viewpoint-east.org

Feminism in Russia? Like a sleeping beauty?

Category: by sophie engström, gender, russia
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(Läsningstid: 5 minuter)

During my stay in Moscow last month, I one night ended up looking at Russian TV at a friends places. My friend and her old mother was zapping through the channels and ending up at the news. While we was sitting there consuming the information (or whatever the TV viewer are expected to do) I started to feel physically sick. Since I never look at TV in Sweden I am probably rather sensitive towards what I see. At first I thought it was because I had too much tasty food to eat, but rather quick I understood it was the news in the box infront of me that was the course of my sickness. And why did I feel like that? Well, it was not the actual news. They look the same as they always have in Russia, so this did not upset me (enough, I should add).

No, it was an other unpleasant aftertaste I could feel. During the 30 minutes or 45 minutes news show there where not even one woman speaking. I could see women crying or walking in the background of some guy being interviewed, but not even one woman had a voice. Coming from a country where the newsrooms and editorial work have, may be not great, but at least an awareness how important representation and diversity actually are, I felt like I was pushed back to some kind of Medieval landscape just in one blow. It is true that women’s representation in Russia in, for instance, the Parliament, sucks but this was just too much! (Check the statistics at Wikigender.) And I might alos add that this is a rather unpleasant change since all my previous stays in Moscow and Russia. I felt an urge to talk to a feminist that could put some light on how it became like this.

I was lucky. The day after I had a meeting with one of the most prominent feminists in Moscow, Nadezhda Azhgikhina, journalist, literary critic, and executive secretary at Russian Union of Journalists. I asked her why women have vanished from Russian TV and why I can’t hear or read any protests. Nadezhda implies that most bosses or executive bosses are men, so basically the newsrooms or editorial are stuck with those. But when it comes to why TV news shows almost no women Nadezhda has a very interesting theory. She denotes that Russian TV should be regarded a theatre play. This play has as a purpose in trying to fool the viewer into believing that the government actually is in charge and can handle all occurring problems in the society.


Nadezhda Azhgikhina

– Men doesn’t show fear and are therefor regarded as the most effective power. So by excluding all women, they try create the picture that Russia is the strongest and best country in the world.

The second part of her theory is that she implies that TV, including all other media, do not want to promote the idea that there exists any gender problems in Russia of today. One explanation could be that it just don’t sell. The younger generations have not interest in feminism or gender issues, basically because they do not want to be influenced by “old” values. By “old” she denotes feminist values from 1990’s and during the Post Soviet Era. The feminist movement back then was very strong, but has drastically declined and today there are almost no feminist movement, she implies.

However, during the 90’s the feminist movement managed to create a good and stable network among those that are working with the questions.

But even so, I urge, while looking at Russia today I can only see stagnated stereotypes and mostly values promoting, for example, macho-masculinities and sticky sexisms when it comes to feminities. From my perspective Russia gender situation appears to be more conservative and obsolete than ever. I point at Ukraine and FEMEN and ask Nadezdha why we can’t see any reactions like that in Russia. Her answer actually surprises me. She claims that Ukraine is 10 years behind Russia., and that Ukraine’s radical feminist movement will also languish away. Her rather fatalistic attitude scares me, however she can be right. In Sweden we have had several strong feministic movements that have subsided. While Russia had a strong feminist during the 90’s, Sweden and many other countries, for instance USA, had a rather heavy backlash on feminists issues. From some perspective I would say that Sweden has never really recovered from that backlash.


FEMEN dressed as policemen protesting against the limitation of democratic liberties and freedom of the press during the first hundred days of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency commemorated today.

The question we should ask ourself is perhaps how feminism can survive between every intervals of activity. What will for instance happen with an organization such as FEMEN when Ukrainian media has lost their interest in them? What plans do they have to survive the situation? After my meeting with Nadezdha I strongly feel that this is perhaps one of the weakest points of all feminist movements around the world. (And all other activism, I suppose.) When media turns their heads in other directions, too many feminists activists vanishes from the scene. How come? Not all feminists are exhibitionists for sure!!

But hopefully social media could play an important and different role for making campaigns to survive longer. FEMEN has been able to create their own media flow, with twitter, flickr etc etc. And I do hope that they have the strength to go on, even after the Ukrainian establishment has recovered from the chock that FEMEN (still) creates.


