This weeks’ Russia Magazine column, “Historical Lineages of Putin’s Russian National Identity,”
Last week, Putin delivered a speech on Russia’s national identity at the 10thannual Valdai Club meeting. Though much of the speech reiterated central concepts Putin laid out in his 2012 Presidential campaign article on ethnicity, I was nonetheless struck by his remarks. Over the last week I’ve been talking about Slavophilism, Russian national awakening, and pan-Slavism in my late Imperial Russia class. Putin’s comments resonated with some of the same questions consuming literati in the mid-nineteenth century. In particular, I couldn’t help focusing on the Slavophile moments in Putin’s text despite its rather motley nature. Moreover, I couldn’t help hear echoes of Nikolai Danilevsky’s Russia and Europe (1869). I’ve been reading about Danilevsky’s notions of circular history, the uniqueness of Russian civilization, its incompatibility with the West, and Russia’s messianic mission for a lecture on pan-Slavism. I’m not saying that Danilevsky had a direct influence on Putin. I have no idea if Putin ever read Danilevsky’s text. Nor do Danilevsky’s and Putin’s text correspond exactly. Only, I claim, that some of the issues concerning the Russian idea in the nineteenth century remain unresolved today. Namely, the nature of Russian civilization, its relationship to the West, and its particular historical development and mission. Putin’s thoughts on these fall into a deep historical tradition on the nature of Russia’s national identity and how it’s realized.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
Steve Barnes, Assistant Professor at George Mason University, has set up a invaluable site called Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives. Barnes is an expert in the history of the Gulag. I had the pleasure of hearing paper of his at the “The Relaunch of the Soviet Project, 1945-1964” conference at the University College London in 2006. I especially look forward to his upcoming book on the subject.
Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives provides a comprehensive, nuanced, and sensitive picture of life in what was officially known as the Soviet Union’s Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies. The main exhibit, Days and Lives, gives a documentary run down of the experience of arrest, labor, suffering, dealing with criminal gangs, and how million died and survived imprisonment. It’s truly an amazing and much needed achievement in history and memory.
In addition to the exhibits on Gulag life, Barnes has also organized a series called Episodes in Gulag History. Episodes features conversations with scholars, writers, and others on different aspects of the Gulag system. So far there is only one conversation with University of Toronto History Professor Lynne Viola on her new book The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements. I’m sure many more will soon follow. Subscribe to their podcast feed to stay updated.
This site will be a great addition for my upcoming History of Russia class.
Thanks to James at Robert Amsterdam for drawing my attention to it.Post Views: 192
By Sean — 10 years ago
It is no surprise that the imminent ninetieth anniversary of the October Revolution in Russia has become the object of widespread attention. The events of October 1917 were, indeed, an earthquake that shook the world, altering its economic, social and cultural foundations.
Many media sources depict this world-historic phenomenon as a mere coup d’état, carried out by a handful of conspirators and adventurists with the help of Western security services. All sorts of things are circulated — outright lies, distortion of the facts, and malicious slanders about the participants in and leaders of this mighty event. The old fables to the effect that the “October coup” was provoked by the “German agent” Lenin and the “Anglo-American spy” Trotsky are still being repeated, despite having been rejected by distinguished scholars from various countries. Meanwhile, the Russian people are portrayed as unwitting toys in the hands of “revolutionary extremists”, even though the revolution could neither have begun nor triumphed without the population playing a decisive role.
Not a Conspiracy, But a Social Revolution
The October Revolution was not sparked by conspirators or by agents of foreign powers. It was a social earthquake, a hurricane, a tsunami, which no-one could ever have called forth by mere appeals. The revolution arose out of the internal logic of events, when a multitude of sources of popular discontent converged into a single, all-powerful stream. To interpret it as the product of a conspiracy is strange, to say the least. If this were true, why was a new governing authority set up in place of the old in a gigantic country and in a short time, and why did the Russian people not only support this government, but defend it with arms in hand during the Civil War?
