Producing of stable visualities is very characteristic for Northern peoples. That’s why well-organized state policy does its part quickly turning history into myths. Later it is difficult or even impossible to change a visuality of a whole generation by references to real facts and objective logical connections.
One of successfully created by thieves in power at the instigation of incapable dissidents myths is that about Bolshevik terror, lawless KGB servicemen, awful Gulag, total shots and millions sent to camps innocent as lambs.
I won’t set the task to disclose all this in such a small format of an article. Besides, a disclosure is necessary for mistaken people who are significantly less in number than those simply using anti-communist bluffs in their own interests.
I’d like to tell about an attempt to create people’s justice in the first post-revolutionary years of the Soviet power and about what law practice, including bourgeois, obtained from its experience and what unfortunately fell into oblivion with coming of “democracy”.
The October Revolution led by Bolsheviks leveled down at once all the institution of the former state power. The country’s history in this respect was to turn over a new leaf.
That society was not too difficult from modern one. In the coup days drunkenness, armed debauches, plundering, trashes flourished in Petrograd. The society, especially the revolutionary forces, felt a necessity to establish order in the very society’s interests.
The first trial was formed by decision of Bolsheviks’ party structures 9 days after the revolution. It was situated in Petrograd, in Vyborgsky district, and consisted of 5 judges, elected by a single one from: the trade union, the council of houses committees, the council of workers’ deputies, the district Duma, the council of factory-plant committees. Two other Petrograd trials were formed at the same days spontaneously: in Narvsky district and in the hall of Gorchakov’s palace, and one more people’s trial in Kronstadt. One of the trials was presided by the local commissar, the second one by a worker and the third one was called the “trial of social conscience” and had 8 elected judges.
Sessions of all courts took place in capacious rooms called the “People’s House”. All comers were invited to take part in trials. Sessions were held every day, alleged criminals were brought by citizens or Red Army men. The court chairpersons offered the public to choose two accusers and two defenders among the present company. The defendant could choose his/her defenders him/herself. All the process could take place in the public only. At its end the judge composed questions on the culprit’s guiltiness and punitive measure and offered the public to vote. The decision was taken by simple majority within open voting.
A mechanic worker and a collateral judge Kulikov pronounced interesting words of severance before such voting. Such as: “I was tried myself by former power on political articles. Any doubts should always be interpreted in a defendant’s favour. It is better to release a guilty person than to convict an innocent one. Remember that you judge a person”. Let’s notice, that judge had no “tough” law education.
Revolutionary authorities of preliminary investigation were investigative commissions all members of which were obligingly elected but not appointed as officials.
The judicial system was being formed spontaneously in province, too, foremost in the regions where the civil war was raging. That’s where such name for people’s trials as “revolutionary tribunal” belied by various liberals in the Contemporary history originates from. But it were the same trials.
What principles were laid by spontaneous people’s trials and tribunals in the first days of Russian revolution - the principles to a large degree reflected later both in the first Criminal Code, in justice of “European” pattern in the USSR and RF and even in the world law practice?
They were: - judges’ electivity from people’s representatives irrespective of their social status;
- publicity and openness of proceedings, taking principal decisions by investigative commissions in public hearing;
- cancellation of the accusation party’s privileges at trial proceedings; parties equality at preliminary inquest, investigation and trial;
- the institution of social accusers and social defenders at trials; any of unblemished citizen present at proceedings could become one;
- a defender’s admission from the preliminary investigation stage;
- collegiality in taking decisions by investigative commissions and trials;
- new and more merciful forms of punishment, such as fine, public reprimand, deprivation of public trust, social work, expatriation. Just at the first days of the revolution the Bolsheviks eliminated use of the most torturous element of the prisoners’ confinement amidst the former tsarist kinds of punishment - the fetters.
These norms of law procedure were entrenched in the Soviet Decree on trials on November, 22, 1917. It was prescribed to develop trial collegiality by one presiding judge and six associate judges (they all were elected).
And what about the famous Cheka [Extraordinary Commission], an experienced reader would ask.
The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission was really organized in January 1918. At first the AREC’s function was only crime detection, arrest and inquest, further a case was passed to an investigative commission. Death penalty (shot) wasn’t used at all neither by the EC nor by trials (tribunals) until February 1918, in had been abolished.
