She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “We all share one common home. To burn down just one part of it is impossible: we will burn it all”.
On graduating from Leningrad University, Irina Dementieva worked as a journalist with Russian publications. After the suppression of democracy in the Czech Republic (1968), the staff of the ‘Zhurnalist’ magazine, where she worked as an editor, was dismissed for their pro-democracy stance. Throughout her career as journalist, Irina has unceasingly promoted the ideals of a free press and free access of society to unbiased information. One of the focal points of her activism is humanitarian aid in Chechnya, where she has worked trying to bring home the truth about the war to the Russian people.
Irina Dementieva – Russian Federation
Irina Dementieva graduated from Leningrad University the year that Stalin died (1953). This was a time when the country expected great change and hoped for an end to totalitarian rule. Irina began her journalistic career in the local newspaper of the city of Tomsk (regional center in Siberia).
Later, she got a position with the Moscow newspaper ‘Sovietskaya Rossiya’ (’Soviet Russia’), and afterwards worked as an editor in the Moscow magazine ‘Zhurnalist’ (’The Journalist’).
After the suppression of democracy in the Czech Republic by the Soviet troops in 1968, the magazine staff took a firm pro-democracy stand, which resulted in mass dismissals in the team (including Irina).
Since 1968, Irina Dementieva has worked with the newspaper ‘Novosti’ (’The News’) as a special correspondent. It was on behalf of the ‘Novosti’ newspaper that Irina went to Chechnya when the republic was invaded by Russian troops in 1994.
Irina Dementieva spent New Year’s Eve (1994) in the basement of the presidential palace in Grozny. The day before, a group of members of the Russian parliament had arrived in the city accompanied by journalists (including Irina). They were to meet with the Chechen authorities to discuss the situation in the republic.
However, the Russian assault of the palace began, and the visitors were blocked in the basement of the building. From the windows of the ground floor Irina saw burning tanks and dying soldiers.
The Russian troops had been bombing Grozny for almost half a month. There were a lot of dead and wounded innocent civilians. Such destruction and death was unprecedented in Russia since World War II. It was reported that a hundred Russian tanks and armored vehicles had been burned down.
On the morning of 1 January 1995 Irina managed to get out of the presidential palace without being shot. Running across the square, she saw the entire sky behind her obscured by firesmoke. The troops of Russian generals Grachev and Erin were burning down Grozny, a city of 400,000 inhabitants.
The next day, at the press conference in Moscow, Irina told what she had witnessed in Grozny, and published the article ‘New Year in Grozny’ in the ‘Novosti’ newspaper.
Since then, Irina keeps on promoting the ideas of a peaceful solution to the Chechen problem. She uncovers the truth about the bloody war and fights for the right of Russian citizens to the access to unbiased information on Chechnya. (1000PeaceWomen).
Read: Ossetian-Ingush conflict.
Ethnic Conflicts in the Caucasus 1988-1994.