Since I haven’t been able to comment on the police brutality against the Dissenters March last weekend, I think one of the best reports in the media is Kommersant’s article “Dissenters Crushed.” Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
The police vans were full of people considered by the police to be instigators of the Dissenters’ March. One of them broke a window in the van, and journalists hurled themselves at the narrow opening: “Mr. Kasparov, what do you think of the actions of the police?” asked someone. Garry Kasparov managed to get out only a few words in English [emphasis mine—Sean], among which it was possible to distinguish “Kremlin” and “hell,” before the OMON cut short the interview and drove the press back with truncheons.
“Let him go, he’s fine, he’s just goofing off. He’s not a democrat,” coaxed journalist Viktor Shenderovich upon seeing police detaining a drunk man in a ski cap. “Now he will be,” promised the OMON officer. “Well, that’s true, a few whacks of your truncheon and anyone would turn into a democrat,” sniffed Mr. Shenderovich.
Along the way they encountered People’s Democratic Movement leader Mikhail Kasyanov, two dozen journalists, and around 50 marchers. The demonstrators were immediately surrounded by camouflaged OMON troops. “What’s with the press conference here!?” yelled a burly OMON officer into a megaphone. “Arrest them all! “Fucking journalists or not!” A minute later, after several photographers, a pair of print journalists, and a TV camera operator had been packed into waiting buses, the police went for Mr. Kasyanov. After a short scuffle, however, the former prime minister’s bodyguards managed to fend them off.
“But we don’t need to go to the metro, we’re going the other way,” said former presidential advisor Andrei Illarionov to an OMON officer from
Bashkiriain an attempt to reason with him. “You’re violating the constitution!” he charged, pulling a copy of the document from under his coat. In reply, the policeman raised his truncheon threateningly. “Arrest anyone suspicious!” shouted the OMON commander.
“Who’s suspicious?” asked one of his subordinates.
“They all are!”
“Pick these ones up,” ordered the commander, pointing at Oboron (“Defense”) movement coordinator Oleg Kozlovsky and a young woman with red hair.
“Will you also break their legs?” asked a Kommersant correspondent.
“We’ll break your fucking leg,” snarled the officer.
People leaned over their balcony railings in the apartment building next door. “You’re not people, you’re beasts!” cried a middle-aged woman in an apron from the second floor.
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By Sean — 2 years ago
For all intents and purposes, Russia’s official unemployment rate remains quite low for an economy in recession. The Russian Statistical Agency reports that the official unemployment rate in October-November went from 5.5 percent to 5.8 percent. This is still a far from the rate in February 2009 when official unemployment hit a high of 9.4 percent. The recession of 2008-2010, when GDP in Russia fell from 2.65 percent in January 2008 to -3.53 percent in April 2009, continues to overshadow Russia’s current economic woes. The crucial difference between then and now is that there’s no rebound of global oil prices in sight, sanctions constrict borrowing Western capital, and the Russian government has chosen austerity as a means to climb out of the doldrums.
Despite the low numbers, unemployment in Russia is subject to a myriad of concealments. There’s the standard measurement problem where unemployment figures only record people registered as unemployed. Many people in Russia, like in the US, slip through the statistical cracks.
Nor does the federal unemployment rate reveal the variation of regional unemployment where the variation can range from a low of 1.4 percent in St. Petersburg to a high of 30.7 percent in Ingushetia.
But unemployment is also increasingly hidden by long term unpaid mandatory furloughs. Workers are technically employed. They are just not working. Or getting paid. As Moskovskii komsomolets explains:
Hidden unemployment is one of the most important indicators. In a crisis, many businesses are compelled to place employees on long-term unpaid leave and save money for employee severance. While such official reductions of staff do not impact the unemployment level, it actually only makes the situation is worse. Because they are not technically laid off, it is impossible [for workers] to register as unemployed and receive any state assistance. The artificial creation of positive unemployment data helps maintain the authorities’ approval ratings. Currently, the number of people in unemployed limbo is much greater than last year.
