Galina Starovoitova

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Galina Vasilyevna Starovoitova (Галина Васильевна Старовойтова) (17 May 1946, Chelyabinsk - November 20, 1998 St Petersburg) was a Russian politician and ethnographer known for her work to protect ethnic minorities and promote democratic reforms in Russia. She was shot to death in her apartment building on 1998, just a month before the parliamentary elections.

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[edit] Early life and academic career

Born in the Ural mountains city of Chelyabinsk to a Belarusian father and a Russian mother, Starovoitova earned an undergraduate degree from the Leningrad College of Military Engineering in 1966 and an MA in social psychology from Leningrad University in 1971. In 1980 she earned a doctorate in social anthropology from the Institute of Ethnography, USSR Academy of Sciences, where she worked for seventeen years. Her PhD thesis, published in 1987, was a study of the Tatars of Leningrad. She also published extensively on anthropological theory, cross-cultural studies, and Caucasian anthropology.

[edit] Political career

Galina Starovoitova began her political career in 1989, when she was elected as a representative to the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union from Armenia. She worked to protect the human rights of people in Nagorno-Karabakh during the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. From 1991 until 1992 she was an advisor to Russian President Boris Yeltsin on state policies with regard to the numerous ethnic groups of Russia. She was fired for criticizing Moscow's support for Ossetians against the Ingush in the North Caucasus [1].

In 1995, she was elected to the Russian State Duma from the political movement "Democratic Russia - Free Workers Union". The movement was led by her and two prominent members of the Moscow Helsinki Group: Lev Ponomarev and the dissident Orthodox priest Gleb Yakunin, who was famous for revealing collaboration of the church leadership with the KGB, including the alleged involvement of Patriarch Alexius II as a KGB agent <ref name="Andrew"> Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books (2000), ISBN 0-14-028487-7 </ref> <ref name="Albats"> Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia--Past, Present, and Future. 1994. ISBN 0-374-52738-5.</ref>.

Galina Starovoitova was a strong defender of ethnic minorities. She said: "If in accordance with international standards we recognize the rights of nations to self-determination, we must recognize it also within Russia," [2]. Together with Sergei Kovalev and others, she conducted negotiations with Dzhokhar Dudaev in attempt to prevent the First Chechen War. They convinced Dudaev to sign a protocol where he agreed to withdraw his demands for immediate Chechen independence and begin official negotiations, according to another Duma member involved in the process, Valeriy Borschev [3]. However, Boris Yeltsin decided to proceed with military operations, because Sergei Stepashin (then FSB director) and others convinced Yeltsin that military operations were necessary and would be very quick and successful <ref name="Andrew"> Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books (2000), ISBN 0-14-028487-7 </ref> When the war began, Starovoitova called Yeltsin "Boris the Bloody" and said: "The historic time of Yeltsin the reformer has passed, and his new regime can turn out to be dangerous not just for Russia." [4].

Over the years, Galina Starovoitova attended numerous international meetings and discussions, where she had conversations with world leaders including Margaret Thatcher, Jacques Chirac, Václav Havel, Henry Kissinger and Lech Wałęsa.

Starovoitova was strongly against the omnipresence of security services in Russia and believed that lustration is necessary, but none of the other elected representatives supported her [5]. She was a sharp opponent of the Communist and Nationalist majority in Duma who hold strongly anti-semitic views. Ones she publicly said: "I propose a decision to order a medical examination of deputies of the State Duma, especially in the light of yesterday's voting on the battle against anti-semitism, when many of our colleagues gave us reason to doubt their mental health." [6]

In April of 1998 she became the leader of "Democratic Russia", then registered as an official party, in order to prepare for State Duma elections in the coming December. This was the time when state security people were coming to power as Prime Ministers of Russia: GRU-connected Sergei Kiriyenko was replaced in August 1998 by SVR veteran Yevgeny Primakov <ref name="Andrew"> Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books (2000), ISBN 0-14-028487-7 </ref> who had excellent business relationships with Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein (he was even paid by Saddam Hussein for his services according to Richard Butler [7]). New leadership also came to the state security services as Vladimir Putin was appointed as head of FSB on July 1998. Galina Starovoitova tried to prevent such people from coming to power using her personal connections with different political figures and with Yeltsin's wife, according to Valeriy Borschev [8]. At the same time, she openly opposed the broad scope of FSB powers as a part of her political platform in "Democratic Russia". She also campaigned against the nomination of Yevgeny Primakov in the State Duma [9].

[edit] Assassination and investigation

Starovoitova was gunned down in the entryway of her apartment building on November 20th, 1998. Her aide, Ruslan Linkov, was wounded in the attack. Just two days before, Aleksander Litvinenko and seven other FSB officers asserted at a press conference in Moscow that FSB leadership had decided to return to the practice of political assassinations [10]. However, FSB Director Vladimir Putin said: "I do not have any elements from which I can conclude that this was a political murder" [11]. The murder investigation took place under the personal control of Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin [12] (former FSB boss and future Prime Minister of Russia). In June 2005 two men, Yuri Kolchin and Vitali Akishin, were convicted for her murder and sentenced to 20 and 23 years of imprisonment respectively. Akishin was the one who actually pulled the trigger and Kolchin was one of the people who had organized the attack. On September 28, 2006 another man named Vyacheslav Lelyavin was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his role in organizing the murder.[13] However, people who were actually responsible for this assassination and paid for it have never been found, according to Valery Borshev [14]. Therefore, he compared this case with murder of dissident priest Alexander Men.

[edit] Footnotes

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[edit] External links

[edit] See also

ru:Старовойтова, Галина Васильевна

Galina Starovoitova

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