The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky
Natan Sharansky surely numbers among the foremost champions of freedom of recent times. A leading voice of Soviet dissent during the 1970’s, he was largely responsible for transforming the demand that Soviet Jews be allowed to emigrate to Israel into the most influential protest movement in Soviet history. As a prisoner in the gulag, charged by the Kremlin with treason, Sharansky became a leading symbol of resistance to totalitarian brutality. During his nine years of incarceration—he was the first political prisoner released by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev—he never compromised, never complained, and never lost hope in the inevitable triumph of his cause.
There were other dissidents whose courage and dedication to freedom were just as strong. But Sharansky played a uniquely important role in the process that culminated in the collapse of Communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. By insisting that emigration was an absolute right, Sharansky and other leaders of the movement for Soviet Jewry directly challenged a fundamental device of Communist control. The movement also challenged the premises of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union, persuading Americans like Senator Henry Jackson to push for legislation that conditioned trade with Moscow on its willingness to permit the emigration of Jews and other groups.
About the Author
Arch Puddington is director of research at Freedom House and the author, most recently, of Lane Kirkland: Champion of American Labor.