oD Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3513/all en Meet the women at the centre of Ukraine’s resurgent HIV epidemic https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/michael-colborne/women-at-centre-of-ukraine-s-resurgent-hiv-epidemic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Living with HIV in Ukraine is fraught with stigma and discrimination. It’s even harder if you’re a woman.</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/Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 18.05.58.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of the protagonists of <a href=https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/publications/balka-women-hiv-and-drug-use-ukraine>Balka</a>, a film which follows the lives of women struggling with drug use and HIV in Ukraine. Source: Open Society Foundations. </span></span></span>On International Women’s Day in early March, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) published a<a href="http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/pressreleaseandstatementarchive/2017/march/international-womens-day"> report</a> stating there is an “urgent need” to increase HIV treatment and prevention for women and girls around the world. “Girls and women are still bearing the brunt of the AIDS epidemic,” Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, <a href="http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/when-women-lead-change-happens_en.pdf">laments in the report’s introduction</a>, pointing to stigma, discrimination and violence as factors that make women more vulnerable to HIV than men.</p><p dir="ltr">None of this is news to Svitlana Moroz, who heads up<a href="https://www.women-union.org.ua/"> Positive Women</a>, a Ukrainian NGO that advocates for the rights of women living with HIV across the country. Last month, Moroz and other activists filed a<a href="https://humanrights.org.ua/en/material/v_oon_upershe_poskarzhilisja_na_porushennja_prav_vilpozitivni_zhinki_ta_spozhivachki_narkotikiv"> report</a> to the UN, alleging violations of human rights of HIV-positive women in Ukraine.</p><p dir="ltr">Moroz and other activists have collected disturbing stories from women with HIV across Ukraine. Natalia, a pregnant HIV-positive woman in western Ukraine, was turned away from a maternity ward, being told there was no place for “people like her”. Another pregnant HIV-positive woman managed to get into the hospital, but was placed in a room with broken windows in winter — she was told they couldn’t put her with other women. &nbsp;Other women have been accused of being drug addicts, denied health care and had their children take from them — all because of their HIV-positive status.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Vera, unfortunately, isn’t alone. She is one of many HIV-positive women in Ukraine who have had to deal with institutional discrimination</p><p dir="ltr">Some women have lost even more. Vera, an HIV-positive sex worker, gave birth by caesarean section in hospital. When she awoke to ask the doctor, a woman, how the surgery had gone, the doctor replied by saying she’d performed a tubal ligation without Vera’s consent: “You have no right to build a family and have children.”</p><p dir="ltr">Vera, unfortunately, isn’t alone. She is one of many HIV-positive women in Ukraine who have had to deal with institutional discrimination.</p><h2>HIV back on the upswing in Ukraine</h2><p dir="ltr">Prior to 2014, Ukraine was putting up a<a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0103657"> strong fight</a> against one of the worst HIV epidemics in Europe. Thanks to concerted efforts from government, civil society and international donors to provide treatment and prevention programmes to at-risk populations, by 2012 Ukraine had actually reported a decline in new HIV cases for the<a href="http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/pressreleaseandstatementarchive/2013/november/20131120report"> first time</a>. It looked as though the country was about to turn a corner.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s all changed, following the outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and the country’s turbulent political and economic situation. Ukraine’s Ministry of Health <a href="http://ucdc.gov.ua/uploads/documents/83da57/582407606b6036307d75611eb87a32e2.pdf">estimates</a> that at the beginning of 2016 there were 220,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine — a prevalence rate of 0.9%, with almost equal numbers of men and women testing positive.</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/Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 18.11.27.png" alt="" title="" width="455" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>How infection is transmitted — from the brochure "If you're positive" produced by Positive Women NGO. Source: <a href=https://media.wix.com/ugd/23686c_956ee5a796444fdfae8d21fce8588e3a.pdf>Positive Women</a>.</span></span></span>The trends over the last year are worrying. According to the most recent<a href="http://ucdc.gov.ua/uploads/documents/83da57/582407606b6036307d75611eb87a32e2.pdf"> statistics</a> from Ukraine’s Public Health Center, part of Ukraine’s Ministry of Health, the number of new officially registered people with HIV/AIDS rose by almost eight percent in 2016; most (62%) of new infections came from sexual intercourse, while 22% from intravenous drug use. While deaths from HIV-related causes have been on a <a href="http://www.who.int/gho/hiv/epidemic_status/deaths_text/en/">decline </a>worldwide, the mortality rate from HIV-related causes increased in Ukraine by seven percent in 2016 - the majority (52%) caused by tuberculosis.</p><p dir="ltr">These official Ukrainian government statistics don’t include Crimea or the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts not controlled by Ukraine (the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic”). This means these figures could actually be an underestimate, especially since Donetsk, says UNAIDS Ukraine country director Jacek Tymszko, has long been an epicentre of Ukraine’s HIV epidemic. More than half of all officially registered Ukrainians living with HIV live in Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk oblasts as well as in Kyiv.</p><h2>Stigma “is still very strong”</h2><p dir="ltr">Ilona, a social worker in Kyiv who works with people who have HIV/AIDS, knows how tough it is to be a woman living with HIV in Ukraine — she tested positive herself for HIV ten years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">Ilona tells me about a time when, before she’d disclosed her status to many people, she and her husband had a group of friends over, including her mother-in-law. Some of these friends, Ilona says, were HIV-positive, and her mother-in-law (“a good, accepting person,” she made pains to stress to me) knew about the HIV status of some of these friends and had no problem with it.</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/HIV-ukraine-unicef.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"28% of young people know how HIV is transmitted and how they can protect themselves." Unicef promotional poster in Ukrainian, 2013. CC Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>“But when they left,” she tells me, “my mother-in-law asked me to help disinfect everything they touched,” all despite the fact HIV<a href="https://www.avert.org/hiv-transmission-prevention/myths"> can’t be spread</a> by touching shared objects like toilets or cutlery. With her mother-in-law at that time unaware of her HIV-positive status, Ilona helped her disinfect and scrub everything her HIV-positive friends had laid a hand on.</p><p dir="ltr">She’s able to laugh about it now, but it still hurt. “It was quite humiliating for me,” Ilona says.</p><p dir="ltr">That said, there has been some progress in reducing stigma against people with HIV in Ukraine. A Democratic Initiatives poll from 2016 showed that 21% of people surveyed believed that people living with AIDS should be<a href="http://dif.org.ua/article/ukraini-25-dosyagnennya-ta-porazki-gromadska-dumka"> isolated</a> from society, down from 36% in 2006 and 50% in 1991. “It’s moving in the right direction,” says Dmytro Sherembey from the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, “but it’s still very strong.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">This type of attitude — that HIV is a disease just for “those at the bottom” — can manifest itself in violence against women with HIV</p><p dir="ltr">Aside from her own experiences, Ilona’s worked with women of all ages and backgrounds who’ve tested positive for HIV. She’s seen how women of all backgrounds — particularly older women, she says — have a difficult time accepting their diagnosis. “They see [HIV] as a disease for those at the bottom,” Ilona says.</p><p dir="ltr">This type of attitude — that HIV is a disease just for “those at the bottom” — can manifest itself in violence against women with HIV. Violence against women is<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-antonova-maria-dmytrieva/shut-up-woman-your-day-is-march-8"> bad</a><a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/07/ukraine-conflict-spike-domestic-violence-150722094335117.html"> enough</a> in Ukraine, but according to a November 2016 <a href="https://www.women-union.org.ua/kopiya-podiyi-2016">survey </a>Positive Women conducted with 1,000 HIV-positive women across the country, more than a third (35%) of women living with HIV reported that they’d been the victim of violence from either their partner or husband, and almost half (47%) said they’d had no support afterwards. Worse still, the findings from the survey suggest the likelihood of being the victim of violence increases after testing positive for HIV.</p><p dir="ltr">Violence against women with HIV can even extend to their children, especially if they also have HIV. Olga Rudneva, Executive Director of the Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation in Kyiv, tells me about an incident in a small town in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, where a social worker started trying to raise money for a family with an HIV-positive child. The family, including the children, had stones thrown at them and were eventually forced to flee the town.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s 2017, in the middle of Europe,” Rudneva sighs.</p><h2>“For people like you, we have no place”</h2><p dir="ltr">Outright discrimination against women with HIV in healthcare environments is a problem in Ukraine. The<a href="https://humanrights.org.ua/en/material/v_oon_upershe_poskarzhilisja_na_porushennja_prav_vilpozitivni_zhinki_ta_spozhivachki_narkotikiv"> report</a> Positive Women and other activists filed with the UN last month has several stories of HIV-positive women being denied access to health care because of their HIV status.</p><p dir="ltr">“In 2016, when it was time for delivery, I came to the perinatal center, but the administration refused to admit me, saying that ‘for people like you, we have no place,’” Natalia, a HIV-positive woman, is quoted as saying in the report.</p><p dir="ltr">Likewise, a social worker recounts how an HIV-positive client of theirs was placed in a hospital room with broken windows during the winter, on the grounds that there weren’t any other rooms available, and another spoke of how a client of hers was denied in vitro fertilisation (IVF) because of her HIV-positive status.</p><p dir="ltr">At her office in Kyiv, Svitlana Moroz walks me through the findings of the survey. The numbers tell a story of how health care providers can discriminate against HIV-positive women across Ukraine, and how many of these women don’t know where to turn for help. One-third (33%) of women, when asked whether they believed healthcare providers would keep their HIV status private, said they didn’t believe they would. Almost one-third (31%) don’t know their rights and don’t know who to talk to if they feel their rights have been violated.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“It’s very important to mobilise and empower women living with HIV”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In Positive Women’s survey report, one woman’s account stands out as an example of the discrimination women living with HIV can face at an institutional level.</p><p dir="ltr">Marina, a then-pregnant HIV-positive woman, recounted to the researchers at Positive Women that, at a gynecological clinic, “…the doctor started screaming at me and accused me of not telling her about my [HIV] diagnosis. She said she’d sue me because I could infect her, and added a few humiliating epithets… ‘So you’re a drug addict, right?’”</p><p dir="ltr">“I was afraid to go to the doctor for a long time because they’d judge me,” Marina says in the report. “Talking about my status was still humiliating. So I never asked for help, even when I felt pain that was getting stronger by the day. I was taken to the gynecological department bleeding, unconscious.</p><p dir="ltr">“It turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy. My life was saved but, sadly, I’ll never be able to have children.”</p><p dir="ltr">Women living with HIV aren’t always able to access the healthcare services they need. According to Positive Women’s survey, only 36% of HIV-positive women reported receiving regular cervical screening and only 32% had regular consultations with a doctor about breast cancer — even though women living with HIV have a greater risk of developing cancer.</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/PA-25101731.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'>December 2015: A rally of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis patients demanding budget funds for treatment. (c) Serg Glovny/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Part of the issue, Natalia Ruda from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) tells me, is that many HIV-positive women don’t know enough about their own health to know what they could be asking for. She says that her organisation, which provides HIV testing services and treatment across Ukraine, has seen more and more women over 40 coming in and getting tested for HIV — and testing positive.</p><p dir="ltr">“No one’s telling them about their health,” Natalia says, “about risks, about safe sex.”</p><h2>“When you feel that coldness, indifference… you feel despised”</h2><p dir="ltr">“It’s something I’ll never forget,” this is how Ilona, the social worker living with HIV, describes her treatment at a Kyiv maternity hospital several years ago. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Ilona was in a special unit of the hospital for women with pregnancy difficulties. There were a few other HIV-positive women on the unit with her and, because of her personal and professional background, she met up with the chief doctor to offer some help.</p><p dir="ltr">“He screamed at me,” Ilona says. “He said: ‘You sleep around, get infected! It’s a headache to deal with you, to treat you!’”</p><p dir="ltr">“I learned later this was his manner with all patients with HIV during first contact, basically telling them off,” Ilona says. She tells me that this story is “quite typical,” that an HIV-positive woman’s first experience with a doctor is often aggressive and accusatory.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We say: ‘nothing for us without us’”</p><p dir="ltr">Ironically, Ilona laughs, she’s now friends with the doctor, but the memory of this incident still bothers her. “When you feel that coldness, indifference,” Ilona tells me, “you feel despised. You feel they’re not ready to pay to attention to you, not ready to give any time for you.”</p><h2>“This is our last window of opportunity”</h2><p dir="ltr">The<a href="http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/"> Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria</a>, by far the largest international donor to the HIV/AIDS fight in Ukraine, had originally planned to significantly cut funding in<a href="http://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/eastern-europe-central-asia"> 2017</a> to Ukraine. Activists were concerned that the situation in Ukraine could be a larger-scale rerun of what happened in<a href="http://kff.org/news-summary/global-fund-withdrawal-from-romania-negatively-impacting-hivaids-epidemic/"> Romania</a>, when a cut in Global Fund money contributed to a<a href="http://www.icaso.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Romania-case-study.pdf"> sharp increase</a> in HIV infection rates among at-risk populations.</p><p dir="ltr">Fortunately, as several activists and officials were keen to point out, the Global Fund has since stepped up with more than $120m in continued and emergency funding over the next three years. More funding has come from other sources — the Ukrainian state is<a href="http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2016/november/20161103_ukraine"> fully funding</a> opioid substitution therapy in 2017 for the first time ever and the US government recently<a href="http://www.aids.ua/enews/us-to-provide-375-mln-to-ukraine-for-hivaids-relief-in-2017-12013.html"> announced</a> it will providing almost $40m in emergency funding.</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/AIDS-2016-Sveta-Moroz.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="354" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Svitlana Moroz from <a href=https://www.women-union.org.ua>Positive Women</a> at AIDS 2016, Durban, South Africa. Source: <a href=http://www.club-svitanok.org.ua/aids2016-nashe-uchastye/>Club Svitanok</a>. </span></span></span>But, as Dr Natalia Nizova from Ukraine’s Public Health Center tells me, “for us it’s absolutely clear that the situation of huge donor support will not last forever,” given that Global Fund is expected to withdraw most of its funding from the country in 2020. Effectively tackling and turning around Ukraine’s HIV epidemic will require transition planning and cooperation with advocacy groups like Positive Women.</p><p dir="ltr">Above all, it will require working closely with Ukraine’s politicians and the country’s cash-strapped state to ensure HIV remains high on the agenda so that Ukraine, in just a few years, can take over and effectively fund its HIV treatment and prevention programmes. “This is our last window of opportunity,” says Dr Nizova.</p><p dir="ltr">But Svitlana Moroz says women with HIV are still struggling to have their voices heard. Ukraine’s current national AIDS council and other committees have no HIV-positive women on them, she says.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s very important to mobilise and empower women living with HIV,” Moroz tells me. More women living with HIV, she says, need to be invited into policy and programme discussions across Ukraine, at all levels of government.</p><p dir="ltr">Moroz, for her part, sounds determined to be part of the conversation, whether HIV-positive women like her are invited to the table or not.</p><p dir="ltr">“We say: ‘nothing for us without us.’”</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/isabelle-magkoeva/we-ll-be-living-with-this-for-long-time">We’ll be living with this for a long time</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-tucker/ukraine-s-unwanted-orphans">What does the future hold for Ukraine&#039;s children in care? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vitalii-atanasov/faded-glory-ukraines-miners">Undermined: how the state is selling out Ukraine’s coal workers</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 Michael Colborne Ukraine Human rights Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:30:58 +0000 Michael Colborne 109551 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Behind Azerbaijan’s facades https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergey-rumyantsev/behind-azerbaijan-s-facades <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Azerbaijan, power is strictly a family business. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergey-rumyantsev/azerbaijan-strana-vysokikh-zaborov" 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/Presidential_Palace_AZ_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Presidential_Palace_AZ_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A member of the presidential guard at Azerbaijan’s presidential palace in Baku, 2017. Photo CC-by-2.0: CJCS / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The inventiveness of Baku’s urban planners when it comes to designing fences is inexhaustible. These barriers, designed to keep guests away from the less elegant side of life in Azerbaijan’s capital city, will make an impression on even the most demanding visitor. Fences block the view on the road connecting Baku’s Heydar Aliyev airport (named after the country’s former president) to the city centre, which Heydar’s son, the current president, is feverishly trying to turn into a second Dubai. In downtown Baku, which is lavishly decorated with tonnes of expensive marble and granite, pseudo-neoclassical facades take on the role of these fences in order to hide the ugly old Soviet-era apartment blocks.</p><p>The regime is persistent in trying to hide anything that might complicate its image of Azerbaijan as a developed and prospering country — from locals, tourists and probably themselves. “If you tore down all the fences, you’d have enough metal to build two more cities,” I once heard a Baku resident remark. This sentiment reminded me that Azerbaijan’s facades are not merely built from stone, but from discourses, ideologies and institutions too. These ornamentations are also designed to conjure up the image of a modern democratic society.</p><p>Every authoritarian regime has its riddles and enigmas. What kind of Azerbaijan will be revealed to us once we remove these facades and fences, so carefully designed to keep up pretences?</p><h2>A presidential dynasty
</h2><p>Reflecting on the specifics of Azerbaijan’s political field reminded me of an <a href="https://philpapers.org/rec/BOUFTK" target="_blank">article by Pierre Bourdieu.</a> It’s a rather free association, but attempting to describe the specifics of how the political field is constructed in Azerbaijan takes me back to his image of the “King’s house”, or most importantly, politics-as-inheritance.</p><p>Of course, the country’s leadership is technically elected. In accordance with the constitution, regular parliamentary and presidential elections are held. But it’s also inherited. According to the rules of the “household”, members of the same family — who possess social and symbolic capital — inevitably keep their places at the helm of state. And this has allowed the Aliyev family to keep control of Azerbaijan for over two decades.</p><p>Not long ago, a new government position was created, which entrenched the system of inheriting power even more. If Ramiz Mekhtiyev, head of Azerbaijan’s presidential administration and chief ideologue of the regime, is to be believed, “the Azerbaijani people, following the spirit of globalisation and changes across the civilised world, will not forget their great history.” It was probably in this spirit that the great event of 21 February came to pass — namely, the appointment of the first lady as Azerbaijan’s first vice-president.

The post itself was only created in September 2016 after a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dominika-bychawska-siniarska/azerbaijan-s-unconstitutional-future" target="_blank">nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments</a>. For the first time in history, Mehriban Aliyeva, the wife of president Ilham Aliyev, received this cushy job. Should some unforeseen tragedy befall Azerbaijan’s fit and cheerful head of state, his ambitious wife will lead the country.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The regime’s style of rule is largely personal, and is guaranteed by a reliable and loyal group of courtiers close to the family on whom the president depends</span></p><p>In this case, Azerbaijan will see its third transfer of power within the Aliyev family. Or to be more precise, the Aliyev-Pashayev family (Mehriban’s maiden name). Following the death in 2003 of Heydar Aliyev, patriarch and founder of the ruling dynasty, Mehriban’s family members strengthened their positions. They held several high-ranking posts at the time, and in the years since the Pashayev family has become seen as an independent political force. Mehriban’s appointment is not simply a sign that they are growing stronger, but an acknowledgement from on high of the Pashayevs’ influential and lasting status.

<br /><br />Most probably, and according to the rules of the “King’s house”, Heydar Aliyev the second, son of the current president and grandson of the former president, is being prepared for high office. For the moment, any predictions as to how that situation could develop remain speculative. But one thing is clear — after the next pale imitation of parliamentary elections is held in 2020, the young Aliyev could find himself in a deputy’s seat in the country’s parliament. That will probably be the first step in his official nomination as successor to Ilham.</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/Aliyev_Elder_Carpet_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Aliyev_Elder_Carpet_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'>A carpet with an image of Heydar Aliyev, father of the ruling president of Azerbaijan. Photo CC-by-NC-2.0: Esther Dyson / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Of course, Azerbaijan’s constitution states this country is a democracy, with the president as its head. All the institutions necessary for a modern administrative state exist in the country — ministries, parliament, constitutional and other courts, municipal government. But the real practices of how power is executed, how positions in the bureaucratic apparatus are assigned, and, most importantly, the principles of transferring the state’s highest post from one set of hands to the next, suggest many parallels, and, it should be said, points of contrasts, with a dynastic state. 

<br /><br />With this in mind, it’s worth looking at these strategies of inheritance that further the ruling family’s prosperity — the aim to which the state and its functions have been reduced. The regime’s style of rule is largely personal, and is guaranteed by a reliable and loyal group of courtiers close to the family whom the president depends on. But even this style of rule has its risks and its rules. Can the head of state ever sacrifice his own interests in order to guarantee his material and symbolic legacy? Will the family try to manage this legacy within the household to help its own assets prosper?</p><h2>An uncivil society</h2><p>Upon returning to power in 1993, Azerbaijan’s former Soviet-era strongman Heydar Aliyev started reconstructing the country’s political landscape and established an authoritarian regime that outlived its creator. He was also able to found a dynasty, which has successfully monopolised power over the country and dominates the political field.</p><p>How was Aliyev able to ensure a successful transition from Soviet bureaucratic state to Azerbaijani presidential dynasty? Stephen Kotkin suggests that totalitarian states or states with totalitarian tendencies don’t simply destroy society — they create their own anew. The result could be called an “uncivil society”, or “those formidable bonds and forms of social organisation that accompanied an illiberal state, particularly an illiberal state without private property.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Regardless of its presidents’ clear sympathies for such a style of rule, neither in its early years in the 1990s nor today can the Azerbaijani regime be described as “totalitarian”</p><p>When Aliyev senior created Azerbaijan’s uncivil society, he also instituted the right to private property. Nowadays, this right isn’t so much regulated by the law as by the appetites and interests of members of the ruling family or inner circle. But regardless of its presidents’ clear sympathies for such a style of rule, neither in its early years in the 1990s nor today can the Azerbaijani regime be described as “totalitarian”.</p><p>Yet it still makes sense to use Kotkin’s term to understand the practices and processes taking place in Azerbaijan, as well as in civil society. We can then identify from where the regime draws the resources for its legitimisation and how it’s able to attract significant support from among the population, thereby securing a dynasty.</p><h2>How the people were tempered: founding a multiparty system</h2><p>In the early years of Azerbaijan’s independence, Heydar Aliyev didn’t waste his time riding the wave of reform and radical political social change. He chose what he knew. In November 1992, he became chairman of the Yeni Azərbaycan (New Azerbaijan) Party. In its design and pre-eminent position in the political field, the YAP brings to mind up all kinds of parallels with the old Communist Party — or even with United Russia, founded several years later. Soviet ideology was replaced with the slogans of populist nationalism. The Politburo may have gone, but the practice of nominating the permanent chairman of the country’s largest party as head of state remained. For a couple of years before becoming president, Ilham Aliyev acted as the first deputy to the party chairman (i.e. to his father, Heydar).</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/Baku_Vote_1924_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Baku_Vote_1924_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="177" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In Baku, the practice of imitating elections has a long and ignoble history. A Soviet-era poster urging citizens to vote in Baku municipal elections, 1924. Photo CC-by-NC-ND-2.0: Kitchener.lord / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Throughout the long years of his rule, which began in 2003 after Heyday Aliyev’s death, Ilham has also acted as permanent party chairman. Mehriban is one of his deputies, and in her first interview as vice-president, she claimed that the YAP counted some 700,000 party members. Officially, Azerbaijan has a population of 10 million, but given mass emigration, the real number is almost certainly lower. In any case, the number of YAP party members as a proportion of the Azerbaijan’s population is the same as Communist Party members across the Soviet Union in 1989.<br /><br />

It’s not unusual to hear stories about how a random public official discovers that they’re a member of the YAP by chance. But undoubtedly, a significant number of those who joined did so voluntarily, in order to gain social capital. Among them are more than a few eager young people, who dream of a career in government service. Since 2005, they’ve had their own mass movement: “Ireli” (“forward” in Azeri), which has lately been reformed into a civic organisation under the slogan “Ilhamla Ireli” (“Forward with Ilham!”)

It’s customary to believe there are over 50 political parties in Azerbaijan today, though far from all of them are really active. There are dozens of pro-government parties orbiting Yeni Azərbaycan, and they’re generally rightwing (such as the Civic Solidarity Party, the Motherland Party, and the Alliance for Azerbaijan). Their members are recruited to parliament, along with independent deputies, in order to keep up the image of a democratic, multiparty system. There have been no genuine opposition politicians in Azerbaijan’s last two parliaments.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">At the beginning of 2017, there is next to no space left for opposition parties in the battle for resources</p><p>In December 2014, Ramiz Mekhtiyev outlined a new approach towards the opposition in a book entitled “The World Order of Double Standards and Modern Azerbaijan”. Writing on the country’s “Fifth Column”, a term which has become increasingly popular across the post-Soviet space, he denounced as its members all active human rights defenders, critically-minded journalists and well-known opposition political parties. All these figures and organisations, in Mekhtiyev’s opinion, receive direct support from “the west” and the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/searching-for-armenian-lobby" target="_blank">historical enemy in the form of “the Armenian lobby”</a>, and are preparing to launch a colour revolution in Azerbaijan.

<br /><br />At the beginning of 2017, there is next to no space left for opposition parties in the battle for resources. This affects all genuine oppositionists, whether in the Azerbaijani Popular Front, Musavat (the country’s oldest political party), or the National Independence Party. With every year, the opposition has less and less access to the public sphere and are even more marginalised as their support melts away.

<br /><br />To a great extent, these parties came out of the Popular Front, founded in 1988 to unite Azerbaijan’s opposition parties in the last years of Soviet rule. Their political sympathies mostly lie between the centre-right and the far right; their leaders and activists declare support for “western-style democracy”. 

<br /><br />In 2009, the authorities held a referendum to remove limits on presidential terms (two had previously been the maximum). That very same year, a fascinating new political movement came into being: the “Republican Alternative” (REAL). Its leader was <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/rebecca-vincent/meet-ilgar-mammadov-azerbaijan-s-prison-president" target="_blank">Ilgar Mammadov, sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in 2013</a> for his political activities. The group mostly comprises young intellectuals, and over the last couple of years, repression against the movement has grown to such an extent that it’s hard to say if REAL can survive.

</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/Azerbaijan_Parliament_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Azerbaijan_Parliament_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Government House in Baku. Photo CC-by-2.0: Andreas Kontokanis / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><br /><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mike-runey/nardaran-affair" target="_blank">Azerbaijan’s fractious Islamic opposition</a> should also be mentioned, in all its complexity. In Autumn 1991, a Shi’ite Islamist party was founded with its electoral base in the town of Nardaran, not far from Baku. As its members were sympathetic to Iran, the “collective West” (in particular Israel and the USA) made its discomfort quite clear. In May 1996, five of its leaders and activists were arrested. Following its public criticism of the regime, party suffered further repression in 2011, and seven of its members were arrested along with their relatives.</p><p>Nardaran hit the news again in late autumn 2015. In the course of a police raid against members of the Muslim Unity Movement, two policemen and four members of the Islamist group were killed. Following these events, a special operation was held to restore order to the village where the Islamists had established control. The criminal case against the movement’s leaders continues to this day.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Ilham Aliyev’s reign has seen the end of any concerted political battle against the government (or even imitations of it), and the intensification of repression against all and any opponents

</span>For the most part, political Islam in the first post-Soviet years was connected with disparate groups, based around certain mosques and the religious leaders who preached in them. Among the more prominent Shi’ite groupings was that of the Juma Mosque in Baku, led by Haji Ilgar Ibrahimoğlu. Several Sunni Salafist circles also emerged, centred around the Şehitler and Abu-Bakr mosques, among others — although these were most closed to visitors in the 2000s. 

<br /><br />However, Heydar Aliyev did prove himself able to make small compromises with all these groups if came to improving the regime’s image. By contrast, Ilham Aliyev’s reign has seen the end of any concerted political battle against the government (or even imitations of it), and the intensification of repression against all and any opponents and their marginalisation from the public space. The current president’s rule will be remembered by the arrests of political opponents, the destruction of human rights organisations and severe pressure against independent and critically-minded media outlets, bloggers and journalists.

</p><h2>The importance of family friends

</h2><p>Amid such repression, the regime is nonetheless able to increase the ranks of its supporters. In the Milli Mejlis, the parliament which is strongly reminiscent of the Supreme Council of Soviet Azerbaijan, deputies are not selected, but appointed. A place in the parliament has long since served as nothing more than a reward for loyalty. And ever since the opposition has stopped getting its requisite five or six meaningless seats in parliament, the Mejlis has been able to rubber-stamp all the president’s decrees and laws without wasting any time on pointlessly debating them. </p><p>Cities and regions are not ruled by elected mayors or governors, but by rulers appointed from on high. Once they’re handed control of some district or city, they can rule it with impunity, and the most important factor on their governance is how close they are (or wish they were) to the president and his entourage.
</p><p>
Azerbaijan’s high-ranking officials are those who have proved their loyalty to Aliyev over many years. That said, there has been some discord — such as the important arrest in 2005 of Ali Insanov, minister of health, along with several other senior officials. On this level, preference is given to long-term relationships. Alongside the irreplaceable president, many of the most hardworking ministers even began their careers in the late Soviet period.

For example, let’s take the no less irreplaceable head of the presidential administration, Ramiz Mekhtiyev, who was once secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Azerbaijan. Since 1996, he’s worked with the irreplaceable prime minister Artur Rasizade, who was first deputy chairman of the council of ministers in Soviet Azerbaijan. Ramil Usubov, irreplaceable minister of the interior, also spent most of his professional life working in Soviet Azerbaijan’s interior ministry.

</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_02621064.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02621064.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="274" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev arrives in Moscow to attend 70th anniversary celebrations of the USSR’s victory in the Second World War. To his right sits Mehriban Aliyeva. Photo (c): Evgeny Biyatov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><br />Getting a government position depends on family and regional ties and, in the final instance, on the possibility of keeping ties with the Aliyev family. The shorter the distance, the greater and more immediate the reward. This principle of rule by the “King’s house” operates at every level of government. The pyramid of power in Azerbaijan starts with closely connected families, with fierce loyalties to each other, and above all with their crowning loyalty to the president. The latter distributes posts in state institutions and departments as awards for loyalty and as payment for enduring devotion. This practice not only helps these lucky few control the country and support themselves and their families, but embeds the state and its employees in the financial wellbeing and corrupt schemes of the Aliyev family and their entourage.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This presidential dynasty has monopolised all resources in the country and distributes them as though they were personal property&nbsp;</p><p>The most sought-after positions are with the <em>siloviki</em> (security services, interior ministry or military), or in the local authorities. Lower down the ladder, jobs as high-school teachers or doctors in clinics are in great demand. The overwhelming majority of this immense army of state employees and bureaucrats unquestioningly obey the rules of loyalty to the system. They vote as they’re told. Their fear of losing their position, and with it the symbolic capital and the sources of income (albeit often insignificant), outweighs their desire to show discontent. </p><p>
This presidential dynasty has monopolised all resources in the country and distributes them as though they were personal property. After the death of Heydar Aliyev, when Azerbaijan’s financial fortunes were on the rise due to oil and gas dollars, the “King’s house” stopped playing at politics altogether. The Aliyevs felt that everything was running like clockwork, and neither the EU nor the US would bother to sanction them. Yet the crisis of 2014 proved a blow to their growing ambitions, and a big one. It became clear that the ruling family does not know how to deal with economic hardship — and no matter how hard the president tries to play the role of the caring, patriarchal leader who tries to keep low prices for his people’s bread and bus tickets, the prestige of the dynasty is still fading.&nbsp;</p><p>For the moment, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/azerbaijan-s-2016-sink-or-swim" target="_blank">social unrest has been limited to local outbreaks of protest</a>, which are quickly extinguished by the authorities. However, the problem remains: there are simply fewer resources with which to buy loyalty.

</p><h2>Where next for the “King’s house”?&nbsp;</h2><p>Throughout their rule, the Aliyev family has purged the political field so thoroughly that, <a href="https://www.perlentaucher.de/buch/joerg-baberowski/der-feind-ist-ueberall.html" target="_blank">as Jörg Baberowski would have put it</a>, revolution is now only possible through riots and chaos. The powers that be never thought it necessary to educate their subjects in political culture. Their demand was simply that the people learn how to obey, and how to demonstrate that undying obedience. Consequently, the population are unable to demonstrate en masse and achieve changes within the legal limits of public political protest — for the simple reason that they were never allowed to in the first place.</p><p>

For now, the crisis may pass and the Aliyevs will hold on to power. But economic hardships will return eventually — or there’ll come a day when the oil and gas run out. After 25 years of independence, the Aliyev dynasty have shown that they are incapable promoting a sustainable prosperity for the country they have inherited. The current system is excellent at using the institutions of state to siphon away Azerbaijan’s resources, creating little in return. It’s only possible to convince the majority of Azerbaijanis that they live in a blossoming country full of hope when the economy peaks — and it’s unlikely that those moments will return soon.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Aliyev family has purged the political field so thoroughly that&nbsp;revolution is now only possible through riots and chaos</p><p>This situation can only be remedied through radical economic reform (not to speak of political changes). In such a scenario, the Aliyevs would likely lose the support of the army of bureaucrats and state employees on whose loyalty they depend. The Aliyev dynasty will be rudely interrupted, and perhaps that’s what fate has in store. But it won’t be the opposition’s political protests that sweep them away, but bread-and-butter economic and social unrest.&nbsp;</p><p>The very design of the current system suggests that it doesn’t have a long-term future. Returning again to the idea of a “presidential dynasty,” it’s clear that despite its best efforts, a real “King’s house” cannot take root in Azerbaijan. No matter how close the Aliyevs come to their ideal, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that one day, Azerbaijanis are told that Ilham has become president for life, or has declared himself a Sultan. The family can win election after election, but the president (whether the second or the third) will never achieve the legitimacy of the regime’s founding father. Attempts to convince Azerbaijan and the world that there’s substance behind the democratic facade frequently come to nothing.&nbsp;</p><p>In today’s realities, when Azerbaijan must play a part in the European political arena, the Aliyev family will only ever be regarded as authoritarian usurpers — and their system of a presidential dynasty as a political oxymoron.

