The man who saw it coming.
(Page 3 of 3)
Unfair as it sounds today, Amalrik himself was seen by many as a possible KGB plant assigned to observe and trap Western correspondents. Some refused to deal with him, fearful of being compromised or expelled themselves. His apparent freedom to write, move about, and meet with correspondents in our apartments seemed to be de facto evidence that he had clearance from above.
“Perhaps he was more daring than others, but also perhaps he was protected in some devious way,” recalls one journalist who was based in Moscow at the time.
Amalrik was also mistrusted by many mainstream dissidents because he refused to sign the countless petitions and “open letters” circulating at the time. A co-founder of the main dissident movement, Vladimir Bukovsky, once told me that signing those petitions and protests was a good test of a newcomer’s commitment to the movement. He considered that Amalrik failed the test.
In fact, as became plain after his final arrest in 1970, Amalrik is best explained in simpler terms, as a man determined to live life as a free spirit. His harsh sentence in Kolyma ended most of the speculation that he was a KGB stooge.
He later mused that he had hoped to keep out of legal trouble despite his writings. “I was trying to find a kind of coexistence with the regime,” he wrote, “but that idea — one to which I would return again and again — was not feasible.”
After his release, he was forced to emigrate to the West where he led a lively existence as a much-sought-after lecturer and writer in the Netherlands, France, Britain, and the United States. He was able to live off his lecture fees and royalties.
Just four years after his expulsion, he died in a head-on collision with a truck one rainy night while traveling to Spain for a conference to discuss Soviet compliance with the Helsinki human rights accords. His wife and two other dissidents in the car suffered only minor injuries.
As with every aspect of Amalrik’s life, questions were raised again. How accidental was the crash? The long arm of the KGB was suspected by some. I asked Bukovsky if he was suspicious. “Absolutely not,” he said. “There is no evidence that it was anything other than an accident.”
Commentator Shelin noted with irony that Amalrik died without ever knowing that in his famous essay he was only a few years off target.
Amalrik had said shortly before his death that he wanted to revise his thinking on the direction of the Soviet Union and produce a new version of the essay. Perhaps he would have toned down his views on war with China and moved the doomsday date to the 1990s. That would have made it nearly perfect.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online