Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Postby admin » Thu Aug 09, 2018 11:24 pm

Maria Alyokhina
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 8/9/18

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Image
Maria Alyokhina in 2014
Native name Мари́я Влади́мировна Алёхина
Born Maria Vladimirovna Alyokhina
June 6, 1988 (age 30)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Russian
Education Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing
Occupation Political activist, student, musician
Organization Pussy Riot
Criminal charge Hooliganism motivated by religious hatred
Criminal penalty 2 years imprisonment
Criminal status Released under amnesty on December 23, 2013

Born: June 6, 1988 (age 27) (1988-06-06) Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union

-- Maria Alyokhina, by Alchetron.com




... her father a professor at a Moscow university, her mother a programmer of “big machines, not personal ...

-- Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina Takes on Vladimir Putin


Alyokhina’s mother Natalya ...

-- Russia's Pussy Riot: Unmasked and on trial, by Alissa de Carbonnel, Maria Tsvetkova


her husband is Nikita, son is Philip, mother Natalya Alyokhina --

-- Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot, by Masha Gessen


Maria Vladimirovna "Masha" Alyokhina (Russian: Мари́я Влади́мировна Алёхина, IPA: [ɐˈlʲɵxʲɪnə]; born June 6, 1988)[1] is a Russian political activist. She is a member of the anti-Putinist[2] punk rock group Pussy Riot.

Biography

On August 17, 2012, she was convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for a performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. She has been recognized as a political prisoner by the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.[3] Amnesty International named her a prisoner of conscience due to "the severity of the response of the Russian authorities."[2]

At the time of her arrest, Alyokhina was a fourth-year student at the Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing in Moscow, where she participated in a sequence of literature workshops given by the poets Dmitry Vedenyapin and Alexey Kubrik. She too is a published poet.[4] She has been involved in environmental activism with Greenpeace Russia, opposing development projects in the Khimki Forest, and was a volunteer at the Children's Psychiatric Hospital in Moscow. Her son Filip was born in 2008. She is a vegan and reportedly collapsed from hunger during the trial, as no vegan meals were provided in detention.[5]

Improved Environmental Management

Citizen organizations were among the first to call attention to environmental issues in the region. By joining forces with independent media these groups became a strong voice for change. Citizen advocacy combined with USAID technical assistance has helped the development and adoption of new laws and policies in resource management. Sound environmental frameworks are now in place in many countries, including Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Groundbreaking forestry codes have been adopted in Russia. The Czech Republic and Poland have produced unprecedented levels of investments in environmental improvements....

The Power of the Eco-Press

In 1994, a group of independent journalists in Moldova had an idea that would have landed them in jail during Soviet times: start an independent magazine about the environment and raise the alarm about threats to the air, land and water. The magazine, Gazeta Natura, won small grants from USAID to buy printing equipment and expand the magazine’s reach to Romania and Ukraine. Natura quickly proved that it was a new breed of magazine. In 1995, its reporters uncovered an explosive story: Moldova’s government had secretly drafted a contract to sell 7,000 hectares of the Silva forest to a foreign firm. Natura’s editors rushed the story into print. The government threatened to shut Natura down, but it was too late. Citizen groups bombarded the government with demands for public hearings and a parliamentary investigation. The public pressure worked. The sale was canceled, and the old growth forest was preserved.

-- A Decade of Change: Profiles of USAID Assistance to Europe and Eurasia, by USAID


The largest environmental NGOs survived the 1990s, in many cases by relying on funding from foreign governments and foundations to continue their work; small grass-roots groups also persisted, working on local issues...

Within the broader environmental movement, environmental organizations tend to fall into three broad categories (Henry 2010). First, there are a limited number of “professional” environmental organizations, such as WWF and Greenpeace, which are based in Moscow or regional capitals. In the second category are grassroots environmental organizations... Finally, in the third category are a number of government-sponsored environmental NGOS that receive funding from state programs and that work closely with state agencies to help them achieve their goals....

Many environmental NGOs in Russia were able to operate in the post-Soviet period due to foreign funding for their work from governmental donors such as USAID, the UK’s DIFD, and private foundations. Larin and his co-authors describe environmentalists’ struggle to continue their work in the 1990s as state funding for nature protection declined and few domestic alternatives emerged (Larin et al. 2003). Foreign support influenced the development of the environmental movement. To survive, NGO representatives proposed projects on issues that interested foreign funders and environmentalists who had facility in foreign languages were more likely to successfully obtain grants. Contact with foreign partners offered the opportunity to exchange ideas as well as develop organizational capacity and new kinds of expertise. Globalization, Russia’s integration into global consumer society, and the country’s emerging role as a natural resource provider also changed the “master frames” of environmentalists (Yanitsky 2010, 191–194). This international orientation also may have increased the distance between environmentalists and average Russians, however.

-- The state of environmental protection in the Russian Federation: a review of the post-Soviet era, by Joshua P. Newell & Laura A. Henry


She played an active role in the Pussy Riot trial, cross-examining witnesses, and aggressively questioning the charges and proceedings.[6] She said in her closing statement:[7]

For me, this trial only has the status of a "so-called" trial. And I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of lies and fiction, of the thinly disguised fraud in the sentence of this so-called court. Because you can only take away my so-called freedom. And that is the exact kind that exists now in Russia. But nobody can take away my inner freedom.


Alyokhina was released from prison on December 23, 2013[8] under an amnesty bill passed by the Russian Duma, allowing the release of several inmates. Following her release, Alyokhina and fellow Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova announced their intention to campaign for prisoner's rights in Russia. On March 6, 2014, she was assaulted and injured at a fast food outlet by local youths in Nizhny Novgorod along with Tolokonnikova.[9]

Sochi detention

Image
Alyokhina in 2012

In February 2014, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were detained in Sochi by the Adler Police in connection with an alleged hotel theft. They were released without charge.[10] On 19 February footage surfaced showing Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina being attacked with horsewhips by Cossacks who were patrolling Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics.[11]

Awards and honors

She was co-winner of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought (2014).[12]

In popular culture

A documentary following the Pussy Riot court cases, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[13]

In 2015, Alyokhina and her Pussy Riot bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova appeared as themselves in Chapter 29 of House of Cards, a popular American television drama series that airs on Netflix. In the show, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova heavily criticized a fictionalized version of Vladimir Putin for corruption, while dining in the White House.[14]

References

1. "Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yuri Andrukhovych receive the Hannah-Arendt-Prize 2014". Heinrich Boell Foundation. July 24, 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
2. b "Russia: Release punk singers held after performance in church". Amnesty International. April 3, 2012. Archived from the original on July 23, 2012.
3. "Троих предполагаемых участниц Pussy Riot признали политзаключенными" [Three of the alleged participants of Pussy Riot recognized as political prisoners]. Росбалт (in Russian). March 25, 2012. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012. Google translation.
4. "Литературная карта России: Студия: Мария Алехина". Litkarta.ru. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
5. Robert Mackey (August 15, 2012). "Actress Writes to Putin to Demand Vegan Meals for Jailed Punk Protesters". The Lede. The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
6. Miriam Elder (August 8, 2012). "Pussy Riot profile: Maria Alyokhina: Unofficial spokeswoman for Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina has challenged witnesses and remains defiant over the charges". The Guardian. Moscow. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
7. "'Так называемый процесс'". Novaya Gazeta. 8 August 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
8. "Pussy riot member released". Npr.org. December 23, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
9. "2 Pussy Riots Band Members assaulted in Moscow". IANS. News.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
10. "Pussy Riot Members Nadezhda 'Nadya' Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina Detained in Sochi Ahead of Protest Performance". Newsweek. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
11. "Pussy Riot whipped at Sochi Games by Cossacks". Bbc.co.uk. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
12. "Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yuri Andrukhovych receive the Hannah-Arendt-Prize 2014". Heinrich Böll Foundation. 24 July 2014. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
13. Stern, Marlow (2013-01-26). "Sundance's Best Documentary: 'Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2017-03-07.
14. "Chapter 29". House of Cards. Season 3. Episode 3. Netflix.

External links

• Media related to Maria Alyokhina at Wikimedia Commons
• Maria Alyokhina’s blog (Russian)
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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Postby admin » Fri Aug 10, 2018 12:28 am

Part 1 of 2

The state of environmental protection in the Russian Federation: a review of the post-Soviet era
by Joshua P. Newell [1] & Laura A. Henry[ 2]
1. School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA;
2. Department of Government and Legal Studies, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME, USA
Published online: 10 Feb 2017.

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

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Once again, there is serious purpose. The rulers of the world want Ukraine not only as a missile base; they want its economy. Kiev’s new Finance Minister, Natalie Jaresko, is a former senior U.S. State Department official who was hurriedly given Ukrainian citizenship.

They want Ukraine for its abundant gas; Vice President Joe Biden’s son is on the board of Ukraine’s biggest oil, gas and fracking company. The manufacturers of GM seeds, companies such as the infamous Monsanto, want Ukraine’s rich farming soil.

Above all, they want Ukraine’s mighty neighbor, Russia. They want to Balkanize or dismember Russia and exploit the greatest source of natural gas on earth. As the Arctic ice melts, they want control of the Arctic Ocean and its energy riches, and Russia’s long Arctic land border.

Their man in Moscow used to be Boris Yeltsin, a drunk, who handed his country’s economy to the West. His successor, Putin, has re-established Russia as a sovereign nation; that is his crime.

-- The Rise of a "Democratic" Fascism, by John Pilger


ABSTRACT

In the 25 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, sweeping political, economic, and social changes have profoundly influenced environmental protection in Russia, the world’s largest country and one of global importance with respect to natural resources, biodiversity conservation, wilderness preservation, and climate change mitigation. This paper reviews the state of the environment by assessing post-Soviet era changes to legislation, government regulatory institutions, and civil society. A gulf exists between Russia’s formal environmental laws and state agency capacity and interest in enforcing them. This stems, in part, from repeated bureaucratic reorganizations that have progressively eroded environmental institutions. The Russian environmental movement, which blossomed during Gorbachev’s reforms in the late 1980s, struggled in the 1990s to mobilize the broader public due to economic hardship and political instability. Since then, the Putin administration has labeled many environmental groups “anti-Russian” and used aggressive tactics such as raiding NGO offices, intimidating journalists, and instituting severe legislative measures to quash advocacy and dissent. Post-Soviet environmental successes have been relatively few, with expansion of the protected area system and forest certification notable exceptions. These successes can partially be attributed to efforts by large environmental organizations, but expansion of certification and corporate social responsibility is also tied to Russian business interests dependent on natural resource export to global markets increasingly sensitive to environmental concerns. The paper concludes by illustrating how corruption, poor enforcement, and the muzzling of civil society render the state incapable of resolving arguably its most significant environmental challenge: illegal and unregulated resource use.

Introduction

In the pages of this journal, dating back to when it was Soviet Geography and then Post-Soviet Geography and continuing into its current form, researchers and scholars have written extensively on environmental degradation in the vast swath of territory that now constitutes the Russian Federation. Readers are now familiar with the country’s past and current environmental blights (oil and gas spills, radioactive waste, air and water pollution) and to a lesser degree the wanton waste of resources caused by inefficient extraction and manufacturing processes (Backman and Zausaev 1998; Barr and Braden 1988; Feshbach 1995; Feshbach and Friendly 1992; Petersen, Bielke, and Peterson 2002; Peterson 1995; Pryde 1972, 1991; ZumBrunnen and Osleeb 1986).

But scholars have largely been far less attentive to what may be Russia’s greatest legacy to the planet: wilderness. Within the borders of the Russian Federation are some of the most extensive (largely roadless) wilderness areas remaining on Earth. This is vividly illustrated by a nighttime view of Eurasia, with the dark vast swaths of Siberia and the Russian Far East in stark contrast to the brightly lit cities and infrastructure of Eastern China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (Figure 1). Lake Baikal alone holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh water. Russia’s forests comprise an astounding 20% of the world’s remaining “frontier forest” (Potapov et al. 2008). Siberian tigers roam the Ussuri taiga forests along the Sikhote-Alin’ Mountain Range, a region with the richest terrestrial biological diversity in Russia (Krever et al. 1994). While the forests of central Kamchatka Peninsula protect rivers containing some of the world’s largest salmon runs, the oceans surrounding Russia are some of the most biologically productive waters on the planet (Newell 2004). Russia’s wilderness plays a globally important role in mitigating climate change, protecting biodiversity, and generally ensuring ecosystem function, particularly of the polar Arctic.

