Voices from Russia

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Putin Spokesman Peshkov Sez Russian Government Needs More Media Spotlight

01 woman reading newspaper


On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman Dmitri Peskov commented on the dissolution of the major state-owned news agency RIA-Novosti announced last week, “Every state uses the news media. It’s everywhere. Russia should use it as well. It’d be propaganda in the best sense of the term”. Last week, Putin signed a decree merging RIA-Novosti and Voice of Russia to create a new media conglomerate called Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today). Many saw the move as the latest development in a gradual tightening of state control over the Russian news media, where the state already has a strong presence. The Kremlin appointed controversial television presenter Dmitri Kiselyov, known for his outspoken opinions on gay rights and the current street protests in the Ukraine, to head Rossiya Segodnya.




Concentration Camp for the “Wrong” Galicians

00 Barbara-Marie Drezhlo. Talerhof. They all had faces... 2012


Editor’s Note:

In light of the lies being passed by the Uniates, the Western news media, and by elements in Orthodoxy that’ve sold out to Western interests as part of the so-called “Euromaidan” effort, here’s something about the truth of the West’s “benign” intentions towards the Ukraine. Note well that the Galician Uniates were the Habsburgs’ willing hangmen. Their hands are RED with Orthodox blood. Do mark it down that they pump up the so-called “Golodomor”, which the Council of Europe and the UN rejected as a fable (it wasn’t a genocide, it affected all of Russia… it was a byproduct of collectivisation throughout the country), but they’re mute on their role in repressing Ukrainian Russophiles under the Habsburg (indeed, they deny their very willing collaboration in it). It’s related to their denial of their role as the Nazis’ willing henchmen (sounds like the Balts, doesn’t it?). Do NOT take it out on rank n’ file Uniates… they’re only repeating the lies fed to them by their hierarchy and clergy. Remember, you can honour St Maksim Sandovich or you can follow the American “line” on the Ukraine. Choose well…



Ninety years ago, the Austrian authorities severely persecuted Western Ukrainian Russophiles. Today, the first associations that one makes upon hearing the word “Galicia” are the SS division, Stepan Bandera, and the anecdote about Vuiko and Smerek. However, this wasn’t always the case! Galicia… where Prince Roman tore up the papal bull, where the Lvov brotherhood published the primer of the pioneering Ivan Fyodorov, and where one saw the polemicist Ivan Vyshensky in the 16th century, up to the time that Yaroslav Galan trashed the vices of the Roman Curia in his letters.

Today, few people remember that Lvov wasn’t only the original lair of Greco-Roman Catholicism… it was also the last line of defence of the Orthodox Church. Ivan Franko wrote, “After the Brest Sobor of 1596, only two southern Russian dioceses, Lvov and Przemysl, remained true to Orthodoxy. Only after the Orthodox Archdiocese in Kiev refounded itself did other Orthodox dioceses rise up again, to begin to regain those torn from the Church by the Unia. However, the Roman hierarchy keenly watched every step that the Orthodox made, to halt their successes. Using all sorts of methods, the papists were systematic and vigilant, they used clandestine methods to undermine Orthodoxy; besides which, they tried to indoctrinate the youth, Jesuits tried to whip up crowds with fanatical sermons, they used printed and handwritten satirical pamphlets to spread libels, and they utilised protection from the powerful aristocracy and government decrees to cover up their action, everything that they did went to serve their aims”.

In 1891, when this great writer wrote these lines in perfect Russian in his article “Iosif Shumlyansky… the Last Orthodox Bishop of Lvov”, such cynical politics still existed, everything remained as before. It’s true that Austrian occupation replaced Polish rule. However, the same methods remained in use. Indeed, they intensified them! All that happened was that such methods became more advanced and used more-modern modern techniques. Describing for the magazine Киевская старина (Kievskaya starina: Kievan Antiquity) the vicissitudes of the national and religious struggle in the 17th century, Ivan Yakovlevich didn’t even suspect that, during his lifetime, we’d witness the most brutal act of this drama… the systematic destruction of the “Russophiles” (Galicians who sympathised with Russia) by the Austrians during 1914-17. The names of the concentration camps at Talerhof and Terezín, where the Austrians carried out their crimes, belong in the Ukrainian mass consciousness, as Majdanek is for the Jews. Nevertheless, in the modern Ukraine you won’t find their names anywhere, you won’t find them in encyclopaedias or textbooks. They don’t fit into our unprincipled government’s propaganda myth of “civilised Europe” {apparently, this dates from the time of the pro-Western running dog Yushchenko: editor}. We ask, “Is the West different now?” However, it still goes on, as you can see!

