The Day of the Political Prisoner
On 30 October 2006 at 18.00 a meeting will be held at the Solovky Stone on Lubyanka Square in Moscow to mark the Day of the Political Prisoner and Remembrance of Victims of Political Repression.
In 1974 30 October was designated the Day of the Political Prisoner in the USSR. This was a decision taken by prisoners of the Soviet political camps themselves. The day became a day of struggle not only for the release of political prisoners, but also for the civil and political rights of those at liberty.
People deprived of their freedom because of their convictions began a struggle for your freedom and ours, for human dignity.
Fifteen years ago, when it seemed that the communist dictatorship had finally become a thing of the past, the Day of the Political Prisoner received a new name: Remembrance Day for the Victims of Political Repression. In almost every inhabited part of Russia on this day we remember millions of our compatriots who were victims of state terror.
However the tragedy of the past was not understood by society and the totalitarian regime did not receive an adequate moral and legal assessment. Today in Russia we can see the revival of authoritarian methods of government. Civil rights are again being diminished, state propaganda is forcing out free exchange of opinions, criticism of the authorities is often treated as though it were anti-state activity and it has become standard to persecute independent media outlets and individual journalists.
Opportunities for public control over the authorities are constantly restricted. The elections of governors on a single candidate basis is an exact replica of the Soviet model of elections – only the candidate now is not put forward by an unyielding bloc of communists and non-Party members, but by the President himself.
The remnants of independence of the judiciary are being ever more eroded, with verdicts more and more often determined not by the law, but by “telephone justice”, and these verdicts are increasingly making Russia a laughing stock in the eyes of the civilized world.
And the feeling is gathering force that the optimism of 1991 was unfounded, that we were premature in renaming the Day of the Political Prisoner. Political prisoners have appeared again in Russia and their number is on the increase. Among them are scientists and businesspeople, lawyers, members of opposition movements and religious dissidents.
The events of recent times have forced us to recall what seemed to be a totally forgotten instrument of communist politics, that being the punishment of entire peoples and deportation on the grounds of nationality.
There is one reason for all of this, the lack of control over the authorities. It is clear that the regime will not make any effort to end up under public control. It is the task of society to establish that control, our task and yours.
Remembering what tragedies the lack of control of the regime led to in the past and understanding that the absence of control makes the future dangerous and unpredictable, we call upon all those who care about the fate of Russia to take part in this meeting and to express your opposition to the curbing of civil liberties.
Committee organizing the meeting:
The Moscow Helsinki Group
The All-Russian Civic Congress
The Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Centre
The Movement “For Human Rights”
The parties SPS [Union of Right Forces] and Yabloko
The Anti-Military Action Committee
The United Civic Front
The Civic Assistance Committee