Bukovsky and the Insult of Indifference

 

A peculiar kind of despair follows a catastrophe. There is no special word for this despair, though there should be; it requires a name all its own. It involves such associated concepts as bitterness, resilience, justice, trauma, insult, and injury. It is the state of mind that arises when one has suffered an event that shatters the soul. That is half of it. But the other half involves the way the world perversely refuses to understand. Having experienced the injury of loss, the victim then discovers the insult of indifference. The rest of the world continues to go about its business, blithely forgiving and forgetting, or never having known at all. Auden’s poem captures some of this: About suffering they were never wrong …

Because I’m a journalist, sometimes I receive letters from people who want the world to know that a terrible thing has happened to them. They cannot understand why no one cares. The letters are heartbreaking. Usually, there’s not much I can do. Although the story means everything to the person who has written to me, to the rest of the world, it means nothing — it is sad, but it is not significant, politically or historically. It is a human-interest feature at best.

Six years ago, however, I received a letter from someone whose story was not only sad, but massively significant. It should have been headline news. I couldn’t figure out why there was so little interest in it. Could the world really be so preoccupied — or so stupid — as to fail to grasp the importance of what Pavel Stroilov wrote to me? He was sitting on 50,000 unpublished, untranslated, Top Secret documents from the Kremlin archives, mostly dating from the close of the Cold War. And no one much wanted to read them.

How was this possible?

I learned that Stroilov was a close friend of the legendary Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. Then I learned that Bukovsky, too, had a massive archive of stolen and smuggled papers from the Central Committee Archives, which, as he wrote, “contain the beginnings and the ends of all the tragedies of our bloodstained century.”

These documents were available online, but most were untranslated.  “I offer them,” he wrote, “free of charge to the most influential newspapers and journals in the world, but nobody wants to print them. Editors shrug indifferently: So what? Who cares?”

When I spoke to him about his papers, I heard in his voice that emotion without a name. By this point I had been living in Turkey for some years. I had met many people with that voice. You can sense it in Bukovsky’s introduction to his archives:

… And what I feared most, came to pass: the former cowardly refusal to fight has turned into an inability to recover. The inhuman Utopia fell, but neither spiritual freedom nor honorable thought has risen from the ruins. There is nothing but an absurd, pathetic farce. The unnumbered millions of victims died in vain: humanity did not become better, wiser, more mature…

For Russia, the result was a shoddy tragicomedy, in which former second rate party bosses and KGB generals play the part of leading democrats and saviours of the country from communism. All that was most ugly, rotten and base, which had lurked in the darkest corners of the communist dungeon and survived due to a total absence of conscience, now struts in the center of the stage. They are those whom prison jargon labels “jackals”: while there are real gangsters in the cell, they are neither seen nor heard, huddling on the floor under the lowest bunk. But when the ranking thieves are marched off to the camps, the “jackals” emerge and begin to throw their weight around until another real gangster appears, and they dive back to the floor. Looking at this “jackals’ democracy” one cannot help recalling Vysotsky’s prophetic words:

I live. But I’m surrounded
By beasts, to whom the wolf’s cry is unknown.
They’re dogs      our distant kindred,
Whom we regarded as our prey.

I’ve written at some length about his hunger strike and the circumstances surrounding it: In London, Russian Dissident Vladimir Bukovsky Feels the Ill Effects of Putin’s Long Reach.

Obviously, I don’t know all the facts of the case. What I know is suggestive, but not dispositive. We’ll either learn more, or he’ll die first. Diana West has also written about this story: FLASH: British Court Imposes Gag Order on Bukovsky Libel Proceedings and Silencing Bukovsky. Diana and I have never exchanged e-mails before, but this week we met each other online. She too, I think, knows about the emotion without a name. As far as we know, we’re the only Americans to have written about this. I would say I’m surprised by this, but in truth, I’m not. Not anymore.

