The Historical-Enlightenment Work of Memorial
Through the extermination and the persecution of millions of people, the Soviet government attempted to conceal its crimes. Who knows exactly how many victims of terror there were? Where were the executed buried? Where were the countless camps and what transpired behind the barbed wire? Even the relatives of the deceased do not know the truth: “10 years without the right to correspondence” – this was the only information given about the fate of the convict under Stalinism, the short formula of his life and death.
How can one find the truth in a world full of lies that obstruct our history? And it is it worth trying? It is, after all, easy to live in a nice and simple world of illusions. The reality of history does not lend comfort, does not lead to success and prosperity, but rather complicates everything. It creates problems of guilt and responsibility, opens old wounds, and awakes shame where only pride should exist.
Yet leaving behind the tragic truth means abandoning one’s own memory. A society without memory will obediently play into the hands of any demagogue; people in such a society are no better than nuts and bolts in the state machine. They are worthless slaves to an inhumane ideology that promises everyone happiness.
However horrible the past may have been, forgetting it would make the future even worse.
The basic goal of Memorial to look for the path to the past for the sake of the future. Our task is not to teach society, but to find the facts, collect them, contemplate them, and to publish them. What will come of this uncomfortable truth – will it be grasped by society or it reject with disgust – this is the choice of the historical journey. It is a no less important choice than the choice of state form or economic structure.
Thus, we find and collect facts. Ten years ago, Memorial began the systematic collection of evidence about the communist terror. Following the footsteps of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and émigré and Western researchers, the activists of Memorial in different cities collected documents and memoirs, transcribed oral testimony, and undertook expeditions to the sites of camps and deportation. Tens of thousands of people – former convicts, their relatives and friends – gave Memorial their materials on their own initiative. During these years, a substantial archive on the history of repression was collected.
Thus far, more than 50 “Books of Memory” and lists of executed victims have been published in different regions of Russia. The process of studying the terror also continues abroad. All of this printed material is accumulating in the library of Memorial in Moscow. Of course, we also attempt to collect in our library all the publications of the regional affiliates of Memorial.
Memorial is interested not only in documents and books. Our collections include hundreds of works of art by prisoners, which bear witness to the life in the camps. The collection of our museum is constantly growing. Today it presents a unique collection of this type in Russia.
Throughout different countries and regions, many of the Memorial organizations are busy collecting information and conducting research on the repression. These include our affiliates in St. Petersburg, Syktyvkar, Perm’, Riazan’, Irkutsk, Krasnoiarsk, Yekaterinburg, Vorkut, Warsaw, and Khar’kov.
In 1990, on the initiative of the All-Union (today International) association Memorial, a Scientific-Information and Enlightenment Center was established in Moscow for the coordination of Memorial’s historical-enlightenment activities.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Initiative Group for the Defense of Human Rights in the USSR, the Research, Information and Education Center "Memorial" Moscow is preparing the publication of a collection of documents on this group, which was instrumental to the human rights movement in the USSR.
Anyone who has information relating to the members of the Initiative Group,
knows the location of documents or newspaper articles, memoirs etc, is invited
to contact the editor of the collection, Gennadii Kuzovkin, on
Please also see the project description on the website of "Memorial" http://www.memo.ru/history/diss/ig/appeal/