As a teenager, Mikhail Lobov sensed the enthusiasm created during Mikhail Gorbachev's presidency, which brought about greater freedoms in Soviet society. The subject of human rights, for example, previously only whispered about in parks and on noisy streets, became a common topic of public debate.
Born in 1971 in Tcheliabinsk, a small city in the Southern Urals, Mr. Lobov grew up enjoying advantages of the then Soviet society in which "cohesion and solidarity were valued and substantial efforts were deployed to promote youth education, culture, and sports," he says. The euphoria of Gorbachev's perestroika, however, yielded to "frustration at the inconsistent and unwise leadership" that provoked the economic and political crisis of the 1990s. It was in this "complex context," says Mr. Lobov, that he became interested in law and rights as mechanisms of social change.
Mr. Lobov, 34, wants to further the cause of international human rights, which has played a significant role in his early career. He received his law degree in 1992 at the Moscow Institute of International Relations and did further study at Robert Schuman University in Strasbourg, France. He subsequently stayed in Strasbourg as a legal officer with the Council of Europe, which operates a unique judicial mechanism created to enforce the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
The council, which has 45 members from the Republic of Georgia, Italy, Iceland, and other nations, includes the European Court of Human Rights, which adjudicates individual complaints against member-states. The court's judgments are binding.
As a legal officer in the department for the execution of judgments of the human rights court, Mr. Lobov gave legal analysis about judgments and advice on their implementation.
"It is of utmost importance that the execution of judgments in individual cases is not limited to monetary compensation but requires, where necessary, effective changes of victims' situation and of member-states' domestic legislation and practice to prevent fresh violations similar to those found," explains Mr. Lobov.
As a result, "human rights are transformed from a political ideal with uncertain implications to a transnational legal reality shaping our societies," he adds.
While at Columbia, Mr. Lobov expanded his knowledge of other legal and judicial systems and took full advantage of resources provided by the Human Rights Institute.
"I particularly appreciated the numerous speakers from all over the world who offered diverse and sometimes unconventional perspectives," he says. "In this way, human rights discourse became a part of fruitful intercultural dialogue and not an offensive political and ideological tool, as it has often been perceived among nations."
After graduation, Mr. Lobov returned to his position as a legal officer for the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe.