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Soviet Response to Nobel Prize

October 28, 1985

William J. Eaton's story (Oct. 12) on the Soviet response to the awarding of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) seems simplistic after the perspective I gained visiting the Soviet Union in July. I was one of 22 medical students from five countries that met with Soviet medical students in Moscow, Kiev and Tashkent to discuss the medical profession's potential for working toward arms reduction.

Eaton describes Yevgeny I. Chazov, the Soviet co-founder of IPPNW, as "a leading advocate of the Kremlin's views on nuclear war," and intimates that his role and that of the Soviet physicians' peace movement is to add another outlet for propagandistic statements on arms control by the government. What must be realized, however, is that these people are working within their system in order to make a difference.

Activism as we know it here is unheard of in the U.S.S.R., and is very difficult for the vast majority of Soviets to understand. Dissidents may speak their views and bring Western attention to human rights violations, and their courage and the information they bring to light is highly valued in the West. International pressure may then be brought against the Soviet government to push for change. However, none of this information gets to the Soviet people. The dissidents may be jailed or exiled, and the press silent or defaming them as traitors.

By staying within the bounds of acceptability by the government, Chazov and the Soviet physicians movement can remain in the public view with their activities fully supported by the Kremlin. Thus, an organization such as the physicians' group can have a great impact. Through contacts of prominent Soviet physicians it helped our group meet with Soviet medical students, giving us the unique opportunity to exchange ideas in many informal, unmonitored settings.

These kinds of opportunities can do much to increase awareness of cultures, life styles, and political perspectives of our societies, and can help reverse the bigotry spawned by "vilification of the enemy" found in both Soviet and Western press.

Since fears of the Soviets based solely on myths are at the root of many people's support for U.S. arms proliferation, actions of groups like the Soviet branch of IPPNW aid greatly in directly addressing these fears, helping maintain real dialogue and international cooperation.


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