by Isayevich (Aleksandr) Solzhenitsyn
Russian exile Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,
in Washington, D.C., on June 30, delivered a dramatic warning
to all the world - and to Americans in particular. The Nobel
Prize winning author, in his first major public address since
his expulsion from the Soviet Union in 1974, stripped bare the
crimes and excesses of the Communist masters in his native land.
And he denounced the West for a "senseless process of endless
concessions to aggressors" in the Kremlin. The text of the 90-minute
address that follows is the translation approved by the author,
reprinted with permission of the AFL-CIO, which invited him to
A WARNING TO THE WEST
Most of those present here today are workers. Creative workers.
And I myself, having spent many years of my life as a stone cutter,
as a foundryman, as a manual worker, in the name of all who have
shared this forced labor with me, like the two Gulag prisoners
whom you just saw, and on behalf of those who are doing forced
labor in our country, I can start my speech today with the greeting: "Brothers!"
"Brothers in Labor"
And not to forget, also, the many honored guests present here tonight,
let me add: "Ladies and Gentlemen."
"Workers of the world unite!" Who of us has not heard this slogan,
which has been sounding through the world for 125 years? Today
you can find it in any Soviet pamphlet as well as in every issue
of Pravda. But never have the leaders of the Communist revolution
in the Soviet Union made application of these words sincerely and
in their full meaning.
When many lies have accumulated over the decades, we forget the
radical and basic lie which is not on the leaves of the tree, but
at its very roots. Now, it's almost impossible to remember or to
believe . . . For instance, I recently published - had reprinted
- a pamphlet from the year 1918. This was a precise record of a
meeting of all representatives of the Petrograd factories, that
being the city known in our country as the "cradle of the Revolution."
I repeat, this was March 1918 - only four months after the October
Revolution - and all the representatives of the Petrograd factories
were cursing the Communists, who had deceived them in all of their
promises. What is more, not only had they abandoned Petrograd to
cold and hunger, themselves having fled from Petrograd to Moscow,
but had given orders to machinegun the crowds of workers in the
courtyards of the factories who were demanding the election of
independent factory committees. Let me remind you, this was March
Scarcely anyone now can recall the crushing of the Petrograd strikes
in 1921, or the shooting of workers in Kolpino in the same year.
Among the leadership, the Central Committee of the Communist Party,
at the beginning of the Revolution, all were émigré intellectuals
who had returned, after the uprisings had already broken out in
Russia, in order to carry through the Communist Revolution. One
of them was a genuine worker, a highly skilled lathe operator until
the last day of his life. This was Alexander Shliapnikov. Who knows
that name today? Precisely, because he expressed the true interests
of the workers within the Communist leadership. In the years before
the Revolution it was Shliapnikov who ran the whole Communist Party
in Russia - not Lenin, who was an émigré.
In 1921, he headed the Workers' Opposition which was charging the
Communist leadership with betraying the workers' interests, with
crushing and oppressing the proletariat and transforming itself
into a bureaucracy. Shliapnikov disappeared from sight. He was
arrested somewhat later and since he firmly stood his ground he
was shot in prison and his name is perhaps unknown to most people
here today. But I remind you: before the Revolution the head of
the Communist Party of Russia was Shliapnikov - not Lenin.
Since that time, the working class has never been able to stand
up for its rights, and in distinction from all the western countries
our working class only receives what they hand out to it. It only
gets handouts. It cannot defend its simplest, everyday interests,
and the least strike for pay or for better living conditions is
viewed as counter-revolutionary.
Thanks to the closed nature of the Soviet system, you have probably
never heard of the textile strikes in 1930 in Ivanovo, or of the
1961 worker unrest in Murom and Alexandrovo, or of the major workers'
uprising in Novocherkassk in 1962 - this in the time of Khrushchev,
after the thaw. This story will shortly be published in detail
in your country in Gulag Archipelago, volume 3. It is a story of
how workers went in a peaceful demonstration to the Party City
Committee, carrying portraits of Lenin, to request a change in
economic conditions. They fired at them with machine guns and dispersed
the crowds with tanks. No family dared even to collect its wounded
and dead, but all were taken away in secret by the authorities.
Precisely to those present here I don't have to explain that in
our country, since the Revolution, there's never been such a thing
as a free trade union. The leaders of the British trade unions
are free to play the unworthy game of visiting Russia's so-called
trade unions and receiving visits in return. But the AFL-CIO has
never given in to these illusions. The American workers' movement
has never allowed itself to be blinded and to mistake slavery for
freedom. And I, today, on behalf of all of our oppressed people,
thank you for this!
When liberal thinkers and wise men of the West, who had forgotten
the meaning of the word "liberty," were swearing that in the Soviet
Union there were no concentration camps at all, the American Federation
of Labor, published in 1947, a map of our concentration camps,
and on behalf of all of the prisoners of those times, I want to
thank the American workers' movement for this. But just as we feel
ourselves your allies here, there also exists another alliance
- at first glance a strange one, a surprising one - but if you
think about it, in fact, one which is well-grounded and easy to
understand: this is the alliance between our Communist leaders
and your capitalists. This alliance is not new.
The very famous Armand Hammer, who is flourishing here today, laid
the basis for this when he made the first exploratory trip into
Russia, still in Lenin's time, in the very first years of the Revolution.
He was extremely successful in this intelligence mission and since
that time for all these 50 years, we observe continuous and steady
support by the businessmen of the West of the Soviet Communist
Their clumsy and awkward economy, which could never overcome its
own difficulties by itself, is continually getting material and
technological assistance. The major construction projects in the
initial five- year plan were built exclusively with American technology
and materials. Even Stalin recognized that two-thirds of what was
needed was obtained from the West. And if today the Soviet Union
has powerful military and police forces - in a country which is
by contemporary standards poor - they are used to crush our movement
for freedom in the Soviet Union - and we have western capital to
thank for this also.
