Grigory Pasko: Happy New Year, Country!

Happy New Year, Country! By Grigory Pasko, journalist On December 20, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were transferred to Chita: one from Krasnokamensk in Chita Oblast, the other from the settlement of Kharp in the Yamalo-Nenetsk Okrug. The official story is that this was done for the conducting of some kind of “investigative measures” within the framework of the continuing criminal case with respect to employees of the YUKOS oil company. Why was it decided to conduct the investigative actions right at the end of December and not some other time? What happened that the authorities suddenly remembered about Khodorkovsky and Lebedev again? What could be the goals and motives of those people who took upon themselves the responsibility for deciding the fates of other people? gulag.jpg The administrators of the gulags tend to apply additional psychological pressure during the holidays. First of all, I think that nobody is going to be conducting any investigative actions in Chita, either in the remaining days of December or in the first half of January. The procuracy’s investigators, just like all the citizens of the Land of the Soviets, are going to be drinking vodka non-stop for the next three weeks as they celebrate one holiday after another: the Catholic Christmas, New Year, the Orthodox Christmas, and the “Old New Year” on January 13-14… The lawyers for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have been summoned (or in the argot – “dragged off”) to Chita for December 26 and 27 only to show the appearance of furious activity before the bosses: look how zealous we are, even working during the holidays, with nary a concern for our own well-being. (Although all that freebie cognac already sloshing around in their livers probably tells much more about just how concerned they are for their well-being). The whole point of convoying the famous prisoners like that is to break their psychological state of mind once more. Khodorkovsky recently had a long conjugal visit. The man is still under the influence of having seen his loved ones. His routine in the penal colony has become more or less established; he hasn’t even had any reprimands for nonsensical contrived violations of the rules in a long time. He’s already grown accustomed to the surreal and stupid situation he finds himself in. He’s lost weight, his hair has turned gray, but still, he’s gotten used to the situation. No doubt he’s learned how to laugh at the manifestations of idiocy all around him. The people assigned to keep a constant watch on him see all this; they record it and then report it where they’re supposed to. Where they’re supposed to, the lips of Procurator-General Chaika have already voiced the idea of continuing the investigation in the criminal case of the “YUKOS figurants”. (I’ve come to the realization that with the arrival of the new boss, the Procuracy-General has but three duties left to perform: the extradition of Berezovsky and Zakayev, the YUKOS case, and close cooperation with the Russian government). And so, now that Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his “partner in crime” Platon Lebedev” have set their minds at rest a bit as the end of the year approaches, it was decided to “jerk them out” for another convoying – just so they wouldn’t start thinking that life is a bowl of cherries! This is the only purpose of such actions. Of course, the investigative organs are going to go through some motions and show some signs of life. But not in December and not in the beginning of January of the coming year. And why will they need to show some signs of life? In order to underscore something that everybody has known for a long time already anyway: that Khodorkosky has and can have no hope of early release on parole. That is, technically speaking he does have such a right: half his term will be over in a year. But next year will be the year of elections to the State Duma, and in another year – the operation to replace the president will be conducted. There’s clearly no room for Khodorkovsky on the inside of all these games. So he has to remain behind bars. Under any pretext, on any unlawful grounds. …And the method for putting psychological pressure on people during the holidays is a very old one indeed. Just look at my own experience. In the Vladivostok prison, I was held in one and the same cell for two months during the investigation. When I became accustomed to the faces, smells, and regime of this cell, when I received a holiday package from the outside, I was transferred just a couple of hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve to a new cell, which held forty people instead of ten like it was supposed to. I remember thinking then: dragging you from the cell where you’ve gotten used to the nightmare and throwing you in another cell just before the New Year is a very cheap move. And you’ve probably guessed already that many of the things I’d managed to acquire in my two months in the previous cell (not to mention the holiday package) remained in the old cell. But I was already an experienced “zek”. I didn’t let it upset me; I quickly made the acquaintance of my new cellmates, got into the rhythm of things in this cell, and even took part in the making of a New Year’s cake. In case you’re interested, here’s the recipe so you can jot it down for yourselves: one handful of breadcrumbs made from brown or black bread (whatever happens to be at hand), a couple of spoonfuls of powdered milk, water, and sugar. If you’ve got some condensed milk or a spoonful of honey, that’s super. Mix it all together, set it out in the winter cold next to the window bars for 20-30 minutes, and voila, your holiday cake is ready. So tasty you’ll be licking your fingers! Mikhail and Platon won’t lose their cool. They’re experienced already; they’ve got the scuffs and scrapes to prove it. And they will find the inner strength, even in their new surroundings, to celebrate the holiday and to look condescendingly upon the efforts of today’s Russian power to psychologically destroy them. This we can survive– we’re much stronger than they are psychologically. It will be worse if they start destroying people physically out of their own sense of helplessness. Come to think of it, they’ve already started doing that, haven’t they?