In my father’s village in Italy there is a plaque upon which the words ‘Andrea Mainieri: fallen in the cause of freedom’. Even in this colourful, touristic village of the Cinque Terre, fascism sowed its deathly plague of terror and murder. In many ways the plaque is a kind of white lie. Immediately after the war another plaque hung in that place with different words- the following: Andrea Mainieri: Cowardly Murdered by the Fascists of Riomaggiore. The narrative changed and fratricidal or internal conflicts became cloaked in a different myth which suited the post-war Christian Democrats and centrist allies- anti-fascism became a fight for a nebulous liberty that could be associated with a dubious but not exceedingly oppressive status quo (rather than for a liberation from particularly vile agents of a virulent form of age-old oppression). On January 19th, 2009 something happened in the centre of Moscow which reminded me of the murder of Andrea Mainieri and the near fatal wounding of another anti-fascist, Benedetto Mori (a friend of my grandfathers). Russian Neo-Nazis murdered two anti-fascists: Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova (this was not the first time that Nazis murdered their opponents but it was, perhaps, the first time that they had dared murder them in broad daylight in the centre of the capital). Stas Markelov had managed to accomplish a certain amount in his lifetime leaving behind enough writings to fill a volume called Никто кроме меня (No-one Apart from Me). Nastya, nine years younger, only managed to write a full articles for Новая Газета and the occasional commentary on her blog. Her blog described the moment everything changed for her- the reason why she had become active. On a metro car she witnessed two Nazis beating a Korean and then leaving with a Nazi salute and a chant of Sieg Heil. She wrote reflecting on how she could look this Korean in the eye after this. The last person she looked in the eye was her Nazi killer who had just shot Stas Markelov dead and who she then confronted and who cowardly murdered her. There are no plaques to either Stas Markelov or Nastya Baburova up in Moscow and no streets named after them, no statues. How can there be when, according to yesterday’s reports, the father confessor of Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has just blessed a Russian Neo-Nazi and his part in the fascist Russian March which takes place every November 4th. Nazis, it seems, have penetrated into the very heart of the Russian establishment and it is the anti-fascists who are increasingly the marginalized and the outsiders in contemporary Russia.
Anastasia Baburova, before her untimely death, managed to leave one phrase which however should remain on the lips of all who are serious in the fight against fascism. In Russian it goes like this Мое отечество – все человечество (My country is the whole of humanity). In a recent interview, Russia’s foremost film scholar, Naum Kleiman, remarked that there is no contemporary Russian cinema precisely because filmmakers in Russian have never had the courage to deal with the real problems and scourges of contemporary Russian society – nationalism, racism and much of society’s obsession with ‘Holy Russia’. There is, however, one film which was made by a filmmaker who knew that his film would never be shown in the main cinema’s of Russia or elsewhere but who spent his own money on bearing witness to one anti-fascist whose memory one day will be honoured along with those Italian, Spanish and German anti-fascists (of the 1920s and 1930s) or the anti-fascists who fought Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the East End of London in the 1930s as well as those who volunteered to fight fascism in Spain (along with a whole generation of Soviet people who paid the heaviest price of all in the defeat of fascism). The film is by Valery Balayan and entitled Любите меня, пожалуйста (Love me, please) and is available with English subtitles on youtube:
Her native town of Sevastopol in the Crimea this April decided to set up an Anti-Fascist Film Festival in her name http://sevline.com/фестивали/фестиваль-антифашистского-кино.html – recent signs like the blessing of Neo-Nazis by religious hierarchs make these gestures of solidarity and memory of the name of Anastasia Baburova ever more important.
Вечная ей память!