effective way not only to reveal the truth, but to cast doubt on the omnipotence of those who conceal it.</p><h2>Casting the first stone&nbsp;</h2><p>Much has been written about the investigation. Its author’s obvious indignation provoked much discussion on social networks, which then spilt over into mass media. The granddaughter of one of the firing squad even began a correspondence with Karagodin. The grandchildren of a victim and executioner reconciled with one another. But others were not so forgiving. Karagodin, they said, “undermines the foundation of the state and of its law enforcement”. He was merely “looking for ways to punish the dead” (<a href="https://ria.ru/analytics/20161128/1482309095.html" target="_blank">link in Russian</a>), all the better to “cast judgement on the living” (<a href="http://izvestia.ru/news/646830#ixzz4Qw8aFoI9" target="_blank">link in Russian</a>).&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">This approach to memory isn’t interested in the complexities and inconsistencies of the past. It is simply a feel-good project, a balm for the soul</span></p><p>Karagodin’s critics were offended at this assault on the settled order of things, an attempt to blacken the name of the state’s secret police. Their reaction only went to show that they — intentionally or not — identify themselves with the current Russian government, its system of values and its worldview. These values don’t permit much, and certainly not the right of an individual to historical truth and justice. That particular right is monopolised by the state itself — by the president, ministries and some particularly eager ministers, or by quasi-civic organisations such as the <a href="http://rvio.histrf.ru" target="_blank">Russian Military-Historical Society</a>.</p><p>“Know your place!” servile state journalists urge Denis Karagodin. “Don’t you get it? We’ll put up a monument to the repressed Soviet citizens on Sakharov Prospekt, we’ve opened a new Gulag museum… repressions are just a part of history. There’s no use in returning to them; rehabilitation finished long ago. Besides, we must concentrate on fighting fascism today, whether in Ukraine or in the Baltic states.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/2000.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/2000.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Denis Karagodin undertook the investigation into his great-grandfather’s murder alone, on his own initiative. Photo courtesy of D. Karagodin, from his site blog.stepanivanovichkaragodin.org</span></span></span></p><p>It’s tempting to dismiss Karagodin’s most vituperative critics as being apologists for the Gulag. But that’s too easy; these people are by no means Stalin-worshippers. Their pointed reluctance to work through the past is not based on a denial of repression. They simply want to forget about evil, instead choosing love — but not justice.&nbsp;</p><p>A refusal to work through the dark sides of our past, the better to concentrate on the wonderful present, is at the very core of the government’s politics of memory. We could try to imagine the most effective implementation of this idea, but we needn’t — there are plenty of examples. “Ice Age”, a recent live show on Channel One, brought together the actor Andrey Burkovsky and professional figure skater Tatyana Navka. As well as being an Olympic champion, Navka is married to Putin’s press secretary and was once a confidante to the president herself.</p><h2>The Holocaust, on ice</h2><p>“Ice Age” is an extremely popular programme; a figure skating competition featuring professional athletes and celebrities. On 26 November Burkovsky and Navka, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/27/wife-of-putin-official-performs-in-concentration-camp-ice-dance" target="_blank">dressed in black and white striped outfits with yellow stars of David and prisoner numbers</a>, performed to the score from Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning film “<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118799/combined" target="_blank">Life is Beautiful</a>”. The jury awarded them top points for their artistry and performance.&nbsp;</p><p>The performance outraged many — and not without good reason. Of course, the Holocaust, like any tragedy, may be spoken about in any artistic language. But it’s just as obvious that for figure skaters to wear concentration camp uniforms while receiving accolades from the jury for their technique was the very height of bad taste. It’s not as if one expects subtlety or sensitivity from Channel One. Shows like “Ice Age” are not the best venue for an artistic interpretation of historical tragedies, which have often been expressed in <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2209300/" target="_blank">film</a>, <a href="http://culture.pl/en/work/apollonia-krzysztof-warlikowski" target="_blank">theatre</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/sep/08/weinberg-the-passenger-revival" target="_blank">opera</a> and even <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/04/28/402856064/graphic-novel-about-holocaust-maus-banned-in-russia-for-its-cover" target="_blank">comic books</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>But the dance of the Kremlin press secretary’s wife could have been forgotten were it not for the context around that particular broadcast of “Ice Age”. And this context made its way into the on-air discussions which followed. “The message here is to study history!” said one commentator, of the performance. “A history which has been offered up to us like this, on a silver platter!”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 16.38.39.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 16.38.39.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andrey Burkovsky and Tatyana Navka perform on “Ice Age”, for Russia’s Channel One. Image still via YouTube.</span></span></span></p><p>This dance was an answer from this semi-official culture and politics of memory to Denis Karagodin, and to projects such as the Topography of Terror (<a href="http://topos.memo.ru/#13/55.7610/37.6283/main-mestareshenij2-mestareshenij2_M" target="_blank">link in Russian</a>), or <a href="http://www.rferl.org/a/last-address-project-aims-to-honor-/26711340.html" target="_blank">Last Address</a>. It was an answer to those who believe that the work of historical memory requires individual contemplation and effort, along with full disclosures of information about the recent past which so strongly shapes our present.</p><h2>Skating in a dream&nbsp;</h2><p>There are no coincidences here. Burkovsky and Navka’s dance is a brilliant example of how the state’s politics of memory has entered the ideological mainstream and work of propagandists, which is what many Russian journalists and cultural figures have essentially become.</p><p>Today, this semi-official politics of memory is not capable of having a full discussion on national history — it prefers to concentrate on military triumphs. The horrors of Nazism somewhere in Europe remains a hot topic. The horrors of the Soviet era most certainly do not.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This semi-official politics of memory is ubiquitous, as it delivers its message through the state’s media networks</p><p>This approach to the politics of memory also uses the artistic styles of the Soviet era. Figure skating was a key entertainment product in the Soviet Union, having a strong presence in the life of every soviet citizen with a television. Today, it’s an ideal means to hearken back to the Soviet era — combining glamour and a lack of ideology (at face value) with calls to “cheer for our guys!” Everybody is united by the performance of the national anthem as awards are presented.</p><p>The most memorable performance of the soviet national anthem after a figure skating victory came in 1980, when <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=082hNL_AES4&amp;feature=related" target="_blank">Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaytsev took a gold at Lake Placid, USA</a>. The elegant, determined Rodnina was an icon of soviet figure skating. Her biography perfectly embodies the style and continuity of post-soviet politics — she’s been a deputy in the state duma (representing, of course, United Russia) for some ten years. Just as in the soviet era, figure skating occupies an important place in the country’s leading television channel.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02767832.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02767832.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Visitors to the “Russia: my history” exhibition in Moscow. (c) Maksim Blinov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>But nowadays, the focus of these dances on ice has shifted from a simple competition to a pop-culture parade of celebrities and TV stars. This semi-official politics of memory is near ubiquitous, as it delivers its message through the state’s media networks. Television is particularly useful in this sense, and not only because the “common information space” built up under Putin has crept its way into all apartments and offices. It’s an ideal medium. Much like the new monuments to dubious historical figures, television presents a monologue with which its viewers can seldom interact, condensing any information or any art form into convenient, trendy, entertaining soundbites. These can be absorbed without critical reflection.&nbsp;</p><p>Finally, this approach to memory, much like its many followers, isn’t interested in the complexities and inconsistencies of the past. It is simply a feel-good project, a universal balm for the soul. Reconciliation, in its understanding, is embodied by simple pleasures in the here and now, which cancel out all the conflicts of the past.</p><h2>We’ve never had it so good</h2><p>The Siberian city of Tomsk is a remarkable place. It’s given us not only Karagodin, but the first, genuine version of the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-36249817" target="_blank">Immortal Regiment</a> initiative, which sees Russians march through the streets bearing portraits of their ancestors who were killed in the second world war. A year ago the Tomsk regional museum and youth theatre staged a performance based on my documentary play about the <a href="http://tuz-tomsk.ru/theatrical/adult/vosstaniye" target="_blank">Chainsk uprising</a> (link in Russian).&nbsp;</p><p>In the summer of 1931, this remote district rose in revolt. Settlers, who had been exiled from the southern regions of Siberia to this area of swamps and taiga, put forward political demands — but the driving factor was desperation following a terrible famine. Documents used in research for the play show that settlers had hardly been sent any food supplies. In the discussions following the premiere, audience members spoke about working with archival materials and of the need to reevaluate the soviet past and how it is commemorated.</p><p>“This play brings up great tragedies and horrors”, remarked one young woman from the audience. “But I think that now, given that I can choose between an espresso or a cappuccino in the petrol station cafe, it’s simple — we live very, very well”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Russia demonstrates a peculiar interpretation of Marx’s ideas: with a glowing smile, it joyously refuses its own past</p><p>Svetlana Kuritsyna, a pro-Kremlin youth activist and television personality also known as “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24XBX0Wkmpw" target="_blank">Sveta from Ivanovo</a>”, put it particularly well. Her enduring words that “we’ve started to dress better” could become the slogan for the entire state-driven campaign of reconciliation and forgetting.&nbsp;</p><p>And that’s why Russia’s committed Stalinists have nothing to fear. Their struggle to whitewash yesterday’s repressions — all the better to excuse those of today — is continued on their behalf by many authors (who are by no means hardcore soviet nostalgics) whose books laud Stalin as an “effective manager” or a “military genius”.&nbsp;</p><p>Today’s fashionable, positive, forward-thinking young people continue to carry the torch. Some of them aren’t above buying, producing and wearing cheerful t-shirts with pictures of Stalin. This isn’t the result of ideology per se, but of the destruction of normal communication and conversation between members of society. A society in which ageing Stalinists and bright young things with no time for politics both follow the cultural politics of the Kremlin.&nbsp;</p><p>Karl Marx <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm" target="_blank">wrote of a humanity which could “cheerfully part with its past”</a>. In its own way, Russia demonstrates a peculiar interpretation of Marx’s ideas — with a glowing smile, it joyously refuses its own past.</p><p><em>Translated from Russian by Maxim Edwards</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-ovsyannikova/moscow-s-authoritarian-future">Moscow’s authoritarian future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/you-wanted-civil-society-well-now-you-ve-got-it">“You wanted civil society? Well, now you’ve got it”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dmitry-okrest/stalins-back">Stalin&#039;s back</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/russia%E2%80%99s-repressive-monument-to-victims-of-political-repression">Russia’s repressive monument to victims of political repression </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/roots-of-russia-s-atomised-mourning">The roots of Russia’s atomised mourning</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mikhail Kaluzhsky Russia History Cultural politics Fri, 02 Dec 2016 14:43:28 +0000 Mikhail Kaluzhsky 107340 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Clash of victimhoods: the Volhynia Massacre in Polish and Ukrainian memory https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrii-portnov/clash-of-victimhood-1943-volhynian-massacre-in-polish-and-ukrainian-culture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As we become increasingly aware of the tragic past, how can we avoid fuelling resentment along national lines in the present?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/c7cbaaecf0328e4e0a2c43ed835edc38_1467997400_extra_large.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>July 2016: President Petro Poroshenko kneels before the monument to the victims of Volyn tragedy. Source: <a href=http://www.president.gov.ua/>President of Ukraine</a>.</span></span></span>Volhynia, a border region in the northwest of present-day Ukraine, is almost completely absent on Europe’s landscape of memory. Here, in 1943, a section of Ukraine’s nationalist underground massacred the region’s Polish population. These events, despite being one of the largest mass killings of the Second World War, are barely known in Ukraine today. Across the border, though,<strong> “</strong>Wołyn 1943”, as the events are known, is gradually moving to the very centre of Poland’s memorial culture, and is playing a significant role in Polish attitudes towards Ukraine.</p> <p>I have been active in discussions of Volhynia in both Poland and Ukraine since the mid-2000s. While expressing my views I have often had an uncomfortable feeling of being presented (and perceived) as “a Ukrainian voice”, though I am not at all interested in defending or denouncing any national tradition. Instead, I believe it is crucial to consider how researchers can move beyond the predictable logic of two “national truths” and negotiating the best diplomatic formula to define what happened in Volhynia.&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, we should ask two questions: i) How can we study the events in Volhynia in their local complexity as well as the comparative transnational framework? [1] ii) What can we learn from research on the Volhynian massacre not in terms of national martyrdom, but in terms of individuals’ behaviour in an extremely violent and dynamic situation when one’s ethnicity (ascribed or self-identified) leads to collective responsibility and, therefore, life or death?</p> <h2><strong>What happened in Volhynia in 1943?</strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p class="normal">Located in the northeast of pre-war Poland, Volhynia was an agricultural region with 2.1m people, with three major ethnic groups: Ukrainians (almost 68%), Poles (16.5%) and Jews (9.78%). [2]</p> <p class="normal">In 1939, the region was occupied by the Soviet troops, in 1941 – by the German Wehrmacht. Soon afterwards the Volhynian Jews became the victims of Germany’s “Final Solution”. After the battle of Stalingrad in 1943, which made the Third Reich’s defeat and the re-ordering of borders in Europe pretty much predictable, the Bandera wing of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) and part of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) nationalist underground decided to “clean out the Polish element” to make sure that Volhynia would not remain part of Poland. It is possible that the OUN-B leaders followed the experience of the First World War when post-war borders were mostly drawn according to the “national composition of the population”. [3]&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In other words, the “anti-Polish operation” of the UPA was based on the nationalist logic to claim rights to land on the basis of ethnic purity and additionally inspired by the anti-Polish sentiments and experience of discriminatory politics of the interwar Polish state where people of Ukrainian origin had reasons to feel themselves “second-class citizens”. [4]</p> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Janowadolina.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="236" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The model village of Janowa Dolina in Volhynia, pictured here in the 1930s, was the site of a UPA massacre in April 1943. Wikimedia Commons. Fair use.</span></span></span>In order to portray the pre-planned ethnic cleansing as a spontaneous peasant riot, the UPA units killed the Polish civilians with axes, rather than firearms, and tried to mobilise local Ukrainian peasants to assist in their actions. The brutality of killings, which made no exception for women or children, and involved torturing victims and the destruction of Catholic churches, is usually stressed in survivors’ stories.</p> <p class="normal">Historians estimate around 60,000 victims among Volhynia’s Polish civilians, the majority of them – peasants. [5] The UPA’s “anti-Polish operation” was probably influenced by the earlier “anti-Jewish operation” carried out by the Nazis and sometimes even resembled it. One of the UPA documents clearly stated: “The resistance of the Polish self-defense diminished to an extent that the Ukrainian operations recall German actions against the Jews”. [6]</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Wołyn 1943 is an important touchstone for public memory in Poland</p> <p class="normal">The German administration in Volhynia never seriously tried to stop the ethnic cleansing against its Polish residents. The Polish underground Armia Krajowa (AK), which was subordinate to the Polish government in exile, only later started the so-called “revenge-preventive operations” directed against Ukrainian villagers. Around 10,000 Ukrainian civilians were killed as a result. [7]&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">One should note a clear quantitative difference in the numbers of victims. Polish historians estimate the general amount of the Polish victims of the UPA at around 100,000 (this number also includes the victims of the “anti-Polish operation” in East Galicia which caused less mortalities than in Volhynia). According to the leading researcher of the topic, Grzegorz Motyka, even the most critical assessment of the Polish operations against Ukrainian civilians should not equate them with the planned extermination of the Poles in Volhynia and East Galicia. [8]</p> <h2>Wołyn on Poland’s landscape of memory&nbsp;</h2> <p class="normal">Polish memory of the Second World War consists of number of realms, or lieu de mémoire. Among the most important are the destruction of the Polish state by joint German-Soviet aggression in September 1939, the Katyń massacre of captured Polish officers perpetrated by the Soviet state in spring 1940, the 1944 Warsaw Uprising brutally suppressed by German troops and not supported by the Red Army.</p> <p class="normal">All of these deal with national martyrdom. The broad public discussion provoked by Jan Gross’s book <em>Neighbours </em>in 2000 strived to add a very different place of memory to the list – the town of Jedwabne, where in July 1941 a group of Polish town-dwellers murdered their Jewish co-citizens. The story of Jedwabne portrayed Poles as perpetrators rather than victims, resulting in heated debates in the media about the “pedagogy of sorrow”.</p> <p class="normal">As should be expected, Wołyn 1943 is an important touchstone for public memory in Poland. But its peculiarity stems from the fact that the mass killings of civilian Poles took place on the territories lying outside the post-war Polish borders. Those territories are known in Polish national mythology as Kresy (borderlands, outskirts) — the vast territories in eastern Europe belonging to the Polish state from the fourteenth to the late eighteenth centuries and again, in smaller scope, in 1919-1939. This is the “the lost paradise” of Poland’s “civilisational mission” and, at the same time, the bloody and romantic clashes with the Cossacks and Tatars. [9]&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Radical nationalism, if it doesn’t belong to “us”, is frightening, and if it’s “ours”, appears reasonable and even helpful</p> <p class="normal">As an effect of post-Second World War international agreements, Poland lost territories in the east (Volhynia and East Galicia became parts of Soviet Ukraine), but obtained new land in the west (parts of former East Prussia with the cities of Wrocław, Poznań and Szczecin). In socialist Poland, the topic of UPA crimes against Poles was broadly presented in books and films, but those media products focused on the territories of post-war Poland, rather than those within Soviet Ukraine. Volhynia was absent from the story. The UPA’s anti-Soviet activities and the history of the AK on Ukrainian territory of Ukraine were completely ignored, the numbers of victims were not given, and the role of the Soviet partisans in protecting Polish civilians was exaggerated. [10]</p> <p class="normal">Polish émigré intellectuals contributed a lot to the re-formulation of Poland’s future “eastern politics”. In post-war Polish émigré circles, the Paris-based journal <em>Kultura</em>, edited by Jerzy Giedroyc, promoted the idea of conscious support for independence in Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus (that is, former Kresy lands), as well as the rejection of any territorial claims towards neighbouring states, as essential preconditions for Poland’s political revival.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">After 1989, Giedroyc’s vision dominated the foreign policy of post-socialist Warsaw — Poland was the first state to recognise independent Ukraine, and since then it has been widely perceived as Ukraine’s advocate in Europe. This was proven during the 2004 Orange Revolution and the events of 2013–2014 when Polish civil society and political elites showed clear support to pro-democratic and pro-European protesters.&nbsp;</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/800px-Wycieczka_z_Gdańska_-_budowa_Cmentarza_Orląt.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A photograph from Eaglet Cemetery from the 1920s. Unknown photographer / Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.</span></span></span>During the 1990s, Poland’s discussions with Ukraine about history were dominated by the issue of Eaglet Cemetery (Cmentarz Orląt) — the burial place of Poles killed during the Ukrainian-Polish clashes of 1918 over the city of Lwów/Lviv. This cemetery was devastated in the Soviet years and finally re-opened with the attendance of the presidents of both countries in 2005.&nbsp;</p><p class="normal">Inside Poland, groups and societies of Kresowianie (often, but not always, descendants of Poles from the eastern borderlands) raised the Volhynian topic intensively. They were the devoted promoters of the topic of the Volhynian massacre in terms of national martyrdom and “neglected genocide”. One of the authors even proposed to call Wołyn 1943 a “genocidium atrox” (extreme genocide) to stress the exceptional brutality of killing, which, according to him, <a href="http://klubkip.neon24.pl/post/84832,trzy-ludobojstwa">“surpass Soviet and Nazi atrocities”</a>. Another influential rightwing essayist <a href="http://www.nawolyniu.pl/artykuly/anatomia.htm">claimed</a> that Ukrainian nationalism “exceeds other nationalisms (including the Nazi one) in praising killings and unrestrained apology of brutality”.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The entire Volhynian problem remains rather unknown for many Ukrainians, especially those without family stories from western Ukraine</p> <p class="normal">To maximise these claims, such authors started to apply the established language of the Holocaust to describe and define what happened to the Polish civilians of Volhynia. The Polish word “Zagłada”, previously reserved to define the Nazi extermination of the Jews, began to be used also as “Zagłada” of the Poles in the Kresy. In the same logic, Ukrainians who helped their Polish neighbours were called “Righteous of the Kresy” [11] to resemble the honorific “Righteous among the nations” used by Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives in an attempt to save Jews from the Nazi politics of extermination.</p> <p class="normal">This “we” language also plays an important role. The far-right weekly <em>Do Rzeczy</em> recently decorated its issue with a cover referring to Wołyn 1943: “They wanted to kill us all”. In this phrase, “us” means the Poles, and “they” apparently refers to Ukrainians.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Wołyn 1943 on Ukraine’s landscape of memory</strong></h2> <p class="normal">Post-Soviet Ukraine faced the coexistence, competition and, sometimes, coercion of two narratives on the Second World War — the Soviet and the nationalist. The first one stresses Ukraine’s role in the Soviet Union’s struggle against fascism and portrays the UPA as Nazi collaborators. The second emphasises the anti-Soviet struggle of the UPA that lasted until the early 1950s and caused serious Soviet repressions in western Ukraine.</p> <p class="normal">None of the two pays special attention to the Volhynian massacre. Wołyn 1943 was not present in Soviet school history textbooks, and even though Stepan Bandera was one of the main Soviet anti-heroes, the biggest crime of the OUN-B — the ethnic cleansing of the Polish population of Volhynia — was barely mentioned. The entire Volhynian problem remains rather unknown for many Ukrainians, especially those without family stories from western Ukraine.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The majority of both Polish and Ukrainian texts about the Volhynian massacre remind me of monologues in a different contexts</p> <p class="normal">In Ukraine’s nationalist narrative, Wołyn 1943 was ignored, neglected or at least downplayed. Writers allied with the OUN-B agenda invented the main strategies of neglect during the 1950s and 1960s. They described anti-Polish actions in Volhynia as a spontaneous peasant revolution against Polish rule, referring to the “right of the oppressed to protect themselves”. They claimed that violent clashes were provoked by the Germans and/or Soviet partisans. Cynically, they alleged that the Polish civilians in Volhynia were the victims of the “irresponsible policies of the Polish government in exile which adhered to the pre-war borders of Poland”. [12] Additional arguments included the systematic attempt to equate the UPA anti-Polish and the AK anti-Ukrainian operations under the “The Volhynian tragedy” umbrella, and to downplay the responsibility of concrete OUN-B and UPA commanders. [13]&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">The main goal behind all these manoeuvres is to preserve the UPA as one of the national symbols of Ukraine’s struggle for independence. It is telling that even critical Ukrainian essayists <a href="http://zaxid.net/news/showNews.do?vikliki_volini&amp;objectId=1400062">tend to stress</a> that “the recognition of the responsibility of the perpetrators of the Volhynian massacre does not automatically mean the condemnation of the entire Ukrainian underground”, and claim that both UPA and AK committed crimes against civilians, but none of the armies could be called criminal in itself. Some authors agree to call the killings a genocide, albeit a <a href="http://m.nv.ua/ukr/opinion/grytsak/shljah-ukrajini-ta-polshchi-do-proshchennja-183764.html">“</a><a href="http://m.nv.ua/ukr/opinion/grytsak/shljah-ukrajini-ta-polshchi-do-proshchennja-183764.html">bilateral genocide</a><a href="http://m.nv.ua/ukr/opinion/grytsak/shljah-ukrajini-ta-polshchi-do-proshchennja-183764.html">”</a> in which, even though the numbers of people killed were different, the intent of the perpetrators was eventually the same.</p><p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Bandera stamps-1_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="380" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stamps issued in honour of Stepan Bandera in 2009 under Viktor Yushchenko's presidency. Image courtesy of the author.</span></span></span>On the political level, the Ukrainian state showed very little understanding and an evident lack of empathy towards the importance of Wołyn 1943<em> </em>for Polish society. In 2003, on the 60th anniversary of the massacre, president Leonid Kuchma strongly insisted that Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada approve the joint appeal by the parliaments of Ukraine and Poland on the memory of all the victims of Polish-Ukrainian conflicts during the Second World War. [14] At the same time, Kuchma took no measures that would give Volyn a wider social forum in Ukraine. According to sociological surveys, in 2003, 48.9% of people surveyed in Ukraine knew nothing about the Volhynian massacres of 1943, and there was no adequate information about them in textbooks. [15]</p> <p class="normal">In 2010, Viktor Yushchenko, Kuchma’s successor, did not consider the Polish reaction at all when he awarded Bandera the status of “Hero of Ukraine”. In July 2013, president Viktor Yanukovych decided not to join Polish president Bronisław Komorowski for the mourning ceremony on the 70th anniversary of the Volhynian massacre in Lutsk. In April 2015, right after Komorowski’s guest speech, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a law that gave the UPA veterans a special status of “fighters for Ukrainian independence”. A significant part of the Polish media interpreted it as a sign of disrespect and lack of Ukraine’s appreciation for the strategic partnership with Poland.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Forgotten genocide?</strong></h2> <p class="normal">Nowadays the definition of the Volhynian crime as “genocide” is strongly promoted in Poland by a number of political forces (mostly, on the right) and is rather broadly accepted in academic discourse. [16] Clearly, a responsible answer to the question whether the “anti-Polish operation” of the UPA was genocide depends on your definition of genocide (from the purely legal to the sociological). In any case, it is clear that calling a concrete historical event “genocide” signifies a desire to designate the worst possible crime and attract attention to its memory.</p> <p class="normal">In 2013, the lower house, dominated at the time by the liberal PO (Platforma Obywatelska) party, adopted the first political declaration on Wołyn 1943<em>, </em>defining the UPA crimes as “an ethnic cleansing with signs of genocide”. The head of the Polish senate Bogdan Borusiewicz stressed than that “we do not talk about the responsibility of Ukrainians or Ukrainian state, but about the responsibility of the OUN and UPA”. [17]</p> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-25098818.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>(c) Alik Keplicz AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Three years later, the Polish parliament returned to the topic. In July 2016, the newly elected Polish parliament with a constitutional majority from the conservative PiS (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) party adopted a new declaration on Wołyn 1943<em> </em>that called it a “genocide” and established the Commemoration Day of its victims on 11 July, the day when the UPA units attacked around 100 Polish villages on Volhynia. The same declaration <a href="http://orka.sejm.gov.pl/proc8.nsf/uchwaly/625_u.htm">expressed gratitude to those Ukrainians who rescued their Polish neighbours</a> and claimed “solidarity with present-day Ukraine which fights against foreign aggression for its territorial integrity”. None of the 442 MPs voted against the resolution.</p> <p class="normal">In 2013, the Sejm’s resolution was criticised by leading Polish leftist and liberal intellectuals, who called on parliament to think critically about the Kresy mythology and understand that “for centuries Poland was a colonial power and occupier for Ukraine”. [18] In 2016, even some conservative essayists declared worries about the possible effects of the Sejm’s resolution, stressing that Poland should avoid paternalistic stance towards Ukraine, and be aware of <a href="http://wpolityce.pl/historia/303539-poza-spirala-oskarzen-zaden-zwlaszcza-walczacy-o-przetrwanie-i-tozsamosc-narod-nie-jest-gotowy-do-rozliczania-sie-ze-swoja-historia-na-wezwanie?utm_campaign=Private&amp;utm_medium=Chat&amp;utm_source=Viber">“Putin’s interest in embroiling Poland with Ukraine”</a> and should not allow <a href="https://oaspl.org/2016/08/02/polska-ukraina-czyli-oas-o-tym-ze-warto-siegnac-do-listu-biskupow">“tragedies of the past to define today's politics”</a>.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Ukrainian responses</strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p class="normal">In 2016, as well as before, the most important initiatives on the Volhynian topic came from Poland Official Kyiv lost numerous opportunities to propose a creation of an international (not just bilateral) historical commission or to initiate the broad archeological research on the places of mass killings.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">President Petro Poroshenko’s important gesture during his July 2016 visit to Warsaw — like Willy Brandt before him, he knelt before the monument to the victims of the Volhynian massacres — came too late and did not influence the Sejm’s vote on the “genocide resolution”. The letters of distinguished Ukrainian politicians and intellectuals focused on the formula “we forgive and ask for forgiveness” had almost no effect as well. The same could be said about the previous memorandums with the same formula issued by the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic and Polish Roman-Catholic churches.</p> <p class="normal">The Sejm’s resolution was interpreted by many Ukrainian politicians and journalists as an “anti-Ukrainian gesture” [19] adopted in the particularly unfavourable moment of the military conflict in the Donbas region and conscious attempts of the Kremlin to use Volhynian topic to further complicate Polish-Ukrainian relations. At the same moment, despite some very radical proposals, the Verkhovna Rada in September 2016 expressed its regret about the decision of its Polish colleagues in a very moderate document which condemned <a href="http://zakon3.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/1507-19#n8">“the one-sided political assessment of the historical events”</a> and opted for further dialogue.</p> <p class="normal">Late October 2016 saw Ukrainian and Polish parliaments simultaneously approve <a href="http://w1.c1.rada.gov.ua/pls/zweb2/webproc4_1?pf3511=60285">“The Declaration of Memory and Solidarity”</a>, which included words of respect to all the victims of the violent clashes of the twentieth century and condemnation of the external aggressors of both countries, most of all, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Could one say that this declaration denounces or, at least, softens the genocide resolution? Not exactly. And it is telling that none of the mentioned documents acknowledges the responsibility of the OUN-B and UPA for the mass killings of Polish civilians or questioned attempts to unconditionally heroicise those formations in present-day Ukraine.</p> <h2><strong>Teleological Wołyn</strong></h2> <p class="normal">In Poland, there are numerous monuments to the victims of the Volhynian. The first memorial in the capital city of Warsaw was opened in 1993 — a purely military symbol (a giant sword) to the soldiers of the 27th Volhynian AK Infantry Division was erected pretty far away from the city centre.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In 2003, this monument was supplemented with a new element: 12 stone-made Volhynian candles, which were meant to symbolise the 12 administrative units of the Volhynian region where the killings happened. In 2013, a new memorial was added: a seven metre high cross with an armless Christ. Zuzanna Bogumił argues that the sculpture of the armless Christ clearly places the entire memorial in the tradition of Polish religious messianism and martyrology. [20] Exactly by representing the killings as Christ-like sufferings, the Poles of Volhynia are made into innocent martyrs who died in the name of the highest national values. Their moral purity and physical sufferings are connected to the old Romantic notion of Poland as “a Christ among nations”.</p><p class="normal">In this mythological framework, Wołyn 1943 became much more than just an exceptionally tragic historical event, but a collective experience that bares an eternal truth about the Polish nation. It also recalls and re-activates the Kresy mythology in full strength together with reinforcement of the old images of the cruelty of Ukrainian anti-Polish uprisings in the 17th and 18th centuries.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In 2013, some Polish far-right activists “reconstructed” the Volhynian massacre in the village of Radymno. Seven wooden houses were burned down before the eyes of 5,000 spectators, video footage of the “happening” was broadly broadcasted online. In commenting on the necessity of such “reconstructions” one of its supporters proudly claimed that “it has to do not just with the preservation of memory”, but with the rejection of <a href="http://wiadomosci.onet.pl/tylko-w-onecie/ks-isakowicz-zaleski-polityka-zaklamywania-histori,1,5564153,wiadomosc.html">“the out-of-dated and deeply discredited Giedroyc myth”</a>.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The growth of the “extreme genocide” topic in Poland and development of various “defensive” explanatory schemes in Ukraine seems to be not just a local phenomenon, but an illustration of much broader tendency&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Has the intensification of Wołyn 1943 debates influence the attitude towards the almost one million Ukrainians who live and work in Poland? Polish Prime minister Beata Szydło in January 2016 argued at the European Parliament that Poland could not agree on the EU quotas on refugees because it has already <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/szydlo-exaggerated-on-refugees-from-ukraine-in-poland/a-19080717">“accepted around one million Ukrainian migrant workers”</a>. This attempt to confuse refugees with working migrants is telling, especially keeping in mind that, <a href="http://udsc.gov.pl/">according to official data on the ministry’s website</a>, less than 20 Ukrainian citizens obtained refugee status in Poland last year.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In the city of Przemyśl, which has a long history of Polish-Ukrainian coexistence, local Polish far right extremists (related to the organisers of the Volhynian massacre “reconstruction”) <a href="http://wyborcza.pl/duzyformat/1,127290,20758797,za-wolyn-czego-boja-sie-ukraincy-w-przemyslu.html?disableRedirects=true">attacked a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic procession</a> to commemorate the soldiers of the Ukrainian Galician Army who fought in 1920s together with the Polish troops against the Bolsheviks. In this case, as well as in some other instances, all Ukrainians and all Ukrainian symbols are inaccurately associated with “Banderism” and responsibility for the massacres of the Poles. [21]&nbsp;</p> <h2>Histories for home use&nbsp;</h2> <p class="normal">The majority of both Polish and Ukrainian texts about the Volhynian massacre remind me of monologues in a different contexts. The mainstream option in both cases is to defend “your own national truth”. In this logic, radical nationalism, if it doesn’t belong to “us”, is frightening, and if it’s “ours”, appears reasonable and even helpful.</p> <p class="normal">In Ukraine, despite the increase of publications caused by initiatives in Poland, the Volhynian topic remains rather marginal and does not deeply affect the Bandera mythologies (see more on this in my <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrii-portnov/bandera-mythologies-and-their-traps-for-ukraine">previous essay for Open Democracy</a>). In Poland, however, Volhynia is gradually moving to the centre of national memorial culture as “newly discovered” and “repressed” proof of the old truth about Poland’s exceptional martyrdom and sacrifice.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Self-victimisation (of course, not just in Polish or Ukrainian case) could turn into the superiority complex and bears a number of risks and dangers for the group who shares it. Speaking about the Middle East, Yassin Al-Haj Saleh <a href="http://aljumhuriya.net/en/critical-thought/the-just-oppressors-the-middle-easts-victimhood-narratives-and-new-imagined-communities">emphasises</a> that while victimhood narratives are powerful instruments for “disciplining and unifying a community and justifying its exceptional aspirations”, they are also “much more conducive to committing injustices than to resisting them”.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">The growth of the “extreme genocide” topic in Poland and development of various “defensive” explanatory schemes in Ukraine seems to be not just a local phenomenon, but an illustration of much broader tendency — the spread of cultural insecurity, ethnic nationalism and superiority complexes that could be seen in many parts of the world, a world some scholars too hastily described as “post-national”.</p> <p class="normal">&nbsp;</p><p class="normal"><strong>References&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>[1] Very similar questions were outlined by Andriy Zayarniuk already in 2003: Andriy Zayarniuk, Vykonavtsi etnichnoii chystky poliakiv na Volyni jak intelektual`na problema, <em>Ukraїna: kulturna spadschyna, national`na svidomist`, derzhavnist`</em>, vol. 10 (2003): 261–286. Compare Aleksandr Osipian, Etnicheskie chistki i chistka pamiati: ukrainsko-polskoe pogranich`e 1939-1947 gg. v sovremennoj politike i istoriografii, <em>Ab Imperio</em>, no. 2 (2004): 297–326; Jared McBride, Peasants into Perpetrators: The OUN-UPA and the Ethnic Cleansing of Volhynia, 1943–44, <em>Slavic Review</em>, 75, no. 3 (Fall 2016): 630–654.&nbsp;</p> <p>[2] For comprehensive analysis of the census data and Poland`s policies in inter-war Volhynia see Włodzimierz Medrzecki, <em>Województwo wołyńskie 1921–1939: Elementy przemian cywilizacyjnych, społecznych i politycznych</em> (Wrocław – Warszawa – Kraków, 1988).&nbsp;</p> <p>[3] See Mark Mazower, <em>Dark Continent: Europe`s Twentieth Century</em> (London, 1999); Norman Naimark, <em>Fires of </em><em>H</em><em>atred</em><em>: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe</em> (Cambridge –London, 2002).</p> <p>[4] Inter-war Poland failed to fulfill its international promise to open the Ukrainian University in L`viv, tended to cut down Ukrainian language schools, in late 1930s even destroyed more than one hundred Orthodox churches. See more in Ryszard Torzecki, <em>Kwestia ukraińska w Polsce w latach 1923–1929</em> (Kraków, 1989); Jerzy Tomaszewski, <em>Ojczyzna nie tylko Polaków: Mniejszości narodowe w Polsce w latach 1918–1939</em> (Warszawa, 1985); Mirosława Papierzyńska-Turek, <em>Sprawa ukraińska w Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej, 1922–1926</em> (Kraków, 1979).&nbsp;</p> <p>[5] The numbers of people killed in Volhynia are inevitably approximate. No systematic archeological and demographic research was done. The lack of written sources (the majority of people affected by ethnic cleansing were illiterate peasants who left no diaries or notes) plays role as well. &nbsp;Compare Timothy Snyder, The Causes of Ukrainian-Polish Ethnic Cleansing 1943, <em>Past and Present</em>, no. 179 (May 2003): 197–234.</p> <p>[6] <em>Litopys UPA</em>. Vol. XXVI (Toronto – Kyiv, 2001), pp. 376–377. Quoted in: Grzegorz Motyka, Zbrodnia wołyńska 1943 roku i mit buntu ludowego, <em>Dzieje Najnowsze</em>, XLVIII, no.1 (2016): 53–66, here p. 63.</p> <p>[7] This approximate number, supported, for instance, by Grzegorz Motyka, includes Ukrainians killed in all types of Polish “acts of revenge” on the entire territory of pre-war Poland during 1943–1947.&nbsp;</p> <p>[8] See Grzegorz Motyka, <em>Od rzezi wołyńskiej do akcji “Wisła”. Konflikt polsko-ukraiński 1943–1947</em> (Kraków, 2011) and most recently <em>Wołyn`43. Ludobójcza czystka – fakty, analogie, polityka historyczna</em> (Kraków, 2016). Compare one of the most balanced and well-researched monographs produced in Ukrainian: Ihor Iljushyn, <em>UPA i AK. Protystoiannia v Zakhidnii Ukraini (1939 – 1945 rr.) </em>(Kyiv, 2009). An important comparative reading of Motyka and Iljushyn`s texts could be found in: Tomasz Stryjek, Czy polsko-ukraiński dialog o historii jest możliwy, <em>Przegląd Polityczny</em>, no. 106 (2011): 171–176.&nbsp;</p> <p>[9] For detailed analysis of the <em>Kresy</em> mythology in post-socialist Polish publications see Bogusław Bakuła, Colonial and Postcolonial Aspects of Polish Borderlands Studies, <em>Teksty Drugie</em>, no. 1 (2014): 96–123.&nbsp;</p> <p>[10] For more details see Grzegorz Motyka, <em>W kręgu “Łun w Bieszczadach”</em> (Warsaw, 2009).&nbsp;</p> <p>[11] The Polish Institute for National Remembrance has recently published a book about “the Righteous among Ukrainians who rescued Poles subjected to extermination by the OUN and UPA” in Polish, English and Ukrainian. See Romuald Niedzielko (ed), <em>The Book of the Righteous of the Eastern Borderlands, 1939–1945</em> (Warsaw, 2016).&nbsp;</p> <p>[12] A telling example of such logic could be found in the writings of one of the most influential Ukrainian nationalistic historians: Yaroslav Dashkevych, <em>“…Uchy nelozhnymy ustamy skazaty pravdu”. Istorychna eseїstyka</em> (Kyiv, 2011).</p> <p>[13] For elaboration of such argument see the publications of the current director of the Ukrainian Institute for National Remembrance: Volodymyr Viatrovych, <em>Druha pol`s`ko-ukraїns`ka vijna, 1942–1947</em> (Kyiv, 2012) and <em>Za lashtunkamy “Volyni-43”. Nevidoma pol`s`ko- ukraїns`ka vijna</em> (Kyiv, 2016).&nbsp;</p> <p>[14] Andrii Portnov, “Memory Wars in Post-Soviet Ukraine (1991–2010)” in <em>Memory and Theory in Eastern Europe</em>, ed. by Uilleam Blacker, Alexander Etkind, Julie Fedor (Basingstoke, 2013), pp. 233–254. Here p. &nbsp;240. &nbsp;</p> <p>[15] Quoted in Bogumiła Berdychowska, Ukrańcy wobec Wołynia, <em>Zeszyty Historyczne</em>, vol. 146 (2003): 65–104, here p. 69.&nbsp;</p> <p>[16] It is hard to name any Polish historian of the Second World War who would at the moment disagree with the definition of Volhynian massacre as a “genocide”. Compare the influential publication from the early 1990s: Ryszard Torzecki, <em>Polacy i Ukraińcy. Sprawa ukraińska w czasie II wojny światowej na terenie II Rzeczypospolitej</em> (Warszawa, 1993). See also Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, Der polnisch-ukrainische Historikerdiskurs über den polnisch-ukrainischen Konflikt 1943–1947, <em>Jahr</em><em>bücher für </em><em>Geschichte Osteuropas</em>, vol. 57, no.1 (2009): 54–85.</p> <p>[17] <em>Gazeta Wyborcza</em>. 22–23 June 2013, p. 3.</p> <p>[18] See Adam Michnik column in <em>Gazeta Wyborcza</em>, 22–23 June 2013, p. 1, and several articles by Sławomir Sierakowski. For example: “Polacy nie są lepsi od Ukraińców”, <em>Rzeczpospolita</em>, 11 July 2013, p. A11.</p> <p>[19] The worst example here is a project of Ukraine`s parliament counter-declaration about the “anti-Ukrainian genocide committed by Poland in 1919–1951” <a href="http://censor.net.ua/news/400386/nardep_musiyi_predlagaet_rade_priznat_genotsidom_deyistviya_polshi_protiv_ukraintsev_v_19191951_godah">proposed by MP Oleh Musii</a>. Luckily, it was not even discussed at the parliamentary session/&nbsp;</p> <p>[20] Zuzanna Bogumił, Pamięć o konfliktach i dialogach Polaków z sąsiadami zapisana w kulturowym krajobrazie stolicy, Manuscript (quoted with the permission of the author).</p> <p>[21] For comprehensive analysis of the issue see Joanna Konieczna-Sołomatin, Kontakty polsko-ukraińskie a zmiany wzajemnego postrzegania Polaków i Ukraińców, <em>Państwo i społeczeństwo</em>, XVI, no. 1 (2016): 75–96.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-portnov/bandera-mythologies-and-their-traps-for-ukraine">Bandera mythologies and their traps for Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/olesya-khromeychuk/what-place-for-women-in-ukraine-s-memory-politics">What place for women in Ukraine’s memory politics?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/simon-lewis/wolyn-towards-memory-dialogue-poland-ukraine">Wołyń: towards memory dialogue between Poland and Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/per-rudling-tarik-amar-jared-mcbride/ukraine-s-struggle-with-past-is-ours-too">Ukraine’s struggle with the past is ours too</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Andrii Portnov Ukraine Cultural politics Wed, 16 Nov 2016 05:04:01 +0000 Andrii Portnov 106669 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Wołyń: towards memory dialogue between Poland and Ukraine https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/simon-lewis/wolyn-towards-memory-dialogue-poland-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new film opens up the horrors of the Second World War, but will it enable reconciliation?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Wolyn_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Wolyn_1.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detail from a promotional poster of Wojciech Smarzowski’s 2016 film Wołyń. Image courtesy of repetuary.pl. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Across Europe and North America, <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21702750-farewell-left-versus-right-contest-matters-now-open-against-closed-new" target="_blank">open versus closed is the new political divide</a>, declared <em>The Economist</em> in July. And in eastern Europe, debates are raging about figurative walls as well as physical ones. Can the region’s history be parcelled up and divided between nation states? Is memory a fortress, or a forum for dialogue?&nbsp;</p><p>At the official level, authoritative truths are in the ascendant. In July, the Polish parliament approved a <a href="http://wyborcza.pl/1,75398,20436098,sejm-przyjal-uchwale-w-sprawie-wolynia-ze-stwierdzeniem-o-ludobojstwie.html" target="_blank">government-sponsored bill</a> to recognise the wartime mass murders of Polish civilians by Ukrainian nationalists in 1943 as “genocide”, a move <a href="https://www.tygodnikpowszechny.pl/kontruchwala-wolynska-35617" target="_blank">condemned by Ukraine’s parliament</a> as well as <a href="http://wyborcza.pl/magazyn/1,124059,20605253,klatwa-wolynia-powrot-upiorow-przeszlosci-michnik.html" target="_blank">opposition figures in Poland</a>. Meanwhile, September saw the release of <em>Smoleńsk</em>, a film which has been <a href="http://porterszucs.pl/2016/09/07/smolensk/" target="_blank">widely criticised</a> for its crude popularising of a Russophobic conspiracy theory about the 2010 Smoleńsk airplane tragedy, in which 96 people, including then-president Lech Kaczyński, were killed.&nbsp;</p><p>Indeed, there is a perceptible move in Poland towards official adoption of an essentially martyrological narrative which foregrounds and valorises loss in national terms. The Law and Justice party have overseen the revival of the martyrdom myth of the so-called “<a href="http://natemat.pl/187621,prezydent-duda-odslonil-tablice-upamietniajaca-zolnierzy-wykletych-pomnik-upamietnia-poleglych-w-walce" target="_blank">condemned soldiers</a>”, anti-communist insurgents in the 1940s and early 1950s, while <a href="http://www.newsweek.pl/polska/minister-anna-zalewska-nie-wie-kto-mordowal-zydow-w-kielcach-i-jedwabnem-,artykuly,391895,1.html" target="_blank">downplaying</a> the role of ethnic Poles in wartime and postwar pogroms against Jewish citizens.&nbsp;</p><p>Ukraine’s <a href="https://davidrmarples.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/ukraine-and-russia-wars-over-the-past/" target="_blank">“decommunisation” laws</a>, introduced in 2015, have had a similar nationalising effect on public memory in Ukraine. In their attempts to “de-Sovietise” (and therefore de-Russify) the country’s commemorative landscape, the Ukrainian authorities have elevated the status of, amongst others, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrii-portnov/bandera-mythologies-and-their-traps-for-ukraine" target="_blank">Stepan Bandera</a> and Roman Shukhevych, radical right-wing nationalist leaders responsible for wartime atrocities against Jews and Poles in occupied Ukraine.