The International Council on Archives (ICA), the world body representing archivists and archival institutions, expresses its deep concern for the future of the Archives, Library and Museum of International Memorial. Since it was founded over 30 years ago as a nongovernmental organization dedicated to preserving the memory of Soviet-era political repressions, International Memorial has grown into an archives, library and museum of world importance.
- Memorial’s Archives contains more than 60,000 files on persons who were repressed during the Soviet period, as well as files on dissidents, photos and videos, and oral histories. From these files, Memorial has developed various databases, of which the list of victims of political repression and the list of NKVD staff in the 1930s are notable. The archival materials are open to researchers unless the person transferring the documents to Memorial has specified that they be restricted from public use. The Archives provides assistance to people searching for information about repressed relatives.
- Memorial’s Library contains more than 40,000 books and brochures in Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, English, German, French, Italian, Polish and Czech, which are also available for public use.
- Memorial also has a Museum, where it exhibits objects of camp life that have been transferred to Memorial by former prisoners or their relatives and works of art created by prisoners of the Gulag. In addition to exhibitions in its main museum space, Memorial also organizes travelling exhibitions.
Given that background, ICA is deeply troubled by the decision of Russia’s Supreme Court on 28 December 2021 to order the closure of International Memorial. ICA urges the Government of Russia to protect the archives and enable uninterrupted access to them.
The Universal Declaration on Archives, adopted by both ICA and UNESCO, states, “Open access to archives enriches our knowledge of human society, promotes democracy, protects citizens’ rights and enhances the quality of life.” ICA strongly believes that the uniquely valuable holdings of International Memorial—archival, bibliographic, and museum artifacts--should be protected and the records made continuously available as a tool to ensure that history of the past is preserved with dignity and accuracy.