Problems with regard to the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions in Krasnoyarsk

Problems with regard to the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions in Krasnoyarsk

T.L. Moiseeva (Krasnoyarsk “Memorial” Organization)

It is now 15 years that the Law of the Russian Federation “About the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions” N° 1761-1 dated the 18.10.1991 was passed.

The law is aiming at the rehabilitation of all victims of political repressions, who have been subject to such persecutions on the territory of the Russian Federation since the 25 October (7 November) 1917, the restoration of their civil rights, the elimination of other after-effects of despotism, as well as the ensuring of a fair and adequate compensation for material damage.

Our Krasnoyarsk “Memorial” Organization has now been working for 18 years; during this time we assisted many victims of repressions by giving free legal advice with regard to their rehabilitation and the allocation of compensatory payments – as it is designated by the Law of the Russian Federation “About the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions”.

One of the particularities of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, compared to other regions, is the fact that many people were displaced from their places of residence by administrative means with mandatory settlement in our territory, or they were forced to serve their camp sentence in this area and, as a supplemental punishment, were then transported into internal exile. 500.000 individuals in all. Among them we will find so-called “kulak” families, who were affected by forced mass collectivization and subsequent displacement between 1929 and 1935, Germans who were deported from the Volga and from other regions of the USSR in 1941, Finns deported from the Leningrad Region in 1941 and 1942, as well as Lithuanians, Letts and Estonians displaced from their home countries in 1941 and after the war. In 1944 Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Kalmyks and other ethnic groups were affected by forced resettlement. Moreover, the families of members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Vlasovites were displaced from the Ukrainia late in the 1940s and early in the 1950s.

During the past years more than 300 citizens have been contacting us toask for legal advice and support. In most cases our work on their problems is dragging on for more than one year. We have to write requests to various authorities and state archives of the different regions of the Russian Federation and former republics of the Union, to Bureaus of Vital Statistics, FSB district offices, public prosecutors, MVD departments and other organizations, in order to establish precise facts and information which prove that measures of repressions were, in fact, applied on the person concerned.

Due to the fact that many years have passed since the time when politcal repressions took place and that we do not always succeed in finding documentary evidence, we also have to write statements of claim to courts of first instance to establish facts of applied political repressions on family members or the person itself during a juridicial hearing by means of evicence, or establish facts of an illegal confiscation of somebody’s property or someone’s claim to compensatory payments for lost property. This year alone 78 statements of claim were sent to the courts. And in case a notice of rejection is received by the court of first instance, we have to bring a private action to the regional court, hoping that they will set aside the decision for resons of untenableness and proceed with a detailed reconsideration of the case.

In accordance with the Russian Federal Law “About the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions” the rehabilitation of citizens can only be effected in the place where the repressions actually happened. It means that, if a citizen was deported by administrative means from another area, for instance the Omsk Region, to the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the decision about his rehabilitation has to be made by the GUVD department of the Omsk Region, while the resolution about the rehabilitation of children, who were born in the Krasnoyarsk Territory during the forced internal exile of their parents, has to be done by the GUVD department of the Krasnoyarsk Territory – proceedure, which yet increases the expenditure of work.

Another problem is the rehabilitation of so-called “ukazniks” (individuals sentenced pursuant to an ukase; translator’s note), particularly those who were sentenced on the basis of the Ukase of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR dated the 02.06.1948 “About the displacement to remote regions of individuals, who keep away from farmwork out of spice and lead an anitsocial, parasitic way of life”. The Russian Federal Law “About the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions” makes no provision for an immediate rehabilitation of this specific category of citizens, although, judging from the nature of this law, these people were definitely subject to political repressions. In order to assert the right of one of these “Ukaznitsas” we even had to take the matter to the Supreme Court; however, the judges there could not solve the problem, either.

