May 31 in Russian history

I am really sorry for not writing for so long. I was very busy at work and I had to part with the company's notebook I used to write the articles :). Now that I have somehow got rid of the most time-consuming projects, I continue.

1223: Battle of the Kalka river. This was the first time when Russians met the Mongol armies. The river is named Kalmius now and the battle took place not far from the modern city Mariupol. The area was inhabited for more than 150,000 years, when the earliest stone tools of the Acheulean culture are found along the river banks. Now, the river has turned into a sewer ditch. In 1223, the messengers from Polovtsian nomads came to Rus and asked to protect them from the unknown invaders. Mongols at the moment were not inclined to attack Russia and they also sent their emissaries, asking Russians not to interfere into the conflict of Mongols and Polovtsians. Knyaz of Kiev Mstislav ordered to kill the Mongol ambassadors and decided to attack the enemy. Russian knyazes had no idea about the numbers of the invaders and acted carelessly. Some knyazes joined the campaign, others were too busy to spend their precious time. They quickly defeated a reconnaissance team, chased them and were met on a river bank by main Mongol forces, which counted up to 30,000 people. The knyazes were not sure what to do. Some of them preferred to stay on the opposite bank and wait for the Mongols to attempt to cross the river, while others (Daniil of Galich, Mstislav the Brave and Polovtsians) decided to attack. The battle was lost and the Russians fled. Mongols followed them. Mongols surrounded the Russian camp and proposed to give up. When they gave up (what did they hope for after the murder of the ambassadors?) six knyazes were executed by Mongols. Wooden boards were put onto their bodies and they suffocated slowly while the Mongols feasted on the dais. Quite naturally, Genghis Khan liked the easy victory and soon came to Russia with an even larger army.

1891: The construction of the Transsiberian Railroad begins in Vladivostok, on the Far East of Russia. The railroad was built from the east westwards.

1918: One more smart decision of the Bolsheviks -- they introduce the compulsory mixed education. Some psychologists say that this was a "tragic error", arguing that the mixed education makes boys behave more like girls. I always knew that psychology is a pseudo-science. And even if they are right, the advantages of mixed education, in my opinion, overweigh. If you don't believe me, ask Henry Moore :). In 1943, the separate education was re-introduced by Stalin, but after his death, in 1954, mixed education was brought back.

1924: USSR and China sign the Agreement on common principles for solving problems between the USSR and the Chinese republic. Diplomatic relations are established, unjust treaties of the tsarist government are annulled, the Chinese Eastern Railway becomes a joint commercial enterprise. This was the first equitable treaty of China with a European country.

1937: Alexander Kuprin returns to the USSR from emigration. Kuprin was an outstanding writer, the author of many brilliant short stories and some novels. He was born in 1870. His father was a minor government official. He played violin and was a good painter. Kuprin's mother belonged to a poor, but noble Tatar family, and Kuprin was always proud of being, at least partially, a Tatar. In 1880, he entered a military school (Cadet Corps). The school life gave him a lot of material for his novel The Cadets. In 1894 he retires from the army and becomes a newspaper reporter in Kiev and... an adventurer. He travelled to Moscow, Donetsk and back to Kiev. He founded a circus and worked as a manager in an estate, a dentist and a land surveyor (remember Henry Thoreau?!). He writes magnificent stories Moloch and Olesya. In 1895, Maxim Gorky invited him to write for Samarskaya Gazeta newspaper in Samara. Kuprin published one story in the newspaper and left again. In 1901 he moves to St.Petersburg and writes The Horse Thieves, The Duel and The Garnet Bracelet. Many famous Russian writers admired his works. Leo Tolstoy called him "the true successor of Chekhov", Vladimir Nabokov insisted that Kuprin was "the Russian Kipling", Anton Chekhov also praised him. In 1917, after the revolution, Kuprin spent some time in the USSR, where Gorky protected him, but soon left and joined the counter-revolutionary White Guard and worked in a newspaper published by the army of Yudenich. Soon he left to Helsinki and Paris. Of course, the Soviet critics who admired him while he lived in the Soviet Russia, turned to hatred as soon as he had left. Libraries received orders to burn Kuprin's books. Lenin's wife Krupskaya personally controlled the elimination of all writings by Kuprin. And then, in 1937, quite suddenly, the hatred stops. Why? Kuprin has returned. He was poor and his life in Paris was very hard and he fell ill with cancer, and the Soviet envoys promised him a free apartment, free villa, free medical care, etc. (free wine was, probably, also include -- Kupring got used to the alcohol by these years). At last he agreed. He was allowed to take his cat Yu-Yu, but not his cherished library. There was a rumour in Paris that he was made drunk. Soviet newspapers hypocritically wrote that his stories are the favourite reading of the Soviet people. His books were translated into tens of languages of the USSR, theaters staged his plays (which he himself considered rather weak). By this time, he was already dying. One year later, in 1938, he died from the tongue cancer.


