Our guest on the podcast this week is Robert van Voren. Robert van Voren is a human rights activist and expert in psychiatry who teaches Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia and at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. Robert is also executive director of the Human Rights in Mental Health of the Global Initiative on Psychiatry and executive director of the Andrei Sakharov Research Center for Democratic Development at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania.
The topics we discuss in the podcast include: what initially sparked Robert van Voren’s interest in human rights in Russia; punitive psychiatry in the Soviet Union; dissidents in the Soviet Union; how the Soviet experience still impacts Russia today; the most important human rights developments in Russia since Soviet times; the future of human rights in Russia; civil society in Russia; plans to mark the upcoming centennial of Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov; political trends in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The podcast is in the Russian language.
You can listen to the podcast here:
The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.
Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “I was sitting on an Aeroflot plane to Moscow and I was scared. But I did not think for a second that I would not do it. Such a thought never entered my head. I recently saw a documentary about Soviet dissidents. There were interviews with a number of the old guard of human rights activists. And it was important for me to hear they were afraid. They were afraid. But they did what they had to do. There was no other way for them.” After reading The Gulag Archipelago in 1974, 18-year-old Dutch schoolboy Johannes Bax wrote a letter in 1977 to Vladimir Bukovsky, who had just been released from the Soviet Union. It was not just a letter, but a list of 44 questions to the Soviet dissident. Bukovsky answered, and Johannes went to visit him the following year. In fact, with Bukovsky’s blessing, Johannes, who took the name of his uncle who died in a Nazi camp as his pseudonym (Robert van Voren), became a kind of “postman”. He traveled to the USSR and Soviet dissidents send samizdat through him to the West. Our podcast this week provides a glimpse into a fascinating story. Today Robert van Voren is a professor of Soviet and post-Soviet studies at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, and at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. Robert is also executive director of the Human Rights in Mental Health of the Global Initiative on Psychiatry and executive director of the Andrei Sakharov Research Center for Democratic Development at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Simon Cosgrove adds: If you want to listen to this podcast on the podcasts.com website and it doesn’t seem to play, please download by clicking on the three dots to the right. A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.