Statements by Vladimir Bukovsky, June 1970 (14.4)

«No 14 : 30 June 1970»

[1] Open letter to Mikis Theodorakis

The addressee is the well-known Greek composer who was recently released from detention and is now in France. At the beginning of 1970 the author of the letter returned from the camps (CCE 12.9, item 22). We give here its partially abridged text.

“Dear Mr. Theodorakis,

“I do not know you personally and can judge you only by what is published in the Soviet press.

“… You more than anybody understand what is meant by a ‘police state’, the persecution of dissidents and the struggle with lawlessness in such conditions. As a creative person you cannot be indifferent to the fate of those deprived of freedom for their work; as a former political prisoner you cannot be indifferent to the conditions in which political prisoners are held in other countries of the world; as a fighter for democracy you cannot be indifferent to the fate of those who stand up openly in defence of civil rights.

“Today these problems have ceased to be those of a single people. They have become common to all mankind…

“… The fact that dissidents are persecuted in our country, the fact that some of them are placed in psychiatric hospital-prisons … the fact that writers are persecuted for their work and believers for their faith – these facts must receive authoritative and objective confirmation in the eyes of the public.

“Otherwise they may be declared ‘a fraud’ or ‘slander’.

“You are a man whose objectivity and honesty neither the Soviet government nor world public opinion have reason to doubt. Moreover, in our country you have gained unusual popularity and respect. There is no reason why you should be refused permission to visit Soviet camps, prisons and psychiatric hospital-prisons – unless there is a desire to conceal the facts of lawlessness and arbitrary official behaviour.

“A few years ago the leaders of our country publicly stated that we have no political prisoners. Today they are unable to say this, since the world knows the names of many people arrested here in recent years for political reasons. The addresses of the camps, prisons and hospital-prisons in which they are being held are also known. You could visit the writers Sinyavsky, Ginzburg and others in their camp, you could see the writer Daniel in a cell at Vladimir Prison or, for example, General Grigorenko or the poetess Natalya Gorbanevskaya surrounded by degenerates and maniacs.

“You could see the writers Amalrik and Marchenko, the church-writer Levitin-Krasnov, the poets Delone and Gabai, who are being held together with criminals, see the conditions of their detention, try the food they receive day after day; you could ask the poet Galanskov what medical attention he is being given. You could compare the conditions in which political prisoners are held in Greece and in the USSR.

“It is essential to make all this extraordinarily important information public, and thus to make a new contribution to the cause of the struggle for civil rights and democracy, but above all to help the innocent people who are suffering.

“The Soviet government may refuse to allow you to visit places of detention, but it will hardly refuse you a visa. In this case I am prepared to introduce you to a number of former political prisoners who have spent long years in the above-mentioned places and are willing to give accurate testimony…

“I appeal to you, as one former political prisoner to another, to help our comrades – the political prisoners of the USSR …”

[2] Letter to the editor of The Washington Post

“Dear Editor,

“In your issue of 17 May 1970 you published my interview with the Associated Press correspondent Mr. Jensen, in which I told him about my life and related what I had seen in the special psychiatric hospital in Leningrad between 1963 and 1965, and in the ordinary-regime colony at the settlement of Bor in the Voronezh Region between 1967 and 1970.

“On 9 June 1970 I was summoned by Vankovich, a Moscow assistant Procurator, to 27, Novokuznetskaya Street, room 8. I consider it my duty to inform you of the substance of the conversation.”

Bukovsky then gives a complete record of his conversation with the Procurator. We quote the end of this conversation:

Procurator – … I am obliged to warn you that your interview contains slander against the Soviet system and that we have the right to call you to account under article 190-1 of the criminal code if you do not cease your activity.

Bukovsky – Do you consider that the facts set out in that interview do not correspond to reality?

Procurator – Yes.

Bukovsky – In that case allow me to gather, together all those people and all others who can confirm the facts. I am in contact with them. Do you wish them to give you their evidence?

Procurator – No, no, it’s not necessary.

Bukovsky – In that case, where is the slander? […]

Procurator – I have officially warned you that at any time we can call you to account for the slander contained in your interview.

Bukovsky – What’s that, a threat? Don’t threaten me. I’m not frightened of that. If one trial isn’t enough for you, one final speech, then there will be two, and after I’m released I’ll have fresh material for a new interview.

Procurator – So you will not cease your activity?

Bukovsky – Certainly not. It is my moral duty to my comrades in confinement.

In conclusion V. Bukovsky again addresses the editor of The Washington Post:

“I considered it my duty to inform you of this conversation, since by his official declaration that an article in your newspaper contains slander, Procurator Vankovich is damaging your newspaper’s reputation. For my part I personally declare that I am prepared to produce precise confirmation of that information, which I shall give to any objective commission.”