Open letter to Perm Governor Victor Basargin from Memorial Perm
We, Association of Victims of Political Repressions and Perm Chapter of the Memorial Society, express our concern and indignation about what has been happening around the Memorial Museum Perm-36 during the past months. For those who were aggrieved during the repression period, who lost their family members and friends to those repressions, who suffered from deprivation of rights, the Memorial Museum has been a memorial to those innocent victims, our parents who died in GULAG camps and prisons. The existence of such a museum in our region proved the fact that both federal and local authorities had made the right conclusions and that they were ready to do their best to prevent this national tragedy from repeating in the future.
However, the recent events make us doubt this. With your consent, Mr Governor, there started a complicated and useless scheme of turning the public museum into a budget-funded organization. For over 20 years this unique historical memorial had been built by thousands of civic activists and volunteers from Perm and other regions and countries. Perm-36 became well-known all over the world, and it showed the world that Russia was building a future without any all traces of its totalitarian past. However, it has turned out that one administrative move was enough to put paid to the future of the Memorial Museum.
We are aware that according to your order a committee was set up involving representatives of the regional administration, the government and the Memorial Museum. For several months they negotiated the further development of the museum. Eventually they came up with an Agreement between Perm Krai Government and the Perm-36 museum.
It seemed that they had reached a compromise and the museum could continue with its work. However, at that moment there appeared an invisible administrative switch: without any explanations, Perm Government declined to sign the Agreement, the Minister of Culture ordered that the financing of the museum be stopped, which openly and unscrupulously broke labour legislation and previously reached agreements; Director of the recently set up budget-funded organization Tatiana Kursina was dismissed. Perm Ministry of Culture has stopped the work at the Museum: water and electricity have been cut off, no guided tours are held any more.
At the same time, the Museum was opened for the crew of NTV channel which came to shoot a documentary that slimes not only the creators of the Memorial Museum, but also, we are sure, you as the Governor and Perm Government. It is especially infuriating that the guided tour around the former prison camp for the TV crew was made by its former prison wardens and representatives of the notorious ‘Essence of Time’ movement.
The item they shot at the museum reiterates the Neo-Stalinist idea that Perm-36 was the prison for only Nazi collaborationists and Banderovites. This brings them to the conclusion that the museum propagates pro-Nazi and anti-governmental ideology.
We would like to remind you that the prison camp had various groups of inmates, including war criminals. Those were, however, a minority. More importantly, the Museum is not dedicated to them. It is not them that the exhibitions and guides tell visitors about, but those over 50 per cent of inmates of Perm prisons (Perm-35, Perm-36, Perm-37) that were imprisoned in the 1970s and 1980s for political reasons. Moreover, a large part of the Museum exhibition is devoted to victims of earlier periods. Both categories of prisoners have been rehabilitated and acknowledged as victims of wrongful political repression and restored to their rights according to Russian legislation and the legislation of former USSR countries. These facts cannot be denied even by staunch opponents of the Museum. They can only conceal them, which means fraudulent representation of facts.
Mr Governor, by Presidential Decree you have been made a member of the Committee whose mission is to finalize the Federal Programme for the Commemoration of Victims of Political Repression for 2014-2018. We were happy to learn that Perm Governor had been appointed for this mission. At present, however, victims of political repression and all those who know the real history of the totalitarian period feel bewildered and distressed. Many elderly people feel humiliated and are afraid that a new repression period is coming on. We want you to be conscious of that.
We hope that you do your very best to ensure successful completion of the work on the Federal Programme for the Commemoration of Victims of Political Repressions. One reason for that is that Memorial Museum Perm-36 is included in the draft of this Programme as one of the three GULAG memorial museums of national significance.
We want to inform you that members of Memorial Perm, victims of political repressions have been trying to make an appointment with you for the past seven months, in order to discuss the issues of the Perm-36 Museum and other problems, but they never managed to get through. A group of your loyal officials are guarding the access to your office. They made it clear that they are guarding the Governor not just from ‘unnecessary visitors’ but also from ‘unnecessary’ information about the real problems of the region, including those with the Perm-36 Museum.
In reference with the above, we propose:
- to resume the negotiations and sign the Agreement between Perm Government and Perm-36 Autonomous Non-profit Organization.
- to reinstate Tatiana Kursina in the capacity of the Dicrector of the Budget Organization. We believe that the officials guilty of breaking her labour rights should be punished.
- to resume the work of the Memorial Museum on the basis of Public-Private Partnership, which lays the basis of the Agreement.
We believe that both you, as the Governor, and Perm Government, have the power to bring the situation with the Memorial Museum back to the initial state. We have no doubt that all problems can be settled by negotiations. We also hope that we, victims of political repression and everybody who has contributed to the creation of the unique Memorial Museum, will be treated with respect.
Managing Committee of Perm Chapter of the Memorial Society and Council of Victims of Political Repressions
June 10, 2014