During the cold war , the dissidents by their sheer presence were able to bring out the hollowness of Soviet claims that theirs was also a form of democracy and they had the unanimous support of people behind them. Thus historically, the dissidents have played a very important part in how the Western countries have viewed Soviet Union as a country. Because of the oppressive nature in which these dissidents were handled, the democratic faade of Soviet Union crashed and the differences between East and West became hugely apparent.
The dissidents managed to reveal the actual manner of political repression in Soviet Union. Those who disagreed with the government's policies were arrested and sent to labor camps. Rather than acting as a deterrent to others, such actions prompted other dissidents to publicize these arrests using western media. When the government tried to arrest more people, more information started coming out from these camps - the stories about labor camps and psychiatric hospitals where prisoners were treated inhumanly and subjected to mental and physical torture. All this information caused a huge uproar against the government both within and outside the Soviet Union. By gathering and circulating information, they were able to draw attention to the plights of Jews and other minorities, non-Russians seeking to emigrate, and many others-whose situation had been little noticed.
In 1965, two young writes -- Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel were sentenced to long labor camp sentences for publishing their works abroad. The international reaction was immediate and harsh and this seriously damaged the image of the Soviet Union. But government refused to budge and both Sinyavsky and Daniel had to serve their labor camp terms, but the Soviet Union never again imprisoned a writer for his writing.
Later other dissident writers such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn were forcibly exiled while Vladimir Voinovich, Vasily Aksyonov, and Georgy Vladimov emigrated under pressure. But by then, these dissidents had been fairly successful in bring out in open the conflict in the Russian society. Their efforts also gained them some relief such as freedom of expression ( to a certain extent), allowing of mass emigration from Soviet Union. Before the 1970s, it was virtually impossible to leave the Soviet Union legally. Finally the decision was made to allow Jews to emigrate under a formula - that they were returning to their "historic homeland". And finally, they influenced the government's treatment of dissenters themselves. Earlier, one of the dissidents -- Yuri Galanskov died while serving his sentence in a Soviet labor camp. But later on, Soviet authorities kept the well-known dissidents alive. They could afford to let them die because of fear of reprisal from western countries. They also started reducing and avoiding the arrests of prominent dissidents and allowed them to continue their activities. Of course, they were kept under tight surveillance.
Although some section of western media thinks that soviet dissidents were paid more than the due attention, but the fact remains that had these people not made their voices heard, the Soviet Union we see today having more liberal attitude would not have emerged. Let us take a look at some of the dissidents and how they helped in influencing the government attitudes.
One of the main dissidents Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was a prominent novelist and