Who and What Is Memorial?


Memorial is a movement which arose 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.

Memorial is a community of dozens of organizations in different regions of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Georgia.

Memorial is a group of specialized research, human rights, and education centers in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and several other cities.

Memorial is a museum, a repository of documents, and a number of specialized libraries.

Memorial is the Solovetskii stone on Lubianka Square in Moscow, placed across from the KGB headquarters on 30 October 1990. On that date in 1974, prisoners in the Mordvinian and Perm' political camps voted to declare a Day of Political Prisoners in the USSR. In 1991, on the initiative of Memorial, the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR officially recognized this date as a Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression.

Memorial is a great number of different memorials reaching to the far corners of the former USSR – from the gigantic monument of Ernst Neizvestnii close to Magadan to the modest memorial signs at mass burial sites of the victims of the terror near Moscow. It is the search for and preservation of the graves of our fathers and grandfathers, killed anonymously by bullets in the cellars of the Cheka and by forced labor in hundreds of camps throughout the former Soviet Union. It is a unique museum, established on the ground of the last Soviet political camp close to the town Chusovii in Perm' province.

Memorial is dozens of books, newspaper and magazine articles, radio programs, and exhibits dedicated to the tragedies of the past decades and to the current attempts to limit the freedoms and dignity of citizens of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Memorial is the Law on Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression. Passed in 1991, it reinstated civil rights to tens of thousands of living Russian citizens and to tens of thousands of those who had already passed away. Memorial is a series of corrections and additions to the Law on Rehabilitation that improved the original text. Memorial is a consistent and sometimes successful attempt to compel the government to fulfill all statutes of the Law pertaining to compensation.

Memorial is a number of regional associations of former prisoners of political prison camps and members of their families. This encompasses tens of thousands of direct and indirect victims of political repression.
It is the adequate assistance – legal, and sometimes also material – needed by the elderly who emerged from the hell of Soviet prisons and political prison camps.

Memorial is the wide-ranging and simultaneous scrupulous historical research of topics that were until recently inaccessible to Russian scholars: the GULAG, the history of the security organizations VChK (the Cheka)-OGPU-NKVD-MGB-KGB, statistics on political repression in the Soviet Union, and dissidents' resistance during the Khrushchev-Brezhnev era. Memorial is a number of international research projects, in which internationally recognized research centers in the humanities acts as partners. It is a support program for young researchers throughout Russia. It is the struggle for free access to historical information, to the past, which was hidden from us for so long.

Memorial is information about the violation of human rights on the territory of the former Soviet Union. This information is valued highly not only by international human rights organizations, but also by international organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Memorial is the undertaking of risky observation missions to "hot spots" on the territory of the CIS. Memorial is mountains of factual material, collected in regions of armed conflict. It is the painstaking verification and analysis of the collected material, and the preparation and publication of reports on the conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh, Tajikistan, Transdnistria, in the zone of Ossetian-Ingushetian conflict, and, finally, in Chechnya. Memorial is the initiator for the formation of an anti-war front, memorably uniting more than 100 social and political organizations in January 1995. Memorial is an organization for social and legal counseling for refugees and displaced persons in many regions of Russia. It is the collection of information about current political prisoners on the territory of the former Soviet Union. It is an ongoing struggle against ethnic discrimination. Memorial is protests, meetings, and miscellaneous publications that seek to protect freedoms and peace.

And, finally, Memorial is many very different people.

What unites us?

First, we are friends.

Second, we respect one another. We are very different: old and quite young; historians and legal advocates; liberals and not so liberals; atheists, agnostics and believers; democrats, anarchists, and monarchists. It sometimes seems that this Noah's Ark is destined to sink to the bottom. But we have been afloat for more than ten years already, and we do not intend to sink.

Ideologies do not divide us, because ideology does not unite us. Rather, two main principles, above all, guide us:
1. unconditional respect of human individuality, human life, and freedoms of fundamental human values;
2. the presentation of history as an unbroken whole of the past, the present, and the future.

We welcome to the website of Memorial!