Let me remind you of a recent incident which some of you may have
seen in the newspapers, although others might have missed it: Certain
of your businessmen, on their own initiative, established an exhibition
of criminological technology in Moscow. This was the most recent
and elaborate technology, which here, in your country, is used
to catch criminals, to bug them, to spy on them, to photograph
them, to tail them, to identify criminals. This was taken to Moscow
to an exhibition in order that the Soviet KGB agents could study
it, as if not understanding what sort of criminals who would be
hunted by the KGB. The Soviet government was extremely interested
in this technology, and decided to purchase it. And your businessmen
were quite willing to sell it.
Only when a few sober voices here raised an uproar against it was
this deal blocked. Only for this reason it didn't take place.
But you have to realize how clever the KGB is. This technology
didn't have to stay two or three weeks in a Soviet building under
Soviet guard. Two or three nights were enough for the KGB there
to look through it and copy it. And if today, persons are being
hunted down by the best and most advanced technology, for this,
I can also thank your western capitalists.
This is something which is almost incomprehensible
to the human mind: that burning greed for profit which goes beyond all
reason, all self-control, all conscience, only to get
I must say that Lenin foretold this whole process. Lenin, who spent
most of his life in the West and not in Russia, who knew the West
much better than Russia, always wrote and said that the western
capitalists would do anything to strengthen the economy of the
USSR. They will compete with each other to sell us goods cheaper
and sell them quicker, so that the Soviets will buy from one rather
than from the other. He said: They will bring it themselves without
thinking about their future. And, in a difficult moment, at a party
meeting in Moscow, he said: "Comrades, don't panic, when things
go very hard for us, we will give a rope to the bourgeoisie, and
the bourgeoisie will hang itself."
Then, Karl Radek, whom you may have heard of, who
was a very resourceful wit, said:
"Vladimir Ilyich, but where are we going to get enough
rope to hang the whole bourgeoisie?" Lenin effortlessly
replied, "They'll supply us with it."
Through the decades of the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s,
the whole Soviet press wrote: Western capitalism, your end is near.
But it was as if the capitalists had not heard, could not understand,
could not believe this. Nikita Khrushchev came here and said, "We
will bury you!" They didn't believe that, either. They took it
as a joke. Now, of course, they have become more clever in our
country. Now they don't say "we are going to bury you" anymore,
now they say "detente."
Nothing has changed in Communist ideology. The goals are the same
as they were, but instead of the tactless Khrushchev, who couldn't
hold his tongue, now they say "detente." In order to understand
this, I will take the liberty of making a short historic survey
- the history of such relations, which in different periods have
been called "trade," "stabilization of the situation," "recognition
of realities," and now "detente." These relations now are at least
40 years old.
Let me remind you with what sort of system they started. The system
was installed by armed uprising. It dispersed the Constituent Assembly.
It capitulated to Germany - the common enemy. It introduced execution
without trial. It crushed workers' strikes. It plundered the villagers
to such an unbelievable extent that the peasants revolted, and
when this happened it crushed the peasants in the bloodiest possible
way. It shattered the Church. It reduced 20 provinces of our country
to a condition of famine. This was in 1921, the famous Volga famine.
A very typical Communist technique: To seize power without thinking
of the fact that the productive forces will collapse, that the
fields will not be sown, the factories will stop, that the country
will decline into poverty and famine - but when poverty and hunger
come, then they request the humanitarian world to help them. We
see this in North Vietnam today, perhaps Portugal is approaching
this also. And the same thing happened in Russia in 1921.
When the three-year civil war, started by the Communists - and "civil
war" was a slogan of the Communists, civil war was Lenin s purpose;
read Lenin, this was his aim and his slogan - when they had ruined
Russia by this civil war, then they asked America, "America, feed
our hungry." And indeed, generous and magnanimous America did feed
our hungry. The so-called American Relief Administration was set
up, headed by your future President Hoover, and indeed many millions
of Russian lives were saved by this organization of yours. But
what sort of gratitude did you receive for this? In the USSR not
only did they try to erase this whole event from the popular memory
- it's almost impossible today in the Soviet press to find any
reference to the American Relief Administration - but they even
denounce it as a clever spy organization, a clever scheme of American
imperialism to set up a spy network in Russia.
I repeat, it was a system that introduced concentration camps for
the first time in the history of the world. A system that, in the
20th Century, was the first to introduce the use of hostages, that
is to say, not to seize the person whom they were seeking, but
rather a member of his family or someone at random, and shoot that
person. This system of hostages and persecution of the family exists
to this day. It is still the most powerful weapon of persecution,
because the bravest person, who is not afraid for himself, still
shivers at the threat to his family. It is a system which was the
first - long before Hitler - to employ false registration, that
is, to say: "Such and such people have to come in to register." People
would comply and then they were taken away to be annihilated.
We didn't have gas chambers in those days. We used barges. A hundred
or a thousand persons were put into a barge and then it was sunk.
It was a system which deceived the workers in all of its decrees
- the decree on land, the decree on peace, the decree on factories,
the decree on freedom of the press. It was a system which exterminated
all additional parties, and let me make it clear to you that it
not only disbanded the party itself, but destroyed its members.
All members of every other party were exterminated. It was a system
which carried out genocide of the peasantry; 15 million peasants
were sent off to extermination. It was a system which introduced
serfdom, the so called "passport system." It was a system which,
in time of peace, artificially created a famine, causing 6 million
persons to die in the Ukraine in 1932 and 1933. They died on the
very edge of Europe. And Europe didn't even notice it. The world
didn't even notice it - 6 million persons!
