Vera Graziadei

I'm a British Ukrainian Russian actress and writer.

When a wave of protests started in Russia in response to the 2011 legislative election process, dissident Alexey Navalny, along with many other protesters, argued that ‘in a fair election Putin would be defeated.’  Latest poll findings from the independent Levada Centre prove that if  ‘a fair election’ was held today, Putin would come out an indisputable winner. Public support for Putin’s political actions has reached 88%, a stratospheric percentage, when compared to 48% of Americans that approve of Obama’s job performance and meagre 29% of Brits that approve of Cameron-Clegg coalition. The chances of the “Snow Revolution” reviving any time soon are slim, as Russians’ propensity to protest has gone down to a historic low, only comparable to 2000, when Putin first came to power. If things continue like this, Ben Judah might have to re-write the unhappy ending of his romance story “How Russia fell in and out of love with Vladimir Putin” into a happy one.

To many westerners, who are used to seeing Putin either airbrushed with Hitler’s moustache or with make-up on against a rainbow backdrop, these Levada poll results will be confusing, if not alarming. There is only one thing, which is worse than an evil dictator – it’s an evil dictator, who’s backed up by his nation’s majority. And even worse still – an evil dictator, backed up by a majority, who are brain-washed by a ‘zombie-box‘, controlled by that dictator. In case you are panicking, not knowing how to protect yourself against this Demon, who represses at home and aggresses abroad, don’t worry – George Soros has thought of a strategy on your behalf: “All available (EU) resources ought to be put to work in the war effort (in Ukraine) even if that involves running up budget deficits”. Needless to say, George didn’t offer to chip in himself, but we should all tighten our austerity belts, unless we want to see Russian armies marching through Ukraine and all the way to Warsaw and beyond.

By now Russian people must be used to all the open calls to war, hysteria, hypocrisy and double standards applied to their country by western politicians and media. Even before the Ukrainian war started, Russia was bashed for gay rights, following its controversial law on gay propaganda to minors , culminating with major world leaders snubbing the Winter Olympics altogether. Barak Obama was one of the leaders who refused to come to Sochi, explaining: “I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.” This impatience clearly doesn’t apply to the 13 US states that have “Crimes Against Nature” statute, outlawing sodomy between consenting adults. Nor does it prevent the US president from continuing their ‘long history of friendship” between Washington and Saudi Arabia, where homosexuals are executed.

These hypocrisies and double standards must be truly frustrating for Russian people to witness. Russia is not amongst the ten countries, where homosexuality may be punished by death, like Qatar, where despite the truly draconian law on gays, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held. Homosexuality is not banned in Russia like it is in 79 countries worldwide, including 40 commonwealth countries with whom the West is more than happy to deal with. Yes, Russian society is conservative and favours ‘traditional’ family values, but so are most other countries in the former Soviet bloc, where homophobia is as much of an issue, but which are not criticised for it as much.

For example, US and EU-backed Kiev has recently seen an attack against the gay club Pomada (Lisptick), the oldest movie theatre Zhovten went up in flames during a LGBT film screening, while the Minister of Internal Affairs Avakov declared that his party “People’s Front” will only enter into coalition with ‘democracy forces, not queer ones.’ Western politicians and media are turning a blind eye to these statements and attacks, as the Ukraine with their US-puppet government is their ally, but if similar events occurred in Russia, the western media would instantly use these news as a stick for bashing.

While most Russian people I know are not homophobic at all, some Russians could use an anti-gay card as a way of differentiating themselves from people in the West, especially now when they feel shunned and prejudiced against by the western world (which is why aggressive condemnation and confrontation of Russia over gay rights is counter-productive) However, when coming face-to-face with gays, these very same people will be tolerant, if not fascinated by them.  In the public sphere, many Russian celebrities are openly gay, like Boris Moiseev or Diana Arbenina, or are in drag, like Verka Serdyuchka, and one should watch the recordings of their live concerts on Youtube to see how much they are accepted and adored by their Russian audiences.

Unfortunately, homophobic attacks do happen in Russia, but it is a problem endemic to most of the world. We all have a perception that British society is much less prejudiced towards gay people, but a 2013 report by Stonewall revealed that one in six lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the UK had been the victim of a homophobic hate crime or incident in the previous three years. This month Welsh referee Nigel Owens “revealed he has considered quitting the sport because of an increasing level of homophobic abuse in stadiums and on social media’, while Rugby Football Union has launched an investigation into alleged homophobic and racial abuse. There’s much work to do at home before we start bashing others abroad.

The above-mentioned double standards and hypocrisies over the Russian gay rights issue (which I agree is a big problem, which needs to be resolved over time, but not through blind outright confrontational condemnation) would be viewed by Russian people as a proof that gay rights are used as a political tool with which to delegitimize Russia’s government, thereby increasing Russian people’s distrust of the West and giving a boost to the popularity of Putin.

Most Russian people are familiar with Crimean history and know that when the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine voted to be independent, Crimean support was the lowest of all of the Ukraine (only 54% in favor) with very low turnout (65%). The following year the Crimean parliament voted in favour of a referendum, but it was forcefully suppressed by Kiev’s administration, as a New York Times article from 1992 testifies. Since then separatist activism in Crimea is well-evidenced on a historical timeline of the UN resources library, while Kiev suppressed Crimea’s constitutional right to self-determination for many years, including the unilateral stripping of the post of Crimean President in 1994.

The West’s “Russian annexation of Crimea” narrative totally ignores Crimean history and disrespects Crimean people’s right to self-determination, which was finally exercised during the Crimean referendum in March this year. Maidan’s nationalist rhetoric did not chime with most of Crimeans and the violent takeover of administrative buildings in Kiev was a major motivational factor in organising a referendum, in order to become free of the coup-installed Kiev regime as soon as possible. Russia, having its own economic and geopolitical reasons, has provided military support for the referendum to avoid a violent attack from Ukraine, which would have been inevitable as the Odessa massacre and the subsequent war in Donbass showed. Now that Crimeans have re-unified with Russia, most of them are happier than the Russians themselves – hardly an attitude of people who were ‘annexed against their will’. Russian people are aware of all of this and are undoubtedly happy with the firmness, decisiveness and efficiency of their leader on the Crimean issue, thus boosting his popularity even further.

Western media attempts to portray Russians as euphoric nationalists brainwashed by Kremlin propaganda, while spreading the culturally and historically ignorant narrative that “Russia annexed Crimea”, are often classic cases of propaganda in themselves (e.g. see my analysis of BBC’s Bridget Kendall’s article) and only strengthen Russian people’s views that they are being prejudiced against, making them more distrustful of the West and more fond of their protective leader. Russians would see sanctions, both post-Crimea and post-claim (before any investigation) that Russia downed MH17, for what they are: tools to weaken Russia economically, which appears to be part of a bigger open plan for US energy dominance in Europe. It’s no coincidence, that amongst some of the targets of the U.S. sanctions against Russia or Russian-linked companies, two were directly aimed at slowing down or stopping South Stream.

For the majority of the world, who follow mainstream western press and thereby believe that Putin is a new Hitler, who annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine, the rise in Putin’s popularity and decreased propensity to protest, as evidenced by Levada poll results, might be frightening. For any westerner, who has done a little bit of research beyond the mainstream media, and for the Donbass civilians, who dissented against Kiev, and who are shelled and killed for initially only wanting federalization for their region, these widely-accepted stories of Russian invasion and Putin being a new Hitler are sometimes ridiculously funny, but often extremely frightening – frightening because they are a reminder that we live within a topsy-turvy world, where truth is found in what is called ‘propaganda’, where European leaders can openly state their intent to terrorise civilians into submission and where they  commit hideous war crimes with impunity without one western leader even so much as expressing one word of disapproval, while other nations, in this case Russia, who, despite having their own economic and geopolitical interests in Ukraine, are actually supporting and are trying to help the Donbass civilians, are blamed and sanctioned for it.

Last week in a candid address to Ukrainian nationalists in the Odessa Opera House, president Petro Poroshenko outlined how he is planning to win the war in East Ukraine:

“We (Ukraine) will have our jobs – they (Donbas) will not. We will have our pensions – they will not. We will have care for children, for people and retirees – they will not. Our children will go to schools and kindergartens… theirs will hole up in the basements. Because they are not able to do a thing. This is exactly how we will win this war!”

The chocolate oligarch, backed by Brussels and Washington, is not afraid anymore to openly admit that the Ukrainian Army is targeting civilian buildings on purpose and forcing Donbass people and children into basements, in order to intimidate the population into leaving the area or surrender. Last week there’s even been a direct attack on a maternity ward and the week before a mortar attack on school killed two school children.

While Kiev is always quick to blame ‘rebels’ for all such incidents (an absurd suggestion that Donbass self-defence forces, comprised largely from the local population, would try to kill their own children), Poroshenko’s speech confirms that these attacks are the deliberate war plan of the Ukrainian forces. The fact that indiscriminate shelling of civilian and public buildings is a war crime doesn’t seem to deter Poroshenko, who’s confident that with the EU and the US backing he can carry out this strategy with impunity.

Starting from the 15th November all dissenting eastern areas will not be protected by the European Convention on Human Rights anymore, as Poroshenko announced its suspension, citing a provision which allows some of the Convention’s articles to be derogated by a signatory “in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation.”  Officially only the right to life, the prohibition of torture and slavery, and the right not to be subjected to unlawful punishment will be respected (though shelling of civilians is a violation of these rights), while all the other rights including the right to liberty and security, the right to fair trial, right to respect for private and family life, will not be respected any more.

Article 15 was cited to justify the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council issuing a decree, which ordered the closure of all state services, including schools, kindergartens, hospitals, emergency services and pensions, and withdrawal of all banking services for businesses and individuals over the next months. This is effectively an economic blockade, which will threaten life of  the local population during the difficult cold winter months. Local government called it an ‘act of genocide’. Poroshenko calls it ‘fighting for European values‘.

This article is by Vladimir Golstein, an Associate Professor of Slavic studies at Brown University. He was born in Moscow and emigrated to the United States in 1979.

If you intend to kill your opponents on a massive scale, don’t just arm your people with machetes, iron rods or AK47s and start killing. With photos of atrocities flooding the Internet, the world community might eventually stop and even punish you.

This old-fashion method of mass killing is hard to sell in today’s world of freedoms and individual rights. A much better way to succeed in mass violence is to connect your victims to Russia, by denouncing them as the enemies of freedom and democracy and by calling them Russian terrorists and puppets in the hands of the current leader of Russia, whom you should call Stalin incarnate. Hitler incarnate works as well, but since Hitler was the leader of Germany – the country that is currently at the forefront of democracy – that might confuse the issue. The new Stalin is a more effective label.

Once your enemies are associated with Russia and its evil leaders, you can explain to the West that your killings are necessary not because of your burning hatred for your victims, but because you want to embrace liberal values and join the EU, while it is those whom you kill who are the proponents of tyranny. Never forget to suggest that all your killings were provoked by Russia. Your western backers will surely add their authority to the blame. You can also imply that the territory vacated after your attacks can be used for a NATO base. To facilitate your efforts, it is important to enlist the help of some old Cold War warriors and neocons, such as Senator John McCain or Victoria Nuland, by explaining to them that the failures of your economy is the result of Russian sabotage. It is the remnants of their socialism that is destroying your country, and not your looting.

I also encourage you to find a Jewish person among your population, preferably someone with close ties to your regime; you can also export an adviser whose ancestors ran away from the Tsarist pogroms. This person should testify to The New York Times that your regime is very friendly to Jews, as opposed to your victims who still live by some primitive nationalistic values. That will score plenty of points with your neocon audience, who will in turn secure American supporting your fight against anti-Semitism. Calling your enemies“sexist”or“homophobic”can also boost your cause, but frankly, it would be overkill. Since your goal is to accomplish overkill on the streets of your towns, don’t waste all your energy on propaganda wars.

But make sure you enlist the help of some former dissidentsor political leaders from Eastern Europe. Their memories of being abused by the Evil Empire are so strong, that it would be easy to convince them that those who are laying on the streets, burned, shot, or chopped to death, were Russian agents, intent on perpetuating Soviet-style tyranny. The hard-worn moral authority of these allies will surely silence your critics.