The first instructions for the AREC were composed by its chief F.Dzerzhinsky. Thus, he prescribed in the instruction for execution of search and inquest: “…Detainees should be treated politely, moral percepts or shouts are inadmissible… Threats with a revolver or any other weapon are inadmissible… Persons guilty of violation of this instruction should be subjected to arrest for up to three months and exile from Moscow”.
After beginning of execution of arrests by chekists Soviet authorities started to apply to detainees “written undertaking on parole”. I.e., an analogue of modern “undertaking not to leave” was introduced, although not by trials’ party. For example, such famous “persons” as general Krasnov, the Provisional Government Military minister Manikovsky, cadets of the “Death battalion” who defected to Kaledin and many others had been released on parole after their first arrest in 1917-18. Afterwards many of them with their “parole” fought successfully in the White Guard ranks.
It was the removal of the ban for death penalty, the AREC’s and tribunals’ (i.e. courts’ in areas under martial law) right for use of this supreme measure of punishment which was called the beginning of the red terror even by the Bolsheviks.
It was Lenin who expressed rather exactly on necessity of using such means as the AREC and red terror in the years of war, in the context of the threat of full loss of nationhood and newly created and planned institutions of people’s power and socialism: “We shall speak the bitter and indubitable truth: in countries beset by an unprecedented crisis, the collapse of old ties, and the intensification of the class struggle after the imperialist war of 1914-18 - and that means all the countries of the world - terrorism cannot be dispensed with, notwithstanding the hypocrites and phrase-mongers. Either the white guard, bourgeois terrorism of the American, British (Ireland), Italian (the fascists), German, Hungarian and other types, or Red, proletarian terrorism. There is no middle course, no “third” course, nor can there be any”. It is well-known that the sweetly beloved by modern pseudo-historians and nationalists White Guard was sponsored by foreign governments and used widely foreign invasion and common warmongers in its armed actions. Certainly, foreign bourgeois put up money to those “fighters against Soviets” not for love to jerking Russian chanson but for a simple calculation of Russia’s future: “Divide and rule!”
After the evident breakdown of the war in the Red Army’s favour the AREC chief Dzerzhinsky was the first to suggest that its “shooting” competence should be cancelled. Besides, he was the main initiator of the full abolishment of the Extraordinary Commission. So, idiots delighted with “perestroika” crushed the Iron Felix in vain with a view to crush some traditions. Felix didn’t create traditions. St.-Petersburg liberals are even more silly to call Putin a St.-Petersburg “chekist“ - a correct determination would be “St.-Petersburg corrupted serviceman”.
Thus, by Dzerzhinsky’s offer in January 1920 death penalty was banned, and the AREC itself was discontinued in 1922. At the same time death penalty by tribunals’ sentences was cancelled if they were not situated in areas under martial law.
In the view of the country’s reconversion it was necessary to regularize the whole trial and investigation system. In 1921 an all-people’s discussion was declared in the “Izvestiya” [“News”] newspaper on issues of revolutionary legality. Most authors stated for the system of people’s courts with discontinuation of the AREC and tribunals but opinions on use of death penalty divided.
In 1922, taking into account very different opinions and basing on the “Decree on judicial structure” principles the first Criminal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Regulation on Procuracy Supervision were adopted. Death penalty was admitted only for such kinds of cases as intervention, espionage, funding of such activities. Investigation of such categories of cases was to be held for not longer than 2 months, the accusation was to be presented to the detainee not later than 2 weeks after his/her detention. Among all, by Lenin’s insistence an amendment was adopted to the norms on the supreme measure of penalty that imprisonment for up to 10 years or expatriation might be used instead of it.
Since 1918 the practice of large-scale amnesties was introduced by Bolsheviks. A curious case of the monarchist Purishkevich sentenced to social work is famous: on May, 1, 1918 he was included in the amnesty against his will. To Purishkevich’s credit, he openly directed his notice of rejection of the amnesty, he wrote that he was not going to spit at the Emperor or fawn to the Soviet power like others. Nevertheless he was released from his penalty, left St.-Petersburg and fell later in the White Guard ranks. And the “aw of terror” Beria composed and initiated the amnesty of 1939 due to which 327,200 persons were released (and, on the other hand, near 22,000 investigators who had sophisticated criminal cases were imprisoned).
