English and Russian language blogs unite! LJ users calling for a content strike! I recommend checking out Veronica Khokhlova’s “LiveJournal: Bloggers Protest Basic Account Cancellation” for the whole story. I love the Russian’s “radical path.” Khokhlova tells us:
Some Russian-language bloggers have chosen to take a more radical path, proposed (RUS) by LJ user lleo (Leonid Kaganov), who is highly critical of LJ user beckyzoole‘s initiative:[…] The American thinks that the whole world will support her. In fact, 3 percent will join in. Sup will notice a 3-percent drop in traffic. And then what? […]
On March 21, I’ll go to this page:
and will change my status to “deleted.” That is, I’ll delete my journal. A wonderful form will appear on the screen then: ay, oy, […] let us know what has made you delete your journal, and what we have to do to improve our service? In this line I’ll write: “Return Basic Accounts.” That’s the real statistics that Sup is going to get. It is well-known that deleting a journal this way is pure formality, because it is possible to restore the journal in a second in the next 30 days, losing absolutely nothing. And so the following day, I’ll go back to that page and change status to “active” (or not, I’ll think abut it). But while my journal stays in the “deleted” mode for a day, it will not only keep me from writing in it (or comment on its behalf), but everyone around will also see that my journal has been deleted. Because this (unlike “outraged silence”) is highly conspicuous and effectual. And if we want to do a protest flash mob, this is the only way to do it. […]
If you try accessing LJ user lleo‘s blog now, you’ll will not succeed: it has indeed been deleted.
I wish them the best of struggles.
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By Sean — 1 year ago
By Sean — 4 years ago
Guest post by William Risch
On January 19, 2014, Kyiv exploded. It started with a peaceful mass rally of over 100,000 people at Independence Square (commonly referred to as the Maidan). Organizers had talked of this being a chance to protest laws limiting freedom of speech and assembly that had just been signed into law two days before. As in other Sunday rallies, leaders of the political opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych – Vitaliy Klychko, Oleh Tiahnybok, and Arseniy Iatseniuk – laid out future plans for action, including forming a parallel state and parliament and a new constitution. However, the mass rally soon turned sour. The plans were vague. The rhetoric resembled that of any other Sunday mass rally. Then an activist from Automaidan – a protest group known for using their own cars to visit and protest government officials – proposed onstage that the Maidan field one leader to oppose the regime. However, as soon as he started making this proposal onstage, opposition organizers cut off his microphone. Later opposition leader Arseniy Iatseniuk declared that anyone who wanted a single leader from the political opposition was a provocateur.
I was there filming scenes of the Maidan when Iatseniuk spoke. Admittedly, I was confused. I heard two men near me arguing over the political opposition’s weaknesses. I heard whistling and booing from the hill opposite the stage, and I was convinced that real provocateurs – the hired thugs, or “titushky” – had broken into the crowd and were starting a fight. Then I heard people chanting, “Lidery! Lidery!” (Leaders! Leaders!). Iatseniuk warned that there would be provocateurs interested in starting violence with the authorities. Then I heard similar whistles and boos. The crowds started leaving. I saw hundreds of them file past me as they went up Instytuts’kyi Street, up the hill past the barricades. Some tall, heavy-set man leaning on a cane interviewed people with a small video camera as they passed by. “How do you feel about what you heard at the Meeting?” he asked, “Were you disappointed?” While one woman affirmed that she wasn’t, the rest either complained about the empty phrases they had heard, or they sullenly turned away from the camera and said nothing.
As Liga Novosti reported the next day, thousands of such people drifted away from the Maidan and headed in the direction of the Supreme Rada, against opposition leaders’ warnings. A crowd of people stopped at the foot of Hrushevs’kyi Street, just beyond European Square, where a cordon of riot police and police busses and trucks blocked the road. Automaidan activists began a demonstration in front of the police barricade. When Vitaly Klychko tried to turn the crowd back to the Maidan, members of the extremist group Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor) doused him with a fire extinguisher. Then Right Sector members started a fight with the riot police. They hurled pavement stones, sticks, Molotov cocktails, and petards. The police responded by attacking them with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and water from fire hoses. The protestors managed to burn down all of the busses blocking Hrushevs’kyi Street, yet police forces held firm. After 11 hours of fighting, at least 100 people were injured.
