Memorial is a movement which arose in the years of the perestroika. Its main task was the awakening and preservation of social memories of the severe political persecution which had taken place in the USSR.
Stemming from the last years of the USSR, Memorial is a community of dozens of organisations, spread across different regions in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine.
In Russia, Memorial has a group of specialised research, human rights and education centres, based in Moscow, St. Petersburg and several other provincial cities. In these centres, Memorial maintains a museum, a repository of documents and a number of specialised libraries.
Memorial is also a great number of memorials across the former USSR, remembering those who fell victim to soviet terror – from the gigantic monument of Ernst Neizvestnii near the city of Magadan to the modest memorial signs at mass burial sites around Moscow. One of these many memorials is the Solovetskii stone on Lubianka Square in Moscow, placed across from the KGB headquarters on the 30th October 1990. On that day in 1974, prisoners in the Mordvinian and Perm’ political camps voted to declare a Day of Political Prisoners in the USSR. In 1991, on the initiative of Memorial, the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR also officially recognised this day as a Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Political Repression.
Memorial is, however, not just historical. Memorial is dozens of books, newspaper and magazine articles, radio programmes and exhibits, dedicated to not just the tragedies of the past decades, but also to current attempts to limit the collective dignity and the freedoms of the citizens of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS].
Memorial is the Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression. Passed in 1991, it reinstated civil rights to tens of thousands of living Russian citizens and to tens of thousands of those who had already passed away. Memorial is a series of corrections and additions to the Law on the Rehabilitation that improved the original text. Memorial is a consistent and sometimes successful attempt to compel the government to fulfil all statutes of the laws pertaining to the compensation of former prisoners.
Memorial is a number of regional associations of former prisoners of political prison camps and members of their families. It is the adequate assistance – legal and sometimes also material – needed by the elderly who emerged from the hell of Soviet prisons and political prison camps.
Memorial is the wide-ranging and simultaneously scrupulous historical research of topics that were until recently inaccessible to Russian scholars: the Gulag, the history of the security organisations [VChK [Cheka]-OGPU-NKVD-MGB-KGB] and statistics on political repression in the Soviet Union and dissidents’ resistance efforts during the Khrushchev-Brezhnev era. Memorial is therefore a number of international research projects, in which internationally recognised research centres act as partners. It is a support programme for young researchers throughout Russia and it is the struggle for free access to historical information and to a past which was hidden from Russians for so long.
Memorial is information about the violation of human rights in the former Soviet Union. This information is valued highly not only by international human rights organisations, but also by international associations such as the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Memorial is the undertaking of risky observation missions in conflict zones within the territories of the CIS. Memorial is the many mountains of factual material, collected in regions of armed conflict. It is the painstaking verification and analysis of this collected material and the preparation and publication of reports on the conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh, Tajikistan, Transdnistria, in the areas affected by the Ossetian-Ingushetian conflict and in Chechnya.
Memorial is the initiator for the formation of an anti-war front, memorably uniting more than 100 social and political organisations in January 1995. Memorial is an organisation for the social and legal counselling of refugees and displaced persons in many regions of Russia. It is the collection of information about current political prisoners in the territories of the former Soviet Union. It is an ongoing struggle against ethnic discrimination. Memorial is protests, meetings and miscellaneous publications that seek to protect freedoms and peace.
And, most of all, Memorial is many very different people, united by friendship, mutual respect and dedication to the presentation of history as an unbroken whole and the principles of respect for individuality, life and freedoms.
Images of objects and life in Memorial’s museum:
The archive, library, and museum of the Memorial International Society in Moscow form Russia’s largest collection of documents, books, periodicals and museum materials (including objects of day-to-day life from the GULAGs and works of art produced by their prisoners) dealing with the history of repression, resistance and dissent in the USSR. Their creation was Memorial’s very first undertaking and even today these three components remain unique collections.
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