Dmitri, thank you very much that you have found time for this interview for the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. The International Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM) has its headquarters in Voronezh but you have worked a lot in Moscow, Belarus, or Crimea. Can you please reveal how the idea of establishing the movement evolved and why Voronezh was chosen as its main location?
Well, now it is difficult to say that this is the only place of location, because the network has truly become international, how it has been thought from the very beginning. Our activists are located in various countries, especially in the post-Soviet territories (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus) but also in Central Asia and in Western Europe. Here in Berlin I am also meeting YHRM members and correspondents. The idea came to our minds in 1998. It was an attempt to start a new generation of human rights defenders and civil society activists, who are inspired by the ideas of the Helsinki Movement, which we have discussed a lot about in recent days and years, but relying on a new reality, new language, new people to build new human rights civil activity in their respective countries.
Speaking about educational programmes for the new generation of human rights defenders, I might mention that you are one of the organisers of the International School of Human Rights and Civic Activities, which takes place in different regions of Russia. Can you please tell us more about this project?
The school was founded by the YHRM - along with the Moscow Helsinki Group, the Centre for Civil Liberties from Kyiv, and others. This is international project and the events of the school took place from Vilnius to Vladivostok and from Arkhangelsk to Osh. Within the school programme, we are trying to carve this new language of human rights, the 'old new language' as well as the common understanding of the processes, which are happening now. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, it turned to the format of open schools for human rights aimed at reaching the possibly largest interested audience. For us, it is an important part of our educational mission, the dialogue with representatives of society as well as search for like-minded people, with whom we can launch various initiatives - those proposed by them, those planned together as well as those that are to come later on.