May 02, 2019, 11:14
Diary of Metta's trip to Poland and Russia, 1991
JULY 15. Left Toronto by KLM at 11 pm. instead of 5:20, because there was a broken part that had to be flown in for the plane from New York. Saw an Atari computer at the airport that I will almost certainly buy. The size of a paperback book, but with up to 612 k. and built-in word processing and spreadsheet programs. It uses cards instead of disks. Sure would have saved me trouble on this trip if I had it instead of this Toshiba laptop.
JULY 16: Arrived Amsterdam, changed planes for Warsaw, went to the Metropol Hotel, which adjoins the Polonia Hotel, where I stayed last time. Tired, but walked around 3 hours in the park where the tomb of the unknown soldier is.
JULY 17: Went to Jacek Czaputowicz's apartment, which is being renovated. They are probably in Switzerland, I learned later. Left a note saying I want to interview him when I get back. Watched CNN coverage of the G7 meeting in London, where Gorbachev made a pitch for aid. It sounds as if he didn't get anything much at all. But he may not have made the strong changes that they demand. Yavlinsky did not accompany him to London, presumably because he didn't like the fact that Gorby again picked bits and pieces of his proposal but didn't go the whole way. I am not sure what was in the package.
Later I had dinner with Maria Holzer, whom Joanne Landy had suggested I contact. Her husband could not join us because he has a great new post as head of the political section of one of the three major dailies in Warsaw. Most stuff in Warsaw costs about half as much as in Toronto. However, I made a mistake in ordering wine. We got some sauterne that cost a fortune. In the book it said 109,000 zloty, but that was just for one glass. The bottle, plus dinner for two, cost $70 U.S. and when I got back to the hotel I looked at the money and figured that I must have lost $120 during the day someplace. Well, I will have to be more careful. The jet lag is hurting me more than usual. I was exhausted when leaving Toronto because I hadn't slept much for a week, trying to get everything done so I could leave.
JULY 18: Left Warsaw for Moscow by train. That was a bigger mess than anything I've encountered in traveling. My bags are too heavy to manage. I filled them with all kinds of medical supplies and presents for Julia and others. I couldn't check them (place was full) so I had to sit by them for 3 hours in a filthy waiting room full of drunks and gypsies. Maybe it wasn't full of them, but they were the conspicuous ones. Then I had to move my bags by bumping them, one at a time, downstairs. A very sweet Polish woman took it upon herself to help me, bless her heart. She waited until the train was ready to depart, and it all worked out, but we couldn't communicate at all. German would sure help here. I had a first-class sleeper, which I shared with a woman from someplace near Mongolia. She looked Mongolian. Name was Lidia. Couldn't communicate with her either, but did talk to a Polish woman engineer about my age, who says that all the Poles either love or hate Balcerowicz, the author of the shock therapy economic plan. What it has done is make it unnecessary to queue up. Maria Holzer says people are happier because they are not so tired from queues. The changes are good for educated people but very hard on the poor. People are selling things on the sidewalk, wherever one goes in Poland.
On the train it was raining and I was cold. Then during the night I began to feel the effects of having strained my back with the bags in Warsaw. I am hobbling now, though I left Toronto in good shape. My back had been perfect for three weeks.
Friday, JULY 19. Arrived in Moscow, was met at train by Julia Kalinina and her father. Ignat was here at her apartment waiting for us. I had brought along a Casio keyboard, which delighted him and his grandfather, Mikhail. They went to the country, and Julia and I made a few phone calls to try to set up appointments for interviews next week. I didn't get very far, though. It was too late in the day. So she and I went down to the centre of the city by metro and had dinner in a hotel. Then I changed money at the Hotel Rossiya. Sophia Loren was there, with an entourage. She sure looks good for a dame of about my age. In Red Square there were some big hot air balloons in different shapes. I wish I had brought my camera along.
It is hard getting a cab here and eventually I tried the trick Nick had suggested -- holding up a pack of cigarettes. It worked instantly. The cigs cost me $1.80 in the duty free shop in Toronto. The cab fare was 3 roubles -- 12 cents.
Sasha has gone off to the Netherlands to a nonviolence workshop/commune. He is not supposed to smoke there but Julia doesn't think he can keep from doing so.
When she and I got home we listened to the interview she had conducted with Sasha for practice. I was too sleepy to benefit from it much. She had also interviewed a Soviet woman who is in Helsinki Citizens Assembly. The interesting point in that conversation was that the Soviet government had asked her to help them make contact with Walesa, whom she knew, before he came to power. This suggests to me that they were clearly intending to send a message that they would not intervene. One question I want to pursue is when that decision was made and why it took so long for the Europeans to believe it.
SAT July 20. I think this was the day we went to Ismailov, the place where the Russian artifacts are sold out of doors. I bought an amber necklace and some fresh water pearls, but after a while I lost enthusiasm for much of the stuff on display. The black lacquer boxes seemed all to be painted by a machine. We had lunch in a hotel restaurant and tried a long time to get a taxi. I don't know why they refuse to pick us up. It wasn't just a matter of money, though in the long run what got us the taxi was the package of cigarettes. Some of them wouldn't take us, even with extra bribes. We saw a couple of newspaper displays promoting anti-semitism.
SUN July 21: July had to take meat to the country for her dogs. It takes two hours each way to go to the dacha. Ignat and her father are there. Over half the population of Moscow have dachas. Amazing to me.