Image
Figure 1. Nighttime view of Eurasia. In addition to cities, fires, fishing boats, gas flares, oil drilling, and mining operations can show up as points of light. Source: NASA Earth Observatory 2012.

It is also notable that, for centuries, Russia’s economy has been highly dependent on this rich natural resource base. In the era of the tsar Peter the Great (who ruled from 1682 to 1725), Siberia and the Russian Far East became a military outpost and supplier of raw materials for the rest of Russia (Newell and Wilson 1996). Soviet industry, like that which came before, exploited the region’s precious metals, minerals, fisheries, and timber supplies and exported these raw materials to the rest of the Soviet Union (Bradshaw 1997; Bradshaw and Lynn 1998). Today, natural resources continue to form the basis of the Russian economy, with much of the oil and gas, precious metals, fish, and timber exported abroad (Bradshaw and Connolly 2016). One of the ironies associated with the sheer inefficiency of the Soviet command economy, which caused horrendous pollution and environmental degradation in accessible areas, is that large areas of wilderness remain intact. During both the Soviet era and the present day, the state has simply lacked the technology and capital to build the infrastructure necessary to extract natural resources in many of these areas (Barr and Braden 1988; Bradshaw and Lynn 1998).

Thus, environmental protection and the trajectory of the Russian economy and political system are deeply intertwined. Waves of economic and political restructuring in the 25 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union have brought a series of challenges that will have to be addressed to ensure the sustainability of these globally important ecosystems. Russia’s most intractable environment challenge may indeed be illegal resource harvest (Henry and Douhovnikoff 2008; Newell 2004). But identifying underlying causes and strategies to address this problem quickly leads to evaluation of the sweeping political, social, and economic changes since the perestroika reforms of the Gorbachev era and, later, the integration of Russia into the global economy.

With this context in mind, the purpose of this essay is to take stock of and assess key changes associated with environmental protection in the Russian Federation since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. First, we provide an overview of notable reforms to Russian legislation and relevant government oversight agencies, followed by a brief assessment of Russia’s protected area system given these changes. Then, we evaluate the level of participation of the Russian Government in international environmental treaties (in particular, climate change agreements), as well as the Russian private sector in environmental certification systems and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. This is followed by an assessment of civil society and the environment, with a particular focus on how these groups are increasingly targeted as adversaries of the state. In the final section, we return to the question of illegal and unregulated resource harvest (some of which occurs in wilderness and protected areas) by reflecting on interconnections with these changes to Russian environmental regulation to the restriction of civil society, as well as broad economic shifts spawned by privatization, trade liberalization, and the rise of export markets, especially in Asia.

State environmental protection in Russia

Two consistent themes characterize Russia’s approach to environmental protection in the post-Soviet period. First, the law tends to be prescriptive and complex, articulating relatively high standards, but it is often not effectively implemented and enforced. Second, there has been a high degree of instability with respect to which state agencies have the authority over the environment.

Russia possesses a comprehensive body of environmental legislation. The Russian Constitution proclaims, “Everyone shall have the right to a favorable environment, reliable information about its state and restitution for damage inflicted to health and property from ecological transgressions” (Chapter 2, Article 42). One of the first laws passed by the newly independent Russian Federation was the 1991 Federal Act on the Protection of the Natural Environment (Bond and Sagers 1992). Russia’s major environmental legislation mandates a high level of environmental protection and asserts the country’s commitment to sustainable development (Henry 2009; Oldfield and Shaw 2002).

But large gaps exist between Russia’s formal environmental laws on the books and state agencies’ capacity to and interest in carrying them out. Despite a solid legal foundation, critics charge that environmental law and regulations often are not sufficiently specific, lack mechanisms for their implementation, and are not enforced in practice (Kotov and Nikitina 2002; Potravnyi and Weissenburger 1997, 288). For example, many programs designed to achieve sustainable development have suffered from “inadequate finance and weak coordination” (Oldfield 2005, 75). In 2010, while president, Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged that Russia’s strict environmental laws are often fragmented and contradictory, resulting in “unsolved problems, unfulfilled instructions and unaccomplished tasks” (President of Russia 2010). Russia has experimented with the recentralization of authority in environmental protection previously devolved to the regions, a trend that at least some regional leaders found objectionable due to “criss-crossing jurisdictions and emphasis on raising revenues” (Crotty and Rodgers 2012, 25). These problems continue to limit environmental protection in Russia.

In the 1990s, Russia introduced a variety of new mechanisms for environmental governance, including a new system of permitting and pollution charges and requirements for environmental impact assessment (Kochtcheeva 2010). Kotov and Nikitina (2002, 1) argue that these new instruments were “deformed by corruption, weakness of the government at all levels, shadow economy, impacts of the interest groups, and low public control over environmental decision-making.” Other analyses of Russia’s environmental policies have found a number of problems. A 2014 World Bank report on environmental regulation prior to Russia’s WTO entry concluded,

The legislative system includes over 4000 federal-level regulatory legal documents, and is thus difficult to follow as quite a few of them contravene one another. So even if industrial compliance were genuine, the rules of the game are too difficult to follow. (World Bank 2014, 20)


The report also found that charges for pollution are low compared to other states and that the system of fines for polluters is ineffective “because it targets too many pollutants, and consequently results in insufficient capacity for monitoring and enforcement” (22). Medvedev also cited the lack of environmental monitoring and data gathering as key problems (President of Russia 2010). The punishment for environmental crimes, such as poaching, illegal timber harvesting, and illegal waste disposal, tends to be so feeble that “perpetrators do not fear getting caught” (Stoecker and Shakirova 2014, 11; see also, Bellona 2013; Braden 2014).

Currently, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment is responsible for laws and regulations related to the use and conservation of natural resources, as well as environmental monitoring and pollution control. Other federal-level agencies charged with aspects of environmental protection include the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor), the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Rosgidromet), the Federal Supervisory Service for the Environment, Technology, and Nuclear Management (Rostekhnadzor), and smaller agencies focused on water, forests, and mineral resources. The current division of authority for the environment among state institutions is the result of repeated bureaucratic reorganizations in the post-Soviet period that progressively lowered the status of environmental protection.

In 1991, the Russian Government established a Ministry of Ecology, and Alexei Yablokov, one of Russia’s leading environmentalists, was invited to serve as an advisor to President Yeltsin. However, in 1996, Yeltsin demoted the ministry to a less powerful State Committee on Ecology (Figure 2). Then, in May 2000, President Putin signed a decree to dissolve the state committee as well as the Federal Forestry Service, transferring their responsibilities to the Ministry of Natural Resources (Figure 2). Environmentalists challenged what they saw as the continued downgrading of environmental protection. Igor Chestin of WWF-Russia argued that putting the Ministry tasked with utilizing natural resources for economic growth in charge of the environment “is like putting a goat in charge of the cabbage patch” (Cockburn 2000).

It's easier to penetrate the CIA than the WWF. -- Raymond Bonner, New York Times reporter
-- Panda Leaks: The Dark Side of the WWF, by Wilfried Huismann


The funds allocated by the government for environmental protection have declined as well. The portion of the federal budget dedicated to the environment decreased from 0.4% in 2001 to 0.1% in 2007, even as the overall size of the budget grew (Yablokov 2010, 3). A Ministry of Natural Resources report contends that the Russian Government allocates roughly 0.5% of the federal budget for environmental protection, still relatively low compared to other states (Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology, Russian Federation 2012, 5).

Image
Figure 2. The devolution of environmental protection and regulation in the post-Soviet era. Since 1996 through bureaucratic reorganization, the Russian government has progressively weakened the primary institution responsible for environmental management and protection.

During his relatively brief tenure in office from 2008 to 2012, President Medvedev introduced new environmental priorities related to his broader agenda of modernizing the Russian economy. These priorities included a 2009 law on energy efficiency and other energy savings measures. In a 2010 speech at a State Council Presidium meeting, Medvedev asserted, “Our society has finally come to understand that if we take no account of the current state of environment, if we fail to strictly abide by environmental standards, we simply have no future” (President of Russia 2010). In 2012, as the outgoing president, Medvedev approved the “Basic Principles of State Environmental Policy to 2030” (President of Russia 2012). This guiding document sets out the following objectives:

environmentally oriented economic growth; the preservation of the environment, biodiversity and natural resources to meet the needs of present and future generations; the realization of the right of everyone to a favorable environment; and the strengthening of the rule of law in the areas of environmental protection and environmental safety (2012).


Environmentalists praised these goals, but criticized the strategic plan for lacking specific measures to achieve these objectives (Oliphant 2012). Since his return to the presidency in 2012, Vladimir Putin has made only token remarks about the importance of environmental protection.

Overall, the erosion of institutions of environmental protection and weak law enforcement throughout the post-Soviet period -– despite recent initiatives -– have led to the charge that Russia is in a period of “de-ecologization” (Yanitsky 2000). Mol (2009, 231) labels this phenomenon the “de-institutionalization” of environmental policy, arguing that throughout the early 2000s, “the institutional structure showed all signs of erosion, degradation and delegitimation, developing into but a shadow of its powerful predecessor in the early 1990s.”
Yablokov (2010, 3), who until his death in January 2017 played an important role in the environmental movement, explained, “The logic of de-environmentalism … is that Russia will start dealing with environmental problems once it is rich.” This attitude in part stems from the state’s reliance on oil and gas revenue, in addition to lesser income from mining, forestry, and other natural resource industries, all of which could be threatened by strict environmental protection.

The protected area system in the post-Soviet era

The erosion of environmental protection and decrease in law enforcement, combined with budget shortfalls, has proven to be a formidable threat to the health of Russia’s nature reserve system and to the ecosystems and wildlife that it protects. This protected area system can be traced back to prerevolutionary nobility, whose members set aside land for hunting reserves. These reserves set temporary restrictions on land use or hunting during breeding seasons in order to protect important game populations. After the revolution, beginning in 1917, nature reserves (zapovedniki) were established, and in 1921, Vladimir Lenin established a formal statute for them (Shtilmark 2003). The zapovedniki grew rapidly, particularly in European Russia, so by 1951 more than 128 of these reserves protected over 12 million hectares (ha) of land. In 1952, citing economic need, Stalin’s government dissolved more than 70% of the reserves, shrinking their total land area to 1.5 million ha (Newell 2004). Over time, many reserves were reestablished, but not before many were logged, mined, or otherwise degraded. Only in the mid-1980s did the figure again reach 12 million ha, as in 1951. Today, Russia has a range of protected area types at the national, regional, and local levels (Table 1). Federal-level protected areas total roughly 3.2% of the total land area of the country, with regional- and local-level protected areas covering 7.3 and 1.6%, respectively.

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Table 1. Protected Areas of the Russian Federation, 2014, by type and area.
Type of protected area / Number / Total area / % of total area of Russian Federation
Federal level

Strict nature reserve (Zapovednik) / 103 / 33.8 million hectares (ha) / 1.6
National park / 46 / 12 million ha / 0.8
Wildlife refuge (Zakaznik) / 71 / 13 million ha / 0.8
Natural monument / 28 / .04 million ha / 0.002
Subtotal / 248 5/ 8.84 million ha / 3.2
Regional level
Wildlife refuge, natural park, territory of traditional nature use, natural monument / 11,148 / 125.8 million ha / 7.3
 
Local level

Wildlife refuge, natural park, territory of traditional nature use, natural monument / 1598 / 27 million ha / 1.6

Protected area systems with international status

Natural world heritage site / 10 / 11 strict nature reserves, 4 national parks, 3 wildlife refuges
UNESCO biosphere reserve / 38 / 33 strict nature reserves, 6 national parks
Ramsar wetland of international importance / 35 / 12 strict nature reserves, 11 wildlife refuges, 1 natural park
Transboundary protected area / 4 / 4 strict nature reserves

Source: WWF (2015).


There are numerous forms of protected areas, each with a different purpose (Pryde 1997). Federal- and regional-level zakazniki (wildlife refuges) protect more area in Russia than zapovedniki but suffer the reputation of being “paper parks” because of inadequate protection (Newell 2004). Due to the inability to patrol reserve boundaries, illegal logging, mining, and poaching are far too common.

