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Famed Russian Activist Leaves Behind Legacy of Opposition

Published: July 14, 2014 (Issue # 1819)



  • Novodvorskaya was critical of Russian domestic and foreign policy, which earned her harsh criticism from Kremlin supporters.
    Photo: Democratic Union

Valeria Novodvorskaya, a long-standing Russian human rights activist and founder of Russia's Democratic Union Party, died of natural causes at a Moscow hospital on Saturday.

Novodvorskaya, 64, died at Moscow's Hospital No. 13 of toxic shock linked to a chronic illness, ITAR-Tass reported.

She spent years protesting against the Soviet regime and remained a key opposition figure and staunch critic of the Kremlin until her death.

In a statement issued Sunday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev joined President Vladimir Putin in expressing his condolences to Novodvorskaya's family and friends.

"She was a bright, extraordinary person, a talented politician and publicist," Medvedev's statement said. "She did a great deal for democracy in our country, actively engaged in human rights work and was never afraid to defend her point of view. This earned her the respect of her supporters and opponents."

Born in the Belarussian Soviet Republic in 1950, Novodvorskaya first became involved in opposition activities at the age of 19, when she formed an underground student association at the Moscow State Linguistics University.

In protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia, the young Novodvorskaya distributed flyers that condemned the Communist Party at the State Kremlin Palace in 1969.

"She was not only a thinker," said fellow activist Lev Ponomaryov, who serves as the director of Russian NGO For Human Rights. "She was also a very active individual who applied her ideas and was not afraid to express her opinion. She ultimately suffered a lot because of this."

Novodvorskaya's protest activities led her to become a victim of punitive psychiatry. In 1969, she was arrested for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" and committed to a psychiatric hospital in Kazan. She remained at the institution for two years.

During the next decade, Novodvorskaya attempted to create an underground political party to counter the communist state ideology. She was arrested and readmitted to psychiatric treatment facilities on numerous occasions.

Between 1987 and 1991, Novodvorskaya founded the Democratic Union Party and organized a series of unsanctioned protests during which she was arrested 17 times.

"She had some radical points of view that could be seen as eccentric," Ponomaryov told The St. Petersburg Times on Sunday. "She sometimes shocked people. She was often ridiculed and insulted by those who did not support her ideas, but she didn't care. She thought it was important to express her opinion to all possible audiences."

Novodvorskaya, who authored several books, focused on writing columns and editorials in the 2000s. Novodvorskaya was critical of Russian domestic and foreign policy, which earned her harsh criticism from Kremlin supporters.

She was criticized particularly harshly for condemning the presence of Russian troops in Chechnya, siding with Georgia during the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 and speaking out against Russia's annexation of Crimea.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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