Fat Sasha and the Urban Guerilla: Protest and Conformism in the Soviet Union
Samizdat: Voices of the Soviet Opposition
Ten Years After Ivan Denisovich
I Am a Jew: Essays on Jewish Identity in the Soviet Union B’nai Brith
Jewishness Rediscovered: Jewish Identity in the Soviet Union B’nai Brith
Boomerang: The Works of Valentyn Moroz
Report from the Beria Reserve: The Protest Writings of Valentyn Moroz Chicago, Illinois 60680)
Church, State and Opposition in the USSR Communism
A decade ago in the Soviet Union a series of relentless, sometimes desperate struggles got under way. On one side was the powerful apparatus of the regime, long in power, ideologically ossified beyond regeneration, instinctively and persistently reactionary in suppressing almost all the aspirations of its opponents. On the other was a steadily increasing number of dissenting groups—cultural, intellectual, humanitarian, political, nationalistic, religious—which realized they would have to fight, and for a long time, to attain even a few of their aims. No longer, under Brezhnev and Kosygin, did the hope of the Khrushchev period persist that concessions might be made voluntarily “from above” and that peaceful coexistence, or even dialogue, with the regime might become possible. Now it would be a struggle of attrition which might last for decades and of which the ultimate outcome was unpredictable. Today the prospect remains unchanged.
These struggles inside Russia deserve careful study, and not only because they are continuing human dramas in which the stakes are high, where one side tries to keep us ignorant, misled, or indifferent, while the other continually and often urgently appeals to us for support in the name of values we claim to hold. There is a second and at least equally important reason. Study of these struggles can tell us more than most other sources about the ways in which the Soviet Union is evolving, about the priorities and values of its political leaders, their strengths and vulnerabilities.
On this second point Western efforts have so far been unimpressive. The essential basis for study—an intellectual and above all emotional understanding of the quarter-century of Stalinist slaughter and social atomization—has been made accessible to us, in more brilliant form than we really deserve, by new sources, in particular the works of Nadezhda Mandelstam and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Some intellectuals and students have, it is true, begun to discern the richness of these new sources, but not yet governments. Otherwise we might have been spared such spectacles as Harold Wilson’s recent homage to Mr. Kosygin as “almost part of the British way of life” and Messrs. Nixon and Brezhnev boisterously feting each other in Washington and Moscow.
If, however, one absorbs the voluminous writings and materials of samizdat, and brings one’s conclusions to bear on what is known of the Soviet Union from other sources, the picture is far from reassuring. On the one hand the emotions pent up throughout the Stalin era (when the only honest emotion most people could wisely display in public was fear) are now beginning to be expressed—not as yet, with any clear purpose, among the workers and peasants, but among those groups which have preserved or recreated their values and have produced articulate leaders. The result is gradually mounting pressures for a more plural society, for some genuine politics (after the apoliticism of a near-perfect totalitarianism), and for the legitimation of minority nationalism.
On the other hand we see a regime increasingly on the defensive, physically …