Dissenters' March in Samara: part VI

Yesterday, on 15 May, more people were detained by police and the procedure more and more often reminds of kidnapping. Mikhail Merkushin, a member of NBP, was pushed into a car by two men who had not present their credentials, of course. He was taken to the police office and spent 3 hours there. Police explained that he looked similar to a man who stole 800 rubles from a credit card. When he was detained on Friday, he was suspected in beating a child. What next? Another activist, Yuri Chervinchuk, was detained in a similar fashion.

Local media in Samara refuses to place commercial invitations to the march. In three occasions advertising departments gladly accepted the orders, but some hours later explained by phone that they cannot place the ad for various reasons. These were two radiostations: Echo of Moscow in Samara and Avtoradio and one TV station SKAT.


Dissenters' March in Samara: part V

On 14 May, human rights activist Alexander Lashmankin was beaten by unknown people armed with baseball bats. They stole his cell phone and escaped. Police is inclined to think that it was robbery.

The rector of Samara Academy of Culture and Art Margarita Vokhrysheva (whose name strangely reminds of the word vokhra, well known to the prisoners of Gulag. The word is an abbreviation of "armed guard") stopped the lessons in the academy and asked all students to assemble in the hall. She instructed the students on the correct behaviour during the EU-Russia summit. Students who will not behave themselves and will participate in marches, said she, will have problems on the exams. When a correspondent of the news web-site 63.ru contacted her, she said that there were no meetings and that she gave no instructions to the students.

FSB asked mobile communications providers to turn off the encryption. During the Dissenters' March in St.Petersburg they went even farther and enabled the function which allows to determine the location of every cell phone.


Dissenters' March: temperature rising

Veronika Vinogradova, an activist of the organization pompously titled the Vanguard of the Communist Youth (AKM, sic! I find it hard to believe, but young communists also suffer from violations of human rights...) was detained by unknown men who did not introduce themselves and gave no explanations. As a matter of fact, she was kidnapped from the hostel of the Samara Aerospace University. She was pushed into a car and her current location is unknown. Her friends who tried to stop these men, were beaten.

Three people who were detained yesterday (Yuri Chervinchuk, Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva and her father Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev) were released today after the personal plea of the city mayor Victor Tarkhov. No charges were brought against them.

Leaders of two most respectable (IMHO) human rights defense groups in Russia, including Lyudmila Alexeyeva of the Helsinki Watch Group and Lev Ponomaryov of the movement "For the human rights" arrived to Samara.

Also, it was announced today that two of the leaders of the coalition of the opposition known as "The Other Russia", Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov, will attempt to arrive to Samara and participate in the march on May 18.

Garry Kasparov said today that the scale of the repressions against the organizers of the Samara rally exceeds what they had to face in Moscow one month ago. The Moscow activists decided to launch a picket at the building of the Ministry of the Home Affairs demanding to stop the prosecutions of the opposition in Samara.


Violations of human rights in Samara

Some news. On May 11, computers were confiscated from the informational agency Regnum-Volgainform.

On May 12, four people who dissipated leaflets with invitations to the Dissenters' March, were detained and accused of "non-compliance with the police orders."

On Saturday, May 13, a member of the organizational committee of the Dissenters' March in Samara Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva and a member of the National Bolshevist Party Yuri Chervinchuk were detained by police. Police claims that they have information that Kurt-Adzhiyeva has a hand grenade in her bag. Father of Kurt-Adzhiyeva, Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta who came to the police office on May 14 after the detention of his daughter, was detained, too, together with a journalist of the same newspaper Mikhail Kuteinikov. The police officer who detained them, refused to name himself and didn't explain on what accusations they were detained, report Newsru.com and Kasparov.ru

The US-based organization Committee to Protect Journalists protested against prosecutions of journalists in Samara in their statement: "We're very troubled by these police actions, which appear timed to obstruct news coverage of a planned public demonstration," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. "This harassment is preventing our colleagues from doing their jobs of informing the public, and it should stop at once." The article also mentions some of the events I described above.


