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February 9, 2016

Liudmila Alekseeva: ‘I believed my fellow citizens had gotten rid of their imperial syndrome. It turns out that they haven’t’

– Liudmila Mikhailovna, you are Crimean, from Evpatoria, correct? 

– I was born in Crimea, in Evpatoria. 

– Have you been following what is happening in Crimea, and what is your evaluation of the current developments? 

– Liudmila Mikhailovna, you are Crimean, from Evpatoria, correct? 

– I was born in Crimea, in Evpatoria. 

– Have you been following what is happening in Crimea, and what is your evaluation of the current developments? 

– Of course I am following what is happening in Crimea, but not only because I was born there – also because people who are interested in what is going on in Russia generally follow Crimea, since the annexation of Crimea to Russia was a notable event in our lives as a society. A great deal changed after that. 

– We really like to draw parallels between violations of human rights. How much does this differ from what is happening in Russia? Are there distinctive characteristics of the violations of rights in Russia and in Crimea? 

– I was not in Crimea at the time, so I can’t exactly speak for what is happening there. But I think that Crimea is more or less repeating what happened across the entirety of Russia, especially if you don’t consider large cities – Moscow, Petersburg, Ekaterinburg -but just consider the remaining parts of Russia. In the Russian regions, it’s similar situation. 

– How did the events in Crimea change Russia? Did Crimea act as a catalyst to influence any processes in Russian society? 

– Yes. It was a big, unpleasant surprise to me that a large portion of our population supported the invasion of Crimea. I was dismayed to find that more than 80% of my fellow citizens support the so-called campaign, “Our Crimea.” 

This was an unpleasant surprise for me because I believed that in the years that passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union my fellow citizens had, for the most part, gotten rid of their imperial syndrome. It turns out that they haven’t. As it happens, they are pleased that we have annexed something, and they are content to show the strength of our state and that we are feared. This is extremely sad, since an empire cannot be a democratic state. 

And if I am dreaming of a democratic future for my country, then this country must stop being an empire, it must cease holding lands by force, and its citizens must lose their desire to be feared. Let us be liked, let us be respected, let us be valued for the contribution that Russian culture has brought to the treasure trove of world culture. But being feared… Why would we want to be feared?  

Unfortunately, the less educated groups of our society, not in the biggest cities, but the provinces, which, generally speaking, make up the majority in Russia, have kept this way of thinking: “Perhaps I am naked, perhaps I am barefoot, perhaps those in power humiliate me – but we are feared throughout the world.” 

– After the events in Crimea, there have been many political prisoners – Oleg Sentsov, Aleksandr Kolchenko, Gennady Afansyev, Aleksei Cherny. Many political prisoners are now located in Crimea, those who are charged with regard to the ‘February 26’ demonstration. Can we expect a quick release of these people? Can you make a prediction, as a human rights activist with immense experience? 

– First of all, you are mistaken in saying that political prisoners began to multiply after the annexation of Crimea. We have unfortunately had political prisoners in this country for a long time now. Dozens of them. Not only Ukrainians, and not only those associated with the events in Crimea. 

Can we expect their early release? As far as those associated with Ukraine, it depends on how events unfold around the world, on whether the international community will demand their release from our authorities. This could bring about their release. Or in an ‘all for all’ exchange, as they say. 

– There was a statement this week announcing that a monitoring mission of the Council of Europe will begin its work to assess violations of human rights. Can this have the desired effect? And with respect to this international mission’s potential, will Russian civil rights organizations, for example, support the initiative of Ukrainian rights activists that an international mission should begin working in Crimea, with the participation of various organizations? 

– We always support any endeavours that promote the emancipation of political prisoners. Of course we are going to support them. 

– And as for the Council of Europe’s work, what are your expectations? 

– You know, that depends on our relations with Europe. At the moment, those relations leave something to be desired. Unfortunately, we are isolating ourselves more than ever from Europe and, really, from the rest of the world, too. We are isolating ourselves from the West, and we say that we’d like to be friends with China, but in my opinion they are not exactly eager to be our friends.

rightsinrussia.info
 

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