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The Alexeyeva File

Soviet, American, and Russian Documents on the Human Rights Legend

Lyudmila Mikhailovna's 85th Birthday Party Brings Together Generations, New Challenges

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 387

Posted - July 20, 2012

Compiled and edited by Svetlana Savranskaya, Tom Blanton and Anna Melyakova
Web production by Rinat Bikineyev and Jamie Noguchi.
Research and editorial assistance by Anya Grenier and Julia Noecker.
Special thanks to the Memorial Society, Archive of the History of Dissent, Moscow.

For more information: 202.994.7000, nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Sergei Kovalev with Alexeyeva, 2011.

Arsenii Roginsky of the Memorial Society with Alexeyeva.

Kovalev and Alexeyeva.

Roginsky toasting Alexeyeva.

Alexeyeva with colleagues of the Helsinki Group.

Alexeyeva discussing the Helsinki Final Act with Ambassador Kashlev, one of the Soviet negotiators, at an Archive summer school in Gelendzhik.

Photos by Svetlana Savranskaya.

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The Moscow Helsinki Group 30th Anniversary
From the Secret Files

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Moscow, Russian Federation, July 20, 2012 – Marking the 85th birthday of Russian human rights legend Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the National Security Archive today published on the Web a digital collection of documents covering Alexeyeva's brilliant career, from the mid-1970s founding of the Moscow Helsinki Group (which she now heads) to the current challenges posed by the Putin regime's crackdown on civil society.

Today's posting includes declassified U.S. documents from the Carter Presidential Library on Soviet dissident movements of the 1970s including the Moscow Helsinki Group, and KGB and Soviet Communist Party Central Committee documents on the surveillance and repression of the Group.

With the generous cooperation of the Memorial Society's invaluable Archive of the History of Dissent, the posting also features examples of Alexeyeva's own letters to officials (on behalf of other dissidents) and to friends, her Congressional testimony and reports, scripts she produced for Radio Liberty, and numerous photographs. Also highlighted in today's publication are multiple media articles by and about Alexeyeva including her analysis of the current attack on human righters in Russia.

As Alexeyeva's colleagues, friends, and admirers gather today in Moscow to celebrate her 85th birthday, the illustrious history documented in today's posting will gain a new chapter. The party-goers will not only toast Lyudmila Alexeyeva, but also debate the appropriate responses to the new Putin-inspired requirement that any civil society group receiving any international support should register as a "foreign agent" and undergo frequent "audits." No doubt Alexeyeva will have something to say worth listening to. She has seen worse.



Lyudmila Mikhailovna Alexeyeva was born on July 20, 1927 in Yevpatoria, a Black Sea port town in the Crimea (now in Ukraine). Her parents came from modest backgrounds, but both received graduate degrees; her father was an economist and her mother a mathematician. She was a teenager in Moscow during the war, and she attributes her decision to come back and live in Russia after more than a decade of emigration to the attachment to her country and her city formed during those hungry and frozen war years. Alexeyeva originally studied to be an archaeologist, entering Moscow State University in 1945, and graduating with a degree in history in 1950. She received her graduate degree from the Moscow Institute of Economics and Statistics in 1956. She married Valentin Alexeyev in 1945 and had two sons, Sergei and Mikhail. Already in the university she began to question the policies of the regime, and decided not to go to graduate school in the history of the CPSU, which at the time would have guaranteed a successful career in politics.

She did join the Communist Party, hoping to reform it from the inside, but very soon she became involved in publishing, copying and disseminating samizdat with the very first human rights movements in the USSR. In 1959 through 1962 she worked as an editor in the academic publishing house Nauka of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1966, she joined friends and fellow samizdat publishers in protesting the imprisonment and unfair trial of two fellow writers, Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel. For her involvement with the dissident movement, she lost her job as an editor and was expelled from the Party. Later, in 1970, she found an editorial position at the Institute of Information on Social Sciences, where she worked until her forced emigration in 1977. From 1968 to 1972, she worked as a typist for the first dissident periodical in the USSR, The Chronicle of Current Events.

