Vladimir Bukovsky

Financial Times Interview

The dissident who reckons there's nothing to be done:

John Lloyd is confronted with a bleak view of Russia's future when he meets intellectual Vladimir Bukovsky, a Soviet exile.


Publication date: September 4, 1993



by John Lloyd


If Vladimir Bukovsky cannot be president of Russia, he will have no more to do with it. It is the last straw. 'After all', he says, 'even in the country which I have made my home and which owes me nothing (Britain) I can be anything I want except the king of it.'


Bukovsky is one of the handful of dissidents, expelled from the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, whose prominence grew in exile (in Cambridge, as a don) and who have returned when the power which threw him out collapsed. He has tried to take an active part in the new politics but, in Moscow recently, he told a round table of intellectuals and politicians that 'the more I return here, the less hope I have of its reform.'


Bukovsky earned the right to speak the hard way: arrested and given a 12-year sentence in prisons, camps and mental hospitals in 1961 for attending the reading of a poem on Mayakovsky's suicide 30 years earlier. The poet, among the greatest of the literary enthusiasts for Soviet power, committed suicide when he could no longer fit his Bolshevik idealism to the tortuous path being taken by Stalin towards complete power.


In his memoirs, published in English as "To Build a Castle", Bukovsky speaks of his generation (or that tiny idealist part of it) reacting to the invasion of Hungary in 1956 with a feeling of betrayal: 'We no longer believed anyone. Our parents turned out to have been agents and informers, our military leaders were butchers.'


He still believes in no-one in the former Soviet Union. Professing a complete lack of illusion in the reform process, he sketches out an impoverishing, disintegrating and dangerous future for the country of his birth. The objection that he cannot be president - because of a clause in the draft constitution (78) which denies that right to anyone who has not resided in Russia for the past 10 years - is less an indication of presidential ambition than a view that the current authorities are almost as scared of those with a moral position as the old ones.


'They are the old apparatchiks in new clothes, after all. They cannot really change. I have said many times here - to undo the effects of the revolution you need a revolution, and there has not been one.'


Another sign of the times: 'Oleg Kalugin (a former KGB general turned publicist) wrote in the Mail on Sunday that he had been instrumental in developing the poison and the method of killing (Georgy) Markov (the Bulgarian dissident in exile in London). It was tested on a horse and the horse died. It was tested on a prisoner and the prisoner did not die. (Apparently Soviet prisoners are stronger than horses, which did not surprise me). Now - not a word of regret.'


'We are seeing a reaction already, a sluggish reaction at every level of power as the bureaucrats extend their authority. And the people round Yeltsin are usually not competent, and terribly provincial. They know nothing outside of their specialism or their district, nothing.'


He sees salvation nowhere. Yegor Gaidar, the former prime minister and now one of the leaders of the liberal-conservative wing of Russian politics, achieved little in the way of economic reform because 'he followed shock therapy, the Polish model of liberating prices, which was all right for Poland where there was already a large private sector. But (in Russia) it meant the enterprises simply put up their prices and cut production and no-one could stop them. They should have been privatised first - so obvious.'


Yet for the economist and politician (and self-announced contender for the presidency) whose strategy this is - Grigory Yavlinsky - Bukovsky expresses more contempt than for 'clever but too bookish' Gaidar. 'Yavlinsky is nothing but a self-publicist who uses his talent for getting known.' And for Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the main foreign influence on economic reform, the same strictures.


'All these people were brought up in the old system. They may have read good things but it would be better had they simply lived in England and had to pay taxes and buy food and pay the rent. Then they would have felt what a free market was like.' Bukovsky thinks Boris Fyodorov, the new finance minister, who spent almost two years in London at the European Bank, may, for that reason, have a little better grasp, if not much better chance.


Bukovsky, a neurophysicist by training, now makes his money by advising governments and companies in the former Soviet Union. His advice grows darker and darker, though he retains energy and wit and has acquired English self-irony ('the more gloomy the report you write for them the more they pay you'). His view, stripped down, is that the same fate will befall Russia as befell the USSR: it will disintegrate, messily, perhaps bloodily, perilously for the world.'


