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The Real Russia. Today. Racist family planning, discrimination in Russia, and Ivan the Terrible's terrible damage

Meduza
13:37, 13 june 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

  • Here's some racist sex advice from the State Duma's Family Affairs Committee chairperson
  • Patriarch Kirill is charging his prayer lasers
  • Moscow State University's “fan zone” case ends in an administrative fine and some big accusations from an advocacy group
  • Robbie Williams won't be “partying like a Russian” at the World Cup
  • Meduza reports on the near impossibility of proving workplace discrimination in Russia
  • Russia's Interior Ministry says those missing Gulag archives were digitized, not destroyed
  • The damage to Ilya Repin’s famous painting of Ivan the Terrible is 60 times worse than originally estimated
  • The entire Crimean peninsula suffers a massive power outage
  • Police in Vladivostok raid a meeting of Khodorkovsky's Open Russia movement
  • Putin reappoints several top staff

FIFA World Cup stuff

💏 She's not racist or anything

Tamara Pletneva, the chairperson of the State Duma’s Family Affairs Committee, is warning Russian women against having sex with visiting foreigners during this summer’s FIFA World Cup, saying that they’ll be abandoned and left to raise their children alone. Citing the USSR’s experience from 1980, when Moscow hosted the Summer Olympics, Pletneva told the radio station Govorit Moskva: “These kids suffer for it later, and they’ve suffered since Soviet times.” Just to keep things edgy, she also threw in a racist insight, saying, “It’s alright when it’s within one race, but...” before clarifying that she “isn’t a nationalist.”

In a tweet on Wednesday, the news outlet Znak.com captured Pletneva’s logic with the following tweet: “State Duma deputies have made their own sense of FIFA’s ‘No to Racism!’ slogan: If no blacks are born in Russia, then there won’t be any racism!”

Roughly a million soccer fans are expected to flood Russia’s capital for this summer’s tournament.

🙏 But you can still pray with visiting foreigners

Patriarch Kirill, the high priest of the Russian Orthodox Church, has weighed in on Team Russia’s chances at the FIFA World Cup, saying all that’s left is “to hope and to pray” that everything goes well. “Well, and of course to trust that our players were trained well,” Kirill added, saying that priests and lay people should be ready to show hospitality to any foreign fans who pass through on tours during the month-long soccer tournament.

📣 The “fan zone”

Dmitry Petelin, the Moscow State University student who graffitied “NO TO THE FAN ZONE” on a sign advertising the controversial on-campus soccer-celebration area, has been fined 1,500 ($24) for petty hooliganism. On June 1, police pulled two students out of class, investigating the vandalism incident. The officers reportedly read through their Telegram messages and then summoned Petelin for questioning, later charging him with criminal vandalism. On June 9, prosecutors announced that they’d dropped the charges, after reviewing the evidence and receiving an appeal from the university’s rector, Viktor Sadovnichy.

Many Moscow State University students have protested against the “fan zone” opened on campus during this summer’s FIFA World Cup, saying the noise and commotion interrupts their studies.

But Rector Viktor Sadovnichy might not be the guardian angel in this story that he seems. On Wednesday, an advocacy group at the university said the school’s administration has worked closely with law enforcement against students protesting the fan zone. “The administration hasn’t been above the dirtiest tricks,” the group said in a statement, accusing Sadovnichy of orchestrating “planted stories, hacked social media accounts, anonymous threats, surveillance, and pressure on parents.”

🎉 Don't party like a Russian

The British pop star Robbie Williams, who sings music and is apparently famous for doing that, won’t be performing what Reuters describes as “his hit song, ‘Party Like a Russian,’” at tomorrow’s opening ceremony for the World Cup, where he’ll appear alongside Russian operatic soprano Aida Garifullina. After initially saying he was “asked not to do” the song, Williams later clarified that he’s leaving it out because “it’s about [him] doing [his] biggest hits that are the best known.”

The 2016 song “Party Like a Russian” features lyrics about rich people in Russia living the good life. The opening line is “It takes a certain kind of man with a certain reputation / To alleviate the cash from a whole entire nation.” Williams has reportedly denied that the song is about Putin, saying, “It’s more of a Monty Python-esque kind of humor. I’m not mocking anybody.”

A land without discrimination ©

Russian lawyers and human rights activists who have worked even a single case where they had to prove discrimination by sex, age, sexual orientation, or ethnicity will explain how it’s nearly impossible to win one of these lawsuits in Russia. Judges usually refuse to go to trial, and the best case scenario is often a ruling that only partially satisfies a claim. Meduza looks at how Russians fight discrimination in court, and why it so rarely ends in anything but defeat.

