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The Real Reason Why Pamfilova Resigned

A Good Treaty has a very interesting post up explaining some of the more plausible theories as to why Ella Pamfilova would suddenly resign from the Kremlin’s Human Rights Council – it’s a story that the English-language media have completely dropped the ball on, i.e. it has nothing to do with any kind of protest or rebellion over recently expanded FSB powers.  I never really bought into the idea that Pamfilova had suddenly grown a conscience.

I will assume that my readers have already heard about the now infamous “You’re Not Welcome Here” (Здесь вам не рады) exhibit at Seliger 2010. (For those who would like a quick rundown, Julia Ioffe summarizes the scandal here.)

Last Tuesday, just as the story broke worldwide, Pamfilova appeared on Ekho Moskvy to discuss the matter. For someone who works under the president, she was unusually unguarded about highlighting Medvedev’s (and Surkov’s) ties to a group she accuses of extremism. Here is what she said:


It’s terrifying to me that these guys will be enteringthe government [prokhodit’ k vlasti] in a few years. […] Because thesespawn of certain political spin doctors are pawning their souls to thedevil, to put it crudely. They’ve burned books. What’s next? Next willthey start burning effigies? It’s scary and it’s unacceptable. And thenthere at Seliger were both the president and Vladislav Yur’evich Surkov.I don’t know if they saw [the exhibit]. I don’t know what theirreactions might have been.

In his blog, Maxim Kononenko mockedPamfilova for applying a double standard, pointing out that she wishedto censor Nashi’s exhibit, but opposed the prosecution of Andrey Erofeevand Yuri Samodurov, who earlier in July were convicted of incitinghatred through their art project, ‘Forbidden Art – 2006.’ He also jokedthat Pamfilova was on the “verge of tears” throughout her interview,echoing Chadaev’s criticism that she is prone to “hysterics.” Kononenkoclaims that Pamfilova threatened to take Nashi to court for the artexhibit, though the transcript of her interview shows that she merelyfloated the prospect as an impossible solution.

I listened to the tape of her appearance and I confess that I don’thear someone about to cry. She does seem to be out of breath much of thetime, but accusations of hysterics, I would argue, are hyperbolic (andalmost undoubtedly raised only because she is a woman).

At any rate, it turns out that Nashihas never held a book-burning. A few years ago, a group called’Moving Together’ staged a demonstration against “displeasingliterature,” where they threw copies of Vladimir Sorokin’s “Blue Salo”into a giant bleach-filled stryfoam toilet. Confronted with thiscorrection, Pamfilova reportedly refused to take anything back andaffirmed that she was still “right in essence.”

Nashi responded by announcing that they will sue Ella Pamfilova fordefamation. After Pamfilova resigned from the presidential council,twenty-four-year Nashi spokesperson Kristina Potupchik (pictured above) wrote thefollowing: “We support Pamfilova’s right and courageous decisioninsomuch as her departure makes it clear that she won’t be taking up thedefense of the fascist-ally Liudmila Alexeeva.”