'Look, you must understand that what is happening here is not democracy. It is the coming to power of the bureaucrat. The dream of the bureaucrat in the Soviet system was to tell his boss to go to hell. Now he can. Now it is happening at every level.'


'If Moscow cannot control and pay, then the regions and the republics will break away. Imagine the leaders of the Far Eastern Military District sitting around one day. One says: 'Are they paying you anything?' The other says: 'No, nothing.' So they say: 'OK, who needs them (in Moscow)?' And so, with the political leaders, they make a republic. For the people in the far east it would be very attractive: they could give the Japanese back these four stupid islands they want (the Kuriles) and get a lot of Japanese help.'


'The fact that they are all Russians won't be enough in the face of economic necessity. This inflation makes it more the case. So you will get them printing their own money to try to stop the inflation. And if you print your own money it is only a step to having your own central bank, your own government, your own country. And if you had a country which bordered on Yakutia (now called the Republic of Sakwa), which is fabulously wealthy in diamonds, it would be too much temptation not to send some soldiers in there and get some of the diamonds for yourself.


'Soon there will be no national services or culture: they will not pay for them. Even now they cannot pay for communications, railways, roads, and do you think the rest of the country will continue to support the Bolshoi (Theatre)?'


'Yeltsin cannot keep it together. People think he is strong and decisive because he acts well in a crisis and he looks tough: actually he cannot take decisions and compromises all the time. When people were burning their party cards in the streets it took him months to decide to leave the party.'


'Look how he hesitates to take the initiative against the parliament] He has a fear of being blamed for acting in an authoritarian manner - because of his past, when he was part of such a system. But no leader from outside that system would have paused for a moment to do what has to be done.'


He repeats himself. 'This is not a democracy. Norris McWhirter (publisher of The Guinness Book of Records) once told me what it was. He said there is a word for Russia. It is a kleptocracy. Everyone steals everything. In a paper I did for a company, I was hunting for a parallel state to Russia and I found it: it is Nigeria. All the business is concentrated in the capital, and it is fantastically corrupt. Yet you cannot say it is not a democracy sometimes: you cannot say it is not a market economy.'


Bukovsky worked for some part of last year in the archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party - opened then to scholars and the curious, now closed once more. There he found sustenance for his long-held belief that the CP and the KGB had, especially in the era of detente, gone a long way to suborning the liberal and left parties of the west.


'It was the old story: the Menshiviks and the Bolsheviks. The Menshiviks always believed that you could bring them back into the fold, convince them you don't have to use these terrible methods. These illusions persist.'


The contemporary illusion against which Bukovsky still attempts to tilt is the western belief that its fear of an imploding Russia can be exorcised by throwing money at it. 'If there is one thing you should say, it is: don't give them the money! Don't do it! The West gave billions to Gorbachev and it is impossible to find a single dollar of it. Where did it go? And this will go the same way. It will just disappear.'


What is to be done? 'Nothing. Nothing to be done. Maybe in some years the country will come together again, the various parts will federate. Maybe. But to stop what is now happening - nothing to be done. 




Vladimir Bukovsky on RTVD Part Two
NVC Radio.png
Vladimir Bukovsky on NVC Radio
On Vladimir Bukovsky's Birthday
Vladimir Bukovsky heads a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute
Crack-Up. A US foreign policy essay by Vladimir Bukovsky
Vladimir Bukovsky on censorship in his letter to Radio Liberty
Vladimir Bukovsky's foreword to Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon
Vladimir Bukovsky's foreword to Abuse of Psychiatry by Sidney Bloch and Peter Reddaway
The Political Condition of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Bukovsky sums up Russia's ideological crisis in his enduringly perusasive 1987 essay. 
Vladimir Bukovsky in correspondence with Zbigniew Bujak on liberty, national identity, and solidarity
Against All The Odds. Vladimir Bukovsky's foreword to Andrei and Lois Frolovs' book about their transatlantic love story

Opting Out Of All Utopias


Derek Turner meets Russian dissident and

arch-individualist, Vladimir Bukovsky.


