Sunday, February 01, 2009

The following tribute was recently published in the English language section of the Russian anarchist news site Avtonom. On January 19 Markelov and Russian anarchist and reporter for the Novaya Gazeta Anastasiya Baburova were gunned down by "persons unknown" in Moscow. You can see a tribute to at the Porkupine Blog. The case has become widely known, and the two people are deeply mourned. Here is the Avtonom article on Markelov. The following has been slightly edited for reasons of English grammar.
Stanislav Markelov and the anarchists:
Stanislav Markelov, shot in Moscow by an assassin 19th of January 2009, was not an anarchist. He defined himself as a "Martovian social-democrat", after Yuliy Martov, leader of the pre-revolutionary Menshevik fraction of the social-democrat movement. In more contemporary terms, he was a left-wing social democrat.

But Stas had friends in just about any fraction of the Russian socialists, reformers and revolutionaries. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the revolutionary movement of Russia, which was a huge inspiration for him, and he could lecture for hours on groups such as the nihilists or narodniks anytime. Stas was interested in the history of the political Red Cross (which still today remains as the Anarchist Black Cross), and he considered lawyers who defended narodniks in tsarist times his precedents. Eventually he became first lawyer to defend left-wing "terrorists", accused by the new Russian state. In all the cases he did during the 1990's and early years of this decade, he managed to dismiss the terrorist charges and eventually if defendants got sentenced, they got sentenced for lesser charges.

Stas was too young to join underground hippie movement ("Systema") of the Soviet time, but his first ideas (and early hairstyle) came from there. Already ,when a young student in the early 1990's, Stas became an activist of the social-democratic party (which always was rather marginal in Russian politics), in its left wing. Probably the first time anarchists came in contact with him was at the time of Yeltsin's coup of 1993 - practically all anarchists and socialists considered Yeltsin's unconstitutional presidential order number 1400 a Pinochetist coup, and were ready to rally against it. (wrong choice, as the author later admits-Molly)Anarchists and social-democrats, Stas among them, drafted a proposition for the Supreme Soviet, which included refusal of support from the national-patriots, withdrawal from Moscow to regions supporting the Supreme Soviet and an economic blockade of Moscow. But as we know, history went otherwise - the Supreme Soviet rejected the proposal, chose the support of national-patriots instead and stayed in Moscow, where it lacked mass support, and eventually defenders of the Supreme Soviet got massacred by Yeltsin's gang. The official death toll is 199 (including 12 of police and army), but defenders have also presented an up to 10 times bigger estimate on the number of victims. (Interesting we never heard this part of the story in the mass media here in the West-Molly)

When it became clear for anarchists and socialists that there was no way of picking a side in the conflict, they decided to organise an impartial street medic brigade instead. The brigade was named after Maksimilian Voloshin, a famous humanist and poet who during Russian civil war remained impartial and defended organised humanitarian aid for civilians. There are some stories of the work of the brigade available in English, for example "Under fire between the Lines" ( and a translation from Avtonom-journal, "Unhappy anniversary" ( Participation in this street medic brigade was a real "baptism of fire" for its members but also very frustrating, as eventually untrained volunteers had to help people with bullet wounds. But people who were there, stuck together ever since.

Stas and many others of them became core of the historical club in Memorial, and through the same connections Stas become involved in the anarchist "Thursday Circle", which was later named after the anarchist activist Nikolai Muravin, who was central in organising it and died accidentally in 1996. You can see the results of the work of the Memorial's Club at the site "Russian socialists and anarchists after October 1917" in, which is probably the biggest website on the history of repressions against anarchists (and not only), but unfortunately it is only available in Russian.

