Vladimir Vladimirovich Kara-Murza

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Vladimir Kara-Murza
Владимир Кара-Мурза
Personal details
Born Vladimir Vladimirovich Kara-Murza
(1981-09-07) 7 September 1981 (age 33)
Moscow, RSFSR, Soviet Union
Political party Solidarnost (since 2008)
Republican Party of Russia – People's Freedom Party (since 2012)
Alma mater Cambridge University
Religion Russian Orthodox

Vladimir V. Kara-Murza (Russian: Владимир Владимирович Кара-Мурза) (born 7 September 1981, Moscow) is a Russian politician and journalist and, since 2012, Senior Policy Advisor at the Institute of Modern Russia. An elected member of the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition, he serves on the federal council of the Republican Party of Russia – People's Freedom Party and the Solidarnost pro-democracy movement. Kara-Murza holds an M.A. in History from Cambridge University.

Early life, family, and education[edit]

Vladimir Vladimirovich Kara-Murza was born in Moscow on 7 September 1981. He is the son of Russian journalist and television host Vladimir Alexeyevich Kara-Murza, an outspoken critic of Leonid Brezhnev and a supporter of reforms under Boris Yeltsin. His father is a great-grandson of Latvian revolutionary Voldemārs Bissenieks (1884–1938), and a great-grand-nephew of Latvia's first Ambassador to Great Britain Georgs Bissenieks (1885-1941), and of Latvian agronomist and publisher Jānis Bissenieks (1864-1923). He is also related to Sergey Kara-Murza (born 1939), a Soviet/Russian historian, chemist and philosopher. They are members of the Kara-Murza family, descendants of a Tatar who converted to Christianity.

Kara-Murza earned a B.A. and an M.A. degree in history at Cambridge University.[1] He and his wife, Yevgenia,[2] have three children.

Work as a journalist, film-maker and author[edit]

Kara-Murza became a journalist at the age of 16. He worked, as London correspondent for a succession of Russian media outlets: the newspapers Novye Izvestia (1997-2000) and Kommersant (September 2000 to June 2003) and the radio station Ekho Moskvy from September 2001 to June 2003. Kara-Murza then briefly became foreign affairs correspondent of Kommersant (July 2003 to April 2004) and Washington correspondent for the BBC (December 2004 to December 2005).[3] In 2002 he was editor-in-chief of the London-based financial publication Russian Investment Review. In April 2004 he took over as the Washington bureau chief of the RTVi television network, a post he held for the next nine years. On 1 September 2012 he was dismissed from this job.

They Chose Freedom, a documentary series (2005)[edit]

Main article: They Chose Freedom

In 2005 Kara-Murza produced a four-part TV documentary, "They Chose Freedom", dedicated to the history of the Soviet dissident movement. The documentary was based on interviews with prominent Russian dissidents, including Vladimir Bukovsky, Elena Bonner and Sergei Kovalev. It was first aired in November 2005.

It has since been screened at various places in Europe and North America, with subtitles added in English.[4][5] On 24 March 2014, Kara-Murza, Anne Applebaum, and Vladimir Bukovsky took part in a discussion following a London screening of the film.[6]

Reform or Revolution (published 2011)[edit]

In 2011, Kara-Murza published his first book, Reform or Revolution: The Quest for Responsible Government in the First Russian State Duma (in Russian only), which recounts the unsuccessful attempt by the Cadets or Constitutional Democratic Party to form a government during the short existence of the first Russian Parliament or Duma in April–July 1906. The book was launched in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.[3]

"Spotlight on Russia” blog (since 2010)[edit]

Since 2010 Kara-Murza has written a weekly blog, "Spotlight on Russia", for World Affairs Journal.

In late 2014 and early 2015 he wrote about a number of negative trends in Russia. Putin, for example, had resumed the Soviet practice of stripping dissidents of their Russian citizenship.[7] In light of this and other acts, Kara-Murza urged the Council of Europe not to restore Russia's voting rights, suspended ever since the annexation of Crimea.[8] Kremlin SWAT teams, he wrote in December 2014, were breaking up opposition meetings.[9] Putin's word was therefore “void of value,” wrote Kara-Murza, citing as evidence the false statements made by the Russian President and his broken promises.[10]

"The End of Russia's Olympic Truce" (2014)[edit]

Putin had soft-pedaled his response to the opposition during the Sochi Olympics, warned Kara-Murza in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (26 February 2014). Now that the prestigious international event was ended the Russian president was rapidly returning to his former oppressive behavior. Only hours after the closing ceremony in Sochi a Moscow court handed prison sentences to seven of the May 2012 Bolotnaya Square protestors.

