Путин о “вмешательстве” в выборы / Putin’s Comments on “Interference” in Elections

Russian language practice. Putin speaking at Petersburg Economic Forum, seated

Audio content: Putin responds to questions about Russian interference in the US presidential election. Includes many examples of his trademark folksy-aggressive communicative style.

Video embedded below and available on Youtube.

I thought Luch sveta readers and Russian language learners would find it interesting to check in on what President Vladimir Putin has been saying about claims of Russian interference in foreign elections. The video featured in this post is also a wonderful example of Putin’s distinctive speech style (see comments below). To get a real feel for who Putin is, you need to hear him speaking in Russian in a non-scripted, combative setting like this one.

In the clip below, Putin responds to questions from NBC News journalist Megyn Kelly during an event at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (Петербургский международный экономический форум) in early June 2017. (Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sitting between the two of them.) The Forum is an annual event intended to build connections between Russian and foreign business and political leaders. The event has become quite prestigious since Putin began promoting and attending it regularly in the mid-2000s.

Keep some background information in mind as you listen to Putin’s comments. In October 2016 the U.S. Intelligence Community announced that it was confident the Russian government was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. In January 2017 the CIA and FBI expressed “high confidence” that Putin had personally ordered a broad influence campaign meant to improve Trump’s election prospects and also undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process regardless of which candidate would win. The same report found that Russian hackers had gained access to voter information from several U.S. state election systems, but it did not find that actual vote tallies were altered. The Russian government’s influence campaign also involved the spreading of false information on social media channels. Russia’s influence campaigns are not limited to the U.S.; Russian media outlets also spread false information during the spring 2017 French presidential campaign, and the eventual victor, French President Emmanuel Macron, said that his campaign experienced many hacking attempts.

The Russian government’s response, as you’ll see in the video, is to deny the allegations, labeling them as hysterical or irrational Russophobia. Putin suggests that

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День победы 2017 / Victory Day 2017

boy holding portrait of veteran

Audio content: Participants in Moscow’s Victory Day celebration tell the story of their family’s connection to the war.
Video content: Images of the “Immortal Regiment” Victory Day event in Moscow.

Links to two videos below.

My first blog post concerned the remarkable “Immortal Regiment” event that has become a popular part of Russia’s annual Victory Day (День победы) celebration on May 9. Two years later, the event has only grown in scale, and so I thought I’d offer some fresh material drawn from the most recent iteration of this popular parade. While many people associate Russia’s Victory Day celebration with the traditional Soviet military parade (the military parade still occurs; for images, see this video), the “Immortal Regiment” is a very different event, one based on the mass participation of regular citizens. The point is that people walk while carrying portraits of family members — parents, grandparents and great-grandparents — who participated in the “Great Patriotic War” (or, “Great Fatherland War,” Великая Отечественная Война), as World War II is known in Russian. The event allows even those ancestors who did not live to see the end of the war, or who were far away from major cities when Germany surrendered, to symbolically participate in a victory parade. The event mixes happiness and sorrow as Russians celebrate a historical moment of great national pride while preserving the memory of the immense sacrifices made to defeat the Nazis.

The “Immortal Regiment” is a new phenomenon in Russia. The first Immortal Regiment was spontaneously organized by journalists at an independent TV station in Tomsk in 2011. (The station, ТВ2, no longer broadcasts — like most other non-government-affiliated media outlets, it was gradually shut down in 2014.) The Tomsk event was soon picked up at the federal level and began to receive government support. “Immortal Regiment” marches now occur in cities across Russia and in former Soviet republics or nations with significant Russian populations. Vladimir Putin joined the event in Moscow for the first time in 2015 and this year once again walked at the head of the Immortal Regiment. Official estimates are that 850,000 participated in this year’s event in Russia’s capital, where the route runs down Tverskaia Street to Red Square, and that eight million people marched across the country.

