VOC Awards Dissident Human Rights Award to Vladimir Kara-Murza

VOC awarded the 2023 Dissident Human Rights Award to Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian pro-democracy activist, historian, journalist, and television host for his lifelong advocacy for democracy and human rights in Russia, no matter the cost.

Kara-Murza is a former deputy leader of the People’s Freedom Party and was a candidate for the Russian State Duma. He has testified before Parliaments in Europe and North America and played a key role in the passage of the Magnitsky legislation that imposed targeted sanctions on Russian human rights violators in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and several EU countries. He is currently imprisoned in Russia for the next 25 years for his staunch opposition and criticism of Vladimir Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine. 

Vladimir Kara-Murza, born in Moscow on September 7, 1981, hails from a family with a history of standing up against authoritarian regimes. His father, Vladimir Alexeyevich Kara-Murza (1959–2019), was an outspoken critic of Leonid Brezhnev and a supporter of Boris Yeltsin’s reforms. Notably, his father’s lineage connects back to Latvian revolutionary Voldemārs Bisenieks (1884–1938) and Latvia’s first Ambassador to Great Britain, Georgs Bisenieks (1885–1941), both of whom were executed by the NKVD. The Latvian agronomist and publisher Jānis Bisenieks (1864–1923) was their older brother.

Before his death, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Kara-Murza “one of the most passionate and effective advocates for passage of the Magnitsky Act”; U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) described him as “a courageous advocate for the democratic process and fundamental universal human rights.” Twice, in 2015 and 2017, Kara-Murza was poisoned and left in a coma; the attempts on his life were widely viewed as retribution by the Kremlin for his work on the Magnitsky sanctions. Kara-Murza is currently imprisoned in Moscow for 25 years for speaking out against Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Vladimir Kara-Murza was awarded the Dissident Human Rights Award, on July 19 at the 2023
Captive Nations Summit
. VOC holds the Captive Nations Summit every year during the third week of July to mark National Captive Nations Week, in fulfillment of the 1959 congressional resolution adopted during the Eisenhower administration to show American solidarity with nations subjugated by communism. This year’s Captive Nations Summit brought together senior leaders, international experts, and human rights activists to discuss the deadly, and sadly, enduring legacy of communism, as well as memory politics, and the lessons learned for current and future generations of freedom fighters.

Vladimir Kara Murza’s acceptance speech was presented by Natalia Arno, President of the Free Russia Foundation. Watch the full speech below.