Andrei D. Sakharow was seized and sent into internal exile on Jan. 22 by Soviet authorities seeking to muzzle their country's most commanding dissident voice. He was stripped of all state honors, barred from residence in Moscow and warned to end all "direct or indirect" contacts with foreigners. iSakharow has refused to be silent.
In the exclusive interview with Washington Post Moscow bureau chief Kevin Klose which follows, Sakharow, for the first time since his ganishment to the closed city of Gorky, responds to written questions from a Western correspondent about the future of the Soviet human rights movement, the shape of Soviet society in the 1980s and the prospects for a troubled world.
Q What is the future of the human rights movement in the Soviet Union in the 1980s?
A In answering this and other questions about the future, I can only speak about my fears and expectations, not make any prognoses. We enter the 1980s under very difficult conditions. Exploiting a period of general aggravation of the international situation, the authorities have made a mighty attempt to eliminate any display of dissidence both in Moscow and in the provences. This attack is aimed against the human rights movement as a whole as well as against independent public samizdat magazines -- an information magazine, The Chronicle of Current Events, the [political] discussion magazine, Searches, against the Helsinki Monitoring Group and the commissions on psychiatric and religious problems.
Religious persecutions have been intensified, the number of permissions for emigration have been cut back sharply, the persecutions against Crimean Tartars have been increased. The action against me is a part of a widespread campaign against dissidents. Its specific cause probably was my statement about events in Afghanistan; I think it was being prepared for a long time.
We all have grounds to fear further repressions. I appeal to the world public, to Amnesty International and other world organizations that defend law and order, to statesmen of all countries not to weaken their efforts in defense of prisoners of conscience in the U.S.S.R. as well as in other countries.
I am sure that activities in defense of human rights in the Soviet Union will continue under the new, even more difficult conditions.In any case, nothing can cancel out what has already been done and what has became known to the world.
Q How do you assess the human rights movement of the 1970s and its influence on the internal affairs of the Soviet Union?
A The moral significance of the human rights movement, which arose in the middle of the 1960s, was enormous, although the movement itself was small in number and decidely apolitical. It changed the moral climate and created spiritual preconditions for democratic changes in the U.S.S.R. and for the formation of an ideology of human rights throughout the world. Dangerous illusions about the essence of our system, which used to be almost universal among Western intelligentsia, have become much less widespread, and, what is more, they almost do not exist today. I myself felt the attraction of the human rights movement in the mid-1960s and it deeply affected my attitudes and public acitvities.
Q What changes will take place in the structure of Soviet society in the 1980s?
A Internatinal security, the preservation of world peace, the welfare and the spiritual freedom of the people of our country demand changes in the structure of our society in the direction of greater pluralism in economic, ideological and cultural areas. They demand a greater openness in society -- the free exchange of information and free choice of residency.
I think it unlikely that such changes will take place in the near future. Our totalitarian society, with its caste and bureaucratic structure, its complete lack of freedom of expression or democratic mechanisms for decision-making, is extraordinarily inert. It can rot and petrify for years without any attempt at change -- thus creating an even greater threat to the whole world.
Q Will the Soviet govenment exercise or try to exercise more control over the internal life of its citizens in the new decade?
A I fear it will.
Q Do you think the 1980s will bring fundamental changes in the Soviet economy?
A Our country faces serious economic difficulties. Among these are shortages of goods, especially food-stuffs, rural and urban manpower shortages, deteriorating workplace discipline, growing alcoholism, pay-scale inequalities, shortages of fuel and many other raw materials, slow growth of labor productivity, and decline of capital investment funds, great losses due to waste and bad planning, and shortcomings in public service systems.
All these problems encourage the continuing militarization of the economy. The basic necessity for economic reform -- including, in part, the establishment of greater economic independence ofr state enterprises, decentralization of planning and the introduction of elements of a mixed economy -- appears incontrovertible. However, any such reforms, inevitably affecting the very bases of the totalitarian economic and social strucutre, are very unlikely at the present time.
In fact, the last few years have seen the heightening of the tendency to compensate for internal defectes with external activism, the parasitic exploitation of world progress and resources under the flag of detente abroad while strengthening the militariztion of the economy and military-industrial complex at home. The dangers of this development to the world are obvious.
Q Do you think the Soviet leadership wll continue to be interested in agreements on the limitation of strategic weapons with the United States and Western Europe and do you think that a SALT III agreement will be signed in the next decade?
A In their imperialist designs for expansion, the leadership of the Soviet Union is playing a complicated and dangerous game, but I do not think they are crazy, at least not at this stage in history.