Right Now magazine, January - March 2001. 




What experiences turned you into a dissenter?


In the late 1940s and early 1950s, I was living in a crowded and criminal Moscow. My parents -- who were both journalists -- were often busy, so my friends and I spent a lot of time out on the streets. In 1953, when Stalin died, being smart kids we clambered onto the roof of the National Hotel to see the crowds who had turned out to pay homage to the dead leader. I remember a surging sea of human heads, and seeing a bus turned over by the pressure of bodies. 5,000 people were crushed to death.


At the age of 11, you are not really conscious of yourself, but I knew that this amazing sight was something I needed to remember. Somehow, this was a turning point. I couldn’t formulate what I felt, but I knew there was some deception. We had always been told that Stalin was a god. So his death was a contradiction in terms; either Stalin was not a god or a god had just died. In other words, there was no ultimate authority and there probably never would be -- at least for me. Starting then, and increasingly since, this has given me a feeling of freedom. If there is no god, then I alone am responsible for my actions.


The second thing I realized is that majorities can be wrong. The people below were killing themselves to see a dead god. I began to develop a sort of contempt towards the crowd, with its herd behaviour. From that moment, I have always felt that majorities must be wrong.


Only a few years after Stalin died, he was castigated by his successors, which process only increased my disillusionment.


How does your experience of repression differ from the experiences of Solzhenitsyn and Sharansky?


We represent three different generations. Solzhenhitsyn is old enough to be my father, and his experiences were completely different. As a young man, he actually believed in socialism. He became disillusioned slowly, mostly during the war, as did a lot of people who then found out what life was really like in capitalist countries. My generation, on the other hand, was almost born with disbelief and rebellion in its bones. Solzhenhitsyn’s early belief probably explains his deep religious feelings. In my experience of the camps, those who came as communists left as religious people. They seemed to have a predisposition, a need, to believe in something. As for me, I have never believed either in communism or in God. Solzhenhitsyn’s reactions , attitudes and way of thinking all belong to his generation. His ethico-philosiphical outlook comes partly from Russian culture and literature and partly from having been indoctrinated into an all-embracing philosophy. Natan Sharansky, on the other hand, is a total pragmatist -- and that’s being kind.


What sustained you during your incarceration -- "Pushkin and poetry"?


This is difficult to answer. What is important to me is to be sure that I am right. And if I am right I don’t care. If I am not sure I cannot be strong, but if I am convinced that I am right and they are wrong, that’s all there is to it.


By the age of 16, all of my childhood influences had come to fruition and I had suddenly realized "I cannot live in this state. We are incompatible." Therefore it didn’t matter; I knew that I would not be able to live there anyway. You could say that I was allergic to the system; it was almost biological. I wasn’t really given the choice. There was simply nothing to be gained by following the rules. They kept trying to offer me deals, but a deal can only be accepted if there is something in it for you.


In 1976 you were released to the West, exchanged for the Chilean Communist leader Luis Corvalan. Subsequently, your researches have proven that the Soviets were funding the Left in Chile. In the light of this, what are your reflections on the Pinochet affair?


The whole case is a good example of the moral duality or schizophrenia that afflicts our world today. We are told constantly that crimes against humanity have only even been committed by the Right and that the Left was just misjudged or confused. We are all supposed to be understanding towards one side and totally unforgiving towards the other. You can trace this indoctrination throughout every sphere of life. Look at Germany where they’re about to ban a political party. I don’t know much about this party, but no-one seems to have mentioned that, according to the German constitution, if you ban this party you have to ban the communists too. The German constitution allows the banning of "extreme" parties. Communists and fascists were treated equally under Adenauer. Then the prohibition was lifted, but intolerance against the Right remained much stronger than intolerance against the Left. Now the German government is trying to use the mob to justify its own prejudices. They get 200,000 idiots jumping up and down to techno music and it is democracy in action. They are too stupid to realize that they are being manipulated.


