22.10 Letters and Statements

No 22 : 10 November 1971

[1] Editorial from the Ukrainian Herald No. 5 (here reproduced in abridged form)

“Some members of the Ukrainian public who are familiar with Russian samizdat works are studying the attitude towards the nationalities question in general, and to that of the Ukraine in particular, on the part of the Russian oppositional forces which made their appearance during the second half of the 1960s.

In Moscow at the end of 1970 Academician Sakharov and the physicists Tverdokhlebov and Chalidze formed the Committee for Human Rights – a moderate oppositional group which aims to defend the constitutional rights of Soviet citizens. The Committee has nowhere defined its attitude towards the nationalities question in the USSR or towards the rights of the non-Russian nations and the guarantees of those rights. There are only a few general phrases. The first appeal to the Central Committee of the party by Academician Sakharov and the scholars [V.F.] Turchin and R. Medvedev [59] contains the phrase that one of the reasons why the gradual democratisation of life in the USSR is essential is that it will reduce the menace of nationalism. But the same appeal proposes putting only the phrase ‘citizens of the USSR’ in passports instead of the holder’s nationality (proposals of this sort were put forward in Khrushchev’s time, and were seen in the Union republics as a desire to make further encroachments on their sovereignty).

“In May 1969 the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR came into being in Moscow, at the same time submitting a petition to the UN about persecution of people in the USSR for their beliefs and for disseminating them. Among other things it mentioned the repression of persons advocating national equality. The Action Group has as yet made no other statements on this issue. Many of its members were soon arrested. The periodical A Chronicle of Current Events adheres to the same principles – struggling for freedom of speech and belief – as the Action Group . . .

Without advancing any programmatic postulates except freedom of speech and information, the journal attempts to throw light impartially on political persecution throughout the Soviet Union and to describe in brief new Russian (and, from time to time, non-Russian) samizdat works. Faithful to its objectivity, the Chronicle now and again includes material from the Ukraine. The brevity of the accounts and the occasional inaccuracies are clearly due solely to the lack of more detailed information. Issue 17.2 of the Chronicle, for example, reports on the trial of V. Moroz, gives the most detailed information yet available on the case of the UNF (which we reproduce [CCE 17.7]), and in an attached list of arrests in 1969-70 [CCE 17.14] enumerates persons arrested in the Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian reader has welcomed the appearance of the Chronicle. He has noted the objectivity, volume and relative accuracy of the information it supplies, which gives the reader an overall picture of various social developments in the USSR which are unknown to the majority. Individual voices, however, while not denying the importance of the Chronicle, draw attention to the fact that it arbitrarily lays claim to some sort of supra-national or all-Union character, although to all intents and purposes it is a publication of Russian (and possibly, to some extent, Jewish) circles. It is also pointed out that the meagre reports from the republics are inserted as additions to the detailed description of events in Russia, principally in Moscow, which in itself gives an inaccurate idea of the situation in the USSR.

“Extremely scanty information is given about the attitude towards the nationalities question of the various underground groups, organisations and ‘parties’ which have recently appeared in Russia (Leningrad [CCE 1.5], the Baltic Fleet [CCE 10.5], the Volga region [CCE 12.4] and others). The existence of these organisations becomes known only after they have been broken up by the KGB, and their programmatic demands are known only in very rough outline. From the little that is known it can be deduced that none of these organisations had worked out any programme for the solution of the nationalities question in the USSR or declared its attitude towards national needs or national movements in the USSR. The impression is created that while aiming at the most radical changes in many spheres of social life, the members of these groups, as far as the nationalities question is concerned, desire in varying degrees to maintain the status quo.

“Simultaneously with organisations and groups which raise questions of democratic transformations in the USSR, others have appeared in Russia criticising the government and the ‘liberals’ from reactionary, openly chauvinistic standpoints, even aiming at the formal dissolution of the USSR and the creation of an indivisible military-democratic Russia.

We reproduce a brief account, published in issue 17.13 (item 16) of the Chronicle, of a “Message to the Nation”, one of the Russian samizdat documents of this sort . . . The Chronicle then gives an equally brief account of a samizdat reply [CCE 17.13, item 17] to the ‘patriots’ by V. Gusarov [62] …. From this account, however, Gusarov himself does not appear to hold any constructive views on the nationalities question, apart from the claim that ‘the national type’ has not survived (and is therefore not worth preserving – let it be quickly reduced to a common denominator). It is not clear how die author imagines the future of the non-Russian peoples of the USSR or how he would wish to see that future. He is concerned only that there should be ‘openness and publicity’ [glasnost] and not ‘the whip and the rod’.

“Commenting on Veche, the type-written journal of the Russian nationalists, the Chronicle writes that it differs [CCE 18.11, item 6] from the manifesto “Message to the Nation” mentioned above in being more restrained and tolerant towards other nations. The Chronicle points out, however: ‘Judophobia and Stalinist sympathies are characteristic of some of the contributors to Veche …’ It can be inferred from this report that the journal’s publication appears to be within the law, and that its editor, Osipov, is a real person.” [63]

[2] A final address by Ruta Alexandrovich before leaving for Israel (Moscow, 29 October 1971) (here reproduced in abridged form):

“A few days have passed since I was released from the camp . . . From the bottom of my heart I thank my known and unknown friends for their sympathy and support – I consider that my swift release from imprisonment was the result of their efforts …. While I am still in the Soviet Union I should like, without touching upon general questions, to recall once more the plight of my friends who are still in the camps, and above all of my friend Silva Zalmanson.

She is gravely ill. She is losing her hearing and is unable to eat: life is draining out of her not by the day, but by the hour … I know that her fate will never cease to trouble my heart, and will remain in it like an open wound … A few months ago, in my final address in Riga, I said that it had never been my intention to inflict harm on the Soviet system, that my sole aim was to emigrate to Israel . . . Today … I stand before a new court – that of my own conscience. And in my final address before this court I say to myself: know that you are leaving for Israel because dozens of Jews and your friend Silva Zalmanson will pay for it with long years of prisons and camps. Never forget the price being paid for your happiness!”

NOTES

[59. See text of appeal to Central Committee in Survey, London, No. 76, 1970, pp. 160-70.]

[61. On groups in Gorky and Saratov see ibid, Ch. 19, and CCE 12.]

[62. Both the “Message to the Nation” and Gusarov’s reply were published in Russkaya mysl, Paris, 25 November 1971.]

[63. Nos. 1 and 2 of the Ukrainian Herald have appeared in Ukrainsky visnyk, Vyp. I-II, P.I.U.F., Paris and Smoloskyp, Baltimore, 1971.]