Six years ago the KGB searched
Konstantin Simis' Moscow apartment and confiscated the manuscript of a book he'd been secretly writing for publication in the West under a pseudonym. A catalogue of corruption in the Soviet Union, the book would not make any Kremlin best-seller list, and Simis was quickly stripped of his academic degree and fired from a prestige- laden job as senior research assistant at the Institute of Soviet Legislation of the Ministry of Justice. His choice: emigration or imprisonment.
Today, Simis and his wife, who was a prominent defense lawyer for Soviet dissidents until her husband's writings were discovered, live in Arlington, where he completed the recently published book the KGB tried to kill.
"My intention was to prepare an encyclopedia of Soviet society and state at all levels, from streetwalkers to Politburo members," says Simis. "The corruption of the ruling machine corrupts the people, too."
During 17 years as a criminal lawyer, Simis saw more of the dark side of the closed Soviet state than most citizens. And although he lived well by Soviet standards, loved his country and enjoyed a place among Moscow's intelligentsia, Simis felt compelled "to do what I could to show the world what kind of system this is."
It is, according to Simis, a system in which:
* The ruling elite, unbeknown to the public, wallows in luxury, from birth (special hospitals) to death (select burial spots). Hard-to-get foodstuffs, Western consumer items and call girls are available for inconspicuous consumption by high ranking Communist Party officials.
* Bribery is required by the common man to buy a telephone or fresh fruit as well as to secure raw materials for farm producton or manufacturing.
* Evidence of corruption is stifled by authorities out of fear their own crookedness might be revealed.
In USSR: The Corrupt Society, Simis writes less as an investigative reporter than as an exile saddened by his country's failings. He stresses that the average citizen who thinks nothing of stealing from his job would never consider lifting anyone's overcoat in a restaurant. The latter would be dishonest while the former is simply a way of life that permeates the fabric of Soviet society, whether the perpetrator is a provincial bureaucrat or a Muscovite poohbah.
"The common foundation," writes Simis, "is power, a power unbridled by the principle of subordination to the law or by a free press or by the voice of public opinion. It is the power of the party apparat that has turned the Soviet Union, in the 63 years of its existence, into a country eaten away to the very core by corruption."
"The Soviet government, Soviet society, cannot rid itself of corruption as long as it remains Soviet," concludes Simis. "It is a simple as that."