Given the rise of repression in Russia today, human rights activists increasingly resemble Soviet-era dissidents in terms of activities; but they enjoy the enormous advantage of being able to move abroad much more freely and to use the Internet to coordinate the work of their colleagues even when their organizations are banned.
Oleg Orlov, a leader of the Memorial Human Rights organization which the Russian authorities liquidated on April 5, says that furthermore, the ability of those working in the field of human rights to stay one step ahead of the system Russian judiciary is no small advantage ( kavkazr.com/a/my-proydem-putj-sovetskih-dissidentov-oleg-orlov-o-novom-memoriale-/31904904.html).
The old Memorial is no more, but the people who were part of it are still there, some emigrating and others inside Russia; and they are forming a new organization, the Memorial Center for Human Rights, a group that the authorities have not banned although it is entirely possible that they will.
“The new structure, formed without the establishment of a legal status, will document and disseminate information about violations of the rights of Russians and help political prisoners and other victims of repression,” he says, precisely what the Memorial now banned had done. . And it will work via the Internet with émigré leaders as well as with those inside Russia.
All of this is reminiscent of the situation dissidents faced in Soviet times, Orlov continues. But “Soviet dissidents have far fewer opportunities than we have now.” Like them, we rely on advertising; but unlike them, we can continue to work in the legal field that Russia is trying to suggest. The country is not a legal state, but there are legal possibilities – and activists can use them.
Many human rights activists are pessimistic, but they shouldn’t be, says Orlov. “The struggle of Soviet rights activists in the 1960s, 1970s and even the early 1980s seemed absolutely meaningless and hopeless. But in the end, it led to victory. Something similar is again possible.
“In Russia today”, he concludes, “we must follow the path of the Soviet dissidents”, using all their tactics and taking advantage of all the new possibilities offered by the current situation.