8 Apr 2022 14:00 - 16:00 Room SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT


‘Enemies of the people’ once again: why do Russian authorities want to shut down Memorial?

Memorial is the oldest human rights organisation in Russia, one that has become a symbol of civil society. On 11 November 2021, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court for the liquidation of the International Memorial. In addition, Moscow’s Prosecutor’s Office appealed to the Moscow City Court with a request to liquidate the ‘Memorial’ Human Rights Centre. The reason is the repeated violation of the ‘foreign agents’ law. The Human Rights Centre is additionally accused of justifying extremist and terrorist activity.

The documentary we are screening was produced by TV Rain, one of Russia’s few remaining independent media. TV Rain interviewed those who had stood at the foundation of Memorial a couple of years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It tells the story of a small group of dissidents who were able to gather and preserve the forbidden memories of the Gulag and speculates about what could happen to the database of the victims of Soviet persecution if the organisation is shut down.

The screening features an opening speech from Nobel laureate Dmitry Muratov, as well as a short discussion with human rights defenders afterward.

Anna Dobrovolskaya is an executive director of Memorial Human Rights Centre and a human rights activist. She worked as a chief executive officer at Human Rights House Voronezh between 2009 and an Editor at the German-Russian Exchange from 2017 to 2021. Anna represents a young generation of human rights defenders both in her vision and actions. In her work she focuses on knowledge-sharing, valuing diversity and creating impact opportunities beyond finger-pointing.

Arkady Ostrovsky is Russia and Eastern Europe editor for The Economist. Prior to this role, he was the Moscow Bureau Chief for The Economist reporting on the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine among many other subjects. He is the author of the 2016 Orwell Prize-winning book The Invention of Russia: The Journey from Gorbachev’s Freedom to Putin’s War published in 2015 by Atlantic Book in the UK and in 2016 by Viking in the US. He is a regular contributor to radio and television programmes around the world, including the BBC and NPR.

Rebecca Reich is Associate Professor of Russian Literature and Culture at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests are in twentieth-century Russian literature and culture, and the history of journalism, legal culture, medicine and dissent. She is the author of State of Madness: Psychiatry, Literature, and Dissent After Stalin, published by Northern Illinois University Press in 2018, and is the Consultant Editor for Russia and East-Central Europe at the Times Literary Supplement.


This event is run in partnership with the Cambridge Festival and The Cambridge Film Festival.

For queries please email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk.

This event is part of the Cambridge Festival 2022.

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