Soviet poet and dissident sentenced to seven years in a labour camp who found refuge in the UK in the 1980s
Early on the morning of 10 October 1986, Igor Gerashchenko, the husband of the dissident Soviet poet Irina Ratushinskaya, phoned Keston College, the centre for the study of religion in communist countries then based at Keston, in Kent. “Irina is free,” he told us: relayed to the BBC and thence to the world, this news upstaged the event for which the media had been waiting – the opening of the Reykjavik summit between the US president Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The timing was no coincidence. There was a hiatus in the news while Reagan and Gorbachev were airborne on their way to Iceland. The latter was anxious to prove to world opinion that he was serious about wanting to improve relations, not only internationally, but on the home front as well, through recognition of the improved human rights situation brought about by his programme of perestroika (reconstruction).