Memorial disbanded: “A very bad signal”

Status: December 28, 2021 5:23 p.m.

For more than 30 years, the Russian organization Memorial has been campaigning for the politically persecuted and for coming to terms with the Soviet era. That bothers the Kremlin. A court has now decided to dissolve it, but Memorial wants to fight back.

By Martha Wilczynski, ARD Studio Moscow

Less than an hour after the Moscow Supreme Court withdrew to deliberate, the judge read out the verdict that many had expected: The prosecution’s motion was approved, “Memorial International” was liquidated – along with its regional departments and other structural branches. The pronouncement of the verdict took less than two minutes.

Martha Wilczynski
ARD studio Moscow

Supreme Court in Russia decides to dissolve human rights organization “Memorial”

Demian von Osten, ARD Moscow, daily news 5:00 p.m., December 28, 2021

“Very sad, very depressing”

For Memorial attorney Marija Ejsmont, it was the predictable finale of the trial. “It’s very sad, very depressing what happened today,” she said. “As of today, an organization is being dissolved that has been giving people back their names, their dignity for decades. People who were killed, destroyed and betrayed by their own state. Memorial takes their fates from the archives, their names are read out. One such Dissolving the organization is of course a very bad signal. “

The 50 supporters who gathered in front of the courthouse in the morning see it similarly. Memorial was the only organization she could turn to, explains Iraida Sergeyevna: “I wanted to find out what happened to my relatives a long time ago, and only Memorial helped me, nobody else – no matter where I asked. “

Allegation: support from abroad

For three decades now, Memorial has dealt with coming to terms with the Soviet era and, above all, the Stalinist terror, making it one of the most renowned and oldest human rights organizations in Russia.

In his plea, Attorney General Alexej Zhyafarow accused Memorial of painting a false image of the Soviet Union through this very activity and of trying to force the victorious nation of World War II to be ashamed of its history. “It’s because someone pays for it – and that’s the real reason Memorial fights so hard against being openly labeled a foreign agent.”

Because that’s what the prosecution was actually about: Because Memorial receives money from abroad – including from foundations and research institutes – it was added to the register of “Foreign Agents” in 2016. A status that the organization must provide information about in each of its publications – also retrospectively.

Memorial wants to appeal

Memorial staff also admit that this was neglected in some places. Critics like the opposition politician Grigory Jawlinsky complain that it is supposed to be the reason for the closure of the organization, says something about the state of the Russian rule of law.

“That is an absolutely political decision,” says Jawlinsky. “The elimination of adversaries, the opposition, all those who are trying to raise the image of Russia by explaining its history. I believe that this is a crucial step on the way from today’s authoritarian regime to a modern totalitarian one.”

Memorial members and supporters do not want to give up yet. Lawyer Genri Resnik said they would appeal and exhaust all legal options. This also includes a lawsuit before the European Court of Human Rights.

Judgment against Memorial

Martha Wilczynski, ARD Moscow, December 28, 2021 4:38 p.m.

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