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This article presents an overview of disability rights issues in the context of state socialism in the former Soviet Union, especially the Russian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics.The Soviet state's governmentality of disability, and the little-known history of Soviet-era disability rights movements, produced important legacies that shape disability policy and discourses, rights movements, and experiences of disability in the region today.In total I have conducted nearly 90 taped personal interviews with persons with disabilities and others with ties to the disability community, including life history interviews with 15 disability rights activists.I am exploring particular aspects of disability experience after socialism, including: intersections of disability and gender formations; changing perceptions of self and personhood; disability, spatial politics, and citizenship; and others.Since 2002, my research has focused primarily on movements for disability rights in post-Soviet Ukraine.

This approach encourages readers to reconsider some assumptions about the evolution of disability rights outside the West.Discussions of Soviet-era state policy are interwoven with descriptions of people's personal experiences to emphasize the ways that people with disabilities in the former Soviet Union have been active agents — if not organized advocates — across the 20th century.During the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow, a Western journalist inquired whether the Soviet Union would participate in the first Paralympic games, scheduled to take place in Great Britain later that year.Historically throughout the former Soviet bloc, persons with physical and mental disabilities have been stigmatized, hidden from the public, and thus made seemingly invisible (Dunn and Dunn 1989).More than a quarter century later, still little is known about the experiences of persons with disabilities in the former Soviet Union, who remain in many respects an "unknown population" (Poloziuk 2005).2 The social justice struggles of people with disabilities under the Soviet regime have been even less explored.

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I then examine key moments and figures in the struggle for disability rights in the Soviet Union.