Squealing on Victims of the Great Terror: Who Wants to Tear Down Petersburg’s Last Address Plaques?

досто 25-табличкиThree Last Address plaques on the house at 27 Dostoevsky Street, in downtown Petersburg

Squealing on the Executed: Who Wants to Remove the Last Address Plaques?
Tatyana Voltskaya
Radio Svoboda
December 6, 2018

Alexander Mokhnatkin, a former aide to Russian MP Vitaly Milonov, filed a complaint with the Petersburg authorities, claiming the plaques mounted on houses throughout the city by Last Address had been erected illegally.

досто 25-улица и домThe plaques are barely visible from only ten meters away.

Andrei Pivovarov, co-chair of the Petersburg branch of Open Russia, wrote about the complaint on his Facebook page.

The city’s urban planning and architecture committee has already reacted to the complaint. It said the plaques, which bear the names of victims of Stalin’s Great Terror and have been placed on the walls of the houses where they lived just before their arrests and executions, were illegal.

досто 27-подворотняThere are two more plaques right next door, in the gateway of the house at 27 Dostoevsky Street.

“The informer decided the plaques were illegal advertisements? I wonder what for. The Stalinist Terror? He thinks they should be taken down. The Smolny responds to the snitch by indicating there were no legal grounds for putting the plaques up, and special city services would deal with them. It is difficult to guess when the wheel of the bureaucratic machine will turn, but, as Solzhenitsyn wrote, the country should know its snitches. I introduce you to Alexander Mokhnatkin, a man who has denounced people long ago victimized by the state and executed, and who has denounced the memory of those people,” Pivovarov wrote.

нев 111:полтав 3-3Unaware of the Last Address plaque on the wall next to her, a woman walks down Poltava Street, just off Old Nevsky, on a sunny day in October.

MP Milonov argues his former aide’s opinion is his personal opinion. Milonov, on the contrary, welcomes memorial plaques, but he does not like the fact that, currently, ordinary citizens have taken the lead in putting them up. He believes it would be better to let officials take the lead.

“I don’t think it would be good if there were lot of plaques on every house, as in a cemetery. The right thing to do, probably, would be to adopt a government program. The plaques would be hung according to the rules of the program, and protected by the law and the state,” argues Milonov.

нев 111:полтав 3-5When you step back ten or fifteen meters, the same plaque is nearly invisible to the naked eye.

He argues what matters most is “remembering the grandfathers of the people who now call themselves liberals squealed on our grandfathers and shot our grandfathers. Our grandfathers did not squeal on anyone. They died on the Solovki Islands. They were shot in the Gulag and various other places.”

Milonov admits different people wrote denunciations, but he believes the International Memorial Society has deliberately politicized the topic, using the memory of those shot during the Terror for their own ends. The MP argues that erecting memorial plaques should not be a “political mom-and-pop store.” Milonov fears chaos: that today one group of people will put up plaques, while tomorrow it will be another group of people. To avoid this, he proposes adopting official standards.

разъезжая 36-подъезд.jpgA Last Address plaque in the doorway of the house at 36 Razyezhaya Street, in Petersburg’s Central District.

​On the contrary, Evgeniya Kulakova, an employee of Memorial’s Research and Information Centre in Petersburg, stresses that Last Address is a grassroots undertaking. An important part of Last Address is the fact that the installation of each new plaque is done at the behest of private individuals, who order the plaques, pay for their manufacture, and take part in mounting them. Kulakova regards Milonov’s idea as completely unfeasible, since the municipal authorities have their own program in any case. The program has its own concept for commemorating victims of political terror, and the authorities have the means at their disposals to implement it. Last Address, however, is hugely popular among ordinary people who feel they can make their own contribution to the cause of preserving the memory of the people who perished during the Terror.

соц 6-улицаA Last Address plaque in the archway of the house at 6 Socialist Street, in central Petersburg.

Kulakov thinks it no coincidence Mokhnatkin has brought attention to the Last Address plaques, since previously he had taken an interest in the Solovetsky Stone in Trinity Square. Apparently, his actions are part of a campaign against remembering Soviet state terror and the campaign against Memorial.

Many Memorial branches in Russia have been having lots of trouble lately. In particular, Memorial’s large annual Returning the Names ceremony in Moscow was nearly canceled this autumn, while the Petersburg branch has been informed that the lease on its premises has been terminated. It has been threatened with eviction as of January 6, 2019.

черняховского 69-домThree Last Address plaques, barely visible from the middle of the street, on the house at 69 Chernyakhovsky Street, near the Moscow Station in Petersburg.

Historian Anatoly Razumov, head of the Returned Names Center, supports the concept of memorial plaques. He stressed they are installed only with the consent of building residents and apartment owners, and ordinary people welcome the undertaking. Moreover, people often put up the plaques not only to commemorate their own relatives but also to honor complete strangers whose lives have touched them. Razumov says people often find someone’s name in the Leningrad Martyrology. They then get written confirmation the person lived in a particular house. Only after collecting information about the person and obtaining the consent of the building’s residents do they erect a plaque.

