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«I was denounced by my own father.» Stalinist snitch culture returns to Russia

About 2,000 administrative cases and dozens of criminal cases have already been opened under the article on «fakes about the Russian army,» many of them following denunciations. In Penza, schoolchildren denounced a teacher who spoke out against the war, while Sasha Skochilenko, a St. Petersburg artist who replaced price tags at a Perekrestok supermarket with anti-war propaganda, faces up to 10 years in prison after a denunciation by a pensioner. The Insider spoke with Russians who were denounced for their anti-war stance by relatives, colleagues, and classmates, and compared them to denunciations of the Stalin era in the 1930s.

  • «Anything can be expected of you, I decided to be on the safe side»

  • «I don't want to carry a heavy burden on my soul anymore»

  • «In one of the work chats I dared to express my views on the «special operation»

  • «A vile counterrevolutionary attack against Comrade Stalin»

  • «Someone took a screenshot of my call for a rally and showed it to the teachers»

  • «Collector of counter-revolutionary anonymous letters, vile libels against the Soviet regime»

  • «We're a rogue country, we're North Korea»

  • «Asked to annihilate his own father as an enemy of the people»

  • «I was extremely outraged by the slander I read, I worry a lot about Russian soldiers in Ukraine»

  • «Exposed the thieves of the collective farm's bread»

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«Anything can be expected of you, I decided to be on the safe side»

Elmira. March 2022.

Elmira Khalitova was denounced by her own father. She had been actively expressing her position against the current government in Russia since she was 13 years old and went to rallies. Now Elmira is 21, she has almost no contact with her father because of his alcoholism. They had no political conflicts, but Elmira knew he had radical and pro-government views.

«He is very fond of Solovyov, interested in politics. Since he is an alcoholic, he has nothing to do, he just sits at home and watches all these programs. At some point I started to be afraid of him, and I stopped being in touch with him. He sometimes came to visit me while I was living with my aunt, told me I was a fool. I once brought home a poster from a rally that said, «I have the right to vote!» and hung it on my door, back in 2017 I thought it was funny. When he came over, he kept pointing at it and saying I was stupid, and Maria Zakharova was a smart woman. Mostly he would come in, berate me for my oppositional views, and leave. Due to the fact that he is an alcoholic with hallucinations, there were episodes of aggression towards me».

A few weeks ago, the police came to the apartment where Elmira was registered. It turned out her father had filed a complaint against her. The policeman explained the gist of the denunciation: she allegedly wrote something on the Internet discrediting the Russian troops and also called for murdering Russians.

The father reported to the police his daughter called for murdering Russians
«I never called for murdering Russians, so I thought he had been drunk while reading some of my innocuous VKontakte posts and had made something up. I don't post anything criminal. The policeman immediately started apologizing over the phone, because it was my father who had written the complaint, and he had been drunk to boot.

The police admitted that Elmira's father had not been in his right mind, but since there was a complaint, they still asked the girl to come to the station:

«I was amazed at the speed of the reaction - he wrote the complaint in the morning, and already at 11:00 they were at the apartment, which is amazing, because there had been episodes of domestic violence and they hadn't come at all, but this time the reaction was instant.»
The police hadn't been reacting to calls about domestic violence, but this time the reaction was instant

Elmira deleted her Telegram app and the screenshots she posted on Instagram. At the station she was referred to a «chief,» who did not introduce himself to her:

«It was just a high-ranking officer, who was very interested in such a serious crime as a call for murdering Russians. I did not understand at all what call we were talking about, it was complete nonsense. I understood in advance there was nothing to talk about. I told him right away that my father was an alcoholic and mentally ill, because he regularly has hallucinations. Marshal Zhukov is on his phone regularly, he is constantly fighting the enemy in the trenches, or flying his private plane.»

The police officer checked Elmira's phone, asked to see her Instagram, and then made her write an explanation. The father was charged with disorderly conduct:

«Apparently my father realized what he had done and started to backtrack. I said to him, «Why did you write a complaint if nothing happened?» And he said, «Well, anything can be expected of you, I decided to be on the safe side.» I hung up on him.»

«I don't want to carry a heavy burden on my soul anymore»

Olya Balykina's denunciation. March 1934.

In March 1934, Pionerskaya Pravda published a denunciation by a pioneer Olya Balykina, who lived with her father and mother in the village of Otrada, Spassky district, Tatar ASSR.

«I bring to the attention of the OGPU organs the outrageous events in the village of Otrada. Collective farm property has been and is being stolen. For example, my father Grigory Semenovich, together with Kuznetsov, leader of the first brigade, and his relative, kulak Firsov V.F., during the threshing and transportation of grain to the town of Spassk, were stealing the collective farm's bread. They were doing it at night, when everyone fell asleep, his friends, brigade leader Kuznetsov Kuzma and Firsov V., all three of them.»
My father, during the threshing and transportation of grain to the town of Spassk, stole the collective farm's bread

According to her, they hid the bread in an empty hut and then sold it. While stealing, they made Olya hold the sacks. «I did. It was a heavy burden on my soul,» she writes.

