7 February 2022
Grigory Vaypan is a human rights lawyer
On the ruling by a court in Stavropol region in favour of one of the ‘Children of the Gulag.’
A small but important victory: today a court in Stavropol region ruled in favour of one of the ‘Children of the Gulag,’ 71-year-old Nikolai Mitkin. He is one of those who filed a class action lawsuit against the State Duma last autumn.
Mitkin’s mother, Frida Keller, an ethnic German, was deported in 1941 from a German farming community at Nikolaevka in Ordzhonikidze region (now Stavropol region) to Kazakhstan and from there sent to Usollag. Mitkin was born in 1951 in a special prison settlement in the village of Ust-Yazva, Molotov region (now Perm) and still lives there to this day. This village is 330 kilometres north of Perm. The Nikolaevka farming community, after the deportation, gradually died out and in 1966 it was officially deemed to have ceased to exist.
Mitkin is seeking to exercise his right to return home [#ПравоВернутьсяДомой]. According to the 2019 ruling by the Constitutional Court, all ‘Gulag Children’ should now be put on the housing list at their family’s previous place of residence without any conditions. But local officials refused Mitkin, saying he did not have a Stavropol residence registration. As for the ruling of the Constitutional Court, they said they hadn’t heard of it. And when they did hear of it, of course, they didn’t believe it.
Today, Petrovsky district court in Stavropol region ruled that this refusal was unlawful. Now they will have to put Nikolai Mitkin on a waiting list for housing in Stavropol region. This is the first court decision I know of where stubborn local officials are obliged to recognize the right of ‘GULAG Children’ to housing in compliance with the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
In some regions, ‘Gulag Children’ have been placed on the housing registry since 2020 without any need to go to court (for example, in Moscow and St. Petersburg). But in some regions it has been necessary to go to court. We are closely monitoring the situation and helping ‘Gulag Children’ protect their right to return. While the bill has not yet passed the State Duma, you should not waste time and everyone should register on the appropriate housing waiting list. If you have met with an official refusal to comply with the Constitutional Court’s ruling on ‘Gulag Children,’ write to us at [email protected].
Mitkina’s case was handled in court pro bono by the Stavropol lawyer Kristina Semenova. Our thanks to her! Lawyers from the International Memorial Society assisted from Moscow, in particular Aleksandra Butko. А другие «дети ГУЛАГа» откликнулись на нашу просьбу и прислали нInternational Memorial’s lawyers and, in particular, Alexandra Butko helped her from Moscow. And other ‘Gulag Children’ have responded to our request and have sent us certified copies of their documents with examples of positive practice from other regions, so that the Stavropol court should not fear ruling in favour of Mitkin. There’s solidarity for you!
Translated by Simon Cosgrove