Welcome to Russia, dear Crimeans!


by Arkady Babtjenko

Translated from Swedish, in turn transated from Russian by Ola Wallin. The Swedish translation was published in DN and can be found here. Published here with permission from the author.

Good to see you. And allow us to congratulate you on the last referendum in your lives. Further “declarations of intent” will not be permitted. You simply will not get to choose again - never, and nothing. Never and nothing. Not even the color of the borders of your own backyard. Commit it to memory right away.

Second, you can say goodbye to your television. Good bye live broadcasts, talk shows and debate shows. Hello smearings, dead bodies, freaks and jokes about pee and genitals. Propaganda instead of news, hardcore! Special broadcasts with Putin’s eternal monologues.

Thirdly: conscription army. A separate chapter. During the 23 years since the fall of the USSR, you have obviously forgotten what occupation means when your children are called up for military service. But it doesn’t matter. You will remember. Especially when your children in our - sorry, I mean your - army begin to die from diseases that young people elsewhere in the world have not died from in a hundred years. Pneumonia, for example. Accustomed to Crimea terrain, they may serve on the island of Kunasjir in the Pacific.

It might be a good idea to take a look at what the “Caucasus force” (translator note: I’ve not been able to find references to this. Swedish: Kaukasusstyrkan.) has tattooed on their shaved heads.

By the way, here is a link that you can write down right away: http://mright.hro.org. It links to the Mother’s Right Foundation who for twenty years have supported the families of killed servicemen. Only last year they helped 2,465 families. Speaking of dead servicemen, 20 percent were suicide, 20 were percent “forced suicide”, 25 percent diseases and 5 percent due to physical abuse.

But as the song goes, “Do not cry, my giiirl!”

And yes, in Russia, the pension for disabled soldier mothers amounts to 40 dollars a month when the breadwinner dies. You heard right. In a few years, it is you who will get it. Welcome to our justice system.

Speaking of justice: it is far too long a story, so I’ll just remind you of this: to incite hatred against religious people, offend believers’ feelings, publicly defend terrorism (i.e. comments on Facebook), extremist statements, slander, all of this falls under the Criminal Code. To deny history, prevent citizens from taking a stroll, gather more than five people without a permit, behaving immorally, for all this - and much, much more! - the police administers justice on the spot.

Well, apparently, you have already become acquainted with our Cossacks . Good looking guys, right? And yet it is nothing, nothing. You have not seen our priests yet. By the way, there is an on going federal program to increase spirituality in the population and strengthen the spiritual ties under the motto “A church on every plot.” Where you thought you would get a daycare or a road junction - you’ll get a church. Yes, it’s like that at my house - outside my window they are building one right now, instead of repairing the traffic lights. There are queues every morning, but never mind the junction! We need a church and nothing more. Well, just forget it, you will understand for yourselves in due time.

Ah, I almost forgot: you will of course pay the bill for the construction - as surely as amen in the church. The City Administration in Elektrostal, who came up with this spiritual innovation, will teach you how it works.

Well, now that we’re on the subject of bills. We have a large housing reform in the works. Ten years and counting. And the next lap is just coming up. So soon, the rent of your apartment will be increased to over 800 dollars a month.

And then, all the benefits! You have probably already received financial compensation for the withdrawal of your benefits? Have you not? I see… I’m actually jealous of you. So many interesting discoveries await you!

By the way, exercises on the theme “disperse gatherings of disgruntled pensioners”, our Dzerzjinskij division conducted those five years ago already. Rest assured that they will be happy to share their experiences with your Berkut unit.

But small matters like the confiscation of the best locations for palaces and mansions, the redistribution of business - all of them! - demolitions and arson against apartment buildings in order to build shopping centers and so on, and so on, and so on, well, I will not go into that. Nor tax offices, health centers, fire stations, prosecutors’ offices, police stations, security service’s local offices, municipal administrations and so on, and so on, and so on. You get most of you income from tourism down there, right? Oh, forget all about that that, just forget it. This is what we call “bad dreaming business”. Forget that too. You will get used to it.

Oh yes, speaking of tourism - you have hotels, right? Right on the coast? On the whole Crimea? Nevermind, nevermind. Soon there will no longer any hotels right on the coast in Crimea.

But there will be a wonderful dacha for Governor Aleksandr Tkatjov! A dacha for Defence, Sergei Sjojgu! Dachas for all senators! Dachas ate all the deputies! Dachas for all the generals! And after them the whole Central Committee and all the prosecutors! Just think of all the yachts that will anchor at all private piers! Just think of all the enclosures will be built on your sea front!

You will have to be content with the municipal beach in Sevastopol.

By the way, I recommend that you learn the advertising slogans “You have many, I have one!” and “A cash register for all!” of the Russian postal service, Sberbank, the pensioners insurance fund, social services - it’s all yours. Congrats.

Ah, that’s right, yes: Sberbank, the savings bank. Again, you are in incredible luck - they have just launched a new round of pension reforms. Before, no could figure out how to calculate the pensions, and now makes it even less sense - if at all there will be any.

You might as well learn two additional concepts: CTO, which stands for Counter Terror Operation, and hexogen. This is important. For real. And in future, try to avoid places with other people, train stations, airports - well, especially train stations and airports - bus stations, markets, concerts and crowds in general.

If you still have to fly, make sure to be at the airport three hours in advance. At each entrance, there will be check points. Better not joke with the guards. Shave off your beard. Lighten your hair. Turn your pockets inside out and let them frisk you when they tell you. Never - never! - leave home without identification documents.

Yes, don’t forget sanctions from our international friends, that is to say, our new enemies. You guys are in Russia now.

And then a few tiny matters. Well, a bunch of them, really:

It is prohibited to protest in Russia.

It is prohibited to resist the unlawful arrest and unlawful detention.

It is prohibited for regions to be autonomous. It is forbidden to leave the Russian federation. Separatism is prohibited.

It is prohibited for foreigners to adopt Russian children.

It is prohibited to propagate homosexuality.

It is prohibited for Madonna and Lady Gaga to perform.

It is prohibited to put up unauthorized posters.

The television network Dozjd is prohibited.

Any day now, online money will be prohibited.

Prices in Moscow is twice as high as in Kiev. On everything.

And, finally, for us (and now also for you), it is forbidden to sell alcohol from eleven at night till eight in the morning. The Sobriety Act, you see.

In short, welcome home.

Arkady Babtjenko

Arkady Babtjenko is a journalist and the author of “One Soldier’s War” (Grove Press). He works today as a war reporter for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta.