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.
The Moscow Times reports that NASHI’s harassment of Podrabinek has been condemned even by the Kremlin’s own human rights ombudsman:
Nashi members picketing outside the home of journalist and human rights activist Alexander Podrabinek are violating at least five articles of the Constitution and inciting hatred, the Kremlin’s human rights council said Monday.
The watchdog, led by Ella Pamfilova, called the protests “a persecution campaign … organized by irresponsible adventurists from Nashi” and said the activists were showing open signs of extremism.
The pro-Kremlin youth group enlisted about 100 veterans to continue their protest Monday, which began Sept. 29 after Podrabinek published an article criticizing the Moscow Union of Veterans.
Podrabinek suggested that the veterans group’s members were former “camp guards” and “executioners” for demanding that a Moscow restaurant change its name from Antisovetskaya, or Anti-Soviet, to Sovetskaya. The restaurant’s owner said he was forced to change the name under pressure from Oleg Mitvol, prefect for the Northern Administrative District. The veterans group had complained to Mitvol.
The Kremlin’s human rights council said Nashi was in violation of Articles 23, 24, 25, 27 and 29 of the Constitution. Among other things, the articles guarantee: the inviolability of personal life and home; that a citizen’s personal information will not be spread without his consent; the right to choose one’s residence; and the rights to freedom of thought and conscience, including a freedom from pressure to retract or alter one’s beliefs.
Those who disagree with Podrabinek should answer his article in kind, and if they feel that his criticism infringed on anyone’s rights or broke the law they should turn to the courts, the council said in a statement.
“The council expresses its deep regret and disturbance over Nashi’s actions, which not only recall the shameful Soviet persecution campaigns against dissenters. … They also give Russia’s young people an unabashed example of legal nihilism,” it said, using President Dmitry Medvedev’s term for widespread disregard for the law.
It also called on the authorities to investigate Nashi’s actions for extremism and to protect Podrabinek.
Podrabinek went into hiding, writing on his blog Sept. 28 that he had received “information from credible sources that a decision has been made at quite a high level to dispose of me in any possible way.” The harassment campaign has drawn international attention, including from French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who said he raised the issue during a visit to Moscow on Thursday.
Podrabinek, a human rights activist since the 1970s and head of the Prima-News news agency, also works for publications such as the Russian-language service of Radio France International and Novaya Gazeta.
Nashi, which has maintained close ties to founder Vasily Yakemenko, now head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, has been known to hound opponents in the past, including opposition politicians and foreign dignitaries.
Nashi leader Nikita Borovikov defended the picket as part of an attempt to hold journalists and human rights activists responsible for their perceived misdeeds in the media.
“Respect for old age and the trials these people went through are natural for any decent person, and when he loses it, he ceases to be a person. The Nashi movement is a patriotic organization and one of its tasks … is to defend the honor and dignity of veterans,” Borovikov said in a statement on the group’s web site. “We won’t let Podrabinek continue posing as a victim.”
The group’s statement also included an Associated Press photo showing Nashi activists videotaping the delivery of a letter from the veterans in Podrabinek’s mailbox, which appeared to be open. The activists will continue to place the letter in his mailbox every day, the statement said.
At Monday’s rally, activists dressed in trademark red jackets and veterans rallied with posters carrying World War II symbols and posters saying, “The freedom of the press doesn’t mean lawlessness in journalism.”
Municipal authorities have authorized the ongoing rally.
Tatyana Lokshina, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said she couldn’t recall any other case where Nashi had campaigned against a journalist. “Hopefully, the [Kremlin] watchdog’s appeal will draw more attention to the problem in the government,” Lokshina said.