The Boris Nemtsov Bridge. Speech of the Boris Nemtsov Award Laureate Lev Shlosberg


Dear Raisa Akhmetovna! Dear Zhanna!

Dear friends and colleagues! Ladies and gentlemen!

Twenty six years ago on 12 June 1990, the Declaration of the Sovereignty of State of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was adopted at the first Congress of People’s Deputies of the country. It proclaimed a commitment to build a democratic and constitutional state on the foundations of the renovated USSR.

Let us have another read of that Declaration.

It was decided that the Soviet multi-ethnic people is the holder of the sovereignty and the source of state power, while the sovereignty itself is established for the sake of reaching the supreme goal which is to guarantee a decent life and free self-development of each individual.

Each citizen and even anyone without a citizenship but living on the territory of the RSFSR was guaranteed civil rights and liberties as provided under the RSFSR Constitution, the USSR Constitution and the generally recognized statutes of the international law.

The Declaration guaranteed to all citizens, political parties, non-governmental organizations, as well as public and religious organizations equal rights of participation in state and public affairs.

It was announced that the separation of legislative, executive and judiciary powers is a cornerstone principle under which the RSFSR operates as a constitutional state.

The RSFSR proclaimed its commitment to the generally recognized statutes of the international law and readiness to live in peace and accord with other countries and nations.

It was announced that a constitutional reform and preparation of a new Constitution the RSFSR had been launched.

It was a time of hope, crash of political monopolies, a time of release from fear, a feeling of new era in which everyone was expecting FREEDOM.

We all became a part of a mass democratic movement in the power and success of which we profoundly believed. A Democratic Russia – these were the words that united us all.

We have become its builders.

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A quarter of a century later we all are living in a completely different country where all these beautiful words exist only on paper, and though all these rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, the real life is unfolding along a completely different path – a path of UNFREEDOM.

Fight for freedom in a country like this one can cost one his life.

On 27 February 2015, Boris Efimovitch Nemtsov was shot dead in Moscow right next to the Kremlin walls. It was a political assassination. Boris Nemtsov was killed for his political beliefs and his civil stance.

The sole purpose of the perpetrators was to make Nemtsov speechless. Since words of a free person is the scariest thing possible for a state of unfreedom, lies and violence.

This assassination will be investigated properly one day only in a free Russia. Only an independent court can pass a fair judgement, while Russia doesn’t have courts like that today.

Some people say that freedom cannot be obtained without victims. I disagree with that. Freedom requires hard work, courage, persistence, patience, energy, self-belief, and human respect. And this might be enough to achieve freedom.

Victims on the path to freedom start appearing only when the state choses violence as its main language when speaking to its citizens.

Boris Nemtsov was not a type of a person who would choose between life and death. He was a free human in an unfree country. And the oprichniks of unfreedom decided to take his life. It is their barbarian interpretation of the interests of the contemporary Russian State. Their understanding of courage is a gunshot at a man’s back.

Relatives and friends of Boris Nemtsov have decided that he should be remembered in a most active way. It is a hard decision that commands profound respect since any effort in the name of remembrance is a devotion.

First of all, the Boris Nemtsov Award will remind each year of his death. In an eminent sense it will always be a reproach to those who are alive. To any free society and a democratic state human’s life is the supreme value. If we could turn back the course of the history, the only worthy reason for this would be the salvation of those who perished. But even God cannot make it.

The only thing left is to continue with an active remembrance.

An active remembrance can support the live.

It can fight for peace and stand against war, it can stop violence and defend people.

An active remembrance is a continuation of life.

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A lot has happened in our country since Boris Nemtsov’s death. I deem it my duty to say a word today about the monument in the memory of Boris Nemtsov on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge that has become a demonstration of a day-to-day civil resistance to the government’s unconsciousness.

Unconsciousness is one of the conditions of unfreedom. Those who are now occupying the Russian State are striving so that Boris Nemtsov is forgotten. They want us to forget the assassination spot, this very place in front of the Kremlin which has suddenly become a “second Lobnoye mesto” in the center of Moscow. This place on the bridge has become a symbol of the whole contemporary Russian political life where despite being close to the Kremlin citizens don’t get protection and death is around the corner.

We shouldn’t desert this bridge.

We have reached a point of our country’s history when the authorities strongly disagree to name a bridge in the name of the perished citizen who had been fighting against war and was murdered at this war without spilling anybody’s blood, while at the same time the same authorities are ready to name a bridge in an another Russian capital in the name of another perished man who had spilled a lot of blood at war.

In the opinion of Russian authorities, a person whose war for peace started 23 years ago does not deserve any state remembrance. While the one whe was part of this war 23 years ago, does deserve. This is a good evidence of the Russian authorities’ political death.

Only two PMs of the State Duma of Russia honored Boris Nemtsov standing up from their places a year after his death, on the day of commemoration.

This is the gap between the authorities and the people in our country today.

Boris Nemtsov tried to overcome this gap.

But he could not cross this bridge till its end.

We should make it.

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I am deeply touched by the decision of the Supervisory board of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation. I have a challenge now how to use the Award in the most efficient way. The Award should work for the sake of civil society, freedom and democracy in our country.

I would like to announce today that the funds will be donated to the Team 29 which is a human rights protection civil group of lawyers headed by Ivan Pavlov.

With their support we appealed in the Supreme Court of Russia Vladimir Putin’s decree on secrecy of war casualties in the time of peace, which in our view is related to the undeclared Russian-Ukrainian war. This team has succeeded in dismissal of the criminal case of Svetlana Davydova; this team is defending Natalia Sharina who is a political prisoner and director of the library of Ukrainian literature in Moscow; the young professionals are defending Gennady Kravtsov who is a political prisoner, as well as Ludmila Savchuk and Nadezhda Kutepova, and a group of teenager diggers.

These young people are real defenders of law in the face of outrage, they are defenders of a citizen in the face of despotism of the state. They are working hard for the name of freedom and democracy in our country. I would like to give the award’s funds to them. A public report on all expenditures will be released.

The number 29 in the name of the Team is not the age, although these guys are very young. This number is the number of the article in the Constitution of Russia, according to which:

  1. Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.
  2. Propaganda or agitation causing social, racial, national or religious hatred and strife shall not be allowed. Any propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic supremacy shall be banned.
  3. No one may be forced to express his views and convictions or to reject them.
  4. Everyone shall have the right to freely look for, receive, transmit, produce and distribute information in any legal way. The list of data comprising state secrets shall be determined by the federal law.
  5. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be banned

All of this began in our country on 12 June 1990.

Boris Efimovitch Nemtsov lived for the sake of this.

It has worked out in the Constitution but not in real life yet unfortunately.

But we will not stop.

We will move further along this bridge. Right from the spot where the barbarians and cowards stopped Boris Nemtsov.

Freedom is stronger than unfreedom. It carries over in a nonmaterial way which is not limited by the limits of a human’s life.

The breath of freedom ruins the walls of unfreedom.

When a man breathes freedom he is invincible.

I believe that one day awards of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation will be given in Russia as the country will be free.

Thank you very much.