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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: January 19, 2015

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Putin Believes He Has Deliberately Been Left Out of Auschwitz Commemoration

Vladimir Putin will not be traveling to the event on January 27 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazis' concentration camp Auschwitz, reported.

Polish organizers of the event are believed by Moscow to have deliberately not invited heads of state so that they would not have to invite Putin, says

This year, not the government of Poland but the leadership of the Auschwitz-Berkanau Memorial Museum have issued a general invitation to all leaders of European countries and the US, without indicating specific names. Russia's envoy to Poland, Ambassador Sergei Andreyev will attend the ceremony on behalf of Russia.

President Barack Obama will not attend, but has organized a delegation which has been announced on the White House web site.  Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Department of Treasury, will lead the delegation. Nicholas Dean, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues of the Department of State is also included along with other officials responsible for European and religious affairs, and two Holocaust survivors.

French President Francois Holland, Austrian President Heinz Fischer and German President Joachim Gauck will all attend.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
A Million-Muslims March in Grozny Against Charlie Hebdo Cartoons; a Few Russian Opposition Figures Object

Today January 19, numerous Muslims around Russia turned out for officially-sponsored demonstrations to counter the scattered "Je Suis Charlies" protests in support of the Charlie Hebdo journalists killed by terrorists in Paris on January 10.

Only one Russian outlet -- Ekho Moskvy -- risked publishing some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons offending Muslims, Christians, and Jews. For this, Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov threatened Aleksey Venediktov, the editor-in-chief.

Most other independent publications either did not wish to run the cartoons as they believed it would be an act of collective punishment, as Novaya Gazeta's editor Dmitry Muratov explained, or they didn't want to face punishment under Russia's harsh "anti-extremism" laws -- which can be used against extreme Islamists as much as liberal secularists.

A lone "Je Suis Charlie" protester who had also demonstrated in defense of opposition leader Alexey Navalny was sentenced to a total of 38 days of prison. Thus, it didn't seem like there would be any mass demonstrators or groundswell of public expression around the Paris terrorist attack.

Even so, official Muslim leadership of Russia decided to respond with the mass rallies.

Kadyrov wrote several messages on Instagram about the marches in defense of the Prophet. The Interpreter translated an excerpt:

Assalamu alaykum!  Today a wonderful event occurred in our country, to which there is no analogues in Europe. In the central square of Grozny, and the avenues adjacent to it, simultaneously, more than one million Muslims said the noon prayer together. There has never been such a thing in Russia or Europe. The participants condemned the immoral acts of those who drew the cartoons. In their prayer, they asked for peace, stability, prosperity and unity for all Muslims and for our Fatherland Russia!

#Kadyrov #Chechnya #Prayer #Europe

Kadyrov also posted these images of the march:


Click here for a video from the march.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was critical of the Muslim march:

Translation: Rotting and loss of moral guideposts.

In his blog post today, Navalny quoted from a BBC Russian Service report of the mass rally today [translated by The Interpreter]:

The participants of the rally heartily accused the West of attacking Islam and losing their moral guideposts.


"The Western world is rotting, unfortunately! They are losing their moral values! They pass laws that allow same-sex marriage! They raise their children so that they don't know which sex they are!" one of the speakers proclaimed from the podium.

"Our contemporaries called Akhmat-hadji Kadyrov and Ramzan Akhmatovich Kadyrov great sons of the Chechen people and great sons of our Russia!" the same speaker said, and added, "Dear brother, Ramza Akhmatovich. Mulsims look with pride upon you. They heed you, they love you, they believe in you."

The "rotting West" was a trope of Soviet propaganda which the current Kremlin propagandists have revived. Navalny adds this point:

The truth is, there is no creature in the world who strive more toward the West (physically) than the Putin bureaucrat. Closer to Holland and Merkel, further from bearded men in Astrakhan hats.

His point is that Russian officials like to vacation and buy properties in Western Europe, not at home.

