12 May 2022
Statement by Moscow Helsinki Group on the 46th anniversary of its founding
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
On 12 May 46 years ago the Moscow Helsinki Group was founded. Who at that time would have thought that a small group of Soviet dissidents whose goal was ‘merely’ to document the state’s compliance with its human rights obligations would succeed in launching an international human rights movement. It had seemed that the totalitarian machine of the Soviet state was indestructible, especially in comparison with the small civic associations that defied it. It had seemed that a thin ray of truthful information would not be able to make a breach in the concrete of Soviet propaganda. With the exception a few dozen activists and Western journalists, nobody seemed to care about human rights. But that state ceased to exist, society made a breakthrough, and human rights became a part of the culture and politics of post-Soviet Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe.
Now we are at another tragic turning point in our history: the Russian Federation is waging a war of aggression, effectively introducing military censorship, and liquidating and blocking leading human rights organizations and key independent media, in some cases forcing them out of the country. Dozens of criminal prosecutions are being initiated for words of criticism and peaceful protests. The impunity with which murder, torture and humiliation are carried out, familiar to us since the days of Chechnya, and well known to those who work with detention facilities, is giving rise to a new wave of war crimes.
The Russian political system is again sprouting with hypocrisy and lies. The arbitrariness of the bureaucracy is presented as caring for people, lawlessness as legality and isolation from information as freedom of speech. Furthermore, statistics are being manipulated, and the truth is carefully hidden.
The authorities pretend to respect human rights, but completely ignore the fundamental civil rights and freedoms guaranteed to our citizens by the Russian Constitution, as well as international human rights obligations assumed by Russia.
Today, on the day of the 46th anniversary of the Moscow Helsinki Group, we appeal to all the country’s inhabitants – supporters and opponents, like-minded people and those who now hold different views – to remember that the link between peace, progress and human rights is unbreakable. This was already obvious to the Soviet dissidents in the Helsinki movement. Human rights and the rule of law are a matter of common security – as important as military capability or economic stability.
We may all have different views and different tactics, but we are united by a common goal – to make Russia a modern, progressive state based on the rule of law, where the rights of everyone are protected, the judiciary is independent, the government is accountable, and the police do not break up peaceful demonstrations.
In achieving this goal, the most important task now for each of us is not to allow total lies to again become the main instrument of ideology, to defend our right to ‘live in truth’, to fight for this right for ourselves and for future generations.
Fighting for the right to not live a lie will involve all activities in which a person or a group of people rise up against being manipulated, whether it is participating in protest actions, signing petitions, refusing military service, helping refugees and any other people who have clashed with the regime, organising concerts, exhibitions and discussion platforms, refusing to participate in ‘party meetings’ or bogus elections – any, even the most insignificant, action directed against state lies and propaganda returns to you your subjectivity as a citizen responsible for the future of their country.
In Russia, all conditions have once again been created to make any struggle for truth and one’s rights, like fifty years ago, seem like desperate bravery [TL1] and a futile exercise. It is especially important under these conditions to support each other, to strengthen ties, build new partnerships and jointly look for ways out of the deep crisis into which current policies have led us.
We remain open to communication and to ideas, proposals and requests. We continue to work thanks to your support, the help of our supporters and supporters of human rights, of which there are many in our country.
We must have faith in our strength and in the hope that this too will pass, not least through our common efforts!
Translated by Tyler Langendorfer