The need to defend your country from the ever-expanding Russian Empire should always be on your lips. If someone points to the map and shows that Russia has actually shrunk since the Tsarist or Soviet days, tell them that this shrinking is one more proof that they are dreaming of restoring the days of old. Quoting their leader who spoke about the loss of the Soviet Union, as tragedy will surely help, as would the reference to some medieval monk, who proclaimed Russia to be the new Rome. And as you wipe off your bloody hands, recite Barry Goldwater’s saying: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

Have the photograph of one of your soldiers in Russian uniform. That will be enough for the American journalists, raised on the stories of communist body-snatchers, to disseminate your stories of Russian threat. The ubiquitous presence of Russian infiltrators, exposed by Joe McCarthy, and proven beyond doubt by James Bond films, and the current TV series, The Americans, will make your fabrications more real than real life.

Being a mass murderer, you didn’t come to power by peaceful means, so some hard-nosed reporters might question your agenda, or demand the explanation for recent violence. Lecture them on the atrocities of Stalin, which surely dwarfs your own. If they persist and press you on the connection between Stalin and the violence that you’ve just unleashed upon your population, turn the tables and accuse them of being Kremlin apologists.

It is also important to establish museums where you can demonstrate the pictures of your victims, but label them as the victims of Stalinism (since Stalin happened to kill Christians, Muslims, Jews and everyone else in between, you’ll be believed). Having a lot of victims will make your case stronger, but in case you’ve been slacking, argue that victims’ unborn children should be included in the equation. Once you have a respectable number of victims and some doctored photographs, museums can be opened. Through these means, Ukrainians boosted the amount of Stalin’s victims to seven million, beating the Jewish victims of Holocaust, and demonstrating the diabolical power of Stalin and Communism.

It is important to groom the younger generation into their role of henchmen. The children should be subjected to the routine of dancing and singing in the manner of these teenagers from Western Ukraine, who are demonstrating their proper political credentials by reciting: “hang the Muscovite on the branch” (Moskaliauku na giliaku). If someone in the West finds it barbaric, explain that you are restoring ancient folklore from the remnants of culture wiped out by the Communists. And don’t forget to teach your kids to make Molotov cocktails. Burning is a very efficient and hygienic way of getting rid of your victims. But sometimes you can bomb them and let their relatives take care of them. But make sure that their coffins are painted in red, so that the whole world would see how you are dealing with the Red menace.

Had Saddam Hussein or Rwanda’s Hutus followed these instructions, their success would have been much higher, as they would have proceeded without interruption. But if, for some reason Russians decide to interfere, noticing that the West simply sits on the fence debating whether your current rate of killing fits the definition of genocide, pronounce triumphantly: I told you so. But you might as well succeed, since Russians will be too bogged down in their own backyard to come to the rescue.

With NATO and economic packages behind you, you can continue for years to come. When you eventually die, or rather drink yourself to death, as the ghosts of all those whom you recklessly and cruelly destroyed would make your conscious life too painful, you’ll end up in the anticommunist heaven. You’ll be greeted by Mr. Joe McCarthy, who will accuse you in being too soft on Communism and thus manifesting some latent Russian sympathies. You’ll be interrogated and humiliated, your words will be twisted, since McCarthy will surely find one Russian sympathizer among your population whom you failed to destroy. What Senator McCarthy’s verdict will be is beyond my expertise to say, but you can be rest assured that 50 years later somewhere in the free world, there will be a monument erected in your honor, for the glorious contributions in your fight against Russian Communism.

This article was originally appeared on RT. Republished with permission from Vladimir Golstein @VGolstein

 

Other articles by Vladimit Golstein:

Russia-InsiderUkraine’s Descent into Fascism and How the West Turns a Blind Eye

The NationWestern Media Coverage of the Ukraine Crisis is as Distorted as Soviet Propaganda

AlterNetObama’s Cold War Rhetoric is Outdated – And Masks Ukraine’s Real Crises

Forbes: Why everything you’ve read about Ukraine is false

Al JazeeraMarx’s last stand: Eastern Ukraine 

Anti-war.com Crimea: Whose War Is It? 

 

The world is undergoing (yet another) crisis of globalisation. One superpower is opposing the global dominance of another on the territory of an unfortunate nation, which happens to be a country I was born in – Ukraine. As my homeland’s soil is bathed with blood, becoming yet another case study on the fragility of nation-states, a relatively new concept in the history of humanity. Very possibly, given the way things are going, the nation-state may not even be that long-lasting. The rise of fascism in Ukraine with crowds shouting slogans “Ukraine – above all else”, while Kiev’s government shells Donbass civilians, who stood up against a coup-installed regime, urges us to reconsider “the sanctity” of the nation-state, especially when it is used to destroy humans rather than serve their interests. It might seem irreverent to talk about the philosophical implications of the Ukrainian war, as people are still dying daily, but it’s something which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, especially if the East of the country continues its efforts to separate.

An exhibition which interested me immensely was a great introduction into a subject that I was not that aware of before –  the rise and fall of micronations.  The existence of these ‘country projects’ around the world, even if not recognised by other nations, still makes us question the concept of the nation-state by inviting us to think of alternative ways of self-organising our human social relations which inevitably result in varying degrees of seriousness and success.

From the early 19th century, some brave (or mad, depending on how you want to see them) individuals or groups, decided to challenge the circumstances they found themselves in and set up their own ‘sovereign states’ with their own ‘government institutions’, official symbols like flags, passports, postage stamps, coins and medals, their own citizens and sometimes even their own territories. The exhibition titled “What is to come has already arrived”, gave a short intro to some of these micro-nations.

It’s fascinating to see the wide range of reasons that moved people to undertake these ‘nation-building’ projects: political art statements (Yoko Ono’s and John Lennon’s Nutopia); seeking independence from imperial states a-la Catalonia and Scotland (the Republic of Ryukyu on Okinawa Island, which was a US military base); alleged fraudulent claims (The Kingdom of EnenKio on US unincorporated territory of Wake island); attempts at alternative governments (Republic of Georgia, USA); indigenous people fight against colonialism (The Mapuche Nation in South America); teenage expression and entertainment (The Kingdom of Bannesled – teenage bedroom ‘separated’ from Canada); intellectual experiments or exercises (The Kingdom of Elleore on the Danish Island of ZealandThe Principality of Nova Arcadia); social,economic and political simulation (Christiania in Copenhagen); Ilois people of Diego Garcia against US military imperialism; Facebook cybernaut experiment (with regards to the Perejil Island); an act of self-aggrandisement (The Principality of Trinidad on uninhabited Trindade and Martim Vaz); “an extremely sophisticated nation-state experiment” of “secular humanist utopia” and “pluralist, progressive lobby group” in New South Wales, Australia ( The Empire of Atlantium); artistic political resistance (Ladonia in Sweden); an act of personal imagination and entertainment (The Aerican Empire); sovereign states as works of art (The Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland), culturally-focused eco-tourism boosters (privately-owned Naminara Republic in South Korea); Native American independence movements (Republic of Lakotah); the political movement for proposed US state of Jefferson; “hobby, which has been pushed to the nth degree” (home-made Republic of Molossia); historical anomalies (The Principality of Seborga in Northern Italy), self-sustaining commune Fusa in Norway; inspiration, spiritual, artistic, conceptual projects (Evrugo Mental State in Barcelona); non-territorial political social experiments (Republic of Anodyne); “home for the impoverished and prosecuted of Europe” (The Kingdom of Humanity in the Spartly Islands); aspiring states off the coast of Britain (Principality of Sealand); concept model-nations ( The New United States of America); an art project (The State of Sabotage); vehicles for tourist agenda promotion (The Conch Republic in Florida, USA); political simulations (The Kingdom of Talossa); artistic political ecological projects (Freestate of AVL-Ville in Rotterdam); ecological campaigns to save glaciers (The Glacier Republic); aspirational state Kirpikistan; an act of political activism against an oppressive Nigerian government (Kalakuta Republic).

The exhibition is in Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo until 9th November 2014. The site itself, the old Monastery of Santa Maria de Las Cuevas in Seville, is very unique and appropriate – a Franciscan Monastery (where Christopher Columbus worked, lived and was temporarily buried), which was used as barracks during the Napoleonic invasion. Monks eventually returned, but then abandoned the monastery in 1836. Charles Pickman bought it in 1841 and turned it into a Ceramics factory, which functioned until 1964, when the Andalusian government purchased it and declared it a national monument. It was restored for Expo 1992 and became a museum of contemporary art in 1997. A fascinating building with architectural influences of Mudejar, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque, featuring some stunning ceramics, is surrounded by very pleasant peaceful gardens with olive, lemon, pomelo and orange trees.

Below are photos from the exhibition, where short summaries of these micro-nations are followed by their flags.

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A day after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Kailash Satyarthi, in an interview with RIA News, urged the Ukrainian government to protect Ukrainian citizens and especially children: “It is the responsibility of the Ukrainian government to save their citizens, particularly children. Safety of children will be their utmost priority. I will appeal to the Ukrainian government so as to ensure that such incidents against children will not occur in future.”

According to the recent UN report as many as 3,660 people have been killed and over 8,756 have been wounded in Donbass since Kiev launched its military operation in April. Even though a ceasefire was announced on September 5th, more than 330 people have died since, including 20 children. UNICEF stated that at least 35 children have been killed in the Ukrainian conflict and 87 have been wounded.

Human Rights Watch already called on Ukraine’s international supporters to “urge the Ukrainian government to strictly adhere to international humanitarian law, including by ending all use of Grad rockets in populated areas by Ukraine’s army”. Amnesty International also urged the Ukrainian government to “stop abuses and war crimes by volunteer battalions operating alongside regular Ukrainian armed forces”, such as Aidar. All these appeals, urges and calls are likely to remain voices in the wilderness.

Firstly, Kiev repeatedly denies responsibility for war crimes, even when it’s proved by independent observers that the Ukrainian Army has carried out the atrocities, e.g. OSCE confirmed that on June 2nd the Ukrainian air force bombed a public building in Lugansk , killing 8 civilians – Kiev claimed separatists mishandled a portable anti-aircraft missile system.

Secondly, even though the government keeps blaming ‘the rebels’, they don’t seem to be that motivated when it comes to investigating these crimes. Moreover, even international organisations seem to not be that keen on uncovering any new atrocities. For example, the UN promised to investigate reports of mass graves in areas near Donetsk, which were controlled by the Ukrainian Army, but when the report came out the issue of mass graves was intentionally omitted.

Thirdly, after this week’s Reuters’ special report about flaws found in Ukraine’s probe of the Maidan massacre, there are plenty of reasons to believe that even if Kiev decided to carry out investigations of crimes, they are unlikely to be unbiased and fair. There was a lot of pressure from Maidan activists to investigate the February killings of 100 protesters, which the new leaders were quick to blame on Berkut (special forces) police. They even arrested three suspects. However, Reuters discovered some remarkable blunders:

“Among the evidence presented against Sadovnyk (one of the arrested suspects) was a photograph. Prosecutors say it shows him near Kiev’s Independence Square on Feb. 20, wearing a mask and holding a rifle with two hands, his fingers clearly visible. The problem: Sadovnyk doesn’t have two hands. His right hand, his wife told Reuters, was blown off by a grenade in a training accident six years ago.”

Another huge problem uncovered by Reuters was that

“The two prosecutors and a government minister who have led the Maidan shooting probes all played roles in supporting the uprising. One of these officials told Reuters that the investigators gathering the evidence are completely independent.”

And also:

“the former acting general prosecutor who oversaw the arrests of the three Berkut officers declared on television that they “have already been shown to be guilty.” That statement, said legal experts, could prejudice the cases. Ukraine is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Needless to say, to date no one has been apprehended in the shooting of Berkut policemen. Between 18th and 20th February, 189 of them suffered gunshot wounds and 13 died.

In such a context, all the 3,360 dead Eastern Ukrainians and their families, including the victims of the Odessa massacre, can expect similar justice from the Ukrainian government. It is clear that without pressure from the international community and other organisations, Kiev’s regime is neither going to stop the Ukrainian Army and other battalions from committing war crimes, nor is it going to investigate them.

