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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Helsinki Group Marks Birthday

The founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia's first human rights organization Saturday, launching a three-day conference on the past and future of the movement's activities.

Originally formed in dissident Andrei Sakharov's apartment to expose the Soviet Union's gross human rights violations of the 1975 Helsinki Accord, the group was immediately targeted by the Soviet government, and its members -- among them Yury Orlov, Sergei Kovalyov and Lyudmila Alexeyeva -- repressed, imprisoned, or exiled.

While its main focus was to help victims of the Soviet regime, the Helsinki Group lost its footing after the Soviet Union's breakup. The current conference was called not only to honor the past, but to examine the changing role of human rights groups in Russia.

Alexeyeva, who was exiled to the West, spoke about new challenges facing activists, citing the rights of women, refugees and support for the labor movement as top priorities for the movement.