24 April 2004, 19:37

Bogoraz, Larissa Iosifovna

A human rights activist, took part in the demonstration in Red Square on August 26, 1968, against sending Warsaw Treaty troops in Czechoslovakia.

She was born on August 8, 1929, in Kharkov, Ukraine. Larissa died on April 6, 2004, in Moscow, Russia.

Her parents were Communist Party and Soviet officials, they took part in the Civil War and were Communist Party members. Larissa's father was arrested in 1936 and convicted on a charge of "Trotskyite activities."

Graduating from the philological faculty of the Kharkov University, Bogoraz married to Yu. Daniel in 1950 and moved to Moscow; she worked as a schoolteacher of Russian in the Kaluga region and then in Moscow until 1961. She took postgraduate studies in the mathematical and structural linguistics sector at the Russian Language Institute, USSR Academy of Sciences, in 1961-64; she worked in phonology. Larissa lived in Novosibirsk in 1964-65 teaching general linguistics at the philological faculty of the Novosibirsk University. She upheld a candidate of sciences [or "kandidat nauk," an academic degree a postgraduate student is awarded on writing and "upholding" a thesis when one presents it, answers questions, and withstands debate; approximately the Ph.D. level - trans.] thesis (the Higher Accreditation Commission stripped her of the academic degree in 1978; the HAC revised its decision in 1990 and restored her as a candidate of sciences in philology).

Bogoraz knew about the "underground" literary work of her husband and A. Siniavskii. In 1965, after their arrest, together with Siniavskii's wife Maria Rozanova she worked actively to change the public opinion in favor of the arrested writers. The case of Siniavskii and Daniel gave rise to systematic activity of many human rights advocates, including Bogoraz herself.

Larissa paid regular visits to camps for political prisoners in Mordovia to see her husband in 1966-67. There, she maked friends with other political prisoners' relatives and introduced them to Moscow intelligentsia circles. Her flat became a "transfer point" for political prisoners' relatives from other cities going to see them in Mordovia and for political prisoners themselves, coming back from camps having done their time. In her addresses and open letters, Bogoraz was the first to pose the problem of contemporary political prisoners to the public consciousness. After one of such addresses, a KGB officer "in charge" of the Daniels said: "You and I have been on different sides of the barricades from the very beginning. But you were the first to open fire."

These years were the period of consolidation of many previously isolated opposition groups, circles and just groups of friends. Their activities began to develop into public movement that was later called human rights advocacy. Thanks significantly to Larissa's contacts "around camps," this process swiftly went beyond one social group - Moscow's liberal intelligentsia. Somehow or other, she came to be in the thick of events.

A crucial point in the development of the human rights movement came after an address by Bogoraz (in association with P. Litvinov) titled "To World Public" (January 11, 1968), a protest against rude violations of the law in the trial of A. Ginzburg and his friends (the "process of the four"). For the first time, a human rights document appealed directly to the public opinion; even formally it was not addressed to either Soviet party and state structures or the Soviet press. After foreign radio broadcast it many times, thousands of Soviet citizens learnt there are people in the USSR that came out openly in support of human rights. The address caused response, and many expressed solidarity with its authors. Some later took an active part in the human rights movement.

Bogoraz also signed a lot of other human rights texts in 1967-68 and in later years.

In spite of objections on the part of a number of well-known human rights advocates (that boiled down to the idea that she as a "movement leader" should not put herself in danger of arrest), Bogoraz took part in the August 25, 1968, "demonstration of the seven" in Red Square against sending Warsaw Treaty troops in Czechoslovakia. She was arrested and sentenced to four years' banishment under Articles 1901 and 1903 of the Crime Code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. She did her time in Eastern Siberia in Chuna, Irkutsk region, where she was a scaffold worker at a woodworking plant.

Back in Moscow in 1972, Bogoraz did not directly take part in the work of dissident unions existing that time (only in 1979-80 she was a member of the committee for the protection of T. Velikanova), but continued from time to time to undertake important public initiatives, alone or in association. Thus, she signed the so-called "Moscow address" whose authors protested against Alexander Solzhenitsyn's banishment from the USSR and demanded that his Gulag Archipelago and other materials giving evidence of Stalin era crimes should be published in the USSR. In her individual open letter to Yuri Andropov, chair of the USSR State Security Committee (KGB), Larissa went even farther: she noted she did not hope the KGB would voluntarily provide the public with access to its archives and announced she was going to collect historic evidence of Stalin's repressions on her own. This idea became one of the impulses that prompted the establishment of the independent historical collection Memory (1976-84) in samizdat [secretly printed books, magazines, etc., that were forbidden by the state in the USSR]. In its work, Larissa took quite an active, if nonpublic, part.

Occasionally, Bogoraz published her articles in the foreign press. Thus, the article Tertium Datur ("There Is a Third Way") which she wrote under the alias M. Tarusevich with her second husband A. Marchenko was published in Continent magazine in 1976 devoted to international detente issues. Her appeal to the British government for a more humane treatment of IRA prisoners caused public debate in the early 1980s.

Bogoraz repeatedly addressed the USSR government with an appeal for universal political amnesty. The campaign for amnesty for political prisoners which she launched in October 1986 together with S. Kallistratova, M. Gefter and A. Podrabinek was her last and most successful "dissident" action: the appeal for amnesty by Bogoras and others was this time backed by a number of eminent Soviet culture figures. Mikhail Gorbachev began to release political prisoners in January 1987. Larissa's husband, A. Marchenko, was not able to use this amnesty, though, as he died in the Chistopol, Tatarstan, prison in December 1986.

Bogoraz proceeded with her public activities in perestroika and post-perestroika years. She took part in the preparation for and operation of the International Public Workshop in December 1987. She became a member of the reestablished Moscow Helsinki Group in the autumn of 1989 and was one of its chairs for a while. She also was a member of the board of the Russian-American Project Group on Human Rights in 1993-97. The human rights activist conducted an educational seminar in human rights for Russian and CIS public organizations in 1991-96. Larissa Bogoraz is the author of a number of articles and essays on the history and theory of the human rights movement.

Sources: International Society Memorial

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