Болотное дело / The Bolotnaya Square Case

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media. Father of arrested protester.

Visual content: Simply a man standing in front of the Басманный суд / Basmannyi Court in Moscow
Audio content: A father speaking about his son who has been arrested in connection with an opposition demonstration

Video from Дождь
26 февраля 2015

On May 6, 2012, a major political protest march took place. Just as the marchers were approaching the intended endpoint of the march, Болотная площадь / Marsh Square, they encountered a large police force. In the aftermath of the incident, dozens of participants were arrested and accused of crimes along the lines of resisting arrest, disturbing the peace and attacking police officers. Many civil rights leaders viewed the arrested as political prisoners. This became one of the major political cases of recent years. Although many of the imprisoned activists were freed in the mass amnesty of late 2013 and early 2014, investigation of the incident continued. In early 2015, a young man named Иван Непомнящих / Ivan Nepomniashchikh was accused of having interfered with police actions during the Болотное incident and was placed under house arrest.

Update (12/2015):  Ivan Nepomniashchikh was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. He was convicted of hitting a police officer.

Update (August 2017): Nepomniashchikh was released from prison. He is not allowed to participate in large-group events but apparently intends to engage in single-person demonstrations.

Here Ivan’s father speaks with a journalist. The most interesting section starts at 1:45.

Отец: Во-первых, еще неизвестно, привезут ли его сегодня сюда [or с суда?]. Может быть, до завтра отложат. А насчет меры [пресечения], вот этот государственный адвокат, который вчера расследовать назначил, ну он намекнул, намекнул о двух месяцах. Я, собственно, привез сюда сумку с вещами, зубные щетки и всякую такую..

Read more…

День победы / Victory Day

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media. Aerial view of the parade in central Moscow.

Visual content: Great images of the celebration of День победы.
Audio content: Numerous interviews with participants in the popular march, discussing their ancestors’ contributions to the war effort.

Video from Первый канал
9 мая 2015

This year’s celebration, on May 9th, of Russia’s  victory in the Великая Отечественная Война / Great Fatherland War (World War II) took place on a particularly grand scale with lots of patriotic emotion and extensive popular participation. Besides the usual parade on Red Square, cities around the country organized marches under the name “Бессмертный полк” / “The Immortal Regiment.” This event was first conceived by an independent television channel in Tomsk in 2012 and was then embraced and promoted at the federal level. The essence of the event is that people march while holding photographs of family members who served and perhaps perished in the war.


This clip is from Первый канал / Channel One. The first three minutes show shots of the day’s events mixed with archival footage, with the song “От героев былых времён” playing in the background. Note that many participants in the event, as well as the news anchor, are wearing black-and-gold striped ribbons. This is the Георгиевская лента / St. George’s Ribbon, originally a component of some military decorations and now widely distributed as a symbolic commemoration of the country’s sacrifices in World War II.

The rest of the video includes numerous interviews with participants in the Moscow march.

4:10 Boy in uniform:
“Мой дедушка снова в строю, от моего имени. Я этим очень горжусь. Я хочу, чтобы вы все, кто сейчас меня видит, слышит и понимает, помнили тех, кто подарил нам мирную жизнь.”
“My grandfather is once again in the ranks, on my behalf. I am very proud of that. I want everyone who sees, hears and understands me now to remember those who gave us the gift of a peaceful life.”
Girl in uniform: “Мой прапрадедушка, его очень сильно люблю, горжусь им, он работает пока, он умер в войне.”
“My great-great grandfather, I love him very much, I am proud of him, he works for now [?]… he died in the war.

Read more…

Getting things started

It is just over a week since I first registered the domain name and I’m enjoying the new role of webmaster. Last weekend I figured out how to work with WordPress, refreshed my Photoshop skills, and came up with a working design for the site. Now that the design is more or less established, it’s time to add content. I’ll probably put up several posts to get things rolling, and after that aim for a pace of about one new post a week.  Since I’ve been collecting media clips for a couple of years, I have a substantial reservoir of options to draw from, so some posts will pull out the best components of my personal “archive” while others will reference the latest twists and turns of life in Russia. I have no doubt that the Russian world will continue to produce fascinating new material for this site.

My goal for each post is to have a link to video, a time reference for the most interesting parts of the video, a short transcript of the most useful passages and a corresonding English translation. The translations will follow the Russian syntax fairly closely and as a result may sometimes read awkwardly; the priority is to assist those who are working with the Russian original. I’ll also provide some brief context for each clip. Readers should keep in mind that I am a cultural scholar, not a political scientist or sociologist, so my commentary will be that of a reasonably informed person rather than that of an in-depth scholar. (My “real” research actually concerns nineteenth-century Russian aesthetics!) I’d also like to point out that various browser add-ons exist that make it possible to download Internet video, which can be handy if you want to use something in class or save it for later offline use.

I’m wondering how the “politics” of this project will play out. My two main video sources are the federal Первый канал / Channel One and the Moscow-based independent channel Дождь / TV Rain, which is the only major television outlet that gives a voice to the political opposition. As I navigate between those two sources, will I be able to keep the site “fair and balanced”? Is that even possible? Probably not–but I’ll do what I can to present multiple perspectives on Russia, temper the negative with the positive, and avoid egregious sins against the truth.

Up until now my Russian current events collections have lived on my isolated hard drive, occasionally shared with small groups of students in class. I’m excited now to launch this project into the worldwide web, and I hope that it will be of use to my colleagues and to Russian language learners everywhere.