Russia’s Rewind

The Daily Post today asks a question I keep asking myself lately: 

Do you belong in this day and age? Do you feel comfortable being a citizen of the 21st-century?

Oh, I was not questioning what’s the year today. My sanity is still in my pocket.

My problem is that I have a strange feeling that while I live in the 21st century Moscow, I am being forced back towards the 1930s, Germany.

Some people say if the word “problem” is substituted with “adventure”, life becomes oh-so-much-more interesting. Rubbish.

Lately, the State Duma of Russia introduced bans on propaganda of homosexuality, insult of religious beliefs, and smoking. A smoking homosexual atheist is now in trouble. Or should I say, “a homosexual smoking atheist”? Anyway, guys like Francis Bacon would have to be executed on the spot were they to visit Russia today. Not only for their sexual orientation, beliefs or health-damaging habits. Bul also because they are artists who don’t celebrate the achievements of the people, but address society ills and vices

WARNING: You are about to see official, approved, and highly skilled propaganda showing the strength of Russian spirit:

Vassili Nesterenko – Sebastopol siege – an example of artful propaganda

Instead of searching for beauty, the bastarts modern artists paint ugly stuff like this:

Vassily Slonov – Welcome to Sochi series, shut down by police

This is unofficial modern art – which is often provocative as it tends to touch (and sometimes pinch at) the more painful nerves of the society. It is now in the domain of the Ministry of the Interior.

Today, prosecutors and policemen search museums and open legal proceedings against galleries and gallerists who produce or exhibit art that degrades glorious achievements of Russian people or insults their religious beliefs.

A few days ago, a criminal case against the Welcome to Sochi series was opened on the grounds of copyright infringement (the words “Sochi 2014” were used without permission from the Olympic committee).

Events of the last few months remind me of this speech:

“Here there are only two possibilities open: either these so-called artists really do see things this way and believe in that which they create — and if so, one has to investigate how this defective vision arose — if it is a mechanical problem or if it came about through heredity. The first case would be pitiable, while the second would be a matter for the Ministry of the Interior, which would then deal with the problem of preventing the perpetuation of such horrid disorders. Or they themselves do not believe in the reality of such impressions, but are for different reasons attempting to annoy the nation with this humbug. If this is the case, then it is a matter for a criminal court.”

I was quoting Hitler.

Thank you very much, I don’t want the word “problem” replaced by “adventure”. Some people thought of it as adventure back in 1930s. And, you know, they thought what an adventure would it be to go to the Olympic games in 1936. What an adventure that turned out to be.  

And that sends me wondering which century, exactly, do I live in?


By the way, the artist behind these series is Orthodox Christian, non-smoking, and heterosexual.

That’s him:



  1. I entirely agree and share your indignation. Facing things like this, it is tempting to say that things never change – though the reality is that they do – but slowly and not always in the way we would like them to. Think about it – would it have been possible at all to express your views publicly in Russia 50 years ago, as you do now, internationally? The non smoking, heterosexual artist would be history by now.

    This article from The Economist gives a very good analysis of the ‘zombie democracy’ in post dictatorial countries. I come from Bulgaria, so I am painfully aware of it.
    Having said all that – this is RUSSIA – and the Russian creative genius has produced its best masterpieces under some sort of oppression. As bad as it is, oppression fuels genius. OK, this can turn into a very log discussion. All I want to say here is that the Welcome to Sochi series is great in a Bulgakov sort of way. So it is all there alive and thriving …

    1. Thanks for the link – zombie democracy – a very concise definition of what we have in Russia today )) You suggested an interesting theme for discussion, whether oppression fuels a genius – but it is definitely a matter for a separate post. As for my ability to write internationally, well – one could write some criticism in Russia in the 1920s. And then came the 30s )


  2. I believe, and this makes me really damaged, we live in an always-time-century. The more increases the freedom of the individual, the greater is the fear of the governments of the individual. The deeper one wants to invade every aspect of our lives – in the end in every aspect of our thoughts and attitudes. We know where it’s ending:
    War is Freedom, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength

    1. War is peace )

      For me the big problem is that my starting point was 1984 and I don’t want to go not only back, but really backwards, to the times when my grand-grand parents were executed as enemies of the state.

      1. The Frenchman Etienne de la Boetie wrote once: “The habit is the first cause of voluntary servitude.” This applies to any society, but not for every society at the same time. Today it is the people in Syria, in Brazil or Turkey, who want to change their habits. Yesterday it was in Tunisia or Egypt. And who knows, maybe tomorrow there are people in Russia. This is a fundamental truth: Man does not have to tolerate everything. He does not lower his head constantly.

It would be grand to hear from you now!

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