When Kozlovsky Met Barry (and Sigourney)

A little over two years ago, right here on Pajamas Media, I introduced the world to a young Russian opposition leader named Oleg Kozlovsky. Much has changed for him since then.

At the time, Kozlovsky had been illegally drafted into the army in a brazen, shameless effort to silence his heroic work pushing back against the Putin regime’s encroachments on democracy and civil society. The Kremlin seriously underestimated the young man, and furious lobbying and legal efforts on his behalf soon had him out of its hands and back to work. But for all his efforts, he was totally unknown in the West, and because of the Kremlin’s chokehold on Russian mainstream media, hardly a household name in his own country either.

The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune both picked up the story and ran major news items, and Kozlovsky was able to use this attention as a springboard to a bold op-ed in the Post condemning Putin’s “gulag stability.” When the op-ed hit the streets, Kozlovsky was cooling his heels in prison after being preemptively arrested to stop him from participating in a major opposition demonstration.

The next thing you knew, Kozlovsky had started blogging in English and come to the attention of the major U.S.-based human rights organizations and the D.C. think tanks interested in Russia, particularly the conservative American Enterprise Institute. He traveled to the nation’s capital for meetings with many of them and successfully carried his campaign into the West.

Kozlovsky wasn’t done yet. In October 2008 he was given a major human rights award for his work in Russia by Human Rights First at a red-carpet ceremony in Manhattan. His award was handed to him by Hollywood superstar Sigourney Weaver.

And it didn’t end there by a long shot. Since then, Kozlovsky has started Twittering in English, defeated a neo-Soviet KGB effort to withdraw his passport to block his foreign relations, and made several more visits to the U.S. for further meetings with rights organizations, think tanks, and universities. On February 18, he made yet another sojourn to Washington, this time to attend the 2010 Washington Human Rights Summit. He was part of a group of delegates that visited the White House and met with President Barack Obama.