1360Bulletin 7:16 (2013)
- Aug 16, 2013THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN
A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
Vol. 7, No. 16(204), 16 August 2013
Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane Oezkan & Andreas Umland
I NEWS: 1 - 15 July 2013
II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
III ANNOTATIONS OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS
[NOTE: When viewing an RNB issue in the Messages archive of the homepage and the end of the text is truncated, scroll to the end of the message and click "Expand Messages." Only then, the whole text of the - otherwise truncated - issue will appear. When quoting from an article found here, please, mention the RNB, as the source. Thank you!]
I NEWS: 1 - 15 July 2013
Putin signs law introducing fines for homosexual propaganda among minors
Interfax-Religion, July 1, 2013
Moscow, July 1, Interfax - President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill "On the Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development," according to a posting on the legal information portal.
From now on, fines will be imposed on persons "popularizing non-traditional sexual relations among minors by disseminating information encouraging minors to adopt nontraditional sexual behavior, distorting the concept of social equality of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or forcing information on nontraditional sexual relations on minors, or inciting interest in them."
If such actions do not carry criminal liability, the private individual at fault will be fined 4,000 to 5,000 rubles, official 40,000 - 50,000 rubles and legal entity between 800,000 and 1 million rubles, or the offender's operations will be suspended for 90 days.
If such actions have been undertaken with the use of mass media or information or telecommunications networks, including the Internet, a private individual will be fined between 50,000 and 100,000 rubles, official between 100,000 and 200,000 rubles and legal entities up to 1 million rubles, or the offender's operations will be suspended for up to 90 days.
If the same actions have been carried out by a foreign national or a person without citizenship the fine will amount to between 4,000 and 5,000 rubles and the offender will be ousted from Russia, or he will be arrested for up to 15 days and subsequently ousted from Russia.
If such an offence is committed by a foreign national with the use of mass media or the Internet, the offender will be fined 50,000 to 100,000 rubles and ousted from Russia, or his will be arrested for 15 days and ousted.
The law will take effect the day it is officially published.
Putin Signs 'Blasphemy' and 'Gay Propaganda' Bills
JRL Russia List, July 1, 2013
President Vladimir Putin has signed the so-called "blasphemy bill" and the "gay propaganda bill" two pieces of legislation that have outraged the liberal opposition. Both bills were passed unanimously by the State Duma on June 11, 2013, and their full texts appeared on the Kremlin's site Sunday. The blasphemy law will punish "public actions expressing obvious disrespect toward society and committed to abuse the religious feelings of believers," with potential punishment of up to three years behind bars, fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,430), and compulsory correctional labor, Lenta.ru reported It also stipulates fines of 80,000-300,000 rubles and a prison term of up to three months for hindering the activities of religious organizations and preventing religious rites from being conducted. A fine of over 200,000 rubles can be levied for deliberate destruction of religious or theological literature. The bill was introduced to the parliament last year following rock group Pussy Riot's "punk prayer" in Christ the Savior Cathedral, a performance that infuriated conservative leaning segments of Russian society. Rights activists say the new law might be used for religious purposes, for example, to put pressure on the opposition or on free speech, and contradicts constitutional principles. The legislation on gay propaganda will ban the distribution of any information that could make homosexuality seem attractive, promote the "distorted perception" that traditional and non-traditional sexual relations are equal, or force them to become interested in such relations, according to the bill's text. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had asked Putin to veto the bill out of concern that it would lead to discrimination, but her pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Citizens found guilty of propagandizing "non-traditional" sexual relations among under 18-year-olds can be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($154), while officials could be fined up to 50,000 rubles. The fines could rise to 100,000 rubles for citizens and 200,000 for officials if they use the media to distribute forbidden information. Legal entities will have to pay up to 1 million rubles or suspend their activities for 90 days if they are in breach of the legislation. Foreign citizens would face fines and deportation. Gay teens, many of whom face debilitating hostility at home and at school, look likely to be the hardest hit by the legislation, because the ban will probably make it harder to find objective information that could help them come to terms with their sexuality and find support.
Russia is fated to become center of Christian world - priest
Interfax, July 1 2013
Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplain, chairman of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, said Russia is moving towards maximum self-reliance and must become the center of global Christianity. "It is not accidental that many see Russia as a defender of Christian ideals and traditional moral values, as a country that provides a real alternative to the cult of the golden calf and to a suicidal understanding of what freedom is," Father Vsevolod writes in an article, published in the Rus Derzhavnaya newspaper on Monday. Russia must start feeling it is the center of the Christian world, he writes. Only if it does will it become an accomplished nation. The rest is "first, petty and, second, self-destructive for it," the priest said. "Russia has told the world in clipped terms that it can definitely speak its own language, the language of a self-sufficient and strong nation, whose traditions and experience give it the right to walk its own way, to defend its own ideas of how society should be set up, and also to offer it to the world," Fr. Vsevolod said. However hard one tried to influence the state into following the opinions of narrow groups that link themselves to foreign trends and position themselves as the mouthpiece of "would-be Russia", or "other Russia," or "real Russia, nothing worked, he said. "It is not accidental that we said in clear terms despite pressure coming from the West that we do want to protect children from early sexualization and from the propaganda of homosexuality. And we also said that support for foreign adoptions of Russian children is an extremely irrational step. We do not want these children, adopted by perverts, to lose the hope in which many of them were baptised, and to lose a normal life," Fr. Vsevolod said.
Putin signs law banning adoption by same-sex couples
Interfax-Religion, July 3, 2013
Moscow, July 3, Interfax - Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the federal law amending certain legal articles regarding orphans and children not in parental custody, the Kremlin press office said.
The law was passed by the Russian State Duma on June 21, 2013 and was approved by the Federation Council on June 26, 2013.
The federal law bans adoption, custody or patronage of children by same-sex couples. This measure is aimed at guaranteeing that the children have a balanced upbringing in their adoptive families and at protecting their mental health. Such precautions are due to the authorities' awareness of possible negative influences from such an arrangement: artificial imposition of untraditional sexual behavior and spiritual suffering and stress, which, according to psychologists, are often experienced by children with same-sex parents.
Russia moves to squash hooliganism at sports events
RIA Novosti, 03 July 2013
Russia's lower house of parliament on Tuesday gave its final approval for legislation to increase security at sports events and toughen punishments for rowdy fans. Anyone convicted of "hooliganism" at a sports event would be punished with a maximum seven-year ban as well as a 15,000 ruble ($450) fine, according to the bill, which garnered the support of 302 lawmakers. Russia is set to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 FIFA World Cup football championship, and state officials have called for increased measures to prevent disorder at the international events. Over the last three years, more than 14,000 offenses have been committed at athletic events in Russia, said Deputy Sports Minister Natalia Parshikova. Firework-throwing and racist chants are commonplace at Russian football matches, where violence occasionally erupts. To become law, the media-dubbed "fans bill" needs to also be approved by the upper house of parliament and signed by the president.
Putin imposes ban on child adoption by same-sex couples
RAPSI, 03 July 2013
This article contains information not suitable for readers younger than 18 years of age, according to Russian legislation. President Vladimir Putin has imposed a ban on child adoptions by same-sex couples in Russia, the Kremlin Press Service announced on Wednesday. "This measure is aimed at guaranteeing that children are brought up by their adoptive families in a balanced and complete environment and that their mental wellbeing is not affected by any unwelcome influences, such as the imposition of unconventional sexual behavior, and also that children are protected from developing complexes and mental distress which psychological research has shown children often experience when brought up by same-gender parents," the statement says. The amended Family Code will prohibit the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples and by single individuals in countries that have legalized same-sex marriage. The initiative came after France, which has an international adoption agreement with Russia, passed controversial legislation allowing gay couples to marry and adopt children. At present, same-sex marriages are allowed in 13 countries - the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentine, Denmark, Brazil, and France. Columbia, Uruguay and New Zealand have passed LGBT marriage legislation, which will come into force by the end of this year. Although same-sex marriages cannot be performed in Israel and Mexico, these two countries nevertheless recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries. Gay marriage is also allowed in 13 states in the United States. The bill also increases one-time assistance payments for adopted children with disabilities aged 7 years and older and also for adopted siblings to 100,000 rubles ($3,160) from the current 13,000 rubles ($410). Furthermore, the new law reaffirms the current requirement for a 16-year age difference between the single adoptive parent and the adoptee, with a reservation that any variation from this must be approved by a court. The initial bill proposed deleting this provision, but parliament argued that this may be in pedophiles' favor. The new law also introduces the notion of family monitoring, which will concern all families, including children under guardianship and adopted children. The law sets a series of qualification requirements for child protection service employees. It also regulates the interaction between child protection services and the local authorities. Child protection services will be required to report any children whom they have found to be living without care to the regional databank within three days (down from one month). They will have to look into the child's living conditions, identify the child as deprived of care and submit a report within three days.
Religious research specialist urges to toughen punishment for extremism in Russia
Interfax, July 3 2013
The lack of applicable legislation attracts a great number of extremists to Russia, religious research specialist, deputy head of the Expert Council for State Religious Expertise at the Russian Justice Ministry Roman Silantyev believes. "If Russia had good antiextremist legislation, we would have less religious extremists, they would leave our country," Silantyev said at the international conference in Orenburg. According to him, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan imprison extremists for 10-12 years for their crimes, and it is not conventional conviction, while they would be given maximum two years for the same crime in Russia, and if they commit it for the first time, their punishment could be conventional. "So fundamentalists from the Central Asian countries move to Russia, where they feel themselves free," Silantyev said. He also pointed out to Kazakhstan positive experience in struggling against "prison Jihad" - spreading radical Islamism among convicts under influence of fundamentalist cellmates. "In Kazakhstan they made special prisons for the latter, thus isolating them from other imprisoned. If Russia has special colonies for former officials of the law enforcement agencies who committed crimes in order to isolate them from other convicts, why can't we set up the same prisons for Wahabis?" the religious expert wonders. Researcher of the Volga Center on Regional and Ethnic-Religious Studies of the Russian Strategic Research Institute Vasily Ivanov says that migrants from the Central Asia fall under influence of Russian Wahabis, coming to its territory. He pointed out to Farhod Khalikov's story, who came to work from Tajikistan to the Tumen Region, and when he returned to his native village of Kirkuduk, he organized a Wahabi Jamaat there, using ideological knowledge he got in Russia. "We face such a situation: migrant workers fall under influence of Russian Wahabis and coming back home, they start spreading fundamentalism in their native countries," the expert stated.
Amnesty International suspects post-Soviet special services of abducting, torturing wanted Islamic extremists
Interfax-Religion, July 4, 2013
Moscow, July 4, Interfax - The security services of Russia, Ukraine and Central Asian republics are involved in the abduction, disappearance, unlawful transfer and torture of wanted individuals, Amnesty International human rights organization said in a report.
"The security services of Russia, Ukraine and the Central Asian republics are colluding in the abduction, disappearance, unlawful transfer and torture of wanted individuals,"Amnesty International said in the report "Cynical Subversion of Justice in the Name of Security: Returns to Torture in Central Asia" posted on its website.
"Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, old collegiate ties, common institutional cultures and the shared perception across the region of the threat from Islamist extremist groups bind together the successor institutions to the Soviet KGB," the reporter quoted John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Program Director, as saying.
