Friday, January 28, 2022

Russian Supreme Court Gives FSB Power to Block Release of Names of NKVD Killers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 8 – The Russian Supreme Court in violation of Russian law and a 1995 Yeltsin decree has given the FSB the right to refuse to release the names of NKVD killers to historians, an action that means one historian says that any discussion of Stalin’s security services and their actions is now “dangerous for your health.”

            Sergey Prudovsky, a historian who specializes on exactly that topic, had appealed to the court to force the FSB to release the names citing the legal principle that those who have engaged in criminal activity cannot hide behind government classification (

            Russia’s highest court rejected that argument after the FSB dismissed Prudovsky’s claims, arguing that “the right to access to information is not absolute” and “the defense of the rights of one person cannot threaten the rights of others,” in this case, the supposed rights of security service officers who engaged in murder.

            Prudovsky has attracted attention for his research on Stalin’s repressions of the Russian emigration in Harbin, China. After Japan occupied that city, Soviet officials evacuated Russians there, but the following year, Moscow declared them to be Japanese spies and executed more than 21,000 of the 33,000 former Harbin residents.

            The historian had sought information on how one of their number met that fate. The FSB released some information but redacted out the names of the officers involved. As a result, Prudovsky brought suit. But he has lost at least on this round as has Russia as a whole because now even less information will be released from the archives.

            “In the situation in which the country finds itself, talking about officers of the NKVD as criminals is dangerous for your health,” the historian says; but he adds “I will continue to do so” (

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