Vladimir Bukovsky

speaking at

"The Tragedy of Smolensk -- Polish Plane Crash" International Conference.

January 30, 2011, London.

The existence of GULAG was denied and ascribed to vicious counter-revolutionary propaganda. The existence of German concentration camps and gas chambers was denied. The occurrence of horrible man-made artificial starvation in Ukraine which killed six million people, was equally denied as a conspiracy theory. The existence of secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement were always denied until very recently. Not to mention the massacre of Katyn. I remember when at the end of the 1970s the Polish community wanted to erect a monument to this event in London, the British Foreign Ministry protested, saying it's all a conspiracy theory. 

 

Come to think of it, the very existence of the communism's purposes was always denied as a conspiracy theory. The parts which that system had as a purpose -- the ultimate domination of the world -- was always dismissed. Although we could always prove it by reading Marxist books. They would use a different language, of course, -- they would never say "world domination." They would be speaking about "liberating humanity from the chains of capitalism". But what's the difference? 

 

I remember how difficult this was to explain to the people in the West when 34 years ago I had come here and spent these 34 years trying to explain to them that even the worst conspiracy theories could be proven to be true, as far as the Soviet Union is concerned. One can't even imagine what kind of crimes these people committed against their own population, let alone against foreigners. And we are the witnesses of that. 

 

But as the crisis of communism was coming to a crunch, the West -- which never understood the proper functioning of that system, never understood its purposes and the way that it operates -- the West didn't know what to demand from them. I remember -- even during Ronald Reagan time -- the West couldn't invent what to demand from Gorbachev to prove that the communist system is changing. Let them release all political prisoners. A they released political prisoners. Let them allow people to immigrate, those who want to immigrate. They allowed people to immigrate. And the system still remained. 

 

Then Reagan made his famous speech in Berlin: "Comrade Gorbachev, tear this wall down". The wall was torn down, but communism didn't disappear. The trouble is that the West never understood -- communism isn't a political system, it's a disease. And a country can only recover from that by making an effort. And if there is no effort, there is no cleansing. The essence of it remained, and no matter how much we tried to persuade the West that it's not the end of our work, that we have to dismantle this system, we have to cure a disease, they wouldn't understand this. Then we would be talking about the necessity of a Nuremberg trial in Moscow, which would condemn once and for all all the crimes committed by that system as crimes against humanity. Only then -- as the example of Nazi Germany showеd us -- can a country start to recover. That was never done. And it wasn't done to a large extent because the West didn't want it to happen. There was an enormous pressure on Yeltsin's government not to disclose the crimes, not to open the archives. Why? Because the West was very much involved in all that. Instead of resistance to the communist system, the interconnection between the West and the East went much deeper than anyone could suspect. 

 

And so it happened. When ostensibly the West proclaimed the end of the Cold War, and accordingly treated the countries emerging from the Soviet bloc as being "democracies", there was no democracy there. The system remained, nomenklatura remained in power. Their connections became criminal connections. They turned into big mafia. They continued to operate and slowly make their way up to the utmost power. By the year 2000 they emerged -- in the face of a little-known colonel of KGB. And instead of suspecting at least something, the West welcomed him as the genuine face of democracy. I wonder if they would do the same, if in 1955 a former SS man would become a Chancellor of Germany. But in this case the new president Bush told us that he looked in his eyes and could see his soul. That I remember, puzzled me. How did he manage to do that? In all my numerous encounters with the KGB officers, soul is the one thing I could never find there. 

 

And yet, it took another 10 years for the West to realize how they are mistaken, and that this ostensible "new democrat" in Moscow is just a continuation of the Soviet teaching. Nothing changed. Everything run backwards. Suddenly, the country which had no political prisoners for 10 years, has them now. Even psychiatric repressions returned. Slowly, gradually the hostility toward immediate neighbors of Russia came once again on the agenda. The biggest enemies of Russia suddenly became tiny Georgia, tiny Estonia, and, of course, Poland. 

 

The restoration of the Soviet system is in full swing. Of course, they understand that they cannot fully restore that system. The modern technology will not allow that to happen -- it's too difficult. But as much as they can restore it, as much as they can restore the former Soviet sphere of influence, they will do it. And you've already seen it -- not only in the Caucasus and in the Baltic countries, but in your own case. I remember how much of opposition, of pressure, of protests and demands Russia generated when the Americans decided to establish some parts of the antiballistic missile systems on your territory and in the Czech Republic. There was no need whatsoever to deploy these elements of antiballistic missile defense on your territory -- but once it was suggested, it must have been done! Simply as a message to the people in the Kremlin. That Eastern Europe is not their back yard, it is not their colony anymore. And they will take their own decisions. And yet, once again -- without understanding what they did, the Americans decided it's a bargaining point. And they decided to accept the demands from the Kremlin in exchange for weak promises to do something about the Iranian nuclear program, which, as we all know, is very much helped by Moscow. What a ridiculous deal!  

 

But that in itself is not much new to me. I've seen it time and again for decades and decades. What is new is the sudden emergence in Poland of a government which would go the same way. Suddenly we see an element which believes that they must improve relations with Russia. "Must improve relations". Tell me, what does it mean? How do you improve relations with the KGB? You become its agent. That's the only way to do it. Suddenly we can see a national insult was administered to Poland -- by killing the entire leadership of the country in one blow -- the Poles did not demand an investigation. The Poles -- the people who rebelled all their history against all possible oppression -- suddenly accepted it. I remember -- me, in desperation, and my friends published a letter in "Rech Pospolita" in May -- we wanted the Poles to demand an investigation, for Christ's sake. Let's at least know the truth! But it was hushed down and we were dismissed as enablers of conspiracy theories. 

 

I remember 1981. And I can tell you one thing: if you stand up and fight -- I will join you. And so would thousands of honest, decent Russians, and people from any other country. For your freedom and ours. 

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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.

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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

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

Vadim Delaunay

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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

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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

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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.