As the 1960s progressed, Alexeyeva became more and more involved in the emerging human rights movement. Her apartment in Moscow became a meeting place and a storage site for samizdat materials. She built up a large network of friends involved in samizdat and other forms of dissent. Many of her friends were harassed by the police and later arrested. She and her close friends developed a tradition of celebrating incarcerated friends' birthdays at their relatives' houses, and they developed a tradition of "toast number two" dedicated to those who were far away. Her apartment was constantly bugged and surveilled by the KGB.


Founding the Moscow Helsinki Group

In the spring of 1976, the physicist Yuri Orlov – by then an experienced dissident surviving only by his connection to the Armenian Academy of Sciences– asked her to meet him in front of the Bolshoi Ballet. These benches infamously served as the primary trysting site in downtown Moscow, thus guaranteeing the two some privacy while they talked. Orlov shared his idea of creating a group that would focus on implementing the human rights protections in the Helsinki Accords – the 1975 Final Act was published in full in Pravda, and the brilliant idea was simply to hold the Soviet government to the promises it had signed and was blatantly violating.

Orlov had the idea, but he needed someone who could make it happen – a typist, an editor, a writer, a historian – Lyudmila Alexeyeva. In May 1976, she became one of the ten founding members of the Moscow Helsinki Group with the formal announcement reported by foreign journalists with some help from Andrei Sakharov, despite KGB disruption efforts. The government started harassment of the group even before it was formally announced, and very quickly, the group became a target for special attention by Yuri Andropov and his organization – the KGB.

Alexeyeva produced (typed, edited, wrote) many early MHG documents. One of her early – and characteristically remarkable – assignments was a fact-finding mission to investigate charges of sexual harassment against a fellow dissident in Lithuania. Several high school boys who would not testify against their teacher were expelled from school. She arranged a meeting with the Lithuanian Minister of Education, who did not know what the Moscow Helsinki Group was but anything from Moscow sounded prestigious enough to command his attention, and convinced him to return the boys to school. It was only when some higher-up called the Minister to explain what the Helsinki Group really was that he reconsidered his decision.

As one of ten original members of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Alexeyeva received even greater scrutiny from the Soviet government, including the KGB. Over the course of 1976, she was under constant surveillance, including phone taps and tails in public. She had her apartment searched by the KGB and many of her samizdat materials confiscated. In early February 1977, KGB agents burst into her apartment searching for Yuri Orlov, saying "We're looking for someone who thinks like you do." A few days later, she and her second husband, the mathematician Nikolai Williams, were forced to leave the Soviet Union under the threat of arrest. Her departure was very painful – she was convinced that she would never be able to return, and her youngest son had to stay behind.


Alexeyeva in Exile

Alexeyeva briefly stopped over in the UK, where she participated in human rights protests, before she eventually settled in northern Virginia, and became the Moscow Helsinki Group spokesperson in the United States. She testified before the U.S. Congressional Helsinki Commission, worked with NGOs such as the International Helsinki Federation, wrote reports on the CSCE conferences in Belgrade, Madrid and Vienna, which she attended, and became actively involved in the issue of political abuse of psychiatry in the USSR.

She soon met her best-friend-to-be, Larisa Silnicky of Radio Liberty (formerly from Odessa and Prague), who had founded the prominent dissident journal Problems of Eastern Europe, with her husband, Frantisek Silnicky. Alexeyeva started working for the journal as an editor in 1981 (initially an unpaid volunteer!). Meanwhile, she returned to her original calling as a historian and wrote the single most important volume on the movements of which she had been such a key participant. Her book, Soviet Dissent: Contemporary Movements for National, Religious and Human Rights, which was published in the United States in 1984 by Wesleyan University Press, remains the indispensable source on Soviet dissent.

The book was not the only evidence of the way Alexeyeva's talents blossomed in an atmosphere where she could engage in serious research without constant fear of searches and arrest. She worked for Voice of America and for Radio Liberty during the 1980s covering a wide range of issues in her broadcasts, especially in the programs "Neformalam o Neformalakh" and "Novye dvizheniya, novye lyudi," which she produced together with Larisa Silnicky. These and other programs that she produced for the RL were based mainly on samizdat materials that she was getting though dissident channels, and taken together they provide a real encyclopedia of developments in Soviet society in the 1980s. The depth and perceptiveness of her analysis are astounding, especially given the fact that she was writing her scripts from Washington. Other U.S. institutions ranging from the State Department to the AFL-CIO Free Trade Union Institute also asked her for analyses of the Gorbachev changes in the USSR, among other subjects. In the late 1980s-early 1990s, she was especially interested in new labor movements in the Soviet Union, hoping that a Solidarity-type organization could emerge to replace the old communist labor unions.