Bukovsky’s supporters have created a website:

Vladimir Bukovsky is a colossus of the 20th century who, along with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, was a founder of non-violent resistance. But while Gandhi and King created their movements in democratic countries, Bukovsky nurtured his in the communist Soviet Union, where the authorities didn’t care about public opinion and human lives, having killed millions of their own people. Yet Bukovsky prevailed while the communist regime eventually collapsed. Another important difference is that Gandhi and King were both assassinated and became martyrs. Bukovsky, despite all his twelve years of torment in Soviet labor camps and psychiatric prisons, is still alive. …

Bukovsky’s demand is that the court attends his case immediately, without any further delay, and he intends to hold his hunger strike until that happens.

Bukovsky’s case once again exposes Putin’s impunity in his aggressive actions against nations and individuals around the world. As long as those actions are not properly countered and even supported, Putin will feel emboldened to only expand them. Bukovsky’s case is a watershed, and must become a turning point. His persecutions must be stopped, and its perpetrators must be exposed and punished. It is in the power of British justice to do that.

“Is it not incredible,” Diana wrote to me last night, “that there is not one MP to bring this up in Parliament?”

Is it? I don’t know. I would guess a hunger strike rubs the British the wrong way. It must remind them of the IRA. It’s not the form of protest I would have advised him, but no one asked me.

I don’t know how normal it is to delay a hearing like his three times. Nor do I know what evidence the Crown Prosecution Service has. They declined to comment when I asked, which is of course normal.

I last heard from Vladimir on May 8.

I am feeling fine, even better than before hunger strike. Please don’t worry. With best wishes. V.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Postscript: Putin and the return of the Soviet Union will be one of the major themes of Brave Old World. Thank you for your generous contributions. They made it possible for me to work on this story. I could not have done so without your support.

Contributions made this week will go, specifically, to covering my travel costs when I do further research about this here in Paris, in London, and, if Bukovsky survives this — I hope — in Cambridge.

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  1. St. Salieri Member
    St. Salieri
    @

    Thank you for this Claire.

    The failure to grapple with the evils of Communism may be one of the greatest mistakes of the modern age.

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    It is not a mistake, it is on purpose.

    • #2
  3. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    This makes my  heart sink.  I’m not surprised that Diana West is on this, since she has been sometimes a lone voice even on the Right.  But not one MP?  Are we so beaten down?  Well, carry on, Claire, and I’ll send another little contribution.  This is God’s work.

    • #3
  4. Steven Jones Inactive
    Steven Jones
    @StevenJones

    It is all to easy to let current events crowd out memories of the past century’s horrors. For our students, these things are barely taught. I fear the impulses which led to the Gulag will reassert themselves while our intellectuals are immersed in gender justice.

    • #4
  5. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Steven Jones: It is all to easy to let current events crowd out memories of the past century’s horrors.

    But this is a current event. If Bukovsky is telling the truth and correct about what’s happening, this is not a story about some distant historical figure who has somehow stretched his hand out from the depths of the 1930s to put his corrupt fingers into London, in the year 2016. It’s Vladimir Putin, now.

    • #5
  6. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Thank you for your courage, and tell Diana the same – you have support here. Also please tell “V” that prayers and ears are open to him – he is not alone.

    • #6
  7. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Sandy:This makes my heart sink. I’m not surprised that Diana West is on this, since she has been sometimes a lone voice even on the Right. But not one MP? Are we so beaten down? Well, carry on, Claire, and I’ll send another little contribution. This is God’s work.

    Ditto

    • #7
  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Front Seat Cat: Well, carry on, Claire, and I’ll send another little contribution.

    Thank you. You just don’t know how much it means to someone like me to be able to spend a week writing about a story like this without having to worry, “Will I find anyone to publish it? To pay me for it?”

    • #8
  9. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Sounds like the EU appeasing Putin. The anti-Brexit left in Britain are being willing accomplices to Putin settling an old KGB score with an old Soviet dissident. All to avoid further embarrassment to his revanchist ambitions.

    How pathetic is the banality of the left. They sell out real human lives to evil. All to advance their robotic discredited agenda.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #9
  10. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    The British authorities seem to be simply terrified:  too frightened of Islamists to deal effectively with Rotherham and other atrocities; too terrified of Putin to risk crossing him.  I think they are dancing for the boa constrictors.

