Dozens of people protested on Sunday in front of the Russian embassy in defense of the Memorial association, which has been researching the history of political repression in the Soviet Union and defending human rights for over 30 years. Russian authorities want its liquidation.
The Russian prosecutor general’s office asked the Supreme Court in November to liquidate the Memorial Association. He claims that Memorial violates the provisions on “foreign agents” and does not mark its materials with an annotation about this status of the organization. The prosecutor’s office also accuses the Memorial Human Rights Defense Center of justifying the activities of extremist and terrorist organizations. Memorial rejects these accusations. The Supreme Court is to hear the prosecutor’s lawsuit on November 25.
“We will not let the Memorial be extinguished”
The protesters had banners with the words “We will not let the Memorial be extinguished”, “Every authoritarian authority is afraid of the truth”, “Who are we without the Memorial?”, “Free Yuri Dmitriev” and “We with you”. They chanted the following slogans: “We will not let the Memorial be extinguished”, “Our Russia is a Memorial”, “Solidarni z Memorial”. The protest was attended, among others, by representatives of Poland, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
– We are protesting against the destruction of the Russian Memorial Association, both this historic Memorial and the Human Rights Defense Center, which is also called Memorial, because the prosecutor general of Russia and the Moscow prosecutor’s office have requested the liquidation of these two organizations using the law on “foreign agents” – Masha Makarova, historian, journalist, member of the Association “For Free Russia”, which organized the protest, told the Polish Press Agency.
She stressed that Memorial is “one of the most important initiatives that arose in post-Soviet Russia, because it restores the memory of the victims of Stalinist repression, constantly fights for the truth about Stalinist repressions, and fights against the denial of crimes by various political forces in Putin’s Russia today.” – Importantly, for years, the Memorial has been constantly restoring the memory of the Katyn massacre and the fate of Polish prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. He strongly denies that these crimes were committed by the Germans. He says that it was committed by the NKVD and he can also say “I’m sorry” for what happened in the Soviet Union – Makarowa noted.
“Memorizes the post-Soviet republics”
She pointed out that the Memorial Human Rights Defense Center is equally important. – Since the 1990s, he has been researching and defending the victims of war crimes in Chechnya and the North Caucasus. Every year it publishes lists of political prisoners. These are the most reliable lists that are used by journalists and all people in Russia who want to know how many prisoners there are, what they are in prison for, which the Russian state accuses them of, she explained.
She assessed that after the liquidation of Memorial “something catastrophic for Russia may happen”. – The databases of victims of Stalinist repression, collected by Memorial, the entire archive that has been collected for 30 years by Memorial activists in various regions, are at risk. Memorial is a network organization and in many regions of Russia there are Memorial branches that investigate local crimes, said a member of the For Free Russia Association.
She added that the Memorial “also links various post-Soviet republics by common memory.” – When we talk about all the bad things that are happening in Putin’s Russia, about the negation of history, about the resurgent cult of Stalin, you could always say: “there is a Memorial”, “we have a Memorial”. This is a card for those Russians who believe in the transformation of our country, that there is hope and this hope is very strongly connected with the Memorial – she emphasized.
They said “no annexation of Crimea”
Ukrainian journalist Igor Isaev said that “if there was a measure of dignity in Ukraine, Poland and Russia, a unit of dignity – it would be a Memorial in our region”. – It is this organization that restores history to us through dignity – he emphasized.
Danuta Przywara, former president of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, drew attention to the current activity of the Memorial. As she said, it is an organization that “courageously decided to take the side of the Chechens in their war with Russia.” She added that it is an organization that “so far tries to help victims of human rights violations in the North Caucasus, which, as one of the few in Russia, said: ‘no annexation of Crimea’ and so far supports the Crimean Tatars, which is trying to remember future generations of Russian citizens was rich, also about what is happening now and constantly updates the lists, on its website and in its publications, of political prisoners. ” She pointed out that this is an organization that also supports “people repressed for human rights and provides them with legal assistance, going with them to the European Court of Human Rights”.
Przywara pointed out that Memorial appealed to the European Court of Human Rights together with other organizations, protesting against the introduction of the law on “foreign agents”. – The paradox is that right now this act is to become one of the reasons for the liquidation of Memorial – she assessed.
The Memorial Association fought to explain the Katyn massacre
Former ombudsman Adam Bodnar recalled that on March 5, 2010, a month before the Smolensk disaster, Dr. Janusz Kochanowski, the then ombudsman, decided to award the Memorial Association with the honorary badge “For merits for the protection of human rights”. – On the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, he decided to recall who fought selflessly, who fought with the greatest commitment to explain this crime, a crime so important for the Polish nation, for our history. It was the Memorial Association that fought to explain everything that was dark, hidden, and secret. It is to our friends from the Memorial Association that we owe the fact that we know more than we could know. That is why it is not only a protest in defense of the Memorial Association, as one of many non-governmental organizations, institutions of the Russian Federation, but it is a protest in defense of an organization that is so meritorious for Poland and Polish history – Bodnar pointed out.
Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, former Polish ambassador to Russia, active in the 2050 Strategy Institute associated with Poland, said that “Memorial is of course a memory, but it is the present of almost every person, citizen in Russia, because in every family in Russia there is someone who was a victim or had a victim in the family. There is someone who was a perpetrator or had a perpetrator in the family, and there are people who had both perpetrators and victims in the family, because very often the perpetrators were the victims and the victims were the perpetrators. ” – This is a very difficult history through which Memorial guides not only the society, but every family in Russia – said Pełczyńska-Nałęcz.
What does the Memorial association do?
On January 28, 1989, the founding conference of the International Association of Historical, Educational, Charitable and Defense of Human Rights “Memorial” began in Moscow. The most prominent oppositionists played an important role in his appointment, including Andrei Sakharov, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1975. The motto of the Memorial is “The truth about the past for the sake of the present and the future”.
With the collapse of the USSR, Memorial has become a Russian non-governmental organization fully independent of the authorities, which documents and promotes knowledge about the communist repressions – mainly during the period of the great terror – and their victims, as well as the history of the dissident movement in the Soviet Union. Memorial also defends human rights in Russia, provides charity to victims of political repression conducted by the Soviet authorities and today.
On Saturday through Warsaw passed the March of Concern for the Cheated:
Main photo source: Tomasz Gzell / PAP