Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Holodomor-as-genocide news: from the Party of the Regions, only Taras Chornovil and Yanukovych's former press secretary Hanna Herman voted in favor of the bill; none of the Communists voted.
Here's part of an AP story:
Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday adopted a bill recognizing the Soviet-era forced famine as genocide against the Ukrainian people, a move seen as a victory for pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.
The bill passed in a vote of 233-1, a small majority in the 450-seat legislature.
The recognition opens the door to potential legal consequences including compensation for famine victims and recognition of the famine by the United Nations as genocide against Ukrainian people. Ten countries, including the United States, have recognized the famine as genocide, but U.N. recognition would imply an international acceptance.
Moscow strongly opposed calling the famine a genocide, contending that the famine did not specifically target Ukrainians and warning Ukraine not to "politicize" the issue.
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's party proposed using the word tragedy instead of genocide, in what was seen as an effort to avoid spoiling ties with Russia. Only two lawmakers from the party's 186-member faction supported the bill; the Communist Party, which is also in the governing coalition, also did not support it.
Due to the resistance in parliament, the bill proposed by Yushchenko underwent several changes, including referring to genocide against the Ukrainian people instead of the Ukrainian nation. Lawmakers also dropped an initiative that would have made it a legal violation to deny the famine occurred.
And a relevant picture I took today, somewhere on Vorovskogo St.:
Written in red: "And under Communists - they'll finish up the construction!"
Added in white: "[The construction of] GULAG."
A note on Kyiv's mayor: a week or so ago, he said on TV that one of the city's chief medical officials has to be "chased out of Kyiv with a broom" - "gnat' yeyo nuzhno metloy iz Kiyeva."
Normally, you'd also mention that the broom's been "dipped in shit" - "gnat' srannoy metloy" - it's a set expression, and even though he didn't say it, he most likely meant it.
And even though many medical officials - and even some doctors - do deserve just that, it kind of hurt my ears to hear the mayor say this.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The Famine - the genocide of the Ukrainian people - has been recognized by the parliaments of Australia, Argentina, Georgia, Estonia, Italy, Canada, Lithuania, Poland, USA, Hungary. [What about] Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada???
65 photos from the Famine commemoration yesterday - here.
It started at Sofiyivska and moved to Mykhailivska Square, a very emotional affair. I got there after the departure of all the VIPs, but there were still so many people - lighting candles, listening to survivors' testimonials broadcast on big screens, just standing there quietly.
Too many media folks, though, especially photographers, but I shouldn't be the one to complain about that. A demented-looking anti-Semite by the Bohdan Khmelnytsky monument. Down on Khreshchatyk, or up in Lipki, not a trace of mourning: Kyiv is a big city now. On Channel 1+1, very inappropriately, the final part of Dancing With The Stars contest show.
To learn more about the Famine, here's the 1988 report to Congress (via Cyber Cossack).
Saturday, November 25, 2006
35 photos from Maidan's 2 years are here. Blurry pictures of a blurry event.
112 photos from Nov. 23 rally in front of the city council are here.
Most young people holding the flags of Nasha Ukraina, Yulia's Bloc and Pora looked like they were just skipping classes this way. Most elderly people seemed to be genuinely protesting the new tariffs. One of the main slogans was "Mayor - out!"
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Roman Bezsmertny and some crazy guy begging them all to keep up the fight: "I will cry, my wife will cry, the people will cry if you give it up halfway through..."
A note: I do realize that these videos are nothing special. Moreover, they aren't in English, and I'm not just too lazy/busy to translate - I can't hear much of the stuff there is to translate. So I apologise if I'm wasting your time and bandwidth, but I really have to play with it.
I still prefer photography to video. I sort of hate the invisibility factor of the video, the fear of what comes next: what if someone on someone else's video does something gross and no one has warned me in advance?
A glimpse of Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Ukraine's defense minister.
The sound really sucks, on this one and the rest of my videos. Here, all I can hear is someone calling Moroz "Judas"...
P.S. The tall guy is Hrytsenko's bodyguard - and a beacon of sorts: someone sent a photojournalist his way, and I followed.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
A lot more people showed up after 6 pm.
