Liudmila Alekseeva: Speech at the 2016 All-Russian Civiс Forum

posted 28 Nov 2016, 06:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Nov 2016, 06:13 ]
19 November 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

The following is the text of a speech given by Liudmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva, Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, at the All-Russian Civiс Forum on 19 November 2016

Respected colleagues and dear friends!

Unfortunately I cannot be with you due to circumstances beyond my control. And I want to speak to you not in greeting, but about a business matter.

We all understand that we have entered into difficult times: the authorities are attacking our constitutional rights, taking into account neither the Constitution, nor their own laws, nor the requirements of justice and conscience. Of course, it will not be possible to bring back the Soviet era, much less 1937. We live in a different country—not the Soviet Union, but the Russian Federation. And our authorities are different (someone put it well: they want to live like Abramovich [Russian businessman and politician], but rule like Stalin). They truly want to rule like Stalin—it’s no accident that they’re putting up monuments to Ivan the Terrible and Stalin. But history loves to repeat itself. But the first time around as tragedy, and the second time it’s like a farce.

We will not have another Stalin-era Great Terror. But that won’t make it any easier for those who fall under this steamroller. And more than a few governors and one (for now) minister will fall under the steamroller. Ordinary citizens—for example, many more bloggers have already fallen under the steamroller. Extremism, which is nowhere in their posts and thought up by the punitive system, is attributed to them. 

We are forced to live in an ever-worsening situation. Moscow has already ceased to allow rallies and marches for any reason. We don’t know whether the Immortal Regiment march will take place in Moscow on May 9 [Victory Day]. We don’t know whether or not today’s Civiс Forum is the last of such permitted gatherings. And it is necessary for us going forward to preserve the possibility of exchanging opinions and working out common solutions. After all, we are not United Russia or the State Duma, where everybody has the same opinion about every issue. We are Civil Society, and that means we have a wide range of opinions on many issues. All of us need to be aware of that range; we need to convince one another of our convictions and reach a consensus. For that, communication is necessary. Maybe we need to agree to hold round tables, conferences, and even this forum online. 

And we need to gather together a school to teach civil society activists the dissidents’ skills developed in the Soviet era: how to behave oneself when summoned to interrogations and being interrogated; how to choose a lawyer ahead of time and know how to be in touch with them; how to behave oneself if police come with a search warrant; how to ensure that any searches don’t harm those who trust you; how to behave oneself when being arrested, at sentencing, at trial, and so on. God forbid that any of you need to know this. But you must know all of it in advance, and not learn on the fly, not learn from your mistakes. Doing so can protect your loved ones and friends from painful trials.

And for the time being—do what needs doing, and come what may!

We need not take courage, for it is already with us: we live in such a country, we belong to such a people. And I know not when, but victory will be with us. I have faith in this. And you all have faith in this. To work, friends, and may God help us! 

Translated by Caroline Elkin