Statement from Public History Laboratory in Support of Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and International Memorial

Russian government entities have been putting unprecedented pressure on institutions that play a crucial role in the country’s public life. Two of them are especially important in the context of the Public History Laboratory’s activities: the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (Shaninka) and International Memorial. These are independent institutions that analyse and reflect on the past as well as help create an active, inclusive dialogue about it in Russia. 

The leadership of Shaninka has been subjected to a biased trial with unconvincing accusations of embezzling public funds. These events look like a deliberate attack on Shaninka as an independent educational institution. Furthermore, abominable brutality has been exercised in relation to the School’s staff. For instance, its Rector, Sergey Zuev, has been held in jail, with the authorities ignoring his perilous health condition, the widespread support for his integrity, and appeals for his release.

In November 2021, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation filed a lawsuit to liquidate International Memorial. The non-profit is accused of violating the – undemocratic and illegitimate – law on foreign agents (having previously acquired the status of a ‘foreign agent’ under this restrictive legislation).

These actions can lead to the destruction of the two institutions and will entail the further degradation of freedom of thought in Russia. This would contribute to the undermining of the country’s education system, threatening the free production of scientific knowledge, and eroding the conditions for engaging public dialogue about the past.

We, members of the Public History Laboratory (Moscow, Russia), regard these actions against the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and International Memorial as unwarranted political pressure on Russia’s educational institutions and non-profit organisations that actively participate in reflecting on the past and preserving the memory of it. Moreover, this pressure is characterised by demonstrative cruelty and by the arbitrary use of legislation to eliminate people and organisations that publicly defend a position independent of the authorities. We find this outrageous and disgraceful.

We understand that in recent years within Russia, the possibilities of both real and symbolic support for people and organisations falling under the blow of the authorities’ arbitrary power have been limited. People who speak out for others are often themselves threatened, pressured, or repressed. (For example, Alexey Belenkin, who participated in a solo picket in support of Memorial, was recently sentenced to 25 days in prison.) 

Thus, in this situation, it seems especially important to express our full support for Shaninka and International Memorial and to declare our complete solidarity with these institutions and their staff. We also ask our colleagues both from Russia and from abroad to speak up on their behalf and disseminate information about what is happening at every opportunity.

Egor Isaev, Artem Kravchenko, Varvara Sklez, Katerina Suverina, Andrei Zavadski
Co-Founders and Members of Public History Laboratory

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