When she got back we met Tair Tairov for dinner in a Chinese restaurant. He knows everybody. He didn't want to interview Falin, who is a hardliner and who would be hostile to him. He was also uncomfortable with the idea of interviewing Arbatov, but suggested that I do so. Thinking about it later, I decided it wasn't a good idea, since I should save up all the questions for Arbatov for the end. I wouldn't be able to go back to him a second time. Tair and I will try to interview General Milshtein together. He is a very good guy, everyone agrees. Tair is also close to Johan Dragsdahl, and even writes for his newspaper or wire service. I mentioned him as an excellent source of information on the impact of the peace researchers of Europe. Tair claims a lot for himself -- such as being the source of the concept of new thinking. He and Eva Nordland put on a workshop at some conference and she promoted new thinking in it. Then it was picked up by the Soviet administration. Tair also claims to have originated Generals for Peace by asking Harbottle to join some other generals. That's not Harbottle's story, but probably there is some basis for the claim. When Julia told him about interviewing Marina Pavlova-Silvanskaya, who had said that the government asked her to set up contacts with Lech Walesa, Tair had some correction to make. Later Julia and I listened to the tape and Tair had been almost right but not quite. So he is a valuable source, but I think I have to be a little careful to verify his statements.
Monday JULY 22: I went to interview Andrei Melville at the Soviet Peace Committee. Most fascinating man. He took my question to be about new thinking in the broad political sense, and disagreed that it was influenced directly from outside. He says the political culture is influenced, drop by drop, from outside but that the system was not affected. But in a way he contradicted himself by saying that "it beats me" how people right inside the heart of the system came to be reformers. In his book with Gail Lapidus he very sincerely stated the belief that Gorbachev was leading the way, but since then he has come to believe that the big political division in this country is between those who continue to try to reform the system from above, or within, versus those who believe the impetus has to come from below or outside the system. I didn't ask him to elaborate fully because he seemed pressed for time, I got about 45 minutes of his time, and told him I wanted to interview Semeiko. He says he likes Semeiko but doesn't consider him even close to a new thinker. I didn't say it but there are lots of references showing Semeiko to be a big spokesperson for the concept of nonoffensive defence. That is the kind of new thinking that counts.
Julia had gone to work for a few hours while I visited Melville. She is paid 250 rubles a month -- about $5 -- so she doesn't turn up there very often. Nobody is fired for not working. She will go there again on Friday all day, and maybe on Thursday for part of the day. I have been paying 25 rubles for most taxi rides--the equivalent of $1--but she gets annoyed because I am "spoiling them." Anyway, there's not much of a black market anymore because the official rate of exchange is 27 to the dollar, while the black market is only 30 to the dollar.
In the evening I met three young people from Civic Peace and spent a couple of hours talking in a park. Two of them Jana and Juri Krasnorutski (about 24 years old) are a married couple, members of the Trust Group, and knew everything about the history of the group and the names of the early members, though they never met them. They say they wrote the Medvedkovs a year or so ago but received no reply.
The Trust Group has split in two. One faction is led by Nikolai Khramov and another guy, who have joined the Transnational Radical Party. (Julia tells me that Khramov initially was going to join Democratic Union, but they were insisting that everybody keep to a party line and he wasn't into that.) The other part of the Trust Group, to which they belong, works closely with Civic Peace. (Julia doesn't think it is much of anything because she didn't even know about them as a group anymore.) The group has helped with the distribution of food and medical parcels from Germany. Tair tells me that the parcels were not getting through when distributed by the army and the KGB, so the peace movement in Germany asked him to take responsibility for distribution, which he did by contacting the Soviet peace organizations affiliated with Civic Peace.
Sergei Schukin was the third member of the group. He has been working with Tair as a fundraiser for Civic Peace for several months, but didn't know everything about the history of the organization. One of the big campaigns has to do with the creation of a system of alternative service.( This is a sore point with Julia, who says it is Sasha's baby and that Civic Peace is sort of taking it away from him. I don't think they realize there is any grievance of that kind so I suggested that she deal with the issue with them instead of letting it simmer, as she is doing now.) Civic Peace also includes, either organizationally or as individual members, the Greens, Mothers of Soldiers, Memorial. (Julia says that Civic Peace is very small, but Memorial is large and well-recognized. So is Democratic Union --not that it is so large but there is a lot of coverage given to it in the press because they are bold and radical. Some of them circulated something calling for the overthrow of the government, which is really illegal. They are in jail and have begun a fast to death, demanding an open, fair trial. The woman who leads it is Valerija Novodvorskaya. She is in prison and may be on a hunger strike.)
The Alternative Service petition was endorsed by: Union for Social Protection of Military Men and Member of Their Families (SHIELD), Civic Peace, Transnational Radical Party, Soldiers Mothers Committee, Liberal Faction of the Moscow Deputies, Trust Movement, Group Feedback. Memorial did not endorse it. They are a large group with members in many cities -- mostly people who were victimized by Stalinism, and who are old. They hold meetings, are trying to collect the names of all the victims, and to analyze the reasons for Stalinism and how to prevent its ever happening again.
TUESDAY JULY 23: In the daytime we tried making phone calls to set up appointments with officials --Semeiko, Milshtein, Karaganov and others -- with no results. I realize now that I must come back in the winter, and must ask Julia to find phone numbers and make appointments in advance. The search for phone numbers is time consuming and not very effective. You have to ask someone, who will give you another number where you can ask and so on.
In the mid-day we went grocery shopping in the beriozhka shop for cheese, meat, wine, soup mix, and assorted other delicacies. It cost $250 Canadian -- almost twice what I would pay in Toronto. Still, it was a pleasure to buy because Julia found it such a treat.
