“I’m Not Going to Leave My Neighborhood”
“I’m Not Going to Leave My Neighborhood”
What is the meaning of collective discussion of urban problems today? Why does the need to be heard have a political meaning? Activist and politician Gleb Babich speaks about his work and the upcoming municipal elections

— Tell us a bit more about yourself and your election campaign.

— I graduated from the Department of Biology of the Moscow State University, majoring in ecology. Now I am studying at a graduate school at RUDN University. I am an activist and have been involved in local politics for a number of years in my home district Tyoply Stan. I help my neighbors to unite and protect their rights collectively.

I am also a co-founder of the district community, on behalf of which we, together with our comrades, publish an independent district newspaper. In the upcoming elections in September, I am running for the Moscow City Duma from my district. Five years ago, in 2019, the whole of Russia was talking about election campaigns to the Moscow City Duma. At that time, many independent candidates were not allowed to participate in the elections, and remote electronic voting (DEG) technology was used for the first time. Despite this technology, which opened up more opportunities for the incumbent party to falsify the results, many independent and opposition candidates were still able to get elected, although they failed to win a majority of votes, and a small number of candidates were able to get into the Moscow City Duma. It was these people who spoke powerfully and loudly from the podium of the Moscow City Duma over the past five years. They were very different from the United Russia deputies, because they really wanted to help people.

This year’s election campaign is important for several reasons. Firstly, the most prominent independent deputies of the previous convocation were either designated foreign agents, or they were not allowed to run again. Right now, it’s a scorched field. This year we will be operating in completely different conditions, which are definitely worse than five years ago. But I don’t think that politics in Russia is dead. The upcoming elections and our campaign are our chance to show that in our country there are independent politicians who want to work and are able to act.

Now we have more than 100 people on our team and have started collecting signatures. We have already attracted the attention of not only many media people, but also the attention of opponents, United Russia members and security officials. Several months before the start of the campaign, we began to receive anonymous threats, including death threats and the threats of imprisonment. And yet, this did not stop me, but rather inspired me. I am an experienced activist and this is not the first time I have encountered such pushback. I will even say that the attempt to intimidate us contributed to our advancement, since people began to talk about us. We can really win these elections: our resources are quite sufficient for this. Of course, we will not be able to crush the representatives of the ruling party, since they have all the resources of the DEG. But we can definitely defeat them fairly at the polls. This will demonstrate that there is still opposition in the city and that citizens are willing to participate in political campaigns.

— What would you answer to those people who still doubt that it is worth participating in elections in Russia in 2024 and believe that the result is known beforehand and elections cannot change anything?

— It is harmful to have illusions about elections. I understand that for many people elections come down to a race for a deputy mandate, and if you don’t get it, then that means you lost the race and everything went to dust. But in reality, elections are a political process with many purposes. For us, the mandate is not the main goal, although we are doing everything possible to get it. We are conducting the election campaign as if there were no predictable results of the DEG. We work, campaign and collect signatures. We talk to people. But at the same time, we know that there is DEG. We know it’s a black box for us and for the voters. However, our main task in this election is to reach as many people as possible who share our views.

We can show that we exist, that there are many of us, and that together we can carry out major political campaigns. Even if our mandate is stolen this year, it doesn’t mean that we have lost. Reaching tens of thousands of people is much more important than a deputy seat, especially in the current conditions in Russia. To repeat, we will still try to get a mandate, because it has its own meaning and its own power. Our other goals depend solely on how effectively we can operate, how many supporters we can attract to our campaign, how much money we can raise, and what we will do with all our resources.

— Could you tell us about the district from which you are running? What challenges do residents of this district face, and how do these challenges relate to the problems of the city as a whole?

— There are two districts in our constituency — my native Tyoply Stan and the neighboring district of Konkovo, to which I also have a strong bond. Tyoply Stan is a typical residential area of ​​Moscow. At the same time, most of its area is actually a specially protected natural area — the Tyoply Stan nature reserve. However, one of the area’s primary problems is affordable health care. Two years ago, two antenatal clinics were removed from the area. This was carried out as part of Mayor Sobyanin’s program, which, on the one hand, contributed to the improvement of the condition of many clinics, but on the other hand, created a shortage of specialists in these renovated clinics.

