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Memorial (society)

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Title: Memorial (society)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Beslan school siege, Natalya Estemirova, Khojaly Massacre, Gulag, Yakub and Aiubkhan Magomadov
Collection: 1989 Establishments in the Soviet Union, Commemoration of Communist Crimes, Human Rights Organizations Based in Russia, Human Rights Organizations Based in the Soviet Union, International Human Rights Organizations, International Nongovernmental Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations Based in Russia, Non-Governmental Organizations Based in the Soviet Union, Non-Profit Organizations Based in Russia, Non-Profit Organizations Based in the Soviet Union, Organizations Established in 1989, Political Repression in the Soviet Union, Post-Soviet States, Recipients of the Sakharov Prize, Right Livelihood Award Laureates
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Memorial (society)

Memorial / Мемориал
Founded 28 January 1989
Type Non-profit
Services History of totalitarianism, protecting human rights
Key people
Arseny Roginsky (Chairman), Sergei Kovalev (Co-chairman)

.htm/index/ (English version)


Memorial (Russian: Мемориа́л) is a Russian historical and civil rights society that operates in a number of post-Soviet states. It focuses on recording and publicising the Soviet Union's totalitarian past, but also monitors human rights in Russia and other post-Soviet states.


  • Mission and activities 1
    • Political work 1.1
    • Archives 1.2
    • Media 1.3
      • Virtual Gulag 1.3.1
    • Kovalevsky Forest 1.4
  • History 2
  • Awards and nominations 3
  • Persecution 4
    • Confiscation of digital archive 4.1
    • Activities in Chechnya 4.2
    • Foreign agent 4.3
    • Possible closure 4.4
  • Activists 5
  • References 6

Mission and activities

Memorial's full name is MEMORIAL: An International Historical, Educational, Human Rights And Charitable Society. According to its charter, Memorial aims:

  • To promote mature civil society and democracy based on the rule of law and thus to prevent a return to totalitarianism
  • To assist formation of public consciousness based on the values of democracy and law, to get rid of totalitarian patterns, and to establish firmly human rights in practical politics and in public life
  • To promote the revelation of the truth about the historical past and perpetuate the memory of the victims of political repression exercised by totalitarian regimes.[1]

This is done, in particular, by keeping an electronic database of the victims of political terror in the USSR. [2]

Memorial organizes assistance, both legal and financial, for the victims of the Gulag. It also conducts research into the history of political repression and publicizes the findings in books, articles, exhibitions, museums, and websites of its member organisations.

Political work

Through the efforts of the society, on October 30, 1990, the Memorial to the Victims of the Gulag (a simple stone from Solovki) was erected at the Lubyanka Square in Moscow, near the KGB headquarters. For nine months the memorial sat beside the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, known as Iron Felix, which was removed in August 1991.

The efforts of Memorial were behind the Law on Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, which was passed in 1991. In 1991 Memorial also contributed to the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR officially making October 30 a Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Political Repression.


Memorial also helps individuals to find documents, graves, etc., of politically persecuted relatives. As of 2005, Memorial had a database of over 1,300,000 names of such people.[3] The archives were used by British historian Orlando Figes when he was researching his 2008 book The Whisperers: Private Lives in Stalin's Russia.[4]


Memorial funds or helps to produce various publications and films. One such film was the 2007 documentary The Crying Sun, focusing on the life of people from the mountainous village of Zumsoy in Chechnya, and their struggle to preserve their cultural identity in the face of military raids and enforced disappearances by the Russian army and guerilla fighters. The 25 minute film was produced in collaboration with WITNESS.[5]

Virtual Gulag

One of Memorial's main projects at the moment is the creation of the Virtual Gulag Museum, which will bring together research and archives from all over the ex-Soviet Union to commemorate and record the existence of the Gulag and the suffering of its victims.[6]

Kovalevsky Forest

Memorial are trying to build a National Memorial Museum Complex in Kovalevsky Forest to commemorate 4,500 victims of the Red Terror.[7] Memorial discovered the bodies in 2002.[8]


19th Conference of the CPSU. The petition resulted in the conference decreeing the creation of the monument to victims of repressions. A decision of the 22nd Congress of the CPSU was earlier ignored.[9][10]

The Memorial as the historical and educational society was founded at the conference held in the Moscow Aviation Institute January 26–28, 1989. In 1991 a Civil Rights Defense Center "MEMORIAL" was founded.[11]

A poll was carried out in Moscow streets of the names of the candidates to the Public Council of the society. Among others, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was named, but he refused to join and in his talk with Andrei Sakharov he motivated this decision by his opinion that it was not right to restrict the scope of the project to the Stalin era only, since the repressive era in Russia started as early as 1917.[9]

The Memorial as the International Volunteer Public Organization "MEMORIAL Historical, Educational, Human Rights And Charitable Society" was officially founded by the founding conference held on April 19, 1992.[12]

After the Italy (since April 20, 2004).[13]

Awards and nominations

In 2004, Memorial was among the four recipients of the Right Livelihood Award, for its work in documenting violations of human rights in Russia and other former states in the USSR.[14] Quoting the RLA jury: "... for showing, under very difficult conditions, and with great personal courage, that history must be recorded and understood, and human rights respected everywhere, if sustainable solutions to the legacy of the past are to be achieved." In the same year, The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) named Memorial the winner of the annual Nansen Refugee Award for its wide range of services on behalf of forced migrants and internally displaced people in the Russian Federation, as well as refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.[15]

