The technical definition of the term “rehabilitation” is as follows: the restoration of lost rights and privileges, the restoration of civil rights for the future, and also the elimination of restrictions of rights connected with illegal ascription of criminal responsibility, the deprivation of freedoms, the improper conviction of innocent persons, and the illegal application of forcible means of a medical character.

Beginning in 1987, Memorial conducted a struggle for the full rehabilitation of victims of political repression in the USSR.  This included the public recognition of the innocent persons and a public apology to them from the state.

The process of rehabilitation, barely begun in the Khrushchev era, was soon gradually halted.  Social pressure brought about its resumption in substantial stages through the Decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in January 1989.  After the collapse of the USSR, different laws and resolutions were created in the various countries of the former Soviet Union.  The Russian law was rejected by the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR in 1990, but was passed soon after the failed putsch in 1991.  It became the model for many of the laws on rehabilitation in other parts of the former Soviet Union.  Modifications have been made several times to the Russian law.  The latest version of modifications and amendments, which defined more precisely the category of victims of repression and expanded their rights, was rejected by the communist majority of the State Duma in the autumn of 1998.