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">These films tell stories that bring nations and cultures into contact, and can therefore act as catalysts for transnational reckoning</p><p>Against this background, the recent release of Wojciech Smarzowski’s new film <em>Wołyń</em> is a significant event in transnational memory politics as well as Polish cinema. The film is the latest in a <a href="https://notevenpast.org/historical-perspectives-on-agnieszka-hollands-in-darkness-2011/" target="_blank">long line of Polish historical dramas</a> that focus on violent episodes of the wartime past. Importantly and inevitably, these films tell stories that bring nations and cultures into contact, and can therefore act as catalysts for transnational reckoning, although they may also trigger wars of words. Andrzej Wajda’s 2007 film <em>Katyń</em>, for example, was instrumental in triggering the Russian parliament’s decision to <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2010/12/01/russia-stalin-poland-katyn/" target="_blank">recognise the mass murder of Polish officers in 1940</a> as a Stalinist crime.&nbsp;</p><p>Smarzowski’s film is another big-budget, highly anticipated production and it tackles one of the thorniest questions in Polish-Ukrainian relations — the Volhynian tragedy of 1943, in which up to 60,000 Poles were murdered by Ukrainian nationalists under German occupation, and up to 20,000 Ukrainians were killed in revenge attacks. Smarzowski has claimed that the film is supposed to “<a href="http://www.polityka.pl/tygodnikpolityka/kultura/1676004,1,wojciech-smarzowski-o-swoim-najnowszym-filmie-wolyn.read" target="_blank">force people to reflect and provoke a broader discussion</a>” between the two nations. So can we expect a memory thaw?</p><h2>Colonial stereotypes</h2><p>If <em>Wolyń</em> were really to be able to act as any sort of bridge between national memory cultures, it would need to abandon competitive martyrdom as a narrative framework and embody a dual (at least) perspective on the historical events it represents.</p><p>To do so would be to overcome decades of erasure and cross-border antagonism. Under the internationalist ideology of state socialism, inter-ethnic strife was a taboo subject, and it was only from the 1990s that the subject could be researched by historians. Although in the early 2000s, joint steps were taken towards cooperation and accord, more recently the discussions have come increasingly to resemble separate, sealed-off echo chambers rather than countries with a shared but contentious wartime history.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/640px-Klasztor_Dominikanow_w_Podkamienie_03.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/640px-Klasztor_Dominikanow_w_Podkamienie_03.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bullet holes from the tragedy of 1943 can still be seen on the tower of Pidkamin Monastery, Volhynia region (today in Ukraine). CC 3.0: Serhiy Krynytsya / Wikimedia Commons. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>To a limited extent, <em>Wolyń</em> succeeds in portraying the complexities of the wartime years, and thereby contextualise and arguably demythologise the Volhynian tragedy. At the same time, the film also reproduces some age-old Polish tropes of Ukrainian cultural inferiority. With a few exceptions, it plays up to a myth of Polish innocence, while giving a blanket portrayal of Ukrainians as drunk and bloodthirsty fanatics.&nbsp;</p><p>The first impression is an epigraph: “The inhabitants of the <em>Kresy</em> were killed twice over – first by hatchet blows, then by silence”. The labelling of the Volhynia region as <em>Kresy</em>, an untranslatable term used to designate formerly Polish-administered territory in today’s Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, signals from the outset that the story is likely to reproduce a conservative and Poland-centred perspective.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A term already saturated with a sense of restorative nostalgia and colonialist exclusion, Kresy has more recently been reinvigorated with a sense of collective trauma</p><p>The mythology of <em>Kresy</em>, which has connotations of the “limits” or “frontiers” of Polishness, emerged in the mid-19th century as a response to Russian imperial rule. Poets, painters and novelists depicted valiant Poles defending national interests in the wild east. This image of Polish dignity also relied upon a contrast: the Cossacks and Tatars of Ukraine, who were stereotypically represented as sublime savages. Wild and free, dangerous but beautiful, the Cossacks of the nineteenth-century Polish imagination were the enemy within.</p><p>A term already saturated with a sense of restorative nostalgia and colonialist exclusion, the&nbsp;<em>Kresy</em> have more recently been reinvigorated with a sense of collective trauma. The Volhynia and Katyń massacres, Stalinist terror and mass deportations, Nazi atrocities and the now seemingly irrevocable “loss” of the territories to post-Soviet nation states have conditioned a popular myth of the <em>Kresy</em> as a zone of historical purity, forever destroyed by the hostile forces of historical contingency. In explicitly referencing this heritage, Smarzowski’s <em>Wołyń</em> places itself firmly within a dominant discourse of Polish mythmaking.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Ostrówki-Funeral-2011.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Ostrówki-Funeral-2011.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Reburial of victims of the 1943 Ostrówki massacre, in which 438 Poles were murdered by Ukrainian nationalists. CC 3.0: Leon Popek / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Thus, the film employs a fairly crude dichotomisation into innocent, heroic and individualised Poles versus inherently violent, hate-filled Ukrainian masses. The majority of the story is told through the perspective of a young woman named Zosia and her Polish-speaking family, who endure multiple hardships in the course of the war, culminating in the horrific violence of the Ukrainian nationalists’ attack on their village. Whereas the principal protagonists have different personalities and biographies, the Ukrainians almost always appear as a collective — marching and chanting political slogans in unison, being agitated by the hate-filled sermons of their priests, or carrying out brutal acts of murder.&nbsp;</p><p>There is also a gender aspect to this collective characterisation: all of the film’s prominent Ukrainian-speakers are men, dripping in nationalist machismo, whereas the enduring symbol of Polish stoic victimhood is the young mother protecting her children. The gruesome scenes of the massacre feature a merciless spearing of a pregnant Polish woman, reinforcing the ethnicised contrast between Polish life and Ukrainian death. The linear narrative and the straightforward characterisation belie any claim to the film possessing a dialogic approach to the sensitive past.&nbsp;</p><p>This is undoubtedly a Polish perspective, not a treatment that treads carefully over the eggshells of contentious bilateral relations.</p><h2>Cosmopolitan outreach</h2><p>In its details, though, <em>Wołyń</em> does avoid some of the pitfalls of black-and-white dramatisation. The majority of Ukrainian characters are irrational and bestial, but not all. And likewise, the film is far from sympathetic in its portrayal of Poles in general.&nbsp;</p><p>An important thread of the story is the love between Zosia and Petro, a Ukrainian-speaker. This is mirrored by the marriage between Zosia’s sister Helena and another Ukrainian, Oleksandr, which opens the film. The wedding scenes serve simultaneously to showcase an alternative politics of everyday life in pre-war Volhynia, where neighbours could live happily side by side and intermarry, but also to foreshadow the darker events that follow.&nbsp;</p><p>Early fragments of dialogue introduce the emerging Ukrainian nationalist conspiracy, but these exchanges also make it clear that Poland’s Ukrainian-speaking minority had real grievances concerning land allocation and access to education. Towards the end of the film, Polish fighters carry out revenge murders against the Ukrainian-speaking population, killing Helena and her mixed-heritage daughter. In this way, the fervour of ethnic hatred affects all linguistic and confessional groups.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Wolyn_2_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Wolyn_2_0.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Up to 60,000 Poles were massacred by Ukrainian nationalists in Volhynia (Polish: Wołyn, Ukrainian: Волинь) between 1943 and 1944. Image still from the film via ForumFilm Poland / YouTube. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>More subtly, <em>Wołyń</em> can be seen to resist categorisation into national groups altogether and, in doing so, it makes an important statement about the convergence of memory and collective identity. </p><p>All of the positive characters are fully bilingual in Polish and Ukrainian, and at no point do they profess a clear-cut national identity. The open, symbolic ending has Zosia, her infant son and his deceased father Petro (who was killed by the Soviets), riding into the Volhynian countryside on a carriage, having seemingly reached some form of peace as a reunited family. The story thus suggests the possibility of multinational togetherness that transcends death and the divisions of language and faith.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">While Poland and Ukraine can seemingly unite against a common enemy, the historical issues that divide the two countries remain contentious</p><p>A powerful message of the film, therefore, is that integral nationalism stokes hatred and violence, whereas refusal of nationalism in all forms was and remains possible. <em>Wołyń</em> depicts the borderlands as a colourful canvas of mixed and hybrid ethnicities, where in-betweens and hyphenated identities are the norm, and the onset of totalising ideologies a moral aberration.&nbsp;</p><p>By narrativising this local cosmopolitanism, the film achieves an aesthetics of memory that may, perhaps, be conducive to dialogue between the two nations.&nbsp;</p><h2>The eye of the beholder&nbsp;</h2><p>The prospects of such dialogue, however, depend on the film’s reception. <em>Wołyń</em> has received mixed reviews in Poland, reflecting both the polarisation of opinions within society and the contradictions of the film itself.&nbsp;</p><p>Some, mostly conservative, critics have hailed it as a work that will enable some form of catharsis through the <a href="http://wiadomosci.dziennik.pl/opinie/artykuly/531587,film-wolyn-wojciecha-smarzowskiego-zabije-pojednanie-ktorego-nigdy-nie-bylo.html" target="_blank">revelation of historical truth</a>. Others have denounced its <a href="http://wiadomosci.dziennik.pl/opinie/artykuly/532479,ekspert-o-wolyniu-ten-film-to-zmarnowana-szansa-na-realne-pojednanie-z-ukraincami.html" target="_blank">hackneyed portrayal of national stereotypes</a> and its <a href="http://kulturaliberalna.pl/2016/10/11/wolyn-recenzja-wigura-kuisz-przebaczenie/" target="_blank">political insensitivity</a> at a time when Ukraine is facing more pressing problems on the eastern front. In Kyiv, a closed <a href="http://dt.ua/UKRAINE/u-kiyevi-za-rekomendaciyeyu-mzs-skasuvali-specpokaz-filmu-volin-221917_.html" target="_blank">pre-screening of the film was cancelled</a> on the recommendation of Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, sparking concerns of a reactionary shutdown before any plans can be made to release it.</p><p><em>Wołyń</em> bears many of the hallmarks of Polish culture’s historically ambivalent stance towards the so-called <em>Kresy</em>. The film embodies both pseudo-colonial essentialisation and self-critical reflection, both a nationalist perspective on the past and an anti-nationalist message. Most likely, it will continue to trigger different reactions by different viewers, reinforcing preconceived notions and politicised interpretations of the past.</p><p>Whether its release in Ukraine would be beneficial to dialogue is difficult to say. Just days after the <em>Wołyń</em> screening was shut down in Kyiv, the Polish and Ukrainian parliaments jointly adopted a “<a href="http://europe.newsweek.com/ukraine-and-poland-point-soviet-culpability-wwii-512449?rm=eu" target="_blank">Declaration of Remembrance and Solidarity</a>”, officially laying blame for the Second World War on the Soviet Union. The clear aim of this legislation, in which Lithuania is also participating, is to discredit the dominant Russian narrative of the Great Patriotic War. So while Poland and Ukraine can seemingly unite against a common enemy, the historical issues that divide the two countries remain contentious.&nbsp;</p><p>To add fuel to the fire, Moscow’s response to <em>Wołyń</em> is likely to be positive — the film can be seen to support the Kremlin’s assertion that Ukrainian nationalism is by nature “fascist” and filled with ethnic hatred. In any case, Smarzowski’s film is certain to reinvigorate debates about the Polish-Ukrainian past, highlighting, once again, the cleavage between open and closed approaches to history.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-portnov/bandera-mythologies-and-their-traps-for-ukraine">Bandera mythologies and their traps for Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/adam-blanden/central-and-eastern-europe-as-playground-of-conservative-avant-garde">Central and eastern Europe as playground of a conservative avant-garde</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/adam-chmielewski/stealing-spectacle">Stealing the spectacle</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/per-rudling-tarik-amar-jared-mcbride/ukraine-s-struggle-with-past-is-ours-too">Ukraine’s struggle with the past is ours too</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/olesya-khromeychuk/what-place-for-women-in-ukraine-s-memory-politics">What place for women in Ukraine’s memory politics?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia Can Europe make it? oD Russia Simon Lewis Ukraine Politics History Cultural politics Thu, 27 Oct 2016 12:21:36 +0000 Simon Lewis 106291 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What place for women in Ukraine’s memory politics? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/olesya-khromeychuk/what-place-for-women-in-ukraine-s-memory-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Conflict may have forced Ukraine to re-evaluate its past, but public officials do their country a disservice by excluding and particularising the role of women. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/olesya-khromeychuk/de-mistse-zhinok-ukrainska-politika-pamyati">Українською</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02719133.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>October 2015: residents of Kharkiv gather for the new "Day of the Defender" public holiday. (c) Pavel Pakhomenko / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 14 October, Ukraine will celebrate a new public holiday — the Day of the Defender of Ukraine. Announced six months <a href="http://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/prezident-vstanoviv-14-zhovtnya-dnem-zahisnika-ukrayini-33855">after the outbreak of conflict in the Donbas in 2014</a>, this new military holiday breaks the tradition of celebrating the Soviet “Day of the Defender of Fatherland” on 23 February.&nbsp;</p><p>The new date was chosen for a reason. For the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic traditions, 14 October is the celebration of the feast of the Mother of God (Pokrova). The date also has a strong connection to the Ukrainian military: the feast day was popular with Ukraine’s Cossacks, and in the 1940s, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army adopted it as the symbolic day of their formation. President Petro Poroshenko, it seems, aims to emphasise a lineage of Ukrainian military service that isn’t connected to the Soviet army — highly relevant in the context of the ongoing conflict, which has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">actualised the symbolic connection between “Soviet” and “Russian”</a> and with it a desire to break free of the Soviet past.</p><p>Yet there’s something missing here — the thousands of women who have defended and <a href="http://eca.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2015/12/ukraine--invisible-batallion">continue to defend Ukrainian statehood</a>, both with weapons in their hands and otherwise. Even the <a href="http://www.mil.gov.ua/news/2016/03/04/vistup-rechnika-mo-ukraini-pid-chas-brifingu-v-ukrainskomu-krizovomu-media-czentri--/">1,500 female soldiers who have served in the current conflict in Donbas</a> do not feature in the official commemorations. Indeed, the very word “defender” (zakhysnyk) is almost exclusively used in its masculine grammatical form, even in the name of the holiday.&nbsp;</p><p>This exclusion means that it isn’t only women who participated in past wars who are relegated to the margins of official commemoration, but the female experiences of the current conflict in eastern Ukraine also receive little attention.&nbsp;</p><h2>Inclusion of women</h2><p>“A nation without heroes is a nation without defenders,” <a href="http://gazeta.dt.ua/history/koli-nemaye-chasu-na-mertvih-vihodit-nemaye-dila-i-do-zhivih-_.html">says Pavlo Podobied</a> of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory (UINM), an institution which was behind the development of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/andriy-portnov/on-%E2%80%98decommunisation%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98identity%E2%80%99-and-legislating-history-in-ukraine">“decommunisation laws”</a>, and which is in charge of the dismantling of the old Soviet myths and creating new ones. Ukraine’s past and current heroes tend to be associated with militarism and wars, both won and lost. And as there is no space (other than symbolic) allowed for women in a war, there is no space for them in the traditional heroic perception of “defenders”.&nbsp;</p><p>The perception of what inclusion of women means in Ukraine is <a href="https://youtu.be/tbx-QE_zbtU?t=778">demonstrated by Serhii Hromenko</a>, former representative of the UINM, who, in a 2015 interview on the introduction of the new holiday, highlighted that as well as celebrating “the actual military, the National Guard, the special forces, volunteer fighters, and volunteers”, the Institute of National Memory “will insist on the compulsory creation of the tradition of commemorating the soldiers’ wives and mothers, because not only boys, not only men stand in defence of our Fatherland”. Thus, rather than ensuring that women are also celebrated as defenders of Ukraine, the institute further distorts women’s real roles in society and armed conflict.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The point should be to discuss the place the very men we heroicise reserve for women, and thus to problematise our perception of our “heroes”</p><p>Women in Ukraine should be recognised for the real roles they play in armed conflicts and not only as “soldiers’ wives and mothers”. By viewing them as victims of the enemy or as performing auxiliary roles, we deny women’s agency. At the same time, focusing on individual women and their achievements without appropriate contextualisation might lead to the denial of the masculinist setting in which these women operated and continue to operate. Thus, the point of including women in the discussion of the “defenders of statehood” should not be to “do justice” to them by allowing them a place among male national heroes. This move only serves to endorse our existing understanding of “heroes” as first and foremost military leaders, and thereby justifies the patriarchal ideologies that they supported and the violence that some of them perpetrated and propagated.&nbsp;</p><p>The point should be to discuss the place the very men we heroicise reserve for women, and thus to problematise our perception of our “heroes”.</p><h2>Woman as symbol&nbsp;</h2><p>In October 2015, to celebrate the Day of the Defender of Ukraine, the National Bank of Ukraine <a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2015/10/12/7084536/?attempt=2">produced a new five-hryvnia commemorative coin</a> “dedicated to the celebration of bravery and heroism, indefatigability and the love of freedom of the fighters for the national cause of all generations.”&nbsp;</p><p>The design of the coin tells us much about the way the “defenders” (both historical and contemporary) are imagined and celebrated. The reverse of the coin features a trident, the national symbol, and is placed against a camouflage background. The central figure on the obverse of the coin is the Mother of God, covering with her protective veil the Ukrainian Cossacks to her right and the contemporary soldiers to her left.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The presentation of gender roles demonstrated in both of these state-initiated symbols is telling — the men are the ones who build the state and protect it, the women serve merely as symbols of the nation</p><p>Indeed, the image of a female deity (referred to as <em>Pokrova</em>) who protects the almost exclusively male defenders of the motherland is popular in Ukrainian culture. At Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, a huge 2x5 metre painting called <a href="http://www.ednist.info/article/39761">“Statebuilding”</a> depicts a Pokrova covering some 80 Ukrainian MPs, as well as some fictional and real historical figures, has been on display for over 16 years.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/e50b37e8ebcf449c67d5cb62d29e203e.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/e50b37e8ebcf449c67d5cb62d29e203e.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="184" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Oleksiy Kulakov's painting "Statebuilding", which hangs in the Verkhovna Rada, portrays many significant men from Ukraine's history, but few women. Source: http://www.ednist.info. </span></span></span>The few women depicted in the painting are all symbolic. Apart from the Virgin Mary herself, there is a “collective image of a woman” represented by Kateryna, the heroine of a famous poem by national poet Taras Shevchenko — a pregnant woman seduced and abandoned by an imperial Russian soldier and rejected by her own society. There is also a “collective image of a Ukrainian mother” represented by a Pietà who is depicted as having no face (<a href="http://www.ednist.info/article/39761">a deliberate choice by the artist</a>). The “real” women in the painting include Lesia Ukrainka, a well-known 19th century Ukrainian poet and writer, Princess Ol’ha, a ruler of Kievan Rus’, and one or two barely distinguishable female people’s deputies who, despite being real people, are, in effect, symbolic and tokenistic in the sea of men.</p><p>The presentation of gender roles demonstrated in both of these state-initiated symbols is telling — the men are the ones who build the state and protect it, the women serve merely as symbols of the nation.</p><h2>On the margins of the national pantheon</h2><p>The trend of glorifying military heroes is growing in contemporary Ukraine partly because of the initiative to honour the memory of “fighters for Ukraine’s independence”, as prescribed by one of the <a href="http://www.memory.gov.ua/laws">“decommunisation laws”</a>, and partly because Ukraine is currently involved in a military defence of its territorial integrity. The Ukrainian Institute of National Memory is planning to create a new Ukrainian national pantheon. This should be, <a href="http://lb.ua/news/2016/05/20/335648_volodimir_vyatrovich_nyurnberg_nad.html">as institute director Volodymyr Viatrovych puts it</a>, “a place where people who made the biggest contribution to the development of Ukraine as a state, to Ukrainian culture and science could be reburied. Among them, obviously, should be buried the heroes who died in the current war.”&nbsp;</p><p>Such a pantheon is likely to have a similar gender dynamic as the “Statebuilding” painting, with male military figures over-represented and an emphasis on the national, rather than civic, identity of the heroes. Drawing on opinion polls about the popularity of historical figures, the National Institute for Strategic Studies <a href="http://old.niss.gov.ua/monitor/Juli2009/35.htm">discusses a number of potential candidates for the new pantheon</a>, almost all of whom are male. As well as the already mentioned Lesia Ukrainka and Princess Ol’ha, the only women that appear in the <a href="http://old.niss.gov.ua/monitor/Juli2009/35.htm">institute’s analysis of the future pantheon</a> are the poet and a member of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists Olena Teliha, and Solomiia Krushel’nyts’ka, a famous soprano of the early 20th century.</p><p>Ukraine’s memory politics do not exclude women entirely. In 2016, the UINM chose to focus on women when commemorating the anniversary of the end of the Second World War. The title of the institute’s project was <a href="http://www.memory.gov.ua/news/viina-ne-robit-vinyatkiv-zhinochi-istorii-drugoi-svitovoi-informatsiini-materiali-dlya-zmi-do-v">“War makes no exceptions. Female history of the Second World War”</a>. The intention to focus on women’s experiences in order to “reveal the criminal nature of war” seems admirable. But the 12 stories of both military and civilian women chosen by the UINM simply replicate a male pantheon rather than challenge the very tradition of glorifying the war through its heroes. The difference is that the male heroes are celebrated every year, whereas the female figures only once in a while, as part of a special project.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/0-063912.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The role and fate of Ukrainian women in the Second World War is yet to be publicly evaluated — with consequences for the present. Source: memory.gov.ua. </span></span></span>In the Soviet tradition, the female story of the Second World War was told on the margins of the heroic male narratives. This trend continues in official Ukrainian narratives of the war today. For instance, you can take a special tour of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in World War II about women who offered the wounded soldiers first aid and carried them from the battlefield to hospitals. “The grateful soldiers called them ‘angels’”, <a href="http://www.warmuseum.kiev.ua/_ua/visitors/education/html/category_student.html">says the description on the museum’s website</a>. Out of the <a href="http://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/27002618.html">800,000 female members of the Soviet army in WWII</a>, the museum chooses to focus on the nursing “angels”, revealing little about these women’s actual experience of war, which included inadequate provisions, sexual violence and institutional discrimination.</p><p>While the Red Army has increasingly been the <a href="http://www.uamoderna.com/md/141">subject of critical evaluations</a>, especially in recent scholarship, the Ukrainian nationalist underground movement of the 1930s-1950s has received a highly polarised treatment, which does not bring us any closer to understanding it. On the one hand, Soviet propaganda portrayed all nationalists as Nazi collaborators, thereby discrediting every effort to achieve Ukraine’s independence. Traces of this propaganda can be found in contemporary pro-Kremlin perception not only of nationalism, but of any support for integrity of the Ukrainian state. On the other hand, the pro-nationalist approach is wholly uncritical of the movement and <a href="http://uatoday.tv/politics/israeli-president-s-speech-is-spit-in-the-soul-ukraine-s-nationalists-leader-755053.html">tends to dismiss any criticism as recycled Soviet propaganda</a>. </p><p>It is in this climate of dichotomous and distorted portrayal of Ukraine’s nationalists that gender-sensitive analysis can provide a nuanced critical perspective on the movement while simultaneously neither dismissing its members’ struggle to achieve independence, nor whitewashing its dark pages.</p><p>Similar to the widespread representations of the Soviet Army, public representations of the Ukrainian nationalist underground do not completely exclude women. Women performed work such as liaison (securing safe-houses, passing on messages between insurgents, collecting intelligence) and other tasks crucial for the survival of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Nevertheless, the <a href="http://www.memory.gov.ua/news/pam-yati-armii-neskorenikh-prisvyachuetsya-infografika-ukrainskoyu-rosiiskoyu-angliiskoyu-movam">inclusion of individual female nationalists</a> in the heroic narratives about the work of the nationalist movement is tokenistic and reveals little about wider gender dynamics in the OUN and UPA and the patriarchal tendencies of these organisations.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Ukrainian society has been brought up on heroic, male-centred tales of defending the motherland — both in the Soviet period and in the last 25 years of independence</p><p>The OUN had a clear idea of the gender roles they wished to see in Ukrainian society. One of the underground publications <a href="http://avr.org.ua/index.php/viewDoc/11949/">states that the main task of women</a> was “the upbringing of the new generation, a physically, spiritually and morally healthy generation”. In reality, however, the OUN and the UPA relied heavily on women for carrying out risky underground activities, as, in their view, they attracted less attention from the Soviet authorities. Thus, women in general, but especially <a href="http://uamoderna.com/blogy/marta-havryshko/female-child-soldiers-upa">young girls</a> and women with children, made excellent recruits as they were able to maintain a civilian appearance.&nbsp;</p><p>The impact this instrumentalised treatment had on women is rarely discussed in Ukraine. The Soviet authorities quickly cracked the secret of the nationalists’ longevity and <a href="http://uamoderna.com/images/archiv/18/7_UM_18_Doslidzennia_Petrenko.pdf">began targeting women</a> both as nationalists in their own right, but also as bait that could lead them to their more senior male colleagues. The women of the OUN and UPA thus became subject to double persecution: by the Soviet authorities and by internal security service who often suspected them of actual or potential treason. Many lost their lives, others lost their freedom, families, careers, health. And this is before we even discuss the fact that women <a href="http://uamoderna.com/md/havryshko-de-facto-marriages-upa">often became victims of sexual violence perpetrated by their fellow nationalists</a>.&nbsp;</p><h2>The people behind the monuments</h2><p>A gender-sensitive critique of nationalism and the construction of national and nationalist heroes in Ukraine can reveal the real experiences of members of the pantheon, both men and women, which tend to get distorted in the process of heroicisation.&nbsp;</p><p>Ukrainian society has been brought up on heroic, male-centred tales of defending the motherland — both in the Soviet period and in the last 25 years of independence. Thus, it isn’t surprising that society has such difficulty accepting that women also had the right to take an active part in the <a href="http://historians.in.ua/index.php/en/dyskusiya/1673-olesia-khromeichuk-gender-i-natsionalizm-na-maidani-a">Maidan protests</a> or to <a href="https://hromadskeradio.org/programs/antena/nevydymyy-batalyon-zhinky-na-viyni">fight in the war in Donbas</a>. And even when women who took part in violence or refused to limit their participation in protests or war to the duties traditionally seen as feminine (e.g. cooking and caring), they were generally perceived as having helped rather than actively fought for Ukraine’s statehood.</p><p>Women who serve in the current conflict in Donbas are <a href="http://uamoderna.com/blogy/marta-havryshko/stigmatization-military-women">often sexualised</a>, and their actions, which are seen as being performed <em>despite</em> their gender, are treated as exceptional. Indeed, there is little difference in the way Ukraine’s female soldiers are perceived now and the ways in which their counterparts from the Second World War have been represented — and just as little is known about their real experiences.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02811358.LR_.ru__2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>22 March: Nadiya Savchenko is sentenced to 22 years in prison. (c) Evgeny Biyatov / VisualRIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>One of the most recognisable female faces of the current conflict is Nadiia Savchenko. A pilot and an officer of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, a former political prisoner in Russia and now a member of the Ukrainian parliament, Savchenko’s life story is extraordinary. In order to study to become a pilot, Savchenko had to jump through many hoops — the positions that women can occupy in the Ukrainian army are <a href="https://hromadskeradio.org/programs/rankova-hvylya/zhinky-u-zsu-zmozhut-sluzhyty-snayperkamy-rozvidnycyamy-ta-komandyramy-bmp">restricted by law</a>. These difficulties, however, have not featured prominently in the public discussion of Savchenko following her release from Russian jail earlier this year.&nbsp;</p><p>Instead, Ukraine’s mainstream media <a href="https://hromadskeradio.org/programs/antena/mizoginiya-ta-genderni-stereotypy-abo-she-for-she">tend to focus on Savchenko’s “unfeminine” appearance</a>, rather than her professional life. But it isn’t only the media that focuses on Savchenko’s private life. In August 2016, Anton Herashchenko, a fellow politician and an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, <a href="http://povaha.org.ua/povernennya-publichnoho-seksyzmu-abo-yak-ubyty-slovamy/">advised Savchenko to drop politics and start a family instead</a>. The pressure to appear traditionally feminine seems to be at least partially effective — Savchenko put her best dress on and <a href="http://tsn.ua/video/video-novini/na-pobachenni-z-kremlivskim-v-yaznem-yaka-naspravdi-nadiya-savchenko.html">went on a televised date with a journalist to reveal “Savchenko the woman”</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The glorification of military heroism is, perhaps, unavoidable in wartime, but that makes it no less problematic</p><p>The perception of Savchenko as a symbol of the conflict in the Donbas and Ukraine’s defiance did not last. Even when she is perceived as an exceptional heroine, Savchenko is treated in symbolic terms. Her actual experiences, <a href="http://www.rferl.org/a/the-many-faces-of-nadia-savchenko/27869488.html">such as being Ukraine’s only female peacekeeper in Iraq or the difficulty of getting into the air force</a>, are largely ignored.</p><p>Ukraine is busy dismantling its past myths and creating new ones, and the new war makes a break with the past both essential and inevitable. The glorification of military heroism is, perhaps, unavoidable in wartime, but that makes it no less problematic.&nbsp;</p><p>The exclusion of women from popular heroic narratives points to a wider problem of the exclusion of other marginalised groups whose narratives, if embraced by mainstream historiography, would tell a less one-sided history of the war. In such a history, the glorious death on the battlefield would have to be described alongside the inglorious survival after rape; the pride of victory alongside the shame of collaboration, the struggle for independence alongside participation in ethnic cleansing. The inclusion of women, as well as all other marginalised groups who, due to their ethnic, racial, sexual or any other differences, do not fit neatly into the accepted image of a “hero”, will help problematise the very concept of heroism in Ukraine.</p><p>While paying attention to these figures might make Ukraine a bit less “heroic” in the traditional sense of the word, it could help unite Ukrainians around a peaceful civic identity, rather than one which is expressed in national and militarised terms.&nbsp;</p><p>“Only where the dead are remembered, there are those who defend the living,” <a href="http://gazeta.ua/articles/history/_u-stolici-postane-ukrayinskij-nacionalnij-panteon-geroyiv/603678">says Volodymyr Viatrovych</a>. Perhaps the solution is to remember the dead for what they actually were, rather than how we imagine them.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-portnov/bandera-mythologies-and-their-traps-for-ukraine">Bandera mythologies and their traps for Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/thomas-rowley-maxim-edwards/in-ukraine-it-s-not-only-heroes-who-deserve-justice">In Ukraine, not only heroes deserve justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">Critical thinking at (the) stake: Ukraine’s witch hunt against journalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/bikinis-and-babas-gender-subtext-of-clich%C3%A9s-about-ukraine">Bikinis and babas: the gender subtext of clichés about Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-burdyga/ukraine-s-media-plea-for-pluralism">Ukraine’s media: a plea for pluralism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/danielle-johnson/speaking-on-sexual-violence">As Ukraine&#039;s women speak up on sexual violence, we must not ignore those affected by conflict</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Olesya Khromeychuk Ukraine Cultural politics Mon, 10 Oct 2016 09:58:06 +0000 Olesya Khromeychuk 105854 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “You wanted civil society? Well, now you’ve got it” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/you-wanted-civil-society-well-now-you-ve-got-it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/MK_oDR-1_0_0.jpg" alt="MK_oDR-1_0_0.jpg" hspace="5" width="80" align="left" /></p><p>Amid Russia’s conservative turn, a new brand of conservative civil society is mobilising against freedom of expression. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/grazhdanskoe-obshchestvo-protiv-svobody-vyskazyvaniya">Русский</a></strong></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="259" width="460" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/184848859"></iframe><em>Anton Belikov walks through the Direct Look exhibition, and attacks work by Sergei Loiko and Alexander Vasukovich. Video: Elena Balakireva.</em></p><p>On Wednesday evening, Anton Belikov, an artist and lecturer at Moscow’s Surikov Academy of Arts, walked through an exhibition of photographs documenting the war in eastern Ukraine, and threw paint over them. Having ruined and torn up the pictures as “war propaganda”, Belikov then turned to one of the photographers and the curator to say: “You wanted civil society? Well, now you’ve got it.”</p><p>These photographs by photographer Alexander Vasukovich and journalist Sergei Loiko were exhibited in Moscow’s Sakharov Center as part of the <a href="http://directlook.fotodoc.center/ru/">Direct Look</a>&nbsp;photography prize. As a result of this attack, the <a href="sakharov-center.ru">Sakharov Center</a> decided not to close the exhibition, but instead to hang posters detailing what took place on 28 September in place of the damaged works.&nbsp;</p><p>That wasn’t the end of it, though. On Thursday morning, “Cossacks”, veterans from the Donbas conflict and a municipal deputy occupied the exhibition centre and destroyed these posters, too. They also presented the Sakharov Center with a jar of fake blood, “to symbolise the blood of children who had died in the conflict”.&nbsp;</p><p>Indeed, it’s been a bad week for artistic freedom in Moscow. A few days before, the Lumière Brothers’ Center for Photography closed “Without shame”, an exhibition by American photographer Jock Sturgess. Civil society also made a show of force here — in the form of some tough guys from the <a href="http://medialeaks.ru/2609mms-novyie-hunveybinyi-chinovniki-ili-kriminal-kto-takie-ofitseryi-rossii-i-tsvetkov">Officers of Russia</a> organisation. The officers demonstrated against Sturgess’s “paedophilic” photographs, blocking the entrance to the gallery.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Never before in today’s Russia has the status of “public figure” carried such weight</p><p>Although both parties later reconciled, the exhibition was closed down. The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/LumiereBrothersCenter/posts/10153865722716190">management of the Lumière Center even thanked</a> Anton Tsvetkov, the leader of the Officers of Russia, as the only “public figure” that who “dealt with everything and was able to intelligently discuss the situation at hand.”&nbsp;</p><p>Never before in today’s Russia has the status of “public figure” carried such weight. A public figure cooly and wisely resolves a conflict. Meanwhile, the actual nature of the conflict is forgotten — to the delight of the champions of morality. What does it matter how and why Sturgess’s exhibition was closed down? Was it because the Officers of Russia blockaded the entrance to the gallery, or because their leader advised that it be closed due to a “concern for safety”?</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/280_2016.06.09_19.09.31_FUtmgRM_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>This photograph, which depicts Ukrainian soldiers, was torn down from the Direct Look exhibition. (c) Alexander Vasukovich. Source: FotoDoc.</span></span></span>What’s most important is that these ever-indignant and ever-watchful citizens got their way. A private gallery apologises and expresses its thanks to a “public figure”. Even though Tsvetkov even admitted that Sturgess’s exhibition displayed “no work that violated Russian law”, Russia’s Civic Chamber, a body that provides oversight from public figures on state matters, <a href="https://www.oprf.ru/press/news/2016/newsitem/36144">then declared</a> that the “public display of artists’ work should be discussed beforehand by a special commission, including experts such as art critics and people who have the proven ability to assess works of art.”</p><p>This would appear to be a celebration of the very highest ideals of civil society. Indeed, there’s no reason to doubt that such a commission would enjoy authority and the widest possible support. Through the dispute over Sturgess’s exhibition, the status of the Civic Chamber (and its officially recognised public figures) as arbiters in ideological conflicts has risen once again.&nbsp;</p><p>The criminal nature of the vandalism against Loiko and Vasukovich’s photographs no longer features in public discussion. It’s simply the “protest of concerned citizens”. We have witnessed a highly effective operation legitimising conservative — both clerical and secular — civic activism in Russia.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Conservative activists benefit from the indifference of that section of society which prioritises “stability” above all, and renounces its own political interests</span></p><p>How I would love to believe that the Civic Chamber and its regional counterparts is the mere imitation of the non-commercial and non-government organisations that exist only at the Kremlin’s will. How I wish that the “Orthodox activists” and protectors of the secular realm who began to openly confront the very principle of freedom of expression <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpR1mwyIHGY">after Pussy Riot chanted “mother of God, drive Putin away”</a> during their (brief) invasion of another’s territory at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.</p><p>No, this confrontation began much earlier. Back in 2003, “Orthodox activists” attacked the <a href="http://old.sakharov-center.ru/museum/exhibitionhall/religion_notabene/">“Danger, Religion!”</a> exhibition held in the Sakharov Center. They destroyed part of the exhibits, but the court nonetheless acquitted them. In those days, it seemed like a conflict between church activists and marginal leftists, which Russian mainstream media deemed simply an unfortunate incident.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/140_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Don't make idols for yourself" by Alisa Zrazhevskaya after the 2003 attack on the Sakharov Center exhibition "Danger, Religion!". Source: <a href=www.sakharov-center.ru>Sakharov Center</a>.</span></span></span>It’s become obvious that this was the first manifestation of a conservative turn which has now gripped all of Russian society. This turn was not simply decreed from on high, and was enabled by more than the country’s domesticated mass-media. Activists who go to galleries and theatres and force them to close are backed by popular support, even if it’s not always obvious.&nbsp;</p><p>They are active in every corner of the country. The well-known <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/18/russia-activists-attack-moscow-art-religion">Dmitry Enteo</a>, Cossacks and “Orthodox activists” harass museums, theatres, the <a href="http://www.the-village.ru/village/city/situation/117371-kazak">contemporary arts centre Vinzavod</a>, and, of course, <a href="http://archives.colta.ru/docs/15358">Moscow’s Sakharov Center</a>. They’ve had other successes: from <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/novosibirsk%27s-cultural-history-of-loss">the banning of the opera “Tannhäuser” in Novosibirsk</a> to the cancellation of concerts by the Polish rock band Behemoth in <a href="http://www.newsvl.ru/vlad/2014/05/14/123735/">Krasnodar</a> and <a href="http://www.livekuban.ru/news/zhizn/kontsert-gruppy-behemoth-v-krasnodare-otmenen-1/?sphrase_id=511185">Vladivostok</a>. There are dozens of similar cases across the country.&nbsp;</p><p>Conservative activists benefit from the indifference of that section of society which prioritises “stability” above all, and renounces its own political interests. They triumph thanks to a lack of solidarity between liberals and leftists working in the arts and media. They go after the most vulnerable institutions of freedom of expression — modern art and those NGOs which the government has declared “foreign agents”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The events surrounding these two photo exhibitions this week are the natural result of a fierce and relentless attack on freedom of expression</p><p>The state, watching these conflicts from far above, can then quote the words of our spray-can philosopher: “You wanted civil society? Well, now you’ve got it”.&nbsp;</p><p>In the past decade or so, the Russian government has created a representative structure for these “public figures” in the form of the Civic Chamber, gave them funding for their own “NGOs”, while kicking out critical foundations and international organisations. At the start of the 2000s, when the Kremlin’s cat-and-mouse game with the non-governmental sector had only just begun, NGOs appeared to be something innocent — exotic, even. Many of the old human rights organisations readily embraced the process of everyone unifying together across ideological and organisational divides. (“What’s wrong with the regional association of beekeepers. Why not enter into an alliance with them?”)&nbsp;</p><p>In those days it seemed that a union, say, between human rights defenders and the “beekeepers” would help avoid polarisation and allow greater possibilities when lobbying for civic initiatives. However, this union of “everybody” with “everybody else” was decreed from above. Any NGO working outside the state or mainstream organisations were soon doomed to failure. The result is a stronger polarisation than ever before. The “beekeepers” get their municipal funds and presidential grants, while human rights defenders are forced to the very margins of Russia’s public consciousness.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 15_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police officers stand outside Moscow's Sakharov Center as Cossacks, Orthodox activists and separatist volunteers protest. (c) Alexander Strakh. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Thus, this most conservative, even aggressively intolerant section of Russian society has learnt to master those tools of civic activism which had earlier been the preserve of leftists and liberals — everything from protests, social media and street art to “Occupy”. It once seemed that there were spheres of civic life immune to conservative radicalism. But no longer.&nbsp;</p><p>Of course, the arts will bear the brunt of this conservative turn — both the visual and the theatrical. The propaganda of “traditional values”, repression of the public sphere and crisis in education have all strengthened the Soviet-era belief that art must be clear, immediately accessible and, crucially, without conflict.&nbsp;</p><p>Everything beyond these boundaries appears dangerous — something which undermines the very foundations of society. One of the greatest hazards is to enter the aggressive and loaded debate about the “war” started by Pussy Riot or <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/on-prison-and-liberty-interview-with-pyotr-pavlensky">Pyotr Pavlensky</a> against these traditional values. Are you for or against it? Why don’t you support the publicly-minded, principled protests of Anton Belikov or Dmitry Enteo, which are expressed in “artistic performances”?</p><p>The events surrounding these two photo exhibitions this week are the natural result of a fierce and relentless attack on freedom of expression. Now this war is waged not only by the state, but by a group of very, very concerned citizens.</p><p><i>Translated by Maxim Edwards.</i></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/viktoria-lomasko/green-shoots-of-russian-grassroots-activism">The green shoots of Russian grassroots activism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/novosibirsk%27s-cultural-history-of-loss">Novosibirsk&#039;s cultural history of loss</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-ovsyannikova/moscow-s-authoritarian-future">Moscow’s authoritarian future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-arkhangelsky/dancing-to-moscow-s-tune">Dancing to Moscow’s tune</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mikhail Kaluzhsky Russia Cultural politics Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:33:40 +0000 Mikhail Kaluzhsky 105674 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The green shoots of Russian grassroots activism (part 2) https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktoria-lomasko/green-shoots-of-russian-grassroots-activism-part-2 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our story on Russia’s grassroots activism continues. From Moscow’s parks to federal highways, ordinary citizens learn the power of protest&nbsp;<span style="color: #545454; font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: small;">–</span>&nbsp;and of solidarity.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>In this series of drawings, Russian artist Viktoria Lomasko continues her story of recent grassroots protest movements across Russia (<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktoria-lomasko/green-shoots-of-russian-grassroots-activism" target="_blank">read part one</a>). We are very grateful for this opportunity to translate and reproduce her work here (click images to enlarge).<br /></em></p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/The_Lights_Truckers.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/The_Lights_Truckers.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="338" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesting truckers make a placard: “20 February: the day when the trucks won’t pass”</span></span></span></p><h2>The strike</h2><p>On 1 March the toll per kilometre for federal highways was supposed to double, from 1 rouble 53 kopecks to 3 roubles 6 kopecks. The activists at the Khimki camp decided it was no use just standing around the camp and holding regional meetings, began to organise a national truckers’ strike.<br />&nbsp;<br />The protesters believed that toll roads for trucks would be just the start. The toll would ruin the existing transport system and only the large monopolies would be left.</p><p>I made a poster for the strike, with a list of cities that had already had trucker rallies, pickets and strikes.</p><p>Long distance truck drivers rarely use the internet, and protests are never shown on TV. Most of the drivers I managed to talk to at truck stops supported the Khimki activists.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Truckers-Strike-1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Truckers-Strike-1.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="768" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Yesterday we handed out flyers in the car parks. There are still many truckers who don’t know about our camp at Khimki” says Aleksei.</span></span></span></p><div><br /><br />Before the strike, the truckers wrote a three-point manifesto:</div><ol><li>The Plato system to be abolished and those responsible for it punished</li><li>&nbsp;Renovation work on flats to be free to residents and a two year moratorium introduced on increases in utility charges</li><li>A return of concessionary public transport fares for disabled people and pensioners in all regions.</li></ol><p> “These have to be the key demands because these issues affect everyone”, the truckers explained. “Everyone will grow old; everyone has parents”.</p><p>Before the strike the truckers at Khimki also held meetings in various cities, to share their experience of self-organisation. “In the regions it’s the Khimki truckers that people want to see – they trust us”, said the activists. But there was no money to continue these visits.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“When they started calling us a ‘fifth column’, we realised how easy it was to drag anyone’s name thought the mud”</p><p>I wasn’t in Russia during the strike, but when I got back I immediately went to the Khimki camp to see how things had gone. Trucker Mikhail Kurbatov summed up the main points:</p><p>The toll per kilometre hadn’t increased.</p><p>According to the activists at Khimki, 50-60 regions took part in the strike. In Dagestan 90 per cent of drivers joined in (the supermarkets got ready for it in advance). Temporary protest camps were organised in St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Vologda, Tyumen, Khakassia and Orenburg, and a new temporary camp was set up at Tyoply Stan on the outskirts of Moscow.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Strike-2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Strike-2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“We’ve managed to convince many truckers to join our strike. There’s nothing to lose”.</span></span></span></p><p>Most TV stations ignored the strike.</p><p>Maksim, a trucker from the Khimki camp spent two days at the new camp in St Petersburg. “There are the same number of trucks as in Khimki. The drivers are mostly locals. There were some truckers with slogans, ‘Down with the government’. Then they left and it was just normal people”. </p><p>The union had 60 members in St Petersburg before the strike, and about 300 afterwards.</p><p>The truckers were also able to take part in a memorial march for opposition leader Boris Nemtsov: “when they started calling us a ‘fifth column’, we realised how easy it was to drag anyone’s name thought the mud”.</p><h2>Torfyanka after New Year</h2><p>After meeting some of the Torfyanka activists the truckers paid them a visit at their camp and realised that something needed changing in Russia, and that they needed to join forces.</p><p>The fight for the park was already in its eighth month. The local residents had shown that the public consultations had been a sham, and the construction company had been refused an extension of its planning permission. “They’ve been allocated another site”, local activist Darya tells me. “But the new site can’t be extended. Here, as well as the actual church, they were planning to build a sports complex for their Forty Forties members and accommodation for the priests. The new site is in a more densely populated area, but people from around here will certainly not go to the church there after all they’ve been through.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“What if we re-baptised the activists?”<br />“We already baptised them. And beat them up. It didn’t make any difference”.</p><p>Darya also tells me about attacks on local activists by men from Forty Forties and the lack of police response to this. “I’m a believer”, she says, “but I’ve stopped going to church. I won’t have my children baptised either – they can decide for themselves when they’re old enough. And of course I’ll tell them the story of how we saved the park”.</p><p>The Torfyanka residents who were on vigil that day invited me into their tent. It was a frosty day and after 20 minutes my hands and feet were numb with cold. In the winter the “shift” lasted three hours, and people tried to keep warm with the help of blankets and cups of tea. A woman who everybody called Auntie Valya called by with trays of pancakes and tarts.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Torfyanka3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Torfyanka3.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="331" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>”The people here were those who supported the Maidan, all kinds of Radio Liberty types... for some reason they were considered to be local residents” says Kormukhin. A banner nearby says “more churches, the fewer gays”.</span></span></span></p><p>“We used to be strangers to one another”, the activists said, “but now we’ve become friends. We’ve started meeting up and visiting one another. And we’re more involved with our neighbourhood: we’ve managed to get the council to repair the roads, put new lifts in the blocks of flats and even paint the entrance halls”.</p><p>The activists also told me how ten of them had tried to hold a protest meeting in Red Square, wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “The Torfyanka Movement”. They were all arrested and fined 10,000 roubles each [the average Russian monthly salary is 30,000 roubles – ed.]</p><p>“At first we decided not to talk about politics in the camp”, they sighed, “but unfortunately we’ve realised that we’ve been deep in it for some time.”</p><p>The Forty Forties movement has continued to organise prayer meetings in Torfyanka, still angling for the construction of the new church here. The drawing shows one of its leaders, the composer Andrey Kormukhin, making an inflammatory speech while processing round the park with his followers.</p><p>He also asked them to pray for Orthodox activist Lyudmila, who was put under house arrest for <a href="https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/vadim-sidur-sculptures-destroyed-moscow-orthodox-325294" target="_blank">defacing several works by the well known modernist sculptor Vadim Sidur</a> (1924-1986), sometimes referred as the Soviet Henry Moore, at an exhibition in the Manege, Moscow’s premier art space. “Fight the persecution of Orthodoxy”, shouted Kormukhin.</p><p>Conversation between a couple during the procession:</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Dubki2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Dubki2.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="191" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> “We’re hanging on in there, like Leningraders during the wartime blockade” says activist at the park Mikhail Babrotkin, “but the government has more resources to sit us out”</span></span></span></p><p>“What if we re-baptised the activists?”</p><p>“We already baptised them. And beat them up. It didn’t make any difference”.</p><p>Forty Forties was due to hold another rally on 13 February. But on the night before, some of its members attacked the vigil tent. In response, the activists phoned the truckers, who immediately came to their aid.</p><p>Darya told me what happened next: “Fifty or so masked men surrounded the whole neighbourhood. They aimed to surreptitiously unload timber onto the church building site under cover of night. The police just stood around, watching, until one of the Forty Forties guys threw a piece of timber at them. Then they arrested about 25 of them.”</p><p>The rally nevertheless went ahead the next day. A large crowd of local residents, furious at the night time attack, also gathered, and blew whistles and sang the Internationale to drown out the speeches and prayers. The police formed a human chain and put up a fence to separate the ROC activists and the locals. </p><p>The Forty Forties’ social media site described the standoff as follows: “The people at our rally came face to face with gaping Maidan jaws and demonic whistling. Rushing forward at the first cry from their leaders, activists from the maggoty Yabloko and Parnas parties, along with the notorious “truckers”, decked out the handful of local church campaigners in the green ribbons of their organisation and shoved a whistle in each mouth!”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“We don’t need politics. We have a concrete issue here”</p><p>In March the Torfyanka conflict was joined by another one over a different Moscow park. Residents of the Timiryazev District complained about the proposed construction of a 22 storey residential building with an underground car park next to Dubki Park, on the site of a former nursery school and the avenue of oaks that gave the park its name – “dub” is the Russian word for oak.</p><p>On 26 March the residents held a protest under the rallying call, “Let’s save Dubki!” The park railings were hung with children’s drawings, produced for an “I Love Dubki” competition. Many locals came with their children, presumably kids who had taken part in the competition, and enjoyed looking at the drawings while waiting for the speeches. There were also old songs from the Soviet years playing on the PA system and I could hear some elderly women reminiscing: “there used to be small wooden houses here and a grove of trees with nightingales nesting in them”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Dubki3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Dubki3.png" alt="" title="" width="414" height="281" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>A few activists from Torfyanka came to support the protesters, as well as people who had tried to save the Druzhba (“Friendship”) Park, where a stadium is now being built. Mikhail Barbotkin, one of the Druzhba activists, spoke about how security firm employees would attack at night, so they always needed some men on the vigil “night shift”.</p><p>After the rally I asked Mikhail how they had defended themselves at Druzhba, and he told me about serious fights between the security guys and the residents, with injuries on both sides.</p><p>The speakers at the rally included Sergey Mitrokhin of the Yabloko Party and people from a few other political organisations, but the crowd showed no enthusiasm for their speeches. A statement from one of the “Let’s Save Dubki” campaigners: “We don’t need politics. We have a concrete issue here”, was however met with applause.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“It’s important that the public believe us. And the public no longer believe any party”</p><p>After the rally I met Dmitry, one of the main activists holding the vigil along the construction company’s fence. At first the vigil only took place during the day, and the campaigners went home at night. But one day the residents looked out of their windows, and the trees had gone. The construction people had felled the entire oak avenue overnight.</p><p>While I drew his portrait, Dmitry told me about his parents, who lived in a barracks building on this street, and his granddad, who went off to to fight in World War II from here. “This is my history that they’re trying to take from me”.</p><p>Dmitry believed that by the end of the confrontation he would have a lot of protest experience behind him, and that after a victory at Dubki he could help people trying to save other parks: “I also want to say ‘thank you’ to the construction company for introducing me to my wonderful neighbours”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Albert_Nargiza.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Albert_Nargiza.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="389" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“I go to the school opposite the park and hang out there with my friends” says Albert; “Dubki Park makes children and squirrels happy” adds his sister Nargiza.</span></span></span></p><p>“On the barricades”, as well as Dmitry and some other activists I met some very small “vigilantes”. Brother and sister Albert and Nargiza live in the next district, and came on the protest by accident when they came for a walk in the park. Albert had already read about the “Save Dubki” campaign on social media, and the children decided to join the vigil. “I phoned my Mum, and she was happy about it”, he told me.</p><p>On 31 March the residents were unable to stop the construction firm bringing its equipment onto the site. Several locals were injured in confrontations with security company staff and some were taken to hospital, while about 15 were detained at the local police station.</p><h2>Under party banners</h2><p>In early April an anti-Plato rally, involving PARNAS, Democratic Choice, Yabloko and the Communist Party was announced. The Khimki truckers and their regional allies, however, decided after a Skype vote not to take part.</p><p>There were a number of reasons for this decision. One was the “the rally organisers were not truckers themselves, and so didn’t know the issues well enough.” The protesters also decided not to associate themselves with any flags or banners: “It’s important that the public believe us. And the public no longer believe any party”. And their third reason was: “It’s too early to get involved in politics, before we even have our own trade union. We need to talk not as person to person, but between trade and other unions.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lvov_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lvov_2.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ilya Lvov leads a rally. “We won’t forgive, we won’t forget. We’ll go and vote, and beat them yet!”</span></span></span></p><p>Almost all the speakers, having begun by talking about the truck drivers’ issues, rapidly moved on to the subject of bringing down the government: from “Down with Plato” it was just one step to “Get rid of the government! Down with Putin”</p><p>Among the speakers were Ilya Lvov, the chair of Democratic Choice’s St Petersburg Branch and Svetlana Stosha, the director of a transport firm as well as chair of the alternative Road Hauliers’ Union. Both of these have regularly criticised the Khimki protesters on social media, for their, as they believe, mistaken protest, which they see as “compromising with the parties in power” and “wrecking and betrayal”.</p><p>The head of the Interregional Drivers’ Union Aleksandr Kotov and the chair of the Miass branch of the Union of Professional Drivers Nikolay Matveyev spoke out in support of long distance trucker Aleksandr Zakharov, given a nine year maximum security sentence for alleged murder despite insufficient proof of his guilt.</p><p>At the rally I bumped into Yevgeny, a trucker from Vologda whom I had met at the Khimki camp. He told me how the strike had gone in Vologda: “Between 20 February and 1 March there were 25 trucks parked at the camp. For the first two days the police were giving us serious grief, and tearing up our placards. They charged the truckers with various offences and threatened us with fines. During the strike, three drivers left the Plato system”. </p><p>There were about a dozen other Vologda truckers with Yevgeny; they even hired a minibus to travel to the rally. You could see how proud they were to be taking part: “you need to take advantage of any chance to confront them. You can be proud you didn’t stay at home in your bed.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Vologda_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Vologda_2.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“They’re right when they say ’down with Putin!’” says Yevgeny, a trucker from Vologda. “After all, he and his pals are the ones who came up with Platon”</span></span></span></p><p>The activists at the Khimki camp were dismissive of the Vologda truckers’ contribution to the rally, for which they were criticised. “Politics and life are dirty”, some of the Vologda guys complained. “You want to stay clean, is that it? What difference does it make who unites with whom? The main thing is that they are also anti-Plato”. But for the Khimki activists, who you united with, and why, was a matter of principle.</p><p>Their main aim was to create their own union. “Our union will be like socialism inside a democratic society”, was trucker Mikhail’s description of the future organisation.</p><h2>The congress and creation of the association </h2><p>On 30 April, at the Lenin Collective Farm near Moscow, the Khimki activists held the inaugural congress of the “Association of Russian Transport Operators”. According to their figures, it was attended by around 300 drivers from 31 regions.</p><p>One presentation was devoted to the faults of the Plato system, including incorrect credit card charges, registration problems and the impossibility of using the system if the driver is in an area without an internet connection.</p><p>Another speaker stressed the anomalous situation whereby the calculation of rates for heavy goods traffic was based on an average of 8000 kilometres travelled per year, whereas the real average was 100-150 thousand kilometres.</p><p>The motion to create the new union was passed unanimously, and Andrei Bazhutin voted in as chair by a majority vote. One representative per region was then voted onto the union’s council, and the annual congress confirmed as its ruling organ.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/opr meeting.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/opr meeting.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="768" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br />After the congress the speakers, truckers and activists who had supported them went back to the Khimki camp, which looked more festive and lively than ever before. There were too many people to fit into the “headquarters”, so everyone mixed outside.</p><p>Late in the evening, as we enjoyed a modest supper, there was a feeling of both joy and sorrow. Everybody realised that it was time for the truckers to disperse – most of them were deep in debt and in their wives’ bad books for being away for so long.</p><p>They would have liked to take part in Moscow’s May Day rally, but the three applications they sent were turned down on the pretext that every square was occupied. So the camp broke up on the day after the creation of the Association of Russian Transport Operators.</p><p>Dozens of activists who had become friends with the truckers over the months gathered to give them a send off. The Khimki truckers left the camp in a single column, their trucks decorated with blue banners bearing the legend, “Association of Russian Transport Operators”.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/tea_draniki.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/tea_draniki.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Protest pancakes, protest tea”</span></span></span></p><p><br /><em>All images courtesy of the author.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/viktoria-lomasko/green-shoots-of-russian-grassroots-activism">The green shoots of Russian grassroots activism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nikolai-ovchinnikov/voice-from-russias-truckers-protest">A voice from Russia&#039;s truckers&#039; protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sean-guillory/russia-s-in-red">Russia’s in the red</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards-thomas-rowley/why-we-don-t-publish-articles-about-putin">Why we don’t publish articles about Putin</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/artur-asafyev/these-hills-are-ours">These hills are ours</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/svetlana-bolotnikova/pitchforks-are-coming-russia-protests">The pitchforks are coming</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-new-political-reality">Four Russias: the new political reality </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Transformation Viktoria Lomasko Russia Regions Politics Human rights Cultural politics Thu, 08 Sep 2016 14:47:05 +0000 Viktoria Lomasko 105200 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The green shoots of Russian grassroots activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktoria-lomasko/green-shoots-of-russian-grassroots-activism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What do two Moscow parks and a truck drivers’ trade union have in common? They have been the focus of protests that have shown that the Russian public may be losing its traditional passivity.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Over the past few years, Russian artist Viktoria Lomasko has travelled widely across Russia, as well as to Armenia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. In her many sketches, she has shed light on under-reported issues such as women in Russia’s media and in Dagestani society to the politics of Yerevan’s street life, and Azerbaijani dissidents in Georgia. </em></p><p><em>In this series of drawings, she focuses on recent grassroots protest movements across Russia. We are very grateful for this opportunity to translate and reproduce her work here (click images to enlarge).</em></p><hr /><p><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lomasko_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lomasko_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A passer-by at the “people’s memorial” to Nemtsov. “[Aleksei] Navalny didn’t steal the timber”, reads his t-shirt (referring to a legal charge against another prominent opposition leader).</span></span></span><br />At the start of 2015 Boris Nemtsov, one of Russia’s opposition leaders, was murdered by unknown gunmen just a few metres from the Kremlin.</p><p>At the scene of the murder, Bolshoy Moskvorechy Bridge, civil rights activists immediately set up a “people’s memorial”: flowers, photos, drawings, candles. And now, over a year later, they are still taking turns to keep a twenty four hour vigil, protecting the memorial from attacks by members of various ultranationalist-patriotic movements and employees of Moscow’s waste disposal department, who see the flowers and photos as rubbish and regularly clear them away.&nbsp;</p><p>The two men on vigil told me that “the memorial gets trashed in the same way as Jewish villages during the pogroms – at any hour of the day or night. But they tend to pick a time when we’re least alert, at three or four in the morning”</p><p>The mass demonstrations and marches in 2012, led by opposition leaders, with their banners reading “For Fair Elections” and “Russia without Putin!”, ended with trials of not only leaders (Navalny, Udaltsov), but people who just took part in the protests, now known as “the 6th May Prisoners”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Any protest against the government was compared to what was known in Russia as Kyiv’s “Fascist Maidan”</p><p>In 2015-6, the “Marches of the Millions” were replaced by small rallies and protest actions, with people who were not involved in formal politics trying to fight for specific concrete rights.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lomasko2_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lomasko2_0.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="196" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“They killed Nemstov today, and tomorrow they’ll kill the leader of the nationalists”</span></span></span></p><p>These drawings, for example, were made at a rally in defence of the Dynasty Foundation, an NGO set up to support Russian science and education that has been declared a “foreign agent”.</p><h2>Torfyanka</h2><p>In June 2015 the residents of Moscow’s Losinoostrovsky district came together to prevent the building of a church in their local Torfyanka Park. The planned construction was part of the “200 Churches” Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) project.</p><p>The locals set up a tent camp in the park and kept a constant vigil to prevent any construction plant entering it. And they also filed a suit with the district court over public consultations that had taken place without their participation.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Torfyanka1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Torfyanka1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="317" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“People need hospitals and nurseries more than yet another church in our park”</span></span></span></p><p>When I drew the people defending the park, most of them said that was all they were interested in. Not politics.</p><p>The ROC and the city authorities didn’t expect any resistance. In Russia any successful grass roots initiatives is like a miracle. Cossacks who’d been involved in the fighting in the DNR [self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic – ed.] and members of the Forty Forties Orthodox movement started gathering in the area divided off for the construction of the church (the movement’s name comes from an old nickname for Moscow. In old Russian the word "sorok" – forty - also meant a church administrative district, which consisted of about forty churches).</p><p>After fighting began in South Eastern Ukraine, TV and the pro-Putin press began to scare the public with talk of “traitors to Russia” and a “Fifth Column”. People who went on anti war marches, for example, were called a “Fifth Column”. And any protest against the government was compared to what was known in Russia as Kyiv’s “Fascist Maidan”.</p><div><span><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Torfyanka2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Torfyanka2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The women on the left are locals opposing the church building. The man on the right has a tabard reading: Orthodox volunteer”. His speech bubble reads: “I don’t even know what will happen to you. You’re like some kind of Fifth Column.”</span></span></span></span><span>The park’s defenders told me that only five or six people in the district supported the building of the new church. “We’re Orthodox too and we want a church, but not in our park. There shouldn’t be a church on every street corner, like a bakery”, the protesters explained. They also said that there were people going round the flats scaring elderly residents, saying they would go to hell if they spoke out against the new church.</span></span></div><h2>The Khimki camp</h2><p>The biggest protest has been among long distance truck drivers. A new law came into force in November 2015, forcing them to pay a toll to drive along federal highways and setting up a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/nikolai-ovchinnikov/voice-from-russias-truckers-protest" target="_blank">special payment system, called “Plato”</a>, to manage and enforce it.</p><p>According to owners and drivers of HGV vehicles, Plato will relieve them of 400,000 roubles (£4628) per truck per year, which is equivalent to bankrupting them. In addition, the fine for the first non-payment of the toll was set at 500,000 roubles (£5785), and 1 million roubles (£11,570) for subsequent defaults. Half of Plato’s toll operating points belong to Igor Rotenberg, the son of Arkady Rotenberg, a billionaire who is a member of Putin’s inner circle.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“When the bells started ringing to bring in the New Year, we listened to speeches by truckers, not Putin”</p><p>In late November-early December 2015 truckers from several Russian regions converged on Moscow. The police stopped the empty vehicles at the city limits and turned them, back, but about 25 drivers managed to get through and set up a camp at Khimki, 20 kilometres from the capital.</p><p>On 4 December the law was amended to reduce the first fine to 5000 roubles (£578) and subsequent fines to 10000 (£116).</p><p>I made my first visit to Khimki just before New Year. It was at a weekend, and more and more people were turning up to support the truckers and bring them food and diesel. The drivers thanked them, but looked rather wary. “In the early days we all kept our distance and were suspicious of everyone as we didn’t know each other”, camp coordinator Sergey Vladimirov said a month later.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Platon_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Platon_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“No to Platon!”</span></span></span></p><p><span>I sketched a portrait of Andrey Bazhutin from St Petersburg, who was soon to become the protest’s leader. I saw how confused he was: “We’re holding a strike here, but five metres away people are getting ready to celebrate New Year …” Beside Khimki’s enormous shopping centres and the thousands of Muscovites coming to do their party shopping, the trucks with their protest placards looked a bit marginal.</span></p><p>“Everyone will wake up to the camp after New Year, but the truckers will be gone. We need support now,” says Andrey.</p><p>At the Khimki camp I bumped into one of the Torfyanka protesters, who was really inspired by what he saw.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Khimki1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Khimki1.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“The government is squeezing people too hard” says Dmitry, an activist. “There’s an idea that this protest might merge with the Torfyanka one” “We want to feed our wives and children, not the oligarchs”, reads a placard on the truck behind him.</span></span></span></p><p>But the truck drivers were only interested in getting Putin’s attention and getting rid of the Plato system, so that they could get back to their normal lives.</p><p>“It’s not about politics”, the truckers told anyone who came to the camp. As one of them said, “If you want to make political demands, you need to get your head around politics”.</p><p>Meanwhile, on the social networks leftists and liberals were debating whether to support the truck drivers. Many of them were disappointed that the drivers weren’t starting a revolution.</p><p>At the Khimki camp I bumped into a well known member of the liberal intelligentsia, history teacher Tamara Eydelman. She was giving a lecture about nonviolent civil resistance (a repeat performance of one she had given at the Occupy Abai camp in Moscow in 2012)</p><p>“My friends were scaring me; they said the truckers were zombies”, says Tamara. “But they don’t even know us”, responds one of the truckers.</p><p>In her blog on the&nbsp;<em>Ekho Moskvy</em>&nbsp;site, Eydelman commented on her trip to meet the truckers: “I looked around and saw that they were actually interested. I realised these were not wild savages, but people with intelligent faces, attentive to what I was saying”.</p><p>I also met the truckers’ press officer Tasya Nikitenko. This 19 year old student at the Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing came to the camp on her own initiative and spent two months there, helping the truckers deal with the media.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Trucker2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Trucker2.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="354" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“I’ve got two loans, a mortgage on the flat and three kids to feed… I’ve no interest in politics; just let me work!” says Anatoly, a trucker from St. Petersburg.</span></span></span></p><p>The liberal media –&nbsp;<em>RBK</em>,&nbsp;<em>Novaya Gazeta</em>,&nbsp;<em>Meduza</em>,&nbsp;<em>Dozhd</em>,&nbsp;<em>Colta</em>&nbsp;- covered the drivers’ action regularly, but there was very little coverage on TV, and PM Dmitry Medvedev called them “ignorant truckers” who “didn’t even know what they were transporting”. This led the drivers to stop trusting Russian TV and start reading online news sites instead.</p><h2>The camp after New Year</h2><p>After New Year, the truckers created their “headquarters”: they set up a table, stools, a gas stove and shelving for their stocks of potatoes and grains in one of the trucks. Visitors started coming and almost all of them tried to help in some way. For example, Ivan, an economics specialist who lived close by, would regularly bring the drivers a hot meal he had cooked himself. “It’s not a lot”, he told me, “but since I’ve started it, I’m sleeping better at night.&nbsp;</p><p>“When the bells started ringing to bring in the New Year, we listened to speeches by truckers, not Putin”, says Ivan.</p><p>Ivan brought in the New Year in the camp – activist Pavel Pechnik and his mates organised a proper celebration for the drivers. “There was a big table with home cooked food”, he told me. “I expected it to be good, but it was fantastic. I was with these strangers but they felt like family”.</p><p>Ivan presented the truckers with 11 volumes of Plato’s Dialogues, as “they have dialogues about Plato here every evening!”</p><p>The winter days were dark and cold. The truckers and their guests sat in the “headquarters” in hats, coats and furs, warming themselves with plastic beakers of hot tea and arguing about philosophy, history, veganism, the environment and politics.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Dmitry Medvedev called them “ignorant truckers” who “didn’t even know what they were transporting”. This led the drivers to stop trusting Russian TV</p><p>The young businessman in the drawing visited the camp several times and gave the truckers money for diesel. The camp survived on donations (they had opened a savings bank account) but many drivers still fell into debt and had to sell their cars. Yelena, a journalist, wrote about what was happening in her Facebook group “The truckers’ coordination – no Plato”. Singer Tatyana organised concerts at the “headquarters” and invited the truckers home to have a shower and wash their clothes. Lawyer Katya helped with money and legal advice.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RealUnion.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RealUnion.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Thanks to Plato and Rotenberg, we’re now founding a real trade union”, says Anatoly.</span></span></span></p><p>Long distance truckers came from many other cities to visit the camp. Two guys from Kursk were very impressed: “we always try to keep up with the big cities. We’ll tell them at home that the whole country is on its feet!”</p><p>Anatoly, a trucker from Khanti-Mansiysk, told me how they tried to fight Plato in his region: “We held a protest in Surgut. A helicopter flew over us and then the riot police dispersed everyone. That was it. I decided that if you can’t do anything at home, you need to come to Moscow”. Anatoly and his friend Sergey came by car: “nobody would let us in here in a truck. If you break the law, you lose your licence”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lighthouse.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lighthouse.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="340" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“This camp is like a lighthouse. It’s absolutely essential”</span></span></span></p><p>Andrey Bazhutin, the truckers’ leader, told visitors how life was changing in the camp: “The first few days were chaotic, but now we’re as disciplined as soldiers. We know what’s newsworthy and what’s not; we’ve learned how to give an interview and there’s such a demand for them that it feels we’ve been doing it all our lives”.</p><p>At first the truckers, unhappy with their existing trade union, wanted to organise a new one. But that turned out to be impossible, since many of them are both employers and employees. So they decided to set up an association of transport operators. All decisions were taken at closed union meetings.</p><p>Andrey, from Tolyatti, got more than 100 people to a meeting: “because our city is a ruin. All that’s left of our industry is two chemical plants, and they’re barely functioning.”</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;“We always try to keep up with the big cities. We’ll tell them at home that the whole country is on its feet!”</span></p><p>In Shenkursk, a small town with a population of 5000, more than 50 truck drivers and owners joined the union. “Truck driving is the main occupation here”, says Kirill from Shenkursk. “There’s no other work around”.</p><p>The biggest trucker strikes have been happening in Dagestan: Manas, Kayakent, Khasavyurt, Kizkyar. In November, when the anti Plato protests started, Dagestani drivers also headed for Moscow. The truckers from southern Russia stopped at the 91st kilometre from the capital, on the Kashira highway, and were there for three weeks.</p><p>On one visit to this “southern” camp I met the the Dagestani truckers’ acting union representative Rustam Mallamagomedov. After a few weeks Rustam discovered, by accident that he was wanted by the police as the organiser of an “unsanctioned rally”.</p><div><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Rustam.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Rustam.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“After our representatives were elected at meetings all across Dagestan, the police came to visit them at home” says Rustam.</span></span></span>&nbsp;</span><span>“Ordinary people support us”, Sergey, another Dagestani trucker told me. “They realise that if transport is more expensive, goods will be as well. Dagestan imports a lot of bananas from Iran; they used to cost 23 roubles a kilogramme, but since the new transport regulations it’s gone up to 29-30 roubles”.</span></div><p>I met Sergey again at the Khimki camp. He wasn’t happy. “The guy I work for is selling his truck tomorrow. There’s no profit in it anymore. The internet is full of ‘truck sale’ posts”.</p><p>The only woman in the camp is Nadezhda, from Vologda. She used to work in the public housing and utility sector, but left “because the whole thing was corrupt”. She owns two trucks and has been in the camp since Day One. “I’m grateful to Plato for introducing me to so many different people here”, she says.</p><p>But Plato is not the truckers’ only problem. Another serious one is getting orders through middlemen. As they explained to me, “the dispatchers sit on the phones; they each control several trucks, so it makes sense for firms to sign contracts with them. We, the drivers, haven’t been able to agree among ourselves about rates. The dispatchers put tenders together amongst themselves, and if they don’t have any trucks they pass the order on and take their slice each time. In the late 1990s and 2000s dispatchers creamed off 5-7%, but now no one knows how much they’re taking.</p><p>Many truckers believe they take 50-80%.</p><p>Another problem is danger on the roads. “The racket is back. They open the trucks, just like in the 90s. I try to stop at paid truck parks, or places I know are safe”, says Oleg.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Trucker.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Trucker.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Read the second half of Viktoria Lomasko’s reflections on Russian grassroots protest <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/green-shoots-of-russian-grassroots-activism-part-2" target="_blank">here</a>.<br /><br />All images courtesy of the author.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/viktoria-lomasko/green-shoots-of-russian-grassroots-activism-part-2">The green shoots of Russian grassroots activism (part 2)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards-thomas-rowley/why-we-don-t-publish-articles-about-putin">Why we don’t publish articles about Putin</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sean-guillory/russia-s-in-red">Russia’s in the red</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/artur-asafyev/these-hills-are-ours">These hills are ours</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/svetlana-bolotnikova/pitchforks-are-coming-russia-protests">The pitchforks are coming</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-zubarevich/four-russias-new-political-reality">Four Russias: the new political reality </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/at-bottom-of-power-vertical">At the bottom of the power vertical</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Transformation Viktoria Lomasko Russia Regions Politics Human rights Cultural politics Thu, 08 Sep 2016 12:55:19 +0000 Viktoria Lomasko 105191 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Burning doors: a new touring play documents repressions of Russian artists https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aliide-naylor/burning-doors-new-touring-play-documents-repressions-of-russian-artists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This new play charts the fate of artists in contemporary Russia. It’s a brave endeavour, and it’s boldly staged — but could it be bolder still?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 13.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>November 2015: Pyotr Pavlensky sets the doors of the Russian security services building alight. Source: Facebook. </span></span></span><span>“The madhouse was my first fully sensory experience,” Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina calmly tells her London audience, in tones uncharacteristic of the rest of </span><em>Burning Doors</em><span>, a new play by the Belarus Free Theatre that seeks to draw attention to the plight of Russian artists and dissidents. The theatre, banned in its own country, does a relentless job of transmitting this “experience” to the stage as it documents the trials Russian artists have faced in recent years.</span></p><p>The Belarus Free Theatre is no stranger to the difficulties of trying to create art inside a dictatorship. Established in 2005, the theatre has no official premises in its home country, and is forced to stage plays in private apartments and public spaces. Performances have previously been stormed by police, with actors, directors and audience members arrested. The theatre’s founder and co-founder live in the UK with political refugee status. On top of that, the troupe <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/mar/12/belarus-free-theatre-needs-funds">has struggled with securing the funds it needs to survive</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The direction <em>Burning Doors</em> takes is palpable on entering the steep stalls. A projection being shown above three prison cell doors introduces the play’s sources of inspiration, beginning with Alyokhina’s personal experiences of incarceration. The second is the work of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/on-prison-and-liberty-interview-with-pyotr-pavlensky">performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky</a>, who sewed his lips together in support of Pussy Riot’s right to freedom of speech, and later nailed his scrotum to Red Square and set fire to the doors of Russia’s Federal Security Services (FSB). The third represents <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/oleg-sentsov-and-aleksandr-kolchenko-prisoners-of-conscien">Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov</a>, who remains imprisoned on terror charges (unrelated to his artistic work but rather to crackdowns in post-annexation Crimea). Experiences which Alyokhina has consigned to the past remain a present-day reality for Sentsov, which is a jarring realisation.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Despite proclamations that the only viable option is “to obey” and resign themselves to inaction, the play’s participants wrestle every inch of their cell</p><p>The audience is introduced to one of Alyokhina’s typical days, beginning the play with the ritual humiliation of prisoners through sporadic forced nudity. Alyokhina narrates her experience from the outside as her role is acted by others — she is the object, rather than the subject, of her incarceration. The first space to be explored is intimate: a short history of the interior of her mouth. Alyokhina is tormented by a sadistic matriarchal warden who tells her, while probing it, what it must have seen: her mother’s milk, a sour gooseberry, a first kiss.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The violence escalates. Exhaustive use is made of space, speed, light and sound: facing away from one another, prisoners’ sole interactions are confrontations, and they shift between victim and abuser, regurgitating that which has been shouted at them at the next person with ever-increasing aggression and speed.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>How space is interpreted is one of the key themes of the play — the actors exhaust all, moving in every possible direction. Later in the play, prison is defined as “the restriction of space for movement for a space of time.” These actors are temporarily prisoners in their own play.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>The theatre as a prison or the prison as theatre?<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Pavlensky took this message even further. In a statement released alongside Fixation — a performance in which he nailed his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square in 2014 — he expanded the reach of Russia’s prison structure outside of its assumed setting. “As the government turns the country into one big prison,” Pavlensky wrote, “stealing from the people and using the money to grow and enrich the police apparatus and other repressive structures, society is allowing this, and forgetting its numerical advantage, is bringing the triumph of the police state closer by its inaction.”</p><p>Despite proclamations that the only viable option is “to obey” and resign themselves to inaction, the play’s participants wrestle every inch of their cell. </p><p>They move upwards, downwards, upside down. They clamber across and hoist themselves from rigging. They twist and contort, throwing kicks and punches — moves that are also filmed from above and projected behind them. The audience gets to witness it from a bird’s eye view. They also lurch towards you — on bungee cords. The “prisoners” clearly possess and require extreme agility, resilience and strength: one actress gets hoisted up by her arms and legs, as helpless as a puppet, and is jerked and throttled upwards and outwards towards the audience.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The play only tells a small slice of this story to the audience: while artistic freedoms are severely limited in Belarus and Russia, Pussy Riot and Pavlensky gained notoriety and maintain it</p><p>It appears excruciating, but, early on in the play, a pair of frantic government officials, sitting on two toilets positioned side-by-side (in an apparent reference to the mocking photographs taken of toilets during the Winter Olympics in 2014) discuss how Pavlensky is not a masochist and keeps his own pain to a minimum despite external appearances, rendering spectators uncertain about whether this might also apply to actors. The sheer physical toll the play must take on the cast is, or at least appears to be extraordinary.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The appearance of continual discomfort and exposure to shouting, dissonant noises, and on at least two occasions, uncomfortable and somewhat dazzling lighting, subjects the audience to secondhand malaise and raises questions of mind/body dualism, which are made more explicit towards the end of the play. A passage from Michel Foucault’s <em>Discipline and Punish</em> is projected onto the screen: “Old partners of the spectacle of punishment, the body and the blood, gave way. A new character came on the scene, masked. It was the end of a certain kind of tragedy; comedy began, with shadow play, faceless voices, impalpable entities. The apparatus of punitive justice must now bite into this bodiless reality.”</p><p>The kinds of torture imposed are both physical and target “the soul”. The latter is emphasised as being the backbone of Russia’s prison system, convincing prisoners that they have no option other than to obey. The actor-prisoners stand holding piles of plates with their arms outstretched, beads of sweat leaking from their strained faces.</p><h2>Retelling old stories?</h2><p>Burning Doors is both bold and shocking. But that shock factor may limit it, too — focusing on the stories of artists already relatively well known to western audiences. Nevertheless, the play does also draw attention to the plight of Oleg Sentsov and to a lesser extent others persecuted by the Russian state, such as Crimean Tatar Ilmi Umerov <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj374DOmv3OAhVEUBQKHajVDDcQFggeMAA&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.gov.uk%2Fgovernment%2Fworld-location-news%2Fstatement-on-detention-and-treatment-of-ilmi-umerov&amp;usg=AFQjCNHIHja86Y-ZDoGgma9dZrGytZQC7Q">who has been incarcerated in a psychiatric institution since late August</a>.</p><p>The play only tells a small slice of this story to the audience: while artistic freedoms are severely limited in Belarus and Russia, Pussy Riot and Pavlensky gained notoriety and maintain it. Those who <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/dmitry-okrest/who-are-your-comrades-now">continue to go undocumented</a> are invisible to the audience. Indeed, one member, during a mid-show Q&amp;A with Alyokhina, posed a question loaded with the assumption that there are no other contemporary political artists inside Russia.</p><p>“Because of your story… has artistic protest been silenced completely in Russia… because of what happened to you?” the audience member inquired. Alyokhina responded with a quip about her disappearing voice before expressing support, but also a degree of responsibility.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>“We are alive. It’s good news. We are in Russia, and this is also good news,” Aloykhina said. “We are helping those people who are still in prison… I know artists who do the same in Russia, so this is just one of the chances to say ‘we exist and we want to show you what we are doing’.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><em>“Burning Doors” will be showing at Soho Theatre until 24 September, after which it will tour the UK. It will be livestreamed on 12 October, before being performed in Italy and Australia. More information can be found <a href="http://www.belarusfreetheatre.com/productions/burningdoors/">here</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/on-prison-and-liberty-interview-with-pyotr-pavlensky">On prison and liberty: an interview with Pyotr Pavlensky</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/eleonora-zbanke/russia-s-year-of-cinema-or-return-to-silent-films">Russia’s year of cinema: a return to silent films</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/claudia-ciobanu/meet-anatol-matasaru-moldova-s-pussy-riot">Meet Anatol Matasaru, Moldova’s one-man Pussy Riot</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-shadrina/svetlana-alexievich-pain-and-dignity-of-life-in-soviet-experiment">Svetlana Alexievich: the pain and dignity of life in the Soviet experiment</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Aliide Naylor Cultural politics Wed, 07 Sep 2016 11:55:57 +0000 Aliide Naylor 105165 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Book review: Veiled and unveiled in Chechnya and Dagestan https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/karena-avedissian/book-review-veiled-and-unveiled-in-chechnya-and-dagestan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This new book aims to “unveil” society in Chechnya and Dagestan — instead, it’s a perfect guide of how not to write about the North Caucasus.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-16484080.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-16484080.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chechen women cry watching a performance about Stalin’s deportation of the Chechens to Central Asia, Grozny, 2013. Photo (c): Associated Press / Musa Sadulayev. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>When I was offered to review </span><em><a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/veiled-and-unveiled-in-chechnya-and-daghestan/" target="_blank">Veiled and Unveiled in Chechnya and Dagestan</a></em><span>, I was thrilled. The book is based on a decade of fieldwork and interviews with many people in Dagestan and Chechnya. And as a researcher of the North Caucasus, I know how rare up-to-date data from the region is — and how difficult it is for outsiders to conduct field work there.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Most universities refuse to sign off on ethical clearance to conduct fieldwork there, citing government warnings advising against all travel. Even if a researcher does make it there, a foreign passport can set off red flags, inviting unwanted government attention and harassment which can discourage even the most dogged investigator. Indeed, I’ve had my share of obstacles — I look somewhat local (Armenian), have a semi-local passport (Armenian), have family connections to the region and speak fluent Russian. I imagine the scrutiny the book’s authors, Polish researchers Iwona Kaliszewska and Maciej Falkowski, experienced over the course of ten years was much more invasive.</p><p>What piqued my interest further was the book’s presentation as a “portrait of life” that focuses on girls and women in the North Caucasus. With the bulk of popular and academic literature on the region focused on the macro-level dynamics of ethnicity, Islam, and war, I was looking forward to a book that would shift focus to women’s everyday lives.</p><h2>“Eastern cults” and western myths</h2><p>The book, however, is littered with orientalist tropes and two-dimensional caricatures of people.&nbsp;</p><p>This is unfortunately emblematic of how many westerners write about the North Caucasus. Sarah Kendzior addressed this in her 2013 article <em><a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/04/2013421145859380504.html" target="_blank">The Wrong Kind of Caucasian</a></em>, which a dissected the American media’s reaction to the revelation that the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers were of Chechen heritage.&nbsp;</p><p>In it, Kendzior said: “Knowing nothing of the Tsarnaev’s motives, and little about Chechens, the American media tore into Wikipedia and came back with stereotypes. The Tsarnaevs were stripped of their 21st century American life and became symbols of a distant land, forever frozen in time.” In a similar vein, <em>Veiled and Unveiled </em>often turns its subjects into symbols of an “exotic” culture.&nbsp;<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Veiled and Unveiled&nbsp;often feels like a long moan about the various ways in which Chechens and Dagestanis fail to live up to the authors’ standards.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p>Kaliszewska and Falkowski’s approach to the subject is perplexing, as the book has ample evidence of their deep knowledge of the region. The authors draw on historical issues that are significant and relevant to contemporary realities and present them in an engaging narrative. Not everyone can do this. They zoom in on the tensions between co-existing, yet contradictory narratives in the region rather than doing what most commentators do — to present one side or another to outside audiences.&nbsp;</p><p>The authors’ discussion of the “mutual permeation” of Islam and Communism in Dagestan is a good example. Acknowledging that Bolshevism did not completely replace Islam, especially in Dagestan’s mountain districts, Kaliszewska and Falkowski show that the new order was synthesised with the old. People continued to read the Koran and children still learned Arabic. This is an important contribution because it goes beyond popular, taken-for-granted discourse about the rigidity and incompatibility of differing social hierarchies.