In the evening we went to Andrei Orlov's --not really because I saw much promise in interviewing him but because he is an old boyfriend of Julia's and she was interested in talking with him. He is a counter-culture type. Interested in rock music, hockey, crystals. He made an 18 hour trip to Lake Baikal to be present for the harmonic convergence day because somebody was needed there to do the ritual with a conch shell, crystals, and a rope of assorted foreign spices and herbs. He says around the Kremlin there are crystals planted in particular shapes, and that one cannot lose a crystal --it only gets planted, as several of mine have been. He was too resistant to go along with my line of enquiry, but he volunteered an interesting story about being in the army, in a scud missile unit, where people voluntarily began conversations about how they would not fire the missile, or would make sure that something went wrong. I may use it. Unfortunately, after I had taped 2 hours of aimless talk, I realized that I had been taping over the previous night's important discussion of the Soviet peace movement. From now on I must punch holes in the tape after I have taped it so that cannot happen again. He showed me how. Andrei is in the video business now.
WEDNESDAY July 24: I finally reached Lev Semeiko, who cannot see me now but suggests I call when I get back to Moscow in August. It turns out that Alexander Likhotal is now a member of the Central Committee of the CPSU. I was delighted to hear it, although there can hardly be any chance for me to interview him. Julia was not delighted; she maintains that nobody can be a member without being corrupt. She doesn't even want to discuss it with me, she is so disgusted with me for admiring and liking Likhotal. In any case, what I think I will do is to try to arrange an appointment with Likhotal in December and send my questions to him first. That ought to make it more efficient.
Vladislav Kornilov has gone to work in the economic sphere and is no longer in the SPC. I am to call Lukshin for his number. Now it is my turn to be disgusted. I can hardly bring myself to phone that man. This afternoon I must take my bags to the SPC headquarters and meet my tour group. If I can get them to take my bags to Galicina and tell me where to meet them tomorrow, I will go to dinner at Svetlana Jampolskaya's where Michael Burowoy is supposed to be a guest tonight, then will stay here with Julia and join the group tomorrow. The logistics of this may be difficult.
Later. It worked out, more or less well. After 2.5 hours waiting at SPC entry, someone showed up and took my bags. I went to the Yampolski apartment, where Michael Burowoy was also having dinner. Another woman, Yelena, came too; she quit Novosti Press a couple of years ago and started her own press service. Novosti has since failed, if I understood her right. It was just a propaganda outfit and people there could not adapt. She says a lot of the people working at Moscow News used to be at Novosti.
Burowoy had been working for the past six months in a furniture factory in a small town 25 hours train ride north of Moscow, studying the organization of work. He says the workers are in control there and was surprised at what he discovered. He doesn't understand it well enough to write a book about it but will produce an article. He was proud of having earned 800 rubles a month at first --$32.
The husband, Sasha, returned home at about 11 p.m. from his job as head of a psychiatric department. He was grumpy and complained that his wife was not translating properly his comments to me about psychiatry. It was too late at night for either of us to discuss the subject properly, but I was waiting a while for the rain to let up before hunting a cab.
I must remember to send a present to the Jampolskis when I get home.
Thursday, July 25: Joined Promoting Enduring Peace people at the Hotel Rossiya. Then a meeting at the Journalists' Union with the head of the Peace Fund and --I should not have been surprised -- my nemesis, Slava, the KGB man who deported me. I am pretty sure he recognized me. It was raining, but we went to the Arbat for a while and took a few pictures. Perhaps there are real artists there in nice weather, but all I saw were people selling kitsch. Then dinner at the Golitsina resort for trade unionists, and a go-round where people introduced themselves. My roommate is Sunley Bush, an accountant from Ann Arbor. She and I will be together the whole trip. Most of the other people seem to be retired teachers.
Friday, July 26: On the way to town in the bus, the pleasant leader, Lou Friedman, talked with great affection of our dear Slava. I called out from the back of the bus, "That man is a KGB agent who personally deported me from the Soviet Union about seven or eight years ago." That startled him, to say the least, but he continued by praising Slava and said he would look into it. After that, people asked me quite a few questions. Bob Williams, the Iowa farmer/Methodist minister, said that he spoke with Lou afterwards, and Lou said he didn't care what Slava was, KGB or not. Bob said it is important to some of us who are very serious about making changes in our own society, and he thinks Freedman listened to it with some attention. Bob said he was grateful to have been given the opportunity to say this, which he wouldn't have had a chance to say otherwise.
When we got to our destination, the Russian Republic's Parliament building, good ole Slava was there and the formalities included announcements of environmental cooperation projects to the Minister of Environment, or whatever he is called, and a bunch of assistants. I had the sense that one of the men there was a new thinker. I don't know about the others. They were responsive enough, though, when I made three interventions: (1) that the Brazil environmental conference has excluded militarism from the topics to be discussed, and that I hope the Russians will do their best to bring it up and cooperate with NGOs in discussing it; (2) that (as the Trust Group people once proposed--which of course I did not allude to) the weather reports start including information on background radiation in the atmosphere, day by day; and (3) that Wayne Evans had done some research showing that the probability has been heightened of an early frost this year and maybe that information should be noted for those planning the harvest.
There was a display at the Parliament of things pertaining to the Tsar's family and to the period. Photos of Stolypin, for example, There is an old communist American woman on the trip who began to talk about how bad Stolypin was, killing 7000 people. The guide put her right, and talked about how now people realize that it was absolutely unnecessary to kill the Tsar and his family.
