Accessibility links

Breaking News

(Un)Civil Societies Report: April 8, 2004

8 April 2004, Volume 5, Number 10
POPULAR IMAM GETS SUSPENDED SENTENCE AS HE STRUGGLES FOR MOSQUE... A court session to examine the case of a prominent Azerbaijani imam opened on 22 March, the Committee for Protection of the Rights of Ilhar Ibrahimoglu reported from Baku on 23 March. Ibrahimoglu had by that time already spent 120 days in pretrial detention, the committee said. In an account of the trial issued on 29 March, the committee said that none of the 200 or so witnesses interrogated in the case were present to give testimony against Ibrahimoglu in court, and the government appeared to be preparing policemen to give false testimony.

Ultimately, the court ruled last week to give Ibrahimoglu a five-year suspended sentence. While the imam is released from detention, he will remain under surveillance and he could land back in jail if his activities are deemed provocative by officials. In an interview with the Azerbaijani independent daily "Ekho," he said he found the sentence "absurd" and denied the charges of incitement to violence, saying he had only come to the square during the October demonstration to monitor the protest.

A number of observers attended the sessions, including from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe, the U.S. Embassy, and human rights groups. Representatives of the Baptists and Adventists in Baku also spoke out in support of Ibrahimoglu, Forum 18 reported on 22 March, as they believed he was innocent and represented for them the larger issue of the state's intrusion into religious affairs.

Ibrahimoglu has gained a wide following in Azerbaijan among both Muslims and non-Muslims. He served as head of the Azerbaijani branch of the International Religious Liberty Association, founded by leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1893 and serving now as a nonsectarian organization promoting religious freedom worldwide. He was also coordinator of a local NGO called the Center for the Protection of Freedom of Religion (DEVAMM). Ibrahimoglu has been a prominent critic of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party and DEVAMM backed the candidacy of Isa Qambar, leader of the Musavat Party, reported on 2 March.

Now that he is free, Ibrahimoglu has vowed to continue the struggle to keep the Juma mosque where he preaches open to the community of believers. He told "Ekho" that the community was legally registered by the Ministry of Justice in 1993, was not charged with any wrongdoing, and under international standards for religious freedom, should be permitted to continue operation. The Sabayli District Court retreated from implementing a verdict to evict the community from the Juma mosque, "Baku Today" ( reported on 11 March. Yet it appears that the judge only temporarily halted the action because of the Muslim holy month.

Nubaris Kuliev, a city administration official responsible for the Old City architectural zone, wrote mosque leaders on 15 January that because of information from the prosecutor-general about Ibrahimoglu's alleged participation in post-election riots, the community had to leave the mosque within 15 days, Forum 18 reported. Later, a source in Kuliev's office told Forum 18 that he had received instructions from "on high" to pass on the decision. Representatives of the Icari Sahar historic center, an organization devoted to preserving Baku's Old Town, filed a lawsuit claiming that the Muslim worshippers posed a threat to the architectural integrity of the mosque, reported on 2 March. The believers dismissed the claim as frivolous and politically motivated.

The mosque, built in the 12th century, is said to be 1,000 years old. During the Stalinist purges of 1937, it was turned into a warehouse, and then turned into a carpet museum in the 1960s. It regained its status as a mosque in 1992, "Baku Today" reported. City administrators have said that they want to turn the mosque back into a carpet museum.

Human rights activists were concerned about the prolonged detention of the imam and others caught up in the post-October crackdown because of the risk of torture in pretrial detention. Even the official human rights ombudsman, Elmira Suleymanova, in a report on 26 March to the parliament said that police committed "brutal and insulting actions against civilians" in pretrial detention, reported on 1 April.

Suleymanova described receiving 4,500 appeals in the last year, more than half of which were rejected, presumably because they were unfounded or improperly prepared, and less than a quarter fully resolved. Of the appeals, 32.7 percent involved allegations of the violation of civil and political rights and 67.3 percent involved economic and social rights. She did not indicate what percentage of the cases involved religious matters, but Ibrahimoglu and other leaders believe there are many cases, citing numerous instances when religious books have been confiscated from people returning to Azerbaijan from abroad, Forum 18 reported on 6 April. Other groups ranging from Hare Krishnas to Bahais have complained about restrictions put on their print runs or in getting access to shipments of publications from abroad.