Still, the whole thing was somewhat unfocused.
When someone with the microphone tried to start a "Yush-chen-ko!" chant, about one third of the crowd joined in, but as many seemed to be yelling "Han'ba!" ("Shame!"), and a few chanted "Yulia!"...
When they tried to get the crowd to chant "Razom nas bahato, nas ne podolaty!" ("Together we're many, we won't be defeated!"), an old, eccentric-looking nationalist yelled this, quite bitterly: "Razom nas malo, nas ne podolaty!" ("Together we are few, we won't be defeated!").
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could "have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table." After Ellison agreed, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Beck added: "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."
Here's part of Ellison's bio:
Keith Ellison, 42, is a father, husband, lawyer, state legislator and community advocate.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, he moved to Minnesota in 1987 to attend University of Minnesota Law School, where he graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1990. Ellison and spouse Kim, a high school mathematics teacher, have lived on the Minneapolis Northside for the past 17 years. They have four children ages 17, 15, 10, and 9.
I've managed to finish that Marta's-name-in-my-foreign-passport business - I've handed in all the paperwork and it should be ready in a week. I hope.
I found my tax identification number, wrote it into the form and went to the same sberkassa as last time - because it's close to the passports office. The line there seemed to be made up of exactly the same people as on Tuesday - especially the old women, I swear I've seen all of them before.
Turns out I don't remember how lines work here anymore: you take your place at the very end and by the time you're supposed to reach the cashier's window, at least five more people pop up in front of you, in addition to a dozen or so who were there from the start. These extra people are not cutting in, no. They were either seated on the chairs by the window or had gone out to buy bread next door and returned just in time for their turn. I wasn't prepared for that. I didn't let one such returnee in in front of me - he would've been the sixth one or so and that would've been too much for me. (Then, they didn't process the poor guy's payment for the same reason I had to leave empty-handed on Tuesday: the stupid tax number.)
One more thing: at that particular sberkassa, the line seems to grow in all directions - some people walk in and stop right there, by the entrance, after asking who the last one is, while others move to the line's tail. Very confusing.
Anyway, I paid my 20-something hryvnias ($4), rushed to the passports place, was the third one in line there (great luck), finally entered the room and sat across the table from a fat woman in gray cop uniform. She looked at my handwritten letter and said it had to be printed.
I really wanted to be done with it quickly, so I decided not to try to find out if she could prove to me that that was the law and not her personal whim. "Do I have to pay the typist," I asked. "Oh, I've no idea," she no doubt lied in reply.
So I went to the typist at the other end of the hallway, having first secured a promise from the cop woman that I wouldn't have to wait in line again to get back in. The typist charged me 18 hryvnias ($3.60) for practically nothing - for typing a few lines on an elderly Soviet typewriter:
I filled out a payment form and pretended that the typist was indeed doing me a favor when she agreed to take the money to the sberkassa herself - of course, she'd put it into her pocket. I should've fought, I know, should've resisted basically bribing someone and also allowing them to rob me, but I really felt I couldn't afford it, with Marta waiting for me and all. A perfect example of why corruption is flourishing in Ukraine.
I rushed back to the cop woman with the printed letter - but she was not there, and then they kicked us all out because it was lunchtime, and I spent the next hour wandering around the neighborhood, feeling misanthropic and unpatriotic.
At 3 pm, I went back and handed the cop woman all the papers without any problems. She could've sent me home again, though, because the propiska stamp in my internal passport is outdated: we are not Starokyivsky district anymore, it no longer exists; we are Pechersky district, and the stamp should be restamped. A trifle that could've caused me some more pain in the ass.
