AUR#658 Unmasking Stalin: A Speech That Changed The World; Why Russia Still Loves Stalin; Black Book Of Unwanted Names On The Map Of Russia

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New Public Radio Documentary Marking 50th Anniversary of
Nikita Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, February 25, 1956

On February 25, 1956, former Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev revealed
and denounced, for the first time in the history of the Soviet Union, the
crimes of his predecessor, Joseph Stalin, dramatically shifting Soviet
Russia’s course, stirring a human rights movement, and opening the door
to the eventual collapse of the USSR.

Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Publisher and Editor
Washington, D.C., Kyiv, Ukraine, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2006

Clicking on the title of any article takes you directly to the article.
Return to the Index by clicking on Return to Index at the end of each article

New Public Radio Documentary Marking 50th Anniversary of
Nikita Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, February 25, 1956
: Written and Produced By Robert Rand
American RadioWorks, Public Radio Documentary
American Public Media, St. Paul, Minnesota, February, 2006

Nina Khrushcheva explains why Joseph Stalin is still popular
in Russia — and her great-grandfather isn’t.
“Putinism,” an all-inclusive hybrid that embraces elements of Stalinism,
communism, KGB-ism and market-ism, is our new national ideology.
COMMENTARY: by Nina L. Khrushcheva
OUTLOOK: The Washington Post, Section B, Page 1
Washington, D.C., Sunday, February 12, 2006

SPEECH EXCERPTS: Nikita Khrushchev, Secret Speech to the

Closed Session of the Twentieth Party Congress, February 25, 1956
Modern History Sourcebook on the web.

It was a brand new medium for Soviet dissidents.
By Hale Sargent, American RadioWorks
National Documentary Unit of American Public Media
St. Paul, Minnesota, February 2006


Clouds tells the story of a man who has been freed from the labor
camps. He can not escape the life he lived there, for his memories
always take him back, like clouds always float from one place to another.
American RadioWorks, American Public Media
St. Paul, Minnesota, February 2006
Special report – A pawn in a dangerous game that went right to the heart of
Soviet power politics or a conduit for a disaffected agent, one-time Reuters
correspondent John Rettie looks back on the events of 1956 that catapulted
him into a murky world.
By John Rettie, Former Moscow Journalist for Reuters
New Statesman, London, UK, Monday 13th February 2006

New book, “The Black Book of Unwanted Names on the Map of Russia,”
By Ali Nassor, St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, February 10, 2006

By Nick Webster,, London, UK, Saturday, 4 February 2006

: by Robert Rand
American RadioWorks, National Documentary Unit
of American Public Media, St. Paul, Minnesota, February, 2006

Written by Jack Goldfarb, Toward Freedom online,
Burlington, Vermont, Monday, 23 January 2006

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) passes strong resolution
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE)
Strasbourg, France, Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Ukrinform, Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, January 28, 2006

New Public Radio Documentary Marking 50th Anniversary of
Nikita Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, February 25, 1956

DOCUMENTARY: Written and Produced By Robert Rand
American RadioWorks, Public Radio Documentary
American Public Media, St. Paul, Minnesota, February, 2006

On February 25, 1956, former Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev revealed
and denounced, for the first time in the history of the Soviet Union, the
crimes of his predecessor, Joseph Stalin, dramatically shifting Soviet
Russia’s course, stirring a human rights movement, and opening the door
to the eventual collapse of the USSR.



Ray Suarez: This is Unmasking Stalin: A Speech That Changed the World, an
American RadioWorks documentary from American Public Media. I’m Ray

President Bush meeting here with Russian President Vladimir Putin last

George Bush: Democracy just doesn’t happen, it grows. It takes a while.
That’s the experience of our country, that’s the experience of the Russian

Yet in Russia, more than 14 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it
is unclear whether the democratic promise of that country’s post-Soviet
revolution has fully grown. Putin’s critics say he has accumulated too much
power, that Russia’s historical penchant for “rule by the iron fist” is
creeping back into play.

Hovering over these concerns are still fresh memories of Russia’s past,
where repression defined the Soviet way of life. Fifty years ago, on
February 25, 1956, Nikita Khrushchev, the former Kremlin leader, revealed
and denounced, for the first time in the history of the Soviet Union, the
crimes of his predecessor, Joseph Stalin. Khrushchev condemned Stalin in
a secret speech at the 20th congress of the Soviet Communist Party.

William Taubman: It seems to me that the secret speech changed the Soviet
Union and the world.

William Taubman is a Khrushchev biographer.

Taubman: It was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union and the
beginning of the end of communism as a doctrine, as an ideology which
commanded the loyalty of millions around the world. I would say that it was
one of the single most important events of the 20th century, and maybe more
centuries than that.

Despite the legacy of Khrushchev’s bold rhetorical act, there is, in Russia
today, a gentle whisp of Stalin in the air. Producer Robert Rand tells the
story of Khrushchev’s secret speech.

Robert Rand: In the center of Moscow, there’s a park where people gather. To
sing songs, to relax, and mostly, to reflect. This performer is singing about
a man who lacks the inner strength to stand up for his convictions. It’s a
bit of poetic irony, for this place is the graveyard of monuments, the final
resting ground for all those statues of Lenin, Marx and other Soviet icons
who squelched the convictions of independent thinkers. There’s a statue of
Joseph Stalin here.

“We’re all for Stalin!” these old ladies say. “He was a good man, a man with
a capital M. He did a lot of good for the people. Not like the Putin gang.”
A group of students sits at a nearby bench.

“Stalin was a tyrant,” they say. “He destroyed his own people. He was a

The old ladies eavesdrop and disagree. “These young people are idiots!” they
say. “They watch too much TV. Our TV Is influenced by America, you know.”

But the debate is not entirely along generational lines. One of the folk
singer’s friends, a young man in his mid-20s, offers his opinion.

“I relate positively to Stalin,” he says. “He did much good. Of course many
innocent people suffered. But as they say, you can’t make an omelet without
cracking eggs.”

Joseph Stalin’s statue may have been stripped from a once proud pedestal and
mothballed in a Moscow park, but the man has managed, still, more than 50
years after his death, to tug at the soul of Russia.

Stalin died on March 5, 1953. A fierce contest for power ensued among top
Kremlin leaders. It was like lions circling gladiators. Nikita Khrushchev
emerged as first among equals, but he still needed to consolidate authority.
The opportunity would come in February 1956.

A Soviet newsreel welcomed hundreds of comrades to a regularly scheduled
political gathering, the first since Stalin’s death. It was the 20th
Communist Party Congress.

Taubman: The party congress was supposed to be, in theory, the highest
legislative body of the communist party.

William Taubman is a Professor of Political Science at Amherst College and
author of “Khrushchev: The Man and His Era.” He says party congresses
had always glorified the Soviet Union.

Taubman: In effect, it was a rubber stamp for the top party leadership.

At the 20th Party meeting, delegates listened as Khrushchev praised
communism. He did so, as was the tradition, in an open session of the
Congress. There were no surprises. Everything was in order. But within
hours, the earth under the USSR would shake.

The Soviet Union was born with Vladimir Lenin’s communist revolution in
1917. But it was built, with nuts, bolts, and rivers of blood, by Joseph
Stalin. Stalin ruled the Soviet Union for more than two decades. Having
consolidated power by the late 1920s, he horse whipped a weary, weather
beaten old empire into an industrialized world power. He led his nation to
victory over Nazi Germany. And he created a totalitarian form of governance
based on brutality and fear.

Elena Bonner: In Stalin times, I as a child, then as an adult, felt that
this machine was a bulldozer, or lighting, that could strike you, whether
you were guilty or not guilty.

Elena Bonner is the widow of Nobel laureate and human rights activist
Andrei Sakharov. She grew up in Stalin’s Russia.

Bonner: Stalin for the country was something of a huge catastrophe, like
a tsunami.

It was a tsunami that killed some 20 million people. Yet when Joseph Stalin
died, one of the most brutal leaders of the 20th century was entombed with
his heroic reputation in tact. His people loved him to the end. Everyone
knew about the terror.

Everyone was afraid. Yet they didn’t blame Stalin. They blamed the people
around him, his nefarious underlings, the apparatus of government, the
informants, the police thugs on the street.

Pavel Litvinov: As a kid, I believed that Stalin was like god.

Pavel Litvinov was the grandson of Stalin’s foreign minister, and eventually
became a Soviet human rights activist. He recalled what he was taught about

Litvinov: That he knew everything in the world, that he was responsible for
all good things and couldn’t do anything wrong.

As this song in praise of Joseph Stalin put it, “Stalin outshines the sun,
he flies higher than all, he defeats all enemies, he is our very best
friend.” It is that love and awe of Joseph Stalin that provided the backdrop
for the 20th Communist Party congress in February 1956.

Nikita Khrushchev would burst the hero myth of Stalin to bolster his
political fortunes in the succession drama that hovered over the party
conference. Khrushchev received help from unexpected quarters: a friend
and former superior from the early days of his career.

Taubman: Aleksei Snegov and Nikita Khrushchev were old comrades from
the 1920s in Ukraine.

Again, Khrushchev scholar William Taubman.

Taubman: In 1937 Snegov was arrested and sent to the labor camps near the
Arctic Circle. Somehow he managed to survive until Stalin’s death. And after
Stalin died, he even managed to smuggle a letter out of the labor camp which
reached his old friend Khrushchev in Moscow.

Khrushchev summoned Snegov to the Kremlin.

Taubman: Snegov and Khrushchev had several heart-to-heart talks after
Snegov got back from the camps.

Khrushchev was moved by the horrific tales his old comrade told him about
life in the camps. Snegov urged Khrushchev to do something about Stalin at
the 20th Party Congress.

Taubman: He told him that if Khrushchev were to let that whole matter to
remain secret or to be silent about it that he, Khrushchev, would be
engaging in a kind of cover up, and so this kind of argument was one of
those that persuaded Khrushchev to make the secret speech.

This is the voice of Nikita Khrushchev from his secret audio diary. It was
recorded after Khrushchev was ousted from power in 1964.

Here is an excerpt in which Khrushchev discusses why he decided to
denounce Stalin.

English voiceover: These problems have to be faced. This is a matter of
thousands and thousands of people who perished or who were executed,
and of millions who were in exile and in prisons. If we do not speak the
truth to the congress, then we will be forced to tell the truth at some
later time. But then, we will not be the ones talking. We will be the people
under investigation.

There were other motivations behind Khrushchev’s desire to denounce

William Taubman.

Taubman: One of them was idealistic. It was to somehow cleanse
communism, in which he continued deeply to believe, of the Stalinist
stain which had accumulated in the terrible years of Stalin’s dictatorship.

The final reason was far less altruistic.

Taubman: The use of the secret speech in the battle to succeed Stalin was
in fact a brutal political calculation.

In his bid for Soviet leadership, Khrushchev faced a handful of hardline
Kremlin rivals who were Stalinist henchmen.

Taubman: And the idea there was to blacken their reputations and to some
extent burnish Khrushchev’s own, because they had been closer to Stalin in
the worst years of the terror.

When Nikita Khrushchev entered the conference hall for his clandestine
address 50 years ago, his communist party comrades were accustomed only
to accolades for Joseph Stalin, and for the communist party he had led.
Stalin had been their omniscient, kind hearted, all powerful great leader.

In Russian, the word is vozhd. Khrushchev’s denunciation took them
completely by surprise. It was a political about-face of volcanic
proportions. [Radio Liberty reading of secret speech]

There is no known surviving recording of Khrushchev’s secret speech. What
you’re listening to now is nonetheless something pretty rare: a broadcast to
the Soviet Union on the U.S.-sponsored Radio Liberty. It aired in 1971, in
the midst of the cold war. An announcer is reading the complete text of
Khrushchev’s remarks.

English voiceover: Comrades! It is impermissible and foreign to the spirit
of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person, to transform him into a
superman possessing supernatural characteristics, akin to those of a god.

Stalin practiced brutal violence, not only against everyone who opposed
him, but also against anything that seemed contrary to his despotic and
capricious character.

Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation and patient cooperation
with people, but by demanding absolute submission to his opinion, whoever
opposed his viewpoint was doomed to moral and physical annihilation.

Years later, in his secret audio diary, Nikita Khrushchev described the
scene inside the Kremlin when he delivered his secret speech.

English voiceover: People were shocked at my denunciation of Stalin. It
was so quiet in the Kremlin congress hall that you could hear a fly buzzing.

This was the first time that most of the delegates had heard of the sickness
in Stalin’s character, and of Stalin’s atrocities. So many of us died. So
many of old bolsheviks. So many believers. It was truly a tragedy.

Suarez: I’m Ray Suarez. You’re listening to Unmasking Stalin: A Speech
That Changed the World, from American Radioworks. Coming up, the
message of the secret speech made public.