Ibrahimoglu's case was also seen in the context of a broad crackdown against all types of political dissent in the wake of elections widely condemned by the opposition last fall. Azerbaijan has long had a list of political prisoners, even before the presidential elections. The United States and other Western governments welcomed the pardon and release of 129 of these old cases of prisoners on 17 March, including 28 who had been included on the Council of Europe's list of political prisoners. That list did not contain the detainees of 15-16 October 2003 following mass election protests, a U.S. official protested at an OSCE session. Later, nine people were found guilty of public disorder and attacking government officials. Of these, two were sentenced to three years of imprisonment, and seven were given four-year suspended sentences, "Baku Today" reported on 25 March. Eighteen had already been sentenced from three to six years in prison and 42 given suspended sentences. While the government is prepared to deal with some old cases where prisoners have already served long sentences, in the case of those accused of inciting unrest in the October demonstrations, the best that is occurring is the type of suspended sentence Ibrahimoglu and others have obtained after extensive domestic and foreign protests.

...AS SCHOLAR SAYS IMAM'S TRIAL WILL PRESSURE MUSLIM COMMUNITY. Nariman Gasimoglu is a scholar and translator of the Koran who is active in Azerbaijan's Popular Front Party. He is currently a Fulbright scholar at Georgetown University. In an interview with "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies" recently, he characterized the suspended sentence of Imam Ilhar Ibrahimoglu as the type of lighter punishment the authorities use when they receive a lot of pressure from abroad. "They don't want to lose face," he said, noting the suspension was a result of public opinion. "While he is set free, it is still a kind of restriction on his activities," he added. "The trial is a kind of pressure on him, and will frighten others who are around him."

Considering the imam's past public stance, Gasimoglu said he believed he would likely continue to preach as he always had, because he did not see anything illegal about his activities, but the extent of his dissent "will depend on how brave he feels," he noted.

Gasimoglu says the Muslims of Azerbaijan, mainly Shi'ites, fall into three broad categories. First, there are those for whom Islam is a traditional practice, mainly symbolic, perhaps even fashionable, but primarily an obligation to maintain their ancestors' legacy. Next, there are those who submit to the government-sponsored Islamic organizations, which are involved in various activities to show loyalty to the authorities for political gain. Finally, there are what could be called the radicals, a relatively new trend which came after the gaining of independence in 1992. The radicals in turn fall into various other groups, depending on whether their influence comes from Iran, Turkey, or Arabic countries.

Some politicized Shi'a groups have been influenced by the mullahs of Iran, but Ibrahimoglu, according to Gasimoglu, while he received his religious education in Iran, was not of the radical tendency but among those who combined devotion to Islam with an advocacy of broader human rights, as he became leader of the International Religious Liberty Association.

Gasimoglu believes that there were a number of factors in Ibrahimoglu's arrest. He did not submit to the authority of government-sponsored Muslim organizations. Authorities were also not happy with his wider activities on behalf of religious liberty. Another reason was his good relations with the opposition Musavat Party. Ibrahimoglu called on his followers to vote for the Musavat presidential candidate, Isa Qambar.

Gasimoglu finds this position not incompatible with the goal of keeping religion and state separate but said authorities are mainly using religion for political purposes. "Since we got our independence, ironically, the main role is being played by the authorities, despite their issuing of statements against the use of religion in politics." The Aliyev government blatantly deployed all the Muslim clergy in the election campaigns first for Heidar Aliyev, and then his son, Ilham, says Gasimoglu. "They set the precedent, and they themselves violate the unwritten law" that prohibits clergy from meddling in politics. Religious figures are generally not permitted to take part in elections, but there does not appear to be an explicit law against endorsing candidates. "It's not against the law to express sympathies," Gasimoglu said, noting that Ibrahimoglu is not a member of a political party.

