14.12 Samizdat update

No 14 : 30 June 1970

1. Valentin Moroz, “A Chronicle of Resistance” (January 1970)

The well-known Ukrainian historian writes of the nation’s resistance to the process of assimilation, of the need to preserve the national heritage and national traditions. Only here lies salvation from an increasing loss of identity.

Among the mountains of the Gutsul area [south of Ivano-Frankovsk Region] stands the village of Kosmach, an enclave which remembers its history and has preserved ancient Ukrainian art. Here stands the famous Dovbushevskaya church, which used to contain the splendid iconostasis which Paradzhanov took when making his film “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” and never returned.

The secret of the Gutsul area’s individuality lies in its ability to preserve what is its own, what is distinctive, and to contrast this with the imposition of the consumer goods society [shirpotreb]. “Great cultural achievements are possible only if traditions are unbroken. Nothing must be lost; layer upon layer must be built up. Only thus can there arise an individual organic spirituality.”

V. Moroz writes of the people who burn books and artists’ pictures, and of those under whose patronage this is done.

(For information on the author see this issue of the Chronicle, “News in brief”, 14.11, item 1.)

2. A. Antipov, “There is no place for him in our ranks,” (December 1969)

This article is yet another reaction to the expulsion of A. I. Solzhenitsyn from the Union of Writers. By means of examples from the newspapers, Antipov shows [see 7.11, item 1] that after the appearance of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich there arose in the press the juxtaposition of the names Stalin and Solzhenitsyn: “they became counterbalances to each other; if [the stock of] one falls, [that of] the other rises.”

The author draws attention to the fact that Solzhenitsyn’s expulsion coincided in time with the appearance of Kochetov’s novel [What do you want then? see 12.10, item 4], “a coarse-ground mixture of barrack-room filth and political obscenities.”

Not forgetting Stalinism as a political tendency and a problem of history, one needs nowadays to remember “Stalindom” (the author distinguishes between these terms), a concept which embodies totalitarian rule, a sham electoral system, a lawless legal system, arbitrary powers of censorship, semi-official anti-Semitism, secret diplomacy and an imperialist foreign policy. At present, writes Antipov, “the balance has shifted. We are exhuming the corpse of Stalin, and burying Solzhenitsyn alive.”

3. [Open letter about Solzhenitsyn]

R. Kukhamedyarov, a 35-year-old Moscow worker, addresses an open letter to the secretariat of the board of the RSFSR Union of Writers on the subject of Solzhenitsyn’s expulsion from the Union. He proposes that Solzhenitsyn’s letters and statements “and, at any rate selectively, his ‘works” should be published; The author of the letter asks the “literary” Rusanovs [Rusanov is the Party boss in Cancer Ward] how, in their opinion, Solzhenitsyn’s expulsion will be described in the school textbooks on literature 30 years hence. He himself thinks that it will be treated like the historical anecdote about “the Academy’s separation from Lomonosov” [the l8th century polymath],

4. Open letter of the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR
sent to 1. APN [Novosti press agency] Moscow; and 2. Reuters agency, London.

Since May 1969 the Action Group has appealed five times [see Commentary 10] to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Its statements have listed cases of the violation of civil rights in the USSR and described the repression of dissenters.

In the present letter the Action Group explains what it represents, what its aims are, how it sees the significance of its activity. The Action Group has no programme and no statutes. Its members are linked with each other not organisationally but morally: they are united by their respect for the human personality and its civil rights, by their attachment to freedom and by their feeling of responsibility for all that goes on in the country.

The Action Group does not concern itself with politics and does not offer in this area any constructive solutions. But it does not want to reconcile itself with the penal policy applied to dissenters. The Action Group’s concern is resistance to lawlessness.

The Action Group considers that there is only one antidote to arbitrary official behaviour: publicity [glasnost]. Hence the appeals to the UN, the most representative international organisation (to which, incidentally, the USSR also belongs), and, through it, to the entire democratic public of the world.

“We are not at all certain,” the letter reads, “that our appeals to the UN are the most suitable form of action, nor, even more, that they are the only form possible. We are trying to do something in conditions where, in our view, to do nothing is wrong. The Action Group is convinced of the viability of various actions on the part of many people and of the fruitlessness of inaction.”

Of the initial [fifteen] members of the Action Group [see 8.10] six have been subject to acts of repression. The letter is signed by the eight members who remain free: T. Velikhanova, S. Kovalyov, A. Lavut, L. Plyushch, G. Podyapolsky, T. Khodorovich, P. Yakir and A. Yakobson.

5. Three collective letters from Jews in the Soviet Union

(a) To U Thant, UN general secretary –
from 50 Muscovites; from 25 Muscovites; and from 37 Leningraders

The authors of all three letters express their unshakeable desire to emigrate to Israel, which they regard as their mother-land; they request U Thant to assist in giving all Soviet Jews wishing to emigrate to Israel the opportunity to do so.

(b) Letter from V. Prussakov addressed to Podgorny

The author has been refused the right to emigrate to Israel [See Chronicle 1.7]; he declares that he will fight for this right as long as he lives .

(c) D. Kolyaditskaya addresses the following question to Kosygin in his capacity of candidate for the USSR Supreme Soviet (on the eve of the elections): “May I rely on you, if you are elected, to defend the legal rights of Jews who have expressed the desire to live in Israel?”

6. “Exodus” [Iskhod] – a collection of documents (No. 1, 1970)

Devoted to the Jewish question in the USSR. It consists of three parts: appeals and open letters; personal letters and statements; laws, decrees and instructions. Some documents in Part 1 have already been noted in the Chronicle 12.6 and 13.9 [items 8 & 9]. Material already known to samizdat is combined with some which is unknown; as a result we are for the first time given an idea of the approximate number of “Soviet citizens of Jewish nationality” who for many years have been trying to get permission to emigrate to Israel. As a rule they are given verbal, anonymous and groundless refusals and’ simultaneously subjected to administrative pressure and repression in various forms.

