Described by The Wall Street Journal as the man Vladimir Putin fears most, Alexei Navalny is widely regarded as Russia's opposition leader. He is famous for his accusations of corruption in Russia and Putin's government. In 2011, he created the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which was dissolved in 2020. In August 2020, there was an attempt to assassinate him, when he was poisoned during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow.
Maxim Gorky was a writer and political activist. He is best remembered for founding the socialist realism literary method. Gorky, who was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature on five occasions, published several novels that were later adapted into plays, films, and operas. In 1938, Valery Zhelobinsky adapted Gorky's novel Mother into an opera.
Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin was a passionate advocate of anarcho-communism. He was also an activist, revolutionary, economist, and sociologist. He was arrested and imprisoned for his activism in 1874. However, he managed to escape and lived in exile for over 40 years in different countries across Europe. He returned to Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Andrei Sakharov was a Russian dissident and nuclear physicist best remembered for designing RDS-37, Soviet Union's first two-stage hydrogen bomb. Also an activist for peace and human rights, Andrei Sakharov was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which is awarded by the European Parliament, is named in his honor.
Alexander Berkman was a Russian-American anarchist and author. He was famous for both his political activism and his writing and was a leading member of the anarchist movement in the early 20th century. He served as the editor of fellow anarchist Emma Goldman's anarchist journal, Mother Earth. He suffered from ill-health in his later years and died by suicide.
Pitirim Sorokin was a Russian-American political activist and sociologist best remembered for his immense contribution to the social cycle theory. His life and work have played an influential role in the life of popular American historian and scholar, Allan Carlson. Among other prominent personalities who have been influenced by Sorokin's work is American politician and 48th Vice President Michael Pence.
Vladimir Bukovsky was a Russian-born British writer and human rights activist. An important member of the Soviet dissident movement, Bukovsky spent 12 years in prisons, psychiatric prison-hospitals, and labor camps of the Soviet Union. A neurophysiologist, Bukovsky is celebrated for his efforts to expose Soviet Union's political abuse of psychiatry. In 2001, he was awarded the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom.
Michael Lucas is a Russian-Israeli-American film director, businessman, journalist, and gay pornographic film actor. He is credited with founding Manhattan's largest gay-adult-film company Lucas Entertainment where he also serves as the CEO. Lucas has also contributed as a columnist for publications like HuffPost and The Advocate. Michael Lucas was made an inductee of the GayVN Hall of Fame in 2009.
Petr Pavlensky is a Russian artist best known for his political art performances. He is generally considered a controversial artist as his work involves self-mutilation and nudity. In 2016, he was honored with the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent, which was later withdrawn when Petr Pavlensky announced that he would dedicate the prize to an insurgent group.
Initially inspired by Marxist ideals, Alexander Israel Helphand later got involved in revolutionary activities and was arrested. He escaped to Germany, where he later negotiated Lenin’s re-entry into Russia in a sealed train through Germany from Switzerland, where Lenin was exiled. Nevertheless, Helphand wasn’t allowed by Lenin to re-enter Russia.
Stenka Razin was a Cossack leader best remembered for leading a major revolt against the tsarist bureaucracy that ruled southern Russia in the 1670s. His objective was to preserve the independence of the Cossacks. Razin's movement turned political and he became a popular symbol of peasant unrest in Russia. Although his movement failed, Razin became a cultural icon in Russia.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva was a Russian human-rights activist and historian. She is credited with co-founding the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group, which is currently one of the most prominent human rights organizations in Russia. She was also one of the most important members of the Soviet dissident movement in post-Soviet Russia. Alexeyeva received many prizes and awards for her human rights activities.
Zara is a Russian singer, social activist, and actress. Apart from her singing and acting career, Zara is also known for her charity work. She is associated with the Step Forward Charity Foundation, which helps adults and children suffering from cerebral palsy and cancer. She also participates in the projects undertaken by the Answering the Call of the Heart Foundation.
Irina Khakamada is a Russian political activist, economist, publicist, journalist, and politician. In 1995, she was named in Time magazine's list of 100 well-known women in the world. A multi-talented personality, Irina Khakamada has also acted in many television series and films. In a television series titled Brief Guide To A Happy Life, Khakamada portrayed a psychologist named Vera Rodinka.