On the eve of World War I, Austria had from the end of the 18th century to “enlighten” what is now the Western Ukraine, they brought the principle of “divide and rule” to perfection. They whipped up Poles against Ukrainians… they egged on Ukrainians against Poles… and the Magyars didn’t like anybody. Moreover, the rulers of the Habsburg Empire considered it very sensible and in step with their higher public interest to foment discord between the different Ukrainian factions. On the one hand, they gave government subsidies to encourage the Shevchenko Scientific Society headed by Professor Grushevsky… for his works had a strong anti-Russian character. On the other hand, they kept police records of all those they suspected of showing even the slightest pro-Russian sympathies. Long before the World War I, the Austrian gendarmerie compiled detailed lists of the “politically unreliable”. However, they did it in the inimitable style of bureaucratic idiocy brilliantly lampooned in The Good Soldier Švejk. Special tables listed the names of the suspects, their marital status, and occupation; “Box 8” gave “more details of disloyalty or suspicion”. Such “crimes” included, “travels to Russia”, “supported Markov’s (Russophile party leader) candidacy for parliament”, or, simply, “Russophile”.

The documents recommended what to do with each person, even if Austria merely mobilised, not even if it was at war. For example, “Closely watch, and, if need be, arrest”, or, “deport to the interior of the country”. It’s easy to see that the Austrians didn’t even use verifiable actions as a motivation for punishment; they used opinions and sympathies, which are things that are difficult to give unambiguous interpretation. The Austrians believed that putting suspects into custody was the most reliable method. One saw the human cost of this on 1 August 1914, when the Austrians immediately arrested 2,000 Ukrainian Russophiles at the outbreak of World War I. There were so many prisoners that they packed three prisons to the gills! They gummed up the city gaol, the holding cells of the local criminal court, and the so-called “police detention house”. Concerned about this “overpopulation”, the members of the presidium of the Imperial and Royal Gendarmerie in Lvov even petitioned the governor of Galicia to deport “dangerous elements” quickly into the interior of the country because of a “lack of space” and “disturbances amongst the prisoners, who voice loud threats and complaints”.

According to the latest census of 1900 in Lvov, there were 84,000 Poles, 45,000 Jews, and only about 34,000 Ukrainians. Ukrainians were one of the smallest ethnic groups in the city, except for the Austro-Germans. Now, imagine the shock when the Austrians arrested six percent of the city’s Ukrainians in one fell swoop! Whatever horrors intimidated the geniuses of Austrian counterintelligence, well, not that many people could be Russian spies! Firstly, the General Staff in St Petersburg just didn’t have enough money to bribe them. Secondly, they didn’t need so many secret agents! It was enough to recruit several railway workers to watch stations to track the routes of troop trains, and two or three officers of the Lvov garrison… preferably, with impeccable German ancestry. Then, what was it? Was it genocide? Yes! It was genocide! Other definitions just don’t fit what happened. The Polish census figures of 1931 tend to support this thesis. According to it, from the beginning of the century, the number of Poles in Lvov more than doubled to 198,000, and Jews rose 66 percent from 45,000 to 75,000. Only the Ukrainians remained about the same as they were in 1900, at 35,000. In short, there was a “demographic implosion” that shows the consequences of the Austrian police sweep! Today Yuri Andrukhovich, a Western Ukrainian writer who lives in Berlin, likes to expatiate on “Good Grandma Austria”, who supposedly loved her Ukrainian “grandchildren”. Well, Granny! You’re just a bloody maniac!

