Strange games

In the current issue of Yezhednevny zhurnal Alexander Podrabinek examines the current U.S.-Russia “spy swap” and detects a strong element of farce in the proceedings [my tr.]:

Why farce? Judge for yourself. The Russian spies who have been uncovered in the U.S. are the embodiment of amateurishness and mediocrity. And the FBI’s ten-year hunt for them can be taken about as seriously as the Russian spies themselves. The political prisoner Igor Sutyagin was not a political opponent of the regime and ended up in jail more or less by chance – simply because the FSB needed to demonstrate its success at least in something. Sutyagin bears no guilt, either political or espionage-related. He is a random victim of the Chekists’ ambitions and conscious manipulation. For his work with open sources he received 15 years in prison – quite a dramatic result of the farce performed by the FSB.

Sutyagin did not plead guilty at his trial. A large public campaign was organized in his defence, and Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. Three years ago Sutyagin filed a petition for clemency, but a few days ago he signed a written statement expressing repentance for the crime he did not commit. This was the price of freedom. According to his relatives, he explained his repentance by saying that if he had not written the statement the exchange would not take place and he felt very sorry for the Russian spies arrested in the United States, who would have had to serve time in jail, as he had. A strange argument, I think, and a very weak position, especially given that the people who have defended him all these years were sincerely convinced of his innocence. While they are unlikely to change their minds about this now, they will probably be more cautious in such cases in future. At least where Russian political prisoners are concerned.

Podrabinek sees a further dimension of strangeness in recent events:

While it is hard to congratulate Igor Sutyagin on his release, we can at least be pleased that he is free. However, it is far from clear why he needs to leave Russia. In this voluntary/involuntary departure there are echoes of the spy exchanges of the Cold War. But today, if Sutyagin still has Russian citizenship (and no one can deprive him of that), then what is to stop him returning to Russia whether temporarily or for good, at any time?

Some kind of strange game is being played by the Russian secret services. One has the impression that they thought up the idea of the exchange in a bad state of hangover, without even trying to relate their plans to current legislation and real life. Perhaps in a similar condition they also prepared the Russian spies for their work abroad. Well, they’re ours, and that explains a lot.

See also: Igor Sutyagin

The Trial

In Yezhednevny zhurnal, Alexander Podrabinek writes that a Moscow court has found him personally responsible for the collapse of the Soviet empire, and also for the fact that the Soviet Union has not existed for 18 years:

I have been tried many times in my life, and the decisions were very often not in my favour, but there has never been such a surprising one as this.

See also: As One Anti-Soviet to Others…

Officials and dissidents – 2

The Soviet past is indivisible from the Communist past. If you repudiate Anti-Sovietism, then declare a Restoration, announce the nationalization of large private property, freeze the accounts in the Cayman Islands, confiscate the mansions outside Moscow and resettle demobilized officers in them, put up for sale the countless villas, castles and estates that were bought by Russian billionaires (after all, they are officials and politicians, too) around the world, and so on. But if you are not ready for such a turn of events, then do not play with fire.

Igor G. Yakovenko, addressing Russia’s present government elite and its persecution of Alexander Podrabinek, who wrote that the Soviet past was “bloody, false and shameful” and that “The Soviet Union was not that country you portrayed in school textbooks and your lying media”.

Alexander Podrabinek: "As One Anti-Soviet to Others…"

Kerkko Paananen of Finrosforum has made a complete translation of  the Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal article “Как антисоветчик антисоветчикам…”  (As One Anti-Soviet to Others…) by Alexander Podrabinek:

It is a great pity that the owners of the “Anti-Soviet” Kebab House [in Moscow] caved in to pressure from the head of the municipal council [Vladimir] Shtukaturov and prefect [Oleg] Mitvol, and took down the café’s sign.

It is a pity because the demand of the authorities was against the law. It is a pity because this was an attack on the freedom of enterprise — specifically, blackmail on the part of the fire department and the health inspectorate. It is a pity because the complaints of the veterans are idiotic, base, and stupid. It is a pity because a name like “Anti-Soviet” calls for standing firm, not for caving in.

One does not need to blame the owners of the café; their actions are understandable, given that they surely want to hold on to their business. The actions of the authorities in Moscow, who are dizzy with praise to Stalin, do not warrant any comment. I would, however, like to say a few words to the veterans who wrote the complaint [against the café sign].

You are mistaken when you think that you have monopolised patriotism, love for Russia, and concern for her future. You are mistaken when you think that you have earned a well-deserved and honourable rest. You are mistaken when you think that you are held in high public esteem.

This belief is something that you were instilled with a long time ago. Your time has passed, however. Your fatherland is not Russia; your fatherland is the Soviet Union. You are Soviet veterans, and your country, thank God, ceased to exist 18 years ago.

