Vyacheslav Feraposhkin: 'I shall always remember you'

Source: hro.org (info), 19/01/11

· Right of Assembly · Social Rights · Human Rights Defenders · Articles by Human Rights Defenders · Protest Campaigns · Racism & Xenophobia

· Ryazan Region

Vyacheslav Feraposhkin: Stas and Nastya in their short lives managed to do much that was good for, and needed by, many different people. I’ll tell the story of one of these little-known deeds.

In July 2008, under the banners of the radical ecological movement Defenders of the Rainbow, we, young activists from different parts of Russia and neighbouring countries, set up a tent camp near the village of Nizhnee Maltsevo in the Sasovsky district of Ryazan region. Our goal was to help residents prevent the opening at a local chemical works of a production facility for highly dangerous phenol-formaldehyde resins (90 percent of the population in a referendum were against production).

Stas and Nastya took part in this camp from the first day on 5 July. More than that, Stas was the first one of us to arrive, getting to Nizhnee Maltsevo at 6 am. The day before, late in the evening, he had caught a train from Moscow’s Kazan train station immediately after some important meeting or other in the office of the Movement For Human Rights, already equipped with a suitcase for his things, and not even going home beforehand. This was his style. He always managed to do everything in time.

By then I had already been friends with Stas for a long time, since 2000, so we shared a tent. We covered ourselves with a single blanket. I knew Nastya less well. We had met a couple of times before the ecological camp, but in the camp we got to know each other better.

It can’t be said that Stas played the key role in the fight with the owners of the new chemical production facility, but his was certainly one of the most important. As an experienced lawyer and civic activist he was one of the leaders in preparing the documents we were to present to the management of the Novoe company and the governor, setting out our demand that the facility for the production of poisonous resins should not be permitted to open, and in the negotiations with law enforcement bodies. He represented the ecological camp in talks with the police when we were attacked by thugs, hired by the chemical plant, who had come especially from Nizhny Novgorod region.

But the main thing for which Markelov was irreplaceable was when he spoke at rallies. He spoke brilliantly, beautifully, effectively, poetically. And without any initial preparation. He would agree to speak without giving the matter any thought. After his speeches both we and the local residents were “burning for a fight”, and it became truly terrible to live near the poisonous plant. Confidence in victory had been created.

The rally on 13 July 2001 outside Nizhnee Maltsevo chemical factory was especially memorable. About a thousand residents from Ryazan region’s Sasovsky and Chuchkovsky districts came together. It’s worth pointing out that the rally took place in a field far from any big population centres. People travelled to the rally by train and by bus for several hours. Stas spoke twice. At the beginning he made a speech demanding that the production facility should not be opened. We agreed that I would speak last, with a short call to break through the cordon of guards and police to get to the company’s administration building and there demand that the bosses came out so that we could give them our petition and hear their response.

But I was nervous and I felt uncertain, since I had no experience of making similar speeches, and therefore persuaded Stas “to summon the people”. And not for nothing, since the people were wavering, and the well-trained and confident voice of the lawyer, his clear explanation, why it was just the right time to do precisely this – played a most important role. After his words the demonstrators moved towards the building where the factory management was located [...].

Once he was in the train he called me and said that he had heard our victorious shouts through a megaphone when we had broken through to the factory. He asked how it had all gone. He was always like that: active, impetuous, quick to respond, always ready to help, with the burning eyes of someone who is not indifferent. Cheerful and joyful. And adventurous.

Nastya Baburova was also an active and fearless participant in all our protests and demonstrations. I remember how we left the camp together to go to Ryazan, performed some street theatre in the central Lenin Square, and then delivered our demands to the governor and the officials in his official reception room. I remember Nastya as cheerful and joyful, full of energy and the desire to fight for a better world.

May your memory live forever, dear friends! I must and shall always remember you, and shall do at least a small part of what you did not have time to do.

Vyacheslav Feraposhkin,
Vyacheslav Feraposhkin is an activist with Memorial, Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners, Solidarity Movement

Rights in Russia,
19 Jan 2011, 23:15