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Russia Pushed To The Brink Amid Putin’s Chaotic Mobilization Order

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One day after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial” mobilization limited to reservists with prior military experience to go fight in the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, Viktor Dyachok, a 59-year-old surgeon, and Artyom Skutin, a 21-year- old university student, each received a draft summons to report for duty.

The notices delivered on September 22 came as a shock to both men.

Skutin should have been exempt from the mobilization order due to his status as a full-time student and he had spent the night following Putin’s September 21 announcement reading through the fine print of the order with his girlfriend to reassure himself that he would not be drafted .

Dyachok, meanwhile, had just completed a late shift at the hospital and believed that his advanced age and poor health — he has Stage 1 skin cancer and is blind in one eye — would prevent him from being called up.

Yet, the summons still came, and when both men went to the local recruitment office to show their records and report that an error had been made, both were told that they would still be sent to Ukraine and were ordered to report for training the next day or face criminal charges.

Artyom Skutin and his girlfriend never expected him to be called up.

“Any adequate medical examiner would not have approved my dad for military service,” Polina Dyachok, Viktor’s daughter, told current time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. “Once he was sent to training, there was only one military commander and [he] did not give any explanations, and there was no [health exam].”

Eventually, both Skutin and Dyachok were returned from training and released from their summonses, but only after full-throated petition campaigns launched by Dyachok’s daughter and Skutin’s longtime girlfriend that involved writing letters, enlisting the legal aid of local civil society groups, showing up in person to meet with recruitment officers, and speaking to local media.

Fleeing The Call Up

The two men’s experiences are far from isolated cases and have come to represent the chaotic and haphazard mobilization process under way inside Russia, which is fueling speculation that the Kremlin is aiming to activate far more than the 300,000 soldiers initially stated for the call-up drive by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Panic triggered by the broader mobilization effort, coupled with growing reports of men who qualified for exemptions nonetheless receiving summonses, has led to scenes of men being chased down by recruiters and loaded onto buses and planes to be sent to military training and deployment to Ukraine.

Fear of conscription has also led hundreds of thousands of Russians and counting fleeing across the country’s borders by land and air to Central Asian states like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and to others like Finland, Georgia, Mongolia, Turkey, and Serbia.

“[Until now]many people lived calmly and thought that the [the war in Ukraine] didn’t concern us,” Polina Artamonova, Skutin’s girlfriend, told Current Time. “But now things have become very tense and although Artyom is now at home, there is a fear that he can be pulled at any moment and will go back if they announce a full-scale mobilization.”

A Chaotic Mobilization

Not all of those who believed themselves to be exempt from the September 21 mobilization order have been sent back home like Skutin and Dyachok.

Andrei Grishkovits, 37, from Vsevolzhsk, a town outside of St. Petersburg, was sent off to training after trying to resolve what he thought was a clerical error over his status after his sister found out that a summons had been sent for him to an Apartment he lived in 10 years ago.

Andrei Grishkovits (2nd left) is grappling with health issues amid what he describes as tough conditions and may be deployed soon to Ukraine.

Andrei Grishkovits (2nd left) is grappling with health issues amid what he describes as tough conditions and may be deployed soon to Ukraine.

Grishkovits, who was deferred from compulsory military service when he was younger because of chronic health problems, did not expect to be conscripted, but after showing up at a local recruitment office he had his passport and ID confiscated and was then sent to a military facility in Luga, south of St Petersburg.

Irina, Grishkovits’s partner, told North. Realities that despite her attempts to raise his case, she had been so far unsuccessful and that Grishkovits was still at a training camp, where he is grappling with health issues amid what he describes as tough conditions and may be deployed soon to Ukraine.

Cases like Grishkovits’s are fueling opposition to the draft across Russia as hundreds of thousands of civilians fear being pressed into military service in the wake of major Russian battlefield losses in Ukraine.

Tearful Farewells And Religious Blessings As Mobilized Russians Head To War Against Ukraine

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Tearful Farewells And Religious Blessings As Mobilized Russians Head To War Against Ukraine

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recently announced “partial mobilization” for the war in Ukraine, many draftees, including some claiming to have no military experience, are reporting to their assigned collection points around the country for service.

More than 2,000 anti-war protesters have been arrested since the announcement, according to OVD-Info, a rights group that monitors police activity in Russia, and some recruitment centers have been attacked, including one incident where a gunman opened fire on a draft office in Siberia.

Polls also show Russians becoming increasingly anxious of the war effort following the mobilization order.

