#11 2013

Gulag is alive and well in Mordovia

“If you’ve been to a prison camp in Mordovia, hell will seem like a rather elegant resort.”

Everyone knows who the members of Pussy Riot are, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s letter from the prison camp IK-14 was published worldwide. However, the Stalinist legacy in Russian prisons is still a shameful secret, according Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, who in this text calls for international solidarity.

The king of Chechnya

Russian journalist Alex Tor specializes in Chechnya and Ingushetia in the North Caucasus, which have a history of war and violence. He has, among other things, written about corruption, refugees, and kidnappings. Because of his journalistic work,

What happened to the multinational Russia?

Nationalism grows increasingly stronger in Russia and it is a fact that xenophobia is gaining grounds in society today. “It is no longer just skinheads and radicalised young men shouting: ‘Attack the black people!’” So do

Islands of an archipelago

What is the best way to deal with the memory of the Great Terror? The famous journalist Yelena Rubinova has visited two of the places where the memory of Stalin's terror is still an open wound, like in Sochi, where the

What is the literary scene in russia like today?

In the past, the state made sure that life was difficult for writers in Russia. However, in contrast to journalists, Russian writers are today freer to write about what they want. Natasha Perova, editor of the literary

From the cycle of poems “Cognitive capitalism”

Alexander Skidan (born in 1965) is one of Russia's most critical social poets. His poetry often emanates from the complex interplay between ethics, aesthetics and politics. In this newly written poem, he gives a commentary

Day of rage

The poet Kirill Medvedev is today considered to be one of the most promising poets of his generation. He was also one of the activists who openly protested the trial of Pussy Riot last year, when he was arrested for having

So here we are

“It is only this generation of 20- and 30-year-olds that are able to write about the conditions here and now, and view the Soviet Union as a purely historical era,” writes critic Natasha Perova elsewhere in this issue. The

Notes from the provincial town of N

Anyone who believes that today's Russia is on the wrong track also hopes for political alternatives. However, the Russian opposition has often been fragmented, and how do you protest against a sometimes elusive opponent?

Russia in between security and democracy

Following 9/11, crucial social issues are often described as a choice between security and threat, rather than between freedom and oppression. This is the case also in Russia. There are, however, major differences: in

Putin's fight for “traditional values”

“Traditional values” may sound like something harmless and old fashioned, until one realises that they are the opposite of the rights that are the foundation of modern democracy. Maria Chichtchenkova, the coordinator of Front Line Defenders, writes

“The ongoing crackdown on civil society is truly unprecedented”

Russian authorities continue to silence critical voices in the country and portray human rights organizations and foreign forces as bribed lackeys. Tanya Lokshina , program director for Human Rights Watch Russia, has been

The Dissident Blog explores russia

The headlines in the Swedish newspapers are at the time of writing dominated by the news that Swedish Neo-Nazis have attacked a peaceful demonstration against racism in one of the suburbs of Stockholm, resulting in the stabbing of two of the demonstrators. The incident will linger on in the public’s consciousness for a few days, only to soon be subsumed by the general feeling of unease we all carry with us—an unease sprung from the violent and growing right-wing extremism and nationalism in large parts of Europe.

Among the European countries Neo-Nazism is said to be strongest in Russia. One of its victims was the sociologist Nikolay Girenko who was shot to death in 2006 in St Petersburg. The years before he was murdered he had profiled himself as an expert on the growing Neo-Nazism and the ultra-nationalism in Russia, and he was often called on as an expert to witness at court proceedings concerning hate crimes. More than any of his contemporaries he early on understood the danger of the expanding hate culture targeting minorities—be it Caucasians or some other Russian ethnic groups, Russian Jews, or sexual minorities. Girenko was one of the brave people who dared to speak up concerning the destructive development in his home country and who for this has had to forfeit his life. Other names on this list could be Anastasia Baburova and Anna Politkovskaja.

The murder of Nikolaj Girenko reflects the escalating right-wing extremism in Russia—but the point is that it could just as well have happened in any other country in Europe. The development in Russia is essentially connected to things happening in other parts of the continent. Not to be able to see this is to deliberately make oneself unintelligent. It is therefore not a strictly Russian concern when laws in the country are implemented to criminalise an open public discussion about homosexuality and other “non-traditional” ways of living together. Nor is it merely a Russian concern when laws are implemented against blasphemy and when to critique religion is regarded as a crime. The latter parallels the Soviet regime’s criminalization of people’s religious faiths—the same but reversed.