After lunch we went to the Kremlin, and then to the Novodevichy Monastery, which really ought to be called a convent, since it was for women. One of the Tsar's sisters acted as a regent until he grew up, but came to like the job and wanted to hang onto it, at her brother's expense. He won, and confined her to this monastery. It was also a convenient way of disposing of unloved wives of Tsars. The sun came out and I enjoyed it. Riding back with Bob Williams, I collected a tidbit that may be useful. He made friends with a Baptist Russian who works as an English translator for Moscow Radio. He almost got fired for using the word "disaster" instead of "accident" to describe Chernobyl. Earlier in his career he had been in deep trouble for saying something nice about Americans who had given him some jeans. I may want to contact him for an interview, partly to complement the story from Shevardnadze that Chernobyl was one reason that they decided something was terribly wrong and that glasnost was needed as a campaign.
He also mentioned a Soviet woman pollster who has completed a survey on religion in the USSR, including some items about anti-Semitism. I would like to take such data to compare it with the research that was not published in the book I worked on with Glock. I wonder whether I might be able to compare two sets of data from such different sources and still get something useful out of my old research, which was not published properly. That's a far fetched idea, but I am certainly interested in the anti-Semitism that is visible here. In any case, this woman has poll data to sell, and will collect other data. I might look into working out a deal with her for political public opinion data.
Bob stayed for a while in a room rented through a cooperative in a private home. He says it is in the new Intourist Hotel. I will try to get some information about it so I can do the same when (if?) I come back in December.
I really like Bob. His values are good. He is traveling around the world talking about Christianity in connection with social justice. It is a mission for him. He has a hearing aid and speaks at top volume, which is a bit disturbing, but otherwise he is the most interesting person I have met yet.
Tomorrow is a trip to the flea market but I won't go. I need some time to work out my ideas for writing. At 9 p.m. we will leave here for the train, which departs Moscow at midnight. It takes 14 hours to reach Kiev.
SATURDAY July 27- SUNDAY July 28: We left the hotel at 9 p.m. for the train, which was an unusually bumpy one. Valintin Berezkov (Stalin's interpreter) was in the cabin next door, seeing James Bush and his family off. I recognized his voice from the tapes Gwynne Dyer had given me. He told them something about Yakovlev's either quitting or being thrown out of the party by the Central Committee that day, presumably because of his initiative in starting a different political movement with Shevardnadze.
We arrived at the boat in Kiev by mid-afternoon on Sunday. Hilly Kiev reminds me of San Francisco. Yury Djachenko and I are to meet in Kiev at the end of our river cruise, and I thought possibly he might be on our ship, but no such luck. There was a ceremony that I did not attend, where the group presented medical supplies and a Union minister greeted us, saying that the socialist experiment is over. One of our tour members protested that the experiment had lasted only 73 years, whereas capitalism had had 200 years to prove itself. I think there are more enthusiastic communists in our tour than are left elsewhere throughout the USSR.
MONDAY JULY 29 - THURSDAY AUGUST 1: On Monday we stopped at Kanev and Cherkassy. Others climbed 380 steps to a museum dedicated to Shevchenko, the Ukrainian poet. I did not go, mostly because my degenerative knee hurts when coming downstairs. At Cherkassy we had a bus trip around town, looked at the monument to the dead soldiers, and visited the museum, which had some nice contemporary paintings of Cossacks by a talented artist with a knack for wild colors. There was a meeting with some environmentalists who told us about the water pollution.
I got into a dispute with James Bush over the Gulf War, which he supported. He was trying to deny that many civilians were killed or that the U.S. had any responsibility for having armed Saddam so he could repress them. We left it unfinished.
On Tuesday we cruised all day but had workshops. I am giving the same little talk four times to four different groups. It is about why Canada may divide. I had a good conversation with Sergei Bitrin, a history professor at an Odessa college. He joined the CP to get his job and has not quit it yet. His wife teaches mechanical drawing at a different college. He drew a map of Ukraine and explained the different areas of support for independence. They are Russian, as most of the people around Odessa are, and don't want separation. Some 60% of the Ukrainian population voted for the Union Treaty, but the parliament has not accepted it yet, and has put it off until November to decide.
Wednesday was our day at Zaporozhye. We began with visits to the hydroelectric plant, which was the largest in the world when it was built, but was destroyed by the Germans and rebuilt over a five year period. There was also a visit to the historical museum, which displayed dioramas of Cossacks and Mennonites. Then we visited at home a young man named Dimitri, who is studying English at a local university. His parents were not at home, and the idea was for him to learn about how to implement his new business venture. At the end he tried to sell us some wooden boxes; Roy Pfaff and his daughter Linda bought but I did not.
Today is Thursday and the others are out seeing a collective farm. I preferred to stay on board and write. At noon I got into a dispute (a gentle one) with two Ukrainian-American women who support Rukh and independence for Ukraine. I have little sympathy for any nationalism. On the boat, the French passengers have been hostile to the British and the Americans.
A group of youngish men from Rukh came to the boat and we met them on the dock. They are trying to re-create Ukrainian culture, and they expect Bush to help them become independent. They want their own currency and army. One chap had his hair and moustache styled in the manner of Cossacks. It is hard for me to take them as a serious political movement. I do not expect the Zaporozhian cossacks to point the way to the future.
I interviewed Howard and Alice Frazier.
Friday, Aug 2: Odessa in the rain. There was a welcoming ceremony, with young dancers and greetings from English-speaking pupils and their teachers. It was interrupted by a downpour and a poorly organized day. We saw a little of the city, which is more like Paris or Rome in its architecture than Moscow. A lot of buildings are seedy and even crumbling, but there are pleasant places too. The streets are covered by foliage from tall trees. In the afternoon we visited School 119, the English language school, headed by Alla Petrovna Bistrina, whose son and daughter-in-law I met on the ship. They have a twinning relationship with a private school near Baltimore, and exchange students frequently. I spent a few minutes talking with some 10th graders and gave them a picture book about Ontario. Their chief complaint seems to be that there is nothing interesting to do in Odessa in the evenings.
