Human rights and religious dissident in the Brezhnev era : the effect of the human rights movement on the activism of religious dissidents.



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On December 5, 1965, an unprecedented event took the entire world by surprise: Soviet dissidents held the first Soviet Constitution Day demonstration in Moscow, making the growing human rights movement in the Soviet Union official. Gaining ground in the Soviet Union since Nikita Khruschev’s Thaw, a temporary period of less repression and censorship of Soviet citizens by the Soviet state, the Soviet human rights movement exploded onto the public scene after the arrest of two prominent Soviet writers Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky. The movement expanded further after Leonid Brezhnev’s invasion into Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring in 1968 garnered harsh criticism by Soviet intellectuals. Seeking to halt the violation of human rights by the Soviet state, the Soviet human rights movement expanded on all fronts, as movements pursuing freedom of conscience, press, speech, and national self-determination began to organize. Religious believers working toward the achievement of religious liberty were one of the most important groups within the Soviet human rights movement, and yet remain an understudied topic. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the relationship between the emerging Soviet human rights movement and Orthodox and Baptist dissidents as well as to analyze and understand the role the human rights movement played in developing methods of dissent and activism among Russian Orthodox and Baptist dissidents. The research question this dissertation seeks to explore is: How did the growing human rights movement in the Soviet Union influence the methods and thinking of Russian Orthodox and Baptist dissidents in the Brezhnev era? This dissertation will demonstrate that Orthodox dissidents adopted methods of dissent and thinking from the Soviet human rights movement, because the Orthodox possessed no experience in opposition to the state in their history. Baptist dissidents, by contrast, inherited a strong legacy of dissent to the state from their predecessors and were not significantly influenced in their methods of dissent toward the Soviet state.