Back in the USSR

The Moscow Helsinki Group had to be disbanded in 1982 after a campaign of persecution that left only three members free within the Soviet Union. When the Group was finally reestablished in 1989 by Larisa Bogoraz, Alexeyeva was quick to rejoin it from afar, and she never stopped speaking out. She had longed to return to Russia, but thought it would never be possible. She first came back to the USSR in May 1990 (after being denied a visa six times previously by the Soviet authorities) with a group of the International Helsinki Federation members to investigate if conditions were appropriate for convening a conference on the "human dimension" of the Helsinki process. She also attended the subsequent November 1991 official CSCE human rights conference in Moscow, where the human righters could see the end of the Soviet Union just weeks away. She was an early supporter of the idea of convening the conference in Moscow – in order to use it as leverage to make the Soviet government fulfill its obligations – while many Western governments and Helsinki groups were skeptical about holding the conference in the Soviet capital.

In 1992-1993 she made numerous trips to Russia, spending more time there than in the United States. She and her husband Nikolai Williams returned to Russia to stay in 1993, where she resumed her constant activism despite having reached retirement age. She became chair of the new Moscow Helsinki Group in 1996, only 20 years after she and Yuri Orlov discussed the idea and first made it happen; and in that spirit, in the 1990s, she facilitated several new human rights groups throughout Russia.

When Vladimir Putin became president in 2000, Lyudmila Alexeyeva agreed to become part of a formal committee that would advise him on the state of human rights in Russia, while continuing her protest activities. The two did not go well together in Putin's mind, and soon she was under as much suspicion as ever. By this time, though, her legacy as a lifelong dissident was so outsized that it was harder to persecute her. Even state-controlled television felt compelled to give her air-time on occasion, and she used her standing as a human rights legend to bring public attention to abuses ranging from the mass atrocities in the Chechen wars to the abominable conditions in Russian prisons.

When the Moscow Helsinki Group celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2006, with Lyudmila Alexeyeva presiding, Yuri Orlov came back from his physics professorship at Cornell University to join her on stage. Also paying tribute were dozens of present and former public officials from the rank of ex-Prime Minister on down, as well the whole range of opposition politicians and non-governmental activists, for whom she served as the unique convenor and den mother.


The Challenge in Russia Today

In 2009, Alexeyeva became an organizer of Strategy 31, the campaign to hold peaceful protests on the 31st of every month that has a 31st, in support of Article 31 of the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly. Everyone remembers the protest on December 31, 2009, when Lyudmila Alexeyeva went dressed as the Snow Maiden (Snegurochka in the fairy tales) where dozens of other people were also arrested. But when officials realized they had the Lyudmila Alexeyeva in custody, they returned to the bus where she was being held, personally apologized for the inconvenience and offered her immediate release from custody. She refused until all were released. The video and photographs of the authorities arresting the Snow Maiden and then apologizing went viral on the Internet and made broadcast news all over the world. The "31st" protests have ended in arrests multiple times, but that has yet to deter the protesters, who provided a key spark for the mass protests in December 2011.

The darker side of the authorities' attitude was evident in March 2010, when she was assaulted at the Park Kultury metro station where she was paying her respects to the victims of the subway bombings a few days earlier. She had been vilified by the state media so often that the attacker called himself a "Russian patriot" and asserted (correctly, so far) that he would not be charged for his actions.

In 2012, the chauvinistic assault became institutional and government-wide, with a new law proposed by the Putin regime and approved by the Duma, requiring any organization that received support from abroad to register as a "foreign agent" and submit to multiple audits by the authorities. The intent was clearly to stigmatize NGOs like the Moscow Helsinki Group that have international standing and raise money from around the world. Earlier this month, Lyudmila Alexeyeva announced that the Group would not register as a foreign agent and would no longer accept foreign support once the law goes into effect in November 2012.

