Thursday, March 31, 2011

A voice from the past

Back in the 1980ies, Soviet newspapers and magazines were finally freed from the diktat of the communist regime, and they started publishing enormous amounts of anti-communist material. For more than half a century, most popular Russian writers could not show their best stories and novels to the readers - or they had to severely self-censor in order to be published. The authors who left USSR were completely cut off from the Russian public. But at last, the gates were open, and we could see the enormity of Russian literature of the 20th century - from Bunin and Nabokov to Bulgakov, Erofeev and Dovlatov.  Some of the people (and this surely includes my family) have read some of the books forbidden by the regime - but even we had only a glimpse of the great works of the Russian writers of that period.

In the 1980ies, magazine "Ogonek" was probably the most popular among the Soviet public - it was read by everyone, from a conscripted soldier to a party functionary and a university academic. Ogonek was an openly anti-communist magazine and at the time it was most hated by left media outlet in the entire country - the members of Politburo regularly discussed its articles and just as regularly demanded Gorbachev to close it, or to change its editor-n-chief, Vitali Korotich.

A few words about Korotich. Before perestroika, he was a normal, average member of the communist nomenclatura, smoothly moving from one post to another. But when Gorbachev put him in charge of a popular Soviet magazine, he waked up from the sleep and became a devoted anti-communist. It's not as strange as it sounds - after all, communism was a state religion in the USSR, and heretics were regularly sent to Siberia for re-education. But once Gorbachev removed the whip, no carrots in the world could keep Russian intelligentsia at the feet of the communist party. And boy, did they pay back for the years of communist oppression!

I think it was in 1991 or so, when Korotich shared a rather amusing anecdote from his life. At some point (this was after perestroika), Korotich travelled to US to give a lecture about Soviet Union to an American audience - I assume it were mostly American professors, intellectuals and the like who came to his presentation. Mind you, these were supposedly highly "educated" and "credentialed" Americans, most of the them were familiar with the works of Solzhenitsyn. For about 2 hours, Korotich patiently explained the horrors of communist regimes, portrayed the cruelty of Stalinism and described how the Soviet leaders ruthlessly punished any dissent. During the Q-n-A session, a woman stood up and proceeded to ask a question. Here is what she said: "I understand that Stalin killed millions of people and sent tens of millions of people to forced labor camp. I also understand that he silenced all his critics. But I still cannot understand one thing - why hasn't anyone called the police?!" Korotich said in his article that this question left him completely speechless. He understood that there was nothing in the world that he could say to this woman.

And this is pretty much what I feel right now when I watch an American senator, Dianne Feinstein "usually considered one of the clearer Democratic thinkers on national security and the military in Congress" wonder if the world can simply arrest Muamar Kaddafi for crimes of humanity. Wouldn't that be simpler than a ground invasion?! I now know exactly how Korotich felt...


Gorges Smythe said...

Let's arrest Obama for treason first!

Hyphenated American said...

Gorges, call the police.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure if they had a warrant he would surrender. After all, it's the law. lol