“In Europe, such things are always under the protection of municipal authorities. I think we should also be going in the other direction: local district councils should do more to protect the plaques instead of saying they don’t meet the standards and they’re going to tear them down,” the historian argues.

Razumov argues that inquiries like the inquiry about the legality of the memorial plaques are served up under various attractive pretexts, but they are always based on the same thing: the fight against remembering the Terror. Some people want to preserve this memory forever, while others do everything they can to eradicate it by concocting hybrid or counter memories.

черняховского-все таблички.jpgThe plaques at 69 Chernyakhovsky Street commemorate Vasily Lagun, an electrician; Solomon Mayzel, a historian of the Arab world; and Irma Barsh. They were executed in 1937–1938 and exonerated of all charges in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Boris Vishnevsky, a member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, argues that Last Address and Immortal Regiment are the most important popular undertakings of recent years. He is outraged by attempts of officials to encroach on them. He says he has written an appeal to the city’s urban planning and architecture committee.

Translation and photos by the Russian Reader

Goodbye to All That?

DSCN6820.jpg“It’s a fiasco, bro.” Photo by the Russian Reader

Here are two statistics that exemplify Putin’s glorious 19-year reign better than any other two statistics.

Since 1998, the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) has claimed nearly €2 billion in compensation from Russia.

The greater part of this total was paid out to victims of torture and claimants whom the court deemed had been denied the right to a fair trial, the right to liberty, and the right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

During this period, the EHCR registered 148,700 complaints against the Russia authorities, reports RBC.

In March of this year, sources told RIA Novosti the relevant Russian ministries were studying the possibility of the denouncing the European Convention on Human Rights, which had established the ECHR. // TRR

Suicide Invoice

FSB_FlagRussian Federal Security Service (FSB) flag

17-Year-Old, Winner of All-Russia Academic Olympics in Chemisty, Commits Suicide in Moscow Region
Ekho Moskvy
April 25, 2018

The teenager killed himself after the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) paid him a visit.

In his suicide note, the boy wrote, “The state has no need of gifted people.” He also wrote that people like him are “strangled by inspections.”

The teenager was a straight-A student and winner of numerous Academic Olympics. He built himself a mini-laboratory at home, where he did experiments.

Neighbors reported this to law enforcement. Law enforcement officers inspected his flat, and the teenager and his parents signed a nondisclosure agreement, reports Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.

Thanks to Evgeny Shtorn for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. Image of FSB flag courtesy of Wikipedia

Shredding the Russian Constitution in Broad Daylight

"Irina Yarovaya" tears up Russian Constitution, Petersburg, July 4, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel
Russian MP “Irina Yarovaya” shreds Russian Constitution. Downtown Petersburg, July 3, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel

“Irina Yarovaya” Shreds Russian Constitution in Downtown Petersburg
Spring Movement (Dvizhenie “Vesna”)
July 4, 2016

This past Sunday, “Irina Yarovaya” shred the Russian Constitution on Nevsky Prospect in Petersburg. The people’s deputy was joined by characters from her package of “anti-terrorist” laws, who had come to life for the occasion: a postal worker vetting packages, a secret policeman wiretapping a light-minded young lady’s telephone conversations, and an involved ordinary citizen encouraging passersby to write denunciations on their friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

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“Postal worker” vets suspicious parcels. Downtown Petersburg, July 3, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel

The activists of the Spring Movement thus attempted to draw the attention of their fellow Petersburgers to the flagrantly repressive amendments to the Russian Criminal Code, tabled by a group of MPs led by Irina Yarovaya and now approved by both houses of the Russian parliament, the State Duma and the Federation Council.

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Passerby fills out “denunciation” form. Downtown Petersburg, July 3, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel

The package of amendments will not only deal a blow to our country’s constitutional foundations but will also require huge financial subsidies during tough economic times. The screws will be tightened at our expense, at the price of impassable roads, hospitals and kindergartens that will never be built, and pension savings that the state has been confiscating once again. No scientific progress, no innovations, and no quality education are in the cards for our country: only Yarovaya and her hardcore approach to lawmaking.

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“Secret policeman” wiretaps an unsuspecting young lady’s phone conversation. Downtown Petersburg, July 3, 2016. Photo: David Frenkel

If the president signs the Yarovaya package into law, “non-informing” will be criminalized, “inducing, recruiting or otherwise involving” others in the “organization of mass disturbances” will be punishable by prison terms, punishment for “extremist” posts on the web and monitoring of personal correspondence will become harsher, and postal workers will be obliged to vigorously vet parcels for prohibited items.

Translated by the Russian Reader. All photos by David Frenkel