Other Russian human righters say they are used to being tagged as foreign agents. In fact, humorous signs appeared at the mass protests in late 2011 asking the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Hillary! Where's my check? I never got my money!" So the debate over strategy, over how best to deal with and to push back against the new repression, will likely dominate the conversation at Lyudmila Mikhailovna's 85th birthday party today (July 20). Yet again, when she is one of the few original Soviet dissidents still alive, she is at the center of the storm, committed to freedom in Russia today, and leading the discussion about how to achieve human rights for all.



Document 1

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, "Biography," November 1977.

Nov 1, 1977

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-6

This modest biographical note presents Alexeyeva's own summary of her life as of the year she went into exile. She prepared this note as part of her presentation to the International Sakharov Hearing in Rome, Italy, on 26 November 1977, which was the second in a series named after the distinguished Soviet physicist and activist (the first was in Copenhagen in 1975) that brought together scholars, analysts and dissidents in exile to discuss human rights in the Soviet bloc.

Document 2

Lyudmila Alexeyeva to Senator Jacob K. Javits, 4 July, 1975.

Jul 4, 1975

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-6

Even before she co-founded the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva actively worked to defend dissidents and political prisoners in the USSR. In this 1975 letter preserved in the Archive of the History of Dissent, the irreplaceable collections of the Memorial Society in Moscow, she is writing from Moscow to a prominent U.S. Senator, Jacob Javits, a Republican from New York and himself Jewish, who was outspoken in supporting not only the right of Jews to emigrate from the USSR to Israel, but also the Soviet dissident cause in general. The case she presents to Javits is that of Anatoly Marchenko, who asked for political emigration (not to Israel) and as punishment was sent to Siberia for four years' exile – on top of the 11 years he had already spent as a political prisoner on trumped-up charges. Tragically, Marchenko would die in prison in the fall of 1986, just as Gorbachev began releasing the political prisoners.

Document 3

Yuri Andropov, Chairman of the KGB, Memorandum to the Politburo, 29 December, 1975.

Dec 29, 1975

Source: U.S. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitrii A. Volkogonov Papers, Reel 18, Container 28

Yuri Andropov gives the Politburo an alarming report on dissent in the USSR in connection with criticism of Soviet human rights abuses by the French and Italian Communist parties. The main thrust of Andropov' report is how to keep the internal opposition in check in the aftermath of the signing of the Helsinki agreement and the following increase of international pressure on the USSR. He gives the number of political prisoners as 860, people who received the "prophylactic treatment" in 1971-74 as 63,108 and states that there are many more "hostile elements" in the country, and that "these people number in the hundreds of thousands." Andropov concluded that the authorities would have to continue to persecute and jail the dissidents notwithstanding the foreign attention. This document sets the stage and gives a good preview of what would happen after the Moscow Helsinki Group was founded in May 1976.

Document 4

Moscow Helsinki Monitoring Group, "Evaluation of the Influence of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe on the Quality of Human Rights in the U.S.S.R.," 1 August 1975-1 August 1976. (Summary of the document)

Aug 1, 1976

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-6

This document was written during a time of relative calm, when surprisingly, for the first six months of the existence of the MHG, the authorities did not undertake any repressions against members of the group, and allowed it to function. The document sounds more positive and optimistic than the group's subsequent assessments of the effect of the Helsinki Accords. The report points out that the Soviet government was sensitive to pressure from foreign governments and groups and that several other objective factors such as the end of the war in Vietnam and increasing Soviet grain purchases made the USSR more open to external influences. Under such pressure, the Soviet government released the mathematician Leonid Plyusch, allowed some refuseniks to emigrate and generally relaxed the restrictions somewhat. The report also lists continuing violations of human rights but concludes that the Helskinki Accords did and probably would play a positive role. [See the Russian page for the original

Document 5

KGB Memorandum to the CC CPSU, "About the Hostile Actions of the So-called Group for Assistance of Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR," 15 November 1976.

Nov 15, 1976

Source: U.S. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitrii A. Volkogonov Papers, Reel 18, Container 28

The KGB informed the Politburo about the activities of the MHG for the first time six months after its founding. The report gives a brief history of the human rights movement in the USSR as seen from the KGB. Andropov names each founding member of the group and charges the group with efforts to put the Soviet sincerity in implementing the Helsinki Accords in doubt. The document also alleges MHG efforts to receive official recognition from the United States and reports on its connections with the American embassy.