For some reason, the critics of the “October coup” forget the profound crisis into which Russia had been plunged by the tsarist monarchy and the Provisional Government which succeeded it. Mesmerised by the slogan, “War until Final Victory!”, the authorities refused to take account of the real needs of the population. Critics also forget the spontaneous disintegration of the monarchy on the eve of the revolution, despite the direct evidence in the form of the endless intrigues and conflicts within the tsar’s court, the military defeats at the front, and finally, the outright abdication of Nikolai II, the autocrat and commander-in-chief of the Russian army. The bourgeois government that replaced the monarchy also proved impotent, failing to meet the great challenges of the time — stopping the war and giving land to the peasants.
October 1917 marked the culmination of the great Russian social revolution of the twentieth century. It was led by revolutionary social democrats who earlier than others, had recognised the needs and hopes of ordinary people — the pressing problems to which the Russian society of the time required solutions. Among the leaders, it was of course Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin and his closest collaborators who played the key roles.
None of the leaders of the October revolution were flawless, but it is just as wrong to demonise as to idolise them. The calumnies that are heaped on them nowadays have no real basis. They were not in the service of anyone, only of their revolutionary ideals. None of the earthly temptations, such as money or the other accompaniments of a philistine prosperity, had any meaning for them. They measured their lives against the supreme standard of selfless service to the freedom and happiness of the oppressed and dispossessed.
Revolutions Cannot be Reduced to Violence
The October Revolution is often termed a “violent overthrow”. Yet the actual “overthrow” in Petrograd passed off almost without human victims. While we are not advocates of violence, we recognise that it is inevitable at particular stages of historical development, when it is bound up with the presence of class and national antagonisms. Revolution is indeed associated in many respects with violence, as was clearly evident, for example, in the bourgeois revolutions in the Netherlands, England, France and so forth. The ending of slavery in the United States was accompanied by the bloodiest conflict of the nineteenth century, the American Civil War. In Russia, the ending of feudalism was also accompanied by wars and revolutions.
These developments, meanwhile, were not called forth by the machinations of political intriguers, but by the crisis of the old system and by the impossibility of solving age-old problems by evolutionary methods. People resort to revolutionary violence in specific circumstances, when the ruling classes, blinded by thirst for their own enrichment and for the maintenance of their privileges, neglect the well-being of the population. The dispossessed classes then have no choice except to take their fates in their own hands. This is the main lesson of the Russian Revolution of the twentieth century.
At the same time, social revolution cannot be reduced to violence, and especially armed violence. Its ultimate goal is to lay the basis for a new world, to create better conditions of life for everyone, not just the social elites. In this sense, such revolutions really are the locomotives of history, accelerating its progress.
What the October Revolution Yielded
The history of different countries has always included numerous struggles by workers against capitalism. Only in Russia, however, have these actions taken on so far-reaching a character. This made twentieth-century Russia the epicentre of world development, where all the main questions of the contemporary world intersected, and where the fundamental sickness of capitalism, the conflict between labour and capital, was resolved. It was only the Russian workers who had the will and decisiveness to find a way out of this conflict, not only overthrowing capitalism, but also beginning the transition to a more progressive social system — socialism.
Like the Paris Commune before it, the October Revolution placed power in the hands of the lower orders of society — the workers and peasants, and those elements of the intelligentsia that reflected their interests. The revolution affirmed the soviets as the most democratic form of political power, granting the war-weary population the long-awaited peace and land, along with the opportunity for national self-determination. By raising millions of workers to the point where they could exercise social creativity, the revolution showed clearly that it is not only the “elites” that are capable of being the subject and demiurge of history.
As a result of the October Revolution two socially counterposed systems appeared in the world, a circumstance which did much to determine the subsequent development of humanity. Thanks to the influence of October, national liberation movements arose, and reforms began in the capitalist system itself. Under the impact of the Russian Revolution the colonial empires disintegrated, while long-outdated monarchical regimes suffered total collapse.
