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Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG)


The oldest Russian Human rights organization.

The creation of the MHG (12 May 1976) laid the foundations for a new stage of the human rights movement - the Helsinki movement. This differed from the preceding decade in that it marked the melding of human rights activity in the USSR with the international struggle for the observance of human rights.

The Moscow Helsinki Group stopped functioning in 1982 as its numbers were reduced to three by persecution (arrests, forced emigrations). But that year saw the creation of the International Helsinki Federation, which continued the work begun by the MHG and played a significant role in obtaining the release of political prisoners in the USSR. After these releases, the MHG was re-animated (1989). At present, the MHG is the oldest of all human rights organizations currently functioning in Russia.

The most prominent human rights issues of the Helsinki period have been largely resolved (freedom of movement, freedom of speech and organization, elections etc.). However, some problems remain (national discrimination, military issues, discrimination against women, etc.) and new, equally acute problems have arisen (the Chechen war and its aftermath, refugees, chronic delays in payment of pensions and wages, etc.).

Russia’s Constitution and legislation, and numerous international human rights agreements signed by Russia have enabled citizens to defend their rights by democratic means, and they have used these means: over the past two years human rights organizations have formed in the majority of Russian towns. The human rights movement, which was concentrated almost entirely in Moscow twenty years ago, has spread throughout the whole country. Contacts between human rights groups are still weak at city and especially regional levels. It is not uncommon for organizations active in one town to know nothing about each other, and even when they do intersect, they do not know how to pool their efforts to the greatest advantage. Even weaker are the links between similar organizations in different regions. Furthermore, most human rights organizations are new and have neither experience, nor material assets, nor a clear understanding of the nature of the human rights movement, its possibilities, scope, and particularly its underlying philosophy.

This embryonic state of the Russian human rights movement has stimulated the Moscow Helsinki Group to focus its activities on lending comprehensive assistance to Russian regional organizations. This aim was proclaimed in May 1996 at the conference marking the twentieth anniversary of the MHG. Representatives of 50 of the stronger and active regional human rights groups in Russia were invited to attend.

The conference was presented with a packet of projects for comprehensive assistance to regional human rights organizations for 1997 and 1998. These projects were discussed during the three days of the conference, certain amendments and additions were made, and the packet was approved as the work of the MHG for 1997 and 1998.

On 13 June 1996, President Boris.Yeltsin signed a decree commending the decisions of the conference and expressing support for its program. The general acknowledgment of the MHG as the foundation of the international Helsinki movement and the support of the President gives the MHG a unique opportunity to promote and assist in the development of cooperation between government bodies in the center and the regions, a cooperation which, at present, is virtually absent.

The Moscow Helsinki Group’s current projects include:

The Inter-regional Human Rights Center: Supplies regional human rights organizations with information and legal advice; defends these organizations in central and local governmental bodies; helps to form human rights commissions in Russia’s regions and supports these commissions; includes monitoring human rights thoughout Russia

The Agency for Human Rights and Juridical Literature: Distributes human rights and law literature to regional human rights organizations, libraries, universities, and local authorities.

The Information Center of the Human Rights Movement: Informs the media, the authorities, and the public about the human rights movement in the RF; issues the MHG informational bulletin “Chronicle of Current Events”.

Center for Free Legal Aid: Advices citizens about their constitutional rights; helps them to address violations of those rights

Educational Center for the Human Rights Movement: educates regional human rights activists.

Human Rights Hot Line: telephone legal consultation for those whose rights have been violated; also provides further assistance as needed.

Phone/FAX 2076069, E-mail address WWW

Chairperson: L. Alekseeva


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