Jun 20, 2011


NED Mourns the Loss of Yelena Bonner

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) mourns the death of Yelena G. Bonner, prominent Russian voice for human rights and tireless campaigner along with her late husband Dr. Andrei Sakharov against Soviet totalitarianism. An activist in her own right who played a leading role in monitoring violations of the 1975 Helsinki Accords, Bonner teamed up with her husband to keep alive the hopes of millions of fellow citizens in the face of continuous persecution by a Soviet regime that ultimately failed to silence them.

“The death of Yelena Bonner is a great loss for the cause of democracy in Russia and for all those around the world who are struggling for freedom,” said NED President Carl Gershman. “She was a great fighter for human rights and democracy. We at the NED feel privileged to have known and worked with her and to have called her a friend. We understand how urgently necessary it is to defend her legacy and that of Dr. Sakharov, and we pledge ourselves to continue this work.”

In a message she sent to NED on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, Mrs. Bonner noted the struggles that she and Dr. Sakharov had waged in the Soviet Union, and the victories that they had witnessed and helped bring about, especially the crumbling of the Soviet empire and the collapse of the totalitarian system. She added that at that time, “We did not know that these victories are not final and that battles for democracy and her principles would have to be fought over and over again.” She continued to fight those battles with courage and perseverance for more than two decades after the death of her husband.

In 1995, NED presented its Democracy Award to Bonner and fellow human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev.

We extend our sincerest condolences to her two children, Tatiana Yankelevich and Alexey Semyonov. May they find comfort in the sympathy of Elena Bonner’s countless friends and admirers, who will never forget the values that she lived for and never ceased to defend.

Remarks by NED President Carl Gershman at Memorial Service for Elena Bonner :: more