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Vladimir Bukovsky Interviewed by Dmitry Gordon

on 112 Ukraine TV Channel, May 2018

Original interview in Russian


Dmitry Gordon:  Good evening. You are watching the Gordon Show.  Today my guest is the legendary Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky.  Vladimir Konstantinovich, good evening!

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Good evening. 

Dmitry Gordon:  You are one of the founders of the dissident movement in the USSR.  You have spent 12 years in Soviet prisons.  Tell me, how many years have you spent in solitary confinement?  Have you ever counted?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Not really.  There was no point in counting.  Perhaps a year in total, or even more.  Disciplinary cells are usually solitary confinement.  Or you are placed separately in a solitary cell as punishment. 

Dmitry Gordon:  You have gone on hunger strikes many times.  For how long?  What was your longest hunger strike?  

Vladimir Bukovsky:  The longest hunger strike was in 1973.  The entire labor camp was on hunger strike for a month.  And we’ve managed to have all our demands met.  

Dmitry Gordon:  Were you not eating anything at all or were you eating at least something?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Nothing at all.  To eat sparsely is worse than not to eat at all.  It is very damaging for the stomach and for health.  It is also very painful.  It is far better to be on an honest hunger strike.

Dmitry Gordon:  Were you force-fed through a tube?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Several times. 

Dmitry Gordon:  Is it painful when one is force-fed?  How was the method applied to you?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  The lighter version of the procedure is to feed through the mouth by inserting a tube in the throat.  But I was fed through the nose in the Lefortovo prison.  It was very painful because the hose had a metal nozzle which was wider than my nostril.  So every day they would rip my nostrils to put this hose through.  It's a very unpleasant, very painful procedure.  But this is how they were feeding me for 10 days. 

Dmitry Gordon:  I sincerely respect Soviet dissidents, those who went to labor camps and to prisons defending their ideas.  Tell me, am I right to assume that those dissidents who ended up not going to prison, cooperated with the KGB?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Oh, no.  Not all of them, by far.  The KGB was making its own choices as to who would go to prison and who wouldn't. 


The KGB was making its own choices as to who would go to prison and who wouldn't. They had several tactics. 



They had several tactics.  For example, out of a group of several people who were under surveillance, they would choose the weakest to make the others feel guilty that it wasn’t them going to jail, and also knowing that it was easy to break and to crush the weak.  So the fact that someone went to prison and someone didn't was not indicative when it came to the KGB.  It was all very complex, very intricate. 

Dmitry Gordon:  But you were most certainly made offers to strike a deal with the KGB and to avoid prison?  And even while in prison you were surely offered release in exchange for signing certain documents?  Why would you decline?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  I simply wouldn't talk to them.  I never had any kinds of negotiations with them.  I remember in 1974 during the investigation of Yakir's case, they were attempting these kinds of negotiations:  "If you promise in writing to stop social activism, we will let you go and you'd be able to leave for Israel or for the United States."  I would say, "Perfect.  Let’s do this. But under the condition that you release all political prisoners from mental hospitals and openly condemn the political use of psychiatry."  The person I was having this conversation with banged his fist on the desk: "Are you haggling with the Soviet authorities?!"  And I said, "Why not?  You are putting forth your conditions and I am putting forth mine."  And after that he went, "You will rot to death in prison,” and so on.  So that conversation didn't pan out.

Dmitry Gordon:  In 1976 it was unprecedented what happened to you.  Having failed to break you, the Soviet system suffered a fiasco in your case, and the Alpha Group (a special force unit of the KGB - translator) took you to Europe in a designated aircraft.  You were exchanged for the leader of Chilean communists Luis Corvalan. And the entire Russian-speaking world knows the folk rhyme:  “A hooligan was swapped for Luis Corvalan. Can we swap Brezhnev for some rabble scum?”  And when you realized that all this was behind you, that 12 years of labor camps were over, and that you were being escorted with such distinction to Europe in exchange for Luis Corvalan himself, did you feel as an important person?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  No. What I felt was terrible fatigue.  This tiredness has been accumulating for all those years and I was kind of keeping it at bay.  And here I felt as if things have fallen off my shoulders and I felt this terrible tiredness and nothing else.  There was no pity, no joy, no other emotion. 

