absolute power, Absolutely Powerless, Cold War, Cold War history, dictatorship, KGB, medieval v modern, Oyub Titiev, Political Evil, Political Medievalism, punitive psychiatry, Soviet / post-Soviet politics, totalitarianism, USSR, Vladimir Putin, Yuri Dmitriev
The BackChannels editor has to wear “readers” too, but to spare some squinting here’s the most critical pull from the small print in the above image:
Dissenters, as a rule, have enough legal grounding so as not to make mistakes during their investigation and trial, but when confronted by a qualified psychiatrist with a directive from above to have them declared non-responsible, they have found themselves absolutely powerless.
Kafka comes to mind.
So does Milan Kundera’s famous statement: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
President Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship has chosen for Russians the erasure of their memory and gone after the culturally healing human rights organization Memorial.
While Yuri Dimitriev’s dark adventure into Putin’s Hell gains traction in the western human rights community, another Memorial notable has been apparently framed (here relayed in shortest form):
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/01/russia-rights-defender-arbitrarily-arrested-in-chechnya/ – 1/11/2018
https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/01/276951.htm – 1/11/2018
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/10/chechnya-under-fire-after-human-rights-activist-held-for-drugs-possession – 1/10/2018
BackChannels wishes not to dilute the singular and stunning insult to the world that is the “Dmitriev Affair”, but it’s evident the Phantom of the Soviet has in mind the planting and rooting of Old Totalitarian Poison even with the world’s entire New Intelligentsia taking notice.
A Loose Note on Related Poli-Psy
Expressed as a personal trope: “Absolute Power” becomes inevitably the power to visit suffering on others with impunity.
Expressed as a personal trope: according to Richard Pipes (and now I shall have to relocate the reference), as the power of the Mongols receded, Russian princes had nonetheless internalized the idea that property and person could be (and should be) treated as the same thing, and proof of sovereignty was to be found in the permit to destroy either at will and without consequence.
For the malignant among narcissists, it would seem the suffering of another should have no consequence other than to affirm the power of the narcissist’s own blind will. All the techniques of theater — for controlling family, if small; for controlling nations, if large — may apply to the artifice of presenting “reality” with the intention of framing and creating popular — and a neither too bright nor curious nor politically empowered — perception.
Reference Related to Yuri Dmitriev
Some of Russia’s leading cultural figures say Mr Dmitriev was framed because his focus on Stalin’s crimes — he found a mass grave with up to 9,000 bodies dating from the Soviet dictator’s Great Terror in the 1930s — conflicts with the latter-day Kremlin narrative that Russia must not be ashamed of its past.
The narrative has taken on added importance ahead of a March presidential election, with polls showing incumbent Vladimir Putin, who uses his country’s World War II victory when Stalin was in charge to bolster national pride, is on track to win.
Mr Putin asserted last year that what he called an “excessive demonisation of Stalin” was being used to undermine Russia.
In general, the situation in Karelia is complex. On one hand, Karelia is a region where many exiles are left, the whole region was filled with camps and exiles, and the memory of this is alive at the personal level. And the authorities of Karelia have, for a rather long time, supported the activities of “Memorial” and various structures for perpetuating memory. When Dmitriev discovered the Sandarmokh burial site, the Karelian authorities cooperated and held a contest to landscape this place. But at the same time, there were efforts to conceal and obstruct the receipt of information on the side of the secret services. They also tried to pressure Dmitriev six years ago. On one side the authorities helped, but on the other side, some power structures interfered. And in the past couple years, pressure on Dmitriev has intensified, as an independent historian.
A small clearing in a dense northwestern Russian forest marks the site where, 20 years ago, Yuri Dmitriev discovered a group of mass graves containing victims of Josef Stalin’s Great Terror.
Using detailed documents uncovered in KGB archives, Dmitriev was able to piece together the location where Stalin’s execution squads killed and buried more than 9,500 people from 1937 to 1938. The documents contained the dates and names of those killed, as well as the executioners’ names. During the next two decades, Dmitriev worked meticulously to document every victim’s story.
“For our government to become … accountable, we need to educate the people,” Dmitriyev said of his efforts to uncover details of Soviet repression.
But not everyone wants to remember this forgotten history, especially amid Russia’s current patriotic fervour. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said in June that “excessive demonisation” of Stalin has been a “means of attacking the Soviet Union and Russia”, and several branches of Memorial have been declared “foreign agents” in recent years.
The U.S. Mission to Russia is concerned by what appear to be politically-motivated criminal charges against prominent human rights activist and historian Yury Dmitriev. Mr. Dmitriev is a respected historian whose work has been instrumental in uncovering mass burial sites and founding the Sandarmokh Memorial Complex in Karelia. We call on Russia to transparently uphold the rule of law and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also call on Russia to respect its international human rights obligations, including those related to the prohibition on arbitrary arrest or detention and respect for fair trial guarantees.
A previous psychiatric evaluation declared him to be of sound mind and a court-sanctioned expert group found no pornographic content in nine photographs of his daughter that are at the center of the case against him, overturning the earlier findings of other experts commissioned by prosecutors.
What always struck me about Dmitriev was his enthusiasm, which materialized less in the help he gave me and more in his attitude to history, to events that had occurred many years ago. For example, in the same cemetery where I shot the film, he found the remains of a POW. None of the local authorities was in a hurry to bury the exhumed “youth,” as Dmitriev called him. So Dmitriev put the bones in his garage. A while later, he secured a spot in Peski Cemetery, found a sponsor to help him buy a gravestone, and asked the philologist Valentina Dvinskaya to translate the phrase “To the victims of war, disappeared but not forgotten” into German so that it could be engraved on the headstone. He did all this for an unknown man who had been killed over sixty years ago.
It was only later I realized that Yuri Dmitriev was the same Yuri Dmitriev who had founded the Sandarmokh Memorial Cemetery, who was involved in investigating the Krasny Bor Forest NKVD execution site in Karelia, who had catalogued over 13,000 names of victims of the Great Terror of 1937–1938 in Karelia and published them in The Book of Remembrance, which runs to thousands of pages.