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.
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.
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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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.
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
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
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!
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
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.)
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.)
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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Audio content: Several women describe their decision to remain living in villages that have been under heavy fire during the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Visual content: Images of wartime destruction in some Ukrainian villages and small towns.
Excerpted clips are posted below. You can view the entire report in high-quality video at TV Rain. (A subscription or one-time payment is required, but your money goes toward a good cause — supporting one of the last independent TV news organizations in Russia.)
The war in Eastern Ukraine has been in the news again, sadly, as the conflict that began in April 2014 flared up again in early February 2017, soon after President Trump’s inauguration. The Ukrainian government based in Kiev continues to battle the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, which have been functioning as self-declared autonomous governments under the names “Donetsk People’s Republic” (Донецкая народная республика) and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (Луганская народная республика). (The entire region is often called “Donbas,” an abbreviation of “Донецкая бассейн,” i.e. the basin of the Donets River.) Russia, despite official denials, is supporting the breakaway regions with both troops and supplies. Hostilities first began in the wake of the late-2013 “Maidan” revolution in Kiev, which deposed the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in favor of a pro-European-Union government. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in spring 2014 is another part of this same geopolitical conflict, which arises from Russia’s desire to maintain its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Since Ukraine used to actually be part of the USSR, it seems that Putin is not willing to let the country drift out of Russia’s sphere of influence entirely without putting up a fight. The Kremlin’s goal in eastern Ukraine is probably not to fully annex the pro-Russian regions, as happened with Crimea; instead, Russia, via the internationally-brokered negotiation process in Minsk, Belarus, is urging Kiev to grant a large degree of autonomy to the eastern territories — which could then function as a sort of Russian foothold within Ukraine. The “Minsk Agreements” have produced temporary ceasefires and incomplete political resolutions but have failed to stop the violence permanently. The latest surge in violence was centered on the town of Avdiievka, which is not far from some of the villages featured in today’s videos. Besides the rise in violence, the eastern Ukraine conflict also entered the news recently when Russia controversially declared it would recognize passports from the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. The Ukrainian conflict also factors into concerns over the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Specifically, it has been reported that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen brought a peace plan to the White House that would have the US and Ukraine essentially recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea (by granting Russia a long-term “lease”) in exchange for peace in the eastern regions. The plan was given to Cohen by a Ukrainian parliament member who has now been accused of treason.
The videos featured in this post are excerpted from an early 2016 report by TV Rain. TV Rain sent the reporter Viktoriia Ivleva into some Ukraine-controlled territories very close to the border with the breakaway republics. Ivleva brought humanitarian supplies as well as video cameras. Although the footage is over a year old, it gives us insight into what life probably looks like for residents of the same region today. Ivleva talks to some tough yet traumatized people who, through a mixture of courage, stubbornness and a lack of better options, have stayed in their village homes despite the war. During active periods in the fighting, artillery fire severely damaged most of their homes and forced many of them to live in their basements. The communities presented in the video are Sjeverne (Северное, Ясиноватский район), Opytne (Опытное, Артёмновский район) and Krasnohorivka (Красногоровка, Донецкая область).
For more on this topic see my earlier posts on the Maidan and on life in Crimea after annexation.
Заметки о языке: The most notable linguistic feature of these videos is the distinctive pronunciation of the letter “г” as something closer to the letter “х,” a typical feature of the southwest Russian or eastern Ukrainian dialect of Russian.
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I have a new post ready to go — it will appear in a day or two — but in the meantime, an earlier post about Boris Nemtsov is newly relevant. Today in Moscow and other cities thousands of people marched in memory of the assassinated politician. My earlier post featured a committed group of people who were participating in round-the-clock guardianship of the unofficial memorial at the site where he was shot.