Publication: Prism Volume: 6 Issue: 12

By Igor Rotar

Russia still presents a threat to the international community, says Sergei Grigoryants, chairman of the human rights foundation Glasnost. Sergei Ivanovich Grigoryants is one of Russia’s best-known human rights activists. He began his activities under the communist dictatorship, for which he served two terms in prison. Grigoryants runs the human rights foundation Glasnost, perhaps the most influential human rights organization in Russia today.

Q: What prompted you to begin your human rights work?

A: Until 1975 I was a literary specialist: I studied Russian literature of the early 20th century. Of course, I didn’t like the Soviet system–this was quite natural for the vast majority of people in my circle–but I didn’t dream of getting involved in dissident activity. I thought that the communists could do their thing, and I’d do my thing, and that we could exist in “parallel worlds.” But one fine day the KGB visited me. My uninvited guests asked me to report on the activities of my friends who were involved in the dissident underground movement. Naturally, I refused. So they then told me that if I refused I would end up behind bars myself. It turned out that my visitors were not bluffing: That same year I was convicted of “knowingly disseminating lies and fabrications against the Soviet system.” I got out in 1983. Alas, by that time I no longer labored under the illusion that it was possible to live in the Soviet Union and ignore the communists. I immediately started working for human rights. I got together a team of like-minded people, and began publishing an underground newspaper called “V”, which was the only independent publication in the Soviet Union. In other words, it was ironically enough the KGB itself that prompted me to get involved in dissident activity.

I was arrested again in 1983, but the KGB failed to catch most of my friends.