Count Nikolai Tolstoy committed a crime at Utah Valley State College on Monday that could land him in a British jail for a three-year sentence.
His offense? He broke a court injunction by talking passionately about his discovery that a high-ranking English official ordered the illegal banishment of some 50,000 Cossacks to Soviet slave camps at the end of the last world war."The British government has not shown regret or offered to compensate survivors or descendants," said Tolstoy, a distant relative of the famed author. "It's the last unacknowledged war crime of World War II."
Tolstoy's presentation was part of a week-long Russia Days celebration that started Monday. Gov. Mike Leavitt and legislators approved the event to recognize business and cultural ties to the former Soviet state, including ongoing talks about the future of missionary efforts by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Tolstoy was slapped with a British court injunction in 1990 and fined the equivalent of $2.5 million for writing in a book that a military leader lied in documents detailing Britain's military maneuvers with the Cossacks, who weren't Russian natives, at the end of World War II.
Instead of shepherding the Russian horsemen to Austria as was written in the papers, Tolstoy said he found that an official named Lord Aldington ordered them into cattle trucks and shipped to a Stalin-run gulag. Many were violently killed for resisting, he said.
Judges have barred Tolstoy from speaking or writing about his research, which was gleaned from thousands of government documents and interviews with survivors. A friend, Nigel Watts, who also was found guilty of libel, was imprisoned last year for writing letters about the alleged war crime.
"The trial was a farce," he said. "There is no such thing as a war criminal in Britain. The only criminal found was me for having exposed the incident."
During the trial, the judge characterized Tolstoy as a "self-styled historian with a warped mind from his Russian background" to the jury. The white-wigged judge also refused to weigh evidence presented in the form of testimony from soldiers and unsealed government papers, Tolstoy said.
Tolstoy says he has since uncovered information, including some found in the Russian archives, supporting his claim that Aldington committed perjury during the libel trial. President Boris Yeltsin personally ordered the books be opened to Tolstoy for research.
"There was not a single aspect of this alibi that stood up," he said.
In a closed-door trial, British judges spurned his appeal and placed a lien against his estate and belongings, including the extensive collection of books he uses for research.
Police haven't come to collect, however. A European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1995 that Britain violated his civil rights and has asked the court to overturn its previous decisions, he said.
"To this day, they've neither taken my things nor have they taken me out of this predicament," he said. "They did not expect the overwhelming support from the public."
Tolstoy was financially supported during the trial by donations and a European prince who backed his cause. He decided to speak out this year because he believes Britain should accept the consequences of its actions.
"What I am saying to you is illegal," he said. "As for what happens next, I don't know. It will be interesting. Watch this space."
Tolstoy also has agreed to exhibit the Cross of St. Spyridon at the LDS Church Museum of History and Art. It will be the first showing in the United States of the golden cross, which was given to the Tolstoy family in 1420 by Czar Vasily the Blind.
The cross was last shown in public at the Tolstoy Exhibition in Paris about 20 years ago.