The blow that the Vladimir Putin regime has just delivered against Memorial, the Russian non-governmental organization dedicated to recovering the entire historical truth about Stalinism, preserving the memory of the victims of Soviet terror and now defending the human rights, deserves special attention from governments and institutions of the European Union. A justice that has been as manageable by the Government as it was in the worst days of Josef Stalin has declared the dissolution of the institution founded in 1988 by the nuclear physicist, Soviet dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov and authorized by the architect of the loudness and the perestroika Mikhail Gorbachev.
Putin no longer even hides his ways. First, it declared Memorial a “foreign agent”, then demanded that it include such a denomination in all its acts and publications. Finally, the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office, their subordinates, have requested and obtained the dissolution of an entity that has valuable files on the Stalinist purges, the Gulag camps, and on all the millions of Soviet citizens who were tortured, imprisoned or killed on Stalin’s orders.
The magnitude of the catastrophic repression that Stalinism represented cannot be erased at a stroke, as Putin claims, wrapping himself in the guise of the role played by the Red Army in the war against Nazism. It is not just about rewriting history, as all populist and authoritarian regimes and movements tend to do. The dissolution of Memorial is also aimed at European neighbors threatened by the accumulation of troops on Ukraine’s borders, and at the Council of Europe, an institution that has welcomed Memorial’s complaints and with which Moscow maintains turbulent and above all intimidating relations. No country has so many serious sentences or so many breaches in the Strasbourg human rights court in 2020 and only Erdogan’s Turkey lags behind in the historical series.
The judicial ignominy goes so far as to dismiss Memorial as an organization that wants to wash away fascism and promotes terrorism, in a flagrant demonstration of the inversion of the truth that George Orwell explained in his dystopia. 1984. It was the dictator imagined by the British journalist and writer who claimed that “whoever controls the present controls the past and whoever controls the past will control the future.” Memorial’s commendable task is a hindrance to the power vertical and the sovereign democracy, the conceptual disguises of an increasingly blatant personal dictatorship and an expansionist project, such as the recovery of the former Soviet imperial space. This is an even more dangerous ambition for the whole of Europe as it propels the dream of a hegemony over the entire continent, something that Russia has never achieved in all its history.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.