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The Art of War: Kaleidoscope
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Year 2009, 1
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The Art of War: Kaleidoscope

Umělec magazine 2009/1


Alena Boika | war | en cs de es

Art can be introduced through different genres and mediums. In exploration of what is understood under such specific terminology as “the art of war,” here are some modest varieties.

In Moscow you can purchase DVDs about the Chechnya conflict along almost every street. They are an art form in their own right, utilizing the universal instruments of creation—elegantly framed images of children’s drawings on the walls of blown up building, masculine warriors enchanting girls from enemy camps, using them unto their own advantage. Characteristic of these films is the lack of practically any “bad” characters—two dimensional renditions of insurgents appear momentarily, though even an unsophisticated viewer would doubt their authenticity. Otherwise Russians and Chechens are all sympathetic, making it difficult to understand why they are killing each other. Almost like in real life. Only in real life, there is a historical truth and in film there really isn’t much at all. Sinister and harsh, yet kind and clever Russian soldiers kill only their truly evil opponents. If any kill is an unrighteous one, it is only because someone was framed. Depictions of children are expectedly powerful. Russian soldiers enter a home—a planned “cleaning” (Russian divisions raid a settlement in search of enemies, punishing the relatives of those suspected of engaging in terrorist acts)—on the floor sits a one-legged boy who hits a mine with a hammer. The explosion is delayed long enough to allow the Russians to dramatically flee from the house. There is an immediate gathering of angry belligerent villagers, ready to unjustly condemn the soldiers right on the spot. In their escape attempt, they shoot the legs of a woman, leading into a long inquiry in the film as to who fired the shot. In real life there have been thousands of women who have been shot, and no one cared. Anna Politovskaya, one of the people who did care, filled in the numbers. Lenin once said that the film is an art of the utmost importance, but even he would doubt this sentiment, watching these clumsy attempts to sugarcoat the Chechnyan conflict.

The Video Sixty hours of the Maikopskoy Brigade was uploaded on youtube by a man called solovey12. Below is a script of the dialogues-conversation led through a radio set on the background of a documentary. Battle of Grozny or 60 hour “Maikopskoy” brigade (Chechnya) 60 Hours of Maikopskoy brigade 31.12.1994 Alik, let’s maybe, perhaps while it’s not too late, take the boys away, don’t do it, no need. You will die, and I will die—what will be the point? Who will win from that? We won’t win, do you understand? Only… nobody will judge. It’ll be better if you’ll visit me as a guest. Take the boys away, feel mercy for their mothers, and them, Alik, take the boys away, give the order. - I’m not that big of a commander to give such commands. - Alik, understand, I wish you, of course, from the heart, that you remain alive. It’s better if you leave. - I’ve no choice, I got an order, and I will do it no matter of what. - Narrator: The second squadron never reached the train station, it ceased to be right away. - 10th, 10th, I’m located by the train station. Can’t understand who the fuck keeps throwing the grenades. - Okay, I’m 140 coming from the South. - So close now, fuck, worked through the depot. - Got it—orientation through the depot. - Tow cars, two cars, on the platform, you could see them through the tracks, and they all need to be hit. - 110th caliber. Come in? - I am the trade sorting station. - In front of you, fuck, there are two boxes—have you seen the boxes? - Yes, there are two little boxes and two large ones. - The owner drove by in the courtyard—there are four little ones. - I see them! One little one, two! That’s all, nothing more! - Towards you are our men! You have a mission, which you must immediately do! - Conductor! He must show up, show the road, Ordjonikidze prospect is blocked. - 11, -10 – come in, - 11 here- I’m listening. - I demand to know, where the fuck is help? They’re bombing us. - I’ll find out right now, right now, where help is. - 10, 11 here-the help is coming, commandoes and motor-rife company. Got it? Come in. There’s fire around you…hide everyone in a shelter, come in - Fucking us…everything’s falling over, blockaded from all sides, grenades. Shooting at us from the railways, those squadrons are standing there… - Got it, got it, I’m listening - 11th, 11th-listen here, call 104, give him the contacts, where to go, I’m hit in the back, in the back…injured - Got it, got, you’re hit in the back. - 136, don’t shoot, it’s our own! It’s Kamin, Kamin! - Garbusin, Garbusin, ours, ours, we got an issue… - Fucking us through man, get 104. - Got it, got it. …one after the other, I don’t get it, whose... - Right now is everything all right? - Right now I don’t hear, don’t know, don’t hear anything and don’t know. …the car is burned…do you know the result? - I don’t know, don’t know anything, we can’t reach them. Come in— - You won’t reach them because they’re burned. But I got it, all’s good. (Insane, divided by syllables, laughter) - Narrator: By the morning of January 1st the second battalion, which never reached the train station, was completely destroyed. The remnants of the first battalion would take the train station any minute now, no doubt. - 64 come in. - You won’t be able to make it through the Ordjonikidze prospect. - Where do we go: right, left? - Mayakavskiy street; what’s happening there? - We’re firing, we’re firing. - Help is coming, it’s coming, but where. I don’t know yet, column - 4th, I’m injured… (cries) BMP is taken out of formation - 10th - 11th - 11th, what the fuck are you thinking? We’re all gonna fucking die, isn’t that cunt? We need immediate fucking help. - I understand, I understand, they’re already coming. (Sounds of the “Moon Sonnet” play in the background) - We need to take out the injured - I got it, I got it all - Doctor, I’m a doctor, come in-are there any casualties? - There are, about 60-70 people - Where are they? - By the train station
The video ends here. The full version of the story can be seen in the 40 minute film “60 hours of Maikopskoy Brigade” (By M. Polunin, O. Zaitsev, 1995). The injured were placed on the surviving three vehicles as the battle continued for two days. But the vehicles were destroyed before they could leave the city. There was no second attempt, there was nothing to leave on. The rest of the injured lay dying. When it became clear that very soon there would be nothing to fight with, they decided to leave the train station. They began walking quietly on cross ties, followed by no one, ordered “not to open fire”. When those who walked in front felt that safety was near, their nerves gave in, and they sat in the snow. The rest followed in suit. The political commissar kept yelling: “get up, I promise two awards to whoever goes first!” The two people who went first blew up, the others stayed down. Not one of them survived. There was no communication with their superiors, there was no brigade left. On the 31st of December 1994, 700 men and 100 technical units entered Grozny, 60 hours later (January 2nd) about 200 men and 7 units left Grozny. Other divisions that entered Grozny on the 31st of December met the same fate. Later, when those still alive tried to understand what could have happened, the answer was that their superiors decided to make a birthday gift for Pavel Grachev n January 1st, reporting the taking of Grozny. (Pavel Grachev –in the time frame of the film is the general of the army, serving with the equestrian unit of the Russian armed forces, the minister of defense of RF, the commander-in-chief of the Chechen war company).