Sergei Khrushchev: Nikita Khrushchev said that we are trying to build
paradise on the earth named communism. But we cannot live in the
paradise surrounded with barbed wire as it happened during Stalin’s time.

Suarez: Our program continues in just a moment, from American Public

Saurez: This is Unmasking Stalin: A Speech That Changed the World, an
American Radioworks documentary from American Public Media. I’m
Ray Suarez.

Winston Churchill said that Russia is a riddle, wrapped inside a mystery,
inside an enigma. All the more so in uncertain times, such as they were
after Nikita Khrushchev denounced Joseph Stalin and his cult of personality.
Khrushchev staked everything on that bold rhetorical act. And all Soviet
Russia would feel the fallout.

Robert Rand continues our story on the outcome of that address, and how a
small group of Russians, including one close to Khrushchev, was intimately
affected by the consequences.

Rand: One of the secrets behind the secret speech is that Nikita Khrushchev
never intended to keep it under wraps. He made it behind closed doors only
to placate Kremlin hardliners, who feared a public address would ruin
Stalin’s reputation. But the secret speech, made to the communist elite at
the 20th party congress, was a tactical move. Once the elite was informed,
Khrushchev was free to act even more boldly.

Sergei Khrushchev: My father want to tell about this all this to all the
people, to all Soviet people. There’s no reason to keep it secret.

Sergei Khrushchev is Nikita Khrushchev’s son. He said his father wanted to
publicize the speech to gather rank and file support for his fight against
pro-Stalinists who opposed his change of course.

Sergei Khrushchev: We cannot keep it secret from the members of the
Communist Party. We have to read to the members of the Communist Party.
After that, he told, but we have our communist youth, and they have to know

In the weeks following his secret speech, Nikita Khrushchev ordered tens of
thousands of communists, young and old, to gather at meetings, where they
were read the text of his remarks denouncing Stalin. The word was out. All
Russia knew.

Sergei Khrushchev was born in 1935, reared during the second World War,
and came of age during the post-war era, a proud time for the Soviet Union,
which had become a world power. He was close to his father, and witnessed
with him some of the most interesting moments of cold war history. The
Berlin wall. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.

This scene at the United Nations in 1960, in which an animated Nikita
Khrushchev brandished his shoe and gave the capitalist West a nasty case
of verbal whiplash.

And there was the Cuban missile crisis.

John Kennedy: I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this
clandestine reckless and provocative threat to world peace.

That was October 1962. Nikita Khrushchev was ousted from power two years
later by a clique of neo-Stalinists. They said Khrushchev had engaged in
bragging, bluster, and hare-brained schemes.

Newscast: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

A quarter century later, as the Soviet Union began to crumble, Sergei
Khrushchev was invited to the United States to lecture about developments in
Russia. And on July 12, 1999, the son of Nikita Khrushchev became a United
States citizen.

Newscast: Sixty-four-year-old Sergei Khrushchev pledged allegiance to a
country his father detested. Sergei says he never would have become a U.S.
Citizen during the cold war. But in his words, times have changed. “Because
it’s different world. We’re not living now in the old cold war environment.”

“That you will support and defend the constitution and laws of the United
States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

“Congratulations all of you. I wish you all a good life in America.”

Sergei Khrushchev now teaches at Brown University in Providence, Rhode

Sergei Khrushchev is 70 years old and somewhat resembles his father. There’s
the same twinkle in the eye,the same balding pate. But Sergei Khrushchev
lacks the portly face and the overall rotundity his father had, and appears
to lack his dad’s bragaddocio.

I first met Sergei Khrushchev by the water-fed pond in the backyard garden
at his home in suburban Providence.

Rand: Did your father garden?

Sergei: Yeah, he liked to garden, he was very proud of his garden. When he
was in office, he – growing corn, tomatoes, peas, and when he was ousted.
[fades out]

When Sergei Khrushchev is not in the classroom, or in his garden, he spends
his time thinking and writing about his father. Nikita Khrushchev’s secret
speech is never very far from Sergei’s mind. It was the defining event in
Nikita Khrushchev’s life.

Sergei Khrushchev: Nikita Khrushchev said that we are trying to build
paradise on the earth named communism. But we cannot live in the
paradise surrounded with barbed wire as it happened during Stalin’s

Sergei readily acknowledges that his father was complicit in Stalin’s
crimes. Nikita Khrushchev signed off on the death of thousands. Sergei
remembers what his father wrote in his memoirs.

Sergei Khrushchev: All of us were involved in this. And we have to tell
the truth about everything.

Nikita Khrushchev’s involvement in Stalin’s terror weighed heavily on the
former Soviet leader, and, according to Sergei Khrushchev, made the
secret speech an intensely personal event for his dad.

Sergei Khrushchev: My father could not behave differently. He could not
forgive Stalin with all his cruelty for killing those people. It was more
from his soul than his just calculation and politician.

So you see here the butterflies. The butterflies. And spiders. I like
spiders. Spiders so beautiful.

After our interview, Sergei Khrushchev showed me around his house. The
first stop was his butterfly collection. He told me that he used to collect
butterflies in Russia, but he stopped doing so in the U.S. “I don’t like to
kill them anymore,” he said.

“Americans don’t like to kill animals without any purpose. Even children,”
he said, “don’t throw stones at rabbits.” For Sergei Khrushchev, America
is a much gentler country than Russia. At least a much gentler country than
the Russia of Nikita Khrushchev and of Joseph Stalin.

If there was a cultural icon to emerge from the Khrushchev era and the
fallout from his secret speech, it was Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak’s
Nobel-prize-winning tale of romance and the Russian revolution. The story
behind the novel itself was dramatic.

Nikita Khrushchev banned its publication in the USSR. Kremlin censors
considered it to be anti-Soviet. So Pasternak had it published abroad, under
his own name, an unprecedented, and under Soviet law, illegal move.

Peter Reddaway: So it was a very brave action indeed.

Peter Reddaway is professor emeritus of political science at the George
Washington University.

Reddaway: And he was then subject to very unpleasant hounding and
harrassment. He wasn’t imprisoned because he was too big a name. And
Khrushchev wasn’t going to do that when he had already launched
de-Stalinization in the secret speech.

This is the voice of Boris Pasternak, at a poetry reading in the 1950s.
Pasternak was able to write his verse, despite the hounding, until his death
in 1960. It was that death, and Pasternak’s funeral, which marked something
of a turning point in the development of human rights in the Soviet Union.
Peter Reddaway.

Reddaway: In response to Khrushchev’s secret speech, people started in a
cautious way, but some of them more boldly, exercising freedom of
association, gathering in squares in Moscow to have poetry readings which
were not overtly political, so the authorities could not do much about it.
And then this very important first large scale demonstration you could say,
at Pasternak’s funeral.

Hundreds and hundreds of people showed up at Pasternak’s funeral, against
the authorities wishes, and despite the fact that the Kremlin had not
officially publicized Pasternak’s death. Viktoria Schweitzer was a young
literary scholar in 1960. She attended Pasternak’s funeral.

Viktoria Schweitzer (in Russian with English voiceover): His coffin was in a
large room, and people filed by. Music was playing the entire time on a
beautiful grand piano. There were so many people. And lots of KGB agents.
And they shamelessly took pictures of the people there. But nobody cared.
The coffin was lowered. And then people refused to leave.

This was the main thing. People refused to leave. They read the poetry of
Pasternak. It was amazing. Everyone there made a statement, that he was a
human being, that he was not afraid to be there.

The Kremlin’s persecution of Boris Pasternak regarding the publication of
Doctor Zhivago did as much as anything to tarnish Nikita Khrushchev’s
reputation in the west, and among thoughtful Russians, who had hoped that
the secret speech would broaden freedom of expression. Even Nikita
Khrushchev came to realize that he had overplayed his hand.

Prior to Pasternak’s death, he ordered a halt to the harrassment against the
writer. In retirement, Khrushchev secretly recorded his memoirs in an audio
diary. In that diary, Khrushchev expressed remorse at the way he had treated
the Nobel laureate:

English voiceover: Now that I’m approaching the end of my life, I feel sorry
that I didn’t support Pasternak. I regret that I had a hand in banning his
book and that I supported the hardliners. We should have given the readers
the opportunity to reach their own verdict. I’m truly sorry for the way I
behaved toward Pasternak. My only excuse is that I didn’t read the book.

One of Boris Pasternak’s most heartfelt admirers in Moscow’s community of
intellectuals back in the 1950s was a woman defense lawyer named Dina
Isaakovna Kaminskaya. Kaminskaya, like Pasternak, had lived through Stalin’s
terror and witnessed the stir caused by Khrushchev’s secret speech. And
Kaminskaya, like Pasternak, would eventually collide into the wall of
Kremlin repression.

Kaminskaya was famous among Moscow’s dissident circles. After Khrushchev
lost power in 1964, his successor cracked down on all forms of dissent. Like
Pasternak, writers and intellectuals were the first to suffer. There were
political show trials, and Dina Kaminskaya represented the defendants in
court when few others would. One underground singer named Yuli Kim even
wrote this song about her. [Yuli Kim song]

For Dina Kaminskaya, Khrushchev’s treatment of Pasternak was a betrayal
of the promise of the secret speech.

Kaminskaya memoir excerpt: After the terrible revelations at the 20th party
congress and the sworn assurances of the new rulers that none of it would
ever be repeated, I saw the development of a new cult of Khrushchev.

An excerpt from Kaminskaya’s memoir.

Memoir: Once more, it was bound up with lies and arbitrary disregard of the
law, as well as the suppression of freedom to create, to think and to speak.

Dina Kaminskaya was a battler for civil rights, a sort of Russian Thurgood
Marshall. Her inspiration and vitality had been stoked in significant part
by Khrushchev’s secret speech, which had fueled what she described as the
spiritual emancipation of her soul.
Memoir: After Khrushchev’s secret speech, there was increasing
self-examination and self-awareness. Our understanding of such concepts as
bravery, civic courage and decency changed.

Dina Isaakovna Kaminskaya’s courage and decency, her willingness to defend
dissidents in court, eventually got her and her husband, also a lawyer,
expelled from the Soviet Union. It was that or prison. The Kremlin silenced
her voice.

This is what Dina Kaminskaya used to sound like 30 years ago, in her prime,
before she had her stroke. She’s talking about the Soviet legal system,
about political trials, how arbitrary they were. She’s saying that all
political trials were scripted and decided in advance.

Dina Kaminskaya and her husband, Konstantin Simis, live in a suburb outside
of Washington, D.C. They are both in their late 80s, and both frail. After
her stroke, Dina Isaakovna lost the ability to speak. She can make sounds,
but she can’t articulate sentences. As for Konstantin, he has Parkinson’s
disease but is able to whisper his way through a conversation.

Konstantin tells me that Khrushchev’s secret speech marked the beginning of
an understanding of human rights in Russia. He says the speech gave rise to
the concept of dissent for the first time.

I asked him why his wife did what she did. “It was dangerous work,” I said.
“Did she consider herself to be courageous?” Konstantin replied that Dina
Isaakovna’s work gave her a certain moral and political satisfaction. “She
didn’t consider herself to be a brave person,” he said. “She was an honest
person who followed her beliefs.”

The couple’s nurse, a woman named Nana, allowed me to walk upstairs to
Dina Isaakovna’s second-floor study. She was seated behind a desk,
dressed in a bathrobe, listening to music. I hadn’t seen her in more than
15 years, when she helped me with a book I wrote about a murder trial in

I was struck by how good she looked, despite her stroke. I asked her if she
remembered me, and she vigorously nodded her head yes. I passed on
greetings from mutual friends and acquaintances and she laughed.

I told her it was great to see her, and Nana said Dina Isaakovna seemed
frustrated that she couldn’t speak with me. Suddenly, Dina Isaakovna
looked down at her desk.

She reached inside her desk and pulled out a copy of a magazine called
Rossiiskii Advokat, Russian lawyer, number 2, from the year 2000, and
on the cover is a picture of Dina Isaakovna. It says, “Dina Kaminskaya,
advokatura bylo moim mestom v zhizni, sposobom moego sushestvovanie
v nei,” which means “being a lawyer was my place in life. It enabled me
to exist.”

I realized that Dina Isaakovna was talking to me through that magazine
cover. Despite her stroke, despite her inability to speak, she was
communicating with me. I took her hand to say goodbye.

“It was really nice to see you,” I said. “All the best.” As I left the room,
Dina Isaakovna Kaminskaya weakly raised her hand, a gesture in frustration
at her inability to communicate more fully. But she was smiling, and seemed
pleased by the visit.