I could keep on enumerating these endlessly, but I have to stop
because I have come to the year 1933 when, with all I have enumerated
behind us, your President Roosevelt and your Congress recognized
this system as one worthy of diplomatic recognition, of friendship
and of assistance. Let me remind you that the great Washington
did not agree to recognize the French Convention because of its
savagery. Let me remind you that in 1933, voices were raised in
your country objecting to recognition of the Soviet Union. However,
the recognition took place and this was the beginning of friendship
and ultimately of a military alliance.
Let us remember that in 1904, the American press was delighted
at the Japanese victories and everyone wanted Russia's defeat because
it was a conservative country. I want to remind you that in 1914
reproaches were directed at France and England for having entered
into an alliance with such a conservative country as Russia.
The scope and the direction of my speech today do not permit me
to say more about pre-revolutionary Russia. I will just say that
information about pre-revolutionary Russia was obtained by the
West from persons who were either not sufficiently competent or
not sufficiently conscientious. I will just cite for the sake of
comparison a number of figures which you can read for yourself
in Gulag Archipelago, volume 1 which has been published in the
United States, and perhaps many of you may have read it.
These are the figures: According to calculations by specialists,
based on the most precise objective statistics, in pre-revolutionary
Russia, during the 80 years before the revolution - years of the
revolutionary movement when there were attempts on the Tsar's life,
assassination of a Tsar, revolution - during these years about
17 persons a year were executed. The famous Spanish Inquisition,
during the decades when it was at the height of its persecution,
destroyed perhaps 10 persons a month. In the Archipelago - I cite
a book which was published by the Cheka in 1920, proudly reporting
on its revolutionary work in 1918 and 1919 and apologizing that
its data were not quite complete - in 1918 and 1919 the Cheka executed,
without trial, more than a thousand persons a month!
This was written by the Cheka itself, before it understood how
this would look to history.
At the height of Stalin's terror in 1937-38, if we
divide the number of persons executed by the number of
months, we get more than 40,000 persons shot per month!
Here are the figures: 17 a year, 10 a month, more than 1,000 a
month, more than 40,000 a month! Thus, that which had made it difficult
for the democratic West to form an alliance with pre-revolutionary
Russia had, by 1941, grown to such an extent and still did not
prevent the entire united democracy of the world - England, France,
the United States, Canada, Australia and small countries - from
entering into a military alliance with the Soviet Union. How is
this to be explained? How can we understand it?
Here we can offer a few explanations.
The first, I think, is that the entire united democracy of the
world was too weak to fight against Hitler's Germany alone. If
this is the case, then it is a terrible sign. It is a terrible
portent for the present day. If all these countries together could
not defeat Hitler's little Germany, what are they going to do today,
when more than half the globe is flooded with totalitarianism?
I don't want to accept this explanation.
The second explanation is perhaps that there was simply an attack
of panic - of fear - among the statesmen of the day. They simply
didn't have sufficient confidence in themselves, they simply
had no strength of spirit, and in this confused state decided
to enter into an alliance with Soviet totalitarianism. This is
also not flattering to the West.
Finally, the third explanation is that it was a deliberate device.
Democracy did not want to defend itself: For defense it wanted
to use another totalitarian system, the Soviet totalitarian system.
I'm not talking now about the moral evaluation of this, I'm going
to talk about that later. But in terms of simple calculation, how
shortsighted, what profound self-deception! We have a Russian proverb:
"Do not call a wolf to help you against the dogs." If dogs are
attacking and tearing at you, fight against the dogs, but do not
call a wolf for help. Because when the wolves come, they will destroy
the dogs, but they will also tear you apart.
World democracy could have defeated one totalitarian regime after
another, the German, then the Soviet. Instead, it strengthened
Soviet totalitarianism, helped bring into existence a third totalitarianism,
that of China, and all this finally precipitated the present world
situation. Roosevelt, in Teheran, during one of his last toasts,
said the following: "I do not doubt that the three of us" - meaning
Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin - "lead our peoples in accordance
with their desires, in accordance with their aims."
How are we to explain this? Let the historians worry about that.
At the time, we listened and were astonished. We thought, "when
we reach Europe, we will meet the Americans, and we will tell them."
I was among the troops that were marching towards the Elbe. A little
bit more and I would have reached the Elbe and would have shaken
the hands of your American soldiers. But just before that happened,
1 was taken off to prison and my meeting did not take place. But
now, after all this great delay, the same hand has thrown me out
of the country and here I am, instead of the meeting at the Elbe.
After a delay of 30 years, my Elbe is here today. I am here to
tell you, as a friend of the United States, what, as friends, we
wanted to tell you then, but which our soldiers were prevented
from telling you on the Elbe.
There is another Russian proverb: "The yes-man is your enemy, but
your friend will argue with you."
It is precisely because I am the friend of the United States, precisely
because my speech is prompted by friendship, that I have come to
tell you: "My friends, I'm not going to tell you sweet words.
The situation in the world is not just dangerous, it isn't just
threatening, it is catastrophic."
Something that is incomprehensible to the ordinary human mind has
taken place. We over there, the powerless, average Soviet people,
couldn't understand, year after year and decade after decade, what
was happening. How were we to explain this? England, France, the
United States, were victorious in World War II. Victorious states
always dictate peace; they receive firm conditions; they create
the sort of situation which accords with their philosophy, their
concept of liberty, their concept of national interest. Instead
of this, beginning in Yalta, your statesmen of the West, for some
inexplicable reason, have signed one capitulation after another.
