Peter Whitewood is a Lecturer in History at York St. John University where he specializes in Soviet history, military history, and the aftermath of war. He’s the author of The Red Army and the Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Soviet Military published by University Press of Kansas.
Einsturzende Neubauten, “The Willy-Nicky Telegrams,” Lament, 2014.
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By Sean — 2 years ago
By Sean — 9 years ago
It appears that some of Medvedev’s liberal posturing is producing concrete results. Or at least someone is getting the signals. Finally, fi-nal-ly Memorial has gotten its materials back from the St. Petersburg prosecutor. Twelve computer hard disks, or “Winchesters” as one report calls them, about 1000 business cards belonging to A. D. Margolis (the general director of St. Petersburg Rescue Fund and editor of the St. Petersburg Encyclopedia, and heаd of several Memorial projects), and seven CDs and DVDs were returned to the human rights organization on Thursday.
The return of Memorial’s property followed another ruling in its favor by the Dzerzhinsky court that deemed the December raid by the police as unlawful. The case’s lead investigator Mikhail Kalganov decided to not press the issue further. “Yes, this is our victory,” Memorial’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov told Kommersant. “And we think that in this case the Russian legal system managed itself [well]. The court has shown that it is on the right side.” It also didn’t hurt, the advocate said, that Russia’s representative to the OSCE spoke out on Memorial’s behalf. So the question is did the legal system work or did Memorial have an influential patron? Or better yet, is this another, albeit small, sign of a Medvedevian “thaw” in the forecast?
A thorough inspection of the “Winchesters” will be done on May 13 to make sure the authorities didn’t erase anything or damage any of the files.
Thus ends an almost six month ordeal. It’s nice to see a happy ending to an incident that generated cries about the return of Stalinism. As I said in my last post on the Memorial Saga, I expect this victory to get as much press as the initial raid.
Still, despite the positive outcome, Memorial still had to jump through several hoops for a victory that they never should have been forced to fight for in the first place. Which leaves one crucial question unanswered. Why was Memorial raided exactly? I guess we’ll never really know. I don’t expect Chief Investigator Kalganov to shed any light on this any time soon. For the time being, he’s got some wounds to lick.Post Views: 900
By Sean — 11 years ago
When I was in Russia last October I met a woman named Alexandra in the Komsomol archive. Last year, I wrote about how she was researching “Komsomol capitalism” for an article she was writing for Der Spiegel.
One of the things I didn’t mention was her claim that her father, who turns out to be Lev Besymenski, had been one of the Russian officers to search Hitler’s bunker. Like many Russians, he took souvenirs back with him. But Besymenski didn’t simply grab cutlery and other trinkets. He took something closer to his passion: music. More specifically, 100 shellac specimens from Hitler’s private record collection.
Alexandra claimed that one summer she stumbled upon a collection in their dacha’s attic. The collection consisted of classical and opera music by Russian and Jewish composers. I remember who she expressed disgust at the at Hitler’s hypocrisy at being a fan of those he considered subhuman. I didn’t know what to think of this story at the time (In addition to the Hitler record story, she also said that she was friends with Condoleezza Rice among other things). Frankly, I didn’t know whether to believe her or not. To be polite and for the sake of interesting conversation, I went with it and told her that these records were probably quite valuable. She seemed surprised that anyone would have any interest in these artifacts.
It turns out that Alexandra was telling the truth. Lev Besymenski died in June and Alexandra made the collection available to Der Spiegel for perusal. Here is what they found:
Hitler’s second passion, after architecture, was music. He went to the opera house almost daily during his time in Vienna to listen to the music of Beethoven, Wagner, Liszt or Brahms. But to him, only German music counted. Yet Besymenski’s collection astonishingly contains works by composers the Nazis considered “subhumans,” including Russian composers such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin and Sergei Rachmaninov. For example, the item with the inventory number “Führerhauptquartier 840” contains a recording by the Electrola company labeled “Bass in Russian with Orchestra and Chorus” — a recording of the aria “The Death of Boris Godunov” by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, sung by Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin.
Another album contains nothing but works by Tchaikovsky with solo performances by star violinist Bronislav Huberman, a Polish Jew. “I feel this is a sheer mockery of the millions of Slavs and Jews who had to die because of the racial ideology of the Nazis,” a stirred-up Alexandra Besymenskaya remarks today.
It just goes to show that you never know who’ll you’ll meet, let along hear, in a Russian archive.Post Views: 197