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HRD’s mission. Highlighting human rights issues

The Human Rights Defender (Pravozaschitnik), a quarterly journal put out by Human Rights Publishers, Moscow, since 1994, is one of the most respected sources of human rights coverage in the CIS.

The journal has 112 pages with circulation 3,000 copies.

The HRD’s objective is to provide readers with high quality analytical materials on human rights theory and practice, including commentary on the most pressing issues in the field of human rights in Russia and abroad.

The HRD is not a political body—it does not have any political or other special interests beyond serving as a carrier of ideas concerning human rights and civil society to the public.

Russia does have thousands of NGOs, but it lacks some very basic civil society institutions as well as principles of civic awareness on the level of the individual citizen. Moreover, even the NGO community and activists suffer from past ills, relying on old approaches and revealing a mentality characteristic of the Soviet days. The HRD’s mission is enlightenment—providing citizens with the information base necessary for them to become real actors in a democratic society.

HRD addresses the entire society, including those of its members who are already familiar with the ideas of human rights and civil society but who may not know what to do with them, as well as those who may not even have any concept of these issues.


HRD’s contents. What our readers find in the HRD

Local Self-Governance. The extent of local self-governance in Russia is rudimentary at present, both on the level of small communities and entire regions. There is no adequate legal basis for self-governance, nor sufficient information about the Western experience in this area. The HRD is trying to fill this gap.

Women’s Rights. Women occupy only 34 seats in the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, which is 7.7 percent of the entire number of deputies and 11 seats less than in 1995. Women are still a rarity in key public positions. One of the most important public movements in Russia, The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, the main goal of which is putting an end to the war in Chechnya, hardly finds any support in the society. Why? We call on experts to discuss this and other issues related to women’s rights.

Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights. According to the official statistics, there are 600,000 homeless children in Russia. Many of them turn to crime in order to support themselves. In 2000 the Moscow government established a center providing legal help to juvenile offenders. It deals with 6,000 children a year providing them with urgent assistance and seeking to find foster homes for them or to return them to their parents. The HRD addresses the issue of children?s rights (i.e. children during a war, child labor, juvenile crime), promotes them and finds ways to bring them to public attention.

Minorities’ Rights. Russia has dozens of large and small peoples that experience difficulties developing their national languages and cultural traditions. The country also has many religious and other minorities that may not be banned but are clearly discriminated against. The HRD informs its readers about other countries’ experience with solving minorities’ problems.

War in Chechnya. Russia’s most painful issue. It seems, however, that the pain has become a habit. The magazine is consistently writing about the evolution of Russian society concerning the war in the North Caucasus. It publishes information from independent sociological sources as well as analytical studies of human rights organizations.

Legislation and Jury. The jury is new to Russian legislation. Establishing this institution is very difficult and time consuming, however, it is already possible to draw some conclusions about the progress being made. In the HRD readers can find articles by prominent lawyers devoted to this issue.

Legal and Court Reform. Court reform in Russia is part of the complex legal reform of the entire institution of state in a country that has never known a genuinely democratic administration. The main concept that Russia has always lacked is respect towards individual human life as well as the human dignity of each citizen. We write about the latest developments in the reform of the legal and court systems.

Implementation of Human Rights. Law enforcement bodies are part of the institutions whose task it is to implement human rights. Outrageous incompetence combined with corruption in the police and courts prosecutor’s office are impeding the work of the new democratic mechanisms of human rights implementation. What can one do? How can we cure this illness? The HRD is looking for answers along with its readers and legal and moral experts.

Interviews with Prominent Political and Public Figures. Yelena Bonner, Sergey Kovalyov, Larisa Bogoraz, Frederick de Clerk … these are just some names of those people whose opinions we present to our readers.

War Against Terrorism. Controversial and difficult decisions, a choice between freedom and security—this is one of the hottest issues in the global discussion concerning human rights. The magazine participates in this discussion by publishing up to date articles.

Free Access to Information. A mother whose son was sent to war is trying in vain to find out whether he is alive or not. Defense lawyers preparing for a court hearing are denied essential information about the case. Ordinary citizens watching television are fed information paid for by interest groups. The idea that “people have the right to know” has long been forgotten in Russia. In fact, these same people expect to be lied to, manipulated, prevented from knowing and astonishingly many see it as normal. The HRD talks about these issues in defending freedom of speech and information.

Statistics. This is a largely terra incognita for the Russian public. In 2000 Russia saw no due population census, which marked an unprecedented interruption of statistical population study conducted every decade. This fact alone shows a lack of understanding of the role of official statistical information in the society. In order to speak about citizens’ rights it is necessary to know exactly how many citizens and in what conditions they live in the country as well as their social and economic status and what demographic developments the country is facing. Human rights is a subject directly connected with real life.

Immigration. One million refugees from neighboring countries. Thousands of migrants from Russia abroad. These are just two factors that could affect the stability of any society, Russian in particular. The magazine publishes detailed articles about problems of post-Soviet migration in light of human rights.

Book Review. Legal and human rights literature is in great demand in Russia. However, the circulation of this kind of books is microscopic. We help our readers find out about some of the most important books as they hit the bookshelves.


The journal welcomes any support to its activity. The publishers are convinced that the HRD is a platform for mutual activity useful for all members of society. The HRD is mutual search, mutual creation and shared results.