I didn't feel like teasing them with my camera in there, so here're two pictures that I took with my cell phone. The first one is the typist, the second one is the general view of the place:
Caught this on TVTs (TV channel of Moscow mayor Luzhkov) today, on Vremechko daily show:
An elderly woman (70-something), her daughter and the daughter's 15-year-old son, all three looking perfectly Slavic to me, speaking absolutely correct Russian. They've been living at Rizhskiy Vokzal (one of Moscow's train stations, Riga direction) for a while, and before that in the street in the freezing cold, and before that in Latvia, and before that in Nizhniy Tagil in Russia. They had sold their Nizhniy Tagil apartment and the money they received for it is already up. They live off the old woman's pension that she somehow managed to get herself in Moscow, quite a feat for a homeless person, and they also sweep the floor at the train station. The boy hasn't been to school in two years.
They would really love to get an apartment in Moscow, and are passionately appealing to mayor Luzhkov (maybe because he is one of those Russian politicians who pretend to be patron saints of all the "Russian-speaking people" of the former Soviet Union).
The family's explanation of why they're entitled to an apartment in Moscow is really silly: the boy's (wayward) father is a Muscovite. They haven't located him yet, though.
(This way, I could probably demand a Moscow apartment, too: one of my great-grandfathers lived in Moscow before the revolution, and one of my grandmothers lived there well into the 1990s, in a very nice place, I've been told, and, if you follow the logic of that crazy family, the fact that we were not on speaking terms with her since 1986 doesn't really matter - I want an apartment, how much longer do they expect us to live in rented places? But I digress.)
Naturally, the hosts and the audience weren't too sympathetic; someone even used a rather common argument that "Moscow isn't made of rubber" - isn't stretchable.
But the real reason why I'm writing about it here is a remark made in passing by one of the show's male hosts - it went something like this:
- If I'm not mistaken, you are Muslim, right?
- So why don't you move somewhere to Tatarstan? I heard it's not a bad place to live.
I mean, can you believe it?!
Would they find an apartment for them if they were Orthodox Christian?
And would the guy recommend them to move all the way to Birobijan if they were Jewish?
Et cetera. So much stuff in that one remark, someone could squeeze a dissertation out of it.
This in a country whose Muslim population is over 20 million people.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I felt rather misplaced twice today.
First, when listening to NPR - one thought that ran through my mind was, "Where is Ukraine?" It's very strange to realize that while I'm interested in hearing about "their" issues, "my" issues are 100 percent irrelevant to them. Not bad, just weird. Even weirder, though, would be to imagine lots of Ukraine-related content on NPR. Ha.
Second, I felt misplaced while watching a very strange broadcast from the city mayor's office on the city council's channel (it made me spend about half an hour glued to the TV tonight). A hundred or so people were being publicly presented with apartments here in Kyiv: their names were being called out and they were being summoned to the front of the large auditorium, handed flowers, chocolates, and the keys, and their new addresses were being announced to the whole city (a bit too careless, I'm afraid), and some were asked to stay and tell everyone about the miserable, subhuman conditions they've been living in up until now, and then short videos of these ratholes were being shown.
Shocking, most of it. Shocking, because it's 2006, not 1976, and because it's still pretty much a norm to live like this, several generations in a tiny apartment, in the same room, often, and some of these people have been waiting for more living space since the late 1970s. Kvartirnyi vopros is as relevant today as it was then.
Mayor Chernovetsky is, of course, exploiting these people, giving himself positive publicity, etc., but... it's not what you're thinking about when you're watching it. Only once, when some poor guy thanked God for this new apartment, the city council woman with a microphone elaborated on his thought: like, yes, thank God for directing the authorities toward this great decision (the mayor and his religious beliefs is a separate topic, of course).
In other news, I tried to have Marta's name written into my foreign passport today, so that we could travel to Moscow without any problems at the border. What's needed is a photocopy of her birth certificate, a letter, and less than 20 hryvnias ($4) paid at sberkassa. Sounds easy, but it's not.
A bitch at the passport office informed me that "the boss" wasn't likely to accept a hand-written letter, that it had to be printed - and that this would cost me some money. She was probably offering me her services as a typist this way - intimidating me into begging her to type the letter for me - but instead I asked her where it said it couldn't be hand-written. Nowhere.