Pressure was brought to bear not only within Russia. Russia's nationwide TV had been broadcasting “hate-filled appeals to crush the protesters in Kiev” for several weeks early in 2014, noted Kara-Murza. For Putin, he explained, “maintaining the status quo in Ukraine was not primarily about preserving a post-Soviet sphere of influence or recreating a Moscow-led empire”. The Russian president feared that “a democratic, pro-European Ukraine" would set "a 'dangerous' precedent for Russia" and that it would be "only a matter of time" before Russian citizens began to demand similar levels of political and economic freedom.[11]

In the Public Eye[edit]

Left to right: Mikhail Kasyanov, Grigory Yavlinsky, Sergei Mitrokhin, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Boris Nemtsov during an opposition rally in Moscow on March 5, 2012
Vladimir Bukovsky and Vladimir Kara-Murza in Moscow at Bukovsky's presidential campaign rally on 20 October 2007

From 1999 to 2001, Vladimir Kara-Murza was a member of the Democratic Choice of Russia party; from 2001 to 2008 he was a member of the Union of Right Forces. Between 2000 and 2003 he served as an advisor to State Duma opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. He has been in opposition to Vladimir Putin since 2000, backing liberal candidate Grigory Yavlinsky in the 2000 presidential election.

Stands for election to the State Duma (2003)[edit]

In 2003 Kara-Murza was a candidate for election to the Russian parliament or State Duma (2003 parliamentary election), running in Moscow's Chertanovsky district. His candidacy was endorsed jointly by the Union of Right Forces and Yabloko.[12] During the campaign, various underhand methods were used against Kara-Murza. The candidate from the United Russia ruling party Vladimir Gruzdev attempted to have him removed from the ballot; the lighting on Kara-Murza's campaign billboards and the sound during his televised debates were turned off; and unlawful carousel voting was discovered on election day.[13] British journalist Andrew Jack named the Chertanovsky district in south Moscow as a case of electoral manipulation in Russia's 2003 vote in his book Inside Putin's Russia.[14] According to the official results, Gruzdev received 149,069 votes (53.8 percent); Kara-Murza, 23,800 votes (8.6 percent); and Communist Party candidate Sergei Seregin, 18,992 votes (6.9 percent).[15]

Bukovsky for President, 2007-2008[edit]

In January 2004, he co-founded the Committee 2008, an umbrella opposition group led by Boris Nemtsov and Garry Kasparov. In May 2007, Vladimir Kara-Murza nominated the veteran human rights activist and writer Vladimir Bukovsky as a democratic opposition candidate for the Russian presidency in the 2008 election. “The opposition needs a candidate for president – strong, uncompromising, decisive, with irreproachable political and, more importantly, moral authority,” read the statement written by Kara-Murza on behalf of Bukovsky's campaign committee. “Russia needs its own Vaclav Havel, not a new successor from [the KGB].”.[16]

From May to December 2007, Kara-Murza chaired Bukovsky's campaign committee, which included, among others, Academician Yuri Ryzhov, writer Victor Shenderovich, columnist Andrei Piontkovsky, lawyer Yuri Schmidt,[17] human rights activist Alexander Podrabinek, and political analyst Vladimir Pribylovsky.[16][18] In October 2007, Kara-Murza was one of organizers of the "Rally of Free People" held on Moscow's Triumfalnaya Square in support of Bukovsky's presidential nomination.[19][20]

On 16 December 2007 Bukovsky was duly nominated as a presidential candidate by 823 members of a voters' assembly in Moscow (the law required at least 500 people to support such a nomination). At the same meeting, Kara-Murza was elected as Bukovsky's plenipotentiary representative to Russia's Central Electoral Commission.[21][22] On 22 December 2007 the Commission refusing to register Bukovsky as a candidate for the presidency, thereby denying Bukovsky access to the ballot.[23]

Russia's "extra-systemic" opposition[edit]

At the founding convention of Solidarnost, Russia's united democratic movement, in December 2008, Kara-Murza was elected to the movement's federal council, placing second out of 77 candidates, behind Nemtsov.[24] He was re-elected to the Solidarnost council in 2010 and 2013.

