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Mounting protest over the seizure of “Memorial” archival material

13.12.2008

Students, staff and graduates of the renowned European University in St. Petersburg have sent an appeal addressed to President Medvedev, the Governor of St. Petersburg, the Human Rights Ombudsperson, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor General and the St. Petersburg Prosecutor.

The appeal reads:

“We the undersigned students, staff and graduates of the European University in St. Petersburg wish to express our concern and outrage over the search and removal of the archive of the research and information “Memorial” Centre which took place on 4 December 2008 in St. Petersburg, on Rubinstein St, 23-103.

As a result of the search, prosecutor’s office staff removed an electronic archive of the research centre containing invaluable data collected over 20 years of Memorial’s work by staff and volunteers; collections of photographic material from the project “Virtual Museum of the Gulag”, “Gulag Obituary”; a huge amount of documents on the history of the Soviet repressions and other material. Much of this data is irreplaceable, and careless treatment of the disks could lead to the loss of Memorial’s unique database. The St Petersburg Memorial is a vital resource centre for researchers, historians and sociologists who use the Memorial library and archives in their studies. The research and information “Memorial” Centre is a renowned organization whose role and influence in the public life of the country and St Petersburg in particular cannot be understated.

The European University in St. Petersburg has long cooperated with the Memorial Centre, and seminars have been held at the University on the projects “Virtual Museum of the Gulag”, “Gulag Obituary”, and since 2003 Memorial has held annual Biographical Readings in memory of Venyamin Joffe at the University.

As far as we are aware, the  “Memorial” Centre has no link with the newspaper “New Petersburg” which is of interest to the prosecutor’s office. We therefore consider the actions of the prosecutor’s office, specifically the search and removal of the “Memorial” Centre’s archives inconsistent, as part of an investigation concerning a publication in that newspaper.

We see no grounds for such actions by prosecutor’s office staff and consider the removal of the archives unlawful, and the accusation against the “Memorial” Centre, well-known also for its human rights activities, of supporting extremism absurd.

In view of this we demand that the “Memorial” Centre’s electronic archive be returned and apologies made to its staff.

The list of people signing is very long – it can be seen at http://khpg.org.ua/index.php?id=1229176373

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