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I’m working on a much longer article about this, which I hope to publish today or tomorrow. I’ll link to it when I do. For now, some of you may remember these pieces I wrote about the unread Soviet archives:
In the world’s collective consciousness, the word “Nazi” is synonymous with evil. It is widely understood that the Nazis’ ideology—nationalism, anti-Semitism, the autarkic ethnic state, the Führer principle—led directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz. It is not nearly as well understood that Communism led just as inexorably, everywhere on the globe where it was applied, to starvation, torture, and slave-labor camps. Nor is it widely acknowledged that Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.
For evidence of this indifference, consider the unread Soviet archives. …
I wrote several articles about the papers smuggled out of Russia by Pavel Stroilov and Vladimir Bukovsky, including this one about the Soviet legacy in the Middle East. I also participated in a few online debates about them. Because I know Bukovsky’s work so well, I was particularly shocked to receive this e-mail about two weeks ago:
I greatly enjoyed your articles about the Bukovsky archives and I know you admire him. I thought you might want to know that he is on hunger strike now to protest the delay of his trial on child pornography charges in Britain. He says the FSB framed him and I believe him.
I’ve spent the past week looking into the story, and I too believe him. I’ve written a much longer article about it, which I hope will be published very soon. For now, here’s the Guardian’s summary. (They got the timeline wrong; the charges were filed about a month after he testified in the Litvinenko inquiry.)
He’s been on a hunger strike since April 20 to protest what he calls the the “Kafkaesque” British judicial system. It is not his first hunger strike, but it’s his first in protest of the actions of a Western government.
Here he explains why he’s doing this:
I’ve explained the larger context of this, and why I believe him, in the longer article.
But for now — if you’ll take my word for it — consider what this implies about Putin’s malice and that of the KGB’s successor organ, the FSB. The object of this exercise isn’t something as banal as killing a dissident on foreign soil. Bukovsky is 72. He’s suffering from multiple organ failure. When these charges were brought against him, he wasn’t expected to live. He couldn’t attend the hearing because he was having complex heart surgery, after which he was in a medically-induced coma and hospitalized for four months. He survived, but he was not expected to do so at the time.
So the point of the exercise wasn’t just to shut him up. He would soon be dead anyway. The point was to nullify his life. It was to prove to him, and to anyone tempted to emulate him, that the Kremlin will punish you for defying it even after your death. It will turn you, in the eyes of the world and of history, into a child molester. These charges, even if he’s acquitted, as he expects to be, would tarnish any man with an ineradicable stain. No one will believe there could be that kind of smoke without fire. They call into doubt Bukovsky’s entire life, testimony, and legacy. He is all too aware of this:
Frankly, I don’t care about the risk of being sent to prison. I have already spent 12 years in Soviet prisons having committed no crime in my life, I don’t expect to live for very long, and it makes little difference to me whether I spend the final few weeks of my life in jail. However, what is fundamentally important to me is defending my reputation. …
Throughout the 72 years of my life, my moral reputation had been spotless. It has been ruined in one day by the worldwide publicity given to the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] allegations.
I’ll have much more to say about this in the coming days. But for now, Bukovsky is prepared to die rather than to permit the Kremlin to have the last word, and given his health, he may well do that. It doesn’t seem to me he can survive a long hunger strike. So I wanted to publish at least this much about the case before that happens. I want him to know that I won’t leave the story alone, even if the hunger strike kills him.
“I’m not afraid of it,” he told the Guardian. “How can you be afraid of something inevitable? It isn’t a senseless death. It’s a purposeful death. I’m an old man anyway.”
I’ve urged him, as have his friends, to give up the hunger strike. I expect the British justice system to be thoroughly unimpressed by it. He doesn’t care. He’s doing this, as he says in the video, for Britain. He doesn’t want the Soviet Union to come there. He finds the West childlike in its naivete about the USSR’s continued existence, through Putin and the KGB’s successors, and unwilling to confront plainly its reach, brazenness, and depravity. This is the only way he knows to make the world pay notice.
When I look at our choices in the presidential race, I ask myself: Which one of the candidates is more apt to grasp the nature of that regime? The one who offered Sergei Lavrov a misspelled “reset” button? Or the one who thinks he’ll get along great with Putin, thinks NATO’s obsolete, and suggests that as far as he’s concerned, Putin’s innocent because he hasn’t been proven guilty? All I can say is that if God loves America, he’ll give us another choice. And at this point, it seems as if only an act of God could bring that about.
Anyway, I’ll keep you posted and let you know when the article is published.
Putin and the return of the Soviet Union will be one of the major themes of Brave Old World. Thanks for making it possible for me to work on this story, which I couldn’t have done without your support.
Contributions made this week will go, specifically, to covering my travel costs when I do more research about this in London and, if Bukovsky lives through this, in Cambridge, England.