Eric Lee is a journalist, historian, and trade union and political activist in the US and UK. He’s the author of Saigon to Jerusalem: Conversations with Israel’s Vietnam Veterans and Operation Basalt: The British Raid on Sark and Hitler’s Commando Order. His most recent book is The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgotten Revolution, 1918-1921 published by Zed Books.
The Chosen Few, “Don’t Break Your Promise,” Studio One Soul, 2001.
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By Sean — 7 years ago
Just after taking the throne in the spring of 1855, Alexander II convened a meeting of his ministers to assess the state of Russia, and in particular, its participation in the Crimean War. Unlike under previous Tsars, several of the “enlightened bureaucrats” didn’t hold their tongues and provided the newly minted Emperor an honest appraisal of the Empire. Among them was this unnamed Finance Ministry official, who gave the following assessment of the Imperial system:
“Nowhere is there so much and at the same time so little centralization as there is in Russia. On the one hand the ministries have arrogated to themselves the virtually exclusive right to decide all matters, but at the same time there is not the slightest link between the separate ministries. Everyone’s perpetual concern to safeguard himself against having to take legal responsibility necessitates a fearful expenditure of effort, paper, ink, and time, slows down the transaction of business, removes from the provincial and district agencies all the feelings of independence, and teaches them to act surreptitiously if at all. It goes without saying that all this stops short at the people, who have been abandoned to the authorities’ exploitation.”1
I couldn’t help but note the resonance this passage has for Russia today.
1 David Saunders, Russia in the Age of Reaction of Reform, 1801-1881, Longman, 1992, 209.Post Views: 198
By Sean — 9 years ago
Since the raid on Memorial is hitting more and more English language news outlets, the most recent being in the Chicago Tribune, I figured it was time to give an update to the story.
Since the raid on Memorial’s St. Petersburg’s office on 4 December there have been a few developments, but none that illuminates the real reason why police confiscated the NGO’s archival materials and financial records. The raid has gotten a lot of international attention. Orlando Figes, whose recent book The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia is mostly based on interviews and materials collected by Memorial, has written a petition to President Medvedev. So far the petition has been signed by many well known American and European scholars.* In addition, the US State Department expressed concern about the raid and called for Russian authorities “to ensure the speedy and safe return of all seized equipment and archival material.” For a comprehensive description of the seized materials, see Tatiana Kosinova’s “Eleven Hard Disks” at Open Democracy.net’s Russia page.
The Russian authorities provided some hope that Memorial’s materials would be returned. On 12 December, Memorial’s director Irina Flige reported that she was promised that the materials would be returned on Monday. They weren’t and no call from the investigators as to when they will be returned remains unknown.
The one promise that authorities did keep was that Memorial’s petition to the court would be heard on 17 December. It was and a few interesting developments came out of it. Memorial still has not been provided with any evidence or really an really a believable explanation as to why its office was raided. The official reason is that Memorial is connected with an anti-Semitic article published by Novyi Peterburg, which is under investigation for extremism. Memorial has repeatedly denied any connection to the article, its author or the newspaper.
What the Wednesday’s hearing did reveal is that the case’s head investigator Mikhail Kalganov did not prepare the materials so the court could verify the legality of the raid. His excuse? He didn’t have enough time. The court gave him some more. His new deadline is 22 December.
In a statement to the press, Memorial’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov said, “The court gave him another chance and scheduled a hearing on 22 December to give him time. In our view, the court has no basis to grant this. He has a chance and I hope that the investigator understands that the postponement of the hearing and the granting of additional time for preparations is offer of good will from the court.” Then Pavlov dropped this bomb: “Moreover, according to our facts, a formal inquiry is preparing materials of all criminal cases for transfer to the General Prosecutor so it could analyze the legality of the search and also other investigative actions which were conducted by Kalganov in relation to this criminal case.”
Does this mean that there is an investigation of the investigator in the works? Stay tuned . . .
UpdatePost Views: 379
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: 189