Remembering Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the Matriarch of Russia’s Human Rights Movement

February 14, 2019
10:00 am - 12:00 pm

About the Event

Lyudmila Alexeyeva will be remembered as a pioneering figure in the field of human rights. In 1976, she helped launch the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) – the first major independent human rights movement in the Soviet Union – to demand that the Soviet government honor its international human rights commitments under the Helsinki Final Act. She dedicated her life to activism, motivated by her belief that independent civil society and strong institutions are crucial safeguards for democracy and human rights. A staunch advocate for independent labor unions, she returned to Russia in the early 1990s after 16 years of exile in the West to assist the growth of the country’s nascent organized labor movement. The bold leadership of Lyudmila and the MHG were crucial to the growth and development of Russian civil society, and throughout her life Lyudmila remained an unwavering beacon and example for Russian activists, appearing at protests, conducting solidarity pickets, and speaking out for victims of human rights violations.

A new generation in Russia has taken up Lyudmila’s struggle for human rights and an international order based on rules and values. As we honor Lyudmila and her contributions to Russian civil society, we will reflect on what can be done to strengthen the solidarity of governments and international organizations with those local activists continuing her legacy in the pursuit of higher standards of human rights and democracy.

Please join the National Endowment for Democracy, the Solidarity Center, and the Free Russia Foundation as we honor Ms. Alexeyeva’s pioneering contributions to democracy and human rights, and as we highlight their impact on civil society and foreign policy in today’s Russia.

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about the speakers

Senator Ben Cardin has worked across party lines to further U.S. national security and to ensure that good governance, transparency and respect for human rights are integrated into American foreign policy efforts. Senator Cardin has served on the Foreign Relations Committee since arriving in the Senate in 2007 and served as Ranking Member from 2015 to 2018.  The Senator is also Ranking Senate Commissioner on the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and the lead author of the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a law that imposes sanctions on Russian individuals and entities responsible for the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, as well as individuals who commit gross violations of human rights against rights defenders in Russia.

Representative Tom Malinowski was born in Communist Poland during the height of the Cold War. When he was six, he and his mother fled to the United States – one of Tom’s earliest memories is his mother paying off a corrupt official, so they could get the passports that allowed them to come to America. After graduating college, Tom served as a Senior Director on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council where he worked to end conflicts around the globe while keeping America safe. He then served as the chief advocate for Human Rights Watch, where he led the bipartisan campaign to end the use of torture by the Bush Administration. These efforts led Tom to be recognized as a champion of human rights, and he was selected by President Barack Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. There he led the fight for human rights worldwide by protecting vulnerable minorities, rooting out corruption, and standing up to dictators like Putin and Kim Jong-Un.

Ambassador John Tefft is a retired United States diplomat. He was a career Foreign Service Officer for more than 45 years, completing his service as the U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2014 to 2017. Prior to that, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania from 2000 to 2003, Ambassador to Georgia from 2005 to 2009, and Ambassador to Ukraine from 2009 to 2013. He worked from 2004 to 2005 as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs responsible for U.S. relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova.

Catherine Cosman is a former Senior Policy Analyst with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), where she covered the countries of the former Soviet Union. Prior to her time at USCIRF, she focused on emerging trade unions with the Free Trade Union Institute and on ethnic conflicts and human rights at the US Helsinki Human Rights Commission. She managed the Central Asia and Caucasus grants programs at the National Endowment for Democracy and worked with the Communications Division at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She has also served as a senior analyst with the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Ambassador Daniel Fried is a Distinguished Fellow in the Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. In the course of his forty-year Foreign Service career, he played a key role in designing and implementing American policy in Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union, serving as special assistant and NSC senior director for Presidents Clinton and Bush, ambassador to Poland, and assistant secretary of state for Europe (2005-09). Ambassador Fried also helped lead the West’s response to Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine starting in 2014: as State Department coordinator for sanctions policy, he crafted US sanctions against Russia and negotiated the imposition of similar sanctions by Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia.

Sergei Davidis is the head of the Political Prisoners Support Program and is a member of the Council at the Memorial Human Rights Center in Moscow, Russia. He was educated in Sociology at Moscow State University and in Law at Moscow State Law Academy. He has been involved in the Russian democratic movement for the past two decades, and is currently a member the Solidarity Democratic Movement. A veteran human rights defender and a coordinator for the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners, he has many years of experience organizing support for and raising awareness of the plight of political prisoners in Russia.

Leonid Gozman is president of Russia’s Union of Right Forces and former co-chairman of the Right Cause Party (2008–2011). From 2008 to 2013, he served as director of humanitarian projects at RUSNANO, a state-owned enterprise that commercializes innovations in nanotechnology, and from 1999 to 2008, he was executive board member and representative for governmental and NGO relations at Unified Energy System of Russia. An active participant in Russia’s democratic movement who has served as a political advisor to Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar, he is also the author of eight books and is a lecturer at Moscow State University. A Visiting Fellow at NED in fall 2014, he was previously a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and professor of psychology and Russian area studies at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Miriam Lanskoy is Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy. She holds a PhD in international affairs from Boston University for her dissertation, which focused on the Russian-Chechen conflict and has published a book The Chechen Struggle- Independence Won and Lost in 2010. She has published articles in academic journals and appeared on numerous panels and conferences. She has testified in Congress and appeared in the media including the PBS Newshour.

Image adapted from original photograph by Ilya Varlamov (CC BY-SA 2.0)