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Author Topic: Sagra - inspiring story  (Read 1137 times)


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Sagra - inspiring story
« on: August 06, 2011, 02:22:02 pm »
Timely, considering the mob violence that's been spreading through our larger cities.  The spirit of these plain folks is inspiring.

Also brings up an interesting parallel to the direction some of our own political class are trying to move.

Russian Village's Self-Defense Underlines Failures of Police

Published: August 4, 2011

SAGRA, Russia -- When Sergei the Gypsy wanted to show who was boss in this tiny settlement on the edge of the Ural Mountains, he gathered a posse of armed men and drove down a narrow road through the night, illuminating the forest with his headlights.

"They are coming to kill us," one of the villagers shouted, and Viktor Gorodilov, who was in his bathhouse, threw on some clothes and joined a small group of men with shotguns, pitchforks, chains and knives to guard the road. "We just had three guns, including me," said Mr. Gorodilov, 56. "But they didn't expect any resistance, and we had them in our hands."

His son Andrei threw a pine cone and shouted, "Grenade!" Women hiding behind trees screamed curses and abuse.

One of the raiders was killed, and the convoy fled, shooting to cover its retreat. "It was like 'The Magnificent Seven'!" the younger Mr. Gorodilov said, recalling a movie in which a small band holds off an armed attack.

The encounter a month ago was the culmination of a feud between villagers in this hamlet of just 130 people and an interloper -- real name: Sergei Lebedev -- who they believed had taken up residence here to operate a base for the drug trade.

Since then, Sagra has become a catchword for a spate of violence around the country in which people have banded together to defend themselves in the absence of police protection. "What's going on in this country is that the government isn't protecting anyone," Mr. Gorodilov said.

For nearly five minutes, by her count, a resident named Tatyana Gordeyeva tried to persuade a police dispatcher on the telephone to connect her to a station. When help finally came, she said, the battle had been over for two hours.

"The police are corrupt or lazy or politicized, and it's the same all across the country," said Konstantin M. Kiseyov, academic secretary of the Institute of Philosophy and Law in Yekaterinburg, which is 25 miles from the village. "So people must protect themselves. They can't count on the government or its structures. That is why the country is turning into one big Sagra."

Trust in the police is so low that only 40 percent of victims report their crimes, according to recent studies, whether they involve robbery or car theft or pickpocketing or more serious offenses, said Leonid Kosals, a professor of economics at the National Research University of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

In December, the symbol of local lawlessness was a village called Kushchevskaya, where a family of 12 was slaughtered by a gang that had ties to the police.

In a commentary on the political Web site, Aleksei Makarkin, vice president of the Center for Political Technologies, compared the two episodes, saying government officials had "proved superfluous."

"They understand that it's safer for their personal careers to keep quiet than make a mistake that could damage their political futures," he wrote. "Society demands people who are capable of decisive actions in pursuit of noble aims, even if it's not always strictly legal."

Among them are civic groups like an agency in Yekaterinburg called City Without Drugs that makes citizens' arrests of drug dealers and locks addicts inside its own treatment centers, combating a drug epidemic that had been left to fester through police inertia and corruption.

Acknowledging the problems with the police, President Dmitri A. Medvedev recently ordered a revamp of the force -- based on tests of competence and character -- that is expected to reduce its size by about 200,000 officers, to just over a million nationwide. A pay increase is planned as a measure of reducing corruption.

But although corruption, inefficiency and sheer laziness can be factors in poor policing, a more fundamental issue makes significant reform unlikely, said Mr. Kosals of the Higher School of Economics. The underlying problem is that the security forces in Russia are structured to safeguard the social order rather than to protect and serve citizens, he said.

"We can find many motivated people with high skills in the Russian police," he said, "but the system makes it difficult even for these good police officers to do their jobs well. Their main burden is to control situations and to control the people rather than to help them." As a result, he said: "People turn to their neighbors and to relatives and local networks to solve their problems by themselves. It's some sort of lynch law. And in Russia we have thousands of such cases."

Nearly a month after the confrontation in Sagra, five members of the raiding party were arrested on charges of banditry and participation in a mass disturbance, and two others were arrested later. The president of the inspection committee of the Russian Federation brought disciplinary action against the regional police chief for dereliction of duty. But that was only because the events captured national attention, Mr. Kosals said. Most times, these things slip by unnoticed. "It happens so often," he said. "It's a usual situation in many small villages and settlements."

According to Mr. Gorodilov's son Sergei, the police had waited a week before investigating the scene of the gunfight and then had tried to slough it off as "just daily life, like a quarrel in the kitchen."

Though it is only an hour's drive from the city, Sagra is buried in birch woods, surrounded by hills and meadows and far removed from government control or assistance. "We have everything we need here," said Mr. Gorodilov, opening a wood gate to show a vegetable garden and a gaggle of quacking geese. "We settle our problems among ourselves. We help each other out."

The clash with Sergei the Gypsy was the biggest event in the history of this tiny settlement, which was founded more than a century ago to tend a railway station that no longer exists, and everybody had a story to tell.

"When they shouted to me, 'Mama, they've come to kill us!' I almost died," said Galina Kotelnikova, who runs the little village store, which originally opened as a kiosk to sell beer.

Villagers gathered nearby to recall the excitement of that night. Tatyana Gordeyeva, 37, described a scene out of a Frankenstein movie. "We picked up axes and pitchforks and ran to the road," she said. "My legs were shaking, but we were protecting the village so we weren't afraid. That only came later. Five women pushed a car to block the road." The police came long afterward, after 4 a.m., she said. "They pretended they were taking down our words, but there was no record of that."

But now that the news media have taken an interest, everybody knows the story, Mr. Gorodilov said, and the villagers seem to be enjoying their fame. "Until this happened, nobody had any idea what Sagra was, or that it even existed," he said.

There is even a T-shirt honoring the town's signal event: "If the government can't help people," it reads, "It doesn't have the right to forbid them from defending themselves -- Sagra 2011."

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    Matthew Mayner

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    Re: Sagra - inspiring story
    « Reply #1 on: August 11, 2011, 02:58:45 pm »
    "If the government can't help people," it reads, "It doesn't have the right to forbid them from defending themselves -- Sagra 2011."

    Fixed it.
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    Re: Sagra - inspiring story
    « Reply #2 on: August 11, 2011, 06:05:45 pm »
    25 klicks from Ekateringburg?  Damn, that's like literally in the smack dab middle of this 11 hour time zoned country.

    Good for them.  Moral self-defense is why I have the avatar of Don Alejo still.
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