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Yevtushenko Hits Soviet Censorship : Russian Poet Flails Officials and Writers Who Distort History

December 18, 1985|Associated Press

MOSCOW — Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, in a speech to fellow writers, criticized censorship and denounced officials and men of letters who keep silent, distort history and indulge in self-promotion.

His speech also included a rare reference to the "merciless extermination" of dissidents, intellectuals and Red Army generals under Josef Stalin.

The comments on Stalin and some other criticism were omitted from excerpts of the speech published today by Literaturnaya Gazeta, the Writer's Union weekly. Yevtushenko gave the speech Dec. 12 to a congress of Soviet writers.

A full text, obtained by the New York Times and made available to Associated Press, was twice as long as the published version.

But Yevtushenko said by telephone that Literaturnaya Gazeta did not change his meaning, and that he believed that the full text will appear later. A book summarizing such events typically is published afterward.

Echoes Gorbachev

Yevtushenko, who acquired a reputation as a cultural rebel in the early 1960s, echoed calls by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev for more openness in public life.

His speech took that challenge further by indirectly attacking censorship. The full version revealed that Yevtushenko criticized food rationing in Soviet towns and the privileges granted the elite.

Yevtushenko spoke out against secrecy and the widespread practice of keeping silent about evident mistakes.

Many of his points were couched in traditional form, invoking Soviet founder V. I. Lenin to make statements about contemporary society.

"Lenin understood that not keeping silence is a self-purifying force and self-adulation is a destructive one," Yevtushenko said.

"We men of letters will not be worth even a penny if we start just to fixate and extol the social transformations taking place independently of us," he said.

The full version also contained a clear reference to censorship of Soviet literature.

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