Aleksandr Podrabinek: Objectivity must be preserved

14 May 2024

Source: Facebook

Soviet dissidents on contemporary Russia: “A completely different and far more terrifying era” 

This is the headline of a Yabloko press release on the meeting held last Sunday between seven Soviet dissidents and members of the Yabloko party. This frivolous remark belongs to Aleksandr Daniel, who spoke at the meeting.

But can you imagine such a meeting taking place in Soviet times, those of Brezhnev, say, let alone Stalin? And that this is being said by people who freely travel abroad from time to time or seek refuge there from possible arrest? These same people communicate freely by international telephone and have easy access to the uncensored Internet, which has successfully replaced samizdat and Western radio. Or perhaps in Soviet times, even those of Brezhnev and Andropov, critics of the regime did not serve prison sentences of 25 years or more apiece? And in the camps and prisons there was no torture, hunger, cold, deaths or other horrors of the Gulag? 

Daniel noted that the “current persecution for graffiti and online posts is more terrifying than the threats to Soviet dissidents”. But didn’t people go to jail for graffiti and leaflets in Soviet times? Then ask Yuly Rybakov why he was in prison or many other “leafleteers” whose names are less well-known. In practically all respects, the situation regarding human rights and civil liberties in the Soviet Union was worse than today’s. Repression was total and inescapable. 

Yes, the current regime is racing headlong towards the Soviet one, no question about it. The human rights situation gets worse and worse, acts of repression are on the increase. But however wretched things are today, there is no need, for the sake of a well-turned sentence, to lay the paint on thick and pretend that political life in the USSR was better than our own today. There is no need to play to the admirers of the Soviet Union. There is no need to lead astray young people fortunate enough to have missed the Soviet era. Objectivity must be preserved, especially by those engaged in historical research.

Translated by Melanie Moore