“We’re so quick to go to make things black and white, and to put things in their box. But everything is this mixture – and that’s what this world is – is this blend of different things.”― Matisyahu
As Victory Day approaches, and still following in the theme of yesterday’s post (sort of), today’s post is a review of this piece by reporter Sergei Guryanov. The story is about the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet NKVD, and about the inability of the Russian intelligentsia to see anything in shades of grey. With them everything is binary: black or white; evil or sublime; ugly or beautiful.
Exhibit A: Blogger and Political Activist Kristina Potupchik unleashed her criticism of the upcoming action “Descendants of Heroes”. Which is an upcoming police festival honoring the ancestors of Russia’s modern police force. And starring current-day Russian policemen wearing the uniforms of the Soviet NKVD. To be more specific, police from Rostov-on-Don, Kalmykia, and Novosibirsk plan to don the NKVD uniform of that era and pose for photographs. The photos will be uploaded to the internet. Kristina objects to this “cosplay” and criticized it on her Facebook, concluding with the words: “Let God be their judge.”
Kristina is not the usual type of Russian kreakle whom one would expect to lash out at a WWII commemoration. On the contrary, she has a reputation as a Russian patriot. Here is the link to her biography. Born in 1986, she came of age in the post-Soviet era, was a strong Putin supporter, and even led the pro-Putin “Nashi” youth group at one time. The Liberal anti-Putin kreakles hate her guts. They are actually the ones whom one would expect to be more horrified by the NKVD uniforms. In my view, it’s not really a contradiction. On the one hand, people are more complicated than we give them credit for. On the other hand, Westie propaganda to the contrary, the pro-Putin crowd are also anti-Communist. Putin himself is strongly anti-Communist and probably believes that Solzhenitsyn wrote only the Gospel Truth about the GULAG. But is too wise a leader to ruffle the feathers of the Russian people. Who, as opinion polls show, are increasingly feeling nostalgic about the Soviet era! And the one thing you may not do to the Russian people, as we discussed in yesterday’s post, is undermine the Great Victory.
In which (Victory) there played a role, yea, even Stalin’s NKVD!
Potupchik was probably surprised when her Facebook sally was met with opposition … by people who regard the NKVD as heroes! Heroes of their time, that is. Or, if not heroes, at least not demons either. Not every NKVD agent was an Oppressor. Some did useful work, catching actual criminals, killing Nazis, and the like. Some did only bad things, like arrest innocent people. Some did only good things. Some did both bad and good. In conclusion: Life is complicated. Reality is complicated. Let God take each soul and weigh on the scale in the Final Judgement!
The Internet Fights Back
Commenter Ashot Safaryan chided Kristina: “Are you saying the NKVD didn’t fight on the front lines? The 17th Artillery Brigade of the NKVD. My grandfather fought in that (unit) for the whole war. He was wounded three times. He liberated Kharkov. He took Vienna and Budapesht.”
Other commenters noted that the Peoples Militia structure was subject to the NKVD. For reasons of historical accuracy, if nothing else, they must don this NKVD uniform for the festival. Potupchik responded to this point by declaring they should not participate in the festival at all, but just lay flowers on the Eternal Flame and march in the “Nameless Regiment” instead. Her advice was not received well, as she doesn’t get to decide these matters. Besides, she’s just a girl.
Writer Maria Yudenich chided Kristina for offending the memory of hundreds of thousands of NKVD soldiers. In many cases, these guys were in the vanguard, taking the brunt of it. Among them, the 132nd Regiment perished to the man while defending the Brest Fortress against the Nazis. NKVD cadre also took part in the Partisan brigades, served in the Militia, were fire fighters, Intel and Counter-Intel. They were everywhere, and did a lot of the heavy lifting. Yudenich reminded Kristina that in 1943 a separate NKVD Army was formed, which fought at the front. They all wore the same uniform.
“Don’t worry,” Yudenich concludes. “Nobody has forgotten about the GULAG. But the NKVD [overall] was a heroic force, and you can’t talk about them [with such contempt] just based on associations that you hear coming out of the Echo Moskva [radio station].”
The Press Secretary of the regional Ministry of Internal Affairs (=the police) of the Rostov region cheerily announced to the press about the upcoming festival: “With this action we hope to tell the story of the heroic deeds of the members of this force who, from 1941-1945 selflessly did their duty and defended their country.” Amen to that.