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Abstract

This dissertation focuses on dissident historians in the USSR in the post-Stalin era. These were independent researchers who studied chapters of the recent Soviet past ignored or falsified by official history – in particular Stalin’s crimes. Four cases of historians are examined: Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, Roy Medvedev, Aleksandr Nekrich and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This study examines their trajectory, from the 1956 20th Congress of the CPSU to the Perestroika. It analyses the societal and personal factors that led them to undertake their research, exposing themselves to potential repression, but also shows how they were able to conduct their studies, without access to archives. As far as societal factors are concerned, the focus is on the impact of the official campaign for a partial rehabilitation of Stalin in the late 1960s, which provoked protests within the intelligentsia and pushed the subjects of this study towards dissidence. This context also opened up new sources upon which these researchers could rely, such as memoirs circulating in samizdat and oral testimonies. As for personal factors, the strategies and choices that these historians adopted are examined on the basis of Albert Hirschman’s theory “Exit, Voice, Loyalty.” While loyalty to the system still made sense in a context of increasing liberalization, after 1965, the advocates of further destalinization opted for the road of protest (or what Hirschman calls “voice”). However, after 1968, exit from the system became inevitable, be it in the form of exclusion from the Party, exile or “inner emigration.”

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