In memory of Yuri Orlov


In memory of Yuri Orlov

On September 27, 2020, Yuri Fedorovich Orlov, the founder and first Chairman of the Moscow Helsinki group, passed away at the age of 96. He lived a long and active life, remaining in touch with the human rights movement until the last opportunity.

His idea that citizens can monitor the human dimension of the Helsinki agreements and work together to encourage states to follow through on their commitments launched the international Helsinki movement in 1976. This approach also determined how inter-governmental cooperation in the OSCE region has developed. Orlov paid for this with a term of 7 years in prison and 5 years of internal exile and, eventually, expulsion from the Soviet Union. He was able to continue studying his favorite physics only after leaving for the United States.

Human rights were not a new concept, but Soviet dissidents reinvented them, giving them a much-needed boost. The joint efforts of the Helsinki monitors and the supportive diplomats managed to convey to the whole world information about mass and gross violations of human rights in the Soviet Union. Following the Moscow Helsinki group, Helsinki groups began to emerge in different countries, continuing to work to this day.

Alternative NGO reports; the OSCE human dimension implementation meeting where representatives of States and civil society activists sit at the same table; recognition of the role and significance of civil society in the overall system of human rights protection – all this is largely a consequence of the revolutionary idea that Orlov and his comrades voiced and promoted in the 70s at the risk for their life and freedom.

As that generation passes away and considerations of political expediency once again overwhelm human rights, it is important to remember that the task of civil society is to relentlessly remind states of their obligations in this area and that human rights violations are a direct and legitimate concern for all of us, regardless of where they occur

The example of Yuri Orlov and his comrades teaches us that even in conditions of total lack of freedom, there are always those who are ready to resist injustice, and that they need support and solidarity.

We express our condolences to the family and friends of Yuri Orlov and pay respect to his memory.

Dmitri Makarov, co-Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group


This obituary is written by Dmitri Makarov of the Moscow Helsinki Group about one of the key persons at the start of the Helsinki civil society movement, from which the Civic Solidarity Platform draws its inspiration. The Platform expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Yuri Orlov and pays tribute to his memory.



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