This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the Moscow Helsinki Group -- a non-governmental organization that works to protect human rights in Russia.
The Moscow Helsinki Group was established in May 1976 by a small circle of activists, among them physicist Yuri Orlov. Their goal was to promote the Soviet Union's implementation of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, in which participating states made a commitment to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Helsinki Final Act also established the principle that human rights are a legitimate foreign policy concern.
In a statement marking the anniversary, the U.S. State Department said that "the courage, perseverance, and sacrifice of the Moscow Helsinki Group members" and the citizens' groups that they inspired elsewhere in the region helped bring about "historic changes once thought to be hopeless causes."
The collapse of Communism and the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991 did indeed bring democratic reforms to Russia. But the work of the Moscow Helsinki Group did not end with the fall of Communism. These days, the organization is busy advocating for the protection of hard-earned rights and freedoms in Russia.
Several months ago, the Russian government undertook a campaign to implicate the Moscow Helsinki Group in an alleged British espionage plot. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, of which the Moscow Helsinki Group is a founding member, condemned the allegation as part of "a general assault on civil society and human rights organizations [in Russia]."
In the tradition of its founding members, today’s Moscow Helsinki Group is working to bring attention to current threats to human rights and for further democratic reform.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.