Russian Federation: Lyudmila Alekseeva

My dream is to see the equal partnership of the state power and civil society in Russia.

— Lyudmila Alekseeva

Lyudmila Alekseeva (born 1927) worked as a researcher at the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. As early as the 1950s, she participated in dissident activities. She helped the cause of political prisoners in the 1960s. In 1976, she became part of the human rights organization Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG). As a result of her activities, she was forced to emigrate to the US in 1977. In 1993, she returned to Russia where, as the head of the MHG, she helps to provide legal and human rights aid to citizens through a network of ‘legal clinics.’

Lyudmila Alekseeva and her colleagues have created a network of ‘legal clinics’ throughout Russia to promote and protect citizens' human rights. Even though the overwhelming majority of complaints relate to violations of socio-economic–rather than civil or political–rights, there are still a good many complaints about civil rights violations as well. Furthermore, new problems have emerged that did not exist in Soviet times, such as the problems faced by refugees and displaced persons. So Lyudmila and other activists have a lot of work to do providing legal help to the citizens of the Russian Federation and educating them on their rights and freedoms. The path to a law-based, democratic Russia is still long and difficult. However, never before in its centuries-long history has Russia been moving more rapidly towards this goal than over the last decade. Lyudmila says that none of the Soviet-era human rights activists ever believed that, during their lifetime, the Soviet Constitution would be replaced by one which stated the main purpose of the state as being to guarantee and defend human rights. Now such a constitution exists. Lyudmila believes that her country will make its way from the present lawlessness to a genuine rule-of-law state in a relatively short period, much faster than the Western countries needed to achieve democracy. She believes this not because Russia is in some way special, but simply because Russia started out on its journey later than other countries. Lyudmila uses the following analogy: when the first cross-country skier sets out into deep snow, the going is slow as he cuts a new path. The second skier moves faster, and the third simply flies over the trail that the others have made. Lyudmila hopes that Russia will become that third skier.

Moskovskaya Helsinskaya gruppa (MHG) Vsierossiysky grazhdansky kongress (All-Russian Civil Congress)