Then, to complete the messaging today, President Vladimir Putin's favorite Russian Orthodox biker, Night Wolves' leader Aleksandr Zaldostanov, known as "The Surgeon" came to Grozny to celebrate his birthday today and attend the mass rally.


Novaya Gazeta pointed out today that "The Surgeon" is among the leaders of the new "Anti-Maidan" group that has vowed to show up at all opposition rallies and pickets and counter-demonstrate so that no Maidan-like protest movement will get started in Russia.

This is a good example of how the Kremlin orchestrates symbolic events that show the purported unity of the Russian Orthodox and Muslim communities around the conservative themes of the Russian state and values.

There is a lot of pressure from Russian officials to condemn the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, not only because they offend Muslims but Christian believers and conservatives as well.

Translation: the actor who played the role of the priest in Leviathan condemns the acts of Pussy Riot and Charlie Hebdo.

Russian blogger Rustem Adagamov, who lives outside of Russia in Europe now, was quite critical of the march:

Translation: at the rally in Grozny, the Muslims called for not buying iPhones, because "their creator is gay and he admits this." #SteveJobs #facepalm

He also retweeted a barbed remark from a reader referring to the Chechen police and soldiers loyal to Kadyrov who are now fighting in the Donbass; some have been killed at the Donetsk Airport:

Translation: @adagamov Muslims...I don't understand why these coalminers from Makeyevka and Gorlovka don't speak the Russian language?

Translation: Leader of the dissenting Muslims: why Kadyrov gathered a million people in Grozny.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Memorial Marches for Slain Lawyer Markelov and Journalist Baburova in Moscow and St. Petersburg

Activists convened in Moscow today for an authorized procession in memory of slain lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Nastya Babuorva, gunned down by ultranationalists in 2009. 

Translation: The column has set off. They are shouting, "I am Stas Markelov" and "I am Nastya Baburov". Well, and other names, too.

Markelov was the lawyer for the family of Elza Kungaeva, a young Chechen woman abducted and killed by Russian colonel Yuri Budanov, who was released from prison in mid-January, 15 months before the completion of his sentence. Budanov himself was later shot dead by an unknown assailant in 2011.

Baburova was a journalist who covered the case and other human rights issues.

The march has been an occasional to remember others in the anti-fascist movement in Russia who were killed by far-right extremists.

Translation: Boards from the Je Suis series.

Lyosha or Aleksey Krylov was an anti-fascist activist murdered by ultranationalists in 2008. Timur Karachava was a Russian rock musician of Georgian heritage who was murdered by ultranationalists in St. Petersburg in 2008.

Translation: At the procession in memory of Markelov and Baburova. There are 400 people here.

Memorials such as these have been held every year, as Russian intellectuals were shocked by the cold-blooded murder of their own.

This year, the posters have taken the template from the "I am Charlie" demonstrations in Paris.

Translation: "I am Stas Markelov", "I am Nastya Baburova." We continue our coverge of the anti-fascist march.

Translation: the procession has reached Arbat. The slogans "Our name is Stas Markelov," "Our name is Nastya Baburova" "Down with Fascism, Homophobia, Sexism"; "Antifascism is Ours".

Some of the perpetrators of these murders have been tried and sentenced; some others in a group called BORN [Battle Organization of Russian Nationalists] are still facing trial.

Recently some of the activists in the Russian antifascist movement got together to discuss similar movements in Europe. Some of the leftist "anti-fa" movements in Europe are not critical of the Kremlin or even pro-Putin. In Russia, the movement has opposed both Putin and those to the right of him.

Translation: #Markelov #rashizm #Nazism #anti-fa #Azov Listen to activists from the anti-fascist movement in the program "Freedom in Clubs".

The movement and others opposing ultranationalism in Russia have adopted the term "rashism" -- a combination of the words for "Russia" and "fascism" to describe the problem in Russia.

