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Memorial after Arseny Roginsky

posted 8 Feb 2018, 06:36 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 Feb 2018, 06:39 ]

1 February 2018


The death of Arseny Roginsky is a huge loss for Memorial. He was not only the chair of the board of the International Memorial Society, but its undisputed leader. It is simply not possible to find a replacement of equal standing, individuals of his calibre are rare indeed.

Of course it will be much more difficult to work without him. But work is continuing – thanks to Arseny Borisovich’s unfailing efforts Memorial did not become an organization with a single leader. Independence and responsibility was and will continue to be a key feature of the work of each of Memorial’s different sections and projects. And the results of our work always were and will continue to be presented to society by different individuals – many of whom are well known in Russia and the wider world.

The board will elect a new chair at its next meeting.

All Memorial’s projects are continuing as planned. New projects are being proposed, in the discussion and implementation of which a younger generation of Memorialists is playing an increasingly larger role.

Memorial’s work has been made steadily more difficult in recent years by growing pressure from the authorities (we can mention: the inclusion of our Krasnodar branch in the ‘foreign agent’ list for holding international academic conferences, the Yury Dmitriev case in Petrozavodsk, the latest defamatory NTV broadcast in January, the continuing pressure on the Human Rights Centre – in Chechnya at the start of new year, on the basis of a fabricated charge, the head of our Grozny office was arrested, which was followed by an arson attack on our office in Ingushetia, and the torching of our car in Dagestan.

Despite this – or perhaps because of it – more and more young people who share our views are coming to us with new approaches and fresh ideas. One of the most important tasks of recent years has been to sustain and widen the circle of our supporters, and this is bearing fruit and will continue to occupy us over the next few years.

It goes without saying that, without any doubt, we must preserve the legacy of A. B. Roginsky – including the publication of the writings which he did not manage to finish or prepare for publication. To a significant extent this was because he devoted so much time and effort to the preservation and development of Memorial in today’s increasingly difficult conditions.

We know that many are anxious about the fate of Memorial – and we want to say to all our friends that the work to which Arseny Roginsky contributed so much carries on. We appreciate your support and count upon it in the times ahead.

Board of the International Memorial Society
Moscow, 1 February 2018

Translated by Mary McAuley

On 23 January 2018, Anatoly Marchenko would have been 80 years old

posted 5 Feb 2018, 07:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Feb 2018, 07:36 ]

23 January 2018 


On 23 January 2018 Anatoly Marchenko would have been 80 years old. The author of memoirs and social and political writing, he fought for human rights in the Soviet Union and was a political prisoner.

The whole of Аnatoly Marchenko’s short life (he died before he was 49) was a heroic achievement, as a citizen, as a writer and as a human being. This isn’t a rhetorical turn of phrase, but a simple statement of fact.

Anatoly Marchenko was born in 1938 in Barabinsk into a working-class family. Even when he was a young man, in 1960, he ended up almost accidentally in a camp for political prisoners.

After he was released in 1966, he joined the circle of Moscow dissidents and human rights activists that was forming at that time and soon became one of the most notable and respected figures in this circle.

My Testimony (1967), his autobiographical account of the Mordovian labour camps and prison in Vladimir, was widely distributed in samizdat. It was this account that brought about a revolution in public awareness, bringing home to many the problem of contemporary political camps and political prisoners, a problem that became one of the basis themes of the Soviet human rights movement. My Testimony was subsequently published abroad and translated into many languages.

This action, which he took consciously, in full awareness of the inevitable consequences, condemned Marchenko to many years of cruel persecution.

He spent in total more than 11 of the next 19 years of his life in prison or exile.

In the intervals between arrests, prison sentences and labour camps, Marchenko continued to write. His manuscripts were seized during numerous house searches, but each time he stubbornly reconstituted what he had written.

His writings were primarily a protest against one or another instance of political persecution in the USSR. But he wrote not only about this, but also about the official hypocrisy and lies of Soviet propaganda, about the criminal nature of the regime’s domestic and foreign policy, and about the moral responsibility of those who keep quiet when crimes are being committed.

