Russian Award Ceremony 2018
On 30 April, 2018, forty-three prizewinners of the Russian history competition "Man in History - Russia in the 20th Century" received their awards in the fully occupied Nikitsky Gate Theatre in Moscow. The competition was organised by the Russian human rights organisation MEMORIAL International.
Nearly 1,800 entries from about 80 regions of Russia were received by MEMORIAL International in the current competition. As before, research work on biographical history was the focus of the entries. Topics covered the entire 20th century: In addition to works on personal memories of the Russian Revolution and the beginning of the so-called "new era" in the 1920s, contributions to the Leningrad Blockade during the Second World War and the years of de-Stalinisation in the 1960s were also awarded. One of the first three prizes went to a research project on the deployment of Soviet soldiers in the war in Afghanistan, which was written by a student from the Arkhangelsk region.
Numerous speakers, among them the well-known Russian writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, the EU ambassador to Russia, Markus Ederer, the German member of the Bundestag Alexander Graf Lambsdorff and the chairman of the Human Rights Council of the President of Russia, Mikhail Fedotov, praised the achievements of the students and the voluntary work of the accompanying teachers. In his speech, Mikhail Fedotov also recalled how much the co-founder and long-time president of MEMORIAL, Arsenij Roginskij, who died in December 2017, was connected with the competition. This was the first competition in 19 years in which Roginskij could not read and evaluate the competition entries himself.
Many of the speeches emphasised the importance of independent, critical research of regional and family history by young adults in times of renationalisation of history. Patriotism in itself is nothing bad, stressed Natalia Solzhenitsyna, widow of writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and chairwoman of the foundation of the same name, but she very much wishes that the Russian history competition will contribute to an increase in the number of "thinking patriots" in Russia.
Irina Sherbakova, chairwoman of the organising committee and long-time director of the established history competition, thanked all partners and supporters of the competition at the end of the event and was relieved that the award ceremony could be held this year without disturbances from outside. Two years ago, nationalist activists insulted and attacked the guests of the award ceremony. Since then, MEMORIAL has had to tighten security measures around the closing event of the competition.
The Russian History Competition was founded in 1999 and has been held annually since then. It was one of the founding members of the EUSTORY network. Since the Russian competition was founded, some 40,000 students from all over the country have participated. The competition is supported by the EVZ Foundation, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and the Körber Foundation. But the project also has important partners in Russia: the Mikhail Prochorov Foundation has not only been financing university scholarships for first prize winners for several years, but also supports the competition as a main sponsor. Support from Russian civil society has become even more important for MEMORIAL International since the Russian Ministry of Justice added the organisation to its list of so-called "foreign agents" at the end of 2016.