<br /><br /><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/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/sabir-akhundov/azerbaijanism">“Azerbaijanism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ilgar-mammadov/open-letter-from-inmate-of-southern-gas-corridor">A letter from an inmate of the Southern Gas Corridor</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 Rumyantsev Caucasus Azerbaijan Tue, 21 Mar 2017 10:33:23 +0000 Sergey Rumyantsev 109569 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Death by Crimea https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/nikolai-klimeniouk/crimea-international-law-opposition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Klimeniouk_pic.jpg" alt="" width="80" /></p><p>As long as Russia holds on to the Ukrainian peninsula, it will not and cannot change for the better. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/nikolai-klimeniouk/samoubiistvo-kymom">Русский</a></strong></em></p><p>&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/555493/2014-03-09_-_Perevalne_military_base_-_0162.JPG" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 2014: Russian forces seize Ukraine's Perevalne military base, Crimea. CC BY-SA 3.0 Anton Goloborodko / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In the three years since the annexation of Crimea, a consensus has emerged in Russia — everything that concerns the Ukrainian peninsula should be considered a Russian domestic matter, and by no means the most important on the agenda.</p><p dir="ltr">The “unification” of Crimea with Russia has been<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/daniel-kennedy/how-russia%E2%80%99s-opposition-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-crimea"> successfully carried</a> out in the minds of the Kremlin’s opponents, too. In November 2016, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in a Facebook dispute with Crimean Tatar journalist Ayder Muzhdabayev,<a href="https://www.facebook.com/mbk313373/posts/1769481489984831?comment_id=1769496703316643&amp;comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D"> set out his position on the annexation</a>. It was one shared widely by many liberally-minded Russian public figures, activists and intellectuals — namely that Russian society has more pressing problems to deal with, and that the opposition’s main goal must be to push for a change of power. Returning Crimea to Ukrainian jurisdiction is impossible, they argue, because public opinion would be against it. By way of illustration, Alexei Navalny’s<a href="https://2018.navalny.com/platform/"> presidential programme</a> does not mention Crimea once.</p><p dir="ltr">Even those Russian media outlets that are generally considered ‘liberal” (they usually dislike the term “oppositional”) have also accepted Crimea’s annexation — as well as most of the rhetoric that came with it — without much of a fuss. The Dozhd TV channel, RBK (even before<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ilya-yablokov/russian-media-s-double-white-lines"> changes to its editorial staff</a>) and Meduza, which is based in Latvia and not subject to Russian law, all routinely refer to Crimea as Russian territory. They usually argue that this is required by Russian law, and that failing to do so is fraught with strict penalties. But this sounds like an excuse — after all, the law doesn’t require Meduza to include Crimea in its<a href="https://meduza.io/quiz/tomsk-ili-omsk"> online knowledge test of Russia’s cities</a> (though this was changed after public criticism), nor to call the annexation an act of<a href="https://meduza.io/en/cards/russia-has-been-ranked-one-of-the-world-s-greatest-soft-powers-what-s-this-mean"> “reunification”</a> (although such references have also been amended).</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, Russian journalists usually<a href="https://www.facebook.com/evgeny.levkovich/posts/10206514401658251?pnref=story"> see no problem</a> in flagrantly violating Ukrainian law by flying to Crimea directly from Russia (Ukrainian law permits entry to the peninsula only through the checkpoint at Perekop). Even an employee of Deutsche Welle, Yuri Resheto,<a href="http://ru.espreso.tv/article/2016/08/17/kremlevskaya_propaganda_za_dengy_nemcev_kak_v_deutsche_welle_nazvaly_krym_rossyey"> has done this</a> — it’s cheaper, quicker, and simpler, while following Ukrainian law is cumbersome, inconvenient and far from obligatory.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The annexation of Crimea has revealed not only the true scale of imperialist sympathies in Russian society, but the special role Crimea plays in Russians’ understanding of themselves as a society and a nation</p><p dir="ltr">Once you’re there, you can write as many critical reports as you like about violations of human rights in occupied Crimea. But that doesn’t change the fact that respecting Ukrainian laws, even if inconvenient, is an important symbolic recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty over the peninsula. It’s a fact that few people in Russia are prepared to recognise.</p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, the seizure of Crimea has led to a number of pressing problems for Russia itself — problems that form part of the Russian opposition’s agenda. It’s also exposed a number of problematic features of Russian society that came into being long before Russia waged war on Ukraine.</p><p dir="ltr">Crimea has revealed not only the true scale of imperialist sympathies in Russian society, but the special role Crimea plays in Russians’ understanding of themselves as a society and a nation. This imperial myth, alive and well in Russia today, was created during the reign of Catherine the Great. Peter the Great’s reforms from the very beginning were met with a mixed reaction: they were seen as somehow sycophantic, the idea of making Russia “catch up” with Holland was still seen as small beer. In contrast, Catherine conjured up a great European power, rooted in antiquity, the direct heir of the glories of Byzantium, a Third Rome, a Europe greater than Europe itself.&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/Arrival_of_Catherine_II_in_Feodosiya.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arrival of Catherine II in Feodosiya, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1883). Wikipedia / Public Domain. </span></span></span>Catherine’s grandiose “Southern project” envisaged the defeat of Turkey, the unification of all Orthodox Christian countries into a single empire, and the enthronement of her grandson, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich, as ruler of a new empire led from Constantinople. But this grand scheme never came to pass, and the only fantasy that became reality was the annexation of the Crimean Khanate in 1783.</p><p dir="ltr">This annexation was atypical for Russia. The empire didn’t just subjugate or co-opt a problematic neighbour, it completely reimagined and rewrote this annexed territory. This process began with the mass expulsion of the Crimean Tatars — the peninsula’s indigenous population, after all, had no place in the glorious past that Grigory Potemkin aimed to bring to life in the newly-conquered territory. Orthodox Christians, from “Great Russians” and “Little Russians” (ed. Ukrainians) to Pontic Greeks were reinvented as the heirs to Aristotle and Plato, and settled in place of the indigenous people. Naturally, all these details have been forgotten. But what hasn’t been forgotten is the place of Crimea in the public consciousness of this “Great European people.” This myth crystallises in the absurd formula, incessantly repeated, that “Crimea has always been Russian.”</p><p dir="ltr">These words perfectly illustrate the particularities of Russia’s historical memory. The apparent “Russianness” of today’s Crimea is the direct result of two and a half centuries of uninterrupted genocide and the expulsion of the peninsula’s non-Russian population. This project found its culmination during the Second World War, with the Soviet deportations of 1941 and 1944, which saw the expulsion not only of Crimean Tatars but also Armenians, Bulgarians, Germans, Greeks, Italians and Karaims. The Nazi occupiers exterminated the peninsula’s Jews and Krymchaks, while the peninsula saw huge civilian and military casualties. Only a third of Crimea’s pre-war population survived, and in the post-war period the peninsula was resettled with residents of Russia and Ukraine, including, deliberately, a significant number of war veterans, members of the Communist party and the Soviet secret services.</p><p dir="ltr">Few people in Russia today see Crimea as a country that has been conquered and razed to the ground, that it once was a fully-fledged, independent state, and that Crimeans preserved their own society and way of life in some form until 1944. Fewer would admit that even during the lifetime of today’s older generation, ethnic Russians were not the majority there.</p><p dir="ltr">The tradition of viewing Crimea as a territory, rather than a society, and its inhabitants as an annoying inconvenience, has survived from Catherine the Great’s times to present day. The formal justification for the Russian invasion of Crimea was the “defence of the Russian-speaking population”, and despite all the “Krymnash” (“Crimea is ours!”) theatrics, most Russians had a fairly sceptical attitude towards the Crimean population. That is to say, Crimeans’ main occupation was seen as emptying the wallets of Russian tourists, and their attraction to Russia — as motivated exclusively by the prospect of high salaries.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">By approving the annexation of Crimea, Russian citizens have recognised their rulers as higher than the rule of law and sanctioned the violation of any laws</p><p dir="ltr">This opinion is a widespread one across Russia’s political spectrum. As the liberal journalist and public figure Sergei Parkhomenko characteristically<a href="https://www.facebook.com/serguei.parkhomenko/posts/10210973810010671"> put it</a>: “If you tell the Crimeans for five days straight that if they return to Ukrainian jurisdiction, they’ll get higher salaries and pensions, permit them to build even more chicken coops for hapless tourists along the coast, and then hold another referendum… then 95% of them would vote to return to Kyiv’s rule. These people have shown that they don’t care about who they belong to. So when I read that they’ve been fooled, robbed, milked dry… that their new bosses are utter bandits and crooks, then I really have no sympathy. Because that’s exactly what they’re like.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, Russians’ mass support for the annexation has much more serious consequences than this demonstration of deeply rooted chauvinism. By approving the annexation of Crimea, Russian citizens have recognised their rulers as higher than the rule of law and sanctioned the violation of any laws and agreements for the sake of “higher interests” or “justice”. Of course, the Russian state has behaved in this way before, but now it has a mandate from society at large. Little surprise, then, that the crackdown that followed the seizure of Crimea has been accompanied by spectacular acts of arbitrariness and impunity.</p><p dir="ltr">One such act was the<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anastasiya-ovsyannikova/moscow-s-authoritarian-future"> demolition of traders’ kiosks across Moscow</a> in February 2016, in complete disregard of both private property and court judgments. It’s no coincidence that the Moscow city authorities justified their actions by referring to laws passed to resolve the issue of real estate in newly-annexed Crimea. The 20-year prison sentence given to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov sets a new benchmark for political arrests. Before Crimea, a two-year prison sentence was the punishment for actively participating in protests — now, people who <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-yudina/got-tagged-get-fined-russia-s-battle-against-digital-extremism">repost material on VKontakte</a> or <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aleksandr-litoy/serial-violations-finding-new-ways-to-limit-freedom-of-association-in-russ">participate in solitary pickets</a> can expect the same fate.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/10922402-rossiya-gotovitsya-otmechat-vtoruyu-god.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'>Celebration of Crimea's annexation, Moscow. (с) http://mignews.com.ua. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Thus, any force that aims to establish a Russian state that recognises the rule of law must urgently overturn this “mandate for impunity”. The Russian opposition’s attitude towards Crimea demonstrates that establishing the rule of law is not one of its priorities. In their fixation on Vladimir Putin, they cannot consider changes of power as deriving from the rule of law. The fact that these oppositionists do not propose a realistic plan for achieving that is not in itself a problem — Russia’s current system of governance simply does not permit a peaceful change of regime. That can only happen, as in the USSR, on the<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tom-junes/where-does-key-to-political-change-in-post-soviet-space-lie"> initiatives of the political elite</a>, as a reaction to external conditions: the economic situation, the public mood or foreign policy factors, for example.</p><p dir="ltr">A more serious problem for Russia’s opposition is that it simply has no meaningful plan for what should come next.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">If the alternative to Putin is not going to be Alexei Navalny, Mikhail Khodorkovsky or somebody else, but a democratic society under the rule of law, then the path forward is blocked by two obstacles — Crimea and Chechnya. The opposition has no vision of how to establish control over Chechnya, incorporating it into the same legal framework as Russia — although it’s possible in theory. There’s no such opportunity with Crimea. There’s no point in hoping that it will be internationally recognised as Russian territory; Crimea will remain a legal anomaly. Moreover, there can be no rule of law in Russia without even formal observation of international law.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">As long as the Russian opposition is concerned only with regime change and avoids any discussion of Crimea’s sovereignty, the only thing it can offer is a Putinist Russia without Putin</p><p dir="ltr">In discussing the Crimea problem, the Russian opposition demonstrates an understanding of democracy that differs little from Putin’s (and echoes that of Donald Trump and the European right-populists) — that power is based on the support of the majority, and shouldn’t be burdened by the observance of laws, procedures and international obligations. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for example, doesn’t consider the restoration of the rule of law a “democratic procedure”, but passing some decision on Crimea’s legal status on the basis of majority opinion, which is allegedly against the peninsula’s return to Ukraine. Alexei Navalny, meanwhile, has<a href="http://www.rbc.ru/interview/politics/14/12/2016/58517ded9a794773e02d73ba?"> proposed</a> holding a new “normal” referendum of some kind.</p><p dir="ltr">What does the majority think about this? Does a coherent “majority public opinion” event exist on all these questions? How can it be taken into account? These questions don’t appear to matter — neither for Khodorkovsky, nor for Navalny, or for many other representatives of Russia’s opposition. This much is obvious. Indeed, by the same logic logic, the opposition wouldn’t oppose anything at all, since Putin is supported by the majority of the Russian population. All these contradictions can be resolved, but only by unconditionally recognising the illegality of the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the absolute impossibility of the peninsula remaining under Russian control under any conditions.</p><p dir="ltr">For as long as Russia holds on to Crimea, we will not see a positive alternative to the current regime. And as long as the Russian opposition is concerned only with regime change and avoids any discussion of Crimea’s sovereignty, the only thing it can offer is a Putinist Russia without Putin. Whoever comes after him, the difference won’t be that big.</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/anna-arutunyan/who-ll-make-russia-great-again">Who will make Russia “great again”? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/daniel-kennedy/how-russia%E2%80%99s-opposition-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-crimea">How Russia’s opposition learned to stop worrying and love Crimea</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/crimea-s-unfreedom-of-speech">Crimea: freedom of speech turns to freedom of silence</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/egor-skovoroda/crimea-peninsula-of-torture">Crimea: peninsula of torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexander-morozov/kremlin-s-so-called-partners">The Kremlin’s so-called “partners”</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 Nikolai Klimeniouk Ukraine Russia Mon, 20 Mar 2017 14:24:50 +0000 Nikolai Klimeniouk 109548 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Kremlin’s so-called “partners” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexander-morozov/kremlin-s-so-called-partners <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the Kremlin’s friends in the west, the reality of Russia’s actions is finally sinking in.</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 2017-03-16 at 11_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>December 2015: Michael Flynn, Jill Stein (foreground) and Margarita Simonyan during Vladimir Putin's address at RT's 10th Anniversary celebrations, Moscow. Source: <a href=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOaQA6uFacA>RT/Youtube</a>. </span></span></span></p><p><em>This </em><a href="http://www.colta.ru/articles/society/14209"><em>text</em></a><em> originally appeared in Russian on </em><a href="colta.ru"><em>Colta</em></a><em>, a leading Russian platform for comment and discussion. Colta is funded by donations – find out how you can help </em><a href="https://planeta.ru/campaigns/colta"><em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p>Before Crimea, everyone “cooperated with the Russians”. And until mid-2016, no one knew what to think or do with this history of cooperation. Sanctions hardly made a dent in this “cooperation regime”.</p> <p>But beginning with the US presidential elections, important changes are taking place — and it’s hard to know what to call them or how to describe them. Externally, we see that people who were supposed to communicate with “the Russians” are losing their positions. And this is accompanied by public scandals. It’s not the case that these people cooperated with some questionable goals in mind, but they’d come into contact with a taboo — <a href="https://avtonom.org/en/news/belorussian-prison-untouchables-prison-hierarchy"><em>zashkvar</em></a> in Russian criminal slang.</p> <p>No one doubted the loyalty of US national security adviser Michael Flynn, but he <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/us/politics/mike-flynn-resign-pence-russia.html">resigned</a> because of his “contacts” with the Russians. A few days ago, the vice-speaker of Lithuania’s parliament <a href="https://ria.ru/world/20170310/1489714161.html">resigned</a>. Mindaugas Bastys left because the Lithuanian security services refused him access to secret data. But the list of Russian citizens whom Bastys had contact with over the years doesn’t contain anything particularly shocking — representatives of Russian state corporations in Lithuania, the usual suspicious Russian businessmen and so on.</p> <p>The recent hack of the email account of hitherto unknown Alexander Usovsky, who was working for the Kremlin in Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Balkans, <a href="https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-europe/2017/03/04/kremlins-balkan-gambit-part/">shows</a> that Konstantin Malofeev, an Orthodox Russian businessman <a href="https://jamestown.org/program/hot-issue-konstantin-malofeev-fringe-christian-orthodox-financier-of-the-donbas-separatists/">known for financing separatists in the Donbas</a>, discussed or in fact conducted operations against elections in Bosnia and Poland.</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 2017-03-16 at 11.54.54_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>October 2014: Alexander Usovsky discusses leaking an image of Milorad Dodik, pro-Russian president of Republika Srpska, meeting with Konstantin Malofeev. Source: <a href=https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-europe/2017/03/04/kremlins-balkan-gambit-part/>bellingcat</a>.</span></span></span>Malofeev’s activities are an extreme example of Russia’s openly subversive actions in other states. But when you look at <a href="https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-europe/2017/03/04/kremlins-balkan-gambit-part/">Usovsky’s emails</a>, and you’re aware of the state Russian affairs in Europe, you realise&nbsp;that Malofeev’s strategy and tactics are no different from the actions of dozens and hundreds of similar actors beyond Russia’s borders. Before Crimea, for those who cooperated with the “Russians”, these activities looked like “supporting Russia’s interests”. Now these people are beginning to figure out what this really meant.</p> <p>“What have we got ourselves involved in?” they asked themselves — people who’d performed one-off services or participated in “Petersburg Dialogue” (<a href="http://www.russkiymir.ru/en/publications/197108/">a German-Russian public form</a>), the <a href="http://valdaiclub.com/">Valdai Club</a>, the “Dialogue of Civilisations” (another public forum) and the dozens of other programmes where Russian money was involved.</p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">All these political, cultural and media contacts are nothing compared to the scale of cooperation in business</span></p> <p>Members of Russian émigré organisations (which refused to work with the <a href="http://russkiymir.ru/en/">“Russian world” programme</a> fairly early on) have told me that, at the start, they were taken in by film director Nikita Mikhalkov’s initial cultural projects. They sincerely supported the director’s appeal to Russians abroad.</p> <p>But around 2008 these émigré organisations felt that they were beginning to be recruited into an ideological support campaign for the Kremlin. Many people continued travelling to Moscow for émigré congresses, but already as “observers”. They already decided back then that this was the “New Comintern” and it was wrong to accept their grants. Other people continued to accept the money happily, and sailed off together with the Kremlin in the direction of Crimea.</p> <h2>Money talks</h2> <p>But all these political, cultural and media contacts are nothing compared to the scale of cooperation in business.</p> <p>For more than a decade, millions of people across the world have been involved in networks of “Russian money”. After all, the large-scale capital flow out of Russia, the partial reinvestment of these funds back into the country through offshore structures and into infrastructure outside of Russia (companies, shares, property, yachts and so on) – this is the gigantic money-moving machine of Putin’s corporate state, which is operated by millions of people (solicitors, politicians, parliamentary deputies, cultural professionals, translators and so on).</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/13285092744_6450c50afb_z.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'>March 2014, Crimea. CC BY-2.0 Sasha Maksymenko / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>As a result, by the time Crimea happened, the Kremlin had a significant lobby at its disposal. This doesn’t mean that people were actually “bought” (to use the language of anti-corruption). People merely “cooperated” and received certain bonuses for this cooperation. If you once took money from an old friend in your past, then, even if you see it in a critical light now, you’ll still maintain your loyalty to him or her in public. Who would want to start a scandal about the misdeeds of someone who once helped, let’s say, to finance your new home? You’d keep quiet.</p> <h2>The retrospective starts now</h2> <p>In other words, for over a decade — since roughly 2004, after Khodorkovsky’s Yukos company was seized — the Russian economy kept its (hard to measure) foreign networks well-oiled.</p> <p>This wasn’t about corruption in the narrow sense. Of course, in the west, this was seen as economic interaction with a particular kind of “eastern” economy, where everything is accompanied by “signs of gratitude”, “kickbacks”, exchange of various bonuses and preferences, trips to the sauna, hunting expeditions with helicopters and so on. And this wasn’t criminal activity as such. It was seen as part of the “specifics” of dealing with the country. Russia is far from the only economy that operates this way — i.e. through “partnership”. The world’s largest companies opened offices and factories in Russia. And until recently, this was a privileged economy incorporated into the BRICS system.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Putin used Crimea to draw people who’d been involved in partnership into a one-off mobilisation. The Russian president made it necessary for all these “partners” to define their position</p> <p>Crimea turned the results of this ten-year-long support into a problem. Obviously, Putin used Crimea to draw people who’d been involved in partnership into a one-off mobilisation. The Russian president made it necessary for all these “partners” to define their position. Putin’s “partners” (he often pronounces the word with irony) are often understood in the diplomatic context. But in reality Putin has other “partners” in mind — those millions of people who have for years sat on Russian contracts, Russian money and other forms of interaction with “the Russians”.</p> <h2>Unreliable partners</h2> <p>Now these “partners” have big problems. And I note sadly that their problems are not due to Crimea (as such), the sanctions or counter-sanctions regimes, nor the ambiguity of past participation in toxic projects with “the Russians”. The problem for them is that Putin does not want to stop.</p> <p>This community would have sighed with relief if Putin had just “signed over the assets to his name”, i.e. taken Crimea and stopped there. But the extreme ambiguity that characterised 2014-2017 continues to be maintained and even expanded: it wasn’t Putin who shot down MH17, but some people working for Konstantin Malofeev; Putin didn’t murder Boris Nemtsov, it was a few Chechen security officers; it wasn’t Putin who hacked the US Democratic Party’s servers, but some hackers — possibly Russian, possibly not (but from Russian servers); Putin didn’t organise the coup attempt in Montenegro, but some unknown individuals; it wasn’t Putin who organised the campaign to destabilise and destroy Ukraine as a state, but <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andreas-umland/glazyevs-tapes">Russian presidential adviser Sergei Glazyev</a>; it was some guy named Alexander Usovsky who organised pro-Russian demonstrations in European states (with cash from patriotic Russian businessmen), not Putin. And so on.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">Now everyone is looking back on this time and asking themselves: who were really “partnering” with? Maybe it was Russian intelligence?</span></p> <p>This list is growing by the day. And yet the Kremlin is not distancing itself from any of this with the previous energy so understandable to its so-called “partners”. The Kremlin doesn’t conduct investigations into any of these issues, but an ambiguous game that can be clearly read as “covering” all of its “own people”.</p> <p>Thus, the previous decade of developing relationships transforms before our eyes into an “invitation to complicity”. Now everyone is looking back on this time and asking themselves: who were really “partnering” with? Maybe it was Russian intelligence? Or maybe from the very beginning this was just a trick to recruit us for dubious lobbying campaign?</p> <h2><strong>Ambiguity rules</strong></h2> <p>This is all scarily new. Everything that’s happening before our eyes regarding the US State Department and pro-Russian politicians in Europe reveals a complex problem — the borders between lobbying, partnership, espionage, propaganda influence and corruption are being washed out.</p> <p>Thus a situation arises whereby it is impossible to distinguish between real partnership from participation in a campaign to distort “the borders of the permissible”. Just yesterday you were a “Christian Democrat” developing a partnership with the Russian Federation, and today you’re just a silent participant in the degradation of the very norms of European political culture. You’re not just keeping quiet with a look of shame on your face as you refuse to judge the actions of the Kremlin. It’s actually the opposite. By “remaining loyal” to the results of your previous partnership with the Kremlin, you even raise your skeptical voice: but what’s even criminal in Putin’s politics? And others go like this: “Sanctions are ineffective and Crimea, if I’m honest, was always Russian.”</p> <p>If it is possible to take a broad view of so-called Kremlin propaganda as the product of work carried by Moscow agencies and marginal sites of leftwing and rightwing critics of US hegemony (and who sympathise with Putin precisely on these grounds), then it’s impossible to take in the Kremlin’s gigantic system of bedding itself into western economic structures. It does not yield to any kind of evaluation. And the same goes for the transformation, or, to be precise, the degradation that the Kremlin has engineered not only among its own citizenry, but various strata of western society, too.</p> <p>Three years ago, I <a href="http://www.colta.ru/articles/media/1466">wrote</a> that Putin was in the process of creating a rightwing Comintern. It’s since become known as the “black Comintern”. But now I think that the current situation is not only more complex, but worse. “Putin’s Comintern” is a rather insignificant and clearly visible section of a much bigger process occurring at different levels of European life, where people — who are not at all involved in radical right- or leftwing politics — are keeping silent on the Kremlin’s actions. They might condemn it, but they still remain loyal. And they are waiting in good faith for Putin “to return to European norms of partnership”.&nbsp;</p> <p>These people cannot and do not want to see that the ambiguity fostered by the Kremlin over who is responsible for murder, paramilitary groups, armed mercenaries, destabilisation in smaller states is not some temporary phenomenon. It was done on purpose right from the start. And this is how it will continue. </p> <p><em>Translated by Tom Rowley.&nbsp;</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/vasiliy-gatov-over-the-barriers">Over the barriers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vasily-gatov/over-barriers-in-us-russian-discourse">Russia, America, it&#039;s time to talk face-to-face</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexey-kovalev-ilya-yablokov/putin-and-trump-s-bad-bromance">Putin and Trump’s bad bromance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anton-barbashin/limits-of-anti-americanism-in-russia">The limits of anti-Americanism in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexey-kovalev/life-after-facts-how-russian-state-media-defines-itself-through-negation">Life after facts: how Russian state media defines itself through negation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-sidorov/how-russian-tv-propaganda-is-made">How Russian TV propaganda is made</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-arutunyan/who-ll-make-russia-great-again">Who will make Russia “great again”? </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 Alexander Morozov Beyond propaganda Thu, 16 Mar 2017 09:38:45 +0000 Alexander Morozov 109472 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hatching discontent in Ukraine https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vladlena-martsynkevych/hatching-discontent-in-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">In Ukraine, big agriculture uses unscrupulous methods to manufacture consensus for expansion and marginalise local communities — often with the support of international donors.</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/DSC06181.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'>Cherkasy oblast. Credit: Nils Ackerman, Lundi13/NECU, 2016.</span></span></span>The trip south from Kyiv to the villages of Cherkasy oblast takes several hours by bus over often bumpy roads, but I don’t mind — the idyllic countryside and expansive views of <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/Chernozem-FAO-soil-group">chernozem</a>, the black soil that Ukraine is famous for, provides some respite from the concrete and hustle of the capital. Indeed, the country’s 30 million hectares of fertile and high-yielding soil is the reason why Ukraine is known as “the breadbasket of Europe”, and right now agriculture is <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-14/that-boom-you-hear-is-ukraine-s-agriculture">booming</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The Maidan protests of 2014 ushered in an era of government reforms that have been a boon to agriculture, marked by a free trade agreement with the EU and a loan of $17 billion from the International Monetary Fund to support further reforms. The agricultural sector’s resilience is evidenced by the fact that, while most of the economy reeled after the Russian invasion of the Donbas region, this was the only sector to record growth in 2014. The World Bank has <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2016/03/03/unleashing-the-potential-of-agriculture-in-ukraine/">suggested</a> that Ukraine offers a “big chance” to push for further deregulation and open up the country’s land resources to the agribusiness industry.</p><p dir="ltr">At present, a dozen or so large agribusiness holdings own a fifth of the country’s most fertile land. While a moratorium on land sales is in place to prevent further consolidation of agricultural ownership, pressure from corporations and international investors is likely to mean that the ban will be lifted.</p><p dir="ltr">This is why I travel so frequently to Cherkasy. People here have long made a living as smallholding farmers, but the intensification of large-scale agribusiness is threatening their very way of life.</p><h2>Help from abroad</h2><p dir="ltr">One threat to Cherkasy oblast is the industrial poultry farms of Yuriy Kosiuk, the billionaire chief executive of Myronivsky Hliboproduct (MHP). MHP, the country’s largest agricultural conglomerate, enjoys more than a 50% share of Ukraine’s domestic market for poultry, and is the leading exporter of Ukrainian poultry products.</p><p dir="ltr">MHP has <a href="http://bankwatch.org/news-media/blog/images-and-graphs-large-scale-agribusiness-ukraine-and-local-communities">received</a> more than half a billion euros worth of development investments for its expansion from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the European Investment Bank. This means that the company must adhere to the international standards established in within those respective bank policies. But instead the poultry producers association, together with other associations of agricultural producers, successfully lobbied president Petro Poroshenko to <a href="http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/economic/380464.html">veto</a> the new law on Environmental Impact Assessment, which had to be adopted by Ukraine in 2016 as part of conditions to the Association Agreement with the EU.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The support from international financiers and the state budget enables MHP’s aggressive plans for expansion throughout Ukraine</p><p dir="ltr">The company enjoys generous state subsidies and conditions, too. MHP has been among the VAT refund big beneficiaries until 2017, though due to conditions imposed by the IMF, the scheme <a href="http://concorde.ua/en/research/daily/mhp-could-receive-up-to-uah-bln-in-state-in-2017-16087/">switched to direct state subsidies</a>. MHP will qualify for around one billion UAH (around $38m) out of four billion UAH for all agricultural producers. These conditions and privileges contradict Ukraine’s and the Cherkasy region’s agriculture and rural policies and development plans —&nbsp;where the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises is a claimed priority. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The support from international financiers and the state budget enables MHP’s aggressive plans for expansion throughout Ukraine. The plans for new poultry production facilities in Cherkasy oblast bring me here to support locals — they are fighting for their rights to a safe and clean environment, and a lifestyle based on small household farming. People have appealed to the company, to local and national authorities, to the President Poroshenko, but instead of dialogue and consultations they were faced with neglect, intimidation and retaliation.</p><h2>MHP and Chyhyryn</h2><p dir="ltr">The most recent conflict between MHP and residents of Cherkasy oblast came in February 2017 when 70 representatives from the historic town of Chyhyryn <a href="http://bankwatch.org/news-media/blog/campaign-update-protestors-take-kyiv-demand-action-agribusiness-giant-encroaching-th">made the trip to Kyiv</a> in order to protest against the planned expansion of poultry facilities in their town. &nbsp;One of the protestors was Nina Martynovska, a deputy village council in Chyhyryn rayon, who joined because she believes that their concerns are falling on deaf ears: “We’ve complained to decision-makers at all levels of the government, including the president of Ukraine, so many times that we’ve lost count.”</p><p dir="ltr">The relationship between MHP’s subsidiary Peremoha Nova and the community in Chyhyryn, however, has not always been so confrontational. When the company first arrived in Chyhyryn in 2015, local attitudes towards MHP were neutral. The project MHP proposed for Chyhyryn focused on expanding its parent poultry flock facilities, including brigades for 100,000 adult chickens, three brigades for 110,000 young repair chickens, and one brigade for roosters. The project would bring about one million chickens in total to the area.</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/DSC06111.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'>Credit: Nils Ackerman, Lundi13/NECU, 2016.</span></span></span>But due, in part, to the way in which the project was first communicated to the community, Chyhyryn residents grew weary of MHP. The company initially received tacit co-operation from the village council chairwoman to negotiate individually with landowners without community level consultations. The company secured lease contracts for a period of 49 years — essentially to circumvent the federal moratorium on any further land sales — to receive the land necessary for its expansion. The lease period and the payments made up front to the landowners essentially amounted to selling local lands to MHP, thus dividing the community between people who cashed in through the settlements and people in favour of remaining in control of their livelihoods.</p><p dir="ltr">The public meetings and discussions about the expansion that MHP was obliged to organised were plagued with controversy. Attempts to prevent community members from freely participating and the<a href="http://necu.org.ua/chyhyrynschyna-povstaye-proty-nashoyi-ryaby/"> physical attacks</a> on others who tried to enter consultations happened in several locations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The failure of MHP to engage communities in meaningful consultations has been a concern to its international financiers</p><p dir="ltr">When the company released a preliminary environmental assessment for consultation in late 2016, there was substantiated feedback from the community not to continue with the project. For its part, MHP seemed to have little interest in what residents had to say — it didn’t bother to collect the feedback left at the administration offices for more than a month afterwards.</p><p dir="ltr">The failure of MHP to engage communities in meaningful consultations has been a concern to its international financiers. In May 2016, the EBRD published a monitoring assessment summary report that concluded that “additional effort needs to be made with regards to appropriate information disclosure, transparency of information and also ensuring grievances are responded to and managed appropriately, including any grievances which are not formally submitted using the company’s Grievance Form”. At that time, the bank made recommendations for improvement of MHP’s performance with regards to transparent and meaningful stakeholder engagement and consultation. A year later, real progress is hard to detect, so this time around the IFC has hired consultants to help the company deal with stakeholder engagement.</p><p dir="ltr">In spite of the lack of feedback on the environmental assessment, the<a href="http://necu.org.ua/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/16-01-17EBRD-MHP-response-EIA.pdf"> MHP expansion plans pose a number of problems</a> for the residents of Chyhyryn. A sanitary protection zone has not been established in accordance with Ukrainian law, meaning that people could still be located within areas exposed to excessive levels of pollution from poultry facilities. Nor does the assessment make clear the potential impacts on potable water in Chyhyryn. The amounts of wastewater that will need purification and treatment is another area which the assessment fails to cover. In addition, there is still a lack of clarity about how emissions from the brigades will be attended to, so air pollution should cause concern for locals.</p><p dir="ltr">As of today, local farmers rented the lands on which MHP (Peremoha Nova) relies on. There is a threat that the arrival of a big player with long-term contracts of 49 years for land leases will have a negative impact on competition between businesses and will lead to economic displacement of small farmers from these lands.</p><h2>A cautionary tale</h2><p dir="ltr">While the future of MHP’s expansion in Chyhyryn remains in limbo, another community in Cherkasy oblast provides a cautionary tale. Before MHP pursued its plans in Chyhyryn, the company had tried for several years to expand its operations in the village of Moshny, 100km northwest of Chyhyryn. But residents there put up a fierce resistance and are now in frequent contact with those in Chyhyryn to support their struggles.</p><p dir="ltr">In November 2014, the managing director of Peremoga Nova, a subsidiary of MHP, informed the Moshny village council that it planned to build 144 poultry rearing houses at the edge of the village.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">People in Cherkasy aren’t only engaged in resistance, they’re also looking for alternatives</p><p dir="ltr">What happened next in Moshny has echoes with the situation in Chyhyryn. While the managing director of MHP assured villagers that the expansion project would not proceed without broad community support, the company began making secret deals with residents to lease their lands so that construction could move ahead. Ultimately, this approach was unsuccessful and over the next few months, instances of harassment, threats and pressures to lease lands continued. Concerns about the environmental impacts also share a number of similarities to the Chyhyryn project, including issues related to the protection of drinking water and the assurance of a sanitary zone around the facilities.</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/DSC05921.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'>Kateryna Oprieenko. Find out more about how Kateryna is countering the alliance between investment banks and agricultural businesses <a href=http://stories.bankwatch.org/home-to-roost>here</a>.</span></span></span>One of the leading figures of resistance in Moshny is <a href="http://stories.bankwatch.org/home-to-roost">Kateryna Onopriienko</a>, who has been a frequent traveller to Chyhyryn and supporter of their movement. She has been a frequent target of harassment and intimidation. As a former member of the local rayon council, Onopriienko suffered attacks on her integrity — for instance, when leaflets were distributed designed to discredit her in the eyes of the community.</p><h2>Stronger together</h2><p dir="ltr">If there is a silver lining in MHP’s push into Cherkasy, it is the possibility for interaction between communities like Chyhyryh and Moshny and the promise it holds for strengthening their struggles through solidarity. To be an activist like Kateryna Onopriienko, you don’t just need to be brave. You need to understand the specific dynamics of rural living and the pressures you’re likely to face, including physical assaults and beatings. What this means is that people involved in the resistance to MHP provide support in a variety of ways to their counterparts.</p><p dir="ltr">Activists in Chyhyryn and Moshny regularly communicate by phone, attend joint protest rallies at state administration buildings or local councils and share knowledge about the most effective methods of appealing their case to decision-makers and MHP officials alike. Through continued support via trainings and campaign tactics, the villagers have been empowered to continue their fight against Ukraine’s largest agricultural conglomerate.</p><p dir="ltr">But people in Cherkasy aren’t only engaged in resistance, they are also looking for alternatives. Tourism can play a key role in the the development of these rural areas, so that people learn to value their lands as an asset to build on in the long term. This would also help defeat some of the short-termism offered by the mirage of employment at the industrial poultry facilities (where the process automatisation reaches 85%) or the quick cashout of a one-time payment for land.</p><p dir="ltr">I will continue to visit and support the communities in Cherkasy. In the future, I hope these visits will be for the development of their own, self-determined initiatives.</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/vitalii-atanasov/faded-glory-ukraines-miners">Undermined: how the state is selling out Ukraine’s coal workers</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/jan-haverkamp-iryna-holovko/towards-post-nuclear-ukraine">Towards a post-nuclear Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-burdyga/where-now-for-ukraine-s-brave-new-journalism">Where now for Ukraine’s brave new journalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/iryna-holovko-dana-marekova/new-life-for-ukraine-s-aging-nuclear-power-plants">New life for Ukraine’s aging nuclear power plants</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 Vladlena Martsynkevych Green Eurasia Ukraine Thu, 16 Mar 2017 08:14:22 +0000 Vladlena Martsynkevych 109469 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bolotnaya: that spark in their eyes https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/daria-bashkirova/bolotnaya-that-spark-in-their-eyes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For many people, the Moscow protests of 2012 were about falling in love<span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; color: #545454; font-size: x-small;">&nbsp;</span><span style="color: #545454; font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: small;">– with the promise of freedom, and with each other. But how do you go on living when instead of the government, the barricades fall, and your hopes along with them? <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/daria-bashkirova/revolucioner-lubov" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></span></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/cdkefekalhadfhcp.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/cdkefekalhadfhcp.png" 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 author tells her story at Teatr.doc’s play “24+”. Photo (c): teatr.doc. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It was the summer of 2011, I was nineteen and had just finished my second year at journalism school. I think it was through <em>Afisha</em> magazine that I discovered a blog, written by two random guys using pseudonyms. It was a political blog, but it wasn’t boring. As the authors put it, it was “for hipsters,” i.e. young, smart, and educated people who could influence what was happening in Russia, their home country – but decided against it.</p><p>One of the authors used dry language, but the other – let’s call him Anton – was very passionate and, it seemed, well-read. Anton quoted Fukuyama and Lovecraft, spoke about books I hadn’t heard of, and, most importantly, he was completely sure that we could influence government if we demonstrated in the streets. Demonstrations, he wrote, weren’t just for weirdos and violent riot police, but for cool people – and if more cool people, including the authors and the blog audience, came out, the faster the government would listen and change would occur. Of course I immediately wanted to be with the cool ones.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Most of my closest friends didn’t support the government, but were incapable of anything besides grumbling in the background</p><p>When it came to politics, I didn’t have a high opinion of myself. Most of my closest friends did not support the government, but were incapable of anything besides grumbling in the background. Just once, all the way back in 2007, a soon-to-be boyfriend went to the “March of Dissenters,” and was detained with his friends even before he got there. That was his whole protest. I knew some activists, but wasn’t close to them. I got the sense that were awesome and had the right to speak, but I was just a neophyte who needed to keep my mouth shut. I also didn’t have a job, and that seemed to matter – i.e. if you don’t work, then stay quiet, you ingrate. So when Anton followed me on Twitter, I was so happy – because just look at who he was, and look at who I was in comparison!</p><p>I always liked people with a spark in their eyes, and if they were smart as well, it was a total jackpot. “Stop being apolitical, come out of your comfort zone, and understand, that something terrifying is happening to the country,” Anton would write, and I was certain that it was the truth. I thought that this man I had never met had the same worldview as I did – if you’re uniting “for all that is good, against all that is bad,” of course you’re going to match up.&nbsp;</p><p>Love, as per usual, demanded sacrifice. I was always on Twitter and checked out all the girls who wrote to him – especially those who replied to him. I tweeted while constantly being aware that he would see me in his feed. I knew that he lived somewhere by the Universitet metro station and went for runs in the park by the Pioneers’ Palace – I went running there in order to run into him. And one day, on the 31st of the month, I went to Triumfalnaya Square to protest.&nbsp;</p><p>It was my first protest, and I went alone. There was a small, tightly packed crowd – everyone was pushed back into the underpass and under the arch, people left, came back, yelled slogans, some were detained. I’d never felt so out of place before. The “cool people” were indeed there, but it seemed they knew what they were doing, while I didn’t. As if we were all at a party, and they were listening to one kind of music, and I was listening to something different. Instead of thinking that this wasn’t my scene, though, I decided that I needed to understand better. I looked for Anton that day, but didn’t meet him. I kept running, tweeting, and feeling sad.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It was my first protest, and I went alone. I’d never felt so out of place</p><p>The next time around wasn’t all that great too – except I finally saw Anton and fell for him completely. Before 31 October, Anton invited all the readers of his blog to come out for a Strategy 31 protest together. I knew it was my chance, and though I thought that there would be plenty of others, no one else showed. It was the three of us: Me, Anton, and his co-author. I was struck by Anton’s smile – childlike in its sincerity. All men I fall in love with seem very handsome to me, and he was no exception. By the time we reached Trimufalnaya, Anton was already my ideal man. But I could not stay close to him, the crowd pushed us apart, and we didn’t find each other. I stood in the rain for two hours and then went on with my day.</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/DSC_7603.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/DSC_7603.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'>Does love unite or divide us? A scene from “24+”. Photo (c): Teatr.doc. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>That day we didn’t win the right to assemble freely all the time and everywhere – but we started seeing each other all the time and everywhere instead. We wrote to each other, had coffee together, and I was certain that I finally found a person whom I could trust completely – this was nothing like my relationship with the guy I was actually seeing at the time, and who wasn’t passionate about any ideas.</p><p>Then the first protest at Bolotnaya Square rolled around. Anton was one of the people in charge of the Facebook and VKontakte events, and wanted everyone to join the sanctioned Bolotnaya protest, instead of going to Revolutsii Square to be confronted by riot police What did I do? Well, he was for Bolotnaya, so I was for it too. The day before the protest I helped him purge the event groups of bots and those who wanted to go to Revolutsii Square. I really wanted to be useful to the person I loved. Some women make soup, I was cleaning up social media. But we never saw each other at the protest – Anton was an organiser and stayed backstage, while I was away from the stage. He never came out to the stage either. But I didn’t need him to. I was content to feel that we had the same goal – us and all the other cool people there.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">That day we didn’t win the right to assemble freely all the time and everywhere – but we started seeing each other all the time and everywhere instead</p><p>Ultimately, Anton and I never became close. The last time we saw each other was on December 31, 2011. He didn’t seem thrilled to see me. I gave him a hat, but it was too small. He gave me a peculiar kiss and we parted ways.</p><p>Soon we stopped writing to each other. When I tried writing again, he would never answer. It hurt and surprised me – weren’t we adults? Shouldn’t adults tell each other, bluntly, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to hang out again”? Why the silence? He was cool with protesting, but apparently not brave enough to maturely break it off with me. Screaming “Go away!” at Putin was easier than simply asking me to do the same. Then he posted an Instagram photo with another woman and I realised that he was with her now – and I had nothing left to hope for.&nbsp;</p><p>The worst part was that I didn’t understand what was wrong with me – didn’t I do everything right? I listened to him with my mouth hanging open in wonder, I was in school, I worked, I got rid of my boyfriend, I wanted to make myself useful – what more did he want?</p><p>One day, I went to a concert by a really bad band – naturally because Anton had said it was a really good band – and met a guy there, and we began something like a relationship. Wanting to be honest, I told him my story about Anton, and he made fun of it, because, it turned out, naïve guys with a spark in their eyes weren’t taken very seriously by journalists or people close to the so-called “real protest.” Now it was Anton who was the neophyte. My main takeaway from that story was that nobody really knows what they’re doing, or where it will take them.</p><p>Five years have gone by. For me, the story of the 2011-2012 protests was a story of thwarted love – for freedom, for sincerity, for each other. I didn’t go to protests because I desperately wanted a man. No, like most of the other people who went, I was sincere in my belief that you could change something by waving white ribbons and flowers. I didn’t need love to protest for fair elections or to go to Triumfalnaya and demand freedom of assembly all the time and everywhere. But I also suspect that some went to these protests because they loved someone there.&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/553429/13May2012.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/13May2012.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'>One of Moscow’s “Control Walk” protests, 13 May 2012. Photo (c): Mikhail Kaluzhsky. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Then, when Putin won the 2012 election, when the 6 May protest descended into violence, and we realised that the protest could no longer be joyful, when the arrests began and terrifying laws cropped up – that was when I realised I was depressed. I was lying there at home watching some show, when it hit me.</p><p>I had already spent a month just lying there. I wound up spending almost an entire year – and nearly got kicked out of college. I thought it was all due to my dashed romantic dreams, but then it turned out that almost everyone I had met while going to protests had some symptoms of depression. We were together for a short moment – and we felt it all together, the euphoria, the anxiety, the emptiness. Euphoria always goes away quickly – first our own arguments then the cruelty of the authorities sobered everyone up. The love for freedom and our love for each other went away, and we were alone again.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">I suspect that some people went to these protests because they loved somebody there. My main takeaway from this story was that nobody really knows what they’re doing, or where it will take them</p><p>My own sad love story became part of the 24+ theatre production at Teatr.doc. When I first began telling it on stage, I became embarrassed and sad – but now I see it as very funny.&nbsp;</p><p>In fact, I think being public about such stories is important. It’s like therapy. The more you talk about your broken heart, the easier it is to get over the pain. Also, such stories unite us. We don’t just need them as storytellers, we need them as audience members. We’ve all been loved, we’ve all suffered from unrequited love, and we are all brave fools in love.</p><p>We’re not used to speaking about it, because it’s demonstrating some “failed” aspect of oneself – while we want everyone around to think we’re successful and happy. But when we hear such stories, we know that we are not alone. Every time I take to the stage, it’s as if I’m there again, at the protests – this feeling of unity I had then comes back to me in the theatre hall. I know I’m making it easier not just for me, but for those who listen.</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/mischa-gabowitsch/putin-s-regimes">Putin’s regimes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/dissecting-russia-s-winter-of-protest-five-years-on">Dissecting Russia’s winter of protest, five years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/pavel-chikov/russia-s-managed-thaw">Russia’s “managed thaw”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/aronson-kozlov-tereshenkov/beyond-bolotnaya-future-of-russia-s-civil-society">Beyond Bolotnaya: the future of Russia’s civil society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love">Cold war, hot love</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 Daria Bashkirova Romantic regimes Russia Wed, 15 Mar 2017 15:12:51 +0000 Daria Bashkirova 109455 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who will make Russia “great again”? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-arutunyan/who-ll-make-russia-great-again <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Arutunyan_Anna_opEd.JPG" alt="" width="80" />Russia’s legal-rational establishment has yet to emerge. But the rise of Alexei Navalny demonstrates that when it does, it will inevitably be nationalist.</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/RIAN_03038172.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_03038172.LR_.ru_.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'>Alexei Navalny attends the march in memory of murdered opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, February 2017. (c) Ilya Pitalev / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>There has been quite a bit of whiplash in the way Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most promising opposition leader, has been regarded. One moment, he’s touted as Russia’s Vaclav Havel, who is about to ride in on a white horse and drain the putrid Kremlin swamp. Then the next, we remember Navalny’s deep nationalist sympathies and freak out that he’s really going to be another Trump or Zeman, an anti-establishment populist who will, inadvertently or not, unleash a wave of xenophobic rage among his supporters if he comes to power.</p><p>We watch his <a href="https://fbk.info/english/english/post/304/" target="_blank">latest expose</a> on Russia’s prime minister Dmitry Medvedev — a savvy, beautifully-made film on the wineries, estates and luxuries that Dimon (the film is titled “Don’t call him Dimon”, as if to suggest that Putin’s one-time placeholder is far too classy to be called by a diminutive, colloquial name) squirreled away under someone else’s identities — and we secretly wish The Future Belonged to Navalny. Then we hear Navalny make some <a href="https://navalny.com/t/92/" target="_blank">decidedly illiberal remarks</a> about Russia’s tolerance towards immigrants from Central Asia and migrants from the Caucasus, a region which he has previously insisted that Moscow should “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl3PlZ5bWrw" target="_blank">stop feeding</a>”.&nbsp;</p><p>If we are seriously looking for a viable alternative to Vladimir Putin, this is confusing. Fighting corruption in <a href="http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016#table" target="_blank">one of the most corrupt countries in the world</a> is good. But being all right-wing about it — i.e making anti-minority overtures — is bad, especially given that the Russian Federation is home to 21 ethnic republics and significant numbers of migrant workers from the former Soviet periphery. The trouble here is that our attempts to pigeon-hole Navalny politically are derived from an understanding that Russia is going through the same existential battle currently playing out in the west, where so often a populist, nationalist authoritarian figure is <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards-thomas-rowley/it-could-happen-anywhere" target="_blank">seen as defeating the liberal, legal-rational establishment</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>This is not case when it comes to the Russian establishment or the Russian opposition. And in the showdown between Navalny and Putin, if one were ever to happen, they would fall into neither of those roles. We should remember that Navalny emerged on an opposition wave in 2011-2012 that saw Putin as a feudal lord, one who lived above the law and owned what he ruled both economically and politically. One of the chief complaints against Putin and his cronies that sounded at the Bolotnaya protests back in 2011 was that “you get to live by understandings [<em><a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/01/lessons-from-putins-russia-for-living-in-trumps-america.html" target="_blank">ponyatiya</a></em>], and the rest of us have to live by the law.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In some ways, Putin’s dominion is already&nbsp;a kind of primordial Steve Bannon universe: Church and State are one, Power is mystical, in thrall to money, and flaunts the Law</p><p>The <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mischa-gabowitsch/putin-s-regimes" target="_blank">establishment that the Bolotnaya protesters were against</a>, in other words, was illiberal, irrational and not even corrupt because tax farming was the bedrock of the system itself. In some ways, Putin’s dominion was already <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/top-wh-strategist-vows-a-daily-fight-for-deconstruction-of-the-administrative-state/2017/02/23/03f6b8da-f9ea-11e6-bf01-d47f8cf9b643_story.html?utm_term=.89c1e310ebcc" target="_blank">a kind of primordial Steve Bannon universe</a> — where Church and State were one, where uppity women in coloured tights were imprisoned for dancing in a cathedral, where Power was mystical, merged with money, and flaunted the Law. By the time “late Putinism” set in, there were no functioning institutions to deconstruct even if you wanted to. Putin, much like a populist, rules by appealing directly to people’s emotions (if not directly to the collective subconscious) rather than appealing to rational self-interest, as most democratically-elected leaders seek to do.&nbsp;</p><p>But if the new western populists tended to be nationalist, Putin appears to be an exception. Aside from some vague, albeit worrying, <a href="http://en.kremlin.ru/acts/news" target="_blank">rhetorical overtures to nationalism</a> and a <a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_how_the_kremlin_stumbled_on_nationalism3094" target="_blank">dangerously incoherent penchant for exploiting, then discarding, nationalist groups</a>, the Kremlin wasn’t intrinsically nationalist. <a href="http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/47173" target="_blank">Imperialist</a> maybe, but, given that Putin tends to use the word “nation” where “empire” applies better, not fully nationalist. With so many internal ethnic republics, and with inter-ethnic riots like the one in Moscow’s Biryulyovo district in 2013 on the rise, the Kremlin couldn’t afford to be. </p><p>This was why the Kremlin <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/knocking-back-russia%E2%80%99s-nationalists" target="_blank">cracked down on nationalist groups</a>. And this was why so many nationalist groups opposed the Kremlin in general and began joining the liberal Bolotnaya protests in particular. Navalny, a lawyer, a representative of the cosmopolitan creative class and generally a liberal, also had a foot in the nationalist camp. And so, when one of the big Bolotnaya protests featured a column led by the nationalist DPNI, the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, Navalny, pragmatic enough to know which way the wind was blowing, marched proudly alongside its leaders.&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/Bolotnaya_Nationalists.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Bolotnaya_Nationalists.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A group of nationalists during a protest in Moscow, December 2011. Photo CC-by-NC-ND-2.0: Misha Maslennikov / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This convergence of nationalism, anti-corruption and legalism became particularly evident in 2016, when Novorossiya rebel commander Igor Strelkov, a former Russian FSB officer, <a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_the_delayed_threat_of_strelkovs_opposition_movement_7045" target="_blank">returned from Ukraine and headed up an anti-Kremlin nationalist movement</a>. A major point in the <a href="http://novorossia.pro/25yanvarya/1942-politicheskaya-deklaraciya-obscherusskogo-nacionalnogo-dvizheniya-pod-rukovodstvom-igorya-strelkova.html" target="_blank">manifesto</a> of this movement concerned the independence of the courts in particular and rule of law in general.&nbsp;</p><p>This legalism next to the nationalist and even imperialist rhetoric about the unification of the “<a href="https://dgap.org/en/node/28188" target="_blank">Russian World</a>” may sound counterintuitive. But it’s worth remembering where many of the supporters of the Donbas separatists came from. Some were economically, culturally and personally involved with friends and family members who lived across the border in east Ukraine, but they were also <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/inequality-and-the-putin-economy-inside-the-numbers/" target="_blank">concerned with the effects of growing economic inequality back home</a>. “Tsar, their lives are more important than your wallet,” read a <a href="https://twitter.com/scrawnya/status/477126920749195264/photo/1" target="_blank">placard</a> at a pro-separatist rally in Moscow in 2014. This slogan encapsulated the sentiment of standing up for Russian interests at home and abroad and being anti-Putin at the same time.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It remains an open question whether Navalny will be allowed by the Kremlin to run for president in 2018</p><p>It remains an open question whether Navalny will be allowed by the Kremlin to run for president in 2018 — the authorities have a penchant for shutting down court cases against Navalny based on how many people turn out in the street in his support, and then reigniting them. What is more important in the long run is that Navalny has managed to tap into popular attitudes regarding the way the Kremlin rules Russia — that is, through corruption — and actually start changing them.&nbsp;</p><p>In this regard, there are two important moments in Navalny’s <a href="https://fbk.info/english/english/post/304/" target="_blank">new film</a>. He shows Medvedev saying that corruption “should not only be illegal, it should be indecent”. Then, later on, Navalny shows local residents from a nearby village talking about one of Medvedev’s secret dachas and how he sometimes appeared there. “We were waiting for him this year,” a man says nonchalantly, as if this opulence near his small wooden home was the most normal thing in the world. “Maybe he will build a road,” an elderly woman says, lackadaisically, against the backdrop of her small, wooden home. “Let him help out.”&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 2017-03-15 at 09.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="256" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A resident of Mansurovo, the location of one of Dmitry Medvedev's country residences. Source: <a href=https://fbk.info/english/english/post/304/>FBK</a>.</span></span></span>Though Navalny didn’t spell it out explicitly, these scenes served to amplify Russia’s stark economic inequality on the one hand, and the habits of some of the country’s most downtrodden members to normalise that inequality. The film — and the painstaking efforts of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation in general — are not just about exposing Medvedev’s hypocrisy in his anti-corruption drive while president. They are challenging a persistent normalisation of kleptocracy that has become deeply ingrained in Russian political culture as an everyday coping mechanism — one that, in turn, colludes with the Kremlin’s exploitation of Russian citizens.</p><p>Opinion surveys throughout Putin’s rule paint a depressing picture of a majority of Russian citizens who expect that corruption will increase, in effect viewing it as a “normal” phenomenon. But we should note an important change over the past ten years — a steady increase in the number of citizens actually concerned about corruption (from 24% in 2005 to 39% in 2013, according to <a href="http://www.levada.ru/2013/09/03/problemy-i-trevogi-rossiyan/" target="_blank">this Levada poll</a>). This trend suggests a growing cognitive dissonance that, at some point, has got to give: you can’t, after all, continue normalising something you are increasingly becoming concerned about as a problem.&nbsp;</p><p>But if Russian citizens’ awareness of corruption is growing, so is their distrust of people who migrate. The <a href="http://www.levada.ru/2013/09/03/problemy-i-trevogi-rossiyan/" target="_blank">same poll</a> showed a stark (seven percent in 2005 to 27% in 2013) increase of people who were most concerned by immigrants and migrants. While these are not, objectively speaking, structurally related concerns, they correlate in the minds of many Russian citizens. For instance, one of the <a href="http://russialist.org/the-mean-streets-of-russian-nationalism-who-are-russias-real-nationalists-and-why-are-they-rioting/" target="_blank">chief concerns</a> among demonstrators in the violent protests in Biryulyovo in 2013 and on the Moscow Manezh in 2010, which both erupted following the deaths of ethnic Russian citizens, was that the police would not bring the suspected perpetrator to justice because he was a migrant worker from Central Asia — the police force was believed to be too corrupt to stand up to ethnic diaspora groups. This logic is racist, but the experiences (corruption) that inform that racism are real.&nbsp;</p><p>And this flows into another aspect of the appeal of Russian nationalism: the persistent suspicion among patriots that Putin is actually acting in interests other than those that might be understood as ethnically, culturally, and geopolitically “Russian”. These suspicions — that Putin was somehow under the spell of “fifth-columnists” in the government that “needed to be purged” — often manifested themselves in <a href="http://www.vz.ru/opinions/2014/4/29/684247.html" target="_blank">fiery statements</a> made during a 2014 pro-separatist rally in Moscow by imperialist demagogue Alexander Dugin and the United Russia deputy and head of the ultranationalist <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/ultimate-conspiracy-theory" target="_blank">National Liberation Movement</a> Evgeny Fyodorov.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Navalny’s appeals to deep-seated insecurities about immigration reflect a malaise that can only emerge in a country that has always been an empire, but never a nation</p><p>If Navalny is to succeed, he will have to exploit the divide between the nationalists’ mistrust of the Kremlin on the one hand, and the idea that Russia’s rulers are somehow inevitably kleptocratic on the other. Currently, he is successfully straddling this divide. Navalny’s <a href="https://fbk.info/" target="_blank">Anti-Corruption Foundation</a> (FBK), with its painstaking, legalistic approach to exposing corruption among Russian state officials operates under the assumption that there is nothing normal about people in power stealing money from the population they are mandated to rule. Most of all, the FBK team seek to bolster existing institutions and the supremacy of rules by operating according to Russian laws and legal norms, not abstract concepts imported from the west. Navalny’s film, and the millions of Russian citizens who watched it, suggests that that this assumption is infectious.&nbsp;</p><p>But this comes with a darker side of the same coin — Navalny’s appeals to deep-seated and growing insecurities about immigration are a reflection of a malaise that can only emerge in a country that has always been an empire, but never a nation. As such, the growing affection for the prospect of a legal-rational, lawful Russia goes hand in hand with the belief that it should be for “Russians” only. The question that remains is: how far will this nationalism go?</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/mischa-gabowitsch/putin-s-regimes">Putin’s regimes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/dissecting-russia-s-winter-of-protest-five-years-on">Dissecting Russia’s winter of protest, five years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach-ilya-budraitskis/dreams-of-europe-refugees-and-xenophobia-in-russia-and-ukra">Dreams of Europe: refugees and xenophobia in Russia and Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-matveev/russia-inc">Russia, Inc.</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 Anna Arutunyan Uncivil society Russia Wed, 15 Mar 2017 00:23:05 +0000 Anna Arutunyan 109446 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is election observing in Central Asia a lost cause? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anne-rennschmid/is-election-observing-in-central-asia-lost-cause <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Portrait Rennschmid.jpg" alt="" width="80" />Until Central Asia’s autocracies take their numerous commitments to democracy seriously, election observers can’t do their jobs. What can be done? <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anne-rennschmid/nabludenie-na-vyborax-sredniaja-asija" 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/RIAN_02986934.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02986934.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'>A woman casts a ballot in presidential elections in Uzbekistan, December 2016. The vote, widely seen as fraudulent, saw acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev elected with 89% of the vote. Photo (c): Valery Melnikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>To varying degrees, the post-Soviet states of Central Asia are governed by autocrats. These ruling elites have little to no interest in democratic governance, monopolising politics helping those in power to stay in power – in some cases, for life. Last month, Turkmenistan’s president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/luca-anceschi/turkmenistan-s-electoral-denial" target="_blank">was re-elected with 97% of the vote</a>. In neighbouring Uzbekistan, acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev won elections held in December 2016 with 89% of the vote. In cementing his position, Mirziyoyev slammed the door on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/nate-schenkkan/what-would-open-uzbekistan-look-like" target="_blank">hopes for a more pluralist approach to politics than his late predecessor</a>, Islam Karimov who has ruled the state since it had started to exist.&nbsp;</p><p>These political systems concentrate lawmaking and executive powers in the office of the president. From Tajikistan to Turkmenistan, political parties represented in parliaments are pro-regime and far from providing political alternatives. Any form of meaningful opposition has been extinguished by a policy of intimidation by powerful state security apparatuses. Consequently, the public mostly remains passive, and with no democratic structures, elections are a sham.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">After 25 years of independence, it’s clear that Central Asian states do not take their commitments to these agreements seriously</p><p>This makes one wonder why the international community still sends missions to these countries to observe the implementation of democratic standards for elections.&nbsp;</p><p>As elections are central to state sovereignty, observation missions are only allowed upon formal invitation of the host government. In cases such as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the results of elections are more or less clear even as observers’ presence in the country is being negotiated. Can election observers keep their full independence and integrity in states with such sham elections?</p><h2>Promises come cheap</h2><p> All republics of the former Soviet Union are participating states to the OSCE/ODIHR, and are therefore politically bound to its commitments on elections, most importantly the <a href="http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/14304" target="_blank">Copenhagen Document</a> and <a href="http://www.osce.org/mc/39516" target="_blank">Charter of Paris</a>, both signed in 1990, and repeatedly confirmed by the participating States over the following years. The states committed themselves to hold regular free and fair elections, ensuring that the will of the people serves as the basis of the government. OSCE states are also to guarantee conditions which ensure in practice the free expression of opinion, free choice of representatives and accountability of those representatives towards their voters.</p><p>OSCE/ODIHR election observers come from other OSCE states and are deployed by their governments to monitor the implementation of these commitments in a country where elections are being held. They take their duties seriously and apply a rigorous methodology, releasing comprehensive reports to the public in English and in the state’s local language(s). Their reports are outspoken, too: while some states would prefer a focus on election administration as being a less politically sensitive issue , the OSCE/ODIHR election observation missions consider the broader political context including the stage of media freedom and other other fundamental civil and political rights.&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/Berdymukhamedov_Ashkabat.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Berdymukhamedov_Ashkabat.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="274" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Be careful who you vote for. A monument to president Berdymukhamedov in Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan. Photo CC: Lyuba Brank / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>For example, in regard to <a href="http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/tajikistan/158081" target="_blank">Tajikistan’s parliamentary elections</a> in March 2015, the OSCE/ODIHR election observer mission reported that although the government stated its ambition to hold democratic elections, restrictions on opposition politicians’ right to stand, freedoms of expression and assembly, and access to media limited voters’ opportunity to make a free and informed choice. Furthermore, the appointment of election commissions lacked transparency.&nbsp;</p><p>Following <a href="http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/kazakhstan/229101" target="_blank">parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan</a> in March 2016, the OSCE/ODIHR reported that the country “still has a considerable way to go in meeting its OSCE commitments for democratic elections. The legal framework restricts fundamental civil and political rights, and comprehensive reform is required.” The report indicates that Kazakhstan’s political landscape is dominated by president Nazarbayev’s political party Nur Otan and that there is a lack of genuine opposition in the country, with several prominent critics of the government either imprisoned or living in exile.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Election observers are sometimes monitored by these states’ security services, hampering their ability to speak with and hear the concerns of ordinary voters</p><p>The <a href="http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/uzbekistan/286036" target="_blank">December 2016 elections in Uzbekistan</a> were unique in the way that, for the first time beside the acting president himself, three other candidates were allowed to run for president. But this meant little, in a sham election described in the OSCE/ODIHR’s statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions as a “campaign devoid of genuine competition,” held in a “highly restrictive environment”.&nbsp;</p><p>Central Asian states are legally bound to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), whose Article 25 mandates members to ensure freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Over 25 years of independence have shown that, with the exception of Kyrgyzstan, the Central Asian states do not take their commitments to these organisations and agreements seriously, nor to democracy in general. Their “virtual democracies” <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/2005-11-01/virtual-politics-faking-democracy-post-soviet-world" target="_blank">strive for all of its spectacle, with none of its substance</a>.&nbsp;</p><h2>Hope springs eternal&nbsp;</h2><p>This disdain for democracy is patently obvious, but the continued presence of OSCE/ODIHR observation missions reveal that the international community still cares about the implementation of commitments on democratic elections. The election observation missions of OSCE/ODIHR are deployed on the formal invitation of the respective state, and one advantage of them is their use in keeping up political dialogue even with the region’s most closed states like Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.&nbsp;</p><p>This is an important advantage, but it’s not enough. Election observation in autocratic states cannot fulfil its primary purpose as mandated by the OSCE/ODIHR: to enhance public trust in the elections and thus in government and public institutions. In such elections, no real social actors are being represented.&nbsp;</p><p>Central Asia’s autocracies happily mouth off about “democracy”, “human rights” and the “rule of law”, using them widely in the wording of political programs while at the same time in reality they are systematically suppressed and electorates are deceived.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">How do you oversee the implementation of democratic ideals if you know before boarding the plane that they won’t be implemented?</p><p>Election observers are also prevented from doing their job, and sometimes monitored by these states’ security services, hampering their ability to speak with and hear the concerns of ordinary voters. For example, OSCE/ODIHR’s final report on the 2013 parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan notes that “election observers were required to be accompanied to most meetings by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials or other local officials throughout the observation period, including on election day.”&nbsp;</p><p>This shows how difficult it is for election observation missions not to be controlled or used by host governments, or for their presence to legitimise sham elections. Observers have to guarantee at all times their full independence and integrity. Only in this way can they be a credible instrument for monitoring whether and to what extent the will of the people serves as the basis of the authority of government. How do you oversee the implementation of democratic ideals if you know before boarding the plane that they won’t be implemented?</p><p>In a time when democracy appears to be hollowing out across the world, it’s easy to cling to the hope that if we treat liberal democracy as universal, it will be universally implemented. Indeed, vibrant democracies with accountable leaders must be encouraged. OSCE/ODIHR election observers have a clearly defined remit, and the states they visit have clearly defined commitments. Until the latter will be taken seriously, the international community should refrain from sending fully fledged observer missions to sham elections in autocratic states.&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/luca-anceschi/turkmenistan-s-electoral-denial">Turkmenistan’s electoral denial</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/daniil-kislov/in-kyrgyzstan-it-s-revolution-revanche-repeat-all-over-again">In Kyrgyzstan, it’s revolution, revanche, repeat all over again</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nate-schenkkan/what-would-open-uzbekistan-look-like">What would an open Uzbekistan look like?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/amirzhan-kosanov/kazakhstan-s-thin-red-line">Kazakhstan’s thin red line</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 Anne Rennschmid Uncivil society Central Asia Fri, 10 Mar 2017 15:04:58 +0000 Anne Rennschmid 109347 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rostov’s Red Army Faction https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/igor-gukovsky/rostov-red-army-faction <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Combating terrorism is one of the main responsibilities of a modern state, but in non-democratic states it can take strange forms. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/igor-gukovskiy/krasnaja-armija-rostovskoi-oblasti">Русский</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/-и Смышляев - суд 2.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'>Artur Panov (left) and Maksim Smyshlyaev in the North Caucasus District Military Court. Credit: Igor Gukovsky.</span></span></span>Since the early 2000s, the fabrication of terrorism cases is one of the main reasons for the growing numbers of political prisoners in Russia. The victims of the Russian authorities’ “anti-terrorism” campaign are usually residents of the North Caucasus, as well as Muslims from other regions, or, less often, members of leftwing or nationalist groups. </p><p>Since the events of 2014, Ukrainian citizens have been increasingly subject to suspicion of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/crimea-peninsula-of-torture">“sabotage”</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/igor-gukovsky/making-them-pay-for-maidan">“terrorism”</a>&nbsp;— for some, this suspicion has ended in criminal investigations and prison sentences.</p> <h2><strong>When is advice not advice?</strong></h2> <p>On 14 February 2017, a trial against two alleged “terrorists”, Artur Panov and Maksim Smyshlyaev, opened in the North Caucasus District Military Court. The prosecution claimed that before prior to arrest in December 2015, Panov, an underage Ukrainian citizen, planned to organise a series of explosions in Rostov-on-Don and manufactured an explosive device with which to carry them out. Maksim Smyshlyaev, a Russian student, supposedly offered to help him, providing him with advice on the best way to plan and carry out terrorist acts.&nbsp;</p><p>Mediazona, an online platform focused on Russia’s justice system, covered the initial detention and investigation of <a href="https://zona.media/article/2015/10/12/raf">Panov</a> and <a href="http://zona.media/article/2016/14/07/posobnik-raf">Smyshlyaev</a> in detail. Back in December 2015, we knew that the prosecution’s evidence was weak, but what we didn’t know was that the investigation had information that proved Smyshlyaev’s innocence.</p> <p>In 2016, the authorities turned the dubious case against Panov, 17, and Smyshlyaev, 33, into justification for harassing left-wing activists and journalists across southern Russia. In August 2016, Dmitry Remizov, a journalist for Rosbalt, was <a href="https://zona.media/news/2016/11/08/rosbalt">questioned</a> by members of Russia’s Anti-Extremism Center in connection with this investigation — Remizov was beaten, harassed and threatened with the possibility of having his details leaked to a Neo-Nazi group. Likewise, Darya Polyudova, a member of <a href="http://inter.rkrp.ru/brief-information/rot-front-who-we-are/">Rot Front</a> who <a href="http://www.rightsinrussia.info/person-of-the-week/daryapolyudova-1">received a two-year sentence in December 2015</a> on separatism charges, was <a href="https://zona.media/article/2015/10/12/raf">interrogated</a> as a witness in this case. Panov had connected to Russian social media users with leftwing views, openly inviting them to help prepare terrorist attacks. This gave the authorities the opportunity to call anyone who had had any contact with Panov as a witness.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/polyudova_arrest_main_2_0.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'>In December 2015, Darya Polyudova was sentenced to two years in a Krasnodar court for "inciting extremism and separatism". Source: personal page on VKontakte.</span></span></span>From the moment of Maksim Smyshlyaev’s arrest on 22 April 2016, the investigation worked on the principle that he, “as a political and ideological proponent of communist ideas and an opponent of the current Russian government”, should be considered a leftwing extremist. The fact that Smyshlyaev entered into correspondence with Panov thus became an offence under Article 205 of Russia’s Criminal Code (“Aiding terrorist cctivity”), while Panov, a teenager acting alone, became the de facto “leader of a terrorist cell”.</p> <h2>RAF, ISIS and other enemies of Russia</h2> <p>The Russian state keeps a <a href="http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/docs/2007/11/d11927">register</a> of organisations declared to be terrorist or extremist by courts at one level or another, and membership of any of these groups is by definition a crime. The list is controversial and, in a &nbsp;number of cases, is used to prosecute members of organisations that have been banned without proper cause. </p> <p>There are also strange cases like that of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/igor-gukovsky/making-them-pay-for-maidan">Andriy Kolomiyets</a>, a participant of EuroMaidan charged with, among other things, being a member of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a nationalist paramilitary group that dissolved itself in 1954 (and was <a href="http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/news/counteraction/2015/01/d31141/">declared extremist in 2014</a>). But even so, the news that a Ukrainian teenager was planning to carry out terrorist acts in the Rostov region in the name of the German terrorist <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6314559.stm">Red Army Fraction (RAF)</a> was something of a shock.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/-Панов.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'>Artur Panov. Image courtesy of author. </span></span></span>Unlike the UPA, to which Kolomiyets supposedly belonged, the Baader-Meinhof Gang was never seen as a threat in Russia. The group never carried out any actions in post-Soviet states and was disbanded in 1998. It was probably the Baader-Meinhofs’ cult status among far-left political groups that led Panov to claim he was carrying on their work.</p><p> Russia’s security services have been unable to establish Panov’s exact political position. Having described himself as a successor to the German radical left, Panov told the police during interrogations that he was prepared to confess to carrying out his planned terrorist actions in the name of ISIS. He also styled himself a Ukrainian nationalist, and on top of all this, Panov’s “New RAF generation” posts on Blogspot contained elements of anti-Semitism. But the apotheosis of Panov’s omnivorous ideology was his claim that the “Red Army Fraction was prepared to cooperate with ISIS”, which led to the crime of public support for terrorism being added to the charge against him at his <a href="http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3219185">trial which has just opened in Rostov</a> (Russian link).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The police have not been able to identify any of the Ukrainian “accomplices” that Panov mentioned during questioning, and nor have they managed to confirm the numerous improbable details in his statements</p><p>The police have not been able to identify any of the Ukrainian “accomplices” that Panov mentioned during questioning, and nor have they managed to confirm the numerous improbable details in his statements. He insisted, for example, that he had been abducted from the so-called Luhansk Peoples’ Republic (LNR), although all the available evidence refutes this. In a joint interrogation with Smyshlyaev, he also stated that he had been asked by a secret pro-Ukrainian group, whose name he can’t remember, to gather information about opposition tendencies among the Russian public and post them to an address ending in “&lt;…&gt;@usaid.org”. &nbsp;</p> <p>Journalists writing about Panov and trying to talk to his defence team have said that he claimed to have been receiving letters from time to time, in which his anonymous “friends” attempted to prove that he couldn’t be a terrorist. These messages also ridiculed the FSB and the idea of a terrorist plot, but at the same time cast doubt on Panov’s psychological state. It’s unclear who sent these letters, but the style in which they were written was incredibly similar to that of Panov’s own blogs and statements. </p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/3b3060951555621db0b48518ebd30004.jpg_1400x850" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image of "Artur Romberg", Panov's suspected user profile on VKontakte. Via <a href=https://zona.media/article/2015/10/12/raf>Mediazona</a>. </span></span></span>Panov’s obviously strange behaviour, in contrast to Smyshlyaev’s clear and consistent testimony, should, one would have thought, have led the police to admit their mistake when the suspects first met in custody. The fact that Panov was diagnosed with an “incipient mixed personality disorder” during pre-trial detention should also have made them sceptical of his testimony. But this didn’t happen. </p><p>Instead, Russia’s Investigative Committee, realising the weaknesses in their evidence base, resorted to “the queen of evidence” — confession — not by Smyshlyaev, who was still protesting his innocence at the time, but by Panov, previously convicted of making a false statement about a terrorist act.</p><p>The result of this work is the record of Panov’s interrogations, in which he confirms the accuracy of the detective’s leading questions. According to these documents, Panov appears incapable of describing the composition of his explosive device without prompting, how it was made, whether he filled it with projectiles and whether he planned to plant it somewhere or was ready to blow himself up with it, and so on. The police had decided to use this line of questioning despite the fact that asking leading questions is explicitly prohibited under Russian law.&nbsp; </p> <h2>A presumption of guilt </h2> <p>Memorial human rights organisation has <a href="http://www.rightsinrussia.info/rights-groups-in-russia/memorialhumanrightscentre-9">recognised Smyshlyaev as a political prisoner</a> on the grounds that there is no evidence of his guilt. Life goes on, and today we can definitely claim that the detectives have irrefutable proof of Smyshlyaev’s innocence — we only have to look at the official documents of his case. </p> <p>According to the investigators’ version of the facts, Smyshlyaev’s crime was to “deliberately continue to offer help, in the form of advice and information” to Panov, while knowing that Panov was planning a terrorist act. He also supposedly advised Panov not to carry out an attack in a supermarket or other public place, and to instead attack some government building, preferably at night. Smyshlyaev also supposedly gave Panov more general advice that would lower the chance of his being found out: this included a suggestion that he not write about terrorism on his social media page. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Today we can definitely claim that the detectives have irrefutable proof of Smyshlyaev’s innocence — we only have to look at the official documents of his case</p> <p>An analysis of the prosecution conclusion that the Investigative Committee took to court shows that, in fact, they have a considerable amount of evidence, but all of it insubstantial. There are no witnesses, apart from Artur Panov, who can testify to Smyshlyaev’s terrorist sympathies. All the material evidence, including the components of the homemade explosive device, point to Panov and no one else, and the correspondence between the two men makes it clear that Smyshlyaev was opposed to terrorism on principle.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/-Смышляев.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="144" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maksim Smyshlyaev in court. Image courtesy of the author. </span></span></span></p><p>But the most important proof of Smyshlyaev’s innocence was his correspondence with Nikita Yechkov, a friend with whom he discussed issues around leftist movements and communist ideology online.</p><p> Yechkov contacted Smyshlyaev’s lawyer off his own bat after realising that he was the same user who had asked for advice on how to talk to an underage supporter of terrorist ideology. </p> <p>In their correspondence, Smyshlyaev had mentioned to Yechkov that he had been contacted by a young man who “was planning a terrorist action in Rostov, and I explained to him that there was no point – but what do you advise? His ideas were more anarchist than anything else. I tried to dissuade him, and I might meet up with him before he acts. He’s radically minded, he evidently has nothing to lose. What do you think - what arguments might make sense to him? I also told him that if the media got hold of anything about leftwing terrorists, they’d be down on us all like a tonne of bricks, unless of course they decide to pin a hooliganism rap on him.” This message shows that when Smyshlyaev suggested an attack on a government building rather than a supermarket, he wasn’t trying to increase the effectiveness of Panov’s terrorist activity. On the contrary, he was trying to stop it.</p> <p>Summing up this correspondence and the fact that the prosecution used it as proof of Smyshlyaev’s guilt, we can now come up with a new definition of terrorism — here, it’s the desire to dissuade a terrorist from carrying out any terrorism.&nbsp; </p> <h2>Yarovaya’s Law is too liberal</h2> <p>One aspect of Smyshlyaev’s case that was somehow ignored by the police was the fact that his behaviour did, indeed, show similarities with one article of Russia’s Criminal Code. When Smyshlyaev was arrested in April 2016, this article was still at its draft stage and formed part of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/26/russia-passes-big-brother-anti-terror-laws">the infamous “Yarovaya Law”</a>, which makes it a crime to not notify the authorities of “reliable” information about planned terrorist attacks, armed uprisings, hijacking and several other crimes. </p> <p>What might theoretically happen to Smyshlyaev if he is found guilty, not of his nonexistent aiding and abetting preparations for a terrorist act, but of attempting to dissuade a putative terrorist on his own, without notifying the authorities?</p><p class="mag-quote-center">If Maksim Smyshlyaev had come to the security services’ attention after the Yarovaya Law had come into force, he too would probably have got off with a fine or community service</p> <p>In January-February of this year, Rostov’s regional press and TV <a href="https://www.yuga.ru/news/409323/">carried</a> stories about the first criminal cases to be brought under the new ‘failure to notify” law. Judging from these few cases, it is being used against Muslims who have associated with extremists going off to fight in Syria and who had known about their plans. The only person as yet to be convicted under the law, Ulukbek Gafurov, a resident of Astrakhan, was fined 70,000 roubles (about £900).</p> <p>If Maksim Smyshlyaev had come to the security services’ attention after the Yarovaya Law had come into force, he too would probably have got off with a fine or community service. But Smyshlyaev was unlucky: he was arrested at a time when failing to inform the state of the intentions of a psychologically unbalanced teenager wasn’t a crime. They had to find a different charge. This innocent man is now facing a possible 10-20 year sentence in a high security prison camp with no right to parole until he has served three quarters of his sentence. The war on terrorism can be as unpredictable as that. &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/igor-gukovsky/making-them-pay-for-maidan">Making them pay for Maidan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/crimea-peninsula-of-torture">Crimea: peninsula of torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-slavina/new-casualties-of-russia-s-war-on-terror">The new casualties of Russia’s war on terror</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/pavel-chikov/russia-s-managed-thaw">Russia’s “managed thaw”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-zotova/this-is-karelia-tortured-voices-from-russia-s-prison-system">This is Karelia: tortured voices from Russia’s prison system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-yudina/got-tagged-get-fined-russia-s-battle-against-digital-extremism">Got tagged? Get fined! Russia’s battle against “digital extremism”</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 Igor Gukovsky Thu, 09 Mar 2017 09:56:22 +0000 Igor Gukovsky 109337 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russia’s “managed thaw” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/pavel-chikov/russia-s-managed-thaw <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PChikov.jpg" alt="" width="80" />This week, two political prosecutions in Russia were quashed — to much applause. But it’s too early to talk about positive trends — the authorities are merely changing their tactics.</p><br /> </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/Dadin_Free.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Dadin_Free.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="246" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Political prisoner Ildar Dadin is reunited with his wife Anastasia Zotova following his release. Altai Region, Russia. Image still via Krym.Realii/YouTube. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>This article was <a href="http://www.rbc.ru/opinions/politics/06/03/2017/58bd186f9a7947c43c5ec254?from=newsfeed" target="_blank">originally published</a> in Russian on RBC. We are grateful for their permission to translate and republish it here.</em></p><p>This week, a Russian regional court <a href="http://www.interfax.ru/russia/552469" target="_blank">revoked the five-month prison sentence</a> against a children’s camp instructor and released her from prison. Evgenia Chudnovets had already served four months in prison for alleged distribution of child pornography online. In August 2015, Chudnovets reposted a 30-second video showing the humiliation of a child at a summer camp — plus, of course, a few words of outrage.</p><p>Russia’s deputy general prosecutor rewrote the conclusions of Chudnovets’ appeal almost word-for-word. Previously, when the Kurgan court examined Chudnovets’ appeal in December 2016, it refused to release her, although both the state prosecutor and defense lawyers asked for her release. The same court then refused the cassation appeal against Chudnovets’ sentence. Indeed, the sentence against Chudnovets was only quashed after the involvement of Russia’s General Prosecutor and the Supreme Court. Evgenia will now have the right to seek compensation for the harm caused by an unlawful criminal prosecution.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There was little doubt that these individuals were released or amnestied in service of purely political or tactical aims</p><p>The case of Chudnovets developed alongside the far more prominent case of Ildar Dadin, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aleksandr-litoy/serial-violations-finding-new-ways-to-limit-freedom-of-association-in-russ" target="_blank">the first Russian citizen to be prosecuted for repeated violation of new legislation governing public assembly</a> under Article 212.1. In December 2015, Dadin, a political activist, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aleksandr-litoy/serial-violations-finding-new-ways-to-limit-freedom-of-association-in-russ" target="_blank">received a shocking three-year prison term</a>.</p><p>Dadin’s sentence was handed down despite the fact that this was the activist’s first offence (a mid-level offence at that), and that the prosecution was clearly political motivated and conducted under the gaze of the Moscow media. There was a minor correction to the court’s decision at appeal, and a reduction to Dadin’s sentence before he was transported to the penal system in Karelia, northwest Russia, which is <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anastasiya-zotova/this-is-karelia-tortured-voices-from-russia-s-prison-system" target="_blank">infamous for its cruel treatment</a>. After Dadin <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ildar-dadin/letter-from-prison" target="_blank">revealed evidence of his torture in Karelia</a> in November 2016, a scandal broke out — and the prison authorities responded sharply. In December 2016, Dadin was sent — secretly and by a circuitous route —&nbsp;to a remote colony in Altai, southwest Siberia.&nbsp;</p><p>In February 2017, Russia’s Constitutional Court held an open hearing where it recognised that, in Dadin’s case, Russia’s Criminal Code had been incorrectly interpreted. The Supreme Court soon involved itself directly, and Dadin’s jail term <a href="http://www.rferl.org/a/russia-ildar-dadin-activist-released/28332922.html" target="_blank">was quashed and he was released</a>.</p><h2>Vegetarian epoch</h2><p>In both of these cases, Russia’s judicial system has demonstrated phenomenal speed. Chudnovets’ criminal case literally flew from Kurgan to Moscow (indeed, there <em>and</em> back).&nbsp;</p><p>Such a speedy decision is possible only when a case is being tightly controlled, and has been agreed at the top — the sudden release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky (December 2013), the activists sentenced as part of the Arctic Sunrise case (November 2013), Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (December 2013). The record, of course, was set by the Kirov regional court, which, in summer 2013, revoked its five-year sentence for alleged embezzlement against Alexey Navalny within 24 hours.&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/Chudnovets_Evgeniya.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Chudnovets_Evgeniya.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="261" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yevgeniya Chudnovets discusses her case on a news broadcast. Image still via YouTube / Rossiya24. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In all of these previous cases, the reasons for the system’s “softer” approach were clear. The “thaw” of December 2013 was connected to the coming Winter Olympics at Sochi. The amnesty decision for Navalny was clearly linked to his candidacy in Moscow’s mayoral elections. There was little doubt that these individuals were released or amnestied in service of purely political or tactical aims.&nbsp;</p><p>Back to 2017, and the system’s recent signs of “weakness” have been met with a cry of celebration from Russian progressive circles. Freedom for Dadin and Chudnovets; the release of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/dmitry-okrest/who-are-your-comrades-now" target="_blank">Dmitry Buchenkov</a>, the last figure in the Bolotnaya Case, and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/05/pokemon-go-russian-youtuber-ruslan-sokolovsky-five-years-jail-church" target="_blank">Ruslan Sokolovsky</a>, the blogger about to be tried for playing Pokemon Go at a Ekaterinburg church, under house arrest. The liberal genie was about to burst out of the bottle, if not for the <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/02/russia-deeply-alarming-raid-targets-human-rights-activist-and-journalist-zoya-svetova/" target="_blank">11-hour search of prominent rights activist Zoya Svetova’s home</a> in connection with the now ancient Yukos case. The Svetova search, of course, was just as sudden and hard to explain as the prisoner releases that preceded it.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">We cannot talk of an improvement, only, instead, a slowdown in the degradation. There are still dozens of political prisoners in Russia</p><p>The federal authorities haven’t tried to curb the conversations about this new “thaw”. Instead, they’ve encouraged them. For instance, a number of official figures&nbsp;— president Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, head of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev, human rights ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova and representatives of the Ministry of Justice — have all publicly come out for a review of Article 212.1, the law that put Dadin in prison.</p><h2>Not backward, but not forward either</h2><p>Prior to this, we noticed that the number of politically motivated criminal cases had stopped rising. My twelve years of working to defend civic activists, human rights defenders, journalists and directors of civic organisations allows me to feel which way the wind is blowing. We cannot talk of an improvement, only, instead, a slowdown in the degradation. There are still dozens of political prisoners in Russia.&nbsp;</p><p>Political commentators have begun to talk about how the screws are being “loosened”, legal experts – their desired judicial reform. Either way, it’s clear that what’s going on now didn’t start last month, and that the changes are clearly coming from the top, consciously, but without any kind of explanation. &nbsp;</p><p>Taking into account that previous reviews of prominent criminal cases were governed by tactical aims, there are serious grounds to believe that the thaw of 2017 is connected with the main political event of the coming year — the presidential elections. Preparations for this began in spring 2016. There were shifts in the law enforcement agencies. The Federal Drug Control Service and Federal Migration Service, surplus to requirements, were wound up. A new politicised security agency, the National Guard, was created. Meanwhile, the influence of Russia’s Investigative Committee, the agency behind the state’s repressive domestic policy in 2012-2016, has been fallen sharply.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The old format has gradually worn itself out. Show trials don’t work as well anymore — hounding activists is now the work of pro-government civic organisations</p><p>The old format has gradually worn itself out. Show trials don’t work as well anymore. Leading figures of the opposition are used to working under permanent risk of criminal prosecution. Some have left the country, and are now beyond the security services’ reach, albeit falling out of political life in the process. Protests have long failed to attract big crowds. Non-commercial organisations are demoralised by Russia’s law on “foreign agents”. Self-censorship is rife on the internet. Statistics on criminal investigations into “extremism” are, on the whole, generated by marginal statements made by provincial internet users and “non-traditional” Russian Muslims.</p><p>The Russian state’s function of spreading fear and targeted repressions has been gradually handed over to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/you-wanted-civil-society-well-now-you-ve-got-it" target="_blank">pro-government, “patriotic” civic organisations</a>. Today, it’s not Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, who’s gunning for Alexey Navalny, but organisations like the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/ultimate-conspiracy-theory" target="_blank">National Liberation Movement </a>or AntiMaidan.&nbsp;</p><h2>Two scenarios for the future&nbsp;</h2><p>Now it’s not a case of frightening Russian citizens and repressing them, but to collect information and conduct “preventative action” against protest activity. And this is the job of very different state agencies. Indeed, it’s the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/pavel-chikov/russia-s-security-services-are-reforming-their-way-out-of-shadows" target="_blank">FSB that has taken control of Russia’s domestic politics</a>. Employees of Russia’s state security service arrest governors, generals and influential businessmen, devalue the reputations of companies and agencies, and, of course, defend the Russian internet from the harmful influence of 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-12975977.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-12975977.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'>Riot police block a square in central Moscow during an anti-Putin demonstration following presidential elections in 2012. (c) Finistre Arnaud / ABACA / PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Nothing creates extra work for the security services like a managed “thaw”. Brave statements, new leaders and initiatives, planned and discussed protests attract the security services’ attention instantly. The coming presidential elections, the election campaigns that have begun, the good news from the courts as spring begins cannot fail to stir up Russia’s dormant civic protesters. Gradual civic mobilisation will continue right up until the culmination of this campaign, in March 2018. Indeed, by summer 2018, the data on Russian citizens will have been collected, analysed and transferred to the agencies who make the decisions — and by autumn 2018, legal experts will have plenty of work to do. This scenario has to be taken into account.&nbsp;</p><p>There is, of course, another scenario. The intended recipient of the Kremlin’s “liberal signals” might not be inside the country, but outside. Russia’s foreign policy, which remains at the centre of the president’s attention, is going through turbulent times.&nbsp;</p><p>For liberal opinion in the west, Vladimir Putin personifies those dark forces that are threatening the current world order. Any sudden moves towards democratisation will only increase the level of uncertainty, and so the Kremlin would gain a tactical advantage in the diplomatic game.&nbsp;</p><p>There are, after all, no small number of politicians in the world ready to deceive themselves — the ranks of the Russian president’s allies could too easily swell. </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/ildar-dadin/letter-from-prison">“10-12 people would beat me all at once, kicking me”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-gukovsky/making-them-pay-for-maidan">Making them pay for Maidan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-slavina/new-casualties-of-russia-s-war-on-terror">The new casualties of Russia’s war on terror</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/dissecting-russia-s-winter-of-protest-five-years-on">Dissecting Russia’s winter of protest, five years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mischa-gabowitsch/putin-s-regimes">Putin’s regimes</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 Pavel Chikov Uncivil society Russia Wed, 08 Mar 2017 13:36:06 +0000 Pavel Chikov 109326 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Shut up, woman. Your day is 8 March” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-antonova-maria-dmytrieva/shut-up-woman-your-day-is-march-8 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What should International Women’s Day mean to contemporary Ukraine?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a style="line-height: 1.5; text-decoration: underline;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/howDoParls-banner%402x.png" alt="howDoParls-banner@2x.png" width="100%" /></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kiev_March8Demonstration.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kiev_March8Demonstration.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Don’t be a ‘real man’!” Demonstrators march down Volodymyrska Street in central Kyiv on International Women’s Day. Photo courtesy of Tom Rowley. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span style="font-style: italic;"><a>I</a><span style="font-style: italic;">n 2017, International Women’s Day is a contentious holiday in Ukraine. Some see it as a Soviet anachronism to be disposed of, some see it as both a celebration of women’s rights and a reminder of how much there is left for women to achieve. Millions of others view it as a celebration of traditional femininity and the advent of spring.&nbsp;</span></span></p><p><span style="font-style: italic;"><em>oDR’s Natalia Antonova chatted with Ukrainian feminist Maria Dmytrieva, linguist, activist and founder of the&nbsp;</em></span><span style="font-style: italic;"><em>Feminism UA community on Facebook, about International Women’s Day and its wider implications in a post-Maidan world.</em></span></p><p><strong>Natalia:</strong> <strong>So, the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory wants Ukraine to stop recognising International Women's Day, which falls on 8 March. Volodymyr Viatrovych, the head of the institute, characterizes 8 March as just another holiday which has been "left over from our Soviet past."&nbsp;</strong></p><p><strong>Of course, 8 March was not even invented by the USSR, but many people in this part of the world associate it with the Soviets, simply because it was always one of those holidays enthusiastically promoted in those days. Do you think it's possible to get rid of the so-called "Soviet cultural baggage" people associate with this holiday? And if so, how?</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/maria.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/maria.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="181" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ukrainian feminist activist Maria Dmytrieva</span></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>Maria:</strong> Whether we can restore the holiday to its activist, revolutionary roots is a key question. This day is currently perceived as a celebration of women’s beauty and caring nature — in fact, it celebrates how women are easy and pleasant to consume and exploit. Women are rewarded for playing their feminine reproductive role of a housemaid (both at work and at home) with small tokens of appreciation and are supposed to play this role quietly for the rest of the year.&nbsp;</p><p>We even have a saying, “Shut up, woman, your day is 8 March”. We inherited this perception from the late years of the Soviet Union, but, to be fair, for the most part, during the Soviet times, this was not a day off and it was indeed centered on women’s issues all over the world with emphasis on how the Soviet rule supports, cherishes, and upholds Soviet women, and how to show their gratitude they have to be diligent workers and dedicated mothers.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">If Ukraine’s president talks about women’s rights on 8 March instead of spring, youth and beauty this will send a clear message to everybody that the paradigm has shifted</p><p>Ukrainian women have been pulling double and triple shifts, working at home and at their jobs and in their communities for so long that they wish to be recognised and celebrated – even it is just once a year and with a poorly chosen last-minute gift from their co-workers and a kitchen cleaned, for a change, by their husbands and children.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/8-Bereznya.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/8-Bereznya.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ukrainian-language Soviet poster wishing a happy women’s day. Photo courtesy of Rarita.</span></span></span></p><p>Ukrainian feminists and activists in the women’s movement inform officials and public servants that it is not appropriate to wish women to stay young and beautiful and that this day is the opportunity for these officials to report on how they have been promoting women’s rights and how they recognise women’s contributions in their respective sector.</p><p>Young feminists have also organised marches and events and happenings to raise public awareness about the women’s issues. We as women and feminists can do a lot – but it comes down to state policy: If Ukraine’s president on 8 March talks about women’s rights and not about spring and youth and beauty this will send a clear message to everybody that the paradigm has shifted.&nbsp;</p><p>We have a good example of a quick and effective paradigm shift: Victory Day on May 9. In recent years, it has been consistently steered by the media and civil society away from the Soviet victory discourse towards a more European discourse of memory and recognition of our loss and sacrifice and tragedy. I firmly believe that the same can be done for 8 March.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Natalia:</strong> <strong>What's usually left out of the conversation around 8 March are women's actual needs - whether it's comprehensive health care or protection against domestic violence. As if a bouquet of flowers can make up for all that.&nbsp;</strong></p><p><strong>In general, I see huge discomfort around these real issues in modern Ukraine. At best they're "too heavy to talk about,” at worst you're told, “lady, the country is at war, save your petty little issues for when the war is over.” But several experts tell me that the war is <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21187" target="_blank">directly contributing to domestic violence</a> - people are coming back from the front with severe issues and not a lot of ways of addressing them, so I imagine that domestic violence, already underreported, is probably on the rise. Are you seeing the same trends? How can we best address what's happening around 8 March in the context of war?</strong></p><p><strong>Maria:</strong> I don’t work directly survivors of DV – but from my conversations with different specialists working in the field, and in zones near to the front, the level of violence against women is indeed growing (as could be expected: women are sanctioned victims for male violence).&nbsp;</p><p>The situation is exacerbated by the fact that several years ago, legislators moved the funding for social services from the state budget to local budgets, and more than 15,000 trained social workers were let go and state-funded services mostly disappeared. Those social workers who remain are now under attack, too, as in the course of decentralisation local authorities are cutting down what’s been left. This leaves both the victims and their actual and potential abusers out of reach. Not to mention that in Ukraine, people are reluctant to seek psychological, let alone psychiatric, help.</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/Lesya_Ukrayinka.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lesya_Ukrayinka.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mural of the famous Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka in Kyiv. Photo CC-by-2.0: TravelMag / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Another issue in relation to war is what women have to endure in areas near to the front: the number of women engaged in transactional sex is growing – to survive, they sell sex to men on either sides of the war. The numbers of women subjected to sexual violence are unknown; no agency is gathering this data, no official institution is addressing the issue, no law enforcement agency is looking for their rapists. There’s news every now and then about local girls kidnapped by the so-called separatists to be used as sex slaves to be never heard from again – and this isn’t addressed by the state in any way either. The situation looks grim.</p><p>In this context, 8 March might be a good moment for the Ukrainian authorities at all levels to confirm their European values by committing to upholding and protecting women’s rights in concrete and targeted ways, as you say.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Natalia:</strong><em> </em><strong>Some of the things you just said are really shocking - but they totally go along with my own observations on what's happening. Over the course of the last year, I've also been speaking to women who have relocated to Kyiv since the war started, and some of them find themselves in vulnerable situations. I know of one woman who went to a job interview in Kyiv after she first moved, at what seemed like a legitimate business establishment, only to be told that, “I'll be blunt - you're from Donetsk, there are lots of women like you out there now, so in order to be able to keep your job, ‘favours of an intimate nature’ may be required.” She told me she was at least glad they were fairly upfront about it. She didn't feel empowered enough to lodge a complaint with the police, but regrets not doing it now, because the experience was so humiliating.</strong></p><p><strong>On that note, a lot of fervent patriots will disagree with me, but I see many parallels with Russia in Ukraine right now when it comes to the issue of gender/sexism and the like. There is a lot of lip service being paid to "the beauty of womanhood" (or motherhood, or housewife-hood), but in practical terms, conservative movements on both sides of the border are heavily invested in marginalising women in society. Would you agree or disagree with my assessment?</strong></p><p><strong>Maria:</strong> When it comes to internally displaced women – they are just somewhat more vulnerable than local women. We are all often left to mercy of employers and are forced to decide what we value more, food on the table or our dignity. Several years ago, before the war, I met a woman who worked as a prostitute to feed her children because her salary as a Red Cross educator was lower than the minimal salary defined by law.&nbsp;</p><p>Moreover, we've seen employment websites that specialise in positions with the so-called “added benefits”: those included different forms of sex services for the boss, his friends or business partners. You can imagine how specific and colorful the job descriptions on those were! With a failing judicial system, it is close to impossible to get justice for cases like these.&nbsp;</p><p>I would say we fare somewhat better compared to Russia. At least we have a law penalising domestic violence and legislation in place to combat trafficking in human beings unlike in Russia, where the women’s movement has been lobbying the domestic violence law for 20 years to no avail, and the Russian legislators recently <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/antonina-vikhrest/victims-of-russia-s-ultra-conservatism-are-russian-people-themselves" target="_blank">removed first-time domestic abuse from the list of criminal offenses</a>.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">These days, it is fashionable to support LGBT rights, but rather few people outside the women’s movement and feminist initiatives care for women at all</p><p>But as to the general attitude towards women, we are pretty close to Russia’s rampant misogyny. Virtually all our political parties have come forward, at a certain point in time, with initiatives either to ban abortions or to legalise prostitution. Our male politicians are sexist at best and misogynist at worst. Ukrainian MPs <a href="https://en.lb.ua/news/2016/11/17/2351_ukraine_fails_ratify_european.html" target="_blank">sabotaged the ratification of the Istanbul Convention</a> (which outlines the state’s duties in regard of protection of women against domestic violence and punishment and correction programs to their abusers) because they did not like the word “gender” used in it.</p><p>What I find most disturbing, though, is that clergy on the both sides of the border is using the same phrases to tarnish and discredit the women’s movement: they appeal to the notion of the so-called “gender-gay dictatorship” to silence women talking about women’s issues and gender equality.&nbsp;</p><p>These days, it is fashionable to support LGBT rights (and for those who are more advanced, even LGBTQIA rights!) but rather few people outside the women’s movement and feminist initiatives care for women at all. I see numerous initiatives to raise funds for animal shelters but none whatsoever for women’s shelters. And when you start talking about violence against women the response is usually to change the topic.</p><p>Despite the enormous wave of public outrage after the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-antonova/we-have-lift-off-on-speaking-out-on-sexual-violence" target="_blank">#IAmNotAfraidToSay flashmob</a>, the Ukrainian overall attitude to survivors of sexual and domestic violence is still negligent.&nbsp;</p><p>But, on the other hand, our shiny new police force intends to introduce a new, all-women, department to combat specifically domestic violence. We will see how successful it will be.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><strong>Natalia: </strong><em><strong>I'm really glad that you've mentioned the new police force, because they are held up as one of the things the new government has really gotten right, and I actually tend to agree.</strong></em></strong></p><p><strong><em><strong>Besides combating domestic violence, I also see women on the police force as new role models. Do any other examples come to mind for you? I feel like for far too long the base role model for young women in Ukraine was the embodiment of a pretty cynical (but also somewhat understandable) philosophy: "be a woman who marries rich - and then hope for the best." Would you agree with that? And do you think this mindset is changing?</strong></em><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p><p><strong>Maria:</strong> I would not say the “marry up” model was that popular – it exists out there but the base model for women for a long time has been “marry and have children” with an optional divorce along the way (many older women even preferred this for their daughters – so then they don’t have to tend to the son-in-law, too). That is, the most widespread societally approved model for women still is to be a mother – and to carry the load by herself, without inconveniencing anybody in the process, including the children’s father.</p><p>This load, obviously, includes putting food to the table. Women are still not encouraged to pursue their dreams, they are told in no uncertain terms to serve others with no regard for the price to their own aspirations or hopes (or health and life, for that matter) and to look attractive in the process.</p><p>But at the same time I have to say that there are more and more families that want something better than mere survival and satisfaction of basic needs, and these families invest in their daughters – their talents, their desires, their aspirations, and these girls grow up independent, curious, fierce, strong and caring. As long as they look forward to their future, Ukraine has a future too.</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;" class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published in association with the <a href="http://www.wfd.org/">Westminster Foundation for Democracy</a>, which is seeking to contribute to public knowledge about effective democracy-strengthening by leading a discussion on openDemocracy about what approaches work best. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of WFD. WFD’s programmes bring together parliamentary and political party expertise to help developing countries and countries transitioning to democracy.</span></div></div> <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="/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 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/elena-platonova/in-russia-propaganda-starts-in-preschool">In Russia, propaganda starts in preschool</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-antonova/8-march-in-praise-of-russian-women">8 March: in praise of Russian women</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 50.50 oD Russia Maria Dmytrieva Natalia Antonova Rights for all Ukraine Wed, 08 Mar 2017 10:26:39 +0000 Natalia Antonova and Maria Dmytrieva 109315 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Հայաստանը «ազգային միասնության» թակարդում https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-zhamakochyan/hayastane-azgayin-miasniutyoun-takardoum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Հայաստանում՝ արտաքին ագրեսիայի պայմաններում հնչող միասնության կոչերը լռեցնում են քննադատությունը և առաջ տանում գործող ռեժիմին սատարող քաղաքականություններ նույնիսկ ընդդիմության շրջանում: <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-zhamakochyan/armenia-in-trap-of-national-unity" target="_blank">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/553429/RIAN_02895387.LR_.ru__0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02895387.LR_.ru__0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Երևանի քաղաքացիները մասնակցում են ցույցի` գրավված ոստիկանական պարեկապահակային ծառայության գնդի մերձակայքում: (c) Հրանտ Խաչատուրյան / ՌԻԱ Նովոստի։ Բոլոր իրավունքները պահպանված են։</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Հոդվածի <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-zhamakochyan/armenia-in-trap-of-national-unity" target="_blank">անգլերեն տարբերակը</a> լույս է տեսել 2017 թ-ի փետրվարի 7-ին:</strong><br /><br />2016-ը բուռն փոփոխությունների և շարունակական մարտահրավերների տարի էր: Արևմուտքում այն լիբերալ կապիտալիստական ժողովրդավարությունների ճգնաժամի տարի էր, որի ընթացքում ականատես դարձանք աջ ազգայնական քաղաքական կուսակցությունների և շարժումների վերելքին: Բրեքսիթի հանրաքվեն Բրիտանիայում և Թրամփի ընտրական հաղթանակն ԱՄՆ-ում ընդամենը ամենացայտուն օրինակներն են նրա, թե ինչպես են ամբոխավարական քաղաքական գործիչներն օգտվում մարդկանց տնտեսական անապահովությունից, հուսախաբությունից ու ստատուս-քվոն փոխելու ցանկությունից: Այնինչ, նախկին Խորհրդային երկրներում, որտեղ ազգայնականության աճը միաժամանակ թե՛Միության փլուզման մղիչ ուժն էր, թե՛ արդյունքը, ծայրահեղ ազգայնական դիսկուրսներն ու աջերի՝ առանց իրական քաղաքականության ամբոխավարությունը քաջածանոթ երևույթներ են:</p><p>Տեղական քաղաքական իրադարձությունները, իհարկե, նույնպես անմիջական գործոններ են: Հայաստանում «ազգային միասնություն» ազգայնական դիսկուրսի վերելքը խիստ կապված էր 1980-1990-ականների ղարաբաղյան «միավորված և համազգային» շարժման հետ: Այս դիսկուրսը կանխում է առավել ուղիղ քննադատությունը և այլընտրանքների մասին քննարկումը` հօգուտ ազգային անվտանգության ստատուս-քվոյի: Եվ քանի դեռ խաղաղության բանակցությունները ծամծմվում են, կոնֆլիկտը պարբերաբար վերականգվում է՝ ավելի թեժացնելով այդ դիսկուրսը:</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Անկախացումից քսանհինգ, իսկ զինադադարից քսաներկու տարի անց նոր պատերազմի սպասումը դարձել է առօրեական խոսակցության մաս ինչպես տներում, այնպես էլ հանրային կյանքում:</p><p>Անշուշտ, Հայաստանի և Ադրբեջանի միջև 2016-ի ապրիլի «քառօրյա պատերազմը», որն արձանագրեց տարածքային փոփոխություններ հօգուտ Ադրբեջանի, սաստկացրեց «ազգային միասնության» վերջին ալիքը: Ինն ամիս անց կարելի է դիտարկել, որ զարմանալիորեն 2016-ի ապրիլին միայն իշխող վերնախավն ու ռեժիմին հավատարիմ անհատները, խմբերն ու մեդիա կառույցները չէին, որ սատարում էին ազգային միասնությանը: Բազմաթիվ անկախ փորձագետներ, ընդդիմադիր քաղաքական գործիչներ և նրանք, ովքեր իշխող ռեժիմը վիճարկում են բազմաթիվ այլ հարցերում, ևս տրվեցին դրան: Հակամարտության պոռթկման ժամանակ նույնիսկ անկախ լրագրողներն ու լրատվամիջոցներն առաջ տարան «ազգային միասնության» դիսկուրսի կարիքը:</p><p>Հաշվի առնելով այս իրադրությունը՝ կարևոր է թվում այն հարցը, թե ինչպես է «ազգային միասնություն» դիսկուրսի շարունակականությունը խափանում սոցիալ-քաղաքական փոփոխության հնարավորությունները Հայաստանում:</p><h2>Ո'չ պատերազմ, ո'չ խաղաղություն</h2><p>2016 թվականի սեպտեմբերի 21-ին Հայաստանի Հանրապետությունը տոնեց Խորհրդային Միությունից անկախացման իր 25-ամյակը: Հայաստանի անկախացման պայքարը սկիզբ է առել 1988-ին Ղարաբաղյան շարժումով, որը պահանջում էր դուրս բերել Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի ինքնավար մարզը Ադրբեջանական Խորհրդային Հարապետության կազմից և միացնել Հայաստանի Խորհրդային Սոցիալիստական Հանրապետությանը:</p><p>Այս պահանջները հանգեցրին Խորհրդային Ադրբեջանում և Հայաստանում միջէթնիկ բռնությունների և սպանությունների, որոնք այնուհետև վերաճեցին լիամասշտաբ պատերազմի: 1994-ին Հայաստանը, Լեռնային Ղարաբաղն ու Ադրբեջանը ստորագրեցին զինադադար, սակայն խաղաղության պայմանագիրը կնքված չէ մինչ այսօր: Ավելին, Հայաստանի և Ադրբեջանի միջև փակ սահմանների տարիները մեկուսացման ու փոխադարձ անվստայության աճի տարիներ էին երկու երկրների բնակչությունների համար: Այս իրադրությունը շատերի կողմից բնութագրվում է իբրև «ո՛չ պատերազմ, ո՛չ խաղաղություն»:&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/553429/7290290884_453961d142_z_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/7290290884_453961d142_z_0_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'>Շուշիի բնակիչը ցույց է տալիս Ղարաբաղյան պատերազմում (1991-1994) սպանված ընտանիքի անդամի լուսանկարը: Լուսանկարը՝ Մարկո Ֆիբերի / Flickr. Որոշ իրավունքներ պաշտպանված են: </span></span></span></p><p>Անկախացումից քսանհինգ, իսկ զինադադարից քսաներկու տարի անց նոր պատերազմի սպասումը Հայաստանում դարձել է առօրեական խոսակցության մաս ինչպես տներում, այնպես էլ հանրային կյանքում: Այստեղ պատերազմի և ազգային անվտանգության մտահոգությունները հայ հանրությանը մղում են դեպի «ազգային միասնություն» դիսկուրսը, որը բաղկացած է երկու առանձին, թեև փոխկապակցված, «վերնախավային» և «դիմադրական» ձևերից: Մինչ «վերնախավային» ձևը ձգտում է ակտիվ սուբյեկտներին հեռու պահել քաղաքականացումից՝ խթանելով ներկայացուցչական, խորհրդանշական կամ արարողակարգային գործողությունները, «դիմադրական» տարբերակը փորձում է գործորդություն (agency) ձևավորել և սուբյեկտներին մղել քաղաքական գործողության:</p><p>Կարող ենք տեսնել, թե այս դիսկուրսն ինչպես զարգացավ 2016-ի ապրիլի թեժացման շուրջ հանրային բանավեճերում և քննարկումներում, ինչպես նաև 2016-ի հուլիսին Սասնա Ծռերի պաշարումից հետո, երբ ազգայնական այս խումբը Երևանում ոստիկանական գունդ գրոհեց և պատանդներ վերցրեց՝ դեմ դուրս գալով Ղարաբաղի հարցում կառավարության «պարտվողական» դիրքորոշմանը:</p><h2>«Ազգային միասնության» պարադոքսը</h2><p>Ցանկացած ճգնաժամային կամ կոնֆլիկտային իրավիճակում իշխողները ձգտում են վերահսկել հասարակության ակտիվ խմբերի գործողություններն ու նախաձեռնությունները, որպեսզի կառավարեն և ուղղորդեն նրանց գործողությունները դեպի կայունամետ և հնազանդ «միասնություն»: Այդ ուղղորդումը սահմանափակում է իրադարձությունների և գործընթացների վերաբերյալ այլընտրանքային կարծիքների ու մեկնաբանությունների արտահայտման հնարավորությունները: Հենց դա էլ տեղի ունեցավ ապրիլյան կոնֆլիկտի ժամանակ և դրանից հետո:</p><p>2016-ի ապրիլյան թշնամանքի աճին համընթաց Հայաստանի կառավարությունը հաջողացրեց առաջ տանել պատերազմի՝ «բնական» լինելու ուզերձը և հաստատել Ադրբեջանի՝ հավերժական թշնամի լինելու գաղափարը: Ընդդեմ թշնամու «ազգային միասնության» ողջախոհությունը Հայաստանի մի շարք քաղաքացիական ու քաղաքական ակտիվիստների և ընդդիմադիր խմբերի դրդեց բառացիորեն ու խորհրդանշորեն կամավոր զինվորագրվել բանակին:</p><p>Նրանք դա արեցին՝ ցույց տալով բանակին միանալու իրենց պատրաստակամությունը ֆեյսբուքյան գրառումներում, իրենց գլխավոր լուսանկարները փոխելով զինվորական հագուստով նկարներով և միանալով «ագային միասնության» այլ նախաձեռնությունների: Այս խմբերն այսպիսով աջակցեցին երկրի էթնո-ազգայնական անվտանգայնացման քաղաքականության (վերա)հաստատմանը և այդպիսով լեգիտիմացրին իշխող վերնախավն ու գոյություն ունեցող իշխանական կառուցվածքները:</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Հայաստանի իշխանությունները լրագրողների հանդեպ սահմանափակումներ, որպես այդպիսիք, պաշտոնապես չկիրառեցին, սակայն «բնականոն» ինքնագրաքննությունը ԶԼՄ-ներում 2016-ի ապրիլին ևս լայնորեն տարածված էր:</p><p>Այդ ժամանակ բազում քաղաքացիական և քաղաքական նախաձեռնություններ, որոնք այլ հարցերում իշխանությանն ընդդիմադիր դիրքորոշումներ ունեն, արագորեն տեղավորվեցին Հայաստանի իշխող վերնախավի հեգեմոնիկ գաղափարախոսության մեջ։ Այդպիսով, եթե անգամ առանց դիտավորության, միևնույն է, նրանք լեգիտիմացրին ռեժիմի կողմից արտոնված գործողությունները: Դրանց թվում էին մի շարք անհատների, քաղաքացիական հասարակության խմբերի և մեդիայի (ներառյալ՝ անկախ լրատվամիջոցների) կողմից իրականացվող քննադատության լռեցումն ու ինքնագրաքննությանը (նաև ինքնասահմանափակումը): Նման մոտեցումը նպաստեց պետական ինստիտուտներից հաշվետվողականություն պահանջելու կանխմանը կամ հետաձգմանը: Իրերի դրությունը խնդրականացվեց միայն սակավ դեպքերում՝ փոքր, մարգինալ ձախական խմբերի կողմից: Ինքնասահմանափակումը թվում էր արտոնված, խրախուսված և հասկանալի ոչ միայն ինքնաարտահայտման, այլև տեղեկատվական աղբյուրների հասանելիության առումով:</p><p>Օրինակ, հակամարտության ընթացքում և դրանից հետո հնչող՝ միայն պաշտոնական նորություններ կարդալու լայնատարած կոչերից բացի, մարդիկ սկսեցին կամավոր կերպով օգտագործել FakeKiller կոչվող հավելվածը: Վերջինս արգելափակում է ադրբեջանական կամ կասկածելի կայքերն ու գրառումները ֆեյսբուքյան օգտատերի լրահոսից: Ինչպես հեղինակները (ՏՏ ակտիվիստ, Mediamax.am առցանց լրատվամիջոցի գլխավոր խմբագիրը և կիբեր-անվտանգության հայտնի ակտիվիստ) բացահայտորեն նշում են, հավելվածը հատուկ պատրաստվել էր պատերազմի ընթացքում օգտատերերին այսպես կոչված «կեղծ տեղեկատվությունից» (այդ թվում՝ հայալեզու ադրբեջանական կայքերից) պաշտպանելու նպատակով:</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/Fakekiller.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Fakekiller.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>FakeKiller հավելվածի պատկերը, որը ցույց է տալիս, թե արգելափակված կայքն անվստահելի է: </span></span></span></p><p>Այս հավելվածի առավել խոր տրամաբանությունը աղբյուրների մուտքի կառավարումն է ու հնազանդության արտադրությունը, որի անքննադատ ընդունումն ու կիրառումն արդեն ցույց է տալիս «ազգային միասնություն» դիսկուրսի համատարած ընդունումը առնվազն հավելվածն օգտագործողների շրջանում: FakeKiller-ով տեղեկատվության օգտագործման պատասխանատվությունը փոխանցվում է քաղաքացուն, ով, ակնկալվում է, որ կօգտագործի «վստահելի» աղբյուրներ: Այդուհանդերձ, մարդկանց բոլորովին չի տրվում տեղեկատվությունը վերլուծելու և սեփական որոշումներ կայացնելու գործորդություն. նրանցից ակնկալվում է «կեղծ» աղբյուրներ արգելափակելը:</p><p>Հայաստանի իշխանությունները լրագրողների հանդեպ սահմանափակումներ, որպես այդպիսիք, պաշտոնապես չկիրառեցին, սակայն «բնականոն» ինքնագրաքննությունը ԶԼՄ-ներում 2016-ի ապրիլին ևս լայնորեն տարածված էր: Դա կիրառվում էր նույնիսկ այն անձանց կողմից, ովքեր իրենց համարում են ընդդիմադիր կամ անկախ լրագրողներ: Բազմաթիվ լրագրողներ իրենց հարցազրույցներում կամ հոդվածներում հանրային կերպով խոստովանել են, որ ստիպված են եղել արգելափակել կամ «դոզավորել» սահմանի իրական դրության մասին տեղեկատվությունը կամ սպանված ու վիրավոր զինվորների իրական թվերը, օգտագործել Photoshop ծրագիրը՝ փոփոխելու կոնֆլիկտի գոտու լուսանկարները, կամ «ընտրություն կատարել լրագրող կամ քաղաքացի լինելու միջև»:</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Չնայած ապրիլյան թեժացումից հետո քննադատությունների հանրային հնչեղացմանը՝ հարցերի ու հաշվետվողականության փնտրտուքը չեզոքացվեց բազմաթիվ խորհրդանշական և կրոնական գործողություններով։</p><p>Հետաքրքիր է, որ 2016-ի ապրիլից միայն մեկ արձանագրված դեպք կա այն մասին, որ Հայաստանի իշխանությունները սպառնացել և պատժել են անկախ լրատվամիջոց ePress.am-ի խմբագրին հստակ հակապատերազմական տեսակետներ հրապարակելու համար: Լրագրողների մեծամասնությունն ընդունել էր, որ պետք է պաշտպաներ «ազգային անվտանգությունը», և անքննադատ էր մնացել պաշտոնական տեղեկատվության հանդեպ: Այս կերպ, սակայն, այդ լրագրողները պատսպարեցին կառավարությանն ու պետական գործիչներին հաշվետվողականության ու ամենաթեժ պահին հարցերին պատասխան տալու բեռից՝ պաշտպանելով նրանց հրաժարականի պահանջներից:</p><h2>Իմացեք ձեր տեղը</h2><p>Չնայած ապրիլյան թեժացումից հետո քննադատությունների հանրային հնչեղացմանը՝ հարցերի ու հաշվետվողականության փնտրտուքը չեզոքացվեց բազմաթիվ խորհրդանշական և կրոնական գործողություններով (աղոթքներ, մաղթանքներ, ֆեյսբուքյան բացիկներ, սիմվոլիկ նկարներ, այդ թվում՝ զինվորական համազգեստով, երեխաների, կանանց և տղամարդկանց նկարներ): Այս գործողությունների շարքում կարելի էր նաև ականատես լինել կենդանի կամ սպանված զինվորների փառաբանմանը՝ առանց առաջին հերթին հարցադրելու, թե ինչո՞ւ նրանք մահացան, ի՞նչ պայմաններում, ո՞ւմ անգործության կամ հրամանների արդյունքում, ի՞նչ տեսակի քաղաքականությունների (կամ դրանց պակասի) համալիրի պայմաններում, հենց որի հետևանքն էր կոնֆլիկտի թեժացումը:</p><p>Բարեգործական նվիրատվությունների հավաքագրումը այդ խորհրդանշական գործողությունների նշանակալի շարքից էր: Առաջին հայացքից այն բավական գործնական էր թվում: Սակայն այդ նախաձեռնությունները նվիրատվությունների առկա կարիքն ընդունում էին որպես ելման կետ, իսկ դրա պատճառների մասին ցանկացած խոսակցություն համարում անկարևոր կամ ոչ տեղին: Նվիրատվական գործողությունների աջակիցները նորից ապավինում էին «ազգային միասնություն» ողջախոհությանը՝ պնդելով սահմաններն ու տարածքները պաշտպանելու կարևորությունը: Վերջիններս այդպիսով մերժում էին նրանց, ովքեր բարձրացնում էին հարցեր, թե իրականում ինչպե՞ս են այդ տարածքները տնօրինվում, ո՞վ է օգուտ ստանում այդ տարածքից կամ բնական ռեսուրսներից, ո՞վ է շահում առկա քաղաքական իրավիճակից և այլն։</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/Activists_Packing Parcels for Soldiers at Mashtots Park.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Activists_Packing Parcels for Soldiers at Mashtots Park.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="489" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ֆեյսբուքյան գրառում, որը ցույց է տալիս բարեգործական նվիրատվություններ հավաքող մարդկանց: </span></span></span></p><p>Սննդի բարեգործական այս հավաքագրումները, ինչպես նաև բանակին նյութատեխնիկական միջոցներով օժանդակող որոշ նախաձեռնություններ այնուհետև անհամարժեք և անպիտան գնահատվեցին Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի իշխանությունների կողմից, որոնք հայկական սփյուռքին, ինչպես նաև հայաստանցիներին խրախուսեցին չհամակարգված կերպով նվիրատվություններ հավաքելու փոխարեն նվիրատվություններ կատարել իրենց կողմից ստեղծված բանկային հաշվին: Սա ինքնաբուխ քաղաքացիական մոբիլիզացիան (թեկուզ այսքան խնդրահարույց) կոոպտացնելու (յուրացնելու) մեկ այլ ջանք էր: Տարօրինակորեն, փորձառու ընդդիմադիր քաղաքական առաջնորդներից մեկն իր հերթին աջակցեց Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի իշխանությունների այս նախաձեռնությանը:</p><p>«Ազգային միասնության» այս տիրապետող տրամաբանության մեջ «ազգի» բոլոր խմբերն անհրաժեշտաբար պետք է իրենց նախասահմանված և անխախտ դիրքերը բռնեն: Ընդդիմադիր կուսակցությունների ենթադրվող տեղը ընդդիմությունն է: Քաղաքացու տեղը տանն է (և ոչ ակտիվիզմում կամ քաղաքականությունում), մինչդեռ նրա դրամապանակն ու մարմինը պետք է մշտապես պատրաստ լինեն «ազգի» ու նրա սահմանների պաշտպանությանը: Օրինակ, ապրիլի 22-ին՝ կոնֆլիկտից երկու շաբաթ անց, «Մենք ենք տերը մեր երկրի» նախաձեռնությունը կազմակերպեց երթ դեպի նախագահական նստավայր՝ պահանջելու մի շարք պաշտոնյաների հրաժարականը՝ որպես բացահայտված պետական կոռուպցիայի, թույլ ռազմական հագեցվածության, վիրավոր զինվորներին և զոհվածների ընտանիքներին անհամարժեք օգնության ու ձախողված արտաքին քաղաքականության հետևանք: Երբ դիտում ես, թե ոստիկանությունն ինչպես է կանգնեցնում ցուցարարներին, կարող ես տեսնել, թե ինչպես է ոստիկանը նրանց բառացիորեն հորդորում տուն գնալ բերման չենթարկվելու համար:</p><p>Նմանապես, իշխանություններին քննադատող լրագրությունն ընկալվում է որպես կնոջ համար չնախատեսված «տեղ»: Երբ կին լրագրողը ոստիկանության անտեսանելի բարեփոխումների անարդյունավետության և պետական ռեսուրսների անհարկի օգտագործման մասին հարց է տալիս ոստիկանապետին, վերջինս վիրավորում է լրագրողին նման հարցեր տալու պատճառով ՝ բացականչելով, թե ինքն էլ նրա մեջ «կին չի տեսնում»: Սրանք Հայաստանի հայրիշխան պահպանողական իշխանության սկզբունքներն են, որոնք սահմանում են յուրաքանչյուրի տեղն ու չափը՝ նրանց տրված դիրքին համապատասխան, ակնկալում են հնազանդություն և «միասնության» կոչերով լռեցնում դիմադրական գործողությունները:</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Մինչ հայրենասիրությունն ու միասնությունն անհրաժեշտ են ճնշվածներին կառավարելու համար, դրանք նաև ճնշողների դեմ ելնելու նախապայմաններ են ենթակաների համար:</p><p>Վերնախավային ազգային միասնության դիսկուրսը ոչ միայն ակնկալում է սոցիալական սուբյեկտների հնազանդությունը, բայց նաև ջանում է կարգապահեցնել, լռեցնել և կոոպտացնել ցանկացած դիմադրական, անհնազանդ դիսկուրս: Մինչ հայրենասիրությունն ու միասնությունն անհրաժեշտ են ճնշվածին կառավարելու համար, դրանք նաև ճնշողների դեմ ելնելու նախապայմաններ են ենթակաների համար: Հայաստանի իշխանություններին շահեկան «ազգային միասնության» երազանքը, սակայն, վերնախավերի համար կարող է նաև վտանգավոր դառնալ այն դեպքում, երբ հենց իրենք են սկսում դիտվել որպես «միասնության» «իրական» խոչընդոտ:</p><p>Այս համատեքստում է, որ Սասնա Ծռերի 2016-ի հուլիսի գործողությունները հնարավոր դարձան և աջակցություն ստացան: Երբ ազգայնական զինյալ խումբը Երևանում ոստիկանական գունդ գրոհեց՝ վերածելով երկշաբաթյա պաշարման և առաջացնելով փողոցային ցույցեր, հայրենասիրական խմբերը, ինչպես նաև անհատներն ու «ազգային միասնությանն» իրապես հավատացողները Սասնա Ծռերի իրադրությունը դիտարկեցին որպես իշխող վերնախավի՝ «միասնության» և անվտանգության գործնական ձախողման օրինակ: Իշխող վերնախավն այսպիսով դարձավ իր իսկ «ազգային միասնության» թակարդի զոհն այն բանից հետո, երբ ուշ ապրիլին բացահայտվեցին Հայաստանի իրական կորուստները:</p><h2>Մոբիլիզացիայի ներուժը</h2><p>Ոչ միայն «ազգային միասնության» դիսկուրսը, բայց նաև դրանից բխող մոբիլիզացիան է (ինչպես օրինակ կամավորական գործողությունները կամ բարեգործական ֆինանսական միջոցների հայթայթման միջոցառումները), որ ենթակայությունը հարցադրելու ներուժ ունի:</p><p>Հայկական բանակի համար սնունդ և բժշկական պարագաներ հավաքող որոշակի քաղաքացիական խմբերի ակտիվիզմը դարձավ պետական ինստիտուտների ոչ կոմպետենտության և անգործության ցայտուն օրինակ: 2016 թվականի ապրիլյան ամենաթեժ պահից հետո կամավորական գործողությունները լեգիտիմ համատեքստ բացեցին՝ քննադատելու Հայաստանի պետական գործիչների կոռուպցիան, այն, թե ինչպես նրանք ձախողեցին իրենց պարտականություններն ու պատասխանատվությունները (ներառյալ պլանավորման ու նախապատրաստման պակասը), և արտաքին քաղաքականության ու պետական կայունության հարցերում նրանց բացթողումները:</p><p>Այդուհանդերձ, Հայաստանի ընդդիմությանը չհաջողվեց բավարար չափով օգտվել այս հնարավորությունից, հենց այն պատճառով, որ նրանք մնացին «ազգային միասնության» շրջանակի սահմանագծում: Նույնիսկ անկախ Հայաստանի առաջին նախագահ Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանը (ով հայտնի է Բաքվի հետ խաղաղ կարգավորում գտնելու իր ոչ ամբոխավարական փորձերով) հանրային կերպով աջակցեց նախագահ Սերժ Սարգսյանին: Տեր-Պետրոսյանը պնդեց, որ արտաքին թշնամու վտանգի առաջ երկրի ներքին հակասությունները պետք է մի կողմ դրվեն՝ հանուն «ազգային միասնության»՝ միաժամանակ ռեժիմին հորդորելով հոգալ մարդկանց կարիքները:</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/Let&#039;s be United without RPA(ruling Republican Party of Armenia).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Let&#039;s be United without RPA(ruling Republican Party of Armenia).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="282" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ֆեյսբուքյան գրառում. «Համախմբվենք առանց ՀՀԿ», ապրիլ 2016</span></span></span></p><p>Այստեղ մենք կարող ենք տեսնել «ազգային միասնության» սահմանափակող և արատավոր տրամաբանությունը, բայց նաև դիմադրական ներուժը: Այս դիսկուրսն անհրաժեշտաբար բացում է բանավեճ այն մասին, թե ինչպես է սահմանվում «ազգը»: Եթե վերնախավի համար ազգը փաստացի իրենք են, ապա դիմադրական «միասնությունը» վիճարկում է այդ սահմանումը: Վերջինս իր հերթին վերնախավին առաջարկում է միավորվել «ժողովուրդ-ազգ»-ին: Այս բանավեճն ավելի շատ տանում է ազգային ինքնության քաղաքականությունների ձևավորմանը, քան սոցիալ-տնտեսական քաղաքականությունների և հօգուտ ղարաբաղյան հարցի խաղաղ լուծման զիջումների շուրջ մտորումների ու գործողությունների:</p><p>Հայաստանում քաղաքական կյանքը գլխավորապես ընկած է «ազգային միասնություն» պաթոսի թակարդում, որը խոչընդոտում է վերանայել Հայաստանի ու տարածաշրջանի զարգացման համար ամենակարևոր հարցերից մեկը՝ Ղարաբաղում խաղաղության հաստատումը:</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Հայաստանում ազգային միասնության շուրջ քաղաքական շահարկումը հաղթահարելու միակ հնարավորությունը այնպիսի քաղաքականության մեջ է, որը հաշվի կառնի սոցիալական խմբերի ու խավերի շահերը։</p><p>Անգամ 2016-ի ապրիլին կոնֆլիկտի թեժացումից և Սասնա Ծռերի պաշարումից հետո փոխված կառավարությունում Ղարաբաղյան հարցի շուրջ քաղաքական շահարկումները դեռևս շարունակվում են: Օրինակ, ՀՀ նոր կառավարությունը կազմակերպեց ամսական եկամուտներից նոր պարտադիր վճարման ընդունում (1000 դրամ՝ մոտ 2 ԱՄՆ դոլլար)՝ փոխհատուցում տրամադրելու սահմանը պաշտպանելիս վիրավորված կամ սպանված զինվորների ընտանիքներին: Այս քաղաքականությունը քննադատվեց հանրային շրջանակներում, սակայն ընդունվեց Հայաստանի Ազգային ժողովի կողմից՝ մի շարք ընդդիմադիր կուսակցությունների աջակցությունը ստանալով հանդերձ:</p><p>Շատերը դեմ էին այդ այսպես կոչված «փոխհատուցման հարկին»` վստահության համընդհանուր պակասի պատճառով դեպի մի կառավարություն, որը դիտվում է որպես կոռումպացված և «ոչ պատերազմ, ոչ խաղաղություն» ստատուս-քվոյի համար գործուն լուծում չունեցող: Եզակի կողմերը, որոնք բացահայտ կերպով դիմադրեցին այս քաղաքականությանը և այսպիսով քողազերծեցին կառավարության «հավերժական պատերազմի» տրամաբանությունը, <a href="http://arteria.am/hy/1480405970%D5%BE">ձախական ակտիվիստների</a> փոքրիկ խմբավորումներն էին և Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանն էր՝ իր կենտրոնամետ-աջական Հայ ազգային կոնգրես կուսակցության անդամների հետ:</p><p>Հայաստանում ազգային միասնության շուրջ քաղաքական շահարկումը հաղթահարելու միակ հնարավորությունն այնպիսի քաղաքականության մեջ է, որը հաշվի կառնի սոցիալական խմբերի ու խավերի շահերը, տնտեսական հիմքերը և պետական քաղաքականությունների հետևանքները: Հայաստանի հանրությունը կարիք ունի ընդունելու, որ Ղարաբաղի շուրջ «հավերժական պատերազմը» կոռուպցիայի, ռեժիմի կայունության և այսպիսով երկրի քաղաքական ու տնտեսական վատթարացման իրական աղբյուրն է: </p><p>Արդյո՞ք ռեժիմի փոփոխության համար պայքարող քաղաքացիական և քաղաքական ակտիվիստներն ունակ կլինեն վերանայելու իրենց իսկ մոտեցումները դեպի այս ողջախոհ համարվող կոնցեպտներն ու վերաբերմունքները: Արդյո՞ք նրանք ունակ կլինեն հարցադրելու հայրիշխանական կառուցվածքների «բնական» իշխանությունը և թշնամական հարաբերությունների բնականեցումը: Թե՞ նրանք կմնան «ազգային միասնության» թակարդի մեջ՝ փորձելով փոխել կոնկրետ մեկ իշխանավորի կամ ռեժիմի՝ իշխանական կառուցվածքը հիմնովին փոխակերպելու փոխարեն: Ժամանակը ցույց կտա։</p><p><em>Այս հոդվածը հիմնված է իմ հետազոտության վրա, որը կենտրոնանում է ճանաչված և սկսնակ քաղաքացիական նախաձեռնությունների, ակտիվիստական խմբերի, «ֆեյսբուքյան ակտիվիստների», քաղաքական մեկնաբանների ու փորձագետների և անկախ ու ընդդիմադիր լրատվամիջոցների դիսկուրսների և պրակտիկաների վրա: Հետազոտությունն իրականացրել եմ <a href="http://praguecivilsociety.org/">«Պրահայի քաղաքացիական հասարակության կենտրոնի»</a>&nbsp;աջակցությամբ, ինչը հնարավորություն տվեց մասնակցել գիտական միջոցառումների, գնել գրականություն և ունենալ գիտական խորհդատուներ, ինչի համար շնորհակալ եմ ՊՔՀԿ-ին, իմ մենթոր դոկտոր Միլան Հրուբեշին և միջազգային խորհրդատու դոկտոր Արմինե Իշխանյանին:</em></p><p><em>Թարգմանությունը՝ Աննա Նիկողոսյանի.</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/anna-nikoghosyan/Hay-knoj-teghy-cuycyerum-e">Հայ կնոջ տեղը ցույցերում է</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 Աննա Ժամակոչյան Armenia Tue, 07 Mar 2017 14:07:01 +0000 Աննա Ժամակոչյան 109289 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We have nothing else to sell but our teeth https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yulia-gorbunova/we-have-nothing-else-to-sell-but-our-teeth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fleeing repression under the Kadyrov regime, many Chechens are seeking asylum in Poland. The reception by the Polish authorities is far from welcoming.&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/img_1482_edited_002.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'>Train station, Brest, Belarus, December 7, 2016. (c) Yulia Gorbunova, Human Rights Watch.</span></span></span>While Europe has been focusing its attention on refugee flows across the Mediterranean, another refugee situation has been building on the Belarus-Poland border. Since late 2015, thousands of asylum seekers, mostly from Russia’s North Caucasus republics of Ingushetia, Dagestan and especially Chechnya, have arrived here, hoping to cross the border into Poland and seek safety.</p> <p>With the Kremlin’s blessing, Ramzan Kadyrov has been running Chechnya for close to a decade as his own fiefdom, eradicating all forms of dissent. Abduction-style detentions, enforced disappearances and torture are rampant. Russian law and human rights protections exist only on paper; Kadyrov’s orders determine the rules applicable to Chechnya’s daily life. </p> <p>At the Brest train station in December we spoke to “Tamara”, a Chechen woman in her late forties. She had arrived in Brest, a historic Belarusian city on the Polish border, four months earlier. She had been trying unsuccessfully to cross into Poland ever since, and when her money ran out, she and her three sons slept at the train station for several nights. </p> <p>Tamara said she fled Chechnya with her family because local “security people” took her oldest son in for questioning when he turned 19, beat him, threatened to send him to fight in Ukraine, and threatened the rest of the family. She understood that the threats were real. Tamara said her brother, who had fought in the first Chechen war in the early 1990s, disappeared in 2006. His body was found in a nearby forest.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">With the exception of a handful of people apparently selected at random, Poland has been summarily rejecting the majority of asylum seekers and returning them to Belarus</p> <p>Last August, Tamara decided to go to Poland with her children and seek asylum. She had heard people say it was possible, but by the time they arrived at the border, that no longer seemed to be the case. When we spoke to her in December, she had made 24 attempts to cross the border and was sent back to Belarus every time. But they don’t feel safe in Belarus, where Chechen security forces are known to be lurking.&nbsp; </p> <p>“They don’t listen to us at the border,” she told us. “I say, ‘We are afraid to go back, afraid for our lives. We want asylum.’ The [Polish] border guards just stare and say nothing, then tell us to go and wait. Once a border guard said to us: ‘Go to Kyrgyzstan, go to Turkey. Poland doesn’t want you.’ Another time a man just said, ‘No visa – no entry.’” </p> <p>During the summer months of 2016, <a href="http://www.hfhr.pl/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/A-road-to-nowhere.-The-account-of-a-monitoring-visit-at-the-Brze%C5%9B%C4%87-Terespol-border-crossing-point-FINAL.pdf">between 400 and 800 asylum seekers a day</a>, most from Chechnya, were trying to cross Belarus-Poland border on the train from Brest to Terespol, the first station in Poland. Numbers decreased in the fall of 2016, due to the weather getting chillier, but also due to Poland cooling off its hospitality. <a href="http://programy.hfhr.pl/uchodzcy/files/2016/10/%D0%9D%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BC%D1%8B%D0%B5-%D0%B1%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%86%D1%8B-%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%86%D0%B5-%D0%91%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%83%D1%81%D0%B8-%D0%B8-%D0%9F%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%8C%D1%88%D0%B8_16-09-2016_web.pdf">According to the Belarusian rights group Human Constanta</a>, with the exception of a handful of people apparently selected at random, Poland has been summarily rejecting the majority of asylum seekers and returning them to Belarus.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/2.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'>8:28 a.m. train carrying asylum seekers to Terespol, Poland. Brest, Belarus, December 7, 2016.(c) 2016 Lydia Gall/Human Rights Watch.</span></span></span>Brest in early December was bleak: grey skies and very cold. After interviewing dozens of families and individuals who have been trying over and over to cross into Poland, my colleague and I decided to get on the train, sit in the carriage assigned to asylum seekers, and see for ourselves what these people went through every day.</p> <p>Purchasing a ticket was a challenge. “Carriage four?” The stern Belarusian lady behind the glass asked.&nbsp;“What do you need to sit there for? Carriage four is where THEY travel.” </p> <p>After we convinced her that we were in our right minds, we got the tickets and boarded the train. I spent the journey talking to an anxious-looking white-haired man from Chechnya, who said his 22-year-old son was in trouble with “Kadyrov’s men”. When I asked for details, he glanced at the other migrants nearby and chose not to answer. Instead he said it was his fiftieth attempt to cross.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Every Chechen we interviewed in Brest said they feared for their lives and safety if they were forced back to Russia.</p> <p>Like most people we spoke to, the man was upset about how Polish officials treated him. “I don’t expect to be met with flowers,” he said, “But we are not criminals. They treat us like we are animals. I told this woman [a Polish official], my story and said I wanted asylum in Poland. She said, ‘You will not cross the border to Poland. Your case is hopeless. Don’t come again.’” </p> <p>Yet, the man was hopeful. “This is my last chance. My three-month stay in Belarus expires today. Today the Poles will let me through. I think they will.”</p> <p>The Polish authorities are under no obligation to give refugee status to everyone who crosses its borders. But under EU and international law, they have the duty to allow people the opportunity to apply for asylum, to consider carefully the merits of their claims, and not to send them back to places where they face a risk of persecution or torture. </p> <p>In September, Kadyrov expressed doubt that Chechens stuck in Brest are legitimate refugees. He mused on <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BK37RW6AFYL/">Instagram</a>: “What could be the reason for it if Chechnya is the most stable and most developing region; when such care and social support for those in need does not exist anywhere, including in Europe?” The Polish interior minister <a href="http://visegradpost.com/en/2016/08/31/poland-denied-entry-to-chechens-in-order-to-protect-europe-from-terrorism/">made similar statements</a> in August, saying that since there is no war in Chechnya, there are no Chechen refugees.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“If anyone in Chechnya knew how we come to this train station every day, like homeless beggars, they would think it’s so humiliating. But what can we do?”</p> <p>Belarus has open borders with Russia and in practice does not grant refugee status to Chechens and <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/01/poland-asylum-seekers-blocked-border">has in the past detained</a> at least one asylum seeker with a view to deportation. </p> <p>Every Chechen we interviewed in Brest said they feared for their lives and safety if they were forced back to Russia. </p> <p>Most of them, especially people in their 50s and 60s, told us they had not wanted to leave home, but felt they had no choice. Many said they had sold everything to make the trip. One woman with gold crowns on her teeth said, “If anyone in Chechnya knew how we come to this train station every day, like homeless beggars, they would think it’s so humiliating. But what can we do? My husband is in danger and my children are in danger. And we have no money left; we sold everything to come here. We have nothing else to sell but our teeth.” </p> <p>On our way back, at the train station on the Polish side the guards wouldn’t let us board the “refugee carriage”. We argued with them, standing on the cold windy platform. We saw the white-haired man we talked to earlier that morning, inside the carriage of the train going back to Brest. He waved to us through the window, smiled and signalled that the carriage door was locked from the outside.&nbsp;We could only smile and wave in response, before we went to board the carriage with those of us lucky enough to have the choice of whether to return to Brest or not. </p><p> <em>Read Human Rights Watch's report on the situation at the Poland-Belarus border <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/01/poland-asylum-seekers-blocked-border">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/agnieszka-pikulicka-wilczewska/women-of-brest-station">The women of Brest Station</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/crossing">The crossing</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/tanya-lokshina/refugee-family-s-ordeal-in-russia">A refugee family’s ordeal in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/warped-mirror-how-russian-media-covers-europe%E2%80%99s-refugee-crisis">Warped mirror: how Russian media covers Europe’s refugee crisis </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 Yulia Gorbunova Migration matters Tue, 07 Mar 2017 13:43:36 +0000 Yulia Gorbunova 109288 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Russia, propaganda starts in preschool https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elena-platonova/in-russia-propaganda-starts-in-preschool <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Militaristic ideas and gender stereotypes can dominate one’s early life in Russia —&nbsp;as public holidays in honour of the country’s military and women show. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elena-platonova/militarizatsia-detsad" 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_02343741.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02343741.LR_.ru_.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'>Children look out from the window of a kindergarten in Kaliningrad, Russia. (c) Igor Zarembo / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><br />“Mummy, do you know that all the daddies went to the war and they all got killed?” my four-year old daughter Olya asks me.</p><p>Olya goes to the ordinary state nursery school next to our block of flats in sleepy southwest Moscow. She spends her days, from 9am to 6pm, in a two-storey building clad in dirty-yellow tiles. Every evening I quiz her about her day at school, whom she played with, what games they played and what topics the teachers talked to them about. After a year and a half, my daughter has finally started telling me what she has learned during the day without prompting.</p><p>“The daddies went to the war. It’s just men that go to war: women don’t go and they don’t let children go,” Olya announces categorically. </p><p>I try to refute her statement: I tell her that, sadly, both men and women have gone to war.</p><p>“No! The nursery teachers know everything! Women don’t go to war,” she insists.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">I find it hard to believe that, in country that sent over 800,000 women to war, a woman’s role is seen in terms of her ability to cook and do housework</p><p>I don’t know what to do. I can feel anger towards the teachers and the fear of losing my child’s trust welling up in me. Shaking, I go and look for a photo of my grandmother, who served as a corporal in an anti-aircraft brigade during the Second World War. My daughter can’t contradict this evidence: “the teachers weren’t wrong, they just forgot.”</p><p>I sigh with relief: I find it hard to believe that, in country that sent over 800,000 women to war, a gender-orientated perception of occupations is now in force — that a woman’s role is seen in terms of her ability to cook and do housework. </p><p>Olya, meanwhile, is still sharing her new knowledge with me.</p><p>“Mum, the Americans — they are enemies.”</p><p>“Americans are not our enemies,” I hasten to tell her. “There are good Americans, bad Americans, all kinds of Americans. There are good people and bad people – it doesn’t matter where they live.” I’m glad my grandmother explained everything to me in similar simple words. </p><p>“But Americans enter other countries. Those are bad Americans.” She’s not giving up.</p><p>“But, you know, Russians also go into other countries and also behave badly. In Syria, for instance…” (I think I might be about to start a fierce debate with a four-year old child.) </p><p>“Exactly! Syria!”</p><p>It’s even scarier to realise that Olya somehow knows about Syria, and is evidently also aware that Russian troops are fighting there. </p><p>“Ah! But the bad Americans are the Chinese ones.” Olya finally loses her train of thought and with it her interest in our conversation. She turns on her side and falls asleep. </p><p>I find all this both funny and sad, because I can’t understand why a four-year old child needs to be told about enemies, China, Syria and a war where you have to kill people. Why does a child need this propaganda? </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Every evening I realise that I’m finding it harder and harder to challenge this world view that my child is being fed, with nothing but my parental authority to fall back on </p><p>The next day, I try to ask the nursery teacher whether she had done some “awareness-raising” with the children, and whether they had talked about the hateful Americans and Russians in Syria. </p><p>The teachers admits to having only talked about the Second World War — it’s coming up to 23 February, Defender of the Fatherland Day. “And the Americans…I don’t know, maybe they heard it from each other,” she waves her hand towards the part of the room where the children are playing, and then walks towards them.</p><p>I’m left still wondering why there’s so much militarism in Russia’s pre-school facilities.</p><h2>A Kalashnikov for three-year olds </h2><p>In Russia, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mischa-gabowitsch-editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/rightward-march-politics-of-russia-s-arm" target="_blank">23 February is a public holiday</a>. In the Soviet period, it was known as Red Army Day, but after the collapse of the USSR it was renamed Defender of the Fatherland Day. Now, many decades after its creation, this celebration has lost its exclusive military character, and is seen as a day to celebrate boys and men, whatever their age and whether or not they have served in the armed forces and what their attitude is to war in general. The military connotations, however, remain — all males are lauded as Defenders of the Fatherland. </p><p>In an attempt to instil love of their homeland in their charges, nursery and school teachers often see 23 February celebrations, replete as they are with military paraphernalia and tales of war and army life, as a special day and a fun time for all.</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_01387667.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01387667.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="355" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>23 February: Vladimir Putin with defence minister Sergey Shoigu at a commemoration for Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow. (c) Alexey Nikolsky / RIA Novisti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Our nursery’s hall has the standard decorations for any special event in any Russian nursery school — a Russian flag hanging on its wall, and a string of cotton pennants and balloons in the red, white and blue of Russia’s tricolour stretches from one corner of the ceiling to the other. A record of military marches starts up and a platoon of paratroopers appear from behind a curtain — five and six-year old boys in blue berets, striped vests and trousers [children in Russia only start school at the age of seven – ed.]. They are holding plastic Kalashnikovs and start dancing in an imitation of military drill, raising and lowering their arms in time to the music. </p><p>The girls take no part in the military performance: in Russia, anything to do with war is an exclusively male occupation</p><p>Around the stage are benches for the audience. The first few rows are occupied by five- and six –year old girls, wearing dresses and wide ribbon bows in their hair. The girls take no part in the military performance: in Russia, anything to do with war is an exclusively male occupation. </p><p>“What will you be when you grow up?” a five-year old girl in a long, traditional style dress asks a boy in a striped vest. </p><p>“A soldier, of course! I’ll defend my country,” the boy answers, and then a group of boys in the same costumes run out onto the stage and dance to the strains of the popular song, “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY8jC50K6BA" target="_blank">We are now soldiers</a>”. </p><h2>Local initiatives </h2><p>Russia has no national standard for events connected with public holidays. In Moscow, a city resource centre licensed by the mayor’s education department produces recommendations stating that celebrating national holidays is desirable. So, for example, fathers who happen to be soldiers may take part in 23 February celebrations, while preparations for International Women’s day should include giving presents to mums. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/014.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/014.jpg" alt="" title="" width="130" height="200" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>I want to be a patriot when I grow up: a children’s textbook for Defender of the Fatherland Day.</span></span></span></p><p>But state nurseries and schools have the right to hold different kinds of events to celebrate these two days. “On 23 February, you might have sessions about courage and invite war veterans, whereas on 8 March the children usually give concerts and invite mums and female teachers,” Andrey Lukutin, the centre’s deputy manager, tells me. Schools, Lukutin says, choose their own type of event — there’s no rigid format. And this was confirmed by two resource staff working at different nursery schools in, and on the outskirts of, Moscow.</p><p>At the same time, according to <a href="https://dogm.mos.ru/upload/iblock/aba/ps_mo_08_1228_07_08_2015_r15.pdf" target="_blank">national Ministry of Education recommendations</a>, schools’ basic curriculum should include lessons and activities designed to instil in pupils “an understanding of Russia’s key national values, such as patriotism, the family and morality”. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Children have individual personalities. Some like war games, pretending to be soldiers. Others may be brought up in a family with pacifist traditions and want to avoid such games”</p><p>But how these recommendations are interpreted by public officials at the local level can be seen in the decisions taken by regional and municipal education departments around the country. According to documentation in Russia’s Unified Information System for Procurement, the municipal district council of Lyubertsy, a town in the Moscow region has allocated 2.6 million roubles (£36,211) to organising events to promote “civic-patriotic and spiritual-moral awareness” among young people. The list of appropriate events includes a “Conscript’s Day” event and a “Defender of the Fatherland” military-patriotic game, complete with army uniforms. The scenario of this event should include some training for the young men’s military service.</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/553429/1393333292_23-02-2014-055.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1393333292_23-02-2014-055.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'>At this kindergarten in Cheboksary in Russia’s Republic of Chuvashia, 23 February is not taken lightly. Source: http://ds93.ru.</span></span></span></p><p>“Children have individual personalities. Some children like playing war games, pretending to be soldiers, fighters. Others may be brought up in a family with pacifist traditions and want to avoid such games,” says Elena Morozova, a paediatric clinical psychologist. “But we need to remember that war means tragedy, sorrow, misfortune and killing. If a child accepts the idea of war, perhaps they don’t feel pain – or at least not enough. And dressing children in army uniforms is early militarisation.”</p><p>Morozova feels that it would be better to mark 23 February in schools by stressing the element of defence: “a defender is not just a fighter – he could be defending a girl, for example, or a principle. The way it is celebrated now develops neither manliness nor patriotism. Children need to be in a more childish, fantasy — and kind-hearted — environment. There should be a celebration of the strength of your spirit, not your fist.” </p><h2>A woman’s place is in the kitchen</h2><p>Women too have their special date — 8 March, International Women’s Day. This day, first marked in 1911, was created as a sign of solidarity in the battle for women’s rights and emancipation, but in Russia it has acquired a diametrically opposite meaning. On 8 March, Russian women receive flowers, congratulations and wishes that they will always remain “beautiful”, “loving”, “kind”. In other words, that they will fulfil traditional women’s roles: “keeper of the hearth”, “mother” and “wife”.</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_02391966.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02391966.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'>A woman sells flowers outside the Kyiv Station in Moscow. (c) Ramil Sitdikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>On 8 March, schools and nursery schools usually organise pupils’ concerts where mothers and grandmothers receive best wishes for the next year — this holiday has turned into Mothers’ Day, any connection with gender equality has flown out the window.</p><p>Many children have no idea what they are celebrating: these 8 March events often end up as an all-purpose celebration of Mothers’ Day, the coming of spring and ancient Slavonic cultural traditions. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“My daughter had to take part in a competition in her nursery’s 8 March celebrations: the kids had to show how they helped Mummy at home – because cooking is what mums do”</p><p>“I sat in the school hall before this performance,” one mother told me, laughing, “and heard these three-year olds discussing what kind of special date it was – someone’s birthday, perhaps, or the start of spring…Then one of them got it: ‘it’s the Day of the Eighth Mother!’” </p><p>“My daughter had to take part in a competition in her nursery’s 8 March celebrations: the children had to show how they helped Mummy at home. They had to sort plastic onions, carrots, courgettes and potatoes – because what mums do is cook,” says Nina P, a Moscow resident. </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/553429/8498bf2e50b2497a73a49dc8cb0bf03f.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/8498bf2e50b2497a73a49dc8cb0bf03f.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'>“Congratulations, Mummy!” reads this kindergarten display for 8 March. Source: http://74gl.ru/</span></span></span></p><p>“But the thing is that I don’t do the cooking at home,” continues Nina. “I work all day and the nanny collects my daughter from nursery and feeds her. So when the nursery teacher asked her whether she helped me in the kitchen, she said, ‘No’. The teacher told her that this wasn’t good, but she’d have done better to tell her that women’s abilities are not limited to sorting onions and carrots.” </p><p>According to psychologist Elena Morozova, it’s important to talk to children in the run-up to 8 March, and find out what they want to be in the future. “Little girls might well want to be doctors, teachers and so on, and not just mummies giving birth to children and bringing them up.”</p><h2>Girls don’t play with cars</h2><p>“My daughter tells me there are boys’ games and girls’ games,” says Natalia A, who lives outside Moscow. “Before she went to nursery, she had no idea that only boys should play with toy cars. But now it turns out that girls should play with dolls. No one actually forces them to. But the fact that it’s talked about, and the teachers don’t say anything or explain that anybody can play with cars, that’s what worries me.” </p><p>On the question of what other parents think about this gender divide, Natalia says that she has tried to raise it with other women whose children attend the same nursery school, but none of them are bothered about it. “One said to me that if you don’t teach children the differences between boys and girls, the boys will grow up gay. And she also claimed that because women have become too independent, men are becoming gay because they don’t get enough snogging.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Symptoms of patriarchal traditionalism are also flourishing in Russia’s business world, where men are seen as breadwinners and women as homemakers</p><p>A <a href="http://izvestia.ru/news/647709" target="_blank">joint study</a>&nbsp;[link in Russian] by Moscow’s Institute of Education Higher School of Economics and the European University Institute in Florence has shown that Russian women have 1.4 times the chances for promotion to senior positions compared to their male colleagues, thanks, among other things, to their higher academic achievements. Women are, however, slow to take up these chances. </p><p>The authors of the study believe that Russian women are held back in the workplace not only by a lack of state maternal support, but a persistence of gender stereotypes. Employers are much more likely to promote men, who are not entitled to paid parental leave. So women become accustomed to discrimination, lower their expectations and don’t apply for managerial jobs. This means that, despite their higher academic credentials, women have a lot less real chance of building a professional career.</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/553429/5256916603_ee2220baef_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/5256916603_ee2220baef_b.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'>Children’s playground named in honour of Dmitry Medvedev, Vladivostok. CC-by-2.0: cea+ / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Another study, by the Higher School of Education’s Dmitry Kurakin and Yulia Kosyakova, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Employment Research in Nuremberg, shows that inequality between men and women in the workplace has <a href="https://ioe.hse.ru/news/197050594.html" target="_blank">increased since the end of the Soviet Union</a>&nbsp;[link in Russian]. The authors believe that cultural stereotypes that relegate women to “domestic” roles and ignore them as educated and competent workers have increasingly taken hold in Russia’s public consciousness. </p><p>Symptoms of patriarchal traditionalism are also flourishing in Russia’s business world, where men are seen as breadwinners and women as homemakers. And Kurakin and Kosyakova see the revival of religious faiths, both Christianity and Islam, as playing their part in the rise of gender inequality. </p><h2>Fighting for attention</h2><p>“The kitten is a girl, and the puppy is a boy. Boys look at girls. Boys fall in love with pretty girls” - Olya is role playing with fridge magnets while I’m finishing this article, working at home at the weekend. </p><p>“And ugly girls?” I ask her without thinking, my eyes still on the screen.</p><p>“They don’t fall in love with ugly girls, just pretty ones”. Like most children, Olya likes everything in life to be cut and dried, with no exceptions, nuances or reflection. </p><p>“Who’s the prettiest girl at nursery?”</p><p>“Nastya. All the boys look at Nastya,” Olya answers sadly. Her theory about pretty girls is losing some of its attraction.</p><p>Later on, at bedtime, I spend another hour teasing out of my daughter what the teachers had actually said about the how the world works. This is how I discover that nursery life is dominated by a simplistic vision of male-female relationships, an abundance of gender stereotypes, a denial of homosexuality and a belief that homosexuality can be avoided with the help of conversations on the impossibility of boys loving other boys — the division of the world into “us” and “them”. </p><p>Every evening I realise that I’m finding it harder and harder to challenge this worldview that my child is being fed, having to fall back on the strength of my parental authority alone. I’ve only got one hour before bedtime at my disposal, and children can spend up to 12 hours a day in nurseries and schools. </p><p>A private nursery school and school is one way out of this problem — parents have more influence on the educational process there. But for most Russian citizens, this alternative doesn’t exist: fees for private preschool education can represent up to 80% of an average salary, depending on which region you live in. Private nursery schools in Moscow charge between 30,000 and 50,000 roubles (£421- £701) a month, while official figures put average monthly salaries in the capital at around 62,000 roubles (£870). </p><p>All that remains is my hope is that the two hours per day during the week and two (if we’re lucky) days off at the weekend is enough to form our children’s perception of the world on our own terms.<br /><br /><em>Translated from Russian by Liz Barnes&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/tatyana-dvornikova/cuts-cuts-cuts-life-and-times-of-russia-s-university-teachers">Cuts, cuts, cuts: the life and times of Russia’s university teachers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mischa-gabowitsch-editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/the-politics-of-russia-s-arm">The politics of Russia’s armed forces day</a> </div> <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> </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 World Forum for Democracy 2016 Elena Platonova Education Mon, 06 Mar 2017 15:38:41 +0000 Elena Platonova 109255 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Goodbye, Radio Vesti https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valery-kalnysh/goodbye-radio-vesti <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/kalnysh_0.jpg" alt="kalnysh_0.jpg" width="80" />Ukraine’s media is caught in a political crossfire. In this situation, everyone loses — journalists, citizens and the country itself. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valery-kalnysh/bez-razgovorov">Русский</a></strong></em></p><p>&nbsp;</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/ArticleImage_123647.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 2017: Radio Vesti's main broadcasting operation comes to an end. Source: <a href=vesti-ukr.com>Radio Vesti</a>. </span></span></span>Since 4 March, you can no longer tune into Radio Vesti — Ukraine’s only talk radio station —in Kyiv. Prior to this, nearly all of the radio station’s journalists<a href="https://www.rbc.ua/rus/news/kollektiv-radio-vesti-uvolnyaetsya-radiostantsii-1487962182.html"> resigned</a>, as well as most of the station’s technical staff. Radio Vesti stopped its broadcast operation after a<a href="https://www.rbc.ua/rus/news/natssovet-otkazalsya-prodlevat-litsenziyu-1488539894.html"> decision</a> by the National Television and Radio Broadcasting<a href="https://www.rbc.ua/rus/news/natssovet-otkazalsya-prodlevat-litsenziyu-1488539894.html"> Council</a>, which regulates Ukraine’s airwaves. The management of the Vesti Ukraine media holding, which owns the station, believes that this decision is<a href="http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/228113-dobro-pozhalovat-v-totalitarnuju-ukrainu-poroshenko-olha-semchenko-o-zakrytii-radio-vesti"> direct evidence of censorship in Ukraine</a>. Everyone here is right, but, as always, no one is telling the whole truth.</p><p dir="ltr">On 3 March, the National Television and Radio Broadcasting<a href="https://www.rbc.ua/rus/news/natssovet-otkazalsya-prodlevat-litsenziyu-1488539894.html"> Council refused</a> to extend Radio Vesti’s broadcast license in Kyiv. Two weeks before, the National Council<a href="http://www.nrada.gov.ua/ua/news/radanews/34743.html"> refused</a> to issue the station a broadcast license for Kharkiv. Now only the residents of Dnipro (formerly Dnipropetrovsk) can listen to the station’s analogue broadcast — Radio Vesti had permission to broadcast only in three cities, elsewhere people listened online. But the station’s listeners won’t hear anything new: the station is broadcasting only news bulletins and programmes from its archive. Ukraine’s only talk radio station has more or less stopped working.</p><h2>Tuning out</h2><p dir="ltr">The National Council<a href="http://www.nrada.gov.ua/ua/news/radanews/34828.html"> explained</a> its decision not to extend Radio Vesti’s license by referring to the fact that the station had received four warnings. This, according to the opinion of the regulatory body, is evidence that the station is systematically violating Ukraine’s media legislation. It’s worth noting that it was the National Council that issued these warnings in the first place.</p><p dir="ltr">One of these warnings was<a href="https://lb.ua/economics/2014/07/25/274084_natssovet_prigrozil_annulirovat.html"> issued</a> on my watch. In July 2014, I was deputy editor at Vesti (later - editor-in-chief) when the words of one separatist militia leader in the Donbas made their way on air: “We have to help Orthodox Russian people clean our lands of filth and fascism.”</p><p dir="ltr">It seems I also caused the<a href="https://lb.ua/news/2015/01/29/293735_natssovet_vneplanovo_proverit_radio.html"> second warning</a> from the National Council. In December 2014, I conducted a live on-air<a href="http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/81934-portnov-cherez-neskolko-mesjacev-nikto-nikogo-uzhe-ljustrirovat-ne-budet"> interview</a> with Andriy Portnov, the former deputy head of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidential administration who fled the country after the EuroMaidan protests and was the subject of a criminal investigation for embezzlement.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Why “it seems”? Because this second warning was followed by a strange story: the National Council couldn’t receive the recording of <a href="http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/81934-portnov-cherez-neskolko-mesjacev-nikto-nikogo-uzhe-ljustrirovat-ne-budet">my interview with Portnov</a> because of a change of address. This change of address, meanwhile, did not prevent members of the National Council from appearing on air at Radio Vesti or visiting the studio. Indeed, one of the members of the National Council who issued the final decision against Radio Vesti even offered his services as a presenter for Vesti in the past, though now, it seems, he doesn’t wish to discuss this in public.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">These warnings are, of course, mere formalities. It’s no secret that Radio Vesti has been closed for different reasons</p><p dir="ltr">It would appear I’m responsible for the station’s <a href="http://detector.media/infospace/article/114769/2016-04-29-natsrada-perevirit-radio-vesti-cherez-intervyu-azarova/">third warning</a>, too. The appropriate complaint was made to the National Council regarding an<a href="http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/144628-intervju-nikolaja-azarova-radio-vesti-polnyj-tekst"> interview</a> I conducted with Nikolai Azarov, Ukraine’s fugitive prime minister, in April 2016. The National Council suspected that “doubtful information of a subjective character was apparent in the statements [of Azarov], which distort reality and create a false idea of what is happening in Ukraine among viewers [of the station].”</p><p dir="ltr">But these warnings are, of course, mere formalities. It’s no secret that Radio Vesti has been closed for different reasons. The first rumours concerning the station’s real owner began to emerge around six months after the station launched in March 2014. Later, these rumours were confirmed, and the owner turned out to be Alexander Klimenko, another member of Viktor Yanukvoych’s team who fled the country and Ukraine’s minister of revenue between 2012-2014.</p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine’s current regime couldn’t reconcile itself with the fact that a representative of the old order was the indirect owner of a popular talk radio station. Klimenko’s ownership could not be proved, because Klimenko’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in the registration documents. But even if it had, this would be an ambiguous motive for closing the station — Klimenko is a Ukrainian citizen, and there is no court decision regarding his activities. This is why the topic of Radio Vesti’s opaque ownership structure came up so often in public debate.</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/^C64F69A921F858EBE94712C3E626DB20FA89E93413853618B3^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr.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'>3 March, 2017: Radio Vesti listeners protest outside Ukraine's presidential administration, Kyiv. Source: <a href=http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/228062-vernut-radio-vesti-v-kieve-na-bankovuju-vyshli-slushateli-radiostantsii>Vesti</a>. </span></span></span>The station never confirmed its connection to Klimenko. Even when Olga Semchenko, the head of Vesti Ukraina’s board of directors, and Alexander Klimenko decided to get married. “The National Council has finally recommended itself not just as a repressive, but a regressive body,”<a href="http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/228113-dobro-pozhalovat-v-totalitarnuju-ukrainu-poroshenko-olha-semchenko-o-zakrytii-radio-vesti"> commented</a> Olga Semchenko. “The policy designed to seize, ban and punish – this is a regressive policy. This is a path to a totalitarian Ukraine. The officials of the National Council are just carrying out a political order, they don’t have any initiative of their own.”</p><p dir="ltr">There’s an element of truth in Semchenko’s statement. No one managed to influence the station’s editorial team in terms of political loyalty. The station’s journalists were neither for Ukraine’s authorities, nor against the opposition. The people who worked at Radio Vesti were a genuinely patriotic team: they travelled to the Donbas to report on the conflict, the whole editorial team gathered donations for people displaced by the conflict, and called the “war” a “war”, not an “Anti-Terrorist Operation”.</p><h2>A very patriotic problem&nbsp;</h2><p dir="ltr">Representing all points of view in today’s Ukraine is<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oles-petik-galina-gerasym/mirotvorets-utechka"> difficult</a>. I’m not talking about criticising the authorities — president Poroshenko or the Cabinet of Ministers — you can rage against them all you want. I’m talking about criticising the general discourse and the personalised trajectory of Ukrainian politics. If you criticise the country’s values, history, national heroes, call the separatists in the Donbas “militias” or ask whether it was right to force Viktor Yanukovych out, then you’re instantly added to the list of unreliable individuals, you’ll be called an “agent of the Kremlin”. You can’t criticise public opinion. You can’t criticise where the country’s headed.</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/PA-25751119-1_3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Criticising the general framework of Ukraine's post-Maidan discourse is becoming more difficult. (c) Sergei Chuzavkov / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Radio Vesti definitely caused problems for the authorities. The powers-that-be weren’t afraid that criticism of the government would make it onto the airwaves — there’s no problem with that. Or that the station would start promoting anti-Ukrainian attitudes — though there were concerns about this. </p><p dir="ltr">Their fear, it seems to me, was broader. The station’s audience, who rang in to speak on air throughout the day (their calls weren’t moderated, no one censored the callers), constantly expressed their dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction continued to grow, taking various forms and charting new boundaries, but the background remained the same — people in Ukraine are unhappy with their lives. Not Ukraine’s politicians per se (that goes without saying), but the way everyday life is going.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">But there’s another truth, too. Certain people wanted to use Radio Vesti for Alexander Klimenko's return to Ukraine</p><p dir="ltr">And so Philippe Lereuth, president of the International Federation of Journalists, is right when he<a href="http://europeanjournalists.org/blog/2017/03/03/ukraine-about-100-jobs-at-risk-following-revocation-of-radio-vestis-licenses/"> says</a>: “The abrupt revocation of Radio Vesti’s license undermines the right to freedom of expression, media pluralism and diversity of media content, which are essential for the running of any democratic society. We condemn such unfair actions by the National Council and ask this body to permit to restart broadcasting immediately until there has been a thorough review of the circumstances around this decision which only succeeds in punishing the public and the station’s employees.”</p><p dir="ltr">But there’s another truth, too. Certain people wanted to use Radio Vesti for the return of Alexander Klimenko to Ukraine. There were stories written about Klimenko's<a href="http://uspishnakraina.com/ru">&nbsp;political party</a>. After a time, the station began to operate “stop list” — a secret list of guests forbidden from appearing on air. Aider Muzhdabaev and Evgeny Kiselyov, prominent journalists who were previously welcome guests, found themselves on it.</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/thumb_316.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>June 2016: Alexander Klimenko appears at a Uspishna Kraina ("Successful Country:) forum on tax reform. Source: <a href=https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/ArticleImage_123647.jpg>Uspishna Kraina</a>. </span></span></span>According to my information, it was people who were against the station’s new management that were included in this list. And Muzhdabaev is sure that this was part of a broader scheme. </p><p dir="ltr">As he<a href="https://www.facebook.com/ayder.muzhdabaev/posts/1240335416000331"> wrote</a> on Facebook in August 2016: “This media holding is directly controlled from Moscow by a fugitive criminal, an enemy of Ukraine. That’s where they hold their planning meetings, where everything is confirmed now, including the ‘stop list’ of guests who are forbidden to appear on air or be quoted. The list includes many people whose words and actions go against [the station’s] end goal of ‘concession’ — the arrival of the ‘Russian world’ in Ukraine.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The most important point is that Ukrainians have lost what Radio Vesti gave to them — an opportunity to speak to one another</p><p dir="ltr">I’m told that I was also included in this “stop list” several months ago. But not everything here is so obvious. Of course, Radio Vesti was not controlled from Moscow. It’s not that there weren’t attempts to influence the station’s editorial policy from Moscow — but attempts to influence are not the same as successfully influencing.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">That difference — between attempts to influence and actual influence — is not one that many people understood. The station’s employees were accused of “collaborating with the enemy”. And the idea that<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/igor-burdyga/pokupat-ne-obyazatelno"> you can produce honest coverage in these conditions</a> was far from most people’s minds.</p><h2>Finding a common frequency&nbsp;</h2><p dir="ltr">The most important point, however, is that Ukrainians have lost what Radio Vesti gave to them — an opportunity to speak to one another. And that journalists have their lost jobs. In an ideal world, the station would be saved, but with another owner or with self-financing and an end to the pressure from the National Council. But that won’t happen.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The National Council, explaining its actions on completely legal grounds, has removed a good radio station from Ukraine’s airwaves. The radio station’s owners wished to use it to further their own interests. The result is that everyone loses, because Radio Vesti has little in the way of rivals in Ukraine. Can we call this a clean-up of the media market? Yes. And while there’s little in terms of certainty, we can only hope that this will be the last instance of this attitude to the country’s media. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine’s television networks — companies are owned by opponents of the current authorities — could be next. The Inter television channel is owned by the oligarch Dmitry Firtash, whom a Vienna Court recently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/21/austria-grants-us-request-to-extradite-ukrainian-mogul-dmytro-firtash">ordered to be extradited to the US on bribery charges</a>, and Sergei Lyovochkin, one of the leaders of Opposition Bloc and once head of Yanukovych’s presidential administration. Meanwhile, the popular television channel 1+1 belongs to the powerful oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, whose PrivatBank holding, the largest bank in the country, has already been taken away. And this is only the top of the list.</p><p dir="ltr">Amid the calls for a newly patriotic media, Ukrainians must defend their access to a plurality of political views and positions. Because once they start going off air, democracy gets an even worse reception.</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/igor-burdyga/where-now-for-ukraine-s-brave-new-journalism">Where now for Ukraine’s brave new journalism?</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="/svitlana-zalishchuk-benjamin-ramm/ukraine-and-cancer-of-corruption-conversation-with-svitlana-zalish">Ukraine and the cancer of corruption: a conversation with Svitlana Zalishchuk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-eristavi/terror-against-ukraine-s-journalists-is-fueled-by-political-elites">The terror against Ukraine’s journalists is fuelled by political elites</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 Valery Kalnysh Beyond propaganda Ukraine Media Mon, 06 Mar 2017 11:54:11 +0000 Valery Kalnysh 109251 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Kyrgyzstan, it’s revolution, revanche, repeat all over again https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/daniil-kislov/in-kyrgyzstan-it-s-revolution-revanche-repeat-all-over-again <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Kislev_Daniil_0.jpg" alt="" width="80" />Kyrgyzstan’s presidential campaign has started off with the arrest of a main contender for the post. Omurbek Tekebayev’s fate shows the country remains far from democratic. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/daniil-kislov/tekebaev-i-otombaev" 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_03038933.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_03038933.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A protest by supporters of the detained opposition deputy Omurbek Tekebayev, leader of Kyrgyzstan’s Ata-Meken party. Bishkek, 27 February. (c) Tabyldy Kadyrbekov / RIA Novosti. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The phrase “<a href="fsi.fundforpeace.org/" target="_blank">failed state</a>” has been applied to Kyrgyzstan so often that repeating it seems almost indecent. This November, the country will host presidential elections — and, of course, the “power vertical” is alive and well in Kyrgyzstan today. But recent events force us to think again: is this state functioning in the right way?&nbsp;</p><p>It was only during a recent visit to Austria that Omurbek Tekebayev, opposition politician and leader of the <a href="http://www.atameken.kg/" target="_blank">Ata Meken party</a> in parliament, discovered that he faced charges of corruption and fraud. Returning home on 26 February, Tekebayev was taken into custody literally as he walked off the plane. Two days later, Tekebayev was placed under arrest for two months, until 25 April.</p><p>Friends and colleagues of the opposition politician say that the court didn’t bother to hold a fair hearing, that the hearing itself lasted just five minutes, and that an order for the arrest had been prepared in advance, and was simply read out by the judge.

