Manifesto for Sustainable Peace


In the context of Russia’s ongoing full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine, the main goal of Russian civil society is to achieve a just peace based on the principles of international law, in a form that will be recognized as just by Ukrainians themselves.

We, the authors of this manifesto, representatives of Russian civil society and anti-war initiatives, understand that dialogue between Ukrainian and Russian societies cannot be resumed in the context of continuing aggression. However, we hold ourselves responsible for formulating a vision of post-war justice and peace in order to contribute to the achievement of these goals by all means available to us.

We are fully aware that the actions of the Russian leadership and all those complicit in the crime of aggression cannot go unpunished. A ceasefire, the return of territory and the payment of reparations are not sufficient guarantees for sustainable peace to be established. Only the complete transformation of Russia into a democratic, free society built on the principles of the rule of law; overcoming the painful legacy of large-scale human rights violations by the leadership of the USSR, the Russian authorities in Ukraine and other states, as well as within Russia itself; society’s realization of its responsibility for the crimes committed by the regime, as well as the total dismantling of the ideology of militarism and imperialism can be the guarantee of peace in the future.

We agree with the authors of the Ukrainian Sustainable Peace Manifesto that a return to the pre-war status quo in international relations is no longer possible. We support the need to create new conditions for international security and peace. Only this will make it possible to resolve issues of international relations from the position of law, and not force, so that Russia cannot again become a threat to peace and Ukraine.

We realize that this manifesto is just one attempt to respond to a huge and complex set of problems that our time has posed to Russian civil society and experts. Our answers to many of these questions are not clear-cut and would not be acceptable to all. That is why we are open to discussion and would like to continue the conversation.

In Chapter 1 of the manifesto, we talk about the conditions for reconciliation with Ukraine. Chapter 2 talks about transitional justice, without which Russia will not be able to build either a just or sustainable peace with Ukraine or a democracy based on the rule of law. Chapter 3 takes a closer look at Russia’s transition to democracy, and Chapter 4 looks at how to achieve a sustainable peace.

The war against Ukraine and the dictatorship in Russia may continue for years to come. Unfortunately, scenarios where there is further escalation and expansion of the war cannot be ruled out. Russia may continue to occupy territories and destroy Ukraine and other countries. Internal repression is likely to intensify. Therefore, we are convinced that it is essential to act now, without waiting for a ceasefire, peace treaty or other way of ending the war.

We believe it is necessary to prepare, expand and defend the vision of a future sustainable peace and to build processes, mutual relations and mechanisms that can lead to it. We discuss below what a just peace can be. To get closer to it, we need, in particular, to publicly and privately support Ukraine’s rights, advocate for its territorial integrity, and defend the need for broad, multilateral international support for Ukraine by all means necessary.

The movement towards a just peace includes direct support for all those who have experienced or are experiencing violence, persecution, pressure and manipulation by the Russian regime. This applies, first and foremost, to Ukrainians. This includes opposing and documenting Russian crimes, assisting civil society in Russia, helping persecuted groups, minorities, political prisoners, and all those who find themselves exposed to the acts of the unlawful state. There is an immediate need to develop a concept of overcoming war and dictatorship and to build broad coalitions for this purpose.


The road from Russia’s war of aggression to a sustainable and just peace will be long and difficult. A ceasefire, the return of territory and reparations are not enough for a sustainable peace. A vision for post-war justice needs to be developed, and this manifesto is an invitation to discuss a set of problems for which we have no clear-cut solutions. The war against Ukraine and the dictatorship in Russia may continue for years to come. But we need to act now. A concept for overcoming the war and dictatorship needs to be developed and broad coalitions built for this purpose.

The first chapter of the manifesto discusses the conditions of reconciliation with Ukraine. Russian aggression was a logical continuation of the Russian state’s politics and the transformation of Russian society. The state was privatized by a small group of individuals who used it to usurp power and wage a war of aggression. This was aided by Russia’s impunity, given that until 2022 it had already waged wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and occupied Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The key instrument of aggression is the propagandistic concept of “russkiy mir” (“Russian world”) which combines militarism, imperialism, corporatism of a fascist kind, the messianic idea of “saving” the world, xenophobia, and nostalgia for the USSR and the Russian Empire. Addressing the consequences of this aggression is impossible without changing Russia itself.

The first step towards a just peace is the de-occupation of territories and the restoration of the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine. The reintegration of the occupied territories into Ukraine will require solving problems created by Russia that affect different groups of the population of these territories. The responses to these problems should be guided by the restoration of justice, the norms of international law and human rights. Russia should compensate the damage caused to Ukraine. Russia’s voluntary settlement of claims against it by Ukraine and other countries that have been the objects of its territorial aggression will be a boon for its further development.

The second chapter talks about transitional justice, without which Russia can neither build a just and sustainable peace with Ukraine, nor a democracy based on the rule of law and respect for human rights, solidarity and social justice. Russia needs to restore the constitutional legal order and the rule of law, and to re-establish a democratic state.

Civil society has a major role to play in transitional justice processes. Crimes that could not be investigated under the previous political regime due to systemic impunity because they were organized and instigated by the state are subject to transitional justice. If crimes are not punished, society views them as acceptable.

It will be necessary to investigate crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine since 2014, crimes related to the seizing and holding on to of state power, murder and poisoning of oppositionists, election fraud, crimes against vulnerable groups of the Russian population, and others. This should be done in cooperation with the International Criminal Court, investigative teams from other countries and Russian civil society.

Transitional justice will help address impunity, bring about reconciliation and establish a new approach to the past that is shared by the majority. Truth commissions would contribute not so much to punishing criminals, as to deconstructing the institutions and customs that created the foundation for Russian crimes. This work should be based on the principles of inclusion, making the different types of violence in society more visible.

The authors of the manifesto support the idea of creating a special tribunal for the crime of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This would help the acknowledgement of moral and legal responsibility and justice, and would allow work to begin on deconstructing Soviet and imperial militarist narratives.

The third chapter examines Russia’s transition to democracy. Democracy does not need to be restored in Russia, in as much as it needs to be built anew, providing safeguards that guarantee the change of power through free elections. The separation of powers, the rule of law, and the promotion of a political culture that protects the rights of minorities are essential. The first step will require the release of political prisoners, the abolition of repressive legislation, a return to respect for human rights and international treaties, and the independence of the judiciary.

An important step in building democracy will be the separation of local self-government from state power, decentralization and federalization. The central government should be formed on the principle of delegating certain powers to it from below. New agreements between the regions and the central government need to be made and the rights of indigenous peoples need to be strengthened. The budgetary system should ensure the financial autonomy of the regions. The development of a responsible environmental policy needs to be made a separate matter of concern.

The high level of aggression, which became evident during the war with Ukraine, shows how profound the change in attitudes within Russian society needs to be. Otherwise, this aggression will continue to spill out of the country. It is necessary to address the violence that currently exists in the country’s main social institutions, significantly increase gender equality, decriminalize the LGBTQ+ community, and abolish discriminatory and hateful laws.

A dismantling of cultural stereotypes associated with the ideas of empire, expansion, nationalism, patriarchy and supremacy needs to be facilitated. The security forces should be brought under civilian control and completely reformed. School education should be freed from militaristically patriotic ideology. Civic education should become a tool for building informed citizenship.

The fourth chapter emphasizes that in order to achieve a sustainable peace, all aggressive aspects of Russian foreign policy need to be eliminated. The principle of universal jurisdiction needs to be introduced, which allows individuals to be tried for violating international law regardless of their nationality and where the crime was committed. This is a fundamental tool for creating a world based on law and justice. Tolerance for authoritarian regimes need to be rejected if such crimes are not to be repeated in the future.

For us, as the authors of this manifesto, the aggression against Ukraine is unacceptable. We cannot stop the war right now, but we will continue to do everything possible to achieve peace and contribute to the creation of a post-war democratic Russia that will be able to say, “Never again!”.

Chapter 1. Conditions for reconciliation with Ukraine: Responsibility, repentance, compensation

The Russian aggression against Ukraine was the logical continuation of the politics of the Russian state and the transformation of Russian society, which had failed to find its place after the collapse of the USSR. Ressentiment significantly predetermined the direction of Russian society’s transformation.

In the eyes of the majority of Russian citizens, and under the deliberate influence of state propaganda, the victory over the totalitarian Soviet regime gradually turned into defeat in the Cold War, national humiliation and the collapse of people’s prosperity. The crisis of 1993 led to the transformation of the new Russia into a super-presidential republic, creating the preconditions for the formation of a totalitarian regime. Representatives of the Soviet elite and their descendants largely retained their influence, inheriting undemocratic political views reinforced by the unprecedented growth of personal wealth. Weak democratic institutions and a civil society in the process of formation were unable to counteract the authoritarian trend. The Russian state was privatized by a small group of individuals who used it for their own criminal and then terrorist purposes.

The first, and then the second war in Chechnya, the 2008 war with Georgia and the occupation of part of its territory contributed to the revival of militaristic sentiments. Russia was not rebuffed and went unpunished. The result was the first stage of Russian aggression against Ukraine, which manifested itself in the occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol and the seizure of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts of Ukraine by Russian forces.

The key tool that Vladimir Putin and his entourage used for their aggression against Ukraine was the propagandistic concept of Russkiy mir (“Russian world”). It merged Russian militarism, imperialism, corporatism of a fascist kind, the messianic idea of “saving” the world, xenophobia, and nostalgia for the USSR and the Russian Empire. In relation to Ukraine, this was used as an ideological basis for denying the very existence of the Ukrainian people and language, for justifying Russia’s “historical right” to the lands of Ukraine, for justifying aggression and the subsequent “de-Ukrainization” of occupied territories.

We realize that overcoming the consequences of this aggression is impossible without changing Russia itself. The first stage of this change should be the achievement of a just peace.

De-occupation of territory

An obvious prerequisite for a sustainable and just peace is Russia’s de-occupation of all captured territories, including annexed ones. It is essential that Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders are restored.

The reintegration of the occupied territories will inevitably cause a number of problems created by Russia but that affect different population groups of these regions. They should be solved with a focus on respect for humanitarian law and human rights. These problems include:

  • The prosecution, criminal and otherwise, of citizens and former citizens of Ukraine for crimes against individuals, the state, their cooperation with the occupiers etc.
  • The legal status of citizens who lived in the occupied territories prior to their occupation but who have renounced Ukrainian citizenship.
  • The legal status of children born in the occupied territories after their occupation.
  • The legal status of children deported to Russia and given Russian passports (including adopted children, sometimes with their names changed).
  • The legal status of Russian citizens who resettled in the occupied territories after the occupation and the status of property acquired during the period when Ukrainian legislation and law enforcement were not in force in these regions.
  • The possibility for residents of the territories (regardless of their citizenship) who are not subject to criminal and other prosecution by Ukraine to travel abroad and protection of their property rights in this case.
  • The return of property illegally seized by the occupation authorities, compensation for the loss/damage of property.
  • The settlement of property relations (legalization of transactions) made voluntarily and fairly by the rightful persons during the period of occupation, but not in accordance with Ukrainian legislation
  • The protection and limitations of citizens’ electoral rights in the reintegrated territories, the particularities of exercising local self-government there.

In all these and similar issues, Russia should follow the principles of restoring justice and the norms of international law. When reintegrating the occupied territories into Ukraine, inhabitants of these regions who would like to tie their future to Russia should be given such an opportunity. The Russian state should be responsible for the costs of this. It should be possible to ensure a fair trial, in compliance with international law, for those who have committed crimes on the internationally recognized territory of Ukraine. This step is necessary to restore the legal space on Russia’s internationally recognized territory.

