During a recent discussion of the Bolotnaya Square May 6 rally and the difficulty of determining the precise nature and composition of the various Russian opposition groups, I was reminded of similar debates about the Soviet dissident movement several decades ago. As many observers have pointed out, that movement, too, was not a coherent, united one, and could not be likened to a political party with a unifying ideology, program and strategy. The problems for historians trying to map out the structure and internal dynamics of the dissident movement are formidable, and it’s perhaps not surprising that Ludmila Alexeyeva’s История инакомыслия в СССP (published in English in 1985 as Soviet Dissent) still remains the only major study of the subject, though it stops at 1983, and the English edition is now out of print. The Russian text can be accessed online at several locations, including this one.
In future posts I’m going to discuss this book, and consider how its historical account of the dissident movement may be relevant to present-day conditions in the Russian Federation.