7 July 2022
Aleksei Gorinov’s Final Word
Source: Aleksandr Podrabinek, Facebook
The prosecution asked for 7 years in prison for Aleksei Gorinov. Today, on the eve of sentencing, he delivered his “final word” in Moscow’s Meshchansky Court.
“I think, or it always seemed to me, that our shared past dictates a few principal lessons to us.
My father returned from the Second World War an invalid. As did his brother. And they were lucky. But they did their job. They did! Their sacred duty to defend the Fatherland from the enemy.
I came to Moscow in the 1960s. With veterans who were missing arms, missing legs, blind. There were quite a few like that in our building. I grew up among them.
Those who survived the war were sparing of stories about it. With age, I understood why. Because war in and of itself, as a human activity, no matter what synonym you use for it, is the lowest, nastiest, dirtiest business of all. A business unworthy of the rank of the human being whom the Universe and evolution entrusted to preserve and multiply everything living on our planet.
I’m convinced that war is the fastest means of dehumanization, when the line between good and evil is erased. War is always violence and blood, torn up bodies and severed limbs. It is always death. I do not accept this, I reject it.
This is what our shared past has taught me. And not only me, probably. In the Russian Criminal Code we have Articles 353 and 354, which provide for severe liability for the preparation, conduct, and propaganda of a war of aggression. And I think that Russia reached its limit on wars back in the twentieth century.
Russia has been conducting military actions on the territory of a neighboring state for five months, shamefully calling it a “special military operation.” We are promised victory and glory. Then why are a significant share of my fellow citizens feeling shame and guilt? Why have many left—and are still leaving—Russia? And why does our country suddenly have so many foes? Maybe there’s something wrong with us? Let’s think about it! Give us a chance at least to discuss what is going on. To exchange opinions. Ultimately, that is our constitutional right!
Basically, that is what I did. At a municipal council meeting I expressed my opinion, my human attitude toward the subject of voting. I justified this opinion, this attitude, out of my convictions. I was supported by the majority of those present!
And now I’m in court.
Apparently even this is somehow out of our shared past, yet another unlearned lesson. Persecution for speech, fabricated cases, hasty trial, belated insight: “What do you mean? We didn’t know!”
During the years of Stalinist terror, my grandfather was accused of calling for the overthrow of the Soviet order in whose creation and strengthening he had participated in the most direct way possible. My grandfather lived to be fully rehabilitated—half a century later.
I hope my rehabilitation will take much less time. But for now I’m here, in the courtroom. My criminal case is one of the first to be heard, but hundreds of such criminal cases have been opened in Russia against my fellow citizens who are thinking and speaking out about what is going on. Families are being destroyed, young people’s lives shattered.
In speaking here, I’m speaking for all those who have not yet come before the court.
The few sentences I uttered at an ordinary session of the Council of Deputies have been examined under a microscope. An investigative group was formed of nine investigators, six of them “for especially important cases.” Five of the experts are linguists and psychologists. They dug around in my thoughts, trying to understand what really stands behind the opinion I expressed to my deputy colleagues on one agenda item. What was my secret meaning and hidden premise? What was really behind these sentences of mine? They generated two expert analyses of 120 pages.
Meanwhile, Article 29 of the Russian Constitution guarantees each person freedom of thought and speech—unless it’s a matter of the propaganda of hatred, hostility, or dominance. Each person has the right to freely search for, obtain, transmit, produce, and disseminate information by any legal means. The freedom of mass information is guaranteed. Censorship is prohibited.
During the days of the August 1991 putsch, I was also a deputy. Along with other defenders, I was at the republic’s Supreme Council building, the White House. We were defending our future, our right to live freely—which means to speak freely, to express our thoughts, to gather information, and to share it.
If they had told me then that 30 years later I would be tried by a criminal court for my speech, my opinion, I wouldn’t have believed it. The reasons for this very sad result to which our society has come will require painstaking investigation and comprehension by historians. They will require not only comprehension but conclusions as well. It’s not going to be simple, but we are going to have to admit that war is war. We are going to have to rehabilitate the victims and try the criminals. We are going to have to restore the good name of our people, our country.
For now I wish our regime prudence. And for the court, wisdom. And for everyone over whom the new wave of repressions is rolling, steadfastness, as I do for the entire Ukrainian nation. And for myself—in a future Russia to become its ambassador to Ukraine.
To everyone who has supported me directly or remotely, do not lose heart! I am with you.”
Translated by Marian Schwartz