&nbsp;</p><p>Another example is the discussion about the allure among [contemporary] Muslim youth in Russia of rejecting Russia’s Central Islamic Spiritual Board (<em>Muftiat</em>), the successor to official Soviet-era Islamic institutions, in favour of radicalisation. While ideology is a factor in the embrace of political Islam by some youth, the authors don’t overemphasise its influence or divorce radicalisation from the local context. Instead, Kaliszewska and Falkowski contextualise the issue, highlighting the unpopularity of the <em>Muftiat</em> over its corruption and inability to accommodate diversity of thought, as well as the choice of global political Islam as a form of protest against the opaque Russian political system.&nbsp;</p><p>Similarly, the authors attribute the rise of polygamy in the eastern North Caucasus to the fact that having multiple wives has become a way of gaining social capital at a time of extremely uncertain socio-political realities and high unemployment. It’s also a place where men are frequent targets of <a href="http://www.svoboda.org/a/27764054.html" target="_blank">violence and humiliation</a> by the authorities. The question of polygamy and men’s social stature in general is clearly more complex than simply attributing it to some irrational eastern cult.&nbsp;</p><p>These everyday issues and social relations are presented in a nuanced way, highlighting people's everyday strategies for navigating a constantly changing world.&nbsp;</p><h2>Not wild enough</h2><p>How then can the authors, who make such insightful observations and who have numerous personal encounters with locals, dispense such clichéd stereotypes about them? It is not only disappointing, it is mystifying.&nbsp;</p><p>For example, the authors explain that “Wahhabis” are a stereotype imaginary — a political scapegoat used by the authorities to harass and profile — and yet they proceed to search for Wahhabis every place they go, in every person they meet. In Dagestan, they repeatedly refer to their hosts as “Wahhabi”, and when it turns out they are just devout, the authors continue to call them “Wahhabis”. (“It is time for the evening <em>salah</em>. Our ‘Wahhabis’ ask for a basin of water and a towel.”)&nbsp;</p><p>Why is this necessary? Even if this is a sarcastic rhetorical device used to mock the dominant discourse, the audience has already been treated to lengthy explanations about the term’s political instrumentalisation. Why can’t we just move past this to learn about them as people?&nbsp;</p><p>Kaliszewska and Falkowski set out the contradictions in their subjects’ statements. But rather than analysing these statements, they somehow feel the need to make moralising judgments.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Dagestan_children_drawing.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Dagestan_children_drawing.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mountain life through children’s eyes, as presented in an exhibition in Makhachkala, Dagestan, 2012. Image (c): Flickr / Mountain Partnership. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span><span>They relay a story told by their Dagestani hosts about a local father who took his son to a sauna to help him lose his virginity. The father was unexpectedly greeted by his own daughter. Shocked, he killed his daughter and then committed suicide. The local then says of the father-murderer: “He was a real Caucasian man. He did the right thing.” One of the authors follows up with the question: “‘Hey, but what about father and son? Is it also a Caucasian tradition to take one’s sons to a sauna organised for sexual relations?’ - I wanted to ask, but ultimately didn’t.”&nbsp;</span></p><p>Here’s the thing: facing a problematic respondent who literally justifies murder isn’t easy. But granting yourself presumptive moral authority as an author, especially without any presentation of your own moral code to your readers for evaluation, is not the way to go. This book is supposed to be interesting for the authors’ retelling of the full complexity of their (hopefully) unflinching and honest apprehension of life in the region, not for their moral estimations of their interactions.&nbsp;</p><p>In fact, <em>Veiled and Unveiled</em> often ends up feeling like a long moan about the various ways in which Chechens and Dagestanis fail to live up to the authors’ standards.&nbsp;</p><p>You can almost hear the authors snickering as they write that Chechens are “easily dazzled with fountains and new buildings”; that most Dagestanis “have no qualms about tossing chocolate bar wrappers out the minibus window (but not in Ramadan! God forbid!)”; that Dagestani society accepted the witch hunt for Wahhabis because it has been “conditioned by years of propaganda to accept simple answers to complex problems”; that Caucasian men flirt with “Natashas and Tamaras from Moscow”, only to return “obediently to their henpecking wives”.&nbsp;<br /><br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">A lack of understanding of any region renders its people invisible,&nbsp;making it easier to excuse violent behavior against them&nbsp;</span></p><p>Anyone who spends any amount time in and interacts with people from the Caucasus knows this is the most reductive of simplifications. Anyone with a conscience knows this is insulting and hurtful.&nbsp;</p><p>One sentence is particularly telling.</p><p>“It is one of those places where something peculiar – an elusive aura – hangs in the air”, write the authors. “The village, the canyon leading up to it and the surrounding mountains are simply there. They exist. They’ve stood there, immobile and utterly silent, for time immemorial, shrouded in mystery.” This description could be about Bolivia, Spain, Turkey or literally any other place on earth that isn’t flat, but it is about Koroda, Dagestan.&nbsp;</p><p>Other than being some of the worst prose I have read in a long time, it raises important questions. What aura? What mystery? More importantly, why? Painfully, it occurs again: “There is something uncanny about the connection that Caucasian highlanders have with their native soil.” What does this even mean?&nbsp;</p><p>We deserve better.</p><h2>Learning to listen</h2><p>The North Caucasus is a complex region with little in the way of infrastructure in place to promote travel and research. This is another unfortunate obstacle to overcoming its presentation as anything beyond a set of orientalist clichés and stereotypes.&nbsp;</p><p>The consequences, however, are dire. The North Caucasus suffers from the highest levels of state violence in Russia. A lack of understanding of any region renders its people invisible, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/varvara-pakhomenko/russia-s-north-caucasus-lesson-in-history" target="_blank">making it easier to excuse violent behavior against them</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Here’s my advice: Hire more local researchers and journalists who are familiar with the context and who won’t treat locals as anthropological oddities. Pay them. Connect them with international scholars and journalists. Promote and support the platforms that locals who are working on social and political issues use.&nbsp;</p><p>The rest of the world deserves to hear these stories. As told by local people themselves.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/veiled-and-unveiled-in-chechnya-and-daghestan/" target="_blank">Veiled and Unveiled in Chechnya and Dagestan</a><em> was published by Hurst Books in January 2016. It was originally published in Polish as&nbsp;</em></em><em>Matrioszka w hid</em><em>żabie<em>, </em></em><em>and translated by Arthur Barys.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dominik-k-cagara/way-down-in-pankisi">Way down in Pankisi</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/gubden-dagestan-where-radicals-police-themselves">Gubden, Dagestan: where ‘radicals’ police themselves</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/varvara-pakhomenko/russia-s-north-caucasus-lesson-in-history">Between dialogue and violence: the North Caucasus&#039;s bloody legacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/karena-avedissian/film-review-%E2%80%98grozny-blues%E2%80%99-dir-nicola-bellucci">Film review: ‘Grozny Blues’ (dir. Nicola Bellucci)</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Karena Avedissian Conflict Chechnya Caucasus Cultural politics Tue, 06 Sep 2016 10:17:28 +0000 Karena Avedissian 105138 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Azerbaijanism” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sabir-akhundov/azerbaijanism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Azerbaijan’s post-Soviet memory politics are great at uniting society. Too bad it’s against external enemies. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sabir-akhundov/nash-genocid">Русский</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-18396229 (1)_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Azerbaijan's Neft Dashlari oil field has been active since the 1950s. (c) Sergei Grits / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></span><span>The first four days of April 2016 saw a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ryan-mccarrel/checking-your-sources-in-nagorno-karabakh">short conflict between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh</a>, supported by Armenian forces. The result was inconclusive, but it revealed the extent of polarisation in Azerbaijan and how unequal forces in the opposing camps are in this country.</span></p><p><span>Few people in Azerbaijan dared to suggest that both sides might bear some responsibility for the clashes. Those who did faced a solid wall of national-patriotic fervour, which included even people who had previously called themselves liberals and human rights advocates. To find yourself beyond the borders of this patriotic front was riskier than just losing your voice in the crowd.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>But where did this wave of popular euphoria at the possibility of even a small victory (won at great cost) come from?</p><h2>Mythologising instead of modernisation</h2><p>The origins of the present situation go back to the first days and months of Azerbaijan’s status as an independent state after the collapse of the USSR. </p><p><span>Just like other freshly post-Soviet countries, Azerbaijan’s new elite had to find news sources of legitimacy and select geopolitical allies. Political decisions had to be backed up by ideology, culture and education, and this ideological imperative defined the route taken towards establishing a new nation — mythologisation instead of modernisation.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">After the collapse of the USSR, the ethno-nationalism developed in the Soviet period became the dominant ideology of its former republics</p><p>Creating new mythological constructs was easy enough: they were based on primordialist concepts of the unity of ethnic groups and nationalities, created in the Soviet period, whereby the dominant ethnic group in any area gave its name to that area and enjoyed a monopoly on ownership of its land.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>So, the borders of Azerbaijan, like those of other former Soviet republics, were defined by Soviet ethnic and nationality policies. Indeed, Soviet nationalities policy was considered the main reason for the failure of Azerbaijan’s first stage of independence and an explanation for initial external hostility. The past and present were thus lumped together, and consumers of government propaganda were fed a tale of a predetermined future as well as a clear, unshakable division of others into friends and enemies.</p><p>After the collapse of the USSR, the ethno-nationalism fostered in the Soviet period became the dominant ideology of its former republics. Each of the sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict appealed to the past, accusing the Soviet leadership of favouritism and aiding the enemy. Given the total propaganda immersion in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, there was no chance of any compromise — any concessions would be seen as a betrayal of national interests.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-10026798-1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>January 1990: residents of Baku gather in Kirov park with black banners to honour the more than 200 citizens who died in a storming of the city by Soviet troops. (c) AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>The status quo following the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict of the early 1990s has also determined today’s politics of memory. Past defeat becomes a source of victory in the future and a means of uniting the nation to achieve this crucial task.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>As a result, any dissent from official government policy is the equivalent of wanting your people to be defeated or a call to come to terms with the present and forget past glory. It’s no wonder that April 2016 saw many people in Azerbaijan, from small children to pensioners, repeating the same slogan: “Our homeland is indivisible, the martyrs are immortal!”<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>The portrait of an enemy: Russia and Armenia<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>The lack of a positive outcome to Nagorno-Karabakh and the conflict’s tragic events have led to a situation where Azerbaijan’s new national ideology can present the entire population as victims. It is no longer just a question of countless and endless attacks by “insidious neighbouring peoples” and the misfortunes they bring. One key element in this vision is Azerbaijan’s crucial role in preventing geopolitical map changing “in favour of the Christian world”, accompanied by recognition of the glorious and heroic history of its people’s noble and powerful forefathers.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Azerbaijan’s inability to defeat external aggression is thus the result of the number of Azerbaijan’s enemies and the lack of unity in its people. The past provides an excuse for the present: “we have always been under pressure, but we have never stopped fighting”. And given that the territory of today’s Azerbaijan was home to powerful states in the past, the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh will inevitably lead to victory in the future. The defeats of the past can be explained by Azerbaijan’s status as a victim, while the glorification and splendid history of their forefathers gives them hope for the future.</p><p>Within this narrative, everything is fixed down to the last detail and everything is known in advance. Anything that doesn’t fit the reconstructed picture of the past is either tweaked or just ignored and rejected.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">By drawing a line between “us” and “them”, nationalism points its finger straight at the source of all misfortune — the eternal external enemy</p><p><span>The loss of a former identity, military defeat and the disappearance of an earlier settled way of life have led to widespread depression, despair and feelings of hopelessness among Azerbaijanis. This mood has been carefully manipulated by the political elites to further the nationalist discourse they inherited from the Soviet years. Nationalism has allowed them to unite pro-government and opposition forces for whom playing the nationalist card is a sure winner.</span></p><p>By drawing a line between “us” and “them”, nationalism points its finger straight at the source of all misfortune — the eternal external enemy. The disparity between the glorious past and recent humiliating defeat has created a certain cognitive dissonance, but nationalism has found another enemy, without whose help its opponents would have been defeated.</p><p><span>This is, of course, the military support given by Russia to Armenia and the Armenians. It happened this year over Nagorno-Karabakh; it happened in 1918. So a clear link is established between these two events, and we have an alliance of sworn and implacable enemies, Russia (i.e. ethnic Russians) and Armenia.</span></p><p>In the official narrative, the scale of century-old hostility and Azerbaijan’s human loss has been gradually inflated until it reached the level of genocide — which is precisely the case with the Azeri-Armenian clashes of the early 20th century.</p><h2>What genocide, and whose?</h2><p>Central to the creation of this narrative were the tragic events of late March and early April 1918, when thousands of peaceful civilians, mostly Muslims, died during clashes between Bolsheviks, units of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and the local Musavat (Equality) Party.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>History books usually refer to these events as the “March clashes” or the “March massacre”, but in Azerbaijan they are known as the “March genocide”. This definition implies — and official figures stress this — that it was one of several acts of genocide, and the Azerbaijan government’s main task was to represent it as the pivotal one.</p><p>These events were thus to serve as a demonstration of the bloodthirstiness and unscrupulousness of Armenians, and all possible resources were directed to that end. Various methods were used. Selected extracts from police interrogations of the time, with details of the atrocities supposedly committed by Bolshevik-ARF units, published in huge print runs.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Azerbaijani_victims_in_Baku_with_consul_from_Iran (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="278" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>This Iranian postcard shows victims of the March Days in a Baku courtyard. From "March 1918" by Solmaz Rustamova / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Photos of Azerbaijani victims were also published — these images loom large in the secondary school history curriculum. There were articles, books, documentaries, TV programmes, all of them discussing not alternative viewpoints, but established truths.</span></p><p>“On the Azerbaijani Genocide”, a directive signed by former Azerbaijan president Heydar Aliyev on 26 March 1998, played a major role in the commemoration of the Karabakh conflict as part of a centuries-old enmity between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, and it was this document that definitively confirmed the “genocide” as an important element in official ideology. The effective inclusion of the concept of an Azerbaijani genocide in the political lexicon was an important additional pointer for future historical research in this sphere and enabled its total ideologisation.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>But why did the subject of “genocide” arise in 1998? One reason was lack of ideological stability among the country’s rulers. 1998 should have been a presidential election year. It was still a long time before the “oil rain”, and Azerbaijan’s leadership didn’t have complete control over the republic’s political life. And opposition parties hadn’t yet lost their moral authority and credibility with the public.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Heydar Aliyev took a number of steps to improve his image as a democrat and supporter of liberal values, both at home and abroad</span></p><p>Heydar Aliyev took a number of steps to improve his image as a democrat and supporter of liberal values, both at home and abroad. Amongst other reforms, he abolished censorship and the death penalty, created a Constitutional Court and passed laws on civil and human rights and freedoms, including freedom of religion and assembly and the right to leave and enter the country at will.</p><p><span>Among these changes, the directive “On the Azerbaijani Genocide” was first and foremost intended for internal consumption. The popularity of Aliyev, the man who had revitalised the heroic history of the Azeri people, full of suffering and deprivation, skyrocketed. The ideology of Azerbaijani nationalism, better known as “Azerbaijanism”, was a trump card in his internal political game.</span></p><p>It was also important to choose the events of March 1918 as a key instance of genocide, rather than the clashes of 1905-1906. The latter had lasted longer, but were less well researched and less interesting — no one knows, for example, the number of fatalities, which are usually represented as a vague “thousands and thousands”. By contrast, it had been clearly established that a minimum of 12,000 people died in the tragedy of 1918.</p><p>There are no figures for Armenian and Russian victims of the clashes, which once again highlights the emphasis placed on the one sided nature of the event and bolsters the “genocide” verdict. The quoted minimum is based on estimates made by the leaders of the “Musavat” Azeri nationalist party and the report drawn up by the Emergency Committee created in the summer of 1918 to investigate the March events.</p><p>More figures have come to light since 1998, and are much higher than was then thought. There are now known figures for the capital Baku itself (12,000) and for the Baku region (20,000), although these figures are often confused. The history textbook for senior secondary school classes now gives an overall figure of 50,000 for all the regions affected by massacres of the Muslim population, but in 2010 Djabi Bairamov, deputy head of the Historical Institute of Azerbaijan’s Academy of Sciences, put forward a new, huge figure of 700,000.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Yet another reason for concentrating on the events of 1918 is the calendar. The closeness of the dates has allowed people in both Azerbaijan and elsewhere in the world to mark the anniversary of March 1918 not long before 24 April, when the Armenian genocide is annually commemorated. Thus, events organised by the Azerbaijani diaspora around the world stress the fact that they were victims of centuries-old Armenian aggression.</p><p>The success of this Azerbaijani propaganda would even seem to cast the Armenian genocide into doubt. Speaking in Ankara on the 75th anniversary of the Turkish Republic in 1999, Heydar Aliyev stated that it was the Armenians who massacred the Turks, and not the other way around.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Collective memory: renewal and reboot<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Over the years, the concept of the genocide has been modified by historians, politicians and political writers. It is no longer just a question of the extermination of Azerbaijani Turks in 1918: we now talk in terms of a poly-ethnic genocide of Tatars, Lezgins and Jews.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The reasons why Armenians are supposed to hate people of these ethnicities is, however, never discussed. There is talk of more than 3,000 Jewish victims. A major role in collecting and propagating such information is played by Israel’s Azeri diaspora, especially the Azerbaijan-Israel International Association, which openly supports the Azeri government. The mention of Jews as being among the victims of the bloody events of 1918 is probably designed to elicit understanding from Israel, which is jealous of any attempt to equate any such tragic events with the Holocaust. In this context, it is also worth noting that Azerbaijan and Israel enjoy close military cooperation with one another.</p><p>The most important element in the commemoration of mass tragedies is the creation of “places of memory”. The main place where the victims of March 1918 are remembered is Baku’s Avenue of the Martyrs (Shehidler Khiyabani), which is visited by thousands of people. The avenue accumulates the memory of several fateful periods. Here are buried the victims of the tragic night of 20 January 1990 and those who died in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_Шахидов_в_Баку.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Avenue of Martyrs, Baku. Public Domain: Interfase / Wikipedia. </span></span></span><span>It is believed that those massacred in March 1918 were also buried here, but the cemetery was demolished in the Soviet years to make way for a park. So the Avenue of the Martyrs brings together the memories of all victims under one name.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The use of the Islamic term “Shahid” is intended to reflect the idea that all these people did not die in vain, but were sacrificed on the altar of independence and freedom and represent a single cultural, social and historical memory of these events. The only dead excluded from the term are those who died during 1941-1945.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Azerbaijani government is very much in tune with the mood of its population and deliberately uses the term Shahid to play on people’s piety</p><p>The Azerbaijani government is very much in tune with the mood of its population and deliberately uses the term Shahid to play on people’s piety. By drip-feeding them religious rhetoric, it has aimed to speed up the desecularisation of the country and in doing so, strengthen its own hold on power — and the policy has been effective. Russians and Armenians are no longer just ethnic enemies, but part of an alien Christian world.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>In September 2013, another place of memory, <a href="https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Guba_Genocide_Memorial_Complex">the Guba Genocide Memorial Complex</a>, was created and has also become a pilgrimage site in northern Azerbaijan. In 2007, a mass burial was discovered in the area, and although initially Makhmud Kerimov, president of Azerbaijan’s Academy of Sciences, warned against jumping to conclusions, suggesting that it could have been the result of an epidemic, the government propaganda machine rushed to exploit the news.</p><p>Researchers, it was announced, had discovered not only the victims’ racial profiles, but their ethnicity. It was clear that they were local Azeri Muslims, Lezgins and Jews. The Prosecutor General’s office announced that it had conducted a survey of people in the Guba area, who on the basis of stories they had been told by elderly relatives believed that the bodies were of victims of a massacre carried out by an Armenian punitive detachment that had attacked the town of Guba in May 1918. The general conclusion has been that this was part of the genocide carried out by Armenians that year.</p><p><span>The Guba Genocide Memorial Complex has been designed as a transparent and dramatic expose of Armenian brutality. This is how new memories are created, with a defining and indisputable image of the enemy at their centre. This is the feeling of shared loss and collective grief that is so essential for the unity of a nation. And anyone who fails to go along with it challenges the values and interest of their people.</span></p><h2>The new generation on the right road<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>The Guba events are included in the history textbook used for the fifth year of Azerbaijan’s schools, e.g. 11-12 year olds. In one chapter, its authors write about an elderly woman visiting the burial site with her granddaughter and finding the skeleton of her sister, which she recognised by a medallion that had belonged to her.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>From the reaction of some pupils, one can say that the story’s main aim — to act on the children’s still unformed consciousness — was successful. The youngsters recalled that reading the story brought tears to their eyes; not tears of anger or a desire for revenge, but of pity, pain, compassion and unfairness.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The same idea lies behind a school ritual followed every 31 March, Genocide Day. As on other dates connected with tragic events, 20 January (<a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Twenty_Years_After_Black_January_Azerbaijan_Still_Struggles_For_Freedom_/1934366.html">the “Black January” of 1990</a>) and 26 February (the <a href="https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Khojaly_Massacre">murder of innocent residents of Khojali</a> by Armenian and CIS forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1992), this usually takes a theatrical form, with pupils dressed in mourning reading poetry, as well as competitions for drawings on the theme of war.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">This state propaganda, disguised as education, is designed to produce a generation for whom ethno-nationalism, with its stress on the tragic, and at the same time glorious history of their country, will be central to their world view</span></p><p>In this way, children learn about their country’s national tragedy, absorb it and form memories of it. They then create their own historical narrative, transmuted by their own fantasy and imagination, relate it to themselves and each other and in this process gain a solid cultural and social memory of these events.</p><p>This is how the image of victimhood is consolidated in the child’s mind, as is the parallel image of the Enemy, who will with each year loom ever larger and more terrifying. The pupils must understand that Armenia’s hostility has lasted for centuries, is still strong and will continue in the future.</p><p><span>This growing generation will never even consider any possibility of peaceful coexistence. The chapter on ‘The Division of Azerbaijan’ in the fifth year Azerbaijan History textbook states: “On 21 March 1828, the day of Novruz [New Year], a fictitious ‘Armenian province’ was set up in the area of Nakhchivan and Yerevan, thus rewarding the Armenians for their treachery against our people”.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>And in the same textbook, in the chapter on the March 1918 massacres, we read that: “the Armenians went berserk and burned men, women and old people. Children were impaled on bayonets. These maddened Armenian executioners then collected copies of our sacred book, the Quran, made bonfires of them and threw Muslims, bound hand and foot, into them”. And as for the chapter on Stalin’s Terror of 1937, schoolchildren discover that most victims were persecuted thanks to the Armenians, in a continuation of their dastardly genocide policy.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>We can summarise the rest of the narrative in one passage from the eleventh year textbook (for 18 year olds): “A prominent role in the organisation of the Terror was played by… Armenians, genetic enemies of the Turkic peoples, who held senior posts in the police and security services”.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>This state propaganda, disguised as education, is designed to produce a generation for whom ethno-nationalism, with its stress on the tragic, and at the same time glorious, history of their country, will be central to their world view.<span>&nbsp;</span><span>After all, in countries which lack a developed civil society, governments monopolise and regulate all aspects of public life, and no inappropriate questions may be asked.</span></p><p><span><em>The EU's lack of strategy is being felt in Azerbaijan. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/robert-ledger/eu-s-lack-of-unity-and-strategy-is-being-felt-in-azerbaijan">Find out more here</a>.&nbsp;</em></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/azerbaijan%27s-failed-rebranding">Azerbaijan&#039;s failed rebranding</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ryan-mccarrel/checking-your-sources-in-nagorno-karabakh">Checking your sources in Nagorno-Karabakh</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/robert-ledger/eu-s-lack-of-unity-and-strategy-is-being-felt-in-azerbaijan">The EU’s lack of unity and strategy is being felt in Azerbaijan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/searching-for-armenian-lobby">Searching for the ‘Armenian Lobby’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Sabir Akhundov Cultural politics Azerbaijan Tue, 02 Aug 2016 23:00:00 +0000 Sabir Akhundov 104482 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bandera mythologies and their traps for Ukraine https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrii-portnov/bandera-mythologies-and-their-traps-for-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our discussion of history politics and mythmaking in Ukraine is desperately un-nuanced. We need to restore complexity to our understanding of&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">social and cultural hybridity — past and present. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andriy-portnov/rozdumy-na-prospekti-bandery">Українською</a></strong></em></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/02-Bandera Monument in Lviv -1 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="379" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lviv, Ukraine: a monument to Stepan Bandera. Image courtesy of the author.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The international discussion about Ukraine’s history politics usually centres on the same questions, same arguments and the same actors, who often (but, fortunately, not always) aim to monopolise the debate. Participating in this debate, especially when you aim to contextualise rather than make sharp moral claims, provokes accusations from both sides — you’re either “not patriotic enough” or you</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">’re</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;“secretly rehabilitating nationalism”.</span></p><p>I decided to write this text not to claim my own moral or intellectual superiority, or to make recommendations for either Ukrainian or international politics. Instead, I have tried to be as precise and clear as possible in presenting my own views on a complex issue that still requires comprehensive interdisciplinary research and the willingness of a sizeable portion of Ukrainians to admit to ideological apathy.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><h2>The mythologising of Stepan Bandera</h2><p>On 25 July, 1934 the radical wing of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), headed by a 25-year-old Stepan Bandera killed (in their terms, “executed”) Ivan Babii, the director of Lviv Academic Gymnasium. A former officer of the Ukrainian Galician Army and supporter of Ukrainian-Polish peaceful coexistence, Babii was accused by young radicals of “active collaboration with the Polish police”. Today, the street in Lviv where the Academic Gymnasium building stands bears the name of Stepan Bandera [1].<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The outbreak of world war in September 1939 released Bandera from the Polish prison where he was supposed to spend the rest of his life on convictions for political murders. Two years later, on 30 June, 1941 Bandera and fellow OUN member Yaroslav Stetsko attempted to proclaim a new Ukrainian state in Nazi-occupied Lviv, but were quickly arrested by the Germans and spent the rest of the war in detention [2].<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Bandera did not participate personally in the underground war conducted by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which included the organized ethnic cleansing of the Polish population of Volhynia in north-western Ukraine and killings of the Jews, but he also never condemned them. Until his death in 1959, Bandera remained a supporter of authoritarian and violent politics [3].<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Bandera stamps-1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="380" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stamps issued in honour of Stepan Bandera in 2009 under Viktor Yushchenko's presidency. Image courtesy of the author.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In October 1959, a KGB agent Bohdan Stashynsky, who later handed himself in, shot Bandera in Munich. The murderer’s self-disclosure made the entire endeavour, which included a love story, into a huge political scandal [4]. This scandal contributed significantly to the mythology of Bandera, turning him — depending on your ideology— into a symbol of Ukraine’s anti-Soviet resistance or Ukrainian fascism and the extreme far right.</span></p><p>The common noun “Banderivtsi” (“Banderites”) emerged around this time, and it was used to designate all Ukrainian nationalists, but also, on occasion, western Ukrainians or even any person who spoke Ukrainian. Even today, the term “Banderivtsi” in public debate is never neutral — it can be used pejoratively or proudly.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Lacking information on Bandera’s deeds and political views, many people were trapped by the same propaganda narrative they wished to oppose</p><p>The Maidan protests of 2013–2014 actualised Ukraine’s Bandera mythology once again. Alongside the far right parties and groups who consciously promoted a positive myth of Bandera, a significant number of Maidan supporters called themselves “banderivtsi”&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">[5]</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. They wanted to reject the Kremlin propaganda of the “fascist Maidan” by accepting the pejorative term as positive self-description. Lacking information on Bandera’s deeds and political views, many people were trapped by the same propaganda narrative they wished to oppose.</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>One of the symbolic results of the Maidan was that the nationalistic slogan “Glory to Ukraine!” (Slava Ukraiini!), used by a broad coalition of Maidan supporters, was legitimised. During the events of Maidan, this slogan acquired a new set of meanings and contexts. It was transformed into an expression of political loyalty to the Ukrainian state.</p><p>To some extent, the same happened to the image of Bandera. As the historian Serhy Yekelchyk puts it: “it can be argued that in the course of the EuroMaidan Revolution, the image of Bandera acquired new meaning as a symbol of resistance to the corrupt, Russian-sponsored regime, quite apart from the historical Bandera’s role as a purveyor of exclusivist ethno-nationalism” [6]. Keeping in mind the capacity of mass movements to acquire and subvert symbols, another historian John-Paul Himka has asked: “Is it possible to adopt the nationalist legacy as the national legacy and just forget about its dark side?” [7]</p><p>I believe that Ukrainian society needs to know about the anti-democratic potential of the Bandera cult and the dangers of idealised and uncritical depiction of the nationalist underground’s attitudes towards Poles and Jews [8], as well as Ukrainians whom they considered to be “enemies”.</p><h2>Decommunisation and ideological diversity<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Neither supporters, nor critics of Bandera commemoration in Ukraine constitute a homogeneous group. And not every supporter of the post-Maidan governments’ <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/andriy-portnov/on-%E2%80%98decommunisation%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98identity%E2%80%99-and-legislating-history-in-ukraine">decommunisation policy</a> necessarily supports the heroisation of the UPA.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>More importantly, the glorification of Bandera is criticised in Ukraine from various perspectives – whether democratic, communist, or pro-Putin, among others. To understand the agenda of the critic and their motivation, we should carefully analyse the context of any statement.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It would be fundamentally wrong to divide Ukrainian society solely into ideological supporters and critics of the Bandera cult</p><p>Furthermore, in Ukrainian public debate, the most visible condemnation of nationalist views of history comes not from liberal or leftist groups, but from people who subscribe to a particular set of historical views, the origin of which can be traced to late Soviet propaganda. In other words, a rather weak self-critical position is torn between two opposite extremes in Ukraine — the post/neo-Soviet and the nationalistic.</p><p>In this complicated situation, as Olesya Khromeychuk puts it, “instead of encouraging an open and critical approach to the collective national memory, successive Ukrainian governments replace one set of interpretations with another, leaving no room for a neutral discussion of Ukraine’s controversial historical pages and thereby complicating further the unresolved conflicts with regard to the national past and the Ukrainian identity” [9].<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Ignoring ideological apathy</h2><p>It would be fundamentally wrong to divide Ukrainian society solely into ideological supporters and critics of the Bandera cult. Indeed, a third group is often totally excluded from this story —people who are rather indifferent to the issues of memory and identity, who have no clear ideological views and who feel disoriented by these battles over the past.</p><p>How can we make this ideological apathy visible? This question poses a serious challenge for historians, anthropologists, sociologists and political scientists [10]. It also warns us to be careful with easily ascribed national or geopolitical “identities”.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Bringing the Ukrainian tradition of criticising nationalism from a democratic perspective into sharper focus&nbsp;is no less important</p><p>A telling example here is the recent opposition to “decommunisation” activities of the Ukrainian government. Opponents of turning the town of Komsomolsk (name after a Soviet youth organisation) in Poltava oblast into “Horishni Plavni”, the village Andriivka in the Lviv region to “Marmuzovychi” and Dnipropetrovsk to “Dnipro” often formulate their concerns not in terms of “Soviet nostalgia” or “pro-Russian sentiment”, but fear of the eventual costs of re-naming, as well as non-acceptance of the new names that allegedly simplify or archaise the settlements.</p><p>It is thus crucial to understand that the opponents of some (not necessarily all) “decommunised” names do not constitute a uniform group with clear ideological preferences.</p><h2>What about democratic alternatives?</h2><p>On 15 May, 2016 president Petro Poroshenko declared that, starting from December 2013, Ukraine had <a href="http://lb.ua/news/2016/05/15/335187_poroshenko_podschital_pavshih_leninov.html">removed roughly 1,000 Lenin monuments and renamed almost 700 settlements</a>.</p><p>The place where Lenin used to stand now usually remains vacant. In the early 1990s, when Lenin monuments were removed en masse in western Ukraine, they were usually replaced with Bandera statues —the most recognisable anti-Soviet symbol. But Bandera commemoration remained a regional phenomenon linked to the local (east Galician and Volhynian) memories of nationalistic underground and Soviet repressions that affected 10% of the region`s population.</p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bqSjJYLjqYg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><em> September 2014: Kharkov's central Lenin statue is brought down.</em> <p>In post-Maidan Ukraine, there is no consensus on who should replace Lenin. Even though Bandera is rarely mentioned in this context, it should be noted that his name appeared in the discussions about the renaming of streets in Kyiv and Dnipropetrovsk.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In other words, we observe how Bandera commemoration gradually crosses the historical boundaries of East Galicia and Volhynia. In this context, a responsible debate about the appropriateness of such commemoration is important.</span></p><p>Yet this debate in Ukraine is complicated by the fact that, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">in the eyes of many politically active citizens</a>, any decisive criticism of Ukrainian nationalism could look “dangerously close to the soft version of the Russian imperial narrative” [11].<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Keeping that in mind, it is crucial to depict the history of ethnically exclusivist nationalism, the terror politics of the OUN, and the anti-Polish and anti-Jewish crimes of the UPA clearly, with no omissions and apologism. When criticising Ukraine’s heritage of radical nationalism from the perspective of human rights, it is essential to make as clear as possible that criticism of the Bandera mythology and the OUN terror does not signal (and does not aim) overlooking Soviet crimes or a denial of Ukrainian historical subjectivity.</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Criticising nationalism from a democratic perspective<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Bringing the Ukrainian tradition of criticising nationalism from a democratic perspective i<span style="line-height: 1.5;">nto sharper focus&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">is no less important.</span></p><p>In 1932, émigré social democrats Isaac Mazepa, Ol’gerd Bochkovskyi and Panas Fedenko published a pamphlet “Buduiut` chy ruinuiut’?” (Are they building or destroying?). Here, the authors criticised the OUN’s terror as a sign of weakness and outlined the authoritarian tendencies in “integral nationalism” [12].<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Democratic critics of Ukrainian integral nationalism and today’s far-right groups could also serve as an important step towards a broader understanding of Ukrainian culture</span></p><p>Writings by the brilliant Ukrainian émigré intellectuals Ivan L. Rudnytsky and George (Yuri) Shevelov, first published in the 1960s and 1970s, also require closer study. For instance, Shevelov deconstructed the demagogical methods of polemic used by Dmytro Dontsov, the ideologist of the Ukrainian integral nationalism, as well as his hatred for free discussion, describing Dontsov as a typological twin of Bolshevism [13].<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Democratic critics of Ukrainian integral nationalism and today’s far-right groups could also serve as an important step towards a broader understanding of Ukrainian culture, which could adopt, but not appropriate, figures such as Sholem Aleichem, one of the founders of modern Yiddish literature who spent more than 40 years of his life in Ukraine; Bruno Schulz, a Polish writer of Jewish origin who was born and killed by the Nazis in his native eastern Galician town of Drohobych; or Kyiv-born human rights activist and writer Lev Kopelev.</p><h2>The poisonous “one ethnic nation – one state” ideal</h2><p>After the First World War, Europe largely believed that ethnic homogeneity was a pre-condition for stable development. Still, the popularity of the slogan of the “right for national self-determination” did not give every ethnic group a national state of its own.</p><p>Both Ukrainian (in Kyiv) and west Ukrainian (in Lviv) People’s Republics, proclaimed after the collapse of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, were defeated militarily and failed to preserve their independence. East Galicia and Volhynia became parts of the newly established Polish state. And Dnieper Ukraine became one of the Soviet republics of the USSR.</p><p>There were no famine or mass repressions in interwar Poland. Still, millions of Ukrainians who lived on Polish territory experienced discrimination (such as, for instance, the reluctance of the Polish government to open the Ukrainian university in Lviv, or even to fully accept the term “Ukrainians”).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In a time when Europe is experiencing the almost forgotten feeling of how fragile democracy is, self-criticism, intellectual responsibility and political readiness for compromise and reconciliation are needed once again</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Polish governments feared the country’s biggest national minority, Ukrainians, and their potential separatist aspirations. Interwar Poland did not succeed in solving its national question and, during the 1920s, its discriminatory policies drove a significant part of politically active Ukrainians to pro-Soviet sentiments (perfectly manipulated by the Soviet state) or to radical nationalism and its politics of terror (Stepan Bandera was one of those young political terrorists fascinated with violence).</span></p><p>I am not arguing that Polish politics is primarily responsible for the radicalisation of Ukraine’s political scene, although some Polish essayists (for example, Adolf Bocheński and Stanisław Łoś) openly made such claims in late 1930s.</p><p>One should not also forget, as historian Andriy Zayarnyuk reminds us, that “despite postwar radicalization, throughout the 1930s, the dominant political force among the Galician Ukrainians was still the Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance (UNDO)… Only the destruction of the pluralistic political system and organized civil society by the Soviet Union in 1939 secured the domination of integral nationalism, which continued during World War Two” [14].<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>The story of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (as well as other radical nationalistic groups) in 20th century Europe remains an important reminder of the danger attached to the “one ethnic nation – one state” political ideal. The OUN’s terror was aimed at both Poles and Ukrainians of moderate views who opted for cooperation and compromises.</p><p>The majority of OUN`s victims during the 1930s were actually Ukrainians [15]. The aim of Bandera’s terror was to escalate and revolutionise. This kind of politics included an attempt to portray the opponents of violence as traitors and foreign agents. It also aimed at erasing half tones and nuances, getting rid of complexity and narrowing of the Ukrainian political culture.</p><p>In a time when Europe is experiencing the almost forgotten feeling of how fragile democracy is, self-criticism, intellectual responsibility and political readiness for compromise and reconciliation are needed once again.</p><p><em>References</em></p><p>[1] One of a few critics of such re-naming was Canadian-Ukrainian literary scholar and former student of the Academician Gymnasium George S. N. Luckyj. See Yuri (George) Luckyj, Na perekhresti. Lutsk, 1999. P. 25.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>[2] On Ukrainian nationalistic underground during the Second World War and the participation of its members in Nazi politics of the extermination of the Jews see Grzegorz Motyka, Ukraińska partyzantka 1942–1960. Działalność Organizacji Ukraińskich Nacjonalistów i Ukraińskiej Powstanczej Armii. Warszawa, 2006; Per Anders Rudling, The OUN, the UPA, and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths, The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, 2011,No2107. See also: John-Paul Himka, Ukrainians, Jews and the Holocaust. Divergent Memories. Saskatoon, 2009. Recent attempt of Bandera`s biography (Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, Stepan Bandera: The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist: Fascism, Genocide, and Cult. Stuttgart, 2014) already caused broad discussion.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>[3] On the discussion of the so-called ‘democratization’ of the OUN in 1943 see: Ivan L. Rudnytsky, Nationalizm i totalitaryzm (Vidpovid` M. Prokopovi), in: Ivan L. Rudnytsky, Istorychni ese. Kyiv, 1994. Vol. 2. Pp. 489–496. First published in: Journal of Ukrainian Studies 7, 2 (Fall 1982): 80–86. The Canadian-Ukrainian historian stated clearly that OUN never freed itself from xenophobic and chauvinist attitude towards Poles and Jews.</p><p>[4] The story of the KGB agent Bohdan Stashynsky is investigated in the upcoming book: Serhii Plokhy, The Man with the Poison Gun: A Cold War Spy Story. New York, 2016.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>[5] For more details and bibliography see Anton Shekhovtsov, Andreas Umland, The Maidan and Beyond. Ukraine`s Radical Right, Journal of Democracy, 25, 3 (July 2014): 58–63. For a historical introduction see William J. Risch, What The Far Right Does Not Tell Us about the Maidan, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 16, 1 (Winter 2015): 137–144.</p><p>[6] Serhy Yekelchyk, <em>The Conflict in Ukraine. What Everyone Needs to Know</em>. New York – Oxford, 2015. P. 107.</p><p>[7] John-Paul Himka, The History behind the Regional Conflict in Ukraine, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 16, 1 (Winter 2015): 129–136, here P. 136.</p><p>[8] One example here could be the idealised picture of the Jewish question and the UPA in Oksana Zabuzhko`s celebrated novel <em>The Museum of Abandoned Secrets</em>. See Grzegorz Motyka, Sekrety odsłaniane czy dalej wyperane ze świadomości? Wokół książki Oksany Zabużko Museum porzuconych sekretów, in: Grzegorz Motyka, Cień Kłyma Sawura. Polsko-ukraiński konflikt pamięci. Gdańsk, 2013. Pp. 71–77. Ukrainian translation: <a href=http://historians.in.ua/index.php/en/zabuti-zertvy-viyny/906-gzhegozh-motyka-sekrety-rozkryvaiut-chy-nadali-vyshtovkhuiut-zi-svidomosti-navkolo-knyzhky-oksany-zabuzhko-muzei-pokynutykh-sekretiv.>Grzegorz Motyka, Sekrety rozkryvaiut` chy nadali vyshtovkhuiut` zi svidomosti? Navkolo knyzhky Oksany Zabuzhko Muzei pokynutykh sekretiv</a>.</p><p>[9] Olesya Khromeychuk, ‘Undetermined’ Ukrainians. Post-war Narratives of the Waffen SS ‘Galicia’ Division. New York–Oxford, 2013, P. 167.</p><p>[10] See more in: Tara Zahra, Imagined Noncommunities: National Indifference as a Category of Analysis, Slavic Review, 69, 1 (Spring 2010): 93–119.</p><p>[11] Tadeusz A. Olszański, Miejsce UPA w Wielkiej Wojnie Ojczyźnianej. Dylematy polityki historycznej Ukrainy. Warszawa, 2013. P. 48.</p><p>[12] This pamphlet can be found in: Panas Fedenko, Isaac Mazepa – borets za voliu Ukrainy. London, 1954, pp. 195–215. See also Oleksandr Zaitsev, Ukrains`kyi intehral`nyi natsionalizm (1920–1930-ti roky). Narysy intelektual`noii istorii. Kyiv, 2013. Pp. 409–422.</p><p>[13] Yuri Sherekh (George Y. Shevelov), Dontsov khovaie Dontsova, in: Yuri Sherekh, Porohy i Zaporizhzhia. Literatura. Mystetsvo. Ideolohii. Kharkiv, 1998. Vol. 3. Pp. 52–87.</p><p>[14] Andriy Zayarnyuk, A Revolution`s History. A Historian`s War, Ab imperio, 1 (2015): 449–479.</p><p>[15] Alexander J. Motyl, Nationalist Political Violence in Inter-War Poland, 1921–1939, East European Quarterly 19, 1 (1985): 45–55.