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World

Remembering Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Russian Human Rights Activist

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

A fierce Russian advocate for human rights has died at the age of 91. Lyudmila Alexeyeva was the co-founder of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia's oldest human rights organization, which sought to hold the Soviet government to its international commitments on human rights given as part of the Helsinki Accords. She made a name for herself in the 1960s and '70s, protesting the treatment of Soviet political prisoners. Forced to leave in 1977, she returned to Russia a decade and a half later, two years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and picked up protesting right where she left off.

You might remember a famous image of her at a spry 82, leading an unsanctioned protest on New Year's Eve. She was dressed as Santa Claus's assistant, the Snow Maiden, in a light blue, sparkly coat with matching muff. She faced arrests, exile and countless KGB interrogations. But Lyudmila Alexeyeva was a tireless optimist. And she was inspired by the next generation of protesters. On her 90th birthday, she told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, today's young people give me the feeling of not having lived in vain.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.