</p><h2>A Russian trace?&nbsp;</h2><p>The accusations against Tekebayev can be traced back to declarations to Kyrgyzstan’s Prosecutor General made by Leonid Maevsky, a Russian businessman. According to Maevsky, in 2010 he transferred Tekebayev one million dollars in cash in exchange for his help in buying the Megakom mobile network. “Tekebayev didn’t keep up his end of the bargain, but refused to return the money and threatened physical violence against me,” so reads Mayevsky’s declaration. 

&nbsp;</p><p>Tekebayev is a well-known figure in Kyrgyzstan’s tumultuous political landscape. Beginning his political career in 1991, Tekebayev was elected to parliament several times, and has a long history in opposition. He was an organiser of the revolutions of 2005 (known as the “Tulip Revolution”, leading to the fall of president Askar Akayev), and 2010 (which toppled president Kurmanbek Bakiyev).&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It’s widely believed in Kyrgyzstan today that Maevsky’s latest moves are a “present” from the Russian president to his Kyrgyz counterpart</p><p>This critic of multiple presidents became the target of several provocations, which seriously harmed his public image. In 2006, Tekebayev was <a href="rus.azattyq.org/a/kyrgyzstan-tekebayev-atambayev/28339792.html" target="_blank">detained at customs at Warsaw airport</a> due to a planted souvenir <em>matryoshka</em> doll that contained 600 grammes of heroin. Not long before the presidential elections of 2010 — won by current president Almazbek Atambayev — the Russian television channel NTV <a href="http://www.dw.com/ru/%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B9%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B5-%D1%81%D0%BC%D0%B8-%D0%B0%D0%BA%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%BE-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%8E%D1%82-%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%B3%D0%B8%D0%B7%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%BC-%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%B1%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8F%D0%BC-%D0%BE%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D1%8C%D1%81%D1%8F/a-6086834" target="_blank">broadcast part of a pornographic video</a> featuring a man very similar to Tekebayev [links in Russian].
&nbsp;</p><p>The scandal around Megakom isn’t new either. In 2012, Tekebayev’s party won a court case against one parliamentary deputy who accused him of receiving a one million dollar bribe as the middleman selling the network. For his part, Tekebayev has dismissed all accusations as false, believing them to be the handiwork of high-ranking state officials.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s widely believed in Kyrgyzstan today that Maevsky’s latest moves, which coincided nicely with Vladimir Putin’s visit to Bishkek, are just that — a “present” from the Russian president to his Kyrgyz counterpart. The Kremlin has long seen Tekebayev as pro-western, intransigent and unpredictable. And Russian officials were likely more than happy to help president Atambayev strengthen his personal power at the expense of his political rivals, all the more so if such moves could be presented as part of a “fight against corruption”.&nbsp;</p><h2>Cui prodest?&nbsp;</h2><p>Over the last seven years, the Kyrgyz authorities haven’t moved an inch on resolving the case of Tekebayev and Megakom, and have used it now only as a reason for his arrest. We still don’t know whether Tekebayev is guilty or not. But the circumstances surrounding his arrest speak of an underlying motive to remove Tekebayev from the political arena.

&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/_Киргизии_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/_Киргизии_0.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'>Politics from behind bars. Kyrgyzstan’s parliament building. Photo CC-by-NC-2.0: greys / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Of course, the timing is important. This autumn, Kyrgyzstan goes to the polls again to elect a president. Tekebayev would probably have run as a candidate. But now, his chances of being allowed to participate are close to zero — judging by the way the case is being handled, it won’t be resolved before the elections. He could also be kept under arrest for as long as possible (the maximum period of pre-trial detention in Kyrgyzstan is one year and two months).&nbsp;</p><p>But the upcoming elections are not the main reason for attacking Tekebayev. He’s recently made himself something of a personal enemy to Atambayev, holding public investigations into the origins of the president’s overseas wealth, businesses and personal connections. He was a fierce critic of Kyrgyzstan’s constitutional reforms that are deeply resented by the opposition and have essentially destroyed the independence of the courts. Following last December’s referendum on the reforms, Tekebayev announced that he would begin a parliamentary procedure to impeach Atambayev.

&nbsp;</p><h2>Portrait of a troublemaker 
</h2><p>I met Omurbek Tekebayev in 2010 his office in Bishkek. Back then, he held the post of deputy prime minister in Kyrgyzstan’s interim government. I wasn’t able to fully discuss the bloody clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan as I had planned — Tekebayev spent the entire hour trying to prove to me that the tragedy, which saw hundreds of people killed, was entirely the fault of ethnic Uzbeks who had followed the lead of their untrustworthy leaders.&nbsp;</p><p>We watched a video recording of Kadyrzhan Batyrov, an Uzbek politician from southern Kyrgyzstan who fled the country after the clashes, at a meeting on 12 April, 2010. Tekebayev was searching for a quote that would prove his point, but he never found one. Trying not to lose face, he ended up trying to mistranslate Kadyrzhan’s words to me, insisting that he was making “calls for separatism”.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Kyrgyzstan is yet to make itself a parliamentary republic, as each brave new “revolutionary president” gradually becomes an autocrat</p><p>If you open Wikipedia, you will find the surprising claim that Omurbek Tekebayev “exposed the armed insurrection and separatist conspiracy led by Batyrov.” Fanciful disinformation like this was for some years the basis of Kyrgyzstan’s government propaganda that<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/georgina-rannard/in-osh-flames-have-died-down-but-not-discontent" target="_blank"> put the blame for the tragedy in the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad on the very victims</a> — the Uzbek ethnic minority of southern Kyrgyzstan.

</p><p>In short, Tekebayev himself peddled falsehoods and lies when in office. And now, the government has turned against him. As they say, “might makes right”.
</p><h2>L’état, c’est moi&nbsp;</h2><p>Tekebayev’s case is a perfect example of a politician who comes to power in Kyrgyzstan —&nbsp;they become hostage to their own self-preserving ideology. If history had taken a different path, perhaps Tekebayev would be president today, wondering how to deal with Almazbek Atambayev. And the scenario of a cynical government punishing a bothersome opponent would be just the same.&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/Atambayev_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Atambayev_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Almazbek Atambayev, president of Kyrgyzstan since 2011. Photo CC-by-NC-ND-2.0: M. Schulz / European Parliament / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>We don’t need to merely sympathise with Tekebayev as a victim of political struggle, but to concern ourselves with the fact that this struggle is being waged with underhand methods. In my view, evidence of whether a state has failed or not emerges when the state loses its main reason for existence: the powers-that-be should distribute justice in a conscientious manner. Both amongst themselves and to their political opponents. Both in peace time and at war. They should observe the law, and not use it for narrow personal interests.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Kyrgyzstan is waiting for a new kind of politics, another revolution. But it has to happen not on the streets, but in the minds and customs of politicians and society at large&nbsp;</p><p>Kyrgyzstan is yet to make itself into a parliamentary republic. Each new “revolutionary president” gradually becomes an autocrat, overwhelming the parliamentary opposition and alternative forms of political activism. Clearly, president Atambayev hasn’t avoided this fate either, hounding his opponents with the help of the Kyrgyz security services.&nbsp;</p><p>Tekebayev has written his supporters a note from jail. He writes that he “believes in his innocence.” This weird phrase passed Kyrgyz commentators by. “Everyone’s weary of this battle between Atambayev and Tekebayev,” wrote some Facebook users. “When will these old men go away, and make room for fresh faces?”</p><p>Kyrgyzstan is waiting for a new kind of politics, another revolution. But this time, it has to happen not on the streets, but instead in the minds and customs of politicians and society at large. So far, the old patterns are repeating themselves again, as Kyrgyzstan’s Groundhog Day comes round once more.</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/amirzhan-kosanov/kazakhstan-s-thin-red-line">Kazakhstan’s thin red line</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/franco-galdini/islam-in-kyrgyzstan-growing-in-diversity">Islam in Kyrgyzstan: growing in diversity</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 Daniil Kislov Kyrgyzstan Central Asia Thu, 02 Mar 2017 19:25:08 +0000 Daniil Kislov 109192 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 Media Culture Thu, 02 Mar 2017 10:29:08 +0000 Elizaveta Spivakovskaya 109177 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Convert and love: Russia’s Muslim wives https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/convert-and-love-russia-s-muslim-wives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russian women marrying Muslim men convert to Islam in the certainty that a shared religion will strengthen their family. Nevertheless, cultural differences often win out — and Russian Muslims’ world remains closed to converts. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/prinyat-islam-i-polyubi" 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_01277904.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01277904.LR_.ru__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'>Muslim women at the Berkat market in Grozny, Chechnya, 2012. (c) Ramil Sitdikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>This is how it usually goes: a young Russian woman meets a headstrong, decisive man from the North Caucasus, a traditionally Muslim region. She converts to Islam and marries him. And they live happily, but only for a while as he flies home without promising to return. It’s a sad story, but not an uncommon one.</p><p>There are no clear statistics on how many women across Russia converted to Islam last year. There’s also no clear data on divorces of this kind either. But it seems that despite their most faithful efforts, many of them don’t live happily ever after. I decided to find out how these couples live — and whether they find happiness.</p><h2>Be my (second) wife&nbsp;</h2><p>I meet Milana (name changed at her request) in a cosy Moscow apartment. This is where she receives customers — she works as a hair stylist. Beauty is a way of life for her. Her wardrobe is full of clothes that highlight her figure as well as shoes from stilettos to trainers.&nbsp;</p><p>Ten years ago Milana, who’s originally from Orenburg and who has stunning good looks, swapped all these clothes for a black dress and hijab after converting to Islam. Before that, she loved parties and had a successful career as a stylist.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In modern Russia, there is a multitude of stories involving non-Muslim women marrying Muslim men— and a multitude of possible endings to those stories</p><p>Milana got to know her future husband on Odnoklassniki, a popular social networking site. She was just 18 years old.</p><p>
“My page on the site was completely blank — no photo, barely any information. All of a sudden, I received a message from a guy with a similarly anonymous profile. He asked me whether I was Muslim. I don’t know why, but I answered ‘yes!’”</p><p>The man asked whether Milana was “jiakhilya”, explaining that this was somebody who didn’t fully observe the demands of their faith, which irritated her. “He then told me that a true Muslim woman should pray, and should cover her hair in public,” she says. “He told me about Islam, asking me why I didn’t pray. I asked him what I needed to do, and he sent me a few prayers. That evening, a few friends and I partied in a club and the next day, I started reading hadith and didn’t leave the house. A day later, I started searching for somebody who could teach me how to pray in person. I found a woman who wore a hijab living nearby, and invited her over. I listened to her and stared at her as if spellbound… That’s when I started wearing hijab.”&nbsp;</p><p>A week later, Milana had entirely changed the way she dressed. She turned up to work in a long dress and a hijab. “My family, let’s say this, weren’t pleased — my aunt went into hysterics, my mum and dad panicked, but it was all the same to me. I deleted all the numbers of my friends who didn’t understand me. To be honest, I deleted everyone.” A month later, all Milana’s friends in Moscow had disappeared.&nbsp;</p><p>At work, Milana says, her colleagues were shocked by her decision, and believed that “some Caucasus guy was ‘recruiting’ me”. “Gradually, fewer clients came to the salon where I worked. And after a couple of months the manager told me that my services were no longer required,” Milana says. “I couldn’t survive on the little money I’d saved. Nobody would rent an apartment in the centre [of Moscow] to me, and I was refused other accommodation. They told me openly that they wouldn’t rent to a woman wearing a hijab. I couldn’t even find work in a small local hairdresser’s. As soon as they set eyes on me, they said no.

”&nbsp;</p><p>Milana sold most of her expensive clothes and found a job in a tiny barber shop catering to Tajik and Uzbek clients, who didn’t mind her new style of clothing. “People crossed themselves while sitting opposite me on the tram. Some swore at me, others turned up their noses, insulted me, called me a fundamentalist,” she says of that time. “But the only thing which really hurt me was my family’s response — they still thought that I’d been ‘recruited’, corrupted, radicalised.”</p><p>Milana’s anonymous social media friend continued to write to her. After half a year, without even having seen a photograph of her, he proposed marriage. When Milana agreed, he wrote that there was one important condition.</p><p>“I understood that I was to become his second wife,” Milana says. “He had started to send hadith to me relating to polygamy and the role of second wives, trying to reassure me that it wasn’t the same as being a mistress.”&nbsp;</p><h2>Salam, Dagestan

&nbsp;</h2><p>Milana soon left for Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, to meet and marry her suitor. Her parents didn’t approve the marriage, but they had no say in her decision.&nbsp;</p><p>“[My suitor’s] brothers and sister knew about the marriage, but he hid it from his wife and mother,” Milana says. “I still don’t know how he managed to, but I didn’t care. I was wonderfully happy. Over the next five years, we never had a single fight.”

&nbsp;</p><p>Milana’s husband concealed the extent of his wealth. For a year she lived in a tiny rented apartment in the suburbs of Makhachkala. “Of course, he wasn’t with me for the whole time — he just dropped by occasionally to spend the night,” she says. “Then on the eve of Eid, after the holy month of Ramadan, he arrived and said he had a surprise. He drove me to a beautiful, big house, saying ‘this is your new home.’”

