Source description last updated: 24 September 2020

Please note that, for translations from the Russian language included in this source description, automated translation tools have been used. Therefore, there is an increased risk of inaccuracies within these translations.

In brief: Memorial is an independent non-governmental group formed in 1987 and encompassing more than 80 national and regional organisations in the Russian Federation, countries of the former Soviet Union and several other states and has the objective of studying repressions in the USSR and in present-day Russia.

Coverage on

Reports. On, English language documents and only selected Russian language documents are covered.

Covered quarterly on for countries of priorities A-C.


“International Memorial was founded in 1992 in Moscow. Its predecessor, Moscow initiative group Memorial, emerged in 1987 and gave rise to a number of regional organisations and groups. In 1989 they all united under the name All-Union Voluntary History and Education Society Memorial (registered in 1990).” (Memorial website: What is International Memorial, undated)

“International Memorial is a non-governmental association, it does not aim at profit generation and does not distribute gained profit between its members.

Implementing its statutory objectives International Memorial acts in accordance with the legislation of the states on the territory of which organisations making part of International Memorial operate, and in accordance with the present Statute.

International Memorial realizes its activity on the territory of the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Ukraine and other states where members of International Memorial operate.” (Memorial website: What is International Memorial, undated)

“Aims and objectives of International Memorial:

  • Promoting development of civil society and democratic state with the rule of law excluding the possibility of return to totalitarianism;
  • Participating in forming of public consciousness on the basis of values of democracy and law, overcoming of totalitarian stereotypes and asserting the rights of individuals in political practice and social life;
  • Participating in restoring historical truth and perpetuation of memory of victims of political repressions of totalitarian regimes.

To achieve these aims International Memorial

  • Reveals, publishes and critically interpretes the information on crimes and mass human rights violations committed by totalitarian regimes in the past and carrying direct or indirect consequences in the present;
  • Participates in restoring historical truth about the crimes of totalitarian regimes against humanity, illegal and terrorist governance methods, studies its reasons and consequences; promotes open access to sources of information (libraries, archives, museum fonds, etc.);
  • Promotes full and public moral and legal rehabilitation of persons subjected to political repressions, adoption of state and other measures aimed at reparation of damage incurred and provision of the necessary social benefits;
  • Promotes preservation of memory of victims of totalitarianism, erection of memorial sites, including monuments to victims of totalitarianism, as well as foundation of scientific, information and educational centers, archives, museums and libraries open to public;
  • Offers assistance to those repressed and members of their families in need, provides legal support to those repressed and members of their families;
  • Detects, declares and analyzes the information on human rights violations today;
  • Participates in elaboration and implementation of projects and programs aimed at preventing the restoration of totalitarianism;
  • Carries out peacemaking activities in interethnic and interfaith conflicts;
  • Promotes a free, open democratic society with the rule of law in those states where International Memorial missions are set up.” (Memorial website: What is International Memorial, undated)

“On 23 May 2014, the Samoretskiy district court of Moscow ruled that the Moscow prosecutor's proposition for one of Memorial's member associations to register as 'foreign agent' was legally just. This court ruling was made based on a law put into force on 20 November 2012, providing that politically active and foreign-funded non-governmental organisations need to register as 'foreign agents' und that these organisations must include the label in their denomination. The said term was used synonymously with 'espionage' in Soviet times and applied in order to discredit dissidents.” (Evgenija Lezina in: Osteuropa 11-12/2014: Memorial und seine Geschichte - Russlands historisches Gedächtnis, 2014, working translation ACCORD)


Private donors / no further information found.

Recent developments have led to Memorial calling for further support by donors: “The Government all across the country has launched political repressions against the Memorial; our branches in all cities are under severe governmental pressure. We have been labeled as "foreign agents", Federal Security Service is filing complaints to the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies, Communications and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor). The courts impose fines amounting to the equivalent of USD 73 000 upon us for violating inherently unjust and impossible-to-follow laws which destroy the civil society; more fines are expected to be issued.” (Memorial website: Why we need your support)

Scope of reporting:

Geographic focus: The Russian Federation, other countries of the former Soviet Union.

Thematic focus: Human rights and fundamental freedoms.


“The main human rights work of Memorial is conducted within the framework of separate programs. We currently have seven programs in operation. [...] Each program is headed by a manager appointed by and accountable to the Council. Also within the framework of the HRC there are two more separate projects, which may later grow into programs, now they work under the following programs: The project “Legal Clinic” under the program “Protection of Human Rights through International Mechanisms”, and the project “Centre of Modern Documentation” under the program “Hot Spots”.” (Memorial website: Олег Орлов о работе Правозащитного центра «Мемориал», undated, working translation ACCORD)

Memorial’s reports are drawn up from analysis of laws, legal amendments and their application in criminal prosecution, as in the report series "Criminal Prosecutions for Terrorism in Russia and Abuses by the State".

“The Memorial human rights center has been keeping lists of Russian political prisoners since 2010.” (Memorial: Политические репрессии и политзаключённые в России в 2018-2019 годах, 2020, p. 6)

For reports on political prisoners, Memorial distinguishes between 2 categories “[...] of people to be political prisoners (prosecuted in a criminal case for political motives) subjected to criminal prosecution. Firstly, those who have been prosecuted exclusively for the use of their civil rights, in connection with belonging to an ethnic, religious or other group, or for their convictions or views (people that Amnesty International calls prisoners of conscience).  Secondly, those who have been prosecuted, on the one hand, with the implementation of violations of the law or obviously selectively, and on the other, for the authorities’ political motive.”

Excluded from the list of political prisoners are “[...] people who have used force against an individual or who have called for force on the basis of race, religion, ethnic identity and so on. This exception, however, does not mean that [Memorial thinks] the prosecution of such people is unconditionally justified or legal, or that [they] approve of such prosecutions.” (Memorial website, Who are “political prisoners”, undated)

Language(s) of publications:

Most reports are published in Russian, few documents are also available in English.

Further reading / links:

Memorial Charter, 18 December 1998:

Partners of International Memorial:

Article by Marina Agaltsova on the law against foreign agents, 16 December 2019:

Guidelines on Definition of Political Prisoner:

All links accessed 24 September 2020.