Events around the Dissenters' March in Samara

Some days ago I wrote about plans of Russian opposition to organize one more Dissenters' March, this time in Samara, on May 18, during the EU-Russia summit in a luxury hotel Volzhsky Utyos (The Cliff on Volga) not far from Samara (about 130 kilometres). On May 8, the organizers of the demonstration announced that they reached an agreement with the city authorities. They said that the administration of Samara offered to shorten the planned route of the march and that they agreed with these proposals, since they were not as absurd as the alternatives presented by the Moscow administration to the organizers of similar actions. However, on the next day, the city administration denounced these news saying that they neither proposed any alternatives nor agreed on the terms of the opposition. Moreover, the administration sent a letter to the Dissenters offering the hold a meeting on a remote stadium three days later, on May 21. To tell you the truth, I think that the organizers were a bit provocative when planning to march along one the most trafficked roads in the city centre in the end of a week-day. However, the consultations continued during the week.

The week was full of events. As I wrote before, some of the organizers were detained. On 9 May, 8 people who posted leaflets inviting the citizens to join the protests were detained. The authorities announced that the leaflets used Nazi symbols and provoked national hatred. Correspondents of Commersant newspaper and Ren-TV channel who came to Samara from Moscow to interview the local opposition leaders were also detained on the pretext that they did not have necessary IDs. On May 10, all typographies of the city were searched for printed materials of the opposition. Also on 10 May, police raided the office of the grassroots association for the electors' rights Golos and confiscated computers. The leaders and the staff of the association were not present at the office at that moment. Earlier, the leader of the association Lyudmila Kuzmina attended a radio programme devoted to the upcoming Dissenters' March. On 11 May, the office of a local newspaper Novaya gazeta was raided by police. Three computers were confiscated because of alleged use of pirated software. Later on the same day, the tax police confiscated financial documents of the newspaper. The newspaper planned to cover the preparations to the march in the issue on May 14. The editor-in-chief of this newspaper is Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev, whose daughter, Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva, is a member of the organizational committee of the Dissenters' March in Samara. The impression was that the authorities will do their best to give absolutely no chances on May 18. Moscow Helsinki Watch group sent a lawyer to Samara to provide legal protection to the detained activists.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially asked Russian authorities to allow the planned march of the opposition in Samara and show some tolerance towards the protesters. Tomas Steg, a representative of the German government, said: "The critics must have a way to express their point of view. In our discussions with the Russian president we always stress the importance of observing the basic human rights, including the right of assembly."

We will never know if this address of the German government affected the policy of the Russian regime, but I think that this was a very important point in the developing events. On 11 May, the opposition leaders, Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva, Roman Mishurov and Mikhail Merkushev were invited to the city administration and received the official permission for the action. This time the agreement of the administration was given in the written form. So, the march will take place at 17:00 local time, on 18 May. The planned route is very short, less than 1 kilometre and it will be followed by a rally on the embankment of Volga. Moreover, the administration of Chelyabinsk also gave their permission to hold a Dissenters' March in this city in Urals on May 19, although the route was changed, too. Up to now, only on May 1 the actions of the opposition were sanctioned by the administration of St.Petersburg.

Does it mean that the march will take place as planned? Not really. First, the violence in St.Petersburg (on April 15)started when the protesters were already leaving the place of the rally. There may be provocators who will attempt to attack police forces. Second, attempts to discredit the protest may be expected. For example, on 28 April, in Chelyabinsk, a small group of protesters, about 30 people, were joined by a group of blondes in rose dresses, who held the slogans protesting against insufficient attention of the police towards blondes. Another group of young people came with skis and skates and "protested" against the coming summer. If the number of real opposition members in Samara will be low, such provocation may turn the protest into the theatre of absurd.

At least, the opposition has already made one large blunder, in my humble opinion. They scheduled the protest on 17:00 on a week-day, the time when most people are still at work. The organizers are mostly university students, but this immediately cuts off tens or maybe even hundreds of people who could attend the protest, but will be unable to do so.


Dissenters March planned in Samara during EU-Russia summit

"On 18 May, European and Russian leaders are to meet in the Russian resort town of Samara for a bi-annual EU-Russia summit," wrote one web-site. The summit will take part on 17-18 May. And no, Samara is not a resort. By no means. The summit will take place in the hotel Volzhsky Utyos, which is not a town. By no means. It is a nice place, though, and the visitors will enjoy it, if the summit takes place, which is not certain, given the new iron curtain being thoroughly, with love and care, built by Putin's administration. If the summit is to happen, after all, the guests will fortunately avoid the views of dirty and kitschy Samara, since they will arrive to Volzhsky Utyos on comfortable hydrofoils.