The main symbol of Victory Day in Russia is

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Weekly Review: Spring Is in the Air

Here’s another short post on a few interesting elements in last week’s Russian news. The reports I saw made it very clear that spring is here!

Spring Cleaning: Десятки тысяч жителей России провели первый из трех длинных выходных за трудом на свежем воздухе

This was a very positive report from Channel One on volunteer clean-up days in parks across Russia. They even made brooms double as selfie sticks! I also noticed that several minutes later they reported on some small anti-Putin protests that happened that same day. Presumably they expect viewers to draw the desired conclusion about what kind of civic engagement is best.

Victory Parade Prep: На Красной площади пройдет первая совместная репетиция пеших расчетов и механизированной колонны
Handing out St. George Ribbons: По всей России стартовала акция «Георгиевская ленточка»

Another sign of spring is of course the early May holidays. Preparations are underway for WWII Victory Day (День победы) on May 9. Channel One had a reporter show off some military technology that will be featured in the parade. Another report displayed people handing out the orange-and-black Ribbons of St. George (Георгиевская ленточка). The ribbon was originally a component of a WWI and WWII military decoration and is now a common popular symbol of national pride.

Victory Day Parade: One of my earliest posts featured the popular “Immortal Regiment” parade that happens on May 9th — a remarkable phenomenon of contemporary Russia. It’s a great resource for learners or instructors.

 

Крупные акции протеста против коррупции / Major Protests Against Corruption

Schoolboy at protest in Tomsk

      Photo: Марат Хамматов, Tomsk.ru

Audio content: Voices from the March 26 anti-corruption protests in cities across Russia.
Video content: Images of the protests, chanting crowds, speakers, police detainment of protestors.

I’ve finally found time to put together a great selection of voices and images from the anti-corruption protests that occurred in cities across Russia on March 26, 2017. The protests, which drew more participants than any similar event in the last several years, were organized by Aleksei Navalny’s Фонд борьбы с коррупцией (ФБК, Anti-Corruption Fund). In particular, demonstrators were reacting to the recently released video Он вам не Димон (He’s Not “Dimon” to You — a reference to a very casual nickname for Medvedev, which his press secretary famously rejected), in which Navalny methodically — and with quite a bit of PR skill — presents evidence that Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has profited from numerous corrupt arrangements that give him access to magnificent vacation properties and luxury goods. The video is part of Navalny’s quixotic campaign to be elected president in the 2018 elections, an endeavor that is unlikely to end in his actual electoral victory but that nevertheless threatens to significantly undermine the political security of Putin and his circle.

Navalny’s video, together with details turned up by his foundation’s earlier investigations, is a pop culture phenomenon. The video seems to have appealed to young people in particular: many observers commented on the large number of high school students and college-age people at the protest events. Numerous “memes” related to Medvedev are visible in the videos below. They include ducks (a reference to a house for ducks located in a pond at Medvedev’s alleged secret dacha), athletic shoes (the first “thread” in Navalny’s investigation is a pair of colorful athletic shoes visible in Medvedev’s Instagram, which Navalny links to an Amazon order sent to an anonymous email account supposedly linked to Medvedev) and the phrase “сами вы держитесь!” (“hang in there yourself!!” — referring to Medvedev’s ham-handed response to a group of elderly people complaining about their meager pensions in 2016 — he told them to just “hang in there”).

Any group political protest in Russia is supposed to be pre-approved and assigned to a particular site by the authorities. Several of the March 26 protests were officially approved, but most were not. In Moscow, participants claimed they were just out for a “walk” (прогулка) near the Pushkin statue on Tverskaia street in the center. Although the vast majority of protesters attended the events without experiencing immediate repercussions, significant numbers were arrested, including about 700 in Moscow, according to the video from Телеканал Дождь below. Police also visited the offices of the Anti-Corruption Fund, initially claiming there were concerns about a fire, and took all employees into custody. Navalny was given a fifteen-day prison sentence. Authorities blamed him for leading the youth astray by encouraging them to engage in dangerous activities.