The October Revolution set in motion a supra-national and supra-confessional unifying idea, the idea of social liberation and justice. On the basis of this idea, there arose for the first time in history a voluntary union of peoples with equal rights, the USSR. The ideas and initiatives of October were in accord with the goals and vital purpose of many titans of science and the arts — of Timiryazev and Vernadsky, Platonov and Mayakovsky, Sholokhov and Eisenstein. The progress toward the socialist future that was instigated by the October Revolution was actively supported by such outstanding twentieth-century figures as George Bernard Shaw, Picasso, Einstein and Tsiolkovsky.
Soviet History Was Diverse
The October Revolution marked the beginning of Soviet history, which did not take the form of advancing along a smooth Nevsky Prospekt. Soviet history included both great achievements and appalling tragedies. We know very well that after the peaceful transfer of power to the workers in most of the provinces of Russia, a bloody civil war began, accompanied by foreign intervention and by White and Red terror.
Lacking the relevant historical experience, the Soviet authorities naturally made many mistakes. One particular error was the policy of “war communism”, a product of the general national crisis. To their credit, the Bolsheviks decisively rejected it, and made a deliberate shift to the New Economic Policy — the first historical model in which the principles of socialism and capitalism were successfully combined. Many features of NEP were later reproduced in the context of the development of several European countries and of modern China. NEP also allowed the wounds of war to be rapidly healed, and production in the Russian economy to be raised to its pre-war level.
Relying on the experience of the New Economic Policy, Lenin worked out a plan for the further development of the Soviet state, a plan which included radical economic and political changes. These transformations were aimed above all at achieving breakthroughs in the development of energy generation, culture and education — areas which were decisive in the twentieth century and which remain so in the twenty-first. These changes presupposed democratising the political system through drawing workers into running the state, and through the renovation of the party. Here, one of the moves which Lenin projected was removing Josef Stalin from the post of general secretary. Even then, Stalin was manifesting his traits of disloyalty, boorishness and the abuse of power.
These plans, however, were fated to go unrealised. While declaring socialism to be its goal, the authoritarian regime which consolidated itself after Lenin’s death did a great deal that was incompatible with socialism. The political liberties of citizens that had been proclaimed by the revolution were comprehensively violated. The price paid for industrialisation and forced collectivisation was exorbitant. In sum, the popular power of the initial years of the revolution degenerated into rule by the bureaucracy and its leader Stalin. We consider the massive Stalinist repressions, along with the violation of the rights of the individual and of whole nationalities in the USSR, to have been a crime. All this discredited the ideals of the revolution and of socialism.
While acknowledging these facts, we do not accept scholarly-sounding lies and stupefyingly one-sided propaganda with regard to the whole of Soviet history. This history was diverse; within it, democratic and bureaucratic tendencies engaged in conflict with and replaced one another. Hence, the freedoms of the NEP years were replaced by Stalinist totalitarianism, which in turn gave way to the Khrushchev “thaw”. Later, the Brezhnev authoritarianism was replaced by perestroika, which proclaimed as its goal the creation of a humane, democratic socialism.
The history of every country is subject to argument and debate. The cruelties of the British and French colonial wars, and of slavery in the US, were scarcely better than the Soviet gulag. However, this did not negate the social and cultural achievements of these countries. Why then should such achievements be denied in the case of the Soviet people, who achieved a great victory over fascism, created an inimitable culture and literature, set up a broadly accessible system of social welfare for the population, and were the pioneers of space travel? It must not be forgotten that October unleashed an unprecedented creative energy. It set in train the founding by masses of people of a new society; it brought to realisation many of the ideas of internationalism; and it acquainted the formerly most oppressed layers of Russian society with the heights of national and world culture. Nor should one strike out from Soviet history the enthusiasm of the masses that was demonstrated in the mastering of the newest achievements of science and technology. The revolutionary romanticism and heroism of millions of Soviet citizens was clearly manifested here.
Why the Soviet Model Collapsed
It should be noted that we have a range of views on the nature of the social system that existed in the USSR. We are agreed, however, that neglect or rejection of the principles of popular power, internationalism, justice and humanism that were born out of the October Revolution will sooner or later result in catastrophe for a society that is building socialism. This is what happened in the Soviet Union.
