On Dec. 28, the Russian Supreme Court ordered the liquidation of the Memorial society, the oldest human rights organization in Russia.

Memorial encompasses over 50 regional branches and a dozen organizations abroad. The first 23 branches were established in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s with the purpose of creating a database of citizens who perished in the gulags. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov became its first chairman.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Memorial became an international nongovernmental organization with branches in Russia, Ukraine, and other former Soviet republics, as well as in Western Europe. It began documenting human rights violations and murders of independent journalists in contemporary Russia. Memorial also initiated and helped to produce documentaries about atrocities in Chechnya. In 2008, Memorial’s office in St. Petersburg was raided by government agents and its digital archive was confiscated.

In 2014, Russia declared the Moscow Human Rights Center of Memorial a "foreign agent." Two years later, this designation was given to the entire organization. In a hope that it would turn the Russian public against Memorial, the government obliged it to add "foreign agent' to its logo on all websites and printed documents. Memorial fought in the Russian courts while accumulating astronomical fines that were paid through fundraising among supporters. Last month, the Russian prosecutor general finally requested the liquidation of Memorial. That order was protested around the world, including a statement in defense of Memorial signed by two Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureates: Mikhail Gorbachev and Dmitry Muratov.

The closing of Memorial has been a momentous step in the recent campaign to silence political dissent. In October, Russia placed a prominent human rights attorney Ivan Pavlov on the Wanted List. Pavlov defended the Kremlin's arch-nemesis Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned by a nerve agent and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in 2021. Pavlov has also worked on numerous recent cases of Russian scientists falsely accused of disclosing military secrets to the West. He has been forced into exile to avoid criminal prosecution on a bogus charge of disclosing classified information during trial.

The crackdown on human rights continues.

On Dec. 27, a Russian court extended to 15 years the prison term given to historian Yuri Dmitriev. Dmitriev came to prominence by uncovering, with the help of Memorial, the mass graves of political prisoners shot by Josef Stalins’s secret police in Karelia, parts of which Russia annexed in 1940. Dmitriev had been arrested on dubious charges in 2016, acquitted in 2018, rearrested the same year, and sentenced to 3 1/2 years.

Last fall, while Russian prosecutors were busy suppressing information about repressions and mass burials in the Soviet Union, the Russian Federal Agency for Technical Regulations and Metrology issued a national standard on "urgent burial of corpses in peacetime and wartime." It provided detailed blueprints for the construction of mass graves and spelled out the manpower needed to bury "1,000 dead within 3 days." The new law goes into effect on Feb. 1, raising questions about its relation to the amassing of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.

Whatever Russia’s plans are, it cannot be certain that Russian millennials will sign up for the repetition of atrocities of the past. The horrors of mass repressions unveiled by Memorial will be difficult to erase from their minds.

Eugene M. Chudnovsky is a distinguished professor at the City University of New York and the co-chairman of the Committee of Concerned Scientists.