Russian human rights activist and journalist Natalya Estemirova, also known as Natasha, made headlines when she was kidnapped and brutally shot dead, in what many suspected was a state-sponsored killing. In fact, her friend and collaborator Anna Politkovskaya was also shot dead in a similar fashion earlier.
Yelena Bonner was a human rights activist and physician. She is credited with co-founding the Moscow Helsinki Group, which is currently one of the leading human rights organizations in Russia. Yelena Bonner is also credited with setting up the Andrei Sakharov Foundation in the memory of her husband. Bonner received many human rights awards, such as the Giuseppe Motta Medal.
Marxist revolutionary leader Pavel Axelrod was closely associated with the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party and the Mensheviks. He was married to the daughter of satirist Isaac Kaminer. He went against the Bolshevik Revolution during World War I. He was exiled to Berlin in his final years and died there eventually.
Russian kickboxer Batu Khasikov had begun training in Kyokushin, a form of martial art, at age 11. He has been a world champion and a European champion. He has also been a senator from Kalmykia and later a governor of the same region. He also co-founded the Eurasia Fight Nights promotion.
Soviet politician and The New Times editor Valeriya Novodvorskaya, who founded the Democratic Union party, had been a prominent dissident who often clashed with the Soviet authorities. She was once jailed for criticizing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The self-proclaimed asexual activist lived with her mother and her cat.
Blogger, author, and journalist Alexandra Mitroshina is also a well-known women’s rights activist. The founder of movements and projects such as I Did Not Want to Die and You Are Not Alone, she is also popular on social media and has penned the book Private Instagram Blogs Promotion.
Russian historian Simon Dubnow is best remembered for instilling a sociological element in the study of Jewish history. A well-known teacher and author, he was also involved with the Jewish magazine Voskhod. He escaped to Germany to avoid Bolshevism but was eventually killed by the Nazis.
Best known for his popular play The Dybbuk, which later became a cult classic and was also made into Yiddish and Hebrew movies, Russian Jewish author and folklorist S. Ansky was a specialist in oral literature. He was initially also associated with the socialist revolutionary movement of the Narodniki.
Most renowned for his short novel The Blind Musician, Russian author and journalist Vladimir Korolenko was known for his depiction of the plight of the disadvantaged sections of society. In his early days, his revolutionary activities got him expelled from two colleges. Makar’s Dream remains one of his best-known stories.
Russian dissident and poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya is best remembered for opposing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. She co-founded the underground journal A Chronicle of Current Events, which reported atrocities by the Soviet government. She was sent to a psychiatric hospital but moved to France and then Poland upon her release.
Maxim Martsinkevich was a Russian media personality, nationalist activist, and vlogger. He is credited with co-founding the Restruct movement, which among many objectives, aimed at propagating neo-nazi views among youth. Martsinkevich was indicted on multiple occasions for inciting ethnic or racial hatred. In 2020, Maxim Martsinkevich was found dead under mysterious circumstances.
Russian author Alexander Fadeyev, known for his proletarian literature, was also associated with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. His is best known for his novels such as The Young Guard, based on World War II, and The Nineteen, which narrated the tale of Red guerrilla fighters.
Russian journalist and dissident Alexander Ginzburg was also a prominent human rights activist. His political activities led him to be expelled from Moscow University and sent to labor camps multiple times. Known for works such as The Trial of the Four, he later became a French citizen.
Best remembered for her six-volume autobiography, Meine Lebensgeschichte, a seminal work that documents the growing up years of a Jewish woman in the nineteenth century Europe, German writer Fanny Lewald was also a woman's rights activist, advocating for their education. A prolific author since the age of thirty, she wrote mainly on family, marriage, social problems and travel.
Economist, journalist and politician Yekaterina Dmitriyevna Kuskova of the Russian Empire advocated for social reformism and opposed the Bolsheviks and Vladimir Lenin’s authoritarian policies following the October Revolution. She was a member of the nascent Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party (RSDRP) and later became a founding member of the liberal Union of Liberation, which was renamed as the Constitutional-Democratic Party (KDP).
Belarusian poet and activist Alaiza Pashkevich co-founded the revolutionary party Belarusian Socialist Assembly. She was married to Lithuanian activist and social democrat Steponas Kairys. She also launched a children’s magazine named Łučynka. A major part of the democratic movement in Belarus, she eventually died of typhus at age 39.