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Rock stars, education and 'blacklists': how Russian-speaking immigrants hope to influence the situation at home

Charity concerts featuring American stars, educational films about America, and even compiling a list of people who violate human rights in Russia. Russian-speaking activists from the United States hope that these and other projects will be able to influence what is happening in Russia, even though their organizers are overseas.

Photo: Shutterstock

On October 16, the American capital hosted the final of the "Incubator of Civic Initiatives" organized by the Free Russia Foundation and the "Protest America Freedom in Russia" association of Russian dissidents living in the United States.

Как explained the organizers, at the first stage of the "Incubator", the participants underwent trainings, during which they got to know each other better, attended master classes of marketing and fundraising specialists, and also formulated ideas that, in their opinion, could help promote the ideas of freedom and democracy in their homeland ... The second stage was devoted to the creation of author's projects and their presentation to the jury, which ultimately determined the two winners.

Photo: Facebook / Protest America Freedom in Russia

American rock stars against Russian fines

First place went to Sergey Naumov - one of the political refugees of the "last wave", who proposed to create a Russian community center in New York. In the future, according to Sergei, this center can become a new "assemblage point" of the Russian diaspora and a place where new immigrants can receive assistance in adapting to the country.

«I myself came to the USA not so long ago and faced a number of everyday problems. Over the years, it begins to seem that all these are trifles, but at first people really do not know where to find housing, work, who to turn to, and who can help. Personally, my friends helped me with advice and deed, but someone does not even have such an opportunity. Therefore, we will try to provide at least primary care to those arriving. This is especially true of political emigrants who are forced to leave the country. During these years there are more and more of them."He explains.

So far, Sergei is not sure whether it will be possible to attract professional lawyers and psychologists to the work of the center, honestly admitting that this issue rests on funding. The activists plan to spend the majority of the $ 5,000 grant received from the competition on a charity concert scheduled for January. Sergei Naumov and his associates want to send the proceeds from ticket sales to support political prisoners in Russia, primarily to pay outrageous fines.

«At the moment we already have a list of 6-8 American rock artists who have agreed to participate in the concert without any conditions. When they learned that we wanted to raise money to help people in Russia who are being persecuted by the authorities, they supported us without even asking for fees. Of course, I would like to connect to the project and Russian stars living in the United States, or those who will come here on tour in January. However, we understand that for them participation in such a concert can threaten with serious troubles at home. By contrast, American bands have nothing to lose.", - says Sergey.

Homeless and Sheriffs Videos

Democratic Democratic Party Member of the Rock County Assembly in Wisconsin and popular Russian-speaking blogger Yuri Rashkin has been making videos about what is happening in America for a long time. However, they are mainly interviews with interesting speakers, discussion of current topics by diaspora activists and news reviews. As a competitive idea, Yuri and his associates proposed the creation of professional mini-films showing the work of various institutions, government agencies and non-profit organizations in the United States, designed to solve pressing problems of society. As a result, his project took second place, receiving $ 3.

Yuri Rashkin. Photo from personal archive

«We tried to select topics that are most interesting for the Russian-speaking community, and talk about them with Americans who are professionally involved in these issues. For example, Russians are interested in the topic of the homeless in America. To illuminate it, you need to communicate with the homeless themselves, with people who help them in specialized shelters, with psychotherapists, and so on. To show police work, you can interview sheriffs and police chiefs from different cities", - Yuri enumerates.

The video blogger is sure that such films will be of interest not only to immigrants, but also to people living in Russia and for the most part having an extremely vague idea of ​​what is happening in America.

«So far we have selected topics about homelessness, gun ownership, women's rights, elections, and the justice system. It can be either one film or a series of videos, 15-20 minutes each", - says Rashkin.

Yuri also mentions the second difference between the competition project and his previous videos. In this case, we are talking about teamwork. "Christina Lukyanova from New York organizes filming, and Rodion from Delaware acts as a business consultant. Their help for the project is invaluable.", - says Yuri.

Database of those involved in repression and arbitrariness

Political refugee project Andrey Kazantsev formally did not receive a prize, but deserved a separate mention by the jury for the persistence and importance of the work already done. For several months Andrey and his team have been working on creating an online platform where everyone can leave information about people guilty of human rights violations in Russia. At the same time, as the immigrant explained, we are talking not only about those who are fighting against political activists, but about anyone involved in the lawlessness that thousands of residents of both large and small cities of the country face every day. As of today, the beta version of the site is already ready, although it has not yet been launched in the public domain.

«Now there are so many “new antiheroes” that their names are very quickly forgotten. Thus, evil not only does not receive the punishment it deserves today, but also fade from memory, which can ensure impunity for these people in the future.", - explains Andrey.

The activist emphasizes: he was surprised when he saw how popular his idea was in Russia. The results of a survey conducted by his team showed that about 90% of opposition-minded Russians would like to have a place where they can post information about those who are involved in crimes against citizens.

«Moreover, some people have already maintained such lists and databases - in their cities or at least in their criminal cases. When I just gave an interview, sharing the idea of ​​the project, one person sent us about 400 pages of dossier on the administration of one of the regions: video recordings, scans of documents, in a word, materials for ready-made criminal cases. The person who gave us this information took a very risk, and I still don't know if he was able to escape from Russia.", - Andrey lists.

According to him, at the moment, his team is working to ensure the maximum level of security and anonymity of users in order to protect current and future whistleblowers. The activist admits that even if the persons involved in the database are not punished now, in the future the information received today may serve as the basis for a real investigation.

Andrey Kazantsev (far right) at a rally in Moscow. Photo from personal archive

«Of course, we cannot check all information coming from Russia 100%, although an experienced moderator will in any case review all incoming information for the reliability of the source, evidence, testimony of victims, etc. But it is important to understand: we do not collect materials for the court, but only give a starting point so that in the future, when, I want to believe, there will be honest courts and a competent law enforcement system, professionals will conduct a real investigation and check all the available information”, - explains the immigrant.

Also, Andrei Kazantsev emphasizes: glasnost is important in itself, since the lack of publicly available information about the crimes of specific people will lead to the fact that in the future they may again be in power. As for our time, Andrei believes that the emergence of such a base will be able to stop those who have not yet crossed the line and have not committed truly serious crimes.

«In small towns, where everyone knows each other, public opinion means a lot, and getting into such a database can seriously ruin a person's life. Accordingly, those who have not yet found themselves in this base will be afraid to get there.", - says Andrey Kazantsev.

The author of the project also hopes that the information provided in the database can eventually form the basis of new sanctions lists, which will create problems for the participants in the crimes of the Russian authorities who like to travel abroad.

«We plan to group the database by specific cases, cities and regions, showing in which territory the defendants operate, with whom they are connected, in what crimes they are involved, and so on. This should make the job of investigative journalists much easier.", - hopes Andrey.

Read also on ForumDaily:

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Miscellaneous competition Our people Russian speakers in the USA
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