The fetters placed on the creative initiative of the population under the totalitarian regime dramatically restricted the opportunities for the growth of the Soviet economy. A shortage of consumer goods was one of its characteristic features. As a result, we did not manage to raise the level of well-being of the working people to that found in the world’s developed countries, and this served as one of the causes of the downfall of the Soviet system. Another vital cause was the lack of real economic and political democracy, which became especially intolerable when technological and information revolution was unfolding in the world. One of the consequences of this was the complete alienation of the bureaucratic authorities and the ruling party from the workers. The attempt to overcome this alienation during perestroika did not yield the required result. In sum, the collapse of the USSR and of the Soviet government became a reality. This was seized upon by the political forces which dissolved the USSR and directed Russia along the road of installing a savage oligarchic capitalism, marked by mass joblessness, falling living standards for the population, profound social stratification, rampant nationalism and growing crime.
The failure of the Soviet model of society does not signify that the ideals of October were false. Just as the ideas of Christianity were not to blame for the practices of the Inquisition, Stalinist totalitarianism could not destroy the ideals of the revolution. Socialism as a historic cause cannot be brought to realisation all at once. A new generation of young people is now appearing, people who do not accept capitalism as a system. There is every reason to hope that this generation will be able to breathe new life into the ideals of the October Revolution.
What the Greatness of Modern Russia Depends on
The ideas of the October Revolution united not only proletarian internationalists, but also supporters of strengthening and developing the Russian state. These ideas opened the way for people who wanted to bring the national culture of Russia to the country’s borderlands and to other countries — for people who shared in patriotic sentiments and who were prepared to defend the Soviet homeland from potential aggressors. The strength of this feeling was shown clearly during the Great Patriotic War, when the sovereignty of the USSR and the conquests of October were defended.
The October Revolution showed the greatness of spirit of the Russian people, who proposed an alternative, non-capitalist road to national development. To view the revolution as a conspiracy by extremist forces is also dangerous because it provides grist to the mill of the anti-Russian interpretation of history according to which Russia, because of its unpredictability, is said to pose a constant threat to the world. From Russia, adherents of this view maintain, only unfavourable developments are to be expected; hence, the country has to be kept under tight rein, and its natural wealth, its energy potential and intellectual resources, have to be controlled and exploited.
Modern-day Russia needs to soberly assess such provocative statements, and to hold firmly to its own course. Russia’s greatness does not lie in the blind copying of foreign examples, still less in national conceit with regard to other peoples, but in relying on the talents and creative strengths of its own population, as well as in the thorough assimilation of the knowledge and experience developed by world civilisation and culture.
Russia is capable of once again becoming a great power, whose adversaries will be forced to take it into account. But this will only happen if the country overcomes the poverty and deep social stratification of its population, qualitatively improves the lives of its citizens, broadens their social and democratic rights, and retains everything that is best from its historic past.
* * *
The historic importance of the October Revolution is difficult to overestimate. Its positive consequences are obvious. A third of humanity travelled part of the way along the road which the revolution opened up. Many countries are continuing this progress today, drawing lessons from the defeats and tragedies of the past. October proved that another, more just world is possible. A range of social and political forces, countries and peoples, are now striving for this new world. This is shown by a new wave of revolutionary transformations, manifesting itself with particular force in a number of countries of Latin America and Asia.
The October Revolution was and remains our fate, and we cannot reject this crucially important part of Russian history. Always and everywhere there have been mistakes, and the great revolutions of the past did not avoid them either. Nevertheless, the anniversaries of these revolutions are celebrated in all countries, including at the state level. Only in Russia is this not the case. In Russia, the denigration of the country’s revolutionary past continues.
On the eve of the ninetieth anniversary of the October Revolution, we raise our voices against this practice. The people must have their revolutionary holiday and the truth about October returned to them. It must not be forgotten that we belong to a country whose history includes its own great revolution. We can and should be proud of it.
