A Chance to Meet: Irina Flige, 7 April 2020

Please note this event has now been cancelled

A Land of State Terror: How the Soviet legacy still operates in Russia today


Please note – this event has now been cancelled

Venue: Pushkin House, 5a Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2TA

Time & Date: 1pm – 9pm, Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Tickets: £6 – £12. See vendor for details

Organisers: Pushkin Club in association with Rights in Russia

Irina FLIGE, director of the Memorial Research & Information Centre (St Petersburg), Flige talks about the problems arising from Russia’s failure to transcend its past and describes the search for places of mass burial and their investigation. With John Crowfoot, she will present the Map of Memory website, in an expanded, English version.

This is no discussion of distant past events. It concerns the recent “Network” trials and convictions and, above all else, the Dmitriev Affair, now in its sixth year.

Memorial RIC (St Petersburg)

For over thirty years, the Memorial Research & Information Centre (RIC) in St Petersburg has studied the Gulag and the extensive use of terror by the Soviet State, examining how the memory of this tragic past is preserved and passed on to younger generations. In 2012, the Petersburg RIC was awarded Index on Censorship’s “Freedom of Expression” prize. In 2019, its director Irina Flige was herself given one of the coveted Yegor Gaidar prizes “for actions that aid the creation of civil society” in Russia.

The Research & Information Centre gathers testimony and evidence about this history in the form of documents and items preserved in personal archives. It conducts interviews, making both audio and video recordings that become part of an openly accessible electronic archive. And it holds events to promote solidarity with political prisoners — not only in St Petersburg, but also at Sandarmokh and Solovki, significant sites in Karelia and the White Sea.

A major ongoing project of the Memorial RIC is the “Necropolis of Terror and the Gulag” (the Map of Memory), a website recording mass burials throughout the length and breadth of the Russian Federation. This is one part of the Virtual Gulag Museum, an online assembly of a wide range of artefacts and evidence: [1] material evidence scattered throughout different museums devoted to Soviet terror; [2] the physical remains of “corrective-labour” camps and structures, of hundreds and thousands of preserved and vanished burial sites of Gulag prisoners; [3] the symbols of the past to be found in the landscape and appearance of today’s Russian towns and cities; and [4] memorials and commemorative plaques.

The ongoing legacy of the Gulag

“The legacy of the Gulag in Russia has not been transcended,” wrote veteran rights activist and first chairman of Petersburg Memorial Veniamin Joffe. “We can expect nothing good, therefore, from the opening of a new era. There is little we can draw from the experience of the past hundred years that is of value for us in the 21st century. The best we can say is that there were people who, facing the most inhumane conditions, were not seduced by evil, no matter in what form it might appear. Such people remained true to their obligations to the very end.

“The fact that such people existed in the past, are with us now and will be with us in the future, is the one basis for hope that change for the better is possible in Russia and in the world at large.”

In Russia today society and civic activists are threatened and under pressure. The authorities constantly persecute and harass protestors, fabricate criminal cases against them, while torture is used during investigation. Almost one thousand people are either facing prosecution or are detained and imprisoned for political reasons.

This is event is jointly organised by Pushkin Club and Rights in Russia. All are welcome.

Irina Flige

From the age of 17, Irina Flige belonged to an illegal underground student organisation. They distributed flyers and issued the “Prospect” samizdat journal. Between 1978 and 1984, Irina also worked for the Relief Fund for Political Prisoners and their Families, set up by Alexander and Natalya Solzhenitsyn.

From 1988 onwards, Irina Anatolyevna was involved in the Memorial movement, first as a researcher at the RIC in St Petersburg, then as the Centre’s deputy director and since 2003 as its director. She has been a board member of the International Memorial Society since 2006 and director of a series of projects, among them the Virtual Museum of the Gulag and the Necropolis of Terror. Her interests are focused on the history of the Gulag and the fostering and encouragement of memory and commemoration.

Flige is author of a recent short volume entitled The Search for Sandormokh: Russia’s Unquiet Past (2019; in Russian «Сандормох: драматургия смыслов»). She has written two monographs, published over forty research papers and articles, and served as the editor and compiler of a number of collections about the history of the Gulag and of Soviet Terror.

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