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Czech President offends brave Russians who stood up for Czechoslovakia in 1968

Prague, 14.11.2014 23:16, (ROMEA)
Victor Fainberg. (Photo:  Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes)
Victor Fainberg. (Photo: Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes)

It seems that Czech President Miloš Zeman is striving so hard for the favor of the Chinese communists and the Putin supporters that he has no hesitation about insulting those who stood up for Czechoslovakia during her darkest hour. He may not have intended it that way, but part of what he said in his now world-famous radio program of 2 November has offended the sons of Natalya Gorbanevskaya as well as Russian dissident Victor Fainberg.  

They are primarily bothered by the way Zeman spoke about Russian political prisoners. Fainberg also objects to Zeman's claims that Fainberg suffers from an "obsession" that identifies today's Russia with the Soviet Union.    

Fainberg and the Gorbanevsky brothers have raised their objections in open letters that have been published by a Czech media outlet and are making the rounds online. Both texts are included at the end of this article in full translation.

Mr Fainberg and Ms Gorbanevskaya were two members of a small group of brave Russians who protested in August 1968 on Red Square in Moscow against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops (an event which was of course decided by the Soviet Communist leadership). They paid a heavy price for daring to do so.  

Feelings of sorrow

In their letter, Joseph and Yaroslav Gorbanevsky write that the context in which President Zeman has mentioned their mother, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, has prompted nothing but feelings of sorrow for them. "We are grieved that the name of our late mother is part of such a vulgar controversy. Equally sad feelings are also prompted by the fact that Mr Zeman is assessing the relative significance of those who participated in the demonstration on Red Square in 1968 without ever having known (either personally or by reputation) all of the demonstrators."    

The brothers add:  "Since the president is honoring Natalya Gorbanevskaya in memoriam (when she no longer has anything to say about it), he might also demonstrate that he is not just an instrument of the Czech nation's gratitude, but that he personally feels some sort of immediate relationship to these events. In that case, a call for the release of Russian political prisoners today would logically accompany this honor."  

Zeman makes his diagnosis

Among other things, Zeman has said about Viktor Fainberg that he suffers from a certain obsessiveness. "It almost moves one to tears to see how [Zeman] agrees with the diagnosis of the KGB psychiatrists from the Serbsky Institute, who once said I had 'schizophrenia with paranoid syndrome, manifesting as different political opinions'. That diagnosis was the medical justification for my participation in the demonstration on Red Square on 25 August 1968 against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Army of the Soviet Union and its then-satellites. We must appreciate the audacity of the President of the Czech Republic, as no other politician from any other democratic country has ever dared do something similar. According to Mr Zeman, my pathological obsession is proven by the fact that it explicitly identifies the Russia of Vladimir Putin with the Soviet Union of Leonid Brezhnev. Allegedly I have said the two regimes are equivalent."  

Fainberg denies doing so in his text:  "I do not identify the totalitarian regime of the Brezhnev epoch with the authoritarian, post-Soviet Russia of Putin. I am merely emphasizing the similarity of their fates and legacies:  Cruelty, deceit, and hypocrisy. Passionate aggressivity and a desire to dominate other countries. Without an 'enemy within' and a tendency to expansion it is impossible to erect the pyramid of national unity, embellished by a deified leader."

According to Fainberg, there are differences between the regimes:  "Instead of totalitarian 'socialism', we have a primitive capitalism, transmuted into the mafia-like coexistence of the greedy but tame oligarchs and the ambitious, ubiquitous secret service. Such a regime cannot exist without corruption and skillfully targeted repression. Yes, there are differences. Instead of an extensive gulag, there are the 'petty' murders-for-hire of opponents, and the genocidal mass punishment of 'disobedient' nations."  

Putin's aggression

Fainberg also stands up for the Pussy Riot group, whom Zeman has also attacked in an ugly way. The brave human rights defender also openly calls Putin's actions in Chechnya and Ukraine aggression.

"Thanks to his scandalous remarks, Mr Zeman has become the favorite of the most vocal representatives of the '90 % of Russians' who, according to his data, support Putin's aggression. Russian social networking sites are glittering with such commentary:  'Dear Miloš..., Crush the vermin!... Brave! Brave!... The USA will never forgive him!' Is this the president's moral recompense? I don't know. There's no accounting for taste," the open letter reads.    

