Last Sunday, one week before the Russian presidential elections, with my punk band I took part in a benefit gig to support five young antifascists who were recently kidnapped, detained, and tortured by the FSB special agency, called the Centre for Prevention Against Extremism.
We had just finished singing Lucy—a bold’n’brazen adaptation of Woody Guthrie’s Miss Pavlichenko, which is dedicated to a legendary record-holding Soviet sniper who killed 300 Nazis by herself—when suddenly an alarmed voice shouted “Nazis at the door!”
Them: youngsters in sporty black outfits, anxious, throwing bottles, firing pepper gas.
Us: surprised, infuriated, throwing heavy welded bar stools and trash bins.
They ran away. We continued singing in the street outside the bar. Louder and louder.
Yes – there is a new Alt-right movement in Russia, as there is everywhere else. Ask people who came to protest the Italian Macerata a month ago after a neo-Nazi shot seven African asylum seekers in the streets. Ask people in Poland who stood frozen, shocked by the massive neo-Nazi torchlight procession in 2017, or those who recently witnessed the Nazi rally in Kyiv.
Yes – the Russian Federation’s Security Service (FSB) uses torture against antifascists, now as they did 6 years ago. It’s Putin’s style to show who is ruling here, especially to those who wish his stability to be shaken. Putin’s tactics have remained the same over his consequent 18 years in office.
And yes – Putin will count his years in power ‘til 2024.
For obvious reasons, this short text is very personal as I draw attention to three articles on ArtsEverywhere that demonstrate how power manages to remain stable. To understand the historical roots of Putinism, I invite you to read the introduction I wrote to present the series Ways of Seeing New Russian Colonialisms.
In The Very Best Day, Ilya Budraitskis analyses pre-electoral events, concluding: “The resort to external and internal threats as the main justification for its legitimacy in fact demonstrates the weakness and degradation of the existing regime. And behind the predictability of Putin’s victory in the decorative elections of March 18th lurks the unpredictability of further developments in the country.”
The image accompanying his text includes a quote from Putin’s silovik (security) minister from six years ago: “We all realize that the state power in our country must be unshaken, must be an example and a guarantee of stability.” It’s an old piece of mine, which illustrates how persistent this stability is.
And as a reminder not to forget how power seeks to remain entrenched forever I invite into this conversation Niki Singleton’s This Land Is MY Land, an artwork she made when Trump won the presidential election in the US. Seems like he’s already been there for far too long too, right? Trumpism seems pretty stable too, right?