Digitized but not destroyed? 👾

Commenting on the recent confusion surrounding Russia’s rumored destruction of Gulag “registration card” archives, the Russian Interior Ministry told Meduza that officials are digitizing these records. Government archives are only keeping the original cards when prisoners were sentenced for crimes against the state or in cases when inmates’ documents have special academic or historical significance. The registration cards that don’t fit this description are being removed from paper files and transferred to electronic form for permanent storage, the ministry says.

Earlier this year, researchers claimed to have discovered a confidential interdepartmental memo ordering the destruction of all registration cards issued to convicts in the Soviet prison system who were 80 years old by February 2014. Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov later denied that the government has adopted a policy of destroying Gulag registration card records.

So far, there have been two cases (both in the Magadan region) where researchers requested access to registration card archives and were told that the records had been destroyed. Meduza wrote about this scandal last week. Read it here.

What are these “cards”? When people were sent to the Gulag, the prison system opened a personal case file on each inmate — a folder containing the state’s information about that individual. Prisoners were also assigned registration cards that listed their basic information: full name, year of birth, ethnicity, profession, conviction, sentence, and so on. These registration cards are often the only record of important information about prisoners, and they also catalog what happened to people exiled or caught up in the USSR’s “dekulakization” and mass deportations.

Terrible damage 💸

The damage to Ilya Repin’s famous painting, “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581,” is apparently much worse than the Tretyakov Gallery first thought. The museum's experts now say it will cost 30 million rubles ($477,600) to repair the gashes left when a man named Igor Podporin grabbed a metal barrier post on May 25 and smashed through the painting’s glass frame, striking it in three places. The painting is worth an estimated 730 million rubles ($11.6 million). Museum officials initially said the damage to the painting was about 500,000 rubles ($8,000).

Repin’s painting, after the attack on May 25
Sergey Vedyashkin / City News Agency “Moscow”

Speaking in court, Podporin said he considers Ivan the Terrible to be a saint and believes Repin’s depiction of the tsar killing his own son — an event that likely never took place — is blasphemy and an affront to Orthodox Christians. Podporin is charged with damaging a cultural monument of special national significance, which carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison.

Crimea in the dark 💡

The news agency Kryminform reported on Wednesday that the entire peninsula of Crimea lost power around 3:25 p.m., local time. “All Crimea and Sevastopol are without power. It's down everywhere. We're looking into the cause,” a source told the website. Locals also reported problems with mobile phone service.

Kubanenergo (the Kuban Power and Electrification Open Joint Stock Company) confirmed a large-scale “technical shutdown” of the power line that feeds electricity to the Crimean peninsula, telling Kryminform that it expected to fix the issue within three hours.

A source in Russia's emergency management service told the news agency TASS that the reason for the power outage is apparently an accident at the “Taman” substation in the Krasnodar Territory.

Going after Khodorkovsky's peeps, again 👮‍♂️

On Tuesday, police in Vladivostok detained five activists at a constituent conference for a local office of the protest movement “Open Russia,” which has faced a nationwide government crackdown. On Wednesday, a court fined three of the detainees for failing to comply with police orders. The fines ranged from 600 rubles to 1,000 rubles ($9.50 to $16). Open Russia’s press secretary, Natalia Gryaznevich, said the ruling feels like an acquittal, given that disobeying police orders is usually punished with jail time in Russia. The other two activists picked up by police were still being held at a temporary detention facility, at the time of this writing.

In 2017, the Attorney General’s Office banned the Open Russia Civic Movement as “undesirable.” Gryaznevich’s group insists that it isn’t formally affiliated with this British-registered organization, but the Russian authorities have nonetheless started fining its collaborators.

Last week, Open Russia’s Dmitry Semenov, said he won’t return to Russia anytime soon, fearing that he could face felony charges for his work with an outlawed “undesirable organization.” Between February and May 2018, Semenov was fined four times for working with an undesirable organization, meaning he could now be tried on felony charges and sentenced to as many as six years in prison. Semenov will reportedly stay in Lithuania on a student visa.

The gang is back, again 👋

Vladimir Putin has reappointed several top officials, according to executive orders published on the Kremlin's website on Wednesday. Anton Vaino remains the president's chief of staff, Alexey Gromov and Sergey Kirienko are still deputy administration heads, and Dmitry Peskov stays on as Putin's press secretary.

Yours, Meduza