Another problem plaguing workers is wage arrears. As this chart shows wage arrears have almost doubled in 2015:
As the article below shows, all this talk of dry statistics are the stuff of a cold-hearted social scientist. The fetishism of figures elide the humanism of Tatiana’s story as a furloughed worker from the AvtoVAZagregat parts factory in Togliatti and the effort by her fellow workers to recoup 52.5 million rubles ($743,200) in back pay from their employer.
How people on unpaid furloughs spend their time.
By Natalia Fomina
Special Correspondent for Novaya gazeta in Samara
You can talk to a PhD of whatever social science and hear all about economic instability, the financial crisis, the fall of the ruble, the GDP and government spending. And you can meet people who find themselves on six months of unpaid leave. Only they will talking about something else . . .
Until recently, AvtoVAZagregat was one of the largest parts supply factories in Togliatti. At the beginning of July 2015, AvtoVAZagregat stopped production. Since June, two and a half thousand of the company’s employees have not been paid a salary. On September 15, this fact provoked a criminal case under Article 2, Section 145.1 of the Criminal Code (The failure to pay full wages for more than two months out of self-serving or other personal interests).
Tatiana is one of those who has not been paid. She’s 52 years old. She’s worked at the AvtoVAZagregat plant as a quality inspector since 1995, that is for 20 years. She’s worked the last twelve in the assembly shop. It’s in the assembly shop where the car seats we’re accustomed to take shape. They undergo pre-cutting work, packaging, handling, palleting, assembly, sealing, inspection and labeling. Tatiana worked as an inspector. Until they stopped paying her. No, she still went to work for another month, and would have gone longer but they started to remove equipment from the factory and there was nothing left to inspect.
We meet on Revolution Square in Samara behind the Lenin monument where you can see the historic building of the regional court where the young Vladimir Ulyanov served as a lawyer. We go to the awful, but cheap café Zhili-Byli, where it smells of wet floors, cheap perfume and cabbage.
“Oh, good it’s warm!” Tatiana says and refuses to order food. “I don’t spend my own money,” I say decisively speaks. “It’s a business expense!”
Tatiana smiles. She decides to eat a hamburger patty and drink tea. As we wait for our order she says:
“I think things could have been different if we still lived in a house. With my husband and mother. I would have really worked the garden. You can not only live well from it but you can also regularly earn a living from a vegetable garden. We have women who breed ducks, this is also an option. And then I wouldn’t care for this factory and its manager. But our house burned down more than ten years ago,” she continues after a measured pause, “I buried my mother, I lost my husband.”
I’m silent. When we agreed to meet, Tatiana sent her picture. There she stood just near the once-upon-a-time-gingerbread house that is now lopsided on both sides. Sitting next to the elegant elderly lady is a tall man in a vest.
“And . . your husband . . . too?” I ask hesitantly: it’s awkward to specify such things. “I lost him.” This could mean anything.
“Not exactly,” Tatiana reassures me, “It’s not you. My husband’s in prison.”
The tea arrives. And the burger cutlets. Tatiana saws off a piece with her fork and continues: “We celebrated the New Year . . . my mother lived with us then, where could she go with a fractured hip, she slept in the kitchen. We sat, drank, I put out hors d’oeuvres. Well, we sat and sat, mother on crutches, it was a good thing she held her tongue, but when she opened her mouth, it was the same over and over: you cock sucking bastards, you cock sucking bastards. I don’t even know who she’s going on about. Then we went for a walk with her, there were firecrackers and everything. We hung around for a long time, like frozen icicles, and drank more vodka to warm up in the fresh air. We heard the fire engine sirens. Who knew it was for us. Of course, at first, we didn’t think it was our house burning. On the contrary, I thought there was some bonfire through the passageway. We came back and our house was gone, a horrible stench of smoke rose from the ruins and a crowd of people—neighbors, firefighters, and police. Not a single cup or spoon. Or blankets. It all burned.”
