St. Petersburg court upholds customs seizure of Masha Gessen’s new book about modern-day Russian ‘totalitarianism’

In November, Russian lawyer Sergey Golubok received a letter from the Pulkovskaya customs agency asking whether a book he had ordered on Amazon contained “signs of propagandizing certain views and ideologies.” The book in question was journalist and political analyst Masha Gessen’s The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction. After the book was temporarily seized and then returned to Golubok, he filed a legal complaint about the incident. Kommersant reports that while the attorney’s complaint was unsuccessful, the accompanying court proceedings revealed how Russian customs services decide whether to search incoming packages.

‘Meduza’ fact check: The secretary of Russia’s Security Council says there was only one terrorist act in the country last year. Is he right?

“Terrorist activity in this country has decreased by more than 20 times over the course of five years. In 2018, five crimes motivated by terror and one terrorist act were committed in this country. This decrease in the threat of terror is related to the meticulous work of special services and law enforcement in our country, which has resulted in the prevention of 36 crimes motivated by terror as well as 20 terrorist attacks,” said Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, in an interview with The Russian Gazette. Patrushev believes these statistics demonstrate that Russia is in a more stable situation than Europe, where “terrorist activity has increased.”

Russian Federal Penitentiary Service employee still at work after driving car into mother and two children

On September 4, 2018, an employee of the Federal Penitentiary Service, or FSIN, in the Russian republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia ran his car into three pedestrians at approximately 40 miles per hour. 31-year-old Murat Botashev, a junior inspector in a pretrial detention facility, claimed that he was hurrying home after work, but one witness to the incident testified that Botashev appeared to be racing another car. Mediazona described the crash and its consequences in a detailed report.

PrimaMedia co-founder sues journalist who accused him of sexual assault

Aleksey Migunov, co-founder of the media conglomerate PrimaMedia, announced that he is suing Sibir.Realii journalist Yekaterina Fedorova for defamation or, as it is described in Russian law, for the “protection of [his] honor and dignity.” On January 3, Fedorova publicly accused Migunov of physically and sexually assaulting her in her home on October 13. She has since continued to answer questions about that evening.

Thousands of Russians have joined something called the ‘Union SSR’ trade union, calling themselves Soviet citizens and refusing to pay their bills

If you call the telephone number listed on the website for the “Union SSR” trade union, a friendly woman answers the phone. For some reason, the first question she asks is “What do you do for a living?” Then she invites you to join. In her words, the organization’s focus is “helping people.” Membership in the group has some unusual perks, including not paying for electricity and other public utilities, “in accordance with the officially functioning social contract.”

New details emerge about what one source calls an anti-LGBTQ ‘genocide’. Multiple sources in LGBTQ community report dozens imprisoned and up to 20 killed in Chechnya within past month

On Friday, January 11, Novaya Gazeta reported that persecution of individuals thought to be LGBTQ has drastically increased since late December in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Since then, Meduza has received additional information from the Russian LGBT Network, online groups for LGBTQ residents of the Caucasus, and a young man who has demonstrated close ties with the LGBTQ community in the North Caucasus. This breaking news report focuses on the information we feel our readers should know immediately. It primarily describes what makes this moment different from the attacks on LGBTQ people that have been ongoing for years both in Chechnya and in Russia more broadly. We will continue publishing information throughout the day both about this crisis and about at least one similar case in North Ossetia, a federal subject of Russia located near Chechnya.

Russia or the USSR? A new quiz from Meduza based on the last Soviet population census

Thirty years ago this January, the USSR held what would be its last ever population census. Meduza studied this Soviet artifact and compared it to the most recent Russian census (conducted in 2010). The result of our heroic labor is this quiz, where you must guess which statistics describe the late Soviet Union and which describe the Russian Federation of nine years ago. Sounds pretty easy? Let’s see about that.

The governor of Perm promised Putin he would replace an essential railroad with “urban space” right before an election. How Perm residents are fighting back against a deeply unpopular project

Maxim Reshetnikov, the regional governor of Perm Krai, promised Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would tear down a railroad in the region’s administrative center, also called Perm. Reshetnikov was up for election at the time. Putin approved the plan to install an “urban space” in the railroad’s current location, and information about the project appeared on the Kremlin’s website. However, local residents who rely on the railroad to move between the city’s center and its outskirts have expressed their opposition to the plan. They have circulated petitions and organized protests in hopes of keeping the railroad in place. Yekaterina Makarova, a journalist with the local news source Zvezda (The Star), reports for Meduza on the ongoing conflict.