Daily Archives: April 16, 2007

Another Original LR Translation: Dear President Putin

La Russophobe is pleased and proud to offer yet another original translation from the pages of Novaya Gazeta. This time, the translation is provided by second a talented professional translator who has agreed to contribute to the blog, reader Vova Khavkin. It tells the story of just what results you can get when you write a letter to Vladimir Putin. The rendering of the Russian style into English is particularly interesting — Russian is another language even when perfectly translated into English.

Authorities vs. People

A Straitjacket Subpoena
A Yoshkar-Ola resident who had written
a letter to Putin was quickly summoned to a psychiatric clinic

by Boris Bronstein, staff reporter

Novaya Gazeta

April 9, 2007

At long last there’s solid proof that Vladimir Vladimirovich [TN: Putin] will not go for a third term. Furthermore, there are people who speculate that even as we speak he won’t undertake any new projects. Yes, they argue, Putin’s still in the Kremlin, but he is probably taking stock and once he’s finished, he will wearily pack up his belongings and put them in duffel bags. One has to be crazy to ask him about anything at all.

And if one is crazy, there’s not much to discuss. So Citizen G, a Yoshkar-Ola resident, was served a subpoena printed on the stationery of the [Mari-El] Republic’s psycho-neurological clinic. The wording of the summons merits it becoming a case study in the textbooks. And not just in psychiatry textbooks but in Russian history textbooks as well. Where in the world except in Russia would one find the following: “YOU ARE HEREBY REQUESTED URGENTLY TO COME FOR AN APPOINTMENT WIRH DR. I.Yu. YeRMOLAYeVA REGARDING YOUR LETTER TO V.V. PUTIN.”

Had it asked to come and see Dr. Yermolayeva because of an illness or for a scheduled checkup—that would have been readily comprehensible. Or to have an appointment with Sobyanin or Sechin [TN: Sergey Semenovich Sobyanin, Kremlin chief of staff, appointed 14 November 2005, former governor of the Tyumen region and Igor Ivanovich Sechin, also known as the “Grey Eminence,” Kremlin deputy chief of staff and chairman of the board of directors of Rosneft] regarding a letter to the president—this is something one could only dream about, but this would have been logical. But to see a doctor regarding a letter to the president — go figure where the office of the president ends and a nuthouse begins.

Thinking that this was a silly practical joke which had nothing to do either with the authorities or with medicine, a Novaya gazeta reporter decided to go to the clinic after all; there he met Dr. Yermolayeva who turned out to be a real person. Irina Yuryevna [Ms. Yermolayeva] confirmed that the subpoena was not a fake, although she wasn’t the one who filled it out; this was done by a certain paramedic whose illegible signature embellished the summons.

How did Citizen G’s letter end up in a psychiatric clinic? It followed a rather standard series of bureaucratic machinations, which is evident from interim reports. Thus, on 12 January she received a quite convincing reply from A.M. Yagodkin in Moscow, a consultant at the office of written petitions. And on 23 January a rather innocuous letter came from the office of the republic’s president in Yoshkar-Ola signed by A.V. Dimakov, chief of the section dealing with petitions from members of the public. In other words, the letter in which Citizen G asked that her living conditions be improved was being handled in a routine fashion. Yet who could have imagined that the power vertical, together with all its chambers, will run afoul of “Chamber Number Six” [TN: A social and political satire by A.P. Chekhov describing life in a mental asylum]?

Dr. Yermolayeva made it clear that being compliant with the psychiatry statutes she could offer no insight into the relationship between a medical facility and a letter about square meters of living space [TN: i.e., the content of the letter in question]. Of course, had Citizen G asked for example about “round meters” instead of “square meters,” forwarding the letter to the clinic would have made some sense. But doesn’t any person, even of some interest to doctors, have the right to write to the president and ask for something? He does, but it is probably easier to tranquilize him with a summons instead of addressing the substance of the issue.

Citizen G maintains that she never had anything to do with psychiatrists, never had a psychiatric record, and she cannot understand where they obtained her address. Whether or not this is true is beside the point. When she met the Novaya Gazeta reporter she explained the situation quite coherently. Being forced migrants, she and her son received a single-room apartment from the Republic’s Migration Department in 1996. The local authorities never reneged on the promise to improve their living conditions with time. There even have been concrete attempts to do so: in 2003 they were offered a two-room apartment, an offer that citizen G declined. As she explained it itself, there was a leaky roof.

Upon receiving the summons Miss G did not show up at the clinic. She went to the “Man and Law” human rights organization [TN: in Russian it is called “человек и закон” — unfortunately, we can find no indication that it maintains a web presence so we cannot link to it] and filed an affidavit about her right to petition and seek redress from state authorities being infringed upon. But let’s imagine she did show up [at the clinic] as summoned. How would the clinic staff correlate the summons with the letter? The people in white gowns would have said: “But why, dear Miss G, go ahead, write to Putin. Can’t you see how much work in progress is sitting on his desk. Had he stayed for the third term, he would have had enough time to attend to your request. Try another tack. There is a patient here, he’s writing a letter to Lenin… Here’s the address.”

NB: To read more about how the Kremlin is re-weaponizing psychiatry in Russia, see our previous coverage here and here.

More Harbingers of Doom for Russia

In the United States, there are expected to be three times more people in the work-age population than there are retirees by the year 2025. However, this is viewed as a crisis, since the number is expected to have fallen from more than four times as many today. Kommersant reports, however, that in Russia the situation is truly grave: “Russia’s non-working population will exceed the number of working-age citizens by 15 million people in 10 years, said Vladimir Iontsev, head of the Moscow State University’s demography and population department, on Friday during the round table devoted to Moscow’s development strategy up to 2025.” Iontsev also stated that “ a considerable part of children under age 14 are beer alcoholics. Thus, they will be unable to improve Russia’s demographics in future.”

