The Fetisov group, April 1969 (7.8)

«No 7 : 30 April 1969»

In March or April 1968, the economist A. Fetisov and the architects M. Antonov, V. Bykov and O. Smirnov were arrested in Moscow.  Charged under Article 70 [of the Criminal Code], a psychiatric diagnosis pronounced all four to be not answerable for their actions, and at present they are in the Special Psychiatric Hospitals in Leningrad and Kazan.


The ideas of Fetisov and his followers are a critique of the Soviet political, economic and social system from an extreme totalitarian and chauvinistic position.  Fetisov’s work presents the historical development of mankind as having taken the form of a struggle between order and chaos, chaos having been embodied in the Jewish people who created disorder in Europe for two thousand years, until the German and Slav principles — the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin — put a stop to this chaos.  Fetisov and his supporters consider these regimes to have been historically inevitable and positive phenomena.

The economic programme of this group includes, in particular, the de-industrialization of the European part of the USSR, the transfer of industry and a mass deportation of workers to Siberia, and the re-establishment of a system of patriarchally-run communes on the territory of European Russia. This programme was embodied in the projects of the young architects; their building designs presupposed de-urbanization and a return to the agricultural commune.  One of them based his thesis on this idea, and when the Academic Council of the Institute of the Theory and History of Architecture voted against him being given a degree, he stated that this was because “only Jews” were on the Academic Council.  A. Fetisov, too, is well-known for his explicit pronouncements against the Jews and the intelligentsia.  By the way, in 1968, not long before his arrest, Fetisov left the Party in protest against the de-Stalinisation of 1956 — exactly at the time when the whole of the democratic intelligentsia felt the danger of the re-emergence of Stalinism; but to Fetisov, these attempts to restore the past must have seemed feeble and inconsistent.

Fetisov’s ideas have impressed and won supporters among a variety of circles among some sections of the technical intelligentsia who plan to establish a technocracy with the aid of cybernetics and systems’ theory, and so on; among that section of the Slavophil-oriented intelligentsia in the humanities whose Slavophilism merges into chauvinism; among people with little education who long for simple, strong methods for transforming the world.


But whatever these ideas may be, one must not forget that four people were sentenced under Article 70 for what amounts to their views and are now experiencing the dreadful conditions of a special mental hospital, i.e. imprisonment with enforced treatment, for their views.  In the light of this, the document “He did not recognize his own”, circulated in samizdat form, is disturbing, and in this case the Chronicle will abandon its usual practice of not passing judgement.

The document is discreditable in two respects.

Firstly, instead of presenting anything resembling a serious criticism, the author of the document confines himself to mocking the obvious stupidity of Fetisov‘s ideas, which could be entertained only “in virginally pure heads as yet incapable of thinking properly.” The Chronicle considers that such a radical anti-democratic programme demands an equally radical, but absolutely serious, scientific criticism which could shake some of Fetisov‘s supporters who have been attracted by one side of this programme and have not realised its general direction.

Secondly, a polemic with imprisoned people, or rather with their ideas which continue to spread and have an influence, can be considered as ethical. But it is immoral to express satisfaction that the authorities have sent your intellectual opponent to “a madhouse”. This involves becoming like Fetisov himself, who considered that Sinyavsky and Daniel should have been shot. The author of “He did not recognise his own” has not given his name and the result of his anonymity is that the document gives the impression of expressing the views of certain circles of the democratic intelligentsia, which, it must be hoped, is not the case.