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Russia Human Rights, Alexei Sokolov, and more

Updated on March 26, 2015

Russian Activist arrested

The Soviet Union

Its strange isn't it how you can be quite a "News aware" person and yet certain stories just pass you by? I am not quite a political animal but I do have particular opinions, feelings and views on current affairs. Sure, they may not always be the same as everyone else but that's life and politics. I am always open to persuasion if anyone can give me a powerful enough argument to change my stance, or supply me with information that is more accurate, than what I already have. I have started this hub with this little background just to show how we often are blissfully unaware of the lack of human rights, civil liberties or just common decency around the world.

Watching the World news today I was pulled up short with a story about Russia. When the Soviet Union was still up and running we were all aware of the many failings that this Communist State had. Like most countries there was some good with the bad. However as western countries saw the Soviet Union as the Enemy we mostly were treat to the nasty side of Communism.

Human Rights and Civil Liberties were practically non existent in the Union and its citizens were expected to tow the party line. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn is someone who instantly springs to my mind when I think of the Soviet Union's appalling record on human rights back then.

This man was a Russian author and "dissident". However he had served Russia well in the Second World War and had been decorated. He was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974 after he had already won the Nobel Peace Prize for literature in 1970. Alexsandr had been imprisoned in 1945 for his honest writing. He went on to be exiled in the Soviet Union itself, become what Russia termed a non person, and have his work seized by the KGB.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is probably his most famous book, around the world. It is not a long book and easy to read in some ways. However it is harrowing. It was made into a film and the lead role was played by Tom Courtenay, who is from my hometown. If you have never read the book or seen the film try to check either or both out. This story certainly show the terrible side of communist life as known all too well by the author.

Still everything is rosy in Russia these days isn't it? Why dwell on the past?

Well, the past is important lest we forget what can happen and also the present in Russia is far from rosy, for many of its citizens.

Prisoners in Georgia
Prisoners in Georgia
Russian Minister with Barack Obhama in the Whitehoue May 2009. Can they change anything?
Russian Minister with Barack Obhama in the Whitehoue May 2009. Can they change anything?
Vladimir Putin, Russian President
Vladimir Putin, Russian President
Evidence of violent treatment
Evidence of violent treatment

Brutal regime

The shocking statistics around the world

Russia 2009


Note: I was shocked to read some of the viewers comments on YouTube re these videos. Is the world full of morons, I ask myself? They just seem to assume that everyone is guilty and that such treatment is appropriate. As I have said before, "What a World we live in"?

For many Russians the fall of the Soviet Union was a great event. Many citizens are now living a much better life than they would have endured under Stalin, for example. However scratch the surface and you may find a different world.

The news today showed shocking pictures of prisoners in Russia. In particular the story involved Russian citizen Alexei Sokolov and his wife Gulya. Alexei has been fighting to improve human rights. A brief video was shown on Sky news, today 4th July 2009, of guards in a Russian prison beating prisoners. The guards are camouflaged and wear masks. Well, I guess they are ashamed deep down then? Maybe it is because they personally know some of those they attack?. Then again it might just be to intimidate the prisoners?. Who knows? Thankfully my mind cannot comprehend the thinking behind such brutal treatment and so it is hard to follow the reasoning.

The prisoners are beaten ruthlessly with large sticks. It is claimed that people were and are tortured in order to extract confessions. It is hard not to simply look away or turn to another channel. However that is how such treatment is able to continue. The more people who are aware of it around the world, the more chance there is of change. Now that Alexei has such evidence he has been arrested in what appears to be a trumped up charge. This is what his wife says he was told:-

'We got you - little human rights defender.

'You thought you could control the police? Instead you'll get 15 years behind bars and we'll send you to unit 63 where they turn people into obedient animals.'

"They also said being beaten to the point of being disabled would be his only way out."

Guyla had hoped that her husband would stop his attempts to uncover such appalling behaviour. I would have felt just the same had it been my husband. However the world needs to be grateful that there are such brave men and women. Without them who knows what would have been hidden and endured down the years.

I was shocked to read of recent deaths of human rights and civil liberties activists in Russia, such as reporters. It would seem that some have died simply because they tried to speak out against President Putin.

Barack Obhama is due to visit Russia and this is why the press are running these stories in the hope that he may be able to help Alexei and perhaps others.

However this is where I see a problem

This is my personal opinion so please do not take offence anyone. I am open to reading your replies and welcome different views.

  • The west and in particular the USA prefer Putin's regime to that of the old Soviet Union. This means that they do not want to rock the boat.
  • Making waves and casting aspersions on Putin could cause a backlash and no-one will want that.
  • America has treat prisoners in Guantanamo Bay in an appalling way which has ignored their human rights. Are they then in a position to complain about another country's treatment of its prisoners?.

