Tarik Cyril Amar is an Associate Professor of History at Columbia University specializing in the Soviet Union, Russia, and Ukraine. He’s the author of The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv. A Borderland City between Nazis, Stalinists, and Nationalists.
Danger Doom, “Space Ho’s,” The Mouse and the Mask, 2005.
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By Sean — 6 years ago
It’s a few days old, but I wanted to draw readers’ attention to an article I wrote for the Exiled on Alexei Navalny as a potential unifier of Russia’s middle class and nationalists. Here’s a snippet:
On December 5, the day after Russia’s Duma elections, the anti-corruption crusader and popular blogger, Alexei Navalny, told a raucous crowd, “I want to say to you: Thank you. Thank you for playing you part as a citizen. Thank you for telling these assholes, ‘We’re here!’ For telling the bearded [Electoral Commission head Vladimir] Churov and his superiors: ‘We exist!’ We have our voices. We exist! We exist! They hear that voice and they are afraid! They can chuckle on their zombie-boxes. They can call us “microbloggers” or ‘network hamsters!’ I am a network hamster, and I will slit the throats of these cattle!” Shortly after giving this speech, Navalny was arrested, and by the next morning, sentenced to 15 days in a spetspriyomnik (special detention center) outside of Moscow. Navalny was released on December 20, and has been considered among many the de facto leader of the Russian opposition.
Why Navalny? One reason is that declarations like “I will slit the throats of these cattle,” though metaphorical, are no mere puffery. Unlike many in the Russian opposition, Navalny puts his words into action, and in a climate where more than a few government critics have met their demise, this action puts his life on the line. Yet, he remains fearless. “It’s better to die standing up that live on your knees,” he told the New Yorker’s Julia Ioffe last spring. With that kind of gumption, it’s safe to say that Navalny has become a nagging pain in the ass of Russia’s corrupt elite. He’s done so not by staging rallies, leading a political organization, or seeking political office. Navalny is an activist of the 21st century: his weapons are a blog, Twitter, and a crowdsourcing website. His army is motley of “network hamsters” ready to root out big moneyed corruption by combing through dry contracts posted on his site Rospil. The results are impressive. Since Rospil’s creation in December 2010, Navalny and his army are responsible for the cancelling of $1.2 billion worth of state contracts. Given all this, it’s amazing that someone has yet to slit his throat.
But Navalny is more than an anti-corruption crusader and renowned blogger. The thirty-five year old Muscovite lawyer is also emblematic of two forces that were once supporters of Putin, but are now increasingly turning against him: the urban, educated middle class, or ROG (russkie obrazovannye gorozhane) as pundit Stanislav Belkovskii has dubbed them, and Russians with nationalist sympathies. On the surface these two groups appear antithetical to each other. The former are often described as “hipster-gadget-lovers” (khipstery-gazhetomany) more interested in Moscow’s cafes, clubs, and sushi bars, and, until two weeks ago, showed no interest in politics besides ranting on their Live Journal blogs and Twitter accounts. The nationalists are portrayed as racist working class street thugs whose sense of Russian victimhood speaks through fists and boots to the heads of migrants from Central Asia and the North Caucasus. Nevertheless, both groups share common ground: they’re by and large suspicious of the West and the Russian liberals who extol its values, patriotic, despise corruption, view immigrants as destroying the integrity of the Russian nation and increasingly loathe Putin and his cronies. With a foot in each world, Navalny is emerging as the logical person who could unite them around a new mass political movement based on what Alexei Pimenov recently called “an anti-corruption pathos plus the national idea.”
You can read the full article here.Post Views: 879
By Sean — 9 years ago
Here’s something that should wet the palates of scholars and induce wet dreams among the necrophiliacs of Soviet history. Ukraine announced that it plans declassify the entire KGB archive dating 1917-1991. The number of documents stamped “secret” and “top secret” is estimated at 800,000. The announcement comes after the law “On the declassification, promulgation, and study of archival documents connected with the Ukrainian Liberation Movement, political repression, and famine in Ukraine” was signed by Viktor Yushchenko on 23 January.
Among the documents are “Cheka instructions, execution lists, deportation maps, albums with photographs of fighters of rebel armies, reports of the KGB to the Central Committee on the development of the Ukrainian dissident movement.” Interestingly, this declassification is so sweeping that it will even go against normal archival practice in protecting living individuals. “Not a single agential file or report that possibly contains information about current politicians will stop the process of declassification,” says Valentin Nalivaichenko, the current head of the Ukrainian Security Service. And what about those who aren’t politicians? Do they or their families have rights to privacy?
The documents will certainly prove to be a treasure trove for historians as Ukrainian police and Party communications to and from Moscow will give some roundabout access to classified documents in Moscow’s FSB archive. But while such a move is welcomed from a scholarly standpoint (though I won’t be rushing to Ukraine since I think there is more to history than being a bloodhound), this shouldn’t justify turning a blind eye to its political dimension. History is about the politics of the present and archives are armories of ammunition. There is no doubt in my mind that this declassification is not about some sudden realization on the part of the Ukraine’s government to reckon with the past. These materials will certainly be employed in the further crafting of Ukraine’s “imagined community” of victimization by, rather than a participant in, the Soviet regime. Sadly, using these documents for this purpose has little to do with scholarly inquiry, history, or even historical reconciliation. It has to do with nationalism.Post Views: 595
By Sean — 3 years ago
Balazs Jarabik, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses on Ukraine and Eastern Europe. His most recent article is “What Did Minsk II Actually Achieve?”
Valerie Sperling, professor of Political Science at Clark University and author of Sex, Politics, and Putin: Political Legitimacy in Russia (Oxford, 2014).Post Views: 840