THE POWER, by Robert G. Raiser. 499 pages (Seeker and Warburg). £5.90.
A CHRONICLE OF CURRENT EVENTS, Numbers 32 and 33. 192 pages (Amnesty
Bullying harassment is the price a good journalist has to pay when he attempts to write about something that does not have official Soviet blessing.
Soviet Jews learnt the technique of contacting western correspondents and developed to such an extent that in 1973 and 1974, journalists and photographers who were asked to witness and report Jewish demonstrations were arrested along with the protesters.
One compensation for such a tough assignment is that a collection of such bizarre experiences make an unusual book. Hedrick Smith of the New York Times has just published such a book. Now his contemporary, Robert Kaiser, the Washington Post man in Moscow between 1971 and 1974 has done the same thing.
Kaiser attempts to describe Soviet society as it exists. It vividly illuminates the milieu ine which dissidents, or thinking people in general, find themselves. He used Jews both in Moscow and Israel afterwards as source material.
The chapter on “the rebellious few” devotes some space to the Jewish movement. Kaiser indicates his belief that the movement has in fact passed its zenith. “So the Jews won a victory of sorts, but the victory has lost its shine. Anyway it was a strange victory.”
He expects the gates to remain open now for years to come _ the Jews will leave in a trickle – not a flood.
He points out that the KGB has never ceased to counteract the Jewish movement. Indeed one rumour that he heard in Moscow was that the entire graduating class of the KGB Academy was assigned to the fast-growing Jewish department.
Significantly, Kaiser comes to the same conclusion that both dissidents in the USSR and their
Supporters in Britain have reached: that the Soviet Union’s greatest weapon is the fear which it instils in others. If this is suspended, if only for a moment, the inadequacies and insecurities of the Soviet Union are revealed and people then begin to acquire both dignity and courage.
Yet such an attitude should not lead to complacency, he concludes.
Although the Soviet Union may be less formidable an adversary than we have generally thought, it is still a formidable adversary and it anxious to do us ill. There is no generosity of spirit in the Soviet Union’s attitude towards the west, no high-minded desire to see all men prosper in whatever circumstances they choose. The meanness and competitiveness of the USSR amply displayed in all its international dealings cannot be ignored or discounted.
The only publication with which western correspondents in the Soviet capital find an affinity is the Chronicle of Current Events, the journal of the Soviet Human Rights movement. Two Chronicles covering the period from May to December 1974 have now appeared in English.
Most of the information on the Jewish cases has already reached the west, yet this paperback certainly aids the reader in his understanding of the Jewish problem relative to the dissident movement in general.
Chronicle 33 lists the prisoners in the strict regime Perm camps, accompanied by miniature biographies where something is known about the person. The Zionist prisoners are, of course, well known, but the lists also include a few more Jewish names almost totally unknown in the west.
For example, in Camp 35, there are six people who were sentenced for illegally attempting to leave the country. One of these is a 29-year-old Jew, Mikhail Vendysh. He was sentenced to 15 years in 1967 after trying to escape from a Soviet ship in the Mediterranean, according to one report.
Boris Sokolov is listed as serving four years in Perm for “a criticism of Brezhnev”. His mother, Anna Moiseyevna Kogan, was sentenced at the same trial to seven years in 1969. She is in Camp 3 in Potma. No further information is given about this case.
Another point which is abundantly clear is the decreasing democratic prisoners. Very few are mentioned in the Chronicles compared to five or six years ago. Many have left the USSR or made the transition to Zionism and emigrated to Israel.
In Camp 36, the Chronicle lists the names of 17 war criminals who served in the police force under the Nazis. Four Volga Germans, Best, Sauter, Funk and Kost – are among them. Each was sentenced to 25 years in 1957 for in the participating in the mass shootings of Jews.
The Zionist prisoners have often complained that the camp administration deliberately appoints such collaborators as overseers for the Jews.
This is the second paperback of the Chronicles published by Amnesty and its importance cannot be overstated. This illustrated edition contains photographs of a number refuseniks and prisoners. Amnesty plans to publish numbers 34-36 later this year.,
Jewish Observer 9 July 1976