In my last installment of this penny dreadful, I left you with the cliff-hanger question: “Was Stepan Karagodin, or was he not, a Japanese spy?”
Looking at the photo of this Russian Cavalier Rustican with the burning-mad King Lear eyes, one can see a fanatical determination (unless that’s just an artifact of the primitive photographical art of the time), yet it is hard to imagine this peasant speaking multiple languages or learning ciphers, or any of that neat spy stuff.
So, what was the actual evidence against him? Well, for starters there was the testimony of a man named Ivan Mikhailovich, a loyal Communist Party member, who was called in by the NKVD tribunal, on December 1, 1937, as a witness against Stepan Karagodin. Ivan’s testimony apparently helped to convict the old curmudgeon, who was duly shot a couple of weeks later. Denis Karagodin, on his website devoted to bringing down the “murderers” of his ancestor, named Mikhailovich as one of the “killers” and “stool pigeons” who “falsely” incriminated his great-grandfather of treason. Here is the “dossier” on Ivan Mikhailovich, posted by Denis Karagodin. What Denis probably did not count on, when he decided to pick this fight with the shadows of other people’s ancestors, was that people like Ivan Mikhailovich may have had good reason to suspect the old guy of being a no-goodnik. For example, Dmitry Steshin cites some actual testimony offered by this same Ivan Mikhailovich, who knew the Karagodin family very well and had probably been keeping his eye on them for years. On that fateful day when he was called into the NKVD tribunal to testify, Mikhailovich apparently gave them an earful, including this:
The year was 1920. [Communist] partisan units were crossing the Volkovka River. They kill the husband of Karagodin’s sister, steal his (Karagodin’s) fur coat and possibly also his horse. This was enough to turn Karagodin against the Soviet government for a very long time. I remember having many political debates with him. He nurtured a deep hatred for everything around him. And the hatred of the father was passed down to his children. I was a student with Karagodin’s son in the Polytechnicum. One day the (22-year-old) son said to me: “The time will come soon when we will cut all your throats.
Please note that Karagodin’s son, who said these terrible things and swore to cut Ivan’s throat, was not arrested nor repressed during the “Great Terror”. Why not? If you believe Westie historians, or Westie media, then anybody who uttered a single word against the Communists was immediately shot, tortured, and sent to the Gulag. Well, maybe that happened in Moscow, but not out in Siberia. The thing is that Karagodin’s son didn’t actually do anything, nor take up arms against the Soviet government. He was just a mouthy brat who continued to study at the Technicum. His Dad, on the other hand… Was a notable Recidivist with a violent past. Well, we shall get to that.
While The World Watches
Note again that this story was dug up by the other side, by the anti-Communist Whites. They started this fight! Prior to this, only a handful of people had ever heard of Stepan Karagodin. But thanks to this Red Scare campaign launched by Karagodin’s descendant Denis, Stepan is so famous now all over the world, that it was ridiculously easy for me to google this old peasant and find my pick of photos to paste.
The whole world is following this story. Why? Apparently they don’t have anything better to do, nor internal demons of their own to exorcize. At the end of his piece, Dmitry Steshin pleads with people to just leave the ghosts alone, “Let the dead bury their dead,” like Jesus used to say.
Personally, I don’t hold to that. I say: “Bring it on.” Let’s learn all about the past and draw the appropriate conclusions. The only problem is when it’s one-sided: When only one of the sides is allowed to tell their story, which is what happens when Westie media gets involved. All the NKVD officers are called “butchers”, and all of the repressed in the Tomsk cell (amounting to around 36 people) were just innocent saints caught up in a Terror Machine. On his website Denis Karagodin bubbles over with gratitude when quoting Westie publications who leaped into the fray and cheered him on; for example, the Washington Post crowing that “In Putin’s Russia it just got easier to find the perpetrators of Stalin’s purges!” Denis Karagodin quickly became the new hero of Westie “Human Rights” organizations bent on taking down “Putin’s Russia”. Why do they want to take down Putin? Why, ’cause Putin, the democratically eleced President of Russia, is the new Stalin! QED. People who don’t know the difference between Stalin and Hitler, also don’t the difference between Stalin and Putin.
