top of page
  • Writer's pictureLaci Felker

Attack on Memorial

Originally published Novemeber 17, 2021, with Muses Nest, a defunct online human and woman's magazine.

Memorial is an international human and civil rights society that was founded in Moscow, in 1989 when the Soviet Union was still active. Since its establishment it has fought to document past events while promoting education of those events as well as remembrance. Over the last 30 years, Memorial has received numerous awards for their work with refugees, persecuted peoples, and their promotion of human rights. With their continuous work on making sure voices are heard, there is no denying that Memorial has done outstanding things. However, due to Russia’s foreign agent law passed in 2012, or On Amendments to Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation regarding the Regulation of the Activities of Non-profit Organisations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent, Memorial has been classified as a foreign agent working in Russia since they receive donations from other countries. Now, the Russian government has shut it down for “violating” their foreign agency laws.

Due to the strict rules following the Foreign Agent Law, Memorial was accused of violating Russian citizens’ rights as well as not complying with the regulation to properly label some of their works as a “foreign agent.” For a society that was founded and still resides in Russia, it’s hard to believe that they are deemed a foreign agent when they are inherently a Russian organization. However, with Memorial's aim to educate and call out the nefarious deeds of Russia and other countries, it makes sense that the Russian government pushed back.

Historically, Russia has not reacted kindly to those who question the government’s choices or try to expose some of the choices that government authorities have made. Enforced disappearances are not uncommon within the country, and were once very common during the Chechen-Russian conflict of the 1990s. There is also suspicious activity when it comes to certain human rights activists, journalists, and independence leaders disappearing. Now, Russia has liquidated one of the biggest human rights organizations in the world. Memorial isn’t the only organization that is being attacked since other organizations similar to them are being targeted also, but Memorial is one that everyone knows.

During the trial in November, Memorial was found guilty of violating Russian citizens’ freedom of information, despite many political figures across the world criticizing the assault. When there is an attack on education and preserving history, it is usually seen as a heinous crime, which is exactly what’s happened with Memorial. Except, the fight against them will not get rid of them entirely. Yes, Memorial is a Russian organization, but they are an organization that has many donors and while it would not be simple to move their headquarters to a different country, it would be nice to believe that other countries would accept them willingly.

What will happen to Memorial remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: even though Russia has won the case against them, they will not get rid of the organization's purpose. If anything, Russia’s attempt to silence them may lead to another event that educates people on impeding free speech. The irony is not lost, attacking an organization for violating free speech while actively trying to violate that organization’s right to free speech.

When the verdict was read, many Russian citizens chanted “shame” at the government’s decision. The government also cited that Memorial was pushing western propaganda about the horrors of Russia’s past rather than promoting the successes of the country. This is not surprising since Russia does not take kindly to the people who criticize them openly, particularly human rights organizations, but what is surprising is the fact that they have succeeded in hindering Memorial’s purpose. The organization has said that they will pushback against the ruling and hopefully find a way to legally continue their work of preservation. Their sister organization, the Memorial Human Rights Centre, is also facing closure due to their violations of the Foreign Agent Law.

In today’s world, preserving history and lifting the veil that some governments try to put on their past actions, whether past or present, is a cause I believe many can get behind. It does not do well to try and promote a narrative that does not hold up when compared to other recounts of the same situation but, unfortunately, many people are scared of the truth. The attack on Memorial is not the first and it will not be the last.

4 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page