international and domestic law of many states considered persecution for religious and political reasons normal until the end of World War II

MAXIM - Always and everywhere the authorities tried to isolate the rebels and troublemakers who wanted to overthrow it.

At all times, the authorities have never considered it shameful to somehow infringe on dissidents: to put them in jail, send them to hard labor, or put them in a psychiatric hospital, where citizens who were too zealous for power were made calm and pacified catatonic people. It is worth scratching any medieval European monarch with a fingernail, as he will have a dozen younger brothers, cousins ​​and uncles (as well as their henchmen), safely hidden in the dungeons of castles.

In the Russian Empire, there was an official status of a political prisoner. (In modern Russia there is no such status, but, as we have heard from human rights defenders who have not yet had time to be recognized as foreign agents, in fact, there are still such.)

Needless to say, both international and domestic law of many states considered persecution for religious and political reasons normal until the end of World War II. Only after its end and the advent of the era of humanism (as they thought then), the persecution for political, religious and social views in a decent society began to be considered bad manners. In practice, however, everything was quite different.

The five most famous political prisoners of recent times: why they were imprisoned and what happened to them.


Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

South African politician, President of South Africa

In 1943 he joined the African National Congress (ANC) party. After receiving a law degree in 1952, Nelson began an active campaign against apartheid, which is why a year later he was banned from the South African government from speaking at public events. In 1956, he and 156 other party members were accused of high treason, but four years later they were acquitted.

After the shooting of a demonstration in Sharpeville in 1960, when 67 Africans were killed during the riots, the government banned the ANC. Nelson went underground. The party leaders soon turned to armed methods of fighting against apartheid. An ANC military wing was formed, led by Mandela.

Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years in prison. In 1964, the sentence was increased to life for preparing a coup d'etat.

For most of his sentence, 18 of 27 years, he served in solitary confinement in a prison on Robben Island, near the Cape of Good Hope. Conditions of stay were harsh: forced labor in a limestone quarry, meager food, the right to one visit and one letter every six months.

In 1990, the government released Nelson. And already in 1994 he was elected the first democratic president of South Africa.


Mahatma Gandhi

Indian politician and public figure, one of the founders of the movement for the independence of India from Great Britain.

Mahatma Gandhi

For his political activities and participation in the resistance, Gandhi went to prison many times.

He was first imprisoned in 1907 in South Africa, where he fought for the rights of Indians, organizing peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience "satyagraha". It was for them that he was subsequently often arrested.

Returning to his homeland in 1915, he also got imprisoned several times for participating in actions in the struggle for Indian independence. In 1922, he was tried for the last time for inciting mutiny. Gandhi pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to six years in prison. But after two years he was released.

Largely thanks to him, India became free in 1947.


Liu Xiaobo

Chinese human rights activist, educator and writer

Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo was first arrested in 1989 during the protests in Tiananmen Square, where he urged students to leave the square peacefully. He was convicted of supporting students and released only in January 1991.

In May 1995, he was again arrested for criticizing the authorities for six months. But in 1996 he was again arrested for three years. In 2008, after Liu Xiaobo signed Charter 08 demanding democratic reform, he was arrested and sentenced in December 2009 to 11 years in prison for incitement to undermine the government.

In 2010 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. But the Chinese authorities did not inform him of this. And even when Liu Xiaobo found out about this, the award was never given to him.

In July 2017, he was released early due to liver cancer. The Chinese government refused to release him abroad for treatment. Liu Xiaobo died on July 13, 2017.


Vaclav Havel

Czech writer, playwright, last president of Czechoslovakia, first president of the Czech Republic

Vaclav Havel

In 1968, he actively opposed the invasion of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia. After that, he was forced to resign from the theater, the publication of his books and the production of works were prohibited.

From 1977 to 1989, he was tried three times. The first time was in 1977, when he signed Charter 77, which required compliance with the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference. In the same year he was sentenced to 14 months in prison. The last time was in January 1989 for laying a wreath at the place of self-immolation of a Prague student in 1968. In total, Vaclav was imprisoned for about five years.

After his release, he took part in the Velvet Revolution. In 1989 he became president of Czechoslovakia. And from 1993 to 2003 he was twice elected president of the Czech Republic.


Ho Chi Minh

Vietnamese revolutionary, founder of the Communist Party of Vietnam, first President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and creator of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (also known as Viet Cong)

Ho Chi Minh

In the 1940s, Ho Chi Minh visited China to meet with Chinese revolutionaries, but was captured by the Kuomintang authorities who accused him of espionage. This was followed by a year and a half in prison.

During this time, Ho Chi Minh wrote the book "The Prison Diary". It includes melancholic and stoic poems calling for revolution.

After imprisonment, he continued to liberate Vietnam from the French and created a state in the north of the country.

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