One more problem are the terms, during which people may claim compensations for the value of confiscated property. In accordance with Resolution N° 926 passed by the government of the Russian Federation on the 12.08.1994 “About the mode of returning illegally confiscated property to politically repressed individuals, recover its value or pay a compensation”, they determined a term of three years starting from receipt of the rehabilitation certificate and ending within a period of three years from the day when section 16 of the Law of the Russian Federation “About the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions” has come into effect. After expiration of the three-years’ term the commissions of the district authorities in charge of the restoration of the rights of victims of political repressions will send a notice of rejection refusing to pay any compensation, and courts will not only stop to accept statements of claim, but also refuse to reconsider the facts; for lacking information about details of the law does not represent a conclusive reason not to keep the deadline. During the past five years the attempt to prove that the three-years’ term expired for good reason was successful in two cases only: in one case the victim of political repressions was blind, the other person was suffering from a serious cancerous affection.

On the average 80 to 90 people receive a rehabilitation certificate by our intervention every year, while 10 to 15 persons succeed in receiving compensation payments. Since 2004, however, even the existence of all needed documents does not relieve a rehabilitated individual of considerable strain with regard to the granting of a compensation: Before the 15.11.04 such payments were made by the district administration, and the corresponding amounts later flew back from the federative budget. However, as from this date, the rules to finance the expenses for compensations to be paid to recipients of welfare, among them victims of political repressions, were determined by Decree N° 635 of the Russian Federation passed on the 15.11.04. Now, the commissions in charge of the restoration of the rights of victims of political repressions send their decisions about the payment of compensations for confiscated property to the social welfare offices of the regional administration, from there the lists are passed on to Moscow – and due to this bureaucratic procedure rehabilitated citizens will have to wait for their 100.000 rubels, provided for by statute, for 8 or 10 months.

Another burning problem is the discrepancy of rehabilitation laws effective in former Soviet republics and, as a consequence, of the effectiveness of rehabilitation certificates, which were issued by other republics, particularly by the Ukrainia, for Russia is not willing to accept them. The organs of the welfare offices insist upon presentation of a confirmation by the general public prosecutors of the Russian Federationthat these documents are in accordance with the Law of the Russian Federation “About the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions”.

Let me give a characteristic example: for a never-ending period of time we had to deal with problems concerning the rehabilitation of Dawis Petrovich Tsaunitis, born in 1887. His family lived in Latvia, and this is where the political repressions took place. D.P. Tsaunitis was arrested in the town of Tsesis on the 21.05.1941. He was sentenced by an NKVD provincial department of the Latvian SSR on the 14.06.1941 for being a big industrialist and a socially dangerous element; his family consisting of his wife Kristina Yanovna, born in 1890, as well as their two daughters – Vilma, born in 1913, and Irena, born in 1916, were displaced on the day of his arrest, i.e. on the 14.06.1941, by administrative means and without giving any reason; they were sent into internal exile to the Turukhansk District, Krasnoyarsk Territory, by force. Due to our contacting the State Information Center in Latvia and the Public Prosecutors of the republic, D.P. Tsaunitis’ family was rehabilitated. While serving her sentence in internal exile, Vilma D. Tsaunite gave birth to two daughters. In order to obtain rehabilitation certificates for these two children, who were born in our region, we presented all documents to the regional GUVD Information Center – and the rehabilitation certificates were, in fact, issued.

Irena D. Tsaunite is the only direct heir still alive; thus, she has the right to receive compensation for the illegaly confiscated property, which belonged to her family at that time. It was a long. thorny way to search for all the badly needed documents. In none of the documents we received from the public prosecutors and the State Information Center of the Latvian MVD we were able to find a hint about confiscated property. We contacted the Latvian State Archive which finally sent us a detailed confirmation. It included some evidence of the year 1930, issued in the name of the head of family, D.P. Tsaunitis. The paper said that the administrative board of the town of Tsesis had registered the following property: a house, a brickyard as well as some other property. Later, we succeeded to obtain documents confirming that the above-mentioned property had been confiscated illegally in 1941. The possibility of compensation payments to individuals living outside Latvia is to be decided by the Latvian Ministry of Finances, which we sent all available documents to. The documents were passed to the department in charge of the town of Tsesis, which rejected the possibility of compensation payments on the grounds that the corresponding application should have been made before 1996, for Latvia meanwhile proceeded with the transfer of real estate and buildings into private ownership.

