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Genri Reznik on quitting the Moscow State Law Academy: "They lied to me" [Kommersant-FM]

posted 3 Jul 2017, 00:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Jul 2017, 06:14 ]
28 June 2017 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Коммеrsant FM

Genri Reznik, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, vice-president of the Federal Bar Association, vice-president of the International Union of Lawyers, Honoured Lawyer of Russia, PhD in Law, and professor at the Kutafin Moscow State Law Academy has announced that he is leaving the MSLA because of the installation of a memorial plaque to Joseph Stalin in the central auditorium. In an interview with the Kommersant FM radio station, Genri Reznik said that he would not resume working with the academy even if the plaque was removed. 

- Please explain why you decided to leave the Moscow State Law Academy?

I saw a Facebook notification [saying that the plaque had been installed], and decided that the following Monday I would definitely check whether the report was fake. If it was really there, and remained there for a while, I would resign my professorship at the academy. I spoke to the rector, honestly expecting to get an explanation of some kind – that this was a misunderstanding, they would sort things out and take some kind of measures, and we’d discuss it. But instead I was told that the plaque had been put up in accordance with a 1960 resolution by the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR [Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic] regarding the preservation of monuments to our cultural heritage, which includes this plaque.

They had somehow forgotten that I’m a lawyer. I didn’t just lie back, I found this resolution and discovered that they were simply lying to me. There really is such a resolution – adopted on 30 August 1960, it remains valid, and it’s periodically amended. The last changes, I saw, were made in 2001, the only time Stalin’s name was mentioned there, in connection with the one thing that the resolution covered: the Lenin-Stalin Mausoleum. On the night of 1 November 1961, Stalin’s body was taken from the mausoleum, and mentions of him mostly disappeared from the resolution. I should mention that even Stalin’s grave is not protected by the state. Imagine: the graves of Dzerzhinsky, Kalinin, Frunze and Lunacharsky are still listed as objects under state protection, but not that of Stalin, because after the 22nd Congress, when Stalin’s body was taken from the mausoleum, all the towns and villages [that had been named after him] were renamed, all the monuments to him were taken down, along with all the memorial plaques, et cetera.

I found out that my colleagues had simply lied to me. And I had no way out, all I could do was react to it this way. Now, by the way, the leadership of the academy continues to feed people the same thing. It was even featured on a TV programme, some talk show. But I can now say that there was absolutely no legal basis for putting up the plaque, neither then or now. They fool around with people’s heads, counting on the fact that they aren’t lawyers. But the deception is now revealed, so perhaps we can make them blush.

- Have you talked about this matter with other professors? Have you discussed it?

- I have talked with two professors who are, let’s say, ashamed. I teach at the Academy on the side, and my primary profession is that of an attorney, but I have been working as a professor for more than 40 years. This all happened quickly. As far as I can see, the reactions of professors at the Academy will vary. But reportedly professors from the Higher School of Economics who teach courses have stated that if the plaque isn’t removed, they will cease teaching at the Academy.

- Yes, by the way, professors from the Constitutional and Administrative Rights Departments have stated that they are ending their work with the Moscow State Law Academy until the plaque is taken down. At the same time, Levada Center recently conducted a poll, the results of which showed that 38% of Russians believe Stalin to be the most significant individual in history. In your opinion, can the united position of the intelligentsia influence public opinion?

- It’s difficult for me to say, because, as you know, the intelligentsia are always too far from the people. But this is a result of propagandistic games and agitation that the authorities are playing with the figure of Stalin, taking into account that he is popular among a certain portion of the population due to a number of factors. This is all explained by the fight for the electorate, nothing more. I don’t believe that there are any decidedly diehard Stalinists in the country’s leadership. First and foremost, what Stalin did was frighten, and, mind you, he frightened everyone. Equality existed in society, which the nowadays-unpopular Marx wrote about. Marx said that equality also exists under despotism: all are equal before the despot; namely, everyone is equal to zero. No one wants to feel like a zero.

Stalin is of little interest to anyone. Stalin is a personified form of public criticism and discontent with the country’s current state of affairs. And for this reason, there is no Stalin as a real figure. There’s a myth about Stalin, which has existed in this form for at least the past three generations - that he is some strong, wise ruler who ensured order and justice in society. The authorities should, by all means, take notice of this, because it is a reaction to the disgraceful things that go on in this country; in particular to the rampant corruption, the violations of the principles of justice that people observe when matters that concern them are being resolved.

- If the plaque is taken down, would you be willing to return to work at the Academy?

- No, I won’t be returning, because I was lied to, you know. Now they are lying to the whole world that the resolution of 1960 is being carried out. I repeat, there is such a resolution, it is just that Stalin’s name is not there. After my colleagues decided to treat me like a fool, I don’t believe that even if they offer an apology it would be possible for me to resume further teaching at the Moscow Law Academy.

Thanks to Anna Bowles for assistance with this translation

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