Good news from Russia is a rarity. But today is one of the those rare days. After four and a half years in prison on fabricated charges, the labor activist Valentin Urusov has been released. His release comes ten days after a Khangalssk district court decision. According to Andrei Demidov, the deputy director of Collective Action, Urusov plans to continue his work as a labor and human rights organizer.
Congratulations to Urusov, his family, and all those who tirelessly agitated for his freedom!
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By Sean — 11 years ago
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.Post Views: 375
By Sean — 12 years ago
It looks like Eduard Limonov’s National Bolshevik Party can’t catch a break. Once again the radical organization has been denied registration as a political party. The decision by the Taganka district court upholds the previous ruling by the Justice Ministry. This is the fifth time the NBP has been denied official registration as a political party since 1998. Under Russian law, political parties must have at least 50,000 members to register with the Federal Registration Service. Depending on who you ask, the NBP boasts a membership of around 15,000.
Once again, Limonov vows to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, a move that will probably not amount to much. But Limonov must take a stand and besides mass actions by his organization, this is pretty much the only option he has.
However, the lack of registration has not deterred NBP activities. Last week several activists were arrested in Voronezh and Moscow at NBP protests calling for Russia to either recognize or incorporate break away regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
With all the talk about the rise of fascism in Russia and the news of more racial killings (RFE/RL has a timeline and articles here and here) and beatings (here and here) primarily in St. Petersburg, one wonders about the anti-fascist movement. By anti-fascist, I don’t mean the hollow proclamations by the government and Nashi against fascism. I mean the anti-racist skinheads and hardcore punks that fight the Nazi skinheads in the streets. A search brought me to a critical but revealing article about “Russian AntiFas.” Here’s an excerpt:
In theory, anti-fascism sounds hard as nails: anarchists, punks and skinheads running around and looking for brawls with Moscow’s Nazi-skinhead underground. When I first envisioned this story, I thought it’d be filled with Chopper-like braggarts, righteous, scar-covered thugs living in squats and in a constant state of war. After all, whatever you say about Russian fascists, they’re definitely scary. Last year according to the SOVA Center, which gathers info on racial attacks, they were credited with 28 murders throughout Russia. It’d seem like anyone looking to take them on would have to be equal parts crazy and tough. In other words, anything but dill.
Furthermore, it’s understandable why they’re a bit camera shy. The basic tenet of AntiFA is to challenge the growing neo-Nazi movement in Russia with force; they want to make it hurt to be a Nazi. But they’re vastly outnumbered by Moscow’s real skinheads, who according to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights numbered 5000 two years ago, the last time anyone bothered to count. Last November, ultra-rightists mobilized up to 5000 to goose-step down Tverskaya holding racist signs in broad daylight. According to Dima, a skinhead I talked to who is neither AntiFA nor racist (boneheads, as enlightened Russian skins call their racist/fascist brethren), AntiFA activists on a good day can only muster a group of about 50 and their total number in Moscow is no more than 200. I figured they must have brass balls.
So, it was a bit of a surprise when Ukrop asked me to meet him at Bilingua. Nothing against the cafe, which is a favorite among bearded intellectuals and other assorted pencilnecks, but it’s not exactly the hard-assiest place in Moscow. Nor did his lunch of beer and grenadine add to the baby-faced punk’s intimidation-creds. By the time he started telling me that the fascists were on the decline and AntiFA was rising, I realized I’d been had.
AntiFA is just another western fad, no different than riggers, cigar-smoking, and sushi. Russia’s always had a minority of Westernizers in its capitals, looking to the West for trends that they blindly copy. The trend AntiFA’s membership is mimicking is the same soft stuff as the Food Not Bombs and Critical Mass crowd in the States. I got to know those two movements well when going to school in Minneapolis, one of the last places in the States where punk was practiced by people beyond high school. They’d do their thing, occasionally causing a traffic jam or starting an organic garden on an abandoned lot, and nobody would pay them any mind. They bought books at the local anarchist book store, ate vegan, espoused totally impractical politics, and spent their weekends crowding into mattress-lined basements to watch punk shows. They’re as unthreatening as someone with a shaved head can be. That, to the AntiFA crew, must seem like paradise.Post Views: 395
By Sean — 9 years ago
When the St. Petersburg office of Memorial was raided in December last year, the international media was aghast. Article after article saw the confiscation of Memorial’s database of archival materials and interviews of life under Stalin as proof that Stalinism was back in full force. Why else would police bother to raid the human rights organization, they reasoned, if not to silence their voices of anti-Stalinism?
The exact reasons why Memorial was put through this ordeal remain murky. The official explanation is that the organization was somehow affiliated with Novyi Peterburg, which was under investigation for extremism. Others opined that the raid was connected to Memorial’s screening of Rebellion: the Livinenko Case. Still others maintain that the raid was part of a larger battle over Russia’s past, in particular the memory of the Stalin period.
While much ink was spilled on speculating why Memorial was raided, and its implications in regard to the memory of Stalinism, the English language press has been virtually silent in pointing out that the human rights organization won two cases in court that rebuffed investigators” search. The fist ruling came in January, when the Dzerzhinsky court ruled that investigators’ raid was illegal because they didn’t allow Memorial’s lawyer to be present. The police, however, appealed and the case went back to court.
But then last week, the Dzerzhinsky court again ruled in Memorial’s favor. As for the return of the hard disks and archival materials, the organization received a letter from St. Petersburg’s human rights ombudsman saying that their materials have already been removed from the investigators office and will soon be returned.
One would think that this victory would be a perfect David and Goliath story. A tale where the good guys won against the evil Stalinists, who despite their enormous powers and nefarious plots were defeated in the court of law. One might even point out that in this case, the courts worked. They upheld Memorial’s right to have a lawyer present during a search and seizure. One would also think that given Memorial’s stature in the West as a defender of human rights, their victory would have been hoisted up as a great triumph. But apparently, this good news is not fit enough for the English media to print.Post Views: 1,983