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Film Screening and Director Talk: "They Chose Freedom": the History of the Soviet Dissident Movement

They Chose Freedom, a documentary film written and produced by Russian historian and television journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, tells the story of the dissident movement in the USSR, from its emergence in the 1950s until the collapse of the Soviet dictatorship in 1991. The film is narrated primarily through interviews with prominent Russian dissidents: Elena Bonner, Vladimir Bukovsky, Vladimir Dremlyuga, Viktor Fainberg, Natalia Gorbanevskaya, Naum Korzhavin, Sergei Kovalev, Eduard Kuznetsov, Pavel Litvinov, Yuri Orlov, Alexander Podrabinek, Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky, and Alexander Yesenin-Volpin. The Institute of Modern Russia sponsored the translation and English-language production of They Chose Freedom as part of its commitment to preserving the legacy of those who have dedicated their lives to the struggle for freedom, human rights, and the rule of law in Russia.

Vladimir Bukovsky is a Russian writer, political figure and one of the leading Soviet-era dissidents. He played a key role in the human rights movement in the USSR, organizing public demonstrations, participating in the development of samizdat, and initiating a worldwide campaign against Soviet punitive psychiatry. First arrested for “anti-Soviet activity” at the age of 18, he spent in total 12 years in Gulag prisons, labor camps and “special psychiatric hospitals” before being forcibly deported to the West from his prison cell in 1976. In 2007, Vladimir Bukovsky was nominated for president of Russia by the democratic opposition, but was barred from the ballot by the Central Electoral Commission. He is a member of the federal council of Solidarity, Russia’s democratic opposition movement, and serves on the international advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Vladimir Bukovsky's books include To Build a Castle: My Life as a DissenterJudgement in Moscow, and Soul of Man Under Socialism.

Vladimir V. Kara-Murza is a Russian journalist, historian and opposition activist. He is currently the senior advisor at the Institute of Modern Russia, and was previously the Washington bureau chief of RTVi and correspondent for Novye Izvestia and Kommersant. He was a candidate for the Russian Parliament in 2003, and is a member of the federal council of the People’s Freedom Party. Vladimir Kara-Murza is the author of Reform or Revolution: The Quest for Responsible Government in the First Russian State Duma (Moscow 2011), and a contributor to Russia’s Choices: The Duma Elections and After (London 2003), Russian Liberalism: Ideas and People (Moscow 2007), and Why Europe Needs a Magnitsky Law (London 2013). In 2005, he produced They Chose Freedom, a documentary film on the Soviet dissident movement. Kara-Murza holds an M.A. (Cantab.) in history from Cambridge University.