Алексей Навальный на митинге / Aleksei Navalny at an Opposition Rally

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media - Navalny at rally in Marino

Audio content: A rousing political speech by leading opposition figure Aleksei Navalny
Visual content: Navalny speaking on stage

Video at tvrain.ru
20 September 2015

Aleksei Navalny has been in the news again lately as his organization Anti-Corruption Foundation / Фонд борьбы с коррупцией has been aggressively targeting Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika / генеральный прокурор Юрий Чайка. The Foundation recently produced a film charging that Chaika’s sons have ties with violent criminal organizations in the Krasnodar region, and the resulting scandal has garnered considerable attention. This is just the latest campaign by Navalny, who has a long history as an anti-corruption activist and opposition politician. It’s difficult to sum up Navalny’s activity in just a few sentences. He is best known for founding the above-mentioned website and non-profit foundation that seeks to expose corruption in Russian business and government. He has also run for office – in 2013 he received 27 percent of the vote in an election for mayor of Moscow, which is a much higher percentage than is usually received by politicians not affiliated with the dominant United Russia / Единая Россия party.

Navalny has also been the defendant in more than one criminal case. In late 2013 he was convicted of having embezzled funds from a state firm during his time as advisor to the governor of the Kirov region, and received a five-year prison term that was soon commuted to a probationary sentence. He is also currently under investigation for fraud committed against the Russian branch of the cosmetics firm Yves Rocher, and his brother Oleg is in prison for convictions related to this case. Most human rights organizations view these charges as unfounded and conclude that the criminal prosecutions of the Navalny family are part of an effort to suppress political dissent in Russia. As a convicted criminal, Navalny is now legally prohibited from running for office in Russia, but he continues to organize and speak at opposition political rallies. Although he is one of the most well-known and popular opposition figures, his support among opponents of Putin is of course not universal. He has been criticized for nationalist views.

Today’s video gives you a taste of Navalny’s persona and political convictions.

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Акция дальнобойщиков / The Truck Drivers Protest

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media - truck drivers outside Moscow

Audio content: A truck driver discussing his discontent with the new tax system.
Visual content: Two Russian truck drivers.

Video at tvrain.ru
4 December 2015

In November 2015 the Russian government instituted a new tax on truck drivers, who are popularly known as “дальнобойщики” (“даль” means “distance” and “бой” means “fight” or “battle.”) Under this system, known as “Платон” / “Platon,” drivers will pay 1.5 rubles per kilometer driven, with the amount rising to 3 rubles per kilometer in March 2016. Drivers are required to install a special mechanism in their trucks to track accrued tax. The money collected is supposed to be used to repair the damage that large trucks inflict on Russian roads. A private company partially owned by Игорь Ротенберг / Igor Rotenberg has been given a concession to operate the Platon system. Igor is the son of Arkady Rotenberg, a billionaire Russian businessman and sports trainer who made his fortune supplying equipment to oil and gas companies. This circumstance has given rise to the suspicion that “Platon” will just end up enriching the elite at the expense of working people. Truck drivers across Russia have been demonstrating against “Platon” since November, organizing protest gatherings, strikes and traffic blockages. The government so far has not backed down from its plans, but the fine for noncompliance was reduced from about 500,000 to 5,000 rubles. This move did not satisfy the truck drivers. A highlight of their protest activity was to be a blockage of the МКАД, the major ring road around the outskirts of Moscow, in the early days of December. There are conflicting reports about the degree to which the drivers actually managed to disrupt traffic. In fact the truck drivers’ unrest has been barely mentioned on the federal television channels. The above video, from the opposition channel TV Rain, was filmed in the hours before the planned action; it features a particularly committed member of the protest movement who explains his distrust of the Platon system and increasingly suggests that frustrated people might be ready to act out against a whole range of problems in Russian society. (It should be noted, however, that opinion polls indicate that a large majority of Russians continue to support the current Russian leadership.) The speaker uses a few folksy, expressive phrases, explain in asterisked notes below.

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0:00-2:55

Журналист: Поговорим с некоторыми участниками акции. Здравствуйте, коллеги. Как у вас настроение? Что вы собираетесь в ближайшее время делать?

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Теракт в Париже / The Terror Attack in Paris

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media - mourners at Moscow's French embassy

Audio content: Moscow residents expressing their reactions to the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris.
Visual content: The French embassy; the informal memorial created by Moscow residents.

Video at tvrain.ru
14 November 2015

As I promised in the last entry, here are some Russian reactions to the mid-November terrorist attacks in Paris. Just as we saw in the previous video, a common Russian response to public tragedy is to bring flowers to a meaningful site. Here the informal memorial has been set up in front of the French embassy. Some particularly interesting comments–both fatalistic and resolute–come at the end, so those are the moments I have transcribed below.


 

0:00-0:25

Мужчина: Скажи всё-таки, почему вы сегодня сюда пришли?
Молодой человек: Чтобы выразить соболезнования гражданам Франции. Это большая утрата для нас. Мы солидарны с ними.
Журналист: У вас был кто-то там, знакомые?
Мужчина: Нет.

