Wednesday, October 01, 2014


The Power Vertical

Rock Against The Vertical

Yury Shevchuk, front man for the Russian rock group DDT
Yury Shevchuk, front man for the Russian rock group DDT
This is definitely not pokazukha. Not even close.

This is real.

At a concert Sunday at Moscow's Olympic Hall, veteran rocker Yury Shevchuk, front man for the band DDT, lit into Russia's rulers. In a four-minute monologue between songs, Shevchuk ranted furiously (albeit poetically) about the corruption, impunity, and brutality at the heart of the regime Vladimir Putin built over the past decade:

The system that has been built in our country is brutal, cruel, and inhumane. People are suffering, not only in prisons and camps, but in orphanages and hospitals as well. So many bastards are feeding themselves on power. With epaulettes on their shoulders and with flashing lights in their heads, they are robbing us, running us over on the road, and shooting us in stores. And nobody is being held accountable.

Judging from the loud cheers Shevchuk received, he had a receptive audience.

(A video of the speech in Russian, which is burning up the Russian Internet, can be found here.)

Shevchuk also took fellow musicians to task for cozying up to the Kremlin, participating in corporate-sponsored concerts, and performing frivolous songs at a time when the country is in crisis. He called on musicians to lead what he called a "revolution of the soul."

In an interview today with RFE/RL's Russian Service, Shevchuk said despite the fact that many musicians are co-opted by the regime, there is also a small revolution brewing below the decks. He compared the situation to the underground Soviet rock scene in the 1970s and 1980s:

I know there are thousands of wonderful musicians who sing songs about civil themes, who do not agree with what is happening in this country. There are a lot of wonderful young people who are playing in cellars. And all this is gaining some critical mass.

How significant is this? On one hand, Shevchuk, whose grandparents were Stalin-era political prisoners, is a well-known critic of the Putin regime who has spoken up before. He has attended a March of Dissent here and there. He has spoken out against Russia's August 2008 invasion of Georgia.  He has even written a song, "When All The Oil Is Gone," that mocks the Kremlin's economic dependence on energy commodities.

Nevertheless, by speaking out so forcefully in such an official venue as the Olympic Hall in Moscow, Shevchuk has ratcheted up his opposition a notch or two.

And apparently, Shevchuk is not alone in his attempt to nudge Russia's artistic and cultural elite into more open defiance of the Kremlin.

On Monday, day after Shevchuk's comments, the popular actor Aleksei Devotchenko -- star of popular TV crime shows like "Streets Of Broken Lamps" and 'Bandit St. Petersburg" -- posted a diary on the Internet criticizing his colleagues for cozying up to the Kremlin and making "pseudo-patriotic" propaganda films.

And "Vedomosti" is reporting today that a group of 13 cultural figures, including music critic and media personality Artyom Troitsky, have penned an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev calling for an investigation into an automobile accident involving LUKoil vice president Anatoly Barkov in which two women, 36-year-old Olga Aleksandrina and 72-year-old Vera Sidelnikova, were killed.

Witnesses said Barkov's armored Mercedes caused the accident by driving into the wrong lane to avoid a traffic jam. Barkov and his driver were unharmed and police have attempted to blame the crash on Aleksandrina.

The rapper MC Noize, who a close friend of Aleksandrina's sister, posted a protest song on the Internet condemning Barkov, LUKoil, and the Russian authorities.

Musicians and actors. Disgruntled cops. Frustrated workers. Rechnik. Kaliningrad.This drip drip drip of social dissent is building -- slowly, surely, and clearly.

Whether or not the battles at the top in Russia are just pokazhkha, the rumblings in society are very very real.

Will these nascent, scattered, and fractured roots of a social uprising  reach critical mass and become a catalyst for real political change? Will they get crushed in a Kremlin crackdown? Or will it all fade away, leaving people discouraged and disgusted? Stay tuned.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: yury,shevchuk,devotchenko,culture,protest,aleksei

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
March 10, 2010 16:24
Evidence of mass social protest? Impending collapse? Be careful what you wish for. Putin's Russia does not look so bad compared with two of our more recent exercises in spreading democracy (Iraq and Afghanistan). Moreover, I'm not sure that there's a link between greater political involvement of the proles and popular entertainment. Last night, I watched the award-winning movie "The Hurt Locker," and wondered why millions of Americans were not out protesting in the streets against the criminal activities of the Bush administration that instigated this ill-fated venture in Iraq. Has entertainment now become the easy catharsis to show we 'care'?

by: La Russophobe from: USA
March 11, 2010 18:11
RAY:

Your perspective is rather demented. Why do you compare Russia to Iraq and Afghanistan? It's a country that has put men in space! Why not compare Russia to Japan after it was crushed by the USA in World War II? Today, Japan is a world leader politically and economically.

You may have missed it, but Americans tossed the Republicans out of office in the last election, and now the new government is reversing Bush's policies. Do you expect Russians do do anything similar any time soon? If not, then social upheaval is the only way Putin will be brought down.

Your patronizing haughty attitude towards Russians, as if they were helpless children incapable of civilized behavior, is deeply offensive. You ought to reconsider it.

by: Knockout Puncher
March 12, 2010 23:23
Japan received a good deal of Western (particularly American) propping after WW II.

Regarding the above blog post, someone forwarded to my attention these thoughts:

As for the "rocker", I read the original, and, of course, the translation, from what I remember, has upped the antagonistic tone in its nuances. If we were to quote some of OUR rock community (especially from the 60's and 70's) one could readily surmise that we live in a totalitarian police state, no less repressive than the USSR. It's the role that these artists play, and sometimes itss mostly done to be in the role of the "progressive enfant terrible" and get huge PR (as some sa,y theress no such thing as bad publicity). Russia is no exception. Furthermore, just as the Communist world (and local left)supported and lionized these Western leftists, some influential forces in the West today support "rebels" of today's Russia. If they ever ventured out like this in the actual Soviet times, they and their families would move into the Gulag.

