Nonviolent Russia today

Letter by Susan Clarkson, Bradford

I was delighted to read the article by Milan Rai on ‘The Nonviolent Russian Revolution’ (PN 2610–2611). I read the article shortly after my return from Russia and after spending most of this year reading A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924 by Orlando Figes.

I first visited Russia in 2014. I was living in Oxford and took part in two twinning visits to Perm in the Ural region. In 2016, I returned to Perm with a friend and then, later that year, joined a small group of US activists. We visited Moscow and Saint Petersburg, meeting and talking to people concerned about the worsening situation between Russia and the West.

Soon after my return from Russia in 2014, I attended a conference at Woodbroooke Quaker Study Centre on Quakers in Russia. There I learnt about the history of Quakers in Russia and met the two Russian staff members from Friends’ House Moscow, as well as British and American members of the FHM board:

I was asked to join the board in 2016 and in October of this year attended my first board meeting in Moscow.

FHM helps to support projects which further peace and nonviolence, such as the Alternatives to Violence project in Ukraine and a project which offers support to young men seeking alternatives to military service. Other projects are a refugee school in Moscow and a centre to support the educational needs of young people in care, also in Moscow. We visited both projects before our board meeting.

FHM also enables the translation into Russian of core Quaker texts and also texts specifically about peace and nonviolence. We met a young academic who is working on the evolution of pacifism in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, 1900–1937. She is particularly working on Tolstoyan ideas recorded in the archives she is indexing.

I am hoping to put together a presentation about the work of Friends’ House Moscow and to offer talks to interested groups.

Finally, Friends’ House Moscow has a Facebook page which is well worth following as it often gives reports on activism in Russia and updates on the projects supported by FHM.

I left copies of Peace News in the office of FHM and encouraged people to read it!