1. “An Open Letter to Mikis Theodorakis” from Roald Mukhamedyarov, a Moscow worker
Pointing out the continuing repressions of a political nature in the USSR and instances of “the grossest violation of the most elementary human rights in our country”, the author urges Theodorakis to protest against the violation of democracy in the Soviet Union.
2. Yaroslav Yasny, “Andrei Amalrik as a publicist”
This essay assesses the destiny [sudba] and work of A. Amalrik as an important contribution to the recent history of “the independent word in Russia”.
The present-day regime has nothing but crude repression to set against free speech. Therefore every independent statement becomes an act of courage and is imbued with high moral content. “Andrei Amalrik is an example of the activity of a free writer and a free man in an environment of blackmail, unlawful arrests and trials which are in practice secret” – an example which causes surprise on the part of the “free” western correspondents. The substance of that example is a high degree of internal freedom, which, as Amalrik says himself, means that “the authorities can do a lot to a man, but do not have the power to deprive him of his moral values.”
In the conditions of a totalitarian regime, with the rule not of law but of custom, it is as essential as it is difficult to achieve such freedom. It is not simply a question of overcoming the “fear reflex”, but of real independence both from compulsory norms and from bogeys of every sort. An a priori, uncritical acceptance of existing prohibitions is, generally speaking, inherent in the Russian national make-up, especially of the traditional prohibition against “washing one’s dirty linen in public”. This is so even despite the general dissatisfaction with that “dirty linen”. Independent thought precludes an uncritical attitude. “Amalrik is washing our dirty linen in public” – and that is “the only promising long-term course of action” which will be able to get rid of the dirt.
Internal independence presupposes a high level of objectivity in one’s judgments and arguments. In his works Amalrik shows genuine respect and tolerance towards his opponents, and dignity both in the defence of his views and in his refusal to impose them on others.
His view of the future is ultimately pessimistic, but this pessimism, in combination with internal freedom, leads not to the destruction of his personality but, on the contrary, to its affirmation. He remains himself with respect to the regime and to the various opposition streams, embodying one of them himself: “the position of internal freedom”.
On A. Amalrik’s essays see Chronicle Issues 11.14, item 1 [“An open letter to Anatoly Kuznetsov”], 12.10, item 8 [Will the Soviet Union survive until 1984?] and 13.9, item 10 [“The foreign correspondents in Moscow”].
3. V. L. Sevruk, By virtue of the very fact [v silu samogo fakta], 208 type-written pages.
The manuscript is of an autobiographical nature. In order to enter the Suvorov [military] Academy he turns from an average pupil into a first-class one, and in the Academy he is most highly thought of. But two months before being commissioned he leaves the Academy.
He begins serving as a private soldier, but swiftly distinguishes himself by his knowledge of the service, and is elected Komsomol organiser of his sub-unit. For making a report not in accordance with established models, he is deprived of his leave-pass. In response Sevruk declares a hunger-strike. After that he is sent before a commission in a psychiatric hospital. In the same way and in similar circumstances he is “removed” from Vilnius University. The medical conclusion about Sevruk being of unsound mind is interesting: he has “a mania for Marxism and seeking after truth.”
Vatslav Leonovich Sevruk is a junior research officer in the sociology section of the philosophy department of the History Institute of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences.
4. Letter from the late A. Belinkov
to the congress of the Pen Club at Menton, France (September 1969)
In his letter Arkady Belinkov [see 14.11, item 23] sharply attacks the pro-Soviet orientation of western liberal intellectuals and points out that it is impossible to fight for democracy in the west by holding the Soviet Union up as an example. Any compromise, any co-operation with the Soviet regime by the western intelligentsia Belinkov regards as treachery against the common cause of democracy. Hopes that the Soviet regime will change, or that it will in some way become more moderate when younger and more educated men come to power, Belinkov regards as illusions and wishful thinking.
The only thing which can be done is, in Belinkov’s words, “to prevent them trampling to death everything that is alive [vytoptat vsyo zhivoye]”.
5. P.I. Yakir, A letter to the secretariat of the International Congress of Historians in Moscow, 16 August 1970.
The letter is dedicated to the second anniversary of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by forces of the Warsaw Pact.
The author considers that the principal subjects for scientific discussion by the Congress might be, besides those already decided on, the following:
- The early period of the Second World War and the Soviet Union.
- Stalin and Hitler in recent history.
- Man and the State.
Discussion of these subjects would help towards a better understanding of the history of the world over the last forty years. The author draws attention to the violation of human rights in the USSR and as an example enumerates more than forty people who have been arrested or sentenced on political grounds.
6. Return ticket to Dedovsk [Dedovsk. Tuda i obratno]. An epic poem.
The epigraph to the poem is an excerpt from the memoirs of Marshal Zhukov, describing the case of a pointless order of Stalin’s which cost the lives of two companies. The poem is dedicated to the memory of the victims of Stalinist tyranny.
7. Roald Mukhamedyarov, “A letter to my old comrades”, August 1970.
Addressed to Yu. Dombrovsky, Yu. Dubyago, P. Dudochkin, E. Gerasimov, A. Zhigulin, T. Zhuravlyov, V. Kaverin, R. Kutui, V. Maksakov, G. Pautkin, F. Svetlov, A. Taktan and L. Topchy///.