His texts were bluntly, ruthlessly truthful, stating the truth as he saw it, not softening it with ‘tactical ploys’ and considerations for his own safety.

His autobiographical texts were similar in nature: the essay From Tarusa to Siberia, and the fragments of a large autobiographical work which were preserved despite the house searches and which was published after his death with the title Live Like Everyone.

(We now know that My Testimony, From Tarusa to Siberia and the published version of Live Like Everyone constituted only part of Anatoly Marchenko’s legacy of memoirs. The New Publishing House (Novoe izdatel’stvo) has prepared and will soon publish three volumes of his writings, including texts that were removed during house searches in the 1970s. As a whole, they form a unique autobiographical epic, covering the author’s life from 1959 to the 1980s.)

Marchenko knew what he was doing and knew what he was dooming himself to. His final arrest in March 1981 and the dreadful sentence – to 10 years in prison and 5 years in exile – was the price he paid for remaining a free person in an unfree country.

Yet, even in prison, Marchenko remained a free person: he did not give up the struggle

He died on 8 December 1986 in Chistopol prison after being on hunger strike for 117 days to demand the release of all political prisoners in the USSR.

Fate demanded he pay the ultimate price, and he paid it. In January 1987, just one month after his death, Gorbachev began releasing political prisoners.
* * * 

In the annals of Russian culture and Russian civil society, the name of Anatoly Marchenko will always have a place of honour among the heroes and martyrs who opposed state violence. He was one of the most remarkable figures in the history of the 20th-century Russian liberation movement.

International Memorial Society 

Pictured: Larisa Iosifovna Bogoraz and Anatoly Tikkhonovich Marchenko with their son Pavel [archive of the International Memorial Society]

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Kirill Rogov on Arseny Roginsky: “His proclivity for self-limitation, perhaps, hindered his contemporaries from understanding the true scale of his personality"

posted 21 Jan 2018, 09:22 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 09:29 ]

20 December 2018

By Kirill Rogov


Kirill Rogov: “H
is proclivity for self-limitation, perhaps, hindered his contemporaries from understanding the true scale of his personality." 

A great many words, both warm and passionate, 
have been published on the Net about the death of Arseny Borisovich Roginsky. Indeed, the day passed under the weight of the shock of this day that seemed promised never to come. It's impossible to get used to the thought that we shall never go out again to smoke on the stoop at Memorial, discussing the latest events and looking up at the oatmeal-grey Moscow skies. Just one more time - but no, never again.

Of course everyone has these heartfelt emotions and sweet memories. But in fact my attitude towards Roginsky was and is different.

In fact I saw in him, and see, one of the most important contemporaries whom I have had the good fortune to know. One of the most significant and important people in Russia of the last 25 years. 

Roginsky did not like eye-catching publicity. He hid from his role as one of the key figures in Russian public and political life. From his role of leader and organizer. He preferred the role of eminence grise – either from academic modesty or the habit of conspiracy from Soviet days.

He fervently insisted on the distinction completely dividing human rights from politics, and had a strong aversion to the latter. We argued about this when I recorded his lecture about the human rights movement for a course on the Open University.

He described the history of the human rights movement as isolated from political history. He said that the dissident movement had given nothing to Russian politics. And although in general that is not true, there is of course a good deal of justice in this view, and much of importance to thing about (if we compare, for example, the fates of dissident movements in Russia and Poland).

His proclivity for self-limitation, perhaps, hindered his contemporaries from understanding the true scale of his personality.

But, thank God, there is clear evidence, an indisputable proof: Memorial. One of the most extraordinary, beautiful and successful institutions created in Russia over the last 30 years. One of the true achievements of the post-Soviet period. Something in which the historical meaning of this period was able to take form and to leave its mark.

But, why only post-Soviet? If we look at the history of Russia as a whole – absolutely the history of the country in its totality – and name the ten most brilliant and significant non-government institutions, then that list will include Memorial. 

The lock and key uniting the historian, who became a civil society activist, with the object of his love: Russian history.

