Voices from Russia

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Mayakovsky Still One of Russia’s Most Popular Poets

00 We want peace, but if you provoke us... Mayakovsky. 20.07.13

“We want peace, but if you provoke us…”


According to a new poll by the Levada Centre published Thursday, a day before the poet’s 120th birthday, 120 after his birth and 83 years after his suicide, literary rebel-cum-Communist Vladimir Mayakovsky remains one of modern Russia’s most popular poets. The results show that he’s the second-most-popular Russian poet of the 20th century. The Levada poll was held in late June and surveyed 1,601 respondents. It had a margin-of-error of 3.4 percentage points.

Generations of Soviet school-kids memorised his lines about the eternal glory of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, or the pride of owning a Soviet passport… along with litanies of Communist utopia and a didactic sermon about the good and the bad, addressed to an imaginary “baby son” the poet never had. However, there was another Mayakovsky… a rejected, heartbroken, and suicidal lover, who was also an arrogant nihilist, whose rebellious, exquisitely-rhyming lines might fit a modern heavy metal anthem or rap tune. He committed suicide in 1930, after the end of a not-entirely monogamous relationship with Jewish Communist Lilya Brik, and increasing disillusionment with Communist dogma. Only Sergei Yesenin, the hard-drinking bard of the Russian countryside, who killed himself five years prior to Mayakovsky’s suicide, exceeds his popularity. Vladimir Vysotsky, the actor and folk singer who died in 1980, came third in the list.

Prior to Mayakovsky’s birthday, a national television channel showed a somewhat glamorised mini-series about his life and love, and people held readings of his poems throughout Russia. Although Mayakovsky’s suicide was widely seen as a symbol of the Soviet intelligentsia’s falling-out with the Communist régime, a cult began around him right after his death. Communist leader Iosif Stalin, who dabbled in poetry in his youth and studied theology before becoming a full-time Marxist revolutionary, turned the iconoclastic poet into an icon. Dubbed “Nr 1 Proletarian Poet”, he became omnipresent on bookshelves and city squares, his statues mushroomed all over the USSR, and his works published in the tens of millions. Mayakovsky was widely translated into European languages and was popular among Western leftist intellectuals. American poet Frank O’Hara wrote a poem about him, and British singer Billy Bragg recorded an album named after one of his works entitled Talking with the Taxman about Poetry.

19 July 2013




Cossacks to Help Police Sochi Olympics

cossacks for christ


On Friday, a Krasnodar Krai official said that about 300 Cossack volunteers would help enforce law and order during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Krasnodar Krai, where Sochi is located, was the first to set up official Cossack squads last September. About 1,300 Cossacks currently help law enforcement. The Cossacks, who originally hailed from the southern borderlands of Russia, are known for social conservatism; the tsarist authorities used them to quell popular rebellion. The Soviet authorities suppressed and repressed them. Currently, they’ve regained a semi-official role in Russian public life; sometimes, they carry out citizen patrols, which are becoming officially-authorised in some places in Russia, including Moscow. Krasnodar Krai Deputy Governor Dzhambulat Khatuov said that Cossack/police collaboration is very effective, with Cossacks helping solve 283 crimes and detaining 68 suspects in the region in the first six months of this year, saying, “That’s an unprecedented experience; many of our colleagues from other parts of Russia are showing interest”. Cossack squads patrol streets and public places in traditional uniforms together with police; they check IDs and take suspects to police stations.

19 July 2013



Editor’s Note:

Did you notice that the Cossacks KILLED NO SUSPECTS? Let me repeat that for the slow learners:


In other words, they don’t “George Zimmerman” suspects. Note well that the Cossacks wear uniform, they don’t carry firearms (a Russian source told me this… they do carry daggers, truncheons, and whips), and they take all suspects to the coppers for disposition. They DON’T disobey direct police orders to desist. If they did, they’d be in major trouble with the ataman… truly, that’s NOT a nice place to be.

In short, they aren’t vigilantes taking the law into their own hands… the state of Florida should take notice…



Navalny Case: Who Needs Terrifying Stories About Stalinism?


Methinks that the pot calls the kettle black… after all, the West gave us the Patriot Act, free gropes from the TSA, and indefinite detention at Guantánamo… and listens in on your Facebook conversations. Fancy that… 


No one was more excited about the guilty sentence to Aleksei Navalny than those Western and domestic media that have, over many months, supported the theory of “screw-tightening” in Russia. This theory says that the “tightening of screws” in Russia began with the election of President Putin last year. The excitement of “Russia-as-new-dictatorship” theorists about Navalny’s sentencing is understandable. Every believer is happy to see signs of his faith being true. However, this theory is at variance with many facts, for example, with appointments of Gaidar-type liberals {“conservatives” in American dialect: editor} to key positions in the Central Bank and in the government, Putin’s cautious position on the situation around Snowden, which was respectful to the USA, continued operation, and even the growth in number of anti-Putin media outlets in Russia, etc. For these doomsday theorists, ever longing for signs of ascendant totalitarianism, this verdict of a court in the provincial city of Kirov was a Godsend… a popular opposition activist, just 37-years-old (most probably, a “young reformer”) taken into custody in the courtroom!