</p> <em> How can we rebuild the public sphere and space for reasoned debate? First, we need to understand how it's degraded — check out this article on the <a href=https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali>politics of Ukraine's "patriotic majority"</a>. </em><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/per-rudling-tarik-amar-jared-mcbride/ukraine-s-struggle-with-past-is-ours-too">Ukraine’s struggle with the past is ours too</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andriy-portnov/on-%E2%80%98decommunisation%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98identity%E2%80%99-and-legislating-history-in-ukraine">How to bid goodbye to Lenin in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">Critical thinking at (the) stake: Ukraine’s witch hunt against journalism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Andrii Portnov Ukraine Cultural politics Wed, 22 Jun 2016 04:01:39 +0000 Andrii Portnov 103159 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ukraine’s struggle with the past is ours too https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/per-rudling-tarik-amar-jared-mcbride/ukraine-s-struggle-with-past-is-ours-too <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What happens in Ukraine does not stay in Ukraine — uncritical glorification of Ukrainian nationalism is the west’s problem too.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-25139416-1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>January 2016: a rally in honour of wartime nationalist Bandera's birthday in Kyiv, Ukraine. (c) Sergei Chuzavkov / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Recently, Ukraine has got the west’s attention. Views diverge as to why. Is it the site of an inspiring Revolution of Dignity or a hotbed of post-Soviet corruption? The battleground of a new Cold War or a symbol of short-sighted European foreign policy? A beacon of western values at the “gates of Europe” or a dead end of reform ruled by perennial oligarchs? All, some, or one of the above?</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The one thing agreed on is that what happens in Ukraine does not stay in Ukraine. This is true about the past as well. With Europe in a deepening identity crisis, the continent’s violent history in the last century still haunts European politics.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>And there are few countries where the dark forces of Europe’s recent past have clashed as fiercely as in Ukraine: two world wars, Nazism and Stalinism, right-wing nationalism and communist authoritarianism, murderous famine, ethnic cleansing and genocide have all left their scars.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>When we think about Ukraine’s past, we inevitably think about Europe’s past. When Ukrainian governments interfere in their county’s memory, they cannot help but touch issues resonant far beyond it. This is the backdrop of a public debate following <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/02/the-historian-whitewashing-ukraines-past-volodymyr-viatrovych/">an article by Josh Cohen recently published in Foreign Policy</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>“Decommunisation” and nationalist hero worship</h2><p>The central issue at stake is the history of Ukrainian nationalism during World War Two and its prominent place in Ukrainian memory politics now.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Ukrainian authorities started <a href="http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/611-how-history-goes-wrong-historical-politics-and-its-outcomes">celebrating wartime nationalist leaders long before the current crisis</a>. But Ukraine’s post-revolutionary government has ramped up this policy with legislation that not only bans communist symbols, but, against international protests from the west, </span><a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/how-ukraines-new-memory-commissar-is-controlling-the-nations-past/">also outlaws "disrespect" for independence fighters</a><span>, explicitly including the far-right nationalists of World War Two. Now, </span><a href="http://korrespondent.net/city/kiev/3689388-v-kyeve-poiaviatsia-ulytsy-bandery-y-shukhevycha">streets in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv are about to be renamed after their leaders</a><span>.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">We now have a clear picture of an extremely right-wing and proudly authoritarian wartime nationalist movement that sought an ethnically purged Ukraine&nbsp;</p><p>This policy of state-sponsored glorification contradicts the known facts. After the end of Soviet Communism, research has made great progress. We now have a clear picture of an extremely right-wing and proudly authoritarian wartime nationalist movement that sought an ethnically purged Ukraine, all the while betting on Nazi victory.</p><p>Many nationalists gained experience serving Nazi Germany in various police auxiliary formations. Nationalist leaders, even when Germany rebuffed their offers of collaboration, deliberately minimised confrontation, seeing Poles and Soviets as their main targets.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>In 1941, nationalist activists took part in pogroms that claimed the lives of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Jews. In 1943 and 1944, nationalist fighters carried out a campaign of systematic ethnic cleansing, killing at least 70,000 Polish civilians. They also <a href="https://www.academia.edu/1071581/The_Ukrainian_Insurgent_Army_UPA_and_the_Holocaust">targeted surviving Jews</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Proclamations of a less radical course were issued late, when the war had clearly turned against Germany. They did not make a difference for the victims of continuing mass violence.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Some observers mistakenly infer that wartime nationalism cannot have committed real crimes</p><p>After the war, nationalists fought a guerrilla campaign against brutal Soviet oppression. Soviet propaganda vilified them; Russian media now echo this propaganda. From this some observers mistakenly infer that wartime nationalism cannot have committed real crimes. But it did, and on a large scale.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Remembering, omitting, embellishing</h2><p>At the centre of this debate and Ukrainian policies to make heroes where Ukraine needs inquiry and reflection is the director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, Volodymyr Viatrovych. </p><p><span>In the past, Viatrovych ran the Center for the Study of the Ukrainian Liberation Movement, </span><a href="http://carlbeckpapers.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/cbp/article/view/164">an institute geared toward celebrating nationalism more than studying it</a><span>. He has also served as head of the former Ukrainian KGB archives, probably the single most sensitive document collection in the country. During this period, these archives released a highly selective list of perpetrators of the man-made Soviet famine of the early 1930s. The method of this list’s composition was unfathomable. But it was clear that </span><a href="https://www.academia.edu/499209/The_Holodomor_in_the_Ukrainian-Jewish_Encounter_Initiative">many names on it "happened" to be recognisably Jewish</a><span>.</span></p><p><span>After his recent appointment as director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory in Kyiv, Viatrovych has pursued the same agenda, but from a more powerful position, allowing him to help criminalise "disrespect" for World War Two nationalists and ethnic cleansers. He has also secured the legal basis for permanent control over the former KGB archives.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Like Hungary or Poland under its new nationalist government, Ukraine is of special importance</span></p><p><span>Viatrovych has produced publications </span><a href="https://www.academia.edu/1603987/_Warfare_or_War_Criminality_Volodymyr_Viatrovych_Druha_polsko-ukrainska_viina_1942-1947_Kyiv_Vydavnychyi_Dim_Kyevo-Mohylianska_Akademiia_2011_Ab_Imperio_1_2012_356-381">denying the anti-Semitism of right-wing Ukrainian nationalist organisations</a><span> and downplaying the deliberate ethnic cleansing of Poles as warfare with regrettable collateral casualties, triggered moreover by the other side — in effect, the victims. He denies nationalist cooperation with Nazi Germany and has circulated documents </span><a href="https://www.academia.edu/499204/Iak_OUN_stavylasia_do_ievreiv_Rozdumy_nad_knyzhkoiu_Volodymyra_V_iatrovycha">other historians recognise as forgeries</a><span>, including a fictitious report of a Jewish woman supposedly saved by nationalists and a postwar fabrication purporting to show that nationalists refused to work with Germans. Many experts have been </span><a href="http://abimperio.net/net/node/2571">extremely skeptical about the academic merits of his publications</a><span>. But the media, in Ukraine and the west, have been slow to notice the political bias of his activities.</span></p><p><span>Challenged by Josh Cohen’s Foreign Policy article, Viatrovych has responded by doubling down. He denies the authenticity of a specific nationalist order to kill Polish civilians. He also denies that nationalists targeted Jews. Cohen's criticism triggered another deeply disturbing response: In an eerie echo of the stereotypes of World War Two nationalism, Askold Lozynskyj, the former president of the Ukrainian World Congress has </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnYSe1CUQPU">stated that "Jews were the bulk” of the Soviet secret services which implemented the Holodomor</a><span>, the murderous Soviet famine of the early 1930s.</span></p><p>Ukraine’s current memory policies — soft on nationalist violence, strong on hero worship — contradict the democratic values its leaders profess and its people deserve.</p><p>Ukraine is not unique. For instance, Russia is mobilising history even more aggressively. But Ukraine seeks to be part of the west now. Thus, like Hungary or Poland under its new nationalist government, Ukraine is of special importance. Some observers rationalise pro-nationalist memory policies as necessary to liberate society from Soviet legacies and produce unity.</p><p>Yet the attempt to shape memory with a nationalist bias risks reproducing some of the stifling conformity and divisive manipulation of communist authoritarianism. Ukraine has historians and intellectuals offering an alternative to a nationalist agenda tied to the past. We should support them by challenging its new mythmakers.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><em>Join the debate on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/home?status=%22Ukraine%E2%80%99s%20struggle%20with%20the%20past%20is%20ours%20too.%22%20%40TarikCyrilAmar%20%40jaredgmcbridge%20http%3A//bit.ly/1UfVNlj%20">here</a>.&nbsp;</em><em><span>Interested in what's happening in Ukraine's public sphere? Check out this </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">new article on polarisation and patriotic majorities</a><span>.&nbsp;</span></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">Critical thinking at (the) stake: Ukraine’s witch hunt against journalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach-oles-petik/fear-and-loathing-in-ukraine-european-kind-of-protest">Fear and loathing in Ukraine: a very “European” protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/andriy-portnov/on-%E2%80%98decommunisation%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98identity%E2%80%99-and-legislating-history-in-ukraine">How to bid goodbye to Lenin in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ian-bateson/turning-our-backs-on-ukraine">Turning our backs on Ukraine</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tarik Amar Per Rudling Jared McBride Ukraine Cultural politics Wed, 15 Jun 2016 09:45:00 +0000 Per Rudling, Tarik Amar and Jared McBride 102982 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A columnist’s work is never done https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/columnist-s-work-is-never-done <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/Salon_de_Madame_Geoffrin.jpg" alt="Salon_de_Madame_Geoffrin.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>For decades, columnists helped form new communities through their journalism. But now, they're dying out.<em><strong>&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/stolbtsy-svobodnogo-razmyshleniya">Русский</a></strong></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>The genre in which I write for<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/anniversary-not-anniversary-ireland-russia"> openDemocracy</a> is tough to define for a Russian. My efforts are definitely not “articles”, and certainly not “socio-political articles”. They’re more like “essays” or “columns” in the classical, European definition.</span></p><p>Since I write in Russian, but for an international platform, I am tempted to talk at length about my genre and its place in western and Russian tradition — in other words, the history and meaning of the “columnist” profession.</p><h2>A trip down memory lane<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>The word “column” originates from the printing house. In the 18th century, people started to publish periodical press, as well as inventing a sustained scheme for laying out materials in a magazine or a newspaper.</p><p>The newspaper text was divided by columns (even before the 18th century), then it became obvious that a column made separate by spacing and/or font could be turned into a kind of special rubric.</p><p>In the printed press, a special rubric must appear regularly. It shouldn’t just come out on schedule, it should also have a specific author. This is how the connection between a regular space and a regular author was first created — and, eventually, the “column” genre was born. It doesn’t matter that the page is usually electronic today.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Salon_de_Madame_Geoffrin (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Une soirée chez Madame Geoffrin (1812), Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier. Public Domain: Musée national des châteaux de Malmaison / Wikipedia. S</span></span></span><span>Regular authors are an interesting phenomenon. In order for them to exist, certain conditions must be in place.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>A regular author must be known by the reader. This was only made possible when the “Republic of Letters” (<em>Respublica literaria</em>) — the metaphoric conglomerate of people who wrote and were published in several European languages — came about in the 18th century. This was a social and cultural category of people who, in one way or another, had a similar agenda. The agenda was “enlightenment” in nature and had the common good in mind — even if the writings of a specific author did not in any way concern themselves with it.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The idea of the common good was a kind of horizon the citizens of the Republic of Letters strove toward — even those citizens who were ready to send people to the gallows for using words such as “republic” or “the common good”.</p><p>At the same time, it is hard to see most of the religious writers of that period, even the best ones, as members of this Republic, if they were only interested in theology or canonical matters. Yet the author of vaudevilles and cheap pamphlets could easily score that metaphoric member card.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">The idea of the common good was a kind of horizon the citizens of the Republic of Letters strove toward</p><p>I mention the Republic of Letters not because I’m interested in history’s decorative flourishes. The thing is, it is this Republic that ultimately made various modern media genres possible, “columns” among them.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The main criteria for column content is some idea of the common good, whether it is buried amongst gossip or cooking recipes. Kim Kardashian’s naked selfies OR an argument about what makes a good avocado salad - these all only make sense within the context of society’s ethical, aesthetic or ideological concepts, i.e. in the context of the common good.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Being known to the audience and having a public agenda are two factors that ensure the columnist’s existence. The third is economic in nature. It depends on money.</p><p>It’s very hard to get rich in this world by doing honest work. One can survive – not make the sort of money that makes one stop thinking about money. This situation has only worsened after the 2008 financial crisis.</p><p>Earning money as a writer has always been hard, even in the 19th century, when a growing market was gobbling up everything even marginally fit for publication. If novels, short stories, poems and plays did not earn enough money, the writer to work for a newspaper or magazine. There, a writer could write about anything, from books to exhibitions, from politics to farming (look up Afanasy Fet’s excellent agrarian essays sometime). The writer was paid. Not a whole lot, but enough to live on.</p><p>Furthermore, back in the day, newspapers published serialised fiction. (This is how, chapter by chapter, The Three Musketeers was released.) I remember how 20 years ago, I forgave Novoe Vremya, a nationalistic old Russian newspaper (as published by Alexander Suvorin), when I stumbled onto a Chekhov story they published toward the end of the 19th century. Chekhov’s prose made <em>Novoe Vremya</em>’s xenophobic crap fade into the background.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>A genre is born<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Yes, they came to work for the newspapers — the fiction writers, the playwrights, and even the poets. There was also the category that found a balance between the genres, that of the essayist.</p><p>Since Michel de Montaigne created the essay genre in 1580, our kind of writers (I’m using “our” deliberately – this the group that I belong to) grew and grew in number. Although, when compared to “regular writers” or “poets”, it is apparent there aren’t that many of us at all.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Of course there were those who wrote essays alongside other works — Swift, Rousseau, Chesterton, Borges, Flann O’Brien, George Orwell, Roland Barthes, Andrei Sinyavsky or Andrei Bitov — but there were also the “pure” essayists.</p><p>The father of the modern essayist is Thomas De Quincey, author of the controversial <em>Confessions of an English Opium-Eater</em>. De Quincey was a tireless essayist on everything under the sun, from Mongolian history to the political economy. Even though he had a terrible habit for opium tinctures (it was a two-part addiction: both to the opium and the whiskey he diluted it with), De Quincy lived a long life, and made money exclusively from writing for various publications, particularly for the famous Edinburgh Review. His collected works are twelve volumes of finest quality.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Thomas_de_Quincey_by_Sir_John_Watson-Gordon_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="348" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Thomas De Quincey. John Watson Gordon. Public domain / Wikipedia.</span></span></span><span>De Quincy created the vantage point from which the columnist observes the world — the position of a clever, well-read person, who has something to say. He’s not, God forbid, an academic. A real columnist is not even a journalist in the modern sense of the word — although lots of journalists write columns.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>A journalist “informs” and (rarely, actually) “analyses”. A columnist “speaks” or “argues”, this is what makes his or her work attractive (or unattractive, as the case may be). A columnist speaks using his own name and doesn’t sully his work with the unbearable social, political, national or religious “we”. </p><p><span>The columnist instead can say that “we, the stamp collectors”. Or “we, the lovers of Argentinian Malbec”. Or, as I said, “we, the representatives of a particular literary profession”.</span></p><p>This is where the columnist differs from the political writer, who solicitously cares for the public good and is always calling you to do something. A political writer is an experienced prostitute, who’s selling objects for common use. An essayist is like a random person you have a conversation with at the library, café, or park bench. Not all real essayists are columnists, but all real columnists are essayists.</p><p>Ultimately, a “column” is a product of a new age in European culture, christened under the cold shower of Protestant individualism.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A ‘column’ is a product of a new age in European culture, christened under the cold shower of Protestant individualism&nbsp;</p><p>But let’s get back to money. Money is important. Money is what led writers to join the press, and the press, in turn, offered them a space known as the “column.” This was a mutually pleasurable union – a famous writer’s name was used to adorn a publication, lending it more popularity, a popular publication then lent the writer even more fame. The reader paid and read, the writer wrote and made money, the publication published and also made money.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>All of this, with some variations, continued in the last century and even in the beginning of this century. Even the decline of the printed press, the arrival of the radio and the television, didn’t change the situation much. Both radio and television even adopted the “column” genre, turning it into special, author-led rubrics.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>What destroyed the genre? The internet, of course.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>The death of argument<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>First of all – no. No, you’re not about to read the complaint of an old-fashioned hack who’s angry about the huge amount of bloggers that are running wild.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>I only want to categorise the moment we’re all living in. This is the moment in which tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people publicly speak their mind on many different things — and if there are no mechanisms for editorial, aesthetic, ethical and semantic filtering of these points of view, if the value of a point of view is only measured by the amount of readers and fans, then the “column” genre is dead.</p><p>The “column” genre depended on a specific publication having a special place for a special person, who regularly speaks/argues about various special topics. A “column” doesn’t just express a point of view, but an argument, based on logic and common sense. This argument will be back up by facts that, it is expected, are not known to the reader.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/facebook-260818_1920_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Oh dear, self-expression seems limited to "liking" things on Facebook nowadays. Image: PIxabay.</span></span></span><span>And, as I said above, the “column” genre can exist only if it keeps in mind “the common good”, even if it denies its existence (or tries to ignore it).</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Today, everything is changed. Any idiot can get facts from Wikipedia – and nobody’s cares that Wiki, although undoubtedly great, is a worldwide social initiative, not a real encyclopaedia.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Nobody’s interested in arguments, the globalised world is crazy for emotions, leaving rationality to scientists and accountants.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Modernity’s main motto is “express yourself!” Those who aren’t sure about the existence of the self, who aren’t used to express that which goes outside the boundaries of propriety, and who doubt they want to witness the self-expression of just anybody, they have nothing much to do in this modern age. What’s the point of writing? And it’s not as if anyone will read them — because sapienti sat, while nobody else cares. A decade or so ago, this wasn’t obvious to me. Now there is no clearer truth than this.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The creation and consumption of political writing is the main daily ritual of Russia’s educated public</p><p>There is also the national and culture side of things. I belong to the Russian language and Russian literature – where the essayist genre is, important exemptions aside, nonexistent. That’s just how it went down.</p><p>Yet for a century and a half now, Russian writing is awash in politics – the creation and consumption of political writing is the main daily ritual of Russia’s educated public.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Politics let’s you decide who’s “us” and who’s “them” to feel a sense of direction – and always march in metaphoric formation.</p><h2>When there’s no place for discussion</h2><p>We all know what makes the Russian tradition special.</p><p>First of all, people were not allowed to discuss socio-political issues for fifty years after the conversation first began. I’m talking about the epoch that began with the ridiculous sentencing of Alexander Radishchev for publishing <em>Journey from St. Petersburg</em> to Moscow under Catherine the Great and lasted until Pyotr Chaadayev was declared insane for publishing his first “Philosophical Letter” (and then the next 20 years or so, until the reform of censorship under Alexander II).<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Just because public discussion was banned doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. First of all there were the salons — censors weren’t let in there due to being lowborn, or else the censors themselves sat in salons discussing politics and what’s happening to society. A highborn censor changed his bureaucratic uniform for a good suit when he walked into a salon.</p><p>This state of things displeased those who weren’t let into salons – and those who didn’t believe that the elite would get to action after it was done blabbing. </p><p><span>The displeased were the majority. They started their own clubs, where they argued until they went hoarse. They took their fiction on love and everyday life and weighed it down with certain themes and hints.</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>This weighed down Russian writing in general – it stripped away the luxurious language of Pushkin and Lermontov. Yet it also gave Russian writing depth and, in due time, brought it international acclaim.</span></p><p>The mainstream of Russian literature was triumphant in its social biases. But marginal genres, such as essays, were unlucky.<span>&nbsp;</span><span>When Alexander II allowed political writing, the levy broke — it broke so much so that any personal observation which was not socio-political in nature was ignored, or even sneered at.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>History repeated itself in the Soviet Union — only with more tragic consequences for victims of censorship.&nbsp;<span>Now we’re witnessing the third — more technologically advanced, yet also comical — act in this drama. I hope it is the last.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Of course, the special nature of the Russian, then Soviet, then modern Russian press, its underdevelopment and lack of a language for public discussion, is also a factor here. There is a lack of genuine politics, lack of real political parties. Then there is Russian culture’s lack of trust in individual expression, which is caused by everything I described above. This doesn’t mean we’re doomed or cursed. Any situation can change — provided there’s the desire and will to change it.</p><p>I’m unlucky. I never wanted to engage in political writing. I’m lucky a lonely lover of cycling in a country where everyone rides cars — I had to invent my own bike.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>There are other such inventors in my culture. We run into each other on life’s side streets, far away from noisy squares dominated by furiously passionate speakers. We exchange knowing glances and ride along to take care of other matters atop our bizarre, lopsided, homemade bicyclettes.<span>&nbsp;</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/anniversary-not-anniversary-ireland-russia">When is an anniversary not an anniversary?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-yablokov/why-are-russia-s-journalists-so-prone-to-conspiracy-theory">Why are Russia’s journalists so prone to conspiracy theory?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/russia-thank-you-for-not-smoking">Russia: Thank you for not smoking</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/grigory-tumanov/smooth-censorship-in-russia">Smooth censorship in Russia </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/Michael-Laurence-valery-pavlukevich/samizdat-in-samara">Samizdat in Samara</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Kirill Kobrin Russia Beyond propaganda Cultural politics Thu, 12 May 2016 07:56:58 +0000 Kirill Kobrin 101953 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Victory Day in Tbilisi https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/victory-day-in-tbilisi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/IMG_7958_1_0.jpg" alt="IMG_7958_1_0.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p><span>For Georgians, this Soviet commemoration doesn’t just bring up the past&nbsp;</span>— it brings up the present too.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Vake Park in the suburbs of Tbilisi is a lush sea of green. Yesterday, hundreds assembled here as Georgia’s capital celebrated Victory Day. After all, 9 May is the most cherished of all commemorations in the (post)-Soviet calendar. Vake may not be in the heart of the city, but the occasion has always been marked here, in the lengthening shadow of the Glory Monument, <a href="http://balkanist.net/national-mothers-of-socialism/">one of many mourning, late-Soviet mothers</a>.</span></p><p>The Wehrmacht never made it this far. Yet Georgia lost up to 300,000 of its citizens during the Great Patriotic War, as it’s known in most post-Soviet states. The loss amounted to over eight percent of its 1940 population, and the country’s surviving veterans are few. Only 1,245 still live in Georgia, some 600 of them in Tbilisi. A handful of veterans made it to Vake Park this year, though memories of later conflicts will take their place. Following the wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia has veterans in ample supply.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Victory Day commemorates a great victory over fascism, at the unimaginable cost of tens of millions of Soviet lives. The event is also <a href="https://lenta.ru/articles/2016/05/07/9may/">a sacralisation of state power,</a> even if that state dissolved 25 years ago. Victory Day may be a time for mourning, but there’s a sense not only of triumph, but of triumphalism. As I found out, it’s a distinction with depth.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Ribbons and wreaths</h2><p>As ten o’clock approaches, the crowd funnels towards the central promenade in Vake park. Politicians of all shades, and wreaths of all sizes, are soon expected. Valentin Omelchenko, an 80-year old Soviet air force veteran, smiles gently at passers-by.</p><p>Valentin’s found himself in a conversation not entirely of his choosing. He wears the St. George’s ribbon (<em>georgievskaya lenta</em>), the black-and-orange Russian military ribbon commonly worn on 9 May.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Wehrmacht never made it this far. Yet Georgia lost up to 300,000 of its citizens during the Great Patriotic War</p><p>The lapel of his companion, a representative of the Ukrainian community in Georgia, bears the <em>tryzub</em>, the Ukrainian national symbol. For many Russian nationalists, the St. George’s ribbon has come to mean victory over more or less anybody. For the separatists in Ukraine’s southeast — who wear it with pride — that means the government in Kyiv.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_7944.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The "argument" over veteran Valentin Omelchenko's St. George's ribbon.</span></span></span><span>“You know who else wore these into battle?” </span><em>Tryzub</em><span> hisses, tugging at Valentin’s ribbon. “The <a href="http://seansrussiablog.org/2007/02/07/andrei-vlasovs-legacy/" target="_blank">Vlasovites</a> (Russian collaborationists), in 1943, fighting alongside the SS.”</span></p><p>Tryzub tells the veteran to study his history, to which Valentin doesn’t take kindly. The two men shuffle off in opposite directions at similar speeds — all wounded pride, age and outrage.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Victory Day has become the quintessential ritual of a Soviet culture and society in which Russia — or rather, the Russian-speaking world — was presented as its epicentre&nbsp;</p><p>Georgia’s prime minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, soon arrives. The itinerant sellers of ice-cream and St. George’s ribbons make way, and the cameras advance. A few handshakes later, Kvirikashvili’s sauntered up the stairs, past the honour guard, and reached the eternal flame, bursting from a carved metal Soviet star set into the paving. The prime minister lays a wreath as <em>Tavisupleba</em>, the Georgian anthem, plays from a bandstand. (The music today has been inoffensively instrumental, none of the Soviet-era crooners whose tunes so often accompany 9 May.)<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>As Kvirikashvili leaves, his retinue follows. Manana Kobakhidze, deputy speaker of the Georgian parliament, passes by. I notice Mikhail Aydinov, director of the union of Russian-speaking journalists, holding forth as two of his teenage students and a sage-looking veteran listen in, equally enraptured. </p><p><span>Nobody from Mikheil Saakashvili’s former party UNM has shown up, says Aydinov.</span></p><p>“And what else would you expect?” he asks.</p><p>Everybody nods knowingly. It was that kind of question.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Displaced sentiments</h2><p>When the wreaths have been laid, veterans take turns — holding the arms of sons and daughters — to light candles and lay roses at the monument behind the eternal flame. Somebody’s placed a grainy photo of the Generalissimo there, too. Photographs of Stalin seem innocuous here — a few carried by pensioners, aware they provoke, and eager to be photographed. Attendees and journalists mill around, underwhelmed.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Flag-bearers wearing chokha, the traditional Georgian male costume, watch the scene from concrete plinths. At the base of one of them sits 52-year old Lia Khilava. A refugee from Abkhazia, Lia adores the ceremony, but it’s bittersweet. “I was born in September,” Lia begins, “but I may as well have been born on 9 May for all the war I’ve seen.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">As the figure of Stalin remains strongly connected to the Soviet victory over fascism, de-Sovietising the memory of the Second World War is doubly delicate&nbsp;</p><p>Lia knows that she’ll never return to Sukhumi, the de-facto capital and largest city of Abkhazia which she once called home. Her children don’t care about Victory Day: the true defeat is that her grandchildren don’t know what or where Abkhazia is.</p><p>After the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia lost one-fifth of its territory, and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mari-nikuradze/georgia-exiles-election">nearly 300,000 internally displaced people live in the country today</a>. Russia recognised both regions’ independence in 2008 and has supported them economically and politically ever since.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_7957_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="346" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Naval veteran Levan Savuladze, Vake Park.</span></span></span>There are veterans here from the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The refugees are here too; the distinction seems tougher than we suppose.</span></p><p><span>Lia is unequivocal. She holds no grudges against Russians, though adds that Abkhazia is “Putin’s fault”. Above all, she misses the diversity of pre-war Sukhumi, a city where you could hear the<em> balalaika</em>, <em>bouzouki</em> and <em>chonguri</em>.</span></p><p>Her family was a similar example: Lia’s mother was Georgian, her father - Greek. It’s a fact I remember when she shares her views on Stalin, under whom tens of thousands of Greeks were deported from Abkhazia in 1949-50. “I know,” replies Lia. “Many of my father’s family ended up in Kazakhstan.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Other leading Georgian Soviet figures were fair game for Saakashvili, but one was beyond the pale. Stalin still commands some respect in Georgia</p><p>Nevertheless, Lia feels that Stalin’s role in the triumph over fascism eclipses these dark times. “We shouldn’t pretend that he didn’t exist,” she stresses.</p><p>“After all, he was a historic figure.”</p><h2>Misha and memory</h2><p>For former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, who governed Georgia from 2004 to 2012, the watchword was “de-Sovietisation”. Inspired by similar initiatives in the Baltic states and eastern Europe, the leader of the staunchly pro-western United National Movement (UNM) government enthusiastically supported highly critical approaches to the state’s long Soviet past. Georgia was to become a “Normal European Country”. Soviet rule was a dark age to be expunged from the national story.</p><p>Visitors to Tbilisi’s Soviet Occupation Museum, founded in 2006, soon get the point. After a monument to the murdered Georgian aristocracy, two maps hang on either side of the doorway to the permanent exhibition. The right shows the Bolshevik invasion of the short-lived Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1921; the left shows the Russo-Georgian war of 2008. The message is clear — Russia (in all its guises) has proven the major obstacle to Georgia’s natural onward march toward Europe. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_7954_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="351" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Attitudes to Stalin in Georgia remain varied, though positive. </span></span></span><span>In 2011, Saakashvili’s government passed laws banning Soviet symbolism, and even dynamited an immense Soviet war memorial in Kutaisi in 2009 (the falling debris killed two residents). Yet while two other leading Georgian Soviet figures, Sergo Ordzhonikidze and Lavrenti Beria, were fair game for Saakashvili, one was beyond the pale. Josef Stalin still commands some respect in Georgia.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Statues to the latter still grace numerous Georgian villages, while a <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/03/01/stalin-puzzle-deciphering-post-soviet-public-opinion">poll in 2013 found that 45% of Georgians had positive attitudes to this “great son of the nation”</a>, and 68% believed him to be a “wise leader”. In 1956, blood was <a href="http://georgica.tsu.edu.ge/?p=1711">even spilt for him on the streets of Tbilisi</a>, when the Red Army opened fire on Georgian demonstrators protesting Khrushchev’s policy of de-Stalinisation.</p><p><span>As the figure of Stalin remains strongly connected to the Soviet victory over fascism, de-Sovietising the memory of the Second World War is doubly delicate. The UNM took some efforts: in 2009, <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=tz37CwAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT341&amp;lpg=PT341&amp;dq=isaacs+nation+building&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=EzjKwQe3Sw&amp;sig=WM_qFigdkFxzhHnTrdPezkCbHdA&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj2ir-0jc_MAhWsK8AKHfXBBXoQ6AEINDAE#v=onepage&amp;q=vashadze&amp;f=false">foreign affairs minister Grigol Vashadze proposed celebrating Victory Day on 8 May</a>, so as to avoid sharing the occasion with Moscow. The following year, Georgia’s parliament instituted a new national holiday, on 25 February, to commemorate the Red Army invasion of Georgia in 1921.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">A handful of veterans made it to Vake Park this year, though memories of later conflicts will take their place</p><p>When Saakashvili left office in 2013, rumours circulated that the incoming Georgian Dream coalition would close the Occupation Museum. They proved unfounded, although the attitude of the incumbent government, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/bakar-berekashvili/georgia-s-grotesque-democracy">which faces elections this October</a>, could better be described as “preserving momentum”, however grudgingly. While the ruling Georgian Dream coalition may not have opened a museum to Soviet Occupation, it has little interest in settling scores over the issue.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>In any case, de-Sovietisation still has its devotees. Academic initiatives such as the <a href="http://sovlab.ge/en">SovLab project</a> have continued. Yesterday, civil society <a href="http://netgazeti.ge/news/113215/">activists even held a public lecture in Gori</a>, birthplace of Stalin, calling for opposition to totalitarian regimes and presenting a new book by professor Bondo Kupatadze, <em>13 myths of Stalinism</em>. Their slogan was simply: “Gori is not red”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_7958_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="382" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Commemorating the Soviet dead, Vake Park. </span></span></span><span>Another figure from Georgia’s past was resurrected in these memory disputes. Meliton Kantaria was one of the first soldiers to raise the Soviet flag over the Reichstag in May 1945. Life took him to Abkhazia, from which, like most ethnic Georgians, Kantaria was expelled in the vicious separatist conflict of 1993.</span></p><p><span>Upon visiting Kantaria’s birthplace of Jvari in 2011, Saakashvili noted that his fate was a “perfect example” of Soviet spite — a decorated Soviet hero, expelled by Russian soldiers armed with Soviet rifles. The president’s retelling was liberal to say the least — while Kantaria had been forced out of his home by Abkhaz militias (with significant Russian support), he had actually found refuge in Russia. Kantaria died in Moscow in December 1993.</span></p><p>The one thing we do know is probably the most important: <a href="http://www.mk.ru/politics/russia/article/2009/05/06/269586-znamya-pobedyi-ne-spaslo-ot-bed.html">Kantaria died penniless</a>.</p><h2>Whose victory day?</h2><p>Kantaria’s name was mentioned several times in Vake Park. To the veterans here, his actions at the Reichstag prove that their ceremony still has a place in post-Soviet Georgia.</p><p>The Red Army was, indeed, a multi-ethnic force: Yezidi Kurds from the Caucasus <a href="http://ezidipress.com/ru/?p=901">were among its ranks</a>. In 1944, general Basan Gorodovikov fought on in East Prussia as his fellow Kalmyks were deported en masse by the Soviet regime to Siberia, on charges of collaboration. But appeals to the shared victory of the Soviet peoples can sit uncomfortably with the language of “little brotherhood”. It reflects a “Soviet internationalism” which, in the eyes of many non-Russians, came to mean Russification and Russocentrism.&nbsp;<span>At a famous — or infamous — speech to Red Army commanders after the victory in May 1945, Josef Stalin </span><a href="https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1945/05/24.htm">proposed a toast to the “most outstanding” Russian nation “before all other peoples”</a><span>.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/IMG_7955.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/IMG_7955.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An honour guard wearing chokha, the traditional Georgian male costume.</span></span></span></span>Victory Day has become the quintessential ritual of a Soviet culture and society in which Russia — or rather, the Russian-speaking world — was presented as its epicentre. Accordingly, the Russian state’s enthusiastic embrace of victory day complicates Georgian nationalist approaches to its remembrance.</p><p>In Abkhazia and South Ossetia, local ethnic groups saw Moscow as a guarantor of their rights against the claims of Georgian elites in Tbilisi. Victory day parades are held in both of the breakaway states’ capitals, where their soldiers bear St. George’s ribbons on their lapels.</p><p>Much like Lia, the veterans of Vake Park had complex attitudes to what had happened in 1993, and then in 2008. Everybody knew whose was the defeat, but the victory — even the culpability — was more mysterious. The loss of the two territories remains a deep scar for Georgia, and it was one inflicted with more than a little help from Russia. As it follows, there’s trauma behind the triumphalism.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">The loss of the two territories remains a deep scar for Georgia, one inflicted with more than a little help from Russia</span></span></p><p><span>Some had seemed defensive. “If you’re looking for Russian influence here,” declared Mikhail Aydinov, “you won’t find it. You’ll find ordinary people like us, who miss a country with free housing and free medical care, many of whom have lived in poverty for 25 years.”</span></p><p>Another veteran, Levan Saluvadze, served with the Soviet navy during the Cold War. He’s come to pay respects to his father, killed in Kerch in 1944.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Saluvadze condenses all the evils of the Soviet collapse into the loss of Abkhazia. When the Berlin Wall came down, he says, Georgia’s second president Eduard Shevardnadze just picked it up and unrolled it between Abkhazia and Georgia.</p><p>For Levan, Ioseliani and Kitovani, the two leading Georgian militia commanders during the civil war, were “mere bandits”. So, for that matter, were their Abkhaz opponents. It was, he continued, an “artificial war”, “not a real war”. These are uncannily common words in the South Caucasus, where the casualties of these phantom conflicts are all too real.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_7971_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The "eternal battalion" march arrives at Vake Park.</span></span></span><span>As I leave Vake Park, the </span><em>bessmertny polk</em><span>, or "eternal battalion"</span><span> arrives — a column of people bearing photos of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers killed on the front. Their banners read </span><em>chemi samshoblo</em><span>, “my country”.</span></p><p>Further on, I see a familiar face on a bench. David Amiranovich Giorgadze wears camouflage uniform and holds a crutch. Around his neck hangs a sign in English and Georgian, reading “I was in Abkhazia war. If you can help me please. God bless you”.</p><p>The 55-year old, one-eyed man can often be seen begging on Rustaveli street in central Tbilisi. David says that he receives a 330 lari (£103) allowance from the government per month, though the Georgian government sometimes provides one-off payments to veterans for on 9 May, as well as discounts on utility bills.</p><p>In conversation, David talks of the <em>blyadskaya voina</em>, the “bitch of a war”. I assume he’s referring to Abkhazia, but at times he mentions the Second World War. A fellow veteran salutes David playfully as he walks past.</p><p>Any visitor to the Dry Bridge, Tbilisi’s flea market on the River Kura, can find the medals of Soviet veterans, from a whole spectrum of conflicts and fronts. They can sell for a few tens of lari — usually, they’re sold off when the soldier who earns them dies in old age. It’s not unknown for those same soldiers to pawn their medals from month to month, to pay the bills.</p><p>I noticed that David wasn’t wearing a St. George’s Ribbon, and asked why. Grudgingly, he produced one from his pocket and sighed “I’ve got one, but I’ve nothing to pin it on with.”</p><p>“<em>Blyadskaya voina</em>,” David says.<br /><br /><em>All photos courtesy of the author.</em>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mari-nikuradze/georgia-exiles-election">Georgia: the exiles’ election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-antonova/9-may-in-kyiv">Victory Day in Kyiv</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalya-yakovleva/victory-day-in-russia-dreaming-of-better-future">Victory Day: the story of a long life</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dmitry-okrest/stalins-back">Stalin&#039;s back</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maxim Edwards History Georgia Cultural politics Tue, 10 May 2016 12:36:50 +0000 Maxim Edwards 101974 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russia's porn stars aren't just hot, they're also ostracised and exploited https://www.opendemocracy.net/natalia-antonova/russian-porn-stars-arent-just-hot-theyre-also-ostracised-and-exploited <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/antonova%20bw%20me.JPG" alt="" hspace="5" width="80" align="left" /></p><p><span>Russia’s porn stars may have a reputation on the net, but they enjoy little in terms of rights and respect offline.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>If opponents and fans of pornography can agree on one thing, it would probably be this: lots of people like to watch porn. Russia, where reactionary conservatives appear on every TV channel, is no exception.</p><p>Pornhub, the biggest pornography site on the internet, provides helpful statistics to let you figure out just how big the porn phenomenon is. According to Pornhub’s insights team, <a href="http://www.inquisitr.com/2698721/pornhubs-2015-stats-are-an-eye-opener-for-adult-content-streamed-worldwide/">people spent 4.3 billion hours on the site last year alone</a>. And because Pornhub is kind enough to keep track of country statistics too, we found in 2014 (the same year Crimea was annexed and sentiment against “the decadent west” reached a fever pitch) that <a href="https://nataliaantonova.com/2014/08/04/oh-my-god-becky-look-at-pornhubs-statistics-on-russia-and-anal-sex-videos/">Russians were searching Pornhub for “anal” more than anyone in the world</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>2015 was no less interesting for Russia and porn – that was the year we found that&nbsp;<a href="https://nataliaantonova.com/2016/01/09/pornhubs-2015-insights-on-russia-my-little-pony-smut-on-the-rise-porn-nationalism-is-not-a-thing-milfs-are-popular-for-a-reason/"><span>“</span><span>My Little Pony</span><span>”</span><span>&nbsp;was the porn search term that had the biggest increase in popularity in Russia</span></a><span>, with anal taking a backseat but still retaining a position in the top ten searches and remaining the most popular category.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>It’s tempting to use Russian porn habits as another punchline about a country whose government is frequently an expert at self-caricature. But the way Russian porn stars are treated is no cause for laughter.</p><h2>In demand</h2><p><span>Consider this: the most popular search term for Russians last year was actually “Russian”. There is nothing weird or nationalistic about this. In France, they search for “French”. In the Netherlands, they search for “Dutch”. Most people prefer to watch the kind of sex that is, on one level or another, relatable to their immediate experience.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Porn starring Russians is in demand in Russia. But as people involved in the industry have told journalists, <a href="https://daily.afisha.ru/archive/vozduh/cinema/kak-ustroena-rossiyskaya-pornoindustriya/">any Russian who wants to have a career in the industry must go abroad</a>. Bizarrely, or, perhaps, not so bizarrely, Russian porn actors are now a resource for export. They’re treated by western companies as just another type of cheap labour.</p><p><span>As people with experience in the industry also point out, <a href="https://daily.afisha.ru/infoporn/288-kak-v-rossii-snimayt-pornofilmy/">Russia’s extremely vague legislation bans the illegal distribution (and production) of pornography</a>, but doesn’t really define how pornography could be distributed legally. As Bob Jack, an ex-adult film director, told the entertainment weekly <em>Afisha</em>: “In Russia the rules of the game on the market are still not established. ‘Illegal distribution’ remains banned, but nobody knows what&nbsp;</span><span>‘</span><span>legal distribution’ is supposed to be.” Omnipresent piracy and lack of any kind of visible porn industry community actually interested in defending its rights further contribute to exploitation.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">A greater conversation on Russian porn actors’ rights needs to happen eventually — whether it kills the vibe or not&nbsp;</p><p>One can argue that few workers in general are empowered in Russia, but porn actors are particularly disempowered because they are so uniformly looked down upon. Porn is OK to consume (well, sort of, <a href="http://gizmodo.com/russia-just-banned-pornhub-1729319986">considering Russia’s obsessive banning of porn sites</a>) but the people who make it are not OK to defend. What politician will take up their cause? He or she will simply risk ridicule in a political atmosphere that already smacks distinctly of Iran, minus the drinking ban.</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/composite_14618450218943_1_1_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In its own bizarre, disheartening way, porn in Russia represents an intersection of societal ills. Illustration: oDR.