Soviet dissidents

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Soviet dissidents were persons who disagreed with certain features in the embodiment of Soviet ideology and who were willing to speak out against them.[1] The dissidents were small groups of marginalized intellectuals whose modest challenges to the Soviet regime met protection and encouragement from correspondents.[2]

Soviet dissidents in the upper row are Naum Meiman, Sofiya Kallistratova, Pyotr Grigorenko, his wife Zinaida Grigorenko, Tatyana Velikanova, Sergei Zheludkov, Andrei Sakharov, the lower row is Genrikh Altunyan, Alexander Podrabinek, shot on 16 October 1977[3]
Yelena Bonner and Andrei Sakharov after their arrival for the conferment of the honorary doctorate in law from the University of Groningen, 15 June 1989

The 1950s–1960s[edit]

In the 1950s, Soviet dissidents started leaking criticism to the West by sending documents and statements to foreign diplomatic missions in Moscow.[4] In the 1960s, Soviet dissidents frequently declared that the rights the government of the Soviet Union denied them were universal rights, possessed by everyone regardless of race, religion and nationality.[5] In August 1969, for instance, the Initiating Group for Defense of Civil Rights in the USSR appealed to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights to defend the human rights being trampled on by Soviet authorities in a number of trials.[6]

The 1970s[edit]

The heyday of the dissenters as a presence in the Western public life was the 1970s.[7] The Helsinki Accords inspired dissidents in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland to openly protest human rights failures by their own governments.[8] The Soviet dissidents demanded that the Soviet authorities implement their own commitments proceeding from the Helsinki Agreement with the same zeal and in the same way as formerly the outspoken legalists expected the Soviet authorities to adhere strictly to the letter of their constitution.[9] Dissident Russian and East European intellectuals who urged compliance with the Helsinki accords have been subjected to official repression.[10] 50 members of Soviet Helsinki Groups were imprisoned.[11] Сases of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union were divulged by Amnesty International in 1975[12] and by The Committee for the Defense of Soviet Political Prisoners in 1975[13] and 1976.[14]

US President Jimmy Carter in his inaugural address on 20 January 1977 announced that human rights would be central to foreign policy during his administration.[15] In February, Carter sent Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov a letter expressing his support for the latter’s stance on human rights.[15] Because of Carter's open show of support for Soviet dissidents, the KGB was able to link dissent with American imperialism through suggesting that such protest is a cover for American espionage in the Soviet Union.[16] The KGB head Yuri Andropov determined, "The need has thus emerged to terminate the actions of Orlov, fellow Helsinki monitor Ginzburg and others once and for all, on the basis of existing law."[17] According to Dmitri Volkogonov and Harold Shukman, it was Andropov who approved the numerous trials of human rights activists such as Andrei Amalrik, Vladimir Bukovsky, Vyacheslav Chornovil, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Alexander Ginzburg, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Pyotr Grigorenko, Anatoly Shcharansky, and others.[18]

According to Soviet dissidents and Western critics, the KGB had routinely sent dissenters to psychiatrists for diagnosing to avoid embarrassing publiс trials and to discredit dissidence as the product of ill minds.[19][20] On the grounds that political dissenters in the Soviet Union were psychotic and deluded, they were locked away in psychiatric hospitals and treated with neuroleptics.[21] That technique could be called the "medicalization" of dissidence or psychiatric terror, the now familiar form of repression applied in the Soviet Union to Leonid Plyushch, Pyotr Grigorenko, and many others.[22] Finally, many persons at that time tended to believe that dissidents were abnormal people whose commitment to mental hospitals was quite justified.[23][24]:96

In literary world, there were dozens of the literati who participated in dissident movement including Vasily Aksyonov, Arkadiy Belinkov, Leonid Borodin, Joseph Brodsky, Georgi Vladimov, Vladimir Voinovich, Aleksandr Galich, Venedikt Yerofeyev, Alexander Zinoviev, Lev Kopelev, Naum Korzhavin, Vladimir Maximov, Viktor Nekrasov, Andrei Sinyavsky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Varlam Shalamov.[25] Voluntary and involuntary emigration allowed the authorities to rid themselves of many political active intellectuals including writers Valentin Turchin, Georgi Vladimov, Vladimir Voinovich, Lev Kopelev, Vladimir Maximov, Naum Korzhavin, Vasily Aksyonov and others.[24]:194

Dissidents about their dissent[edit]

Fellow dissident and one of the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeyeva wrote:

What would happen if citizens acted on the assumption that they have rights? If one person did it, he would become a martyr; if two people did it, they would be labeled an enemy organization; if thousands of people did it, the state would have to become less oppressive.[26]:275

According to Soviet dissident Victor Davydoff, totalitarian system has no mechanisms that could change the behavior of the ruling group from within.[27] Any attempts to change this are immediately suppressed through repression.[27] Dissidents appealed to international human rights organizations, foreign governments, and there was a result.[27] The same should be used now as well; in the situation where the mass manipulation through the media brought the country to the point where people do not realize what happens in the country, when people do not understand what is going on in the world, one can only rely on the fact that those who know and understand will be able to find common language with people abroad and thus to change the situation.[27]


