THE FINAL ACT: The Dramatic, Revealing Story of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group by Paul Goldberg

THE FINAL ACT: The Dramatic, Revealing Story of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Free-lancer Goldberg, Moscow emigrant and writer for Washington Monthly, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, has written a lively account, based upon numerous interviews with participants, of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group, an indigenous Soviet human-rights organization begun in 1976 by Yuri Orlov. The moral of Goldberg's chronicle is: never underestimate the resourcefulness of the human spirit. Take an innocent-enough document--the 1975 Helsinki Final Act on Security and Cooperation, signed by 35 nations, including the US and USSR--and Orlov and a small cadre of friends were handed a powerful lens with which to monitor the human-rights activities of the Soviet Union. Unable to use photocopies (authorities monitor their use), this band of rebel ombudsmen--including well-known names like Shcharansky, Amalrik, Sakharov, Bonnet, Grigorenko, and Ginzburg--would type 35 copies of their reports of Soviet rights violations for distribution to all signatory nations. The group, though, faced overwhelming odds: apathy abroad (the press in the US would consign dissident articles to the back pages); anger among some of the more militantly anti-Soviet nationals (said one geologist: ""Your group will advance the Soviet goals. The Helsinki Agreement is nothing but a Soviet ploy aimed at deceiving the West into recognizing its postwar domination of Eastern Europe""); and, above all, the anathema of the Soviet regime itself. Eventually, almost all of the group's members were sentenced to up to 12 years in prison for disruptive activity (Amalrik was killed in a car accident in Spain). Writing with novelistic flair, Goldberg here offers an important look into a not-so-glasnost Russia.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1988
Publisher: Morrow