</span></span></span>What about the fact that facial recognition technology in Russia is now being used to out and harass Russia’s female porn actors? It’s an interesting conundrum – porn is, once again, seen by the harassers as something that’s OK to consume. But the people who make it must be punished with the same zeal as ruined girls in Victorian novels. Once again, they are not seen as human, but as a resource – cheaper than oil, but more fun.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Vague legislation also means that porn fans themselves have become easy prey for law enforcement in Russia. According to Mediazona, in 2014, <a href="https://zona.media/article/2016/03/01/codex-242">148 people were convicted in Russia for illegal distribution of porn</a>. Most of these people had simply shared an adult video via a social media account. Mediazona, which specialises in covering how the law functions in Russia, believes that these convictions are used to bolster police statistics with little regard for the fact that the distribution law itself makes criminals out of ordinary people.</p><p>In its own bizarre, disheartening way, porn in Russia represents an intersection of societal ills: a predatory criminal justice system, lack of adequate protection for businesses, lack of sexual education (because of that, Russians regularly turn to porn for advice – which is not always a great idea), repression in the guise of moral panic, class-based contempt for people who are seen as performing “dirty jobs,” and, of course, misogyny.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Vague legislation also means that porn fans themselves have become easy prey for law enforcement in Russia</p><p>Snob columnist Arina Kholina, who regularly writes about sex and attitudes toward women and is no fan of porn, has recently pointed out that <a href="https://snob.ru/profile/9723/blog/107434">Russian attitudes about so-called “fallen women” are particularly cruel</a>, and make porn actors, women especially, vulnerable.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>“For generations, we pass down this very strange and cruel rule – a whore is inhuman,” Kholina writes. “Whether you screw for money, or are pregnant by God knows who, it doesn’t matter. Get out of here. Go kill yourself.”</p><p>Kholina blames this attitude for society’s blithe attitude toward abuses many actors experience on set. As Russian journalist Yegor Mostovshchikov recently discussed with porn producer Pierre Woodman (as he prepared to shoot a scene with a Russian actor, no less), <a href="https://snob.ru/selected/entry/107300">today it’s not uncommon for actresses to be sent to the hospital after shooting extreme scenes</a>. But sympathy is not forthcoming. As Kholina notes, the women are seen as having signed up for <em>everything</em> and <em>anything</em>.</p><p>A recent scandal in the U.S. saw popular porn actor <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2015/11/30/james-deen-porns-feminist-sweetheart-accused-of-sexual-assault/">James Deen accused of multiple sexual assaults</a>. While obviously awful, the mere fact that people are talking about these accusations in respected publications shows a distinct shift in society.&nbsp;<span>Even critics of porn can probably agree that the people making it should be protected under the law.</span></p><h2><span>A noble cause</span></h2><p>I can’t imagine a similar scandal erupting in Russia, and not just because there are no porn stars of Deen’s magnitude in the country. The porn community is far too ostracised for that to happen. Whatever happens when the camera is off is of little interest to greater society.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>It would be a mistake to say that Russians as a whole are completely disempowered. You regularly see them fight bureaucracy and repressive legislation — and win. Decent palliative care, for example, is being established now in Russia due to a years-long fight with both the complacent medical establishment and societal aversion to talking about death. Better, more coherent legislation on drinking and driving was adopted due to social pressure. Tighter regulation of mobile operators came about due to widespread outrage at dishonest pricing tactics.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Consider the fact that those “hot Russian women” you’re fascinated by online may have a price to pay for, well, being so hot and naked and out there&nbsp;</p><p>But porn, though widely consumed, is not a “noble” enough cause. And few people approach the porn phenomenon systemically. A feminist outlook on porn — whether critical or positive — barely registers on the societal radar, in spite of feminism slowly but surely growing more visible in Russia. At most, porn is used by the fire-and-brimstone crowd as yet more “evidence” that western influence has been bad for Russia. Domestic consumption of porn, naturally, doesn’t figure into these discussions. Or if it does, the conservatives frame it as an issue of, “Our poor, innocent people, seduced and destroyed by the evil charms of the west – they would never dream of watching a gangbang unless the CIA had brainwashed them first!”<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>In this context, female Russian actresses aren’t merely reduced to “whores”. They are also seen as hurting “national prestige”. It’s an issue of “our women” being “whored out for all the world to see,” which is made further complicated by Russia’s aggressive reassertion of a kind of political masculinity that Russian politicians frequently juxtapose with the so-called “effeminate” or “gay-dominated” west. The women themselves aren’t given a voice here — whether for or against.</p><p>Depictions of sex and sexuality are common to almost all cultures. They date back centuries, even millennia. When cavemen learned to draw, they started drawing genitalia. Germans have dug up a depiction that appears to feature doggy style that dates back to 7,200 years ago. Much has changed since then, but one thing remains the same: we are fascinated by the sexual act, and this fascination has both positive and negative connotations.</p><p><span>The consumption of porn is a contentious issue, and there are strong arguments both for and against. Whatever your stance is, though, if you care about basic rights and principles of fairness, you can probably agree that those making the product deserve to be treated as human beings.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Against a backdrop of a domestic moral panic and foundering diplomatic relations, Russian women in particular continue to be sexualised in the west. And demand for Russian porn is not going to go away any time soon – not at home, and certainly not abroad either.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>If anything, greater conservatism at home and more negative views of Russia abroad make female Russian porn actors the perfect forbidden fruit.</p><p>In light of that, consider the fact that those <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/bikinis-and-babas-gender-subtext-of-clich%C3%A9s-about-ukraine">“hot Russian women” you’re fascinated by online</a> may have a price to pay for, well, being so hot and naked out there. A greater conversation on porn actors’ rights needs to happen eventually — whether it kills the vibe or not.</p><p><span><em>Ukraine’s military conflict and economic crisis are affecting the country’s sex workers. Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valeria-costa-kostritsky/ukraine-sex-work-in-times-of-war">how these women’s lives and concerns are changing</a>, in their own words.&nbsp;</em></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-antonova/kremlinphobia-russophobia-and-other-states-of-paranoia">Kremlinphobia, russophobia and other states of paranoia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natalia-antonova/can-russia-confront-horrors-of-its-domestic-violence-epidemic-0">Can Russia confront the horrors of its domestic violence epidemic? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/harriet-williamson/can-porn-be-feminist-conversation-wth-erica-lust">Can porn be feminist? A conversation with Erika Lust</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/dan-mahle/how-i-stopped-watching-porn-for-one-year-and-why-im-not-going-back">How I stopped watching porn for one year and why I&#039;m not going back</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Natalia Antonova Queer Russia Beyond propaganda Cultural politics Thu, 28 Apr 2016 11:28:11 +0000 Natalia Antonova 101706 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When is an anniversary not an anniversary? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/anniversary-not-anniversary-ireland-russia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PA-25972464.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Russia is gearing up for the centennial of its October Revolution, and Ireland has just commemorated the centenary of its Easter Rising. Would their leaders recognise their countries today? <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/dva-netochnykh-yubileya" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 and the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 are alike in only two respects. Their similarities are linked to historical memory and the effect of these events on the countries’ experiences in the 20th century. </p><h2>Easter – a national festival</h2><p>Of course, the first similarity relates to the timing of the two revolutions and when they began to be commemorated. The Easter Rising, as the name suggests, took place at Easter 1916 and lasted for five days, from 24 to 29 April. This (tragically failed) armed attempt to bring an end to British rule in Ireland became a milestone in the historical consciousness of the Irish people throughout the 20th century and a key element in their nation building ever since. </p><p>The Easter Rising in some sense still defines the national and even cultural identity of the Irish today, which is why its anniversaries, and especially jubilee years, are so widely commemorated. This year, its 100th anniversary, the festivities were spectacular by comparison with the usual modest celebrations. There was a military parade, processions, flags and banners, crowds, political speeches, features in the papers (the famous <em>Irish Times</em> wrote about nothing else for a whole week), not to mention TV, radio and online publications and arguments on social media, all squeezed into the few days between Good Friday on 23 March and the end of Easter Week on 2 April. At first glance everything seemed right – it is, after all, the Easter Rising.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Easter Rising in some sense still defines the national and even cultural identity of the Irish today</p><p>There’s something odd about it. The Republic of Ireland is a secular state, albeit with a strong Roman Catholic constituent. It follows a secular calendar, so what happened on 24-29 April should then surely be commemorated on these dates. But that is not the case. In 1948, when the Irish State acquired its present status, it was decided that the military parade to commemorate the Easter Rising should take place actually at Easter. </p><p>There are good reasons for this. This arrangement defined, and even to some extent re-established, the original symbolic meaning of the event. The rebels, as both their contemporaries and later commentators have noted, realised that they would probably fail in their goals. The uprising was more a question of sacrificing themselves (and others around them) in order to trigger a struggle for independence among the entire Irish population.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-25972464.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-25972464.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A protest in defence of preserving Dublin’s historic Moore Street, where Irish rebels surrendered to British forces. Photo (c): (c) Niall Carson / PA Wire / Press Association Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span><span>The rising itself was fairly localised and small scale – in Dublin it involved just over a thousand people – and the attitude to it of most Dubliners was cool, if not downright hostile. In the end it wasn</span><span>’t</span><span>&nbsp;the British that won – they suppressed the rebellion – but the revolutionaries. Persecution and executions played their part – the 14 rebel leaders who were shot immediately acquired the public status of martyrs; the surviving insurgents became heroes and the British authorities, executioners. All this despite the fact that official retribution was fairly limited, by the standards of the time: one could imagine what would have happened to the rebels in Germany or Russia, especially as this happened at the height of the First World War and the plotters received direct political and military support from the enemy.</span></p><p>There is of course a direct analogy with Christ’s martyrdom on the cross at the first Easter, which is why that date was chosen by the rebels for their uprising in the first place. So the anniversary of the Easter Rising, which is still always celebrated at Easter, whenever that falls in the secular calendar, is a confirmation of both the Christ-like status of its heroes and the justification of their ideological message. </p><h2>The Invention of Ireland </h2><p>The symbolic nature of the Irish Republic is also defined by the date of the celebrations. A new, independent Ireland was born after its death at the end of April 1916. It was in itself an incarnation of Christ’s Passion, a truly Christian country, because it imitated Christ in the act of its creation. This is a very important fact that would seem at odds with the secular nature of this state. But things are not as simple as they seem. </p><p>Let us not forget that the colonisation of the island of Ireland by the English (or more precisely the Anglo-Normans) began back in the second half of the 12th Century. The island may not have completely belonged to the English until the 17th century, but the local chieftains, while retaining their lands and property, still swore allegiance to the King. </p><p>In fact, “Ireland” as a unified independent state did not exist until the coming of the occupiers, so its nationhood, like that of India, was a product of the colonial period. This Irish identity required reinforcement, and Catholicism became the focus of this. Persecution of the Catholic Church by the English protestant establishment made it a synonym for “Irishness”. The concepts of “the true faith” and “the authentic Ireland” met in its bosom.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Ireland” as a unified independent state did not exist until the coming of the occupiers</p><p>The second element in Ireland’s new identity as a national state was the Irish language and the culture, particularly the literary tradition, that had this language at its centre. The Irish language had been more or less banned by the country’s British rulers and by the second half of the 19th century it was in grave danger of dying out.</p><p> The leaders of the “Celtic Revival” of the late 19th and early 20th century were mostly concerned with the revival of their ancient tongue. The language question was a matter of social, political and ideological importance from the start.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1913_Seachtain_na_Gaeilge_poster.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1913_Seachtain_na_Gaeilge_poster.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Proud, independent Eire, not subjugated ”western Britain”. A poster from the Gaelic League. Photo CC: Frances Georgiana Chenevix Trench (aka Sadhbh Trinseach) / Wikimedia Commons / National Museum of Ireland. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Patrick Pearse, the ideological leader of the Easter Rising and one of its 14 Republican martyrs, was a teacher, barrister, poet and writer, and an untiring promoter of the Irish language. But the guiding principle of fighting for his people – the same principle that inspired most nationalists in the late 19th and early 20 centuries - drove him to the barricades.</p><p>It was, however, only until 1918 that these people were seen (and are still seen) as heroes: after the First World War their (in fact completely unaltered) position became close to fascism. We only have to look at Radovan Karadžić, or today’s “protectors of the Russian language” in Ukraine.</p><p>So, to be Irish meant to be a Catholic and an Irish speaker; this is to some extent still true for many people in Ireland. Catholicism is therefore a means of national identification, rather as Orthodoxy is in Russia today. “Easter 1916” is not just an ordinary Christian festival; it’s a special “Irish Easter” where Christ’s Passion has become one with Republican passion. </p><p>This of course means that the church calendar has lost its general Christian character and become a National Calendar, so much more important than the usual universal, Western, secular one. The 1916 rebellion was the Easter Rising, not the April Rising, which makes it the Irish Rising and not just another event in the continuing process of the death of empires in the 20th century.</p><h2>All calendars are inaccurate</h2><p>One and a half years after Dublin’s Easter Rising, the October Revolution took place in Russia. Until fairly recently, the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution was commemorated in the USSR – with infinitely more pomp than similar events were in Ireland – on 7 November. The October Revolution was celebrated in November. </p><p>And here the two revolutions, the Irish and the Russian, come together as examples of a chronological mess and the fact that this mess was in both cases the product of obvious cold ideological calculation.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/800px-19191107-lenin_second_anniversary_october_revolution_moscow.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/800px-19191107-lenin_second_anniversary_october_revolution_moscow.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="331" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Celebrating the second anniversary of the October revolution. 7 November 1919, Moscow. Photo CC: L.Y. Leonidov / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The formal logic of the Soviet anniversary date is clear: it took place on 25 October according to the “old” (Julian) calendar, which became 7 November in the “new”, Gregorian calendar, [adopted by the new Soviet regime in February 1918]. It may seem funny that a calendar that had existed since the 16th century should have been given the name “new“, but it was new for Russia. One could put Russia’s previous attachment to its own church calendar down to piety, love of tradition and so on, but in fact it was all much more pragmatic.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The calendar, like the Orthodox Church itself, became an element of Russian nationhood</p><p>After Peter the Great’s reforms, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) became an arm of the state, so its calendar accordingly turned into an “Imperial Calendar” and lost any religious meaning. The calendar, like the ROC itself (headed by a “Chief Procurator”) became an element of Russian nationhood and, from the reign of Tsar Aleksandr III (1881-1894), who was keen to encourage Russian nationalism (which eventually led to the collapse of the Empire), this meant national-state identity. </p><p>The aspirations of the Irish republicans had therefore already been enshrined in Russian Imperial ideology. As Dostoevsky put it, “a Russian without orthodoxy is a piece of scum, not a human being.” The catch-all word used by Dostoevsky implied everything that was useless, bad, decrepit and worthless. In other words, a Russian who was not Orthodox was a useless, bad Russian who had broken away from the great national body and turned into dirt. It’s hard to imagine a more eloquent definition of a national identity forged out of the distortion of a religion founded on the idea of the universal and inclusive. </p><p>So the term “old calendar” tells us that Russia is an Empire, that the Empire is Orthodoxy and that being Russian and Orthodox is more or less the same thing. The October (in the “old calendar”) Revolution was a sign that all this specialness and national and religious exclusivity were at an end. The Bolsheviks weren’t after an uprising or even a coup d’état in one specific city or country. Their goal was a worldwide revolution that would rid humankind of exploitation, national borders and, not least, the strange aberration known as “religion”. </p><p>One of the steps taken towards the achievement of that that goal was the adoption of the universal, Gregorian calendar, which had no connection with a church and merely indicated membership of the human race in general. So it was decided to commemorate the anniversary of the October Revolution not in October (when it actually happened under the “old calendar”) but in November, that is, at a global level. </p><h2>Lenin versus Pearce</h2><p>The Easter Rising aimed to return the Irish people to their “own land”, their own identity as invented by the Celtic Revival and their own lives, separate from both the British Empire and the First World War. </p><p>The October Revolution was designed to “expose” the Russian and other peoples of the Russian Empire to the gaze of the planet, raise Russian history to a universal level – and give the entire human race an example of how to work together to eventually build a future full of happiness.</p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Post-Soviet Russian identity is defined by the very same factors as that of the Irish rebels in 1916</span></p><p>Both of these goals remained out of reach, but to a greater or lesser extent. Ireland was fortunate enough to become a European country, and not just “purely Irish”, although its path was rough and included a civil war, the creation of a strange bureaucratic-nationalist state, the long-term dominance of a single party, poverty and much more besides. The martyred heroes of the Easter Rising did not lay down their lives in vain – Ireland (well, most of it) did become independent, albeit in a form far from the one dreamed of by the revolutionaries.</p><p>The Russian Bolsheviks also appeared to be victorious, but not for long. To begin with, most of them were murdered in the 1930s by new people who replaced ideas of universal communism and social justice with the creation of a new, quasi-Russian Empire. They still venerated the ‘heroes of the revolution’, but that didn’t stop them individually erasing most of their names from the revolutionary canon. </p><p>The main change took place after 1991 and is, I suppose, still in progress. Rhetoric about universal justice and happiness is irrelevant to not only Russia’s current government but to its population, which finds the very idea loathsome.</p><p>In the first place, in the Russian public mind happiness should just exist “here”, and justice be even more selective – “for people like us”, and that depending on the situation and “in line with the accepted rules”. In the second place, post-Soviet Russian identity is defined by the very same factors as that of the Irish rebels in 1916: a perverse concept of religion (Orthodoxy) and a similarly odd perception of their own language and culture.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/XjDaAAhKVRsUPPFAcfgHAmmz7Rj8UNAp.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/XjDaAAhKVRsUPPFAcfgHAmmz7Rj8UNAp.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vladimir Putin and leaders of “traditional” faiths stand together after laying flowers at Moscow’s monument to Minin and Pozharsky, 4 November 2012. Photo courtesy of Kremlin.ru</span></span></span>To today’s Russia, and, oddly enough, especially to today’s Russian Communists, the global Russian Communist project of 1917 is incomprehensible, alien and even dangerous.</p><p>On the other hand, however, we must be proud of our “great past”. And the October Revolution is probably the high point of that past – no other event that has ever happened in Russia has had such an impact worldwide. Apparently Lenin (though not that treacherous Jew Trotsky) is, with the odd caveat and grimace, our all, up there with the Tsar he murdered. They of course take second place to the great Stalin, who fits perfectly into our new concept of Russia’s great past and present; but to be fair, without Lenin we would have had no Stalin. So we should give Vladimir Ilyich his due and let him go in peace.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">To today’s Russia, the global Russian Communist project of 1917 is incomprehensible, alien and even dangerous</p><p>This is the approximate framework Putin’s ideological minions are working within, as they rush around trying to maximise the impact of the forthcoming celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution (to take place in November 2017). I imagine they must be envying their Irish counterparts, whose problems were much easier to solve.</p><h2>Postscript: a meeting of revolutions</h2><p>In 1916 the themes of the two revolutions, the national and the universal, came together in an article written by Lenin as he sat out the war in neutral Switzerland. </p><p>This is what he wrote: “To believe that a social revolution is even thinkable without uprisings in small countries in the colonies and Europe; without revolutionary outbursts from some part of the lower middle classes with all their prejudices; without a movement of the unconscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against multiple repression (land-owning, church, monarchist, nationalist and so on) – to believe that is to renounce social revolution. We need one force to line up on one side and say, ‘we’re for Socialism’ and another to line up on the other side and say, ‘we’re for Imperialism’, and that will be a social revolution!” </p><p>A hundred years later it has turned out quite differently, and not as Lenin would have wished – the ideals of the Russian government today are those that Patrick Pearce and his colleagues dreamed of. Such is the history of our times: today’s Hungarian crypto-fascists honour the memory of their national poet, the liberal revolutionary Sándor Petőfi (1823-1849) and not so long ago Pearce’s IRA admirers were getting up to things we would rather not remember. And, alas, there have been no social revolutions.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brendan-mcgeever/easter-rising-and-soviet-union-untold-chapter-in-ireland-s-great-rebellion">The Easter Rising and the Soviet Union: an untold chapter in Ireland’s great rebellion </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/russia-thank-you-for-not-smoking">Russia: Thank you for not smoking</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-ovsyannikova/moscow-s-authoritarian-future">Moscow’s authoritarian future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/svetlana-bolotnikova/for-don-cossacks-russia-s-civil-war-is-not-yet-over">For the Don Cossacks, Russia’s Civil War is not yet over</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Kirill Kobrin Russia History Cultural politics Thu, 14 Apr 2016 08:06:37 +0000 Kirill Kobrin 101353 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Book review: Neil Kent’s “Crimea: a history” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/eleanor-knott/book-review-neil-kent-s-crimea-history <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Kent-Crimea-web.jpg" alt="" width="80" />A new history of Crimea argues for the peninsula’s central importance to Europe — via Russia. The result is misleading.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Just over two years have passed since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014. Since then, the peninsula has remained in international limbo and has become something of an information vacuum for outside observers. </p><p>Yet before the Ukrainian crisis began in late 2013, there was a lack of information and deep understanding not just of Crimea, but of Ukraine as a whole. </p><p>In the wake of the 2012 UEFA football championship, held across Ukraine and Poland, Rory Finnin, a Cambridge academic and expert on Ukraine, described the country as Europe’s <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-rory-finnin/ukraine-europes-terra-malecognita_b_1653469.html" target="_blank">terra malecognita</a></em>. Finnin emphasised how poorly Ukraine was understood in the continent’s west.

 This lack of understanding is even more pertinent regarding Crimea, as a periphery within a periphery, and a place which is only becoming more isolated since Russian annexation.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Ukraine was a <em>terra maleocognita</em> for western Europe, and Crimea a periphery within it</p><p>Neil Kent’s recently published <em><a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/crimea/">Crimea: a History</a></em> aims to fill this gap in knowledge by offering a broad history of the peninsula. For Kent, this ignorance of Crimea has created an image of the peninsula somewhere exotic and “Asiatic”. Instead, he argues the reverse: that Crimea is “no wild and alien land”, but somewhere that is distinctly and distinctively <em>European</em>. 
</p><h2>No foreign land&nbsp;</h2><p>Neil Kent, based at the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Institute, is a scholar better known for his work on Polar and Scandinavian history and culture, including <em>The Sámi Peoples of the North</em> (2014), <em>A Concise History of Sweden</em>, (2008), <em>The Soul of the North: a Social, Cultural and Architectural History of the Nordic Countries</em> (2000). </p><p><em>Crimea: A History</em> therefore diverts from its author’s more usual topics. In its own way, it’s a response — academic, personal and political — to the Ukrainian crisis and the deteriorating relations between Russia and the west. 
</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-22529310.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-22529310.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A woman carries a Crimean flag past the Kremlin after a rally celebrating the first anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. Moscow, March 2015. Photo (c): Denis Tyrin / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Across ten chapters, Neil Kent speeds through Crimea’s history from the ancient to the present, including an epilogue on Crimea’s annexation. En route, he touches on Crimea’s Middle Age history, Ottoman encroachment and the Russian Empire’s annexation of Crimea in 1783, before exploring Crimea’s shifting position within the Soviet Union and across the post-Soviet space.</span></p><p>
Kent does therefore offer a timely and detailed historical perspective on Crimea. However, what he devotes to breadth in discussing Crimea’s “long history”, he sacrifices in depth.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This emphasis on the Crimea’s “Europeanness” serves to chastise Turkey and Crimean Tatars as the region’s “other”</p><p>For Kent, understanding more about Crimea’s long and varied history is fundamental for appreciating “what binds and divides Europe”. He emphasises the Europeanness of Crimea, and the location of Crimea at a “crossroads to Eurasia” and “gateway to Europe”, going as far as to say that Crimea was and still is more significant to Russia than St Petersburg, Russia’s imperial capital. </p><p>Such an approach taps into a discourse that has long plagued Russia and Europe, concerning whether Russia is part of, or distinct from, Europe. Rather, Kent argues that Crimea is simultaneously European <em>and</em> Russian. By extension, Russia is also European because of the importance of Crimea to Russia’s national imaginary.</p><h2>Eternally Russian (since 1783)
</h2><p>In this account, Crimea is a keystone that can help to bring cohesion and solidarity at a time “when ancient divisions threaten the very fabric of a common European civilization”. Kent distinguishes between Crimea and Russia, which are part of a “common European civilization”, and the threatening “external alien forces”. However, he is neither explicit in identifying who these “alien” others are, nor in unpacking what it&nbsp;<em>means to be</em> <em>European</em>. </p><p>The implication here serves to chastise Turkey and Crimean Tatars as the “other” in Crimea, as medieval anti-Slavic “slave raiders”. This offers a very different account to scholars of Crimean Tatars, such as Brian Glyn Williams, whose recent book emphasises Crimean Tatars as a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/eleanor-knott/book-review-brian-glyn-williams-crimean-tatars-from-soviet-genocide-to-putin" target="_blank">nation constructed out of trauma, deportation and contemporary discrimination</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02627489.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02627489.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="353" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Crimean Tatar women meet after a collective prayer for victims of the 1944 deportation at the Kebir-Jami mosque in Simferopol, Crimea. (c) Artem Kreminsky / VisualRIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Too often, Kent’s analysis is saturated with essentialist and civilisational overtones that overlook political context. Kent’s portrayal of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia as a “fratricidal war” and the Middle East as “always” a “powder keg” of conflict between different religions is reductionist. This emphasis downplays the significance of local and international political actors — not to mention economic factors — as key mobilisers within these various conflicts, not least the incursion of Russian special forces into Ukraine.</span></p><p>Kent portrays the West, notably NATO, as ignoring, if not misunderstanding, Crimea’s “historical context, ethnic make-up and popular will”, as though this somehow explains or legitimises Russia’s incursion and annexation of Crimea. </p><p>The real picture is rather more complex. Rather, in my research in Crimea, conducted before annexation (in 2012 and 2013), I found that the idea of what it mean to be Russian in the region was <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/12/03/do-crimeans-see-themselves-as-russian-or-ukrainian-its-complicated/" target="_blank">contested and fractured</a>. Instead of adhering to neat census categories, those I interviewed gave different meanings to being Russian, with many challenging the idea that identifying as ethnically Russian was analogous to being pro-Russian, much less pro-Putin.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Kent’s analysis is saturated with essentialist and civilisational overtones that overlook political context</p><p>Secondly, I found that even the most vociferous supporters of Russia in 2012 and 2013 did not support joining Russia. Instead, they preferred a peaceful status quo to an uncertain territorial change. Crimea’s annexation by Russia — and the relative lack of bottom-up protest — is therefore a puzzle <em>to be explored</em>, rather than<em>&nbsp;explained away</em> by reductionist accounts of Crimea’s complicated territorial and ethnic history. </p><p>Empirically, Kent should have offered more detail of the sources he relied on in forming this account. He offers some potentially fascinating insights into Crimea’s transfer to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954, such as the limited role and power of Khrushchev in making this transfer (in contrast to popular understanding of the event).</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/khrushchevtime.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/khrushchevtime.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="527" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nikita Khrushchev was first secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party when Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954. Photo CC: Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></p><p>Kent alludes to primary Soviet newspaper sources as the evidence confirming this interpretation, but fails to cite these directly. The usefulness of this book, therefore, as an introduction to Crimea is limited for readers who might wish to follow up with the primary source materials that Kent might have used in producing this book.</p><h2>The trouble with “truthiness”
</h2><p>More worryingly, there are also factual mistakes in the text. For example, in the introduction, Kent cites “the last official census” taken by Ukrainian census results in Crimea. Assuming he is citing Ukraine’s 2001 census, as post-Soviet Ukraine’s first and last official census, Kent claims that 63% are reported as ethnic Russian. In fact, it was <a href="http://2001.ukrcensus.gov.ua/eng/results/general/nationality/Crimea/" target="_blank">58%</a>. </p><p>More alarmingly, Kent confuses Russia’s ruling political party United Russia (<em>Yedinaya Rossiya</em>), with the Crimean party (before 2014) Russian Unity (<em>Russkoye Yedinstvo</em>). He argues that United Russia (as opposed to Russian Unity) was present and significant in helping Crimea’s annexation from within in February 2014. In detailing the circumstances of Crimea’s annexation, it is fundamental to distinguish between local Crimean and international (i.e. Russia) actors and organisations which promoted Crimea’s annexation. </p><p>Overall, Kent overlooks the subjectivity of his account of Crimea. By portraying his evidence as incontrovertible facts, the author ignores what remain contested interpretations of history, identities, and legacies. Kent argues he could see the “storm clouds” looming over Crimea as early as 2006. Certainly, relations within Crimea, and between Kyiv and Crimea, were contentious before 2014. </p><p>Yet Kent’s history of Crimea’s storm clouds do not get us closer to understanding how the peninsula came to be in international no-man’s land, nor why Russia became willing to risk everything to put it there. Such an explanation would require a more nuanced and less primordial account of Crimea’s history, whether European or Russian.</p><p><em>Neil Kent’s </em><a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/crimea/" target="_blank">Crimea: A History</a>&nbsp;<em>is</em><em>&nbsp;published by Hurst Books this April.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/eleanor-knott/book-review-brian-glyn-williams-crimean-tatars-from-soviet-genocide-to-putin">Book Review: Brian Glyn Williams ‘The Crimean Tatars: From Soviet Genocide to Putin’s Conquest’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/crimea-s-ukrainian-underground">Crimea’s Ukrainian underground</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maksim-goryunov/sinless-russian-spring">A sinless Russian spring </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-urodov/crimeas-bright-future">Crimea’s bright future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/john-o%E2%80%99loughlin-gerard-toal/crimean-conundrum">The Crimean conundrum</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Eleanor Knott Ukraine Russia History Cultural politics Conflict Wed, 13 Apr 2016 15:10:12 +0000 Eleanor Knott 101347 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russian culture through Lviv’s looking glass https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrei-bondarenko/russian-culture-through-lviv-s-looking-glass <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JuaneDC flickr dec 2014 lviv.jpg" alt="" width="160" />They may not love Putin in Lviv, but the people of this western Ukrainian city have nothing against Russian culture. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrei-bondarenko/kultura-zazerkale" target="_blank">Русский</a></strong><strong>,</strong><strong>&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andriy-bondarenko/rosiiska-kultura-u-lvivskomu-zadzerkalli" target="_blank">Українською</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>For the uninitiated reader, any story about Lviv must begin with an important caveat: it is one of the most paradoxical places in Ukraine. On the western edge of the country, its people’s heads are full of unresolved contradictions. Behind the facade of an exemplary post-Soviet, pro-European city lies a reality tacked together from shreds and patches. It is a looking-glass land where nothing is simple. A web of invisible borders divides not only its various population groups, but the consciousness of each inhabitant. </p><p>Perhaps that is why people are so intent on constructing coherent images and stereotypes for themselves – the exemplary patriot, the exemplary European, the exemplary Ukrainian. But there is no more complex place in the country than Lviv. </p><p>All this leads us to the question of Russian culture here – a much less alien presence than people tend to imagine.</p><h2>The two Lvivs</h2><p>Tourists visiting Lviv from Russia or Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine are generally surprised to find themselves welcomed by the locals, whom they have always seen as rabid nationalists. But there is nothing surprising about it: Lviv’s people are used to the language, which has always been heard and is still heard on every street, although it is true that “ancient Lviv traditions” were reinvented at the time of <em>perestroika</em> and are still being reinvented in the public space, with restaurants, for example, being rebranded with Ukrainian-sounding names.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Despite their patriotism, most locals can’t imagine life without the habitual elements of Russian mass culture</span></p><p>All these Ukrainian names, including the name of the city itself, were only adopted after the Soviet annexation, firstly after the Nazi-Soviet partition of Poland in 1939, and then following the Soviet reconquest of Ukraine after 1945. From 1918 until 1939, it was under Polish rule and called Lwów. Earlier, it was Lemberg under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in Russian it is known as Lvov. </p><p>In 1945, the city lost most of its previous inhabitants with the redrawing of borders and an effectively new, Soviet city came into being. After Stalin’s troops took it for the second time in August 1944, Russian culture, in its Soviet incarnation, dominated here for many years. Lviv was mostly resettled by people from further east, and with time became an industrial centre that swallowed up hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians from surrounding villages, although what they found themselves part of was a fully fledged socialist and Russified culture.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/JuaneDC flickr dec 2014 lviv_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/JuaneDC flickr dec 2014 lviv_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The historic city of Lviv, western Ukraine, 2014. Photo CC: June DC / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>After the demise of the USSR, the city’s residents almost unanimously rejected their Soviet roots and began to create a new, Ukrainian Lviv. But their everyday lives, including their cultural lives, were still defined by old Soviet practices and habits. Despite their ostentatious patriotism, most locals can’t imagine their lives without the habitual elements of Russian mass culture. “Why do our minibus drivers go on listening to classic Russian chansons?” ask the city’s so-called professional Ukrainians, the driving force behind promoting Ukrainian culture. All they can do is shake their fists at the Soviet legacy that means full houses for concerts by popular singer Gregory Leps (who is in fact of Georgian extraction) or the heavy metal band Aria.</p><p>The PR people of one of the city’s mayoral candidates dreamed up the slogan “There are two Lvivs”, which is now heard everywhere, although admittedly usually with a semi-ironic lilt, to remind people of the difference between “cultured” Lvivians and “uncultured” yobs; between the rich and the poor and between the “progressives” and the “old guard”. But it could equally be applied to the “Ukrainian” and “Russian” Lvivs, whose mutual antipathy is still strong.</p><h2>The Putin taboo</h2><p>The annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine that followed could not help but affect locals’ cultural habits, albeit less strongly than it might appear. </p><p>Naturally, Russia’s cultural “product” is less welcome than before and there has been a spontaneous rejection of anything to do with Russian officialdom. The figure of Putin has become a real taboo, often literally so. Poet Grigoriy Semenchuk, former director of the international literary festival run by the Lviv Publishers’ Forum, describes a telling incident at the 2014 Leipzig Book Fair, when a Russian representative approached the Lviv delegation and suggested a collaboration between them. The Lviv group made this conditional on the removal of the portrait of Putin on the Russian stand, and there the talks ended. </p><p>Official cultural exchanges between Lviv and Russia have more or less come to a halt; no one wants anything to do with the aggressor state. This is clear from the posters displayed on the city’s cultural venues. Taras Grudovoi, the director of the Lviv Philharmonic concert hall, has said that he is not pursuing any special anti-Russian policy. The world famous Russian pianist Andrei Gavrilov has played here many times, the last being a few weeks ago, in the middle of March. The only people under a total ban are those on one of the blacklists drawn up by the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture, including the celebrated viola player Yury Bashmet, who actually grew up in Lviv and used to play here regularly.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">&nbsp;The figure of Putin has become a real taboo, often literally so</span></p><p>Now it is not only blacklists that prevent Russians performing at the Philharmonic, but also a lack of resources. The Russian Consulate in Lviv used to subsidise artists’ performances here, but now such cooperation is completely out of the question, and concert promoters try to attract western musicians instead. </p><p>The taboo on official contacts has also diminished the Russian presence at important cultural events, such as the Lviv Publishers’ Forum. As Aleksandra Koval, the Forum’s director, told me, Russian publishers used to present their books at a special guest stand provided by the Russian government. But after the annexation of Crimea, the Forum rejected this arrangement and now Russian booksellers can only come if they are prepared to finance themselves. Some still do, including the well known novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, who visited Lviv two years ago. </p><p>However, says Aleksandra Koval, the Forum was never very popular among Russian publishers. But she is still hoping for some literary collaboration with Russians: as she says, “there are a lot more clever and interesting people in Russia than people in Lviv think, and we need to keep up contact with them”. </p><h2>“The popularisation of a high quality product”</h2><p>Despite the break in official relations, no one is talking about a complete rejection of Russian culture in Lviv. Local promoters call their new approach “the popularisation of a high quality product, preferably Ukrainian”. </p><p>This allows any rejection of Russian mass culture to be put down to its low quality. And it isn’t just an excuse. The Dikart agency, which organised Grigory Leps’ visit here a few years ago, would not bother with him now. But Dikart’s manager Olga Misan-Milasevich told me with pride that they had two full houses for a gig by rock musician Andrei Makarevich last autumn. Kyiv’s concert agencies are making a big effort to fill the large gap in schedules that has appeared since the disappearance of Russian artists. Lviv’s opera theatre will soon welcome the singer Laima Vaikule, whose publicity posters proclaim her to be a Latvian star, and make no mention of her former fame as a popular Soviet entertainer. </p><p>Kyiv was probably behind the appearance in Lviv of rap-guru Guf, who performed in February at the city’s premier venue, the Event Hall Kino Club. So show business here is alive and well and showcasing Russian artists – so long as they get through the “complicity with the Putin regime” test. </p><p>Indeed, interest in some “opposition” musicians has actually grown. The massive Zahid open air festival held outside Lviv had Russian rapper Noize MC as its headline act last year. “Russia has plenty of quality musicians, so why not bring them here”, festival organiser Yakov Matviichuk tells me. “Russian culture isn’t just Putin. In fact Putin has nothing to do with culture.”</p><p>Those who want to organise gigs by acceptable Russian musicians do however face a moral dilemma. Playing in Lviv doesn’t do well known acts any good at home. Matviichuk has heard that Noize MC has experienced problems since he headlined at their festival. He doesn’t know whether he should go on hiring Russian musicians if it puts them under pressure at home. </p><p>Rumours are also circulating among Lviv’s rock lovers about Russia’s veteran star Boris Grebenshchikov, who supposedly loves playing in Lviv but is afraid to come, for fear of getting into trouble in Russia. The taboo on Russian nationalist artists also applies on radio, and also to home grown talent. Lviv stations try to avoid playing tracks by singers Ani Lorak and Taisia Povaliy, both of whom are known for their anti-Maidan and pro-Russian views.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/lvov-streetmusic_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/lvov-streetmusic_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Street musicians perform in the old city of Lviv. Photo CC: Bernhard Frank / Flickr. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>Radio Lyuks DJ Katya Dzyga tells me that her station, along with the four other most popular local FM radio companies, were already boycotting Russian language “products” before.&nbsp;<span>However, these efforts to clear the waves of Russian radio came to nothing, given the presence of Kyiv FM stations and regional outlets of Russian radio channels such as Our Radio, Chanson and Retro FM (the ones enjoyed by minibus and taxi drivers)</span><span>. But according to Dzyga, “the situation hasn’t really changed – there was plenty of Russian music before, and there still is.”</span></p><p>Diana Gaivoroniuk, a DJ at FM Galichina who has worked at many of Lviv’s radio stations agrees with Katya. She has always tried to avoid playing Russian music on air, since “Lviv is an especially patriotic region, and its radio stations should be special as well”. But as she points out, the problem is not just radio stations from outside the region, but local ones that are not particularly sound on patriotic issues: “Not many people realise that even now, with a war on, there are musicians here in Lviv who perform in Russian and Crimea, for money”. She won’t give any names, but adds that they are “pretty famous and vociferous singers who shamelessly post photos of themselves taken in the Kremlin or Crimea on social media”. </p><h2>We’ll just reprint the classics</h2><p>The airwaves would seem to represent an ideal way of supplying a demand for Russian cultural products among people in Lviv. Music, after all, is better than any other “product” at crossing borders and narrowing the distance between a studio in Russia and a cabbie’s ears. </p><p>The situation with books is similar, but only in broad terms. Local publishers and booksellers try to promote Ukrainian books,, while booksellers elsewhere offer the public both books written and produced in Russia and local Russian-language works. </p><p>However, it has been more difficult to provide the residents of Lviv with Russian bestsellers than Russian pop. Detective stories by Darya Dontsova and Aleksandra Marinina used to be able to compete in price with Ukrainian books not only because of the high VAT rate on books produced in Ukraine, but also thanks to well-oiled contraband operations. Now, as every bookseller in Lviv has told me (anonymously), it has become much harder to smuggle literature across the border from Russia.<br />&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6973873799_587d5a1f2c_z_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6973873799_587d5a1f2c_z_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="385" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ukrainian-language keyboard, from Dziga Vertov’s 1929 film ”Man with a Movie Camera”. Photo CC: BSWise / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>“We already have a situation where it’s cheaper to print books in Ukraine than to import them from Russia”, says Liubov Lashnevskaya, manager of the Dim Knigi bookshop. “We import very little now, and mainly sell off the last odds and ends at a discount. In fact customers very rarely ask about Russian books: they’re more interested in Ukrainian ones. And a lot of publishers have started bringing out titles in both languages at the same time”.</span></p><p>The Lviv branch of the E bookshop chain has also stopped ordering Russian books, and is just selling off the last copies. “Once the warehouses are empty, we’ll just reprint classics”, shop manager Galina Lavrys tells me. “There has always been a demand for those, and that will continue”. </p><h2>Boundaries and how to cross them</h2><p>Man and woman do not live by popular culture alone. Lviv’s artists and cultural activists are setting up their own connections with Russia, in parallel to the mass market.</p><p>While the average Lviv resident considers whether to stop listening to Russian pop, independent artists are trying to maintain their existing contacts with Russians. </p><p>These contacts have been widest among literary people, thanks to Lviv’s international literary festival, which takes place annually under the aegis of its Publishers’ Forum. Poet Grigoriy Semenchuk, who until recently was the festival’s director, says the largest group of people visiting the festival were always Russian writers. Since 2014 this group has thinned out.