Undoubtedly, all involved would make more effort to not commit atrocities, like targeting schools, if there was a serious risk of being indicted for war crimes from a recognised tribunal, but even the International Criminal Court (ICC) ignored the people who died from sniper shootings on Maidan, the Odessa massacre victims, and other civilians who died from indiscriminate shelling.

Russia is the only country, who is taking active steps towards bringing justice to East Ukrainian victims. Moscow has called on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to take responsibility for investigations into crimes committed in Ukraine. The Public Chamber of the Russian Federation filed 30 petitions in EHCR over war crimes in Ukraine and will file several hundred more by the end of the year. Ten petitions were already declined.

Finally, as human rights lawyer, attorney and member of the International Criminal Bar Dr. Jonathan Levy wrote in his independent legal analysis: Novorossiya itself ‘must bring Kiev’s war criminals to justice’. According to him, whether we like it or not, ‘under international law, Novorossiya has the same status as any other member of the community nations – it is a sovereign independent nation.’ He explains:

“The “gold standard” of statehood is the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States enacted in 1933… [It] requires an aspiring state to have its own territory, population, a functioning government and the ability to enter into relationships with other states. Novorossiya…has maintained an undisputed presence in Lugansk and Donetsk backed up by a seasoned army and security forces. There is a sizeable population…There is a functioning government and diplomatic efforts are ongoing as evidenced by the Minsk process. In a just and fair world then Novorossiya would be welcomed into the fold of sovereign nations as its newest member.”

Dr. Jonathan Levy argues that Novorossiya itself ‘as a sovereign state must seize the initiative.’ In a ‘just and fair world’ one would hope that international organisations tasked with enforcing human rights, such as ICC, the UN, the EHCR, and the Council of Europe would not completely abandon their responsibilities to the people of Novorossiya and would make sure that the guilty are eventually brought to justice. However, the world is not ideal and, alongside murky investigations of the MH17 downing, East Ukrainians should also not expect to see justice from the existing international organisations.

Even if this may seem a long shot, Dr.Levy proposes an interesting radical alternative – that Novorossiya sets up its very own International Tribunal and gives it independence to act in lieu of the UN, ICC, and Council of Europe, giving a chance to lawyers and jurists from around the world, who seek to advance the cause of justice, to participate using the Internet and other technologies. He argues, that “it is international participation and support that will give the proposed tribunal substance”.

If this ever happens, it will be a remarkable step towards creating a real international civic society with its own justice system, powered by modern technology (more details here), which would be independent of international leaders and their lackey organisations, which so far showed little signs of being concerned about bringing justice for killed East Ukrainian civilians.

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Russian and Soviet poet Marina Tsvetaevawho was born 122 years ago on 8 October 1892, had the most tragic life.  She lived through the Russian Revolutions of 1917, the Civil War and the Moscow famine. Marina tried to save her daughter Irina from starvation by placing her in a state orphanage in 1919, where Irina died of hunger. Tsvetaeva left Russia in 1922 and lived with her family in Paris, Berlin and Prague, all that time struggling with poverty before returning to Moscow in 1939. Her husband Sergei Efron and her daughter Ariadna Efron (Alya) were arrested on espionage charges in 1939; Ariadna survived Stalin, but Marina’s husband was executed. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Tsvetaeva escaped with her son from Moscow to Elabuga in the Tatar Republic where, unable to go on, she hanged herself on August 31, 1941.

Tsvetaeva’s suffering is what makes her not only a lyrical poet, but also a witness. She was a chronicler of the human conditions of life in her times. In the only poem that Ahmatova wrote for Marina “A Belated Reply”, which Tsvetaeva never saw as she died a few months later, Anna addresses Marina not as a fellow poet, but as another woman, who has suffered and whose suffering both follows and precedes the suffering of other humans.

A Belated Reply

 My white-fingered one, my dark princess.

                                          Marina Tsvetaeva

My double and my jester, unseen,

You who hide at the heart of bushes,

Who nestle in the house of the stare,

Who flit among cemetery crosses.

Who call from the Marinkina Tower:

‘Here I am, I’m home today.

Cherish me, my own fields,

Because of everything I suffered.

My loved ones lost in the abyss,

My native country despoiled.’

Today we are together, Marina,

Crossing the midnight capital,

With all those millions behind us,

And never a more voiceless crew,

Walking to the sound of funeral bells,

And to the savage, Moscow moaning

Of wind and snow, erasing our steps.

Despite the unimaginable suffering that Tsvetaeva went through, her poetry is infused with love for other humans, for Russia and for life itself. He poetry encourages us to strive for freedom in the face of mortality and to be open to the world despite of its cruelty. She came from a good family, but never judged anyone according to their wealth or status – all that mattered to her was what the person did with whatever circumstances they found themselves in. She believed in self-development, valued the personal will for awakening and never stopped educating herself. Marina made many mistakes, had many psychological breakdowns,went through the deepest levels of pain and despair, yet still found the strength to strive for higher ideals, to cultivate within herself higher thoughts and feelings.

Internally she was tormented by two opposing forces – as a poet, she strived towards absolute freedom of will, as a mother and wife, she wanted to remain loyal to her moral duties. In her search for freedom, she tried to stay true to herself and to follow her own conscience, rather than the opinions and judgements of others. Her inner dedication to higher ideals, meant that she was her own harshest critic, though she did measure herself up against other great poets and writers.

Tsvetaeva was also known as ‘the dark princess’, a death-obsessed manic depressive, however her poetry is imbued with the light of love and inspires her readers to go on living regardless of the darkness that they might find themselves in. Tsvetaeva’s primary condition for creativity was keeping the flame of love within herself, even if it was sometimes at the expense of hers and other’s peace. She was very clear about this, when she said: “All I need is to love”. And she loved passionately, even though she knew that transient loves end in disappointment, separation and pain. Like a Phoenix, she burnt herself in the fire of love, in an act of self-sacrifice for the sake of gifting humanity the best she could offer – her poetry.

Marina fell in love with the beauty of humans, with their nobility and their talent. She fell in love with poets whom she never met – like Pushkin and Byron, and with those whom she only met a few times  – Block and Pasternak. This love came from an evaluation of people’s characters, like a mark of their inner and outer beauty. Despite having had many of these loves, she remained dedicated to her family and to her husband. In the end, the flames of her passions always calmed down in the harbours of her home.

She was an insomniac and a dreamer, and sometimes dreams for her were more important than reality (her way of escaping pain and suffering). However, her heightened emotions were always subtly tuned to her razor-sharp intellect. Her poems often have deep meanings which reveal themselves in streams of emotions. Her hand was operated with the muscles of her heart, but her mind was always overseeing this process.

Tsvetaeva’s poems, like prayers, bring light and joy to her readers’ hearts – they enrich them spiritually, as well as emotionally and intellectually. Here is a selection of some of my favourite poems:

XXX

‘I know the truth! Renounce all others!’

I know the truth! Renounce all others!

There’s no need for anyone to fight.

For what? – Poets, generals, lovers?

Look: it’s evening, look: almost night.

Ah, the wind drops, earth is wet with dew,

Ah, the snow will freeze the stars that move.

And soon, under the earth, we’ll sleep too,

Who never would let each other sleep above.

  XXX

Passing me by, as you walk

     To charms doubtful and not mine -

     If you but knew how much fire,

     How much life is wasted in vain,

     On the rustling, occasional shade

     What a heroic flame -

     And how enflamed my heart

     This gunpowder wasted in vain!

     O the trains flying into the night,

     Carrying sleep on the station away..

     If you recognized – if you but knew -

     Then and there, I know, anyway.

     Why are my words so sharp

     In the smoke of my cigarette -

     How much dark and menacing angst

     Is there in my light-haired head.

XXX

From “Poems for Blok” “I am happy living simply”

Your name is a—bird in my hand,

a piece of ice on my tongue.

The lips’ quick opening.

Your name—four letters.

A ball caught in flight,

a silver bell in my mouth.

A stone thrown into a silent lake

is—the sound of your name.

The light click of hooves at night

—your name.

Your name at my temple

—sharp click of a cocked gun.

Your name—impossible—

kiss on my eyes,

the chill of closed eyelids.

Your name—a kiss of snow.

Blue gulp of icy spring water.

With your name—sleep deepens.

1916

Translation by Iliya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

XXX

“I am happy living simply”

I am happy living simply:

like a clock, or a calendar.

Worldly pilgrim, thin,

wise—as any creature. To know

the spirit is my beloved. To come to things—swift

as a ray of light, or a look.

To live as I write: spare—the way

God asks me—and friends do not.

1919

Translation by Iliya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

XXX

Where does this tenderness come from?  

Where does this tenderness come from?
These are not the – first curls I
have stroked slowly – and lips I
have known are – darker than yours

as stars rise often and go out again
(where does this tenderness come from?)
so many eyes have risen and died out
in front of these eyes of mine.

and yet no such song have
I heard in the darkness of night before,
(where does this tenderness come from?):
here, on the ribs of the singer.

Where does this tenderness come from?
And what shall I do with it, young
sly singer, just passing by?
Your lashes are – longer than anyone’s.

18th February 1916

Translation by © Elaine Feinstein

XXX

Attempted Jealousy

What’s it like with another woman –

Simpler? – a flash of the oar! –

Did the memory of me

Soon fade off-shore,

Like the beach of a floating island,

(In the sky – not in the sea!)

Souls, souls! You’ll be sisters,

Not lovers – that’s what you’ll be!

What’s life like with an ordinary

Woman? Now that you’ve dethroned

Your idol (renounced the throne).

Without the divinity?

What’s your life like – occupation –

Shrivelled? Getting up – what’s it like?

What do you pay, poor man,

For endless triviality – the price?

‘I’m through with hysteria, convulsions!

I’ll rent a place, have done!’

What’s it like with a common

Woman, my chosen one?

More suitable and edible –

The food? Boring? – Don’t complain…

What’s it like with an imitation –

You who climbed the holy Mount? A strain?

What’s your life like with a stranger,

A worldly soul. Well? – Is it love?

Like the god’s whip, does shame

Not lash your head from above?

What’s it like – your health –

How is it? How do you sing?

How do you cope, poor man,

With the festering sore of endless conscience?

What’s life like with a marketable

Purchase? The price – terrible?

What’s it like with crumbling plaster of Paris

After the finest Carrara marble?

(The Goddess made from stone –

And smashed to bits!)

What’s your life like with one of millions,

You, who’ve known Lilith?

Does the marketable purchase meet

Your needs? Now magic’s dead,

What’s your life like with a mortal

Woman, neither using the sixth sense?

Well, swear, are you happy, then?

No? What’s your life like in a pit

With no depth, my love? Harder,

Or just like mine with another man?

                                        19th November 1924

XXX

    To Byron

 I think about the morning of your glory,

     About the morning of your days too, when

     Like a demon you from sleep had stirred

     And were a god for men.

     I think of when your eyebrows came together

     Over the burning torches of your eyes,

     Of how the ancient blood’s eternal lava

     Rushed through your arteries.

     I think of fingers – very long – inside

     The wavy hair, about all

     Eyes that did thirst for you in alleys

     And in the dining-halls.

     About the hearts too, which – you were too young then -

     You did not have the time to read, too soon,

     About the times, when solely in your honor

     Arose and down went the moon.

     I think about a hall in semi-darkness,

     About the velvet, into lace inclined,

     About the poems we would have told each other,

     You – yours, I – mine.

     I also think about the remaining

     From your lips and your eyes handful of dust..

     About all eyes, that are now in the graveyard

     About them and us.

XXX

To Boris Pasternak

Dis-tances: miles, versts…

We’re dis-severed, dis-persed,

They’ve rendered us silent, terse,

At the far ends of the earth.

Distances: tracts, versts…

We’re disjointed, and disbursed,

Displayed, splayed, un-destroyed,

They don’t know we’re…an alloy

Of inspirations, and tendons,

Not disjoined – though dis-joined,

We’re divided…

                    By ditch and wall,

Disconnected, conspiratorial

Eagles: tracts, versts…

Not disunited – oh, no worse

Than disengaged, in the wastes

Of earth, like orphans displaced.

How many, how many days…of March?

Since they scattered us like a pack of cards?

