Russia targets its oldest human rights group, Memorial

Thomas Rowley

The day started with Russian law enforcement searching the homes of nine senior members of the country’s oldest human rights organisation, Memorial.

Apparently, there was reason to believe that these Nobel Prize-winning historians and rights defenders had been “rehabilitating Nazism”. Investigators had allegedly found that three names on Memorial’s list of historical “Victims of Communist Terror” had not, in fact, been rehabilitated by the Soviet authorities after their conviction for collaborating with the Nazis. (Ironically, those three names also appear in a memory book published by law enforcement in the Russian republic of Tatarstan.)

Memorial’s error – on a list that ran to three million names – was enough to warrant investigation on a criminal charge. It could end in a hefty fine or a prison sentence of up to five years.

Then, at around 4pm local time, outside a central Moscow police station, Memorial board member Oleg Orlov revealed to journalists that he was to be investigated for “discrediting the Russian army” in a Facebook post. He was being questioned at the police station in a separate case….

Patriotism as a diagnosis

Alexandre Koyré: The Political Function of the Modern Lie (1943) / John Keane: Lying, journalism and democracy