Reparations for Ukraine

During its war of aggression in Ukraine, Russia has inflicted enormous damage. The lives lost and the towns and villages that have been destroyed by the war represent irreparable, irreplaceable damage. The damage must be assessed according to internationally recognized methodology and compensated to Ukraine in a foreseeable time frame. Russia’s war against Ukraine is neither just nor necessary. As in the case of a crime, the payment of compensation that recovers some of the damage done is a way to restore justice. The voluntary settlement of all disputes and claims involving Russia and countries that were objects of its territorial aggression (including compensation) will be a boon for Russia’s further development.

A similar approach can be applied in settling disputes with other countries with which Russia has unresolved disputes or against which Russia has committed aggression, including Belarus, Georgia, the Baltic states, Moldova and Poland.

As long as relations between Russia and Ukraine remain hostile, Russia will not be able to normalize relations with Europe and the US. This, in turn, will prevent Russia from gradually restoring the welfare of Russian citizens and building a peaceful society.

Reparations can be primarily funded by using the funds of Russian assets that have been frozen abroad and sanctioned companies and individuals. In this case, reparations will not undermine the Russian economy and will not noticeably affect the welfare of the population. Reasonable terms, amounts and mechanisms are needed for such payments. We also propose the creation of a specially allocated account to which Russians can transfer funds for the reconstruction of Ukraine voluntarily. These transfers will be one of the opportunities to demonstrate that they are aware of their responsibility.

We would like voluntary compensation to become an effective, practical way of recognizing responsibility for the crimes committed by Russia, although we realized that this is not enough. Responsibility for the crimes committed is not limited to the payment of reparations.

Addressing the humanitarian consequences of the war

Russia's aggression and war crimes have caused a humanitarian catastrophe in the areas of human rights, refugee rights, family and children’s rights, ecology among others. We realize that these problems will not be solved by themselves as a result of the mere cessation of active armed operations. Any peace agreement must necessarily include a clear plan to resolve these problems and minimize the severity of their consequences.

The occupation measures, policy of filtration and mass persecution of Ukrainian citizens have resulted in the imprisonment of thousands of people in Russian prisons. Criminal cases have not been opened against the vast majority of them; many are held extralegally, sometimes in secret prisons. Torture has become an integral part of this process of mass abductions and arbitrary deprivation of liberty. The psychological and physical traces of the abuse will be borne by the victims for the rest of their lives.

Victims of the war are also those who have fled from it – to Europe, to third countries and to Russia. Many families are separated and have no way of contacting their relatives. Many exist in poverty, without permanent jobs are a place to live. Returning home is often impossible. Ukrainian citizens who have fled to Russia are often forced to take Russian citizenship to make their existence possible in Russian-controlled territories. For some of them, this is not a voluntary but a forced step.

Up to 738 thousand Ukrainian minors have found themselves in Russian-controlled territory. Ukraine believes that at least 16 thousand of them have been deported. Many of these people are placed in special camps or other institutions where they are subjected to ideological indoctrination. Persons with mental disabilities who were in psychiatric hospitals in the occupied territories find themselves in a similar situation. Many of them were taken to Russian territory without their relatives being notified and given Russian citizenship. They find themselves cut off not only from their relatives, but also from their culture. These actions are criminal.

The war has caused many small and large ecological disasters. The territory of Ukraine is very heavily polluted as a result of the fighting, flora and fauna are in a catastrophic state. Environmental crimes must be investigated and their perpetrators punished. Russia must participate in the fixing of the damage (through the demining of territories and restoring biodiversity).

In order to address these consequences of the war, we consider it necessary, among other things, to:

  • Release and repatriate to their homeland all illegally detained Ukrainian civilians without a legal status established by law.
  • Dismantle the Russian system of filtration camps and the system of secret prisons.
  • Refer criminal cases against Ukrainian citizens that have been opened in Russia since the start of the aggression to an independent, impartial and public court.
  • Repatriate to Ukraine all Ukrainian citizens convicted of crimes against other Ukrainian citizens for review by Ukrainian courts.
  • Ensure that Ukrainian citizens, especially the elderly, the sick, the disabled, and children, have the opportunity and conditions for an unimpeded return from Russian territory to their place of permanent residence.
  • Establish a bureau to search for missing civilians and ensure that Ukrainian citizens can visit Russia to search for relatives and visit their places of burial.
  • Create a unified register of Ukrainian children who have been caught in Russian-controlled territories since 2014 to ensure the possibility of searching for them and the protection of their rights by Ukraine and interested parties. Guarantee the return to Ukraine of children who had legal parents (biological or adoptive) and children under the care or guardianship of the state or private individuals.
  • Together with Ukraine and international organizations, guided by the principle of the child's best interests, to resolve the fate of children who did not have legal guardians at the time of coming under Russian rule and who were adopted into Russian families on the basis of a guarantee that they will retain their Ukrainian citizenship, ties with relatives and access to their native culture.
  • Guarantee Ukrainian citizens the unconditional right to compensation for abduction, illegal detention, torture, damage to health and life, illegal adoption and other crimes committed against them.
  • Investigate all cases of crimes committed against Ukrainian citizens since 2014, guaranteeing that justice will be served to all those involved, regardless of their rank and social status.
  • Provide for various forms of active cooperation with the relevant Ukrainian authorities, international organizations and civil associations of Ukraine and Russia in the course of these investigations.
  • Ensure the wide access of the Russian, Ukrainian and international public to the results of these investigations and other information on crimes committed by Russian citizens against Ukrainian citizens since 2014.

All investigations and proceedings on such crimes should be open to the international public and broadcast in several languages, including Russian. Russian citizens should have access to information on the scale of the crimes committed since 2014.

Chapter 2. Transitional justice

Basic principles for the realization of transitional justice

Russia needs to restore the constitutional legal order and the rule of law and to re-establish a democratic state based on unconditional respect for human rights, solidarity and social justice. We endeavour to facilitate this. This goal will require full-scale constitutional reform, a working through of the totalitarian past and a decisive rejection of the current unjust, immoral and anti-human system of governance.

A just world cannot be sustainable if Russia does not embark on the path of building a democratic federal state based on the rule of law. A prerequisite for such a transformation must be the launch and implementation of transitional justice processes and Russia’s acceptance of moral, political and legal responsibility for acts of aggression committed against other independent states and for other international crimes committed by its armed forces and special services, for current and past crimes against its own citizens.