                                                  24th March 1925

    XXX

 I’ll conquer you from all lands, from all the sky,

     Because forest is my cradle and in the forest I’ll die,

     For I stand on the ground with just one of my legs,

     For I will sing to you like no one else.

     I’ll conquer you from all times, I will fight

     All golden banners, all swords and all nights,

     I will chase away dogs from a porch and I’ll throw the key

     For in winter night not even dogs are more loyal than me.

     I’ll conquer you from all others – from that one

     I will be no one’s wife, you – no one’s groom,

     And in the last argument I will take you – be quiet! -

     From the one with which Jacob stood in the night.

     But for now I won’t on your chest the fingers cross -

     With you, you remain – O the curse! -

     Your two wings, that at the ether take aim -

     Because the world is your cradle, and world your grave.

     XXX

     I like it that you’re burning not for me,

     I like it that it’s not for you I’m burning

     And that the heavy sphere of Planet Earth

     Will underneath our feet no more be turning

     I like it that I can be unabashed

     And humorous and not to play with words

     And not to redden with a smothering wave

     When with my sleeves I’m lightly touching yours.

     I like it, that before my very eyes

     You calmly hug another; it is well

     That for me also kissing someone else

     You will not threaten me with flames of hell.

     That this my tender name, not day nor night,

     You will recall again, my tender love;

     That never in the silence of the church

     They will sing “halleluiah” us above.

     With this my heart and this my hand I thank

     You that – although you don’t know it -

     You love me thus; and for my peaceful nights

     And for rare meetings in the hour of sunset,

     That we aren’t walking underneath the moon,

     That sun is not above our heads this morning,

     That you – alas – are burning not for me

     And that – alas – it’s not for you I’m burning.

   

  XXX

     How many people fell in this abyss,

     I fathom from afar!

     There will be time, and I will vanish too

     From earth’s exterior.

     All will be still, that sang and that did struggle,

     That glistened and rejoiced:

     The greenness of my eyes, the gold of my hair,

     And this my tender voice.

     Life will continue with its soft hot bread,

     With day’s oblivion.

     All will continue – under outstretched heavens

     As if I’d never been!

     Like children changeable in every mien

     And angry not for long,

     Who loved the times when in the fireplace

     Into ash turned the log,

     Violin and cavalcade within the forest

     And in the village, bell…

     Upon this dear earth – I will be no longer

     That was alive and real!

     To all – who are the friends and strangers

     To never having known the measure, me?

     I turn to you with this my faith’s demand

     And love’s query.

     Both day and night, in word and letter both:

     For truth of yes and no,

     For that though I am but twenty I am

     So often in such sorrow,

     For unavoidably my slights and trespasses

     Will be forgiven me -

     For all of my impetuous tenderness

     And look too proud and free -

     For quickness of events as they come rushing,

     For truth, for play, say I -

     Please hear me! But do also please love me

     For this that I will die.

  XXX

  Thus to thirst life: And to be tender

     And rabid and noisy,

     To be intelligent and charming -

     Gorgeous to be!

     More tender than what are or have been,

     Guilt not to know…

     This, that in graveyard all are equal,

     Angers me so.

     To be what nobody holds dear -

     Like ice become!

     Not knowing what has come before now

     Nor what will come,

     To forget how the heart broke and

     Grew back together,

     To forget both the words and voice

     And shine of hair.

     Bracelet of ancient turquoise

     On the stem, on

     This my white arm

     Narrow and long…

     Like painting over a cloud

     From afar,

     One took the mother-of-pearl pen

     In one’s arm,

     Just like the legs jumped

     Over the fence,

     To forget, how along the road

     Shade advanced.

     To forget, like flame of azure, how

     Days are subdued…

     All my mischief, all my tempest,

     And poems too!

     Laughter will be chased away by

     My miracle.

     I, always-pink, will be

     The most pale.

     And they won’t open – thus is needed -

     Pity this one!

     Not for the sight, not for the fields,

     Not for the sun -

     These my lowered eyelids. -

     Flower not for! -

     My earth, forgive for centuries

     Forevermore.

     Thus both the moon and the snow

     Will melt away,

     When this young, beautiful century

     Will rush on by.

XXX

‘Cut veins: irrecoverably’

Cut veins: irrecoverably

Irreplaceably, life whips out.

Bring out basins and bowls!

Though the bowl’s – too low,

The basin’s – too shallow.

Over the lip, watch it flow,

To black earth, to feed the reeds.

Irreplaceably, verse will go,

Irrevocably, irrecoverably.

                              6th January 1934

 

It really is a pity that children are not allowed to U.N. meetings, so that during Obama’s address to the General Assembly last week someone could have shouted out: “The King is naked!”.  For even though in its intention his speech was supposed to be a finely-weaved cloth depicting utopian motifs of US-led knights in shining UN armour fighting for human progress, democracy, peace and prosperity around the globe, there were so many holes in this spin-doctor-fabricated material, that the bare flesh of the real US Foreign policy agendas was impossible to conceal.

Everyone present along with the loyal mainstream media carried on with the pretence, purposefully ignoring faulty lines and gaping holes, while praising the smoothness of the yarn (The Guardian: Obama sought to strike a delicate balance at the UNGA“) and spotlighting new haute-couture patterns of justifying war (BBC: “The phrase that will linger is “the network of death”) soon to be seen in all high-street media narratives.

Conveniently, most MSM journalists chose to ignore the ironic twists in the weaving of Obama’s advisors: “Hundreds of millions of human beings have been freed from the prison of poverty” (yes, except 67% of Detroit families and 46.5 million people in the whole of the US); “I often tell young people in the United States that this is the best time in human history to be born (the U.S. infant mortality rate is fourth highest among 29 of the world’s most developed nations), for you are more likely than ever before to be literate (32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population), to be healthy (US has the most-expensive and least effective health-care system compared with 10 other western, leading industrialised nations), and to be free to pursue your dreams (The American Myth of Social Mobility).”

“We come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope”, said the 2009 Noble Peace Laureate, who only a day before started bombing the 7th predominantly Muslim country after Afganistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq. Hours before the U.S. launched airstrikes and cruise missiles into Syria, a senior administration official had told the Guardian that “neither of the two groups targeted in the Monday night strikes — the Islamic State militant group or the Al-Qaeda splinter group Khorasan — posed an imminent threat to the U.S.” In fact, Khorasan Group is a fake terror threat to justify bombing Syria

 As Obama was rallying the world on the path of war (which by then he had already started), not one person stood up to ask what possible legal authority he has to bomb Syria. During the following days all mainstream media outlets which in recent months have been so outspoken about international law and the sovereignty of the Ukrainian state towards which Russian aggression was allegedly directed, were now not only silent about the lack of UN or Congressional authorisation for the Syrian war, they were obligingly spreading all the war propaganda they were fed by the authorities. (Note: War propaganda is a war crime according to the Nuremberg Principles: Crime against the Peace. By upholding US foreign policy, MSM is complicit in war crimes.)

Setting aside the tragedy of the Middle Eastern conflict and focusing on Europe, as the Emperor was showcasing his supposedly humanitarian robes, there were so many holes of lies, hypocrisy and double standards in them, only fierce defenders of the Empire or Obama’s useful idiots would carry on with the pretence that the naked ugly flesh of US foreign policy is not flashing in front of everyone’s eyes. Presumably, because the majority of Brits and Europeans still believe that their own prosperity and progress is dependent on US global dominance, Obama’s speech resonated with their beliefs and values irrespective of its falseness. Because when one looks at the facts of what the US has been doing in the UK and Europe in recent years, it becomes clear that the real aggression is not coming from Russia, but from across the Atlantic  – seeding corrupt and undemocratic practices into European politics, as well as endangering the environment, undermining people’s rights and powers and even encouraging the spilling of blood (as in Ukraine). The only people who are benefiting from these practices are multinationals and corrupt politicians that work together in alliance to preserve the existing world order, which has been benefiting them and which is currently under threat.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, “American Leadership in the world is imperilled”: there’s more economic growth occurring in the developing world (see below); military spending of developing countries is increasing (reducing the relative military power of the US) and the total federal debt is $13 trillion, which is 3/4th of GDP. It’s the latter, which is the biggest problem that the US faces at the moment: “among allies, adversaries, and swing states alike, U.S. fiscal policy is increasingly calling into question America’s ability to lead globally.”

Chart3

GDPs OF G-7 AND E-7 COUNTRIES

SOURCE: PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS

Foreign Policy listed measures that the US has to take in order to remain a global power – fiscal deficit could be reduced by increasing the retirement age, investing in infrastructure, reforming corporate tax law to encourage bringing profits home, enhancing productivity through reforming health-care and education, and focusing on technological superiority in military spending. Aside from these domestic-focused solutions, it also stressed the importance of attracting talent from around the world and capitalising on America’s energy boom.

Less than a decade ago, the US was totally dependent on energy imported from abroad, especially from the Middle East. It was all reversed since 2007, when a combination of fracking and horizontal drilling have generated a surge in US oil and natural gas production, helping the US to overtake Russia as the world’s leading producer of oil and gas in 2013 and even giving hope that it will overcome Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest crude oil producer by 2015. This economic boost from the “North American energy revolution” has made the US relatively energy independent and in turn ‘stimulated energy-heavy petrochemical production, created 2 million jobs in shale gas industry’, supposedly reduced carbon dioxide emissions and, most importantly, transformed US foreign policy.

It all started with Hilary Clinton, who during her leadership at the State Department has worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe – sold as a broader push to fight climate change and boost energy supply, but also to weaken power adversaries, who challenge the US in the global energy market, such as Russia, China, Syria and Iran and to benefit US firms, which with the help of American officials, would get high concessions on shale gas overseas.

In early 2009, when Clinton was sworn as Secretary of State, she instructed lawyer David Goldwyn to ‘elevate energy diplomacy as the key function of US foreign policy’. By 2010, Goldwyn unveiled the Global Shale Gas Initiative, which aimed ‘to help other nations develop their shale potential’, in a way which is ‘as environmental friendly as possible’. However, when the Initiative was launched, environmental groups were barely consulted and it was the United States Energy Association, a trade organization representing Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Conoco-Phillips, that played the key role. 

By early 2011, the State Department decided to launch a new bureau to integrate energy into every aspect of foreign policy, an idea heavily inspired by Chevron executive Jan Kalicki’s book Energy and Security: Toward a New Foreign Policy Strategy. The new Bureau of Energy Resources, with 63 employees and a multimillion-dollar budget (coming out of taxpayers’ pockets) started its work in late 2011. One of the strategies was for US embassies to ‘pursue more outreach to private-sector energy firms’ (some of these firms happened to support Hilary Clinton’s and Obama’s political campaigns, e.g. Chevron). From then on US officials and oil giants were working together, as if they are part of the same multinational company pursuing the same business plan.

Europe was one of the top targets of this new US energy-focused foreign policy/business plan and Clinton personally flew to various countries like Bulgaria to promote the fracking industry. Lobbyists circulated a report that the European Union could save 900 billion euros if it invested in gas rather than renewable energy to meet its 2050 climate targets. At the same time shale gas was advertised as the fuel of choice for slashing carbon emissions. Environmentalists argued that fracking can do little to ease global warming, given that wells and pipelines leak large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Also anyone concerned with the environment was upset that investing in fracking could crowd out investment in renewables. At the same time growing evidence was emerging that fracking was linked to groundwater contamination and earthquakes.

Despite these counter-currents, ‘2012 was a busy year for a State Department, which hosted fracking conferences from Thailand to Botswana, while American foreign diplomats and officials helped US oil giants to snap up shale gas leases around the globe. Chevron had the largest share of shale concessions in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, and South Africa, as well as in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, which had granted more than 100 shale concessions covering nearly a third of its territory.’

urkaine_map

However, this US foreign policy/business plan didn’t unfold smoothly : new research from the U.S. Geological Survey suggested that the EIA assessments had grossly overestimated shale deposits in Poland by 99% and one industry study estimated that drilling shale gas in Poland would cost three times as much as in the US. There was a further controversy with regards to rights to underground resources in Eastern Europe.

