Quote for the Day


Arseny Roginsky: "Memorial considers civic responsibility to be inextricably linked to its important work on human rights [...]. In this sense, Memorial adheres to the tradition of the dissidents and human rights defenders of the Soviet era."

posted 27 Dec 2017, 11:58 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Dec 2017, 12:33 ]

"[...] The main thing is that a serious understanding of the past and resolving the deadlocks of historical conflicts demand civic responsibility. The responsibility is assumed voluntarily by everyone who perceives themselves as part of a historically formed community. The responsibility regards actions committed today and the actions perpetrated at one time on behalf of this community. 

Memorial considers civic responsibility to be inextricably linked to its important work on human rights, or to be more precise, Memorial’s important human rights work stems from a sense of civic responsibility. Civic responsibility requires awareness and hard work aimed at overcoming the past in the present. In this sense, Memorial adheres to the tradition of the dissidents and human rights defenders of the Soviet era.

If people are united not only by everyday civic and political life, but also by a common past and aspirations for a common future, civic responsibility naturally extends to national history. It is civic responsibility for their own history, rather than great achievements and great catastrophes as such, that make people a nation to the full extent and a society of citizens. 

Repentance is a single and symbolic action, while understanding of the past is continuous and persistent work. This is not something that can be done once and for all. Every new generation should refer to the past over and over again. Each generation must understand and reassess it again and again, especially its dark and terrible pages. Every generation must develop their own interpretation of history, which will again and again awaken the civic commitment of people as well as their will to prevent the country from sliding into dictatorship, lawlessness and the decay of freedom. 

Meanwhile Memorial International is simply trying to provide the fundamentals of this process, i.e. developed civic consciousness and civic responsibility. Or to put it simply, not to let people fall asleep. [...]"

    - Speech by Arseny Roginsky, late chair of International Memorial Society, on accepting the 2013 Pax Christi award for International Peace

Source: The above is a slightly modified version of a translation to be found at:  'Pax Christi International Peace Award 2013,' Press Release, 14 November 2013. The speech is available in the original Russian, and also in English and French.

Photo of Arseny Roginsky: © Tomasz Kizny, via International Memorial Society

Arseny Roginsky: "Every document is important, every document is precious as witness to our past."

posted 26 Dec 2017, 08:36 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Dec 2017, 09:02 ]

"[...] An archive for me (of course, I have in mind only literary and historical archives) is the natural continuation of a library, and archival materials, unpublished sources that are in principle no different from those that have been published, can be considered as accidentally not published, or not yet published. I consider it necessary to explain this now, because, among people who have no connection with historical research, I have often met a considerable number who are genuinely convinced that the documents preserved in archives must either be top secret, or defamatory of someone, or perhaps something. And for that reason only select people, who enjoy a “special trust,” are allowed into archives, and that is how it should be. Such a view of archives, of course, is completely mistaken. Just as the attempts made to divide documents into those that are more or less important, more or less valuable, are mistaken. Every document is important, every document is precious as witness to our past. [...]"

    - Arseny Roginsky, from his final speech in court at his trial, spoken on 4 December 1981. Source: 'Положение историка в СССР. Последнее слово А.Б. Рогинского на суде. Ленинград, 4 декабря 1981 года,' ГЕФТЕР, 22 December 2017 [translation by Simon Cosgrove]

Photo of Arseny Roginsky: © Tomasz Kizny, via International Memorial Society

Arseny Roginsky: “It seems to me that we carried with dignity the burden that we took upon ourselves. And we didn’t break, or stumble. Thank you, my friends.”

posted 25 Dec 2017, 05:44 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 25 Dec 2017, 05:48 ]

“It seems to me that we carried with dignity the burden that we took upon ourselves. And we didn’t break, or stumble. Thank you, my friends.”
     - Arseny Roginsky, the late chair of the International Memorial Society, who died on 18 December 2017

Source: Matthew Luxmoore, 'Arseny Roginsky, Russian Human Rights Leader, Is Dead at 71,' The New York Times, 23 December 2017

Matthew Luxmoore writes: "Mr. Roginsky remained involved in Memorial even as he dealt with his cancer. In late September, by video link from Israel, he addressed a gathering at Memorial’s headquarters, occasioned by the publication of the collected essays of Memory, his underground journal. An emaciated Mr. Roginsky, weighing each word, told his colleagues: 'It seems to me that we carried with dignity the burden that we took upon ourselves. And we didn’t break, or stumble. Thank you, my friends'.”

