Perm Memorial Society activists meet with Perm Region Governor

posted 14 Jul 2014, 08:19 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Jul 2014, 08:24 ]
9 July 2014

Source: (info
After several appeals to the region's leaders, members of the Perm branch of Memorial Society have finally been given the chance to meet with the head of Perm Region, Viktor Basargin,

First and foremost, the Memorial activists were able to express their dismay and outrage about the events surrounding the Perm-36 Gulag Museum. Honorary chairman of the Memorial Society Aleksandr Kalikh said that the dubious initiative of the regional authorities to establish a budgetary organisation designed to edge out and disavow the Perm-36 NGO looked like an attempt to radically alter the museum's course. Thanks to this "idea", officials from the regional administration are unashamedly applying the most ham-fisted and crude methods to put pressure on the activists, the museum's founders and those who have helped them over the past few decades.

Fundamental principles of partnership with civil society have been violated. The cooperation agreement between the regional government and the Perm-36 NGO, worked out through lengthy discussions, has been cast aside. The museum is to all intents and purposes closed to the public. The museum director, Tatyana Kursina, has been unlawfully dismissed. By order of the Culture Minister for Perm Region Igor Gladnev, the only excursion to have taken place in the last few months was for a TV crew from the sensationalist TV channel NTV. What's more, this group was accompanied by supervisors of the former political zone. In the programme shown on NTV the culture minister took a most active part, more or less advocating the destruction of everything that had been built up by the public museum.

Aleksandr Kalikh and Chairman of Memorial Robert Latypov appealed to the governor with a proposal to resurrect the jointly developed agreement, a document that takes account of the positions of all the parties in the conflict, outlining the functional rights and obligations of the budgetary organisation and the Perm-36 NGO.

Others present at the meeting, members of Memorial Varlen Kleyner, Angelina Bushueva and Evgeny Mochilin, defined their own personal relation to the museum as a memorial to their fathers and mothers who suffered during the years of Stalinist terror, who ended up in the Gulags or were shot in the period 1937-1938. Destroying the museum would mean trampling on this memory. Victims of repression tried to impress upon the governor that, intentionally or not, he was participating in a campaign to rehabilitate Stalinism and a campaign to denigrate the rights and dignity of those who suffered repression.

In response, Viktor Basargin assured the meeting participants that the regional leadership had never set itself the task of changing the course of the activities of the Perm-36 Gulag Museum. No one was trying to destroy the museum, it was continuing its operations in its entirety. The regional budget has provisions for its upkeep, which has not been the case in previous years.

The regional governor admitted that during the reorganisation serious mistakes had been made which could put the partnership principles of cooperation with the activists in doubt. In the coming days all interested parties would be presented with the final version of the agreement, containing all the points that had been agreed with the museum's management.

Viktor Basargin assured veterans that the rights and interests of the victims of political repression have been and will remain under his sphere of attention and control.

Aleksei Frolov, who was involved in the discussion with the governor, said that the regional administration had nothing to do with the sensationalist broadcast of NTV. As regards the excursion that was organised for representatives of this television channel, this has to be understood and the appropriate conclusions drawn. Aleksei Frolov assured those present that the regional administration was prepared to cooperate with the museum's founders and leaders. He noted that in many ways the conflict was not as significant as it appeared: it was being inflated by certain sections of the press as well as politically motivated organisations. It should be noted that at the time of the meeting 50,000 Russian citizens had already signed a petition to the Governor of Perm Region demanding that the destruction of this unique museum be halted and persecution of its founders stopped.

The next issue on the meeting agenda concerned problems relating to social provision for victims of political repression. Robert Latypov, chairman of the regional branch of Memorial, spoke to the meeting, saying that many of the state's obligations in terms of social provision were not being fulfilled.

For instance, for one reason or another in Perm Region both regional and federal law was being violated with regards to implementing legal benefits to compensate travel costs for victims of repression to travel around the country, and for paying medical costs for creating and repairing dentures. The allocations from the regional budget for housing improvements for victims of repression were unacceptably low. Those who suffered political repression had practically no opportunity for getting priority entry to health and spa centres, unlike many other sections of the population on benefits.

Robert Latypov put forward concrete proposals from Memorial which could alter the situation if they were implemented. A working group should be set up, made up of experts capable of developing draft documents for the legal bodies of the administration to consider, both at the federal and regional level. The governor promised that he would issues instructions to look into how feasible it would be to implement these initiatives.

Human Rights Commissioner for the Perm Region, Tatyana Margolina, also spoke at the meeting. The Perm branch of the Memorial Society would like to thank her for her active participation in organising and holding this meeting.

Translated by Natascha Kearsey