“Qui prodest?” (who benefits) is the only question for the creators of the film “Perm 36. Operative Memory”.
After viewing it I though at once that it is a real gift to a newly appointed by state “academic curator” of the Museum Yulia Kantor, for March 8. No doubt, this movie is an attempt to fully legitimize not only her, but, in fact, the “raider capture” of the Museum by the state authorities of Perm Region in 2014 that brought Mrs. Kantor to this position. It goes without saying that very soon Yuliya Zorakhovna will lead the remaining unruly Perm civil society under her banner, and everyone will be happy.
It is hard to imagine more helplessly fake movie than a film about the Museum of the former camp Perm-36, offered by the Perm independent TV channel “Real Time. Doc». Its authors made a fatal mistake, when, even without getting acquainted with the research of Andrey Nikitin “Perm 36. A Chronicle of New Repressions”, they dared to speak seriously about the fate of a unique museum project, seized by the arbitrary rule of the regional Ministry of Culture and held for six years with the help of the obedient and compliant state employees. However, it is enough to read Nikitin’s book that describes all the twists and turns of the Museum’s destruction in the language of archival documents and texts of various media, and it becomes clear that the authors of this «documentary» did not care much about the clarity of facts and the overall picture of what was going on.
In the beginning of this documentary, it is hard to understand, who represents the state position? Nevertheless, to the end, it becomes clear that the position of the authorities, who took over the Museum, is articulated by the state appointed administrative team of Kantor – Trofimov – Shevyrin, who willingly perform a “real heroic deed”, saving the state institution entrusted to them and “improving” the situation at the memorial complex. This is a team of rescuers – saviors of the monument and modernizers of the Museum! They are not just efficient managers, but those, who “feel pity” for the overly fretful dilettantes-founders, reproaching them for being too whimmy and reluctant to recognize the insolent dictate of the triumvirate. But the main reason why this piece of visual art turns off is a lie that penetrates almost every word. It is a lie of the purest quality, proposed as a key principle and the law of life. This film offers a rare opportunity to catch the hand of those who speak from the screen.
With a few exceptions, almost everything that is declared by these people either does not correlate with reality, or partially coincides with it. In some cases they prefer to hide the truth, although they know it very well. For example, no one of the Perm museum workers called any «vikings» from Petersburg to save the Museum “Perm-36”, unless Nadezhda Belyaeva, a Head of the Perm Art Gallery, was kind enough to do it for Kantor’s friendship.
The Ministry of Culture of the Perm Region seized the collections, archives, academic library, expositions and exhibitions, and tangibles, created by the Memorial Centre “Perm-36” or acquired on grants and other non-budgetary funds. By the decision of the Board of the ANO from 10.08. 2016, all these valuables were documented and legally registered in the International Memorial, but the management of the Ministry of Culture of the Perm Region illegally seized them, or to be more precise, they have stolen them. The present staff members use stolen property, and they are fully aware of it.
The Public Council, created on October 31, 2014 at the initiative of the Presidential Administration and approved by Governor of the Perm Region Viktor Basargin, met only once, for its founding meeting. Very soon it was replaced by a new Council, appointed personally by Yulia Kantor. The opinion of the Perm public, presented at the end of 2016 in the decision of the board of the Memorial Society, was following: the cooperation with the newly appointed directorate of the Memorial complex is possible on provision that the issue of the seized property of Memorial Center “Perm-36” will be resolved in a civilized manner and the legitimate Public Council of the Museum will be created. However, Julia Kantor, as an “academic curator” of the Museum, responded that no conditions of the public can be accepted.
The international program “Human Rights in Places of National Remembrance”, School of Museology, School for Teachers of Humanities, the All-Russian Reading in memoriam Viktor Astafiev, the International Civil Forum “Pilorama”, “Residency” for students of arts and opera performances in the places of national memory — all these projects were stopped or closed. Publication of the “Library of the Museum “Perm 36” series, a collection of the scholarly papers by Perm historians and proceedings of the academic conferences on Stalin’s repressions also discontinued.
For almost twenty years the main concern and a heart of the activities of “dilettantes” was restoration and conservation of the unique memorial, proposed by ICOMOS and UNESCO experts for inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage List. Now this work is canceled completely. The new “professional” team spent six years carefully equipping their offices, but did not care about the museum complex. They did not even bother to complete restoration and preservation of those objects that were almost restored before the raiding. It means that these sites are gradually, imperceptibly but irreversibly deteriorating! No need to explain why the World Heritage Committee set the complete restoration as the main condition for putting the former camp “Perm 36” in the World Heritage List.
And last, but not least. As for the new and free from the “ideological excesses“, “objectivist” idea of Museum development, fervently defended by the new museum curator Yulia Kantor, for the past five years the matter has not gone beyond words. Back in 2013, the working group for the development of the Federal Program, supported by the Presidential Council for Human Rights and aimed to commemorate the victims of the political repressions, unanimously approved the perspective of Museum development elaborated by a team of “amateurs,” as new Museum authorities call us. The implementation of the proposed ideas would transform “Perm 36” into one of three nationwide places of commemoration of the terror.
Here I’d like to quote one of the most authoritative researchers of the history of the political repressions in the Soviet Union, a member of the International Memorial Alexander Daniel’: “Museum “Perm 36″ is, maybe, the only… ideal place in Russia for talking about resistance to totalitarianism. It is a museum of civil resistance. Julia Kantor’s line is, in a sense, even worse than the blatantly VOHR museum, which her precessoress tried to create…” In the end of his interview to the journalist of Novaya Gazeta Elena Shukaeva, he noted sadly, that the new curator “already succeeded to empty the content of this museum anyway″
Finally, concluding these very hard reflections, I need to say that I was not filmed precisely for this documentary. The authors of it took the fragments of the interview I have given last fall, during the Perm Civic Seasons, and used them for a completely different purpose. The same was done with the public utterances of Viktor Shmyrov and, I think, with the words of some other characters in this spoof.
I’m grateful to Yulia Batalina, Leonid Obukhov, Sergei Ostrovsky, Andrei Nikitin, Vladislav Staf, Evgeny Storm, Vera Dubina, Anke Giesen, Aleksey Kamenskikh, Nikita Sokolov for their prompt and objective position.
Published in Perm newspaper Zvezda (March, 14, 2020).