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Lyudmila Alexeyeva

Lyudmila Mikhailovna Alexeyeva (Russian: Людми́ла Миха́йловна Алексе́ева; born July 20, 1927) is a Russian historian, human rights activist and one of the few veterans of the Soviet dissident movement still active in modern Russia.[1]




Soviet period

Alexeyeva was born in Yevpatoria, Crimea, then part of Russian SFSR (now part of Ukraine). She was trained as an archeologist, graduating from the History Department of the Moscow State University in 1950 and finishing the graduate school of the Moscow Institute for Economics and Statistics in 1956. In 1952, Alexeyeva joined the Communist Party of the USSR. In 1959-1968, she worked as a editor in the ethnography and archeology section of the publishing house “Science”. During 1970-1977 Alexeyeva worked at the Institute of Information on Social Sciences affiliated with the Science Academy of the USSR. Having become completely disillusioned with the Soviet ideology, Alexeyeva decided not to defend her Candidate of Sciences (roughly equivalent to a PhD) thesis and forgo the career as a scholar.

Alexeyeva’s worldview was significantly affected by the Khrushchev Thaw that lasted from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s. She belonged to the group of people, mostly intellectuals, who formed the dissident movement in the USSR in the 1960s. In 1966, Alexeyeva campaigned in defense of Daniel and Siniavsky, the writers who were arrested and tried for publishing their works abroad. In the late 1960s she signed petitions in defense of other dissidents who were prosecuted by the Soviet authorities, including Alexander Ginzburg and Yuri Galanskov. In April 1968, Alexeyeva was expelled from the Communist Party and fired from her job at the publishing house. Nonetheless, she continued her activities in defense of human rights. In 1968-1972 she worked clandestinely as a typist for the first underground bulletin “The Chronicle of Current Events” devoted to human rights violations in the USSR.

In early 1976, Alexeyeva became a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. As a member, she signed a number of documents issued by the Group, helped compose some of them, and collected information for some of the documents. Her responsibilities also included editing the Group’s documents and hiding copies of them from the authorities.


In February 1977 Alexeyeva was forced to emigrate from the USSR. She and her family settled in the United States, where she continued her human rights activities as a foreign representative of the Moscow Helsinki Group. She regularly wrote on the Soviet dissident movement for both English and Russian language publications in the US and elsewhere, and in 1985 she published the first comprehensive monograph on the history of the movement, “Soviet Dissent” (Wesleyan University Press) [2]. In addition, after moving to the United States, Alexeyeva took up freelance radio journalism for Radio Liberty and the Russian language section of the Voice of America. In 1990 she published an autobiography that described the formation of the Soviet dissident movement. (The “Thaw Generation” [3], co-written with Paul Goldberg).

Return to Russia

In 1989 she again joined the Moscow Helsinki Group that was restarted after its dissolution in 1981. In 1993, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, she returned to Russia and became a Chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1996. In 2000, Alexeyeva joined a commission set up to advise then-President Vladimir Putin on human rights issues, a move that triggered criticism from some other rights activists.[1]

In December 2004, Alexeyeva co-founded and co-chaired, with Garry Kasparov and Georgy Satarov, the All-Russian Civic Congress which Alexeyeva and Satarov left due to disagreement with Kasparov in January 2008. Subsequently, she co-founded the All-Russia Civic Network with Satarov. As of February 10, 2009, Alexeyeva joined the Council for Promoting the Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights under the President of the Russian Federation.

Alexeyeva has been critical of the Kremlin’s human rights record and accused the government of numerous human rights violations including the regular prohibitions of non-violent meetings and demonstrations and encouragement of extremists with its nationalistic policies, such as the mass deportations of Georgians in 2006 and police raids against foreigners working in street markets.[4] She has also criticized the law enforcers’ conduct in Ingushetia and has warned that growing violence in the republic may spread to the whole Russian Federation.[5] In 2006, she was accused by the Russian authorities of involvement with British intelligence and received threats from nationalist groups.[4][6]

On December 31, 2009, Alexeyeva, then 82 year-old, was briefly detained by the Russian police at an unauthorized protest rally in Moscow.[7]

Awards and Prizes

Alexeyeva has received the following awards and prizes for her human rights activities:

  • 2004 — Olof Palme Prize
  • 2005 — Person of the Year Prize of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Russia[8]
  • 2007 — The Order of the French Legion of Honor (Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur)
  • 2008 — Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas (Lietuvos Didžiojo Kunigaikščio Gedimino ordinas)
  • 2009 — The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Der Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland)
  • 2009 — Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought[9]



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