Cover: The Dissidents


The Dissidents

A Memoir of Working with the Resistance in Russia, 1960-1990

Peter Reddaway
Release Date: February 11, 2020

In the last decades before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, courageous dissidents within the country worked tirelessly to expose the tyranny and weakness of the Soviet state. Their work, first published in underground texts known as samizdat and then often republished in the West, alerted fellow citizens and the rest of the world to the human rights abuses and economic failures of the communist regime. It is not an exaggeration to say that this work helped set the stage for the collapse of the regime.

Today these men and women are largely forgotten, both in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. The Dissidents brings them and their work to life for contemporary readers.

Peter Reddaway spent decades studying the Soviet Union and came to know these dissidents and their work, publicizing their writings in the West and helping some of them to escape the Soviet Union and settle abroad. In this memoir he tells their stories and also captures the human costs of the repression that marked the Soviet state: the forced labor camps, the internal exile, the censorship, the use and abuse of psychiatry to label those who found fault with the Soviet system mentally ill.

Reddaway’s book also places the work of the dissidents within the context of the secretive politics inside the Kremlin, where a tiny elite competed for power—even as the Soviet system was crumbling around them.

Praise for The Dissidents

“Remarkable. . . Mr Reddaway’s memoir makes clear that the dissidents’ cause will live on.”
—The Economist

“Most of Reddaway’s distinguished career coincided with the rise and heyday of the dissident movement of the late Soviet era. Dissidents inside the country arguably did just as much as external pressure to expose the hypocrisy of the Soviet system and, ultimately, cause its collapse. Reddaway’s work—The Dissidents: A Memoir of Working with the Resistance in Russia, 1960-1990—offers a singular lesson in how determined individuals can outmaneuver an authoritarian state.”
—Justin Burke, eurasianet.org

“Peter Reddaway is a unique moral voice for decency and justice. Through his research and humanitarian activity, he helped to dispel the illusions of an uninformed and often indifferent West about Soviet repression of dissent, the abuse of psychiatry, and its victims. A fascinating memoir, and a must-read for those who think that disinformation is a recent invention.”
— Thane Gustafson, professor of political science, Georgetown University

“Few Westerners had the kind of access to the Soviet human rights movement that Peter Reddaway had, in real time across nearly a quarter-century. This unique memoir offers a powerful account of a scholar-activist who made his way to the better side of history—and
what he found there.”
— Benjamin Nathans, associate professor of history, University of Pennsylvania


Peter Reddaway is a professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. He taught at the London School of Economics and directed the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies. He is author of numerous books on Soviet and Russian affairs, including Russia’s Domestic Security Wars: Putin’s Use of Divide and Rule Against His Hardline Allies (2018); Russia’s Political Hospitals: The Abuse of Psychiatry in the Soviet Union, with Sidney Bloch (1977); and Uncensored Russia: The Human Rights Movement in the Soviet Union (1972).

Media Coverage

Foreign Affairs 11/08/2020

The Dissidents: A Memoir of Working With the Resistance in Russia, 1960–1990