Lived: 1948 – present
Why he is known: Former Soviet refusenik and prisoner, Israeli politician, human rights activist and author.
Why you should know him: Natan Sharansky is a human rights hero who once lived, and was imprisoned, under unbelievably oppressive rule. He has worked his entire life to right the wrongs of injustice.
Sharansky was born in the former Soviet Union and denied entry to Israel on false “security” rationale. Subsequent to this denial, Sharansky became an outspoken activist for Soviet Jews, heavily involved with the refusenik movement, and eventual political prisoner for nine years, first at Moscow's Lefortovo prison and for the majority of his imprisonment in a notorious Siberian gulag.
While imprisoned, Sharansky says he worked hard to remain emotionally free, and since his release in 1986, he has toiled unceasingly to secure that same freedom for all Jews. He has served in numerous Ministerial roles for the Israeli government, and is currently the Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel.
If you already knew of Sharansky, here’s something you probably didn’t know: As a child, Sharansky was a chess prodigy. He played against adults in simultaneous and blindfold matches, and at the age of 15 he won the chess championship in his hometown.
In his own words: “Believe me, the drug of freedom is universally potent.”
Watch now: A conversation with Natan Sharansky