Stop the Criminal Prosecution of Arkhangelsk Historians and Archivists

The following text is a translation of a petition appeal made on behalf of Mikhail Suprun and Alexander Dudarev, a university historian and an Interior Ministry archivist who face criminal charges for their work documenting Germans who were deported to or imprisoned in the Arkhangelsk Region during the Stalinist period. You can read more about this case in The Guardian.
To add your signature to the petition, please go to this web page. There (at the bottom of the page) you are asked to provide your name and surname (ФИО:), profession (Профессия:), city of residence (Город:) and e-mail address. You may also sign the petition by sending this same information to zpch@zaprava.ru
Criminal charges have been filed against Professor Mikhail Suprun, chair of the department of Russian history at Pomorsk State University, and Colonel Alexander Dudarev, head of the Information Center of the Russian Federation Interior Ministry Directorate in Arkhangelsk Region. On September 13, 2009, Suprun’s apartment and university office were searched; police confiscated unique scholarly materials and Suprun’s computers.

Professor Suprun is charged with violating Article 137, Part 1 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code — “Illegal gathering of confidential information about an individual’s private life without his or her consent.” In addition, he is suspected of  “inciting an official to commit acts that clearly exceed his authority and that led to a significant violation of the rights and legal interests of citizens” (Article 286 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code, in conjunction with Article 33, Part 4). These charges stem from Mikhail Suprun’s academic research, which involves compilation of a data base on Germans — both Soviet citizens of German extraction and civilian German nationals — who were exiled to Arkhangelsk Region during WWII and the immediate postwar period. The date base also contains information about German POWs in the prison camps of Arkhangelsk Region. This research was conducted within the framework of an agreement concluded in 2007 between the German Red Cross and Pomorsk State University. According to police investigators, by compiling a list of five thousand victims of deportation, Suprun was engaged in the “gathering of information about their private lives without their consent.”  

The fact that Colonel Dudarev provided Suprun with access to the archives of the Information Center of the Interior Ministry Directorate —archives that were essential to his research — is interpreted by investigators as “abuse of authority by an official.” 

The criminal case was opened on the basis of a personal statement made by one of the former deportees and an inspection performed by the Arkhangelsk Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB). At present, although FSB officials are probably aware of the absurdity of the charges filed, they continue to interrogate Colonel Dudarev’s co-workers in an attempt to find any information that would compromise their suspects.

The FSB’s role in opening this criminal case remains unclear. What was the nature of the inspection they carried out that then served as the basis for filing criminal charges? Are our secret services so genuinely concerned about protecting the right of citizens to  privacy that they are prepared for its sake to set aside their direct obligations to preserve national security?

Unfortunately, we presume that this is not the case. The fundamental reason for the criminal prosecution of Mikhail Suprun and Alexander Dudarev is an inimical attitude toward domestic and international efforts to research the tragic pages of our past — an attitude that has been publicly voiced on many occasions by Russia’s leaders. If  the FSB really is behind the “case of the Arkhangelsk historians,” then we are forced to conclude that the mentality of the Cheka/GPU/NKVD/KGB has survived in this agency. They have a stake in making sure that the truth about political repressions is never learned. Hence their attempts to intimidate the Russian academic community, of which the case of Suprun and Dudarev is an example.

Mikhail Suprun is a scholar who is well regarded in Europe. The goal of his academic research is to enable the objective study of the tragic pages in Russia’s history.

Alexander Dudarev is also well known to the academic community as a conscientious, knowledgeable archivist who has provided invaluable assistance to many historians in the course of their research, as well as for his help in compiling the Memory Books of the Victims of Political Repression.

We demand an immediate end to the criminal prosecution of Mikhail Suprun and Alexander Dudarev.

Liudmila Alexeeva, chair, Moscow Helsinki Committee
Alexander Daniel, board member, Memorial Society
Lev Ponomarev, For Human Rights All-Russia Public Movement
Yuri Samodurov, curator
Ernst Cherny, executive secretary, Public Committee for the Defense of Scholars
Karina Moskalenko, lawyer, The Centre of International Protection 
Boris Pustyntsev and Yuri Vdovin, Citizens’ Watch (Saint Petersburg)
Nina Katerli, writer; member, Moscow Writers Union and PEN Club
Boris Vyshnevsky, columnist, Novaya Gazeta; member of the federal bureau of the Yabloko Russian Democratic Party

Sergei Sorokin, Movement against Violence
Alexei Yablokov, chair, Green Russia faction, Yabloko Russian Democratic Party
Et al. 

1 Comment

Filed under open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression

One response to “Stop the Criminal Prosecution of Arkhangelsk Historians and Archivists

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