Homophobia on the rise in Russia
Objective Mind, 4 July 2013
Under protests outside of the Russian parliament, the State Duma passed the controversial "anti-homosexual propaganda" bill unanimously with one abstention in a second reading on June 11, 2013. Now that the Upper House voted in its favor and President Putin signed the bill, it has passed into law. A background article by Marion Messmer The bill was introduced into a first reading on January 25 with support from a vast majority of parliamentarians. Only two opposed: a member of Vladimir Putin's own United Russia Party outright vetoing the measure, and a member of the Liberal Democratic Party abstaining. This bill is an attempt at regulating at the federal level what nine provinces have already passed into law independently. About a year ago, the normally liberal city St. Petersburg enacted a law that spoke to the same point of preventing the corruption of minors through homosexual propaganda. The consequences will be dire for Russia's disenfranchised gay community. It is a widely-held view in Russian society that being gay is a sickness and can be passed onto children; therefore, any public display of affection between gay couples could be punished with a large fine and some time in prison. Similarly, gay pride parades and other public events promoting gay rights, which had been difficult to organize before, would now become impossible. In an effort to protect children from becoming gay, it is no longer allowed to speak to children about homosexuality. Despite public protests, no tolerance for homosexuality Ever since the first large-scale anti-government protests in December 2011, organized through citizen participation, there have been hopes of a Russian Spring movement. Legislative attacks on civil rights have been met with indignation and protest. Unfortunately, this particular attack on human and civil rights has been met with support from the Russian population. A survey by the independent polling organization Levada Center, conducted in July 2010, showed that only 45 percent of Russians believed that gay people should enjoy the same rights as other citizens. 74 percent of respondents said they thought gay people were amoral or mentally deficient. In consequence, 88 percent of respondents said in a poll by state institute for public opinion, Vciom, they supported the measure. Those numbers paint a dire picture for gay rights in Russia. The Kremlin portraits homosexuality as a part of the liberal West's agenda to undermine traditional Russian values. Gay couples are seen as a menace because they are further decreasing Russia's already low birth rate of 1.6 children per woman. From 1991 to 2009, Russia saw a yearly decline in its population because of a falling birth rate and a rising mortality rate due to declining health standards after the fall of the Soviet Union. Violence against peaceful protests Protests in support of the Russian Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer (LGBTQ) community have been met with little public support and much violence. About 20 gay rights activists staged a peaceful kissing protest outside the Duma during the second reading. Radical orthodox believers threw eggs at these activists outside of the Duma; other anti-gay rights protestors became more violent by attacking them. There were also several incidents of police violence as the police attempted to break up the kiss-in. Anti-gay rights protestors by far outnumbered the gay rights activists. Experts have called the bill "unsurprising" because it goes in line with the Kremlin's past attacks on human and civil rights. A surprising fact about this problematic bill is the feebleness of Western criticism. Neither the U.S., which had been very outspoken against a Russian ban on U.S. adoption of orphans in December 2012, nor the European Union have been particularly vocal in criticizing the Russian government for this human rights violation in the lead-up to the second reading in the Duma. German chancellor Merkel criticized the bill after it passed its second reading, saying she expected President Putin to veto the measure.
Protest against same-sex marriage being prepared in Moscow
Interfax-Religion, July 9, 2013
Moscow, July 9, Interfax - Members of several Orthodox public organizations plan to stage a protest against same-sex marriage outside the French Embassy in Moscow on Tuesday.
The action has been permitted by the city authorities, a Russian Mothers movement spokesperson told Interfax.
Apart from Russian Mothers, the protest is expected to involve representatives of theGod's Will organization, Family and the World, the Trade Union of Russian Citizens, the Association of Orthodox Experts, the Eurasian Youth Union, the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, the Union of Orthodox Citizens, the Orthodox Action Corporation, the Christian Solidarity Foundation, and the Coalition for Morality.
The event is meant to support French citizens who "champion family values and the right of people to stay as men and women, and their own children's right to stay as girls and boys," the spokesperson said.
In April, France became the world's 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage.
Prosecutors Fail to Brand NGO 'Foreign Agent'
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times, July 10, 2013
Two St. Petersburg courts have refused to classify the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC Memorial) as a "foreign agent" under recent legislation, the NGO's director Olga Abramenko said at a news conference on Wednesday, July 3. On May 27, Judge Olga Glushanok dismissed charges against the NGO for not registering as a "foreign agent" and for not labeling a brochure containing ADC Memorial's report for the UN Committee Against Torture as published by a "foreign agent." The judge ruled that the charges were unsupported by the evidence at hand and returned the case to the prosecution for further investigation. Later, prosecutors appealed to the Leninsky District Court, but their complaint was rejected on June 27. On April 30, ADC Memorial became the city's first NGO to be prosecuted under the new "foreign agents" law, in force since November 21, 2012. According to the law, NGOs that receive any funding from foreign sources and "conduct political activities" are required to register as "foreign agents." Virtually all of Russia's NGOs have refused to register, arguing that it would stigmatize them as acting on behalf of foreign governments. Human rights organizations across the world have criticized the law as an attempt by the Kremlin to stifle criticism under the guise of countering foreign influence. In March and April, massive inspections of hundreds of NGOs across Russia were held. About 40 NGOs were inspected in St. Petersburg. According to Abramenko, a five-member team - a prosecutor, two police officers as well as representatives of the Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection (Rospotrebnadzor) and the Emergency Services Ministry - arrived at ADC Memorial's offices for inspection. Although originally claiming the inspection was conducted under counter-extremism legislation, the team examined documentation, software licenses, fire safety measures and even whether or not the NGO's employees had recently had chest x-rays as part of healthcare requirements, Abramenko said. They then ordered that more than 3,000 pages of documents be copied and submitted to prosecutors. Eventually, prosecutors used the ADC Memorial report on human rights submitted for review by the U.N. Committee Against Torture as evidence, branding it "political activities." According to prosecutors, the report, called "Roma, Migrants, Activists: Victims of Police Abuse," contained "calls for confrontation with the authorities." The organization responded that the publication only recommended the respect of human rights and the rule of Russian and international law.