Never did the West or your President Roosevelt impose any conditions
on the Soviet Union for obtaining aid. He gave unlimited aid, and
then unlimited concessions. Already in Yalta, without any necessity,
the occupation of Mongolia, Moldavia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania
was silently recognized. Immediately after that, almost nothing
was done to protect eastern Europe, and seven or eight more countries
were surrendered. Stalin demanded that the Soviet citizens who
did not want to return home be handed over to him, and the western
countries handed over 1.5 million human beings. How was this done?
They took them by force. English soldiers killed Russians who did
not want to become prisoners of Stalin, and drove them by force
to Stalin to be exterminated. This has recently come to light -
just a few years ago - a million and a half human beings. How could
the Western democracies have done this?
And after that, for another 30 years, the constant retreat, the
surrender of one country after another, to such a point that there
are Soviet satellites even in Africa; almost all of Asia is taken
over by them; Portugal is rolling down the precipice. During those
30 years, more was surrendered to totalitarianism than any defeated
country has ever surrendered after any war in history. There was
no war, but there might as well have been.
For a long time we in the East couldn't understand this. We couldn't
understand the flabbiness of the truce concluded in Vietnam. Any
average Soviet citizen understood that this was a sly device which
made it possible for North Vietnam to take over South Vietnam when
it so chose. And suddenly, this was rewarded by the Nobel Prize
for Peace - a tragic and ironic prize. A very dangerous state of
mind can arise as a result of this 30 years of retreat: give in
as quickly as possible, give up as quickly as possible, peace and
quiet at any cost. This is what many western papers wrote: "Let's
hurry up and end the bloodshed in Vietnam and have national unity
But at the Berlin Wall no one talked of national unity. One of
your leading newspapers, after the end of Vietnam, had a full headline:
"The Blessed Silence." I would not wish that kind of "blessed silence"
on my worst enemy. I would not wish that kind of national unity
on my worst enemy. I spent 11 years in the Archipelago, and for
half of my lifetime I have studied this question. Looking at this
terrible tragedy in Vietnam from a distance, I can tell you, a
million persons will be simply exterminated, while 4 to 5 million
(in accordance with the scale of Vietnam) will find themselves
in concentration camps and will be rebuilding Vietnam.
And what is happening in Cambodia you already know. It is genocide.
It is full and complete destruction but in a new form. Once again
their technology is not up to building gas chambers. So, in a few
hours, the entire capital city - the guilty capital city - is emptied
out: old people, women, children are driven out without belongings,
without food. "Go and die!" This is very dangerous for one's view
of the world when this feeling comes on: "Go ahead, give it up."
We already hear voices in your country and in the West - "Give up
Korea and we will live quietly. Give up Portugal, of course; give
up Japan, give up Israel, give up Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia,
Thailand, give up 10 more African countries. Just let us live in
peace and quiet. Just let us drive our big cars on our splendid
highways; just let us play tennis and golf, in peace and quiet;
just let us mix our cocktails in peace and quiet as we are accustomed
to doing; just let us see the beautiful toothy smile with a glass
in hand on every advertisement page of our magazines."
But look how things have turned out: Now in the West this has all
turned into an accusation against the United States. Now, in the
West, we hear very many voices saying, "It's your fault, America."
And, here, I must decisively defend the United States against these
accusations. I have to say that the United States, of all the countries
of the West, is the least guilty in all this and has done the most
in order to prevent it. The United States has helped Europe to
win the First and the Second World Wars. It twice raised Europe
from post-war destruction - twice for 10, 20, 30 years it has stood
as a shield protecting Europe while European countries were counting
their nickels, to avoid paying for their armies (better yet to
have none at all) to avoid paying for armaments, thinking about
how to leave NATO, knowing that in any case America will protect
them anyway. These countries started it all, despite their thousands
of years of civilization and culture, even though they are closer
and should have known better.
I came to your continent for two months I have been travelling
in its wide open spaces and I agree: here you do not feel the nearness
of it all, the immediacy of it all. And here it is possible to
miscalculate. Here you must make a spiritual effort to understand
the acuteness of the world situation. The United States of America
has long shown itself to be the most magnanimous, the most generous
country in the world. Wherever there is a flood, an earthquake,
a fire, a natural disaster, disease, who is the first to help?
The United States. Who helps the most and unselfishly? The United
States. And what do we hear in reply? Reproaches, curses, "Yankee
Go Home." American cultural centers are burned, and the representatives
of the Third World jump on tables to vote against the United States.
But this does not take the load off America's shoulders.
The course of history - whether you like it or not - has made you
the leaders of the world. Your country can no longer think provincially.
Your political leaders can no longer think only of their own states,
of their parties, of petty arrangements which may or may not lead
to promotion. You must think about the whole world, and when the
new political crisis in the world will arise (I think we have just
come to the end of a very acute crisis and the next one will come
any moment) the main decisions will fall anyway on the shoulders
of the United States of America.
And while already here, I have heard some explanations of the situation.
Let me quote some of them: "It is impossible to protect those who
do not have the will to defend themselves". I agree with that,
but this was said about South Vietnam.
In one-half of today's Europe and in three-quarters of today's
world the will to defend oneself is even less than it was in South
Vietnam. We are told: "We cannot defend those who are unable to
defend themselves with their own human resources." But against
the overwhelming powers of totalitarianism, when all of this power
is thrown against a country - no country can defend itself with
its own resources.
For instance, Japan doesn't have a standing army. We are told, "We
should not protect those who do not have full democracy." This
is the most remarkable argument of the lot. This is the Leitmotif
I hear in your newspapers and in the speeches of some of your political
leaders. Who in the world, ever, on the front line of defense against
totalitarianism has been able to sustain full democracy? You, the
united democracies of the world, were not able to sustain it. America,
England, France, Canada, Australia together did not sustain it.