The battle raged on. By the early morning hours of January 22, Unity Day (celebrating the unification of western and eastern Ukraine in 1919), the police had shot dead two protestors. A third victim, who along with other protestors had climed to the top of the entrance arch of the nearby Kyiv Dynamo soccer stadium to lob rocks and firebombs at police, fell off the arch and died. The organization Civic Maidan reported on Facebook that in just two days, January 21-22, over 30 medical workers had been shot and beaten, over 70 journalists had been shot on purpose, over 500 protestors had been injured, over 50 activists kidnapped, and over 5 protestors killed. Hrushevs’kyi Street had taken on all the features of an eerie, apocalyptic Hollywood movie: flames leaping from burning tires scattered in front of columns of riot police standing beyond metal shields like phalanxes of Roman soldiers, billows of black smoke ascending into the air, and rhythmic pounding of metal by protestors and riot police, disrupted now and then by explosions and gunfire. With the exception of occasional ceasefires and police charges, the battle for Hrushevs’kyi Street continues to the present. Meanwhile, the revolution has spread to the provinces. As of January 23, popular uprisings in up to seven regions of Ukraine have toppled the Yanukovych’s local administrative organs there.
I wound up missing Hrushevs’kyi Street’s Hollywood-style battle scenes. Following the mass rally, I went to charge my camera batteries and warm up in the Hotel Ukraina overlooking the Maidan. There, I ran into French and Russian TV journalists and even Klychko himself, surrounded by Maidan guards and admirers. I then went in search of some anti-Maidan protestors who had been meeting in a park near the Supreme Rada. On the way to the park, I passed by a series of barricades set up by riot police on Instytuts’kyi Street, around the district where many of the Ukrainian government’s offices are located. Every barricade I passed had the same scene: young men in their teens and twenties, shouting into policemen’s faces, accusing them of serving a crook (zek), berating them for beating innocent people, cursing now and then. The police stood at attention behind their shields, behind barriers set up on the street, some of which included vans, busses, and small military transport vehicles. Sometimes they smiled when their accusers made jokes about Yanukovych or other officials. At times, they exchanged a brief phrase or two with the demonstrators. But they largely remained silent.
A variety of people passed by. Two demonstrators stood by with a banner that said, “Don’t Judge Kharkiv through Hepa and Dopa,” a reference to Kharkiv’s corrupt mayor and governor. An elderly grandmother in a fur hat and coat, bag in hand, went from barricade to barricade, crying out like a holy fool, “Berkutivtsy! Murderers! Who gave birth to you!? You’re worth nothing!!,” while everyone else looked on. One student with his girlfriend stopped by a barricade to laugh at and mock the police. “That stuff comes from my Grandma’s time!” he roared with laughter, referring to the bus and truck serving as a barricade. Like the others, he started insulting the police, telling them they were fools defending the regime. One of the onlookers dared to debate with him the merits of insulting the police. She asked him why he wasn’t trying to speak with these police; why wasn’t he trying to win them over to his position, rather than heating up emotions. “I tried that!” he protested. “They ignored me! “ “It’s been two months,” his girlfriend said. “And what have we gotten?” Both students noted the government’s unwillingness to make changes (punishing the police who had beaten students on November 30, 2013, firing the Minister of Internal Affairs, and so on). They both expressed their frustrations with the political opposition asking them to stand at the Maidan and keep up the protest. When the woman arguing with them asked, “Do you really want to have a violent revolution?,” the girlfriend hesitated, then insisted that anything was better than the status quo.
The police guarding the barricades around the government office district were not from the Kyiv units of Berkut responsible for beating students on November 30. Still, they were bearing the brunt of people’s anger. “You’re serving a zek!” “Monsters!” “No one wants you!” I could hear these remarks in Russian and Ukrainian as I went from one barricade to the next. And the police stood still and bore the insults.