Dmitry Gordon:  You were fighting the Soviet regime under Brezhnev's rule.  Who was not the most bloodthirsty person, as history shows.  Those who knew him used to tell me that he was a kind, grandfatherly type. Tell me, is Putin worse than Brezhnev?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Worse.  By far.  He is a person with an inferiority complex and with a need to compensate for it, to perpetually try to prove himself.  And this is a frequent trait in people of short stature, the so-called Adler complex.  A very virulent, very vengeful, petty person.  You are right, Brezhnev wasn't like that.  Everyone who knew him personally used to say that as a human being he was rather good-natured.  But still, he took decisions to kill and to start wars, including the invasion of Afghanistan, and so on.  All these decisions bear Brezhnev's signature.  So the good-naturedness of these people is rather relative.  It's like that joke about Lenin which ends with a phrase, “He had an option to slash me but he didn’t."  As kind as they were...

Dmitry Gordon:  Is this a tragedy for Russia that it is being governed by Putin and not by anyone else?  I am asking you as a former presidential candidate.

Vladimir Bukovsky:  My candidacy was more of a campaign.  None of us took it seriously.  We understood that they wouldn't let me register.  It was simply a convenient way to conduct a campaign for release of political prisoners and against the revival of the use of psychiatry for political purposes, which was taking place at the time.  And we achieved our goals.  Those whose release we were demanding were released.  The use of psychiatry for political purposes was stopped.  Of course, it is a tragedy that they elected...  The heart of the matter is not Putin as an individual, mind you.  Putin as an individual is negligible.  I always perceived his psychological type as that of a labor camp governor.  He is a labor camp governor the way he recruits and the way he maneuvers, and so on. 



Putin as an individual is negligible.  I always perceived his psychological type as that of a labor camp governor.  He is a labor camp governor the way he recruits and the way he maneuvers.





That is all he does.  The essence of the matter is not Putin, but the fact that there is a KGB corporation at the helm of the state.  And in the 1990s they merged with the criminal world, so what we have is a criminal secret service regime.  And this is a tragedy.  As for Putin, tomorrow there won't be a Putin, but there will be, say, a Sechin, or a Volodin.  What difference does it make to us?  The names don't matter.  They are all more or less the same.  The tragedy is that the Russian people have not understood what terrible role in their country’s destiny was played by the Cheka, the KGB, the Joint State Political Directorate, the NKVD (Soviet secret police organizations - translator) and so on.  And that they elected -- and the first time around they did elect -- this paltry KGB lieutenant-colonel. 

Dmitry Gordon:  By the way, which one is better -- the KGB or the FSB?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  In my view, there is no big difference.  The only thing is that the KGB used to be under a great control of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR.  Which was greater than any control anyone can now have over the FSB.  Today's FSB is completely unhinged, off the leash.  Business is their number one priority. They run protection rackets, they steal, they extort, they engage in racketeering.  The KGB never used to engage in any of it.  Nobody would allow it.  The Central Committee used to make sure it didn't happen.  

Dmitry Gordon: You recently said, "If two ballistic missiles were launched at Lubyanka, the level of terrorism worldwide would drop by 80 percent."  What did you mean but that?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  The thing is that a huge part of the world's so-called terrorism is being organized by Lubyanka (the popular name for the headquarters of the FSB on Lubyanka Square in Moscow - translator). They control Islamic terrorism, ever since the war in Afghanistan when they were supporting the most extremist parts of the Afghan resistance, people like Gulbuddin.  You wouldn't remember these names.  

A huge part of the world's so-called terrorism is being organized by Lubyanka.

Dmitry Gordon:  Gulbuddin Hekmatyar?