At the first threat of Hitlerism, you stretched out your hands
to Stalin. You call that sustaining democracy? And there is more
of the same (there were many of these speeches in a row): "If the
Soviet Union is going to use detente for its own ends, then we.
. . ." But what will happen then? The Soviet Union has used detente
in its own interests, is using it now and will continue to use
it in its own interests! For example, China and the Soviet Union,
both actively participating in detente, have quietly grabbed three
countries of Indo-china. True, perhaps as a consolation, China will
send you a ping-pong team. And just as the Soviet Union once sent
you the pilots who once crossed the North Pole, in a few days you're
flying into space together.
A typical diversion. I remember very well the year, this was June
of 1937, when Chkalov, Baidukov and Beliakov heroically flew over
the North Pole and landed in the state of Washington. This was
the very year when Stalin was executing more than 40,000 persons
a month. And Stalin knew what he was doing. He sent those pilots
and aroused in you a naïve delight - the friendship of two countries
across the North Pole. The pilots were heroic, nobody will say
anything against them. But this was a show - a show to divert you
from the real events of 1937.
And what is the occasion now'? Is it an anniversary - 38 years?
Is 38 years some kind of an anniversary? No, it is simply necessary
to cover up Vietnam. And, once again, those pilots were sent here.
The Chkalov Memorial was unveiled in the State of Washington. Chkalov
was a hero and is worthy of a memorial. But, to present the true
picture, behind the memorial there should have been a wall and
on it there should have been a bas-relief showing the executions,
showing the skulls and bones.
We are also told (I apologize for so many quotes, but there are
many more in your press and radio): "We cannot ignore the fact
that North Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge have violated the agreement,
but we're ready to look into the future." What does that mean?
It means: let them exterminate people. But if these murderers,
who live by violence, these executioners, offer us detente we will
be happy to go along with them.
As Willy Brandt once said: "I would even be willing to have detente
with Stalin." At a time when Stalin was executing 40,000 a month
he would have been willing to have detente with Stalin? Look into
the future. This is how they looked into the future in 1933 and
1941. but it was a shortsighted look into the future.
This is how they looked into the future two years ago when a senseless,
incomprehensible, non-guaranteed truce in Vietnam was arranged,
and it was a shortsighted view. There was such a hurry to make
this truce that they forgot to liberate your own Americans from
captivity. They were in such a hurry to sign this document that
some 1,300 Americans, "Well, they have vanished; we can get by
How is that done? How can this be?
Part of them, indeed, can be missing in action, but the leaders
of North Vietnam themselves have admitted that some of them are
still being kept in prison. And do they give you back your countrymen?
No, they are not giving them back, and they are always raising
new conditions. At first they said, "Remove them from power." Now,
they say, "Have the United States restore Vietnam, otherwise it's
very difficult for us to find these people."
If the government of North Vietnam has difficulty explaining to
you what happened with your brothers, with your American POWs who
have not yet returned, I, on the basis of my experience in the
Archipelago, can explain this quite clearly.
There is a law in
the Archipelago that those who have been treated the most harshly
and who have withstood the most bravely, the most honest, the most
courageous, the most unbending, never again come out into the world.
They are never again shown to the world because they will tell
such tales as the human mind cannot accept. A part of your returned
POWs told you that they were tortured. This means that those who
have remained were tortured even more, but did not yield an inch.
These are your best people. These are your first heroes, who, in
a solitary combat, have stood the test. And today, unfortunately,
they cannot take courage from our applause. They can't hear it
from their solitary cells where they may either die or sit 30 years,
like Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who was seized in 1945
in the Soviet Union. He has been imprisoned for 30 years and they
will not yield him up. And you have some hysterical public figure
who said: "I will go to North Vietnam. I will stand on my knees
and beg them to release our prisoners of war." This isn't a political
act - this is masochism.
To understand properly what detente has meant all these 40 years
- friendships, stabilization of the situation, trade, etc. I would
have to tell you something, which you have never seen or heard,
of how it looked from the other side. Let me tell you how it looked.
Mere acquaintance with an American, and God forbid that you should
sit with him in a cafe or restaurant, meant a 10-year term for
suspicion of espionage. In the first volume of Archipelago I tell
of an event which was not told me by some arrested person, but
by all of the members of the Supreme Court of the USSR during those
short days when I was in the limelight under Khrushchev.
One Soviet citizen was in the United States and on his return said
that in the United States they have wonderful automobile roads.
The KGB arrested him and demanded a term of 10 years. But the judge
said: "I don't object, but there is not enough evidence. Couldn't
you find something else against him?" So the judge was exiled to
Sakhalin because he dared to argue and they gave the other man
10 years. Can you imagine what a lie he told?
And what sort of praise this was of American imperialism - in America
there are good roads? Ten years.
In 1945-46 through our prison cells passed a lot of persons - and
these were not ones who were cooperating with Hitler, although
there were some of those too. These were not guilty of anything,
but rather persons who had just been in the West and had been liberated
from German prison camps by the Americans. This was considered
a criminal act: liberated by the Americans. That means he has seen
the good life. If he comes back he will talk about it. The most
terrible thing is not what he did but what he would talk about.
And all such persons got 10-year terms.
