The Real Russia. Today. Russia’s moral panic

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

* International news: Lukashenko to make Crimea recognition official, Blinken issues another warning, and (opinion) Dr. Emily Holland argues that Europe might have to pause its green initiative to break from Russian energy dependence

* Law and order: an anthropologist explains how ‘moral panic’ fueled fears about ‘criminal network’ influencing Russian youth, prison time for an ex-communicated priest, OVD-Info’s massive report on ‘foreign agency,’ a homophobe harasser must pay up, Litvinovich loses in court, prosecutors come again for Rolf and Petrov, a former Navalny activist catches a break

* Public policy: a Western set in Russia’s Far East, (opinion) Peter Kanaev enumerates the problems with race-blind crime reporting requirements, (opinion) Nick Trickett says Russia’s real risk is deflation, Rostec’s anti-riot A.I., and (opinion) Natalia Osipova takes on the modern-day ’nihilist’ generation

* The pandemic: Catherine the Great was no anti-vaxxer, a tough year for the media business, and (opinion) András Tóth-Czifra studies the QR-code cracks in Russia’s regime strength


🕊️ Lukashenko announces plans to visit Crimea and recognize peninsula as part of Russia (he’s been hinting at this move for years, having called it “de facto” Russian territory in March 2014)

⚔️ U.S. State Secretary issues another ‘serious consequences’ warning to Russia over ‘any renewed aggression’ in Ukraine (Antony Blinken’s remarks came at a joint press conference with Latvian foreign minister in Riga, where he is attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers to discuss the Russian troops amassed at Russia’s border with Ukraine)

Opinion: U.S. Naval War College assistant professor lays out Europe’s options for energy security (Dr. Emily Holland recommends what she calls “foul tasting, but life-saving medicine” to overcome Europe’s lack of consensus on energy issues. She says Russia’s “divide and conquer approach has allowed industry corruption to flourish all along the energy value chain, benefiting elites within European states that participated in Russian energy exports.” To break the energy dependence on Russia, Europe might need to consider “modifying or temporarily suspending some of its ambitious climate rules” — a delay Holland says could be a prerequisite to “managing the threat of climate change adequately.”)

Law and order

🕵️ Russia’s criminal culture: ‘AUE is an information bubble’ (9-min read)

In 2020, the Russian Supreme Court declared AUE an illegal extremist organization and banned its activities. In its ruling, the court referred to AUE as an “international social movement.” But by all appearances, this purported extremist group lacks organizational principles, a hierarchical structure, and other characteristics that typically define a social movement. Indeed, AUE — short for “Arestansky Uklad Edin,” which can be roughly translated as “Prisoner’s Lifestyle is Unified” — is more often described as an informal network. Or as a criminal subculture, whose mostly teenage followers romanticize prison culture and criminal aesthetics. To find out more about AUE and its actual influence in Russia, Meduza spoke to anthropologist Dmitry Gromov about the research behind his forthcoming book, titled “AUE: Criminalization of Youth and Moral Panic.”

More law-and-order news

⚖️ Ex-communicated Orthodox priest who seized convent sentenced to 3.5 years in prison (in response to “inciting suicide” allegations, Sergii Romanov said he merely called for “the readiness to sacrifice [one’s] life, for religious feats”)

⚖️ After losing immunity, KPRF lawmaker Valery Rashkin files lawsuit against Russia’s State Duma (he says his lawyers weren’t allowed to attend the Duma session where he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity over felony charges of illegal hunting)

⚖️ OVD-Info releases massive report on how Russia’s foreign-agent legislation plays out in reality (the text is 24,000 words long and covers legal definitions, how status is assigned, reporting and labeling requirements, penalties for noncompliance, restrictions, indirect discrimination, and negative societal impact)

💰 ‘Anti-gay’ activist is ordered to pay LGBT rights worker 54,000 rubles (roughly $730) for harassment (Timur Bulatov has reported numerous gay rights workers and ordinary members of the LGBT community to the police. In December 2018, he sent more than a dozen unsolicited, insulting messages to Alla Chikinda. Earlier this year, he was fined about half as much money for harassing another member of the same LGBT rights group.)