Suarez: I’m Ray Suarez. You’re listening to Unmasking Stalin: a Speech That
Changed the World, from American RadioWorks. Dina Kaminskaya was one
of dozens of human rights activists who, as she put it, experienced a
spiritual emancipation after Khrushchev’s secret speech. Coming up: three
anti-Soviet dissidents empowered by the secret speech confront the Kremlin,
each in his own way.

Pavel Litvinov: Soviet propaganda always told us that it brought happiness
to everyone, that there is no exploitation, no inequality, that there is
complete liberty. When I first realized that they were all lying, I started
to get angry against them, and that probably made me dissident.

Suarez: Unmasking Stalin: A Speech That Changed the World, is a production
of American RadioWorks. To find out more about this and other documentaries,
go to our website, There, you can download the
program, sign up for our e-mail newsletter and find out how to order a CD of
this program.

Major funding for American RadioWorks comes from the corporation for
public broadcasting. Our program continues in just a moment, from American
Public Media.

Suarez: This is Unmasking Stalin: A Speech That Changed the World, an
American RadioWorks documentary from American Public Media. I’m Ray

For millions of Russians who lived through Joseph Stalin’s terror, Nikita
Khrushchev’s secret speech had palpable consequences. Loved ones, the lucky
ones who survived, came home from the labor camps. One Russian poet wrote
at the time, “Now people will come back from the prisons, and two Russias
will look into each other’s eyes, the one that imprisoned, and the one that was

A new epoch starts.” It was an epoch ultimately marked by repression, and an
epoch that broke the hearts of Russians who had been lifted by the promise
of the secret speech. Robert Rand concludes our story.

Rand: You’ve probably heard about the Gulag Archipelago. The vast, bleak,
brutal, dehumanizing network of labor camps that spread across the width and
length of the USSR like the spindly ribs and spine of some massive dinosaur
skeleton. Lenin began the gulag. Stalin perfected it. By the time Stalin
died, 18 million had visited the place.

Nearly a quarter of them never came back. After the secret speech,
Khrushchev released millions. He downsized the gulag. But he didn’t shut its

Rand: You spent many years in the gulag. How many altogether?
Yuri Fedorov: Eighteen years, five months.

Yuri Fedorov lives in the silent tuck of a road in a ramshackle house in
the Catskill mountains in New York state.

Fedorov: It’s a very safe, peaceful quiet place.
Rand: Is there any connection to you living in the gulag and your desire
to live in a place like this?
Fedorov: Of course. A straight connection. It wasn’t peaceful. But it
was quiet.

It was Nikita Khrushchev, at least his KGB, who first put Yuri Fedorov
into the gulag. It was 1962. He was convicted of distributing anti-Soviet
pamphlets. Fedorov says his activism started after Khrushchev’s secret
speech. The speech, he said, made people feel less afraid. When
Khrushchev spoke out, Fedorov and others felt emboldened.

Fedorov: Many human rights movement[s] started from this speech.
Rand: People felt they could talk after the speech.
Fedorov: Yeah, people felt they could talk and discovered many things
they didn’t know.

Yuri Fedorov is in his early 60s, a hearty looking man, considering what he
has been through, considering after his last offense, that he spent more
than a decade of his life in a strict regime labor camp. He’s bald, with a
long, scraggly white beard. He is a man of few words. I asked him to
describe a typical day in the gulag. He really didn’t want to.

Fedorov: Typical day? Wake up six o’clock. Breakfast. Go to work. At
five go back. That’s it. Then dinner.
Rand: What kind of work did you do?
Fedorov: Different. Very different?

Yuri Fedorov, when pressed, would say little more. But we know that for 18
years and five months, as he meticulously recalled, Yuri Fedorov lived in
what has been described as a meat-grinder, a place where, even decades after
Stalin’s death, inmates were known to ingest nails, to swallow barbed wire,
to cut off their fingers. Desperate acts, just to get into a hospital where
the food was better, where they weren’t forced to work.

In 1970, Yuri Fedorov was sentenced to 15 years in the gulag for attempting
to hijack a Soviet airplane to Sweden. He was tried with a group of ten
other would-be hijackers, all but two of them Soviet Jews. The group had
tried unsuccessfully to emigrate from the Soviet Union by legal means.

The KGB arrested them on the tarmac of a small Leningrad airport before
they reached the target of their plot: a small commuter airplane. The trial
and severe penalties (two of the defendants were sentenced to death)
garnered concern in the west and squarely placed Soviet Jewish emigration
on the agenda of U.S.-Soviet relations.

Rand: A lot of time has passed since those events in 1970. We’ve had 9/11
since then. It’s hard to imagine, from the perspective of 2006, that any
attempt to hijack an airliner now would generate any degree of sympathy in
the way that it did back in 1970. Have you thought about that?

Fedorov: It was different time. Different country. It wasn’t United States.
Rand: No regrets?
Fedorov: No, no absolutely. I think we were right.
Fedorov said it was as if somebody would have hijacked a plane from Nazi
Fedorov: What regrets? What kind of regrets?

Yuri Fedorov’s hijacking scheme was a desperate act, an aberration in the
Soviet human rights movement. Russian dissidents overwhelmingly were a
peaceful group. Their movement grew up in the relaxed years after
Khrushchev’s secret speech, a time known as the thaw. They talked and
drank around kitchen tables.

An alternative, typewritten press, called “samizdat”, emerged from those
gatherings. So did an underground music scene. Poets who played guitars
penned satirical songs critical of the regime, and enterprising fans with
tape recorders disseminated the music to millions. We met with one of the
surviving guitar poets recently in Moscow. His name is Yuli Kim.

Kim wrote this song in 1966. It’s called “The Social Studies Teacher”. It
tells the tongue-in-cheek story of a bunch of smart aleck Soviet students
who know their teacher is feeding them party propaganda. The teacher,
basically a good guy, knows he is being watched by the state, so he’s
constrained from telling the truth.

He decides the only honorable way out is to commit suicide by lying
underneath an overweighted bookshelf, which is sure to collapse and crush
him to death. Why? Because he has stuffed the bookshelf with all four hefty
volumes of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.

For Yuli Kim, it was Khrushchev’s secret speech which made a song like
that possible.

Yuli Kim: Khrushchev’s secret speech had a huge significance for us. It
was like the reforms of Peter the Great, maybe even greater. Khrushchev’s
speech began to move Russia away from totalitarianism.

On August 21, 1968, totalitarianism seized the heart of Eastern Europe and
compressed it with uncommon malevolence. President Lyndon Johnson.

Lyndon Johnson: The Soviet Union and its allies have invaded a defenseless
country to stamp out a resurgence of ordinary human freedom.

The Soviet Union had invaded Czechoslovakia. The action had been
prompted by a communist reform movement called the Prague Spring. A
liberal politician named Alexander Dubcek led the Prague Spring, and he
was an admirer of Nikita Khrushchev and of Khrushchev’s secret speech.
Dubcek wanted to build socialism with a human face.

Pavel Litvinov: We hoped that something like that can happen in Russia.

Pavel Litvinov was leader of Moscow’s human rights movement.

Litvinov: There was a feeling that if they send troops to Czechoslovakia, we
were expecting it every day for several months, then they would arrest all
of us, and they would stop human rights movement, and freeze the
development of ideas of freedom in the Soviet Union for a long time.

Four days after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, as the Kremlin’s
bells struck noon, Litvinov and seven of his friends went to Red Square, the
historic plaza in the center of Moscow. They were there to protest. It was
an unprecedented move. The first anti-government group demonstration of
the post-Khrushchev era. They did so peacefully, silently. They brandished a
Czechoslovak flag, and some banners. Litvinov’s read: “For your freedom
and ours.”

Thirty-seven years and a lifetime later, Pavel Litvinov finds himself living
in the U.S., teaching here at Hackley, a private school in Tarrytown, New
York. Litvinov, an American citizen, teaches physics. I recently met with
Litvinov and his students at his high school physics lab.they knew Litvinov
had done something during Soviet times, but they didn’t know the details. I
told his students what had happened on Red Square.

Rand: He was arrested by the KGB, he was roughed-upped. He spent many
years in Siberian exile. He ultimately became an Amnesty International
prisoner of conscience. Any reaction to that?

Student: Wow.
Student: Yeah.
Rand: Now that I’ve told you a little more about your teacher, do you have
any questions you want to ask him?
Student: What first brought you into the sphere of dissident activities?

Litvinov: Soviet propaganda always told us that it brought happiness to
everyone, that there is no exploitation, no inequality, that there is
complete liberty. When I first realized that they were all lying, I started
to get angry against them, and that probably made me dissident.

Student: How did you come to the conclusion that they were all lying?

Litvinov: It’s very important to understand that plenty of people knew they
were lying. Because they saw what was written in newspapers and they
saw real life, so everybody saw a discrepancy. The question was to take
responsibility for that knowledge and say I cannot live with that lie, I
have to do something.

Not long ago, on a trip to Moscow, where the traffic strikes a noisy
contrast to the quiet campus of the Hackley school, Pavel Litvinov agreed
to return to Red Square, to revisit and recall the scene of his 1968

Litvinov is a tall, gentle, uncommonly strong-willed man. At Red Square,
at noon on this day, Litvinov surveyed the scene and looked back in time.

Litvinov: Well, right after the last sound at 12 o’clock, I came right here.

After recounting the events of his 1968 protest, Litvinov began to walk away
from Red Square. He and our Moscow producer were stopped by a plain
clothes officer from the Russian secret police.

“Show me your documents,” the officer said. “What are you doing here? Do
you have permission to be here? You can’t record here on Red Square. Go

Litvinov: I noticed that they were looking at me. That’s kind of nostalgic
of Soviet times. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a signal of times getting worse
and more of a police state. Hopefully not.

Pavel Litvinov can brush off the encounter, but the Soviet police state is
not entirely gone.

Back at the park near Red Square, the graveyard of communist monuments,
people continue to argue. A middle-aged couple faces the Stalin monument
and converses. They disagree.

“Stalin did more bad than good,” the woman says.

“What do you mean?” The man replies. “He rebuilt the country after the war.
We needed someone to lift us up.”

“But he was so severe,” she says. “Well, we needed someone like that back
then, he answers.”

In the monument park, near the statue of Joseph Stalin, a singer muses about
the condition of Russia today. “Since Soviet times, we have lost something,”
he says. “Some people have prospered. Many have not. Hearts have been
broken. We are tearing each other apart.” The singer’s lament reflects the
fact that Russia has sorely been tested in its 14-plus years of post-Soviet
independence. The test has been rigorous. Much as what Russia endured in
the years after Stalin’s death, and after Khrushchev’s secret speech.

Ironically, if it was Khrushchev who sought to bury Stalin, Stalin today is
enjoying a surge of popularity. Public opinion polls show that at least 50
percent of Russians view him favorably. A salve for some who pine for an
iron hand and a sense of order in a time of uncertainty and change. An
uncertain and troubling trend for others who were inspired by Khrushchev’s
secret speech, who remember the past and who value human dignity and
freedom above all else.

Suarez: Historians agree that Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech was the
beginning of the end of Soviet communism. It was indeed, a speech that
changed the world. But the demise of the USSR was long in coming, and
Khrushchev’s openness, his so-called “thaw,” was shortlived. Russians would
endure three more decades of repression before the Soviet Union collapsed.

A post Soviet Russia would then embark on a democratic-style revolution,
which is ongoing. Many people, inside Russia and in the West, wonder whether
there’s a fresh cycle of repression in Russia today. The answer may depend
on how you look at Joseph Stalin. Cloak his evil, and Russia today may seem
just about right. Fully unmask Stalin, and your assessment may well be quite
“Unmasking Stalin: A Speech That Changed the World” was written and
produced by Robert Rand. It was edited by Mary Beth Kirchner. The senior
producer of American RadioWorks is Sasha Aslanian, Associate Producer
Ellen Guettler, Project Manager Misha Quill. Mixing by Craig Thorsen.
Production assistance from Scott Silver and Inna Ponamarenko.

Production assistance in Moscow from Charles Maynes. Archive assistance
from the Brown University Library. Web production by Ochen Kaylen. The
executive editor is Stephen Smith. The executive producer is Bill Buzenberg.
I’m Ray Suarez.

To see photographs from Unmasking Stalin: A Speech That Changed the
World, and to learn more about the human rights movement in the USSR,
visit our Web site at

There you can download the program, sign up for our email newsletter and
find out how to order a cd of this program. Major funding for American
RadioWorks comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
FOOTNOTE: The radio documentary is being distributed for national
broadcast later this month. It is already available for listening at
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Nina Khrushcheva explains why Joseph Stalin is still popular
in Russia — and her great-grandfather isn’t.

Nikita Khrushchev and the famous 1956 “secret speech.”
“Putinism,” an all-inclusive hybrid that embraces elements of Stalinism,
communism, KGB-ism and market-ism, is our new national ideology.