Russia Says It Will Arrest Openly Gay Tourists
By Amanda Lee
Travel and Escape, 10 July 2013
Thinking of taking a vacation to Europe this summer? If a trip to iconic city of Moscow or the edgier St. Petersburg is on your bucket list, an anti-gay law recently passed in Russia may have you thinking again. It is now outlawed to be 'out and proud.' In a throwback to the country's authoritarian ruling, Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial law that punishes people for "homosexual propaganda." The law fines people-including tourists-up to 200,000 rubles ($6,240 CDN) for "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations." For Canadians-where same-sex marriage is legal-it is unfathomable that Russia's laws permit the government to arrest and detain gay, or pro-gay, foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from the country. So what is considered pro-gay? Anything from gay-affirmative speech to hand-holding; even displaying a rainbow flag alongside a maple leaf on your backpack is illegal. Recently in southern Russia, there were complaints that Elton John's stage outfits fell under "gay propaganda." While LGBT are being told they are unwelcome in Russia, with such vague definitions, one wonders if anyone who even looks like they might be gay could also be fined or deported from the country. According to Voice of Russia, any display of affection between same-sex couples could cause a "distorted understanding" that gay relations and heterosexual relations are socially equivalent, and risk spreading Western liberalism. Putin claims the law doesn't discriminate against LGBT people, but rather-in an argument riddled with faulty logic-is there to "protect children from pedophilia." With Gay Pride celebrated around the world, from Sydney, Australia, to Toronto, and with same-sex marriage currently legal in 13 countries with still more countries, including New Zealand and Uruguay, following suit, it is difficult to imagine a country voting to enact such uncompromising and harsh laws. And how are these new laws going to impact tourism and the world's spotlight on the upcoming 2014 Winter Games in Sochi? Will LGBT visitors-or anyone who embraces the gay community-want to visit the games? While Russia's laws stigmatize and target the gay community, Brazil's Ministry of Tourism is working to encourage the LGBT community to visit. Brazil, which is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, as well as the 2014 World Cup. Fortunately, for LGBT travellers looking to take a vacation, there are other parts of the world more receptive to welcoming them with open arms-or at least not promising your vacation could wind up with jail time. Air Canada has gay and lesbian travel packages to places as diverse as Aruba and Tel Aviv, and promotes Copenhagen, Denmark as one of the first countries in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage. Or closer to home, New York's Out NY Hotel advertises itself as "straight friendly."
Orthodox Patriarch Says Russians Having Too Much Fun
By Ana Lomtadze
RFE\RL, July 11, 2013
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has urged Russians to have less fun and spend more of their free time in seclusion. On July 11, Kirill said there was "more fun than needed" in the life of Russians. He said people spent a lot of their energy working and should occupy their time in isolated, quiet places instead of celebrating during their vacations. He cited the rugged archipelago of Valaam, close to the border with Finland, as a suitable holiday destination. (Valaam is home to a 14th-century monastery and has a population of roughly 600.) The ultraconservative patriarch, who is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has not hesitated to speak his mind on a number of other issues in the past. Earlier this year, he sparked controversy by describing feminism as a "very dangerous" phenomenon. He has also raised the ire of reformists by criticizing political opposition protests and supporting the imprisonment of members of the feminist collective Pussy Riot last year for performing an anti-Putin "punk prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Although he is well-known for his criticism of Western consumerism and liberal values, Kirill raised eyebrows after he was spotted wearing a 30,000 euro ($39,000) Breguet watch during a visit to Ukraine in 2009. The Swiss watch was later at the center of an embarrassing kerfuffle for the patriarch when it appeared to have been airbrushed out of a photo on Kirill's website. The move was rumbled by eagle-eyed bloggers, who noticed that the photoshopper had forgotten to erase the watch's reflection on a table. (The incident forced the church to issue an explanation that the luxurious watch was, in fact, a gift from a wealthy parishioner and that Patriarch Kirill usually preferred to keep it in its box.) Despite being no stranger to controversy, Kirill still continues to be a force in Russian politics. He has the right to review any legislation before the State Duma that is of interest to the Russian church. He also maintains an influence in social and cultural spheres; making efforts to expand the teachings of Orthodox Christianity in Russia's state schools while strongly fighting against sex education, which is included in the already ratified European Social Charter. -- Ana Lomtadze, with reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS
New Russian video game takes aim at punk band riot
By Thomas Grove
Reuters - July 11, 2013
A Russian Orthodox youth group unveiled a video game on Thursday that gives players a chance to "kill" members of the punk band Pussy Riot, whose profanity-laden protest in a Moscow cathedral last year angered the church and offended some believers. Two women from Pussy Riot are serving two-year jail sentences for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for the "punk protest", which the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has called part of a campaign to curb its post-Soviet revival. "You have to kill them with a cross before they get into the church, That's the point," said Boris Yakemenko, who organized a Russian Orthodox youth festival in central Moscow where the video game was on display. "It's revolting," said Dmitry Litvinov, 22, said of the game as he got up from the table where the game was displayed on a flat-screen TV. A legal representative of Pussy Riot declined to comment on the video game. Neither members of the band nor Russian Orthodox Church officials could immediately be reached for comment. Players use a mouse to move a cross over the screen and zap colorful cartoon representations of the women from Pussy Riot - each with a balaclava like those worn by the band members in their protest - as they try to enter a white church. When one of the brightly colored guitar-wielding band members gets there, a little red devil dances across the screen. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alyokhina, 25, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were sentenced to two years in prison last August for bursting into Christ the Savior Cathedral and belting out a song calling for the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin. Samutsevich was freed on appeal. Maria Voskresenskaya, who drew the cartoon figures for the game, suggested the members of Pussy Riot had opened themselves up to such treatment through their actions. "We have problems in the church, we don't deny it, but that doesn't justify the actions of those girls - they made a mistake," said Voskresenskaya, 24. She declined to say who came up with the idea for the game, which she said took two weeks to create.
Jailed Pussy Riot Member Reportedly Being Transferred To Another Prison
RFE/RL's Russian Service, July 12, 2013
MOSCOW -- Jailed Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina is reportedly being transferred from a labor camp in the Perm region to another prison in central Russia. The Voina ("War") art collective wrote on its Twitter account on July 12 that Alyokhina was not informed in advance about the transfer plan. (Besides her activities with Pussy Riot, Aloykhina has been associated with the street-art group since 2007.) Alyokhina's lawyer Oksana Darova confirmed to journalists that her client was moved to a detention center in the town of Solikamsk. Darova said Alyokhina will be transferred later to a penitentiary near Nizhny Novgorod. She added that she does not know the reason for the move. Pussy Riot members Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are serving two-year prison sentences after being convicted of hooliganism. They were arrested after staging a protest performance against President Vladimir Putin in an Orthodox cathedral in Moscow in February 2012.