Sobyanin’s city program, entitled “New Moscow Standard of Polyclinics,” in principle implies that there should be practically no specialist doctors in district clinics. They are distributed to a fewer number of specialized centers that are located further from the residents of the area than clinics. These innovations are presented under the guise that in such centers you can get better medical care and treatment, there are many more specialist doctors and they are equipped with new equipment. It all looks nice, but is much less accessible.

So, instead of district antenatal clinics, residents of the district are invited to visit the new women’s health center, which requires a 40- to 60-minute journey, to be taken along an inconvenient route. Pregnant and older women, that is, those who find it difficult to move around the city, now find it even more difficult to get to the doctor. Officials respond to the critique by arguing that a pregnant woman, when coming to a regular clinic, can become infected, and this can affect the child. But a pregnant woman who takes an hour to get to the doctor by public transport faces no lesser risk.

The mayor’s program claims to improve health care, but its main goal is to save the budget: because it is easier and cheaper for officials to keep all specialists in one place and not purchase equipment for each clinic. They want to save money, not take care of residents.

Our campaign to support community medicine and its accessibility is now in its third year. During this time, we did a lot, and residents of the area collected signatures against these innovations, even independently of us. We appealed to deputies, the Ministry of Health, and the Moscow mayor’s office. And we managed to move the process forward: we successfully pushed for the creation of a project to open a new women’s health center in our area. This is, of course, not the two antenatal clinics that existed before, but still a whole new women’s health center, which will be located in relative proximity.

“Reaching tens of thousands of people is much more important than a deputy seat, especially in the current conditions in Russia”

— You mentioned that there is a large nature reserve in the district territory. What is happening with it now? How would you, as an environmental scientist, evaluate its condition?

— What’s happening with it is the same as with any other landscape reserve in Moscow. First of all, it suffers from the consequences of urban improvement efforts, which is proceeding at a rapid pace. Last year, the territory of the reserve was landscaped, paths were rebuilt, and that used a lot of equipment, creating noise pollution. The use of such equipment is prohibited during the bird nesting season, but it was used nonetheless. It can also be noted that many Red Book plants were damaged. However, I’d like to emphasize that these problems are not unique at all for the region. For example, a nature reserve is currently being improved in the north-west of the city, and it is leading to the same consequences.

— Was it possible to hold those who carried out improvement with such violations accountable?

— The office responsible for the work was the city Department for the Management of Nature Reserves (Mospriroda), and it was very hard to get into contact with them. Sometimes we succeeded in convincing them not to act so aggressively in a nature reserve. Right now, we mainly collaborate with them for the purposes of constant monitoring of the situation.

We consider the fact that the reserve represents the behavior of Mospriroda under the jurisdiction of the Russian Highways (Avtodor), which is subordinate to the prefecture, as a bad sign. Avtodor is a state infrastructure and highway service company, it does not have the specialized expertise to deal with environmental issues, and its competence is restricted to the improvement of cities, courtyards and streets. We do not expect them to monitor the state of the reserve. I think it’s worth being on the lookout now and try not to draw too much attention to the reserve. Perhaps this way we will be able to influence the decisions and procedures related to its improvement.

— Liberal politicians often say: progressive reforms are being carried out in the city, but the people are conservative and do not want to accept these reforms. During the campaign you communicate with local residents of the district. What can you say about their mood?

— Such reasoning is, of course, misleading. To me it seems rather strange to reduce the residents of my area to the world ‘people.’ People are very different; they have different views and different needs. This diversity is apparent in almost every political issue, that is, in relation to the issues of general importance. For example, let’s take the issue of yard landscaping: do we need a parking space or a lawn? Even to such questions, people give divergent answers and are divided into different camps. It’s important that all sides can and should be heard and helped to listen to the other side.

