Professor Ewa Thompson’s belief that unless the Russian Federation breaks up, it will remain a tyranny regardless of appearances (“Russophilia,” October 1994) is absolutely correct. The West’s cool response to this prospect is another example of our hypocrisy, as we profess to want freedom and self-determination for all people and yet hide our eyes from Russian atrocities, both past and present. For example, a recent article I read lamented the hard times that Russians are experiencing in the Baltics. The author never explained why these Russians are there in the first place. Nor was there any mention of the atrocities committed by the Russians against the Baits. It was easier for the author just to accuse the Baits of nasty nationalism.
In the few articles where Russian crimes are mentioned, they are categorized as “Soviet” crimes and then glossed over. Some ask, why stir all this up now? After all, “Uncle Joe” Stalin has been dead for many years, and it’s all ancient history. But 1986 is not ancient history. In that year, some 4,000 Estonians, Lithuanians, and other captive peoples were taken to Chernobyl and forced at gunpoint to clean up the world’s worst nuclear disaster without any protective clothing or gear. False radioactivity readings were given. Those who refused or rebelled were shot. The “survivors” ended up in hospitals in their native lands to die slow deaths. True to form, this crime was ignored by all but a handful of small publications in the West.
The children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the Baits and other Eastern Europeans are long accustomed to this lack of integrity in the Western press. After all, the accounts of refugees, exiles, and dissidents were dismissed as exaggerated or false, even by those in high positions who knew the truth. “Live not by lies.” Solzhenitsyn’s dictum applies to the West as well as Russia.
—Eva M. O’Keefe
Grand Haven, MI