Post Views: 186
- Arslanov V., Dr. of art, professor, Russian Academy of Education
- Bagaturiya G. Dr. of philosophy, professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University
- Buzgalin A., Dr. of economics, professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University
- Dzarasov S., Dr. of economics, Russian Academy of Science
- Galkin A., Dr. of history, professor, Russian Academy of Science Istyagin L., Dr. of history, Russian Academy of Science
- Kelle V. Dr. of philosophy, Russian Academy of Science
- Kolganov A., Dr. of economics, Lomonosov Moscow State University
- Loginov V., Dr. of history, professor, Russian Academy of Education
- Medvedev R., Dr. of history
- Rudyk E., Dr. of economics, Russian Academy of Labor
- Serebrykova Z., Dr. of history
- Shatrov M., writer
- Slavin B., Dr. of philosophy, professor, Moscow State Pedagogical University
- Smolin O., Dr. of philosophy, professor, MP
- Voeikov M., Dr. of economics, Russian Academy of Science
- Vorobiev A., academician, Russian Academy of Science
By Sean — 11 years ago
By Vlad Tupikin
Translated by Thomas Campbell
Last Wednesday, the case of the murder of antifascist Alexander Riukhin (who was nine days away from his twentieth birthday when he was killed) was remitted to the courts for trial. On April 16, 2006, while on his way to a hardcore punk concert (hardcore is popular amongst Moscow’s young antifascists) on the outskirts of Moscow, he was stabbed to death. Several skinheads attacked Sasha and his friend Yegor. There was no struggle to speak of—only a murder.
Three of the attackers were detained, and Nazi paraphernalia and literature were found in their homes. The other three assailants are still at large. Everything then, it would seem, is clear? Don’t make snap judgments. The three assailants in custody—Vasily Reutsky and Andrei Antsiferov, members of Slavic Union; and Alexander Shitov, a member of the Format 18 gang—will be tried for premeditated group hooliganism (Article 213 Part 2 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code), premeditated non-grievous bodily harm (Article 115), and assault (Article 116). The murder itself is being treated as a separate case. Only Alexander Parinov, Nikita Tikhonov (who are still at large), and a third, unidentified, attacker, are under suspicion for that particular crime.
Lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who is representing the victim’s mother, Tatyana Riukhin, told a Regnum correspondent, “Every effort is being made to play down the threat to public safety posed by the actions of Reutsky, Antsiferov, and Shitov. There is this applicable albeit rather cynical rule of thumb: you got a corpse, you got a murder case. So it seems odd to me that the exception to this rule is the case of an antifascist murdered by radical right-wing activists.”
It is likewise odd that no one has yet been brought to trial for the murder of another twenty-year-old antifascist, Petersburger Timur Kacharava. It was also right-wingers who stabbed him to death. On November 13, 2005, a group of them attacked Kacharava and his friend Maxim outside the Bukvoyed chain bookstore on Ligovsky Prospect, in downtown Petersburg. The crime scene is a busy, crowded place: tourist buses headed for Finland depart from the spot, and the Moscow Train Station is down the street. There was no struggle. The assailants swooped down on the young men and inflicted several blows. One of these blows—a knife to the neck—proved fatal for Timur.
The young men who took part in this well-publicized crime have been in custody since December 2005. In their official statements, Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko and Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov commented on the fascist nature of the crime and the need to combat xenophobia in Russia’s northern capital. The investigation has been dragging on, however, and the word among Petersburg’s antifascists is that the authorities will attempt to scrap this case as well, charging those under arrest with hooliganism and letting them off with suspended sentences (or no sentences at all).
Finally, one more story, fresh from the presses. On December 22, 2006, a homemade bomb went off in the stairwell of a residential building in Liublino, a southwestern Moscow suburb. A swastika had been drawn on the wall next to where the bomb was discovered. A can containing the explosives was concealed behind a heating radiator; apparently, the bomb was set off by wires that connected it to a placard bearing an offensive nationalist message: “In apartment no. [X] there are nigg. . . .”The bomb (or rather, the placard) was found on the afternoon of the twenty-second by twenty-year-old Tigran as he was exiting the building. Tigran, who happens to live in the very apartment identified on the placard, was on the point of grabbing it when he noticed the wires. While he didn’t manage to get a good look at the bomb, he did have the presence of mind to run to the police. They sent a team over, followed by the bomb squad. The device went off as the police were attempting to defuse it.
