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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

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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