Arseny Levinson: On Arseny Roginsky, the responsibility of historians and legal proceedings regarding the opening of FSB archives

31 March 2021

By Arseny Levinson, human rights defender, lawyer, an expert of the Institute of human rights, laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Facebook]

Yesterday was the birthday of Arseny Roginsky, historian and chair of International Memorial. He would have been 75. He passed away four years ago, but I remember him every time I go into our small office in Memorial and look at his portrait which was hung on the stairs in the smoking area on the day of his death. I remember how we smoked with him, meeting late in his office, preparing for the Ministry of Justice raids on the office that had started at that time. Many seemingly fleeting words I remember from then have become very important and instructive to me. Arseny Borisovich was an incredibly insightful and charismatic person. I always remember his speech at the funeral of my grandfather, the poet, Kolyma political figure and publisher Semeon Vilensky. He talked about how the conferences on ‘Opposition in the Gulag’ my grandfather organised changed views on mass political oppression and on his contribution to preserving the memory of resistance in the Gulag. 

Yesterday Memorial announced the establishment of the Arseny Roginsky “Responsibility of the historian” prize for historians. It seems a very appropriate name for the award.

It promotes civic responsibility and resistance to oppression. 

The responsibility of the historian is to bring the true history to light. Right now, Memorial is working to secure the opening of an important source – the archives of the FSB.

I am proud that I can take part in this work. 

On 7th April I will be in the 3rd court of appeal of general jurisdiction to represent Memorial in the case challenging the refusal of the FSB Administration in the Republic of Karelia to provide copies of archive documents on the Great Terror in Karelia. 

My colleagues working on the case are Sergei Krivenko (Sergei Krivenko is the coordinator of the human rights initiative “Citizen and Army”, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a member of the Board of the Memorial Society – MHG note) and Marina Agaltsova, a senior lawyer on this and a whole series of lawsuits on the opening of the FSB archives. 

The programme and broadcasts of the Second Readings in memory of Arseny Roginsky can be found at

Translated by Ruairidh Irwin

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