In a moment of historical change, the dissidents in East Central Europe represented the most legitimate alternative elite. As a whole, however, they did not succeed in establishing themselves in a position of power, losing out to the “gray zone” of technocratic and expert elites that rose to the top of the new regimes. Nevertheless, the dissidents fundamentally shaped the leading political narratives and ways of thinking about the period of Communist Party “totalitarian” dictatorship. How did the dissidents imagine political and social-economic change before 1989? How did their visions of the future as well as their readings of the past affect immediate understandings of 1989? How, then, did the key narratives of post-dissident legitimation emerge and spread in historical memory and political discourse after 1989?