Moscow cancels memory of Soviet period
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The judiciary wants to close down "Memorial", an association that honors dissidents from the years of the USSR. Activist Lev Ponomarev, targeted by the authorities: the fascistization of Russian society is growing, and the problem is not only Putin.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - Voices of protest are spreading in Russia after the request of the judiciary to close the association "Memorial", which since the end of communism has been working to recover and honor the memory of dissent from the Soviet era. One of the founders, Lev Ponomarev, led on November 14 a small meeting in front of the historical headquarters of the KGB in Lubjanka Square.

On November 11, Ponomarev's appeal to the Ministry of Justice against the inclusion of his association "For Human Rights" - linked to Memorial - among the groups defined as "foreign agents" was also rejected. A few days earlier, the authorities had fined the 80-year-old defender of dissent 10 thousand rubles (about 150 euros): the accusation is that he had spread messages on social media about events and people, without the mandatory wording "deemed by Russian law as extremists". Two more similar fines, and Ponomarev would risk being indicted.

Ponomarev went through all the stages of the end of the Soviet regime and the rebirth of Russia. A physicist and mathematician, he was a deputy in the "Gorbachevian" Parliament from 1990 to 1993, then in the first post-Soviet Duma in 1994-1995, after founding the opposition party "Democratic Russia" in 1990. He also founded several associations for human rights and prisoners' rights, becoming one of the initiators of Memorial, which has been subjected to systematic persecution by state bodies and the judiciary since 2013.

The protest of Ponomarev and his followers also rests on the words of President Putin, who a few years ago promised to protect the work of the memory of the persecuted, because "no justification can be admitted for these crimes." In interviews these days, Ponomarev repeats that "Memorial is the national pride of Russia; it serves to overcome the division between people... practically in every family there are victims of the repressions of the Soviet period, it is a still open wound that is starting to bleed again."

The defender of the persecuted laments the current attempt to "rewrite history." He contests the festivities that have just been officially organized in honor of the centenary of the KGB's foundation by its heir (the FSSB): all with Putin's blessing. It is precisely his remonstrances against the secret services that have earned Ponomarev the title of one of the most persecuted by the current regime, also for his continuous campaigns in defense of ethnic and religious minorities, such as Jehovah's Witnesses.

Ponomarev's associations are also a point of reference for many other local and regional human rights groups, which has caused the irritation of governors and many administrative and legislative structures throughout the country. Many of these realities have been blocked by administrative methods, not because of violations of the law, but because of the impossibility of having their statutes approved by the competent offices.

The status of "foreign agent" prevents Ponomarev from even using Facebook, which is why he tries to publish articles in all newspapers and magazines where he finds a minimum of hospitality. On social media his articles are constantly blocked, but his admirers and followers try to repost them in every way. He himself sarcastically thanks for "having received for all these posts an all in all bearable fine".

To those who ask him if he foresees further worsening of the climate of repression in Russia, Ponomarev replies: "Let's hope not, we certainly seem to be witnessing a progressive fascistization of our society, and not only because of Putin and his associates, but also from below. Putin will leave sooner or later, but how will we get rid of all this fascism? People today are very scared, they are not ready to fight for their rights."