Public Release: 

Activism alone can't change perceptions of human rights abuse

University of Kent

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.

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For further information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.
Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879
Email: M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk
News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news
University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

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It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

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