The goals entail the adoptions of comprehensive measures in the political, legal, educational, institutional, social and culture spheres. They should be aimed not only at dismantling the existing political regime in the country but also at preventing its revenge, establishing and entrenching democratic institutions and practices in the future.

The role of civil society

A huge role in the development and implementation of measures to transform the Russian state, political system and society lies with Russian civil society, with the possible participation of civil organizations from other countries. Civil society must act in a principled and decisive manner, taking into account the lessons of the failed and abortive transition of the early 1990s, which was not accompanied by the necessary transitional justice measures.

Full-scale transitional justice processes can only begin after the end of armed combat, when societies are on the path to democratization. But the preparation of these measures should be initiated as soon as possible. Transitional justice processes should not be the sole responsibility of the state, which is responsible for large-scale human rights violations. Civil society has an important role to play in initiating and monitoring transitional justice processes. These efforts should be aimed at ensuring that state wrongdoing is remedied in accordance with international legal standards, building on key transitional justice mechanisms. These include:

  • Truth commissions,
  • Reform of the judiciary, law enforcement, military and security forces to ensure fair justice,
  • Prosecution of those suspected of crimes,
  • Compensation for psychological and material damage, legal rehabilitation of victims,
  • Lustration and other measures to rehabilitate state structures,
  • Memorialization, safeguards ensuring that the crimes will not be repeated.

The work of transitional justice will lay the foundations for Russia’s transition to establishing the rule of law and democracy. These measures will provide justice for the victims, show care and solidarity for them, punish the perpetrators and create conditions to ensure that crimes are not repeated.

As the experience of Russia at the turn of the 1980s-90s shows, incomplete and inconsistent implementation of transitional justice measures creates conditions for democratization to fail, the rule of law not to be established, and makes authoritarian revenge possible. We believe that this negative experience should be taken into account in the political transition from Putin’s regime to liberal democracy. Preparations for this implementation of transitional justice should be initiated before the war ends and the political regime in Russia changes.

Transitional justice applies to crimes and offenses that could not have been investigated under the previous political regime and, in the case of Russia, at least since 1917. In some cases, transitional justice is also needed for earlier events. It targets crimes that cannot be investigated and punished in a timely manner due to “systemic impunity”. These are crimes that are organized, “sponsored,” inspired and/or perpetrated by the state.

Without being investigated, such crimes become the norm of behaviour in state and law enforcement agencies, special services, courts, budgetary organizations, etc. If no-one is punished for committing such a crime, such as, for example, election fraud, then society begins to perceive such acts as acceptable, they become part of the professional culture.

An important task for transitional justice in Russia will be to investigate crimes aimed at appropriating and retaining state power, including terrorist acts on the territory of the country, elimination of independent media, bribery, murder and poisoning of opposition members, rigging of elections and preventing independent candidates, forcing citizens to vote for representatives of the authorities, and politically motivated repression. They should be investigated in detail and the results should be openly published.

The set of transitional justice measures should, including in cooperation with the International Criminal Court, courts and investigative teams from other countries, provide for investigations into crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine since 2014. We believe it is necessary to collect detailed testimony from Russian soldiers and from all Russian citizens who visited the occupied territories or were involved in working with Ukrainians on Russian territory and who may have been participants in or witnesses to crimes.

We see as a special area of focus for transitional justice the investigation of crimes related to interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Investigation and punishment of the subjects of past crimes should be accompanied by the prevention of new crimes and the cessation of ongoing crimes. The goal of these proceedings should be to overcome impunity, without which neither reconciliation with other countries nor the establishment of institutions based on the rule of law is possible.

The same measures should be taken with regard to crimes committed on the territory of Russia, especially against vulnerable groups, ethnicities, and territorial and legal entities, including federal subjects. Those who currently support the Russian political regime will also need to be involved. After all, the goal of transitional justice is to establish an approach to the past that is shared by the majority, to achieve reconciliation.

Special Tribunal for the crime of aggression

We fully support the idea of creating a Special Tribunal for the crime of Russian aggression against Ukraine. This will be a step towards accepting responsibility for acts of aggression and will accelerate the movement towards restoring the disrupted balance in the world community. It will contribute to reconciliation with Ukraine, restoring relations on the basis of justice, trust and respect.

The establishment of such a tribunal will serve as an act of moral and legal justice and contribute to the prevention of repeated crimes, sending a clear message to other political actors that it will not be possible to avoid responsibility for acts of aggression. The participation of independent Russian experts in the establishment and work of the tribunal will be proof of our sincere intention to accept responsibility, bring about justice and promote reconciliation.

It is important that official Russian structures and the population perceive such a tribunal not as “anti-Russian” but as aimed at investigating and punishing the crime of aggression. It is equally important that the creation of the tribunal will also contribute to the rule of law and sustainable democracy being established in Russia, ensuring respect for the principles of supremacy of the international law and the development of democratic institutions, which will be the foundation of our society in the future.

The work of restoring justice requires not only the individual punishment of perpetrators, but also the deconstruction of those institutions and customs that created the foundation for these crimes. It must be built on principles of inclusion.

Truth commissions make visible the different types of violence in society. Therefore, vulnerable groups should be included in their work: women, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, representatives of indigenous groups and ethnic minorities. Commissions should work with such groups, draw on their views, testimonies and research, and conduct their work in an open manner. This will help to build a growing body of evidence of discrimination against people with disabilities, racist, gender-based, sexualized, homophobic, ageist and economic violence.

The politics of memory and addressing the “imperial syndrome”

Russian society has not only to deal with the consequences of the crimes committed by Russia in the last 30 years, but also to work through the full range of crimes committed by the Soviet state between 1917 and 1991, and in some aspects, even earlier history. Many systematic crimes of Soviet and imperial power have become much more visible to the public specifically after 2014 and especially since 2022. The catastrophic lack of work to comprehend and deconstruct the mechanisms of Soviet state violence, oppression and discrimination that has been carried out in Russian society so far has become doubly evident.

Memory and history must be taken out from under the control of the state. Without this, it will not be possible to analyze Russian history from the perspective of the interests of the individual and society, not the state. History should not become a tool of state propaganda. Civic and activist associations need to regain freedom of memory by facilitating a dialogue among all interested social, ethnic, territorial, religious, confessional and other groups and circles of society about the understanding of Soviet and imperial history. In the USSR and the Russian Empire, many people experienced oppression, suffered from forced Russification, homophobia, gender discrimination, among others. The experiences of those groups that have not left written testimonies also need to be examined.

Moving towards sustainable peace is impossible without analyzing and fully deconstructing the historical and political, Soviet and imperial militarist narratives, practices and ideas that underlie Putin’s current political mythology. Particular attention should be paid to hateful ideas, including the idea of “Russkiy mir,” homophobia, and the subjugation of entire nations. Such ideas became the ideological underpinning of the war against Ukraine. The deconstruction of historical and political myths requires:

  • A political and legal assessment of the systemic crimes of the Soviet and imperial state, a detailed account of state terror and its participants. After that, programs that will help to restore justice, compensate victims and their descendants for the crimes committed need to be established.
  • The abolition in Russia of so-called “memory laws” that were passed to combat dissent, as well as laws restricting access to archives.
  • Opening and transferring to public use and independent control all state and departmental archives, including those of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, and digitizing and publishing the corpus of documents significant to the public.
  • Dialogue with peoples outside the Russian Federation who suffered at the hands of the USSR and its dominance in the region to open a space for joint critical reflection on the Soviet experience. In many cases, the recognition of past crimes (the Holodomor, the Asharshylyk, annexations, deportations, military invasions, etc.) and their international status need to be enshrined in law with legally binding documents.
  • Increasing the visibility of the systemic oppression of Ukraine, Ukrainian culture and identity, exposing anti-Ukrainian stereotypes and myths formed in the Russian Empire and constructed by the Soviet and Russian authorities. It is necessary to clarify the history of ownership of Ukrainian historical artifacts, culture and art in Russian museums, with the aim of proposing the return to Ukraine of those objects of Ukrainian origin.
  • The full rehabilitation of those who resisted Soviet rule in Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Georgia and other countries that fought for sovereignty. The visibility of anti-Bolshevik, anti-Soviet resistance needs to be increased. It is essential to learn to see the people who fought for the preservation of national languages, religions, and culture in the republics within the USSR and the RSFSR.
  • The transfer to the local government level issues of toponymy, installation of monuments and memorial plaques, and the dismantling of Soviet and Putin-era monuments.
  • Maximum autonomy of school and university education and research from the state. The full autonomy of universities is essential.
  • The demythologization of pseudo-patriotic narratives about World War II, its reinterpretation on the basis of family memory and the historical memory of other countries. Deconstruction of the notion of wars in which Russia participated, of the “peaceful” expansion of its territory.

These steps will contribute to the development of critical thinking among Russian citizens, the emergence of citizens and a society that will be able to take responsibility, participate in the development of fundamental values in the country, and deter the state from committing new domestic and international crimes.

It is essential to accept responsibility for crimes committed against peoples living in the territory of modern Russia, the USSR, the Russian Empire, as well as in the zone of their influence.

Support is needed for cultural and research projects that deconstruct the ideology of the past and Russian imperialist narratives. Support is also needed for programs related to the study and preservation of minority traditions, art and literature, the development of political spaces in the languages of different peoples in Russia, and support for feminist, queer and other activists.

A sustained emancipation of the Russian language from totalitarian narratives and forms is necessary. Xenophobic and chauvinistic discourse, the supremacy of one race or ethnic group over another must be investigated and condemned by society. This is an even more difficult task than the fight against ideas: a careful deconstruction of linguistic habits, linguistic practices, in which all these ideas are embodied and reproduced unconsciously by people. To address the imperial syndrome, it is necessary to strengthen horizontal ties and cooperation between regions.

Chapter 3. Sustainable democracy in Russia and public administration

We do not know what the contours of post-war Russia will look like. However, for any territorial entity, within any of its boundaries, there will be a question not just of “restoring” democracy, but of a fundamentally new stage of building democracy in Russia. In Russian civil society today, there is a consensus that sustainable democracy entails constitutional and institutional safeguards that guarantee power is handed over at all levels in line with the results of free elections.

We stand in solidarity with Russian opposition groups that aim to: 1) adopt a new electoral code providing for the independence of election commissions and public control over elections, 2) conduct comprehensive federalization that will no longer allow central authorities to usurp power, 3) dismantle the super-presidential form of government and transition to parliamentary forms of government, 4) form a government of the coalition that wins the election, 5) restore an independent judiciary and legislature, 6) guarantee freedom of speech and conscience, 7) create/re-establish the law enforcement system and severely limit the powers of the security forces; establish civilian control and mechanisms of accountability to society for the security forces.

Russia needs separation of powers, the rule of law and the maintenance of a political culture that protects the rights of minorities. Post-war democracy in Russia will only be possible through a sustained solidarity effort to maintain it.

Human rights and independence of the judiciary

The foundation of the catastrophe that unfolded after February 24, 2022 was the systemic violations of the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens that have been growing over recent decades. They were made possible by the insufficient readiness of Russian society to defend its rights and freedoms. The reaction of the international community to these violations was also insufficient.

There is a need for a more consistent and principled position of the international community regarding the situation with human rights and freedoms in Russia, the Russian state’s compliance with generally accepted norms and standards in this area, and the obligations it has assumed. At the same time, it is important to build a national system of human rights training and education.

After the change of political regime in Russia, political prisoners and all those who have been illegally detained need to be released as soon as possible. All criminal cases with indications of political motivation and illegality of prosecution need to be reviewed. Repressive legislative norms that contradict the Russian Constitution, universally recognized principles and norms of international law, international treaties of the Russian Federation and principles of equal rights must be abolished. These actions should become a necessary and indispensable condition for a postwar settlement.