From FEMEN’s last campaign “Bloody tits”

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“Den ryska bokmarknaden är i en enda röra”

Category: by sophie engström, literature, russia, Uncategorized
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(Läsningstid: 3 minuter)

När jag besökte “Museernas Natt” i Moskva, träffade jag mångsysslaren Nick Ohkotin, initiativtagare till den oberoende bokdistributören Berrounz, ägare av Proekt OGI bookstore och Interbok i Stockholm. Vi pratade en del om situationen för den ryska bokindustrin och om hans arbete med Moscow International Open Book Festival.

– Tanken med “Moscow International Open Book Festival” är att visa besökarna att böcker inte bara har reducerats till kommers. Vi vill istället sätta fokus på litteraturen och författarnas tankar om kreativitet och skapande. Vår avsikten är alltså inte att sälja böcker i mängder, det sker på vanliga bokmässor, utan att fokusera på literaturen och författarna, säger Nick.


Nick Okhotin på Proekt_Fabrika under Museernas natt i Moskva 15 maj 2010.

Ungefär 80% av det som försiggår på “Moscow International Open Book Festival” handlar om litteratur, men för att överleva och locka till sig besökare har man bjudit in andra aktörer. Förra året bjöd de till exempel in den amerikanska anarkisten och filosofen John Zerzan. Det var en verkligt populär programpunkt. Andra populära inslag på festivalen, som inte hade en direkt koppling till litteratur, var en diskussionsduell mellan olika kulturföreträdare. De hade till exempel en duell mellan en filmkritiker och en filmskapare.

Nicks ambition med festivalen är att försöka göra festivalen något mer eklektisk än den varit tidigare, så att bidrag som beskrivits ovan blir mer vanliga. Han ser det som en viktig vitamininjektion för att inspirera det kulturella debattklimatet och likaså bokmarknaden, som han för övrigt anser den vara i stort behov av nya impulser.

Men att vara yrkesverksam på den ryska bokmarknaden är allt annat än riskfritt. För ungefär två år sedan mördades till exempel en förläggare för ett förlag som ger ut skolböcker och det är just där som korruptionen är som störst, menar Nick. Han försätter med att påpeka att hela bokmarknaden är en enda röra. Det verkar som om det finns en avsaknad av mål och visioner, säger han och menar att det finns många exempel på dåliga projekt i bokbranschen.

– “Piramida” är ett sådant exempel. Det var en bokaffärskedja här i Moskva som fanns på många platser. Butikerna låg ofta på exklusiva adresser. Deras hyror måste varit skyhöga. Proekt OGI Bookstore var en av många som engagerade sig och satsade i Piramida. Men problemet var att det inte fanns någon egentlig tanke eller idé bakom affärsidén, så de gick helt enkelt givetvis omkull. Vi förlorade runt 10.000 € vilket är ett enormt belopp för vår verksamhet. Det var nära att vi inte skulle klara det.

Nick hoppas därför på framtiden, men han ser inte särdeles ljust på den.

– Boken som form har svårt att konkurrera mot nya informationsvägar och läsplattan kan ju antingen vara en välsignelse eller det sista dråpslaget mot bokmarknaden. Förutsättningen är ju att folk fortsätter att läsa, men ibland är jag orolig att attityden till litteratur håller på att förändras, menar Nick. Och med den ryska litteraturens stolta tradition i åtanke kan jag inte låta bli att förfäras när en besökare på Fabika instämmer och berättar att det knappt finns något som helst intresse för inhemsk (eller internationell) litteratur bland yngre.

– De spelar dataspel eller surfar och verkar inte ha något intresse alls för att läsa, och Nick är enig med besökare.

Problemet med svikande intresse för litteratur är visserligen ett hyfsat globalt problem. Men för ett land som Ryssland, som ofta hänvisar till sin litterära dignitärer, får det kanske vidare konsekvenser. För hur går det med den ryska själen om den inte har någon kontakt med Dostojevskij eller Pusjkin?

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Korydor – A new venue for contemporary culture

Category: by sophie engström, ukraine
Tags: , , ,

(Läsningstid: 1 minut)

Today, on May 26 2010, the Foundation Center for Contemporary Art in Kyiv invites readers and authors to KORYDOR – online magazine in Ukrainian, dedicated to contemporary art and contemporary culture.

KORYDOR.in.ua seeks to create archive of critical phenomena and events on contemporary culture. It is an open platform for discussions and lectures. KORYDOR has a goal to develop a professional and responsible criticism. The magazine will also work for a joint discussion with European partners. through international discussions, reviews, translations of critical texts. English versions will be launched in autumn 2010.

