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The Passing of Larisa Bogoraz

Location: Washington, DC

THE PASSING OF LARISA BOGORAZ -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 21, 2004)


Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, on April 6 of this year, one of the true giants of the Soviet and Russian human rights movements, Larisa Bogoraz, passed away.

Born in eastern Ukraine, Larisa Iosifnova Bogoraz was by profession a linguist. In 1950, she married the writer Yuli Daniel who, together with Andrei Sinyavsky, was subsequently arrested by Soviet authorities in 1965 for publishing their stories abroad. This trial, marking the first prosecution of Soviet writers for their literary activities since the time of Stalin, gained international attention and laid the groundwork for the Soviet human rights movement.

Daniel and Sinyavsky were convicted by a kangaroo court and sentenced to long terms in a Soviet labor camp in the Mordovia region. Traveling to visit her incarcerated husband, Larisa Bogoraz met relatives of other political prisoners. Soon she was deeply involved in drafting and distributing petitions calling upon the Soviet Government to observe the basic civil liberties enumerated in the 1936 Soviet constitution.

In early 1968, Larisa Bogoraz joined Pavel Litvinov to produce a petition addressed to the international community and protesting the trial of dissident Alexandr Ginzburg, who had compiled the well-known "White Book" on the trial of Daniel and Sinyavsky. In August of that year, when, as Ludmilla Alexeyeva wrote so eloquently, "the Politburo decided to 'strengthen peace' by invading a sovereign country," Larisa and six other brave souls met on Red Square and unfurled banners in defense of Czechoslovakia and condemnation of the crushing of "Prague Spring." For their noble efforts, they were arrested by the KGB, tried, and convicted of "slander" against the Soviet Union. Bogoraz was sentenced to 4 years of internal exile in the Irkutsk region of eastern Siberia, where she worked in a wood-processing factory. In a show of solidarity and respect for her, Larisa's dissident friends combined their resources and bought her a house to live in while she served her exile term. When she completed her sentence, she sold the house and gave the proceeds to a fund for political prisoners.

By 1976, she was back in Moscow actively involved in the compilation of the "samizdat" publication "Memory" dedicated to chronicling the repressions of the Stalin era.

Meanwhile, personal tragedy struck. Lansa's second husband, Moscow Helsinki Group member and political prisoner Anatoly Marchenko, died of a hunger strike in Chistopol Prison in December 1986. The Helsinki Commission, which I am proud to chair, had raised the Marchenko case on several occasions, and the late Warren Christopher, our head of delegation at the CSCE meeting in Vienna, led a moment of silence in memory of Mr. Marchenko. The Soviet and East German delegations walked out in protest, but a few weeks later Dr. Andrei Sakharov was released from his Gorky exile, and in February 1987 General Secretary Gorbachev initiated the wholesale release of Soviet political prisoners.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Larisa Bogoraz continued her involvement in human rights activity, working with her colleagues from days past as well as a new generation of activists from Russia and the newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union.

Mr. Speaker, in its eulogy to this dissident heroine, the Ryazan Memorial Society writes, "..... texts that were signed 'L. Bogoraz still remain,' and our children will learn from them."

So might we all.


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