Yet not even the Soviet Union was such a country as you depict in schoolbooks and your false press. The Soviet Union was not just the party faithful, shock workers, heroes of communist labour, and cosmonauts. The Soviet Union was also peasant revolts, victims of collectivisation and the Great Famine, hundreds of thousands of innocent people shot in secret police cellars, and millions of people who suffered in labour camps to the tune of the hideous Soviet national anthem.

The Soviet Union was indefinite incarceration in psychiatric hospitals, people killed for the sake of extracting more coal, and the countless cemeteries in prison labour camps filled the anonymous graves of my friends, political prisoners who did not live to see the freedoms we now have.

You were so resentful of the “anti-Soviet” name because you were the ones who served as whipmasters in labour camps and prisons, political commissars of anti-retreat units, and executioners at firing grounds. You, Soviet veterans, defended the Soviet regime, which then treated you nicely. Now you fear the truth and cling to your Soviet past.

Vladimir Dolgikh, chairman of the Moscow Council of Veterans, who submitted the complaint, was a political commissar during the war, then went on to make a career in the Communist Party, reaching the post of Secretary of the Central Committee. People of older generations should remember his name. A veteran of totalitarianism!

During his time in power, people were jailed for anti-Soviet activities; not suprising, then, that he would react so sharply against the sign above the café. You, Vladimir Ivanovich, are a member of the group of communist criminals who tried to ruin our country and who then happily escaped justice. Now you have come out again to defend your past; the Soviet past which is soaked in blood, full of lies, and an infamy to us all.

I, as a representative of our country’s anti-Soviet past, would like to tell you something. Besides you, there were other veterans in the Soviet Union, people of whom you would rather know nothing about: veterans of the struggle against the Soviet regime. Against your regime.

They, like some of you, fought against Nazism, and then went on to fight against communism in the forests of Lithuania and Western Ukraine, in the mountains of Chechnya, and in the desert of Central Asia. They stood up in revolt in the prison labour camp in Kengir in 1954 and marched to their death during the demonstrations in Novocherkassk in 1962.

Almost all of them died, almost no one retains their memory, and no squares or streets have been named in their honour. The few of them who are still alive do not receive any support or individual pension from the state; they live in poverty and obscurity. They, not you — guardians and admirers of the Soviet regime, — are the real heroes of our country.

Our somnolent society has not yet realised this. It is still incapable of either appreciating the importance of the anti-communist resistance or honouring the memory of those who were killed in the struggle against the Soviet regime. Our society is still under the hypnosis of Soviet propaganda, or, at best, is indifferent towards its own past, unable to fathom the importance of the past to its own future.

Why all this fuss about Soviet veterans, “Stalin’s falcons,” Brezhnev’s sycophants, the stranglers of freedom from Vladimir Dolgikh’s party? People are leading a humble existence without quarrel in a world full of Soviet symbols and names. They are reading Komsomolskaya Pravda, working at Moskovsky Komsomolets, playing at the Leninsky Komsomol Theatre, living on Leninsky Prospekt, and do not even ask for it to be renamed. What does it matter how it is called, they ask.

That is right, what difference does it make whether one is living in a clean place or in filth?! What startled these people was when war veterans were offended in defence of the Soviet regime. How difficult it must be to combine both the need for democracy and the need not to offend the veterans; after all, we do have to respect them.

Yes, one has to have respect for those who fought against Nazism. But not for those who defended the Soviet regime. One has to respect the memory of those who opposed communism in the Soviet Union. They defended freedom in a country that was not free. Does their memory carry any significance in a Russia which calls itself democratic?

It is time to stop the self-righteous wailing about the feelings of the veterans who are offended by attacks against the Soviet regime. Evil has to be punished, and those who serve it as well. The scorn of their descendants is the least that those who built and defended the Soviet regime deserve.

Alexander Podrabinek, 21.09.2009

[Translation: Kerkko Paananen]

See also: Dissidents sign letter supporting Alexander Podrabinek

Dissidents sign letter supporting Alexander Podrabinek

A group of well-known Russian dissidents, including Vladimir Bukovsky, Natalya Gorbanevskaya and Irina Belogorodskaya, has signed  a letter of support for Alexander Podrabinek, who is currently facing a campaign of intimidation and persecution by adherents of a government-backed nationalist youth movement because of an article he wrote for Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal (ej.ru), in which he attacked official Russian military veterans’ groups for defending the “bloody, false and shameful” Soviet past, and insisted that “veterans of the struggle against Soviet power” were also heroes (Telegraph). Podrabinek’s life is thought to be in danger.

See also: Moscow has crossed the Rubicon from an Authoritarian  to ‘an Openly Bandit Regime’, Russian Commentator Says (Window on Eurasia).