Natan Sharansky
[Natan Sharansky]

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Natan Sharansky
An outline biography

Anatoly Sharansky was born January 20, 1948 in Donetsk, Ukraine to a Jewish family and later graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics from the Physical Technical Institute in Moscow.

After being denied an exit visa to Israel for "security" reasons in 1973, he worked as an English interpreter for prominent physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, and also became a human rights activist. Sharansky was one of the founders and the spokesman of Jewish and the Refusenik movement in Moscow Helsinki Watch Group, also known as Yuri Orlov's group.

In March 1977 he was arrested and in July 1978 convicted on charges (later proven false) of treason and spying for the United States and sentenced to thirteen years. After 16 months in Lefortovo prison where he was frequently held in solitary confinement or in a special "torture cell," he was incarcerated in notorious prison camp in the Siberian Gulag for nine years.

After Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union policies were followed that were intended to make Soviet society more palatable to the citizenry. There were moves towards Glasnost (Open-ness) and Perstroika (Restructuring) in the Soviet system. Sharansky became the first political prisoner to be released in these times (1986) when he was exchanged for a Soviet spy and emigrated to Israel, adopting a Hebrew given name Natan.
This given name was in fact represented on an Israeli passport handed to Sharansky by the Israeli ambassador on his release at a location on the border between the then "Federal" west German and "Democratic" east German states. On his arrival in Israel Sharansky the high profile dissident was given a heroes welcome by many powerful figures including the then Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

In 1988 Sharansky was elected the President of the Zionist Forum, an umbrella organization of former Soviet dissidents, was a contributing Editor to Jerusalem Report and a Board member of the Peace Watch.

In 1989 the US President Ronald Reagan presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal of Freedom.

Sharansky is the chairman and founder (1995) of the political party Yisrael B'Aliyah (or "Israel on the rise") promoting the absorption of the Soviet Jews into Israeli society. The party won seven Knesset seats in 1996 and Sharansky became Minister of Industry and Trade. In 1999 Sharanski was appointed as minister of internal affairs but quit in 2000. Minister of Housing and Construction since March 2001 Sheransky also served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel for a time.

Since 2003, Sharansky is a cabinet member of the Israeli government (the 2nd Ariel Sharon's government). His responsibilities are the Jewish Diaspora, Jerusalem, combating antisemitism and a specialy the New antisemitism which rose in the begining of the 21st century.

His book The Case For Democracy (writen together with Ron Dermer) has had a major influence over United States President George W. Bush and other U.S. government officials and policy makers. President Bush devoted a significant proportion of his Second Inaugural Address to ideas about liberty that are consistent with those of Sharansky and has urged that Sharansky's book "The Case for Democracy" should be widely read.

Sharansky is married, and is the father of two daughters. His wife, Avital, is also of Russian origin had been able to emigrate to Israel shortly after their marriage and became a tireless campaigner for his release from Soviet detention.

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