You Might also like
By Sean — 7 years ago
Remember Joaquim Crima, the so-called “Volgograd Obama“? The last we heard from the simple watermelon seller turned political candidate was back in 2009 when he ran for office on the United Russia ticket in Srednaya Akhtuba. The novelty an Afro-Russian candidate bequeathed Crima fifteen minutes on the world stage. He was featured in both the Russian and international media. His fame even spawned a “virtual” challenger, Fillip Kondratevto, to his moniker as Russia’s Obama. His fame even got him an audience with Vladimir Putin last summer. It was assumed, or at least I assumed, that that was the last we’d ever hear from him since I had a sneaking suspicion that Volgograd’s Obama was nothing more than a flash in the pan publicity stunt.
I guess I assumed too soon.
The “Volgograd Obama” is back and and just as his political aspirations thrust him into the news, so has his latest move: dumping United Russia. “I request to cease my membership in the party United Russia,” reads a hand scrawled note, littered with spelling mistakes. It didn’t take long for Crima to find a new political home as a member of Just Russia. “The admission of Vasilii Crima into the ranks of Just Russia is surely a significant event,” says Sergei Klimenkov, a Just Russia secretary. And why did Crima, who had been a member of United Russia since 2007 and once said that “I think that if the country had a hundred of such people like Putin, Russia would be the first in the world,” suddenly switch sides, and no less on the eve of United Russia’s regional party congress?
The answer lies in Crima’s open letter to Putin. Obviously composed by Just Russia spin doctors, it might might go down as an archetypal expression of “loyal opposition.” Criticize the locals for excessive bureaucratism and indifference to the masses (an old Soviet trope by the way), but show deference and, as Crima puts it, staunch support for the course laid out by, and the order of names are key here, Putin and President Medvedev.
Also, are we really to believe that Crima amassed 20 tons of watermelons to send to fire stricken Moscow!? You gotta be kiddin’ me. What did he expect villagers were going to do with 20 tons of melons? Throw them on the fires?
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich!
Joaquim Rit Cabi Crima is addressing you. Less than a year ago you extended to me, a simple village entrepreneur from the Sredne Akhtubinsk district in Volgograd province, the great honor by inviting me to a meeting which you held in Volgograd. There you asked me if it was better to work in Africa or in Volgograd? Today I would like to answer that question as I did then: it is not important where one works, whether in Africa or Russia, what’s important is what one works for, and here everything depends on the person. If a person actively wants to live better, he must always yearn for something greater.
An You, Vladimir Vladimirovich, agreed with me then, and literally said the following, “If we want to live better, then we need to work better–that’s the whole point. But in order to work better, we need to understand what’s going on.”
I thought of your words several times as I was deciding to leave United Russia and join Just Russia. It was this decision that promoted me to write you this letter to explain why I made such an important decision.
Over the last year the support for United Russia has significantly dropped in Volgograd. This isn’t just my opinion, our governor recently said this himself. I think that to understand why this has happened we need to look at United Russia’s regional office and the situation that has developed in Volgograd province. Volgograd residents have lost faith in the government, in the party of power, and they don’t see positive changes in their lives.
For example, among United Russia’s campaign program in the last elections for Volgograd’s provincial Duma was a promise to increase the pay of state employees, control the prices of essential goods, and prevent the increase in utility costs. None of these promises were fulfilled.
But the money for the increase of state employee salaries exists in the meager provincial budget. Along with this, several of the budget’s social clauses were put under the knife. The introduction of the institution of city manager in Volgograd has not added to the authority of United Russia’s regional office–the population of a metropolis has lost its right to elect its city leaders.
I became convinced by personal experience that United Russia is more and more becoming a party of bureaucrats. I will give you just one example. Last summer when the horrible fires raged, I came up with an idea to give humanitarian aid to two villages in Moscow province that had severely suffered from the fires. This was a simple, normal desire to help people. I managed to collect 20 tons of watermelons. All that remained was sending them to Moscow. I requested help from United Russia’s regional leadership several times, but it was all in vain–just blank walls of incomprehension and indifference to a stranger’s misfortune. The watermelons simply rotted.
United Russia has talked a lot about needing concrete action in the interests of society. Unfortunately, in my opinion, United Russia has recently moved farther and father from its principles. Concrete political work had been exchanged for well known administrative resources, people have lost their right to vote, and there is an eternal struggle for power between members. United Russia’s political monopoly has not only become a hindrance on path to democratizing our country, but also the source for making decisions that are contrary to the interests of society. This is especially clear in Volgograd province.
That’s why I have decided to leave United Russia. My humble desire to be useful to the party remains unclaimed. And to just possess a party card is not for me.
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich! Though I am no longer a member of United Russia, I remain a staunch supporter of the course of Russia’s modernization that you and President Dimitry Medvedev have taken. This course, I am sure is also shared by Just Russia. Hopefully, I will not be superfluous in its ranks.
May 4, 2011Post Views: 149
By Sean — 9 years ago
Anti-racist activists finally have a reason to mildly celebrate. Today, Russian xenophobe Aleksandr Belov was sentenced to six months in a penal colony for violating Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code (“Inciting hate and enmity as well as the debasement of human dignity”). The case stems from the Russian March in fall 2007 where Belov goaded protesters “to chant anti-Semitic and anti-government slogans.”
People were wondering whether Belov would serve any time at all. The authorities were apparently afraid that jail time would turn Belov into a martyr.