Vladimir Bukovsky: Yes, Hekmatyar.  They used to intimidate the moderate parts of the Afghan resistance through Islamic extremists.  And this is how their ties were formed. These connections began to quickly spread across the Middle East, including Palestine, and their influence shifted from the Palestine Liberation Organization to Hamas, and so on.  They understood that Islamic extremism was very advantageous to them.  And they spent a long time infiltrating them with their agent network and worked on securing their grip over it.  So, if one were to remove Lubyanka's control, the level will drop significantly.  I said by 80 percent, which you are quoting correctly.  Eighty is an estimation.  By the way, the late Alexander Litvinenko and I used to sit and speculate, and the idea to unintentionally launch two ballistic missiles, as in, "Oops, they're off, ouch!" occurred to us then. This would mean the immediate drop in the levels of international terrorism, a great drop. For example, all the events connected with Syria, think of it.  All these endless terrorist attacks in France, in Paris.  All of it was controlled by Lubyanka.  It is clear to us.  

Dmitry Gordon:  Vladimir Konstantinovich, what is happening with Russia right now?  What kind of diagnosis would you give to contemporary Russia?  

Vladimir Bukovsky:  I always explain to my friends that what is happening is not the crisis of Putin's regime.  It is the crisis of the Russian state.  And when it reaches the end of its journey, the Russian state will cease to exist.  This shows the severity of the current state of affairs.  The fall of the regime will not be the end of it.  Regimes fall and new ones form, and then the newer ones still, through various restructuring efforts and so on.  But here we have a crisis of the state, the crisis of the state system.  And this crisis will end in the collapse of the entire state.  

Dmitry Gordon:  About seven years ago you told me that Russia would break up into seven parts.

Vladimir Bukovsky:  This was when they announced the presidential districts.  Seven administrative districts.  And I joked that Russia was going to break into these seven parts.  [Laughs].  This is how they mapped it out themselves.  But now we don't know how many parts it will disintegrate into.  But it will break up, for sure.  As soon as the political center will weaken, the centrifugal force will increase.  The provinces don't need Moscow at all.  What do they get from Moscow?  Moscow used to give them subsidized gasoline and some sort of grants from the government.  But when the center begins to weaken, neither will become available.  All you will have left will be taxes, exactions, and orders. And what do these so-called "subjects of the federation" — as they are called — need all this for?

Dmitry Gordon:  The Russian Far East and Siberia, am I right?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Of course.  

Dmitry Gordon:  Why do you think the Russians have such a great nostalgia for the Soviet Union?  What kind of unhealthy mania is this?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  It didn't start just now.  I witnessed the time when people were nostalgic for Stalin.  His so-called "firm hand.”  All this is myth and legend.  I witnessed Stalin's time, even though I was a little boy at the time.  But I remember that there was corruption under his rule, and fraud.  And as to the post-war crime rate, one couldn't compare it to the 1990s.  Now they call the 1990s "reckless time."  Yeah, right.  Try living in post-war Russia.  We, the children, knew which streets we could walk on and which streets we couldn't walk on, and which area was ruled by which mafia.  This is how I was growing up, this was my childhood.  The 1990s are incomparable.  All this is lies.  Under Stalin there was the same kind of regime of corruption, violence, criminality, and so on. 

Under Stalin there was the same kind of regime of corruption, violence, criminality.


I was watching a documentary once about Stalin's death.  It turns out that Stalin discovered corruption in his own lunchroom.  He had abnormal expenditure of herring.  Which means that his caretaker was stealing Stalin's herring and sold it on the side.  Under the nose of this hard regime and under this strong hand.  

Dmitry Gordon:  Nevertheless, Stalin himself wasn't a bribetaker.

Vladimir Bukovsky:  No.  No.  He was a completely different kind of person.  He was an evildoer and a fanatic, he believed in all of his dogmas and so on.  Among those who believed in those dogmas no one was corrupt.  This was not what drove them.  Private wealth did not interest them.  They were fanatics.  They wanted the entire world.  A small part of it did not interest them. They did not want communism in their country house.  They wanted it across the entire world.  And this is what they were working on.  This is how they understood their greatness and their mission in history. They lived for it.  For this goal they laid to waste tens of millions of people and didn't even blink.  Corruption?  They were not interested in it.  Although they had all the government-owned property at their disposal:  villas, airplanes, houses in the country, and anything one could ever want.  Although all of this did not belong to them, it belonged to the government.  