Facing these obstacles, the US State Department and Oil behemoths started a lobbying blitz around the EU: lawmakers were sent industry-funded studies, fake grassroots organisations were set up, regulators were wined and dined at conferences and extravagant functions. All of it came with a warning that failure to develop shale gas “will have damaging consequences on European energy security and prosperity”.

At one time of this European lobbying bonanzaCovington & Burling, a major Washington law firm, hired several former senior E.U. policymakers — including a top energy official who, according to the New York Times, arrived with a not-yet-public draft of the European Commission’s fracking regulations. Not only American law firms were fostering corruption by rewarding recruited European politicians, including top officials from the three main governing bodies – the European Commission, Parliament and Council – with fat pay-checks, but they also made every effort to keep their lobbying practices as opaque as possible, citing lawyer-confidentiality to evade government-backed but voluntary disclosure efforts. This lack of transparency left many of their lobbying results outside of public scrutiny, undermining democracy in Europe, yet bringing profits to multinational clients. 

Between January and October 2012 Goldwyn from the US Shale Gas Initiative organised Chevron-funded fracking workshops in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. All of these countries, except Bulgaria, which saw wide-spread anti-fracking protests, would later grant Chevron major shale concessions. In Romania the US State Department got involved in direct negotiations – the US Ambassador led negotiations between ‘upset’ Chevron officials and the Romanian government, which resulted in a 30 year deal with Chevron.

When Chevron started installing its first Romanian rig in late 2013, local residents blockaded the planned drilling sites. Soon, anti-fracking protests were starting across Europe, from Poland to the United Kingdom, but Chevron didn’t back down – along with other American energy firms, it lobbied to “insert language in a proposed U.S.-E.U. trade agreement, aka TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), allowing U.S. companies to haul European governments before international arbitration panels for any actions threatening their investments, in order protect shareholders against “arbitrary” and “unfair” treatment by local authorities.”

Despite the public outcry in Europe, the State Department, working alongside energy multinationals, as if ‘they were all branches of the same company’, has stayed on its course of making Europe more dependent on the North American energy platform. One of the biggest obstacles to this goal was and is Russia, as it supplies 30% of Europe’s natural gas. Part of the campaign to promote a US-led fracking revolution in Europe is the media’s demonisation of Russia, in order to scare Europeans away from their Russian gas consumption.

Unfortunately, Ukraine was bound to be the centre of this battle as it depends on Russian gas almost entirely while being one of the main gas transit countries in Europe. An insider report called “Occasional Paper 291. Ukraine’s Energy Policy and US Strategic Policy in Eurasia” stated the following as ‘the problem':

“Twelve years after achieving independence, Ukraine seems unable to find a way to break away from its energy dependency on Russia, or to find viable ways of managing it. Ukraine’s current energy situation and its handling also have important negative implications for US strategy in the region… Ukraine’s lack of clear energy policy strategy complicates the US strategy of supporting multiple pipeline routes on the east-West axis as a way of helping to promote a more pluralistic system in the region as an alternative to continued Russian hegemony.” If only Obama’s speeches were as honest.

155206369
On 5th November 2013, it looked like Ukraine’s future independence from Russian gas was certain – Ukraine and Chevron finally signed a 50-year lease deal, following a January 2013 deal with Royal Dutch Shell. Ukraine President Yanukovich seemed optimistic about these new partnerships, stating on his website that they “will let Ukraine satisfy its gas needs completely and, under the optimistic scenario, export energy resources by 2020”. 
Quite a few bottles of champagne must have popped on that day, as the US had been trying to wean Ukraine off Russian gas for quite a few years. As early as 2004, the Bush administration had spent $65 million ‘to aid political organisations in Ukraine, paying to bring opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to meet U.S. leaders and helping to underwrite exit polls indicating he won last month’s disputed runoff election.’
It was during Yushchenko’s presidency (2005-2010), that Ukraine and Russia had many ‘gas rows’, which at one time in 2009 left as many as 18 European countries cut off from Russian gas. In response, Gazprom, Russia’s state-run energy company, proposed the building of a new $21.6 billion pipeline called South Stream as a way to circumvent Ukraine and ensure an uninterrupted, diversified flow to Europe. Italy and seven other countries have joined the venture.

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As the project would not be complete until 2018, the US still had time to challenge Russia in the European energy market and Chevron’s deal with Ukraine was an attempt to do just that. As usual, the US supplemented its business plan with a powerful PR campaign – a couple of months prior to the signing of the Chevron-Ukraine deal, the US (Chevron) and Dutch (Shell) Embassies, along with George Soros’ International Renaissance Foundation ‘announced’ the set-up of an “NGO” – an online anti-Russian pro-western media outlet called Hromadske TV, which, again totally incidentally (no doubt!) was launched on 22 November 2013, one day after Yanukovich abandoned an agreement with the EU in favour of Putin’s sudden offer of a 30% cheaper gas bill and a $15 billion aid package.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 22.33.50

It was this US/Dutch/Soros-sponsored Hromadske TV, which became the main driving vehicle behind the Euromaidan protests, which were initiated by its editor-in-chief Mustafa Nayem, who used Facebook to rally the Ukrainians to gather on Independence Square in Kiev to protest Yanukovich’s decision. The narrative that was spun by Hromadske TV, opposition-owned Ukrainian TV and western media was that Euromaidan was ‘a true people’s movement, fueled by Ukranian citizens’ desire for a better government and closer ties with the EU.’ Somehow, not that many western journalists were concerned about the fact that the man who rallied people on Maidan was funded by US and Dutch Embassies, as well as by George Soros.

While publicly US officials were professing ‘the right of Ukrainian people to self-determination, freedom and democracy’, behind the scenes they were choosing leaders themselves, not with Ukrainian people’s interests, but with US interests in mind. In a private leaked telephone conversation US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland told US ambassador to Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt that “I don’t think [opposition leader] Klitsch should go into the government” (Klitshchko didn’t and successfully ran for the Mayor of Kiev instead). “I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience.” (Yatsenyuk became the interim prime minister. Also completely incidentally his foundation Open Ukraine has a revealing list of Russia-hating sponsors, including NATO Information and Documentation Centre and State Department of the United States of America)  

In the same conversation, Nuland, who is married to neo-con foreign policy pundit Robert Kagan who pushed for the Iraq war, gave the most accurate definition of the UN’s role in this world: “He’s [Jeff Feltman, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] now gotten both [UN official Robert] Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.” I think the UN should change their website’s banner from Welcome to the United Nations. It’s your world.  to ‘Welcome to the United Nations. It’s a US world, and we are here to glue it.’ Also ‘Fuck the EU” is possibly the most succinct summary of US relations with Europe in recent years. It would add a touch of truthfulness, if they would add it as a postscript to Obama’s speech at the UNGA.

There is a difference between a people’s revolution and an orchestrated coup, there is a difference between allowing people to choose their leaders democratically, irrespective of whether they are pro-western or pro-Russian, and actually installing a government, which the US has done in Kiev after the coup. One can only feel sorry for the poor Ukrainian people, who truly believed in what they were demonstrating against. Paul Craig Roberts summarised the coup and the protests that followed: “The purpose of the coup is to put NATO military bases on Ukraine’s border with Russia and to impose an IMF austerity program that serves as cover for Western financial interests to loot the country. The sincere idealistic protesters who took to the streets without being paid were the gullible dupes of the plot to destroy their country.”

The main looters set to benefit from the takeover of power were some high profile American politicians and their friends and family and they were unashamedly supporting the protests to ensure that they would get their licence to loot. “We stand ready to assist you,” US Vice President Joe Biden promised to protesters, “Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: ‘Keep your gas.’ It would be a very different world.” Biden certainly had imagined where he and his family would be in a Ukraine without Russian gas – his son Hunter has since joined the board of the biggest Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holding.

Biden was not the only well-connected American to join the gas company. Devon Archer, a wealthy investor and Democratic campaign fundraiser with long ties to US Secretary of State John Kerry, upon joining the board of directors rejoiced that Burisma Holdings reminded him of “Exxon in its early days.” The company’s portfolio of licenses is well-diversified across all three of Ukraine’s key hydrocarbon basins – Dnieper-Donets, Carpathian and Azov-Kuban, and its fields are fully connected to the major gas pipelines in the country.

Crimea’s referendum and re-unification with Russia took everyone by surprise and it was a major blow for companies like Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, Repsol and Petrochina, which had already invested money into developing Crimean offshore assets – LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) reserves in Crimea. If one looks at some of the targets of the U.S. sanctions against Russia or Russian-linked companies, two of them were directly aimed at slowing down or stopping South Stream: “The first South Stream-related company the U.S. targeted was Stroytransgaz, which is building the Bulgarian section. Putin ally and billionaire Gennady Timchenko owns it and he’s already on the sanctions list. So Stroytransgaz had to stop construction or risk exposing other companies on the project to the sanctions. The second entity in the sanctions crosshairs was a Crimean company called Chernomorneftgaz. After joining Russia, the Crimean parliament voted to take over the company, which belonged to the Ukrainian government. And guess what that company owned? The rights to the exclusive maritime economic zone in the Black Sea. That’s important because Russia routed the pipeline on a longer path through the Black Sea that cut out Ukraine. It avoided the Crimean waters, going instead via Turkey’s.”

Only a fool would believe that Putin has supported the referendum in Crimea in order to ‘protect interests of Russian people’, just as only a fool would believe that the US and EU are concerned about the Ukrainian people, democracy and freedom. Both sides are manipulating popular sentiments to achieve their own geopolitical and economic goal: a battle for energy dominance in Europe. What happened in Crimea was a mirror situation of what happened in Kiev – the people of Kiev, demonstrating on maidan, wanted to be closer to the EU and US, while people of Crimea have been trying for a long time to rejoin Russia, both the US and Russia have used the situation to their economic and political advantage, while citing humanitarian causes.

The major difference was that in Crimea only one soldier was killed by accident, while in Kiev snipers shot nearly 100 people from maidan-controlled buildings, after which power was taken by force. It looked like a popular technique the US used during many staged coups, described succinctly in Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine“: expose people to shocking events, grab power and quickly carry out all the planned economic and political changes before people come back to their senses. Another major difference is that while the majority of Crimeans are happy to be with Russia, the post-coup protests, which flared up in the Eastern regions of Ukraine, showed that significant parts of the Donbass population were not happy to break ties with Russia (the majority being ethnic Russians themselves).

When self defence forces set their base in Slavyansk, right in the heart of the Uzovka shale gas field, where Shell and Burisma were going to start fracking, US officials showed how far they were prepared to go in order to fight for the business interests of their oil and gas giants’ associates. On Monday April 14th, Reuters published a White House’s confirmation that CIA Director John Brennan had been in Kiev the weekend before. The following day, Kiev announced the beginning of a so called ‘anti-terrorist operation‘ in Donbass. One of the fierce supporters of this operation was Poland, which again was not surprising at all, given that one of  Burisma’s directors alongside Biden and Archer, was and is the ex-president of Poland – Alexander Kwasnevski. 

The Senate Bill 2277, which was introduced on May 1st, 2014, “to prevent further Russian aggression toward Ukraine”, directed the US Agency for International Development to begin guaranteeing the fracking of oil and gas in Ukraine, while Kiev troops were marching into Donbass to ‘basically protect the fracking equipment’. One thing that Obama is very talented at is acting – it’s remarkable that during his UNGA speech, he managed to keep a straight face, when he was mouthing these lies and hypocrisies:

“This is the international community that America seeks: one where nations do not covet the land or resources of other nations, but one in which we carry out the founding purpose of this institution and where we all take responsibility. A world in which the rules established out of the horrors of war can help us resolve conflicts peacefully and prevent the kind of wars that our forefathers fought. A world where human beings can live with dignity and meet their basic needs whether they live in New York or Nairobi, in Peshawar or Damascus.”

The civil war that broke out in Ukraine and which, as shown above, is a part of the US global energy war, has claimed 4,000 civilian lives, left more than a million Ukrainians displaced and led to a humanitarian crisis. In addition to that, when fracking goes ahead in Ukraine, Ukrainians can in addition expect – ‘earthquakes, floods, groundwater pollution, and pestilence of marine animals, birds, and fish, streams of water boiling with methane, and poisoned drinking water and air’.