Stas also participated to work of the "Free Labor Commune of Pryamukhino", which was was active in the second part of the 1990's. It was a common project of anarchists and the offspring of the Bakunin family to repair the garden of the mansion in Pryamukhino of Tver region, where the famous revolutionary was born and spent his childhood. The Pryamukhino mansion even now has an oak tree planted in the 1820's by Decembrist rebels. Thus the place is linked to 200 years of Russian revolutionary history. It was in the Pryamukhino camps where Stas became friends with Igor Podshivalov, who in 1982 co-founded in Irkutsk the first anarchist group which survived to Perestroika, and became one of the core groups of the KAS, Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists. KAS became a mass organisation during Perestroika but did not survive the crisis of the 90's, except in some Siberian cities where it still lives in form of the SKT, the Siberian Confederation of Labor. Podshivalov died tragically in an accident in August 2006, and Stas co-organised memorial events for him.

However Stas joined also camps more in the front line of struggle than the peaceful labor in Pryamukhino. He participated in the Rainbow Keeper protest camp of 1996 in Volgodonsk, against construction of the Nuclear Power plant of Rostov region. This camp had some heavy confrontation; soldiers from the local army base were ordered to evict the camp and shoot tents, making them full of holes. Legal support for victims of the excesses of the authorities against the Volgodonsk camps of 1996 and 1997 was one of the first times Stas used his profession to support activists.

Stas was also one of the organisers of the 1998 anti-nuclear march in Belarus, and he also joined the Rainbow Keeper protest camp against the harmful local plant in Sasovo of Ryazan region last summer. In the photo above Stas is speaking to a mass protest meeting of Sasovo inhabitants; the flag behind him is flag of the Rainbow Keepers. Stas was also a frequent guest in the annual Chernobyl Day marches in Minsk, which are currently the biggest anti-nuclear demonstrations in Europe (although few years back when there were not yet nuclear construction plans in Belarus, these marches were more social than ecological, defending the rights of Chernobyl victims).

Stas gave active legal and other support to the Belarusian democratic movement since the violent anti-Lukashenko protests of the mid-90's where Russian anarchists joined in as well, and he was fluent in the half-repressed Belarusian language, a very unusual skill for a Russian. His wife was a Belarusian, and they had two young children.

Stas was involved in wide spectrum of activities, but he became famous as a lawyer. From early on, he took cases which no-one else was willing to take, and always picked up a hard, political tactic of defense. Eventually he become Russia's number one celebrity human rights lawyer, a common guest on TV talk shows on most various topics, to argue against Russia's WTO membership for example.

Two perhaps more important cases were both connected with war in Chechnya, but Stas became interested on the problems of Caucasus long before. Already in 1994 he traveled to the area ravaged by ethnic conflict between Ossetians and Ingushetians with Memorial activists. One of his companions from that trip, Alexander Cherkasov, also wrote an excellent obituary of Stas which is available in English at

There are also other good materials at the site, and also a fragment of a speech Stas did in a demonstration against attacks on political activists on the30th of November 2008. Stas was speaking there, because he was defending the legal interests of a owner of a local paper in the Khimki region of Moscow Region Mikhail Beketov, who was heavily beaten due to his opposition to the construction of a local expressway which would destroy a park, defended by a popular movement. Beketov was found in his garden in a coma the next day after a heavy beating in November. He survived but had several of his fingers amputated and still, 2 months after the attack, is in hospital in a bad condition.

Eventually Stas was defending the interests of family victims of the two most notorious Russian war criminals - Colonel Budanov, who in March 2000 kidnapped and raped a 18-year old Chechen girl (and did many other atrocities, for which he was never punished). Eventually Budanov was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but was released recently having done 8.5 years. Stas was appealing against the early release, and the day he was shot he was returning from a press conference, where he announced his intention to question the release of Budanov in European courts. Thus it is entirely possible, that supporters of Budanov, who is considered as a hero by many in Russia, were behind the murder - but Stas had plenty of other enemies as well.

