This webpage provides an introduction to Soviet dissident and human rights advocate Vladimir Bukovsky. He first ran afoul of the Soviet authorities in 1958 as a 16-year-old, being involved in organizing protests against the post-Stalin regime. He ultimately served a total of 12 years in Soviet “psychiatric” hospitals and prisons. He was released to the West in 1976 as part of a prisoner swap with a Chilean communist, and settled in the UK.
In 1991 as the Soviet Union was falling apart, he returned to Russia and worked with Boris Yeltsin to help disassociate the country from communism. As part of that effort, Yeltsin gave Bukovsky access to highly classified Soviet archives, with the goal of assembling a Nuremberg-like trial to condemn what had taken place during the 74-year murderous reign of the Bolsheviks.
Bukovsky was able to go into the facilities containing the archives with a laptop computer (40 meg hard drive!) and a primitive (by today’s standards) hand-held scanner. However, after 6 months of painstaking effort, and “capturing” thousands of documents, Yeltsin called off the project. The reason? Pressure from the West to not have a trial of the Soviet regime!
Thus, while in the mid-1940s the Nazi regime was held accountable for its 12 years of terrible mayhem, the Soviet regime was given a pass for its 74 years of similar destruction. Clearly, the complicity of Western countries in the Soviet years was not to be revealed to the world. And furthermore, because there was no accountability in the 1990s, the totalitarian nature of contemporary Russia has begun to reappear, and its infamous KGB (now called FSB) essentially back in power.
Note that the release of the scanned files by Bukovsky triggered a modest response in the US by a release of some of the information from the Venona Project in 1995. Here is a description of the Venona project from Wikipedia:
The Venona project was a United States counterintelligence program initiated during World War II by the United States Army’s Signal Intelligence Service (later absorbed by the National Security Agency), which ran from February 1, 1943, until October 1, 1980. It was intended to decrypt messages transmitted by the intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union (e.g. the NKVD, the KGB, and the GRU). Initiated when the Soviet Union was an ally of the US, the program continued during the Cold War, when it was considered an enemy.
During the 37-year duration of the Venona project, the Signal Intelligence Service obtained approximately 3,000 Soviet messages (only a small fraction of which were ever decrypted). The signals intelligence yield included discovery of the Cambridge Five espionage ring in the United Kingdom and Soviet espionage of the Manhattan Project in the U.S. The espionage was undertaken to support the Soviet atomic bomb project. The Venona project remained secret for more than 15 years after it concluded. Some of the decoded Soviet messages were not declassified by the United States and published until 1995.
Wikipedia introduction to Vladimir Bukovsky
(From Wikipedia) Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky (b. 30 December 1942) is a Russian-born British human rights activist and writer. From the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, he was a prominent figure in the Soviet dissident movement, well known at home and abroad. He spent a total of twelve years in the psychiatric prison-hospitals, labor camps, and prisons of the Soviet Union.
Since being expelled from the country in late 1976, he has remained in vocal opposition to the Soviet system and the shortcomings of its successor regimes in Russia. An activist, a writer, and a neurophysiologist, he is celebrated for his part in the campaign to expose and halt the political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union.
A member of the international advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a director of the Gratitude Fund (set up in 1998 to commemorate and support former dissidents), and a member of the International Council of the New York City-based Human Rights Foundation, Bukovsky is a Senior Fellow of the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.
In 2001, Vladimir Bukovsky received the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, awarded annually since 1993 by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
(From Amazon) One of the most widely-known prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union, whom The New York Times called “a hero of almost legendary proportions”, Vladimir Bukovsky was expelled from Moscow University at age 19 for publishing criticism of a state youth program. By the time he was 35, he had spent a total of twelve years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and ersatz psychiatric hospitals for a series of protests and leaked documents. After his expulsion to the West in 1976, he accepted an invitation to continue his interrupted studies at Cambridge University, where he earned a master’s degree in biology. His status as a leading irritant to the Soviet government was ensured by the publication in 1978 of his powerful bestselling prison memoir To Build a Castle, recently re-released in digital format. Bukovsky continued for decades to write and speak about the dangerous abuses of state power. Having survived torture himself, he warned post-9/11 America in a Washington Post essay that torture also traumatizes its perpetrators: “Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers.” Even into his seventies and despite failing health, he has continued to be a burr under the saddle of Russian leaders. In 2014 his testimony helped the British inquiry into the murder by radiation poisoning of his friend, Alexander Litvinenko, conclude that President Putin had likely sanctioned the killing. Bukovsky sees Russian leadership not as a series of changing regimes, but as an unbroken chain of murderous meddling at home and abroad. After the 2018 radiation poisoning of military intelligence defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England, he quipped: “If two cruise missiles were to be launched at the Lubyanka, the level of terrorism worldwide would drop by approximately 80 percent.”