Substantial efforts are also needed in the following areas:

  • Ensuring the real independence of the courts, expanding the jurisdiction of trials by jury, and abolishing exemptions to this independence,
  • Ensuring the real adversarial nature of the parties to criminal and administrative proceedings,
  • Expanding the rights of the defence in criminal and administrative cases,
  • Guaranteeing the transparency of the court,
  • Guaranteeing the independence of the legal profession,
  • Revising anti-extremist and counter-terrorist legislation in order to narrow the scope of its application, make the norms more specific, and minimize opportunities for misuse,
  • Abolition of norms establishing and regulating the concepts of “foreign agents”, “undesirable organizations”, “propaganda of non-traditional values”, etc.,
  • Systemic softening of criminal legislation, consistent implementation of the principle of legal certainty, minimization of discretion and selectivity in law enforcement, narrowing the scope of criminal liability,
  • Reform of prison legislation aimed at humanizing the detention of prisoners and creating conditions for their successful reintegration into society; expansion of public control over the penitentiary system,
  • Abolition of legislative restrictions on freedom of assembly and consolidation of mechanisms for the realization of the right to freedom of assembly,
  • Abolition of mechanisms to extrajudicially restrict the right to freedom of expression,
  • Simplification of the legislation on civil associations, including their founding, reduction of the possibilities for state bodies to interfere in their activities.

Local self-government

Any changes to institutions, values and policies will be sustainable only to the extent that they permeate the fabric of social relations. A sustainable peace will have to be implemented in more than 20 thousand Russian municipalities.

Democratization, decentralization, granting local governments independence, and strengthening the tax base will not be enough to create a system of local self-government in Russia. Municipal power must be securely separated from state power.

Local self-government, which incorporates common sense and the natural cooperation of people to the greatest extent possible, becomes a school of democracy for a huge mass of citizens. That is why we are in favour of maximizing the competence of local self-government, transferring the widest possible range of issues to it, and ensuring its financial independence. It is also important to stimulate the interaction of human rights and other civil society organizations with local government.

Federalization and decentralization and the rights of indigenous peoples

After the war, the main powers and financial resources in Russia should be concentrated at the local and regional level. The central government should be formed on the principle of delegating certain powers to it (in the field of defence, security, development of national infrastructure, ensuring the unity of economic and legal space), it should not have functions that have not been clearly delegated by law. It will remain for the federal centre to control the regional authorities’ compliance with constitutional norms and legal standards, including human rights.

A new agreement between the regions and the centre needs to be made, which will distribute powers in detail, create a system of checks and balances to control the work of the federal centre and provide for the possibility of the regions’ withdrawal from the federation. The main principle of the new federal structure is voluntariness.

The new statutes of the federative state should enshrine the rights of indigenous peoples, including the right to self-determination, in accordance with the foundational documents of the UN and the Council of Europe. Special status should be accorded to the linguistic rights of indigenous peoples, including:

  • the right to receive education in their native language,
  • the right to have indigenous languages recognized in federal and regional constitutions and legislation,
  • the right to live free from linguistic discrimination,
  • the right to create and have access to media in their own languages,
  • the right to receive medical care in one's native language.

It is essential to enshrine the financial autonomy of the regions, which means replenishing regional and local budgets from revenues generated on their territory. For regions with a low level of economic development, an institute for regional development can be launched. To ensure financial autonomy of the regions, the tax and budget system need to be reformed in favour of a more equitable distribution of revenues between regional budgets and the federal centre, whose powers, administrative apparatus, and authority should be significantly reduced. Regions should become customers of the federal centre’s public administration services, paying for its work through contributions to the central budget.

An independent anti-corruption institute (the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, currently under the control of the executive branch) should perform the functions of independent public control over the implementation of budgets on all levels and anti-corruption measures.

Climate change and environmental protection

Russia has vast natural resources. Its ecosystems are important not only for the country’s population, but also for the whole world. But for its neighbours, Russia can also be a source of environmental problems. Therefore, we call for the preservation of Russia’s unique natural ecosystems and biodiversity, and for their sustainability in the interests of the world.

This requires the application of improved and up-to-date environmental expertise and an environmental monitoring system at the stages of planning and implementing environmentally significant economic projects. It is very important to ensure active public participation in decision-making as well as to revise legislation and enforce it in the field of specially protected natural areas, the protection of natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites, forest protection, the preservation of Baikal etc.

Special attention should be paid to issues of waste management, including industrial and household waste. The existing waste management system is not sustainable. Reforms are required to transition to the principles of a circular economy which will help to reduce waste and increase recycling.

Russia's most important task is to achieve a just energy transition. Currently, Russia depends on hydrocarbon resources and receives revenues from their export, which allow it to conduct military operations in Ukraine and finance processes that destabilize entire countries and regions. Russia is one of the largest countries in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, so it is important to reorient energy policy towards the development of renewable energy sources, considering the possibilities of reducing dependence on nuclear power.

Russia should actively support international agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Russia’s ratification of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters will be another important step towards a sustainable and secure world.

Overcoming societal violence and gender equality

Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine has shown everyone how high the level of aggression and violence in Russian society is. This situation needs to change, otherwise this aggression will continue to threaten all segments of Russian society, including children, the elderly and other less protected groups, and will equally hinder the building of a sustainable peace.

It is known that the higher the level of gender equality in a country, the lower the level of violence in society and its propensity to resolve internal and external, including inter-state, disputes through violence. Gender equality and the physical security of women and other vulnerable groups are among the foundations of sustainable democracy today.

Like the majority of the Russian population, we support women’s right to abortion, believe that men and women are equally effective at work and equally capable of being good parents and running a household. Despite the Russian government’s efforts to propagandize and forcibly introduce pseudo-conservative values, they find little support in society.

Current Russian legislation and the authorities’ refusal to pass the necessary laws, including a law on domestic violence, prevents men from being fully integrated into the family, women from being fully integrated at work, and everyone from feeling safe. Protection from harassment and discrimination in education and the workplace is needed. The full transformation of the Russian state and society cannot be realized without abolishing conscription.

