Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky was born in 1948 in the Ukraine. He graduated in Computer Sciences from the Physical Technical Institute in Moscow. He is the founder and chairman of the Yisrael B'Aliya party.
Sharansky was one of the founding members of the Jewish movement in the unofficial Helsinki Monitoring Group, for which he acted as the spokesperson. In 1973, he applied for an exit visa to Israel but was denied for "security" reasons. He continued to engage in underground Zionist activities until his arrest by the Soviet authorities in 1977 on trumped-up charges of treason and espionage. Although the U.S. government categorically denied any connection between Sharansky and the C.I.A., Sharansky was found guilty in 1978 and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment. An international campaign calling for Sharansky's release was waged by his wife Avital in conjunction with organizations around the world, culminating in his release on February 11, 1986. He arrived in Israel that same night.
In 1988, he was elected President of the newly created Zionist Forum, the umbrella organization of former Soviet activists, and was an associate editor of the Jerusalem Report. Natan Sharansky has been a tireless promoter of the cause of Soviet Jewry. Since the beginning of mass immigration from the former Soviet (1989) he has urged that immigration and absorption be accorded top national priority. To this end, he established the political party, Yisrael B'Aliya, which he represented in the Knesset from 1996 until January 2003.
Sharansky served as Minister of Industry and Trade from June 1996-1999.
He served as Minister of the Interior from July 1999 until his resignation in July 2000. He served as Minister of Housing and Construction and Deputy Prime Minister from March 2001 until February 2003. Sharansky served as Minister without Portfolio, responsible for Jerusalem, social and Diaspora affairs from February 2003 until his resignation in May 2005.
In November 2006 Natan Sharansky resigned from the Knesset and assumed the position of Chairman of the newly established Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. In June 2008 he was sworn in as Chairman of Jewish Agency for Israel.
Natan Sharansky was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1986 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. He has continued to lead human rights efforts both through his writings as well as public activities since his release.
Natan Sharansky's memoir, Fear No Evil was published in the United States in 1988 and has been translated into nine languages. His book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Freedom and Terror attracted wide-spread attention. His latest book, Defending Identity, Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy published by Public Affairs was released early June 2008. He is married, and the father of two daughters.