The Levada Center, long considered Russia’s most reliable pollster, said in a September 29 survey that the number of Russians believing that the Kremlin’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine is going “according to plan” decreased from 73 percent in May to 53 percent in September. Moreover, 47 percent of the respondents said they were anxious, scared, or horrified by the government’s decision to decree the partial mobilization, while 23 percent said they were shocked by the move.

The mobilization effort could also be looking to target young men who will be finishing the regular case conscription process in Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said on October 1 that this year’s regular conscription will be delayed until November 1 due to enlistment centers being overloaded amid the mobilization.

Rising concerns have also sparked an exodus of Russian males of military age to neighboring countries hoping to avoid conscription. Kazakhstan, which has a 7,644-kilometer border with Russia, says that more than 100,000 Russian citizens have entered the country since the mobilization announcement.

While many of those who fled Russia in the immediate aftermath of the February 24 invasion relied on family connections or work arrangements to help with the relocation process, the current wave of those fleeing Russia have few concrete plans. Some are using Kazakhstan and other neighboring countries as a transit hub to go to other destinations, but others are looking to settle in the region.

Sergei, who asked for his last name to remain anonymous to protect his family still inside Russia, fled to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, where he told current time that the Kremlin’s mobilization efforts were largely falling on deaf ears at home.

“There is no specific aggression towards [Russia] and on the contrary there is aggression from our country towards another,” he said. “Most people simply do not understand what they are fighting for and what they would be dying for.”

target minorities

Throughout Russia’s seven-month war in Ukraine, the Russian military has relied on units of soldiers from ethnic minority regions, including in Siberia and the Muslim-majority provinces of the North Caucasus, with those regions suffering a disproportionate number of casualties from the war.

Those same minority populations have also been disproportionately targeted amid the recent mobilization process, sparking sustained protests, mostly involving women who oppose the drafting of husbands or sons, as they’ve blocked roads, scuffled with police, and demonstrated against the war.

The Kremlin has not released official data for draft papers broken down by ethnicity and according to analysts, many of Russia’s ethnic minority republics may have a disproportionate number of reservists to be called up. Still, the move has helped reinforce a sense that Russia has been relying on ethnic minorities to provide its main fighting force for its invasion.

Russia has also called up Tatars in large numbers, including Crimean Tatars from the Crimean Peninsula, which was occupied and forcibly annexed by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014.

One Crimean Tatar, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his relatives in Crimea from being targeted by the Russian authorities there, told Crimea. Realities that he fled through mainland Russia to Kazakhstan by car after his sister learned through an acqaintance that his name had been added to the draft list and he does not know if he will ever return.

Kyiv has also sought to speak directly to Russia’s ethnic minority population recently. In a September 29 video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged minority groups across Russia to resist the Kremlin’s mobilization drive.

“You don’t have to die in Ukraine. Your sons don’t have to die in Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said, standing next to a monument in Kyiv to an imam from the Caucasus.

Written and reported by Reid Standish in Prague based on reporting by Current Time, North.Realities, and Crimea.Realities
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The Most American Flex Is a Fitness Fad

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As exercise equipment maker Peloton Interactive Inc. struggles to reinvent itself, investors must decide whether it’s worth giving the fallen Wall Street star a second chance. Let history be their guide.

Not just the company’s history. Modern humans’ relationship with physical fitness provides a cautionary tale for future investors in the next big exercise craze — and rest assured, there will be another.

Why do Americans go to such extravagant lengths to stay in shape? The rise of the so-called physical culture movement in the late 1800s, along with its close cousin, “Muscular Christianity,” marked a newfound obsession with fitness in Western nations, particularly the United States.

These movements grew out of a strange amalgam of pseudoscience, theology and anxiety about the future of native-born Whites in late 1800s. Enormous numbers of immigrants were flooding into the US and many of these Whites expressed unease that “Anglo-Saxons,” as they referred to themselves, had become “overcivilized” and soft.

Thus native-born Whites increasingly embraced team sports, outdoor activities and mandatory physical education in public schools. Private groups like the Young Men’s Christian Association, or YMCA, also promoted exercise, opening a network of gyms that mixed religion and fitness.

Still, most Americans had little interest in gyms and regimented exercise. After all, they had limited leisure time in those days and got plenty of exercise in their everyday life by walking or doing manual labor.

Moreover, some figures in the physical culture movement seemed, well, weird. Consider Bernard McFadden, a sickly child who renamed himself Bernarr because it evoked the roar of a lion. He made a fortune promoting a regimen of weight-lifting, calisthenics, restrictive diets and brisk walks. He also published a magazine called Physical Culture that became the unofficial voice of the movement. “Weakness Is a Crime,” it declared to would-be readers. “Are you a criminal?”

