Geopolitics

On Eve Of Major Rally, Russia’s Protest Movement Risks A Schism

As the New Year vacation closes and presidential election nears, Russia’s attention is turning to the planned anti-Putin demonstration on Feb. 4. But with protesters spanning the spectrum from extreme left to Neo-Nazis, some wonder if opposition unity is

The Dec. 24 protest in Moscow (max trudo)
The Dec. 24 protest in Moscow (max trudo)
Olga Allenova

MOSCOW – Across Russia's political spectrum, from the radical left to the extreme right, a coalition has formed called the Citizen's Movement. Aiming to establish a "people's government" and a "change in the political regime," the popular movement coalesced after contested Parliamentary elections in December, with an eye toward the March ballot where Vladimir Putin hopes to return to the presidency.

But beyond a shared desire to take on the current powers-that-be, there are growing signs that the previous spirit of unity may be splintering. Or to put it more bluntly: liberal reformists worry that they could wind up with Neo-Nazis for bedfellows.

The first wake-up call for many in the pro-democracy camp was the protest on Dec. 24, in which several hard-core nationalist groups participated. Several prominent nationalist leaders spoke at the demonstrations, with one telling the crowd that the current wave of protests would not have been possible if the nationalists hadn't demonstrated in December 2010 in response to a botched investigation of a soccer fan's death at the hands of a migrant from the North Caucasus. That earlier protest had a distinctly anti-immigrant atmosphere.

During the protests last month, the nationalist leaders also called for the abolition of the law against extremism, which has been used to imprison Neo-Nazi gang leaders. And then there was nationalist blogger Aleksei Navalny's strange threat to the Kremlin that: "we could take over, but we won't." Didn't people protest on the street precisely to take over the Kremlin?

But at the time, people were willing to overlook these details. The most important thing turned out to be the feeling of unity that arose among thousands of disenchanted people. But later, once the magic of the moment dissipated, social networks lit up with discussion of how unacceptable joint actions with the nationalists are.

At the beginning of January, the Facebook group, "Russia without Hitler" (a play on the protestors' slogan ‘Russia without Putin), started a discussion regarding the ‘anti-fascist" opposition groups and their role in the upcoming demonstration. One of the group's organizers, Konstantin Borovoi, declared: "For me, it is unacceptable to take part in a protest side-by-side with nationalists." But a consensus on what path to take, even among people who agree politically, was elusive.

Picking your slogans

The well-known blogger Aleksei Devotchenko, for example, has suggested that the liberal reformists create their own group within the larger opposition forces, and march under their own, democratic and anti-fascist, slogans.

Leaders on the political left have come up with a similar initiative: their Facebook group page touts a separate "leftist section" that will march with slogans that are more focused on social and welfare issues.

At the same time, the leaders of the Solidarity movement Ivan Tyutrin and Mikhail Schneider (who both insisted that they were not speaking on behalf of the whole organization), said that they did not support the idea of different sections in the march, precisely because it would lead to reports of schisms in the opposition. Both leaders of Solidarity said that they spoke up in support of protesting with the nationalists because the nationalists had just as much right to take part in the protests as anyone else. In their opinion, as long as the nationalists are helping with the mass protests, they are working toward the common goal. There will be time to rein them in later.

But what if the nationalists show up on February 4th with fascist slogans and banners? "We are doing everything we can to make sure that does not happen," Schneider said.

One possibility that several of the protest leaders have considered is to participate in the joint actions with the nationalists, but to prevent them from speaking at the event.

On January 17, a planning meeting for the February 4 protest was unable to settle on a speakers list. However, the three representatives of nationalist groups present at the meeting signed the organizers' platform, which included language specifying "equal rights for all citizens of our country, regardless of race, nationality, sex or religion."

Afterward, many liberals said that they could not ignore this positive step from the nationalists, and that as long as the nationalists signed the platform statement, they would have a much harder time disassociating them from the movement.

"Working with the nationalists is not very pleasant, of course," one liberal protester said. "But right now we have the same goal - changing the political system in this country. Once we reach that goal, our paths will diverge."

Minority and majority

Some are convinced that the nationalist groups do not have the public support to change the course of the democratic development in Russia. On the other hand, though, a survey done about one year ago, just after the nationalist protests in December 2010, showed that 58 percent of Russians agreed with the phrase "Russia for Russians. Perhaps the opposition is confusing wishful thinking with reality.

The head of the human rights organization Memorial, Oleg Orlov, said that he is not worried that nationalists could one day win at the polls, but rather that their participation in the opposition protests has legitimized them. "They are sitting at the same table as opposition leaders and leading the discussion," he said. But regardless, Orlov plans to go to the protest on February 4. "They are in the minority. They do not have an influence on the situation. And it is very important to support this protest, which represents all of society."

But journalist and blogger Andrei Loshak worries that the nationalists "have a plan."

"They want to take over the crowd of ‘liberal suckers', as they call us, so that they can ride the energy of the protest movement into power," Loshak says. "But if they do get into power, then our current regime is going to seem like a paradise, because at least the current regime doesn't hate anyone. The nationalists live off of hating people who are different. And that is endlessly dangerous."

Read the original article in Russian

Photo - max trudo

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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