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Intellectuals in Communist Countries

November 20, 1968

Report Outline
State Authority vs. Intellectual Power
Half-Century of Intellectuals on Leash
Outlook for Free Expression in Future

State Authority vs. Intellectual Power

Purging of Intellectuals in the Soviet Union

The soviet government continues to press its three-year-old purge of intellectuals in an effort to counter the spread among writers, artists, and other educated persons of rebellion against Communist thought control. The current purge began in 1965–66, with the arrest, conviction, and sentencing to hard labor of two dissident writers, Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky, who had arranged for publication abroad of books of theirs banned by the Soviet censors.

A new crackdown on Communist intellectuals was launched this year, when the Kremlin decided to put an end to the rapidly growing freedom of expression exercised by film makers, journalists, and novelists in Czechoslovakia. The culmination of this operation, Soviet military intervention in Czechoslovakia on Aug. 20–21, sparked a street demonstration in Moscow on Aug. 25 that was staged by six intellectuals—a poet (who was also a student), a poetess, a translator (wife of Yuli Daniel), an art critic, a linguistic scientist, a physicist—and one manual worker, an unemployed factory hand.

The demonstration by the seven in Red Square had gone on for only five minutes when police seized the participants and bloodied the faces of some of them. The authorities released the poetess, Mrs. Natalya Gorbanevskaya, to attend to her three-month-old son; committed the art critic, Viktor Feinberg, to a mental institution; and kept the others in jail until their trial was held early in October. The five defendants were charged with spreading defamatory fabrications about the Soviet state and with taking part in group activities harmful to public order. Although they invoked the guarantees of free speech and assembly to which the Soviet constitution pays lip service, they were convicted and sentenced as follows:

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