Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Vladimir Bukovsky 1942-2019

Vladimir Bukovsky passed away this past weekend at the age of 76. Before he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1976, Bukovsky spent 12 years in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and labor camps. Vladimir Nabokov said of Bukovsky, "Bukovsky's heroic speech to the court in defense of freedom, and his five years of martyrdom in a despicable psychiatric jail will be remembered long after the torturers he defied have rotted away." Here is the obituary at the Vladimir Bukovsky site. And there's this from Juliana Geran Pilon's Monday Wall Street Journal column on Bukovsky (behind a paywall, unfortunately):
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:

There is a lot more available online about Bukovsky and his work.


mudpuddle said...

intriguing... power corrupts and absolute power...

Dwight said...

Well, communism always promoted a special power. While Bukovsky helped flesh out the picture of where that special power led and the consequences of it, my appreciation is his willingness to name names found in the files regarding Western leaders on board with where that power led, whether they be fellow travelers or useful idiots.

Jean said...

Holy moley. I ordered that book! Thanks so much.

Dwight said...

Judgment in Moscow? It's not an easy read, in more ways than one. I'm not sure I buy into all of his arguments, but one thing that's clear is that many in the West were complicit in their dealing with the USSR. I'll say no more here, other than to say it's disgusting how many of those that did have been lionized in the Western press, despite their clear support for such a repressive & authoritarian regime.

Jean said...

I believe you about it not being easy. I'm eyeing it with some trepidation.