****

Keep piling on the BS RFE/RL. It shows in the overall selection of linked blogs.

by: Knockout Puncher
March 13, 2010 00:18
To underscore my previously submitted set of comments:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uXAi8wywf4

Berlin 1939 - reminds me of the states in the present time.

by: LBPSlava from: USA
March 14, 2010 04:53
Please, note, Knockout Puncher (posting of March 12): while everything you say is true, the point is not the motivation of the rockers but the temperature of the audience: when the audience is not receptive to such anti-establishment sentiments, the rocker does not express them at a stadium. This was true of the 60s in the US, and it is true of today's Russia. That's why we pay attention to what these musicians say.

by: Knockout Puncher
March 15, 2010 00:29
A politically selective relativity in some instances.

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Karen Dawisha, who appeared on the Power Vertical Podcast back in April, dscusses her new book "Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia"

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

BARROSO WARNS PUTIN OVER EU-UKRAINE TRADE DEAL

The head of the European Commission says an EU-Ukraine trade deal can only be changed by Brussels and Kyiv – not Moscow.

Jose Manuel Barroso made the remarks in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin released on October 1.

Ukraine's parliament ratified its agreement with the EU last month. 

However, the implementation of the trade part of the deal has been delayed until January 2016 to appease Russia, which says the pact will hurt its markets.

Moscow has called for more three-way negotiations to amend the deal and threatened to curtail Ukraine's access to Russian markets if Kyiv implements it.

In his letter, Barroso warned Putin not to impose new trade measures, saying it would threaten the agreement with Russia to delay the EU-Ukraine pact.

(With reporting by Reuters)

And for anybody interested, here's the full text of Barroso's letter:

"Mr. President,

Following your letter of 17 September, I would like to welcome the constructive engagement from all sides in the trilateral ministerial meeting on the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area on 12 September.

The conclusions reached at that meeting were endorsed by all participants and set out in a joint ministerial statement.

On the EU side, we have informed our Member States of the outcome of the trilateral process, and we have now obtained their approval for the necessary legislative steps.

I should emphasize that the proposal to delay the provisional application of the DCFTA is linked to continuation of the CIS-FTA preferential regime, as agreed in the joint ministerial statement. In this context, we have strong concerns about the recent adoption of a decree by the Russian government proposing new trade barriers between Russia and Ukraine. We consider that the application of this decree would contravene the agreed joint conclusions and the decision to delay the provisional application of the trade related part of the Association Agreement.

The joint ministerial statement also foresees further consultations on how to address concerns raised by Russia. We are ready to continue engaging on how to tackle the perceived negative impacts to the Russian economy resulting from the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

I take however this opportunity to underline that the Association Agreement remains a bilateral agreement and that, in line with international law, any adaptations to it can only be made at the request of one of the parties and with the agreement of the other, according to the mechanisms foreseen in the text and the respective internal procedures of the parties.

I wish to recall that the joint conclusions reached at the Ministerial meeting state clearly that all these steps are part and parcel of a comprehensive peace process in Ukraine, respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as its right to decide on its destiny.

Consequently, while all parties should implement the conclusions as laid down in the joint ministerial statement in good faith, the statement does not and cannot limit in any way the sovereign prerogatives of Ukraine.

The European Commission remains fully committed to contribute to a peaceful solution. In this respect we hope that the recent positive steps embodied in the Minsk Protocol of 5 September and the ensuing memorandum from 19 September will be fully implemented, including the monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian state border and its verification by the OSCE, and the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the Ukrainian territory.

We also expect that rapid and decisive progress can be achieved in the trilateral gas talks towards a mutually acceptable interim solution for the upcoming winter period, on the basis of the compromise elements set out by the European Commission. It is key that the resumption of energy deliveries to the citizens of Ukraine is ensured and that the fulfilment of all contractual obligations with customers in the EU is secured.

Yours faithfully,

José Manuel BARROSO"

 

And just when you though it couldn't get any weirder, Valery Zorkin destroys your illusions.

That's Valery Zorkin, the chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court. Zorkin penned an article last week in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" (that's the official Russian government newspaper, by the way), calling for -- wait for it -- a return to serfdom. A big h/t to Elena Holodny at Business Insider for flagging this.

Here's the money quote:

"Even with all of its shortcomings, serfdom was exactly the main staple holding the inner unity of the nation. It was no accident that the peasants, according to historians, told their former masters after the reforms: 'We were yours, and you — ours.'"

Zorkin also took a shot at Pyotr Stolypin, the 19th century reformist prime minister (and a hero of Vladimir Putin's), and his judicial reforms.

"Stolypin's reform took away communal justice from the peasants in exchange for individual freedom, which almost none of them knew how to live and which was depriving their community guarantees of survival."

I wonder what that portends. Zorking also compared the abolotion of serfdom to the post-Soviet reforms of the 1990s.



 

Meanwhile, oil prices are dropping fast, according to Business Insider:

Whoa!

Oil just totally crashed. One possible culprit is this Reuters story, showing that OPEC production is surging.

There are a host of other factors that might be driving down oil as well.

What are they? Read the whole piece here.

The Russian media is making a lot of hay about the alleged discovery of "mass graves" in Donetsk. 

But Tom Parfitt of "The Daily Telegraph" is checking out the details and raising some doubts:

As Russia switches to a war economy, social programs continue to take a hit.

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or