Former Soviet Dissidents meet in the Crimea and promise action


18 May Day of Rembrance for the Victims of the Deportation

Former Soviet political prisoners are meeting in the Crimea on the 68th anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars.  They have come at the invitation of the Head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and himself a former political prisoner, Mustafa Dzhemiliev. The participants are planning to initiate a Crimean Forum of Human Rights Defenders and set a date for the forum.

Many of the participants are legendary figures of Soviet resistance (the brackets give the country they are now living in, if not Ukraine): 

Ludmila Alexeeva (Russia); 

Vladimir Bukovsky (UK);

Natalya Gorbanevskaya (France);

Andrew Grigorenko (USA),

Pyotr Khlebovych (Poland);

Sergei Kovalev ( Russia);

Olexander Lavut (Russia):

Myroslav Marynovych

Vasyl Ovsiyenko

Alexander Podrabinek (Russia) 

Oles Shevchenko

Alexei Smirnov (Russia),

Yevhen Sverstyuk

Tatyana Yankelevich (USA)

Josif Zisels

Leonid Plyushch who lives now in France sent a letter of support, as well as others who for reasons beyond their control could not be present.

Yevhen Sverstyuk says that he accepted Mustafa Dzhemiliev’s invitation “with enormous enthusiasm and hopes”.  He believes it to be high time that former dissidents and political prisoners met to share experience and discuss present activities.

“This is part of our history, not past, but living history. Many interesting people have gathered here, people who are already elderly but are still active, particularly in Russia. They are an inspiration.”

Mustafa Dzhemiliev told Radio Svoboda that he would like such forums to take place in the Crimea annually.  The first will probably take place in September, however this will be decided by the participants in the meeting and announced on 19 May.

He believes such a forum is needed so that former Soviet dissidents and human rights defenders and their colleagues from the former socialist bloc have the opportunity to discuss problems of development in the post-Soviet and post-communist realm, and also gain a platform for presenting views and assessments

He says that at a time when events seem to suggest an attempt to restore the Soviet empire, when European democratic values like in the Soviet period are declared alien, when the possibility of holding open and honest elections are being negated through flagrant vote-rigging, contemporary democratic and human rights movements should again understand this danger and unite under the old banner: “For your freedom and ours!”

On 18 May the former political prisoners will take part in ceremonies to honour the memory of the victims of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars from the Crimea, and then on 19 May they will discuss holding an International Conference of Soviet Dissidents and Political Prisoners. 


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