Thursday, January 28, 2010

I cursed a lot when I saw that picture of a Moscow cop detaining Lyudmila Alexeyeva (82 and dressed as Snegurochka), following the New Year's Eve opposition rally.

This profile of Alexeyeva in the New York Times is a much more adequate response to what happened than cursing - a cool way of sending something of a "fuck you" postcard to the regime. (Thanks for the link to Matthew Bown of IZO.)

Below are some of my favorite passages:

You almost feel sorry for the police officer tasked with detaining Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva as she led an unsanctioned protest on New Year’s Eve. It is not just that at 82 years of age she appears as fragile as a porcelain teacup, or that she was dressed as a Snow Maiden, complete with sparkly hat and adorable fur muff.

That is part of it. The other part is that as a young woman, Ms. Alexeyeva sat through so many K.G.B. interrogations that she rolls her eyes rather than count them. She was developing a variety of strategies to distract, deflect and otherwise irritate the authorities before the police officer’s parents were out of grade school.

Upon hearing the details of Ms. Alexeyeva’s arrest, Paul Goldberg — who wrote with her “The Thaw Generation: Coming of Age in the Post-Stalin Era,” her memoir of life as a dissident — started to laugh. “They should actually print out pictures of Lyudmila Alexeyeva and hand them out to all the law enforcement authorities with a note saying ‘Do not arrest this person,’ ” said Mr. Goldberg, now an editor in Washington. “It is not fun to tangle with this person. She will make you feel like dirt, and she will not do it gratuitously. She will do it because you are dirt.”


Everyone knew the sentence for crimes against the state: seven years in a penal camp and five years in exile. On her way into K.G.B. headquarters, Ms. Alexeyeva would stop to buy a ham sandwich, an ├ęclair and an orange. These were delicacies in the 1970s, even for the investigator, who was headed for a lunch of gray cutlets. Halfway through, Ms. Alexeyeva would unwrap her lunch and lay it out on the table.

“They reacted very nervously when they started to smell ham,” she said with a sweet smile. “Then I would start eating the orange, and the aroma would start dissipating through the room.” The effect was reliably hypnotic.

“That’s how I amused myself,” she said. “It was a way to play on his nerves.”


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