&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Not everyone was accepting. After four years, Milana’s mother-in-law started trying to send her back to Moscow&nbsp;</p><p>Very slowly, old friends from Moscow who had shunned Milana at first started to come back into her life. Her husband bought them tickets to visit her in Makhachkala. Now they didn’t hesitate to say that Milana had “made the right decision”.</p><p>“I returned to the beauty industry and made a lot of new friends — and not only those who wore the hijab,” she says. “They all knew the story of how I had converted, and all admired me for it.”</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/Gimry_Mosque.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Gimry_Mosque.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'>Mosque in Gimry, Dagestan. Photo CC: Varvara Pakhomenko / International Crisis Group / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>But not everyone was accepting. After four years, Milana’s mother-in-law started trying to send Milana back to Moscow. “One day, my husband returned home very frightened. It later turned out that his mother had given him a week to send me back to Moscow and out of his life — otherwise, I’d end up in a grave,” she says. “She’d been shown pictures of my life before I converted to Islam, when I danced in clubs, went to the beach in a bikini and so on. And she said that she wouldn’t allow ‘some Russian model to bear my son’s children’. He succumbed to her pressure.”&nbsp;</p><p>Her husband sent Milana back to Moscow, saying it was “just for a little while”. But she decided not to return to Makhachkala. And although she spent the next six months veiled, constant suspicion and problems with finding work convinced her to gradually adopt a different wardrobe.</p><p>“I swapped my hijab for a simple scarf and my long dress for a knee-length shirt,” she says. “I then found a good job, where the manager convinced me to remove the scarf, too.”&nbsp;</p><h2>Little Ingushetia</h2><p>I met Leila (a pseudonym, at her request) in coffee shop in Moscow. She’d brought her young daughter along to the meeting. Leila also has two sons — the oldest will soon be 14. Leila is an ethnic Russian who converted to Islam in the early 2000s when she was just 19 years old.&nbsp;</p><p>“My parents didn’t really set any strict boundaries, and my conversion to Islam was almost an attempt to surprise everyone. I certainly succeeded,” she says.</p><p>Having converted, Leila changed her lifestyle very quickly, completely cutting off contact with men. “All my friends were shocked — they tried to ‘rescue’ me. I completely changed my clothes, and only wanted to talk about religion. As a result, my social circle changed too,” she says.&nbsp;</p><p>After half a year, Leila got married. She was introduced to her intended by her new Muslim friends, and after just two weeks they were already married by Islamic law — entering into a <em>nikah</em>, a religious contract.&nbsp;</p><p>Leila’s husband, a man from Ingushetia ten years her senior, was a recent divorcee and lived in Moscow with his parents. Before long, their marriage was legalised not only before God, but before the state, too — they had ceremony in a registry office.&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/Moscow_Cathedral_Mosque_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Moscow_Cathedral_Mosque_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="253" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Moscow’s Cathedral Mosque, rebuilt in 2015. CC-by-NC-ND-2.0: Khusen Rustamov / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Leila soon had a child and ditched her studies. Her new mother-in-law was Russian, though that didn’t make their relationship easier. “She had lived her life in an Ingush village high in the mountains, cooked soup in a cauldron, washed the cows under the supervision of her husband’s eight sisters. She understood how an Ingush family functioned, and told me that men married to ensure there was somebody to work at home,” Leila says.</p><p>Because her new husband’s parents were already elderly, all of the housework was Leila’s responsibility.&nbsp;</p><p>And there was a lot of it. Whenever relatives dropped by — and they dropped by often — Leila would have to prepare a meal and clean up after them. Cleaning their shoes was a particular responsibility. “When his cousins arrived one night, they simply threw their shirts and socks into the bathroom and everything was expected to be clean by the following morning. I tried as hard as I could to put up with it, but always felt the crushing weight of duty,” she says.&nbsp;</p><p>Leila’s husband would try to help out, but the mother-in-law would intervene. Leila soon began experiencing feelings of worthlessness and discomfort.&nbsp;</p><p>Today, Leila is convinced that a common religion alone isn’t enough to strengthen a family, no matter how pious the husband and wife. “If you want to really integrate, you have to convert to cultural traditions, too,” she says.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Russian women are popular with Muslim men, because they make fewer demands of them”&nbsp;</p><p>Leila and her husband later divorced, on her initiative. She says the relationship collapsed for personal reasons unrelated to her husband’s background. These days Leila is no longer so strict about how she dresses — she’s exchanged her hijab for a scarf and hat, and her dress for a pair of jeans. Her children remain with her, although according to Ingush tradition they should be with their father. For some time, her husband threatened to take the children away, but never made good on his threats and later accepted the situation.&nbsp;</p><p>“Russian women are popular with Muslim men, because they make fewer demands of them,” Leila says. She says that Arab men in particular entertain romantic and unrealistic notions about Russian women. “It’s said that they give their love and ask for nothing in return. People from the North Caucasus believe similar stereotypes.”</p><h2>From Grozny with love

&nbsp;</h2><p>Alyona has lived in Grozny for three years. She’s 31 years old, and met her husband in the Russian Far North. She’s an ethnic Ukrainian, who was born and raised in the Komi Republic, a region in northern Russia. Like many from the North Caucasus, her husband moved there to find decent work.&nbsp;</p><p>“At the beginning I thought that it wasn’t serious, that he’d just return to Chechnya and nothing would come of it. But it didn’t turn out like that. I was working in a bank, and suddenly a vacancy appeared in Kabardino-Balkaria. I applied, and after half a year they sent me down there. Upon arrival, I converted to Islam and we married,” Alyona tells me.

&nbsp;</p><p>Alyona’s husband, who is ten years older, had already been married — his children by his first wife live with his mother. These circumstances did not deter Alyona, nor her family. “He met with my family before the marriage and instantly won them over — such an intelligent, well-read guy,” she says.” My mother could see that he truly cared about me.”&nbsp;</p><p>They didn’t go to a registry office. According to Alyona, few people bother to register their marriages in Chechnya. “There the only thing that matters is the <em>nikah</em>. As long as you’re married in the eyes of God, nothing else is significant,” she says.

&nbsp;</p><p>Alyona decided to convert to Islam before relocating to the North Caucasus. At the time, public opinion in much of Russia was not favourable to Muslims. “Even now, when people ask my relatives about me and they are told that I live in Chechnya and am married, their first reaction is fear and shock,” she says.</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_01277888.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01277888.LR_.ru__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'>Fashion and faith. Advertisement billboards in Grozny, Chechnya. (c) Ramil Sitdikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>She’s also dealt with her fair share of unpleasant situations. “Once I was on a train from Nalchik, headed north. I was speaking with some women and mentioned that my husband was a Chechen. It was very cold, I was wearing slippers and had forgotten to bring a proper change of shoes. As night fell, I lay down to sleep and heard my fellow travellers whispering around me. ‘Will we get there? Will we not? Will we be blown up?’ I didn’t immediately realise that they were talking about me. It turned out that they’d assumed that as I was carrying such a large suitcase, and hadn’t bothered to bring a change of shoes for the journey, that I must be carrying a bomb,” she remembers.</p><p>In Chechnya, things went more smoothly than Alyona expected. She integrated and adopted local customs. As she puts it, she “Chechenised”.&nbsp;</p><p>“Chechens can’t really secularise,” Alyona says. “They can be very loyal and communicate openly with strangers, but at home, rules are rules. And a Chechen family is first and foremost a Muslim family. In society, you need to behave in accordance with local tradition and religion.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Sadly, marriages between women who convert to Islam and men who are born and raised in Muslim families often do not last”&nbsp;</p><p>According to Alyona, the <em>marnana</em> — as Chechens call the mother of the husband — decides everything in a family. “As they say here, the <em>marnana</em> rules the world. It doesn’t matter how old your husband is, what she says goes… I know very few families where the <em>marnana</em> is happy with her daughter-in-law.”

</p><p>Alyona herself didn’t have much to do with her mother-in-law, nor with the other members of her new family. They didn’t react well to the news that a non-Chechen woman would be joining their clan. Her husband’s relatives didn’t turn up at their wedding. “When we got married, the arguments began,” she says. “It was very tough then, and it’s not easy now. But I’ve worked up an immunity to it all. They’d never openly say that my ethnicity was the problem, but I reckon they’re not at all pleased that I’m not Chechen.”

</p><p>Alyona’s friends and colleagues are more indifferent to her ethnicity. Many treat her like a local. Alyona believes it’s essential to convert in order to have any chance of a normal family life with a Muslim husband. “How will you bring up your kids? What will you tell them about God? What holidays and festivals will you observe? How will you pray? Will you get your sons circumcised?” asks Alyona. “A family with mixed religious can hardly expect a normal existence — there will be conflicts, clashes, contradictions.”

&nbsp;</p><h2>Fitting in with the faithful&nbsp;</h2><p>Unfortunately, Alyona’s story appears to be more of an exception than the rule. Many marriages between female converts to Islam and men from Muslim backgrounds end in divorce. The religious factor, so commonly assumed to help unite husband and wife — and wife with her in-laws — means little.&nbsp;</p><p>Olga Pavlova, an associate professor of ethnography and psychology at the Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, explains that the problem isn’t necessarily in Islam itself, but in the customs and traditions of the North Caucasus’s Muslim-majority ethnic groups.

&nbsp;</p><p>“Sadly, marriages between women who convert to Islam and men who are born and raised in Muslim families often do not last,” Pavlova says “And Islam itself has less to do with it [than traditions]. Many ethnic groups in the region which are historically Muslim, whether they live strictly according to tradition or have just preserved some elements of it, don’t just adhere to the principles of their faith, but to older communal customs — the <em>adat</em>. A society living by these customs is worlds away from the lifestyle which a young woman would lead in, say, Moscow.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The understanding of romantic love can differ between recent female converts to Islam and their new husbands</p><p>Pavlova points out that the North Caucasus has its own, very specific customs. “When she gets married to a guy with this background, the young woman needs to understand that she’s entering a union not only with her husband, but with his entire family,” Pavlova says. “She’ll need to build a good relationship not only with her husband, but with a large number of his relatives, above all his parents.
 This is an extremely daunting task for a young woman who isn’t prepared for it. Upon converting to Islam, she may have the illusion that accepting the religion opens the doors to all other cultural traditions, too. In practice, this is quite misleading.” &nbsp;</p><p>According to Pavlova, while religion is an integrating factor, cultural identity is just as important in daily life. Moreover, the understanding of romantic love can also differ between recent female converts to Islam and their new husbands. “For example, there are many taboos against public displays of affection towards a wife. A young woman who’s not used to these cultural norms could interpret that as alienation or disinterest,” Pavlova says. “When a woman enters one of these marriages, she’ll have to prepare herself to become a Chechen or an Ingush depending on the family she’s married into.”</p><p>In Moscow, St Petersburg and other large Russian cities, an industrial or post-industrial model of the family dominates, which is very distinctive from the traditional patriarchal model. This is seen in the theoretical equality of the genders, or in the gradual blurring of the boundaries between them. In traditional families, the husband is simply the unquestioned authority at home, and his wife depends on him.
 &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/e314ad78.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/e314ad78.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'>Converting to Islam isn’t the most important factor in successfully integrating to a Muslim family. The most complex challenge is building a relationship with other family members, particularly with other women. Photo: ansar.ru</span></span></span></p><p>According to Pavlova, some young Russian women believe that they can only be “real women” when in a relationship with a hyper-masculine or even violent man&nbsp;— traits often ascribed to the North Caucasus. But this is a huge misconception. The masculine traits demonstrated by “real men” during courtship do not guarantee happiness in family life, where patience, kindness, and empathy are crucial.</p><p>Divorcing a woman who has converted to Islam, and usually comes from a different ethnic group, is quite easy. In tricky situations, she’ll be pitted against her husband’s entire family and clan — her family won’t want to get involved. Leila found this out the hard way when she came under pressure from her husband’s relatives and couldn’t turn to her own family for support.

</p><p>“When people in the North Caucasus marry within their own ethnic group, the union is traditionally seen as bringing together two clans, and its success is therefore a shared interest. In these cases it’s not as easy for husband and wife simply break up. In a multi-ethnic marriage when the wife is Russian, then she has no family to support her,” Pavlova explains. “For the husband, the social cost of the divorce is less significant — and such marriages aren’t subject to the traditional methods of social control which would otherwise ensure their longevity.”&nbsp;</p><h2>Life as a second wife

&nbsp;</h2><p>When our first heroine, Milana, discovered that she was to share her husband with another wife, she took the news remarkably well. Offers to become a second wife aren’t uncommon, but there are few women who would willingly agree to such an arrangement. In fact, women born into Muslim families are least likely to accept it, even though Islam permits polygamy. What do women find so distasteful about it?</p><p>“The term ‘second wife’ is a bit of a misnomer; it can also imply a mistress, who doesn’t enjoy any rights in the relationship,” Pavlova explains. “Second wives’ marriages are not even recorded at registry offices. The new in-laws may have little to do with her — second wives are often kept well away from the first wife and her children, which Islam does not allow. In fact, the main thing which distinguishes adultery from a normal family life in Islamic law is its publicity.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In Pavlova’s experience, Russian women are more willing to become second wives rather than women from the North Caucasus&nbsp;</p><p>In Pavlova’s experience, Russian women are more willing to become second wives rather than women from the North Caucasus. “And they’re exposed to a great risk. There’s no such thing as a ‘secret’ marriage with, say, an Ingush woman — she’ll have a big family and in principle her family will be there to defend her in case of ill treatment,” Pavlova says. “But although a wife from another culture, an outsider, does have rights according to sharia [Islamic law], they can be easily violated. Her new husband can divorce her at any moment, with or without good reason.

 Since second marriages are not noted at registry offices, the woman has few paces she can appeal to in case of divorce. There are always religious leaders, Imams or Mullahs. There’s the local government, too — but Russia is a secular state, and their influence is limited. A court’s judicial authority may not be taken seriously in family matters by the husband or his family.”</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/polygamy01_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/polygamy01_b.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'>In many cases, second wives are not given many rights, and it’s much easier for their husband to divorce them. Photo: islamdag.ru</span></span></span></p><p>A young woman who has just converted to Islam and surrounded by a foreign culture may be quite psychologically vulnerable. In some cases this works to her new husband’s advantage, with tragic consequences.

“Some women convert under duress, and those who don’t can often be quite impressionable. If she’s become disillusioned with her husband, she could become disillusioned with her new faith. She could become disillusioned with its interpretation, and move towards a more radical form of Islam,” says Pavlova.