But I didn't get to see "the boss" today because I had to make the payments, so I went to the sberkassa - the one we used when we were setting our wedding date last year. Sberkassa is like a bank, only there're always lines there, because this is where everyone pays their utility and phone bills. I came there around 1:30 pm, half an hour before their lunch break, when, according to them, their computers get turned off automatically. I spent 15 minutes filling out two payment forms - a torture. I stood in a pretty long line for ten minutes. I made it to the cashier's window just in time - only to be told that there should be my tax identity code in one of the boxes on one form, yet another multi-digit number, which I don't remember, of course - and without it, there's no way I can pay them my goddamn 8.50 hryvnias ($1.70). The other payment, 10.47 hryvnias ($2.10) can be made without the code, somehow.
I'll have to go there again on Thursday. Bastards.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Rumsfeld's resignation, a view from Iraq - Marines’ Reaction to the News: ‘Who’s Rumsfeld?’, by C.J. Chivers.
This New York Times piece is about an Iraqi father of 14 explaining the meaning of the recent political developments to a group of U.S. marines who are temporarily using the roof of his house in an operation:
If history is any guide, many of the young men who endure the severest hardships and assume the greatest risks in the war in Iraq will become interested in politics and politicians later, when they are older and look back on their combat tours.
But not yet. Marine infantry units have traditionally been nonpolitical, to the point of stubbornly embracing a peculiar detachment from policy currents at home. It is a pillar of the corps’ martial culture: those with the most at stake are among the least involved in the decisions that send them where they go.
Mr. Rumsfeld may have become one of the war’s most polarizing figures at home. But among these young marines slogging through the war in Anbar Province, he appeared to mean almost nothing. If he was another casualty, they had seen worse.
“If American Army came here for three months, four months, O.K.” Mr. Menti said. “But now is four years.”
If there were no American military presence in Iraq, he said, there would be no insurgents. One serves as a magnet for the other.
Mr. Menti spoke to the sergeant as if he were an American diplomat, as if he had some influence over the broad sweeps of American foreign policy. The sergeant remained quiet and polite.
“I don’t think he realizes that we’re trying to make this country safer for him,” he said to Lance Corporal Maguire.
“I think he realizes that we’re trying to make it safe, but that the more we stay here the more people come in and make it worse,” Lance Corporal Maguire replied.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Saturday, November 11, 2006
A quote from Mustafa Jemilev, from this May 2003 interview (RUS):
We are proud that in the half a century of our struggle to return to our motherland, we haven't shed any of our own or anyone else's blood.
Bits of Mustafa Jemilev's bio, from here (RUS):
- born on Nov. 13, 1943, will turn 63 in three days
- deported with his family from Crimea to Uzbekistan on May 18, 1944
- May 1966 - accused of refusing to serve in the army and sentenced to 1.5 years
- Sept. 1969 - sentenced to 3 years, for defamation of the Soviet state
- June 1974 - sentenced to 1 year, for draft-dodging again
- three days before he was to be released, they accused him of anti-Soviet propaganda; he protested by holding a 303-day hunger strike (they had to feed him forcibly)
- April 1976 - sentenced to 2.5 years
- a month before that sentence was up, they tried to cook up another case against him, but he scared them off by hunger-striking for 15 days; released in Dec. 1977
- Feb. 1979 - sentenced to 1.5 years in prison, but the sentence was later changed to 4 years of exile in Yakutia
- when this term ended, he moved to Crimea with his wife and child, but was kicked out of there and back to Uzbekistan three days later
- Nov. 1983 - arrested for the 6th time, sentenced to 3 years
Also on Nov. 7, I watched a really nice TV show with Mustafa Jemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatars. The timing was perfect - a very graceful fuck-you to the kommunyaki on their favorite day.
Jemilev is like a live history book - and he doesn't seem to need any bullshit political charisma because of that.
The show - Pozaochi on K-1 - was about his personal and political life; they interviewed his sister, wife and son, as well as one of his opponents and one of his colleagues. Jemilev was in the studio and was asked to react to what all those people were saying, to elaborate on it.