National parks, first established in 1983, have become an important tool in protecting Russia’s wilderness and biodiversity (Fiorino and Ostergen 2012; Ostergren and Shvarts 1998). Other forms of protected areas include natural monuments, regional natural parks, and territories of traditional nature use (TTPs). Zapovedniki were primarily created to protect samples of a particular ecosystem or landscape (steppe, central taiga) and, less frequently, to protect a particular species’ breeding or wintering grounds (Shtilmark 2003). The most important type of protected area in Russia, zapovedniki, falls under World Conservation Union (IUCN) Category 1a, the strictest designation possible under this system. Economic activity is forbidden, but due to declining budgets, some zapovedniki have opened up to tourism. Reports of logging, grazing, and other industrial activity on protected lands have increased in the post-Soviet era. This system is perpetually understaffed and ill-equipped to provide a comprehensive management program for the zapovedniki. Directors of individual zapovedniki, therefore, have incurred increased managerial responsibility, and many actively seek international contacts, organize eco-tours, and pursue other avenues to secure funding to pay staff and continue research. The total area of protected land under the zapovedniik system is 1.6% of the Russian Federation (Table 1). These zapovedniki are a potent legacy, as they comprise more than 40% of the world’s strict scientific nature reserves (Newell 2004).

Budget cuts for all forms of protected areas arguably pose the greatest threat to Russia’s reserve system (Newell 2004; Ostergen 1998; Wells and Williams 1998). Many zakazniki have no full-time staff and lack basic infrastructure. Zapovedniki generally have full-time staff, but some have crumbling facilities, no funds for scientific research, and inadequate equipment and fuel to patrol the reserve (Ostergen 1998). Lack of law enforcement, coupled with poverty and disregard for laws and regulations in Russia, has led to an escalation of illegal logging, poaching, and mining within reserve boundaries (Newell 2004). Lack of funds has led to squabbling between Moscow and regional governments: the latter complain that money earmarked for the region never arrives, while Moscow complains that money delivered to the regions is not spent properly. A secondary problem facing the reserve system is the conflicting priorities of the government bodies involved in their management; this problem hinders the development of a coherent management structure and conservation plan.

The protected area system remains poorly understood by the public. In Soviet times, zapovedniki were for scientific research, not tourism (Wells and Williams 1998). Many citizens still consider them reserves for the scientific elite and resent the loss of land for commercial use. There was no form of protected area allowing recreational use until the Soviet government created the national park system (Ostergren and Hollenhorst 1999). The public, however, generally resists the concept of a designated area for activities such as relaxing, picking mushrooms, and fishing: many Russians see the taiga as a common resource (Newell 2004).

Despite inadequate funding and structural flaws, the Russian reserve system has expanded significantly in the post-Soviet period. New forms of protected areas have been developed, particularly on the regional level, giving both governments and NGOs the flexibility necessary to further expand the system. A recent analysis of the country’s system noted this success in terms of expansion and correspondingly better protection of Russia’s ecological and cultural assets (Krever, Stishny, and Onufrenya 2009). But it also identified key gaps in the system by identifying ecosystems, landscapes, and species that need better protection. In general, the Arctic regions (where population and resource extraction pressures are relatively low) are fairly well-protected, while deciduous forests and steppes are not. With respect to biodiversity, there are significant gaps as well. The study found that 51% of rare and threatened mammal species (excluding whales and dolphins), 41% of rare and endangered birds, and 36% of endangered reptiles are protected (2009). This necessitates continued expansion of the nature reserve system despite persistent challenges discussed earlier.

Russian Federation and international treaties

Internationally, Russia participates in a number of global conventions on environmental issues (Hønnelund and Jørgenson 2003). In the 1990s alone, Russia signed on to more than 30 bilateral and 25 multilateral environmental protection agreements (Funke 2005, 261). Korppoo and co-authors suggest that Russia’s participation in global environmental governance and vision of itself as a global “environmental donor” are part of the country’s efforts to project its “soft power” internationally (Korppoo, Tynkkynen, and Hønneland 2015, 19). International agreements do not always lead to domestic action, however, and Russia’s participation can be limited. For example, in 2011, the Public Chamber, a group of representatives from civil society that advises the government, advocated without success Russia’s ratification of the Aarhus Convention, a global agreement that commits signatories to ensuring the rights of citizens to have access to information on the environment and to participate in environmental policy-making (Tumanov, Shapovalov, and Davydova 2014). Russia continues to participate in other environmental initiatives in a modest way, including providing $15 million to the Global Environmental Facility in 2014 (RIA Novosti 2014).

Russia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol allowed the climate agreement to come into force in 2005. Yet, after ratification, domestic climate policy developed at a glacial pace (Henry and Sundstrom 2012, 2014). In part, this inaction was because Kyoto’s generous emissions targets for Russia did not require the country to curb greenhouse gasses further. In addition, many Russian policy-makers and scientists remained skeptical about the causes of climate change and the ability of governments to slow the process. Early in the debate, some officials argued that a general trend toward warmer temperatures could benefit Russia. In 2003, at the World Conference on Climate Change in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that climate change is an important issue, but then joked, “an increase of two or three degrees wouldn’t be so bad for a northern country like Russia. We could spend less on fur coats, and the grain harvest would go up” (Pearce 2003). After only lukewarm participation in Kyoto’s joint implementation mechanism and the decision not to take part in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, Russia renewed its engagement in global climate negotiations at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015. At the talks, President Putin pledged that Russia would reduce it greenhouse gas levels by 70% from 1990s levels by 2030; critics argued that, given the post-Soviet industrial collapse of the 1990s when emissions dropped dramatically, this pledge allows Russia to actually increase current emissions by as much as 40%.

Instead, the Russian Government has focused on other benefits from participation in environmental regimes, such as achieving great power status, among other foreign policy goals, and obtaining economic advantages. Reflecting on Russia’s participation in the Paris agreement, Sergei Donskoi, the head of the Ministry of Natural Resources, emphasized associated benefits that Russia expected to receive:

[the agreement] is a very good way to stimulate production, modernize the economy and so on. … In the plan to implement this agreement, we will undertake preparations and changes to the law from the point of view of the best technologies that have fewer emissions. In my opinion, it also will have a positive effect in terms of the modernization of production. (TASS 2016)


Russia also has attempted to shape emerging aspects of global governance in its favor, such as in determining the role of forests as carbon sinks in climate negotiations (Wilson Rowe 2013). Considering other international agreements, such as regional efforts to protect the Baltic Sea through the Helsinki Commission, Korppoo, Tynkkynen, and Hønneland (2015, 80) argue that “environmental protection may at times be seen as a relatively easy field of interstate cooperation, and can therefore be used as a way of projecting an image of cooperativeness and eliciting cooperation in non-environmental areas of greater interest.”

As Russian companies seek international investors and become players in the global market, they increasingly need to abide by global rules and norms in sourcing and manufacturing their products. A number of Russian forestry and fishing companies have been active participants in the product certification systems of the Forest Stewardship and Marine Stewardship Council (Tysiachniouk 2012). Environmentalists often promote these global standards inside Russia. For example, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been the primary promoter of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification; Russia is now the country with the second highest acreage of forested territory certified as sustainably managed under FSC, following Canada. The global initiatives may have ancillary effects in the political sphere more broadly. FSC, for example, has introduced new ideas of equity into Russian discourse (Tysiachniouk and McDermott 2016) and has promoted new models of citizen participation (Henry and Tsyiachniouk 2015).

Russian companies also have developed internal corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and participate in global standards organizations such as the Global Reporting Initiative, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification, and the UN Global Compact. Russia may engage with the concept of CSR selectively, neglecting factors such as corruption and stakeholder consultation, for example (Preuss and Barkemeyer 2011). Crotty (2016) explores what CSR means in an economic context characterized by the legacy of state planning and high levels of corruption. She finds that CSR is often conflated with philanthropy and does not indicate robust connections to civil society, but may serve to demonstrate compliance with the law (2016, 846). A number of Russian NGOs promote CSR as a means of going beyond state regulations of companies. Recently, WWF initiated another effort to promote higher standards in the oil and gas sector through the creation of a rating system for the environmental responsibility of oil and gas companies in Russia (Shvarts, Pakhalov, and Knizhnikov 2016).

Certain regions of Russia are disproportionately affected by natural resource extraction, notably the Arctic region. Currently, the Arctic region is slated for significant development, including expansion of the oil and gas industry, mineral smelting, military installations, and shipping; by early 2014, “about 25% of the Russian Arctic shelf had been licensed to permit exploration and production” (Josephson 2016). Much of this activity is undertaken by companies that are least partially state-owned and that often evade environmental regulation (2016). Indigenous people in the Arctic suffer the greatest impact from this activity and often find it challenging to utilize domestic laws and global standards that are designed to protect their traditional practices, including fishing, hunting, and reindeer herding. In interviews, reindeer herders in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug recounted challenges with air pollution, trash, and pipelines blocking traditional herding routes and their difficulties negotiating with companies for compensation (Henry et al. 2016). Wilson Rowe and Blakkisrud (2014) find that Russia is more willing to engage multilaterally in the Arctic than in other regions and issues, noting that the region has been “successfully ‘branded’ as a zone of peace and cooperation in the diplomatic framing.” Thus far, however, this framing has not had significant impacts on environmental or indigenous policy.
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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

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Part 2 of 2

Civil society and the environment

The history of the Russian environmental movement reflects the challenges faced in general by civil society actors in Russia. In the Soviet period, a small but dedicated network of scientists and university students rallied around the issue of environmental protection. During Gorbachev’s reforms in the late 1980s, environmental concern fueled a mass movement in Russia and other Soviet republics. However, economic hardship and political instability in the 1990s drove many citizens away from activism. The largest environmental NGOs survived the 1990s, in many cases by relying on funding from foreign governments and foundations to continue their work; small grass-roots groups also persisted, working on local issues. However, the movement could no longer mobilize a broad swath of the public. Since 2012, environmentalists who are critical of the Putin administration or who challenge the state’s economic development plans are increasingly targeted as adversaries of the regime and so find it difficult to influence the state.

Although Russia has a rich history of environmental philosophy and science (Oldfield and Shaw 2016), the Soviet regime effectively limited the development of an independent civil society in the USSR because the state controlled virtually all resources, spaces, and media that might have been used by citizens to facilitate collective action. Top-down state mobilization of the public largely substituted for independent activism, and there were few outlets for publicly expressing concern about the environment. The exceptions were state-sponsored scientific organizations such as All-Russian Society for Nature Protection (VOOP) and the Moscow Society of Naturalists (MOIP). Centered in the universities, the student-led Druzhina nature protection brigades gathered young scientists to conduct environmental inspections and education campaigns, offering a venue for more grass-roots activism (Weiner 1999). Beginning the late 1980s, Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost (openness) allowed public discussion of environmental issues and resulted in the emergence of citizens’ associations known as “informals,” some focused on environmental conditions. In the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, anti-nuclear movements mobilized to oppose the construction of new atomic energy stations and the continued operation of existing facilities. Environmental activists served as influential critics of the Soviet regime, and in Ukraine, the Baltic republics, and Georgia, activists embraced “eco-nationalism,” movements that combined environmentalism with demands for autonomy from the Soviet state (Dawson 1996). However, once the 15 Soviet republics achieved independence, they became absorbed in transforming their political and economic institutions, so much of this environmental activism sharply diminished.

In Olga Tsepilova’s experience, forging political affiliations lends certain tangible weight to an environmental movement. Tsepilova’s Green Russia is a faction of Yabloko, one of the oldest liberal parties in Russia.

“…We decided to join Yabloko, which has a [trustworthy history], has voted against the imports of spent nuclear fuel, and has always taken the right position in such issues. We have never regretted this,” said Tsepilova. “Why do people come to us? Because they need a political tribune to voice their problems. Because if they have representation, they have the chance to receive information, attract the citizens’ attention… The party can help in a difficult situation… and use its resources to support environmentalists.”

-- Russia’s ecological big-leaguers join forces to withstand state’s mounting pressure on environmental NGOs at Bellona’s St. Petersburg conference, by Maria Kaminskaya


Public concern about the environment has remained high from the late Soviet period to today. A 2010 Public Opinion Fund poll found that 79% of respondents are personally concerned with the environmental situation in their region (FOM 2010). The issues of greatest concern for respondents included garbage disposal, water pollution, and the impact of industrial activities, followed by air pollution, deforestation, and the loss of green spaces. A number of non-governmental environmental organizations working on these issues exist in Russia, although they do not attract broad participation. By 2015, economic issues such as high prices for goods and services, low wages, and the quality of state-provided welfare had largely crowded out environmental concerns in many regions (FOM 2015). In January 2013, a Ministry of Justice registry listed more than 400,000 non-governmental organizations in all categories, registered and unregistered (Public Chamber (Obshchestvennaia Palata Rossiiskoi Federatsii) 2013). However, a 2012 Public Chamber report cautions that only about 40% of social organizations actively operate and that NGOs generally are not well known or trusted by the general population (Public Chamber (Obshchestvennaia Palata Rossiiskoi Federatsii) 2012).

