A talk by Stephania Kulaeva and Olga Abramenko of the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial

On 15 November 2022 the Pushkin Club and Rights in Russia organised a talk by Stephania Kulaeva and Olga Abramenko, experts from the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial, at Pushkin House in London. You can see a video of the talk below.

The Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial (ADC) is one of many organisations that make up the Memorial movement, which came into existence during the years of perestroika in the Soviet Union. The organisation has become renowned for its human rights and historical work in the Russian Federation and is now being developed in many European countries.

The centre’s work focuses on discrimination and protection of vulnerable groups, minorities and women. The ADC started in 2001 with a Petersburg Memorial programme to protect the rights of the Romani population in Northwestern Russia, and became a separate NGO in 2007. Today, the centre works not just with Roma, but with other people affected by racism: migrants from the Central Asian republics and the Caucasus; Indigenous peoples of the North and Siberia; victims of sexism and homophobia, and lately with ethnic Ukrainians in Russia. Since 2014, ADC Memorial has been working on all these issues in Eastern Europe and Central Asia from its base in Belgium.

The problems of the Roma population in Russia and other East European countries include discrimination in education, living conditions (housing, access to resources), employment, so-called “structural discrimination,” social exclusion, poverty and biases.

The situation of Indigenous peoples of the North and Siberia, who have been colonised by Russia for several centuries, is getting worse rather than better. Their living environment has been destroyed for hundreds of years, and their traditional way of life, culture and languages are on the verge (and sometimes beyond the verge) of disappearance. Particularly in recent years, subsoil mining in Siberia has taken these problems to the extreme. What’s more, literally within the last few weeks, forced mobilisation, which sees the last residents of settlements are being carted off and sent to the front to die, has become a true tragedy for the Indigenous peoples of Siberia and the Far East.

Millions of migrant workers in Russia are also suffering through the most difficult of times – first the pandemic made it impossible for them to work in Russia or return home, and then the economic crisis caused by the war and sanctions has complicated the situation even further. Now many of them are also being whisked away to the front, even though this is a violation of the ban on mercenary activities for citizens of Central Asian countries and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison in their home countries.

The situation of ethnic Ukrainians in Russia – both those who have lived in the country for a long time and those who have fled the war – is especially painful. ADC Memorial has devoted particular attention to children who have had to leave Ukraine. A short, animated documentary film made by the ADC, which will be shown at the event, reflects this tragedy.

About the Speakers

Stephania Kulaeva is the head of ADC Memorial (adcmemorial.org). Since 2000, Stephania has been advocating for minorities’ rights in Russia and other Eastern European countries. Promoting the rights of Roma and Indigenous peoples of Siberia is an important part of the ADC Memorial agenda, as well as opposing so-called lists of professions prohibited for women. Another focus is the rights of children migrants, especially campaigning for the support of children from Ukraine.

Olga Abramenko is a linguist and author of books and articles on the language and culture of Roma in Russia, and an expert on the rights of ethnic minorities (Indigenous peoples of Siberia, Mugat and other Roma-like groups in Central Asia, Pamirian peoples in Tajikistan, and others). Within her work in the ADC Memorial for more than 20 years, Olga Abramenko has been defending the rights of migrants and apatrides, opposing the persecution of human rights defenders and civil activists, and publishing articles on the issue of discrimination.

This is a joint event with The Pushkin Club and Rights in Russia.

The Pushkin Club has held regular events devoted to Russian culture and society since its foundation in 1954.

Rights in Russia is an independent, charitable, non-profit and non-governmental organisation established on 19 January 2010 to mark the tragic murder of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were shot dead in Moscow on that day in 2009.

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