But there is:opera! We went to hear Tschaikovsky's Iolanthe in what is described as either the second or third-best opera house in the world, after Vienna (and possibly La Scala). It is covered with gold and baroque marble -- quite a place. I had a problem with a cough, and wanted to buy some juice but the woman had not enough change and was annoyed with me. Finally I left the 10 rouble note in payment, which may have annoyed her even more. It was 40 cents to me but a lot more than that to her.
Saturday Aug 3: We spent the morning at a monastery and seminary. The French were aggressive and I could hardly hear. Anyway, I was not impressed. They answered a question about women's role in the church: "Women are very important. They cook." They may also be enrolled in the seminary as music students, but choir-directing is as high a role as they can aspire to. There was also a discussion about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; at first they tried to evade the question by saying they were the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but that didn't work. Then they protested that it was terribly un-Christian for churches to be splitting, so they do not condone the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. There was a further question about the church's role in resisting Stalinism, and they claimed to have been courageous and terribly repressed. The specifics got quite vague, however.
SUNDAY Aug 4: After effusive goodbyes to the Bistrins, who came to the ship (he will interview his mother and write to me) we set sail up the river. Made a stop for several hours at Novaya Kakhovka, a resort town with lots of opulent dachas, which I assume are not private houses anymore. They would fit right into Forest Hill, except some of them would be outsized for that neighborhood. I strolled alone for a while, then returned to the ship and worked a long time.
MONDAY AUG 5: A stop at Dnepropetrovsk, but I didn't go ashore. Worked and interviewed Alex Kuzma, an American lawyer who promotes Rukh with enthusiasm. This town was closed to foreigners until recently because missiles are built here.
TUESDAY AUG 6: Cruised upstream. Gave the final presentation in our workshops. I think it was the best because the audience really participated in the discussion. Interviewed the vice president (that's probably not exactly his title) of Green World, an organization that spawned Rukh. Taciturn chap.
WEDNESDAY AUG 7: We arrived at Kiev before breakfast and I went hunting for Yury. Couldn't find a cab, which turned out to be a good thing because he was waiting for me onshore when I drifted back in that direction. His ship was docked to ours and he had spent the night on board. We took the city tour with his group -- St. Sophia and a monastery, primarily. I immediately muddled the memories of these stops. Then after lunch we went to his apartment, which is really quite okay. I had wanted to meet his friend Vladimir (Dick) Kisela, whom Richard Deats suggested. He is a peace activist. Unfortunately, he was out of town. Yury wants to emigrate to Canada. I don't know why, since his apartment and his job prospects are quite all right, but I said I will try to help, and that I am willing to be a sponsor if that makes any difference. He is now making excellent money for the summer, but doesn't know what he will do in the fall. He can be a translator with a cooperative. He will also work for me a little, interviewing and looking up some information (a) about the comparison to China's and USSR"s economies, and (b) about the oil revenues and how that made a difference in disguising the failing economy for several years. He will also send questionnaires to Michael Shanada and to Dr. Romodonov, who were active in the Soviet Peace Committee and whom I met. If they have anything interesting to say, he will interview them.
We had dinner at a nice restaurant in the city. There were some problems getting a seat; it was a state-owned restaurant. The woman at the door told us to take any seat we wanted. `Then we were moved three times by other waiters, who had their own ideas about where we should sit. The waitress then told Yury, "I'm busy," when he asked for a menu. She then told him he should sit beside me instead of across from me. Why? The table was for four and perhaps some other couple would arrive too, wanting to sit side by side. We refused, and nobody made an issue of it. The meal, with a bottle of wine, came to the equivalent of $1.70 Canadian. Yury paid, feeling flush and no doubt indebted to me. It was silly, since 44 roubles is a lot to him but laughably small to me. find it awkward to experience such a benefit from this ridiculous exchange rate. $1.00 Canadian equals 27 roubles, so each rouble equals 3.7 cents.. An average salary is 250 roubles per month -- $9.27 Canadian.
THURS AUG.8: I met Yury early and we took a taxi to Chernigov to visit his parents. It was a two hour drive, We tried his parents' apartment first, but his mother and niece, Ann, had already gone to his brother's apartment, so went there instead. I met Alla, Sergei's wife, who had taken off work to meet us and fix a big meal. Ann, Yury and Sergei's mother, is a charming person, whom I really enjoyed. She is a retired physician and her husband is a worker. Victor immediately asked me what I think of the changes in their country, then answered for me. He decided that we are probably glad because it is weakening the country and we like anything that will do that! But there is a breakdown of law and order so he would prefer a system with a strong man who would suppress all this nonsense and crime. I was too astonished to reply. Nobody seemed to have any economic proposals, though perhaps it was just that this occasion was not the best one for discussing it. Alla's mother is an economist, or something close to it, but she didn't have any specific proposals either. She just wanted prices to be low and there to be lots of high-paying good jobs. Maybe she didn't want to raise a controversy on the festige occasion. Her husband is in hospital, recovering from surgery on a blocked intestine. I asked discretely whether he will be okay and they say he is better. Nobody mentioned cancer but I asked Yury about it privately. Nobody tells patients if they have cancer or, especially, if they are dying.
