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Grigory Pasko: Are Hangmen Sad at Night?

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Are hangmen sad at night?

Grigory Pasko, journalist

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President of the RF Dmitry Medvedev, appearing at the beginning of December at the All-Russian Congress of Judges, made a series of important declarations. In part, he declared about the necessity of adopting a law consolidating various forms of promulgating information about the work of courts. He likewise said about the necessity of creating a unitary disciplinary organ, which would be able to control the application of disciplinary measures of influence on judges.

“If there arise substantive questions toward a judge, he needs to be kicked out not during the course of three years, but right away, when this has taken place”, – said the president.

There is probably nobody in the world already who could have been deceived by these words of the Russian president. The fact of the matter is that the leadership of Russia already has a reputation: this is people who nearly always say the right words, and these words nearly always diverge with the real deeds.


It is precisely under the current leaders that many courts in Russia have utterly turned into hangman structures.

Let us examine a concrete example of the activity of judges. To myview, the finding by an official of an unlawful decision as lawful -this is a variety of crime. And if this crime leads to negativeconsequences in the life or health of another person – then such anofficial can be equated with a hangman. Recently, the Ingodinskydistrict court of Chita found unlawful and repealed two sanctionsimposed on Mikhail Khodorkovsky by the leadership of the Chitan SIZO [investigative isolator prison–Trans.] Repealed was a sanction on Khodorkovsky in the form of three days of karzer [punishment dungeon–Trans.]for non-reporting to the chief of the SIZO about the number of personsin the cell, as well as a reprimand for a dirty cover of a drinkingwater canister. (I’ll say right away: sanctions for such motives arevery rare in the jail milieu and in fenya (the language of inmates) are named «bespontovye», that is, manifestly idiotic and contrived. To such punishments the jailers run only in «red» [punishment] zones and in the event that a command has been received from an investigator to «press the client»).

The latter two sanctions were imposed on Khodorkovsky in August ofthe year 2008 right on the eve of a trial that was supposed to examinea petition on conditional early release (UDO). And although at thetrial the procuracy did not make reference to the issuance several daysprior to this of a sanction, (it would thereby have only confirmed thedeliberateness of these sanctions), nevertheless, Khodorkovsky didspend two days in the karzer, while the trial went on. The court in the end denied the petition of Khodorkovsky’s lawyers about the UDO of their client.

The hangmen in our country are unpunishable, because they are actingon the orders of hangmen from above. And for the «supreme» hangmenthere is only one court – the court of History. Unfortunately.

The jailers who announced the unlawful sanctions to Khodorkovskyhave first and last names. But we don’t know them. The judges who foundthe unlawful decisions lawful also have first and last names. But wedon’t know them. The judge who did not release Bakhmina on UDO also hasa last name. And that judge who is holding the gravely ill Alexanyan indetention also has a last name… These first and last name must bepublished in every paper and on every Internet site. As they say, acountry has to know its heroes… And antiheroes too.

Alexander Galich has such lines:
Белый хлеб икрой намазан густо,
Слезы кипяточка горячей,
Палачам бывает тоже грустно,
Пожалейте люди палачей!

The white bread is spread thickly with caviar,
Tears hotter than boiling water,
Hangmen can be sad too sometimes,
Have pity people on the hangmen!

I like this poem, but I have always been sure that hangmen are neversad and that they never cry at night. At any rate, not about whatthey’ve done by the nature of their hangman’s profession.

But here’s why I remembered about hangmen.

The complexity lies in the fact that hangmen, as a rule, hide theirnames. They’re afraid of the court of History. But some scraps of paperdo get preserved.

Here, let us say, is an Akt, drawn up on 4 July of the year 1938:

“We, the undersigned, senior lieutenant of state securityOvchinnikov, lieutenant Shigalev and major Ilyin, have drawn up thepresent Akt about how on today’s date we have brought intoexecution a decision of a troika of the UNKVD MO of 15 June. On thebasis of the present prescription we have shot dead the below-followingconvicts…” Further there follows a list of twenty two persons.

And here is a character reference of one such hangman [written in characteristic Soviet “officialise”–Trans.]:«To work – relates well. About what he does – cares. Possesses greatcapability for work and a sufficient portion of energy… Resourceful,disciplined”.

I find judicial prosecutions of criminals from the number of formeremployees of the NKVD to be just. (These prosecutions are rare andhappen in recent times only in the Baltic countries). Because all thecriminals of the world must know: sooner or later they will be punished.

About just this in Galich as well:

Очень плохо палачам по ночам,
Если снятся палачи палачам…

It’s very bad for hangmen at night,
If the hangmen dream about hangmen…

Usually they sleep well. And only if they dream about the same kind of hangmen as themselves are they tormented by nightmares.

A good night to you, hangmen!

By the way:

Yuri Schmidt, lawyer of M.Khodorkovsky: «In and of itself,the fact of the repeal of the unlawfully imposed sanctions, of course,is pleasing, there are no words. I think that it makes sense for us toraise the question about the liability of the leadership of theisolator and the leadership of the Krasnokamensk colony. But willsomebody be punished for the fact that they gave Khodorkovsky over ashort time in succession first three, and then twelve days of karzer? Idoubt it».

Image: A poster of the times of the USSR, an idealizedsocialist-realist depiction of a typical court, featuring aprofessional judge and two “peoples’ assessors”, a sort of mini-jury.The title reads: “Soviet court – court of the people!”