&nbsp;</p><h2><em>Nikah</em>: what can I do, what must I do?&nbsp;</h2><p>Although countless women in Russia have converted to Islam in order to marry a Muslim man, they are not obliged to do so by Islamic law, notes Anar Ramazanov, Islamic scholar and Imam-<em>khatib</em>. Furthermore, conversions under duress are forbidden in Islam. “In the Qu’ran it’s written that a Muslim man can marry a Christian or Jewish women. These are monotheistic religions that recognise the existence of one, unified God. Marrying <em>kaffirs</em> or pagans — atheists, or anybody who denies the existence of that God — is categorically forbidden in Islam,” explains Ramazanov.
&nbsp;</p><p>Ramazanov knows several unions involving Muslim men and non-Muslim women — and in half of them, the woman has converted to Islam. He adds that there are also no religious prohibitions against concluding a <em>nikah</em> (Islamic marriage contract) between a Muslim man and a woman of a monotheistic faith.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The biggest problem faced by recent converts to Islam is that their marriages to Muslim men are often secret&nbsp;</span></p><p>“Remember that in both the Bible and the Torah, the husband is seen as the head of the family. Therefore, the children of a Muslim father should always be raised as Muslims,” Ramazanov says.</p><p>Ramazanov has seen plenty of divorces — though rarely for strictly religious reasons. The problem usually lies elsewhere. “Complaints are usually about the husband’s behaviour: that he doesn’t look after me, doesn’t pay attention, and so on. These complaints are quite common in marriages between men from the North Caucasus and women from a non-Muslim background, from elsewhere in Russia. Their wives complain that their new husbands frequently leave the region and aren’t home for months. I regularly meet women who need advice about what to do in this situation. I recommend that they ask for a divorce,” he says.</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/slack-imgs.com__0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/slack-imgs.com__0.jpeg" 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'>A village wedding in Dagestan, 2011. Photo CC-by-2.0: Un Bolshakov / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><div>In Islamic law, a woman can ask for a divorce if her husband has beaten, humiliated or offended her, if he no longer provides for her, doesn’t perform his conjugal duties, contracts a serious contagious disease, goes to jail to goes missing without a trace.</div><p>“A woman has the right to a divorce for other reasons, too — if, say, she’s simply fallen out of love with her husband and can’t go on living with him,” Ramazanov says. “Her husband can refuse. If that’s the case, we encourage the couple to try and find common ground. If that doesn’t work, the wife can again ask for a divorce. She can then demand of the Imam that he summon her husband and witnesses, who can break the <em>nikah</em> in his presence, in a mosque. She’s then free to leave the marriage. Men often accept the situation by this stage — but the ex-wife must now return the <em>mahr</em>, her wedding gift.”&nbsp;</p><h2>Between devotion and divorce&nbsp;</h2><p>The biggest problem faced by recent converts to Islam is that their marriages to Muslim men are often secret. In Milana’s case, only a few of her husband’s friends and relatives knew about the wedding. Even fewer knew that it also involved a <em>nikah</em>, a religious commitment.</p><p>“These ’secret’ marriages are a very delicate issue. I’ve been contacted by several young women who have found themselves in such situations,” notes Olga Pavlova. “Recent converts to Islam are particularly vulnerable. Secret marriages usually end in divorce, and the wife is left with psychological problems… For their own sake, their sense of honour and their physical and mental health, young women in this position must insist on a public wedding, a commitment made before society. And most of all, she mustn’t forget that clandestine marriages aren’t permitted under Islamic law.”&nbsp;</p><p>Pavlova adds that many people don’t treat a <em>nikah</em> too seriously — at least, not as consequential as a wedding at a registry office. “Even in religious circles I hear that the registrar’s stamp is a must. That is to say, you can live together as a couple after a <em>nikah</em>, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect serious intentions,” she says.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">“If a young man is serious about the relationship, then he has to get to know his fiancé’s parents and build a relationship with them — including introducing them to his own family”&nbsp;</span></p><p>“If a man insists that a <em>nikah</em> alone is sufficient, his wife-to-be should think very carefully. In fact, the European Council for Fatwa and Research ruled that a state registration of a marriage between Muslims, if attended by two witnesses, is adequate. Given that it demonstrates mutual consent and a public declaration of commitment, it fulfils the minimum requirements for a religious marriage under Islamic law,” Pavlova adds.&nbsp;</p><p>Anar Ramazanov recounts the guidelines for a religious marriage, and stresses that any attempt by the groom to avoid them should worry his future wife. “When I’m approached by couples where the wife has never been married before, I always ask for her parents’ consent. It’s only fair — because she can be misled,” he says. “A young woman in that position needs some defence; she can be enchanted at first, and then end up very disappointed.”</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/MountainFlowers_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/MountainFlowers_0.jpg" 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'>Wildflowers in Kabardino-Balkaria, in Russia’s North Caucasus region. Photo CC-by-SA-2.0: Lyudmila Khorunzhaya / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>A man’s arguments that the consent of non-Muslim parents is unnecessary should not be taken at face value, according to Ramazanov. “If the young woman’s parents are atheist or pagan, then it’s technically not required — but if they’re Christian or Jewish then Islamic law demands that he get to know them and ask for permission to marry their daughter.”</p><p>Pavlova agrees, though sees this process as part and parcel of the pre-marital customs of many cultures and faiths. “If a young man is serious about the relationship, then he has to get to know his fiancé’s parents and build a relationship with them — including introducing them to his own family,” she says.&nbsp;</p><h2>Seeking salvation&nbsp;</h2><p>In modern Russia, there is a multitude of stories involving non-Muslim women marrying Muslim men— and a multitude of possible endings to those stories. Some, unfortunately, end tragically. More frequently than not, Islamic law and norms do not save a new wife from mistreatment by her in-laws, nor from psychological or physical abuse from her husband.</p><p>Any expert will tell you that taking on a new faith is a serious commitment and a serious decision. Any woman who does so to find a husband should understand that the problem isn’t religious identity, but the customs and way of life of her new husband and of his family. She must learn her rights as well as her responsibilities — both the Islamic (sharia) and those traditional to the North Caucasus (<em>adat</em>).&nbsp;</p><p>If the former are violated, she mustn’t hesitate to seek help. It’s worth remembering that Islam doesn’t only concern itself with women’s duties — but their rights, too.</p><p><em>Translated from Russian by Maxim Edwards<br />&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/sergei-mokhov-last-30-project/living-in-islam-russian-muslims-tell-their-stories">Living in Islam: Russian Muslims tell their stories</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-kosterina/love-north-caucasus-style">Love, North Caucasus style</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/agnieszka-pikulicka-wilczewska/women-of-brest-station">The women of Brest Station</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/dagestan-who-owns-women-s-bodies">Who owns women’s bodies in Dagestan?</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 Ekaterina Neroznikova Romantic regimes Russia Religion Caucasus Wed, 01 Mar 2017 14:08:04 +0000 Ekaterina Neroznikova 109158 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Crimea: peninsula of torture https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/crimea-peninsula-of-torture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Three years on from Crimea’s annexation by Russia, brutal torture is being used to scare the peninsula into silence and submission.</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/Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 12.41.58.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="268" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>21 February, 2017: Russian security services search Crimean Tatar homes in Kamenka, Simferopol, arresting 10 people. Source: <a href=https://grani-ru-org.appspot.com/Politics/World/Europe/Ukraine/m.258957.html>Grani</a>. </span></span></span>Three years on since the Russian authorities took control of Crimea, Russian security forces’ actions on the peninsula increasingly recall methods that first gained infamy in the North Caucasus. Crimean Tatars and pro-Ukrainian activists disappear without a trace, people who protest the policies of the new authorities are arrested, Salafi Muslims are persecuted. Just like in the Caucasus, it’s difficult for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/crimea-s-unfreedom-of-speech">journalists</a>, <a href="http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1476007653">rights defenders</a> and <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/01/30/crimea-defense-lawyers-harassed">lawyers</a> to operate in Crimea — they are all subject to pressure.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Torture has come to Crimea, too. In particular, the Russian security services’ favourite method — electric shock. Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and those arrested with him in 2014 have <a href="http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1457711406">revealed</a> the brutal torture they faced as part of an “anti-terrorism” investigation after the annexation of Crimea. Other Ukrainian citizens sentenced for their participation in Maidan, such as<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/igor-gukovsky/making-them-pay-for-maidan"> Alexander Kostenko and Andriy Kolomiets</a>, have also been tortured.</p><p dir="ltr">The “Crimean terrorist” case, which saw Sentsov receive a 20-year prison sentence in 2015, is now being followed by the high-profile <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37037401">“Crimean saboteur”</a> case. Since August 2016, many of those accused in this new case have stated that they were also tortured during the investigation.</p><h2>Sabotage</h2><p dir="ltr">In August and November last year, the FSB detained 10 people in Crimea. These men have been declared participants of “saboteur terrorist groups”, which were allegedly preparing bomb attacks on the peninsula under the aegis of Ukrainian intelligence.</p><p dir="ltr">Russian television<a href="http://tass.ru/proisshestviya/3533783"> broadcast confessions</a> of practically all those arrested, in which the men said they had been working for Ukraine’s Chief Directorate of Intelligence (HUR). Later, several of the “saboteurs”, who managed to consult with independent solicitors,<a href="http://lb.ua/news/2016/12/05/352613_dva_krimskih_diversanta.html"> retracted their confessions</a> and stated that they had given that testimony<a href="https://zona.media/article/2016/08/12/panov-torture"> under torture</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The first arrests took place in August. On 10 August, the FSB<a href="https://ria.ru/defense_safety/20160810/1474038924.html"> announced</a> that it had prevented terrorist acts in Crimea and “liquidated an agent network of the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine”. Off the record, anonymous sources in the security service stated that, on 6 August, a group of saboteurs had sailed to Crimea from mainland Ukraine through the Sivash system of lakes. An FSB special forces unit was waiting for them and, in the course of a short firefight, an FSB colonel, Roman Kamenev, was<a href="http://kommersant.ru/doc/3065508"> killed</a> alongside two saboteurs — the rest managed to escape. The names of the dead saboteurs are unknown.&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/Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 12.31.34.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>State media broadcast of evidence found in Andrei Zakhtei's car. Source: <a href=http://tass.ru/proisshestviya/3533783>TASS</a>.</span></span></span>The next day, the authorities started an operation to find the men who’d escaped — all border crossings were closed, local residents reported the presence of many soldiers and military vehicles. On the evening of 7 August, as anonymous sources<a href="http://kommersant.ru/doc/3065508"> told</a> Kommersant, the saboteurs were found in the Sivash system. A Russian soldier, Semyon Sychev, was killed, and the group escaped again. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Initially, Russian news agencies reported different numbers of those arrested, but there was confirmation of the arrest of only four people — Redvan Suleimanov, Vladimir Prisich, Evgeny Panov and Andrei Zakhtei. None of these men were connected to the shootout with the supposed saboteurs, according to the evidence they gave. Moreover, according to the Russian investigation, they weren’t even part of the same group. The Ukrainian side categorically denies the possibility of Ukrainian saboteurs in Crimea, and HUR claims that the detainees had no links to the security services.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">All four men confessed to working for Ukrainian intelligence, and these confessions were broadcast on Russian TV</p><p dir="ltr">As the FSB claims, Redvan Suleimanov, a Crimean Tatar, was recruited by Ukrainian intelligence. Suleimanov allegedly helped inform the police that there &nbsp;were explosive devices planted at Simferopol airport and bus stations across Crimea. On the same day (30 July), he was arrested. Suleimanov is accused of assisting in the false reporting of a terrorist act — he has not been accused of sabotage and will be tried separately.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The remaining three men — Vladimir Prisich, Evgeny Panov and Andrei Zakhtei — have been accused of preparing sabotage acts and bomb attacks in Crimea. Least is known about Vladimir Prisich, a long-distance truck driver from Kharkiv — we don't even know when he was detained. The Russia-1 television channel broadcast a clip of his confession, where Prisich claims that a HUR operative asked him to “illegally transport a 60-60-30cm box into Russian Federation territory”.</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 2017-02-24 at 12.19.17.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="253" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A still from Andrei Zakhtei's confession broadcast on Russian television. Source: <a href=http://tass.ru/proisshestviya/3533783>TASS</a>.</span></span></span>Andrei Zakhtei, 41, who was born in Lviv oblast, has for the past several years lived in Russia (he has Russian citizenship), and in summer 2016 moved to Crimea, where he worked as a driver. According to the FSB, Zakhtei was recruited by HUR to meet the inbound saboteur group with a vehicle. Zakhtei claims that he received a call requesting a pick-up for 6 August from the village of Suvorovo in northern Crimea. When he arrived, members of the FSB entered his car and then he drove them to the pre-arranged meeting place. “The FSB men exited the car and then the shooting started. I hid between the car seats,”<a href="https://zona.media/article/2016/12/12/zakhtey-torture"> said</a> Zakhtei after the investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">Evgeny Panov, 39, who worked as a driver at the nuclear power station at Enerhodar near Zaporizhzhia, was actively involved in the political life of his town. He unsuccessfully ran as a candidate from the <a href="http://www.odessatalk.com/2015/07/a-new-way-of-doing-politics-ukraine-ukrop/">Ukrop political party</a>, and fought as a volunteer in the Donbass. Panov was arrested on the night of 7 August, when he tried to enter Crimea at the Kalanchak border point by car. The FSB claims that he was “one of the organisers of the failed terrorist acts”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">You can still see the scars on Zakhtei’s hands left by the torture — these scars were confirmed by doctors who inspected him in Simferopol pre-trial detention</p><p dir="ltr">All four men confessed to working for Ukrainian intelligence, and these confessions were broadcast on Russian TV. Panov and Zakhtei were transferred to Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, which is unofficially controlled by the FSB. This is where solicitors gained access to Panov and Zakhtei, who told them they had agreed to read prepared texts to camera under torture.&nbsp;</p><h2>Electric shock</h2><p dir="ltr">“They beat my head with an iron pipe, my back, my kidneys, my arms, my legs, they stretched my handcuffs till my hands went numb, they hung me up by my handcuffs: they bent my legs at the knees, brought the handcuffs to my front just beneath my knees and then put an iron bar under my knees. Then two men picked this bar and me up from either side, causing me incredible pain.” This is how Evgeny Panov describes what happened to him after he was arrested. His statement on torture was sent to Russia’s Investigative Committee, which is yet to react.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Further, Panov<a href="https://zona.media/article/2016/08/12/panov-torture"> stated</a> that “during the torture they put a clamp on my penis and then screwed it until I went numb”, and then beat and shocked him: “They attached some electrodes to my right knee, left leg and hip with tape, and turned the electricity on. I lost consciousness several times.” Vladimir Prisich and Redvan Suleimanov also stated that they had been tortured with electric shocks, although the details of the violence they experienced are still unknown.</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/RIAN_02988036.LR_.ru_.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'>December 2016: Evgeny Panov at Lefortovo court, Moscow. (c) Ekaterina Chesnakova / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>You can still see the scars on Zakhtei’s hands left by the torture — these scars were confirmed by doctors who inspected him in Simferopol pre-trial detention. “The scars appeared after the FSB operatives brought my wrists back with the handcuffs,”<a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2016/12/12/7129625/"> explained</a> Zakhtei. “When they shocked me, I was shaking a lot with the pain, and my wrists were cut as a result. They shocked me for two days. First they attached the electrodes to my knees and buttocks, turned the current on, and then demanded that I confess to committing a crime. I said that I was a just a taxi driver and drove to the place of the shootout on the request of a client, but they continued to torture me. Then they attached the electrodes to my genitals, and I lost consciousness.”</p><p dir="ltr">Ilya Novikov, who is representing Andrei Zakhtei,<a href="http://echo.msk.ru/blog/ilya_s_novikov/1887248-echo/"> believes</a> that the FSB is using these men to cover up the failure of the anti-saboteur operation and the deaths of security personnel — they just made the people they did find into the desired “saboteurs”. </p><p dir="ltr">“In the first days of the operation, they were actively searching for the diversion group across Crimea,” writes Novikov, “but the longer it went on, the more hopeless it became. Zakhtei, of course, was not released, and then they began to interrogate him about what he knew. But when it became clear that they hadn’t arrested anyone else, they made him a saboteur and beat a confession out of him.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">As we approach the third anniversary of Crimea’s annexation, there’s little doubt that Russia’s security services have broken the law in brutally torturing these men</p><p dir="ltr">This is confirmed by the fact that before the FSB charged Panov and Zakhtei with sabotage, the two men were sentenced to 15 days of arrest for hooliganism — apparently, on 7 August they were arrested for swearing on the street in Simferopol. But by that time, both men were already in the hands of the FSB. The security services needed that time to finalise the story and torture the testimony out of them.&nbsp;</p><h2>Beyond doubt</h2><p dir="ltr">New arrests<a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2016/11/10/7126373/"> began</a> on 9 November. This is when Alexei Bessarabov, Dmitry Shtyblikov and Vladimir Dudka were detained. The FSB once again announced that these men were “members of a diversion-terrorist group of Ukrainian intelligence” who “had planned to commit sabotage acts against sites of military and civilian infrastructure in Crimea”. All three men<a href="http://ru.krymr.com/a/28114768.html"> confessed</a> to working for Ukrainian intelligence, and the confessions were shown on Russian television.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Dudka is a former captain of a Jupiter­ radio intelligence ship. Shtyblikov served in Ukrainian intelligence during the 1990s, and then together with Bessarabov worked in Crimea’s Nomos analytical centre, which focuses on national security and international relations. Shtyblikov is a fan of the Airsoft military re-enactment sport, and images of his Airsoft weapons were shown on television.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Ilya Novikov, who is representing Andrei Zakhtei,&nbsp;believes&nbsp;that the FSB is using these men to cover up the failure of the anti-saboteur operation</p><p dir="ltr">Two weeks later, another two men, Alexey Stogniy and Gleb Shabliy, were<a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2016/11/21/7127433/"> arrested</a> apparently as members of the other group with Bessarabov, Dudka and Shtyblikov. RIA Novosti<a href="http://crimea.ria.ru/news/20161120/1108094751.html"> named</a> Stogniy as a colonel in HUR, and Shabliy as a Ukrainian officer.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, at the end of November, Leonid Parkhomenko, a former Russian Black Sea Fleet officer, was<a href="http://www.crimea.kp.ru/daily/26611.4/3627976/"> arrested</a>. According to the FSB, Parkhomenko “gathered and transferred information comprising state secrets regarding the activities of the Black Sea Fleet” for Ukraine’s Chief Directorate of Intelligence. He has been accused of state treason.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">As to the other men charged, the details of these charges and even which articles of Russia’s Criminal Code they’re being charged under are unclear — their legal counsel are extremely unwilling to talk to journalists and rights defenders. None of the men arrested in November have reported instances of violence against them. However, given how closed this case is and the fact that the men detained in August have been tortured, there are grounds to suggest that the latest wave of arrestees are also facing brutal treatment.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">It’s still difficult to judge what the “Crimean saboteurs” have actually done and whether they have broken the law — the case is highly secretive, and the men’s legal representatives are forbidden from revealing details. But as we approach the third anniversary of Crimea’s annexation, there’s little doubt that Russia’s security services have broken the law in brutally torturing these men.</p><p dir="ltr">&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/igor-gukovsky/making-them-pay-for-maidan">Making them pay for Maidan</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/irina-slavina/new-casualties-of-russia-s-war-on-terror">The new casualties of Russia’s war on terror</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/crimea-s-unfreedom-of-speech">Crimea: freedom of speech turns to freedom of silence</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 Yegor Skovoroda Ukraine Russia Mon, 27 Feb 2017 09:34:08 +0000 Yegor Skovoroda 109044 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Listening to Russia’s female migrants https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/fergana-news/listening-russia-female-migrants-gul-magazine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How a new multilingual magazine in St Petersburg is giving a voice to female migrants from Central Asia.</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/Gul_Magazine.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Gul_Magazine.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="161" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Masthead of Gul, a new St. Petersburg-based magazine written by and for female migrants from Central Asia. Illustration by Sufi Nazar Guli, courtesy of Fergana News. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><br /><em>This article by Ekaterina Ivashchenko originally appeared in Russian at the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fergananews.com/articles/9254" target="_blank">Fergana.News information agency</a>, a leading source of information on Central Asia. We are grateful for their permission to translate and republish it here.</em><br /><br />The first issue of <em>Gul</em> was published in St Petersburg in mid-December 2016. The newspaper, whose name translates as “flower”, isn’t just for women from central Asia — it’s produced <em>by</em> them, too. All of the publication’s founders are current or former labour migrants from the region, who are well versed in the problems faced by central Asian women arriving in Russia to work. In their words, these women face double the discrimination, due to both gender and legal status. Their need for help is twice as great. </p><p>That’s where <em>Gul </em>comes in, offering female migrants from Central Asia assistance, solidarity — and the opportunity to voice their own concerns and their own stories. As the publication’s readers are mostly from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, <em>Gul</em> is a multilingual newspaper — each issue features articles in Kyrgyz, Tajik, Uzbek as well as Russian. Below, the editors of <em>Gul</em> discuss their project and their own experiences as migrants.</p><h2>Two times a stranger</h2><p>Not only are the Gul team all women; they’re young women. Some of them aren’t yet 20. The initiator of the project, Petersburg resident Yulia Alimova, has been dealing with labour migration for several years.</p><p>“I was working for Observers of St Petersburg, a local NGO, when my colleagues decided to start free Russian-language lessons for the children of migrants. We soon found a place to hold them and began teaching in spring 2012, naming the course ‘<a href="https://vk.com/knowyourlanguage" target="_blank">Children of St Petersburg</a>.’ From the very start they were intended for kids in kindergarten or those in the earlier school grades. We soon broadened the range of courses, and began classes for migrants up to the age of 20.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Migrant women face double the discrimination, due to both gender and legal status. Their need for help is twice as great. That’s where&nbsp;<em>Gul&nbsp;</em>comes in”</p><p>All told, over 500 people engaged with the project — some of them studied with us for just two months, other stayed for two years. Most students are emigres from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, but lately we’ve welcomed people from Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine. Many children who come to us already have enough basic Russian for everyday life, but not enough to enrol in a Russian-language school. Our teachers have either worked as volunteers in other projects, or they’re students or recent graduates themselves,” says Yuliya.</p><p>Soon, the team realised that for their project to be sustainable, they’d have to attract migrant volunteers. The guys were lucky; Guli, a girl from Kyrgyzstan who spoke Kyrgyz, English, Russian and Uzbek, came on board. A relative of one of the students also joined 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/Turkmen_Woman_Urgench_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Turkmen_Woman_Urgench_2.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'>Turkmen woman in Khiva, Uzbekistan, 2007. CC-by-2.0: Yaluker / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>“We then decided to found a new project specifically about female labour migrants, who have to endure all the hardships of migration and then some — they are the targets of even worse discrimination. We decided to found a newspaper, though admittedly it sometimes looks more like an information pamphlet. All articles are translated into Kyrgyz, Russian, Tajik and Uzbek, and the team gets some small remuneration for writing, editing and translating the texts. The first issue had a print run of 1,000 and the second of 2,000. The third will have to depend on demand,” Yuliya explains.</p><p>The magazine is distributed free of charge at migrants’ workplaces or in the government offices where they queue to collect documents. In Yulia’s words, the editorial team are free to choose topics which they feel are closest to their audience, such as women’s health or access to local kindergartens and schools for their children. They also provide information about organisations which work with migrants. The first issue profiled Children of St Petersburg, with an invitation to Russian-language courses. A young woman from Kyrgyzstan who studies medicine in St. Petersburg prepared an article about health problems during pregnancy.</p><p>“We could have attracted more experienced journalists to our project, but we particularly wanted to work with migrant women who are directly affected by the subjects we cover,” notes Yuliya. Furthermore, in working with us they gain additional skills. We have bigger ambitions for Gul — it should become a fully-established publication, issued on a regular basis. We want to release the third edition on 8 March [international women’s day], to be distributed with postcards for women. On 1 June [children’s day], we’ll hand out paper dolls with Gul and organise a festival for the migrants’ children.”</p><h2>Sufi’s story</h2><p>One of <em>Gul</em>’s regular authors Sufi Nazar Guli recently returned to her hometown of Osh after several attempts to make things work out in Russia.&nbsp;</p><p>“I was born in Isfana, graduated from university in Osh, and then studied on a two-year master’s programme in Japan” begins Guli. “After that, I returned home and got married. I thought that with an international education and language skills I could make a career for myself in Osh, but after the events of June 2010, life there changed completely. I couldn’t teach at the university, and my husband and his two brothers lost their business. They left for St Petersburg, where they tried to survive by doing any number of informal jobs.</p><p>Having worked as a teacher at a private school, I saved up money for a plane ticket and joined my husband. We told our relatives that we wanted to get Russian citizenship for the whole family, since there was no chance of building a successful career nor finding good work at home. Life in St Petersburg was tough for me — I constantly felt belittled and was treated unpleasantly. I understand that many of those who go to Russia for work who are very poorly-educated, and so are not often accepted into Russian society. And I felt the same stereotype applied to me, too. After six months I couldn’t bear it any longer. I told my husband that I’d return to Osh and live without him, as I couldn’t ignore the local attitude to migrants.</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/Osh_Bazaar.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Osh_Bazaar.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A woman sells grains at a bazaar in Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan, 2009. CC-by-NC-ND-2.0: eatsworlds / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>With the coming of the economic crisis, my husband’s situation worsened. He’d work between 12 and 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for a miserly wage. We decided to go and find work in Tyumen, where my sister lived. I applied for a temporary residence permit, but we weren’t able to adapt to the Siberian winter — my child and I often fell ill. Moreover, my husband wasn’t given a salary for six months, so we again went our separate ways — he to Petersburg and I back to Osh. Russian citizenship no longer seemed the key to our problems, and I left my ambitions behind. I had become pregnant again, and wanted to return to my parents in Osh. After a long time in Russia, I suffered from culture shock in Kyrgyzstan. I also became terrified after hearing stories of fatalities in the local maternity ward.</p><p>My husband also didn’t see any prospects in returning home, particularly since Kyrgyzstan had just joined the Eurasian Economic Union and he redoubled his efforts to find a half-decent job. After the birth of my second child in Petersburg, I found a organisation where my knowledge and skills could be put to use. The main thing for me was that I could interact with people and wasn’t sitting at home all day. I understood that I had to help others in my situation. That’s how I found Yuliya and her Children of St Petersburg project, where there were not enough Russian language teachers for the children of migrants. I wrote them a letter, saying that I knew English, Russian and Uzbek, and started work as a volunteer teacher in their language courses. I arrived to the first lesson with my own children. Children of St. Petersburg is the only organisation which didn’t turn me away because of my marital status, and even allowed me to take my two-year old son to work. At the same time, I was even able to find a kindergarten for my older son.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Women from our part of the world aren’t used to sharing their experiences in public, so <em>Gul</em>&nbsp;allows them to learn that, as well as practical writing and organisational skills</p><p>After a while, we decided that the children and I had to return to Osh, which would allow my husband to save more money to buy our very own house. After years of wandering, I accepted my fate and just before new year, bought plane tickets and returned to Osh. Just then, I was offered paid work in St Petersburg, but it was already too late. I came to understand that it’s hard for central Asians to put down roots in Russia, and I wanted my children to grow up in their own country — even though they now know Russian better than Uzbek.</p><p>As concerns my work with <em>Gul</em>, Yuliya had wanted to do something for female migrants for some time. First we started a VK page [<em>a popular Russian social network - ed.</em>], and then decided to publish a newspaper. I write articles for the paper remotely, and translate other authors’ materials into Uzbek. Women from our part of the world are not used to sharing their experiences in public, so Gul is an opportunity to develop the habit, to discuss our position in society and what we feel is important. </p><p>My first article came out in the second edition of the paper. In it, I showed through the example of my own family that despite being scattered across different countries, longing for our loved ones should not lead to a disillusionment with life. My husband was supportive. He complains that he wasn’t able to achieve his career goal and become an expert in international relations, so always supports my aspiration to be a respected expert in my own country. He feels that a mother’s role is more important in a child’s upbringing than the father’s, so wants through my example to show our children the value of education, self-confidence and of never giving up” — concludes Guli.</p><h2>A little piece of land</h2><p>Another author from Gul is the 19 year-old Dilnoza Ashurova, a native of Penjikent, Tajikistan. Her father left to work in Russia when she was just three years old, returning after she turned six. He then left for Russia again, but this time took Dilnoza’s mother with him. She and her younger sister went to live with their grandmother. When Dilnoza was eight, her father passed away in Moscow, and there was nobody left to support the family. In 2007, Dilnoza’s mother and cousin left for St Petersburg, and Dilnoza joined her in 2012, studying in a Russian school for two years. The young girl couldn’t stay in St Petersburg, as she was told by her teachers that as she had no nationality, she wouldn’t receive a certificate. Dilnoza returned to Tajikistan, and finished school there instead.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“My mother is a trained gynaecologist, but now works as a saleswoman in a bakery in St Petersburg”</p><p>After receiving my certificate and passport in summer 2016, I returned to my mother and enrolled in the St Petersburg State Technical University, in the faculty of economics and management. I wanted to become a doctor, but I can’t study for the required nine years. My mother is paying for my education, but I help her out too. My mum is a trained gynaecologist, but now works as a saleswoman in a bakery. After work, I join her for a few hours and make a bit of money. She doesn’t plan on remaining in Russia forever, while I’d like to stay here. Once my little sister finishes school, we’ll also bring her over here. Our dream is to save up money for our own house in Tajikistan — and gradually, that’s what we’re doing. My mother’s already bought some land” — says Dilnoza.</p><p>Dilnoza lives with her mother in a two-bedroom flat, where they share one of the rooms with another three migrant women. The other room is occupied by an Uzbek family, a husband and wife. Everyone pays 4,000 roubles each.</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_01472942.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01472942.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'>The Dzhurayev family from Tajikistan in their flat in suburban Moscow, which they rent with other labour migrants from Central Asia. (c) Ilya Pitalev / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Dilnoza found out about Children of St Petersburg from her mother. While working at the bakery kiosk, she was handed a flyer about the organisation. Dilnoza got in touch with Yuliya, telling her that she was 19 years old and already knew Russian well. Yuliya asked her to let them know of any migrants’ children who didn’t speak the language.&nbsp;</p><p>“That’s how we got to know each other and started talking on social media” says Dilnoza. “Yuliya told me her idea about a newspaper for migrant women, which interested me. We thought up a name and a few topics to begin with, and attended classes on layouts and formatting for publications. At first, my mother was quite cautious about the project, so Yuliya even showed up at our home to tell her about it in person and reassure her. In my first article, I looked at places in the city where migrants can go to relax on their days off. In the second, I wrote about holidays in February and March. All of us distribute the newspaper in person so see at first hand how much interest there is in our project. We’d like to take it even further.”&nbsp;</p><h2>The art of the possible</h2><p>Gulasal Bakhtierova from the Uzbek city of Urgench is also 19 years old. Her parents have worked in Petersburg for ten years. Her mother is a qualified teacher but works as a chef. Her father, a qualified lawyer, is now a sales manager. Five years ago, Gulasal joined her parents, taking her younger sister. However, she wasn’t accepted by the school due to her lack of Russian language skills. Gulasal spent an entire year with her at home, and then returned to Uzbekistan to live with their grandmother, where her sister enrolled in a local Russian-language school. One and a half years ago, the girls returned to their parents in St Petersburg. Gulasal began studies at the college of pharmacy, and her younger sister was finally accepted into high school.&nbsp;</p><p>“At the moment, I’m getting vocational training. Afterwards, I plan to continue my studies at the medical academy. My parents pay 95,000 roubles a year (£1,307) for my education, some 7,000 more than Russian citizens. I enrolled immediately — if there are no problems with documents or registration in Russia, then it’s not difficult. I’m hardly the only migrant studying in our group: there are another five from various Central Asian countries. I always wanted to become a journalist, but my parents insisted on medicine, which they felt had greater prospects” — says Gulasal.&nbsp;</p><p>Nevertheless, Gulasal’s dream lives on, and she writes texts for <em>Gul</em> with great enthusiasm. Her parents are not against their daughter’s involvement, as she gets a small fee for her articles.&nbsp;</p><p>“At first I worked for Children of St Petersburg and taught the kids Russian. That’s how I found out about the newspaper and wanted to play a part in it, writing and translating articles into Uzbek. My first article was about a woman from Tajikistan whose child had been able to learn Russian with us, so was accepted into a local school. In my second piece I told readers how to apply for a place for their children in local schools. I noticed that often migrant parents don’t even try, believing that their children will be rejected in any case. Through our family’s example, I explained that it is possible and not as daunting as it may at first seem&nbsp;</p><p>Have I encountered discrimination? Rarely. Or rather, I try not to pay attention to it. Well-brought up people don’t treat us badly. Teachers at college even make a special effort to help us. As for newspapers, we distributed the first edition at the market. When Russians hand out <em>Gul</em>, migrants are more sceptical about the project — but when we do, they show more interest. Once, I was handing out the newspaper and a young Uzbek woman noticed an article about pregnancy. She was incredulous — ‘what on earth are you giving me this for?’ I was embarrassed, but that’s exactly why we do what we do — so that migrant women overcome their shyness and learn to discuss these issues more openly.”</p><p><em>Digital versions of </em><em>Gul</em><em> magazine can be <a href="https://vk.com/gazetagul" target="_blank">downloaded from the newspaper’s VK page</a></em>.</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/agnieszka-pikulicka-wilczewska/women-of-brest-station">The women of Brest Station</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach-ilya-budraitskis/dreams-of-europe-refugees-and-xenophobia-in-russia-and-ukra">Dreams of Europe: refugees and xenophobia in Russia and Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/olga-gulina/redrawing-map-of-migration-patterns">Re-drawing the map of migration patterns </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/refugee-family-s-ordeal-in-russia">A refugee family’s ordeal in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/warped-mirror-how-russian-media-covers-europe%E2%80%99s-refugee-crisis">Warped mirror: how Russian media covers Europe’s refugee crisis </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 Fergana News Unlikely Media Russia Media Central Asia Fri, 24 Feb 2017 09:41:32 +0000 Fergana News 109045 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 Cultural politics Russia Conflict Thu, 23 Feb 2017 19:36:23 +0000 Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia and Mischa Gabowitsch 108999 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Love, North Caucasus style https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/irina-kosterina/love-north-caucasus-style <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the North Caucasus, traditional and modern expectations of relationships are more chequered than a patchwork quilt. Here’s how young couples negotiate them. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/irina-kosterina/kavkazskaya-lyubov">Русский</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/553429/RIAN_02707574.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02707574.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="lead " 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'>A young couple pose for a photo at Naryn-Kala fortress in Derbent, Dagestan, 2015. (c) Vladimir Vyatkin / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Many members of Russia’s older generation associate love and romance in the Caucasus with the 1967 Soviet comedy <a href="http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x12l7q0_kidnapping-caucasian-style-1967-pt-1_creation">“Kidnapping, Caucasian Style”</a>, a film full of wild passions and fine age-old traditions and customs. But for the younger generation, the phrase is more likely to evoke issues around infringements of women’s rights, abduction trials and so-called honour killings.</p><p>Generational differences in gender relations and ways of life are easy enough to see in the region itself. Arranged marriages used to be the norm here, with families deciding who should marry whom and the young couple meeting for the first time on their wedding day. </p><p>Many of the people I’ve talked to in the Caucasus tell jokes about how their parents got married. Muhammed, from Ingushetia, recalls his father’s story about coming back from the fields one evening and bumping into his mates, who told him that his family had found him a bride and set their wedding day. The lad was totally shaken by the news: who was the girl and would he like her? When he got home, he was delighted to discover that he knew her - they were neighbours; but Muhammed never got round to asking his father whether they actually hit it off together. </p><p>This kind of story is rare nowadays: young people would rather choose their own partners and marry for love. But there is still the odd young man who doesn’t trust himself to choose a wife and turns to his mother or aunt for help. </p><h2>Mountain romance </h2><p>The theme, or rather storytelling, of love and romance has always existed in the North Caucasus. Every culture has its fine legends of local Romeos and Juliets, and many families can tell tales about how their great-grandmothers and -grandfathers met and married. Inevitably, some of the tales involve forbidden or thwarted love, parents who refused their permission to marry, partings or forced breaks with families (a common enough occurrence, especially if the loved one came from another ethnic group or religion). Listening to these stories, you can feel like you’re watching a Turkish TV epic, where passions flare, tears flow, horsemen gallop around on their steeds and women spend their evenings sitting sadly under a mulberry tree.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Emotions are supposedly only for women</p><p>At the same time, many cultures still preserve in real life an unspoken (and in some cases reinforced by local codes of behaviour) taboo on any public show of feelings or emotions. This particularly affects men, who are not encouraged to show signs of love and affection towards not only their wives, but even their children, in public. Emotions are supposedly only for women. And these same rules regulate other aspects of relations between men and women – courtship, acquaintance, meetings, proposals and even behaviour at one’s own wedding.<br />&nbsp;<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/Magas_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Magas_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="274" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, with a view to the Caucasus Mountains beyond. Photo CC-by-4.0: Adam Sagov / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>&nbsp;<span>A system of rituals, honed down to the smallest detail, was in place in the Caucasus long before the Bolshevik Revolution and stayed in place all through the Soviet years. It dictated how couples could meet during their courtship, the distance to be left between the man and the woman, and everything else, including the need for separate men’s and women’s tables (or even rooms) at weddings. However, over the last twenty years, with economic slumps and endless armed conflicts in the republics of the region, these rules have declined in importance and been replaced by Islamist precepts, on the one hand and secular values, on the other.</span></p><p>Nowadays, gender relations in the Caucasus would remind you of a patchwork quilt, assembled from a variety of pieces that don’t always go together: traditional attitudes and the harsh requirements of pre-Islamic rituals can co-exist with European lifestyles; and young couples keeping the required distance between them on dates doesn’t stop them flirting on Whatsapp. </p><h2>Romance or pragmatism? </h2><p>It’s clear from our research that dreams of European-style “romance” are more widespread among young girls, who live in expectation of beautiful love stories, gallantries, attention, gifts and bouquets. These new expectations are largely the result of watching foreign TV programmes: in the 90s it was all Mexican soap operas, followed by Indian films and finally, Turkish serials. </p><p>Men, on the other hand, laugh at these expectations and at the first notes of a serial signature tune roll their eyes and hurry out into the courtyard, where then can stand around enjoying male company. The code of masculinity in the Caucasus derides unnecessary sentimentality, and even young men deep in love are afraid to seem too sensitive. Some claim not to understand these mysterious feminine creatures, or know what they want, preferring more pragmatic relationships to reckless love. So they ask their female relatives to find them a suitable wife, by which they mean a home-loving girl from a good family and with an unblemished reputation.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">These days, bride kidnappings are usually arranged between the participants – it’s so much cheaper than a wedding</span></p><p>An acquaintance of mine from Dagestan admitted to being seriously anxious about finding a suitable wife – it was time he settled down to a comfortable existence with someone who would take care of his every need. I argued that not every young woman longs to spend her life cooking and cleaning, and revealed that my husband happily irons his own shirts and cooks for himself, as he likes meat and I prefer vegetables, and that given I travel a lot in my work, he has the role of househusband.</p><p>My acquaintance looked more and more shocked as this conversation went on, and I could see that at any moment he would not be able to stop himself asking, “Then why on earth did he marry you?” I had to talk myself up and persuade him that my husband loved me, not for my domestic skills, but because I was beautiful and clever. He was not convinced – looks fade, but you always need food on the table.</p><p>Caucasian male pragmatism does not end with choosing a wife almost exclusively for her fitness to breed children and keep house. When I asked men what they considered the most romantic gesture in a relationship, some declared that it would be very romantic to abduct the girl they fancied. It would not, however, be a stranger who would be carried off on their white horse, rolled up in a carpet.</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/Fathers_Grandsons_Dagestan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Fathers_Grandsons_Dagestan.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fathers and grandsons in Dagestani mountain village. Photo CC-by-NC-2.0: Dagestan Mountains and People Partnership / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>These days, such abductions are usually arranged between the participants – it’s so much cheaper than a wedding. The couple agree on a time and place for the young man to seize his bride with the help of his mates. YouTube has hundreds of videos showing young men driving up to a university, grabbing a young woman and throwing her onto the back seat of the car, while she screams and pretends to struggle. After this they inform their future in-laws that they have their daughter, and if the bride herself confirms that she’s not complaining, everyone goes home happy. The family save the couple of million roubles they’d have had to lay out for a flash wedding for all their relatives. But there are of course real abductions, when the bride is carried off against her will, and then the problems begin – you can end up with long term hostility between two family clans.</p><p>The young women, it must be said, are less than keen on being abducted. They want a a white dress and a big wedding, preceded by a proper courtship with flowers and extravagant gestures. But given the unprecedented unemployment figures and low wages in the Caucasus republics, not many people can run to such extravagance. So girls have to fall back on a new type of romance based on attention and caring on the part of their loved one. “I’m not hung up on flowers and presents”, says 30 year old Chechen Madina. “But getting me medicine if I’m ill, or saying ‘why don’t you go and lie down, and I’ll get on with the housework’ – for me that’s the height of romance and what I want from a husband”. Some women also believe that men only give them flowers because it’s “the done thing”, and would appreciate the gesture more if it came out of the blue, and not just on Valentine’s Day or 8 March, International Women’s Day. </p><h2>What makes women happy?</h2><p>One of the main questions we asked respondents in our study was, “Do you feel happy”? To our amazement, people, especially of an older generation, were very unwilling to answer it and unclear about what it meant. At best, we were getting general, unfocussed responses, such as, “Well, of course, I have my family and children – what more do I need?”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It’s becoming harder and harder for public opinion, that formidable instrument of social control, to intrude into a self-contained flat that is home to a young family</p><p>The importance of the family in the region is so great that unmarried men and women have a lower social status, as though they haven’t yet begun to live. So as people come up to their 25th birthday, friends and relatives become ever more insistant in their questioning – “When’s it going to be, then?” Having a family is seen as the most important thing in life, the main goal, and unmarried women are especially pitied and tutted over. In some republics a young unmarried woman is also a burden on her brother, who according to tradition is responsible for her honour until he can hand her over – safe, sound, and naturally, virginal – to her husband.</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_01176425.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_01176425.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'>A bride’s hands are decorated with jewellery before her wedding in the Dargin village of Kubachi, Dagestan, 2012. (c) Valery Melnikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Young women today are, however, beginning to protest against this state of affairs. Having seen enough unhappy marriages and consequent divorces among their older sisters and other relatives, they are deciding to get an education and become financially independent before thinking about getting married. And many are rejecting marriage completely, despite strong pressure from their families and society at large. Others are determined to look outside the Caucasus, to find a life partner more egalitarian in his outlook. But there are also young women who only go to university because a bride with a degree is more likely to catch a well-off husband – and investing in expensive clothes and cosmetic surgery (a nose job here, a bit of lip plumping there) doesn’t go astray either.</p><p>The rapid urbanisation of the last decades has brought another change – the decline of the extended family and a desire on the part of young couples to live on their own. And this has meant the growth of individualism, a wish for independence and the ability to take charge of their own lives. It’s becoming harder and harder for public opinion, that formidable instrument of social control, to intrude into a self-contained flat that is home to a young family. So there is a growth market in various “gender contracts” regulating such phenomena as responsible fatherhood, two-career families and daily nannies. </p><h2>If I were a Sultan </h2><p>Men have worked out their own shortcuts on the road to romantic relationships. If love used to be mostly a synonym for gratitude and attachment, or existed separately from family life in the form of affairs “on the side”, now, with polygamy becoming more common, the role of “girlfriend” can be played by a second wife. A man who married on the recommendation of his family and has fathered the appropriate number of children can now become romantically involved with a young girl. </p><p>Sometimes this second bride only finds out about the existence of the first one at her wedding ceremony. Sharia Law permits a man up to four wives, so long as he can share his attention and assets equally among them.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“People in the Caucasus have been living as they liked for ages – but keep that to yourself!”&nbsp;</p><p>For me, polygamy was always one of the most contradictory of the Islamic practices I rebelled against, arguing that if you have polygamy, you should also have polyandry – otherwise there’s no equality between the sexes. But other young girls were always were always ganging up on me, hotly defending their right to be a second (much loved) wife. </p><p>Many people I’ve talked to, including a friend who was a second wife at the time (and had a child by her husband), argued would argue that “in Russia, men have affairs, live with their lovers for years and then dump them; and they have no comeback. Sharia law, on the other hand, protects second wives if they are divorced”.</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/Kavkazskaya_Plennitsa_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Kavkazskaya_Plennitsa_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“If I were a Sultan,” a song from the 1967 Soviet cult film Kidnapping, Caucasian Style. Image still via MosFilm / YouTube. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>At the same time, while many young women say that they wouldn’t mind becoming second wives, no one envies the lot of first wives. As I was writing this article, a close friend was trying to cope with the fact that, after two years of marriage and the birth of a child, her husband had acquired a second wife, a very young girl from a rural area. She now has to decide whether or not to leave him. Our study has shown that the appearance of a new wife is the second most common reason for divorce in the Caucasus (the first is domestic violence). In most cases it is the first wife who, unwilling to come to terms with the new situation, breaks off relations and takes her children back with her to her parents’ house. In Chechnya, however, tradition demands that children be left with their father’s family, and if their mother leaves after the appearance of a second wife, she leaves alone.</p><p>Today, love and relationships in the North Caucasus are more chequered than a patchwork quilt, with traditional practices and rituals happily co-existing with European ones, romanticism with pragmatism and polygamy with monogamy. Family relations are regulated not only (or not so much) by tradition, but by new ideas about love, respect and fairness. It is increasingly common for a man, despite the rules laid down by tradition, to take the side of a woman, intercede on her behalf and defend her from attack by other family members. And young men are more and more keen to have a “real marriage” to a woman they love, and not just because “it’s time you had a wife”. As Fatima, 40, from Dagestan told me: “People in the Caucasus have been living as they liked for ages – but keep that to yourself!”&nbsp;</p><p><em>This article draws on the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s 2015-16 study of lifestyles and relationships between men and women in Russia’s North Caucasus, as well as other projects carried out in the region over the past six years.</em></p><p><em>Our research covered four Caucasus republics: Chechnya, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Ingushetia. In terms of methodology, it involved a questionnaire survey and in depth problem-orientated interviews. There were 160 respondents – 80 of them women and 80 men, and the survey included questions on family life, values, religion, life strategies etc.</em></p><p><em>In all cases our most important task was to get people’s trust and guarantee their anonymity. Afterwards, many respondents admitted that the first time they had ever thought deeply about their lives and spoken aloud about not only their family values and local traditions, but their own desires, feelings, hopes and failures. </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/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love">Cold war, hot love</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/agnieszka-pikulicka-wilczewska/women-of-brest-station">The women of Brest Station</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/stories-you-weren%E2%80%99t-meant-to-hear-women-tradition-and-powe">Stories you weren’t meant to hear: women, tradition and power in Russia’s North Caucasus </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/regina-jegorova-askerova/breaking-cycle-ending-underage-marriage-in-georgia">Breaking the cycle: ending underage marriage in Georgia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-nikoghosyan/armenian-womens-place-protest">An Armenian woman’s place is at the protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/karena-avedissian/book-review-veiled-and-unveiled-in-chechnya-and-dagestan">Book review: Veiled and unveiled in Chechnya and Dagestan</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 Irina Kosterina Romantic regimes Russia Caucasus Wed, 22 Feb 2017 16:03:29 +0000 Irina Kosterina 108989 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Beyond Bolotnaya: the future of Russia’s civil society https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aronson-kozlov-tereshenkov/beyond-bolotnaya-future-of-russia-s-civil-society <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russians are increasingly aware that, instead of waiting for the state’s good graces, they need to take some matters into their own hands. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/polina-aronson/mezhdu-bolotnoy-sad-solovev" 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/553429/1_02.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/1_02.jpg" alt="lead " 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 seventh general assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum convenes in Helsinki, Finland. Photo courtesy of the Forum’s organisers.</span></span></span></p><p><em>On 1-3 February 2017, the VII General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum took place in Helsinki. Around 230 representatives of member organisations, as well as observers, funders and journalists attended. The forum topics were relevant for Russia as well as for the EU and included global trends for nationalism and conservatism, modern conflict and its legacy, sustainable development and the reduction of poverty, as well as scenarios for the future of the Baltic States.</em></p><p><span>oDR invited forum participants to reflect on the state of civil society in Russia. Alexei Kozlov (</span><a href="http://www.article20.org" target="_blank">Solidarus</a><span>, Berlin) and Sergei Tereshenkov (</span><a href="http://eu-russia-csf.org" target="_blank">EU-Russia Civil Society Forum</a><span>) joined us for this roundtable discussion.</span></p><p><strong><strong>Polina Aronson:</strong> How widespread is civil activism in Russia now? And what can be defined as “civil activism” anyway?</strong></p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> I’m a fundamentalist when it comes to these things. My background is in environmental rights movements and I have a hard time accepting the idea that any activity not related to government is civil activism, regardless of whether it involves improving something or resisting the state. I allow for this viewpoint, but there is this tendency – the government gets rid of its many responsibilities, and in some instances, civil activists, or some kind of organisations, pick up the slack.</p><p>Look at the situation with volunteer firefighting. I support it as a solution to an extreme situation, but it shouldn’t be happening. The state needs to work on these problems. The state has to have its own, rather wide, sphere of responsibility, and we need to hold it to account. Because we can’t say, “Hey you, volunteers, why didn’t you get to Village So and So? It burned down.” Because we understand, they may not have the resources. But the state needed to send appropriate reinforcements there.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Real civil activism is connected to <em>confronting</em> the authorities when we want something from them, and not when we fill a niche abandoned by them”</p><p>There is this viewpoint that any volunteer initiative should be categorised as civil activism. But I think real civil activism is, in one way or another, connected to confronting the authorities, when we want something from them, and not when we fill a niche abandoned by them. I think that civil activism is when citizens demand – through pickets, petitions, campaigns – that the government tackle certain issues.</p><p><strong><strong>Polina Aronson:</strong> In what spheres of activity is this kind of activism most visible right now?&nbsp;</strong></p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> Take 2016 and the most timely figures. Because political civil activism is under a lot of pressure from the state, we see more activity where there is no pressure. It is protest that has to do with social guarantees, it is labour protest. </p><p>Our colleagues involved in labour rights say that protest is growing. When it comes to activity related to human rights, to protection of the environment, is being repressed using harsh measures, the state has moved on from soft repressions to harsh ones: the attack on Greenpeace members, attacks for holding public events. You’re no longer dealing with fines or with getting fired – your life and limb are in danger, the relationship with the authorities is on a different level now.</p><p><strong><strong>Polina Aronson:</strong> Right, so different methods of pressure are used on different spheres of civil activism?</strong></p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> Obviously. You could see how repressions against trucker protests grew harsher. At first the authorities did not expect them to act. They have their own view of who takes to the streets and how they’re to be dealt with. Suddenly you have simple truck drivers protesting, and it was unclear, what was to be done with them – there’s lots of them, they have big vehicles, they have the rudiments of solidarity.</p><p>Then the authorities decide – let’s treat them like we treat everyone else. We’ll fine them, stop them, there will be preventative arrests of the leaders. This group was targeted using existing schemes. This is what will possibly happen to social protest – but it’s not happening yet. &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/hpid8v8Q4JA_0_0-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/hpid8v8Q4JA_0_0-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Civil society in Russia: fighting small fires, or getting to the root of the emergency? Photo: VK / Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>&nbsp;<br /><strong>Polina Ar</strong><strong><strong>onson:</strong> What are the most effective means that civil activists have for engaging the authorities now?</strong></p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> Unfortunately, there are almost no effective methods right now, because protest is almost entirely criminalised and can results in big problems for participants – fines, prison terms, and so on.</p><p>So people are looking at this situation in terms of costs, and mostly decide to either do nothing, or to do something that won’t be dangerous but will not be effective. For example, petitions are very popular now. In 2012-2013 the authorities noticed them, but now petition drives have no real significance. For the people it’s just a way to express a viewpoint that won’t result in immediate punishment.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">You’re no longer dealing with fines or with getting fired – your life could be in danger, the relationship with the authorities is on a different level now</p><p>Finding your own methods is an individual task. Environmentalists now do all they can – from real blockades to expert reports. Perhaps now is the time for expert reports because the number of people who will go out into the streets is limited. And if every one of them is fined 100,000 roubles the first time, and 300,000 roubles the second time, you will run out of people. So I must state that the government has gotten what it wants: street protest is criminalised and has almost disappeared.</p><p><strong><strong>Polina Aronson:</strong> Some experts, such as Igor Kochetkov from the St. Petersburg-based Vykhod organisation, <a href="http://echo.msk.ru/blog/igor_p/1703254-echo/" target="_blank">think that street protest is ineffective</a>, and the only way to push back against the authorities is to break the law. What do you make of that?</strong></p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> When it comes to freedom of assembly, I would argue the opposite – follow the law. We see the authorities breaking it. The right to a single-person picket is denied, people are detained at sanctioned events, events are not sanctioned, or canceled – these tactics are not legal.</p><p>But on the other hand, look at the law on foreign agents. Now the situation has improved, but when registering as a foreign agent was still voluntary, then all civil organisations accused of being foreign agents did not register in solidarity with one another. This is what seriously changed how that law was perceived, at least for one part of Russian society, and on the international level as well, when respected organisations said, “We will not stand for this.”</p><p>The same is applicable to the law on gay propaganda. It’s obvious that this law should be ignored. Yes, there can be fines, but when we look at Roscomnadzor directives, which say that the very existence of the LGBT community is propaganda, it becomes obvious that the law should be ignored and be publicly, openly spoken about as such. The slogan, “I’m a person, not propaganda” corresponds to this situation.</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_02751772.LR_.ru__1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02751772.LR_.ru__1_0.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'>A face from Russia’s truckers’ protest, which saw hundreds of long-distance drivers descend on Moscow, enraged at a new toll tax system. (с) Grigory Sysoev / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Polina Aronson: I think we’re circling back to the beginning of our discussion, to the topic of political and civil activism. Is civil activism with no political overtones even possible in Russia?</strong></p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> There is some confusion here. There is no political civil activism. There is civil activism, and there is political activism. The latter is directly related to the redistribution of power. So if we take to the street and demand the government resigns and offer our own candidates to their positions, that’s political activism. When we take to the streets and demand that the law is followed or that a law is changed, the authorities want to call this political activism – but in reality, that’s not the case.</p><p>For example, I don’t care who’s president, Putin or Medvedev – I care about the law on freedom of assembly being followed. This is the watershed moment. If we say, let’s get rid of the bad guys and install good guys, here’s our party – that’s politics. In Russia, the problem is that the authorities want to equate all NGO activity to political activity, just like the law on foreign agents says. If you study public opinion, or if you hold any public event, you’re now political. So any activity citizens take part in could be called political, outside of maybe charitable activity or sporting events.<br /><br /><span class="mag-quote-center">If you study public opinion or hold any public event, you’re now political. So any activity citizens take part in can and is called “political” -&nbsp;and therefore suspect.&nbsp;</span></p><p>I think these spheres of activity should be separated, like they do in Europe. You have politics, elections to the Bundestag, to the European Parliament, and everything else is a concern for the citizens and has no relationship to politics. </p><p><strong><strong>Polina Aronson: </strong><strong>Is there any sector of civil society that is not politicised and can do its work without directly confronting the authorities?</strong></strong></p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> To be honest, I don’t see one. You have the opposite taking place – you have volunteer firefighters. How does the government respond? Tries to give them government status. So they attempt to regulate and control initiatives. Here it’s hard to imagine activities that are separate from the government and, at the same time, successful. </p><p><strong>Sergei Tereshenkov:</strong> There are some organisations that can work without direct confrontation. But in Russia, you never know when your activities will be noticed by the authorities. For example, there were many initiatives for improving cities, in support of a comfortable environment – and one day, the government decided to put itself in charge of that process.</p><p>A conflict between civil activists and officials began. At the same time, in the Urals region, in Siberia, there are many urban improvement projects, and some have government support. In Tyumen for example, they have a lovely portal, where you can file a statement about a violation, and the authorities have to respond within a certain timeframe as stipulated by law. Or look at civil education. We recently had a forum, Schools and NGOs – Bridges to Cooperation in Krasnoyarsk, around a hundred people from all corners of Russia attended, teachers and school heads and NGO representatives, and they spoke about the education process and its informal aspects. </p><p>The problem is, the laws – even those we don’t agree with and consider unjust – are applied selectively. If unjust laws were applied to everyone in the same way, you could do something about this. </p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> <a href="http://www.fap.ru" target="_blank">The Andrei Pervozvanny Fund</a>, for example, should be a foreign agent in this sense. Then it would be fair!</p><p><strong>Sergei Tereshenkov:</strong> There is a certain number of organisations, that register themselves as foreign agents, and nothing happens to them. They cooperate with the government and they do well. Only certain organisations, that displease the government, are discriminated against.</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-15239185 (1)_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/PA-15239185 (1)_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'>“Foreign Agent” graffiti on an NGO’s offices. (c) Ivan Sektareva / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong><strong>Polina Aronson: </strong>What does one have to do to displease the government? Is there a secret to it? Some kind of criteria?</strong></p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> It’s completely unclear. For example, they create some framework or law, like they did with volunteer firefighters. That’s when the citizens who buy firefighting supplies out of pocket are told, “No, you’re doing everything wrong, you have to register, you have to do this, you have to do that!” But if you really want problems, then you have to get involved in human rights, especially when it comes to agitating against torture, or LGBT rights, or specific environmental issues, like nuclear power. That’s when you’re asked, maybe you’re a foreign agent? Or a spy? That’s how you ruin your relationship with the government. There is also the separate issue of Ukraine – that’s where it’s very easy to get severely punished right away.</p><p><strong>Sergei Tereshenkov:</strong> I spent three years working in the civil sector in Perm, and we experienced how repressions start with our own organisation, even though we were involved in civil education and awareness. </p><p>When it comes to urban activism, they’re having problems as well. For example, the residents of one building by a river start cleaning up construction waste and improving the territory. They created a Nightingale Garden there, because they really do have nightingale nests and other nests there. But they keep running into resistance. First the authorities didn’t pay attention, then they helped, but now business interests are at stake, so the landowner has built a fence. The residents are fighting it, what choice do they have, this is their environment.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The realisation that you can’t rely on the mercy of government officials, that you have to take matters into your own hands, has certainly arrived. Even in the provinces.</p><p>Business can also run into problems. I don’t think Evgeny Chichvarkin, for example, thought he’d need to leave the country when he was creating the Evroset store frnachies. You never know when your small business grows enough to the point of someone wanting to take it. </p><p>But if you want to talk about positive stuff, the conscious realisation that you can’t rely on the mercy of the government and officials, that you have to create your own environment, has certainly arrived, and not to Moscow or St. Petersburg, but to the regions as well. </p><p><strong><strong>Polina Aronson:</strong> What role does membership in the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and participation in its assemblies play in your work?</strong></p><p><strong>Alexei Kozlov:</strong> For me, the idea of the forum is such where Russian regional organisations – which is very important – can meet up with European organisations and find common ground. The forum is a platform where you can discuss anything without fearing repressions. In modern-day Russia, the very act of jointly creating documents and resolutions is almost impossible. The forum gives civil society the chance for practical cooperation. </p><p>For us, an organisation located in Germany, it’s important to know how we can help NGOs in Russia. Because you have arrests and “foreign agent”-style denunciations, but people still want to work, no matter what. We have to find ways of supporting them in what they need. </p><p><em>Civil society is all well and good, but is it always liberal? Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/you-wanted-civil-society-well-now-you-ve-got-it" target="_blank">Mikhail Kaluzhsky’s thoughts on how Russia’s ultraconservatives have mastered its language and rhetoric</a>&nbsp;<span>– to worrying ends.</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/svetlana-anokhina/makhachkala-citizen-city">Makhachkala: citizen city </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-lebedev/kicking-habits-kicking-back">Kicking habits, kicking back</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/gleb-paikachov/we-need-to-find-common-ground-between-climate-change-and-civil-society">We need to find the common ground between climate change and civil society</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="/od-russia/mischa-gabowitsch/putin-s-regimes">Putin’s regimes</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 Alexei Kozlov Sergei Tereshenkov Polina Aronson Uncivil society Russia Wed, 22 Feb 2017 14:26:37 +0000 Polina Aronson, Sergei Tereshenkov and Alexei Kozlov 108980 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Grab him by the wallet https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-lind-guzik/grab-him-by-wallet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/anna.jpg" alt="" width="80" />The anti-Trump movement in the States can learn a lot from the experiences of Soviet dissidents&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;in today’s legislative and economic reality, new resistance tactics are essential.</p><br /> </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/DumpTrump.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/DumpTrump.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hope springs eternal: graffiti in Washington DC. CC-by-2.0: Mike Maguire / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><br />Americans require a crash-course in authoritarianism if they are to develop effective opposition to our current government. Following our quick descent into absurdity under the Trump regime, the Soviet and Eastern European dissident experience provides demystifying insight into authoritarian tendencies. Americans speak more often with our wallets unlike Russians and their poetry, but the modern American opposition can still learn a lot from Russian dissidents and others.</p><p>Until Donald Trump’s election, white Americans in particular were deaf to wisdom born from life under authoritarian regimes unless it validated our checks and balances. Capitalism’s public relations victory in the Cold War only encouraged the neoliberal position that American institutions are for export. My generation was raised with the belief that for citizens of the world’s sole superpower other forms of governance were beneath us, unworthy of study except to find their faults.</p><p> Since the end of the second world war, the United States has milked The Constitution for global moral superiority, using it as an effective cover for our military and financial exploits. We fell for our own bullshit. That’s over now. Our president let the cat out of the bag on national television. When Bill O’Reilly called Putin a “killer,” Trump responded, “You think our country’s so innocent?”</p><p>Unfortunately, Trump’s realism is grounded in his and Putin’s shared, terrifying belief that coercion gets the best results, and that rule by law is preferable to rule of law. </p><p>It is unfortunate that nations rarely confront their sins unless forced. As the Germans can attest, public shame can deter against repeated mistakes. America’s inability to reckon with domestic horrors like slavery, Jim Crow, indigenous genocide, and Japanese internment is on full display with the Muslim Ban, Jeff “Blue Lives Matter” Sessions and the rubber bullets and tear gas flying at water protectors in Standing Rock.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Americans aren’t immune to the desire for strong leaders, fast action, and easy solutions. They are not above electing dictators&nbsp;</span></p><p>Despite, or perhaps due to our decades-long position as the preeminent global power, Americans’ worldview has become increasingly isolated and provincial. American leaders on both sides promote the banal myth of American exceptionalism, precluding self-awareness on Americans’ part about our place in the world historically and in relation to other countries.</p><p> We smugly assumed that the global anti-democratic trends would pass us by. In our complacency, we ignored the warning signs of the incoming white supremacist regime, one that seeks to criminalize protest and brands citizens of entire countries as dangerous terrorists overnight. As heartening as the ninth circuit’s <a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-live-updates-9th-circuit-arguments-trump-travel-ban-2017-htmlstory.html" target="_blank">recent sharp rebuke to Trump’s executive order</a> is, there’s no reason to believe the courts alone can save us.&nbsp;</p><p>The likelihood of a terror attack has surely risen, given the Trump administration’s gross ineptitude at everything but causing chaos. Steve Bannon, White House Chief Strategist and Trump’s puppet-master, is itching for a reason to suspend habeas corpus. He’s already set America on a path to destroy the post-war global order, epitomized by the 1948 Refugee Convention.&nbsp;</p><p>Had our electorate understood the fragility of our democratic institutions, we might have cared less about Hillary Clinton’s emails and more about Trump and the GOP flushing political stability down the toilet. We might even have hesitated before effectively giving up our privacy rights post-9/11 in the name of national security.&nbsp;</p><p> It is increasingly apparent that the United States and the former Soviet bloc have more in common than previously thought. Americans are not immune to the human desire for strong leaders, fast action, and easy solutions. Americans, in that sense, are not above electing dictators.&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/America_Isolationism.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/America_Isolationism.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>From American isolationism to American humility. More than ever before, Americans now must learn to learn from others: namely, how to resist. Photo CC0: Unsplash / Pexels. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Don’t get me wrong – I am inspired by the resistance and mobilisation of U.S. protestors and lawyers. Americans still have a lot to lose and much to fight for. It is important for us to maintain perspective and to exercise our rights and civic duties as often and as loudly as possible, especially on behalf of persecuted minorities. But there are also lessons we must also learn from other countries’ histories.&nbsp;</p><p>If you’re struggling under an avalanche of fake news, remember that citizens from the former Soviet bloc know better than anyone how to mentally counter tsunamis of bullshit. They also have the cynicism that comes from survival under these regimes, because survival demands personal complicity in ways that are hard to avoid. This is why a strong, independent moral compass is the only useful guide you have in an authoritarian darkness. Maintaining a principled opposition is useful personally and politically.&nbsp;</p><p>To know what motivates anyone, you have to know what gives their life purpose and what causes them pain. Everyone has interests, rational or not. It’s true of Trump just as much as it is true of other authoritarians.&nbsp;</p><p>If you want to know what an authoritarian is scared of, for example, look at what sets off his tantrums. Tyrants have no sense of humor. Sound familiar yet?&nbsp;</p><p>When the poet Anna Akhmatova tried to publish her collection <em>Anno Domini MCMXXI</em> in 1922, she ran into an obstacle. Stalin was personally insulted by her poem Slander (<em>Kleveta</em>). The poem’s actual subjects were Akhmatova’s prickly literary critics, but Stalin’s feelings of victimhood regularly trumped reality (alt-facts, i.e. lies, are not new phenomena):</p><p>What made Stalin lash out against Akhmatova? Perhaps it was the poem’s paranoid tone which hit a nerve: </p><p class="blockquote-new">And slander has accompanied me everywhere / In my sleep I hear her creeping tread.</p><p>Or maybe it was the accusatory weight of these lines:</p><p class="blockquote-new">Then, unknown to anyone, she [slander] will enter, / Her unquenchable mouth bloody with my blood, /Listing my imagined offenses, / Mingling her voice in the prayers for the dead.</p><p> Though the offending interpretation was entirely in Stalin’s head, he persecuted Akhmatova in reality. The poem’s truth resonated in him, competing with his worldview. With his zero-sum mentality, this was unforgivable. Akhmatova challenged the dictator unintentionally, but made him feel small all the same.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">When Trump bludgeons critics with his tiny hands, remember the poet Osip Mandelstam, whose secret poem about Stalin’s thick fingers cost him his life</p><p>A monopoly on truth and lies defined Soviet political culture, and Akhmatova’s artistry cut like acid through ideological fat. The same was true for many others persecuted by the Soviet regime, either for aesthetic reasons or for being talented, honest or funny. To the state, being this way was a political act. When Trump bludgeons critics with his tiny hands, remember the poet Osip Mandelstam, whose secret poem about Stalin’s thick fingers cost him his life.</p><p>To use another Soviet example, Vasily Grossman’s reports on Jewish atrocities in Soviet territories were buried after World War II, using similar reasoning to the White House’s recent statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. “Let’s not divide the dead.” The Soviet press skewered Grossman, their attacks’ thinly-veiled anti-Semitism not totally unlike Breitbart News. At one point Grossman feared for his life. He was spared by Stalin’s death, but his career was dealt a fatal blow.</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/Chulkov_Petrovykh_Akhmatova_Mandelstam.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Chulkov_Petrovykh_Akhmatova_Mandelstam.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'>Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelshtam (on right), 1930s. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></p><p>In order for the state to maintain control, Soviet citizens were repeatedly coerced into affirming their loyalty to the party-state by denouncing heretics and reporting saboteurs. Americans are now learning the term “gaslighting”, whereby the abuser chronically manipulates the abused person’s reality until the victim loses trust in their own perceptions. It’s Trump’s preferred form of reactionary psychological abuse.</p><p> Like other autocrats, Trump measures his success by how thoroughly he can bend reality to his will. When Donald Trump says, “Believe me!” it is a command, not a request. In this, Trump aspires to the kind of state power which allowed the Soviet state to convict writers for such seemingly innocuous acts as publishing satire.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Throughout history, the law of insult existed to protect powerful men’s feelings. Legal judgements, which can be bought or coerced, turn subjective opinions into facts</p><p> Have you ever wondered why Trump favors defamation suits to protect his reputation? Throughout history, the law of insult existed to protect powerful men’s feelings. Legal judgements, which can be bought or coerced, turn subjective opinions into facts.</p><p>Authoritarians obsess about honour because they’re insecure about their hold on power. By maintaining an image of infallibility, Trump believes he can control public opinion. And because he is the centre of his universe, he sees every political act as a referendum on his character.</p><p> The corollary here is not that Trump will be throwing <a href="http://variety.com/2017/film/news/meryl-streep-donald-trump-1201985429/" target="_blank">Meryl Streep</a> or <a href="http://time.com/4669781/saturday-night-live-sean-spicer-melissa-mccarthy-supercut/" target="_blank">Melissa McCarthy</a> in jail. The takeaway is that the meaning of words still matters and that being a pain in the arse works. If the American aspiration was once for a marketplace of ideas, the Soviet ideal was a Marxist-Leninist command economy of information. Dissidents operated in its shadow. Their underground, alternative existence continuously threatened the fragile totalitarian veneer.</p><p> This fragility is a weakness to be exploited, especially in America where we have robust freedom of expression. Those who argue that being a thorn in Trump’s side is a waste of time are tragically wrong.</p><p>Trump’s goal is to control what we think of him and our job is to make him feel like a fraud in every way we can. Investing in the black-market of information is arguably what Vaclav Havel, the Czech writer turned president, had in mind with “The Power of the Powerless.” His greengrocer in the village refuses to put a party slogan in his window, thereby revealing its true meaning:</p><p>“For the crust presented by the life of lies is made of strange stuff. The moment someone breaks through…[and] cries out, “The emperor is naked!” – everything suddenly appears in another light and the whole crust seems then to be made of a tissue on the point of tearing and disintegrating uncontrollably.”</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Trump’s goal is to control what we think of him and our job is to make him feel like a fraud in every way we can</span></p><p>Unfortunately for America, the old marketplace for political ideas, to the extent it ever existed, died on January 21, 2010, with the Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In his concurring opinion, Justice Scalia maintained (as arbitrarily as he made Bush our 43rd president) that “the [First] Amendment is written in terms of “speech,” not speakers,” circling around to corporations as legal “speakers” with protected speech. With a wave of his wand, this fiction was transformed into fact, and we watched as human people’s political speech drowned in a pool of Orwellian super PACs.</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_03013184.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_03013184.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Souvenir banknotes featuring Trump, on sale during the presidential inauguration. Photo (c): Vladimir Astapkovich / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>If corporations are people, they’re likely sociopaths with the unnerving benefit of limited liability. To paraphrase Animal Farm, all speech is created equal, but corporate speech is more equal than others. It’s ruined cable news and destroyed our elections. That said - and I admit that this is terrifying - but until we vote again in 2018, Americans may have to rely on corporations to hold Trump accountable.&nbsp;</p><p>Corporations are accountable to their boards, and those boards seek to make them profitable. If Trump hurts their bottom line, whether through boycotts or generalised political, economic and environmental instability, they could become our most powerful allies. There certainly are those that align themselves with Trump, but not all of them benefit from the chaos Trump causes.</p><p>Trump’s business is an extension of his ego. It helps explain his admiration for Russia’s corrupt strongman oligarchy as well as his deference to Rex Tillerson. Putin and Tillerson are likely far richer than Trump, which is enough to get his attention. Furthermore, Exxon’s corporate malfeasance surely rivals the misdeeds of Russia’s oil and gas elite. Considering this, anything we can do to diminish Trump’s brand and hurt his income is worth our time.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center"> It’s important that we not only shun discrimination, but that we show that diversity and tolerance are rewarded by society</span></p><p> It’s important that we not only shun discrimination, but that we show that diversity and tolerance are there to be rewarded by society. It was a relief when Trump’s attack on Nordstrom caused the company’s stock to increase, and now Sears and Kmart have dropped his home line, which must sting even more. </p><p>Seattle has meanwhile divested billions from Wells Fargo over their financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Even libertarian Uber straightened up some when people began deleting the app in response to Uber breaking a taxi drivers’ strike against Trump.&nbsp;</p><p>Trump is using the presidency to enhance his business and rob us blind. This is why grabbing the crook by the wallet might be our best weapon yet. In order for that weapon to be truly effective, though, we must first admit that no, we are not exceptional, and yes, foreign dissidents and foreign disasters do have a lot to teach us.<br />&nbsp;<br /><strong><em>Interested in the post-liberal age beyond America? Read our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards-thomas-rowley/it-could-happen-anywhere" target="_blank">portrait of the rise of a modern authoritarian</a>, when everybody was pleased to be back in control.</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/maxim-edwards-thomas-rowley/it-could-happen-anywhere">It could happen anywhere</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-weeks/donald-trump-and-shape-of-things-to-come">Donald Trump and the shape of things to come</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-held-kyle-mcnally/trump-handbook-for-aspiring-autocrats">Trump handbook for aspiring autocrats</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/beautiful-trouble-team/six-principles-for-resisting-presidency-of-donald-trump">Six principles for resisting the presidency of Donald Trump</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 Anna Lind-Guzik Russia Justice Tue, 21 Feb 2017 13:53:21 +0000 Anna Lind-Guzik 108955 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Georgia, labour exploitation still pays https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatuli-chubabria/in-georgia-labour-exploitation-still-pays <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In striving for a “business-friendly environment”, the Georgian government is further eroding labour rights. Workers have taken to the streets in response.</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/Rustavi_-03.02-650x488.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Rustavi_-03.02-650x488.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'>Protests in the city of Rustavi, western Georgia, against layoffs at the nearby Azoti plant, 1 February.</span></span></span></p><p>At the beginning of this month, the Georgian Public Broadcaster announced a plan to reorganise itself; the plan was consumer-oriented and would mean cuts in the broadcaster’s staff. Job cuts have also been announced in a number of other public sector institutions. On top of this, the government is displaying complete apathy towards ill-treatment and forceful dismissals of employees in the private sector.&nbsp;</p><p>To present itself at the vanguard of creating a “business-friendly environment”, the Georgian government sees no problem with soaring unemployment rates or causing employment to be even more conducive to labour exploitation. But for the people currently <a href="http://oc-media.org/biblus-employees-complain-of-exploitation/" target="_blank">demonstrating</a> on the streets, it is unacceptable that plans for growth and development come at the expense of public sector employment and workers’ rights.&nbsp;</p><p>In 1989, the public sector accounted for the lion’s share of total employment in the Soviet Union, exceeding 90% in some republics. The shift to a market economy resulted in a radical change in the employment structure in all post-Soviet republics. But the percentage of Georgia’s workforce employed in the public sector has <a href="http://www.geostat.ge/index.php?action=page&amp;p_id=146&amp;lang=eng" target="_blank">continued to fall</a> long after this transition, from 20% to 15% in the last decade. To avoid public discontent from this, the previous ruling party often responded by announcing impressive economic growth figures, neglecting the fact that this rapid growth has not been accompanied by a reduction in poverty or a tangible decrease in unemployment. What is more, due to low levels of formal employment, successive governments have neglected that the private sector is extremely conducive to the exploitation of workers, underemployment, low pay, and dangerous labour conditions.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In striving for a “business-friendly environment”, the Georgian government sees no problem with soaring unemployment rates and worsening conditions at work</p><p>Members of the OECD, a developed countries’ club, have an average public sector employment rate of 21%, which not only guarantees strong and effective government institutions, but also allows states to moderate the excesses of the markets. Cutting public sector jobs was not the most convincing development plan for the protesters gathered in front of the Georgian Public Broadcaster on 9 February, as it represented the commodification of yet another public good, while imperilling the job security of many.</p><p>The people demonstrating on the streets are very conscious that the government, politicians, and sometimes even the mainstream media, are guilty. Guilty of wrongly juxtaposing jobless economic growth and welfare, and for imposing a choice between the two. Worst of all, the government is evading its responsibility to reduce unemployment, to combat deteriorating living standards for those who are employed, and is choosing a very exclusionary path to economic development instead.&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/Rustaveli-feb7.-650x366.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Rustaveli-feb7.-650x366.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour protests on Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue, 7 February. </span></span></span></p><p>Over the past few months, the state has dismissed thousands of public employees. On 30 January, it was announced that the Ministry of Defence alone was firing 2,250 employees. This was followed by news that the Georgian Public Broadcaster is employing an unnecessarily high number of people. Additionally, rumours are circulating that some of the 13,000 public sector jobs at Georgian Railway are under threat. The bottom line is that in an attempt to foster economic development, new political decisions are being made to shrink the public sector. This represents a very detrimental turn for those who believed the government would follow its <a href="https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/linked-documents/cps-geo-2014-2018-sd-01.pdf" target="_blank">Georgia 2020</a> development strategy of ensuring inclusive growth and developing human capital.</p><p>In 2013–2015, the government introduced amendments to Georgia’s labour code and developed guarantees to advance workers’ protection in the country. For example, workplace inspections for occupational health and safety violations reemerged, after being totally abolished in 2006 under the previous ruling party. A labour dispute mediation mechanism was set up, as well as “tripartite negotiation formats”, which allow the authorities, employees, and employers, to engage in dialogue. Additionally, independent workers’ organisations have emerged, to defend labour rights within the most hazardous employment sectors.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">To equate any regulations with corruption is a fundamentally political stance. In reality, defending labour conditions does not necessarily come at the expense of good governance</p><p>Even though the current government has set up new welfare mechanisms, the overall development trajectory hasn’t changed much. The state still provides inadequate social guarantees and does not listen to demands by grassroots protesters, which have been visible and vocal since 2012 compared to previous periods.&nbsp;</p><p>For several days, news that the public sector would be shrinking further has been paralleled by videos spreading on social media in which young employees from several stores (the supermarket chain Fresco and bookstore chain Biblus) talk about the grave labour conditions, poor pay, and ill-treatment from employers that they face. In response, the Minister of Labour, Health, and Social Affairs reduced the protests to being single cases of labour disputes between particular employees and employers, denying the importance or necessity of a government response.&nbsp;</p><p>What’s worse, the government has not commented on the dismissal of 350 employees from the Rustavi Azoti plant, even when on 2 February, a day after the dismissals, protesting workers, students, and trade unions invaded the company’s administration building. For over 10 days people were demonstrating on the streets of either Rustavi or Tbilisi on a daily basis, demanding state intervention.</p><p>While many on the right of the political divide argue that a bigger and more capable state will only breed corruption, they fail to acknowledge that their argument, equating regulations with corruption, is political in nature. In reality, defending labour conditions does not necessarily come at the expense of good governance.</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/Rustaveli_-feb-7.-650x366.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Rustaveli_-feb-7.-650x366.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour protests on Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue, 7 February.</span></span></span></p><p>In Soviet times, trade unions were not trusted, as they were seen as a tentacle of the party. Since then, as industrial production fell, agriculture became a field fully occupied by self-employed smallholder farmers, and the service sector did not develop enough for any prospects for unionisation, unions have remained weak. What’s more, it is of the absolute disdain to anyone currently fighting for labour rights that the majority of industrial companies still have functioning ‘yellow trade unions’, which are controlled by the the companies themselves and are never loyal to workers’ interests. Despite the weakness of the unions, for the crowd gathered on the streets, it has become clear that it is necessary to persist with organised resistance against major employers and become more and more vocal in demands for a bigger and more capable state.&nbsp;</p><p>Since 2005, transportation, industrial production, and natural resource extraction enterprises have been revitalised in the country, and service jobs are becoming more prevalent. It is therefore rather alarming that the government remains inactive while employers violate domestic law, attack workers’ unions, and use oppressive methods to crush protests. If the government also attempts to shrink the public sector further, employment will become more conducive to exploitation than ever before.<br /><br /><em>This article originally appeared on&nbsp;<a href="http://oc-media.org/">OC Media</a>. Follow the OC Media team for in-depth stories from both sides of the Caucasus.&nbsp;</em>&nbsp;&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/tatuli-chubabria/how-can-we-politicise-labour-rights-in-georgia">How can we politicise labour rights in Georgia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mari-nikuradze/life-slows-down-in-chiatura">Life slows down in Chiatura</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/bakar-berekashvili/georgia-s-grotesque-democracy">Georgia’s grotesque democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tornike-zurabashvili/waiting-for-misha-s-second-coming">Waiting for Misha’s second coming</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 Tatuli Chubabria Justice Human rights Georgia Economy Caucasus Tue, 21 Feb 2017 11:39:51 +0000 Tatuli Chubabria 108952 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Putinism as Gaullism https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/marlene-laruelle/putinism-as-gaullism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Laruelle_Marlene_BW.jpg" alt="" width="80" />There are limits of defining a regime by the name of its leader, but Putinism has the echoes of post-war France, and of its president.</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/De_Gaulle.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/De_Gaulle.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Remembering De Gaulle, Paris, 2010. CC-by-SA-3.0: Gunasekhar Karri / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The Russian state under Vladimir Putin’s leadership is often seen as a specific kind of regime, labelled by its own name, <a href="http://seansrussiablog.org/2007/12/23/a-geneology-of-putinism/" target="_blank">Putinism</a>. Defining a regime by the name of its leader has obvious limits in terms of analysis. First, it takes the risk of emphasising too much the role and the personality of the individual over structural elements of governance. Second, regime typology in general has shown little heuristic values, and tends to categorise regimes that share little in the way of common ground. However, this form of naming can capture a certain Zeitgeist that explains how a leader personifies a country, a policy and a society at a certain moment in history, as, for instance, with Thatcherism.</p><p>“Putinism” can also usefully be compared to other -isms, but so far has been likened, mostly by its opponents at home and abroad, to Stalinism, <a href="http://europe.newsweek.com/vladimir-putin-fascist-325534?rm=eu" target="_blank">Fascism</a>, and even Nazism. In these cases, the assumed goal is to label the regime as one with which one cannot engage as equals, and which cannot be recognised as politically legitimate. When one tries to avoid name-calling, Putinism could be compared with many other -isms that would offer meaningful and less politically loaded comparisons. Some experts have been indeed more acute in their parallels, for instance Marcel van Herpen, who <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137282804" target="_blank">compared Putinism to Berlusconism and Bonapartism</a>. I propose another comparison.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Putin and De Gaulle personify the state’s continuity after major trauma: collaboration for France, collapse of the USSR for Russia</p><p>Putin and De Gaulle both built their legitimacy on a double victory. De Gaulle represented the France that resisted Nazi Germany and refused to collaborate with the occupying authorities, and thereby embodied the symbolic continuity of the French republican ideal in troubled times. De Gaulle also pacified French public opinion, which was on the brink of civil war, by accepting the 1962 Evian Accords that put an end to the bloody decolonisation war in Algeria.</p><p>Putin has based his legitimacy on relatively similar fundaments. His high popularity is famous: after the annexation of Crimea, Putin prances above 80% of positive views, but even before he accumulated high scores compared to any other Russian politicians or institutions. Levada Centre surveys explained this exceptional status by two phenomena: Putin is seen as the personification of the Russian nation and the Russian state beyond political ups and downs, and as the leader who reasserted Russia as a great power after the humiliation of the Soviet collapse. Putin is also credited for having stopped the process of internal disintegration of the early 1990s, when Russia was perceived to be on the path to its own dismemberment.&nbsp;</p><p>In both cases, the two names (Putin, De Gaulle) personify the continuity of the state after a major trauma — collaboration for France, collapse of the Soviet Union for Russia — and success in rebuilding national consensus and avoiding social and internal fractures. The parallel between Algeria and Chechnya in shaping respectively French and Russian public opinion and, later, xenophobia, is striking. Both France and Russia had to come to terms from their imperial past and build new forms of identity and interactions with the former “colonies”/ “Near Abroad”. In both cases too, the two leaders were reluctant to expose the “dark pages” of national history: De Gaulle insisted on resistance and was unwilling to see collaboration discussed publicly; Putin focuses on Russia’s victory in 1945 and put aside the issue of the occupation of Eastern Europe after the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.&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_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/GettyImages-484394652_0_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'>Our president. Simferopol, Crimea, 2015. Photo: (с) Alexander Aksakov / Getty Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>But the comparison goes further. Both men established a relatively authoritarian and censorial regime in which the political opposition (leftist in Gaullist France, liberal in Putin’s Russia) was still legally allowed but in fact marginalised, and bureaucratic practices in the management of political affairs were endemic. They both promoted a national consensus based on the country’s alleged need for law and order, and on conservative values around “traditional family” and “respectable mores”, with the assumed willingness to prevent the continued liberalisation of mores and changes in family patterns.&nbsp;</p><p>Both regimes also advanced an ideology of national grandeur. De Gaulle was a fierce nationalist, convinced of the uniqueness of the French cultural and political message to the rest of the world. De Gaulle promoted the notion of <em>Francophonie</em>, in many ways similar to the current “Russian world” notion. This notion is founded on a linguistic concept (a large group of French/Russian speakers outside the country itself) and is associated with a prestigious cultural heritage that the state brands as its main public diplomacy tool. It has obvious political ramifications for the defense of a “French/Russian vision” or “French/Russian voice” in the international arena. It also serves to justify opaque post-colonial policies, such as “French Africa” of the 1960-1970s, and Russia’s position in the “Near Abroad” today. In both cases, commercial and military interests of the former colonial centre overlap with the defense of clientelist relations with the post-colonial states, driven by rent-based regimes.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Suspicious of European institutions and Atlanticism, de Gaulle promoted&nbsp;<em>Francophonie</em>, in many ways similar to today’s “Russian World” notion</p><p>De Gaulle was also starkly anti-American and distrustful toward Great Britain. He was convinced that “Atlanticism”, i.e. the Anglo-Saxon vision of global affairs, was too confrontational towards the rest of the world — he pulled France out of NATO-integrated structures. On the contrary, de Gaulle saw continental Europe, in the sense of classical, ancient Europe and of the German-French partnership, as offering better prospects for a peaceful cohabitation between “the West” and the then Third World.</p><p>Suspicious of European institutions, de Gaulle promoted a Europe of nations, relatively friendly toward the Soviet Union, in which he saw a new kind of eternal Russia. The parallel with the Russian state’s vision of the world today is striking, in particular the insistence on a Europe of nations that would interact closely with Russia and distance itself from both the “Atlanticist” world and its institutions, such as NATO, and from Brussels-based European institutions.</p><p>Obviously, there are differences between Putinism and Gaullism, between the two political regimes, the two men and the two societies. But the comparison is telling, and helps us to look at the Russian state today under a more “normalising” light. Politically-loaded definitions of Putin’s regime identifies it as the “bad guy” and governs some western politicians and political opponents to the regime. But it doesn’t offer a meaningful approach for experts and academics to comprehend the nature of Putin’s regime. Far from any Russian exceptionalism, Putin is a relatively classic example of a patriarchal leader who emerged to consolidate a post-trauma society and provide social peace based on a consensual celebration of national grandeur and conservative values.&nbsp;</p><p>Even if these kinds of models are overthrown once their historical purpose is over and some sort of social peace achieved, they often reflect a critical moment in the trajectory of the country. They are rooted in some of the society’s grassroots needs and therefore are co-creational — i.e. products of the society in question, and not only a top-down mechanism.<br /><br /><strong><em>Want to read more about the limits of “Putinism” and “Putinology”? Read our editorial on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards-thomas-rowley/why-we-don-t-publish-articles-about-putin" target="_blank">why we don’t publish articles about Russia’s president</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/maxim-edwards-thomas-rowley/it-could-happen-anywhere">It could happen anywhere</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/roots-of-russia-s-atomised-mourning">The roots of Russia’s atomised mourning</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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> </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 Marlene Laruelle Russia Politics Tue, 21 Feb 2017 10:21:47 +0000 Marlene Laruelle 108949 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kicking habits, kicking back https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-lebedev/kicking-habits-kicking-back <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Russia, a punitive Soviet approach to drug users is still in place. But a new generation of activists is ready to challenge it. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-lebedev/narkouchet-i-borba-s-nim" 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/Lomka_Rossii_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Lomka_Rossii_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A pharmacy in the city of Yekaterinburg. Photo CC-by-SA-2.0: Perets Partensky / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>When Russian media report an increase or decrease in drug addiction in the country, they are usually only reflecting the number of users officially registered at state clinics. The practice of putting anyone requesting treatment for drug abuse on the drug users’ register traces its roots back to the Soviet era, but it has made a smooth transition.</p><p>Once registered, people find that their rights are subject to various restrictions: they are banned from certain types of work; they can’t get a driving licence or residence permit, or adopt a child. The very fact of being on the register also stigmatises them as addicts, fostering social isolation and humiliation. And even if they manage to overcome their addiction and come off the register, that doesn’t guarantee that the stigma goes away.</p><p>People who use know this, and those who could come off drugs are wary of asking for treatment. This makes it very difficult to even guess the real numbers. As for their civil rights, the NGOs working in this area lack the resources to provide much help: last year, for example, both the Moscow-based <a href="http://en.rylkov-fond.org/" target="_blank">Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice</a> and Project April in Tolyatti were declared “foreign agents”, a status that brings with it numerous financial inspections and court appearances, and considerably complicates the organisations’ work.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Being on the register stigmatises people as addicts, causing them social isolation and humiliation </p><p>Last December, the Mayor’s Office in Tolyatti, a large city with a reputation for drug problems and high HIV figures, <a href="http://samara.ru/read/99401" target="_blank">announced</a> that the number of its citizens on the drug user register had fallen by 1.3%. Many in the media, as usual, interpreted this as “<a href="http://news.sputnik.ru/obschestvo/1ca851d64e94d79753ba98de6188f8be6a4e0546)" target="_blank">a fall in the number of drug addicts</a>”. One Tolyatti resident taken off the register was Ivan Anoshkin, who was, until recently, on Desamorphine, an opioid derivative of codeine with the street name of <em><a href="https://www.drugs.com/illicit/krokodil.html" target="_blank">krokodil</a></em>. Anoshkin now works with Project April on programmes to help other addicts off drugs.</p><p>Ivan’s story is not just about how he recovered from his addiction, but about his battle with the inert and retrograde institution that is Russian narcology as a whole — and the drug users’ register is a key element of it.</p><h2>Surveillance and punishment</h2><p>Ivan Anoshkin started using drugs in 1994 at the age of 14. His addiction led to three jail sentences on theft charges and by 2010 he was in a sorry state: his health was wrecked by krokodil and he had no money for proper treatment.&nbsp;</p><p>That was the year he finally turned to Tolyatti’s state drug addiction clinic and agreed to undergo treatment. This, however, didn’t last long. Russian narcotics specialists, despite the recommendations of the international medical community, still base their therapy programmes on tranquillisers and anti-psychotics. As an in-patient at the clinic, Ivan was forced to take unfamiliar medication that muddled his brain and left his body helpless.&nbsp;</p><p>Another part of the problem was the hostile and arrogant attitude of clinic staff. After one attempt to escape and find drugs, Ivan was forced to spend a night tied down in his bed, unable even to go to the toilet. Unable to kick his habit, he returned to the clinic five times but failed to complete a detox course even once. He only finally went into remission with the help of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation and Project April, which promote a more humane approach to drug issues, as well as a users’ mutual support group.</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/Anyushkin_Foto_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Anyushkin_Foto_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'>Tolyatti resident Ivan Anyushkin. Photo courtesy of the author.</span></span></span><span>Ivan came to the media’s attention while he was still drug dependent: he heard about the effectiveness of drug replacement therapy (which is banned in Russia) and wrote to the Ministry of Health asking to be prescribed methadone and buprenorphine, the drugs most commonly used elsewhere to treat opioid addiction. His request was, of course, refused, so he took his case to various courts and eventually filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights. Another case Ivan filed attracted less attention: he demanded the abolition of the drug users’ register, on which he had automatically been placed as soon as he checked into the clinic.</span></p><p>As Ivan recalls now: “I knew from friends about the downsides of being registered, but at the time I had no alternative. I hadn’t left my flat for years and was basically dying. They gave me a bed at the clinic and since then I have been an official Russian drug addict, complete with the side effects of that status – social stigmatisation, restricted access to work and a driving ban.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Patients can’t prevent their names from being included in the register, and it’s difficult to prove that it’s been done illegally&nbsp;</p><p>In early 2016, after a routine clinic appointment (compulsory for anyone on the register) Ivan discovered, to his surprise, that traces of cannabis had been found in his blood, although he had been clean for a year. This sent him back to square one — and another three years on the register. After long and pointless correspondence with the Health Ministry and the drug clinic, he decided to take his case to a civil court with the help of the Rylkov Foundation. This case was less about the restrictions of Ivan’s rights and the fact of being on the register, but questions of procedure. According to the law, registration was completely voluntary, i.e. Ivan had to give his written permission to be placed on the register – a technicality that, in his case, had not been adhered to. Having discovered this legal anomaly, he began his battle with the Ministry and the narcology community.&nbsp;</p><p>Despite the fact that Ivan’s complaint was officially against the Health Ministry, it was the local drug rehab clinic that acted as the respondent. They presented a whole pile of papers supposedly confirming the correctness of Ivan’s inclusion on the register. The difficulty with this kind of case is that patients can’t prevent their names from being included in the register, and it’s difficult to prove that it has been done illegally, i.e without their written consent. As police officers acting as witnesses in court admitted, an agreement to have treatment means, effectively, an agreement to being placed on the register, which judges can accept as a convincing argument – especially if the litigant is a former or current drug user. </p><p>After several sessions, the court took the Ministry’s side. But Ivan refused to accept this verdict and took his case further up the judicial ladder.</p><h2>What is the drug users’ register and how did it come about?&nbsp;</h2><p>The drug users’ register is, in its present form, a system set up in the twilight years of the Soviet Union and based on a joint directive issued by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Health from May 1988. The directive required all individuals using psychoactive substances to be forced to undergo treatment, placed on a register and have regular examinations by a psychiatrist specialising in addiction — for five years in cases of drug dependency and one year for casual use.&nbsp;</p><p>Nowadays, both compulsory treatment and compulsory registration are banned. But while treatment at a clinic is now truly voluntary, in practice registration never is. It is automatic, so that many users are either unaware of their official status as an addict, or find out by accident — when they are issued a narcotics report to give a new employer, for example.</p><p>As Timur Madatov, a lawyer with the Rylkov Foundation, says: “the register has been, and remains part of the health system, despite the fact that all Soviet directives connected with narcotics use have been revoked. Now the so called clinical monitoring is regulated by a Ministry of Health directive of 30th December 2015, covering procedures for routine checkups, when they should be discontinued etc.” This document doesn’t even contain the words “drug users register”, but the requirement for three years of remission before checkups can be dropped is basically just a shorter version of the former five year registration period, and which psychiatrist Vladimir Mendelevich describes to me as a “cosmetic measure”, designed to massage the statistics.</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/Tolyatti_1_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Tolyatti_1_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A church in the city of Tolyatii, Samara Oblast, 2016. Photo CC-by-SA-3.0: Mstislav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>According to the new rules, users must give written consent for regular checkups, while the doctor carrying them out must complete a questionnaire on them, the responses to be included on the register database. But given that being on the register means losing certain rights, and is a form of surveillance more appropriate to police officers than medical personnel, not every user is willing to be included in the register.</p><p>In fact, the very phrase “voluntary registration” sounds like an oxymoron in this context, and as a result, registration is happening “under the counter” — automatically, without users’ consent. It has therefore become a judicial anomaly that seriously affects citizens’ civil rights and poisons their daily lives.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The original, Soviet formulation of the drug users’ register was partly drawn up by law enforcement, casting serious doubt on its medical credentials&nbsp;</p><p>Another “cosmetic” but equally unsound practice is the current system of anonymous treatment. This involves no register and no infringement of patients’ rights, but instead involves payment.</p><p>This means that people with little in the way of cash, such as Ivan Anoshkin, have no means of avoiding registration, while other people with similar dependency needs but more money lose none of their rights. They can happily drive cars, apply for any job they choose, and not worry about having their children taken into care.&nbsp;</p><p>As Human Rights Watch <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2007/11/07/rehabilitation-required/russias-human-rights-obligation-provide-evidence-based" target="_blank">rightly points out</a>, “the financial situation of the patient is not a legitimate criterion on which to judge whether their personal details should be included in a database and used to limit certain of their civil rights”. This is, however, the logic behind the whole edifice of Russia’s current approach to its drug problem.</p><h2>Making criminals of addicts</h2><p>The original, Soviet formulation of the drug users register was partly drawn up by the law enforcement agencies, which casts serious doubt on its medical credentials.&nbsp;</p><p>As Lev Levison and Mikhail Torban of Russia’s <a href="http://www.hrights.ru/" target="_blank">Institute for Human Rights</a>, the register is “a tool of punitive psychiatry” that makes no sense in either statistical or medical terms. They believe that its sole raison d’etre is as an instrument for policing the public. As psychiatrist Vladimir Mendelevich says: “The register was not thought up by narcology specialists. Regular monitoring is essential in certain medical disciplines to prevent flare-ups of chronic conditions. The assumption is that patients have rights and voluntarily choose this pattern of interaction with medical professionals. In the case of drug users, however, the principle of regular checkups has ceased to be about medical procedures and has become an instrument of social control and loss of patients’ rights.”