|1st Chairman of the Democratic Union|
8 May 1988 – 12 July 2014
|Preceded by||Position created|
Valeriya Ilyinichna Novodvorskaya|
17 May 1950
Baranovichi, Byelorussian SSR, Soviet Union
12 July 2014 (aged 64)|
|Cause of death||Toxic shock syndrome|
|Political party||Democratic Union|
|Alma mater||Moscow Region State University|
from Novodvorskaya’s interview to Ekho Moskvy, 19 July 2007
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Valeriya Ilyinichna Novodvorskaya (Russian: Вале́рия Ильи́нична Новодво́рская, 17 May 1950, Baranovichi, Byelorussian SSR – 12 July 2014, Moscow) was a Russian liberal politician, Soviet dissident. She was the founder and the chairwoman of the "Democratic Union" party, and a member of the orial board of The New Times.
Novodvorskaya was born in 1950 to a Jewish engineer Ilya Borisovich (Boruchovich) Burshtyn and a pediatrician Nina Feodorovna Novodvorskaya who came from a noble Russian family. Her parents divorced in 1967; Ilya Borisovich later emigrated to North America.
Novodvorskaya has been active in the Soviet dissident movement since her youth, and first imprisoned by the Soviet authorities in 1969 for distributing leaflets that criticized the Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia (see Prague Spring). The leaflets included her poetry: "Thank you, the Communist Party for our bitterness and despair, for our shameful silence, thank you the Party!" Novodvorskaya was only 19 at this time. She was arrested and imprisoned at Soviet psychiatric hospital and, like many other Soviet dissidents, diagnosed with "sluggish schizophrenia". In the early 1990s, psychiatrists of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia proved that the claim of her mental illness was bogus. She described her experience in psikhushka in her book Beyond Despair.
Novodvorskaya stood as a candidate for the radical liberal party Democratic Union in the 1993 Russian legislative election in a single-mandate district as part of the Russia's Choice bloc, and she also contested the 1995 Russian legislative election on the list of the Party of Economic Freedom. She was not elected in either election, and never held public office.
Novodvorskaya self-identified primarily as a liberal politician. She was called "a grandmother of the Russian democracy", "Russia's 'Don Quixote' of democracy", "a good Samaritan" and "a critic of Russian realities in the best traditions of Pyotr Chaadayev, Vissarion Belinsky and Alexander Herzen" by her colleagues. She also sometimes called herself and her allies successors to the Russian White movement tradition. She had been openly critical of Russian government policies, including Chechen Wars, domestic policies of Vladimir Putin, and the alleged rebirth of Soviet propaganda in Russia Her consistent criticism of Russia's past and present, of political and social life, as well as her extravagant lifestyle granted her titles such as «the eternal dissident» and «an idealist at the edge of madness».
In an interview with the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy, in which she was discussing the 2008 South Ossetia War, Novodvorskaya said that Shamil Basayev was a democrat, given his support of Boris Yeltsin during the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt and his participation in the government of Aslan Maskhadov in 1997, who had appointed Basayev Deputy Premier of the Ichkerian government. According to her, it was Russian governmental policies in Chechnya that turned Basayev into a terrorist. In response, Alexey Venediktov, the or-in-chief of the radio station, pulled the recording and transcripts of the program from the Ekho Moskvy website. She later accused Venediktov of censorship and slander and suggested that the decision to remove the interview may have been due to Gazprom, a state-owned company, being a controlling shareholder in Ekho Moskvy. Venediktov asserted this to be his own decision and confirmed that Novodvorskaya was banned from the station until the end of 2008.
Valeria Novodvorskaya alleged that the inclusion of the scenario of the blowing up of Lech Kaczyński's aircraft in a March 2010 mockumentary shown on Georgian television is evidence of complicity of the Russian State in the death of the Polish President in a plane crash on 10 April 2010 in Smolensk Oblast.
Opponents accused Novodvorskaya of her anti-Russian, anti-Soviet and openly pro-American positions, of expressing Russophobic views. On January 27, 1995 a so-called Novodvorskaya Case was launched by the Office of the Prosecutor General (see Novodvorskaya Case in the Russian Wikipedia) as a reaction to her interview given to Estonian journalists on April 6, 1994 and several publications in the Novy Vzglyad newspaper. All materials were checked for «propaganda of civil war», «of inferiority of people based on their ethnicity» and «incitement to hatred». Some of the scandalous quotes include:
«I cannot imagine how can anyone love a Russian for his laziness, for his lying, for his poverty, for his spinelessness, for his slavery. But maybe that's not all his characteristics». According to the article Hatred Lessons by the Estonian author Lembit Annus of the Pravda newspaper, Novodvorskaya also inspired the Baltic states to join NATO and prepare to defend their countries from Russia with weapons. She also stated that Molodova should unite with Romania.
«By their whining, their linguistic dullness, their nostalgia for the USSR, their love for red flags Russians from Estonia and Latvia proved that they can't have (equal) rights when entering the European civilization. They are kept by a close stool — and rightly so... Personally I'm fed up with human rights». From the article We Won't Give Our Rights to the Left! in Novy Vzglyad, №46, August 28, 1993
«Manic depression — so that's what they call «the Russian miracle» and «the Russian soul»! That's why we are so good at war! Unhealthy aggression of a maniac masterfully aimed at aliens by our own rulers that turns into a slavish prostration after the return from war!.. Our President should either give us weapons and start a new fight, or lend us a Skete big enough for 10 million of free people who would rather explode or burn themselves down than live side by side with the triumphant red-brown majority». From the article Russia № 6 in Novy Vzglyad, №1, January 15, 1994
«...And if we have to destroy the whole country together with all its population in order to free the Earth from communists, fascists and imperialists — we won't chicken and bless our own doom. Some centuries ago our ancestors burned down Moscow so that our enemy wouldn't get it. Today we have all means to make so that our enemy won't get Russia. Being dead is better than being red». From the article A Landscape Instead of a Battle, Novy Vzglyad, №3, 1994
In 2009 Novodvorskaya published an autobiographical book entitled Farewell of Slavianka. A Thriller that includes all the articles from Novy Vzglad, the case details, fragments of speech given by her lawyer Henri Reznik in 1996 and her last word in court. The case lasted for two years and was apparently closed.
Throughout her life, Novodvorskaya remained a celibate virgin. When asked about it, she stated that she was not interested in sex. She added that she had never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all. In another interview, Novodvorskaya admitted that she had fallen in love a couple of times but never acted on her feelings after discovering disappointing traits in the people she became interested in. Novodvorskaya later said she did not marry or have a family because the KGB had deprived her of such an opportunity in 1969: "Mother is in one prison camp, father in another. What should a child do in this situation? To my mind, a full irresponsibility."
Throughout her life, Novodvorskaya lived in a flat with her mother Nina Fyodorovna (Нина Федоровна Новодворская, 1928-2017), a pediatrician, and cat Stasik. During summer they rented a dacha in Kratovo. She was fond of swimming, science fiction, theater and cats.
In 1990 Novodvorskay was baptized by the noncanonical Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Reunited. She belonged to that church till her death while remaining highly critical of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to her priest Yakov Krotov, «she was more of a Christian than I ever was».
Novodvorskaya received the Starovoytova award "for contribution to the defense of human rights and strengthening democracy in Russia". She said at the ceremony that "we are not in opposition to, but in confrontation with, the present regime".
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