Peter Weir’s new film, The Way Back, will be cause for many a reflection on the most extensive prison network in history.
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Prisoners were indeed shot frequently for many reasons, but most of all for cutting off their ears (particularly if they had tattooed on them “A gift to People’s Congress!”) and for facial tattoos such as “Slave,” “Bolsheviks give me bread” and “Down with dictator and murderer” (meaning Khrushchev or Brezhnev).
Kuznetsov told me in a telephone interview from a few years ago that he secretly wrote his diary in tiny letters in pencil on toilet paper and kept it tightly rolled up in plastic film “stuck in the ceiling of my cell, buried in the dirt, or hidden in the anal cavity.” He managed to pass it to Elena Bonner, wife of Andrei Sakharov, during a visit in his Mordovia camp. She had the script deciphered, translated, and published in the U.S. in 1975 by Stein and Day.
Kuznetsov hinted at collusion with the camp guards. “They could be bribed,” he told me. “For a hundred rubles they would shoot their mother.” Kuznetsov’s papers are now archived at the University of Bremen, Germany.
I asked him if he was happy now. “I am not so stupid as to be happy,” he said. “Life is a choice — not between good and bad but between bad and horrible. Life now is bad-normal.”
Back in Russia, the Medvedev-Putin government continues the oppression of the population but to a far lesser degree and with indirect means. Human rights activists are allowed to function but more than a hundred journalists have been murdered for their courageous writings in the past 20 years. It is the usual “land of contrasts” story that Russia has been for the past 300 years.
And yet Kuznetsov, with his memories of the Brezhnev years, was philosophical about the development of democracy in Russia today.
“For now,” he said, “Russia is doomed to be half-open. Russia is moving toward a very specific partial democracy, far from classic democracy. But I believe this is okay. Russia is not ready for full democracy. What’s important is to make sure there are limits to the authoritarianism so that it does not take over entirely. Today anyone can emigrate. Real tyranny must have closed doors, and those days are over.”
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?