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

When many months later she was able to write her own account of these events, Bonner observed that "the only real defense for us and for everyone fighting for human rights is publicity."[4] With her sentence to exile in Gorky, the lifeline to the outside world which she had hitherto maintained trough her contacts with western reporters in Moscow had been cut. She and Sakharov had used this lifeline in all their appeals on behalf of others; now that they no longer had access to it, how could they win the publicity they so desperately needed?  

 Western correspondents quickly realized that something unusual was afoot in Gorky. They were alerted by a statement issued by TASS, the official Soviet news agency, on May 4, 1984, and published in Izvestia, accusing Sakharov and Bonner of anti-Soviet provocations involving the American embassy in Moscow. Bonner, herself, had failed to appear in Moscow on May 2, as her friends expected. One of these friends, Irina Kristi, traveled to Gorky on May 6 and arrived at the apartment when the Sakharovs were working on their balcony and small garden. The KGB, keeping watch from their command post next door, immediately rushed over and pulled Kristi away, but not before Bonner was able to tell her what had happened at Gorky airport on May 2, and that Sakharov had begun his hunger strike. The KGB detained Kristi overnight; but she was allowed to return to Moscow where she passed on what she knew to the western press. She was then kept under arrest herself, before being allowed to emigrate to the United States the following year, when she was used by the KGB to deliver a forged telegram to the West saying all was well in Gorky.  

 Thus the news of Sakharov's hunger strike, of Bonner's arrest and of the criminal charges against her, reached the West at the same time as the KGB were forcibly feeding Sakharov in Gorky. On May 13 the Washington Post ran an editorial "Is Andrei Sakharov Dying?"; the New York Times, on May 16, carried an editorial "If The Sakharovs Die" written by Tom A. Bernstein, a board member of the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights, and Gregory J. Wallance, a board member of the Helsinki Watch Committee.  

 On May 17, prompted by Sakharov's family in Massachusetts, Home Box Office, America's leading cable television company and a subsidiary of the Time-Life Multi-media conglomerate, gave a special screening of their forthcoming television film entitled "Sakharov," a biographical portrait featuring Jason Robards in the title role and Glenda Jackson as Bonner. The screening coincided with a six week tour of European capitals undertaken by Bonner's daughter and son-in -law, Tatiana and Efrem Yankelevich, to draw public attention to the plight of the Sakharovs.  

 Once set in motion in pursuit of a story, a free press gathers momentum like a snowball. Throughout the summer 1984, Sakharov's name was constantly in the news, his fate being coupled with the fate of human rights generally behind the iron curtain, his case a reference point for every correspondent writing about east-west relations or Kremlinologists analyzing the death of Andropov and the first hundred days of Chernenko, the Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles Olympic Games, and incidents in the Cold War. In early June, Vatican Radio joined those pressing the Soviet government for information about Sakharov, as did the Reagan administration. In early July, President Mitterrand of France, in Moscow on a state visit, brought up the same subject. In mid-June, at the request of the Sakharov family in Massachusetts, Home Box Office released their Sakharov movie for showing on cable stations throughout the United States; and it was scheduled for a repeat showing in September.  

 Although Sakharov and Bonner were unaware of this mounting pressure from outside the Soviet Union, his hunger strike had produce exactly the effect they had hoped for. The KGB's own response to the hunger strike had contributed decisively to this effect, and the KGB was now itself in a dilemma. By isolating Bonner in Gorky, they had created a vacuum of information. So long as she had been free to move between Gorky and Moscow, western correspondents could reassure their readers, viewers and listeners that Sakharov was alive. Without this channel of information, the KGB were obliged to answer themselves for the whereabouts and health of the couple. To bring representatives of the western media to Gorky would create an unacceptable precedent, since the point of Gorky was that it was closed to foreigners. Nor could they risk exposing what they had done to Sakharov. Meanwhile the silence from Gorky spoke louder than words. 

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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