This Tuesday, December 28, the Russian Supreme Court announced the dissolution of the Memorial Voluntary Organization for violating a controversial law. Foreign agents 2, a decision described as NGO politics. To Françoise Daucé, director of research at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), an expert in Russia and a member of the NGO Memorial France, this decision goes a step further.
The announcement that the memorial will be dismantled comes the next day Condemnation of historian Yuri Dimitriev, A member of a Russian NGO, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and is expected to apologize ahead of another trial in connection with the Memorial Human Rights Center. ” Terrorism and extremism “, In addition to violations of the law” Foreign agents .
RFI: What is your reaction after this ruling of the Russian Supreme Court, and how can we analyze it?
Franசois Toss: This decision is particularly worrying and frightening because one has the intention of facing a dangerous turn. It is almost thirty years since the fall of the Soviet Union, and one has the intention of seeing a return to the Soviet era. In fact, the Memorial NGO, created thirty years ago during the Perestroika, has done a lot to promote the crimes of Stalinism on the one hand and to protect human rights on the other. It has now been dissolved. I think this is a disastrous decision for the association and all its members. Then it raises questions for the whole Russian society and the possibility of independent action and expression.
Is this decision part of a crackdown on NGOs harming the Kremlin?
This repressive process really started a long time ago. We are facing a very slow movement, which started with the adoption of the law in 2012. Foreign agents This category categorizes associations that receive foreign funding and are involved in political activities. But the concept of political activity is not precisely defined, so anything related to public discourse can come under this charge.
Since 2012, the law has affected many associations, including the Memorial, but many more. Especially since 2017, it has been extended to the media as well. Currently, many of them are registered. ” Foreign agents From the Russian Ministry of Justice. From this year on, journalists are also considered. ” Foreign agents “. So it is a long process and it is getting stronger. The decision to dissolve the Memorial Voluntary Charity is the culmination of this long process.
⁇ read more: Russia: Supreme Court dissolves Memorial NGO, a pillar of civil society
Can this decision be followed? Are we going to see the Russian authorities’ crusade against the voluntary organizations in its territory?
This is the risk posed by all associations, companies and classified media. Foreign agents : If the memorial is of course a well-known and highly respected association, after its dissolution other associations but the media risk is also subject to the process of dissolution. We may therefore think that the judgment of the Russian Supreme Court marks a turning point and increases the repression against all supporting and media actors who try to deliver a speech regardless of authority. Need an autonomous action – actors who do not fit the official description and those who are allowed to do so.
What are the consequences for the Russians of such a decision?
The Memorial Association, since its inception, has worked extensively to revisit the history of Stalinist repression, while at the same time developing a critical perspective to begin a general reflection on what Stalinism was and what happened at the time. More fundamentally, this critical response would have been necessary to try to thwart this story and prevent it from happening again.
By dissolving the NGO memory, we have the impression that the critical view of the past is blocked, and we have the feeling that we are revisiting these dictatorial, repressive, coercive practices of the past. So in the end, history cannot do all this work, which calls into question the future of Russian society and the risk of a return to these horrific practices of the past.
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