Dmitry Gordon:  You know, I can somehow justify the people who miss the Soviet Union, especially old people, because their best years coincided with that time and they reminisce about their youth, not about that country. If we depart for a second from the 12 years that you have spent in the prisons of the Soviet regime, you were still young and youthful, and joyous for sure while in the Soviet Union.  Don't you feel nostalgic for the Soviet past?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  [Laughs].  No.  I don't feel nostalgic for the Soviet past.  And I don't feel particularly nostalgic for my youth.  Yes, people are inclined to feel nostalgic about their youth and to miss it, as opposed to missing the time which coincided with it.  They paint it in bright colors looking at it through the prism of their childhood. 

Dmitry Gordon:  In 2014 when Ukraine was weakened to a great degree, when we had neither the army, nor the proper police force, nor security services, nothing, the friendly country Russia came to our territory, annexed the Crimea, and entered Donbass. Would you say it was a tragic mistake, or a conscious act on part of the Russian Federation?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  You know, from the very beginning of Putin's rule, or to put it more precisely, the secret service rule, they had a dream to restore the Soviet Union. 




From the very beginning of Putin's rule, or to put it more precisely, the secret service rule, they had a dream to restore the Soviet Union. 




If you remember, the first actions of Putin were to restore the old national anthem of the Soviet Union (although with different lyrics) and to restore the red flag for the army.  This was a signal to everyone:  we are going back to the USSR.  And this was what he occupied himself with.  And that is why the general plan of "restoration of the frontiers" and restoration of the scale of the empire was there from the very start.  As for the detailed plan regarding Ukraine, it is likely to have been prepared beforehand, but it was not being implemented.  And it got employed in an angry outburst when Yanukovich was overthrown and when he ran off in disgrace.  This was the moment when out of rage Putin implemented a plan which he had on a shelf, I think. That is why it was so inappropriate.  Their calculation that they would be able to win the hearts of the millions of Russian-speaking people in the South of Ukraine fell through completely.  A lot of the Russian-speaking people in the South joined the resistance.  And they did not support Putin and his policy.  So this was a complete failure.  A failure of his intelligence services, a failure of his political analysis.  Maybe this plan was prepared for different times, and when it got implemented in 2014 it was too late.  I don't know.  But the fact is that this was a colossal error of the intelligence services.  

Dmitry Gordon:  In response the West switched on powerful sanctions against Russia and continues to expand them.  Today we hear that there is a trillion of US dollars of Russian money in the United States.  And the United Kingdom has half a trillion of US dollars of Russian money.  Do you think that Russian billionaires' money is under threat in the UK today?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Of course.  And not only there.  It is under threat everywhere.  Even Switzerland announced that Vekselberg who lived in Switzerland and used to buy firms through dummy corporations and so on, now has all of it taken away from him, all of it is frozen now.  At the moment he owns practically nothing there.  And this is how it will be everywhere.  This is how it will be with each one of them.  Especially those who actively assisted the Putin regime.  Some of them managed to jump ship in time.  For example, Roman Abramovich stopped being the governor of Chukotka in good time.  Having understood that this post was binding him to the Kremlin to a great degree.  So he removed himself bit by bit.  Now he is mainly in charge of the Chelsea football club.  And he is in charge of nothing in Russia.  Sort of.  Maybe they will manage to get away with it because they moved away from the Kremlin in time.  And the others, who continued, such as Deripaska or Vekselberg, and so on, those will suffer, they will have everything taken away from them.  Everything will be frozen.  They themselves will not be able to travel and if they have families in the West, they will not be able to see their families.  They will now be punished extremely severely.  

