The June 3, 2019 edition of the magazine National Review is all “Against Socialism.” Jay Nordlinger has an article in it, “Bukovsky’s Judgment” about Vladimir Bukovsky, a Soviet dissident, and the book he wrote, Judgement in Moscow. It is fascinating to me.
All Soviet dissidents are legendary, to one degree or another. Vladimir Bukovsky is especially so. He is held in awe by people whom the rest of us hold in awe. I’m speaking of his fellow dissidents. He is a dissident’s dissident, so to speak.
A book of his, which originally appeared in 1995, is now being published in English for the first time. On his back patio, amid chirping birds, I talk with him about this and many other subjects.
Bukovsky was born in 1942 and quickly opposed the system: the system into which he had been born. He was kicked out of Moscow State University when he was 19. He had criticized the Komsomol, the Young Communist League.
“Do you think you were just born this way?” I ask him. Born to take risks, born to land in trouble? “Yeah,” says Bukovsky. “There’s nothing you can do about it. I would feel uncomfortable if I tried to hide what I believe. It’s against my nature.”
…..He spent twelve years in the Gulag: prisons, labor camps, and sadistic psychiatric hospitals. I ask, “Did you ever think you would not survive?” “Oh, yeah,” he answers. “It was the dominant idea…..most of my friends were killed.”
Bukovsky was released in 1976, exchanged at the Zurich airport for Luis Corvalan, the head of the Chilean Communist Party.
…But for now: What about this book, newly in English?
Go back to 1991—when the new Russian president, Yeltsin, banned the Soviet Communist Party. The Party sued, and Yeltsin’s government asked Bukovsky to serve as an expert witness at trial. He agreed, on one condition: that he would have access to the archives—the archives of the Central Committee, the beating, black heart of the Party. He got it.
Off he went to Russia, armed with a laptop, a scanner, and other equipment. By day he combed through the archives, finding eye-popping material, and by night he copied this material, surreptitiously. He knew he had to work fast. He figured the archives would not be open for long, to him or anybody else. “I had a very limited window,” he says today.
The trial turned out to be a dud, not a Nuremberg-like reckoning, which Bukovsky and many others had hoped for. But Bukovsky had the documents in the West….He put them in a book, along with his comments on them. He called the book “Judgment in Moscow.”…Its subtitle is “Soviet Crimes and Western Complicity.”
I will read the book. Most likely I will buy it.