7.11 Samizdat update

No 7 : 30 April 1969

1. A. Antipov, “From Intellectual Chaos to the Coordination of Intellects”

In essence the author puts forward a systematised programme for samizdat – although he does not employ this particular term, preferring to use “uncensored literature” of “literature circulated in typescript”. The author considers that the current development of society into an intellectual phase demands an intensive exchange of ideas.

“We need statistical material of good quality, basic research on the economic, political, social, legal, moral, cultural and psychological problems of our society, and objective works on its history. We also need translations of foreign specialists’ work. We must fearlessly carry out research into our social organism – such is the essential task which can only be undertaken by common effort and in conditions of lively, free discussion. We have mastered speech – now it is time to learn to write.”

Antipov considers that uncensored literature has achieved two things: it has removed the “inner censor”, which – weighs upon an author during the process of creation, and it has created a new type of reader. “We will not make a fuss, – so ends this short document, – we will not fight for freedom of the press; we will create it.” It should be noted that, firstly, the programme presented by Antipov as entirely new is already in fact being realized in many respects by samizdat; and secondly, the creator of a free press in the form of uncensored literature does not exclude  a struggle by society for this freedom – as well as for all other freedoms and human rights – partly through the medium of samizdat.

2. On Certain Current Events: A Short Bulletin

The Chronicle has in its possession one undated and unnumbered copy of this bulletin, which relates to approximately January-February 1969. The issue consists of seven items:

1. Expulsions from the Party;
2. The attempt on the life of Brezhnev [January 1969];
3. The tightening-up in the publishing houses;
4. The article on Stalin in the tear-off calendar for 1969;
5. About the film “Andrei Rublyov”;
6. About the short story “The Locust’s Jaws” [Oktyabr, January 1969];
7. From the biography of K. F. Katushev, a secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU.

Compared to the Chronicle, this bulletin is more analytical and contains a number of judgements and speculations, in particular speculations and rumours from “high political” circles, which the Chronicle prefers to refrain from printing. Despite the doubtfulness of some judgements, the Chronicle considers such an analytical publication very useful and welcomes it. In addition, the Chronicle will utilise material from the bulletin for its issues in the same way as it does with any other samizdat document.

3. “The Suicide by Fire of Jan Palach”

Much varied material from Czechoslovak publications exists in samizdat form: reports on the suicide by fire of Jan Palach [on 19 January 1969], his death and funeral, on the expressions of sympathy from Czechoslovak leaders, numerous organisations and individuals, and articles devoted to the memory of Jan Palach. Unfortunately, this material is circulated haphazardly and chaotically, without being collected into one volume.

4. Pavel Kohout, Self criticism

A short pamphlet, published on 4 January 1969 in the newspaper Prace, parodies the opinions expressed by those who, under the guise of fighting against “right extremists”, act against the Czechoslovak people.

5. Father Sergei Zheludkov, “Some reflections on intellectual freedom. A reply addressed to Academician Sakharov”

The author gives his analysis of those absurdities to which society succumbed as a result of Stalinism: fear, duplicity, apathy. Father Sergei studies the problem of- intellectual freedom as a religious problem and states that “Man’s freedom does not even belong to God”, that “freedom is man’s absolute, holy right and his sacred duty”. But “today,” writes the author, “all of us Russians, willingly or unwillingly, are involved in a momentous historical experiment on the following subject: What will happen to a great people if it is deprived of its intellectual freedom?”

6. Roy Medvedev, “Is it possible to rehabilitate Stalin today?”

Open letter to the editors of Kommunist. Yet another letter on the apologetic articles about Stalin, which have appeared in the periodical Kommunist. The Chronicle would like to take, this opportunity of informing their readers that the analysis, in Chronicle No 6.8 [item 2], of Svetlana Alliluyeva’s book was erroneously said to be anonymous. Roy Medvedev’s name is given in the samizdat version as the author of this work as well.

7. A propos The Cathedral, the novel by Oles Gonchar (Honchar)

Oles Gonchar’s novel expresses the idea of the historical continuity of the spiritual culture of the Ukrainian people. He has been criticized in the official press: “letters from workers” indignant at “the distortion of the life of the working class” have been printed in the newspapers. The novel was given a positive evaluation in the following samizdat works: in a letter from a group in Dnepronpetrovsk, in a letter from the sculptor Ivan Gonchar, and a serious analysis of the novel is contained in the critic Yevhen Sverstyuk’s work “The cathedral in scaffolding”. [See this issue, 7.12 “Extrajudicial political repressions,” [items 1-11].

8. Milan Kundera, “The Fate of the Czechs”

One of the most important representatives of the younger generation of Czech writers, discussing the significance of the post-January policies in an article published in the weekly journal Listy on 19 December 1968, refuses to view the August days as a national catastrophe:

“What took place could not have been foreseen by anyone: the new policies have survived this terrible conflict. Although they have given some ground, they have not disintegrated or collapsed. They have not involved the return of a police regime, nor have they permitted a doctrinaire suppression of spiritual life; they have not betrayed themselves, nor denied their own principles, nor betrayed their authors; and not only have they not lost the support of public opinion, but precisely at the moment of mortal danger they have welded together the whole people, which has proved itself inwardly stronger than before August.”

Posing the question “What if the new government retreats so far that the new policies gradually turn back into the old ones?” Kundera places his hopes on the critical attitude of the Czechs – not the kind which “automatically discards all hope and easily resigns itself to hopelessness” and creates “an ideal climate for the breeding of defeat”, but genuine criticalness, which is the enemy of psychoses and knows that pessimism is as one-sided as optimism; this kind of criticalness is able to destroy illusions and false confidence, but remains itself at the same time full of confidence.” This criticalness “gave birth to the Czechoslovak Spring, and in the autumn fought off the onslaught of falsehood and irrationality”.

9. V. P. Turchin, “Letter to A. Chakovsky”, chief editor of Literaturnaya Gazeta

A response to the editorial about Solzhenitsyn [see 9.9 item 2] in Literaturnaya Gazeta [The Literary Gazette].  Valery Turchin accuses the paper of publishing an article which, in the guise of criticism, contains slander and falsifications, while the “criticized” novels of Solzhenitsyn remain unpublished and unknown to the general public, and while he himself is not allowed to express himself in print and deny the slander. Turchin, who had occasionally had articles printed in Literaturnaya Gazeta, rejects all future collaboration with the newspaper, and refuses to subscribe to it or buy it any more. The letter, written on 28 June 1968, only recently became available in samizdat.