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Dissident (from the Latin dissidēre “sit apart, disagree, contradict”) denotes an inconvenient person who thinks differently and actively acts against general opinion or political government. The term is mainly used for opposition members in dictatorships and totalitarian states , because the unhindered expression of one's own opinion is a basic right in democracies and is therefore taken for granted.


The term "dissident" was coined in 1573 in the Warsaw Confederation for Protestants who did not belong to the ruling Roman Catholic Church . The term remained in use in the aristocratic republic of Poland-Lithuania for all non-Catholic Christians (Protestants and Orthodox) until the late 18th century .

In the 17th century it found its way to England as a " dissenter " as a term for Protestant groups that were not ready to integrate into the Anglican Church .

In the 18th century, dissident denotes someone who no one recognized. Since the 19th century it has been the one who does not belong to any religious community. The members of the German Catholic associations, the so-called German Catholics , as well as the Protestant Free Congregations, the so-called Light Friends , who joined forces with the German Catholics in 1856 to form the Union of Free Religious Congregations in Germany , were officially designated as dissidents. This was common in Germany at least until the 1930s.

Also enlightened teaching as not only as a therapeutic method, but also as a general theory of culture reached great influence psychoanalysis has produced its dissidents after its founder, Sigmund Freud had been regarded as a dissident even longer period (of established psychiatry).

Roi Alexandrowitsch Medvedev describes in his book Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism the banishment of dissidents under Stalinism and the counter-movement towards democratic socialism that emerged in the 1960s .


From the 1970s onwards, the term dissident was mainly used for oppositional artists and intellectuals (especially civil rights activists ) under communist rule. The emergence of the Soviet Russian dissident movement was not least a reaction to the end of post-Stalinist mass terror. The arrest of the writers Andrei Sinjawski and Juli Daniel in September 1965 triggered a development that would result in the first public campaign for civil rights behind the Iron Curtain . It was supported by a loose coalition of scientists, mathematicians and other representatives of the urban intelligentsia who worked closely with Western human rights activists.

Other examples of dissidents in the former communist states are Andrei Sakharov , Alexander Solzhenitsyn , Milovan Đilas , Vladimir Bukowski and Václav Havel . An example of a different use of the word is the case of the nuclear power manager and later “nuclear energy dissident” Klaus Traube .

In the GDR , dissidents were generally referred to as hostile-negative persons and until the 1970s were fought by the Ministry for State Security (MfS) using methods similar to those in the Soviet Union . With the Honecker era , however, a more subtle process developed by the MfS, known as decomposition, was used . It included the secretly carried out psychological destruction of opposition members in order to prevent the victims from further political acts. As a result, the use of physical violence and imprisonment could largely be avoided, which was beneficial to the GDR leadership, which was keen on its international reputation.

The common characteristic of all dissidents was and is the public criticism of the existing political system , apart from the zeitgeist and mainstream and consciously accepting personal disadvantages. In a broader sense, intellectuals who are clearly critical of the government or the system are now generally referred to as dissidents. In the English-speaking world, for example, the name is applied to the American Noam Chomsky .

In June 2016, AfD member of the state parliament, Wolfgang Gedeon, was sharply attacked in the German press for describing in a book convicted Holocaust deniers such as David Irving , Horst Mahler and Ernst Zündel as dissidents who would only be locked behind bars because of their opinions.

In February 2009, according to the non-governmental organization (NGO) Reporters Without Borders, 66 so-called Internet dissidents (citizen journalists active on the Internet) were in custody worldwide .

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Dissident  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Revised and expanded edition. Columbia University Press. 1989. ISBN 0-231-06350-4 .
  2. ^ Benjamin Nathans: Moscow Human Rights Defender to Amnesty International. In: Sources on the history of human rights. Working Group on Human Rights in the 20th Century, May 2015, accessed on January 11, 2017 .
  3. Reporters without Borders: Press freedom day by day ( Memento of February 6, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) . Status: October 18, 2007.