COMMENTARY: by Nina L. Khrushcheva
OUTLOOK: The Washington Post, Section B, Page 1
Washington, D.C., Sunday, February 12, 2006

When I was growing up in the Soviet Union of the 1970s, it was President
Leonid Brezhnev that I loathed. The dreaded Joseph Stalin seemed merely a
name from a distant past. Back in 1956, he had been outed as a monster by
my great-grandfather, Nikita Khrushchev, in the famous “secret speech” at
the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party and deleted from history.

But Brezhnev, with his sinister eyebrows, was everywhere. He brooded over
me and my classmates from school posters, promising the bright, shining
future of communism. And he had made his ominous presence felt in my own
family. My school on Kutuzovsky Prospect was a haven for the party elite,
where Politburo members — including the Brezhnevs — sent their children.

My friends boasted of grandfathers who were ambassador to England or head
of the KGB. But my once-powerful great-grandfather officially didn’t exist.
In 1964, Khrushchev had been “retired” by Brezhnev, removed as Soviet
leader for the mysterious, undefined crime of “voluntarism” and exiled to a
country estate outside Moscow. Like Stalin, he had been written out of the

At home, I was told that I should be proud to be a Khrushchev. At home,
history still existed. My parents told me about the secret speech, though
it didn’t mean much to me until I was in high school. While it hadn’t gone
far enough in demystifying the totalitarian system, the speech had launched
the period known as the thaw, when millions of Soviet citizens were
released from the gulag, and opened the door to a more frank exchange of
ideas and to a limited flow of foreign visitors and goods. The freedoms
that the former communist countries enjoy today have flowed from the cracks
in the system that Khrushchev introduced with his speech of Feb. 25, 1956.

Yet nearly 50 years to the day from that speech, my great-grandfather has
become a scapegoat for many of the perceived ills of post-communist,
“democratic” Russian society. And Stalin, the man he exposed as a brutal
dictator who terrorized and oppressed the nation, is enjoying a virtual
rehabilitation, with opinion polls revealing his shocking popularity,
especially among the young.

It’s not surprising. After the anarchy that followed the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991, a period when democracy came to represent
confusion, crime, poverty, oligarchy, anger and disappointment, it turned
out that Russians didn’t like their new, “free” selves. Having for centuries
had no sense of self-esteem outside the state, we found ourselves wanting
our old rulers back, the rulers who provided a sense of order, inspired
atriotic fervor and the belief that we were a great nation. We yearned for
monumental — if oppressive — leaders, like Ivan the Terrible or Stalin.

Yes, they killed and imprisoned, but how great were our victories and
parades! So what if Stalin ruled by fear? That was simply a fear for one’s
life. However terrifying, it wasn’t as existentially threatening as the
fear of freedom, of individual choice, with no one but oneself to blame if
democracy turned into disarray and capitalism into corruption.

This is why the country rallies behind President Vladimir Putin. Putin
promotes himself as a new Russian “democrat.” Indeed, Russians view
him less like the godlike “father of all nations” that Stalin was, and more
like a Russian everyman — a sign of at least partial democratization.

Putin often notes that Russia is developing “its own brand of democracy.”
Translation: His modern autocracy has discovered that it no longer needs
mass purges like Stalin’s to protect itself from the people. Dislike of
freedom makes us his eager backers.

How readily we have come to admire his firm hand: Rather than holding
him responsible for the horrors of Chechnya, we agree with his “democratic”
appointment of leaders for that ill-fated land. We cheer his “unmasking of
Western spies,” support his jailing of “dishonest” oligarchs and his
promotion of a “dictatorship of order” rather than a government of
transparent laws.

“Putinism,” an all-inclusive hybrid that embraces elements of Stalinism,
communism, KGB-ism and market-ism, is our new national ideology. A
man for all seasons and all fears, Russia’s president pretends that by
selectively adopting and adapting some elements from his predecessors’ rule
— the Russian Orthodox Church of the czars, the KGB of the Soviets, the
market economy of the Boris Yeltsin era — he is eliminating the extremes of
the past, creating a viable system of power that will last. But his closed
and secretive system of governing — the “vertical power” so familiar from
the pre-secret speech era, with information once again manipulated by the
authorities — suggests that his proposed “unity” is yet another effort to
rewrite the past.

And so the secret speech is no longer seen as a courageous act of political
conscience, in which Khrushchev, in order to secure justice for Stalinism’s
victims and liberate communist ideals from the gulag’s grotesque
inhumanity, called for reform of the despotic system he had helped to
build. In the Russian media today, the speech is dismissed as something far
more ignoble: Khrushchev’s effort to avenge his oldest son, Leonid, whom
Stalin had allegedly persecuted for betraying socialist ideals by serving
the Nazis during World War II.

These rumors about Leonid have been surfacing since the Brezhnev era. Until
recently, the public had by and large dismissed them as “planted” KGB
propaganda. But today, as the country looks for an easy answer to its
feelings of insecurity, the Khrushchevs — father and son — have become
favorite scapegoats for Russia’s problems.

Khrushchev’s critics consider the collapse of the Soviet Union to be as
much his fault as Mikhail Gorbachev’s or Yeltsin’s. The fall of the
communist system didn’t exactly seamlessly usher in democracy, despite
people’s expectations. Russians were in such a hurry to get rid of the
negative burdens of the Soviet regime that they got rid of everything
positive, too.

In a sweeping negation (much like Khrushchev’s denunciation
of Stalin), they were told that the nearly century-long Soviet period had
been completely useless. The 1990s refused to recognize the communist era
— which had indeed brought Russia oppression, but also industrialization,
educational growth, near-universal literacy, victory in World War II,
science and space developments. This tendency to dismiss the past, never
to fully repent of its sins, is common in Russian history, and it allows for
a film of nostalgia to take hold.

Deprived of national pride and their lifelong beliefs, Russians experienced
the demise of the Soviet era as the end of empire and a sense of national
identity. In a state of moral, material and physical despair, they yearned
to feel better about themselves and their land. The image of Stalin, with
his wise, mustachioed smile, filled the void. And because he refuted him,
Khrushchev became the architect of Russia’s ills.

In her book, “Stalin: The Second Murder,” journalist Yelena Prudnikova
writes of Khrushchev’s posthumous denunciation of Stalin as if it were a
murder: “If it weren’t for [Khrushchev’s] execution [of Stalin] we wouldn’t
have come to such a sorry state. Since then we have lived increasingly
useless and dirtier lives,” because this “murder of Stalin was also the
murder of his people. The country, deprived of high ideals in just a few
decades, has rotted to the ground.”

My great-grandfather tried to begin the process of freeing Russia from
Stalin’s bloody past, but the nation has never fully dealt with the crimes
of Stalinism. Instead, the complexities of life in a fragmented modern
society that can boast of no momentous achievements — no more super-
power status, no new Sputniks — have made Russians nostalgic for the
“strong state” they once inhabited. It’s a cycle that will keep on repeating
itself until Russia finally and fully confronts its past. -30-
Nina Khrushcheva teaches international affairs at the New School in
New York. Her book, “Visiting Nabokov,” is forthcoming from Yale
University Press. Author’s e-mail:
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

SPEECH EXCERPTS: Nikita Krushchev, Secret Speech to the Closed
Session of the Twentieth Party Congress, February 25, 1956
Modern History Sourcebook on the web.

We have to consider seriously and analyze correctly [the crimes of the
Stalin era] in order that we may preclude any possibility of a repetition in
any form whatever of what took place during the life of Stalin, who
absolutely did not tolerate collegiality in leadership and in work, and who
practiced brutal violence, not only toward everything which opposed him,
but also toward that which seemed to his capricious and despotic character,
contrary to his concepts.

Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation, and patient cooperation
with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission
to his opinion. Whoever opposed this concept or tried to prove hi viewpoint,
and the correctness of his position, was doomed to removal from the leading
collective and to subsequent moral and physical annihilation. This was
especially true during the period following the XVIIth Party Congress

Stalin originated the concept enemy of the people. This term automatically
rendered it unnecessary that the ideological errors of a man or men engaged
in a controversy be proven; this term made possible the usage of the most
cruel repression, violating all norms of revolutionary legality, against
anyone who in any way disagreed with Stalin, against those who were only
suspected of hostile intent, against those who had bad reputations.

This concept, enemy of the people, actually eliminated the possibility of
any kind of ideological fight or the making of one’s views known on this or
that issue, even those of a practical character…. The only proof of guilt
used, against all norms of current legal science, was the confession of the
accused himself; and, as subsequent probing proved, confessions were
acquired through physical pressures against the accused.

This led to the glaring violations of revolutionary legality, and to the
fact that many entirely innocent persons, who in the past had defended the
Party line, became victims….

The Commission [of Inquiry] has become acquainted with a large quantity of
materials in the NKVD archives.. It became apparent that many Party, Soviet
and economic activists who were branded in 1937-1938 as enemies were
actually never enemies, spies, wreckers, etc., but were always honest
Communists; they were only so stigmatized, and often, no longer able to
bear barbaric tortures, they charged themselves with all kinds of grave and
unlikely crimes….

Lenin used severe methods only in the most necessary cases, when the
exploiting classes were still in existence and were vigorously opposing the
revolution, when the struggle for survival was decidedly assuming the
sharpest forms, even including a civil war.

Stalin, on the other hand, used extreme methods and mass repression at a
time when the revolution was already victorious, when the Soviet state was
strengthened, when the exploiting classes were already liquidated and
Socialist relations were rooted solidly in all phases of national economy,
when our Party was politically consolidated and had strengthened itself
both numerically and ideologically. It is clear that here Stalin showed in a
whole series of cases his intolerance, his brutality and his abuse of power.

Instead of proving his political correctness and mobilizing the masses, he
often chose the path of repression and physical annihilation, not only
against actual enemies, but also against individuals who had not committed
any crimes against the Party and the Soviet government….
This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The
Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for
introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
(Closed session, February 24-25, 1956)
By Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, First Secretary,
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
It was a brand new medium for Soviet dissidents.

By Hale Sargent, American RadioWorks
National Documentary Unit of American Public Media
St. Paul, Minnesota, February 2006

They called it magnitizdat, or self-publication on reel-to-reel tape
recorder, and it was a brand new medium for Soviet dissidents. Vladimir
Kovner was there at its birth.

“In 1961 was the first major recording of Okudzhava,” Kovner recalls. “It
was in a communal apartment in front of 20 people, all friends. We had a
couple of tape recorders on a small table, with some vodka of course, and
that was it.”

The performer that evening was Bulat Okudzhava, a poet and former soldier
whose father was executed during Stalin’s Great Terror. In the late 1950s,
Okudzhava began setting his poems to a spare guitar accompaniment and
performed them at small gatherings of friends. Unofficial recordings of
those performances, such as the one Kovner taped in 1961, began to
circulate. Those recordings created a movement.

“At the time there were only songs approved by the Union of Song Writers,
and all of them glorified Soviet power,” Kovner explains. “Okudzhava
glorified women, love, mothers. When he sang about war, his songs were
sad. He never glorified war. That point of view was incredible. And those
songs accompanied by just a guitar were very attractive to us.”

Listen to Clouds, a magnitizdat song by Alexander Galich.

Soon, other guitar-poets began disseminating recordings. Copies of their
performances spread quickly and beyond the reach of the Kremlin’s control.

“We would just give a copy to our friends and acquaintances,” recalls
Vladimir Frumkin, an early disseminator of magnitizdat. “And they would
make copies and give it to their friends. It was a geometrical progression
because in the end, millions of copies were circling around.”

Many artists and collectors of the underground magnitizdat movement found
their initial inspiration in Khrushchev’s secret speech and in the political
and artistic “thaw” that followed. When Khrushchev used his platform at the
1956 Communist Party Congress to denounce the crimes of Stalin, he brought
the voice of dissent into the innermost chambers of the Soviet regime.
Frumkin, who had mourned Stalin’s death in 1953, describes the secret speech
as the formative moment of his youth. “It was the end of the illusion,” he
says. “This was the point when I started getting rid of my belief in the
Communist utopia.”

A generation of Russian artists agreed. Okudzhava, Alexander Galich, Yuli
Kim, Vladimir Vysotsky-known collectively as the Russian Bards, these
magnitizdat poets were unafraid to tackle overtly political themes. Their
verses contained unprecedented criticisms of Stalin, the labor camps, and
contemporary Soviet life.

After Soviet forces marched into Prague, the Czechoslovak capital, Alexander
Galich performed a song, Petersburg Romance, with the verse: [Can] you take
to the square? You must take to the square.

“Three days later, some men took to the square,” Kovner recalls of the
ensuing demonstration in Moscow’s Red Square. “They were arrested and
spent some time in prison.”

