Russian reality proves: marasmus makes you stronger Grigory Pasko, journalist For starters, a definition. Marasmus – serious malnutrition occurring in infants, resulting in a reduction in body weight to below 75% of the normal weight for their age. And another definition. Marasmus – a state of complete deterioration of psychophysical activity. Geriatric marasmus. To sink into marasmus. To reach a state of marasmus. And finally a definition from a sage and comedian. Marasmus – this is a reaction of the organism to years lived out superfluously. [Translator’s note: Although it is rarely used in English, “marasmus” [маразм] is a very popular word in Russian, a shorthand metaphorical description of the many things that are hopelessly and pointlessly wrong in life (e.g. “my job is a total marasmus”).] When you read and hear news about events taking place in cities and in all of today’s Russia, like it or not you start to become actively interested in the forms and varieties of marasmus. Otherwise it’s hard to find the right word to describe some of the things that occasionally take place in this country – a country whose leaders insist is a democratic and rule-of-law state. Story #1 Soon Russian policemen will be able to listen in on the telephone conversations of practically all the country’s citizens. Deputies of the State Duma of Russia recently proposed introducing amendments associated with this into the law “On operational-and-detective activities”. This innovation can affect relatives and acquaintances of convicts, as well as business partners of suspects and those who are found in places of confinement. Comment: According to the current version of the law «On operational-and-detective activities», the wiretapping of telephone conversations is permitted upon the decision of a court. This law, as a rule, is violated: either the wiretapping starts and then back-dated permission to conduct it is extorted from a judge, or the wiretapping continues even after the court’s permission has expired. I know whereof I speak: it was precisely facts such as these that were uncovered, as an example, in the so-called “Pasko case”. And the fact that in addition to procuracy and FSB workers, ordinary cops are now going to be engaged in listening in on citizens’ conversations can only be evidence that the marasmus of totalitarianism is getting stronger in Russia. Story #2 A rally took place in Moscow to advance the candidacy of Chechnya’s warlord president Ramzan Kadyrov for president of Russia. Around 20 persons took part, of whom 10 were supporters of Mikhail Kasyanov, and 10 representatives of nationalist organizations. The activists held a track suit on a pole in their hands, as well as banners with the slogan “Academician Kadyrov will save Russian science”. Comment: We can’t rule out that the rally participants were merely jeering at the new regional – if you’ll pardon the expression – president. But the inhabitants of the Moscow district of Yuzhnoye Butovo also laughed at first when one of the country’s leaders proposed naming one of the streets in the district for the former president of Chechnya, Ramzan’s assassinated father, Akhmad Kadyrov. But guess what? There is such a street now. And nobody finds it funny any more. Story #3 On 4 April 2007, the Moscow city duma adopted the draft law “On ensuring conditions for the exercise of the right of RF citizens to conduct meetings, rallies, marches, and picketings in the city of Moscow” in the third reading. The law will come into effect in three months. According to this document, now, when conducting public events on the streets of Moscow, it is prohibited to gather more than two persons per square meter, while indoors, every person must be provided with a seating place. In the event of the violation of these norms, a veto will be applied to the conducting of the event. Comment: There used to be a semi-humorous/semi-serious phrase in Soviet times – no more than three in a gathering [Translator’s note: Russian alcoholics have known for many generations that three is the ideal number of people to share a bottle of vodka]. And people didn’t gather without suitable reason and permission. And they never walked anywhere alone on trips abroad – only strictly in groups of three to five people and always in the company of a chekist. The past is not returning to Russia – it HAS RETURNED. So it is perfectly in the spirit of the times – the new KGB times – to wonder at laws that prohibit three people at once from hanging around in one square meter. Story #4 The procuracy-general of Russia has submitted a new criminal case to the court against the deputy head of the administrative department of the company “YUKOS-Moscow”, Alexey Kurtsin. Kurtsin is charged with signing fictional financial documents on the transfer of money for charitable purposes. According to the data of the investigation, about 74 billion rubles were stolen and laundered in this way. Another three persons besides Kurtsin are implicated in the case. These are president of OOO «Amalgama Dividi Grupp» Boris Teremenko, as well as Alexander Goldman and Maria Tikhopoy. For the accused Kurtsin, Goldman, and Teremenko, a measure of restraint in the form of confinement in custody has been selected, while with respect to Tikhopoy, a measure of restraint in the form of a written pledge not to leave town has been applied. Kurtsin had already been sentenced in December 2005 – on an analogous charge – to 14 years of confinement. Comment: One gets the impression that Russia’s zealous procuracy and grovelling courts have decided to arrest and lock up behind bars for the rest of their lives everybody who has ever had anything whatsoever to do with the company YUKOS. Just watch –they’ll soon start locking up filling station attendants. After all, there are still quite a few stations operating under the YUKOS logo in Russia. Story #5 Sergey Zhekov, the Primorsky Kray human rights ombudsman, will speak at the coordination council of the Human Rights Commissioner in Russia. There, he will give a speech on the violation of the rights of Primorsky Kray prisoners. Thus, for example, sanitary norms with respect to living space per person are not being observed at Primorsky Kray temporary holding isolators. By law, the living space norm per person in a THI is 4 square meters, while in Primorsky Kray there are 3 square meters for each person being held in a SIZO. Primorsky Kray prisoners are not provided with individual sleeping places, and are in need of bedding. Comment: Reading this report brought tears to my eyes. I was deeply touched, to the bottom of my heart. Not only is the regional ombudsman concerned about prisoners, demanding more meters for them than the Moscow city duma is for rally participants (see Story #3 above), but he has even managed to somehow find out that the zeks aren’t being provided with sleeping places and bedding. Here’s why I was so touched: Primorsky Kray prisoners – just like every other prisoner in Russia – have not been provided with all of the above, and many other things besides, for many DECADES already. And for some reason, not a single ombudsman has ever shown any interest in this fact. Furthermore, comrade Zhekov – a former officer of the FSB – has been at his current post as the so-called human rights ombudsman in Primorsky Kray for many years already. And the fact that he has SUDDENLY become concerned with the problems of prisoners says only one thing: that he is a very bad ombudsman indeed. In lieu of an epilogue: Maybe things aren’t really all that bad in the Russian state? So they tap phone conversations – but on the other hand, they haven’t prohibited them completely, have they? So they’re advancing Kadyrov for president of Russia – but on the other hand, there is at least a slim hope that maybe they won’t elect him? Two people per one square meter at a rally – but on the other hand, that’s not very densely packed, is it? They’re locking up everybody from Yukos – but on the other hand, they’re not touching anyone from Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft, and elsewhere, are they? A chekist as human rights ombudsman – but on the other hand, he could have done the opposite, and demanded a reduction in floorspace per prisoner and in the amount of gruel the state has to feed a useless arrestee. But he’s a kind man – he’s expressed concern. It’s all total marasmus, of course. But at least its our own, this marasmus.