Statement on Passing of Russian HRD Lyudmila Alekseeva
Front Line Defenders is deeply saddened by the passing of the prominent human rights defender Lyudmila Alekseeva who died on 8 December 2018 at the age of 91 in Moscow, Russia.
Lyudmila Aleseeva worked for over 50 years defending human rights, and hers is the story of the modern human rights movement in Russia. On 5 December 1965, when the first human rights demonstration gathered in Pushkinskaya square in Moscow to show solidarity with persecuted Soviet writers Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel, Lyudmila Alekseeva was there. Historians later named that day the birthday of the Soviet human rights movement of which she would become a key member. These protests became a symbol of a “thawing” for civil society in Soviet Russian history; Lyudmila referred to hers as “the generation of Thaw”.1 As Andrey Amalrik, the Russian writer and the dissident, said, the human rights defenders “did an ingeniously simple thing [back then] - in an oppressed country they began to behave like free people and thereby changed the moral atmosphere and the traditions that governed the country”.
Lyudmila Alekseeva followed the tradition of the Thraw’s human rights defenders and acted freely when talking to both government and civil society representatives. In 1976 she was one of the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest human rights NGO in Russia, and was its Director until she died. At the same time, she was also appointed as a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. Her work was marked by numerous awards from both governmental and non-governmental institutions. Lyudmila’s talent to talk to everyone on equal terms regardless of their status was rooted in her confidence in her corps beliefs. Throughout the years of her work as a human rights defender she faced intimidation, house searches, interrogations and was forced into exile from 1977 to 1993 as punishment for her human rights work, yet she never wavered from her convictions.
Despite the loss that the Russian human rights movement has suffered, her work will be remembered and continued by the new generations of human rights defenders that she truly believed in.
1 The term refers to the novel The Thaw written by Ilya Ehrenburg’ s, which was later used as a name of the post-Stalinism period of Soviet history.