First it was a letter from Yuri Samodurov to the Central Committee of the CPSU requesting the erection of a monument to the rehabilitated victims of Stalin's repression
Russia is preparing to liquidate the oldest human rights organizations. The memorial, created at the dawn of perestroika and glasnost by informal activists, was recognized in the Russian Federation as a non-governmental organization-foreign agent. On November 11, the Prosecutor General's Office filed a lawsuit to liquidate the international organization “Memorial”, while the Moscow Prosecutor's Office demanded the closure of the human rights center of the same name. Vyacheslav Igrunov, one of the founders of Memorial, shared his memories of the organization's history.
– First came a letter from Yuri Samodurov to the Central Committee of the CPSU requesting the erection of a monument to the rehabilitated victims of Stalin's repression. He tried to create a group around this idea, which was originally called “Memorial”. Yura claims that the idea itself came to him at the end of 1986, but the public did not learn about it until May 1987, when he read his Statement at the Club of Social Initiatives (KSI – the first perestroika political club in the USSR). He was supported by Pavel Kudyukin (in the 1970s – a member of the underground circle of “young socialists”, the leader of the social democratic and trade union movement – MP).
– Of course.
– At the end of May 1987, I was approached by boys from the Social Initiatives Club, who originally signed the text of Jury Samodurov's letter. I said I wouldn't attend because it was the day before yesterday. I believed that it was necessary not to build monuments to rehabilitated victims of repression, but to look for approaches to civil peace. I then believed that we had a smoldering Cold Civil War, the whites continued to fight the Reds. If the Soviet government is bad because it suppressed the citizens, then why should those who tried to resist it be considered criminals? Then it is necessary to rehabilitate the “whites”.
We are all heirs of whites and reds and we need reconciliation and rejection of a culture of political terror, violence, we must look for ways to civic harmony. I've talked to different people about it. But I did not meet with a response. Most really wanted to build a monument to the rehabilitated victims of repression, ie those who did not oppose the Soviet regime, who fell under this rink by mistake. Including those communists who themselves carried out terror in the 1920s. And those who destroyed do not need to build a monument, as it turned out.
I have had long disputes with many people, including Jury Samodurov. As a result, I decided to design my own version of the project, which was to become more than just a monument to the rehabilitated victims.
In the first half of June 1987, I wrote my Memorial Statement. But I realized that most people weren't ready for that. Then I wrote the second version as if “for Juru Samodurov”: if he really wants to build his own monument, it should be more conceptual. Thus appeared the second Declaration, which was to replace Samodurov's version.
One of the ones I introduced in my version of the Declaration was Grigory Pelman. At that time he was the chairman of the Club of Social Initiatives, where Samodurov read his text about the monument. Grisha Pelman introduced me to Lena Zelinskaya, who was involved in this project. It had a complicated history, I had to leave Moscow for a while. Not only because I was persecuted (I was still “under surveillance”), but also because I had to exist for something – I resigned in Odessa, but I did not find a job in Moscow.
– At this time, we were preparing the first informal congress, called “Meeting – Dialogue” Public Initiatives in Perestroika “, at which Jura Samodurov was to present our agreed text of the declaration.
During a congress held at the Novator Palace of Culture from 26 to 29 August 1987, Elena Zelinskaya Samodurov persuaded us to read our text because it was too radical. And Yura read his own version of the text about the monument, which he had already edited together with Zelinska.
When I returned to Moscow at the end of September, they began to invite me to a meeting of the initiative group “Monument”, which was formed at this congress. Already there, I started to promote my “Memorial” concept. And it quickly became popular. Step by step, in the autumn of 1987, the “Monument” group was transformed into the “Memorial” group with broader tasks than those set by Samodurov. Since then, a continuous war between radicals and the moderates has begun within the initiative group.
– No, it has nothing to do with creating a Memorial. When the group was formed, the idea arose to create a public council that would include famous, outstanding people who would be the moral authorities of the movement. Nina Braginskaya suggested solving this problem in this way: take to the streets and collect signatures so that the citizens of the country can elect those they deem necessary to elect to this public council.
Lists were drawn up, signatures were collected and the most suitable people from the citizens' point of view were selected. Among them were Academician Sakharov, Yuri Afanasyev, poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, writers Ales Adamovich, Anatoly Rybakov, etc. The people who were heard at the time were mostly from the 1960s. The most famous and authoritative of these was, of course, Sakharov. And participated in the work of “Memorial” a.s. I am very grateful to him, because without his support it would be much more difficult for me to continue my line. But he is definitely not the founder of the organization. He was like an informal leader of a municipal council.
