The Legacy of Soviet Dissent: Dissidents, Democratisation by Robert Horvath

By Robert Horvath

Throughout the Nineteen Seventies, dissidents like Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn ruled Western perceptions of the USSR, yet have been then fast forgotten, as Gorbachev's reformers monopolised the highlight. This publication restores the dissidents to their rightful position in Russian heritage. utilizing an enormous array of samizdat and released assets, it indicates how principles formulated within the dissident milieu clashed with the unique programme of perestroika, and formed the process democratisation in post-Soviet Russia. a few of these principles - such the dissidents' preoccupation with glasnost and legality, and their critique of innovative violence - grew to become a part of the schedule of Russia's democratic flow. yet this e-book additionally demonstrates that dissidents performed an important function within the upward thrust of the hot Russian radical nationalism. either the buddies and foes of Russian democracy have a dissident lineage.

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Example text

The blank-spots of the emerging new version of Soviet history were exemplified by Daniil Granin’s novel, The Aurochs, an account of the life of the biologist Nikolai Timofeev-Reshevskii who stayed to work in Nazi Germany during the Second World War and was arrested by Soviet troops. In the Butyrki transit prison, he met Solzhenitsyn, who records the biologist’s camp experiences in The Gulag Archipelago. Of course Granin did not mention Solzhenitsyn in his narrative. Instead his text contested the central contention of The Gulag Archipelago, that Lenin was responsible for the Stalinist terror.

Even as the friends of Solzhenitsyn were being exposed as the foes of perestroika, a second front was being opened in the May issue of Novyi Mir. 170 To make his debt clear, Selyunin ended the paragraph about the gulag by noting that the tragedy of the recently rehabilitated Bolshevik victims of Stalinism ‘must not allow us to forget the suffering of Ivan Denisovich. ’171 As fragments of Solzhenitsyn’s arguments became lodged in public debate, as the allusions to his illicit oeuvre became more obvious, his name slipped into print.

We waited. 124 Hints of its invisible progress appear in samizdat records of trials and literature confiscated at searches, which can only have touched a minuscule fraction of its readership. 129 In 1978 Ginzburg declared in court: ‘Everyone must read The Gulag Archipelago. I was glad when the investigators and judges read it. I am glad that you read it. ’130 The authorities took a less optimistic view: at his retrial in March 1983, Vyacheslav Bakhmin, a member of the Group to investigate the Political Use of Psychiatry, was accused of recounting The Gulag Archipelago to another prisoner.

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