Famous all over the country the action “Immortal regiment” was born in Tomsk in 2012 as a emotional outburst of local journalists — grandchildren of soldiers of the great Patriotic war. After a few years popular initiative privatized officials and formal social activists from the onf. There was an organization “Immortal regiment of Russia”, which now develops multi-million dollar budgets. Officialdom and administrative zeal emanating from the BDP, distort the very idea of the popular movement, said one of the founders of the “Immortal regiment”, journalist Sergei Lapenkov. In an interview with radio Liberty, he recalled the initial, very important sense of movement.
“Return of the hero — a man who went through the war”
Radio Liberty: Sergei, let’s turn to the early history of the movement “Immortal regiment” was born as the idea?
Sergey Lapenkov: the Idea occurred to my colleague, Igor Dmitriev, he now lives in St. Petersburg. In may I met him — I, Igor and Sergey Kolotovkin, our third mate, near the Eternal flame in the city of Tomsk. Came with children. This day was important to all of us: we are all grandchildren of the soldiers, all grandparents fought. And here Igor, observing, apparently, that makes the time (veterans less inspirational speeches, more), suggested the next year will bring to the parade the portraits of our grandfathers. We wanted to return the holiday to his main character, a man who’s been through the war and which we are all ultimately grateful for the fact that we live today. However pathetic it sounds, but it’s actually true.
This story from the beginning was personal. May 9 throughout my life was the day special. In the house at grandma’s, then mom on this day has always been a picture of Santa in a prominent place. Took from the album, set to be seen next to a glass of vodka, a slice of bread here, this is his day, he was a war veteran, he fought.
— You remember your grandfather?
— Grandpa left when I was 6 years old, in 1974. I barely touched him. He fought in two wars — Finnish and the Great Patriotic war. Ivan Adamovich Lapenkov — hero of the Soviet Union, the spy, was discharged a first Lieutenant. He returned from the war without legs — he was wounded on the territory of Germany, and as a result both legs were taken from him. In fact, thanks to his grandfather, I thought for a long time: it is normal that if people soldiers returned from the war, he has no legs or no hands.
I remember my grandmother on a summer morning I awake on the cot is a small one — bedroom apartment, and I was there on the cot asleep — and that’s grandpa on the bed. He throws a blanket pulls out from under the bed and prostheses and strap them to the legs. And I’m the kid, for me it was at first surprising, and then I used: well, my grandfather. And here, he has risen on artificial limbs, he smiled — he always smiled. He was very welcoming. Later, when I became an adult, the neighbors told me they remembered Ivan Adamovich as a person very kind, to which they could go to with any trouble of his, for advice, for something else. Here are my memories of my grandfather.
And of course, I wanted their emotional feeling from him to pass on — your family, son. I still lived near these people, not only with the grandfather, and in General with generation of veterans, and those who are younger — not anymore. In my opinion, a peculiar people.
I, by the way, thanks to the “Shelf” found that Linkovich part of the family that still lives near Mogilev in Belarus, where my ancestors moved to Siberia because Siberia was the land. They wrote to me, and this summer I will go to them.
— What year was “Immortal regiment” was first released on the streets?
— In 2012 — just remembered the conversation and decided: let’s do it, why not? Each of us then in the Tomsk media group was engaged in some work. I was the Director of radio, Sergei Kolotovkin was the Director the Internet-directions, Igor worked in an advertising Agency, our media group. We made the first informational materials to appeal to people. Aired commercials. The first video with the text: “Grandfather, get up, look how little your this a fair system”, which was written by Igor — he is, in my opinion, generally the best thing about this to say.
— Whose portraits taken?
— Each of us took a photo of his grandfather-the veteran. Although it was obvious for us, and we did it in the Charter that the “Immortal regiment” is not history in the literal sense of the veterans of the army and Navy. For us it is a generational history, the history of all the people who have gone through 40 years. It is the human memory. As Sergei Kolotovkin says: everyone’s grandfather was her grandmother. She awaited him, she raised her children, for her sake, he, actually, went to the attack.
— How many people have you joined in the first year?
— More than 6 thousand people, that’s for sure. We agreed with workshops in Tomsk on the production of banners with portraits of soldiers, and realized that one of the banner cost about two or three people, because it is the history of the family. In the first year was made about two thousand banners. Plus a lot of people came with homemade banners, just with photos. I saw a man who made a banner from the children’s shoulders: he secured salaminian picture, and very comfortable it was, really. In General, I think, not less than six thousand people.
