The Real Russia. Today. 22 Lessons for the 21st Century, Metallica in Russian, and shooting at protesters
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
This day in history: 60 years ago, on July 24, 1959, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev engaged in an impromptu debate at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. The exchange became known as the “Kitchen Debate.”
- How the Russian translation of Harari bestseller ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’ took out a chapter on Putin’s lies and put in a chapter on Trump’s instead
- Metallica came to Moscow and sang Viktor Tsoi — in Russian
- A Russian soldier said his unit was asked whether they’d be willing to shoot protesters. A Defense Ministry general made him take it back.
- Opinion: Fyodor Krasheninnikov says Russia's opposition has finally broken through, and Oleg Kashin wonders about pundit Vladimir Solovyov's tweets
- News briefs: Navalny is in custody again, Moscow investigators throw down against the City Duma opposition protesters, and Yelena Grigoryeva's murder case
On June 21, the Russian publisher Sindbad released a new translation of the latest book by popular Israeli writer and historian Yuval Noah Harari. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is the third book in a series that began with the runaway bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011) and continued with Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2015). As Harari writes in the introduction to his most recent book, 21 Lessons fits between its predecessors: rather than describing the past or the future, it concentrates on the present.
A few weeks after 21 Lessons for the 21st Century came out in Russian in full, readers began speaking out about significant discrepancies between the English-and Russian-language versions of the book, particularly in the “Post-Truth” chapter. On July 16, a LiveJournal blogger writing under the username de_leser noted that in the chapter’s English version, Harari illustrates the concept of fake news with an announcement by Vladimir Putin about Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. In the Russian-language version of the chapter, however, there is no mention of Putin or Crimea. Instead, a speech by Donald Trump serves as a contemporary example of fake news. On July 20, Ukrainian Facebook user Andrey Chernikov posted about the change, and the Russian critic, poet, and translator Dmitry Kuzmin followed suit on July 21.
Read Meduza's report here.
On July 21, the American rock group Metallica played at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium as part of their WorldWired world tour. In the middle of the concert, bassist Robert Trujillo and guitarist Kirk Hammett, left alone on stage, unexpectedly broke into Viktor Tsoi’s “Gruppa Krovi” (“Blood Type”) — in Russian. Their unexpectedly touching and powerful performance soon had the audience singing along.
Read Meduza's report here.
Artur Yepifantsev, a former soldier in the Russian military, made headlines when he said his unit had been asked in a survey about whether they would be willing to shoot at protesters. He later took back that report on the Defense Ministry’s television channel. Now, the news and investigative outlet Znak.com has reported that Yepifantsev was forced into that retraction by Major General Viktor Miskovets, the deputy chief of the Russian military’s Wartime Politics Division. According to Znak, Yepifantsev himself provided the outlet with a recording of a conversation between himself and Miskovets. Znak summarized the recording but did not publish it.
Read Meduza's report here.
Opinion and analysis
In an op-ed for Vedomosti, columnist Fyodor Krasheninnikov says Russia’s opposition has finally broken through the authorities’ long-held chokehold on public politics. Looking at the frenzy that’s accompanied recent protests in Yekaterinburg, Arkhangelsk, and Moscow, he argues that new communications technologies allow levels of coordination that can finally beat the state’s control over the traditional mass media.
What’s changed in the past few years? Krasheninnikov says (1) Russia’s opposition has created an “communications environment” autonomous from the authorities that allows it to reach millions of people; (2) the opposition has mastered crowdfunding; (3) using the Internet, Russian society (especially young people) has mastered a wide range of self-organization tactics, launching different volunteer projects that have formed a culture of mass mobilization for both street protests and political campaigns; and (4) the opposition has refreshed its own leadership.
These developments, Krasheninnikov says, are happening amid rising “social pessimism” and growing socio-economic problems, “creating an entirely new political reality.” The authorities’ clumsy response to recent protests in Moscow, moreover, demonstrates that Russia’s state officials haven’t yet figured out how to confront this “new reality” and still rely on “archaic” methods.
Columnist Oleg Kashin has some thoughts about Alexey Navalny’s latest feud with pro-Kremlin pundit Vladimir Solovyov, sparked by a July 22 blog post scolding the latter for his Italian residence permit and foreign mansion. In a new op-ed for Republic, Kashin compares the exposé to Navalny’s November 2018 discovery of Rossiya-1 television anchor Sergey Brilev’s British citizenship, arguing that the discovery of Solovyov’s Italian residence permit is hardly a bombshell (it’s not illegal, and Solovyov’s villa in Como is well known). What does stand out about the new story, however, is Solovyov’s response on social media, where he’s embarrassed himself by defending himself excessively.
Kashin says Vladimir Solovyov’s reputation as a “free” Kremlin supporter relies particularly on his existence at the intersection between two environments: Russian television and Russian social media. Why has he debased himself on Twitter, assaulting Navalny and journalists who mock him? Kashin guesses that the performance isn’t meant for the public, but for his bosses (either in network television or the Kremlin), who possibly welcome his fighting spirit. Kashin also wonders if Solovyov maybe fears a future Russia where Navalny holds elected office, and Solovyov hopes through angry tweets “to hold onto his television status.” Or perhaps he’s even inflating Navalny’s investigative work deliberately, as a part of some pact, serving as Navalny’s “secret ally” in Russia’s coming “transition-of-power period.” Either way, Kashin says, it’s “food for thought.”
- 👮 Navalny is arrested again in Moscow for advocating a mass protest this Saturday outside City Hall against local election meddling
- 🗳️ Moscow investigators launch criminal case against opposition for ‘exerting pressure’ on election officials
- 🏳️🌈 Activists want police to investigate homophobic hate group for involvement in recent murder of LGBTQ rights champion in St. Petersburg