Moreover, archival evidence tells us how this doting grandma acted. Major General Riml, commandant of Lvov in 1915, wrote in a report to the High Command, “I believe that this sort of party and person (“moderate Russophile”) belongs to the domain of fairy tales, my understanding is that all “Russophiles” are radical and that we should mercilessly destroy them”. However, the problem was that it was very difficult to distinguish Russophiles from the usual sort of apolitical Ukrainian. Especially, this was so in the case of ordinary Austrian soldiers. The Austrian Army had German, Hungarian, Czech, Polish, and Croatian elements. Its soldiers poorly understood each other, let alone the surrounding population. Perhaps, Franz Kafka with his “Trial” and “Castle” could only have been born in this country. However, 1914 wasn’t a scene from a Kafkaesque story; it was real-life.

In the town of Novye Streliski, soldiers bayoneted Grigori Vovka, because he stood in his garden staring at the Austrian troops passing by. The murderers threw his corpse into his hut, which they immediately burnt down. The Bortniki village gendarmes arrested and imprisoned four ten-year-old boys for looking at a passing train… probably, they seemed too curious, these nosy kids had to be “Russian spies!” Priest Grigori Kachala recalled how they interrogated him in prison in Lvov… “The investigator punched at me with his fists, threatening death, trying to scare me to get me to admit that I engaged in propagandising Orthodoxy, but after I gave him the same answer for the tenth time that I didn’t engage in propaganda at all, but only read one message in the church from Metropolitan Sheptitsky about Orthodoxy, without comment, he ordered to go back to my cell”. The Austrians arrested another suspect, 74-year-old Mikhail Zverka, after a fellow villager denounced him for reading the newspaper Русское слово (Russkoe slovo: Russian Word). He said, “It took from Monday to Friday to go from Lvov to Talerhof. In goods-wagons designed to hold six horses or forty men, there were 80 or more people. There was endless terrible heat and stale air in the windowless wagons; it seemed that we’d die before we got out at the hell at Talerhof. The Austrian authorities subjected us to malevolent physical torture at the beginning of our confinement. To sharpen our suffering, they didn’t allow us to leave the wagons, they locked us in tightly; we even had to take care of natural necessities in the wagon”.

Final destination for most prisoners was the concentration camp in the Austrian town of Talerhof. Before the war, this area, surrounded by the Alps, was an unknown backwater. Nevertheless, since autumn 1914, it became notorious. The first trainload of prisoners arrived here on 4 September. The Austrians placed them in barracks, where there was nothing, not even pallet beds. There wasn’t enough space for everyone. Immediately after arrival, the guards drove the prisoners to the bath. In the yard, they had to undress and give up their clothes for disinfection. After bathing, the deportees waited in the cold for hours. However, the disinfection wasn’t of the best quality… rather, it was a form of well-thought-out bullying. The authorities only changed the straw in the sleeping pallets rarely… so, insects infested the entire area. The guards were mainly Bosnians. Those assigned to work details by the camp administration had to pick up horse manure with their bare hands. Everybody had to do this… peasant, intellectual, and priest… no exceptions. On top of that, the administration strictly banned smoking and reading.

In December, there was an outbreak of typhus amongst the prisoners. The immediate cause was that the guards decided to drive 500 prisoners to the baths on one of the coldest days of the year. Half of the prisoners immediately caught colds. However, despite illness, the guards continued to drive the prisoners to work. By evening, all returned wet and tired, and, in the morning, many couldn’t stand up. Every day saw thirty or forty victims. The epidemic raged until March 1915, with 1,350 dead out of 7,000 detainees. Talerhof rations were a fifth of the army allotment for the day. At the morning meal, prisoners got bean soup; at noon, they got beet soup and bread. Sometimes, they had salted turnip and a piece of herring. The camp didn’t allow prisoners to use ordinary dishes, it was every man for himself. They had to make a recess in a piece of bread and poured liquid inside, or, they broke off the necks of bottles and used them in the place of bowls. Most prisoners received no lunch at all, which meant that they lost physical strength and fell sick with scurvy. Many tried to stave off starvation by begging… during lunch, before going back to the barracks block, intellectuals would share with the peasants a part of their food parcels, as the more affluent families sent their relatives packages. However, on the way from Galicia to Talerhof, the long transportation meant that, sometimes, the food spoiled, or, it even disappeared altogether. Only those who could work could hope to survive, the ill seemed doomed to certain death.

