Жыве Беларусь!

The Operative

This is a phenomenon of the Soviet and, alas, post-Soviet reality. This word is familiar to everyone who has ever been imprisoned. The person who is defined by this word can be a smiling youth with a sly squint or a soon-to-retire man with gray hair and a weary gaze. They can be an arm waver with shifty eyes or a polite intellectual looking at you calmly and intently, a flabby lazy-bone or a bigoted professional. The sum and substance of them stay the same.

The operative.

In the times of tsarist Russia, they were called gendarmes, later simply agents of Cheka, Criminal Investigation or similar structures. Now they are called ‘the operatives’. I wonder what they are called in other countries. Agents? Police inspectors? Detectives? Have they left behind a trail of blood that ‘our’ operative has had behind them for almost 100 years?

Official duties of the operative spelled out in fancy laws include collecting intelligence, controlling the operating environment and hence aiding the detection of offenses while defending the ‘rights and legitimate interests of citizens’. (Laughter) But the reality of these guys with ‘a cool head and a warm heart’ (the portraits of the author of this metaphor, the sadist Dzerzhinsky!, are still a must-have in every operative’s office) naturally, extends far beyond such dull and uninteresting statements. My first encounter with the operatives happened on September 4, 2010, in the cabinets of the temporary detention centre in Okrestina st., on the following day after my detention. Two agents with watchful stares and manners of masters of the Universe, Sokolov, and Yaroshik. During hours-long conversations they were trying to prove to me that it’s much better to become scum and a traitor than to do time for many years. They tested various psychological techniques one by one. I was told that they ‘know everything’ and I just need to better my lot by telling ‘the whole truth’; that my friends had ratted on me; that 'm being used, but they want to help me (oh, classic!). One of them even confessed he shared my anarchist beliefs in the privacy of his thoughts. Afterwards, a KGB agent started his conversation with the same phrase — probably, this is their algorithm of work with the politicals. They would usually finish with a vivid description of horrors awaiting me in prison, once again suggesting me to betray my friends in order to save myself.

But what are 10—15 hours of interrogation compared to five years within which the operatives became my permanent companions?

The prison operative and an operative from the criminal persecution and the KGB essentially belong to the same biological species. They are identical and replaceable, but here I will tell you exclusively about the prison operative since only by being in constant contact with him you can absorb, feel, understand through suffering and remember for the whole life the role and place of these creatures in our world.

In the times of GULAG, the cons recruited by an operative in a labour camp were overhearing the conversations between other inmates, creeping into favour they drew people out, the result of which were new criminal cases for ‘counterrevolutionary conspiracies’, ‘anti-Soviet agitation’, ‘preparation for a breakout’, etc. Eventually, the victim of an operative’s protégé received a new sentence in addition to the main one or was even executed. Even though it doesn’t happen anymore, the methods and the essence of the operative work remained. An operative in prison and in a colony is lord and master. It’s up to him where and with whom a con lives, if he can receive care packages or is entitled to have visits from relatives, if he goes to the punishment cell and generally if he is going to feel good or bad in a colony.

The operative of the section uses recruited cons (bitches) to pull the strings of the public opinion, and it’s a walkover for him to have a disagreeable person categorised as a ‘downcast’ or be systematically abused.

In a certain sense, an operative plays a bigger role than a governor, since the governor is far away, and the operative is always around. In the covert hierarchy of the administration of the ‘correctional’ institution — regime, operative, medical, special or correctional process departments — the operative department occupies the top of the pyramid. The operative is the all-mighty. ‘In order to live happily and joyfully, pull the door-handle of the operative department’, ‘Remember yourself and pass around: the way to the operative department is a way home’, — the inmates’ folklore is full of irony.

The operative is a victimiser for those who must suffer, in his opinion, and a sponsor of all kinds of benefits and privileges for his bitches. In Mogilev colony No. 15, an operative sent me to a punishment cell for five days for an ‘improper’ manner of talking to a visitor from the Department for Organized Crime Control. A formal reason for that was the fact that I entered his office wearing an unbuttoned jacket, though everyone always came to him dressed like this.

In Shklov colony No. 17, for some time the cons were allowed to bring an unlimited amount of fruit and vegetables from visiting rooms. Later it was forbidden by the regime department as part of the usual and permanent hardening of the regime in the pen. But the operative put about a rumour through his recruits, ‘It’s the father of Dziadok that complained, so we prohibited it’. It’s difficult to imagine a more villainous way of splitting a person from the prison collective.

Once in Mogilev prison No. 4, I reported to the operative with a beautiful surname Likhuta that the censor who works under his direct supervision was holding six cards from Switzerland addressed to me. ‘How come?’, I said. ‘There is nothing special there, just cards with congratulations!’

‘OK, I’ll figure it out’, was his answer.

Within the following week, the censor held three very regular letters from my father and wife. The special gimmick of Mogilev prison is an empty envelope with a stapled sheet reading: “The letter didn’t pass the censorship’. It’s an operative-style hint — be content with the letters you get, otherwise, we will deprive you of them, too.

The operative is a Jesuit. At an interrogation in the KGB, the operatives, ‘experts’ in anarchism, tried to prove to my comrade Ihar Alinevich the inconsistency of the anarchist theory:

‘You are doing karate. It is hierarchical’ By this, they wanted to impair the tired consciousness of an inmate, to undermine his self-righteous belief. Similarly, in the first days after the detention, seeing that ‘the frontal attack’ hadn’t worked, the operatives told me:

‘We are up and write on Indymedia that you’ve ratted on everyone!’