Which elements of the people’s justice were introduced in the world practice and which of them lived in the criminal law to see our days?
Certainly it is providing of a defender at the stage of preliminary investigation, the same as in our procedure law and as is used all over the world.
Liberals call introduced in 2002 extending of confinement in custody as a restraint measure during a case investigation by trial only (but not a prosecutor) an awesome achievement of democracy. Thereby, a judge takes the decision single-handedly in camera. But in the first years after the victory of the revolution investigative commissions solved such questions in public, off camera.
In 2002 Russian bourgeois democracy almost completely eliminated participation of public in the investigation and trial process. So, a defendant is now deprived of the right for any defender at his own wish at the investigation. Be so kind to hire a lawyer for megabucks or employ the services of an “appointed” one - a free attorney presented by the investigator. Who often “extorts” the culprit together with the investigator. Before even a defendant’s relative might become a defender, he/she had the access to all the case files, to the detention centre, he/she had the same full powers as a lawyer. But, as distinct from a lawyer, the prisoner’s family hadn’t to pay a round amount to the defender for each visit to the defendant to the detention centre.
The right to choose a social defender at trial proceedings is preserved in the Code of Criminal Procedure on paper only. In fact the right to choose a defender… is up to the court now. If the judge doesn’t like you he/she rejects the filed intercession on defender admission. And if you have no money the same “appointed” lawyer would defend you at proceedings.
In 2002 such restraint measure as a social organization’s guarantee was excluded from the Code of Criminal Procedure. This restraint measure was widely used at pre-perestroika time, for example, if a culprit was a member of a famous and honourable labour collective (the enterprise trade union could give its guarantee). Since the late 1980es human rights organizations often gave their guarantees for detainees. But such restraint measure as release for money bailment was introduced with democracy “strengthening”. Taking into account incomes of most detainees’ families it is naturally unavailable and is applied very seldom.
After the USSR destruction and a splash of wacky amorousness to antediluvian Tsar’s Russia introduction of trial jury was proclaimed at every street corner. In fact, now trial juries exist in all constituent territories of RF except for Chechen Republic. At first portion of absolutory sentences of these trials was high, and examination of cases was thorough. But corruption and sophistication in law-enforcement have reached such proportions that many cases subject to jury’s jurisdiction (on especially grave crimes) become “designed” up to the top, to the Supreme Court of RF Collegium. So, juries’ absolutory verdicts are more and more often quashed, and even not once, until the “authorities” succeed to put pressure upon the new jurors list for attaining an accusatory decision. A shining example is the notorious case of Arakcheev and Khudiakov.
The principle of the parties competitiveness is a defilement for defendants confined in custody and having no good paid lawyers. Before the new Code of Criminal Procedure introduction in 2002 the trial had actually full powers of the investigation. The trial might conduct investigation by its own decision just in public and open examination of the case. Now the judicial system in Russia is adjusted under American pattern. A defendant and a prosecutor “compete” in front of the judge - who has stronger, rougher arguments of defense or accusation, respectively. If an accuser fails to prove the guilt, if an attorney wins - the defendant seems to be released. Taking into account low legal competence of our defendants, lack of funding for rough lawyers, corruption of judges (moreover, of investigative bodies and their technique of torturing detainees for getting confession of guilt), leveling of the trial’s right for supplementary investigation and other features of “Russian justice” it is clear who would go to do porridge in such “controversiality”. The principle of seeking the truth appeared to be replaced with some idiotic “competition”.
The term of investigation and concurrent confinement in custody seems to be limited to 2 months but at the same time the Code of Criminal Procedure contains multiple exceptions for prolongation of this term up to a year and a half.
Death penalty is admitted by the law but is not applied until there is no trial jury in all the constituent territories of RF but almost always it is replaced by life imprisonment.
The first Soviet Criminal Code arranged the maximal imprisonment term of 10 years, the 1960 Criminal Code arranged 15 years, the current one arranges 30 years.
Democratic legislators don’t say even a word on judges’ electivity.
Judges’ and investigators’ bribery reached monstrous proportions. The trial became absolutely independent on the people. Nobody except for the General Prosecutor may sanction the arrest even of the pettiest district judge.
Well, would you go on believing Novodvorskaya’s tales about Bolshevik castigators and hope on “correction of individual disadvantages” of Putin’s bourgeois judicatory?