118 Years Ago Today

From Boris Savinkov’s Memoirs of a Terrorist:

It was a clear sunny day. When I approached the square at the Church of the Intercession [in Petersburg], I saw the following scene. Sazonov, sitting on a bench, was exhaustively and animatedly relating to Sikorsky how and where to sink the bomb. Sazonov was calm and seemed to have completely forgotten about himself. Sikorsky listened to him attentively. Borishansky sat on a bench in the distance, his face imperturbable as usual. Even further away, at the gates of the church, stood Kalyayev who, doffing his cap, crossed himself.

[…]

When I approached 7th Company of the Izmailovsky Regiment Street [currently known as 7th Red Army Street], I saw a policeman on the corner stand at attention. At the same moment, I noticed Sazonov on the bridge over the Obvodny Canal. He walked, as before, with his head held high, carrying the projectile at his shoulder. Immediately, I heard loud trotting behind me, and a carriage pulled by black horses rushed past.

[…]

Suddenly, a heavy, strange, unwieldy sound rent the street’s monotonous hubbub. It was if someone had struck a cast-iron stove with a cast-iron hammer. At the same moment, the broken glass in the windows rattled pitifully. I saw a pillar of grayish yellow, almost black smoke rising from the ground in a narrow funnel. This pillar, ever expanding, flooded the entire street to the height of the fifth floor. It dissipated as quickly as it rose. I thought I saw some black debris amid the smoke.

For the first second, my breath caught in my throat. But I was waiting for an explosion, and so I came to my senses more quickly than the others. I ran kitty-corner down the street to the Warsaw Hotel.

One hundred and eighteen years later.

Pokrovsky Square (Church of the Intercession Square) aka Turgenev Square, in central Petersburg
Izmailovsky Prospect in Petersburg. The former Warsaw Station, now a shopping and entertainment center, is in the background.
The end of Izmailovsky Prospect, with a clearer view of the former Warsaw Station. A statue of Lenin once stood in front of it.

Source: Aleksandr Ermakov, Facebook, 28 July 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader, since a copy of Joseph Shaplen’s 1931 English translation of Boris Savinkov’s Memoirs of a Terrorist is hard to come by in print and nearly invisible online. I also added the captions to Mr. Ermakov’s snapshots.


The routes taken by Savinkov, Plehve, and the members of the SR Combat Organization on 28 July 1904. Source: Visions of Terror

On 15 July 1904 [28 July 1904 in the reformed, post-revolutionary calendar], the notoriously oppressive and unpopular Minister of the Interior, Viacheslav Konstantinovich von Plehve stepped into his armored carriage, complete with an entourage of bicycle detectives, and set off from his dacha to the Warsaw Station on his way to regular meeting with Tsar Nicholas II, now residing at his summer palace in Peterhof. Plehve, who had already survived several attacks on his life, probably took this trip in stride, but as he approached his destination, a young man, Egor Sazonov darted towards his carriage and threw a bomb underneath its speeding wheels. Sazonov was just one of several assassins that day who were poised and ready to trade their own lives for the Minister’s. They were members of the Combat Organization (Boevaia Organizatsiia), the terrorist branch of the Socialist Revolutionaries who ultimately murdered a number of prominent political figures, most notably […] Tsar Alexander II.

Source: Visions of Terror

Yuri Shchekochikhin to Vladimir Putin, March 25, 2002

shchekochikhinYuri Shchekochikhin (June 9, 1950–July 3, 2003)

Oleg Pshenichny
Facebook
June 19, 2018

A letter from Yuri Shchekochikhin to Vladimir Putin. Thanks to Dmitry Nosachev for the heads-up.

I heard with my own ears how arrogantly young journalists then spoke of him. They claimed he was paranoid. They claimed he was obsessed with the mafia and the KGB’s machinations. They all but called him a clown. I won’t point fingers. There is no need.

_______________________________________________

March 25, 2002

To: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation

Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich,

I was extremely surprised that, at a time when the whole world has been busy fighting terrorism, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has been busy with little old me, thus violating Article [98] of the Russian Federal Constitution, which guarantees the immunity of State Duma members.

You will remember the Three Whales Scandal, I hope. It was a big surprise to me that, after the hearing of the State Duma’s Security Committee and my article in Novaya Gazeta on the subject, Pavel Zaytsev, the special investigator who had been handling this criminal case, was summoned for questioning by the FSB—not to find out the truth about how the mafia was organized, but only because of me, deputy chair of the State Duma’s Security Committee and a member of its Commission on Combating High-Level Corruption in Government.

I would not have attached much importance to the incident were it not for one circumstance.

Several years ago, Vyacheslav Zharko, a junior field agent in the St. Petersburg Tax Police, gave me documents showing that ships were entering the Russian Navy’s bases in Lebyazhy and Lomonosov[] without being inspected by customs and border control.

There were several signatures on the documents authorizing this financial escapade, including that of the then Deputy Prime Minister [Oleg] Soskovets and yours, Vladimir Vladimirovich.

[Mikhail] Katyshev, who at the time was the First Deputy Prosecutor General, gave orders to open a criminal case and set up an operational investigative group in the Prosecutor General’s Office after reading the documents submitted by Zharko.

