Statement to the Court


(Maria Alekhina.)

This trial is exemplary and expressive. The government is shamed by it, and not just once, and it will be ashamed of it in the future. Each stage of this trial has been the quintessence of the arbitrary. How did our intervention, at the start modest and rather bizarre, get transformed into such an immense misfortune? It is obvious that this would be impossible in a sane society. As a State, Russia has long appeared to be an organism eroded by illness. And this organism reacts in an unhealthy manner when one touches one of its suppurating abscesses. At first it suffered from this illness in silence. Then it found a solution in talking about it. And this trial is the type of discussion the government is capable of. This tribunal isn't a grotesque and cruel mask; it is the “face” of discussion as it is practiced in our country. At the social level, to take up a problem through discussion, there must be a situation, a motivation. What is interesting is that, from the start, our situation has been depersonalized.

Because when we speak of Putin, it isn’t Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin whom we have in mind; it is Putin as a system created by him; the chain of command in which practically all management is effectuated manually.

And this chain of command does not take into account, absolutely does not take into account, the opinion of the masses. And this is what bothers me the most: the avoidance of taking into account the opinions of the younger generations. And the ineffectiveness of management appears nearly everywhere.

In this final statement, I wish to speak of my own experiences with confronting the system. Education, which is where the formation of the social person begins, ignores what constitutes this person. Scorn for the individual, scorn for cultural, philosophical education, scorn for the elementary knowledge about civil society. Officially, all these matters are part of the program. But they are taught in the Soviet fashion. The result: the marginalization of modern art in the mind of each individual; the absence of interest in philosophical reflection; gender stereotypes; and the godforsaken place where people are positioned as citizens.

Modern educational institutions teach people to live automatically, starting from their childhood. Without bearing in mind the age of these children, these institutions cultivate cruelty and the rejection of dissent. From childhood on, man forgets about his freedom.

I have some experience with a psychiatric hospital for minors. I can affirm that any adolescent who shows anti-conformist behavior to a greater or lesser extent can be interned in one. In these establishments, there are a number of children who end up there after being in orphanages. Yes, in our country it is normal to place children who have fled an orphanage into psychiatric hospitals. And there they are given tranquillizers like aminazine, which was used to subdue Soviet dissidents in the 1970s.

In these establishments, punishment is privileged, not psychological care. All communication is based on fear and forced submission. These children inevitably become even more cruel than they were. Many of them are illiterate. And no one does anything to rectify the situation. Quite the contrary. Everything is done to break the least desire for self-development. In such places, the human being must close himself off and lose all trust in the world.

This is what I want to say: such a conception of man prohibits the awareness of individual freedom, including religious freedom, and this effects the entire population. The consequence of this process is ontological resignation, that is to say, socialized ontic resignation. This passage or, rather, this fracture, is remarkable in that, if one examines it in the context of Christianity, one sees that its meanings and symbols are substituted with inverted ones. Thus, today, resignation, which is one of the essential categories of Christianity, is ontologically understood not as a means of purifying, strengthening and leading man to definitive liberation, but, on the contrary, as a mean of enslaving him. Quoting Nikolai Berdiaiev, one could say that, “the ontology of resignation is the ontology of the slaves of God.” And not His children.

What concerns me is that, when I threw myself into the ecological struggle to save the Krasnodar forest, I became aware of internal freedom as the foundation for action. This was the importance, and the immediate importance, of the action as such.

I have not ceased to be surprised that, in our country, one must assemble several thousand people to stop the lawlessness of a handful of bureaucrats.

Our trial is striking proof of this fact. It requires the resources of thousands of people all over the world to prove the obvious fact that all three of us are innocent. The whole world says we are innocent. The whole world has said so during concerts, on the Internet, in the press, and in the legislatures.

The first words that the British Prime Minister said to our President didn’t concern the Olympic Games. Instead, he asked him, “Why are three innocent young women in prison? It’s a shame.”

But what surprises me even more is the fact that people do not believe that they can influence power in any manner. When we organized pickets and meetings to defend the Krasnodar forest, when I collected signatures for petitions, many people asked me, and with completely sincere stupefaction, “Who could be interested in such matters? Yes, perhaps, I agree, it is the last ancient forest in Russia, but what good does it do me, this forest in the Krasnodar region? What does it matter to me if the wife of our Prime Minister, Dmitri Medvedev, wants to build a house there? And destroy the only preserve of juniper trees in Russia?”

That was how people reacted. Another proof that the people of our country have ceased to believe that the land belongs to its citizens. They have stopped to think of themselves as citizens. They quite simply think of themselves as automated masses. They do not understand that a forest belongs to them even if it isn’t in immediate proximity to their homes. I have even come to doubt that they are aware that their own homes belong to them. If an excavator came to the entrance of their building, and demanded that they evacuate the place and said to them, “Excuse us, we are going to demolish your home and build a home for a bureaucrat,” they would collect their things, their bags, and they would leave. And they would remain there, in the street, calmly awaiting power to tell them what they must do next. They are absolutely apathetic; it is very sad.

After six months in a cell, I have understood that prison is Russia in miniature form. The same chain of command, where the settlement of the least problem is the exclusive and direct decision of the boss.

