On its website, the radio station Ekho Moskvy features a letter from Mikhail Khodorkovsky on the upcoming Duma elections. Khodorkovsky’s letter was in response to one sent to him from a ZheZhe user newreft. A translation of Khodorkovsky’s response follows.
Thank you for the letter. I understand and share your opinion in regard to the elections. They (the elections) will obviously be a predictable victory for ER [United Russia]. Moreover, ER with its satellites will gain a constitutional majority in the Duma, but the chances are that the liberal parties will not completely collapse.
Such is the present political reality.
Does this mean that isn’t necessary to vote at all?
I know Kasyanov in particular holds such an opinion but I cannot agree with him on this question.
The bureaucracy, and today it is exactly our main opponent, feels fine in social apathy. For it this is a confirmation of its monopolistic right to rule the country according to its own discretion. That is to say that the readiness of the citizen to give his vote, his fate to a far off bureaucrat (chinovnik) testifies in their eyes to the utter uselessness of taking the people’s opinion into consideration.
That is, who votes “with their feet”, still to a large degree is who votes for ER, and encourages the bureaucratic class toward despotism and contempt for the “herd.”
Therefore it is imperative that you vote not for those who evoke contempt, it’s better to vote for any of the small parties. This will be Your own clear and personal gesture: I am a citizen, I have the right to vote and will, I am not a slave and I am not cattle.
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By Sean — 9 years ago
The politics of culture is perhaps more contentious in Russia than in other countries. Since the 1930s, there has been a close relationship between the state and artistic creative unions. The best historical example of this was when Socialist Realism became state policy with Stalin’s 1932 decree “On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organizations.”
Despite the ideological control over the arts, creative unions nevertheless presented artists with an avenue to influence state policy, as well as a collective body representative of artists’ mutual intellectual and social and economic interests.
Today, the relationship between the current Russian state and its artists is not so overt, but as Danil Dondurey points out in his article “The ‘vertical of power’ grabs Russian cinema,” this doesn’t mean that it is no less contentious. This was evidenced in the recent congress of the Russian Film Makers Union, where an on going struggle between pro-Kremlin and Putin bud Nikita Mikhalkov and more liberal forces calling for his ouster has apparently come out in the former’s favor. With his victory, Russia’s cinematic elite have abandoned politics altogether. As Dondurey explains,
Cinema does, of course, directly affect us all. The underlying theme of the recent congress was changes to the creative unions. To judge from the published plans, they are all going to have to abandon their intellectual mission and become a mixture of trade union and social services. They will restrict themselves to helping the old, providing money for medicines and arranging funerals. And that’s it! There will be no more thoughts about politics in the cinema, partnerships between government and business, no more talk about the quality of films or educating the audience. And above all no more programmes linking us up with other cultures and countries.
This is momentous. The creative unions go back to 1934. Their task was to mediate between the artist and the state, the artist and society, the artist and business. They looked after the interests of the creative professions. As of today, this mission is over.
In fact, this is a process which has been going on ever since the fall of communism. They have not been engaged with cultural politics and economics, or been in real partnership with the Ministry of Culture for a long time. They have mainly been concerned with anniversary celebrations, recommendations for honours and finding a use for the property granted them by Khrushchev and Brezhnev.
It was the cultural politician extraordinaire Nikita Mikhalkov who first announced that the creative unions were no longer going to be communities of like-minded people charged with managing partnerships between artists and the state. All these functions were to be transferred to the specially created Academies, which have been springing up like mushrooms.
It is significant that during the 10 hours the congress was in session not a word (!) was actually said about Russian cinema. Nothing about its crisis, or about how to come through it, nothing about any achievements or failures. No one talked about what we should do next, although these congresses only happen once every five years. There was no analysis, only pompous declarations of love for the way it used to be. No one was looking for co-operation or reconciliation.
It was presented as a conflict between a small group who supported the incumbent president Khutsiev and the overwhelming majority of film-makers. It was not by accident that there was no government representative at the Congress – neither the Minister of Culture nor anyone else.
So what direction will Russian cinema take now? In all European countries the government acts on the arms’ length principle: they subsidise the arts, but decisions are taken by the artists themselves. This is how it is in Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway… In Russia strategic questions about the organisation and development of the film industry have not been discussed for 10 years. Perhaps things really would improve if decisions were all taken behind the scenes?
You should have seen this ‘Congress of Victors’. Everyone, even people who knew nothing about the politics of cinema, knew what was going on. What we were watching was not just one famous person attacking another (who is important, talented, moneyed and very well connected, a kind of cultural oligarch).
There has been a lot of discussion recently, even beyond the industry, about the ‘vertical of power’ which is being set up within Russian cinema. After the Congress many people will winder whether anyone in the country is going to able to take decisions about culture on behalf of the wider public. Will it be possible to sack cultural bureaucrats without an imperial decree? Do we need cultural tsars who can’t really be asked where the money is coming from.Post Views: 657
By Sean — 10 years ago
Russian Communists don’t like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, reports the Associated Press. But the communists in question are not the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), as the report implies. There are several communist parties in Russia and the one that has began a campaign against Indy is a small 500 member sect called Communists of the St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region (KPLO).
According to their website, KPLO have no official affiliation with the KPRF. Rather they, “are communists, like the KPRF, only better: more modern, younger, lively, and creative.” They forgot to add freakier. Just check out the accompanying photo. I’ve seen a lot of things but never communist vestments. And what’s up with that Young Pioneer? He looks like should adorn someone’s lawn.
