Tanya Lokshina: Back to the (Soviet) Future





Tanya Lokshina is senior researcher and deputy Moscow office director at Human Rights Watch.

"So, let them put me in jail. I'm not afraid at all. I won't last more than a few days, and frankly at my age I'm likely to die before they manage to throw me behind the bars," 85-year-old Ludmilla Alexeeva told me nonchalantly in November. Widely referred to as the grandma of the Russian human rights movement, she leads the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), the oldest active civil society organization in Russia, founded along with several other Soviet dissenters back in the 1970s.
 
"I lived in a real totalitarian state and that was scary," she said. "But now the country is different, people are different -- you just cannot compare. Back in 1976, MHG was the only independent group in the USSR. Now things just aren't the same."
 
Things sure aren't the same, but Alexeeva seems be faced with the very same dilemma she confronted all those decades ago: stop your work or pay a high price. During the Soviet period, she was fortunate enough to be offered exile as an alternative to imprisonment (she lived in the United States for almost 20 years before returning to Moscow after the fall of the USSR). Now she counts herself lucky because her old age won't allow for prolonged imprisonment.
 
While today's Russia cannot be compared to the Soviet Union, it is certainly moving in that direction...


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