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Soviet dissident turned writer Vladimir Bukovsky has died at the age of 76.

He became a prominent Soviet dissident in the early 1960s and was soon after declared mentally ill.That avoided the inconvenience of a trial, and Bukovsky would spend the next 12 years, on and off, in psychiatric clinics and prison camps.In 1971, between prison sentences, Bukovsky helped smuggle to the West the psychiatric hospital records of six well-known dissidents - exposing a Soviet practice of declaring dissidents mentally ill in order to detain and discredit them, rather than have them labelled as political prisoners.

In 1974, the celebrated novelist Vladimir Nabokov praised Bukovsky's courage as a dissident in a letter to The Observer. Bukovsky's heroic speech to the court in defence of freedom, and his five years of martyrdom in a despicable psychiatric jail will be remembered long after the torturers he defied have rotted away, Nabokov wrote.

Then in 1976 Bukovsky was expelled to the West, in exchange for the imprisoned Chilean Communist Party leader Luis Corvalán. He settled in Cambridge in the UK.Living in the UK, Bukovsky continued writing and campaigning against the Soviet government and was a fierce critic of current Russian President Vladimir Putin. He wrote a best-selling memoir, To Build a Castle, and later analysed thousands of pages of top-secret Soviet archives.

To read more on the BBC:

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You may also like to read:

* Opinion | The Writer Who Destroyed an Empire

* Putin's Early Years

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