A deeply personal chronicle that offers a close and often chilling view of the Soviet dissident movement from Stalin's death in 1953 through the ascent of Gorbachev. Leading Soviet dissident Alexeyeva (Soviet Dissent, 1985) and American scholar of dissent Goldberg (The Final Act, 1988) maintain a sturdy balance here between the Russian penchant for ponderous analysis and the American yen for intimate detail. The narrative proper begins with Alexeyeva's political coming-of-age in the mid-1950's. The Soviet state apparatus was then temporarily in a revisionist mode, and Moscow's intellectual life grew by leaps and bounds. Groups of friends (kompanii) gathered for lively discussions, which often became increasingly critical of the state; when the inevitable repression returned, a brave and sincere core of these thinkers began to protest publicly. Beginning with shows of solidarity for those arrested and brought to mock trials, the movement gathered momentum through the 60's and 70's with the self-publication of prose and poetry (samizdat) as well as the journal Khronika, with protests, and finally with the formation of the first Helsinki Watch Group in 1976. But although the dissidents gained increasing international recognition, they also earned the enmity of the KGB. Shadowed, harassed by party functionaries, interrogated by special KGB ""curators,"" and often imprisoned or exiled, many voices were eventually silenced, but their deeds foreshadowed and paved the way for today's glasnost. Here, prominent and lesser-known figures in the struggle receive equal treatment as the incessant cat-and-mouse game unfolds, with an almost Kafkaesque vision of dissident daily life. A simply told yet profound autobiography.