Matvei Krylov perched on a barricade in a central Moscow square and began reciting a poem by a Soviet-era dissident as a rag-tag audience, from goths to a headscarfed pensioner, gathered to listen.
Every month a group of left-wing activists and amateur poets gathers to riff on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and problems such as the deadly August forest fires in a rare outlet for criticism of the Russian authorities.
The readings take place on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, also the scene of regular attempts to hold unsanctioned protests on the 31st day of the month, to demand constitutional rights, which are roughly put down by riot police.
Police have also tried to stop the poetry readings and asked that they avoid swearing or mentioning politics, organizers said.
Under the shadow of an immense statue of the great Soviet poet of the 1920s, Vladimir Mayakovsky, famous for his explosive rhymes, the readings recall the dissident poetry of the 1960s that rattled the Communist authorities.
“The police have an order to put a stop to any politics. They warn us not to talk about Putin,” said poet and left-wing activist Vladimir Koverdyayev, a member of the banned National Bolshevik party.
“Last time they tried to detain us, we had to explain for a long time that it’s not political,” said Krylov, a member of the same party. “For them, any gathering of people is a meeting, a protest. It’s extremists, potential enemies.”
At the latest reading, around 50 people, most in their 20s, gathered on a drizzly evening. Some drank cognac and ate chocolate as poets stepped up with typed pages to an improvised oil drum rostrum.
Two curious policemen looked on grinning. One asked a journalist how long the readings would last, but both drifted off after listening to a few lines.
Despite the ban, references to Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev abounded.
Koverdyayev, 36, read a poem that ridiculed the police rules.
“It’s not allowed, but I don’t give a fuck/ I mean I don’t give a toss,” he read.
“It’s high time for Dima and Vova to be sent for a rest,” he said, using the nicknames for Medvedev and Putin.
Another poet, Vladislav Tushnin, mocked Putin’s televised appearances during last month’s forest fires.
“Putin takes a ride on a speed boat/ He and [emergency minister Sergei] Shoigu are raking in the dough/ We’re sick of this, Putin/ We have had enough of this television circus,” he read.
Arseny Molchanov read a protest poem called Country — and almost all the audience joined in with a word perfect recitation.
“Turn on rag-doll Channel One/ Turn it on for even a minute/ The premier says the conveyor lines are working great/ The minister says everything is cool in the army,” he said.
“And my country ... she only hears the great songs of Dima Bilan/ She breathes through the scars of Kursk, Nord-Ost, Chechnya and Beslan,” he said, juxtaposing the Eurovision song winner with Russia’s worst modern tragedies.
Some of the poetry is doggerel, but some is powerful. Molchanov is the best known figure, a kind of rock ’n’ roll poet who regularly performs his poetry with musicians at Moscow clubs.
Last month the readings were visited by British poet Alan Brownjohn.
Koverdyayev and Krylov both have plenty of experience of political combat.
Boyish-looking with floppy hair, Krylov risks jail if he gets in trouble with the police since he is serving a suspended sentence for breaking into the foreign ministry’s lobby last year in an attempted protest.
Koverdyayev, dressed smartly and carrying a leather case, leads the National Bolsheviks in the Moscow region. He was briefly held in a psychiatric hospital in 2008 after he was detained on drugs charges. He was later pronounced sane and fined for drugs possession.
Krylov opened the latest reading with a poem by a Soviet dissident who died in a prison camp, Yury Galanskov.
“Beaten to the ground, I spit on your iron city, packed with money and dirt,” Krylov shouted on the square, which has been barricaded off by the Moscow city authorities in an apparent move to deter protests.
Titled the Human Manifesto, the poem became the unofficial anthem of poetry readings on the same spot during the Khrushchev-era thaw. Galanskov and other dissidents including Vladimir Bukovsky were the initiators.
Those readings came to an abrupt end in 1961 when the authorities cracked down on the poets and brought five of them to trial. The new generation of poetry readers sees parallels.
“I think it is approximately the same time,” Koverdyayev said. “People aren’t able to express their opinion openly. People are uniting.”
Watching the poetry reading was a 70-year-old math teacher, who gave her name as Lyubov Alexeyevna, who said she remembered the Soviet-era gatherings although she never went along herself.
But she traveled from a suburb for this event after hearing about it on the Echo of Moscow radio.
“I’m very worried about what is going on in our country,” she said, citing plans to build a highway through forest near Moscow and rising food prices.
“It’s really great. I see they have bright faces, not beaten down,” she said. “I did not expect that so many young people would come along. Now they have revived the readings, good for them.”
An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft has acquired imagery data covering all of Mars, including visuals of its south pole, after circling the planet more than 1,300 times since early last year, state media reported yesterday. The Tianwen-1 successfully reached the Red Planet in February last year on the country’s inaugural mission there. A robotic rover has since been deployed on the surface as an orbiter surveyed the planet from space. Among the images taken from space were China’s first photographs of the Martian south pole, where almost all of the planet’s water resources are locked. In 2018, an orbiting probe operated by the European
QUARANTINE SHORTENED: A new protocol detailing risk levels and local policy responses would be ‘more scientific and accurate,’ a health agency spokesman said China’s revised COVID-19 guidelines, which cut a quarantine requirement in half for inbound travelers, also create a standardized policy for mass testing and lockdowns when cases of the disease flare, showing that the country still has a zero-tolerance approach to the virus. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) solidified the position during a trip to Wuhan, where the pathogen first emerged in 2019, saying that China is capable of achieving a “final victory” over the virus. The “zero COVID-19” policy is the most effective and economic approach for the country, Xi said during the trip on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported. The first
A former South Korean Navy SEAL turned YouTuber who risked jail time to leave Seoul and fight for Ukraine said it would have been a “crime” not to use his skills to help. Ken Rhee, a former special warfare officer, signed up at the Ukrainian embassy in Seoul the moment Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for global volunteers and was fighting on the front lines near Kyiv by early March. To get there, he had to break South Korean law — Seoul banned its citizens from traveling to Ukraine, and Rhee, who was injured in a fall while leading a special operations
Yogesh Zanzamera lays out his bed on the floor of the factory where he works and lives, one of about 2 million Indians polishing diamonds in an industry being hit hard by the war in Ukraine. With the air reeking from the only toilet for 35to 40 people, conditions at workshops such as this in Gujarat state leave workers at risk of lung disease, deteriorating vision and other illnesses. However, Zanzamera and others like him have other more immediate worries: the faraway war in Europe and the resulting sanctions on Russia, India’s biggest supplier of “rough” gemstones and a long-standing strategic ally. “There