Editor’s note: This is a public statement made by 28 Ukrainian non-governmental organizations in support of the Memorial International and Memorial Human Rights Center, that were closed by Russian courts in December 2021. The Kyiv Independent publishes it with permission.
Memorial was a pivotal Russian human rights organization created in 1989, and tasked with documenting crimes against humanity committed in the Soviet Union, particularly during the Great Terror of 1937-38.
In 1997, the organization discovered the mass burial site in Sandarmokh forest, Russia. Ukrainian intelligentsia, writers and cultural figures known as the "Executed Renaissance" were murdered at the site by the regime of Joseph Stalin.
Historical memory is in danger
Statement on the liquidation of Memorial International and Memorial Human Rights Center by Russian courts
We, the representatives of Ukrainian civil society, the academic community, the descendants of the totalitarian communist regime victims, call on the Ukrainian authorities and international community to provide a full political and legal assessment on the political repression against the human rights activists and organizations, committed by the Russian government and personally by the President Vladimir Putin.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia declared itself the successor of the USSR, and the truth about the crimes of the totalitarian communist regime started to be revealed. Such terms as the Gulag, the Solovki prison camp and many more, have finally shown the true face of the regime that had been killing millions of innocent and peaceful people on its territory for 70 years.
The Memorial Human Rights Center and Memorial International have been conducting extensive work since 1989 on educating people about the repressions of the communist regime. As the Russian political landscape changed and the Russian authorities became more hesitant to declassify KGB archives, these organizations in collaboration with historians and human rights activists from all around the globe collected facts and revealed information about millions of repressed and innocently killed people by the Soviet authorities.
The perpetrators and their descendants, who continued to work in the Russian political system, did not like the truth these organizations discovered about our past.
Today, Russian officials led by Vladimir Putin, declared the collapse of the Soviet Union a geopolitical catastrophe, which led to curtailing the process of rethinking the past and condemning the crimes of the communist regime. The narratives about Stalin's effective management and comments that those who were killed in the camps were a necessary sacrifice for the Soviet Union's economic progress, are increasingly heard in the Russian media.
Russia is systematically whitewashing the totalitarian regime of the USSR and communist criminals. The international organizations were gradually banned or expelled from the country, and local ones received the status of so-called “foreign agents.” Authorities expelled almost all independent media and journalists and created intolerable working conditions for those who stayed.
One of the most clear examples of a return to criminal communist politics is the court verdict against Yury Dmitriev, a historian who had revealed the massacres in Sandarmokh. The court verdict to shut the Memorial was the last straw.
Putin's desire to reestablish the USSR is absolutely obvious. Russia has demonstrated undeniable signs of establishing a totalitarian regime, a threat to the whole democratic world, through the cult of the Great Patriotic War (WWII), the cult of Putin himself, who has been in charge for 22 years, ethnic and religious intolerance, denial of the neighboring states right to self-determination, and denial of the existence of entire ethnic groups.
We call on the Ukrainian and international authorities:
- to provide a political and legal evaluation of the actions of Russian officials in concealing the crimes of the totalitarian communist regime and banning Memorial organization;
- to unify the efforts and finally initiate the International Tribunal on the totalitarian communist regime of the Soviet Union.
Unpunished evil will inevitably continue to grow!
This Statement is open for joining and signing
The State Archive of The Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance
Revolution of Dignity National Museum
Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition Public Association
Center for Research on the Liberation Movement NGO
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KhPG) NGO
Institute of Mass Information NGO
Andriy Andrushkiv, The Centre of United Actions NGO
Suspilnist Foundation NGO
Center of Civil Liberties NGO
EAST-SOS Charity Foundation
Postup Human Right Center
Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv
Book Forum Lviv NGO
Educational Center For Human Rights in Lviv
Truth Hounds NGO
Myroslav Marynovych, prisoner of conscience (1977-1987), Vice-rector of Ukrainian Catholic University
Oleh Turiy, pro-rector of Ukrainian Catholic University
Human Rights Platform NGO
Ukrainian Helsinki Group
Public Alternative Kharkiv Regional Foundation
Center for Democracy and Rule of Law
Center of Policy and Legal Reform
Ukrainian Media and Communication Institute NGO
Alliance of Ukrainian Unity NGO
Charitable Foundation Ukraine Behind Bars
Internews Ukraine NGO
Regional Press Development Institute NGO
First December Initiative Group
Ukrainian Memorial in Czech Republic (Ukrajinský memoriál z.s.) NGO