22.9 Samizdat update

No 22 : 10 November 1971

[1] J.-P. Sartre – Reflections on the Jewish question (Translated from Polish)

The Polish translation, by Jerzy Lisowski, was published in the journal Tworczosc (Creativity), Warsaw, 1956, Nos. 9, 10. The essay was written in 1944-46 and published in France in 1946. It is a philosophical and publicistic work, containing an examination of the essence of the Jewish question and practical recommendations for its solution in the circumstances prevailing in contemporary France.

In the analytical section the author, employing the existentialist concepts of “freedom”, “situation” and “self-determination”, describes the so-called “situation of the Jew”. The essence of this situation is defined as follows: “A Jew is a person whom others regard as a Jew.” Devoting a considerable part of his work to a refutation of current prejudices about the differences between Jews and “ordinary people”, the author demonstrates that all the characteristics which distinguish, for example, French Jews from people who are simply Frenchmen, are exclusively of a secondary nature. These characteristics result from the situation of the Jews, which excludes all choice for oneself except to be a real Jew or to be a spurious Jew.

The spurious Jew strives for assimilation, which is impossible where anti-Semitism exists. A real Jew accepts his situation, but is doomed to martyrdom. The situation of the Jew is created by anti-Semitism—the primitive, Manichean ideology of benighted, weak people with synthetic thought-processes, who strive towards self- affirmation at the expense of a persecuted group, which it has been the historical fate of the Jews to become.

[2] Yury Glazov – “Idle remarks on myths and fairy-tales”, 30 June 1971

Reflections on the national, moral, religious and social consciousness of Russians and Jews, set out in the form of a free essay with numerous excursions into comparative mythology. After giving a few details of his biography (the usual story of an intellectual dismissed from his job for signing a letter in defence of the victims of tyranny [55]), the author writes:

“ . . . My good intentions to remain here, in this country, have been shattered by life like a house of cards. I am a Jew and must go to the land of my fathers. There I shall be able to continue my scientific work … . The experiment in assimilation which life has carried out on me, with my willing assistance, has ended in failure . . . The years will pass, and I shall, I hope, be able to convince myself that it could not have been otherwise …”

[3] A Solitary Chronicler – “A game of Lotto”, Moscow, 1970

The story is set in the present. A few intellectuals are conversing over tea and skipping, as the fancy takes them, from philosophy and divinity to literature and history. A book which happens to be in the house, written in 1839 by the Marquis de Custine and [re-]published in 1930 with the title Russia Under Nicholas [Lettres de Russie], gives the conversation a new direction.

The “game of Lotto” begins: quotations from the book serve as points, points being awarded for finding a “non-equivalent parallel” to a given quotation in the present day. For example: “In his life-time the Russian commoner is beaten as often as he bows”. By 1939, although beatings still occurred in the course of the unlawful conducting of an investigation, bowing had died out altogether. When greeting their leaders, the workers did not bow, but stood up. Or: “Everyone here spies on others out of his love of the art, not even thinking of reward ”. Vigilance is a splendid characteristic of simple Soviet people. Vigilance and spying are completely different things.

[4] Open Letter from a “group of Russian nationalists” to the publishers of the Ukrainian Herald

The letter opens with the words: “On encountering your message in print we were inspired with an excited feeling of affinity, of unity of outlook on many problems, although one sometimes senses that you, unlike us, have no faith in Russia”.

There follows an exposition of the moral, religious, social and political positions of the “Russian nationalists”.

[5] Social Problems. A collection of selected samizdat texts devoted to social problems. Compiler: V. Chalidze. Issue No. 12 (July-August 1971)

1. A Esenin-Volpin – On the Logic of Moral Sciences; 2. Mental Health: A Guide to Civil Rights (translated from English); 3. Documents of the Committee for Human Rights.