It turned out that there was no anti-Maidan demonstration in the park. Instead, Hrushevs’kyi Street, which went past it, was blocked by a long cordon of metal barriers and police behind them that stretched all the way across the park, cutting it in two. It looked like there were a few anti-Maidan activists allowed to leave through an open passage on Hrushevs’kyi Street. One of them shouted to some police officers outside, “Glory to the police! Glory to the defenders of Yanukovych!” (a play on the Maidan greeting, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”). Otherwise, it was an empty park with some protestors, curious onlookers, and police milling about.
There was something very unsettling about this scene. The long row of riot police was donning masks to protect them from teargas. One or two firetrucks passed by. It looked like they were getting ready for a confrontation with someone, but who? A small throng of people clustered around the barrier across Hrushevs’kyi Street. Someone carried a Ukrainian national flag. Many started shouting the familiar insults at the police. A family – a grandfather, mother, and small child – tried to get through the barrier to attend a play further down the street, but couldn’t. However, as darkness set in, this small group dispersed after chanting “Glory to Ukraine!” and other Maidan slogans. Small groups of 2-3 people who stopped by the long barrier to talk to people (to limited degrees of success) also left. As freezing cold and night set in, I heard in the distance two loud booms and the roar of a crowd, as well as maybe 1-2 chants of “Glory to Ukraine!” I thought it was coming from the Maidan. Only a few hours later did I realize it was the battle for Hrushevs’kyi Street that would surface on the front pages of newspapers worldwide the next day.
As it turned out, a friend of mine in Donetsk some days before had made a fairly accurate prediction: if anyone at the Maidan would use weapons, it would be the Right Sector. The members of Right Sector constitute an amorphous group of young right-wing radical nationalists from Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Defense (UNA-UNSO), Ukrainian Patriot, Trident, White Hammer, and other organizations. They are a confederation with no leader. Right Sector activists have expressed their contempt for the “Maidan pacifists.” They even reject any allegiance to the right-wing political party called Freedom (Svoboda) and its leader, Oleh Tiahnybok. On their page at VKontakte, the Russian-language equivalent of Facebook, its members talked about gathering people and equipment for a mass protest for January 19.
Admittedly, Right Sector activists did a lot to turn a protest of thousands trying to get to the Supreme Rada into a war zone for the cameras. But the anger in Kyiv on January 19 was real. It was there along the other barricades blocking access to the government offices neighborhood. The beating of students on November 30, attempts by Berkut to storm the Maidan on the early morning hours of December 11, the beating of journalist Tetiana Chornovol on December 24, and then the passage of laws on January 16 making even an assembly of five cars or more a criminal offense had greatly angered people in Kyiv. Besides that, for over two months, the Maidan had produced not a single concession from the government nor any concrete action by the political opposition. It was no surprise, then, that the Right Sector could start a fight on Hrushevs’kyi Street. They had plenty of people to support them as they attacked the police barriers. I would suspect that there were a lot of people along Instytuts’kyi Street who were not sad to see riot police, Berkut, and other security forces face Molotov cocktails and pavement stones during January 21-22.
Perhaps I, too, would have welcomed the assault on police forces attempted over the next few days. However, something happened on the road to the anti-Maidan. I managed to meet two riot policemen. I cannot convey the exact context in which I met them, because I want to protect their identities. However, I can tell you what they were like. They were both Russian speakers in their mid-30s and from southern Ukraine’s industrial regions. They had been stationed in Kyiv since November 25, when the troubles began. They were friendly, intelligent, good people, not the demonic types beating students, journalists, and anyone in sight. “I’m getting tired of people who say I serve a crook (zek),” said one of them. “I serve the law.” They complained that the media had demonized riot police. They claimed to have seen one 18 year-old policeman who lost both of his eyes when a protestor slammed his helmet’s glass visor into his face. That man is now disabled for life, they said. A national television station had filmed one of them carrying an injured policeman to an ambulance, but the scene never appeared in its news program. Both were very critical of the Euromaidan protest movement. They saw people from “Lvov” (Lviv) as dominating it. They were convinced that Maidan protestors had sparked the violence on December 1, when a mob attacked the Presidential Administration on Bankovyi Street. Both policemen voiced deep skepticism of the European Union and what it could do for cities like theirs, which had witnessed a number of industries closing. They admitted that the system was corrupt through-and-through, and that replacing Yanukovych as president with someone else from the opposition was not the solution. Finally, they described all the difficulties they had providing for their families with the mere salary of 1800 hryvnias (about 200 U.S. dollars) a month. As the cold set in and we paced around to keep warm, one of them said, “We just want it over, so that you can go home and we can go home,” referring to Maidan demonstrators.