Everybody, I sincerely hope, wishes to avoid the destruction of the human race through thermonuclear war. This is the basis for the movement toward disarmament, which is complicated and slow because it constantily runs into a wall of mistrust and attempts to achieve one-sided advantage. But still, the forward movement continues. I consider the SALT II agreement a definite achievement; it is carefully worked out from a technical point of view, and contains within it possibilities for future progress and possibilities for the restoration of balance in those areas where balance has been upset.
I hope that after the resolution of today's conflicts which are so detrimental to successful ratification of SALT II by the United States Congress, the agreement will go into effect and that further progress will be made in the limitation of strategic weapons, specifically SALT III, and other weapons. Initialy, strategic balance is one of the preconditions for disarmament and I do not think that either SALT II or SALT III will lead to unwarranted illusions of security and that everything necessary will be done.
In the Soviet press, they often make attempts to describe me as an enemy of detente, disarmament and SALT. In reality, I consider that averting theremonuclear war has absolute priority over all other problems of our time.
Q How can the United States and other countries show their united opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?
A One hundred and four contries already have demonstrated their position at the U.N. General Assembly meeting. This has enormous significance. At closed and open meetings, the countries which condemn the invasion may work out a general program of further economic, ideological and military measures and firmly pursue it. A united position on the Moscow Olympic games obviously must be a basic part of it. The withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, perhaps substituting for them U.N. troops or soldiers from a neutral Islamic country, is a necessary condition for the stabilization of the international situation. The suggestion of the foreigh misister of Great Britain for international guarantees for the neutrality of Afghanistan strikes me as extraordinarily important and realistic.
Q What is your attitude toward international terrorism?
A Among the problems which trouble me is the irrationality of international terrorism. No matter how high the aims predicated by terrorists (and ofter there are no such justification), their activities are always criminal, always destructive, throwing humankind back to a time of lawlessness and chaos, provoking (perhaps with the help of the secret services of foreign governments) internal and international complications, contradicting the goals of peace and progress.
I unreservedly condemn the terror of the "Red Brigades," the Basque and Irish nationalists, the Palestinian, Jewish and Ukrainian extremists, the Moslem Brotherhood, the Armenian "avengers of the genocide of 1915," and all other terrorists. I hope that people all over the world will understand the deadly nature of terrorism whatever its goals and will deprive them of any kind of support, even the most passive, and surround them with a wall of condemnation.
Q What is your view of the problem of the American hostages in Tehran?
A The seizure and detention of the diplomatic hostages is a scandalous violation of international law, an international provocation which would appeal to only the most destructive of forces.
The dishonorable position of the Soviet Union on this question troubles me greatly. I am certain that the detention of the hostages contradicts the interests of the Iranian people. One cannot object to the formation of the international commission to review the activities of the former shah and his subordinates; however, I think it is completely wrong that it began its work before the hostages were released. This places the commission and those international organizations under whose aegis it must work in a false position.
Q Will you continue to speak out from Gorky on matters you consider important?
A I do not recognize as legal any of the restrictions placed on me, particularly on my right to speak out on those questions which I consider to be critically important for our country and the world, or for the fates of individuals whose rights have, in my opinion, been violated. I realize that every such statement may bring upon me and my family illegal repression and Mafia-like reprisals. I rely for the support of my rights on honest people in the Soviet Union and the world over -- on statesmen, on my scientist colleagues, on all who value peace and freedom of speech. I am grateful to all those who are speaking out in my defense.
Q What special thoughts would you like to convey to the readers of The Washington Post and in general to all Americans?
A I think that the critical situation in the world today places special responsibilities not only on America, but on all the countries of the West, the Third World and the socialist bloc. Therefore, I appeal for solidarity not only to Americans. I connect with the West as a whole hope for democracy, for scientific and technological progress, for active movement toward convergence and oposition to the destructive forces of modern times.Sometimes European countries, under the pretext of political independence from the United States, or in pursuit of a particular economic or political interest, do not support the general trend of opposition to totalitarianism. In these cases, they often speak of their wish to preserve the achievements of detente or something of this kind. But in fact this contribution to anti-American prejudice and political intrigue of the moment does great harm to the long-term interest of the given country and the world.
Turning especially to American -- among whom my children and grandchildre now live -- I think first of all of the democratic traditions of the American people, of their steafdfastness and love of life. The latest events in Iran, Afghanistan and other parts of the world have posed a serious challenge above all to America.
The Americans, their goveernment and their president have honorably answered this challenge. Let the rest follow their lead.