A manager sits at the next table with office workers. Young people dressed in suits discuss their annual bonus. A 100,000 rubles to some, 200,000 to others. Tatiana listens, furrows her brow, and continues the story: “Well, mom was burned alive then. She didn’t have time to get out of the house and open the door. Her aluminum crutches were far from her, they were found in the kitchen, she crawled to them but didn’t make it. And there aren’t any bars on all the first floor windows.”
The waitress asks, do you want anything else? Tatiana looks at me inquisitively. I ask for a brandy. Tatiana raises an eyebrow. Waitress quickly bangs down a decanter and two glasses on the table.. The oily brandy splashes around in the decanter kind of like crude oil.
“Well, then the firemen said: “It was arson.” I still don’t believe it was my husband. So, he always disliked mother. But to do this! ”
Tatiana falls silent. Then she says: “I wouldn’t have pulled through it if I hadn’t been working. It was in 2003 and things were very good at the factory. You probably don’t remember, we just adopted a new quality standard, the ISO 9000, it was nearly the first time in Russia. We won a Swiss medal. “For impeccable business reputation.” We received the “Russian National Olympics” award in all areas. I won’t lie, they paid us well then. And not just during working time! A standardized working day takes up time. There’s the morning when you go out to the factory. Then there’s a lunch break, when you eat soup and a main course in the canteen. There’s the evening when you go past the guard’s desk, through the shops and back. All the same people are on the minibus, since day in and day out we always take longer shifts, especially me, why me? I don’t have a home or family, I lived in a in a dorm and in public housing, and only after seven years I finally got the insurance money [from the fire] and was able to buy an apartment. And now I live alone in an apartment. When you have nowhere to go and nowhere to come back to in the evening, it’s hardly anything. It’s not even a new life, it’s no life whatsoever.
In October, the Samara Regional Arbitration Court will consider six companies’ requests to be included in AvtoVAZagregat’s bankruptcy. Between July and October over fifty lawsuits worth more than 340 million rubles have been filed against the company.
“My husband still has three years left on his sentence. Yeah, I visit him, as it should be. They give relatives long term visitation. We’re not divorced. I’ve told you that I don’t believe that it was him, right? Tatiana twirls an empty glass in her hands.
I nod as Tatiana speaks.
“I don’t know what happened to me back then. Reactive psychosis, says the doctor at the psychiatric hospital. Thankfully, everything is alright now. I’m as healthy as a bull. In September, I got a job in a florist shop arranging bouquets. I should say it’s awful work. The shop is cold because the flowers love it. There’s ice water in the planters. Look at my fingers!”
Tatiana shows me her hands. Red fingers jump out from under the wooden table. Her nails are cut at the roots. There’s a watch with a leather strap on her left wrist. She takes the glass and empties it in a single gulp.
“Honestly, I don’t think they’ll pay us our back pay. There are women at VAZ trying to but it’s not likely. Our women trying to rebuild at VAZ, but it’s not likely. There’s nowhere for them to go and next year they’ll start a four day work week.” she says between sips of watery tea.
An hour later I close Tatiana’s taxi door for her ride from Samara to Togliatti. It’s 300 rubles a person and you need to wait for four before leaving. On closer inspection, the driver is Tatiana’s former co-worker—a mechanic in the AvtoVAZagregat welding shop and has been out of work for six months. “A welder for life,” he says and promises to drive Tatiana for free. As one of his own.