«When I joined the pioneer detachment, I learned what a pioneer should be. And now I no longer want to carry a heavy burden on my soul. At first, I decided to tell my teacher about the crime that was being perpetrated right in front of my eyes. And so, after discussing the case, I demanded that it be properly reported.»
Articles about Olya Balykina in Pravda and Smena. 1934
Articles about Olya Balykina in Pravda and Smena. 1934

Articles about Olya Balykina in Pravda and Smena. 1934

After Olya's denunciation, 16 people ended up in the dock. Her father Grigory Balykin, the leader of the the collective farm's first brigade Kuzma Kuznetsov, the collective farm storekeeper Pyotr Kuznetsov, and a local resident Vasily Firsov were found to have organized the theft. The court sentenced the members of the group to various terms of correctional labor with subsequent deprivation of rights. The ringleaders Balykin and Firsov were sentenced to ten years in strict regime each.

«In one of the work chats I dared to express my views on the «special operation»

Stas Petrov. April 2022.

Stas works for a large organization in Yekaterinburg. In a work chat, he expressed his views on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which aroused the wrath of his patriotically minded colleagues:

«I spoke unflatteringly about the armed forces of the Russian Federation, about the symbols, tasks, and prospects of the Russian army. One of these «patriots» denounced me. He just told me about it after the fact. Prior to that he threatened me with physical violence. He's a former colonel who served in one of the hot spots. At the same time, the police did not mess around, they opened a case, put everything on record, as if it was them who solved the crime, and my colleague was a witness.

On May 17, Stas stood trial. He was fined 30,000 rubles. The informer was not present at the trial, but the judge read out his «testimony». According to Stas, there will be an internal certification at his company in July.

«I will definitely not pass the certification. And after that they will fire me for the lack of proper qualification. Or I will be transferred to the position of an auxiliary worker with a salary of 15,000 rubles a month.»

«A vile counterrevolutionary attack against Comrade Stalin»

Denunciation by Konstantin Sedykh. 1937.

The genre of snitching had been developing during the Stalinist years, particularly inside the creative community. In his book «Resurrected Word», Vitaly Shentalinskii quotes official documents from the KGB archives written by Soviet writers to denounce their colleagues, who were then arrested. In particular, a complaint by future Stalin Prize laureate Konstantin Sedykh to poet Ivan Molchanov, the authorized representative of the Union of Soviet Writers for the Irkutsk region.

«I find it necessary to bring to your attention the following. On the evening of November 30, I. Trukhin, whom you well know, accompanied by someone unfamiliar to me, came to my apartment. I met him rather coldly. But Trukhin was drunk and didn't care. He took a bottle of vodka out of his pocket and offered me a drink. In the conversation that followed, Trukhin, unprovoked by anyone, made a vile counterrevolutionary attack against Comrade Stalin. His words were as follows:
«You are nothing to me! Come to think of it, I can make short work even of Stalin himself!»
I immediately interrupted Trukhin and told him I would bring his actions to the attention of the authorized representative of the Writers' Union. Then I immediately drove both him and his friend out of the apartment...»

This letter was written in 1937. Molchanov sent his colleague's statement to the NKVD directorate for the Irkutsk region. To the letter he added a couple more denunciations of fellow writers. All of them were expelled from the Writers' Union for their connections with counterrevolutionary organizations and were arrested by the NKVD.

«Someone took a screenshot of my call for a rally and showed it to the teachers»

Anya. March 2022.

Anya is an ethnic Ukrainian. She studies in Russia and has never concealed her dislike for the Russian government, going to rallies and actively speaking out on social media and among her friends at the art college.

According to her, she had different interests from her classmates, and after the war started there was nothing left to talk about:

«I felt so bad on the first day of the war, I couldn't believe it was really happening, and I cried, and then I wrote in a public chat I had to go to the rally. The chat went really mad, there was a flood of hate. They are very jealous of me, and because of that I assume that when an opportunity to hurt me presented itself, they denounced me for posting a call for a rally. Someone took a screenshot of what I wrote. I don't know if they took it to the police (I'm not registered anywhere and haven't received any summonses), but they definitely told the teachers.
The chat went really mad, there was a flood of hate

One day, when Anya was not in college, during a class the monitor brought the screenshots from the chat to the head teacher. She called the girl's mother and asked her « to stop the child from being involved in politics.» Anya decided to transfer to another school and picked up her documents:

«I was told that there was no other choice other than taking my documents elsewhere: «Either you take them, or we will denounce you to the competent agencies.» In addition, I received anonymous threats on Vkontakte that if I did not leave the college, I would go to jail.»

«Collector of counter-revolutionary anonymous letters, vile libels against the Soviet regime»

Denunciation by Boris Tal. September 1936.

A typical political denunciation of a fellow journalist and member of the editorial board of Izvestia, Lev Sosnovsky, was written by Boris Tal, head of the Press and Publications Department of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), on September 7, 1936.

