The Real Russia. Today. The leader of Russia's ‘Christian State’ says he's on a mission from God; Moscow duels with Zuckerberg; and here's the trouble with Яussiaи

Story of the day

He’s on a mission from God, but he’s not a Blues Brother. On September 13, the leader of the rightwing group “Christian State — Holy Rus,” Alexander Kalinin, declared on Vkontakte that an ongoing wave of bomb threats prompting evacuations across the country are part of a “social campaign” against Alexey Uchitel’s controversial new film “Matilda,” an upcoming movie about the ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska and her relationship with Nicholas II before he became tsar, which Orthodox Christian activists have condemned as a sacrilegious affront. This wouldn’t be the first time “Christian State” activists broke the law to protest the movie: activists from the group have threatened to burn down cinemas that show the film. Meduza special correspondent Daniil Turovsky spoke to Kalinin to learn more about the Christian State’s role in the recent mayhem. Interview in English

  • Context: In the past week alone, another round of nationwide anonymous bomb threats triggered evacuations affecting roughly 400,000 people, an anonymous government source told the news agency TASS. Authorities reportedly evacuated more than 1,000 buildings in 80 different cities. Every single bomb threat turned out to be a hoax. Story in Russian

Dueling quotes

  • “We are actively working with the U.S. government on its ongoing investigations into Russian interference. [...] We are looking into foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the campaigns, to further our understanding of how they used our tools.”  — Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook
  • “We don’t know who placed the Facebook ads or how, we’ve never been engaged in this, and our side has never been involved in this. We don’t know what RussiaGate is.” — Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman


The trouble with Яussiaи. Faux Cyrillic, or Cyrillic abuse, is a kind of mimicry typeface that uses Cyrillic letters in Latin text to evoke Russia or the USSR. You’ll find this Western trope on book covers, movie posters, comic books, and videos games dating back decades. Though the practice is old, journalist Oliver Bullough may have uncovered one of the most egregious cases ever. Meduza reviews this offense and others, over the years. Story in English (mostly)

Oops he did it again. The Russian military-historical society responsible for erecting a monument in downtown Moscow to Mikhail Kalashnikov has promised to dismantle part of it, after members of the public pointed out that one of the firearms depicted in the sculpture is actually a StG 44 German assault rifle. As it happens, this isn’t the first time Salavat Shcherbakov, the monument’s creator, has confused German and Soviet weaponry. Story in Russian

Why do you keep hitting yourself? On September 15, not far from Alexey Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, somebody jumped Nikolai Lyaskin, who runs Navalny’s campaign in Moscow. Police opened an investigation, treating the attack as an act of “hooliganism.” On September 19, police detained a suspect in the attack, who told officers that Lyaskin paid him to attack him. Lyaskin was later summoned twice to a local police station and questioned about his supposed effort to stage an attack against himself. On September 22, police released Alexey Shcherbakov, the man suspected of attacking Nikolai Lyaskin, on his own recognizance. Story in English

In other news

Fighting a new monument with an old weapon. Moscow’s “Alley of Rulers” recently got two new installations: busts of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, created by the controversial Georgian-Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. To protest the unveiling, a woman picketed the statue, holding in her hands a poster bearing the words of Anna Akhmatova’s 1962 poem, “To the Defenders of Stalin”: “There are those who shouted: ‘Release / Barabbas for us on this feast,’ / Those who ordered Socrates to drink poison / In the bare, narrow prison. / They are the ones who should pour this drink / Into their own innocently slandering mouths, / Those sweet lovers of torture, / Experts in the manufacture of orphans.” (Translation by Roberta Reeder, New England Review, Vol. 18, No. 1)

Artem Korotayev / TASS

Nearly face to face in Syria now. Moscow is accusing the United States of supplying Syrian terrorists with sensitive information that allegedly allowed them to surround a platoon of Russian military police earlier this week. According to Defense Ministry officials, the U.S. leaked the data in order to impede an offensive by Russian-supported Syrian troops in Deir ez-Zor, the country’s “last terrorist stronghold.” The United States, in turn, has accused Moscow of carrying out airstrikes against its allies in Syria, and attacking targets dangerously close to American military personnel on the ground. Story in English

Yours, Meduza

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