Politics isn’t for kids Russian college student leaks recording of a heated exchange with her school’s administrators, who threatened her academic future after she was spotted at an opposition protest
On January 31, eighteen-year-old Darya Kuznetsova, a junior at a technical college in Perm, joined a local protest to demand freedom for the jailed opposition politician Alexey Navalny. After the rally, supervisors at her school summoned her for a conversation “about her further education.” A recording of the discussion made its way to the Perm-based online journal “Zvezda.” Meduza provides the full text of the conversation here with Zvezda’s permission.
Meduza originally published this text in Russian on February 3, 2021.
Darya joined the rallies for the first time on January 23, 2021, but “everything went fine” that day — nobody from her college saw her. While marching on January 31, however, she noticed two women in the city square near the Soldatov Palace of Culture. They were counselors from her school, and they saw her.
“I nodded hello to them and they nodded back before they asked me what I was doing there. I replied, ‘But you’re here, too,’” Darya recalls. “They called me over but I declined and kept going my way. Within just 10 minutes, I got a message from our department supervisor, saying: ‘Come to campus with your mom. The counselor is expecting you.’ When I answered that my mom couldn’t make it, they told me to come alone.”
Confused about the apparent urgency of this request, Darya telephoned the supervisor and asked what had happened. She was told that she’d disobeyed the administration’s warnings and “gone where she wasn’t supposed to go.” “You know exactly where,” the school official told Darya when asked where students weren’t supposed to go. Darya ended the conversation and hung up.
A chat between a student and her college counselors
Study Center Director: You haven’t even completed your [interdisciplinary requirements] and you’re already marching in the front lines. What a [loyal party member]! Such a patriot! You know, if I could zip [downtown] so fast, I’d use that speed to get [myself to class]. I’ve got nothing against your civic positions — that’s your right — but we asked you as people [not to go to the rallies]. We said it would all make sense. Are you looking for trouble? You’ve got enough problems, as it is.
Darya: The department supervisor calls me and says I’m out where they told us not to be. First of all, where is it written that I can’t be somewhere? Second, I asked the guys and they said that nobody told us anything about a demonstration happening or that we couldn’t go.
Study Center Director: Should I show you [where it’s written]?
Darya: It makes no difference to me. I would have gone anyway.
Study Center Director: But maybe not in the front row?
Darya: I’d be one of the first 300 people there.
Study Center Director: What’s with you? Go on, then. Go to America and get an education over there.
Darya: I’ll graduate and then go.
Study Center Director: You sure won’t graduate here.
Darya: Why not?
Study Center Director: Because you haven’t passed your [interdisciplinary requirements].
Darya: I’ll pass.
Study Center Director: Go ahead and march. I’ll see where it gets you. I’m truly interested to find out. You shit on the state in which you live — the state that feeds you and keeps a roof over your head. Tell me, you don’t get enough from the state? Hmm? Here you are, living in the dorms and getting financial aid!
Darya: I live with my parents. I lived in the dorm only for a month.
Study Center Director: Big deal. When you were out there marching, you should have told them: guys, you know I lived in the dorm for free, for 250 rubles [$3], with all my tuition paid by the government. Go to America and try finding a free education there.
Department supervisor: Tell me a bit about your political views?
Darya: What political views? Why should I have to defend myself?
Study Center Director: Because you’re attaching yourself to these, forgive my language here, faggots who only want boys living with boys and girls with girls.
Department supervisor: And you’ve been getting marching orders from Germany even!
Darya: Nobody gave us any orders. I was just out for a walk.
Study Center Director: You were showing off your chest. You weren’t just out there for a walk. Olga Vyacheslavovna and I were there for only a walk
Darya: That’s right — you were there, too.
Study Center Director: Yes, because they made us keep track of you! If we get just one write-up because of you… I don’t really care if you get into trouble or not. That’s your right. Get yourself locked up if you want. Live in shit if you want. March in line with those Rainbow Flag types. But as head of this center, I will not allow you to shit on your state. There’s plenty that I dislike myself, but you’re still a kid and you don’t get it. We should send you all back to the ‘90s to live like we did. We survived those years and now we’re happy we live in Russia. Have you ever even been abroad? I’ve been to a lot of countries and seen how people live.
Darya: I’ve been to Africa, Turkey, Egypt…
Study Center Director: Well, did you see anything good there? “All-inclusive” and that’s it.
Department supervisor: So, what’s your position? Other people were carrying banners. Some against low pensions, others for freedom. Nobody there was simply out for a walk. People there were getting chased down liked rabbits, from one side to the other.
Darya: Well, they wouldn’t be chasing them down if it weren’t all true!
Study Center Director: You know who was out there? The people out there are the ones on TikTok who got cash in advance. We’re talking about kids out there! [Bangs on desk.] If you actually did your work, you wouldn’t have had the time to go there.
Darya: I’d just finish my reading and go after class!
Study Center Director: First of all, you won’t finish your work because — I don’t know. It’s either about your intellectual abilities or you’re just more interested in your extremist groups. You still haven’t finished your interdisciplinary requirements, get it? And now you’re just looking for trouble. And also in the performance review that they might ask you to do… I’ve got a lot on you. [Inaudible.]
Darya: I’ve been to the marches twice now and I haven’t been arrested or charged with anything. That’s because they don’t arrest people for nothing — they arrest the ones causing mayhem and carrying flags...
Department supervisor: Well, I’ll tell you that the [Education] Ministry has asked for the names of anyone who could have participated in the demonstration.
Darya: Go right ahead!
Study Center Director: We will! Get arrested, go to town.
* * *
Education Ministry officials in Perm told Zvezda that it has not required colleges to report the names of students “who may have participated” in recent protests, though spokespeople for the ministry reiterated that the Russian government objects to the involvement of minors in political demonstrations. “Politics isn’t for kids,” the ministry told Zvezda.
Translation by Peter Bertero