Foundation Inostrannyi Agent – Human Rights Initiative for the former USSR

History of the foundation

The history of the foundation goes back to the 1970s, when a committee was established in Amsterdam to obtain the release of Vladimir Bukovsky, at that time one of the most famous Soviet dissidents and political prisoners in the Soviet Union. The Committee Save Vladimir Bukovsky organized campaigns in The Netherlands and beyond. Eventually, Bukovsky was exchanged at Zurich Airport for the Chilean Communist leader Luis Corvalan in December 1976.

After Bukovsky’s release the committee was changed into the Bukovsky Foundation, which saw it as its main task to defend Soviet political prisoners, campaign for their release and assist political prisoners and their families to the best of its ability. Its offices also became the seat of the International Association on the Political Use of Psychiatry, which led the international campaign against the internment of dissenters in the Soviet Union. That organization is now called the Global Initiative on Psychiatry.

In the late 1980s the Bukovsky Foundation was renamed into the Second World Center, which opened offices and a bookstore in the center of Amsterdam. The store sold dissident literature, books about Russian history and Sovietology, and was the operational center for international campaigns, Sakharov Congresses and programs to support the democratic movement in the USSR and Romania. In 1994 the Second World Center became, in turn, the Ukrainian Information Center, but it terminated its activities in 1997 when Ukraine had become an intergral part of the world community and developed its own mechanisms to promote itself.

Revival

As a result of an ever-growing concern for the political developments in Russia during the past decade, the foundation was revived in the summer of 2013, initially with a small board consisting of former activists of the Bukovsky Foundation/Second World Center. The plan is to expand our board with “fresh blood”. However, we wish to take our time in doing so, because as in the past the fundamental basis of our work is trust.

The new name, Foundation “Inostrannyi Agent” – Human Rights Initiative for the former USSR indicates that its interest goes beyond the borders of the Russian Federation. However, the quickly deteriorating human rights situation in Russia is our prime concern and supporting civil society in Russia the central goal of the Foundation.

Having part of its history in Soviet times, and having board members who were active participants in the campaigns in defense of human rights activists in the USSR in the 1980s and the democratization of former Soviet republics after 1991, very much helps the foundation to find adequate responses to events while they unfold in Russia. Of course, conditions have changed and means of communication are wholly different than twenty-thirty years ago. But many of the mechanisms are recognizable and the authorities’ responses to “ideological diversion” in society are basically the same. Understanding what really happens on the ground is a vital precondition when designing an adequate response to the challenges posed by a regime that increasingly resorts to old methods.

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