Columns / Issue October 26, 2011 #120. Digest edition

1209 Navalny at the Russian March. Do the famous blogger’s fans know what he is calling on them to do?


Blogging idol Alexei Navalny has joined the organising committee of Russian March, a nationalist demonstration. He also supported the March’s campaign and called on all his fans to take part in it. Among other things Navalny put up a campaign video on his blog, viewed by thousands daily, taken from the Russian March’s website with the chant “stop feeding the Caucasus”.

Alexei Navalny is just a year older than me, meaning that when the first war in Chechnya began, he was 18. Back in 1994, when our generation was being sent in droves to fight in Chechnya, he was studying in the Department of Law at the PEOPLES’ FRIENDSHIP University of Russia (symbolic)
In 1999, when kids our age, Russian draftees, were again being sent to Chechnya like fresh meat, Navalny was studying in the Finance and Credit Department of the Finance Academy under the Government of the Russian Federation, majoring in Securities and Markets.

In 2000, when the special forces police from St. Petersburg (older than Navalny and I by a generation) wiped out at least 56 Chechen elderly, women and children in the Chechen village of Novye Aldy, I was already working at Novaya Gazeta. Anna Politkovskaya was in the other room at the time writing an article about what happened at Aldy. She had just returned from Grozny, a capital that had been levelled to the ground for the second time.

Incidentally, Grozny at one time was a beautiful city, built by my father’s generation, with a massive, very modern and expensive oil-refinery complex, which provided loads of high-quality oil products for the Soviet Union thanks to the quality of the oil. Consequently, the oil was denoted only for export. Put this all together and Chechnya in general was always profitable, and it would be now if Rosneft wouldn’t be sucking up 90% of the region’s oil into its own pockets. Should Navalny know this? He is the financial expert, not me.  

Even this oil complex, however, wasn’t worth a hundredth of a per cent of everything that was ruthlessly destroyed during the Chechen wars. If you add everything up, then what comes to mind is “Good Lord a lot of money was involved!” What 5 trillion Russian roubles are you talking about, you little boys!?   

Navalny was studying again in 2010, this time in a 6-month course at Yale University. You 20-year-old kids today probably won’t be so lucky, because the elders of the Putin generation cut off all your social opportunities. But also because you are the loafer great-grandchildren of Soviet propaganda: you believe what the television tells you, spend your time in chat rooms, catch Tadjik girls in the backstreet and don’t have time to read books. I mean good books, not Mein Kampf.  

You 20-year-olds will shoot up the political ladder, for this is the natural course of history. Are you sick of being in Putin’s swamp? Or do you feel it’s unfair that that new Porsche belongs to Ramzan Kadyrov and not you? Don’t be jealous of Kadyrov! No Porsche is going to save him from the fate that awaits him.

You would understand everything should you have gotten the same education that Navalny did. You would at least know about 1933 in Germany and 1937 in the Soviet Union, the Molotov-Rippentrop Pact, the Katyn Massacre and the Gulag. You would also understand at least something about recent times when Navalny and I were 18 years old.

There’s just one thing that you should all know: you were luckier than the people of my generation who fought in Chechnya, and those who fought in Afghanistan. You should pray that Putin doesn’t send you to the Caucasus again, where you too will be forced to cough up and spill blood, the blood of the elderly, women and children (Georgians, Chechens or others…).

If you knew Russia’s history, the country that you live and that you put videos up on Youtube for, you would walk carefully across Russian land, because Russia’s history has always been one big cemetery consisting of big and small graves, mostly anonymous ones. More often than not these graves are home to Russians and Chechens, Ossetians and Tatars, Bashkirs and Tadjiks; bone for bone and skull for skull, in Siberia and Kazakhstan, outside of Moscow and Volgograd, in Novy Aldy, Samashki, and in and by the Kremlin walls. One of us still even lies in the mausoleum on Red Square, poor guy…

Lenin too was speculating: “Land to the peasants and power to the Soviets!” Do you know what this all led to? Civil war is not when the reds and whites were fighting each other with sabres. It’s when you are crawling over corpses in Chechnya after the storm of Grozny and are collecting documents from Russian solders and Grozny residents, all in order to somehow register our the overall losses. Otherwise, when starving dogs would eat the corpses, it would be too late to register anything, despite nationality.  

Only someone who doesn’t know anything about Russia can be a Russian nationalist. You can fire off words like “tribute”, “exaction”, “terrorist attacks” and “murderers”, but remember, kids, you are the children and brothers of unpunished killers. You are following the generation to have fought in Chechnya.  

Navalny didn’t serve, although he was not too old. I cannot say whether this is heroism or not. It’s more likely just being too fastidious. But this was our common war, and it was a dirty one. And this filth is on both my hands and Navalny’s, and on your fathers’ and brothers’.

Every time you say, “Stop feeding the Caucasus”, you get into this same filth.
You cannot get into Yale, but you do have Internet access, where you can find books by Anna Politkovskaya. One of them is called “Putin’s Russia”. Read it. It’s a small, thin book. Then close your eyes and switch on your imagination as completely as possible and put yourself in the Chechens’ shoes.

Then head on out to your Russian March to see your virtual idol, who hasn’t even entered actual politics, but has crossed the line. He has three diplomas and understands perfectly just what fresh meat is.


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