bureaucracybusters

A HEROINE FOR RUSSIA–AND OUR TIMES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2022 at 12:11 am

In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, conscience comes with a price. It can range anywhere from house arrest to years of imprisonment in the Gulag—to being shot or poisoned by the FSB, the secret police successor to the infamous KGB.

It has always been so.

Mikhail  Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky was a major Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces. Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

But he fell victim to the paranoia of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Tukhachevsky.png

Mikhail  Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky  

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power.

On June 11, 1937, the Soviet Supreme Court quickly sentenced Tukhachevsky for treason. Hours later, he was executed.

Among his friends had been Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev. a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Knowing that he was a marked man, Zhilayev did something truly extraordinary.

He had a large portrait of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down. If discovered, it meant instant arrest—and almost certain execution.

When the secret police came for him, even they were awed: ”“What, it’s still up?”

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Standing before a Russian judge, accused of vandalism for participating in a demonstration against Putin’s suppression of human rights, 19-year-old Olga Misik dared to speak truths most Russians fear to even whisper. 

I Was Never Afraid': In The Face Of Criminal Charges, Russian Teen Protester Stands Defiant

Olga Misik

From her statement to the court on May 11, 2021:

The prosecution is putting all its efforts into proving that I am implicated in the incident. I’m not going to spend much time showing that they can’t even do that professionally: They are using falsified fingerprint analysis, and, as you saw when you were examining the evidence, there was no trace of paint on my clothes….

But what does that matter when no law was broken? What difference does it make whether I was there or not when no crime was committed?….There is a crime, and it was committed by the police and the prosecutors. And I very much hope, Comrade Judge, that you will not become an accomplice to this crime. 

This is precisely why I demand a complete and unconditional acquittal. I am not accepting any half measures, like settling for a fine. I am sure of my innocence and am prepared to uncompromisingly defend it to the end….

The past nine months have been very difficult, you know, and I wouldn’t like to repeat them. I kept thinking to myself, What could have happened if, and, Everything could have gone differently. But I was lying to myself, because nothing could have gone differently.

From the moment I picked up the constitution, my fate was set in stone, and I accepted it with pride. I made the right choice, and making the right choice in a totalitarian state will always have horrifying consequences. I always knew I’d end up behind bars—it was only a matter of when.

My lawyer brought up Sophie Scholl [a German student and anti-Nazi political activist] today. Her story is shockingly similar to mine. She was put on trial for flyers and graffiti; I’m being tried for posters and paint.

Like she was, I am essentially on trial for thought crimes. My trial is very similar to Sophie’s, and today’s Russia really resembles Nazi Germany.

Right up to the guillotine, Sophie did not stray from her beliefs. Her story inspired me not to agree to charges being dropped. Sophie Scholl is the embodiment of youth, individuality, and freedom. I would like to believe that to be another thing that makes us similar.

The Nazi regime eventually crumbled, as will the fascist regime in Russia. I don’t know when it will happen, be it a week, a year, or decade, but I know that someday we will be victorious, because love and youth always prevail….

Sophie Scholl’s last words before her execution were, “The sun still shines.” Indeed, the sun still shines. I couldn’t see it out the window of the detention center, but I always knew it was there. And if now, in such dark times, we can turn to the light, then maybe victory isn’t so far after all. 

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Demonstrating his own moral courage, on August 22, 1968—the day after the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia—Yevtushenko sent a telegram protesting the invasion to Communist Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin:  

In Russia—under Czars or Commissars—acting on moral courage is no small thing.

A revered poet demonstrated it in 1968. And a teenage girl demonstrated it in 2021.

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