Below are listed excerpts from some issues of the “Art of War” almanac ( The texts of the almanac are presented by headings,-zones of war conflicts. It was wished to be presented in somewhat creative varieties.

Heading: Afghanistan “Bortzhurnal No 57-22-10” (excerpts from a book) Issue: No(6) – 2008 Author: Frolov Igor (Afghanistan) …If one had to choose from the files of memory an image that would include in itself EVERYTHING, senior Lieutenant F. would have chosen this: Night. They just flew in. The borttechnik gassed up the car, closed and sealed the door. On the floor of the cargo cabin there remained a lot of blood, but he doesn’t wish to wash it right now, in the dark. Tomorrow morning when he will open the door, a black, buzzing, cloud of flies, gathered on the congealed blood, will escape from the helicopter. That’s when he will get the water truck and with a brush, thoroughly wash the floor. But right now he is going home. The sky is dusted with large stars, the earth is still breathing warmth, but the cold of the night can already be felt in the air. The borttechnik unzips the jacket of his overalls, offering his heated chest to the light wind. He is tired-the earth is still shaking under his feet from the flight. He smokes, holding the cigarette with his teeth. Somewhere near, on the corner of the hangar, sighs and jingles, like a horse, an unseen guard. The borttechnik turns from the parking lot, leaves through the gate to the path. To the right there is a large railroad container. The wind carries the scent of medicine, a yellow light pushes its way through a gap of a slightly opened door, laughter is heard. That’s where the woman’s bathroom is. The borttechnik listens in, smiling. After standing a bit, he walks on, swinging his automatic by the belt. He lifts his head, looks at the furry Van-Gogh stars, sees, how between them the trace queue grows as a red dotted line. Her distant ta-ta, ta-ta-ta is heard. Suddenly something quakes behind the runway, the earth pulls out from under his feet, an invisible being passes in the night sky with a rustle, the western mountains hit tightly in the chest, and all is silent once more. A squeak of the iron door, light rustle of feet, laughter, and silence… Night, stars, light of the cigarette- and the Great War turns, sighing in its dreams. The war which is always with you… 10 March-7 April 2005

Petruha (excerpt) Once I walked into a cell where the “War Bum” lived: wooden planks on top of which laid piles of dirty, stench filled rags that served as Petruha’s bed. The cell is filled with a heavy stench of a sour bodies unwashed for a long time, cheap tobacco and onions. A bitten onion, bread crumbs and a dirty aluminum spoon lay on a piece of newspaper. Under the ceiling hangs a dim lamp. There is an immediate repulsion, a need to run for air, but a strange feeling won’t let me go. Something is seen from the corner of the eye. I stop and carefully look around the cell. Right from the white wall smiles at me with her charming smile the Mona Lisa! The drawing is made with coal and has such a resemblance to the original that my jaw drops. A bit later I notice another drawing-on a granite quay of the river, with her back turned, stands a woman with a little girl, the wind blows savagely, and behind them are birch woods and the whole composition gives off an inhumane, somewhat beastly melancholy. The two sad figures remind me of something, something difficult to catch as it flees into memory. The thought wags a slippery tail and escapes in the depths of the conscience; I turn to Petruha, who stands by my shoulder and ask: Who is it? He answers quickly, obviously awaiting this question. Strange women! Why did you draw them? Don’t know, maybe so it’d be merry… I walk out to the fresh air, and with the first swallow of delight in my head, the escaped thought lights up in my head like a lamp: “Peter Buravskiy had a wife and a daughter, an apartment and a different life”. The heart begins to ache, and for some reason I pity myself, and not Petruha. Ochamchira-Gagra, 1994-2002

SCAR Issue: No1 (2) - 2007 Heading: Chechnya Author: Vitaliy Ckvortsov (Datestan, Chechnya) This happened at the end of December 1999. For over a month our formation had been blockading Airak-a Chechen village, where over 600 insurgents were dug in. The commandoes began the storming of Airak. At the end of the road gleamed dawn, we walked out on the platform and stopped in our tracks. There were dead people there. Men, women and children. The insurgents, shocked by the sudden impact of the commandoes, used the oldest move, using citizens as shields. Classic move, women and children, taken as hostages. Commandoes opened fire. It seemed that many of them tried to run, save themselves, but they were shot in their backs. And blood, blood was everywhere. It was impossible to look at. I wanted to vomit… Silently we stood over the corpses, lowering our automatics. We were told of patriotism, how the highest love for our Native Land leads to one thing—killing and throwing around the intestines in the most awful ways. We don’t want to fight, but get up anyways and go kill. We shoot, throw grenades, and ourselves die in pools of dirt, our own blood pouring over us. We are an instrument with no will of our own in the hands of a hellish system. The war ended up being nothing like what I imagined it to be as a boy, and nothing at all like what they showed in movies. In childhood the war inspired in me genuine, patriotic feelings, which were taught to us with the grandeur of the time. I remember how my father bought me a budenovka, and I rode my red plastic horse with ardor, and swung my toy saber with loud hoorahs and rosy cheeks. And now they’re sunken in, and the whole body is covered with pus filled ulcers. War is not just beautifully staged battles and heroic actions. War is grief and death, war is a sickness and suffering, war is a destruction of innocent people. War is our ripped souls. And those…those, who are left behind the ridge, they don’t know anything. They sit there and don’t know anything, while somebody bullshits them about terror operations, and the necessity of a forced resolution of conflict. There are women here, women and children, and now they’re lying dead on a platform, and snow is falling on their open eyes… And we started to bury the corpses. The commander lied about the excavator; we were forced to gnaw the frozen earth with our engineer blades. We buried only women and children, to hide the traces before the arrival of the superiors. It got colder in the night and the bodies were permanently frozen to the earth. The Forman gave an axe to Sudak, and he had to carve out each body. He felt sick when human fingers got caught under the blades. Sudak vomited and with revulsion kept cutting on. Len and me loaded the stiffened corpses on the groundsheet and dragged them to the edge behind the elevator, where two huge holes were dug out. “Wait, hold on,” Len stopped me, when we returned from one of the trips. A little dead girl about 11 years of age laid on the ground. She had nothing to do with politics, and I think, she could care less if Chechnya was part of Russia or independent. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Len bent down and carefully ripped off a little doll from the frozen fingers, and carefully put her nearby… I sighed deeply and saw how Len put the doll away in his bosom pocket. Why does he need it? We poured gasoline over the corpses and threw in a burning torch. We stood and watched from above how the flames spread. I remember how in my childhood I drew the war with colored pencils and everything was clear; here are the Germans, and here are our men. I drew the Germans ugly, with bony hands…and now? Now I am burning the corpse of a little girl, because she is my enemy.



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