Putin unveils monument in Moscow

Amid controversy over his own methods of maintaining control over Russia, President Vladimir Putin has unveiled a memorial dedicated to victims of Soviet-era government repression and said the years of suffering at the hands of the state must never be forgotten.

Putin was speaking at the opening ceremony for the Wall Of Sorrow on 30 October 2017 as part of the official Day Of Remembrance For Victims Of Political Repression — an event first held in 1991, the year the Soviet Union ceased to exist. […] Some one hundred people — mainly elderly citizens, human rights activists, and city officials — attended the ceremony (reports Radio Liberty)

Putin and Kirill, 30 October 2017
President Putin and Kirill, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, before “The Wall of Sorrow”,  30 October 2017 (photo – Alexander Nemanov, Reuters)

Dissidents’ Criticism

A group of Soviet-era dissidents and human rights activists spoke out against the memorial, saying it is wrong to support the “hypocrisy” of a government that is unveiling such a monument while carrying out what they called its own political repressions decades later. The dissidents, now critics of Putin, said that “current political prisoners in Russia deserve our help and attention no less than the victims of the Soviet regime deserve commemoration and respect.”

“It will never do to divide victims of political repressions into those who deserve memorials and those whom it is possible to ignore for the time being,”

said the statement, signed by nearly 40 people including Vladimir Bukovsky, Aleksandr Podrabinek, Mustafa Dzhemilev, Arina Ginzburg, Igor Guberman, and Pavel Litvinov.

“It will never do to take part in commemoration events organized by the authorities who say they regret the victims of the Soviet regime, but in fact continue implementing political repressions, cracking down civil freedoms in the country,” it said.

“There is no doubt that a memorial to the victims of political repressions must be opened in Moscow, but only when there are no political prisoners in the country, when executioners are punished, and when political repressions stop being leads in news reports and become exclusively the subject of historians’ research.”

The massive memorial wall is located at the intersection of Moscow’s Garden Ring road and an avenue named after Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet-era physicist and dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

Radio Liberty, 31 October 2017

See remarks by monument’s designer Georgy Frangulyan concerning Yury Dmitriev, and text of letter by human rights activists, criticising the monument