Nobel, the long history of Memorial

The association was born because speaking is no longer considered sufficient, it was also necessary, for example, to erect a memorial for the victims, to create an organization

In August 1987 the Group for the recovery of the memory of the victims of Soviet repressions was born in Moscow, against the backdrop of public debates finally possible in the Soviet Union on any issue, thanks to the policies of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Between ecology, law, conservation of historic buildings, politics, it is the recovery of the memory of terror that creates the greatest interest for all, with 4-500 people gathered at each appointment only in Moscow.

Memorial was born because speaking is no longer considered sufficient, it was also necessary, for example, to erect a memorial for the victims, to create an organization. Other similar groups arise elsewhere in the Soviet Union. In July 1988 the Memorial Public Committee was elected, with votes gathered on the street, among passers-by. Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, authorized by Gorbachev to return to Moscow from exile in Gorki in December 1986, becomes the first Chairman of the Committee.

Between 28 and 30 January 1989 the Conference for the founding of the Memorial Society for History and Unofficial Education throughout the Union was held in Moscow, after the exhibition “Week of conscience “followed by” Friendship sealed in blood “, an exhibition on the Molotov-Ribbentrov Pact.

The first research project on repression against ethnic Polish Soviets and Poles starts. And in June, the first protest action organized by the Memorial Center for Human Rights: a picket in front of the Chinese embassy to protest the Tiananmen massacre.

In October, Memorial organizes a human chain surrounding the Lubianka KGB headquarters in Moscow. Svetlana Gannushkina, one of the founders of Memorial, in these days at the forefront in Moscow in defending the rights of deported Ukrainians, visits the conflict zone in Nagorno Karabakh, the first mission “on the ground” in a conflict zone.

In April 1990, the weekly “Nedelya” asked its readers to send testimonies about the Ostarbeiter (the workers sent to Germany from Eastern Europe during the Nazis). In just a few months, Meeeeemorial receives more than 400,000 letters from people directly affected or from their families. In October, the Solovetsky monument, a stone from the islands, is opened in Moscow, on the Lubianka, to commemorate the victims of the Solovki prison camp. The Memorial Museum opens.

In 1991, the Memorial Library was born in a single room in Moscow. Shortly after the historian and dissident Lyudmila Alexeyeva donates the documents of her personal archive: the Archive of the history of Soviet dissent is born. In October, the Russian Parliament passed the Rehabilitation Law for Victims of Political Repression that Memorial had helped write.

Between 1993 and 1994, Memorial activists begin working in the North Caucasus, monitoring the effects of the conflict between Ingushetia and Ossetia. And between 1994 and 1996, during the first war in Chechnya, the organization follows and documents the violations of civil rights in the region. Former dissidents and former political prisoners Sergei Kovalyov, Alexander Lavut, Yuli Rybakov are involved.

In particular, in 1995 Memorial collects documents on the military operation in Samashki, Chechnya, in which more than 100 civilians are killed. The Budionnovsk hostage crisis will follow and Kovalyov acts as a mediator for the release of the hostages and volunteers, together with Oleg Orlov, after the terrorists led by Samil Basayev had conditioned the release of the hostages to an exchange with Russian civilians.

The Network on Migration and Law is opened, a network of offices to provide legal advice established by the Memorial Human Rights Center. In 1999 the monitoring of human rights violations in the North Caucasus resumed. In 2000, an investigation was carried out into the killing of 50 civilians in the Chechen village of Novye Aldy. In 2004, a CD was released with the database on the victims of political terror in the Soviet era, with 1,340,000 names. In 2007 the updated version is ready: the names are 2,614,978. Since October of that year, events have been organized throughout Russia in honor of the victims (“The Return of the Names”).

On November 24, 2007, Orlov is attacked and kidnapped in Ingushetia. In December 2008, police raided the Memorial Research Center in St. Petersburg. On July 15, 2009, the head of Memorial in Grozny Natalia Estemirova, mentioned today in the announcement of the awarding of the Prize, was killed. On May 24, 2014, Memorial activist Andrei Mironov was killed, along with Italian photographer Andrea Rocchelli, near Luhansk. In December 2016, the President of Memorial Karelia, Yuri Dmitriev, the historian who had discovered the graves in which more than 6 thousand victims of terror had been buried, was arrested in Sandarmokh.

In January 2018, the director of Memorial Grozny Oyub Titiyev was arrested. A few days later Memorial’s office in Nazran, Ingushetia, is set on fire. After the introduction of the law on ‘foreign agent’ organizations in 2012, the various souls of Memorial are defined as such. Last year, the closure of the International Memorial and the Center for Human Rights Remembrance was ordered. These days, a court is discussing the seizure of the organization’s assets, archives, library and museum included, in Moscow.