Has the Case of Suprun and Dudarev been made into a Show Trial?

Source: HRO.org (info), 19/10/11

Nikita Petrov a historian with the Memorial Human Rights Centre specialising in the history of the security services: “…As a matter of fact, this is an example of pure and selfless enthusiasm. It is a humanitarian task – the task of understanding the mechanisms of repression and recovering the names of victims. And this criminal case against Suprun and Dudarev has been thought up to demonstrate to the public that people shouldn’t work in the archives.”

Anastasia Kirilenko: “Together with historian Mikhail Suprun, another person is being tried – Aleksandr Dudarev, head of the archives of the Arkhangelsk department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs where Professor Suprun had worked.” In an interview with Radio Liberty, Vladimir Morev, the lawyer of Aleksandr Dudarev, said that the relatives of those repressed – who have the status of victims in the trial – spoke at the court hearing on 17 October:

“The victims gave evidence of repressions during Stalin’s rule as well as their continuation in the 1960s with regard to ethnic Germans who had been deported to the Arkhangelsk region. They talked about the hardships of that period. They seemed to blame that historic period. When we asked them what they consider the accused to be guilty of, they did not understand the question.

- Did they file a claim stating that they were the victims of a crime?

- Yes. The public prosecutor and the judge kept reminding them: “But you have written a statement.” “Yes, we have.” The texts of all the statements were identical word for word. When we asked, “When and how did you write it?” the answer was: “We were visited by FSB officers and asked to write it”.

- Were the victims able to repeat what they had written in their statements?

Not all of them. Some of them said: “No, I did not make a statement.” When the statement was shown to one of the victims, he was astonished: “Oh, yes, this is my signature, so I must have written it.”

- In an interview with Radio Liberty, Nikita Petrov, a researcher specialising in the security services, commented on the trial of Mikhail Suprun and Aleksandr Dudarev:

- I do not think that the publication of Books of Memory is being discouraged. But it is no longer viewed as a moral obligation of the state in order to restore justice for victims of political repression. In this context, the prosecution of Mikhail Suprun and the archivist of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is not just outrageous – it is simply absurd.

The publication of information about repressions is not a violation of privacy. This is stated in the federal law. According to Article 18 of the law on rehabilitation of victims of political repression: “The lists of persons who have been rehabilitated under the present law, including information on their personal data and the charges on which they were rehabilitated, are regularly published in the media and by local councils [soviets]” (the law was being drafted at the time when local councils [soviets] of people’s deputies were still functioning).

In many regions of Russia Books of Memory have been prepared, and in fact this has often been done under the auspices of local administrations and with the participation of the FSB archivists. There is nothing extraordinary about this work which has not yet been carried out on the whole territory of Russia and which needs to be completed.

I view this case in Arkhangelsk as an act of arbitrariness by the local FSB and the local Investigative Committee. They are trying to prove in court that Suprun and his colleague are criminals, which is the most absurd accusation. And of course it is also indicative of the times we live in. It demonstrates that the system of repression is out of control. They are envious of researchers who are doing something independently, whereas they would like to impose strict discipline so that no one is allowed to do anything without a command. These are the concepts of the police state which is currently being formed in our country.

- Suprun was planning to publish the Book of Memory in Germany. Could it be just envy – perhaps the FSB was planning to publish a book based on its own materials?

Of course, we can find a financial motive behind their actions – local ambitions and the desire of security services to appropriate financial funds. But Suprun did not get a big grant for his work. Arkhangelsk region is a place to which great numbers of people were deported. The databases about deportees that are being created in Arkhangelsk are huge.

На самом деле, речь идет о подвижнической работе. Это гуманитарная задача, задача нашей памяти - воссоздать механизм репрессий и вернуть имена пострадавших. А это дело задумано как демонстративное, чтобы люди не лезли в архивы.

As a matter of fact, this is an example of pure and selfless enthusiasm. It is a humanitarian task – the task of understanding the mechanisms of repression and recovering the names of victims. And this criminal case against Suprun and Dudarev has been thought up to demonstrate to the public that people shouldn’t work in the archives.

Is there a period of limitation that allows the publication of information about the repressions without the consent of relatives? Mass repressions took place in the 1930s. If there are descendants of the victims who do not want their grandfather’s name to appear in a Book of Memory, do they have the right to stop it? Or, after so many years, the names of the repressed should be available to everyone?

According to the law, relatives do not have a right to act as owners of the information in their files related to repressions. Why cannot personal information be considered private? Because our court system is based on the principle of openness. Even if it is a closed court, you have the right know who is being prosecuted and on what charges. This is your right as a citizen. We are not referring here to private matters, where individuals are figuring out their own relations and we have no need to know about it. No, justice is carried out in our name and uses taxpayers’ money. And we have the right to know who, where and on what charges someone brought to court both now and in the past.

Relatives inherit property and intellectual rights, but they do not have the right to do as they please with documents in government archives. They cannot say, “Close this archive and don’t show it to anyone”. Only information that constitutes personal and family privacy is not open to the public. The list of such private materials is contained in the law on archives and includes: information about personal relations, health, the status of one’s finances and property, and adoption. But information about repressions is not considered “private”. This is not considered to constitute private matters, but rather concern public relations with the government, in other words with all of us. If someone says that they don’t want information about the repressions they suffered to be published, they may challenge Article 18 of the Federal Law in the Constitutional Court.

Justice was administered in our name and we have the right to know whether it was administered correctly or not, whether there was an act of rehabilitation for this person, or whether an individual has not been rehabilitated. When we are speaking about politically-motivated mass deportations, this is usually administrative repression, sometimes on a decision by a court. There is no issue of personal privacy here.

Bringing criminal charges against Mikhail Suprun makes no sense. He was not collecting personal, private information. A great deal now depends on the court's decision. But the case has already frightened many archive workers: “See what happens when someone gives something unnecessary to look at”.

- The court proceedings are closed to the public, but it would be interesting to listen to them.

- I must say that is a violation. A court case can only be closed when state secrets are under discussion.

- The FSB investigator, who oversaw Suprun's case, tried to bring another charge against the researcher. He wanted to add that Suprun had also tried to divulge state secrets. The thing is, the authorities confiscated Suprun's personal archive, which included documents concerning the history of the security services. The court rejected this additional charge, but the very attempt to bring such a charge is telling.

- And where did these documents come from?

- They came from the archive of Dmitry Volkogonov. (In the early 1990s, General-Lieutenant Volkogonov collected photocopies and microfilms of secret and non-secret documents. After Volkogonov's death, in 1996 his relatives donated the archives to the Congressional Library in the United States. – Radio Liberty)

- These documents have been declassified. Who knows what today's authorities think about the declassification committee of the early 1990s (The Interdepartmental Declassification Committee for the Declassification of Documents pertaining to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1992 - Radio Liberty).

In the early 1990s there was a move towards openness and the democratization of society. At that time, the decision was made that military secrets should exist, but that the Soviet regime should have no political secrets.

Then, later, it suddenly turned out that the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Foreign Intelligence Service and the FSB began to regret that they had opened so many documents to the public at that time and sought to close some of the archives. Indeed, there have been cases when previously open archives have been closed.

I do not exclude the possibility that some materials that have been published had been formally classified as secret. However, these documents are available on the Internet. One is tempted to say: the document is classified as secret. But, in the first place, the person obtained this document not from an archive but from the Internet. And secondly, the classification as “secret” in itself means nothing. It is important to know whether or not the document contains state secrets.

Classification of information as state secrets is based only on one criterion: whether this information, if publicized, would endanger the security of the Russian Federation. A question arises: if the documents have been available on the Internet for 15-20 years and someone now has printed them out, will this hurt Russia’s security? Certainly not. It has not hurt Russian security in the past; it certainly will not hurt it today.

All this has been concocted out of thin air. This is the confirmation of the old principle: “If there’s a man, then we can make a case against him.” This is a very bad tendency. The trial of Suprun and Dudarev trial gives me a strong sense of déjà-vu.