You have spent you life documenting Soviet atrocities and campaigning for a Nuremberg-style trail of Soviet crimes. But, as Gribanov noted of Moskovsky Protsess, "one watches in that book a man who has collected an enormous amount of experience, an incredibly bitter experience and how he realizes that no-one needs it, no-one even wants to read it, that’s utterly useless." Why don’t Western politicians care about Soviet crimes?


They want to cover up their own past activities. Only 15 years ago, there were millions in this country who wanted the West to disarm unilaterally. These people are still around; one is our Prime-Minister, another is Foreign Secretary. These people simply don’t want to talk about the USSR because -- at best -- they will be exposed as fools. On the biggest question of the 20th century, they were utterly wrong -- and on the wrong side! The new establishment does not want to have its legitimacy called into question. Today’s elite was formed under the distorted conditions of the 60s, and through using moral blackmail on society. Even those members of our establishment who were not directly involved with Moscow and the KGB will act to defend their own privileges, whereas there are still many people in senior positions who were directly involved with the KGB. We should deny these people the right to be our elite. They were wrong; they betrayed us; they should go.


What are the differences and similarities between Soviet repression and Western-style political correctness?


They are becoming more and more alike.  Both started offs seemingly spontaneous, popular movements, as if they were the result of public demand. Then they became institutionalized, and enshrined in law and habit.


Most of this crap originated on US campuses. I was at Stanford in the mid-1980s and watched with amazement how political correctness erupted. I had always blamed people like Stalin or Beria for censorship, but now I realized that many intellectuals want it too! Such people will always want censorship; they will always want to be oppressors because they always pretend to be oppressed. As with most things in America, political correctness largely passed over in a few years, but things stick in Europe, sometimes for centuries.


It amazes me how easily people accept it. People sometimes say that Russians are natural slaves and that we embraced communism, but in fact we lost 60 million lives fighting it!


But what should people do?


Disobey. One of the best things that happened recently was the fuel tax protest. One thing we shall have to do one day is to refuse to pay taxes. That is the only way that we will be able to remove that rotten elite. Changing a government is easy -- you vote. But how to do you change the establishment? Trying to change them from within might take centuries. People need to say to our elites: "We don’t trust you. You abuse your power. We won’t pay any taxes." It doesn’t even need to be all that many people. When 3,000 or 4,000 people refused to pay the poll tax, it was dropped. The legal system got clogged and the machine couldn’t cope. They tried to make an example of a few, but the vast majority of protestors got off scot-free. If a similar number of people refused to pay income tax, the elite would be toppled.


The Right doesn’t protest anywhere. They’re not activists and that’s a real problem. All they are good at doing is sitting around and grumbling. I am so fed up with them that I have practically stopped talking to them. They are always parochial, whereas the Left is always international, always networking, always co-operating. People on the Right never help each other and always campaign on local issues. They are certain to lose if they continue to operate in this way.


What has caused our present malaise?


There are several reasons for our present spiritual devastation -- apart from a conspiracy on the Left. That alone would not have worked, but it fell on fertile soil. The change came with a new generation, which was the first one brought up on television. Then mass culture separated the generations. Previously, there had been a continuum -- now there was "youth culture." I have a friend who is in his eighties -- yet his childhood songs and jokes were more or less the same as mine. The experiences of your generation are completely different.


Your generation has its own peculiar way of revolting. They seem to want simply to get out of it all, make their first million by the age of 27 and go to the Bahamas. But by rebelling in this way they are effectively accepting whatever rules of the game are imposed to them. They end up selling themselves to any bidder. Theirs is an American mentality which has been grafted here. They understand the hypocrisy of it all -- but they just don’t care. The next generation -- those who are now about 16 -- will be much better. In the meantime, very few people of your generation will succeed in making millions, and even if they do, they will just end up drinking themselves to death in the Bahamas out of sheer boredom. The reminder of your generation will end up as provincial accountants in third-rate companies and will hate every minute of their lives.


