Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Hero of Our Time: Natalya Gorbanevskaya

This Russian banner says "FOR YOUR FREEDOM AND OURS."
Natalya Gorbanevskaya and seven other protesters demonstrated in Red Square on 9-25-68 against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (see Wikipedia's 1968 Red Square demonstration).
The other demonstrators were Larisa Bogoraz, Konstantin Babtsky, Vadim Delaunay, Vladimir Dremluga, Pavel Litvinov, Viktor Fainberg, and Tatiana Baeva.

Gorbanevskaya was not tried with her friends because she had a new baby, but she published an account of the trial called Red Square at Noon. At the trial, the KGB characterized the banners the dissidents held as "anti-soviet" and "false."
Gorbanevskaya was arrested in December, 1969, and locked up in a mental hospital until February, 1972.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (5-3-08) has an excellent article about one of Russia's first dissidents---Natalya Gorbanevskaya (above).

RFE/RL writes:

Natalya Gorbanevskaya was the dissident behind "The Chronicle Of Current Events," a samizdat publication that first appeared 40 years ago this week in the Soviet Union.

It was Gorbanevskaya who single-handedly produced its first few editions, before she was arrested in 1969 and spent more than two years in a Soviet psychiatric facility.

But her fellow dissidents continued the publication of "Chronicle" after her arrest. Following its 1968 debut, for 15 years and 65 issues the "Chronicle" documented the Soviet regime's persecution of its own people. Its mimeographed issues waged an uneven struggle against the daily million-copy editions of "Pravda," "Izvestia," and other Soviet propaganda organs.

Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of Russia's liberal Yabloko party, tells RFE/RL's Russian Service that the "Chronicle" was a "feat of people who could not be forced to remain silent about injustice and about the crimes that were being committed in the Soviet Union.

"These people knowingly sealed their own fate. They knew that sooner or later they would be cruelly punished for this, whether by imprisonment or by exile. But even knowing this, not doubting it, they held the free movement of information, the reporting to the entire world of what was happening to people in the Soviet Union, more dearly than their own fates."

Gorbanevskaya was motivated by a United Nations declaration proclaiming 1968 the "Year of Human Rights," to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [see here]...

The publication was intentionally laconic in style, trying to fill the huge void of essential factual information left by Soviet propaganda.

Memorial activist Aleksandr Cherkasov has worked on the Russian human rights group's project to make the entire 6,000 pages of the "Chronicle" available online.

"There are almost no assessments there, just facts. And this composure, this outwardly serene perception of everything that happens, without hysterics, without emulating those who pressured this independent activity -- this was perhaps one of the most important features of the dissident movement in the Soviet Union," Cherkasov says. "Not to emulate the adversary, because otherwise you start resembling him." [See full text]

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