In 2012, he took part in the street protests in Moscow against Putin's rule, the largest pro-democracy demonstrations in Russia since 1991.[25]

In June 2012, Kara-Murza was elected to the federal council of the Republican Party of Russia – People's Freedom Party, co-chaired by Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov, and Vladimir Ryzhkov.[26] In October 2012, he was elected to the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition, placing 21st out of 169 candidates and receiving 20,845 votes.[27]

Institute of Modern Russia, 2012[edit]

Soon after, on 1 November 2012, Vladimir was hired by the Institute of Modern Russia as the organisation's senior policy advisor. “It is an honor for me to join this distinguished institute and contribute to its mission of keeping the spotlight on the situation in Russia and advocating for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law”, said Kara-Murza, “These values should remain at the forefront of international relations.”[28] In this capacity he took part in panel discussions about Russia's future at the Heritage Foundation in February 2013 [29] and in October 2013, with Pavel Khodorkovsky (son of the imprisoned magnate and philanthropist Mikhail Khodorkovsky) and others, in a similar discussion hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy.[30]

Kara-Murza and the Magnitsky Act[edit]

Main article: Magnitsky Act

As a journalist and public figure, who was fluent in English and based partly in the USA, Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr played a notable part in the events that led, in 2012, to the passsing of the "Magnitsky" Act by the US Congress.

In July 2012 Kara-Murza reported that he had been denied access a few days earlier to the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. This decision was taken on the orders of the ambassador himself, on the grounds that Kara-Murza was “no longer a journalist”. The timing was curious, because it was not until 1 September that his dismissal as Washington bureau chief of RTVi was made public. According to several sources he was now on a “blacklist” and could not be employed as a journalist by any Russian media outlets. The reason for this ban was his advocacy of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, then being considered by the US Congress.[31]

The law, named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow lawyer who uncovered a massive tax-fraud scheme involving several law-enforcement officials and who died in 2009 in the custody of those same officials after being tortured and denied medical care, banned the issuance of U.S. visas to, and the freezing of U.S.-based assets belonging to, persons “responsible for the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky,” and for “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” in Russia. The law also sanctioned Russian officials involved in broader acts of corruption and in violations of basic civil liberties.[32] Kara-Murza explained his support for the law by saying that “The prospect of losing access to the West and its financial systems...may well be, for now, the only serious disincentive to corruption and human rights violations by Russian officials.”[33]

Also in July 2012, Mark Adomanis warned in the National Interest that the Magnitsky law, then close to final passage, had “potential downsides,” and that it was already worsening “Russia’s already precarious human-rights situation” and driving away “some of the ever-dwindling number of effective opposition journalists in that country.” He cited in particular the firing of Kara-Murza, stating that although Kara-Murza's employers had described his dismissal as part of “a long-planned reorganization,” some observers attributed it to Kara-Murza's support of the Magnitsky law and considered it “a signal to others: don’t step out of line, or you’ll be out of a job.” Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, reported Adomanis, “suggested the decision to fire Kara-Murza may have come from an extremely high-ranking official: Alexei Gromov, the deputy head of the presidential administration.”[34]

A July 2012 article by Peter Baker of the New York Times was devoted largely to the arguments by critics of the Magnitsky law, but Baker did quote Kara-Murza's comment that the bill would hit corrupt officials and human-rights violators “where it hurts, closing access to their ill-gotten gains in the West.”[35]

On July 25, 2012, Kara-Murza testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress about human-rights abuses in Russia and described the proposed Magnitsky Law as “a pro-Russian bill which provides a much-needed measure of accountability for those who continue to violate the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens.” He added: “The Kremlin’s reaction to this legislation shows that it hits them precisely where it hurts. I want to take this opportunity to thank Co-Chairmen McGovern and Wolf for their leadership on this issue. I hope the Magnitsky Act is signed into law before the end of this year.”[36][37]

In a December 2012 article co-written with Nemtsov, Kara-Murza reiterated his support for the legislation, which he and Nemtsov called “a pro-Russian law that strikes at the heart of the Kremlin’s mafia-like system,” and noted that “Russian opposition and civil society leaders and cultural figures, as well as a plurality of Russian citizens, are in favour of the Magnitsky law.” Kara-Murza and Nemtzov called on Canada to pass a similar piece of legislation that was, at the time, under consideration by the Canadian House of Commons's International Human Rights Subcommittee.[32]

In a December 2012 article for Macleans, Michael Petrou reported that Kara-Murza had just been in Ottawa to urge the passage of the proposed Canadian version of the Magnitsky law, a private member’s bill introduced by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler. Petrou quoted Kara-Murza's statement that while it was the task of Russian opposition leaders, not foreigners, “to bring democratic change to Russia,” Western democracies could still help the cause of Russian democracy through legislation.