During Nixon's last visit to Moscow your American correspondents
were reporting in the western way from the streets of Moscow. I
am going down a Russian street with a microphone and asking the
ordinary Soviet citizen: "Tell me please, what do you think about
the meeting between Nixon and Brezhnev?" And, amazingly, every
last person answered: "Wonderful. I'm delighted. I'm absolutely
What does this mean? If I'm going down a street in Moscow and some
American comes up to me with a microphone and asks me something,
then I know that on the other side of him is a member of the state
security, also with a microphone who is recording everything I
say. You think that I'm going to say something that is going to
put me in prison immediately? Of course I say: "It's wonderful;
But what is the value of such correspondents if they simply transfer
western techniques over there without thinking things through?
You helped us for many years with Lend Lease, but we've now done
everything to forget this, to erase it from our minds, not to remember
it if at all possible. And now, before I came into this hall, I
delayed my visit to Washington a little in order to first take
a look at some ordinary parts of America, going to various states
and simply talking with people. I was told, and I learned this
for the first time, that in every state during the war years there
were Soviet-American friendship societies which collected assistance
for Soviet people - warm clothes, canned food, gifts and sent them
to the Soviet Union. But we not only never saw these; we not only
never received them (they were distributed somewhere among the
privileged circles) no one ever even told us that this was being
done. I only learned about it for the first time here, this month,
in the United States.
Everything poisonous which could be said about the United States
was said in Stalin's days. And all of this is a heavy sediment
which can be stirred up anytime. Any day the newspapers can come
out with the headlines: "Bloodthirsty American imperialism wants
to seize control of the world," and this poison will rise up from
the sediment and many people in our country will believe this,
and will be poisoned by it, and will consider you as aggressors.
This is how detente has been managed on our side.
The Soviet system is so closed that it is almost impossible for
you to understand from here. Your theoreticians and scholars write
works trying to understand and explain how things occur there.
Here are some naïve explanations which are simply funny to Soviet
Some say that the Soviet leaders have now given up their inhumane
ideology. Not at all. They haven't given it up one bit. Some say
that in the Kremlin there are some on the left, some on the right.
And they are fighting with each other, and we've got to behave
in such a way as not to interfere with those on the left side.
This is all fantasy: left . . . right. There is some sort of a
struggle for power, but they all agree on the essentials.
There also exists the following theory, that now thanks to the
growth of technology, there is a technocracy in the Soviet Union,
a growing number of engineers and the engineers are now running
the economy and will soon determine the fate of the country, rather
than the party. I will tell you, though, that the engineers determine
the fate of the economy just as much as our generals determine
the fate of the Army. That means zero. Everything is done the way
the party demands. That's our system. Judge it for yourself.
It's a system where for 40 years there haven't been genuine elections
but simply a comedy, a farce. Thus a system which has no legislative
organs. It's a system without an independent press; a system without
an independent judiciary; where the people have no influence either
on external or internal policy; where any thought which is different
from what the state thinks is crushed. And let me tell you that
electronic bugging in our country is such a simple thing that it's
a matter of everyday life. You had an instance in the United States
where a bugging caused an uproar which lasted for a year and a
half. For us it's an everyday matter. Almost every apartment, every
institution has got its bug and it doesn't surprise us in the least
- we are used to it.
It's a system where unmasked butchers of millions like Molotov
and others smaller than him have never been tried in the courts
but retire on tremendous pensions in the greatest comfort. It's
a system where the show still goes on today and to which every
foreigner is introduced surrounded by a couple of planted agents
working according to a set scenario. It's a system where the very
constitution has never been carried out for one single day; where
all the decisions mature in secrecy, high up in a small irresponsible
group and then are released on us and on you like a bolt of lightning.
And what are the signatures of such persons worth? How could one
rely on their signatures to documents of detente? You yourselves
might ask your specialists now and they'll tell you that precisely
in recent years the Soviet Union has succeeded in creating wonderful
chemical weapons, missiles, which are even better than those used
by the United States. So what are we to conclude from that? Is
detente needed or not? Not only is it needed, it's as necessary
as air. it's the only way of saving the earth - instead of a world
war to have detente, but a true detente, and if it has already
been ruined by the bad word which we use for it - "detente" - then
we should find another word for it.
I would say that there are very few, only three, main characteristics
of such a true detente. In the first place, there would be disarmament
- not only disarmament from the use of war but also from the use
of violence. We must stop using not only the sort of arms which
are used to destroy one's neighbors, but the sort of arms which
are used to oppress one's fellow countrymen. It is not detente
if we, here with you today, can spend our time agreeably while
over there people are groaning and dying and in psychiatric hospitals.
Doctors are making their evening rounds, for the third time injecting
people with drugs which destroy their brain cells.
The second sign of detente, I would say, is the following: that
it be not one based on smiles, not on verbal concessions, but it
has to be based on a firm foundation. You know the words from the
Bible: "Build not on sand, but on rock." There has to be a guarantee
that this will not be broken overnight and for this the other side
- the other party to the agreement - must have its acts subject
to public opinion, to the press, and to a freely elected parliament.
And until such control exists there is absolutely no guarantee.
The third simple condition - what sort of detente is it when they
employ the sort of inhumane propaganda which is proudly called
in the Soviet Union "ideological warfare." Let us not have that.
If we're going to be friends, let's be friends, if we're going
to have detente, then let's have detente, and an end to ideological
warfare. The Soviet Union and the Communist countries can conduct
negotiations. They know how to do this. For a long time they don't
make any concessions and then they give in a little bit. Then everyone
says triumphantly, "Look, they've made a concession; it's time
The European negotiators of the 35 countries for two years now
have painfully been negotiating and their nerves were stretched
to the breaking point and they finally gave in. A few women from
the Communist countries can now marry foreigners. And a few newspapermen
are now going to be permitted to travel a little more than before.
