Orlov follows Natan Sharansky, Andrei Sakharov, and other recent dissidents of the 1970’s and 1980’s into print with a memoir of his struggle against Soviet rule. Russian intellectuals, silenced at home for liberal ideals, traditionally court world opinion by writing autobiographies. As Orlov ends his account in 1991, the dissidents’ dream has come true: Communist bureaucracy collapses and totalitarian rule ends. No longer a plea, DANGEROUS THOUGHTS now reads as the anatomy of a soul-less ideology that exploited, alienated, and devoured its citizenry. Orlov’s life perfectly illustrates the process.
Reared in the countryside until collectivization forced his family to Moscow, young Orlov discovers a fascination with mathematics and physics. A factory worker by day and a student by night after the Great Patriotic War, he earns a degree and a job at a research institute. Had politics not interfered, Orlov would gladly have spent his life solving formulas. He sees, however, that some people live better than others in a supposedly classless society, that Cold War strategy dictates scientific research, and that political correctness determines rewards. Dismissed from the Party and his job for mild anti-Stalinist comments, Orlov finds himself under constant KGB surveillance. Annoyance turns to disillusionment over the widespread persecution of scientists. When harassment of Sakharov begins in 1973, Orlov publicly protests and works openly with other dissidents to organize the Helsinki Watch Committee in Moscow. Relentlessly publicizing human rights violations in the USSR, the Committee is targeted for repression. Orlov is tried under the infamous Article 70 of the criminal Code and in 1978 sentenced to a labor camp and...
(The entire section is 397 words.)