Yelena Bonner
Overview
 
Yelena Bonner was a human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 activist in the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and wife of the noted physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was a Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. He earned renown as the designer of the Soviet Union's Third Idea, a codename for Soviet development of thermonuclear weapons. Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the...

. During her decades as a dissident, Bonner was noted for her characteristic blunt honesty and courage.
Bonner was born Lusik Georgievna Alikhanova in Merv
Merv
Merv , formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana , was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of...

, Turkmen SSR
Turkmen SSR
The Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Turkmen SSR for short, was one of republics of the Soviet Union in Central Asia. It was initially established on 7 August 1921 as the Turkmen Oblast of the Turkestan ASSR. On 13 May 1925 it was transformed into Turkmen SSR and became a...

, USSR (now Mary, Turkmenistan
Mary, Turkmenistan
Mary is the capital city of Mary Province in Turkmenistan. Former names include Merv, Meru and Margiana. It is located at . The city is an oasis in the Karakum Desert, located on the Murghab river. In 2009, Mary had a population of 123,000 , up from 92,000 in the 1989 census.-History:The ancient...

). Her father, Georgy Alikhanov (Armenian name Gevork Alikhanyan),
was an Armenian who founded the Soviet Armenian Communist Party,and was a highly placed member of the Comintern
Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

; her mother, Ruf, (Ruth Bonner
Ruth Bonner
Ruf Grigorjewna Bonner , also known as Ruth Bonner, was a Soviet Communist activist and a victim of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge...

), was a Jewish Communist activist.
Quotations

Just as there are no little people or unimportant lives, there is no insignificant work.

Encyclopedia
Yelena Bonner was a human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 activist in the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and wife of the noted physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was a Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. He earned renown as the designer of the Soviet Union's Third Idea, a codename for Soviet development of thermonuclear weapons. Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the...

. During her decades as a dissident, Bonner was noted for her characteristic blunt honesty and courage.

Youth

Bonner was born Lusik Georgievna Alikhanova in Merv
Merv
Merv , formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana , was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of...

, Turkmen SSR
Turkmen SSR
The Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Turkmen SSR for short, was one of republics of the Soviet Union in Central Asia. It was initially established on 7 August 1921 as the Turkmen Oblast of the Turkestan ASSR. On 13 May 1925 it was transformed into Turkmen SSR and became a...

, USSR (now Mary, Turkmenistan
Mary, Turkmenistan
Mary is the capital city of Mary Province in Turkmenistan. Former names include Merv, Meru and Margiana. It is located at . The city is an oasis in the Karakum Desert, located on the Murghab river. In 2009, Mary had a population of 123,000 , up from 92,000 in the 1989 census.-History:The ancient...

). Her father, Georgy Alikhanov (Armenian name Gevork Alikhanyan),
was an Armenian who founded the Soviet Armenian Communist Party,and was a highly placed member of the Comintern
Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

; her mother, Ruf, (Ruth Bonner
Ruth Bonner
Ruf Grigorjewna Bonner , also known as Ruth Bonner, was a Soviet Communist activist and a victim of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge...

), was a Jewish Communist activist. She had a younger brother, Igor, who became a career naval officer.

In 1937, Bonner's father was arrested by the NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 and executed as part of Stalin's Great Purge; her mother was arrested a few days later, and served eight years in a forced labor camp near Karaganda
Karaganda
Karagandy , more commonly known by its Russian name Karaganda, , is the capital of Karagandy Province in Kazakhstan. It is the fourth most populous city in Kazakhstan, behind Almaty , Astana and Shymkent, with a population of 471,800 . In the 1940s up to 70% of the city's inhabitants were ethnic...

, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

, followed by nine years of internal exile. Bonner's 41-year-old maternal uncle, Matvei Bonner, was also executed during the purge, and his wife internally exiled. All four were exonerated (rehabilitated) following Stalin's death in 1953. Serving as a nurse during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Bonner was wounded twice, and in 1946 was honorably discharged as a disabled veteran. After the war she earned a degree in pediatrics
Pediatrics
Pediatrics or paediatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents. A medical practitioner who specializes in this area is known as a pediatrician or paediatrician...

 from the First Leningrad Medical Institute.

