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

Hurst, Mark (2023) Crossing the Curtain : British Activists and the Echoes of Soviet Dissent in Contemporary Russian Human Rights Activism. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 36 (4): 4. pp. 513-531. ISSN 0955-7571

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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.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Cambridge Review of International Affairs
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? political science and international relations ??
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Deposited On:
16 Jun 2022 09:30
Last Modified:
23 Feb 2024 10:30