Police Tried and Failed to Clear Kiev’s Independence Square
Following Sunday’s massive rally in Kiev’s Independence Square, the pro-EU, anti-Russia protesters were bracing for a police crackdown. At lunchtime on Monday, that looked likely—there were alerts that the cops had surrounded the square and were about to strike.
However, it wasn’t immediately as bad as all that. The police didn’t stop anyone wandering through their barricades, and volunteers actually positioned themselves in front of the police to block any potential provocateurs who might have been looking to start trouble. Priests in long black robes also stood at the entrances in an attempt to diffuse the tension.
"Today will be decisive," declared a speaker on the stage, as opposition leaders urged those Ukrainians who are unhappy at their government’s reluctance to move towards full EU membership to flock to the Maidan (the common name for the square).
Continue + More photos
Ukrainian Protesters Toppled Kiev’s Lenin Statue Last Night
Protests in Kiev on Sunday evening finished with a theatrical flourish, as the pro-EU, anti-Russia demonstrators toppled the statue of Lenin that stood on a broad avenue in the center of the city. The news spread quickly online and people rushed to the location. When they arrived, they found that a protester had clambered atop the pedestal and was waving the Ukrainian flag, as well as the red and black flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
As the crowd pressed closer, trying to get a glimpse, people issued a warning to Ukraine’s current leader: “Yanukovych—you are next, you are next!” By Monday morning, the pedestal on which Vlad used to stand had been covered in graffiti.
Kyrgyz Your Enthusiasm – Fresh Off the Boat: Moscow, Part 2
In Fresh Off the Boat - Moscow part two, Eddie further immerses himself in Russian culture. He learns what it was like to live under Soviet rule, shares tea with Kurdish immigrants, and begins to understand the issues that connect people, regardless of the invisible lines which separate them.
In part one of Fresh Off the Boat - Moscow, Eddie takes his first shot of Russian vodka, chows down on some “communist dogs” with one of the few black Muscovites, and discusses the country’s diverse generation of millennials and their evolving ideologies.
Watch Fresh Off the Boat – Moscow, Part 1
In the next episode of Fresh Off the Boat, Eddie goes to Moscow and falls in love with Russian kabobs, learns the difference between American and Russian vodka, and explores the underlying racial tensions that modern Russian youth are fighting to overcome.
Part one will air Monday, November 25.
Watch the trailer
We Interviewed the Russian Activist Who Nailed His Balls to Moscow’s Red Square
Every year, Russia honours its police force with a day-long commemoration called Police Day. This year, celebrations for the imaginatively named event fell on Sunday, November 10, and the public paid tribute to law enforcement by watching Vladimir Putin cry in public and Petr Pavlenskynail his testicles to the ground in Red Square.
Petr is a political artist who’s known for painful performance art—previously, he wrapped himself in barbed wire to protest his country’s “repressive legal system” and sewed his mouth shut as a show of support for Pussy Riot. This time, his self-mutilation was in service of decrying “Russia’s descent into a police state.” I called him up to chat about that.
VICE: You nailed your balls to the ground in Red Square the other day. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Petr Pavlensky: It’s not the power that keeps people by the balls, it’s the people who keep themselves restricted. Pretty soon everyone’s going to be in jail, but it won’t matter to anybody anymore because by then, the country will have transformed into a state prison regime.
You’re an artist, right? How much does that cross over into your activism?
I am an artist who does political art. Activism is important to me as a life principle—it’s the effect of primary and secondary reasoning and theorizing; no argument is without action. However, political art and activism are not the same thing. Activism is the struggle and shakeup of society; political art is aimed at the destruction and exposure of the apparatus of power. Under certain circumstances, it is a catalyst to the political process.
Which of those do you focus on?
I’m focused on political art.
