Memorial is a unique organisation which aims at awakening and preservation of the memory of political persecutions in the Soviet Union. It is also an important actor in the field of human rights protection in contemporary Russia.
In the light of the recent news regarding the difficult situation of Russian “Memorial” society, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, issued a statement in support of this organization. He said “For Europeans, Memorial has always been closely associated with the name of Andrei Sakharov. It has been a symbol of the fight for the respect of human rights, the defence of the rights of the repressed and support to the democratisation process in Russia. The loss of “Memorial” would undoubtedly be a shock for many Russians, and would send a wrong signal to the Russian civil society and the international community.”
Memorial (full name: MEMORIAL: An International Historical, Educational, Human Rights And Charitable Society) is a movement which was initiated in the USSR in the years of perestroika. Its main task was the awakening and preservation of the societal memory of the severe political persecution in the recent past of the Soviet Union. All the activities of Memorial are based on two main principles, the one of unconditional respect of human life and freedom and the one of presenting the historical truth and its influence on the present and the future.
Thanks to the activity of the Memorial society the Memorial to the Victims of the Gulag was placed in Lubianka Square in Moscow, near the KGB headquarters, as early as in October 1990. In 1991, on the initiative of Memorial, the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR officially established the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression, which is being celebrated on 30 October. Memorial act through its local branches and associated institutions. From the beginning Memorial was gathering documents, photographs and manuscript memoirs from victims of repressions and their families. Several archive collections were creates, including among others: The History of Political Repression in the USSR Archive (1918-1956), the History of Dissent Archive (1953-1987),Victims of Two Dictatorship, Oral History and Biography Centre. The Virtual Museum of the Gulag (http://www.gulagmuseum.org/start.do?language=2) constitutes a collection of material testimonies to the era of the Soviet terror.
The greatest achievement of Memorial, apart from the abovementioned projects and other activities, is the constant struggle to raise the awareness of the past, of communist crimes and its victims, as well as fight for the respect for human rights. Its influence exceeds the borders of the former Soviet Union, with an impact on the social memory and remembrance practices across the entire Europe. Memorial has been recognized by a number of awards and nominations, including 2009 Sakharov Prize, 2007/2008 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, 2004 Right Livelihood Award, 2004 Nansen Refugee Award.
European Network Remembrance and Solidarity has had a chance to cooperate with members of Memorial on the occasion of several conferences. In November, Irina Sherbakova, Head of the Educational Youth Program of MEMORIAL, will participate in the conference “Collective vs Collected Memories. 1989-91 from an Oral History Perspective” organized within the ENRS Genealogies of Memory project.