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

Lukashenka’s Ryanair Hijacking Proves Human Rights is a Global Security Issue

May 24 2021

The forced diversion and landing in Minsk of a May 23, 2021 Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania, and the subsequent arrest of dissident Roman Protasevich who was aboard the flight, by the illegitimate Lukashenka regime pose an overt political and military challenge to Europe, NATO and the broad global community.  NATO members must respond forcefully by demanding (1) the immediate release of Protasevich and other political prisoners in Belarus, and (2) a prompt transition to a government that represents the will of the people of Belarus. 

The West’s passivity in the face of massive, continuous and growing oppression of the Belarusian people since summer 2020 has emboldened Lukashenka to commit what some European leaders have appropriately termed an act of “state terrorism.”

The West has shown a manifest disposition to appease Putin’s regime —Lukashenka’s sole security guarantor. It has made inappropriate overtures for a Putin-Biden summit and waived  Nord Stream 2 sanctions mandated by Congress. These actions and signals have come against the backdrop of the 2020 Russian constitutional coup, the assassination attempt against Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment on patently bogus charges, the arrests of close to 13,000 Russian activists, and the outlawing of all opposition movements and activities. All this has led Putin and Lukashenka to conclude that they eliminate their political opponents with impunity.  

Today’s state-ordered hijacking of an international passenger airplane—employing intelligence agents aboard the flight,  and accomplished via an advanced fighter-interceptor—to apprehend an exiled activist, underscores that violation of human rights is not only a domestic issue, but a matter of international safety and security.  Western governments unwilling to stand up for the victims of Putin’s and Lukashenka’s regimes are inviting future crimes against their own citizens. 

Absent a meaningful and swift response, the escalation of violence and intensity of international crimes committed  by Lukashenka’s and Putin’s regime will continue, destabilizing the world and discrediting the Western democratic institutions. 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – THE KREMLIN’S INFLUENCE QUARTERLY

May 20 2021

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them, we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.

Criminal operations by Russia’s GRU worldwide: expert discussion

May 06 2021

Please join Free Russia Foundation for an expert brief and discussion on latest criminal operations conducted by Russia’s GRU worldwide with:

  • Christo Grozev, Bellingcat— the legendary investigator who uncovered the Kremlin’s involvement, perpetrators and timeline of Navalny’s assassination attempt. 
  • Jakub Janda, Director of the European Values Think Tank (the Czech Republic) where he researches Russia’s hostile influence operations in the West
  • Michael Weiss, Director of Special Investigations at Free Russia Foundation where he leads the Lubyanka Files project, which consists of translating and curating KGB training manuals still used in modern Russia for the purposes of educating Vladimir Putin’s spies.

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 11 from 11 am to 12:30pm New York Time (17:00 in Brussels) and include an extensive Q&A with the audience moderated by Ilya Zaslavskiy, Senior Fellow at Free Russia Foundation and head of Underminers.info, a research project on post-Soviet kleptocracy

The event will be broadcast live at: https://www.facebook.com/events/223365735790798/

  • The discussion will cover Russia’s most recent and ongoing covert violent operations, direct political interference, oligarchic penetration with money and influence; 
  • GRU’s structure and approach to conducting operations in Europe
  • Trends and forecasts on how data availability will impact both, the Kremlin’s operations and their investigation by governments and activists; 
  • EU and national European government response and facilitation of operations on their soil; 
  • Recommendations for effective counter to the security and political threats posed by Russian security services. 

YouTube Against Navalny’s Smart Voting

May 06 2021

On May 6, 2020, at least five YouTube channels belonging to key Russian opposition leaders and platforms received notifications from YouTube that some of their content had been removed due to its being qualified as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

They included: 

Ilya Yashin (343k YouTube subscribers)

Vladimir Milov (218k YouTube subscribers) 

Leonid Volkov (117k YouTube subscribers)

Novaya Gazeta (277k YouTube Subscribers) 

Sota Vision (248k YouTube Subscribers)

Most likely, there are other Russian pro-democracy channels that have received similar notifications at the same time, and we are putting together the list of all affected by this censorship campaign. 

The identical letters received from YouTube by the five account holders stated:

“Our team has reviewed your content, and, unfortunately, we think it violates our spam, deceptive practices and scams policy. We’ve removed the following content from YouTube:

URL: https://votesmart.appspot.com/

YouTube has removed urls from descriptions of videos posted on these accounts that linked to Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting website (votesmart.appspot.com).

By doing this, and to our great shock and disbelief, YouTube has acted to enforce the Kremlin’s policies by qualifying Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting system and its website as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

This action has not only technically disrupted communication for the Russian civil society which is now under a deadly siege by Putin’s regime, but it has rendered a serious and lasting damage to its reputation and legitimacy of Smart Voting approach. 

In reality, Smart Voting system is not a spam, scam or a “deceptive practice”, but instead it’s a fully legitimate system of choosing and supporting candidates in Russian elections who have a chance of winning against the ruling “United Russia” party candidates. There’s absolutely nothing illegal, deceptive or fraudulent about the Smart Voting or any materials on its website.

We don’t know the reasons behind such YouTube actions, but they are an unacceptable suppression of a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the Russian people and help the Kremlin’s suppression of civil rights and freedoms by banning the Smart Voting system and not allowing free political competition with the ruling “United Russia” party. 

This is an extremely dangerous precedent in an environment where opposition activities in Russia are being literally outlawed;  key opposition figures are jailed, exiled, arrested and attacked with criminal investigations; independent election campaigning is prohibited; and social media networks remain among the very few channels still available to the Russian opposition to communicate with the ordinary Russians.

We demand a  swift and decisive action on this matter from the international community, to make sure that YouTube corrects its stance toward Russian opposition channels, and ensures that such suppression of peaceful, legal  pro-democracy voices does not happen again. 

FRF Lauds New US Sanctions Targeting the Kremlin’s Perpetrators in Crimea, Calls for Their Expansion

Apr 15 2021

On April 15, 2021,  President Biden signed new sanctions against a number of officials and agents of the Russian Federation in connection with malign international activities conducted by the Russian government.

The list of individuals sanctioned by the new law includes Leonid Mikhalyuk, director of the Federal Security Service in the Russian-occupied Crimea.

A report issued by Free Russia Foundation, Media Initiative for Human Rights and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in December 202, identified 16 officials from Russian law enforcement and security agencies as well as the judiciary operating on the territory of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula currently occupied by the Russian Federation. These individuals have been either directly involved or have overseen political persecution of three prominent Crimean human rights defenders – Emir-Usein Kuku, Sever Mustafayev and Emil Kurbedinov.

Leonid Mikhailiuk is one of these officials. He has been directly involved and directed the repressive campaign in the occupied Crimea, including persecution of innocent people on terrorism charges and massive illegal searches. The persecution of Server Mustafayev was conducted under his supervision. As the head of the FSB branch in Crimea, he is in charge of its operation and all operatives working on politically motivated cases are his subordinates. 

Within the extremely centralized system of the Russian security services, Mikhailiuk is clearly at the top rank of organized political persecution and human rights violations.

Free Russia Foundation welcomes the new sanctions and hopes that all other individuals identified in the report will also be held accountable.