Tag: Vladimir Bukovsky

The KGB Never Forgets and Never Forgives


In 1977, Tom Stoppard wrote a play dedicated to Soviet dissidents Vladimir Bukovsky and Viktor Fainberg. It is set in a Soviet mental hospital. Two men, both named Ivanov, share a cell. Alexander Ivanov is a dissident who cannot be released until he admits that he is mad and agrees that all of his statements against the government were the product of his mental illness. His cellmate, the other Ivanov, is mad. He believes he is conducting a symphony orchestra, which he hears in his mind.

In 2009, the play was revived at the National Theatre, in London. It received lukewarm reviews. “Unpacking the setting,” wrote critic Mark Espiner, “leads you into the heart of the problem — that it is dated.” Ian Shuttleworth dismissed it on similar grounds. “To put it harshly, this bleak, fantastical indictment of the Soviet Union’s use of psychiatric hospitalisation against dissidents is a play for yesterday.”

Putin, Bukovsky, and National Sovereignty


shutterstock_175007894Vladimir Bukovsky was prominent in the dissident movement within the old Soviet Union, and spent 12 years in prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals. He has lived in Britain since the late 1970s, and has been a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin, referring to Putin and his circle as the heirs of Lavrenty Beria — Beria being Stalin’s notorious secret-police chief. Bukovsky also expressed the opinion that the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko (in Britain, by radioactive polonium) was done at the behest of Russian authorities. So you can be pretty sure that Bukovsky isn’t on Vladimir Putin’s list of ten favorite people.

Recently, Bukovsky has been charged with child pornography by British authorities. Claire Berlinski believes that he was likely framed by the Russian regime. (More from Claire here.) It certainly seems quite possible that Putin’s intelligence agencies planted the evidence on Bukovsky’s computer, and I am happy that Claire is going to be further investigating this matter, which has received little attention from the legacy media.

I tend to believe that Claire is right and Bukovsky is innocent, though I have no way of putting probabilities on this at the moment. I am also impressed by the logic of Diana West’s question: “Is there a sentient person, naturally revolted by the thought of child pornography, even five or six images’ worth, going to believe for one minute that the British state, for decades having turned the blindest and hardest and most craven of eyes against the sexual despoilment and prostitution of generations of little British girls at risk at the hands of criminal Islamic “grooming” gangs, has suddenly developed some compelling interest in protecting the welfare of children, and thus turned its avenging sword on … Vladimir Bukovsky?”

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.