Russia’s ‘Absurd’ Justice System

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Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in n+1:

I would like to speak again about “reform.” Once again, I am reaffirmed in my conviction that if true education is at all possible in Russia, it can only take the form of self-education. If you don’t teach yourself—then no one else will teach you. Or if they do teach you, they’ll teach you who knows what. I have a great many stylistic disagreements with the powers-that-be. Their quantity is approaching a critical point.

What can the institutions of the state teach us? How could I possibly be educated by a prison colony, or could you be educated by, let’s say, the Russia-1 TV channel? Joseph Brodsky said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: “The more substantial an individual’s aesthetic experience is, the sounder his taste, the sharper his moral focus, the freer—though not necessarily the happier—he is.”

In Russia, we have again found ourselves in circumstances in which resistance, including quite importantly aesthetic resistance, has become our one remaining moral option and civic duty.

he style of the Putin regime is a conservative, secret-police aesthetic. By no accident—and actually quite logically—this aesthetic persistently samples and recreates the principles of two previous regimes, both of them historical precedents to the present one: the tsarist-imperial aesthetic and the wrongly understood aesthetic of Socialist Realism, complete with workers from some kind of standard-issue Train-Car Assembly Plant of the Urals. Given the clumsiness and thoughtlessness with which all of this is being recreated, the present political regime’s ideological apparatus deserves no praise. Empty space, in its minimalism, is more attractive and tempting than the results of the aesthetic efforts of the current regime.