Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Last Address: a civic initiative to commemorate victims of Soviet repressions 

Jun 10 2018

On Monday, June 4, the Kennan’s Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, organized a panel to introduce “The Last Address” project – a civic initiative to commemorate the victims of repressions in the Soviet Union which originated in Russia and is gradually spreading to other countries. The panelists talked about the origins, success, and challenges of the initiative.

On Monday, June 4, the Kennan’s Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, organized a panel to introduce “The Last Address” project – a civic initiative to commemorate the victims of repressions in the Soviet Union which originated in Russia and is gradually spreading to other countries. The panelists talked about the origins, success, and challenges of the initiative.

The panel included:

Sergey Parkhomenko, Journalist, “Echo of Moscow” Radio; a George F. Kennan Fellow at Kennan Institute and a founder of the “Last Address” initiative;
Dmytro Belobrov, Head of “The Last Address” in Ukraine and a journalist at the independent Ukrainian channel Hromadske.ua;
Grigory Frolov, Vice President of Projects and Development, Free Russia Foundation, Ukraine.

Moderated by Izabella Tabarovsky, the Senior Program Associate at Kennan Institute.

“One name – one life – one plaque”

Sergey Parkhomenko, a founder of “The Last Address” initiative, which started in 2014, said he was inspired by a memorial project of German artist Günter Demnig “Stumbling Stones”. “Stumbling Stones” – Stolperstein  – started in 1993 and is still ongoing, and has been widely spread across Europe and commemorates the victims of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust from 1933-45 by installing commemorative brass pavement stones at their last place of residence or work.

“In Russia, we had another catastrophe,” said Parkomenko. “We had an if I can say, “Russian Holocaust.” It was four decades of Soviet political repressions” with all the republics and nations in the Soviet Union not being able to escape this “machine of extermination,” said Parkhomenko.

“The Last Address” project installs commemorative plaques the size of postcards to individual victims of Soviet repression at their last places of living: with their name, profession, date of birth, arrest, death, and rehabilitation.  The idea behind the project is a “personalized” memorial – “one name – one life-one plaque” – where installation of plaques is proposed by a particular person who can be a relative of the repressed or just interested in the installation of the plaque.

The project is based on the vast historical database compiled by the Russian human rights group “Memorial,” which has the data of more than four million repressed across the former Soviet Union. To date, Parkhomenko said, more than 2,500 applications across Russia have been submitted through the project’s website and almost 800 plaques have been installed in more than 40 Russian cities. The project is also expanding into other countries – sister projects already exist in Ukraine and the Czech Republic and will soon start in Estonia, Georgia, Moldova and Romania.

“Value-based” and grassroots initiative

Dmytro Belobrov who coordinates “The Last Address” sister project in Ukraine said that for him, the project is involved in the restoration of principles that Ukrainian society might have forgotten. “This project is a part of a puzzle that would help us to restore our principles and to restore our modern understanding of us, the understanding that there is truth and we should fight for it,” said Belobrov.

Grigory Frolov, who heads Free Russia House in Kiev and supports the Ukrainian project said that an important part of it is its educational role in discussions on such difficult issues as a shared Soviet history, communication, repressions and the need to commemorate the victims of communism. The latter may not seem a priority in the country which has to commemorate those perished in an ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, said Frolov, however for society to move forward, there is a need to understand the past which still affects many societies in post-Soviet countries.

Also, the de-communization process should not be a “political” but a “value-based thing which should go through the society,” said Frolov, adding that the project represents a grassroots “value-based” initiative based on the lives and stories of particular people. With this approach, it is easier to discuss de-communization with people who oppose it – particularly those in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

“We have so far put 18 plaques, mostly in Kiev and Odessa,” said Frolov, with Lviv, Dnipro, and Kharkiv to follow soon.

No big challenges

The public has been generally supportive of the initiative, said the panelists. “We had very few cases of vandalism,” said Parkhomenko, “from around 800 plaques we had 5-6 cases of situations of conflict”. One of the reasons for this lack of conflict is that the permission for installing the plaque is needed only from the residents of the buildings, and there is always an open discussion with them prior to the installation, said Parkhomenko.

Belobrov said there was one case of vandalism in Odessa. He noted it is more difficult to talk to people about the initiative in Odessa where some “communism clichés” arise. Yet according to the panelists, the personalized approach along with the grassroots level of the project helps to overcome these difficulties.

For many people, said Frolov, this project is a personal thing and “it goes from family to family,” being built on personal stories.

“It is very difficult to be against or criticize the project,” said Parkhomenko adding that in Russia, where the project hasn’t faced either support nor resistance from the authorities, even the state-media had a quite positive coverage of the project.

In Ukraine, said Frolov, there hasn’t been any negative stance from the authorities either. After the KGB archives were made public in Ukraine in 2015, it is very easy for the project’s volunteers to access archives with the data of the repressed.

However, in some parts of Russia such as Chechnya or Dagestan there may be some challenges, said Parknomenko, since the case applications based on political repressions should be separated from the inter-ethnic repressions, as the project doesn’t deal with the latter.

The panelists noted that “the Last Address” project is not just an “anti-Stalinist” but an “anti-totalitarian” due to repressions dating back since 1917. There has also been a plaque installed in Ukraine for Valeriy Marchenko, a Ukranian dissident who died in 1984.

“All totalitarian regimes with totalitarian repressions are the same,” said Parkhomenko which is the idea behind the project and its international sister initiatives.

“The Last Address project” – Russian initiative: https://www.poslednyadres.ru/

“The Last Address” – Ukrainian initiative: https://www.ostannyaadresa.org/

By Valeria Jegisman

On Monday, June 4, the Kennan’s Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, organized a panel to introduce “The Last Address” project – a civic initiative to commemorate the victims of repressions in the Soviet Union which originated in Russia and is gradually spreading to other countries. The panelists talked about the origins, success, and challenges of the initiative.

The panel included:

Sergey Parkhomenko, Journalist, “Echo of Moscow” Radio; a George F. Kennan Fellow at Kennan Institute and a founder of the “Last Address” initiative;
Dmytro Belobrov, Head of “The Last Address” in Ukraine and a journalist at the independent Ukrainian channel Hromadske.ua;
Grigory Frolov, Vice President of Projects and Development, Free Russia Foundation, Ukraine.

Moderated by Izabella Tabarovsky, the Senior Program Associate at Kennan Institute.

“One name – one life – one plaque”

Sergey Parkhomenko, a founder of “The Last Address” initiative, which started in 2014, said he was inspired by a memorial project of German artist Günter Demnig “Stumbling Stones”. “Stumbling Stones” – Stolperstein  – started in 1993 and is still ongoing, and has been widely spread across Europe and commemorates the victims of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust from 1933-45 by installing commemorative brass pavement stones at their last place of residence or work.

“In Russia, we had another catastrophe,” said Parkomenko. “We had an if I can say, “Russian Holocaust.” It was four decades of Soviet political repressions” with all the republics and nations in the Soviet Union not being able to escape this “machine of extermination,” said Parkhomenko.

“The Last Address” project installs commemorative plaques the size of postcards to individual victims of Soviet repression at their last places of living: with their name, profession, date of birth, arrest, death, and rehabilitation.  The idea behind the project is a “personalized” memorial – “one name – one life-one plaque” – where installation of plaques is proposed by a particular person who can be a relative of the repressed or just interested in the installation of the plaque.

The project is based on the vast historical database compiled by the Russian human rights group “Memorial,” which has the data of more than four million repressed across the former Soviet Union. To date, Parkhomenko said, more than 2,500 applications across Russia have been submitted through the project’s website and almost 800 plaques have been installed in more than 40 Russian cities. The project is also expanding into other countries – sister projects already exist in Ukraine and the Czech Republic and will soon start in Estonia, Georgia, Moldova and Romania.

“Value-based” and grassroots initiative

Dmytro Belobrov who coordinates “The Last Address” sister project in Ukraine said that for him, the project is involved in the restoration of principles that Ukrainian society might have forgotten. “This project is a part of a puzzle that would help us to restore our principles and to restore our modern understanding of us, the understanding that there is truth and we should fight for it,” said Belobrov.

Grigory Frolov, who heads Free Russia House in Kiev and supports the Ukrainian project said that an important part of it is its educational role in discussions on such difficult issues as a shared Soviet history, communication, repressions and the need to commemorate the victims of communism. The latter may not seem a priority in the country which has to commemorate those perished in an ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, said Frolov, however for society to move forward, there is a need to understand the past which still affects many societies in post-Soviet countries.

Also, the de-communization process should not be a “political” but a “value-based thing which should go through the society,” said Frolov, adding that the project represents a grassroots “value-based” initiative based on the lives and stories of particular people. With this approach, it is easier to discuss de-communization with people who oppose it – particularly those in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

“We have so far put 18 plaques, mostly in Kiev and Odessa,” said Frolov, with Lviv, Dnipro, and Kharkiv to follow soon.