Gasimoglu credited foreign pressure, rather than domestic protest, with the relatively lenient sentence for the imam. "I don't think domestic pressure much affected the situation. They [the government] don't tolerate activities beyond their control. They fought a lot of opposition members," he said. Gasimoglu credits Azerbaijan's joining of the Council of Europe in 2001 as contributing to easing of the political prisoners' situation. While aware of a deadline for the release of political prisoners that might lead to some action against Azerbaijan, he believes that generally, membership in the European institution is beneficial. "If we remain outside of this European political space, we could be in a worse situation, and no one could have the possibilities to put pressure on the government," he explained. "With the passage of time, I think the oversight of the Council of Europe will increase its effect on the situation in a positive way," he said.

The case of the imam is emblematic of one concern authorities have -- the spread of religious influence outside of their control. Mostly they fear radicalism coming from neighboring Iran, or from Arabic countries. With more than 20 million Azeris living as a suppressed minority without language rights in Iran, there is inevitably some travel and communication back and forth, although both sides restrict it. The Azeris of Iran speak their language at home or in the bazaar, but do not have education or media in their native tongue.

On the other hand, the Iranian leaders have as much to fear from their neighbor Azerbaijan as Baku fears the mullahs. "Iran is jealous of our independence, they fear that our independence will affect them, and Iran will be divided, it will have nationalist, separatist movements," Gasimoglu said. He noted that there are some underground Azeri organizations seeking an independent state to be formed of the territory where they historically have lived in Iran.

Gasimoglu believes that Iranian radicalism is not really a threat to Azerbaijan, in part because Azerbaijan remains a secular state with some modicum of tolerance for a variety of political parties. He said that an Iranian Islamic party linked to the Iranian regime did not do well in Azerbaijan and appeared weak because of significant competition in the Azerbaijani political arena. Furthermore, the party appeared to favor good relations with Armenia, which spells political death for many opposition groups in Azerbaijan. "Azeris know that Iran, despite their claim to be a leader in Islamic work, is supportive to Armenia, and this is the main reason they are not popular," Gasimoglu said.

Another trend feared by the Aliyev governments of father and son has been the Saudi-supported Wahhabis. Like others observing the situation in the region, Gasimoglu believes that in part, Russian security services exaggerate or in fact incite Wahhabism in Daghestan in order to keep religious groups off balance and justify their interventions, which include using levers of pressure on the Azerbaijani government if Baku improves its good relations with Washington. Gasimoglu said there are not likely to be more than 5,000 Wahhabis in Azerbaijan. Occasionally, some radical sect members have been arrested. The movement active in Central Asia, Hizb ut-Tahrir, does not appear to be prevalent in Azerbaijan. When a few followers surfaced with an Uzbek leader, they were arrested or forced out of Azerbaijan and did not gain popularity.

Commenting on the terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan, Gasimoglu said that the events are the outcome of years of repression of Muslims outside of state control. "Instead of pushing them into a corner, and hunting them down, [Uzbek President Islam] Karimov should be promoting democracy, but has violated their rights," he said. All the independent Uzbek parties have been shut down or are now heavily controlled, so that the political space is filled only by the ruling powers. Gasimoglu believes that such groups should be legalized and allowed to function. "When the space is empty, some radical movements have good grounds for their extreme message," he said. By allowing a variety of parties to flourish, competition will drive out those that are weaker, without a broad following. He cited the fate of the Iranian-sponsored Islamic party in Azerbaijan as an example of how democratic competition by various parties would prevent the spread of radicalism.

Asked if existing secular or religious opposition groups might tend to radicalize if activists are now being arrested and discouraged from political participation, Gasimoglu rejected the notion that the Azerbaijani opposition might move underground. "Our opposition camp is very mature, they will not go into underground activities," he said. They are upset at the lack of support from international organizations, he said, but remain devoted to peaceful change. Gasimoglu, who is active in the Popular Front, said the new website he has created (see below) and the intellectuals interested in democracy and human rights who have gathered around it "offer a model for how to place Islam in the post-Soviet space," he said.

The Turkish contribution to Azerbaijani religious life has been somewhat tolerated by authorities, particularly at the local level, as a counterweight to possible influences from Iran. The example of a secular Muslim state is a beneficial one, but ultimately, Gasimoglu is hoping that the United States and Europe will press for more democracy and liberty in Azerbaijan, and believes that Azerbaijan could then serve as a model democratic Muslim state.

