As Russia continues to lay siege to the offices, archives, and staff of human rights organisation Memorial, we share this documentary that explores the origins of one of the last bastions of resistance to oppression in the country. Made by TV Rain, prior to its closure following the onset of the war, this documentary features interviews with key figures that stood at the foundation of Memorial, and others who have championed its work since. The struggle to establish a robust civil society under the pressure of increasing authoritarianism has been a common thread throughout Russia’s history and is no less relenting now. Whilst the collapse of the soviet union presented an optic that freedoms would follow, the film argues that that chance was missed almost immediately.
Founded during the throes of the dissolution of the soviet union, Memorial — a Russian organisation which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year — works on two important vectors. The first is to archive and retain records of the Soviet past, particularly the time during the “Great Terror.” Records have helped Russian citizens answer questions such as what happened to their relatives, friends, others when they had disappeared. Museums Memorial have built help visitors understand their history through a more objective lens. The second is to record human rights abuses across all former soviet states, and support victims in their quest for justice. Ultimately, the documentary asks “what will happen if the archives and Memorial disappear today?”