“Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered the closure of International Memorial, Russia’s oldest human rights group,” reports the BBC. Memorial worked to preserve the memory of the millions of innocent people executed, imprisoned or tortured during the rule of the communist Soviet Union, which controlled Russia, Ukraine, and various other areas in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, for seven decades.
The court formally “liquidated” International Memorial for failing to mark a number of social media posts with its official status as a “foreign agent”.
Memorial was branded with that legal designation in 2016 because it received some of its funding from abroad. A Russian prosecutor labeled Memorial a “public threat”, accusing it of being paid by Western entities to focus attention on Russian crimes instead of celebrating Russia’s “glorious past”.
As the BBC notes:
Founded in 1989, Memorial became a symbol of a country opening up to the world – and to itself – as Russia began examining the darkest chapters of its past. Its closure is a stark symbol of how the country has turned back in on itself under President Vladimir Putin, rejecting criticism – even of history – as a hostile act. There were shouts of “shame!” from those in court as the decision was read out.
The ruling also shines a light on the rise in repression in modern-day Russia, where Memorial’s own human rights wing now lists more than 400 political prisoners, and independent groups and media are increasingly blacklisted as “foreign agents”. In court, lawyers for Memorial argued that the group’s work was beneficial for the “health of the nation”. They declared Memorial a friend of Russia, not its enemy, and called the case for liquidation absurd and “Orwellian”….In a statement later on Tuesday, International Memorial said it would challenge the ruling and find legitimate ways to continue its work….
Vladimir Putin has placed great store on the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War Two, part of his hankering for the old days of superpower status – a far more attractive focus for many Russians than the parallel history of secret courts, prison camps and firing squads. “Why should we, descendants of the victors, be ashamed and repent, rather than take pride in our glorious past? Memorial is probably paid by someone for that,” the prosecutor claimed in court.