V. Sirotinin. The Krasnoyarsk „Memorial“ Organization

V. Sirotinin. The Krasnoyarsk „Memorial“ Organization

The first move in the creation of a “Memorial” initial group in Krasnoyarsk was made by Yuriy Shchekochikhin’s publication in the “Literary Newspaper” on the 20th January 1988. The article was about a sign.in carried out in Moscow regarding an appeal to the Presidium of the Upper Soviet of the USSR to perpetuate the memory of the victims of Stalin’s terror. Having received the full text of the appeal, the initial group in Krasnoyarsk begant to collect signatures, too. More than two-thousand citizens of Krasnoyarsk city and Krasnoyarsk Territory signed the appeal. The signature lists were then forwarded to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and addressed to the 19th Party Conference. Obviously, the opinion of the people of Krasnoyarsk was paid attention to, for during the congress it was decided to set up a  memorial place in memory of the people, who had become victims of reprisals for no reason at all. 

In June 1988 the Krasnoyarsk “Memorial” began to gather material on victims of reprisals, places of confinement and execution, as well as burial places. Documents, photographs, witness reports and memoirs reached our hands. Until October of the same year this “Memorial” branch disposed of information and materials of different completeness on more than four-thousand individuals. We started to prepare a computer data base on repressed individuals. Soonafter it comprised more than ten-thousand pages of type-written texts with memoirs and statements. We got the existing material ready for the press. Members of the “Memorial” Orgnaization appear before the public and talk about their work and their aims (there were about one-hundred appearances of this kind). We went on four expeditions throughout the district of the former KrasLag. “Memorial” consequently stands up for the improvement of the social and every-day life conditions of formerly repressed people and their family members. “Memorial” also advocates the entire illumination of the authentic history of our state. We support initiatives, which champion the creation of a constitutional state; we support the efforts of the people’s deputies, and our members organize sign-ins for the “Decree of power” proposed by Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov. 

The social “Memorial” movement considers a multitude of regions in the country. This year, in January, the constituent assembly of the “Memorial” Organization took place in Moscow. At present, the All-Union “Memorial” Organization of historical illumination comprises 189 regional branches. A lot of work is yet ahead of us. The destalinization of our society, the defense of human rights, democratization on a broad basis, an always respectful attitude towards representatives of all nationalities, non-violent action when deciding controversial questions – these are the fundamental principals of our “Memorial” Organization. Tens of thousands of signatures were collected and directed to the address of the 19th Party Assembly, which, in fact, made the decision to create a memorial place to the honour of the victims of unfounded reprisals. 

In October 1988 the preparatory conference for the organization of the voluntary All-Union “Memorial” Society of historical illumination took place in the House of Movies in Moscow. 338 delegees from 57 regional branches participated. “Memorial” was organized by several initiators – representatives of the “Literary Newspaper”, the “Ogonek” magazine, the USSR Union of Cinematographs, the USSR Union of Theatre Functionaries, the USSR Union of Architects, the USSR Union of Artists and the USSR Union of Designers. The following persons were confirmed in office (as members of the society counsil): A.M. Adamovich (deputy chairman), Yu.N. Afanasev, G.Y. Baklanov, V.V. Bykov, D.A. Granin. Y.A. Yevtushenko (deputy chairman), W.N. Yeltsin, Y.F. Kariakin (deputy chairman), V.A. Korotich, D.S. Likhachev, R.A.  Medvedev, B.S. Okudzhava, L.E. Razgon, A.N. Rybakov, A.D. Sakharov (honorary chairman), M.A. Ulianov, M.F. Shatrov (deputy chairman). 

It was decided to hold the “Memorial” foundation assembly in December 1988. However, due to various problems deliberately produced by the supreme party and state organs, the conference was to take place only in January 1989. On this occasion more than one-hundred regional branches were presented, the statutes of the organization was passed and a scientific research center (NIZ “Memorial”) called into being. Apart from this were discussed and passed the moral and ethical principles of the “Memorial” Organization. Thousands of people all over the country joined the organization in order to take part in its work. Lists of repressed people, complicated fates, concentration camps, prisons, prisoner transports, deportations, internal exile, torture, executions, burial places – all these subjects people had carefully tried to keep secret, subjects which even nowadays certain authorities and individuals are trying hard to hide before the public, now became subjects of an intense research done by the memorialists. We collected tens of thousands of documents, photos and witness reports. “Memorial” was the very first social organization, which addressed itself to the authorities, demanding the recession of the charge of treason against Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the restitution of his citizenship and the publication of his book “The GULAG Archipelago”. “Memorial” supported Sakharov`s proposal concerning the “Decree of Power”.

