oD Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3513/all cached version 23/05/2018 17:40:54 en Restoring faith in Armenia’s criminal justice system https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anahit-chilingaryan/restoring-faith-in-armenia-s-criminal-justice-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As a new government sets the agenda in Yerevan, it is high time to consider the excessive use of pre-trial detention in politically sensitive trials.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02666574.LR_.ru__0_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>July 2014: police officers block activists from "Stand up, Armenia!" from moving towards Yerevan's Freedom Square. (c) Asatur Yesayants / VisualRIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Armenians who <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/armine-ishkanian/revolution-of-values-freedom-responsibility-and-courage-in-armenias-velve">took to the streets in the country’s largest mass protests</a> in its post-Soviet history last month had many other grievances in addition to Serzh Sargsyan’s attempt to hold onto power. The protesters were concerned about&nbsp;unfair elections, corruption, and the chokehold that oligarchs have on Armenia’s economy. But they were also concerned about a justice system that many see as unfair. Some high-profile incidents have sparked perceptions of politically&nbsp;<a href="http://www.crrc.am/hosting/file/_static_content/barometer/2017/CB2017_ENG_presentation_final_.pdf" target="_blank">motivated</a>&nbsp;prosecutions in the country. The new prime minister,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/emil-sanamyan/saint-nick-of-armenia-how-nikol-pashinyan-rescued-armenia-and-made-it-merry">Nikol Pashinyan</a>, faces a major challenge&nbsp;in bringing about the changes the public demanded, including in the area of politicised justice.</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">Public perceptions that Armenia’s justice system is flawed are pervasive. In the <a href="http://www.crrc.am/hosting/file/_static_content/barometer/2017/CB2017_ENG_presentation_final_.pdf">2017&nbsp;annual nationwide survey</a>&nbsp;by the Caucasus Research Resource Center, a non-profit independent research organisation, only four percent of respondents fully trusted the courts and 30% fully distrusted them.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">A few examples of politically sensitive cases — especially those linked to public protests or other civic and political activism —illustrate why these perceptions hold.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><h2><strong>One-sided accountability</strong></h2><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span>Anti-government protests are not unusual in contemporary Armenia. Most have been peaceful, though they no doubt posed serious challenges for the police. In rare cases, protesters have clashed violently with police. The police often break up protests—peaceful and not--using excessive force, in some cases causing serious injuries. Yet the authorities have gone after only one set of offenders, hauling in protesters and prosecuting them, but allowing police who used excessive force to evade punishment. In one example,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/02/25/armenia-skewed-prosecution-over-2008-clashes" target="_blank">protests in March 2008</a>&nbsp;started out peaceful but ended up in deadly clashes after police used excessive force against protesters who posed no threat to them. Fifty-two protesters were sentenced to prison. But even though three out of the ten people who died had been hit by teargas canisters (likely fired directly at the demonstrators from close range by the police), no police were prosecuted.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 10.26.43_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The fifth day of of Armenian presidential election protests in March 2008. CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A more recent example is the July 2016 protests, sparked by the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.evnreport.com/politics/daredevils-of-sassoun-a-timeline" target="_blank">violent seizure of a Yerevan police station by Sasna Tsrer</a>, aradical opposition group.&nbsp;Public support for them and disaffection with the government grew into almost daily protests in Yerevan. On July 29,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/08/01/armenia-excessive-police-force-protest" target="_blank">police used excessive force to break up the main protest</a>, which was largely peaceful, causing injuries, some serious. This time an investigation did lead to the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/01/12/armenia-no-accountability-police-violence" target="_blank">sacking of the Yerevan police chief and disciplinary measures against 17 officers</a>.</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">But the&nbsp;authorities also aggressively prosecuted 21 protesters, with 11 sentenced to prison terms of up to three-and-a-half years for participating in mass disorders and interfering with the work of a journalist. Such uneven efforts at accountability fuel perceptions of political manipulation of the justice system.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><h2><strong>Abuse of pre-trial detention</strong></h2><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">Although not alone in the region to do so, Armenian courts overwhelmingly use extensive pretrial detention, which we have documented in politically sensitive cases. Prosecutors often simply&nbsp;list the reasons established in Armenian law for denying bail, including flight risk and possible hindrance of the investigation, without showing that the grounds are justifiably applicable to the suspect. Then the courts simply approve pretrial detention, in violation of European Court case law, which has repeatedly clarified that the courts should not rely on “general and abstract” reasons for detention.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">Just one example was the use of pretrial detention against the opposition and protest leader Andreas Ghukasyan,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/09/06/armenia-after-yerevan-protests-detentions-under-scrutiny" target="_blank">who was arrested for the July 2016 protest</a>. The authorities kept Ghukasyan&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/01/30/armenian-activist-stuck-detention" target="_blank">locked up for nearly two years during the investigation, citing only the gravity of the charges</a>&nbsp;as justification. Ghukasyan was released on 7 May, after Sargsyan resigned. And though Ghukasyan still faces serious criminal charges, now he is at liberty and is not being preemptively punished for charges that still have to be proven. And he will be able to mount his defense without the additional pressure of being in jail.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/cleaned1128 (1)_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Garo Yegnukian was arrested on 18 July 2018, after giving a TV interview on the Erebuni police station siege. He has been kept in pre-trial detention since. Source: Yegnukian family. </span></span></span>Another example is <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/grigor-atanesian/prisoner-of-yerevan-americans-unfortunate-journey-back-to-armenia">Garo Yegnukyan</a>, a member of the political group Founding Parliament, who has been behind bars since his arrest in July 2016. The authorities charged him with aiding Sasna Tsrer in taking over the police station, based, apparently, only on several wiretapped phone conversations. The prosecution has stated that Yegnukyan is a flight risk and could interfere with the investigation, but has offered no specific facts or circumstances to substantiate those claims, which should be necessary to maintain Yegnukian’s pretrial detention.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">At least 10 other people arrested during the same protest remain in pretrial detention, all of them charged with violence against policemen.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><h2><strong>Disproportionate charges and sentences</strong>&nbsp;</h2><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">The authorities have also used disproportionate charges and sentences against opposition and political activists. For example, in January 2017 an opposition activist, Gevorg Safaryan, was sentenced to two years in prison for an incident that took place a year before, when a group of anti-government demonstrators&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/08/armenia-opposition-activist-jailed" target="_blank">tried to hold a small, peaceful public gathering on New Years’ Eve</a>&nbsp;in Yerevan’s Freedom Square. Police&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/08/letter-prosecutor-general-armenia" target="_blank">interfered roughly after participants tried to place a small New Year’s tree in the square</a>, and a scuffle ensued between police and a few protesters, including Safaryan. Police released the others, but&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/01/18/opposition-activist-imprisoned-armenia-after-protest" target="_blank">Safaryan, who had been frequently involved in protests, was charged&nbsp;and sentenced to two years in prison for&nbsp;using violence against police</a>.</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/800px-Jirair_Sefilian_2009_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="188" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jirayr Sefilyan, the Lebanese-born Karabakh military commander turned Founding Parliament leader. Source: Serouj / Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Just before Safaryan’s prison term was to end in December 2017, which included his time in pretrial detention, the authorities filed new charges against him, this time, for conspiracy — together with Founding Parliament’s leader, Jirair Sefiliyan — to create mass disturbances in April 2015. </p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">I reviewed the indictment and verdict. The charges seemed to be based mostly on speeches that contained radical, but not unlawful, speech. </p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">Both were convicted in March. Safaryan was sentenced to four years. Sefiliyan, who was charged with several additional crimes, along with five others in the same conspiracy case, got 11 years.<br /><span></span><span></span></p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">In some instances, the authorities have brought charges against activists seemingly in retaliation for their activism. Armenian rights groups have raised concerns about spurious criminal embezzlement charges against Marina Poghosyan, whose Veles organisation provides legal support to victims of predatory lenders, including some with alleged links to local authorities. She could face up to eight years in prison if convicted.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><h2><strong>What’s next?</strong>&nbsp;</h2><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">Prime Minister Pashinyan recently said that cases of politically motivated prosecutions needed to be resolved, “resorting to legitimate tools only,” presumably meaning through the courts and the rest of the criminal justice system.<span></span><span></span></p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span>One step prosecutors and judges can take right away is to stop the blanket use of pretrial custody, and instead use it only as a measure of last resort when the facts justify it, in accordance with Armenia’s international obligations. They will also need to sift very carefully through numerous cases pending in the first instance or appeal courts, to ensure that charges and appealed convictions are based on sound evidence and are not excessive, intended to silence others, or to settle scores with people whose messages the authorities don’t agree with.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA"><span></span></p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">Resolving the issue of politically motivated prosecutions will be challenging, but very important to restore faith in Armenia’s criminal justice.</p><p class="m_-8109453257965349570BodyA">&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/grigor-atanesian/prisoner-of-yerevan-americans-unfortunate-journey-back-to-armenia">The prisoner of Yerevan: an American&#039;s unfortunate journey back to Armenia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/karena-avedissian/real-revolution-protest-leader-armen-grigoryan-on-what-s-happening-in-ar">A real revolution? Protest leader Armen Grigoryan on what’s happening in Armenia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ashot-gazazyan/on-border">On the edge: how rural Armenia is responding to the country&#039;s &quot;Velvet Revolution&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/feeling-yerevan-s-pulse-new-media-talking-about-armenia-s-blind-spots">Feeling Yerevan’s pulse: the new media talking about Armenia’s blind spots </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 Anahit Chilingaryan Armenia Wed, 23 May 2018 15:33:17 +0000 Anahit Chilingaryan 118005 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Sergey Semyonovich, thank you so much”: transcript of a Moscow park opening, October 2017 https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/sergey-semyonovich-thank-you-so-much-transcript-of-moscow- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Moscow lives in a million moments. Here’s one of them.</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/555493/5(42337).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'>Sergey Sobyanin (centre) meets local residents in Golovinsky district, Moscow. Photo: Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Denis Grishkin.</span></span></span>In the second decade of the new millenium, urbanism is popular in Russia. Beautification of parks, city planning, pedestrianisation of city centres, markets and outdoor spaces — the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/petr-v-ivanov/battle-for-moscow">“urban agenda”</a> has come to define a significant industry in Russia and a test site of state-society relations under authoritarian rule. Billed as apolitical on the surface, the urban agenda is, in fact, deeply political, opening up questions of democratic self-governance, frustrations with state bureaucracy and corruption.</p><p dir="ltr">Here, Moscow has led the way — both in terms of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-davydov/towards-a-different-city">political potential of this agenda</a> and the imitation democracy it generates, but also the sheer scale of the reconstruction. Millions of roubles have been spent on beautifying the city, in places changing it beyond recognition. As Pyotr Ivanov, an independent urban sociologist based in Moscow, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/petr-v-ivanov/battle-for-moscow">wrote</a> in 2016: “Even the minimal democratic processes that existed in Moscow have been stopped and replaced with technologies of pseudo-engagement. Before our eyes, municipalities were abolished and the institution of public hearings removed. Instead, platforms such as <a href="https://ag.mos.ru/">‘Active Citizen’</a> and <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9+%D0%BF%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%82+%D0%BC%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B2%D1%8B&amp;oq=%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9+%D0%BF%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%82+%D0%BC%D0%BE%D1%81&amp;aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.8789j0j4&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8">‘Youth Parliament’</a> were created, allowing us to ‘participate’ in making decisions and other aspects of city life, but in fact replacing engagement and making our voices heard with game-like participation in praising the city.”</p><p dir="ltr">On top of this, as Alexey Kovalev writes on <a href="https://noodleremover.news/">NoodleRemover</a>, a cult of personality has <a href="https://noodleremover.news/sobyanin-cult-4aeb0395543c">developed</a> around Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin — which is spread by a <a href="https://noodleremover.news/sobyanin-propaganda-raspil-6c6100fb9d3e">media empire connected to the Moscow city authorities</a>. “The mayor’s office doesn’t just control the agenda — the Moscow government’s agitprop department literally dictates it. Every week, it sends a huge 40-page document to editorial offices, which in maximum detail describes how and what to write about the great and uncomparable Sergey Semyonovich Sobyanin.”</p><p dir="ltr">One peculiar manifestation of Sobyanin’s personality cult and citizens’ participation in city life are the <a href="https://www.mos.ru/mayor/transcripts/">transcripts</a> of the mayor’s meetings with residents that his office publishes online, which document how unidentified local residents respond to Sobyanin’s programme of beautification. Here, we publish the <a href="https://www.mos.ru/mayor/transcripts/1834056/">transcript</a> of Sobyanin’s <a href="https://www.mos.ru/en/news/item/31417073/">opening of the Mikhalkovo estate park</a>, northwest of Moscow city centre, in October 2017. We translate it here in full — for its literary and sociological value — as part of our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/odr-debates/cities-in-motion">Cities in Motion</a> rubric.</p><h2>24 October 2017</h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sergey Sobyanin:</strong> Good day!</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Good day!</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>Hello. How are things with you here?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>It’s excellent here, we have this park.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>Everything is amazing, unrecognisable.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>And we’re in a good mood.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> We’ve been living here for a long time, it’s very nice.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> It’s a wonderful place, beautiful.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Thank you.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> The Mikhalkovo historical estate is a historical monument. Unfortunately, everything here was in disrepair, nothing had been repaired in a long time. Residents have been asking us to put things in order for a long time. We came up with a project, we agreed it with you, held a vote.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Thank you.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>But it seems like it’s turned out well.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Wonderfully.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> It’s amazing! We want to express our huge gratitude to you. The park is amazing. There’s lighting. It’s been adapted for children. Before we had to travel to other neighbourhoods. Now we have this park, we’ve breathed a sigh of relief. Huge thanks to you. It’s been done both beautifully and creatively, and, most importantly, quickly.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> There’s a lot of playgrounds.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Yes, it’s very good.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>Of course, the situation here was difficult. We released a lot of water, it seems, and then the smell…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Yes-yes-yes.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>And there were a lot of vehicles.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> We put up with it, we knew what it was for.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> But you had to put up with it because there was no point doing this without cleaning up the ponds, of course. They cleaned the ponds, shored up the bank, installed lighting, CCTV — everything that you need. How’s the playground?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>Amazing!</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>The playgrounds are excellent, great.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> Are there any remarks?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> It’s remarkable.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>It’d be great if there were more basketball hoops.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> And we also want a playground for little kids.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> What do you want?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>A playground for the really little kids.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>A little playground for the little ones? OK, we’ll do it, we’ll build a playground for the little ones next year.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> And some more basketball hoops.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> We’ll do the basketball hoops if they’re needed. Yes, yes. Of course, the boys need to play basketball.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>And I want to shake your hand. Our ancestors, the founders of this estate, must be proud of you, because you transformed this completely abandoned place into a little corner of heaven.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>The park in Mikhalkovo isn’t the only park which we’re working on, we’ve doubled the number of parks in Moscow over the past few years, there’s twice as many of them.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>Yes, we’ve read about that.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> And those parks that were already there, we also restored them. The Mikhalkovo estate has always been considered a park.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Yes-yes-yes.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>But what was the quality like? It was quite different. It’s was the same in other parks: both in the city centre and in the suburbs. Your district isn’t bad, I think, especially with such a pearl like this estate.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>Exactly.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> It wasn’t a pearl before, but now you can call it a pearl</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> It’s as if no one privatised it.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> No, nobody is privatising it.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> We follow what’s going on in Moscow. It’s all good and wonderful, it makes us happy and, of course, our kids.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> We’re going to be working more on creating and restoring parks. We’re planning, by the way, to build a small park in the Golovinsky neighbourhood, in one of the micro-districts. There’s also a programme on beautifying courtyards, we’ll be continuing it annually, because we need to rebuild those courtyards, which were reconstructed first in 2011, at a new level. So this is constant work, it’s not some kind of cowboy job, it’s planned, methodical. All projects are agreed with the residents, they’re done so that it’s more comfortable, convenient for residents, not for someone else. That’s very important. Thank you very much.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Thank you very much!</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Thank you for finding the funds, the opportunity, you noticed us, honestly, you did something.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Sergey Semyonovich, thank you so much.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>Thank you. Let’s take a photo to remember this.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> With the boy? The girl?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>The boy.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>How old is he?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Three months. Thank you so much for this park. We live here and have waited a long time for this. We would just walk around and think: “When are they going to get to our park?” And we’re very happy.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> Nothing was done here for 30 years. Of course it went into this state.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> It feels like nothing has been done here since Catherine the Great.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> No, something was done in the Soviet era. Sometime in 1970. And they tried to restore a small part of it in 2015. But nothing on this global scale was done. But the park is wonderful. Such ponds. God himself ordered it to be repaired.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> The only thing we want is for it to be maintained. I don’t know, perhaps the people themselves can take care of it.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> Well it’d be great if people themselves will take care of it.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> We try, we always clean up after our dog and bring our rubbish home if there’s no bin. If we have a barbeque, then we clean up after everyone.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>What’s your name?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Lena.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>Thank you.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Thank you so much.</p><p dir="ltr">***</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/998(28)(11).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Denis Grishkin.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>How good is it to run here now?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Thank you so much. It’s now very comfortable for me to run here. Thank you so much.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> It’s a bit better at least.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>It’s a lot better.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>And the ponds are a bit cleaner. And the atmosphere, the lighting.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> We walk the dog here in the evening, and it’s no longer scary to walk here with the lighting. Thank you so much.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> There is CCTV in any case, just so you know. For security.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>Thank you.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> Thank you. I wish you success.</p><p dir="ltr">***</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>Good day! Hello.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Well done. It’s nice to have walk here, and there’s the epoch of the old and new. Very nice. It was a bit wild here. Now it’s clean. I don’t even recognise it. You’re in the centre, you could say, of Moscow — and here’s this wonderful oasis.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>Well it’s not quite the centre of Moscow.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>Well it nearly is. But anyway. The air is even different here. Very nice.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> They haven’t tidied up here for a long time, they haven’t beautified it in a long time.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> We had a very different story here for two years. You couldn’t come here without boots. And now it’s easy to go for a nice walk. There’s pushchairs, children play.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> In my opinion, they haven’t done anything worthwhile since 1970.</p><p><strong>Residents:</strong> Yes-yes-yes. And now we’re over the moon.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> It’s a very beautiful place. </p><p><strong>Residents:</strong> It’s wonderful. There’s a good path, thank you very much. You could say that our husbands’ grandmothers came here in their youth.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin: </strong>Did they build the bike paths? They should have.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> No, everything’s super. Everything’s good. It’s a big area.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> Good health to you, all the best.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Thank you.</p><p dir="ltr">***</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> Do you like the park?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents: </strong>It’s a very nice park. We live here, we come here with our children. There’s places to workout. A beach, ponds.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> I think you’ll be able to sunbathe on the beach next year.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Yes-yes. We’re waiting for summer. So we don’t have to leave town. And we can just come here from home...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> What trips out of town are you talking about! This is such a wonderful park. </p><p><strong>Residents</strong>: Thank you.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sobyanin:</strong> There’s a beach, the ponds are clean.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Residents:</strong> Before it was scary to walk here. Now everything’s lit up. Thank you so much.</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/natalya-paramonova/moscows-waste-wars">Moscow’s waste wars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/petr-v-ivanov/battle-for-moscow">The battle for Moscow</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-ovsyannikova/moscow-s-authoritarian-future">Moscow’s authoritarian future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia Cities in motion Wed, 23 May 2018 05:38:56 +0000 Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia 118003 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What’s behind China’s anti-Kazakh campaign? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/inga-imanbai-andrey-grishin/whats-behind-chinas-anti-kazakh-campaign%20 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If you're an ethnic Kazakh or a Kazakh citizen in northwest China, you can face detention on espionage and extremism charges. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/inga-imanbai-andrey-grishin/mezhdu-molotom-i-nakovalney" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 15.00.24_0.png" alt="" title="" width="394" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zhenisnur Ayatkhanuly with children in a house in the suburbs of Almaty. Photo from the personal archive of Zhenisnur Ayatkhanuly.</span></span></span>After its continuing persecution of Uyghurs, the Chinese authorities have now turned their attention to ethnic Kazakhs living in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwest China. There are few details available, but Radio Free Asia has <a href="https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/kazaks-arrests-11132017130345.html?searchterm:utf8:ustring=Kazakhs">reported</a> that up to 500 Kazakhs can be arrested in a week and that several tens of thousands of families <a href="http://www.fergananews.com/news/27174">have had their homes searched</a>. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has, however, taken very little interest in both Kazakh citizens and Chinese Kazakhs. </p><p dir="ltr">Chinese law enforcement agencies have been persecuting ethnic Uyghurs since 1989, when Uyghurs held protests in several cities in the XUAR following Tiananmen Square. With almost 250,000 Uyghurs live in neighbouring Kazakhstan, the Kazakh government found itself an unwilling participant in Uyghur affairs. Despite protests from human rights activists and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since 1999 Kazakhstan, under pressure from China, has <a href="https://rus.azattyq.org/a/1180644.html">turned three Uyghur asylum seekers over to the Chinese authorities officially</a> – and six unofficially. Some simply disappeared, only to be discovered in Chinese prisons. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2000 and 2001, Uyghurs from China were <a href="https://zonakz.net/2004/05/31/%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%B6-%D0%B4%D0%B2%D1%83%D1%85-%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%B9/">involved in several shootouts </a>with police in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city – in two cases, over fears of being forcibly returned to China. Kazakhstan’s security services still keep the Uyghur diaspora under close observation, suspecting that it might lend aid to its compatriots across the Chinese border and that Kazakh Uyghurs might start spreading separatist ideas. But since 2017, other ethnic minorities, including Kazakhs, have been subjected to various kinds of persecution in the XUAR, and now the Kazakh government finds itself in a predicament: its inaction is drawing criticism from both its own citizens and repatriates, while it is significantly financially dependent on Chinese investments and loans. </p><h2 dir="ltr">A few personal stories</h2><p dir="ltr">On 6 April 2018, a woman living in Almaty made several calls to the <a href="https://bureau.kz/en/">Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law </a>(KIBHR) NGO. An ethnic Kazakh who was born in China but has Kazakh citizenship, the woman complained that she had been summoned to the city’s Prosecutor’s Office, where she was ordered to stop “drawing attention” to the situation of ethnic Kazakhs in China. She had suddenly lost contact with relatives still living across the Chinese border, and her children, moreover, were under pressure at school: the school’s director had demanded that she stop complaining. </p><p dir="ltr">A Chinese émigré living in Enbek, a village not far from Almaty, Zhenisnur Ayatkhanuly received Kazakh citizenship more than ten years ago. Every day, as he leaves for work, he has to lock his two small children up in their home: he has been bringing them up alone for two years after his wife disappeared. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 15.11.29_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 15.11.29_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A copy of Gozalnur Zheniskazy's Kazakh identity card. Photo from the personal archive of Zhenisnur Ayatkhanuly.</span></span></span>Zhenisnur’s wife Gozalnur Zheniskazy, 23, moved to Kazakhstan with her parents when she was 10 years old as part of a programme to resettle ethnic Kazakhs in their historical homeland, and received a Kazakh passport when she came of age. In mid-2016, Gozalnur went to visit relatives in China and never returned, and it is only recently that her family discovered from relatives in the XUAR that she was in a detention camp in the region, although its precise location was unknown: her passport had been confiscated and she had been sent to a “political re-education centre”. </p><p dir="ltr">Zhenisnur has written to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs but has had no response. He is appealing to the Kazakh government to help release his wife. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Kazakhstan’s security services still keep the Uyghur diaspora under close observation, suspecting that it might lend aid to its compatriots in China</p><p dir="ltr">Zhenisnur has no idea how and why Gozalnur ended up in a “re-education centre”, but believes that his wife could have done nothing wrong in China. </p><p dir="ltr">“She went to China in 2016 and hasn’t returned,” he tells us. “A year and eight months have passed since then and we have had no word from her. We’ve just recently found out that she’s in a re-education camp. I’m begging our government, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to return the mother of my children. We’re living in a kind of hell at the moment, it’s particularly hard on the children. I lock them in the house every morning and go off to work. It’s a real strain to have to leave them like that, but I have to work. And I haven’t even got a permanent job.</p><p dir="ltr">“We just survive, then three of us. The children keep asking, ‘where’s Mummy?’ and I don’t know how to answer. I hope she’ll come back to us alive and well.” </p><p dir="ltr">Gozalnur’s story is far from unique: although many people are afraid of telling anyone, more and more people have been openly admitting that family members have disappeared in China. </p><p dir="ltr">Jamilya Maken, who lives in the Almaty region, is in a similar situation: her husband, who was born in China but was promised speedy Kazakh citizenship, travelled to China after an insistent request by the Chinese authorities in 2016, but failed to return. In China, he was ordered to explain why he had moved to Kazakhstan and applied for Kazakh citizenship. He couldn’t have refused to make the journey to China, for fear of making life difficult for his relatives there. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 15.17.13_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 15.17.13_0.png" alt="" title="" width="390" height="262" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jamilya Maken. Photo from personal archive.</span></span></span>“I have two children. My husband Toktar Osmangali was invited to China and travelled there, and then we found out that he had been detained, but no one knew why,” Jamilya tells us. “And now we have no news from him and no idea if he’s still alive and what has happened to him. I wrote to the Kazakhstani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking them to help return my husband, the father of my children. The children keep asking where their father is, and I have no answer.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Cautious attempts </h2><p dir="ltr">One million people out of the 18-million population of Kazakhstan are repatriates, and <a href="https://kapital.kz/gosudarstvo/47713/pochti-million-oralmanov-pribylo-v-kazahstan-za-25-let.html">14% of those are Kazakhs from China</a>. The issue of repatriates from the XUAR suddenly surfaced in October 2017, when about 250 people whose ID papers weren’t in order <a href="http://www.astanatv.kz/news/show/id/59204.html">faced threats of deportation to China</a>. After that, the repatriates dropped their veil of silence and began to demand some action from the Kazakhstani government to halt the persecution of their fellow-countrymen and women in China. At the end of last October a group of repatriates <a href="https://rus.azattyq.org/a/kitay-arestovannye-kazakhi-rodstvenniki-mid/28817130.html">attended</a> a meeting at Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ offices in Almaty. </p><p dir="ltr">That same month. Nurlan Kylyshbayev, a deputy of the Senate, Kazakhstan’s upper house of Parliament, <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4885332-senator-obespokoen-narusheniem-prav.html">made an official request</a> to the Head of Government to confirm whether reports that ethnic Kazakhs had been persecuted in China were true. At both of these high level meetings, the issue concerned at least 47 relatives of Kazakhstani repatriates (some with Kazakhstani citizenship, some with Chinese) who may have been imprisoned or had disappeared. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 15.36.03_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 15.36.03_0.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'>A Kazakh family in XUAR, China. Image via Serikzhan Bilash. </span></span></span>After this development, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs <a href="http://mfa.gov.kz/ru/content-view/khr-kazak-diasporasyny-mseleleri-znindegi-konsultacialar-turaly">posted an announcement</a> on its website about forthcoming meetings to be held with China’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan, “on cooperation over issues connected with members of the Kazakh diaspora who are citizens of China”. The ambassador, Zhang Hanhui responded in November in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana:</p><p dir="ltr">“Before and during the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, harsh surveillance and vetting measures were in place for all citizens – not just Kazakhs but Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) and all other ethnic groups without exception,” said Zhang. “These measures were adopted because of information received about possible planned disruption. If the question relates to citizens with Chinese passports, it is purely a Chinese internal matter.”</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2018, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs nevertheless sent a note to its Chinese counterpart concerning the harassment of ethnic Kazakhs resident in China. This information was not, however, made public by the Ministry, and the Kazakh public <a href="http://www.trt.net.tr/russian/rossiia-i-strany-sng/2018/02/18/mid-kazakhstana-napravilo-notu-vlastiam-kitaia-912799">only found out about the note from the TRT Turkish TV channel</a>. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Don’t believe the propaganda </h2><p dir="ltr">The photographs shown by Serikjan Bilash, an activist from the <a href="http://atajurtjastar.com/kz/index.php/en/">Young Homeland Volunteers</a> organisation, which offers support to Kazakh repatriates from the XUAR, show the happy faces of Chinese Kazakhs as they do housework, cook meals and sit together around a dinner table. </p><p dir="ltr">You can’t immediately tell that it’s not real. But as Bilash explains, the thing common to all the photos is the fact that the men in these Kazakh families are Han Chinese. The Chinese government plants them in ethnic Kazakh families, so that they can teach them the Chinese language and traditions and “help” them assimilate in China. The real husbands and fathers of the families are in political re-education centres – correctional facilities where conditions are more like those of Russian prison colonies. Behind this is an attempt on the part of the Chinese authorities to halt the growth of Islam in the region and limit nationalist tendencies within its communities. </p><p dir="ltr">Serikjan Bilash, who is himself a repatriate from China, tells us that at least 10 Kazakh nationals are arrested in China without any reason.</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 2018-05-10 at 15.35.48.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Kazakh family in XUAR, China. Image via Serikzhan Bilash. </span></span></span>“These are exact figures. We received eight official statements. And this is just Kazakh citizens. The numbers of ethnic Kazakhs with Chinese citizenship in detention centres go into the hundreds. And we know for sure that for every repatriate in Kazakhstan there is a relative in China who is in a detention centre,” he says with tears in his eyes at a press conference Almaty on 2 April. “But our government ignores that fact. Many family breadwinners can’t return to Kazakhstan. How long will these people have to suffer?”</p><p dir="ltr">In an <a href="https://rus.azattyq.org/a/samarkan-china-lager/29190158.html">interview with the Kazakh language service of RFE/RL</a>, Kayrat Samarkin, an ethnic Kazakh who was born and brought up in China, told of how he landed in a re-education centre when he travelled to China in 2017. Samarkin had gone there to sell his house and land, instead finding himself in a prison camp in the XUAR. Before that, he spent three days under interrogation. He didn’t manage to figure out what he was being accused of, though that didn’t stop him being sentenced to between three and nine months of internment. </p><p dir="ltr">According to Samarkin, there are 5,700 detainees in the camp where he was sent: over 3,000 of them Kazakhs, 2,000 Uyghurs and 200 Dungans (members of a group of Muslim people of Chinese origin). There were just two Kazakh citizens among them. He was released prematurely after a suicide attempt and given permission to go to Kazakhstan, where he was immediately given citizenship. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Official displeasure </h2><p dir="ltr">Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev is the unofficial leader of the <a href="http://www.qazaq-alemi.kz/kazakh_in_world?id=335">World Kurultai of Kazakhs</a>, a global gathering of Kazakh diasporas that takes place every five years. The most recent Kuruktai took place in Astana in 2017, and at it Omirkhan Altyn, an ethnic Kazakh from Germany, <a href="http://www.exclusive.kz/expertiza/obshhestvo/14674/">raised the issue of the Chinese Kazakhs</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">“Our fellow-Kazakhs are asking us for help. Ten of them have recently been convicted, allegedly for praising Kazakhstan and staying in contact with fellow Kazakhs there, but also for talking about their wish to move to their historic homeland. Young men get convicted for just going into a mosque to pray. We can’t allow this to continue. If bridges are broken, how can we have friendship between peoples? There are no terrorists among our people.” </p><p dir="ltr">In response, Nazarbayev declared that he was hearing about Kazakhs’ problems in China for the first time: “We know about the problems in Xinjiang. They have terrorism and extremism there, but I’ve never heard about Kazakhs being persecuted.” </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 15.43.16_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 15.43.16_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chinese policemen patrol a Kazakh village in Xinjiang. Photo via Serikzhan Bilash.</span></span></span>Nazarbayev promised to follow the matter up through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and “devote the appropriate attention to it” if necessary. Kazakhstan, like China is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The organisation’s main purposes are to strengthen stability and security over the wide area that encompasses its members and to fight terrorism, separatism, extremism and drug trafficking. In terms of security, agreements within the SCO may sometimes take precedence over other international treaties, but the subject of security and the war on terrorism and extremism have priority over the economic and cultural links that are also seen as priorities in OSC documents. The very name of the organisation presupposes China’s leading role in it. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s completely possible that the Kazakh public has reacted to the plight of Chinese Kazakhs due to Kazakhs’ own ambiguous attitudes to repatriates. The latter often live close together, do not actively associate with local residents, including due to language difficulties. Kazakhstan is still a widely Russophone country, and repatriates often don’t know Russian. </p><p dir="ltr">Nazarbayev, who initiated the repatriation programme in 1991, <a href="https://www.azattyq.org/a/2302777.html">stated</a> in 2010 that “repatriates haven’t worked hard enough for the good of the country” and that “they have made no contribution to the development of the country’s economy”. In 2011, in western Kazakhstan, police forces <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elena-kostyuchenko/what-i-didnt-write-about-zhanaozen">violently suppressed a year-long strike by oil workers</a> in the town of Zhanaozen. The oil workers demanded a review of wages, including additional payments due to them as oil workers. Back then, Timur Kulibayev, who was head of the Samruk Kazyna sovereign wealth fund and Nazarbayev’s son-in-law, <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4451369-kto-rulit-bastujushhimi-neftjanikami.html,">said</a>: “Repatriates from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are moving in whole villages to Zhanaozen. In their own countries, these people were, let’s say, second-class.” The last phrase referred to the fact that repatriates were often involved in low-qualified work. </p><p dir="ltr">Nazabayev ordered the government to review the repatriation programme and “fundamentally sort out, together with the repatriates, the issue that we’re solving via the Nurly kosh (“Bright Nomad”) programme: the way they’re concentrated in the same districts needs looking at.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Taking the initiative</h2><p dir="ltr">Without having received a response from the authorities, at the end of 2017, relatives of people imprisoned in China <a href="https://rus.azattyq.org/a/28902707.html">conducted</a> a press conference in Astana, presenting examples of how the rights of the Kazakh ethnic minority had been violated. “In China, 160 ethnic Kazakhs have been convicted on various charges. Four thousand complaints have been sent to a special committee on this issue. In the course of a week, Chinese security services carried out searches in the homes of 30,000 Kazakh families. Any texts related to Kazakhstan and Islam – flags, books, photos – were confiscated.”</p><p dir="ltr">The charges, as it turns out, are often different: local Kazakhs are accused of belonging to extremist religious groups, whereas Chinese Kazakhs, who resettle in Kazakhstan, are charged with espionage.</p><p dir="ltr">Immediately after the press conference, activists and relatives of imprisoned Kazakhs sent an open letter to the Chinese consul in Kazakhstan. They requested that Zhang Hanhui turn his attention to the persecution and bring it to the attention of the Chinese authorities. “Kazakhs born in China have always been proud that we grew up in a place where we weren’t forbidden to love our historical homeland, native language and religions. But now the situation has grown much worse. There are violations of Kazakhs’ civic rights just because they visit relatives in Kazakhstan, trade with citizens of our country (...) All of this creates an unpleasant image for the country, a negative image for China and anti-Chinese attitudes.”</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 2018-05-10 at 15.29.44.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="356" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kazakh repatriates from China, concerned about the fate of their relatives, visit Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry in Almaty. Image: Nurtay Lakhan. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>But it’s clear that anti-Chinese attitudes in Kazakhstan are strong even without this problem. Over the past decade, local workers and Chinese staff have come into violent conflicts at oil extraction sites, developed by Chinese companies. In 2010, in Aktobe region, six people were <a href="http://www.diapazon.kz/aktobe/aktobe-details/32179-podralis-kitajjskie-i-mestnye-rabochie.html">wounded </a>(two of whom received gunshot injuries) in a fight between Chinese and Kazakh workers at the Northern Truva site. In 2012, four people were <a href="https://rus.azattyq.org/a/kazakh-chinese-workers-fight-atyrau/24677945.html">wounded</a> in a conflict between workers at the Atyrau oil refinery. And 31 people were <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4726610-mestnye-zhiteli-podralis-so.html">injured in a mass brawl</a> in the cafeteria of a Kazakhmys ore enrichment plant in east Kazakhstan. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, Kazakhstan witnessed a wave of protests after the authorities declared plans to reform the land ownership system, permitting foreign citizens to own land in the country. Opponents of the legislative changes believed that the chief interested party in this reform was China, triggering protests that ended in a moratorium on land reform. </p><p dir="ltr">“Attitudes towards Kazakhs in China remains the same,” says Aidos Sarym, a Kazakh political scientist. “Many in the country sympathise with the difficulties they’re going through, the problems. But the other side of the question is how far is society ready to defend their interests actively, using different forms of pressuring the authorities? And for the government, China remains very important state and economic partner. Many projects are dependent on China.” </p><p dir="ltr">China is one of top five lenders to Kazakhstan. According to National Bank figures, Kazakhstan <a href="https://tengrinews.kz/markets/skolko-i-komu-doljen-kazahstan-316716/">owes</a> China between $12-13 billion. Moreover, the two countries are now creating a $300m investment fund for projects in Kazakhstan. <a href="https://kapital.kz/economic/10517/kitayu-prinadlezhit-40-dobyvaemoj-v-rk-nefti.html">Figures</a> put the percentage of oil extracted in Kazakhstan that is sent to China between 23%-40%. </p><p dir="ltr">In China, Kazakhs are the 16th largest ethnic group (1.5m) out of 55 national minorities, and 95% of them live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Until recently, Chinese Kazakhs did not report instances of persecution, instead performing the role of an ethnic minority which lived in harmony with Han Chinese while still maintaining its traditions. But the situation has changed. There’s up to 120,000 people in re-education camps in Xinjiang – mostly Uyghurs – but there’s also Kazakh prisoners there. </p><p dir="ltr">In Kazakhstan, many repatriates hope that their historical homeland will find the courage to try and get Kazakh citizens released – and to ensure China stops its campaign against Chinese Kazakhs – even if it hurts Astana’s economic and political interests. </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="/henryk-szadziewski/uyghurs-china-and-central-asia">The Uyghurs, China and central Asia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-kozak/ukrainian-muslims-forbidden-literature">The permitted and the forbidden: Ukraine’s security services turn their eyes to “banned” Islamic literature</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-slavina/tortured-terrorised-russian-muslim-facing-deportation">Tortured and terrorised by the state, this Russian Muslim now faces deportation </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 Inga Imanbai and Andrey Grishin Kazakhstan Human rights Wed, 23 May 2018 05:38:20 +0000 Inga Imanbai and Andrey Grishin 118002 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Impatient dictators: how snap elections shore up authoritarianism in Eurasia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tamara-grigoryeva-ismail-djalilov/impatient-dictators <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Authoritarian states are using all-too familiar constitutional mechanisms to consolidate power.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen_Shot_2018-05-21_at_15.11.13.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen_Shot_2018-05-21_at_15.11.13.png" 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'>Fatima Mövlamlı. Source: Youtube.</span></span></span>Fatima Mövlamlı, an Azerbaijani teenager, is used to seeing İlham Aliyev, her country’s president, everywhere: on TV, street billboards, on portraits at her school and health clinic. The man would always be kindly smiling in various settings: surrounded by children, villagers, workers, happy citizens of prosperous Azerbaijan. His seemingly omnipresent, inescapable smile watched over her as she grew up.</p><p dir="ltr">But when Fatima turned 17, she looked around and saw a different picture: in the city where she grew up, although the dictator smiled at everyone from the posters, big and small, people rarely smiled back. Their faces conveyed anxiety, they seemed preoccupied with making ends meet as official made pronouncements on the health and strength of the economy, constantly repeating the adjective “analogue-less” in reference to Azerbaijan. The smiles were slowly and gradually giving way to disquiet, fear and hopelessness. </p><p dir="ltr">When she looked around, Mövlamlı saw a country ruled by a dictator. </p><p dir="ltr">This is why when Ilham Aliyev called for snap elections in February 2018, she decided to act. On 26 March, Mövlamlı left home with <a href="https://www.meydan.tv/get_img?ImageWidth=960&amp;ImageHeight=960&amp;ImageId=40243">posters</a> of Ilham Aliyev to take part in the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/could-a-hashtag-challenge-the-aliyev-regime">“Know Your Dictator” campaign</a>, launched by Azerbaijani emigres in Europe in order to draw attention to Aliyev’s rule. The posters contained a QR code with further information, and Mövlamlı was determined to inform people of the dictatorship and its <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/azerbaijan-snap-election-aliyev/29018696.html">use of elections</a> to further consolidate Aliyev’s grip on power.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“I did this to demonstrate that our youth hasn’t lost the ability to fight, and to give people reason to summon their courage,” she says.</p><p dir="ltr">Mövlamlı was immediately summoned to the Binagadi district police station in Baku, where she was interrogated for five hours. After her release, Mövlamlı attended a 31 March protest, proclaiming that detention can’t make her stop campaigning. She says she was kidnapped by the authorities after the rally and, in direct contradiction of Azerbaijani laws, kept incommunicado from her family and friends for five days. In a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw6N1GzIbvY&amp;feature=youtu.be">video</a> published a few days after her release, Mövlamlı claims she was forced to undress, then a video of her was taken and she was held for days without access to her family or lawyer at the <a href="http://mia.gov.az/?/az/content/153/">Main Department on Combating Human Trafficking</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting for this article, Mövlamlı says she didn’t expect to be kidnapped. “Given the fact that I am only 17, and my experience is pretty limited, naturally, I couldn’t foresee the events I’ve been through with much clarity. I thought I could be arrested, I didn’t think beyond the arrest. Not of being kidnapped, not of being slandered, it wouldn’t even enter my mind that such a mighty government would deal with a 17 year old girl with such ruthlessness and show such inhumane treatment.”</p><p dir="ltr">To Mövlamlı and others who participated in this campaign against the 11 April snap elections, the fact that that they happened without much condemnation from the international community, and that <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/azerbaijan-aliyev-expected-win-reelection-april-11-vote/29158177.html">Ilham Aliyev secured a fourth term</a>, was a tragedy. But for the Aliyev regime, much like other dictatorships across Eurasia, these elections were simply a mechanism of further power usurpation. While for Mövlamlı, Aliyev’s fourth presidency is a curse of another seven years that she has to battle, across Eurasia it was just one domino tile of many. </p><p dir="ltr">Notorious for copying each other’s authoritarian traits, whether <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/david-lewis/moscow-consensus-constructing-autocracy-in-post-soviet-eurasia">taxation of NGOs and “foreign agent”-style legislation or imprisoning political opponents on petty criminal charges</a>, Eurasia’s dictators have discovered yet another technique: call snap elections, seize the political momentum and rig the results while society is dazzled, the opposition is in turmoil and the international community’s attention is elsewhere. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Snap election epidemic</h2><p dir="ltr">Across Eurasia, snap elections happen rather frequently. In some contexts, such as after revolutions and during political crises, they are justified (Kyrgyzstan, possibly soon Armenia). In other contexts, while there are clearly circumstances that do require snap elections, it’s also obvious that this mechanism is used by authoritarian regimes to their benefit (Turkey). And then there are clear-cut dictatorships that shamelessly use snap elections to run their own show (Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan), and once one country is able to pull this trick off, others start replicating it. </p><p dir="ltr">“One way of looking at what purpose snap elections serve is: what purpose do elections serve? If elections are a complete show, snap elections are probably also a complete show. Generally, snap elections are critical to the point that elections are critical, as a general rule of thumb,” says Karabekir Akkoyunlu, a research associate at the Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/aliyev_6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/aliyev_6.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'>Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan. Image: anastasia vikulova. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In democracies, snap elections usually happen at a time of a political crisis, says Anar Mammadli, Chairman of Azerbaijan-based Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, referring to elections in the UK, Czech Republic and Turkey, before the country succumbed to authoritarianism. But in authoritarian states, such as Kazakhstan in 2015-2016 and Azerbaijan this year, the snap elections mechanism is being used to further consolidate power.</p><p dir="ltr">Anthony Bowyer, Senior Program Manager at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) says that in these scenarios: “You would almost think they’d be more honest with themselves if they just extended presidential rule rather than to go through the trouble of having what is obviously an orchestrated process, which... would certainly draw the ire of the international community a bit more than having a flawed election in some ways.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Where elections don’t matter</h2><p dir="ltr">Snap elections matter in places where they can create some sort of unpredictable change, says Karabekir Akkoyunlu. But in states like Kazakhstan (snap elections in 2015 and 2016) and Azerbaijan, snap elections demonstrably bring no significant change. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In Kazakhstan, the elections in general haven’t mattered much for the past 20 years, says Andrei Grishin of Kazakhstan International Bureau of Human Rights, even prior to the snap election the number of government-supporting parliamentarians was very high, but president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the country since 1991, was concerned about losing public trust and therefore used administrative resources to further usurp power. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“We didn’t have any political crisis. Nazarbayev suddenly announced that we needed changes, and we had the snap elections. As a result, he simply consolidated more power,” Grishin adds. </p><p dir="ltr">But when Kazakhstan did it, nobody blinked an eye in the international community, and after a couple of usual statements of concern, everyone went back to business as usual. But while international organisations never bothered to check out of the kingdom of Morpheus, across the Caspian Sea, in another regime, Azerbaijan, president Aliyev and his team were watching closely and taking notes. The snap election mechanism was a flashy new toy to play with, all while consolidating yet more power. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/5622911146_517d7d4208_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/5622911146_517d7d4208_z.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'>President Nazarbaev's message to the people of Kazakhstan: “Through the crisis to renewal and development”. Photo CC BY 2.0: upyernoz / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>But Aliyev couldn’t just call an election straight away. So first he <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dominika-bychawska-siniarska/azerbaijan-s-unconstitutional-future">called a referendum in 2016</a>, which extended presidential term limits and gave the president the authority to call presidential elections at any time. This move, in a way, predicted the April 2018 snap elections, says Anar Mammadli. </p><p dir="ltr">“The referendum gave additional powers to the president, such as extending the presidential term to seven years, created the institute of vice-president, who is appointed by the president. At the same time, in 2016 the human rights crisis in Azerbaijan had worsened, so did the relations with the West; and the social-economic crisis has resulted in a certain discontent among the people,” says Mammadli, adding that by calling snap elections in April 2018, Aliyev tried to extend maximum control and usurp power even further. </p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, presidential elections were to be held in October 2018, but Aliyev moved them to April. The 2016 referendum and previous electoral code changes have limited the opposition and practically removed all effective campaigning tools. But, by moving it to April, Aliyev avoided whatever international outcry could possibly result from it, because the international community was busy with the Russian presidential elections and escalation in Syria. According to Mammadli, Aliyev was also concerned that with the worsening economic situation, inflation and increased unemployment the fall might bring surprise socio-economic protests – and this is a scenario he’d rather not face. In the cases of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, calling for snap elections had to do with lust for more power, reinforcing the legitimacy of the president, mobilising different parts of the power vertical, says Nate Schenkkan, Director of Nations in Transit at Freedom House. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“You force everyone to demonstrate their loyalty. That's how they get the numbers they want”</p><p dir="ltr">“You force everyone to demonstrate their loyalty. That's how they get the numbers they want. You make sure students, doctors, etc. are mobilised during the election. It's a way to check the system, and to demonstrate power. You show how you can make this happen, fast and unscheduled,” Schenkkan adds. </p><p dir="ltr">In these cases of authoritarian rulers, when using the snap elections, power holders make it clear to society, the political landscape and the international community that “they have the initiative to decide when elections can be held” and that “they have the power to infuse a (degree of) unpredictability in the political arena which authoritarian rulers do use,” says Karabekir Akkoyunlu, explaining that the snap elections give the ruler “the power to control further dynamics”. He reminds us, however, that the same logic applies to snap elections in democratic systems, as well. </p><p dir="ltr">“Whoever has the ability to call the shots presumably does so in a way that fits their interests. So, we could even talk about this in a liberal democracy,” he adds. </p><p dir="ltr">But just a month away the region is to see another snap election, this time, in Turkey. While an argument can be made that the situation is fundamentally different under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a number of trends resemble Eurasia’s solid authoritarian regimes. </p><h2 dir="ltr">“You compete, I win” </h2><p dir="ltr">In Turkey, snap elections have for a long time been a constitutional mechanism used by politicians at times of crisis or change. During the 1980s and 1990s, collapsing fragile coalition governments, perceived turns towards socialism or Islam, all ended in early elections – both with and without tanks in the streets. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">However, with what some qualify as an increasingly authoritarian rule of the former Prime Minister-turned-President Erdoğan, the element of unpredictability has faded as his party, AKP, has consistently gained the majority in the parliament. This has meant AKP hasn’t had to form fragile coalition governments with other political parties like so many of its predecessors. In this climate, snap elections are used for different purposes and under different circumstances this altogether: “They still are a competitive authoritarianism. But we have similarities,” says Anar Mammadli, comparing Turkey to Azerbaijan, which, though they share geographic proximity and cultural ties, have very different political systems.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The big difference is whether the system has true competition to call it a democracy, or a truly competitive authoritarianism which I would classify Turkey as being”</p><p dir="ltr">“They also had a referendum, and now again the election, which was held early. So, Erdoğan, just like Aliyev, used the referendum and was granted certain opportunities by it. Same as in Aliyev's case – Erdoğan capitalised on his improved rating due to [a military operation in] Afrin, and gambled that he could win [the election]. Plus, he wanted to do a “renovation” and bring in a new team after the election to strengthen his grip on power. So, although, there are indeed similarities, these aren't equal situations. Erdoğan, even if not in the first round, but in the second round is going to win.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Anadolu_Agency-Xinhua_News_Agency-PA_Images.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Anadolu_Agency-Xinhua_News_Agency-PA_Images.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a press conference during an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 18, 2018. Photo: Xinhua / Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“Snap elections aren’t inherently wrong, and this is the argument that Turkey makes,” says Nate Schenkkan. When critics condemned the emergency situation and claimed that it had limited and shrunk the space for political campaigning, the Turkish government pointed to the French snap elections held in France in 2017, which were also held in an emergency situation. “This was a different kind of emergency,” Schenkkan clarifies. </p><p dir="ltr">“The big difference is whether the system has true competition to call it a democracy, or a truly competitive authoritarianism which I would classify Turkey as being, or whether elections are not at the stage of producing real institutional change, as I would say is the case is for Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan at the moment,” says Karabekir Akkoyunlu. “Because, however we look at it, despite the fact that Turkey is really moving along the path (towards) consolidated authoritarianism, there are significant differences here.”</p><p dir="ltr">Akkoyunlu points to the referendum that Erdoğan won by 51%, and the presidential elections in 2014 that he won by 52%. “There is a long history, and still institutional memory and practice of democratic competition that doesn’t go away (so soon).” For Akkoyunlu, what sets Turkey apart from the two former Soviet states is the possibility of meaningful competition: “In the case of Turkey it’s clear that calling the snap election can give the government an advantage, (as) they decide when the best time is because despite all this illiberal move, there’s still real competition both in the society, but also in terms of political parties.”</p><p dir="ltr">This resonates with Schenkkan’s position, who says that Turkey's election is “not completely unlike the normal snap election in a normal parliamentary system.” Citing the government’s concerns about the state of the economy, he says: “In a way it's logical why they want it now, and that's within the range of what you can do.” However, according to him, the caveats are the state of emergency and the fact that <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-18188426">some MPs are in prison</a> which make these elections “not a normal election.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Observe, but don’t interfere </h2><p dir="ltr">As elections do not happen in a vacuum, there’s something to be said about the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anne-rennschmid/is-election-observing-in-central-asia-lost-cause">role of the international community in observing, validating and legitimising these processes</a>, both at the level of nation-states and their groupings: “Individual countries can certainly (condemn the process or the outcome), and embassies and ambassadors who have a particular profile in the world, and the U.S., has been one of that sort, do so,” says Anthony Bowyer. According to him, international organisations, such as the Council of Europe, as well as member-states of these bodies “have a lot to lose by having a flawed election or political process” within their borders. </p><p dir="ltr">However, when it comes to the clear commonly-accepted standard or statute to which a particular election can be held within the context of the international law, it gets more complicated. While Schenkkan points to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe as a set of standards and rules that would be expected to apply to members such as Azerbaijan and Turkey, for Akkoyunlu, it is not so clear cut: “I am not aware of the discussion of the snap elections within international law. It is very much part of the countries’ domestic political systems, I am not aware of any international legal bases that (cover) or institutionalise the use of snap elections and impose certain regulations. I don’t think it exists.”</p><p dir="ltr">At a maximum, according to Akkoyunlu, we can talk about the role of the international public opinion or particular countries making their opinions known, as the United States did when it decried snap elections in Venezuela in January of this year. “There could be a public or diplomatic reaction, but beyond that its very much a national issue, and I am not even sure the international law is even relevant.” </p><p dir="ltr">Anar Mammadli admits that there are no specific international mechanisms to prevent a snap election without a reason, but says there are international documents that express principals under which such elections could he held. “According to the UN convention on civil and political rights, the elections have to be held within a reasonable time. So there is a principle, but no mechanism. Because electoral process has a lot of national specifics, it is hard to call it to account. There are no universal mechanisms. In that regard, one needs to look from the point of each citizen's opportunity to use his or her right to make a political choice,” he adds.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Even when I’m 44</h2><p dir="ltr">Responding to a seemingly simple question, “What did you feel when you learned of İlham Aliyev’s reelection?” Fatima Mövlamlı pauses for an instant, before firing back: “I only blamed the people. Why? Because even a child would guess that Aliyev would be (re)elected president. The only thing needed to prevent this was for the people to rise up, and they didn’t.”</p><p dir="ltr">In her opinion, the creation and strengthening of the Aliyev regime is conditioned on people remaining silent, and since they remain silent, the president can re-elect himself not just for the fourth time in a row, but fourteen times. “The only way out is that the people rise up, like it’s done in civilised societies, and protest.” </p><p dir="ltr">Mövlamlı, who now reportedly finds herself a subject of a <a href="http://gozetci.az/article/index/8648?l=az_AZ">travel ban</a>, will be 24 by the time Aliyev’s current term expires. Reflecting on that fact, she says: “The main reason behind my struggle is because I realised it is my civic duty to fight against injustices. Forget 24, even if he’s president when I am 44 years old, Fatima Mövlamlı will still continue her struggle.” </p><p dir="ltr">“The most fearsome thing is, if during this next term the ruling government doesn’t see the power of the people, if it doesn’t see them rise up, I think we will see even more tragic events. Azerbaijan will be indistinguishable from North Korea, and I don’t want this to happen.”