Activism alone can't change public perception of human rights abuse, a new book on Soviet dissenters and British human rights organisations suggests.
In the book, entitled British Human Rights Organizations and Soviet Dissent 1965-85 (Bloomsbury, 5 May 2016) University of Kent historian Dr Mark Hurst critically evaluates how effective UK-based activists were in campaigning to publicise the plight of Soviet dissidents.
Amnesty International, founded in 1961, was among the organisations that experienced rapid development in this period. However Dr Hurst concludes that, despite the campaigning efforts of such organisations, it was a change in the international order - particularly a change in US foreign policy - that changed the way human rights abuse was viewed by the public.
A number of global factors, including the election of US President Jimmy Carter in 1977, contributed to higher awareness of the Soviet dissident movement in the West, he argues.
Drawing on extensive archival material and interviews with key individuals from the period, Dr Hurst's research presents the first comprehensive analysis of the factors that led to Soviet dissidents being considered within the context of international realpolitik, rather than as a result of campaigning by human rights campaigners.
Among those interviewed for the book were Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, a political dissident who spent over a decade in Soviet prisons, labour camps and psychiatric institutions before being released to the West in December 1976, and English playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, who was involved in a number of campaigns for Soviet dissidents and wrote several plays on the subject.
For further information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.
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