There are many of us. However, are still alive,
others – died.
“The Siberian penal servitude” – Krasnoyarsk Territory has won this fame already in prerevolutionary times. And in the 1930s it beloned to the “threesome” of the very Leader’s regions, where prisoners from all over the USSR were taken under escort.
The figures are alarming: more than 500.000 special resettlers, half of which rest in Siberian soil. 60.000 people from Krasnoyarsk, who were sentenced on the basis of false accusations, suffered from reprisals. As from the summer 1937 till the summer 1938 alone more than 12.000 individuals were executed.
Enthusiasts made it their duty to obtain rehabilitation for these honest victims. Within short the forth volume of the Books of Memory is to be published in memory of the victims of political reprisals in Krasnoyarsk Territory. This was reported to “Arguments and Facts” by Aleksey Babiy, chairman of the Krasnoyarsk “Memorial” Organization.
- Aleksey Andreevich, millions of Soviet people got between the upper and nether millstone of political reprisals. Many have already received their rehabilitation, but you are still searching for more victims of the Stalinist era. What made you deal with this kind of work?
- This is quite a typical story. In the beginning I was interested in the history of my own family. Mum grew up in a children’s home from the 6th year of her life, but she never told us, under which circumstances she happened to get there. Later it turned out that her parents had come to know eachother in the Mandchurian city of Kharbin, where they were working for the East-Chinese railroad administration. Both were shot in 1937. At that time there was an order by the NKVD saying that “all persons from Kharbin to be sentenced to supreme measure – shooting”!
When I met Volodya Birger for the first time, he said: !You cleared up the fate of your own ancestors, but there are millions more which need to be clarified”. And then, an organization was founded in Krasnoyarsk (by the way, it was one of the very first in the country). It was called “Men’s fate”. The all-Russian”Memorial” was founded later.
- You often “get your share”, both from the “left” and the “right”. What is the reason?
- Our task is not limited to the restoration of justice with regard to the victims of political reprisals. The most important thing is not to tolerate the repetition of the existence of a totalitarian regime in the country.
The proletariate and the lumpen-intelligenstia do not like us, because we are against the renewal of stalinisation. And our work does not suit the plans of the federal power, because we stand up against any attempt of establishing a totalitarian government.
- What is your attitude towards isolated cases of statements of former Chekists and members of the camp staff, who are convinced that there were quite a lot of criminals among the exiled and prisoners …
- There is a disputed section: section 58, para 1 – “Treason to one’s fatherland”. Nobody denies that they sentenced criminal offenders on this section, as well. But it was applied to those, who lived on occupied territory or had become prisoners of war. Paras 1a and 1b are very dubious, too. On these two sections they used to pronounce judgements on the so-called “wood brothers” and “Banderites”. In my opinion, these are to be rehabilitated, as they fought for the independence of their native land – both against the Soviets and Germans.
The fight for national liberation ended with the fact that, nowadays, just in those Baltic countries, neo-nazis march up and down the streets and Soviet soldiers are considered to be occupation forces. And the state gives its blessing.
-On governmental level this ideology remains unsupported. On the 4th of November fascists marched through Moscow. Does it mean that our state tolerates fascists? In Estonia people are, in fact, of the opinion that Hitler liberated them. And trying to convince them that radish does not taste sweeter than horseradish is absolutely futile. When the deported the majority of the Lithuanian polulation to Siberia, genofond was given a serious blow. It is painful to forgive something like that.
- Not only the Baltic countries got their share. How many were executed and became victims of reprisals in Russia? You said yourself that there were more than half a million of exiled in Krasnoyarsk Territory.
- Nowadays, they do not mention the fact that, at first, people in Russia also were of the opinion that Hitler liberated them from Stalin. Only later, the seals fell from their eyes. Up to which point did they have to lead the country, until they finally welcomed enemies and invaders with bread and salt! They were all human beings, who had gone through starvation existence, dekulakization, the year 1937, … You undrstand what I mean – I do not declare them innocent, but I do not condemn them, either.
- Are there any fates, which particularly engraved in your heart?
- A true story which I described inmy tale “Bach – an enemy of the people”. A soldier with this famous German musician’s name was once drying the rags he usually wrapped around his feet on a bush. Soonafter he was accused of having given signs to the fascists by having “exposed” these rags. The preliminary proceedings dragged on for a long time.
One day he was asked to come for a confrontation with a soldier and eye-witness. The examining magistrate had a whole arsenal of differnet kinds of horsewhips and tubes hanging on the walls of his cabinet, which he used to prise confessions out of the arrestees. When the witness saw all this “equipment” he jumped out of the window full of fear and tried to run away. Of course, all officials rushed behind him.
In the meantime, our hero, being at the verge of starvation, had noticed the magistrate’s lunch on the table – pea soup and buckwheat groats with braised meat. And while the guards ran behind the Ukrainian, finished him off and buried him, he ate up all the magistrate’s lunch. Later, having stuffed himself, he agreed to sign all the false statements and misinformation against him. They gave him 10 years. I would be able to tell stories of this kind for hours.
- In the closed city of Zheleznogorsk they also had camps in the 1950s. Until today, people argue about whether or not political prisoners, too, served their sentences in these camps.
They were mainly “non-politial” prisoners. Although they would keep so-called “ukazniks” (individual sentences persuant to an ukase; translator’s note) there, as well. Those had been inflicted a camp sentence on for having appeared at wotk 15 minutes late or because of the famous “spikelets” (to be under investigation or be convicted ofgleaning spikes of grain after the harvest; translator’s note). Time is not yet ripe to seriously take a rehabilitation for individuals sentenced on this ukase into consideration. I believe, that once we have a normal state, we will come back to this question, and then the number of “political” prisoners will yet increase considerably. We have seen, for example, who was kept in the Norillag: 50% political prisoners, 30-35% “ukazniks” and merely 10-25% criminals.
In your tale “The three colors of hatred” you specify hatred in three categories: red, black and white hatred. What made you decide to doing so?
- Black and red hatred refer to concrete people, white hatred – to something abstract, an appearance.
- Are you aware of this feeling?
- Of course. I hate communism, for example. This is what I call white hatred.
- But the communists have noble-minded ideas, as well – about equality and brotherliness; some of their ideas are even taken from the Bible.
- But the Bible says: judge from their deeds, not from what they are saying. And as you know yourself, there is blood on the hands of the communists. However, my hatred does not spread to the unfortunate grandmas and grandpas, who frequent the meetings with portraits of the Leader in their hands. The idea of communism was once pounded into them, and now they are unable to free themselves from it. The only thing I feel for them is pity.
- Recently, you sharply protested against plans to rebuild the Pantheon in memory of Stalin’s exile in Kureyka, and you were immediately accused of prostitution. Aren’t you offended by this?
- As I have already said: if this is to be profiteering, then this kind of a business is immoral. If they are trying to make money this way, why don’t they make it by prostitution or drug-trafficking? Well, Yevgeniy Pashchenko reacted in his way by calling my work – prostitution. They say this Babiy is sitting in his well-heated workroom, earning his money by condemning all good. No, I am not angry at him at all. In the heat of the moment he merely made some inconsiderate remark.
- Did you ever regret having loaded yourself up with such a burden? Someone who has to pass in review so many horribly fates, certainly needs a strong character, doesn’t he?
- I have a rather thick skin. But in case you have in mind the head of the Minusinsk operative sector – Alekseev – who personally executed prisoners and gave the order to kill wounded individuals by jemmies (in order not to uselessly spend cartridges) – I shudder at this thought. And in such moments my white hatred increases.
- “Memorial” has been existing for almost 20 years by now. 14 people are working there – mainly pensioners. They do their job with utmost self-sacrifice. However, this activity also gives them strength, because they are aware of the fact: we are not alons. There are many of us, although – some are still alive, others already died.
Interview by Olga LOBZINA
Photos by Mira AGAEVA
“Arguments and Facts on the Yenisey” 11.05.06