</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/gulnar-salimova/forced-limbo-how-azerbaijan-prevents-journalists-from-leaving-country">Forced limbo: how Azerbaijan prevents journalists from leaving the country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/david-lewis/moscow-consensus-constructing-autocracy-in-post-soviet-eurasia">The “Moscow Consensus”: Constructing autocracy in post-Soviet Eurasia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/luca-anceschi/end-of-nazarbayev-dream">The end of the Nazarbayev dream </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tamara-grigoryeva-ismail-djalilov/compassion-fatigue-what-happens-in-eurasia">Compassion fatigue: what happens in Eurasia when the world looks away</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/could-a-hashtag-challenge-the-aliyev-regime">Could a hashtag challenge the Aliyev regime? </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 Ismail Djalilov Tamara Grigoryeva Kazakhstan Azerbaijan Tue, 22 May 2018 21:26:03 +0000 Tamara Grigoryeva and Ismail Djalilov 117990 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Police bring charges to your work place, bed bugs instead of torture and a hunger strike https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/police-bring-charges-to-your-work-place-bed-bugs-instead-of-torture-and-hunger-st <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The latest in freedom of assembly news from Russia, via OVD-Info.&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/moshed-2018-5-11-0-36-18_1024.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'>Andrey Lukyanov (left) and Oleg Vorotnikov (Right), a member of art group Voina. Lukyanov was beaten by police six years ago, when they mistook him for the artist in Moscow. Source: OVD-Info. </span></span></span></p><p><strong>This article is part of our partnership with OVD-Info, a Russian organisation monitoring freedom of assembly.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>In case you find our work on protests of interest, we have <a href="https://medium.com/@ovdinfo/%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B4-%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%84%D0%BE-%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BD%D1%83%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B8-%D1%88%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%B1-5-%D0%BC%D0%B0%D1%8F-e81803f5f909">written</a><span> a report about our activities on 5 May. Thanks to all those who distributed information, worked at our office, and helped organise assistance to those detained. We value your help hugely.</span></p><p><strong>The so-called <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“Network” case</a> continues to develop. Nine men in Penza and St Petersburg have been charged with taking part in a terrorist group entitled the “Network”: allegedly, they were preparing mass disturbances in the country. A number of defendants have <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">stated</a> they were tortured by the FSB.</strong></p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Defendant Ilya Shakursky has <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/17/obvinyaemyy-po-delu-seti-ilya-shakurskiy-otkazalsya-ot-priznatelnyh?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">withdrawn</a> testimony in which he admitted his guilt as charged. He has also requested that investigator Valery Tokarev be taken off the case. Shakursky’s lawyer asserts that this testimony was given under torture, and also as a result of pressure by Mikhail Grigoryan, his previous lawyer.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Еlena Bogatova, Shakursky’s mother, has made a <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/14/mat-obvinyaemogo-po-delu-seti-podala-zhalobu-na-byvshego-advokata-syna?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">complaint</a> to the bar association against Mikhail Grigoryan. In the complaint, Bogatova says Grigoryan did not tell her about the torture of her son, sought to persuade Shakursky to admit his guilt and made public statements about the guilt of his client. Mikhail Grigoryan has taken offence at OVD-Info for the publication of this news and has threatened to sue us for defamation. He has also said he will ask the police to open a criminal investigation against us for libel.</p></li></ul><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- The Investigative Committee has <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/12/sk-poschital-sledy-elektroshokera-na-tele-svidetelya-po-delu-seti-ukusami?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">refused to initiate an investigation into the alleged torture</a> of Ilya Kapustin, a witness in the Network case. According to the Investigative Committee, some of the marks on Kapustin’s body were a result of the lawful use of force by FSB officers when Kapustin allegedly tried to escape. His other injuries occurred “as a result of insect bites,” in particular bed bugs, the Investigative Committee asserts.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- St Petersburg authorities have <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/16/vlasti-peterburga-otklonili-pyat-zayavok-na-provedenie-shestviya-protiv?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">rejected</a> five applications to hold a march against torture. When the organisers decided to comply with the refusal, they were permitted to hold a rally in Ovsyannikovsky Garden.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr"><strong>The police continue to arrest those who took part in the “He’s Not Our Tsar” protest</strong>. In Smolensk, a police officer from the counter-extremism department <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/16/v-smolenske-sotrudnik-cpe-razdal-povestki-v-policiyu-slushatelyam-sudebnogo?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">summoned</a> people who attended the court hearing of the prosecution (under administrative law) of a Navalny election campaign volunteer. In Tiumen, police visited activists at <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/16/policiya-prishla-v-shkolu-k-uchastniku-nam-ne-car-v-tyumeni?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">school</a> and at <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/16/aktivistu-shtaba-navalnogo-v-tyumeni-prinesli-protokol-za-akciyu-nam-ne-car?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">work</a> to charge them over the protests, while Aleksei Navalny himself was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/15/alekseya-navalnogo-otpravili-v-specpriemnik-za-akciyu-5-maya?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">jailed</a> by a court for 30 days.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Film director Oleg Sentsov has <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/16/oleg-sencov-obyavil-bessrochnuyu-golodovku-s-trebovaniem-osvobodit?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">announced</a> a hunger strike and demanded the release of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia</strong>. Sentsov’s lawyer explained that his client is ready to die if his demands are not met. In 2015 Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2015/08/25/oleg-sencov-poluchil-20-let-strogogo-rezhima">sentenced</a> to terms of 20 and 10 years, respectively, in strict-regime prison colonies for setting on fire the doors of the United Russia offices in Crimea.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>On Sunday, more than 20 people were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/13/na-soglasovannom-mitinge-za-svobodnyy-internet-zaderzhali-bolee-20?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> in Moscow at a permitted “For Free Internet” protest</strong>. Оne woman was held overnight at a police station.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Ramzan Kadyrov has <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/15/kadyrov-zavil-chto-ne-schitaet-pravozashchitnikom-arestovannogo-glavu?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">stated</a> that he does not consider <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/no-defence-in-chechnya">Oyub Titiyev</a>, head of the Grozny branch of Memorial Human Rights Centre, to be a human rights defender</strong>. Kadyrov accused the chair of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, of failing to defend the rights of other convicts, along with “five or seven thousand residents of the republic who have gone missing,” when he speaks out in defence of Titiev. In response, Igor Kalyapin, chair of the NGO, Committee AGainst Torture, and a member of the Human Rights Council, <a href="https://govoritmoskva.ru/news/160398/">stated</a> that the head of the Chechnya is either badly informed or intentionally lying. <br class="kix-line-break" /></p><h2>Texts and Special Projects</h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>This man was mistaken for Oleg Vorotnikov from the Voina art group and beaten</strong>. We <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/articles/2018/05/11/art-direktor-i-art-aktivist-izbityy-vmesto-vora-iz-voyny-trebuet-kompensaciyu?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">spoke with</a> Andrey Lukyanov, who was beaten by officers from the police counter-extremism department, after they mistook him for a member of the Voina art group, Oleg Vorotnikov. Six years later, still no investigation into the case has been conducted, and now Andrey is demanding 500,000 roubles from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>“This may apply to any report by any human rights organisation.”</strong> We <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/articles/2018/05/15/mozhet-kasatsya-lyubogo-doklada-v-pervom-chtenii-prinyat-zakon-o-sodeystvii?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">discussed</a> with experts the new law on “promoting sanctions [against Russia],” considering who might be liable to prosecution under the law and what it would mean for them.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Prosecuted for “taking an inflated duck from some street cleaners.”</strong> We <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/interviews/2018/05/16/vzyal-sdutuyu-utku-u-dvornikov-intervyu-s-advokatom-arestovannogo-posle-akcii?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">spoke with</a> one of the lawyers of a St Petersburg resident arrested after the “He’s Not Our Tsar” protest.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Five charged in the “Case of 26 February” have made final speeches in court</strong>. We publish a <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/report/2018/05/14/v-krymu-zavershilsya-process-po-delu-26-fevralya?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">report</a> from the court hearing. The “Case of 26 February” began after a clash between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian demonstrators in Crimea on 26 February 2014. At that time, as a result of a crush in the crowd, two people died and 30 were injured. Eight Crimean Tatars have been prosecuted in the case.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Thanks!</h2><p dir="ltr">Over eight days our lawyers provided legal consultations over our telephone hotline to at least 20 people arrested for taking part in the “He’s Not Our Tsar” protests in five Russian cities.</p><p dir="ltr">We are able to help a large number of people, but to do this we need money. We need money to keep our hotline available 24/7, to pay for lawyers, to create online legal services, to write news reports and articles, and to analyse violations of citizens’ rights in contemporary Russia. You can support us<a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/#"> here</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</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="https://ovdinfo.org/"><img src="https://ovdinfo.org/sites/all/themes/ovdinfo/img/logo-ovdinfo.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p><p>OVD-Info is a crowdfunded organisation. Find out how you can help them&nbsp;<a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</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/ovd-info/down-with-tsar-russian-authorities-ban-navalny-supporter-protest-ahead-of-putins-">“Down with the tsar”: Russian authorities ban Navalny supporter protest ahead of Putin&#039;s inauguration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/new-defendant-in-russian-anti-fascist-case">A new defendant in the Russian anti-fascist case</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/moscow-landfill-arrests">In Moscow region, campaigners against a landfill site are being arrested</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/young-people-gathered-to-voice-silent-reproach-dmitry-borisov-s-closing-statement">“Young people gathered to voice a silent reproach”: Dmitry Borisov’s closing statement in court</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 OVD-Info Fri, 18 May 2018 15:26:22 +0000 OVD-Info 117949 at https://www.opendemocracy.net For the frontrunners in the race to be mayor of Moldova's capital, city hall is no place for politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vitalie-sprinceana/anti-politics-as-politics-chisinau-goes-to-polls <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/32714373_1839874162718477_6334540156975972352_n.jpg" alt="32714373_1839874162718477_6334540156975972352_n.jpg" width="80" />This Sunday, Chișinău votes in the first round of mayoral elections. But as oligarchic forces line up to take the city, one thing is clear: the public sphere has been cleared of real politics.&nbsp;</p><br /> </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/555493/800px-Chisinau_City_hall (1)_0.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'>Chisinau City Hall. Public Domain Mirek237 / Wikipedia. </span></span></span>This Sunday, local elections are <a href="https://jamestown.org/program/mayoral-campaigns-in-moldovas-two-largest-cities-a-preview-of-next-parliamentary-election/">scheduled to take place in Chișinău and Bălți </a>— the capital and second largest city of Moldova respectively. These elections were announced after the mayors of these two cities, Dorin Chirtoacă (Chișinău) and Renato Usatîi (Bălți), resigned from their posts.</p><p dir="ltr">Renato Usatîi, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/regis-gente/b-l-is-prodigal-son">elected as mayor of Bălți in 2015</a>, resigned in February 2018 after living for over a year in Moscow, hiding from Moldovan law enforcement. Moldovan prosecutors claim that Usatîi was involved in a criminal plot that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9hnAGrf4Bk">intended to assassinate Russian banker German Gorbuntsov in London</a> in 2012. In response to these allegations, Usatîi <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-moldova-election-party-idUSKCN0JC1IS20141128">fled to Moscow</a> in 2014 and attempted to rule the city from the Russian capital for more than a year. As the tensions between him and Vladimir Plahotniuc (an oligarch <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-levcenco/vlad-plahotniuc-moldova-s-man-in-shadows">believed to control most of the Moldovan government</a>) grew, Usatîi found it difficult to govern the city from afar. Last fall he announced his intention to conduct a local referendum in Bălți in order to confirm his popularity, but the authorities in Moldova dismissed the initiative due to procedural violations. Then, in February this year, Usatîi unexpectedly announced his resignation, citing political and police pressure on city councillors from his political party. He expressed hopes that after the elections Bălți would have a “normal mayor and normal rule”. </p><p dir="ltr">In Chișinău, Dorin Chirtoacă’s path to resignation was more convoluted. In February-March 2017, Moldova’s Liberal Party, which Chirtoacă has been vice president of since 2005, was formally still an important component and enthusiast supporter of the ruling coalition. Then, after the Liberal Party refused to support the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mihai-popsoi/changing-rules-of-game-in-moldova">modification of Moldova’s electoral system</a> (from a proportional to a mixed system), the trouble began. First, Chirtoacă was <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-moldova-government/corruption-arrests-rock-moldovas-pro-eu-coalition-idUSKBN18P16N">arrested</a> on claims that he was involved in a dubious scheme that extorted money from the city’s parking system. Later he was released, but the court ruled that he should be temporarily suspended from his position and placed under house arrest during the investigation. </p><p dir="ltr">Chirtoacă remained under arrest until autumn 2017, when two significant events happened. First, on 6 November, Silvia Radu, the former head of the local branch of Gas Natural Fenosa and a person closely associated to Vlad Plahotniuc, was named as interim mayor of Chișinău. Second, a referendum on the removal of Chirtoacă, initiated by Moldova’s Party of Socialists, took place on 19 November. The referendum failed due to low turnout, but also because the appointment of Radu as acting mayor completely altered the political field, suggesting that the ruling Democratic Party and Vlad Plahotniuc were interested in a takeover of the capital. </p><p dir="ltr">Chirtoacă’s symbolic victory at the referendum (the city boycotted the referendum so Chirtoacă could nominally continue serving) thus became a resounding defeat, as media associated with the Democratic Party started to promote Radu aggressively. Every day that Silvia Radu remained in power was attributed to Chirtoacă’s inaction. The majority of citizens supposedly voted for Chirtoacă to stay in power, but he was immediately asked to resign in order to convene new elections and “not to give the city into the hands of Plahotniuc”. &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/Mihai_Ghimpu_(front)_and_Dorin_Chirtoacă_(back).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'>Dorin Chirtoaca with his uncle Mihai Ghimpu, a 1980s Popular Front leader who went on to hold local and national political offices. CC BY 2.0 Dorin Chirtoaca / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Then, in February 2018, Chirtoacă finally made the announcement expected from everyone: he resigned the mayor’s office, opening the way for snap local elections on 20 May. (Regular elections are supposed to take place next year, sometime in the spring). Later, Chirtoacă made another spectacular move (whose causes are still subject of speculation in the city): Chirtoacă decided not to run in the elections, leaving his Liberal Party colleague Valeriu Munteanu to defend his legacy.</p><h2>What are the elections about? </h2><p dir="ltr">As always with local elections in capital cities, the contest in Chișinău is about more than the election of a city administrator. In fact, as I have discussed in <a href="http://www.platzforma.md/arhive/38128">an earlier analysis</a>, there are several parallel electoral campaigns being run simultaneously in the city. </p><p dir="ltr">At the general level, Chișinău’s mayoral elections are about whether the city is to be handed to Vlad Plahotniuc or not. Most of the candidates (including, strangely enough, Silvia Rada) claim that one of their main goals is to prevent the city from falling into the powerful oligarchic hands of Plahotniuc and Moldova’s Democratic Party. In general, candidates mention Plahotniuc mostly in negative terms and pretend to oppose him. Andrei Năstase, candidate of the Dignity and Truth Party, is the most vocal in this aspect. Năstase started his campaign immediately after Chirtoacă announced his resignation, even before the Central Electoral Commission had established the date for the local elections. Nevertheless, he was very vocal in claiming he represents the true opposition to oligarchy and calling all non-oligarchic political forces in the country to support him. So far, the polls put Năstase in third place (and not a contender for the second round).</p><p dir="ltr">On another level, the elections are, as has always been the case in Chișinău, &nbsp;about geopolitics: West vs East, Russia vs Europe, <a href="https://www.eurozine.com/the-decline-of-gayropa/">“Gayropa”</a> vs “traditional values”, “civilised Europe” vs “barbarian Russia” etc. It is a traditional situation in Chișinău to see the city as the site of struggle of an “apocalyptic battle” of various geopolitical or moral forces. Serafim Urechean, a former Moldovan trade union leader, won the city elections in 2003 claiming that he would “fight communism”, and Dorin Chirtoacă was elected several times because he pretended to “embody” the force of youth, the European aspirations of city residents and their unwillingness to give the city into the hands of Moscow. </p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, every time the elections go into the second round, the two final candidates pretend that they represent two different geopolitical affiliations&nbsp;— a pro-European one, on the one hand, and a pro-Russian one, on the other hand. Although the main candidates in this round of local elections haven’t particularly emphasised Moldova’s “geopolitical struggle”, it is already emerging in some parts of the political discussion (mostly on the so-called liberal Right, with parties claiming that the <a href="https://www.timpul.md/articol/comentator-politic-gestul-lui-nastase-poate-adanci-fragmentarea-electoratului-proeuropean-127993.html">fragmentation </a>of the pro-European vote will help the “Left”, represented by the Party of Socialists, to win the elections). Moreover, the “geopolitical battle” is almost sure to be the main topic of debate (and separation) at the second round when, as polls suggest, the “leftist pro-Russian” Ion Ceban, the socialist candidate, will confront some “pro-European” candidates. </p><p dir="ltr">Within the campaign itself, however, there are other electoral campaigns being run in parallel. </p><p dir="ltr">In one of them, several candidates — Valeriu Munteanu, Constantin Codreanu (who is being supported by the former Romanian president Traian Băsescu), Alexandra Can — who call themselves pro-unionists (i.e. they argue for closer relationships and even <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/stefan-grigorita/moldova-finds-its-roots">reunification with Romania</a>) see and talk about the elections as being another step toward reunification, another opportunity for realising this “historical desire” and another chance to implement a “historical truth”. Of course, there is no place in this debate for the current burning issues of the city: poor pedestrian infrastructure, green areas being destroyed illegally in order to make space for real estate projects, lack of opportunities for participation and democratic inclusion of citizens in the decision-making process. Why bother with these mundane issues if unification with Romania will solve everything?</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-35715492.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 2018: supporters of unification with Romania gather in Chișinău. (c) Andrei Mardari/Kommersant/Sipa USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In another electoral campaign, several political parties, both big and small, attempt to simulate a pragmatic debate about the city, targeting its most important and pressing issues: transportation, green areas, social policies in the city, architectural heritage.</p><p dir="ltr">Take, for example, the Party of Socialists, which is well known for its aggressive pursuit of a culturally conservative agenda, consistently expressing anti-LGBT, pro-”traditional values” and anti-immigration positions — all of which is integrated into pro-Russian sympathies. (A reminder: President Igor Dodon won the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/make-moldova-great-again">2016 election</a> partially because he employed “the motherland is in danger” rhetoric, claiming that thousands of Syrian refugees would “invade” Moldova if his opponent was elected.) But in the campaign for Chișinău, the Party of Socialists has abandoned almost any “identity” debate and tries to act as the reasonable and pragmatic technocrats in the popular debate. Ion Ceban, the socialist candidate, is running on a platform of radical change for the city, combining the rhetoric of a good administrator (more efficiency in the work of local authorities) and a “dreamer” (one of his promises is to build a river port on the River Dniester). Ceban, a city councillor and head of the president’s press department, is highly likely to make it into the second round (and, in my mind, has a 50/50 chance of winning). Ceban’s biggest disadvantage is that he is still perceived as Dodon’s man, and that he is embarked on a mission to conquest the city for pro-Russian forces. </p><p dir="ltr">Also in the section of ”big ideas”, Aleksandr Roșco, the candidate of the “Our Home Moldova” Party, wants free public transportation and free wifi in Chișinău, but he is unlikely to advance very far in the competition.</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/Silvia_Radu_7_(Moldova).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Silvia Radu, former director of Gas Natural Fenosa in Moldova, and a 2016 presidential candidate. CC BY-SA 4.0 Irina Revin / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>And then there is Silvia Radu, who is “running her own electoral campaign”. Although Radu is supported by the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/nadine-gogu/who-really-rules-airwaves-in-moldova">entire media empire belonging to Vlad Plahotniuc and the Democratic Party</a> (and Moldovan state institutions — recently she was caught on camera while <a href="http://unimedia.info/stiri/video-silvia-radu--asistata-de-bunicii-grijulii-in-campania-electorala-ce-cauta-un-echipaj-de-politie-la-un-eveniment-electoral-al-candidatei-153739.html">being accompanied</a> in one of her electoral visits by a police car), she still presents herself as an “independent candidate”. Indeed, Radu is running on an anti-political campaign: she refuses (so far) to participate in any public debate, claiming that she has no time to engage in political battles because… she is busy governing the city and solving citizens’ problems. That said, this doesn’t stop her being accompanied on every trip by a massive team of journalists that report her every step. Radu presents to the electorate no vision for the city, only her media persona, which she successfully carries from one television channel to another. Or, she brings the TV teams with her. Or, she invites the TVs to her home where she presents herself as a regular mother and wife who still finds time for the family despite her busy public schedule.</p><p dir="ltr">Radu’s electoral program represents a strange mix of activistic slogans (stop illegal property development in the city!), advertising campaigns (a green and clean city!), but also slogans that appear to be description of a yoga or religious meditation classes (Chișinău united in harmony and peace). In terms of concrete measures, Silvia Radu's program resembles the checklist of a plumber or engineer (to repair elevators, to fix the traffic problem etc), while emphasising that the “city is tired of politicians”, it needs “competent people” and “no more corrupt public officials” and that any attempt to criticise her is a smear campaigns against the “only independent candidate”</p><p dir="ltr">To summarise, Radu has built an anti-political platform where local political process (the elections and the electoral campaign) are regarded as a necessary evil (necessary, but still evil), a series of useless procedures and rules that interfere with the good governance of the city. Silvia Radu, it seems, could have governed the city very well without the elections. </p><p dir="ltr">But it would be a mistake to focus only on Silvia Radu’s media persona. In fact, Radu is filling a political niche created long before her by a combination, in my view, of three factors: 1) poor governance record of the previous local administration headed by Dorin Chirtoacă; 2) the consolidation of a discourse in eastern Europe that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/is-anti-corruption-agenda-all-that-it-s-cracked-up-to-be">sees corruption and especially corruption of politicians as the main source of the region’s problems</a>. This has led to an increased demand of experts that would replace “corrupt politicians” (<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/alexei-navalnys-campaign-effective-management-or-grassroots-movement">Alexey Navalny</a> is the representative of this tendency in Russia; <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicu%C8%99or_Dan">Nicușor Dan</a> in Romania and so on); 3) the emergence at the city level, in recent years, of a urban discourse focused strictly on urban topics: roads, parking, heritage, sidewalks, protection of green areas. This discourse presents itself as being apolitical and avoiding affiliation with any political party.</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/silvia radu.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="156" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Silvia Radu's Facebook page reads "#CityHall. An area free of politics." </span></span></span>All these developments have created an “anti-political” activist niche that Silvia Radu, with the help of the Democratic Party’s media machine, is successfully filling.&nbsp;</p><h2>What to expect?</h2><p dir="ltr">With the first tour of elections scheduled for Sunday, most of the polls suggest Silvia Radu and Ion Ceban will face off in the second round — the ruling party’s “independent candidate” against the official opposition’s “pragmatic candidate”. This has all the ingredients of a false choice: both candidates are part of the ruling tandem.</p><p dir="ltr">This development will force Moldova’s “anti-oligarchic” forces (Andrei Năstase, Valeriu Munteanu and others) to make an unpleasant choice between their geopolitical affiliation (“pro-European”) and anti-oligarchic struggle. Boycotting the elections is not a choice as, if Ion Ceban succeeds, his success will be blamed on them. With parliamentary elections in the fall, the “burden” of facilitating the election of a pro-Russian candidate in Chișinău will lay heavy on their shoulders. It will be a tough choice for them. </p><p dir="ltr">The parliamentary elections later in the year (probably November-December) are, indeed, among other factors weighing heavy in the local elections. For many, the results of the candidates in the local elections will define their positions and support in the parliamentary elections. </p><p dir="ltr">But there is another aspect, also related to the parliamentary elections which is important and overlooked. With the country <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mihai-popsoi/changing-rules-of-game-in-moldova">passing from a proportional to a mixed electoral system</a>, the parliamentary elections will take place, for the first time in more than 20 years, according to a new formula that will include both proportional representation and single-member constituencies. While the popularity of the ruling party is traditionally low (hence they cannot count on more than a few seats on the proportional lists), they are expected to compete fiercely for seats in the single-member constituencies. It is expected that the ruling party will be repeating the same model used in Silvia Radu's case, putting forward “apolitical” candidates in order to get most of the single-member constituencies. In this sense, this Sunday is likely a rehearsal for the final show.</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/nicolai-paholinitchi/moldovas-battle-against-russian-propaganda">Why Moldova’s battle against Russian propaganda isn’t what it seems</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maria-levcenco/vlad-plahotniuc-moldova-s-man-in-shadows">Vlad Plahotniuc: Moldova’s man in the shadows</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/fighting-impunity-in-moldova-and-transnistria">Fighting impunity in Moldova and Transnistria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vladimir-soloviev/ideal-conflict-on-dniester">An ideal conflict on the Dniester</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/is-anti-corruption-agenda-all-that-it-s-cracked-up-to-be">Is the anti-corruption agenda all that it’s cracked up to be?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/bakar-berekashvili/mayor-or-manager-tbilisi-chooses-its-kingpin">Mayor or manager? Tbilisi chooses its kingpin</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 Vitalie Sprinceana Cities in motion Moldova Fri, 18 May 2018 07:56:31 +0000 Vitalie Sprinceana 117938 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “In two years of picketing, 15 miners of working age have died”: how Rostov miners are fighting against all odds for their wages – and respect https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-pogrebniak/how-rostov-miners-are-fighting-against-all-odds-for-their-wages <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For two years, workers at a bankrupt mining company in southern Russia attempting to recoup their outstanding wages. All this in a town with 100% unemployment. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-pogrebnyak/shahtery-kompanii-bankrota-iz-gukovo" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ почета у здания «Кингкоул»_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ почета у здания «Кингкоул»_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'>Board of honor near the Kingcoal’s building. Photo: Evgeny Kosivtsov. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Two years ago, four mines in Gukovo, in the southern Rostov region, closed down. The mines were the town’s main employer, but <a href="http://miningwiki.ru/wiki/%D0%9A%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B3%D0%BA%D0%BE%D1%83%D0%BB">Kingcoal</a>, the company that owned them, had <a href="http://www.novostibankrotstva.ru/tag/ooo-kingkoul/">gone bankrupt</a>. Kingcoal’s CEO was sentenced to five years in prison for failing to pay employees for over a year and using company funds for his own purposes. </p><p dir="ltr">Next month will mark the second anniversary of the start of the Kingcoal miners’ campaign to get their wages. Almost every day, residents of Gukovo, who are mostly older people, take to the streets to demand their back pay: the Rostov regional authorities have paid out less than half of the outstanding sum. More than 2,000 people have been affected: half of the miners have yet to receive all the money due to them.</p><p dir="ltr">I went to Gukovo to find out how the miners are battling with the bureaucrats, how people live in a town without work and whether there is any hope of the mines reopening.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Kingcoal: a story of bankruptcy</h2><p dir="ltr">As a town, Gukovo developed thanks to its coal deposits: mining began here before the 1917 revolution. The mines were originally state owned, but were privatised in the 2000s. </p><p dir="ltr">The Kingcoal company appeared in 2007, and by the end of 2012 it had acquired four pits: Almaz, Gukovo, Rostov and Zamchalovo. The company’s CEO Vladimir Pozhidayev announced that, under his direction, these mines would become the leading coal producers in southern Russia. In April last year, Pozhidayev was <a href="http://rostov.sledcom.ru/news/item/1116017">sentenced</a> to five years behind bars for misuse of power and failure to pay his employees: between April 2015 and March 2016, Kingcoal’s employees received no wages. The mines were shut down at the end of 2016 and the company declared bankrupt, and at the end of last year Pozhidayev was <a href="http://rostov.sledcom.ru/news/item/1135598">charged</a> with a second offence: deliberate bankruptcy.</p><p dir="ltr">“From 2002 on, the mine was run by people who hadn’t a clue about the mining industry,” says Nikolai Shulepov, an officially decorated Distinguished Miner of Russia with 42 years at the Zamchalovo mine behind him. “One of its CEO’s was a former submarine commander. These people would put on their suits to go and inspect the mines. Pozhidayev just robbed us. Rumour has it that he raked in a couple of billion dollars and sent it all offshore to Cyprus. As soon as he took over, the wage delays started: a month, two months. I argued with Vasily Golubev, the Rostov regional governor, about it, but he just told me, in so many words, not to get in Pozhidayev’s way: he was developing the business.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ Шулепов_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ Шулепов_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'>Nikolai Shulepov. Photo: Evgeny Kosivtsov. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>When the four mines went bust, there were around 2,500 people working at them. They were gradually made redundant, and those that were still there were working on two shifts – some were spending 12 hours a day down a pit. In the end, there were just security staff left: at the Zamchalovo Anthracite mine, for example, they went on working until June last year, hoping they’d get their back pay. But then all four pits flooded, and there was no one to pump out the ground water. It became clear that this was the end. </p><p dir="ltr">“Some people say that the mines were flooded deliberately,” says Tatyana Avacheva, a member of the local initiative group and former surveyor at the Zamchalovo pit. “And that was why sink holes were appearing both next to the mines and in Gukovo itself. The water leaks into the foundations of buildings and destroys them: some houses have become unfit for habitation, with cracks in their walls. If it’s not pumped out in the next few months, it’s going to stream into people’s cellars. Toxic so-called <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackdamp">blackdamp </a>will also be released, so people could be suffocated in their cellars.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Some people say that the mines were flooded deliberately”</p><p dir="ltr">Most of the coal from the Gukovo mines was used to power the Novocherkassk regional power station. The highest quality stuff came from the Zamchalovo pit – the so-called “gold” coal, known for its clean burn and lack of impurities. It used to be exported to Canada and numerous European countries. But now the area around the mine looks like Chernobyl, with half-demolished buildings and rotted roofing, and the entrance to the mine blocked with rubbish and bricks.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s all crumbling and overgrown. The window frames are rotten, the ground is sinking,” Nikolai Shulepov tells me. “It used to be so fine, all clean and tidy. I spent my whole life at that mine; I’d walk to work through the fields. It was all old-fashioned then, of course. The mine was opened in 1955 and was never modernised, but it produced good coal: there are still more than 40 million tonnes of the stuff under here, it’s not exhausted.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Rostov mine is in a similar state: there is no security, you can get onto the site through a hole in a fence. It looks just like it did after the Second World War, with cracked foundations of administrative buildings, smashed windows, heaps of stone and rubbish. It’s strange to think that just two years ago it was still heaving with activity.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The fight for back pay</h2><p dir="ltr">The pickets began in June 2016. Every day, except weekends and public holidays, hundreds of people would crowd round Kingcoal’s main office. In June last year, Rostov’s Regional Development Corporation (which is responsible for investment and infrastructure projects in the region) made a payout of 310m roubles (£3.7m) to the miners, and the regional officials announced that they had honoured the main part of their commitments. In fact, it was less than half of the sum owed.</p><p dir="ltr">“The miners are due another 374m roubles (£4.436m),” Tatyana Avacheva tells me. “This amount includes both ordinary wages and the many other types of additional financial compensation required by law: for late payment of wages, for example, or production stoppages. It also includes child support payments and some other things. Plus we are also due compensation for the free coal allowances that the miners didn’t have for the three years between 2014 and 2016.”</p><p dir="ltr">The coal allowance was a statutory benefit in kind for those miners whose homes were heated by coal fired stoves (which was most of them). When the mines were state owned, the coal was delivered regularly, but when they became privatised many owners, Pozhidayev’s company included, stopped this service. The miners were promised social aid – 300 tonnes of coal from other mines in the Rostov region. The first 100 tonnes were supposed to be delivered by the end of March, but they never appeared.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ Ильянов разбирает оставшийся уголь.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ Ильянов разбирает оставшийся уголь.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'>Coal in the yard of Aleksandr Ilyanov. Photo: Evgeny Kosivtsov. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“People have barely survived this winter without coal,” Nikolai Posokhin tells me. Posokhin has worked in the coal industry for 28 years, most recently at the Rostov pit. “They have managed as well as they could, pulled down their fences – the mine was ransacked for firewood. Some people would walk along the railway line, picking up lumps of coal. You need about seven tonnes of coal to last you through the winter, and it’s expensive – seven to eight thousand roubles a tonne. Here in Gukovo, it’s like living in the 18th century – heaven knows what people in Moscow would make of life here! I don’t understand what our state is doing. There was a meltdown in the 1990s, but it feels as though it’s even worse now. On the TV, they show you Ukraine and Syria enough, but there’s nothing about what’s going on in our own country.”</p><p dir="ltr">Gukovo activists are trying to have the whole wages shortfall and compensation demands met out of regional reserve funds, which can then be offset by selling the mines and their equipment. They also want to change the rules on free coal allowances for pensioners. Currently, the extra free coal supply is only available to those who worked at the mines for 10 or more years when they went under state ownership and retired before they passed into private hands. The activists, however, want this benefit to also apply to miners who retired after the privatisation. Their proposal has been <a href="http://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/317869/">passed to the State Duma</a> and should be debated in the next six months. If it is accepted, it will be incorporated into law in 2019.</p><p dir="ltr">The miners, meanwhile, continued their public protests. In December 2016, they decided to travel to Moscow, attend a State Duma session and organise a mass protest while they were at it. One hundred and fifty people were due to travel to the capital in two buses, but a few weeks before they left they started to receive threats from the police, and on the day they were due to travel they were prevented from leaving Gukovo.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“I’m writing to everyone I can think of: local officials, the Presidential Administration – I’m planning to contact the prosecutor’s office now. I have a small child; we can’t live in a place like this”</p><p dir="ltr">“The police kept knocking at our doors; literally breaking into our flats. They threatened us, tried to make us sign some bits of paper and said they would fine us, that we had no right to go anywhere,” Tatyana Avacheva tells me. “The firm that we had ordered the buses from refused to take us: they had been leaned on and threatened with losing their business. Some people decided to go from Kamensk (where there are mines as well), but the police had set up a cordon around the bus station.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ инициативной группы и один из организаторов пикетов Татьяна Авачева.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ инициативной группы и один из организаторов пикетов Татьяна Авачева.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'>Tatyana Avacheva, member of the initiative group and one of the organizers of pickets. Photo: Evgeny Kosivtsov. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“Before the trip, our local police officer knocked on our door three days running,” Irina Litvinova, a member of the initiative group and representative of the People’s Unity miners’ movement. “He threatened to fine my husband and me 150,000 roubles each. They dangled some papers in front of our eyes but wouldn’t hand them to us. They also mentioned my child: ‘Don’t risk it: you have such a small daughter’. We tried to buy rail tickets, but they wouldn’t sell them to us.”</p><p dir="ltr">The miners went on several hunger strikes. At the end of last year, the authorities banned activists from picketing outside Kingcoal’s head office, claiming that they were stopping the movement traffic and pedestrians, and that this spot was not on the list of places permitted for public assembly. They were sent off to the edge of the town. Now the miners picket outside the House of Culture close to the Rostov mine, with a permitted limit of 85 people – otherwise they face a fine. And while officials used to give picketing permits out for six months at a time, now each action has to be negotiated individually.</p><p dir="ltr">“We’ve been standing here now for two years, in frost, slush and thunderstorms. We meet three times a week,” Nikolai Shulepov tells me. “I’m lucky, I got all my back wages and benefits repaid, but I keep coming here, to help other people. Last September, I went and stood outside the Rostov regional administration building with a placard reading: ‘Governor, give us back our money!’ I wore my jacket with all my decorations on it, but when the TV people started filming the police surrounded me. They brought me to the regional Deputy Minister for Fuel and Energy and I asked: ‘Why have you abandoned people, leaving them without pay? Gukovo is a lost town: a wasteland with nothing to do and nowhere to work and a playground for criminals.’ They said: ‘We’re working on it.’ What else could they say?”</p><p dir="ltr">“There’s a problem – our people are unfriendly,” says Irina Litvinova. “Those who have got their money have stopped picketing. There used to be 140 people there. Now it’s down to 70-80, you won’t get more than that. I keep writing to everybody: ‘We helped you, you got your money early, so help us now, come and stand, if only once a week. We need to gather momentum!’ But they don’t come, and they even write offensive messages back.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">A dialogue with the authorities</h2><p dir="ltr">There used to be a lot of talk about Gukovo, at both regional and national level. In April 2018, Communist Party Deputy Dmitry Novikov raised the mining issue with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during the government’s annual report to the State Duma. Medvedev promised that the remaining money would be paid, but he didn’t say when. Vladimir Putin is also aware of the issue: Mikhail Shmakov, who heads Russia’s Independent Trade Union, has brought it to his attention. And last year, decorated miner Nikolai Shulepov travelled to Moscow to talk to the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights.</p><p dir="ltr">“I told them all about our hopeless lives: how the town is in decline and lives are destroyed; how people are suffering. A load of human rights campaigners visited Gukovo at the end of 2017: they visited the town council and discussed the issues, and afterwards they went to Rostov and spoke to various ministers. We were then told that there was a plan to build a factory that would provide jobs for 50 people. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut at that, and told them that they’d need 50 of their factories to provide work for everyone! Gukovo, after all, is a mining town: everything revolves around the pits: the technical college, the storage and equipment facilities – everything.”</p><p dir="ltr">Both central and regional government have fallen silent now. The miners constantly write to every possible authority, but without success: “You can raise the money by selling the pits,” goes the written response. That’s not a lot of help for the former Kingcoal employees: mines are sold for much less than their declared value. Two mines have been sold this year – Zamchalovo and Rostov. </p><p dir="ltr">“This year, two of Gukovo’s four mines, the Zamchalovo and Rostov, have been sold,” Tatyana Avacheva tells me. “The Zamchalovo was on the market for 96m roubles, but eventually sold for 65m. Only 15% of the sale of the mine will go towards covering the miners’ back pay – that’s not enough. They also sold the Rostov. Both of these mines’ new owners have promised to revive production and return employees to their old jobs. But this all remains to be seen: returning the mines to production will require vast investment. We’ll probably need to go cap in hand to central government.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ в шахту_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ в шахту_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The entrance to the Zamchalovo mine. Photo: Evgeny Kosivtsov. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The authorities are also doing nothing to help people living in unfit housing – and there is more and more of that in Gukovo. The Litvinov family live in one such building: the foundations are collapsing and the wall of the flat next door has split.</p><p dir="ltr">“A tractor turned up to do some repairs, but when they poked around a bit, water started streaming out,” says Irina Litvinova. “We were promised new housing by 2019 – we’d either be given money or rehoused. I went to the housing office with all my papers, and they said I was on a waiting list for new housing in 2030. Our building won’t last that long! ‘When the wall collapses, call the housing office,’ they said. I’m writing to everyone I can think of: local officials, the Presidential Administration – I’m planning to contact the prosecutor’s office now. I have a small child; we can’t live in a place like this.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Activists tell me that the miners were slightly cheered by the news of the two pit sales, but not many people believe that the mines will reopen and there will be jobs again</p><p dir="ltr">For a short time, the authorities tried to offer the miners work, but it was usually unsuitable and in other towns. Many such offers were sent to Tatyana Avacheva, as an active initiative group member. She was offered work underground, and as a technician and warehouse clerk in regions all over Russia, from Kuban to Kamchatka – in an attempt, she believes, to stop her protest activities. Staff from the local job centre would even turn up to watch her picketing.</p><p dir="ltr">“My husband has been offered absolutely absurd work – as a seamstress in a clothing factory, for example,” says Irina Litvinova. “Or a job in a fish processing factory in Novoshakhtinsk, 40km from Gukovo. They came every day; everyone got fed up with it. We asked one of them what age of person they were looking for, and they said, ‘under 40’. Well, we said, you won’t find anyone of that age here: we’re mostly pensioners. It was all part of a general attempt to stop us protesting, but it didn’t work.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Life without the mines</h2><p dir="ltr">Practically every business in Gukovo worked for the mines in one way or another, which is why there is now a 100% unemployment rate. Young people move away: some work on a long rotation system, interspersing a few weeks or months earning money in Moscow, Yakutia or Norilsk with a similar period back home. But there is practically no work available for people over 40 (and most of the ex miners fall into this category).</p><p dir="ltr">“I managed, after a lot of effort, to get a security job at 10,000 roubles (£118) a month (average monthly wages in Gukovo are 12,000 roubles, while an average miner’s wage is 20,000 roubles (£237) and higher)”, Nikolai Posokhin tells me. “Plus, I have my pension. I have two daughters with children; their husbands have both gone off to earn money elsewhere, and I help them as much as I can. I’m still owed about 100,000 roubles (£1185). I got injured down the mine in the 2000s, a tunnel fell in on me, so they also owe me compensation for that as well, but I’m still waiting for it.”</p><p dir="ltr">“I earn 15,000-16,000 roubles (£180-190) a month as a mechanic at the Krasnosulin chicken factory; I used to earn twice that when I worked underground for 10 years at the Rostov mine,” says Igor Litvinov. “I have a wife and a small child, and we survive on very little money. Fortunately, our parents are still around and help us out. Here, like everywhere in Russia, prices are going up but wages are frozen. I had real problems finding a job here – I searched all over the town. I’m also an electrical fitter and take appliances home to mend, which gives me a bit more cash.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ работник шахты «Алмазная» Александр Ильянов copy.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/ работник шахты «Алмазная» Александр Ильянов copy.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'>Aleksander Ilyanov, Former employee of the Almaz mine. Photo: Evgeny Kosivtsov. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Pensioner Aleksandr Ilyanov worked at the Almaz mine for 19 years. He lives in the village of Yasny, near Gukovo: there is no public transport there, and he used to cycle to work in the summer and walk the seven kilometres in the winter. He has received just half of the money owed to him, and is still owed 200,000 roubles (£2370).</p><p dir="ltr">“My wife had a stroke at the end of last year and is in hospital now,” Ilyanov tells me. “I’m up to my ears in debt: I have to borrow from a neighbour as I’ve only got a pension of 16,000 roubles a month (£190) and up to 7,000 roubles can go on medication alone in a week. I live in a house with a stove, and barely survived the winter: I had hardly any good coal left and had to cut some wood. It was cold. I’d like to refurbish my house, but I don’t have the money, and recently my back was hurting so badly that I wept. It’s a miner’s condition, you know what I mean. But I don’t have any money for medicines.”</p><p dir="ltr">Many miners have occupational illnesses. They are usually conditions affecting the lungs: silicosis (breathlessness, a dry cough and chest pain), pneumoconiosis (the same plus heart problems, digestive disorders and the risk of pneumonia), bursitis (inflammation around the joints) and so on. Lung cancer is also common.</p><p dir="ltr">“Just think,” says Tatyana Avascheva, “the miners are mostly pensioners; they go on these pickets and get stressed out. They were all ill already, and this endless stress has just exacerbated their poor state of health. Plus, radiation levels in Gukovo are higher than normal. A whole family died recently: first the husband, then the wife, and their 16-year-old son was left an orphan. In two years of picketing, 15 miners of working age have died.”</p><p dir="ltr">According to local residents, the crime level in Gukovo is rising: people have started drinking more, there have been more burglaries. Things are generally pretty depressing. Activists tell me that the miners were slightly cheered by the news of the two pit sales, but not many people believe that the mines will reopen and there will be jobs again. They will, however, continue picketing until their wages are paid. </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/diana-karliner/russia-car-industry-avtovaz">Russia’s car industry, where even the dead work overtime </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-yarovaya/protest-in-karelias-paper-town">Protest in Russia&#039;s paper town </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergey-damber/letter-from-russias-end">Welcome to Gdov, where Russia comes to an end</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/our-city-our-space-ekaterinburg-residents-come-out-against-plans-to-construct-new-church">Our city, our space: Ekaterinburg residents come out against plans to construct a new church</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 class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maria-pogrebnyak/they-threw-us-out-on-street-like-dogs-undetermined-fate-of-rostov-on-don-">Life in the ashes: where now for survivors of the Rostov blaze?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-yarovaya/karelia-mining-conflict-russia">Extremists by any another name: how Karelian pensioners fought against a mining company – and won</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maria Pogrebniak Russia Human rights Fri, 18 May 2018 05:18:49 +0000 Maria Pogrebniak 117925 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 1968: a revolution too early to judge https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/1968-revolution-too-early-to-judge <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/Screen%20Shot%202018-05-18%20at%2010.06.28.png" alt="Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 10.06.28.png" width="80" />The events of 1968 have been stripped of their meaning and are now more a symbol of capitulation than revolution. Accepting this is the first step to making its legacy relevant again. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/1968-revolution-slishkom-rano-sudit">RU</a></strong></em></p><br /> </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/Graffito_in_University_of_Lyon_classroom_during_student_revolt_of_1968 (1)_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May 1968: graffiti in a University of Lyon classroom. CC BY-SA 3.0 George Garrigues / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The 50th anniversary of the events of 1968 has not provoked a welter of emotions. I have in mind, of course, not academic and cultural commemorations. Depoliticised, the spirit of 1968 still inspires art shows and academic conferences, which, however, reveal their utter powerlessness when it comes to politics. Unlike other great revolutions of the past, the spectre of 1968 is not reanimated in the struggles of our contemporaries, and its legacy not only lies unclaimed, but is even an embarrassment. Elites in the west view 1968 more as a point of consensus than a cause for concern, for these events have a unique capacity, despite our naïve presumptions, for confirming the old conservative truth that revolutions only strengthen the things they opposed.</p><p dir="ltr">Instead of putting an end to capitalism, 1968 instilled it with new force, ingenuity and the energy of individual rebellion. Successfully mastering the lingo of the youth protests that took place 50 years ago, today’s pro-market ideology mounts ferocious attacks on the present’s predictability and mundaneness in order to colonize the future creatively. In <a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/1/sebastian-budgen-a-new-spirit-of-capitalism">The New Spirit of Capitalism</a>, French sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello mercilessly argued how the radical critique of the system had been used to renew it. The 1960s rebellion against post-war bureaucratised capitalism gave way to the triumph of the neoliberal <a href="http://www.publicseminar.org/2014/11/emerging-artists-and-the-new-spirit-of-capitalism/">“projective city”</a>, rooted in market deregulation and privatisation of the public sphere. The spirit of protest was transformed into a new “spirit” whose methods were even more soulless.</p><p dir="ltr">Over the past decades, we constantly observe the phantasmagorical conversion of the values of 1968 into their polar opposites. “Personal liberation” now denotes the unrestrained desire for individual success, whilst the creative transfiguration of life has been reduced to mere “creativity”, the hottest commodity on the block. The very notion of revolution has been hollowed out, stripped of meaningful social change and reduced to the spin-doctored promotion of forces seeking to pass themselves off to disoriented voters as something “new” (recall Obama and Macron’s recent electoral “revolutions”). The businessman used to be a gloomy figure who stood in the way of youth and imagination. Now he has been recast as the rebel of our day and age, a dreamer and utopian, as exemplified by Mark Zuckerberg and Pavel Durov.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">During the 50th anniversary of 1968, we might imagine its prevalent spirit stood for nothing other than capitulation, hypocritically passing itself off as victory</p><p dir="ltr">The New Left of distant 1968 regarded the liberation of consciousness as nothing more than the emancipation of life from the alienated society that had enslaved it. By challenging the all-powerful “circumstances” that define everyone’s existence, the individual ceases to be entangled in them. Practical revolutionaries should not only act decisively, but above all they should free themselves from illusions and, as it were, look at the world anew in order to finally cease to be complicit in its reproduction. The western New Left offered a wide variety of practices for liberating minds, from involvement in guerrilla campaigns to the non-alienated “psychogeographic” exploration of urban space, from collective self-education that rejected university hierarchies to experiments with LSD.</p><p dir="ltr">Even in the final example, the most vulnerable to criticism, we can clearly follow the transformation of a technique for resisting reality into a technique for reconciling oneself to it. I have in mind <a href="https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/microdosing-guide-and-explainer.html">microdosing</a>, the daily regulated consumption of narcotics that is currently widespread amongst Silicon Valley’s creative denizens. Microdosing is not just a lightweight variation on the original objective of narcotics consumption, but has fundamentally altered its meaning. Tame doses of LSD will not change your attitude to the world, but they will help you increase your individual competitiveness amidst the world’s current state.</p><p dir="ltr">The consumption of marijuana used to be deemed a challenge to the system and was firmly bound up with the 1960s and the hippy movement, and moves to legalise in the US superficially appear to be yet another decisive victory for liberated minds over the repressive puritanical and conservative mindset that has prevailed there. Paradoxically, however, the legalisation of marijuana today actually involves invoking traditional American free market values and the consumer’s individual responsibility. In this guise, it differs little from arguments in favour of the unrestricted sale of firearms and cigarettes.</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/French_workers_with_placard_during_occupation_of_their_factory_1968_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Workers go on strike in southern France, 1968. CC BY-SA 3.0 George Garrigues / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Indeed, microdosing can serve as a metaphor for what has happened to most of the emancipatory ideas of the 1960s. The <a href="http://socialistreview.org.uk/369/immigrants-and-intellectuals">struggle of minorities for recognition</a>, which was inextricably bound up with the demand for overall social and political progress, has led, in its microdosed variation, to the formal and hypocritical consolidation of so-called political correctness. Instead of destroying the boundaries between majorities and minorities, as generated by the system, political correctness merely fortified them by making the command of politically correct, non-oppressive language the privilege of a minority of educated and enlightened people. Not everyone was admitted into the world of liberated minds. The revolution seemingly came true in the universities and the cultural realm while completely bypassing the lower classes.</p><p dir="ltr">It has been cultural distinctions, amplified by the microdosed spirit of 1968, that have enabled today’s European right-wing populists to attack multiculturalism and political correctness on behalf of the common people, for these notions now stand for nothing except justification of the status quo, thus causing growing dissatisfaction at the grassroots.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">For the displaced, authentic revolution of 1968 to regain its relevance amongst the new generation, we must accept the tragedy of its historical defeat</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the fact that 1968 has left almost no traces in today’s Russia, its normalising role has been quite successfully played by the nostalgic cult generated by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khrushchev_Thaw">Khrushchev's Thaw</a>, which has been prevalent in Russian culture for several decades. The modern myth of the Thaw paradoxically combines anti-Soviet (modernism, personal freedom, cosmopolitanism, anti-Stalinism, and the triumph of individuality) and Soviet (Gagarin’s space flight, superpower status) elements. The current Russian regime seemingly functions as a vehicle for this synthesis, by making it possible for the so-called <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/putinist-majority-could-fast-become-anti-putinist">patriotic majority</a> and the educated classes to coexist comfortably.</p><p dir="ltr">The Thaw’s reconciling myth also encourages the liberal intelligentsia’s cherished dream of reforming society not politically, but biologically, naturally. The transition from the horrors of Stalinism to the kingdom of youth and freedom, as the Soviet 1960s are portrayed in numerous contemporary films and exhibitions, occurs naturally, like a change of generations or seasons of the year.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, during the 50th anniversary of 1968, we might imagine its prevalent spirit stood for nothing other than capitulation, hypocritically passing itself off as victory. This pessimistic state of affairs, however, cannot serve as grounds for a final verdict. The legacy of 1968 — from Paris to Warsaw, from Prague to Islamabad, from Rome to Mexico City — is tangled up in revolutions whose aftermaths are too early to judge. For the displaced, authentic revolution of 1968 — the fight against the subjugation of human life to the mirages of success and productivity — to regain its relevance amongst the new generation, however, we must accept the tragedy of its historical defeat. Ultimately, shedding illusions is not a loss, but a gain.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Translated by Thomas H. Campbell.</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="/5050/hilary-wainwright/spirit-of-1968-inextinguishable-50-years-later">The spirit of 1968 is inextinguishable – even 50 years later</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the_1968_debate_in_germany">The 1968 debate in Germany</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/institutions/may_68_remember_or_forget">May ‘68: France&#039;s politics of memory </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-budraitskis/alexei-navalnys-campaign-effective-management-or-grassroots-movement">Alexei Navalny&#039;s campaign: effective management or grassroots movement?</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 Thu, 17 May 2018 08:31:11 +0000 Ilya Budraitskis 117928 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The uncomfortable truth about post-Soviet comfort foods https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/darya-malyutina/the-uncomfortable-truth-about-post-soviet-comfort-foods <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What nourishes us also destroys us: this old saying holds true not only for food, but also politics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Kvass-Jul77.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Kvass-Jul77.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kvass street vendor, Rīga, Latvia, July 1977. Photo CC A 3.0: S. Vecrumba / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>Sometime ago, after a fair amount of Friday night pub drinking with Ukrainian friends in London, I end up at their place for a 3am snack. They pull out a jar of <a href="http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/299">tushonka</a>, a post-war food staple made of canned stewed meat from military supplies shipped to the Soviet Union by the US. How did this fatty grub with a shelf life that makes it sound more like a post-apocalyptic survival food than a delicacy end up in London? As it turns out, it’s homemade: my friend’s parents sent it from Ukraine in one of those delivery vans that shuttle across Europe, transporting goods and parcels every week, thus sustaining a dense network of cross-border ties. In a city that has hundreds of restaurants, cafes, pubs and food stalls; where all sorts of meat are sold, from humble pork to exotic crocodile; where steaks are cooked every minute, to any degree of perfection, from blue to well done – in this city, a glass jar of processed meat with a thick layer of lard which has travelled over 1,000 miles to connect a village near Ivano-Frankivsk in west Ukraine with a flat near King’s Cross, seems to have a much greater symbolic than nutritional value. </p><p>It’s comfort food, and it tastes good at 3am after a few pints. But wouldn’t, say, a kebab be tastier? Doesn’t tushonka probably contain too much cholesterol? Isn’t it reminiscent of the dismal living conditions during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 1990s? Isn’t it synonymous with the precarious state in which so many citizens of the former Soviet Union have been living to date? And are food choices also political choices?</p><p dir="ltr">There’s another side of this, though, a darker one. In April 2018, The Sun published an<a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5946251/russian-spy-sergei-skripal-poisoning-claims/"> article</a> mentioning that the former Russian spy Sergey Skripal may have been poisoned in Salisbury by buckwheat – one of the common porridges in diets of many countries of the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe – which was presumably brought from Moscow by an unnamed woman. While the article may or may not have been a hoax, the choice of buckwheat is symbolic. A cheap Soviet and then Russian culinary staple, ubiquitous “back home” and having a nostalgic value for many migrants, buckwheat was now presented as a carrier of a toxic agent and a potential transnational murder weapon. </p><p dir="ltr">Seemingly comforting in its nostalgic and sentimental value, some food from “back then” or “back home” can, in fact, turn out to be not so good for you. Ironically, comfort food can turn out to be discomfort food if one takes a closer look at it. They might seem to be the foods of your own choosing, but the preference for them is often conditioned by a lack of alternatives. Discomfort politics can be seen in a similar way – as something that is risk-related and very likely to make your life miserable, while feeling familiar and even desirable due the lack of other options. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Discomfort food</h2><p dir="ltr">The assumption that a liking for foodstuffs from “back home” may be connected with more than sustaining a cross-border relationship with your loving family has become more prominent recently. In a short <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwx8ybQqjPw">video</a> filmed by German Russian-language channel RTVD in a supermarket in Marzahn – a Berlin outskirt described by the channel as the city’s “most “Russian” locality” – a number of Russian-speaking migrants speak to camera about supporting Vladimir Putin at Russia’s 2018 presidential elections. They talk about lack of competition from other candidates and vaguely praise Putin’s achievements as president. One of the women mentions that she has relatives living in Russia, where “life is hard, of course”, and that she supports them “as much as she can”. Most of the interviewees have been living in Berlin since the early 2000s.</p><p dir="ltr">It is telling that of all places the Berlin migrants were chosen to be filmed by the TV channel, they are filmed at a supermarket catering to the city’s Russian-speaking population. This setting and the interviews point at the speakers’ cross-border connections with their home country, including political allegiances, personal ties and culinary habits. Post-election data suggests that the number of pro-Putin votes amongst Russian migrants in Germany has nearly <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/worldviews/wp/2018/03/21/votes-for-putin-surged-among-russians-in-the-west/?utm_term=.d3ce1021a8e8&amp;__twitter_impression=true">tripled</a> since the previous presidential election. Perhaps migrants’ eating habits are feeding into their political preferences and voting behaviour?</p><p dir="ltr"><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Xwx8ybQqjPw?autohide=1&amp;showinfo=0&amp;rel=0rel=0" height="315" width="460"></iframe><i>Russian speakers in Berlin give their opinions on the March 2018 presidential elections. Source: RTVD.</i></p><p dir="ltr">“Is there a correlation between migrants being <i>vatniks</i>&nbsp;[an internet<a href="http://readrussia.com/2015/06/09/vatnost-%25E2%2580%2593-why-the-west-cant-understand-russia/"> meme</a> and slur defining its subject as uncritically supportive of the Russian regime] and Russian grocery stores?” the friend who sent me this video from Marzahn asks half-rhetorically. “I’ve only had one colleague who shopped in a Russian shop, and she was fiercely pro-Putin.”</p><p dir="ltr">Surely many of us have known someone at some point who was conservative in their food tastes, and would stubbornly prefer buying groceries in “their” “ethnic” shops to shopping in any other place. On the other hand, connections between food choices and politics can be imposed on migrants by others even when this is not the case: I heard a story about a woman shopping in Berlin’s Mix Markt, where a cashier, upon seeing a lump of meat in her grocery cart, commented on it: “Good for you, you can eat meat. And my relatives in Crimea are starving because of the Russians!” </p><p dir="ltr">When people who have moved from former USSR to the west keep shopping in shops like Mix Markt, what does this actually mean? What do their food choices stand for? Are such people automatically more likely to have more conservative political views? Anecdotal evidence of migrants’ adherence to comfort foods may have different interpretations, some of which arise when looking at it in connection with individually and socially uncomfortable experiences. </p><p dir="ltr">Some researchers <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07409710500334509">outline</a> four types of comfort food: nostalgic foods, indulgence foods, convenience foods, and physical comfort foods – and assert that “new foods” cannot relieve distress since they tend to evoke feelings of anxiety. The sociological literature on migration <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674001909">suggests</a> that comfort foods can be a way of coping with the stress brought about by the move to a different country. Some marketing studies, on the other hand, <a href="http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/644749?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">demonstrate</a> the “comfort food fallacy effect”, indicating that people are less likely to choose familiar food during times of upheaval and change. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Dishing it out</h2><p dir="ltr">When we talk about food, we don’t only think about it as nourishing, comforting, abundant, sustaining or even tasty. Food and images of food consumption are also connected to bleak outcomes for societies, individuals and the environment. The high intake of saturated fats, sugar, and complex carbohydrates, together with low consumption of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables are a <a href="http://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-9-439">cause</a> for concern in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and are <a href="http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v68/n12/abs/ejcn2014134a.html">related</a> to high cardiovascular heart disease-related mortality.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/prev800_1c694480c32c2ae25b9bcd4fe57606cf.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/prev800_1c694480c32c2ae25b9bcd4fe57606cf.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Election day fare at a polling station, March 2018. Source: Nashgorod.ru</span></span></span>Images of food-related practices in relation to contemporary Russian politics are often rather unattractive, too. <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/08/russia-western-food-ban-putin/402388/">Bans</a> of western food imports along with the dystopian gesture of <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33814362">bulldozing</a> sanctioned food in 2015, were portrayed by Russian media in the last few years, purportedly, as a way of responding to western sanctions for its military invasion into Ukraine, but actually hitting its own population hardest. Food intake can look very ugly and dehumanising, at some instances: consider eating <a href="https://meduza.io/en/lion/2015/03/19/it-takes-a-snow-shovel-to-eat-this-russian-holiday-pancake">pancakes</a> from a shovel (this was the way this traditional Maslenitsa holiday food was served to Russians during a public celebration a few years ago). Finally, free and discounted <a href="http://www.nashgorod.ru/news/news106328.html">food</a><a href="https://www.svoboda.org/a/29107052.html"> offered</a> at polling stations across the country, farmers’ markets and food <a href="http://www.netall.ru/gnn/130/574/1035310.html">festivals</a>, or food <a href="http://www.interfax-russia.ru/Povoljie/news.asp?id=917213&amp;sec=1671">coupons</a> given out to voting students have been amongst a variety of <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/russian-election-inducements-tempt-voters-to-the-polls-11295517">tools</a> used to increase voter turnout during the 2018 presidential elections that were accompanied by<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vladimir-putin-russian-presidential-election-turnout-result-polling-polls-a8262016.html"> reports</a> of forced voting and ballot stuffing, and a general lack of suspense.</p><p dir="ltr">Take, for example, the overly decorated layered <a href="https://arzamas.academy/mag/517-sovietkitchen">salads</a> served during holiday celebrations in the late Soviet Union and contemporary Russia – elaborate combinations of ingredients, painstakingly put together, and drenched in mayonnaise. The weird opulence of urban Russian comfort foods certainly dates back to the Soviet times when individuals tried to apply their creativity to making something interesting based on a very limited choice of ingredients (and often combined with general ignorance about healthy diet). What seemed “luxurious” in the era of shortages is now considered by many to be a culinary monstrosity – an artifact of <a href="https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sovok">“sovok” </a>that only a path-dependent, dull and unreflexive <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_Sovieticus">Homo Sovieticus</a> could possibly enjoy putting on their table. </p><p dir="ltr">This political and cultural symbolism of (post-)socialist cuisine is the subject of the web community <a href="https://mayonesa-nax.livejournal.com/">mayonesa.nax</a>, whose members collect and share cringeworthy recipes from all over the Russian-language internet. The very title of the community (which can be roughly translated as “Fuck Mayonnaise”) refers to a distinct meme. A staple of Soviet and contemporary Russian cuisine and a necessary ingredient of festive salads, mayonnaise is a product of historical significance, which is connected not only to individual tastes, but politics too – the planned economy, food shortages and poor nutrition. An industrial state-produced sauce in the Soviet Union, mayonnaise is <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/12/30/a-soviet-new-year-with-mayonnaise/">remembered</a> as something that one could not buy but only “get”; as a product that was <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/12/14/459239436/from-russia-with-mayonnaise-cookbook-revisits-soviet-classics">used to diversify</a> the taste of dishes prepared with an extremely limited set of ingredients, and to conceal the poor quality of food; yet also as something that many former Soviet citizens, even those living abroad, still <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/21/-sp-understanding-russias-obsession-with-mayonnaise">refer</a> to in a very nostalgic, albeit somewhat ironic, way.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/0_18d880_1bdca7d9_orig.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/0_18d880_1bdca7d9_orig.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'>An Easter-egg prawn dish. Source: LiveJournal. </span></span></span>The people who post to <a href="https://mayonesa-nax.livejournal.com/">mayonesa.nax</a> tackle issues from overly complicated preparation processes, overcooking, wasting quality ingredients and, yes, baking mayonnaise, to the excessive and vulgar use of diminutives while talking about foodstuffs. The spirit of this vibrant discussion community is almost <a href="http://monoskop.org/images/e/e0/Pierre_Bourdieu_Distinction_A_Social_Critique_of_the_Judgement_of_Taste_1984.pdf">Bourdieuvian</a>. Here, the participants draw connections between eating habits, cultural and economic capital. Critique is often directed against “the taste of necessity” represented by lumping together crude, heavy, economical foods (such as <a href="https://mayonesa-nax.livejournal.com/1011881.html">pasta </a>and potatoes). On the other hand, participants criticise aspirations for the “taste of liberty”, the aim for good presentation and elaborate serving, together with the use of exotic/expensive products such as seafood or high quality cheese (often overcooked, or mixed in strange combinations and proportions). For example, the commentators can’t help but “feel sorry for the king prawns”, when the latter are overboiled, mixed with half a dozen other ingredients, and drowned in mayo, resulting in an oddly shaped and decorated <a href="https://mayonesa-nax.livejournal.com/999722.html">salad</a>.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Let them eat cake?</h2><p dir="ltr">So, what about immigrants from the former Soviet Union who now live in Europe? Why would they stick to food from their previous life when so much is available? I’ve been asking myself this question since the onset of my own academic career, when I was studying for a PhD in London. </p><p dir="ltr">The city strikes me with its culinary multivocality. Shortly after arrival, I marvel at the choice at Waitrose at Brunswick Square in Bloomsbury, lost among the numerous types of potatoes, upon discovering that actually more than one type exists. Chinatown is additive with its small restaurants (“If the staff is rude and doesn’t speak good English, then it’s proper Chinese,” I’m told), and grocery shops selling unfamiliar fruit and veg and spicy sauces. Food markets enthral me: from the overpriced but beautiful Borough Market to my local Leather Lane in Holborn, where a variety of street food stalls open at lunchtime on weekdays, offering lamb kebabs and prawn katsu sandwiches, pork bulgogi and jerk chicken, jambalaya and bun salads. There’s a number of east European and Russian shops in the city, of course; I rarely go there, and I do so out of curiosity rather than nostalgia, or when I need ingredients for a thematic dish for some party or gathering. I’ve hated pelmeni, or dumplings, since childhood, I think, so why would I buy them now? </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_malyutina.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian food shop in Bucharest. Source: Maria Rybakova. </span></span></span>One of my Russian acquaintances has an affair with her phlegmatic Belarusian neighbour. She often complains that he is too busy, and that it’s difficult to agree on a time to meet up with him. One day, she calls me, proudly announcing that the object of her advances has promised to visit her tonight, provided that she cooks a “Russian dinner” for him. “I’m thinking mashed potatoes and sausages. How do you cook mashed potatoes, by the way?” I drop by her place the next day. Apparently, everything went smoothly. She offers me some leftovers from yesterday’s feast: a couple of frankfurters, some mash and defrosted green peas&nbsp;– all microwaved. “Hmm, looks like a dish from a Soviet canteen,” I say. “It does. Cool, isn’t it?” I mumble something affirmative. </p><p dir="ltr">Affinity towards Russian, or late Soviet, comfort foods that migrants exhibit seems to be ubiquitous. One London culinary duo, Russian Revels, seeks to performatively present Russian (or, rather, Soviet) food as something fun and nostalgic. While these preferences appear to be shaped by their childhood memories rather than politics, their website features a fair share of mayo-drenched salads described as “adored and treasured by the great ex-USSR masses”, and waxes lyrical about Soviet-era meat-deficient frankfurters. Sometimes, they refer to contemporary politics in a questionable manner: in a post from the end of January 2014, around the time of the escalating violence during Ukraine’s Euromaidan and first deaths of the protesters in Kyiv, the culinary website features a recipe for “cutlets a la Kiev”, in a weird homage to events whose participants are described as “seemingly so removed from the joys of a full belly”.</p><p dir="ltr">One man’s meat is another man’s poison – and migrants who take part in opposition rallies in their host countries and criticise Putin on their Facebook pages also use food as a political instrument and social glue. Mulled wine and pancakes with jam were <a href="https://zimamagazine.com/2018/03/russian-elections-london-results/">offered</a> during an opposition rally that took place in front of the Russian embassy in London on 18 March and was attended by Russian, Ukrainian and Syrian migrants. While certainly comforting, these foodstuffs hardly seem to be connected with post-Soviet nostalgia. The food service was apparently organised by Evgeny Chichvarkin, a Russian entrepreneur who fled to London in 2009 and who has been campaigning against Putin from abroad for years; a wine shop owner, Chichvarkin also opened a restaurant in Mayfair in April 2018. </p><p dir="ltr">Political transnationalism, specifically migrant involvement in home country politics across borders, may include a variety of practices. Democratic ideas do not necessarily underlie them – just as comfort foods are not necessarily a source of a comforting experience, but may well be used to create an impression of attractiveness of dubious or potentially harmful activities and ideas. However, neither food nor politics really have to have a special link with childhood, or one’s country of origin, to make one feel (un)comfortable. Migrants, particularly those inhabiting big multicultural cities, while having the options to stick with familiar communities and ideas, have a chance to engage with new and diverse culinary and political cultures. Escaping from the oppressive grip of discomfort foods and politics of home country may not automatically lead to adoption of a more democratic worldview, but it may well be a start of a healthy habit.</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/ruzanna-tsaturyan/culinary-conflict-south-caucasus-karabakh">A culinary conflict in the South Caucasus </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-aronson-julia-lerner/cold-war-hot-love">Cold war, hot love</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/odr-editors-tatiana-golova/russian-germans-and-surprising-rise-of-afd-germany">Russian-Germans and the surprising rise of the AfD</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nikolai-klimeniouk/how-operation-liza-failed">How “Operation Liza” failed</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 Darya Malyutina Russia Thu, 17 May 2018 08:12:09 +0000 Darya Malyutina 117906 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What are the real barriers to freedom of assembly in Ukraine? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-grytsenko/the-real-barriers-to-freedom-of-assembly-in-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ukrainian far right routinely disrupt public LGBT, feminist and left-wing events. The police aren’t prepared to oppose this surge of right-wing violence. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-grizenko/chto-meshaet-svobode-sobraniy-v-ukraine" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/29662363_162653611111318_7804780108427193903_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/29662363_162653611111318_7804780108427193903_o.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'>26 March 2018, Kyiv. Right-wing radicals try to derail a debate on... far right groups and human rights. Source: Facebook.</span></span></span>I arrived ahead of time at the discussion event on the far right and the right to peaceful assembly. The event was being held as part of the <a href="http://docudays.ua/eng/">Docudays UA International Documentary Film Festival</a> in Kyiv in late March, and I’d been invited to participate on the panel. I was early, but a few “guests” were already waiting for me. Near the entrance to the venue there were two dozen awkward-looking teenagers wearing inconspicuous sportswear. A police detachment was keeping an eye on them. The teenagers recognised me – I frequently write and talk about the far right, and do so without concealing my identity – but they didn’t shout insults and let me walk through calmly. The floor inside was strewn with “Respect Diversity” posters ripped down from the walls, and police were walking around the hall.</p><p dir="ltr">As it turned out, activists from the far right movements Right Sector, Katehon and Tradition and Order had shown up, it seems, to confirm the thesis regarding the Ukrainian far right’s disruption of feminist initiatives and to sabotage the discussion itself – but they got their times mixed up and only ended up frightening the participants of the previous event. By the time our discussion was due to begin, the far right had found themselves under the close supervision of the police. In the end, the discussion itself proved a success, although it did begin with the words: “Dear listeners – well, you can see the situation for yourselves…”</p><p dir="ltr">It should be understood that far right attacks on events and initiatives in Ukraine aren’t a recent phenomenon. In earlier years, for example, 1,500 Cossacks <a href="https://ukranews.com/news/143623-kazaky-razognaly-gey-parad-v-kyeve">could gather to disrupt an LGBT event</a>, while a gallery hosting an LGBT book presentation <a href="https://ru.tsn.ua/glamur/events/anti-gei-podozhgli-art-tsentr-gudimova.html">could simply be set on fire</a>. Exhibitions were <a href="http://news.tochka.net/118336-v-kieve-razgromili-vystavku-ob-odnopolykh-semyakh/">vandalised</a>, film screenings <a href="http://archive.prostory.net.ua/ru/news/329-2010-11-22-21-22-32">flooded with gas</a>, and participants in a human rights march <a href="https://ru.tsn.ua/ukrayina/nacionalisty-nakazali-izvraschencev-pederastov-za-akciyu-anti-yolka-v-kieve.html">attacked</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Why, then, has the Ukrainian public started talking about this troubling trend <em>now</em>? There are several reasons.</p><h2 dir="ltr">An upsurge in feminism</h2><p dir="ltr">In recent years, we have witnessed the growth of feminist consciousness throughout the world – via campaigns such as #MeToo (workplace harassment) and #HeForShe (gender equality solidarity), via major women's marches in the US and increased representation of women in popular culture.</p><p dir="ltr">Ukrainian society, for its part, is also gradually moving towards progress as well, though it does still face several fundamental challenges. Some recent accomplishments Ukrainian feminists can rightly take pride in include the following: Order 256, which banned women from employment in 450 professions, has been repealed; the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ganna-grytsenko/invisible-battalion-ukraine">Invisible Battalion campaign</a> has taken great strides towards ensuring equality for women and men in the</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 14.45.58.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="354" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>8 March International Women's Day March, Kyiv. Photo: Tetiana Kozak. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ukrainian military; the official clinical protocol for transgender transitioning has been simplified. We’ve also witnessed a gradual move from the reactive to the proactive within the feminist agenda – if, in earlier years, feminists waged battle against proposals to introduce a tax on childlessness, the prohibition of abortion and artificial insemination for unmarried women, feminists are now taking the initiative in proposing topics for public debate and reforms.</p><p dir="ltr">Researcher Tamara Zlobina describes the qualitative transition to a different role for women in Ukrainian society as “gender decay”. The social roles of the berehynya (the homemaker) and the “Barbie” (glamorous woman) have disintegrated, and women have started participating en masse in socio-political processes such as Euromaidan, the war in eastern Ukraine and other forms of public endeavour. Ukrainian feminists are now seeking parliamentary ratification of the <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/istanbul-convention/home">Istanbul Convention</a>, designed to counter domestic and gender-based violence in systematic fashion. </p><p dir="ltr">In recent years, Ukraine has seen the emergence of a grassroots feminist movement in favour of the Swedish model of regulating prostitution. The <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-antonova/we-have-lift-off-on-speaking-out-on-sexual-violence">online flashmob #ЯнеБоюсьСказати</a> (#ImNotAfraidToSpeak), intended to make sexual violence a prominent topic for public debate, was launched in Ukraine before expanding to other post-Soviet states. This year’s International Women’s Day marches in Ukraine attracted substantially more participants (women and men alike) than in previous years, and ever more cities are staging these events – Kherson, Mariupol and Lysychansk included.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/hrytsenko3_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The aftermath of an attack by right-wing radical organisation “Carpathian Sich“ on an International Women's Day event in Uzhhorod, 2018. Photo: Nataliya Kabatsiy / Facebook.</span></span></span>The LGBT agenda has also risen to the fore. In 2016, Kyiv played host to its first open March of Equality, a parade modelled on pride events in other countries. The event attracted several thousand people, and the 2017 march had an open carnival atmosphere for the first time. Odessa, too, hosted pride parades in 2016 and 2017. Draft bills on the protection of children’s rights to a “homosexuality-free” media, introduced in 2012-2013, were withdrawn from consideration in the Verkhovna Rada, and a number of deputies in the post-2014 parliament openly support the rights of LGBT people (in particular, Sergiy Leshchenko and Svitlana Zalishchuk). Furthermore, anti-discrimination amendments have been made to labour legislation (although <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/denys-gorbach/that-obscure-object-of-desire-reforms-labour-code-and-progressive-agenda-in-">not without pressure from the public</a>). Meanwhile, Jamala, the winner of 2016’s Eurovision Song Contest, has <a href="https://upogau.org/ru/inform/uanews/uanews_7184.html">spoken out in support of the LGBT community</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In a world increasingly oriented towards equality, conservative and far-right movements, in turn, are beset by fears that feminism will triumph, which compels them to take drastic measures. Leading masculinity expert Michael Kimmel <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/how-masculinity-not-ideology-drives-violent-extremism/2018/03/20/7b223c90-1e29-11e8-b2d9-08e748f892c0_story.html">argues</a> that violent extremism is driven not by ideology, but gender roles. And indeed, members of the American alt-right specifically oppose feminists, while European far right activists, not to be outdone, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/world-europe-43528212">spearhead rallies against the Istanbul Convention</a>. Support for conservative initiatives has also been forthcoming from Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, a <a href="https://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-rose-by-any-other-name-world-congress.html">previous organiser</a> of the conservative forum World Congress of Families in Moscow and president of the right-wing <a href="http://katehon.com/about-us">Katehon think tank</a>, which has served as a platform for the conservative-esoteric philosopher Alexander Dugin.</p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine <a href="https://www.nihilist.li/2017/06/21/katehon-i-katehon/">has its own Katehon group</a> – and it’s unlikely that this choice of name is a coincidence (the word, after all, is a rare one). The Ukrainian initiative, just like its Russian counterpart, opposes the Istanbul Convention, stages protests in response to equality marches and stages “debates” around the “problem of ultra-leftist movements in Ukraine”. One female participant at one of these events, proudly <a href="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*_MjUxteUGD-JG694NBHOUw.jpeg">holding aloft a banner emblazoned with the words “Women dream of being tamed”</a>, derives her conceptions of masculinity and femininity from the thought of Alexander Dugin – something she quite openly <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1983655328545891&amp;set=a.1393569784221118.1073741828.100007043285236&amp;type=3">stated</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 14.48.48.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>8 March 2018, Kyiv: counter-demonstration against International Women's Day. Photo: Tetiana Kozak. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This polarisation between conservatism and feminism has resulted in increasingly frequent attacks on feminist and LGBT events in Ukraine, which, proliferating in number and enjoying ever greater appeal, have become the primary target of Ukraine’s far right. By way of example, Vsevolod Zheiko’s February 2018 lecture about discrimination in cinema in Mariupol – where, until recently, nothing comparable had even been attempted – was <a href="https://rian.com.ua/story/20180218/1032376116/Mariupol-radikaly-pogovorit-kino.html">sabotaged</a>. Sabotaged, too, was rights defender Anna Sharyhina’s <a href="https://humanrights.org.ua/ru/material/u_kharkovi_cherez_propagandu_gomoseksualizmu_zirvali_lekcijiu_pro_lgbtruh">lecture on LGBT movements in a Kharkiv bookstore</a> (it ended up being relocated twice: first to Kharkiv’s Nakipelo press centre and then to Kyiv’s Izolyatsiya centre). In 2015, far right <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/denis-gorbach/struggle-for-progressive-politics-in-ukraine">attacked</a> the 200-strong KyivPride march; by 2016, the number of marchers had swelled by an order of magnitude – an extraordinary increase that may be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that the previous year’s attack was widely covered in the press.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Anti-gay vigilantism</h2><p dir="ltr">The slang term <em>bon</em> (from “bonehead”/”Nazi skinhead”) has expanded in meaning in Kyiv and come to refer to all those who try to physically disrupt events. Visitors to events at risk of such disruptions remark that bons – or “opponents”, as they’re sometimes called – are typically men who outwardly resemble students or school kids. Dressed in the latest youth fashions, they couldn’t be further removed from the traditional skinhead stereotype (bomber jacket, heavy boots, rolled-up jeans).</p><p dir="ltr">Beside the fact that there’s an orchestrated drive to lure young people into neo-Nazism (a drive spearheaded by the Russian Nazi online emigre group WotanJugend, among others) the very theme of “schoolchildren against gays” was, to some degree at least, imported to Ukraine from the outside – and also from Russia. In June 2013, the Russian parliament passed a law banning “the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”. Russia’s Code of Administrative Offenses was amended with a new article, and changes were also made to two other laws (“On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development” and “On Basic Guarantees of the Rights of the Child in the Russian Federation”.) </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_Марцинкевич_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="626" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian far right activist Maxim Martsinkevich, who received a ten-year prison sentence in 2017 for attacking people involved in drug trade. CC BY 3.0 DenTV / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This kick-started a campaign of state homophobia in Russia – a development immediately exploited by the ultra-right. <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/jail-wont-stop-russias-anti-gay-psycho">Maxim Martsinkevich</a>, better known as Tesak (“Hatchet”), wasted no time in launching the “Occupy Pedophilia” project.</p><p dir="ltr">Masquerading as an anti-paedophilia organisation, the group is actually in the business of anti-gay vigilantism. Its members lure gay men on “dates” – only to beat them up and humiliate them once they arrive, with the assault invariably filmed and posted online. Martsinkevich’s “project” made wide use of very young people, who would arrive at the rendezvous spot instead of the adults who were supposed to come. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, Martsinkevich travelled to Ukraine to promote his idea, which <a href="https://ru.hromadske.ua/posts/kalka-s-russkoho-myra-otkuda-v-ukrayne-vyrosly-dvyzhenyia-po-borbe-s-pedofylamy">acquired a life of its own</a> and spawned copycat organisations such as Fashionable Verdict, White Lions and Heritage. A <a href="https://www.facenews.ua/news/2018/397718/">recent homophobic murder in the southern city of Mykolaiv</a> was straight out of Tesak’s playbook: three underage boys invited an adult gay man out on a “date” and then proceeded to rape and kill him.</p><p dir="ltr">According to <a href="https://politeka.net/news/466369-v-ukrayinskih-shkolah-masovo-znushhayutsya-nad-ditmi-lyakayucha-statistika-oon/">2017 data from UNICEF</a>, 67% of Ukrainian children aged 11 to 17 have experienced bullying in the last three months. It is only to be expected, then, that the same practices find their way into extracurricular life. The general rigidity of secondary and higher education doubtless contributes to arguments in favour of so-called “traditional values” as such. When, in 2018, sex education in a teacher training college <a href="http://www.volynpost.com/news/110058-u-lucku-rozpovily-pravdu-pro-intym-do-shlyubu-foto">takes the form of lectures on girls’ “purity”</a>, it becomes difficult to expect students to be even minimally gender-literate.</p><p dir="ltr">And so, despite the fact that extreme right-wing parties are expected to achieve only modest successes in Ukraine’s 2019 elections, with the far-right parliamentary party Svoboda projected to garner around six percent of the vote, and the National Corpus just above zero percent (figures in no way representative of the far right’s considerable social base), the young subculture can nonetheless fray one’s nerves, or – taking its cue from the latest political fashion in Russia – <a href="https://apostrophe.ua/ua/news/society/kiev/2017-03-08/stalo-izvestno-o-napadenii-na-marsh-feministok-v-kieve-opublikovano-foto/89196">throw zelyonka</a> (brilliant green) into one’s face and onto one’s clothes. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/26904612_146197372756942_5829292771071005971_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>19 January 2018, Kyiv: far right groups disrupt an anti-fascist action in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. Source: Facebook.</span></span></span>In part, feminists and LGBT individuals are persecuted because of their association with leftist movements: anarchists, anti-fascists and universal equality advocates are their most frequent and, at this point in time, only constant allies. In January 2018, the Ukrainian neo-Nazi organisation C14 <a href="http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1516458710">turned up to sabotage an anti-fascist rally in central Kyiv</a>. No specifically homophobic attacks were expected, but things turned out otherwise. The neo-Nazis mistook a British tourist passerby for a homosexual participating in the rally (he had multi-coloured hair and a piercing), <a href="https://www.facebook.com/maria.makukha/posts/10156002396314491">set upon him and beat him up</a>. Meanwhile, feminist and LGBT marches in Ukraine often attract cisgender and heterosexual men who attend them not for the sake of their personal interests, but on account of general egalitarian and anti-fascist considerations.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A single coalition</h2><p dir="ltr">A big problem facing the organisers of rallies and open-to-all events is the questionable and ineffective conduct of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/where-is-ukraines-new-police-force">Ukrainian police</a>. The Nash Mir (Our World) Centre, which monitors LGBT rights violations in Ukraine, has <a href="http://gay.org.ua/publications/lgbt_ukraine_2017-u.pdf">drawn attention</a> to the fact that the police response to protection requests is frequently inadequate: they can refuse to accept statements regarding violations or to enter information about offenders’ homophobic or transphobic motivations into their reports. Similarly, the police can delay or close cases in view of the alleged impossibility of establishing the identity of the criminals.</p><p dir="ltr">The perpetrators and instigators of anti-LGBT attacks are often repeat offenders, known to everyone by sight and name, and yet this never seems to be enough to press criminal charges. The conduct of the police is invariably reprehensible. They make no attempt whatsoever to arrest the attackers, or detain them for a matter of hours before releasing them (as happened on last year’s International Women’s Day in Kyiv); they fail to keep rallies and counter-rallies separate (as happened on 19 January of this year); they detain the victims of attacks (ditto), or <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2205350089692290&amp;set=a.1791419827751987.1073741832.100006519616711&amp;type=3">simply refuse to guarantee protection in advance</a> (as happened in March of this year in the western city of Uzhhorod): “We cannot ensure the safety of your event, so we advise you to cancel it.” Furthermore, there is evidence that right-wing radicals turn up at event venues and <a href="http://femwork.org/novini-fm/napadi-8-bereznya-nasha-tochka-zoru/">exchange friendly greetings with law enforcement officials</a>. And although Ukraine’s human rights community is trying to improve its relationship with the police, it hasn’t yet achieved any significant success in this regard owing to the lack of political will within the institution.</p><p dir="ltr">A revealing incident occurred in Kyiv during this year’s International Women’s Day march. A female marcher held aloft a banner emblazoned with the image of a naked woman, her thigh pierced with the logo of the new far right organisation <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/13/ukraine-far-right-national-militia-takes-law-into-own-hands-neo-nazi-links">National Militias</a> (which resembles Ukraine’s coat of arms). Some “opponents” made several attempts to snatch the banner out of the marcher’s hands, and finally succeeded – not in spite of an intervention by the police, but because of it. Subsequently, an attempt was made to prosecute Olena Shevchenko, march organiser and leader of the LGBTQ organisation Insight, for violating a (non-existent) procedure of holding peaceful assemblies, but the court eventually decided to dismiss the charges, possibly because of the wide public outcry generated by the whole saga. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_1rsz_hrytsenko1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A feminist banner at International Women's Day on 8 March, 2018, Kyiv. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov is responsible for this state of affairs – and not only because he has failed to take any measures that would remedy the situation, but also because of a number of his personnel decisions. First Deputy Head of the National Police of Ukraine Vadym Troyan was <a href="http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1415367345">previously a member of the far-right Patriot of Ukraine organisation</a>. Reports in the Ukrainian media suggest that Troyan has enjoyed Avakov’s patronage since the latter’s time as governor of Kharkiv Oblast; so too has Patriot of Ukraine’s Andriy Biletsky, People’s Front parliamentary deputy and former commander of the Azov Regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine. What we know for certain is that Patriot of Ukraine really amped up its operations during Avakov’s governorate – the organisation <a href="http://archive.objectiv.tv/280511/56461.html">systematically victimised the local Vietnamese community</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">On top of everything else, the head of the National Police Department for the Security of Strategic Facilities, Sergey Korotkikh (known in Russia as “Malyuta” and in Ukraine as the Azov Bosun), is not only <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2014/12/09/62280-osobo-zlostnyy-grazhdanin">a leading figure in the Russian nationalist movement</a>, but also, as some media outlets <a href="https://www.obozrevatel.com/crime/89352-v-kieve-obokrali-sina-arsena-avakova-aleksandr-avakov-restotran-marokana-video.htm">suggest</a>, on friendly terms with Arsen Avakov’s son, Oleksandr.</p><p dir="ltr">This complex web of connections, referenced in the rhyming leftist chant (“Natsitsy i politisya - odna koalitsiya”/ “Nazis and the police are part of a single coalition”) gives some idea of ​​why rank-and-file Ukrainian police officers (who, as the above-mentioned Nash Mir study maintains, often hold homophobic and misogynist views themselves) aren’t overly interested in maintaining public order and ensuring freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Men involved in far right actions almost never end up behind bars for other reasons, too. For instance, the C14 group, which has been <a href="https://www.nihilist.li/2017/10/28/s14-i-osvitnya-asambleya-nauchim-plohomu-za-obshhestvenny-j-schyot/">operating with impunity since at least 2011</a>, has <a href="http://news.liga.net/politics/interview/s14_kto_oni_i_pochemu_im_pozvoleno_bit_lyudey">publicly boasted</a> of its cooperative relationship with the Ukrainian security services, while the Uzhgorod-based Nazi project Carpathian Sich <a href="https://www.nihilist.li/2018/03/19/kto-takie-karpats-ka-sich-i-chto-proishodit-v-uzhgorode/">has links with local corruption schemes</a>. </p><p>Event organisers often say that if the police are to perform their protection duties properly, initial negotiations must first be conducted with them. Examples of positive engagement with the police do exist (the Docudays UA International Documentary Film Festival event at the beginning of this article being a case in point, or the March of Equality, which invites Ukrainian MPs and foreign diplomats to participate). It seems that whenever things threaten to escalate into an international scandal and this message is somehow driven home to the police, the forces of law and order do doubtless elect to fulfil their duties and prevent calamity from striking.</p><p dir="ltr">But it’s obvious that not all the peaceful gatherings and socio-cultural events that take place throughout the country can (or should) be on the same level of prestige. That said, it’s equally clear that the responsibility for successfully persuading the police to do their job should not lie with the organising committee of a march, discussion event or lecture. The right to peaceful assembly, as provided by Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, applies to everyone, not just those lucky enough to strike the right tone. While we should applaud those who manage to get the police to carry out its job, we should still demand the Ukrainian police to do their job systematically. </p><p dir="ltr">We might see significant improvements in the situation if the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/where-is-ukraines-new-police-force">as-yet-unfinished reforms of the country’s police</a> were finally to be completed, and if the police leadership, together with that of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, were to be replaced. If people cannot safely exercise their right to peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine, society will struggle to exercise other rights and achieve other goals. First of all, however, we need to dig in our heels, hold more public events and attend them in as many numbers as possible.</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="/denis-gorbach/struggle-for-progressive-politics-in-ukraine">The struggle for progressive politics in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach-oles-petik/rise-of-azov">The rise of Azov</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-how-war-in-donbas-has-affected-ukraine">Disconnected society: how the war in the Donbas has affected Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-antonova/we-have-lift-off-on-speaking-out-on-sexual-violence">We have lift-off on speaking out on sexual violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/olena-svitlytska/can-feminist-art-free-women-from-patriarchy-in-eastern-europe">Can feminist art free women from patriarchy in Eastern Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-semchuk/why-are-some-ukrainian-feminists-boycotting-international-women-s-day">Why are some Ukrainian feminists boycotting the International Women’s Day march in Kyiv?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ganna-grytsenko/invisible-battalion-ukraine">“Invisible battalion”: how Ukrainian women secured the right to fight on a par with men</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 Ganna Grytsenko Ukraine Wed, 16 May 2018 08:21:54 +0000 Ganna Grytsenko 117900 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Behind the wire: pride and paranoia in one of Russia’s closed towns https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-chesnokov/behind-the-wire <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Thousands of Russian citizens live in “closed towns”. I visited one of them, Lesnoye, to find out how people live today. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-chesnokov/za-provolokoy" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/4348993821_d8df593e06_b_(1)_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/4348993821_d8df593e06_b_(1)_0.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'>It's almost impossible for a person from outside to get into the closed town. Photo CC0 1.0 Universal: Sergey Shinkaruk / Flickr.</span></span></span>A shabbily dressed older man in a cap with ear flaps, looking like a character out of a Soviet film, walks past some women, wrapped up in padded jackets and old fur coats, selling socks, toys and frozen fish. This odd mini market is right next to a bus stop. </p><p dir="ltr">Behind this market lies the small town of Nizhnyaya Tura, which boasts a café, open 24/7, that offers rooms for intimate encounters during the evening; a pelmeni restaurant serving meat-filled dumplings to a clientele of rough-looking young men, and numerous down-at-heel shops selling household appliances. Three metres away, on the other side of the road, is a security checkpoint, two rows of barbed wire and troops checking the ID of everyone going through the control point. This is one of the roads into the closed town of Lesnoye, and no outsider can enter.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A Nuclear World Cup</h2><p dir="ltr">The Russian Federation still has several dozen closed towns and cities left over from the Soviet period, homes to industrial installations of various kinds. Some produce warheads for nuclear weapons; some – radioactive isotopes. All types of closed towns live under a regime of security and state secrets that creates less-than-standard living conditions for local people. </p><p dir="ltr">The first closed towns were built when the USSR was working on its nuclear programme: in 1945, Stalin set up a special department within the State Defence Committee whose main tasks were to develop the use of Uranium’s atomic potential, to create technology for its extraction in the Soviet Union and to build an atomic bomb. The Soviet citizens who didn’t live near to these closed towns knew nothing about them, and information about their location was kept under wraps. The only people who could get into these closed towns either had to work there or were close relatives of residents with a permanent entry-pass (non-residents would receive a one-off entry pass).</p><p dir="ltr">All residents of closed towns had to sign a form promising never to reveal their home town’s name or location, and the Soviet government gave these places names linked to the nearest cities: Chelyabinsk–40, Krasnoyarsk-26 and so on. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the list of these towns was made public and they were all given proper names. Some became ordinary, open towns, but there are still some towns where visitors can’t go without a special pass. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Residents of closed towns had to sign a form promising never to reveal their home town’s name or location </p><p dir="ltr">One such town is Lesnoye (formerly Sverdlovsk-45), which was founded in the Sverdlovsk region in 1947. It was constructed by prisoners from the GULAG; there were up to 30,000 prisoners in the 1950s. The older part of town and the roads leading to it were built by them.</p><p dir="ltr">In 1948, the town embarked on the building of a plant for electromagnetic isotope separation, which came into operation two years later. A second plant appeared some time afterwards; its main task was the serial production of atomic bombs – up to 60 a year. This installation was one of the main elements in the USSR’s so-called “nuclear shield” during the Cold War.</p><p dir="ltr">After Sverdlovsk-45 lost its “secret” status in the 1990s, it was renamed Lesnoye. Its largest installation, now known as the Elektrokhimpribor (“Electro-chemical-appliance”) plant, produces warheads for nuclear weapons and is also engaged in electromagnetic isotope separation. It has a workforce of 9,000, almost one in five of the local residents. The plant belongs to the state-owned Rosatom nuclear corporation, as do the companies in Russia’s nine other closed towns. </p><p dir="ltr">But apart from its strategic importance, Sverdlovsk-45 is also famous for its “Fakel” (“Torch”) sports academy. Residents remember the town council actively promoting sporting facilities from the very start, as a means of occupying its young people. And the combination of Lesnoye’s compact layout and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle led to exceptionally good results. </p><p dir="ltr">“We had the best possible conditions for developing our sporting prowess,” the Olympic artistic gymnastics champion Olga Glatskikh, who grew up in the town, told an <a href="https://360tv.ru/news/tekst/lyudi-prosto-teryayut-sebya-v-zhizni-kak-protekayut-dni-v-zato-80844/">interviewer</a>. “That’s probably why we have had so many Olympic athletes and champions.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_4349641222_23ee5717c7_o_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_4349641222_23ee5717c7_o_0.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 Lesnoye reigns calm, but the vertical dominant recalls the sense of the existence of a closed town. Severomorsk, 2010. Photo CC0 1.0 Universal: Sergey Shinkaruk / Flickr.</span></span></span>Over the years, the town’s training facilities have been used by 11 Olympic champions and runners-up and 46 World, European, Russian and Soviet champions in various sports; officials at the town hall are proud to tell me that Lesnoye holds the national record for the number of Olympians relative to its general population. And some well known sportsmen and women still live here.</p><p dir="ltr">There have never been any problems about the town’s sports stars travelling abroad for competitions. “None of them ever knew what went on at the plant, and those who did know didn’t have external passports,” says Sergey Pronin, an ice-skating coach at Fakel. “There was never any secret about it being a closed town: people from other countries weren’t in the least interested.” The town’s status nevertheless played a role in the recent anti-doping scandal: the Russian government used Lesnoye’s closed status to <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/wada-russia-still-denying-anti-doping-officials-access-to-closed-cities-10664581">ban World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) experts</a> from visiting the town. </p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, it isn’t easy to simply visit Lesnoye: the local FSB and Rosatom corporation monitor everyone arriving. I spent six weeks in negotiations with people from Elektrokhimpribor, trying to get a visitor’s pass. For this to happen, I had to not only send them my ID details (which is normal for many Russian military facilities), but state what equipment I was bringing, and how many days I planned to spend, as well as promising not to write anything negative about their town and its plant – just describe my trip. </p><p dir="ltr">In the end, I developed a slight paranoia: what if they were bugging my phone? Would they perhaps keep tabs on me given that I was working for a foreign publication? I approached the entry checkpoint in this uncomfortable state, and the young soldiers looked at me suspiciously and sent me up to the first floor. There, I handed my ID through a small window to a woman in uniform and heard her relaying the information to her colleagues below. </p><p dir="ltr">“Will they give me some kind of paperwork to show while I’m in your town?” I asked one of the troops. “No,” he shot back and let me through the barrier. </p><h2 dir="ltr">The plant and the town are the same thing </h2><p dir="ltr">Dmitry Nikishkin came to live in Lesnoye from Izhevsk in 1987 when he was 17: his father, who worked for the military, had been posted here. The young man enrolled at the local campus of Moscow’s National Nuclear Research University (MIFI), did practical training at Elektrokhimpribor from his third year onwards – and has worked there ever since. </p><p dir="ltr">“The plant and the town are the same thing,” Nikishkin tells me. And indeed, the plant is laid out like a small town, and Lesnoye’s economy revolves around it. But while the plant is engaged in producing modern materials that it exports to Canada, the US, China and other countries, the town itself looks more like a postcard from the past. </p><p dir="ltr">The town centre consists of buildings in Soviet neo-classical style. Children walk to school past a statue of Lenin and a House of Culture, while mothers push their babies round a square named after famous Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. You can eat lunch for 100 roubles (£1.17) and take your leisure at the town’s various clubs and its one cinema, where a ticket costs £3.50. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/imageedit_1_8969937525_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/imageedit_1_8969937525_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The ice rink. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>It wasn’t easy for me to find a flat to rent: the “deluxe” suite at the town’s one hotel had neither wi-fi nor a shower, and the Booking.com site offered just one possible option. A one-room flat here costs up to 1.5m roubles (£17,500) to buy, or you can rent for a mere 10,000-12,000 roubles (£117-140) a month. </p><p dir="ltr">One of the town’s sights is “Champions’ Alley”, an avenue of nine-storey residential blocks decorated with enormous banners showing the Olympic athletes who began their careers here. </p><p dir="ltr">Dmitry Nikishkin is also an ex-Paralympic skier who competed at the Winter Olympics in Nagano in 1998 and Salt Lake City in 2002. He recalls meeting ordinary Americans: “I realised that their government told them that Russia was their enemy,” he says, “but there was no aggression in their eyes.” But Nikishkin lost his chance of further travel abroad when he went to work for Elektrokhimpribor. </p><p dir="ltr">Nikishkin tells me that he would like to travel more freely, and when I ask him what his dream would be, he answers: “Everyone in the town has just one dream – that the international situation become less tense. You can understand that Lesnoye has an important role in all this. I can’t speak for everyone, but there’s a feeling of instability in the world.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">An island of calm </h2><p dir="ltr">Talking to people on the streets, you get the impression that you’ve landed in a separate socialist state. “Highly educated people were offered housing here from the start,” says pensioner and former sports trainer Vladimir Popov. “It was all designers, engineers, teachers and doctors.”</p><p dir="ltr">For example, Popov adds, the local authorities gave residents free housing, and still do (as was the usual situation all over the Soviet Union). The 1990s passed Lesnoye by: the plant and the town’s special status assured its high standing with central government and it was always well provided for. Also, its being a closed town has meant a very low crime level – only 500 crimes were officially reported over the whole of 2017. There is also an extra rule in force: if someone has been convicted of a crime, they can’t return to Lesnoye after they leave prison, even if members of their family live there – all because of the town’s special status. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We live between two sets of regulations: one to do with local government and the other with being a closed town”</p><p dir="ltr">“We live between two sets of regulations: one to do with local government and the other with being a closed town,” Lesnoye’s former mayor Viktor Grishin <a href="https://rg.ru/2011/07/04/zato.html">told</a> the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper in 2011. “The pass control regime has very tough regulations. People who fail the security service check have to settle in a zone 10 kilometres outside the town, rent a flat there and be left in limbo.”</p><p dir="ltr">And so the cloistered town retains its calm and friendly atmosphere: everyone I met there were happy to show me, the outsider, the way, and some even struck up conversations. Small children walk to school on their own, and I am assured that even at night it’s perfectly safe to go for a walk. </p><h2 dir="ltr">A town preserved in aspic </h2><p dir="ltr">But however much members of Lesnoye’s local council give interviews boasting about its quietness and the sporting achievements of its residents, the town has enough problems of its own. Its special status impedes the development of small and medium business and prevents the Sverdlovsk regional authorities from constructing new buildings. Land here can only be rented, not bought, but this too is hindered by the bureaucratic obstacles created by Rosatom, which owns the plant. </p><p dir="ltr">I am told this by Sergey Pronin, a distinguished ice-skating coach who lives in Lesnoye with his wife and three children. He tells me that the town administration cuts corners in many budget areas. “Lesnoye used to be a flourishing place,” Pronin says, “but now wages are falling and they’re laying people off at the plant.”</p><p dir="ltr">The townspeople, however, are not bothered by their town’s status. According to Pronin, everybody is used to the perimeter fencing, the passes and the complications that arise if you want to invite friends to visit from other places. “The secrecy thing might affect the people working at the plant, but not anybody else,” Pronin says as we drive along the barbed wire fence in his car. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The town’s special status impedes the development of small and medium business </p><p dir="ltr">The situation also affects Lesnoye’s younger generation. They have little choice in life: they work at the plant and train in their spare time – and that’s about it. The town has only one nightclub and a couple of cafes and shopping centres. The lack of opportunities to find yourself leads young people to move away. Take Liza Sharova, 16, for example. She is finishing school this year and showing great promise as an ice-skater. But Liza doesn’t intend to stay. “There’s nothing to do here,” she tells me. “It’s quiet and peaceful, but I want to train as a computer programmer in Moscow and make my home there.”</p><p dir="ltr">The feeling of a place frozen in time is also responsible for the lack of civil society that is evident in Lesnoye. You won’t find any informal opposition protests here: most residents, while fed up with their low wages and high utility bills, express opinions typical of dwellers in provincial Russian towns: “Putin is a good man, but all our problems are because of the government.” There are, in fact about 20 NGOs in Lesnoye – from the women’s town council to an organisation for disabled people – but most of them are loyal to the town authorities. </p><h2 dir="ltr">An open secret</h2><p dir="ltr">Should closed towns be opened? This question has been under discussion at the government level for ages. On the one hand, Sergey Pronin, Dmitri Nikishin and Vladimir Popov all feel that removing the town’s “closed” status would allow its economy to develop more quickly, with an influx of new business and an inflow of new residents as a result. On the other hand, things will be less quiet. </p><p dir="ltr">Local people will tell you that the town’s closed status is nothing of the sort, but the one thing that should perhaps keep its secrets is the Elektrokhimpribor plant. Meanwhile, the downside of the idyllic quiet streets is an atmosphere of paranoia, a feeling of being under constant surveillance that surfaces from time to time in conversations. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/4348938027_efd5080dc5_b_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/4348938027_efd5080dc5_b_0.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'>The closed towns – oases of complete order, in its Soviet sense. Severomorsk, 2010. Photo CC0 1.0 Universal: Sergey Shinkaruk / Flickr.</span></span></span>“What do you think?” I ask Sergey Pronin as he shows me the town. “Given that the FSB checks up on the people who want to come here, does that mean they bug locals’ phones as well?”</p><p dir="ltr">“Of course they do!” he laughs, but whether he’s joking or serious, I can’t tell. “But what news will they hear from me?”</p><p dir="ltr">FSB phone tapping is far from the only issue raised when people start talking about opening Lesnoye and other closed towns. “Closed towns are a drain on government finances,” says Nadezhda Kutepova, who heads the Planet of Hopes human rights organisation. Kutepova has spent most of her life in the closed town of Ozersk, south of Lesnoye in Chelyabinsk region, but she was forced into exile in Europe after being accused of spying by Russian state TV in 2015. “They receive a targeted subsidy designed to make up for the reduction in their civil rights (specifically, freedom of movement). This is why the Ministry of Economic Development, which is responsible for closed towns, raises the question of these towns from time to time when it sees how much money it is forced to spend on issues unconnected with security.”</p><p dir="ltr">However, Kutepova goes on, whenever the Ministry tries to raise the question, the nuclear lobby always turns it from an economic issue into a state security issue – and the subject is dropped. This lobby, which is made up of Rosatom, nuclear installations and the security services, puts forward a number of arguments for keeping closed towns closed. </p><p dir="ltr">The first one is economic. “Rosatom doesn’t have to spend anything on either external security or urban maintenance – the state pays for it all,” says Kutepova. The second reason is linked to corruption: “The entire life of a closed town is in the hands of those who police the right of entry to it.” The head of any business, or their deputy, needs the agreement of the FSB for any right of entry. And this applies to everything, from giving an entry pass to someone’s granny to the launch of state owned shopping centres or any kind of business. If the allegiance of those who take the decisions is lost for any reason, entry will be refused. </p><p dir="ltr">The third reason, Kutepova believes, is the fact that the residents of closed towns don’t always want them to be opened because they fear change: “It’s a result of the mass conditioning of their consciousness that people have been subjected to in such places from the moment they were set up.” And the last reason is government and business’ desire to limit public access to information about the environmental issues around the nuclear industry – the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/violetta-ryabko/wake-up-and-smell-ruthenium">Mayak plant in Ozersk</a> is an obvious example. </p><p dir="ltr">There have been examples of military closed towns, which come under the Ministry of Defence, being opened, but never a closed town involved in Russia’s nuclear industry. Could the residents of Lesnoye ever gain the right to move freely about Russia and invite their friends to visit? They don’t seem to know the answer to that question – and don’t seem very bothered about it either. </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/violetta-ryabko/wake-up-and-smell-ruthenium">Wake up and smell the ruthenium</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vladimir-slivyak/rosatom-climate-s-new-best-friend">Rosatom: climate’s new best friend</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-chesnokov/no-future-in-karabash">No future in Karabash, one of Russia’s most polluted towns </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia-andrei-talevlin/stop-gok-chelyabinsk-copper-enrichment-tomino">Stop GOK: how residents of Chelyabinsk are resisting plans for a new copper plant</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-selivanova-nadezhda-konobeyevskaya-yakov-kapitonov/%27is-your-mum-foreign-agent%27">&#039;Is your mum a foreign agent?&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/diana-karliner/russia-car-industry-avtovaz">Russia’s car industry, where even the dead work overtime </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ivan Chesnokov Russia Wed, 16 May 2018 05:04:53 +0000 Ivan Chesnokov 117894 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The politics of police reform: dissecting the barriers to change in the post-Soviet world https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexander-kupatadze/the-politics-of-police-reform%20 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>According to a new book, destabilising episodes of violence and an experienced civil society sector are key parts of building consensus for police reform.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/11129295455_03c28d5fe6_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kyiv, February 2014. CC BY 2.0: Ivan Bandura / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-politics-of-police-reform-9780190861490?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">The Politics of Police Reform: Society against the State in Post-Soviet Countries</a> </em>by Erica Marat is an incisive study of post-Soviet police reforms which has implications beyond this particular region. The book reflects the author’s long-standing experience in studying the issues of crime and criminal justice in the post-Soviet world. It exhibits analytical rigour and mastery of empirical details. In this review, I will briefly re-construct Marat’s argument and will offer some constructive criticism mostly focused on problematising some of the main discussions in the book.</p><p dir="ltr">Marat proposes to conceptualise the police as “a medium of state-society consensus” (p. 11), where policing is an outcome of the deliberation between state and societal actors over the nature and limits of coercive action. Marat asks what is needed to reform the police in the post-Soviet world and she situates the answer in three variables: an episode of transformative violence; a pre-existing dissent infrastructure; and a consensus-building process (pp. 9-14). These variables are discussed in Chapters Two and Three, where Marat argues that an episode of transformative violence is crucial in mobilising civil society actors, who then demand police reform. However, whether the episode of violence generates reform momentum depends on the pre-existing dissent infrastructure. If civil society actors lack experience and resources then chances are high that the police will just be refurbished without any profound change. This is a two way process: variations in state-level action (deploying coercive power) and society-level activism (strength and depth of civil society networks) define outcomes in policing.</p><p dir="ltr">Marat’s argument is well-reasoned and insightful. It also mirrors some propositions made in previous scholarship on “limited access orders” (<a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Violence-Social-Orders-Conceptual-Interpreting/dp/1107646995">North, Wallis &amp; Weingast 2009</a>) and “extractive institutions” (<a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Nations-Fail-Origins-Prosperity/dp/1846684307">Acemoglu and Robinson 2013</a>), according to which more inclusive practices and empowering large segments of the population are needed to develop more successful institutions. These terms refer to situations where political elites enjoy privileged control over parts of the economy, each getting some share of the rents. In these kind of systems, public goods are distributed on non-universalitic basis benefiting insiders, friends and allies of the incumbent rulers.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/9780190861490.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/9780190861490.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cover for The Politics of Police Reform. </span></span></span>Marat clearly identifies the key drivers of change in policing. It is not entirely obvious, however, how much explanatory power one can attribute to each of the variables she uses. The “episodes of transformative violence” (e.g. <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/georgias-abu-ghraib-the-horrific-stories-of-prisoner-abuse-8160286.html">torture in Gldani prison</a> in Georgia or <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elena-kostyuchenko/what-i-didnt-write-about-zhanaozen">oil workers’ riots in Zhanaozen</a>, Kazakhstan) may only be a trigger for change rather than its main cause. </p><p dir="ltr">So, protests against police brutality as well as demands for reform are usually built across long periods of time and are conditioned by a long record of police failures, along with frustration with the unfair deployment of the state’s coercive power. Moreover, other variables may also be contributing to the protests. </p><p dir="ltr">In my own work, I have found it difficult to categorise the “colour revolutions” that swept the post-Soviet world in the early 2000s solely as “anti-corruption” protests, because there were many other issues that may have contributed to public uprisings (as well as to public demand for reform) such as perceived inequality and lack of economic opportunities, among others. </p><p dir="ltr">Parts of Marat’s analysis remain normative (“what ought to be” rather than what can realistically be done). For example, consensus-building and “finding common ground for change” (p. 200) might be difficult to achieve at policy level, thus having limited practical applicability. This is mainly because consensus-building takes time, and time is a rare commodity during the reform process in highly corrupt societies. In Marat’s definition, consensus building can be a lengthy process and take the form of “regular meetings between public activists and police officials, parliamentary hearings and discussion in the media” (p.13). In Kyrgyzstan, for example, it took one year to develop the concept of police reform (p. 94) i.e. one year was spent to write up a document with no action on the ground.</p><p dir="ltr">What is missing in this equation is a time inconsistency problem. Basically, when policymakers are engaged in reform and are trying to build better institutions, they make a promise to the people, who are very likely to be sceptical because of past failures and false promises. Hence, assuming policymakers are genuinely interested in delivering reform, they will be more likely to aim at delivering major results fast in order to establish credibility.</p><p dir="ltr">The demonstration of credible commitment to reform is crucial in gaining public trust in the process and signal to potential “spoilers” that things are definitely going to change. In this sense, the pace of reform matters particularly at earlier stages, so there isn’t necessarily enough time for a lengthy process of consensus building. Likewise, the pace of reform also matters for another reason, namely the so-called “spoiler trap”. There are usually large groups of actors that can lose out from the reform and will do everything to undermine it. These maybe corrupt officials or the whole state institutions, because reform undermines the source of their rents. The lengthier the process, the more opportunities and time spoilers have to block the reform, as happened in post-Euromaidan Ukraine where the protracted reform process hasn’t yielded significant results.</p><p dir="ltr">The book’s unproblematic acceptance of the role of civil society represents another drawback. Recently, the literature on post-Soviet civil society has discussed the proliferation of “grant eaters”, namely the NGOs with good proposal-writing skills and connections with the donor community that often win grant competitions even though they are not committed to achieving the stated goals of their sponsors and never deliver tangible results (see, for example, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09614524.2018.1405910">Anton Oleinik’s article on the role of foreign donors in Ukraine</a>). This is not just an analytical category, but also reflects the views and perceptions of NGOs in some segments of society. The book doesn’t address whether, and how these perceptions affect the general trust towards the participation of civil society actors in the reform process as a whole. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">These issues may have to do with the weaknesses in civil society itself and cannot be only explained by external factors</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, the process of collaboration between government and civil society in Kyrgyzstan demonstrates that various civil society actors may have conflicting ideas informed by mercantilist or competing interests over the definition of the reform agenda which may undermine the whole process (Chapter Five). In my own experience of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955395914000152">researching crime in Kyrgyzstan</a>, I found that public oversight bodies of law enforcement agencies are largely dysfunctional and play mainly a symbolic role, giving the opportunity to state officials to argue that the government is “engaged with civil society.” These issues may have to do with the weaknesses in civil society itself and cannot be only explained by external factors, as Marat seems to suggest.</p><p dir="ltr">The empirical chapters on Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan and Tajikistan provide a good overview of police reform in these countries, with some interesting positive and negative variations. In my own experience, I was struck by both sides, such as the pictures of Felix Dzerzhinsky (aka Iron Felix, the head of secret police for the post-revolutionary Soviet government) in the offices of Kyrgyz police officials, on the one hand; and the glass buildings of Georgian police signalling transparency to the public, on the other. Marat writes that the police in all the case studies remain at the service of the ruling regimes and, if reform happens, it mainly targets street level policing and only enforces technical changes. Moreover, often the rulers “cheat” and use the need of counter-acting unrest to expand police presence, instead of delivering change in policing practices.</p><p dir="ltr">The chapter on Georgia offers a critical view of police reform in a country that is usually considered a showcase for success. Marat shows how the reformed Georgian police have remained the safeguard of an increasingly authoritarian regime, as well as how the lack of reform resulted in torture practices in prisons. However, it is not entirely fair to state that police reform in Georgia was as “cosmetic” as in other parts of post-Soviet Eurasia, and it only targeted lower-level petty bribery. At the very least, following the 2003 Rose Revolution against the incumbent government, Georgia no longer has police generals providing protection to criminal groups or organising the smuggling of illegal goods as was the case in the country in the 1990s and early 2000s, and can still be observed in contemporary Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine. Georgia’s police reform has gone further than other countries’ by eliminating petty bribery as well as some forms of high-level corruption.</p><p dir="ltr">Overall, <em>The Politics of Police Reform</em> is unique in the depth and breadth of its analysis of police reform and reform initiatives by civil society in post-Soviet Eurasia. The book includes a number of important and well developed case studies, and it will be of interest for students and scholars of Eurasian politics and societies, as well as researchers in the politics of police reform and state-civil society relations. The key takeaway of the book is to exercise a more critical eye towards the role of civil society. This will be especially important in the Armenian context, for example, where the newly elected prime minister has promised to deliver public sector reform and fight corruption. </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="/gavin-slade-alexander-kupatadze/failed-mental-revolution-georgia-crime-and-criminal-justice">The failed &quot;mental revolution&quot;: Georgia, crime and criminal justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/william-jay-risch/turning-a-protest-into-metaphysics">Turning a protest into (someone else’s) metaphysics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/where-is-ukraines-new-police-force">Where is Ukraine’s new police force?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kathleen-weinberger/georgia%E2%80%99s-healthcare-privatisation-stands-as-warning-to-ukrainian-refo">Georgia’s healthcare privatisation stands as a warning to Ukrainian reformers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/orysia-lutsevych/civil-society-in-post-soviet-europe-seven-rules-for-donors">Civil society in post-Soviet Europe: seven rules for donors</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/stephen-f-jones/fate-of-georgian-dreams">The fate of Georgian dreams</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/is-anti-corruption-agenda-all-that-it-s-cracked-up-to-be">Is the anti-corruption agenda all that it’s cracked up to be?</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 Kupatadze Mon, 14 May 2018 08:49:03 +0000 Alexander Kupatadze 117868 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “There is a direct threat to life”: Russian theatre manager Alexey Malobrodsky hospitalised after court hearing https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valery-pecheikin/there-is-direct-threat-to-life-russian-theatre-manager-alexey-malobrodsky <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Alexey Malobrodsky, who has been&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/freemalobrodsky">charged in a high-profile embezzlement case</a>, has spent 10 months in pre-trial detention. He is now critically ill. I spoke to the doctor who has been treating Malobrodsky to find out more. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valeriy-pecheikin/ashikhmin-malobrodsky">RU</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-35766848.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'>Alexey Malobrodsky, a theatre manager and former general producer at Seventh Studio. (c). Kommersant Photo Agency/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/freemalobrodsky">Alexey Malobrodsky</a>, the former director of Moscow’s Gogol Center, was&nbsp;<a href="https://themoscowtimes.com/news/moscow-theater-director-suffers-heart-attack-embezzlement-court-hearing-61420">hospitalised</a>&nbsp;during court proceedings on 10 May after a judge&nbsp;<a href="http://www.interfax.ru/russia/612032">refused an application</a>&nbsp;for transfer under house arrest.</p><p dir="ltr">Malobrodsky was arrested in June 2017 as part of an&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergey-damberg/serebrennikov-attack">embezzlement investigation into the performing arts centre</a>, in which theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov, Yuri Itin, former director of the Seventh Studio, a project under the remit of the Gogol Center, Russian Academic Youth Theater director Sofia Apfelbaum and theatre accountant Nina Maslyaeva have also been arrested. Malobrodsky is the only accused still in pre-trial detention, the others have been released under house arrest. Seventh Studio producer Ekaterina Voronova fled the country.</p><p dir="ltr">I asked cardiologist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/yaroslav.ashikhmin">Yaroslav Ashikhmin</a>, who visited Malobrodsky on 4 May and 10 May, about the state of his health.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Yaroslav, when did you first visit Alexey Malobrodsky?</em></p><p dir="ltr">I was asked by two respected doctors — Mikhail Laskov, an oncologist and hematologist, and Andrey Volna, an orthopedist. I didn’t accept payment and came here because I was asked and because there’s such a thing as universal human values. I hoped that I’d be able to make a statement to the court, particularly regarding the direct threat to Malobrodsky’s life. There’s a 30% risk of death in the near future if nothing is done. But I wasn’t summoned. I’ve already written my conclusion, Malobrodsky’s lawyers have it. The state of his health hasn’t changed in the meantime, if a heart attack hasn’t already started developing.