Pamyat (Russian language: Память; English translation: Memory) is a Russian ultra-nationalist organization identifying itself as the "People's National-patriotic Orthodox Christian movement." It has been accused of racism, xenophobia, and antisemitism.
At the end of 1970s a historical association called Vityaz (Витязь), sponsored by the Soviet Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments, established an "informal historical, cultural and educational organization" uniting activists-bibliophiles and amateur historians. One of the purposes of the newly formed organization was to prepare the upcoming celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kulikovo. Some notable Vityaz activists in Moscow were Ilya Glazunov (artist), S. Malyshev (historian), and A. Lebedev (Colonel of the MVD). Similar groups were created in other regions of the USSR. Later, loosely associated "informal" groups were consolidated under the name Pamyat.
At an internal meeting on October 4 1985, Pamyat split up into several factions, many of which attempted to retain the same name as the "true" Pamyat. One of them, the so-called Vasilyev's group, led by Dmitry Vasilyev (a former worker in Glazunov's studio), A. Andreyev and A. Gladkov, focused its activities on the media. They recorded and distributed tapes of their meetings and lectures containing anti-Semitic material.
On May 6 1987, Pamyat conducted an unregistered, and thus illegal, demonstration in the center of Moscow demanding an end to the construction of an officially sanctioned memorial project at Poklonnaya Hill. It resulted in a two-hour meeting with Boris Yeltsin, at that time the First Secretary of the Moscow City Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
In the fall of 1987, the National-Patriotic Front (NPF) was founded, with the aim of "renaissance", with the intent to "lead Russian people to the spiritual and national revival" on the basis of "three traditional Russian values": Orthodoxy, national character and spirituality. After several splits and the imminent dissolution of the USSR, the organization adopted a monarchist position, thus breaking with its initial national-communist tendencies.
In August 1990, a permanent NPF council member, Aleksandr Barkashov (the author of the book The ABC of a Russian Nationalist), caused another split after his announcement of being "tired to be preoccupied by recollections. It is time to act". His new group was dubbed "Russian National Unity" (Русское Национальное Единство). Barkashov promoted the cult of the swastika, a symbol which, according to Barkashov, "acts on subconsciousness of theomachists. It paralyses, weakens and demoralizes them."
In 1991 the organization's own newspaper (print run of 100,000) and a radio station (both officially registered) were launched.
By the end of the 1990s, the original Pamyat disappeared from the public scene. Dmitry Vasilyev died on July 17, 2003. The organization reactivated in 2005 and participated in the 2006 Russian March.
The recurring motive in the groups's ideology was the claim of the existence of a so-called "Ziono-Masonic plot" against Russia as "the main source of the misfortunes of Russian people, disintegration of the economy, denationalization of Russian culture, alcoholism, ecological crisis" (according to Pamyat). The "Zionists" were also blamed for the triggering of the revolutions in 1905 and 1917, the death of millions in the course of the Russian Civil War and for Stalin's personality cult. The contemporary Soviet government apparatus was alleged to be infiltrated by "Zionists and freemasons" working as "agents of Zionism" and serving the purpose of subordinating the Soviet government to the "Jewish capital". The "Zionist Occupation Government" accusation was often used by Pamyat.
Officially the organization emphasized that its ideology was merely anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic. This was also the official Soviet stance. The hate speech and the fostering of ethnic conflicts is a crime according to Russian law.
In 1993, a District Court in Moscow formally ruled that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were a fake, and dismissed a libel suit by Pamyat. The organization was criticized for using the document in their publications.
It was claimed Pamyat's ideology blended fascism with autocratic monarchy (rejecting the "legitimist" Romanoff family line), and an interpretation of Orthodoxy that borrowed heavily from the Nazi sponsored Positive Christianity. One of Pamyat's founders, Valeriy Yemelyanov, attempted to merge religious neo-Paganism with Russian ethnic neo-Nazism. He is also the author of the book "Dezionization".
Pamyat came out in support of the Yeltsin regime during its 1993 bombing of the Russian parliament, a surprising move in view of the fact that Pamyat had many ideological sympathisers amidst the defenders of the parliament.