In 2008, Memorial won the Hermann Kesten Prize. In 2009, Memorial won the Sakharov Prize, in memory of the murdered Memorial activist Natalya Estemirova.[16] Announcing the award, President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek said that the assembly hoped "to contribute to ending the circle of fear and violence surrounding human rights defenders in the Russian Federation".[16] Oleg Orlov, the chairman of Memorial, commented that the prize represents "much-needed moral support at a difficult time for rights activists in Russia",[17] and that he considers the prize "a mark of the high value placed on the work of Memorial and that of all of our colleagues - Russian rights activists who are working in a very difficult situation".[18] A cash reward, which comes with the prize, of 50,000 is to be awarded to Memorial in December 2009.[16]

Memorial was awarded the Victor Gollancz Prize by the Society for Threatened Peoples in 2009.[19][20]

On February 4, 2015 Lech Wałęsa nominated Memorial International for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize [21]


Confiscation of digital archive

On 4 December 2008, Memorial's St Petersburg office which houses archives on the Putinism, specifically the idea "that Stalin and the Soviet regime were successful in creating a great country".[22][23]

Officially, the raid was in relation to an article published in the [26] The raid also prompted an open letter to Dmitry Medvedev from academics from all over the world, condemning the seizure.[6] The United States has declared that it is "deeply concerned" about the raid: State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "Unfortunately, this action against Memorial is not an isolated instance of pressure against freedom of association and expression in Russia."[6]

On March 20, 2009, the court of Dzerzhinsky District decided that the search on December 4, 2008, in Memorial with confiscation of 12 HDDs with information about victims of political repressions was carried out with procedural violations, and actions of law enforcement bodies were illegal,[27][28][29] and eventually the 12 hard drives, as well as optical discs and some papers, were returned to Memorial[30][1].

Activities in Chechnya

Memorial had an office in Chechnya, to monitor human rights issues there. It was frequently raided by the authorities. A Memorial activist Natalia Estemirova, who investigated murders and abductions in Chechnya, was herself abducted in Grozny and shot to death in Ingushetia on 15 July 2009.[31] It is suggested her death is connected to her investigations of government-backed militias in the country.[32] Memorial's chairman Oleg Orlov accused Ramzan Kadyrov of being behind the murder,[33] and claimed that Kadyrov had openly threatened her.[34] Kadyrov denied his involvement[35] and sued Memorial for defamation, targeting Orlov personally with his complaint.[35][36]

On 18 July 2009, Memorial suspended its activities in the republic, stating "We cannot risk the lives of our colleagues even if they are ready to carry on their work."[37]

Foreign agent

Memorial was declared to be a "foreign agent" because it receives funds from abroad and carries out political activities and demanded the formal registration as such according to the Russian law. The management of Memorial argues that the activities of the society do not meet the criteria of "political activity" as demanded by the law.[38]

Possible closure

The Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov has called for Memorial to be liquidated and the society will face a Supreme Court hearing on the possible closure on 13 November 2014. The lawsuit concerns technical details over the legal registration of Memorial.[39][40]



  1. ^ MEMORIAL Charter
  2. ^ Жертвы политического террора в СССР (in Russian)
  3. ^ FAQ about Memorial
  4. ^ BBC
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d Gulag files seized during police raid on rights groupTimesonline –
  7. ^ A national museum to the victims of Stalinist repression: words not deeds?,
  8. ^ На Ржевском полигоне почтили память жертв «красного террора»
  9. ^ a b Andrei Sakharov, Gorky, Moscow, Later Everywhere, 1990, Chekhov Publishing Corp. (Russian edition), pp. 101–102
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Civil Rights Defense Center "MEMORIAL"
  12. ^ Memorial Charter
  13. ^ Memorial-Italia
  14. ^ 2004 Right Livelihood Award: Memorial (Russia)
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ (Polish)Wałęsa: Do pokojowej nagrody Nobla nominuję stowarzyszenie "Memoriał"
  22. ^ Galpin, Richard. Stalin's new status in Russia. BBC. December 27, 2008.
  23. ^ Report on the December 2008 raid on Memorial's St Petersburg office
  24. ^ Memorial will have the property back but not the reputation, Fontanka.Ru, January 20, 2009 (in Russian)
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b Guardian
  27. ^ 'Memorial' reverted the searches, Kommersant, March 21, 2008 (in Russian)
  28. ^ HDDs will be returned to "Memorial" in presence of the Ombudsman, Fontanka.Ru, March 27, 2009 (in Russian)
  29. ^ Memorial Vindicated Again, by Sean Guillory, March 31, 2009
  30. ^ Memorial got back its confiscated HDDs, Lenizdat.Ru, May 6, 2009 (in Russian)
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ According to Orlov, "Я знаю, я уверен в том, кто виновен в убийстве Наташи Эстемировой. Мы все этого человека знаем. Зовут его Рамзан Кадыров, это президент Чеченской республики.
  34. ^ [2] "Она рассказывала, что Кадыров ей угрожал, говорил буквально: "Да, у меня руки по локоть в крови. И я не стыжусь этого. Я убивал и буду убивать плохих людей."
  35. ^ a b Chechen leader sues rights group after activist murder, AFP, 18 July 2009. Retrieved on 19 July 2009.
  36. ^ Schwirtz, Michael. Chechen Leader Sues Over Accusations of Ordering Activist’s Death , The New York Times, 18 July 2009. Retrieved on 20 July 2009.
  37. ^ BBC
  38. ^ "Мосгорсуд нашел в деятельности "Мемориала" признаки иностранного агента"
  39. ^
  40. ^
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