In This Review

Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network (Human Rights in History)
Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network (Human Rights in History)
By Sarah B. Snyder
Cambridge University Press, 2011, 304 pp
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Snyder provides a fascinating account of the Helsinki Final Act, signed by the Soviet Union and Western governments in 1975, and the transnational network of human rights activists that it spurred into action. Building on Daniel Thomas’ book The Helsinki Effect, Snyder shows how the “Helsinki process” triggered by the agreement influenced both Western and Eastern governments to pursue policies that facilitated the rise of organized dissent in Eastern Europe and built pressure for human rights reform in the Soviet Union. Forgotten U.S. officials, such as Representative Millicent Fenwick and Arthur Goldberg, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, play a role in the story, as do countless figures inside the Soviet bloc who found common cause in creating a network of groups that could monitor compliance with the Helsinki commitments and expose human rights abuses. In this rendering, it was not containment that won the Cold War but the relentless efforts of activists, journalists, lawyers, minority-rights advocates, and diplomats who worked across borders to set the stage for the political earthquakes that followed.