Dmitry Gordon:  But the plan of the West is exactly that:  to divide the Russian oligarchs and Putin, and to pit them against each other.  Do you think that the Russian oligarchs who now have their billions under risk, will unite and remove Putin from power?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  I think that the likelihood of this is small.  Their reaction will be to try to escape.  Already now the capital flight is colossal, you know the figures.  The number of people leaving Russia for the West is very noticeable, as we see it here.  This is what will happen:  they will run to escape.  And they will haggle with the local authorities as to which percentage of their capital they would have to give up to be tolerated.  But those are not the kind of people who are capable of setting up a conspiratorial plot and to seize power.  These are different kind of people -- they are businessmen.  Semi-criminal businessmen, swindlers.  This isn't part of their psychological makeup.  One has to have certain moral values in order to conspire against the government.  Both Brutus and Cassius believed that they were restoring the republic in Rome.  They weren't doing this because of money or for a seat in the senate.  

Dmitry Gordon:  Do you think the West will finish Russia off?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Russia will die as a result of its own actions.  I tried to analyze this recently.  Even if one were to stop all the sanctions, to remove all the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West, Russia would not be able to spring back to life.  They have lost markets, both in oil and in gas, and those markets cannot be won back.  Over this time due to changes in prices and changes in demand, there appeared new production facilities for oil, new oil fields, shale gas and shale oil.  All of this will continue to develop and there will be a surplus of oil.  Oil prices will be going down.  Rules of competition on the market will make sure they don’t go up.  Temporary fluctuations of 60-40 will go on for a while and then they will drop to around 20.  

Dmitry Gordon:  It is astonishing, isn't it, how everything was going so well and oil prices were sky-high, and oil money was coming in by the boat load, and everyone in the West was shaking their hands.  I am talking about the Russian leadership.  And suddenly this saltwater idea of the Empire goes right into their heads.  How can one explain this?  What kind of stupidity suddenly seized them?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  This is their complex.  This is their secret police complex.  What did they come to power for?  What was their idea?  To restore the Soviet Union.  To restore the Soviet empire.

Dmitry Gordon:  I thought the idea was to steal dosh.

Vladimir Bukovsky:  This was a concurrent goal.  One didn't interfere with the other.  As in, "We are doing a good deed and simultaneously enriching ourselves."  But the idea -- if the secret police government ever had an idea -- was to restore the Soviet empire.  And as soon as they slightly recovered, or, as they like to put it, as soon as they "rose from their knees," they immediately threw themselves at the entire world's throat in order to restore the Soviet empire.  

Dmitry Gordon:  See, sometimes it's dangerous to rise from one's knees. 

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Yes.  What they didn't understand is the simple truth that the death of the Soviet empire was not an accident.  It died not because they were betrayed or because Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, as they try to assure everyone now, were American agents, which is complete nonsense -- they were never American agents.  [Laughs].  I saw a huge number of archival documents of the Central Committee of the Communist Party from that time which show that they were doing everything they could to save the Soviet Union, including commission of crimes.  The thing is that the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union were objective.  The error lay at the foundation of this construction. 



The reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union were objective.  The error lay at the foundation of this construction. 




It would have inevitably collapsed.  We all understood this very early on.  My friend Andrei Amalrik back in 1969 published a book titled Will the Soviet Union Survive until 1984? 

Dmitry Gordon:  Vladimir Konstantinovich, I have no doubt that you, as a Russian, love Russia.  I understand this completely. Tell me, looking at everything that is happening there now, do you pity it?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  There was a time when I felt tremendous pity for Russia. And I was tying myself up in knots about it.  I understood that it was all going to end in a disintegration.  And it used to weigh down on me.  Then I accepted the inevitability of it, and after the Russian people voted the KGB into power, I have lost my interest in them.  They chose it themselves, nobody forced them. Couldn't they have elected someone else?  Couldn't they have elected an ordinary person?  What was the point in electing the KGB people, those who exterminated about 50 million of Russian people, not mentioning other nations? 