Within the broader environmental movement, environmental organizations tend to fall into three broad categories (Henry 2010). First, there are a limited number of “professional” environmental organizations, such as WWF and Greenpeace, which are based in Moscow or regional capitals. In the second category are grassroots environmental organizations – the numerous small green clubs and community initiatives that operate at the local level, often without formal registration and are based entirely on volunteer labor. Russian sociologist Irina Khalii has argued that since Russians are generally unlikely to relocate, their civic identities are strongly rooted in localities, leading to a type of environmentalism that focuses on local economic and social problems (Khalii 2004). The actions of grass-roots groups tend to be practical, such as tree planting and trash cleanup in local recreational sites. Finally, in the third category are a number of government-sponsored environmental NGOS that receive funding from state programs and that work closely with state agencies to help them achieve their goals. EKA, one of the largest environmental networks with affiliates across Russia and a model of this type of organization, is avowedly apolitical, stating on its webpage, “EKA does not support and will not support in the future any political parties, political associations or specific political leaders. … EKA is not involved in political activities, such as election campaigns, debates, rallies, pickets, meetings, conferences, etc. [sic]” (EKA Zelenoe Dvizhenie Rossii 2012).

Many environmental NGOs in Russia were able to operate in the post-Soviet period due to foreign funding for their work from governmental donors such as USAID, the UK’s DIFD, and private foundations. Larin and his co-authors describe environmentalists’ struggle to continue their work in the 1990s as state funding for nature protection declined and few domestic alternatives emerged (Larin et al. 2003). Foreign support influenced the development of the environmental movement. To survive, NGO representatives proposed projects on issues that interested foreign funders and environmentalists who had facility in foreign languages were more likely to successfully obtain grants. Contact with foreign partners offered the opportunity to exchange ideas as well as develop organizational capacity and new kinds of expertise. Globalization, Russia’s integration into global consumer society, and the country’s emerging role as a natural resource provider also changed the “master frames” of environmentalists (Yanitsky 2010, 191–194). This international orientation also may have increased the distance between environmentalists and average Russians, however.

Environmental activists frequently have challenged state-led economic development, which they charge is often conducted without public input and with high levels of corruption.
Environmentalists are working to prevent the erosion of existing laws, including laws requiring environmental impact assessments, known as ekspertiza in Russian, for construction. The Russian Duma has supported a “simplified” approach to environmental regulation for some economic development projects –- including megaprojects such as the Sochi Winter Olympics (Bellona 2014). During the summer of 2014, the Duma considered a bill to eliminate EIAs for projects, including off-shore oil and gas drilling. The passage of the bill would mean that developers would not have to provide certain kinds of environmental information and would not have to hold public hearings on their planned projects; instead, state agencies would evaluate a project’s engineering documents. Environmentalists charged that the Russian oil industry was behind the bill, and Vladimir Putin seemed to agree (BaltInfo 2014; Greenpeace 2014). Lacking domestic channels for redress, environmentalists reach out to global organizations and global public opinion to attempt to maintain pressure on the Russian Government. Russian environmentalists fought off a similar piece of legislation once before, in part by provoking the World Bank to oppose the end of EIAs (Larin et al. 2003).

The Putin administration offers rhetorical concessions to some environmental campaigns but largely resists environmentalists’ demands, in part by portraying activists as anti-Russian and by insinuating that environmental groups receiving funds from abroad do not work in Russia’s national interest. In recent years, the government has attempted to more directly regulate NGOs. Among environmental NGOs, groups such as EWNC, Baikal Wave, and Greenpeace, as well as a number of regional groups have had their offices inspected and their documents and computers confiscated. Criticism of NGOs receiving funding from abroad led to the 2012 Law on Foreign Agents, which requires that public organizations receiving foreign funding and engaging in “political activity” register as “foreign agents,” pay significant fines, or cease operating. In May 2015, the Ministry of Justice listed 127 NGOs on its foreign agent register, including at least 20 organizations with an explicitly environmental purpose (Ministry of Justice, Russian Federation n.d.). Technically, “the protection of flora and fauna” is excluded from the definition of political activity, but representatives of environmental groups have been cited for activities such as attending public meeting and making written appeals to the authorities. Given that the term “foreign agent” has the negative connotation of traitor or spy, most organizations have vowed that they would fight the designation in court. In July 2014, Moscow-based anti-nuclear organization Eco-Defense, which receives funding from the EU and several German foundations, was declared a foreign agent. Vladimir Slivyak, the leader of Eco-Defense, initiated a court case to have the decision overturned. The organization Bellona, based in St. Petersburg, illustrates the government’s use of the carrot and the stick. Bellona has been subject to unplanned inspections of its offices. In 2014, the organization announced that the environmental movement in Russia is jeopardized by “aggressive government tactics of threats, arbitrary closures of NGOs, the jailing of environmental activists, intimidation of journalists, censorship, legislative strangleholds on NGO activity, and a general attack on anything construed by the current regime as opposition” (Bellona 2014). Also in 2014, however, Bellona received a presidential grant to fund the organization’s annual conference on defending environmental rights in Russia. Issues discussed by the more than 150 environmentalists who attended the conference included how to connect activists across the regions of Russia, how to cooperate with the media, and how to respond to “the Russian state’s essentially anti-environmental and commercial[-]driven policies” (Bellona 2014).

The increasingly constrained context for environmental activism has limited the movement. In 2015, Interfax reported that the number of non-governmental organizations in Russia has decreased by one-third in just three years (Interfax 2015). Environmental concern is not easily muted, however, especially when it is rooted in local conditions. Starting in 2008, the Movement for the Defense of the Khimki Forest objected to plans to construct a new Moscow–St. Petersburg highway through a protected forest surrounding the Moscow suburb of Khimki. Activists asserted that other, less ecologically damaging routes were not chosen in part due to corruption among local officials (Evans 2012). In November 2008, Mikhail Beketov, a local journalist covering the Khimki debate, was severely beaten, resulting in brain damage and the amputation of his leg. In 2010, the leader of the Khimki Defenders, Evgeniia Chirikova stated,

We are ready for a constructive dialog. Our demands are very simple: we want our lungs, our oaks, our trees, our waters to stay untouched. We are not against the highway’s construction, but we want it to bypass our forest. (Bigg 2010)


Activists collected approximately 20,000 signatures for a petition against the project. A Levada poll in September 2010 showed that 73% of Khimki residents wanted the new road to bypass Khimki forest (Levada 2010). Protesters, led by Chirikova, set up a camp on the proposed route, but they were arrested and removed in July 2010. The result of the Khimki activism offers an appropriately mixed picture of Russia’s environmental movement today. Although President Medvedev briefly suspended work on the road following that incident, construction resumed and the route is now largely completed. Mikhail Beketov died in 2013, his attackers never identified. Evgeniia Chirikova left Russia to seek political asylum in Estonia. At the same time, sustained environmental activism by the Khimki community in the face of real risks was a reminder of the movement’s power.

Conclusion

We conclude this essay by briefly reflecting on Russia’s arguably most intractable environmental problem – illegal and unregulated resource harvest – which we introduced at the outset. This issue is well-documented in the scholarly literature, by NGOs, by the media, and even increasingly acknowledged by officials within the Russian Government. It is a problem that exists in resource-based sectors of the economy, but is especially pronounced where large-scale infrastructure is not a priori necessary for resource access (unlike oil and gas development). For example, illegal harvest of salmon and king crab in Kamchatka has forced the Russian Government to greatly reduce quotas and, in some cases, temporarily close harvest zones (Dronova and Spiridonov 2008). Illegal logging targets protected species, such as Korean pine, and quota-restricted species such as Mongolian oak and Manchurian ash (Newell and Simeone 2014; Vandergert and Newell 2003). Such logging does occur in protected areas and along protected river systems, which affects water levels and can lead to flooding (Smirnov et al. 2013). The opening of borders for export has led to a flourishing trade in endangered species and their byproducts, particularly affecting the Siberian tiger, musk deer, black and brown bears, and ginseng (Braden 2014; Kerley et al. 2002; Kühl et al. 2009; Wyatt 2009).

This illegality is concerning for many reasons. First, it threatens the integrity of Russia’s ecological jewels. Illegal harvest often occurs in wilderness, from protected areas to Group 1 forests along river systems (harvest restricted designations). Second, with respect to the broader economy, this persistent inability to address it has created a vicious cycle that impedes transition to more sustainable and equitable resource use by reducing governance taxation revenue, discouraging domestic and foreign investment, and driving down resource prices (making it harder for honest firms to compete). This retards the ability of the Russian Government’s oft-stated goal to reduce the country’s economic reliance on natural resource export. Such a transition would enable its anemic economy to grow more quickly, meaningfully employ a greater portion of the population, and reduce inequality. One driver of illegality is poverty, as some who are unemployed and underemployed resort to such activities in order to survive.

Another driver has been the reorientation of the natural resource-dependent Russian economy toward export markets, which was brought about by post-Soviet era globalization, trade liberalization, and lower domestic demand. In the heavily export-dependent Russian Far East, for example, Asian markets (e.g. China and Japan) influence what resources are extracted, where, and at what rate (Newell 2004). This pattern intensifies and localizes the harvest of certain natural resources –- a process harmful to many plants and animal species as well as the natural systems upon which they depend. This is apparent, for example, in the forest sector in which Chinese demand has led to unsustainable harvest of resource-limited species, such as Mongolian oak and Manchurian ash (Newell and Simeone 2014). This is also the case in the fisheries sector, especially for species in high demand on the Japanese market.

Privatization and trade liberalization led to a flurry of new small firms in many sectors, especially fishing, forestry, and mining. These firms have proven difficult for the government to regulate effectively, for reasons discussed in this paper, including budget constraints, inconsistent enforcement of Russian laws, and the broader weakening of government environmental agencies. This has been compounded by “institutionalized” corruption that was, in part, initially spawned by budget shortfalls. To supplement budgets, some regulatory agencies have resorted to commercial activity. Numerous local branches of the Forest Service, for example, now spend less time regulating timber operators and more time harvesting timber themselves, disguising their illegal harvesting as salvage logging (Smirnov et al. 2013). Indeed, the greatest obstacle to reform may be corruption in the regulatory agencies themselves. For corrupt officials, bribes and illicit business are highly lucrative.

When political conditions permit, civil society, including environmental NGOs and the media, has played an important role as watchdogs of illegality and corruption, as well as a host of environmental transgressions. Environmental organizations often are the first to identify failures to uphold domestic laws; they also actively promote adherence to global rules and standards, such as product certification. Historically, Russian environmentalists’ connections to a transnational community of activists and scientists have assisted their efforts. However, the foreign agent law imperils some of Russia’s most long-standing environmental organizations – both in their work monitoring state agencies and firms and in their ability to convince the Russian public that environmental protection is in the national interest. Even under duress due to purges and harassment from the Putin Administration, however, NGOs in Russia have been able to make their voices heard and have shaped environmental outcomes as a result of these efforts. We have highlighted a few in this essay, such as preventing the erosion of laws requiring environmental impact assessments (ekspertiza) and protesting road construction through the Khimki forest.

Looking forward, Russia’s economic dependence on international markets for its natural resource exports provides a governance mechanism to shape how the country manages its globally important resource base. As Bradshaw and Connolly (2016, 17) note, Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, is “a price taker, not a price maker on global natural resource markets.” As such, they are sensitive to the shifting demands and preferences of these consumer markets; this includes responsible sourcing practices, ranging from legality and transparency to sustainable environmental management, including certification. As noted, the expansion of forest certification and CSR initiatives provide clear evidence of this. Indeed, this complex economic interdependence with the outside world –- stitched together by flows of oil and natural gas, timber, and precious metals –- is as much a driver of illegal and unregulated resource use as it is a potential solution. Using these market levers represents an important (and underutilized) mechanism to foster the sustainable use and protection of one of the largest, wildest, and ecologically vital regions left on the planet.

Acknowledgments

Joshua Newell would like to thank Daniel & Daniel Publishers for allowing the authors to incorporate portions of the chapter on the protected area system from Newell’s The Russian Far East: A Reference Guide for Conservation and Development (2004).

