Freedom News

Freedom in the Machine: Ignorance is Strength

Данное сообщение (материал) создано и (или) распространено иностранным средством массовой информации, выполняющим функции иностранного агента, и (или) российским юридическим лицом, выполняющим функции иностранного агента.

This message (material) was created and (or) distributed by a foreign media outlet acting as a foreign agent and (or) a Russian legal entity acting as a foreign agent.*

Who is to blame for this? Is it the people of Ukraine’s fault? Certainly not.”

– Vladimir V. Putin

We represent in ourselves organised terror – this must be said very clearly.”

– Felix E. Dzerzhinsky

Ilya Ulyanov is looking into space. The cold breeze of the coming spring picks up dead leaves around the solitary prison warden as he pops his collar and lights a match. Every morning he woke up the same way and believed he was going insane.

It was true, Ilya spent a lot of time alone. Despite the steel doors and brick walls the screaming was almost constant but this was not why Ilya could not sleep. It was at night, when space becomes visible from earth that Ilya is woken by the sound of a barking dog.

It was loud enough to come from outside his windows, Ilya tells himself, but every morning he finds no dog – just a pile of matches as testament to his failure. He waits until the screaming begins and then starts his day at work. Stepping into interrogation room II, he notices a young woman strapped to electrical wires and his colleague engrossed in a book.

Government forces at the front line, one hundred yards from protestors on Hrushevskoho Street, Kyiv, February 2014

Medved rests his boots on the table. The bureaucratic bear was completely distracted by his book. It was the only book he read and in fact, was the only book in the prison library. The book was called ‘The Lunar Option’, written by local science fiction writer Fyodor Berezin. Since his transfer to the city of Stalino, Ilya had not seen Medved read anything else.

The general premise of the story was the continuation of a war between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, but in space. Tragically the subtext was missing for Medved because he had read it again and again and again to find hidden meanings and messages.

Medved was now laughing out loud because as he read the words of the militant poet from Donbass, he understood everything was connected. He threw his boot down heavily on a red button on the desk. Bound naked to a chair, the prisoner screams as an electrical current passes through her body.

“Say it!” Medved screams at the prisoner, “I am the leader of a terrorist organisation!”

“Die Chekist dog!” Nikiforova screams back, her mouth full of teeth and blood.

Atamansha,” Ilya intervenes, “under the mask of defender of the proletariat, did you not keep yourself busy by pillaging? Are you not simply a bandit operating under the flag of Russian power?!”

“No,” Nikiforova smiles, staring out of her cell window at the twinkling of a satellite. “I merely complained that if your oligarchs should steal, they could at least share it with everyone else!”

It was three sunsets before the 105th anniversary of the March Revolution, as the Sputnik II passes over eastern Ukraine. The spaceship had been officially decommissioned for over half a century and it’s canine crew member feared dead. Yet here it was, the sound of an old DDR typewriter silenced by the void of space.

4. Anti-government protestors at the frontline on Hrushevskoho Street, Kyiv, February 2014

Laika had survived primarily from salvaging the other derelicts to the Soviet space race. She was also a Russian Biocosmist. There are two fundamental principles to Biocosmist Poetics that ensure Laika’s survival within the linear constraints of journalism:

1. The freedom to move through cosmic space and time.

2. Immortality. (See 1)

Switching on an old tape cassette salvaged from the MIR Space Station, she began the transmission of a file entitled ‘Dresden’. “Shaktar Donetsk,” Laika sings to herself as she watches the sunset, “Nay the banner of freedom, rung round his neck…”

The cell door is closed behind her and Nikiforova is entombed in darkness, the damp smell immediately giving her the impression that she is underground. Kicking with a boot, she finds her way to a bunk and sits down, taking a cigarette out and lighting a match.

Anti-government protestors at the frontline on Hrushevskoho Street. Their first line of defence: car tyres, piled high. The lighting of tyres; the heat, smoke and fumes, was a tactic used to protect the camp. Behind them the government forces, and in the distance, the Ukrainian parliament building the Verkhovna Rada

Nikiforova is not alone as she notes a shadow on the opposite bunk. Letting the match go out, the two sit in darkness for a while. Only the sound of exhaling smoke and the tension of silence as the walls close into a pit and she works up the courage to speak.