The next time we hear Zeman or any other politician shouting something about business being more important than human rights, let's recall how Zeman has approached implementing that idea. Let's remember how complacently he has attacked those who advocated for the human rights of Czechoslovak citizens, even at the cost of their own personal freedom.

OPEN LETTER OF JOSEPH AND YAROSLAV GORBANEVSKY

The context in which President Zeman has mentioned Natalya Gorbanevskaya has prompted nothing but feelings of sorrow. We are grieved that the name of our late mother is part of such a vulgar controversy.

Equally sad feelings are also prompted by the fact that Mr Zeman is assessing the relative significance of those who participated in the demonstration on Red Square in 1968 without ever having known (either personally or by reputation) all of the demonstrators.

Now we shall return to our call concerning the Russian political prisoners so as to remind everyone of the main idea of our letter:  Since the president is honoring Natalya Gorbanevskaya in memoriam (when she no longer has anything to say about it), he might also demonstrate that he is not just an instrument of the Czech nation's gratitude, but also that he personally feels some sort of immediate relationship to these events. In that case, a call for the release of Russian political prisoners today would logically accompany this honor.  

There are dozens of political prisoners in Russia today. If Mr Zeman wanted to do so, he could easily familiarize himself with their names and the details of their court cases by contacting, for example, Amnesty International or the Russian association Memorial.

In light of the foregoing, the President of the Czech Republic would be able to show that by bestowing this honor upon Natalya Gorbanevskaya he also supports the principles of freedom and responsibility. All it would take would be to call on the Russian government to release Russian political prisoners wihtout waiting for any special circumstances.  

P.S.:  When one of Natalya Gorbanevskaya's grandsons, 17-year-old Pierre, heard what Miloš Zeman said, his response was:  'He's an old man, after all. He'll die soon. I feel sorry for him..."

VIKTOR FAINBERG:  LETTER TO FRIENDS

Beware Greeks bearing gifts.
Homer

Beware of Grecian false endearment!
Yevgeny Yevtushenko

After all, he won't say:  "I'm a Greek. Don't accept my gift!"
L. Temin

If Russia is calling on her dead, then it's a disaster.

Alexander Galich

On 2 September 2014, during a meeting with the friends and sons of Natalya Gorbanevskaya beside her grave in the Père-Lachaise cemetery, the President of the Czech Republic told me that what he valued most in people is bravery. In my opinion, he has "explicitly" proven this since then, displaying not only his erudition in the area of political psychiatry, but also his affection for it. In an interview for Czech Radio on 2 November, Mr Miloš Zeman publicly expressed sympathy for me because I allegedly "suffer from a certain obsession."  

It almost moves one to tears to see how he agrees with the diagnosis of the KGB psychiatrists from the Serbsky Institute, who once said I had "schizophrenia with paranoid syndrome, manifesting as different political opinions." That diagnosis was the medical justification for my participation in the demonstration on Red Square on 25 August 1968 against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Army of the Soviet Union and its then-satellites.

We must appreciate the audacity of the President of the Czech Republic, as no other politician from any other democratic country has ever dared do something similar. According to Mr Zeman, my pathological obsession is proven by the fact that it "explicitly identifies the Russia of Vladimir Putin with the Soviet Union of Leonid Brezhnev." Allegedly I have said the two regimes are equivalent. After all, "there are political parties in Russia, there are elections, there is an opposition press."

Ergo, Mr Zeman says, "I cancel this equation because it is an incorrect analysis, dictated, perhaps, by a sense of grievance or something else." The deficiencies of Putin's regime (and nothing under the sun is perfect) merely deserve certain "critical complaints", in his view.

During Andropov and Brezhnev, it was a favorite tactic to brand us dangerously insane - it was all but the main weapon of political power for suppressing the human rights movement. The "dangerous" ones were imprisoned in "civilian" psychiatric treatment facilities and the "especially dangerous" ones were imprisoned in "special" psychiatric prisons. That included Vladimir Bukovsky, General Petr Grigorenko, Valerie Novodvorskaya and Natalya Gorbanevskaya, who was imprisoned for the same reason I was, for saying "Hands off of Czechoslovakia!" She, too, was harmed for suffering from the "obsession" of solidarity.

For this reason, I have felt it my obligation to respond to the statement made by President Zeman when he posthumously awarded Natalya Gorbanevskaya with the Czech Republic's highest honor. She deserved that honor from the state she defended, as a result of which she was imprisoned in a psychiatric facility and subjected to sophisticated torture using neuroleptics, which destroy the brain.    

She carried the flag of Czechoslovakia onto Red Square and shouted the slogan "For your freedom and ours." She remained faithful to that slogan for the rest of her life. Now demonstrators in Moscow are shouting it on the squares as they raise the Ukrainian flag.

However, if we are to follow the logic of the old saying "the friend of your friend is also your friend", there is a risk here that she will now go down in history as a close friend of Sergey Lavrov, Vladimir Yakunin and, through them, Putin himself. Mr Zeman has forced his "friendship" on her, attempting to basically bury her living memory - which, for the opponents of freedom, is still dangerous. As Solzhenitsyn would say, he is "correcting" her biography.

As for the various points raised by Zeman:

1) I do not identify the totalitarian regime of the Brezhnev epoch with the authoritarian, post-Soviet Russia of Putin. I am merely emphasizing the similarity of their fates and legacies:  Cruelty, deceit, and hypocrisy. Passionate aggressivity and a desire to dominate other countries. Without an "enemy within" and a tendency to expansion it is impossible to erect the pyramid of national unity, embellished by a deified leader.

There are differences here. Instead of totalitarian "socialism", we have a primitive capitalism, transmuted into the mafia-like coexistence of the greedy but tame oligarchs and the ambitious, ubiquitous secret service. Such a regime cannot exist without corruption and skillfully targeted repression. Yes, there are differences. Instead of an extensive gulag, there are the "petty" murders-for-hire of opponents, and the genocidal mass punishment of "disobedient" nations.

President Václav Havel called the bloody slaughter in Chechnya a "war which has the nature of genocide". Ultimately the "amateur" terrorist attacks, airplane accidents, and shooting down of civilian aircraft are always ascribed to "terrorists" in the Caucasus, to the Ukrainian Army, or to natural disasters. They all bear the invisible signature of a KGB lieutenant colonel and his division.  

The media and the electoral system are now controlled in a more complicated, flexible way than they were during totalitarianism. Now, in connection with the slow, bloody occupation of Ukraine, the remaining "windows of freedom" are closing one after another.  

2) The unexpected declaration of the President of the Czech Republic that he would be glad to accommodate Yaroslav Gorbanevsky's call for the release of political prisoners in Russia can only be welcomed. However, the recent remark by Mr Zeman that there are "no Russian soldiers in Ukraine", which he made on the basis of information from Sergey Lavrov ("we must believe our friends"), raises serious doubts as to his sincerity.

Mr Zeman also called the women of Pussy Riot a little group of hooligans and pornographers and charged them with desecrating Christian shrines. In reality, these young women were convicted for speaking out against the hypocrisy of our "most Christian" president in their own particular way, through a "happening", and for speaking out against those who serve him in the Russian Orthodox Church which, since Stalin's day, has been exploited to brainwash its followers both abroad and at home.  

Currently the Orthodox Church is actively participating in once again "connecting" the Slavic nations to the famous "Russian world". The code names of these last Russian patriarchs have long since been published by media throughout Europe.

Those young women served out their sentences and all they entailed. Our generation knows what that means. After they were released, they began to fight, as long as their strength would hold out, for the rights of prisoners, whose living conditions in Russia today are often worse than they were during the Soviet Union. In any event, their comparison with the Most Holy Patriarch, who blessed the bombs and rockers during the shameful "Chechen" wars, is far from in his favor.  

3) I share Mr Zeman's attitude toward pornography. Etymologically, and often in practice, it is associated with prostitution. ("Porne" in Greek means "prostitute"). When this permeates politics at the level of government, economically and socially, it becomes immeasurably dangerous for humanity. Especially today, when Putin's boorish irredentism is being countered only by a cowardly, "Munich"-style West.  

4) Thanks to his scandalous remarks, Mr Zeman has become the favorite of the most vocal representatives of the "90 % of Russians" who, according to his data, support Putin's aggression. Russian social networking sites are glittering with such commentary: "Dear Miloš..., Crush the vermin!... Brave! Brave!... The USA will never forgive him!" Is this the president's moral recompense? I don't know. There's no accounting for taste.

In any event, none of his remarks bear any relationship to the fighter and poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya, or to her intellectual and spiritual legacy. 

Viktor Fainberg

Paris

8 November 2014

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Views: 879x

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Tags:  

Lidská práva, Miloš Zeman, Politika, Prezident



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