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Interviews on conscience and dissent in the USSR (Интервью о совести и инакомыслии в СССР)

Boobbyer, Philip (2022) Interviews on conscience and dissent in the USSR (Интервью о совести и инакомыслии в СССР). [Data Collection]


Interviews on conscience and dissent in the USSR

These interviews, all of them in Russian, were conducted by Dr Boobbyer for a research project on the role of ‘conscience’ in undermining communism in the late Soviet era. Material from the interviews was used in the book Conscience, Dissent and Reform in Soviet Russia (London: Routledge, 2005), published in Russian as Sovest’, dissidentstvo i reformy v Sovetskoi Rossii (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2010). The interviews, which were conducted in a semi-structured way, focussed on how dissidents became disenchanted with Soviet socialism, and the extent to which moral and spiritual motivations were present in their ideas and activities.

Aleksandr Ginzburg (1936-2002). Aleksandr Ginzburg grew up in Moscow in a non-communist family. In 1960, he co-edited the samizdat publication, Phoenix, after which he was arrested. He was a defendant in the ‘trial of the four’ in 1967. After Solzhenitsyn was exiled in 1974, he helped to set up the Solzhenitsyn Aid Fund to help political prisoners. He subsequently worked for a time as a secretary to Andrei Sakharov. He was sent into exile in 1979 as part of a prisoner release, and eventually settled in Paris. Place and date of interview: Paris, March 1997. Short summary of contents available (see below).

Natalya Gorbanevskaya (1936-2013). Natalya Gorbanevskaya was a poet. She launched the samizdat journal Chronicle of Current Events in April 1968. She participated in the demonstration on Red Square against the invasion of Czechoslovakia on 25 August 1968. She published a book on the trial which followed the demonstration, Red Square at Noon (London: 1972). In 1969, she was a founder member of the Initiative Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR. She was confined in a psychiatric hospital in the years 1970-72. Place and date of interview: Paris, March 1997. Transcript provided in Russian.

Leonid Plyushch (1938-2015). Leonid Plyushch was a Ukrainian mathematician who was for a time involved in the Soviet space programme. He was a founder member of the Initiative Group for the Defense of Human Rights in the USSR. After being put on trial in 1972, he was confined for a time in a psychiatric hospital. After exile to the West in 1976, he lived in Paris. He joined the Ukrainian Helsinki Group in 1977. He wrote a memoir, History’s Carnival (London: 1979). Place and date of interview: Paris, March 1997. Short summary of contents provided (see below).

Tatyana Velikanova (1932-2002). Tatyana Velikanova was a mathematician. Her husband, Konstantin Babitsky, was involved in the demonstration on Red Square on 25 August 1968, and she became active in the dissident movement after that. She was a founder member of the Initiative Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR. She played an important organisational role in the dissident movement, notably as editor of the Chronicle of Current Events for much of its existence (1968-83). Place and date of interview: Moscow, January 1998. Transcript available in Russian.

Aleksandr Ginzburg: Subjects include: the Moscow Helsinki Group; upbringing in central Moscow; father was an architect killed by the KGB; mother from a Jewish intelligentsia family; baptism in the Orthodox church; family influences; arrested because of defying censorship; the nature of conscience; how he became a journalist; much depends on what milieu you are brought up in; never had Soviet or communist views; the moral and non-political character of the dissident movement; different personalities of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov; working for Sakharov; why he likes Pasternak; best not to enter into conversation with interrogators; important not to live a life of pretence; lies will be found out; how the dissidents became influential in the 1990s.

Leonid Plyushch: Subjects covered include: his commitment to revolutionary ideals; disillusionment with Stalinism; crisis following 20th Party Congress; wish to avoid being manipulated; long-term adherence to Marxism; atheism; decision to do scientific work; why he was wary of joining the Communist Party; experience of cooperation with the KGB at university; being in psychiatric hospital; stirrings of religious belief in prison; the nature of fanaticism; why it is important to avoid bitterness; the nature of personality; matters connected to Ukraine and Ukrainian identity; the nature of the dissident movement; having irrational fears; lying, dishonesty and truthfulness; how dishonesty in private life can lead to dishonesty in public life; the need to avoid self-deception; turning bad things into good.

Uncontrolled keywords: Growing up in the USSR, memories of the dissident movement, ethical perspectives, the nature of conscience, personal experiences
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
DOI: 10.22024/UniKent/01.01.438
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Philip Boobbyer
Collection period:
April 1996
January 1998
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2022 16:22
Publication Date: 23 June 2022

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