Soviet-era dissident Vladimir Bukovsky dies | News | DW | 28.10.2019
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Soviet-era dissident Vladimir Bukovsky dies

The Russian-born human rights activist became known across the globe after exposing Soviet-era practices. He went on to write a best-selling memoir entitled 'To Build a Castle' and make an unsuccessful bid for president.

Soviet-era dissident Vladimir Bukovsky has died following cardiac arrest at the age of 76.

He came to prominence as a critic of the Soviet regime and was declared mentally ill by the Kremlin, leading to lengthy spells in prison or psychiatric hospitals. He then went on to reveal the Soviet's widespread abuse of psychiatry and tendency to label dissidents as mentally ill, describing this as a "common tactic used in the USSR to discredit dissenters and confine them without appearing to be holding political prisoners."

Read more: When Poland was lost: The Soviet invasion 80 years ago

Bukovsky first felt the wrath of the strict regime when, in 1961, he was expelled from Moscow State University for writing a thesis critical of the Komsomol, the Soviet Union's communist youth organization.

Just two years later he was detained as a result of possessing books prohibited in the USSR, declared mentally ill and sent to a psychiatric hospital where he stayed for nearly two years. He was arrested again and sent to prison in 1967 for being part of a street protest.

Smuggled documents to expose underhand tactics

In 1971, Bukovsky managed to extricate the psychiatric hospital records of six dissidents in order to illustrate the Soviet procedure of claiming dissidents were mentally so as to detain and discredit them.

Five years later Bukovsky eventually found permanent freedom thanks to a prisoner exchange involving the Chilean Communist Party leader Luis Corvalan.

Read more: Recognition for German victims of Stalinism

Bukovsky ended up settling in Cambridge in the UK where he continued writing and campaigning against the Soviet government. He became an intense critic of current President Vladimir Putin and even had aspirations of usurping the Russian leader in 2008 but his presidential bid was rejected by election officials, citing his British residency.

jsi/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)

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