The memorial sheds light on past and present oppressions of Russia

Its researchers have unearthed atrocities and memorialized victims of the Stalin era. They document kidnappings and murders in the war-torn republic of Chechnya. Its members have viewed the increasingly authoritarian government of President Vladimir V. Putin.

On Friday, the Russian foundation’s Memorial was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for working to shed light on Soviet and Russian state repression, efforts that have gained more resonance at a time when the Russia’s war in Ukraine has helped fuel one of the Kremlin’s most difficult problems. stifled freedom of speech for decades. The award was shared among rights advocates in neighboring Ukraine and Belarus.

Memorial, has played a key role in forcing Russia to confront its authoritarian past – and in the process, has shed light on the crimes of the present. The organization’s response to winning the Peace Prize was posted on Instagram: “We have no words at the moment.”

The Peace Prize is the second in a row to go to a Russian entity – an unusual sequence that highlights the high stakes and long odds in the struggle for Russia’s future. Last year, one of the two Peace Prize winners was Dmitri A. Muratov, editor of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta – six of whom were murdered. The newspaper ceased operations in Russia this year, under a new law that essentially criminalizes independent reporting of the war in Ukraine.

This year’s Peace Prize serves as a tacit rebuke to President Vladimir V. Putin, whose iron fist has grown stronger since he invaded Ukraine in February. In addition to jailing public figures for speaking out about Russian atrocities, the Kremlin has sought to brush off criticism of the Stalin era, including the introduction of a 2021 law regulating comparisons. It is illegal to compare Nazi Germany with the Soviet Union.

Late last year, the Kremlin outlawed the Monument and closed it. The group’s Human Rights Center – an arm focused on today’s crimes – “justifies terrorist activities”, Moscow prosecutors said. While some Memorial employees have left the country, others remain in Russia. On Friday, Memorial employees reported that – as expected – the judge ruled against them during a hearing about the government’s effort to occupy their office space in the heart of the capital. Russian capital.

One of the founders of the Memorial was Andrei D. Sakharov, the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, who became the most outspoken proponent of Soviet civil liberties, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize this year. 1973.

The group, which carries out a famous movement in memory of the victims of Stalin’s terror, was formed together in the late 1980s, when the Soviet Union collapsed. It documents the Soviet gulag system and KGB torture chambers, publishes history books, educates students, organizes exhibitions, and even offers historical walking tours of central Moscow to reveals the horrors of the Soviet past.

The organization is “based on the view that confronting past crimes is essential to preventing new ones,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its statement naming Memorial as one of the award winner.

Memorial activists paid a heavy price for their work. Natalya Estemirova, a researcher with the human rights group Memorial, has spent a decade documenting kidnappings and murders in Chechnya. In 2009, at the age of 50, she was abducted outside her home and found dead from gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

Others have paid the price for their freedom. Yuri Dmitriev, president of Memorial’s branch in the northern republic of Karelia, discovered a murder field more than 20 years ago where thousands of people died at the hands of Stalin’s secret police. In 2020, Mr. Dmitriev was found guilty of sexual abuse widely seen as revenge for his work; He is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.

The award for Friday’s Memorial coincides with Putin’s 70th birthday and the 16th anniversary of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who chronicled atrocities during his rule.

Memorial’s efforts to unearth past injustices continue. On a recent Saturday, a small group of activists organized by Memorial gathered on a boulevard in Moscow to place a small silver plaque in memory of Mikhail B. Gipshman, a Communist and factory worker. was killed during Stalin’s 1937 purge for the “crime” of having been born in Poland.

Oleg Orlov, a leader of Memorial, quoted Dr Sakharov at a press conference in Moscow on Friday: “Peace, progress and human rights are three inextricably linked goals.” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Orlov continued, shows that “when human rights are suppressed in a country – in Russia, for example – that country becomes a threat to peace.”


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