Benjamin Nathans, currently a Senior Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies in Germany, is completing To the Success of Our Hopeless Cause, a history of the Soviet dissident movement. (April 2020)


Profiles in Decency

Supporters of the Memorial Society taking part in an International Workers’ Day march, Moscow, May 1990

Pravo na Pamiat [The Right to Memory]

a documentary film directed by Ludmila Gordon

Meeting Gorbachev

a documentary film directed by Werner Herzog and André Singer
Arseny Roginsky was that rarest of creatures: a Soviet dissident whose influence on his country waxed rather than waned after the collapse of the USSR. From 1998 until his death in 2017 at age seventy-one, Roginsky led the Memorial Society, a Moscow-based nongovernmental organization with a dual mission: to document …

Rewriting Human Rights

The Jockey Club, Nairobi, Kenya, 1988

Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World

by Samuel Moyn

Necessary Evil: How to Fix Finance by Saving Human Rights

by David Kinley
Several years ago, The New York Times published an Op-Ed by Pharrell Williams, the singer-songwriter whose mega-hit “Happy” topped the charts in 2014 and whose accompanying music video has now been watched by more than a billion people. “Happiness,” Williams announced, “is a human right. It’s neither a luxury nor …

To Hell and Back

Varlam Shalamov, 1970s

Kolyma Stories: Volume One

by Varlam Shalamov, translated from the Russian and with an introduction by Donald Rayfield
By the end of the twentieth century, nearly every country in Western Europe that had experienced Nazi occupation had undergone a reckoning with the painful topic of collaboration, including in the Holocaust. This process encountered resistance. But its replication across most of what then constituted the European Union testified to …

Bolshevism’s New Believers

The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution

by Yuri Slezkine
Yuri Slezkine’s monumental new study, The House of Government, situates the Russian Revolution within a much larger drama, placing the Bolsheviks among ancient Zoroastrians and Israelites, early Christians and Muslims, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Puritans, Old Believers, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Rastafarians, and other millenarian sects. As sworn enemies of religion, the Bolsheviks would have hated this casting decision and demanded to be put in a different play, preferably with Jacobins, Saint-Simonians, Marxists, and Communards in supporting roles. Slezkine, however, has claimed these groups for his story as well, insisting that underneath their secular costumes they too dreamed of hastening the apocalypse and building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The Bolsheviks, it seems, were condemned to repeat history—a history driven not by class struggle, as they thought, but by theology.

Russia: The Joyful New Activism

Protesters marching near the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, February 25, 2012. The poster on the left carries two slogans drawn from George Orwell’s 1984: ‘War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength,' and 'Two plus two equals five.'

Protest in Putin’s Russia

by Mischa Gabowitsch
Over a few weeks in March, more than 13 million Russians watched an unusual video online. Posted on March 2, the film documented, with stunning drone footage and scathing narration by the anticorruption activist Alexei Navalny, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev’s collection of marble-floored mansions, sprawling estates, luxurious yachts, and carefully …

The Real Power of Putin

Vladimir Putin

The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

by Steven Lee Myers

Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia

by Anne Garrels
As Putin’s rule has turned more authoritarian and his foreign policy more aggressive, observers have been asking themselves whether something fundamental has shifted in his outlook, and if so, why.