It seems to me that we are all united by the need to be heard. It doesn’t matter at all, what are the views of the person who needs it. I’ve talked to a lot of people in my area and they all genuinely miss it: they want their opinions to be taken into account. I also want their opinion to be heard, and to be taken into account. In this regard, we are comrades. This is precisely what refutes the common misconception about the conservative attitude of people. The need to speak out can very well be seen in a progressive way, as it is the need to participate in political processes.

People may not call the exchange of opinions a political process, but in fact they strive to participate in it. Residents in the area are unhappy with many things, and decisions about changes in their yard or their neighborhood are made without their knowledge. There may already be room for discussion here. Our task is to take the discussion to a new level, to initiate a dialogue between people with different positions, views and ideas about what and how to do. This will help residents get to know their neighbors better and understand their neighbor’s position. We need to promote dialogue and thereby seek consensus together.

— How did you become an activist? You were the chairman of the student council of the Department of Biology at Moscow State University and then vice-chairman of the student council of the entire university. When did you realize that you needed to take action and, more importantly, take action yourself?

— I joined student government in 2018. Then, on the eve of the World Cup, major officials decided to create a huge fan zone for 30-40 thousand spectators near the main building of the university. This caused dissatisfaction among the students, because the opening hours of the fan zone coincided with the exams period, and this is a very nervous time. Students would be preparing for exams, and under their windows there would be a noisy crowd of fans, since the university building includes a large dormitory. Secondly, the fan zone would increase the number of people on campus, where there are many valuable objects, including from an environmental point of view. Thirdly, students generally felt the need to participate in political life, as many were outraged that not a single one of them was asked about hosting a fan zone. A campaign was organized against the fan zone, which I joined as a first-year undergraduate.

At that point, I had a very vague idea of what a student council of the department was. But when my fellow students from the department addressed the council, asking it to endorse a petition against the fan zone, I saw that the people who should represent the interests of students actually represented the interests of the university administration. At that point, I realized that something needed to change. The next year, we gathered our team, got elected to the student council and stood up to protect the rights of students. We have successfully solved a number of problems.

For example, we were able to help improve the quality of education at the Department of Biology. At that moment it was considered one of the strongest biology departments in the country, but courses outside the core program were taught extremely poorly. For example, higher mathematics for freshmen. In general, freshmen, although determined to study biology, can cope with higher mathematics at the required level. But the professor, who had taught mathematics at the department for decades, could not explain the material clearly. The classes were poorly organized, the seminars did not include analysis of lecture material. As a result, students went to the exam poorly prepared, which led to expulsions. In addition, the professor had a reputation as a sexist, who once said that a woman cannot know mathematics with an A+.

We initiated the creation of a commission for control and quality of education, which consisted of students and the most respected teachers. The commission’s decision made it possible to change the situation: we managed to change the teacher of higher mathematics at the department. This was important for the students because biologists need to know math. The overall quality of education at the Department of Biology has improved.

I worked on the student council for three years. Such councils should be the very democratic governance mechanisms at universities. They should be created wherever they do not yet exist. The Student Council should really solve the problems of students and be the platform through which students could influence what is happening in their department.

“It seems to me that we are all united by the need to be heard”

— Your electoral motto reads: “Peace, equality, future.” In contemporary Russia, these are brave words. The appeal to peace is clear to everyone these days, but what is your take on equality?

— Obviously, equality is a broad and complex concept. As a leftist, I believe that equality is truly worth fighting for. Firstly, it’s equality in the socio-economic sense: I cannot accept such a wide gap between rich and poor as exists in Russia today. Secondly, it’s political equality: I believe that everyone should be able to influence politics at different levels, from one’s own home to the country level, and not transfer the power to govern the state to very narrow political elites. Thirdly, it is the equality of people in their differences: a person should not feel disadvantaged and be discriminated against for what they are. This applies to gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity.

