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

Tape 4 - Released July 29, 1985  

This short tape - it runs for about 10 minutes - shows Sakharov leaving hospital and being greeted by his wife outside their apartment. From a wall poster in the background, the date is given as July 11, 1985. The Sakharovs are then seen strolling about Gorky, shopping and outside a movie theater. Bonner heard about this tape from a radio broadcast she picked up in Gorky, the first indication she received that she was being secretly filmed for KGB disinformation purposes.   

The tape, it should be noted, appeared the day before a conference attended by many Western foreign secretaries was due to open in Helsinki commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Helsinki Accords on European security. The question of Sakharov was certainly going to be raised at this conference, and the West's news media were pressing the Soviets for an answer.  

Tape 5 - Released December 9, 1985  

The fifth videotape appeared two days after Bonner was at last reunited with her family in Newton, Massachusetts, an event covered by the world's news media. Bonner had agreed not to speak to the press during her stay in the West, though her family could do so. She was in effect blackmail into silence by the KGB; for Sakharov's sake, she could not risk being refused reentry to the Soviet Union.  

 The film is in color, last 25 minutes, and has a tittle: "On the Occasion of Elena Bonner's Departure." It has two main themes. The first theme could pass as straightforward news coverage of Bonner's preparations for her visit abroad. In a number of scenes, viewers see Bonner in a Gorky office obtaining her visa. On the application form her nationality is shown as Armenian. The picture here has many awkward cuts in it. One minute Bonner is without a woolen bonnet, the next she's wearing it; one minute she's alone, the next she's with Sakharov. Sakharov is then pictured shopping, getting out of a taxi, and making a telephone call from a desk about a ticket. Toward the end of the film, he is shown carrying his wife's two heavy bags onto the train at Gorky station. Finally, Bonner is seen with friend outside her apartment in Moscow and at Moscow airport, where she is surrounded by the press.  

 The second theme shows us Bonner visiting a dentist in Gorky, which is made to seem a natural part of her preparation for her trip. The occasion provides an excuse for including a conversation between Sakharov and Obukhov, the chief doctor of Gorky hospital and by now a seasoned KGB film performer. The way the film is edited invites us to imagine this conversation taking place while Bonner is in the dentist's chair. The two men discuss arms control and the American Strategic Defence Initiative.  

 In releasing this tape at this time, the KGB knew that Bonner would already be in the West. It therefore offers a most interesting into KGB thinking on the subject of western media. Among the items of visual falsification which should be noted are the shots of Sakharov carrying his wife's bags onto the train. There are three shots here edited together into a sequence lasting 58 second. The first shot is taken outside the station and lasts 10 seconds. Sakharov enters the picture and walks toward the doors of the station building. The second shot is on the platform and lasts 13 seconds. Sakharov is walking down the platform.  

 The third shot ia taken from the end of the corridor of the train and lasts 35 seconds. Sakharov enters from the far end of the corridor and struggles toward us, stopping at the compartment Bonner will be occupying. A viewer cannot tell from the way these three shots have been edited together that for Sakharov to carry his wife's bags onto the train was a slow and painful business, in which he had to stop many times to catch his breath. Sakharov had asked his KGB guards to help him carry the bags; they refused. Looking closely to the third shot, we can indeed see that his mouth is open and he is breathing hard. But the narrator has not alerted us to this detail. In fact, there is no narration, only snippets of synchronous sound (as when Bonner is seated in her train compartment) and occasional actuality sound (we hear the "March of Slavic Woman" as the train pulls out of the station).  

 But the significance of this fifth tape lies in the conversation staged by the doctor with an unsuspecting Sakharov. After Bonner had left the dentist that day in Gorky, Sakharov remarked to her that he couldn't understand how a busy man like obukhov, in charge of an active hospital, could afford to spend two or three hours drinking tea with him and discussing current political events. Sakharov did not know, of course, that the question asked by the doctor were phrased in such a manner that Sakharov's reply could be used with the questions edited out. What the viewer hears appears to be Sakharov expressing his own opinion about the arms race and SDI; what he was actually doing was describing the official Soviet view of these matters.  

 This videotape, then, marks a change of direction in the KGB disinformation campaign. Its target was clearly Bonner herself, and it was timed to appear at the very moment she arrived in the West. The average viewer in the West will not think so much of the struggle she and Sakharov have had to win her exit visa; they will see instead how amiable were the Soviet visa authorities, how easy it was for her to catch a train to Gorky, be driven by her friends to Moscow airport and escorted by them onto the flight to Italy. Viewers in the West will not hear from Bonner during her stay in America; her lips have been sealed by her agreement with the KGB. Instead, they will hear Sakharov himself speaking in synchronous sound on matters where his views carry weight. The KGB had consistently painted Bonner as a bad influence on her famous husband, the one had subverted an honest scientist from his Soviet duty. With this tape, the KGB moved onto the offensive. Don't believe what you may hear from Sakharov's wife, the KGB were saying, believe Sakharov himself, whom you can see and hear for yourself on our tapes.  

 

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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