Belov’s sentencing also led to his resignation as leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), Russia’s largest ultranationalist movement. According to Belov, he was forced to resign because if he was convicted while serving as DPNI’s leader, the organization would have been banned as extremist. “I do not want to let my brothers-in-arms down. I’m sure that they will never denounce me. That is the reason for my resignation.” he said. At the moment, the DPNI is being led by a seven member “National Council.”
Belov might have squeezed through a legal loophole, but there is no mistaking the fact that DPNI is extremist by all Russian legal definitions. They are certainly no more extremist than say the National Bolshevik Party. Yet even the mention of the latter in print can lead to a criminal inquiry as the editor of Vyatka osobaya gazeta is discovering. According to Kommersant, Nikolai Golikov, Vyatka‘s editor, is accused of “distributing” Natsbol literature because he used it in an item about their anti-crisis leaflets posted on banks in Kirovo-Chepetsk.
However, DPNI seems to possess no similar stigma. Perhaps this is because, unlike Limonov, Belov’s views toward immigrants are widely accepted among Russians. Or as Shaun Walker explained in a recent article on Belov:
According to Belov, an Orthodox Christian who is fasting for Russian Lent and fingers a set of prayer beads throughout the interview, the Russian authorities are out of touch with what the average person on the streets wants, and this is what makes groups like his popular. “The last time that Medvedev actually went out onto the streets and met people was probably about 30 years ago; he doesn’t understand what ordinary Russian people want,” he said. “A normal society should have a high level of civil activity, but in the period of Vladimir Putin’s rule, everything was done to get rid of civil society and revive some aspects of Soviet totalitarianism. The elites are corrupt, and not working in the country’s best interests.”
Indeed, one of the more surreal aspects of talking to someone like Belov is that despite the fact that he is a neo-fascist with a racialist ideology, much of what he says could easily come from the lips of Garry Kasparov, the Armenian-Jewish liberal leader who stands for just about everything that the nationalists despise.
But when talk moves on from what is wrong with the current Russian authorities to what should be done about it, the divergence in opinions becomes obvious. Belov doesn’t want Moscow to be a place where there are “ghettos:” places where “a white man goes and doesn’t feel at home.”
Given Russian unemployment levels, he claims, there is no need for unskilled immigrants to come to Russia; they should only be allowed in when they can demonstrate a clear skill that is not available among the local population. He also claims, using the traditional arguments of the far right, that immigrants are responsible for social problems in Russia: “Illegal immigrants sell weapons, drugs and create petty crime,” he said. “If we introduced a visa regime with the former Soviet republics, 95 percent of illegal immigration would be dealt with overnight. We have an absurd situation where people come legally but work illegally.”
Another part of the opposition to migrants stems from classic racialist arguments that haven’t been much in favour anywhere since the 1930s, and rank races according to their level of development. “Take Azerbaijan,” said [Viktor] Yakushev [DPNI’s chief ideologist], referring to a country from which hundreds of thousands of migrants come to Russia every year. “There is a different level of consciousness and knowledge. The society is still at the stage of feudalism; they don’t understand European civilization.”
“Different races have different cultural levels,” Yakushev continued, warming to the theme. “Just look at the state of BMW cars in the past few years—as more and more Turks work at the BMW plants in Germany, the quality has gotten lower and lower. Even though putting the cars together is relatively simple, the Turks don’t have the skill or cultural level to be able to do it properly.” (If this is, indeed, the way in which races are to be ranked, then it doesn’t bode too well for the Russians, I thought).
Belov may think that Medvedev and Putin are out of touch, but Yuri Roslyak, Moscow’s deputy mayor isn’t. Speaking on TVC last Tuesday, he called for a toughening of the city’s policy toward unemployed migrants. “If a migrant loses his job and stays in Moscow unemployed, he should be deported,” he said.
Russian are fertile for anti-immigrant sentiment. Immigrants are an easy target in bad economic times. And with unemployment hitting 7.5 million, or about 10 percent nationally, one shouldn’t also be surprised if anti-immigrant racism rises. Especially if it does among unemployed youth. About a third of unemployed Russians are between the ages of 15 to 29, many of which have little work experience.
The threat of rising extremism certainly isn’t lost on the Kremlin. According to Vedomosti, the government is thinking of creating a speacial commission under the President’s office to combat extermism. The commission would coordinate the MVD, FSB, educational institutions and social organizations in a united effort to fight “extremism.” Of course, the mention of the E-word immediately raises the question of definition. Extremism certainly applies to fascists and other neo-Nazis, as the Belov case shows. But “extremism” is an elastic concept in Russia, and it is easily wielded against opposition political groups, ranging from Memorial to the National Bolsheviks.
Or in the words of Oleg Orlov from Memorial:
Everything depends on how this commission will concretely function and who will be on it. I think that it could be profitable if not only representatives of security organizations and national Diasporas are on it, but also human rights activists because the struggle against extremism is now acquiring an ambiguous character. The problems of extremism are used to expand the understanding of ‘extremism.’
Despite Orlov’s reasoned trepidation, the authorities aren’t blind to the growing Russian Right. At the conference in Yekaterinburg where the commission was announced, the Prosecutor-General reported that there around about 200 extremist groups in Russia with a following of around 10,000. The majority of them are under 25 years old. The most influential are nationalist and neo-Nazi groups like Army of the People’s Will, the National Socialist Society, the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, the Slavic Union, and the Northern Brotherhood.
Thankfully, with Belov’s sentencing one more fascist is off the street. At least for a little while.Post Views: 297