– When he joined the initiative group, it had been in operation for a long time. I don't remember exactly when it happened. Memorial's ideas were rather amorphous. There were ideas that a memorial complex needed to be made, a research center, but no one really understood how to organize it. And Lev Ponomarev said, “Let's create a mass movement.” This was his idea. He spoke to me and I said that I fully supported the idea. From then on, we started to create movement. Ponomarev and Samodurov played a relatively important role in the initial phase: they wrote off with a large number of people, and thanks to their efforts, a mass movement began to emerge.
– The Perestroika Club was then divided into two clubs: Democratic Perestroika and Perestroika-88. Igor Čubajs played a role in the Perestroika club, after the division of the club he moved to Perestroika-88, which included many members of the Memorial initiative group, such as Yuri Skubko. He also played an important role. When I first came to the meeting of the initiative group “Památník”, it took place in Skubek's apartment. As I said, then the fight between the radicals and the moderates began. Ponomarev and Samodurov were among the moderates. And the radicals included Skubko, Dmitry Leonov, Viktor Kuzin, Nina Braginskaya.
– It was important for Yuru to build a monument. And it was important for me to create an intellectual and spiritual center that was to become a kind of moral beacon in society. These were slightly different goals. But both were realized within the Memorial movement and there was no contradiction between them.
– Yes. But I wrote in that first declaration that the monument could simply remain a place for excursions, and a tree of violence would continue to branch behind it. Therefore, the monument should not be restricted. It is necessary to create a center in which to work on the evaluation of our history and society. The current international “Memorial” in a sense meets these goals. Although not quite.
“I opposed this.” I was at odds with almost the entire village council. The position of the moderates and their imprisonment in Stalin's repression was supported by the playwright Mikhail Satrov, the writer Anatoly Rybakov, and the journalist Yuri Shchekochichin. And I convinced Sakharov, Yevtushenko, Adamovich, Afanasyev that the task should be much broader.
In the spring of 1988, Arsena Roginsky, Larisa Bogoraz and Sergey Kovalev joined the movement. They came to our makeshift headquarters in one of the lanes near the Kropotkinskaya metro station, met the participants of the movement and decided to support it. Arseny Roginsky, who was also a supporter of moderation, was actively involved in the work. On one side were Roginsky, Samodurov, Ponomarev, on the other – me, Leonov, Braginskaya, Skubko.
Jura Samodurov was very concerned that the movement was on good terms with the CPSU Central Committee, telling me: “Who will allocate space for the monument? Who will allow you to open an account? Only CPSU Central Committee. That is why there should be no radicalism. “And I thought we should not rely only on the Central Committee of the CPSU, and the monument is actually a secondary matter.
– When we started preparing for the inaugural Memorial Congress, we had a very difficult conflict. At that time, I was the coordinator of M-Bio (Moscow Information Exchange Office – MP), I had a platform and we were preparing for this congress. But the CPSU Central Committee banned it. And he did it very cleverly. An organizing committee was formed, which included representatives of creative unions – artists, architects, filmmakers, Ogonyok magazine, Literární časopis. These organizations became the official founders of Memorial and were ready to provide funding. Whoever has the money calls the melody.
And Vyacheslav Glazychev, Secretary of the Board of the Union of Architects of the USSR, was elected chairman of the organizing committee. I had a collision with him and at one time he even accused me of having a heart attack because of me.
When we started preparing for the congress, the Central Committee of the CPSU appealed to all these unions and said that there was no need to lead it. And I said I wouldn't stop sending invitations to find where to hold the congress. Sakharov was invited to a meeting of the organizing committee to find justice for me, but Sakharov unexpectedly supported me. By the way, the meeting took place on my birthday, which I forgot at the time.
We have agreed on a compromise: we have declared this congress not constitutional but preparatory. The war has since begun. Samodurov, relying on the official founders, tried his best to remove me and the other “radicals” so that we would not affect anything. However, it was difficult because the majority in the initiative group already supported my position.
I was assigned as the coordinator of the All-Union Memorial Congress. Then various forms of coercion were put on me. And the CPSU Central Committee gathered the founders to put pressure on them. I remember being a deputy. head The ideology sector of the Central Committee of the CPSU organized a meeting with us and called on us to leave this company. In this confrontation, my position was supported by the historian Yuri Afanasyev. Then he said, “We can't have a meeting without Sakharov.” Then Sakharov was also brought to the CPSU Central Committee.
