Alexander Ginzburg, a leading Soviet dissident and human rights
campaigner, died Friday in Paris. He was 65.
Ginzburg was an advocate of nonviolent change who sought to
embarrass the Soviet authorities by pressing them to respect their
own laws. He also sought to increase external pressure on the Soviet
Union to show more respect for individual rights by smuggling out
information about abuses to the West so that it could be broadcast
back to the Soviet people by Western radio stations.
"He had been ill since he left prison, and he had cancer,"
Ginzburg's son, also named Alexander, said from the family's Paris
Ginzburg had attracted the attention of the Soviet authorities in
1959, with a typewritten magazine called Syntax, containing bitter
poems that reflected his generation's anger and disillusionment with
the Soviet Union. It became the first of the so-called samizdat
journals of the post-Stalin period.
After three issues, Ginzburg was expelled from Moscow University,
arrested by the KGB and put in Lubyanka prison.
In 1967, he was arrested again for compiling what he called a
"White Book'' about the trial of the dissident writers Yuli Daniel
and Andrei Sinyavsky and smuggling it to the West. He was sentenced
to five years in a labor camp.
In 1974, he agreed to administer a fund established by the exiled
Soviet writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn to aid the families of
political prisoners. He was also active in Helsinki Watch, an
organization set up to monitor the Soviet Union's compliance with
the human-rights commitments in the Helsinki accords, which it
signed in 1975.
The upshot of Ginzburg's renewed dissident activities was another
trial, in 1978, which resulted in an eight-year term.
But in 1979, under the growing pressure of world public opinion,
Ginzburg, together with four other leading dissidents, was released
to the West in exchange for two Soviet spies.
"He was the detonator of the democratic movement at the end of
the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s," said Boris Zolotukhin, 72,
who defended Ginzburg at his trial in 1968.
"His trial was closed and the outcome was, of course, known in
advance. ... He held up very courageously throughout," added
Zolotukhin, who was barred from practicing law for 20 years after
In Paris, Ginzburg, known as "Alik" to friends, kept up pressure
on post-Soviet Russia to improve its human rights record.
"Up until the final days of his life, Alik was one of the most
active and responsive participants in Russia's human rights
movement," said Yelena Bonner, the wife of Soviet dissident, human
rights activist and physicist Andrei Sakharov.
"He ... had a superb sense of humor and irony, which he
maintained in even the most difficult conditions - in prison, in the
camps and when he was free," Bonner said by telephone from the
Ginzburg's funeral was scheduled for Monday at the Russian
memorial cemetery in Sainte-Genevieve des Bois, where many prominent
Russians opposed to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution are buried, Ekho
Moskvy radio and TVS television reported.
He is survived by his wife, Arina, and two sons.
- Reuters, NYT, AP