«When examining the work of the editorial board of Izvestia, one is struck by the quite exceptional position and rights enjoyed by Sosnovsky at the newspaper. Sosnovsky received through Izvestia thousands of letters addressed to him personally, which were not reviewed by anyone else, but were received by Sosnovsky and remained in his personal archive completely unchecked. Sosnovsky became literally a collector of counter-revolutionary anonymous letters, vile libels against the Soviet authorities, and a collector of requests and complaints from arrested counterrevolutionaries, especially Trotskyists, including those convicted of involvement in terrorist activities. At Izvestia, Sosnovsky acquired a reputation of a «defender» and advisor to all those angry and dissatisfied with the Soviet regime.
The most vicious counterrevolutionary letters were not handed over to the NKVD (according to the established order), but were collected in Sosnovsky's files.
It seems to me that in order to clean up the editorial staff of Izvestia, we should dismiss Sosnovsky, who even now has found nothing better to do than to present a worthless article glorifying Trotsky. I ask for your authorization.»
Lyon Feuchtwanger, Joseph Stalin and Boris Tal. January 8, 1937
Lyon Feuchtwanger, Joseph Stalin and Boris Tal. January 8, 1937

Sosnovsky was arrested on October 23, 1936, a month and a half after Tal's denunciation, and on July 3, 1937 he was sentenced to be shot on charges of sabotage and participation in an anti-Soviet Trotskyist-terrorist organization; he was shot on the same day.

His wife Olga Danilovna Sosnovskaya-Gerzhevann was arrested in 1937. She was shot on September 11, 1941 together with 156 other political prisoners of the Oryol prison in Medvedev Forest at the request of Beria upon Stalin's authorization.

Tal, who wrote the denunciation, took up the post of Izvestia's chief editor soon after Sosnovsky's arrest.

«We're a rogue country, we're North Korea»

Irina Gen. March 2022.

In Penza, schoolchildren denounced their teacher Irina Gen, who in a conversation with them spoke out against the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine.

Baza published a recording of the conversation between the teacher and the eighth-graders. One of them turned it over to law enforcement.

Irina was explaining to her students why their trip to the competition in Europe was cancelled.

«Until Russia learns to behave in a civilized manner, this will continue. Of course, it's wrong, it has nothing to do with you. I agree. But we're a rogue country, we're North Korea. A rogue country! We are not accepted anywhere, because of this... The international community is surprised, how can one behave like this in a civilized world. Well, what can you do?»

The teacher was prosecuted under part 2 of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation concerning fakes about the Russian Armed Forces. Now she faces a fine of up to five million rubles or imprisonment of up to 10 years.

«Asked to annihilate his own father as an enemy of the people»

Kolya Shcheglov's denunciation. 1937.

On December 20, 1937, Anastas Mikoyan spoke on behalf of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the VKP(b) at the solemn assembly of the NKVD's party activists at the Bolshoi Theater dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the VChK-GPU-NKVD. He gave the example of the pioneer Kolya Shcheglov, who wrote to the NKVD that his father had been engaged in plundering building materials from the state farm. His father had been arrested, and Mikoyan did not say what happened to him after that. But he praised the pioneer: «That's the kind of people we have, comrades. That's the kind of pioneers we have. That's where our strength and power lies - with the people!»

«I was extremely outraged by the slander I read, I worry a lot about Russian soldiers in Ukraine»

Denunciation of Sasha Skolichenko. March 2022.

On March 31, 2022, artist Sasha Skolichenko replaced price tags in stores with anti-war messages and information about the actions of the Russian military in Mariupol. One of the shoppers, a 72-year-old pensioner denounced her to the police. Bumaga published the text of her interrogation.

According to her, she saw «a strange price tag with a very long product name.»

«Instead of the name of the item I saw the message «The Russian army bombed the art school in Mariupol. About 400 people were hiding there from the shelling.» The price, 400 rubles, was also written on that tag, and there was also a barcode, i.e. all the external attributes of a price tag were there.
I was extremely outraged by the slander I read, because I worry a lot about Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and I've been watching all the news about it. I was disgusted by that piece of paper, so I removed it from the place where the price tags were attached. I called the security guard and asked the cashier to call the administrator.
I took the piece of paper home, and later the district commissioner inspected the scene with my participation and took the paper from me.»
Anti-war price tags
Anti-war price tags

On 13 April the court sent Sasha Skolichenko to the detention center until 31 May. The artist is accused of spreading «fakes» about the Russian army (part 2 Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code). She faces 10 years in prison.

«Exposed the thieves of the collective farm's bread»

Mitya Gordienko's denunciation. 1933.

One the issues of Pioneerskaya Pravda wrote about an informer, Mita Gordienko, from Rostov-on-Don. The schoolboy denounced his famine-stricken fellow villagers, who had been collecting fallen spikelets on the collective farm's field after the harvest. One of his denunciations resulted in the arrest of a married couple. The wife was sentenced to ten years in a labor camp and the husband to death by shooting.

Speaking as a witness in court, the schoolboy said: «Having exposed the thieves of the collective farm's bread, I pledge to organize thirty children from our commune for protecting the harvest and to become the leader of the pioneer detachment...».

Mitya Gordienko
Mitya Gordienko

For the denunciation Mitya received a watch with his name engraved on it, a pioneer's uniform, boots, and a year's subscription to the local newspaper Leninskie Vnuchata.

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