Dmitry Gordon:  You once said that the Nobel Peace Prize should be taken away from Gorbachev.  Why?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Because he provoked conflicts, such as the conflict in Tbilisi in 1989 which was orchestrated on Gorbachev's orders.  The conflict in Baku in 1990, the attack of the special ops unit on the parliament and the TV tower, and so on.  All this was Gorbachev's doing.  He provoked national and ethnic conflicts on the principle of "divide and rule,” thinking that both sides would run to him to try to protect their interests, which is what happened in Nagorny Karabakh where they ruled the way they saw fit.  And this is the way it happened in Moldova where they were deciding how things would go between the Transnistria and Moldova.  They were less successful at implementing this in other regions.  They tried to use this tactic in Central Asia, in places such as Osh, and so on, which we remember, but Central Asia fell by the wayside rather soon and the center lost its interest in it.  But in other places they were involved a lot.  There were hundreds, if not thousands of people who died.  I am not even talking about the fact that under Gorbachev the war in Afghanistan kept carrying on for five years.  Five years!

Under Gorbachev the war in Afghanistan kept carrying on for five years.

Dmitry Gordon:  For your resolve and for your valor you received great acclaim in the West.  You became a universally recognized hero and were received at the highest level by presidents and prime ministers of leading Western countries.  You were friends with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.  Tell me this, are there today politicians of the stature of Reagan and Thatcher -- politicians with courage -- in the United States and in Europe?  

Vladimir Bukovsky:  No, today there aren't any.  Not today. Today we have complete nonentities across the board.  Accommodating figures, unexpected people, those who one knows will not rock the boat.  In France, in Germany, and here in the UK.  There are no prominent, large-format politicians these days.  Strong and intelligent people prefer not to go into politics.  They go into business or other spheres, but they don't go into politics.





There are no prominent, large-format politicians these days.  Strong and intelligent people prefer not to go into politics.  They go into business or other spheres, but they don't go into politics.




Because it is pointless and because politics is deadlocked.  All these issues are being solved collectively, and it has become impossible to achieve anything through putting forth a principled position.  And for this reason a person who would ideally like to change the world, that person will not go into politics because this is not where it is done.  

Dmitry Gordon:  Based on what both Gorbachev and Shevardnadze used to tell me, the U.S. president Ronald Reagan who openly called the Soviet Union an evil empire has done everything to make sure the Soviet Union collapsed and ceased to exist on the political map of the world.  In your opinion, if Reagan was alive today, would he topple Russia?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  It is difficult for me to speculate.  Reagan had power in his own time.  We all have influence in our own time, and when our time is gone, we lose such things as contacts and capacity to influence things.  I don't know what Reagan personally would have been able to do.  It's like speculating what would have happened if Stalin appeared in the 1990s.  He would have been one of the leaders of organized crime, one of the gangsters, that's all.  Would he have been able to recreate the Soviet Union?  Of course not.  The circumstances were different.  The same when it comes to Reagan.  I can't tell you what Reagan could have done.  What he had was a sense of purpose.  Having come to power he said, ”Communism belongs to the ash-heap of history."  And he achieved that.  

Dmitry Gordon:  When you used to meet with him, what was he like as a person?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Reagan was a very good-natured person, very pleasant.  He really liked Soviet jokes.  He would always ask us if we had any fresh jokes.  And we always used to tell him all the latest jokes.  He loved jokes.  Once he even appeared on TV with a selection of Soviet jokes.  He was an actor and he had a great sense of humor.  And a very well-developed intuition.  His first meeting with Gorbachev was in Geneva in 1985.  And afterwards we asked his aides how it went, how Reagan liked the new Soviet leader.  We were told that Gorbachev didn't make a good impression.  Reagan didn't like him right away.  He said he was "yet another communist, only talks a lot."  [Laughs.]  And it's a very precise characterization.  His intuition was amazing.  Thatcher was cerebral, she understood everything through reasoning.  She had no intuition. 




Thatcher was cerebral, she understood everything through reasoning.  She had no intuition. 





We are used to thinking that women have intuition and that men prefer reasoning, but here it was the other way around.  But, luckily, they worked together.  [Laughs.]  So both intuition and reasoning were on our side.  And he was one of the few Western leaders who rejected Gorbachev outright.  And saw through him very clearly.  