— Tomsk a lot or a little?
Is a lot. Actually, it’s more than usual going for an official meeting, which took place on 9 may. The parade was always a few thousand people, and only then, when there was cordon in the Camp garden, where the Eternal flame burns, the townspeople families carried flowers laid to the monument went to the front to residents. Moreover, many inscribed with the names of relatives. And at the rally there were columns enterprise, the students, well, as usual. So we the number of participants has doubled, at least. We must pay tribute to city hall, they worked quickly: seeing that many people coming, they pushed the pillars and gave everyone the opportunity came to get up and walk. They counted that will five hundred, and the number of allocated place in the convoy.
— Tell us how in the first years the authorities reacted to the initiative?
— Yes, normally react. As for municipal authorities, the General problem we never had. In the first year and to this day, despite all the issues that, probably, set our city hall in Tomsk: who are you now engaged in the “Immortal regiment”? To us these issues do not reach.
In most cities that have joined the “Immortal regiment”, people were able to reach an agreement. Much was determined by simple human feeling. Talking to someone about the “Immortal regiment”, and immediately clear: he this story to try myself or not. If the person is at this moment remembers his grandfather or great-grandfather, could speak the same language.
Cities were rather an exception, where a year or two could not hold the “Immortal regiment” because officials depended. Here, Kemerovo, for example, a city. There in the first year of the children, local journalists who took up the job, said: to go or with the flag of “United Russia”, or nothing. They said, well, no, probably because the Charter is impossible. By the following year, another person took over the organization of “the Regiment”, and officials asked: how many people will come? She says: I would like to left the city, it is impossible for the man to say: you would not fit in the “Immortal regiment” and you don’t come, because we have a quota ended. How many will come. But the official said: I can’t give you permission to hold mass events, if you do not know the number of participants. And then in Kemerovo have decided to make the festivities in the city Park. And in 2015, when the Committee “Victory”, officials have already spent, of course, the “Immortal regiment” in the Kuzbass. A little in his own way, with the school’s pillars, but nonetheless.
— And you immediately decided to extend the campaign to other cities?
— When we collected the first “Regiment” in the 12th year, we never thought about it. It was just the desire to do it for themselves, for their countrymen. But it quickly became clear that this is a very good human story that unites people, regardless of barriers, that they are divided on other days. And we thought it important to bring this story outside of Tomsk. After some time after the 9th of may ‘ 12 we have to show “Immortal regiment” to our comrades, regional journalists, using a variety of platforms. We said: look, if this is important — just do it.
And people just connected?
— Well, Yes. The first 20-30 cities — these are my friends-journalists, those whom I knew in my profession. The people who came with the first wave, still hold “the Regiment”. Then they started to come friends of friends, then some quite strangers. The Internet-a resource “Immortal regiment”. He was a credit to the community, but has now grown into a brand of independent story — the people’s memorial. People record there own family history, there are entered the names of their ancestors. To date, there are already more than 380 thousand names. For us it is very important. We opened the center of the search operation on the site. Help people to gather information. There is a request for the extension of the field memory, it is quite narrow for most of us. Remember little that happened. People start to look for, and our volunteers help them by orienting, where, how, what requests you can send. Today it is the main work.
“The emergence of the “Immortal regiment of Russia” was a violation of the principle of voluntariness”
— Tell me, at what point the idea of “Immortal regiment” began to show the interest of the “United Russia” and all the power?
— To the “United Russia” we have had no complaints. With them was easy. We told them: do not put, do not take it national. They are so sorry, we wanted to help — and put in place. To what is happening today, “United Russia” has nothing to do. Not all “United Russia” to blame. Initially, the space of communication was built so that we didn’t care what party a person belongs, what he professes religious views, he is rich or poor. We were interested in only one thing: if a person is engaged in the “Immortal regiment” — comrade, here is our Charter, which, in particular, clearly States that the regiment is a non — profit, non-political, non-governmental initiative. Which excludes the transformation of “Regiment” in the image area for any of the forces and personalities. If you are willing to follow this Charter, you are welcome, get in here.
We have the example of the coordinator, and member of United Russia, was expelled from the columns of the formal social activists of the popular front, who came there and began to deploy the banners. I hope to look at actions and not at the signs.
