Is this the beginning of the big payback for Vasilii Yakemenko’s loyal service to Putin? News sources say that Yakemenko will be named a member of the newly created Committee on Youth. And from the Kremlin’s point of view, its a position well deserved. Yakemenko is responsible for turning the moribund pro-Putin group Walking Together, which he founded in 2000, into the flamboyant Nashi. Sure Nashi’s influence over Russian politics may be slight, but in two years, thanks to Kremlin and corporate monetary and political capital, the movement has turned into another Kremlin populist mechanism to curry favor among politically active and ambitious youth. Now as a member of a quasi-cabinet position, Yakemenko will surely have even more resources at his disposal. Yakemenko’s appointment, says Iulia Taratuta of Kommersant, “marks the start of his rise up the ladder of officialdom.” One can only speculate how high his political ambitions are.
Officially, however, the choice for who will staff the Committee on Youth will be decided Sunday. But Kremlin sources have told Kommersant and Vedomosti that in addition to Yakemenko, Kremlin youth political coordinator Nikita Ivanov, and Molodaia gvardiia leader Andrei Turchak will also be tapped. The exact functions of the Committee have yet to be disclosed, but according to Kommersant, it will “define state policy on youth, cooperate with social organizations and youth movements, and even promote a healty form of live and patriotic education to youth.” Such tasks sound all too familiar. So familiar that Putin’s denials that Nashi isn’t a “restoration of the Komsomol” aren’t fooling anyone.
The question for the near future, however, is what does all this mean for Nashi’s role in the upcoming elections if Yakemenko is coordinating youth policy from the Kremlin. One Kremlin source told Kommersant that mobilizing youth participation in the elections will be moved to United Russia, specifically under the command of Molodaia gvardiia’s Turchak. As for Yakemenko, he will be given a purse especially earmarked for “youth” of around 160 million rubles from the state budget and a regional budget said to number in the millions of dollars to dole out to political allies. That’s a good chunk of change to build a personal political fiefdom.
Thanks to Dmitri Minaev for drawing my attention to the articles.
You Might also like
By Sean — 9 years ago
Nashi’s been keeping a list. There’s no need to check it twice. They know who’s been naughty and nice. In their own version of a “Komsomol Christmas,” members of the pro-Kremlin group Nashi decided make their own mockery of the holiday. But unlike their Soviet predecessors, the enemy wasn’t religion but the leaders of “most unfriendly governments” toward Russia. And which leaders received lumps of coal? According to a poll of its members, none other than Mikhail Saakashvili, Viktor Yushchenko, and George Bush.
The Nashists sent several neckties to Saakashvili “just in case he gets anxious and begins to chew on his wardrobe accessories publicly in the future.” Yushchenko got a package of coal and logs to keep him warm after Russia turns off the gas. He also got a reworked Ukrainian flag that combines the US flag, the Ukrainian blue and yellow, and a Nazi swastika. To outgoing US President Bush, Nashi sent a set of world maps with mousetraps to symbolize NATO expansion. All the presents were to be hand delivered to their respective embassies.
To all my readers, a very Мerry Christmas!Post Views: 655
By Sean — 10 years ago
Is oil a boon or a blessing? When it comes to Russia, more and more analysis are seeing it as the former. As Konstantin Sonin argues, the “natural-resource curse” is now a favorite among those who seek to explain Russia’s skewed trajectory toward democracy. For Sonin, the oil curse is now displacing other favorite explanations for Russia’s inability to extricate itself from the tar pit of backwardness. Sonin writes,
The arguments over why Russia repeatedly runs into roadblocks in its path toward democracy will continue as long as the country exists — which is to say eternally. The excuses used to explain these failures also seemed to be eternal: Russia’s subjugation under the Mongolian yoke; the immensity of Russia’s territory and its need for expansion; or the “unique Russian mentality” that is somehow not conducive to democracy. Even the country’s severe climate is cited as one reason for its backwardness.
Russia democratic derailment is so perplexing that some are turning to where Putin and Medvedev sit as an clue to the configuration of power. It’s as if Sovietologists’ practice of finding out who was in charge by where they stood on Lenin’s Mausoleum wasn’t inane enough. But that is the logical outcome of seeing the Russians as eternally backward. Since they aren’t like us, and because of genetics or history can’t be like us, then we will have to decipher their barbarous symbolic order to uncover their hidden secrets. Such is the thrill and the frustration of studying an “abnormal” country.
As Sonin notes, whether the “natural-resource curse” is actually a curse remains to be seen. Sure there isn’t much historical precedent of oil rich countries becoming flower gardens of democracy. Sure it seems that most oil rich countries are wallowing in the morass of lopsided economies, polarizing wealth, and dependency. But the problem for Sonin isn’t oil as such. It’s the power dynamic between rulers and people.
