(SAKHAROV, THE KGB AND THE MASS MEDIA Cont'd)
6 - Released March 24, 1986
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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