Dima Bilan’s victory at Eurovision is bound to bring more interest in Russian music. But where is a English speaker to go? I recommend directing your browser to Far from Moscow, a new blog by UCLA Slavic Professor David MacFadyen. MacFadyen has written several books on Russian popular television, music, film and culture. Far from Moscow is a more publicly accessible extension of that work, and promises to keep fans in tune with the latest twists and turns, releases, up and coming artists, and goings on in the popular and underground Russian music scenes. I recommend anyone interested in Russian tunes to follow the site closely. I plan to.
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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
It’s that time of year again. The time when thousands of red t-shirt clad Russian youths pack their bags and head for Tver Province to take part in an “educational megaproject.” What is this educational megeproject you ask? Why, its Nashi’s third annual “commissar” camp at Lake Seliger!
The camp has been growing steadily since its inception. Its first year hosted 3000 Nashisty. Last year, 5000 of the self-proclaimed “young democratic anti-fascist movement’s” elite gathered for a whirlwind of physical fitness, paramilitary training, ideological seminars and lectures, and hobnobbing with the likes of Ramzan Kadyrov, Sergei Ivanov, Vladislav Surkov, and even Vladimir Putin himself. This year’s camp is double that size, reaching an impressive 10,000 Nashi youths. For an organization that proports to have 10,000 active members and 200,000 volunteers, that is a impressive haul.
So much so that the Financial Times, as well as several other news organizations, has taken with a piece in Thursday’s edition. There is even a must see Nashi summer camp Flash slideshow. The pictures are amazing in and of themselves. The saying that pictures are worth a thousand words couldn’t be more true. See a Nashi member aiming an AK-47 during paramilitary training with a backdrop billboard reading “Nashi: Our Army.” Gaze at thousands of Nashisty doing their morning calisthenics. Putinist Realism, anyone? Or check out the garish “Red Light District” featuring evil oppositionists Mikhail Kasyanov, Eduard Limonov, and Garry Kasparov dressed in Moulin Rouge. Sexy! A Nashi information commissar explains that they are dressed like prostitutes because “they’re traitors to the country.” And let us not forget Putin’s visage hovering over the camp grounds. The increase in attendance and spruced up digs suggests that corporate funding from Gazprom and other Russian companies is going to good use. Hell, the gas giant even got its own tower for its contributions. It’s clear a lot of time went into naming it too. Its called the “Gazprom Tower.” Surkov’s busy, busy, busy!
It’s all so Komsomol-esque that even Nashi leader Vasily Yakemenko had to admit that “some symbols are similar–senior members are ‘commissars’, members carry little red books recording their achievements.” But he claims that Nashi is no neo-Komsomol since, he says, “For the Komsomol, what was important was the success of the [Communist] party; for us, what’s important is the success of the person.”
Really? Reminds me of a document I have from the 1924 calling for a purge of the Komsomol because all the “hangers-on” and “alien elements” were taking all the spaces in the university from good working class youth. Or the one that denounced the Bolshevik Party as conservative and proclaimed the Komsomol as the true Leninists. The Komsomol could never obliterate the “I”. And often, in fact far too often, it was articulated as “I’m going to step on you to get over you.” If Yakemenko knew his history of Russian youth organizations, he might appreciate the complexity of it all.
In fact, there are some interesting similarities at this years camp with the Komsomol of old. In nothing less than druzhba naroda redux is an “ethno-village” that “displays cultures of Russia’s many minorities.” Also, twenty-five Nashi couples tied the knot in a mass wedding. The act is reminiscent of Komsomol “red” weddings which shunned Orthodox iconography and made marital vows to the “construction of socialism.” I wonder if Nashi couples were urged to christen their children with names like “Nitup,” (Putin), “Pin” (Putin-Ivanov-Nashi), or “Vlakov” (Vladimir Surkov), or “Suvdem” for “sovereign democracy.” I mean, really, if you’re gonna do it, do it right.
Media access to the camp is tight. RFE/RL reports that two journalists, Ilya Barabanov from Novoye vremya and Mikhail Romanov from Moskovskii komsomlets were denied a seat on the media bus. The director of the Nashi press service told them that “the list of accredited journalists had already been sent, and that it was too late to add any new names.” Undeterred, Barabanov and Romanov set out, on a boat no less, to the Nashi camp “unembedded” to see what was up. What they got was a special greeting.
This is how RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Maksim Yaroshevsky describes their adventure:
We rented a boat for 70 rubles an hour, leaving a passport as a deposit, and crossed over to the shores of the Nashi camp. There were no guards in sight and it was relatively easy for us to wander off in different directions through the camp.
In the course of half an hour, I had already managed to speak to a dozen Nashi activists. Some of the other “illegal” journalists weren’t so lucky.
Barabanov and Romanov were approached almost immediately by men in camouflage who insisted they leave the camp at once. The head of Nashi, Vasily Yakimenko, appeared and announced that the presence of unaccredited journalists on the premises of the camp was strictly forbidden.
My colleagues argued that this violated their rights under Russian media law, but Yakimenko was unconvinced, and within 10 minutes Barabanov, Romanov, and Lyaskin [Smena youth leader. He also accompanied the reporters] had all been thrown out of the camp.
Busted! Until next year, I guess . . .