Further developments: Memorial Research and Information Centre in St. Petersburg

posted 6 Dec 2015, 09:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Dec 2015, 09:19 ]
3 December 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
Memorial Research and Information Centre (St Petersburg) is continuing to inform all who are interested in the events concerning the organization in the wake of the decision by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to include it in the list ‘of organizations carrying out the function of a foreign agent’. This is our second bulletin.

The chronicle of events

25 November, evening. The Ioffe Foundation, together with the Polish Institute in St Petersburg, organized a presentation of the book ‘Killed at Katyn’, released by the International Memorial Society in September 2015. The book represents a memorial to the Polish officers from the Kozelsky prisoner of war camp who, following a decree of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, were shot in the spring of 1940 in the Katyn forest near Smolensk. The list of those executed contains 4,415 names with brief details, including the pre-war biography of the prisoners, their civilian professions and family circumstances, and also information relating to their becoming Soviet prisoners, concluding the date when they were sent to ‘be at the disposal of the Smolensk NKVD’, i.e., to be shot.

The chair of the board of the International Memorial Society, Arseny Roginsky, the Polish historian, Professor Albin Glovatsy of Lodz university, Aleksander Guryanov, head of Memorial’s Polish programme and author of the introduction to ‘Killed at Katyn’, and the book’s editor, Larisa Eremina, all spoke at the presentation.

A discussion then followed. There were a few people in the hall led by the blogger, Nikolai Kamnev; in an ‘internet-report’ published by them the following day, they are referred to as ‘#SPb.Media team’. This team brought with them two ‘specialists on the Katyn question’ – V. V. Vasilik, a member of the department of the history of Slavic countries, and E. A. Prudnikova, a journalist known for her books and publications which ‘refute’ the facts relating to crimes of the Stalinist period, and in particular of those relating to Katyn.

Vasilik and Prudnikova defended the long disproved Soviet version of the Katyn events, according to which the Polish officers were shot by the Germans; Guryanov and Glovatsky presented counter arguments.

Kamnev himself only asked one question: has the Ioffe Foundation authorization for a public viewing of Andrzej Wajda’s film ‘Katyn’, announced for the following day?

Video recording of the presentation

26 November, morning. The Memorial Research & Information Centre received a letter, by e-mail, from the Ministry of Culture department for the North-west Federal District. The letter stated that the Ministry has ‘received information’ of a planned showing of the film ‘Khatyn’ (in the document!) and, that, in accordance with the federal law ‘on state support for cinematography in the Russian Federation’, the showing of the film on the territory of the RF without a license is an administrative infringement of Article 14.58 of the Administrative Code.

Text of the letter

Indeed, in accordance with legislation adopted in 2014, the public showing of films without a license – even of non-commercial films – is prohibited, except for those shown at an international film festival, even when the authors of a film give their permission (and in this case Andrzej Wajda had given permission, in 2011, for Memorial to show the film ‘Katyn’ on a non-commercial basis).

An infringement carries the threat of a fine of 50-100,000 roubles Under the circumstances, the organizers decided to postpone the screening to a later date, after sorting the matter out with the Ministry of Culture. In the announcement of the postponement, it was stated that this is the second such prohibition to have occurred recently. On 26 October 2015 a similar situation blocked the showing of the film in Tiumen.

26 November, 17.44. The Interfax news agency announced that, according to its sources, the St Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office was carrying out an inspection of the activities of Memorial Research & Information Centre. According to the source, the basis for the inspection was ‘the receipt of actionable intelligence’; however it was stated that the Prosecutor’s Office did not have any information relating to the prohibition of the showing of the Wajda film ‘Katyn’.

26 November, 18.45. Fifteen minutes before the originally announced time for the showing of the film ‘Katyn’, the assistant prosecutor for the Central district of the city of St Petersburg arrived at the offices of the Memorial Research & Information Centre accompanied by seven police officers. He stated that the reason for his visit was to check whether the showing of a ‘prohibited film’ was taking place in the building, however he presented no document in support of his assignment.

The assistant prosecutor was shown in to the conference hall; meanwhile the police officers, despite the protests of the Memorial volunteers (none of the permanent staff were in the office at the time), forcibly entered the building and inspected the offices. Then the visitors left, leaving no written record of their actions.

As of now the Memorial Research & Information Centre is preparing a submission to the St Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office. We intend to request an explanation of the reason for and the aims of the inspection of the work of the Centre, as announced by Interfax.

In addition, we wish to receive commentary by the Prosecutor’s Office about the legal basis for, and the relevant documents relating to, the appearance of the assistant prosecutor of the central district, and the accompanying police officers, at the Centre’s offices.

Research and Information Centre ‘Memorial’ (St Petersburg)

Translated by Mary McAuley