The occasion was festive. Christmas and New Years rolled into one. It was mostly to honor me, but also they had not seen Yury for 4.5 months. Sergei took off work to be present; he says he sees a lot of children patients who are victims of Chernobyl, but we didn't pursue the topic. I had brought some ace bandages, sutures, aspirin, stronger analgesics, rubber gloves, sterilizing kits for scrubbing hands before surgery, a lot of needles, and a few syringes--all of which were welcome and needed. Fortunately they have received some syringes and needles since Sergei's visit to Toronto, when I became worried about the AIDS transmission problem. I am glad to be rid of that big extra suitcase for the rest of my journey.
They unfolded the collapsible dining table and covered it with herrings, eggplant appetizers, fried sausages, and about 8 other dishes. Three women worked preparing it and I didn't help at all. I visited the kitchen, which was too small to include me, so I watched TV with Ann, who is now 7 and very beautiful. She will enter school in the fall but after her parents bought her uniform, it became too small for her. It is navy blue with white and black pinafores.
There were the usual toasts and forced eatings. It was offensive not to eat or drink everything, especially ceremonial toasts, such as the one that Yury made to my birthday. How did he remember that I will soon be 60? I never remember birthdays.
On the way to the taxi, his mother fell and skinned her knee. She is a hearty, emotional, white-haired woman of 62, with the usual number of gold teeth. There was a lot of affection generated at the bus station. (I wonder how they will feel when it becomes clear that I am helping Yury to emigrate?) They said they felt they had known me all my life--quite amazing since we depended on Yury to help us understand one another at all.
Yury and I settled down for a three hour drive (buses take longer than taxis). At a stop mid-way, there were drunk people and very poor, dirty people everywhere. Women were selling boiled ears of corn and a few pickles. Eventually we got off at a metro and he tried once again to call his friend, Dick Kisela (who wants to come to Canada and be my student of peace studies) but with no luck. Women outside the Metro were selling burnt-looking sunflower seeds. They swept the ground around their selling-spot with a short brush to keep it tidy.
FRIDAY AUG 9:
Yury came to the boat to wish me off, and we talked a little about his future. (I don't understand what he wants, and I suspect he will not be happier in Canada than in Keiv, but it is his choice. Maybe I should ask Sergei Levitsky's advice, since he seems to have succeeded, where Yury is only starting. I am not a good person to rely upon.)
There were goodbyes -- such as that of Dr. Puri, who clearly wanted a deep relationship with me but was disappointed. Then we went to the airport and a day-long muddle. It went well, by Soviet standards, but still took the whole day to get from Kiev to Leningrad. That is the only reason I am on this wretched tour; it is not interesting at all otherwise, but at least the plane and hotel reservations are handled for me. I get to see the buildings, the cities, the mosquitoes, the air-conditioned buses, but I have no idea what is going on in this society, being unable to read the newspapers. It certainly is not a tour for intellectuals.
I got angry at the Hotel Helen when the porters at the door watched and smoked while I struggled unsuccessfully with my mammoth bag. I waved a $1 bill (U.S. ) and they sprang to life. Pissed me off. Greedy, lazy, inconsiderate bastards.
There was a wedding in the dining room at dinner time and then a band played until late. My window opens onto a canal, and fortunately I did not open my window. Others did and swatted mosquitoes all night.
SATURDAY AUG 10: We had a tour of the city in the morning. A cathedral, where the worshippers seemed ignorant and pitiable to me. I don't always react that way to religion, but I am coming to do so here. Then to the cemetery where 600,000 Leningrad citizens are buried in mass graves. A third of the population died during the war, and of the people who were not evacuated, far more than one third. Jim Bush thinks it was that the Germans decided not to attack Leningrad but to starve its citizens to death with a siege. The guide says they don't know much about the truth. Jim is probably right.
I fell asleep in the afternoon, despite my intention to write. Then in the evening we went to the ballet. The first time I have ever seen Swan Lake where the swan does not die. I wonder what this means. Is it politically significant?
Since the ballet I have been trying to think up a sociological framework for the paper that I must present in Cincinnati. I have not succeeded, but have managed to drink the remainder of my Georgian brandy, which will lighten my train load to Moscow. That surely counts as progress.
MANY YEARS LATER!
I came upon this old diary in July 2008, and realize that I never finished it at the time -- probably because those days were so historically momentous. I will write down here what I remember about those events.
AFTER returning to Moscow (which ended my "Promoting Enduring Peace" tour, I suppose I must have stayed with my friends Alexander and Julia Kalinin -- though I don't actually recall where I was housed. I do know that the next several days were spent at the END meeting that Tair Tairov's "Civic Peace" group had organized. I don't think I sat in the audience listening to papers as much as I wandered around, interviewing people.
I particularly remember interviewing Johan Dragsdahl there -- a journalist who knew a lot about Soviet people in years past who had made genuine contributions to peace from high positions.
I also remember some little events and images, such as these:
- There was a shaggy young anarchist peacenik whom I had met before and had known by reputation. He showed up at the conference and I discovered that he was now a stockbroker. He was dedicated to it as a way to save his country from communism. It struck me as extremely funny. I don't suppose he had ever met a real Western stockbroker, and if he did, I can't imagine what they would have talked about.
- I remember seeing Alexander Likhotal arriving at the conference, looking incredibly cool. (Sort of the way Barack Obama looks nowadays.) Later we sat together and talked on a bus trip to lunch in a huge dining hall. He told me that he had become editor "Communist" (I am not sure anymore that this was the actual title, but it was the most prestigious journal in the communist world in those days.) He said he'd like for me to write a paper for it. I remember feeling amused at the idea; in Toronto the worst enemies I had made were old Communists and they would freak out if I published anything in their top journal.) Obviously, he intended to change things.