Alexander Galich, Russian poet, screenwriter, playwright and

Indeed, any expansion of freedom in the Soviet Union following Khrushchev’s
secret speech was short-lived. Khrushchev himself turned on the ideals of
his speech, most notably in his persecution of Dr. Zhivago author Boris
Pasternak. The Kremlin leader’s successors cracked down even more
severely on forms of dissent. But magnitizdat endured.

“Of course, it was a dangerous activity because of the law against
dissemination of anti-Soviet material,” Frumkin says. “You could get up to
three years in prison for recording and for keeping a collection of this
kind of guitar poetry.”

But stifling the Bards’ voices proved difficult. While the Kremlin
controlled ownership of printing presses, reel-to-reel tape recorders were
permitted in people’s homes. Song collecting was widely popular, and the
Bards’ subversive verses could hide among less provocative songs extolling
the joys of traveling or the outdoors. Magnitizdat, in fact, proved to be a
more enduring medium for disseminating ideas than the printed word.

“Samizdat [the underground printed press] was very limited,” Kovner
explains. “You can print four copies to give away, but after ten or twelve
readings, it’s gone. Very rarely would someone else retype it. With
magnitizdat, it’s different. After every concert, I could pass my copy and
it would disseminate very rapidly. It was a chain reaction.”

Of course, the widespread popularity of the magnitizdat movement was not
enough to shield its members from KGB repression. Galich was punished for
fearlessly confronting the complex issues of Soviet society (In one song, he
told of Gulag prisoners so brainwashed by the regime they cried with their
guards when Stalin died).

“The KGB thought Galich was very dangerous,” Kovner says, “because he
was not afraid of anything. He was not just talking about Stalin-he was
talking about current events. He was not afraid to talk about
Czechoslovakia. He would say anything.”

In 1974, Alexander Galich was forced to leave the Soviet Union for his
magnitizdat recordings. He died in Paris in 1977, electrocuted while
plugging in a new stereo system. Galich’s friends and family wondered
whether the KGB had something to do with the singer’s death.

Perhaps no magnitizdat performer reached greater prominence than Vladimir
Vysotsky. A popular singer and actor, Vysotsky achieved remarkable fame
despite never being officially recognized by Soviet authorities. In one
recording, Vysotsky sang of his silver-string guitar as a metaphor for
freedom: They’ve stifled my soul. They broke my will, and now they’ve cut
my silver string.

The song in a way foreshadowed Vysotsky’s fate. He died in Moscow in
1980, still a young man. His heart, friends said, had burned out, his silver
strings muted by a hard life and difficult times. More than one million
people attended Vysotsky’s funeral, even as their city’s Olympic
celebrations went on around them.

Vladimir Frumkin and Vladimir Kovner each fled their homeland in darker
days. They have watched the ideals that characterized magnitizdat outlive
the Soviet Union, and they look back in admiration at the passion that
flowed on those tapes, reel-to-reel and house-to-house. -30-
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Send in names and e-mail addresses for the AUR distribution list.

American RadioWorks, American Public Media
St. Paul, Minnesota, February 2006

Clouds tells the story of a man who has been freed from the labor
camps. He can not escape the life he lived there, for his memories
always take him back, like clouds always float from one place to another.

The clouds float by, the clouds,
Without hurrying, like in a film.
I’m eating chicken tabaka,
And I’ve sunk a load of cognac.

The clouds float off to Abakan [a Gulag area].
Unhurried they float.
They’re warm, I bet, those clouds,
But I’ve been frozen through forever!

Like a horseshoe I froze into the sleigh tracks,
Into the ice I was chipping with my pick!
After all, not for nothing
I blew away 20 years in those camps.

I still have that snow crust before my eyes!
I still have the din of frisking in my ears!
Hey, bring me a pineapple
And another 200 g. of cognac!

The clouds float by, the clouds,
Floating to Kolyma [a work camp] that dear old place,
And they don’t need a lawyer,
An amnesty’s neither here nor there.

Me too, I live a first-rate life!
Twenty years I swapped for one day!
And I sit in this bar like a lord,
I’ve even got some teeth left!

The clouds float off to the east,
They’ve no pension, no worries.
Me, on the fourth, I get a money order,
And another on the 23rd.

And on those days, just like me.
Half the country sits in the bars!
And in our memory off to those places
Float the clouds, the clouds.
Translation taken from Smith, Gerald Stanton. (1984). “Songs to Seven
Strings: Russian Guitar Poetry and Soviet Mass Song.” Bloomington,
IN: Indiana University Press. 195-196.

[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Special report – A pawn in a dangerous game that went right to the heart of
Soviet power politics or a conduit for a disaffected agent, one-time Reuters
correspondent John Rettie looks back on the events of 1956 that catapulted
him into a murky world.

By John Rettie, Former Moscow Journalist for Reuters
New Statesman, London, UK, Monday 13th February 2006

Into the early hours of 26 February 1956, the windows of the Communist
Party’s Central Committee building in the heart of Moscow were alight. Black
limousines of the party elite were parked all around. This, it seemed to
western observers, was odd. The 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist
Party (CPSU) had formally ended that afternoon. So why was party
headquarters still humming with activity?

Over the next few days the rumours spread, fuelled by western diplomats with
good connections to central European communist colleagues and by western
correspondents of communist newspapers. It was whispered that Nikita
Ser-geyevich Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the CPSU, had made a
sensational speech denouncing Stalin for crimes such as murder and torture.
Coming only three years after Stalin’s death, this seemed barely credible.

True, for months the rigidly controlled press had been attacking the “cult
of personality”, a veiled reference to Stalin. This criticism had reached a
cres-cendo during the 20th Congress, though only Anastas Mikoyan,
Khrushchev’s right-hand man, had been authorised to criticise Stalin by name
in a published speech. Even then he was cautious. But torture and murder?

The rumours in “diplomatic circles” suggested, however, that something
unprecedented had happened: a furious personal denunciation of the man who,
until then, had been looked upon as God by the overwhelming majority of the
population. Now, it seemed, God had been cast down.

Yet nothing appeared in the official media. The rumours could not be
substantiated. But they were so insistent that Sidney Weiland, my bureau
chief at Reuters, decided to file a brief news report about them. In those
days, however, western correspondents were required to send their stories
from a special office in the Central Telegraph building. Weiland handed in
his story for cabling fully expecting it to be censored. He was right; it
vanished into the censor’s maw and was not heard of again.

Khrushchev’s speech was an unspeech. He himself never publicly admitted
making it. In fact, on the morning of 25 February, delegates to the 20th
Party Congress had entered the Grand Kremlin Palace, without their foreign
comrades, to be stunned by his tirade against their revered leader. A few
days later, at the beginning of March, I received a phone call from Kostya
Orlov, a Soviet citizen I had met several times. “You’re going on holiday to
Stockholm tomorrow,” he said. “I must see you before you go.”

It was my last evening, so I invited him round at once. He had often been to
my flat in a block reserved for foreigners, and had experienced no
difficulty getting past the militiamen who guarded the entrance from
intrusion by Soviet citizens. Orlov was an intelligent young man with a
tinge of sleaziness about him, and not infrequently drunk. He lived on the
ground floor of a squalid communal dwelling, in one of many small rooms
off a long corridor, at the end of which was a kitchen, a toilet and a
shower room for all on that floor to share. His was a common experience.

I first met Orlov the previous year when I went to cover the arrival of
French tourists – the first independent westerners to visit since the Second
World War. He was trying to befriend them outside their hotel, though
without the advantage of any language but Russian. We fell into
conversation. Over the next few months I saw quite a lot of him, visiting
him occasionally in his solitary room, but more often when he came to my

This was so unusual that I had little doubt he was controlled by the KGB,
though he always denied it, claiming to hate Soviet life; he even asked me
if I could spirit him out across the Finnish frontier or smuggle him out on
a plane. He knew that I was then married to a Finn, had lived in Finland and
was close to the Finnish embassy and Aero (as Finnair was then called) – the
only western airline flying into Moscow.

What made me even more suspicious was that he offered to smuggle me into
a Moscow factory if I would put on local clothes, poorly made and horribly
unfashionable, and masquerade as a Soviet citizen. “Your Russian’s good
enough for you to pass as a Latvian,” he explained.

He told me a lot about Soviet life and passed me snippets of minor
information that all proved correct. The best was a brief Central Committee
resolution on pig production, which sent the US agricultural attache, to
whom I showed it, into paroxysms of delight. “This is just what we’ve been
looking for,” he chortled with glee.

The two stories Orlov brought me that evening, a week or more after the 20th
Party Congress, were no snippets. The first was an earthquake. He confirmed
that Khrushchev had indeed made the speech denouncing Stalin, and without
any notes gave me a full account of it. His memory was prodigious, almost
photographic, though I was not to know that at the time. His version
included two items that were not in the edited version leaked from the
Polish Communist Party, which fell into the hands of the CIA and was
published by the New York Times early in June.

One was Khrushchev’s description of how Stalin often humiliated those around
him, using the familiar “thou” instead of the more formal “you”, as one
would to servants or children. “Once he turned to me,” Khrushchev declared,
“and said: ‘Oi, you [thou], khokhol, dance the gopak.’ So I danced.” The
gopak is a fast and intricate Ukrainian dance in the execution of which
Khrushchev, a portly man, would have looked ridiculous. Khokhol is a
derogatory term for a Ukrainian, Stalin knowing full well that Khrushchev
had worked for many years in Kiev, most recently as party leader.

The second story concerned a delegate who, incensed by Khrushchev’s
description of Stalin, shouted: “Why didn’t you get rid of him?” Khrushchev
stopped and looked round the hall. “Who said that?” he barked. No one spoke.
So he repeated: “Who said that?” Still no response. “Now you understand why
we didn’t try anything against him,” he said dryly.

Orlov told me that when the speech was read out to party organisations in
Georgia, Stalin’s homeland, crowds rioted in protest against the “insult” to
their national hero, and a number of civilians and Soviet soldiers were
killed. In addition, Orlov said, trains from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi,
had been arriving in Moscow with smashed windows. This was a sensational
story in its own right, though it paled into insignificance beside the
speech itself.

My problem was: could I believe him? It is easy now, with hindsight, to
realise that of course what he told me must have been true. But it was a
colossal risk to believe such a tale from a single and somewhat dubious
source, with little corroborating evidence, and to stake the authority of
Reuters on it. I had only a few hours to make up my mind before flying to
Stockholm. That raised another problem.

In the 1930s many foreign correspondents had found censorship so restrictive
that they often flew to the capital of then independent Latvia, Riga, to
file their stories before returning to Moscow. Surprisingly, the Soviet
government did not object. But after two decades of Stalinism no western
correspondent dared to do the same in the 1950s. At the very least,
expulsion would have resulted, if not worse.

I didn’t know what to do, so I called Weiland, my boss. It was nearly
midnight, but we agreed to meet on the street outside the Central Telegraph
office, where no hidden microphones could overhear us. It was a very cold
winter, and we tramped through the snow as I recounted the tale, pausing
from time to time under street lamps to consult my voluminous notes. In the
end we decided we had to believe Orlov.

His tale fitted with what little the foreign community knew, and he had been
reliable in the past. Besides that, a New York Times correspondent was also
flying out the next day and we suspected he would immediately report on the
rumours. We would be beaten on a story of which we had an incomparably
better – and exclusive – account. Unthinkable!

Orlov had to be genuine. “If you don’t get it out, you’re govno [shit],” he
had told me. Ironically, this now sounds suspiciously like a strong hint
from the Soviet authorities to break the rules. So the next day, feeling
tense, I flew with my wife to Stockholm, the fat notebook burning a hole in
my pocket. We were to stay a fortnight with Finnish diplomats who had been
transferred from Moscow, but I could not let them know that I was to be the
author of the report that would be published all over the world the next

We stayed in a hotel for the first night, much of which I spent typing out
the two stories and dictating them by telephone to London. I had spoken
earlier to the news editor and explained that under no circumstances should
either story bear my name or even a Moscow dateline, and that the speech
had to be based on “communist sources” – no others were possible.

When I was ready, Reuters called me back and put me through to “copy” – the
copytakers. I was extremely nervous and assumed a false American accent to
disguise my identity. In vain. “Thank you, John,” said the familiar voice
when I finished my long dic-tation. When the Swedish papers appeared with
Khrushchev’s “Stalin Sensation” splashed across the front pages, it was
datelined Bonn, with the riots in Georgia sourced from Vienna.

My return to Moscow passed off without incident, but when I next saw
Kostya I still thought it advisable to tell him that the story had already
been published by the time I reached Sweden. I doubt if he believed me, but
the political thaw that had started 18 months earlier continued into the summer
of 1956. It was not until October that the turmoil fomented by Khrushchev’s
speech burst upon central Europe, notably in Poland and, above all, Hungary.