Reykjavik To End Relationship With Moscow
By Catharine Fulton
A proposal has been submitted on behalf of Mayor Jón Gnarr to end Reykjavík's partnership with Moscow, on account of the Russian capital's stance on gay rights. The proposal was put forth during a City Council meeting yesterday, Vísir reports. Should the proposal pass it would effectively terminate all political and cultural relations between Reykjavík and Moscow. "In light of the developments that have taken place in recent years in matters of gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Russia, the Human Rights Office and the Mayor's Office have entrusted the deputy mayor to propose amendments to the existing agreement between the two cities or terminate it all together following consultation with the Foreign Ministry," read the minutes from the City Council meeting. In 2007 Reykjavík and Moscow became sister cities, an agreement that would see the municipalities exchanging information, and cooperate on policies regarding youth and family. The termination of the relationship between Reykjavík and Moscow, while a big step that will require oversight by the Foreign Ministry, is a long time coming. Last August Jón Gnarr wrote a formal letter to his contemporaries in Moscow urging them to reconsider the city's banning of Moscow's gay pride parade.
Filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov Praises the "Wisdom of Serfdom"
by Elizabeth Wood
Russian History Blog, July 13, 2013
According to a website called "Tsenzor.Net" filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov told a group of journalists that he is preparing to make a film praising serfdom as "the wisdom of the nation." His comments show a romanticization of history that is pretty hard to believe:
After all, what was serfdom? [he told the journalists]. Serfdom was patriotism, secured on paper. A person was tied to his mother-earth not only by a feeling of duty, but also on paper [in documents]. Serfdom is the wisdom of the people. It is 400 years of our history. And now, when people suggest we should erase 400 years of our history, I say to them, "Brothers, do you think our ancestors were idiots?"
"I am very happy that Putin is now reviving our historical memory," said the director. "The law on registration [propiska] is exactly what our people are missing, what was torn out by the roots."
Novaya gazeta journalist Elena Kostiuchenko fined for taking part in Moscow Gay Pride
Rights in Russia, 15 Jul 2013
According to GayRussia.ru, Moscow's Tver district court has found the famous LGBT activist and Novaya gazeta journalist Elena Kostiuchenko guilty of infringing the procedure for organising a public event during the Moscow Gay Pride held on 25 May, and fined her 20,000 roubles. Federal judge Tatyana Neverova considered it proven that Elena Kostuchenko had organised a public event at the Yury Dolgoruky monument on Tverskaya Square which had not been approved by the city's authorities. The same judge had earlier handed down a guilty sentence to Elena Kostiuchenko's partner, Anna Annenkova, who was also fined 20,000 roubles. The pair had unfurled the LGBT movement's rainbow flag, bearing the words 'love is stronger', on Tverskaya Square on 25 May. They were then arrested by the police. Штраф в размере 20,000 рублей был также наложен Тверским районным судом Москвы на организатора Санкт-Петербургского гей-прайда Юрия Гаврикова, который 25 мая был задержан у памятника Юрию Долгорукому во время общения с журналистами. Moscow's Tver district court also imposed a fine of 20,000 roubles on the organiser of the St. Petersburg Gay Pride, Yury Gavrikov, who was arrested by the Yury Dolgoruky monument on 25 May while talking to journalists. Last Wednesday, 10 July, the Tver district court postponed the hearing of the case against the organisers of the Moscow Gay Pride, Nikolai Alekseev and Kirill Nepomnyashchiy, for the third time. On 25 May, several dozen LGBT activists attended the eighth Moscow Gay Pride outside the State Duma building and Moscow City Hall in protest at homophobia and the infringement of the rights of sexual minorities in Russia. They were almost all arrested by the police and accused of administrative offences. In mid-May the city's authorities had refused to approve any public Gay Pride events, announced by the organisers, which meant that the latter had to lodge complaints with the courts. The fines imposed for taking in the events of 25 May are the largest in the history of Moscow's Gay Pride movement. Elena Kostiuchenko intends to appeal against the court's ruling.
II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
Under Western Eyes. How meta-narrative shapes our perception of Russia - and why it is time for a qualitative shift
By Paul Sanders
Transit Online, 12 June 2013
Taking a social-constructivist perspective, the article profiles the impact of cognition on Western interpretations of Russian historical development. The starting point is the tenacity of particular Russia memes; the empirical basis for the article is provided by the output of influential thinkers, scientists and practitioners that dominates discourse. Since the nineteenth century this ideological output has situated Western-Russian relations within a meta-narrative of freedom and democratization. This meta-narrative has alternated between two operating modes: an Orientalist search for a Russian civilizational "black box", on the one hand, and a missionary vision, driven by an aspiration to recreate Russia in the Western image, on the other." During the Cold War era the meta-narrative was enriched by new scientific narratives, "path dependency" and "patrimonialism". The article stresses the need for "competing narratives" and concludes with suggestions as to what agenda might replace superseded Russia narratives, as well as the wider "super-story".
Once upon a time an American president could advocate the long-term goal of Russian EU membership. Following a promising start in the 1990s - and accompanied by a number of symbolic shifts such as Russian G8 membership - over the past decade political relations between Russia and the West have continued to sour or stagnate, or both. The general level of distrust can be gauged from any review of recent literature on Russia and the West, but also from the public framing of Russian-Western relations. Thus, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, one could argue that there is more that separates than unites Russia and the West, regardless of how many times the "reset button" is pushed. Remarks on Russia by Mitt Romney, Republican candidate to the US presidential election in 2012 ("Russia is our geopolitical foe no. 1", March 2012), could count on a long illustrious lineage. Although Romney was countered by Colin Powell and other prominent Republicans, poll results and anecdotal evidence would indicate that mainstream US thinking leans towards Romney's rather than Powell's line. The issue then is not a simple case of one opinion against another within the pluralist marketplace of ideas, but a case of certain strands tending to dominate.