It was a very cold night on January 19, the day Kyiv blew up. As I tried to get my aching legs moving, I thought of all those policemen – regular police, riot police, even Berkut – stuck out on the streets, standing in place, at times absolutely freezing, for two months. That evening, I got my last glimpse of the Maidan with a friend whom I later met for dinner that night. I filmed it as a crowd was watching a documentary on the rise of the Donetsk mafia (the group that helped bring people like Yanukovych to power). It was quiet. The war was going on past the hill overlooking us, out of sight, out of mind.
I only found out about the battle for Hrushevs’kyi Street back in my hotel, on the Internet, while the TV stations acted like nothing was wrong, and all my friends on Facebook were warning me not to go to the battle scene. The battle was literally three metro stops away. I decided it was better to stay at home and catch a very early morning flight. At the airport, it was like no war, and no revolution, were going on at all. The only trace of it was in casual conversations about politics among people about to board my plane. I checked my Facebook messages. A colleague wrote, “Bill, honestly, I’m glad you got out of there.” The day that Kyiv blew up was not to be my story, but someone else’s.Post Views: 75
By Sean — 12 years ago
Youth political activism in Russia is a tale of two youths. One stands in front of a line of police in riot gear in St. Petersburg, a black or red handkerchief over his nose and mouth to disguise his face. He is probably a member of Red Youth Vanguard (AKM), the National Bolshevik Party, an anarchist, or an environmentalist. He will most likely get beaten and then arrested. He will spend up to 10 days in jail or until the Russian authorities decide to release him.
In many ways he is lucky to get this far. Many activists protesting at the G8 Summit this past weekend, like St. Petersburg Natsbol leader Andrei Dmitriev and AKM leader Sergei Udal’?tsov were victims of preemptive arrests. According to Kommersant, Udal??tsov was scooped up with several other AKMtsy and taken to Moscow, where they were then released. On June 13, Dmitriev was arrested and taken by bus to Tver Oblast, where he was kept incommunicado for more than a day. His relatives made a complaint to the Petersburg prosecutor arguing that his disappearance was “comparable to abductions in Chechnya.”? Official charges against Dmitriev were never filed. He says that UPOB officers (the Department for the Struggle Against Organized Crime) told him that the leadership wanted him held until the end of the Summit. As of today the Russian State still holds 200 activists in prison without charges or for minor offenses of “disrupting the public order.”? Such is the nature of youth political dissent in Russia.
The other Russian youth is currently at Lake Seliger in Tver Oblast at the second annual Nashi summer camp. Last year this time, 3,000 Nashi commissars met for festivities and training. This year the camp holds 5,000 Nashi members from over 50 cities. If last year’?s camp more resembled the Soviet Pioneers, with Soviet songs drifting through the camp grounds and youths meeting with important officials from Putin’?s government, this year’?s Camp Seliger has taken more pages from the Soviet Komsomol rather than its younger charges. The youth at this Nashi Camp was treated to lectures in “Putin’?s Domestic Policies”? and the “?Ideology of Vladimir Putin”?. Putin has enjoyed a personality cult among the Nashisty from its inception. Adulations to Putin aside, the main focus of this years camp was much more nationalistic and militaristic. The main theme of the camp revolved around its new program called “?Our Army,”? which was adopted at Nashi’s Congress in April. Like the Komsomol before it, “Our Army”? specifically looks to encourage youths to join the army. They even get a taste of army life at the summer camp. “We must explain to the entire generation that the question of whether to serve in the army or not does not have a right to exist,” says then Nashi leader Vasilii Yakemenko.
