Every day is a gift, every night is an orgy
23 Jul 2014 1 Comment
18 Jul 2014 Leave a comment
27 Jun 2014 1 Comment
The Three Sisters of Gavrilo Princip,
Hacking History, or, Don’t Follow the Principles
On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated in Sarajevo the Austrian Archiduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria ( heir to the throne) and his wife Sofia. This act allegedly triggered the World War One.
History is not written by the victors but by the historical visionaries, and it’ s not about truth but about paradigms. It’s an art to argue, a performance to convince, and the victory condition of history itself is to create a story that seem plausible, and also applicable to different times, in the future, in the past.
Consider the First World War, the first Great War, a war without precedent and supposedly impossible nowadays. The lad who pulled its trigger was Gavrilo Princip , a teenage Serb, a Bosnian Serb one might say, a Pan-Slavic conspirator against the Austro Hungarian Empire, a Yugoslav, an activist, a terrorist, a patriot, a national freedom fighter… what a lot of names he has.
Our world today doesn’t lack for passionate teenage street fighters. In my neighborhood, in San Salvario in Torino, Princip might be a tattooed anarchist who ends up in prison because he threw stones on a cop, while protesting against the imaginary European high speed train between Turin and Lyon, the TAV. What passions this obscure train provokes, a white-elephant pro-EU project will never be realized anyway, because nobody really wants the train on either side of the French Italian border, and worse yet, nobody can afford it.
Gavrilo’s fatal plan met with success, even though he never saw a Yugoslav nation ( he died in prison 4 years after he was promptly arrested). More history passed and Yugoslavia itself ended in bloodshed. Now, a century after the deed that made him known worldwide, the figure of Gavrilo Princip has been used in this memorial centenary by contemporary visionaries for their own purposes.
He fits pretty well as a standard terrorist, as an evil zealot who destroyed a wonderful empire of tolerance and benevolence, the Austro-Hungarian empire. He threw his own life away to do it, but the violent suicidal method is common nowadays among Muslim martyrs. One of Gavrilo’s armed comrades in the conspiracy was a Muslim, and just as ready to kill the Archduke as Gavrilo was.
Perhaps he’s best understood as an embittered outsider with a crank’s motivations to kill a celebrity, like the young men who murdered John Lennon, or President Kennedy. Or he might be a national martyr, a patriot who gave his life for the liberation of a long-suffering people, aspiring a better world, against a regime of royal foreign oppressors.
And yet, in the region where he killed and died, his name is fading. Young people in the Balkans find little to celebrate about him. They suffered too many recent losses of identity and family, to celebrate a remote act, which, during the span of a century, merely added to the turmoil.
Some presumptuous intellectuals dare to say: he could have been me, I understand, I might have done the same in those conditions. They are sitting in comfortable armchairs rather than stalking the streets for a motorcade, gun in hand. How many young men today are dying in irregular street wars, in paramilitary ambushes, raids and revenge attacks, in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Xinjiang, the Caucasus and now even Ukraine. What a difficulty it can be to survive one’s own historical visions! Are ancient nations any wiser in their old age than they were in their foolish youth?
What would Gavrilo Princip recognize in our world of patriots and terrorists? Where and how would he strive to make his name, if he were alive and unknown today? A policed world of austerity and globalized fundamentalism, of growing superstition and religion conquering science and secular politics. Perhaps he’d care nothing for the flags and coins of outdated nation states and choose to become a killer mercenary, out for the highest price. Who needs a gold coin with the face of some royal potentate when the world has Bitcoin?
In the former Yugoslavia, there used to be a joke about how to tell the difference between a Serbian girl and a Croatian girl. If you tell Croatian girl that she is pretty, she smiles. Say the same to a Serbian girl, and she scowls. What about the Bosnian girl? No jokes about her, but she is the third sister, the Cinderella of the region!
In Bosnia 28 June hundred years later Gavrilo is celebrated in the Serbian part as a hero ( organized by famous director Emir Kusturica), while in Bosnian Sarajevo he is remembered as a terrorist.
The paradox of Balkan history is that killers become rulers, warriors become peace makers, sisters become enemies then sisters again on new terms, and law exists mostly as a hoax to make this vicious circle seem like local politics as usual.
In Belgrade, Gavrilo Princip has his own road, which descends from the seven Belgrade hills, to the banks of the meeting point of two big rivers Sava and Danube. The flow of water unites the Balkan region in good and in bad: in recent tragic floods they were helping each other notwithstanding the ethnicity . Suppose that young Gavrilo Princip paid a compliment to the Croatian girl today, as well as to the Serbian and Bosnian one? Who would scowl, who would smile and who would pull the trigger?
Maybe those three girls could somehow offer this historic terrorist a chance to drop his gun, in a clinch between a kiss and a scowl, carrot and a stick, so that he can live in a country without borders instead of killing and dying for a song, a slogan and a bloodstained page in a history book.
11 Jun 2014 1 Comment
Life is tense, these days in Kiev. The faces of the locals are stiff and their reactions are fast, as in an emergency ward. One cannot lose one’s nerve in a life threatening situation.
The street-fights are over for now, while the war tourism has started. In the famous Maidan Square where a hundred protesters were shot dead in the February struggles, the paramilitary camp tents are still standing. Rubber tyres are piled in long, tall, ugly barricades, and the revolutionary militia are sitting on stools inside their tents and bomb shelters, chain-smoking and brewing coffee on campfires of scrap wood. However, the ex-President Yanukovych has fled for Russian sanctuary, and the stands of tourist attractions have arrived.
Ukrainian women sell tiaras of plastic flowers with the national colors of yellow and blue. Fridge magnets carry symbols of the uprising: flags, militia logos, Internet memes, pics of Vladimir Putin depicted as Adolf Hitler, and so on.
The “EuroMaidan” is loud with the sound of mourning for the nation’s fallen. Orthodox priests have the biggest stages and the loudest amplifiers, these days. In their tall hats and gilt robes the priests endlessly chant and croon, and the random passers-by join in with their hands pressed devoutly to their hearts. The EuroMaidan is like a wounded heart still pulsing after an attack, trying to heal.
The recently-elected president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, swore into office these days with the words: we are not giving up Crimea. The Crimean region of Ukraine seceded to Russia, or it was seized by Russia more or less, while refugees from Donetsk and Luhansk, the Russian-ethnic dominated cities, are fleeing every day to Kiev. The nation is splitting up on ethnic lines. It is the beginning of a national struggle and not its end.
The “Mezhyirya Festival,” a one-time international conference about investigative journalism, activism and hackers, was held in an estate once commandeered by Viktor Yanukovych, in a huge park north of Kiev: http://mezhyhiryafest.com. The event was organized by the Yanukovych Leaks group and the Share Foundation from Serbia. The scenery was fantastic: a privatized hunting-grounds half the size of Monaco, next to the vast public reservoir for the city of Kiev, which is a beautiful artificial lake on the Dnieper River. The numerous and lavish buildings and villas in this huge estate were conquered by the rebels, after Viktor Yanukovych fled the uprising for safety in Russia.
Strange militia figures in makeshift uniforms, with walkie-talkies and black wooden batons, patrol this vast park. The secret elite stronghold has been opened to the citizens of Kiev and even a few of us tourists. Wedding parties have appeared, along with improvised carts and trucks offering bottled water, ice cream dispensers, local beer… No one seems to drink from that lake, and there are no sign of swimmers despite the June heat.
We stayed inside an administrative building for the State Guard of Ukraine, the men who guarded the blind metal gates for the secretive estate they called “Object 109.” Behind the vast, rambling, two-story-high metal walls, crowned with security videocameras, Yanukovych and his inner circle built odd structures like huge, half-empty hotels. Our rambling former guard-house seemed scarcely used: the Revolutionaries had arrived and kicked in the door-jambs, removing the police computers and leaving snarled wiring, scattered DVDs, fancy sofas and ugly chairs. However, the karate gym, numerous security brochures and antiterrorist shooting targets made it entirely obvious to us that this was the headquarters of Yanukovych security.
I slept inside a narrow room that declared itself to be “bookkeeping” for some alleged company called “Grosser,” yet it was full of abandoned almanacs and empty notebooks for the uniformed Ukrainian State Guard. A few kilometers down one of the best-paved roads in Ukraine was the colossal hunting mansion of the former President.