It was this criminal case that led to the arrest of Dmitry Rozhdestvensky, head of Russian Video. Unfortunately, however, due to political motives, the investigative team, led by [Vladimir] Lyseiko, dealt only with the embezzlement of funds by Media Most, “forgetting” about the evidence relating to Russian Video’s Marine Department.

During the investigation of this criminal case, I had to fly to St. Petersburg on several occasions to arrange for Zharko’s protection and security, since his life was in real danger. [Georgy] Poltavchenko, then head of the St. Petersburg Tax Police, and [Viktor] Cherkesov, then head of the FSB’s Petersburg office, were simply afraid to help the young field agent in investigating the high-profile criminal case. I was quite surprised it was Zharko who was summoned from St. Petersburg to handle the arrest of [Vladimir] Gusinsky.

I don’t want to bother you with the details of the criminal case, although I imagine you are familiar with them. It is a different matter that concerns me. In December 2001, Zharko, who had transferred from the Tax Police to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian Defense Ministry, was detained at Sheremetyevo 1 Airport on trumped-up charges of using a counterfeit passport and illegally crossing the border, put under arrest at the behest of the Deputy Prosecutor General, and remanded in custody to Lefortovo Prison. The arrest, especially an arrest sanctioned by such a top-ranking official, on charges of committing a crime that carries a punishment of up to two years in prison, and the subsequent change in his pretrial status, as ordered by Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, would seem incredible were it not for one circumstance. While Zharko was jailed in Lefortovo Remand Prison, FSB field agents tried to “crack” [kololi] him (I use the word “crack” deliberately) while figuring out whether he had in his possession documents bearing your signature and relating to the criminal case. What especially angered me was that the officers attempted to force Zharko to confess that he and I were mixed up with Boris Berezovsky. During their conversations, it was said that I received $50,000 a month from Berezovsky, part of which I gave to Zharko, who in turn gave some to Mikhail Katyshev.

Vladimir Vladimorovich, I have spoken with Berezovsky once and only once in my life. It was in the State Duma building. It just happened.

Most important, however, I don’t like it that I, deputy chair of a State Duma committee, have been targeted by the FSB. I don’t like it that my phones have been bugged and that someone has been trying hard to find means to discredit me.

Vladimir Vladimirovich, I don’t think this letter will end up in your hands. I once sent you a letter about Mr. [Nazir] Khapsirokov, one of the most notorious characters investigated by the Commission on Combating Corruption, during the last sitting of the State Duma. It was when he was appointed deputy head of your administration. In that letter, I wrote to you that you wanted to put together a team while a pack of dogs was circling you. After receiving a reply from a clerk in your administration, I realized the pack had encircled you once and for all, and that it was stronger than the team. Therefore, I am sending a copy this letter to the chair of the State Duma and the head of the Yabloko Party faction in the State Duma, of which I am a member.

Respectfully,

Yuri P. Shchekochikin
Deputy Chair, State Duma Security Committee
Member, State Duma Commission on Combating High-Level Corruption in Government
Member, State Duma (Yabloko Party Faction)

It is widely believed Mr. Shchekochikhin was poisoned to death. Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Pinterest

A Mass Grave for Journalists and Journalism?

"A dirty word!" Central District, Petersburg, July 18, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader
“A dirty word!” Central District, Petersburg, July 18, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader

Moscow. July 20. Interfax.Ru. Official Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has commented on the death of journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kiev.

“A car in which Pavel Sheremet was located has exploded in Kiev. [He was] a professional unafraid to speak his mind to power, to different regimes at different times. Ukraine (not the country, but the system) has become a mass grave for journalists and journalism,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

As if Russia itself weren’t a “mass grave for journalists and journalism.” It takes a lot of the wrong kind of chutzpah to lie and gangbang the truth like these blood monkeys do every single day of their lives.

And Ms. Zakharova’s unspoken implication that Russia, unlike Ukraine, is a “system” that encourages “telling truth to power” is really beyond perverse.

Let us take a tiny peak into the mass grave for journalists and journalism mighty Russia has dug over the past couple of decades.

In 2009, the International Federation of Journalists and the Russian Union of Journalist issued a report, entitled Partial Justice, “to gather evidence surrounding the 300 deaths and disappearances of journalists in Russia between 1993 and 2009.”

When it comes to media freedom more generally, Russia has also been going downhill on a trolley with no brakes over the past decade, and things are bound to get worse with the recent passage into law of the so-called Yarovaya package, which cracks down on individual privacy, privacy of correspondence and communication, freedom of speech, the right not to rat on one’s friends and acquaintances, the ability to speak one’s mind freely to power on social media, and lots of other things.

So what was Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova crowing about? She was actually celebrating Pavel Sheremet’s death by pretending to speak from a place where such violence against journalists and journalism is impossible and unthinkable. But we all know that is a bald-faced lie, and she knows it too.

Why couldn’t she just keep her mouth shut? Isn’t that what the Russian government wants its subjects to do from now until kingdom come anyway? Why can’t the powers that be here also practice some tactful silence now and then?