Sakharov said: “We will hold an EU-wide constituent assembly and, if you do not allow us, we will hold it in apartments. “At that moment, the CPSU Central Committee broke down and allowed us to go down. The congress was ready, the premises of the MAI Palace of Culture were allocated, the CPSU Central Committee agreed. And at the end of January 1989, a constituent congress was held. But during this congress, Samodurov left the Memorial.
– The initiative group has adopted my version of the Charter, not his. Jura Samodurov slammed the door in protest and left the movement.
The first figures in the moderate wing were Arseniy Roginsky and Lev Ponomarev. The “moderation” exerted such strong pressure that the radicals – Dmitry Leonov, Oleg Orlov, etc., refused to run for the lead. I am one of the radicals who ran for the Labor Council. It was quite difficult to work there. The intrigues led to my opportunities constantly diminishing.
For example, I was the editor of the Vedomosti Memorial and I was going to do this work after the congress. But while I went to Ukraine to establish a Ukrainian “Memorial” and an Odessa “Memorial” there, Roginsky went through the working board's decision on the election of the newspaper's editorial board. A new editorial board was chosen, I remained as one of the editors, but it was already clear that I would not be able to work. I left and the Monument of Knowledge no longer came out. Either way, I have significantly reduced my participation in Memorial activities. After being elected to the State Duma, I resigned from the organization's leadership.
– This is also one of the results of the fight between the radicals and the moderates. To increase the influence of the moderates, Memorial took a huge number of victims of Stalin's repression, the radicals did not have a platform for their work.
My declaration formulated Memorial's human rights mission: resistance to violence today, tomorrow and always. Radicals, especially Dmitry Leonov and Galina Mikhaleva (Vochmenteva), came to me and asked me to take them under my wing and help create some structure. The idea to form a human rights group belonged to Dmitry Leonov. And so the Memorial Human Rights Group began to meet at My 1st Dubrovnik. Unfortunately, I couldn't pay much attention to her. The human rights group therefore began to work on its own, and Leonov and Orlov began to play a key role there. I gradually moved away from this activity, even though I am still a member of the Human Rights Center.
Sergei Kovalev was invited there, who became a symbol of the human rights center. Since then, its relatively strong ideologisation has begun. Suffice it to say that the White House shooting investigation I initiated was frozen for 10 years.
– It was a radical democratic ideology. In 1990, some conservationists insisted that the organization join the Democratic Russia movement. And I was a categorical opponent of the ideologisation of the human rights organization and I spoke out against Afanasyev, who involved us in this case. And my position won. The vote took place.
I was against Memorial's participation in any political movement. Yan Rachinsky insisted that Memorial become a member of Democratic Russia. Alexander Daniel and Arseny Roginsky suggested a transitional option: we will not become members of DemRussia, but we will support it morally. 22 people voted for my version, 20 accepted the middle version of Roginsky and Daniel and 2 people voted for Rachinsky's version. This meeting led to my disagreement with Afanasyev.
– No, no foreign funding was expected at all. We collected Russian donations. But after the Memorial was created, a support group emerged in the United States. Alexander Babenyshev, Pavel Litvinov, and our other emigrants formed an assistance committee that received grants to support Memorial.
– There was really fantastic data on the tens of millions of citizens shot by Stalin. It is the same mythology as the fact that Sakharov is the founder of the Memorial.
In fact, the exact numbers were not known. The best research on victims of repression belongs to the same historian Alexander Babenyshev, who was one of the founders of the Memorial support group in the United States. He showed much more moderate numbers, close to reality. Another thing is that no one wanted to know the real numbers. The democratically excited intelligence wanted to see millions shot, tens of millions trapped in camps and expelled. Roginsky was therefore not ready to say the real numbers available to him. But that's one side of the coin. Next: are the 600,000 people executed in 1937 alone?
– We have different opinions. In addition, many of them, including the leaders of the Memorial Human Rights Center, which I initiated and created, do not greet me.
– Negative. For one simple reason: the authorities must rest within some limits, have their “corridor of opportunities.” When the government loses all restrictions and does not face the resistance of society, it becomes irresponsible. Then the most unpleasant things start to happen.
Evil always happens reluctantly at first. But then it becomes a habit and spreads more and more. This is fully related to the unauthorized use of violence.
A “monument” should exist, even if it is annoying to me in some way. Because there should be “landmarks”, boundaries that the authorities should pay attention to. If you remove these “landmarks”, the authorities have unlimited freedom to make mistakes. And all people will pay for them.
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