Dmitry Gordon:  Vladimir Konstantinovich, you talked about the disintegration of Russia. Is there also a danger that Ukraine will fall apart?  

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Such a danger existed before.  There was at one point a very dangerous moment with all those language problems and people willing to profiteer from them, and willing to escalate the demands for ukrainization and so forth.  Not without Moscow's input, I think.  This is something you can only do very gradually and vary patiently, starting from early school.  You cannot force it on people.  This was the time when there was a danger of Ukraine splitting into an eastern part and a western part.  Now this danger has subsided.  Strangely enough, Mr. Putin helped you with this greatly.  I think one can consider him the founding father of a new nation.  

Dmitry Gordon:  Really?  Why?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Because he, having attacked you, forced people to unite, regardless of their language preferences.  We saw the revival of the army and of the national spirit.  In reality, what hurled back the sovietized Russians was the people, the volunteers.  While the bureaucrats sat there and scratched their heads.  Other people had business interests which did not allow them to react with force, and it was the common people who took up the arms.  The national spirit came alive again.  I remember watching a live transmission from the Maidan (demonstrations on the “Maidan Nezalezhnosti” (“Independence Square”) in Kiev - translator) in March with my acquaintance.  And we understood that in the midst of this car tyre smoke, and all those firecrackers and petards, a new European nation was being born.  

Dmitry Gordon:  What do you think is happening with Ukraine today?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  You know, the biggest danger for Ukraine is not its outside enemies but the internal disarray including corruption.  This is the biggest threat.  You can drown in it.  It can drag you to the very bottom.  You need renewal. You need a new composition of the parliament, a new cabinet, and new people, young people who took part in the anti-terrorist operations, this struggle in the South, who have principles and who were prepared to die for these principles.  These are the kind of people that you need.

Dmitry Gordon:  You hold a view that it would be bizarre and stupid of Ukraine to ask to be accepted into the European Union.  That it was a mistake on its part to orient itself toward the EU.  Why?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Well, no one where you are understood what the European Union is, that it is a shell fragment of the cold war and an attempt by the Western left to retain its control over the situation and its positions in power.  It is bizarre when Poland, which for centuries fought for its independence and survived three divisions and two occupations, and which has just managed to free itself from one straightjacket, has now jumped into another.  It's a bizarre kind of madness.  And none of the Eastern European countries which joined the European Union is happy.  The first excitement wore off...  And there was a first wave of excitement because they could travel and move to the West and work there...

Dmitry Gordon:  And the second wave never came?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  And the second wave never came and it all went backwards.  The agriculture is being destroyed in all of these countries.  My good acquaintance just came back from the Baltic states. And the Baltic states used to be famous for their agriculture.  He tells me that agriculture is destroyed there completely.  Completely.  Because produce has to comply with the European Union standards and that's it.  

Dmitry Gordon:  But you say that the European Union will collapse. Do you still think so?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Yes, of course.  Of course.  The essence of the matter isn't Brexit, which was an episode so to say, but economically they won't be able to survive.  They constantly have different countries ready to default.  It's an impossible project.  It's impossible to have one currency for such different countries as Greece and Sweden.  Or Germany and, say, Portugal.  It's like that joke where they were measuring the average body temperature across the entire hospital, a kind of data that tells nothing to a physician. 

Dmitry Gordon:  In 1980 you became one of the organizers of the campaign to boycott the Olympic Games in Moscow.  I've been saying for the entire year that the football championship which is supposed to take place in Russia will not happen there.  I even publicly set a 500-dollar bet with a friend.  In your opinion, will the world football championship take place in Russia?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  [Laughs.]  I don't know. When we started the Moscow Olympic Games boycott campaign, it was 1979, that is a year in advance. I remember discussing it with my colleagues and I remember myself saying, "Guys, we won't be able to pull this through, no one will listen to us -- there is a lot of money behind this big industry."  And one acquaintance who sat in on our meeting, said, "Don't worry -- the Soviets will help us."

Dmitry Gordon:  And they invaded Afghanistan!

