More Links in the Chain

Calling the arrest of Oyub Titiev, a staff member at the “Memorial” office in Grozny, the burning of the “Memorial” office in Nazran, an attempt to destroy one of the organizations automobiles, and threats of reprisal against “Memorial” members more links in the chain, Oleg Orlov, director of the North Caucasus program at the Human Rights Center “Memorial”, stated that “’Memorial’ continues to face intimidation and scare tactics, that is, terror”.

It is impossible not to agree with these conclusions about the obvious campaign to persecute “Memorial,” which has been accompanied by repressions, attacks, intimidation, slander, and fabricated charges.

This persecution, which is of a terrifying and deathly dangerous nature in the region of the North Caucasus, also extends way beyond the boundaries of so-called “hot spots.” The entire Memorial movement is in danger. This movement arose in the late 1980s to memorialize the victims of Soviet terror and attain the protection of human rights so that nothing like Stalin’s nightmare could ever happen again. In 2017, the government finally erected a monument in Moscow dedicated to the tragedy of the Great Purge to mark the sad anniversary of 1937. January 2018 is also an “anniversary” year—after all, 1938, when defendants were tortured to the fullest extent and the wholesale slaughter of people accused of political “crimes” reached its height, was perhaps even more terrifying than the previous year. However, this symbolic date does not coincide with ceremonies commemorating the victims of the past, but with a new round of repressions, with what Orlov called “terror against ‘Memorial.’” Is the upshot of erecting a monument the destruction of “Memorial”? Another rejection of the principles of law, the presumption of innocence, and the ability to critically evaluate the past and the present? These repressions have touched people like Oyub Titiev and his colleagues in the “Memorial” offices in Grozny, Nazran, and Dagestan, who have documented extrajudicial executions and crimes against residents of Chechnya and other republics of the North Caucasus, and people like Yuri Dmitriev, who have collected data about people executed in the “anniversary” past.

It is abundantly clear that the charges against Dmitriev and Titiev of crimes that they did not commit and could not have committed are a gross fabrication of facts. None of the vile suspicions of Dmitriev were confirmed in court, and, if Titiev is judged by judges and not executioners, his innocence will be proven (especially since it is already known that his detention involved the grossest violations of the law that are only possible when the task is to fabricate evidence showing the guilt of an innocent person.

It is also clear that this persecution of “Memorial” members is connected with their professional activity. This is not even concealed by the government, which allows its representative to threaten human rights defenders with statements that “in our krai (republic), they won’t get anywhere with their work” and that “we will break the backs of our enemies…we won’t allow things here that we could allow….”

What the country’s main television stations are broadcasting is no less cynical than what the leader of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation pronounced in the Chechen language: they defame “Memorial” members and human rights defenders in long segments, they are not ashamed to accuse honest historians of repressions of having an “unpatriotic” approach, they pepper people who lived during the years of Stalin’s repressions with senseless questions about why their activities are of interest to citizens of Estonia or Germany (as if they do not know anything about the wholesale slaughter of Estonians and Germans in Soviet camps), and they violate all ethical and legal norms of the inviolability of personal life.

These really are links in one chain—the old chain of lies, violence, arrests, torture, and degradation. This chain was and remains in the hands of the government, and the only institution that can stand up against it is society. Society in the Russian Federation must decide what it needs more—this kind of chain or “Memorial,” a lie or an honest memory of the past, violence or human rights.

Stefania Kulayeva