For more information write to art[at]cca[dot]kiev[dot]ua

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A Western Coalition? – Western Ukraine needs a new strategy

Category: by Jonathan Hibberd, guests, ukraine
Tags: , , , , , , ,

(Läsningstid: 7 minuter)

Where is Western Ukraine in the new political order? You could be forgiven for thinking it had disappeared from the map altogether. The new President has put a Russian in charge of the country, and set out on a course coherent with restoring Ukraine’s place to that of the ‘little Russia’ which had for the past 19 years existed only the minds of out-of-touch, chauvinistic Muscovites. Western Ukraine is now a marginalised and, some would argue, despised frontier province with nothing to offer the new order. It may even now, some might suppose, become the ‘enemy’ on which the need for ‘stability’ (meaning authoritarianism) is sold to the people, in the way that Russia scapegoats the clearly terrifying Estonia and Georgia (and up until now Ukraine) as reasons to stick to ‘strong government’. Egg-throwing and rostrum-blocking in parliament does little to dispel these insinuations.

If the new order is to persist, it poses questions to the west of the country that have never before been so prescient. Independent Ukraine was born of what one might call an unholy alliance between the communists of the east and the nationalists of the west. For many years this grand bargain carried benefits as well as disadvantages for both sides. Whilst an eastern-based business mafia held sway over the country’s industry and economy, a kind of ‘cultural mafia’ advanced a linguistic and cultural agenda that more favoured the west of the country. This grand bargain is now breaking up. Some would say this breaking up was started in the Yushchenko era. Others might contend that it is now, under Yanukovych, that one side of the country feels most disenfranchised. What is clear is that nothing is now being done with the aim of enhancing national unity. Instead of an over-arching, inclusive, reform-minded government under a prime minister such as Tigipko which the most optimistic might have hoped for, the new President has opted for a Russo-centric position. It is difficult to see how divisive appointments such as Tabachnyk can be considered necessary pragmatism. The idea that in the country that suffered the Holodomor children might in the very near future be opening textbooks that state that Stalin was a ‘strong leader who made tough decisions for Russia’ is going to be most sickening to those in the west.


Oleskiy Palace. Photo by Em and Ernie

Part of Western Ukraine’s problem is that the figures they have backed in the past have in fact served the region’s wider interests very poorly. Although large numbers turned out in the presidential second round to support Tymoshenko, there seemed little to recommend her, apart from that she wasn’t Yanukovych. The orange politicians who wrap themselves in Ukrainian patriotism in fact have interests much closer to the centre. At the other extreme, Ukrainian nationalist or patriotic parties can be seen as somewhat eccentric, perhaps extremist, in any case for many people not truly electable. Western Ukraine is clearly different to the rest of the country, culturally and linguistically and in its aspirations. These differences are only being exacerbated in the current circumstances. Western Ukrainians themselves need to start thinking about how to empower themselves against the current unenviable odds. A lot will depend on what sort of system emerges over the next couple of years.

If the current semi-parliamentary system persists, the west might look at its options modelled on regional/cultural political blocks in other European countries. In Italy, the Northern League sheds any illusions that it is a party of national consensus, and seeks to represent its regional interest within the country, where it feels under-represented. In Romania and Slovakia, the Hungarian minority is represented by Hungarian coalition parties. These coalition parties host within them a diverse set of views, from moderates to nationalists, but who manage to agree on over-arching concerns, and lobby for concessions in these areas, frequently as kingmakers in coalitions. Strong patriots might feel a need to prioritise issues such as UPA recognition, but in reality, forsaking the bigger issues over such matters does little to help the next generation. Even the People’s Self Defence block, which is an attempt at coalition party building, does not have a broad enough appeal. As the Conservatives in the UK who are learning coalition politics from scratch now realise, one has to look at the big picture. The over-arching issues for Western Ukrainians are obvious: education and language, relations with Europe and the need for a credible economic development policy for the region. So a kind of ‘Western Coalition’ could be the answer.


Lviv. Photo by Lyncis

However, we face the real prospect that the 2012 parliamentary elections may mean very little. Even if they are free and fair, including access of all political groupings to the media, the acquisition of ‘tushki’ might allow the powers that be to ‘tidy up’ any slightly messy outcome to the vote. Or who is to say at the moment that these elections won’t go the way of the currently delayed local elections? If this election finishes with the west of the country having no voice, thoughts will inevitably turn to the idea of secession. A strategy for independence would then need some serious thought. If there is a clear sentiment in favour of the idea, unofficial polls might be conducted, perhaps modelled on the unofficial pro-independence referendums that have been taking place across Catalonia.

