Grigory Pasko: The Sochi Standoff

Standoff in Sochi has begun Grigory Pasko, journalist Last year, when I spoke with inhabitants of the Imereti Valley (the one that’s in Sochi) about their imminent eviction from their homes [because of the 2014 Winter Olympics—Trans.], many said to me that this would not happen. “Why are you so confident?”, I asked them. “Because”, the people answered, “Putin promised us.” It is true, Putin sure does know how to promise. Like the wise men of old used to say: if you can’t do it, then at least promise. Putin can’t do. And that’s why he promises. First he promises, and then he doesn’t keep his promises. Then people get forcibly whisked away from their homes and locked up in jail. That’s democracy, Putin-style. sochi073008 Sochi prepares for the Olympiad (photo by Grigory Pasko)

What’s going on in Sochi? Exactly what we predicted last year right here on this blog when we posted a series of articles from my trip to the region of the future Olympiad: a standoff between ordinary people and the power. The power had promised that inhabitants of the Imereti Valley whose land would be used for the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi would be provided compensation and new housing on the Black Sea coast. The residents have found both the size of the compensation and the places for new housing unacceptable.Governor of Krasnodar Kray Alexander Tkachev has called the position of the inhabitants “open, well organized sabotage”. Further on, he declared: “Preparation for the Olympiad – this is a question of state importance, and therefore to any attempts to get in the way we are going to react hard, but strictly within the framework of current legislation.”A recent report from the mass media over there is such: a clash took place in Sochi between people living in the Imereti lowlands, where it is planned to build facilities for the Olympic games of the year 2014, and court marshals and the police. About two hundred local residents stood up in defense of their homes with sticks and bottles with an incendiary compound [apparently, the term “Molotov cocktail” is politically incorrect in Russia—Trans.]. The newspaper «Kommersant» noted: two weeks ago, representatives of “Olympstroy” had demanded an answer as to why the seizure of lands on the territory of the Imereti lowlands is still not taking place. After this, representatives of the power started to pay visits to the owners of houses in the valley. And they really got down to business after the accusations of sabotage of the preparations for the Olympiad that were levelled by Krasnodar Kray governor Tkachev to the address of the inhabitants of the Imereti lowlands.doma073108These houses in the Imereti Valley are to be torn down as a matter of state importance (photo by Grigory Pasko)Such an example is cited: Valley resident Droficheva did not allow persons who called themselves “specialists for the conducting of cadastral works” into her home. After a certain time, about two hundred people barricaded themselves in the yard of her home. A part of them armed themselves with sticks, farming implements and bottles with an incendiary compound. After a certain time, police and court marshals began to storm the gates of the homeowner. On the part of the inhabitants, resistance was offered, and against them they applied pepper gas. An ambulance had to be called for one of the inhabitants…In short, the standoff between the power and the people has already begun. And, I think, it will intensify as the construction of the Olympic facilities expands. Something like a dozen of them are supposed to be built precisely in the Imereti Valley.How is the power reacting? Sochi mayor Vladimir Afanasenkov reported that the residents of the Imereti lowlands who had offered armed resistance to court marshals are going to be prosecuted to the full extent of the laws of the RF.It is precisely in this way that the Russian power reacts to any manifestations of dissatisfaction to its address. By the way, few people know that strikes in Russia take place quite often. But the mass media do not report about this. In the meantime, I recently read someplace that in the majority of the cases, the reaction to the demands of the strikers (as a rule, about increasing wages) the power responded by firing the organizers of the strikes and opening up criminal cases against them. It seems that the Russian power absolutely does not know how to negotiate, to compromise, and all the more so, to make concessions to the inhabitants of its country, nor does it consider these things necessary.dolina073108The Imereti Valley (photo by Grigory Pasko)In essence, a civil war has been going on in the country for a long time already – between the people and the power. Recently, a neighbor of mine reported some news to me: our apartment building without the approval of the inhabitants had been transformed into a homeowners’ association – this is a form of bondage for the residents, thought up by the power. The residents don’t want this – this is unfavourable. But the power does everything its own way. My neighbor was expressing her outrage as we rode in the elevator. And then I asked her: whom did she vote for at the elections to the Duma and in the presidential elections? She replied: for the «United Russia» party and for Medvedev. I advised her to appeal to them and seek justice from them, demand goodness and happiness from them.It would seem that the inhabitants of the Imereti Valley have already understood that they voted for the wrong peope, and that they’re going to have to fight for goodness and happiness with sticks in hand.