Self-immolation: A protest of despair

On 10 SEPTEMBER 2019, 79-year-old activist Albert Razin set fire to himself in Izhevsk, capital of the Udmurt Republic (Volga Federal District) in protest against the policy of the national government concerning languages and linguistic minorities within Russia.

No fire extinguisher was near to hand and he died later in hospital.

Albert Razin (RFE - RL)

This horrendous act recalls not only Jan Palach and the protests of other young Czechs after the Warsaw Pact invasion of August 1968, but desperate acts of the kind in Ukraine and in Lithuania between 1968 and 1972.

CCE No 6 : 28 February 1969


6.11 Appeal by Grigorenko and Yakhimovich   [JC]

On 5 December 1968 Vasily Makukha set fire to himself on Kreshchatik, the main street in Kiev, crying “Long live a free Ukraine!” He died hours later from the extensive burns (CCE 6.9, item 2).This self-immolation took place over two months earlier than that of Jan Palach in Prague.

In February 1969 another Ukrainian attempted to follow the example of Makukha‘s suicide; teacher Nikolai Berislavsky from the Rostov Region also set fire to himself in the Ukrainian capital (CCE 8.6). If it was the intention of Pyotr Grigorenko and Ivan Yakhimovich to prevent such acts of desperation, their appeal on 23 February 1969 did not halt further attempts at self-immolation within the USSR.

On 14 May 1972 Romas Kalanta died after dousing himself in petrol and setting light to his clothes in one of the squares in Kaunas. (CCE 26.11 “Events in Lithuania”). He was holding a placard that read, “Freedom for Lithuania”. His example was followed on 28 May in Varena (Lithuania) by Stonis, and on 3 June by a 60-year-old worker named Andriusevicus, again in Kaunas (see CCE 26.11, pdf 42-43 [pp. 248-250]).