Podcast No. 39. Simon & Sergei – with Aleksandr Cherkasov

This week our guest is Aleksandr Vladimirovich Cherkasov, chair of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre. Aleksandr Vladimirovich is an ‘engineer physicist’ by education. An activist with Memorial since 1989, since 1991 he has worked at Memorial Human Rights Centre specialising in the investigation of the observance of human rights and humanitarian law in various “hot spots”, including Chechnya. Aleksandr Vladimirovich also investigated the events of 1993 in Moscow. During the first and second wars in Chechnya he travelled dozens of times to combat zones to collect information and provide assistance to the victims of the conflict, searching for missing people, prisoners, people kidnapped and hostages. After the war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 he repeatedly travelled to South Ossetia. We talked about all this and much more – about how Memorial has been affected by the law on foreign agents, about Natalia Estemirova, about Oyub Titiev and about Yury Dmitriev. We talked about human rights in today’s Russia and in the future.

This podcast is in the Russian language. You can listen to it here:

You can also listen on Podcasts.com,  SoundCloud,  Spotify  or  iTunes

The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.

Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: It has long been noticed that among human rights defenders there are many natural scientists, including those from the physical sciences. And just as under the Soviet regime scientific articles often began with Lenin’s quote, “The electron is as inexhaustible as the atom”, so now our interviews with human rights activists who have a background in science often begins with the question that goes approximately like this: “What is it in physics that turns those who study the subject into human rights activists?” Simon Cosgrove and I began our conversation with Aleksandr Cherkasov in the very same vein: traditions are great things, it is not for us to break them. Aleksandr particularly emphasised the fact that he is a ‘engineer physicist,’ someone who is as far from being a physicist, he says, as the courtier is from the Sovereign. Perhaps this is true. But Sasha’s storytelling is phenomenal, and he has much to tell. Apart from the fact that he has been involved in many things, remembers the smallest details, names and dates, he delights with his special view of events, his analysis and understanding of what is going on around him. And although Aleksandr insists that ‘we don’t understand what’s going on,’ stressing that this is the beauty of our world, he seems to understand a very great deal, noting that ‘Physics gives us reason to be optimistic under conditions of unpredictability and incomplete information’ and urges us to simply live in a world that is unpredictable and so beautiful. Listen to Aleksandr Cherkasov.

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.

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