Furthermore:

so far there is no information about the means of disposing of thousands of cubic meters of fracturing fluid from several thousand wells, which will produce shale gas. Are they really going to be buried in the ground or discharged into water bodies? The experience of foreign companies in third world countries (Ukraine cannot even claim to be the one of them) shows that they are capable of environmental crimes (Ecuador, Nigeria, etc.) “ [see here]

This is particularly the case for Chevron and Shell, both of which have been implicated in major human rights violations in Nigeria. Chevron has been accused of recruiting and supplying Nigerian military forces involved in massacres of environmental protesters in the oil-rich Niger Delta, and Shell has faced charges of complicity in torture and other human rights abuses against the Ogoni people of southern Nigeria.[see here]

Obama’s statement: “America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy.” is a lie. The truth, instead, can be found in gas industry media, where they do not attempt to veil American business interests with humanitarian concerns for Ukrainian people and other jingoistic moral narratives:

American companies can directly invest in Ukraine, bringing their technology with them. Ukrainian companies can hire experienced American drillers, they can license American drilling and seismic imaging technology, and they can import sophisticated U.S. drilling equipment… U.S. government can encourage these developments through government-sponsored engagement programs like the State Department’s Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program … can speed this investment with financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Once a new parliament is elected in October, the Ukrainian government should do everything they can to promote private investment in production; this would include lowering these taxes and providing new incentives to energy investment. One particular tax incentive they could offer would be to create a value-added tax (VAT) break for the import of sophisticated drilling equipment, modelled on a recently-initiated VAT break for imports of military equipment. It is important that Ukraine not only has strong laws and a good regulatory environment, but that it also has an open and transparent civil service, in order to prevent the corruption that was rampant under the old regime from becoming rooted into the new one. To prevent that, the U.S. and European governments should promote transparency within the government by encouraging engagement between American civil servants with the new members of the civil service of the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry.”

These are the people, who will benefit from “US support for Ukrainian democracy and economy”: American companies, American drillers, American drilling and seismic imaging technology specialists, manufacturers of US drilling equipment, US banks and American civil service. The people of Ukraine will not benefit, because the ‘shale gas revolution’ is a sham. Even Forbes, which in March claimed that “What Ukraine needs is an American style shale-gas revolution” by September published an article that the shale gas bubble is bound to burst. The only reason that most people still believe that shale gas can increase exports, boost employment and increase GDP, along with cutting down on greenhouse emissions, is because most of the information about natural gas supplies and how it can be exploited comes from ‘people with a vested interest in selling the dream of  a “Shale Gale”‘.

Most of the revenue in the fracking business comes from the selling of leases, something that in the financial industry would be seen as a variation of “pump and dump” scam, which looks like this:

“Step 1. Borrow money and use it to lease thousands of acres for drilling.
Step 2. Borrow more money and drill as many wells as you can, as quickly as you can.
Step 3. Tell everyone within shouting distance that this is just the beginning of a production boom that will continue for the remainder of our lives and the lives of our children, and that everyone who invests will get rich.
Step 4. Sell drilling leases to other (gullible) companies at a profit, raise funds through Initial Public Offerings or bond sales, and use the proceeds to hide financial losses from your drilling and production operations.”
Banks and oil and gas companies will no doubt profit, but the gains will not pass on to the people of Ukraine or the people of Europe, where the US is hoping to export it’s ‘fracking pseudo-revolution’. Instead they will only have all the terrible fracking impacts on water, air, soil, human health, the welfare of livestock and wildlife, and the climate to deal with. Ironically it is Russian natural gas, which would be much safer and cheaper for Europe to keep consuming, but US foreign policy has been set and it looks that people of Europe will not have a choice on the matter. It is from the likes of Condoleeza Rice that we hear what should happen to Europe: “You want to depend more on the North American energy platform… you want to have pipelines that don’t go through Ukraine and Russia. For years we’ve tried to make Europeans interested in different pipeline routes. It’s time to do that.”
Recently, Securing America’s Future energy and the Foreign Policy Initiative hosted this conversation about energy security and geopolitics with US legislators and leading experts, where the “US New Paradigm” of Global Energy Dominance Foreign Policy was summarised. While the US is going for the kill with this new paradigm in Ukraine and Syria, Emperor Obama showcased his humanitarian Old New Clothes to an organisation which is supposed to “maintain international peace and security, promote human rights, foster social and economic development, protect the environment” and everyone present pretended not to see the ugly flesh of the US Energy War. But for anyone who saw that the King is naked, Obama’s last words sounded like a dangerous threat:
“And at this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done….we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come. Join us in this common mission” 

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My last conversation with Alexander happened exactly one year ago. I can still see our digital footprints on my Skype: 23rd September 2013 Call started: 17:31 Call Ended: 17:48 Call Lasted:  16 minutes 50 seconds.

Alexander looked very happy and relaxed, he had a slightly stooped posture and a gentle wandering smile. He had just finished the first edit of our project: the onscreen version of a one-woman play based on Dostoevsky’s little-known early novel Nameless Nobody (Netochka Nezvanova). Originally, we performed the play in 2006 at the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, where it got five-star reviews, then it transferred to London, where we had a short sell-out run and finally we took it to St.Petersburg, where it won an award at the Independent Theatre Festival. All that unexpected success of this seemingly simple, yet psychologically and spiritually complex production, was mainly due to Alexander’s unique and brilliant directorial work.

Markov’s lifelong dedication to Russian Theatre, Poetry and Literature was always marked by integrity and authenticity, and his unique philosophy of life shines through all of the work. In the eighties, when he was still working as an actor in the main state theatres of St.Petersburg (where he played more than 70 roles), he was already known for his unusual interpretation of some classic roles. The online theatre magazine of St.Petersburg still has a review of his unorthodox interpretation of Cyrano de Bergerac, which he performed at the Pushkin Drama Theatre in 1987:

“In the crowd of frozen and studied mannequins, dressed in multicoloured outfits, appears a slightly stooped, light, agile inconspicuous man in a brown suit. Slightly embarrassed, almost defenceless smile. Husky, soft voice, natural intonations – poet Bergerac-Markov talked rather than declared tirades (words were born spontaneously and flowed, quietly overcoming the hurdles of lines, of verse meter and of rhythm). It was a sincere and spontaneous man, caught in a sedate environment of a high society event. It was a live actor in the sham play. A revolutionary courageous poet of titanic proportions was played by Markov as a decent, intelligent, suffering man – precisely a man and not a hero. Discreet wise Cyrano, who is always ready to accept all the blows of fate. Resigned to loneliness, not pretending to be happy. The glimmer of hope to be loved not so much pleased Markov-Cyrano, but rather plunged him into utter confusion….And then the melodramatic love story crushed the bones of this soft, vulnerable man…”

The most courageous step that an actor or any other artist can do is to reveal his real self in his work, overcoming the temptation of hiding behind the mask of a character. Alexander Markov had both courage and sincerity to do so in his portrayal of Cyrano, revealing his own sensitive, fragile, loving, intelligent self, as well as his non-mainstream attitudes towards society and life.

Unwilling to participate in the politics of state theatre, Alexander Markov chose to stay away from it and be free – despite being “an important, famous, bright actor of his generation, a real theatrical intelligentsia”, he left his glorious acting career in order to set up Russian Nights Theatre with his wife Valentina Beletskaya, also an actress and an outstanding voice coach. His colleagues thought him crazy as independent theatre didn’t get any grants from the government – setting up fringe theatre in 1991 was a financial suicide.

Things were going to get even tougher than expected. The birth of their theatre coincided with the dissolution of the USSR. On 26th December 1991 (a day before Alexander turned 39) the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Amidst confusion and despair, the young theatre remained full of hope and continued rehearsals of their first play. They started rehearsal in Leningrad and finished in St.Petersburg. Sharing little with its former pre-soviet glory, the northern capital, among with its inhabitants, was fully suffering all the effects of the economic and political collapse – Leningrad on its knees. Not surprisingly one of the reviews of their first play started with a description of the city:

“We still live in Leningrad. Unending November absorbed March and April; forgotten by God and Joy, we are wandering , slouching , plodding along amongst the spits and scraps of half-digested cardboard , spurred by brass bands and gestures of begging hands, while the wind cuts faces, and passing Mercedeses douse us with dirty water.”

The play itself was a little-known autobiographical work by Lev Timofeev called “Moscow. Praying for a Cup.” It is centred around two dissidents (the author and his wife), who are trapped in their small flat, while KGB waits outside their house to arrest them. Despite their imminent end, the couple find space to talk to each other sincerely, revealing their suffering and fear, but also their immense tenderness and unbounded Love for each other. The play was received extremely well by the St.Petersburg theatre intelligentsia and won the St.Petersburg Theatre Critics award for “detailed research into the spiritual life of Man”.

Economic and political hardships faded into the background in 1995, when Alexander’s and Valentina’s handsome talented 18-year-old son, who had always been helping them in the backstage of their theatre, went away for the weekend to swim in the lakes with friends, but never returned. It is a Russian Christian Orthodox belief that anyone who dies on the Trinity day is ‘taken by God”, and so the drowned boy became a saintly figure both for his friends and for his parents. From then on, Alexander and Valentina moved even further away from ‘theatre society’ and focused on their spiritual path instead.

St. Petersburg theatre missed Alexander Markov. This is how a director of Pushkin Theatre wrote about him: “Unfortunately, there are talented artists, who sometimes become unclaimed. People fear them or do not notice them. Time passes, and in their place there appears something commercial or empty. Alas, there are many actors like that and Alexander Markov is one of them…. I understood the reason (why Markov left) – he was exploited (in a state theatre); he is an individual with a fragile personality with a deep and bottomless Inner Self. He is smart, thoughtful; his mindset – philosophical, analytical. He is a semiologist! He is an existentialist, he delves into his inner world, he decomposes, he breaks, and then the tension in the muscles of his face tells us that he has understood something, he has made a decision. Moreover, his psyche is very mobile. Sasha Markov is unique. Just listen to how he reads poetry! He almost never modulates his voice. But he reveals the meaning, plunges to its depths, holding the line with his thought! He can do something unbelievable even with bad poetry…. I miss him… Markov – is my personal loss.” Yet despite attempted persuasions to return to work as an actor, Alexander mainly concentrated on his own work and teaching.

It is precisely poetry that became Russian Nights Theatre’s other most successful project: “Poems” – 120 minutes of Pushkin, Tsvetaeva, Mayakovsky, Brodsky and Gogol, but also lesser known Lev Timofeev and their late son Vladimir Markov. Once again their production won awards, grants and after a while, toured Great Britain to sell-out success. This is how Academia Rossica described the performance: “The power of the word, its inexhaustible, symbolic and eternal significance, is the essence of the play… In the pale glimmer of candles, two faces emerge from the darkness. Two lone figures – a man and a woman – conduct a dialogue from opposite ends of the stage:

 

She: What time is it?

He: Past One – what time are you asking?

She: Tonight my watch stopped: it must prefer Eternity to Time: one hand flew off!

He: You dropped it.

She: No, it was you that broke it, sleepy.

He: I don’t remember.

She: Remember? You cried out, what’s that sound? And I, laughing, told you: my heart.

 

The poems are united by the over-arching themes of life, love, death and, above all, art… Poems seeks to restore faith in the world, in its prophetic power, which seems to have been lost in our times… The poems are luminous: they exude light. But the source of this light is not the individual brilliance of the authors, it is the unspoken “Gladsome Light”, which they strive towards, taking the audience with them. Light, both natural and artificial, pervade the landscape of the play – in the suburban street lamp, in the merging of ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ light and in the poems themselves:

 

In the fog streetlights glow,

There’s no time… Look,

There’s timelessness.

(V. Markov)

 

Another kind of light emanates from the performance: the fearlessness of the actors, which burns before our eyes.”

 

How grateful I am to BBC Russia for broadcasting this performance worldwide, because the copy of that recording is still available.  Last summer, while we were rehearsing Netochka in a house, which stood in the middle of a forest near Krasniy Liman (I wrote about this in this blog post), we sat on a verandah, drinking tea, and listened to that performance. After a few verses, tears were streaming down my eyes – their acting always spoke to my heart. The depth of their thought, intensity of their love and beauty of their speech never cease to move me.

