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Anatoly Marchenko 1938 - 1986

was a Soviet dissident, author, and human rights campaigner

Born into a family of railway workers, Marchenko started his first job at a very early age in a drilling gang in the oil business. In 1958 he was arrested on trumped up charges, but by the time the judicial error had been recognized, Marchenko had escaped from the forced labour camp in which he had been incarcerated. For the next year he shifted from place to place and then tried to flee the country; but he was caught once again and sentenced to six years hard labour for "treason". On his release, in 1966, he was no longer a rebellious worker struggling against an unfair world, but a conscientious dissident and informed human rights activist, who decided to publish his own testimony. His first book – circulated in the samizdat – was, in fact, entitled: My Testimony (1967); as well as revealing the shocking truth about the continuing existence of the GULag, he appealed to intellectuals and to the media to help political detainees. Between 1968 and 1978 Marchenko clocked up numerous battles and prison sentences which culminated in his final 15-year sentence, the last five of which in internal exile. In August 1986 he started a hunger strike for the liberation of political prisoners and in December died of unspecified causes.

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The difficult defense of human dignity

In communist totalitarianism

The Gulag as the organized system of soviet labor camps was a powerful instrument for the extermination of entire groups of citizens by the communist totalitarian regime, in the USSR since half of the Twenties and then by emulation of the other countries of the communist bloc, both in Europe and in the Far East.
Through terror, the regime exerted an iron grip over the population who completely submitted to the regime. 

For those who opposed the regime the question was not about risking their lives to rescue other human beings, but to save their true identity at the cost of their life. Through this, indirectly, other lives were saved and this courageous kind of moral resistance contributed to the collapse of the Soviet empire, which collapsed at the end of 1989.