December 10

This Day in History

Cold War

Dec 10, 1977:

Soviets arrest dissidents on United Nations Human Rights Day

In Moscow, Soviet officials arrest four dissidents and prevent at least 20 others from attending a peaceful protest against communist political oppression on United Nations Human Rights Day. According to some of the protesters, Soviet officials threatened them with violence should the protest be held. The incident was more evidence of an increasingly hard line being taken by the Soviet government against any political protest.

Approximately 25 protesters met at the statue of the Russian poet Pushkin in Moscow to assert their right to freedom of assembly, which had been guaranteed by the new Soviet constitution approved in October. Twenty other dissidents had been dissuaded from attending when they saw Soviet plainclothes police stationed outside their apartments. In addition, Soviet officials detained four other known dissidents to keep them from the protest. Andrei Sakharov, perhaps the most famous Soviet political dissident, refrained from attending because he feared that violence would break out. The protest, however, was peaceful and uneventful. Nevertheless, the Soviet actions were a chilling reminder that political freedom in Russia was still far from being a reality. Human rights abuses in the Soviet Union continued to be a sore point in U.S.-Soviet relations into the Gorbachev years of the 1980s.

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