The traditional approaches to account for this situation are threefold: a staple of many Western Russia watchers is to "blame" the Russian leader for the bad relations, in this case Vladimir Putin: "If only Russia had a more liberal president, then things would be that much better". The fixation on the man at the top, and his identification as the principal source of the country's ills, takes pride of place in the travelogue of the nineteenth century French writer Adolphe de Custine, but can look back onto a much longer history. "Putin fixation" (as previously "Yeltsin fixation") is also at work in many contemporary accounts. Besides lacking empirical credibility, it is a simplification of the stakes. As Putin biographer Allen C. Lynch makes clear, there is no evidence that Putin is anti-Western per se, but rather a Realpolitiker who knows how to vary his genre. If it suits his domestic agenda he will play the anti-Western card. If it doesn't, then he will do the opposite. Cautioning us against generalizations, Lynch reminds us that, in the wake of 9/11, Putin's Russia was the most valuable U.S. ally in the "War on Terror".
More adequate than blaming the Russian leadership (or Russians tout court) are analyses that point to structural imbalances or geopolitical rivalry as underlying causes of tension. Some of these focus on the widening value gap: Russia under Putin has back-pedaled on democracy and economic reform; and the Russian political system remains unstable, and thus unable or unwilling to commit strategic resources to the long-term planning necessary to build a common Russian-Western future. The current author sees little reason to fundamentally challenge the plausibility of these interpretations, without, however, endorsing their totalist explanatory claims. The reasons are similar to the ones named before: the consistency that would be necessary to throw this sort of challenge to the West is a mirage. There is nothing inevitable about anti-Westernism in current Russian politics and society.
The third interpretive option is to go for plain stereotyping. And, indeed, Russophobia has had a lot to answer for during its long and checkered history. Typically, it emerges in the form of essentialist and culturalist discourses claiming incompatibility between Russia and the West. Indicative of its continuing vigor is a "New Cold War" narrative, in a situation where a "New Cold War" between Russian and the West is anachronistic. However, pointing the finger at Western Russophobia is as one-sided as citing geopolitics or asymmetric vision. The problem with stereotyping emerges in Tsygankov's attempt to "right the balance", by putting the blame on a US lobby which he blames for Russophobia; quite beside the fact that such a unified lobby does not exist in the described form, Tsygankov's model is undynamic and unidirectional. The actual history of relations invalidates negative stereotyping as an explanatory passe-partout. One of the foremost historians of East-West relations presents no evidence that Russophobia was ever unanimous. The same could also be said about Russian anti-Westernism. Thus, periods of intense engagement and exchange have alternated with periods of disengagement or mistrust. And contrary to Tsygankov's unidirectional model, relations have been both multidirectional and dynamic. If modern neuroscience tells us that what people think is often more important than what is, then focusing on mechanisms of conscious stereotyping ignores the fundamental importance of cognitive barriers. The lacunae of traditional approaches to relations between Russia and the West point to the need for a different type of conceptual framework.
The starting point for this article is the 2008 South Ossetia war between Russia and Georgia, the nadir of recent East-West relations. This conflict drew out in particular detail certain paradoxes in the Western reception of post-Soviet Russia. It also demonstrated the presence of a strong storyline (or "narrative"), dominating the manner in which Russia was discoursed. The conflict itself involved a small territory that is, de iure, part of the sovereign republic of Georgia. De facto, however, it has been a Russian client regime for two decades, following secession from Georgia and a civil war in 1991-92. Under UN mediation, and in accordance with international law, all stakeholders had agreed to find a solution to the problem without recourse to force. In the interloping fifteen years, however, Moscow created new facts on the ground, most controversially by issuing Russian passports to South Ossetians.
One of the many "dormant" conflicts of the post-Soviet space, the conflict became "hot" in 2008. Following many months of mutual provocation, Georgia attempted to recover South Ossetia by force, on the night of 7 August. This attempt to restore the territorial integrity of Georgia began with a coordinated Georgian artillery barrage on military and civilian targets in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali. It has been suggested that this tactic was designed to create a panic that would cause a mass flight northwards, thereby blocking access routes to any intervening Russian force, but that it failed. Once Moscow succeeded in getting its troops onto the other side of the mountainous border separating South Ossetia from the Russian republic of North Ossetia, the Georgian military were routed. Russian military operations were not limited to South Ossetia, but extended into core Georgia. The most notable of these was the bombing of the city of Gori. Seizing on the opportunity, the Georgian government appealed to the outside world with a storyline that portrayed Georgia as the victim of unilateral Russian aggression. Georgia deployed considerable skill in feeding its own version into the international news channels, unchallenged by Russian counter-efforts which, by contrast, were amateurish, if not downright counterproductive. Georgian media mastery was best demonstrated by the live interviews Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili provided to international news media, in fluent English, during the most critical days of the crisis. Nothing even vaguely similar was attempted by the Russian side until a fortnight after the ceasefire, when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave interviews to CNN and German news channel ARD. Many Eastern European nations immediately sided with Georgia and demanded swift NATO and EU retaliation against Russia. They were supported by a consensus within the political class in the US, Britain and other countries, such as Sweden. Media reporting in these countries complemented rather than challenged this public disposition. Many of the reflexes one could see at work derived their force from an already existing arsenal of intellectual war, and this reinforced the willingness to believe the Georgian version of events and the perception of unilateral Russian aggression. A spot check survey of media activity during the August crisis confirms a particular lack of balance in the US and UK media landscape. This went as far as discounting or censoring evidence that countered the consensus view of unilateral Russian aggression. A comparison with French and German media reporting shows that in these countries equal credit was given to Russian and Georgian perspectives. The South Ossetian perspective was only taken up by Russian media, and in an expectedly slanted manner.
The skewered initial perceptions were put to the test, when, some weeks later, more rigorous analysis became available. This new evidence challenged the consensus and established Georgia as the initial assailant. In the wake of these findings only one major British media organization, the BBC, backtracked on its initial lack of focus, by airing a feature openly critical of the Georgian version of events, in the 28 October 2008 edition of "Newsnight". The New York Times adopted the same stance one week later. When a high-level fact-finding mission mandated by the Council of Europe and headed by a Swiss career diplomat published its final report in September 2009, the conclusions were very similar. None of this changed very much about Russia's image as the aggressor. As media professionals know only too well, all communication is subject to "threshold dynamics", where first impressions are critically important. Once media saturation sets in, a potential disclaimer will find it impossible to dislodge the initial images that will have meanwhile solidified into opinions. Cognitive filters will have closed for good.