    • #10
  11. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    David Foster:The British authorities seem to be simply terrified: too frightened of Islamists to deal effectively with Rotherham and other atrocities; too terrified of Putin to risk crossing him. I think they are dancing for the boa constrictors.

    This is part of the reason why it is a perfect storm brewing – everyone is treading water with their own country’s problems – distracted – isn’t it interesting – how Syria fell, refugees scattered to Europe – countries overwhelmed – yet Putin was stirring the pot all along in Syria, has his pointed fingers on much of the Middle East anarchy including Iran, his installation of naval bases there, etc. He is just checking off his planning points one by one.

    • #11
  12. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Its okay because soon we may have a president that admires Putin and will also be engaging in lawsuits against his critics.

    • #12
  13. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    I read your article at Nation Review. Very effective writing. It lets us know who Bukovsky is and how important a figure he was to the whole Soviet protest movement.

    If people still have a heart (and a brain) they will be moved by this.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #13
  14. Lensman Inactive
    Lensman
    @Lensman

    I too read your story at Nationalreview.com. Great job.

    Maybe I’m a cynic from reading too much of the history of the Soviet penetration of the British Secret Service and Government (e.g. Kim Philby et al), but I have to wonder if someone has been in the British government who could have put a stop to such an obvious frame-up has been corrupted by the Putin regime. Did the Crown Prosecution Service not bother to talk to MI5 or MI6? It would appear to be a no-brainer when there are Russian fingerprints on so much persecution/murder of Russian dissidents in the West?

    What is happening to Bukovsky reads like it is out of the pages of a Gabriel Allon spy novel by Daniel Silva. The English Girl (2013) in particular deals with Russian operations in the UK.

    • #14
  15. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Lensman:I too read your story at Nationalreview.com. Great job.

    Maybe I’m a cynic from reading too much of the history of the Soviet penetration of the British Secret Service and Government (e.g. Kim Philby et al), but I have to wonder if someone has been in the British government who could have put a stop to such an obvious frame-up has been corrupted by the Putin regime. Did the Crown Prosecution Service not bother to talk to MI5 or MI6? It would appear to be a no-brainer when there are Russian fingerprints on so much persecution/murder of Russian dissidents in the West?

    What is happening to Bukovsky reads like it is out of the pages of a Gabriel Allon spy novel by Daniel Silva. The English Girl (2013) in particular deals with Russian operations in the UK.

    Do you recommend the book?

    • #15
  16. Tim Wright Inactive
    Tim Wright
    @TimWright

    Read your NR article. Nice work. Tim

    • #16
  17. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    I just put up a post on this matter at Chicago Boyz: Bukovsky, Putin, and National Sovereignty

    • #17
  18. Lensman Inactive
    Lensman
    @Lensman

    Front Seat Cat:

    Lensman:I too read your story at Nationalreview.com. Great job.

    Maybe I’m a cynic from reading too much of the history of the Soviet penetration of the British Secret Service and Government (e.g. Kim Philby et al), but I have to wonder if someone has been in the British government who could have put a stop to such an obvious frame-up has been corrupted by the Putin regime. Did the Crown Prosecution Service not bother to talk to MI5 or MI6? It would appear to be a no-brainer when there are Russian fingerprints on so much persecution/murder of Russian dissidents in the West?

    What is happening to Bukovsky reads like it is out of the pages of a Gabriel Allon spy novel by Daniel Silva. The English Girl (2013) in particular deals with Russian operations in the UK.

    Do you recommend the book?

    Like all of Daniel Silva’s novels, the writing is about as good as any spy novel ever gets. I prefer his books to practically anything John LeCarre has written in the past 25 years.

    I would suggest reading the last three Gabriel Allon novels: (1) The English Girl, (2) The Heist and (3) The English Spy. The narrative flows from one to the other. If you like Audible Books, the person who reads these novels is 10 on a scale of 10.

    • #18
  19. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Lensman:

    Front Seat Cat:

    Do you recommend the book?

    Like all of Daniel Silva’s novels, the writing is about as good as any spy novel ever gets. I prefer his books to practically anything John LeCarre has written in the past 25 years.

