How does a 20 year old girl from Kostroma with no training in fashion design, start her own line of clothing and open a store in Moscow’s swanky GUM? You get Nashi to back you. As Marina Kamenev’s profile of Nashi designer Antonia Shapovalova explains, hooking up with Nashi can take you far. Farther than you ever imagined. Kamenev writes,
Shapovalova started her design career with Nashi three years ago, when the group came to her hometown of Kostroma. Shapovalova knew straight away that she wanted to take part. “They were offering a variety of roles like marketing, economics and education,” she said. “It seemed natural to do design, but I never anticipated this level of success.”
“Lots of journalists ask me if I completely support Nashi,” Shapovalova said. “I think it’s a stupid question. Nashi ideas are basic human principles. They support orphanages, education; they are patriotic, they are anti-fascist. What kind of normal person says they are pro-fascist?”
One shouldn’t be surprised that Shapovalova is a die hard Nashistka. Her Nashi connections, which of course mean government connections, has landed her a rent free space among stores like Dior, Calvin Klein, Zara, Levi’s and other international designers. “I wouldn’t say [Mikhail Kusnirovich, the director of Bosco di Ciliegi, which owns the controlling stake in GUM] is paying for me. It’s a collaboration with GUM and Nashi,” she told Kamenev. It doesn’t hurt to also have mannequins draped with your line throughout GUM, pop stars posing for photo ops, and State Committee of Youth Affairs and Nashi founder Vasili Yakemenko showing up for the store’s opening either.
“I am sure that in three years’ time every tenth young person in Russia will have something from Shapovalova’s collection in their wardrobe,” says Yakemenko. If only the Komsomol had this kind of vision.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
Here’s a new one. The Moscow Patriarch announced that it plans to create an “Orthodox People’s Militia” under the auspices of the Russian Orthodox Church. The militia, according to Father Vsevolod Chaplin, will be
Small groups which will literally dominate the street life of districts, small cities, and villages. And here, I think the Orthodox militia can maintain order in their hometowns. Now there exists military-patriotic groups who are physically fit under many church communes and parishes. They could show a good amount of civil activity.
The groups, which seem to already have been created, will make their official debut on 1 December. And what will be their most immediate task? According to Father Kirill Frolov, the leader of the Moscow division of the Union of Orthodox Citizens, the militias will “in some degree be dictated by the possible outcomes of the financial crisis, in particular unemployment. The militiamen will uphold civil peace and prevent the manifestation of extremism.” The Moscow MVD has already expressed interest in the project.
It’s no coincidence that the announcement of an Orthodox militia also coincides with planned Dissenters’ March on 14 December. One assumes that when the good Father speaks of extremism, he means Other Russia. The Dissenters’ March falls on the anniversary of the Decembrist Uprising of 1825. We all know what happened then: the uprising of hopeful nobles was crushed, ushering in the reign of Nicholas I. Nicholas is said to have conducted some of the interrogations personally and a compilation of the usurpers’ testimony is said to have sat on his desk as a reminder. Given the emphasis Nicholas put on Othodoxy as a emblem of Russian nationalism, the potential participation of Orthodox militas as a foil to Other Russia’s plans strikes of a certain historical irony.
What is perhaps less ironic is the fact that the militias are supported by Nashi. Nashi is no stranger to organizing street militias to aid the cops. Readers will remember that Nashi created the Voluntary Youth Militia before the 2007 parlimentary elections to combat disruptions by “extremist organizations.” Now it seems this experience will be taste tested with an added Orthodox flavor.
Indeed, Nashi has been cozying up to the Orthodox Church as of late. Orthodoxy is being more and more incorporated into Nashi’s ideology and identity. Last week, during a meeting with Nashi members, Metropolitan Kirill said that there is a need for an all-Russia youth organization based on “traditional values.” “We used to have a youth organization (i.e. the Komsomol) working all through the country. It did a lot of useful work and many of those who belong to political elite today stepped out of the organization, where they gained administrative experience.” How times have changed.
Nashi is beginning to sound like a perfect template for such an organization. For example, Boris Yakemenko, one of Nashi’s chief ideologists and brother to the movement’s founder Vasili Yakemenko, recently penned a chapter for a textbook on Orthodox culture entitled “Russian Rock and Orthodoxy.” This year Nashi formed an Orthodox cabinet within its organization. According to Yakemenko, this cabinet was created to “attract youth to the church, speak in a language understandable to young people that says that Orthodoxy is not the religion of old people or “losers” (luzery) but a faith for plenty of successful people who love their country, their culture, and their language. That is to say, our Orthodox direction will defend the Church and its culture.”
Now they will also defend Russia streets. And if an article in today’s Vedomosti (Thanks Lyndon!) on the percentage of Russian companies planning cost cutting measures is correct, those Orthodox militias better get on the streets quick. About 30 percent of Russian companies are planning some kind of trimming of labor according to a survey of 371 companies by Ankor. In the words of Ankor representative Natalia Danina,
The financial crisis has forced practically all companies to cut costs in a variety of ways, including the cutting of personnel. Besides dismissal as a measure for cutting costs, they plan on cutting the work day and unpaid vacations for employees, and even cutting pay and lowering financial compensation packages.
