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They Chose Freedom

"They Chose Freedom", Russian TV documentary (2005)

They Chose Freedom (in Russian: Они выбирали свободу) is a four-part TV documentary on the history of political dissent in the USSR from the 1950s to the 1990s. It was produced in 2005 by Vladimir V. Kara-Murza.[1]

The documentary tells the story of the Soviet dissident movement from its emergence in the late 1950s with the weekly public readings of banned poetry on Mayakovsky Square in Moscow. The development of samizdat, opposition demonstrations held in Moscow in 1965 and 1968, and the harsh repressions unleashed by Soviet authorities against dissenters (including forced psychiatric "treatment", prison camps and deportations), are all part of the film's narrative.

The third episode deals with events leading to the collapse of Soviet dictatorship and the democratic revolution of August 1991. The final episode is dedicated to the period after 1991; in it former dissidents discuss why the emergence of democracy in Russia proved to be short-lived, and how it was possible that a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, was elected to the Russian presidency.

"They Chose Freedom" is narrated primarily through the interviews of dissidents themselves. The film's participants are Vladimir Bukovsky, Elena Bonner, Sergei Kovalev, Alexander Yessenin-Volpin, Anatoly Sharansky, Yuri Feodorovich Orlov, Alexander Podrabinek, Eduard Kuznetsov, Pavel Litvinov, Naum Korzhavin, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Viktor Fainberg and Vladimir Dremlyuga.

According to Vladimir Kara-Murza, the principal goal of his documentary was to show that even a small group of citizens that is prepared to defend dignity and freedom is eventually able to prevail over a totalitarian dictatorship.

"They Chose Freedom" was premiered on RTVi network in October 2005. The Russian premiere of the film was held at the Andrei Sakharov Museum in Moscow in December 2005. In June 2006 the screening of "They Chose Freedom" was held at the Cinema House in Ekaterinburg.

In February 2007 "They Chose Freedom" was presented at a human rights seminar in Harvard University. On 11 February 2014, the Harriman Institute and Institute of Modern Russia presented the English-language version of "They Chose Freedom."[2][3]


  1. ^ В Москве прошла презентация фильма "Они выбрали свободу" об истории диссидентов в СССР [In Moscow, the presentation of the film They Chose Freedom went off] (in Russian). 1 December 2005. 
  2. ^ "They Chose Freedom: The Story of Soviet Dissidents". Columbia University in the City of New York. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "Film Screening: They Chose Freedom: The Story of Soviet Dissidents". Freedom House. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 

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