Marriage and Children

In medical school she met her first husband, Ivan Semyonov. They had a daughter, Tatiana, in 1950, and a son, Alexei, in 1956. Her children emigrated to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1977 and 1978, respectively.

In 1965, Bonner and Semyonov separated, and eventually divorced. In October 1970, while attending the trial of human rights activists Revol't (Ivanovich) Pimenov and Boris Vail in Kaluga
Kaluga
Kaluga is a city and the administrative center of Kaluga Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River southwest of Moscow. Population: It is served by Grabtsevo Airport.-History:...

, Bonner met Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was a Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. He earned renown as the designer of the Soviet Union's Third Idea, a codename for Soviet development of thermonuclear weapons. Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the...

, a nuclear
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

 physicist and human rights activist. The previous year, 1969, Sakharov had been widowed from his wife, Klavdia Alekseyevna Vikhireva, with whom he had two daughters and a son.

Activism

Beginning as early as the 1940s, Bonner had helped political prisoners and their families. Although Bonner had joined the Soviet Communist Party in 1964 while she was working as a medical doctor,
only a few years later she was becoming active in the Soviet human rights movement. Her resolve towards dissidence was strengthened in August of 1968 after Soviet bloc tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia in order to crush the Prague Spring
Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II...

 movement. That event strengthened her belief that the system could not be reformed from within.
At the Kaluga
Kaluga
Kaluga is a city and the administrative center of Kaluga Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River southwest of Moscow. Population: It is served by Grabtsevo Airport.-History:...

 trial in 1970, Bonner and Sakharov met Natan Sharansky
Natan Sharansky
Natan Sharansky was born in Stalino, Soviet Union on 20 January 1948 to a Jewish family. He graduated with a degree in applied mathematics from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. As a child, he was a chess prodigy. He performed in simultaneous and blindfold displays, usually against...

 and began working together to defend Jews sentenced to death for attempting an escape from the USSR in a hijacked plane. Under pressure from Sakharov, the Soviet regime permitted Yelena Bonner to travel to the West in 1975, 1977 and 1979 for treatment of her wartime eye injury. When Sakharov, awarded the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

, was barred from travel by the Soviet authorities, Bonner, in Italy for treatment, represented him at the ceremony in Oslo
Oslo
Oslo is a municipality, as well as the capital and most populous city in Norway. As a municipality , it was established on 1 January 1838. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway, the city was largely destroyed by fire in 1624. The city was moved under the reign of Denmark–Norway's King...

.

Bonner became a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Moscow Helsinki Group
The Moscow Helsinki Group is an influential human rights monitoring non-governmental organization, originally established in what was then the Soviet Union; it still operates in Russia....

 in 1976. When in January 1980 Sakharov was exiled to Gorky
Nizhny Novgorod
Nizhny Novgorod , colloquially shortened to Nizhny, is, with the population of 1,250,615, the fifth largest city in Russia, ranking after Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, and Yekaterinburg...

, a city closed to foreigners, the harassed and publicly denounced Bonner became his lifeline, traveling between Gorky and Moscow to bring out his writings. Her arrest in April 1984 for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" and sentence to five years of exile in Gorky disrupted their lives again. Sakharov’s several long and painful hunger strikes forced the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 to let her travel to the U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1985 for sextuple bypass heart surgery
Coronary artery bypass surgery
Coronary artery bypass surgery, also coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and colloquially heart bypass or bypass surgery is a surgical procedure performed to relieve angina and reduce the risk of death from coronary artery disease...