Independence would have many advantages. Patriotic Western Ukraine would have the over-arching unity of purpose that has benefited the likes of Hungary and Poland. The overseas diaspora would be able to assist in the kinds of ways they were in Estonia, for example. Also, with suggestions that Moldova might just sneak into the EU because ‘it’s small’ (a lame criteria perhaps, but it is how many in Brussels seem to think) perhaps the EU will be able to stomach a bite-size Ukraine of, say, 7-10 million people rather than 46 million, a good chunk of whom it can be argued don’t even want to be there. A small ship is easier to turn. Observe how previously backsliding Slovakia leapfrogged its neighbours to join the Euro.

This may all of course be pie in the sky. Secession is difficult to achieve from any country. However, if aggravations produce policy concessions rather than independence, this may in itself be valuable enough, and would be preferable to marginalisation. Against this however there is the question of the west-looking centre of Ukraine. They might be the next to be marginalised.

Perhaps a separatist approach is not the best way forward at a time when a united opposition is most crucial, but nonetheless Western Ukraine needs to think very carefully before persisting with politicians who talk the talk, but in fact have little interest in the region. There is a grave danger of Western Ukrainians continuing to throw away their votes to minigarchs, thugs and tushki, and it is perhaps time that, as a united front, the region acts for itself. In any case, if the coming years prove to be difficult, a distinction may develop between those who understand and defend their civil and democratic rights, and those who are prepared to allow their freedoms to be compromised for the ‘greater good’.

Of course, the best scenario is not independence for Western Ukraine but for the entire country to be anchored into the EU accession process which helps to foster civil rights, democracy and economic reform for the country as a whole, and which would put pay to many of the worries that currently exist. It is only in the complete absence of a membership perspective for Ukraine that worries about where Ukraine is drifting have become all too real, and hence the need to possibly take a look at some radical alternative scenarios. The alternative of wait and see could be very costly.

To take the analogy of Belgium, another European country that is frequently described as divided, a few decades ago the French-speaking south dominated industrially and culturally, whilst the Dutch-speaking north was poorer. A few years on it is now the north that is in the ascendency with its new industries, with the once proud south a decaying rustbelt. Steel and coalmining are yesterday’s industries, light manufacturing, services and tourism are tomorrow’s, and it is Western Ukraine that is best placed to grasp this opportunity, if it is allowed to.

This has previously been published at Chicken in Kiev (or) Kiev Rus

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Civic Campaign: Make Ukraine better!

Category: by Dmytro Yatsyuk, guests, ukraine
Tags: , , ,

(Läsningstid: 3 minuter)

Ukraine is now living a very particular situation. End of one historical circle (period of European dream born with Orange Revolution) and beginning of some entirely new and perhaps shadow time, marked by political decision of a new government to abandonee European and Euro Atlantic choice for Ukraine.

In that situation, Ukrainian young generation feel that they must do something (anything at all), to make his own position about situation living by contemporary Ukraine.

In this actual environment, every political, social or cultural organization or part of civic society uses its own “weapons” of choice. Ukrainian feminist organization FEMEN, received the recent visit of Medvedev with his own performance called “Scratched by bear”.


Photo by FEMEN at Flickr


Other group of youngsters from Kyiv, start at May 11, 2010, a civic campaign “Make Ukraine better!”, intended to unite young generation of Ukrainians around of Ukrainian national idea, in way to remind all those who gave their lives for the country.

The bilingual manifesto of campaign (in Ukrainian and Russian) said:

In remembrance of those who fought for Ukraine and to together future – our initiative:

Belt for Belt (from famous UPA lyrics Lenta Za Lentoyu”):

We have different political views. We speak different languages. But Ukraine is unique for us. Do not be afraid to say that. Do not be ashamed. Do not forget.

Put the flag on your apartment. Add the ribbon to your clothes – to the day-to-day one and to festive one and to any one.

You want to make life better in Ukraine? Do it. Anything. And think about more.

