Martin Dewhirst studied Russian history, Russian and Old Church Slavonic at university (Christ Church, Oxford) after being trained as an interpreter in the Royal Air Force. He first visited the USSR in March 1959, and on his very first day in Moscow was given a home-bound volume of Russian poetry to take out to the West. Later that year he was a member of the first UK student group sent by the British Council for ten months to the Soviet Union. This experience increased his interest in what later became known as Samizdat and in the Russian and Soviet systems of censorship. After two years at the London School of Economics as a graduate student of Soviet politics, economics and law he worked from 1964 to 2000 at the University of Glasgow, and from 1970 to 1990, during vacations and when on unpaid leave, in the Samizdat Section of Radio Liberty in Munich. He still prefers to keep as low a profile as possible, but is making an exception for the Sakharov Centre in Kaunas.
The Andrei Sakharov Research Centre contributes to the development of a pluralist and democratic society in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.