How does the New Left differ from the Old?


Recently, I watched Tony Blair answering questions on a television show. A man in the audience asked a very good question: "Don’t you think that New Labour is just like the Millennium Dome -- shiny outside, empty inside?"


The essence of socialism is the belief that private property should be abolished. Even "moderate" socialists like George Bernard Shaw believed in this. Now, Tony Blair, Schroder and other "Third Way" politicians have castrated their own concept. The last 70 years have shown that that you can’t fight against private property; it is one of the manifestations of the human spirit, a form of self-realization for many people. If you deny them this, nothing will work. Today’s "pragmatic" politicians thought that they could do away with this essential plank of their ideas without compromising the rest, but if you remove a cornerstone from a building the whole edifice will come crumbling downl The development of old-style socialism from that initial concept of abolishing private property was logical, but remove the central idea and you are left with a glamorous nothing. The people now in government are in principle against principle.


But can these people still be called socialists?


I would prefer still to call them socialists because they are still trying to promote the same ideas. They are still trying to destroy the family. They are still trying to destroy the nation-state. They are destroying the Church of England. They confuse people by introducing new terminology.


In a funny way I prefer the Old Left to the New. They at least are honest and consistent, whereas New Left "thinking" is messy and opportunistic. I don’t think the New Left can last very long. Once out of power they will evaporate completely. That is one of the reasons they are so keen on the European Union -- they hope to prop up each other.


You have criticized the plans -- common to several European countries -- to relax border controls in order to admit "technical experts" to fill putative IT vacancies and cheap labor from the Third World to bolster the welfare state. Why?


I see at least three obvious blunders in the argument that there is, or will be, a shortage of labour. First, we have a lot of unemployed people here. Secondly, even if there is a labor shortage, businesses can always export themselves if they want to find cheap labor. Thirdly, why seek Third World labour, when all of the young people of Eastern Europe are available? This is a political statement in the guise of an economic theory. Some politicians and bureaucrats want to swamp Europe with Third World migrants. The state and the Left always want more "clients," and Third World migrants always rely heavily on state intervention. These migrants will be political hostages, who will be obliged to vote for the parties that brought them here. The Left will always seek both to blur and extend boundaries. In order to raise our "awareness" of the plight of the Third World, they want to bring it here.


Unless you have poverty, you cannot pontificate about social issues. Unless you have a large constituency asking for state money, it is impossible to maintain high levels of taxation, pursue grand socialist schemes or justify a bloated bureaucracy. Leftists who don’t do these things are calling their own power into question.


But surely people on the Left act only partly for practical reasons. Like all human beings, Leftists are bundles of often conflicting emotions, not all of them ignoble.


It’s all calculated. Don’t ever believe that the Left acts spontaneously. Even when it is intuitive, it is an intuitive drive for power. These people want to be in control, and the only way they can do it is by exerting moral blackmail on everybody else.


But don’t most human beings seek to project themselves and their ideas on the world to some extent?


I don’t. All I want is for the world not to intrude upon my small, private patch. As I used to ask of my history teacher, "You be a communist if you want to be. But can you leave me out of it?" I don’t want to change the world -- I didn’t create it and it’s not up to me to change it. I don’t even really care about the world -- if only it would leave me alone. But it never does. Today’s coercive utopians want to save me from myself -- they even try to tell me not to smoke and what I should eat and drink. They want you to be part of their utopia.

To Build A Castle Review

The Observer (London, United Kingdom)

29 October 1978


by Edward Crankshaw


The castle was dreamed up, built, furnished in detail, peopled, its magnificent grounds laid out, all in the author’s young imagination as a sort of therapy to keep himself alive, interested, alert and fighting in his cell between KGB interrogations and in solitary confinement in the punishment “box”. It kept him sane. What, he asks, did the idiotic questions of his tormentors mean when he could turn his back on them to light the candles in his own great hall in the company of his friends.