[6] German Smirnovsky – ‘‘A Hot Summer in Belgrade,” September 1971

A brief survey of problems troubling Yugoslav society at present (summer 1971): economic difficulties, national enmities and separatism, hostility on the part of the USSR and Bulgaria, and an increase in censorship. It includes a chronicle of prohibitions imposed by the censorship between May and August 1971: on thirteen occasions publications were banned because they included discussions of controversial subjects, cartoons on questions of domestic policy, criticism of the censorship, and so on.

[7] Veche No. 3, 19 September 1971 [56]

The central item in the journal is an article entitled “The House which we are Building”. The author, in a detailed and closely-reasoned analysis, examines the complex of problems connected with Man’s profligate attack on nature, which is leading humanity towards disaster.

The journal also includes a continuation of the biography of General Skobelev and the conclusion of M. Antonov’s work “The teaching of the Slavophiles as the zenith of popular consciousness in Russia in the pre-Lenin period”. M. Antonov devotes the last part of his work to the philosophy of the Kireyevsky brothers. Discussing the prospects for the development of a Russian national consciousness, the author claims: “Only a fusion of Orthodoxy and Leninism (the author’s italics) can provide a philosophy for the Russian people capable of synthesising the whole of the people’s centuries-old experience of life”.

The anonymous author of “In memory of [the poet] Gumilyov” develops the idea that true creativity is independent of the artist’s political beliefs.

The journal also prints critical notes on the work of the poets V. Sidorov and E. Vinokurov [many of whose works have been published], a polemic with L. Rendel (see Veche No. 2), materials and reports on the life of the Russian Orthodox Church, and verses by N. Rubtsov.

Veche No. 3 publishes a statement by V. Osipov, the editor of the journal. The statement calls on “Russian patriots” to continue the publication of Veche if Osipov should be arrested. The fact that his arrest is certain, the statement says, was mentioned by officials of the KGB while they were interviewing persons connected with Osipov. The “Statement” reiterates the assertion that the journal Veche occupies a position loyal to the Soviet political and social system, and expresses the hope that “among the Soviet leaders there are honest men who are not indifferent to Russia” and “who will eventually understand what is meant by the honour of the constitution and the prestige of the Motherland”.

[8] B. V. Yefimov [57] – “A letter to the USSR Supreme Soviet”

The letter discusses the question of Jewish emigration to Israel. Its fundamental thesis: the right to self-determination includes the right to live in one’s national state. The letter analyses the arguments usually advanced to justify the detention of Jews in the USSR; it ends with proposals for legislative measures to resolve problems of national self-determination and emigration from the USSR.

[9] Lydia K. Chukovskaya – “A letter to the judicial board for criminal affairs of the Ukrainian Supreme Court”, 29 July 1971. [58]

The subject of the letter is the trial of R. Palatnik (see CCE 20.5), who was charged with “circulating anti-Soviet literature” . Chukovskaya protests at the fact that Akhmatova’s Requiem, poetry by Mandelstam, two of Chukovskaya’s own letters and other documents mentioned in the charge against R. Palatnik were described as anti-Soviet. All the above-mentioned documents and works, from the political point of view, are only of an anti-Stalinist nature. To lump together the terms “anti-Stalinist” and “anti-Soviet” is to ignore the decisions of the 20th and 22nd Party Congresses. In recent years, unfortunately, it has tended to become the practice of the courts and the censorship to do exactly this.


[55. See also CCE 20.12 (item 8). For letters signed by Glazov see P. Litvinov, Protsess chetyrekh, Amsterdam, 1971.]

[56. For summaries of Veche No. 1 dated January 1971, see CCE 18.11, item 6) and No 2 dated May 1971, see CCE 20.12 (item 5). Extracts from No. 2 have appeared in Russkaya mysl, 91 rue du Faubourg St. Denis, Paris 10, 30 December 1971.]

[57. For Yefimov, See Reddaway, Uncensored Russia, p. 168.]

[58. See also summaries of Chukovskaya’s letter in the Western press, e.g., in The Washington Post and The Times, 11 October.]