“The world”, begins Grigoriy, “has suddenly split, but not so much into Ukrainians and Russians as into ‘us’ and ‘them’. The Slovak writer Valery Kupka, for example, used to be a frequent visitor to Lviv, but at the time of the annexation of Crimea he spoke on TV in support of Putin. So now he’s one of ‘them’, as is the literary authority and critic Dmitry Bak, who was born in Lviv and had very good relations with the city and its people until he signed an open letter to the Russian president in support of the annexation”. </p><p>Most of Grigoriy’s contacts who fell away were older writers with a certain position in society. “But I haven’t become disillusioned with my fellow literary people in general”, he tells me.</p><p>Another bastion of independent culture in Lviv is the Dziga club-café, where the glasses are filled by Markian Ivashchishchin, a cult figure in the city’s underground who at the time of <em>perestroika</em> was an active member of the movement for an independent Ukraine and the creation of a new, Ukrainian Lviv.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">&nbsp;“To be honest, our Ukrainian Minister of Culture Vyacheslav Kirilenko is a bigger headache than Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu”</span></p><p>Events in Crimea have not changed much in Dziga’s artistic community. As Yurko Vovkogon, the coordinator of local cultural events here, tells me, “there were never many Russians here, and there are still not many. All I can remember is that various jazz musicians would come to our Dzhaz Bez festival from all over, and some of them were Russians”. Yurko returned from the front in Donbas just a few months ago. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t want to talk about Russians. </p><p>Dziga’s cultural politics are the most consistent expression of the general rule followed by Lviv’s cultural organisers: “we promote Ukrainian music first of all, and then high quality music in general”. The only difference is that here, this was the central principle all along. </p><p>Yurko puts the band Leningrad’s frontman Sergei Shnurov forward as an example of “high quality music”. In May, Dziga will organise another one of its festivals, The Weather Vanes of Lviv, where one of the groups performing will be a Polish theatre from Wrocław, this year’s European Culture Capital, which has asked Lviv to be its partner. The Wrocław group will perform a show about the “philosophy of binge-drinking”, compiled from lyrics from Leningrad’s songs. </p><p>“We’re in talks with Shnurov about permission to put the show on in Lviv. Maybe he could call by on his way to Poland”, says Yurko. And adds: “As for Russians… the only thing we won’t accept is Russian language Ukrainian culture”. </p><p>Literary figures from Russia and Lviv had a good chance to get together last autumn, when a discussion billed as “beyond propaganda” took place as part of the WARNING! media-art exhibition. The discussion, which involved visiting Russian artists such as Yelena Romenkova, Mikhail Maksimov and Aristarkh Chernishev, made it clear that although Ukrainians and Russians might not agree on some social and political issues, dialogue was possible. Afterwards, Maksimov admitted that meeting with Ukrainian colleagues had changed his attitude to politics as an artist. </p><p>Lviv media artist Andrei Linik, who also showed work at WARNING! has long been in touch with Russian colleagues, and last year organised a visit to Lviv by the Kaliningrad artist and curator Dmitry Bulatov. “In fact all my Russian friends supported us both at during the Maidan and after Crimea”, he says. “There was only one person who refused to talk to me during that period”. </p><p>It’s not so easy to get to Lviv now. Russians can be delayed for hours at airports, and it’s harder to organise travel without official financial support: Andrei can’t just contact the Russian consulate any more. “To be honest”, he says, “Vyacheslav Kirilenko, our Ukrainian Minister of Culture is a bigger headache than the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu”. </p><p>There is no crisis on the indie music scene. Lyana Mitsko, artistic director of Lviv’s Underground club tells me that, “young alternative musicians are keener to come to Lviv now than they were before”. Once people come, they always want to come again: they love the audience and the reception they get here. The only obstacle is Russians’ mistaken ideas about the situation in Ukraine. Lyana remembers one guy whose mother wouldn’t let him go to Lviv, convinced that there were artillery battles happening on the streets. </p><p>On the alternative music scene, nobody cares which musicians come from Russia and which from Ukraine – Lyana assures me they all get the same audiences, “although we don’t book any rabid nationalist types anyway”. </p><h2>A tale of two scandals </h2><p>Each of Lviv’s cultural scenes, whether market-led or indie, has come to its own conclusions about Russians, but the future of the city’s Russian Cultural Centre (RCC) could potentially turn the issue into a matter for open public discussion. The centre opened in 1996, and for many years it was the only institution of its kind in Ukraine. It is home to various amateur musical and theatrical societies and is also used by a number of groups such as the Cossack community and a military history club. </p><p>Although the centre’s users keep an extensive record of all the attacks on the building by Ukrainian nationalists, Lviv’s residents are barely aware of its existence. It was only mentioned in the local press in 2014 after a fire, and now again when its very existence is under threat.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/pozhar-RKTS_lvov_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/pozhar-RKTS_lvov_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Library of Lviv’s Russian Cultural Centre after a fire in May 2014. Photo CC: Alfa Nord / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>The regional Council of Deputies has decided to repossess the building, using the formal excuse that it is not occupied by the organisation they originally signed an agreement with. The centre’s user groups are up in arms, calling the decision politically motivated. The more likely scenario is that the centre has become a victim of the regional government’s “new economic policy”. For instance, they have just repossessed the building that housed the city’s film distribution office, which has now closed down.</span></p><p>In any case, no one has noticed what is happening to the RCC – locals are completely indifferent to its fate. This is partly due to the centre’s own closed door policy – in its 20 years of operation its management showed an almost sectarian unwillingness to establish any outside contacts.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">The city’s multilayered past still keeps its people floundering between old wounds, real customs and new aspirations</span></p><p>But what really sparked a real storm of controversy last year was the Alfa Jazz Fest. This event, one of Europe’s biggest jazz festivals, was founded in 2011 by Russian billionaire oligarch Mikhail Fridman, a native of Lviv. It has always booked world class jazz artists and attracts a multinational audience of fat cats to the city. </p><p>Last year the festival coincided with the peak of violence in Donbas, and many well known Lviv journalists and campaigners suddenly remembered that Fridman is a Russian banker who pays his taxes to Russia’s exchequer which, in turn finances military supplies to Donetsk. Alfa Jazz broke Lviv’s central taboo – complicity with the Russian state.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02206570.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02206570.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ukrainian rock musician Svatoslav Vakarchuk (centre) with his wife and a representative of the Alfa-Group consortium Mikhail Fridman (right), at the Alfa Jazz festival in Lviv. Photo (c): Taras Chaykivsky / visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>An open discussion was organised, with civil society campaigners, representatives of the municipal authorities and festival organisers all taking part. Some participants demanded the cancellation of a festival funded by “enemy cash”. Others argued that politics and culture are different things. It ended in a compromise: the festival went ahead but without any advertising for its Russian bank sponsors. This solution, of course, satisfied neither side, and the question of how far Lviv’s citizens were prepared to make peace remained unanswered.</p><p>Both of these issues – the RCC and Alfa Jazz – have shown how difficult it is to produce a clear picture of Lviv’s cultural links with Russia. And this was as true of the “pre-Crimea” period as it is today. The city’s multilayered past still keeps its people floundering between old wounds, real customs and new aspirations. On the other hand, the lack of a defined mindset is not necessarily a bad thing. Lviv’s looking glass leaves room for the development of real relationships that wouldn’t fit into a tighter framework.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/beyond-frontline-introduction-to-new-series-for-odr">Beyond the frontline: introducing a new series for oDR</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/cultural-cooperation-in-time-of-war-view-from-kyiv">Cultural cooperation in a time of war: the view from Kyiv</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/crimea-s-ukrainian-underground">Crimea’s Ukrainian underground</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-arkhangelsky/dancing-to-moscow-s-tune">Dancing to Moscow’s tune</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Andrei Bondarenko Ukraine Russia Cultural politics Tue, 12 Apr 2016 17:31:47 +0000 Andrei Bondarenko 101314 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Русская культура во львовском зазеркалье https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrei-bondarenko/kultura-zazerkale <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/JuaneDC%20flickr%20dec%202014%20lviv.jpg" alt="JuaneDC flickr dec 2014 lviv.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>Путина&nbsp;во&nbsp;Львове очень&nbsp;не любят,&nbsp;но к&nbsp;русской&nbsp;культуре&nbsp;претензий не&nbsp;имеют&nbsp;–&nbsp;скорее к&nbsp;самим&nbsp;себе. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrei-bondarenko/russian-culture-through-lviv-s-looking-glass" target="_blank">English</a>,<em>&nbsp;</em></strong></em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andriy-bondarenko/rosiiska-kultura-u-lvivskomu-zadzerkalli">Українською</a><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span>От редакции: Эта статья - четвертая в серии материалов о культурном взаимодействии между Украиной и Россией. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/to-chto-ne-vidno">Здесь</a> в</span><span>ы можете прочитать о проекте и его задачах.&nbsp;</span></em></p><p>Любой рассказ о Львове для постороннего читателя следует начинать с важного примечания: это один из наиболее парадоксальных городов Украины.</p><p>Географически представляя крайний запад, Львов при этом аккумулировал в головах своих жителей бесчисленное множество неразрешенных противоречий. За ширмой образцового постсоциалистического города, сделавшего выбор в пользу Европы, таится реальность, сшитая из разнообразных лоскутов. Как в некоем зазеркалье, здесь нет практически ничего однозначного. Целый букет невидимых границ проходит не только между разными группами жителей города, а и между разными гранями одного и того же львовянина.</p><p>Быть может, именно поэтому львовяне так старательно создают себе четкие имиджи и стереотипы – образцового патриота, образцового европейца, образцового украинца. Однако в Украине, вероятно, нет другого столь же шизофренического города, как Львов.</p><p>Все это относится и к вопросу присутствия здесь русской культуры. Львов намного менее чужд русской культуре, чем принято считать. </p><h2>Два Львова&nbsp;</h2><p>Туристы из России или из русскоязычных регионов Украины, как правило, удивляются нормальному приему со стороны львовян, которых они до того представляли себе ярыми “бандеровцами”. 
Удивляться здесь нечему. Ведь на самом деле львовяне довольно-таки привычны к русскому языку, который во Львове звучал и продолжает звучать на каждом шагу.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Несмотря на показной патриотизм, большинство львовян не представляет своей жизни без привычных продуктов российской масс-культуры</span></p><p>Правда в том, что “давние львовские традиции” были изобретены заново уже во время перестройки, и сегодня их продолжают заново изобретать на уровне коммерческих инициатив, таких как ресторан “Криївка” или “Гасова лямпа”.</p><p>После Второй мировой войны Львов утратил большинство своих прежних жителей. Здесь возник практически новый, советский город. Начиная с повторного прихода сталинских войск во Львов в августе 1944 года, русская культура, или, точнее, ее советский вариант, на долгие десятилетия стала здесь господствующей и основной. Опустевший после войны Львов заселяли преимущественно люди, прибывшие с востока. Со временем индустриальный центр, которым стал Львов в 1960-1970-е годы, поглотил сотни тысяч украинцев из окрестных сел. Однако они вливались в уже сформировавшуюся здесь социалистическую русифицированную культуру.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/JuaneDC flickr dec 2014 lviv.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/JuaneDC flickr dec 2014 lviv.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Город Львов, западная Украина, 2014 г. Фото СС: JuneDC / Flickr. Некоторые права защищены.</span></span></span><span>После распада Союза львовяне почти единогласно отреклись от своих советских корней и начали создавать новый, украинский Львов. Но повседневную жизнь жителей города по-прежнему определяли старые советские практики и привычки, в том числе и культурные. Несмотря на показной патриотизм, большинство львовян не представляет своей жизни без привычных продуктов российской масс-культуры.</span></p><p>“Почему водители львовских маршруток продолжают слушать российский шансон?” удивляются активисты “украинского” Львова. Им остается лишь потрясать кулаками в сторону “совка”, который и на двадцатом году независимости побуждал львовян массово ходить на концерты Григория Лепса или группы “Ария”.&nbsp;</p><p>С легкой руки рекламщиков одного из кандидатов в мэры среди львовян распространилась фраза - “есть два Львова”. Обычно ее используют в полуироничном тоне, чтобы напомнить о различии между “культурными” львовянами и “некультурными рагулями”, между бедными и богатыми или между “прогрессивными” и “отсталыми”. Но в этом списке стоило бы также вспомнить и об “украинском” и “русском” Львовах, противостояние между которыми все еще актуально. </p><h2>Табу на Путина &nbsp;</h2><p>Аннексия Крыма и последующая война на востоке страны, безусловно, не могли не повлиять на культурные привычки львовян. Но не настолько сильно, как кажется со стороны.</p><p>Конечно, появились новые негативные тенденции в восприятии российского культурного продукта. Возник стихийный запрет на все, что связано с официальной Россией. Фигура Путина стала настоящим табу, часто в буквальном смысле.</p><p>Показательна ситуация, описанная Грицем Семенчуком, бывшим директором Львовского международного литфестиваля при Форуме книгоиздателей. На книжной ярмарке в Лейпциге в 2014 году к львовской делегации подошла представительница Москвы с предложением сотрудничества. Львовяне же выдвинули ультиматум – никакого сотрудничества, пока у россиян на стенде висит портрет Путина. На том и разошлись.</p><p>На официальном уровне культурные контакты Львова с Россией оборвались практически полностью. Иметь дело с государством-агрессором не хочется никому. И это довольно сильно повлияло на афиши культурных учреждений города.</p><p>Директор концертного зала Львовской филармонии Тарас Грудовой заявил, что какой-то специальной антироссийской политики они не проводят. В середине марта здесь уже не в первый раз выступал известный российский пианист Андрей Гаврилов.&nbsp;</p><p>Принципиальный отказ от сотрудничества касается лишь фигурантов так называемых “черных списков”, составленных министерством культуры. Сюда попал и знаменитый альтист Юрий Башмет, который провел во Львове детство и раньше был здесь довольно частым гостем.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Возник стихийный запрет на все, что связано с официальной Россией. Фигура Путина стала настоящим табу, часто в буквальном смысле</p><p>Однако выступления россиян во львовской филармонии теперь ограничивают не только “черные списки”, но и просто сокращение ресурсов. Ведь раньше музыкантов из России помогало привозить российское консульство. Теперь о таком сотрудничестве в филармонии даже не думают. Вместо этого стараются договориться с представительствами западных стран.</p><p>Табу на официальные контакты свело к минимуму присутствие россиян и на такой важной культурной платформе, как Форум книгоиздателей. Как пояснила директор Форума Александра Коваль, раньше российские издатели представляли свою продукцию на специальном гостевом стенде от российского правительства. После Крыма Форум от этой схемы отказался, и гостей из России принимает, только если те сами готовы профинансировать свой приезд. Таковые все равно находятся. Среди них и Людмила Улицкая, посетившая Львов два года назад.</p><p>Впрочем, справедливости ради отмечает Александра Коваль, особой популярностью среди российских издателей Форум никогда не пользовался. Но на сотрудничество с россиянами она по-прежнему рассчитывает. По ее словам, “в России намного больше интересных и умных людей, чем считают во Львове, и с ними, безусловно, стоит продолжать общаться”. </p><h2>“Популяризация качественного продукта” &nbsp;</h2><p>Несмотря на разрыв официальных отношений, о полном отказе от российской культуры во Львове не говорит никто. Местные культурные менеджеры свой новый подход называют “популяризацией качественного продукта, прежде всего украинского”.</p><p>Таким образом, отказ от российского масскульта поясняется прежде всего его низким уровнем. И в этом не так уж много лукавства. Агентство “Дікарт”, которое несколько лет назад привозило Григория Лепса, сегодня бы уже на такое не пошло. Но пиар-менеджер агентства Ольга Мисан-Милясевич с гордостью сообщила, что их концерт Андрея Макаревича, который состоялся во Львове осенью, собрал два аншлага.&nbsp;</p><p>Сильно опустевшую нишу когда-то братской музыки пробуют как-то заполнять киевские концертные агентства. Так, вскоре во Львовской опере споет Лайма Вайкуле, которую на афишах позиционируют исключительно как латвийскую певицу, без единого упоминания о контексте советской эстрады.</p><p>Скорее всего, посредством Киева во Львов привозили и гуру российского рэпа Гуфа, выступавшего в феврале на лучшей из львовских площадок – в клубе Event Hall Кіно.</p><p>Таким образом, шоу-бизнес крутится себе дальше, просто используя по отношению к исполнителям из России сито “причастности к режиму”.</p><p>К некоторым “оппозиционным” артистам-россиянам интерес, наоборот, возрос. Масштабный опен-эйр фестиваль “Захід”, который проводится на Львовщине, в прошлом году пригласил хедлайнером рэпера Noize MC. “В России много адекватных музыкантов, почему бы их не пригласить”, – заявляет организатор фестиваля Яков Матвийчук. “Российская культура – это же не только Путин. Путин – это вообще не культура”.</p><p>Однако перед теми, кто собирается пригласить “адекватных россиян”, встает и своего рода моральная проблема. Ведь для известных российских музыкантов выступления во Львове могут означать растущее давление на родине. Как рассказал Яков Матвийчук, до него дошла информация, что после посещения их фестиваля у Noize MC были некоторые проблемы. Теперь он не знает, стоит ли привозить сюда еще кого-то, подставляя его под возможные репрессии.</p><p>Среди львовских концертников также ходят слухи, что Борис Гребенщиков очень любит Львов, но побаивается приезжать в город из-за возможных проблем в России.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/lvov-streetmusic.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/lvov-streetmusic.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Уличные музыканты в старом городе Львова. Фото СС: Bernhard Frank / Flickr. Некоторые права защищены.</span></span></span>Табу на одиозных “исполнителей-ватников” действует и в радиоэфире. Причем бойкот распространяется не только на россиян, а и на некоторых украинцев. Известных своей открытой антимайдановской и пророссийской позицией певиц Ани Лорак и Таисию Повалий на львовских радио стараются не крутить.&nbsp;</p><p>Вообще-то, как утверждает сегодня радиоведущая Катя Дзыга с радио “Люкс”, все пять наиболее влиятельных местных фм-радиостанций (а помимо “Люкса”, это еще и “FM Галичина”, “Львівська хвиля”, “Незалежність” и “Радіо 24”) русскоязычный продукт бойкотировали и раньше. Однако их усилия по очищению эфира от москалей свелось на нет наличием во Львове столичных FM-станций или региональных представительств российских радиокомпаний, вроде “Нашего радио”, “Шансона” или “Ретро FM”. Именно их и любят слушать львовские водители маршруток и такси.</p><p>Так что, заключает Катя Дзыга, “за несколько лет ситуация, по сути, не изменилась, российской музыки во Львове как было много, так и сейчас много”.&nbsp;</p><p>С ней соглашается Диана Гайворонюк, ведущая радио “FM Галичина”, которая уже успела поработать на многих львовских станциях. Она тоже всегда пыталась бороться с российскими исполнителями в эфире, поскольку “Львов – это особенный патриотичный регион, и радиопространство здесь должно быть особенным”.&nbsp;</p><p>Однако, как отмечает она, проблема не только в «заезжих» радиостанциях, а и в самих львовянах, которые не особо руководствуются патриотическими соображениями. “Мало кто знает, но даже сегодня, во время войны, существуют такие львовские исполнители, которые за деньги ездят выступать в Россию и даже в Крым”, говорит Диана. Назвать конкретные имена она отказывается, поскольку не хочет провоцировать скандал. Но уточняет, что речь идет о довольно известных “голосистых певцов и певиц, которые не стыдятся выставлять свои фотографии из Кремля или Крыма в соцсетях”. </p><h2>“Обновлять будем&nbsp;только&nbsp;классику”&nbsp;</h2><p>Радиоэфир показывает вроде бы идеальную ситуацию с востребованностью российского культурного продукта среди львовян. Ведь музыка – это продукт, которому легче всего преодолевать границы и расстояния между студией в России и ухом таксиста во Львове.&nbsp;</p><p>Ситуация с книгами схожая, но только в общих чертах.&nbsp;</p><p>Местные магазины и издательства очевидным образом стараются пропагандировать свою, украинскую книгу, тогда как продавцы извне предлагают львовянам и русскоязычный, и российский продукт.&nbsp;</p><p>Однако доставлять жителям Львова российскую массовую книгу стало все-таки труднее по сравнению с российской поп-музыкой.&nbsp;</p><p>Так, ценовая доступность “донцовых” и “марининых” на фоне украинских книг раньше зависела не только от достаточно высоких налогов на книгоиздание в Украине, а и от хорошо налаженных контрабандных путей. Разумеется, сейчас нелегальные перевозки книг через российско-украинскую границу стали намного более проблемными. Об этом в разговорах упоминали почти все опрошенные представители львовских книжных магазинов. Однако ссылаться на них не разрешили.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6973873799_587d5a1f2c_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/6973873799_587d5a1f2c_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="385" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Украинская клавиатура. Фильм «Человек с Киноаппаратом», Дзига Вертов, 1929 г. Фото: BSwise / Flickr. Некоторые права защищены.</span></span></span><span>Поэтому в сфере книг заметен более сильный курс на украинскую альтернативу, чем в музыке.</span></p><p>“Кажется, у нас уже сложилась такая ситуация, когда печатать книгу в Украине становится дешевле, чем привозить из России”, - поясняет Любовь Лешневская, заведующая книжным магазином “Дім книги”. “Сейчас российской продукции мы завозим уже очень мало. В основном распродаем остатки. На самом деле конкретно о российских книгах спрашивают очень редко. В основном, если спрашивают, то об украинских. Многие издательства начали печатать сразу на двух языках”.</p><p>Перестали заказывать новые российские книги и во львовском отделении сетевого книжного магазина “Є”. Сейчас там тоже выставляют только остатки. “Когда закончится то, что есть на складах, то будем обновлять разве что классику – на нее спрос был, и будет постоянно”, – поясняет ситуацию директор львовского филиала Галина Лаврысь.</p><h2>Личные связи&nbsp;независимого арта&nbsp;</h2><p>Естественно, не масскультом единым. Параллельно с миром большого рынка львовские деятели искусства и культурные активисты устанавливают собственные связи с Россией.&nbsp;</p><p>Пока среднестатистические львовяне раздумывают над тем, избавляться ли от привычки слушать руспопсу, независимые культурные деятели пытаются сохранить те контакты с россиянами, что уже удалось наладить.</p><p>Больше всего точек пересечения было у литераторов – благодаря Львовскому международному литературному фестивалю, который проходит ежегодно в рамках Форума книгоиздателей. Поэт Гриць Семенчук, до недавнего времени бывший директором фестиваля, рассказал, что российские писатели всегда составляли самую большую группу гостей.</p><p>После 2014 года этот десант из России стал меньше. По словам Гриця, “мир внезапно разделился, но не столько на украинцев и россиян, сколько на ‘своих’ и ‘чужих’. Чужим стал, например, и словацкий писатель Валерий Купка, частый гость во Львове, который в разгаре аннексии Крыма выступил на телевидении в поддержку Путина”. “Своим” уже нельзя назвать и Дмитрия Бака, литературоведа и критика, который родился во Львове и поддерживал с львовянами прекрасные отношения. До того момента, пока не подписал открытое обращение к президенту России с поддержкой аннексии Крыма.&nbsp;</p><p>В целом из контактов Гриця отсеялись преимущественно старшие литераторы, занимающие солидные позиции в обществе. “Но в основном я в своей среде не разочаровался”, – отмечает Гриць Семенчук.&nbsp;</p><p>Другой бастион независимой львовской культуры – клуб-кафе “Дзиґа”. Заправляет здесь Маркиян Иващищин, культовая фигура львовского андеграунда. В свое время он был активным участником перестроечного движения за независимость Украины и создания нового, украинского Львова.<br /><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">“Если честно, наш украинский министр культуры Вячеслав Кириленко приносит нам намного больше вреда, чем российский министр обороны Шойгу”</span></p><p>В той арт-среде, которую создаёт “Дзиґа”, после крымских событий мало что изменилось. Как рассказывает Юрко Вовкогон, координатор местных культурных мероприятий, “раньше тут было мало россиян, и сейчас мало”. “Помню только, что на фестиваль Jazz Bez к нам приезжали разные мировые джазмены, и среди них были россияне”, – уточняет Юрко. Несколько месяцев назад он вернулся с фронта на Донбассе. Возможно, поэтому на тему россиян Юрко высказывается очень лаконично.&nbsp;</p><p>Культурная политика “Дзиґи” наиболее последовательно выражает тот общий принцип, которого сейчас придерживаются культурные менеджеры во Львове: “мы пропагандируем прежде всего украинскую и вообще качественную музыку”. С той разницей, что здесь этот принцип был актуален с самого начала.</p><p>Как пример «качественной музыки» Юрко приводит фронтмена группы «Ленинград» Сергея Шнурова. В мае состоится очередной фестиваль, который организовывает “Дзиґа” – “Флюгери Львова”. Среди участников будет польский театр из Вроцлава – культурной столицей Европы этого года. В качестве партнера пригласили и Львов. Вроцлавяне собираются показать во Львове спектакль о “философии запоя”, созданный на основе текстов песен “Ленинграда”.</p><p>“Мы ведем переговоры с Шнуровым, чтобы получить разрешение поставить спектакль во Львове. Может, по дороге в Польшу он бы согласился заехать к нам”, поясняет Юрко. И добавляет: “А что касается россиян… Единственное, чего мы не приемлем, так это русскоязычной украинской культуры”.&nbsp;</p><p>Хорошая возможность близко пообщаться представилась российским и львовским культурным деятелям осенью 2015 года. Тогда в рамках выставки медиа-искусства Warning состоялась общая дискуссия “Вне пропаганды”. В нее включились участники выставки, среди них – и российские деятели искусств, такие как Елена Роменкова, Михаил Максимов и Аристарх Чернышев.&nbsp;</p><p>Дискуссия показала, что, хотя украинцы и россияне довольно-таки по-разному смотрят на некоторые общественно-политические явления, однако разговор между ними вполне возможен. В конце москвич Михаил Максимов даже признался, что общение с украинскими коллегами изменило его отношение к политике как художника.&nbsp;</p><p>Львовский участник выставки Warning – медиа-художник Андрей Линик – уже долгое время поддерживает связи с российскими коллегами. В прошлом году он организовал приезд во Львов художника и куратора из Калининграда Дмитрия Булатова. “По сути, все мои российские друзья поддержали нас и во время Майдана, и после Крыма. Только один человек в этот период перестал со мной общаться”, рассказывает Андрей.&nbsp;</p><p>Единственная проблема – теперь тяжелее стало добираться. Россиян могут на несколько часов задержать в аэропортах, труднее стало организовывать проезд без официальной поддержки, ведь об обращении к российскому консульству для Андрея теперь не может быть и речи.&nbsp;</p><p>“Если честно, – говорит напоследок Андрей Линик, – наш украинский министр культуры Вячеслав Кириленко приносит нам намного больше вреда, чем российский министр обороны Шойгу”.&nbsp;</p><p>Не ощущается никакого кризиса и на независимой музыкальной сцене. Арт-менеджер популярного львовского клуба “Underground” Ляна Мицько заявляет, что “сегодня, наоборот, молодые альтернативные музыканты из России проявляют еще большее желание приехать во Львов, чем раньше”. Те, кто уже здесь побывал, планируют непременно приехать еще раз, они довольны здешней публикой и приемом.&nbsp;</p><p>Помешать им может лишь плохая осведомленность россиян в украинской ситуации. Ляна вспоминает забавный случай, когда одному из исполнителей ехать во Львов запретила его мать, уверенная, что здесь стреляют из пушек.</p><p>В альтернативной музыкальной среде Львова географическая принадлежность групп никак не влияет на посещаемость концертов, утверждает Ляна. “Ну, правда, каких-то там “ватников” мы и не приглашаем!”. </p><h2>Культура,&nbsp;деньги и скандалы &nbsp;</h2><p>Таким образом, свою политику относительно россиян каждая львовская культурная среда – независимая ли, рыночная ли – формулирует отдельно от остальных.&nbsp;</p><p>Вывести вопрос “российской культурной политики” Львова на уровень общественного обсуждения потенциально могла бы ситуация с Российским культурным центром.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/pozhar-RKTS_lvov.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/pozhar-RKTS_lvov.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Последствия майского пожара в библиотеке РКЦ, Львов, 2014 г. Фото СС: Alfa Nord / Викисклад. Некоторые права защищены.</span></span></span><span>Центр функционирует с 1996 года; в течение долгого времени он был единственным таким учреждением во всей Украине. При центре работают несколько кружков самодеятельности и различных обществ, среди них – казацкое землячество и военно-исторический клуб.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Хотя деятели Центра ведут целую хронику нападений националистов на их учреждение, для львовян Центр практически не существует. Это своего рода “белое пятно”. Какие-то упоминания об РКЦ появились в прессе лишь в 2014 году, когда там случился пожар. А также сейчас, когда существование Российского культурного центра оказалось под угрозой.&nbsp;</p><p>Областной совет депутатов решил вернуть помещение назад, в областную собственность, найдя для этого формальный повод – сейчас в здании зарегистрирована не та организация, с которой в свое время был заключен договор.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Крайне противоречивое прошлое города до сих пор заставляет львовян метаться между старыми травмами, реальными привычками и новыми устремлениями</p><p>Общества, что размещаются в Центре, бьют тревогу, утверждая, что депутатами движут политические мотивы. Однако похоже на то, что РКЦ просто стал жертвой “новой экономии” областных властей. К примеру, параллельно депутаты облсовета вернули себе помещение Конторы проката кино, вообще закрыв это учреждение.</p><p>Так или иначе, ситуация с Российским культурным центром всеобщего внимания не привлекла. Львовяне выказали полное безразличие к судьбе РКЦ. Отчасти это – следствие закрытости самого Центра, деятели которого в течение двадцати лет демонстрировали почти сектантское нежелание устанавливать внешние контакты.</p><p>Что вызвало настоящую бурю споров на тему “культура и Россия” в прошлом году, так это “Альфа Джаз”. Этот фестиваль, одно из самых масштабных джазовых событий Европы, основал в 2011 году российский миллиардер, уроженец Львова Михаил Фридман. На фестиваль традиционно приглашают джазовых исполнителей мирового класса; на него во Львов съезжаются толстосумы из многих стран.&nbsp;<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02206570.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02206570.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Украинский рок-музыкант Святослав Вакарчук (в центре) с супругой и председатель консорциума "Альфа-Групп" Михаил Фридман (справа) на джазовом фестивале Alfa Jazz Fest во Львове. Фото (c): Тарас Чайкивский / РИА Новости. Все права защищены.</span></span></span><span>Однако в прошлом году время проведения фестиваля пришлось на разгар боевых действий на Донбассе. Многие известные львовские журналисты и активисты внезапно вспомнили о том, что Фридман – российский банкир, который платит налоги в федеральный бюджет России, который, в свою очередь, финансирует донецкий “военторг”. Таким образом, “Альфа джаз” подпадал под главное львовское табу – причастность к официальной России.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Была организована открытая дискуссия с участием гражданских активистов, представителей власти и организаторов фестиваля. Спорщики разделились на два враждующих лагеря. Одни требовали запретить проводить фестиваль “на вражеские деньги”, а другие убеждали их, что политика и культура – это разные вещи. В конце концов участникам удалось найти более-менее компромиссное решение. Фестиваль состоялся, но без рекламы российского банка-спонсора.</p><p>Впрочем, такое решение не смогло полностью удовлетворить ни протестующих, ни организаторов. Вопрос “насколько львовяне готовы мириться с российским следом в культуре?” остался без четкого ответа.&nbsp;</p><p>Обе ситуации – и с РКЦ, и с “Альфа джазом” – прекрасно демонстрируют, что какую-либо однозначную картину культурных связей Львова и России нарисовать очень трудно.</p><p>Это касается как до-крымского, так и нынешнего периода. Крайне противоречивое прошлое города до сих пор заставляет львовян метаться между старыми травмами, реальными привычками и новыми устремлениями. Но отсутствие четкой позиции – это не так уж плохо. Ведь оно оставляет место для живых отношений, которые все-таки не стоит загонять в жесткие схемы.</p><p><span>Перевод с украинского: Ася&nbsp;Фруман.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/neliubimaya-padcheritsa">Культурное подполье</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-arkhangelsky/mezhdu-svadboi-i-travmoi">Между свадьбой и травмой. Опыт украинской культуры в России</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/to-chto-ne-vidno">То, что не видно с линии фронта</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kseniya-turkova/antrakt-ili-zanaves">Антракт или занавес?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Андрей Бондаренко  oDR Русский Ukraine Cultural politics Conflict Tue, 05 Apr 2016 13:51:56 +0000 Андрей Бондаренко  101145 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Book review: Oleg Kashin’s “Fardwor, Russia!” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/book-review-oleg-kashin-s-fardwor-russia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Kashin_cover.jpg" alt="" width="80" />Oleg Kashin’s new novel blends a resurrected Soviet-era sci-fi with some robust political satire, but for what audience?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><br /> </div> </div> </div> <p>A scientist in southern Russia tests a mysterious growth serum on livestock, attracting the vindictive dwarf brother of a Moscow billionaire. A string of brutal and mysterious murders follows, and the Russian state finds a new, and much more sinister, use for the invention. This is <em>Fardwor, Russia!</em>, the first novel of Russian journalist Oleg Kashin, recently published in English translation by Restless Books.</p><p>Kashin is one of Russia’s most prominent journalists internationally, not least due to the grim consequences of his work. In November 2010, Kashin was beaten half to death by two men wielding iron bars. Kashin believes that the attack was connected with his reporting for Russian daily <em>Kommersant</em>; newspaper staff saw it as an act of revenge by Pskov region governor Andrei Turchak, whom Kashin had insulted online. In any case, Kashin’s assailants made sure to break his fingers as a message. Five years later, the names of the journalist’s attackers came to light, as well as the man who had organised the hit — Aleksandr Gorbunov.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Oleg_Kashin.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Oleg_Kashin.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Journalist and author of “Fardwor, Russia!” Oleg Kashin during an open debate at the Mayakovsky Central Library in St. Petersburg, September 2014. Photo CC: Okras / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br />Kashin completed the manuscript to the novel just two months before he was attacked. Its title (<em>Vperde, Roissia!</em> in Russian) is a corruption of a 2009 article by Medvedev, “Forward, Russia!”, in which the president made vague overtures to anti-corruption and liberal reform, lauding a “modernisational majority” as the solution.</p><p>It was a hollow promise for change from above, in the name of a group which didn’t yet exist, without the will or the means to challenge the rotten core of the state and the corruption which corroded it. And after Putin returned to power in 2012, Russia’s liberals had precious little resolve left. <em>Fardwor, Russia</em> is an absurd and bleak reflection of that process of disenchantment.</p><h2>A long shadow</h2><p>Upon arriving at a nondescript regional town in the south, professor Karpov’s invention attracts the attention of the unscrupulous director of the local scientific institute, where his father had held sway. The scientist holds experiments in his garden shed. With the help of the serum, rats grow into the size of cats overnight, and cats into tigers. Circus dwarf Vasya then grows to a strapping height, and falls into the media spotlight. Unwelcome interests ripen; Karpov’s invention will not remain his own for long.</p><p>Scientific minds see the innovation as nothing but a route to personal growth, if not quite as literally as Vasya. Director of the institute Elena Nikolayevna, for example, has a simple plan. “She had to have ‘something’ when she went to Moscow, but she didn’t have that ‘something’”. But Karpov does.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Kashin completed the manuscript to the novel just two months before he was attacked in November 2010</p><p>Rusak, a patriotic butcher (they are more a rule than an exception in Kashin’s world) appears on the scene. As the owner of the Holy Rus’ meat processing corporation, he fears for his profits, and his Cossack friends dutifully swear to put Karpov away.</p><p>They in turn are beaten to it by Mefody Magomedov, the reclusive, hedonistic dwarf brother to Kirill, inheritor of their father’s business empire. Karpov’s hut is burnt down while Mefody flees, making off with Karpov’s wife. Back in Moscow, Mefody presents himself to his oligarch brother Kirill — a much taller man, but none the wiser. Mefody’s brother does not recognise him, though he insists on his identity.</p><p>With the help of Rusak and Slava, the shady conglomerate Olympstroi puts paid to Karpov’s innovation. Not so much a company as a “vacuum for professionals”, the firm can countenance no competition — potential, real or imagined. It’s a story from the shadiest recesses of business, the state, and organised crime, and one all too familiar to readers of the Russian press, all the stronger for its realism.</p><p>Karpov’s story ends in the looming shadow of the Sochi Olympics, among others. His serum is referred to as “Ivan Ilyin”, in honour of Putin’s favourite 19th century nationalist philosopher. After all, it lengthens the shadows of small men.</p><h2>Meet the modernisational majority</h2><p>By his own admission, Kashin has uncannily personal loathing for one of his creations, a character called Close to Zero, whose arrival follows Karpov’s arrest and detainment by the security services. This character’s biographical details are a clear reference to <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/11/hidden-author-putinism-russia-vladislav-surkov/382489/" target="_blank">Vladislav Surkov,</a> the Kremlin’s principal “political technologist”, while his moniker refers to the 2009 dystopian sci-fi novel commonly attributed to Surkov.</p><p> The novel changes setting to an isolated assisted living facility elsewhere in the provinces, kept under strict quarantine. Its inmates are the “ordinary people from the provinces — the modernisational majority”. The institute’s director needs Close to Zero’s help in instructing them in “internet polemics,” among other things. “And if they are like children,” concludes the director “then it’s your job to make them grow up more quickly”.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Hospital_MariEl.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Hospital_MariEl.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“...and if they are like children, then it’s your job to make them grow up more quickly.” Hospital corridor, Semenovka, Mari El Republic, Russia, 2012. Photo CC: UB_Scalar / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br />As a nosy <em>Kommersant</em> journalist will later attempt to reveal, these inmates are adults with the mental age of children. The state has helped them grow up, with a little help from patriotic pseudoscience.</p><p>In closing, we are reminded of Karpov’s first, ill-fated meeting in that institute in southern Russia. “If we want to get a specific result, we must want to get this result,” insists Elena Nikolayevna, selling one of her quack innovations to a presidential envoy. There’s the sensation, likely shared by Russian readers, that she’s not only referring to the institute’s laboratories.</p><h2>Inspired, but not inspiring</h2><p><em>Fardwor, Russia!</em> is as compelling and gruesome as it is at times difficult to follow. Kashin clearly relishes the opportunity to satirise the Russian establishment, but many of the references — not to mention the humour — have been lost in translation. For example, many Russian-language words and phrases appear without accompanying explanations. A glossary could have helped, though a need to explain satire perhaps undermines its impact.