The press have treated the incident as yet another nationalist attack on Moscow’s non-Slavic residents. One more Armenian kid (or so they say) nearly fell victim to right-wing radicals: a routine tale in today’s Moscow, however horrible this might seem. Just as routinely, the prosecutor’s office opened a hooliganism investigation—not an attempted murder investigation. And Tigran was questioned as a witness to a crime, not as a crime victim!
This case isn’t so simple, however. Tigran is the Moscow-born son of Muscovite parents. (The press has been circulating the absurd and false report that he and his family have lived in Moscow for only ten years.) And Tigran isn’t a mere “Caucasian youth.” He is a Moscow antifascist and a former coworker of the website Antifa.ru. And he’s a fan of hardcore punk music like his murdered age-mates Timur Kacharava and Alexander Riukhin.
Everything points to the conclusion that Tigran was slated to become the third in a series of murdered young antifascists. His photograph had been posted on Nazi websites and he had received a number of death threats. Swastikas and the message “Tigran, say hello to Timur” were painted on the fence of a construction site across the street from his building. Several times, he was attacked at concerts or met at his front door by young men who appeared to be “boneheads.” (“Boneheads”—also known, in Russian, as “bonies”—is the name that antifascists give to Nazi skinheads so as not to confuse them with antifascist skinheads, who also exist.) Not the shy, retiring type, Tigran emerged victorious from these skirmishes.
And then there was the bomb.
While the prosecutor’s office tries to ignore the case’s political aspect and opens an investigation into rather minor offences, the Federal Security Service (FSB) does see the connection between Tigran’s case and politics. As the police were taking his testimony down at the precinct, FSB officers paid his mother a house call. (Warped by the force of the bomb blast, the front door of their building couldn’t be closed.) Taking advantage of her emotional shock, they confiscated some of his things without encountering any resistance from her. According to Tigran, they took buttons featuring crossed-out swastikas, sew-on jacket patches, and—most important of all—his computer.
Tigran even got a receipt from FSB officers stating they’d confiscated the computer. As final exams loom, he has lost access to all his course notes and files. He’ll have to think of something to tell the professors at his institute.
I want to make it particularly clear that, as far as I know, neither Timur Kacharava nor Alexander Riukhin was a member of any antifascist organization. They simply held antifascist views and were the sort of guys who practiced what they preached. Timur played in an antifascist hardcore band and, on Sundays, he helped the Petersburg branch of Food Not Bombs hand out hot meals to homeless people. (We should recall that the homeless—or, as they’re known by the old Soviet police acronym, bomzhy—are also objects of hatred for young Nazis, along with non-Slavs and members of such youth subcultures as punks and rappers.)
When I asked him whether he’d been in fights with Nazis, Tigran answered in the affirmative. “What else can you do if they attack? Let yourself get beat up?”
“It was the Nazis themselves who turned us into antifascists,” the former Antifa.ru coworker continues. “We’re all members of one subculture or another, one group or another. These groups often encountered fascist violence; they often were victims of attacks. At some point you lose your self-respect unless you answer blow for blow. Especially when the police and the state mainly do almost nothing to stop the street-level fascist threat.”
“They sometimes sling the accusation at us young antifascists,” Tigran continues, “that the Nazis would have calmed down long ago were it not for us. They say we’re like an irritating red flag for them. According to the people who blame us, Nazi street violence would have tapered off were it not for us. It’s all exactly the other way around. For a long time there were no antifa. They finally emerged because Nazi violence was showing no signs of going away; on the contrary, it just kept on expanding. Besides, it’s also common knowledge that at first the Nazis attacked people with non-Slavic complexions and rank-and-file youth subculture kids who were weaker. The antifa showed up later in reaction, as a response on the part of alternative antifascist youth.”