Document 6

Helsinki Monitoring Group, "Special Notice," 2 December, 1976.

Dec 2, 1976

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-6

This notice, one of a series by the MHG publicizing official misconduct, testifies to the increasing harassment of members of the group by the KGB. This time it is the son of Malva Landa who has been warned that he might lose his job.   The document is signed by Alexeyeva, Orlov and other leading MHG members.

Document 7

KGB Memorandum to the CC CPSU, "On the Provocative Demonstration by Antisocial Elements on Pushkin Square in Moscow and at the Pushkin Monument in Leningrad," 6 December, 1976.

Dec 6, 1976

Source: U.S. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitrii A. Volkogonov Papers, Reel 16, Container 24

This KGB report informs the Politburo about silent rallies in Moscow and Leningrad to celebrate Constitution Day by dissidents including members of the MHG. Nobody was arrested.

Document 8

Moscow Helsinki Monitoring Group, "On the Exclusion of Seven Students From the Vienuolis Middle School (Vilnius)," 8 December, 1976.

Dec 8, 1976

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-6

This is a report of the first fact-finding mission undertaken by Lyudmila Alexeyeva with Lithuanian human rights activist and member of the Helsinki Group Thomas Ventslov to investigate charges of sexual harassment against a member of the Lithuanian Helsinki Group Viktoras Petkus. Seven boys were expelled from the school and pressured by the KGB to say that they had spent time at Petkus' apartment, where he engaged in illegal activities with them. The boys' families were told that they were expelled on the basis of a school board decision that the parents were not allowed to see. The report concludes that the KGB was behind the charges and that the only reason for the expulsions was the refusal of the boys to give false testimony against their teacher. Alexeyeva met with the Lithuanian Minister of Education to discuss the situation, and he initially agreed to remedy it but then changed his mind upon finding out who his visitor was.

Document 9

Memo from Andropov to CC CPSU, "About Measures to End the Hostile Activity of Members of the So-called “Group for Assistance in the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR," 5 January, 1977.

Jan 5, 1977

Source: U.S. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitrii A. Volkogonov Papers, Reel 18, Container 28

After the two informational reports above, the KGB started to get serious about terminating the activities of the MHG. This report charges that the group was capable of inflicting serious damage to Soviet interests, that in recent months group members have stepped up their subversive activities, especially through the dissemination of samizdat documents (and particularly the MHG reports), undermining Soviet claims to be implementing the Helsinki Final Act. The Procuracy would later develop measures to put an end to these activities.

Document 10

Resolution of Secretariat of CC of CPSU, "On Measures for the Curtailment of the Criminal Activities of Orlov, Ginsburg, Rudenko and Ventslova," 20 January, 1977.

Jan 20, 1977

Source: The Bukovsky Archive, Soviet Archives at INFO-RUSS, Folder 3.2

Following the recommendations of the KGB report above, and another report submitted by Andropov on January 20, the CC CPSU Secretariat decides to "intercept and curtail the activities" of Orlov, Ginzburg, Rudenko and Ventslov of the MHG, Ukrainian and Lithuanian Helsinki groups. All four would be arrested soon after the resolution.

Document 11

Extract from CC CPSU Politburo Meeting, "About the Instructions to the Soviet Ambassador in Washington for His Conversation with Vance on the Question of "Human Rights," 18 February, 1977.

Feb 18, 1977

Source: TsKhSD (Central Archive of Contemporary Documents) Fond 89, Opis list 25, Document 44

After Orlov and Ginzburg are arrested and Lyudmila Alexeyeva goes into exile, and anticipating the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to Moscow in March, the Politburo discusses a rebuff to the Carter administration on human rights issues. Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin is instructed to meet with Vance and inform him of Soviet "bewilderment" regarding Carter administration attempts to raise the issue of Ginsburg’s arrest. Dobrynin should explain to administration officials that human rights is not an issue of inter-state relations but an internal matter in which the United States should not interfere.

Document 12

"Dignity or Death: How they Plant Dirty Pictures and Dollars on Men Who Fight for Freedom," The Daily Mail, London, 21 March, 1977, by Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Nicholas Bethell.

