Wed. Dec 12th, 2018

Ludmila Alexeyeva, the nonagenarian conscience of Russia

Ludmila Alexeyeva, the nonagenarian conscience of Russia


The Russian activist Ludmila Alexeyeva, who died today at 91 years of age, is considered one of the founders of the movement for the defense of human rights in the Soviet Union, which is why she was an eternal candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

"An empire can not be democratic, for it must first stop being an empire," Alexeyeva told Efe in an interview.

Alexeyeva was the president of the Moscow Helsinki Group since 1996, founded in 1976 to ensure compliance with the Helsinki Acts, which makes it the oldest human rights organization in Russia and one of the oldest in the communist bloc.

Both the deceased activist and his organization were victims of persecution by the KGB, which imprisoned several of its members, forced the committee to cease its activities between 1982 and 1989 and pushed Alexéyeva into exile in the United States.

Alexeyeva was always very critical of the growing authoritarian tendencies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially since he returned to the Kremlin in 2012, passed a law against the right of assembly and crushed the biggest anti-government protests in 20 years.

Despite being born in the Crimea in 1927, Alexeyeva opposed the Russian annexation of the then-Ukrainian peninsula (2014), which earned her the accusation of defending the interests of the United States, from where the ancestors of her husband came.

This "imperial syndrome" is what pushed Russia "to participate actively in what is happening in Ukraine (…), a key piece of the Russian empire and the puzzle of the USSR," he said.

Alexéyeva became involved in human rights activities in the late 1950s after completing her history studies by offering legal assistance to political prisoners, whom she visited in the GULAG.

Despite being expelled from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in April 1968, she publicly expressed her opposition to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, which ended the Prague Spring in August of that year.

Then, as now, he expressed his disagreement with the imperialist doctrine of "limited sovereignty" applied by Moscow in relation to the countries that make up its backyard, at that time the members of the Warsaw Pact.

That earned him several warnings from the KGB, which accused him of anti-Soviet activities and threatened to arrest him, so in 1977 he emigrated to the US, where he published a book on the history of dissent in the USSR and received citizenship in 1982.

She returned to Russia in 1993, two years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and since then she has become one of the most respected activists in the country.

He opposed the first war in Chechnya (1994-96), a conflict that considers the biggest mistake of the first democratically elected Russian president, Boris Yeltsin; and also to the war in Iraq (2003).

Although already in 2004 together with Garry Kasparov created the Russian Civil Congress with the slogan "For democracy and against the dictatorship", was not actively involved in politics until 2009 to join the Strategy-31 before the refusal of the authorities to authorize the opposition demonstrations.

That initiative consisted in the defense of article 31 of the Russian Constitution that defends the right to the meeting and its signers and co-religionists did not hesitate to challenge the police and demonstrate in the center of the Russian capital every 31st of the month.

Despite her advanced age and although she was arrested once on December 31, 2009, Alexeyeva went to the Triumfálnaya square to protest several times, which prevented the riot police from violently repressing those acts of civil disobedience.

He left the Human Rights Council attached to the Kremlin shortly after Putin returned to the Kremlin after four years in office as prime minister.

Alexeyeva described as illegal the law approved by Putin in which all non-governmental organizations financed from abroad should be classified as "foreign agent".

Unlike organizations such as Memorial, Golos or the Levada Center, Alexeyeva finally renounced foreign scholarships, after acknowledging that the USA financed almost all the activities of the Moscow Helsinki Committee.

In 2015 he returned to the human rights council at the express request of Putin, arguing that it is necessary to enter into a dialogue with the authorities.

"Putin is not an easy person and it is difficult to predict how he will act, but we can work with him, although we disagree on many things, he is able to listen, life is short, I can not wait for opposition to the Kremlin to win. elections, "he said.

Alexeyeva has been visited regularly by all the American leaders who have traveled to Russia in the last two decades, from Clinton to Bush and Obama.

In recent months, due to his fragile state of health, he had moved away from public activity, although according to his closest collaborators, he continued working until the end.

In addition to being a candidate on several occasions for Nobel prizes, Alexeyeva received the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament and Olof Palme, among other awards.

Ignacio Ortega

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