In Moscow the thaw switched instantly into deep-freeze. During October,
around the time of the Soviet military intervention in Hungary, not one top
Soviet official appeared at diplomatic receptions to drink and chat with the
bonhomie of the past two years. When they reappeared, they looked haggard
and drawn; Anastas Mikoyan, in particular, seemed to have put on years. On
the streets, Muscovites turned hastily away from any friendly approach by

There had been other incidents of un-rest when the secret speech was read
out to Communist Party and Komsomol (Communist Youth) meetings.
Georgia was the most violent (Orlov had told me only part of the story), but
some meetings elsewhere, notably Siberia, were more than unruly, particularly
where students were involved. The threat to stability at home and abroad
forced Khrushchev to tone down his programme of de-Stalinisation.

I saw little of Orlov over the next few months, not least because one
evening, while my wife was in Helsinki, he brought a “friend” round to see
me, a large Georgian. Both got very drunk, but the Georgian made repulsive
homosexual advances and broke several bottles of wine. When I finally got
rid of them it took until 4am to clean up the mess.

Soon after, I gave a party for friends, mostly western journalists,
including a close Yugoslav friend who warned me that Orlov was a
provocateur. At that point Orlov himself arrived, unannounced, in the
company of two more “friends”. Both were Russians, one of whom I had
met briefly at an official function.

Orlov became drunk and aggressive again, leaving in high dudgeon when I
told him to go. One of his “friends” apologised for him, but stayed on at
the party and said we must keep in touch. It was not this man but a contact
of his who phoned shortly after, inviting me to lunch. There he announced
himself to be a captain of the KGB.

After four weekly lunches, with lavish amounts of vodka, caviar and smoked
salmon and no shortage of menace, I finally cracked. Instead of attending
the next week’s lunch invitation, I asked the British ambassador to send a
message to Reuters seeking my recall. Over the next few weeks I was
followed ostentatiously about the streets by KGB agents.

In the tension of the time, I assumed that this mounting pressure was in
some way connected with Khrushchev’s speech, and might be building up
to some kind of retaliation. But on reflection I concluded that it was
merely the kind of pressure the KGB often exerted on many foreigners, in
the hope of persuading or blackmailing them into becoming a KGB agent,
or to denounce the west and remain in Moscow.

More significant is the question of who told Orlov to leak the speech, and
why to me. That he was operating independently is inconceivable. When I
returned to Moscow 32 years later for the Guardian, I made inquiries. This
was before the collapse of the Soviet Union and KGB files were not yet
available to westerners for selective inspection. But a veteran journalist
on Moscow News, who interviewed me about the speech, told me I would
never find out.

“Even if it was Khrushchev,” he said, “you would find nothing in any file.
Remember it was a party decision that the speech should not be published –
and in any case he said himself: ‘Comrades, we must not wash our dirty linen
in public.’ Even he could not have risked putting any instruction on paper,
and perhaps not even on the phone. If he did issue an instruction, it would
only have been by a quiet word to someone he trusted implicitly.”

I had a very similar response from Sergo Mikoyan, the son of Anastas. “It
was quite likely to have been Khrushchev,” he told me, “possibly with my
father’s support. My father was the only colleague of Khrushchev to urge the
exposure of Stalin from the first, and his strongest supporter in this
throughout. But any decision to use you to tell the world about the speech
would have left no trace.” There is, however, strong evidence that
Khrushchev wanted his speech to be widely known.

In his biography of Khrushchev, William Taubman quotes his son Sergei as
saying: “I very much doubt that Father wanted to keep it secret. On the
contrary! His own words provide confirmation of the opposite – that he
wanted to bring his report to the people. Otherwise all his efforts would
have been meaningless. The secrecy of the sessions was only a formal
concession on his part.”

If this was indeed true, the selection of me as the conduit was logical. In
those days foreigners in Moscow had to get exit visas to leave the country,
so the authorities were aware of my imminent departure to Stockholm. Like
other western journalists, I was also quite well known to Khrushchev and
other members of the party’s presidium, as they were all talking eagerly to
us (some, such as Molotov, less eagerly than others) at diplomatic and
Kremlin receptions – often as much as once a week. I had even, on one
occasion, drunk Khrushchev’s glass of aquavit when he thrust it at me in the
Norwegian embassy, saying: “This is a lot better than that whisky we had in
your embassy last week – here, try it!”

From the summer of 1954, when they started coming to receptions, Khrushchev
and his colleagues used us journalists as the quickest means of showing the
world that they were people you could do business with, not ogres like
Stalin, immured behind the Kremlin’s walls. To use one of us to publish the
speech abroad, by bending the rules we worked under, needed only discretion
and a buffer such as Orlov, who could dissociate any Soviet authority from

In fact, in 1956 Orlov had told me that a friend of his, who was the party
secretary of an institute, had been given the speech to read to the
institute’s party members; this had to be done only once so that they could
not study it in detail. He said his friend had to hand the speech back to
headquarters within 36 hours, but had allowed him to read it during this

This he presented as something he had done on his own initiative just to
help me. Thirty-four years later he still hotly denied that he had any
connection with the KGB. After publication of an interview I gave Moscow
News in 1990 on how I obtained the speech, Orlov, with whom I had had no
contact since the 1950s, rang me in a fury to complain that I had described
him as a stu-kach (an informer).

So I went to see him, but during a long discussion I could not shake his
insistence that he had been acting on his own. Repeatedly walking unhindered
past the militiamen guarding the foreigners’ block I lived in, offering to
take me to see a factory if I wore Soviet clothes, and giving me details of
the speech itself were all done just to help me “because you were so green”,
he said. “But what about asking me to get you out to Finland on a Finnish
plane?” I objected. “Or helping you to get across the Soviet-Finnish border?
After all, you told me you hated living in the Soviet Union.”

“Oh, you just made all that up,” he said. Perhaps the only response
possible, when he could hardly claim he had suggested that just to help me.
So I told him there was no point in us talking any more, and left.

At the time I felt that Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost had
gone far enough for him to have admitted the truth to me in private and told
me just how the leak had been arranged. But perhaps I was unfair.

If indeed the order had been given by Khrushchev, then the ultimate agent,
Orlov, must surely have been told that he was on his own, and that on pain
of something like death, he must never reveal anything. Even in 1990, the
KGB could frighten some people, and who knows what hold they had
over him? -30-
A longer version will be published in History Workshop Journal 62 in the
autumn, as part of a symposium of eyewitness accounts of the events of
1956. John Rettie features in a Radio 4 documentary on the secret speech
on 24 February at 11am.
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
New book, “The Black Book of Unwanted Names on the Map of Russia,”

By Ali Nassor, St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, February 10, 2006

The condemnation of communist regimes by the Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe (PACE) earlier this month has provoked an emotional
debate in Russia about the moral, legal and historical status of the former
Soviet Union.

The speaker of Russia’s Parliament, Boris Gryzlov, snubbed the call by
PACE for former communist countries to reassess their repressive histories
and to “condemn them without any ambiguity,” The New York Times

On Jan. 25, the assembly, which represents legislators from European
countries including Russia, called for governments to confront their
nations’ former policies of starvation, mass executions and concentration

Talk radio and Russian newspapers have given full vent to the debate over
Russia’s communist legacy. Gryzlov labeled the PACE statement “a waste
of energy and time” and a “crusade against ghosts of the past.”

But in a new book, “The Black Book of Unwanted Names on the Map of
Russia,” Professor Andrei Zubov of the Moscow State Institute of
International Relations, or MGIMO, and a team of scholars argue that
Russia’s development depends on such a crusade.

“Fight the myths, get rid of communist legacy… and Russia is again on the
track in line with the civilized world,” Zubov said.

The two new anthologies edited by Zubov contain essays elaborating the ways
that the Bolsheviks who led the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the creation
of the U.S.S.R., and their predecessors, corrupted Russian history,
geography and human values that would later give rise to an equally corrupt
post-communist Russia.

In “Black Book” the authors argue that Russian topography must be revised
to free history from communist myths created during seven decades of
communist rule.

In more than 30 essays, the scholar’s shed light on the quasi-religious
cults created by communist masterminds, and their totalitarian motives.

Objects of worship cited by the authors range from the names and identities
of Bolshevik political personalities, their overseas counterparts, state
monuments, social institutions, and artistic and literary phenomena. The
goal, they write, was the total ideological indoctrination of society.

Zubov believes that history and topography were major platforms on which
ideologues launched a new faith based on the worship of monuments and
names associated with Bolshevism.

But 14 years after the fall of communism there exists in Russian society
“the same people, the same attitudes, the same street names, the same
monuments, the same literature and the same legislature,” says the history

The ghosts of communism still haunt democratic Russia.

The “Black Book” is a list of more than 200 names, events and
personalities, both foreign and Russian, that includes detailed analyses of
how such phenomena were transformed into cults of ideological worship.

The aim was to fill a spiritual vacuum instigated by an atheist state that
criminalized established religion.

The list includes totemic figures such as Karl Marx, Felix Dzerzhinsky, the
father of the Soviet secret service, the Italian communist Palmiro
Toliatti, KGB head and Soviet leader Yury Andropov, Vietnamese
communist Ho Chi Minh, and Polish communist Rosa Luxemburg. It also
includes fetishized phenomena such as Komintern, the Third International,
The Year 1905, The Paris Communune, International Women’s Day (March
8), the Pioneers and Komsomol.

Behind the “Black Book” lies a mirror image of a Russia that walked a
thorny path through the 20th century from Bloody Sunday in 1905 to the
Bolshevik coup in 1917 to Josef Stalin’s wave of repression prior to World
War II when millions languished in the gulag.

The authors use the life and career of writer Maxim Gorky (given name:
Alexei Peshkov, 1868-1936) as an example of the negative trend they want to
expose in Russian history. According to them, it was not only Gorky’s name
that was based in fiction.

The book portrays the ultimate hypocrite who played patriot but showed
disrespect his patrons, who played philanthropist in imperial Russia but
financed the future Bolsheviks and their 1905 insurrection. He crossed
swords with them only to back them fully in 1917.

Although one of Russia’s richest men, he supported the annihilation of
landowners branded “kulaks.” He used his pen and public platforms to
promote Stalin’s repression and its gulag. He shed tears to express
sympathy and admiration for the Chekists on August 25, 1933 in a speech
before a multitude of prisoners constructing the Belamor Canal that had
taken at least 100,000 of their fellow inmates’ lives.

He was on the way to his deathbed; Stalin, the man he had helped rise to
absolute power, sent him to his final destination by having him poisoned
three years latter.

But Gorky was resurrected in the form of monuments to his memory
throughout the country as a hero who gave his life for communism. In
subsequent years, Gorky was transformed into a totem to be worshipped
through the Soviet Union in a process which the author’s demonstrate
became commonplace.

A metro station was named after Gorky in St. Petersburg (Gorkovskaya)
and a park in central Moscow became known worldwide as Gorky Park.
His plays are frequently performed. The heroic image of “a man who
collaborated in the killing of millions of innocent people” and was both
victim and perpetrator of the Soviet system lives on in Russia today.

Streets, railway stations, reservoirs, towns and villages that still carry
his name in provincial Russia are only a fraction of things still named
after Gorky. It became a national joke in Soviet times when “residents
would just call a street named after him Ulitsa koe-kogo [‘Whats-his-name
Street’],” the “Black Book” authors write.

The Gorky cult was not landlocked: there are even ships and submarines
named after him.

But five years before Gorky’s death, a “child god” named Pavlik Morozov
was born who would be used as a sickening role model for a generation,
the authors continue.

Echoing Catriona Kelly’s English-language version of the same story
(“Comrade Pavlik. The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Boy Hero”), the authors
show how an ordinary 12-year-old from a remote village in the Urals
exemplified the mechanism used by the Soviet authorities to transform a
person into a vehicle of ideology.

“Morozov was literally and figuratively crushed by the state’s ideology
machine: he informed on his relatives and was then murdered by the secret
police for the sake of their subsequent show trial,” writes Jan Levschenko,
in a review of Catriona Kelly’s book in Hermitage magazine.

The propaganda vehicle had been decommissioned in the same way as Gorky.

The boy was brought back to life in the form of streets, schools and the
names of government institutions, monuments, themes and characters in
plays, poems and as the subject of musical pieces. The character not only
starred in Soviet movies, but also served as a “magic carpet” in communist
propaganda fairy tales, say the anthologists.

The authors show that in much the same way as the character of Pavlik was
used to indoctrinate Soviet youth, International Women’s Day was used to
indoctrinate Soviet women. Inspired by an emancipation campaign in the
West at the end of the 19th century, the celebration of the March 8 holiday
was a Bolshevik distortion.