The “natural-resource curse,” which is the theory that high oil and gas profits weaken economic and political development in the long term, is not always a given. The true impact of the curse depends on a nation’s particular history and culture. In some countries, governmental institutions are so stable that even a sharp rise in prices for resource exports would not threaten their integrity. Even in a country without successful experience in democratic development, the efforts of the ruling elite, coupled with the proper political awareness on the part of the people, could prevent the country from sliding into a dictatorship.
This is a nice theory. But “political awareness on the part of the people” has shown to be quite malleable to the whims of leaders. Maybe Sonin has a better ear, but I don’t hear many Russians clamoring for a redistribution of all that oil wealth. In fact, the population appears have been lulled into political content by the dazzling allure of consumerism. The plenitude of new cars, clothes, stereos, cell phones, DVD players, and flat screen TVs if not actually consumed, at least present the potential of consumption. The trickle down of oil wealth to Russia’s middle classes is enough to produce a reinforcing objective and subjective sense of stability. Enough Russians see and feel a bright tomorrow, which acts as a gloss over whatever problems that exist. There is a unspoken pact between leaders and people. One that says, to quote Sonin, “the country’s leaders don’t have to bend over backwards to earn the right to stay in power, and the people aren’t overly concerned about how their government is structured, or who controls what.” With a deal like that, why would any Russian what to muck it up with something as unpredictable as democracy?Post Views: 382
By Sean — 6 years ago
The trial and conviction of Pussy Riot has sparked a number of historical analogies. Never wanting for hyperbole, the Washington Post, among others in the West and Russia, argued that the trial echoed “Stalinism” (an analogy nicely rebutted by Mark Adomanis). The Pussy Riot case has also been likened to the 1964 trial of the Soviet poet Joseph Brodsky, not to mention harking back to the trials of Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel in 1965. But historical analogies did not end with the Soviet period. Another common refrain was that the accusations and trial of Pussy Riot reflected medieval Russia. This comparison wasn’t hard given that Artem Ranchenkov, one of the case investigators, cited Orthodox canonical rules of proper church dress from the 4th century Council of Laodicea and the 7th century Quinisext Council. Nor was it difficult to call the affair “medieval” since the trial proceedings were often more like an ecclesiastical than a civilian court. The coup de grace for which was when Yelena Pavlova, a lawyer representing nine of Pussy Riot’s “victims,” called feminism a “mortal sin.”
Another common historical analogy making the rounds were excerpts from Article 231 of the Imperial Russian Criminal Code of 1845, which stated that “improper loud cries, laughter, or any other noise or unseemly conduct that causes temptation, averts attention of worshipers from their duty to God” carried a fine of 50 kopeks to a ruble or detention from three to seven days. If the disturbance occurred during church service, the sentence was prison for a period of three weeks to three months. The irony here was that under the “well-ordered police state” of Nicholas I, Pussy Riot’s sentence would have been far lighter. Yet, others listed other possible laws applicable to Pussy Riot from the 1845 code. One blog post listed 24 satutes, Articles 182-205, concerning blasphemy, sacrilege, and other violations of faith. The sentences varied from corporal punishment, forced labor in factories and mines, jail time and exile to Siberia. The only problem is that blasphemy and sacrilege are not in the Russian Criminal Code of 2012. That is unless it’s disguised as “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”
But the historical semblances didn’t stop with references to bygone eras or now defunct imperial codes. Some of the more interesting ones were those that placed Pussy Riot within a broader historical tradition of Russian minstrelsy, where hooliganism, art, and protest collided into a staple of Russian medieval culture.
Indeed, there were two references to Russian medieval minstrels, or skomorokhi, in the trial. When one of the prosecutors asked Stalnisalv Samutsevich, the father of Pussy Rioter Yekaterina, if he believed “it was acceptable to say ‘Holy shit’ in a church”, he compared his daughter’s act to that of the skomorokhi of the sixteenth century. Likewise, in her statement to the court, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said that Pussy Riot were in the tradition of the skomorokhi. “We are jesters, skomorokhi, maybe even, holy fools. We didn’t mean any harm.”
Skomorokhi were minstrel entertainers in Kievan and Muscovite Russia that performed for public and Tsar alike. They were wildly popular as they performed songs and folktales or acts of trained bears to the delight of onlookers. Despite their entertainment value, like Pussy Riot, they combined entertainment and mockery with unruliness. Unlike the balaclava-clad feminists, however, the lawlessness of the skomorokhi mostly involved theft and pillage. One famous story told of a band of minstrels distracting the peasants of Likovo with their performance, while their comrades were busy rounding up the villagers’ sheep. Other incidents told of skomorokhi ransacking barns, raiding animal pens, and making off with whatever they could grab. According to Russell Zguta, a historian of the minstrels, “The performing minstrels would frequently allude in song and proverb to the mischief their unseen comrades were engaged in, but no one was wiser until it was too late.”
