When the United Nations proclaimed 1968 to be the International Year of Human Rights, the official goal was to promote the adoption of the recently created human rights Covenants around the world. Instead of compelling the Eastern Bloc to accept liberal democratic conceptions of rights, however, it acted as a catalyst for the genesis of state socialist conceptions of human rights. Eastern Bloc elites claimed these rights were superior to those in the West, which they argued was beset by imperialism and racism. Although some within Eastern Europe used the Year as an opportunity to challenge state socialist regimes from within, the UN commemoration gave socialist elites a new language to legitimize the status quo in Eastern Europe and to call for radical anti-imperialism abroad. While dissent in the name of human rights in 1968 was limited, the state socialist embrace of human rights politics provided a crucial step towards the Helsinki Accords of 1975 and the subsequent rise of human rights activism behind the Iron Curtain.