No big challenges

The public has been generally supportive of the initiative, said the panelists. “We had very few cases of vandalism,” said Parkhomenko, “from around 800 plaques we had 5-6 cases of situations of conflict”. One of the reasons for this lack of conflict is that the permission for installing the plaque is needed only from the residents of the buildings, and there is always an open discussion with them prior to the installation, said Parkhomenko.

Belobrov said there was one case of vandalism in Odessa. He noted it is more difficult to talk to people about the initiative in Odessa where some “communism clichés” arise. Yet according to the panelists, the personalized approach along with the grassroots level of the project helps to overcome these difficulties.

For many people, said Frolov, this project is a personal thing and “it goes from family to family,” being built on personal stories.

“It is very difficult to be against or criticize the project,” said Parkhomenko adding that in Russia, where the project hasn’t faced either support nor resistance from the authorities, even the state-media had a quite positive coverage of the project.

In Ukraine, said Frolov, there hasn’t been any negative stance from the authorities either. After the KGB archives were made public in Ukraine in 2015, it is very easy for the project’s volunteers to access archives with the data of the repressed.

However, in some parts of Russia such as Chechnya or Dagestan there may be some challenges, said Parknomenko, since the case applications based on political repressions should be separated from the inter-ethnic repressions, as the project doesn’t deal with the latter.

The panelists noted that “the Last Address” project is not just an “anti-Stalinist” but an “anti-totalitarian” due to repressions dating back since 1917. There has also been a plaque installed in Ukraine for Valeriy Marchenko, a Ukranian dissident who died in 1984.

“All totalitarian regimes with totalitarian repressions are the same,” said Parkhomenko which is the idea behind the project and its international sister initiatives.

“The Last Address project” – Russian initiative: https://www.poslednyadres.ru/

“The Last Address” – Ukrainian initiative: https://www.ostannyaadresa.org/

By Valeria Jegisman

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Signing of the Treaty on the “Incorporation of New Territories into Russia,” De Facto the Annexation of the Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Sep 30 2022

On Friday, September 30, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic,” as well as the occupation administrations of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, signed treaties in the Kremlin on “joining Russia.”

Free Russia Foundation strongly condemns the decision of Vladimir Putin and his administration to continue the illegal annexation of the occupied territories in Ukraine. The forcible change of international borders at the expense of another sovereign state and the so-called “referenda” that preceded it are a serious violation of the foundations of international law and cannot be recognized under any circumstances.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation: “Today Vladimir Putin has de facto announced the illegal annexation of the occupied territory of a sovereign state. The signing of this treaty is a blatant violation of the fundamental norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, of which Russia is a member. Such actions by the Russian President, together with previously announced military mobilization and nuclear blackmail, only lead to an escalation of the conflict and new human sacrifices. In the modern world, borders cannot be redrawn at gunpoint. Russia’s actions are illegal and unacceptable to the civilized world.”

Free Russia Foundation, which provides support to Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, calls on all countries and international organizations to join us in resolute and public condemnation of Russian military aggression and its illegal actions to tear away the territory of sovereign Ukraine. We urge you to call on the Kremlin to cease its hostilities and leave the territories it has seized.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Kremlin’s Decision to Annex the Occupied Territories of Ukraine and Preparations for Mobilization in Russia

Sep 20 2022

On September 20, 2022, the occupation authorities of the self-proclaimed republics “LNR” and “DNR” and other occupied territories of Ukraine, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, hastily announced that they would hold “referendums on joining Russia” in the near future. The authorities of the “LNR” and “DNR” added that the vote will take place as early as this week, from September 23 to 27, 2022.

On the same day, the Russian State Duma introduced the concepts of “mobilization,” “martial law” and “wartime” into the Russian Criminal Code. The deputies voted for the law in the third reading unanimously — all 389 of them. Now voluntary surrender, looting and unauthorized abandonment of a unit during combat operations will result in imprisonment.

From the first day of the war unleashed by Putin’s regime and its allies against independent Ukraine, Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights activists forced to leave the country because of direct security threats, has condemned the crimes of Putin’s regime against independent Ukraine. We respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and consider human life and freedom to be of the highest value.