“Look,” says Tigran, “when the fascists attack, their goal is to cripple or kill their victims: they use knives or even firearms. When they fight the fascists, the antifa, on the contrary, don’t make it their goal to physically eliminate them or inflict serious injuries. The fascists just need to understand that they aren’t here forever; they’re not immortal themselves. They need to experience in person what the value of a human life is, the value of every individual. Maybe if they get thumped a couple times by some regular guys, the small fry, the underage Nazis—the teenagers who shave their heads just because it’s cool, because they want to be feared—will figure out that there’s nothing that cool about being a fascist. Maybe a few of them will even quit.”
Tigran believes, however, that, since they’re a violent street movement, you can’t stop the Nazis as a whole by fighting them. That is just a holding action, the means the youth subcultures use to defend themselves against the Nazis. “If the authorities won’t put them in prison, the Nazi idiots will sense their own impunity and start doing God knows what. On their closed-access Internet chat sites they’ve long been discussing organizing terrorist strikes at markets and even in government buildings. But they haven’t decided yet whether to pin the blame on immigrants or take responsibility themselves.”
“How do you know this?” I ask Tigran.
“Our antifa hackers cracked these sites,” he replies. He claims that these same sites post instructions for the manufacture and use of homemade explosive devices, like the one that went off in his own stairwell.
“How are you doing overall after what’s happened?” I ask.
“I’m okay. Friends helped us fix the front door, they collected money. Now I need money for a good lawyer: I’ve got to drum that up. So I have plenty to do. It’s just that I always have this feeling that they’re about to blow up my front door.”
Isn’t Tigran afraid that unwelcome guests will descend on him again?
“They’ve already shown up—the night after the blast, when the front door was still hanging open. At four in the morning the intercom rang. The voice was young and rude: he said he was delivering a telegram. Then there was movement out on the stairs. Someone with his face hidden in a scarf and a hood dashed past our door, first on his way upstairs, and then again on his way down. Our cat got spooked and I looked through the peephole: ‘guests.’ I hollered at my sister to call the cops again and I dashed out into the stairwell myself, to try and chase them down. But you can’t run very fast in slippers: I didn’t catch them. And the police didn’t, either, although they did come running fairly quickly with their machine guns. Apparently they were staked out somewhere nearby.”
This whole phantasmagoria is really happening now, as Moscow prepares to greet the New Year. Personally, I’m finding it harder and harder to drive it from the threshold of my perception, to pretend that it’s all a matter of hot young blood, the desire to mix it up a bit, to rumble with the other gang. Knives have long ago become part of the game. And now it’s come to bombs.
It is completely obvious that the problem calls for intervention not only from the police, but also from politicians and educators. Is the officially sponsored Nashi (Our People) initiative, whose members have declared themselves a democratic antifascist movement, enough? Obviously not. Politicians who don’t want to farm the issue of antifascism out to the Kremlin and its political operatives should think hard about how to react meaningfully to the new alignment of forces.
Fascism and xenophobia aren’t simply the latest election campaign trump cards in the government’s stacked deck. They are social realities. Those who missed the point of the (November 4) Russian March shouldn’t miss the meaning of Nazi street terror. Apparently, though, our opposition politicians, who are chauffeured to the venues of the latest conference or joint demo with the nationalists (“moderate” nationalists, or so they imagine), don’t really notice what’s happening out on the streets. Nor do they notice that the Nazis have long been trying to run them.
The mass media quite often don’t pay attention to this fact, either. In the editorial offices of one respectable publication I was recently informed that a press release about the Sasha Riukhin murder case from “some Antifa.ru or other” wasn’t sufficient cause for them to react in print. “Especially since they’re definitely not registered,” the editor told me as he looked me sternly in the eye. I don’t know whether they’re registered or not. I do know that you don’t need to be registered to arm yourself with a knife or make a bomb. And the Nazis know this, too.
Vlad Tupikin frequently writes on anti-fascism, Russian anarchism and the anti-globalization movement in Russia.Post Views: 253