Dissolution of Memorial: No Place for the Truth


As of: 12/29/2021 2:56 p.m.

It is a farce: an organization that campaigns for human rights and gives a voice to millions of souls tormented by the Stalin system is dissolved – because it allegedly damages Russia’s reputation.

A comment by Andrea Beer, ARD Studio Moscow

Behind Memorial stand millions of tormented souls: arbitrarily thrown into dungeons and camps, tortured, blackmailed, humiliated, banished, starved, murdered, buried. Countless persecuted by a dictatorship called the Soviet Union, the end of which was sealed 30 years ago. Finally, light flowed into the huge, dark and hitherto inaccessible state archives, in which the fate of the desperate should forever be modern – and the branded relatives were not allowed in either. Because perpetrators love silence – and convinced secret service agents like Russia’s President Vladimir Putin regret to this day that it could and can be broken.

Andrea Beer
ARD studio Moscow

Memorial staff were the first to descend into the archives and wrest the story from an oblivion ordered from above. They looked for mass graves or won laws to rehabilitate victims of political persecution. They commemorate publicly and provide information independently: in schools, libraries or museums. About the Stalin era, the Gulag archipelago, systematic disenfranchisement and their persistent profiteers. Memorial also had a forgiving effect on Germany. It helped to come to terms with the fate of Nazi forced laborers.

Human rights for everyone – also in Russia

All of this has since interfered with the official reading of Russian history, in which a transfigured Soviet past increasingly became a source of national pride and patriotism today. Here, too, Memorial lies diagonally. The organization also shows a number of grievances in today’s Russia: It looks after political prisoners or insists on human rights in wars and conflicts in which Russia was or is involved – for example in Chechnya.

Because human rights are not privileges that the powerful must grant the citizens. They are securitized rights that everyone can and should claim for themselves – even in today’s Russia. A Russia in which the prosecutor dares to insinuate that Memorial’s work would damage the country’s reputation – before the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which, under the guise of law, wants to silence the country’s best-known human rights organization.

The process is a farce. The indictment and judgment are based on what is known as the Agents’ Act. This criminalizes independent spirits and is supposed to discourage people from advocating an open society. A society in which there is room for the truth about the millions of tormented souls of the Stalin era, to whom Memorial has restored names and dignity.

Editor’s note

Comments generally reflect the opinion of the respective author and not that of the editors.

Millions of Tormented Souls – A Commentary on Memorial

Andrea Beer, ARD Moscow, December 29, 2021 2:18 p.m.


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