The more people not working means potentially more people angry and on the streets. God’s army better get to work.
By Sean — 11 years ago
Agents from the Adygei Department of the Russian Interior Ministry (MVD) announced yesterday that they have detained Viktor Milkov, 23, a student at the Adygei Technological University, as the source of execution video “An Execution of a Tadjik and Dagestani”. Milkov is a member of the National Socialist Party of Russia, and according to police, has been disseminating Nazi propaganda via the Internet for two years. Milkov, who goes by the handle vik23 on Russian Live Journal, has been identified as providing the first link to the video which has been the topic of heated discussion in the Live Journal community. Who created the video and committed the executions is still unknown but the group claiming responsibility of the act, the National Socialist Party of Rus has claimed to be a militant wing of the National Socialist Society. The latter group is known for participating in the “Russians March” and attacks on gay pride parades. It has denied any link to Milkov or the National Socialist Party of Rus. An MVD spokesman said that Mikov will be charged under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, “Incitement of National, Racial, or Religious Enmity” i.e. the extremist law. Conviction carries a sentence up to five years imprisonment.
The authenticity of the video and what it signifies has been a much debated topic in the Russian blogosphere and media. Among Russian authorities, the video has engendered questions about whether the internet requires regulation. The Russian state newspaper, Rossiiskaya gazeta assured readers that the MVD would eventually identify the makers of the video with the help of international law enforcement agencies from several states, including the United States. International agreements for the regulation of the internet were made during the last G-8 meeting for “cooperation in the control of the internet,” the paper said. But for Russia, immediate regulation is premature. Despite the much discussed and cited “extremist law,” “the internet is not recognized as mass media and the majority of laws that relate to it don’t apply.” Under the auspices of anti-terrorism, the Russia MVD has been urging the creation of laws to “directly prohibit the posting of similar sites” to those deemed extremist.
There has been increased activity among Russian fascist, ultranationalist, and skinhead groups in the last few years. For example, in May, Alexander Brod, director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights reported that his organization tallied more than 70,000 skinheads in Russia, up from 50,000 two years before. “Nowadays, they could be found in each regional center, they are emerging even in small towns and villages. In big cities, the attacks happen nearly each day and murders [are committed] weekly. It shows the activity of skinheads has grown and the essence of their offense has become more aggressive and criminal,” Brod was quoted in Kommersant. The SOVA Center reported that 37 people have been killed in racially motivated attacks, a 22 percent increase from last year. In an article on the execution video, Novaya gazeta noted that its brutality points to a possible “sharp radicalization of Russian Nazis.” “It’s one thing when several people attack a immigrant worker. This requires no courage. But to commit murder in cold blood in front of a camera–this is something completely different. Real psychos are needed for such a display of murder,” a Moscow antifa activist familiar with fascist youth groups told the paper.
The video’s appearance, some might say, is a strange coincidence. Monday night’s bombing of the Neva Express, which injured 27 people, is now suspected to be the work of ultranationalists. A source close to the investigation told Interfax, that “the top lead” pointed to “representatives of extremist nationalist organizations were involved in this terrorist act”. The Moscow Times reports that investigators questioned members of Novgorod branch of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration. Police surmise a possible ultranationalist link because the bomb resembles one used to blow up the Grozny-Moscow train in 2005.
Whether there is a direct link between the execution video and the train bombing is impossible to say. The two incidents could be individual and uncoordinated acts that are part of a general escalation in ultranationalist activity. If anything, they two incidents raise questions about the strength and threat such groups pose to the Russian social order. Many have lambasted the Kremlin’s heavy response to liberal and opposition forces, citing that the extremist law was illegal applied to them. The recent case against Yabloko in Krasnodar is just one example. As is the Kremlin’s banning of the left wing National Bolshevik Party and cracking down on other radical leftist groups. But it appears that the real threat is coming from the far right. Yet despite this increase, few are asking where this spike in racial violence is coming from beyond blanket statements about some kind of inherent or culturally rooted racism. Couldn’t the roots also lie in the social-economic structure of Putinism itself? Could Putin’s success–stabilization, prosperity, and a strengthening of the Russian state–also be generating expectations from the young, male, Russian population who’ve received little benefit from Russia’s economic boom, but feel that they deserve to? Like most societies that experience increases in racial and ethnic strife, the disenfranchised majority tends to see its marginalization as the result of the Other’s benefit.
Granted, state rhetoric has stepped up of late against ultranationalism, and it seems that there are more and more cases where the extremist law is applied to Russian fascists. However, human rights activists continue to point to the Kremlin’s reluctance to crack down as hard on the right as it does the left. One wonders if last week’s verdict in a St. Petersburg court sentencing a 14 year old to 12 years in prison for the murder of an anti-racist activist is part of a change of course. In response to the verdict, Aleksandr Brod said, “On the whole, it’s a fair verdict. Judges are progressively awakening to the danger of growing fascist tendencies in Russia. In our view, a tough response from prosecutors and judges is one of the best ways to fight xenophobia and neofascism.” One can only hope that he’s right.
By Sean — 11 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.