ARKHANGELSK, Russia — A Russian court has closed the case against a historian accused of illegally revealing personal data about ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports.
The court in the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk explained its decision against historian Mikhail Suprun by saying the case was too old.
Suprun, who studied the lives of ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union, was charged with violating Article 137 of the Criminal Code, which forbids encroaching upon a person’s private life.
Suprun’s trial started in Arkhangelsk in October. His co-defendant, Aleksandr Dudarev, who heads the Interior Ministry department in Arkhangelsk Oblast, was given a suspended sentence of one year in jail.
Four years ago, Suprun and Nadezhda Shalygina, a postgraduate student at Arkhangelsk’s Pomor University, began a study on the fate of ethnic Germans deported from Crimea and the Volga region during World War II as “enemies of the Soviet people” to so-called “labor armies” in northern Russia.
One goal of the study was to identify those who were deported from their homes and chronicle the hardships they faced.
By 2009, Suprun and Shalygina had identified some 20 percent of the ethnic Germans who had been deported to the northern Arkhangelsk region.
Germany’s Red Cross expressed support for the publication of “The Book of Memory” based on the results of Suprun’s research.
But when the local prosecutor’s office announced that the relatives of some deported Germans were suing Suprun for revealing personal information about their families, an investigation was opened.
‘Goal Not To Punish, But Silence’
Suprun’s lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, told RFE/RL that he planned to appeal the verdict to the Constitutional Court to have it fully dismissed, not just on the basis of the case being old.
Pavlov said a Constitutional Court decision would make clear what kind of data can be defined as private or as a family secret.
“The court’s goal was not to punish Suprun, but to scare his colleagues and therefore it is very important to achieve the historian’s full exoneration,” Pavlov said.
The trial was held behind closed doors.
The so-called Volga Germans were the descendants of Germans who settled in Russia in the late 18th century.
A Volga German Autonomous Republic was established in 1924 but Stalin abolished it in 1941 — fearing the Volga Germans might collaborate with Nazi Germany — and had the ethnic German population of some 500,000 deported to northern Russia, Siberia, and Kazakhstan.
Up to one-third of them are believed to have died en route to the labor camps or while in exile.
Read more in Russian here