And what has the good Dr. Jones done to get the KPLO all hot and bothered? As the Ideological Committee of the TsK KPLO explains in a letter to the film’s stars Harrison Ford and Kate Blanchet:
Your role in the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skill offends all the Soviet and Russia people, all who remember the difficult 1950s, when our country finished the reconstruction after the Great [Patriotic]War, and didn’t send to the United States merciless terrorists.
A bunch of ranting and attempts at historical corrections follow. The film’s plot centers around Indy battling Soviet agents trying to get their hands on some skull with secret powers that, I assume, will aid them in world domination. Maybe someone should let the KPLO know that it’s just a movie, and probably not a very good one in the first place. Also, maybe someone at AP should do their homework and realize that in Russia, not all Communist parties are the same.Post Views: 642
By Sean — 11 years ago
Responses to the Dissenter’s March continues. The Nation’s Katrina Vanden Huevel calls for a fight to press freedom in Russia. This comes amid news that Russian authorities shut down the Samara branch of Novaya gazeta two weeks ago. The police charged Novaya editors with using pirated software. You gotta love it when copyright infringement becomes a weapon of political repression.
Jonas Bernstein gives a tacit “yes” to the question of whether Sunday’s “crackdown” represents a wider wave of repression. Closing down newspapers, arresting and harassing political opposition–specifically SPS, Other Russia and Yabloko–are all part of something larger. But those in a real pinch according to Bernstein might just be Russia’s regional governors. The regions have taken Putin’s mixed message that United Russia needs to show leadership at the same time “all kinds of crooks” have wormed their way into its ranks, have taken this as a hint to ratchet “up pressure on the opposition” and “to secure a strong turnout for United Russia in order to ensure their own futures.” This engenders the question of whether “repression” is more fueled by centripetal paranoia over their own local power base. Kinda of reminds me of when Stalin told his regional secretaries that there would be free and open elections in 1936, and in response they bombarded the vodzh’ with reports about kulaks and priests making a possible electoral coup.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t signals emanating from the center. Bernstein likens Putin’s linking of the “opposition” with the West as a possible sign of more repression to come.
Bernstein’s words come on the cusp of Putin launching more salvos against the West, specifically the United States. Today he announced that he has “information” that OSCE’s pullout was at the behest of the US State Department as a means to “delegitimize” the elections. “We will take this into account in our relations with that country,” Putin told the Russian press. The State Department has denied any such thing but I’m sure the Kremlin counted on that. The Russian state media got its sound bite, which was probably the point anyway.
Still, rhetoric against the Western bogeyman has been ratcheted up of late. But I suspect it’s all show for domestic consumption. If the airbrushed images that don websites like Za Putina are any indication, this election like so many others around the world is more about image rather than substance. If Putin looks strong, Russia is strong. The Tsar-President, if the effort from “below” to make him a “national leader” has any real substance, is one with the narod. One should remember that the possible real target of the Kremlin’s “pressure” is not so much the “opposition” but United Russia’s middle management. Populist appeals as a means to squeeze regional chieftains are an tried and true form of Russian rule. Basically, Putin is telling them, “I am everything, you are nothing. You need me more than I need you.” Whether this is true or not remains to be seen.
What is amazing about all this is that it seems that the Kremlin clans have circled the wagons. The talk about clan warfare that hit the press weeks ago has fallen silent. It seems that the siloviki and the business elite have made a tacit peace around their mutual interests of plunder, power, and prestige. The Russian centers of power are standing firm, while the regions scramble to secure their piece of the post-electoral pie. Smacking down “opposition” in the provinces make for good demonstrations of loyalty.
Where does all this leave Russia real opposition, the Communist Party? A few days ago the Guardian’s Luke Harding bravely stated that the KPRF might be Russia’s last “democratic option.” Gensek Zyuganov has been traveling the country speaking to Russia’s downtrodden about the real social-economic issues. “When Putin came to power there were seven oligarchs. Now there are 61,” he reminded a crowd in Moscow suburb Korolyov. He even displayed some political anekdoty to charm the crowd.
Zyuganov tells a Roman Abramovich joke. Roman arrives in heaven only to find his way blocked by St Paul. St Paul asks Abramovich: “Do you own Chelsea, five yachts and a 5km stretch of beach in the south of France?” Abramovich replies: “Yes.” St Paul replies: “I’m not sure you’re going to like it in here.”
The KPRF’s message: they are the only ones keeping Russia from slipping into a completely corrupt morass. One only hopes that they aren’t too late. Still despite what some may think, the KPRF can bank on this statement by the Levanda Center’s Leonid Sedov: “The others have been excluded from the parliamentary sphere. The Communists will be the only oppositional force. This means voters who want to retain opposition in any form have to vote for the Communists.” Oh, the historical irony.
You wouldn’t known the Communist were in contention if you rely on English media for your electoral news. Kasparov must roll off the English tongue better than Zyuganov. The Communist Party seems more often mentioned to paint United Russia as a CPSU redux, rather than a party running for election in their own right. The KPRF is currently polling way behind United Russia. VTsIOM gives them 6 percent to United Russia’s 55, and Levada honors them with 14 percent to UR’s 67. Whatever the hard numbers, United Russia holds a 49 to 53 point margin. However distance the KPRF may be numerically, maybe its time to face reality and see them as the only real potential political bulwark to United Russia’s dominance.Post Views: 688