“United Russia” came to us in the 12th year, the “Immortal regiment” Federal project. We said, wait, we are now spirit a little take — in the hope that they will forget about it, but they forgot. And we have started the website, search work, realizing that the faster we story “Immortal regiment” as it has appeared, will bring to a greater number of people, the harder it will be to distort it.
— At what point do you suddenly noticed that something goes wrong? Where did the “Immortal regiment of Russia”?
— We had a coordinator who was involved in the “Immortal regiment” in Moscow, Nikolay Zemtsov. He came in ‘ 13 in the spring and was a municipal Deputy. We are not confused, exactly, because we proceeded from the principle of confidence in the man, regardless of other markers that he himself carried. Nicholas was the grandson of a soldier, for him it was the history of the family, and he looked very sincere at that moment. We began to cooperate, and in 2013, helped in the “Immortal regiment” in Moscow as they could. But at the end of ‘ 13 when we recorded the Charter, there was a crack in the relationship.
I have to explain one and a half years we have existed as an informal movement, without any seals and other signs of organization. But still decided that we will create a legal entity because the facilitators began to ask. They needed to talk with the regional authorities, and with the power always easier to talk if you are some organization, even if it is on paper. What was needed was the blue print of the Ministry of justice.
We decided to organize an interregional NGO, establishing offices in Tomsk and in Moscow. The Charter, which was written by our lawyers, did not establish any commercial activity, even economic activity in the interests of the movement. And the Muscovites began to ask. We refused. We said, you know, in the country total theft to be able to use the “Immortal regiment” as the pocket from which someone the money will carry, we’re not ready. Zemtsov said: well guys, Moscow — a city big, it is impossible without a budget.
After some time Zemtsov has created a separate organization in Moscow, registering on “Immortal regiment — Moscow”. Two years this organization existed only in Moscow. 2014 and even 15 year, when “Regiment” was already widely known, outside of Moscow no one knew anything about Zemtsova, nor the “Immortal regiment — Moscow”. And useful Nikolay Zemtsov at the moment when, apparently, upstairs was deciding what to do with the spontaneous popular movement. Because, after all, in the 14th year, the third year of the “Regiment”, it was attended by half a million people in 450 settlements the five countries. And by 2015 the “Immortal regiment” existed in 20 countries.
And it was still a public initiative?
— Yes, there were no institutions, except for the Interregional historical and Patriotic public movement “the Immortal regiment”, which, in fact, was not the organization, and consists of a community of people United by certain meanings.
But, knowing that ahead of the anniversary of the Victory, and the government will still pay our movement and attention necessary to build some kind of communication, a past that will not pass, we visited the working group of the Committee “Victory”, told about the “Immortal regiment”. A document essentially correct, signed by the then head of the presidential administration Sergei Ivanov, in which it was said that there is a national movement “the Immortal regiment” and, say, recommend that in those regions where it is still not supported, support. And it seemed that everything was normal.
But gradually we began to see more and more examples of the bureaucratization of the movement. And then in 2015, in the autumn appeared “Immortal regiment of Russia”. Apparently, at some point the decision upstairs has adopted the following: do not build any relations with the people’s movement, but just to build your organization.
— Simply put, decided to you have the idea…
— How to overcome? You see, it’s possible to overcome something that people consider to be their own. We are “Immortal regiment” of his own is not considered. We felt his personal story of each person, and still continue to insist on this. We are not a organization and does not compete with the BDP as an organization, so they don’t know what to do with us. We’re suing them, we may in a legal sense do not apply. We only criticize them in that case, when violated, meaning “Immortal regiment”, not the fact of existence of the organization.
— When I first came the criticism?
— When “Immortal regiment — Moscow” began to conduct pickets in support of “United Russia”. Then in Moscow began to occur even more strange things. The schools were kind of mobilization action to carry out: you have to bring in mandatory essay about his grandfather, the quota which was allocated to participate in the procession. People wrote us complained, we all published on the website. Is the “Guardhouse” — we decided at some point to open to fix the violations of the Charter.
The very appearance of the BDP was, of course, a violation of the principle of voluntariness, “the Immortal regiment”. That is, the channels of the Public chamber of the Russian Federation and the Russian popular front have been convened by some activists from the regions, and these people voted for the BDP. Our coordinators are not invited, not a single volunteer from the people’s movement. And then came the BDP, a completely artificial entity.
