A New Era Is Needed, A New Era Is Here

By Sergei Abashin, STAB (School of Art and Theory Bishkek)
English originally published on the indispensable blog The Russian Reader. Reprinted with permission.

Movements and Migrants in Central Asia*

  1. Movements

Movements in Central Asia have become large-scale and permanent, involving all social groups, rich and poor, women and men, young and old. They move around their own countries and among countries. Some go for several weeks or months and come back, while others live far from their place of birth for years, only occasionally visiting their homelands. Still others leave forever, breaking all ties. Some travel in search of a new homeland, so to speak. Others go to make money, study or receive medical treatment. Still others go for fun and excitement.

All this movement has come as a surprise to experts and politicians. I still remember the debates in the Soviet Union in the 1980s as to why the people of Central Asia were reluctant to travel outside their region. Even then officials and academics in Moscow, observing the beginnings of the demographic decline in Russia itself, were planning to relocate people from borderlands with an excess labor force to the central regions of the then still-unified country.

These plans failed, because few people wanted to leave their homes. Only organized and, in fact, involuntary labor recruitment and military labor brigades partly solved the increased need for labor power. The weak affinity that Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz felt for voluntary mobility was proclaimed, on their part, an inherent and incorrigible attachment to family, community, and the hot climate.

However, all these explanations were put to shame only a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when millions of people from the titular Central Asian nations felt an irresistible urge to hit the road, leaving and, sometimes, literally abandoning their homes.

Let us try and make sense of these circumstances, to understand why movement in the region has suddenly become a vital life strategy among a considerable number of people. Continue Reading

Russian Avant-Garde in the Age of Disinformation

Transcribed from the 28 February 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:

 

“This is the funny thing: when people don’t believe in anything, when they’re cynical about everything, they’re actually incredibly easy to manipulate.”

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Long Way From Maidan: A Report from Donetsk

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Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio’s 27 September 2014 episode and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview here (soundcloud available soon).

“There’s a lot of real old-fashioned class antagonism at the heart of this. When, on top of that class antagonism, you add an actual war with shooting, it becomes really ugly.”

Chuck Mertz: Our guest, live from New York City, is Keith Gessen, founding editor of n+1 magazine. Keith is co-editor of the new collection celebrating ten years of the cultural literary magazine n+1, Happiness: Ten Years of n+1. Keith also wrote the piece Why Not Kill Them All?” on Ukraine for the London Review of Books. Good morning, Keith.

KG: Good morning.

CM: You start your story about a Mikhail Mishin, who grew up in a large town next to Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, for several years playing football, rising to the Ukrainian second league. Eventually, as you write, “his father helped him find work in the sports section of city government, where he lobbied for money for sports facilities and attended their opening ceremonies, where he always gave a short speech about the moral and physical benefits of sport. No scholar of languages, he was never able to master Ukrainian fully, which perhaps would have kept him from climbing higher in politics if things hadn’t taken a strange turn for him in the Donbas region earlier this year.”

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Photo Essay: Sochi, the $50 Billion ‘Ghost Town’

AntiNote: Freelance photographer Alexander Belenkiy posted these photographs* on his livejournal this month, after a trip to Sochi. This is the ghost town he encountered there, only six months after the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Alexander points out in his own commentary that the Olympic Village is not completely abandoned; indeed he took care to include photographs of people there. Ultimately this deepens the images’ chill by providing a sense of scale. Hearing that the Sochi Olympics were a $50 billion waste is somewhat stultifying; seeing the vastness of this crime in (literally) concrete terms really leaves an impression.

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The Normality of War

by Gavin Rae for LeftEast

“What’s abnormal is not the worst. What’s normal, for example, is world war.”
Franz Kafka

The 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War takes place in a growing atmosphere of global conflict. The world seems to be once again teetering on the verge of catastrophe. A wave of violence is spreading around the globe, leaving destruction and death in its wake. This surge towards war has developed a momentum that at times seems uncontrollable. Palestine, Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Iraq – the list of conflicts is growing and war is once again becoming normal.

The anniversary of World War One should be a time of deep reflection for the left. How was it possible that the vast majority of the socialist parties in Europe could drop their avowed internationalism and fall in behind the imperialist war adventures of their countries’ elites? How could they become so subsumed with nationalism and chauvinism that they allowed millions of young men to fall on the battlefields?

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Alexei Gaskarov’s Sentencing Statement

Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov’s statement in court

translated into English by the Russian Reader with an afterword by Gabriel Levy.

The verdicts for the second group of defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case – brought against participants in the Russian protest movement of 2011-12 – will be announced on 18 August in Zamoskvoretsky Court in Moscow. The prosecutor has asked the court to sentence Alexander Margolin and Alexei Gaskarov to four years in prison; Ilya Gushchin to three years and three months in prison; and Elena Kokhtareva to three years and three months suspended, with four years of probation. All four defendants have been charged under Article 212 Part 2 (involvement in riots) and Article 318 Part 1 (use of non-threatening violence against a public official) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. On 4 August, 28-year-old Alexei Gaskarov made his closing statement in court. This is the complete text of his speech.

Alexei Gaskarov in court. Source: gaskarov.info

Alexei Gaskarov in court. Source: gaskarov.info via LeftEast

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Excuse Me Mister, How Far Is It from Simferopol to Grozny?

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by Antidote’s Laurent Moeri

“When the battle is over and the martyrs sleep, the cowards emerge from the alleys to tell us of their heroism.” – Graffiti in Homs, Syria
Prelude – Mission Impossible

What follows is an attempt at the impossible: a critical review of the situation in Ukraine, the involvement of Putinʼs Russia, and the international Leftʼs capacity (or lack thereof) to respond to social uprisings without repeating prescribed narratives. It is written on one sole premise: that the victims of an eventual military escalation in Ukraine will predominantly be ethnic minorities such as the muslim Crimean Tatars, marginalized groups such as the Sinti and Roma, and the working class—while bureaucrats in Brussels and the Czar and his clan in Moscow will continue to further their respective interests. To highlight the likelihood of this prediction, a comparison will be made between events in Chechnya and Crimea.Continue Reading