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
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