Mar 21, 1977

Documents 12-16 comprise a series of articles in the Western media printed soon after Lyudmila Alexeyeva's emigration from the USSR. In interviews she described the deteriorating human rights situation in the Soviet Union, including the increased repression and arrests of Helsinki groups members in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Georgia, and calls on the West to put pressure on the Soviet government to comply with the Helsinki Accords.

Document 13

"Dignity or Death: My Phone was Dead and All Night the KGB Waited Silently at My Door," The Daily Mail, London, 22 March, 1977, by Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Nicholas Bethell.

Mar 22, 1977

Document 14

"Why Brezhnev Must Never be Believed," The Daily Mail, London, 23 March, 1977, by Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Nicholas Bethell.

Mar 23, 1977

Document 15

"Soviet Human Rights from Mrs. Lyudmila Alexeyeva and others," The Times, London, 26 April, 1977, by Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Andrey Amalrik, Vadimir Bukovsky.

Apr 26, 1977

Document 16

"Soviet Dissidents on the Run," The Washington Post, 2 June, 1977, by Joseph Kraft.

Dec 31, 1969

Document 17

"Basket III: Implementation of the Helsinki Accords," Hearings before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; Ninety-Fifth Congress, First Session; on the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords; Volume IV: Soviet Helsinki Watch Reports on Repression June 3, 1977; U.S. Policy and the Belgrade Conference, 6 June, 1977.

Jun 6, 1977

Document 18

National Security Council, Global Issues [staff], to Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. National Security Advisor, "Evening Report," June 7, 1977.

Jun 7, 1977

Source: Carter Presidential Library, FOIA case NLC 10-3-2-7-8, 2008

This report to their boss by the staff of the Global Issues directorate of the National Security Council on their daily activities includes a remarkable initial paragraph describing internal U.S. government discussions of the Moscow Helsinki Group (called here "the Orlov Committee"). Staffer Jessica Tuchman says a State Department-hosted group of experts all agreed that "the hidden bombshell in the whole human rights debate with the USSR" was the fact that the nationalist movements in the Soviet Union all saw human rights activism as just the "first step" to autonomy - thus the real threat to the Soviet government.

Document 19

Central Intelligence Agency, "The Evolution of Soviet Reaction to Dissent," 15 July, 1977.

Jul 15, 1977

Source: The Carter Presidential Library

This document traces the Soviet government's response to dissident activity especially in light of their agreement to the human rights provisions outlined in Basket III of the Helsinki Accords. The CIA notes that the Soviet Union signed the accords assuming it would not result in an increase in internal opposition, but that instead the Basket III provisions have provided a rallying point for dissent. It also suggests that internal protests sparked by food shortages and open criticism of the Eurocommunists, including the French and Spanish communist parties, are further causes for the current Soviet crackdown on the opposition. It also mentions political unrest in Eastern Europe and the Unites States new human rights campaign, which has prompted dissidents to make their appeals directly to the U.S. government as reasons for Soviet anxiety. Next, it outlines the Soviet government's much harsher measures against dissidents in the wake of the Helsinki Accords. These include arrests of members of the Helsinki group, cutting off Western access, and accusing dissidents of espionage. Further, it concludes that the Soviet government's increased apparent anxiety over dissent is the result of a variety of factors, including the approach of the Belgrade conference and their general fears of increased Western contact leading to discontent and a variety of social vices.

Document 20

American Embassy Belgrade to Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State, Text of Speech Given by Ambassador Arthur Goldberg at the Belgrade Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe Meeting, November 1977 (excerpt).

Nov 1, 1977

Source: The Carter Presidential Library

This text, the second half of the U.S. Embassy Belgrade cable reporting the speech made by U.S. ambassador Arthur Goldberg to the Belgrade review conference, specifically raises the cases of Orlov, Scharansky and Ginsberg - three of the founding members, with Alexeyeva, of the Moscow Helsinki Group - in the face of major objections from the Soviet delegation, and no small amount of disquiet from other diplomats present. While considered "timid" by the outside human righters like Alexeyeva, this initiative by the U.S. delegation created a breakthrough of sorts that would heighten the human rights dialogue at upcoming Helsinki review conferences and in the media.

Document 21

Secretary of State, to American Embassy Moscow, "Statement on Orlov," 18 May, 1978.

