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FSB, Shies and oil spills

Rules of life of Ivan Ivanov, the ecologist and human rights activist from Komi

Daniil Kuznezov
Ivan Ivanov
Photo from the archive of 7x7
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Ecologist Ivan Ivanov lives in the village of Nizhny Odes in Komi. As an activist of the Pechora Rescue Committee public organization, he often inspects oil exploitation of the republic. Afterwards he initiates the correspondence with supervisory instances. Endless bureaucratic red tape with them is a common theme of his blog posts on "7x7". For his 51st birthday, which was on May 19, the editorial board has collected Ivan Ivanov's Rules of Life.

Fears of the human rights activist

— My nature protection activity is all about overcoming fears, from the very start.

In 2003–2005, I was threatened: losing my job (that happened), children having problems at school (never happened — I was ready to react aggressively though), losing my property (“security guards are on their way, they’ll brake your camera” — huge former policemen came, didn’t break my camera, shook hands and left, still I had to hide the cassettes), physical abuse.

They tried to bribe me with career promotion. Very unpleasant choice it seems: just say "Yes" — and all your problems are gone, but I imagined how I would live with it further. It’s actually nice to choose when you feel at peace with yourself. I guess anyone, who becomes engaged in some public activity that somehow attracts the interest of the mighty ones, goes through those stages. However, the number of the activists is small: apparently the majority makes another choice.

Now I'm definitely afraid of the FSB. As far as I know, the FSB has been interested in the situation with oil spills for a long time. Their interests seemed to be on our side. It all wasn’t their sphere of action or responsibility. But then everything began to change. I’m not sure about the meaning of their actions, but the villagers believe that the FSB and the Ministry of Interior unite to “protect” oil pollutants from those who just want to defend their environment.

The main law says nothing about the FSB or Gaplikov [the Head of the Komi Republic] being the source of authority. It’s basic physics: you see me, and I see you. Busted. Supervisors are inspected carelessly. They do not understand why they should spy on the Pechora Rescue Committee.

So you should be afraid — and I won’t be. I realize though that I’m vulnerable, for sure. But I have all those birches, bears, salmon and many people with me (I do feel it physically). Those are images from my childhood. For me, the Ministry of Interior is Uncle Styopa the Militsioner, special services are Colonel Isayev. Can’t beat them, don’t want to deny them. Most certainly, not all sane people are taken by the system. You can always choose.

How did I use to overcome my fears? I read the law. And I believed it. The next stage is to learn about non-legal laws.

Hallucinations of the human rights activist

“Ivan, you're hallucinating.” This is what was written in the answer of the Ministry of Environment of the Komi Republic about layer water in the Shervozh [in Autumn 2017, Ivanov went for a walk and found some technical water, which is used by oil industry workers on hydraulic fracturing, in the stream]. Usually (in order not to get sick) I urgently need to react somehow (like, to inform the prosecutor), but that’s what I’ve read on my way from Syktyvkar to Ukhta, then there was no access to the Internet. I felt so helpless, just me, a little man by myself, against the whole army of officials, and behind them — grinning LUKOIL guys.

And I realized such a deep senselessness of all those letters, walking on bumps, dirt. No, correspondence means nothing. Only rallies, only hardcore. In fact, it's a statement too, but with live music and people, and no protocols.

Rhetorical question of the human rights activist

LUKOIL could definitely built another dozen of churches, but would it anyhow compensate destroyed environment of local inhabitants?

Opinions of the human rights activist

In my personal opinion, the level of how state bodies react to oil spills and accidents is stuck in 2007. All our appeals, rallies, attempts to hold a Republican referendum have not yet had a great impact on reducing accidents and oil spills. Turning to buyers of Russian oil is a non-standard move.

Shock of the human rights activist

An illegal (in the opinion of the Pechora Rescue Committee) construction of the solid waste landfill is held at Shies, Lensky district, Archangelsk Oblast — doesn’t it seem shocking to you yet? And it is accompanied by numerous violations of the law — on the territory of the Republic of Komi as well.

Vocabularies of the human rights activist and officials

As we pronounce the word "Shies", in the mind of officials (by means of difficult psycho-biochemical processes and intuitively-logical connections) it turns into the awful word "Chaika" [Yury Chaika — the current Prosecutor General of Russia, his son Igor Chaika is engaged in garbage removal from Moscow Oblast, they both became characters of the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s documentary film about corrupt affairs of representatives of the Prosecutor's office]. And they become paralyzed, chaotic, convulsive — and say: “Not me!”

There is, perhaps, a special language of politicians, which an ordinary citizen wouldn’t understand without an interpreter.

About shame

I can’t sleep at night while people of Urdoma are saving a half of the country from garbage.


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