Peter Reddaway: It became possible to leave Russia, but I wouldn’t want to live there now

The Soviet Metro That Was Never Finished ☭

Renowned researcher of the dissident movement – on the role of foreign media in Soviet dissent and Russia today

Peter Raddway – legendary man: explorer of Russia, one of the founders «The Alexander Herzen Foundation», published materials of Soviet dissidents, former director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, who did much to publicize the crimes of Soviet forensic psychiatry.

This year, the 80-year-old scholar and human rights activist published an extensive memoir «Dissidents», in which he talks about his collaboration with activists of resistance to the Soviet regime from the 60s to the 90s of the last century. Among these memories there are also curious ones: for example, about how the author, while on an internship in the USSR in 1961, came to Georgia and became a participant in a completely anti-Soviet feast with toasts in the style of «Democracies – Yes! Communism – not». However, most of the book – exactly how Reddway himself interacted with Soviet dissidents who were persecuted for their desire to make life in the USSR more humane or to get the opportunity to leave the country «developed socialism».

Presenting his book at the Kennan Institute, which Reddway directed in the 1980s, the scientist talked about how obvious the conclusion that was later confirmed to him in 1967 was: «The communist regime is weaker than it looks; it is rigid in terms of direction and structure; it cannot change while remaining stable and therefore it will collapse».

At the same time, Peter Reddaway is known for his negative attitude towards the rulers of post-Soviet Russia and their Western economic advisers: at the presentation of his book, he criticized economists Anders Aslund and Lawrence Summers, who, in his opinion, believed that the rapid introduction of a market economy in Russia was a guarantee of it. becoming a democratic country.

The well-known Sovietologist recalled people with whom he worked together on the publication of dissident materials, including «Chronicle of current events» and information about punitive psychiatry in the USSR – Vladimir Bukovsky, Valery Chalidze, Pyotr Grigorenko and others, whose names went down in the history of dissent in the Soviet Union.

Answering the question of the Russian service «Voices of America», what was it for Soviet citizens to broadcast radio stations such as «Voice of America», Peter Reddway said: «During the era of the USSR, foreign broadcasting to the Soviet Union had a huge role – first of all, at «Voices of America», Radio Liberty, BBC and «German wave». The role was truly colossal: «jammers» were not effective, they jammed the signal more or less densely in big cities, but it was worth driving 10-15 miles away from the big city, and you could listen to these radio stations with practically no interference. So the signal passed, and the dissidents, as well as their friends and sympathizers, listened to Western broadcasts a lot.».

«Now the role of these media is not as critical as it used to be, because now you can leave Russia freely and live where you want. However, the need for these services still remains, as the domestic media, especially television, are highly biased in favor of the Putin regime. In recent years, this has only worsened, and there will always be a need to fight censorship, which is now very strong in Russia.» – the scientist thinks.

In an interview with the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» Peter Reddaway notes that in today’s Russia there is still more freedom than in the USSR, according to one, but very important indicator. – opportunities to leave:

«There were many people in the Soviet Union who wanted to leave – and they couldn’t do it. In this sense, their freedom was limited very seriously, and in other ways too. Now those who want to leave have no restrictions, so this freedom has appeared. This does not mean that other aspects of the Putin regime are just as liberal, but rather the opposite. There are many restrictions, there is an obvious lack of freedom, for example, entire religious communities are simply prohibited and cannot exist in Russia. I would not want to live there now».

Peter Reddaway does not believe that Russia is under the full control of its special services, but notes that the presence of KGB immigrants in its governing bodies is very large: «It would be an exaggeration to name today’s Russia «the KGB country», but it is obvious that this is a country in which people from the KGB are very influential, and the FSB is also very influential. This does not surprise me at all, unfortunately – democracy and capitalism have never had the opportunity to take deep roots in Russia, and this made it possible for the Chekists, and in recent years, the military, to become a great force in the country».

The historian of the dissident movement in the USSR believes that dissidents greatly influenced the changes in the Soviet Union that took place in the 1980s: «The role of dissidents in bringing about the collapse of the communist system was very serious. Gorbachev and the Politburo members realized that the dissidents were saying things that were important, that they had some support in society, and Andrei Sakharov, along with his associates, should be respected».

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