May 18, 1978

Source: The Carter Presidential Library

This public statement from the State Deparment's noon press briefing, sent by cable to the U.S. Embassy Moscow and Consulate Leningrad, uses the strongest language to date on the Orlov case, no doubt informed by Alexeyeva and other Orlov colleagues in exile. Here, the U.S. "strongly deplores" Orlov's conviction and calls it a "gross distortion of internationally accepted standards," since the activities for which he was being punished were simply the monitoring of Soviet performance under the Helsinki Final Act.

Document 22

Joseph Aragon, to Hamilton Jordan, "Carter on Human Rights," 7 July, 1978.

Jul 7, 1978

Source: The Carter Presidential Library

This memorandum from White House staff member Joe Aragon to the president's chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, discusses the Soviet Union's treatment of dissidents, as monitored by another White House staffer, Joyce Starr. Aragon notes that the overall Soviet campaign against dissidents continues despite Carter's forceful public stance on human rights. He notes that if anything dissidents have become further shut out of Soviet society since Carter came to office. He specifically mentions the Helsinki group, and Slepak, Orlov, Scharansky, Nadel and Ginzburg as dissidents in need of United States help. He goes in depth into the Slepak case and the state of his family, characterizing Slepak as the Soviet equivalent of a Martin Luther King Jr. However, he writes that the administration so far has made public statements in support of the dissidents, but failed to act on the diplomatic level. Aragon concludes that Carter cares deeply about human rights, but that his reputation is at risk due to the failure of low-level officials to follow through the initiatives outlined in the Helsinki Final Act. Aragon calls for a meeting in which he and other will discuss a course of action for the president.

Document 23

Central Intelligence Agency, "Human Rights Review," 18-31 August, 1978.

Aug 31, 1978

Source: The Carter Presidential Library

This document contains a general overview of human rights throughout the world, but begins with a discussion of the condition of dissidents in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. It notes that the most recent dissident activity has been in their statements of support for the Czech Charter 77 dissident movement. It also discusses the Soviet Union's fear of East European and Soviet dissidents forming a united front of opposition. It also mentions an incident in which dissident Aleksandr Lyapin attempted to commit suicide by self-immolation in protest of Helsinki group leader Yuri Orlov's court sentence, and that he has since been confined to a mental institution.

Document 24

Senator Henry M. Jackson, Remarks at the Coalition for a Democratic Majority Human Rights Dinner, September 30, 1978.

Sep 30, 1978

Document 25

"Basket III: Implementation of the Helsinki Accords," Hearings before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; Ninety-Fifth Congress, First Session; on the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords; Volume X: Aleksandr Ginzburg on the Human Rights Situation in the U.S.S.R., 11 May, 1979.

May 11, 1979

Document 26

"A Helsinki Clue to Moscow's Salt II Intentions," The New York Times, June 18, 1979, by Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Aleksandr Ginzberg, Petr Grigorenko, Yuri Mnyukh, and Valentin Turchin.

Jun 18, 1979

Document 27

Jimmy Carter and Cyrus Vance, "Major Executive Statements on Behalf of Anatoliy Scharanskiy," 16 July, 1979.

Jul 16, 1979

Document 28

Peter Tarnoff, Department of State, to Zbigniew Brzezinski, "U.S. Government Initiatives on Behalf of Human Rights in the U.S.S.R." 17 April, 1980.

Apr 17, 1980

This memorandum from State Department Executive Secretary Peter Tarnoff to Zbigniew Brzezinski contains a list of actions and statements by the U.S. government on human rights and protection of dissidents in the USSR. The list covers the years 1977 through 1980. The actions include reports on the Soviet Union's implementation of the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, as well as discussions of these matters at international conferences. Another area of action has to do with investigating denials of exit visas to Jews and prisoners of conscience attempting to leave the Soviet Union. It also comprises various efforts to help imprisoned dissidents by sending observers to attend their trials and providing special aid to some families, including the Ginzburg/Shibayev and Sakharov/Yankelevich families. The document also includes a list of Carter's addresses in which he voices concerns over human rights or the treatment of Soviet dissidents.

Document 29

Helsinki Monitoring Group [members of the Moscow Helsinki group in exile], "On the Madrid Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe," c. summer 1980.