We even wrote about all events the letter to the President. I honestly was not a supporter of the letter, but my companions thought that we must use all methods. We wrote a letter about what we see the threat of bureaucratization of the popular movement that the Public chamber is working to create this absolutely bureaucratic office. Talked about the fact that we believe the main task of “Immortal regiment” the approval of the new folk tradition and not the appearance of another Corporation, which will develop budgets. A response to a letter we have received, moreover, I know that it was forwarded to the Public chamber. About whom you wrote there and sent.
— As the creators of BPR began to behave towards you?
— There were different stages. First, they stated that “we do not want anyone to dismiss, we will help wherever you need our help”. But where the BDP took the situation under control, we began to record violations of the Charter. On the Volga river, in Samara last year there was, for example, a decree on quotas for participation in the March in the schools. And in Nizhny Novgorod students began to distribute banners with portraits unknown to these students, people that they they were carried. In Krasnoyarsk for some reason moved three hours in Moscow “Immortal regiment”, removing from the participation of the coordinator of volunteers. All this happened in the 16th year. A formalization, there is what is called “state patriotism” — what is “Immortal regiment” was the alternative.
And this year — just a rolling skating rink. There is pressure on the symbolism of the popular movement, trying to get people to change our symbol of the movement of the crane to the strange symbol that was invented in the BDP — symbiosis of the red star and St. George.
— That is, to the extent that changing symbols?
— Of course, the BDP should now be the only movement. Roll up the asphalt all the old meanings, to remove the old symbols.
And recently there was a scandal at the parliamentary hearings, where co-movement Vasily Lanovoy has accused the other co-chair Zemtsova that he usurped power, taking unilateral decisions and where it spends money (15 million, in my opinion, Lanovoi was called). It says that inside there are also not going smoothly. But on the other hand, it is an indication that there is such a classic organization-pump, which pumps money from the budget. The theme of memory is all has no relation at all.
“For us, the meaning is more important than form”
— Sergei, go on the Internet publication, where the residents, the founders of the “Immortal regiment”, call agents whether the US state Department, whether Khodorkovsky, they say, thank God, in time you have intercepted the initiative. Do you think about this?
Is paid, I don’t even read. Such were published three years ago, it’s very specific manner tekstiki. Wrote that it was “defaming our tradition of celebrating the Victory of the event”, but once in 15 year in the column “Shelf” was the President, though it has stopped writing.
And there’s so much rubbish they write. And not only the anonymous authors of any of the paid services or the representatives, shall we say, conservative, Patriotic, and democratic press but unfortunately, too often the victim of stereotypes. Must say this openly: the story of 15 years from the abandoned banners had me convinced. Sometimes talking to people, no matter where called — “Layfnyus” or “Deutsche Welle”, but all in the head already have a concept of what they want to hear from you. For some cast banners is a manifestation of administrative resources, which had frightened people, and for others — a conspiracy of Khodorkovsky. I’m trying to explain to people — well not it all, let’s view the facts. But do not hear.
— By the way, Yes, that story resonated…
We investigated the story with cast posters. It is clear that the administrative resource was not able to 15 year to drive away so many people. Of course, most people will come. Yes, the administrative resource then has used their usual technologies simply by inertia, reflex. We know that some of the subway stations then had volunteers in the white shirt without insignia, who are the people going to the “Immortal regiment”, were given banners. Said, behold, the man has no relatives, carry him, please, along with his. And people were carrying. Here is the first person who wrote about it, took two, took home. Some of these banners left. All give not in time. But it was a drop in the ocean. Most people then 15, was still with portraits of their relatives and, of course, completely voluntary.
— Sergey, and activists of your movement react to the administrative burden and the appearance of their cities BDP?
Now we all realize that this organization, but promised not to interfere, but to help will tend to squeeze the original story wherever you can. And we told the field coordinators: each of you need to take your personal human decision, how do you do. And, now, we know that some people have a relationship with BDP, but the regiment in this city, for example, in Kursk, runs completely on the Charter, stored there are very important meanings. There are cities where the BDP has fully replaced our previous coordinators and our principles of motion, unfortunately, not very valuable. There are cities where everything is still done by the people who started the “Immortal regiment”. This is Tula, Kaluga, Novosibirsk, Volgograd, Barnaul, Tomsk — cities such a lot. It is almost all overseas. There is also this year launched an attack to drive our crane and to convince the organizers to work exclusively with the BDP, but it’s harder to do, the people there had more freedom.
And in the Crimea, representatives of the BDP behave absolutely shamelessly. There this year, our coordinators were forced to rewrite the statement on the conduct of the regiment on behalf of the BDP and the administration, unlike other regions, this is a quite actively supported.
