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DISSIDENTS OF SOVIET ERA BEGIN FADING AWAY

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Larisa Bogoraz spent decades at the heart of the dissident movement, fighting the Soviet regime. Now her foe is defeated, at last, but she doesn't look or feel like a victor.

"We still have such a long way to go to achieve real democracy," said Bogoraz, a tiny 65-year-old who lives on a meager pension in a two-room apartment in southern Moscow. "I have to keep trying to educate people about human rights."Despite failing health, she organizes human rights conferences and sits on a presidential com-mis-sion.

In 1968, Bogoraz helped lead an unprecedented Red Square demonstration against the invasion of Czechoslovakia. A defender of persecuted writers, she followed her first husband, Yuli Daniel, into Siberian exile. Her second, Anatoly Marchenko, died in the camps.

It sometimes seems as if Russia's dissidents, a loose collection of individuals who opposed the Soviet system in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, have disappeared in the 1990s. They have not produced a Vaclav Havel or Lech Walesa to lead the country after communism's col-lapse.

Unlike dissidents elsewhere in the old Soviet empire, who fought for national liberation, those in Russia have created no major political parties like Rukh in Ukraine, no fiery prophets like Georgia's late president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

Many of the movement's survivors are old and exhausted. Some, like the Jewish refuseniks, were intent on emigrating and did. Others who left have started new lives and have no plans to return.

Andrei Sakharov, who died in 1990, is widely mourned as the one dissident who might have had the moral authority and political skills to be Russia's Nelson Mandela.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn may try to become a moral force, if not a political one, but many Russians say he waited too long to come home.

Still, out of the limelight and across the political spectrum, former dissidents like Bogoraz continue working for change. "It's true we have no influence on government policy, but I hope we will have some influence on society at large," she said.

The dissidents, prickly and independent, are often ill-suited to politics and its compromises.

"Neither political activity nor political power ever appealed to me, even though I remain actively involved in the public sphere," said Yelena Bonner, Sakharov's widow and the grande dame of Russian human rights activists.

She said the dissident movement played its role and that dissidents are now free to join politics or abstain - "to live normally in a normal country."

There are dissenting views, of course.

Vladimir Bukovsky, who helped expose the Soviet practice of sending dissidents like himself to psychiatric hospitals, said from his home in Cambridge, England, that he feels unwelcome in today's Russia.

"The current leadership doesn't want us around," he said. "Most of them were party functionaries. . . . Now they claim to be democrats, while we were fighting for democracy all along. The comparison is not in their favor."

Bukovsky, who writes and lectures, said dissidents have had to "demobilize" like soldiers after a war, pursuing "civilian occupations" while Russia slides into a moral vacuum.

In the government, the most prominent former dissident is Sergei Kovalyov, who heads President Boris Yeltsin's commission on human rights and helped found Russia's Choice, a reformist bloc.

Outspoken former dissidents maintain a scattered presence throughout Russian politics, from Valeria Novodvorskaya's radical anti-communism to Roy Med-ve-dev's socialism to Igor Sha-far-e-vich's Russian chauvinism.

Vyacheslav Igrunov, a former political prisoner, is a liberal critic of Yeltsin in Parliament. Writer Eduard Limonov, an ally of ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, blasts Yeltsin from the right.

The democrat Kronid Lyubarsky and the extreme nationalist Vladimir Osipov edit political publications.

Some old dissidents work in human rights, such as Valery Abramkin, who leads a prison-reform group. Some give time to Memorial, an organization that exposes repressions past and present.

Others do their bit by doing their jobs. Tatyana Velikanova, for example, is a schoolteacher who includes human rights in her lesson plans.

Mstislav Rostropovich, the conductor and cellist, lives in the United States but gives benefit concerts and donates money to Russian causes.