But castle-building was confined to those periods of Bukovsky’s recurring imprisonments when he was without books, without writing materials, without anything but his thoughts. Given half a chance, he was teaching himself English and reading, reading, reading, reading to make up for his broken education. 


He had plenty of time. He was first arrested as a student, and by the time he was 35 he had spent just over a third of his life in prisons and labour camps and lunatic asylums. Then, because of the Western reaction to his smuggled revelations, because the KGB saw no way of suppressing him without killing him (no longer comme il faut as a matter of course), he was ejected from the Soviet Union like a foreign body in exchange for a Chilean communist who was more to Brezhnev’s taste. And now he is at King’s College, Cambridge, getting on with his interrupted studies in biology. 


His castle was more than a dream: it was a real fortress of the spirit. Most readers of this review will have seen Bukovsky on television and will have some idea of his persistent and absolute defiance of the embattled might of the Soviet State. It is, I think, a unique record. There have been, and are, many extremely brave freedom-fighters (more than we know) in the Soviet Union, but it sonly Bukovsky, I think, who has regarded imprisonment and police persecution not as an oppression to be avoided if decently possible (and if not, endured) but as a mark of victory, of positive achievement. 


And yet there is not the least flavour of the death-wish or willed martyrdom about him. He went to prison because he insisted on behaving in a certain way, and the very fact of arrest and re-arrest was proof of success. He is the only prisoner I have ever heard of who arranged his life on short release with only one thought in mind: to get so much done, so fast, that he would not have to reproach himself with idleness and wasted opportunities once he was back inside. The only suggestion of escapism from the world into prison is to be fond in his recurring sense of disillusion and digest when he finds himself once more, however briefly, with the freedom of the streets.


This book is a panorama of Soviet life in and out of prison, seen from below; it is an enthralling, if allusive, account of the now famous protest movement; it is the record of a personal odyssey of remarkable quality. But some of the most moving and illuminating passages have to be quarried. Bukovsky’s masterpiece is his life, and I think his story of what life would have made a sharper and more immediate impact on more readers if he could have satisfied himself with setting down quite matter-of-factly what he did and what others did to him in chronological order. 


Do not, however, be put off by the somewhat baroque attack: read on and you will be gripped. Perhaps it is only through this sort of free fantasia that the author could bear to tackle his own past and at the same time develop the impetus in which savage irony, almost inexpressible scorn for the present rulers, and the untamable sense of humor can inform and bring alive a picture of Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, seen from the inside and out of prisons and camps, dominated always by the fathomless corruption and stupidity of the party bureaucracy and the better-known brutality and stupidity of the KGB.


Against this squalor flickers the bright flame of heroic few, known as dissidents — an inadequate and misleading word. For the dissidents of the Soviet Union may be numbered in tens of millions but they keep their heads down. The ones we hear about are the few who speak out in active protest. And Bukovsky has a good deal to say about their lives. They are human beings, with human weaknesses, not saints, but brave. Bukovsky’s categorical and utterly simple statement of faith, his and their faith in individual action, is one of the most moving passages in the book:


In fighting to preserve his own integrity he is simultaneously fighting for his people, his class, or his party. It is such individuals who win the right for their communities to live — even, perhaps, if they are not thinking of it at the time. 


“Why should I do it?” asks each man in the crowd. “I can do nothing alone.”

And they are all lost.

“If I don’t do it, who will?” asks the man with his back to the wall.

And everyone is saved.

That is how a man begins building his castle. 


I should add that, as one would expect, there are some revealing and shattering glimpses of Mr. Brezhnev’s treatment of those of his fellow-countrymen he decides to call insane. We see the notorious psychiatric trio, Lunts, Morozov and Snezhnevsky, off-parade and en pantoufles. It was Snezhnevsky who invented that marvelous mental disease, “sluggish schizophrenia.” According to Bukovsky this was not devised for the benefit of the KGB, but only exploited by them. Somehow this makes Snezhnevsky more sinister and dangerous than the out-and-out rogue I had imaged him to be. 

