The Moscow Helsinki Group is the oldest human rights organization in Russia, dating back to 1976. Originally formed as a loosely connected network of human rights monitors across the Soviet Union, the numerous Helsinki groups and associations advocate human rights according to the provisions of "Basket Three" of the Helsinki Accords, signed in 1975. In the first three years of the group's work, nearly all of its members were arrested and/or sentences to psychiatric hospitalization as a way to repress their activities. Today the Moscow Helsinki Group, together with related Helsinki groups and associations across the NIS, play an important leadership role in uniting human rights activists in the regions. The Board of Directors for the Moscow Helsinki Group is an impressive collection of the most famous dissidents and activists in Russia. Their names carry significant influence in Russian politics and society, as well as in the international human rights community.
The group's work recently focuses on building human rights infrastructure through legal education and enhanced communications networks among groups. Technical specialist Andrei Tsyurusin observed:
The networking project aims to address this issue, as well as provide regional groups with information on the practical experiences of other groups so that they might benefit from these experiences.
- Our organization has many partners and branches across the region -- the Far East, Western Siberia, Transcaucasia, Ukraine, almost all the regions. The groups throughout the regions, however, are poorly connected to one another. If we have contact with them, it's perhaps once or maybe twice a year. That's contact with us here in Moscow. Contact between the regional groups themselves is even more infrequent.
One of the main products of this project has been the creation of a human rights database, containing contact information on groups as well as a description of their activities. It also includes relevant NGOs and political commissions and personalities which might be of interest or use to human rights groups in the regions. Tsyurusin notes, The database is not just a simple documentation of who and where these groups are, but it also contains information about the type of work that these groups are doing. We are trying to create the database so that it can be used effectively by the groups in the regions.
The following publications were produced from the materials collected from the seminar series "Legal Culture" conducted by the Moscow Helsinki Group. Future books resulting from this ongoing series of seminars are planned for release in 1996.
- The History, Philosophy, Principles and Methodology of Legal Defense Activities
- (1992, Moscow) In Russian.
- The Nationalities Problem and Human Rights
- (1993, Moscow) In Russian. 256 pages.
- Social Problems and Human Rights
- (1993, Moscow) In Russian. 112 pages.
- Individual Human Rights
- (1993, Moscow) In Russian. 176 pages.
- Judicial Defense of Human Rights
- (1993, Moscow) In Russian. 240 pages.
- The Right to Freedom of Movement
- (1994, Moscow) In Russian. 224 pages.
- Freedom of Speech and to the Means of Mass Communication
- (1994, Moscow) In Russian. 210 pages.
Last updated: January 1997
A print version of much of the information contained in this NIS Third Sector Organizations section can be found in the The Post-Soviet Handbook (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1999).