- Sasha Kalinin introduced me to Maria Kirbasova, the founder and president of Mothers of Soldiers. He translated as I tried to interview her. The interview didn't amount to much, but I would hear her name later during the first war in Chechnya. She had arthritis, yet led a march of mothers from Russia into the war zone of Chechnya and right into the Chechen headquarters.
- I went to a workshop on the use of e-mail. It was several years before the Internet came in, but the Russians were already running an e-mail service so I could contact them that way later (though I'm not sure I ever did so). The woman who gave the workshop was an attractive young woman with an organization called Golubka, which means Dove. Much later (spring 2008) I interviewed another guy in Moscow, Yury Dzhibladze, who had been part of that organization. He is a physician and told me that the woman who had given the workshop was also a physician, and a mountaineer.
- The women from Mothers of Soldiers were in every session, always claiming the floor to make a presentation about how terrible it was for their sons to be in the army. Sasha said he often had to help restrain them in the street, for they would attack policemen. He was very supportive to them, but also aware that some of them were slightly deranged. One woman in particular stood up and talked in every session about how her son had been shot by a non-commissioned officer because he had refused to peel potatoes, as ordered. I learned there that about 6,000 young men per year were dying in the military, not in battle but largely by fights with guys of different ethnicity, and in other non-combat encounters. The number 6,000 has stuck in my memory all these years. The Mothers had put photos of their dead sons on tables throughout the lobbies. I made a social gaffe by putting my purse down on one of those tables to rummage through it looking for something. One of the mothers came up and scolded me for being disrespectful. I apologized.
- As I recall, Sonja Licht showed up in the meeting with her husband, recruiting people to go with her on a caravan tour through Yugoslavia, with the purpose of trying to prevent a war and the break-up of their country.
- There was some kind of meeting after the conclusion of the END conference, but I didn't attend it. Already, I heard later, there were rumors about an impending coup. I no longer remember the whispers that I heard about. (Did I write them down during those years? It seems strange now that I probably did not.)
AFTER THE CONFERENCE:
I don't recall the dates when the END conference concluded but a day or two later I took the train to Warsaw again, to catch my flight home. I remember Julia and Sasha waiting outside the train window to see me off. I think I shared a compartment with a young Russian woman who may have been an economist. At any rate, she seemed depressed, and we were completely unable to communicate.
At some point I met a Polish man who had been at the conference. I think I had met him at the closing banquet. Anyhow, I told him the names of the Polish activists (mainly people who had led Freedom and Peace, the draft resistance movement of Solidarnosc) but I didn't know how to contact them. He whipped out his address book and gave me the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the people I wanted to interview! In fact, I did interview some of them, but I'm uncertain about when those conversations took place. I might muddle this up in confusion about times. I know I went to visit one of those young men at his home within a few hours after his release from prison. I think it was Jacek Czaputowicz. I also went to visit Jan Jozef Lipski in a cardiac hospital at some point, but now I am doubting that it was on that day -- the reason being that, like most other people, I was completely focused on the events then taking place in Moscow.
Just when our train was pulling into the station in Warsaw, someone said that he had heard on his portable radio that something is going on in Moscow -- that apparently Gorbachev had been overthrown. I went to my hotel and turned on the TV. Indeed, the coup had begun during the night when I was on the train. I remember thinking that it was odd that people seemed to be going about their business as if nothing important were going on. I remember trying to get more information, but it was still unclear to the TV reporters what was going on.
I must have gone about my own business to some extent. Did I go to visit Czaputowicz on that occasion? It's hard to believe that I went far from a TV set. I remember that there was a little news on the plane as I returned to Toronto, and that after I got home I stayed by the TV set almost constantly throughout the crisis. In the middle of that period I had to go to Cincinnati to give a paper at the ASA convention (I don't remember what I said). I also visited the Medvedkovs while in Ohio, and by that time Gorbachev had returned to Moscow and was in a confrontation with Yeltsin in front of the Congress of People's Deputies (if that's what it was at that point). Gorbachev did not immediately break with the Communist Party, though it seemed to everyone else that he ought to do so, since the inner circle of the party had been behind the coup. Olga was sad as we watched this on the TV, for it seemed to spell the downfall of the country.
The following notes were ideas that I jotted down during the trip, in planning further research for my book:
IDEAS TO PURSUE OR INCLUDE IN THE WRITING:
- The concept of "learning" in foreign policy-making. Evangelista discusses it in his article, "Sources of Moderation in Soviet Security Policy."
- Evidence and theoretical debates about the effectiveness of peace movements in influencing foreign or military policy. David Meyer gives some good examples and cites some books I had not known about in his April 1991 article in Peace and Change, "Peace Movements and National Security."
- On the basis of several discussions, it may be good idea to broaden the area of concern beyond military and security policy, democracy, and human rights.
- The importance of the German Question cannot be ignored. Falin is the key person, but he obviously is no new thinker, so the question is, how was it decided to withdraw so gracefully from that confrontation? ( Likhotal would be the person to ask if I could do so.)
- Also, the decisions about E. Europe and Poland. When was it decided? The interview with Marina Palova -- Silvanskaya suggests the Soviet government made contact with Walesa before the changes of 1989. (Michnik came to Moscow, though they had hoped it would be Walesa himself. She met him at the airport.)
- The discussions with Andre Orlov make me think that I must discuss the changes in trust -- he talks about the importance of the 1972 Canadian hockey match, after which nobody could think that Canadians could be the enemy of Soviets. Andre's analysis is largely a generational one. I don't know how far to go with that.
