Poetry News

Moscow Conceptualist Lev Rubinstein Writes Direct Account of Cosmonaut Detainment

By Harriet Staff

We just gave you a lead on this weekend's writer-led protests in Moscow; here's a direct account from Moscow conceptualist and protest organizer Lev Rubinstein, who was cleared from Cafe Jean-Jacques Rousseau--"popular among many opposition activists in Moscow"--by riot police. Rubinstein, who was unlawfully detained and is now out, writes at Open Democracy Russia:

To his credit, the officer doing the dragging — a middle-aged guy - wasn’t completely savage. Along the way he managed to ask me: ‘so you’re, well, some kind of writer?’. ‘Yes’, I said, ‘you've got the right guy’. ‘And what do you write?’ ‘Books’. ‘Ah, books, nice’, he replied, not entirely convincingly. ‘It’s a good thing that you aren’t resisting’, he said. ‘I’ve got a broken arm, you see, broken by your lot yesterday’. ‘Our lot is whose lot?’, I asked. ‘You, the protestors’. ‘Perhaps, just perhaps, it wasn’t necessary to break up a peaceful demonstration?’ ‘We have our orders, and we carry them out.’

In truth, the officer was quite amicable; I also tried my best. As we finished our almost-pleasant conversation we reached the end-point of our short mission, but just as they were about to load me onto the van, I remembered I had a press ID card in my pocket. ‘Here’, I said, ‘My press card. I would quite like to know why I’m being detained.’ My companion said nothing, but instead vaguely waved an arm, released me from the other, and turned his back to me, somewhat impolitely. With that, I realised I was free.

The anxious tones of my mobile phone continued meanwhile, and I just about managed to get across to people that I was OK. News of my detention had already been broadcast on a number of radio channels and internet publications, some of which had decided to embellish the story somewhat by reporting that I had been severely beaten. Fortunately, there was no time for such reports to reach my nearest and dearest at home. But I did feet like the Chekhov character who fell under a horse and, for a short while, became what we might now today describe as a 'newsmaker'.

I’m OK, and thank god for that. But a very many others — accosted and bundled into police vans with quite indecent rudeness, cruelty and ferocity — were not so OK. There were people of all ages and sexes dragged and pulled into those vans, and without any sense of why they were being taken there.

These ‘cosmonauts’ were truly like zombies. Their eyes were empty and ruthless; their movements entirely robotic, programmed with only two actions: grabbing and pulling away.

Once again, unequivocally and with the utmost clarity, the experience of Bolotnaya Square on Saturday, and that of Nikitsky Boulevard yesterday showed Russians and the rest of the world what has, actually, been pretty obvious for some time. That is that they, the authorities, recognise their own illegitimacy. No legitimate government would behave in such a cowardly, cruel and cynical way towards law-abiding citizens.

Image courtesy http://www.freetowns.ru/. Read the full account here.

Originally Published: May 14th, 2012