| Participants in the annual Sakharov hearings, held in
St. Petersburg on
Wednesday, criticized the results of
the elections to the State Duma and expressed their concern about human
rights in Russia.
"On Monday we woke up the the Fourth Reich in its Russian variant,"
Alexander Grigoryants, a St.
Petersburg theater director, commenting the results of the Duma elections.
"If the election results were falsified - then we'll have to fight,"
Grigoryants said. "If not then we'll be facing
up to long and hard work with the souls of those people who've been
indifferent to what's going on."
The hearings, marking Sakharov Memorial Day and celebrated on the same
as International Human
Rights Day, were dedicated to the discussions on human rights and freedom,
and the elections. Russian
physicist and human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov was awarded the
Peace Prize on Dec. 10 1975.
Two days before Constitution Day on Friday they also discussed how
state was fulfilling the
obligations that it has in the Constitution, which was ratified on Dec.
Many people who came to discuss the problems of democracy in Russia
their surprise and irritation
that two parties - the Union of the Right Forces or SPS and Yabloko -
historically had opposed the
government, didn't gain enough votes to get seats in the Duma.
However, a number of participants also criticized SPS and Yabloko for
"The fall of SPS's and Yabloko's popularity is a result of the
fall of its
leaders' popularity," said Alexander
Bogdanov, independent journalist.
Igor Zhordan, a St. Petersburg a SPS member, suggested that both parties
probably needed such a shock to
review their policy.
"Because sometimes it seems that SPS activities turn into PR for
leaders," Zhordan said.
Andrei Alekseyev, candidate of social science at St. Petersburg Sociology
Inistitute, agreed with that
position saying that the personal failure of SPS leader Irina Khakamada
against Gennaday Seleznyov in St.
Petersburg's election district 209 was more proof of that.
Andrei Polonsky, a journalist from Novy Petersburg newspaper said he
sorry for people who voted for
the Communist party and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party.
"They voted like that because of their terrible standard of living,"
"For them Chubais symbolizes an enemy, while Yavlinsky is a man
think has nothing for them and
hasn't even promised to do anything," he said. "But Zhirinovsky
"Russia has the right to strive for an authoritarian regime,"
many people it symbolizes the
relative stability that they had during the Soviet times, Polonsky added.
Many participants also said that the low turnout to the elections indicated
that many people are indifferent to
events in the country.
Meanwhile, Nikolai Baranyuk, member of the Ukrainian Council in Russia,
said that Russia "has never had
and still doesn't have democracy."
He complained that many people of Ukrainian nationality, who live in
Russia, suffer from not having
Ukrainian newspapers, TV, and schools in this country.
Bogdanov said Russia lost a lot of its democratic image when it sent
Antuan Arakelyan, head expert of St. Petersburg center Strategia, said
human rights are violated in
Russia in many respects.
"For instance, residents of Russia's territories of Kalmykia and
many of whom worship the Dalai
Lama, cannot see him on their lands, because he is prohibited from visiting
Russia due to a certain agreement
between Russia and China," Arakelyan said.
the original at
State Duma elections 2003