Daily Archives: June 8, 2008

June 8, 2008 — Contents

SUNDAY JUNE 8 CONTENTS

(1) The Sunday Photos

(2) The Sunday Confession

(3) The Sunday Book Review

(4) The Sunday Seminar

(5) The Sunday Funnies

The Sunday Photos: YouTube Edition

Oborona announces the opening their new web video archive. Below is their slick promotional video set to rockin tunes:

Click through to view the many other offerings available, including much documentation of the group’s courageous confrontations with the Kremlin’s stormtroopers.

The Sunday Confession: Kozlovsky in YeZhe via Essel

Dave Essel translates Oleg Kozlovsky’s first column in the Yezhedevny Zhurnal online newspaper:

The Dissenters March: a Postscriptum

Yezhedevny Zhurnal

June 5, 2008

It has to be admitted: the March of the Dissenters on 6 May was a failure, first and foremost because of us, the organisers. The organising committee got together once or twice and never decided anything much. After that, matters were left to take their own course and the individual member groups each did its own thing. Disastrously little money – to all intents and purposes none whatsoever – was spent on the march’s needs. Handmade National Bolshevik stickers and a few Oborona graffiti weren’t going to make a mark, and the issue of the United Citizens Front (OGF) newspaper didn’t come out in time for 6 May.

Furthermore, no attempt was even made to involve other organisations, as was done previously, in the preparations for the event. The prize in the disorganisation stakes has to go to the appearance at Chistye Prudy of Denis Bilunov to announce that the event had been cancelled at the very time that activists from Oborona, Smena, the OGF, the National Democratic Union of Youth (NDSM) and the National Bolsheviks were trying to break through to the march. Bilunov did of course try to save the situation but the end result was basically an admission that we had failed. One of the really special things about the Dissenter’s March was that it was going to take place no matter what, regardless of pressure from the authorities. When its organisers voluntarily cancelled it, that could only be taken as an admission of defeat.

The failure of the 6 May event was in some ways a foregone conclusion. We lost interest and drive; the enthusiasm that existed during the preparations for previous events was not there. As a result, after the well-known spring demonstrations of 2007, the number of events we held went down and down while interest in them dropped as well. The early Dissenter Marches were some of the most outstanding and most discussed political events in the country. As time has passed, however, they have become more routine sorts of events, almost like May Day Communist demonstrations. Worst of all, new people have stopped joining in.

I am sorry to say this but I think that this demo-march format has lost its relevance. Each demo is going to be weaker than the preceding one until the very concept of “Dissenters’ March” becomes totally discredited. To hold them purely for the sake of getting a few fresh photos of OMON cops arresting participants is fairly pointless: there are years’ worth of such photographs on the internet already. The cops too are getting better at dealing with our demos. What we need to do now is something different – and that is to get as many people as possible involved in resistance against the authorities, help then get over their concerns and fears about doing so, and teach them how to peacefully defend themselves on the streets.

For example, we could set ourselves the task of holding the largest mass meeting of recent years this autumn, perhaps in the form of a concert or festival. It does not matter much where it would be held – even Tishino will do so long as it is possible to get together somewhere. An event of this kind will need serious resources and take months of time and effort to organise. However, if we make a success of it, it will be far more useful and important than three hurriedly organised Dissenters’ Marches of a few hundred people in each. An event of this kind could be arranged under the banner of The Other Russia and perhaps even be the first ever event in support of the National Assembly. The main things is that we need to attract new people – people who did not previously join opposition demos – and show that we can do more than just present our backs to the police so that they can beat them with truncheons.

The Sunday Book Review: Essel on Dimbleby on Russia

Dave Essel writes:

From de Custine onwards, writing about one’s visit to Russia has been something of a little literary industry. Such books appear with extraordinary regularity. And they all have something in common: no one, to my knowledge, has ever returned from Russia and written a book with rave reviews expressing the opinion that one should move there pronto to enjoy a taste of heaven on earth or perhaps just a decent life. It doesn’t even matter whether you you are right-wing or left: the great anarchist Emma Goldman, deported to Russia from America in December 1919 came by 1923 to write a book entitled My Disillusionment in Russia. The recent tradition, however, has been for such books to be written by supposed experts such as the Russia correspondents of heavyweight newspapers and so on. I see from the following review in the Economist that there is now a book (Russia, Journey to the Heart of a Land and its People) more along the lines of de Custine’s, i.e., written by a non-specialist, this time by English general purpose broadcaster and commentator Jonathan Dimbleby. His conclusions are, of course, the same as all those who preceded him. It certainly joins my list of book to buy and read (time permitting).