They give 1/1,000th of what natural law should provide. Matters
which people should be able to do even before such negotiations
are undertaken. And already there is joy. And here in the West
we hear many voices, saying: "Look, they're making concessions;
it's time to sign."
During these two years of negotiations, in all the countries of
eastern Europe, the pressure has increased, the oppression intensified,
even in Yugoslavia and Romania, leaving aside the other countries.
And it is precisely now that the Austrian chancellor says, "We've
got to sign this agreement as rapidly as possible." What sort of
an agreement would this be? The proposed agreement is the funeral
of eastern Europe. It means that western Europe would finally,
once and for all, sign away eastern Europe, stating that it is
perfectly willing to see eastern Europe be crushed and overwhelmed
once and for all, but please don't bother us. And the Austrian
chancellor thinks that if all these countries are pushed into a
mass grave, Austria at the very edge of this grave will survive
and not fall into it also. And we, from our lives there, have concluded
that violence can only be withstood by firmness.
You have to understand the nature of communism. The very ideology
of communism, all of Lenin's teachings, are that anyone is considered
to be a fool who doesn't take what's lying in front of him. If
you can take it, take it. If you can attack, attack. But if there's
a wall, then go back. And the Communist leaders respect only firmness
and have contempt and laugh at persons who continually give in
to them. Your people are now saying - and this is the last quotation
I am going to give you from the statements of your leaders - "Power,
without any attempt at conciliation, will lead to a world conflict."
But I would say that power with continual subservience is no power
at all. But from our experience I can tell you that only firmness
will make it possible to withstand the assaults of Communist totalitarianism.
We see many historic examples, and let me give you some of them.
Look at little Finland in 1939, which by its own forces withstood
the attack. You, in 1948, defended Berlin only by your firmness
of spirit, and there was no world conflict. In Korea in 1950 you
stood up against the Communists, only by your firmness, and there
was no world conflict. In 1962 you compelled the rockets to be
removed from Cuba. Again it was only firmness, and there was no
world conflict. And the late Konrad Adenauer conducted firm negotiations
with Khrushchev and thus started a genuine detente with Khrushchev.
Khrushchev started to make concessions and if he hadn't been removed,
that winter he was planning to go to Germany and to continue the
Let me remind you of the weakness of a man whose name is rarely
associated with weakness - the weakness of Lenin. Lenin, when he
came to power, in panic gave up to Germany everything Germany wanted.
Just what it wanted. Germany took as much as it wanted and said,
"Give Armenia to Turkey." And Lenin said, "Fine." It's almost an
unknown fact but Lenin petitioned the Kaiser to act as intermediary
to persuade the Ukraine and, thus, to make possible a boundary
between the Communist part of Russia and the Ukraine. It wasn't
a question of seizing the Ukraine but rather of making a boundary
with the Ukraine.
We, we the dissidents of the USSR, don't have any tanks, we don't
have any weapons, we have no organization. We don't have anything.
Our hands are empty. We have only a heart and what we have lived
through in the half century of this system. And when we have found
the firmness within ourselves to stand up for our rights, we have
done so. It's only by firmness of spirit that we have withstood.
And if I am standing here before you, it's not because of the kindness
or the good will of communism, not thanks to detente, but thanks
to my own firmness and your firm support. They knew that I would
not yield one inch, not one hair. And when they couldn't do more
they themselves fell back. This is not easy.
In our conditions this was taught to me by the difficulties of
my own life. And if you yourselves - any one of you - were in the
same difficult situation, you would have learned the same thing.
Take Vladimir Bukovsky, whose name is now almost forgotten. Now,
I don't want to mention a lot of names because however many I might
mention there are more still. And when we resolve the question
with two or three names it is as if we forget and betray the others.
We should rather remember figures. There are tens of thousands
of political prisoners in our country and by the calculation of
English specialists 7,000 persons are now under compulsory psychiatric
Let's take Vladimir Bukovsky as an example. It was proposed to
"All right, we'll free you. Go to the West and shut up." And this
young man, a youth today on the verge of death said: "No, I won't
go this way. I have written about the persons whom you have put
in insane asylums. You release them and then I'll go West." This
is what I mean by that firmness of spirit to stand up against granite
Finally, to evaluate everything that I have said to you, I would
say we need not have had our conversation on the level of business
calculations. Why did such and such a country act in such and such
a way? What were they counting on? We should rather rise above
this to the moral level and, say: "In 1933 and in 1941 your leaders
and the whole western world, in an unprincipled way, made a deal
with totalitarianism." We will have to pay for this, some day this
deal will come back to haunt us. For 30 years we have been paying
for it and we're still paying for it. And we're going to pay for
it in a worse way.
One cannot think only in the low level of political calculations.
It's necessary to think also of what is noble, and what is honorable
- not only what is profitable. Resourceful western legal scholars
have now introduced the term "legal realism." By legal realism,
they want to push aside any moral evaluation of affairs. They say,
"Recognize realities; if such and such laws have been established
in such and such countries by violence, these laws still must be
recognized and respected."
At the present time it is widely accepted among lawyers that law
is higher than morality - law is something which is worked out
and developed, whereas morality is something inchoate and amorphous.
That isn't the case. The opposite is rather true! Morality is higher
While law is our human attempt to embody in rules a part of that
moral sphere which is above us. We try to understand this morality,
bring it down to earth and present it in a form of laws. Sometimes
we are more successful, sometimes less. Sometimes you actually
have a caricature of morality, but morality is always higher than
law. This view must never be abandoned. We must accept it with
heart and soul.