The holiday was introduced as a way to avoid commemorating a Bolshevik
massacre in 1918 on the same date. “More than 600 Russian military officers
were hanged in Sevastopol alone,” on the day now marked by flowers in a
patronizing celebration of Russian women, write the authors.

Applauding the authors for timely work, Alexander Shtamm, a member of the
Committee for Restitution and Revival of Russia, says the anthology may be
viewed as a reflection of nostalgia for social and moral values dominant
during the Imperial Russian era.

“It’s like a compass toward recapturing the lost glory currently bogged
down by communist myths, and a viewing glass into President Vladimir
Putin’s policies,” said Shtamm.
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.

By Nick Webster,, London, UK, Saturday, 4 February 2006

HIS appalling crimes are on a scale so vast as to defy comprehension. Even
today no one knows how many people perished under Soviet dictator Joseph
Stalin’s regime.

He is blamed for the deaths of anywhere between 11 and 43 million of his
own subjects, making him one of history’s most terrifying despots alongside
Hitler, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong.

Yet today – just 50 years since his successor Nikita Khrushchev denounced
him as a bloodthirsty tyrant – many Russians look back at his iron-fisted
rule with nostalgia. The then Soviet Union was a superpower, and Uncle Joe
was their great leader.

Today once-mighty Russia is in chaos – riven by crime, corruption,
unemployment and desperate poverty and reduced to having to play second
fiddle to the despised United States.

Suddenly the Red Tsar’s cruel reign doesn’t look so bad after all. But it is
an unlikely rehabilitation. It was Stalin who said: “A single death is a
tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”

There were many such statistics. Edward Acton, professor of modern
European history at the University of East Anglia, says the sheer numbers
of people destroyed by Stalin’s atrocities put them in a league of their

He says: “His worst crime was authorising the execution of at least one
million of his own citizens in peacetime for no justifiable reason – that
was the Great Terror of 1937-38.

“He also failed to do all he could to halt the great famine of 1932 and
1933, in which five to seven million of his own citizens died at a time when
the country was exporting grain. In an incredibly brutal and bloody way he
deported peasants who refused to create collective farms.

“And from 1944 he very brutally deported national minorities accused of
collusion with the Germans, such as the Cossacks and the Chechens.”

Meanwhile, 18 million people languished in the USSR’s notorious gulags –
forced labour camps said by inmates to be a fate worse than death. Both
friends and political allies lived in constant terror of Stalin’s tyrannical
rage, which would condemn them to instant death. Even family were not
safe from his paranoia.

Soviet prisoners-of-war were regarded as traitors, and when his own son
Jacob was taken prisoner Stalin refused to exchange him for Field Marshal
Von Paulus, a Nazi captured at Stalingrad – and Jacob died in a German
PoW camp.

A re-examination of Stalin’s supposedly glorious war record has revealed
major blunders which cost the lives of millions of his own troops. Yet today
many Russians look back on his rule with an growing sense of pride.

Pensioner Iskra Myachina remembers the public outpouring of grief when
Uncle Joe died in 1953. “It was a horrible feeling of the loss of the leader
of the country, and personally it was as if we lost the father of the family,
the person who took care of us,” she says. “We felt like orphans.”

TODAY, despite all she later learnt about the monster who began life as the
son of a Georgian cobbler, her affection for Stalin remains.

Ex-Politburo member Alexander Yakovlev disagrees: “Stalin was an animal. A
bandit. But people are forgetting that. Today 30 per cent of our population
think Stalin was a good man who created order. When it comes to their own
history our population is completely ignorant.”

With stories of the great purges and millions in labour camps consigned to
history, schoolchildren appreciate Stalin as a strong Russian leader.

“Stalin is a great personality,” says Lyuba, a 16-year-old at school No 1208
in Moscow. “He’s like Abraham Lincoln. He’s like the captain of a great
state, the captain of a ship.” It is a bizarre reversal of fortune for the
old tyrant. The reason lies in the country’s dramatic fall from glory.

Under Stalin the USSR was a superpower, leader of the Communist world which
reached almost across two continents from the Pacific to Berlin. Pensions
and wages were paid in full and on time and crime was not a major problem.

But now in democratic Russia corruption is rife and the tentacles of the
Mafia spread through every level of society. Welfare and healthcare systems
have collapsed and alcoholism is endemic among the poor. Two thirds of
long-suffering Russians view the 90s as the worst decade they can remember.

The death rate has overtaken the birth rate, unemployment is sky-high and
pensions are pitiful – when they are paid at all. Life expectancy for men
fell from 64 in the mid-80s to 57 in the mid- 90s. Women live longer, but
their life expectancy has dropped by four years.

While a few oligarchs have become rich beyond imagination, the masses
suffer more than at any time since the war.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that in a recent poll by the All- Russian Public
Opinion Research Centre 20 per cent of respondents described Stalin’s
role in Russian history as “very positive” and 30 per cent as “somewhat

Writing in the latest issue of BBC History magazine, Simon Sebag Montefiore,
award winning author of Stalin: The Court Of The Red Tsar, says: “Stalin
took a Russia ruined by civil war and the First World War and turned her
into an economic superpower that was so strong, it was able by 1943 to
out-produce, indeed trounce, Hitler’s German industrial powerhouse in tanks
and planes. “He extended the Russian empire further than any tsar.

“To many Russians, with their feeling of losing prestige in a web of
westernised corruption, Stalin seems different and attractive.

“A common view is that he made ‘mistakes’ and committed ‘excesses’ but also
delivered triumph and security. For many Russians today, Stalin represents
victory, prestige, empire, stability and prosperity.”

One Russian who has never lost faith in Stalin is Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, the
dictator’s 69-year-old grandson. “He was a genius,” says the former Red Army
colonel. “My grandfather did everything he could to preserve the empire that
was left from the Tsarist period. “He industrialised it, strengthened it.
And he left it owning a single shirt and two jackets. “Compared to today’s
leaders, with their Swiss bank accounts, he was something like Jesus

He stands for stability and prosperity to many who live in chaos today
STALIN’S determination to increase farm output led to the deaths of
between five and 10 million peasants – left to starve for failing to meet
targets. A million of his political enemies were killed in the Great Terror
of 1937-8.

An estimated 18 million people were exiled to gulag concentration camps
for “counter-revolutionary activities”. Inmates were subjected to brutality,
and slave labour.

He made a pact with Hitler in 39 but joined allies after Yalta treaty. He
invaded Eastern Europe massacring “counter-revolutionaries”.

ON the night of February 24, 1956, Khrushchev called party officials to
the Kremlin and read them a speech denouncing Stalin – an event which
ended a reign of terror that had continued from beyond the grave since
the dictator’s death in 1953.

The story, broken to the world by English journalist John Rettie, marked
the slow process of bringing the Soviet Union into the modern world.
E-mail:; LINK:
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

American RadioWorks, National Documentary Unit
of American Public Media, St. Paul, Minnesota, February, 2006

My introduction to Soviet dissidents came indirectly, through my high school
Russian teacher. (I was lucky enough to be able to study Russian in high
school). His name was John Moshak, and I owe him much.

He was among the first Americans who traveled to the USSR on an exchange
program (this was during Khrushchev’s time) and he brought back tales of
life under communism. He was also an amazing teacher. I was hooked on
Russia for life.

I began to follow developments in the USSR in the press. Names popped up.
The writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn among them. In 1962, Nikita Khrushchev
allowed Solzhenitsyn to publish a novella called One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovich. It was the first piece of Soviet fiction to describe Stalin’s
Gulag. This was an unprecedented development.

In his memoirs, Khrushchev says he was “proud and pleased” with the way he
dealt with Ivan Denisovich. A sharp contrast to the way he had treated Boris
Pasternak and Doctor Zhivago. The publication of Solzhenitsyn’s novella was
very much in the spirit of the secret speech. I read Ivan Denisovich and
Doctor Zhivago in high school. Two literary masterpieces, each, in their own
way, hovering over and under the issue of human rights in Russia.

By the end of 1964, Khrushchev had been ousted. His successor, Leonid
Brezhnev was in place, and a new, neo-Stalinist era of repression had begun.
Dissident activity increased. And coverage of that activity in the Western
press increased as well. Indeed, human rights activists in Moscow relied on
contacts with Western (primarily American) reporters to keep their movement

Pavel Litvinov was one of the leaders of the dissident movement in Moscow,
and his story is told in Unmasking Stalin. Another leader was Liudmilla
Alekseeva. Alekseeva was at the center of an activity called samizdat, which
means “self-publication.” This was the dissident underground press. Samizdat
was entirely a typewritten enterprise. There were no photocopying machines.

Alekseeva and her colleagues gathered information about human rights abuses,
typed them up in multiple copies, and disseminated them to foreign reporters
and within the USSR. The publication she worked on became famous. It was
called The Chronicle of Current Events.

Like most human rights activists, Alekseeva’s road to dissent began with
Khrushchev’s secret speech. Alekseeva has sharp memories of that event. “I
have never seen so many people who wanted to get together after work and
speak to each other in the period after the speech,” she said. These
gatherings were called kompaniya, and they usually took place behind kitchen

The kompaniya became the cornerstone of the human rights movement. “It was
not only a way to spend time – to dance, to eat, to drink – but the main aim
was to inform each other about various events in our past or present. We
still had very strong censorship, and this was a way to share information
which we couldn’t get from official sources.”

One of the things that struck me about all the human rights activists I met
in preparing Unmasking Stalin was how kind and decent they all seemed. These
activists who took on the communist system were not bulls in a china shop,
as one might expect. They appeared to be normal human beings with
extraordinary levels of integrity and courage.

I asked Liudmilla Alekseeva about that. I wanted to know whether she and her
fellow dissidents were afraid when they confronted the KGB. After all, they
risked everything. By disseminating samizdat, by approaching a foreign
reporter, by protesting on a public square, the almost certain outcome would
be prison or exile.

“You know,” Alekseeva said, “if your friends usually spend their vacation in
Paris, it’s nothing surprising for you to spend your vacation in Paris. If
the majority of your friends are in jail, there is nothing surprising for
you that at some point you’d be in jail too.”

One final point: We also spoke with Sergei Kovalev, the leading human rights
activist in Russia today. He was a prominent dissident during the 1960s and
1970s, and spent seven years in the Gulag and three years of internal exile.
During the liberal perestroika era under the last Soviet leader, Mikhail
Gorbachev, Kovalev founded a group called Memorial, which works on
rehabilitating and honoring the victims of Soviet repression.

After the collapse of the USSR, Kovalev served in the Russian legislature,
and even acted as its human rights commissioner. He resigned due to his
opposition to the war in Chechnya.

I asked Kovalev whether the victims of Stalin’s terror – whether those who
had sat in the Gulag and had survived, be it under Stalin or in the
post-Stalin era – whether those victims had ever been compensated by the
Russian government. He said in the early 1990s the Russian parliament
passed a law providing financial compensation, but he categorized the
amount as “completely inadequate.”

“Let me tell you a story,” Kovalev said. “I have a friend who lives in the
city of Tver. He served three years in the Gulag. Less than many of us,
but still, a solid period of time. At one point he spoke with the local
authorities about the level of his compensation.

‘Well, did you receive your money?’ they asked. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I got it
all, but all I could do with it was buy a washing machine.’ And do you
know what the local authorities said? They said ‘F… you. Get out of
here!’ Can you imagine? The man sits three years in prison and all he gets
as compensation is a washing machine.” -30-
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Written by Jack Goldfarb, Toward Freedom online,
Burlington, Vermont, Monday, 23 January 2006

October has ever been a fateful month in Russian history: the October
Revolution (1917), launching of Sputnik I, world’s first space satellite
(1957), Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), and that startling day, 61 years ago,
on October 16, 1964, when the Soviets announced the astonishing ouster
of their top leader, Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev thus became the first
Soviet boss removed from power in a bloodless coup.

The earthy and charismatic son of a coal miner, Khrushchev left his
indelible fingerprint on 20th century history. A pragmatist, yet dynamic
risk taker, he was the first to boldly expose the heinous crimes of Josef
Stalin, though many considered him tainted as one of Stalin’s inner circle.

He tried to introduce economic decentralization, political and social
changes, which Mikhail Gorbachev had better success at implementing 30
years later.

Khrushchev freed hundreds of thousands from the Gulag, inaugurated the
Virgin Lands scheme to cultivate vast empty areas of farmland in Siberia and
Central Asia. He encouraged the Soviets’ pioneering space exploration
programs, and even raised hopes for peaceful coexistence with the West.

But his opponents focused more on his failures and blunders: his break with
China which split the Communist world, the decline in economic growth and
living standards, the Cuban missile retreat.

