KONTINENT is the organ of what Russians call "the third emigrantion," the wave of depatures which has swept a large portion of the Soviet Union's most gifted citizens out of the USSR in the past half-dozen years. (The first emigration followed in 1917 Revolution; the second came after World War II.) Many of those gifted citizens are now editing and writing for the magazine.
Backed by Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, the Axel Springer publishing group in West Germany, and others, then issues of Kontinent have now appeard in Russian. Doubleday is publishing selections from Kontinent in an English paperback book - this is the second one - scheduled to appear every nine or ten months.
The Doubleday edition is both a pleasure and a disappointment. A pleasure, because the pieces selected are interesting and well-translated; they give American readers a nice glimpse of the way the best of the contemporary Soviet intelligentsia is thinking and writing. A disappointmen, because the American edition includes so little of what appears in the original Kontinent in Russian; the selection is somewhat arbitary.
Nevertheless, issue number two - like the first one - contains much that will surprise an American reader. Indeed, it is a good teaching aide - for the curious as well as the teacher. One of the most interesting items is a transcript - described as "a document from the archives of Alexander Solzhenitsyn" - of a meeting of workers' deputies in Leningrad (then Petrograd) on March 13, 1918. It suggests that even then, six months after the Bolshevik revolution, the communists were becoming remote and dictating to the rest of the workers.
Another noteworthy contribution is an account by Vladimir Voinovich, the highly interesting novelist whose The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin has just been published here. Voinovich, who still lives in the Soviet Union, describes in Kontinent an encounter with the KGB which ended, he believes, in an attempt at apoisoning him. That sounds slightly paranoid, state so bluntly, but Voinovich makes it all too plausible.