Lev Lurye on Arseny Roginsky: "His most important gift was the ability to find the strengths that lie hidden in everyone, to bring out their best and to put it to use for the common good"

posted 21 Jan 2018, 06:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 08:39 ]

20 December 2017

By Lev Lurye

Source: [original source: 

Lev Lurye: [...] He became a chief advisor, bosom friend, guru and beacon of unattainable standards for an immense number of people. He worked around the clock, but with a lightness of touch and a cheery attitude. He brought to mind someone from Pushkin’s coterie […]

* * *

I got to know Arseny (Senya) Roginsky in autumn 1973, at the famous “Akademichka” – a cafeteria near the Academy of Sciences which used to attract students who were skipping lectures at the Leningrad State University.

Senya had arrived in Leningrad from Moscow in search of a lawyer for his close friend Gabriel Superfin, who had been arrested for editing the “Chronicle of Current Events”.

By that time I myself had graduated from the School of Economics, albeit with a few hiccups (I was kicked out for a pamphlet I had drafted in protest at the misrepresentation of Lenin’s teachings), but I was busying myself with Russian history, in particular the members of the People’s Will movement (Narodnaya Volya).

Roginsky was building on the work of his teacher, Yury Lotman, by studying the Decembrists, in particular the lesser-known characters – Novikov and Gabbe, for example. He immediately began to ask me about the People’s Will movement (and this was pure Roginsky – focusing on the interests of whomever he was talking to).

One of the things we talked about was the possibility that an extremely interesting document was gathering dust in some archive or other. In 1882, Yakov Stefanovich, a member of the Executive Committee of People’s Will who was under investigation in the Peter and Paul Fortress, had managed to send a letter to his émigré friend Lev Deutsch.

This letter was intercepted by other members of the People’s Will movement and caused a tremendous scandal, with Stefanovich’s fellow party members accusing him of betrayal. Roginsky considered the matter for a while and, after taking a drag on his cigarette, proposed finding the lost letter.

Not a week went by before he did just that, at “Dom Plekhanova,” a branch of the Public Library’s manuscript department. The document was a palimpsest – secret messages were written in milk between lines of writing in normal ink.

We started to decipher and annotate the text, and in the course of this work we became friends.

Although Senya was only four years older than me, he became my teacher, and it is no exaggeration to say that he determined the course of my life and was the single most important person in it.

He frequently visited our home on Petrogradskaya and became close friends with my father, the historian Yakov Lurye.

I often found myself in the six-metre kitchen of the Roginskys’ apartment at the corner of Frunze street and Yury Gagarin avenue. A huge range of people gravitated towards the apartment where he lived with his family, and there were so many of them – poets, dissidents, professors, American trainees, well-educated elderly women – it would be easier to list the people I didn’t meet there.

After a while our families rented a dacha in Ust’-Narve, where Senya was arrested in August 1981 and taken to Leningrad. We just managed to smoke a final cigarette together by the Volga car in which the members of the secret police had arrived.

After Boris Roginsky, Senya’s father, was rehabilitated in 1955, the family was given a flat in the Moskovsky district. Boris Roginsky, one of the chief designers of Elektrosila, had been arrested for the first time in 1938, finished his sentence in 1943 and carried on working as an engineer at the Northern Dvina Camp.

His wife Elena Roginskaya, who taught Russian language and literature, took their two children and went to live with her husband, and Arseny was born there in 1946.

After being transferred to Lodeynoye Pole to work on the construction of an electric power station on the Svir River, Senya’s father was arrested again in 1951 and sentenced to lifelong exile. He never left the Bolshoi Dom prison, however, because he died shortly after the investigation had ended.

The terrible fate of the father, and a desire to understand how such a thing could happen, were major factors that determined the fate of the son. “The ashes of Claes beat upon my heart,” he once came out and said to me.

The corner of Frunze street and Yury Gagarin avenue is adjacent to the Moskovsky Victory Park, which was where yobs liked to hang out. While Arseny was still at school he began getting into trouble with the police, and his mother sent him to Lodeynoye Pole to complete his secondary education out of harm’s way.

