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SAKHAROV, THE KGB AND THE MASS MEDIA

by Jeremy Murray-Brown

I
SAKHAROV, BONNER AND THE REALITY OF GORKY

For several weeks around Christmas 1986 the name Andrei Dimitrievich Sakharov was found in every major news outlet in the Western world.  

 On December 19, 1986, on the order of Soviet leader Gorbachev, Sakharov was released from his internal exile in the closed Soviet city of Gorky; at the same time his wife, Elena Bonner, was pardoned from a similar sentence of exile imposed in August 1984. The couple was now free to return to Moscow where they were duly interviewed by the world's press and television networks. In an extraordinary move, the Soviet authorities placed a television studio at Sakharov's disposal so that he could be interviewed directly for American television networks. In editorials, cover stories, and feature articles, foreign journalists speculated on what lay behind Gorbachev's action. Sakharov declared that he had made no deal with Gorbachev, and he took the opportunity of the great amount of publicity given him to speak up for other less well known dissidents.  

 Sakharov was already famous as the scientist who had given the Soviet Union the hydrogen bomb and had then become the most prominent critic of Soviet abuses of human rights and international morality. To a very great number of ordinary people in the Western world, his name was a symbol of resistance to totalitarian orthodoxy. Though he achieved this position by virtue primarily of his own integrity and courage, he owed some of his standing to the KGB itself, whose efforts to silence Sakharov had the effect of making him better known as a person as well as stimulating an even greater interest in his fate.  

  For a lengthy period before his release from Gorky, Sakharov was the victim of an unprecedented disinformation campaign, directed by the KGB, which centered around the dissemination abroad of a series of videotapes featuring his wife, Elena Bonner, and himself made without their permission or knowledge. These tapes were taken with hidden cameras and involved the cooperation of many people in the Soviet Union, several in senior professional posts. Their release followed a definite pattern over a period of some eighteen months, and scenes from them were broadcast at one time or another by the major television networks in Europe and America, and probably elsewhere as well.  

 What follows is a study of this disinformation campaign, what the KGB did in their tapes, and how the Western news media responded.  

   

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Index of Papers   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 
11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  References 

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