Arseny Roginsky: "The tune is always ours, ours alone"

posted 24 Dec 2017, 08:04 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 09:58 ]

"In our opinion this law [on 'foreign agents'] has nothing to do with justice. It contains two basic concepts – foreign funding and political activity. We released a special statement about this law.  Firstly, this law is discriminatory: it divides organisations into different groups depending on their sources of financing. There is one way of functioning set out for those whose funding comes from one set of sources and another one for those whose funding comes from a different set of sources. We consider this to be utter nonsense.  Secondly, this law forces us to publicly lie about ourselves.

Whatever President Putin might say, in Russian the phrase 'foreign agent' has no other meaning than 'enemy', 'spy', 'traitor.' The point of this law is to set society against those organisations which the authorities consider to be harmful. Memorial in particular cannot forget how the phrase 'foreign agent' has been used in our country's history, how many hundreds of thousands of people were executed for allegedly being 'foreign agents.'

But even if this expression is interpreted in its most neutral sense  'an organisation that represents the interests of the particular foreign foundation which is funding it,' - then that is a lie! We have never subordinated our work to any outside interests; none of our sponsors, either foreign or Russian, have ever set us any conditions of the kind: ‘Look we're giving you money, so for that you should do this or you should do that, act like this or act like that.’ Quite the opposite: we decide to implement a particular project and then we look for sponsors for it. Some agree to support us, others don't. But the project is ours and ours alone. The authorities' logic is based on the crude principle that he who pays the piper calls the tune. There's something very awkward about that. The tune is always ours, ours alone. "


- the late Arseny Roginsky, then chair of the International Memorial Society, in 'Rights in Russia interviews Arseny Roginsky: "The authorities still do not understand what freedom of association means",' Rights in Russia, 26 April 2013

Thorbjørn Jagland: "Arseny Roginsky has become a great figure of the modern history of his country. His memory will remain with us for the rest of our lives. [...] the entire Russian and European human rights community [...] has lost today one of its brightest lights"

posted 20 Dec 2017, 11:32 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Dec 2017, 11:35 ]


“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Arseny Roginsky, one of the founders and the President of the International Memorial, one of the best known and most respected human rights NGOs in Russia and the whole of Europe. I was lucky to know Mr. Roginsky, who was a great friend and supporter of the Council of Europe and of Russian membership in our Organisation.

Arseny Roginsky was a humanist and a human rights defender. In his courage and commitment to the opening of forgotten pages of Russian history and the restoration of historical justice he always demonstrated a love for his fellow citizens and a strong desire to overcome the dark pages of our recent past. For more than 50 years, through his personal action, his fight against the totalitarian regime of Soviet times and his daily contribution to the development of a robust civil society in a modern and free Russia, Arseny Roginsky has become a great figure of the modern history of his country.

His memory will remain with us for the rest of our lives.I would like to convey my condolences to the family of Arseny Roginsky and to the entire Russian and European human rights community that has lost today one of its brightest lights”.

- Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, on the death of Arseny Roginsky

Denis Krivosheev: "The authorities have shown their true intent to target and harass Open Russia out of existence"

posted 13 Dec 2017, 10:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Dec 2017, 10:38 ]

“The Russian authorities are clearly targeting Open Russia in a bid to suffocate dissent and pluralism in the Russian media and expunge Khodorkovsky’s presence in Russian politics and society. Following bans on UK-registered branches of Open Russia in April, the Prosecutor’s Office gave assurances that the ban wouldn’t affect the activities of the Russian-based movement of the same name. Today’s events now show that promise to be nothing more than a brazen lie. The authorities have shown their true intent to target and harass Open Russia out of existence.” 

- Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, reacting to the Russian Prosecutor’s Office decision to block five websites of the Open Russia movement founded by the former Russian prisoner of conscience and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, 


Source: "Russia stifles critical civil society movement by blocking five websites," Amnesty International, 12 December 2017

Aleksei Ulyukaev: "It’s only when you face misfortune yourself that you start to realise how difficult people’s lives are and what injustices they face."

posted 7 Dec 2017, 12:06 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Dec 2017, 12:29 ]

"It’s only when you face misfortune yourself that you start to realise how difficult people’s lives are and what injustices they face. When you’re doing OK, you shamefully turn away from people’s grievances. People, forgive me for that; I am guilty before you.”

- Former economy minister Aleksei Ulyukaev in his final word to the court at his trial for bribery in Moscow. Ulyukaev maintains his innocence. As The Guardian reports, Ulyukaev"is accused of soliciting a bribe of $2m in cash from Igor Sechin, the head of state oil company Rosneft and widely regarded as the second most powerful man in Russia after the president, Vladimir Putin."

Source: Shaun Walker, "Russian politician in $2m corruption trial says sorry for not fighting injustice," The Guardian, 7 December 2017

Photo: Wikipedia

Hugh Williamson: "From the start, it seemed clear that the true target of the 'undesirables' law would be Russian groups and citizens"

posted 4 Dec 2017, 08:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Dec 2017, 08:52 ]

“From the start, it seemed clear that the true target of the “undesirables” law would be Russian groups and citizens. Now, we’re seeing that the authorities are using the law, quite absurdly, to penalize Russian groups for supposed involvement with the ‘undesirables.’ [...] 
The authorities are casting a wide net, penalizing groups that aren’t even critical of the authorities for something they could not imagine would constitute an offense under a draconian and deliberately vague law, and for actions that obviously have nothing to do with Russian state security. It is not too late for the government to pull back from this brink of absurdity, repeal the law, and stop targeting Russian groups and citizens.

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch: "(Berlin) – The Russian government has intensified enforcement of the country’s repressive legislation on foreign “undesirable” organizations to intimidate Russian nationals and groups, Human Rights Watch said today. Officials are penalizing Russian groups for hyperlinks on their websites to materials on the websites of “undesirable” foreign organizations. The law on “undesirable organizations,” adopted in 2015, authorizes the prosecutor general’s office to ban from the country any foreign or international organization that it perceives as harming Russia’s security, and sets out penalties for Russian citizens and organizations for unspecified involvement with them. Punishments range from administrative fines to imprisonment."

Source: "Russia: Punished Over Hyperlinks. Russians Targeted for Links to Foreign ‘Undesirable’ Groups," Human Rights Watch, 30 November 2017

Igor Kalyapin: "We're not going anywhere. [...] We are not a foreign agent. Don't worry"

posted 27 Nov 2017, 00:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Nov 2017, 00:52 ]


"I really can't understand these necrophilic tendencies of the Ministry of Justice. As soon as we start the procedure to close down a legal entity, they suddenly get busy and start imposing fines on an organization that is already dead. Evidently, this is how they fulfill the work plan they have for repressive measures. [...] 
Don't worry, everything's OK. We're not going anywhere. Since 19 July 2017 we have once again working as the Committee Against Torture. We have taken back our original name. We are not a foreign agent. Don't worry." 

- Igor Kalyapin, head of the Committee Against Torture, an NGO based in Nizhny Novgorod, reacting to the news that the Ministry of Justice had levied a fine of 400,000 roubles for alleged violation of the "foreign agent" law.

Source: HRO.org [via Radio Svoboda

Liudmila Alekseeva: "The authorities should seek to persuade, not intimidate, us"

posted 7 Nov 2017, 02:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Nov 2017, 03:01 ]

"Vladimir Vladimirovich, we must change the attitude of the authorities to citizens. They should seek to persuade, not intimidate, us. This is harder, but it is the only path to normalisation of relations between government and citizens, especially insofar as the thinking part of society is concerned. Of course, this part is always a minority, but it is growing all the time"

- Liudmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group

From a statement by Liudmila Alekseeva at a session of the Presidential Human Rights Council with President Putin on 30 October 2017. To see a video of the statement, click here

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