Staunton, September 22 – In an unwitting confirmation of the significance of the sixth meeting of the Kafka-Orwell Forum in Kaliningrad, some 20 masked Russian siloviki broke into the room where participants were staying, claimed they had found drugs, and detained three participants, all so that Moscow’s REN TV could film this to show on its news program.
The Moscow authorities have shown unusual interest in the forum in the past, but their actions this year far exceeded those of two years ago when “unknown” people slashed the tires of participants. As a result, the organizers chose for the first time to issue a public statement describing and denouncing what happened (philologist.livejournal.com/10471185.html).
Specifically, the organizers pointed out that “about 30 policemen, special service officers, and spetsnaz officers, and correspondents of federal publications who had come specially to Kaliningrad – all these solid people assembled in the entryway of the pension to compile a protocol about administrative violations.”
“One can only congratulate these people for their professionalism and the brilliantly prepared special operation. But we will continue our activity, despite such threats and provocations. We have spoken with participants … and we do not think that this circus will in any way harm the reputation either of the forum or the personal reputation” of its participants.
Although the organizers did not say, any independent observer can easily conclude that Kafka and Orwell would have found this whole story a brilliant confirmation of their own writings about totalitarian societies – and also about the possibilities for resistance by those who are not intimidated.
On the same day in Perm, yet another Kafkaesque or Orwellian development occurred. Visitors to the Perm 36 Museum which was originally created as a memorial to the victims of the GULAG were told by the new guides hired by those who now control that institution how wonderful the GULAG was.
In a Facebook post entitled “Beyond the Boundaries of Good and Evil, human rights activist Lyubov Sokolova reports that this “sadist in the guise of a guide” said of the GULAG that “nowhere in the villages was there central heating but here there was” (facebook.com/groups/312182498867001/permalink/1873499422735293/?__tn__=-R).
“Nowhere in the villages was there a club, but here there was; movies were shown once a week and there were barbers and medical people” and so on. The guards even used the formal “you” in addressing prisoners, clearly a mark of respect. And as good as things were under Stalin, they became even better after 1953.
“We can to the conclusion that the guide was a museum exhibit,” Sokolova says. But unlike the others, one who could speak.