On Monday, the Darnytsia District Court of Kyiv handed down a rather strange ruling on Viktor Medvedchuk's lawsuit against the author of the "The Vasyl Stus Case" book, Vakhtang Kipiani, and the publishing house that released it. The court satisfied almost all demands of the martyred poet's lawyer and even went a little beyond that. In particular, the court ordered that any mention of Mr Medvedchuk be removed from the book and forbade its distribution without the plaintiff's permission.
Thus, according to the ruling by Judge Maryna Zastavenko, the following phrases should be removed from Kipiani's book The Vasyl Stus Case: "…did Stus have an opportunity to choose between 'lesser evil.' However, it is a fact that the name of the lawyer provided, supported by state security agency, was Viktor Medvedchuk"; "... Medvedchuk admitted in court that all 'crimes' allegedly committed by his client 'deserve punishment'"; "... he actually supported the prosecution. Who needs prosecutors when there are such assenting lawyers?"; "... the poet was being crucified by the state-appointed lawyer Medvedchuk"; "... Medvedchuk, the Communist system's minion…"; "Lawyer Medvedchuk committed a crime against the poet including by failing to inform his family about the launch of hearings... Was he afraid of the KGB or has he just always been a cynic and an immoral man?"
Until these phrases are deleted, the book is banned from distribution both by Vivat Publishing House and personally the author, Mr Kipiani.
But the question remains, why would Medvedchuk, an old-timer of Ukrainian politics, need all this?
He doesn't leave an impression of a fool, and he probably should have realized that the court's ruling in his favor would only fuel interest in both Kipiani's book, the poet, and, most importantly, Medvedchuk's role in Stus's fate, described in that book. And this is exactly what happened. Even those who have never heard of Stus are now discussing him, and those who have, are now rushing to order the book "until it is banned." The eternal concept of "forbidden fruit is the sweetest" and Soviet one that says "Since it's banned it, must be something good" have both worked in this case. Now, having read this piece of literature, Ukrainians know that Medvedchuk, as is written in the book, played the role of the poet's prosecutor despite being his defense lawyer.
Even those who have never heard of Stus are now discussing him, and those who have, are now rushing to order the book "until it is banned"
I have two opinions in this regard, none of which contradict each other.
By filing his lawsuit, Medvedchuk could have aimed to demoralize the patriotic stratum of society as if saying: "Behold, hohol Ukrainians the true master in your house!" This is a perfect opportunity to show Russia and Soviet Union adepts in Ukraine how "Bandera nationalists" can be reminded of "their place."
Another version is that even politicians like Medvedchuk could have guilty conscience. And, it could be tormenting him. Who knows, maybe the tortured poet comes to his "lawyer" in his sleep? And who knows what Stus is telling him from the other side?
And so the court ruling is a wonderful attempt to deceive own conscience: "See? Despite what's written in books, everything was done correctly, in line with the law." Although it is worth mentioning here that no court ruling can raise anyone from the dead and give back those 30 silver coins. Besides, cowardice is the worst sin.
But back to the court ruling… There is an interesting point in it: Judge Zastavenko went beyond Medvedchuk's civil lawsuit. He did not ask the court to ban mentioning his name as a book character without his consent. However, the judge's ruling says so.
Judge Zastavenko went beyond Medvedchuk's civil lawsuit. He did not ask the court to ban mentioning his name as a book character without his consent. However, the judge's ruling says so
What was that? Was it the judge's attempt to render a service to an influential politician with a view to career promotion (by the way, it was a high-profile Russia fighter, Petro Poroshenko, who once appointed Judge Zastavenko a judge of the capital's court)? Was it the judge's own Ukrainephobic stance she couldn't restrain herself to express in her ruling "on behalf of Ukraine"? Or was it something else?
Vyacheslav Yakubenko, the lawyer of the book's author, believes that this helped Judge Zastavenko to declare Viktor Medvedchuk's claims unfounded. He explains it this way: the judge did not dare to refuse to satisfy the claims, while planting a procedural mine in her ruling by going beyond the civil claim's limits. This way, she gave the appellate court the opportunity to overturn her ruling – not on the merits, but on the grounds that the first instance court had imposed a ban which the plaintiff had not requested.
I would like to think so. But knowing how complacent the Kyiv Court of Appeals (it will consider the appeals) is, little faith remains in such a "cunning move" by Zastavenko and its efficiency in that court.
However, whatever happens at the appeal stage, and perhaps in the cassation instance, the very fact of the trial of the book depicting the events that took place 40 years ago in a country that's fallen apart almost 30 years ago resembles of a mix of some medieval obscurantism of the Inquisition, Stalinism, and Hitlerism.
Meanwhile, all proponents of these "isms" must remember that the fire from "enemy books" is capable of lighting them up, too.