Gasimoglu believes that ultimately, Azerbaijan will establish a secular, democratic state, tolerant of Islam, as it was the first country in the Muslim world to do so. That state only lasted two years in the early 20th century, but the intelligentsia and the parties they have formed still have a historical memory of this period. Because the religious mentality of Azeris has not tended toward extremism, Gasimoglu is confident that radical movements sponsored by outsiders will not take hold.

'PEOPLES OF THE CAUCASUS FORUM' GIVES SEMBLANCE OF STABILITY. In an indication of the importance of the region to Russia's future, Russian President Vladimir Putin's first trip outside of Moscow after his sweeping re-election was to the North Caucasus. In Essentuki, he met with police and said that "an organized criminal environment" formed in the North Caucasus in the 1990s, but stopped short of blaming former President Boris Yeltsin, the Indian news agency PTI reported on 25 March. He blamed the region's unrest on the government's weakness as well as poverty and "uncontrolled migration." He condemned outside Islamist forces for inciting discontent and said the Russian federal authorities are "simply obliged to put an end to the practically open activity of the markets of slaves, drugs, and arms," adding that the pressure of mafia racketeering had to be removed so that small businesses could flourish.

In Sochi, Putin presided over a much-publicized and officially choreographed "Forum of Peoples of the Caucasus" on 27-28 March. On state-controlled television on 26 March, turbaned heads were visible near the mitred hats of Russian Orthodox clergy to present a visual picture of ostensible unity. The willingness of Moscow to bow to local customs was said to be symbolized by a concession that some men in ceremonial dress with daggers initially barred from passing through security checkpoints were eventually let into the meeting after citing tsarist-era agreements that permitted them to attend such gatherings with arms.

Among the peoples of the Caucasus were not only daring mountainous warriors but the Cossacks, including Chechen President Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov's adviser on Russians in Chechnya, who extracted a ceremonial admission from Kadyrov that his ancestors were also Cossacks. Putin began the session with a speech, made available by the Foreign Ministry website, about the "diverse but united Russian spiritual culture" represented in the Caucasus. "Any attempts to break this unity have always met with resistance, including from the Caucasus peoples themselves," Putin said.

Putin cited the 1999 incursion into Daghestan but made no references to more recent terrorist attacks in his effort to portray the region as stabilized and ready for foreign and Russian investment. He emphasized that the "people" of Russia and the "peoples" of the Caucasus "share a common destiny." Putin stressed the importance of Islamic spiritual leadership -- as long as clergy kept their pronouncements in the right vein. "Their authority and the truth of their words are a bulwark against attempts to impose alien, extremist ideas upon the Caucasus peoples, ideas that are an attempt to pervert Islam and use it for selfish and aggressive purposes, for profit," he said. Cooperation between Islam and Russian Orthodoxy was symbolized by a story told by an Orthodox priest who said Muslim Daghestani workers, known for their expert masonry, were building his parish's cathedral.

The image may have suggested the ways in which the Muslim peoples could be pressed into the service of construction of the edifice of the Orthodox-dominated Russian state in more ways than he knew. Without any reference to preceding battles, Putin quoted from the legacy of the famous Imam Shamil, a 19th-century Daghestani religious leader and warrior. "He called upon them to remain loyal to the Russian state and to live in peace and harmony with its peoples," Putin said, recalling Shamil's last testament to his sons, choosing to stress the vanquished warrior's pragmatic call for peaceful coexistence with the Russian Empire.

Shamil, the third imam of Daghestan and a member of a Sufi order, is remembered for his successful efforts to unite the mountainous peoples to fight the Russians from the 1830s to 1850s in an attempt to establish an independent Daghestan. He escaped from various Russian expeditions sent to conquer the region and slipped away yet again in 1859 when the tsar's forces, numbering half a million, encircled him and a few hundred of his men at Vedeno. Shamil eventually surrendered in 1859 and lived in exile until he was permitted by the tsar to travel to Mecca and died in Medina in 1871.