⚖️ Court upholds Marina Litvinovich’s removal from Moscow’s public monitoring commission (Litvinovich, who ran for State Duma in September and lost, says she will appeal the ruling. Members of public monitoring commissions are entitled to visit inmates in prison and share information with the public about their living conditions. Litvinovich joined Moscow’s commission in late 2019.)

🚗 Prosecutors outside Moscow sue car dealership empire Rolf and founder Sergey Petrov for 12.9 billion rubles ($171.7 million) for allegedly moving money abroad illegally (To avoid arrest, Petrov hasn’t returned to Russia since 2019. He says the entire case is evidence of the country’s “awful business climate.” Meduza wrote about this investigation back in June 2019.)

⚖️ Krasnoyarsk court acquits former Team Navalny activist of displaying ‘extremist symbols’ (Natalia Peterimova is off the hook for multiple posts on Instagram where she held up signs showing Navalny’s iconic “N” logo — before Navalny’s organizations were ever outlawed)

Public policy

📽️ Khabarovsk Governor wants $2.7 million to film a Western in the region to pull in tourists (Mikhail Degtyarev says the movie would be set in 1916 and follow the antics surrounding a gold heist)

🚨 Opinion: Head of RBC Media Holding’s joint editorial board says proposed ban on reporting criminals’ ethnicity is unnecessary and dangerous (Peter Kanaev argues that race-based defamation by journalists is already illegal, says ethnicity information is important to law enforcement and to society, and warns that banning another action by journalists is a slippery slope)

💱 Opinion: Nick Trickett says Russian Central Bank’s focus on suppressing inflation risks deflation (the risk analyst says Moscow’s economic institutions triggering deflation to fight price increases brought on by supply constraints “is likelier to leave people worse off than an economy that’s experiencing higher inflation while growing more strongly”)

🧠 Rostec is developing A.I. that can analyze surveillance footage and issue recommendations to riot police (the software is also designed to study social media and news content for preventative threat assessments, mirroring another government-funded program also reported by Kommersant just a day earlier that analyzes social networks for anti-social tendencies)

🏴‍☠️ Opinion: In an op-ed that has nearly 1 million views, columnist Natalia Osipova denounces modern-day young people in Russia as a ‘generation of nihilists’ (In the text, she ruminates on the need for more criminal legislation to force decency in an era of moral decline. Osipova also argues that the U.S. is responsible for this degradation, having committed to state ideology through Hollywood depictions of America. Osipova’s article won praise from Russia Today editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan and ridicule from several independent journalists.)

The pandemic

💉 Catherine the Great supported inoculations, according to a letter to be sold at auction (She embraced widespread access to a precursor of the smallpox vaccine. The letter is dated April 20, 1787, and was addressed to a Russian army officer.)

💸 Roughly 1,500 media outlets have closed down in Russia this year (There are still more than 60,000 registered publications, however. Communications Ministry official Svetlana Dzyubinskaya says the pandemic hurt the profitability of local and regional outlets, while the national media weathered the year better.)

💉 Opinion: András Tóth-Czifra says Russian vaccination passes are a test case for weaknesses in ‘digital authoritarianism and public power in general’ (The political analyst highlights how popular backlash to pandemic restrictions and mandates has empowered various groups and individuals to block or complicate state efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. In this “political minefield,” “regional governments are the minesweepers”; they’re left to experiment with responses to critical groups and to fend for themselves against an unsteady protest movement. The Kremlin’s aversion to risk rules out the more “coercive measures” needed to “nudge people to get vaccinated.”)

⚔️ Tomorrow in history: 196 years ago, tomorrow on December 1, 1825, Russian Emperor Alexander I died in Taganrog at the age of 47. While in power, his greatest triumph came in 1812 when Napoleon’s invasion of Russia proved to be a catastrophic disaster for the French.

Yours, Meduza


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