- The discussion with Andrei Melville makes me aware that I must discuss the impact on Soviet political culture. In fact, that may be the tactful way around the problem that is always so awkward -- the appearance that I am looking for ways in which Soviets simply bought western ideas wholesale and implemented them. One can say that the direct application of ideas was generated by internal dynamics, but indirectly the soil had been prepared by the "drop by drop" infusion of foreign ideas. That sounds nicer. I don't really see that the distinction is important, but we have already run into trouble with the previous formulation.
- Everybody refers to economic factors, so we must discuss that too. Tair says it is well-accepted here that the oil profits kept the decay of the Soviet economy from becoming apparent during the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't have any particular articles to refer me to though.
- It is important to focus on the role of the U.N. and the Soviet emphasis on that --starting with Gorbachev's speech at the U.N.
- Notes: Check relationship of Shakhnazarov to Lindsay Mattison and S. Bialer. Derek names a KGB agent, Sokolov, as handling Markov, the official head of the delegation to one of the Pugwash meetings. Pugwash people include Goldansky and Kapitza.
- Ask Jim Bush about CDI's role in regard to the testing moratorium of 1985.
- Interview Eisenhower's granddaughter, who I think married one of the Russians -- maybe Sagdeev.
- Ask Anatol about Yakovlev and the book review.
- Interview Burlatsky and Zagladin if possible. Also Gert Bastian, Dimitri Roussoupolos and Rosalynn Carter re human rights issue. De Gandt names her.
- Get Gerhard Kade's book. Find Maryanna Colwell's full tape if possible. Get full list of Generals for Peace. Did Harbottle send me the stuff I asked for?
- Get Kagarlitsky's The Thinking Reed, which is about Soviet dissident movements.
- Interview Ann Crosby and Stanislava Hybernova re the women's meeting with Soviet foreign ministers.
- Mention Mac's separate communique from WPC meeting.
- Mention De Gendt as a go-between re the Soviets.
- Get Michnik's piece on the sacralization of politics. Goldfarb mentions him in iv.
- Mention world disarmament campaigns --both of them.
- Interview Kislov and the peace researchers at IMEMO.
- Find Lukshin's book on cenversion and check his citations.
- Interview Larionov at the U.S.A. Canada Institute.
- Eric Fawcett said the definition of mental illness is quite different in USSR and a scientist who did the kind of work Eric does would be regarded as crazy. Ask Yampolski, the shrink.
- Eric mentions contact with Vlasilov Dobrosielski, a career peace researcher at IMEMO. Trace him and interview him.
- When we contact Goldansky, check out the mention by Fawcett of having Sakharov present next time.
- Eric says the Yury Medvedkov thought their comments were being transcribed and sent to others higher up. Ask him about that.
- Plekhanov says that the 1986 Party Congress adopted a plank on security that was almost word for word drawn from the Palme Commission.
- Plekhanov says that the questioning of the arms race was already begun the late a60s and early 790s. Compare that to MccGwire.
- Ammon mentions Daristchev, who presented a paper to Gorby proposing a cleaer change on their German policies.
- Be sure to mention loss of influence in the German peace movement of those on Ammon's side of the German Question. Prague appeal had their proposal but the Giving Real Life document did not -- because of Dieter Esche.
- Ammon mentions the crisis of Soviet technology demonstrated by the Chernobyl disaster, but one might add the comment of Irina, that the Gulf War further demonstrated that failure. ( I don't think it did, because the Iraqis did not fight, but she thinks it did and that the Soviet population thinks so too.)
- Take note of Ammon's point about how if the Soviets had pressed the E. Germans to allow free travel and a few other tidbits, everybody would have been satisfied.
- Tair, what about the impetus to start people's peace marches? Makarchuk thinks he may have prompted it somewhat.
- Olga, who are the Sabatka couple De Gendt refers to?
- Ask Milshtein or Semiko about the training manual.
- I like Meyer's brief analysis of the character of the peace movement in his Peace and Change article, April 1991. He sees it as having two factions (I don't think I would use the word faction, but wings) --the first is rooted in traditional peace churches and in left organizations. It is generally pacifist and involves moral witnes plus pragmatic politics. The second is opposed to nuclear weapons and looks to international law to control the situation.
- Evangelista article," Sources of Moderation. . ." notes (p. 278) that the article by Zhurkin, Karaganov, and Kortunov, proposing unilateral reductions in 1987 was said by Meyer not to be widely shared view among new thinkers and that Gorby is not likely to go for the idea. Weeks later, G. announced unilateral Soviet reduction of 500,000 troops, 10,000 tanks, 8,500 artillery pieces, and 800 combat aircraft. Since then they have announced a 14.2 percent decrease in their military budget and a 40 % cut in tank production; they have welcomed U.S. observers to inspect laser test ranges and laboratories and ballistic missile silos and launch facilities; and they have unilaterally withdrawn some of their tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.
I called Karaganov for an interview and he said that he is leaving for a vacation tomorrow. He will be in town in December, however, and will be glad to see me then. Definitely I should go for it. Question: What was Semeiko's position re these conventional force reductions? Semeiko favored the notion of reasonable sufficiency. Did he go this far? Who takes what side on these issues?
- "You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake."
- Andre Orlov makes a point about how the 5000 Canadians here in 72 for hockey changed public opinion. Then the Beatles and other Western music got kids interested in learning English. Julia says that is why she began learning English -- because of rock music, which was on the radio all the time even when she was a teenager. The question about public opinion as a factor has to be worked into the issue about whether the system could have been changed in any way except from the top. Public culture was wider than the system, Melville says. But it wouldn't succeed. On the other hand, it is amazing that the reforms did come from within. Nobody can explain it and people tend to act as if it had not happened -- as if they still can't believe it. Anyhow, I can contrast it against Gene Sharp and Gandhi, whose idea of power is so different from theirs.