Four videos are linked or embedded below. They include images and participant comments from the Moscow protest (video one), speeches in Novosibirsk that give a taste of the protesters’ rhetoric (video two), an overview of events in multiple cities with chanting crowds and comments from individual participants (video three), and a viral video of a school-age boy’s short speech in Tomsk (video four). Also, Meduza compiled a photo gallery of events in numerous cities.

To learn more about Navalny, see this earlier post on his speech to an opposition rally.

Заметки о языке: Useful words include “вор” (“thief”), “воровать” (“to steal”), “митинг” (“demonstration”), “акция” (“rally”), “позор” (“shame,” commonly chanted at police who are detaining protesters), “коррупция” (“corruption”), “власть” (“power,” “the authorities”), “задержать” (“to take into custody, detain”), “молодёжь” (“young people”), “терпеть” (“to be patient, to put up with”).

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Russian Transcript

Video One

0:00-0:20

Ведущая: Я напомню, что в нескольких десятках городов России сегодня, двадцать шестого марта, проходят акции против коррупции, поводом для которых стало расследование Фонда борьбы с коррупцией Алексей Навального о премьер-министре Дмитрии Медведеве.

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Weekly Round-Up: Syria, Petersburg, Evtushenko, ФБК

A full-fledged new post will come in a few days, but for now I thought I’d post links to some notable reports I saw during my weekend perusal of the Russian TV news. Time being finite, I generally look at two sources, Первый канал (Channel One) and Телеканал Дождь (TV Rain), to get the “official” and the “opposition” perspectives. I’ve been posting some of these links on the site’s Facebook page and thought it would be good to also include some of this content in the blog itself. There are many more interesting videos out there than I can possibly write up with an entire introduction, transcript and translation, but that doesn’t stop me from at least pointing some of them out in between the more comprehensive blog posts!

 

1. Russia’s response to the US attack on the Syrian airbase

Link: По прямому приказу президента США десятки ракет выпущены по территории Сирии. Погибли военные и мирные жители

Here’s how Первый канал / Channel One is spinning the Syria attack: The airbase that was attacked was being used by the Syrian government to fight “terrorists” and ISIS (Russian media consistently presents all enemies of Assad as “terrorists”); civilians, including children, perished in the attack; most of the American missiles didn’t even hit their targets due to incompetence or malfunction; last week’s chemical attack on Syrian civilians was probably caused by an explosion at a chemical weapons warehouse controlled by the “terrorists”; Trump’s action has no legal basis and he refuses to answer any questions on this topic; Russia is concerned about last week’s chemical attacks and would like to investigate them.

 

2. Citizens respond to the St. Petersburg Metro bomb

Link (Первый канал): В Санкт-Петербурге в память о жертвах теракта в небо выпустили 13 белых голубей

Link (Дождь): Уроки человечности от Петербурга: как люди помогали друг другу после теракта (TV Rain)

Первый канал has some interviews with people who attended anti-terror rallies in support of Petersburg. And TV Rain has a great feature (behind their paywall, I think) on all the wonderful ways people came together to help each other. Near the site of the blast, cafes gave out free food, local residents took in those who couldn’t make it home after the metro was closed, cell phone companies reimbursed charges for calls from the area. Also, apparently there’s an online game called “Ingress” that involves driving around the city to virtually “capture” territory — well, participants in this game came together to give people free rides home. Petersburgers are rightfully proud of their civic spirit!

 

3. Remembering the poet Evgeny Evtushenko

Link: Во всем мире люди вспоминают Евгения Евтушенко, который был больше, чем поэтом

Первый канал has a nice feature on Evgeny Evtushenko, the poet who passed away about a week ago.  You can hear his declamatory style, and see what he looked like when he was younger, reading to packed stadiums of poetry fans, and when he was older, and still wearing his trademark colorful jackets.

