For the Pearl Jam song, see Dissident (song).

A dissident, broadly defined, is a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy, or institution. When dissidents unite for a common cause they often affect a dissident movement.

The word has been used since 16th century in the context of religion. The noun was first used in the political sense in 1940, with the rise of such totalitarian systems as the Soviet Union.[1][2]

Religious dissenter

Main article: English Dissenters

Eastern bloc dissidents

The term dissident was used in the Eastern bloc, particularly in the Soviet Union, in the period following Joseph Stalin's death until the fall of communism. It was attached to citizens who criticized the practices or the authority of the Communist Party. The people who used to write and distribute non-censored, non-conformist samizdat literature were criticized in the official newspapers. Soon, many of those who were dissatisfied with the Soviet Bloc began to self-identify as dissidents.[3] This radically changed the meaning of the term: instead of being used in reference to an individual who opposes society, it came to refer to an individual whose non-conformism was perceived to be for the good of a society.[4][5][6] An important element of dissident activity in "Soviet Russia" was informing society (both inside the Soviet Union and in foreign countries) about violation of laws and human rights: see Chronicle of Current Events and Moscow Helsinki Group. Some famous Soviet dissents were Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov.

Republican dissidents in Ireland

The term dissident has become the primary term to describe Irish republicans who politically continue to oppose Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and reject the outcome of the referendums on it. These political parties also have paramilitary wings which espouse violent methods to achieve a United Ireland.

Irish republican dissident groups include the Irish Republican Socialist Party (founded in 1974 its currently-inactive paramilitary wing is the Irish National Liberation Army), Republican Sinn Féin (founded in 1986 its paramilitary wing is the Continuity IRA), and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (founded in 1997 its paramilitary wing is the Real IRA). In 2006 the Óglaigh na hÉireann emerged, which is a splinter group of the Continuity IRA.[7]

U.S. dissidents

The term "dissident" has been applied to people in the United States to denote people who have exposed US government secrets, as in the example of Chelsea Manning who revealed the videos of Baghdad airstrikes and other information to the world through Wikileaks, or Edward Snowden who exposed the US government spying on the internet activity of people and government officials of other countries, including allied countries, as well as its own citizens, such as in the case of the PRISM and XKeyScore programs.[8][9][10]

Dissidents and new technologies

People who want to challenge existing regimes and voice their opinion on a political situation oftentimes face tremendous risks. Therefore, these kind of people act as pioneers in establishing and implementing new technologies that help them to protect their privacy. Being able to stay fully anonymous on the Internet is crucial for security and a life of dissidents, so they are always looking for new ways to improve these technologies. One of the latest tools that is being widely used by dissidents today is the Darknet browser Tor.[11][12]

Nima Fatemi was one of the first Darknet adopters among dissidents. Due to the risk of being detected, Fatemi started using Tor to anonymously upload photos and news of the current situation in Iran. Anonymity provided by Tor, enabled Fatemi to share realistic pictures of what was happening in his country with the rest of the world. Moreover, Fatemi provided workshops in order to teach other Iranian dissidents how to both use Tor and spread their network.[13]

Tor was widely used by protestors on Mubarak regime in Egypt in 2011. Darknet allowed dissidents to communicate anonymously and securely, while sharing sensitive information. Also, Syrian rebels widely used Tor in order to share with the world all of the horrors that they witnessed in their country.[14] Moreover, government dissidents in Lebanon, Mauritania, as well as Arab Spring nations widely used the Darknet in order to stay safe while exchanging their ideas and agendas.[15]

See also


  1. Harper, Douglas. "dissident". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
  2. Dictionary.com.
  3. Chronicle of Current Events (samizdat) (Russian)
  4. Universal Declaration of Human Rights General Assembly resolution 217 A (III), United Nations, 10 December 1948
  5. Proclamation of Tehran, Final Act of the International Conference on Human Rights, Teheran, 22 April to 13 May 1968, U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 32/41 at 3 (1968), United Nations, May 1968
  7. "Who are the dissidents?". BBC News. 2009-03-10. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
  8. "Interfax: Assange, Manning, Snowden are new dissidents". Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES); The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. 26 June 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  9. "White House 'extremely disappointed' with Snowden asylum". RT (TV network). 4 August 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2015. The spokesman stressed the US doesn't view Edward Snowden as a whistleblower or dissident, reminding that the NSA former contractor is accused of leaking classified information in his home country.
  10. Wills, Amanda (1 August 2013). "New Snowden leak: NSA program taps all you do online". CNN News. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  11. Bartlett, Jamie, How the mysterious dark net is going mainstream, retrieved 2016-10-25
  12. "Can the 'Dark Net' be policed? Should it be? - AvvoStories". AvvoStories. 2015-11-25. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  13. "The Dark Net. Rolling Stone, 0035791X, 11/5/2015, Issue 1247".
  14. "Cryptopolitik and the Darknet". Survival (00396338). 58 (1, p7-38. 32p.).
  15. "Dark Net: Secret basement of the Internet". Your Site NAME Goes HERE. Retrieved 2016-10-27.

External links

Look up dissident in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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