After studying at the University of Tartu, he then returned to Leningrad. His turbulent teenage years left him with an incredible ability to make friends in many different places; those who sought out his company included Sergei Kovalev, Yury Lotman, the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Adam Michnik, an FSB general from the Lubyanka archives and his fellow inmates, including the shish kebab seller called Givi, a thief who went by the nickname of “Moscow”, and a Chechen whose name I don’t know, but who served time for cattle stealing.

In 1975, when Stefanovich’s letter to Deutsch had been published in Tartu, Roginsky asked me to work on the samizdat anthology Pamyat, but after having discussed the matter with my father I refused on the grounds that they would arrest me straight away.

Arseny did not insist, merely noting that it would be a huge mistake to see the world as a place swarming with informants, and that a great deal can be achieved while working underground. Roginsky differed from his fellow human rights activists on this point – the names of editors were not published in Pamyat, unlike in the Chronicle of Current Events. Perhaps that is why Roginsky was the only one to serve time for Pamyat, and why none of his associates were sentenced.

Roginsky was an organiser par excellence, and everyone who found themselves within his orbit fell in love with him. His most important gift was the ability to find the strengths that lie hidden in everyone, to bring out their best and to put it to use for the common good.

He became a chief adviser, closest friend, guru and beacon of unattainable standards for an immense number of people. He worked around the clock, but with a lightness of touch and a cheery attitude. He brought to mind someone from Pushkin’s coterie.

The NGO Memorial, which he helped found and then led for many years, is a powerful institution and a monument not only to the victims of the regime, but also to its creators, in particular Arseny Roginsky. 

Goodbye, dear friend.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Sergei Lukashevsky: Arseny Roginsky nurtured not only Memorial but the very culture of civic engagement itself

posted 21 Jan 2018, 04:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 05:12 ]

20 December 2017

By Sergei Lukashevsky, director of the Sakharov Centre


Amongst the things currently being recalled and written about Arseny Borisovich Roginsky, I'd like to note something that I find very significant. Arseny Borisovich was the most brilliant non-political politician in Russia.

"Man is a political animal", so went the ancient classic. People require the capacity to act independently as individuals, but also collectively. Because of our history, we have been sorely lacking in the traditions and culture of a public, common cause.

The dissident movement was forged by a moral imperative, but it was a fellowship of individuals, each of whom followed his or her own path to existential liberation.

In the late 1980s it became possible (and therefore necessary) for the pursuit of truth and law to take organisational forms.

With his charisma, determination and clear-headedness, Arseniy Borisovich created a common space.

Possessing obvious leadership qualities, he helped to create a horizontal, diverse community of citizens, rather than the 'vertically integrated system' so familiar to us now.

He was a one-of-a-kind operator in a complex, at times conflicting, network of social initiatives and structures, who did not allow things to become mired in deadlock and who helped to resolve the most intractable problems.

Arseny Borisovich had another surprising quality, one that was also political in nature: the ability to connect the possible and the permissible. To stick to the truth, and yet be open to a dialogue with one’s detractors. To engage in such dialogue, but not lose oneself in it.

To be conscious of one's limitations in terms of capacity and resources, and to set forward-looking objectives.

I sincerely believe, and will keep on saying at every opportunity, that civil society is the best thing that has been created in our country in the last 30 years. It functions, it is adaptable, and it can withstand pressure.

Over these years, Arseny Borisovich nurtured not only Memorial but the very culture of civic engagement itself.

Today we are united in sorrow, but also in a community which may not even have existed were it not for him. Herein lies our strength, our memories and our hope.

Translated by Lindsay Munford

Aleksandr Cherkasov on Arseny Roginsky: “The tracker himself does not leave a trail"

posted 19 Jan 2018, 13:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Jan 2018, 14:00 ]

21 December 2017

By Aleksandr Cherkasov, head of Memorial Human Rights Centre 


This article was written about Arseny Roginsky in the spring of 2016 to mark his 70th birthday. And now he is no longer with us... 

The tracker himself does not leave a trail. Well, almost.

There are people whose public face means a lot to them: appearing in front of an audience, giving speeches, adding signatures. It’s easy to talk about people who think leaving a trail is the most important thing.