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

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Russia’s ecological big-leaguers join forces to withstand state’s mounting pressure on environmental NGOs at Bellona’s St. Petersburg conference
by Maria Kaminskaya
Published on September 6, 2010

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ST. PETERSBRUG – More than a dozen representatives of major Russian ecological organisations were brought together by Bellona for the first time to share their difficult experiences and talk out ways of surviving and becoming stronger in a country that is fast becoming a police state. Whatever the hardships, Bellona’s President Frederic Hauge is confident that “the Russian environmental movement has a big future.”

It is the second major rights conference that Bellona has hosted in the last four months wherein Hauge has expressed optimism about the future of civil society organisations in Russia, even amid the looming threats of new rights given to the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the KGB successor organisation and continuing harassment of rights based organisations by the Kremlin. Hauge first iterated this stance at a seminar on Russian human rights in Oslo in June.

Indeed, the last weeks have seen some surprising moves from the Kremlin, specifically president Dmitry Medvedev, regarding the contentious project to build a high speed toll road to St. Petersburg through the Khimki Forest north of Moscow, which has been met by strong opposition from environmentalists and native and international rock stars, including U2, who joined their cause. The strength of the joined movements caused enough of a stir that Medvedev, in a video blog on Kremlin.ru, halted the highway project subject to “further analysis” of alternative routes. Moscow’s powerful mayor, Yury Luzhkov, who has been dismissive of environmental demonstrations, however, stands in opposition to President Medvedev, saying the project will continue through Khimki.

But environmental voices, long suppressed by violence, intimidation and arrests were nonetheless noted and supported in Russia’s highest echelons of power – at least for the time being.

On the other hand, the forest fires that ravaged Russia during record drought and heat waves this summer threatened not only forests, but new radiation challenges as the wildfires ripped through areas affected by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and heat dried out lakes and rivers – long dumping grounds for radioactive waste – as irradiated sediment became airborne.

At first, Emergency Service Minister Sergei Shoigu warned of such eventualities, only to retract days later and threaten to “deal with” media and internet outlets mapping irradiated areas threatened by fire. In this case, as the Russian Forestry service removed maps of such areas, it was up to the media and activists to keep citizens in the know, and Bellona and other groups worked together to report heavily on the dangers, and independent activists also posted maps of radiation danger areas in the path of the fires on the Russian search engine Yandex.

Where the common fight stands

The “Russian Ecological Movement: Civic Engagement, Information, Security” conference hosted by Bellona’s St. Petersburg branch, the Environmental Rights Center (ERC) Bellona, which took place in St. Petersburg on September 3, gave environmentalists and activists from all over the country a unique opportunity to come together to discuss their experience in fighting to solve Russia’s ecological problems – as well as experience gained by activists abroad – those “pressure points” that authorities so often use to intimidate ecologists in Russia, and what means and strategies are available to make the Russian environmental movement a stronger presence in Russian society.

Intimidation by means of brute force…

That the fight was never going to be an easy one was made evident by the stories that the conference participants shared with each other on this rainy September day in St. Petersburg. Big or small, nation-wide or local, all organisations that once set out to fight ecological injustices in Russia are running the risk of at one point or another causing the displeasure of the authorities, and the forms the harassment takes range from exploiting loopholes in the existing legislation to bogus criminal investigations to outright violence.

Alexander Kolotov’s No Dam! (Plotina.Net), an organisation in Krasnoyarsk Region in Central Siberia, fights against the construction of dams on large Siberian rivers to defend the fragile river ecosystems that may fall prey to the ongoing expansion of hydropower projects in the region. In doing so, No Dam! has caused the wrath of the state-owned company RusHydro, which in the summer of 2009 filed a lawsuit against No Dam! over an earlier article the movement had posted on its website.

“We were accused of being enemies of the people and of working for Western intelligence. [RusHydro] turned to Krasnoyarsk regional security council, accused us of extremism. The wheels of oppression were put into motion, including the participation of the [anti-extremism task force]. They publicly say our letters to stop the construction of a dam in Lower Angara Region are ‘calls to obstruct the lawful activities of bodies of state government’ and that our website is a conduit to the cooperation with media obstructing the state policies of the Russian Federation,’” said Kolotov. “We filed a lawsuit and lost – apparently, RusHydro has the right to call us extremists absent of any court verdict… What helps a lot is that our site is registered abroad and our authorities cannot just call and demand that it be taken down.”

The story of Yevgenia Chirikova, whose campaign to protect the Khimki forest near Moscow from felling and subsequent construction of a highway has recently made headlines worldwide – what started as a local grassroots initiative has turned into a national controversy, culminating in a Bono-featuring rock concert and the order by Russia’s Medvedev to halt the logging pending further decisions – has the same underlying element: Opposing powerful commercial interests that enlist the questionable support of law enforcement agencies.

“Any ecological problem is, first and foremost, that of corruption,” said Chirikova. “When they came to fell the forest, we … found out these were illegal immigrants… who simply ran away when we started yelling. Then the company that had initiated the felling changed the tactics. They hired a private security firm and when we came to the clear-cutting area together with journalists, we found these guys there, in gym shorts, with gold teeth, shaved heads, and tattooed all over. Clearly, ex-cons. We are but frail ecologists… After that, the police stopped coming when we called for help.”

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The stand-off soon escalated into an all-out war when on July 25, the ecologists were attacked by several dozen thugs wearing masks. Following that, SWAT teams arrived and started arresting both activists and journalists, including those from media outlets with national coverage. According to Chirikova, the SWAT teams were especially brutal with women, pulling them by their hair to get them into the police buses.

…harassment at the hands of the special services…

As far as using law enforcement to quell dissent, the Russian Directorate “E” – a newly created agency tasked with combating “extremism” – is becoming one of the more common instruments of intimidation the authorities resort to. And of course, one has to be forever conscious of the risk of running afoul of the FSB, the oldest means of state harassment. Cases are very rare that taking a stand against the powerful agency results in a victory.

In the words of Nadezhda Kutepova, who heads the NGO Planet of Hopes (Planeta Nadezhd) in Ozyorsk, a town in Chelyabinsk Region in the South Urals, her organisation is essentially operating “behind enemy lines.” Ozyorsk is a restricted-access location hosting the Russian spent nuclear fuel reprocessing enterprise Mayak and is frequently cited as the most contaminated place on earth. Environmental activities in this area bear special significance and, Kutepova says, the problem of intimidation by the authorities is an indicator of how effective her organisation’s work must be.

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A weathered radiation sign warning people against swimming in the Techa River. (Photo: Bellona)
Photo: bellona


[? ...] failed… It was extremely difficult when my professional community hadn’t spoken in my defence… when the FSB went after me. Many of my colleagues, when seeing me, would cross the street. I was accused of receiving a grant from the CIA, almost,” Tsepilova said.

An article that was paid for to libel Tsepilova also appeared in the press, and she eventually lost the libel lawsuit she filed against the newspaper.


Olga Tsepilova (born 1958) is a Russian sociologist and senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

She has been studying the social consequences of pollution in Russia, especially in closed nuclear zones like the closed city Ozyorsk in the southern Urals, the site of the infamous Mayak nuclear facility.[1] These studies were not acclaimed by the Federal Security Service (FSB), which has accused her of engaging in espionage.

Tsepilova appeared on Time Magazine's list of "Heroes of the Environment" October 2007.[2]

-- Olga Tsepilova, by Wikipedia




…and sheer cunning

Green World’s Oleg Bodrov from Leningrad Region focused the participants’ attention on some new tricks in the authorities’ bag:

“Our story has it all: unprovoked scrutiny by prosecutors and the tax police, assaults – I once spent a month in the hospital. I’d like to talk about manipulations involving public participation, when the authorities use what are basically front organisations.”

When Green World filed a petition for an environmental impact study on the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, it was told two other NGOs from Moscow had already requested the study and got it
– the maximum number of such requests allowed by law. In both instances, the reports stated the four new reactors under construction at the plant had no environmental impact whatsoever. There is little recourse offered by the law when such avenues as used by Green World are exhausted.

Andrei Rudomakha, whose organisation, the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, leads the fight to save the unique nature preserve of the Utrish Forest on the Black Sea from construction of a presidential villa, which would almost definitely kill it, had a similar experience:

“…When the authorities realised they couldn’t win by mere force, they chose a different tactic. They held a public hearing where none of the public activists were let in, but some officials and drug enforcement officers were brought in. And they all gave a green light to everything. Then they basically ‘cut out’ a swath of the preserve’s territory to use for the roads and the villa.”

Sergei Simak, head of the Samara regional branch of the International Socio-Ecological Union, is among the many environmentalists who have lately been finding themselves on the wrong side of the copyright law. Simak’s troubles began when the police acting “on an anonymous tip” seized his computer and charged him with using counterfeit software. Though Simak has exhaustive proof of his innocence, his attempts to get his work materials back have been to no avail.

Galina Kulebyakina from Baikal Ecological Wave and Askhat Kayumov from the Ecological Centre Dront had much the same sad stories to offer. When tax evasion, copyright infringement, or extremism charges are combined with violent raids or late-night home visits by the FSB, finding adequate means of resistance is a challenging task indeed. In the case of Baikal Ecological Wave, that NGO’s activities have been effectively paralysed for six months and the future is uncertain.

What can environmentalists offer in return? The support of the public…

So what to do? Organising public rallies and seeing that the cause is well-known and supported by the population is a powerful tool for making sure neither businesses nor the authorities proceed with environmentally dangerous projects unchecked.

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Photo: Ecodefence

[?...] … Seven of our activists were detained, for 24 hours, but we won all court cases later on,” Podshivalova said.

When the works resumed at the site, absent of any construction permits, Podshivalova’s group organised a blockade and stood day in and day out for two months at the park, preventing the lorries from entering the site. This unwavering resistance finally resulted in a talk with city authorities and at least a permission to restore the park with the locals’ own funds.

…the engagement of local political resources…

In Olga Tsepilova’s experience, forging political affiliations lends certain tangible weight to an environmental movement. Tsepilova’s Green Russia is a faction of Yabloko, one of the oldest liberal parties in Russia.

“…We decided to join Yabloko, which has a [trustworthy history], has voted against the imports of spent nuclear fuel, and has always taken the right position in such issues. We have never regretted this,” said Tsepilova. “Why do people come to us? Because they need a political tribune to voice their problems. Because if they have representation, they have the chance to receive information, attract the citizens’ attention… The party can help in a difficult situation… and use its resources to support environmentalists.”

In Simak’s home town, Samara, a long-ongoing political struggle between regional and city authorities provides for certain manoeuvring space, which is “useful for the public, as you could always ally with one or the other.” That creates some risks, but a number of court cases related to unlawful urban development projects have been won by Simak’s organisation. Simak also advised his fellow environmentalists to diversify their activities as much as possible so as to offer stronger resistance to the attempts to block them.

A similar situation exists in Krasnaya Gorka in Leningrad Region, where Alexander Senotrusov is defending a local nature preserve. Local municipal authorities have devised a scheme by which the public lands of the preserve are transferred as free social aid to disadvantaged beneficiaries, such as the disabled or the elderly. Later, the recipients “waive” their rights to the property and the lands end up in the hands of one owner, free from any encumbrance to be used for commercial gain. The regional government is backing Senotrusov’s cause, and he even has the unlikely support in the military, which used to oversee this territory, but it’s the local municipal authorities that have the right to sell the lands for lucrative projects.

…and the media

Andrei Ozharovsky, an anti-nuclear campaigner who is very active in the Moscow-based organisation Ecodefense!, said one of the tasks – and public services – carried out by activists like him is to inform the general public of problems in the nuclear energy industry.

“We know something, but how do we make sure that everyone knows? The media are not in our hands, but we can use them. Radical actions, those that end in arrests and jackets torn by the police, attract attention. Between a seminar and a rally where the police will tear my jacket in front of TV cameras, I will probably choose the latter. If the repressions are controllable – that is, they don’t lead to serious harm to one’s family, that is a good thing,” Ozharovsky said.

Image
Photo: Charles Digges/Bellona

Both Chirikova and No Dam!’s Kolotov agreed that the system really tends to succumb to continuous pressure. And one mustn’t be shy to ask for support from the regular people, Chirikova added. Two important means are available to environmentalists in trouble: Publicity and calls for help.

That also means keeping one’s own organisation beyond reproach. Askhat Kayumov’s NGO, the Nizhny Novgorod-based Dront, is a constant target of audits and checks of all kinds.

“As far as the law is concerned, there’s no ‘getting’ us in that regard – since we demand that others obey the law, we ourselves obey all the laws,” Kayumov said. “Keeping all ducks in a row – this is the only way to withstand attacks… An organisation’s established image is what protects it.”

That – and keeping the safety and security of oneself and one’s loved ones in mind when planning one’s activities, according to Nadezhda Kutepova from Planet of Hopes. She suggested even changing one’s looks or changing the address of the office in order to survive when pressure turns to persecution.

Andrei Rudomakha is working on several fronts at once – rallies across 70 Russian cities, letters to the president, four active groups speaking in defence of the Utrish forest in Russia and Ukraine, drawing support from political parties…Though his organisation is being careful about radical protests, in order to avoid extremism charges, the situation around Utrish is gradually changing for the better.

“We can see that the authorities dread mass-scale protests, everything’s starting to change after that,” he said.

The inspiration to overcome the challenges and international support

Indeed, the struggle may not be entirely hopeless even in the face of increasing pressure – as demonstrated by the hard victories ecologists across the globe win despite all kinds of challenges.

Amnesty International’s Russia expert Frederica Behr told the conference’s participants of the experience her organisation gained working in Nigeria – a nation with a more dismal human rights record than that of modern Russia. The global oil giant Shell is quite active in the oil-rich Nigeria, Behr said, and at some point the company came under fire following charges of complicity in the execution of activists who were protesting oil field development projects. Amnesty International launched a campaign of its own, picketing Shell’s offices in different countries and initiating an investigation into what was happening in Nigeria. A year ago, prosecutors in New York finally green-lighted a court case against Shell, Behr said, which led to a $15 million settlement in favour of the families of the killed activists and a change in the policies pursued by Shell, now substantially more open to a dialogue with the public.

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Photo: Bellona

[?...] problems in your country, and you will be opposed and hindered, by the economic and political interests, and by the FSB,” said Hauge. “Of course, we cannot do your work for you, but we are not afraid to help, and we’re proud to be part of the Russian environmental movement. The more problems you experience the stronger you will become… And Bellona will be supporting your fight.”

This article was compiled and translated by Maria Kaminskaya, and Charles Digges contributed reporting. ERC Bellona also contributed reporting.
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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Postby admin » Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:17 am

Olga Tsepilova
by Brett Forrest
Time Magazine
Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

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Image

As Olga Tsepilova left a political opposition rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, last April, a member of the special forces police squad descended upon her. With a full overhead swing, he cracked Tsepilova in the face with his nightstick, fracturing her nose and cheekbone, sending her to the hospital for a month.

Tsepilova, 49, a sociologist and senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences, has run afoul of state authority before. In 2004, she hoped to study the social consequences of pollution in Russia by focusing on two closed nuclear zones. One of them, the town of Ozyorsk in the southern Urals, is the site of the infamous Mayak nuclear facility. Now a nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant, Mayak suffered the Soviet Union's largest pre-Chernobyl nuclear accident, an explosion in 1957 that spread radiation over an area of 14,300 sq. mi. (23,000 sq km). Scientists say the area has never been adequately decontaminated.

The local administration in Ozyorsk approved her research visit, but Tsepilova says the Federal Security Service (FSB) then summoned her to its St. Petersburg office, rescinded the permission and accused her of engaging in espionage. Soon after, says Tsepilova, FSB agents staked out her apartment building. The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, noting that the U.S.'s National Endowment for Democracy provided some of Tsepilova's funding, labeled her research project a "spying scandal."

"Ozyorsk is the most polluted city in the world," Tsepilova says. "These problems are not being solved. This has only spurred me on."

Far from improving the situation at Mayak and other troubled sites, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency has been importing waste from foreign countries, turning nuclear sites in the Urals and elsewhere into what Greenpeace says are some of the world's largest nuclear dumps. To help lift the veil of nuclear secrecy that has persisted since the Soviet Union's disintegration, Tsepilova has joined the liberal opposition Yabloko party as head of its green wing, and is running in December's election for the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. "I'm persona non grata for all nuclear sites," she says. "But if I'm in the Duma, I can address environmental issues."

Tsepilova says she doesn't think the police targeted her specifically in the April march, but the incident only galvanized her to further action. Upon leaving the hospital, she gave an environmental speech at an opposition rally. The attack "hasn't weakened my political activity," she says defiantly. "I am a very brave person."
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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Postby admin » Fri Aug 10, 2018 2:45 am

Enemies of the State: Pussy Riot and the New Russian Protest Rock
by National Endowment for Democracy
Part of IERES’ Behind the Headlines Series, Co-sponsored with the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies with Artem Troitsky, Moscow State University
February 19, 2013

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ABOUT THE EVENT

After a decade of President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule in which civil society seemed to be comatose, a new protest movement is growing in Russia. Infuriated by electoral fraud and galloping corruption, the so-called “creative class” is fighting back by means of music, poetry, multi-media, and daring art performances. In this presentation, Artem Troitsky gave a firsthand account of the situation.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Artem Troitsky is the first, and best known, Russian rock journalist, author of Back in the USSR: The True Story of Rock in Russia and Tusovka: Whatever Happened to the Soviet Underground Culture. He currently teaches in the Journalism Department of Moscow State University, hosts TV and radio shows (including on Ekho Moskvy), writes for Novaya gazeta, is a member of the board of Greenpeace Russia, and is a well-known blogger and opposition activist.

Maria Vladimirovna "Masha" Alyokhina has been involved in environmental activism with Greenpeace Russia, opposing development projects in the Khimki Forest...

-- Maria Alyokhina, by Wikipedia


RELATED READING

Read “Putin and Russia’s Crippled Media,” co-authored by Christopher Walker and Robert Orttung in the February 21, 2013 edition of Russian Analytical Digest.
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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Postby admin » Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:23 am

Western media concealing facts about female rock band’s desecration of Russian cathedral
by Matthew Hoffman
LifeSiteNews.com
Wed Aug 8, 2012 - 7:16 pm EST

Pussy Riot Punk Prayer

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St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
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Drive away! Drive away Putin!
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Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners are crawling and bowing
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The ghost of freedom is in heaven
Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains
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The head of the KGB is their chief saint
Leads protesters to prison under escort
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In order not to offend the Holy Women have to give birth and to love
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Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
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Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
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Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
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St. Maria, Virgin, become a feminist
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Become a feminist, Become a feminist
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Church praises the rotten dictators
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
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In school you are going to meet with a teacher-preacher
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Go to class -- bring him money!
Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, you better believe in God
Belt of the Virgin is no substitute for mass-meetings
In protest of our Ever-Virgin Mary!
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Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
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Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!
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The Russian punk rock band “Pussy Riot,” currently on trial for desecrating Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, is being elevated by Western elites and media outlets to the status of a human rights icon.

Time magazine describes the trial as “A Kangaroo Court Goes on a Witch Hunt,” while Britain’s Guardian newspaper quotes supporters comparing group leader Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to Simone de Beauvoir. The Obama administration says it is “deeply concerned” about what it calls a “politically-motivated prosecution,” and the pro-abortion “human rights” group Amnesty International claims the trio are “prisoners of conscience.” Madonna Ciccone and other American pop stars and celebrities have characterized the girls as “heroes” and are demanding their release.

However, those same sources are giving a very truncated version of what the trio of girls actually did when they entered Russia’s most revered church, for what the band members claimed was merely a political protest against the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The three women, all in their twenties, are being prosecuted for barging into the Cathedral’s most sacred space, the sanctuary that contains the altar, where they performed a high-kicking dance, sang an expletive-laden song, and engaged in mockery of worship. A video of their antics, with an English translation of the lyrics, can be found here (warning: offensive content).

Western media accounts typically quote only one phrase from the song sung by the trio, “St. Mary, virgin, drive away Putin,” giving the impression that the song was nothing more than an outcry against the Russian leader. However, an English translation of the full lyrics obtained by LifeSiteNews.com indicate that the girls had more than just electoral politics in mind.

In addition to their mockery of Orthodox worship, the girls derided the “Black robe, golden epaulettes,” of Orthodox clergy, and mocked the “crawling and bowing” of the parishioners. They then added a barb against the Orthodox Church’s defense of public morality, stating, “The ghost of freedom is in heaven, Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains.”

According to at least one source, their activities included mock religious ceremonies and partaking in meals containing dishes like "Holy Ghost Pie", "Breast of Venus", and "Devil's Loin", while drinking "Hell-fire punch". Members of the Club supposedly came to meetings dressed as characters from the Bible.

-- Hellfire Club, Wikipedia


“The head of the KGB is their chief saint,” continue the girls, in reference to Putin’s former position under the Soviet regime.

They then sing a stanza associating the sacred with feces, followed by another stanza objecting to perceived support of the Putin administration by leaders of Orthodoxy, then another stating “Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin,” adding “B**ch, you better believe in God.”

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[Alyokhina Maria Vladimorivna] The Punk prayer as it is now is much more PC, both lyrics-wise and action-wise.

-- Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials, produced, written and directed by Evgeny Mitta


“Pussy Riot” members’ little-known history of obscene “protests”

Another aspect of the story that has been left virtually unreported by Western media outlets is the association of “Pussy Riot” and its members with other obscene displays calculated to provoke moral offense and outrage.

In 2008, band members entered Moscow’s Museum of Biology in order to engage in a “fertility rite” protest against the election of Dmitry Medvedev as the country’s president. “Pussy Riot” member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and her husband removed their clothes and engaged in public sex in the museum, while others took photos of the incident and posted them on the Internet.


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Maria Alekhina, another member, has released a video of the group in which she enters a supermarket and masturbates using a chicken leg, according to an uncharacteristically frank article by the Associated Press. In another recent stunt, the group hung a drawing of a huge phallus on a St. Petersburg drawbridge, the agency reports in the same article.

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The group’s repeated acts of calculated provocation against Russian religious and moral sensibilities have created an impression of the band in their home country that differs dramatically from the sympathetic portrayal produced for Western consumers.

While America’s pop culture royalty and media establishment fawn over the jailed trio, Russian performers have been loath to associate themselves with their cause, including the nation’s two biggest rock stars, Zemfira and Mumiy Troll. Some, like the star singer Elena Vaenga, have even denounced them publicly, stating, “I’ll personally drink to the health of the judge who’ll slap them with some jail time.”

Even sympathetic Russian journalist Michael Idov admits in a recent article for the New York Times that “the hometown opinion on Pussy Riot is mixed at best. Even the liberal response has involved language like ‘They should let these chicks go with a slap on the ass.’”

Religious persecution from Russia’s liberals?

Alexander Shchipkov, chairman of the Club of Orthodox Christian Journalists, whom the Voice of Russia characterizes as “a prominent blogger who had to pay dearly for his religious beliefs back in the Soviet times,” regards the group’s cathedral “protest” as a “a cold, bloodless terrorist act.”

“The people who stand behind Pussy Riot want the church to adopt a secular system of values – moral relativism, ecumenism, political correctness and other rules of consumer society. The church will never agree to this kind of ‘secular Reformation,’” Shchipkov added, according to the Voice of Russia.

Dr. Igor Beloborodov, director of Russia’s Demographic Research Institute, told LifeSiteNews in an email interview that “Pussy Riot” has “repeatedly insulted the feelings of believers” in Russia, and is actively engaged in promoting an anti-family, anti-Christian agenda.

“Few people know that their aggressive actions have taken place under the slogans of the LGBT community,” wrote Beloborodov. “They have repeatedly stated in their comments that these actions are directed not only against the Orthodox Church and orthodox believers, but also in solidarity with sexual minorities, which in their opinion, are not supported by the Russian authorities.”

“They chose the church as a target for attack, as Orthodox priests are actively supporting the traditional family and the telling of truth about homosexuality,” he continued. “Obviously, in the spread of the ‘culture of death’ this group and all of their actions are a well-planned social project to discredit the church and the destruction of the natural family.”

“That is why today the anti-Christian lobby is expending huge resources in order to present this group as ‘martyrs.’ In fact we are dealing with dangerous anti-moral ‘terrorists’ fighting against society, churches and our children,” he added.
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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Postby admin » Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:23 am

‘Free Pussy Riot’ wave of anti-Christian attacks sweeps Russia
by Matthew Hoffman
LifeSiteNews.com
August 30, 2012

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Pussy Riot topless protest: FEMEN activist takes chainsaw to cross

Russia and other European countries are suffering a wave of anti-Christian attacks and disruptive protests in the wake of the conviction of the Russian punk band “Pussy Riot,” including the destruction of crosses commemorating the Christian victims of communism, an attack on the Russian Patriarch, and the theft of relics from the Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr in St. Petersburg.