It is almost a joke now in the western world, in the 20th century,
to use words like "good" and "evil." They have become almost old-fashioned
concepts, but they are very real and genuine concepts. These are
concepts from a sphere which is higher than us. And instead of
getting involved in base, petty, shortsighted political calculations
and games we have to recognize that the concentration of World
Evil and the tremendous force of hatred is there and it's flowing
from there throughout the world. And we have to stand up against
it and not hasten to give to it, give to it, give to it, everything
that it wants to swallow.
Today there are two major processes occurring in the world. One
is the one which I have just described to you which has been in
progress more than 30 years. It is a process of shortsighted concessions;
a process of giving up, and giving up and giving up and hoping
that perhaps at some point the wolf will have eaten enough. The
second process is one which I consider the key to everything and
which, I will say now, will bring all of us our future; under the
cast-iron shell of communism - for 20 years in the Soviet Union
and a shorter time in other Communist countries - there is occurring
a liberation of the human spirit. New generations are growing up
which are steadfast in their struggle with evil; which are not
willing to accept unprincipled compromises; which prefer to lose
everything - salary, conditions of existence and life itself -
but are not willing to sacrifice conscience; not willing to make
deals with evil.
This process has now gone so far that in the Soviet Union today,
Marxism has fallen so low that it has become an anecdote, it's
simply an object of contempt. No serious person in our country
today, not even university and high school students, can talk about
Marxism without smiling, without laughing. But this whole process
of our liberation, which obviously will entail social transformations,
is slower than the first one - the process of concessions.
Over there, when we see these concessions, we are frightened. Why
so quickly? Why so precipitously? Why yield several countries a
year? I started by saying that you are the allies of our liberation
movement in the Communist countries. And I call upon you: let us
think together and try to see how we can adjust the relationship
between these two processes. Whenever you help the persons persecuted
in the Soviet Union, you not only display magnanimity and nobility,
you're defending not only them but yourselves as well. You're defending
your own future.
So let us try and see how far we can go to stop this senseless
and immoral process of endless concessions to the aggressor - these
clever legal arguments for why we should give up one country after
another. Why must we hand over to Communist totalitarianism more
and more technology - complex, delicate, developed technology which
it needs for armaments and for crushing its own citizens? If we
can at least slow down that process of concessions, if not stop
it all together - and make it possible for the process of liberation
to continue in the Communist countries - ultimately these two processes
will yield us our future.
On our crowded planet there are no longer any internal affairs.
The Communist leaders say, "Don't interfere in our internal affairs.
Let us strangle our citizens in peace and quiet." But I tell you:
Interfere more and more. Interfere as much as you can. We beg you
to come and interfere.
Understanding my own task in the same way I have perhaps interfered
today in your internal affairs, or at least touched upon them,
and I apologize for it. I have traveled a lot around the United
States and this has been added to my earlier understanding of it;
what I have heard from listening to the radio, from talking to
experienced persons. America - in me and among my friends and among
people who think the way I do over there, among all ordinary Soviet
citizens - evokes a sort of mixture of feelings of admiration and
of compassion. Admiration at the fact of your own tremendous forces
which you perhaps don't even recognize yourselves. You're a country
of the future; a young country; a country of still untapped possibilities;
a country of tremendous geographical distances; a country of tremendous
breadth of spirit; a country of generosity; a country of magnanimity.
But these qualities - strength, generosity and magnanimity - usually
make a man and even a whole country trusting, and this already
several times has done you a disservice.
I would like to call upon America to be more careful with its trust
and prevent those wise persons who are attempting to establish
even finer degrees of justice and even finer legal shades of equality
- some because of their distorted outlook, others because of short-sightedness
and still others out of self-interest - from falsely using the
struggle for peace and for social justice to lead you down a false
road. Because they are trying to weaken you; they are trying to
disarm your strong and magnificent country in the face of this
fearful threat - one which has never been seen before in the history
of the world. Not only in the history of your country, but in the
history of the world.
And I call upon you: ordinary working men of America - as represented
here by your trade union movement - do not let yourselves become
weak. Do not let yourselves be taken in the wrong direction. Let
us try to slow down the process of concessions and help the process
"The Vancouver Province" July 22nd, 1975
'Ford betrays E. Europe' New York Times
WASHINGTON - Alexander Solzhenitsyn accused President Ford on Monday
of participating in "the betrayal of Eastern Europe" by planning
to attend the 35-nation European summit meeting next week. As a
result, the exiled Soviet novelist said, he could see no point
in meeting Ford. In a statement, Solzhenitsyn continued his campaign
aimed at alerting the American people to the dangers he perceives
in the policy of Soviet-American detente. The impetus for Solzhenitsyn's
statement was the flurry of pro-reports about Ford's efforts to
reverse his original decision not to receive Solzhenitsyn at the
White Home when the author first arrived in Washington June 30.
After first snubbing him, the White House said it was holding open
Solzhenitsyn said that one of the original reasons given by Ron
Nessen, the White House spokesman when Ford did not see the author
was that Ford preferred "substantive" meetings to "symbolic"
ones and the "symbolic" effect it might have on detente. "Nobody
needs symbolic meetings". The president will shortly be leaving
for Europe to sign the betrayal of Eastem Europe, to acknowledge
officially its slavery forever. Had I the hope of dissuading him
from signing this treaty I myself would seek such a meeting. However,
there is no such hope. If the president considers the 30-year raging
of worldwide totalitarianism as an example of an 'era of peace'
what wll the basis be for a conversation?"
Solzhenitsyn is concerned that the signing of the European document
would lend permanence to the postwar division of Europe into communist
and non-communist nations. Critics of the conference have said
the document's mention of the "inviolability of frontiers" has
doomed the people of Eastern Europe to communist rule.
But supporters of the document have said it merely reflects the
reality of postwar Europe.