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(SAKHAROV, THE KGB AND THE MASS MEDIA Cont'd)

Tape 2 and 3 - released June 28, 1985  

The next two videotapes appeared simultaneously in June 1985. Both address directly the question of Sakharov's health and both are introduced by the same female doctor, who is identified as Natalia Evdokimova. The first film runs for 34 minutes and is nearly all in color, the second runs for 40 minutes and is nearly all in black and white. In the first, Evdokimova claims to have been Sakharov's doctor since 1981; in the second, she says Sakharov has been under medical observation since 1980. Evdokimova comments on Sakharov's health in much the same terms in each of her introductions. In the first, she explains his presence in the hospital as a routine checkup which he undergoes every six weeks; in the second, she makes a lengthy statement about Sakharov's medical history, saying that he suffers from problems of circulation to the brain and the heart, and from early signs of Parkinson's disease - a somewhat alarming analysis which Evdokimova implies requires these routine visits to the hospital. "At present, Sakharov's condition is satisfactory," she says. "He is a punctual and disciplined patient who follows his doctor's advice scrupulously."  

 It is not clear why these two rapes were produced separately and released together, and not combined into one. It's possible that, knowing Sakharov was intending a further hunger strike, the KGB anticipated he might die or suffer a more debilitating stroke as a result of their treatment of him, and so they prepared for any eventuality by having alternative film scenarios ready. There is only one brief scene duplicated in them both, apart, that is, from Evdokimova's two introductions. So we cannot know if they were made to serve different purposes; the order in which we review them here is one only of convenience. The order could just as well be reversed.  

 The first, then, which is nearly all in color, opens with shots of teleprinters typing out news releases of Efrem Yankelevich's complaint to the United States about Sakharov's disappearance. A videographic display identifies an Agence France Press report form Paris of May 31, 1985, and an Associated Press report from New York of June 5, 1985. The russian words, "Where is Sakharov?" are then superimposed as a title following a color photograph of Sakharov. The tape, it's clear, is going to answer this question.  

 After a brief montage of Gorky scenes, the film cuts to Evdokimova seated at her desk. She puts down a pen and addresses the camera; then she leaves her chair and walks toward the camera which zooms into a close-up of her face. She has been speaking about his health and treatment. There's a cut to a brief scene in black and white of Sakharov stripped to the waist being examined by a Professor Troshin, a neuropathologist, this being part of a longer scene extracted from the second tape. The film cuts again to numerous documents, mostly of medical nature.  

 Throughout the film we cut regularly back to Evdokimova, sometimes standing and sometimes sitting behind her desk. She is, in effect, the narrator of the film and she takes the opportunity personally to rebut charges of medical maltreatment made in the West, calling them "twisted reports." These reports that Sakharov was subjected to drugs and hunger, she says, are an insult to our human and professional dignity. Evdokimova's wording at this point is carefully chosen. She does not say that the reports specified that Sakharov was being treated with mind-altering drugs, which was a widespread rumor circulating in the press and in Moscow in the summer of 1984, nor does she refer to a "hunger strike." Instead, she rebuts the charge that the hospital inflicted "hunger" on Sakharov.  

 As the documents are flashed on the screen Evdokimova tells us that Sakharov gets free medication, that the personnel of the hospital are friendly with him, and that as a token of his gratitude both he and his wife sign the hospital visiting book in appreciative terms.  

 This elaborate introductory sequence prepares us for the main body of the film which consist of scenes of Sakharov performing various activities in the hospital. In the first of these, we see Sakharov having his blood pressure measured by Evdokimova and the hidden microphone picks up portions of their conversation. The KGB's transcript of the tape gave this exchange as follows:  

 "'It's a bit low today for some reason, Andrei Dmitrievich,' she says, 'How low?' he asks. 'The top 105.' 'And the lower?' ask Sakharov. 'The lower is quite good. It is 70 or 80,' she replies."  

Next Sakharov's heart is discussed, an electronic image of it being projected onto the screen and Sakharov himself shown on an exercise bicycle. At this point we become aware that the KGB filmmakers have taken great pains to provide us with visual corroboration of the dates on which these activities supposedly took place. A calendar is suspended on a cabinet beside his exercise bike in such a way that it faces the camera at the same time as the camera shows us Sakharov. A cut gives us the date on this calendar in close-up. That is to say, some kind of marker has circled June 5, and the calendar appears to be of 1985.  

 The film now deals at length with Sakharov's eating habits. Evdokimova talks about his diet, holding up what she says are his menus, and the camera cuts to a series of shots of Sakharov eating, propped up on his bed, with a white sheet around his neck and a blue pillow behind him. Above his head, another calendar is prominently displayed, with dates in June marked as before. Every so often, the camera will zoom in to bring these dates more obviously into view. The noise of the camera lens as it zooms in can be heard on the sound track, but evidently this did not arouse Sakharov's suspicions. Evdokimova tells us about his breakfasts, lunches and suppers. We have shots of the hospital kitchen to emphasize what she's saying. In all, we seem to see him eating well on at least three days in June - June 5, 6, and 7. In one shot we see him making his bed; as he passes between us and the wall calendar, it appears that he has moved the marker on the calendar, advancing it from June 8 to June 9. In other shots, we see Sakharov watching television in a lounge, reading papers and being handed mail, which includes foreign scientific journals and news magazines. These are all carefully photographed in close-up and graphic montage to reveal clearly their subject matter, tittles and dates. The covers of Time and Newsweek are of their June 3 and May 27, 1985 issues respectively.  

 In the final scene of the film, Sakharov is once again sitting up on his bed and this time he is being shaved by a girl. The calendar above his head is marked at June 13. The hidden microphone records part of his conversation which the KGB script translates thus: "'You aren't a squeamish client ,' she says. 'Let me rub in some cream.' She offers him aftershave, but he refuses, saying he isn't use to it." The last words are those of the commentator: "Well, now we have answered the questions, 'Where is Academician Sakharov, and how is he?'"  

 In the second medical tape, which is longer and mostly in black and white, there is a different visual emphasis. In the first, Bonner is not featured at all. In the second, she appears to be with Sakharov as he receives his checkup. In many scenes, the camera focuses on her while we hear Sakharov's voice off camera and the voices of medical personnel. There's no suggestion in this second tape that Sakharov has had to be hospitalized for any reason. On the contrary, we see him in his street clothes stripping to the waist for an examination by Evdokimova and the neuropathologist, Professor Troshin. The way the tape is edited here strongly suggests that two hidden cameras were in operation, unless the scenes were recorded on different days, which does not fir with the known occasions of Bonner's appearance at the hospital with Sakharov. Bonner can be heard discussing Sakharov's eating habits and other personal health matters. The doctor asks Sakharov about his appetite. Sakharov replies: "One could eat less, but Elena Georgievna cooks very well." A date is mentioned - April 10; apparently it was important to the KGB that the date should be placed on record. If this is April 10, 1985, then we have to remind ourselves that six days later Sakharov began another hunger strike, and on April 21, 1985 he was back in the hospital being force fed. Toward the end of the film, a young nurse in a white coat enters and sits on the couch. Sakharov reappears, dressed, and the nurse takes a blood sample from his finger. With this, the film somewhat abruptly ends.  

 

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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