7. Four hundred and fifty six Crimean Tatars have submitted a protest against
the unlawful deportation of Tatar families from the Crimea

– to the Party Central Committee, the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, the USSR Procuracy, the Soviet of Nationalities and the first secretary of the Crimean Region Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party .

Examples of the use of arbitrary power are adduced. A group of policemen and volunteer police [druzhinniki] burst into homes by night, smashing windows and doors, and assault women and children. Those who are not at home are sought out. The operations are led by General B. P. Zakharov, head of the Regional directorate of Internal Affairs.

The signatories of the protest demand the cessation of persecution. Crimean Tatars are working to achieve equality with all peoples of the USSR as their legal constitutional right.

8. “Problems of Society”’. A collection of materials.
Compiled by V. N. Chalidze. Issue No. 5, Moscow 1970, May-June.

Section 1. “General topics”:
the letter from A. D. Sakharov, V. F. Turchin, R. A. Medvedev (see Chronicle 13.9 [item 1]).

Section 2. “Law”:
Ernst Livne: Development of the law on human rights in Israel; V. N. Chalidze: On forcible hospitalisation in psychiatric hospitals.

Section 3. ”Documents about legal practice”:
D. N. Kolyaditskaya versus OVIR [Department of Visas and Registrations] and the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs; Julius Telesin versus institution ZhKh 385/3 [i.e. Camp 3 in the Mordovian complex].

9.”Basic tactics of the democratic movement in the Soviet Union”

This is the title of a document which works out definite tactics for the struggle [see Commentary 5, item 6] to democratise our society, or perhaps only claims to work out such tactics. “Basic tactics” appeared in samizdat shortly after the “Programme” [see 11.16] and represents a continuation and crystallisation of its ideas. Both “The Programme” and “Basic tactics” express an irreconcilable attitude to totalitarianism and a striving for freedom and democracy.

As for the concrete programmatic and tactical theses of the “Democratic Movement of the Soviet Union”, the Chronicle refers its readers directly to the two documents cited. However, we think it necessary to draw the attention of readers to certain points in “Basic tactics” which seem to us, putting it mildly, to be debatable:

1. The authors of “Basic tactics” (and of “The Programme”) speak on behalf of all freedom-loving and democratically-minded citizens of our country, as if they were authorized to do so.

2. The authors deal with matters in such a way [as to imply] that democratic forces already exist among the masses in the Soviet Union, that they are even centralised (“The Co-ordinating Council …”) and that all levels of society are involved in these forces: the intelligentsia, the workers, the peasants, the military, even a part of the “Party elite” (however, the “absence of democratic traditions among a certain section of the people” is noted).

3. The authors maintain that “the democrats, while accumulating strength, failed to develop a broad movement in the 1960s” for purely tactical reasons, and that in the 1970s such a movement will unquestionably develop on a broad scale (an immutable, unqualified forecast: ”the coming decade of constant and inexorable growth of the democratic movement …”)

4. The authors consider that “legal forms of the movement, having fulfilled their historical role, have more or less exhausted themselves”, and therefore, although they urge that legal methods of struggle should be combined with illegal, in their reflections on tactics they in effect transfer the centre of gravity to the underground. For example, they have the following to say about conspiracy: “Each participant in the movement … must personally know as small a number of other participants as possible … usually not more than three.” Or: “Group organisers, committees and directing centres must not be known to the participants in the movement …” Or again: “The secrets of the democratic movement must not be known even to those who are closest: wife, husband, children, parents, friends.”

Let the reader seek out historical analogies for all this.

The only general remark we shall permit ourselves about “Basic tactics” is this: adult people engaging in politics must understand that by presenting the desirable as the actual they are thereby incorrectly, i.e. disastrously, orientating young people.

10. On Robert Conquest’s book The Great Terror
from the journal Encounter (November 1968)

(We reproduce the article [by “R”///] [see Commentary 14] in abridged form.)

[The Chronicle‘s translation is generally accurate. The original text is given here, ed.]

… Criminals, of course, have always abounded in history. The remarkable feature of the 1930s was that there were two of them at the same time, Hitler and Stalin, both driven by daemonic compulsions of such violence that in any rational society they would have been unhesitatingly committed to a home for the incurably insane, and both, within the confines of their own country, possessed of such absolute power that they could, in an instant, translate every ferocious whim into reality and for every delusion of persecution conjure up a victim. Either, in the position he occupied, would have been difficult for other countries to cope with; two at the same time was too much…

.. [Robert Conquest’s book The Great Terror] should finally put an end to any illusions (and how many there have been!) about the nature of the dictatorship exercised by Stalin and of the State over which he had absolute power…

.. the vast amount of evidence Mr. Conquest has collected and analysed.

.. in The Times, in an otherwise laudatory article about the book, Mr. Iverach MacDonald reproaches Mr. Conquest because much of his material is based on the evidence of defectors. Where else would Mr. MacDonald expect such evidence to come from? From Soviet sources? It is as if one complained that much of the evidence about Nazi concentration camps came from the Jews…

.. One of the frightening aspects of Mr. Conquest’s book, with its evidence of murder, torture, genocide, the moral and physical annihilation of literally millions of human beings, is that the Soviet Union as we know it today is the direct lineal descendant of the State created by Stalin and still bears upon it the stamp of his creation…

… It is true that Stalin’s death was followed by a process of de-Stalinisation, but no one could for a moment pretend that this represented a radical break with the past …