I have had debates with friends about Guantanamo Bay and many have felt that the treatment of prisoners here was appropriate. Of course, they forget that many of those imprisoned have never been tried and found guilty of any crime.

However, all along my gut instinct has been that if you set a trend you cannot complain if others follow your lead. Opening the gate to blatant disregard for people's human rights could mean that our own troops and citizens receive such treatment in other countries.

We need to be careful therefore in many ways, not least how we approach Russia and its lack of human rights. The 21st Century certainly seems to be unearthing some barbaric policies and behaviour that one would hope had been left in the middle ages. China is another country that springs to mind.

Western Governments are well aware of Russia and its poor record on human rights but what if anything they can, and are prepared to, do about the situation only time will tell. For those who feel moved enough to try and be heard check out the news as it filters through, sign petitions and spread the word.

Perhaps with enough press the fate of at least Alexei Sokolov will not be quite sealed yet.

Thanks for reading one middle aged, woman's thoughts.


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    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thank you Stephen

    • profile image

      stephen 7 years ago

      Very welL observed.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks for your input bgamall.

      The 21st Century looks set to be just as backward in Human Rights around the world as in the past.

    • bgamall profile image

      Gary Anderson 8 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      This should be pointed out, but the USA is in no position to criticize,having been guilty of torture and murder. Apparently the Bush administration and Dick Cheney in particular sees these abuses as necessary. I see Dick Cheney as quite unnecessary. I hope he continues to be ignored in US politics as he has been ignored for the past few months. The Republicans know he is the best chance for Democrats to be reelected, credit crisis and health care not withstanding!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks Tony and I will reciprocate. I hate injustice and feel that too much is sewpt under the carpet these days.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 8 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for this excellent Hub on a very important subject. In fact the most important subject there is, in my view. How people treat other people is often a scandal. And the US so often behaves like a big bully. Guatanamo is not really defensible on any grounds. It's a scandal just like the human rights abuses in Russia and elsewhere.

      Thanks for your timely reminder.

      I'm linking your Hub to mine on Natalya Estemirova, if you don't mind!

      Love and peace


    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      James I could never fall out with you:) We just seem to have different views on some things. That's life and the human condition after all.

      I do think it is sad that someone such as Alexei looks set to suffer for trying to help his fellow man. Human rights and civil liberties are so important. Such men and women who are brave enough to stand up and be counted are to be admired. I don't think I would have the strength if backed into a corner.

      The alternative though is to run with the crowd as happened in Nazi Germany.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      Ah yes! That is the main story, and a tragic one. Sorry. Didn't mean to upset you. I'll keep quiet then. :D

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Its not cheery oh but this is why I do not often post these sort of hubs. However I did feel strongly about it. I did not express my true feelings to your aborted child as you are entitled to those feelings. I would think that there would be many a woman who have had to have a child aborted due to health reasons who may find that disturbing.

      I am just worldy enough to know you cannot generalise in quite the way that many people do. I totally agree with what you are saying about such barbaric treatment but you seem to be missing the point.

      I knew when I expressed my sentiments about like for like treatment there would be a reaction. However if every single person is as guilty as you say then it does not matter does it?. We do seem to have lost track of Alexei Sokolv in all of this banter though don't we?

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      When our citizens are captured, their heads are sawed off with a butcher knife and put on the internet for their families to see. And that happened before Guantanamo, too. But, cherry oh!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Well James not to start an argument but.....

      I guess your conservative outlook means that we will never agree on such a subject. From what I have seen in the press I would beg to differ that Guantanamo prisoners are treat better than American prison inmates. If that is the case your prisons certainly need some attention. I suppose part of our disagreement is because our justice system works on the premise that you are innocent until proven guilty and your is the other way around.

      I am not knowledgeable on politics but age has brought me a mixed bag of experiences. We are still told constantly that afghanistan and iraq are not wars as such. I also disagree with the claim that all were captire in an act of terror or on the battlefield. I could go on but I think we had best choose to disagree on this subject.

      I do feel that what goes around comes around and if any of your citizens are captured abroad in such circumstances, and without uniform, you cannot object to the treatment that may be meted out on them.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      The prisoners at Guantanamo are treated far better than American prison inmates.  Each of them was captured on the battlefield or in an act of terror.  In all wars, prisoners are held until the conflict is over to  prevent them from returning to hostile action.  And each of these was a hostile in civilian clothes, removing them from any Geneva Convention protection—that is explicitly for uniformed soldiers only, for obvious reasons.

      Putin has become an autocrat, but obviously far better than Stalin.  Stalin killed 25 million people.  No comparison. 

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks Mel. I just found today's footage on television worrying

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 8 years ago from Philippines

      Very interesting.