</p><p>Both the Soviet and the current drug users register are examples of a practice that, under the pretence of care for, and ongoing monitoring of, people living with drug dependency, brings with it stigma and restrictions on their rights for several years after they have begun treatment. Given that removal from the register, and thus a restoration of their normal rights, requires a lengthy period of remission (in 2015, only 3% of users were taken off the register), many people are simply trapped within the system.</p><p>Narcotics specialists justify the existing system by claiming that it promotes public order. According to this logic, drug users, with their limited rights and constant medical surveillance, are highly unlikely to threaten the social order.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The register’s sole <em>raison d’être</em> is as an instrument for policing the public&nbsp;</p><p>As Vladimir Mendelevich says, the present system is a hangover from Soviet times, when narcology specialists were pressed into service as “sanitary inspectors”, to deal with unruly dissidents. And, according to Mendelevich, “most of our narcologists still adopt a repressive approach to their work. They often think of themselves as citizens, not as doctors.”</p><p>As a result, the drug users’ register has become an ideological tool for weeding out the “deviant” and the “abnormal” in the name of preserving some kind of social order. The effectiveness of this strategy remains, however, in doubt. According to Mendelevich, “the experience of most European countries, which have no such procedures, shows that there are more effective and reasonable ways to help prevent lawbreaking by drug users. They see no reason to deny driving licences to people on the sole basis of a diagnosis of narcotics dependency. Moreover, out of every 100 drivers caught under the influence of alcohol behind the wheel, there will be only one registered drug user.”&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/RIAN_00111928.LR_.ru__1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_00111928.LR_.ru__1.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'>Preparing for the “students against narcotics” campaign: a competition for the best poster against drug use, 2004. (c) Dmitry Korobeynikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Apart from restrictions on civil rights, the users’ register has yet another negative side - as a punitive measure. Although narcology specialists have no right to share confidential information about their patients with third parties and state organs (apart from occasional and legally permitted cases where criminal investigations are involved), users are often caught up in a “revolving door” policy between the medics and the police.&nbsp;</p><p>To quote the Human Rights Watch report, “it appears that some Russian drug clinics share personal details of people on the register with the police and other government bodies.” Ivan Anoshkin tells me that after unsuccessful courses of treatment in state clinics, he came to the notice of the police and was eventually arrested, beaten up in the local police station and charged with possession of drugs (which the cops had planted on him).</p><p>Fortunately, Ivan escaped an actual prison sentence, and after he lodged several complaints, the suspended sentence has had been given was also rescinded. This individual case is, however, symptomatic of a widespread approach, where people on the drug users register are vulnerable to blackmail, extortion and abuse of police powers.&nbsp;</p><h2>How the register does more harm than good&nbsp;</h2><p>The most negative aspect of the drug users’ register is probably the fact that it scares off people who might go for treatment, if that didn’t mean losing some of their civil rights.</p><p>In 2015 there were 544,563 addicts on the register, but according to the police, the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/russian/russia/2015/06/150626_drug_addicts_number" target="_blank">real number of drug dependent Russians runs into the millions</a> (Russian link). Knowing the consequences for their rights, and the corruption and inefficiency in the health service, many users try to avoid the state health sector — only to fall into the hands of charlatans in religious or occupational rehab centres where they can forget about any rights at all. So the original idea of preserving public order is, in practice, turned on its head: the attempt to monitor drug users pushes them “underground”, and even further marginalises them, rather than offering professional treatment and a potential return to normal life.</p><p>The register undermines trust between doctor and patient — the user sees the medic as part of the law enforcement system, only interested in checking whether they have “gone back on the hard stuff”&nbsp;</p><p>Another problem with the register is that it doesn’t allow a personal and trust-based relationship with users — they become mere statistics, their rights abused and unable to influence their situation in any way. “At the clinic they looked at me like I was a traitor,” Anoshkin tells me. “And as I tried to exercise my rights, I was faced with a wall of prejudice. But I’d always thought of a doctor as someone I could trust, someone with a sense of duty and with whom I could have a friendly relationship.”&nbsp;</p><p>The register is in fact one of the chief obstacles to forming such relationships. As lawyer Timur Madatov says, “The register is a real hangover from the past, that only gets in the way of doctors treating addicts, since the creation of trust between doctor and patient is an essential part of effective treatment. The register undermines this trust: a visit to a doctor is seen as a box to be ticked and the medic becomes part of the law enforcement system, only interested in checking whether the user has “gone back on the hard stuff”.&nbsp;</p><p>Psychiatrists Levinson and Torban agree with this analysis: “the regular check up system is not focussed, as it should be, on preventing relapses and helping the user if they have relapsed or are in danger of relapsing, but just on recording whether they have taken drugs or not since their last visit.” So instead of having a right to rehabilitation, the addict is just forced to regularly report to the clinic, which is pointless from a treatment point of view.</p><p>There is another factor here that might explain the amazing longevity of the register. The fact is that Russian narcology is currently experiencing a severe deficiency in both the quality and quantity of its practitioners. Most narcotics specialists have come up through the repressive Soviet system and see nothing odd about the continued existence of the register. At the same time, their numbers are dropping year on year, so that some doctors are seeing up to 40 patients a day. According to Timur Madatov, “the situation is critical and only getting worse. And abolishing the register at this point would probably just mean more users looking for help, something the system simply couldn’t cope with.”&nbsp;</p><p>The parlous state of the medical system also means that users are being constantly exhorted to take personal responsibility for their condition, accused of not wanting to get better and generally made to take the blame for the whole situation.&nbsp;</p><h2>Collective resistance&nbsp;</h2><p>The latest court session in Ivan Anoshkin’s case took place on 30 December, and this time at regional level, with the Samara Region Narcology department as the defendant.&nbsp;</p><p>It was no surprise that no one from either the department or the Ministry of Health turned up, the session lasted a mere five minutes and Anoshkhin’s complaint was once again thrown out. He had been called for his final check up a few weeks earlier: his time on the register had supposedly expired. There was no logic to this: with the traces of cannabis discovered in his bloodstream two years before, under the new regulations he should theoretically have been monitored for another year.&nbsp;</p><p>Ivan believes that his progress through the courts has had an effect: “The Ministry of Health still couldn’t accept that it had acted illegally, and so decided to take me off the register early instead. They also expunged my conviction for possession, when the drugs had been planted on me. The system decided to draw a line under my whole case, but they still won’t admit any mistake.” So Ivan’s unlawful inclusion on the register ended with a correspondingly unlawful removal from it.</p><p>Despite not winning his case in Russia’s courts, Ivan still plans to take it, with support from lawyers, to the European Court of Human Rights. Timur Madatov believes that “winning a case against government bodies in a national court is always highly unlikely. Whereas if we can take Ivan’s case as far as the ECHR, I think that at the very least, the infringement of his right to voluntary informed agreement to medical treatment will be recognised under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which embodies ‘a right to respect for one's private and family life’”. The situation is complicated by a recent government directive <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vladimir-putin-signs-law-allowing-russian-court-to-overthrow-international-human-rights-rulings-a6773581.html" target="_blank">giving decisions taken by Russia’s Constitutional Court priority over ECHR verdicts</a> — the outcome is impossible to predict. Nonetheless, this attempt to test the Russian narcology establishment’s ability to cope with stress and force it to admit its mistakes seems perfectly reasonable per se.</p><p>In a country where the norm is not the protection of human rights, but a systemic resistance to protecting them, where drug users are considered responsible for the ineffectiveness of the clinicians supposedly treating them, and where over 50% of the population believe that drug use should be a criminal offence, protecting the rights of drug users and addicts would seem to be a lost cause. Ivan Anoshkin’s case shows that institutional shortcomings can, and should, be exposed.&nbsp;</p><p>Ivan’s story is less a classic Kafkaesque parable about the little man challenging the state machine, than a demonstration of how the law can be used to collectively resist repressive institutions on legal grounds. Neither Ivan’s recovery from addiction nor his path through the courts would probably have been possible without help from others.</p><p>This case shows the effectiveness of collective solidarity against the ideological rhetoric about personal responsibility. The familiar Russian scenario, where an individual is pitted one on one against the institutional abuse of their rights or banal ineffectiveness, only leads to the further erosion of human rights and the half-dead public institutions themselves — and the first to be affected are vulnerable groups such as people who are drug users and or living with HIV. In this context, any collective attempts to oppose this erosion become particularly important.</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/isabelle-magkoeva/we-ll-be-living-with-this-for-long-time">We’ll be living with this for a long time</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/artur-asafyev/outrage-and-outsourcing-in-russian-healthcare">Outrage and outsourcing in Russian healthcare</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elena-vlasenko/cold-turkey-in-russia">Cold turkey in Russia</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 Dmitry Lebedev Russia Human rights Health Mon, 20 Feb 2017 11:36:15 +0000 Dmitry Lebedev 108914 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Makhachkala: citizen city https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svetlana-anokhina/makhachkala-citizen-city <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the capital of Dagestan, a group of citizens has come out to defend a park against a new patriotic museum. So far, they’ve been successful. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svetlana-anokhina/makhachkala-kak-gorozhane-stali-grazhdanami">Русский</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/555493/5532394038_32d14bdea5_z_1_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'>Makhachkala. CC BY 2.0 Un Bolshakov / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 7 February, a new post <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BQNn-ltFETI/?hl=ru">appeared</a> on Ramazan Abdulatipov’s Instagram page. The post concerned plans to build a “historical park museum” in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, as part of a new network of museums called <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mark-galeotti/education-in-putin-s-russia-isn-t-about-history-but-scripture">“Russia, my history”</a>. “After a broad public discussion, which has been conducted for the first time on this kind of issue, I have decided to assign territory on Imam Shamil Avenue for this project. The Moscow developers of this project have approved this territory as the most suitable for a historical park,” <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BQNn-ltFETI/?hl=ru">wrote</a> the head of Dagestan. The Makhachkala residents who had been following this decision closely in the past few weeks breathed a sigh of relief, before calling and congratulating one another.&nbsp;</p> <p>Abdulatipov’s post did contain one worrying paragraph, however: “Some people have decided to use this project as a PR stunt, stirring things up and disinforming people, telling them that the museum would be built on the territory of the Lenin Komsomol Park.” To parse out Abdulatipov’s words: several ministers and indeed, the head of Dagestan’s own press service had been suffering from delusion, and there’d been no confrontation between residents of Makhachkala and the authorities whatsoever.</p> <p>The reality is somewhat different.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Developers’ town&nbsp;</h2> <p>Come to Makhachkala and you’ll find that property developers have gone wild. Here in this town on the Caspian coast, residents are used to uncontrolled and chaotic town planning, which usually involves the destruction of buildings and green spaces. When a municipal playground is built, it often turns into a three-storey restaurant. Every year, the amount of green space is reduced, including for the sake of new “cultural sites”.&nbsp;</p><p>In June 2016, Dagestani media reported on plans to open a museum park “Russia, my history”, which would include media installations and panoramic projections. These installations would, it seems, strengthen visitors’ knowledge of history and patriotism. It was also reported that a significant part of Lenin Komsomol Park — Makhachkala’s oldest and more or less only park — would be given over to this project.&nbsp;</p> <iframe src="https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m0!3m2!1sen!2sua!4v1487526075084!6m8!1m7!1sF%3A-kLk7W_SZhoY%2FWGeKGtTxc2I%2FAAAAAAAAU2o%2FCqFYZInXwRkA5uq6Jb0K1xkuENucGW0YACLIB!2m2!1d42.986934!2d47.492773!3f197.09793575609396!4f1.257679984152901!5f0.7820865974627469" width="460" height="300" frameborder="0" style="border:0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <em>Lenin Komsomol Park.</em><br /> <p>The fact that nine other regions were planning to participate in this country-wide project, and that it was organised under the patronage of Vladimir Putin and the support of Abdulatipov meant that, well, it wasn’t up for re-evaluation. Dagestan’s social media made a few groans, slagged off the authorities and then turned their attention to other sources of frustration. Only a few people took an interest in who these Moscow developers were, and what they were planning to do.</p> <h2>Rurik’s children&nbsp;</h2> <p>In November 2016, Musa Musaev, the head of Makhachkala’s city administration, signed part of city’s Lenin Komsomol Park over to the non-commercial fund “Russia, my history. Makhachkala” for 49 years. The organization behind this fund, apart from Musaev’s old home in Dagestan’s Ministry of Construction, is the Moscow-based <a href="http://www.expohistory.ru/">Fund for Humanitarian Projects</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>As their website reports, the Fund for Humanitarian Projects has so far carried out four projects, three of which are dedicated to the Rurik dynasty and the Romanov family, and the fourth – to the history of Russia from ancient times to today. The organisation has also released two mobile apps, which, as you might guess, are named after the Ruriks and Romanovs. But the Fund’s main asset is the fact that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin <a href="http://tass.ru/obschestvo/3759415">visited</a> their exhibition “Russia, my history. 1945-2016” at the Moscow Manege exhibition centre in November 2016. Putin then suggested the Fund should build branches of this museum in Russia’s regions. The coordination of this work was assigned to the Presidential Administration’s unit on civic projects, whose deputy director (responsible for “strengthening the unity of the multi-national people of the Russian Federation) is Magomedsalam Magomedov, who, in 2010-2013, was president of Dagestan.</p> <p>The Fund’s partners include the Presidential Administration, Moscow Patriarchate, the Ministry of Culture and the Moscow city government. The idea behind this project belongs to Putin’s spiritual guide Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), who is responsible for cultural projects in the Russian Orthodox Church, and chairs the Fund’s expert council.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02767832.LR_.ru__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, my history" exhibition at Moscow's VDNKh. (c) Maxim Blinov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>But given that this is Makhachkala, not Moscow, it was decided to add a local element to the museum’s pre-existing model. This work has been given to a “team of specialists”, though we don’t know who they are, or what exactly will be exhibited in the museum.</p> <p>Recent events surrounding a new memorial at Akhul’go, the site of a dramatic siege by Russian forces against Imam Shamil’s forces in 1839, can help us make a few prognoses though. For example, at the opening ceremony last month, Ramazan Abdulatipov made a speech, the meaning of which came down to this: the blood spilled by Russian soldiers and Shamil’s men sanctified the “historical unity, the brotherhood of the peoples of Russia”. Both the idea itself and its realisation gave cause for serious concern.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This move against the Lenin Komsomol Park is not new, they’ve been going on for years. Back in the Soviet era, parts of it were sliced off for the construction of ideologically important buildings</p> <p>“The victory of Russian forces at Akhul’go is only the first stage in that bloody war. There’s still the peak of Shamil’s might in the 1840s to come, his victories and, accordingly, the defeats of Russian forces,” says Vadim Mukhanov, a senior researcher at the MGIMO’s Center for Problems of the Caucasus and Regional Security. “The restoration of historic buildings and architectural sites would serve the cause of reconciliation and harmony better than a memorial or an entertaining museum. The decisions of the local administration, which are basically personal PR projects, could lead to a new surge in conflict.”&nbsp;</p> <p>If the memorial complex and the copy of Franz Roubad’s <a href="https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Siege_of_Akhoulgo">1888 panoramic painting</a> didn’t lead to criticism, then many saw the gallery, where, among others, there is a portrait of Vladimir Putin atop a white horse, as an attempt to please the Kremlin. The fact that this was presented as a project to commemorate Imam Shamil nearly turned this strategic mistake into an insult. Thus, there are grounds to believe that the mistakes with Akhul’go could be repeated in the Dagestani section of “Russia, my history”.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_3822_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="319" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A computer mock-up of the Akhul'go memorial complex. Source: Untsukulsky Municipal Council. </span></span></span>Patimat Takhnaeva, a member of the Moscow Institute of Eastern Studies, asks the question: “Who are the authors of this new textbook on Russia’s history? The idea itself is throwing us back to the Middle Ages, when the Bible was represented for the illiterate on the walls of churches. But that was a sacred text, you can’t get away from the story there. But this is decorative history designed to provoke a patriotic commitment to the glorious past and a feeling of your personal attachment to the great ‘historical Russia’. The main leitmotif is the thousand-year tradition of the Russian state on the basis of Orthodox faith. And the powers-that-be, who are supported by this, are holy and untouchable. Here we should talk about a specific delivery of historical knowledge, the manipulation of minds. Not history as a science.”</p> <h2>Veiner Brothers&nbsp;</h2> <p>It’s unlikely that the residents of Makhachkala thought much of these nuances and understood what kind of museum was being proposed. Indeed, few people thought about what exactly they were going to lose with the park, but then they realised: the park isn’t just trees or a place to go for a walk with your child, it’s part of the city’s historical memory.&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the triggers for this process was an <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://chernovik.net/content/anons-sredniy-klass/chernovik-priglashaet-mahachkalincev-na-progulku-v-park&amp;sa=D&amp;ust=1487165214942000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFbbCy-SK_tBOkHxfVY_VNtaeoQsQ">announcement</a> in <em>Chernovik</em>, an independent weekly newspaper, on 20 January. It invited people to a guided tour around the Lenin Komsomol Park on 29 January. “Come with your children and parents, bring your friends. We want your generation to remember this park how it is now — big and beautiful, with tall trees. And perhaps, this is our chance to say goodbye to it.” And people came. With their children and their grandchildren. The police came too: apparently they were worried that the tour would turn into an anti-government meeting.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_1559_0.JPG" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>3 February: people picket the site where developers planned to bury a time capsule. (с) Patimat Makhmudova.</span></span></span>Yana Martirosova, the tour guide, tells me: “I knew that the police would come, but I didn’t realise there would be so many. I’ve never done a tour under armed guard before. But then I relaxed, the main thing is that people came. It means they need the park. I told them about Arkady and Nikolai Veiner, who came to Petrovsk [the old name for Makhachkala] in 1909 to continue the work of their father, a brewer. The territory they received was swampland. And to dry it out they planted a garden here, which was called Veiners’ Park. Later it became Lenin Komsomol Park. After the tour, people began to voice their dissatisfaction at the coming clearance loudly, and there was a risk that the police would disperse us. But together with the journalists, we managed to calm things down.”&nbsp;</p> <p>This move against the Lenin Komsomol Park is not new, they’ve been going on for years. Back in the Soviet era, parts of it were sliced off for the construction of ideologically important buildings — the Monument to the Liberating Soldier, Musem of Military Glory and the Alley of Glory. By a twist of irony, these sites were supposed to fulfill the same aim as the “Russia, my history” museum: “to capture the minds of youth in order to develop patriotic education and attract them to the study of history.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Many older city residents remember what Veiners’ Park used to be like. For them, it was another world — grass, trees, pheasants and rabbits. All of this is gone now. And the strength of the protest can be explained not only in reference to the fact of an attack on the park, but how it was done. If previously developers have come from the side and behind, then this project aimed to take the centre of the park — with a lack of ceremony characteristic of those who consider themselves to be its “real owners”.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>This park is ours</strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p>One of the people who came on the “farewell tour” is Arsen Magomedov, director of a legal firm.</p> <p>“I saw many people I knew there – surprisingly, from completely different spheres. Some people I met at <em>Chernovik</em>. There was a bunch of people there who turned into the initiative group. We swapped numbers, made a group in WhatsApp and agreed about further action. Then we started working with the documents, and we found that everything had been done with a mass of violations. There were no open public hearings on the issue, there was no tender. The territory was just given to the Dagestan Fund of ‘Russia, my history’ on the order of the head of the republic.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">For a time, all the city’s confessional, national, territorial, political and other points of tension were forgotten. Sufis and Salafites, liberals and Stalinists, long-term city residents and new arrivals came together to defend a hectare of land</p> <p>After the “farewell tour”, the initiative group started to patrol the territory assigned for the museum. Residents of nearby apartment blocks joined them. And if a message came in on the WhatsApp group (“They’re digging!”), then it was shared very quickly over social media, and people rushed to the park.&nbsp;</p> <p>And this is where something surprising happened, something worth of the city chronicles. For a time, all the city’s confessional, national, territorial, political and other points of tension were forgotten. Sufis and Salafites, liberals and Stalinists, long-term city residents and new arrivals came together to defend a hectare of land and 65 trees destined for destruction. One state media correspondent said: “I’m supposed to write a super-positive text about this, but I won’t.”&nbsp;</p> <p>This activity and growing dissatisfaction couldn’t remain unnoticed. The city administration’s website was updated with information that <a href="http://www.mkala.ru/info/news/2017/01/26/news_13090.html">openly confirmed</a> that the territory was signed over on the orders of Abdulatipov, and that the administration would spend 140m roubles (£1.9m) on it. A day later, the mayor’s office conducted public hearings, and the video of municipal deputy Zagra Magomedova’s fiery speech <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BPxLXKHlIk5/">went viral</a>, proving that you can find people capable of going against orders from above even among public officials.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/DSC_0116_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'>The author with concerned citizens after a broadcast on Ekho Moscow. Makhachkala radio station. (c) Rasul Kadiev. </span></span></span>The events surrounding the museum, which had been conducted smoothly up till now, were now beginning to come off track. The press conference at RIA Dagestan, where employees of state media were to meet the principle architect, was broadcast live. People latched onto the architect’s revelation that, for him, personally, he had enough trees in the garden of his own home. Employees of state media now added their voices to the campaign in defence of the park.</p> <p>This was completely unexpected for the authorities — and the activists. It seemed they had a lot of people on side, but it was unclear how to use them. The request for a public demonstration had been turned down on the grounds of a “likely diversion and terrorist act.” Instead, they were offered a demonstration in the middle of March, prompting jokes to the effect that terrorist acts and diversions also had to be approved by the Ministry of Justice.</p> <p>The watershed moment came on the day when the developers were supposed to plant a time capsule at the location of the future museum. Residents, activists and journalists sent to cover the event waited together for Abdulatipov’s arrival. Only green ribbons, attached to coats and arms, set people apart. It quickly became clear that the event had been cancelled. And so people built a snowman in place of the time capsule, attaching a green ribbon to him too.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/16387238_1008224302654835_660718929660865830_n_0_0.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'>The snowman in question. Source: Facebook. </span></span></span>The next day, 4 February, the activists divided into two groups. One group decided to guard the park, and the other went to visit the rector’s office of Dagestan’s State University, where they were to meet with Makhti Ramazanov, director of the future museum. The moderator of this meeting from Dagestan’s presidential administration tried to intervene, but this did not protect Ramazanov. He was asked about existing infrastructure (which were not built to withstand such a project), and parking. A member of Dagestan’s Civic Chamber reminded the audience that six percent of Makhachkala’s territory is green land, when it should be 40%.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Zurab Gadzhiev, a historian, talked numbers — the amount of money that is granted to Dagestan’s museums, the number of museums that are closing region-wide due to a lack of financing, and which could all-too well use that 140m roubles assigned to Makhachkala’s version of “Russia, my history”. Most people asked the authorities to find another location for the museum. Only two people were against it as such.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Sure, it’s the first time this kind of story has happened in Dagestan, but it’d be laughable to conclude that “democracy has arrived in the republic”</p> <p>Ramazanov responded: “Moscow chose this place. If we hadn’t have agreed to the park, then Chechnya would have got it!” To which the audience responded: “Well let them take it!”. People shouted from their seats that there was nothing to breath in the city, and that the park is the only place to go for a walk with your children.&nbsp;</p> <p>This discussion was broadcast live, and local residents watched it like a boxing match: “What’s he talking about?” “Shamil, finish him!” “The park is ours!” </p> <h2>How united are we?&nbsp;</h2> <p>We can only guess what was happening among the backers of this project during this time. Public officials also came out against the project, such as the deputy chairman and chairman of Dagestan’s Civic Chamber — though this wasn’t known to the general public at the time. Representatives of the ministries preferred to remain silent. As the deputy at the Ministry of Resources put it: “We react when a tree is damaged. Have they even broken a branch there in the park? No. So, when they break something, then we’ll react.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>As we found out on 7 February when we met in the park once again, another location has been chosen for the park near the Dzhuma Mosque, in the city centre. We didn’t celebrate. Everyone was so tired that they just sighed and went back to their business. There wasn’t much confidence either: it seemed as this move was just to calm us down, and that the bulldozers were still just round the corner. For some, at least from the outside, it looked like victory. One Facebook user posted the news to a civil society group from Kaliningrad: “This isn’t about the Kaliningrad region, but it’s about citizens who are defending their city from barbarians. Let’s not forget that ‘while we are united, we are undefeatable’.”&nbsp;</p> <p>This small victory didn’t deceive anyone. Sure, it’s the first time this kind of story has happened in Dagestan, but it’d be laughable to conclude that “democracy has arrived in the republic”. The initiative group isn’t going anywhere. </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/badma-biurchiev/big-government-is-back-in-dagestan">Big government is back in Dagestan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/dagestan-who-owns-women-s-bodies">Who owns women’s bodies in Dagestan?</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/badma-biurchiev/gubden-dagestan-where-radicals-police-themselves">Gubden, Dagestan: where ‘radicals’ police themselves</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 Svetlana Anokhina Mon, 20 Feb 2017 06:49:03 +0000 Svetlana Anokhina 108903 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The crossing https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/crossing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Life continues across the "neutral zone" between Ukraine's separatist territories and government-controlled areas, but only just. &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/IMG_4005_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'>On the border of the "neutral zone", it can take hours to cross from separatist to government territory. Image courtesy of the author. </span></span></span>I get out of bed at 5 a.m., just as the curfew is being lifted in Donetsk, the capital of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine. It’s pitch dark outside and I feel privileged — really and truly privileged — to be able to afford to pay $25 for three extra hours of sleep and a significant risk reduction. My fellow travel companions crossing from rebel-controlled territory to government-controlled areas, I realise, had to leave their homes during curfew and spend half the night parked in the “neutral zone,” between DNR and government checkpoints, fully exposed to the dangers of nightly shooting and shelling. Backpack zipped-shut, I go downstairs and get into a taxi, which will drop me off at the last rebel-controlled checkpoint. From there, I’ll just walk through the “neutral zone” on the lookout for my “ferryman”.</p> <p>“Ferrymen” take people from rebel-controlled areas to government controlled territory and back. As of 2015, Ukraine’s government <a href="http://lb.ua/news/2015/02/09/294906_kabmin_vvel_pogranichniy_rezhim.html">established</a> strict controls over crossing to and from rebel-controlled areas. The government of course has the right to control such movement, but the way the crossing system works results in tremendous difficulties for many civilians who already bear considerable hardships after the nearly three-year armed conflict. </p> <p>According to Ukraine’s State Border Service, 26,000-32,000 people <a href="//localhost/%255bhttp/:reliefweb.int:sites:reliefweb.int:files:resources:Ukraine15thReport.pdf%255d">cross the line of contact daily</a>. The UN estimates the overall population of separatist-controlled areas at 2.7 million, and many of these people travel to government-controlled areas on a regular basis. Some of the most frequent travelers have jobs or business deals on the other side of the line. Others go there to visit relatives, process ID and other documents, and even buy groceries, the prices on meat and produce being much higher in rebel-controlled areas. Many people who fled to other parts of Ukraine proper during the war travel to rebel-held territory to check on their homes, see their families and assess the prospects for return.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There are only five crossing checkpoints —and one is minuscule and only for foot traffic — to accommodate the tens of thousands of daily travelers</p> <p>Yet there are only five crossing checkpoints —and one is minuscule and only for foot traffic — to accommodate the tens of thousands of daily travelers. This results in humongous queues, with people waiting for hours and sometimes overnight, to travel a distance that, technically speaking, is negligible. </p> <p>Today, I’m traveling from central Donetsk to its immediate suburb, government-controlled Mariinka. Before the war and even during its first months, the trip would take about 30 minutes. Now, God willing, it will take me four hours, provided the crossing checkpoint operates on a normal schedule. But again, I’m privileged — my fellow travelers had to leave three hours ahead of me to get a spot at the front of the crossing queue.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_3987.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="412" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photograph courtesy of the author.</span></span></span>The Ukrainian authorities have banned regular bus service or other public transportation between rebel-controlled and government-controlled territories. Hence, the “ferrymen” who deliver passengers in large vans, eight people per vehicle, pretending that they’re ferrying friends and family members. The pretense is pretty transparent, but some palm-greasing ensures smooth passage. The ferrymen use their palm-greasing skills on the other side of the border as well, so they can get away with breaking curfew and avoid getting the passengers searched and harassed at “zero”, or the last DNR checkpoint.</p> <p>The ferrymen have collected their passengers from across Donetsk and the outskirts between 2 and 3 a.m., aiming to make it through the “zero” checkpoint and into the “neutral zone” by around 3:30. This way, they won’t be at the very front of the queue for Ukraine’s crossing checkpoint, as there are always some people who did not get through the day before and stayed there overnight. But if all goes as planned, they should be close enough to get through sometime between 9 and 10 a.m. Ukraine opens its crossing checkpoints at 8 a.m., which is 9 a.m. in rebel-controlled areas between mid-October and mid-April. Like Russia, the rebels don’t switch to winter time. </p> <p>Accordingly, the ferrymen and their passengers spend at least six hours, including several hours before dawn, in the “neutral zone”. It’s between dusk and dawn that the warring sides frequently fire, so all people traveling this itinerary at this hour are at serious risk. Moreover, no aid organisations are allowed into the “neutral zone,” and the warring sides clearly have not been thinking about installing sanitary and other facilities on that stretch of the road. The “neutral zone” has no toilets, portable water, heaters, tents, or sources of light. It has nothing really, except heavily mined fields on the both sides.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The “neutral zone” has no toilets, portable water, heaters, tents, or sources of light. It has nothing really, except heavily mined fields on the both sides</p> <p>At 6:30 a.m., I’m walking through a throng of vehicles “in the neutral zone” toward my ferryman’s van. The queue is already large and dense, with the cars parked extremely close to one another, so as not to leave any space for latecomers attempting to jump the queue. </p><p>As I’m walking ahead, a posh black jeep takes a plunge onto the muddy roadside and drives on the mined field parallel to the road, attempting to sneak into the line of cars at the front of the queue. This past spring, a bus performing a similar trick <a href="http://obozrevatel.com/crime/52986-v-artemovske-na-mine-podorvalsya-avtobus-s-lyudmi--est-zhertvyi.htm">blew up</a> on a mine on government controlled territory, next to the Maiorsk check-point, killing four people and wounding 19. The memory of that tragedy is still fresh, but the frustration of waiting is so intense that some take the risk. The jeep finds a tiny opening, climbs up, but gets was pushed down back into the mud by several angry men dead set on not letting anyone break the rules. The despondent driver eventually turns around, and heads back.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_3999.JPG" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photograph courtesy of the author.</span></span></span>As I find my van, more and more cars arrive. Also, lots more people on foot or bicycle join the “pedestrian” queue upfront, on the left side of the road. Among them are the elderly and the frail. Two old men lean painfully on their crutches. Small kids whimper from cold, exhaustion and sheer boredom. Some people hold onto their bags the whole time, others, whose bags are too heavy or who simply don’t have the energy, drop them in the mud. It rained all night, the road is still wet. &nbsp;</p> <p>Though we’re lucky with the weather and it’s a few degrees above zero, two hours later I’m chilled to the bone. It is mind-blowing to think of people standing like this for hours in sub-zero temperatures, icy wind, freezing rain or snow, or under blazing sun in boiling summer heat. </p> <p>As it gets later, people are getting increasingly uncomfortable. More and more men turn to face the roadside and urinate with their back to the crowd. Some women, including the elderly ones, make their way into the field— yes, the minefield — and squat in full view of the crowd, as there are no bushes or trees to hide behind. It’s dangerous and degrading. But do they really have a choice? </p> <p>When the government crossing checkpoint finally opens, I claim my seat in the van next to a stylish woman in her mid-forties. She is artfully made up and coiffed, and looks astonishingly well put together for someone who spent half the night in an overcrowded vehicle on a dangerous road. She is also sporting a pristine white wool coat cinched at the waist and shiny knee-high boots, making me realise my jacket and shoes are splotched with mud.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It’s a war zone and as with any war, some of the easiest things suddenly become precarious and hard to accomplish</p> <p>As I apprehensively slide to the very edge of the seat to avoid fouling my neighbor’s immaculate clothes, she starts muttering about the desperate need to empty her bladder. She describes how when she got up at 2 a.m. she purposefully did not drink anything and how she sat on the toilet for a few minutes trying to express urine “to the last drop” because she knew what she “is in for”. But it’s been over six hours already, and she is “just dying”. After 15 minutes of moaning, she jumps up, “I cannot help it any more. I’m about to burst. Could you please come with me?” - “You want to brave the field?” I ask warily. - “No, not that. See this tiny space between our van and the next one? I’ll squat there but please stay next to me so that the men don’t come and stare.” </p> <p>All numb, I descend into the stretch of mud between the two vehicles and watch my chic companion hold the snow-white flaps of her coat with one hand, and pull down her pantyhose with the other. But the endless queue of cars suddenly starts moving. “Into the van!” yells the driver, and both of us scramble back inside. It takes another 45 minutes to make the crossing to government-controlled territory and reach the first roadside toilet. By mute agreement, the passengers in our van let the woman in white go first. </p> <p>It’s a war zone and as with any war, some of the easiest things suddenly become precarious and hard to accomplish. However, the warring sides have the obligation to protect civilians and respect their dignity. Opening additional checkpoints to speed up the crossing may be difficult and time consuming, but putting up sanitation facilities, heaters and tents is something that can and should be done without delay. It will make a huge difference to thousands of people, people whose safety and dignity are being lost.</p> <p><em>Read Human Rights Watch's briefing <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/17/ukraine-dangers-unnecessary-delays-crossing-points">"Ukraine: Dangers, Unnecessary Delays at Crossing Points"</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/anna-yalovkina/life-behind-blockade-in-donetsk-people%E2%80%99s-republic">Life behind the blockade in the Donetsk People’s Republic</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/raw-fear-in-separatist-controlled-donetsk">Raw fear in separatist-controlled Donetsk</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-portnov/how-eastern-ukraine-was-lost">How ‘eastern Ukraine’ was lost</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dan-peleschuk/winning-peace-in-slovyansk">Winning the peace in Slovyansk</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dmitry-okrest/ukrainian-refugees-in-moscow-face-uncertain-fate">Ukrainian refugees in Russia receive a mixed welcome</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 Tanya Lokshina Ukraine Fri, 17 Feb 2017 12:47:38 +0000 Tanya Lokshina 108860 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Socialist love: from utopia to pragmatism https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/katerina-liskova/socialist-love-from-utopia-to-pragmatism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What we know as love can change fast. In Czechoslovakia, the state’s idea of marriage went from an utopian ideal to a functional arrangement in 20 years flat. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/katerina-liskova/socialist-love-ot-utopii-k-pragmatismu">Русский</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>Despite what people might think, love is not eternal. Not only can an emotion experienced by any two given people might (and all too often does) disappear, the very notion of love changes on a broader scale. It shifts over time and place, across historical eras and geographical spaces, affecting what people perceive as desirable, what they strive for in their intimate lives and beyond and how they understand themselves.</p> <p>More interestingly, love — an innermost feeling that we tend to perceive as subjective — is connected with and shaped by broader socio-political structures. Love is political.&nbsp;</p> <p>Under state socialism in Czechoslovakia, the idea of love underwent a series of transformations along with the shifting character of the regime. Here, not one, but two different modes of love existed in the space of 40 years. Political events, seemingly remote from romantic sentiments, had direct and tangible effects on ways people engaged in relationships and conceived of love.</p> <h2>The country of free love&nbsp;</h2> <p>The advent of socialism in Czechoslovakia brought about a universal accent on equality. Not only were people to be equal as workers but also as spouses and parents. The legal standing of women and men in marriages changed dramatically with new civil codes introduced soon after communist takeovers.&nbsp;</p> <p>In Czechoslovakia, the Act on Family Law of 1949 stipulated that wives were newly on par with their husbands, who lost their age-old power over women and children. The law had spouses jointly making decisions regarding property and children, made divorce easier, and freed women from needing their husbands’ approval in order to work outside the home.&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, the wording about “marital duty” that connoted sex in marriage was omitted from legal documents. “The law deliberately does not mention marital duties because this duty as well as the duty to have children results from the very essence of marriage as a voluntary union of two people who seek in it the fulfillment of their personal life,” a women’s magazine informed its readers in 1950. “Duty” fell out of fashion, replaced by unenforced engagement in love, sex and their expected result – children.&nbsp;</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>With the legal framework changed, people were expected to change their attitudes to marriage as well. A new branch of experts surfaced who studied human sexuality and advised people how to live in happy sexual unions: sexologists. A whole Sexology Institute was founded in Prague in 1921, way before <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Kinsey#The_Kinsey_Reports">Alfred Kinsey had a chance to publish his first report in the west</a>. They were medical doctors who conducted clinical research and who also wrote marriage manuals. Those books published in the 1950s extolled the virtues of equal unions that people should enter solely out of love.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">“Love is possible only among free people”</p> <p>“Love is possible only among free people,” proclaimed Josef Hynie, the founding father of Czechoslovak sexology, in 1948.&nbsp;</p> <p>His colleagues from the Sexological Institute elaborated:&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is true that the consistent inclusion of women into societal and work processes and their economic independence from men loosen marital bonds. The woman eludes the thrall of her husband. She is no longer <em>only</em> a servant, <em>only</em> a housekeeper, <em>only</em> a representative, <em>only</em> a child-rearer but becomes an equal partner economically as well as socially. […] Wherever a marriage is based on mutual love and respect, the economic and social independence of both partners creates all the prerequisites to a much stronger union without falsity and pretense, stemming from a voluntary and joyful desire for shared life.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout the 1950s, women’s freedom has become &nbsp;historically unprecedented: guaranteed equality in the workplace, legal equality within marriage – and men stood to benefit too. True love and happy marriage rewarded both sexes.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not to say that everyday lives and lived realities of marriages changed overnight. In fact, many stayed tiresomely unaltered. But the fact that reality didn’t always live up to expectations was not seen as reason to abandon the expectations. Quite the contrary – the sexologist Vladimír Barták advised young unmarried people not to set their hopes lower than finding their true soul mate. People should never settle for marriages of convenience, he believed.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Peak of stupidity</strong></h2> <p>Less than a dozen years later, everything looked dramatically different. In the early 1970s, the bestselling marriage manuals penned by the authors from the very same Sexological Institute announced that “man and woman are not equal biologically nor socially” and advised to embrace the fact that “despite the principle stipulated by law, the responsibility for running the household and caring for children lies mostly with the woman” – and if her husband helps from time to time, she should “appreciate man’s help, have respect for it, despite the fact that it actually is his legal duty.” Equality was not envisioned as part of these arrangements.&nbsp;</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>Together with equality, love disappeared from the discourse of Czechoslovak sexology. Authors scrambled for specific-sounding, yet convoluted expressions such as “emotional disharmony between the spouses” or “emotional estrangement”, “the disturbance of the emotional realm in the marital union” or a “discrepancy in mutual displays of tenderness and feelings.” Love did not merely go unmentioned — all these expressions connoted a problem, a lack.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">I think we should leave love to the arts&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, if “love” was mentioned at all, it tended to carry negative connotations. The sexologist Jaroslav Zvěřina of the Sexological Institute railed against the “love ideology of sexuality.” According to him, “like any feeling, love in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It can become either, it depends on its consequences. I think we should leave love to the arts. We should lead people to responsibility towards themselves and their environment. Excess of emotions only weakens that responsibility.” People were to forget love and embrace discipline instead.&nbsp;</p> <p>A true champion of the idea that discipline &nbsp;should trump love was Miroslav Plzák, arguably the best-known Czechoslovak sexologist. In his 1975 bestselling marriage manual, he ridiculed the idea of marital love and happiness as the “peak of stupidity”:&nbsp;</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“We refuse to hear anything about the need for discipline in marriage because we remained enslaved to art nouveau ideas about marriage; we keep believing that above all marriage should be a groove of love in which spouses romantically frolic, and we resist the assertion that marriage must be an institution that is “office” of sorts.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Plzák believed that marital life should be mechanised, just like riding a bike or operating a machine. People should avoid contemplating their marriage (“am I happy?”, “is that all there is?”) and, if they felt bored, they were to beget an offspring. After all, having children was the function that marriage was to serve in the first place. And women’s function was to raise the children and care for the home.</p> <h2>Normalisation of hopelessness&nbsp;</h2> <p>Why such a vast difference between the early and late stages of Czechoslovak socialism? The first decade or so after the régime change was characterised by utopian thinking. The strong postwar sentiment that the foundations of the world needed to be <em>remade</em> was accompanied by the need to <em>rethink</em> those foundations. The close relationship between a man and a woman was seen as a paradigmatic social bond, and back in the 1950s it was believed such bonds should be based on equality and friendship, blossoming into love.&nbsp;</p> <p>The 1970s and 1980s in Czechoslovakia were dubbed the “Normalisation” period by proponents of the regime. What communists wanted to “normalise” were the political conditions that had been upended by the processes leading up to the Prague Spring of 1968.&nbsp;</p> <p>The wave of protest that had swept the nation and caught the imagination of people worldwide rolled over the cultural landscape: films by Jiří Menzel, Věra Chytilová, Miloš Forman and others became known as the new wave; books by Milan Kundera and Bohumil Hrabal became renowned for parting with schematic realism. This new art and literature breached the command economy by proposing reforms aimed to reintroduce some market elements and spilled into civic life in form of attempts to return participatory features into politics.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">People gave up change at a personal as well as political level, approaching reality in a pragmatic way. This moral disposition reproduced the “normalised” status quo</p> <p>After the Soviet-led tanks quashed all that in August 1968, people abandoned all hope. The socialist utopia had been revised already during the 1960s, but now with “Normalisation” in place, policies binding people to their homes and families were implemented and marriage manuals inadvertently took part in narrowing horizons and diminishing expectations: “Look around you. Dissatisfied? Forget it, this is all there is,” the new marriage manuals appeared to say.</p> <p>People gave up change at a personal as well as political level, approaching reality in a pragmatic way. This moral disposition reproduced the “normalised” status quo, guaranteeing that the order did not dissolve. Social stability, undisturbed by men and women desiring different arrangements at home and beyond, was to be the natural result.&nbsp;</p> <p>We should take note of how quickly idealistic drives can yield to utilitarian imperatives — and how unnoticed this change occurs to those involved. In Czechoslovakia, the crossover took no more than a decade. Love is surely not eternal, but when we abandon utopian yearnings, when we settle for what is, when we give in to normalising pressures of the day, we are ditching a chance for better futures. We should think about that every day, not only on Valentine’s.</p><p><span><em>The collapse of state socialism&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love">ushered in a revolution of the intimate</a>.&nbsp;Share your thoughts on utopian/utilitarian love below.</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/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love">Cold war, hot love</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/josefin-hedlund/revolutionary-love">How to make love revolutionary</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rebecca-gould/love-without-monogamy">Love without monogamy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anna-shadrina/what-is-threatening-%E2%80%98traditional-family-values%E2%80%99-in-russia-today">What is threatening ‘traditional family values’ in Russia today?</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 Katerina Liskova Romantic regimes Thu, 16 Feb 2017 15:33:47 +0000 Katerina Liskova 108835 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cold war, hot love https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">The collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in a revolution of the intimate. To open our series on Romantic regimes, we discuss the trajectories of emotional socialism and emotional capitalism in the post-Soviet context. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love-rus">Русский</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><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_0.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_0.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'>Russian lovers per excellence, in Western imagination: Yuri Zhivago and Lara, protagonists of Boris Pasternak´s Nobel Prize winning novel "Doctor Zhivago". Source: Wiki Commons.</span></span></span>In the mid-1990s, I observed Russia’s transition to “emotional capitalism” — a value system based on personal autonomy, individual choice and private interests not only in the market, but in the private realm, too. Every morning as I made my way to school, I would linger at the newspaper stand near the metro, where I was entranced by the ever-changing assortment of newspapers and magazines. Glossy covers, one after the other, with pictures of racy women and equally racy cars were forcing the greying <em>Pravda</em> into the back row — until it disappeared completely. Whereas the front page of a newspaper previously ordered Soviet citizens to dedicate every minute of their lives to socialist labour on factory floors and fields of collective farms, Cosmo, Vogue and GQ now insisted that men and women alike ought to focus on a new sphere of productivity: their own lives and their own bedrooms.</p> <p class="normal">“Sex or Chocolate: There is time for Everything!” a <em>Cosmopolitan</em> cover instructed a nation that had just ceased to measure their lives in five-year plans. Moreover, it claimed that “successful thirty-year old women did not need husbands” and invited the reader to test “how well they know their partner”. Once again in the history of the twentieth century, the Russian individual was to be radically “re-forged” (to use a Soviet term), this time from collectivist, fatalist Homo Soveticus into an emotional capitalist who measures the quality of their marriage on a scale of one to ten, masters the “25 sexual positions everyone can for a fold-up bed” and knows how to “pursuit their emotional needs” in a communal kitchen.</p><p class="normal"><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_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/aeca3669d6cbcd190fe943facd5e0fa1_fitted_740x740_0.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'>A Western lover per excellence, in Russian imagination: Cosmo girl. This is the cover of the first Russian issue of the Cosmopolitan magazine published in May 1994. Source: cosmo.ru.</span></span></span>Matters of the heart suddenly acquired a new vocabulary: where the thousand-page Russian novels said “love”, the stars of the new sitcoms said “relationship”; where our folk songs sang of “destiny”, Cosmo spoke of “decisions”; where our mothers were still saying “fiancée”, we were learning to say <em>boifrend</em> and <em>gelfrend</em>; and where well-bred Russians shrugged shoulders and turned red, Cosmo said “sex”, “oral sex”, “anal sex”, “body contact” and “orgasm”.</p> <p class="normal">The usual pattern of relationships has been challenged, too. In place of a steady progression of “falling in love”, “seeing each other” and “getting married”, we are now taught to “stay independent”, distinguish between “sex” and “feelings”, give the partner a “trial period” and only then “commit”. This was a revolution of intimacy. Together with the economic and political regimes of late socialism, another, subtler but equally potent regime had crumbled — the romantic regime, a system of emotional conduct that affects how we speak about how we feel, determine “normal” behaviours, and establish who is eligible for love, and who is not.</p> <p class="normal">To open oDR’s series on “Romantic regimes”, I spoke to Julia Lerner, a sociologist and professor at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, and a former resident of St Petersburg, who came up with the concept of “emotional socialism” in her research on emotional language in the mass media.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Julia, how did you come to the topic of “emotional socialism”? Did you yourself experience the clash of “Soviet” or “Russian” ideas about emotions and love with their “western” counterparts?</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="normal">I left for Israel when I was 18 years old — the very peak of the beginning of romantic relationships, and I, of course, searched for love. I was in love with Israel, its language, and I wanted relationships only with Israelis. But I was completely unprepared for the way first dates are conducted there. For instance, I heard this Hebrew expression <em>lo matim li</em><em>&nbsp;</em>(“this doesn’t suit me”) from a young man. And I just couldn’t understand what it meant, why he was saying this to me and what further development of our relationship it foresaw — would he call me after or not? I understood Hebrew, but this expression was completely alien to me.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">What does this <em>lo matim li</em> mean? First, it supposes an autonomous Self. And this Self has some kind of emotional needs, a clear idea of what and who is suitable, and who isn’t. This might be banal, but it’s like as if he’s entered the supermarket, and there are different women there, and he’s choosing — but he can’t make up his mind straight away, and so he tries, and after the first or second dates, after sex, he says “No, I don’t want that, but that, yes, perhaps.” And he isn’t thinking about offending me, not at all. But he has his Self, and the Self has needs. He — Igal, Omri, Dudu — knows them and is constantly studying them, and this is why it seems to him that he isn’t humiliating me whatsoever. I just don’t suit him, but he doesn’t say anything about that to me. That is, I’m just absent from this picture.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In the Russian model, if you don’t fall head over heels, then you aren’t really in love, and this kind of love won’t bring you happiness</p> <p class="normal">But the most important thing after someone says <em>lo matim li</em> to you is that you have absolutely nothing to say. The whole romantic scenario of wooing someone just doesn’t work anymore. Because how will you woo them? Change their needs? Change yourself so you suit them?&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal"><strong>According to the Russian version of love, you can love someone that doesn’t suit you. And this doesn’t make you “unhealthy”, as it were. It actually emphasises your humanity. But in the western model, if you love something or someone that doesn’t suit you, it means that you’re neurotic.</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="normal">Sure, that’s how I see it. But the differences are felt even when people come to the conclusion that they “suit” one another. After I got married to an Israeli, we nevertheless perceived what happened between us completely differently. I was still signed up to that model of love where there are certain laws. In the first place, love - either it’s there, or it isn’t. But he was “in a relationship”, which could and had to be “worked on”. It’s interesting that, despite the fact that a Soviet person was meant to work on themselves in different spheres, you still can’t “work on love” in the Russian paradigm. Love is beyond that.&nbsp;</p><p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/9538058406_70da466337_k.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>If Anna Karenina did a better job working on her relationships, may be she wouldn't have to be so sad. Photo CC BY-ND 2.0: John E. Branch Jr./Flickr. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>In general, the therapeutic management of emotions is an illusion. Because, in actual factual, you don’t choose anything. You organise yourself, your behaviour according to a healthy norm. I spent a year in America, and the whole time there I had the sense that everything was designed to cultivate the feeling that you had many choices. So that you would never think that you had no choice. And this is why you would be constantly asked if you wanted a plastic bag or a paper bag — you were supposed to have the feeling that you were choking on this choice.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>How free are we in love? We live in this paradigm, we choke on this choice, as you put it — but how real is it?</strong></p> <p class="normal">We’re limiting ourselves to romantic love right now, yes? When another, separate person, who suddenly according to fate, or your choice, or because they satisfy your needs becomes something significant for you and you want to be with them, spend time with them, touch them – in this sense?</p> <p class="normal">For me, freedom is not a relevant issue when it comes to this experience. It seems to me that this kind of love, this kind of attachment, it fundamentally denies the possibility of freedom. It proposes dependency instead. Compromise. It’s just in the Russian model that the women, as a rule, always compromises, and not the man. But, on the whole, freedom can only exist <em>from </em>it, <em>from </em>love, but this kind of freedom is charged with unhappiness and emptiness.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="normal"><strong>What are emotional socialism and emotional capitalism? Do they actually exist?</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="normal">Let’s start with capitalism — it’s been studied and described in closer detail. Emotional capitalism is a very general concept that tries to describe the result of the interaction of different economic forces, grand cultural narratives and social institutions. It’s a fusion of psychological discipline and its practices, free-market capitalism and the major life scenarios of American culture. Here you have the protestant ethic, and individual autonomy, and the never-ending ideology of choice. This mixture, this is what emotional capitalism is.</p> <div style="position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 75.0%;"><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jdQvVNxnM_s?ecver=2" width="460" height="259" frameborder="0" style="position: absolute; width: 100%; height: 100%; left: 0;"></iframe></div> <p class="normal"><i>Pet Shop Boys - Love is a bourgeois construct.&nbsp;</i></p><p class="normal">Emotional socialism is also a fusion generated by disparate phenomena existing in the same historical time and place. Firstly, this is the economic and value system of socialism — its principles of collective property and service to society. Secondly, it includes the life scenarios of Russian, or rather, Russian-language culture, at the heart of which lie the norms of 19<sup>th</sup> century literature. Apart from this, Orthodoxy and, of course, everything that Soviet ideology had to see about emotions and your private life.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In this sense, “Russianness” plays a role in emotional socialism, just as “Americanness” does in emotional capitalism. This is why, when I talk about emotional socialism, I don’t lose sight of the dominant role of Russian literature and, of course, Russian language itself. That is, you can probably work with the concept of emotional socialism in Cuba and China, but it will be different from the former Soviet Union.&nbsp;</p><p class="normal">Of course, we should be critical towards the idea of “emotional socialism” as a reality. Any attempt to describe a culture purely in opposition to another is fraught with simplification: we start to see more differences and fewer similarities. When someone or something starts to be perceived as an Other, then that Other very quickly transforms into The Other, the complete opposite. What I mean is that the Russian emotional style, the Russian style of relationships, the Russian model of love begins to be interpreted as the polar opposite to the American, western and so on.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">I don’t consider Russian or Soviet emotional culture something exotic, something that would be completely alien to the population of France, Britain or America. This is why the concept of “emotional socialism” very strongly simplifies our understanding. All that being said, the idea of emotional socialism seems to me correct and suitable for analysis. In the post-Soviet space, people think and talk about their private lives, emotional experiences differently. And this becomes particularly prominent in Russian-speaking émigré communities where there’s the possibility of direct comparison, reflection.&nbsp;</p><p class="normal"><strong>Let’s come back to the life scenarios that emotional socialism is built upon. What do they represent? And who are its heroes? What qualities do they have? What trials and tests do they have to pass through?</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Well, for example, I understand that the protagonist of Russian literature suffers, and his suffering is his value. That is, avoiding suffering is not his goal. In modern pop-psychology (don’t confuse it with Freud!), there is the idea of avoiding suffering. The Russian narrative doesn’t have this, it has pain. Suffering is not seen as a barrier, as something that suggests you’re living your life wrong, or doing the wrong thing.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/RIAN_00073638.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/RIAN_00073638.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="471" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Soviet lady in distress was a lady like any other and had the empathy of women far beyond the USSR. Best proof: an Oscar won by "Moscow doesn't believe in tears" in 1981, arguably, the most famous socialist rom-com. Photo: RIA Novosti</span></span></span>I’ll give you an example. I once carried out some research for Sochnut, the Jewish Agency for Israel, about how they should represent Israel to Russian Jews still in Russia. So that they would understand how good they could have it in Israel. The agency decided to opt for a business strategy, rather than an ideology: Russian Jews most likely have some unsatisfied needs, and Israel should be represented as a product that will satisfy them.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The main life scenario today is self-realisation, personal growth. Curiously, people find this scenario largely through self-help technologies and media, rather than through professional psychology</p> <p class="normal">We did a huge number of focus groups, and I saw something that really surprised me: people spoke about their unsatisfied needs, but changing their place of residence was not, for them, a way of solving them. The majority of them said that to learn how to live with these problems, get used to them, live despite them — this is was a more meaningful, valuable experience. This is their route to success. This doesn’t wash over that a million people left, but people who stayed articulate their reasons in these terms.</p> <p class="normal">This is another specific element of emotional socialism, which is a place for things like fate, destiny, circumstances. There’s a certain set-up of forces or some kind of route that you follow, and you need to follow it, not resist it. To adapt, not change.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal"><strong>In western literature, Homo Sovieticus or Soviet man is often described precisely in these terms — as someone who is subjugated to circumstances, who doesn’t have what is called “agency”, that is, self-definition, freedom of will, the freedom to take action. Personally, it seems to me that this reading is rather simplified and incorrect, and so I’d like to ask you: where does emotional freedom, the emotional will of a person raised on emotional socialism lie?</strong></p> <p class="normal">Most likely, it’s in the freedom to fall head over heels in love, in the freedom to love madly. Why was there such a cult of love in Soviet literature, cinema? After all, it was completely legitimate to make films about “mad love”, betrayal, leaving your family.</p> <p class="normal">It was, it seems, a special kind of niche: to lose your head, the freedom of emotional self-expression. But not with the aim of “self-realisation”, for example, but an end in itself. Here, economic prosperity and happiness do not follow from big authentic feelings. And nothing good, as a rule, comes of them. Perhaps, it’s like the exercise yard in prison. A system that always holds you in place very firmly, but, to exist, has to create some spaces where its guard drops.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>So it’s like Mikhail Bakhtin’s </strong><a href="https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Carnivalesque"><strong>“carnival”</strong></a><strong>, the authorised chaos in a world of total control. Russia’s freedom to lose your head has a dark side, too: domestic violence, abandoned children, alcoholism, the highest number of divorces per capita in a developed country. Is “losing your head” really freedom or a just lack of responsibility?</strong></p> <p class="normal">This is a normative question. It suggests that we look at “Russian” and “American” love judgmentally. I try not to suppose that Russian love is madness and irresponsibility, and American is responsible regulation that minimises harm to oneself and those around you, or, indeed, the other way round — that Russian love is true and deep, and American is like a programme for robots. Although in all my personal experience, I feel ambivalence, my own conscience and language are psychologised and, perhaps, through my fantasy about Russian emotions I am trying to resist their complete colonisation.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>How are life scenarios changing in post-Soviet culture? Where do people get their ideas of how to express their emotions, how to live with them?</strong></p> <p class="normal">There’s been a discursive shift. It’s become unclear where we find meaning, where these meanings are produced. I think that, for a huge number of people, blogs and Facebook – this is all that they read. And social media are incredibly normative. It’s completely clear that the place of classic literature as a source of life scenarios and, in particular, emotional life, has been seriously reduced.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Soviet individual was made with an axe, and what you just described [self-help culture] is an attempt to slaughter this personality type with a weapon that is just as blunt</p> <p class="normal">The main life scenario today is self-realisation, personal growth. Curiously, people find this scenario largely through self-help technologies and media, and not through professional psychology. Russia has a therapy culture, just not a culture of turning to therapists for help.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>The idea of freedom from love as freedom from dependency, which is promoted in self-help literature, is also very popular. But it often takes very radical forms, such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). How do you explain this?</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="normal">This is usually connected with a situation where a break with the past is being sold well. Some researchers write that you have to understand Soviet civilisation not through the command economy, but the building of a new type of personality, individual. The Soviet individual was made with an axe, and what you just described [self-help culture] is an attempt to slaughter this personality type with a weapon that is just as blunt, together with its emotional socialism, and create a new one in its place. And that’s in a situation where, when we analyse what’s happening in Russia’s media discourse, in popular culture, we see a lot of Soviet material there.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal"><strong>The format of communicating ideas is absolutely Soviet. The emphasis and aim (to destroy the old or foreign) is absolutely the same. I was just thinking that, if we’re going to talk about emotional socialism and emotional capitalism, then we’re currently living in the times of the emotional </strong><a href="https://www.britannica.com/event/New-Economic-Policy-Soviet-history"><strong>“New Economic Policy”</strong></a><strong> (NEP) — i.e. a time of permitted experimentation and acquisition after upheaval. In 1925, Nikolai Bukharin came to the workers and peasants and announced: “Get rich!” And this is precisely what post-Soviet self-help does. It comes to people and says: Onward, take control of your life, you don’t owe anyone anything! Don’t give up your seat to old ladies on the metro. Only get married to an alpha male who brings in 100,000 roubles a month. What do you think?</strong></p> <p class="normal">That’s an interesting thought. But at the same time, I think you and I have fallen into a certain trap of this omnipotent emotional capitalism. We’ve taken the bait, and used its baseline economic metaphor. Take me, for instance, I recently went to a professional coach, who explained to me how to grow in my profession. And she asked me: “How do you fill up your emotional bank? Let’s take a look at what investments you have, what outgoings?” And I told her that I don’t want to use those kinds of concepts. I don’t see my soul and my life as a bank.</p> <p class="normal">I am not sure that this is necessary or the correct way to write about the emotional lives of people and their concerns in terms of property, capitalism and socialism. There’s something wrong about this, in accepting this structure of thought as a baseline.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Let’s round up. what’s the main difference between “Russian” and “western” love?</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In the Russian model, if you don’t fall head over heels, then you aren’t really in love, and this kind of love won’t bring you happiness. And in the American model, if you lose your head, then it’s first and foremost a sign that something’s wrong with you. To be happy in love there, you need to show — yourself and your partner — that “I can live without you”.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal"><em>Coming soon: the next part of </em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/odr-debates/romantic-regimes"><em>“Romantic Regimes”</em></a><em>, where we look at the changing norms of love in marriage counselling in Czechoslovakia.</em>&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="/anna-shadrina/what-is-threatening-%E2%80%98traditional-family-values%E2%80%99-in-russia-today">What is threatening ‘traditional family values’ in Russia today?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-aronson/you-re-better-than-you-think">You’re better than you think</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-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 Transformation Russia Julia Lerner Polina Aronson Romantic regimes RomanticRegimes Tue, 14 Feb 2017 08:08:12 +0000 Polina Aronson and Julia Lerner 108786 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is Europe ready for the Belarus crisis? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/arkady-moshes-ryhor-nizhnikau/is-europe-ready-for-belarus-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new crisis in the east of Europe may be in the making. Europe should assess how it will act — if and when it erupts.</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-10577498-1_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stability, stability, stability: the watchwords of the Lukashenko regime. (c) Sergei Grits / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The results of the on-going normalisation in relations between the EU and Belarus have been very modest, and so have been the domestic changes, which the turn in the European policy was intended to assist. Meanwhile, Moscow reacted to Alexander Lukashenko’s perceived “drift to the west” by toughening its approach towards Minsk.&nbsp;</p><p>In February 2016, the EU decided not to prolong the sanctions it had imposed five year earlier on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in response to brutal repressions against Belarusian political opposition. The sanctions were lifted as a reward granted to Minsk for the release of remaining political prisoners, for less oppressive presidential campaign of 2015 and – perhaps, above all – for Belarus’ refusal to fully support Russia in the conflict over Ukraine. At the same time, the decision was driven by hopes and expectations that the normalization of relations between Europe and Belarus would stimulate the latter to start domestic liberalization and economic reforms.</p><p>The timing was also quite suitable for Brussels to test its revised “customer-friendly” European Neighbourhood Policy with less accent on values and more attention paid to raising partner countries’ resilience. In turn, Minsk was willing to explore new funding opportunities and weaken its excessive dependence on Moscow.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The EU’s current policy of technocratic, “go-slow” re-engagement with Belarus is a policy for fair weather</p><p>Today, a year later, it is apparent that the results of EU-Belarusian rapprochement have been quite modest. In practice they are visible, besides minor EU project funding, mostly in the sphere of migration. EU and Belarus signed the so-called Mobility Partnership and generally advanced in the negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission. Furthermore, from January 2017 EU citizens, as well as altogether nationals of 80 countries, can visit Belarus for 5 days visa-free.</p><p>Political liberalisation, however, did not take place. Even though one opposition candidate and one representative of civil society were elected into the national parliament during the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/devin-ackles/stalemate-in-belarus">2016 elections</a>, OSCE found most of its previous recommendations ignored and was able to cite only slight improvement in the general conduct of elections. Media and political activists remain under pressure. The EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue showed little convergence on core issues including the death penalty, still applied in the country.</p><p>Economic changes did not start, either. Despite some reformist rhetoric, Minsk rejects the conditionality put forward by the IMF (a loan of $3 billion is offered in return), which also blocks the way towards EU macroeconomic assistance. The government prefers to stick to the old model, namely, to maintain state’s commanding role in the economy and support public sector and the Soviet-style welfare system. As Lukashenko said in October 2016: “we have already had all the reforms”.</p><p>The problem is that the model, the basis of the regime’s domestic legitimacy, does not function any more. In 2016, Belarus’ GDP fell by 2.6% and stays now at 2007 level. Exports went down by 13%. The country has only 5.4 billion dollars in gold and currency reserves, whereas the external debt due in 2017 only is 3.4 billion. Seeking to increase the budget revenue, the authorities prosecute businesses, raise utility tariffs and tax so-called “social parasites” for unemployment.</p><p>Meanwhile, generous Russian subsidies, which have been traditionally the main source of Belarusian “economic miracle”, are not available today. And the reason is not so much Russia’s own worsening economic situation, but the fact that Moscow apparently takes Lukashenko’s “drift to the west” rather jealously and creates additional leverages vis-à-vis its “closest ally”. What is to be expected is a “less for more” policy aimed at securing full loyalty of Belarus in the geopolitical standoff between Russia and the west with minimum expenses.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The time may be right to start thinking about the previously unthinkable — be it economic collapse in Belarus, radical internal transformations or an externally-triggered crisis</p><p>In fact, Russian-Belarusian relationship has been already significantly re-shaped. In 2016, Moscow refused to lower the gas price, as requested by Minsk, and as a result the latter at the moment owes Russia $550m. In the second half of 2016 Russia cut the supplies of crude oil from 12 to 6.5m tons, which incurred an estimated $1.5 billion loss in export revenues for Belarus. Russian authorities drastically limit agricultural imports from Belarus. Macroeconomic assistance from the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is routinely postponed.</p><p>In turn, Alexander Lukashenko doubles down and demonstrates disobedience. Minsk refused to conclude an agreement that would allow Moscow to have an air force base in Belarus. It unilaterally raised the fees for the transit of Russian oil. In December 2016, Belarusian leader chose not to show up at the summit of the EEU in St Petersburg and is dragging his feet with signing a new Customs Code of the Union. Belarusian authorities have <a href="https://www.ifex.org/belarus/2017/01/03/bloggers_detained/">recently arrested three bloggers representing the ideology of “Russian world”</a> in the country. To put it shortly, the bilateral conflict continues to escalate.</p><p>It would be irresponsible to predict that the trend will necessarily lead to the removal of Alexander Lukashenko by Moscow or “voluntary reunification” of Belarus and Russia along the Crimean scenario. Possibly, a temporary compromise will be found. At the same time, it is obvious that Belarus is not any longer an island of stability in EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood it once was.</p><p>The EU’s current policy of technocratic, “go-slow” re-engagement with Belarus is a policy for fair weather. The time, however, may be right to start thinking about the previously unthinkable — be it economic collapse in Belarus, radical internal transformations or an externally-triggered crisis. All of these scenarios would require a much higher level of Europe’s preparedness, commitment and resources.</p><p><em>This article was originally published as a <a href="http://www.fiia.fi/fi/publication/658/one_year_after_the_sanctions/">comment</a> for the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.&nbsp;</em></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/yuri-drakakhrust/mind-gap-between-belarus-and-russia">Mind the gap between Belarus and Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/devin-ackles/stalemate-in-belarus">A stalemate in Belarus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/yuri-drakakhrust/cheap-gas-for-belarus-what-s-real-price">Cheap gas for Belarus — what’s the real price?</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 Ryhor Nizhnikau Arkady Moshes Belarus Mon, 13 Feb 2017 12:57:42 +0000 Arkady Moshes and Ryhor Nizhnikau 108716 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Anniversary of Aldy Massacre passes in fear and silence https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kazbek-chanturiya/anniversary-of-aldy-massacre-passes-in-fear-and-silence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On 5 February 2000, Russian soldiers summarily executed dozens of civilians in the Chechen village of Aldy. Survivors of the massacre have no hope of finding justice, with the authorities doing everything in their power to whitewash this and other tragedies.&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/Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 10_0.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'>A still from documentary ’Aldy: No statute of limitations’ showing Russian journalist Natalya Estemirova before her murder in 2009. Source: YouTube.</span></span></span>This Sunday marked the seventeenth anniversary of the Aldy Massacre. This is what locals call the zachistka (cleansing operation) by Russian military units in the small village on the outskirts of Grozny. About 100 civilians were killed in the operation, mostly elderly people and women, with a one-year-old boy and his young mother also among the dead. According to eyewitnesses, the security forces who conducted the "cleansing operation" in Aldy acted with deliberate intention, because virtually none of those killed had done anything at all to provoke them to such cruelty.</p><p>Malika Ganayeva’s husband and two sons were killed on that day. She found their bodies, executed, on a street neighboring their own.&nbsp;</p><p>"They were lying side by side. Apparently they killed my youngest son first. The older boy hugged his father; he covered him as they fired. Our neighbour, Khakimov, was also killed with them. I screamed with some voice other than my own. Later on, the women from the next village over told me that even they had heard my cry," she recalls.&nbsp;</p><p>The woman found sledges and somehow the strength to pull the slain bodies back to her yard. An elderly neighbour volunteered to help her. She begged him not to leave his home, as the death squads had not yet left; he would not listen. Soldiers shot him as he pushed the sledge, right in front of her eyes. Distraught, Ganayeva added his body to the sledges.&nbsp;</p><p>Human rights workers and journalists have collected an abundance of such testimonies. Many villagers recall even the nicknames, names, and distinctive clothing of the soldiers who attacked the village. However, this remains only in people’s memories — nowhere else.&nbsp;</p><p>In Chechnya, the anniversary of the murder of nearly 100 citizens was not commemorated in any form. There was not even a short piece on the local TV station, much less a mourning procession or a rally demanding that the perpetrators be found and punished. The Chechen authorities have adopted quite literally the slogan ‘war without a trace’, which was at one time dictated to them by Moscow. The authorities take the view that nothing should remain in the republic to remind people of the wars. This applies to monuments and crimes such as the Aldy Massacre.&nbsp;</p><p>Only a handful of Chechen human rights and social activists dared to even post on social media about the need to remember one of the most tragic events in the life of the Chechen people.&nbsp;</p><p>In 2000, Russian troops conducted several "special operations" just like the one in Aldy. Hundreds of innocent civilians were killed. These occurred in Alkhan-Yurt, Staropromyslovsky District, and Oktyabrsky District. In several places soldiers organised brutal lynchings. Everything is documented in human rights organisations’ reports.&nbsp;</p><p>According to the Memorial Human Rights Centre, these tragic events are not random episodes or tragic exceptions. In its report about the situation in Chechnya in 2000, they noted that the Russian authorities intentionally refused to investigate crimes in which defenceless civilians were killed.&nbsp;</p><p>"In our view, this is a natural consequence of the legal nihilism deliberately displayed by the Russian authorities during both the first and second armed conflicts in Chechnya: disregard for international norms in the area of human rights and international humanitarian law, violation of Russian laws, and the lack of any desire to punish those guilty of perpetrating crimes against the civilian population," Memorial’s report says.&nbsp;</p><p>In the winter of 2000, fighters left Grozny via the sole remaining corridor, which they believed to have ‘bought’ from corrupt Russian soldiers. In fact, it was a trap, and the fighters were driven onto a minefield. They broke through nonetheless, despite being fired upon from all sides, albeit with great losses. Some of them stopped briefly in the village of Katar-yurt. The villagers were punished harshly for sheltering them.&nbsp;</p><p>Some time after the fighters had left the village, it was cordoned off, with no-one allowed to leave. It was then subjected to an intense artillery barrage; between 50–150 people were killed. It is unknown how many young Katar-yurt residents joined the fight after the murder of their relatives by the Russian army.&nbsp;</p><p>In recent years, Chechen authorities have gone to great lengths to please the Kremlin. Demonstrations are organised only to please Moscow. Events commemorating the two Chechen wars, and even crimes from much earlier committed against the Chechen people in the name of the Russian government are strictly prohibited. If there is any remembering to be done, the only one with this right is Ramzan Kadyrov, President of Chechnya, who has for some time blamed only Chechens for all their misfortunes. Chechens themselves were even to blame for the Stalinist deportations, he somehow claimed in one television address. The Soviet deportations of the Chechen and Ingush populations to central Asia and Siberia during WWII are considered by many in Chechnya to be an act of Genocide, a claim recognised by the EU Parliament in 2004. The official day of mourning in Chechnya for those killed during the deportations was moved to 10 May, the day that Kadyrov’s father — Akhmat Kadyrov — was buried.&nbsp;</p><p>Chechen society categorically rejects this interpretation. However, there is hardly anyone who can publicly express this. One such brave soul is social activist Ruslan Kutayev. Three years ago, Kutayev organised a conference to commemorate the 70 year anniversary of the deportation of the Chechen nation. Well-known historians, professors, and human rights activists participated in the event. Kutayev’s speech was striking. In it he implored Chechens to remember the tragic events in the history of their nation, so nothing of the kind could happen again. Since by gathering here people were making an open statement on such a sensitive topic, despite verbal warnings from Chechnya’s leadership, many of the participants were called in for a talk with the republic’s head. The only one to refuse was Ruslan Kutayev. He was arrested, and drugs were found on him, most likely planted there by the authorities. After a short, farcical, show trial, he was sentenced to four years in prison.</p><p>A criminal investigation into the mass execution of peaceful residents in the village of Aldy was opened on 5 February 2000; the investigation has been suspended and resumed several times since then. This crime, which can easily be counted among the cruelest episodes of the Second Chechen War, remains not only unpunished but also un-denounced and unrecognised by the authorities.</p><p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="http://oc-media.org/">OC Media</a>. Follow the OC Media team for in-depth stories from both sides of the Caucasus.&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/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/anna-yalovkina/decorative-deputies-of-north-caucasus">The decorative deputies of the North Caucasus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-markedonov/outsourcing-sovereignty-from-russia-to-chechnya">Outsourcing sovereignty from Russia to Chechnya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dominik-k-cagara/disappearing-journalists-of-north-caucasus">The disappearing journalists of the North Caucasus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/tyranny-versus-village-man-in-chechnya">Tyranny versus a village man in Chechnya</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 Kazbek Chanturiya Fri, 10 Feb 2017 08:40:35 +0000 Kazbek Chanturiya 108704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dreams of Europe: refugees and xenophobia in Russia and Ukraine https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/denys-gorbach-ilya-budraitskis/dreams-of-europe-refugees-and-xenophobia-in-russia-and-ukra <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Europe’s refugee crisis has affected Russia and Ukraine in different ways — solidifying local hatreds, local hierarchies and varying views of European identity. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/denys-gorbach-ilya-budraitskis/mechty-o-evrope" target="_blank">Русский</a></em></strong></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/PA-30004563.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'>People walk through the centre of Lesbos, Greece. (c) Owen Humphreys PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The refugee crisis has profoundly influenced the politics of the European Union at both the supranational level and the level of individual member states. Its repercussions have been strongly felt in the border countries of the south-east, such as Hungary or Greece, and in the west European “core”.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">For eastern Europe, the “crisis” is less relevant in terms of practical policy implications, but is important in the symbolic domain. It has provided right-wing populist forces with a convenient rallying point against “loafers” and “failed multiculturalist policies”. Across these countries, right-wing movements have gained considerable ground by promoting their anti-migrant agendas. The range of outcomes varies from the partial closure of national borders to the election of nationalist governments or voting to leave the EU.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The crisis in the EU developed simultaneously with another — the war in Ukraine, with the ensuing IDPs and refugees from the war-torn Donbas</p> <p class="normal">But what about the European far East, the former Soviet states? The refugee crisis has not affected these states formally or directly, but it has still come to shape their politics in important, albeit indirect ways. The most visible impact has been the outburst of long-distance racism in countries like Ukraine and Russia. For different reasons, people from diverse political camps have united in the defence of “Europe” against “aliens”.</p> <p class="normal">Perhaps paradoxically, these speakers don't count themselves among the latter. Instead, they assert their right to speak in the name of a political entity to which they do not belong (Europe), encouraging it to be more exclusive towards outsiders.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Beyond the wall&nbsp;</h2> <p class="normal">The mass influx of workforce from the Middle East, south and south-east Asia, Africa and the Caribbean into Europe has been directly connected to European post-war economic boom. Thus, not only is this process intimately tied to the dynamics of the global capitalist economy, but it is also associated with a certain historical period — incidentally, the same period when Soviet citizens’ access to information on real social developments in western Europe was restricted.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Under Brezhnev, the Soviet cultural industry introduced some canonic images of “Europe” into the popular imagination — only they were largely built on the works of authors like Alexander Dumas, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle or Jerome K. Jerome. “Soviet Europe” was very different from actual post-war European societies. One of the important things overlooked by Soviet people was the (literally) changing face of west European societies due to demographic processes untouched even by official <em>agitprop</em>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The very concept of mass labour migration from abroad was foreign to the Soviet population, with the state’s closed borders and constant deficit of labour</p> <p class="normal">Indeed, the very concept of mass labour migration from abroad was foreign to the Soviet population, with the state’s closed borders and constant deficit of labour. Here, the structural niche of underpaid immigrant labour was occupied by a rural and “ethnic” (Central Asian and Caucasian) workforce in in the more economically developed Soviet European core. These internal migrants faced stereotypes and discrimination, but even so, the scale was relatively modest due to tight administrative controls imposed on the movement of people.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">At the same time, the 1970s witnessed the “right turn” of the Soviet intelligentsia. Frustrated with the inability to convert their cultural capital into material wealth, most dissidents in the Brezhnev era grew interested in reviving ethnic (Russian or “local”) culture, religion, “meritocratic” social inequality and economic liberalism. With these views becoming dominant in Soviet society, it is small wonder that later, upon discovering the ethnic diversity of “the west”, former Soviet citizens readily accepted conservative clichés about workshy foreigners destroying the harmonious, white and prosperous “Europe” that had existed only in their imagination.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Ukraine: Nationalism in hearts and minds</strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p class="normal">In post-war Soviet Ukraine, ethnic stereotypes were historically directed against rural migrants (who happened to be Ukrainian-speaking) to the Russophone cities. </p><p class="normal">Apart from that, there were and still are “traditional” minorities discriminated against in Ukraine, such as Roma, but no significant immigration from abroad. In Ukraine, however, Roma are not nearly as numerous as in Hungary, Romania, Slovakia or Czech Republic, and therefore did not come to fulfil the role of the main subaltern object. Likewise, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the flow of students to Ukraine from Asia and Africa subsided, though they still come to the big cities. It is mostly these students, as well as “traditional” non-white inhabitants of Ukraine — from Roma to people with Caucasian background — who were destined to feel the wrath of xenophobic movements in the new Ukraine.</p> <p class="normal">These movements have attempted to borrow the agenda of their more successful European colleagues. Andriy Parubiy, current speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and erstwhile member of the leadership of Social-Nationalist Party of Ukraine (later rebranded into Svoboda party), has maintained regular contacts with Jean-Mari Le Pen since 1998, regularly visiting him in France and <a href="http://gazeta.zn.ua/POLITICS/skromnoe_obayanie_frantsuzskogo_natsionalista.html">arranging visits of Front National activists to Ukraine</a>. The two lessons Ukrainian nationalists learned from their French comrades were, first, the need to emphasise socio-economic inequality and, second, to develop a principled stance against migration.&nbsp;</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/parubiy-4.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="251" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andriy Parubiy and Jean-Marie Le Pen, 1999. <a href=https://www.les-crises.fr/>Source</a>. </span></span></span>But in the post-independence era, where there was little migration to speak of, Svoboda's ubiquitous graffiti “Stop migration” looked outlandish to most passers-by. In other words, Ukrainian nationalists found it difficult to conceal racism under the guise of “legitimate demands of white working class”, as is usually done in western Europe. </p><p class="normal">When four Nazis set off bombs at Kyiv’s Troieshchyna market in 2004, several citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam were injured by the blast, but the only victim who died was actually a Ukrainian cleaner. That is, even in Ukraine’s worst-paid jobs, there was no concentration of “ethnic” workers. No wonder that the most successful neo-Nazi organisation in Ukraine today, the Social Nationalist Assembly, was active first and foremost in Kharkiv, the one Ukrainian city with relatively large immigrant population.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">It is typical that the Social Nationalist Assembly closely collaborated with Prosvita – an organisation of older harmless patriotic intelligentsia whose main concerns lie in reviving Ukrainian language and folk customs. Ukraine’s “national democrats” (a weird term per se), who were responsible for humanitarian policies of the state and for cultural production, completely lacked the political sensitivity that would prevent them from doing and saying things otherwise unacceptable by the standards of Europe’s liberal mainstream.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Thanks to this “anti-imperialist” legacy, Ukraine’s genuine Nazis have been able to pose as “mere patriots who love their country”</p><p class="normal">Thus, during the 1990s and 2000s, Ukraine’s school syllabi disseminated exclusive nativist visions of history, literature and even geography. Ukraine’s leaders of opinion and respected patriots have actively promoted the need to “save the gene pool of the nation”, to protect the interests of the “autochthonous population” and ensure the priority of the “titular nation”, or even to provide ethnic Ukrainians with sufficient “life space” (<em>Lebensraum</em>). These people were hardly Nazis themselves, but they saw nothing wrong in such language and ideas and normalised them in the society.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Thanks to this “anti-imperialist” legacy, Ukraine’s genuine Nazis have been able to pose as “mere patriots who love their country”, and liberal leaders of opinion have turned a blind eye to their xenophobic antics. A side product of this process is the cult of Stepan Bandera and wartime nationalist organisations like UPA, OUN and even the 14th SS-Volunteer Division Galizien. During the last decade, the red and black OUN flag and Bandera’s portrait have evolved from attributes of a fringe political subculture to widely accepted innocent symbols of patriotism.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In short, Ukraine entered the migration crisis with a hegemonic political bloc between liberals and nationalists, a widespread set of abstract nationalist beliefs posing as a common sense and little actual migrants or minorities which could serve as objects for the mass practical application of these beliefs.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Russia: Xenophobia applied</strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p class="normal">The situation with migrants has been very different in post-Soviet Russia. On the one hand, historically, Russian liberals have always maintained political distance from nationalists. On the other hand, xenophobia is more deeply rooted in Russian society.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">According to <a href="http://eajc.org/data//file/Xenophobia_in_Ukraine_2015.pdf">data gathered by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress</a>, there were 19 victims of racist and xenophobic attacks on territories controlled by the Ukrainian government in 2015. Of these 19 victims, one was murdered. Meanwhile, in Russia over the same period, at least <a href="http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2016/02/d33886/">11 people were killed and 82 wounded</a> or beaten up by racists and Neo-Nazis. Russia’s Sova Human Rights Center, which <a href="http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2016/02/d33886/">produced these numbers</a>, does not include the North Caucasus or Crimea, as well as mass brawls, in its reports.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">The reason for this difference between Russia and Ukraine is a much larger concentration of labour migrants in Russia’s big cities. Mostly they arrive from Central Asian countries, but also from the South Caucasus, Ukraine, Moldova and Vietnam. Apart from the actual immigrants, there are large “non-Slavic” ethnic minorities, especially from the North Caucasus. Being Russian citizens, they are often perceived as foreigners, and a telling example is the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2006/oct/06/guardianweekly.guardianweekly11">2006 ethnic pogrom in Kondopoga, Karelia</a>. A spontaneous escalation of a conflict between “locals” and Chechens, two days after the riot began, the leadership of the far-right Movement Against Illegal Immigration arrived to formulate demands against the “immigrants”.</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/Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 12.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>August 2006: the murder of two Russian men in a restaurant in Kondopoga by a group of Chechen men sets off days of rioting. Source: <a href=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ut1YD8HVc6A>Youtube</a>. </span></span></span>Indeed, grassroots xenophobic attitudes against migrants have been persistently high in Russia over the past decade. The potential of these feelings for political mobilisation is important and evident to all political camps —&nbsp;pro-government forces, radical nationalists and liberals. </p><p class="normal">During the 2000s, anti-migrant xenophobia was the main resource of Russia’s nationalist opposition. Here, the dominant strategy lay in supporting or directly organising “people's gatherings” and local pogroms wherever an ethnic conflict flared up — from the 2006 riot in Kondopoga to the <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-rioting-idUSBRE99C0BD20131014">2013 Birulevo incident in Moscow</a>. Each time, Russian nationalists posed as the voice of the public, the mouthpiece of the legitimate concerns of the ethnic majority, angry at the government and big business, whose selfish interests prompt them to encourage the influx of migrants.&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 2017-02-10 at 10.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>October 2013: riots break out in the suburb of Biryulyovo, Moscow, after the murder of a young man allegedly by a Central Asian migrant. Source: <a href=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RX4APsJDppU&spfreload=10>YouTube</a>. </span></span></span>This is precisely the strategy that Azov and other Ukrainian far right groups have tried to realise in Ukraine during two significant incidents in 2016 — the anti-refugee mobilisation in Yahotyn (March) and pogrom in Loshchynivka (August). </p><p>In the Yahotyn incident, which involved a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/denys-gorbach-oles-petik/fear-and-loathing-in-ukraine-european-kind-of-protest">protest against the construction of a refugee accommodation centre</a> outside Kyiv, the far right were present virtually from the very beginning of the demonstration, actively supplying people with organisational and media resources. In Loshchynivka, which involved an <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-tucker/old-hatreds-rekindled-in-ukraine">attack on Roma homes in a village outside Odesa</a>, the violence broke out without any “help” from nationalist organisations. Upon learning of the unfolding conflict, Azov quickly dispatched “help”, organising “patrols” in the village, but they arrived post festum.</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/yagotyn - azov_1.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'>March 2016: members of Azov's civilian wing protest against the housing of Syrian refugees in Yagotyn, Kyiv region. Source: vk.com/batalion.azov.</span></span></span>For its part, the Russian government has mostly acted according to the classical algorithm of Soviet bureaucracy. Every “destabilising” incident, such as Biriulevo or Kondopoga, was a nuisance to it. Officials try to put down the conflict as soon as possible, unleashing repressions against the far-right activists involved and pacifying the population with selective deportations and xenophobic rhetoric.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In 2013, migration became the key topic of the Moscow mayoral elections. In an unusual conjuncture, all the candidates actively employed anti-immigrant rhetoric — Sergei Sobyanin, the incumbent mayor, who enjoyed support from the government; darling of the liberal opposition Alexey Navalny; and Communist Party candidate Ivan Melnikov. This rhetorical contest was ultimately won by Sobyanin as he was the only one able to put his words into action. On the eve of the elections, Sobyanin authorised the roundups of illegal migrants en masse, and ordered the construction of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/06/russia-immigrants-concentration-camps">“concentration camp”</a> for people about to be deported on the outskirts of Moscow.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In Russia, xenophobia has long ago become an efficient tool of manipulating the public in the hands of the government</p><p class="normal">Russian liberals, traditionally paying lip service to cosmopolitan values, have long realised the political potential of xenophobia. One section of the liberal camp, such as Alexey Navalny and his Party of Progress or Vladimir Milov's Democratic Choice, are trying to use this potential by “rationalising” anti-immigrant sentiments and making them look more respectable. Instead of directly inciting racial hatred against people “who look different”, they speak about the “really existing problems” of cultural incompatibility, rising crime and cheap precarious labour. The most widespread recipe suggested by this “rational” xenophobia is introducing visa barriers for citizens of Central Asian countries.</p> <p class="normal">Generally, anti-migrant xenophobia remains at a high level in Russian society, but does not rise to the surface without the government's approval. These sentiments are controlled by the state, and their expansions and contractions are subject to efficient regulation by the media. This is where the European refugee crisis has played into the hands of the Kremlin (although obviously one should not buy the conspiracy theories according to which the whole crisis is actually part of Putin’s plot to destabilise Europe!).&nbsp;</p> <h2>Enter the EU crisis</h2> <p class="normal">The crisis unfolding in Europe has helped Russia’s state-controlled media to silence xenophobic discussions relating to the situation in the country through spatial “transference” — racial hatred towards migrants in Russia is transferred onto the European crisis. Pro-Kremlin media <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/warped-mirror-how-russian-media-covers-europe%E2%80%99s-refugee-crisis">are full of sensational, often fictional </a><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/warped-mirror-how-russian-media-covers-europe%E2%80%99s-refugee-crisis">stories</a> about refugees raping German women or French “libtards” capitulating to radical Islam, while actual migration in Russia has been relatively absent from mainstream discourse over the last two years.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Keeping Russian society complacent and non-politicised is a greater priority to the Kremlin than the situational benefits of manipulating household xenophobic sentiments. But this situation can be easily changed whenever Russian elites feel the need to rekindle racial hatred inside the country. Until this happens, the European refugee crisis provides a convenient tool of keeping it on a low heat.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">The <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/how-russia-is-coping-with-its-ukrainian-refugees-rostov-UNHCR">refugee wave from eastern Ukraine</a>, starting from summer 2014, is important example of the Russian state’s “effective management” of xenophobic sentiments from above. Despite the total number of refugees (unofficially more than a million after the most intensive battles in 2014 and early 2015), only a few people actually received refugee status. After the Minsk Agreements in February 2015, the Russian authorities <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/dmitry-okrest/ukrainian-refugees-in-moscow-face-uncertain-fate">refused to grant refugee status to the majority of Ukrainian applicants</a>, citing “normalisation” in their home territories. The very topic of Ukrainian refugees has disappeared from the mainstream media in order not to provoke conflicts, while on the domestic level there have been tensions between locals and Ukrainian immigrants.&nbsp;</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-20390761_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'>Leaving Donetsk, July 2014. (c) Dmitry Lovetsky / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In Ukraine, the refugee crisis has become another episode in the unfolding national drama of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/denys-gorbach-oles-petik/fear-and-loathing-in-ukraine-european-kind-of-protest">chasing after the ghostly figure of “Europe”</a>. Sensational media coverage predictably ignites hatred towards imaginary “Syrian Islamist terrorists ready to rape and plunder” even when there are no “Muslims” in Ukraine to speak of at all, thereby strengthening the far right. A year ago, these kind of tales provoked <a href="http://en.hromadske.ua/articles/show/Battle_Of_Yahotyn_Right_Wing_Activists_Against_Refugees%20">a riot in the town of Yagotyn</a>, while at the beginning of January 2017, similar conditions <a href="http://politicalcritique.org/cee/poland/2017/polish-racism-in-a-mazurian-kebab-shop/">resulted in a wave of xenophobic pogroms in Poland</a>. Meanwhile, the crisis has dealt another blow to the political bloc of Ukrainian liberals and nationalists.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">At the end of November 2016, Ukraine's deputy minister of justice Sergiy Pietukhov <a href="https://www.facebook.com/sergiy.petukhov/posts/1814962525446045?pnref=story">published</a> a blog post in which he suggested that Ukraine join the Dublin Agreement and voluntarily commit itself to a refugee settling quota. This move, according to Pietukhov, would convince the EU to lift visa barriers for Ukraine. This is not an isolated argument: previously it has been voiced by various liberal leaders of opinion, who have suggested that Ukraine can prove its commitment to “European values” by taking refugees. Ten years ago, voicing such an idea on an influential public platform would have been unthinkable. In 2008, most of Ukraine’s “liberal” media criticised the government for signing a <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/world/agreements/prepareCreateTreatiesWorkspace/treatiesGeneralData.do?step=0&amp;redirect=true&amp;treatyId=6461">readmission treaty</a> with the EU, lamenting that Ukraine would soon be flooded with “criminals carrying exotic diseases”.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">While the issues of refugees arriving in the EU hold little practical relevance for Ukraine, the country is in&nbsp;the middle of its own refugee crisis</p> <p class="normal">Of course, in 2016, this kind of proposal also met with an uproar. Oleh Liashko, leader of the populist Radical Party, immediately condemned <a href="https://www.facebook.com/O.Liashko/posts/1151444024924193">“our </a><a href="https://www.facebook.com/O.Liashko/posts/1151444024924193">&nbsp;idiots” who want refugees to </a><a href="https://www.facebook.com/O.Liashko/posts/1151444024924193">“commit daily terror acts and rape our women”</a>. Naturally, proposals such as Pietukhov’s to radicalise the government’s “Europeanisation” agenda strengthen the case of Eurosceptic national populists like Liashko, Svoboda, Right Sector or Azov. Ukraine’s justice ministry officially distanced itself from the official's private position, but Svoboda still <a href="http://svoboda.org.ua/news/events/00111950/">picketed the ministry’s </a><a href="http://svoboda.org.ua/news/events/00111950/">building</a>. </p><p class="normal">In the days after, aside from the usual nationalist suspects, the anti-migrant hysteria was hyped up by the oligarch Vadym Rabinovych, who leads a political party called For Life. Rabinovich’s proverbially Jewish last name did not prevent him from voicing xenophobic populism: he registered <a href="http://w1.c1.rada.gov.ua/pls/zweb2/webproc4_1?id=&amp;pf3511=60662">a </a><a href="http://w1.c1.rada.gov.ua/pls/zweb2/webproc4_1?id=&amp;pf3511=60662">draft law</a> forbidding the prime minister to accept any migrants without parliament's approval (the bill brings to mind the recent referendum in Hungary).&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">While liberals appeal to “European” values of tolerance and equality, their opponents conjure up the image of White Christian Europe succumbing to the barbarian hordes from the outside and degenerate traitors from the inside. What is common here is the figure of Europe as the Big Other: Ukrainians should either join liberal Europe or protect conservative Europe, but in every case the primary motivation is to prove our worth as true Europeans.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Dialectics of IDPs</h2> <p class="normal">While the issues of refugees arriving in the EU hold little practical relevance for Ukraine, the country is in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vitalii-atanasov/ukraine-s-displaced-people-status-unknown">the middle of its own refugee crisis</a>. The official number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing the war in the east is more than 1.7 million. This number does not include those who chose to flee abroad (mostly to Russia); the aggregate figure is most likely higher than the number of IDPs and refugees from the Bosnian war (two million).&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">This should be put into the economic context (a drastic fall in living standards) and the political: the pre-Maidan <em>modus vivendi </em>was based on balancing between two competing national populisms, and used to ensure “pluralism by default”. Today, this compromise has been shattered by the political victory of the pro-Ukrainian brand of nationalism over its Russophone rival. In practice, this means that people facing deterioration of their social status are finally able to put all the blame on an even less privileged group, and justify their hostility using the dominant discourse.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">The beauty of using Ukraine’s IDPs as a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/ukraine-s-ministry-of-internal-hatred">collective scapegoat</a> is that their “guilt” is more “evident” than in the case of the Roma or Jews. Nationalist politicians and intellectuals routinely lay the blame for the war on the population of the Donbas who “invited Putin's troops”. Under this presumption of guilt, individual IDPs constantly have to prove their political loyalty to Ukraine. Even a “loyal” displaced man can be regularly accused of cowardice: he has to join the army and fight for his home, instead of hiding behind the backs of soldiers from other regions, who are <em>definitely</em> not to blame. It is hard to say whether this discourse was borrowed from nationalists in the EU, arguing in the same way about Syrian refugees, or whether Europeans learnt this argumentation from Ukraine.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Our own people in need” serves as a rhetorical counterweight to calls for universal solidarity, but is forgotten immediately afterwards</p> <p class="normal">This ideological justification (“they hate our country”) crowns a host of accusations typical of discriminated minorities. According to <a href="http://nbnews.com.ua/ru/news/182495/">polls conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology</a>, IDPs are believed to be especially prone to crime (a thesis later developed in a <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://gazeta.dt.ua/internal/viyna-na-kriminalnomu-fronti-_.html&amp;sa=D&amp;ust=1485941002339000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEaLH1lx5RcBQOoccaRDIVLpmLTjw">newspaper article </a>by the acting head of Ukraine’s police Vadym Troyan); they are less trustworthy; they are rich and arrogant, driving up local prices, and at the same time they are so poor that they steal jobs and undercut wages; they receive undeserved welfare from the state; they even speak differently! Easterners are indiscriminately associated with the “Donetsk mafia”, having to bear the the burden of collective guilt for its wrongdoings, and simultaneously slandered as an ill-mannered underclass. </p><p class="normal">While in the regions adjacent to the war zone, these attitudes are less pronounced, they are strongest in Kyiv and the western regions. A recent workers’ protest at a power plant in Burshtyn in western Ukraine,which belongs to the Eastern oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, was <a href="http://briz.if.ua/41499.htm">instrumentalised by a right-wing NGO</a>. It targeted workers from Akhmetov’s plants in the east, who were allegedly coming to take away locals’ jobs.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">At the same time, IDPs are celebrated as a more deserving case against actual refugees from other countries — as it was in Yagotyn. “Our own people in need” serves as a rhetorical counterweight to calls for universal solidarity, but is forgotten immediately afterwards. Much like other examples in the region of cherished “ethnic kin” (Hungary’s relationship to Hungarians living beyond its borders, for example), this is the fate in store for Ukrainian IDPs — an object of brotherly love when contrasted to “Syrian terrorists” and a hated Cinderella in normal circumstances.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Both Russia and Ukraine have been influenced by the EU refugee crisis indirectly. In Russia, xenophobia has long ago become an efficient tool of manipulating the public in the hands of the government. News from the EU allowed the Kremlin to “transfer” Russia’s xenophobic prejudices onto European soil. This transference dampened public outbursts of xenophobia directed against “local” minorities for the time being and, of course, ensured Russia’s image as a bastion of “order”. In Ukraine, the crisis has helped to deepen the cleavage between the still marginal pro-European liberals (who publicly call for the “European values” of solidarity and compassion) and populist nationalist forces capitalising on the news of the “decline of the west”.</p> <p class="normal">The crisis in the EU developed simultaneously with another — the war in Ukraine, with the ensuing IDPs and refugees from the war-torn Donbas. It is these people who can occupy the structural niche of a discriminated minority in Ukraine, and join the ranks of existing subalterns in Russia. Ultimately, public hate-mongering against “Syrian terrorists” in distant Euroland is preparing the ground for a more tangible discrimination, against neighbours and fellow citizens.</p><p class="normal">&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/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/vyacheslav-kozlov/knocking-back-russia%E2%80%99s-nationalists">Knocking back Russia’s nationalists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/maxim-edwards/rethinking-eastern-european-racism">Rethinking “eastern European racism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-zhamakochyan/armenia-in-trap-of-national-unity">Armenia in the trap of “national unity”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-tucker/old-hatreds-rekindled-in-ukraine">Old hatreds rekindled in 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 Ilya Budraitskis Denys Gorbach Migration matters Ukraine Russia Fri, 10 Feb 2017 06:14:59 +0000 Denys Gorbach and Ilya Budraitskis 108684 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mind the gap between Belarus and Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yuri-drakakhrust/mind-gap-between-belarus-and-russia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What’s behind the bad blood in today’s Belarusian-Russian relations? <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yury-drakokhrust/dveri-belarus-rossia">Русский</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/553429/RIAN_02759076.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02759076.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenka during negotiations between their two states in the Kremlin, 2015. (c) Sergey Guneyev / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>There’s disquiet in Minsk and murmurs in Moscow. The latest press conference by Belarus’s president Aleksandr Lukashenka, in which he held his own for some seven hours, has hardly helped. In <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwUHPM4qCks" target="_blank">one of many provocative statements</a>&nbsp;(link in Russian), he even threatened to imprison Sergey Dankvert, the head of Russia’s agricultural and veterinary regulatory body Rosselkhoznadzor. </p><p>Arguments over gas prices <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yuri-drakakhrust/cheap-gas-for-belarus-what-s-real-price">have dragged on for over a year now</a>, and conflict over oil supplies has continued for over six months. Russia has introduced various restrictions on food imports from Belarus after introducing counter-sanctions against the US and the EU. Moscow made these in response to western sanctions, triggered by its annexation of Crimea in March 2014. The latest bone of contention is Moscow’s decision to reinstate border controls that were removed 20 years ago.</p><h2>Thin red lines

