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Crossing the Curtain: British Activists and the Echoes of Soviet Dissent in Contemporary Russian Human Rights Activism

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>9/08/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Cambridge Review of International Affairs
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date9/08/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The efforts of the Soviet authorities to suppress political opposition are widely known, utilising psychiatry to ‘treat’ political dissidents and the widespread, state-endorsed persecution of religious believers. These human rights violations often became flashpoints in the Cold War, shaping international relations and offering a moral weapon through which the Soviet Union could be attacked. Given the tightly controlled nature of information in the Soviet bloc, how did academics, journalists, and politicians in Britain know about this persecution? How could information obtained on the position of political dissidents be trusted in the West, and how did it end up influencing those in positions of power? Given recent events in Russia, understanding the historic response to human rights violations in the Cold War offers the space to reflect on contemporary concerns. This article argues that parallels can be drawn between human rights concerns in the Soviet and post-Soviet world, and that understanding historic case studies can offer insight into the efforts of contemporary activists. Alongside this, it argues that the efforts of activists in Britain need to be considered in order to understand the way in which human rights issues in Russia are understood, placing these concerns into an international context.