1. Narratives, meta-narratives and competing narratives
Western public opinion making during the 2008 crisis points towards the important role of narratives. A loan from literary theory, narratives (like discourse - to which they are related) entered social science via the work of the French poststructuralists. In their most basic attire they represent compelling story-lines that follow literary conventions. These structure and explain sequences of events, and allow inferences to be drawn. They are not necessarily analytical or evidence-based, can be more or less virtual, and correspond to a "'telescoping' of logic and temporality". All narratives rely on deliberate or inadvertent omissions and they fashion collective blind spots. While common usage of the term suggests binomial "false" and "true" narratives, the scientific understanding insists on the notion that all narratives are conditioned representations, or facets of reality. Thus the search for a "true narrative" is as absurd as the quixotic search for truth itself. Clothing narratives in negative terms, as "manipulation devices", is therefore inappropriate. The more or less limited epistemic validity of narratives clashes with their longevity and tenacity, attributes they owe to their vital role in the formation and formulation of collective identity (Identitätsstiftung). Story-telling responds to an elementary human need for the creation of meaning (Sinnstiftung); it also helps structure the human response to ongoing developments. For these reasons, the disconnect (Los-lösung) from narratives urged by postmodern thinkers is impossible. As much as one may deplore the de-formation (or representation) of reality by narratives, in one form or another, narrativity always prevails.
Narratives and memory may seem anodyne to hard-nosed rationalists arguing that the cost-benefit considerations of utility maximization, opportunity and transaction costs are the only things decision-makers need taken into consideration (and that cognitive wiring is inconsequential). However, a burgeoning literature in cognitive and evolutionary economics provides counter-indication. Thus a study of tax policy making in the German Bundestag demonstrated the practical impact of cognitive framing (i.e. ideas and ideology) on decision-making. The fact of the matter then is that narratives are highly charged in social, political and cultural significance. They are crucial in making sense of the post-Soviet historiographical space, whether it be the controversy caused by a new official history manual in Russia or the dynamics of conflict over lieux de memoire in the borderlands. One such conflict was the Russo-Estonian dispute following the removal of a Soviet war memorial in Tallinn ("War of Monuments"), in May 2007 (Smith, 2008, 419-30). While the latter had the superficial look of yet another building block in a budding 'New Cold War', the real issue at stake were competing (and conflicting) narratives over identity, identity construction, occupation and the sway of twentieth century history in the Baltic rim.
The particular focus of this article are meta-, master or grand narratives. These describe historiographical or cultural output advocating a coherent and unequivocal perspective, which then goes on to become the dominating public orthodoxy, or the "politically correct" version of history. As narratives, they have an identity building function, but on a vaster level of social organization. They remain valid as long as they maintain their integratory force, and they are cyclically replaced by others. Meta-narratives then are the "super-stories" (or modern myths) that human societies tell about themselves, and others. Hayden White argued that the latter can be categorized as tragedies, comedies, romances or satires, but his attempt to apply literary theory to the study of history has never been unanimously accepted. More immediately accessible (and empirically valid) are taxonomies indicated throughout national historiographies, such as failure, success, survival, sublimation and victimization. Many meta-narratives have Orientalist bearings, in the sense that they are less correlated to the object of inquiry than to the identitary constitution of the subject. Aware of this pitfall, critical historians try to avoid explicit or implicit meta-narratives and replace them by a focus on plurality and competing narratives.
It will be argued here that, since the nineteenth century, the Western meta-narrative of Russian historical development is driven by the ideological notions of liberty, freedom and, recently, democratization. The role of academia in the constitution and maintenance of the meta-narrative is crucial, as many of the media, entertainment industry, government and think-tank memes dominating public discourse can be traced back to the ideas of area experts and public intellectuals. This follows Foucault's discourse model: the distribution of knowledge has power effects; these are channeled through institutions and have practical implications. The meta-narrative itself has never developed in a straight functional line, but, as indicated by Malia and Foglesong, in cyclical movements of indifference-engagement-disengagement. Naturally, as befits a pluralist and democratic public opinion, the meta-narrative has never been uncontested; neither is it unanimously shared across the board by all. However, the fact that some academics or politicians (such as Colin Powell) may not "tell" this super-story does not invalidate its impact. As concerns Western policy and opinion making, the democratization meta-narrative has maintained itself as the towering intellectual framework for discoursing historical and current relations between Russia and the West. The evidence generated by the South Ossetia crisis broadly confirms this premise. Practically none of the area studies experts, think-tankers or public intellectuals usually at the frontline of Russia watching - and this concerns in particular the US and the UK - came forward to emit early warning signals, challenge the August consensus, and thereby take the wind out of the most serious crisis in Russian-Western relations since the end of the Cold War.
2. Freedom and democratization
The presence of a Western super-story emerges from an analysis of engagement with post-Soviet Russia. Stephen Cohen sustains that the Western narrative of the Russian 1990s was that of a purported clash between "liberals" or "democrats" (supported by the West) and "reform opponents" (lumped together with neo-Soviet "reactionaries"). "Democratization" was its central tenet. According to this narrative, President Yeltsin's liberal policies as well as the efforts of Western governments, NGOs and international organizations were motivated by a concern for "promoting freedom". When Vladimir Putin arrived at the helm of the Russian state in 2000, his succession was at first hailed as the continuation of the "democratic legacy" of his predecessor. In the aftermath of 9/11 Russia became, to all practical intents, a US coalition partner. Western opinion then operated a U-turn toward the end of Putin's first term. This U-turn entailed re-casting Putin's rule as the return of the "Old Guard", in the guise of the security service personnel. The standard rationalization for doing so was Putin's "clampdown" on democracy at home and "freedom" beyond Russia's borders, in addition to a more assertive foreign policy that now started to clash with Anglo-American interests. The latter reorientation was notable in Moscow's decision to join a temporary opportunistic alliance (with Paris and Berlin), that opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Finally, the "Colour Revolutions" were cast as the point-of-no-return in relations between Putin's Russia and the Anglo-Americans.