It is necessary to change family support systems to actively include both parents in caring for children (e.g., changing the system of parental leave), to increase support for families (allowances, nurseries, kindergartens, schools, etc.), especially those with many children, and to create an alimony fund. It is of great importance to achieve equality in the workplace: equal pay and audits to ensure this, the widespread introduction of the practice of “blind recruitment”, and the protection of labour rights of those who take care of children and sick relatives.

The war and, in particular, military recruitment from the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service have increased domestic and street violence. To reduce it, special programs are needed to treat and rehabilitate combatants with PTSD and addictions. Russia cannot be part of a sustainable peace as long as there are many discriminated categories of people within the country itself. Low rates of participation of women in politics increases the risk of military conflicts. Democracy is impossible without inclusion, and the inclusiveness of power begins with gender diversity. Women are the largest discriminated group in Russia, so their participation in politics on an equal footing with men will make Russian politics more peaceful and democratic.

Decriminalization of the LGBTQ+ community

Over the past 12 years, Russia has adopted several discriminatory laws that not only prohibit openly declaring one's sexual orientation and gender identity, but also incite hatred in society towards LGBTQ+ people, including through propaganda. The criminalization and declaring the LGBTQ+ community as extremist, the de facto prohibition of transitioning for trans people and the promotion of a narrative of hatred towards this, as well as any other vulnerable, group, contradicts the fundamentals of human rights and makes it impossible to create a just and sustainable society based on the principles of democracy and equality.

The discriminatory and hateful laws need to not only be repealed, but attention also needs to be paid to investigating crimes committed against LGBTQ+ people among others, and to taking measures to ensure their rights and safety in society.

The role of culture

After the war, Russian culture will have to answer a very difficult question for a long time: how did it come to pass that we allowed a historical catastrophe? The cultural dimension of Putinism must undergo a thorough critical analysis. The answer to this question and the attempt to prevent aggression in the future will require dismantling the concepts of empire, which even now remain alive in the minds of tens of millions of Russians. Culture can play an enormous role in shaping a post-imperial, post-war future.

The goal of this new culture is to help dismantle cultural stereotypes associated with ideas of empire, external expansion, nationalism, patriarchal society, the superiority of one people over another, one country over another, one person over another. Through artistic works, cultural actors could help dismantle harmful stereotypes that are often considered a fundamental part of the Russian worldview, starting with the idea of Russia’s special path.

Close cooperation with artists from Eastern and Central Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia would help bring their voices to a wider public in Russia, talking about Russian and Soviet occupation, about their perceptions of the past and the “friendship of peoples”. The work of reinterpreting history will be an important part of cultural work. After all, most people now perceive both modern Russia, the USSR, and the Russian Empire as states that brought goodness and civilization to neighbouring peoples. Stalinism and imperial stereotypes are deeply rooted in Russian culture.


The monopolization of control over the Russian armed forces and other security agencies, as we witnessed in February 2022, has given Putin a powerful tool to consolidate personal power within the country and pursue imperialist policies. Russian civil society and democratic politicians must re-assert systematic parliamentary and civilian control over the armed forces. The activities of the Russian security forces should be aimed at protecting human rights, not the interests of a narrow group of politicians.

For this purpose, future democratic institutions and civil society need to follow five fundamental principles in the development of national security structures:

  • Russia must establish systematic parliamentary and civilian control over all militarized organizations. For this purpose, the best world standards, the experience of other countries and the negative lessons of Russian history should be used.
  • Future democratic institutions and civil society should carry out reforms to the armed forces, including reform of military legislation, training and military science as part of fulfilling Russia's future international obligations and international law. This will require the will of politicians who are capable of uniting the military, civil servants and civil society representatives in the interests of peace, the protection of human rights and the fulfilment of Russia's international obligations.
  • The reform of the military-industrial complex should build the economic basis for a more efficient, dynamic and modern force that does not harm civilians and the environment.
  • Russian foreign policy should be responsible for the peace and prosperity of future generations. To this end, Russia, together with international partners, should reinstate its full participation in international arms control and non-proliferation treaties, given the increasing role of non-European countries in the global security system.
  • Russia's democratic civil society and government should carry out widespread education of Russian citizens about the functions, roles, and principles of all Russian security agencies. The militaristic myth about the role of the armed forces and other security agencies in Russian history hinders peaceful democratic development and harms the security of Russian and other countries.

To combat militarism, the Russia school curriculum must be completely freed from militaristically patriotic ideology and reoriented toward solidarity with others, creative entrepreneurship, and cultural openness. Russian children should be guided towards caring for each other, creativity, and the well-being of their community and country, understanding who is protecting them, from whom and how.

Civic education

The totalitarian communist regime and its direct successor, the modern Russian regime, have committed the gravest crimes against humanity. They have targeted individuals and society as a whole. The impunity of these crimes, the remorselessness of society, the rewritten history, and the indoctrination of citizens from school onwards have made the Russian population inert and ill-equipped for civic participation.

Civic education is a necessary condition and tool to develop the conditions for conscious citizenship. It involves the citizen’s awareness of themselves as an active participant in civic life (not only within their state, but also in the world), an understanding of the complexity and interconnectedness of processes in the global world, of history, their own involvement and responsibility, and the civic solidarity that naturally follows from this. A strong and enlightened civil society creates the conditions for a sustainable democracy, demands accountability from the state and helps to ensure that violence will not be repeated.

Chapter 4. Sustainable peace

The blame and responsibility for the attack on Ukraine lies entirely with Russia. However, changes in Russia alone are not enough to prevent other similar tragedies. Despite the efforts of the global community, the world continues to be shaken by wars. Peacekeeping efforts must continue and the world order must be strengthened if we want to live in peace.

Russia needs a fundamentally new foreign policy doctrine after the war. It can be based on the document approved in 1993, when Russia demonstrated its desire to become a democratic country whose main foreign policy goal is to establish good neighbourly relations with partners and bordering countries, and whose main instrument is diplomacy. The use of military force to resolve political and state disputes should once again be declared unacceptable.

All aggressive elements of foreign policy, including the use of military force, should be clearly linked to international security mechanisms within the framework of the OSCE, the UN, and other international organizations and alliances. The CSTO can be preserved only if it is radically reformed on the basis of equal representation of the interests of all member states and if the alliance is transformed into a real collective body for maintaining order, rather than the police structures that Russia uses today to pressure its neighbours. The creation of new regional alliances and organizations to achieve a balanced horizontal system of collective security needs to be fostered.

International law and international institutions

We are convinced that a sustainable world order cannot be on the basis of “might makes right” or the “law of the jungle”. International relations should be conducted in accordance with the rule of international law and be subject to its fundamental provisions, enshrined in Article 2 of the UN Charter, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in international treaties on the protection of human rights, in the decisions of international courts and other international authorities.

Russia’s new democratic institutions should strive for reform in the UN. After the end of the war and the beginning of democratization, Russia should refrain from using its “veto power” in the UN Security Council in situations involving humanitarian crises, massive human rights violations and international crimes. Its vote in the UN General Assembly on such issues should be aimed at condemning international crimes and mass violations of human rights, including those committed by Russia and bringing the perpetrators to international criminal responsibility.

The global civil society campaign “We, the Peoples” was launched in 2020. It calls for three changes to give civil society a stronger voice in global governance. First, it proposes the creation of a “World Citizens’ Initiative” that would enable citizens to put forward proposals that reach a certain threshold of public support on the agenda of the UN General Assembly or Security Council. Second, it calls for the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly of elected representatives and to make it the link between citizens and the UN. Third, it proposes the creation of a UN Civil Society Envoy who would be responsible for implementing a more inclusive strategy for engagement between civil society and the UN. If this is implemented, the UN will be able to respond more effectively to global challenges – discrimination, inequality, conflict and climate change. And Russia’s new democratic authorities need to support movement in this direction.

Russia must embark on a path of necessary constitutional and other legislative reforms, and develop political and practical measures to overcome the obstacles to it rejoining the Council of Europe and acceding to the European Convention of Human Rights.

There is a need to review the international criminal justice system and to find better levers for its effective implementation with respect to all international crimes, regardless of who is suspected of committing them. One such mechanism is the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows persons to be tried for international law violations regardless of their nationality or where the crime was committed. Strengthening the cooperation of states in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for international crimes will support the fight against impunity and the maintenance of international peace and security. The principle of universal jurisdiction must be strengthened as a fundamental tool for creating a world based on law and justice.

There is no place in the international legal order for the selective application of international criminal law. Russia should join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and adopt the Kampala Amendments to the 2010 Rome Statute on the crime of aggression. Russia should implement the Rome Statute in its national legislation and cooperate with the ICC without any delays or exceptions, including arresting and transferring persons and facilitating their voluntary appearance before the ICC upon request. Russia’s acknowledgment of the ICC’s jurisdiction over international crimes committed by its nationals or on its territory in the past should be reviewed, with recognition of its jurisdiction up to July 1, 2002. As a party to the ICC, Russia should promote the expansion and universalization of its membership.

Refusal to tolerate authoritarian regimes

The Russian experience shows that the concept that liberalization is inevitable as a consequence of economic development has proven to be untenable. Attempts to build ties with authoritarian regimes lead to their strengthening rather than to democratic change. Russia’s attack on Ukraine confirms that cooperation with authoritarian regimes increases the threat to global security and prevents timely and effective confrontation with aggressor countries. Democratic countries need to minimize their dependence on industrial autocracies and autocracies rich in natural resources. The spread of advanced technologies needs to be controlled, preventing their transfer to authoritarian regimes.

Weakening trade and economic ties with authoritarian regimes does not mean autocracies should be completely isolated. Supporting civil societies in such countries will contribute to the sustainability of possible future democratic changes in them. Dialogue with civil associations and NGOs will make it possible to hear unrepresented segments of the population in dictatorial regimes, to better understand the processes taking place within them, and to interact with them more effectively. States and supranational institutions can invest in education programs and share expertise with civil associations.

Post-war Russia should become an active participant in this process. And at the same time, subject to the principle of voluntarism, also an object of this process – until certain guarantees are met that it will not return to totalitarianism.

In lieu of a conclusion & Authors

We believe that Russian civil society has the potential to rethink the foundations of Russian statehood based on the principles of democracy, federalism, the rule of law, respect for human rights and freedoms, and nonviolence.

We express our commitment to democratic values, the values of human rights and freedoms and international law. The transition to a democratic state based on the rule of law in Russia, that is safe for neighbouring countries and its own citizens, is a huge challenge for democratically minded citizens of Russia.

We belong to that part of Russian society for whom the aggression against Ukraine is unacceptable. We are not in a position to stop the war today. But we will continue to do everything possible to achieve peace and create a post-war democratic Russia that will be able to say, “Never again!”

The Manifesto was prepared by:

  • Inna Berezkina, School of Civic Education
  • Sergey Vasiliev, lawyer
  • Varvara V., decolonial fem-activist
  • Alexandra Polivanova, "Memorial"
  • Nelya Rakhimova, expert on sustainable development
  • Boris Grozovsky, “Country and world. Sakharov review”
  • Sergey Davidis, Head of the "Political prisoners support. Memorial" Project
  • Roman K., human rights defender
  • Irina K., Platform of Civil, Anti-War and Humanitarian Initiatives
  • Sergey Krivenko, human rights defender
  • Alexander Morozov, political scientist
  • Katya Moroko, Platform of Civil, Anti-War and Humanitarian Initiatives
  • Ivan Preobrazhensky, PhD in political science, commentator at Deutsche Welle
  • Elena Rusakova, psychologist, politician
  • Artur Solomonov, writer, playwright
  • Evelina Chaika, human rights activist, LGBTQ activist
  • Georgy Chizhov, political scientist
  • Kirill Sh., defense policy specialist
  • Anna Y., anti-colonial activist, economist
  • Lana Py, anti-colonial activist, physicist, Ph.
  • Maria, blogger "The girl who said know"

A constantly updated list of signatories can be found on their website, and you can also sign on