Speaking in Sochi, Putin put behind him any kind of struggle with warring Caucasus peoples seeking independence from Moscow, declaring the region stabilized and ripe for business. Yet continuing reports of civilian detentions and skirmishes with Russian troops belie the story of Chechen pacification. The Prague Watchdog human rights group reported on 31 March that 15 fighters, eight Chechen policeman, and nine Russian soldiers died in clashes last month. Russian television has featured prominently the surrender of several Chechen fighters said to be close to separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, but Maskhadov and some followers remain at large.

Outside Chechnya, the south of Russia still appears unstable. It was only in December that the Federal Security Service (FSB) blamed Chechen warlord Shamil Basaev for a terrorist attack on a commuter train on 5 December in Essentuki that killed 45 people and injured 188, "Russia Journal" reported on 19 December. Another blast killed six people and wounded 87 in Kislovodsk on 3 September. And on 24 February, in Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia, two people were killed and five wounded in a car-bomb explosion, Russian media reported.

Some dramatic moments at the Caucasus forum highlighted what appeared to be disagreements between Putin and Kadyrov, installed by the Kremlin to preside over a public referendum and elections last year and crush the remnants of Chechen resistance, to which Kadyrov himself once belonged.

Although he was not on the speaker's list, "Vesti" television news commented on 25 March, Kadyrov took the floor to put forth some of his proposals for controlling the population in his region. He complained that he needed stronger laws enabling him to "fight Wahhabism" because now he is not even able to detain Wahhabists. Putin quickly rose to counter him. "Of course we can prosecute any extremism, including that which masquerades with religious phraseology," Putin said. "But I urge you to keep in my another circumstance," he cautioned. "This should not slide into violating human rights. These are not empty words," Putin said. "In our history are many tragic pages connected to the fight with dissent. We know well what this has led to in our country."

The uncustomary emphasis on human rights seemed more about reining in a possibly rebellious local potentate than about concern for civilians, as recent weeks have seen numerous displaced persons in Ingushetia compelled to leave tent cities closed by authorities and return to Chechnya, although they do not feel secure there and there are new fears of the brutality of Kadyrov's forces.

Undaunted by Putin's arguments, Kadyrov took the podium a second time at the Caucasus forum to promote another idea for control of the Muslim population. Just as the Russian Orthodox have Patriarch Aleksii II as one leader to unite them, so the Muslims, too, must have one supreme mufti to rule their disparate communities across Russia. Kadyrov himself bears the title of mufti, having been educated as a clergyman. Some clapping and cries of "that's right!" could be heard in the hall, but with unaccustomed vehemence, Putin took the floor again and said, "There is no such person!" who could rise above Russia's existing muftis in various regions. If the implication was that federal authority should see to it that one supreme mufti is imposed on Muslim believers, Putin cautioned, "No one will follow religion to that extent and I hope they will never do it." Although the federal government is keenly interested in controlling all forms of religious expression in Russia, evidently Putin has decided that he would rather use the divide-and-conquer rather than unite-under-one-ruler approach.

Other signs of discontent with Kadyrov have emerged in recent weeks. Human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, when he served as State Duma deputy speaker from the Yabloko faction in 2000, supported the appointment of Kadyrov as head of the Chechen administration. But now, after receiving reports of a fierce new offensive by Kadyrov's forces against Chechens, he has become more critical. While he believes security sweeps of Chechen villages by Russian forces are becoming less frequent, Lukin said at a news conference on 25 March, "there is worry that there are new types of rights abuse on both sides -- and on a third side, by which I mean units under Chechen President Kadyrov," RIA-Novosti reported the same day.

While staying away from any obvious attempt to select one mufti, Putin has appointed a Muslim as interior minister. Rashid Nurgaliev is of Tatar origin and comes to the ministry from intelligence services. The appointment might follow a time-honored tradition of putting minorities in charge of police work so they may "control their own" and provide the center with plausible deniability about repression. But it also represents a concession to what officials have been calling "the Muslimization of Russia". Kamiljal Kalandarov, a member of the presidential Human Rights Commission and general director of the official Institute of Human Rights, said, "Muslimization is taking place at an intensive pace," while commenting that most Muslims appeared to support Putin, looking at the election returns from areas such as Chechnya and Bashkortostan. Kalandarov cautioned that the situation might not last, as "authorities refuse to cooperate with society," reported on 25 March. But he said the president should not concentrate on establishing civil society and media freedom, as he has promised in various post-election speeches, but in creating a "stable and just society." "This is Russia's future," quoted him as saying.