The decriers of this narrative have tended to insist on the continuity between the Yeltsin and Putin presidencies. They have stressed the cronyism and illiberal seeds of managed democracy of the Yeltsin years, and they have criticized the framing of the Russian 1990s, as a clash between "democrats" and "reactionaries", as a reductionist caricature. These same criticis date the principal watershed in relations to the failure of Anglo-American energy interests in Russia. This failure became apparent through the YUKOS affair, which unfolded from 2003. The period that followed witnessed the massive redeployment of the dormant intellectual arsenal of the Cold War, in infrequent use since 1991. This was relatively easy to accomplish: the two decades since the fall of the Iron curtain counted for little compared to the eighty years of walling between Russia and the West, which had preceded them and which had erased all prior historical memory. Cold War filters were the only thing to fall back onto in the event of a cooling of relations. At the same time, the new framing reflected the need for strategic narratives (Freedman, 2006), to underpin NATO and EU enlargement.
The democratization framing has continued into the present decade, with Richard Sakwa describing the current politological debate on the Russian transition as two opposing narratives, "failed democratization", on the one hand, and "democratic evolutionism", on the other. The most powerful narrative strain within the failed democratization school is the "New Cold War". This came into its own in the mid-2000s, nurtured by the Colour Revolutions, the unexplained deaths and assassinations of prominent journalists, lawyers or Kremlin opponents, and the cyber attacks in the wake of the Estonian War of Monuments (to name but a few such incidents). These events, in turn, fed a string of polemical publications and public debates. Far from being simply the handiwork of media pundits and think-tankers, academics often joined the ranks: Norman Davies, a historian with a masterpiece of competing narratives to his credit, Microcosm: Portrait of a Central European City (2003), was not immune to the one-dimensional charms of Edward Lucas' polemic The New Cold War (2008), for which he drafted the foreword. The New Cold War strain first peaked during the 2006 Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute. Dominated by a Manichean political reading, hardly a word was lost in the public debate on the murky financial shenanigans of intermediaries, such as RusUkrEnergo, and the vested interests of transnational energy mafias skimming value from differential pricing between Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine and Europe. EU condemnation of Gazprom (and Russia) added significantly to the media flak and virtually drowned out dissenting voices. The pinnacle was reached during the Georgian war of August 2008, built up by a majority of Western opinion-makers as an example of neo-imperial muscle-flexing, and a foretaste of things to come. The West, it was suggested, had better find ways of checking an increasingly assertive and aggressive Russia, capable of projecting power once more beyond her national boundaries.
3. Missionary cycles and Orientalist framing
What are the exact underpinnings of a meta-narrative that frames Western engagement with Russia in terms of freedom and democratization? An important part derives from European attempts to position the country as its "Other", a status the country shares with that other classical Orient, Islam and the Arab world. Iver Neumann reminds us that current European-Russian relations are colored by past representations of Russia as Europe's Other, and that these stretch over at least half a millennium. One cognitive habit resulting from this disposition has been to attribute the considerable oscillations in the Western appreciation of Russia to Russian action alone. Martin Malia infers this type of Othering, by pointing to the cyclical nature of Russia's relations with the West since Peter I. According to Malia the variation in the oscillating Western appreciation of Russia, especially in the nineteenth century, had less to do with Russian social reality than with the deep mutations that Western society itself was undergoing. Russia served as a foil for European intellectual development, and at the same time as the "dark double".
A similar cognitive pattern emerges from David Foglesong's anatomy of the last one hundred years in US-Russian (and Soviet) relations. In fact, the self-assumed US (and Western) prerogative to "meddle" in Russian affairs underpins a "missionary cycle" of engagement. In the late nineteenth century the prerogative itself was premised on narratives of the inferiority of Tsarist Russia and the Orthodox Church as systems of political, social and religious organization - a variation on "white man's burden" imparting the United States with a moral obligation to support revolutionary and democratic change. However, when the long-awaited change materialized in 1917, Americans were handicapped by their slanted representations. A combination of Jeffersonian model and Whig interpretation of history led to false assumptions on the reach of Russian "democrats" and overblown trust in "people power". Demanding that Russia remain in the war effort against Germany, they disregarded genuine popular aspirations for peace and the fact that the people were easy prey to demagoguery. To rising Bolshevik popularity, the US "missionaries" reacted with irritated disbelief. Newly raised false expectations - that Russian democracy would prevail over the "usurpers" in the Civil War - were soon followed by disappointment and, eventually, disengagement. At this point the emancipatory edifice of the mission collapsed into an essentialist discourse of Russian cultural incompatibility with democracy and Western values. It was then abandoned, to be picked up by new sets of missionaries willing to recommence the cycle later. While this US mission continued throughout the life-span of the Soviet Union, it resumed in earnest in the wake of Perestroika. Paralleling the situation before the Revolution, the old type of missionary thinking re-emerged, this time in the form of overblown expectations in the democratic reform credentials of the post-Soviet elites. It was also present in the persistence of relativistic and paternalistic arguments according to which Westerners knew what was best for Russia.
Foglesong's description of American paternalism shares some affinity with European representations of Russia, as studied by Iver Neumann. Whereas the American trope was the "mission", its Western alter ego cultivated a metaphor of Russia as an "irregularity", "perpetually [ ] in [ ] transition to Europeanization." The overriding image, in operation since the Early Modern Age, was that of the "barbarian at the gate"; a barbarian who, at most times, had only just been "tamed" and "civilized", and was now ready "to participate in European politics". This status was associated with the topos of Russia as the eternal apprentice, learner or pupil: a successful or misguided one (the dominant and alternative versions of the Enlightenment); "a laggard who should learn but refuses to do so" (the nineteenth century version), "a truant" (the twentieth century version), the "gifted but somewhat pigheaded one" (the version of the 1990s).[5<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)