Another important case was case of Sergey "Kadet" Lapin, who together with other officers of the Hanty-Mansiysk OMON organised a torture and murder factory in the Chechen capital of Grozniy. Eventually "Kadet" was sentenced to 9 years of jail "for exceeding official authority and causing grave bodily injury with aggravating circumstances". Although only fraction of his deeds made it to court and all other suspects went underground or avoided charges altogether, it was still an unprecedented court result.

But this work by Stas is widely published by the liberal mainstream media, so we don't go have to go more into more detail. If you want to have a short summary of the many high-profile human rights cases Stas picked up, you may read the list he published himself at his website:

No matter how famous Stas became, he was always ready to do even the smallest cases for anarchists and other radicals, even if the cases were not political. He did not work for free, but he always understood if we had problems in paying on time - he never required any guarantees. The work of Stas defending radicals was such an annoyance for the authorities, that during an NRA investigation police put him out of the game by giving him witness status, so he could not be an advocate. The NRA was an armed group in the 90's, an offshoot of Rainbow Keepers and anarchist scene mixed with some young Stalinists. They committed arson attacks and bombings against military call-up centers, a yellow trade union, police and eventually they bombed the FSB (x-KGB) premises in center of Moscow. 2 former Rainbow Keepers got prison sentences for the actions of the group.

He was a vegetarian, and also the most important lawyer for the Russian animal rights movement - he was a lawyer of the people suspected of stealing rats from a breeder during a demonstration in the Moscow region in August of 2007. He was also doing some work for animal rights "inside the system", reviewing the law “On the protection of animals”. He was also representing the legal interests of local ecologists in Black Sea rim, who got harassed by authorities after some arson attacks against the Sochi Winter Olympics development.

Stas was also defending Pasha Delidon, an anarchist who was sentenced to 4.5 years after an attempt to collect wages his former boss owned him. He was also the most important lawyer of the anti-fascist movement in Russia, defending anti-fascists both when they were victims and also when they were suspected to be perpetrators. He defended the interests of the family of Alexander Ryukhin, murdered in Moscow by Nazis in April 2006, and he was also the lawyer for Aleksey "Shkobar" Olesinov, who is now in Butyrka prison - officially due to nonpolitical charges, but really because he is suspected by authorities of being "a leader" of the radical Antifa in Moscow.

All in all, this is just a brief account of the work of Stas. And I did not even touched the topic of his sense of humor and endless jokes. That was his way to cope with many dangers and threats he faced; he laughed at them in their faces.

Everyone has a story of Stas, many of them. I was not in the European social forum in Malmö, but I laughed so much when I was told how Stas travelled.

There was some banquet at city Mayor's office for the moderate side of the forum participators. Stas was of course there in his fine suit - VIP guests and free booze was definitely a choice for Russia's number one celebrity human rights advocate. Stas saw that a demonstration passed by the office, and friends of Stas in the demonstration could see him waving a hand from the Mayor's office.

After a while, enough of the free booze and Stas decided he would like to see some action. He went to catch the demo, but a riot had already started. With some other Russians, Stas tried to exit by a side street closed by riot police. Stas was already quite drunk and had not quite figured out that coppers were not in a talking mood. So Stas went to Sweden to get beaten up by Swedish riot cops, as if there were not any angry riot cops more closer to his home in Moscow!

So many stories of Stas, who could gather all of them?
More on the topic:

Anastasia "Skat" Baburova, 30.11.1983-19.01.2009

Our friend and comrade Skat was murdered today in Moscow, shot in the head by an assassin.

Stanislav Markelov Has Been Murdered

The collective at “(The) Movement” ( has issued the following statement:

Stanislav Markelov: On the Frontlines

Lawyer Stanislav MARKELOV,

President of the Rule of Law Institute, biography:

Moscow Antifa Honor the Memory of Stas and Nastya

(in Russian: Акция памяти жертв политических убийств в СПб (фотографии)

Actions to commemorate Stas and Nastya around Russia

These Shards Are Our Tears

Speech by Stanislav Markelov. Moscow, November 30, 2008

Address by Stanislav Markelov. Rally against Political Terror. Moscow, November 30, 2008. Video and text.