I loved his son's story: when he was a student in Turkey, he was looking for a restaurant job. At one place, the owner asked him where he was from. Crimea, he said. Oh, you have a great man there, a hero, Mustafa Jemilev, the Turkish guy exclaimed. And Jemilev's son made a mistake of revealing his true identity to him - and didn't get the job as a result, because the restaurant's owner just couldn't allow himself to have a great man's son waiting tables at his place.
K-1 seems like a really nice channel, by the way. In addition to Mustafa Jemilev, a documentary about Georgia a few days ago, so interesting, with minimum politics (just enough of it, actually) and maximum Georgian culture, history, customs, etc.
I've just posted a set of 26 pictures from the Nov. 7 Communist rally here in Kyiv, across the street from where I live. I ran out for 20 minutes at the very end of the rally, when I saw them out of my window, laying flowers to Lenin's monument on Shevchenko Boulevard. Comparatively few of them, but many journalists and even more riot police (resembling some evil folks from Star Wars).
Mama told me I shouldn't advertise kommunyaki by posting their photos - and I replied that they weren't likely to get anything but negative publicity this way, with all those portraits of Stalin and shit like that. Funny, but a similar exchange took place at LJ user plushev's blog - only it was about the Russian March in Moscow (my translation is here). Sort of relevant for all those useless discussions of the Russian journalism that followed Politkovskaya's murder: journalists here are often expected to lead the masses, still, and to keep them from doing this, one should shut them up, period.
Friday, November 10, 2006
The season of angry phone calls to ZhEK (communal maintenance office or whatever it is) began this past Monday: there was no hot water all Sunday. Tepid, every now and then, but not warm enough to wash Marta.
So I called them to complain, not the first one from our building, but to the neighbors they kept saying the problem was with the taps in their apartments, nothing to blame ZhEK for. To me, the woman replied that their plumbers have already raised the water's temperature, so it should get better soon. It did.
At one point, she said she understood me because she was a tenant, too, and I had to explain that she was speaking to me not as a tenant, but as someone representing a company that received money from tenants and was supposed to make their lives comfortable using this money. I also told her that since we were about to start paying them three times the current monthly amount, they and the way they work would be receiving a lot more attention.
In last week's Korrespondent, there's a piece by Andrei Smirnov, Aleksandr Paskhover and Irina Solomko (RUS) on the new utilities tariffs. Below are a few notes:
- From Dec. 1, prices in Kyiv go up over three times; the raise is the first one in seven years.
- Mayor Chernovetsky's idea is to have "the rich pay for the poor."
- Those who paid 150 hryvnias a month ($30), will now have to pay about 500 hryvnias ($100). Those who managed to install water counters are saving about 100 hryvnias ($20) a month.
- Due to the price hike, Kyiv residents will pay 2 billion hryvnias ($400 million) more in 2007 - but will get back only 100,000 hryvnias ($20,000) worth in budget-funded social services. The rest is going to end up in the pockets of energy company owners.
- How they calculate utility tariffs (according to professor Mikhail Krasnyansky): "Imagine that you have come to a grocery story and they don't weigh sausage for you, but instead calculate its cost using integral tables."
- According to official reports, Ukraine uses about 17.5 billion cubic meters of gas for residential purposes a year. Poland (whose population is smaller than Ukraine's, about 40 million people, ) uses 4 billion cubic meters a year. Ukraine's figure is most likely not true, but since gas counters are rare, it's impossible to tell ho much gas we really consume. Some people are making huge money on this, of course.
- On the average, a Ukrainian family of four pays for 1,5 tons of water a day - which is something like 45 tons a month - which is impossible.
- Here's how much a family of three living in a two-room apartment (60 square meters) would be paying monthly when the new tariffs are introduced:
Donetsk - 464.28 hryvnias/$92.85
Odesa - 426.36 hryvnias/$85.27
Kharkiv - 424.71 hryvnias/$84.94
Kyiv - 423.33 hryvnias/$84.66
Dnipropetrovsk - 416.91 hryvnias/$83.38
Lviv - 254.34 hryvnias/$50.86
Simferopol - 155.49 hryvnias/$31.09
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Where should I begin.