— And the authorities of other regions how to behave?
Mostly with regional authorities are trying to distance themselves. Somewhere because I know our organizers somewhere because works of local patriotism: what is Moscow is to teach us, we ourselves can do.
In General, all depends on the particular authorities, the particular coordinator. Where a strong man does not work just take and turn everything the other way.
Here in Sevastopol, the people rested, said: we are under the crane walked and will walk. Last year there was two regiments. The authorities organized their own, brought under the symbols of the BDP, and many people have passed their colony (more numerous) under the crane. This confrontation continues to this day. People under pressure, but the harder you push, the stronger they resist.
I don’t know how it will end. I just hope that the idea of “Immortal regiment”, the idea of personal memory — it is an idea that completely distort and disfigure impossible. No matter how they tried to collect those beautiful columns, students pull, dressing children in military uniform, some quests Patriotic conduct that fake projects to start — it’s not stronger than a personal relationship to its history, each person is still there.
— Are not you afraid that people will start to leave from “Immortal regiment” when you see that it turns into officialdom?
— Of course, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the talk that “all this came from the Kremlin,” because many people it turns away from the traffic. But I hope that people have enough intelligence to understand what is happening.
Another thing is that many in the country today like a loud pathos. There is such a request, to be honest. Our propaganda machine’s efforts were largely successful — our people tend to unite in order to resist. Of course, it is easier to unite for the sake of hatred. It is much harder to unite for the sake of each other. Hatred — a more primitive feeling than love, so to hate is easier than love.
But “Immortal regiment” should not be a tool of confrontation. My grandfather fought for peace, not war.
Now from Archangel wrote man, the Director of the Museum of the Arctic. The cadets of the “naval school” was going to make portraits of British and French sailors who died during the posting of the Arctic convoys with lend-ysis. He said: it is not necessary, difficult international position. He asks me what to do. I wrote to him: wear. What the hell kind of a complicated international situation, if they are our brothers in arms? If they are in the same water went, and our sailors? And maybe if it is more likely to remember, the international situation will not be so difficult.
We wanted to get the “Regiment” from surface, lacquered relation to the Day of Victory, carnival celebration, which demeans the memory of the war, and to turn people to the memory and senses. But unfortunately, what happened in the last year — the same Poklonskaya, who came on parade with the icon of Nicholas II, says that the “Immortal regiment”, alas, may become an instrument of mythologization of history, if we don’t stand against. Line of defense Immortal regiment now runs through each of us. Inside, you need to understand what you think is important and what is tinsel.
— Sergey, and you are not afraid of what could happen the opposite, but similar in meaning, when “Immortal regiment” will become an arena of struggle with the regime, which spoils everything?
— No, I don’t think this arena will become “Immortal regiment”. Rather, it will happen on another occasion and in another place.
— What should happen to you, look around, have made the decision to move away from the “Immortal regiment”?
— Look, a 15 year my friends decided how we should be, when I started to create this office — BDP. We decide to leave us or not. Was this point of view, and by the way I supported it that we have to announce that we bloom. Because in the year of the anniversary of the Victory we wanted to tell the story of the “Immortal regiment” the maximum number of people and we managed it, and now while the meanings have been compromised, it is necessary to say that on any organisations should not be. And as an example, to dissolve itself as a legal entity. Here we tell you our history, we have fulfilled our mission, then — you.
But we understand that there are many people, for example, in small towns and villages, for whom we are important. And the site “Immortal regiment” is very important. He was, is and remains a free civil initiative, personal memory. And that’s a huge liability for hundreds of thousands of stories that are stored there. The search center that we created, is an important story and we will continue to do it. But we are not going to compete as an organization with BDP. We are not an organization, we are a community of people. Meaning for us is more important than form.
To deal with the organizational moments, we will probably make less and less. In our understanding, as any tradition, the “Immortal regiment” should be self-regulating. So people don’t have any columns to go to may 9, they knew they had to take a picture of the veteran, children and go to the Eternal flame. In Tomsk it happens. Last year, a lot of people walking in a column, 40 thousand, but less people were on the streets, who did not stand up in a column. They walked on sidewalks to the Camp garden, where the Eternal flame burns. They, as usual, were flowers, but now with the flowers carried and portraits of veterans, their ancestors. This is very important. And this is the best counterweight to administrative pressure and all kinds of fake and pseudo-Patriotic initiatives.