According to the latest figures, AvtoVAZagregat owes more than 1,400 employees a total of 52.5 million rubles. As of today, the prosecutor’s office has filed over 905 lawsuits on behalf of employees. “As the work proceeds, about twenty claims go to court a day. By the organization’s count, 16.5 million rubles have been given out to employees. In addition, there are126 more enforcement proceedings at the bailiff,” reports the regional prosecutor’s press service. In early September, there were repeated rallies in support of the workers in Togliatti and Samara.Post Views: 175
By Sean — 10 years ago
T-minus five days and counting. Here’s today’s roundup. The Christian Science Monitor, which I heard was once known for its objectivity, has apparently dumped it. In an editorial titled “Putin’s Potemkin Election,” CSM states that the Duma elections signal the end of Russia’s multi-party system. “In reality Russia is becoming a one-party state. One need only examine the coming parliamentary elections to see how this tragedy is happening.” Only two parties will remain in the Duma–United Russia and the Communists. Changes to the electoral law has made it “harder to run for elections.” In 2004, the law was changed to say that a political party must have a membership of 50,000 (up from 10,000) to register and 200,000 signatures to be on the ballot. This and other changes are what makes the Duma election “Potemkin.”
This is really funny, especially when you consider electoral law in California. For a new political party to get registered in the Golden State, it must have 88,991 people (or one percent of the state electorate) complete “an affidavit of registration, on which they have written in the proposed party name as the party they affiliate with.” To get on the California ballot, a party must have 889,991 signatures (or ten percent of the state electorate) from California alone. Strangely, I don’t recall any articles about California elections being referred to as “Potemkin.”
Such pontificating and hypocrisy are expected from the West. In addition to noting the obvious facade of the Duma elections, Western governments are continuing to line up to condemn the arrests of participants in anti-Putin protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. To think President Bush had to nerve to throw his two cents in. “I am deeply concerned about the detention of numerous human rights activists and political leaders who participated in peaceful rallies in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Nazran this weekend,” he said. “I am particularly troubled by the use of force by law enforcement authorities to stop these peaceful activities and to prevent some journalists and human rights activists from covering them.” You gotta be kidding me. I don’t recall any statement when the NYPD locked up 1000 people protesting the RNC Convention in 2004 in what became known as “Guantanamo on the Hudson.”
It should come as no surprise that Moscow’s Meshchansky Court upheld Kasparov’s arrest.
Sure it’s easy to point to the hypocrisy. But I have one more. Or really it’s a request. Can anyone explain to me what Anne Applebaum’s point is in her column on Slate called “The New Dissidents“? Among other things like comparing Other Russia to Soviet dissidents of yore, she writes, “Odder still is the fact that we hear anything about [Other Russia] at all.” What!? When is the last time she’s done a Google News or Yandex News search? Apparently she’s the only one that finds the voluminous amount of reporting in English and Russian on Kasparov et al. as “odd” I mean Kasparov is a contributing editor of the Wall Street Journal of all things.
The Russian Duma elections will not be fair or perfect by any standards. Sure Putin’s United Russia is popular and would win even if they had one hand behind their back. Even so, that doesn’t mean that in some nefarious ballot stuffing won’t take place in Russia’s nether regions. The election might be a hark back to the days of Stakhanovism when competitions between factories pushed productivity quotas beyond capacity. I’m sure no regional governor is going to let the other eclipse his own sycophantic pandering to the center. No one seems to deny this. A senior election official quoted in the Moscow Times says that “have been ordered to make sure that United Russia collects double the number of votes it is expected to win in State Duma elections on Sunday — even if they have to falsify the results.” How would this be done? The best way according to this unnamed official is to change the polling station’s protocol, that is the record of how many people vote and how many votes go to a party. “During past Duma elections this was the most common way to falsify the results,” he told the Times. “We would do it in front of foreign observers because they didn’t understand anything on what was going on.” If this is true, I sure hope that whatever elections monitors arrive, they aren’t as stupid as the last ones.