Every night these past few days, I tried to post something, but kept getting interrupted. Marta's sleeping habits have changed yet again - she likes to wake up in the middle of the night and stay up for a few hours, playing and crawling around, and she screams every time I try to lull her back into sleep. It's all really exhausting, but I'm not complaining, I'm just stating the facts.
What's also exhausting is having to walk half an hour one way and half an hour back to reach the park during our daily walks - an hour every day spent slaloming between cars with a stroller, uphill much of the time. Okay, here I am complaining.
My mama helps me tremendously, and I've no idea how we're gonna survive without her when we move to Moscow.
Here's a photo of Marta on one of her after-midnight sprees...
Sunday, November 05, 2006
While LJ was down yesterday, here is what was taking place in Moscow: photos from the Russian March 2006 and the antifascist rally, by LJ user 50x50.
It's the most popular blog entry right now, according to Yandex Blog Search (an awesome resource, by the way).
Politicians featured include Kuryanovich, Rogozin and Belov. Also, it does look like an event where the media and the police outnumbered the protesters. I mean, celebrators, if there is such a word and if it fits the context.
This elderly woman with a portrait of Politkovskaya adores going to rallies: LJ user nl has a collection of her pics from various events, including pro-Lebanon and pro-Israel ones, and a story (RUS), here.
More photos here, at Sergelin.ru.
Still more photos and a report (RUS) here, by LJ user smitrich.
Photos from Vladivostok, by LJ user atrey.
Two videos on YouTube: a short one of a few guys throwing their hands up in a Nazi way, and a long one, of Belov screaming his speech, looking and sounding like a complete idiot, the way Hitler did.
The most comic thing about Russian nationalist politics now is how someone who changed his not-too-Russian last name Potkin for the totally acceptable Belov is attacking someone who used to be Aslambek Dudayev but is now quite conveniently Vladislav Surkov.
(I remember writing/translating about some of it last year, here.)
Saturday, November 04, 2006
LJ is back on, but I don't want to read about it now - half-literate crap, full of curses and hatred aimed in all directions: Putin is a Jew, Lenin is a Jew, Stalin is Georgian, Potkin-Belov (leader of DPNI) is a Jew, Surkov is a Chechen, et cetera. Funny how victims are always depicted as heartbreakingly miserable, while in reality all they seem to do is spit hatred.
I read that there was a fight here in Kyiv, too, between guys from the "Imperial March" and some Ukrainians who opposed it, right outside our building, but I didn't hear or see anything. During our walk, I saw riot police near Bohdan Khmelnytsky monument, but they were just standing there, trying not to pose for tourists' pictures too much.
Too tired, too busy to write.
Marta's all over the place all the time and it's too cold now to take her for those long walks...
Marta's fever was caused by roseola, by the way - thank you, guys, for letting me know about Calpol: they recommended it to my mama at the drugstore, too, and she bought it, and I gave it to Marta once and it worked. Marta's rash was barely noticeable - but enough to remind me of something I'd read on the web a day ago: this is how I figured it was roseola, not (just) the teeth. I didn't call a doctor...
Russian March in Moscow tomorrow, very curious how it would go, really hope no one's gonna get hurt.
Also tomorrow, one year since I left for Kyiv: feels like yesterday, but also very distant.
Here's a picture of Kyiv that's not really Kyiv to me. The new building isn't bad, but I think it totally doesn't belong there, on Lesya Ukrainka Boulevard. I think all those skyscrapers don't belong in Kyiv's center at all - why can't they build something like London's Canary Wharf away from the center?
And a year ago, Nov. 7, 2005:
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I showed mama these two photos of a huge traffic jam in Moscow (RUS, by LJ user dolboeb), and she exclaimed, "Oh God, why would anyone need a car there!"
So I had to show her these three pictures of a rush hour down in the Moscow metro (by Two-Zero).
And then I read this text to her, by the organizers of the banned Russian March: they are now planning to gather a few thousand people at Komsomolskaya station (circle line), around 11 am, Saturday, November 4. Another reason to have a car in Moscow.