The soviet dissidents movement had never been very popular. Therefore we know all the dissidents’ names, and every name is special. They are special people, who could not accept the way of life [in the Soviet Union] the way it was, they could not accept the lies and violence of the state, the outer trumpery and empty phrases about how “proud the word “man” sounds”[a link to writer Maxim Gorky’s work]. These people knew it very well  what the outcome of their disagreement may be but they willingly chose the way of defending human rights despite the fact that the majority of people in the country easily accepted violation of their rights.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva is not just one of the most famous human rights defenders, she personifies the qualities that make the essence of a Russian intellectual: faith in education, respect for a person, inability to live a narrow-minded life. On the surface her life was a difficult one: the risk, arrests of her friends, emigration, coming back home then – but she was rewarded for all her efforts, her words are considered seriously, her opinions and actions spark public outcry. Starting from A Chronicle of Current Events [an oppositional Soviet periodical] and the Helsinki Group to the Presidential Human Rights Committee – this was the dissident’s distance vector which could lead to the goal. However, A Chronicle did not reach the general population, the Helsinki Group could hardly influence the public life of the Soviet Union, and she did not what to be a decoration and, therefore, left the Presidential Human Rights Committee which turned into a profanation.

So, what do we face? Can a dissident’s way lead you to a goal? Yes and no. But if you go along it in a wise and honest way, it helps you to get closer to your goal. That is why human rights should have become the aim of the political discourse. This is why one has to appeal both to a state, any state is always ready to violate human rights, and a person who is more likely to always look for a compromise rather than risk himself defending his private space and dignity. Lyudmila Alexeyeva and her colleagues are looking for an opportunity to be heard by the state and the people, and very often they become the cause of irritation and dissatisfaction. The danger of being arrested by the state in 1970s was succeeded by the insults and threats of indignant “state patriots” of 2000s. But Alexeyeva never lacked fortitude. She continues her way.

Once Lyudmila Mikhailovna joked that she was not good at singing and preferred singing in a chorus so that nobody could hear her. I cannot comment on singing but her voice is always heard.

Grigory Yavlinsky,
Chair of Yabloko Federal Political Committee