This month Mary Page talks with Sergei Nikitin, head of Amnesty International’s representative office in Russia from 2003 until 2017. Originally from Gatchina near St. Petersburg, Sergei Nikitin studied the physics of semiconductors at the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute and worked at scientific research institutes in Leningrad and Gatchina. Sergei has had many occupations, some scientific, and others artistic or humanitarian. He has worked in museums and old Russian estates as a painter-decorator for a Leningrad restoration organisation. In 1999, Sergei took up the position of director of the Moscow office of the international Quaker organisation, Friends House Moscow. From 2003 and for the next 14 years he worked as the head of Amnesty International’s representative office in Russia. Sergei has been involved in historical research work on the theme of ‘Quakers and Russia’ since 1996 and in 2022 published the book, Friends and Comrades: How Quakers helped Russians to survive famine and epidemic. In 2017 Sergei retired and moved to the UK. Sergei is a passionate Beatles’ enthusiast and says that he originally learned English from the songs of the Fab Four.
The interview was recorded on 28 September 2023
- You headed the Moscow office of Amnesty International from 2003 until 2017. What changes did you see over those years?
- When you stepped down from that position in 2017, did you predict what would happen in Russia in the coming years, including the war against Ukraine?
- Is Amnesty International currently able to work in Russia?
- How would you describe the current human rights situation in Russia?
- Could you tell us a bit about your book? What led you to choose that topic and what is its focus?
- Is the book relevant to what is happening in Russia today?
- Many people in Western countries ask what they might do to help Russian political prisoners. What would you say to them?
- Many media outlets have moved outside of Russia but continue to report and analyze events. To what extent does this reporting reach audiences inside Russia?
- Looking back, what should have been done differently for human rights to be better protected in Russia today?
- Looking ahead, how do you see Russia’s future and the future of human rights?