Deep-seated discontent rankled among Party functionaries. From petty
apparatchiki to top Politburocrats, Khrushchev’s system-rocking reforms
threatened the entrenched monopoly on power and privilege. The scene was set
for his downfall. An urgent phone call from Kremlin ideologue Mikhail Suslov
summoned the vacationing leader back to Moscow from his Black Sea villa for
an emergency Politburo meeting. The red carpet was yanked from under him,
toppling him into an obscure retirement until his death on September 11,

Historians view Khrushchev as a man before his time, a predecessor of
Perestroika, who bravely attempted the formidable challenge of modernizing
Soviet society.

I was on a prolonged visit to Moscow when Khrushchev was abruptly hustled
off the Kremlin stage. (He had actually been kicked out two days earlier.)
This is a memoir of the day the Soviets released the news:

The cloudy morning filtered through the maroon drapes of my Hotel Metropole
room to usher in Friday the 16th of October. I peered out the windows at the
busy square below and all seemed normal. I stopped at a newsstand and saw
the first proof that something extraordinary had happened; the newspapers
were all sold out.

I searched the face of the kiosk proprietor but his blank expression told
nothing. On my way to breakfast I stopped at the office of an international
airline. The manager, a Swedish acquaintance, was pale and worried. “Have
you heard the news?” he whispered nervously. Spread on his desk was a copy
of Pravda in a six-column headline: Announcement of the Plenum Central
Committee of the Soviet Union Communist Party. Photos of L.I. Brezhnev
and A.N. Kosygin dominated the front page.

In three sentences Pravda explained that Comrade N.S. Khrushchev had
resigned for health reasons and Brezhnev had been elected First Secretary of
the Communist Party. Kosygin was now Chairman of the Council of Ministers.
Nine cryptic paragraphs spelled out the technical details of the power

In my favorite restaurant the waitresses smiled as usual, the service was
listless as usual, and the breakfasters, sipping their stakhanchiki of tea
were as uncommunicative as ever. I was fascinated by everyone’s stoicism.
Churchill had said it: “Russia was an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, enveloped
in a mystery.”

At Sverdlov Square a modest cluster of motorcycles whirred by, escorting a
black Zis limousine displaying a Cuban flag. For Cuban President Osvald
Dorticos sitting inside, it was an awkward time to be making a state visit.

Outside the Bolshoi Theatre I met my friend Grisha. He was very afraid that
Khrushchev’s ouster meant a retreat to the Right, a return to Stalinist
doctrines. After all, he said, both Brezhnev and Kosygin had served in the
Politburo under Stalin. I ventured that the tide of liberalization couldn’t
be so easily reversed. But Grisha’s mood was unshakably pessimistic. “Why
has he lost all three posts he held?” Maybe he went too far in alienating
the Chinese?”

We were walking along Kropotinskaya Street when a familiar figure came
striding toward us. Wearing a fur-collared coat and grey Astrakhan hat, eyes
alert behind pince-nez glasses, he was Vyacheslav Molotov, the long-time
Soviet premier and Foreign Minister, expelled from power some years before.

Having been given his “walking papers” by the man who himself was sacked
today, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich was a living symbol of the Russian thaw – a
deposed statesman left to his memories and his morning stroll.

The eventful week in Moscow started off with a flight of three cosmonauts in
one spaceship. City center loudspeakers had boomed with periodic bulletins
on the cosmonauts’ progress, interspersed with patriotic songs and marches.
A widely-published photograph of an elated Khrushchev on the phone with the
cosmonauts graphically stressed Comrade Nikita’s personal association with
the achievement.

When the cosmo-troika landed near Petropavlovsk on Tuesday, preparations
immediately began for a traditional spectacular welcome. Red Square was
festooned with banners, red stars and huge portraits of Khrushchev, Lenin
and the cosmonauts. On Manezhnaya Square, a gigantic likeness of Khrushchev
was unfurled. Smiling and waving, he proclaimed Mir Narodom! – Peace to the
World! Local jokers said that Nikita was waving to hail a cab, a prevalent
posture in taxi-short Moscow.

On Friday it became clear what Khrushchev’s wave was all about. It was
“Good-bye,” and not even the traditional “Da Sveedanya” – “See you again!”
Within hours the great portrait purge of the fallen idol was underway all
along the projected route of the cosmonauts’ parade. The reshuffling and
rearranging postponed the Space Trio’s welcome celebration not once but

I lunched at the gourmet Pekin restaurant with Tamara, an intelligent young
woman who worked at a government ministry. A slightly drunk Englishman
stopped at our table to ask what we thought of Khrushchev’s departure. He
said all the Russians he talked to reacted with a stone-faced shrug. Tamara
brushed him off with a cold stare. But then she whispered her explanation to
me. “It is a simple matter of power struggle inside the Politburo, surely
engineered by one or two of the “real bosses.”

As the day wore on I encountered people who overcame their initial hesitancy
to speak more freely to me as a foreigner. Most voiced fears. “After all,
Khrushchev represented the break with Stalinism.” “Shall we lose this
precious taste of freedom we’ve gained?” “I am afraid.this means a
tightening up.the liberal trend is over.”

In the evening Russian friends and I attended a performance of Brecht’s
Three Penny Opera, playing to capacity audiences at the Stanislavsky
Theatre. I eagerly awaited the Solomon Song with its well-known lines about
King Solomon and Julius Caesar: “Of all the dogs, top-dog was he, but his
best friends did him in, thoroughly.” The moral, asks the song, “Is it worth
it to be top-dog?” And the answer comes: “Guess not!”

I looked around for audience reaction. The analogy was appropriate, but the
applause was simply polite, subdued. Leaving the theatre I struck up a
conversation with an English journalist. She had been listening to the BBC
and Voice of America. “Amazing,” she said, “the whole world is buzzing,
speculating what the fall of Khrushchev means, “and here – not a ripple of
excitement, outwardly, anyhow.”

Not far from the theatre at the Hotel Minsk the atmosphere was totally
different. With one of Moscow’s best jazz orchestras the big attraction, the
restaurant was jam-packed with wildly-gyrating dancers. When the orchestra
began playing Moscow Nights, signaling closing time, I suggested we walk
past the Central Post Office on Gorki Street to see if the familiar portrait
of Khrushchev still dominated the vast interior. Gorki Street, Moscow’s
“Brod-vay,” was deserted at that hour.

As we approached, the lighted Post Office clock showed almost midnight. At
a curbside truck workmen were struggling with huge portraits being carried
in and out. Going in was a likeness of Lenin, but the one behind it faced away
from us. We followed the workmen inside, our footsteps resounding in the
empty hall and our curiosity steering us toward the far wall where the
pictures were to be hung.

The familiar figure of a ruddy-faced Khrushchev in his medaled jacket was
gone. On one wall the old portrait of Lenin was being replaced by the
updated Lenin just brought in. But in place of Khrushchev, who? Brezhnev?
Kosygin? Both, arm-in-arm? This could be the telling clue as to who now
was the new Top Dog.

Slowly the workmen dusted off the frame. They hoisted the portrait and
turned it around.

It was Karl Marx. Remotely resident in proletarian paradise, Comrade Karl
was always in good standing. Just as Marx settled into his lofty perch, the
Kremlin chimes tolled the end of the first day of the Brezhnev-Kosygin ara.
Jack Goldfarb is a freelance journalist, whose work has appeared in The
New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and other
publications. LINK:
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) passes strong resolution

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE)
Strasbourg, France, Wednesday, January 25, 2006

STRASBOURG – The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE)
today strongly condemned the massive human rights violations committed by
totalitarian communist regimes and expressed sympathy, understanding and
recognition for the victims of these crimes.

The Assembly – which brings together parliamentarians from 46 European
countries – said in a resolution that these violations included individual
and collective assassinations and executions, death in concentration camps,
starvation, deportations, torture, slave labour and other forms of mass
physical terror.

The peoples of the former USSR by far outnumbered other peoples in terms
of the number of victims, the parliamentarians said.

They also called on all communist or post-communist parties in Council of
Europe member states which had not so far done so “to reassess the history
of communism and their own past [.] and condemn them without any

“The Assembly believes that this clear position of the international
community will pave the way to further reconciliation,” the parliamentarians

The Council of Europe was “well placed” for this debate, the Assembly
pointed out, since all former European communist countries, with the
exception of Belarus, are now its members and the protection of human
rights and the rule of law are the basic values for which it stands.

A draft recommendation called on Europe’s governments to adopt a similar
declaration and to carry out legal investigations of individuals engaged in
crimes committed under totalitarian communist regimes did not receive the
necessary two-thirds majority of the votes cast.

Parliamentary Assembly, Provisional edition, Resolution 1481 (2006)(1)

1. The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution 1096 (1996) on
measures to dismantle the heritage of the former communist totalitarian

2. The totalitarian communist regimes which ruled in Central and Eastern
Europe in the last century, and which are still in power in several
countries in the world, have been, without exception, characterised by
massive violations of human rights.

The violations have differed depending on the culture, country and the
historical period and have included individual and collective assassinations
and executions, death in concentration camps, starvation, deportations,
torture, slave labour and other forms of mass physical terror, persecution
on ethnic or religious base, violation of freedom of conscience, thought and
expression, of freedom of press, and also lack of political pluralism.

3. The crimes were justified in the name of the class struggle theory and
the principle of dictatorship of the proletariat. The interpretation of both
principles legitimised the “elimination” of people who were considered
harmful to the construction of a new society and, as such, enemies of the
totalitarian communist regimes. A vast number of victims in every country
concerned were its own nationals. It was the case particularly of peoples of
the former USSR who by far outnumbered other peoples in terms of the
number of victims.

4. The Assembly recognises that, in spite of the crimes of totalitarian
communist regimes, some European communist parties have made
contributions to achieving democracy.

5. The fall of totalitarian communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe
has not been followed in all cases by an international investigation of the
crimes committed by them. Moreover, the authors of these crimes have not
been brought to trial by the international community, as was the case with
the horrible crimes committed by National Socialism (nazism).

6. Consequently, public awareness of crimes committed by totalitarian
communist regimes is very poor. Communist parties are legal and active in
some countries, even if in some cases they have not distanced themselves
from the crimes committed by totalitarian communist regimes in the past.

7. The Assembly is convinced that the awareness of history is one of the
preconditions for avoiding similar crimes in the future. Furthermore, moral
assessment and condemnation of crimes committed play an important role in
the education of young generations. The clear position of the international
community on the past may be a reference for their future actions.

8. Moreover, the Assembly believes that those victims of crimes committed
by totalitarian communist regimes who are still alive or their families,
deserve sympathy, understanding and recognition for their sufferings.

9. Totalitarian communist regimes are still active in some countries of the
world and crimes continue to be committed. National interest perceptions
should not prevent countries from adequate criticism of present totalitarian
communist regimes. The Assembly strongly condemns all those violations
of human rights.

10. The debates and condemnations which have taken place so far at national
level in some Council of Europe member states cannot give dispensation to
the international community from taking a clear position on the crimes
committed by the totalitarian communist regimes. It has a moral obligation
to do so without any further delay.

11. The Council of Europe is well placed for such a debate at international
level. All former European communist countries, with the exception of
Belarus, are now its members and the protection of human rights and the rule
of law are basic values for which it stands.

12. Therefore, the Parliamentary Assembly strongly condemns the massive
human rights violations committed by the totalitarian communist regimes and
expresses sympathy, understanding and recognition to the victims of these

13. Furthermore, it calls on all communist or post-communist parties in its
member states which have not so far done so to reassess the history of
communism and their own past, clearly distance themselves from the crimes
committed by totalitarian communist regimes and condemn them without any

14. The Assembly believes that this clear position of the international
community will pave the way to further reconciliation. Furthermore, it will
hopefully encourage historians throughout the world to continue their
research aimed at the determination and objective verification of what took

(1) Assembly debate on 25 January 2006 (5th Sitting) (see Doc.10765, report
of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr Lindblad ). Text adopted
by the Assembly on 25 January 2006 (5th Sitting). -30-
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
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Ukrinform, Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, January 28, 2006

KYIV – Yuriy Kostenko, leader of the Ukrainian People’s Party, believes
that the PACE’s recent resolution on condemning the totalitarian regimes
allows Ukraine to raise the issue of damages for the communist totalitarian
regime’s several-decade long rule, according to the press service of the
Ukrainian People’s Party,

In legal terms, he was quoted as saying, Ukraine will be entitled to at
least compensations. Besides, this resolution will put an end to both the
Ukrainian and Russian communists’ continuous speculations, alleging the
communist regime’s benefits, which ordinary people used to enjoy.

Touching on the issue of Ukraine’s likely claims to Russia for damages,
Yuriy Kostenko noted that this issue could be politically raised only after
the parliamentary elections in Ukraine.

The incumbent Parliament, Mr Kostenko said, will never make such a
decision as the communists within the Verkhovna Rada cooperate with
oligarchs. -30-
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
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