In Russia the violence seemed to have claimed two lives on Wednesday, when a mother and daughter were found stabbed to death in their apartment, with “Free! Pussy Riot” scrawled on the wall in their blood. However, following the apprehension of a suspect who confessed to the crime, police say that the slogan was only a diversionary tactic by the perpetrator who was the boyfriend of the daughter.

In toto, five Orthodox crosses have been destroyed in recent weeks, including the chainsawing of a large wooden cross in Kiev, Ukraine, by a bare-chested woman from the the pro-abortion, homosexualist group “FEMEN,” and four anonymously destroyed in Russia. The Kiev cross and at least one of the four Russian crosses were erected to commemorate the murder of Christians by the region’s communist regimes.

A bare-chested FEMEN protester also attacked Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in July, with the words “Kill Kirill!” written on her body.

“Free Pussy Riot” protesters have even taken their disruptive “protests” to the Catholic church in western Europe, where a trio dressed up like the punk band was arrested after disrupting mass in Cologne cathedral. The incident follows another in 2011 when a FEMEN member was arrested in St. Peter’s square for removing her shirt and shouting anti-Catholic slogans in protest of the Church’s condemnation of abortion and homosexual behavior.

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In what may be a related attack, several relics were stolen on Thursday from the Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr, as well as a communion chalice and five neck crosses, according to local police, the Moscow Times reported.

Defenders of the Russian Orthodox Church have responded to the attacks by calling for the creation of Orthodox Squads to protect churches from desecrating behavior. Russia Today reports that the proposal is supported by Russian Orthodox and Muslim officials, while the country’s human rights ombudsman has denounced it.

In what may be a related counterattack, Orthodox protesters attacked Moscow’s “Erotic Art” museum yesterday with bricks in their hands, according to a report by Interfax, which cited the museum’s director Alexander Donskoy. Donskoy called for an investigation.







A recent poll has found that a majority of Russians, 53 percent, believe that the sentence meted out to the “Pussy Riot” trio was “fair,” as opposed to 27 percent who said that it is “not fair.”
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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Postby admin » Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:04 am

She’s in Pussy Riot. He’s on the Far Right: How Maria Alyokhina and Dmitry Enteo Fell in Love. Maria Alyokhina and Dmitry Enteo couldn’t seem more different: she a committed feminist activist, he the leader of a far right activist movement. She reveals how they got together.
by Lizzie Crocker
10.16.17 9:00 PM ET

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“He’s kind of a homophobe,” Alyokhina says of Enteo ... “He’s against gay propaganda activists,” the friend tells me.… known for beating up gay people during Pride rallies ...
when Pussy Riot was on trial in 2013, Enteo and other members of “God’s Will” gathered outside Russia’s Ministry of Justice and called for Pussy Riot to be imprisoned…. [and] campaigned to criminalize “offending religious feelings” in response to Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer.

-- She’s in Pussy Riot. He’s on the Far Right: How Maria Alyokhina and Dmitry Enteo Fell in Love, by Lizzie Crocker


Members of God’s Will, a Christian group led by self-proclaimed missionary Dmitry “Enteo” Tsorionov, vandalised the Sculptures We Don’t See exhibit at the Manezh, a vast exhibition space next to Red Square…. During the attack activists shouted that the works on display were offensive to people of faith and violated legislation introduced to deter protests such as that carried out by Pussy Riot in Moscow’s main cathedral in 2012.… one of the activists rips a linoleum engraving of a naked Christ made by Vadim Sidur, known as the Soviet Henry Moore, off its plinth. She then throws it on the floor and stamps on it....The group’s leader Enteo targeted a work by another artist, Megasoma Mars. This sculpture was titled Beheading of St John the Baptist #2 and comprised a series of heads displayed on plates. Enteo seized one of the heads and smashed the plate it had been on....“Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are being mocked. This is punishable under the criminal code.”... During the Franz Kafka and George Orwell Intellectual Forum, a group of activists rushed into the open-air venue shouting: “We are patriots of Russia and you have sold yourselves to the US State Department,” and threatened to burn everything there, a witness of the incident wrote on Facebook.

-- Rightwing Russian activists attack Moscow art exhibition: Conservative Christian group takes offence over sculpture show depicting naked Christ and heads of John the Baptist, The Moscow Times reports, by Ivan Nechepurenko and Michele Berdy


In front of the Moscow Art Theater, a severed pig's head sat in silent protest, the words "To Tabakov" scrawled in black ink across its clammy forehead. Around the shrine, on April 1, 2015, Dmitry Enteo and the members of God's Will, his Russian Orthodox activist group, shouted anti-blasphemy slogans and theatrically crossed themselves …in addition to throwing pig heads and interrupting theater performances, some of his more colorful transgressions include tossing eggs at members of Marilyn Manson's band before a 2014 performance in Moscow... With the law on their side, these young religious fanatics have made a habit of intimidating promoters, showing up to protest concerts, phoning in bomb threats, and threatening to call the Federal Migration Service to tamper with musicians' visas, all in service of their goal to rid Russia of these "satanic" elements.... in his bio, [Enteo] aligns himself with the "God's Will movement, orthodox christian, right-wing, conservative, pro-life, pro-family, pro-gun, creationism, anti-communism, fusionism" and broadcasts his views on religion and politics, his admiration for failed presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and his own exploits to more than 50,000 followers.... he's like an ultra pious Russian equivalent of Milo Yiannopoulos.

-- The Devil's Right Hand, by Kim Kelly


After the organizing team had left, a group of about ten people, among whom were the deputy of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg Vitaly Milonov, radical Orthodox activists Anatoly Aryukh and Dmitry Enteo (Tsorionov) attempted to break into the art-space “Freedom.” Vitaly Milonov was making offensive statements. Approximately at 7:30 PM during the opening ceremony of “QueerFest,” a group of more than 10 people attempted to enter the new venue. Vitaly Milonov, Anatoliy Artyukh, Mihail Kuzmin, Dmitriy Enteo (Tsorionov) and Timur Isaev (Bulatov) were in that group. Security guards stopped these people from entering the venue, and the members of this group shouted out several insults. Then the doors were closed. Homophobic activists began to pour water on the security guards, as well as green antiseptic liquid on the attendants of the vent. The latter was poured through the holes between doors with syringes and hit people’s clothes and faces. Then the homophobic activists closed the doors from the outside, placing a metal hanging lock on them. After approximately half an hour, the same people attempted to enter the room through a different door. Guards prevented them from entering, and again they began to pour green dye on people through syringes. In addition they spread a pungently odorous substance through the cracks between doors. As a result, many participants of “QueerFest” began to feel unwell, but were unable to leave due to the fact that one of the doors was closed from the outside and aggressive homophobic activists were standing near the other. Some people who attempted to leave the venue were assaulted by homophobic activists; the aide of deputy Milonov punched one of the participants, Alexey Poskrebyshev, in the face.

-- Report on Monitoring of Incidents of Discrimination and Violence on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in 2014, by Coming Out, LGBT Group


We’re at La MaMa Theatre in New York’s East Village, where the famous Russian dissident and activist Maria Alyokhina is rehearsing for her performance in Burning Doors, a touring protest play with the underground Belarus Free Theatre.

It’s nearly 11 a.m. when we meet.

But Masha, as she is known, is bleary-eyed and unfocused. She’d just woke to a media firestorm in Russia over her romantic relationship with Dmitry Enteo, founder of a far-right activist movement called “God’s Will.”

The ultra-religious Orthodox group had recently expelled Enteo because of his relationship with Alyokhina. But few details had emerged until Alyokhina arrived in New York, when one independent Russian publication ran a bombshell feature detailing the unlikely love affair between a culture-policing Christian extremist and a blasphemous Pussy Rioter.

“He’s kind of a homophobe,” Alyokhina says of Enteo, smiling nervously and dragging on a cigarette outside the theater. Then she takes it back—“Actually he’s not a homophobe, he’s OK with LGBT people”—and looks for affirmation from another touring performer in Burning Doors who’s joined us.

“He’s against gay propaganda activists,” the friend tells me.

The smile falls from Alyokhina’s face.

“What does this mean, ‘propaganda activists?’” she asks.

On July 26, 2014, during the Gay Pride on Mars Field, activist Yevgeny Pirozhkov pulled out a sign stating, “Sodomy is sweeter than honey.” A few minutes later police officers approached him and demanded that he remove the sign because the inscription on it was promoting non-traditional sexual relations. When Priozhkov refused to remove the sign, the police officers appealed to the activists responsible for safety of participants with the request to prevent provocation. Pirozhkov still did not remove the sign. The police detained Pirozhkov and took him to police department number 78, where a report accusing him of the administrative misconduct was made. According to the report, Pirozhkov had “committed an administrative offense under part 1 article 6.21 of the CoAO RF”, specifically by “propagating non-traditional sexual orientation among minors, expressed through the dissemination of information, intended to form non-traditional sexual attitudes and to generate interest in such relationships in minors.”

-- Report on Monitoring of Incidents of Discrimination and Violence on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in 2014, by Coming Out, LGBT Group


“For example what he said about LGBT flags—” her friend starts to reply but Alyokhina interjects in Russian. They go back and forth for a minute or so.

“It’s complicated,” Alyokhina tells me, as if to translate, then heads inside for rehearsal.


I won’t realize just how complicated it is until late that night, when a Russian-speaking colleague sends me the article about Alyokhina’s controversial romance.

“It’s not easy to show this fight, to show what freedom means”


In 2012, 23-year-old Alyokhina and other members of feminist art collective Pussy Riot were arrested when they donned colorful balaclavas and shouted for the Virgin Mary to “drive away Putin!” inside Moscow’s biggest cathedral.

Their guerrilla Punk Prayer performance lasted roughly 40 seconds before security guards chased them from the church. Pussy Riot stressed that Punk Prayer was an anti-Kremlin political protest against the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the Russian Orthodox bishop campaigning for Putin in the presidential race.

But that didn’t stop a judge from convicting them of “hooliganism based on religious hatred,” arguing that they’d made “emphatically vulgar” gestures in the church and had “offended the feelings of religious believer[s].”

When Alyokhina and fellow Pussy Rioter Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova were released from jail in a flurry of media attention, Tolokonnikova was often described as the pretty one.

But with her intense blue eyes, impish smile, and wry sense of humor, Alyokhina is bewitching and seductive, even when (or perhaps because) she’s defiant and aloof. It’s hard not to be intimidated by her candor, which can come off as blunt and frosty. But she’s mostly warm and is a good listener who’s genuinely interested in what other people have to say.

After our morning interview was cut short, Alyokhina suggested we chat again later that night (“I’m not a morning person”) over dinner at a Japanese restaurant near her East Village hotel.

Alyokhina is dressed in all black, as she was that morning, her wavy blond hair tucked under a black beret. She is petite and muscular, with a raspy voice and elf-like features.

During dinner we talk mostly about Burning Doors, which tells the stories of three political prisoners: Alyokhina, who appears as herself; Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker who is serving a 20-year sentence in Russian prison, and Petr Pavlensky, whose 2015 protest performance—dousing the entrance to FSB headquarters in gasoline and setting it on fire—inspired the play’s title.

“All of our stories are about artistic resistance, but Oleg’s is hardest to watch because he was tortured during investigation,” Alyokhina tells me in her heavily-accented English. “It’s cruelty theater,” she adds, skeptically examining a few shriveled figs (“What is this?”) inside her seaweed-wrapped rice ball.

Alyokhina’s story draws on the two years she spent in a Russian penal colony, including five months in solitary confinement, and addresses the brutal realities of life in Russia’s modern gulag.

For Alyokhina, this included being routinely stripped naked and searched, forced to squat while guards in her all-women prison accused her of hiding something “up there.” She was also taunted by a cruel prison doctor during graphic gynecological exams.

“She was one of those people who think they have absolute power,” Alyokhina says of the doctor. “Fascism can have totally different forms. The problem is not that she or other prison workers are bad people, it’s that they’ve become a function of the system. When you delegate your right of choice to the system, you start to forget that you have freedom. Your only purpose for existing is to be a function.”

It’s a physically and psychologically exhausting performance for Alyokhina, but she is fearless—even when having her head repeatedly plunged under water as she recites poetry.

It’s hard not to feel anxious watching her be submerged for increasingly long periods: 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, and so on. I began wondering whether her head was fully under water. There had to be some sort of stage trickery that allowed her to breathe?