Sometimes minstrel “hooliganism” was sanctioned, especially by Ivan IV, who was known to use them to mock and heap scorn upon his enemies. These acts were sometimes sacrilegious. One story told of Ivan having Archbishop Pimen of Novgorod placed on a white mare which paraded him around Moscow accompanied by a band of minstrels. In fact, Ivan Grozny was no mere observer. Sometimes he was a participant in the revelry. In the later part of his reign, he was known to put on a mask himself and dance and frolic with the skomorokhi.
As Ivan’s unleashing of the skomorokhi on the Archbishop suggests, the minstrels had few friends in the Orthodox Church. Church officials viewed the skomorokhi as disseminators of paganism, purveyors of “shameful performances” on street corners and marketplaces, and disruptors of church rituals. Weddings garnered many priests’ ire as the minstrels’ performance often overshadowed the religious sanctity of the nuptials. Sometimes confrontations between priests and skomorokhi descended in fisticuffs. In his biography, Ivan Neronov, a leader of the Orthodox Zealots of Piety, told of an incident in the mid-1640s where he attacked a group of minstrels, seized their instruments and smashed them. Angered, the skomorokhi severely beat clergyman in return. But the zealot was undaunted. As Zhuta reports:
Henceforth [Neronov] and some of his students patrolled the streets of the town during the major festival periods such as Koliada in order to discourage the skomorokhi from performing. But, says the author, students “received not a few wounds at the hands of the skomorokhi, those servants of the devil, and they bore these bodily wounds with joy as they returned to their homes, bloodied but alive.”
Avvakum too had confrontations with skomorokhi. When a band of minstrels with dancing bears arrived to his village of Lopatishch in 1648, he quickly set to drive them away. “I, a sinner, being zealous in the service of Christ,” he wrote, “drove them out and destroyed their masks and drums, one against many in the open field, and I took two great bears from them—one I killed but he later revived, the other I set free in the open field.”
Neronov’s patrols and Avvakum’s clash with the minstrels provide a whole new historical context for the recent call by Ivan Otrakovsky, head of Orthodox Christian movement Holy Rus, for Orthodox activists to form patrol squads to protect worshipers from the “enemies of faith.” “The time has come to remind all apostates and theomachists that it is our land and we forbid blasphemous, offensive actions and statements against the Orthodox religion and our people,” Otrakovsky wrote in his appeal to the faithful. A modern day Zealot of Piety, I’d say.
Though skomorokhi enjoyed the patronage of Tsars Ivan IV, Fedor I, and Mikhail Romanov, the latter’s son, Alexei, took stringent action against minstrelsy. Urged by his confessor and leader of the Zealots of Piety, Stefan Vonifatev, and pushed to reestablish public order in the wake mob violence in Moscow and revolts in Ustiug, Solvychegodsk, Yaroslavl, Tomsk, Novgorod and Pskov, Alexei issued “On the Righting of Morals and the Abolition of Superstition” in December 1648 against the skomorokhi. Aleksei was alarmed by the “drunkenness and devilish amusements” of the skomorokhi, which turned the people away the Orthodox faith and God and to the worship of the minstrels. The 1648 edict unleashed a wave of repression against minstrels, including the confiscation and destruction of their instruments, and penalties such as knouting and exile for performing skomorokhi entertainments, as well as prohibitions on a whole host of pagan rites, festivity, games, and practices. Even priests questioned confessors about their connection to the skomorokhi. They asked penitents: “Did you seek out the games of the skomorokhi? Did you seek out Satanic games, look upon these, or yourself take part in them?” If they answered yes, the penitent was required to recite, “I have sinned, I delighted in hearing the sound of gusli and the organon, of horns, and all manner of skomoroshestvo, of Satanic sayings, and for this I also paid them [that is, the minstrels].”
The skomorokhi hobbled along after 1648, but thanks to Alexei’s crackdown, they never regained their popularity, notoriety, or cultural significance. While the practices of the skomorokhi certainly continued in different forms, according to Zhuta, historical references to them died out after 1768.
But as the Pussy Riot affair shows, the memory of the skomorokhi lives on in Tolokonnikova’s “We are jesters, skomorokhi, maybe even, holy fools.” And perhaps thanks to her, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevitch’s “punk prayer” they will live again, in all their former anarchic glory.
All references come from:
Russell Zguta, Russian Minstrels: A History of the Skomorokhi, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978.Post Views: 1,949