Staunton, March 17 – The past week featured not only a multitude of “only in Russia” stories but also ones that more than most are instructive about the way Russia is today. Below is a selection of 13 of them: it could have been extended almost at will.
1. In Moscow Version of “Alice,” the Red Queen Bans Everything. Moscow’s Taganka theater is showing a version of “Alice in Wonderland” adapted to Russian realities. In it, among other things, “the Red Queen” bans everything (rferl.org/a/alice-in-russialand/29811116.html).
2. Just Like in World War II, Magadan Residents Making Sausage Out of Seal Meat. Residents of the Russian Far Eastern region are not able to get enough pork or beef from the mainland and thus must make sausages out of seal meat. They say it isn’t that bad (newizv.ru/news/society/16-03-2019/kak-v-voynu-v-magadane-nachali-proizvodit-kolbasu-iz-tyuleney).
3. Even Regarding Pornography, Russia Increasingly at Odds with Former Soviet Republics. Pornhub has surveyed the tastes of various peoples around the world as to the kind of pornography they prefer. On that measure as in so many others, it reports, Russia and the former Soviet republics increasingly diverge (dsnews.ua/society/lyubit-ne-po-sovetski-pochemu-ukraintsy-i-rossiyane-vse-eshche-13032019220000). In Russia, a background in porn is no longer a political liability: One adult star is now running for mayor of Murmansk (5-tv.ru/news/243566/pornoaktrisa-berkova-sobralas-vgubernatory-foto/?from=alert).
4. Russian Protests Slow Construction of Chinese Plant on Baikal. Anger at the possibility that China will take water from Lake Baikal has sparked protests that have forced officials to suspend its construction (newsland.com/community/7411/content/ostanovleno-stroitelstvo-kitaiskogo-zavoda-na-beregu-baikala/6683155 and themoscowtimes.com/2019/03/11/russian-prosecutors-seek-to-stop-chinese-bottling-factory-at-lake-baikal-a64771). Their anger has even protested one satirical site to suggest that Transbaikal residents plan to throw trash into the lake so that the Chinese will suffer if they take the water (ntersucks.ru/общество/zhiteli-irkutska-sbrasyivayut-v-baykal-nechistotyi-chtobyi-zashhitit-ozero-ot-kitaytsev/).
5. Putin Bans Avtorkhanov’s Works Like Brezhnev but Less Effectively. In Soviet times, Leonid Brezhnev banned the works of Chechen historian Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov, and now, Vladimir Putin has done so again. But Putin’s action is proving less effective as the texts of most are on the Internet (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C8937124D4E3 and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/12/moscow-puts-book-by-avtorkhanov-on.html).
6. Was Support for Democracy a Fashion Choice for Some Soviet Dissidents? A Moscow commentator has suggested that some dissidents in Soviet times identified with democracy not because they understood it but rather because it was a way of showing their opposition to the communist regime which opposed it and solidarity with other dissidents (ej.ru/?a=note&id=33529).
7. Pskov Oblast Girl Who Complained to Putin Threatened by Her Fellow Villagers. A young woman in a village in Pskov oblast wrote to Putin complaining about the closure of the village school and the low pay her mother received. Initially, officials helped but then turned on her. Worse, she started getting threats from her neighbors if she ever has the temerity to wash such dirty linen in public (meduza.io/feature/2019/03/16/ta-esche-vyskochka-i-prouchili-ee-podelom).
Beria’s Favorite Restaurant, the Aragvi, Closes. The Aragvi, a storied Moscow restaurant that Stalin’s secret police chief Lavrenty Beria helped found and regularly visited, has finally closed, the apparent victim of rising rents in its neighborhood (echo.msk.ru/blog/solareva_i/2388485-echo/
Russian Officials Require Protesters to Register Balloons as Drones. In yet another move intended to make demonstrations more difficult, Russian officials are now equating balloons with drones and requiring protesters who want to release them to register them in advance (svobodaradio.livejournal.com/3892394.html