07/24/2017, 09.59
RUSSIA
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Ljudmila Alekseeva, the 'mother of human rights' turns 90

by Vladimir Rozanskij

She is the founder of the "Helsinki Group" in Moscow to defend human rights in the Soviet Union. She collaborated with the new course, but then dropped out. Critical of the invasion of the Crimea. She also defends the religious freedom for Jehovah's Witnesses. Vladimir Putin visited her on her birthday. She has asked for the release of Igor Izmestev, in prison for 12 years.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On 21 July,  one of the legendary personalities of the dissolution of the Soviet Union turned 90: the founder and leader of the "Helsinki Group" in Moscow, Ljudmila Alekseeva. The "mother of human rights", as she has been named, celebrated her jubilee with a circle of close friends, mostly collaborators of the "rights defenders" movement (pravozaščitniki).

Alekseeva is well-known for having founded, together with others, the group formed in the mid-1970s, after the signing of the 1975 Helsinki treaty, which sanctioned the inviolability of human rights to freedom of expression, aggregation and religious confession. The treaty was also signed by the USSR, following a delicate diplomatic work involving several states, including the Vatican, in what was called Ostpolitik. After that, the Russian dissidents appealed to those agreements as a normative basis for their requests, opening the so-called "Helsinki Groups" in the various republics of the empire.

In the new post-communist Russia, Ljudmila Alekseeva was co-opted in 2002 as a member of the Human Rights Commission at the Presidency of the Russian Federation, later the Council of the President for the Development of Human Rights in Civil Society, resigned in 2012 to protest the procedures of its composition.

The fight for human rights in Russia remains to date an unwise and rather complicated task. In August 2004, Alekseeva and her colleague Andrej Jurov were threatened by the leader of the "Slavic Union", Dmitrij Djomushkin, who sent them a leaflet with the figure of a sniper with three targets: "Ghirenko, Jurov, Alekseeva". Nikolay Ghirenko, professor of St. Petersburg, was found killed in July 2004, inside his apartment. Other episodes of violence and threats have occurred in recent years, including an aggression against Alekseeva herself. In September 2014, after the first advance of Russian "volunteers" in Ukraine, the famous dissident signed a statement asking for an end to "the adventurism of the invaders." In March this year she also intervened on "Radio Svoboda" against the repression of "Jehovah's Witnesses", defending the freedom of religious confession in the country.

It was also on that  historic radio, voice of Soviet and Russian dissent for almost fifty years, Alekseeva intervened in February 2016, proposing Russian liberal forces to join forces to build a true opposition to the authoritarian regime. She explained that although she has never been involved in politics, she is now deeply concerned about the country's future: "If this 14% of Russian Democrats do not make their voices heard, I do not know what will become of the country, of them or of us". Asked how she came to this statistic, Alekseeva recalled that "86% declared their support for the Crimea annexation [the slogan" Crimea is ours ", Krym-nash], so 14% refused to do so ... for us, these are people not infected with imperial syndrome. "

In fact, Putin's consensus on Putin's policy is assessed in dimensions that would once be called "Bulgarians," and are now also termed "Orthodox", since the percentage of faithful in the official religion is also calculated above 80 % of the population. The remaining minority is often identified with ethnic minorities, often religious minorities, which are admitted to the "secondary confessions" mentioned in the special law: Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, with some groups of Protestants and Catholics. Politically, however, the followers of Islam and traditional Buddhism are associated with the orthodox nationalist positions, while the disciples of other religious communities are often deemed subversive and members of "destructive sects" such as Jehovah's Witnesses, now outlawed in the country.

This is a consensus not necessarily "inflated", though often percentages are proclaimed with propaganda emphasis, rather than with statistical accuracy. It is the typical inert and uncritical consensus of the most immobile phases of Russian history, including the Soviet phase. Even orthodox devotion, though fueled by major public events and cultivated by voluntary spiritual training programs, often shrinks to a purely external loyalty to the Patriarchal Church, seen as an institution that can guarantee and safeguard power.

If the Orthodox Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) is attempting to to rid himself of the "cesaropapist" role of courtier and priest of the empire, denying politics in the name of genuine evangelical and spiritual tradition, President Putin himself does not want to be reduced to the image of the tyrant and the exterminator. While impersonating the inheritance of Tsarist and Soviet autonomy, the president also seeks to emphasize his debt to the heroes of freedom and democracy, such as his mentor Aleksandr Solženicyn. He too wanted to honor Ljudmila Alekseeva, visiting her home to personally wish her a happy birthday.

The great mother of Russian Democrats offered the ruler a cup of champagne accompanied by fruit and pastries, recalling that she is "still a citizen of this country". With a symbolic gesture of self-humiliation, Alekseeva bowed to kiss Vladimir Putin's hands, imploring his favor for the former Senator of Bashkiria Igor Izmestev, in jail for 12 years, an awkward figure, according to many unjustly accused of crimes . If democracy does not work, "mother Russia" has at least tried to appeal to mercy.

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