Two True Stories

The recently convicted Russian worker and writer Anatoly Marchenko has arrived at his place of exile in Siberia. This news, which has just reached his wife Larissa Bogoraz, ends her fears that he might have died during the grueling deportation from Moscow to the small town of Chuna near Irkutsk. For six weeks after he was given a four-year sentence she had received no news of him. Before his dispatch he had declared that he would maintain indefinitely a hunger strike begun on February 26, the day of his arrest, and the prison authorities were already force feeding him.

But when the deportation started on April 12, the guards refused, contrary to law, to recognize his hunger strike, and so also refused to force feed him. His last reserves of strength quickly ebbed away and he collapsed unconscious. When revived, he realized that he would soon die if he continued his eight-week strike. On April 20 he broke his fast. A month later, on May 21, he arrived in Chuna.

The Marchenkos are pursuing their efforts to emigrate, despite the exile sentence. They have appealed to President Podgorny to facilitate this by quashing the sentence as illegal. A campaign in their support has been organized in the US, Britain, Holland, and elsewhere by humanitarian, trade union, cultural, and religious organizations. In Britain the miners’ leader Lawrence Daly has been especially active, and in America the union leader Albert Shanker last year personally invited the Marchenkos to come to the US.

At the same time that the news of Mr. Marchenko’s survival has reached the West, so too have a transcript of his trial and related samizdat documents. They reveal not only the long vendetta which the Soviet secret police, or KGB, have been conducting against Mr. Marchenko, but also the KGB’s remarkable obsession in forcing would-be emigrants among Soviet dissenters to apply for emigration not to Western countries but, exclusively, to Israel.

This practice has been attacked in a recent statement by Dr. Andrei Sakharov, who explains it by the authorities’ desire to make “anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic” propaganda by lumping Jews and dissenters together and presenting them as disloyal citizens who are concerned only to escape to Israel. Dr. Sakharov points out that because Mr. Marchenko received Invitations from the US he refused to apply for emigration to Israel. He praises Marchenko’s “consistent stand in not yielding to the KGB even when preparing to emigrate.”

The documents also reveal that Mr. Marchenko was first urged to emigrate by the authorities as long ago as 1967, when he was only twenty-nine. This was after he had spent eight years in forced labor camps and described them in a book, My Testimony, which was later translated into many languages. A KGB official told him then that if he did not emigrate he would be imprisoned, though not—formally—for writing the book. Marchenko ignored this threat, and took part instead in the incipient human rights movement. A month before …

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