 

4. People arrested in the anti-corruption protests are released from jail

Link: «Отоспался, чувствую себя бодрым»: как сотрудники ФБК провели время в СИЗО

Телеканал Дождь / TV Rain put together a nice selection of comments from people who were just released from detention. I believe most of them are employees of Navalny’s ФВК (Anti-Corruption Foundation). They say they were treated reasonably well! The food was OK, prison officials followed the proper procedures, they could take showers, reading material was passed through to them, they got along OK with the other prisoners. As they note, they were in a temporary detention center, not an actual prison. (This video is probably also behind the paywall.)

 

5. Changing views of Trump in Russia

Link: От любви до ненависти: что говорили о Трампе в России до и после ударов по Сирии

Mikhail Fishman reports that the “honeymoon” period in Russia’s relationship to Trump is over. The opening parts of this video are a bit less interesting — it shows Duma members and United Russia officials criticizing the attack on Syria — but in the end Fishman offers a good compilation of excited, pro-Trump statements from just after the election. (This video is probably also behind the paywall.)

Юбилей первой женщины в космосе / Birthday Celebrations for the First Woman in Space

Valentina Tereshkova

Audio Content: On her eightieth birthday, Valentina Tereshkova reminisces about her groundbreaking flight into space. The post also includes a few examples of heartfelt, formal Russian birthday congratulations and an interesting exchange that shows what governing looks like in the Putin era.
Video Content: Great archival images of Tereshkova’s training and space flight and of her life today as a member of the Duma.

Links to two videos are below.

The Soviet Union was responsible for many of humanity’s space firsts, including the first artificial satellite put into orbit, the first man in space and the first woman in space. The first man in space, the beloved hero Yuri Gagarin, died in a jet crash while still in his 30s, but the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, has enjoyed a long public career in the space program and in politics. She is currently a deputy in the Duma representing her native region, Yaroslavl Oblast.

Tereshkova celebrated her 80th birthday on March 6th, 2017 and was prominently featured in news reports that day. The videos below remind viewers of her history: how she was a simple worker at a textile factory in Yaroslavl, participated avidly in a local aviation and parachuting group, was chosen as one of five finalists for the project of sending a woman into space and launched into orbit on June 16, 1963. Tereshkova’s reminiscences are interspersed with archival footage of her training and flight.

The videos are also of interest for a few other reasons. They include an excellent example of the sort of greeting that might be extended to someone in Russia on her birthday — typically very warm, even gushy, somewhat lengthy and formal (see the end of video one). Video two, in which Vladimir Putin offers gifts and congratulations to Tereshkova, offers an interesting view of the public image of governance in a more or less authoritarian, single-party-dominant political system: Tereshkova thanks Putin for sending Yaroslavl a great new governor, Putin thanks her for her support, and everyone ostensibly is working together for the good of the region with none of what Putin might view as the ineffective squabbling of a democracy. Finally, we also encounter some contradictory Russian views of gender, at least as they tend to be expressed on one of the mass-audience federal television channels. In the first video in the news report (actually video two below) the anchor early on refers to Tereshkova as a representative of the “отнюдь не слабый пол” “the definitely-not-weaker sex.” But later, in the second segment (video one below), the elaborate celebration of Tereshkova ends with a reference to women as “представителницы слабого пола” “representatives of the weaker sex”! The term is casually employed for variety and rhetorical flourish. The two uses manage, in the one instance, to acknowledge the derogatory implications of the term and, in the other instance, to present it as an innocuous reference to physical differences.

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Russian Transcript

Video One

Valentina Tereshkova

Watch the video at Первый канал

0:00
Ведущая: Добрые пожелания в адрес Валентины Терешковой сегодня звучат от ее коллег по парламенту, друзей и просто тех, кто помнит, как она вписала новую строчку в историю космонавтики. […]

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