[I have lived] [i]n the absence of a horizontal distribution of the functions and powers that would make the life of each person considerably easier; also in the absence of any individual initiative. Here snitching reigns. And mutual suspicion. In prison, just like in the rest of the country, everything is based on depersonalization and the absorption of the individual into his function. For both employees and prisoners. The severe rules of prison, to which one rapidly conforms, resembles the rules of the life that one imposes on each person from the moment of his or her birth. In the framework of those rules, people attach themselves to insignificant things. In prison, a blanket or a plastic dish can only be procured with the permission of the boss. On the outside, the equivalent is social status, to which people are particularly attached. Which has always surprised me a lot.

There is also something important: the moment when one becomes aware of the regime as spectacle. Which, in reality, means chaos; it means behind appearances there is disorganization and the failure to optimize the majority of the processes. This does not favor good political functioning. On the contrary, people are more and more disoriented, in both time and space. The citizen, wherever he finds himself, doesn’t know to whom he should address himself to settle this or that problem. To get a problem solved, he must address himself to the boss of the prison. On the outside, that boss is called Putin.

We are against the Putinian chaos that is a regime in name only. We provide a composite image of the system in which, according to us, all the institutions have undergone a mutation, all the while retaining their external appearance. [A composite image] [o]f the system that destroys the civil society that is quite dear to us. Our texts, though they use a direct style, do not accomplish anything directly. We consider them to be an artistic form. But the motivation for them is the same. Our motivation remains direct expression. This motivation is very well expressed by these words from the Gospel [Matthew 7:7]: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” And I, and all of us, we sincerely believe that it will be opened for us. Today, alas, we are locked up. In prison.

It is very curious that the authorities, by reacting to our actions [as they have], have absolutely not kept in mind their past historical experiences with manifestations of heterodoxy, of anti-conformism. The [Soviet] dissident Bukovski wrote in the 1970s: “This country is wretched if simple honesty is perceived in the best of cases as heroism and in the worst of cases as psychiatric trouble.” That wasn’t so long ago, and yet everyone acts as if the Great Terror or the attempts to oppose it never existed. I believe that we are accused by people who lack the faculty of memory. Many of them have said, “He is possessed by a demon, and he has lost his sense; why do you listen to him”? These words [Mark 3:21] were uttered by the Jews who accused Jesus Christ of blasphemy. They said, “We are going to stone you (…) for blasphemy” (John 10:33).

It is remarkable that this is precisely the verse to which the Russian Orthodox Church refers when it expresses its opinion on blasphemy. This opinion has been duly noted in a document placed in our criminal files. By expressing this opinion, the Russian Orthodox Church refers to the Gospel as an immutable religious truth. The Gospel is no longer considered to be a book known through revelation, as it was at the beginning. Today, the Gospel is considered to be a bloc of quotations from which one can draw [a quotation] and shove [it] wherever seems good to you. In any document and to any useful end. And the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t even keep in mind the context in which the word “blasphemy” was used. In this case, it was applied to Jesus Christ.

I believe that religious truth should not remain immobile. That the immanent routes of the development of the spirit, the ordeal of mankind, its duplicity, its separation, must be understood. That all these things should be experienced. That one must live all of these things to construct oneself. That it is only after having lived it all that mankind can attain something and continue to advance. That religious truth is a process, and not a definitive result that you can shove wherever it seems good to you. And all of the things that I have said, these processes, are thought by art and philosophy. Including contemporary art.

An artistic endeavor can and, according to me, must carry an internal conflict. And I am particularly irritated by the use of “so-called” when our accusers mention contemporary art.

I must remark that the same terms were employed during the trial of the poet Brodsky. His lines of verse were ridiculed as “so-called” verse, but the witnesses against him had never read them. Just like some of the witnesses at our trial, who weren’t present at our intervention, but who watched a clip on the Internet. It is probable that our regrets [nos excuses] were also presented by the generalizing mind of the prosecutor as “so-called” regrets. That is an insult. A moral prejudice. An injury. Because our expressions of regret were sincere. You cannot imagine the extent to which I regret that so many words were said and that you never understood any of them. Or you were being crafty when you said that our regrets were not sincere. I do not understand what you still want to hear. To me, this trial is a so-called trial.

And I have no fear of you. I have no fear of lies, I have no fear of made-up stories, I have no fear of this badly disguised hoax, I have no fear of the verdict of this so-called tribunal. Because you can only deprive me of your so-called freedom. That is the only freedom that exists in the Russian Federation. No one can take away from me my internal freedom.

That freedom lives in the word [le verbe]; freedom continues to live thanks to glasnost, when thousands of people read and hear it. That freedom continues in each person who isn’t indifferent and who hears us in this country. In all those who have found in themselves the radiance of those processes, as did Franz Kafka and Guy Debord. I believe that it is precisely the honesty and the power of speech [la parole] and the thirst for truth that has made us all a little freer. We will see it.


Maria Alekhina, 8 August 2012.

(Translated from Helmut Brent’s French translation of the Russian original by NOT BORED! 27 October 2012. Corrections made in consultation with Stepan Mikhaylenko and the original Russian text on 21 November 2012.)




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