But someone who has devoted his life to the search for the half-erased trails of former generations is himself not inclined to carve his initials on cliffs or trees or to stomp his boots over the landscape of a present that is swiftly becoming the past. Perhaps because he knows how silly that will look.

But perhaps because there’s something misplaced in this—making special, unnecessary efforts merely in order to stick in someone’s memory.

In addition to ambition, there can be other things. Status as a researcher, for example. But no — how many times in an analysis of “places of burial,” when the discussion was about documents from dissident-era archives, about the Chronicle of Current Events, have I heard from his friends: “Senya, but wasn’t it really you, I think, who wrote that?” The school of samizdat times: “Well, yes, I did.” And the manuscripts “didn’t burn” — that is, there were people who read them, who were inspired, who retyped and passed them on. And that’s the main thing. Not the authorship and not the signature.

But nonetheless, there is a trail.

There are things to be found in biographies, but who reads them? Place of birth: Velsk, Arkhangelsk region. Father, arrested in 1938, after prison camp exiled there. Died while under investigation in 1951, after his second arrest. Returned to Leningrad.

Tartu University. The Lotman school, at the time the Mecca of humanitarian knowledge. Not simply study: when he was studying, Arseny lived in Yury Mikhailovich Lotman’s home.

Here, in Tartu — even before the very word “dissident” was born — getting to know future dissidents — for example, Natalia Gorbanevskaya (read Ulitskaya! [“Poetess”]), who had come there.

Participation in Russian culture and history. That is, in the history of the struggle for freedom. Isn’t that what Russian history is?

Memory of the terror. State terror and revolutionary terror. Of how yesterday’s fighters for freedom become the new gendarmes. How they themselves fall victim to a machine they created with their own hands.

And how neatly this terrible future conceals itself inside the liberation movement itself. Yet, despite everything, the liberation movement cannot be reduced to those victors who immediately and successfully began exterminating their comrades-in-arms of the day before. . . .

Research and the restoration of continuity is the work to which the Tartu school made an enormous contribution. One example — but very important! - from the history of the “populists” is Stefanovich’s letter to Deich, which Arseny Roginsky and his friend Lev Lurie found and Lotman published in Scholarly Notes of Tartu University.

The publisher’s thoughts on “revolutionary ethics,” the hierarchy within the revolutionary milieu, and “revolutionary generalship” are relevant even today (for those who remember — this refers as much to the Razvozzhaev-Lebedev case as to the Krasin-Yakir case).

...Perhaps this is why Arseny Roginsky has no “soldier stripes.” Perhaps this is the source of his dislike for joining “councils and commissions” and going around to high-level offices . . . although they called him, they called him!

Russia’s history began not in 2012, not in 1985, not in 1956, and not in 1917. It was rewritten multiple times by those who wished to be “the first men on earth.”

Russia’s history — including the history of “gross and massive human rights violations” — is unbroken and indissoluble. That’s for one. Continuity is important; however, continuity cannot be marked down merely to “hereditary disease.”

People also like to distill Russia’s history down to large numbers — with as many zeroes as possible — of people executed, incarcerated, and tortured.

But people should be counted by ones, not zeroes. The history, the biography of an individual person — that is the starting point and the fundamental scale of the work. That’s for two.

Actually, these two “legs” are what Memorial now stands on. . . .

. . . Nor can history be reduced to collecting “urban legends,” either. After all, mythologizing is little better than oblivion. After the “Moscow appeal” of 1974, Roginsky and a group of similar young enthusiasts began putting out the independent historical anthology Pamyat’ (Memory.)

Unofficial does not mean “amateur.” It turned out, academic standards could be maintained in Samizdat. And chance witnesses to the work who suddenly realized: “You’re making samizdat!” could be dumbfounded by the reply: “Where have you seen samizdat with citations?”

The result is logical. At 35, the seemingly office-bound scholar, bottled and batched in Tartu, would land in a prison camp for criminals. Why for criminals? That year the KGB organs, subordinate to the Party organs, requested and received permission from the “authority” (the Department of Administrative Organs of the Communist Party Central Committee) to convict three Petersburgers “as common criminals": Roginsky, Azadovsky, and Klein. Roginsky’s final speech at his trial was about the status of the historian in the Soviet Union. . . .

