Lars Lih is a scholar who lives in Montreal, Canada. He has written extensively on Russia’s revolutionary history and the early Soviet period. He’s the author of several books including Bread and Authority in Russia, 1914-1921, Lenin Rediscovered: What is to be Done? In Context, and co-editor with Oleg Naumov and Oleg Khlevniuk of The Stalin-Molotov Letters, 1925-1936. His most recent book is Lenin published by Reaktion Books.
DJ Shadow, “The Sideshow (feat: Ernie Fresh),” The Mountain Will Fall, 2016.
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- By Sean — 10 years ago
It turns out that Memorial’s court victory was short lived. According to Fotanka.ru, the St. Petersburg prosecutor appealed the Dzerzhinskii court’s February 24 ruling that went in Memorial’s favor.
My hope, even jubilation, that this circus was finally over was premature. The case will now go to court for the third time.
Irina Flige, the head of Memorial, told Ezhednevnyi zhurnal that the prosecutor’s office promised to begin returning the hard disks though there was no agreement on the procedure. “We must make sure that [the materials] are complete and that all the information is there, and that they are in working condition,” she said. She then added this interesting assessment of the situation,
It is not stated in the law how many times the prosecutor can appeal a court’s decision. The meaning is altogether obvious: The fact that the district and city court simply dealt out the pot [i.e. as in poker]. And as long as we can’t jump out of this circle, we can’t appeal the decision to a higher authority. As long as they play his game of “district court good, city court bad”, we can’t take any other steps. The first time this wasn’t clear, but now it has become clear. That is to say, even if the district court makes a bad ruling the second time, we will have the possibility of moving further because would would have some kind of decision. Our decisions do not go into legal force and we have nothing to appeal.
Does Flige mean that Memorial is stuck in a legal dance with the prosecutor, and as long as the courts rule in their favor, they are stuck at the district and city level? Maybe someone who knows Russian legal process can explain this.
In the meantime, Memorial is back at square one. No exact court date set for the next trial. This will be announced after April 10.
A third time’s a charm, I guess . . .
- By Sean — 10 years ago
Anyone who watches the goings on in Russia knows about last week’s police raid of the human rights organization Memorial in St. Petersburg. The six hour search by masked, truncheon wielding agents has received forceful, cautious and hysterical condemnation as people try to figure out why the hard drives and computer files, financial records, archival documents about Stalinist repression were confiscated. While the English language press is shrieking Stalinism redux (A strange assertion since a very large international academic conference on Stalinism took place in Moscow this weekend.), the Russian media is hardly mentioning Stalinism and are playing up other but no less fantastic angles. For example, one theory that is gathering steam is that Memorial was raided because it recently screened the film Rebellion: Litvinenko Case.
If the conspiracy theories put forward to explain the raid weren’t strange enough, the official story is even stranger. According to LJ user lev_k, who has given a step by step account of the raid, the search is connected to an extremism investigation of Novyi Peterburg. The extremist track in question is an article published last summer called “General Rodionov – There’s a Real Candidate!” by K. Chernyaev. The article spews all sorts of anti-Semitic allegations that the Gluag was created by Jews and goes so far as to suggest the occurrence of a number of ritual blood murders in Krasnoyarsk in 2005, 2006, and 2008. The authorities say that Novyi Peterburg and Chernyanev have some connection to Memorial based documents seized in a search of the newspaper’s offices. Memorial, of course, denies any connection whatsoever. “Neither Andreev [the editor of Novyi], the article’s author, or Novyi Peterburg has any connection to Memorial. We have neither good nor bad relations. We are simply not acquainted. Just how Memorial is connected to this criminal case is unknown to us.”
I assume that if there is any real connection, it will (hopefully) come out in the coming days. I doubt it. Part of me thinks that the Petersburg authorities made a bad mistake, which could be even worse because now they’ll probably do whatever necessary to save face. Nevertheless, given how extremism is being applied in all directions these days also makes me wonder if something more nefarious is at work.
Many in the Russian press believe something is afoot and are attempting to peal back the onion and discover the real story behind the “official” one.
Nezavisimaya gazeta has connected the dots as follows. The head of the investigation is Mikhail Kalganov, who has already had his name “connected to many political cases” in St. Petersburg. The most memorable was his involvement in the arrest of the Yabloko leader Maksim Reznik earlier this year. Apparently Kalganov also detained a television crew for filming a large fire in Russia’s second capital. Therefore since Kalganov has a history of harassing liberals and media, the raid against Memorial must be part of this trend.
Russia’s liberals have fed this theory. Reznik told Kommersant that “It is difficult for me to comment of activities of Investigator Mikhail Kalganov. He leads my case at the moment. How can you comment on the actions of a person who has a portrait of Felix Dzerzhinskii next to an icon in his office? If this isn’t by his own initiative, then I don’t understand why the prosecutor gives him such political cases. If this is an order from above, then this is one of the most atrocious demonstration of the country’s legal system.”
In regard to whether the raid is connected to the 20 November screening of Rebellion: Litvinenko Case, Yulii Rybakov, a Memorial worker and former Duma rep, said the following: “This film asks questions that those in power don’t want to answer.” Well, it seems that Rybakov has never seen the film and is making assumptions based on Andrei Nekrasov’s other conspiracy laden films. I’ve seen Rebellion (it as called Poisoned by Polonium when it showed in LA) and I the only reason why I could see Russian authorities not wanting to answer any questions in it is because said questions are complete nonsense. If the raid is an atrocious example of Russian governance, then Rebellion is a similar example of filmmaking.
So what was the real reason for the raid on Memorial? Do they have an embarrassing connection of a nationalist rant as the official version suggests? Do the Stalinist redux, liberal or Litvinenko conspiracy versions hold water? Or was the whole thing a serious f-up on the part of the St. Petersburg’s keystones?
As of now, I’m with the latter. That is until more information is released. For some reason, I can’t help being reminded of Jello Biafra’s faint words at the end of Lard’s “Drug Raid at 4 a.m.”
“Um, sorry, wrong house.”
- By Sean — 4 years ago
Balazs Jarabik, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses on Ukraine and Eastern Europe. His most recent article is “What Did Minsk II Actually Achieve?”
Valerie Sperling, professor of Political Science at Clark University and author of Sex, Politics, and Putin: Political Legitimacy in Russia (Oxford, 2014).