The forthcoming “referendums”, mobilization, and martial law are a collapse of the whole system of “Putin’s stability,” the illusion of which the Kremlin has been trying to maintain since the beginning of the full-scale war with Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is preparing to blatantly violate international law once again and launch an attack on democracy and freedom in Ukraine and Europe. Any statements by the Kremlin that residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine want to become part of Russia are false.

Three decades ago, the Ukrainian people proclaimed the independence of their state. Since 2014, the world has seen that Vladimir Putin has undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and any attempts at anti-war protest in Russia through military force, repressive legislation, false statements, and massive state propaganda. Despite all the suffering inflicted on Ukraine, Putin has failed to achieve this goal: Ukrainians continue to show fortitude and determination to defend their country at any cost, and Russian anti-war resistance continues despite repression.

We consider any attempts to tear away Ukrainian territory through so-called “referendums” categorically unacceptable and call on state institutions and international human rights organizations to join the demand for an immediate end to the war and the liberation of the occupied territories. Any war brings suffering to humanity and endangers peace. We will not allow a totalitarian dictatorship to prevail and we will continue to fight for Ukraine’s independence and Russia’s democratic future.

Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Vladimir Milov as Vice President for International Advocacy

Sep 01 2022

September 1, 2022. Washington, DC. Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Russian politician, publicist, economist, and energy expert Vladimir Milov as FRF Vice President for International Advocacy.

In her announcement of Vladimir’s new role, Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome this distinguished Russian civil society leader to our team. I am certain that Vladimir will become our force multiplier and make a profound contribution to FRF’s mission, including strengthening civil society in Russia, standing up for democracy defenders who oppose war, both inside and outside the country, building coalitions and mobilizing supporters. Vladimir Milov’s professional skills and extensive experience in human rights advocacy will help us come up with effective and innovative approaches to combat the authoritarian regime and repression that the current Russian government has unleashed against citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.”

Vladimir Milov was born on June 18, 1972. From 1997—2002 he worked in government agencies, more than 4 years of which were in senior positions, from assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Commission to the Deputy Minister of Energy of Russia.

Vladimir Milov has bravely and publicly called out the authorities for monopolizing the economy, and encroaching into public and political life of Russian citizens. Milov’s profile as an opposition leader rose thanks to his joint project with Boris Nemtsov. The report titled “Putin. Results,” condemned the activities of the Russian government during Putin’s presidency. In 2010, Mr. Milov headed the Democratic Choice movement, which later served as the basis for the creation of a political party with the same name.

In 2016, Mr. Milov became an associate of the unregistered presidential candidate Alexei Navalny. On May 11, 2017, he began hosting a weekly segment on the economy, “Where’s the Money?” on the NavalnyLIVE broadcast on YouTube.

In April of 2021, he left Russia for Lithuania amidst persecution of Alexei Navalny’s organizations. In February of 2022, he categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 6, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice added Vladimir Milov to the list of media outlets considered as “foreign agents.” Vladimir Milov is a regular guest expert for the world’s leading media outlets — CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal.

Kara-Murza faces a new charge as the Kremlin cracks down on its opponents

Aug 04 2022

Russian pro-democracy politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who’s been in jail since April for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military, now also stands accused of “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization,” which names Free Russia Foundation in the newly filed charge.

Free Russia Foundation, unconstitutionally designated as an “undesirable” organization by the Russian government in June 2019, did not organize an event on political prisoners in Moscow in 2021. FRF does not have any presence or programs inside Russia. Additionally, FRF has never conducted any work in the State of Arizona.

FRF strongly condemns the new charges brought against Vladimir Kara-Murza by Russian authorities and demands the dropping of all charges against him and calls for his immediate release.

“All actions of the Kremlin directed against Russian opposition politicians and activists have nothing in common with establishing the truth. They are instead aimed solely at getting rid of opponents of Putin’s regime,” FRF President Arno stated.

Free Russian Foundation and Boris Nemtsov Foundation launch “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign

Jul 25 2022

Russia is not Putin. We are Russia.

We aim at sharing this message with our friends around the world — therefore, in cooperation with Boris Nemtsov Foundation we are launching “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign.

We are going to be telling the stories of active pro-democracy anti-war Russians who have not lost their hope. US nationals also participate in this campaign: Francis Fukuyama, investigative journalist Casey Michel, and alumni of Boris Nemtsov Foundation media school.

Thank you for your donation:

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom honors the political legacy of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian liberal opposition politician assassinated in Moscow in 2015. It promotes freedom of speech and education along with the vision that Russia is a part of Europe.