Russian Federation: Tatyana Kotlyar

To win wide public support, it is very important for human rights organizations to help people in ‘simple’ and common cases of violations of their social rights.

— Tatyana Kotlyar

Tatyana Kotlyar was born in 1951. In the USSR, her family was persecuted for anti-Soviet activities, and Tatyana, a mathematician with a postgraduate degree, was reduced to sweeping streets. When Perestroika began, she helped found one of the first democratic NGOs in Russia. In 1995, Tatyana became coordinator of the Obninsk Regional Human Rights Group. She provides legal support to citizens whose social and human rights have been violated. For more than ten years, she has been sitting in local representative bodies. At present, she is a deputy of the Kaluga Regional Legislative Assembly.

In 1999, Tatyana Kotlyar decided to present herself for the Russian State Duma election. A very popular human rights advocate in Obninsk, she was used to winning local and regional elections. But this time the situation was different. Apart from Obninsk, there were also rural areas where the electorate habitually voted communist. The election campaign required enormous strength and funds. As an independent candidate, Tatyana had no substantial financial backing. Moreover, she was often short of time, busy helping to defend people's rights in court. Yet she could not help, but she could respond to appeals like the following: “Our daughter was walking along the street and, at an abrupt turn, a driver lost control of his car, hit her, and left the scene of the crime. Our daughter has become an invalid for the rest of her life. The police found the car the same day and learned that the driver was the regional judge. When we started to protest, they suggested that we just forget it ever happened, as if it had been a bad dream.” Countless such appeals have been addressed to this human rights advocate. The election campaign was emotionally very hard for Tatyana. Three weeks before the vote, her son was taken to court and accused of draft evasion. Tatyana had to appeal for a retrial. Sometimes she had to spend the night in a bus–her only means of transport–to meet with her voters in other parts of the region. Her telephone did not work, and she had difficulty in scheduling her meetings. Of course, it was impossible to win the election under such conditions. Then she suffered a grievous loss: her only son tragically died when her house was destroyed by fire. Nevertheless, her courage will have helped her to survive. Today, Tatyana is a deputy of the Kaluga Regional Legislative Assembly, a politician, and a well-known human rights advocate.

Za prava cheloveka (For Human Rights)