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Авиакатастрофа в Египте / The Plane Crash in Egypt

In light of recent events it seems appropriate to bypass other potentially interesting topics and devote a few posts to the recent terror-related tragedies. This post presents material on the crash of the Russian plane in Egypt. An upcoming post will showcase an excellent video I found of Russians responding to the attacks in Paris. (Use the tool in the sidebar to subscribe if you would like to be notified about new posts.) The current post contains two videos. Scroll down to view the second one.

On October 31 a plane operated by the Russian charter airliner Kogalymavia / Когалымавиа (operating under the brand name Metrojet) crashed in the Sinai peninsula. The plane had just departed the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh for St. Petersburg. All 224 people on board died. Most were Russian tourists returning home from vacations. As of today the cause of the crash has not been officially established, but several figures involved in the multinational investigation have said it seems likely that a bomb exploded on board. The terror group ISIS (Russian “Исламское государство” or “ИГИЛ”) claimed responsibility for the crash soon after it occurred.


 

VIDEO 1 (above)

Audio content: Russians voicing sorrow and condolences; Patriarch Kirill leading a mourning service; Orthodox liturgical music
Visual content: Memorial sites in St. Petersburg with piles of flowers and candles; an Orthodox church service, church interiors, parishioners taking part in the service

Video from Первый канал

The opening images in this video are from the St. Petersburg airport Pulkovo. In Russia it is common to bring flowers, especially carnations, to a memorial site. Later in the video you will see shots of Orthodox memorial services in St. Petersburg and in Moscow at the resident church of the Muscovian and all-Russian Patriarch Kirill. Note the distinctive tall thin golden candles that are commonly lit in Orthodox churches, the heavily decorated walls and icon screen, and the head scarves worn by most women inside Orthodox churches.

Transcript

0:25-1:00

Мужчина: Это такая трагедия для Петербурга, и, я считаю, в целом, для всего города и для нас, мы не безразличные люди и специально приехали.

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Хозяйка киевского магазина о Евромайдане / A Kievan store owner reacts to the “Euromaidan”

хозяйка киевского магазина

Audio content: A Kievan shopkeeper describes how her store was burned down and wishes for an end to the violence associated with the Euromaidan.
Visual content: Images of the aftermath of the Euromaidan violence, a woman, later a masked member of the “Berkut” special police

Video from Дождь
19 февраля 2014

This post dips into my archives to present some compelling content from the early days of the unrest in Ukraine. The woman interviewed here is the owner of a store in central Kiev that was burned down during the clashes between pro-Russian and pro-European factions in early 2014. Although the ensuing civil war became centered in eastern Ukraine, the events all began in November 2013 on the “Independence Square / Майдан Незалежности” in central Kiev. There protestors demonstrated against the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to suspend preparations for a closer association with the European Union. Special government security forces known as the “Berkut” were sent to restore order, leading to violent clashes and the loss of about 100 lives. One particularly bloody clash occurred on February 18 when the police unsuccessfully tried to dislodge the protesters from their positions. This video was filmed a day after that battle and just a few days before President Yanukovich fled the country, setting the stage for the ongoing conflict between the pro-European leadership in Kiev and the pro-Russian population in the eastern provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk. Russia also took advantage of the unrest to annex Crimea about a month after this interview was filmed. The second part of the video features a member of the “Berkut” security force.


 

0:00-3:30

Ведущая: Как живёт мирное население в условиях войны, гражданской войны? Киев ведь мирный город, вообще-то. Вот как, например: знакомьтесь с Ларисой Гейтман-Гедунец [?], хозяйка магазина на улице Грушевского в Киеве—то есть, она была хозяйкой этого магазина—его сожгли. Послушайте, что она рассказывает.

Anchor: How does the peaceful population live amid the conditions of war, civil war? After all, Kiev is a peaceful city, in general. This is how, for example: meet Larisa Geitman-Gedunets, the owner of a store on Grushevsky Street in Kiev. That is, she was the owner of that store—it was burnt down. Listen to what she says.

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Выступление Путина в ООН / Putin’s Speech at the UN

Visual content: Putin speaking to the UN General Assembly in New York
Audio content: Excerpts from Putin’s speech that illustrate some typical motifs of his foreign policy perspective

Video from Первый канал
28 сентября 2015

In late September 2015 Putin addressed the General Assembly of the UN at its 70th session–which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, a milestone that has been extensively marked in Russia. Putin’s speech was timed to occur during evening prime time in Moscow. This speech is a great illustration of Putin’s international relations outlook on so many levels. As usual, Putin exhibits finely honed rhetorical skills. He has an excellent knack for placing himself on the moral high ground (in words at least) while taking advantage of every chance to criticize the Western powers, and particularly the US, for any failings or self-centered evils of their own foreign policy (and, in other contexts, of their domestic policy, political system etc.). No matter what policies Russia is pursuing, Putin makes his approach sound humane, reasonable and high-minded. Throughout his speech, Putin never mentions the United States explicitly, but he is very clearly refering to the United States at many points during his speech. Also note that Russia began bombing Syria shortly after this speech was given, so one role of the speech is to explain and justify Russia’s upcoming actions.

In the first segment excerpted below, Putin stands up for the important role of the UN as international mediator and criticizes those entities who act without prior UN approval (as the US sometimes does–but of course Russia also ignores international consensus in its actions in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria).

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