Apart from the general prison, the camp had solitary confinement. They confined all Galicians who called themselves Russian or spoke Russian as a mother tongue in solitary. To start with, the Bosnian guards would beat them. A guard bayoneted a doctor’s leg in two places. No prisoners could look into the windows of the solitary cells or the guards would immediately stab at his face with a bayonet. The authorities gave so little to those in solitary that it was a miracle that any survived. For fun, the camp administration came up with yet another torture… suspension from ropes. They set up poles in the courtyard, where they tied up prisoners, suspended them by the hands, and left them there. Each victim hung for about two hours. Chizh, an engineer, recalled, “About 48 people hung on poles in rotation over these two days”. The torture stopped only after many requests from relatives of prisoners.

Ilya Goshovsky, a railwayman from Stanislav (now Ivano-Frankovsk), was in the camp with his wife and two daughters. He recalled his early days here, “The soldiers really harassed our women. They deliberately accompanied them in the latrines, surrounded them on all sides, engaging in all sorts of unspeakable pranks, bringing our women to tears and outbursts. There was no one to complain to, because the guard commander, a German captain, was worse than his subordinates was. On the same day, three soldiers killed three peasants who didn’t know German, for not obeying orders, and buried them in a common pit”. All these things happened, but no one faced any charges for them! No one seems to know who did these things.

Yet, there’s a still more terrible thing… the loss of historical memory! If you ask contemporary Galicians about the Stalinist purges, they’ll nod their heads, but no one seems to remember Talerhof. It’s as if it never existed. Meanwhile, thumbing through the lists of victims of the Austrian terror of 1914-17, I’ve come across names that belong to my contemporaries, and some are well-known, people who moved from Galicia. For instance, take “Channel 5” news presenter Yevgeni Glebovitsky, who came to Kiev from Lvov. Talerhof was full of people named Glebovitsky. There was Grigori… a judge… and Nikolai… a member of the Austrian Parliament… and Pavel… a priest. Or, Alyona Pritula, who edits the online publication Украинская правда (Ukrainskaya Pravda: Ukrainian Truth). A list of the “politically unreliable” compiled by the Austrian gendarme Zholkva shows a Kirill Pritula, a father of four children, “radical Russophile and agitator”, who went to Russia… and another Pritula, a postman hanged by the Austrians in the village of Zaluchchya in Sniatyn County.

Take the well-known Lvov writer Yuri Vinnichuk.  Amongst those repressed in 1914, we find the name of the publisher and reserve officer Vinnichuk accused of “high treason against Austria-Hungary and Russophilia”. First, he was in prison in Lvov, and then spent two years in prisons in Mukachevo, Kolosvar, and Budapest, until his release in May 1916 after the investigation ended. Incidentally, the reason for his arrest was that a “Committee of Ukrainian Officers” headed by Pan Mygaylyuk (a gymnasium instructor in Chernovtsy) denounced him to the authorities. There were so many Zvarichs there! Evstrafy, a schoolboy from Sulimova, sat in Talerhof… Kirill… they sent him there on absurd charges of “striving to poison the water for Magyar soldiers stationed in Zhuravno“… and Matfei… a farmer from Dúbravka, for saying, “Russian troops can reach Zhidachevsky District”. After someone denounced him, he immediately found himself in gaol for an accurate prediction. Oh, merry and gay Austria, with your waltzes and operettas, how you loved your Ukrainian citizens! Interestingly, do the relatives and namesakes of the victims remember this “love?” If you remember, why are you silent?

(no date)

Aleksei Buzina

Aleksei Buzina: Author’s Site



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