‘I didn’t want to be an accomplice’ A Russian activist explains why he risked arrest to yell ‘Burn in Hell!’ at a Stalin memorial
On Tuesday, hundreds of elderly Russians lined up outside the Kremlin’s walls to lay flowers at the foot of a monument to Joseph Stalin, honoring the dictator on the 66th anniversary of his death. This year’s ritual was disrupted, however, by two “Decommunization Project” activists, Evgeny Suchkov and Olga Savchenko, who threw their carnations at the Stalin memorial, resulting in their immediate detention by police. (Suchkov also yelled, “Burn in hell, executioner of the people and murderer of women and children!”) Officers charged the two with the misdemeanor offense of violating Russia’s public assembly laws, and a court promptly fined them 500 rubles (about $8). Evgeny Suchkov told Meduza why he decided to crash the Communists’ memorial event.
I don’t know if I have any relatives who were repression victims, but this was an outburst of moral duty. I’m a volunteer at the GULAG Museum, and everyday I’m confronted by the evidence, when taking care of the survivors. There’s woman who was sent to the Polar Circle at the age of 17 simply because her parents were Poles and her father was a priest. A man who was born at the ALZhIR camp [in Akmolinsk, in modern-day Kazakhstan], at a camp for the wives and children of enemies of the people, where they’d interned his pregnant mother. Another woman who got eight years in the camps just because she fell in love with a Yugoslavian man. When torturing her at Lefortovo Prison, a security goon asked her, “Not enough Russians around for you or something?” They’re often on their own now, and nonprofits do what they can to help them, both financially and by sending volunteers to spend time with them. This [memorial demonstration at the Stalin monument] was an evil congregation, and if you can’t muster even a word to stand in its way, then you’re culpable for the evil, too, and I don’t want to be an accomplice to such evil.
I didn’t plan what I did — it was a spontaneous decision. A huge crowd came together, many were elderly people, and they were praising everything imaginable about the Soviet authorities and trash talking modern-day Russia, today’s generation, and the world. A line of people started out from the monument, and I ended up in it and took part. Afterwards, I was caught and brought to the police station. I snapped my flower in my hands and threw it. As they were dragging me away, people were yelling, “Get out of here, freak!” and “Get that troll out of here!” In the police car, the officers asked me, “Why, man? Are you bored or something?” I told them it was for ethical reasons. They didn’t really care.
Some comrade calling himself one of the event organizers came to the station, and started filing a report against us, requesting that they get tough with us. “Could you give them community service? Or maybe a stiffer fine, so this crowd stops showing up at our events and disappears from Red Square entirely?” By the end, even the police officers were looking at this guy like he was the village idiot. He filed his report and left. Then they gave us copies of the report, which was written up so carelessly that it didn’t even identify the misdemeanor offense.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock