31 May 2016
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Facebook]
By Andrei Loshak, journalist
May was the month of many dissident anniversaries: [Natalya] Gorbanevskaya turned 80, Andrei Dmitrievich [Sakharov] – 95, the Moscow Helsinki Group – 40. I did not manage to attend any due to other commitments. Representatives of the government, of course, also declined the invitation. Understandably, of course: MHG is neither [the Russian state broadcaster] VGTRK nor the film director Govorukhin. During his younger years, Putin did as much as he could to smother people like that, but fortunately he didn’t get his hands on everyone.
On this last day of spring I would like to make amends a little and tell you about Yury Orlov, physicist and founder of the Moscow Helsinki Group.
In the heat of the moment he called Stalin a murderer in 1956 and as a result was immediately excluded from the party and stripped of his security pass. Orlov was sent to live in Armenia, where he swiftly became a doctor of sciences and a corresponding member of the Republican Academy of Sciences. In ’73 he signed a letter in Sakharov’s defence and once again he lost everything. He did this deliberately and taking everything into account just as you would expect of a true physicist. “I would like to dedicate my future to reconciliation with my social conscience,” he wrote in his memoirs. Upon his return to Moscow, he founded the Moscow Helsinki Group, which brought together other dissidents, who contributed to the work.
It was a brilliant idea. Brezhnev had just signed the International Helsinki Accords that laid down human rights standards and other wonderful things, which were always completely ignored in the USSR, but suddenly now a few crazy people on the basis of this formal legality, started to record numerous civil rights and freedom violations within the Soviet Union and report them to foreign journalists.
Orlov was sent to jail a year later. He was given 7 years in prison and 5 years' exile. He served 9 years and in 1986 he was swapped for some Soviet spies. Finding himself in the United States, Orlov returned to his scientific work. He has now been working in the prestigious Cornell University Physics Department for 30 years.
We met last summer in his office and I asked him about his past exploits but he was much more interested in talking about the dark matter that is the object of his current research. May I add that the Professor is now 92.
Orlov was well aware that he would be put in jail when he took up human rights work. Here is an excerpt from my interview with him. To be honest, I do not know why I recorded it and why am I sharing it. Maybe just to convince myself of the fact that apart from Russian State TV and Govorukhin, there still are people like Yury Orlov.
To see the video, of the conversation, click HERE