Monday, February 11, 2013

Secession, Freedom, and the "Impossible"

[The heroic dissident Vladimir Bukovsky wrote about the changing attitudes by 1970 in the USSR, approximately 20 years before the collapse of the Union, from page 353 of  To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter, Viking Press, New York, 1979. - Ed.]

"There had been quite an upsurge in national movements during my absence [incarceration].  They were extremely varied and even had different external aims.  The Meskhetians and Crimean Tartars, for instance, who in Stalin's time had been forcibly deported from their homelands to Central Asia, were trying to obtain the right to return home.  The Jews wanted the right to go to Israel, the Volga and Baltic Germans to Germany.  The Ukrainians, the Caucasians, and the Baltic peoples wanted secession, national independence, and the right to a national culture.  Five years before, the mere mention of national independence or the right to secession would have been sufficient to guarantee you fifteen years for 'high treason.'  And leaving for abroad was still regarded as treason.  But citizens who had resolved to submit to their conscience instead of their Party card were beginning to force their own reality upon the state.

"This wasn't a political struggle, there were no heroics.  It was like a 'club of the sane' in a lunatic asylum.  All that was left to us was to be normal people....

"Here there was no right, left, and middle of the road.  Everyone had been made equal by the Soviet concentration camps.  Just as before, there were no leaders and led, no pushers and pushed, no rules and regulations - only it was easier, much easier.  There were more people, there was more publicity, and the people came from higher up the social scale: professors, academicians, writers - not to be compared with us striplings of the early 1960s.  Rights were now claimed on the spur of the moment, and yesterday's 'impossible' was a commonplace today."

1 comment:

mmicmichael said...

Bukovsky certainly has had an interesting life. We in the West are so ignorant of the Russian experience, how so many struggled in labor camps and psychiatric hospitals, yet bravely spoke and wrote on behalf of freedom and human rights. Does the leader of our country even have a clue in regards to relations with Russia?