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