In his emotional appeal to his “old comrades” the author writes that together with the bust of Stalin placed next to Lenin’s mausoleum, neo-Stalinism is appearing and becoming more and more active, as has been especially clear at the political trials of the last two years. But, writes the author, the democratic movement in the USSR is also growing, although at present it is still very weak. Realising that the choice of the method of struggle against tyranny depends on a person’s character and on his material circumstances, the author calls for the initiation of a campaign for the release of the victims of the famous political trials and for the re-examination of the cases of all political prisoners. Otherwise our descendants will not pardon our inactivity and silence.
8. A. Volpin, ”A fountain pen for Pyotr Grigoryevich Grigorenko”
An essay in the form of an open letter to A. Solzhenitsyn. The stimulus for the essay was provided by the news that P.G. Grigorenko, who is in the hospital-prison at Chernyakhovsk, has been deprived of the opportunity of writing except under the supervision of doctors. The author of the essay regards the ban on the free use of writing materials as unlawful: “Each of us has the right to communicate his thoughts to posterity. A society which forgets this, even for a moment, loses the right to the hopes vested in it by its forbears.”
9. To the author of “A man has come back” (Literaturnaya gazeta, 1 July 1970):
an Open Letter from V. Gusarov
V. Gusarov writes that many problems are not even mentioned in the article, and that its author V. Perelman deals only with the lawbreaker’s problem of finding employment, his difficulties with the residence permit, his everyday troubles. No light is thrown on the methods of the investigating bodies, the fate of his co-defendants, etc.
The letter is written in an ironic manner, in the form of a pamphlet.
10. G. Vertlib and G. Shur, Leningrad (26 July),
A letter to the Procurator-General and the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet
on the subject of the arrest of a group of Jews (see Chronicle No. 14.11 [item 3]) – Mogilyover, Chernoglaz, Kornblit and others – in Leningrad on 15 June. The authors write of the innocence of those arrested and ask for their release. “Give them, and us, the opportunity to emigrate to Israel.”
11. Letter from ten Jews, 9 July 1970, to the deputies
of the first session of the USSR Supreme Soviet
The signatories of the letter appeal to the highest body of the Soviet system, having exhausted all other possibilities, and ask: “Let us go in peace. As long as we are here, we shall demand the freedom to emigrate louder and louder every day.”
12. Letter from thirty Jews to the session of the Supreme Soviet
It asks them to pass a law on repatriation.
13. Exodus, a collection of documents, Issue 2, 1970.
This contains individual and collective appeals by Soviet Jews, relating mainly to the period May-June 1970, addressed to various public figures and statesmen of the entire world and to international organisations. The authors of the letters and appeals live in Riga, Vilnius, Minsk, Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev and other cities. The addressees include: the UN General Secretary U Thant; the chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet; the President of the International Red Cross; the Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir; the chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, A. N. Kosygin; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UN Human Rights Commission; the Presidium of the 14th Congress of the Komsomol; the USSR Procurator-General; and the parliaments of the member-nations of the Convention for the Liquidation of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The letters describe the numerous attempts of Soviet Jews to obtain permission to join their relatives in Israel. All the attempts have proved futile. No reasons are given for refusal. “The Soviet government does not stoop to dialogue. It keeps silent.”
The statement by four Jews from Vilnius sounds especially tragic: “Some of us have already grown old, as we have been applying to go to Israel for more than ten years.”
Some of the letters end with a long list of people who are trying to obtain permission to be re-united with their parents, who live in Israel.
This issue also contains a letter from five Leningrad Jews of May 1970. The signatories include L. Kaminsky, V. Mogilyover and D. Chernoglaz, who were arrested on 15 June, and G. Vertlib, arrested a month later; a letter from 37 Leningrad Jews written on the eve of 15 June; letters by G, Vertlib, G. Shur and V, Boguslavsky; L. Kaminsky’s correspondence with Pravda on the subject of bringing up children in accordance with Jewish tradition.
This issue closes with a letter from Victor Boguslavsky (now arrested) to the Procurator-General, in which he describes the “crime” committed by his comrades.
“The searches were being carried out with the aim of confiscating the ‘instruments of the crime’. The confiscated ‘instruments’ turned out to be letters and post-cards from close friends in Israel, and also any texts containing the words ‘Jew’ and ‘Jewish’ … In the course of the search a ‘weapon’ was also discovered – seven cartridges for a small-calibre training rifle in the home of Grigory Butman (G. Butman formerly worked as a police investigator).
“But a more terrible ‘weapon’ than this was discovered – textbooks and a teach-yourself book on Modern Hebrew, all of which had been sent through the post, some photo-copied. All this, together with letters and essays on Jewish history, novels and tape-recordings of Jewish songs, was clearly to serve as irrefutable ‘evidence of a crime’.”
In conclusion V. Boguslavsky exclaims: “My comrades dreamed of hearing Hebrew from the mouths of their children. Is that really a crime?”