...In his stories about prison camp, Arseny Borisovich looked least of all the hero (although the stories about how he served time with Chechens, along with the stories of other dissidents sentenced by the Soviet authorities to serve time in “general regime” prison camps, helped me greatly later in my work in the Caucasus). Paramount in these stories, practically, was not to look like a “leader,” not to be tempted by the “romance of revolution.”

And not to overawe others with the grandeur of omniscience.

Roginsky once commented: “I have had two teachers in life: one was Sergei Adamovich Kovalev (this was at Kovalev’s anniversary); the other, Mikhail Yakovlevich Gefter. The former, when I would ask him something, would immediately say to me: “Look. It's very simple! . . ." While the latter usually replied: “Dear boy! In fact, everything was a good deal more complicated! . . .”

And then . . . then there was Memorial. If I had any taste, any sense of tact and style, I would draw the line right here.

...Actually, there is another, much more widespread view of Russia’s history, though. In Dovlatov’s Zapovednik [“Nature Reserve”] about the Pushkin Hills, he writes of the director: “. . . He wants to create a grandiose park of culture and recreation. He hung a target on a tree for reasons of colour. People say that students from Tartu stole it. And threw it in the lake. Good going, structuralists! . . .”

One of those young students was Arseny Roginsky. To have been part of that circle, from which Dovlatov came and which Dovlatov describes endlessly; and yet to have been able to “hide” anonymously in that story, as marvelous as a haiku...

Some try to turn national history into a “grandiose park of culture and recreation.” While others struggle with different kinds of chains. Herein lies the life and fate of Arseny Borisovich Roginsky.

Translated by Marian Schwartz

Yakov Gordin on Arseny Roginsky: Not for the first time, we have to say the world has grown empty.

posted 19 Jan 2018, 12:05 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Jan 2018, 12:14 ]

22 December 2017

By Yakov Gordin, editor in chief of the literary magazine Zvezda (Star)

Source: [original source: Novaya Gazeta in St. Petersburg]

Arseny Roginsky was a person of quiet and intelligent courage. This is no common combination.

A professional historian, he studied the Russian liberation movement and adopted its best and noblest traits.

In the dark Soviet seventies, he took on what was perhaps the most important work: historical enlightenment. He and several of his allies put together Pamyat' (Memory), collections of archived historical materials on Russian history, which were assembled in the USSR and published abroad.

This work was at once strictly scholarly and – as is inevitable in certain conditions – political. Gradually, a wide circle of sympathizers and contributors formed around the group, among whom were well-known and distinguished people.

Studying the liberation movement paid off. Roginsky knew what a conspiracy was. And the KGB was unable to discover the archive of Pamyat' or to substantively indict Roginsky.

He was tried on farcical charges. The maximum punishment for this "crime" would have been to bar Roginsky from the manuscripts department of the Public Library where he conducted his research. But guilt was not proven during the five-day (!) trial.

I happened to be present at several political trials during the seventies and the early eighties. This includes Roginsky's trial. His situation was unique. He refused to testify. He hardly spoke at all with the judge, answering only the questions about his name, patronymic, and surname... He was saving those who were involved in the publishing of Pamyat'. There were not able to hold a single meeting between Roginsky and other suspects during the investigation.

He understood what he was up against. And the Soviet secret police took their revenge on him. He was given a four-year sentence and served it in very difficult circumstances: a significant part of his sentence he spent being transported between camps. He was continually moved from camp to camp.

He remained true to himself all his life. One of the founders and leaders of Memorial, the main organization promoting the good health of our public awareness, steadily and with unwavering persistence he continued this work of enlightenment, offering people the much-needed historical truth at all times. I repeat: steadily and with unwavering persistence.

I took the liberty of writing about Arseny Roginsky for a reason. I shy away from using the loaded word "friendship." But for many years – we met in 1965 at the University of Tartu, where Senya was studying – we maintained a good-natured and trusting relationship.