Fight for "Freedom" Jail


The Observer, March 11, 1979.

by Jack Crossley.

Exiled Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky has joined in a fierce controversy surrounding the future of Britain's most advanced prison experiment. 


The Special Unit at Barlinnie, Glasgow -- where five murderers enjoy more privileges than any other prisoners in the UK -- has been hailed as a giant step forward in prison reform.


But there is growing concern that these privileges may soon be curbed and that the unit will eventually be forced to confirm more closely to "the prison norm."


Bukovsky, who spent 13 years in Soviet prisons, labour camps and psychiatric hospitals, has made a remarkable visit to see the unit's most controversial inmate: Jimmy Boyle, a killer with a horrendous history of violence.


Boyle was a razor-slashing gangster from Glasgow's Gorbals who is serving a life sentence for murder and for attempted murder of a prison officer. 


In 1973 Scotland created the Special Unit as an experiment in the treatment of long-term and potentially violent prisoners. 


At that time Boyle had spent seven years inside some of Scotland's grimmest prisons.


Six years in the unit have transformed him from an inarticulate animal into an author and gifted sculptor. 


He is studying for a degree in psychology and in 1977 published a book on his life "A Sense of Freedom." The book which he wrote himself, was turned into a successful play, "The Hard Man" and there are plans to make it into a film. Boyle has created a trust which gives two-thirds of his profits to deprived Glasgow children. 


Boyle's transformation was made possible by the relaxed regime at the unit, which is run as a comment with responsibility shared between staff and inmates. They cook their own food and each man decides his own work and recreation patterns. 


To the dismay of many penal reform workers the Scottish Prison Service shun publicity for the unit and are accused of being embarrassed by its success.


The unit has cared for 13 violent men and has released three murderers who are now leading useful lives. Its biggest disappointment was Larry Winters, doing life for murder, who died after an overdose of drugs. 


Parole has been refused for Boyle, though his application is backed by unit staff. He has been in prison for 12 years -- since he was 21.


At a recent training course, senior officers are reported to have been told that Boyle would not be released for five to 10 years. The Prison Service denies this, but the grapevine got the story into the unit and visitors say that Boyle is now depressed and frustrated. 


Bukovsky now lives in Cambridge where he is studying biology. His visit was arranged through the prison authorities after the two men had expressed interest in meeting. 


Bukovsky was 20 and a trainee physicist when he was arrested for possessing a book, by Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas. 


He said, "I am a foreigner in your country and there is no reason why your prison authorities should listen to me. But I have extensive experience and knowledge of criminal psychology.


"Jimmy Boyle showed me around the unit in November and explained how the community works. He has a great enthusiasm for it and after speaking with him for about four hours I realised two things. 


"First -- he had been a violent man and harsh prison conditions had had a negative effect, as they always will. He went through a long process before understanding and appreciating the sympathetic approach of the unit. 


"Second -- he is now a completely new man. He is more than harmless -- he is useful now.


"He has a strong character and wouldn't ever be changed by cruel or strong methods. They would produce in him new strengths of resistance. You never help anybody by severity of punishment. It would be a tragedy if the regime at Barlinnie were hardened. This experiment should be embraced by prison authorities everywhere -- it shows that a more psychological, a more tolerant approach can be made to work.


"It has worked for Jimmie Boyle. He would never become a criminal again. There is no question about it."


Yesterday a Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: "More applications for prisoners' exhibitions have been allowed than disallowed. There is no firm line against any individual and there is no question off the department showing hostility towards the unit.


"It is true that Mr. Scimgeour and Mr. Allan have never visited the Special Unit. But the unit is, of course, numerically a very small part of the served. Mr. Scrimgeour has kept closely in touch with the unit through his controllers and the Governors. Mr. Allen is due to make a visit shortly."


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.


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