Citizen Tsivinyuk

The Power Vertical

People pass by an election poster of the United Russia ruling party in Moscow. Russia’s latest YouTube political sensation is a Siberian teenager.

Matvei Tsivinyuk, a 15-year-old student at Krasnoyarsk’s Gymnasium No. 3, captured the imaginations of oppositionists when he defaced United Russia campaign placards in his high school’s lobby — and then posted a secretly recorded video of his confrontation with the headmaster.

According to press reports, Tsivinyuk tore some of the posters and wrote the inscription: “the party of thieves and scoundrels.” He was promptly summoned to the principal’s office where the clandestinely recorded argument with headmaster Aleksandra Pronina took place. The video is jumpy and poorly centered —  for obvious reasons — but the dialogue is crystal-clear:


Aleksandra Pronina: If there is something you disagree with then go to a demonstration. But not in school.

Matvei Tsivinyuk: According to Article 9, Point 5 of the law of the Russian Federation….

Aleksandra Pronina: Enough, Matvei! I don’t care about any article. Article 9, Article 10, or whatever…. Does your family have a lot of money? Your parents may have to pay a fine for your hooliganism.

Matvei Tsivinyuk: A fine over a piece of paper?

Aleksandra Pronina: For hooliganism! Do you understand!? It’s not just paper! It’s a political placard!

Matvei Tsivinyuk: It should not be in the school because political parties are forbidden from agitating in educational institutions, including spreading propaganda.

Aleksandra Pronina: It’s not propaganda.

Matvei Tsivinyuk: What is it, then?

Aleksandra Pronina: It’s not propaganda. It is there so you can read the biographies of these people. I am telling you now, categorically, that if you deface any more placards I will turn you over to the police.

Matvei Tsivinyuk: And what will they do?

Aleksandra Pronina: I don’t know. It’s another sphere. My sphere is education. But I have warned you. If you read the biography of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin….

Matvei Tsivinyuk: I don’t respect him….

Aleksandra Pronina: I’m just telling you that he was expelled from gymnasium and he was expelled from Kazan University when he studied there. I don’t know if you want the same fate.

Tsivinyuk, who is an excellent student according to press reports, now joins the ranks of police officer Aleksei Dymovsky, courtroom whistle-blower Natalya Vasilyeva, and other Russians who have taken their grievances online. It’s still not clear what will happen to Tsivinyuk, who, as a minor, may not face the harassment other YouTube whistle-blowers have faced.

Tsivinyuk does have his supporters and his actions have been getting some positive press coverage and supportive comments in online forums.

“I believe that if we had more such high-school students, then the political system would be more free and democratic. In general, this situation is standard for an election, when you just use the administrative resources in favor of the party in power, limiting political competition,” Andrei Seleznyov, a city council deputy in Krasnoyarsk, told RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

Other officials have been less supportive.  Krasnoyarsk Krai’s deputy governor, Sergei Ponomarenko, accused him of “militant ignorance and meanness.”

United Russia officials deny that placing election placards in schools violates the law, as long as the director consents (one has to wonder whether Pronina would have approved Yabloko placards in the school).

Nevertheless, the incident comes as United Russia is coming under increased scrutiny in the media over the use of administrative resources in advance of the December elections to the State Duma.

— Brian Whitmore

Tags: United Russia, 2011 State Duma elections, Matvei Tsivinyuk, Administrative Resources

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