On request of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Nina Tagankina, Executive Director of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG, Moscow, Russia), prepared a report on the celebration of the 40th MHG anniversary:

On 12 May 2016, the Moscow Helsinki Group turned 40 years. Within the celebrations on 12-13 May, an Anniversary Conference took place in Moscow, which was attended by representatives of human rights organisations – MHG’s long-term partners.
The conference brought together over 200 representatives from 23 regions of Russia – human rights activists, experts, public figures, journalists – as well as MHG friends (14 representatives from 10 countries). The participants not only congratulated the Moscow Helsinki Group with this anniversary and talked about its role and importance in the Soviet era and in modern Russia but discussed, first of all, major problems in the field of human rights in the country and key challenges human rights defenders are facing now.
What response can be given to the crackdown on citizens’ rights, prospects of development of judicial and law enforcement systems in Russia, human rights in the spotlight of the ideological battle in Russia and in the world, how the human rights situation has changed over the past 40 years and what we learned from history, major contemporary challenges to human rights, civilian oversight as a form of positive participation of human rights defenders in public life, situation of human rights defenders and organisations in Russia, opportunities and prospects for the work under conditions of increasing pressure on human rights defenders, protection of human rights defenders under risk, –  all these issues were touched by participants of the conference.
Andrei Yurov, a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, stated at a conference that there was a global crisis in the human rights field. ‘The crisis is connected, firstly, to the very idea of human rights. Today, human rights are an incomprehensible and uninteresting thing for many people. They do not see that their freedom and ordinary life are somehow connected with this idea,’ he said. ‘Either we learn to work with the human rights in a different way or there will be no human rights or the human rights movement,’ warned Yurov.
Mikhail Fedotov, Head of the Council, named protection of human rights in his speech ‘the art of the impossible.’ ‘Human rights defenders are particularly needed in the transition period,’ said Fedotov. ‘And I am happy that our Presidential Council has so many excellent human rights defenders, who consider this to be not a profession but a mission that does not depend on the position or membership in any organisation. I see many of them here today…’
Summing-up the results of the event, I would like to quote the words of Liudmila Alekseeva, Cofounder and Chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group: ‘Even in the darkest hour, you have to live, as if you lived in a free country, where normal laws and principles worked and human rights were respected. To paraphrase and make it more clear – Do what you have to do and let things happen as they will.’