]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]        GLAD, NOT GRATEFUL       [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
               Gulag messages to the third side         (12/22/1988)
                       by A.M. Rosenthal
                 The New York Times 12-16-88

            [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 07656GAED]

  It  was  a little embarrassing to watch from Moscow  while  Mikhail
Gorbachev was greeted  in New York with such  boisterous  enthusiasm.
Something  like  being at a party sober and seeing other  guests  who
hardly know each other hug, slap backs and make too much noise  about
how they ought to get together real soon.
  The reason probably was that I had been spending almost all my time
in  the Soviet Union talking to and thinking about a group of  Soviet
citizens who were stone sober themselves.  They were men freed  after
years  in prison for speaking their minds  against the Soviet  system
of  government -- or were still in cells for the crime of  trying  to
get out of their own country.
  The  released men were glad that Mikhail Gorbachev decided  to  let
them go -- glad, not grateful.  For them, getting out of prison  does
not  mean that the struggle for liberty in the Soviet Union is  over,
but is beginning a new and perhaps more intense phase.
  It took Mr. Gorbachev more than three years in power to concede  to
the  world that the Soviet Union held political prisoners.   For  the
men  he released, that was three more years of hard imprisonment  for
crimes  of the mind he apparently no longer considered crimes.   That
thought did  not bring the thrills of appreciation that  New  Yorkers
seemed to be enjoying.
  They  do have a sense of freedom to speak that was only a  dream  a
few  years ago.  And they consider Mr. Gorbachev the best leader  the
Soviet Union has produced, or is likely to.
  But  they feel that it is the system Mr. Gorbachev  represents  and
works to save that imprisoned them and remains the problem.  They are
still in combat against it.
  So this is not fiesta time for them.  Too many things remain to  be
done.
  They want Mr. Gorbachev to acknowledge that the system of which  he
is now the bulwark has arrested, incarcerated and tortured  thousands
of  men and women like them for no greater crimes than  thinking  and
speaking.   They  want the people who persecuted  them  punished,  so
those in the system who believe in the fist will beware.
  They know there are other Soviet citizens still in prison for  try-
ing to escape the country and other basically political crimes.
  The  newly  freed fighters work to change the laws that  made  them
victims of their society.  They are not encouraged by what they  have
heard about the new criminal code, which is being rewritten in secre-
cy.  And they feel there can be no new day unless the whole system of
secrecy  that  enshrouds arrests and trials -- and the police  --  is
torn apart.
  There are among them those who believe that as long as their  coun-
try remains essentially the one-party dictatorship Mr.  Gorbachev has
in mind, no laws will gurantee freedom.
  They  see an economy in collapse and nationalities forced into  the
Soviet empire by conquest or coercion demanding their own nationhood.
  They see only one solution -- not the brilliant Gorbachev  patch-up
job but the end to the entire Communist political and economic system
and the creation of a real democracy governing a nation that releases
captive nationalities, foreign and domestic, that do not want to be a
part of it.
  The dissolution of the Soviet system is no longer seen as a  fanta-
sy, even by those who fear it might be followed by a dictatorship  of
the nationalistic or fascistic right.
  Essentially the argument that divides the people who have paid with
years of their freedom for speaking their minds is whether to be con-
tent  with  more reforms or push ahead for the chance  to  start  all
over.
  But  there is one conviction that unites them. It is  that  Western
attention and pressure helped get them out of prison.   They  believe
that  the Gorbachev Government will respond to more of  this  Western
ethical involvement and that this is precisely the wrong time for the
West to call it off.
  Irina Ratushinsdaya is a poet who paid with four years of her free-
dom  for  her  poetry and her beliefs.  In  Moscow,  I  underlined  a
passage  in her strong and beautiful new book of the Gulag, "Gray  is
The Color of Hope" (Knopf).
  She  writes  of the unending war in the prison  camps  between  two
sides: the prisoners and the K.G.B.
  But,she writes then, there is a third side -- all the people in the
Soviet Union and abroad who remembered the prisoners, fought for them
and thus forced open so many prison cells.
  There  are still cells where men and women are locked in: by  bars,
laws or power.  Here are the words of this poet:
  "Believe me, you of the third side, it all depends  on you, and you
are capable of achieving much more than you may think."

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