Russians and Western diplomats honor victims of Soviet terrorism

Russians commemorated the victims of Soviet state terrorism on Sunday, as the Russian government continues its crackdown on dissent in the country. The Return of Names event was organized by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s human rights memorial group, the AP reported. Traditionally, the memorial takes place in Moscow on October 29 – the eve of Remembrance Day for Victims of Political Repression in Russia – at the Solovetsky Stone Monument to Victims of Soviet-era Repression. It focuses on reading the names of individuals killed during Joseph Stalin’s Great Terror in the late 1930s.

Since 2020, the Moscow authorities have refused to grant a permit for demonstrations, attributing this to the “epidemic situation” and the ban on holding public events. Supporters of the commemoration believe that the refusal is politically motivated. Moscow authorities ordered the closure of the memorial itself in November 2021. Although it was closed as a legal entity, the group still operates in other countries and has continued its human rights activities in Russia. Instead of a demonstration on Sunday, Muscovites and several Western ambassadors laid flowers on Solovetsky’s lap. The quiet event took place under police surveillance. Memorial also organized a live broadcast to read the names of the victims, from Moscow and other Russian cities, as well as from abroad.

The name-return event comes as Russian prosecutors seek a three-year prison sentence for human rights activist and Memorial co-president Oleg Orlov, according to the AP. Orlov was fined about $1,500 this month and convicted of publicly defaming the Russian military after a Facebook post in which he denounced the invasion of Ukraine, the latest step in a crackdown on activists, independent journalists and opposition figures. Memorial said Friday that prosecutors had appealed the sentence, calling it “overly lenient.”

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