</h2><p>Belarus and Russia are close allies and together comprise the Union State. Citizens of both states enjoy freedom of movement across the territory. Apparently, Russia’s move was provoked by Lukashenka’s decision to introduce five day visa waivers for citizens of 80 countries, including the US and EU member states, entering Belarus through its Minsk-2 airport. But this appears to be just a pretext.</p><p>The order to restore a formal border zone between the two countries, issued by the head of the FSB, actually came before Lukashenka’s announcement of the visa waiver. There is also no certainly that his decision will significantly increase the number of foreign visitors to Belarus, nor the theoretical visitors who may consider entering Russia through Belarus without a Russian visa. </p><p>Kazakhstan, another close partner of Russia, actually introduced a similar visa waiver scheme some 15 years ago (with, moreover, 15 days’ access). So if Moscow sees Minsk’s recent decision as unfriendly to Russia, it is no more unfriendly than Astana’s innovation. To put it mildly, the new “closure” of the Belarus-Russian border has also been carried out in a peculiar and unnecessarily harsh manner. For the past 20 years there has been no formal border control for vehicle traffic, apart from the odd selective check. Admittedly, Russia may not have totally approved of this state of affairs. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Kremlin’s decision has been in some ways reminiscent of those taken by Donald Trump’s administration</p><p>But now the pendulum has swung back. People from third countries driving to Russia through Belarus have found the border closed in the most literal sense. Up to now, nobody even checked whether or not travellers had Russian visas. Now, even those who hold a Russian visa cannot use the crossing. All travellers are henceforth informed that there is no longer an official border crossing, and that the only way for them to get to Russia is through Lithuania, Latvia, or even Ukraine. In fact, any other way they please — but not through Belarus. </p><p>There are reports that citizens of Ukraine and Moldova, who until now have not required visas to enter Russia, are also being turned back at the border, so only Belarusians can still use it. This absurd situation doesn’t apply to any other Russian border.</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/Moscow_Station_Belarus_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Moscow_Station_Belarus_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Moskovskaya station on the Minsk Metro, Belarus. Photo: CC-by-NC-2.0: GTravels / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In some ways, the Kremlin’s decision is reminiscent of those taken by Donald Trump’s administration. Yet there’s an important distinction; Trump refused entry to the USA to citizens of seven countries, via any border. Moscow has effectively blocked entry to Russia to citizens of every country except Belarus through one particular border.</p><p>Perhaps official border formalities will eventually be re-introduced if the crisis in the two countries’ relations is not resolved. Meanwhile, there’s a growing impression that Russia’s main aim is to punish its neighbour, to “put it in its place.” And the reason for such drastic measures is about much more than the situation on the border.</p><h2>You say yes, I say no</h2><p>As I see it, it’s more about a change in Minsk’s demeanour and mood than its politics <em>per se</em>. After all, nothing has really changed in any of Belarus’s alliances with Russia, whether economic, military or political.</p><p>Due to Belarus’s role as a go-between in the Donbas conflict and the release of political prisoners, there’s been a modest thaw with the west — but this has yet to take any institutional form. At least not yet. At any rate, nobody in Minsk is calling it a “rapprochement”. 

This semi-thaw has yet to pay off financially for Belarus: talks with the IMF about a three billion dollar loan have been dragging on for a couple of years with mixed success and no concrete results. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">As high ranking Western negotiators queue up to visit Minsk, their Belarusian counterparts now head for Western capitals</p><p>But there’s something in the air. Two years ago, no western representatives had yet set foot on Belarusian soil and there were sanctions in place against many Belarusian officials. Now these have been lifted and an intensive dialogue has begun, with high-ranking western negotiators queuing up to visit Minsk and their Belarusian counterparts heading for western capitals. </p><p>And then there is Ukraine. Belarus’s attitude to the conflict between that country and Russia has been non-committal, with every “Yes” followed by a “No” or at least a “Yes, but”. It hasn’t recognised Crimea as Russian – or as Ukrainian either, for that matter; it has diligently voted against UN resolutions denouncing Russia’s annexation of the peninsula, but has promised the first post-Maidan Ukrainian government that it need fear no attack from the north. Tick-tock, yes-no. Its high point was the Minsk Agreements, invoked by everyone – from Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington to all the EU capitals and the Donbas separatists. Minsk has become not only the place where the agreements were signed, but the go-to place when you need a ready-made infrastructure for negotiations. The agreements haven’t proven their worth yet, but what’s the alternative?</p><h2>Is the wind coming round again? </h2><p>In some sense, it’s all “been there, done that”. In 2008 Belarus didn’t recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; in 2008-10 it enjoyed a “honeymoon” when it normalised relations with the west - another move that irritated Moscow. There was nothing concrete about it, but a jealous husband always gets annoyed on principle when his wife flirts with someone else. Whatever the consequences. </p><p>There have also been “wars” – over gas, oil, foodstuffs, information and so on. During the first gas “war” in 2004, when Russia cut off gas supplies to Belarus, Lukashenka described this act as “terrorism of the highest order.”</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Lukashenka’s relations with his dear ally can best be described as “shouting match diplomacy”</span></p><p>This is an interesting peculiarity of Russo-Belarusian relations, in part the result of the two countries’ political cultures and in part of Lukashenka’s own personality. The style of his relations with his dear ally can best be described as “shouting match diplomacy.”</p><p>To use a boxing analogy, Lukashenka’s best tactic is the “political clinch.” In a purely economic conflict it is hard for little Belarus to stand up to its huge neighbour. But in a political clash, the playing field is a little more favourable. Still, the results have varied in the past.</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/Belarus_Minsk5_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Belarus_Minsk5_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in 2011. Photo NC-by-ND-2.0: Marc Veraart / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>It’s said that change is the only constant. Yet it’s not so much Belarus that is changing, but Russia. Dmitry Medvedev once said that “there’s no money, but you’ll deal with it.” Now, it’s not that there’s no money, but Russia is less inclined to share it with to Belarus.</p><p>Secondly, Russia’s criteria for alliance and leadership are changing. The Kremlin is wondering why, when their army is fighting in Syria (and in Donbas, but don’t tell anybody), those Belarusians not standing shoulder to shoulder with us? What kind of ally are they, anyway?</p><p>There were even times when Russians saw Lukashenka as an ideal, or at least attractive alternative occupant of the Kremlin. A stable, authoritarian manager in true post-Soviet style. This is what was behind Minsk’s “soft power” in Russia: the Kremlin could have refused money to Belarus then as well, but public opinion is of some significance even in authoritarian countries.</p><h2>“A quiet, calm and comfortable country”</h2><p>But everything’s different now. Putin took Crimea and Aleppo, but what has Lukashenka taken? During his recent press conference, Belarus’s president formulated his idea of the Belarusian national dream: “a quiet, calm and comfortable country.” You couldn’t say that about today’s Russia. At a stretch, you could try and claim that about Russia in general, or Russia at some points in its history. But that’s certainly not today’s Russia.</p><p>Should this imply that tomorrow Belarus will leave its various alliances with Russia and join NATO, or that Russian “little green men” will appear and start telling Belarusians what their geopolitical choice must be? </p><p>No, it doesn’t. Russia will continue to put pressure on Belarus, mostly along the lines of the well-worn saying, “to my friend I give everything; to my enemy only what the law demands.” But Belarusians now find themselves in a grey zone, teetering between these two options.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The lack of a border is a hangover from the Yeltsin years, when it seemed that various parts of the former USSR might reintegrate in the future </p><p>At the same time, Belarus will mount a counterattack, just as Lukashenka did at the end of last year when he refused to attend summits of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO) and didn’t sign up to the EAEU’s new Customs Code. The fallout will be mostly be felt in the political sphere. Russia, of course, will survive Lukashenka’s absence at these summits designed to foster further post-Soviet integration, but it would regret the demise of the EAEU, as a formal symbol of unity between post-Soviet countries. </p><p>Sooner or later the economic quarrels will end, as they have often done in the past. The arguments over the border will also sooner or later be resolved. In fact, there’s nothing to resolve there. Russia has proper borders with all its neighbours, including its ally Kazakhstan. It even has visa free movement with its emphatically non-allied neighbours in Ukraine.</p><p>The lack of a border is a hangover from an earlier time, the Yeltsin years, when it seemed that various parts of the former USSR might reintegrate sometime in the future, even if that time was a long way off. </p><p>We shouldn’t expect any drastic changes in the immediate future. Nevertheless, the direction is changing; as is the tenor of future relations between the two countries. The border conflict is in a way symbolic: the doors are closing. And this has less to do with the complex personal relations between Lukashenka and Putin as with the divergent interests of national states — and that applies to both Belarus and Russia.</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/yuri-drakakhrust/cheap-gas-for-belarus-what-s-real-price">Cheap gas for Belarus — what’s the real price?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-kobrin/russia-s-role-on-world-stage-soviet-foreign-policy-without-ussr">Russia’s role on the world stage: a Soviet foreign policy without the USSR?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/yury-drakakhrust/whose-side-is-belarus-on-anyway">Whose side is Belarus on anyway?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tatyana-ivanova/belarus-s-chernobyl-taboo">Belarus’s Chernobyl 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 Yury Drakakhrust Russia Belarus Thu, 09 Feb 2017 02:14:56 +0000 Yury Drakakhrust 108683 at https://www.opendemocracy.net