Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov
I remember clearly when in the late ’80s and early ’90s there were “Weeks of Memory” in Moscow, dedicated to the victims of Stalinist repression. This was really the (period) of real de-Stalinization of the country. The first one, during Krushchev’s thaw, was limited to the condemnation of repressions against workers of the party and state apparatus. However, the fact that the Bolshevik regime was essentially anti-human and that it destroyed millions of individuals and entire social classes and nations was a topic that could be discussed only in the ’90s.
Memorial (“An International Historical, Educational Human Rights and Charitable Society” — Ed.) came into being at that time — the first organization of the repressed in the history of the USSR. Its first head was Andrei Sakharov, and the society numbered among its activists people that had been a source of pride for Russia. Interestingly, other Memorial societies also appeared in other Soviet republics at the same time. After the collapse of the USSR, there were no conflicts among the Memorial societies in the different countries. They were composed of individuals who were convinced of the necessity of fighting evil — evil in the past and evil in the present.
In July 2009, Natalia Estemirova, an employee of Memorial, was killed in Grozny . This death became one more proof that Chechnya, placed at the mercy of the Kadyrov clan by the Kremlin, became the first territory of state terrorism in Russia. Russia’s President Dmytro Medvedev and Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov still had enough wisdom to condemn this murder. The guilty have not been found to this day. Even though Memorial has announced it was curtailing its activities in Chechnya, it still continues to monitor human rights violations and the heinous crimes by the authorities in this republic, devastated by militarism and criminal activity. And in recent months, the organization has begun monitoring human rights abuses in the occupied regions of Ukraine — Crimea and the Donbas.
Perhaps this was the last straw for Kremlin’s patience. Russia’s Ministry of Justice has asked the country’s Supreme Court to eliminate Memorial. Since there has been no court system in Russia for some time now and since similar decisions are made by Putin personally, there is no possible doubt: the KGB ruler has decided to deal with the entity that had been combating the KGB legacy and protecting human rights in contemporary Russia.
The de-Stalinization of Russia has failed.