Volzhsky Utyos hotel

On the other hand, they will miss an event which was planned for them by the Russian opposition — the seventh Dissenters' March. It is scheduled for May, 18, 17:00 local time (12:00 UTC).

On 3 May, at 8:00 the organizers came to the city administration and at 9:00 they filed their notification. At 11:00 they started a press-conference in the Hansa hotel. During the press-conference, a large group of policemen (15-20 people) entered the hotel and blocked the exits. They demanded the visitors (including journalists) to show their IDs and collected the names of all attendants. On 4 May, police attempted to detain one of the organizers, Mikhail Gangan, for unexplained reasons. He escaped and is still hiding. Another activist of the Prohibited Party Whose Name We Are Not Allowed To Mention (earlier known as National-Bolshevist Party), Ilya Guryev, who was earlier sentenced to probation after the seizure of a cabinet of the presidential administration building, was arrested. Journalist Dmitri Treschanin, also a member of the PPWNWANATM, was detained on the railway station when he came to Samara, sent to the conscription point and drafted. The drafting officers said the he will be sent to Dagestan. The local police has already promised that "all provocations will be severely suppressed."


May 7 in Russian history

1713: The first large campaign of the new-born Russian fleet begins. Russian galleys led by admiral Apraksin depart from St.Petersburg. Two weeks later they come to Helsingfors (Helsinki). On May 10, after a short siege, the city surrendered. Later, in August, Russian descent takes the capital of Finlad, Åbo (Turku). This war (The Great Northern War) was successful for Russia, but in the end, according to the Treaty of Nystad, Russia returned Finland to Sweden. Less than 100 years later, in 1809, Finland finally joined Russia.

1743: (April 26 Old style) Famous Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov got drunk, came to the university conference room, where a meeting led by professor Winsheim was in progress, without taking his hat off, cursed the professor, cocked him a snook and followed to the geographic department. Upon entering the aforementioned department, he continued cursing and insulting professor Winsheim and all other professors, calling them schemers. He also threatened to "fix the teeth" of the aforementioned professor and called advisor Schumacher a thief. Then he returned to the conference room and called all professors thieves, since they refused to grant Lomonosov the title of the professor. Witnesses also mentioned him saying: "I am like them, I am equal. I'm even better, I am Russian!" Lomonosov was arrested, but later released and fined 50% of his fee.

1895: Another famous scientist, Alexander Popov, demonstrates the first radio receiver in the world. In Russia, he is named the inventor of radio. This day, May 7, is officially celebrated as the Day of Radio. Congratulations to all ham radio operators! 73.

1906: Poet Alexander Blok writes one of his best known verses, Neznakomka (The Stranger Lady). Full Russian text is here. There are more than one translations online, but I likes this one (PDF) best:

These evenings over the restaurants
the air is hot and strangely cloying,
and shouts drift from the drunkards' haunts
on the putrid breath of spring.

Far off, over dusty side-streets can be seen--
over snug villas mile on mile--
the golden glint of a baker's sign,
and one can hear the children wail.

And every evening, past the level--
crossing, the jocular swells,
bowlers tilted at a rakish angle,
stroll between ditches with their girls.

Over the lake the rowlocks scraping
and women screeching can be heard,
and in a sky inured to everything
the moon leers down like a drunkard.

Each evening my one and only friend,
reflected at my glass's brink,
like me is fuddled and constrained
by the thick, mysterious drink.

And next to us, at the tables beside
our table, somnolent waiters pass
and drunks to one another, rabbit-eyed,
call out 'In vino veritas.'

Each evening, at the appointed moment
( Or is this only in a dream ? )
a girl's shape in a silken garment
shows dark against the window's steam.

And slowly between the drunkards weaving,
as always unescorted, there
she sits down by the window, leaving
a mist of perfume in the air.

And a breath of ancient legends gathers
about her silk dress as it swings,
about her hat with its mourning feathers,
and her slender hand with its rings.

And rooted there by this curious presence,
I search the shadowy veil once more
and through it see an enchanted distanct:
beyond an enchanted shore.

Vague confidences in my ear are loosed,
and the sun is suddenly mine,
and every crevice of my soul is sluiced
and flooded by the sticky wine.

And now the nodding ostrich-feather plume
begins to hypnotize my brain,
and eyes that are unfathomable bloom
blue on a distant shore again.

Deep in my soul there lies a treasure;
the only key to it is mine!
And you are right, you drunken monster!
I know now: there is truth in wine.