Historian: Russia closing International Memorial is a 'landmark step'

David Vseviov.
David Vseviov. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The liquidation of Russia's oldest civil rights group International Memorial is a landmark event, Estonian historian David Vseviov said on Tuesday.

The organization, founded in 1989, studies political repressions in the USSR, especially during the Stalin era, and in modern Russia.

Vseviov said the name of the organization refers to memory and remembrance. 

"And if something like this is banned, it's a very significant landmark step. It means the past will be treated selectively, with everything that has been condemned since the late 1980s being crossed out," he said.

Vseviov said there is no organization that can take over International Memorial's role.

"If its activities are equated with those of a foreign agent, then, of course, no institution with such an impact, nor an international one, will replace it," he said.

The historian said that while the political opposition and independent media have already been suppressed in Russia, rewriting history takes things a step further.

"It's like dotting the i's, as while these things [repressing the media and opposition] concern the present, here we are dealing with the past. Here is a signal that says to us, what was [the past] should be assessed quite differently than it was by this organization. So I repeat myself a little, but this is a very important landmark step," he said.

Russia's Supreme Court ordered International Memorial to close on Tuesday saying it had violated the Foreign Agents Act and calling it a "public threat".

The BBC said: "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."

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) called the step "very regrettable".

Chairman of the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson (Reform) wrote on social media that it shows "Putin's Russia [...] does not confess to the crimes of the communist regime and does not care for their victims."

He added, it also shows Russia "tries to hide historical facts from her people and the public of the world and twists the historical narrative at will" and "ignores Stalin's criminal role as a trigger in World War II and a usurper of free nations".

"Russia is a dictatorial state," he said, in summary.

Last month, the Baltic and Polish presidents expressed concern over Russia's "historical revisionism" and agreed to strengthen cooperation to fight "the falsification of history, disinformation and historical revisionism".


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Editor: Helen Wright

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