Friday, January 01, 2010

Soviet-Era Dissident Lyudmila Alexeyeva Detained by Moscow Police

"A coalition of opposition groups organised the December 31 rally to defend their right to protest, as enshrined under Article 31 of the Russian constitution. Unsanctioned rallies are one of the few outlets for Russia's weak and fragmented opposition...

Moscow City Hall denied permission to hold the protest on the grounds that it clashed with a rally by pro-Kremlin activists, who danced to holiday music as police made their arrests."--Reuters (12-31-09)

One of Russia's most famous Soviet-era dissidents, the elderly historian Lyudmila Alexeyeva, was arrested yesterday during a New Year's Eve demonstration in Moscow. More information about this arrest may appear soon at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Once a member of the Communist Party and and an editor for government publishing houses, Alexeyeva left the party and became a leading activist of the samizdat (self-publishing) movement. Many of the early Soviet dissidents were former Communist Party members who became disillusioned with communism.

Alexeyeva has been a dissident since the post-Stalin "thaw" of the 1960s and is the author of Soviet Dissent: Contemporary Movements for National, Religious, and Human Rights (1985), The Thaw Generation: Coming of Age in the Post-Stalin Era (1990), and other histories of the Soviet era. She is a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group.

Alexeyeva left the U.S.S.R. in 1977 under threat of imprisonment and became a script writer for Radio Liberty and an advisor for the U.S. Helsinki Watch Committee.

Reuters (12-31-09) reports:

Police detained dozens of anti-Kremlin activists, including an 82-year-old Soviet dissident dressed as Santa Claus' female helper, at a New Year's Eve rally on Moscow's main shopping street Thursday.

Hundreds of riot police surrounded a Christmas tree in the centre of the city and arrested the opposition activists as they gathered to defend their right to peaceful protest.

A man dressed as Father Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, was dragged through the snow to a waiting bus. Soviet-era dissident and rally organiser Lyudmila Alexeyeva, dressed as Snegurochka, Father Frost's female assistant in Russian fairytales, was escorted to a bus by riot police.

"I don't know why I was detained...How could I possibly offer any resistance to anyone?" she said, quoted by Echo Moskvy radio, which reported that between 30 and 50 people had been detained.

A coalition of opposition groups organised the December 31 rally to defend their right to protest, as enshrined under Article 31 of the Russian constitution. Unsanctioned rallies are one of the few outlets for Russia's weak and fragmented opposition.

"Down with Putinism, Freedom to Russia," one protester shouted from the window of a bus being driven to a local police station, a reference to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The opposition say Putin was the architect of a major clampdown on civil liberties in Russia during his presidency from 2000-2008.

Activists shouted "shame" as police detained several elderly people.

Moscow City Hall denied permission to hold the protest on the grounds that it clashed with a rally by pro-Kremlin activists, who danced to holiday music as police made their arrests.

Pro-Kremlin group Young Russia said in a press release that 70 of their activists had rallied against the opposition, whom they accuse of receiving funding from the West.

"Bad Santa arrived from abroad to steal our holiday," the statement said. [See full text.]

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