Providing paramilitary training to Nashi members immediately raises the systemic problem of dedovshchina. I won’t belabor this issue again since I’?ve written about it several times before. It also can’t help Nashi’?s cause when two more brutal cases of dedovshchina came to light this week. The Kremlin has done nothing but give lip service to the problem, and it seems that, according to the St. Petersburg Times, the trial of Private Sychyov assailants has hit a roadblock because on the prosecutions “star witnesses,” one Artyom Nikitin, has recanted his testimony. Sychyov was severly beaten six months ago to the point where his legs had to be amputated because they developed gangrene.
Still, the fear of dedovshchina among Nashisty is probably fairly low. You can’?t sway the converted. For them, the culture of hazing in the Russian military is the result of a few bad apples and not a systemic culture that has been born, bred and tolerated, if not encouraged, but the authorities. Good, well trained and dedicated Nashisty, like their Komsomol forefathers, will simply solve the problem by their sheer presence in the armed forces. After all, members of “Our Army”? being trained at Segiler are addressing the question of hazing so that “it will not occur.”? After all, like in Soviet times, if the Party says “????!,” the Komsomol replies, “????!”
So there you have it, two youths. One anti-Putin to the core. The other ready and willing to act as his shield and dagger. There is a middle ground between them that is occupied by more moderate, and liberal forces. And like always, a mass of politically neutral, if not apathetic, Russian youth surrounding them all. We should not forget that even to Nashi’s right there are the skinheads and other anti-immigrant and racist youth groups like the Eurasian Youth League. These only help Nashi appear like they occupy the center and gave their antifascist slogans sincerity. In reality, they have more in common with these political undesirables than with the radical left.
While Nashi may conjure illusions to the Komsomol, the far left is not antithetical to the League’s history. Not all Komsomol members kowtowed to the Party. In fact, post-revolutionary militancy found a home in the organization. During the doldrums of the New Economic Policy in the 1920s, many Komsomols felt that the Revolution entered a Thermidor, as they were told to “learn”? communism rather than fight for it; and to tolerate class enemies rather than liquidate them and throw their remains into the dustbin of History. The Bolshevik Party appeared moribund and conservative, and after Lenin died in 1924, many Komsomol youth felt it was them and not the Party that carried the true banner of Leninism. These were the youths often took to Trotsky’?s message of anti-bureaucratism and the destruction of NEP. That is, until he was exiled and they were expelled in a wave of Komsomol purges in late 1920s. Ironically, these “bratishki” as they were called because of their adherence to Civil War methods, found solace when Stalin called on them to “?liquidate the kulak as a class”? and root out class enemies in his Revolution from Above. One gets the impression that if the tables were turned, and the Natsbols or the AKM were in the same position of power as Nashi, the Civil War myth of the bratishka would find a new audience.
Some may point to the fact that the present youth movement in Russia is marginal. Even Nashi has small numbers in relation to population. Enthusiasm, belief and will backed with power, however, can overcome most numerical deficiencies. The Komsomol was only 2 million in 1928 and it moved social, political, economic, and cultural mountains. Putin’?s camp as well as Limonov’s seems to understand this.
Even if groups like Nashi and the Natsbols are hatched from the same historical ilk, they are as reconcilable as Cain and Abel. The Komsomol had to squash its opposition on both the left and the right, and I would imagine that Nashi will try to do the same. There is already some indication that they are already making an attempt, if last August’s attack on a meeting of radical left youths near Avtozavodskaya is any indication. One would also suspect that the far right will be gradually assimilated. Skins and Eurasian Youths are not a contradiction to Nashi’?s ultimate goals; only their rhetoric is misguided.
As of now our two archetypical political youth are more standing face to face rather than fist to face. But opposing mass movements can??t withstand detente for long. Leftwing youth promise to push forward during the 2008 Presidential election. Nashi plans to push back and prevent any disruption of a smooth transition to Putin’s handpicked successor. As for the Russian security forces, they got to test out a variety of repressive methods this past weekend. In two years we just might see Nashisty next to them, cuffing and dragging away a Natsbol for a stint in the black hole of incommunicado.
Photos: Kommersant and Reuters.Post Views: 57