"Our Demands" - A Statement by the Congress of the Intelligentsia and members of the human rights community

posted 13 Nov 2017, 06:32 by Website Service   [ updated 13 Nov 2017, 07:25 by Rights in Russia ]

27 October 2017 

On 30 October 2017, 80 years after the very worst of the repressions carried out by the Soviet regime – repressions which took place from the very first months of its existence and were targeted against the Russian nation as a whole – a monumental event will take place; the unveiling of a memorial to the victims of those political repressions of the 1930s. This was not an easy pill for the country’s current government to swallow, but after many delays and much hesitation, the decision has finally been taken. The memorial is a mark of recognition for the crimes which took place in the 1930s, but unfortunately a line has not yet been drawn under this tragedy.

It is commonly acknowledged that the Stalinist repressions began with the persecution of opponents in the press and at party rallies, and ended with torture in the basements of the Lubyanka, single shots in the back of the head and mass executions.

Eighty years has passed since then, but the past is gradually reappearing before our eyes. The new terms which have become common currency (“foreign agent”, “undesirable organisation” and “fifth column”) barely differ from those which they replace (“enemy of the people”, “spy” and “saboteur”). The prevailing atmosphere is increasingly one of suspicion, animosity and a search for enemies, with this trend becoming particularly apparent from 2012 onwards.

Instances of harassment of the opposition – by its very nature the chief mechanism which provides feedback from society to the state – are multiplying by the day.

We are witnessing the persecution of political opponents by the state-owned media and real-life attacks on the victims of this persecution. The most striking example is the murder of Boris Nemtsov, but others include the attempted murder of Yulia Latynina, the acts of violence against Aleksei Navalny and the multitude of threats against all those who have the courage to voice criticism of the state. On 23 October, Tatyana Felgengauer, an Ekho Moskvy journalist, was the victim of an attempt on her life. Several days beforehand, a number of broadcasts had been aired on the television channel Rossiya 24 stating that the radio station Ekho Moskvy was engaged in “anti-state activities.” All of these are undoubtedly links in the same chain.

Another striking example from recent months is the judicial proceedings against Yury Dmitriev, who has spent three decades of his life searching for unmarked graves and burial pits of those shot by firing squad, with the aim of keeping alive the memory of these perished fellow countrymen. On 30 October, the date on which the memorial will be unveiled, Dmitriev will be in a pre-trial detention facility awaiting sentencing and a long stay in prison.

Modern-day Russia can be compared to a train travelling along the same tracks which led the country to disaster in 1937-1938, and we must do everything in our power to put the brakes on this train before it is too late.

The problems which have come to a head in our country require inclusive and open debate rather than name-calling. Those who describe themselves as dissidents believe that Russia should follow a European path rather than an isolationist path which will lead to it ending up as a colossal North Korea.

We are calling on the authorities to realise that a modern-day society cannot meaningfully exist unless its governing powers are matched by a strong opposition which has equal rights and opportunities to disseminate its ideas, and which is afforded equal protection by the state. This is vitally important for society as a whole and for the authorities themselves.

We demand that the authorities stop their campaign of persecution against dissidents on federal television channels, and that the political broadcasts on these channels which are responsible for this vile bullying behaviour be shut down.

We demand that the politically motivated and shameful trials against Kirill Serebrennikov, Yury Dmitriev and other individuals be halted, and we also demand the release of all political prisoners.

The erection of a memorial to the victims of political repression under the Stalinist regime should serve as a guarantee that our descendants will not be forced to unveil yet another memorial in another 80 years’ time, to the victims of the repressions of the 2010s and 2020s.

For the list of signatories, which includes Liudmila Alekseeva, Boris Altshuler, Andrei Babushkin, Valery Borshchev, Vladmir Voinovich, Lev Gudkov, Dmitry Zimin, Andrei Makarevich, Oleg Orlov, Lev Ponomarev, Irina Prokhorova, Liudmila Ulitskaya, Mark Urnov, Aleksandr Cherkasov, Lev Shlosberg and Igor Iurgens, see here 

Translated by Joanne Reynolds