Here is the review:

SPENDING time in Russia is a bit like taking the psychotropic anti-malarial drug Lariam: anyone with a propensity to anxiety should probably avoid it. Jonathan Dimbleby, an accomplished British broadcaster, was by his frank admission in a state of considerable emotional turmoil when he travelled from the Arctic city of Murmansk to Vladivostok. The overwhelming landscape and the people who were often so rude did not help his mood, but his responses—awe, horror and frustration—were perhaps more acute as a result.

The ugly authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin and Russia’s hydrocarbon-fuelled diplomatic bolshiness are now well documented. There are fewer worthwhile accounts of ordinary life across the vast, eccentric Russian continent in the Putin era. Mr Dimbleby’s perceptive travelogue is one of them. He describes the spookiness of St Petersburg; the micro-cultures (and pointy shoes) of the Caucasus; the desolation of Beslan; the magic of Tolstoy’s country estate; the ludicrously dangerous roads and dreadful hotels. He captures the way Russians are transformed by toasts, the romance of long-distance train rides and the squalor of train stations. He encounters a Karelian witch, a Siberian shaman and wild horses in the Altai mountains. He visits a plush Moscow banya. He drinks a lot of vodka.

Along the way he offers lively summaries of some of the key dramas of Russian history, including the exploration of Siberia, the tragic nobility of the Decembrists and the unspeakable siege of Leningrad. He meets the kind of near-saints that only places with so much bad history can produce: suicidally brave journalists in Samara; campaigning environmentalists in the Urals; a heroic AIDS worker in Irkutsk. They vary what might otherwise have become a dismal parade of villainy.

“We steal,” a Caspian sturgeon poacher says, “and we think nothing of stealing because everyone is stealing.” Mr Dimbleby notes the gangsterism of government at all levels, the brazen rackets and the cradle-to-grave corruption that Russians must negotiate to survive. He nicely portrays the fatal combination of savage indifference on the part of the country’s rulers and the enraging fatalism of the ruled. He is perpetually baffled by what, to his Western ears, sound like contradictory attitudes: the Russians he meets are sophisticated, acquisitive and yet cynical to the point of hostility towards democracy. “Crypto-fascist” is his label for the system Mr Putin has built.

Mr Dimbleby loves Russian literature, and he hears Tolstoyan and Gogolian echoes as he travels. But he is not a Russia expert (he undertook the journey for a BBC television series), and makes some mistakes and simplifications, over Chechnya and the Yukos affair, for example. That, however, is also his book’s main virtue. His novice’s eye sees the moral outrage in everyday injustices—the use of malnourished teenaged conscripts as slave labour, say, or the routine persecution of migrant labourers—to which more practised Russia-watchers are too often desensitised. His disgust is mitigated by the fascination that Russia somehow inspires too, even in the most sceptical visitor.

The Sunday Seminar

PRESS RELEASE

04.06.2008

FINROSFORUM 2008 | Helsinki 9-10 June 2008

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (www.finrosforum.fi) will organise a seminar, FINROSFORUM 2008, in the fortress of Sveaborg (Suomenlinna) in Helsinki on 9-10 June 2008. The conference venue is the Tenaille von Fersen.

This is the second annual seminar of its kind. The participants at this year’s event include several members of the human rights and democracy movement in Russia as well as Russian experts from Finland, Estonia, and elsewhere.

The themes of the seminar include the economic costs of an authoritarian regime, the rule of law in Russia, the conflict in North Caucasus, the refugee problem in Russia, ethnic relations and nationalism, as well as censorship and self-censorship.

A detailed programme, together with short speaker biographies, is available. The programme is available in Finnish, Russian, and Swedish at http://www.finrosforum.fi. NB: Oleg Kozlovsky is scheduled to attend, stop by to meet him if you are in Finland!

The main languages at the seminar will be Finnish and Russian. Translation will be provided. The seminar is open to the public. Participation is free of charge, but we will charge the cost price for meals.

Ferry timetables to and detailed map of Sveaborg at http://www.suomenlinna.fi.

NB! Advance registration is required at http://www.finrosforum.fi/registration.

More information:

Heidi Hautala
Chair
Finnish-Russian Civic Forum
+358 50 511 3129

Iida Simes
Press Secretary
Finnish-Russian Civic Forum
+358 40 720 5985

Kerkko Paananen
Secretary
Finnish-Russian Civic Forum
+358 44 070 7710

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum was established in January 2007 by a group of people concerned about the erosion of democracy and human rights in Russia.

The organisation strives to promote cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech in Russia.

Finnish-Russian Civic Forum
http://www.finrosforum.fi/

The Sunday Funnies