The Russian abusers of Magnitsky “rule in the style of Zimbabwe or Belarus,” wrote Petrou, paraphrasing Kara-Murza, “but prefer the West as a safe place to store their money, buy second homes, and send their children to school. And it is in the West where they are most vulnerable.” Kara-Murza himself stated: “If a police official has a choice between dispersing a peaceful demonstration and losing access to his Western bank account, maybe he will think twice....If these people begin to understand that even Putin, with all his oil money, with all his patronage, with all his billions, will no longer be able to protect them when they commit crimes, and he will no longer be able to protect their access to the fruits of their crimes — they’ve all got money in Western bank accounts — that’s going to strike at the heart of the system. And that’s why we think it’s a very pro-Russian law.”[38]

In a June 2013 interview on France 24 television, Kara-Murza discussed the proposed version of the Magnitsky law then being debated in the European Parliament, spoke up for the value of these laws, and noted that the list of persons covered by the U.S. law was being expanded. He distinguished between “friends of Russia” and “friends of Putin” in the European Parliament.[39]

In March 2014, noting that the average Russian opposes intervention in Ukraine by the Putin government, Kara-Murza stated that the world “should respond to Putin’s aggression by sanctioning its perpetrators.” He called for “the list of Russian human rights abusers banned from traveling to and keeping assets in the United States under the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act” to “be dramatically expanded to include senior Kremlin officials responsible for the attack on Ukraine and the crackdown against Russian citizens.” He also expressed the hope that “the European Union would soon follow with its own version of the Magnitsky sanctions,” stating that “Those who commit acts of aggression and abuse the rights of their own citizens should not be entitled to the privileges and comfort of the democratic West.”[40]

Illness, May–June 2015[edit]

On 26 May 2015, Kara-Murza was suddenly taken ill in Moscow at the office of Open Russia. At first he was thought be having heart difficulties, but treatment at a specialised cardiac clinic did nothing to arrest the symptoms. He was then diagnosed with poisoning and taken to the First City Hospital.[41]

Coming after the murder of his colleague Boris Nemtsov on 27 February 2015, and mindful of other cases of poisoning, both in Russia (journalist and Duma deputy Yuri Shchekochikhin in 2003, the attempted murder of Anna Politkovskaya in 2004) and abroad (Alexander Litvinenko in October 2006) there was great concern on the part of friends and family.[42] His wife Yevgenia urged that he be evacuated from Russia for examination and treatment abroad.[2] On 2 June it was announced by a spokesman for the Republican Party of Russia – People's Freedom Party that Kara-Murza had emerged from his coma and recognised his wife, who was now by his bedside.[43]


