Person of the Week: Denis Karagodin

posted 4 Jul 2016, 03:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Jul 2016, 03:10 ]
Denis Karagodin is the great-grandson of of Stepan Ivanovich Karagodin, a man executed in 1938 after being deemed a Japanese spy amid dictator Josef Stalin's Great Terror, and rehabilitated in 1955. As Carl Schreck and Dmitry Volchek write in an article (RFE/RL) Karagodin, a philosopher by education, has made it his mission to investigate the fate of his forebear: "The result has been an exhaustively chronicled account of the fate of Stepan Ivanovich, a Cossack grain farmer and father of nine, complete with documents from Russian secret-service archives that Karagodin has published on a website dedicated to the family patriarch." As Schreck and Volchek write:

"[Karagodin's] research has drawn praise from prominent voices in Russian for its broader implications, chiefly the public reckoning with the crimes of Stalin, whose Great Terror is estimated to have killed more than 1 million people. It also comes amid a softening public view in Russia of Stalin and his violent repressions -- a trend that Russian President Vladimir Putin's critics accuse the Kremlin of fostering and exploiting for political gain. [...] Karagodin has investigated his great-grandfather's murder with the persistence and meticulousness of a police detective piecing together enough evidence for a successful prosecution. His website serves as a kind of digital corkboard bearing photographs, bios, and documents about officials with Stalin's notorious enforcers, the NKVD, implicated in the killing. So far he has collected information about some two-dozen suspects, tracing the chain of responsibility from Stalin to his bloodthirsty NKVD chief, Nikolai Yezhov, and down the line all the way to local secret-service officials in Tomsk." 

Schreck and Volchek also point out that, "Historians and researchers say that access to KGB archives has become increasingly restricted since Putin, himself a former KGB officer, rose to power 16 years ago. In December, the government's commission on state secrets rejected transparency activists' petition to open up the archives of Soviet security services, saying that doing so 'could harm the security of the Russian Federation.' While Karagodin has been able to access his great-grandfather's files in archives maintained by the FSB, he says he has been unable to gather materials about those who organized and carried out the killing directly from these collections. 'The state security services are doing everything they can to make this impossible,' he says. The FSB has been equally taciturn about the location of Stepan Ivanovich's remains, Karagodin says."

Photo: RFE/RL

Carl Schreck and Dmitry Volchek, 'One Russian's Search For His Great-Grandfather's Soviet Police Killers,' RFE/RL, 23 June 2016