Boris Altshuler: Nine Days without Liudmila Alekseeva

posted 21 Jan 2019, 11:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Jan 2019, 12:12 ]
17 December 2018

Today it is nine days since Liudmila Alekseeva’s death. Her fellow human rights activist Boris Altshuler expresses his gratitude for this human being:

Liudmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva passed away on 8 December. One can’t help but recall her comrades-in-arms who also left this life in December, pioneers of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), which was created on 12 May 1976, at the suggestion of Yury Fedorovich Orlov: on 8 December 1986, Anatoly Tikhonovich Marchenko perished in Chistopol prison; on 5 December 1989, the marvelous Sofia Vasilievna Kallistratova, an attorney, left this life; and on 14 December also 1989 Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov passed away. He was not a member of MHG, but he himself was an entire planet. “Yes, there were people in our day!” Liudmila Alekseeva among them. We were terribly lucky to have had her as our contemporary and a moral symbol even today, in very different times.

Speaking of the present, I want to say thank you to Liudmila Mikhailovna. Thank you in the name of the Russian families and children who find themselves in absolutely unacceptable housing conditions or without housing altogether. Thank you for your statements: “Why children have nowhere to live in the largest country in the world” (April 2015); or “Attempted murder in the middle of Moscow.” “We demand Sobyanin’s immediate resignation” (July 2016) was written in support of ten mothers, the “Moscow queue standers,” who, in despair over their housing conditions, declared an indefinite hunger strike in front of the main reception room of the United Russia party. And for much else in this same spirit.

I am grateful to Liudmila Mikhailovna for the fact that she always agreed to hand my or our joint appeals concerning these desperate housing situations personally to the Russian President at their meetings with the Human Rights Council. The reaction to these appeals was positive, as a rule. But here is the paradox: there was zero result. That is, no relief was forthcoming in a single one of the specific instances we raised. For years, not a single truly important system-generating, so to speak, instruction from the Russian President on resolving the housing problem for “low-income citizens” or on overcoming monopolism and cartels in residential construction has been carried out by the Government or law enforcement-security agencies (cf. the attached about this).

The “privatization of the state” by the security agencies and the very tragic consequences of this “privatization” have been Russia’s misfortune for the last 100 years, beginning in October 1917. We know the hecatombs of human sacrifices that have resulted from this in the past. We hoped that such a thing would be impossible in the New Russia. But now it is starting all over again, the symbol of which is the criminal way, in April of this year, the top leaders of the Presidential Administration, the FSB [Federal Security Service], and Moscow Oblast turned on the intractable municipal head Aleksandr Shestun and the threat to put him in prison. And he is in prison. Also in prison is Lev Ponomarev, who spoke out actively against the fabrication of criminal cases by security agencies. This threat to Russia’s national security whose duty it is to protect this security seriously disturbed Liudmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva.

And in conclusion, regarding this person’s calibre. Here is a quotation from a relatively recent statement by Liudmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva: 

“In 1975, the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, ‘the third, humanitarian, basket,’ was approved, an act that became the foundation for a modern, more stable and more human world order. We call on world leaders to initiate the development of a new ‘fourth basket’ of international instruments to overcome corruption and poverty and to ensure social rights.  The approval of a packet of such measures is needed not only by Russia and its people, it is needed by the population of many countries suffering from corruption, lack of oversight, and the impunity of ruling bureaucracies.”

Dear Liudmila Mikhailovna, I am not saying goodbye. You are still with us!

Boris Altshuler

Translated by Marian Schwartz