If Denis were a true Russian patriot, then he would have told the Westies: “Thanks but no thanks. I don’t need your crocodile tears, nor your hypocritical enthusiasm.” Instead, he welcomed their snake-like embrace and took them to his bosom. Thus proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The Evidence Against Stepan
Stepan Ivanovich Karagodin, born in 1881, was a dedicated anti-Communist and active participant in the White side during the Russian Civil War. The remarks concerning Stepan’s activities in the various White military organizations, came from the testimony of witnesses for the Prosecution, including the above-mentioned Ivan Mikhailovich:
On August 25-28, 1918, Stepan took part in an anti-Red peasant conference in the village of Peschanoozersk in the Amur region of Siberia. The conference was organized by the “Union of Grain Workers”. The conference condemned the activities of the Amur Commissars and refused to assist them in the mobilization of peasants into the Red Army. The conference then proceeded to elect an Executive Committee of 17 men, which most likely included Stepan Karagodin. The committee called itself the “Provisional Executive Committee of the Amur Oblast”.
This organization constituted more of a military opposition than a debating club, and quickly proceeded to enter into alliance with the major anti-Bolshevik forces operating in the region. A broad military coalition was formed, consisting of Japanese, American, White Russian (“White” in the sense of anti-Communist), Cossack, and Chinese soldiers. All were broadly under the command of two Japanese generals: Yamada (who I think was this guy) and Yuhara. This White army attacked several areas controlled by the Bolsheviks, including the city of Blagoveshchensk and other populated towns.
It was the morning of 18 September, 1918. Stepan Karagodin, serving in a vanguard unit of 50 Cossacks, which had been organized and armed a couple of weeks earlier in Sakhalian, under the command of Ataman Gamov, and with the support of Japanese military forces, stormed the city of Blagoveshchensk. The Cossacks departed from Sakhalian and crossed the Amur River in a landing boat. After seizing Blagoveshchensk, they arrested around 20 Bolsheviks at the train station.
During the occupation of Amur by the Japanese, Stepan Karagodin lived most of the time in the town of Volkovo, which housed Japanese military units.
1924. Stepan Karagodin, something of a serial mutineer by this point, joined the “Zazeiskoe Rebellion” against the Soviet government. Something around 5,000 peasants and Cossacks participated in this rebellion. Even after being crushed, the rebels continued to launch occasional attacks from outside the Soviet borders.
Stepan Karagodin continued to live and survive within Tomsk for the next 14 years. Engaging in ideological debates and raising his children to hate the government, but otherwise quiescent.
Who Were the Harbintsy?
The city of Harbin, Manchuria, was founded as a Russian frontier outpost in 1898 on the trans-Manchurian railway line. After Russia’s defeat in the war with Japan in 1905, many ethnic Russian colonists fled from Harbin, but many others remained. In time, this city came to have one of the largest Russian diasporas outside the borders of Russia proper. During the Russian Civil War, Harbin became a haven for the White Guard, with up to 200,000 White emigrants dwelling there. They, along with the rest of the Russian diaspora, worked mainly on the railroad.
In the 1930’s Japan occupied Manchuria and created its own puppet government there. In 1935 the Soviet Union sold its portion of the trans-Manchurian railway to the new Japanese overlords. Along with this, the Russian settlers of Harbin were all expelled by the Japanese. The Russians were forced to quit their jobs on the railroad, and to return to the Soviet Union. Where most of them were promptly arrested by the NKVD, accused of counter-revolutionary activities. All this happened in accordance with NKVD Special Order #593, signed on September 20, 1937. One can see, from reading the order that the Communist government was very worried about the influx of such a number of potential traitors; not too mention the possible quantity of Japanese spies injected along with ordinary railroad workers. And the NKVD repression of the “Harbinites” did indeed have the quality of a mass repression. On the part of a government which was becoming very paranoid about external threats, espionage, and possible invasions from East and West.