In another horrifying proof of utter failure, it was reported that Russia experienced nearly 800 fatalities caused by accidents or crimes in its military last year according to the Kremlin’s own data, undoubtedly a gross understatement. In America, with a population twice the size of Russia’s and with the country mired in a massive military conflict in Iraq, the figure was less than 600. In Russia, the report continued: “In addition, 6,700 recruits were maltreated by officers or senior soldiers. Thirty-three of them died as a result.”

Finally, yet another conclusive indication of total failure came when Atlantic magazine polled 49 foreign policy experts and asked them whether Putin was good or bad for the United States and good or bad for the world. Overwhelming majorities, 62% in the latter case and 69% in the former, said Putin was bad. Putin has hitched his star to George Bush Jr., who has promtly become one of the least popular president in modern memory and lost control over both houses of the American legislature. In so doing he has alienated both the entire left and the large portion of the right that is anti-Soviet. Now, even academia is concluding he’s a menace not only to American national security but that of the world itself.

Failure in St. Petersburg

After the vicious crackdown imposed on the first “Other Russia” protest in Moscow over the weekend, the second effort in St. Petersburg the following day fizzled out almost entirely. LR has heard it said that Piter is a more enlightened, Western-looking city than Moscow. Perhaps it ain’t necessarily so. The Beeb reports:

The participants gathered at a square in the city centre, but were encircled by a similar number of riot police and prevented from marching. Smaller groups clashed with police after the main rally finished. Several opposition leaders were arrested. Ex-chess champion Garry Kasparov was among 170 held in the Moscow march. Mr Kasparov was freed several hours later after being fined $40 (£20) for public order offences. The protesters, allied under the Other Russia coalition, say President Vladimir Putin is stifling democracy.

March banned

Reports say Eduard Limonov, leader of the radical National Bolshevik party, and several other organisers were arrested. {LR: Bloomberg reported that Limonov was arrested at home in St.. Petersburg; unlike Kasparov, he didn’t even make it to the street} A number of participants had been detained on arrival in the city, including the leader of the Pora youth movement Andrey Sidelnikov and Olga Kurnosova, the local head of Mr Kasparov’s United Civil Front. A reporter for the private Moscow Echo radio station said before the rally that he saw interior ministry troops and a water cannon in the city, adding that people could be forgiven for thinking a military operation was about to start.

Demonstrators were seen holding flags of various groups including that of the liberal Yabloko party and the hammer and sickle banner of the National Bolsheviks. But correspondents say the turnout was not as good as the organisers might have hoped. Organisers contemplated whether to try to march down the city’s main street, but were blocked by police and began to disperse after two hours. One group of demonstrators who avoided the encirclement tried to march but were stopped at a nearby railway station, where scuffles broke out with police, local media said. Reports say several people were beaten by police, including an elderly man. Russian authorities sanctioned the rally but banned any marching. President Vladimir Putin denies the opposition charge that he is trampling on democracy, accusing the opposition of destabilising Russia.

In Moscow on Saturday, a huge security operation, including more than 9,000 police, was launched to prevent protesters from gathering at Pushkin Square. Mr Kasparov’s swift arrest followed warnings by the prosecution office on the eve of the march, stating that anyone participating risked being detained. After being released Mr Kasparov said: “It is no longer a country… where the government tries to pretend it is playing by the letter and spirit of the law.”

Violence from the cowardly Kremlin was in full flower, course, as the Belfast Telegraph reports:

The event in St Petersburg turned violent when the crowd began to disperse and make their way to a nearby metro station. It was at that point, according to protesters, that the police launched an unprovoked attack, beating people about the legs and the body with batons. Up to 150 protesters were arrested in the violence that followed and bundled into police vans, where eyewitnesses claimed the beating continued. Marina Litvinovich, an aide to Mr Kasparov attending the rally, said that the violence used against protesters was unjustified and disproportionate. “The meeting was peaceful and was finished when trouble started. The police simply started beating people. One man, a 65-year-old, had his leg broken.” A female official from the liberal Yabloko party, Olga Tsepilova, had her nose broken and sustained serious head injuries. The police told a different version of events; they claimed that members of several radical youth movements had tried to break through police lines and pelted riot police with bottles and stones. Although the rally was sanctioned by the authorities, protesters were warned beforehand that they should under no circumstances attempt to march down Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main street. The police claimed that was exactly what the young radicals had tried to do and argued that they had been compelled to use force.

It’s clear that the protest groups were not fully prepared for preemptive action by the Kremlin, nor was the St. Petersburg rally adequately publicized or ready for the chilling effect of the Moscow crackdown. Still, significant publicity was generated. By Sunday morning, the Kremlin’s crackdown had made the front page of Google News with nearly 1,000 entries, as the screenshot below demonstrates:

The protesters need to do more with publicity of this kind, getting the word out as to what they plan to do next and how the outside world can best support them. They clearly lack sufficient relationships with the Western reporters and their web presence in English is negligible. More important, they need to fill the coverage with their ideological message and in so doing directly confront the Kremlin; Berezovsky has done a better job of this in recent days than the protesters. As shown at left, the anti-democracy protesters celebrated without police restrictions, laughing in the faces of those who struggle for democracy.

Video material on the protests is available for download at the New Times link here and in Youtube format here and here. Many more photos here.

April 15, 2007 — Contents


Editorial: Berezovsky Fires a Broadside

(2) The Sunday Photos Part I: Images from the Moscow Protest March

(3) The Sunday Photos Part II: Postcards from Urkaine

(4) The Sunday Photos Part III: Amsterdam Speaks

(5) The Sunday Satires