Moscow Is a Paradise
Sasha Mademuaselle's favorite city is Moscow, which isn't all that surprising given it's where she was born and raised. Sasha says that what she particularly loves about her hometown is “the freedom the youth have,” which—considering the recent news aboutPutin viciously restricting freedoms for young people—was kind of surprising.
Still, her photos are great, so we’ll just excuse that last part as narrative license and enjoy all the naked people, dinosaurs, and creepy tattoos instead.
Moscow’s Real-Life Fight Club Looks Insane
It will surprise approximately zero people that Russia took the film Fight Club really fucking seriously. It is a place that has depressing violence hardwired into its DNA, whether that manifests itself in outbreaks of homophobic abuse, army hazings that lead to young men being castrated, or its president attempting to win hearts by striding around topless in the countryside killing things with a rifle.
In 2008, two former members of an underground bare-knuckle club in Moscow came up with the idea of starting their own IRL fight club. They called it the Ronin Family, and for just $900 any high-powered businessmen can enjoy a week of getting beaten up and humilitated in front of total strangers. According to its founders, the Ronin Family’s goal is to turn educated urbanites into real men by physically and psychologically torturing them.
Maria Turchenkova, a young Russian freelance photographer, spent a week documenting this bizarre boot camp. I spoke to her about what she saw.
VICE: Hi, Maria. First of all, how did you first hear about the Ronin Family?
Maria Turchenkova: I stumbled upon an ad for it on the internet. It read: “You are not what you have—your job, your car, or your bank account. If you want to change your life, find the warrior inside you and fight your inner enemy—come and join the next course!”
So I called the organizers and asked to do a story on them.
Easy breezy. And people have to pay to get access to the club?
Yes, all participants have to pay something like $900 for a week-long course. The trainers, however, were members of a real fight club, which I guess was the main attraction for the less battle-hardened. Any wannabe fighter would then have to present the club with a health certificate and go through an interview to be admitted.
Continue + more pictures
There Are So Many Other Reasons to Hate the Olympics
With the Sochi Winter Olympics only six months away, denizens of the internet, media pundits, and LGBTQ activists have engaged in a fiery debate over whether or not Western nations should boycott the Games in protest of Russia’s new antigay legislation. While disagreeing on how to effectively send Russian lawmakers a message—whether through an all-out boycott, individual acts of protest at the Games, or moving the event to a different country—both sides of the debate began by condemning Russia’s criminalization of homosexuality as the egregious assault on human rights that it is. But this conversation fails to consider the ways in which the Olympic Games violate human rights everywhere they are held.
Many of the loudest voices in this debate have argued that Russia’s antigay legislation is antithetical to the unifying and egalitarian spirit of Olympic competition. For example, Kristopher Wells wrote in the Edmonton Journal that: “The modern Olympic movement was founded on the principles of equality, fairness and respect for all. The Olympics are the moment when the world stops and all nations come together as one, regardless of gender, race, culture, class, heritage, age or sexual orientation.” Similarly, Barack Obama told Jay Leno: “If Russia wants to uphold theOlympic spirit, then every judgement should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam. And people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”
Although it’s nice to imagine the Olympics as a beacon of peace and equality in a world rife with discrimination, the history of the Games has proven statements like these to be problematic and hollow. So really, Olympic egalitarianism is a dumb, stupid myth. Here’s why.
A mob of anti-Olympics protesters in Vancouver. via Flickr.
Evictions and Displacement
A UN-funded study by the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) found that from the 1988 games in Seoul to the Beijing Olympics of 2008, more than two million people have been displaced to make way for Olympic celebrations. These displacements disproportionately affect the poor and ethnic minorities, pushing people out of their homes and leaving behind high-cost real estate that most former residents cannot afford.
In the six years prior to the Seoul Olympics, 48,000 residential buildings were demolished, displacing 720,000 people, while over 1.25 million people were displaced in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics. In advance of the Atlanta games of 1996, 9,000 arrest citations were given out for the city’s homeless while 2,000 public housing units were demolished.