Echo Moskvy, one of the few opposition media sources (this is not an all-out endorsement, there are some despicable opposition figures in Russia) retells a personal story, corroborated with pictures, that previously made the rounds in Russian social media. The event took place in late May:
Sick and sunburned, my daughter Ksenia returned from a Saturday celebration staged for Putin on St. Petersburg’s Isaakievsky Square. 5000 people, most of them from children’s’ choirs were appropriated to sing songs for the leader! It was titled “The Limitless Wonder of the World”.
It was 30 degrees Celsius [~90 F – ed.] in Peter [St. Petersburg -- ed.] that day. All 40 under the sun! The children were sent off at 8 am.
Prior to the entrance to the square, the children’s choir was thoroughly searched. Documents were required (my child is 12, so I provided her birth certificate), then bottled water and juices brought by children were confiscated.
And then as usual – everyone waited several hours for the tzar, who’s always behind the schedule. A five-thousand-strong crowd was blazing under the sun until noon. The only entertainment was watching the snipers that swarmed all the roofs around Isakievsky Square. Six out of the 37 children in our choir fell ill, and, our daughter observed, people were fainting right and left — volunteers and doctors were barely able to take them away and treat them with water.
Putin appeared for about 3 minutes in the middle of the concert, took pictures against the background of several thousand children (the leader and children — always a good picture!), then gave a short speech and departed. The concert went on until 2 pm.
Ksenia did not last until the end of performance. She regained consciousness in medical tent where they threw water on her.
With all the traffic jams, the children returned to Sestroretsk by 4:30.
The child was hungry — she was not allowed to take any food — sunburnt, and in wet clothes, so she refused to go to the Birthday party of our friends’ child.
She also missed school on Monday because she wasn’t feeling well.
She is still not 100% after this show-off (Russian показухa — ed.) for the leader, which should really be called “The limitless shame of Peter”…
Words fail me.
Words fail me too, but for a different reason. It’s not merely that the children got sunburnt — kids get sunburns — or even that so many of them fainted. It’s that the parents allowed the state to use their kids for propaganda purposes, when they should have expected the state to use them up and spit them out.
When in 2008 a group of Beverly Hills parents encouraged their children to sing a silly ode to then presidential candidate Obama, at least half the country was vocally disgusted by the creepy production. But note, that was parents raising their own kids. And while some of these parents surely think, in abstraction, that children belong to the “community”, they do not realize that the logical outcome of this line of thought is wholesale child abuse.
The fatalistic submission of St. Petersburg parents is not at all surprising. When I was growing up in the former Soviet Union, subjects, young and old, were herded to all sorts of mass events. We went because we went. Adults had their own parallel holiday — gave to Caesar what was Caesar’s and had a semi-discreet swig of vodka. Children came, and our little selves were twisted into submission early on.
Not much has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It did not occur to the parent, who obviously dislikes Putin, to excuse her child from the event, however easy that would had been to do. Nobody called in sick. Everyone knows their place.