The eccentric bodybuilder, who courted controversy by promoting exercise for both men and women, was eventually overshadowed by another fanatic with an exclusively male clientele: the Italian immigrant Angelo Siciliano, better known as Charles Atlas. Both men gained fame and fortune hawking their programs, but they would soon be eclipsed by developments in the post-World War II era, when fitness became an abiding obsession of the White middle class.

The new ethos owed much to the suburban ideal of the 1950s. Initially, everything about the suburbs worked against fitness, from the growing dependence on the automobile, the use of buses to shuttle children to centralized schools and the advent of television. Even the single-story ranch houses that defined the era put an end to the exercise provided by going up and down stairs.

In her insightful account of this shift, historian Shelly McKenzie argues that much of the ensuing debate over fitness was framed by a new problem confronting the White middle class: “How could they enjoy the fruits of post-war affluence while also managing their bodies for optimal health?” The solution, McKenzie observed, was “the invention of exercise.”

The movement arguably began with a report by the US National Institutes of Health in 1952 that called attention to obesity as a serious health problem. A year later, a widely read study found an alarming gap between the levels of fitness in American and European children, with 56% of American children failing a standard set of tests versus only 8% of European kids.

The reason, the author concluded, was simple: European children walked a lot, climbed stairs instead of taking the elevator and spent much of their free time playing outside; Americans did not.

This article eventually came to the attention of Dwight Eisenhower, who responded by forming the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. Its leaders, working with advertising executives and other corporate allies, orchestrated an effective public relations campaign that yoked physical fitness to the imperatives of the Cold War, arguing that American boys and men had to get into fighting shape if they were to defeat the Soviets.

But the campaign targeted girls and mothers as well. One spokesman for the program declared that it not only aimed to produce “healthful, vital, masculine men,” but also “active, healthful, vital, feminine women who can mother a vigorous generation.”

All of this marked a sea change in how many Americans viewed exercise and fitness. What had formerly been a subculture associated with eccentric impresarios like Bernarr MacFadden and Charles Atlas was quickly becoming a mainstream preoccupation.

It was also becoming a big business. One of the first to see the potential was the fitness fanatic Jack LaLanne, who opened his first gym in the 1930s. In the 1950s, LaLanne launched several televised programs in which he would perform exercises — he dubbed them “trimnastics” — with the audience following along.

LaLanne, who wore a form-fitting jumpsuit to show off his sculpted body, worked on a set that resembled a suburban living room, much like those occupied by his overwhelmingly suburban, female audience. He preached the virtues of exercise for maintaining “zest” in the “marital bed.” Long before the “Peloton wife” ad stirred controversy, LaLanne’s exhortations openly connected a woman’s physical condition to her sex appeal.

The 1950s also marked the moment when commercial gyms entered the mainstream. A new generation of entrepreneurs like Vic Tanny opened gleaming temples filled with the latest exercise equipment. Tanny, who believed that “good health can be merchandized just like automobiles,” counted half a million men and women as members by decade’s end.

Other fitness chains sought to overturn the age-old adage, “no pain, no gain.” High-end salons like Slenderella, which counted three million clients in 1956, promised women that their machines, which used vibrations or rollers, held out the promise of what McKenzie, the author and historian, has called “effortless exercise.”

A paradox defined these developments. The ease of suburban life left Americans out of shape. But if modern consumer society caused the problem, it could also solve it. For a price, Americans could buy fitness via gyms, exercise programs and other pursuits.

Some of these began modestly. The jogging craze, which required a relatively minimal investment, quickly grew into an entire industry worth half a billion dollars by the end of the 1970s. Other fitness fads, like the workout program founded by Jane Fonda, wedded celebrity culture to new videotape technology to build a mass following.

The fitness business, which encompassed everything from books, tapes, equipment, apparel and gym memberships, kept growing through the 1970s and beyond. Everything from Jazzercise to Nautilus weight-training machines to Pilates gained a following in subsequent years.

In 2022, the fitness business is bigger than it has ever been. In the US, gyms and fitness clubs generate annual revenue of nearly $40 billion; home fitness equipment makers generate nearly $5 billion more.

Set against this backdrop, Peloton is nothing more than the latest entry in a decades-long quest of affluent Americans to stay fit, no matter the price.

More From Other Writers at Bloomberg Opinion:

Peloton’s New Strategy Spins All Over the Place: Andrea Felsted

Peloton’s Real Rival Is Doing Laps of Central Park: Tim Culpan

Will New York’s Fitness Scene Stay Home?: Tara Lachapelle

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Stephen Mihm, a professor of history at the University of Georgia, is coauthor of “Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance.”

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The MGTOW Movement Explained

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The MGTOW Movement Explained

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