Vladimir Bukovsky:  There you go!  They invaded Afghanistan and the boycott went ahead! [Laughs.]

Dmitry Gordon:  And still, would you personally boycott the world championship if it were to take place in Russia?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  I think that no international event should take place in Russia, anything that gives them any kind of validation.  And you can't give validation to a gangster state -- it's a criminal thing to do. 



I think that no international event should take place in Russia, anything that gives them any kind of validation.  And you can't give validation to a gangster state -- it's a criminal thing to do. 





The same way as Hitler shouldn't have been given a chance to host the Olympic Games in 1936, and the same way Brezhnev shouldn't have been given a chance to host the Olympic Games in 1980. The same way today we shouldn't give Russia an opportunity to host the Olympic Games or international championships, or any kind of international conferences.  You can't give even a shred of validation to a gangster state that kills people left and right, without discernment, without a thought, a state which can on a whim grab its neighbor's peninsula.  Before they used to steal money, but peninsulas?  It is something that's been unheard of until now. 

Dmitry Gordon:  I have my last question and would like to receive a brief answer because our time is running out.  Tell me, in the 12 years that you spent in camps, in prisons, throughout the hunger strikes, the time spent in punishment cells, you showed unbending resistance to the Soviet regime while no-one supported you except for your consciousness, your convictions, and your ideas.  Did all this affect your health a lot?  What is your health like today?

Vladimir Bukovsky:  I am very ill.  I have a multitude of afflictions and don't want to enumerate them. Without a doubt, I have paid a serious price for it all.  But you see, you always have to pay for your choices. I don't have regrets. I am 75 and it's the kind of age which is nearing death.  At this age even people who have not lived the same kind of life as me have illnesses, diseases and so on. It is genetically inevitable.  It's bad, but one can't die in good health.  This is the paradox.

Dmitry Gordon:  Vladimir Konstantinovich, I would like to thank you for a great interview, for the warm welcome that you gave me in your home in Cambridge some years ago, and I would like to thank you for your amazing life which is full of examples for any generation. You are my hero, which I don't hide.  Thank you.  I wish you a long life and may god grant you health. 

Vladimir Bukovsky:  Thank you. 

Translated from Russian by Alissa Ordabai.


Dina Kaminskaya

Vladimir Bukovsky's lawyer Dina Kaminskaya remembers his 1967 trial in her memoires.


Victor Krochnoi

Vladimir Bukovsky's foreword to chess master Victor Krochnoi's autobiography.


The Bell Ringer

Vladimir Bukovsky's short story published in Grani magazine in 1967.


Vladimir Bukovsky seminal 1984 essay on Russian government's propaganda and subversion strategies.

Peace as a Political Weapon


Ludmilla Thorne reports from Vladimir Bukovsky's first post-exchange residence in Switzerland.

Mother Courage


Vadim Delaunay writes in verse to his friend Vladimir Bukovsky following their 1967 trial.

Vadim Delaunay


Anatoly Krasnov-Levitin writes about Vladimir Bukovsky in a heartfelt essay following Bukovsky's 1971 trial. 

Anatoly Krasnov-Levitin


Vladimir Bukovsky warns against censorship in his 1976 letter to Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe.

Radio Liberty and Censorship


Vladimir Bukovsky's foreword to Andrei and Lois Frolovs' book Against the Odds: A True American-Soviet Love Story.

The Frolovs


Vladimir Bukovsky's 1982 essay on the USSR-inspired peace movement sweeping over the West.

Pacifists Against Peace


Vladimir Bukovsky's obituary written by Alissa Ordabai.

Alissa Ordabai on Vladimir Bukovsky


Grigory Svirsky remembers Vladimir Bukovsky and Victor Feinberg.

Grigory Svirksy


Lord Bethell

Vladimir Bukovsky remembered by Lord Nicholas Bethell in his memoires titled Spies and Other Secrets


Boris Pankin

Boris Pankin, a former Russian Ambassador to Great Britain, recalls his days in London and his encounters with dissidents.


Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Gershovich tells a story of Nabokov's contribution to saving Bukovsky from a Soviet prison.

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