It’s the old coming of age story.
You go to school, you study, you make friends. You open your text books. You realise you are only learning what the state wants you to know. You rage against your teachers, your headmaster and your school. You laugh in the face of society, state and authority.
You ask questions and they call you stupid. They tell you to shut up and sit down. You start to study on your own. You find injustice, tyranny and mass acceptance. You talk to your friends.
You stand up. You start to organise and get active. You see those who share your views as victims to the most obscene and violent means of torture possible. In solidarity, you make a gesture.
You print flyers with your friends and post them on the wall. You get arrested by counter-terrorist security services who accuse you of setting up a terrorist organisation.
You get tortured until you sign the piece of paper. You refuse and they torture your friends instead, until they sign the piece of paper. The Judge looks at you. You are 14.
He looks at your school report and strips you of your freedom with the words; “Refuses to follow the norms and rules established in society.”
We were all young once but for three teenagers from the Siberian town of Kansk, the next 10 years of their youth will be spent in prison.
Nikita Uvarov, Denis Mikhaylenko and Bogdan Andreev were imprisoned in the summer of 2020 for the crime of what appeared to be posting flyers to the walls of the Russian security services (FSB).
Less than a year before their arrest, the mother of Nikita, Anna Uvarov, was invited to a ‘prevention council’ at her son’s school, to discuss his political leanings towards anarchism.
For anyone familiar with the ‘Prevent strategy’ in the UK, this dangerous relationship between authorities and schools is based on authoritarian approaches to ‘extremism’. Teachers and social educators are supposed to report behaviour to law enforcement that, in their belief, are early signs of terrorism.
Anna has accused Nikita’s teacher of writing a bad characterisation of her son for the prosecutor and from the language of the judge, it appears the school testified against their own students and played an active role in Nikita’s arrest;
“He perceives the school as a hostile environment, does not react to measures of educational influence.”
After Nikita’s ‘prevention council’, the three students were the subjects of surveillance by the FSB, who claimed the defendants used the computer game Minecraft as a terrorist training camp to simulate the destruction of their headquarters. Evidence to this accusation included one secret witness, text messages, a video, a few cans of gasoline kept in a garage and imagination.
Most crucially, the flyers they posted to the walls of the FSB were in solidarity for anarchist mathematician Azat Fanisovich Miftakhov, who was arrested for acts of ‘hooliganism’ in 2019 by the FSB. Their cases are similar in many ways, including the charismatic insanity of the accusations through the use of secret witnesses.
In Miftakhov’s case, he was identified by his “expressive eyebrows” by a single witness known only as ‘Petrov’ who died before he could give evidence in court.
The Russian authorities accused Miftakhov of being part of a terror organisation; the plot was to smash a window and throw a smoke grenade into the offices of the political party of Vladimir Putin, United Russia.
Miftakhov was not accused of throwing the grenade but instead passing it to a police informant, who then threw it through the window.
It was actually the second time he was arrested in the same day. The first time, they raided his student residence and claimed he made a bomb. The FSB tortured him due to lack of evidence and then let him go, due to lack of submission.
He was arrested again later the same day, on the testimony of a witness that has since fled the country.
Miftakhov was awaiting trial in Moscow when the three teenagers from Kansk were arrested. He was later charged with hooliganism and sentenced to exile in a penal colony. The injustice and torture surrounding this case clearly inspired the teenagers to take action.
The action they chose was publication.
The obsession of power is control and this achieved by an absolutist state of paranoia. The FSB, and it’s predecessors the KGB and NKVD operate entirely by fear but despite these lazy connections in Russian history, the torture and detention of children are not a phenomena exclusive to Russia.
What unites us all is the political oppression of children, from Greece to England and the United States; the youth are characterised as future terrorists and enemies of the state.
It’s the old coming of age story but you forget what it was like to be 14.
You rage against your youth, against others who dare to question the routine of oppression, the mask of hate. You see the world change. You see the world crumble.
You complain about your students; the terror of adolescence!
You look away and condemn our future to hell.
You can write to Nikita and Denis in prison, but keep in mind that in remand imprisonment, there is heavy censorship, and it is better to avoid overtly political themes. Letters must be in Russian, but with Google translate it is often possible to make understandable translations. In case you do not trust machine translations, you can send for example photographs or drawings.
Uvarov Nikita Andreevich, 2005 g.r. SIZO-5 ul. Kaytymskaya 122, g. Kansk 663600 Krasnoyarskiy Kray Russia
Mikhaylenko Denis Sergeevich 2005 g.r. SIZO-5 ul. Kaytymskaya 122, g. Kansk 663600 Krasnoyarskiy Kray Russia
You may also make a donation for the prisoners via Paypal to ABC Moscow, [email protected]. If you want to donate to Nikita and Denis specifically, please use “for Minecraft case” as a reference.
Image: Nikita Uvarov and Denis Mikhaylenko, reposted from Avtonom.