Staunton, October 29 – The Beilis blood libel case in 1913 was one of the most notorious events during the reign of the last tsar, but a consideration of it shows that with regard to the willingness of officials to stand up to their bosses, the situation in Putin’s Russia is much worse, according to Anton Nosik.
The Moscow commentator points out that in 1913, everyone involved in the anti-semitic trial knew it was completely fraudulent. Many police officials, judges, and experts refused to be a part of it, and those who did go along apparently did so out of a belief that doing so benefited the Russian state (echo.msk.ru/blog/nossik/1186674-echo/).
But “unfortunately a century later,” Nosik continues, “neither in the MVD, nor in the courts, nor in the Procuracy General, not in the Investigation Committee, not to speak about the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church are to be found people” who are willing to stand up to the Kremlin and object to whatever horrors it proposes.
In order to continue to be paid, he argues, “today any state employee and any servant of the church is ready to participate in condemning the innocent be it by false testimony against [them] or by any means which the bosses direct. And even if one OMON officer was found who was prepared to perjure himself, his courage would not save the falsely accused.”
Nosik’s post on Ekho Moskvy provides a detailed comparison between the situation in tsarist Russia in 1913 which has been almost universally condemned for bringing the Beilis case and that in Putin’s Russia today where charges are invented and where, in contrast to their tsarist predecessors, Russian officials are quite prepared to go along and convict.
From the very beginning of the Beilis case, Nosik says, everyone involved knew it had been fabricated for propaganda purposes: the investigators, the prosecutors, the judges, the justice minister, religious leaders, the press, the public, the jurors, and the experts that the prosecution ultimately used.
Today, however, almost all officials and many ordinary citizens are prepared to go along with charges be they in the case of YUKOS, Pussy Riot, the Arctic Sunrise, or Bolotnoye that everyone knows are false and to accept Onishchenko’s accusations about Moldovan wine, Lithuanian milk, Ukrainian candy and Dutch tulips because the Kremlin has made them.
Thanks to the Soviet experience, Nosik continues, Russians have become used to the idea that false charges, if they serve the state, are perfectly acceptable and should be supported. In support of that conclusion, he offers the acceptance even after 1991 of Stalin’s clearly false charges against his secret police chiefs Yagoda, Yezhov and Beria.
The situation in the tsarist Russia of 1913 was very different. Those who wanted to convict Beilis of “ritual murder” faced opposition “at all stages of the preparation of the show trial.” They couldn’t find a judge in the Kyiv district court who would agree to hear the case and had to bring in an outsider from St. Petersburg.
The organizers of that show trial couldn’t find an investigator in Kyiv who was willing to look into the case and again had to bring in outsiders. And they couldn’t find Russian Orthodox hierarchs who were willing to perjure themselves and say that Beilis was guilty: they had to bring in a notorious anti-Semitic Roman Catholic missionary from Central Asia.
But most significantly, they couldn’t come up with a jury that would convict Beilis despite packing it with five members of the notoriously anti-Semitic Union of the Russian People. The other seven refused to convict Beilis and he was allowed to leave the court a free man – not the outcome that political forces behind the trial wanted.
“Unfortunately,” Nosik continues, the situation now is different. Russian officials in the Putin era will go along with anything that the Kremlin wants regardless of the absurdity in order to collect their paychecks and out of a belief that those above know best how to defend the interests of the Russian state.
And also “unfortunately,” large numbers of Russians seem prepared to go along with Kremlin-lodged charges no matter how unconstitutional, illegal, and absurd they are and to accept that they are somehow necessary for the greatness of the Russian people and the Russian state.
Nosik concludes his article by noting that those involved with the Beilis case who were still alive in 1917 fell victim to the Red Terror. That should provide a lesson to Russian officials today, he suggests, who ought to remember that “those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.