12 May 2022
On 29 April 2022, Oleg Orlov and Irina Galkova were detained in Red Square while staging an anti-war picket. Oleg is a former employee of the now-liquidated Memorial Human Rights Centre and a laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and Irina used to work for the International Memorial Society, also now liquidated. Each was subsequently fined 65,000 roubles for ‘discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation’ and for violating the rules on picketing. Below is the text of the speech Oleg Orlov delivered in court.
I make no effort to deny the fact that on 29 April I went to Red Square and held up a placard saying USSR 1945 ― a country that triumphed over fascism. Russia 2022 ― a country where fascism has triumphed.
That does not mean I am pleading guilty to committing an administrative offence. I have done nothing to discredit the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. I was merely stating a terrible truth: in our country, fascism has triumphed.
I would like to explain my reasoning and motivation, and outline the legal grounds that allow me to plead not guilty.
The inscription on the placard I was holding consisted of two parts. Unfortunately, neither the vague, inarticulate explanations given by the police officers who detained me nor the attachments to the report detailing the ‘administrative offence’ do anything to help us determine which of the two parts of the inscription the police consider to be an ‘action designed to discredit the Russian Armed Forces’. And ― again unfortunately ― my application to have the officers summoned to court was refused. So I am left with nothing but my own suppositions, guesswork, and speculation.
It seems highly unlikely that the police viewed the first part of the inscription, describing the USSR as a country which triumphed over fascism, as discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
I imagine they viewed the second part as the discrediting element, where I assert that fascism has triumphed in today’s Russia.
Supposing that to be so, I would like to draw the court’s attention to two points. First, my assertion is based on an assessment of events in Russia over the last decade. We have had the same political regime for the whole of that time, and I have analysed a range of their activities. Including, of course, the terrible events of this year.
Second, my assessment is based on a specific definition of fascism. Fascism is a hideous phenomenon, and there are many definitions of it, some of which differ markedly from one another. In the present case, I am relying on a definition proposed in 1995 by the Russian Academy of Sciences. This was drawn up to accompany a decree issued on 23 March 1995 by Boris Yeltsin, then the Russian President, entitled Measures to ensure coordinated action by state authorities in the fight against manifestations of fascism and other forms of political extremism in the Russian Federation.
The definition is as follows: ‘Fascism is an ideology and practice which asserts the superiority and exclusivity of a certain nation or race, and is aimed at the incitement of national intolerance, the justification of discrimination against other peoples, the repudiation of democracy, the establishment of a cult of personality, the use of violence and terror to suppress political opponents and any form of dissent, and the justification of war as a means of solving inter-state problems.’
On the basis of this definition, German Nazism is only one manifestation of fascism ― the most systematic, terrible, and cruel.
The one word I think is missing from this definition is the adjective ‘totalitarian’, applied to both ideology and practice. Fascism, just like communism, is by its very nature totalitarian.
Returning to my actions of 29 April. I have to say, it is abundantly clear to me that our country’s current political regime has all the qualities, attributes and manifestations of a fascist regime as set out in the Russian Academy of Sciences’ definition. Those fascist tendencies have already been visible for several years, and they achieved their apotheosis in February and March of this year, when my country launched its military action in Ukraine. This was the moment at which we could say for sure: Russia has a fascist regime.
This is a terrible thing. It is also extremely important. It is of social significance not just for Russia, not just for Russia’s neighbours, but for the whole world. For that reason I considered it no less important that I, a citizen of my country and not the vassal of any leader, Father Of The Nation, or Führer, should draw the attention of my fellow citizens to it.
Which I did.
I picked Red Square to stand in on the day before the May holidays, because I knew that in that very place, very soon, on Victory Day, a speech would be made rightfully recognising victory over fascism in 1945, and falsely contending that my country was now once again fighting Nazism. It seemed important to me that I should stand there and say that fascism had established itself in my country in 2022, and call on my fellow citizens to think about what was happening.
I exercised rights still guaranteed by Articles 29 and 31 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Translated by Richard Coombes