“Wait,” the other prisoner says first as if he could read her mind. The sounds of bolts opening and approaching boots mark the arrival of two guards at the neighbours cell. Instantly there was screaming before the key had entered the lock.

Then, suddenly, a smashing sound like the breaking of bone on a toilet cistern as the screams become gargles of blood. There is a silence, as the prisoner is dragged away and then the lights come on.

For the first time, Nikiforova could see the dimensions of her cell. The walls are washed white and the floors tiled with two simple cots facing each other, with a crate and chess board – her cell mate waiting patiently to start the game.

“Miftakhov the Mathematician,” he smiles holding out his hand.

Ilya sits in the communications room. He sits in solitude. This morning he did not hear the barking of a dog – the prison was silent even of it’s screaming. The machines began to click and whine as a telegram came in over the wire…

Image and words of Mahatma Gandhi hang on a barricade in the centre of Maidan. Translation reads: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’


“Check,” Nikiforova smiles as Miftakhov frowns looking at the board. The only way to protect the King would be to sacrifice the Queen.

“They accuse me of passing a grenade to a secret witness, who then threw it at the windows of the offices of United Russia.” Miftakhov lights a cigarette and looks up from the board.

“They are sending me to a penal colony but for you, Atamansha, it will be much worse.” He sacrifices the Queen. “It’s your move.”

Outside, the sound of boots could be heard approaching the door of the cell.

For the 105th time, Medved finishes ‘The Lunar Option’ by Fyodor Berezin. So empty is his victory, he barely notices Ilya sitting opposite with a file in his hand. “Ah Ilya,” Medved says slowly, “you have the execution file on the young Atamansha?”

Medved takes the file in two large paws and looks through with the expert detail of a spy before looking up in horror.

“Medved,” Ilya begins as he looks down through steel rimmed spectacles, “I have reason to believe that you have supported a foreign terrorist organisation and in fact have admitted to the very act at the top of this article!”

Medved feels the texture of the file and realises it is dripping wet. He drops it to the table and collapses on the floor laughing. “You… poison me?!”

“When working as a KGB agent in Dresden,” Ilya continues, “You supplied weapons to the Red Army Fraction – a terrorist organisation!”

“That was for my work in the service of the Union” Medved gasps for air, “They were enemies of our enemies!”

“Medved! This is the city of Stalino! Adherence to the party line – in the current Russian Federation, this capitalist Russia – the RAF is a hostile foreign agent!”

“Du saugst dir etwas aus den fingern!” Medved screams back.

“Finally Medved, from your own lips through the party organ Roskomnadzor – you have admitted as much; ‘This message was created and distributed by a foreign media outlet acting as a foreign agent and a Russian legal entity acting as a foreign agent!’ Traitor!”

2. Observation point. members of the public come to view the devastation of the Hrushevskoho Street Barricade

In the whitewashed interrogation room, light pours through the windows and fills the cell until files and prison wardens float in a flash of explosion as the Sputnik II finally makes impact on planet earth. From the wreckage, an elderly man stumbles from the ruins.

Dazed, his head bleeding from a wound sustained in the blast, he sits among the rubble. In the blackened sky and wasteland around him an old man walks towards him and helps him up. The sound of an air raid siren echoes across the void. “Where are we?” one old man asks the other.

“We are in Kharkiv, Vladimir,” the other replies. “Don’t you recognise me?”

The two walk among the ruins towards the road. “This used to be a children’s hospital,” one old man says to the other at the end of the world.

“Why are we here, Felix?” Vladimir asks.

“We have been here for nine years you fool,” Felix replies, as the two men join the lines of millions of others on the long road to Warsaw.

Josie Reynolds

*Required text before all articles published in the independent media in Russia, enforced by the Roskomnadzor, a government agency tasked with information control and censorship.

All images by David Gould, reproduced with permission.

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