    I would suggest reading the last three Gabriel Allon novels: (1) The English Girl, (2) The Heist and (3) The English Spy. The narrative flows from one to the other. If you like Audible Books, the person who reads these novels is 10 on a scale of 10.

    My sister got me hooked on Agatha Christie, who describes much from the Nazi and underground side like “The Road to Frankfurt” and “They Came to Baghdad”, which speaks of some experience during that period – and book sales – of which I stumbled on Ernst Lothar’s books – Beneath Another Sun and A story called A Woman in Paris – A Diary – both take place in Austria as WWII begins – he wrote from experience and I found that I love old books – the writing and historical accuracy are better than today – I loved both books –These are the books I sent you Claire – you cannot imagine what it was like to leave all you had and loved within weeks – yet this was the story of millions. History is reflecting a certain ignorance today that lead  to that period in history.

    • #19
  20. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Lensman:

    Front Seat Cat:

    Lensman:I too read your story at Nationalreview.com. Great job.

    Maybe I’m a cynic from reading too much of the history of the Soviet penetration of the British Secret Service and Government (e.g. Kim Philby et al), but I have to wonder if someone has been in the British government who could have put a stop to such an obvious frame-up has been corrupted by the Putin regime. Did the Crown Prosecution Service not bother to talk to MI5 or MI6? It would appear to be a no-brainer when there are Russian fingerprints on so much persecution/murder of Russian dissidents in the West?

    What is happening to Bukovsky reads like it is out of the pages of a Gabriel Allon spy novel by Daniel Silva. The English Girl (2013) in particular deals with Russian operations in the UK.

    Do you recommend the book?

    Like all of Daniel Silva’s novels, the writing is about as good as any spy novel ever gets. I prefer his books to practically anything John LeCarre has written in the past 25 years.

    I would suggest reading the last three Gabriel Allon novels: (1) The English Girl, (2) The Heist and (3) The English Spy. The narrative flows from one to the other. If you like Audible Books, the person who reads these novels is 10 on a scale of 10.

    Thanks for the recommendations.

    • #20
  21. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    I, too, have read your Bukovsky piece, Claire, and hope that it reaches a wide audience.

    • #21
  22. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I wish your GoFundMe button would open in a separate tab.  I went there, then when I was done couldn’t back-arrow back to this article.

    Yes, I know about right-clicking and doing it that way, but usually Ricochet is good about opening external links in a new tab, so I was spoiled.

    • #22
  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    David Foster: Bukovsky, Putin, and National Sovereignty

    I thought that was a good post — so much so that I wish you’d written it here, so we could put it on Main!

    • #23
  24. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    The Reticulator:I wish your GoFundMe button would open in a separate tab. I went there, then when I was done couldn’t back-arrow back to this article.

    Yes, I know about right-clicking and doing it that way, but usually Ricochet is good about opening external links in a new tab, so I was spoiled.

    Yeah, it’s a widget, and I don’t know how to reprogram the HTML so it does that. If anyone knows how, feel free to send me the code.

    • #24
  25. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    The Reticulator:I wish your GoFundMe button would open in a separate tab. I went there, then when I was done couldn’t back-arrow back to this article.

    Yes, I know about right-clicking and doing it that way, but usually Ricochet is good about opening external links in a new tab, so I was spoiled.

    Yeah, it’s a widget, and I don’t know how to reprogram the HTML so it does that. If anyone knows how, feel free to send me the code.

    Find the part that says:

    snippet without target

    and change the grey area like so:

    snippet with target

    All you add is the text target=”_blank”.

    • #25
  26. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Percival:

    All you add is the text target=”_blank”.

    Thank you! That’s just what I needed to know. Much obliged.

    • #26
  27. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    I thought that was a good post — so much so that I wish you’d written it here, so we could put it on Main!

    Your wish is my command, m’lady….just cross-posted on the Member page at Ricochet

    • #27
  28. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    The Diana West article has a little image of blindfolded lady justice. With that gag order, lady justice needs to be depicted putting blindfolds and earplugs on the populace.  And maybe the sword should be exchanged for a sickle, the point of which is used for rearranging the court calendar.  (I’d leave the hammer out of it, though.)

    • #28
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