WASHINGTON, D.C. —Voice of America (VOA) has released the first English-language episode of a documentary series on the Soviet dissidents and human rights activists who played a crucial role in ending the Cold War.
The first episode, called Political Dissent in Russia: Past & Present, is part of the series Parallels, Events, Peoples, produced by Natella Boltyanskaya, a journalist for a Moscow-based radio station, Radio Ekho Moskvy, in collaboration with the Sakharov Foundation (USA) with funding from the U-K-based Oak Foundation.
Boltyanskaya hopes screenings of the documentary outside Russia will help inspire a new generation of dissidents inside it. “Nobody from abroad can help transform our country,” she says. “We ourselves have to do it. But it is good when the civilized world helps mold a pro-active attitude and democratic values in young people who will define the future of Russia.”
The documentary’s release comes at a time when polls show Russians are increasingly unfamiliar with the role dissidents played in ending the Cold War. A survey found that 44 percent of Russians ages 18 to 24 knew nothing about one of the most outspoken critics of the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s, Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet scientist and human rights activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. Of those young Russians who knew Sakharov, only 9 percent knew that he was a champion of human rights.
VOA Director David Ensor says it is essential that VOA’s programming to Russia, in addition to providing high-quality news, also offers something rare in the Russian media landscape: a platform for those opposed to policies of the present Russian government. “Although the Cold War ended more than 25 years ago,” he says, “Russia’s media landscape is hardly more open now.”
Political Dissent in Russia: Past & Present has already been screened at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute and at the Global Legal Research Center at the Library of Congress.
VOA is broadcasting the entire documentary series on its Russian Service website and is producing English-language translations that will appear on voanews.com.