(From Amazon) International bestselling author Vladimir Bukovsky’s 1995 book, Judgment in Moscow, detailed Soviet meddling in Western politics in the 1970’s and 80’s, as documented in Soviet archives to which Bukovsky was given access by post-Communist Russia’s President Yeltsin — unaware that Bukovsky carried a new high-tech scanner. Originally written in Russian, Judgment was seen as a major indictment of political treachery both inside and outside the USSR. The book was funded by a grant from Margaret Thatcher. Fellow dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn paid for its publication in Russia. Bukovsky’s thesis is in the title: Just as the Nuremberg trials declared Nazism and associated actions crimes against humanity, so should the world have put Communism on trial after the fall of the Soviet Union. The goal: Not revenge, but a declaration that the world would consider a resurgence of the USSR’s form of totalitarian government intolerable and criminal, and would not allow it to rise again. Instead, Bukovsky details a pattern of co-operation with Soviet regimes that makes today’s accusations of collusion between American leaders and Moscow not only unsurprising, but expected.A controversial tome in nine other languages, Judgment has never been published in English, after the author refused to rewrite parts of the book which accused prominent Americans of behind-the-scenes collusion with the Soviets. The author quotes a Random House editor’s letter: “I don’t disagree, but I simply can’t publish a book that accuses Americans like Cyrus Vance and Francis Ford Coppola of unpatriotic — or even treacherous — behavior.”The 2019 English edition is a new translation by translator and journalist Alyona Kojevnikov, who has worked for Radio Liberty, the BBC and Prime Minister Thatcher. it includes an introduction by former Economist editor Edward Lucas and afterword by veteran Russia journalist David Satter. Published by Ninth of November press, it will also include hundreds of source footnotes to translated Communist Party documents, newspaper and book archives, plus historical context notes for today’s readers.
2010 Cato Institute Lecture and Article by Bukovsky
Bukovsky lectures in October 2009 at Cato Institute. The promotion for the event reads, “Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, renowned Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky will reflect on the need for Russia to acknowledge the criminal nature of its communist past. The way in which the crimes of communism are remembered contrasts with the way in which Nazism was legally judged and more fundamentally condemned and reviled. The failure to pass an equivalent measure of moral judgment on communism has affected subsequent social and political developments in Russia and assured that dangerous characteristics of the communist system live on. Please join us as one of the world’s foremost advocates of human rights explains the evolution of attitudes toward communism since its collapse.”
Unfortunately the video portion is damaged, although the audio is fine.
2018 Interview by Frank Gaffney, Center for Security Policy
Transcript of a long interview of former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky by Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney. Part of the interview deals with Bukovsky’s ability in the tumult of the early 1990safter the fall of the Soviet Union, when he was able to secretly photocopy thousands of top secret documents dealing with the Cold War. What is tragic is that these documents were met with indifference by the West. This was during the Clinton regime in the US.
2019 Review of Judgment in Moscow, Frontpage Magazine
2019 Interview by National Review’s Jay Nordlinger
Miscellaneous Bukovsky Videos
Vladimir Bukovsky, the former Soviet political dissident, author and activist, talks to Sir David Frost about the forthcoming 2008 Russian elections, President Putin’s popularity and his own imprisonment during the Soviet era.
During Bukovsky’s 2008 visit to Moscow, his first since Putin took control, he addresses the camera in English halfway through: “I have no doubt that he (Litvinenko) was murdered by the order of Kremlin. We all know that last year in July a new law was passed urgently by (State) Duma on instigation of the President allowing him to use his special services as death squads to eliminate the enemies including (those) abroad, not only within the country. And at that time Minister of Defence Sergei Ivanov publicly said that the list of potential targets is already compiled. And I have no doubt that both Politkovskaya and Litvinenko were on that list.”
Vladimir Bukovsky speaks at Oslo Freedom Forum 2009. He discusses how and why the type of political oppression that landed him in jail in the Soviet Union is still alive and well in countries across the world.
Former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky believes the failure to morally condemn the crimes of communism has left KGB operatives in charge of the government. Bukovsky, a Cato Institute Senior Fellow, believes an open condemnation of communism will help the former Soviet Union make progress toward civil society.
October 2011 speech and Q&A at Ilia University in Tbilisi, Georgia, at an International Conference “Twenty Years after the Fall of the Soviet Union. Historical Context and Strategic Perspective.”