. Prior to that, in 1981, Bonner and Sakharov went on a dangerous but ultimately successful hunger strike
Hunger strike
A hunger strike is a method of non-violent resistance or pressure in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt in others, usually with the objective to achieve a specific goal, such as a policy change. Most hunger strikers will take liquids but not...

 to get Soviet officials to allow their daughter-in-law, Yelizaveta Konstantinovna ("Lisa") Alexeyeva, an exit visa to join her husband, Bonner's son Alexei Semyonov, in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

In December 1986, Gorbachev allowed Sakharov and Bonner to return to Moscow. Following Sakharov's death on 14 December 1989, she established the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, and the Sakharov Archives in Moscow. In 1993, she donated Sakharov papers in the West to Brandeis University in the U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

; in 2004 they were turned over to Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. Bonner remained outspoken on democracy and human rights in Russia
Human rights in Russia
The rights and liberties of the citizens of the Russian Federation are granted by Chapter 2 of the Constitution adopted in 1993.Russia is the signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has also ratified a number of other international human rights instruments, including the...

 and worldwide. She joined the defenders of the Russian parliament during the August Coup
Soviet coup attempt of 1991
The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt , also known as the August Putsch or August Coup , was an attempt by a group of members of the Soviet Union's government to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev...

 and supported Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

 during the constitutional crisis
Constitutional crisis
A constitutional crisis is a situation that the legal system's constitution or other basic principles of operation appear unable to resolve; it often results in a breakdown in the orderly operation of government...

 in early 1993.

In 1994, outraged by what she called “genocide of the Chechen people”, Bonner resigned from Yeltsin's Human Rights Commission and was an outspoken opponent to Russian armed involvement in Chechnya
Chechnya
The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...

 and critical of the Kremlin
Kremlin
A kremlin , same root as in kremen is a major fortified central complex found in historic Russian cities. This word is often used to refer to the best-known one, the Moscow Kremlin, or metonymically to the government that is based there...

 for allegedly returning to KGB-style authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin served as the second President of the Russian Federation and is the current Prime Minister of Russia, as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. He became acting President on 31 December 1999, when...

. She was also critical of the international "quartet" two-state solution
Road map for peace
The roadmap for peace or "road map" for peace is a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict proposed by a "quartet" of international entities: the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. The principles of the plan, originally drafted by U.S. Foreign Service...

 to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and has expressed fears about the rise of anti-semitism
Anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

 in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

.

Bonner was among the 34 first signatories of the online anti-Putin manifesto "Putin must go
Putin must go
"Putin must go" is a website and a public campaign of the same name organised for the collection of signatures under an open letter demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin...

", published 10 March 2010. Her signature was the first.

Last years

She divided her time between Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, home to her two children, five grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, and two great-grandsons.

Death

Bonner died of heart failure in Boston, Massachusetts, aged 88, according to her daughter, Tatiana Yankelevich. She had been hospitalized since February 21.

Works and awards

Bonner was the author of Alone Together (Knopf 1987), and Mothers and Daughters (Knopf 1992), and wrote frequently on Russia and human rights. She was a recipient of many international human rights awards, including the Rafto Prize, the European Parliament’s Robert Schumann medal, the awards of International Humanist and Ethical Union
International Humanist and Ethical Union
The International Humanist and Ethical Union is an umbrella organisation embracing humanist, atheist, rationalist, secular, skeptic, freethought and Ethical Culture organisations worldwide. Founded in Amsterdam in 1952, the IHEU is a democratic union of more than 100 member organizations in 40...

, the World Women’s Alliance, the Adelaida Ristori Foundation, the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, the Lithuanian Commemorative Medal of 13 January, the Czech Republic Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, and others.

In 2005 Bonner participated in "They Chose Freedom
They Chose Freedom
They Chose Freedom is a four-part TV documentary on the history of political dissent in the USSR from the 1950s to the 1990s. It was produced in 2005 by Vladimir V...

", a four-part television documentary on the history of the Soviet dissident movement. Bonner was on the Board of Advancing Human Rights (NGO).

Sources

  • Russia and the Russians - Inside the Closed Society by Kevin Klose, pp. 161–98 (ISBN 0393017869).

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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