RUSSIA AND THE RUSSIANS: Inside the Closed Society by Kevin Klose

RUSSIA AND THE RUSSIANS: Inside the Closed Society

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Stale, flat pickings from the annals of Soviet dissidence--mostly featuring the Sakharovs. Klose, the Washington Post's 1977-81 Moscow correspondent, concludes his introductory chapter with a thriller-style correspondents-vs.-KGB car chase: ""I figured I was one for one and batting a thousand against the secret police."" It's not a promising beginning--but worse immediately follows: a Russian train ride--""peasants with bleary eyes and alcoholic cheeks,"" ""shapeless careworn bodies [lying] on the pallets""--that sounds like something out of Gogol. And that, unfortunately, is about the size of it: a horror-caricature--with dissident heroics. One major section--60+ pages--is devoted to the saga of miner Alexei Nikitin, an ""activist agitator"" who winds up in a ""psycho-prison."" Built in is the predictable fate of a doctor who protests ""unjustified psycho-imprisonment."" Most of the rest is what Andrei Sakharov apparently told Klose about his career and his wife Elene Bonnet apparently related about her life and their life together--plus what he somehow learned, after his return to the US, about the hunger strike the two undertook to secure an emigration visa for their son's fiancee, Lisa Alexeyeva. The account is melodramatic, banal, fatuous. Typically: ""The transformation from carefully concealed scientist to controversial social critic and defender of the downtrodden permanently overturned Sakharov's life."" A late chapter tells about a privileged Soviet. We hear about forced emigration, about survivors of prison camps. For full recent coverage of the Soviet scene, see Michael Binyon (1983, p. 1280); for the dissident movement, Solzhenitsyn, the Medvedevs, Sakharov himself.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1984
Publisher: Norton