The Real Russia. Today. May Day arrests, more expedited Russian citizenship for Ukrainians, and the wrong way to teach patriotism
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
This day in history: 59 years ago, on May 1, 1960, U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down outside modern-day Yekaterinburg while performing aerial reconnaissance in a U-2 spy plane. Washington initially claimed it was a civilian weather research aircraft. Powers was freed two years later in a prisoner exchange for Soviet officer Rudolf Abel.
- More than 100 arrested in May 1 demonstrations around Russia as government supporters hold celebrations nearby
- Putin signs order expediting Russian citizenship process for Ukrainians who lived in Crimea and Donbas before spring 2014
- Russian police to investigate video of preschool principal forcing child who ‘said he hated Russia’ to kiss the ground
- Columnist Oleg Kashin says Russian liberals have politicized debates about Stalinism and poisoned the national dialogue
More than 100 different demonstrations swept through Russia’s streets on May 1, and more than 120 participants were arrested in nine cities. More than 60 of those arrests took place in St. Petersburg when police officers stopped opposition activists carrying a banner that read “Petersburg against United Russia” from walking down the city’s central Nevsky Prospekt. Meduza correspondent Pavel Merzlikin summarizes the events of the day.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed an order allowing citizens of Ukraine and stateless individuals to apply for Russian citizenship on an expedited basis if they were born in the Crimea and lived there before Russia annexed the peninsula on March 18, 2014. The order also applies to individuals who were deported from the Crimea in the Soviet era or who lived in “certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts” before April 2014 but now have the documentation necessary to live in Russia.
Citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria who were born on the territory of the Russian SFSR had had Soviet citizenship may now also apply for Russian passports on an expedited basis, as can their relatives. Expedited consideration for Russian citizenship is officially required to take no longer than three months.
This latest order follows another issued April 24 that granted current residents of Ukraine’s breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions a fast track toward Russian citizenship.
A video posted to the YouTube channel Typical Krasnodar showed a preschool principal forcing a young child to get down on his knees and kiss the ground. The principal, whose name is reportedly Emma Milner, said the boy was difficult to work with and had said he “hated Russia.” In the video, Milner can be heard telling him to kiss “the soil that feeds and waters him” before pushing his head toward the ground. The principal subsequently gave a short speech to the young children and caretakers around her about nationalism and the pride they should take in being Russian.
Alexey Nekrasov, the director of the local government’s education department, told RBC that the principal would be fired “on the next business day.” Today marks the beginning of a series of May holidays in Russia. Tatiana Kovaleva, a children’s rights official in Krasnodarsky Krai, told the radio station Govorit Moskva that an official investigation would follow, and State Duma deputy Svetlana Bessarab added that she had taken the situation “under her personal control.”
Inspired by YouTuber Yury Dud’s new documentary film about the legacy of the Soviet Gulag, columnist Oleg Kashin addresses the politicization of Stalinism in his latest op-ed for Republic. In the text, Kashin blames liberals from the Perestroika and Yeltsin eras for monopolizing objections to Stalinism, and thereby inadvertently rallying non-Stalinists to his image as a show of defiance.
In other words, Kashin says Russia’s intelligentsia in the late 1980s and 1990s “too recklessly” tied indisputable Stalinist deniers to various contemporary political affairs that were “incomparably more controversial.” Kashin says the Yeltsin campaign presented itself as the only option for anti-Stalinists, arguing in effect that anti-Stalinists also inherently accepted all aspects of Yeltsin’s policy agenda (from shock therapy and Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea to the bombardment of parliament).
Kashin says the intelligentsia’s politicization of Stalinism continues to this day, and he spends a whole paragraph complaining about journalist Sergey Parkhomenko, whose project “Last Address” commemorates victims of Stalinism. (Kashin and Parkhomenko have long hated each other publicly. Most recently, last December, the two sparred after Kashin speculated in an article for Republic that the FSB leaked internal data to Alexey Navalny to damage National Guard head Viktor Zolotov’s reputation.)
This manipulation of Russia’s political lexicon continues to warp cultural politics today, Kashin believes, and it’s why Russians continue to debate Stalinism and the Gulag, even though there’s no moral equivalence between people who rightly condemn the Soviet repressions and those who try (either foolishly or wickedly) to justify them as a historical necessity. (Kashin warns that this relationship fuels liberals' condescending tone and sense of moral superiority.)