</p><p dir="ltr">When I went to visit him, they told me he has hypertension. And then I told the lawyer that I’ll write what I see in the conclusion. You can treat hypertension in pre-trial detention fine. But when I saw him, I understood that the situation is fundamentally different from what I expected.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>You visited Malobrodsky in Moscow Pre-Trial Detention No.4. What are the conditions like there?</em><br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">I didn’t see his cell. I was brought to a visiting room, where there was a broken fridge, wall sockets, a sink and that’s it. There was a prison officer there, it was relatively comfortable to speak to her. She was an x-ray operator.</p><p dir="ltr">Malobrodsky looked very ill, tired. I didn’t have much time, and so I conducted the examination differently from how I usually do it. I’m not a psychiatrist, but it was clear that this person was extremely overwhelmed and in pain.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Could you say a few words about the symptoms that you saw? Alexey has agreed to have his medical status made public.</em></p><p dir="ltr">The patient has breathing difficulties when resting. There’s pain in the chest, which I believe is connected to thrombosis of the coronary artery — that’s a myocardial infarction [commonly known as a heart attack], or what used to be called a pre-infarct state.</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, I saw Malobrodsky on Friday [4 May] and there were already symptoms connected to unstable angina [a condition where a heart does not receive enough blood and oxygen]. There was already pain and difficulties breathing. The prison officers also saw this. His lips had turned blue, and there was particular problems with breathing in the lower right lung. Here we need to understand if there is a thromboembolism of the pulmonary artery or not. There was a high rate of sugar in the blood [hyperglycemia] — 11.1. This is a criteria for making a diagnosis of diabetes. As far as I understand, this diagnosis is new. Diabetes makes the flow of the coronary atherosclerosis more difficult. This can lead to a situation where the plaque, which he has on his arteries, become less stable. He had hypertension at 155/100. I had an ECG machine with me and saw the ventricular arrhythmia. The arrhythmia is quite serious.</p><p dir="ltr">I wrote a full medical conclusion where I stated that there is a direct threat to life. That was on Friday. I was called to see Malobrodsky again today after the court hearing. I saw him in detention, I wasn’t allowed to enter the cell. I was shocked by the behaviour of the guards, who were forcing him to walk. Both of us said that he cannot walk. His condition is serious, he should be transported via a stretcher. The guard forced him to walk. But he can’t even stand up, the signs of a weak heart were clear: his lips had turned blue and there were pronounced and significant difficulties with breathing. They accused of him putting it on…</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Who accused him?</em></p><p dir="ltr">The guards. They spoke to him very roughly. They told him “not to make a circus”, to stand up and walk. He even pushed them off once, he hit a guard who had started lifting him up under the arms. But it’s impossible to fake signs like lips turning blue. I’m confident that his condition is a combination of coronary heart disease with unstable angina or a heart attack with hypertension, diabetes. It’s possible that there is a developed thromboembolism of the lung artery, plus heavy arrhythmia. On Friday, I gave him nitroglycerin, which improved the situation slightly.</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/IMG_2025_0_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>28 June 2017: <a href=https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/freemalobrodsky>solidarity action in support of Russian theatre</a> at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin.</span></span></span>Now we’ve called the first ambulance. They took a look at him and left. I spoke to Alexey Svet, a respected doctor, and we called another ambulance and heart resuscitation team. Someone had the phone number for the Minister of Health, so we rang&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronika_Skvortsova">Veronika Skvortsova</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">There is a direct threat to life right now. The patient should be transferred to a heart clinic where an urgent coronarography can be taken. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to confirm this diagnosis with a cardiogram. He needs an urgent test for troponin.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>If Malobrodsky is taken to Moscow Hospital No.20, how critical will this be?</em></p><p dir="ltr">The patient should be observed in a centre which can perform a coronarography. I don’t know if Hospital No.20 can do that.</p><p><em>If we assume that he is now taken somewhere, “treated”, then they can still wish to return him to pre-trial detention. What prognosis can you make on Malobrodsky’s health?</em></p><p dir="ltr">We can’t make prognoses in this kind of situation. There needs to be a diagnosis first. Everything depends on what exactly is happening in his heart. I have a model with me, I can show you.</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 2018-05-10 at 22.08.38_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexey Malobrodsky. Source: Facebook. </span></span></span>I believe that the actions of the paramedics, who have been making him wait for more than 90 minutes, are wrong. He needs to be taken to a ward where all the analyses can be performed.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>How might the investigation have affected his health?</em></p><p dir="ltr">The court medics can make those conclusions. If you look at the factors that increase the risk of a heart attack, then emotional upheavals is one of the most serious factors that can influence the development of thrombosis.</p><p dir="ltr">Malobrodsky said that this all began in the middle of April, after that there was frequent pain in his chest, but he didn’t get properly treated for it. He was given a drug that slowed his heart rate and reduced blood pressure slightly. But there’s no chance of finding the right drug in a prison hospital, the one that stable patients with coronary heart disease need.</p><p dir="ltr">The main thing now is to make sure an heart attack doesn’t develop.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/freemalobrodsky">#FreeMalobrodsky</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nikolai-klimeniouk/transparency-internationals-new-report-russian-theatre">Clean hands and empty heads: Transparency International’s new report on Russian theatre</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergey-damberg/serebrennikov-attack">Serebrennikov and the attack of the Russian state-security chimera</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/elizaveta-spivakovskaya/what-russian-theatre-critics-won-t-tell-you">What the Russian theatre critics won’t tell you</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Valery Pecheikin Russia Fri, 11 May 2018 09:36:35 +0000 Valery Pecheikin 117828 at https://www.opendemocracy.net As Russia ratchets up repression in annexed Crimea, Crimean Tatars deserve European support https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/wayne-jordash-ashley-jordana/crimean-tatars-deserve-european-support <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russia’s violations of international laws on humanitarian crises and conflicts in Crimea are a signal for further attention from the European Union.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/PA-19329932.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/PA-19329932.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'>March 2014: Crimean Tatar community mourns death of tortured activist Reshat Ametov. Photo: Yaghobzadeh Rafael/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On the eve of this year’s presidential election, Vladimir Putin attended a rally in Sevastopol in Crimea. Though he appeared to the flag-waving crowd for less than a minute, the message was clear and triumphalist: this is the president of Russia, in a city that belongs to Russia, in a peninsula that is part of Russia.</p><p dir="ltr">For Crimean Tatars, a Muslim ethnic minority indigenous to the Crimean peninsula, history is not simply learnt from books – it is witnessed daily. The eldest of the Tatars can still remember the 1944 deportation of their population under Stalin, when over 200,000 Crimean Tatars were forcibly removed from their homeland and dispersed across the Soviet Union.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, children and grandchildren of the deported are defending their neighbourhoods from Russian soldiers who occupy their once-peaceful peninsula. There are <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/why-we-should-write-about-the-crimean-tatars">constant reports of systematic house searches and unlawful detentions</a>; a startling similarity to the prelude to deportation used over 70 years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2014, soldiers entered Crimea and took control of the Parliament and Government. The Parliaments of Crimea and Sevastopol then sought unification of the strategically placed Black Sea region with Russia through an illegal referendum. A month later, Russia and the so-called Republic of Crimea signed a “treaty of accession”, effectively annexing the peninsula to the Russian Federation. </p><p dir="ltr">Despite this illegality, there is no doubt that Russia is the “occupying power” in Crimea (see Paragraph 88 of the <a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/itemsDocuments/2017-PE-rep/2017-otp-rep-PE_ENG.pdf">International Criminal Court’s 2017 Report on Preliminary Activities</a>), placing Russia under very specific obligations to international humanitarian law.</p><p dir="ltr">Russia owes the Crimean Tatar people the duty of good governance. In violation of this obligation, Russia is persecuting an entire minority group through the persistent harassment of Tatar activists on the doorstep of the European Union, with no intervention from the international community.</p><p dir="ltr">Russia’s specific duties to the Tatars under international humanitarian law manifest themselves primarily in three ways – each of which have been blatantly ignored. </p><p dir="ltr">Firstly, the occupying power must, as far as possible, restore and ensure security and public life in the occupied territory. Since the occupation, Russian authorities have harassed and persecuted Tatar activists who voiced opposition to the occupation. They have closed Tatar media, sought to create alternative pro-Russian Crimean Tatar institutions to replace legitimate entities, and jailed or unlawfully detained Tatar activists, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yulia-gorbunova/crimean-tatar-kids-who-lost-their-fathers">some of whom have disappeared</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Secondly, the occupying power must respect the laws in force in the occupied territory. Disregard for this obligation has been demonstrated directly against Tatar activists who have been subject to a wide range of unlawful sanctions. In September 2017, Akhtem Chiygoz, deputy chairman of the Mejlis (the Crimean Tatars’ elected representative body), was convicted of organising mass unrest and sentenced to eight years in prison in Simferopol, the capital of Russia-controlled Crimea, in what Amnesty International called a "sham trial”. Chiygoz, a leading voice against the annexation of Crimea, coordinated <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/uncertain-future-of-crimean-tatars">demonstrations prior to the 2014 referendum</a>. Chiygoz’s lawyer <a href="https://lb.ua/society/2017/08/09/373316_sudebnie_preniya_delu_chiygoza.html">said</a> the conviction was unlawful as it violated several procedural norms and further, that Russian law should not have applied as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/11/world/europe/russia-crimea-tatar.html">Crimea was part of Ukraine at the time</a> that the protest took place.</p><p dir="ltr">Thirdly, in line with the principle of continuity, no fundamental changes can be made to the administrative structures in occupied territories. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The approximately 280,000 Tatars who returned to Crimea since the collapse of the Soviet Union refuse to fall again under Moscow’s control</p><p dir="ltr">Although a representative body, in April 2016 the Russian Justice Ministry suspended the Mejlis, citing “extremist activities”. In September 2016, Russia’s Supreme Court <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/09/29/crimean-tatar-elected-body-banned-russia">upheld the ban</a>, adding the Mejlis to a list of “extremist organisations”. A <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/article/criminalization-crimean-tatars-deepens-human-rights-crisis">recent report</a> by Freedom House said: “The court ruling against the Mejlis is an endorsement of the wholesale repression and persecution of indigenous people in Crimea”.</p><p dir="ltr">The approximately 280,000 Tatars who returned to Crimea since the collapse of the Soviet Union refuse to fall again under Moscow’s control. The alternative is for them to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/letter-from-the-crimean-border">flee their homeland</a> once more.</p><p dir="ltr">Putin will only be emboldened after his election victory, and in the wake of diplomatic expulsions from the west, will doubtless aim to stir up nationalist fervour – with Russian dominance in Crimea a key part of that.</p><p dir="ltr">The EU must consistently affirm its unwavering commitment to the foundational notions of international law and security pursuing impunity against the perpetrators so that Russia’s actions go not go unchallenged. If not addressed, this communicates the dangerous message to future aggressors that they can disregard international law without meaningful consequences. The EU’s non-recognition policy of the Russian annexation communicates its support to the Tatar people; however, it is grossly insufficient. Tatars deserve a strong voice, and protection for their rights.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>GRC is providing technical assistance and related advisory services to the Crimean Prosecutor's Office.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/why-we-should-write-about-the-crimean-tatars">Why we should write about the Crimean Tatars</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/anton-korolyov/ill-definitely-go-back-to-crimea-umerov">“I’ll definitely go back to Crimea”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dzhemil-insafly/keeping-crimeas-muslims-in-check">Keeping Crimea&#039;s Muslims in check</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nikolai-klimeniouk/crimea-international-law-opposition">Death by Crimea</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 Ashley Jordana Wayne Jordash Ukraine Thu, 10 May 2018 20:25:20 +0000 Wayne Jordash and Ashley Jordana 117782 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Minorities in Kyrgyzstan: changed by revolution https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/zukhra-iakupbaeva/minorities-in-kyrgyzstan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kyrgyzstan’s two revolutions have been followed by violence and discrimination against the country’s minorities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1280px-Bishkek_capitol_revolution_2010.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1280px-Bishkek_capitol_revolution_2010.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'>7 April 2010: people enter Bishkek's "White House". Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: Wikipedia / Broke04. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The upheavals that shook Kyrgyzstan in 2005 and again in 2010 played out along a similar scenario. The country’s presidents, Askar Akayev in 2005, Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2010, were ousted following massive street protests against the corruption and nepotism that marred their tenure.</p><p dir="ltr">The two revolutions, as they later became known, differed in that no blood was spilt in 2005, while hundreds died in 2010 in the violence that accompanied Bakiyev’s outster and the ensuing power vacuum. But the general instability in their aftermath had a tremendous effect on the lives of the country’s ethnic minorities, especially Uzbeks, who felt their place in Kyrgyzstan’s future to be no longer secure. To this day, this is such a sensitive topic that local media largely avoids it.</p><p dir="ltr">In particular, Akayev’s ouster in 2005 also put an end to his doctrine of encouraging harmony between the country’s many ethnic communities. Under the label “Kyrgyzstan is our common home”, Akayev tried to create a sense of inclusiveness by founding Osh’s Kyrgyz-Uzbek University and Uzbek-language schools in the south of the country, as well as encouraging Uzbek participation in politics. <a href="https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/public/Research/Russia%20and%20Eurasia/1212ppmegoran.pdf">According to Nick Megoran</a>, a lecturer at Newcastle University, the populist nationalists who swept to power after 2005 reversed this course, setting the scene for the violence of 2010.</p><p dir="ltr">As a result, an unknown number of Uzbeks and other minority community members changed citizenship and left Kyrgyzstan for good; others continue to live there, but only felt safe after securing a foreign passport, which may be put to use in case the situation in the country deteriorates once again. </p><h2 dir="ltr">2010: The April revolution</h2><p dir="ltr">In summer 2010, in the power vacuum left after Bakiyev’s ouster, a youth brawl escalated into massive clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan, causing extensive loss of life and damage to property, as well as displacing approximately 400,000 people in the four days of unrest. The<a href="https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Full_Report_490.pdf"> independent international commission of inquiry</a> set up at the behest of then-interim President Roza Otunbayeva found that 470 people had died, but that number may be much higher. </p><p dir="ltr">Following the events of 2010, the numbers of ethnic Uzbeks migrating annually trebled. Kyrgyzstan’s national statistics committee reports that 266 Uzbeks left the country in 2010, a number that reached 931 the following year. Most of them moved to Russia.</p><p dir="ltr">Bakhram Abdullayev (a pseudonym), 56, an ethnic Uzbek, was born in Bishkek. After studying in the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, Abdullayev returned to his native Kyrgyzstan and worked in a state-owned enterprise for more than 30 years. He witnessed the events in Bishkek first hand. Some of his relatives in the city, as well as in the southern city of Osh, where most of Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbeks live, were assaulted.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“I’ll carry on living here while the situation is stable, but Russia is an alternative option in case of instability”</p><p dir="ltr">“At the time, my brother offered me to apply for Russian citizenship,” Bakhram tells me, adding that many Uzbeks from the south of the country and even from Bishkek were left for Russia, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan for fear of retaliation. “When I saw what happened in the April and June events (2010), I thought things might get even worse,” he says.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Alatoo.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bishkek, 2005. Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Bakhram applied for Russian citizenship and obtained it three months later. In 1996, President Akayev and his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin<a href="http://www.mid.ru/foreign_policy/international_contracts/2_contract/-/storage-viewer/bilateral/page-281/47567"> signed an agreement</a> simplifying Russian citizenship procedures for citizens of Kyrgyzstan who had been born, studied, or worked in the USSR. </p><p dir="ltr">For many Russian speakers like Bakhram, this was a perfect opportunity to obtain a Russian passport. Possibly due to the significant number of applicants, however, the agreement was<a href="http://old.kabar.kg/rus/society/full/44288"> rescinded</a> in 2012. “I was lucky to receive Russian citizenship in 2011 and register in Tatarstan,” Bakhram continues. “I don’t think I’ll be under any pressure there because of religion or ethnicity, since Tatarstan is Muslim and so am I.” </p><p dir="ltr">For now, Bakhram is staying and continuing working in Bishkek – he likes his job. But he keeps his Russian passport as an insurance policy in case things heat up again: “I’ll carry on living here while the situation is stable, but Russia is an alternative option in case of instability,” he says. “I see stability in family, stable work and friends who do not care about one’s nationality.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">2005: The Tulip revolution</h2><p dir="ltr">Kyrgyzstan was already familiar with revolution. In 2005, peaceful protests erupted in the south of the country following fraudulent elections in which the incumbent President Askar Akayev won another mandate. Protesters<a href="https://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/nick.megoran/pdf/gothic_kyrgyzstan.pdf"> peacefully took over government buildings</a> in the south, while unrest quickly spread to Bishkek. In the<a href="https://www.economist.com/node/3785139"> chaos</a>, policemen were beaten and some opposition supporters shot, though there were no casualties. Akayev’s ouster was followed by<a href="http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/28062/1/Pelkmans_Transition_revolution_Kyrgyzstan_2005.pdf"> two days of looting in Bishkek</a> targeting the properties of former government officials, as well as valuable merchandise in shops and markets.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 14.45.35.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 14.45.35.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="317" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Valeriya Khan at work at Chu market. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Valeriya Khan, a 33-year-old ethnic Korean, moved to Bishkek in 1998 from the city of Chu in Kazakhstan where she had lived with her parents and younger brother to “seek more prospects for study and work,” as she puts it. </p><p dir="ltr">But the upheaval in 2005 made Valeriya reconsider this decision. At the time, Valeriya and her family lived opposite the Madina fabric market, one of the largest in the city. </p><p dir="ltr">She witnessed firsthand how some looters set Madina on fire during the two days of mayhem in the capital after the president’s removal from power. “From our balcony we saw how people were stealing materials and fabrics, while some containers (used in the market by traders) were burning – it was really scary,” she tells me. </p><p dir="ltr">Valeriya’s father suggested the family go back to Chu, as he was a Kazakh citizen and Kazakhstan offered better social benefits. “I also couldn’t find work after completing my studies at the Kyrgyz National University,” she explains, since the 2005 revolution coincided with her graduation.</p><p dir="ltr">So, Valeriya and her family moved back to Kazakhstan. “In Chu, it is quiet and good. The state gives women allowances for child birth and free baby diapers for 12 months; food products are cheaper and I have a stable job,” she says. Today, Valeriya and her younger brother work at a local market, selling clothes which they import from Kyrgyzstan. Her vision of stability is “confidence in the future, protection of one’s rights, and stable work.”</p><p dir="ltr">As I spoke to Valeriya, her brother intervened to share his experience in Bishkek, where “I was asked to speak in Kyrgyz language only, and this made me uncomfortable. It’s better here in Kazakhstan,” he says. According to official data from the population census, between 1999 and 2009 the number of ethnic Koreans in Kyrgyzstan has shrunk by 12%, losing approximately 2,500 members.</p><p dir="ltr">It remains unclear how many citizens of Kyrgyzstan have left the country following the two revolutions. What is clear is that 2010 was a turning point, especially for the country’s sizable Uzbek community. The theme of the summer 2010 events continues to be extremely sensitive, as confirmed by the difficulty encountered during the research for this article. Half a dozen more people refused to share their experience even anonymously with me. One man, an Uzbek living in Osh, said he would be happy to change his citizenship for another country’s, but preferred not to speak about it because he “didn’t want any trouble.” Another, who moved to Turkey and has been given refugee status there, preferred “not to recall anything” of these painful events. &nbsp;</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/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 even"> <a href="/od-russia/franco-galdini/islam-in-kyrgyzstan-growing-in-diversity">Islam in Kyrgyzstan: growing in diversity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/georgina-rannard/in-osh-flames-have-died-down-but-not-discontent">In Osh, the flames have died down, but not the discontent</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ulugbek-babakulov/farewell-to-kyrgyzstans-island-of-democracy">Farewell to Kyrgyzstan’s “island of democracy”</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 Zukhra Iakupbaeva Kyrgyzstan Thu, 10 May 2018 05:15:17 +0000 Zukhra Iakupbaeva 117768 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "They put a bag on my head, cuffed my hands behind my back and tortured me with a taser": anarchist Svyatoslav Rechkalov on torture at the hands of Russian law enforcement https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svyatoslav-rechkalov/anarchists-don-t-have-leaders-svyatoslav-rechkalov-on-torture-at-hand <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An attack on a United Russia office in Moscow in January has led to Russian anarchists being detained and, in one confirmed case, tortured. Here's what happened to me. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svyatoslov-rechkalov/kak-naiti-lidera-anarhistov">RU&nbsp;</a></strong></em></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/555493/5a83d9cc81b22.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The police van which took away Yelena Gorban, who was later released. Source: Maxim Papkov / OVD-Info.</span></span></span>On 31 January 2018, unknown persons conducted a protest action outside a United Russia office in a Moscow suburb. During the protest, a window was broken and a smoke grenade tossed inside the office. Yelena Gorban and Alexey Kobaidze were <a href="https://therussianreader.com/2018/02/15/dragnet-yelena-gorban-and-alexei-kobaidze/">arrested</a> on 14 February on vandalism charges. On 14 March, Svyatoslav Rechkalov was detained at his home in Moscow. As Rechkalov stated to members of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission, he was tortured in the process.</p><p dir="ltr">As part of our coverage of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">torture campaign against Russian anti-fascists</a>, we publish a statement by Rechkalov below.</p><h2>“Over the past year, the anarchist movement in Russia has become more active”</h2><p>On 14 March, between six and seven in the morning, armed police burst into my apartment. I woke up from the terrible noise — someone was trying to break down my door. A minute later, the door was down, and I was face down on the floor with police officers armed to the teeth.</p><p dir="ltr">Afterwards, agents from Centre E (the Centre for Combating Extremism) entered. They called me “the leader of the anarchists” and accused me of organising an anarchist movement and protests in Moscow and across Russia. The pretext for the search was an anarchist action against United Russia, which happened at the end of January. During the action, a window at the party offices was broken, and a smoke grenade was thrown into the office itself. &nbsp;I wasn’t involved in the action at all. This is reflected in the criminal case, where it says that I am guilty of publishing a video of what happened in an online group called “People’s Self-Defence”, thus “striking a criminal agreement” with participants in the action. In reality, I didn’t publish any videos and I found about the action from the press. But the suspicion was enough for a storm by armed police.</p><p>The Centre E agents tried to convince me either to admit organising an anarchist movement or to “surrender everyone”. After I refused, armed police tied my hands behind my back with cable ties, covered my eyes with black tape and put me in the trunk of a minivan, before driving me round the city for a while. After a few hours, and having being transferred to a police car, I was returned to the minivan. Here, they put a bag on my head, cuffed my hands behind my back and tortured me with a taser.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/5ac22ba370d55_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Svyatoslav Rechkalov. Source: Project 117. </span></span></span>During the torture, I was asked various questions about the anarchist movement. They demanded that I name myself as the leader of the “People’s Self-Defence” anarchist movement, and the organiser of all the anarchists’ actions and campaigns which had happened recently. They also demanded that I name other people who they could use as participants in the “People’s Self-Defence” anarchist community. In the end, under torture, I agreed to incriminate myself by saying that I did organise regional groups of anarchists, but that I did this via the internet and messengers, and that’s why I couldn’t name anybody concretely.</p><p dir="ltr">They then demanded that I give this testimony before an investigator. If I didn’t, I was threatened with continued torture, worse torture, and being included in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network”</a> case, as well as facing unbearable conditions in pre-trial detention.</p><p dir="ltr">At the beginning, when I was still reeling from torture, I gave testimony to the investigator that I had organised the “People’s Self-Defence” movement to fight against apartment raiders and bad employers, and that I was one of the administrators of the community, but that I hadn’t published any video, as I’m only interested in things to do with fighting gangsters and people involved in extortion. However, when the Centre E officers, with the investigator present, began to threaten me with further torture and demanded that I incriminate other people, calling them active members of the movement, I refused to give any further testimony. The investigator did not react correctly to my statement that I had been tortured and required legal counsel.</p><p dir="ltr">After I was released from the temporary detention centre, where I was kept for two days after the interrogation, I had no further contact with the police or FSB, although I remain a suspect in the United Russia office case. I don’t believe that the FSB were at all involved in my torture. I’ve read how the FSB has tortured anarchists in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">Penza</a>, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">Petersburg</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda/chelyabinsk-anarchists-tortured">Chelyabinsk</a>, and as it seemed to me, that was uncomparably worse than what I went through. Although in my case, there were similar conditions to what happened in Petersburg — a minivan, bag on my head, handcuffs and taser — I think that this was done more to scare me and affect my mental state. When anarchists are brutally tortured in a fabricated case, all the free media write about it, and you are then faced with similar circumstances and are tortured under threats of being connected to “The Network” — this affects your mental state. Although it was rather painful, the FSB, I believe, works completely differently, more brutally.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s more likely that Centre E realised that, given that anarchists are facing torture from FSB and fabricated “terrorist” cases, then torture can be used in more normal, less sensitive political cases against anarchists. What’s more, if the FSB tortures anarchists, and everybody knows about this, and nothing happens to the FSB as a result — then this is a signal to other law enforcement agencies who encounter anarchists. Thus, “The Network” case has become a precedent that can be used by any law enforcement agency in the campaign against anarchists — you can blackmail people with threats of involving them “The Network”, copying the FSB’s tactics down to the slightest detail.</p><p dir="ltr">Why did they call me “leader of the anarchists”? It’s best to ask Centre E themselves. I think that there’s a desire here to suppress any resistance to the regime. If the anarchists have been active in recent months, that means we have to identify someone as the “main anarchist”, carry out show repressions. Why me? I can only make assumptions, some hypotheses. I’m not a public figure. Of course, I can make assumptions, but they will remain just that, assumptions.</p><p dir="ltr">Over the past year, the anarchist movement in Russia has become more active, with hundreds of actions in dozens of towns. All this is published on the “People’s Self-Defence” online community. In particular, there was a jump in activity in February and March, when “People’s Self-Defence” campaigned against repressions in the “The Network” case and presidential elections. At one point, it seems, Centre E got reprimanded: “We’ve got elections in a month, and your anarchists are doing activist things across the country.”</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, there were a lot of protests in February — in Chelyabinsk, local anarchists <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda/chelyabinsk-anarchists-tortured">“attacked” the FSB office</a> with a banner and smoke grenade. In the centre of Moscow, an unsanctioned anarchist demonstration was held near the Lubyanka. There were many other protests, an attack on the United Russia office. And this starts to worry the Centre E guys: “We’ve got elections coming up, everything should be quiet, and then there’s all this going on. We need to sort it out.” And so they sorted it out. They have to account for themselves to their bosses that they’ve carried out searches, arrests, the “leader of the anarchists” has been arrested, the whole dangerous network has been neutralised, and the elections are safe. If there’s reports on their successes, then the bosses can see that the agents aren’t just sitting around, and can take that to their higher-ups — see, the appropriate measures have been taken ahead of the elections.</p><p>For me, the logic behind this was like this. As to why they tried to make me the leader, ask them. Perhaps they went for the first person they found. Perhaps my own activism played a role — fighting gangsters, raiders, people who extort money. There’s no complete anonymity here, you have to meet people who’ve suffered, sometimes journalists or the police (who the gangsters call themselves; we never, on principle, call the police). You have to bring a lot of people to these events, and even if you’re not a public figure, a lot of people see you, know you, and all of this could, from the outside, look as if I was in fact some kind of anarchist leader. So it was you who said a load of people should go somewhere and they went? You must be an organiser.</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, before the search, representatives of one movement, which hates anarchism, shared information about me as if I was the “leader of the ‘People’s Self-Defence’”. I don’t know why they did that, perhaps, they made a silly mistake, or perhaps it was a pretext so my information could be entered into the criminal case. The Centre E guys can’t just make up a leader, in fact. They have to have some information they can attach to the case. And here there’s information in the public domain. You just write “according to information from this website, Reckhalov could be a leader of anarchists and organise extremist activities”, you attach it to the case, and then “check” the information.</p><p dir="ltr">This all assumptions, of course. Only Centre E really knows what criteria are necessary to become an “anarchist leader”. But on the whole, throughout this whole situation, the incompetence of Centre E became obvious to me. I think they just went for the first person they found. Or they saw it on the internet.</p><p dir="ltr">I’m also accused of vandalism, but obviously they can’t connect me to the United Russia action at all. More likely is that this charge will be used against me as a “hook” to keep me visible until they dream up a new charge. They made it clear to me that, if they’re lucky, they’ll try and make me an “organiser” who wrote anarchist propaganda texts online, and people — under their influence — carried out some kind of protests.</p><p dir="ltr">Why was I the only one tortured out of the anarchists who were detained? Well, the security services have a special relationship with anarchists, particularly with “The Network” case. And if they did really believe I was an “anarchist leader”, then that could completely explain the torture. If they just went for the first person they found, then it’s more obvious: without torture, no clear-thinking person would admit they were an “anarchist leader”. Besides, I’m not really sure that I’m the only person who was tortured on that day. There was information in the media about a whole range of anarchists being detained on that day. And there wasn’t any more information about them after that — only that the rest of them were released, and I remained. And in my case, the information about torture only came about when I managed to tell people I knew, and they raised some noise in the press. If I hadn’t had done that, perhaps no one would have known about my torture. So I wouldn’t make claims about other people being tortured or not. In any case, I’m the only one who’s made it public, I don’t know what’s happened to other people.</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/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">“You should understand: FSB officers always get their way!”: Anti-fascist Viktor Filinkov reveals how he was tortured by Russian security services </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-rykov/russias-security-services-against-anti-fascists">Russia’s security services have form in fabricating cases against anti-fascists </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda/chelyabinsk-anarchists-tortured">“The main thing at that moment, in that situation, was to come out alive”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network”: how Russian security services are targeting Russian anarchists and anti-fascists </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 Svyatoslav Rechkalov Russian anti-fascists in the crosshairs Thu, 10 May 2018 04:35:26 +0000 Svyatoslav Rechkalov 117574 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bidzina’s back https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/marta-ardashelia/bidzinas-back <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The return of Georgia’s richest man to open participation in this South Caucasus state's political life is designed to smooth over problems in the ruling party. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/marta-ardashelia/vtoroe-prishestvie-ivanishvili" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1024px-Bidzina_Ivanishvili_Senate_of_Poland.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1024px-Bidzina_Ivanishvili_Senate_of_Poland.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bidzina Ivanishvili. Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: The Polish Senate / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>When Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man, first came to power, he promised to leave it as soon as possible. For many years, the billionaire, who made his money in Russia, was involved in charity at home. He paid the wages of Georgia’s intelligentsia. He built roads and churches. He financed the most successful, in his words, police reform in Georgia in recent history. And he did all this without the Georgian public ever knowing what he looked like. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2011, when Ivanishvili declared his decision to put an end to the rule of president Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgian journalists found it hard to find his photograph in their archives. Perhaps this anonymity contributed to a perception of Ivanishvili’s emergence as a sign from above – at least by a part of Georgian society who were tired of the social and economic problems they had faced under Saakashvili. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, Ivanishvili handed his post of prime minister to a successor before returning to a reclusive life in his home village. He concentrated on his interest in ancient trees, which he began buying up all over western Georgia to plant in <a href="http://oc-media.org/ivanishvilis-tree-collecting-hobby/">his arboretum on the Black Sea</a>. Indeed, this is how the transport of giant trees from one part of the country to another became a new genre of Georgian politics. The opposition has, on several occasions, published documents that explained how the logistics behind Ivanishvili’s new hobby has been paid for out of state funds. The authorities, however, continue to refute these accusations. </p><p dir="ltr">Before departing his post, Ivanishvili told the public the only reason he’d return to Georgian politics, comparing this scenario to the “Second Coming”: “This will only happen if Georgia will be gripped by some kind of disaster.” But though Ivanishvili has now become chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, he’s yet to make any official statements. Instead, against the background of a new scandal, it has fallen to the leaders of Georgian Dream, which Ivanishvili originally founded, to explain Ivanishvili’s return. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Inauspicious beginnings</h2><p dir="ltr">It was Georgian Dream member Gedevan Popkhadze who started it. Angry at the election of journalist Niniya Kakabadze to the advisory board of Georgian Public Broadcaster, the MP <a href="https://1tv.ge/en/news/mp-gedevan-popkhadze-quits-parliamentary-majority/">promised to leave the parliamentary majority</a> and ruling party. Popkhadze accused his party colleagues of supporting a person who had insulted Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilya the Second. “To make a decision like this on Passion Week is like spitting on the soul of all Orthodox believers,” Popkhadze said in early April. </p><p dir="ltr">Here, Popkhadze was referring to the fact that in 2016 Niniya Kakabadze made a reference on social media to visiting the Patriarch’s home when she was a child. “A soulless bourgeois,” this is what Kakabadze called Ilya the Second, much to the consternation of part of the Georgian public. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Kazbegi_Posters.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Kazbegi_Posters.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Election posters of the "Georgian Dream" party in the village of Kazbegi, 2012. Photo CC-by-2.0: Maxence / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Popkhadze’s departure has caused further arguments within the ruling party, which has, for the first time, separated into two camps – while one group condemned Popkhadze for his attitude to fellow party members, others expressed their solidarity with him. For example, Irakly Kobakhidze, speaker of the Georgian parliament, said that Popkhadze was manipulating society’s religious feeling – though Kobakhidze also said that this would be the end of the story. This, however, didn’t scare Popkhadze or his allies, who then began talking about trying to change the speaker in parliament. </p><p dir="ltr">This open conflict has divided Georgian Dream into what analysts call two teams – one allied to Kobakhidze, and another allied to the current prime minister Georgy Kvirikashvili. Indeed, Kvirikashvili has been the chairman of Georgian Dream prior to Ivanishvili’s return.</p><h2 dir="ltr">New tendencies</h2><p dir="ltr">Ivanishvili’s return was preceded by Freedom House’s <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2018/georgia">new report on Georgia</a>, which states that the ex-prime minister was significantly influencing political life, despite the fact he didn’t hold any offices in government. </p><p dir="ltr">Unsurprisingly, the Georgian government hasn’t taken Freedom House’s report well. Kvirikashvili, for example, stated that “since 2012, when Georgian Dream came to power, there have been several prime ministers, but a new tendency is clear – a completely new level of democracy.”</p><p dir="ltr">“One of the most active non-governmental sectors, a completely different level of media freedom, an excellent situation with human rights,” this is how Kvirikashvili reported on Georgia’s progress since 2012, calling Freedom House’s assessments non-objective and recommending FH researchers to “have a serious think”. </p><p dir="ltr">The fact that intensifying international criticism and accusations of pulling strings from behind the scenes had brought Ivanishvili into the open was noted by Georgian analysts. But there’s no clear answer why Ivanishvili has returned now, a few months before the presidential elections. After all, the opposition has made these kind of criticisms since Ivanishvili resigned as prime minister. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Constitutional change</h2><p dir="ltr">This autumn, Georgia will elect a president for the final time – constitutional amendments mean that, in the future, presidents will be appointed. Ivanishvili himself supported the current president Georgy Margvelashvili, but Margvelashvili, it seems, didn’t deserve this trust, instantly distancing himself from Ivanishvili. </p><p dir="ltr">After his political collapse in Ukraine, Mikheil Saakashvili, Ivanishvili’s principle opponent, has begun more actively participating in Georgian political life. Though Saakashvili was beaten by the billionaire, Georgia’s ex-president (who is wanted on criminal charges in his home country) continues to criticise the government on air at the opposition TV channel Rustavi-2. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">In the past six years, few leaders have emerged in the country – the battle for power is still being waged by the same old faces</p><p dir="ltr">And although the majority of people have had enough of Saakashvili’s style of rule after nine years of it, it’s obvious that Ivanishvili is annoyed by his criticism. After all, it was the conflict with Saakashvili in 2012 that forced Ivanishvili to leave his comfort zone and become involved in public life (which, according to his admission, he hates).</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps Ivanishvili couldn’t find a leader in his movement capable of resisting Saakashvili. In the past six years, few leaders have emerged in the country – the battle for power is still being waged by the same old faces. </p><p dir="ltr">But how relevant is Georgia’s ex-president for the average voter? Given the socio-economic problems most people face on a daily basis, the priority is no longer demolishing power structures, unlike 2012. Back then, many people associated the name Ivanishvili with prosperity. Instead, perhaps the time has come when Georgians will have to vote for concrete things that they want to see from their government, rather than a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/archil-sikharulidze/big-trouble-in-little-georgia">“messiah” or “charismatic leader”</a> as usual. </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/stephen-f-jones/fate-of-georgian-dreams">The fate of Georgian dreams</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/hans-gutbrod/making-do-with-crew">Making do with the crew</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/neither-here-nor-there-georgian-refugees-from-abkhazia">Neither here, nor there: Georgian refugees from Abkhazia </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/irakli-zhvania/tbilisi-panorama-project-urban-boosterism-at-its-worst">Tbilisi’s Panorama project is urban boosterism at its worst</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 Marta Ardashelia Georgia Tue, 08 May 2018 19:50:04 +0000 Marta Ardashelia 117727 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fire and oil in western Kazakhstan's “spiritual renovation” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maurizio-totaro/fire-and-oil-in-western-kazakhstan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Post-independence Kazakhstan has seen a revival in Kazakh genealogies, sub-ethnic lineages and identities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.21.20.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.21.20.png" 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'>The Adai Ata mausoleum. March 2017. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>As the sun sets on Mangystau, in Western Kazakhstan, hundreds of people ascend to the top of Otpan Tau, the region's highest spot. Above them, the golden-domed mausoleum of Adai Ata, the semi-mythical ancestor of the local clan, the Adai. The electric lights of a museum and temporary yurt encampment stand against the darkness below. People enter inside the mausoleum’s tallest tower and perform a blessing to the spirit of the ancestor, who rests in a large sarcophagus decorated with ornaments and the Adai’s arrow-shaped emblem. Then, they gather around a large metal torch by a totemic statue of a wolf. Once the organisers and the distinguished guests arrive, the torch is lit amid solemn calls for Kazakh unity. The moment is evocative, both austere and joyful. For the last ten years it has been part of Amal Kuni, a lesser known spring New Year celebrated in the western part of Kazakhstan.</p><p dir="ltr">Post-independence Kazakhstan has seen a revival in Kazakh genealogies, sub-ethnic lineages and identities, whose knowledge has become increasingly relevant for personal identification, social belonging, and nation-building, touching even the region’s oil industry. Tens of hagiographic volumes have been recently published to commemorate the pioneers of Mangystau’s oil industry, portraying them as role models for the younger generations and establishing a genealogical tradition for the sector. The publisher, Munaishy Fund, was founded by Nasibkali Marabayev, a veteran oilman who strongly advocated for the construction of the Otpan Tau complex. Since the 2000s, the celebration of industry and clan genealogies have become intertwined.</p><p dir="ltr">The Adai are the largest ru, or clan, within the “younger” of the three tribal confederations (zhuz) that make up the Kazakh nation. According to Sabyr Adai, a renowned aqyn (“poet-improviser”) and the man considered the initiator of the festival, the Adai have a special place and mission within the Kazakh nation. </p><p dir="ltr">“Adai Ata was the youngest heir of the three hordes. That’s why his descendants are considered to be the owners of karashanyrak, the paternal home, where the duties of the whole nation, its treasured culture, traditions, dreams and wishes are protected and preserved from generation to generation since time immemorial. The youngest son who inherits the karashanyrak is responsible for the continuation and the transmission of the whole spiritual heritage,” Adai told the author.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.56.29.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.56.29.png" 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 karashanyrak is the central tent-shaped building. March 2017. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The celebration of Amal Kuni is one of these traditions, despite having returned to public life only recently. In contrast to the Persian New Year of Nowruz, widely celebrated in Central Asia, it occurs a week before the spring equinox and is construed as a distinctively ethno-national festivity. Its origins date back to the times of nomadic pastoralism, when clans would meet and greet each other after winter, before leaving for the summer pastures. Amal Kuni honours the renovation of life and the beginning of a new cycle. This year the celebrations resonated with the “spiritual renovation” programme launched in 2017 by President Nursultan Nazarbayev as part of the wider <a href="http://kazakhstan2050.com/kazakhstan-third-stage-modernization/">Modernization 3.0</a> policy. Echoing the previous <a href="http://www.akorda.kz/en/official_documents/strategies_and_programs">Kazakhstan 2030</a> and <a href="https://strategy2050.kz/en/">Kazakhstan 2050</a> strategies of political and economic development, the current campaign makes explicit reference to the modernisation of national identity through the <a href="http://www.akorda.kz/en/events/akorda_news/press_conferences/course-towards-the-future-modernization-of-kazakhstans-identity">selective preservation</a> of “those aspects which give us confidence in the future,” while dropping those “that hold us back.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Bringing the periphery at the centre of renovation</h2><p dir="ltr">The name Adai has a connotation of fierce, war-like attitude, given the clan’s centuries-long resistance to colonial encounters with the Tsarist Empire first, and then Soviet collectivisation and sedentarisation campaigns in the 1930s, when the local population was decimated by famine and out migration. The Adai’s reputation has endured through the 1989 <a href="https://rus.azattyq.org/a/Kazakhstan_zhanaozen_/1770593.html">nationalist unrest</a>, which resulted in the mass deportation of North Caucasian nationals from the region, and the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16221566">tragic shootings</a> of striking oil workers by security services in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elena-kostyuchenko/what-i-didnt-write-about-zhanaozen">Zhanaozen</a> in 2011. </p><p dir="ltr">Amal Kuni and the setting of its celebration aim to dispel the Adai’s negative depiction through performances and narratives. Fierceness is turned into a positive expression of pride, while enmity is transformed into an effort to promote ethno-national unity in the face of perceived threats of cultural annihilation and social disintegration. As one of the region’s elders put it on the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the complex last year: “I would come to Otpan Tau in the old days too, but it was impossible to go up to the top. Only God knows how we managed to go up. That was the time of the slavery to communism. And now we are facing the catastrophe called globalism. Sabyr (Adai) and Svetkali (Nurzhanov, another renowned aqyn) are among the ones who are fighting against it.” </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.57.30.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.57.30.png" 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'>People in front of the karashanyrak. March 2018. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Similar to previous state-led modernisation projects, “spiritual renovation” leaves room for local interpretations and implementation. In Otpan Tau, the rejection of these “alien and endangering” cultural and political models is coupled with the active construction of a neo-traditional identity. In this context, Adai Ata performs the role of spiritual guide and embodies the shared belonging to the community. Worshipping and paying tribute to the spirit of the ancestor provides the Adai – self-defined as the principal guardians of traditional values – with the confidence to stand up to the uncertainties of what Nazarbayev <a href="http://www.akorda.kz/en/events/akorda_news/press_conferences/course-towards-the-future-modernization-of-kazakhstans-identity">has called</a> “the beginning of a new, largely unclear, historical cycle.”</p><p dir="ltr">The local intelligentsia constantly spells out the fear that external contamination would cause the ethnic extermination of the Kazakhs, constructing the Adai as core models for the political, cultural, and moral body of the nation. “Whilst Kazakhs in the north are mixed with Russians and in the south with Uzbeks, Adai always kept their blood pure,” a participant at Amal Kuni declared, stressing the importance of ethnic purity and the practices that guard and reproduce it.</p><p dir="ltr">At a round table during the celebrations, local historian Otynshy Koshbaiuly reassessed a largely imaginary geographical isolation as evidence of cultural purity (which ironically mirrors Tsarist-era orientalist depictions of Mangystau as a remote, untouched land). The intelligentsia gathered in the museum’s conference room agreed: Otpan Tau is the place from which the country’s cultural and spiritual renovation is spreading, “enlightening” the Kazakhs in re-discovering their authentic national self. At the round table, mainly composed of elder men, representatives of other regions’ cultural centres regarded Mangystau and the Otpan Tau complex as having healing properties. One participants quipped that, if going to the country's culturally polluted north “makes one's heart ache,” coming here “lifts the spirit.” In today’s world, then, the defence and propagation of Kazakhness are framed as urgent needs, responding to the threat globalisation poses to “fragile” traditional social relations, gender norms and political allegiances. </p><p dir="ltr">As Sabyr Adai, the initiator of the festival, wrote in a local newspaper in 2004, “the unity of Kazakhs cannot artificially disregard the role of the ru and the zhuz (tribal confederation), (but) it starts with understanding one’s place and preserving the established order. The political virus and ʻinter-genocidalʼ slogan ʻLove everyone by forgetting your own father – this is a sign of patriotism!ʼ has entered the national consciousness, pushing young people towards democratic rootlessness. Under the conditions of globalisation, we need to renovate our saints, historical figures, traditions and customs, ethno-cultural heritage and folklore.” In the same column, Adai called for the erection of the mausoleum and the establishment of the cultural-historical complex at Otpan Tau.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.58.31.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.58.31.png" 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'>Participants descend after the lighting of the fire. March 2018. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This discourse of patriotism and external threat is embodied by the ritual fire (ot) and its annual lightning. As the philologist Islam Zhemenei put it, the fire “enlightens” the viewer about one’s own history and traditions. But it also alerts and communicates the presence of an enemy. Its present significance is given historical roots by tracing the practice back to pre-Soviet times, when, according to folklore, the approaching of Turkmen knights would be detected and signalled from the peak of Otpan Tau.</p><p dir="ltr">After the fire has been lit on the top of Otpan Tau, people start descending the steps to the museum below, passing through two rows of young men, dressed as Turkic warriors and holding plastic torches. One of the organisers whispered in their ears: “Make them feel as if they were the akim,” (head of the local administration). So they straighten up and fix their gazes as in the performance of a military exercise, recognising the solemn atmosphere of the moment. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Renovating the corporate spirit</h2><p dir="ltr">In front of the karashanyrak, people move from one yurt to another to share food and tea, and greet each other for the New Year. Actors perform on stage the coming of spring on a white horse. Just steps away, men watch other men competing in weightlifting, arm and horseback wrestling. Women wear colourful traditional dresses and state officials show off their suits, while numerous participants are in their working uniforms, representing a constellation of companies of the local oil industry. During competitions, contenders are called by their names and company affiliation, while company buses crowd the parking lot. </p><p dir="ltr">Although Amal Kuni and the cultural centre have been supported by local and national authorities, private individuals and local oil companies have contributed significant resources. Indeed, some people complain that, since Amal Kuni is not sanctioned as a national holiday, they cannot attend the public celebrations, reducing it to a holiday for oilmen off from rotation and their families. </p><p dir="ltr">Mangystau is Kazakhstan’s second-largest oil producing region and a historical base for the national oil company Kazmunaigas. In contrast to the more recently developed oil and gas fields of Tengiz, Kashagan, and Karachaganak, which are owned and operated by transnational consortiums in segregated extraction enclaves, the older oilfields in Mangystau are much more embedded within the surrounding social environment. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.59.37.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 22.59.37.png" 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'>Oil workers in their uniforms wait before a tournament of horse-back wrestling. March 2017. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The oil companies in Mangystau, such as OzenMunaiGaz (OMG) and MangystauMunaiGaz (MMG), have taken a role in establishing local and national traditions and figures. For instance, in 2009 MMG financed the construction of a mausoleum dedicated to the legendary heroine <a href="http://www.mmg.kz/page.php?page_id=11&amp;lang=1&amp;news_id=9">Kalamkas</a> within the premises of an oilfield named after her. OMG is currently engaged in researching the life of Orazgambet Turmagambetov, a little known local figure executed during the 1930s repression and now presented as the very first Kazakh geologist. Companies also run beauty contests in national costumes for women, sport competitions for men, and tour expeditions around the region to explore one’s own national identity, camping in the enchanting landscape of the region. OMG has also financed the Otpan Tau complex, offered gifts for its staff and prizes for the winners of sport competitions, and supplied the complex with fresh water.</p><p dir="ltr">Companies rarely consider such initiatives as part of their corporate social responsibility, but frame their involvement as their national duty, even though their language often echoes globalised corporate practices. All these activities, an insider told the author, forge the company's “corporate spirit”, which is paramount in curbing possible worker strikes through the affective power of patriotism and national culture. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 23.00.24.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 23.00.24.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The gasoline-soaked rod lights the torch. March 2017. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Sitting in a yurt in Otpan Tau, an enthusiastic participant said that “by participating in events such as Amal Kuni, workers are ‘renovating’ their attitudes towards management, leaving behind the direct confrontations which have characterised the recent past,” expressing how the intelligentsia’s nationalist and corporatist discourse resonates with the oil companies’ industrial relations strategy. </p><p dir="ltr">Last year, chilly winds were blowing during the ceremony of fire. Although a large group of attendees encircled and protected the organiser from the violent gusts, he remained helpless. After a few unsuccessful attempts to ignite the flame, someone dunked a rod into the fuel tank of a nearby car. The gasoline-soaked rod approached the ritual torch: the flame was finally lit. </p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article benefited from significant research assistance by Laura Berdikhojayeva.</em></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/mia-tarp-hansen/black-blood">Black blood: a history of Kazakhstan’s oil sector</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/gabriel-levy/kazakhstan-state-threat-to-shut-down-independent-trade-unions">Kazakhstan: state threat to shut down independent trade unions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/luca-anceschi/end-of-nazarbayev-dream">The end of the Nazarbayev dream </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/elena-kostyuchenko/what-i-didnt-write-about-zhanaozen">What I didn’t write about Zhanaozen</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 Maurizio Totaro Kazakhstan Tue, 08 May 2018 10:41:29 +0000 Maurizio Totaro 117712 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Saint Nick of Armenia: how protest leader Nikol Pashinyan “rescued” Armenia and made it merry https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/emil-sanamyan/saint-nick-of-armenia-how-nikol-pashinyan-rescued-armenia-and-made-it-merry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Armenia's intensive street mobilisation over the past month has taken many by surprise. Who is the man at the centre of these protests?&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/555493/1024px-Nikol_Pashinyan_13_Apr_2018.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'>14 April: Nikol Pashinyan on Freedom Square, Yerevan. CC BY-SA 4.0 Yerevantsi / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Four months ago, Armenian parliamentary deputy Nikol Pashinyan, his spouse Anna Hakobyan and their daughter Arpi were on a New Year’s Eve programme on Armenia’s state-controlled <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlyTZ13Vvoo">Public TV</a>. They were making idle talk about holiday routines when the anchor wondered if Pashinyan had asked Santa for anything political.</p><p dir="ltr">“I think in politics, people are the Santa Claus,” Pashinyan said. “And I want our people to realise that the notion that they cannot change anything is wrong, that in fact they decide their destiny.” </p><p dir="ltr">These words proved to be nothing short of prophecy. In just 10 days in April, acts of civil disobedience by a determined few snowballed into <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/karena-avedissian/real-revolution-protest-leader-armen-grigoryan-on-what-s-happening-in-ar">massive, unprecedented nationwide protests</a> that forced Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s leader since 2008, to resign. And thanks to the protests, Pashinyan is now positioned to succeed Sargsyan. </p><p dir="ltr">More than anything, these events have become an exercise of power that Armenian citizens have never previously enjoyed. Since Armenia’s independence in 1991, incumbents have always won (or stolen) elections. Those who protested never reached the critical mass necessary to overcome the combination of state harassment and society’s widespread cynicism. </p><p dir="ltr">The chain of events in Armenia in the last few weeks has been so rapid, so seemingly profound, many Armenians might well come to believe that it involved some form of divine intervention, with 42-year-old Pashinyan representing the otherworldly in earthly form. The salt-and-pepper beard Pashinyan wears was grown specially for the protests, just like shopping mall Santas grow them for Christmas. With celebrations wrapping up, Pashinyan now faces huge public expectations. Can his now signature backpack fit enough gifts for everyone?</p><h2>“Take a step, reject Serzh!”</h2><p dir="ltr">As he neared the end of his second term as Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan decided to slide himself into the seat of prime minister, which became the country’s top political job after a new constitution took effect in April. Armenia’s foreign partners, including those in the European Union, as well as many domestic opponents, seemed resigned to the fact that Sargsyan was establishing indefinite rule.</p><p dir="ltr">Many, but not all. “Our long-term goal is the change of government,” activist <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmARN-qtWsk">David Sanasaryan</a> said in late March 2018, before the launch of “Reject Serzh” campaign. Though Sanasaryan conceded that the chances of thwarting Sargsyan’s election were not great, “it would be worse if we all stay home and do nothing.” Sanasaryan and a few others began staging street protests, painting anti-Sargsyan graffiti around Yerevan.</p><p dir="ltr">“We need to prevent Armenia’s Azerbaijanisation,” Nikol Pashinyan told news outlets, referring to the fact that Azerbaijani ruler Ilham Aliyev was about to win a fourth term as president, following his late father’s decades in power. To draw attention to their anti-Sargsyan protest, Pashinyan and several dozen colleagues from his Civil Contract party began walking from the northern city of Gyumri to Yerevan in what became known as the “Take a step” campaign. </p><p><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MrQOZ6h429k" height="259" width="460"></iframe><em>Promotional video for the Take a Step campaign. Source: Youtube. </em></p><p dir="ltr">The group covered the roughly 200km in two weeks, walking for several hours a day and blogging about it, to little public reaction. Discussing the hike’s practical aspects, Pashinyan said that he prepared for it by losing 20 kilos over six months through daily exercise. Even Pashinyan’s supporters made light of the campaign, calling it “Nikol-fitness”.</p><p dir="ltr">“Our hope was to spoil Serzh’s celebration,” opposition MP Ararat Mirzoyan told RFE/RL, acknowledging that expectations were modest. There was an established tradition of activists doing just that, forcing past presidential inaugurations in Armenia to take place behind police cordons rather than in public.</p><h2>From opposition journalist to opposition activist </h2><p dir="ltr">Nikol Pashinyan has been a fixture in Armenian opposition circles for two decades. After being dismissed from the journalism faculty of the Yerevan State University in 1995 over his criticism of university corruption, Pashinyan went into opposition journalism full-time. </p><p dir="ltr">Day in and day out, Pashinyan’s paper <em>Haykakan Zhamanak </em>(Armenian Time) launched verbal attacks against president Robert Kocharyan, individual government members and whatever policies the government was pursuing at the time and — <a href="https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/04YEREVAN2537_a.html">according to the US embassy</a> — had “a reputation for publishing unfounded stories that tended not to be borne out.” Haykakan Zhamanak, which Pashinyan edited from 1999 to 2012, was established by one of Armenia’s many dwarf opposition groups, the Democratic Homeland Party, which split off from the Armenian National Movement while it was still in power.</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 2018-05-05 at 10.23.11.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 2018: Nikol Pashinyan gives an interview to ParaTV. Source: Youtube / ParaTV.</span></span></span>Still, the hard-hitting polemics helped <em>Haykakan Zhamanak</em> become a best-selling daily in Armenia and increasingly a target of government libel suits and outright attacks. In 2004, Pashinyan’s car was <a href="https://www.azatutyun.am/a/1574850.html">torched</a>, as he suspected by the men of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/emil-sanamyan/running-for-tsar-armenia-s-gagik-tsarukyan">Gagik Tsarukyan</a>, a businessman close to Kocharyan. In his first, unsuccessful bid for parliament in 2007, Pashinyan and supporters were attacked and beaten by police.</p><p dir="ltr">Seeking to challenge the status quo, Pashinyan became a vocal proponent of ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s return to politics. That materialised in the 2008 presidential elections, in which Serzh Sargsyan ran as a successor to Kocharyan. Per official results Sargsyan won, but Ter-Petrosyan claimed victory himself and launched a protest campaign. Soon, the government began to crack as officials — many of them holdovers from Ter-Petrosyan’s administration — began to defect. In response, Kocharyan ordered police to disperse protesters and introduced a state of emergency. During street clashes, ten people were killed (eight civilians and two security personnel) in what became known as “March 1 events,” the bloodiest day in Armenia’s politics since independence.</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 2018-05-05 at 10.26.43.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The fifth day of of Armenian presidential election protests in March 2008. CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Pashinyan fled from the police in the aftermath, hiding with friends of friends for over a year. Most of that time he lived in a house on Yerevan’s outskirts, across an alley from the house of a government minister. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM3laMuWqiY&amp;feature=youtu.be">As Pashinyan later said</a>, he was hoping large-scale protests would resume and he would come out of hiding and join them. That never happened, and Pashinyan decided to turn himself in. He was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of provoking mass riots. In 2011, Pashinyan was released on amnesty after a year and ten months in prison.</p><h2>Election to parliament and claims of “selling out”</h2><p dir="ltr">In 2012, Nikol Pashinyan was elected to parliament on the list of Ter-Petrosyan-led Armenian National Congress (ANK). But he soon fell out with Ter-Petrosyan. During the 2013 presidential election, Pashinyan — unlike most others in ANK — backed <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/03/04/armenias-california-dream/">Raffi Hovannisian’s campaign</a>. The US-born Hovannisian managed to win almost twice as many votes as Ter-Petrosyan did five years earlier, while introducing several novelties into Armenian politics such as personal campaigning and conciliatory rhetoric towards government officials — tactics that Pashinyan later embraced himself. But in the incestuous world of Armenian politics, Pashinyan was quickly branded a traitor by his former allies. </p><p dir="ltr">“Nikol was attacked viciously after he separated [from ANK],” Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan, a veteran observer of Armenian politics, tells me. “They called Nikol - Kocharyan’s creation or Serzh’s creation; that he was Putin’s creation, a Western creation.” These attitudes were so strong that when parliamentary elections came in 2017, Ter-Gabrielyan voted for Pashinyan, but would not admit this fact to his friends in the opposition. For Pashinyan’s detractors, the fact that the Pashinyan-led bloc named Yelk (Armenian for “Way Out”) was the only opposition group to win seats in Armenia’s parliament and the first opposition group to recognise the official election results only confirmed that he had “sold out”. </p><p><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cQanB0lR81A" height="259" width="460"></iframe><em>Armenian president and Serzh Sargsyan and Nikol Pashinyan meet for the first time during the protests. Source: Radio Azaztutyun.</em></p><p dir="ltr">While in Parliament, Pashinyan remained a vociferous public critic of government policies, frequently grilling testifying officials without mercy. At the same time, he worked to solidify his patriotic credentials, which have long the Achilles’ heel of other opposition figures. During the April 2016 war with Azerbaijan, for example, Pashinyan together with members of his Civil Contract party joined thousands of other volunteers from Armenia to serve as auxiliaries reinforcing the Armenian frontline in Karabakh. Several months later, Pashinyan joined a parliamentary delegation that reviewed works to upgrade these defenses, producing a detailed report published in Haykakan Zhamanak. </p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, Pashinyan’s views on the Karabakh conflict have grown increasingly distinct from those of the concessions-minded Levon Ter-Petrosyan. In July 2016, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=245&amp;v=OErZDlD6wFw">Pashinyan was asked</a> about the formerly Azerbaijani-populated areas around Nagorno Karabakh under Armenian control since 1993. His answer was categorical: “territory we now control is necessary for our survival as a state”. For Pashinyan, there could be no talk of territorial concessions while the conflict continued.</p><p dir="ltr">“Pashinyan is one of the most principled people I know,” says Tevan Poghosyan, Pashinyan’s former parliamentary colleague, who helped broker his initial talks with president Armen Sarkissian as protests were underway. “I am certain he will stick to everything he says.”</p><h2>Christmas in April</h2><p dir="ltr">The unorthodox approach of Pashinyan’s party was on display again when Armenian MPs Ararat Mirzoyan and Lena Nazaryan <a href="https://twitter.com/emil_sanamyan/status/984061413101592576">announced the start of protests</a> against Sargsyan’s election by lighting green- and yellow-coloured flares in parliament on 11 April. Representatives of the parliamentary majority were only mildly annoyed, while fellow opposition MPs from Pashinyan-led bloc complained that they were not consulted.</p><p dir="ltr">Returning to Yerevan by foot from Gyumri on 13 April, Pashinyan went straight to his almost alma mater, Yerevan State University, encouraging students to join actions of peaceful civil disobedience. Students turned out in numbers and with an enthusiasm rarely seen in Armenia. It helped that Pashinyan was Armenia’s youngest opposition leader since the 1980s. He also appealed to nationalist sentiments: “We will not let Serzh turn Armenia into Azerbaijan,” Pashinyan repeated through a megaphone as he led marchers through Yerevan’s streets. &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/Nikol-Pashinyan.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'>14 April: Nikol Pashinyan at Public Radio of Armenia. Source: <a href=http://www.armradio.am/en/2018/04/14/nikol-pashinyan-and-supporters-enter-the-public-radio-building-demand-air-time/>Public Radio of Armenia</a>.</span></span></span>On 14 April, Pashinyan-led protesters <a href="http://www.armradio.am/en/2018/04/14/nikol-pashinyan-and-supporters-enter-the-public-radio-building-demand-air-time/">broke into the building of Public Radio of Armenia</a> and demanded an opportunity to speak live on air — an unusual request considering their protests were already being broadcast live by half a dozen media outlets. A Jesus and the money-changers moment, the radio break-in helped spread the word of the protests and channel the protesters’ determination even as they insisted they were acting peacefully, raising their hands in the air and professing brotherhood with the Yerevan police.</p><p dir="ltr">Subsequent blockades of major Yerevan thoroughfares and an attempt to breach the police cordon around parliament (when Pashinyan injured his hands) brought even more public attention and first foreign media coverage. As the protest expanded, Pashinyan moved it to the Republic Square — a huge space in central Yerevan that can accommodating more than 100,000 people, but rarely rarely used by previous, smaller protest movements.</p><p dir="ltr">It was at this point that the protests’ message began to get traction with Armenian celebrities. In the early days of the protest, Pashinyan read out Facebook messages from rock musician Serj Tankian and pop star Sirusho (who, incidentally, is the daughter-in-law of ex-president Robert Kocharyan). Armenian embassies were picketed abroad, and there was even a small but symbolically significant <a href="https://twitter.com/emil_sanamyan/status/986615895651954688">picket in Nagorno Karabakh</a>, where political protests are rarely permitted. &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 2018-04-25 at 15.21.31_0_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>25 April: Republic Square, Yerevan. Source: Mikayel Zolyan.</span></span></span>When Pashinyan announced his demands on 20 April that Sargsyan resign from the premiership to which he was just elected, that a “people’s candidate” be elected instead and that interim government is formed which would prepare new elections, few expected that any of that was about to happen. On 22 April, Pashinyan, Mirzoyan, Sanasaryan and hundreds of others were detained, but the numbers of protesters only grew. The next day Pashinyan and others were released and Sargsyan resigned, admitting personal defeat while granting an unprecedented victory to his nation.</p><h2>Great expectations</h2><p dir="ltr">Sargsyan’s resignation ushered in celebrations Armenians have scarcely ever seen — particularly on the eve of 24 April, which marks anniversary of the Armenian genocide. After a pause for the memorial, Pashinyan continued his push, rejecting any deals with Sargsyan’s Republican Party and demanding that he be elected as prime minister “on behalf of the people,” launching nationwide strikes and blockades. As of writing, the parliamentary majority agreed to this demand as well, with a vote slated for 8 May expected to mark an happy end to what has so far been a fairy tale. </p><p dir="ltr">This process has seen Pashinyan transform from a lonely Don Quixote figure into a warrior-like Santa who managed to “rescue” Armenia from a corrupt regime. The level of Pashinyan’s popularity at this point is probably without precedent in Armenian history. The only one who comes close is Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who was elected president in 1991 with 83% of the vote. That vote was followed by the war in Karabakh and economic crisis throughout the post-Soviet republics. By 1994, Ter-Petrosyan’s popularity had deteriorated, and he banned the country’s main opposition party and shut down its media. Ter-Petrosyan’s loyalists then falsified a constitutional referendum, as well as the parliamentary and presidential elections, laying the groundwork for the cynical politics of the next two decades.</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-36280309.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'>1 May: Nikol Pashinyan speaks in parliament. (c) Gevorg Ghazaryan/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>It remains to be seen to what extent Pashinyan will be able to avoid repeating past mistakes or making new ones. For now, he has justified his first name — which translates from the Greek as the “people’s victor”. His last name is believed to be derived from Turkish “pasha” or “general”.</p><p dir="ltr">“Pashinyan has reassured Russia, as well as Armenia’s Western partners, about continuity in Armenia’s foreign policy,” says Arsen Kharatyan, who helped found the Pashinyan-led Civil Contract party and organise this spring’s protests. Indeed, most of Pashinyan’s focus has been on domestic affairs: ensuring fair elections and fair economic competition, eliminating government corruption. </p><p dir="ltr">“There will also be renewed focus on bolstering ties with both Georgia and Iran,” says Kharatyan. “We also want to see positive steps from the Turkish government that could promote a better climate for talks with Azerbaijan.”</p><p dir="ltr">In a victory speech on 2 May in the the Republic Square, Pashinyan promised to “finally make the Nagorno Karabakh Republic an inseparable part of the Republic of Armenia.” Unification was the original goal of the Karabakh movement when it began in 1988, but the official position has since shifted to Karabakh being a separate political entity. </p><p dir="ltr">Azerbaijan, of course, continues to insist that Karabakh is its territory and that Armenians should give it up. But Pashinyan’s rise in Armenia introduces added unpredictability for Azerbaijani leadership, which will try to find ways to continue to pressure Armenia, and not least to discipline domestic critics who <a href="https://eurasianet.org/s/azerbaijan-watches-armenian-rebellion-with-jealousy-and-hope">may find inspiration</a> from the events there. </p><p dir="ltr">A similar set of concerns is likely to be considered in the Kremlin: do events in Armenia undermine Russian regional influence or, more profoundly, can they serve as precedent for Russia? And if so, what can be done about that? </p><p dir="ltr">Having succeeded in his domestic rescue mission, Pashinyan and his supporters will now face external challenges that are no less daunting. </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/emil-sanamyan/running-for-tsar-armenia-s-gagik-tsarukyan">Running for Tsar: Armenia’s Gagik Tsarukyan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ashot-gazazyan/on-border">On the edge: how rural Armenia is responding to the country&#039;s &quot;Velvet Revolution&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/armine-ishkanian/revolution-of-values-freedom-responsibility-and-courage-in-armenias-velve">A revolution of values: freedom, responsibility and courage in Armenia&#039;s Velvet Revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikayel-zolyan/armenia-s-permanent-revolution-why-do-protests-continue-in-yerevan">Armenia’s “permanent revolution”: why do the protests continue in Yerevan?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/thomas-rowley-david-petrosyan/it-s-too-early-to-talk-about-fall-of-regime-armenian-politic">“It’s too early to talk about the &#039;fall of the regime&#039;”: political scientist David Petrosyan on the sources of Armenia&#039;s protests</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/karena-avedissian/real-revolution-protest-leader-armen-grigoryan-on-what-s-happening-in-ar">A real revolution? Protest leader Armen Grigoryan on what’s happening in Armenia</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 Emil Sanamyan Armenia Sat, 05 May 2018 09:12:09 +0000 Emil Sanamyan 117706 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Down with the tsar”: Russian authorities ban Navalny supporter protest ahead of Putin's inauguration https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/down-with-tsar-russian-authorities-ban-navalny-supporter-protest-ahead-of-putins- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Organisers across the country have been detained ahead of Vladimir Putin's fourth inauguration as president.&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/Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 19.09.09.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maxim Shulgin. Source: Youtube. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In Tom</strong><strong>sk region, two participants in the Left Bloc are under investigation</strong>. One of the two was put in a car on top of a hot heater by police officers, as a result of which the activist received <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/29/v-tomske-sotrudniki-centra-e-izbili-zaderzhannogo-uchastnika-levogo-bloka?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">burns</a> to his hand. “I was lying between the back and front seats, they put their feet on top of me. They switched on the heater on purpose so that I had difficulty breathing, and if I hadn’t put my hand on the heater, my side would have been severely burnt,” Maxim Shulgin said. Shulgin had been detained for posting a song on VKontakte which, according to the investigation, incites hatred towards police officers. A second activist has also been <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/30/v-tomske-vozbudili-ugolovnoe-delo-protiv-eshche-odnogo-uchastnika-levogo?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">charged with inciting hatred</a> via online publications, but we have not yet succeeded in getting in touch with him since he lives in the closed city of Seversk.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In Kemerovo, the authorities are seeking to <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/30/na-storonnicu-navalnogo-iz-kemerovo-sobirayutsya-zavodit-ugolovnoe-delo?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">prosecute</a> the coordinator of Navalny’s election campaign</strong>. Кseniya Pakhomova says they want to charge her with interfering with the work of the electoral commission or the exercise by citizens of their election rights. Details of the charges are not yet known.</p><p dir="ltr">This year, May Day demonstrations did not pass without arrests:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- 25 people from a marching column of activists for the mentally ill were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/v-moskve-na-pervomayskoy-demonstracii-zaderzhali-uchastnikov-kolonny?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> in Moscow. All were released without charge after statements were taken from them. The <a href="https://takiedela.ru/news/2018/01/18/chto_takoe_psychoactivism/">activists</a> study the borders of mental illness and campaign for the destigmatisation of people with special psychological characteristics. </p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- 16 nationalists were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/zaderzhannyh-na-konferencii-pravyh-sil-otpuskayut-iz-otdela-policii?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> in Moscow. According to the police, the nationalists took part in an illegal march along Gogol Boulevard.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- 10 people from a marching column of city conservationists were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/na-pervomayskom-shestvii-v-peterburge-zaderzhali-uchastnikov?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> in St Petersburg. The police officers were displeased that the demonstrators carried flags of EU members states. Those arrested were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/zaderzhannyh-v-peterburge-za-flagi-inostrannyh-gosudarstv-ostavlyayut-v?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">detained overnight</a> by the police.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Four people in St Petersburg were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/dvuh-uchastnikov-pervomaya-v-peterburge-zaderzhali-za-portret-putina-i?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">detained</a> for carrying rainbow flags and a portrait of president Putin. Each person detained was charged.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Four Right Bloc activists were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/v-tveri-zaderzhali-uchastnikov-pravogo-bloka?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">detained</a> on their way to a demonstration in Tver. </p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Two activists of the New Communist Movement were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/v-otdele-ostayutsya-na-noch-chleny-kommunisticheskogo-dvizheniya?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> in Moscow for attempting to hold up the stuffed figure of a “bourgeois” at a demonstration. The activists spent the night in a police station and have been charged with failing to obey the lawful demands of a police officer. </p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Two organisers of the so-called Left March were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/organizatorov-levogo-marsha-zaderzhali-za-prevyshenie-chislennosti?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> in Moscow for exceeding the number of permitted participants in the march. They were released without charge. </p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- One young woman was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/na-moskovskoy-monstracii-zaderzhali-dvuh-chelovek?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> at the Moscow “Monstration” for holding a rainbow umbrella and a placard with the words “My contraception.” She has been charged with breach of the rules of public assembly.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- One teenager was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/v-peterburge-zaderzhali-uchastnika-mitinga-za-svobodnyy-internet?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> by police at a rally “For A Free Internet” in St. Petersburg. &nbsp;</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- One resident of Volgograd was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/01/zhitelya-volgograda-zaderzhivali-za-plakat-s-portretom-putina?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> for a placard with a portrait of Putin and the words: “We’re fed up!”</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr"><strong>In 42, cities the authorities <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/news/2018/04/25/otkazy-v-soglasovanii-akciy-nam-ne-car?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">banned</a> the “He’s not our tsar” protest</strong>. The protest was being organised by supporters of Alexey Navalny who planned to hold the event on 5 May - two days before the inauguration of president Vladimir Putin. The authorities have <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/story/nam-ne-car-akcii-storonnikov-navalnogo-5-maya?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">brought pressure to bear on Navalny supporters</a> and the organisers of the protest. For example, this week police arrested three Navalny supporters, while two women were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/05/02/v-izhevske-za-nadpis-na-asfalte-zaderzhali-dvuh-aktivistok-shtaba-navalnogo?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a> for writing the words “Down with the tsar” on the asphalt. &nbsp;</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">We analyse all the methods of intimidation used against Navalny supporters <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/articles/2018/03/23/kazhdyy-den-navalnyy?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">here</a>, from the removal of toilet facilities from one of their offices, to excommunication by the church and terms in prison.<br class="kix-line-break" /> </p></li></ul><h2>Thank you</h2><p dir="ltr">As you probably know, we continue to have a great deal of work to do. You can<a href="https://ovdinfo.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=13ffa559a4173431c14248c93&amp;id=7750048308&amp;e=35cf4472ba"> donate</a> to support our work. You can also join us as a<a href="https://ovdinfo.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=13ffa559a4173431c14248c93&amp;id=145230c9b9&amp;e=35cf4472ba"> volunteer</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</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="https://ovdinfo.org/"><img src="https://ovdinfo.org/sites/all/themes/ovdinfo/img/logo-ovdinfo.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p><p>OVD-Info is a crowdfunded organisation. Find out how you can help them&nbsp;<a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</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/ovd-info/armenians-in-moscow-face-prosecution-over-protests">“He’s not our tsar”: Navalny supporters prepare for new protest on 5 May</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 OVD-Info Fri, 04 May 2018 18:06:27 +0000 OVD-Info 117703 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On the edge: how rural Armenia is responding to the country's "Velvet Revolution" https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ashot-gazazyan/on-border <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While revolution is the preserve of the city, Armenia's rural population is watching and waiting to see what happens next. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ashot-gazazyan/armenia-ararat-valley-farmers-ru"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></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-36292501_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'>2 May, central Yerevan. (c) Ani Djaferian/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Armenia’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/armine-ishkanian/revolution-of-values-freedom-responsibility-and-courage-in-armenias-velve">“Velvet Revolution”</a>, declared by protest leader and parliamentarian Nikol Pashinyan, is shaking this small country’s towns and villages, bringing many of its citizens out onto the streets. Over the past three weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have blocked roads and public spaces in a bid to paralyse public transport, picketing public institutions and transport hubs. Their demands? The resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, who has ruled the country since 2008. Sargsyan’s eventual resignation, on 23 April, shocked everyone — and not only in Armenia. The Yelk (Way Out) opposition alliance, which gained slightly more than seven percent of the vote at the last parliamentary elections, has, in effect, brought down the ruling Republican Party’s parliamentary majority and the government. The past few weeks may taken their toll on people’s nerves, but the protests have been peaceful, without any loss of life.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, the Republican Party frustrated attempts to appoint Nikol Pashinyan as prime minister in parliament. But there’s grounds to believe that Republican members of parliament will support the opposition leader on 8 May. Pashinyan, meanwhile, is promising the Armenian public simple things&nbsp;— and society has, it seems, on the whole believed him. But people don’t forget that they also believed Serzh Sargsyan when he first ran for president in 2008.</p><p dir="ltr">Daniel Ioannisyan, the head of the Union of Informed Citizens NGO, reminds me that Sargsyan used to assure Armenia voters that he’d never permit the country to regress in any field — whether the economy, democratic institutions or human rights. That was in 2008. And a year later, Armenia experienced an economic downturn. Back then, Sargsyan explained this situation by referring to the global financial crisis. In 2013, Ionnisyan tells me, Sargsyan stated that “a government, which cannot guarantee seven percent of economic growth, should resign”. The government, in the end, couldn’t guarantee that either. But in 2015, the authorities carried out a constitutional referendum, which transferred significant powers from the position of president to the prime minister. Sargsyan thus prepared a third term for himself as Armenia’s leader. As it turned out, Armenian society <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/david-petrosyan/what-will-referendum-mean-for-armenians">didn’t support this move</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, roughly 30% of Armenians live below the poverty line — unemployment is on the rise, with a third of people unemployed. The country’s <a href="http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/armenia/overview#3">external debt has risen</a>, making up 55% of GDP by the end of 2017. And the number of families leaving the country for a better life has increased — over Serzh Sargsyan’s two presidencies, roughly 300,000 have left Armenia. According to <a href="http://www.gov.am/en/demographics/">official statistics</a>, slightly less than three million live in Armenia — in reality, it’s much lower, and a significant proportion &nbsp;lives in the capital, Yerevan. And outside Yerevan, the rates of poverty and unemployment are higher.</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/ _0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Karen Voskanyan. </span></span></span>I’m in the village of Pokr Vedi on the Ararat plain, just south of Yerevan. Mount Ararat, over the Turkish border, is clearly visible from here, but Karen Voskanyan, 33, isn’t much interested in the landscape. He needs to feed his seven young boys. Though the state pays the Voskanyan family 10,000 drams (roughly £15) per child per month, there still isn’t enough money to make ends meet — and it’s still hard for Karen to get by working odd jobs.</p><p dir="ltr">“I’ve got a small patch of land, but unfortunately I can’t develop it,” Karen tells me. He’s tried, but there’s not enough money for equipment, water, fertilisers. The lack of money and weather means that whatever he does do never works out. “I barely managed to pay off all my loans, I don’t want anything more to do with the banks.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Of course, we didn’t expect to see so many people come out on the streets. We went to Yerevan ourselves to take part in the protests”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Now Karen’s planning to leave to work in Russia: “I’ll work in construction. I’m trained as a bricklayer and tiler.” He’s worked in Russia before and says that he can make 50,000-60,000 roubles (£800-950) a month there.</p><p dir="ltr">Avet Manukyan, who’s the father of four, is facing a similar problem. I meet him in his garden, which he was expecting to give a good harvest‚ but frosts have taken half of it. He’s also now planning to work in Russia.</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/Avet_0.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'>Avet Manukyan. </span></span></span>People here aren’t much interested in politics. But they know about everything to do with agriculture. For instance, they were pleased by Nikol Pashinyan’s <a href="https://news.am/rus/news/448845.html">recent statement</a> about an amnesty on penalties and fines associated with overdue consumer and agricultural loans, and a reduction on interest rates. But these statements remain just that — statements — and young people are leaving to work in Russia.</p><p dir="ltr">“Of course, we didn’t expect to see so many people come out on the streets. We went to Yerevan ourselves to take part in the protests,” villagers tell me, saying that they hope “there’ll be more justice” in Armenia.</p><p dir="ltr">It should be said that the vast majority of village leaders are members of the Republican Party, and this means that here people voted, as a rule, for the ruling party during the 2017 parliamentary elections. In election season, roads were repaired, fertilisers brought in and there was constant access to irrigation water. Then the problems began again. To be solved in time for the next election cycle.</p><p dir="ltr">“All this because the government doesn’t change for decades,” the villagers tell me. “The people who are in power forget about their promises and begin to think about very different things — and not about the people.”</p><p dir="ltr">Republican public and elected officials have in fact made statements to the effect that the “people don’t know themselves what they want” — and this was their main mistake. Armenian society understood all too well what it was doing and why. It was impossible not to notice that the authorities were stagnating, and the country needed a breath of fresh air. Nikol Pashinyan understood all too well that people were suffering, otherwise they wouldn’t leave the country to work or live abroad, instead staying at home for jobs that were adequately paid.&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/IMG_0511_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="352" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Avshar village, Ararat province. </span></span></span>There’s problems in the village of Noyakert, too. And although Ovannes Arutunyan, the head of the village (and a Republican Party member), tells me that 2,000 people live here, not all of them are managing on the agricultural front.</p><p dir="ltr">For example, grape- and vegetable growers aren’t happy with the trade prices for their produce. The companies that take their produce pay 120-130 drams per kilo of grapes, while they need to be paid 150-160 drams per kilo of they’re going to make any money. For a kilogramme of tomatoes, the villagers will get 30-40 drams. “Of course, this isn’t enough to cover fertiliser, rent for equipment, water.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“I always view new authorities with suspicion, although I can’t say that everything was wonderful under the old ones”</p><p dir="ltr">If you add the fact that the intermediary companies pay for produce six months (and sometimes a year) after they hand it over, then you understand where the money often goes: paying off loans and other payments.</p><p dir="ltr">“I always view new authorities with suspicion, although I can’t say that everything was wonderful under the old ones,” Georgy Paravyan, a resident of Noyakert, tells me. Georgy grows melons, grapes and tomatoes on his land. “We don’t know anything about the new people in power. We have their promises, and we need to see how far they’ll be implemented,” he says. According to this farmer, a lot will depend on people themselves — the land can feed you if, of course, you treat people in rural areas right. “Of course, the government should be accountable. Stability is good only when people’s prosperity rises too.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/ Паравян (1).JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Georgy Paravyan. </span></span></span>The grapes grown in Ararat are the best in the world, the farmers tell me. And the wine, naturally, isn’t bad either. But, as Georgy tells me, that is yet to be recognised commercially: “While the economic ties between Russia and Georgia deteriorated after 2008, Armenia didn’t manage to take the Georgian wine niche on the Russian market. “But this is already politics, not economics,” he concludes in a business-like manner.</p><p dir="ltr">People in Ararat remember well when Armenia signed the agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015, but the sharp fall of the Russian economy and rouble meant that the export of Armenian wines to Russia dropped by 70%. The wine and cognac factories couldn’t afford to buy the villagers’ grapes at the previous rate, and a lot of produce went to rot. This was the first major shock to Armenian agriculture after Serzh Sargsyan refused the Association Agreement with the European Union in 2013 and chose to join the EEU.</p><p dir="ltr">At the bottom of the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khor_Virap">Khor Virap monastery</a>, local kids offer tourists the opportunity to release doves into the sky. The doves soar in the sky, circle over the Turkish border and then return to their nests in Armenian villages. Just like Armenians the world over, waiting to return home.</p><p dir="ltr">This time, it’s Nikol Pashinyan who’s promised a just and prosperous Armenia. People are incredibly optimistic right now, but everyone understands: if another government stagnates once again and forgets why it’s there, then the people know what to do if they need to remind them.&nbsp;</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/armine-ishkanian/revolution-of-values-freedom-responsibility-and-courage-in-armenias-velve">A revolution of values: freedom, responsibility and courage in Armenia&#039;s Velvet Revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/thomas-rowley-david-petrosyan/it-s-too-early-to-talk-about-fall-of-regime-armenian-politic">“It’s too early to talk about the &#039;fall of the regime&#039;”: political scientist David Petrosyan on the sources of Armenia&#039;s protests</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikayel-zolyan/armenia-s-permanent-revolution-why-do-protests-continue-in-yerevan">Armenia’s “permanent revolution”: why do the protests continue in Yerevan?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/feeling-yerevan-s-pulse-new-media-talking-about-armenia-s-blind-spots">Feeling Yerevan’s pulse: the new media talking about Armenia’s blind spots </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/gohar-saroyan/depoliticising-protest-in-armenia">Depoliticising protests in Armenia</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 Ashot Gazazyan Armenia Fri, 04 May 2018 16:19:00 +0000 Ashot Gazazyan 117701 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A revolution of values: freedom, responsibility and courage in Armenia's Velvet Revolution https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/armine-ishkanian/revolution-of-values-freedom-responsibility-and-courage-in-armenias-velve <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Armenia's emerging revolution isn't about geopolitics or foreign relations, but values.&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/PA-36292501.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'>2 May, central Yerevan. (c) Ani Djaferian/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 1978. Vaclav Havel wrote&nbsp;<em>The Power of the Powerless</em><em>,&nbsp;</em>in which he argued against the communist regime, maintaining that it forced people to “live in a lie”. For Havel, the resistance against the lie was to begin living in the truth and to challenge one’s own powerlessness through recognising one’s agency. Fast forward 40 years, and we are now witnessing a new velvet revolution in post-socialist Armenia, a country which proclaimed its independence from Soviet rule in 1991, but which has long struggled to create a democracy. More than anything else, this is a revolution about values. It is about the values of Armenian society and its domestic, socio-economic and political realities. The revolution is not about geopolitics or foreign relations.</p><p>Since mid-April Armenian citizens, led and inspired by MP Nikol Pashinyan from the&nbsp;<em>Yelk</em>&nbsp;(Way Out) Alliance, have begun to live in the truth as they acknowledge their agency, voice, and power. What began with Pashinyan’s “Take A Step” action, has transformed into a national, some might say even international, movement where Armenian citizens and Armenians living in the diaspora have come together to challenge and reject Serzh Sargsyan (former President from 2008-2018, and former Prime Minister in 2018) and his Republican Party of Armenia (RPA). Taking to the streets and squares in Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor, and smaller towns and villages throughout the country as well as in Los Angeles, Brussels, and London, they have gathered to express their anger and discontent with the morally bankrupt and kleptocratic, oligarchic RPA regime which has ruled the country for two decades.</p><p>Through these actions Armenia’s citizens, who some had described as apathetic, fatalistic, and demoralised, began to challenge the regime’s hold on power and its legitimacy to govern. Today, per official statistics, over one third of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.armstat.am/file/article/poverty_2016_eng_2.pdf">Armenians live in poverty</a>&nbsp;and the country’s population has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/armenia-population/">declined below threef million</a>&nbsp;due to both emigration and a declining birth rate. On the one hand, there is a desire to be rid of the oligarchic system of governance and to implement a more democratic and just system of governance which recognises and respects the rule of law and the human rights of Armenia’s citizens. On the other hand, there is a desire to live in a fairer society, where citizens live with dignity and where nepotism and corruption do not lead to extremes of social and income inequality and poverty.</p><p>The protesters are rejecting the RPA and its discredited practices and values, which include greed, corruption, nepotism, subservience, violence, and intolerance, and in their place they are advocating new values such as freedom, dignity, tolerance, love, courage, and justice. These lofty ideals have emerged in the revolutionary euphoria which has seized the country, but the revolutionary period is transitory. It remains to be seen how things will develop afterwards, but for now, these ideals and values inform, inspire, and motivate people to take action.</p><h2><strong>Love and tolerance</strong></h2><p>As many have already noted, these protests draw from all segments of Armenian society. People from all classes, walks of life, and political and ideological persuasions have united in their rejection of the regime. People hold banners proclaiming the revolution as one of “love and tolerance”, rather than of hate and revenge. People in the streets and squares have begun to treat each other with more kindness, tolerance, and courtesy.</p><p>More and more women, young people, and disabled people, are involved in these protests. Alongside Pashinyan, Zaruhi Batoyan, a disabled activist and&nbsp;<em>Yelk</em>&nbsp;Alliance member of the Yerevan Council of Elders, has spoken eloquently from the dais rallying people to take action.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/armenia-women-raise-clamor-for-sarkisians-last-call-/29187558.html">Batoyan was also instrumental in organising the ‘pots and pans’ action</a>&nbsp;that has now become an almost nightly event as people bang pots and pans together from 23:00-23:15 as a form of protest. The action is meant to allow those, who for whatever reason cannot leave their homes to attend the protests in the square, to express their discontent in this way.</p><p>Inclusion and tolerance are new values to Armenian society, where not only disabled people, but also people who identify as LGBT have faced discrimination, marginalisation, and even violence. Indeed, the RPA old-guard has used the presence of feminists and LGBT activists involved in the movement to attack Pashinyan as promoting "western values". And to be sure, the old divisions may return after the revolutionary euphoria passes, but for now, suited doctors and lawyers are rallying and marching alongside young tattooed hipsters, grizzly-bearded old men, and vocal young feminists, in an atmosphere characterised by peace, joy, and tolerance.</p><h2><strong>Responsibility</strong></h2><p>One of the key slogans of this revolution, alongside, “Reject Serzh” and “With courage” (<em>dukhov</em>), is “We are the owners of our country”. Unlike the previous two, the latter slogan has been around for nearly a decade and was adopted by different movements ranging from the youth-led&nbsp;<a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09668136.2015.1074981">Occupy Mashtots Park movement</a>&nbsp;in 2012 to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/armine-ishkanian/from-civil-disobedience-to-armed-violence-political-developments-in-armen">Sasna Dzrer</a>&nbsp;group led by armed veterans of the Karabakh conflict which captured and held a police station in Yerevan in 2016. In this context, being the owner of one’s country means that people become active subjects rather than passive and silent bystanders in society.</p><p>Instead of privately complaining about the status quo, they begin to take public action to change their lives and their society. In the midst of this velvet revolution, people are recognising their power and agency. This can be observed not only through the acts of civil disobedience of strikes and blocking roads, but smaller actions such as people taking to the streets after the demonstrations with brooms and bin bags&nbsp;<a href="http://hetq.am/eng/news/87957/cuyceric-heto-qaxaqacinery-maqrum-en-hanrapetutyan-hraparaky.html">to clean the streets</a>&nbsp;of the debris from the previous night’s demonstration. This responsibility is not only about one’s own actions, but also a sense of responsibility towards others in society and for the country’s future.</p><h2><strong>Courage, freedom and justice</strong></h2><p>“With courage” (<em>dukhov</em>) has become a rallying cry as protesters have rejected the regime’s attempt to rule by intimidation and fear-mongering, as well as the corruption and nepotistic politics which had become endemic in the few years where particular individuals and their clans seized political power and amassed huge fortunes that were hidden away in offshore accounts. They want to live free from fear, intimidation, and in a country where rule of law and justice are respected.</p><p>Over the past two decades, the oligarchic regime, by seizing both the political and economic sectors, used brute force and economic repression to extend and consolidate its hold on power. Oligarch politicians, such as MP Samvel Aleksanyan (Lfik Samo) and former Prime Minister Hovik (the Mouse) Abrahamyan, are much-reviled figures in Armenian society. As part of the RPA led government, they have operated with impunity, intimidation, and violence, propagating a politics of fear.</p><p>There are too many cases of oligarchs and RPA politicians acting with violence and impunity, but&nbsp;<a href="https://armenianweekly.com/2017/12/15/move-marie-antoinette/">one very recent incident</a>&nbsp;stands out as a shining example of their disregard for the hardships faced by the population. In December 2017, in the lead-up to the holiday season, food prices sharply increased. In response to growing public dissatisfaction with the unreasonable price hikes, RPA MP and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Healthcare and Social Welfare, Hakob Hakobyan told journalists: “Price hikes won’t impact the poor, because they don’t have money and essentially they aren’t able to buy anything. They don’t buy expensive products such as butter or meat, because they don’t have [money].”</p><p>In support of his RPA colleague, MP and the Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Economy, Khosrov Harutyunyan, added: “Poor people don’t have money, hence they don’t buy anything. What difference does it make if meat is expensive or cheap,” adding that “potato eaters don’t eat meat.” This incident illustrates RPA politicians’ disconnect from society and shows their cynicism and lack of responsibility as public servants for improving the livelihoods and wellbeing of those they were elected to serve.</p><h2><strong>Where things stand at present</strong></h2><p>Events are rapidly developing and predicting where they will lead is a fool’s errand. While Sargsyan resigned as Prime Minister on 23 April, it has now become clear that he is operating from the shadows and neither he nor his party are ready to let go of the reins of power. Many in Armenia argue that whoever comes to power must have Moscow’s tacit approval. For this reason, Pashinyan, while advocating for regime change, continues to publicly proclaim that he will not shift the country’s foreign policy stance, especially with regards to its relationship to its powerful neighbour to the north.</p><p>After Parliament failed to elect Pashinyan to the post of Prime Minister on 1 May, it was announced on 2 May that a new vote will take place in Parliament on 8 May. The candidate that receives one-thirds of the vote will become the new Prime Minister. While the RPA has said it will not nominate a candidate, many mistrust the party and fear it will once again implement its <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2017/04/04/armenias-election-the-status-quo-wins-at-the-expense-of-democracy/">traditional tactics of intimidation</a>&nbsp;to&nbsp;shape the electoral outcome in their favour. But can such tactics succeed given that hundreds of thousands of Armenians have now found their voice, their power, and now see themselves as history makers and the owners of their country? Can violence and bloodshed be avoided in a context where passions and emotions are running high? As the revolution continues to be livestreamed, we shall have to wait and see.</p><p><em>This article originally appeared on the London School of Economics <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/">EUROPP blog</a>. It gives the views of the&nbsp;author, not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy or the London School of Economics.</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/thomas-rowley-david-petrosyan/it-s-too-early-to-talk-about-fall-of-regime-armenian-politic">“It’s too early to talk about the &#039;fall of the regime&#039;”: political scientist David Petrosyan on the sources of Armenia&#039;s protests</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikayel-zolyan/armenia-s-permanent-revolution-why-do-protests-continue-in-yerevan">Armenia’s “permanent revolution”: why do the protests continue in Yerevan?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/feeling-yerevan-s-pulse-new-media-talking-about-armenia-s-blind-spots">Feeling Yerevan’s pulse: the new media talking about Armenia’s blind spots </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/gohar-saroyan/depoliticising-protest-in-armenia">Depoliticising protests in Armenia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/armine-ishkanian/selfdetermined-citizens-new-wave-of-civic-activism-in-armenia"> Self-determined citizens? A new wave of civic activism in Armenia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-zhamakochyan/armenia-in-trap-of-national-unity">Armenia in the trap of “national unity”</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 openmovements openMovements Armine Ishkanian Armenia Thu, 03 May 2018 13:33:41 +0000 Armine Ishkanian 117672 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Moscow’s waste wars https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalya-paramonova/moscows-waste-wars <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The “rubbish riots” taking place in the Moscow area demonstrate Muscovites’ distrust of their regional government. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalya-paramonova/sor-iz-izby" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/31317934_10208928596851564_4545547189971058688_n_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/31317934_10208928596851564_4545547189971058688_n_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="381" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Stop the environmental catastrophe in Lugovoya!” Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Moscow has no recycling system: all the city’s waste goes to landfill and the residents of its outlying areas are <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-43630798/russians-protest-over-toxic-landfill-near-moscow">getting mightily fed up</a> with the unsightly heaps and the stink they produce. The peak of the protests seemed to have passed in March, before Russia’s presidential election, but on 14 April, 4,000-8,000 people (figures vary according to the sources) turned out to protest in 10 towns around the capital. They called on the government to close down the overflowing landfill sites, abandon plans to build incinerator plants and introduce a recycling programme.</p><p dir="ltr">Russia’s prosperous capital is the place to be for those looking to make money and an enhanced lifestyle. The city is constantly growing upwards and outwards, and high rise estates are shooting up in previously rural areas. The downside, however, are the landfill sites that surround them. Nobody seems to have thought that people would live so far from the city centre. But that’s what has happened, and now people who managed to move from the regions and get a job and a mortgage in Moscow are asking themselves: what was it all for? To admire the view of the rubbish heaps from their windows?</p><p dir="ltr">“In Moscow, as long as people will buy a flat , there will be terrible housing going up,” a real estate expert once told me. “Even on a rubbish dump, if it’s cheaper.”</p><p dir="ltr">But Muscovites seem to have decided to do things differently: to buy a cheap flat first and then sort things out. And it does need sorting out. Over the last 10 years, the volume of rubbish sent to landfill sites has <a href="https://realty.rbc.ru/news/5ab4b3509a7947d2bee4777c">increased by 30%</a>. Official figures put it at 274.5m cubic metres, with 10% of that contributed by Moscow alone. Just under a half of the capital’s waste is domestic refuse: 22% of it is food, 17% paper and cardboard; three percent is textiles, metal and timber and the remaining 20% is mixed waste.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">High rise estates are shooting up in previously rural areas, but the downside is the landfill sites that surround them</p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, there were 12 landfill sites serving the Russian megapolis, and the Moscow region authorities planned to close them down and create facilities to sort and incinerate refuse. Andrey Vorobyev, the Moscow region’s governor, assured the public that the waste sites were closing down as planned. Now, in 2018, however the greater Moscow area’s detritus is providing work for 15 sites, a third of which have plans for expansion; three more are at the planning stage.</p><p dir="ltr">The authorities claim that the landfill sites and heaps are safe, and that the stink is a temporary inconvenience, but people don’t believe them. They say that the rubbish isn’t sorted, so toxic waste (batteries, medicines and paints and varnishes) end up in landfill. Rotting food waste also produces liquid effluent that leaches into the soil and contaminates ground, water and nearby ponds and rivers.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the<a href="https://nplus1.ru/material/2018/03/22/landfill-gases"> N+1 popular scientific portal</a>, Russia’s landfill sites release 1.5m tonnes of methane and 21.5m tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. In 2015, Russia had 13,900 functioning landfill sites, 14 of them in the Moscow region. Just one site, the Kulakovo site, was responsible for 2,400 tonnes of methane, 39.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 1.8 tonnes of ammonia and 0.028 tonnes of hydrogen sulphide being released into the capital’s atmosphere.</p><p dir="ltr">As <a href="https://nplus1.ru/material/2018/03/22/landfill-gases">noted</a> by Marianna Kharlamova, the head of Environmental Monitoring and Prognostics at Moscow’s Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, the most toxic of the main gases being released are hydrogen sulphide and methane. High concentrations of these gases can cause poisoning.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The authorities claim that the landfill sites and heaps are safe, and that the stink is a temporary inconvenience, but people don’t believe them</p><p dir="ltr">The first signs of mass environmental protest began to emerge in 2010, when Muscovites stood up to the felling of<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yevgenia-chirikova/battle-for-khimki-forest"> Khimki forest</a> northwest of the city. Protesters were mostly residents of Moscow’s outlying areas who preferred clean air to the amenities of the megapolis. But the rubbish issue changed their plans. Moscow is expanding: in 2017, the number of square metres built rose by an extra three percent compared to 2016, despite experts forecasting an economic downturn. Now the analysts are talking about a 20% increase in housing by 2020, and an annual population growth of one percent. And as the population grows, so does the number of rubbish dumps.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Where did the protests come from? </h2><p dir="ltr">Public expressions of dissatisfaction began in March with protest meetings in Volokolamsk, a town 130 kilometres northwest of Moscow and twenty years older than the capital. Volokolamsk’s 20,000 residents have lower incomes and a lower standard of living than those in the big city, but the pleasant environment and clean air go some way in making up for their other disadvantages.</p><p dir="ltr">The protests began on the eve of Russia’s presidential election. According to their organisers, these meetings <a href="https://www.saratov.kp.ru/daily/26810.5/3846112/">had nothing to do with politics</a>, but the proximity of a major political event brought the national press and one of the presidential candidates, Ksenia Sobchak, to town. Items about the landfill sites, proposed incineration plants and the waste sorting issue appeared on Russia’s main TV channels, as well as in prominent press outlets.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_para1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_para1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters in Lobnya. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The biggest story, however, was the announcement about several dozen children in Volokolamsk being poisoned by an “unknown gas”. According to locals, as <a href="https://meduza.io/feature/2018/03/21/otravlenie-detey-massovye-aktsii-i-potasovki-s-chinovnikami-v-volokolamske-glavnoe">reported by the Meduza news platform</a>, the children had been taken to hospital, suffering from signs of poisoning by<a href="https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas"> landfill gas (LFG)</a>, and specifically the Yadrovo site. Governor Vorobyev paid a visit to the hospital and gave interviews to the national press and TV, but refused to meet local residents, which poisoned the atmosphere in the town even more. The protests continued.</p><p dir="ltr">After his hospital visit, Vorobyev promised to initiate the “active reclamation” of the landfill site, but residents, furious at his high-handed behaviour, began to hold regular protest rallies and block the road to the site with a rubbish truck. </p><p dir="ltr">The Kuchino landfill site, to the northeast of Moscow, had in fact been closed down before the Yadrovo incident: President Putin was forced to close it in June 2017 after a complaint during a live phone-in. The site was decommissioned and the rubbish from it transported to 15 other landfill sites in the Moscow region. As a result, the Yadrovo site had to be considerable enlarged, which made the environmental pollution of the area around it all the more obvious.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The “rubbish” protests became an example of solidarity in the environmental movement</p><p dir="ltr">The protests in Volokolamsk stirred up other parts of Moscow. Local residents have no desire for a repeat of the situation: if Yadrovo is closed down, the stuff will just be transported to other sites. In late April, the anger spread to Yaroslavl, 264km northeast of Moscow and part of the “Golden Ring” of ancient Russian towns: Moscow’s rubbish, the residents believe, might end up being dumped in their backyard.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time of writing this article, there have been protests against the opening of landfill sites and incineration plants in quite a number of towns in the Moscow region: Klin, Kolomna, Serpukhov, Chekhov, Lobnya, Krasnoarmeisk, Balashikha, Shatura, Dmitrov and Sergiev-Posad.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The governor’s birthday</h2><p dir="ltr">The day designated for a raft of protests coincided with Governor Andrey Vorobyev’s birthday, so people taking part in the rallies came brought him presents, designed to persuade him to solve the rubbish problem. In Lobnya, northwest of Moscow, protesters greeted Vorobyev with appropriate comic songs in traditional folk style, while in Volokolamsk local activists gave him a cake made out of refuse.</p><p dir="ltr">These “rubbish” protests have become an example of solidarity in the environmental movement. The Lobnya authorities permitted organisers to hold the rally not on the town’s main square, but its outskirts — the traditional resort of officials keen to reduce protester numbers and hence their impact. But the event’s effect was, on the contrary, heightened by the presence of protesters from other towns in the region: Chekhov, Stupino, Dolgoprudnoye, Dmitrov, Solnechnogorsk. Protest leaders came together from as far as 200-300km to someone else’s rally, to support the protest movement in general.</p><p dir="ltr">“We were protesting against the landfill sites even before they started to stink,” said Dmitry Trunin, a council member from the Moscow region’s Solnechnogorsk district. “In 2013 our environmental organisation, called Principle, succeeded in closing down the Istra solid domestic waste landfill site, on orders from an arbitration tribunal. Now the situation is critical. Vorobyev has closed a lot of sites to further his business interests.”</p><p dir="ltr">After several unsuccessful attempts to organise a referendum in the Moscow area to oppose the construction of incineration plants and support separate waste collections, Trunin decided to “agree” to the authorities’ plans, but with a twist. He proposes the building of a supposedly safe incineration plant in Varkhivo, a village on the <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/rublyovka-the-richest-neighborhood-in-moscow-2015-6">Rublyovka highway</a> where most properties belong to Russia’s political and business elites. There is a lot of space and low rise building there, Trunin believes, so there will not be many people in the plant’s hinterland, and the security provided by the government presence will guarantee that no harm will come to it. “Why build in Solnechnogorsk, when you could build there?” he quips.</p><p dir="ltr">Dmitry Trunin believes that separate waste collections will bring about a considerable reduction in the volume of refuse disposed of in landfill sites, as well as creating a recycling sector, while non-recyclable waste can still be incinerated at Moscow’s existing plants.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The introduction of separate waste collections will reduce the amount of refuse ending up in landfill by 75-80%</p><p dir="ltr">The campaign for separate waste collections in Russia, which Trunin supports, has been in existence for a decade now. It is the most widespread informal public movement in the country, and is based on voluntary, grassroots initiatives. The largest “rubbish” organisations are<a href="http://musora.bolshe.net/page/about.html"> “No.More.Waste”</a>, which has activists in half of Russia’s regions, and <a href="https://www.rsbor.ru/">“For Separate Collections”</a>. And in 2014, Greenpeace Russia launched a petition campaign called<a href="https://act.greenpeace.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1863&amp;ea.campaign.id=44768&amp;ea.tracking.id=irecycle"> “I Want Separate Collections”</a>, which has so far collected 250,000 signatures — it is aiming at one million.</p><p dir="ltr">Separate collections mean that refuse is divided into a minimum of two types — organic versus wet and dry refugee. Organic waste can be composted and used as fertiliser for farms and gardens. Dry waste is sorted: some can be recycled, and the rest incinerated or used for landfill. Greenpeace Russia estimates that the introduction of separate waste collections would <a href="https://act.greenpeace.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1863&amp;ea.campaign.id=44768&amp;ea.tracking.id=GPRcampaigninfo">reduce the amount of refuse ending up in landfill by 75-80%</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Thanks to lengthy cooperation with the authorities in previous years and the current spate of protest rallies, a working party has been set up, charged with introducing separate waste collections in the Moscow area. Its members include independent local council members, local officials and civil activists. “I met Aleksandr Kogan, the Moscow region Minister for Natural Resources and the Environment, and he said that 93% of the local population support the idea of separate collections,” says Trunin.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_para2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_para2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A rubbish dump in Lobnya. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Yet in January this year, the Moscow area authorities published a draft document stating that the construction time for incinerator plants was to be shortened. Four new plants will be incinerating waste by 2023. Trunin thinks that this plan has been imposed on the region by central government, as half the waste to be incinerated will come from the capital. He also fears that this incinerator project will preempt any plan to introduce separate waste collections. It’s easier for the authorities to just burn all the waste. Burning and then transporting waste to landfill sites is in organisational terms similar to transporting and dumping it there in its original state.</p><p dir="ltr">And this will happen despite any dialogue with the authorities that Trunin talks about after Yevgeny Gavrilov, head of the Volokolamsk district, resigned over the protests. A new governor for the Moscow region, says Trunin, will not introduce any change: “It would be as useless as changing the letters around in a word.”</p><p dir="ltr">Diana Yakovleva, a municipal council member in the town of Lobnya, doesn’t agree with Trunin. She believes that “the new governor must be someone who is independent from the president — a person who will try to resolve the Moscow area’s problems, and not just follow orders.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">New citizens</h2><p dir="ltr">Officials often claim that protests are financed by foreign agents, while Russian TV has show freaks or urban crazies who are supposedly form the core of the protest. But, as with most protests in Russia, the “rubbish” actions attract perfectly sensible and capable citizens with long experience of opposing the authorities, whether national or local, when resolving their issues. And their activism and awareness raising activities allow others to express their own opinions at rallies.</p><p dir="ltr">Municipal Council member Diana Yakovleva comes up against human rights infringements in her work as a lawyer, and helps clients fight for their legal rights in court or with the local authorities.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“If no one speaks up about an issue, the judge will rule in favour of the authorities”</p><p dir="ltr">“When I joined the council, people mostly came to me about environmental issues, because I’m involved in nature conservation activities,” Diana tells me. She has already succeeded in protecting three stretches of woodland from development as weekend “cottages” for rich Muscovites.</p><p dir="ltr">“In Russia, legal mechanisms have to be linked to public pressure. If there’s an issue, it absolutely has to be brought to public notice,” says Diana. “If no one speaks up about it, the judge will rule in favour of the authorities. It’s crucial to demonstrate the importance of an issue for society: it has to have an impact among the general public.”</p><p dir="ltr">Drawing on her own experience of activism, Diana advises rookie campaigners to set up an initiative group and prepare themselves for their work: publicise the issue in the press, go to receptions given by leaders at various levels of power, draw up petitions, send letters, attend protest rallies. Yakovleva points out that responsibility for urban planning matters, including waste reclamation, rarely rests with municipal authorities: all decisions are taken at regional or federal government level.</p><p dir="ltr">She has also noticed an influx of lawyers from commercial firms, as well as local officials, beginning to give the public pro bono help with “rubbish” issues. Pyotr Lazarev, the mayor of Volokolamsk, the town where the most active protests began and are still continuing, is a real local hero. He was born in the town and has lived and worked there all his life. Since retiring in 2012, he has been a municipal councillor and in 2017 became mayor. Lazarev supports his town’s residents: he announced at the first protest rallies that he would coordinate local action on anti-landfill initiatives and demand that higher authorities resolve the waste problem. Lazarev has kept his word, and at a rally in Volokolamsk on 1 April said that, despite official threats, he would continue to give permission for protest actions. The regional authorities <a href="https://snob.ru/selected/entry/136520">responded by carrying out a search at his flat</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Igor Shestun, the head of Moscow area’s Serpukhov district, another area affected by “rubbish” protests, has also encountered harassment for trying to uphold the public’s rights. On 9 April, he posted<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kySziH_xpeY"> a video message to President Putin</a> on YouTube, detailing threats he has been receiving from a certain Mikhail Kuznetsov, who is demanding Shestun’s resignation on behalf of regional governor Andrey Vorobyev. Shestun sees this harassment as a reprisal for permitting protests against the Lesnoye landfill site, as well as his reluctance to resign from his post. He is currently absent from his home and has told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper that he is neither in hiding nor planning to emigrate.</p><p dir="ltr">Artem Lyubimov, a lawyer who is heading the protests in Volokolamsk, is in a less happy situation. He was <a href="https://lamagrad.net/news/3670-molnija-artyom-lyubimov-zaderzhan.html">held under arrest</a> for 15 days after the 31 March action, allegedly for offering resistance to police officers. The police also searched the premises of all his client companies, including the offices of the Moscow Raceway motor circuit.</p><p dir="ltr">Veterans of the protest movement require separate mention. Journalist Aleksandr Gavrilin, a resident of Moscow’s Chekhov district, has been involved in civil society campaigning since 2004, when he was forced to stand up for his property rights. The successful outcome of this experience has indirectly led today to the demise of the Kulakovo landfill site, closed in August 2017 after two years of protests and eventually a hunger strike by local residents.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Waste separation takes time, so Moscow’s bureaucrats are engaged in urgent talks about rubbish being transported to other nearby regions</p><p dir="ltr">“They tried to take us to court for holding rallies and pickets,” Gavrilin tells me. “I have been attacked 20 times in the course of my civil activism…The Kulikovo site has been closed down, but the problem hasn’t gone away: effluent from it is still leaching into the Sukhaya Lopasnya River. We want a proper land reclamation programme and waste sorting. I have had about a thousand letters a year from members of the public on the subject”.</p><p dir="ltr">Gavrilin believes that the waste problem affects the whole of Greater Moscow, so moving a landfill site elsewhere will do nothing to solve the problem. And why, he asks, should he have to move from his home town, rather than standing up for his rights.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Move it further away</h2><p dir="ltr">An article in the Parliamentary Newspaper <a href="https://www.pnp.ru/social/musornaya-reforma-v-rossii-poka-zastoporilas.html">states</a> that, “On 1 January a law on separate waste collections came into force, and on 15 February the State Duma debated how best to implement it. It is clear that the regions are in no hurry to do this, and 79% of Russians have told us that there are not even any special containers beside their homes.”</p><p dir="ltr">There are problems with waste recycling in numerous parts of Russia: Bashkiria, the Komi Republic and the Vladivostok, Voronezh, Leningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara, Tver, Chelyabinsk and Yaroslavl regions as well as Tatarstan, Sochi and the Stavropol Krai.</p><p dir="ltr">But the most burning issue, as with the forest fires of 2010, is what do in the Moscow region. The authorities are trying, in the first place, to sort the problem out locally, in the areas close to the capital. Waste separation takes time, so Greater Moscow’s bureaucrats are engaged in urgent talks about rubbish being transported to the nearby Tver and Yaroslavl regions. The locals have protested there as well, but haven’t been able to offer the same powerful resistance. The Moscow government website <a href="https://ria.ru/society/20180419/1518996431.html">states</a> that waste will begin to be transported to a Yaroslavl landfill site in the course of this year, but whether Yaroslavl will tolerate the capital’s rubbish and the effect of the move on local taxes will soon become clear.</p><p dir="ltr">The continuing protests, despite the government’s promise that landfill sites will be transformed and waste sorting introduced, show the level of distrust in the general public. People are calling for laboratories to run atmospheric tests, counting the number of cars going to dumps and trying to evaluate landfill reclamation projects. A high profile example of this is the <a href="https://t.me/netsvalke">“No Dump in Kolomna” Telegram channel</a>.</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“They’re saying that we have agreed to allowing the dustcarts through,” one of the channel’s authors says.</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“Don’t believe it, nothing has been agreed.”</p><p dir="ltr">The bribery money settling on the sites stank so much that people have taken to the streets to remind the authorities of their responsibilities. They can’t just just sweep the dust under the carpet any more.</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/dmitry-shevchenko/protecting-the-environment-is-becoming-a-deadly-occupation">Protecting the environment is becoming a deadly occupation in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/svetlana-anokhina/makhachkala-citizen-city">Makhachkala: citizen city </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/artur-asafyev/these-hills-are-ours">These hills are ours</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-yarovaya/protest-in-karelias-paper-town">Protest in Russia&#039;s paper town </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 Natalya Paramonova Cities in motion Russia Thu, 03 May 2018 11:32:37 +0000 Natalya Paramonova 117667 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Invisible people: why Ukraine needs to take palliative care seriously https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/margarita-tulup/invisible-people <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>People facing their final days are often not treated at all, despite progressive legal provisions. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/margarita-tulup/nevidimye-ludi" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_11_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_11_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hospital of Kharkiv Regional Specialized Children's Home №1. Photo: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ukraine’s constitution is full of references to a decent life, but there’s no mention of a decent process of dying or death. For public officials, deaths are a mere statistic. For medics they are data which needs to be accounted for. But patients who receive palliative care at the end of their lives are left with alone with their illnesses. If there is no prospect of recovery, they are sent home from hospital – and their families are expected to take care of the final part of their lives. </p><h2 dir="ltr">A too complex condition</h2><p dir="ltr">Vanya’s brain was damaged during birth. All Liza heard about her son’s state was a brusque “It’s bad, but we’ll pull him through”. When the neurologist came to look at him, she looked sternly at Lisa and said: “He’s a vegetable. Maybe you could put him in a home?” Nothing more was said to his parents about his condition. At most the hospital staff muttered: “Well, what do you want? That’s the child you’ve got”. Liza and her husband took Vanya out of the emergency department and brought him home.</p><p dir="ltr">“I couldn’t understand what was happening to him,” Liza tells me. “All he could do was wheeze. He didn’t swallow, he didn’t open his eyes, he didn’t react to anything. We found a private rehabilitation specialist and asked him the most important questions: ‘Will he be deaf?’ ‘Possibly, and possibly blind as well,’ they replied. In the first nine months of his life, I persisted in my belief that he would come round. After all, no one had sat us down and told us that he wouldn’t get any better. We gradually worked that out ourselves.”</p><p dir="ltr">Vanya’s parents only learned about his palliative diagnosis when he was eight months old and they were at the emergency department again. The senior physician called Liza over and said: “I don’t think you realise the situation,” before explaining everything that was happening to Vanya in medical language. His mother went home and started reading about his diagnosis on the internet.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_12_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_12_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Work-site children's mobile team in the Kharkiv region, 2016. Photo: Alina Smutko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“In Ukraine, children like this are solely their parents’ problem,” Liza tells me, hugging Vanya, who’s now two years old, to herself. “Neither the medics nor the state want to know about them. They are awkward, unwanted. No one knows what to do with them. It took a long time for us to realise that Vanya could be taken from us at any moment and learn to cherish every moment with him.”</p><p dir="ltr">The little boy squeezes Liza’s finger lightly, and the movement brings her incredible joy. Vanya can breathe by himself and tries to hold his head up. He mostly lies motionless and silent, but he opens his eyes from time to time. He is fed through a tube and every 15 minutes his parents have to switch on a suction machine to clear his airways through another tube.</p><p dir="ltr">Liza and Vanya’s room resembles a mini intensive care unit. The room contains a machine to clear his throat, a pulse-oxygen machine, an aspirator and a ventilator in case his heart stops beating. All this was bought by his parents or donated by well-wishers. In two years, all the state has offered was massage at a children’s health centre and three free disposable nappies a week. The local paediatrician visited Vanya twice, but his condition was too complex for her to deal with and she stopped visiting. According to Vany’s medical card, of course, he has been visited regularly.</p><h2 dir="ltr">An admission of mortality</h2><p dir="ltr">In 1987, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised palliative care as a separate branch of medicine, and in 1998 added this kind care for children to the definition.</p><p dir="ltr">According to WHO’s recommendations, “palliative care” is to be introduced as soon as any life-threatening diagnosis is made. In most cases, this is a question of adults with cardiovascular problems and children with neurological conditions. The philosophy behind the definition implies a certain quality of life, and the idea that if you can’t cure a patient, you can at least provide them with some help. Patients in this category should have access to a multidisciplinary medical team and a telephone hotline. There should also be hospices for those who can’t or don’t want to be at home and respite care to relieve the burden on families.</p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine <a href="http://zakon2.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/z0229-13">confirmed a blueprint for palliative care</a> in 2013, but neither national standards for this care, nor best practice guidelines, nor local treatment guidelines have yet been drawn up.</p><p dir="ltr">For Ukrainian patients, if the term “palliative” is used, it is mainly in the context of terminal incurable cancer.</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, the first hospice for adults appeared 21 years ago in the west Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk, long before any guidelines had been thought of. Then a hospice-type facility was opened at Kyiv’s oncological centre. But palliative care was not recognised as a separate branch of medicine, and nor was a children’s hospice built. In Ukraine, the only children’s palliative care facilities belong to children’s homes – there is one in Nadvirna in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, for example, and another one in a specialised children’s home in Odesa. A children’s home in Kharkiv is also planning to register in the same category.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_23_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_23_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Palliative department of Lviv hospital №4. Photo: Anna Ilchenko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>According to Svitlana Gayday, a paediatrician at Kyiv’s Institute of Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, you need to admit that children who need palliative care exist before you can help them. But, Gayday says, most doctors disagree: “They try not to think about them; they try to avoid emotional involvement, conflicts with the parents and responsibility. They try to keep the children at home until they die in a facility, so as not to spoil mortality statistics they might be held accountable for. They’re really scared about the children dying: ‘Yes, we have seriously ill children, but we don’t admit that they die here.’”</p><p dir="ltr">Most initiatives in this area are the work of private donors. In 2015, for example, the International Renaissance Foundation provided a grant to fund the creation and running costs of children’s mobile palliative services in Vinnytsia, Kharkiv, Kryvyi Rih, Rubizhne and Lutsk. Now there is a mobile squad for adults working in Ivano-Frankivsk, and one for children in Lviv, which was set up by parents of seriously ill children.</p><p dir="ltr">“Palliative medicine hasn’t been around for long, and so people living out the final days of their lives in pain aren’t seen as being in need of help,” explains Elena Koval, a consultant for the International Renaissance Foundation. “So our doctors don’t realise that instead of operating on some patients, they should instead allow them to die in comfortable conditions. This idea is contained in the guidelines documents, but it goes against everything doctors were taught – to resuscitate up until the last moment, to fight for their patients’ lives. Doctors don’t see dying as a natural process of our bodies.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">In Ukraine, people being treated with palliative care don’t even exist on paper: they are not registered anywhere and no one has tried to count them yet</p><p dir="ltr">In Ukraine, people being treated with palliative care don’t even exist on paper: they are not registered anywhere and no one has tried to count them yet. The most recent statistics were published in 2017 at an international forum on palliative care. According to <a href="http://socialdata.org.ua/en/many-people-ukraine-need-palliative-care/">research</a> by the Ukrainian Center for Social Data, one child in 30 and one adult in 100 in Ukraine is in need of such services – 255,000 children and 345,000 adults. The stats have, however, been amended several times in the last two years, depending on how they are calculated, so there are still no final figures.</p><p dir="ltr">“Can we talk about a state programme if we don’t even know the level of need?” asks Elena Koval. “But the system doesn’t seem to be interested in a programme. It’s easier to just do a one-off event, hang a ‘Palliative Care’ sign on an old consulting room and boast about how everything is just fine.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">A hospital or a hospice?</h2><p dir="ltr">Just three years ago, few people in Ukraine had even heard of palliative care, but now the term is gradually becoming known. Uliana Suprun, the country’s acting Minister of Health, has been speaking about how, with the planned insurance-based healthcare reforms, this type of treatment will be guaranteed inclusion in state healthcare packages. The medical departments of district hospitals have started changing the signs on the doors, but not many of them have followed through on what goes on inside. So-called adult palliative care departments usually seem just like ordinary hospitals.</p><p dir="ltr">“I want to go home, but what would they do with me there?” asks a woman who has already spent a year in a palliative care, rather than an ordinary medical ward, in a district hospital in a village in the Lviv region. She is one of 17 patients there. Some of their medical records consist only of pencilled notes reading “No.5 Diet”. They spend most of their time just staring at the blue walls of their ward. None of them have life-threatening conditions, but are simply on their own or incapable of looking after themselves and need care.</p><p dir="ltr">“I’ve worked here at the hospital for 42 years: what am I supposed to tell people? That I’m not here to treat you, come here when you’re going to die?” a nurse explains when I ask why the ward isn’t being used for its stated purpose. “Nobody has ever told us what ‘palliative’ even means. They just changed the name, without knowing what it meant. They just said, ‘Change’. But we decided to save our jobs: there’s rumours of terrible cuts coming. This village isn’t going to become a town, you understand?”</p><p dir="ltr">The safe in the supposed palliative department contains the usual opioid analgesics such as Codeine, Tramadol and morphine, but the nurse tells me that none of her patients are in need of regular pain relief, “so for the moment I do without drugs”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_4_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_4_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Palliative department of Lviv hospital №4. Photo: Anna Ilchenko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“But how can you be sure they don’t need analgesics?” I ask her. “Do you use pain measurement scales?”</p><p dir="ltr">“What scales?”</p><p dir="ltr">“Pain measurement scales.” </p><p dir="ltr">“No. There’s a lot we don’t know about yet, we need to learn more. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; But we always write out prescriptions for people who need pain relief. There’s no problem there.”</p><p dir="ltr">“What’s the maximum number of days you prescribe for?” &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">“For a…” she starts and goes silent. “Well, up to a month.”</p><p dir="ltr">“But you know the law doesn’t allow you to prescribe for more than 15 days ahead.”</p><p dir="ltr">“But what if they die?” The nurse tries to close the subject.</p><p dir="ltr">I’ve observed similar situations in other departments in villages, district centres and even large cities. In 2016, the National Preventative Mechanism (a department of the Ombudsperson’s Office that monitors the rights of people in penitentiary facilities) carried out unannounced inspections of 15 palliative care facilities. Their report concluded that their work bore no relation to the philosophy of palliative care, and that most of their patients only required social care in care homes, assisted living facilities or their own homes.</p><p dir="ltr">“Medical staff just change the names on the doors to ‘palliative care’ in an attempt to keep their jobs,” says Renaissance consultant Elena Koval. “There’s no idea of it having any effect. We haven’t yet developed any generic plan with specifications of what there should be in a palliative care department. All we have is a set of state building norms specifying the dimensions of the rooms and the height of the ceilings. So at workshops we often hear doctors saying, ‘we’re opening a department for 60 people’, but after we explain the details of palliative care they’ll change their tune and it’ll be, ‘we’ll probably create one for five patients.’” </p><p dir="ltr">Since there are no courses in palliative care included in medical facilities’ basic training programmes, and professional development at national level is purely theoretical, practical workshops for medical staff take place, with support from Renaissance, in two training centres, in Ivano-Frankivsk and Kharkiv.</p><p dir="ltr">These workshops are mostly attended by family doctors, but according to the organisers, they show little inclination to come, so after numerous complaints from one region, the foundation itself sends special letters to regional health authorities and organises the training sessions in local medical facilities.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">A survey has shown that only 15% of patients with chronic pain receive any pain relief</p><p dir="ltr">These training courses, based at Ivano-Frankivsk’s hospice, can last one, three or sometimes five days, and include clinical training, given by a doctor and nurse from another region.</p><p dir="ltr">The basic training programme consists of three blocs. The first is theoretical, and comprises information on the legal framework, licensing for the use and safekeeping of narcotic substances, writing prescriptions, work with pharmacies and disposal of surplus drugs. The second is clinical: pain relief, the care of pain syndromes and dosage of analgesics; and the third is philosophical: communication with patients using role play, care for families at times of grieving and loss of a loved one and spiritual support.</p><p dir="ltr">Each workshop, wherever it takes place, begins with the facilitators asking: “How would you want to die?” and then goes on to specify: “Do you want to die at home? Do you want to be in pain?”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Pain relief</h2><p dir="ltr">According to the WHO, a significant proportion of patients in palliative care are in constant pain, so the indifference of the medical profession to pain is akin to torture. Ukrainians are still used to pain: this <a href="http://irbis-nbuv.gov.ua/cgi-bin/irbis_nbuv/cgiirbis_64.exe?C21COM=2&amp;I21DBN=UJRN&amp;P21DBN=UJRN&amp;IMAGE_FILE_DOWNLOAD=1&amp;Image_file_name=PDF/pharmazh_2012_5_4.pdf">survey</a> has shown that only 15% of patients with chronic pain receive any pain relief.</p><p dir="ltr">Up until 2013, it was still hard to get hold of opioid analgesics in Ukraine: morphine in tablet form wasn’t yet authorised for treatment: patients could only take painkillers if medical staff were present; a special medical committee had to authorise its use, and medics had to collect all the used capsules afterwards, to avoid police suspicion.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, however, a <a href="http://zakon3.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/333-2013-%D0%BF">new directive</a> authorised morphine in tablet form, and doctors can now prescribe opioids for up to 15 days in a sufficient dose to provide relief from pain. There is no longer any need for a medical committee: family doctors can now provide painkillers, wherever they live, by issuing a prescription signed by a medical director or their deputy or the head of a health centre. And injectable analgesics can be administered by a family member, without any medical person being present. Doctors also no longer need to account for drugs they have administered: they can buy opioid analgesics in a specialised pharmacy (although there are still not many of these, especially in the regions). And anyone who can’t get out to a pharmacy just has to write a note authorising someone else to collect their prescription.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_5_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_5_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Branch, who have changed their status to "palliative", but they never became. Photo: Oleg Grigoriev. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The 2013 reform gave Ukraine one of the most progressive European legal frameworks as far as pain relief was concerned, but it wasn’t enough – the law by itself can’t do that. Doctors are still nervous about prescribing opioid analgesics: they believe that patients should “grin and bear it”, or that the pain isn’t severe enough; or they are afraid that patients “will turn into junkies”. They also don’t want “trouble with the police, and worry that “relatives will sell the drugs”. And they don’t know how to assess pain levels, have no understanding of how analgesics work, can’t choose a drug or dosage, don’t know about the process of prescription and work on the basis of the old law. But even if an opioid analgesic is indicated, doctors don’t always prescribe the appropriate drugs, as recommended by the WHO.</p><p dir="ltr">Problems also arise with calculating doses of a painkiller. Since Ukrainian morphine is only effective for four hours, the dosage should be prescribed accordingly, but patients often complain that, “they’ve only prescribed it to be taken two or three times a day”. Patients themselves also sometimes restrict their use of prescribed drugs, mainly out of fear of overdosing.</p><p dir="ltr">And if adults now have access to a range of analgesic delivery, children still don’t have their painkillers in the form of syrups and plasters, as is usual in Europe and the USA. It was only in 2017 that analgesic syrup for children was registered in Ukraine, as part of the implementation of its national oncology programme. It is now available, but doctors won’t prescribe it, so you can’t find it in pharmacies.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Vanya’s time</h2><p dir="ltr">Vanya may not need painkillers yet. If something should happen to him, his parents will take him to the same intensive care department as he lay in after his birth. The hospital staff know him well, so the doctors are hardly likely to keep him in the department “just in case”. Liza is, nevertheless haunted by the fear shared by all parents with a child needing palliative care – the need to spend a long time in hospital or resuscitation.</p><p dir="ltr">“I’ve seen how they work there: they really do save children,” Liza says. “They work on them, use the defibrillator paddles, put them on drips – but they pull them through. They drag the most hopeless cases back from the other world by the ear, stabilise them and send them off for treatment in the neonatal ward. And they save them. But palliative care is not about saving, she says. Sometimes, on the contrary, it’s about not saving and instead, ending their suffering. They make them as comfortable as they can – giving them painkillers, laying them down in the easiest position, supporting the parents so they can bear it all. It’s a great pity that the resuscitation department doctors usually have to take palliative care upon themselves, but for me it’s help with caring (and sometimes learning how to do it), alleviating the child’s state and offering emotional help to the parents.”</p><p dir="ltr">Liza has often wondered what she would do if Vanya’s heart stopped. But she knows what to do automatically; she and her husband have discussed it together and with the resuscitation specialist.</p><p dir="ltr">“If it happens, I’ve asked the doctor not to try to resuscitate him for more than five minutes. It stopped once, but then started again. So his time hasn’t come yet.” </p><p dir="ltr">While this text was being prepared for publication, on 16 April, Vanya died at home, in his mother’s arms.&nbsp;</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/tetiana-goncharuk/where-is-ukraines-new-police-force">Where is Ukraine’s new police force?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/margarita-tulup/ukraines-new-education-law">Beyond the scandal: what is Ukraine’s new education law really about?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/michael-colborne/ukraines-veterans-dont-need-sympathy">“Ukraine’s veterans don’t need sympathy, they need dignity”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/michael-colborne/women-at-centre-of-ukraine-s-resurgent-hiv-epidemic">Meet the women at the centre of Ukraine’s resurgent HIV epidemic</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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> </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 Margarita Tulup Ukraine Thu, 03 May 2018 07:05:04 +0000 Margarita Tulup 117655 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A frontline factory, an embattled oligarch and Ukraine’s industrial drift https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/brian-milakovsky/a-frontline-factory <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the future of this chemical plant in eastern Ukraine, trade policy with Russia looms large.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_dscn9868.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_dscn9868.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Severodonetsk Azot plant. Image: Brian Milakovsky. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The enormous Azot chemical plant looms on the outskirts of Severodonetsk, a factory town of 110,000 in eastern Ukraine. Severodonetsk became the new capital of Luhansk oblast after the region’s namesake was occupied by separatist and Russian forces in May 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">At its peak Azot (which means nitrogen in Russian) was one of the largest producers of chemical fertilisers in the Soviet Union. The <a href="https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/comrade-capitalism-the-kiev-connection/">Russian-financed Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash</a> bought the privatised plant in 2011 and incorporated it into his Ostchem holding, which unites Ukraine’s four largest fertiliser factories in a near-monopoly. Firtash’s business empire controlled imports of Russian natural gas, allowing him to make solid profits in the chemical industry where gas makes up 70% of production costs. </p><p dir="ltr">Although it had steadily been losing market share to more efficient <a href="https://ru.tsn.ua/ukrayina/metallurgiya-i-himicheskaya-promyshlennost-ukrainy-ne-vyderzhivayut-konkurentsii.html">competitors </a>in Europe, Russia and China, the Azot factory still employed 8,000 people when separatist forces took over Severodonetsk in 2014. The factory was idled after heavy fighting knocked out Luhansk Oblast’s connection to the national electricity grid, which left the region an energy island wholly dependent on a single aging and war-damaged power plant. Until the region is reconnected to Ukraine’s national grid, Azot and other large factories can only operate at a fraction of their potential. </p><p dir="ltr">But the main problem is geopolitics. Russian economic warfare on Ukraine has meant the end of cheap gas, putting in question the economic viability of Ukrainian fertiliser production and the 40,000 jobs associated with it. Ukraine’s new leaders announced the start of “de-oligarchization” and the United States sought Dmytro Firtash’s extradition from Vienna on bribery charges. </p><p dir="ltr">I have been living in Severodonetsk for two and a half years. I know well the anxious glances at the idle factory that fills the horizon at the end of Chemists’ Boulevard. Taxi drivers mutter darkly that “soon they’ll cut up our Azot for scrap metal.” The economic future of this city, Ukraine’s outpost just 30 kilometers from the unrecognised “Luhansk People's Republic”, is hanging under a dark cloud. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Farmers vs. factory workers?</h2><p dir="ltr">In these crisis conditions, Ukraine’s chemical industry finds itself pitted against the current engine of economic recovery, the agricultural sector. </p><p dir="ltr">This dispute scrambles familiar perceptions of Ukrainian politics. <a href="https://dt.ua/promyshliennost/vtrata-1-mlrd-dol-u-torgovelnomu-balansi-krayini-plyus-zbitok-249121_.html">Farming interests</a> from Ukraine’s patriotic heartland call for lowering import tariffs on fertilisers to counter Firtash’s monopoly and boost crop yields, even if that means letting in huge imports from the country occupying half of the Donbas. </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the Opposition Bloc, descendent of Viktor Yanukovich’s pro-Russian Party of Regions and recipient of support from Firtash, <a href="http://opposition.org.ua/news/mikhajlo-papiev-opozicjjnijj-blok-vimagae-shhob-pravookhoronni-organi-dali-ocinku-antiukranskim-diyam-vladi-po-znishhennyu-khimichno-galuzi.html">rails</a> against lowering tariffs on Russia as “treason and complicity in terrorism”. But proponents of protectionism extend well beyond the oligarch’s political allies. Volodymyr Vlasyuk of Ukrainian Industry Expertise, a respected economic analyst, told me that that Russia has long subsidised its chemical fertiliser industry with gas at discounts up to 40% and practices dumping in Ukraine. Vlasyuk calls for steep tariffs.</p><p dir="ltr">Within the ruling parliamentary coalition there are proponents of both sides, and state policy tends to lurch chaotically between these competing interests. In 2015, the Ukrainian government lowered tariffs on Russian fertilisers, and for the first time since independence Ukraine became a net importer of fertiliser. Certain grades of fertiliser were supplied almost exclusively by Russia. But in 2016, the pendulum swung back and steep anti-dumping tariffs were imposed – Severodonetsk Azot briefly puffed to life. </p><p dir="ltr">However, at the very start of the fertiliser buying season in 2017 the government abruptly lowered tariffs on Russian imports, citing “threats to Ukrainian national interests and the harvest.” Almost simultaneously, the state natural gas company shut off supplies to Firtash’s factories, citing unpaid debts. Domestic production crashed, and many <a href="https://daily.rbc.ua/rus/show/alternativnyy-import-zainteresovan-unichtozhenii-1490001586.html">experts</a> wondered if this was not a coordinated political move against the Russian-financed oligarch. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_dscn9905.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_dscn9905.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="691" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Severodonetsk Azot at the end of Chemists' Boulevard. Source: Brian Milakovsky. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>But in the resulting crisis, Ukraine lost out in almost every possible way. </p><p dir="ltr">Russian producers massively increased shipments to Ukraine, raising prices and bringing home windfall profits. But even these imports could not make up for domestic production, and thousands of farmers simply didn’t fertilise their fields. This caused crop reductions in the scale of five million tonnes of grain or by one <a href="https://interfax.com.ua/news/economic/494203.html">expert estimate</a> up to 32 billion hryvnias ($1.1 billion) in value. Meanwhile, Ostchem had already taken in tens of millions of dollars of pre-orders from farmers, which it mostly has not paid back. </p><p dir="ltr">After this fiasco, Ukraine’s prime minister Volodymyr Groysman assembled a task force of agricultural and chemical industry stakeholders to hash out a compromise on tariffs. It gridlocked, and in the run-up to the 2018 planting season all but one of Ostchem’s factories are idle. Farmers made huge pre-orders of Russian fertiliser, and experts predict that more than half of the country’s fertiliser will come from abroad.</p><p dir="ltr">And so the political jockeying activated again. Throughout March, Groysman’s government has <a href="https://ru.slovoidilo.ua/2018/03/14/novost/jekonomika/kabmin-zapretil-import-rossijskix-udobrenij">vacillated </a>between zeroing out of tariffs on Russian fertilizer and a full ban on their import. Finally, he chose the latter, imposing a temporary moratorium on Russian imports while tariffs were raised above 40%. His <a href="https://economics.unian.net/industry/10085789-groysman-poruchil-proverit-tamozhni-na-narusheniya-pri-importe-rossiyskih-udobreniy.html">goal </a>was “restarting every fertilizer plant in Ukraine,” the prime minister said. </p><p dir="ltr">A sustainable balance between agricultural and industrial interests continues to elude Kyiv. Farming associations howled predictably while industry experts predicted the re-starting of Ostchem’s plants. But in Severodonetsk waking up the aging industrial giant could prove a challenge. When this article went to press, the factory’s power had been shut off for $3.4m of unpaid energy bills, and there were doubts that the huge ammonium reservoir could be sufficiently cooled (!), raising <a href="https://www.ostro.org/lugansk/proisshestviya/news/546623/">ominous warnings</a> of a “Chernobyl style” accident on the 32nd anniversary of the nuclear disaster. </p><h2 dir="ltr">A way out?</h2><p dir="ltr">When I asked out the crisis in the Ukrainian chemical industry could be resolved I heard similar proposals from multiple sources. Valeriy Chernish, the head of the Severodonetsk Azot labour union, industrial analyst Volodymyr Vlasyuk and chemical trader Alexey Malevanets all believe that tariffs are important, but what is really needed is cheaper natural gas. </p><p dir="ltr">The chances of restoring Russian supplies at profitable rates are vanishingly small, so this gas must come from domestic sources. Despite its famous reliance on imports from Russia, Ukraine sits on Europe’s third largest natural gas reserves. Kyiv has made increasing domestic natural gas production a policy priority.</p><p dir="ltr">Chernish calls on the state firm Naftogaz to provide rebated gas to Ukrainian fertiliser producers, as Yulia Tymoshenko’s government did during the devastating 2008 global economic crisis. “That was the only way that our factory survived,” Chernish told me. </p><p dir="ltr">According to Vlasyuk, the price that Naftogaz charges for 1000 m3 of gas (up to $380 including VAT) is inflated. The production cost of extracting that volume from domestic wells is around $50, but the sales price is brought up to the cost of imported gas with a large mark-up to boot. Such a pricing scheme pulls in big revenues for Naftogaz, but should maximising profits be the goal of a state company whose product is crucial for the functioning of Ukraine’s industrial economy? </p><p dir="ltr">Naftogaz’s director Andriy Kobolev dismisses subsidisation schemes for domestic factories as being anti-market. Just look at the fiasco in 2017, Kobolev <a href="https://biz.censor.net.ua/resonance/3027717/litsemerie_oligarha_kak_firtash_boretsya_s_rossiyiskimi_proizvoditelyami_udobreniyi">suggests</a>, when Firtash charged high prices for pre-payments but couldn’t pay his gas bill. Furthermore, a recent Atlantic Center <a href="http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/good-to-be-king-ukraine-s-fugitive-oligarch-blocks-reforms-and-benefits-from-international-handouts-while-under-house-arrest#.Wrs5BNJgzik.twitter">blog</a> accused Firtash of using his political influence to block transparency reforms in Ukraine’s gas distribution sector, allowing his remaining energy companies to misdirect millions of dollars from World Bank and IMF loans meant to help Ukraine meet its energy needs. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Struggling factories like Severodonetsk Azot might never see the modernisation needed to restore their competitiveness</p><p dir="ltr">If these accusations are true, Groysman may find it too politically risky to offer Firtash a further subsidy in the form of rebated gas. As the liberal parliamentarian Serhiy Leschenko <a href="https://www.rbc.ua/ukr/news/rade-prosyat-proverit-zakonnost-antidempingovyh-1497251687.html">points</a> out, the oligarch would likely use the resulting savings to pay back his huge debts to Russian banks. Struggling factories like Severodonetsk Azot might never see the modernisation needed to restore their competitiveness. </p><p dir="ltr">Firtash is a dangerous figure for Ukraine’s political elite. According to political scientist Andrey Buzarov, Firtash remotely controls a faction of the Opposition Bloc that pushes for a confrontational relationship with the ruling coalition. He has given <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/firtash-poroshenko-ukraine-oligarchs-corruption/">interviews </a>to the European press about the need to federalise Ukraine, showing that he has not reconciled himself with the current arrangement of power in the country. </p><p dir="ltr">No Ukrainian citizen is happy that oligarchs like Firtash control so much of their country’s economic resources, Alexey Malevanets told me. “But if striking at him helps Putin, is that better? When our factories aren’t working and we import fertiliser from Russia, every ton of grain we grow is subsidising their economy instead of ours”. Vlasyuk <a href="https://biz.censor.net.ua/resonance/3054970/volodimir_vlasyuk_mi_v_pastts_globalzats_mportumo_dorog_tovari_z_h_dopomogoyu_viroblyamo_sirovinu">adds</a> that Ukraine is drifting into a dangerously unbalanced economic model, when it imports value-added products like fertiliser or farm equipment in order to boost exports of raw grains. This is a recipe for becoming someone else’s resource colony, he warns. </p><p dir="ltr">According to <a href="http://agroportal.ua/views/blogs/konkurentnyi-rynok-udobrenii-vybor-mezhdu-prosto-i-pravilno/">Serhiy Ruban</a>, who manages one of the country’s largest fertiliser distributors, Ukraine would do well to study the experience of the European Union. Its members offer some protection and subsidies to domestic producers in order to ensure national food security and employment. But they also create conditions for competitive import to prevent domestic monopoly. In his opinion, the best means to address Firtash’s inordinate market power is not cutting off gas to his factories, but in seeing through an anti-monopoly case opened against his holding in 2017. </p><p dir="ltr">As long as the majority of the country’s chemical fertiliser sector is held in an oligarchic monopoly, it is unlikely Ukraine’s leaders will find the political will to address the fundamental issue (gas), preferring the quick fix of raising tariffs.</p><h2 dir="ltr">What’s next for the city of chemists?</h2><p dir="ltr">The fate of the chemical industry has consequences at a national scale. But the question is particularly poignant in Severodonetsk, the “city of chemists”.</p><p dir="ltr">Labour union leader Valeriy Chernish sadly described how the factory has hemorrhaged several thousand workers over the past three years: “After the spring shutdown in 2017, they were leaving 50 a day.” The first to go are the most qualified and experienced engineers, snapped up by chemical plants in Algeria, Kazakhstan and, most of all, Russia. “Now they’re developing someone else’s economy,” Chernish said. Many less qualified workers have joined the massive labour migration to construction sites in Moscow or assembly lines and strawberry fields in Poland. </p><p dir="ltr">Other industrial giants in government-controlled Luhansk oblast are lying prostrate as well. In neighbouring Lysychansk, the massive Linik oil refinery is idled because its co-owner, the Russian state oil company Rosneft, shut off the flow of crude. The Lysychansk Coal Company, saddled with low-productivity mines, is living on government subsidies and steadily shedding its last 5,000 workers. Smaller factories in the region are showing more resilience but can only employ a fraction of the workforce of the troubled enterprises. </p><p dir="ltr">But the industrial depression is even worse in the unrecognised “Luhansk People’s Republic” just 30km away, where war damage, marauding, blockade and economic mismanagement have shut down dozens of factories and mines. The economic situation in the government-controlled territories looks better in comparison, but this is damningly faint praise. </p><p dir="ltr">Kyiv wants the government-controlled half of the Donbas to serve as a socio-economic showcase that will convince residents of the separatist republics that their future is with Ukraine. But Severodonetsk cannot play such a role and stem its outflow of labour migrants without help from Kyiv to resolve the structural issues undermining its economy and traditional chemical industry. No one factory town can address these problems alone – it must be part of a comprehensive industrial strategy. </p><p dir="ltr">Until Ukraine develops one, it is dangerously adrift. </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="/gabriel-levy/eastern-ukraine-we-need-new-ways-of-organising">Eastern Ukraine: “We need new ways of organising”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/isobel-koshiw-anastasia-vlasova/growing-up-apolitical-in-ukraine-s-war-zone">Growing up apolitical in Ukraine’s war zone</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nikita-pidgora/ukraine-s-displaced-universities">Ukraine’s displaced universities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 Brian Milakovsky Ukraine Wed, 02 May 2018 09:14:51 +0000 Brian Milakovsky 117625 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Seventy years on, the Kumyk people in Dagestan are still fighting territorial claims https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-kaplan/kumyk-people-are-still-fighting-territorial-claims <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">In Russia's North Caucasus, wartime deportations influence the complex relations between ethnic groups to this day. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikail-kaplan/karamanskiy-protest-i-dagestanskaya-istoriya-spravedlivosti" target="_self">RU</a></strong></em></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/imageedit_3_8652692392_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="351" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Tarki-Karaman camp on the day of remembrance on 12 April, 2018. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 12 April, representatives of the Kumyk people, the largest Turkic ethnic group of the North Caucasus and the third largest of Dagestan, held a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the forced deportation of people living in its former Tarki district.</p><p dir="ltr">In 1944, residents of Makhachkala’s outlying villages Tarki, Kyakhulai and Alburikent, all part of the Tarkinsky district, were forcibly rounded up and re-homed in houses which had had been left empty. Their Chechen inhabitants were deported to Central Asia and Kazakhstan by the Soviet authorities two months earlier. Both the Tarki Kumyks and Dagestani Chechens have been trying to reclaim their districts ever since.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The Kumyk capital</h2><p dir="ltr">On 12 April, between 300 and 400 Kumyks gathered in a specially built mosque popularly known as the Tarki-Karaman mosque, as it’s called in the village of Karaman (“Black Stones”). Members of the older generation spoke about how the deportation took place, and a mavlid, a Muslim religious ceremony, took place. Then local leaders reminded people that the main aim of this public action in Karaman was to <a href="http://kavpolit.com/articles/tarki_karaman_kogda_gora_ne_idet_k_magomedu-6118/">restore the Tarkinsky district and revive local government there</a>.&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/555493/571e4dad8613f2044533955971c6c16e.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="277" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tarki settlement, on the western outskirts of Makhachkala, Dagestan's capital. Source: akamaihd.net. </span></span></span>From the start, this “Karaman protest” has not been just a protest of Makhachkala’s outlying villages. Kumyk communities, in Dagestan and beyond, have expressed their solidarity with the Karaman villagers. The Kumyks formed as an ethnic group on the so-called Kumyk plain, which encompasses the low lying area and lower slopes of Dagestan’s mountainous region, as well as present-day Chechnya, Ingushetia and North Ossetia. Today’s Kumyks often associate themselves with the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamkhalate_of_Tarki">Shamkhalate of Tarki</a> and its historic capital, and now cultural centre, the village of Tarki. In the Middle Ages the Kumyks had their own feudal states, of which the Shamkhalate of Tarki was the most important. Its centre was in Tarki, where the local Tarkovski ruling dynasty lived. Both the forced resettlement of the Tarki Kumyks in 1944 and the attitude towards them of today’s Russian state has led them to believe that they are the target of concerted attempts to deprive their people of their historical memory.</p><p dir="ltr">This is one subject touched on by Khabiy Alkhanadjiyev, co-chair of the Union of Native Kumyk Communities. Alkhanadjiyev stresses the fact that it was only the Tarki communities who were deported on the orders of the Dagestan government, rather than the Soviet authorities. And, he says, the Tarki communities are the only remaining ethnic group in Dagestan to have been refused compensation by the state, which has not returned their property and possessions.</p><p dir="ltr">It is worth mentioning that the Tarki Kumyks, who were exiled to the Chechen villages Osmanyurt, Bammatyurt and Bayramayl in the Khasavyurt district, voluntarily handed their houses back to their previous owners when they began to return home in the late 1950s. What’s more, it was their local assembly, not the Dagestan authorities, who took this step.</p><p dir="ltr">“Perhaps the authorities have taken this attitude to the Tarki residents because they returned the Chechens’ houses and property, unlike the Laks of the Novolaksky district and the Avars of the Kazbekovsky district, who didn’t,” says Khabii Alkhanadjiyev. “And the Tarki Kumyks returned, after all, to an area where no one expected them and houses that were more or less destroyed. But the main thing was that they lost their land, their previously rich kolkhozes. And now their settlements don’t even have their own local authorities: they’ve turned into powerless appendages of [Dagestan’s capital] Makhachkala.”</p><p dir="ltr">The problem in Tarki is further complicated by the fact that back in the 1990s, the Dagestan government decided to resolve the land conflict between the Laks and the Chechens by allocating individual plots of land to Laks in areas that had formerly belonged to the Tarki district. Last year, the Dagestan government <a href="https://chernovik.net/content/lenta-novostey/konca-pereseleniyu-lakcev-iz-novolakskogo-rayona-eshche-ne-vidno">reported</a> that it had built more than 3,000 houses for Laks on this land.</p><p dir="ltr">The Lak community welcomed this decision from the start and <a href="http://flnka.ru/digest-analytics/7659-lakskiy-nacionalnyy-sovet-prizval-tarkincev-otkazatsya-ot-trebovaniy-peredat-im-zemli-karamana.html">called</a> on the Tarki residents to give up their claims to Karaman. Djabrail Khachilayev, a prominent social activist, declared that “The Laks must be resettled, and the sooner, the better. Half of them are already resettled in the Kumtorkalinsky district. We just have to stop cashing in on the situation and find people who are really engaged in the whole process.”</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 2018-05-01 at 13.35.26_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zelimkhan Valiyev at the March 2017 Emergency Congress of the Kumyk people. Source: Youtube / Atakumuk. </span></span></span>Zalikhman Valiyev, chair of the Kyakhulai Kumyk community organisation, pointed out that the Tarki group hadn’t given their consent to the Laks’ resettlement. “The residents of the Tarki settlements haven’t agreed to the Laks moving onto our historical lands, and under current legislation that is an important condition,” says Valiyev. “In this situation, the powers that be have brought municipal officials in from our villages and so legitimised the resettlement. Also, in cases like this in the Caucasus, it’s normal to also get the agreement of the clerics, and the Tarki imam has turned down the Laks’ request.”</p><p dir="ltr">The active phase of the battle of Tarki’s communities over the reconstruction of their district began in 2012, when the jamaats, religious assemblies, of the Tarki, Kyalukhai and Alburikent suburban settlements occupied the area of Karaman next to their lands (opposite the lands allocated to the Laks for new development), demanded that the Makhachkala and republic-level authorities stop the illegal sale of plots of land and created a protest camp to keep an eye on the situation (it is still functioning today). The mosque, built by the Tarki community with their own hands right in the camp, has become the symbol of the protest.</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 2018-05-01 at 13.28.36.png" 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'>21 August 2013: the conflict between the Kumyk protest camp at Karaman and law enforcement comes to a head. Source: Youtube / Targu Karaman. </span></span></span>The forms taken by the protests gradually diversified. In November 2014, for example, activists wanting to force a decision on the land issue <a href="http://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/252133/">went on a hunger strike</a>. From time to time, the camp was <a href="https://chernovik.net/content/inye-smi/v-dagestane-lidery-obshchestvennyh-sovetov-tarkinskih-poselkov-pomeshcheny-pod">subject to pressure from the authorities</a>, but neither the arrest of its leaders, nor <a href="http://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/239009/">a blockade of its perimeter by armed police</a>, nor attempts to <a href="http://rusplt.ru/society/voyna-budet-grajdanskaya-izza-etih-zemel.html">turn members of other ethnic groups</a> laying claim to the same land against the Kumyks had any effect. The “Karaman protest” astounded observers by its immunity from any provocation.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The battle for the plain</h2><p dir="ltr">The conflict over land came to a head between 2013 and 2017, when Ramazan Abdulatipov led the Republic of Dagestan. It was clear from the start that Abdulatipov had no intention of trying to resolve the issue. One of his first speeches as head of the republic was openly aimed at the protesting Kumyks. Instead of proposing a way to reach a peaceful settlement, Abdulatipov offhandedly remarked that “There are no ethnic lands here.”</p><p dir="ltr">And that wasn’t the end of it. Other speeches made by Abdulatipov <a href="http://president.e-dag.ru/novosti/v-centre-vnimaniya/r-abdulatipov-patriotizm-dolzhen-byt-v-mode">contained recriminations</a> against the Kumyks. Their leaders had been “caught” making frequent visits to Turkey, they organised congresses in Pyatigorsk and, to cap it all, the new head of Dagestan called on the FSB to pay particular attention to their leaders. In other words, Abdulatipov hinted that the Kumyks’ activism was not a natural reaction to their circumstances, but a sign of their manipulation by Turkey, a country with which they have close cultural links. This was a rather threadbare dig: the subject of “Kumyk pan-Turkists” is often used to discredit Kumyk activism in the eyes of the Kremlin.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/-тарки_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/-тарки_0.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'>Prayer in the Tarki mosque. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The land situation, meanwhile, continued to deteriorate. In the post-Soviet period, uncontrolled migration from mountain areas to the lowlands of Dagestan escalated. Regional legislation on agricultural land permitted mountain municipalities to rent pasture on the plains; however, the pastures somehow turned into entire villages: 200 ghost settlements sprang up on the Kumyk plain alone.</p><p dir="ltr">These illegal settlements also <a href="https://www.kavkazr.com/a/kumyki-postavili-abdulatipovu-ultimatum/28341794.html">somehow acquired public amenities</a>, including a gas supply. Some of them are even in a better state than the local legal villages, where the schools, hospitals and so on are in a much worse condition. In addition, the over-exploitation of land in the north of Dagestan has turned it into<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM_OO-5jFRI"> an environmental disaster area</a> with increasing signs of desertification.</p><p dir="ltr">To add to the problems, the Kumyk population is expanding, with an almost 20% increase in numbers recorded between the last two censuses — one of the highest rates in the whole of Russia. And it’s not just overall figures that are rising: settlements in the Tarki area are also growing. There are now many families in these villages where three or more generations squeeze in under one roof, despite the fact that a “small family” of two, or rarely, three generations is now the norm among Kumyks.</p><p dir="ltr">The shortage of land is becoming critical. <a href="https://www.kavkazr.com/a/v-300-konflitnyh/28163800.html">Any plans by the Dagestan government</a> to remove land from the “Kumyk” settlements in favour, for example, of the towns are immediately shot down by the public. And even the leaders of the “Kumyk” districts frequently refuse to have anything to do with the media or public figures.&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 2018-05-01 at 13.49.45_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="331" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 2017, people gather at the Emergency Congress of the Kumyk people. Source: Youtube / Atatkumuk.</span></span></span>The leaders of the Karaman protest are popular among the Kumyks, so it’s logical that a new centre of the Kumyk movement is forming here. In March 2017, the Kumyks convoked an Emergency People’s Congress. This event brought together representatives from nearly all their communities, including the Karaman leaders, in response to the republican government’s intention to legalise the “ghost settlements”, which community leaders believe would lead to a reduction in the number of ethnic Kumyks in their traditional lands. After the congress, activists <a href="https://www.kavkazr.com/a/kumyki-postavili-abdulatipovu-ultimatum/28341794.html">threatened</a> to hold a referendum on Kumyk secession from Dagestan. The explanatory letter sent out by them in advance of the congress also contained a response to the government plans:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“This (the legalisation of the “ghost settlements”) is nothing more or less than a covert prescription to officially merge the lowland areas with the mountain districts, after which the centres of population that have sprung up on the plain would be legalised and given their own local authorities.”</p><p dir="ltr">After the Kumyk protests in northern Dagestan, the Nogais, a closely related Turkic people with similar land problems were the next community to take to activism. The congress they held <a href="https://www.kavkazr.com/a/v-dagestane-nogaytsy-vystupili-protiv-zemelnoy-politiki-vlastey/28548109.html">attracted 6,000 people</a>, among them delegates from the Kumyk community.</p><p dir="ltr">This noticeable rise of public activity by two Turkic peoples, along with protests by other ethnic groups and constant complaints from Dagestanis about the uselessness of their regional government, contributed to Ramazan Abdulatipov’s forced resignation from his post as regional governor (although officially, the decision was his own).</p><h2 dir="ltr">Vasilyev’s “strong arm”</h2><p dir="ltr">The Kumyks are quick to talk about the particular discrimination they face from the Dagestani authorities. However their clans, as well as the Avars and Darghins, have traditionally held high office in Dagestan. And, according to residents of Tarki, the Kumyk clans were used by the authorities to break up the Karaman protest, which has led to the Kumyk grassroots movement <a href="http://kavpolit.com/articles/dlja_dagestanskogo_naroda_glavnoe_ne_persony_a_pri-18792/">becoming even more alienated from the clans</a>. At the same time, however, each new regional gubernatorial appointment gives Tarki residents hope that things will change.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Vladimir_Abdualievich_Vasiliev,_April_2014_(cropped)_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="167" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vladimir Vasilyev, former chair of the Russian parliamentary committee on security, who was appointed acting head of Dagestan in October 2017. CC BY 3.0 / Premier.gov.ru. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This is what happened when Abdulatipov was appointed, before the local population became disillusioned with him. And now it’s happening again, with the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/federal-control-in-the-north-caucasus">appointment of “strongman” Vladimir Vasilyev</a> to the post. Khabiy Alkhanadjiyev believes that the new republican head has seriously declared war on Dagestan’s clans:</p><p dir="ltr">“The new government isn’t complete yet, not all the ministers have been appointed. The main agenda is the war on corruption, arrests are continuing. Governance systems in line with the Kremlin’s requirements are being introduced; issues to do with property, gas and electric supplies and so on are being ironed out. That’s the main angle at the moment. The ethnic clans that have had a monopoly on power for many years are regrouping and settling in for a long struggle. They are trying to discredit the new administration, catch it out and use its ignorance of Dagestan’s reality to provoke mass disaffection with the new leadership.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Nogai leadership is looking at Dagestan’s new head with the same idea in mind. They recently <a href="https://www.kavkazr.com/a/nogaytsy-prosyat-vstrechi-s-vladimirom-vasilyevym/28853444.html">discussed</a> their current problems with Vladimir Vasilyev.</p><p dir="ltr">There is, however, as yet no noticeable progress in the resolution of these problems. Houses owned by supposed terrorists are still being blown up, social activists still attacked (this was what the previous regime was criticised for). Recently, for example, Sirazh Utdin, the local head of the Memorial human rights organisation was beaten up. Dagestan is still not a place where you can lead a normal life.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The first target for Vasilyev’s “strong arm” politics wasn’t the Kumyk clans who wielded power in the area, but ordinary farmers</p><p dir="ltr">Nothing has changed for the Kumyks either. The first target for Vasilyev’s “strong arm” politics wasn’t the Kumyk clans who wielded power in the area, but ordinary farmers. On 1 April, the Department for Combating Economic Crimes held a full scale “special operation”. The villagers who experienced it reported that it was intended as a check on the papers required by people who used gas to warm their greenhouses, but that the department’s staff behaved like thugs.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s not the first time they have burst into greenhouses without showing any orders or even introducing themselves,” <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BhOBxumnY2c/?taken-by=boynaq">said</a> the villagers in Ullubiiaul. “And it sometimes even happens at night. If the greenhouse owner isn’t there, they can break the lock or tear the polythene cover. The people in this village work all day in the greenhouses to earn a living and never obstruct any inspections. But what happened on 1 April can’t be seen as just an inspection by a government agency. Unknown people in jeeps and with guns burst into the greenhouses like bandits and when asked to show their ID all they said was, ‘We’re not going to explain ourselves to you; we’ll show our ID to the people who need to see it’.”</p><p dir="ltr">The local social networks are full of the news of how these “guests” falsified the evidence that they stole gas. They locked the owner in his greenhouse, attached a pipe from the street to the structure and recorded this “construction” on video. Now the greenhouse owner is threatened with a court case and possible fine of 250,000 roubles (£2,877).</p><p dir="ltr">“People asked the strangers to show their ID and introduce themselves, but they refused,” reported the local social media. “They also started a fight, pulled out their guns and started shooting, although the local police were there to protect them. It was only speedy and professional action by the Karabudakhkentsky district police that averted a mass punch-up.”</p><p dir="ltr">The local community has now drawn up a letter about the incident to the appropriate authorities. The stand-off with the government continues.</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/abdul-itslayev/soviet-deportation-chechnya-akhmed-tsebiyev">One Chechen man’s quest for a real education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/burning-lands-leninaul-dagestan">The burning land of Lenin-Aul</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/russia-regions-federalism-and-its-discontents">Russia’s regions: federalism and its discontents</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/badma-biurchiev/federal-control-in-the-north-caucasus">How the Kremlin’s anti-corruption agenda masks federal control in the North Caucasus</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 Mikail Kaplan Dagestan Chechnya Caucasus Wed, 02 May 2018 05:54:45 +0000 Mikail Kaplan 117599 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can grassroots historical initiatives bridge the gap between Poland and Ukraine? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svitlana-oslavska/the-gap-between-poland-and-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With politicians in both countries unwilling to back down over worrying historical legislation, it’s up to historians, activists and journalists to reshape Polish-Ukrainian relations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1024px-Exhumation_(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1024px-Exhumation_(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'>2011: Exhumation of victims of the 1943 Ostrówki massacre, in which at least 474 Poles were murdered by Ukrainian nationalists. Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: Leon Popek / Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span>Today, the main difficulty of relations between Poland and Ukraine lies in the field of history. To be more precise, in the events of 1943 in north-west Ukraine, when Ukrainian nationalist formations <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrii-portnov/clash-of-victimhood-1943-volhynian-massacre-in-polish-and-ukrainian-culture">massacred tens of thousands of Poles</a> near the border with Poland in the Volhynia/Volyn massacre. </p><p dir="ltr">While Polish and Ukrainian historians are not able to agree on numbers and the basic facts of these events, the topic is increasingly manipulated by politicians and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/agnieszka-pikulicka-wilczewska/history-conflicts-reveal-the-limits-of-the-nationalist-international">far-right groups</a> on both sides. In this context, long-term grassroots initiatives aimed at mutual understanding are one way to keep reconciliation going. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Working for Ukrainian-Polish dialogue in Ukraine</h2><p dir="ltr">When Walenty Wakoluk from Lutsk, the centre of Volyn region today, had enough of listening to statements like “there are no Poles in Volyn today”, he launched a Polish-Ukrainian newspaper. For almost a decade, Wakoluk, an architect by profession, has worked as editor-in-chief of <a href="http://monitor-press.com/ua/">Monitor Wolynski</a>, a bilingual publication that serves as the main source of news about the region’s Polish community.</p><p dir="ltr">After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Volyn’s Polish community was far from numerous, Wakoluk tells me, but it existed. It was made up of Poles who remained after the Volhynia massacre or who returned from Soviet deportation, as well as Polish women who had married into the Soviet military. Monitor Wolynski thus became the voice of the several thousand Poles who live in Ukraine’s north-west. </p><p dir="ltr">Monitor, financed by the Polish Senate, pays a lot of attention to history, publishing memoirs of Poles who used to live in the region or stories about Poles repressed when the Soviet Union occupied this territory in 1939. “All our texts aim to show this was a human tragedy, beyond ideologies,” says Natalia Denysiuk, who is deputy editor-in-chief of Monitor. For Denisyuk, finding the descendants of individuals who were repressed is the greatest reward for her job. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1_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'>Walenty Wakoluk. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“We want knowledge to dominate in the newspaper,” Wakoluk tells me. At the same time, many topics have to remain without commentary as the newspaper cannot afford to involve historians too often. When amendments were made to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance in January 2018, Denysiuk just translated parts of the bill into Ukrainian, without commentary.</p><p dir="ltr">“Breaking the stereotypes”, one of Monitor’s goals as a newspaper, sounds like a cliche. But in a situation where history is used for politicians’ needs, this mission is far from abstract. “What are those stereotypes today?” I ask as we drink tea at Monitor’s small office in the centre of Lutsk, the region’s administrative centre. “That’s easy. The Ukrainians aren’t butchers, nor Banderites, nor villains. The Poles are not lords who drink blood from the villains,” Wakoluk, 62, explains. “What annoys me the most is the Ukrainian stereotype of a Pole who wants to take back the territories, the Kresy,” he adds, using the Polish term that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/simon-lewis/wolyn-towards-memory-dialogue-poland-ukraine">designates formerly Polish territory</a> in what is Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania today. </p><p dir="ltr">For Wakoluk, the events of the 1940s are also his family’s story – in 1943, three members of Wakoluk’s family were killed by Ukrainian nationalists. The rest of the family, Wakoluk adds, was rescued by Ukrainians.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/2_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'>“Monitor Wolynski”, the bilingual publication that serves as the main source of news about the region’s Polish community. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The newspaper’s attention to history hasn’t gone without conflicts. In 2009, a local branch of the Ukrainian nationalist Svoboda political party <a href="http://volyn.svoboda.org.ua/news/events/00028374/">demanded</a> a public apology from Wakoluk for mentioning the Volhynia massacre. “I wrote about Volhynia not for the sake of revenge. We want this dialogue for truth and remembrance,” Wakoluk explains.</p><p dir="ltr">Wakoluk mentions the possibility of dialogue about the past, although he is quite skeptical about it. Public knowledge of the 1943 Volhynia massacre is scarce in Ukraine, while in Poland it has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/simon-lewis/wolyn-towards-memory-dialogue-poland-ukraine">become one of the pivotal points of the national narrative</a>.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Working for Ukrainian-Polish dialogue in Poland</h2><p dir="ltr">For the past eight years in Lublin, some 200km from Lutsk, Aleksandra Zińczuk has been trying to build bridges between Ukrainians and Poles. In 2010, Zińczuk initiated a<a href="http://www.pk.org.pl/publikacje/pojednanie_przez_trudna_pamiec_wolyn1943_en.pdf"> project</a> to collect stories of people who helped each other in 1943-1947 in Volhynia and Galicja regions. Based on the idea of the “Righteous Among Nations”, people who rescued Jews during the Second World War, this project tells about Ukrainians who rescued Poles during the conflict. For this project, “reconciliation through difficult remembrance” (the project’s title) is one of the steps to reach a common standpoint for the painful history.</p><p dir="ltr">In the first expedition to Volhynia in 2012, a team of students from Ukraine and Poland collected around 150 interviews. In 2013, a book was published in Polish, Ukrainian and English, combining witnesses’ testimonies with articles by Polish and Ukrainian historians.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/4.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'>Aleksandra Zińczuk during an expedition to Volyn in 2012, by Beata Wydra.</span></span></span>As with many other initiatives connected to Volhynia, this project originated in Poland. However, Zińczuk wants to stress the support from the Ukrainian side, paying tribute to Yuriy Matushchak, a young historian from Donetsk who died in 2014 at the Battle of Ilovaisk. The support of such people, Zińczuk is convinced, shows that attempts at reconciliation aren’t one-sided. At first, people in Poland were afraid of participating. “Some of them told it is too late to talk about these topics, others – it is too early,” Zińczuk remembers.</p><p dir="ltr">Aleksandra Zińczuk returns to her initiative. “It is aimed first of all at getting to the last witnesses of history to ennoble them as witnesses and encourage telling what has not been described yet,” she says, “It was also about finding some threads of reconciliation. What happened in 1943 is evil, but we cannot build future only on negative things.” </p><p dir="ltr">Aleksandra, who is now 36, says nobody taught people from her generation about what happened in Volhynia. She got to know about it from TV and media. Only after Zińczuk started traveling to Ukraine did she understand: this remote (or still alive) history generates problems between Poles and Ukrainians even nowadays.</p><p dir="ltr">In both Ukraine and Poland (albeit to a different extent), state education systems didn’t give the full facts of what happened in Volhynia in the post-war period. This story was told in families, perhaps contributing to the establishment of good relations between Poland and Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. As Yaroslav Hrytsak, a Ukrainian historian, said at the presentation of a book written together with Polish journalist Izabella Chruślińska in Lviv in March this year: “Reconciliation happens when a new generation grows up, for whom those events emotionally do not matter.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Another step backward</h2><p dir="ltr">New additions to the law about the Polish Institute of National Remembrance are the latest challenge for the “true revolution” in Polish-Ukrainian relations – Yaroslav Hrytsak’s <a href="http://duh-i-litera.com/rozmovy-pro-ukrajinu/">term</a> for the post-1989 positive turn between the two countries.</p><p dir="ltr">While the world has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/samuel-sokol/is-us-acceptance-of-poland-and-ukraine-s-memory-laws-beginning-to-change">reacted</a> to the introduction of legislating against “falsely accusing Poles of complicity in the Holocaust”, other points of this legislation have caught the public’s eye in Ukraine. It mentions “crimes perpetrated by the Ukrainian nationalists and members of the Ukrainian formations which collaborated with the Third Reich.” The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry was <a href="http://mfa.gov.ua/ua/press-center/comments/8435-komentar-mzs-ukrajini-shhodo-uhvalennya-sejmom-projektu-zakonu-pro-institut-nacionalynoji-pamjati-respubliki-polyshha">displeased</a> with this decision, calling the bill an attempt at a one-sided interpretation of historical events that “portrays Ukrainians only as evil nationalists and collaborators of the Third Reich”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“This situation looks different nowadays. It is connected with the shift of the foreign and memory policy, and with the change of the government”</p><p dir="ltr">In retaliation, the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/per-rudling-tarik-amar-jared-mcbride/ukraine-s-struggle-with-past-is-ours-too">Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance</a> cancelled the participation of Ukrainian historians in the regular meeting of the Polish-Ukrainian historians’ forum. “Until the law has changed, we cannot ensure safety for Ukrainian historians, and thus we propose to continue meetings in Ukraine, where researchers can enjoy freedom of discussion,” says Volodymyr Viatrovych, who heads the institute. On the official level, historians’ dialogue has thus been frozen. </p><p dir="ltr">Aleksandra Zińczuk explains that this new law was an effort by Polish politicians – in the form of far-right Kukiz’15, Law and Justice and the Polish People’s Party – to reach their electorate. She recalls different reconciliation gestures from both Ukrainian and Polish sides prior to 2015: meetings between presidents, paying tribute to victims, articles in the media etc. “This situation looks different nowadays. It is connected with the shift of the foreign and memory policy, and with the change of the government”, Aleksandra concludes, referring to the right-wing Law and Justice political party that took the majority in the Sejm in 2015.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/3_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'>Aleksandra Zinczuk, by Piotr Łucjan.</span></span></span>Walenty Wakoluk thinks that this new legislation requires “more precise definition”, and was surprised by the fact they were passed in the circumstances of Russian aggression in Ukraine. For Wakoluk, this is Poland’s answer to Ukraine’s 2015 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/andriy-portnov/on-%E2%80%98decommunisation%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98identity%E2%80%99-and-legislating-history-in-ukraine">decommunisation legislation</a>. This legislation glorified the “fighters for the independence of Ukraine in the 20th century”, including members of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). But regardless of the new legislation, Walenty has no doubts that calling both Poles and Ukrainians to account for the dark sides of their past is crucial.</p><p dir="ltr">Lukasz Adamski from the <a href="http://cprdip.pl/en,the_centre,about_us.html">Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding</a> mentions there are traces showing this new legislation was inspired by Polish nationalists’ circles, who are “sometimes under the influence, often unconsciously, of the Kremlin”. Adamski refers to an <a href="http://wyborcza.pl/7,75968,23090286,rok-1925-mogl-wpisac-do-ustawy-tylko-ktos-znajacy-archiwa.html">article published by Gazeta Wyborcza</a>, which argues the dating used in the bill (“The Polish Institute of National Remembrance will investigate the crimes committed by the Ukrainian nationalists in 1925-1950”) comes from the documents of the Soviet security services.</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, according to Adamski, the legislative amendments are odd, as the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists’ formations were covered by the definitions of war crimes and crimes against humanity that have already been mentioned in the older version of the law. </p><p dir="ltr">Even if the new legislation is changed by Poland’s Constitutional Court, the problem is that every step ignites hysteria in the media, affecting the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kaja-puto/second-hand-europe-ukrainian-immigrants-in-poland">thousands of Ukrainians who work, study and live in Poland</a>. According to the Association of Ukrainians in Poland, almost half of the negative mentions of Ukrainians in social networks in Poland in the year of 2017 are connected with history, mostly with the Volhynian events of 1940s.</p><h2 dir="ltr">What do Poland and Ukraine need for reconciliation</h2><p dir="ltr">Steps towards reconciliation have been made on political and civil society level between Poland and Ukraine since the 1990s. However, politicians’ declarations did not touch on controversial issues, resulting in a “declarations fatigue”, as Karolina Wigura, editor-in-chief of Polish weekly Kultura Liberalna, puts it.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_1piotrtyma(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_1piotrtyma(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="188" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Piotr Tyma. Source: Youtube.</span></span></span>Piotr Tyma, chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Poland, argues that politicians on both sides have played a negative role in the reconciliation process, painting the events in black and white and taking decisions without understanding the context across the border. At the same time, Tyma is optimistic: although the reconciliation process has stopped on a state level, on the level of society, the dialogue continues. </p><p dir="ltr">As emphasised by historians in Poland, there are precise steps needed for the reconciliation process to continue. “We need to set up a common register of victims from both sides,” says Jaroslaw Syrnyk, a historian from Wroclaw University and a fellow at the Polish Institute of National Remembrance. Another issue underlined by Syrnyk is that both sides need to look after memory sites and graves. </p><p dir="ltr">Poland, it seems, will not be satisfied until Ukraine refuses to glorify members of OUN and UPA. However, Ukraine’s decommunisation laws are designed to create an anti-Soviet narrative of the past that is based on an interpretation of the OUN and UPA’s contribution to Ukrainian statehood, rather than an anti-Polish narrative. The way to break this impasse could lie in paying less attention to the memory politics of neighbouring states.</p><p dir="ltr">“Keeping mutual respect to the difference in our attitudes to some history periods and figures is a condition of friendly relations,” Volodymyr Viatrovych comments. But the question of the historical truth is still here, Walenty Wakoluk is sure: “We need to organise a joint commission on the European level to investigate Volhynian events.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Our responsibility is showing stories of human solidarity and bridges of dialogue”</p><p dir="ltr">“We have to honour those people who were murdered, survivors and rescuers, explain nationalist mechanisms that in extreme forms lead to a dangerous solution as ethnic cleansing,” says Aleksandra Zińczuk, adding that her dream is for a common history textbook and a Polish-Ukrainian centre for dialogue. “Our responsibility is showing stories of human solidarity and bridges of dialogue.”</p><p dir="ltr">Polish and Ukrainian societies need to prepare for a long process of reconciling with their shared, but difficult past. And this is the case not only for Polish-Ukrainian, but also Polish-Ukrainian-Jewish relations. As the Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Hrytsak often says, quoting Madeleine Albright, reconciliation is like cycling: the moment you stop spinning the pedals, you fall down.</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/samuel-sokol/is-us-acceptance-of-poland-and-ukraine-s-memory-laws-beginning-to-change">Is Poland&#039;s Holocaust law changing US attitudes towards Ukraine’s memory laws?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/agnieszka-pikulicka-wilczewska/history-conflicts-reveal-the-limits-of-the-nationalist-international">In Poland and Ukraine, history conflicts reveal the limits of the “nationalist international” </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-portnov/clash-of-victimhood-1943-volhynian-massacre-in-polish-and-ukrainian-culture">Clash of victimhoods: the Volhynia Massacre in Polish and Ukrainian memory</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/simon-lewis/wolyn-towards-memory-dialogue-poland-ukraine">Wołyń: towards memory dialogue between Poland and Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/nanor-kebranian/poland-s-holocaust-law-redefines-hate-speech">Poland’s ‘holocaust law’ redefines hate speech</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-kaluzhsky/christian-hermann-makes-a-vanished-world-visible">&quot;Activists can move a tombstone, but they cannot restore it&quot;: How photographer Christian Herrmann makes a vanished world visible </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/adam-chmielewski/unsympathetic-people-and-overwhelming-success-of-polands-exclusi">Unsympathetic people: the overwhelming success of Poland&#039;s exclusionary agenda</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia Can Europe make it? oD Russia Svitlana Oslavska Ukraine Tue, 01 May 2018 05:57:02 +0000 Svitlana Oslavska 117567 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet Illuminator, the online project making space for discussing LGBT issues in Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-chesnokov/the-illuminator-project <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Illuminator project showcases the human targets of Russia’s conservative turn. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-chesnokov/illuminator" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Pride_Russia_8_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Pride_Russia_8_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'>An LGBT pride parade in St Petersburg, 2014. Photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0: Maria Komarova / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 2014, Russian directors Pavel Loparev and Askold Kurov made <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx9aEGBr8jw">Children-404</a>, a film about young LGBT people in Russia and the harassment they face. In 2017, Pavel Loparev set up an educational project called <a href="http://illuminator.info/">Illuminator</a>. This initiative, aimed at parents, uses video lectures by experts and short documentary films to explain the nature of their child’s sexual orientation and suggests how they should react to their coming-out. </p><p dir="ltr">I spoke to Loparev about the beginnings of Illuminator and where it’s going now, why he moved his husband from New York to Siberia and why coming out in Russia is necessary, but risky. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How did the idea for the project come to you?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I spent several years worrying about how I could come out to my own parents. I was open enough about my sexuality with my friends and colleagues, but I couldn’t get round to talking to them. We lived in different cities (Pavel’s parents live in Tyumen, in Siberia, but he was based in Moscow before moving to New York), although we spoke to one another almost every day. But there were deeply personal things we just couldn’t talk about. We were in a “grey zone”, where my parents just didn’t ask questions about my private life.</p><p dir="ltr">I couldn’t get round to coming out with them, but knew I had to do it, and this situation provided the spark I needed to get involved in LGBT-connected projects. Askold Kurov and I made <a href="https://www.cinemapolitica.org/film/children-404-0">Children-404</a> about a support group for LGBT teens, for example. But even that didn’t get me talking to my parents. I realised that coming out wouldn’t really mean a break with them, but I was somehow scared of being rejected, or of messing up their lives. I had hardly ever encountered homophobia in my own life, but my parents still might not have been ready for it. So I had this rather egotistic idea – I would set up an educational project that would help my mum and dad accept me.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How did you develop the format?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I had, and still have, an animation studio where we made social education films: on HIV, hepatitis, <a href="http://www.debra.org/whatiseb">“butterfly children”</a>. Before that I was a journalist, and did a degree at the<a href="http://razbeg.org/"> Moscow Documentary Film School</a>. So I realised that I could bring all my knowledge and skills together in one project. There would be a module with interviews with experts and a documentary module, based on film and animation skills, that would take a light-hearted, jokey look at sexual orientation and gender identity. After that, the concept came together quite quickly.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Deti-404.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Deti-404.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'>“I refuse to be invisible”. Photo of one of the participants of the project “Children 404”. Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: Ivan Simochkin / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>I then had a chat with my producer colleague Ira Khodereva, and she immediately changed from a listener into an ally and team-mate. That was in June 2015. But everything went very slowly after that.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I went off to the USA and she stayed in Moscow. We phoned each other several times a week, talked a lot about the aims of the project and each modified our position on it. Eight or nine months went by like that, and then we looked for other people to join our team. It was really great that our colleagues in the project weren’t themselves part of the LGBT community. I mean, it’s one thing that gay people are fighting for their rights, but having people from outside the community as well gives you a whole new level of consciousness and maturity. At the same time, there are just two people, Ira and myself, at the core of the team. We hire someone to record interviews with experts, and then someone else works with the sound, someone with the lighting, and so on. We had a team of 20 people over the duration of the project.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How did you go about finding expert contributors and how did you select them? It doesn’t seem like it would be simple to find the right people in Russia. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong></p><p dir="ltr">We started by contacting Resource, a Moscow-based LGBT organisation. We told them about our idea and admitted that we didn’t even know if there would be a demand for the project in the target audience. The awareness level on sexual orientation and gender identity issues is not great in Russia. But do the kids’ parents need this? Resource confirmed these thoughts of ours and helped us make first contact with potential speakers.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">We wanted to position the project as something that was independent of LGBT organisations</p><p dir="ltr">We had pretty clear criteria for selecting them. In the first place, they shouldn’t be LGBT activists…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why not?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We wanted to position the project as something that was independent of LGBT organisations. Because if a young person comes out, their parents might find the term unacceptable, and we wanted to break down that barrier straight away. The second criterion was that the experts should have some authority in their field. And in the third place, they had to live and work in Russia – and of course have some charisma and experience in public speaking.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Did you make some effort to understand the potential audience’s needs? &nbsp;</strong> <br /><br />Yes, in parallel with looking for experts, we carried out surveys and polls among parents. We made contact with parents’ organisations (although they barely exist in Russia), and in the end we talked to parents both here and in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. We asked them to list the 10 main fears and questions that were running through their heads after their child came out, and we used these surveys as a basis when we were compiling questions for parents to answer.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What happened next?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We spent a couple of months in Moscow and St Petersburg, recording interviews with contributors. Then we edited them together and set up our website, and rolled it all out over two or three months. We also had small focus groups that we sent the interviews to, asking them to comment on them and also the layout of the site. Their members included LGBT activists and non LGBT people – those were the parents. I also took advantage of my own professional status and before the site went live I came out to my parents. My mother was cool with it, and I asked her to be an expert assessor. So she took pen and paper and reviewed all 60 interviews. We kept in touch on the phone, held planning meetings and discussed the pros and cons of the various modules and speakers – which really helped us to get closer to one another.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">It was important for us to show a variety of levels of parental acceptance – to film people who were just going through their child’s coming-out process</p><p dir="ltr">Other parents shared their recommendations on video, and we ended up with a huge document where we systematically recorded every comment on the project’s content, design and so on. And we used that to rework the site quite drastically before its official launch.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How did you shoot the films about the parents? I noticed that Russian media outlet Meduza posted it on its site. The footage is very intimate – it must have been difficult to persuade people to share their stories.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Yes, it wasn’t easy, but there’s a kind of magic in documentary cinema. We knew straight away how we wanted to shoot the films. Our approach – honest, intimate, “in your face” – was the only one possible. It was also clear that they had to be shot by somebody from the film school where I did my degree. And I was so happy when I found Inna Omelchenko and Olya Privolnova.</p><p dir="ltr">It was also difficult to find people to take part in the films. We looked for mothers in activist parents’ associations, forums and LGBT organisations and among our friends and acquaintances. At first, no one came forward to be filmed, but then we found several people at once. And in fact, finding parents of gay teenagers was easiest of all, followed by lesbians’ mothers and bisexual girls. The most difficult people to find were the parents of transgender young people.</p><p dir="ltr">It was important for us to show a variety of levels of parental acceptance – to film people who were just going through their child’s coming-out process, for example. And for Natasha, one of the mothers, it was the very first time she had talked to anyone about the issue. And the first time she had been filmed: “I’ve never talked to anyone about it,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What did you discover for yourself while you were filming Illuminator?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">For me, the best part of the experience was the cooperation within the group. It’s one thing when you come together for a commercial project: there’s a clear financial element involved and a strict hierarchy. But our team had no such hierarchy, no one who would bang the table – all our decisions were taken as a collective. We had to learn how to do things differently as a team. Plus, one of the potential problems is burnout. You need to find a balance between how much you give to the project and how much you need to put aside for yourself, to recover. Personally, I see Illuminator as a voluntary project. I don’t get paid for 90% of my time.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do you see now as the project’s main aim?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I see it as an alternative means of providing serious information for adults about sexual orientation and gender identity, so that they can better understand their children. I think that parents sometimes find it difficult to identify with their own situation as mothers and fathers of LGBT young people, so it’s important to offer them useful information. And the entire project is designed for those who are looking for answers to their questions. </p><p dir="ltr">We won’t change homophobes’ minds, but we’ll help people who are already asking questions to understand their child.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Let’s assume that there are people in Moscow and St Petersburg who are more or less au fait with LGBT issues. But how will you talk to parents about their children somewhere in Tula, for example? &nbsp;&nbsp;</strong>&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">Yes, there is problem with reaching a wider audience. A parent of an LGBT teenager is basically the parent of a teenager. There can be an LGBT young person in any family, whatever their education or background. That’s why we had to find an idiom for the project that would be not too simple and not too complex.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">People hate gay people in the abstract, so individuals coming out makes a real difference</p><p dir="ltr">When we launched our channel on YouTube, we had all kinds of feedback. One person would write, “This is an insult to your audience. They’re talking to us as though we were in nursery school!” while another would say, “It’s some kind of gobble-de-gook: I can’t understand it. It’s too remote for me.” So we can just hope that it has all balanced out.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How would you like to develop Illuminator further?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">We still haven’t done the animation part of the project. We’d like to do a series of interviews on inter-sex issues and complete the section on bisexuality. We’ve created social media and are trying to tell people about ourselves through them.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In 2016,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/11/fashion/weddings/pavel-loparev-francisco-bustamante.html"> you got married in New York</a> and now live there. How wide is the gap between the US and Siberia in terms of gay people being accepted?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In New York (which is also a totally untypical “bubble” within America), people pay no attention to any kind of “otherness”. That is still very different in Russia. The most clichéd but real example is to ask yourself if you can imagine a gay couple walking hand in hand along a street, even in Moscow…</p><p dir="ltr">Last summer, my husband and I flew to Tyumen to meet my parents. Before we left New York he said, “I want to avoid any kind of provocation, so let’s try to control ourselves when we’re in Russia”. I was thinking, “I have to be careful not to touch him. Or I could just touch him as I would a friend, not a partner”… That thought was constantly in my mind and was a bit of a downer on the trip. And that feeling of normality in New York and abnormality in Russia is something you can feel on your skin.</p><p dir="ltr">I agree with one of the experts who contributed to the project, that the attitude to LGBT in Russia is like its internal and external politics. People, their health and quality of life become hostages to those to use this “LGBT-card” to incite others to aggression. And I can’t see any big improvements on the way. </p><p dir="ltr">I think that some things might change at a personal level, but Illuminator can’t bring that about on its own. Asya Kazantseva, one of our experts, has said that people hate gay people in the abstract, so individuals coming out makes a real difference. The more openly gay, lesbian and transgender people are around, the better. But while their situation in Russia is so stressful, they can’t be open about themselves – it’s too dangerous. So you’re left in a vicious circle.</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/artem-langenburg/interview-with-ira-roldugina">The inner lives of queer comrades in early Soviet Russia </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-fomina/igor-yasin-lgbt">Igor Yasin: “If there’s no freedom of assembly for LGBT, there’s none for anyone else”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexander-kondakov-evgeny-shtorn/charting-russia-s-most-dangerous-cities-for-lgbt-people">Charting Russia’s most dangerous cities for LGBT people</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/marina-shupac/lgbt-lives-in-moldova">LGBT lives in Moldova</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/katya-myachina/they-said-there-were-no-lgbt-people-in-transnistria">“I got called in by the KGB. They said there were no LGBT people in Transnistria”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/antonina-vikhrest/victims-of-russia-s-ultra-conservatism-are-russian-people-themselves">The victims of Russia’s ultra-conservatism are the Russian people 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 Ivan Chesnokov Russia Tue, 01 May 2018 04:48:50 +0000 Ivan Chesnokov 117330 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Talented solidarity: why Russia’s oldest human rights journal is important today https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/thomas-rowley/talented-solidarity-chronicle-of-current-events <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/TRowley%20author%20pic.jpg" alt="TRowley author pic.jpg" width="80" /></p><p dir="ltr">The Soviet underground publication Chronicle of Current Events turns 50 today. Its mission is still relevant.</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/555493/4384.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Two of the Chronicle's editors, Leonid Vul and Boris Smushkevich, in 1981-1982. Source: Memorial / Personal archive of E. Yu. Shikhanovich. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span class="blockquote-new">“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” </span><strong>The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">For the Soviet Union’s emergent human rights community, 1968 did not start well. January saw the beginning of the trial of four people involved in the production of <em>samizdat</em>. This was the newly coined name for freely circulating literature, press and historical material, produced on people’s typewriters at home or work. In fact, the four Soviet citizens — Alexander Dobrovolsky, Yuri Galanskov, Alexander Ginzburg, Vera Lashkova — were prosecuted because they collected and publicised information about another trial, that of writers Andrey Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel, which had been held two years before.</p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of people signed letters in their defence, calling on the KGB to stop its persecution of these young Soviet citizens and for a new trial to be held. Indeed, two other Soviet citizens, Larisa Bogoraz and Pavel Litvinov, wrote a <a href="http://antology.igrunov.ru/70-s/memo/k_mirovoy_obsch.html">letter addressed to “World Opinion”</a> in order to call attention to the highly politicised nature of the trial. But the cost of an outraged Moscow intelligentsia didn’t seem to outweigh the authorities’ need to set an example. The group was found guilty, and both Ginzburg and the group’s “leader” Yuri Galanskov received harsh sentences. Galanskov, a worker poet who had come through Moscow’s avantgarde scene, died on a prison camp operating table four years later.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/gorb.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="218" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Natalia Gorbanevskaya - poet, translator, human rights activist (1936-2013). Source: Memorial. </span></span></span>Against this background of increasing repression, poet Natalia Gorbanevskaya took up the task left by the group just sentenced. </p><p dir="ltr">Gorbanevskaya, who later found herself in forced psychiatric detenion before emigrating, collected information about what happened to Dobrovolsky, Galanskov, Ginzburg and Lashkova, as well as many&nbsp;others. </p><p dir="ltr">This compendium — which detailed the nature of the trial, the reaction to it in society and other cases of politically-motivated justice — was printed under the title “Year of Human Rights in the USSR” (which had been declared by UNESCO in December 1967). The next line stated what the reader was holding was a “Chronicle of Current Events”. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was printed just below it. It was published on 30 April 1968, and the <em>Chronicle</em>, as it became known, continued publishing until 1982.</p><p dir="ltr">The <em>Chronicle</em> did not always publish regularly. Targeted repressions hit it hard in 1972, for example — and in its later years, its work was severely hampered by the security services. The last edition, compiled in 1982-1983, was never published. But still, the <em>Chronicle</em> published verified information about what was happening in the Soviet Union’s politicised law and justice system.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">When the details of fabricated trials or the torture of a prisoner reach the international public, it makes a difference — not just for the individual in question, but a public’s expectations about what media do and what is important</span></p><p dir="ltr">The <em>Chronicle</em>’s anonymous and changing community of editors monitored cases of “prophylactic work”, when KGB or other agencies signalled to Soviet citizens that their actions were not desirable. They monitored house searches and investigations. They monitored trials and prisons conditions for people who had been sentenced in relation to freedom of expression, conscience or assembly. They collected information on everyone who was targeted by the state — Crimean Tatars, Lithuanian Catholics, Volga Baptists, Moscow nationalists or idealistic communists in Siberia.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/The_Chronicle_of_the_Current_Events.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="215" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chronicle of Current Events, 31 December 1968. CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This information was sometimes kept for weeks or months before it was published, other times it was released quicker. But the important thing was that if something happened, it happened in the sense that other people could find out about it — the <em>Chronicle</em> or any other <em>samizdat</em> could be reprinted in multiple copies on a typewriter at home and passed on. This is especially important where an authoritarian system has the “information advantage”, whereby it controls the majority of sources of information — and thus controls the way that the justice system operates.</p><p dir="ltr">That faint outline of a rights-based polity which was hidden in Soviet samizdat is yet to materialise in Russia. In fact, it might be further away than ever. Russian operations in Donbas and Crimea have unleashed violence and repression inside the occupied territories and the Russian Federation.</p><p dir="ltr">But today, as researchers prepare an <a href="https://www.memo.ru/ru-ru/history-of-repressions-and-protest/protest/dissidents/programma-istoriya-inakomysliya-v-sssr-1954-1987-gg/">annotated academic edition</a> of the Chronicle, there are numerous organisations that investigate, monitor and report on the impacts of the Russian justice system. <a href="http://ovdinfo.org/">OVD-Info</a>, set up during the 2011-2012 Bolotnaya mobilisation, started out by monitoring cases where freedom of assembly was violated. Now it monitors the never-ending avalanche of politically-motivated arrests, detentions and prosecutions. (You can read their weekly updates in English <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/ovd-info">here</a>.) Another organisation, <a href="https://zona.media/">MediaZona</a>, reports on what is happening inside Russia’s law and justice system, detailing, for instance, the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda-sergei-smirnov/inside-ingushetia-anti-extremism-torture-extortion">impunity of the security forces in Ingushetia</a> or the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/egor-skovoroda/they-made-this-man-invalid-can-you-imagine-how-they-crippled-my-soul">impacts of police torture on families</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">These organisations are high-profile examples of how Russian civil society has taken up the mantle of covering the state’s campaign of repression against its citizens. In this sense, these organisations are trying to help expand the field of solidarity (and help overturn injust court decisions): when the details of fabricated trials or the torture of a prisoner reach the international public, it makes a difference — not just for the individual in question, but a public’s expectations about what media do and what is important. In fact, this process re-invests the justice system with some kind of meaning — the public echo effect means that society regains some limited control over what happens in the courtroom or prison colony.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This networked response to authoritarianism also has its limits. Dmitry Muratov, now former editor-in-chief at Russian newspaper <em>Novaya Gazeta</em> — a paper that has made its name bringing unknown pain to public light, <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/11/30/74748-media-nikogda-nichego-ne-zabyvaet">made a telling comment</a> in November last year. Frustrated at the lack of public scandal and attendance at public rallies in support of imprisoned journalist <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ali-feruz/i-don-t-remember-who-i-am-diary-of-detained-journalist-facing-deportation-from-r">Ali Feruz</a> and theatre director <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergey-damberg/serebrennikov-attack">Kirill Serebrennikov</a>, Muratov castigated his fellow news editors for their callousness. It’s harder to encourage solidarity in the social media age, when our loyalties and interests are increasingly ephemeral.</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“We’re forgetful because there’s no news hook. It seems like we’re tired of the fact that this is ‘unclickable’. We’ve already starting blaming the victims for not giving us any more chances to increase our audience. ‘Bastard, why don’t you give us a reason to write about you, so our traffic goes up?’ [...] But the victim can’t, they’re in a cell, prison, house arrest.</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">Forgetfulness is the authorities’ main weapon. And solidarity is the anti-sclerotic condition of our life: either we’re media or we’re shit! Media never forget anything. Media is a way of preserving memory which is actualised at the right moment in incredible genres. And best when it’s done with talent. I call for talented solidarity.”</p><p dir="ltr">Sometimes, it is just about doing enough, doing what you can. The guitar poet Alexander Galich, a Soviet intelligentsia favourite, talked about the limits of samizdat in one of his best-known lyrics: “The typewriter takes four copies / And that’s it / And that’s enough.” </p><p dir="ltr">In conditions where state-led repression is only going to increase in the coming years, talented solidarity, it seems, is the best any media can try for.</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/tamara-grigoryeva-ismail-djalilov/left-behind%20">Left behind: Eurasia’s overlooked political prisoners appeal for justice </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-yasin/by-defending-russian-journalist-ali-feruz-we-defend-ourselves-now-we-need-to-re">By defending Russian journalist Ali Feruz, we defend ourselves. Now we need to repeat it</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergey-damberg/serebrennikov-attack">Serebrennikov and the attack of the Russian state-security chimera</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network”: how Russian security services are targeting Russian anarchists and anti-fascists </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-shkurenok/yuri-dmitriyev-gulag-historian-final-hearing">“I love you with all my heart”: Russian Gulag historian Yuri Dmitriyev&#039;s final word in court</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-slavina/tortured-terrorised-russian-muslim-facing-deportation">Tortured and terrorised by the state, this Russian Muslim now faces deportation </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/Michael-Laurence-valery-pavlukevich/samizdat-in-samara">Samizdat in Samara</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Thomas Rowley Mon, 30 Apr 2018 10:21:37 +0000 Thomas Rowley 117569 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A real revolution? Protest leader Armen Grigoryan on what’s happening in Armenia https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/karena-avedissian/real-revolution-protest-leader-armen-grigoryan-on-what-s-happening-in-ar <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Armenia’s protest movement is going from strength to strength. I spoke to one of its leaders to find out how they made it happen.</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 2018-04-30 at 10.52.47_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>15 April: Armen Grigoryan (right) marches together with protest leader Nikol Pashinyan. Source: Koryun Shekoyan / Facebook.</span></span></span>In the past two weeks, Armenia’s protest movement has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikayel-zolyan/armenia-s-permanent-revolution-why-do-protests-continue-in-yerevan">achieved remarkable successes</a>. From forcing the resignation of the country’s leader for the last ten years, to escalating demands to remove the ruling Republican Party from Parliament, this mobilisation has been able to be as ambitious as it has been because of the broad support it has across the country’s regions and classes.</p><p>Armen Grigoryan, who currently works at Transparency International Armenia, has participated in various political movements in Armenia over the past five years. He was campaign manager for <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/01/30/armenian-activist-stuck-detention">Andrias Ghukasyan</a>’s 2013 presidential campaign. In 2015, Grigoryan ran the No Pasaran campaign against the proposed constitutional reforms that would eventually turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic.</p><p dir="ltr">This is a two part interview. The first part was taken on 21 April, two days before Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation. At the end of the interview, Armen was arrested on criminal charges of “inciting mass unrest”. He was released after Sargsyan’s resignation.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>How was this movement able to mobilise? How did its dynamics develop?</em></p><p dir="ltr">There are perhaps several components that have come together to make this mobilisation successful. Initially, there were three initiatives: the civic movement Reject Serzh, the Civic Contract Party, and the other is the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/fasFront/">Armenian Front</a>. So, it is a representative movement. We — these three initiatives — have tried to mobilise the Armenian political field. Nikol Pashinyan has been working within his Civil Contract Party, and the others have been working within their initiatives, and I think that it has been a success. That is the first thing.</p><p dir="ltr">The second thing is that this has been a positive movement — there has always been an emphasis on positivity to give people positive hope. For example, we have used a lot of humour in our campaign to desacralise the political field and to subvert it.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">This experience that we have accumulated — and it is true that the authorities have also learned and gained experience — but every previous movement’s experience was brought into this one</p><p dir="ltr">The third thing is that the movement has been based on peaceful civil disobedience. I think this has been one of the most important factors in the movement’s successful mobilisation. Through peaceful actions we can give people safety. Obviously, it was understood that police might detain participants, but that would be for three hours, maybe longer — but that there is no danger.</p><p dir="ltr">Further, we have a networked, decentralised style of mobilisation. We do not tell every individual what to do. Of course, we have told them generally what to do: for example, to throw away all the portraits of Serzh Sargsyan from schools, or to shut down streets. But the people organised themselves for this on the local level. And I think that citizens are in shock. How are people able to organise themselves? On 20 April, around 50,000 people came out into the streets.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>What has changed in terms of organising strategies in this movement? Are there people who are organising now that weren’t organising in past movements?</em></p><p dir="ltr">Yes, there are new people. For example, a couple of people [in organising roles] were very new, but there are also people from previous movements. I think that all the previous movements: Voch Talanin (<a href="https://armenianweekly.com/2015/06/25/its-no-to-plunder-not-an-armenian-maidan/">No to Plunder</a>), No Pasaran, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/karena-avedissian/electrified-yerevan">Electric Yerevan</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashtots_Park_Movement">Mashtots Park</a> — all of them have led up and contributed to this movement. They have formed the foundation of this movement. We have learned a lot. For example, the positivity of this movement was taken from the No Pasaran mobilisation, where we saw that it worked and brought results.</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/Mashtots_Park_Movement_0_1.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'>January 2012: people gather to protest illegal constructions at Mashtots Park, Yerevan. CC Wikipedia.</span></span></span>This experience that we have accumulated — and it is true that the authorities have also learned and gained experience — but every previous movement’s experience was brought into this one. For example, the Voch Talanin movement used car processions, and that has been used here. And now it’s a mix of all this experience.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>It shows. It is clear this movement has been very well organised. For example, the rallies are much more interesting and energetic. Before, opposition rallies were very boring, with what felt like 45-minute lectures.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Our first rally was more of a show. We had someone come out in a cheburashka costume on stage [a reference to the fact that, for some, Sargsyan looks like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheburashka">well-known Soviet children’s character</a>]. We tried to break from the old format of rallies where someone would speak for 45 minutes about the situation — people already know the situation very well. It was necessary to change that and do things in a different way. We decided we must be very creative. We brought balloons with Serzh Sargsyan’s face on them and let them go. We tried to bring a show aspect to the rallies, and that had a positive impact.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Who are the participants of these protests? It is clear the movement is being led by students, but there are also elderly people, people from low socio-economic backgrounds, and the intelligentsia. Can you tell me more about who they are and how that affects the dynamics of the protests?</em></p><p dir="ltr">If you gather 50,000 people in Republic Square, you are going to get people from all segments of society. But I think the role of the youth and students is incredibly important, and it is also very important that girls and young women came. This brings quite a lot of hope — we are saying that in the future, Armenia is going to be totally different. And the young women are protesting with such spirit, despite this <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-nikoghosyan/armenian-womens-place-protest">prevailing idea that they should be modest</a>. At one point a police officer told a young woman protester: “Why don’t you go home and wash the dishes?”</p><p dir="ltr">There is a very big gulf between the police and these protesters in terms of their world view. When this police officer sees these women protesters, he is in shock. Firstly, he thinks he should approach her with respect and that he thinks he is supposed to do this and that, but in this situation he just does not know what to do. And it is clear that law enforcement is in a big crisis. It is also a cultural shock for the whole system of governance.</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 2018-04-25 at 15.21.31 (1).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>25 April: Republic Square, Yerevan. Source: Mikayel Zolyan.</span></span></span>I think in this way, this is a real revolution. And this is happening on various levels. For 30 years after independence, there is this thing that has built up in Armenia, a lot of experience, a lot of demands, and a great dream. And this is how you make it a reality. I am convinced that this is also the result of peoples’ dreams. People have been thinking about this moment for a long time, they have been working towards this, they have gone to pursue education, they have prepared short films, they have been involved in the arts. All that has led to this moment. We are all in shock about how this all happened, but this is the result of peoples’ dreams.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>How many people did this mobilisation begin with?</em></p><p dir="ltr">Our first march had 100-150 people. This started with a very small group of people. People told us that we would not achieve anything and that nothing would change. We told them: just wait.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>This mobilisation does not have a geopolitical aspect. Electric Yerevan in 2015 did have that aspect, and as a result, a disinformation campaign was launched by Russia against Armenia in the early to middle stages of that movement. Why is this geopolitical component seemingly lacking from this movement?</em></p><p dir="ltr">Firstly, the mobilisation was successful because it was a purely domestic Armenian contention, and there is no role played by any outside powers. The movement has always emphasised this. The Electric Yerevan movement was tied to the Russian state-owned electric company. Electric Yerevan, however, was still able to overcome this geopolitical aspect, as illustrated by the popular slogan: This is Marshal Baghramyan Avenue, not Maidan.</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/ARMENIA 2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>June 2015. Electric Yerevan protester stands on barricades with placard: "We are becoming a country." Source: Karena Avedissian. </span></span></span>Secondly, the Russians have understood that if they see a Maidan everywhere they look, that is very dangerous for them. Ukraine was a huge lesson for Russia. There is another thing. We have a new Russian ambassador, and I think the Armenian government has not had the opportunity to have an influence on him. Thus, the information that he is relaying back to Moscow actually reflects reality. The previous ambassador had a lot of ties with the government. I don’t think the Armenian government has yet had the opportunity to do the same with this new ambassador. </p><p dir="ltr">Thus, Russia has a more real idea of what is happening on the ground in Armenia now. That might have to do with why Russia has not gotten involved. I am not saying that is the main reason, but Russia does have experience now after Ukraine.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Just today I gave an interview to the BBC, and they kept asking about the geopolitical aspect and Russia. We need to do everything we can in order to avoid that association</p><p dir="ltr">It may be that the Russians understood it might be better just to allow a new person to come into power. That is why there were very balanced statements from Russia regarding the movement. Yesterday, Maria Zakharova [Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson] said something important. She said that this needs to be resolved in a democratic way — Zakharova said that! Actually, she said that it needs to be resolved with the law and democratically. And anyway, everyone here understands that this is not an anti-Russian movement. The movement, within Armenia, is singularly opposed to Serzh Sargsyan.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>So Zakharova put the law and democracy on the same level in this case.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Yes. So in that way, it was very different. Just today I gave an interview to the BBC, and they kept asking about the geopolitical aspect and Russia. We need to do everything we can in order to avoid that association. When there is a perception that other powers are involved, things get very complicated — demands increase, someone wants this, another person wants that. That is why this must remain internal. That is one of the reasons for our success. This also constrains Serzh Sargsyan.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Has there been any involvement from the US and EU, aside from the statements of concern they have issued?</em></p><p dir="ltr">No, I think they are simply following the developments. It is interesting that we have a lot of popular support internationally for the movement. People understand that this is a democratic process, and that they need to support this process. The Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which is the body that monitors elections, and the State Department have issued statements.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-36210909.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'>23 April: Republic Square, Yerevan. (c) Ani Djaferian/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This is interesting because before during previous protest movements, it was always the US ambassador who would make statements. The international community in the main have reacted very adequately. And it has given us hope that something will work out.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Have there been new concerns, in terms of Sargsyan’s rule, that have been identified during this cycle of mobilisation?</em></p><p dir="ltr">Not really. We were able to identify all the problems initially, and during the mobilisation, we have presented them. For example, we have shown that [over <a href="https://www.imf.org/~/media/Files/Publications/CR/2017/cr17227.ashx">2009-2015</a>] 70,000 more citizens have emigrated. We have highlighted that, and the public has been in agreement with our identification of problems.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>The electoral system in Armenia is broken. In this sense, are protests an effective accountability mechanism for holding government accountable?</em></p><p dir="ltr">That has been one of the things that we emphasise in our speeches: citizens have two ways of holding their government accountable — one is elections and the other is street protests. They have manipulated the elections and have left us one option. Our government has not left us any other channel to hold government accountable. That is why people are in the streets. They wanted to rig the elections and not be held accountable?</p><p dir="ltr"><em>During the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/thomas-de-waal/armenia-s-crisis-and-legacy-of-victory">2016 Sasna Tsrer crisis</a>, there was a degradation and radicalisation of Armenia’s public sphere. How, in comparison, is this movement framing this contention, and what are the narratives? What kind of language are the protesters and organisers using this time?</em></p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps you can say that there are two elements at play in Armenia. On the one side you have radicals, who want to achieve their aims with weapons. And on the other, there are people who want to reach their goals in the most peaceful way, for example hunger strikes. We have chosen the middle ground between these two. And we have created the space for people from both extremes to join. This is perhaps one of the most important factors. Even the people tied to Sasna Tsrer [supporters of Sasna Tsrer and the Pre-Parliament group] have been with us. It is possible they did not do much for us — because they think differently. But I can say in the first march where we had 100-150 people, maybe 40 of them were people tied to Sasna Tsrer.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">We understood how to paralyse that system — to use a decentralised, networked organising structure. We did actions in various parts of Yerevan — we never gathered all in one place. The police did not know what to do</p><p dir="ltr">Thus, we have chosen something in the middle that has given both sides the space to express their own grievances. You can sit peacefully in the street if you want — the important thing is that you are doing something. If people wish to only come to the rallies and speeches, then they can do that. The youth, for example, only want action and don’t like the rallies very much. So, this movement has given the opportunity for people to do what they want. As a result, you can mobilise more people.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Have there been any changes or developments in terms of law enforcement tactics or strategies for crowd control, use of equipment, detentions, and arrests?</em></p><p>For the first time, we identified a perfectly working tactic. In the past, in Armenian political discourse there has always been this plan of gathering tens of thousands of people and going together to one building, for example 26 Baghramyan Avenue, formerly the Presidential Palace. “Let us gather there and make a revolution.”</p><p dir="ltr">We actually did was something similar on 18 April, when we went towards the Parliament on Baghramyan Avenue with Nikol Pashinyan. The police made a push and used stun grenades and 46 people were injured, including police officers. The use of force was asymmetrical. Some people’s heads were completely covered in blood. In that way, the police does not really change the way it operates.</p><p dir="ltr">But we understood how to paralyse that system — to use a decentralised, networked organising structure. We did actions in various parts of Yerevan — we never gathered all in one place. The police did not know what to do. </p><p dir="ltr">At one point they just began smashing cars that were left to block roads, and they were pulling people over for honking — yet everyone in the city was honking! At one point during the protests, we were a few people gathered on Abovyan Street, 30-40 people, and at some point, 10 policemen arrived who could detain us, but there was no police vehicle. So they stood there and waited for the vehicle. As soon as they brought their vehicle, the protesters grew in numbers, and there was suddenly 100-150 of us. They managed to detain a few people, but we then began to move in different directions. They were paralysed. Near City Hall at one point the streets were shut down and the police came in 10 vehicles and opened it up — everyone ran away. They detained maybe two people. Everyone else managed to get away. Then after 15 minutes, everyone came back to the same spot and closed the street down again [laughs]. And this networked style worked in different parts of Armenia.</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-36123539_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'>Yerevan's Republic Square. (c) Gevorg Ghazaryan/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>I could feel yesterday that the police were just morally broken. They cannot deal with the sheer numbers of protesters either. When a policeman is outnumbered, he just does not know what to do. And further, since we are not presenting ourselves as their enemies, we are not injuring them, we are not doing anything to them out of anger — they cannot feel themselves as legitimate anymore from a moral standpoint. Yesterday I walked all day, and although we had shut down the city and there were big traffic jams, I did not hear any complaints from residents about the traffic. Everyone was honking in support. No one was complaining about the closed roads. People have realised that this is for them as well. That even if they are not participating in protests, that it is still for them. It is for the common good.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Where else have there been actions outside of Yerevan?</em></p><p dir="ltr">Ijevan, Vanadzor, Gyumri. And it happened just as the authorities began sending law enforcement to Yerevan from different parts of the country; they then had to send them back to these respective towns. We paralysed most parts of the system. We also knew that people in the government were following the events live — they could not get any work done. No one could do anything, because such a huge event was happening. You can’t get any work done in that environment. I know someone who lives abroad — she is from Ashtarak, and she came to join the movement, and she went to Ashtarak to organise. And in the regions, police don’t really detain women, so they let her go. The police in the regions just cannot compute how young women could be protesting. This friend had been studying in Warsaw, and the police could not understand how a young woman studying in Warsaw could be in the street protesting.</p><p dir="ltr">This might be the first time we put into action such a large decentralised movement in Armenia. The <a href="https://armenianweekly.com/2013/07/29/yerevans-bus-fare-protests-a-timeline/">100 Dram movement</a> was also decentralised, but not as big. The <a href="https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Mashtots%20Park%20Movement">Mashtots Park movement</a> could not have taken place anywhere else but Mashtots Park. In a centralised movement, the police always have an advantage. There is a funny thing that happened: yesterday, police tried to arrest people in a Yeraz van. The police detained a protester and sat him in this Yeraz, and when they opened the back door to put someone else in, he escaped [laughing].</p><p dir="ltr"><em>How has Armenia’s diaspora shown its support of the movement?</em></p><p dir="ltr">It is very interesting that from the very beginning and throughout this mobilisation, the Russian-Armenian Diaspora has been very active in their support for us. In the beginning, Russian Armenians had done the most fundraising to support the movement. This has been very interesting. At one point we were marching, and someone said something about the need for loudspeakers, and then we get five loudspeakers, sent from Moscow. It also feels like we have total support from the rest of the diaspora; it feels as though no one would say we are not doing the right thing.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, we make mistakes, and we try to learn from them, but no one is telling us we are wrong for doing this. It is a very legitimate process for them too. People are beginning to self-organise in the diaspora, people write to me asking how they can help — independently of one another. They help financially, morally — in every way. And people are coming to Armenia from abroad to join the protests. Just yesterday someone came from the US. And I believe that if we are successful, he will stay. People have come from Russia, from Germany — this has been the dream for many people for a long time.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Are there any signs of support for the movement from within the Republican Party?</em></p><p dir="ltr">Yes. Serzh Sargsyan made one mistake. He deceived many people, including people within the Republican Party. You can only burn so many bridges. He has just suggested that we negotiate. But none of us see him as worthy of sitting at a table with. He has thought that you can always lie to the public. Thus none of us sees any point in sitting down with him — there won’t be any result. And he is the one who wants to meet, not us. In various negotiations, Serzh Sargsyan has deceived everyone. And these protests are the result.</p><h2>What comes after the resignation</h2><p><em>I spoke to Armen again on 27 April in a car heading to an opposition rally in the northwest city of Gyumri, days after Sargsyan’s resignation.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Serzh Sargsyan resigned on 23 April. How was the movement able to achieve one of its most significant goals?</em></p><p dir="ltr">One of the reasons we won was that the authorities saw this total mobilisation of Armenian society. At some point, the government began showing some very significant cracks.</p><p dir="ltr">I also think that as Serzh Sargsyan saw a brigade of military peacekeepers join the movement [referring to the soldiers in uniform who broke out of their positions to join protesters on 23 April] — at that moment, Serzh Sargsyan understood that if he continued, that it was possible that many people would not follow his orders and the system overall might collapse. Law enforcement were also demoralised. For example, in my interactions with the police, I just felt that they were not trying anymore. I think our tactical approach worked very well — we are not trying to make enemies of the police, and there has always been an emphasis on framing the police as “ours”.</p><p dir="ltr">Serzh realised that if he wanted to get out of the situation, he only had one option: to use total force at any cost, up to and including bringing in tanks. But he went in the opposite direction. I think that people in his circle convinced him not to go down that other road, telling him that the only way to calm the situation was to go.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>What are the movement’s goals now? </em></p><p>From the very beginning we wanted to start with small goals, for example, at a minimum to ruin Serzh Sargsyan’s inauguration party and then going all the way to Serzh’s resignation. We have always said that if there are sufficiently large crowds in the street, we can demand the total ouster of the Republican Party. At this point in time, I think that we are on the way to removing the Republican Party. And we see this as happening through a temporary government, as it must be headed by the people’s representative. And for snap elections to be organised, it is crucial to change the electoral code, as well as to make changes in the Central Electoral Commission — to change some people on the inside. That much. And then elections.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>What are the next steps that the opposition has planned over the next few days?</em></p><p dir="ltr">Since we are on the Yerevan-Gyumri highway right now [where at every village we passed, villagers were out on the highway cheering on the opposition caravan], I can say — and you can see yourself — that there is essentially total societal support for this movement. There is even support from Armenia’s state agencies. It is not visible, but it is clear there are people inside who support this, in particular from middle and low level bureaucrats — people who did not do well under Sargsyan. In this way, the regime has been left totally isolated.</p><p dir="ltr">It is possible Karen Karapetyan will try to steal the movement’s thunder and bring in people from Moscow, but I am convinced that Moscow has understood that it is pointless to intervene in this process. As I said in my last interview, Russia has learned its lesson in Ukraine. This movement is a totally internal phenomenon. When these street actions end, the people will choose their candidate, and Russia will try to work with that. Russia seems to know that if they intervene, public opinion will totally go against them, and that will be disastrous for Russia. It will be best for Russia to stay out of it and allow the internal situation to settle.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>What obstacles do you see yourselves facing in this next stage?</em></p><p dir="ltr">Serzh Sargsyan, having control over the whole government and all its branches, was still not able to morally defeat this movement and he was forced to resign. Karen Karapetyan does not even quite control everything, law enforcement is demoralised, and I think that the army will not interfere on Karapetyan’s behalf.</p><p dir="ltr">Thus, Karen Karapetyan is in a weak position, although he is trying to show that he is ready and capable of doing things. But in any case, Karen Karapetyan will go, there is no doubt about that. He has no other option. He does not have societal support, nor is he a strong political player. He is the one that essentially put forth Serzh Sargsyan’s candidacy for Prime Minister by coming to Armenia from Russia. He has some educated people from the west on his side, but this is not enough. At this point in Armenia, the strongest source of power right now is the opposition rally platform which right now is competing very well with the authorities on many issues. Just for example, there was an issue with people driving with their license plates covered, and after Nikol [Pashinyan] made an announcement from the rally platform saying not to do that, in less than 24 hours, that problem was completely resolved, without any involvement from the police.</p><p dir="ltr">It is even possible to say that the opposition has a better organised response to everyday public issues caused by the protests than the police. The public is able to self-organise and solve these problems without the police. People are prepared to take responsibility and organise measures.</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/mikayel-zolyan/armenia-s-permanent-revolution-why-do-protests-continue-in-yerevan">Armenia’s “permanent revolution”: why do the protests continue in Yerevan?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/thomas-rowley-david-petrosyan/it-s-too-early-to-talk-about-fall-of-regime-armenian-politic">“It’s too early to talk about the &#039;fall of the regime&#039;”: political scientist David Petrosyan on the sources of Armenia&#039;s protests</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/feeling-yerevan-s-pulse-new-media-talking-about-armenia-s-blind-spots">Feeling Yerevan’s pulse: the new media talking about Armenia’s blind spots </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/gohar-saroyan/depoliticising-protest-in-armenia">Depoliticising protests in Armenia</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="/armine-ishkanian/selfdetermined-citizens-new-wave-of-civic-activism-in-armenia"> Self-determined citizens? A new wave of civic activism in Armenia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Karena Avedissian Armenia Mon, 30 Apr 2018 08:40:46 +0000 Karena Avedissian 117566 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “He’s not our tsar”: Navalny supporters prepare for new protest on 5 May https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/armenians-in-moscow-face-prosecution-over-protests <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While a Russian state agency attempts to close down the internet, protests in Armenia are resonating in Moscow</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">While Russia’s internet regulation agency Roskomnadzor is closing down the RuNet, <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/?subscribe=modal">subscribe your friends</a> to our weekly mailing — almost for sure they won’t take email away from us.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Several dozen people in Moscow joined demonstrations in support of protesters in Armenia</strong>. Many were <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/23/v-moskve-byli-zaderzhany-neskolko-desyatkov-uchastnikov-akcii-u-armyanskogo?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">arrested</a>, and <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/25/posle-akcii-u-armyanskogo-hrama-zavedeno-ugolovnoe-delo?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">prosecutions</a> have been brought against three of them. About 300 people took part in a protest in Moscow outside the Armenian Apostolic Church. About 40 protesters were arrested. They were subsequently sentenced to fines and community work by a court. Two days after the protest, it became known that charges have been brought against two of those arrested for attacking police officers, and one other has been charged with <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/25/tverskoy-sud-arestoval-uchastnika-akcii-u-armyanskogo-hrama?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">hooliganism</a>. Most likely these are individuals that the police dragged violently out of cars. The incident was captured on <a href="https://twitter.com/adagamov/status/988115074589122561">video</a>.</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Charges of using violence against a representative of public authority (Article 318 of the Russian Criminal Code) are not infrequently brought against those arrested against whom the police themselves used violence. Back in 2012, OVD-Info published a <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/documents/2012/09/11/spravka-ovd-info-izbieniya-zaderzhannyh-i-praktika-zapugivaniya-aktivistov?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">report</a> on this practice.</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr"><strong>Alexey Navalny:</strong></p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- The authorities have <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/news/2018/04/25/otkazy-v-soglasovanii-akciy-nam-ne-car?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">refused to permit</a> a protest by supporters of Alexey Navalny to take place under the slogan, “He’s not our tsar.” The protests were planned for 5 May 2018, two days before the inauguration of president Vladimir Putin. Refusals have been received by organisers of rallies in 36 cities. &nbsp;<br class="kix-line-break" /></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- The Supreme Court has <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/25/verhovnyy-sud-otkazalsya-otmenyat-prigovor-bratyam-navalnym-po-delu-iv-roshe?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">refused to quash the conviction</a> of Oleg and Alexey Navalny in the Yves Rocher case (involving charges of fraud and money laundering). Earlier, the European Court of Human Rights <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2017/10/17/espch-prisudil-kompensaciyu-olegu-i-alekseyu-navalnym-po-delu-iv-roshe">found violations</a> in the case.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- A court has <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/24/obvinyaemomu-v-nanesenii-udarov-policeyskim-prodlili-arest-na-mesyac?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">extended by 30 days the pre-trial detention</a> of Konstantin Saltykov, charged with using force against police. During the Voters’ Strike protest, Saltykov had tried to stop the arrest of Alexey Navalny. Investigators consider that he struck police officers “at least once” on the thigh, the left and right cheekbones, and on the back. Saltykov himself was beaten in a police van immediately following his arrest. Since 28 February 2018 the activist has been held on remand. He has not been questioned.</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr"><strong>Moscow City Court has told media about the outcome of a hearing before it had begun</strong>. The Court’s press service <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/23/press-sluzhba-mosgorsuda-soobshchila-ob-otkaze-udovletvorit-zhalobu-eshche?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">reported</a> a decision to uphold the sentence handed down against <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/gleb-belichenko/neighbours-but-not-friends">Natalya Sharina</a>, ex-director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature, before her appeal has been heard. News of the non-existent decision was given to RAPSI, the Rambler news aggregator, and the portal BFM.RU. The reported decision left Sharina’s suspended four-year sentence <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/24/prigovor-glave-biblioteki-ukrainskoy-literatury-ostavlen-bez-izmeneniy?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">in force</a>. </p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">You can read about the case of Natalya Sharina <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/gleb-belichenko/neighbours-but-not-friends">here</a>, and about the reaction of the reading public <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/opinions/2017/06/01/boris-kupriyanov-delo-natali-sharinoy-otvratitelno-i-unizitelno?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">here</a>.</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr"><strong>An organiser of the documentary film festival Artdocfest has been questioned by the Investigative Committee</strong> regarding a complaint over “incitement of hatred towards the Russian people”. Director Vitaly Mansky was <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/24/organizatora-artdokfesta-oprosili-iz-za-zhaloby-na-vozbuzhdenie-nenavisti?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">summoned for questioning</a> on grounds of a complaint by Anatoly Greshnevikov, a State Duma deputy and member of the Just Russia party. This year the festival had <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/tags/artdokfest">faced a number of difficulties</a>. Organisers are <a href="http://artdocfest.com/news/383">not certain</a> they will be able to hold the festival again in Russia in future.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>“You’re a normal guy, you understand everything”</strong>: A defendant in the Network case, Viktor Filinkov, has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/on-prison-life-after-torture">told</a> how FSB officers have treated him. He has alleged they tortured him in a forest. In addition, the Investigative Committee <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/25/sk-otkazalsya-vozbuzhdat-ugolovnoe-delo-o-pytkah-figurantov-dela-seti?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">has refused to open an investigation</a> into the torture of another defendant in the Network case, Igor Shishkin.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>A prosecution for inciting hatred towards atheists has been dropped</strong>. The Investigative Committee has officially ruled that the poet Maxim Drozdov <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/express-news/2018/04/24/ugolovnoe-delo-za-shutochnyy-stih-pro-sozhzhennuyu-uchitelnicu-eretichku?utm_source=mailchimp&amp;utm_medium=mailing&amp;utm_campaign=this_week">did not incite hatred</a> towards atheists, nor towards “heretics”. The charges had been brought on grounds of the humorous <a href="https://alexeymeeres.livejournal.com/375082.html">verse</a> that included these lines:<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" /><span class="blockquote-new">The bluebells flowered in the forest,</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span class="blockquote-new">Far away a bird is chattering.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span class="blockquote-new">On the camp fire, with a faint crackle</span></p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">The remains of the woman heretic burn...</p><h2>Thank you</h2><p dir="ltr">As you probably know, we continue to have a great deal of work to do. You can<a href="https://ovdinfo.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=13ffa559a4173431c14248c93&amp;id=7750048308&amp;e=35cf4472ba"> donate</a> to support our work. You can also join us as a<a href="https://ovdinfo.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=13ffa559a4173431c14248c93&amp;id=145230c9b9&amp;e=35cf4472ba"> volunteer</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</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="https://ovdinfo.org/"><img src="https://ovdinfo.org/sites/all/themes/ovdinfo/img/logo-ovdinfo.png" alt="" width="100%" /></a></p><p>OVD-Info is a crowdfunded organisation. Find out how you can help them&nbsp;<a href="https://donate.ovdinfo.org/en">here</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/ovd-info/russia-six-more-years-of-repression">Russia: six more years of repression</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/moscow-landfill-arrests">In Moscow region, campaigners against a landfill site are being arrested</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/harassment-detention-and-torture-russia-s-presidential-election-is-marred-by-repr">Harassment, detention and torture: Russia’s presidential election is marred by repression</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/torture-penza-petersburg">Torture, Penza, Petersburg</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 OVD-Info Fri, 27 Apr 2018 13:18:24 +0000 OVD-Info 117538 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Compassion fatigue: what happens in Eurasia when the world looks away https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tamara-grigoryeva-ismail-djalilov/compassion-fatigue-what-happens-in-eurasia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">In Eurasia’s less geopolitically significant countries, democracy advocates are struggling to keep their priorities on the international agenda.</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/cover_5.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ilham Aliyev, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Alexander Lukashenka. Image: <a href=https://www.behance.net/nnnccn>anastasia vikulova</a>. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>At a recent international human rights roundtable, an activist from Venezuela was heard recounting the recent developments in his town. “Within a year, we saw hundreds arrested,” he started, when a journalist from Turkey interrupted “Wake me up when you reach thousands,” he said with a forced indifference. “This is nothing in comparison to our country, we even stopped counting our dead,” a Syrian defender called out.</p><p dir="ltr">However cynical, this exchange is emblematic of a clear pattern in human rights advocacy: while certain issues and countries are evergreen, others tend to pick up at certain points, then fade quickly.</p><p dir="ltr">In Eurasia, countries like Russia and Turkey are the usual headliners when it comes to the major events and discussions. In the past few years, with a coup attempt in Turkey, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and involvement in Donbass, Turkey’s referendum and re-election of president Vladimir Putin, these two have ascended to the top of the agenda for international human rights organisations, multilateral institutions and western governments.</p><p dir="ltr">With all these developments overwhelming the Eurasia portfolio, and the Syrian crisis ablaze on the other flank, one can’t help but wonder whether countries like Azerbaijan or its neighbours in the region, such as Belarus or Uzbekistan, receive any share of the already fragmented attention of international civil society. What does a country’s civil society do when its human rights situation no longer resonates with those in the global human rights community? Is it possible to prevent reaching the tipping point and avoiding the advocacy fatigue?</p><h2>When the flavour runs out</h2><p dir="ltr">“Obviously, cases of mass genocide occupy the attention of policy makers, first and foremost. Like it or not, there’s also a hierarchy of human rights violations, and genocide captivate[s] the public imagination,” says Steve Swerdlow, Human Rights Watch’s Central Asia researcher.</p><p dir="ltr">“Luckily, we didn’t have cases like that in Eurasia, we have the slow burning, perpetual slide towards authoritarianism. And those things are a little bit less dramatic, a little harder to make sexy, make interesting for a wider audience. That sounds cynical to put it that way, but I think that’s one of the reasons why Eurasia has been a little bit more ignored,” he adds.</p><p dir="ltr">“There are so many terrible things in the media, and policymakers especially hear so much terrible news all day long, that they suffer information fatigue/overload and become desensitised to it,” says Annie Boyajian, Advocacy Manager at <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/">Freedom House</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The ECHR will sit and wait for a coup attempt to happen in Azerbaijan the same way it did in Turkey, and then it will consider the cases in a priority manner”</p><p dir="ltr">Azerbaijan is a victim of compassion fatigue all too often. A tiny country of nine million in the South Caucasus has just shooed in its president for the fourth term. The process — saddled with countless violations and could barely qualify as a bona fide election — handed Ilham Aliyev, president since 2003 and who happens to be the son of the previous president Heydar Aliyev, another seven-year term. But aside from a handful of news articles, this event has gone unnoticed by the international community. A country that was on everybody’s tongue once has fallen off into oblivion.</p><p dir="ltr">The times were quite different in summer 2014 as Azerbaijan became a spotlight country during the major crackdown when top human rights defenders were targeted for a wave of brutal reprisals, says Necmin Kamilsoy, an activist of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/exclamation-mark-that-terrified-azerbaijani-authorities">N!DA civic movement</a> and son of prominent lawyer and former political prisoner Intiqam Aliyev. “International organisations, human rights watchdogs, Western governments considered that crackdown as a frontal attack [on] themselves, as those who [had] been promoting their values were locked up,” Kamilsoy concludes.</p><p dir="ltr">Prior to 2014, international organisations and western governments were engaging with Azerbaijani authorities on legislative matters and reforms, according to Rauf Mirqadirov, political observer of Ayna/Zerkalo Newspaper and a former political prisoner. International organisations then turned into firefighters putting out fires, and their work had become limited to rescuing the arrested opponents of the authorities, Mirqadirov adds.</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/aliyev_6.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan. Image: <a href=https://www.behance.net/nnnccn>anastasia vikulova</a>. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>At the time, the stars of international human rights like Samantha Powell, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, to stars of a different sort altogether, like U2, helped elevate the cases of jailed Azerbaijani political prisoners — at press conferences in Washington or stadium concerts in Europe. But this enthusiasm didn’t last long. What changed, then?</p><p dir="ltr">“First of all, they are tired of waiting,” says Mirqadirov, adding that the international advocates noticed that “not only things aren’t changing for the better, the situation is becoming progressively worse.”</p><p dir="ltr">The attention of the international community towards human rights and political processes in Azerbaijan started to dissipate as of 2016, says Nicat Mammadbayli, an Azerbaijani civil society activist we reached for a comment in Geneva, on the sidelines of the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review pre-session meeting on Azerbaijan. This drop in attention was connected with the fact that in March 2016, the Azerbaijani authorities released a large group of prominent Azerbaijani human rights defenders. While that was a positive move, the overall situation didn’t change. In fact, just two months later, in May 2016, the authorities arrested a later charged with 10 years of imprisonment each, two youth activists who <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/08/10-year-sentence-political-graffiti-azerbaijan">painted graffiti on a monument to Heydar Aliyev</a>. But the world had already moved on to the next gig.</p><p dir="ltr">“It was Russia’s turn. The processes there were more important to the west, looked more attractive, maybe that was the reason,” says Mammadbayli.</p><p dir="ltr">Kamilsoy, another panelist at the Azerbaijan UPR pre-session (where he tried to draw attention to the worsening climate for dissent in Azerbaijan), agrees:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“There is a trend of increasing authoritarianism and populism in all parts of the world. In that context, non-democratic regimes are encouraging each other to become harsher in suppressing democratic institutions. It is understandable that international community… cannot [devote its] full attention to any specific country all the time. For instance, what happened in Turkey overshadowed the situation in Azerbaijan for many institutions that both of these countries are members of.”</p><p dir="ltr">The constant shifting of attention often happens due to international organisations’ being forced to be strategic and “refusing to waste efforts and resources on the ‘incorrigible’,” Mirqadirov says, illustrating it with an anecdote. “One of the Azerbaijani delegation members to PACE in a private conversation with me characterised the relations between the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan, saying ‘They always ask ‘When will you?’, and the reply from Baku is always ‘Why would we?’”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Azerbaijan’s example is hardly unique. Other countries in the Eurasian region had gone through similar internal and external dynamics, such as Belarus and Uzbekistan.</p><h2>Belarus: the little tractor that could</h2><p dir="ltr">Back in the early 2000s, Belarus had its moment, and for all the right reasons. With political disappearances, scores of political prisoners, massive crackdown of president Aleksandr Lukashenka’s government on the civil society and academia, Belarus was at the centre of international attention.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Valery Kavaleusky, senior analyst at the <a href="http://belarusianinstitute.org/">Belarusian Institute of America</a>, this was also due to Belarus civil society’s strong messaging on the violations. But in the 24 years of Lukashenka’s rule, as time goes by, “the regime weakens the society more and more, taking it under control, suppressing its will and ability to speak up. This in turn decreases the visibility of protests,” Kavaleusky says.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexander Lukashenka, president of Belarus. Image: <a href=https://www.behance.net/nnnccn>anastasia vikulova</a>. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The conditions in Belarus were stable but bad, but with more horrific crises happening in the region, the global human rights community and western governments became fatigued and moved on to other issues. “We aren’t sexy anymore,” says Ania Gerasimova, director of <a href="http://humanrightshouse.org/Members/Belarus/index.html">Belarus Human Rights House</a>, adding that in order to be in the centre of international attention any country needs “constantly escalating repressions.”