I wasn’t surprised when I heard that at some stage Alexander thought of joining a Priests Academy (Duhovnuyu Seminariyu). It wasn’t just his long grey beard that made him look like a priest. His light blue piercing eyes were always bright, joyous and calm, without the shadows of inner turmoils and suffering, and with a lot of wisdom and love. Whenever he addressed people his voice was always gentle and considerate. In eight years of knowing him, not once have I heard him loosing patience or becoming irritable. In conflictual situations he displayed unimaginable levels of patience and respect, even when people were letting him down or tried to argue with him thoughtlessly. He was always ready to listen and hear anyone who would speak to him, openly and without judgement, and then, accepting what the speaker had said, expressed very clearly and with a lot of wisdom his own opinion and advice. He would have been an extraordinary pastor, but then the world would have had one less extraordinary director and teacher, who brought his sharp intellect, deep love for humanity and high spirituality into his interaction with others and in his work.

Netochka Nezavnova is Alexander’s Swan Song, his last directorial piece, which he had first conceived in 1972. There were several previous attempts at putting on this play with other actresses, but each time, for various unforeseen reasons, it didn’t materialise. I feel enormously honoured to have been the person, who made Alexander’s dream a reality. It was also my dream to be able to deliver one hour of my favourite writer’s words in a way, which would move people to the same extent that the words move me, and Alexander taught me how to do it. By the time it was filmed, Netochka Nezvanova was exactly seven years old and was performed roughly around 70 times –  in Edinburgh, St.Petersburg, London and Kiev. Just like a human being grows, the play grew as well, changed by our life experiences, while also transforming our own lives. (I met my husband Robin through it. He came to the last performance and, having been moved by the play, stayed behind to talk to me.)

To all those critics and colleagues of Markov, who have proclaimed that his “talent was buried alive”, once he stopped acting under the bright lights of state theatre and started directing in small fringe theatres  and teaching instead, I’d like to say that only through teaching, Alexander was able to prolong the life of his talent by passing it on to a younger generation. In everyday life, each one of us, through our way of being, influences people around us; the effect we have on other people is in turn passed on to others, much as ripples in a pond go on and on until they are no longer visible. Alexander Markov’s teaching has left many powerful ripples – the Russian Nights School had students from Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia, France, Germany, England, Mongolia. (his wife Valentina Beletskaya still continues teaching at the school, following his method). All these people, whom he taught, carry within them some of Alexander’s light and love, which they will pass on to others.

Human nature and theatre are evanescent and it was precisely this transience that my teacher’s last words to me addressed. In out last conversation on Skype on 23 September 2013, Alexander said to me: “Theatre requires our presence, while film can exist without us. I feel that Netochka already has a life of its own. Our presence is not required anymore.” A couple of hours later he left this life following a heart-attack, but the ripples are still here, flowing through anyone who knew him, worked with him, was taught by him or seen his work. It’s a great consolation for me, as his student and actress, that he was so happy with the first edit of his last project. I had to complete the film without him, but I tried to keep the final edit as close to Alexander’s original intention as possible. The Light and Love that permeated Alexander’s work throughout his life are immortalised in “Netochka Nezvanova – Nameless Nobody”, his only filmed directorial project and the only filmed theatre adaptation of Dostoevsky’s early novel.  If you’d like to catch a glimpse of it, the trailer is below.

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This is Alexander’s and Valentina’s last performance, which took place in the Slavic Cultural Centre in Donetsk in September 2013. (list of poems in Russian below)

 

First Poem performed by Alexander Markov:

«Из тюремных молитв»

                Лев Тимофеев 

Позови меня, Господи, в эту горькую дымную даль…
Как еврею даруешь счастливое рабство субботы,
Так и мне ежедневное, грубое рабство подай
И оставь в словаре лишь два слова: любовь и работа.

Я спокойно приму эту непредсказуемо долгую жизнь,
Это горе приму, понесу, сколько выдержит сердце,
И за все предстоящее мне напряжение нервов и жил
Пусть не стану я целью Твоей, но останусь лишь средством.

Я не ради победы – готов хоть к побочным стезям.
Пусть сошьют те, кто после, а я ограничусь примеркой.
Пусть любовь обернется несчастьем – готов и к слезам.
Пусть не музыкой времени буду, но в нотах пометкой.

Даже хлеб – как в молитве – чтоб только сегодня прожить.
Даже в кружке вода – чтобы только сегодня напиться.
Дай мне только спокойную радость болеть и любить
И оставь только разуму злую способность трудиться.

И когда я Твой голос услышу – не в воздухе – в сердце, в крови,
И ладонь от лица отниму, перестав закрываться от ветра,
Я скажу тебе: «Господи, сколько труда и любви…»
Вот и все, чтобы знать, что Тобою я не был отвергнут.

 

Second poem, performed by Valentina Beletskaya:

К ТЕБЕ, О МАТЕРЬ ПРЕСВЯТАЯ

                                                 Н.В.Гоголь

К Тебе, о Матерь Пресвятая,
Дерзаю вознести свой глас,
Лице слезами омывая:
Услышь меня в сей скорбный час.

Прими мои теплейшие моленья,
Мой дух от бед и зол избавь,
Пролей мне в сердце умиленье,
На путь спасения наставь.
 
Да буду чужд своей я воли,
Готов для Бога все терпеть,
Будь мне покров во горькой доле,
Не дай в печали умереть.

Ты всех прибежище несчастных,
За всех молитвенница нас;
О, защити, когда ужасный
Услышим судный Божий глас.

Когда закроет вечность время,
Глас трубный мертвых воскресит,
И книга совести все бремя
Грехов моих изобличит.

Покров Ты верным и ограда;
К Тебе молюся всей душой:
Спаси меня, моя отрада,
Умилосердись надо мной!

 

 Third poem, performed by Alexander Markov:

СТРАННИК.

Aлександр Пушкин

I.

Однажды странствуя среди долины дикой,

Незапно был объят я скорбию великой

И тяжким бременем подавлен и согбен,

Как тот, кто на суде в убийстве уличен.

Потупя голову, в тоске ломая руки,

Я в воплях изливал души пронзенной муки

И горько повторял, метаясь как больной:

„Что делать буду я? Что станется со мной?“

II.

И так я сетуя в свой дом пришел обратно

10Уныние мое всем было непонятно.

При детях и жене сначала я был тих

И мысли мрачные хотел таить от них;

Но скорбь час от часу меня стесняла боле;

И сердце наконец раскрыл я по неволе.

„О горе, горе нам! Вы, дети, ты жена! —

Сказал я, — ведайте: моя душа полна

Тоской и ужасом, мучительное бремя

Тягчит меня. Идет! уж близко, близко время:

Наш город пламени и ветрам обречен;

392

20Он в угли и золу вдруг будет обращен,

И мы погибнем все, коль не успеем вскоре

Обресть убежище; а где? о горе, горе!“

III.

Мои домашние в смущение пришли

И здравый ум во мне расстроенным почли.

Но думали, что ночь и сна покой целебный

Охолодят во мне болезни жар враждебный.

Я лег, но во всю ночь всё плакал и вздыхал

И ни на миг очей тяжелых не смыкал.

Поутру я один сидел, оставя ложе.

30Они пришли ко мне; на их вопрос, я то же,

Что прежде, говорил. Тут ближние мои,

Не доверяя мне, за должное почли

Прибегнуть к строгости. Они с ожесточеньем

Меня на правый путь и бранью и презреньем

Старались обратить. Но я, не внемля им,

Всё плакал и вздыхал, унынием тесним.

И наконец они от крика утомились

И от меня, махнув рукою, отступились

Как от безумного, чья речь и дикий плач

40Докучны, и кому суровый нужен врач.

IV.

Пошел я вновь бродить — уныньем изнывая

И взоры вкруг себя со страхом обращая,

Как узник, из тюрьмы замысливший побег,

Иль путник, до дождя спешащий на ночлег.

Духовный труженик — влача свою веригу,

Я встретил юношу, читающего книгу.

Он тихо поднял взор — и вопросил меня,

О чем, бродя один, так горько плачу я?

И я в ответ ему: „Познай мой жребий злобный:

50Я осужден на смерть и позван в суд загробный —

И вот о чем крушусь: к суду я не готов,

393

И смерть меня страшит.“

— „Коль жребий твой таков, —

Он возразил, — и ты так жалок в самом деле,

Чего ж ты ждешь? зачем не убежишь отселе?“

И я: „Куда ж бежать? какой мне выбрать путь?“

Тогда: „Не видишь ли, скажи, чего-нибудь“ —

Сказал мне юноша, даль указуя перстом.

Я оком стал глядеть болезненно-отверстым,

Как от бельма врачом избавленный слепец.

60„Я вижу некий свет“, — сказал я наконец.

„Иди ж, — он продолжал: — держись сего ты света;

Пусть будет он тебе [единственная] мета,

Пока ты тесных врат [спасенья] не достиг,

Ступай!“ — И я бежать пустился в тот же миг.

V.

Побег мой произвел в семье моей тревогу,

И дети и жена кричали мне с порогу,

Чтоб воротился я скорее. Крики их

На площадь привлекли приятелей моих;

Один бранил меня, другой моей супруге

70Советы подавал, иной жалел о друге,

Кто поносил меня, кто на смех подымал,

Кто силой воротить соседям предлагал;

Иные уж за мной гнались; но я тем боле

Спешил перебежать городовое поле,

Дабы скорей узреть — оставя те места,

Спасенья верный путь и тесные врата.

Fourth Poem, performed by Valentina Beletskaya

Рассвет на рельсах

                                             Марина Цветаева

Покамест день не встал
С его страстями стравленными,
Из сырости и шпал
Россию восстанавливаю.

Из сырости — и свай,
Из сырости — и серости.
Покамест день не встал
И не вмешался стрелочник.

Туман еще щадит,
Еще в холсты запахнутый
Спит ломовой гранит,
Полей не видно шахматных…

Из сырости — и стай…
Еще вестями шалыми
Лжет вороная сталь -
Еще Москва за шпалами!

Так, под упорством глаз -
Владением бесплотнейшим
Какая разлилась
Россия — в три полотнища!

И — шире раскручу!
Невидимыми рельсами
По сырости пущу
Вагоны с погорельцами:

С пропавшими навек
Для Бога и людей!
(Знак: сорок человек
И восемь лошадей).

Так, посредине шпал,
Где даль шлагбаумом выросла,
Из сырости и шпал,
Из сырости — и сирости,

Покамест день не встал
С его страстями стравленными -
Во всю горизонталь
Россию восстанавливаю!

Без низости, без лжи:
Даль — да две рельсы синие…
Эй, вот она! — Держи!
По линиям, по линиям…

 

 

It’s mid-July and I’m on a flight to a place that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to with these menacing warnings:

“Russian forces and pro-Russian groups have established full operational control in Crimea. Following an illegal referendum on 16 March, Russia illegally annexed Crimea on 21 March and tensions remain high. Flights in and out of Simferopol airport are subject to disruption. … Train and bus routes out of the peninsula are still operating, though subject to unscheduled disruptions. There are reports of road blocks, with passengers being searched but traffic is able to get through. If you’re currently visiting or living in Crimea, you should leave now. If you choose to remain, you should keep a low profile, avoid areas of protest or stand-off and stay indoors where possible.”

Had I not been going to this exotic peninsula on the edge of the Black Sea every single year since I was 6, I would probably follow this mis-advice, which is still current on the UK government’s website. Even at the peak of the Crimean crisis in March 2014, when I was phoning all my numerous Crimean friends, worrying about the situation there, I was always reassured that most of the things I read in the western media were a lie. None of these friends, mainly living in the southern area of Crimea, have encountered any problems, seen any little green men, been searched, threatened or in any way intimidated. The majority of ordinary citizens were not affected at all, and far from ‘keeping a low profile’, people flocked to the streets at any opportunity to celebrate what most see as a ‘re-unification’ with Russia.

