Sunday, 19 June 2011

Yelena Bonner: Russian human rights activist dies at 88

The Russian human rights activist Yelena Bonner has died at the age of 88 after a long illness.

She married the nuclear scientist and fellow human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

Mrs Bonner became active in the human rights movement in the 1960s, and was a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, a rights monitoring body.

She swiftly became one of the Soviet Union's leading rights activists.

When her husband was sent into internal exile for his activism, it was Mrs Bonner that made sure his writing got out, and when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, it was his wife who collected the award on his behalf.

She was arrested for anti-Soviet agitation in 1984 and exiled to Gorki, but she was allowed to travel to the US a year later.

Sakharov died in 1989, but Yelena Bonner continued her political activism and criticism of the Russian political system.

"Until the [Communist] party truly gives up all its wealth to the people who really earned it, everything, down to the last... rouble, Stalinism will still triumph and it will still triumph until we can establish the principle of sovereignty," she said in 1991.

"Sovereignty of the individual, sovereignty of the family and home, sovereignty of every ethnic group and every state."

Mrs Bonner was a fierce critic of President Boris Yeltsin after he sent troops into Chechnya.

Last year, she was one of the first and most prominent signatories of an online petition against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

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