Memorial

Article

December 3, 2021

Memorial is an association of Russian non-governmental non-profit organizations dedicated to documenting political repression and coming to terms with the Soviet totalitarian past. It also includes the Center for the Protection of Human Rights, which has been dealing with current events and human rights violations in the Russian Federation since the 1990s. Oleg Orlov is one of the members of the human rights center, and the murdered Russian journalist Natalia Estemirova was also one of them. The organization has repeatedly faced efforts in the past to limit or stop its activities. In November 2021, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office asked the Supreme Court to close the NGO, citing Memorial's alleged violation of the so-called "foreign agents" law. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for November 25.

History

Memorial was established as a civic initiative in 1987 during Gorbachev's perestroika. At that time, its members studied repression in the Soviet Union, and later began to deal with the protection of human rights. Among the founders of the organization were the physicist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, as well as the historian Arseniy Roginsky, who was imprisoned in 1981 for publishing the samizdat anthology "Pamyat". In the second half of the 1980s, however, the slogan "memory" in Russia was adopted by the national anti-Semitic movement, so Roginski's group decided to choose the name "Memorial" for its organization. Memorial has received a number of awards for its work, such as the Nansen Prize in 2004, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2009 and the USTR Prize for Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights in 2016. In 2019, Memorial won the Gratias Agit Prize of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 2005, Memorial members have been holding an all-day "Return of Names" event every fall - a rally at the monument to the victims of the Stalinist terror near the headquarters of the former KGB in Moscow. This assembly is associated with the public reading of the names of those who were executed or perished in concentration camps - gulags during Stalin's repression. (According to Memorial, 30,000 people were executed in Moscow and another 700,000 in other parts of the Soviet Union in 1937–1938 alone.) A similar operation has taken place in the Czech Republic since 2017. The Russian Ministry of Justice wanted to ban the organization for violations of the constitution and other laws, but in January 2015 the Supreme Court rejected the application. In November 2015, the ministry then accused the organization of allegedly subverting the constitutional system. In 2016, some branches of Memorial were included by the authorities on the list of foreign agents, which under the new law obligatorily includes organizations that accept financial donations from abroad and at the same time engage in unspecified political activities. In addition to domestic sources, International Memorial also receives funding from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and the European Commission, for example. Although the organization appealed the ministry's action, in December 2016 a Moscow court fined the International Memorial in Moscow with a fine of 300,000 rubles for failing to clearly label its publications, website or press releases as a "foreign agent". At the turn of 2019/2020, the International Memorial was fined nearly five million rubles in a series of 20 court orders for failing to provide information about a foreign agent on social media. A successful crowdfunding campaign was carried out to pay the fines, to which 4.5 thousand people contributed.

Affiliates

The largest branch of Memorial is the International Memorial based in Moscow, smaller organizations are in St. Petersburg, Perm, Ryazan and dozens of other cities throughout Russia. In addition to Russia, it also operates in Italy, Germany, France, Ukraine and in

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