1968 RED SQUARE PROTESTER, VETERAN DISSIDENT BOGORAZ DIES IN MOSCOW. Larisa Bogoraz, a dissident who demonstrated in Red Square in 1968 to protest the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia and who remained active protesting against injustices at home and abroad, died in Moscow on 6 April at the age of 74 after a long illness.

Bogoraz, a philologist who graduated from Kharkhov University and taught Russian, devoted most of her life to helping others in the dissident movement, including her first husband Yulii Daniel, a writer jailed for publishing his books abroad under a pseudonym, and her second husband, Anatolii Marchenko, a worker activist who died in the Gulag.

It is a tribute to the sacrifices of Bogoraz and her colleagues that the Kremlin-supported television program "Vesti" covered her death, saying it was "sad news." But in an indication of the difficulties remaining in telling the truth publicly in Russia, her famous Red Square protest with six other dissidents was described as against the "introduction of Warsaw Pact troops" rather than the "Soviet invasion" of Czechoslovakia. Her appeal jointly with others on behalf of writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn is mentioned, but not the appeals at the trial for Sinyavskii and Daniel or Marchenko's death, which were events more emblematic for her life.

Bogoraz was among the first -- if not the first -- Soviet dissident to take the cause of human rights in her country to the Western press. She recounted to dissident biographer Lyudmila Alekseeva that the decision was not easy not only because of the risks but because of the Russian reluctance to bring a domestic problem to foreigners. In an appeal "To World Public Opinion" published on 11 January 1968, Bogoraz and another dissident, Pavel Litvinov, wrote on behalf of samizdat authors and distributors Aleksandr Ginzburg, Vera Lashkova, Aleksei Dobrovolskii, and Yurii Galanskov accused of "anti-Soviet slander." The appeal was addressed to the international community, but also addressed "in the first place to Soviet public opinion" and outlined a number of gross violations of norms of due process even under Soviet law.

"We appeal to everyone in whom conscience is alive and who has sufficient courage," Bogoraz and Litvinov wrote, urging condemnation of the "shameful" trial, which recalled the trials of the 1930s. They wrote that they were handing the appeal "to the Western progressive press" and asking that it be published and broadcast abroad, but were not delivering it to the Soviet press "because that is hopeless." The BBC broadcast their statement in Russian and English from London (see "The Trial of the Four" compiled by Pavel Litvinov and edited by Peter Reddaway, Viking Press, 1971). In an obituary published by on 6 April, Bogoraz's son, Aleksandr Daniel, called the decision to give the protest to the Western media "the turning point in the establishment of the human rights movement," because many Soviet citizens heard the appeal repeatedly broadcast over Western radio and were drawn to the cause. For her short protest unfurling a banner on Red Square, Bogoraz was sentenced to four years in exile, which she served in Irkutsk Oblast. Before her death, she was the last of the seven remaining in Moscow; two others had died and four others had long ago emigrated to the West.

When Bogoraz returned from exile, she did not immediately join the dissident movements forming in the 1970s whose members were fairly quickly arrested, but worked more quietly; once, for example, writing an article with Marchenko under a pseudonym for an emigre magazine, and collecting testimony of repression in the Soviet era for the "Memory" anthology.

In 1986, Bogoraz worked to publicize a labor-camp hunger strike of her husband, Anatolii Marchenko, in protest against political prisoners in the Gorbachev era. He died in Chistopol prison, still fasting for the general amnesty, after being mistreated by Perm camp guards on 6 December 1989. It happened that soon after, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made his famous phone call to Andrei Sakharov in his exile in the closed Soviet city of Gorkii. He told the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and physicist that he could "continue his work for the country." It is a little-remembered fact about this historic movement of perestroika magnanimity that Sakharov immediately raised the death of Marchenko with Gorbachev, and the cause he represented of the remaining prisoners of conscience. Gorbachev then began to release more prisoners in January 1987, although the process took well into the Yeltsin era. Bogoraz made several trips to the camp and prison to attempt to discover the circumstances of her husband's death, and kept a photograph of his burial place, which by law had to be on the prison grounds.