Alyokhina laughs when I mention this at dinner: There was no trickery. For her, this scene was one of the most important parts of her performance.

“We are showing freedom, and freedom does not exist if you’re not fighting for it,” she says. “But it’s not easy to show this fight, to show what freedom means. It’s not possible to dive into water in prison, because you are always in the ground.”

Much of the play’s Russian dialogue is subtitled in English and projected on stage, but this scene is an exception. “I’m talking about how hard it is for me to breathe,” Alyokhina explains.

It’s been a year since the Belarus Free Theatre company staged their first performance of Burning Doors in London. They’ve since taken the show to Germany, Australia, Finland, and now New York.

“I wanted to convey things to the audience about my experience that hadn’t been revealed in public before,” says Alyokhina. “But it’s not just about showing that experience. It’s about repeating it again and again, except I’m not reliving it on my own this time. I’m sharing it. This is the whole point of the show.”

She pauses.

“I learned in prison that a lot of people don’t believe in words. They only believe in the power of example.”

Alyokhina declines to talk much about her "friendship" with Enteo, as she prefers to call it, which hadn’t been revealed in English media at this point. She shakes her head emphatically.

“No, thank god! This will be…” she trails off, then mimics the sound of an exploding bomb. She promises to email me a link to the article and says good night.


“I wanted to understand the leader of a movement that wanted to put us in jail”


Alyokhina never sent me the story. But when I tell her the next day that I’ve read it, she asks to meet in person again, after the New York premiere of Burning Doors that night.

I remind her of what she’d said the night before about believing in the power of example. What are we to make of her relationship with Enteo, then, given his strong ties to an activist group known for beating up gay people during Pride rallies?

“He hasn’t been doing [homophobic] actions with that movement for a year now,” Alyokhina says. “I think he has problem with Gay Pride parades,” she allows, “but not with gays and lesbians.”

This reporter replied, “The first day we met you said he was a homophobe.”

“He’s not a homophobe,” says Alyokhina. “Ask Olga, who is quoted in the article. She has spent nine months together with us. He’s not about protecting the patriarchy at all. Totally not, and I’m sure of this.”

Alyokhina didn’t know about Enteo’s background when she first met him, briefly, at a party in October 2016, though her friend told her about his movement before introducing them.

“I shook his hand and that was it,” she says. Afterward, he began sending her messages on Twitter and asking her to hang out. Finally, in December 2016, she agreed to meet again and invited him to her apartment.

“I wanted to understand the leader of a movement that wanted to put us in jail,” she says.

Indeed, when Pussy Riot was on trial in 2013, Enteo and other members of “God’s Will” gathered outside Russia’s Ministry of Justice and called for Pussy Riot to be imprisoned. “God’s Will” was a little-known movement before 2013, when they campaigned to criminalize “offending religious feelings” in response to Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer.

They successfully convinced Putin to sign their legislation into a law that carries up to a year in prison, though it doesn’t clearly specify what qualifies as offense.

The night Enteo went to Alyokhina’s, they spent five hours talking and watching videos of the activist work that he’d done.

“He was quite happy to talk about himself,” she says with a grin, admitting that she thought he was “quite funny.”

“There were some hard moments for me, because if someone is showing such videos with pride, well…”

She stubs her cigarette and goes on: “I believe that there is a reason for hatred, and if we want to push away hatred we should understand the reason why it’s happening and show that there’s another side. I’m from the other side, and I’ve showed the reality that things can be different.”

When he asked her to celebrate New Year’s Eve with him, she suggested they go to a bridge, steps from the Kremlin, where opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot to death in 2015.

Enteo accompanied her and brought flowers to leave on the bridge that night. Later in January, Alyokhina invited Enteo to an annual anti-fascist rally that he and other “God’s Will” members tried to break up in previous years. But with Alyokhina, he came as a protester himself. He also came to a presentation of her new book, Riot Days, and to see her perform in Burning Doors.

But Alyokhina rolls her eyes when asked about when they started dating and whether she was attracted to him from the beginning.

“I’m not going to talk about the first time we had sex,” she says firmly, trying not to smile. “Pure. No.”

She declines to answer if she’s in love with him (“I do not use this word because if you use it so much it becomes empty.”) Asked if she tells him that she loves him, she laughs: “I mean I’m speaking about him, so this means something.

“But it’s more interesting than that, the whole relationship—” she winces. “I hate that word ‘relationship.’ I don’t understand this need to mark and define everything.”

“I’m not interested in forcing him to change”


Whatever they are, how does she reconcile with the fact that Enteo is ideologically opposed to everything she’s fought for in the last five years? How does she expect Pussy Riot fans to reconcile with her lover’s opposition to feminism?

And even if Enteo is no longer destroying art that his movement deems Satanic or culturally deviant, does she really think he’s changed much in the nine months since they first connected?

“I’m not interested in forcing him to change,” Alyokhina says. “Inviting someone to an anti-fascist rally isn’t telling them to change how they think. It’s introducing them to another perspective. For me, it’s important to show, not tell. And then the person can choose.


“Because often people just don’t understand the mechanism of this revolution that the opposition wants, because they don’t know how to change. It’s important that I show how it’s possible. After that, everything else is his choice, not mine.”

She cares that fans of Pussy Riot know she's fighting for freedom of artistic expression. Her relationship with Enteo does not mitigate the years she's devoted to political activism and affecting change in Russia.

Does she see herself having children with Enteo? Does she envision a future together?

For the first time, Alyokhina looks incredulous, even horrified—and understandably so.

“What future can we talk about? What future? We are living in a country where one of our friends was just beaten in the head with a metal stick. There’s not a complicated construction of the future in my life. Pussy Riot exists when it’s doing protest art. You do, and you exist. That’s it.”

Burning Doors is at La MaMa, 66 East 4th Street, NYC, until Oct. 22. Book tickets here.

Additional Reporting by Katie Zavadski
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Re: Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Postby admin » Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:25 am

Pussy Riot's Masha Alyokhina on Putin, Trump and Brexit: 'It's useless to be afraid'. Set to headline Australia’s Dark Mofo in Hobart, the activist speaks about imprisonment, fear and discovering her son is ‘violating the regime’ of school
by Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore
Tue 9 May 2017 20.16 EDT Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 06.04 EST

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KING: Prince Bandar, do you know the bin Laden family?

PRINCE BANDAR: I do very well.

KING: What are they like?

PRINCE BANDAR: They're really lovely human beings. He is the only one. I never -- I don't know him well. I met him only once. The rest of them are well-educated, successful businessmen, involved in a lot of charities. It is -- it is tragic. I feel pain for them, because he's caused them a lot of pain.

KING: What was the circumstance under which you met him?

PRINCE BANDAR: This is ironic. In the mid-'80s, if you remember, we and the United -- Saudi Arabia and the United States were supporting the Mujahideen to liberate Afghanistan from the Soviets. He came to thank me for my efforts to bring the Americans, our friends, to help us against the atheists, he said the communists.

Isn't it ironic?

KING: How ironic. In other words, he came to thank you for helping bring America to help him.

PRINCE BANDAR: Right.

KING: And now he may be responsible for bombing Americans.

PRINCE BANDAR: Absolutely.

KING: What did you make of him he when you met him?

PRINCE BANDAR: I was not impressed, to be honest with you.

KING: Not impressed?

PRINCE BANDAR: No, he was -- I thought he was simple and very quiet guy. But I don't think he has the capacity to do what he has done now. I think there are people around him who are the brains...

KING: Oh, really?

PRINCE BANDAR: Absolutely.

KING: He's just sort of the leader type?

PRINCE BANDAR: I think he's the charismatic leader, being used for that.

-- America's New War: Responding to Terrorism, by Larry King Live


Image
Pussy Riot’s Masha Alyokhina, who was imprisoned in Russia for two years for protests against Putin, is coming to Dark Mofo in Tasmania. Photograph: Alexander Sofeev

“Are you able to keep calling her later today or late tonight?” Maria Alyokhina’s representative asks me, panicked. “Or could you try any other day? In fact,” he adds woefully, “any scheduled interview with Masha is a risky idea.”

I receive the harried message just before I am due to speak to Alyokhina, the balaclava-wearing, punk-spouting Pussy Riot activist. It’s well past mid-morning. But Masha, as she is known, is asleep.

When I finally get through it’s after midnight in Moscow. Alyokhina is all apologies. “I just have no idea how I didn’t hear these hundreds of alarms.”

I first met Alyokhina in London last summer for the premiere of her production Burning Doors. It’s hard not to like her. In person, she’s warm and candid, with a wry, wicked sense of humour and elfin looks. Yet talking to her again, it strikes me now, as it did then, that she is strung with steel. This is a woman who doesn’t change herself for anything or anyone. That includes sleeping habits.

As one of the most famous faces of the Russian activist movement, at least she has an excuse. Since Alyokhina was released from jail in a flurry of media attention in 2013, life has been busy. The punk-feminist singer now travels the world performing anti-Putin songs, acting in anti-Putin plays, and giving anti-Putin talks -– a job all the more pressing since Trump, stained with implications of Russian interference in the US election, came to power.

Now Alyokhina is travelling to Australia with Pussy Riot’s Alexandra Lukyanova, also known as Sasha Bogino, to appear at Hobart’s Dark Mofo festival in June for a Q&A with Alexander Cheparukhin, and a DJ set. She’s also releasing her debut book, Riot Days, in September: an account of her arrest and abuse at the hands of the Russian state.

Trump and Putin have much in common, but it is more important to remember what we have in common

-- Masha Alyokhina


“It’s Pussy Riot’s story, my story, Russia’s story,” she tells me. “It’s a story of choice. I wrote it because I think that I believe there are no heroes, and every person has a story to tell and I wanted to show that anyone can be Pussy Riot.”

Alyokhina, 28, is an advocate of standing up and being heard -– even at the cost of individual freedom. In her case, punishments in her near two-year stint in jail included brutal and humiliating gynaecological examinations (inmates called it “to be let through the chair”) and five months in solitary confinement.

“[In jail] how they keep the power? People work for 20 hours per day, the food is rotten, there is a thousand prisoners. How they stop the protesting?” she asks in accented English. “Very simple. They say if you will strike our regime, we will put you in solitary confinement. They call it prison inside prison. What they don’t realise is that it doesn’t matter what is around you. Where you keep your freedom is inside you.”

Image
‘Anyone can be Pussy Riot’: Pussy Riot stage a protest at Red Square in Russia. Photograph: Alexander Sofeev

Still, imprisonment took its toll -– not least for Alyokhina’s son Filip, who was just five when she was arrested. (Alyokhina is close to Filip’s father, but won’t define their relationship, saying “we are not about marriage”). Originally she was barred from seeing Filip altogether. When he was allowed to visit, after four or five months, it was in a supervised room, with mother and child separated by a thick sheet of glass. The only way to talk was via telephone. “That was one of the hardest and painful moments I think during the whole sentence,” she says.

It isn’t only in Russia, though, where activists need to be counted. Trump and Brexit, she insists, are “a wake-up call. The main thing about my fight is to overcome the indifference of people.”

Recent movements across the world strike Alyokhina as dangerous. “It’s a very short way from democracy, where you have elections and a chance to choose –- [for] example like Russia, where you lose this opportunity very fast. It takes just several years to take everything away – destroying is always faster than building.”

“Trump -– it is not just a political leader, but a symptom,” she adds. “I am sure that Trump and Putin have much in common, but it is more important to remember what we have in common –- in the community of those who disagree with them.”

So does Alyokhina feel fear? For herself and her family in a country where anti-Kremlin journalists, members of the political opposition, and dissidents are routinely imprisoned or killed? “No, I’m not afraid,” she insists. “I think it’s useless to be afraid, actually … I believe that when you do things, when you decide an action, any fear goes away because action is stronger than fear.”

Back in Moscow there are more mundane problems to worry about. Alyokhina has to go and visit the school administration because her son, who turns 10 this month, has “built some kind of a gang. I receive call from school and they say he is violating the regime”. She laughs. Then sounds perplexed. “It’s really funny to hear these words but the reality [is] I don’t know what to do.”

At the very least, she reasons, she can lead by example. Growing up, Alyokhina, whose parents were mathematicians (her father was an academic), remembers asking what they did to fight repression in 1970s Russia. “They didn’t have an answer,” she says. “I know that my son will be 20 or 25 someday and he will ask me, as well, what I was doing. And I want to have an answer.”
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