Stanislav Markelov: Two Worlds, Two Deaths

Russia: The assassination of Stanislav Markelov By Tom Rollings,

You can read more about Stanislav Markelov on the Wikipedia site about him. Here also is a report from today's International Herald Tribune about a memorial vigil held for him in Moscow.
Activists in Moscow mourn 2 colleagues:
By Ellen Barry
MOSCOW: The mourners who gathered in a Moscow square, hopping and shivering against the bitter cold, grew still on Sunday as the angry voice of the human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov echoed over a public address system.

"I am tired of meeting my acquaintances in crime reports," Markelov, 34, said in a speech recorded last November.

"We need protection from fascists, from the mafia, from those security services that simply serve them," he said. "We understand well that no one but ourselves will offer us protection. Not God, not the czar, no one. There is no one left but ourselves."

Two weeks have passed since Markelov and a reporter, Anastasiya Baburova, 25, were gunned down by a masked man in broad daylight a few blocks from the Kremlin. Neither had the international celebrity of Anna Politkovskaya, the reporter who was shot and killed in her stairwell in 2006, but they were fixtures in opposition circles, and about 300 friends eulogized them Sunday with ragged grief and anger.

President Dmitri Medvedev made his first comment on the killings last Thursday, holding a candid hour-long meeting with the editor in chief of Novaya Gazeta, the independent newspaper where Baburova worked.

The gesture came as a surprise, since Novaya Gazeta is one of the Kremlin's harshest critics, and left many wondering whether Medvedev was signaling a liberal departure from the policies of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was president before Medvedev.

That question held little interest for the crowd of about 200 friends and political activists who gathered Sunday, chanting "No to political murders!" Aleksandr Grigoriev, 23, an activist from an anarchist organization, said he knew eight people who had been killed for their political activities.

"I blame the authorities for these killings, not because they failed to protect us, or because they carried out the killings," said Anna Karetnikova, a leader of the Anti-War Club. "I blame the regime because it is impossible to establish civil society here. The death of each person creates a gap in the ranks of civil society. The authorities have made it so that it is profitable to kill."

Markelov was one of a handful of Russian lawyers to consistently defend underdogs in politically charged justice cases. He had just announced plans to fight the release of Yuri Budanov, a Russian tank commander imprisoned for murdering a young Chechen woman.

He had also defended Mikhail Beketov, editor in chief of a regional newspaper, Khimkinskaya Pravda, against defamation charges.

Beketov - who had been crusading against a government plan to clear a forest - was brutally beaten in November and remains in a coma.

Markelov's death has stripped him of his most important defender, said Yevgeniya Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Protect the Khimki Forest.

"Who but Stas could protect him?" she said. "We cannot think of anyone."

As Markelov left the news conference on Jan. 19, Baburova was walking beside him. A native of the Crimean city of Sevastopol, Baburova moved to Moscow to study human rights law but had switched to a journalism program.

She had interviewed Markelov for an investigation of right-wing youth movements, and some have theorized that she was shot because she tried to protect him.

Photographs of Baburova, grinning ebulliently, were propped up in the snow Sunday.

Blogging on LiveJournal, a popular Internet forum, in 2007 as she was preparing to leave Sevastopol, she confided her restlessness and ambition: "I want to go to Amsterdam-Tibet-Paris-wherever," she wrote. "Touch everything - see it - do whatever. I also want to go to Kiev."

In an interview with Moskovsky Komsomolets immediately after her death, her father, Eduard Baburov, described Anastasiya as a stubbornly independent person who competed at chess and martial arts and "categorically refused to accept any help from us." She never confided her troubles, he said, until the very end.

"A week ago she wrote me a strange letter, which alarmed us," he said. "It was short: 'Comrade parents, love me, please!' At that moment our hearts skipped a beat."

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