The already mentioned Likhuta had a conversation with me when I thought I had just 3.5 more months to go:

‘So what are you going to do on the outside? Will you leave for some other country? And what about work? It’s so expensive there. Well, good luck!’

Sometime later I got to know that at the time of this conversation it had been four days since he sent my files to the Investigation Committee in order to bring another case against me under article 411. So he knew perfectly well that I would get one more year, and he decided to tease me with dreams of the Free World. This is an example of how a person can comprehensively characterise himself by a single act.

The operative is a lier. Lies is his main and favourite weapon for submission of others and extraction of ‘intelligence’. “Tell us this and that — and you’ll be free immediately. You have the word of the officer!” — this is what operatives often say to suspects under interrogation. How many naive and credulous people fell for this and incriminated themselves and sometimes, unwittingly, others as well. So the person gets his 5, 10, any number of years, but not thanks to the investigation who gathered incriminating evidence, but due to his own credulity. The operative will pledge any word, swear, promise anything you want, will call you a friend, say that he shares your ideas, he will show compassion, rail against the authorities — if only to get from you the testimonies he needs, no matter how true they are. And once he gets it, he will order to bring you back to your cell. Now you are a write-off, and your heartache caused by the betrayed trust is no one’s concern, the main thing is that the case isn’t coming apart. How many are railroaded — out of the blue — how many cold cases are brought to court! And yet the people who fall for that are obviously not the jailbirds, but green and more or less decent people who hadn’t been in conflict with the law before and who don’t suspect that the attendants of the law can lie so blatantly.

Once I frankly reproached an operative from No. 15 for his constant reassurance of the fact that he ‘doesn’t have anything to do’ with my jawboning: ‘That’s not true, Sir. You are deceiving me all the time’. And he answered smiling, ‘It’s my profession to deceive’.

With this cruel nature, the operative cannot but be a racist.

The hateful agent of the Department for Organised Crime Control, Mr. Litvinsky, during a conversation with me in No. 15 started criticising ‘skinheads’ saying that his grandfather was at war and then added, ‘I don’t like blacks either. But I don’t beat them!” Operative Shamyonov from No. 17 was telling me for a long time about his vision of the terrorist attack of Anders Breivik: ‘This is what the multiculturalism lead to!” And added proudly, ‘Here in Belarus I can walk in the street and not be afraid that gooks will beat the shit out of me’.

The operative is the torturer of human souls. In No. 15 one guy complained to me that the operative was co-opting him demanding that he reports about what is being talked about among the cons, where they have prohibited items and stuff like this. Otherwise, he promised a lot of troubles. It was not accidentally that the operative started to lie heavy on him specifically: that guy vitally needed the release on parole — he had a small kid on the outside and the wife was in custody in Volodarka. He did his best to avoid violations of the rules, diligently sweat his guts out in the industry area and worried about his people all the time. Definitely, the operative knew it all and hence opted for him. I watched the moral suffering and ambivalence of that con — between family and consciousness, well-being of relatives and possible consequences of turning into a bitch. He tried to wiggle out, told some irrelevant and well-known things. But it didn’t work out. Soon I was taken away from No. 15 and I never learned what was the end of this little drama. I hope that guy did understand that you can’t be a halfway traitor.

One should not be afraid of those who can murder the body, but can’t do anything to the soul, but one should be scared of those who kill the soul. This is something you understand over time. In the system of Ministry of Interior there are both body murderers and soul killers. All of them — executioners from the firing squads and ‘the operatives’ — get money for their own murder.

True, the operative leaves alive the body, an organism driven by instincts and basic needs, but this is not a personality in the full sense of the word anymore. The nuance is that if the character of a person who got to prison fundamentally has even a slight decay, a grain of meanness and indecency, then under the vigilant supervision of the operative it is certain to grow and suck everything nice from a person. This is encouraged by the very atmosphere of the pen, its moral climate with the imperative ‘Spit on the near, kick the lower’. And the operative, undoubtedly, will cultivate this person — speed up the growth of the sprouts, selecting a fertiliser individually depending on the distinctive features of the victim’s character. For some, it will be an extra visit from a wife, for some, the fear for personal security, for others, the influence in the community. Some just need a pack of tea and cigarettes. But the result will always be the same: a person leaves prison thoroughly corrupt, unscrupulous, and with no beliefs. In his perception of the world the margins of good and evil are blurred. And this is all the result of the work of the ‘operative department of the correctional institution’.

Sometimes I wonder, what kind of people they are in normal life? Because not all of them beat their wives or kids, or cheat on their friends... Probably, they are also able to love their people, care about them, be nice to their wives and mothers, laugh heartily, make friends, generally, to experience human feelings. They must have a really good time on holidays and celebrations. Hugging their friends and colleagues they sing their favourite songs with a glass in the hand:

“Yeah! Yeah! If tomorrow is better than yesterday,

“We’ll make it”, policemen will answer…”

Of course, you will. In a vivacious ceremonial step. Directly to hell.

March 2015

The Operartive is a King. The Operative is a God.
The operative is a Liar.

The Security