In the Pamyat' days, our relationship became closer and stronger. One incident, among others, brought us closer. I published an excerpt from the memoir of my uncle, Arnold Moiseevich Gordin, the elder brother of my father. The excerpt mentions my uncle's friend from the twenties, Baire (Boris) Roginsky, whom the author describes as a brave, outspoken, and honourable person.

At the end of the twenties, Baire Roginsky took in an author, who was an illegal member of the opposition movement, and hid him from the GPU. This was so dangerous that it could have meant death.

My uncle survived twenty years of labour camps and exile. Baire Roginsky died.

When I showed Senya this excerpt, it turned out that we were reading about his father, whom he had hardly known. Senya was born in 1946, in the north, in exile, and shortly afterward his father was arrested and died in 1951...

Arseny Borisovich never knew his father, but he inherited all of his human qualities. This included a strong sense of self-worth, something which in Soviet times made a person a danger to the system. That is also a tradition in Russia.

Arseny Roginsky has passed away. He was intelligent, calm, and courageous. He understood so much and accomplished so much.

Not for the first time, we have to say the world has grown empty.

Translated by Nina de Palma

Evgeny Zakharov on Arseny Roginsky

posted 15 Jan 2018, 03:56 by Website Service   [ updated 15 Jan 2018, 03:57 ]

18 December 2017

By Evgeny Zakharov, head of the Human Rights Protection Group in Kharkiv, Ukraine


Arseny Roginsky died today. An old, old friend for more than 40 years, Senya, Senechka. A historian from heaven, a student of Yury Lotman. Someone with a wonderful sense of humour and an ingrained sense of artistry. How we all adored his story-telling! He was 71 years old, he was gravely ill for a long time. He was one of the creators and the leader of Memorial.

Earlier, in the 1970s, without any authorization, he created ‘Memorial’, when he collected materials on the history of the 20th century – documents, memoirs, photographs, etc, and put them together in the journal Pamyat (Memory), which was issued abroad for five years.

He wasn’t forgiven for that. They concocted a criminal case against him for forging documents, claiming that he had gained access to the ‘special collection’ [closed archive] using a fraudulent library card -- although it was his card he had used! He spent four years in a camp for criminals in the north.

“Memorial won’t die!” he wrote for me in one of its books in the mid-1990s. Memorial is not dead: through all our collective endeavours, it continues to exist. His presence truly enlivened our world, and we shall be forever grateful to him.

Translated by Mary McAuley

Zoya Svetova: Remembering Arseny Roginsky

posted 15 Jan 2018, 03:45 by Website Service   [ updated 15 Jan 2018, 03:50 ]

18 December 2017 

By Zoya Svetova, journalist and human rights activist, Moscow


Photo of Arseny Roginsky {c) Yulia Ryzhenko /

Today Senya died, Arseny Roginsky. A great man, a fine historian and a Soviet political prisoner. Above all, he was a creator of Memorial. The Memorial Society was his offspring although there were many who, together with Roginsky, shaped and built the organisation.

It was Senya Roginsky who each day, each month, each year thought up new and yet more new ‘things’, that was how he described those marvellous projects which changed the climate in our country.

Senya’s charm or, as it has come to be called today, his charisma, brought a large circle of people together around him, people who were trying, with him and with Memorial, to change the climate of opinion and life in the country.

Those who believed in Senya and loved him included not only his contemporaries, and mine, but also those of my children.

A monument ought to have been erected to Senya during his life time for the project “Restoring the Names”. This project united more of society more than all the opposition meetings of recent years taken together.

Senya was ill for nearly a year, it was unbearable to accept that, suddenly, Senya, with his smile and half-closed eyes, and his gentleness, would no longer be there. It felt as though people of genius do not die. They should stay with us. Like an amulet. Life is unfair. Senya promised he would return and together we would toast “for your freedom and for ours”.

Translated by Mary McAuley

Alexander Daniel on Arseny Roginsky

posted 15 Jan 2018, 03:28 by Website Service   [ updated 15 Jan 2018, 04:26 by Rights in Russia ]

20 December 2017

From an interview with Alexander Daniel, co-chair of the Memorial Research and Information Centre in St. Petersburg

Source: [original source: BBC]

Pictured: Arseny Roginsky [left] with Alexander Daniel [right]

Alexander Daniel, researcher into the history of dissent in the Soviet Union, spoke about his long-time friend and colleague at Memorial, Arseny Roginsky.

