Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Russian Fights for Stalin’s Victims

[LP note: I'm currently reading Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago and other writings. That history is behind us, but what's scary is that it could pop up again anytime — and in fact still does, albeit on a smaller scale. Solzhenitsyn writes about the motivations of the Bluecaps, the state interrogators, whose job it was to carry out orders to imprison and torture those whom the state determined to be treasonous or, in the least, troublesome. Solzhenitsyn posits: How could they do what they did to their fellow citizens?]

Nearly 80 years ago, Joseph Stalin’s secret police shot the great-grandfather of Denis Karagodin. Now he has shaken Russia with a landmark investigation

By James Marson, WSJ
Dec. 16, 2016 9:00 a.m. ET

Denis Karagodin is unearthing some uncomfortable truths buried for decades in a trash-strewn ravine on the outskirts of the Siberian town of Tomsk.

Nearly 80 years ago, Joseph Stalin’s secret police shot his great-grandfather Stepan and dumped the body here. Now Mr. Karagodin has shaken Russia with a landmark investigation that he says has unmasked all those involved in the killing.

“They buried him here and thought the story was over,” says Mr. Karagodin, a fast-talking 34-year-old who shares the intense eyes that stare out from photographs of his great-grandfather. Stepan was a victim of the Soviet dictator’s Great Terror against so-called enemies of the people. He had been charged with spying for Japan, but in 1955, after Stalin’s death, Stepan’s name was cleared. “With that, they thought that the matter was settled,” said Mr. Karagodin. “I wanted to show that it wasn’t.”

He spent five years tracking down documents in the archives of the security service and other state agencies. His research allowed him to piece together a chain of orders that incriminate, he says, some 30 people, from Stalin right down to the three alleged executioners.

The investigation broke new ground in Russia, where the state—led for 17 years by the ex-KGB colonel Vladimir Putin—largely glosses over the crimes of the Stalin era. The Kremlin venerates the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II and the industrialization that took place under Stalin; it largely ignores the many millions who were killed or exiled for ideological reasons during his reign.

(More here.)

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