Magazine article The World Today

The USSR's Voice of Opposition

Magazine article The World Today

The USSR's Voice of Opposition

Article excerpt

At their gatherings Soviet dissidents would share an ironic toast while raising their glasses, 'To our hopeless cause!' This reinforces the common view that opponents of the Communist regime were often intelligent people who did not expect their activities to change the system.

Such an assessment is confirmed by the fact that no opposition figure from before 1985 occupied a position of power in Russia or in the states that succeeded the USSR. The opening and sharing with western academics of certain official Soviet archives further supports the view that only the authorities were changing the direction of the USSR, and did so, most famously, under Mikhail Gorbachev.

These assumptions are challenged by A Chronicle of Current Events, a periodical that, against the odds, kept going from April 1968 until December 1982, documenting the Soviet regime's violations of human rights, the growing opposition throughout its regions and the wide variety of unofficial publications that were being circulated. It is now available for the first time in English, at chronicle6883. wordpress.com, offering an alternative source for the history of the post-Stalin USSR. Its dissemination as carbon copies, passed on and retyped repeatedly, is a reminder of the hold exerted by a regime that controlled printing presses, radio and television. Yet by the late 1970s the Moscow-based Chronicle was publishing reports from Ukraine, the Baltic, the Caucasus, Siberia and all over Russia, recording what was happening to religious communities, to those who wanted to emigrate, and to those incarcerated in prisons, camps or psychiatric hospitals. …

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