Poorly-concealed satisfaction was visible in the indignant headlines of the Western media… their authors are glad that everything turned out exactly as they’d expected. For example, here’s the headline of an article in the American edition of Forbes: “Putin Declares Himself Dictator with the Navalny Verdict”. In addition, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita compared the trial of Navalny to Stalin’s show trials of the 30s. Rzeczpospolita never bothered to remind its readers what would’ve happened to people who’d try greeting convicted politicians with flowers and pancakes in Stalin‘s times, as Navalny’s supporters did after his release (under Stalin, people were shot for milder “offences”). For truly impartial analysts, the severe verdict of the judge in Navalny’s case (5 years), was a surprise. Adam Reihardt, editor-in-chief of the English edition of the Kraków-based magazine New Eastern Europe, offered a bold theory… maybe, the sentence was severe just because the district court in Kirov so decided:

I was convinced that Navalny would get a suspended sentence. It was kind of a surprise that he was given prison time. Apparently, the Russian judicial system turned out to be more independent than it’s usually portrayed in the Western press. Moreover, maybe, the prosecutor’s office [Prokuratura] was simply not prepared for such a strict sentence. So, the incident can be viewed as proof that in Russia prosecution and court are actually better separated than we in the West are led to believe.

Why was it that the much-demonised Prokuratura, not the defence, filed a petition to release Navalny from custody? At first, the supporters of the “tightening of screws” version couldn’t explain it; why, the very body that they said drove the screws, came to the defence of the imprisoned young man. Then, a revolutionary explanation appeared… allegedly, the appearance of protesters scared the authorities, several dozens of which police detained in the centre of Moscow and released before dawn (not quite the Stalinist way to do it). No one bothered to read Article 108 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which says that a person accused of embezzlement or other mild crime isn’t considered convicted, only as an accused person, until the court’s verdict takes full legal force. This Article also stipulates that the authorities shouldn’t take such a person into custody, or, worse, place them in prison. This is exactly Navalny’s case… he was found guilty by the court, but pending appeal, his verdict didn’t receive full legal force. The Prokuratura pointed this up, and the court freed Navalny. Now, he’s back in Moscow under a written pledge not to leave the city. On Saturday, Navalny said his campaign for Moscow Mayor would continue.

However, questions remain. For example, what’s so surprising about Navalny’s release from custody? Why was it such a disappointment to some well-oiled “protest machines” in Russia and the West? Could it be that some well-to-do gentlemen would prefer Navalny to be a jailed martyr rather than an active and unremarkable candidate in a local election? Previously, we saw similar actions during the Pussy Riot case, when the defence lawyers obviously preferred the loud and scandalous jailing of their clients to them gaining a quiet and dull release. In fact, it seems no coincidence that during Navalny’s trial, almost all Western media writing about Russia (and some in their Russian amen corner), waged a campaign of “preemptive discreditation” of any possible court verdict save a total acquittal. They declared any other judgement by the court unjust in advance. United Russia Gosduma deputy Andrei Klimov considered this a form of pressuring the court, “When the British urge us to establish the rule of law in Russia, they shouldn’t be hypocritical. In a state with the rule of law, politicians don’t have the right to influence a court, including foreign politicians”.

In this context, the alarmist warnings of the American and the EU embassies in Russia demanding that we stop “the tendency of suppressing civil society in the country” sound somewhat woolly. The West might notice that attempts to put pressure upon the Russian authorities usually produce the opposite effect. For example, US Vice President Biden’s statement, made a few years ago in Moscow, that the USA wouldn’t like to see Putin’s return to the Kremlin, on the contrary, contributed to his return. As we see, then, they put pressure on the executive arm; now, they apply it to the judiciary. Nevertheless, the result may be the same. Therefore, there’s no need to save us from ourselves and to make irresponsible statements about a “return to Stalinism”… totalitarianism and Stalinism were horrible things, and there still are people in Russia who know them not from hearsay.

20 July 2013

Dmitri Babich

Voice of Russia World Service


Thousands Line Up in Moscow to See Cross of St Andrew

00 Cross of St Andrew. St Petersburg, Kazan Cathedral. 13.07.13


Thousands of pilgrims came to Moscow‘s largest cathedral to touch and kiss the Cross of St Andrew, with psychologists recruited to mind the crowd and help keep conflicts to a minimum. A relic of one of the patron saints of Russia, the Foundation of St Andrew the First-Called brought the cross from Patras in Greece, to mark the 1025th anniversary of Russia’s baptism. The relic, which drew hundreds of thousands of pilgrims while on display in St Petersburg last week, will be at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour from Friday to 25 July, after which it’ll go to the Ukraine and Belarus. Sergei Tiunov, head of the group of psychologists to tend to the line in Moscow, said that his team would provide help for people who might be in an overexcited emotional state, saying, “Our task is to prevent all force majeure situations in the crowd, to prevent all misunderstandings and conflicts”, adding that his team would help all those lost in the crowd or in a need of a headache pill. This isn’t the first time that Moscow’s biggest cathedral is seeing large flocks of pilgrims. Almost a million believers from all over Russia, as well as other former Soviet states, flocked to the Russian capital amidst freezing temperatures in November 2011 to venerate the Belt of the Mother of God, which Christians believe was worn by Jesus’ mother.

19 July 2013



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