September 03, 2013

Russian Political Prisoners Ignored by Everyone


Russian Political Prisoners Ignored by Everyone

Sergey Udaltsov, a leftist protest leader currently under house arrest pending investigation of his alleged planning of the May 6, 2012 Bolotnaya Square riots (the so-called Bolotnaya Square Case), exemplifies the popular saying: “out of sight, out of mind.” Prohibited from staying in close contact with anyone but his family and lawyers, he has struggled to maintain relevancy in the opposition movement ever since his arrest. Udaltsov is not alone in his plight — the twelve men and women currently on trial for their involvement in the riots (most of them have remained in pre-trial detention for the past year) also appear to have been largely forgotten. In an interview recently published [ru] in Novaya Gazeta, Udaltsov explained why people seem to have lost interest:

Да, сейчас все увлечены осенними выборами, да — «болотное дело» тянется очень долго, разбито на несколько частей, что не способствует поддержанию острого интереса общества и средств массовой информации.

right now everyone is preoccupied with the Fall elections, [...] the “Bolotnaya Case” is being stretched out, is broken up into several components, which isn't conducive to maintaining interest from the public and from the media.

Udaltsov called on protest leaders to combat this malaise, to “actively go to court hearings, conduct a strong information campaign” and “prepare for new rallies and marches of solidarity.”

His complaint was echoed by Maria Baronova [Global Voices Report], one of the accused in the case. Baronova, who unlike other defendants is out on bail, has been attempting to raise awareness through blogging, social media, and journalism, but feels [ru] that her efforts are in vain:

[...] люди добавляют, что конечно же интерес к Болотному делу появится, ну, когда будет приговор. Ну и тогда, дескать, “Болотная” что-то с этим сделает. Например, напишет классные колонки [...]

[...] people [say], that of course there will be interest in the Bolotnaya Case, well, when there is a verdict. Then, they say, “Bolotnaya” will do something. For instance, write really great op-eds [...]

Maria Baronova asking people to come support the Bolotnaya prisoners.

Maria Baronova asking people to come support the Bolotnaya prisoners. YouTube screenshot.

Baronova's frustrations came to a head last Friday, when she ran into notorious internet troll Egor Prosvirnin in a Moscow bar. Both were attending an impromptu outing organized by DemVybor's Stanislav Yakovlev (the list of participants [ru], from ultra-nationalist Prosvirnin, to liberal journalists Ivan Davydov and Elena Kostyuchenko simply serves as a reminder of how insular and cliquey the Moscow political “tusovka” is, no matter how fractured it seems from the outside).

Egor Prosvirnin at a nationalist rally. YouTube screenshot.

Egor Prosvirnin at a nationalist rally. YouTube screenshot.

Baronova apparently asked Prosvirnin, who runs the popular nationalist internet publication Sputnik & Pogrom [ru], why he hasn't covered her trial. Prosvirnin's answer was either brutally honest or a cynical troll (your mileage may vary) — he doesn't care, and no one else does either. Baronova tweeted quotes from their conversation, and later collated them into a Facebook post [ru]. Prosvirnin spent the night telling her that the courtroom drama isn't popular on social media, and that it won't become a conversation topic until it is adopted by Alexey Navalny in his campaign for mayor (Navalny himself faces jail time in a political case):

- Если писать о Болотных Узниках, – говорит Егор Просвирнин, – то получишь 15 лайков.Это борьба с Ветряными мельницами. Не надо о них писать

— Maria Baronova (@ponny1) August 24, 2013

- Writing about Bolotnaya Prisoners, – says Egor Prosvirnin, – you'll get 15 [Facebook] likes. This is like battling windmills. You shouldn't write about it.

- Я не буду писать о Болотных узниках, потому что они никого не ебут (с) Егор Просвирнин — Maria Baronova (@ponny1) August 24, 2013

- I won't write about Bolotnaya prisoners because no one f*cking cares about them (c) Egor Prosvirnin

- Вы пишете об абсолютно проигрышном деле,потому что если завтра Навальный станет президентом, то о Болотном деле еще быстрей забудут (с) Ёж

— Maria Baronova (@ponny1) August 24, 2013

- You are writing about a completely losing battle, because if Navalny becomes president tomorrow, people will forget about the Bolotnaya case even faster (c) Hedgehog [Prosvirnin's nickname on the popular forum Lepra]

- История об узниках Болотной начнет иметь смысл, когда о ней начнет писать Навальный. А до этого нет смысла (с) Просвирнин — Maria Baronova (@ponny1) August 24, 2013

- The story of the Bolotnaya prisoners will have some meaning when Navalny starts covering it. Before that, there is no point (c) Prosvirnin

- Если бы я был Бароновой, то я бы пришел в штаб Навального и разделся бы по пояс и пока он бы не писал только об узниках (с) Просвирнин

— Maria Baronova (@ponny1) August 24, 2013 

If I was Baronova, I would come to Navalny's HQ and take off my top until he started writing about the prisoners (c) Prosvirnin

Baronova eventually left, saying:

На этом трансляция из ада заканчивается. Это было лучшее, что я слушала о Болотном деле за год. Мысли были у многих, высказали мне их сейчас

— Maria Baronova (@ponny1) August 24, 2013 

On this note, our live coverage of Hell is over. This was the best thing I've heard about the Bolotnaya case during the past year. Many people have had these thoughts, but now they've been aired

The sad thing is that Baronova, who rather naturally finds the topic of her trial very personal, is probably fighting a losing battle. If the fickle Russian public forgot about the much more memorable Pussy Riot case, just a month after their sentencing, what chance have the defendants who haven't danced in a cathedral wearing colorful masks?


This article by Andrey Tselikhov was originally published by Global Voices Online, a website that translates and reports on blogs from around the world.

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Tolstoy Bilingual

Tolstoy Bilingual

This compact, yet surprisingly broad look at the life and work of Tolstoy spans from one of his earliest stories to one of his last, looking at works that made him famous and others that made him notorious. 
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.
Russian Rules

Russian Rules

From the shores of the White Sea to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus, Russian Rules is a high-speed thriller based on actual events, terrifying possibilities, and some really stupid decisions.
The Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
Moscow and Muscovites

Moscow and Muscovites

Vladimir Gilyarovsky's classic portrait of the Russian capital is one of Russians’ most beloved books. Yet it has never before been translated into English. Until now! It is a spectactular verbal pastiche: conversation, from gutter gibberish to the drawing room; oratory, from illiterates to aristocrats; prose, from boilerplate to Tolstoy; poetry, from earthy humor to Pushkin. 
Turgenev Bilingual

Turgenev Bilingual

A sampling of Ivan Turgenev's masterful short stories, plays, novellas and novels. Bilingual, with English and accented Russian texts running side by side on adjoining pages.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955