</p><p dir="ltr">On the one hand, Belarus is a country that experiences repressions continuously. But as things escalated in Russia and elsewhere in Eurasia, Lukashenka, who for years was the bearer of the “Europe’s last dictator” title, suddenly didn’t look so bad in comparison to, for example, Vladimir Putin.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">“It's no longer the worst situation. Arguing the case of Belarus has become much more difficult”</span></p><p dir="ltr">“It's no longer the worst situation. Arguing the case of Belarus has become much more difficult,” Gerasimova says, admitting that she and her colleagues “discuss this fatigue issue frequently.”</p><p dir="ltr">So, why is Belarus no longer the flavour of the month? Gerasimova thinks that geopolitics dictate the level of attention closely, adding that the 2014 Ukraine-Russia standoff had majorly contributed to the shift, but also did the Syrian conflict, the migration crisis in Europe as well as the developments in Hungary and Poland. “The world doesn’t revolve around Belarus,” she concludes.</p><p dir="ltr">Another contributing factor to the diminishing interest towards Belarus is the “barely visible international role of Belarus in world affairs,” Kavaleusky says. “Major events happen that demand immediate attention of western governments and international organisations. At the same time, Lukashenka’s regime, albeit brutal and undemocratic, has always stayed within its national borders, never becoming a threat to international peace and security. And to the international community this is the most important threshold after which attention and counteractions escalate exponentially.”</p><p dir="ltr">On the other hand, “being a very close ally of Russia, Lukashenka has developed a deep, restraining dependence on the opinion and will of Moscow. The world does not see much impact from its actions on the behaviour of Lukashenka,” he adds.</p><h2>Uzbekistan: a totalitarian middle-of-nowhere-land</h2><p dir="ltr">Uzbekistan is another example of sudden global attention to an authoritarian state followed by complete consignment to oblivion just a few years later. In Uzbekistan’s case, ever since president Islam Karimov took over, the repressions have been steadily on the rise.</p><p dir="ltr">But as Umida Niyazova, director of the <a href="http://uzbekgermanforum.org/">Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights</a>, puts it, the international community tends to pay attention when something absolutely horrible happens. “In the case of Uzbekistan, that was the <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n13/anna-neistat/diary">rebellion of 2005 in Andijon</a> and the gunning down of this rebellion when the lowest estimates put the number of the killed at 500 that were gunned down... When you have 500 bodies, it’s hard not to turn your attention to it,” Niyazova says.</p><p dir="ltr">Nadejda Atayeva, president of the <a href="https://ahrca.eu/">Association for Human Rights in Central Asia</a>, says that after Andijon, “the EU nations imposed sanctions against Uzbekistan, and the US government removed its military base from Karshi-Khanabad. Such a reaction of the international community led to the release of 27 famous political prisoners. Then, the EU sanctions started turning into a dialogue on human rights between the EU and the Uzbek government.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/2 (2).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the current president of Uzbekistan. Image: <a href=https://www.behance.net/nnnccn>anastasia vikulova</a>. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>But, just like with Azerbaijan and Belarus, the attention span of the west didn’t last. In the following five years after 2005, the sanctions were slowly and quietly scuttled despite the fact that the Uzbek government failed to meet most conditions.</p><p dir="ltr">Niyazova, who was arrested following the Andijon events, was released at the request of the international partners, but this was one of the few “easy” conditions for the Uzbek government to fulfill, but “the condition of investigating the unlawful use of the deadly force and the punishment of the guilty [parties] for the murder has not yet been [fulfilled] and the Andijon story has now been closed, as if it had never happened,” she adds.</p><h2>Policy prescriptions for the rolling blackouts</h2><p dir="ltr">However, the international advocacy train with those beating the drum of international advocacy on Uzbekistan’s Andijon massacre and political disappearances in Belarus, has since barreled down the tracks towards the next more brutal and, therefore, sexier destination.</p><p dir="ltr">Similarly, in Azerbaijan, the elections are over. The spotlights are turned off. The media crews, such as they were, have packed and left. The blackout ensues. The country isn’t anticipating any major international attention at least until another major sporting event, such as a Formula 1 race in Baku later this month.</p><p dir="ltr">Azerbaijan’s civil society and its problems remain and arguably the lack of the attention and spotlight exacerbate their day-to-day problems and pressures. That said, the human rights defenders and others in civil society have learned to live in between the high profile international sporting and cultural events, riding the wave of the international scrutiny that invariably accompanies such galas lavishly hosted by a regime that desperately seeks international acknowledgment. “The problem is that such events don’t happen every day or every month in the country,” says Rasul Jafarov, a former political prisoner and human rights defender.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Support of international human rights organisations is crucial in advancing the message. What makes the work effective is institutionalising pressure on the authoritarian regimes”</p><p dir="ltr">Jafarov acknowledges that civil society, however, “cannot just wait every time [for] such events to be happening in the country. There should be other mechanisms, which are difficult to establish, [but] it doesn’t mean that nothing should be done.”</p><p dir="ltr">Other mechanisms are the ones that keep the Eurasian regimes in check and seek accountability. Niyazova suggests one such mechanism, the United Nations Human Rights Council UPR pre-sessions. These pre-sessions, on the sidelines of which Niyazova was interviewed, are held at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. Hundreds of human rights activists, advocates and civil society representatives attend from all over the world.</p><p dir="ltr">Gerasimova suggests developing institutional capacity of the civil societies, but also the conditions for such institutions’ existence. “You have to develop the civil society in-country, not just one, two or three organisations or 10-15 individual activists or journalists working. You need to invest more in development and involvement of the youth, create an atmosphere for development of the grassroots organisations and groups that could investigate, talk about, report, write,” she says.</p><p dir="ltr">Another piece of advice is to have a clear agenda, be effective at public messaging and have unified backing from civil society, Gerasimova says. “General phrases don’t really help in that regard. You have to be specific about the issues that need to be improved.”</p><p dir="ltr">This kind of messaging should be done by “well-educated, well-motivated people” who know the peculiarities of how western governments and international organisations operate and make decisions, says Kavaleusky. These are very complex institutions that require effective navigation, he notes, adding: “Support of international human rights organisations is crucial in advancing the message. What makes the work effective is institutionalising pressure on the authoritarian regimes.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">But who should the messaging be directed at? Authoritarian governments themselves? Mammadbayli is quite skeptical, and says, for example, Azerbaijani government isn’t interested in hearing the policy prescriptions. He points to the fact that just a few minutes prior to the interview, the Azerbaijani ambassador to the mission left the proceedings citing an urgent need to cast a vote in the Azerbaijani presidential elections that were being held that day.</p><p dir="ltr">“We all know full well none of these recommendations will be implemented. The ECHR will sit and wait for a coup attempt to happen in Azerbaijan the same way it did in Turkey, and then it will consider the cases in a priority manner. This is just one side of the issue. Those who had <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-azerbaijan-election-monitors/azeri-presidents-supporters-heckle-as-observers-declare-election-unfair-idUSKBN1HJ1GW">attacked the OSCE mission this morning</a> did the same thing the day after the 2013 election,” Mammadbayli says, describing the mayhem created by the Azerbaijani pro-government journalists and observers who shouted down the OSCE election observers during their press conference in Baku. “Nothing changes. The OSCE mission came this time, it will come also seven years from now,” Mammadbayli adds.</p><p dir="ltr">Would it be better to seek international community’s attention? But how? Annie Boyajian, Advocacy Manager at Freedom House, says civil societies’ best bet is to connect to whichever audiences they are pitching their problems to. “The individual, human face of an issue is more compelling than talking about an issue in general terms. Issues should also be presented in the most compelling way possible. Activists should explain why the issue impacts the United States, what leverage they think the US has on the particular issue, and how the US should wield that leverage. And, to prevent fatigue as much as possible the issue should be raised regularly in new and fresh ways: interviews, videos, hearings, constituent letters to Members of Congress,” she concludes.</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/tamara-grigoreva-ismail-djalilov/new-era-of-crimes-against-humanity-in-eurasia">A new era of crimes against humanity in Eurasia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tamara-grigoryeva-ismail-djalilov/no-place-is-a-safe-haven">For Eurasia’s activists, no place is a safe haven </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tamara-grigoryeva-ismail-djalilov/left-behind%20">Left behind: Eurasia’s overlooked political prisoners appeal for justice </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mike-runey-marcin-de-kaminski/azerbaijans-digital-crackdown">Azerbaijan’s digital crackdown requires a political solution </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/why-we-should-write-about-the-crimean-tatars">Why we should write about the Crimean Tatars</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 Ismail Djalilov Tamara Grigoryeva Fri, 27 Apr 2018 10:52:16 +0000 Tamara Grigoryeva and Ismail Djalilov 117532 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “The Network”: how Russian security services are targeting Russian anarchists and anti-fascists https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Over a dozen people connected to Russian anti-fascism have been tortured since October 2017. According to the security services, they are a part of a plot to destabilise Russia.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/d6ab1dfc74572d008e057261680e235f_1400x850_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/d6ab1dfc74572d008e057261680e235f_1400x850_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The room in St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport where Viktor Filinkov was taken. This image was made by Filinkov’s wife Alexandra according to his description.</span></span></span>Since autumn 2017, the Russian security services <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/new-defendant-in-russian-anti-fascist-case">have been arresting anarchists and anti-fascists</a> across the country. They're suspected of being part of a terrorist organisation called “The Network”. Detainees <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">complain that they have been tortured</a>, and rights advocates believe the case is fabricated.</p><h2>The FSB’s version</h2><p>According to the investigation’s case, the FSB <a href="https://republic.ru/posts/89236">foiled</a> the activities of “The Network” terrorist organisation, which has existed since 2014. “The Network” had cells in Penza, St Petersburg and Moscow. The case also mentions a cell in Belarus, but does not offer any detail about its alleged members.</p><p dir="ltr">Defendants in the case are charged with organising a terrorist group and illegal possession of weapons. Each of them has assigned roles: leaders, communications personnel, sappers and ideological officers. According to the FSB, members of “The Network” were planning to organise bombings during Russia’s March 2018 presidential elections and the Football World Cup, launching an armed uprising and “stirring up the masses for further destabilisation of the political situation in the country”.</p><p dir="ltr">Members of the organisation discussed their plans on the Jabber messenger and at conferences in the Moscow and Leningrad regions in mid-2016 and the beginning of 2017: they allegedly trained, discussed anarchism and even kept official minutes of the meeting. The defendants face five to 10 years behind bars.</p><h2>Airsoft players from Penza</h2><p dir="ltr">This case began in the Volga town of Penza, where in the fall of 2017 local security service officers arrested six men who played airsoft together. The <a href="https://memohrc.org/ru/defendants/zorin-egor-dmitrievich">first man to be arrested was Egor Zorin</a>, a student of Penza State University, who was arrested on 17 October. His fellow students thought Egor was missing and searched for him around the city. Zorin took a plea bargain and is the only defendant to be put under house arrest.</p><p dir="ltr">By the second day after his arrest, Zorin had already <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/02/02/75366-zvenya-odnoy-seti">given</a> evidence against his classmate Ilya Shakursky, a local antifascist and environmental activist. They arrested Shakursky on 19 October: they caught him stepping off the bus as he returned from looking for his missing classmate. After a few blows to his legs, kidneys and the back of his head, Shakursky gave investigators the password to his phone. During the search of his apartment, according to Shakursky’s mother, the detectives found self-made explosive devices and a pistol. Her son said that they weren't his.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_906bf96f54a81db56bd6997abff915b4_1400x850.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_906bf96f54a81db56bd6997abff915b4_1400x850.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ilya Shakursky. Photo: Yegor Skovoroda / Mediazona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Later Shakursky spoke in detail about torture, and the Public Monitoring Commission found markings from a shock baton on his body. They beat him with a shock baton, threatened him with rape, and forced him to memorise drafts of a confession they had written so he could later repeat it to investigators: “After that, I forgot the word ‘no’ and said everything the detectives told me.”</p><p dir="ltr">Shakursky <a href="https://zona.media/article/2018/02/16/shakursky">recalled</a> hearing groans through the walls of the office he was brought to after his arrest. During the interrogation, an investigator in a mask came in with a bloody kerchief in his hands. He was interrogating Sharkursky’s friend Vasily Kuksov, a singer in a local garage band, in the other room. They had arrested him that same evening. Security service officers found a pistol in Kuksov’s car.</p><p dir="ltr">On 27 October, Dmitry Pchelintsev, a shooting instructor, was arrested. They found registered hunting rifles and non-lethal pistols in his apartment, along with a shotgun and airsoft ammunition. After the search, detectives went down to Pchelintsev’s car and found two hand grenades. The car’s burglar alarm was off. According to Shakursky’s friends, they hadn’t spoken to Pchelnitsev for half a year.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">To stop the torture, Pchelintsev broke a toilet tank and, using the fragments, slashed his arms and neck</p><p dir="ltr">Pchelintsev also spoke of torture in the basement of a pre-trial detention centre. Indeed, his words coincide with Shakursky’s statement. He was shocked on various parts of his body, and investigators tried to hook up uninsulated wire to his genitals. They hung him upside down and gave Pchelintsev tranquilisers. To stop the torture, Pchelintsev broke a toilet tank and, using the fragments, slashed his arms and neck. Later he was <a href="https://zona.media/news/2018/02/15/pchel">strong-armed</a> into retracting his statement on torture.</p><p dir="ltr">At the beginning of November, mechanic Andrey Chernov was also arrested. Investigators detained him at work on the shop floor in front of his colleagues. Like the other defendants, Andrey’s location was kept from his relatives for the first two days. By that time, he had already signed all the statements which the investigators had given him. According to Chernov’s mother, investigators planted a blade on him so they could put him in solitary confinement and threatened to arrest his brother.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_13a7b45964b76e1fbe93d4172613b0675.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_13a7b45964b76e1fbe93d4172613b0675.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'>Ilya Shakursky. Photo: Yegor Skovoroda / Mediazona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Activist Arman Sagynbayev was also arrested at the beginning of November in St Petersburg. According to the criminal file, a search of Sagynbaev’s apartment turned up a bucket of aluminum powder and timers. Among the file’s documents is a confession that he bought the powder and other components on Avita.ru, a classifieds sales site, to prepare an explosive device. Sagynbayev’s mother has stated her son has serious chronic health problems. However, she said the security service officers refused to give him medicine. She also said they tortured her son.</p><p dir="ltr">Pchelintsev, the shooting instructor, wrote a letter to his lawyer where he recalled running into Sagynbayev in a hallway. Sagynbayev asked forgiveness for giving evidence against the other activists and looked as if he had been beaten.</p><h2>Closed trial</h2><p dir="ltr">Vasily Kuksov, the musician, was the only one arrested in Penza who did not admit his guilt. Later, both Pchelintsev and Shakursky claimed that they incriminated themselves under torture. Andrey Chernov completely retracted his confession.</p><p dir="ltr">Now there’s signs the FSB is trying to hush up this case up: for example, journalists <a href="https://zona.media/news/2018/04/19/kras-court">are being limited access</a> to court hearings, and five of the six attorneys working with the defendants from Penza have had to sign non-disclosure agreements. The only one who hasn’t is Shakursky’s attorney Mikhail Grigoryan. He <a href="https://www.bbc.com/russian/features-43499994">believes</a> that the case has a strong body of evidence against the young men – this evidence includes videos, taken by those arrested, from talks and airsoft trainings. According to Grigoryan, the defendants are shown on video practicing throwing Molotov cocktails.</p><p dir="ltr">In a conversation with the Russian-language service of BBC, Grigoryan said that the FSB showed a workbook, allegedly taken from one of the defendants, where rules for recruitment of new members were written. Grigoryan suggested that the workbook had been written by foreign intelligence agencies.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Grigoryan, in 2016, new people showed up to training sessions and taught the others how to knife-fight and throw Molotov cocktails. The case files on the Penza “cell” also mentioned two other defendants who could not be found.</p><p dir="ltr">When I tried to get in touch with Grigoryan, he asked what country the publication was registered in. He then refused to speak on the phone and asked for a meeting in Penza: “I don’t even know you, it doesn’t work this way.”</p><p dir="ltr">When Elena Bogatova, Ilya Shakursky’s mother, talks about Grigoryan, she recalls that he worked very easily with the investigators. She says that they tried to convince her to work with them, promising leniency for her son in return.</p><h2>Anarchists from Petersburg</h2><p dir="ltr">Armen Sagynbaev, who was arrested in Petersburg, was known to local activists – and this is how the case went national. There were allegedly two cells in Petersburg: “Field of Mars” and “Jordan-SPB”.</p><p dir="ltr">Viktor Filinkov, a computer programmer and anti-fascist, was <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">arrested</a> on 23 January 2018 at Petersburg Pulkovo airport. He was about to fly to Kiev, with a layover in Minsk, to see his wife. Unlike in Penza, the security service officers in Petersburg <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">tortured</a> activists “on the go”. They <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">beat Filinkov up in a dark-blue minivan</a>, shocked him through his handcuffs, on the back of his head, on his back, and on his groin (rights advocates verified that he had been tortured). Afterwards: a search of his home and memorised confession at the FSB headquarters.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/photo_2018-01-24_22-04-13_(1)_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/photo_2018-01-24_22-04-13_(1)_0.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'>Viktor Filinkov. Source: Personal archive.</span></span></span>Filinkov is a citizen of Kazakhstan, but the country’s representatives aren’t being allowed to visit him. At the beginning of March 2018, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs lied to Filinkov’s wife Alexandra, telling her that he had flown to Minsk on the day of his arrest. Now the prosecutor is <a href="https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=797879857088844&amp;id=100006005109621">refusing</a> to dismiss the FSB officers who tasered the anti-fascist activist. What’s more, Konstantin Bondarev, the Petersburg FSB lead detective who Filinkov says led the torture, earlier <a href="https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3606993">earned a certificate of gratitude</a> from St Petersburg’s legislative assembly “for special services”.</p><p dir="ltr">On 26 January, three days after Filinkov’s arrest, Petersburg anti-fascist activist Igor Shishkin disappeared. Shishkin was also officially arrested two days later after his disappearance (it seems this is a new tradition). At the hearing, the FSB covered Shishkin’s face with a scarf and hood. Human rights activists discovered a fracture in his lower eye socket, as well as bruises and burns from the shock baton, but while he was held by the FSB, the activist signed a statement saying he had received the wounds while playing sports.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">FSB officers promise that if Yuliy Boyarshinov doesn’t start talking, then the conditions of his detention will only worsen</p><p dir="ltr">After these arrests, searches were carried out at the homes of other left-wing activists in Petersburg. Ilya Kapustin disappeared during one of them. They seized him as he was walking his dog. His relatives didn’t know where he was until the courts handed down a decision on his arrest. Kapustin is a witness in the case, but according to him, he has also <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/harassment-detention-and-torture-russia-s-presidential-election-is-marred-by-repr">been tortured</a>. Kapustin has since fled the country and requested political asylum in Finland.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/yulik_(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/yulik_(1).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'>Yuliy Boyarshinov. Source: Personal archive.</span></span></span>The Petersburg security services also detained the final suspect (so far) in late January. Charges were brought against Yuliy Boyarshinov, an industrial climber (as is Ilya Kapustin). He also holds left-wing views: for example, Boyarshinov has been involved in organised festivals with free food and clothes, and read anarchist group <a href="https://avtonom.org/">Autonomous Action</a>’s magazine. Boyarshinov <a href="https://ovdinfo.org/articles/2018/04/11/my-sdelali-tebe-huzhe-govori-v-dele-seti-poyavilsya-novyy-figurant">was arrested</a> during a narcotics raid, and 400g of black gunpowder was found on his person. This kind of gunpowder is usually used for fireworks. Officers beat Boyarshinov when he was arrested. </p><p dir="ltr">After Boyarshinov’s apartment was searched, they started to show him the names of the others who had been arrested in “The Network” case. He’s being held in pre-trial detention in an overfilled cell (about 150 people to 116 cots). FSB officers promise that if Yuliy doesn’t start talking, then the conditions of his detention will only worsen.</p><h2>Parents against torture and the TV channel NTV</h2><p dir="ltr">The parents of those arrested in the Penza case have come together to form an organisation called “The Parents’ Network”.</p><p dir="ltr">“The parents stayed silent for so long because when your child is held hostage, it’s very hard to speak. Their lives, health, and future depend on our actions and the actions of their parents,” says human rights defender Aleksandra Krylenkova. The “The Parents’ Network” is now sending torture complaints to Yuriy Chaika, Russia’s Prosecutor General, trying to get criminal proceedings initiated against the security service officers. The Investigative Committee has so far declined to initiate an investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">Krylenkova thinks that the investigators were in close contact with the parents that were most susceptible to pressure. This why they are ignoring Pchelintsev’s and Chernov’s parents.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_screen_shot_2018-04-23_at_122329.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_screen_shot_2018-04-23_at_122329.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="229" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Parents Network press conference, 17 April. Source: Youtube.</span></span></span>When Elena Bogatova, the mother of Ilya Shakursky, decided to join a group of rights defenders and parents of various Penza case defendants, the lawyer along with the investigator tried to talk her out of it. Bogatova recalls what the investigator told her: “Your son is good, theirs are bad, rights defenders won't help you.” Besides that, the investigator also threatened her, saying that if Shakursky were to change his testimony, then they would assign him the role of organiser in the case.</p><p dir="ltr">In April 2018, the investigator offered Bogatova an informal deal. According to Bogatova, investigators demanded she give an interview to the NTV TV channel, confirming her son’s membership in “The Network” and remaining silent about the defendant’s joint airsoft games. The investigator promised that the interview would “count towards her son’s case in court”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The witnesses were tortured because the border between defendants and witnesses in these situations is a thin one”</p><p dir="ltr">NTV correspondents also visited Arman Sargynbaev’s mother, showing her the video of the defendant’s training sessions, which are are considered confidential material. As the video played, the journalists asked her if she had any connections with rights defenders. The camera crew caught up to the latter in Petersburg: they tried to get Viktor Filinkov’s lawyer, Vitaliy Cherkasov, on camera along with two representatives of the public monitoring commission that had found evidence of torture. All three <a href="https://www.facebook.com/yana.teplitskaya.5/videos/1811061848945430/">were asked</a> “Why they were helping terrorists?” and about their connections to Ukraine (referring to a meeting between the public monitoring commission and Ukraine’s consul general). In NTV’s documentary, the <a href="http://www.ntv.ru/video/1583707/">“Ukrainian connection” </a>emerges at one of the main themes.</p><h2>Punishment for solidarity</h2><p>After rights advocates and journalists started to pay attention to the situation, anarchist organisations started to spread information about this case around the world. Solidarity actions took place in Russia, Europe, the USA and Canada with the slogan “The FSB is the main terrorist”. However, as it turns out, people involved in solidarity actions with Russian anarchists are also facing torture. In Chelyabinsk, after unknown people raised a banner in front of the local FSB building in February, local activists were <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda/chelyabinsk-anarchists-tortured">tortured with electric shocks</a> and pressured by investigators. After a window was broken at a United Russia office in Moscow in January during a solidarity action, activists <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ovd-info/harassment-detention-and-torture-russia-s-presidential-election-is-marred-by-repr">faced torture</a> at the hands of the FSB.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_5f34322fbb6756c224dc61a385a1fba4_1400x850_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_5f34322fbb6756c224dc61a385a1fba4_1400x850_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>14-15 February: the action outside FSB headquarters, Chelyabinsk. Source: Popular Self-Defence group / VKontakte.</span></span></span>“The witnesses were tortured because the border between defendants and witnesses in these situations is a thin one,” says Alexander Litoi, a journalist with police monitoring service OVD-Info. Litoi believes that the security services have yet to make up their minds which people will be involved in the case, and are no longer afraid of accountability. For Litoi, torture and the methods of pressuring people used by the investigation are standard when it comes to the Russian security services’ work on terrorism charges.</p><p dir="ltr">After the Russian press started discussing “The Network” case, searches were carried out at the homes of local leftist activists in Crimea. Those detained spoke of beatings, but all the official accusations were in connection with reposts on social networks that were unrelated to the Penza case: either “incitement of hatred” or “public justification of terrorism”.</p><h2>5.11.17</h2><p dir="ltr">Anarchists and antifascists from Penza faced arrest at the same time as participants of Russian nationalist Vyacheslav Maltsev’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskih/antologiya-neudavsheysya-revoluzii-maltseva">unrealised national “revolution”</a> in October-November 2017. The “revolution” was supposed to happen on 5 November, the centenary of 1917, but shortly before reports started emerging of detentions. Instead of the millions that Maltsev expected, only hundreds turned out for the action in Russian cities. The slogan “5.11” (e.g. 5 November), once popular among Maltsev’s supporters, features in the “The Network” case as the name of the Penza “cell”.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s hard to imagine that a Russian left-winger would support Vyacheslav Maltsev, who is on the opposite site of the political spectrum. In all likelihood, the airsoft teams <a href="https://zona.media/article/2018/03/16/pensa">were named</a> for a popular <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5.11_Tactical">American brand</a> of military clothing called “5.11 Tactical” (airsoft players often use this brand). According to other evidence, the team was named for the execution date of Nikolay Pchelintsev, a 17-year-old Penza anarchist who was hung in November 1907 (it’s unknown if he’s a relative of Dmitry Pchelintsev, a defendant in the case).</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen_Shot_2018-04-23_at_15.01.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen_Shot_2018-04-23_at_15.01.41.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dmitry Pchelintsev with his wife Angelina. Source: Pchelintsev family.</span></span></span>The FSB’s poor grasp of the current political agenda is borne out by other details in the case. For example, the FSB invented an interesting oxymoronic detail, claiming that the activists wanted to set up an “anarchist state”, and started trying to connect anarchists to Maltsev’s supporters in early 2017. Sofiko Aridzhanova, a Moscow-based journalist and anarchist, recently <a href="https://vk.com/sofico_ghaval?w=wall38103741_6020">revealed</a> that FSB officers informally interrogated her in February last year – and tried to fool her into giving an enthusiastic opinion of Maltsev, telling stories of how the nationalist was highly thought of among anarchists. At the end of the interrogation, they asked Aridzhanova to find any familiar surnames on a one-and-a-half-page list. Aridzhanova says that other anarchists went through similar questionings. Admittedly, this interrogation might not be related in any way to the Penza case. Throughout the winter and spring of 2017, security service officers questioned a lot of “suspicious” people about Vyacheslav Maltsev (who is now abroad), including supporters of Alexey Navalny.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the FSB continues to look for members of “The Network”. According to investigators, another 10 people were part of the group in St Petersburg, along with two more in Penza and two others in Moscow. Their names and nicknames aren't specified. They only mention activists from the Penza cell, whose nicknames are “Red-head” and “Boris”.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Translated by Christopher Moldes.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Read Viktor Filinkov's diary of how he was detained <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">here</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/on-prison-life-after-torture">here</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-inside-story-of-russias-failed-social-media-revolution">The inside story of Russia’s failed social media revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">“You should understand: FSB officers always get their way!”: Anti-fascist Viktor Filinkov reveals how he was tortured by Russian security services </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-rykov/russias-security-services-against-anti-fascists">Russia’s security services have form in fabricating cases against anti-fascists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandra-filinkova/its-important-not-to-give-into-panic">“It’s important not to give into panic”: how I found out my husband was being tortured by the Russian security services </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/yegor-skovoroda/chelyabinsk-anarchists-tortured">“The main thing at that moment, in that situation, was to come out alive”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/on-prison-life-after-torture">“You’re a normal guy, you understand everything”: Russian anti-fascist Viktor Filinkov on prison life under threat of torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/how-left-wing-activists-are-persecuted-in-crimea">A rifle stock to the heart, a fist to the gut: how left-wing activists are persecuted in Crimea</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 Andrey Kaganskikh Russian anti-fascists in the crosshairs Fri, 27 Apr 2018 05:39:30 +0000 Andrey Kaganskikh 117486 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “You’re a normal guy, you understand everything”: Russian anti-fascist Viktor Filinkov on prison life under threat of torture https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/on-prison-life-after-torture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In January 2018, Viktor Filinkov was abducted in St Petersburg. When he resurfaced days later, he had been <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">tortured by the security services and confessed to terrorism charges</a>. This is the second part of his prison diary.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_076a96ae68b53af3614c113a67353e6f_1400x850.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_076a96ae68b53af3614c113a67353e6f_1400x850.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: Maria Tolstova / Mediazona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Since October 2017, nine people have arrested as part of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network” case</a>, which has seen Russian anti-fascists and anarchists in St Petersburg and Penza detained on terrorism charges. According to investigators, all the arrested men were members of an organisation that planned to use explosives to provoke the “popular masses for further destabilisation of the political climate in the country” during the Russian presidential elections and football World Cup. Cells of the organisation were allegedly operating in Moscow, St Petersburg, Penza and Belarus.</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2018, software engineer Viktor Filinkov, who was arrested in Petersburg in late January in connection with this case, passed his diary to the Public Monitoring Commission. In the diary, Filinkov, 26, describes in detail how, after he was detained at Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport, FSB agents <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">tortured him</a> as they forced him to learn a false confession by heart before signing it.</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“They asked questions. If I didn’t know the answer, they hit me with electric shocks, if the answer didn’t correspond to their [expectations] – they hit me with shocks. If I tried to think or formulate – I was hit with electric currents. If I forgot what they said, I was hit with currents.”</p><p dir="ltr">Now <a href="https://zona.media/">Mediazona</a> publishes the second part of Viktor Filinkov’s diary, which describes the FSB agents’ attempts to make Filinkov “cooperate” by persuasion rather than force. We publish it here with permission.&nbsp;</p><h2>24 January. Sleeping after torture and court</h2><p dir="ltr">I was allowed to take a shower and then taken to a cell. First of all, I decided to investigate the wounds on my body. My whole right thigh, apart from its inner side, was covered with burns of different degrees – from barely visible marks with rays to large spots, more than one centimetre in diameter. It was possible to trace the pairs of these spots located at the equal distance.</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/photo_2018-01-24_22-04-13_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Viktor Filinkov. Source: Personal archive.</span></span></span>I found a big bruise on my shin, which I received, I assume, when my leg jerked automatically from the shocker. I also found burns on my chest. I didn’t think of looking at the back of my neck. My wrists were covered in large bruises and cuts, received, I think, due to the sharp movements of my hands against the electrodes of the shocker. I felt pain in my chest, but there were no bruises. My back didn’t hurt. I also had a big cut on my face, and some smaller ones on the left side of it.</p><p dir="ltr">I sat down, thinking what to do. They brought supper, something with fish. I ate it and read the PVR [the Rules of the Internal Order of the Detention Centre] and some papers with the corrections to the PVR. Around midnight, I lied down in “bed” and covered myself with a blanket.</p><h2>25 January. A visit from the Public Monitoring Commission</h2><p dir="ltr">The feeding trap of the door suddenly opened, and I was asked to say my surname. I replied, after which the door opened. Four or five people entered the cell: two girls in plain clothes, others in FSIN uniform [Federal Penitentiary Service]. One FSIN agent, who was standing between me and the girls in plain clothes, had a video camera; a green light indicated it was on. I decided that was another attempt to check my “cooperation”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Schermafbeelding 2018-04-24 om 14.36.54.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Schermafbeelding 2018-04-24 om 14.36.54.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: Maria Tolstova / Mediazona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“Ekaterina Sergeyevna Kosarevskaya, Yana Igorevna Tepliskaya,” the girls introduced themselves. The said that they were from some Public Monitoring Commission. They asked what happened to my face, and whether there were any other injuries during arrest. I replied as I was supposed to: I got the injuries in the car when it broke suddenly, nothing else. I mentioned that the agents gave me a kebab. I was told that a half of Piter [St Petersburg] lost me for a couple of days already, and so that they found me, but there were other people who had disappeared. They also said that my wife loved me and would do everything to help, and that Agora [Agora International Human Rights Association] would provide a lawyer, which was agreed with my wife. I don’t remember anything else from that conversation.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">I decided that this was a crucial moment and I had to fight</p><p dir="ltr">They left. One of the FSIN agents returned and explained that it was not allowed to lie under blanket before the official lights-out [10pm] and advised me to read the PVR. Only after the meeting, I understood what the Public Monitoring Commission was and what had happened. When I opened the last page of the PVR, I found the contacts of the Public Monitoring Commission and understood that they were independent from the FSIN. The surname of the lawyer was also familiar, I’d seen his interview on Radio Svoboda about the case of <a href="http://www.rapsinews.com/judicial_news/20171225/281445715.html">Vadim Osipov</a>, who is accused of a plot to blow up his barracks – yet another preposterous case, the only purpose of it is to add more stars to FSB agents’ epaulettes and increase the fake necessity of the security services, who apparently guarantee public safety. I also recognised the style of my wife’s message and figured that the public was now involved.</p><p dir="ltr">After I decided that this was a crucial moment and I had to fight, I fell asleep on the slats of the bed. Of course, it’s difficult to call this sleep: I dreamt of torture, and when I rolled over and lay on my burns, I would wake up.</p><h2>26 January. A visit from a lawyer and anti-burn spray</h2><p dir="ltr">I woke up at reveille. Breakfast was brought, and I learned the procedure of visiting a doctor. They came and asked whether I had anything to say or complain about, and I made an appointment.</p><p dir="ltr">A woman in a white robe examined me.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“What do you have?”</p><p dir="ltr">I pointed to my thigh.</p><p dir="ltr">“Dear lord, what’s that? How did you get it?”</p><p dir="ltr">“Well, they're industrial burns,” I replied, and wished I was less cowardly, and I thought I’d missed my chance.</p><p dir="ltr">“A taser, was it?”</p><p dir="ltr">“Yes.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Ok, I will take you for an examination.”</p><p dir="ltr">I thanked the woman. There was also something about panthenol [a healing crème or spray used for burns and skin inflammations]. Soon afterwards, I was called for exercise, and I agreed to go.</p><p dir="ltr">Around lunchtime, an FSIN employee came and issued me some panthenol spray. I replied that I didn’t need a spray, but a proper examination that would record the injuries inflicted by torture. The woman was surprised and I showed her my thigh. I used the spray.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Schermafbeelding 2018-04-24 om 14.40.06.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Schermafbeelding 2018-04-24 om 14.40.06.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: Maria Tolstova / Mediazona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>It was a Friday, and any activities relating to the investigation were permitted from two to five pm. Around five pm, I was summed, it was Agora’s lawyer Vitaly Cherkasov, I recognised his face. Our meeting lasted around 15 minutes, after which I was taken back to the cell. At the meeting, I briefly described the situation, showed twice the traces of torture and told him about my intention to resist the crimes [of the FSB]. When he said goodbye, Vitaly told me that a lot would now depend on my fortitude.</p><p dir="ltr">A couple of hours after the lawyers’ visit, before dinner, I was called up again. It was Yana and Ekaterina from the Public Monitoring Commission. I admitted that I had concealed a lot the day before. I showed the injuries left by torture, also in front of the FSIN agents’ camera, and briefly described the circumstances of my arrest.</p><h2>27 January. An enraged doctor</h2><p dir="ltr">On Saturday, 27 January, I was able to see a doctor at Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 3 [SIZO-3]. I was brought there and instructed to show [the injuries]. A medic examined me and made some notes, after which I was returned to my cell and told I could ask for panthenol spray at any time to put it on my burns.</p><p dir="ltr">Closer to dinner, I was brought to the medical room again. There was the doctor from Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 3 who “checked me” in the first place. He was enraged. I showed him my burns, some of which already began to get covered with scabs, and the biggest one had pus in it. He was looking at his journal and then at the burns, and suggested to smear it with brilliant green. I refused and apologised for my cowardice. “Well, you could have told us when you were examined for the second time,” he was angry.</p><p dir="ltr">Using my ignorance, the employees of Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 3 persuaded me to write a note confirming that all bruises, wounds, cuts and burns were from the period of my arrest and that I didn’t have any complaints against the FSIN. They persuaded me to give a date that wasn’t correct – 25 January, instead of 27 January. There was only a problem with the date, I experienced no violence at the pre-trial detention centre.</p><h2>29 January. FSB agents’ visit</h2><p dir="ltr">Nothing happened on 28 January, but the next day after breakfast the doctor who had examined me approached me. He apologised and said that he’d lost it the day before. He examined my thigh. We spoke a little longer, he said that I shouldn’t bear any grudges against the agent [who tortured me], that he would get his due and, in general, you have to forgive. While I was in the quarantine, the doctor came every couple of days and checked my leg, saying “Aha, everything has almost healed by now.” When I left the quarantine where I was held for 15 out of 15 maximum allowed days, everything had, indeed, almost healed. Usually you’re moved from the quarantine in the first 10 days. My cellmate could only see around 10 or 15 spots on my thigh, some of them were scabbing.</p><p dir="ltr">At eight pm, on 29 January, before dinner, I was called up to the investigation room. When I entered, I saw two men, one of them I immediately recognised as the senior agent of St Petersburg and Leningrad Regional FSB Directorate, K.A. Bondarev, the other I saw for the first time. I sat across from Bondarev., and the second agent sat to the left from me on the side of a table.</p><p dir="ltr">“So, how are you?” asked Bondarev.</p><p dir="ltr">“What do you think yourself?” I replied.</p><p dir="ltr">“I'm. The. One. Who. Asks. Questions. Here!” Bondarev put me in my place.</p><p dir="ltr">First, they told me some wonderful stories about how well the people who were cooperating with the investigation were doing: they could have got 24 years, but were imprisoned for 17; threatened with seven years, but got only three, two of them in a pre-trial detention centre and then freed on parole. They also told me how they&nbsp;– FSB agents – were bringing chicken wings to those they’d “caught”. They also mentioned that they had good relations with local prisoners, they were even mates with some of them.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">For the past five years – my whole conscious life – I have lived according to concepts such as mutual help, sisterhood, brotherhood, equality and justice</p><p dir="ltr">It was absolutely clear that their visit was connected to publications in media about torture. I decided to explore the essence of their requests: “I am facing [a term] of five or more years [in prison], and I am only 23, you understand?” Bondarev started telling me about parole. I had to interrupt him just like the state lawyer: “There is neither parole, nor a suspended sentence for Article 205 of the Criminal Code.” The second agent confirmed that. Bondarev started talking about the punishment below the lowest possible. The second agent echoed him, saying that they could influence the investigation. “I will talk to my lawyer,” I replied, giving them a false hope that the situation would return to their control.</p><p dir="ltr">“No-o-o, you give us information now, we check it, show it to the investigation, and then we make a deal,” the second agent still hoped to sort out everything during this meeting. He had an open notebook titled “Filinkov Viktor Sergeevich” in front of him. He was ready to record my every word.</p><p dir="ltr">“For a pre-court [agreement] we need information useful for the investigation. You know perfectly well yourself that I have nothing to say,” I decided to close this topic, tired of their attempts to persuade me.</p><p dir="ltr">“That’s understandable. We’ll help you. You will tell us in detail who FFF is,” Bondarev explained their position. “This is our magic wand for you.”</p><p dir="ltr">For about five minutes they were telling me how easy it would be for them to get this information themselves.</p><p dir="ltr">‘We will ‘count’ him ourselves. This week for sure. Also, we have lots of technical means, you understand.”</p><p dir="ltr">They were saying that they wanted to help me:</p><p dir="ltr">“I see in front of me a young guy who was unlucky.”</p><p dir="ltr">They promised to give me a sentence below the lowest tariff and that I would go to prison for three years only. They were convincing me in tandem: “You will tell us now, and we will guide the investigation towards a correct decision.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Everyone is going to prison. But you have a chance.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Who gets up first gets the slippers. A pre-court agreement is only possible with a single person.”</p><p dir="ltr">“You’re a normal guy, you understand everything.”</p><p dir="ltr">I replied: “I will discuss everything with my lawyer, I don’t have enough legal expertise myself.”</p><p dir="ltr">They were pressing: “But it’s your lawyer who needs you! It’s lucrative for them to prolong the case, they get money from you. You should be in charge and make decisions.”</p><p dir="ltr">By that time I already made a decision. The page in the FSB agent’s notebook remained blank. Then they shifted, quite smoothly, almost unnoticeably, to threats.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Schermafbeelding 2018-04-24 om 14.40.22.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Schermafbeelding 2018-04-24 om 14.40.22.png" 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'>Illustration: Maria Tolstova / Mediazona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“So you are now in Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 3. This is the best detention centre in the city, there are only 100 people here. But there is also Kresty-2, there are 1,000 people there. I don’t understand how they manage it. There, a cellmate will beat you to death and nobody would even hear it,” Bondarev returned to his old threats.</p><p dir="ltr">That did not work anymore. I was ready “to drive to Penza with specialists” [a threat from the initial period of Filinkov’s detention]. Or so it seemed to me.</p><p dir="ltr">The agents also asked substantive questions. The second agent asked me to identify KKK, showing me her photo on his phone, which he held under the table, so that it was not caught on CCTV.</p><p dir="ltr">“Look left. Is this her?”</p><p dir="ltr">I saw the photo for the first time. Flicking the pictures in his phone, the agent went too far, and there appeared a photo of Putin against a black background with some inscriptions, which I couldn’t read. “No, this is something else,” he said, flicking back. In parallel, they asked me a few more questions I could not answer.</p><p dir="ltr">“You were saying you weren’t animals,” I addressed Bondarev. “How could you use torture?”</p><p dir="ltr">“You know, I myself don’t like doing it. Let’s talk human to a human. I sincerely apologise,” Bondarev held out his hand.</p><p dir="ltr">Turning my gaze down, I shook my head.</p><p dir="ltr">“I cannot accept your apologies now,” I refused, but leaving them hope that the situation could improve later.</p><p dir="ltr">They told me that everything was under their control and nobody could help me.</p><p dir="ltr">“Even at your work, there are our people. We have been in touch with your bosses for a long time,” the agent was telling me the harsh truth about how the security services were “protecting” businesses.</p><p dir="ltr">“‘Do you know who D.Z. is?”</p><p dir="ltr">“Yes, he is a [job title] in my company.”</p><p dir="ltr">“So, he was also sitting here, back in his student years. And, it was fine, he cooperated okay. All the people you know at work, we’re friends with them too.”</p><p dir="ltr">It was becoming clear who in this room was omnipotent and decides everything.</p><p dir="ltr">“I will return tomorrow with the documents, your bosses want you to resign of your own will,” the second agent said.</p><p dir="ltr">“Introduce yourself,” I asked, when the agent got up from his table and came to mine.</p><p dir="ltr">“Bondarev, Konstantin A.,” he said strictly, with a frown.</p><p dir="ltr">I didn’t know his name until that moment. You could say it was the moment of introduction – almost a week after the torture.</p><p dir="ltr">“And you?” I addressed the second agent. “Because you guys never introduce yourselves.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Prudnikov,” he replied, showing me the paperwork for their visit. “We are here officially.”</p><p dir="ltr">I compared the surnames they mentioned with those in the document, they matched.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Public Monitoring Commission people are working against you,” Bondarev said as he left the room.</p><p dir="ltr">Bondarev was dressed in a blue suit, the jacket looked expensive. Prudnikov was dressed in a jumper, perhaps, with a shirt underneath. I didn’t think that agents were allowed to visit suspects in detention. At first, the meeting made me absolutely terrified, but I wasn’t ready to change my decision.</p><p dir="ltr">I suspect I have suffered the least. For the past five years – my whole conscious life – I have lived according to concepts such as mutual help, sisterhood, brotherhood, equality and justice. Any suspicions of my involvement in the preparations of crimes dangerous for society are offensive to me. I expect that the state attorney is going to ask for a term close to the maximum one for me.</p><p dir="ltr">I refuse to accept handouts in the form of a three-year prison term from these criminals and would exchange two of my lives to defend my name and so that you can read these lines.</p><p dir="ltr">Not everyone is ready for this, but you shouldn’t blame anyone. Everyone needs your support and perhaps help. Alerta!</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Read the first part of Viktor Filinkov's diary <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">here</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network”: how Russian security services are targeting Russian anarchists and anti-fascists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/fsb-officers-always-get-their-way">“You should understand: FSB officers always get their way!”: Anti-fascist Viktor Filinkov reveals how he was tortured by Russian security services </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandra-filinkova/its-important-not-to-give-into-panic">“It’s important not to give into panic”: how I found out my husband was being tortured by the Russian security services </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-rykov/russias-security-services-against-anti-fascists">Russia’s security services have form in fabricating cases against anti-fascists </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ovd-info/russian-authorities-target-anti-fa">Russian authorities take aim at anti-fascists in St Petersburg</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/stanislav-markelov/patriotism-as-a-diagnosis">Patriotism as a diagnosis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/prison-is-the-ideal-model-for-the-state">Pyotr Ryabov: “Prison is the ideal model for the state”</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 Viktor Filinkov Russian anti-fascists in the crosshairs Fri, 27 Apr 2018 05:20:47 +0000 Viktor Filinkov 117466 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A rifle stock to the heart, a fist to the gut: how left-wing activists are persecuted in Crimea https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-zhilin/how-left-wing-activists-are-persecuted-in-crimea <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Though some groups may have supported Russian annexation, life under Russian rule has been far from sweet.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Schermafbeelding 2018-04-26 om 14.48.19.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Schermafbeelding 2018-04-26 om 14.48.19.png" 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 leftist protest in Sevastopol. Photo: Ivan Zhilin / Novaya Gazeta.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/03/13/75780-prikladom-po-serdtsu-kulakami-po-pochkam">originally appeared</a> in Novaya Gazeta. We translate it here. </em></p><p dir="ltr">Most news on political repression in Crimea concern FSB raids on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/why-we-should-write-about-the-crimean-tatars">Crimean Tatars</a> or <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/pro-ukraine-activist-sentenced-to-prison-in-crimea/28658837.html">pro-Ukrainian activists</a>. But other opposition activists aren’t exempt from the security services’ attention either. As I found out, people who aren’t against Russia, but do oppose the ruling United Russia party are on the receiving end of no less harsh treatment, albeit more rarely. </p><h2>Anarchy outlawed</h2><p>On 1 March 2018, police and FSB operatives in Sevastopol conducted a raid against an anarchist group in the city. They searched the apartments of Alexey Prisyazhnyuk, Artem Vorobyev, Igor Panyuta, Alexey Shestakovich and Ivan Markov.</p><p dir="ltr">“According to available information, the aforementioned group of people planned provocative protests during the Russian presidential election scheduled for 18 March 2018. This anarchist cell maintains connections with other left-wing radical organisations active in Russia,” this is how media in Sevastopol <a href="http://ruinformer.com/page/obyski-anarhistov">explained</a> the security services’ actions.</p><p dir="ltr">Alexey Shestakovich and Ivan Markov were sentenced to 11 and 10 days in jail respectively. They were found guilty of producing and disseminating “extremist material” (Article 20.29 of Russia's Administrative Code). Other activists were not arrested, and were not charged. </p><p dir="ltr">Three days before the searches, Alexey Shestakovich posted a document in the “Anarchists of Sevastopol” group on Russian social network VKontakte. This was a notification filed to the authorities regarding his intention to hold a rally on 10 March at Admiral Ushakov square in central Sevastopol. The rally would be held under the slogan “The position of president is a relic of the monarchy”. The notification was addressed to Sevastopol governor Dmitry Ovsyannikov. The stated goal of the protest was “to remind citizens of their constitutional right not to vote in elections”.</p><p dir="ltr">The searches at all the activists’ homes started simultaneously, at 7.30 AM.</p><p dir="ltr">“I left for work 15 minutes before,” Artem Vorobyev told me. “My brother, mother and seven-year old child remained home. The agents barged into our home and grabbed my brother. Then they asked him to identify himself. When they understood they had got the wrong person, they released him. He immediately called me and said: ‘Come home, they are looking for you.’ Well, I realised I definitely shouldn’t go home: who knows what charges they could make up. I called my wife, warned her. Then I switched off my phone. The agents ended up waiting at my place until 4.30 in the afternoon. Then they left. I realised they didn’t really need me specifically.”</p><p dir="ltr">Alexey Shestakovich was treated more harshly.</p><p dir="ltr">“The (security service) operatives came around 7.30,” says Alexey's mother Lyubov Shestakovich.</p><p dir="ltr">“Alexey was ordered to lie face down on the floor, in his underwear. They put a plastic bag over his head. I asked them: ‘Why do you need the bag? He'll suffocate.’ And they replied: ‘This is so that no one recognises him.’ He spent the whole four hours of the search in his underpants with the bag on his head.”</p><p dir="ltr">The people who were not arrested were, however, questioned as witnesses in a criminal case opened against their comrade Yevgeny Karakashev.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">There could be other reasons behind Karakashev’s arrest. He had been actively involved in protesting the construction of an apartment complex in Zaozernoye, a town near Yevpatoria</p><p dir="ltr">Karakashev was arrested on 1 February 2018 in the Crimea town of Yevpatoria. He was immediately charged with breaking two articles of Russia’s Criminal Code: Part One of Article 282 (inciting hatred or animosity) and Part Two of Article 205.2 (calls to a commit terrorist acts).</p><p dir="ltr">According to investigators, it was two posts that Karakashev made on VKontakte in 2014 and 2017 which broke the law. According to the indictment against Karakashev, investigators identified a “call for terrorism” in a “teletext starting with the words ‘use a grenade against’ and ending with ‘into government offices’ windows’”. The extremism charge was related to Karakashev sharing a clip called <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3x-OvC1dxc">“Last interview of the Primorye Partisans”</a> (more on this group <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11829793">here</a>), a video deemed extremist and banned in Russia, in a chat with 35 members.</p><p dir="ltr">Right after Karakashev was arrested, Russian media circulated a different version of events: the anarchist was described as a “saboteur sent by Kiev who planned provocations and mass protests during the presidential election.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/content_001_jil2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/content_001_jil2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="256" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The arrest of Yevgeny Karakashev. Screenshot from a security service video.</span></span></span>The security service video of Karakashev’s arrest shows that he had been severely beaten. “During the physical examination, the following physical injuries were found: a bruise on the right side of the forehead, 6x8cm in size, a bruise on the right ear, a bruise on the right shoulder 7x7cm in size, a bruise on the right pectus 3x12 cm in size, a bruise on the back, bruises on the knees, a bruise on the right shin,” wrote medical personnel at the pre-trial detention centre. However, no criminal case was opened over the beating. “On 1 February, 2018, E.V. Karakashev filed a request not to investigate the physical damages he had sustained,” says the decision not to open a criminal case, signed by both a district police inspector and district head officer in Yevpatoriya.</p><p dir="ltr">There could be other reasons behind Karakashev’s arrest. He had been actively involved in protesting the construction of an apartment complex in Zaozernoye, a town near Yevpatoria. The complex is being developed by Parangon, a <a href="https://ru.krymr.com/a/29016267.html">company affiliated to Pavel Lebedev</a>, a former Defence Minister of Ukraine. Today, Lebedev is one of the most influential business people in Crimea. At a public hearing on the complex’s construction on 1 February, the day Karakashev was arrested, Yevpatoria mayor Andrey Filonov mentioned that a group of citizens had been resisting the development, before saying: “Do you know about the arrests this morning? Today the FSB arrested a certain group of people.”</p><h2>The Cossack factor</h2><p dir="ltr">Four months before the searches at the homes of Sevastopol anarchists, the security services raided Valeriy Bolshakov, leader of the Sevastopol branch of Rot Front communist party.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/content_001_jil.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/content_001_jil.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'>Valeriy Bolshakov. Photo: Ivan Zhilin / Novaya Gazeta.</span></span></span>“They came at six in the morning. First I heard a knock on the door. They shouted: ‘Open up!’ I thought these were some kind of hooligans. I told them: ‘Piss off!’ Then they said: ‘Your pipes are leaking, you are drenching your neighbours!’ I went to the bathroom, and it was dry. I shouted back at them: ‘Get lost!’ Then it was quiet for half a minute... and that's when I heard the cutter tool. The door was pushed open and masked men barged in. Right away, one of them hit me near the heart with a rifle stock, dropped me to the floor,” Bolshakov recalls.</p><p dir="ltr">“The others spread across the rooms and started emptying the wardrobes. There were about ten of them.”</p><p dir="ltr">A court ruling on a search under a criminal case over “inciting hatred or animosity” (Article 282 of Russia’s Criminal Code) was read out to Bolshakov.</p><p dir="ltr">“The case is related to me allegedly insulting the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terek_Cossacks">Terek Cossacks</a>,” Bolshakov tells me. “That was back in 2015.”</p><p dir="ltr">In late May 2015, Bolshakov recalls, he was walking along Sevastopol’s Istorichesky boulevard, five Cossacks in traditional hats and leather kilts were walking towards him in the opposite direction.</p><p dir="ltr">“I burst into laughter when I saw them. I mean, what kind of reenactor fair is this? But when I laughed, they approached me and threatened to beat me up. When I got back home that day, I wrote on VK: ‘A group of battle f****ts disguised as Terek Cossacks is roaming Sevastopol.’’ This was the pretext for opening a criminal case.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“At some point, they changed their tactics: they started praising me, told me they admired my resilience. They offered me a deal’’</p><p dir="ltr">During the search, agents seized not only electronic devices, but also party documents from Bolshakov.</p><p dir="ltr">“During the interrogation at the Investigation Committee, they barely touched upon the Cossacks. They mostly asked me who the people who attended Rot Front rallies were, who were the party’s members and what were its goals. To all the questions I answered that I wasn't going to rat out anyone,” Valeriy recalls.</p><p dir="ltr">“At some point, they changed their tactics: they started praising me, told me they admired my resilience. They offered me a deal: at the court hearing, I was to say that the government has to be overthrown, and in return I get two years of probation instead of seven in prison.”</p><p dir="ltr">I said I wasn't interested in playing this game. My general impression was they were going to exaggerate my importance, frame me as some kind of popular uprising leader. Even though, how many people are in our Rot Front branch again? Eleven? I believe they wanted to get easy promotions out of it.”</p><h2>“You criticised the authorities the wrong way”<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p dir="ltr">The security services also keep an eye on establishment left-wing groups in Crimea. In June 2016, Crimean media quoted the Republic’s head Sergey Aksenov as saying: “Freedom of speech and opinion ends where wicked defamation of our country, our values, our way of life starts. We have to act swiftly and harshly to curb any attempts of treasonous activities disguised as criticism of the authorities.”</p><p dir="ltr">Aksenov’s words were prompted by a rally held in the town of Alushta against local authorities’ construction policies and limiting locals’ access to beaches. The rally, which saw the first clashes with police in Crimea since spring 2014, was organised by Alushta city councilman Pavel Stepanchenko, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF).</p><p dir="ltr">During Russia’s September 2016 parliamentary election, Stepanchenko crossed the authorities again: he uncovered forged documents which led to KPRF members being barred from electoral commissions (which typically include representatives from all establishment parties, including official opposition). Two weeks later, on 4 October 2016, Stepanchenko was arrested.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/content_001_jil4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/content_001_jil4.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pavel Stepanchenko and Alexey Nazimov.</span></span></span>Alongside Stepanchenko, the security services also seized Alexey Nazimov, the editor-in-chief of Alushta's local paper Tvoya Gazeta (“Your Paper”) and Andrey Oblezov, a cameraman. First, these men were accused of commercial bribery, and then of attempting to extort money from the ex-secretary of Alushta city council Mikhail Krasnenkov and businessman Aleksandr Ryzhkov (an aide to the Alushta council United Russia faction leader Dzhamal Dzhangobegov).</p><p dir="ltr">According to the investigators, Nazimov, Stenanchenko and Oblezov demanded that the United Russia officials pay them 150,000 roubles in return for them not publishing compromising materials.</p><p dir="ltr">The accused, in turn, claim they made no such demands and didn’t have any compromising material either. “Moreover, Krasnenkov was actively seeking for a pretext to give them money,” says Nazimov’s lawyer Alexey Ladin.</p><p dir="ltr">In a letter to Novaya Gazeta, Alexey Nazimov wrote that by summer 2016, the situation in Alushta was tense. After the anti-construction protest that made national headlines, city council sessions turned into heated arguments. In early July, Krasnenkov called Nazimov.</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“We talked about possible cooperation to relieve the tension,” Nazimov writes. “I told him I wouldn’t write articles praising United Russia and would continue filming hard-hitting reports. However, I said we could find a middle ground where I wouldn’t mention United Russia or call out the top city officials by name but would write something vague like ‘officials’, ‘authorities’. Krasnenkov promised to talk to some people but didn't get back to me. (...)</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">In early August I got a call from Aleksandr Ryzhkov&nbsp;(the aide to Dzhemal Dzhangobegov). He told me he was dealing with problematic media on behalf of United Russia and that 500,000 roubles were allocated for those media for the remainder of the year. I told him about the solution I’d suggested, he agreed and our talks continued till the end of August. Around 25 August, he drove up to my house in Partenit and said he was ready to give me money, 125,000 roubles, if I presented him the compromising material I was allegedly about to publish. I was taken aback. I spent half an hour explaining to him I had no compromising material. Then Ryzhkov suggested I write an article that he could show to his superiors. I told him to screw himself, and the meeting did not come to anything. (...)</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">In early September, Krasnenkov appeared on the horizon again and the talks resumed. We came to the meetings with a cameraman Andrey Oblezov. Pasha (KPRF councilman Stepanchenko) also attended one of the meetings. Krasnenkov scheduled the final meeting for noon 4 October at the Kivi-Kivi cafe he owned. We came there with Andrey Oblezov. Krasnenkov called someone and said a person would come who solves all the cooperation issues. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be Ryzhkov! He asked that Pasha Stepanchenko be present at the meeting as well. I called Pasha, and in an hour he came there. I ended up receiving marked money and then getting arrested by FSB operatives.”</p><p>Stepanchenko told a similar story in his letter to Novaya Gazeta.</p><p dir="ltr">Alexander Ryzhkov stated at a court hearing that he could have been the first to contact Nazimov and offer him money. “However, this is unlikely,” he added during his questioning. “I had a cover story that United Russia allocated half a million rubles for problematic media. After Nazimov asked me how much the party was willing to give, I named this sum.”</p><p dir="ltr">Alushta mayor Galina Ognyeva, a witness in the case, told the court that Nazimov “criticised the authorities the wrong way” and thus, she believes, broke the law. “The journalist could have settled the problematic issues with me and corrected his reporting,” she said in court.</p><p dir="ltr">During one of the hearings, Pavel Stepanchenko complained he’d been beaten in pre-trial detention. According to the council deputy, physical force was used against him after he asked to call a doctor.</p><p dir="ltr">Quoting Stepanchenko’s claim in court:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“The detention centre director Roman Beginin started yelling: ‘F**k you, how dare you tell me I have to provide you with medical care!’ While the police driver was holding my hands so that I couldn’t protect myself, the director struck me at least 10 times: he hit my kidneys, legs, chest and the back of the head. All the while, he kept threatening me: ‘I'll bury you…’, ‘I'll kill you…’, ‘Bring me the taser’.”</p><p dir="ltr">The investigative authorities found no grounds to open a criminal case over Stepanchenko’s complaint.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Translated by Kirill Mikhailov.&nbsp;</em></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/egor-skovoroda/crimea-peninsula-of-torture">Crimea: peninsula of torture</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/igor-gukovsky/making-them-pay-for-maidan">Making them pay for Maidan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/viktor-filinkov/on-prison-life-after-torture">“You’re a normal guy, you understand everything”: Russian anti-fascist Viktor Filinkov on prison life under threat of torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrey-kaganskikh/the-network">“The Network”: how Russian security services are targeting Russian anarchists and anti-fascists </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ivan Zhilin Russian anti-fascists in the crosshairs Fri, 27 Apr 2018 04:56:22 +0000 Ivan Zhilin 117518 at https://www.opendemocracy.net