Jun 1, 1980

These recommendations were prepared by members of Helsinki groups in exile before the Madrid review conference of November 1980. The dissidents call the efforts of Western delegations at the earlier Belgrade conference "timid" and chide the lack of pressure on Moscow to observe the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The report describes the worsening human rights situation in the USSR after the Belgrade conference of 1977-78, arrests of the Helsinki Group members, persecution of religious believers, and restrictions on emigration. Recommendations include that the Madrid conference delegates demand that political prisoners, including Helsinki group members, be released, and that an international commission be created consisting of representatives of member-states to keep the pressure on the Soviets between the review conferences. Similar concerns, the report indicates, were raised by the MHG in its recommendations for the Belgrade conference in 1977.

Document 30

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, letter to friends in Moscow, undated, circa summer 1984.

Jun 1, 1984

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-6

This extraordinary personal letter provides a unique vista of Alexeyeva's life in exile and her thinking about dissent. Here she describes how she found her calling as a historian (a "personal harbor" which is essential for enduring exile), came to write the book on Soviet dissent, and struggled to reform the radios (Liberty, Free Europe, Voice of America) against the nationalist-authoritarian messages provided from "Vermont and Paris" - meaning Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Vladimir Bukovsky, respectively - or, the Bolsheviks versus her own Mensheviks within the dissident movement, in her striking analogy. Also here are the personal details, the open window in the woods for the cats, the ruminations on the very process of writing letters (like cleaning house, do it regularly and it comes easily, otherwise it's never done or only with great difficulty). Here she pleads for activation as opposed to liquidation of the Helsinki Groups, because "we have nothing else to replace them."

Document 31

Liudmila Alexeyeva, edited by Yuri Orlov, Documents and People, "What Gorbachev took from samizdat."

Jan 1, 1987

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-2

In this draft script prepared for a Radio Liberty show in 1987 together with Yuri Orlov, Alexeyeva traces the roots of Gorbachev's new thinking to samizdat materials as far back as the 1960s. She finds an amazing continuity in terms of ideals and goals, especially in foreign policy-thinking about the primacy of human rights and an interdependent world.

Document 32

Lyudmila Alexeyeva's handwritten draft paper on informal associations in the USSR.

Jan 1, 1991

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-2

This unique handwritten draft written for Alexeyeva on the emergence of informal organizations – the first NGOs – in the Soviet Union. The draft is undated but was most likely written in 1990 or early 1991. The main question is whether Gorbachev will stay in power and therefore whether the changes he brought about will stick. She sees the importance of informal organizations in reviving civil society in the Soviet Union and creating conditions for democratization.

Document 33

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Trip to Nizhny Novgorod, 9 November, 1992.

Nov 9, 1992

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-2

Lyudmila Alexeyeva visited Nizhny Novgorod on August 29, 1992, and met with members of Dialogue Club and the independent trade union at the ship-building plant Krasnoe Sormovo. Semen Bulatkin, her main contact, talked to her about the political club they founded at the plant, whose outside member was governor Boris Nemtsov, and the difficulties of organizing a free trade union there. The independent trade union was founded in February 1992, with an initial membership of about 250-300 people. Two weeks later, threatened by the plant’s administration with the loss of jobs or social benefits, membership declined to 157. Alexeyeva also met with Governor Nemtsov – a radical reformer and close supporter of President Boris Yeltsin – who told her he had read her book on Soviet dissent and was an active listener of Radio Liberty.

Document 34

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Trip to Moscow Report, 10-20 December, 1992.

Dec 20, 1992

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3-2

Alexeyeva visited Russia in December 1992, just a year after the Soviet collapse, at the behest of the AFL-CIO Free Trade Union Institute, which had been a key international backer of Solidarity in Poland and sought to support similar independent union development in post-Soviet Russia. Alexeyeva's trip report does not provide much cause for optimism. In it, she describes democratic reformers’ complaints about President Yeltsin and the lack of alternative progressive leadership; the resistance to change by older Party-dominated union structures; the lack of access to television by new, more democratic unions to make their case; and the effective transformation of Communist Party elites into quasi-capitalist owners and managers of the means of production – not because they are true reformers or effective producers, but because they know how to boss. Dozens of intriguing details and provocative conversation summaries fill the report, including a newspaper story alleging that Yeltsin was now privatizing his own appointment schedule with an outside company, selling access at $30,000 per meeting.


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