Russia Update: May 1, 2015

May 1, 2015
Red Square on May 1, 2015. Photo by @MoscowManezhka

Thousands of Muscovites marched in May Day parades calling for peace and labor as in the old days of the Soviet Union.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.


Russia This Week:

What Happened to the Slow-Moving Coup?
Can We Be Satisfied with the Theory That Kadyrov Killed Nemtsov?
All the Strange Things Going On in Moscow
Remembering Boris Nemtsov, Insider and Outsider (1959-2015)

Special features:

With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin
Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs‏.

Siberian Artist Arrested for Alternative May Day March

Artyom Loskutov, a Novosibirsk performance artist, has been arrested for attempting to stage an alternative type of May Day march called Monstratsii (Monstrations) which had been allowed to join the official parade in past years.

Loskutov, who has been detained and questioned by police for past actions and had his articles censored, tweeted that the Interior Ministry’s Anti- Extremism Center, known as E Center, had made the arrest.

Before his arrest, he had been tweeting some of the efforts of his group to pose with counter signs to the official march.

As we reported earlier, the Monstratsii march was cut off by police in the morning when they tried to fall in line behind other marchers, but then they went around the city with their signs anyway.

Translation: Park during the police period.

The sign says “Oh, that’s it.”

Loskutov also photographed some of the absurd anti-American signs in the official march: “USA Hands Off Our Pensions”.

Later, Loskutov tweeted that he was being held overnight and had been charged with Article 20, par. 2 and Art. 19, part 3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses which are “violation of the established procedure for holding assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, parades or pickets” and “disobedience of the lawful instruction of a police officer.”

Translation: 20.2 and 19.3 of CAO, review tomorrow at Zeyeltsovsky Court at 11:00. Holding me overnight.

Earlier, Loskutov tweeted that as a result of being banned, his group’s action in Novosibirsk was trending in the top stories on Russia’s search engine Yandex — in another example of the “Streisand Effect” at work in Russia.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Translation: Top news of Yandex right now. Monstratsiya is the main event of the country.

Loskutov, who is sometimes nicknamed “Lokot'” which means “elbow” in Russian and is dubbed “mayor” for his antics, said he would not come to the event unless 5,000 signed a petition.

Translation: The Novosibirsk Mayor Lokot’ has not come out to participants in the Monstratsiya yet. Sign: “Maybe Lokot’s mom won’t let him out?”
Performance Art Group Not Allowed to March in May Day Parade in Novosibirsk

A performance art group called Monstratsii (Demonstrations) was not allowed by authorities to take part in the May Day parade in Novosibirsk, reported.

The tradition of the group each year was to march with nonsense posters saying things like “We are not you” and “A cupboard is not an exit” and “You’re a good boy, Natashka.”

The signs in this photo say “Heterosexual Poster” and “This is a smart poster.”


Photo by @SvobodaRadio

Artyom Loskutov, the Novosibirsk activist who had been detained by authorities for actions in the past, said the group didn’t get permission from city officials, but had an agreement with Yabloko Party to join their column.

Police cut the demonstrators off on Kalinina Square as they gathered to join the city march. As a result, they turned and went in the direction of the former airport.

This year the Novosibirsk mayor’s office has twice turned down the group, one for a cultural event and another time for a demonstration and rally. Loskutov then conceived of a formulation “city-dwellers’ stroll with original paintings, symbols, and so on.” Officials proposed they go to the city park on the Oba River.

Communist Mayor Anatoly Lokot had earlier suggested that the group could join the rest of the parade as they had in past years.

Russian Orthodox activists demonstrated against the group, saying they were using the masks of anti-heroes and monsters and “provoking horror” and slogans that called for “anti-social actions.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russia’s May Day Harks Back to Comforting Communist Slogans at Time of Economic Hardship
Russia is celebrating May Day, a day of rallies and parades devoted
to trade unions and workers that start the May holidays that will
culminate in Victory Day May 9th.

The state wire service TASS described decorations
of red or brass stars that are a vestige of Soviet war medals, combined with  the
orange-and-black St. George ribbons traditionally associated with
Victory Day and now a hallmark of nationalist movements in Russia and
the Russian-backed militants in the Donbass.

This year,
authorities have revived a Soviet-era slogan, “Peace! Labor! May!,” said
Mikhail Shmakov, leader of the Federation Independent Trade Unions of
Russia (translation by The Interpreter):

“These are basic values which are necessary for each
person. Preservation of peace — that’s the main thing. Labor is labor,
everyone must have the opportunity to get a job.”


 Photo by Marina Lytseva/TASS

Another key slogan for the parade was “Double Pay for Rise in Prices.”

May Day was traditionally a celebration of workers in the Soviet
era, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dominance of the
Communist Party, there was less attention paid to the meaning of the

Putin himself has recently harked back more to Communist rhetoric in his
speeches in order to reassure the public in the midst of the economic
crisis. For example on the Pryamaya Liniya call-in show earlier this
month, Putin stressed in an exchange with a farmer complaining that
he couldn’t charge higher prices for his milk to meet costs that profits
weren’t everything and breaking even was sufficient.

Putin also scolded
former finance minister Aleksei Kudrin, who called for economic reforms
such as cutting some subsidies and targeting others, that there should be a heart as well as a
head in dealing with people.

Both United Russia, the ruling party
used as a political vehicle for some years now by the Kremlin, and the
All-Russian National Front, a newer astroturf movement for promoting
government goals, were featured in the marches. 

United Russia’s logo this year had a somewhat desperate-looking bear.

Translation: Russia is marking the holiday of spring and labor.

Andrei Isayev, vice speaker of the State Duma and deputy secretary of the General Council of the United Russia party said they supported the trade union demands:

“May 1 is a day when workers regardless of their views go out on the street and defend their rights and voice their demands.”

Today was rainy in Moscow but it didn’t deter people who turned out by the thousands. The parade began at 10:00 Moscow time by Vasilevsky Spusk (St. Basil’s Descent) near the place where opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed February 27.

Translation: At Nemtsov Bridge, over which people are going to Federal Independent Trade Union May 1st, the memorial remains. Cool.
Translation: #May1st Ilovemywork#

A lot of posters took the letters “E” and “R” in Russian for Edinaya
or “United Russia” and made them larger in the words Perviy” or
“First” which annoyed some.

Translation: Good morning! I wish all workers a happy holiday!

Translation: May 1st. Day of solidarity with workers. What does ER have to do with it. They’re marking September 26, the day of contraceptives.

Even the oldsters have learned how to make selfies.

Translation: This year, there’s even a column even from Moscow State University, we’ve come to that.
Translation: we wish our readers a happy holiday and labor!
Translation: Friends, happy holidays! And remember, a good vacation is a safe vacation!
Translation: thousands of residents of the Far East came out on the streets to mark May 1st.
Translation: Good morning, comrades, and Happy May Day! Peace, labor, May!

Translation: now there is a gastronomic Spartikiad devoted to May 1st, while my wife is with friends.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick