This week our guest on the podcast is Valentina Dmitrievna Melnikova. Valentina Melnikova is a Russian human rights activist and politician, a graduate of the geology department of Moscow State University and a specialist in geochemistry, but better known to us all as the executive secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia. Valentina Melnikova was one of the initiators of the Russian Research Centre for Human Rights established in 1990.
The issues discussed in the podcast include: how did a graduate of the geology department of Moscow State University became a human rights activist; the difference between the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers and the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers; cooperation between the Russian military and the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers; the notion that Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers are intended to help people avoid military service; the role of Viktor Alksnis; the FSB’s recent decree on unclassified information dissemination of which can serve to designate organisations or persons as ‘foreign agents’; the human rights situation and the future of human rights in Russia.
This podcast is in Russian. You can listen to it in full here:
The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.
Given the length of the podcast, we have also divided it into three parts that you can listen to separately.
Part One: From chemistry and geology to human rights; how an NGO cooperates with the military:
Part Two: Role Problems faced by Soldiers’ Mothers’ organisations; impact of the ‘foreign agent’ law; on the new FSB decree:
Part Three: The current human rights situation in Russia and the future of human rights in the country:
Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “I became a human rights activist overnight in December 1979, when I learned from a radio broadcast that Soviet troops had entered Afghanistan. My two sons were still little but I knew a bit about history and I decided that I will never send my children to the Soviet army led by crazy old folk. Valentina Dmitrievna Melnikova told Simon Cosgrove and me how her search for like-minded people, those who cared about their sons, led her to join the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee in 1989. “They were energetic women from all over the Soviet Union, they knew what they wanted, and they achieved a lot through the then deputies of the Interregional Deputies Group of the USSR Supreme Soviet. In 1998 we set up an association called the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia. Valentina Melnikova describes herself as an ‘informed optimist’ and believes that the prospects for human rights activities are not great: “Things will get tougher and tougher, more and more lawless. What is to be done about it? I don’t know. I don’t expect anything good. But on the other hand, all of us – Memorial Human Rights Centre, the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia, the Union of the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia – what can we do if people keep coming for help? So we have to work, we have to fight.”