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Russian Historian On Trial For Violating Privacy Laws

ARKHANGELSK, Russia -- Plaintiffs at the trial of a Russian historian accused of illegally revealing personal data have given contradictory testimony, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Mikhail Suprun, who studied the life of ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union, was charged with violating Article 137 of the Criminal Code, which forbids encroachment upon a person's private life.

Suprun went on trial in the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk earlier this month. His co-defendant, Aleksandr Dudarev, heads the Interior Ministry department in Arkhangelsk Oblast.

Four years ago, Suprun and Nadezhda Shalygina, a postgraduate student at Arkhangelsk's Pomor University, started a study on the fate of ethnic Germans deported from Crimea and the Volga region during World War II as "enemies of the Soviet people" to so-called "labor armies" in northern Russia.

One of the goals of the study was to identify those who were deported and chronicle the hardships they faced.

By 2009, Suprun and Shalygina had identified some 20 percent of the ethnic Germans who had been deported to the northern Arkhangelsk region.

Germany's Red Cross expressed support for the publication of "The Book of Memory" based on the results of Suprun's research.

But when the local prosecutor's office announced that the relatives of some deported Germans were suing Suprun for revealing personal information about their families, an investigation was opened.

Dudarev's lawyer told RFE/RL today that on October 17 the plaintiffs gave vague and mutually contradictory testimony.

Dudarev said the plaintiffs reminisced about their own experiences and the sufferings of their relatives between the 1940s and 1960s, but when asked precisely what they are accusing the defendants of, they were unable to answer.

"When the judge reminded them that they filed a lawsuit against the defendants, the plaintiffs said Federal Security Service officers had visited them and asked them to write complaints," he said. "Some of the plaintiffs even stated that they never wrote any complaints. When one of the plaintiffs said that, the judge showed him a document signed by him. The plaintiff was very surprised but said: 'Yes, that is my signature, [I suppose] that means I wrote that complaint.'"

Dudarev added that the investigator even insisted that Suprun be charged with revealing state secrets, as documents with detailed information about the activities of Russia's intelligence services were found in his personal archive during the investigation. But the prosecutor's office refused to add that charge to the lawsuit.

The trial is being held behind closed doors.

The so-called Volga Germans were the descendants of Germans who settled in the Russian empire in the late 18th century.

A Volga German Autonomous Republic was established in 1924. But Stalin abolished it in 1941 -- fearing the Volga Germans might collaborate with Nazi Germany -- and had the German population of some 500,000 deported to northern Russia, Siberia, and Kazakhstan. Up to one-third of them are believed to have died en route or in exile.

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Comment Sorting
by: C. Baumgar from: Saint Petersburg
October 29, 2011 03:47
This case is clearly a residual NKVD setup against Mikhail Suprun and his colleague Aleksandr Dudarev. Contradictory information from plaintiffs decries of corrupt court proceedings attempting to suppress again the light of humanity in favor of the darkened criminal actions by a former regime of cowards. How fortunate Article 137 conveniently suppresses those crimes committed upon an innocent group of once Imperial loyalists for which the magnitude of forgiveness can never be felt by the perpetrators of this crime. The defendants in this case have attempted in an honorable way to document a period in Soviet history that should be considered the most atrocious of human acts in modern times however the current Government seems to continue the oppressive actions once so enforced through fear and terror. As a descendent of these people I am appalled by the current policy and judicial actions of the prosecutor and that a day will come when all attempts at silencing good intentions (the defendants) will receive global condemnation as a result. The descendants of the Volga and Black Sea Colonials demand and deserve a complete accounting of all Colonial Germanic's forcibly deported or executed under not only Stalin but also Lenin, the first mass murderer of the Communist State. These innocent victims have been ignored for generations and presumably forgotten, however this is not so and just as every day pushes forward so does the growing numbers of grandchildren, descendants of Ekaterina II's Volga and Black Sea Colonials. We continue the search for our missing families and relatives, but once again the intervention of government policy is reminiscent of 1917 to 1989. More activism should be done for these defendants because they are innocently accused. The prosecutor needs to review the actions of the court and dismiss this case in support of all the victims of deportation and forced labor yet to be identified by the genocidal actions of Stalin and Communism/Bolshevism. Mikhail Suprun and his colleague Aleksandr Dudarev are the men who can do this. To them, we Colonial Germanic's, owe a great deal of gratitude for all they have done.

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