Russia – Past, Present and Future

THE OFFICIAL VIEW

“As Russia marks the centenary of the October Revolution, President Vladimir Putin has urged the society to end discord over the Soviet era,” reported the TASS news agency[1] on 21 December 2017.

“This year, the centenary of the October Revolution, we have been seeking to encourage the society to abandon confrontation, to see themselves as a single society and realize that we are continuing our common centuries-long history,” Putin told a session of the Council for Culture and Art.

“Whether we like certain years or not, but there was everything there – bad things, but also a lot of good things that should not be forgotten,” he said.

[Excerpt …]

Johnson’s Russia List
2017-#239, Friday, 22 December 2017, Item 1

HOW RUSSIA REPRESSES THE PAST

Nikita Petrov (Memorial)

Every spring, buses covered in portraits of Joseph Stalin appear on the streets of Russian cities. His face replaces ads for cell phones, soft drinks, laundry detergent, and cat food. With each passing year, the dictator gets more handsome and more glamorous; a portrait of him in his gorgeous white generalissimo’s jacket has become especially popular. He casts his stern gaze on the citizens, as if to say, “Remember me? I’m here, I didn’t go anywhere – and don’t you forget it!”  Continue reading

Memorial launches new database in city “where Dmitriev worked”

O 5 December, Memorial presented the updated 5th edition of its database in Petrozavodsk, containing the names of political prisoners and forced settlers who were executed during the Soviet period. The new version was being launched, noted ALEXANDER DANIEL of Memorial, at the very same time in other cities across Russia: Tomsk (Siberia), Syktyvkar (Northwest Russia), Perm (Volga Federal District), Moscow and St. Petersburg.

young Dmitriev

Yury Dmitriev in early 1990s

“Why did “Memorial” choose to launch this new edition in Petrozavodsk?” asked Daniel. “Because Karelia is one of the few parts of Russia where the lists of victims are more or less complete. There are hardly any other regions like it. And that is  thanks to two wonderful people:  the late IVAN CHUKHIN and YURY DMITRIEV. “I think you all know where Yury is today. Petrozavodsk is the city where Chukhin worked, where Yury Dmitriev worked, and where Dmitriev will continue to work in the future.” (Full version of report, overleaf)

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“Why is Yury Dmitriev on trial?” RFI interviews Irina Flige (excerpt)

“Your colleague, Yury Dmitriev, is now on trial in Karelia,” asks Radio France Internationale interviewer. “Many link the prosecution to his work for Memorial. What’s your view?”

Well, everything in this world is connected, but sometimes there are direct links. In this case that is not exactly true. It would not be correct to say that Yury Dmitriev was looking, with us, for the Sandarmokh burial ground, that he took part in the Days of Remembrance there, and that is why he was arrested.

Irina Flige (RFI)

Irina Flige, director of the Memorial Research and Information Centre (St Petersburg)

What we can say, today, is that there is no case against him — he has committed no crime. His friends, acquaintances and colleagues know that; so does his defence attorney who has examined the case files in detail. Without doubt, Yury Dmitriev is a political prisoner. That is not only our opinion. It is the view of all his supporters, those 30,000 and more who signed the petition submitted to the court.

Someone issued instructions that Dmitriev be put on trial. As often happens, we do not know who is behind the charges and how the case took shape. As always with political trials, however, what triggered this case will sooner or later become public knowledge.

For the full text of the interview,
see Rights in Russia No 36 (269), 27 November 2017

Stalin’s long shadow

“In March 1953, after Stalin’s death, the chief editor of the weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta Konstantin Simonov wrote that the main task of Soviet literature henceforth would be to understand Stalin’s role in Russian history. He had no idea how right he would be!” writes Alexander Cherkasov.

“It was literature that fostered the growth of interest in history at the end of the 1980s: memoirs and fiction, from Shalamov and Solzhenitsyn to Iskander and Rybakov; works published internally as samizdat and as tamizdat abroad that later spilled onto the pages of the literary journals of the perestroika era. The time for historians would come later.” Continue reading

“Restoring the Names”, 29 October 2017

Yesterday’s event in Moscow, from 10 am to 10 pm on Lubyanka Square (photos – Alexei Koreshkov)

Restoring the Names, 29 October 2017 (15).jpg

This year 5,286 people took part in “Restoring the Names” a commemorative event held annually on 29 October (in 2007, the event’s first year, they numbered only 263). People queued up to 4½ hours in order to read out one name or several.

During the minute’s silence the embassies of 28 countries placed flowers on the monument to the victims of totalitarianism.

“Until 1 pm we were still trying to keep track of how many people called for the release of Yury Dmitriev. Then we lost count, but it seems that every sixth speaker called for the head of Memorial in Karelia to be freed.”

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Alexei Vangengeim (1882-1937)

According to the weather forecast, it will be warm and rainy today in Moscow, 4-5 degrees Centigrade. “So wrap up well, put on boots and a raincoat, and take an umbrella with you,” suggests Memorial to the hundreds of people intending to take part in the “Restoring the Names” ceremony on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square.

In January 1934 the head and founder of the Soviet Meteorological Service, ALEXEI WANGENHEIM (1881-1937), was arrested and charged with “counter-revolutionary sabotage” in the organisation he had created. He spent the last three years of his life on Solovki before being shot, at this time of year, with the rest of the “missing” Solovki transport.

Alexei Wangenheim, 1882-1937

Wife and husband; daughter and mother; prison photos

The last resting place of Wangenheim (Vangengeim) and his comrades in misfortune was not established until almost sixty years later, when Yury Dmitriev, Irina Flige and Venyamin Joffe found the killing fields of Sandarmokh, early in July 1997.

 

“Restoring the Names”, 2017

“From 10 am to 10 pm on Sunday, 29 October, we shall be reading out the names of the victims of political repression here in Moscow,” announces an item on the Restoring the Names page on Facebook. “The Memorial Society has organised this event for ten years, ever since 2007. One after another, people will get up and read from the list. Yet thus far we have barely read half of the names of  the 40,000 people executed in and around Moscow during the pre-war period.”

Continue reading