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]

In the 1950s, Soviet dissidents started leaking criticism to the West by sending documents and statements to foreign diplomatic missions in Moscow.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 50 members of Soviet Helsinki Groups were imprisoned.[6]

The heyday of the dissenters as a presence in the Western public life was the 1970s.[7]

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[8]

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 Maksimov, Viktor Nekrasov, Andrei Sinyavsky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Varlam Shalamov.[9]

Because of Jimmy 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.[10] 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.[11][12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]:275

Through such protests, Soviet dissidents incurred harassment, persecution, imprisonment or death by the KGB or other Soviet government agencies. While dissent with Soviet policies and persecution for this dissent existed since the times of the 1917 October Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet power, the term is most commonly applied to the dissidents of the post-Stalin era, because after mass extermination of Stalin's political opponents the Soviets faced the new generation of opposition, and began attacking those intellectuals who opposed political censorship, repressions and other violations of human rights.

Under Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev the Soviet government continued intimidation of opponents by censorship, arrests, harassment, imprisonment and/or involuntary exile of these people. A few cultural figures managed to escape from the Soviet Union, such as Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Lyudmila Makarova, Mikhail Shemyakin, William Brui, and others. Attacks on prominent dissidents ended with Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980s and partial liberation of political prisoners from GULAG prison-camps. However, the political leadership of post-soviet Russia continued harsh treatment of opposition by censorship, harassment, and/or imprisonment.

From the early 1970s, the term dissident was first used in the Western media[16] and subsequently, with derision, by the Soviet media. Human rights activists in the USSR then adopted this term in the mid-1970s.

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Shirk, Susan (Winter 1977–1978). "Human rights: what about China?". Foreign Policy (29): 109–127. doi:10.2307/1148534. JSTOR 1148534. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "Хельсинкский аккорд" [Helsinki Accord] (in Russian). Radio Liberty. 1 August 2015. 
  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. ^ Подрабинек, Александр (2014). Диссиденты [Dissidents] (in Russian). Moscow: АСТ. ISBN 978-5-17-082401-4. 
  9. ^ "Писатели-диссиденты: биобиблиографические статьи (начало)" [Dissident writers: bibliographic articles (beginning)]. Новое литературное обозрение [New Literary Review] (in Russian) (66). 2004. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ Murray, Thomas (June 1983). "Genetic screening in the workplace: ethical issues". Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 25 (6): 451–454. PMID 6886846. 
  12. ^ Reich, Walter (August 1978). "Diagnosing Soviet dissidents. Courage becomes madness, and deviance disease". Harper's Magazine 257 (1539): 31–37. PMID 11662503. 
  13. ^ Bowers, Leonard (2003). The social nature of mental illness. Routledge. p. 135. ISBN 1134587279. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Доклад: Диссиденты by Michel Aucouturier

Further reading[edit]