  1. ^ Carlisle, Rodney; Golson, Geoffrey (2008). The Reagan era from the Iran сrisis to Kosovo. ABC-CLIO. p. 88. ISBN 1851098852. 
  2. ^ Smith, Stephen (2014). The Oxford handbook of the history of communism. OUP Oxford. p. 379. ISBN 0199602050. 
  3. ^ Подрабинек, Александр (2014). Диссиденты [Dissidents] (in Russian). Moscow: АСТ. ISBN 978-5-17-082401-4. 
  4. ^ Shirk, Susan (Winter 1977–1978). "Human rights: what about China?". Foreign Policy (29): 109–127. doi:10.2307/1148534. JSTOR 1148534. 
  5. ^ Bergman, Jay (July 1992). "Soviet dissidents on the Holocaust, Hitler and Nazism: a study of the preservation of historical memory". The Slavonic and East European Review 70 (3): 477–504. JSTOR 4211013. 
  6. ^ Yakobson, Anatoly; Yakir, Pyotr; Khodorovich, Tatyana; Podyapolskiy, Gregory; Maltsev, Yuri; et al. (21 August 1969). "An Appeal to The UN Committee for Human Rights". The New York Review of Books. 
  7. ^ Horvath, Robert (November 2007). ""The Solzhenitsyn effect": East European dissidents and the demise of the revolutionary privilege". Human Rights Quarterly 29 (4): 879–907. doi:10.1353/hrq.2007.0041. 
  8. ^ Fox, Karen; Skorobogatykh, Irina; Saginova, Olga (September 2005). "The Soviet evolution of marketing thought, 1961-1991: from Marx to marketing". Marketing Theory 5 (3): 283–307. doi:10.1177/1470593105054899. 
  9. ^ Glazov, Yuri (1985). The Russian mind since Stalin’s death. D. Reidel Publishing Company. p. 105. ISBN 9027719691. 
  10. ^ Binder, David (Summer 1977). "The quiet dissident: East Germany's Reiner Kunze". The Wilson Quarterly 1 (4): 158–160. JSTOR 40255268. 
  11. ^ "Хельсинкский аккорд" [Helsinki Accord] (in Russian). Radio Liberty. 1 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Prisoners of conscience in the USSR: Their treatment and conditions (PDF, immediate download). London: Amnesty International Publications. 1975. p. 118. ISBN 0900058137. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 November 2015. 
  13. ^ Political Prisoners in the U.S.S.R. New York: The Committee for the Defense of Soviet Political Prisoners. 1975. 
  14. ^ Inside Soviet prisons. Documents of the struggle for human and national rights in the USSR (PDF). New York: The Committee for the Defense of Soviet Political Prisoners. 1976. OCLC 3514696. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 November 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Howell, John (Spring 1983). "The Carter human rights policy as applied to the Soviet Union". Presidential Studies Quarterly 13 (2): 286–295. JSTOR 27547926. 
  16. ^ Dean, Richard (January–March 1980). "Contacts with the West: the dissidents' view of Western support for the human rights movement in the Soviet Union". Universal Human Rights 2 (1): 47. 
  17. ^ Snyder, Sarah (2011). Human rights activism and the end of the Cold War: a transnational history of the Helsinki network. Cambridge University Press. p. 73. ISBN 1139498924. 
  18. ^ Volkogonov, Dmitri; Shukman, Harold (1998). Autopsy for an empire: the seven leaders who built the Soviet regime. Simon and Schuster. p. 342. ISBN 0684834200. 
  19. ^ Murray, Thomas (June 1983). "Genetic screening in the workplace: ethical issues". Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 25 (6): 451–454. PMID 6886846. 
  20. ^ Reich, Walter (August 1978). "Diagnosing Soviet dissidents. Courage becomes madness, and deviance disease". Harper's Magazine 257 (1539): 31–37. PMID 11662503. 
  21. ^ Bowers, Leonard (2003). The social nature of mental illness. Routledge. p. 135. ISBN 1134587279. 
  22. ^ Sharlet, Robert (Autumn 1978). "Dissent and repression in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: changing patterns since Khrushchev". International Journal 33 (4): 763–795. doi:10.2307/40201689. JSTOR 40201689. 
  23. ^ Shlapentokh, Vladimir (March 1990). "The justification of political conformism: the mythology of Soviet intellectuals". Studies in Soviet Thought 39 (2): 111–135. doi:10.1007/BF00838027. 
  24. ^ a b Shlapentokh, Vladimir (1990). Soviet intellectuals and political power: the post-Stalin era. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 1850432848. 
  25. ^ "Писатели-диссиденты: биобиблиографические статьи (начало)" [Dissident writers: bibliographic articles (beginning)]. Новое литературное обозрение [New Literary Review] (in Russian) (66). 2004. 
  26. ^ Alexeyeva, Ludmilla (1987). Soviet dissent: contemporary movements for national, religious, and human rights. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. p. 275. ISBN 0-8195-6176-2. 
  27. ^ a b c d Гальперович, Данила (21 October 2015). "Для выхода «Хроники текущих событий» в России опять пришло время" [Time is ripe again for issuing A Chronicle of Current Events in Russia] (in Russian). Voice of America. 

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