What does this have to do with Stepan Karagodin? Well, not much, since Stepan never lived in Harbin. Nonetheless, the term “Harbinite” had entered the NKVD lexicon as a general term denoting anyone out there in Siberia with White-Guard sympathies who might still possibly be collaborating with the Japanese. And the anti-Harbinite arrests swept up such people as Stepan, who had probably been on the list of “the usual suspects” for quite some time. Hence, the sentence against Stepan, when it finally came, after a 3-day investigation and trial, reads as follows:
“Convicted by a special meeting of the NKVD (Moscow) as the organizer of an espionage-diversionary group of Kharbintsy; a Japanese agent; and a Resident of Japanese military intelligence.”
- And so, we come full circle, to the question whether the NKVD officers who arrested, tried, and shot Stepan Karagodin, accusing him of assisting Russia’s external enemies (in this case, the Japanese) were just being completely ridiculous and unfair to him.
- Or did they have valid reasons to suspect him of treason?
- Or was he just one of the “usual suspects” that they knew was an enemy, but they couldn’t quite prove it scientifically, so they relied on sloppy police work and the accusations of his friends and neighbors?
One indicator that the latter bullet point might have hit close to the mark: The Soviet government itself experienced some remorse later in life. In the late 1950’s, after Stalin’s death and the advent of a more liberal era, Karagodin’s family received a long-awaited letter in the mailbox: Their long-dead Papa has been rehabilitated. Presumably the Soviet government of the more liberal Khruchshev era felt a twinge of remorse: Maybe they went too far in shooting Stepan, despite his history as a serial mutineer and recidivist White-Guardist. Maybe they felt that Stepan had very little to do with the “Harbinites” and was not an active Japanese agent after all. Despite the fact that he had indeed fought alongside Japanese soldiers and against the Red Army in his youth.
It is also a fact that the Russian people, in general, whatever their political affiliations, disapprove of just arresting a man and not letting his family know that he is in custody. This is always morally wrong, of course, regardless of a man’s guilt or innocence. Stepan’s family had to wait many years to learn what they probably already suspected: That Papa has “died in custody”. Another indication that Stepan’s execution had not been fully aboveboard, nor his conviction fully transparent and in accordance with the legal codex and the Soviet Constitution. It is known that the NKVD at that time, and especially in that sensitive region (=the Russian Far East) was operating in full rules of wartime mode; as if a hot war was going on. In other words, operating with haste, cutting corners, and not always observing legal niceties nor acting with transparency.
What Is the Moral Of the Story?
I began this story as if it were a fable, involving animals instead of Kings. And every fable must have a moral. However, since I already pointed out that there are at least three sides to this story, then there must be at least three morals; namely:
- White moral: Stalin’s bloody NKVD repressed innocent people with no rhyme or reason. The current Putin government is the successor to the bloody Stalin government. Therefore, like Denis Karagodin has stated, when he picked this fight: This endless “Russian bloodbath” can never be ended until Russia itself is ended; or all Russians repent for their eternal badness.
- Red moral: The NKVD was well aware who were the enemies of the state and who had fought against them in the past. It was okay to arrest traitors such as Stepan Karagodin, even if a few corners had to be cut along the way, in such a time of dire national emergency, what with the Japanese and Germans sharpening their knives and getting ready to invade.
- Conciliator moral: Let’s just put all this past behind us. Can’t we all just get along? Let us stop digging up the bones of our dead ancestors, dressing them up in wartime costumes, and forcing them to re-enact their past battles, for our amusement and our polemics.
And for those who like their fables in animal form, here is the Fable of the Farmer and the Snake:
A Farmer walked through his field one cold winter morning. On the ground lay a Snake, stiff and frozen with the cold. The Farmer knew how deadly the Snake could be, and yet he picked it up and put it in his bosom to warm it back to life.
The Snake soon revived, and when it had enough strength, bit the man who had been so kind to it. The bite was deadly and the Farmer felt that he must die. As he drew his last breath, he said to those standing around:
Learn from my fate not to take pity on a scoundrel.