Vladimir Voinovich, an exiled Soviet satirical writer stripped of his citizenship by the Kremlin, declared yesterday that he does not recognize the official decree and considers himself, therefore, a "Russian citizen" in good standing.
Voinovich, who now lives in Munich, addressed a sardonic message to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev in which he described Friday's revocation of his citizenship as the "epistle of knownothing."
"From a juridical point of view," Voinovich asserted in the message made available here, the decree "is unlawful . . . and as to the actual fact, I remain as I was a Russian citizen and will remain so until my death and even thereafter."
Voinovich left Moscow last winter with his wife, Irina, and daughter, Olga, after years of harassment by Soviet authorities. Ostensibly, they were on a one-year visa to travel abroad but it was generally understood -- at least by their friends -- that they would not be coming back.
Nonetheless, publication of the formal decree depriving him of his citizenship evidently came as a shock to Voinovich, who resorted to the only means he has to respond -- ridicule.
"Mr. Brezhnev," he wrote, "you have highly overestimated my activities. I did not undermine the prestige of the Soviet government. Thanks to the efforts of the Soviet leadership and your own efforts, the Soviet government has no prestige. Therefore, to do justice you should deprive yourself of citizenship. . . ."
Voinovich is the third prominent Soviet writer living in the West to be deprived of Soviet citizenship in recent months. The others are Vasily Aksyonov, currently a fellow at the Smithsonian Institution's Wilson Center, and Lev Kopelev, who like Voinovich is presently in West Germany. All have expressed the hope, but not the expectation, that they someday will return to their homeland.
"Being a moderate optimist," Voinovich said in his message to Brezhnev, "I have no doubt that in a short time all of your decrees depriving my motherland of its cultural heritage will be revoked. . . ."
The departure of Voinovich, Aksyonov, Kopelev and a number of other talented Soviet writers has dealt a major cumulative blow to the country's literature. These men are not pamphleteers. They are stylists and storytellers in the best traditions of great Russian prose.
Voinovich has had three books published in the United States to favorable reviews. A fourth work, the second volume of his "Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin," will be published here later this summer. Voinovich's writing is characterized by a dry wit that is less overtly political than that of some other dissident writers. But it apparently angered officials because of its sharply satirical edge.
Ivan Chonkin tells of the travail of an ordinary Russian soldier, a portrait that brings the vaunted Soviet army down to human dimensions.