In 1992, the year after the Soviet Union collapsed, Bukovsky was asked to return to Russia as an expert witness at a trial against President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin had banned the Communist Party and seized its property. Bukovsky’s argument, which he had always believed, was that the party had been unconstitutional. To demonstrate it, Bukovsky requested access to the Central Committee archives. Using a laptop and hand-held scanner, he surreptitiously copied and smuggled out thousands of pages before being discovered.
His findings were captured in Judgment in Moscow, first published in 1995 in French, then in Russian and other European languages. It didn’t come out in English until this year. Its subtitle, “Soviet Crimes and Western Complicity,” gives a clue as to why. When Bukovsky first attempted to publish the book in English, in the 1990s, the American publisher had asked him to rewrite “the entire book from the point of view of a leftist liberal,” he wrote. Specifically, he was told to omit all mention of media companies that had entered agreements to publish articles and cover media events “under the direct editorial control of the Soviets.” He rejected the offer, and the publisher canceled the contract.
The documents cited in the book demonstrate, he wrote, the “treacherous role of the American left”—its complicity with Moscow during the 1930s and ’40s, infiltration of the U.S. government and assistance to the Soviets during the Cold War. They demonstrate also the Kremlin’s support for Middle Eastern terrorists, Mikhail Gorbachev’s sabotage of the European Community, and the pseudoliberalism of Mr. Gorbachev’s “perestroika.”
Judgment in Moscow didn't have an English translation until earlier this year when it was released by Ninth of November Press. For a starting point, I recommend 1978's To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter (see the Links section). The chilling note at the beginning of a recent edition of the book reads "Truly we were born to make Kafka live."
A few quick links to explore:
- The Vladimir Bukovsky site
- The Bukovsky archives—"The classified documents that make up this archive were copied secretly by Vladimir Bukovsky in 1992 as he prepared to testify at the trial of the CPSU."
- A pdf of To Build a Castle. It's a bare-bones copy, but as I mentioned earlier it's a great introduction to Bukovsky.
- From the Gulag to Brexit, The life and death of Vladimir Bukovsky, the fiery dissident who shed light on Soviet punitive psychiatry
- Remembering Vladimir Bukovsky (1942-2019): a long-ago lunch with a man who loved freedom and roses at The Book Haven