In This Review

The Dissidents: A Memoir of Working With the Resistance in Russia, 1960–1990
The Dissidents: A Memoir of Working With the Resistance in Russia, 1960–1990
By Peter Reddaway
Brookings Institution Press, 2020, 320 pp
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In 1964, as a British graduate student in Moscow, Reddaway was expelled from the Soviet Union for meeting with the wife of a Soviet defector to the United Kingdom. For over three decades thereafter, he remained at the center of Western attempts to help Soviet dissidents. In his memoir, Reddaway shares his recollections of how dissidents struggled for freedom in the face of prison terms and internment in psychiatric hospitals. He describes the Westerners who amplified the dissidents’ cause—politicians, academics, journalists, writers, and publishers. He pays special tribute to the translators whose quiet efforts enabled Soviet dissidents to get their messages to the world. Reddaway identifies “the rise, despite official persecution, of independent thinking and action” as one of the major causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In retrospect, however, the contributions of the book’s main protagonists—proponents of civil liberties and democratic freedoms—appear to have been much smaller than those of the nationalist movements in the non-Russian republics. In today’s Russia, the sacrifices of Soviet dissidents remain unappreciated and largely forgotten.