I was at the public hearings dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Norilsk uprising, a non-violent protest in several concentration camps in Norilsk, a Russian city north of the Arctic Circle, in May 1953. Almost 70% of inmates were Ukrainians. Some of them spoke at the hearings, sharing their routine there: 12-hour working days at -58°C, a daily menu of 300g of bread and a bowl of soup of rotten sprats, boots made from car tires weighing 4kg each but protective against immediate freeze burn, terror of criminal prisoners per approval from prison administration, and other kinds of targeted and well-planned humiliation. As I listened, I thought of contemporary mental successors of chekists and camp staff – they now turn to fascism to scare Ukrainians.
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The timing for their horror story seems perfect: it’s been barely a month since the celebration of Stalin’s victory over Hitler, so they have an excuse to once again remind people of the crimes of one bloody regime against those of another. It should have worked, but the Party of Regions’ professionals missed the fact that the phrase “German fascism” was invented in the Soviet Union. Everyone else knows that fascists existed in Italy, too, and the Italian regime, albeit equally vulgar, did not involve terror as violent as Germany’s. The latter had National-Socialism – something quite different, infernal, a manifest of the worst of the devilish in human nature. However, unlike the communists, the Nazis told fewer lies. They said that they wanted to grab foreign lands, and they did. They said that they hated Jews, and they killed them. The communists promised “a happy future”, equality, fairness and humanity, while killing more people than any regime in human history ever did. Unfortunately, for the miserable public sector employees bussed in to the Party of Regions’ “anti-fascist” march on May 18 in Kyiv for a UAH 50 payout (and rumour has it that some never got their promised money), this seems too distant, and thus obscure, making it difficult to understand. Some enthusiasts even brought Stalin’s portraits and red flags with golden hammers and sickles.
The Party of Regions’ spin doctors are obviously losing their finesse. They expect Ukrainians to remember cheap Soviet sausage, and forget the Norilsk daily menu, bullets in the back of the head and the Holodomor and GULAGs. Some have forgotten it, indeed. Most haven’t. We’re not idiots.
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Actually, the intolerant declarations of some opposition politicians – especially those kept for a narrow circle of friends, not the wide public – make me sick, too. Yet, they are far from the biggest threat today. I find the schizophrenia spread by the government and primitive lies and cynicism that have become the essence of the regime’s official policy much more insulting.
Those in power are talking of fascism? Who will believe them after the police sabotaged the investigation of the May 18 assault of the journalist by “anti-fascists”. Official statements claimed the opposition rented the anti-Yatseniuk armoured vehicle, hired thugs to beat protesters and gave them them fake badges of the “anti-fascist” march administration; and statements that nobody actually beat the journalist – she fell on her own. Remember the widow who flogged herself in Gogol’s Inspector-General?
When those in power disdain people, they use the most primitive of methods against them and involving criminals to support their policies is just one. In GUALGs, they set bandits against political inmates. The same thing appears to be happening now. At least those present at the Norilsk hearings – they know the process from personal experience — they saw the parallels. So, they had a few questions for those struggling against fascism in Ukraine. They know that the country has a parliament where the majority is initiating the anti-fascism campaign. Ukraine has a security service appointed by the anti-fascist party. So, where are official lists of fascist organizations and movements, their leaders, newspapers and members? Where are reports on measures taken to close them down? And where is the legal definition of fascism? Because I can’t help but think of the plump faces of the Party of Regions boys whenever I hear the word “fascist”. An implicit association, you know.