  1. ^ "Vladimir Kara-Murza", World Affairs Journal
  2. ^ a b Schreck, Carl (28 May 2015). "Wife Of Hospitalized Russian Opposition Activist Urges His Evacuation". Radio Free Europe. 
  3. ^ "They Chose Freedom: The Story of Soviet Dissidents". Columbia Harriman Institute. Feb 11, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Film Screening: They Chose Freedom: The Story of Soviet Dissidents". Freedom House. 
  5. ^ "They Chose Freedom: The Story of Soviet Dissidents. Film Screening and Discussion with Vladimir Bukovsky (London)". Institute of Modern Russia. Mar 24, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Kremlin Returns to Soviet Practice of Stripping Citizenship". World Affairs Journal. Nov 10, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Europe: Deny the Vote to Putin’s Outlaw Regime". World Affairs Journal. Nov 25, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Party Crashers: Kremlin SWAT Teams Attack Opposition Meetings". World Affairs Journal. Dec 22, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Mr. Putin’s Word is Void of Value". World Affairs Journal. Jan 14, 2015. 
  10. ^ Vladimir Kara-Murza, "The End of Russia's Olympic Truce on Dissent", Wall Street Journal, 26 February 2014.
  11. ^ "The only example of such unity", Novaya gazeta («Единство» — в одном экземпляре, «Новая газета», 27 November 2003.
  12. ^ Kara-Murza blog "A conscience-stricken Gruzdev", Echo Moskvy radio station (Совестливый Груздев, «Эхо Москвы»), 18 August 2011.
  13. ^ Andrew Jack, Inside Putin’s Russia:Can There Be Reform without Democracy? Oxford University Press, 2004.
  14. ^ "The preferences of voters were counted to within 0.001%", Rossiiskaya gazeta-Nedelya (Симпатии электората подсчитаны до сотой доли процента, «РГ-Неделя», № 3375), 27 December 2003
  15. ^ a b Заявление Инициативной группы по выдвижению В. К. Буковского кандидатом в президенты РФ Каспаров.ру, 28 May 2007
  16. ^ A lawyer who had defended dissidents in the 1970s and was one of the senior attorneys on Mikhail Khodorkovsky's legal team at both his trials, in 2005 and 2011.
  17. ^ Инициативная группа по выдвижению Буковского Сайт Инициативной группы, 21.12.2007
  18. ^ На Триумфальной площади в Москве прошел митинг в поддержку кандидатуры В. К. Буковского на президентских выборах 2008 г. «Мемориал»
  19. ^ «Митинг свободных людей». 20 октября 2007 года. Flickr.com
  20. ^ "A group of voters support Bukovsky's nomination as a candidate for the presidency of the Russian Federation", The Action Group website (Группа избирателей в поддержку выдвижения Владимира Буковского на должность Президента Российской Федерации, Сайт Инициативной группы, 21 December 2007
  21. ^ "823 people supported Bukovsky's nomination for the presidency of the Russian Federation", The Action Group website (823 человека поддержали выдвижение Владимира Буковского на должность Президента Российской Федерации, Сайт Инициативной группы, 17 December 2007.
  22. ^ "Central Electoral Commission refuses to register Bukovsky", Grani.ru news website (ЦИК отказал Буковскому в регистрации) Грани.ру, 22 December 2007.
  23. ^ Российская «Солидарность» учредилась Панорама, № 64, апрель 2009
  24. ^ "Muscovites take to the Streets as Putin Declares ‘Victory’", World Affairs, 05.03.2012
  25. ^ Сопредседателями партии РПР-ПАРНАС стали Немцов, Касьянов и Рыжков РИА Новости, 16.06.2012
  26. ^ Результаты голосования по выборам в КС оппозиции ЦВК, 22.10.2012
  27. ^ "Vladimir Kara-Murza Joins IMR as Senior Policy Advisor". Institute of Modern Russia. Nov 1, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Vladimir Kara-Murza: 2013 a Big Year for Russia Because of the 10th Anniversary of Khodorkovsky’s Arrest". Khodorkovsky.com. Feb 25, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Russia: A Postmodern Dictatorship?". National Endowment for Democracy. Oct 15, 2013. 
  30. ^ Vladimir Kara-Murza, "Putin’s regime takes 'retaliatory' measures against supporters of Magnitsky legislation", Winnipeg Free Press, 27 August 2012.
  31. ^ a b "Boris Nemtsov & Vladimir Kara-Murza: Standing up for freedom in Russia". National Post. Dec 11, 2012. 
  32. ^ Vladimir Kara-Murza, "Putin’s regime takes 'retaliatory' measures against supporters of Magnitsky legislation", Winnipeg Free Press, 27 August 2012.
  33. ^ Adomanis, Mark (Jul 20, 2012). "When Human-Rights Legislation Goes Wrong". The National Interest. 
  34. ^ Baker, Peter (Jul 17, 2012). "In Trade Deal With Russia, U.S. Plans Sanctions for Human Rights Abuses". New York Times. 
  35. ^ "Worldwide Threats to Media Freedom" (PDF). Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. 
  36. ^ https://cpj.org/tags/Vladimir%20Kara-Murza
  37. ^ Petrou, Michael (Dec 13, 2012). "Hitting Russia’s ‘crooks and abusers’ where it hurts — in Canada". Macleans. 
  38. ^ "Vladimir Kara-Murza, Member of the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition". France 24. Jun 12, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Ukraine is Putin’s, not Russia’s, war". Washington Post. Mar 4, 2014. 
  40. ^ "Condition of opposition journalist Kara-Murza remains ‘critical’", The Interpreter, 28 May 2015.
  41. ^ Robert van Voren, "Is Putin Poisoning his Opponents?", Rights in Russia website, 1 June 2015.
  42. ^ "Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr has emerged from his coma", Vesti.ru, 2 June 2015 (report in Russian).

External links[edit]