TATTLE ON YOUR NEIGHBOR
by Anton Chivchalov
Radio Svoboda, 13 July 2016
In the Soviet Union, squealing [stukachestvo] was one the chief instruments of repression. To send to jail whomever an official wanted proved to be very simple: it was sufficient to find a person who would give the necessary evidence; it was not necessary to prove anything in those cases. Solzhenitsyn wrote that in some cities every fourth resident could receive the suggestion to squeal on someone. And here, it seems, the law enforcement agencies have again adopted squealing as a weapon.
Two latest examples. In the city of Stary Oskol, Belgorod province, the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses was liquidated allegedly for "mass distribution" of extremist material, but what do we see in fact? The court made a decision proceeding from a single incident in which a certain Sergei Ishkov stated that Jehovah's Witnesses gave him a Bible. While this Bible is not even included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Earlier Ishkov had come to worship services of Jehovah's Witnesses and displayed sincere interest in what occurred. Subsequently it turned out that he was recording all of the services on a dictaphone. After Ishkov received a Bible, his wife wrote to the police a statement to the effect that her husband "has fallen into a sect, and has become asocial and abnormal. Help save my family." Of course, the police came and seized ill-fated Bible. The result of the orchestrated family drama was the liquidation of the whole organization of those who read that Bible.
In another situation, this time in Belgorod itself, Jehovah's Witnesses found themselves under a prohibition because of a similar situation. One gets the impression that bureaucrats work out methods that then they intend to use more actively. Nikita Sukhobrus, a youth of 21 years of age, affirmed that somebody (whose name is unknown) allegedly gave him the same Bible and several books from the list of forbidden materials, and the contents of websites that are forbidden by law were discussed at services of Jehovah's Witnesses. At the same time there is no evidence that the mysterious donor was a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization; his second claim is an unambiguous lie. Although there is evidence that Sukhobrus is connected to the Orthodox church: on social media it is possible to find photographs where he is receive a medal from the hands of Archbishop of Belgorod and Stary Oskol Ioann.
It is also known that at a minimum since 2014 Sukhobrus has been an active participant in the Belgorod organization "Youth First Aid," which participates in various demonstrations in support of the government. His companion in this organization, a certain Androsov, is notorious for wearing a tee-shirt with the inscription "I hate Jehovah's Witnesses." Concurrently, Androsov is an aide to the Russian State Duma Deputy Mikhail Markelov, who defends everything Orthodox and is a member of a public agency of the Belgorod police. In both Belgorod and Stary Oskol, the FSB has actively tapped phone conversations of Jehovah's Witnesses and conducted clandestine video taping of the services and even of informal meetings. The union of church, FSB, and youth organizations operates trouble-free.
Can one talk about how bureaucrats have found a yet more effective means of settling accounts with undesirables than planting compromising material on them? Since 2014 there has been a growing campaign of planting "extremist" materials on Jehovah's Witnesses (several incidents every month), but the practice of ordinary, classic squealing may prove to be more effective and faster and cheaper than plants. In order to shutter an undesirable organization, it is sufficient to find a person who simply brings a book to the police. It is even possible to not trouble oneself with a search for evidence, fact-finding, or checking the truth of testimony. There is the book—case closed. It is especially alarming that at the same time use is being made of a) publications that are not at all included in the forbidden list of the Ministry of Justice, and b) the Bible, an eternal book.
It seems especially strange also against the background of the fact that last spring the Supreme Court refused to liquidate the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Tiumen, despite several incidents of distribution of "extremist" literature, not finding sufficient basis for such a harsh measure. At the time, the court ruled: "Liquidation of a legal entity . . . is not necessary and is disproportionate to the violations committed and the consequences they evoked." But here the same Supreme Court prohibits the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Belgorod on the basis of such flimsy and unsubstantiated evidence.
"Christ did not write denunciations," and "Of all the apostles, only Judas was a squealer"—these were written on placards at a rally in Moscow organized by a group of Orthodox (!) believers. But the voices of common sense and Christian conscience do not waft to those offices where decisions are made. Varlam Shalamov wrote: "I am little accustomed to giving attention to conversations about informers and squealers. I am too helpless before this supreme force of nature." (tr. by PDS, posted 14 July 2016)
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