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The Mikhail Meilakh Case

To the Editors:

At the end of June, the KGB arrested in Leningrad Mikhail Meilakh, a linguist, translator and literary scholar. His arrest was preceded by 10-hour search of his apartment which resulted in confiscation of such “subversive” literature as Akhmatova’s and Mandelstam’s books of poetry, novels by Vladimir Nabokov and a few books on theology.

Mikhail Meilakh is the son of the prominent Russian literary scholar Boris Meilakh. He was a disciple and younger friend of the late Victor Zhirmunsky. When Mr. Meilakh was 30, in 1975, he published his first scholarly book, Language of Troubadours, in Moscow’s Academy of Science Press to the highest critical acclaim in the Soviet Union and France.

Approximately at the same time Mikhail Meilakh’s intellectual independence and his extensive correspondence with colleagues in the west brought upon him the wrath of the authorities. His apartment was searched then for the first time and he was fired from the Institute of Linguistics where he worked.

Being neither a dissident nor a person involved in the realm of politics Mikhail Meilakh continued his scholarly research and published books and numerous articles on medieval French and modern Russian literatures in the academic publications in the USA, W. Germany, France and Israel.

The cruel persecution of a brilliant scholar, whose only “guilt” consists in his academic independence, is yet another example of the harsh treatment of intellectuals in the Soviet Union. It undermines trust and cooperation between the Soviet academic community and its counterpart in the west.

Edward Bradley, Marina Brownlee, Bruce Duncan, Colette L. Gaudin, Jeffrey Hart, James A. Heffernan, Lev Loseff, John D. Lyons, Stephen J. Nichols, Neal Oxenhandler, Steven Paul Scher, and David Sices

Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

Priscilla Meyer

Wesleyan University

Middletown, Connecticut

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