Alexander Kolchenko’s Guide to Life | Комитет солидарности
30 Sep

Alexander Kolchenko’s Guide to Life

Crimean left-wing activist, anarchist and anti-fascist Alexander Kolchenko, nicknamed Tundra, has spent two years in Russian prisons. Russian authorities charged him, as well as film director Oleg Sentsov and several other activists, of allegedly preparing terrorist attacks in Crimea and igniting the office of the ruling party, “United Russia”. Kolchenko was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the article on terrorism. We have gathered his views on life, politics, and the world today stated in his letters, interviews, and speeches.

sasha

Some people blamed me for participating in Maidan. I believe that it was a significant historical event for my country. How could I miss it? I could not leave my job for a long time, so I decided to go there [to Kyiv] on the weekend. I planned to go back on Monday, so I took underpants and a sweater (it was really cold then), and some cans to feed people. Everyone helped each other on the Maidan; for example, I was cleaning the snow. I was just amazed! People helped each other, and there were no bosses. What a brilliant self-organization! What did I do there? Upon coming to the Maidan, I have felt what homeland means. All the people helped each other: from a flimsy girl to an old grandmother. It was the triumph of justice. Actually, the upper classes could not take the control, and the lower classes did not want to obey or live in an old way. The idea of ​​freedom was in the air!
***
I was against the war, against the violence. My actions were directed against the party “United Russia,” which voted in favor of sending troops [to annex Crimea]. I took it as a signal that the Russian troops would invade the territory of the whole country, and a full-scale war would begin. The referendum took place a month before the stuff we are charged with, and we just could not influence it. The March vote gave the green light to the people who then took part in the Donbas hostilities.
***
I have not been involved in any terrorist community. I was born and grew up in Simferopol, I studied at school here, then went to the High School of Service and Tourism. After that I worked at “Nova Poshta” (“New Post”) delivery service, and then in the online printing industry (until March 20, 2014). Before detention, I also studied at the Taurida National University, the Faculty of Geography.
***
I have nothing in common with [Ukraine’s far-right organization] Pravyi Sector. I am an anarchist and anti-fascist, that’s why I do not share any kind of nationalist beliefs. I think that nationalism, even in its “common” one form, carries dangers and threats to freedom, equality, and fraternity.
***
In high school, when studying history of the Civil War in Russia and Ukraine, I wondered why the school textbook pay so much attention to Bolsheviks, the White movement, and the Directory of the UNR [Ukrainian People’s Republic], and only a couple of paragraphs were dedicated to Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine [Nestor Makhno’s anarchist Black Army]. I began to read the literature about Makhnovshchina, and anarchism in general. In addition, I had to take part in street fights against neo-Nazis; I met with people from other cities who had similar views, interests, and leisure activities.
***
In this country, elections do not work. Even in those countries, where they might influence something, these changes are not fundamental. Oppression and exploitation system, police, prisons are not abolished by decrees of authorities… Well, I cannot tell you much about anarchist alternatives to prisons, but it is clear to me – especially after what I have seen here – that the prison does not contribute to “correcting” the individual, rather it does the contrary. Many people get into prisons by false accusations, and often their jailers are not innocent.
***
Expressing my skepticism about the elections, I don’t mean that it’s necessary to minimize or eliminate the political participation as such. Rather, on the contrary, we should participate in political and civic life every day, not just on the election day. In my opinion, it is very naïve to believe that by throwing the ballot in the ballot box you decide the fate of the country, especially in a country like Russia.
As one of my friends wrote recently: the revolutionary perspective is beyond the electoral system.
***
In music, I have an extensive range of preferences: punk rock, psychobilly, hardcore, hip-hop, Oi! .., etc. But now I like best the Jamaican motifs: ska, reggae, dub. I like Trojan Records collections very much.
Speaking about the films, I prefer comedies. For example, The Big Lebowski, Black Dynamite, Fantozzi contro tutti, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Four Lions, Big Nothing, Pain & Gain.
***
I have heard Banda Bassotti to come to Donbas. It is a very cool band, but, apparently, guys from “Borotba” brainwashed some European Left.
***
As for the Internet wars – I think you are paying too much attention to details and take them too personally. Even in the Internet, there are a lot of things much more interesting, not to mention the real life around. Perhaps the current economic situation and the actions of the authorities make people a little bit soberer.
***
It seems to me that you cannot turn up trumps always and everywhere – in fishing, in hockey, in fray etc – sooner or later, the luck will expire. And, probably, it is very difficult to live in the world as if you’re an island of awesome in a sea of morons.
***
I still adhere to the anarchist communist views. However, I am also interested in theoretical concepts and experience of the struggle of the Left SRs [Socialist Revolutionaries, a radical party of Russian revolutions centered on agrarian socialism], the Maximalist SRs, syndicalists, communists of workers’ councils, autonomists, left-wing nationalists, etc. Since the beginning of the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine, I took an anti-war internationalist position and, unlike other some so-called “leftists,” did not support any of the parties. Unfortunately, a more constructive position could not be formed due to the lack of information. For me it was strange to read that some so-called comrades write about me on the Internet: they say had I not been put behind the bars, I would now be fighting in the ATO zone as part of a volunteer battalion. These comrades browbeat me even more unpleasantly than the investigators and the prosecutors did.
[Explaining why he was singing the Ukrainian anthem together with Oleg Sentsov upon hearing their verdicts:] I am not trying to flirt neither with the Ukrainian government nor with the patriotic feelings of my compatriots. It’s just that after winter of 2013-2014, I started to perceive the Ukrainian national anthem in a different way, with the same awe as the “L’Internationale,” “Warszawianka,” “Power In A Union,” “Solidarity Forever,” “Which Side Are You On?”, “Bella, ciao!”, “Comrades, Let’s Bravely March” [a late 19th century Russian revolutionary song] etc. After seeing how people on Independence Square in Kyiv, all to [wo]man take off the hats and sing the national anthem … It was very hard! Prior to this experience, for me, this anthem was only one of the state symbols of Ukraine and its singing was just a ritual, not bearing any meaning. During the events of  2013-2014 winter, every line gained the meaning. “Souls and bodies we’ll lay down, all for our freedom.” For many people and for me in particular, these words have become something more than a line of the national anthem.
***
In a conversation with Oleg Sentsov I said that I would like to ask my friends to send me The Adventures of Chipollino by Gianni Rodari. He was surprised: “Why? We are living in a fairy tale already.” During the transfer, one man told about the horrors of this special regime in one of the regions. And almost half of those 20 prisoners who heard it, far from being sentimental or impressible, were on the verge of crying. Horrible things.
***
It looks like I do not have great perspectives, but I still hope that in the near future I will get the opportunity to meet personally with each of those who support me.

You can write a letter to Alexander Kolchenko:
Alexander Kolchenko (born) 456612, ul. Kemerovskaya 20, IK-6, Kopeysk, Chelyabinskaya oblast, Russia

Avtonom.org (11 August 2016)
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