Again and again we contacted the Latvian Ministry of Finances, for this woman advanced in age is illiterate; she was not aware of the fact that she did not only have the right of being rehabilitated but that she was entitled to receive compensation for illegally confiscated property, as well. She also did not know that her family was already rehabilitated in 2002. Finally, in October, I.D. Tsaunite received the confirmation that she would receive a compensation payment amounting to 500 Lat. Most of the reply letters reached us in Latvian; they had to be translated officially. Moreover I.D. Tsaunite is rather advanced in age; she is 86 and lives in the Yeniseysk District. It takes 6 hours to get their by train. We finally solved the compensation problem when I had the chance to go to Latvia during one of my holidays; I succeeded to bring about a decision at place.

We are facing problems when receiving reply letters, particularly from the Ukrainia and the Baltic Republics. Two or three times we have to send follow-up letters, and then we usually receive the answer in their language – Ukrainian, Latvian or any other. Then we have to arrange for official translations to be done into Russian.

Again and again we are confronted with difficulties concerning the rehabilitation of citizens who were displaced from the Crimea by administrative menas in 1944 (Tatars, Germans, Jews and others). The Ukrainian Rehabilitation Law does not apply on citizens of this category. And in Russia they also refuse to rehabilitate them on the grounds that Crimea is situated on Ukrainian territory. However, Crimea belonged to the RSFSR in 1954, the time when the repressions were realized, and many displaced individuals stayed in the Krasnoyarsk Region after having served their sentences and are now citizens of the Russian Federation.

In connection with the passing of Law N° 122, i.e. the Law about Monetization, the situation of many citizens who are actually entitled to receive allowances, become worse, for the financing of such welfare funds was transferred from federal to regional level. Hence, the situation of recipients of social welfare, among them rehabilitated persons, are unequal. While in the Krasnoyarsk Territory almost all benefits and allowances have been preserved, people will only receive very lean amounts of compensation in most of the other regions, and most of the social benefits and allowances were completely abolished. Repeated petitions to the Duma concerning the retransfer of the funding problem of such payments in favour of rehabilitated persons to federal level remained unanswered.

Finally, I would like to mention problems regarding the failure to comply with the Rehabilitation Law, in particular the part concerning juristic assistance for victims of repressions. According to Law N° 12-2582 of the Krasnoyarsk Territory “About free legal advice granted to citizens of the Russian Federation living on the Krasnoyarsk territory” citizens living in the Russian Federation who suffered from political repressions, are to be granted free legal advice concerning all rehabilitation matters. In actual fact, however, they even claim money from these people without guaranteeing that their legal advice will finally be successful. Just to give an example: N. A. Khlebnikova, a poor pensioner from the settlement of Nazimovo, Yeniseysk District, appealed to the office of legal advice hoping to find assistance with the formulating of a statement of claim to restore the fact of applied political repressions. She had to pay an amount of 900 rubels for this service, although the court did not even accept the receipt of the claim for the purpose of reconsideration. Only by support of the Krasnoyarsk “Memorial” Organization she finally succeeded to obtain her rehabilitation certificate.

The miserable life of the pensioners in our country forces people who were affected by political repressions, to try to slightly improve their financial situation by benefit payments, tax reductions, etc., which they are entitled to on the basis of the Law about the Rehabilitation of victims of political repressions. However, in order to solve these problems satisfactorily, a lot of difficulties have to be overcome; and even then, you still have to fight for every single privilege, which sometimes merely exists on the paper. The Krasnoyarsk “Memorial” Organization is keen to render these people all necessary support within the scope of their possibilities. And quite often we are successful.

Materials from the conference “ Human Rights in the Krasnoyarsk Territory”, 2006.