&nbsp;<br /><br />This is not the result of Will Evans’ excellent translation, but of its subject matter. Indeed, the appeal of the novel to an English-language audience may lie more in the story of Kashin himself, as a cause celebre for media freedom in Russia. The absurdities mount, and true to a Russian tradition of satire and magical realism, its characters appear morosely indifferent. The reader empathises with them. Although its plot is rewardingly absurd, <em>Fardwor, Russia!</em> seems more an opportunity to stitch together a series of send-ups of modern Russia with a plot that rapidly loses coherence.</p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">The appeal of the novel may lie more in the story of Kashin himself, as a cause celebre for media freedom in Russia</span></p><p>There’s a reason for this, too — the majority of <em>Fardwor, Russia!</em> is lifted from a Soviet-era work of science fiction, <em>Patient AB</em> by Lazar Lagin. Lagin’s 1948 novel is set in the imaginary capitalist state of Arzhanteiya, where Professor Popf’s invention — for wholesome, socialist purposes, no doubt — is stolen and commodified by the rapacious capitalist Primo Padrale.</p><p>“If I write bullshit, it’s a quotation,” once wrote Kashin on Twitter. The recycling of Lagin’s plot may be the backbone of the entire work. Kashin’s novel appears to follow Lagin’s, until the appearance of Olympstroi, Close to Zero and the “kidults”, at which point its plot begins to feel forced. Unless this is a cunning Surkovian literary device, it does <em>Fardwor, Russia!</em> few favours.&nbsp;</p><p>Both Kashin’s investigation and this tale have met a morose end. “You have complete and absolute control over the implementation of laws in Russia,” wrote an enraged Kashin in an <a href="https://globalvoices.org/2015/10/04/a-letter-to-the-rulers-of-russia-from-oleg-kashin/" target="_blank">open letter to Medvedev and Putin</a>, “and yet you still live like criminals”. For Kashin, the bleakest sign of Putin’s Midas touch was the fate of the investigator of his case Vadim Sotskov, who was transformed from an eager and enthusiastic young professional into a uniformed cynic. “There’s the law,” as Sotskov put it, “and there’s the man in charge, and the will of the boss is always stronger than any law.”</p><p>Kashin’s first novel is an enjoyable if confusing work. Perhaps it’s not the plot that’s lost in translation, which for its faults is also riotously bizarre, but the necessity. Kashin’s political satire is so specific that <em>Fardwor, Russia!</em> may not appeal to those with an interest in modern Russian literature per se, but only instead to close watchers of Russian politics. Or, indeed, of Kashin himself.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.restlessbooks.com/bookstore/fardwor-russia" target="_blank">Fardwor, Russia!</a> was published by Restless Books in 2015, translated by Will Evans, founder and director of <a href="http://deepvellum.org" target="_blank">Deep Vellum</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/review-zakhar-prilepin%E2%80%99s-%27sankya%27-national-bolsheviks">Book review: Zakhar Prilepin, &#039;Sankya&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oleg-kashin/war-in-donetsk-end-of-post-soviet-taboo">The war in Donetsk - end of a post-Soviet taboo?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maxim Edwards Russia Cultural politics Fri, 01 Apr 2016 16:58:19 +0000 Maxim Edwards 101057 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Crimea’s Ukrainian underground https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/crimea-s-ukrainian-underground <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GettyImages-484394652.jpg" alt="" width="160" />Two years after Crimea became part of the Russian Federation, most traces of Ukrainian culture have effectively disappeared from the peninsula.&nbsp;<strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/neliubimaya-padcheritsa" target="_blank">Русский</a>&nbsp;</em></strong><em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-zhilin-kulturne-pidpilla" target="_blank">Українською</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In Crimea today, Ukrainian culture is an unwanted stepdaughter: there are no books in Ukrainian in most shops, and even when there are a few left, people are wary of selling them. Ukrainian theatre workshops are being closed down on flimsy pretexts and radio stations try to avoid playing Ukrainian music. Only the people who travel back and forth to the mainland make any difference.</p><p>“You won’t find a thing: it’s a dead loss,” warned a Kyiv colleague who left Crimea after the “Russian Spring” of 2014. “Books in Ukrainian? They’ve all been thrown out.” </p><p>It’s hard to say where he got the story about the books, but it’s true that Ukrainian culture is hard to find in Crimea today.</p><h2><span>“You’re one of them, aren’t you?”</span></h2><p><span></span><span>Sevastopol. There are rows of retail kiosks by the bus stop, including one selling books. It has six shelves, and stocks everything from board books for toddlers to <em>A History of the Russian State</em>.</span></p><p>“Do you have anything in Ukrainian?” I ask the bookseller.</p><p>The lanky, long haired bloke behind the counter tears himself away from R.A. Salvatore’s <em>Dark Elf</em> sci-fi trilogy and looks at me as though I’m an idiot: “We’ve never had any.” And adds, still gazing at me with a smirk, “we don’t import them now either”. </p><p>“Well, yes,” I think to myself, “why would this city, the home of Russian military glory, need Ukrainian books?” </p><p class="mag-quote-center">This guy in the leather jacket isn’t the only person who doesn’t understand why someone might need a Ukrainian-language book in Crimea, and especially in Sevastopol</p><p>As I turn to leave and go to open the door, the guy asks: “Why are you asking anyway?” </p><p>“I’m learning the language.”</p><p>“I’ve been working here for six years,” he says, “and nobody’s ever asked before.”</p><p>This guy in the leather jacket isn’t the only person who doesn’t understand why someone might need a Ukrainian-language book in Crimea, and especially in Sevastopol. Each time I ask about something in Ukrainian, booksellers give me odd looks. </p><p>“Are you a <em>khokhol</em> [pejorative term for Ukrainians] or something?” sneers the older woman selling books by the metre. A minute earlier, she used the same tone with a man asking for a book entitled <em>We Saw Hell on Earth: On the 70th Anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatar People</em>. </p><p>“I only have Russian books,” the old woman says. “Even when we were part of Ukraine, I never stocked anything else”. </p><p>“Why?” I ask.</p><p>“We’ve had enough of you lot.”</p><p>“What about Gogol? Do you sell him?”</p><p>“Why wouldn’t we sell him? He’s a Russian writer,” she says, pointing at a shelf.</p><p>“Russian-Ukrainian,” I say.</p><p>She cuts me off: “He wrote in Russian” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-484394652_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-484394652_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Simferopol, Crimea, 2015. Photo: (с) Alexander Aksakov / Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Prior to Crimea’s accession to the Russian Federation, Ukrainian books used to be on sale in Sevastopol in bookshops, in fact they occupied a prominent place on the shelves. But now the Atrium bookshop on Vakulinchuk Street has neither a Ukrainian literature section, nor any books in the language.</span></p><p><span>“We stopped stocking them immediately after the referendum,” Svetlana, a buyer for the shop, tells me. “They weren’t big sellers even when we were in Ukraine, and it took around four months to get rid of the last batch. I have a clear memory of the last one I sold; it was a Ukrainian version of <em>Little Red Riding Hood</em>.”</span></p><p>According to Svetlana, the shop has no way of getting hold of books in Ukrainian: they are only available in mainland Ukraine. “Also, they can only be bought and sold in hryvnias, which we can’t deal with here and don’t intend to.”</p><p>Atrium does, however, sell works by two 19th century Ukrainian writers, national poet Taras Shevchenko and novelist and short story writer Mariya Vilinska, who wrote under the male pseudonym Marko Vovchok – but only in Russian translation.</p><p>When I find that even Foliant, Sevastopol’s underground bookshop, doesn’t have a single book in Ukrainian, I realise I need to look for them in another city.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-477568699.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-477568699.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Simferopol, March 2014. Photo (c): Spencer Platt / Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>But even in the capital of Simferopol, buying a Ukrainian book is no easy task. Before March 2014, books in Ukrainian accounted for up to 30% of the stock of local bookshops, but they disappeared after the referendum, for the same reasons as those in Atrium. The necessity of trading in hryvnias and transporting them from the mainland, which make imports impossible in terms of both logistics and purchasing power.</span></p><p>At a certain point I decide to find out whether it might be possible to print Ukrainian books in Crimea itself: Ukrainian is an official language in Crimea, after all.</p><p>However, when I ask Georgy Shalovalov, the director of Tavrida, Crimea’s state-owned printing house, about Ukrainian literature, all he can say is that there have been no orders for books in Ukrainian since Crimea’s annexation by Russia, although the peninsula’s bookselling chains would be welcome to use Tavrida should the need arise.</p><h2>A run on Ukrainian books</h2><p>I finally manage to buy a book in Ukrainian in Bukva, the fifth shop I visit in Simferopol, although the manager’s reaction is familiar. This imposing gentleman in a jacket, with a name badge reading “Maksim”, raises his eyebrows in amazement at my question and answers with another question: “Why do you want to buy one?” </p><p>“As a present for my relations. In Nikolaev [south Ukrainian town, Mykolaiv],” I tell him.</p><p>“But they can buy one for themselves. Are you collecting trophies, is that it?”</p><p>I don’t get the reference to trophies, and ask my question again.</p><p>“All right, come with me.”</p><p>There is only one shelf of Ukrainian literature in this large shop, and all the books on it are children’s books. </p><p>“When we were part of Ukraine this whole room, one out of four, was devoted to literature in Ukrainian,” the manager tells me, “and books sold even faster here than in the rooms with books in Russian. Here in Crimea, although [he looks at his smart phone] 24% of the population was Ukrainian, very few bookshops stocked books in the language.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There is only one shelf of Ukrainian literature in this large shop, and all the books on it are children’s books</p><p>“Why was that?” I ask.</p><p>“I don’t know. Probably people thought they wouldn’t sell.” </p><p>“So how did the referendum, change things?”</p><p>“Well, haven’t you heard? At one school in the Chistensky district they publicly tore up Ukrainian books, just like they did Ukrainian passports.” In October 2014, the staff at a Simferopol school gathered all the school’s books in Ukrainian and about Ukraine, and <a href="http://ru.krymr.com/content/article/26636086.html">ripped them up in front of the children</a>.</p><p>“And what about the shop?”</p><p>“We, on the contrary, had a complete run on books. The whole section was bought up within two months, although the stock had been completely updated just six months before. We had three different editions of Shevchenko’s poetry, as well as other turn of the century poets such as Lesya Ukrainka and Ivan Franko, and political works by Dmitry Vydrin [contemporary political analyst]. And of course, Russian books in Ukrainian translation.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-483810272_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-483810272_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sevastopol, August 2014. Photo (c) Alexander Aksakov / Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Now the shelves of the old Ukrainian department are stacked with world classics: Moliere, Hugo, Jack London. One customer has carelessly thrown a pro-Kremlin expose of the links between oil and global politics called&nbsp;</span><em>Cherchez la neft</em><span>&nbsp;</span><span>on top of the Ray Bradbury novels.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Now the shelves of the old Ukrainian department are stacked with world classics: Moliere, Hugo, Jack London</p><p>I am allowed to photograph the few Ukrainian books still on sale, and buy a copy of Aleksandr Grin’s classic fantasy&nbsp;<em>Crimson Sails</em>.</p><p>“Masha, do you remember when we last sold a book in Ukrainian?” Maksim asks the cashier. “Last year, I think.”</p><h2>Lost in translation</h2><p>Morye, or The Sea, is the only music station with a studio on the peninsula. It is state-owned, and colleagues say that they will only talk to me because we have known each other since we were students. </p><p>“We may not be part of Ukraine now, but people here like Ukrainian music,” says producer Anastasia Silina. “A fifth of all the requests we get by phone and on social media is for Ukrainian music. The most popular band is, of course, Okean Elzy: we play their hits every day, sometimes more than once. But old songs are also popular – ‘Red Flower’ [written in 1968, but now widely believed to be a folk song], ‘The Bird-Cherry Tree’ and so on. One old guy recently asked us to play an old Ukrainian folk song.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Ruslana is completely banned since she was active on the Maidan, and the rock band Vopli Vidopliassova for the same reason”</p><p>Anastasia pauses. “But there are restrictions on Ukrainian things. We can’t play [the Crimean Tatar singer] Jamala, for example, and especially not her current hit, ‘1944’, which is representing Ukraine at this year’s Eurovision Song contest. We get requests for it, and try to avoid replying to fans on social media, but what can you say?”</p><p>“Who else can’t you play?” I ask.</p><p>“Ruslana is completely banned since she was active on the Maidan, and the rock band Vopli Vidopliassova for the same reason. Not to mention Lyapis Trubetskoi’s hit ‘Warriors of the World’, which was a Maidan anthem.”</p><p>“But what about Russian rockers like Makarevich or Grebenshchikov [both caused controversy in Russia for expressing sympathy to/solidarity with Ukraine] – can you play them?” </p><p>“Yeah, they’re OK.”</p><p>“What was it like before, when Crimea was Ukrainian? Was there a lot of Ukrainian music on the radio?”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02441490.LR_.ru__1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02441490.LR_.ru__1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May 2014: Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, soloist from Okean Elzy, performs at the “20 years together“ concert in the Lvov Arena stadium. Photo (c): Pavel Palamarchuk / Visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>“At that time there were four music stations, none of them state-owned. We at Assol, which was closed down on 31 March 2015, had a strict rule: to play whatever listeners asked. And a lot of people asked for Ukrainian rock – Okean Elzy, Vopli Vidopliassova and Gogol Bordello’s ‘Tsyganiada’. Young people were really into this stuff – it was more popular than many international rock legends like Depeche Mode, Kiss or The Stooges.”</span></p><p>“And now Crimeans can’t hear this music on the radio anymore?”</p><p>“Apart from us, there are general Russian transmitters that we can catch, and further north you can tune into Ukrainian stations, where you can even listen to Lapis and Jamala.”</p><h2>The final curtain</h2><p>The Svitanok theatrical workshop functioned in Simferopol until December 2015. </p><p>“I am very proud of my project,” says the theatre’s founder Aleksandr Polchenko. “We worked for 22 years and during that time we trained a host of good actors – 300 young people learned their trade from us. Our children acted in theatre productions, the popular TV serial The Crimean Cherry Tree and the film The Battle of Sevastopol, where little Sveta Osadchenko recited the poem ‘Kill a Fascist!’ – have you seen that scene? Ironically, we were closed down for our alleged fascism.”</p><p>On 19 December, last year the workshop put on a performance of Song of the Amazon, based on the stories of the Crimean writer Viktor Stus, in the main hall of Simferopol’s Pioneer Palace. “The performance took place in Ukrainian, as usual,” Polchenko tells me. “It was the story of warrior women fighting for the independence of their homeland. On the day after the show the cultural centre’s director Valery Kochetov demanded a videotape of the performance, and two days later they held a ‘postmortem’. It was amusing to hear that a small girl wearing a gold-coloured dress, with a crown on her head, looked too much like the Statue of Liberty, and that this was ‘propaganda for American values’. And we were also told that the children shouldn’t have been wearing traditional embroidered shirts - this counted as ‘backwoods nationalism’.”</p><p>The studio was closed down. Fifty students were training there at the time. </p><p>“There is no longer a single Ukrainian theatrical workshop either in Simferopol or anywhere else in Crimea,” says Nina Savostyanova, mother of nine-year old Dasha. “There’s nowhere else for the children to go, and Dasha’s dream was to go into acting.”</p><h2>The costs of culture</h2><p>Leonid Kuzmin, one of the founders of the Ukrainian Cultural Centre (UKC), believes that Ukrainians’ biggest problem in Crimea is their lack of communal identity, which makes it difficult to protect their culture. I meet up with him in a city centre café. He is a pretty well known figure in Crimea, but he’s not welcome everywhere. </p><p>“My friends run this café, so we can hang out here, no trouble,” he tells me. Since Crimea became part of Russia, Leonid has been arrested a dozen times and beaten up once — so safety is on his mind. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Ukrainian culture has had to go underground in Crimea”</p><p>“Ukrainian culture has had to go underground in Crimea,” he says. “You can’t find books in the shops, and libraries have put their Ukrainian literature holdings into storage to keep them safe from prying eyes. And, naturally, Ukrainian bands don’t gig here anymore.” </p><p>At the end of 2014, when it became clear that everything Ukrainian on the peninsula was “closing down”, Leonid decided to set up a Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Simferopol.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/img-20160313113259-980.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/img-20160313113259-980.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In February 2016, several residents of the Gagarinsky Region organised a petition to remove a statue of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko from the local administration building. Photo via www.ncrim.ru.</span></span></span></p><p>“There were three of us with the same idea – my Euromaidan friends Veldar Shukurdjiev and Lyonya Terletsky and myself. We began by sticking up flyers with ‘Ukrainian Cultural Centre’ and a Facebook address all over Simferopol, and to our amazement, by the next day 90 people had signed up to it. Then we publicised ourselves on Ukrainian language media and got loads of messages of support in response.” </p><p> In January 2015 Leonid appealed for public aid for the new centre. </p><p>“We asked people living in mainland Ukraine to send us books they didn’t need, CDs of Ukrainian music, portraits of Ukrainian writers. We talked to people at the Ministry of Culture, who agreed to take delivery of anything we received. In March I visited Kyiv and came back with nine boxes of books, CDs, posters – and even two embroidered shirts – a fine collection of ‘tamizdat’. We decided it was time to launch ourselves in public.” </p><p>In May 2015, Kuzmin and Shukurdjiev held a press conference in Simferopol where they announced that the UCC was planning to organise singing festivals and literary readings, as well as running lectures and courses in traditional crafts and Ukrainian history, language and literature.</p><p>“We hoped that the officials would take notice of us,” Leonid tells me, “that they would want to fund this focal point of Ukrainian culture in the peninsula – Ukrainian is, after all, one of Crimea’s official languages, along with Russian and Crimean Tatar. </p><p>“But no one has shown any interest, not only here but in Ukraine itself: the president’s office told us bluntly that they had no money. Up until the blackout in November, we were still talking to a businessman about renting premises, but as soon as Ukraine switched off the power he didn’t want to have anything to do with us.” </p><p>“But we are still at the centre of Ukrainian cultural life in Crimea: we function as a library, lending Ukrainian books to our Facebook subscribers. And interestingly, we have lots of requests for children’s books. People will also happily come from other places to borrow books – from Yalta, Sevastopol, even Kerch. And three times in the last year we organised lectures and debates on Ukrainian history and literature.</p><p>“But for some reason even this innocuous activity still irritates the Crimean government,” he adds. “Last March, we decided to lay flowers in front of the Shevchenko monument in Simferopol on the anniversary of the poet’s death. There were about 20 of us there. We laid the flowers, read some of his poems and were just about to disperse when the police arrived. I was arrested, along with two others, and we were then held for four hours in a police station, where they tried to convince us to ‘move to Ukraine’.”</p><p>However, according to Leonid there are signs of a possible thaw in Crimean attitudes to Ukrainian culture. In December 2015, Oleg Leus, a journalist, set up a Ukrainian National-Cultural Society, which so far has only 20 members but is being actively publicised. There are also plans for a series of Ukrainian literary evenings, a singing workshop and reading room. </p><p>“If this takes off in Sevastopol,” says Leonid, “there will be two centres of Ukrainian activity in Crimea. And then we might be able to emerge from the underground.”</p><p><em>Did you enjoy this article? Read more like it in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/beyond-frontline-introduction-to-new-series-for-odr">our new series</a> on cultural cooperation and dialogue between Russia and Ukraine.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/beyond-frontline-introduction-to-new-series-for-odr">Beyond the frontline: introducing a new series for oDR</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-urodov/crimeas-bright-future">Crimea’s bright future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-arkhangelsky/dancing-to-moscow-s-tune">Dancing to Moscow’s tune</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/cultural-cooperation-in-time-of-war-view-from-kyiv">Cultural cooperation in a time of war: the view from Kyiv</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ivan Zhilin Ukraine Russia Politics Cultural politics Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:19:42 +0000 Ivan Zhilin 101004 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dancing to Moscow’s tune https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrei-arkhangelsky/dancing-to-moscow-s-tune <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/223115129_0 (1).jpg" alt="" width="160" />If we’re going to understand Russian perceptions of Ukraine, we need to examine its cultural imagination. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrei-arkhangelsky/mezhdu-svadboi-i-travmoi" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Back in the Soviet Union, a typical Soviet television programme on Ukrainian culture would feature a performance by a Ukrainian choir or dance troupe, the performers in national dress moving and/or opening their mouths in unison.&nbsp;</p><p>In the “people’s empire”, the cultures of different nationalities played an ornamental, ideological role. They were used to demonstrate the concept of “the friendship of peoples”, as opposed to actual culture, and thus, the mainstream image of national cultures was predominantly ethnographical.&nbsp;</p><p>Twenty five years after the union fell apart, many former Soviet citizens still carry with them this particular image of Ukraine: an obedient nation, dancing and singing to Moscow’s rhythm. Many others carry it still.</p><h2>Opposite directions</h2><p>In 1991, the sphere of cultural exchange between Russia and Ukraine went in two directions — the official and the unofficial. </p><p>&nbsp;Due to inertia, the official mechanisms of “people’s friendship” continued to operate. As the 1990s came to a close, “friendship trains” still ran between Moscow and Kyiv. Cultural programmes were the same as they had been on TV years ago: dancing, singing, toasting. The only difference was that, instead of the old flag of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic on the Kremlin palace stage, there hung the flag of independent Ukraine. In the beginning, this was considered a sign of “tradition”, that “nothing had changed” between the two countries.&nbsp;</p><p>Yet the format of cultural events, which took the form of showing off each other’s “cultural talents” to the metropolis, eventually started to fade. Such events were criticised in Ukraine, too, for continuing an image of Ukraine as a folkloristic, ethnographical “little sister” to Russia, an image particularly popular on various 1990s TV shows in Russia.</p><p>At the same time, a different, unofficial cultural exchange emerged. Its symbol? Crimea’s Kazantip festival, probably the most famous electronic music festival on the territory of the former USSR. Launched in 1992, Kazantip was a territory of great freedom, where a teenager could behave like nowhere else.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Music built bridges, taught people to live on equal footing — separately but harmoniously</p><p>Another symbol of this unofficial exchange between Russia and Ukraine was rock and pop music, as represented by Vopli Vidoplyasova and Okean Elzy. The fact that Ukrainian pop music became fashionable in the end of the 1990s made everything else Ukrainian fashionable as well. Ukrainian pop artists were an indelible part of everything from festivals to radio programmes in the late 1990s and early 2000s. (It’s hard to imagine this today, but just five years ago, the huge Olimpiisky stadium in Moscow was singing the chorus along with Svyatoslav Vakarchuk (lead singer of Okean Elzy) in Ukrainian.) For a new generation of Russians, Ukrainian culture was no longer seen as playing second fiddle.&nbsp;<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-74134758.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-74134758.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Eurovision 2007: Verka Serdyuchka performing "Dancing lasha tumbai". Photo (c) Johannes Simon / Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Thus, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx_UKelqxTk" target="_blank">Ruslana Lyzhichko</a> (winner of Eurovision in 2004) showed a modern image of Ukraine, while <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXI_T_9uU6s" target="_blank">Verka Serdyuchka</a> (a character created by performer Andrii Danilko) was a deliberately kitschy act. Some considered Serdyuchka postmodern, others thought her sincere. Serdyuchka performed in surzhik, a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian, which made her accessible. In spite of her songs’ seeming primitiveness, they were part of a carnival culture that could be interpreted in various ways.</p><p>Habermas’ theory of communicative action worked organically here: pop culture was the ideal means of getting someone to understand the Other. The fashion for Ukrainian culture worked to rid people of their “empire syndrome”, and it did so without making people uncomfortable. More effective than politicians or government programmes, music built bridges, taught people to live on equal footing — separately but harmoniously.</p><p>Yet this kitschy image of Ukraine, as embodied by Serdyuchka, was convenient for Russians with an imperial mindset. They took it as an image of the folkloristic Ukraine, familiar to them from the Soviet culture industry.&nbsp;</p><h2>Totalitarian trauma and feminism: the modern literary Ukraine&nbsp;</h2><p>It was in the 1990s that books by Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov appeared in Russia. After his novel <em>The Milkman in the Night</em> was long-listed for the Russian National Bestseller literary prize, Kurkov, a Ukrainian writer who writes in Russian, took on the function of a symbolic bridge between post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine. Note that in this instance, culture itself took a “soft approach” — teaching people to get used to a new cultural and social reality.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">By the beginning of the 2000s, there was demand in Russia for new Ukrainian literature&nbsp;</p><p>By the beginning of the 2000s, there was demand in Russia for new Ukrainian literature. First of all, this applied to writers from the Stanislav School (a group of postmodern artists and writers from Ivan-Frankivsk, which was called Stanislav until 1962), who presented an unusual image of Ukraine to the Russian reader. When writers as Yury Andrukhovych, Yury Izdryk, Taras Prokhasko were translated in Russia it meant not only the acceptance of the Ukrainian language, but an acceptance of the distinctiveness of the Ukrainian viewpoint. In many ways, these authors are concerned with reflecting on the post-Soviet age, the eradication of the experience of totalitarianism.</p><p>And so, a veritable wave of translation took place. The first Russian translation of Andrukhovych, his novel <em>Recreations</em>, was published in the <em>Druzhba Narodov</em> journal in 2000. Later, the novels <em>The Moscoviad</em> and <em>Perverzion</em> were translated. The works of Prokhasko and Izdryk were published in the Galician Stonehendge anthology, and were also published as separate volumes throughout the 2000s, as well as in the <em>Novy Mir</em>, <em>Vestnik Evropy</em>, and <em>Druzhba Narodov</em> journals.&nbsp;</p><p>In 2000s, Russians became interested in the Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan, with his novels <em>Depeche Mode</em> (2005), <em>Anarchy in the UKR</em> (2008), <em>Red Elvis</em> (a 2009 play) and&nbsp;<em>Voroshilovgrad</em> (2012).&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-484394652.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-484394652.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Simferopol, Crimea, 2015. (с) Alexander Aksakov / Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Oksana Zabuzhko’s </span><em>Field Work in Ukrainian Sex</em><span> became a sensation in Russia when it was first translated in the </span><em>Druzhba Narodov</em><span> journal in 1998. It was then published and re-published as a standalone volume starting in 2001. A feminist text, it also went against Ukraine’s traditional image. In 2007, </span><em>Sweet Darusia</em><span>, a novel, and </span><em>Nation</em><span>, a collection of short stories, both by Maria Matios, were published in Russia. All of this shows how important Ukrainian writers were being published, albeit with slight delays, in Russia.</span></p><p>Yelena Marinicheva, one of the prominent translators of Ukrainian texts into Russian (she worked on Zhadan, Zabuzhko, Matios) says, “Until 2004, Ukrainian literature was being actively published in Russia. But after the first Maidan [i.e. the Orange Revolution of 2004], it became harder and harder.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Russian writers were attempting to reconcile the totalitarian experience with modernity — trauma itself became a taboo&nbsp;</p><p>In the mid 2000s, the Russian publishing house Vostok-Zapad (literally: East-West) planned to publish an entire series of Ukrainian literature. Works by Zabuzhko, and Ukrainian writers Yury Vinnichyuk and Oleksander Irvanets were published as the result.&nbsp;</p><p>“Two or three books will come, and then the situation will change again,” Marinicheva says in reference to politics. This is why the majority of these Ukrainian books were being published by small presses.</p><p>All of these Ukrainian writers deal with the trauma of totalitarianism in their works. We should also note that the Russian reading public was particularly interested in “another Ukraine”. Russian literature itself did not head in this direction: at this time, Russian writers were mostly attempting to reconcile the totalitarian experience with modernity — the theme of trauma itself became a taboo. This is the crucial difference between modern Ukrainian and Russian literature.</p><h2>A cultural “dual citizenship”</h2><p>There are those cultural figures who existed “between” Russia and Ukraine, and embodied a dual culture. Traditional Ukrainian pop acts that sang in Russian, such as Taisiya Povaliy, Ani Lorak, and the Kroliki duet, organically integrated into the Russian pop scene.</p><p>Another unique example are the Meladze brothers, a singer and composer. Born in Georgia, Konstantin and Valery then set up a life in Ukraine. Valery nded up moving to Russia, Konstantin remained in Ukraine, though he continued to work on all of his brother’s songs. In 2000, Konstantin founded the VIA Gra pop group, equally popular in Ukraine and Russia. Konstantin also worked as a television producer in both countries.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In 2014, not a single Ukrainian book was published in Russia</p><p>We must also note a theatre borne of two cultures. Ukrainian playwright Natalia Vorozhbyt was born in Kyiv, graduated from the Moscow Institute of Literature in 2000, and spent a decade in Russia, were she was one of the original members of the New Drama movement and the community that created Moscow’s Teatr.doc. Another playwright from Kyiv, Maksym Kurochkin, was a success on the Moscow stage in the 1990s and 2000s.</p><p>Ukrainian director Andriy Zholdak, the great-grandson of Ukrainian playwright Ivan Karpenko-Kary, studied at the Taras Shevchenko State Artistic School in Kyiv, then graduated from the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts in Moscow, and, starting in 1991, put on many productions in Russia, including <em>The Seagull</em> and <em>Eugene Onegin</em>. He worked everywhere, from Kyiv to Kharkiv, from Moscow to St. Petersburg, as well as Romania, Finland, and Germany, producing both Russian and Ukrainian authors. A Ukrainian director became a world citizen, a “bridge of understanding,” a genuine “kulturträger”.</p><p>Meanwhile, in 2013, Oksana Zabuzhko’s new novel, <em>The Museum of Abandoned Secrets</em> was published in a translation by Yelena Marinicheva, but it was barely noticed by the critics. Euromaidan and the armed conflict in east Ukraine made it so.</p><p>In 2014, not a single Ukrainian book was published in Russia.</p><h2>A post-Euromaidan world</h2><p>In 2015, a collection of Ukrainian writers’ works on war and peace, This Summer’s Sky, was published in Moscow. It included stories by Serhiy Zhadan, Yury Vinnichyuk, Tania Malyarchyuk, Andriy Bondar, Vladimir Rafeenko, Taras Prokhasko, Yury Izdryk, Yevgeniya Kononenko, and others. The collection was published at the Tri Kvadrata publishing house, on the initiative of Russian writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya. <em>Colta.ru</em> meanwhile published a <a href="http://www.colta.ru/articles/literature/6538" target="_blank">new short story by Zhadan</a>, while the <em>Novy Mir</em> journal dedicated its <a href="http://magazines.russ.ru/novyi_mi/2015/9" target="_blank">September 2015 issue</a> to Ukrainian literature.</p><p>In 2016, Astrel, a St. Petersburg publishing house, published the first Russian edition of stories and essays by Tania Malyarchyuk (as translated by Yelena Marinicheva).</p><p>In 2014, Moscow’s Teatr.doc put on a reading of <em>Maidan Diaries</em>, a documentary play by Natalia Vorozhbyt. The play was also meant to be read at the Moscow Book Festival – but the reading was cancelled, just as a reading of Maksym Kurochkin’s new play, <em>The Herbivores</em>.</p><div><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/223115129_0 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/223115129_0 (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In 2015, Andriy Zholdak staged his “Zholdak Dreams: Kidnappers of Emotion”, inspired by Carlo Goldoni’s “A Servant of Two Masters”, at St. Petersburg’s Tovstonogov drama theatre. Photo courtesy of http://svobodazholdaktheatre.com.</span></span></span><span>In September 2015, director Victor Ryzhakov put on Vorozhbyt’s new play, </span><em>Sasha, Take Out the Garbage</em><span>, in Moscow’s Meyerhold Center. The hero of the play, a Ukrainian army colonel, has died from heart failure and now watches his widow and stepdaughter prepare food for his wake. Then Sasha will try to resurrect himself – news of war will reach even the dead – but his relatives don’t want to let him, they want others to fight.</span></div><p>In October 2014, a new production, <em>In the Beginning and the End of Time</em>, premiered at Moscow’s Mossovet Theatre. The author, Pavel Alexeyev, who writes under the pseudonym Pavlo Ariye, is a former Lviv resident who lives in Germany. The play takes place in a village close to the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Fear and survival are the main themes of the play.</p><p>In 2015, Andriy Zholdak put on <em>Zholdak Dreams: Kidnappers of Emotion</em>, based on Carlo Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters, at the Tovstonogov Theatre in St. Petersburg. In February 2016, Zholdak followed that up with a production of Chekhov’s <em>Three Sisters</em> at the Alexandrinsky Theatre (also in St. Petersburg).</p><p>Valery Fokin, the artistic director of Alexandrinsky, which is Russia’s oldest theatre, invited Zholdak, a Ukrainian director, to put on a production on the main stage, in the year the theatre celebrates its 260th anniversary. Considering the time we live in, this seems to be a strong cultural, even political, gesture.</p><p>Anti-war themes, themes of humanism – this is the only cultural field where Ukrainian and Russian authors can collaborate together today. As paradoxical as it seems, this topic is one that unites the two cultures. </p><p>One of the few examples of this anti-war rhetoric is a 2015 project called <em>Greetings from Here to There</em>, a project where 36 Ukrainian and Russian artists made videos saying Happy New Year and wished for one thing – peace. The project was created by poet Yan Shenkman, Novaya Gazeta, the Kushnir Production agency, the Cultprostir website, and internet TV channel BeTV Ukraina.</p><h2>An open wound and its future&nbsp;</h2><p>Between 1991 to 2014, Russia’s perception of Ukrainian culture gradually changed. Its new image was being communicated via private means — publishers, promoters, theatres, festivals. This process was largely an organic one. It was unofficial cultural ties that allowed for the possibility of healing “imperial trauma” and teach people to live peacefully as equals.&nbsp;</p><p>At the same time, official, state-based cultural exchanges continued to trade in a traditional, ethnographical, and, therefore, subordinate image of Ukraine — whether willingly or unwillingly. These exchanges made people get used to the idea that Ukraine “had not changed.”&nbsp;</p><p>This was the thesis, as well as the Soviet thesis of people’s friendship, that formed the basis for official cultural exchange. This was the general rhetoric you heard from Russian, and, in some cases, Ukrainian cultural personalities. And this notion of the two cultures being indistinct created a sense of disregard for Ukrainian sovereign statehood.&nbsp;</p><p>And it cannot be said that an alternative viewpoint was not presented in Russia – whether via the books of Zabuzhko or, say, a Vorozhbyt play about Holodomor. Such works were being printed and produced in Russia.</p><p>What should be noted is that the alternative viewpoint was marginalised in relation to official cultural policy. For instance, Russian theatre critic Alyona Karas wrote this about Vorozhbyt’s last play, <em>Sasha, Take Out the Garbage</em>: “We must understand what Natalia Vorozhbyt is doing: she is bearing witness, when bearing witness is impossible. In a situation where historical trauma is almost completely ignored by Russian and Ukrainian theatre, she is trying to speak via documentary.”<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00096251.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00096251.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Reproduction of "The Pereyaslavl Rada", a painting by Mikhail Deregus and Sergei Repin (1954). Photo (c): Visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This is the key. The historical trauma that has existed between Ukraine and Russia for centuries has gone unremarked upon in both cultures. At the same time, such figures and events as Ivan Mazepa, Holodomor, the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) are perceived differently in Ukraine and in Russia. Post-Soviet Russian culture ignored these themes, and individual authors such as Zabuzhko could not change this overall trend.</p><p>The cultures of both countries (except for the authors I listed in this article), decide they wanted to “forget the bad,” and talk about the good when it came to relations between the two cultures. This led to tragic results.</p><p>Instead of a frank dialogue that dealt with shared problems – a dialogue that could have led to healing – both cultures ignored or talked over the issues.</p><p>This led to serious consequences when a real-life drama took place between Russia and Ukraine.</p><p>We suddenly found out that in 23 years, a Ukrainian-Russian dialogue, a culture of equality, a culture of mutual respect, did not, in fact, develop.&nbsp;</p><p>Today the relationship between the two countries has been ruined for decades to come – but sooner or later, we will still have to look for ways to connect, to make peace with one another.</p><p>Culture always takes centre stage at moments like that. And this is where we must begin a new chapter in our relationship — in talking through past, and, sadly, present traumas, traumas whose list, in the last two years alone, has grown many times over. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/beyond-frontline-introduction-to-new-series-for-odr">Beyond the frontline: introducing a new series for oDR</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ksenia-turkova/cultural-cooperation-in-time-of-war-view-from-kyiv">Cultural cooperation in a time of war: the view from Kyiv</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/gleb-belichenko/neighbours-but-not-friends">Neighbours, but not friends</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/crimea-s-ukrainian-underground">Crimea’s Ukrainian underground</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Andrei Arkhangelsky Ukraine Russia Cultural politics Conflict Wed, 30 Mar 2016 12:01:27 +0000 Andrei Arkhangelsky 100992 at https://www.opendemocracy.net