We first met on 21 August 1968, a date that is hard to forget [Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, ed.]. We remained casual acquaintances for five or six years, and then, at the beginning of 1976, we began to work together closely on a large samizdat historical almanac, called Pamyat (“Memory”). The guys came up with the idea. I was extremely interested and Arseny was the driving force behind it.

Arseny was my senior colleague and the editor-in-chief, but we didn’t have a formal organisation. We collected materials, and prepared documents, memoirs and articles for publication.

BBC: And after a few years the KGB took an interest?

The KGB were interested almost immediately. We had to work underground, even though the digest was anonymous. The KGB only got round to imprisoning Arseny in 1981.

BBC: The arrest happened suddenly?

No, it wasn’t sudden. A few months before they said to him: wouldn’t you like to go abroad, here’s a visa for Israel. He said he didn’t want to go. And three months later they imprisoned him.

BBC: How did you react?

The most important thing was to finish the fifth almanac: it was already compiled, but only in draft. Our late friend Sasha Dobkin took on the main role after Arseny: he finished the fifth issue, though of course without Arseny’s energy everything went more slowly.

And when the sixth issue was compiled – just as the deadline was approaching – Sasha was told: go ahead and publish, if you want your friend to have a second term in the camps.

Obviously, we did not dare to finish the sixth issue. We gave all the materials we had collected to our Parisian friend Volodya Alloi, and he began to publish his own almanac of a similar kind, called Minuvshee (The Past).

BBC: You met Arseny when he was released?

Yes. He was thin, clear-voiced and transparent. And he used exclusively criminal jargon. It took him a month to shake off the camp slang.

BBC: Did he suffer much from his years of imprisonment?

I think it was hard for him, but then he always said that it was important for him to see that world, to understand it and to get a grasp of it. It seems he succeeded.

BBC: What kind of person was he?

Marvellously energetic. You know, like а fireball. Cheerful. He simply generated electricity, especially when he was working, that’s the main thing.

BBC: That’s why Roginsky was editor-in-chief of the Pamyat almanac, and then the head of Memorial?

Yes, but also because on our team at the almanac he was the only historian. The rest of us were amateurs. Secondly, there was, of course, his creativity. He overflowed with ideas, concepts, approaches and techniques.

BBC: Why him in particular?

The main business of Memorial is historical and educational work; that was just what we had been doing earlier. We had the right experience. When we came to Memorial, people had a great desire to undertake historical research. But they didn’t know how to do it and professional historians didn’t join us then. However, Arseny knew how. So, Arseny came to head the historical and educational section of Memorial in Moscow.

It was a piece of good fortune for Memorial, but I’m not sure if it was so fortunate for him.

BBC: Why?

Because he was a scholar. If he’d devoted those thirty years to scholarly work, he would have become a major specialist in Soviet history. Instead, he was an organiser, curator, adviser, and consultant. To sit down and achieve what he could do as a scholar was side-lined. The field-defining monographs he could surely have authored were never written.

BBC: Do you think he was aware of the sacrifice?

Undoubtedly. But he viewed this as a choice, rather than considering himself a victim. He suffered, but he made the choice quite consciously. To him, the cause represented by Memorial seemed more important than gratifying his scholarly curiosity.

BBC: Did he explain why?

Together, we often worked out answers to such questions, but now, as you see, I have no one to consult… Perhaps, it was because he considered that restoring historical memory was an important social change. He was sure that he could make a greater contribution through Memorial to establishing a mass awareness of history, than through specific studies.

BBC: Do you think he managed to alter popular awareness of history?

When you consider popular historical awareness in Russia today, I immediately want to say: “No, he didn't succeed.” On the other hand, who knows what people would be thinking if we hadn't done what we did? Perhaps, their ideas would be even more primitive and bizarre? Social psychology has no subjunctive mood.

Translated by Anna Bowles

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