Russia bans human rights NGO Memorial

A Russian court has banned the Moscow-based Human Rights Centre run by NGO Memorial and its umbrella organisation Memorial International. Memorial, which has been conducting research since 1991 on state crimes committed during the Soviet era, was charged with repeatedly violating the country's "foreign agent" rules. Observers see little chance of an appeal being successful.

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Adevărul (RO) /

Putin wants to control the past, too

The ruling reflects the confrontation between two views of what the Soviet Union stood for, political expert Radu Carp comments on Adevărul:

“One part of Russian society believed after 1991 that the USSR was criminal, and that it had violated basic rights throughout its existence. In contrast, politicians with close ties to the Soviet state believe that its demise was a big mistake. Vladimir Putin belongs to this latter category. As in Soviet times, today's Russia has managed to completely subordinate the judiciary and use it for its own political ends. ... Authoritarian regimes are not content to control their citizens, they also want to control the past.”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

Most Russians agree or don't care

Memorial's demise should not be blamed on Putin alone, journalist Artemi Troitsky writes in Novaya Gazeta:

“You can't say there was an explicit demand for this action, but there was silent approval from much of Russian society. Stalin's shocking popularity and the general Soviet nostalgia (especially touching among the young) leave no doubt that the general population's reaction to the purge of Memorial oscillates between 'Well done!', 'What's the big deal?' and 'Who cares?'. A petition in defence of the organisation collected just 140,000 signatures in over a month - that's less than 0.1 percent of the population.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

The Kremlin does as it pleases

The ban does not bode well for Russian civil society, the Tages-Anzeiger points out:

“The message to Russians could not be clearer: they should stop caring about the crimes of the Stalin era, in which millions and millions of people were killed, tortured, expelled and scarred by sorrow. Nor should they care about the violations committed by today's regime. The Kremlin does as it pleases, and anyone who protests lives dangerously.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

A wholesale gag would be more honest

Radio Kommersant FM sarcastically complains less about the verdict than about the resulting legal uncertainty:

“Okay, so you've dissolved Memorial, but what comes next? The state should really give a precise answer as to whether or not research into the Soviet past is allowed. Wouldn't it be easier to ban all that? Let's just say that the Soviet Union was a state in which, in principle, there was no political repression. And whoever says otherwise is a foreign agent and imperialist stooge. Then it will be easier for us, because there will be clarity. But as things stand now it's a mish-mash: you don't know what you are allowed to do and what you are not.”