This Citizen-Kane extravaganza, now widely known as the “palace of corruption,” blazed all over with crystal and gilt. Money can really hurt when its controllers lack taste. This palace is now well-symbolized by one of the ex-President’s ideas of refinement, a gold-plated loaf of Ukrainian bread.
Our little group of activists and journalists had to visit this legendary, sinister palace, and by night, as well. Although we numbered a round two dozen, we were like mice in this vast over-lit labyrinth of conference rooms, gyms, spas, a vast indoor tennis court, a private full-sized boxing ring, dangling hosts of golden crystal chandeliers, Gothic viewing rooms with huge TV screens and robot massage chairs, marble saunas, baroque inlaid elevators, endless parquet floors, acre-sized plush carpets, hosts of antique bronze statuary and several spotless white grand pianos, one of them crowned with a skinned and stuffed housecat.
Despite its “private” status, it was entirely clear that no one had ever had any private life in this mansion. It was a deliberate showplace in which a tiny, anxious elite attempted to impress itself.
One of our journalist hosts was a young Ukranian woman who had never seen the palace herself. Now they charge people twenty American dollars to see all this mess, she told me. The sight of it will make only people more angry, but it will take a lot of cash to keep this park running.
The privatized compound has become a national park nowadays, run by revolutionary volunteers. Someone has to feed the exotic ostriches and mind the giant wooden galleon and the antique car barn, so moms with toddlers clean the rooms, while old men mow the weeds. Somebody also had to feed us foreign conference tourists, so bright-eyed women in braids and kerchiefs and aprons somehow appeared, to make us blintzes with jam, and potato pancakes, and pork chops.
There was no packaged food. This brand new revolution of the Ukrainian poor is like some refusal of the industrial age. Viking-tall yellow-haired women with big blue eyes are like the personification of the blue-yellow Ukranian flag. They were the main audience for us invited foreigners, and they listened to our ramblings politely, took notes and said almost nothing.
Of course we had plenty to tell them — mostly about surveillance marketing, the collapse of free expression on the Internet, and the many depredations of the American NSA. Bewildered and shy, they listened.
In October 5, 2000, Milosevic was toppled in Serbia. The same heady post-revolutionary atmosphere reigned for a while — maybe a hundred days. However, the Serbian revolution never achieved a “lustration” like in the Czech republic, or the “truth and reconciliation” of South Africa. Milosevic died in a Dutch prison in The Hague, but Serbia, fourteen years later, is mostly ruled by the younger and smarter people from the old Milosevic establishment.
A revolution that fails to make a clean break with the past is just a changing of the guard. The people of Ukraine people are aware of this, which is why there are still wary militia camps inside the Maidan. But whose government is it, when your nation shatters in the struggles between superpowers? It has been a hundred years since a young Serb shot and killed the royal heir to the great throne of Austria-Hungary, and to this day no one knows if he was a hero or a terrorist.
It was an honor and a pleasure to visit Kiev: it brought me sadness, but it felt important and necessary. I lived in Serbia during our own political mayhem, and when strangers came to visit us notwithstanding the so-called danger, we felt better and safer. Of course we were stuck there on the ground while they had a jet return-ticket in their pockets: but at least there were those, few precious moments when we looked them right in the eye.
29 May 2014 Leave a comment
For Anna Polikovskaya
Oh these black dark eyes,
Big Brother’s russian eyes
Burn with bullets eyes,
how they hypnotize
How I need you so,
how I fear you though
Since I saw you glow!
Now my spirit’s low!
Your darkness seals
a fire real
My fate now i feel
my soul burnt with zeal
Mother Russia’s love
smothers every soul
Both her tool and fool
Ochi chornyye, ochi strastnyye
Ochi zhguchiye i prekrasnyye
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus’ ya vas
Znat’ uvidel vas ya v nedobryi chas
No, not sad am i
yes yes mad am I
all my comforts lie
in my destiny
Just to realize
my life’s greatest prize
I ‘ll not sacrifice
for those Russian eyes
I’m Ukrainian, i am serbian
I am muscovite , Politkovskaya
Putin’s dark black lies,
big brother’ s russian fires
make us all his tools
with fools he rules
ochi chorniyi, nepovtorniyi,
ochi yasniyi i prekrasniyi,
yak lyublyu ya vas, yak boyus ya vas,
znaty vgledila u nedobryy chas!