There should be no domestic violence in our society, and the state has no right to persecute a person for having a rainbow on their clothing as an LGBTQ+ symbol. People who are in difficult life situations, especially homeless people or people with various addictions, should not be discriminated against or stigmatized. In our society, such people are greatly marginalized. I believe that we need to pay more attention to them, they need to be helped.

— Speaking about discrimination against homeless people or drug users, it is worth saying a few words about the police. For example, your program contains a point about the need to control the work of the police. How do you imagine this?

— From a pragmatic point of view, the police are a security institution that is designed to protect the state order. The police, by definition, are associated with violence, so the only question is against whom will they use this violence: the people who came to the rally with a banner, or the terrorists who took hostages? Of course, if someone went with a weapon to kill people, they need to be stopped, that’s what such an organization is for. But torture of any person is absolutely unacceptable.

Our main task is to understand how to control and limit the police as an instrument of violence. This requires serious reform. It is also necessary to limit the time police officers work in one place and in law enforcement agencies as a whole. Because the work that involves the use of force affects a person’s mental health: there is a risk that violence becomes a habit and turns into a norm. People working in law enforcement agencies must constantly undergo psychological tests and have the opportunity to seek psychological help. There must be public control over law enforcement agencies, they must be accountable, and any police activity must be open and transparent. All this also applies to the activities of courts.

Now the police seem to work according to the law, and yet, according to the same law they carry out political persecution. A conversation about the police is a big conversation, ultimately it also includes questions about the legislative branch. I approach tasks of this magnitude from the general principles of accountability of any authority to citizens and transparency of its work. It is in our power today to talk about the control over them, in which we can actively participate. For example, deputies can help people who were detained for political reasons; they can draw attention to such events. We must certainly support all political prisoners.

“There should be no domestic violence in our society, and the state has no right to persecute a person for having a rainbow on their clothing as an LGBTQ+ symbol”

— Where and how to follow your work and campaign?

— You can follow me on my Telegram channel. We also have a channel of our district community, “Tyoplostansky Aktiv.” I encourage everyone to sign up and support our campaign. At this stage, it depends on how many people and how much financial support we can attract. For example, to collect 5 thousand signatures to register a candidate, we need about 200 signature collectors, who need to be paid for the work, and for this we need 2.5 million rubles. Collecting signatures is an important, difficult and sometimes dangerous job. I was a collector myself, I visited apartments, and I perfectly understand all the conditions. In any election campaign, collecting signatures is a hard work that remains largely invisible, so it must be paid. We will be glad to receive any amount transferred to our election account. We want to support our collectors, although they are all primarily ideologically motivated and support us for political reasons.

— What are your plans after the September elections?

— I am not going to leave my district after the end of the elections and the election campaign, no matter how it ends. When I participated in the campaign for the 2022 municipal elections, I was removed through a court decision two days before the vote on an absurd charge of copyright infringement, for the slogan “Vote for independent candidates.” It turned out that several years earlier, exactly the same slogan was used in another region. After this, our team did not stop working in the area. Over the past two years, we have continued to develop the district community, the district newspaper and telegram channel. After these elections, we plan to continue this work.

After all, we don’t just want to get a seat in the Moscow City Duma, but to strengthen our community. To expand and strengthen horizontal connections in order to solve common problems and create new things. Through collective action, achieve the desired results. For example, we are now planning to put trees growing in the area on a map and organize monitoring of these trees. Any resident of the area can participate in this work and it is important. And if the mayor’s office cannot do it, then people can do it. It’s inspiring when people unite around something creative, that is, not just to fight something. This is how we can look into the future.

I don’t plan to go abroad. I love my homeland, my country and I like living here. I love my city and my district. I like the people who surround me. These people will understand and support me, and I can support them. It will be difficult for me to adapt to a different environment that I don’t fully understand. Anyone who leaves their environment would find it difficult to fit into a new society. That’s why I don’t want to go anywhere. I want people to feel good here.

“After all, we don’t just want to get a seat in the Moscow City Duma, but to strengthen our community”

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“I’m Not Going to Leave My Neighborhood”
“I’m Not Going to Leave My Neighborhood”
What is the meaning of collective discussion of urban problems today? Why does the need to be heard have a political meaning? Activist and politician Gleb Babich speaks about his work and the upcoming municipal elections

— Tell us a bit more about yourself and your election campaign.

— I graduated from the Department of Biology of the Moscow State University, majoring in ecology. Now I am studying at a graduate school at RUDN University. I am an activist and have been involved in local politics for a number of years in my home district Tyoply Stan. I help my neighbors to unite and protect their rights collectively.

I am also a co-founder of the district community, on behalf of which we, together with our comrades, publish an independent district newspaper. In the upcoming elections in September, I am running for the Moscow City Duma from my district. Five years ago, in 2019, the whole of Russia was talking about election campaigns to the Moscow City Duma. At that time, many independent candidates were not allowed to participate in the elections, and remote electronic voting (DEG) technology was used for the first time. Despite this technology, which opened up more opportunities for the incumbent party to falsify the results, many independent and opposition candidates were still able to get elected, although they failed to win a majority of votes, and a small number of candidates were able to get into the Moscow City Duma. It was these people who spoke powerfully and loudly from the podium of the Moscow City Duma over the past five years. They were very different from the United Russia deputies, because they really wanted to help people.

This year’s election campaign is important for several reasons. Firstly, the most prominent independent deputies of the previous convocation were either designated foreign agents, or they were not allowed to run again. Right now, it’s a scorched field. This year we will be operating in completely different conditions, which are definitely worse than five years ago. But I don’t think that politics in Russia is dead. The upcoming elections and our campaign are our chance to show that in our country there are independent politicians who want to work and are able to act.

Now we have more than 100 people on our team and have started collecting signatures. We have already attracted the attention of not only many media people, but also the attention of opponents, United Russia members and security officials. Several months before the start of the campaign, we began to receive anonymous threats, including death threats and the threats of imprisonment. And yet, this did not stop me, but rather inspired me. I am an experienced activist and this is not the first time I have encountered such pushback. I will even say that the attempt to intimidate us contributed to our advancement, since people began to talk about us. We can really win these elections: our resources are quite sufficient for this. Of course, we will not be able to crush the representatives of the ruling party, since they have all the resources of the DEG. But we can definitely defeat them fairly at the polls. This will demonstrate that there is still opposition in the city and that citizens are willing to participate in political campaigns.

— What would you answer to those people who still doubt that it is worth participating in elections in Russia in 2024 and believe that the result is known beforehand and elections cannot change anything?

— It is harmful to have illusions about elections. I understand that for many people elections come down to a race for a deputy mandate, and if you don’t get it, then that means you lost the race and everything went to dust. But in reality, elections are a political process with many purposes. For us, the mandate is not the main goal, although we are doing everything possible to get it. We are conducting the election campaign as if there were no predictable results of the DEG. We work, campaign and collect signatures. We talk to people. But at the same time, we know that there is DEG. We know it’s a black box for us and for the voters. However, our main task in this election is to reach as many people as possible who share our views.

We can show that we exist, that there are many of us, and that together we can carry out major political campaigns. Even if our mandate is stolen this year, it doesn’t mean that we have lost. Reaching tens of thousands of people is much more important than a deputy seat, especially in the current conditions in Russia. To repeat, we will still try to get a mandate, because it has its own meaning and its own power. Our other goals depend solely on how effectively we can operate, how many supporters we can attract to our campaign, how much money we can raise, and what we will do with all our resources.

— Could you tell us about the district from which you are running? What challenges do residents of this district face, and how do these challenges relate to the problems of the city as a whole?

— There are two districts in our constituency — my native Tyoply Stan and the neighboring district of Konkovo, to which I also have a strong bond. Tyoply Stan is a typical residential area of ​​Moscow. At the same time, most of its area is actually a specially protected natural area — the Tyoply Stan nature reserve. However, one of the area’s primary problems is affordable health care. Two years ago, two antenatal clinics were removed from the area. This was carried out as part of Mayor Sobyanin’s program, which, on the one hand, contributed to the improvement of the condition of many clinics, but on the other hand, created a shortage of specialists in these renovated clinics.

Sobyanin’s city program, entitled “New Moscow Standard of Polyclinics,” in principle implies that there should be practically no specialist doctors in district clinics. They are distributed to a fewer number of specialized centers that are located further from the residents of the area than clinics. These innovations are presented under the guise that in such centers you can get better medical care and treatment, there are many more specialist doctors and they are equipped with new equipment. It all looks nice, but is much less accessible.

So, instead of district antenatal clinics, residents of the district are invited to visit the new women’s health center, which requires a 40- to 60-minute journey, to be taken along an inconvenient route. Pregnant and older women, that is, those who find it difficult to move around the city, now find it even more difficult to get to the doctor. Officials respond to the critique by arguing that a pregnant woman, when coming to a regular clinic, can become infected, and this can affect the child. But a pregnant woman who takes an hour to get to the doctor by public transport faces no lesser risk.

The mayor’s program claims to improve health care, but its main goal is to save the budget: because it is easier and cheaper for officials to keep all specialists in one place and not purchase equipment for each clinic. They want to save money, not take care of residents.

Our campaign to support community medicine and its accessibility is now in its third year. During this time, we did a lot, and residents of the area collected signatures against these innovations, even independently of us. We appealed to deputies, the Ministry of Health, and the Moscow mayor’s office. And we managed to move the process forward: we successfully pushed for the creation of a project to open a new women’s health center in our area. This is, of course, not the two antenatal clinics that existed before, but still a whole new women’s health center, which will be located in relative proximity.

“Reaching tens of thousands of people is much more important than a deputy seat, especially in the current conditions in Russia”

— You mentioned that there is a large nature reserve in the district territory. What is happening with it now? How would you, as an environmental scientist, evaluate its condition?

— What’s happening with it is the same as with any other landscape reserve in Moscow. First of all, it suffers from the consequences of urban improvement efforts, which is proceeding at a rapid pace. Last year, the territory of the reserve was landscaped, paths were rebuilt, and that used a lot of equipment, creating noise pollution. The use of such equipment is prohibited during the bird nesting season, but it was used nonetheless. It can also be noted that many Red Book plants were damaged. However, I’d like to emphasize that these problems are not unique at all for the region. For example, a nature reserve is currently being improved in the north-west of the city, and it is leading to the same consequences.

— Was it possible to hold those who carried out improvement with such violations accountable?

— The office responsible for the work was the city Department for the Management of Nature Reserves (Mospriroda), and it was very hard to get into contact with them. Sometimes we succeeded in convincing them not to act so aggressively in a nature reserve. Right now, we mainly collaborate with them for the purposes of constant monitoring of the situation.

We consider the fact that the reserve represents the behavior of Mospriroda under the jurisdiction of the Russian Highways (Avtodor), which is subordinate to the prefecture, as a bad sign. Avtodor is a state infrastructure and highway service company, it does not have the specialized expertise to deal with environmental issues, and its competence is restricted to the improvement of cities, courtyards and streets. We do not expect them to monitor the state of the reserve. I think it’s worth being on the lookout now and try not to draw too much attention to the reserve. Perhaps this way we will be able to influence the decisions and procedures related to its improvement.

— Liberal politicians often say: progressive reforms are being carried out in the city, but the people are conservative and do not want to accept these reforms. During the campaign you communicate with local residents of the district. What can you say about their mood?

— Such reasoning is, of course, misleading. To me it seems rather strange to reduce the residents of my area to the world ‘people.’ People are very different; they have different views and different needs. This diversity is apparent in almost every political issue, that is, in relation to the issues of general importance. For example, let’s take the issue of yard landscaping: do we need a parking space or a lawn? Even to such questions, people give divergent answers and are divided into different camps. It’s important that all sides can and should be heard and helped to listen to the other side.

It seems to me that we are all united by the need to be heard. It doesn’t matter at all, what are the views of the person who needs it. I’ve talked to a lot of people in my area and they all genuinely miss it: they want their opinions to be taken into account. I also want their opinion to be heard, and to be taken into account. In this regard, we are comrades. This is precisely what refutes the common misconception about the conservative attitude of people. The need to speak out can very well be seen in a progressive way, as it is the need to participate in political processes.

People may not call the exchange of opinions a political process, but in fact they strive to participate in it. Residents in the area are unhappy with many things, and decisions about changes in their yard or their neighborhood are made without their knowledge. There may already be room for discussion here. Our task is to take the discussion to a new level, to initiate a dialogue between people with different positions, views and ideas about what and how to do. This will help residents get to know their neighbors better and understand their neighbor’s position. We need to promote dialogue and thereby seek consensus together.

— How did you become an activist? You were the chairman of the student council of the Department of Biology at Moscow State University and then vice-chairman of the student council of the entire university. When did you realize that you needed to take action and, more importantly, take action yourself?

— I joined student government in 2018. Then, on the eve of the World Cup, major officials decided to create a huge fan zone for 30-40 thousand spectators near the main building of the university. This caused dissatisfaction among the students, because the opening hours of the fan zone coincided with the exams period, and this is a very nervous time. Students would be preparing for exams, and under their windows there would be a noisy crowd of fans, since the university building includes a large dormitory. Secondly, the fan zone would increase the number of people on campus, where there are many valuable objects, including from an environmental point of view. Thirdly, students generally felt the need to participate in political life, as many were outraged that not a single one of them was asked about hosting a fan zone. A campaign was organized against the fan zone, which I joined as a first-year undergraduate.

At that point, I had a very vague idea of what a student council of the department was. But when my fellow students from the department addressed the council, asking it to endorse a petition against the fan zone, I saw that the people who should represent the interests of students actually represented the interests of the university administration. At that point, I realized that something needed to change. The next year, we gathered our team, got elected to the student council and stood up to protect the rights of students. We have successfully solved a number of problems.

For example, we were able to help improve the quality of education at the Department of Biology. At that moment it was considered one of the strongest biology departments in the country, but courses outside the core program were taught extremely poorly. For example, higher mathematics for freshmen. In general, freshmen, although determined to study biology, can cope with higher mathematics at the required level. But the professor, who had taught mathematics at the department for decades, could not explain the material clearly. The classes were poorly organized, the seminars did not include analysis of lecture material. As a result, students went to the exam poorly prepared, which led to expulsions. In addition, the professor had a reputation as a sexist, who once said that a woman cannot know mathematics with an A+.

We initiated the creation of a commission for control and quality of education, which consisted of students and the most respected teachers. The commission’s decision made it possible to change the situation: we managed to change the teacher of higher mathematics at the department. This was important for the students because biologists need to know math. The overall quality of education at the Department of Biology has improved.

I worked on the student council for three years. Such councils should be the very democratic governance mechanisms at universities. They should be created wherever they do not yet exist. The Student Council should really solve the problems of students and be the platform through which students could influence what is happening in their department.

“It seems to me that we are all united by the need to be heard”

— Your electoral motto reads: “Peace, equality, future.” In contemporary Russia, these are brave words. The appeal to peace is clear to everyone these days, but what is your take on equality?

— Obviously, equality is a broad and complex concept. As a leftist, I believe that equality is truly worth fighting for. Firstly, it’s equality in the socio-economic sense: I cannot accept such a wide gap between rich and poor as exists in Russia today. Secondly, it’s political equality: I believe that everyone should be able to influence politics at different levels, from one’s own home to the country level, and not transfer the power to govern the state to very narrow political elites. Thirdly, it is the equality of people in their differences: a person should not feel disadvantaged and be discriminated against for what they are. This applies to gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity.

There should be no domestic violence in our society, and the state has no right to persecute a person for having a rainbow on their clothing as an LGBTQ+ symbol. People who are in difficult life situations, especially homeless people or people with various addictions, should not be discriminated against or stigmatized. In our society, such people are greatly marginalized. I believe that we need to pay more attention to them, they need to be helped.

— Speaking about discrimination against homeless people or drug users, it is worth saying a few words about the police. For example, your program contains a point about the need to control the work of the police. How do you imagine this?

— From a pragmatic point of view, the police are a security institution that is designed to protect the state order. The police, by definition, are associated with violence, so the only question is against whom will they use this violence: the people who came to the rally with a banner, or the terrorists who took hostages? Of course, if someone went with a weapon to kill people, they need to be stopped, that’s what such an organization is for. But torture of any person is absolutely unacceptable.

Our main task is to understand how to control and limit the police as an instrument of violence. This requires serious reform. It is also necessary to limit the time police officers work in one place and in law enforcement agencies as a whole. Because the work that involves the use of force affects a person’s mental health: there is a risk that violence becomes a habit and turns into a norm. People working in law enforcement agencies must constantly undergo psychological tests and have the opportunity to seek psychological help. There must be public control over law enforcement agencies, they must be accountable, and any police activity must be open and transparent. All this also applies to the activities of courts.

Now the police seem to work according to the law, and yet, according to the same law they carry out political persecution. A conversation about the police is a big conversation, ultimately it also includes questions about the legislative branch. I approach tasks of this magnitude from the general principles of accountability of any authority to citizens and transparency of its work. It is in our power today to talk about the control over them, in which we can actively participate. For example, deputies can help people who were detained for political reasons; they can draw attention to such events. We must certainly support all political prisoners.

“There should be no domestic violence in our society, and the state has no right to persecute a person for having a rainbow on their clothing as an LGBTQ+ symbol”

— Where and how to follow your work and campaign?

— You can follow me on my Telegram channel. We also have a channel of our district community, “Tyoplostansky Aktiv.” I encourage everyone to sign up and support our campaign. At this stage, it depends on how many people and how much financial support we can attract. For example, to collect 5 thousand signatures to register a candidate, we need about 200 signature collectors, who need to be paid for the work, and for this we need 2.5 million rubles. Collecting signatures is an important, difficult and sometimes dangerous job. I was a collector myself, I visited apartments, and I perfectly understand all the conditions. In any election campaign, collecting signatures is a hard work that remains largely invisible, so it must be paid. We will be glad to receive any amount transferred to our election account. We want to support our collectors, although they are all primarily ideologically motivated and support us for political reasons.

— What are your plans after the September elections?

— I am not going to leave my district after the end of the elections and the election campaign, no matter how it ends. When I participated in the campaign for the 2022 municipal elections, I was removed through a court decision two days before the vote on an absurd charge of copyright infringement, for the slogan “Vote for independent candidates.” It turned out that several years earlier, exactly the same slogan was used in another region. After this, our team did not stop working in the area. Over the past two years, we have continued to develop the district community, the district newspaper and telegram channel. After these elections, we plan to continue this work.

After all, we don’t just want to get a seat in the Moscow City Duma, but to strengthen our community. To expand and strengthen horizontal connections in order to solve common problems and create new things. Through collective action, achieve the desired results. For example, we are now planning to put trees growing in the area on a map and organize monitoring of these trees. Any resident of the area can participate in this work and it is important. And if the mayor’s office cannot do it, then people can do it. It’s inspiring when people unite around something creative, that is, not just to fight something. This is how we can look into the future.

I don’t plan to go abroad. I love my homeland, my country and I like living here. I love my city and my district. I like the people who surround me. These people will understand and support me, and I can support them. It will be difficult for me to adapt to a different environment that I don’t fully understand. Anyone who leaves their environment would find it difficult to fit into a new society. That’s why I don’t want to go anywhere. I want people to feel good here.

“After all, we don’t just want to get a seat in the Moscow City Duma, but to strengthen our community”

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