I assume this how election monitors from Nashi will spend their time. According to Lentna.ru, Nashi, along with VTsIOM and FOM, will be conducting exit polls. Exit poll monitoring will be one of the ways “Our Elections,” a coalition of Nashi, Young Guard, and Young Russia, will ensure that the ballots don’t get hijacked by colored revolutionary wreckers and saboteurs–all of which they label one kind of fascist or another. One wonders if they will do something like posing as “vampires” of votes, rather than vampires of blood like they did in an action to get Muscovites to donate blood in September. I can see it now. Nashisty running around saying “I’ve cum to suck yur votes!”
The Kremlin appears ready to fight election fraud of its own. Election Commissioner Vladimir Churov called upon voters to “not subvert” the elections by drawing “smiley faces, horns, or any other drawings” on or next to parties on ballots. Voters are also urged to not make the ballot an editorial. So, he warned, no one is to write “this party is the worst of all” next to the party of their choosing. Also, election workers are to avoid engaging in “boisterous discussions” with voters who share different opinion. Man, Churov is taking all the fun out of voting!
And by far the best election story of the day comes from Dagestan. There, Nukh Nukhov, a candidate for SPS, has been charged with “hooliganism,” “causing bodily harm,” and “illegal possession of weapons.” According to Lenta.ru, the story began way back in March this year. On 11 March, during the regional Dagestani elections, a “skirmish” broke out between Nukhov, who was then standing for reelection, and four of his people with Mohammed Aliev, who is the head of Dakhadaevksii district and United Russia, and his brothers. When the smoke cleared two of Nukhov men were killed and two, including Nukhov, were wounded. Aliev and his men fled the scene but a subsequent investigation landed his brothers in jail. Nukhov is said to have “fled with help of his contacts with security organs.”
Nukhov has been in hiding all this time. Or so says the Dagestani prosecutor. But Nukhov dutifully showed up to the court to answer for his behavior. There was even a 200 person strong protest calling for his immediate release. OMON quickly showed up and cordoned off the square.
The Nukhov-Aliev brawl makes me wonder. How much of this election is really about politics and ideology? Perhaps, especially in the localities, it is about clans from the top of the power vertical to the bottom securing their continued right to plunder. If this is the case, perhaps it’s time to dump all the finger wagging about “democracy” and see Russian politics for what it is, rather than what we want it to be.Post Views: 172
By Sean — 5 years ago
Yesterday, Ezhednevnyi zhurnal and the New Times, two of Russia’s most vociferous opposition news sites, published a leaked four–page internal police report “On the results of securing public order and safety in Moscow 6 May 2012.” In the report, Moscow MVD colonel D. Iu. Deinichenko finds that there was no mass disorder during the so-called “Bolotnaya Square riot,” when a phalanx of police violently clashed protesters last May. “As a result of actions taken by the Moscow organs of internal affairs, the goal of securing public order and security was accomplished in toto and an emergency incident was prevented,” Deinichenko concludes. Several sources have confirmed the report’s authenticity, including a lawyer for one of the Bolotnaya 27, Dmitrii Agranovskii, who’d seen it in the case files. The leaked report comes as a boon for the embattled Russian opposition as it contradicts the Investigative Committee’s fanciful assertion that Bolotnaya was Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov’s well-coordinated attempt with the aid of Western money to overthrow the Russian government.
Who leaked the document and why is only speculation. It’s likely that someone involved in the case wanted to chip away at the Investigative Committee with an internal police document pickaxe. It could also be a way to push back against last week’s guilty plea by Left Front activist Konstantin Lebedev, who admitted to organizing mass disorders at Bolotnaya. Regardless, it’s unlikely that Deinichenko’s report will carry much weight in the courtroom. The report is said to be one of many documents in the case, and given the affair’s show trial quality, conviction is likely a foregone conclusion dictated from behind the Kremlin wall.
Still, the Deinichenko report is interesting as it reveals what the police monitor and record during a protest. As a historian, I’m struck by its consistency with Tsarist and Soviet police reports: it’s noting of symbols and slogans, informed awareness of participating political organizations, groups, and leaders, all of which is rendered in a stilted bureaucratic lexicon laden with the passive voice.Post Views: 111