“I was crying with joy. I’ve never seen the sea front so full people. Everyone was ecstatic (re: Russia’s Day, 12th June). The day Crimea joined Russia was the happiest day of my life”, told me on the phone one of the old friends of my family Lyubov (65), who was born in Yalta and lived there all her life. All my other friends and acquaintances, 23 to 70 year olds, whom I’ve spoken to voted for independence from Ukraine and told me that all their friends and family have done the same. The only person I knew, whose experience was different, was a Crimean-born Ukrainian singer Jamala of Qimily Tatar origin, who wrote to me back in March: “when my grandpa heard that Russian occupied Crimea, he barely handled it. He will not be able to endure another war, that’s why I’m in hysterics as well.”

The Crimean Peninsula is a unique cultural crossroads where east meets west – amongst feather-grassed steppes, forested mountains and a picturesque coastline you can find Greek ruins, Italian fortresses, Scythian burial tumuli, the Palace of the Crimean Khan, Jewish synagogues in caves, Tsar’s and Russian nobility’s palaces, as well as many Soviet era spas. Ethnically 58% of Crimean population is Russian, 24% is Ukrainian and 10.2% are Tatars, along with other minorities, including Belorussian, Volga Tatars, Armenians and Jews. All of these people’s welfare mainly depends on tourism and agriculture, so it’s ironic that while the governments and press of the West profess their love for the minorities of Crimea, they are actually economically impoverishing those people when issuing warnings against travel to their homeland.

I’m worried that when I arrive to Simferopol airport, I’ll encounter empty lounges, so I question the first airport assistant I see about how busy they are. “We used to have 23 flights a day and now we have 80. All from Russia. We are very busy”, she replies. Of course, many people used to drive to Crimea via Ukraine and with the war in Donbass, that option is not available to them anymore. During my July trip I find Crimea quieter than usual, though by August it seems quite busy again. As a regular tourist I don’t see any major changes except forRussian flags everywhere, placards advertising Russian political parties and police being dressed in a different uniform. Otherwise, Crimea remains just like I love it – culturally and geographically rich and with always something new to explore. Needless to say I never encountered any  major road blocks, never been stopped, searched or threatened (even though both my husband and I always spoke in English). Crimean beaches are not empty, there is food in the shops and most of what I’ve read about Crimea before I went there was just not true. One of the goals of my trip was to talk to people themselves, to hear their voices unmediated by the press and to understand what they think and feel about their new political status.

On both trips, I visit Hotel Yalta, a modernist giant that recalls a large ship, where my parents used to take me when I was a girl and a teenager, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find it full not much under it’s usual capacity. Owned by Moscovites for quite a few years, it was only this summer that the owners decided to do numerous renovations, including a new pool, new playground, new restaurants and a lounge Cinema-themed bar, that looks like it could easily belong in the South of France. Many more works were still underway – a sign of the owner’s renewed optimism in the future of the business. “Things are going ok this summer, but next year will be better”, a young lady at the reception quickly answers me, but she avoids giving me more specific numbers and pretends to be busy with papers.

Two receptionists at the Alushta’s Sanatorim Druzhba, a Soviet modernist masterpiece resembling a spaceship out of Tarkovsky’s Solaris, are far more willing to engage in a conversation given that their dilapidated workplace is only 1/3 full. Lyudmila, 43 and Alyona, 48, both of whom voted for re-unification, are now upset that the prices have gone up, but their wages remained the same (only now they are paid in rubles). “No one controls prices, so some shops have raised them more than others. It’s like a free-for-all.”, complains Alyona. “It’s better in Sevastopol, because they have a good mayor, he actually walks around the city himself, checking prices”, adds Lyudmilla. Despite their complaints, both conclude that it’s much better to be with Russia than to have a war like in Donbass. As Alyona starts recounting some horror story from the battlefields that she saw on TV, somewhere in a distant hall Bethhoven’s Moon Sonata starts playing and I start feeling a knot in my throat.

A 25-year old Oksana, whom I’ve just spoken to about how badly business has been for the games arcades where she works, suddenly mentions to me that she’s not from Crimea, but from Donbass. As I tell her that I was born in Donbass too, we both stare at each other in silence for a moment – two strangers sharing the same pain. Then she tells me about her mother in Gorlovka, who keeps calling her in the middle of the night in fear, as the area where she lives is being shelled. She tells me that even though she planned to stay in Crimea for the whole tourist season, now she’s going back to Gorlovka within a week to be by her mother’s side. As if to avoid breaking down in tears, Oksana goes back to the issue of business: “It was very bad this summer, many arcades are closing down, but only temporarily, because here they have faith in the future.” The last sentence hangs heavily between us – Donbass civilians are still being shelled by the Ukrainian Army, some managed to escape to Russia and Crimea, but those remaining don’t have much ground for having faith.

Anatoliy, a native Crimean 50 year old ex-KGB agent, who now rents out holiday homes in Gurzuf, is full of faith and enthusiasm, despite the fact that he only had 1/3 of his usual summer gains. He’s sure that business will be back to normal once the Kerch Bridge, that will connect Crimea with mainland Russia, will be built, which should happen in 3-4 years. He said that he voted for reunification, even though by doing so he lost all his professional contacts in Ukraine.  He seems very proud of his new Russian passport, of his new president and is optimistic about Crimean prospects within a larger country. He admits that since Crimea became a part of Russia, it became harder to make extra money by overcoming laws: “Ukrainian corruption meant that you could find your way around making a few more hryvnas, but Russians are much stricter about corruption, which is great for Crimea, even if it means that personally I will be getting less.”

Some of the younger generation are not as optimistic – Crimean-born Liza Kuzub, who’s been living in Kiev since 2012, but has come back home for the summer, shares with me that many of her friends, who are young interpreters and translators like herself, are concerned about their career prospects, as there are no foreign tourists and there are fears that there won’t be many in the future, if “Crimea will become an anti-globalisation isolated place”. As a result, 70% of the young people she knows are planning to move out of Crimea in search of a more promising life. A Maidan activist, she still says that she always loved Russia and Russian people, even though recent events have made her look at everything “in a different light”.

In contrast,  Olga Rogacheva, a 27 year old translator from Sevastopol, is not planning to move anywhere and dismisses my question about whether Russia enforced a referendum upon Crimeans. “All my family and friends in Sevastopol wanted to join Russia for a long time. I even have a video on Youtube, where the people gathered at the Popular Assembly on the square and decided to separate from Ukraine. Back then there was not even talk about the Russian army, or seeking Russia’s help. It was just the people of Sevastopol deciding themselves that their city should become autonomous, because they didn’t want to be with Kiev anymore.”

Sevastopol has always been a Russian city with a special status, so it’s not surprising that they would be pro-Russian, but it’s not much different for the rest of Crimea. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine voted to be independent, Crimean support was the lowest of all of the Ukraine (only 54% in favor) with very low turnout (65%). The following year the Crimean parliament voted in favour of a referendum, but it was forcefully suppressed by Kiev’s administration, as a New York Times article from 1992 testifies. Since then separatist activism in Crimea is well-evidenced on a historical timeline of the UN resources library. It’s a myth to portray the Crimean referendum as an outcome of Russian state intervention. On the contrary, if one looks at the historical timeline, it appears to be Kiev who was suppressing Crimea’s constitutional right to self-determination for many years.

Olga Sergeeva, a 60 year old conservation architect, who worked on the restoration of all of the main architectural icons of Crimea, including Alupka Palace, Livadia Palace, Bakhchisarai Palace and Keraites Kenasas, told me that “there’s a huge layer of Russian history in Crimea, expressed in buildings and city plans.” She explains to me that while during Soviet times, there was a law requiring 10% budget to go towards restoration, after the collapse of the Union that money disappeared, which meant that she really struggled with keeping buildings standing and mainly did ‘cosmetic’ works. “Ukrainians had different priorities and were not able to properly restore, rebuild and create new pieces, but now everything is in its place and Crimea will eventually have state support for the regeneration of Russian Culture.” Sergeeva told me that after the results of the referendum were announced, she cut off all her long hair, to mark a new beginning. “Everyone was crazy out of happiness! The whole meaning of my life has been crystallised – I understood what I was doing in my job, and I was ecstatic to be reunited with the land, where my ancestors are buried.”

Viktor Aleksandrovich Bezverhiy, 63, Head of Leisure of Dyulber, a sanatorium, that used to belong to the Verhovna Rada (Supreme Council) of Ukraine and now passed on to the Kremlin, expresses similar sentiments about his hope for the regeneration of his crumbling workplace. An aesthete, quoting Khalil Gibran, while talking about the history of this unusual  Oriental-style Palace built by Grand Prince Peter Romanov, Viktor Aleksandrovich confides that “during the Ukrainian reign nothing has been done here, everything was falling apart. Now we have hope. Already I’ve met our new bosses and they are totally different set, serious people. They are not just about ‘vodka i seledka’ (vodka and Herring) like the guys before.”

Crimean-born Igor, a 32 year old organiser of concerts, who developed patriotic feelings for Ukraine, but not to the extent as to “wear Ukrainian embroidered shirts” confidently states that even though in his opinion the referendum was illegal, “because the rules of the referendum were broken and sovereignty of a country was violated”, he doesn’t doubt that majority of Crimeans voted to be with Russia. He is a sceptical about reasons for such voting: “Only 20% people are sincere Russian patriots, the rest are just pragmatic people, who see it to be more “profitable” to be part of a bigger economically more powerful neighbour.” He is convinced that it was Russian media, that influenced people’s opinions: “I just hope for all the people that voted for Russia, expecting ‘golden mountains’, that those golden mountains will come to them.” Personally he did not vote at all, because he “prefers to be free and he doesn’t want his rights to be curtailed in Russia.” When I ask him which particular rights he’s afraid he might not be able to exercise, he replies “in Russia you can’t even re-post Navalny’s blog and I prefer to live not such a rich life, but to be free.” At the end of the interview, when I ask him whether he’s going to move out of Crimea, he admits that even though he has the means to do so, he’ll stay as he’ll be able to ‘live with it all’.

To get a minority perspective, I speak to Mustafa Seitumerov (60s) a leader of the Tatars of the Southern Part of Crimea, who confirms that during the time of the referendum some of his people had a lot of fear, because of the history of forceful deportation by Stalin. However, the war in Donbass make them grateful to be living in peace. He also reminded me that they used to be represented by Party of the Regions, which is now very weak and has no chances of winning in the near future. This means that even if they remained part of Ukraine, they would have no hope that their interests will ever be represented in the Ukrainian Parliament. However, he did express his regret that joining Russia happened in such a hurried and forceful way and said that even though some of his friends instantly hung tri-coloured flags on their homes, for the majority it will take a longer time to change their hearts. He shared his hopes that Tatar people will not be fooled and that the promises, which are made to them by the new government (e.g. 20%MPs in Crimea parliament), will be fulfilled. He denies rumours that Tatar people are planning an armed uprising against the new government: “Tatars fought for 70 years for their rights and we never took up arms. We want to be working with the new government, we do not want to be pushed away.”

During my second trip to Crimea in August, I get a chance to get the opinion of a Tatar man in his thirties, who works in the main Mosque of Crimea in Evpatoriya. He tells me that it’s untrue what the media says that all Tatars are united by one attitude. “Different people have different opinions. Some are pro-Ukraine and some are pro-Russia. We are peaceful and cooperative people. We want to be respected and we will respect back.” Already during the short time that Crimea has been under Russia, the Tatar language has been legalised as a state language (which Ukrainians refused to do for years) and one of the main Tatar holidays was made into a national holiday for the whole of Crimea.

Finally, I go to Karaites Kenasas in Evpatoriya to find out what Karaites Jews feel about being part of Russia. An answer is provided to me by the building itself – in the central yard there is a marble obelisk to Russian Emperor Alexander I with a Russian golden eagle on the top. Karaites, unlike Tatars, have no history of conflicts with Russia and on the contrary, they have always collaborated with them, have fought on Russia’s side during all wars, and many Karaites have taken high positions of power under previous Russian rule.

Overall, despite a slower touristic season, the majority of Crimeans seem happier to be part of Russia than Russians themselves, even though with any new political change there will always be those who are unsatisfied. The question is whether despite legitimate questions on how it came about one chooses to respect Crimeans’ right to self-determination as per the Autonomous Republic of Crimea’s constitution, or whether one chooses instead to disregard this right for the sake of other geopolitical and economic agendas. It’s clear that majority of Western governments and the press are choosing to the latter.

 

 

 

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