Demonstrators in St. Petersburg also planned to convene a march to commemorate Markelov and Baburova.

There have been no arrests reported so far.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Art Activists Arrested for 'Exorcizing' Lenin at His Tomb on Red Square

Activists from an art performance group called the "Blue Horseman" were detained today for sprinkling holy water on the doors of Lenin's tomb on Red Square and shouting "Get up and walk!," OVDinfo, the police-monitoring group reported.

The activists said they had dubbed their performance "Exorcizing the Devil."

Oleg Basov and Yevgeny Avilov were reportedly taken to the Kitai-Gorod Police Precinct and Irina Dumitskaya, a representative of the group, says she has lost touch with them.

The Blue Horseman are named for a German impressionist art collective of the early 1900s known for a painting of blue horses by Franz Marc

In November, the group were detained and fined for an anti-war art action near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Aleksandrovsky Garden where one activist lay on the ground wrapped in a Ukrainian flag, and another offered passers-by symbolically to drink the blood of Ukrainians killed by Russia's war. captured the performances on video. The first one is the November action by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

The second video shows the rapid arrest of the activists after they threw jars of holy water on Lenin's Tomb.
-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Navalny Supporters Detained - and New Anti-Maidan Group Debuts

Ildar Dadin, a demonstrator who participated in the action in support of Alexey Navalny and his brother Oleg on January 15, was sentenced to 15 days of jail for "disobeying the lawful demands of the police," OVDInfo reported today. He joins several other protesters who received 15 days for the action, two of whom have already served their sentences and been released.

On January 15, several hundred people turned out to protest what was widely viewed as a fabricated suspended sentence against Alexey of 3.5 years and an actual sentence of 3.5 years labor colony for his brother, Oleg. The two were implicated in an alleged mail-order business fraud related to the French company Yves Rocher East, which in fact had no claims against the brothers.

Supporters of Navalny who gathered in a cafe last Friday, January 16, to discuss his case and a search of his Anti-Corruption Foundation were themselves detained after thugs broke into the cafe to harass them, OVDInfo reported. They were released after questioning.

The supporters had gathered at Bobry i Utki [Beavers and Ducks] when a group of ultranationalists broke into the cafe, overturning tables, says OVDInfo.

Translation: They overturned tables, and pushed people out by force. The police came. They want to detain us all.

In this picture tweeted by activist Andrei Bystrov, we can see men wearing distinctive knit caps with interwoven orange stripes. These are St. George ribbons, worn by ultranationalists in Russian extremist groups as well as Russian-backed fighters in the Donbass.

We also noticed the same caps in the livefeed on January 15 during the Navalny support demonstration -- these young men were chanting "Maidan Shall Not Pass":

Maidan-will-not-pass.png has done some research on this group and says it is a new organization calling itself "Anti-Maidan," which appears to be made up of activists from past ultranationalist movements, including Cossacks and war veterans.

The group believes that any Maidan-like protest in Russia would be "destabilizing" and has vowed to prevent it wherever they see it occurring.

Asked by a reporter why Anti-Maidan believed it needed to discourage protesters they didn't like when the Moscow police had coped just fine and arrested 250 people on January 15, the activist replied that just as the liberal people arrested had the right to express their opinion, so he and his group had the right to express their opinion.

Only those from the first group were detained and taken to the police station, however; the Anti-Maidan protesters were only briefly held on the square and then let go.

And the Anti-Maidan opinion-expressing has come with some force -- a journalist and several demonstrators were beaten up after the Navalny action on January 15. That incident, and the recent cafe break-in which led only to detentions of Navalny supporters are both examples when police have not intervened.

The video shows Navalny supporters chanting, "If there is no freedom, there will be Maidan!" implying that continued disruption of peaceful rallies may lead to more determination for urban camp-outs.

The Anti-Maidan thugs then shout back, "Leave Russia and go to the USA!"

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick