On 12 May 2020 the Moscow Helsinki Group celebrated its 44th anniversary. The celebration was an online event because of the Coronavirus. Speakers included Valery Borshchev and Dmitry Makarov (two of the current co-chairs of the Moscow Helsinki Group), Yury Orlov and Natan Sharansky (both founding-members of MHG), and MHG members Boris Altschuler, Olga Zimenkova, Lev Ponomarev, Karinna Moskalenko, Sergei Lukashevsky, Sergei Krivenko and Svetlana Astrakhantseva. Other speakers included Tatyana Lokshina, Human Rights Watch’s programme director in Russia, Andrei Babushkin, head of the Committee for Civil Rights, Bill Bowring, president of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights, Pepijn Gerrits, director of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, and Harry Hummel, senior policy advisor to the Netherlands Helsinki Committee.
The Moscow Helsinki Group, which remains one of Russia’s leading human rights organisations, was originally established on 12 May 1976 to monitor and report on Soviet compliance with the Helsinki Accords, signed on 1 August 1975 as the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki, Finland that summer. The Moscow Helsinki Group was forcibly shut down by the Soviet authorities in 1982 in the final months of the Brezhnev regime after years of severe persecution. The organisation was revived in 1989 during Gorbachev’s perestroika.
Speakers also celebrated the life and work of Liudmila Alekseeva, one of the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group who served as chair of the organisation from 1996 until her recent death on 8 December 2018. Alekseeva had been one of the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1976, but had been forced to emigrate to the United States in 1977. In 1989 she once again became a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group when it was reborn in the late Gorbachev period. In 1993 Liudmila Alekseeva returned to live in Russia. The event on 12 May 2020 marked the Moscow Helsinki Group’s first full year without Liudmila Alekseeva at the helm and in speeches and photos she was remembered with great love, affection and respect.
Simon Cosgrove, on behalf of Rights in Russia, recorded a short video to congratulate the Moscow Helsinki Group on its 44th anniversary and shared a personal memory of Liudmila Alekseeva.