“Memorial” organized the first international seminar on oral tradition of history, a seminar of Polish and Soviet historians on the Katyn matter, the first All-Russian forum about the “Destalinization of consciousness”, as well as a Chain of Commemoration around the Lubianka building. “Memorial” undertakes expeditions through the taiga and tundra, leading their participants to the places of misfortune, wrong and death of many of our compatriots. And a lot of work we have just made a “rough copy” of, as well as a lot of entirely invisible work has yet to be done: thousands of letters have to be replied to, inquiries must be written to various authorities, in order to find out about people’s fates; we have to keep a card index, interview people, organize the transfer of the dead to another grave and manage exhibitions.  “Memorial” wants to restore the knowledge about men’s fates – regardless of their nationality, religious persuasion and political view. 

How is the attitude towards “Memorial” to be characterized? Well, it is being attacked from both the right and the left. The right wing declares that “Memorial” does not assume a loyal attitude towards the authorities, is easily carried away by any political ideas, exceeds the time bounds of Stalin’s terror, encroaches on basic principles of the party and the Soviet structure of the state and, after all, interfere in other people’s affairs Why rummage out occurrances from the past, when we have the perestroika and a good deal of serious problems of our own?

And the representatives of the left wing think that we forget ourselves in playing around with the authorities, that we are not radical enough, become absorbed in the past. Why then rummage out old stories from the past, instead of marching up in peace and harmony towards a clear democratic tomorrow. And under the hail of bullets fired off from both sides, the ship representing the most quiet, many-headed social movement of the country stands on course, convinced of the principles of humanity, goodness of heart, compassion and charity. A huge amount of work is ahead of us!

 A few words about the Krasnoyarsk “memorial” Organization yet.

 As already mentioned above, the first move in the creation of a “Memorial” initial group in Krasnoyarsk was made by Yuriy Shchekochikhin’s publication in the “Literary Newspaper” on the 20th January 1988. The article was about a sign.in carried out in Moscow regarding an appeal to the Presidium of the Upper Soviet of the USSR to create a memorial place for the victims of Stalinist terror. We collected more than two-thousand signatures in Krasnoyarsk and sent them to Moscow. In the summer of 1988, after a good many peolple had overcome their fear, distrust and even feelings of resistance, we started to gather witness reports and documents about measures of repression applied by party and state. The actual founders and organizers of the Krasnoyarsk branch were the Writers’ Union and later the Krasnoyarsk affiliate of the Soviet Culture Fund. It has to be added that our “Memorial”, as distinguished from other regional branches, did not receive the slightest financial support from the creative and technical intelligentsia. Just a few journalists and writers showed understanding for our intentions and work and were willing to help us. We feel very grateful to them. 

Two years passed by. Let us give a few examples of what has been achieved and done so far: 

Which problems are we confronted with? The Krasnoyarsk “Memorial” has not been officially registered yet. The documents required for this procedure got lost somewhere deep in the interior of the municipal executive committee. Maybe we even bear the blame for this situation ourselves – we were not persistent enough in trying to accelerate the progress of this matter. We are in urgent need of appropriate premises to house our archives and library, as well as rooms, where we can receive visitors and carry out our research work.

The summer is drawing to a close – the time of expeditions and holidays is over, and we continue our work gathering documents and writing down, what eye witnesses are prepared to tell us. We direct ourselves to all citizens of Krasnoyarsk, all social and official organizations of the town and the whole territory with the appeal to help us with this work.

“Memorial” helds consultation hours every Tuesday from 6 to 9 pm in the premises of the “Krasnoyarskiy Komsomolets” editorial office (Republic Street No. 51, Room No. 10-06, Tel. 22-20-84). Our work sessions take place every Thursday from 6 to 9 pm in the Regional Committee building, Central District. 

Our postal address is: 660049, Krasnoyarsk, Mira 3, “Memorial”.

We conclude by pointing out that “Memorial” supports all social and political movements, which stand up for the democratization of our society and the creation of a constitutional state.

 Chairman of the
Krasnoyarsk “Memorial”
V. Sirotinin