In July 1989, she joined other dissident leaders Sergei Kovalev, Vyacheslav Bakhmin, Aleksei Smirnov, Lev Timofeev, and Boris Zolotukhin in reviving the disbanded Moscow Helsinki Group. Founders Yurii Orlov, Lyudmila Alekseeva, and Kronid Lubarskii joined them from exile in the West. Bogoraz remained active in the Helsinki Group until 1993, when she departed, evidently due to a disagreement with other leaders about the extent to which human rights activists should become involved in a presidentially established human rights commission and activities.

She spent the next years devoting herself to passing on the baton of the Soviet dissident movement to the next generation by convening a series of seminars and conferences, in Moscow and around the country as well as in other post-Soviet countries, introducing young people to the ideals of the human rights movements, its problems and achievements. She produced several readers of materials on the history and issues of the movement which remain in use today. From 1993 to 1997, she served on the board of the Human Rights Project Group devoted to drafting human rights legislation and policies for a reforming Russia.

For years, Bogoraz's apartment on Leninskii Avenue was a clearing-house for relatives of people in prison. To speak with visitors, she would take her dog for a walk in the courtyard to foil what she assumed were KGB bugs in her apartment. Foreign visitors were asked to bring children's animal-shaped vitamins to be used for extra nutrition for prisoners under the candy quota. Bouillon cubes were crumbled into homemade bread to add scarce calories. Larisa would bring bars of soap to the rare meetings with her husband in labor camp, in order to draw words on the table that could be quickly rubbed out when prison guards appeared.

A small woman with a clear gaze, Bogoraz continued to speak out about the kinds of injustices at home and abroad that later, in a more complacent era, tended to be ignored by her colleagues who had been more ardent about Soviet abuses. She criticized the force used in the 1993 suppression of the White House rebellion, and repeatedly spoke out against the brutality of the war in Chechnya. After the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, she said the world should avoid seeing a "global Islamic conspiracy" and urged that Russian authorities not use the tragedy as an excuse to crack down further in Chechnya.

In response to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Bogoraz outlined her criticism of the action in the manner of many of the Soviet-trained scientific intelligentsia of her era. If money and raw materials as well as technical and political support were needed to develop weapons of mass destruction, then "modern methods of universal control and intelligence are capable of revealing the sources and receivers of such support," she wrote in a public statement published in "Prava Lyudiny" in Kharkov (No. 3, February 2003), saying the channels of such support should be blocked and criminal regimes isolated. "Perhaps my pacifist position may be explained by the fact that I have two sons, and I do not want them to become killers or to be killed in a war. It seems that my opponents do not think about their sons, not to mention somebody else's."

Commenting on her years of sacrifice, Bogoraz told NPR in 2000 about her famous demonstration and other actions. "I knew the action would not give any result, but we tried to awaken a sense of personal responsibility" in fellow citizens. Overall, she was pessimistic about the dissident movement, calling it a "failure" because "we couldn't convert anyone. Moral freedom isn't important to a lot of people," she told NPR. In 1998, at the 30th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Czech government sponsored an art show at the Sakharov Museum, where Bogoraz was an honored guest. She told gallery visitors that she took the risky step because she thought it was the right thing to do, so that Czechs and the world would not think all Soviets were aggressive. With her beliefs and her actions, and with considerable sacrifices, she helped to change her nation and affected world events.

AZERBAIJAN. The website of the Center for the Protection of Freedom of Religion, led by Imam Ilhar Ibrahimoglu (in Azeri and Russian).

A new website created by Nariman Gasimoglu and his colleagues carrying news from Azerbaijan, Central Asia, and Turkey about political and religious events and human rights (in Russian).

RUSSIA. This website on Chechnya run by Czech journalists includes articles analyzing the friction between Moscow and Chechnya's leader Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and a round-up of the events of the last four years of war (in English and Russian).

A 1998 interview with Bogoraz by National Public Radio's Anne Garrels (in English).

An obituary of Larisa Bogoraz by her son, Aleksandr Daniel (in Russian).

A short biography from the Sakharov archives with photos (in English).