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

Tape 6 - Released March 24, 1986  

The sixth tape lasts 18-1/2 minutes and is in color. It opens with scenes of Gorky winter. Children are playing in the snow. People are warmly dressed. Sakharov appears wearing a fur hat, walking with his characteristic stoop. The narrator says: "It's three months since Bonner left for abroad." He's going to tell us how Sakharov is doing in her absence. And so the title comes up: "Sakharov Speaks." The tape, it soon becomes clear, is a further attempt by the KGB to separate their image of Sakharov from the one given by his wife, who is now in the West. Hence their choice of title, which is the same as one of Sakharov's best known books, published in the West in 1974. Their method is to eavesdrop on Sakharov's private conversations, which are of two types. The first type of conversation is made up of shots of Sakharov talking to his wife in Massachusetts from two telephone booths in Gorky, identified by the numbers 3 and 4 on the exterior of the glass. The second type of conversation consists of a lengthy discussion with Obukhov, the chief doctor of the Gorky hospital, once again on the subject of arms control. It seems to be partly a repeat of the scenes shown in the tape of December 9, 1985, and it is edited to imply Sakharov's support for Gorbachev's position.   

The editing of the rest of the tape follows a logic found within the sound track, which consist almost entirely of Sakharov's voice with a minimal amount of KGB narration. Bonner's voice is not heard. Visually, we jump from shots of Sakharov going about his business in Gorky to shots of him in telephone booths, and the shots of him in telephone booths cut back and forth indiscriminately from booth 3 to booth 4 without attempting to make it seem one continuous conversation. It's not possible to establish if the sound in the telephone booths is synchronous, but this hardly matters. Sakharov is obviously speaking to his wife and it's his voice that provides the sound track linking the visuals, a technique common in American television news practice.  

 In this tape, then, Sakharov tells his wife he saw Mrs. Obukhov today (the doctor's wife, who is also a physician) - "I'm excellent," he says to Bonner, "everything's fine" - and we see him entering her hospital building and discussing his cardiogram with her. Sakharov tells his wife he's been with scientific colleagues from Moscow - "We had a nice talk" - and we see one of them with him. Sakharov tells his wife the garage fix his car for free, and we see him at the garage, helping to push the car out of the snow and filling it up at a gas station.  

 One obvious purpose behind the release of this tape was to show that Sakharov was fit and enjoying himself in Gorky while his wife was away. He's fit enough to push his car in the snow, and friends visit him. Did the KGB hope that his wife might not return to him?   

In the last part of the film, we see Sakharov out shopping. We have seen him earlier in the film escorted by a woman, who may have been a nurse, entering a building from a car. On this earlier occasion, he went to meet Mrs. Obukhov. Someone now is driving him about town, perhaps a taxi, perhaps a friend. He buys flowers and puts them on the back seat of the car. He gets out of the car and enters a building carrying the flowers. We cut to one of Sakharov's telephone conversations. He's telling his wife ha cannot go abroad because of his knowledge of defence secrets, that he was engaged in illegal activities and so must accept his punishment. He ends with words of affection. The picture cuts to show us Sakharov with an unknown woman. They are living the building together. She's carrying flowers, holding them so that, although wrapped in paper, the camera can show them to be flowers. The film ends with this unknown woman walking with Sakharov across the street in a circular direction where the camera can follow them. You are invited to draw your own conclusions about Sakharov's relationship with this woman to whom, the film implies, he's presented the flowers.  

 This tape, then, is a useful reminder of the sordid lengths to which the KGB filmmakers go to frame unsuspecting people. Many western news correspondents have been trailed and photographed in such a way that when edited their most innocent actions are made to seem suspicious, if not criminal. It is necessary only to recall the Daniloff affair of late summer 1986 in this context.  

 In this case, we are naturally not to know that Sakharov bought roses to celebrate his wife's birthday, that the building he is seen entering is his own apartment building, and that he celebrated Bonner's birthday alone. Nor can we tell from the way his conversation with her has been edited that he is quoting a statement put out by Gorbachev about himself. It was Gorbachev who said that Sakharov had been engaged in illegal activities and must accept his punishment. Sakharov, needless to say, acknowledged nothing of that kind.  

 

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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