Do you want to do more than just putting the ribbon to your clothes? You’re not alone : )

There are all sorts of issues needing to resolution, and actions that can and should be done. For example, today’s issues to be solved by civil society:

1) demand for joint vision of history – as the basis for understanding in the society;
2) actions for organization of civil society;
3) action against state corruption and the filth of personal responsibility of state representatives and politicians (yes, they also must live with respect for the law and must behave decently);
3) support to culture (not for kitsch);
4) support poor and disadvantaged parcels of society;
5) etc, etc, etc …

You can propose your own actions; you also can support actions of others. For more information, visit the online community Make Ukraine better! There discussions are made, there activities are organized. Why not?

You also can help to our action as follows:

1) Place one of the proposed banners on your blog / site: lentaua.org.ua
2) Send to us your beautiful photos with the ribbons, organize a section of photographs, involve famous people, finally, our action allows your personal PR : )
3) Create the design of the original ribbons, banners or other promotional materials.
4) To popularize and disseminate our initiative in the press, in the Internet, in blogosphere, etc …
5) Share with us your ideas. Write to us, don’t be ashamed in@lentaua.org.ua or join the community http://community.livejournal.com/lenta_ua or visit the campaign website lentaua.org.ua

Information about this initiative in Portuguese:
ucrania-mozambique.blogspot.com

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Moskvas alternativa scen är liten, men desto kaxigare

Category: by sophie engström, russia
Tags: , , , ,

(Läsningstid: 3 minuter)

I vimlet på “Black market” på Proekt_Fabrika, sprang jag på Elena Tupyseva. Elena är en av Tsekhs drivkrafter. Tsekh är oberoende dansgrupp som är har sina lokaler i Proekt_Fabrika. Hon driver även Fabrikas konsertsal samt dess trevliga bar . Elena beskriver verksamheten i huset, och snabbt får jag klart för mig att detta är kanske en av de mer intressanta platserna i Moskva just nu, om man intresserar sig för vad som sker på den alternativa scenen. Proekt_Fabrika huserar flera olika aktiviteter, men alla som finns där är kopplat till den alternativa kulturscenen. Ja, förutom självaste fabriken, vill säga.

– Vet du om att fabriken fortfarande fungerar? De tillverkar papper och har upplåtit en del av deras yta till oss.

Elena vill helst inte spekulera i varför, men tror att det kan vara ett försök av företagsledningen att skapa goodwill.

-Eller så har de bara ett genuint intresse för kultur, vad vet jag? säger hon och skrattar.


Interiör från Proekt_Fabrika

Elena menar att Moskvas oberoende kulturscen ser bedrövlig ut. Enligt henne finns det ungefär fyra scener som tar in alternativ musik, teater, dans eller utställningar. Staden växer, men inte intresset för alternativ musik. Ett problem är att hyrorna är odrägligt höga, men en annan viktig och bidragande orsak är att intresset för alternativ kultur inte tilltar ut.

– Efter jobbet vill folk inte titta på modern dans, utan heller gå i köpcentra och köpa meningslösa attribut. Jag tror att intresset för kultur har avtagit totalt, men att alternativ, och kanske lite mer svår tolkad kultur, lider mest av det. Helt obegripligt! Modern dans som är så kul, säger hon och skrattar och påpekar att festivalen IntraDance kan bli lidande av det minskade intresset för kultur.

Elena är en av producenterna för festivalen och hon berättar om vilka problem de ställts inför. För det första är det mycket svårt att hitta lokaler som funkar. De som sysslar med modern dans vill helst ha en scen där publiken kan se rörelserna på golvet något uppifrån. Moskva har mycket få scener som stämmer in på den beskrivningen. För det andra är deras problem liten uppmärksamhet i media. Första gången de körde festivalen hade Afisha, Moskvas främsta city guide, ett fem sidors reportage med bilder. Denna gång har de haft 1/4 sida.

– Det är förstås förödande för oss, säger Elena som ändå hoppas på god uppslutning när festivalen drag igång den 20 maj.

Och det är klart att den blir det, tänker jag, när Elena ångar vidare mellan besökarna på “Black market”. Med den kraften kan inget stoppa dig!

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Night of Museums in Moscow

Category: by sophie engström, russia
Tags: , , , , ,

(Läsningstid: 1 minut)

Yesterday it was Night of Museums in Moscow and viewpoint-east.org went to Proekt Fabrika. I made an interview with Nick Ohkotin, independent book distributor Berrounz, owner of Proekt OGI bookstore and Interbok in Stockholm such as one of the team heads of Moscow International Open Book Festival. This interview will be published later.

Below you see a (very) short clip from the Black Market, that was situated at the yard at Fabrika. Wonderful atmosphere with friendly faces, tasty wine and many interesting books and other items for sale.

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