Alexander Kalinin on Spiritualism and Politics, notes (1993?)
Spiritualism was the fashion in the mid-seventies and the end of the seventies — that people of high social standing were really obsessed with, especially in the party and komsomol. This fashion was somehow connected with Brezhnev. I can mention just one name — Djuna Davitashvili. She is an Assyrian. They pretend to be ancient Assyrians. She knew some parapsychological things and she is quite talented. In the late seventies, after strokes, Brezhnev couldn’t pronounce words. She is an educated woman who uses a variety of techniques in healing. Puts her hands in the air around the person. She has a broad range of abilities, including ability to foretell the future. She published an interview a few months ago, is deliberately vague about her relationship with top leaders. Some of her techniques have been examined by doctors. A whole center was established to study non-traditional ways of healing, mainly to establish whether they do any harm. As regards Djuna, they concluded that she didn’t do any harm. She says she is able to tell fortunes and such like, but that she has never used that ability. The irrigation plan that would divert water from Siberian rivers was cancelled through the efforts of members of this center [this is unclear]. Zalygin (editor of Novy Mir) was especially responsible.
Sasha attended a spiritualism session once and was amazed to see his party bosses there. They were embarrassed but they expressed great interest and crowded in close to the center of action. They made a circle, divided like a pie, with each wedge marking a letter of the Russian alphabet. They they put a saucer on it . You had to put your hands on the table and the saucer begins to move around among the letters. This party was in the year 1979. Brezhnev’s health was an issue, he got Djuna to treat him and the idea spread. The belief in magic is very strong in Russia. They are all crooks. But sometimes they cure really incurable diseases. Why do I say that Gorbachev encouraged this? Because they started broadcasting programs on parapsychological themes on television. The healer was on television and he was supposed to be able to heal the audience in their homes. Krisvilosky or something like that. [I am sure that I didn’t get the name right.] This kind of thing was very pervasive and still is, though maybe a bit less so.
Djuna and Yeltsin are commanders in the Order of Malta. A Russian tsar had originally invited the Maltese Knights to Russia. Sasha tells the the story of a heroic deed of Yury Kariakin, of the Moscow Tribune group, who won a seat in the Union parliament. HE was elected as a people’s deputy of the SU and during one of the congresses of the Union Parliament. (They have a two-level parliament.) Yury Kariakin publicly denounced Genrikh Borovik for his lifelong collaboration with the KGB. Actually Yury Kariakin said that Borovik was a general of the KGB, directly implicated in the Prague Spring invasion. Borovik was furious. He stood up and was given a chance to clear himself. He denied that he was an officer of KGB. He denied that he had ever collaborated with KGB. However, he had always been a man of honor. If Kariakin wouldn’t apologize, he, Borovik, was ready to challenge him to a duel. I don’t remember the end of this story. Borovik is happily alive. [I can’t understand much of the following passage on the tape.]
Certainly both of them had a health problem. Borovik spent two or three months in the year in hospital. He has only two months to work at his job.
Kariakin had problems with his heart.
Kariakin is in his late fifties or early sixties. He is accepted as equal to the other Moscow Tribune members, which is not easy, for they are exclusive people. I know him only as a speaker in huge rallies organized by Democratic Russia in 1990, 1991 and as a speaker he is really brilliant. He is a writer and literary critic.
Borovik the younger is a rising star of the media. He is journalist and anchorman on TV. He graduated from Moscow Institute of International Relations, which is more elite than Trinity College, University of Toronto. He worked a year or so, was inducted into the army and served some time in Afghanistan, was decorated with a medal.…
[Later note: I think this son was killed in a plane crash. He was an up-and-coming journalist.]
Spiritualism was not just a sign of spiritual decay in the society. It was quite a pragmatic approach to use anything that can prolong life. This phenomenon is well described in Soviet literature. I can mention some stories by (or about) Yury Trifinov, who died in 1979. Gorbachev encouraged all this strong current of interest in parapsychology and it is known that he met Djuna several times. He brought her into his social circle, which included the Kazak writer, Aitmatov. Also, Oleinik, a Ukrainian writer who recently published a devastating book about Gorbachev, whom he calls the “prince of darkness.” Lots of people are used to thinking in apocalyptic terms. Oleinik had been a close buddy of his, was active in establishing contacts with political partisan groups. Sasha was present on one occasion, representing the Transnational Radical Party. Oleinik held this meeting for representatives of different organizations. The one Sasha attended was called for a specific purpose — to create an opportunity for Zhirinovsky to give a speech. It was in November of 1990. All the other people were given 3 minutes in which to speak and when it was his turn, Zhirinovsky said that it was an affront to be limited, he would speak for as long as he thought necessary, and he spoke for 20 minutes.
Also in Gorbachev’s circle there was somebody named Mark Zaharov, a stage producer, and Vasily Bearov or Beavro [this spelling can’t be right] who was even more aggressively nationalistic. Bearov is a writer. Several akademicians were members, including Academician Likhachev, a famous specialist in Russian literature from the Kievan period. The center of the ancient Russian state was Kiev. Likhachev had been in a terrible camp for two years. He created a foundation for Russian culture, which Raisa is involved with.
Gorbachev tried to attract a lot of other people, some of whom resisted. Okudzhava resisted, Sasha thinks.
Moscow intellectuals of high standing had their own organization, the Moscow Tribune, which was a discussion club. Kariakin and Afanasyev belonged. This group was in opposition to Gorbachev.
MS: Likhotal told me that Kariakin and Okudzhava, among others, invited Gorbachev in and gave him a warm welcome and ovation.
Sasha: I am not surprised. For a while the Moscow Tribune they turned against Gorbachev and supported Yeltsin, but he didn’t have any need for them. They don’t have a master. They are susceptible to the same kinds of hysteria as ordinary Russian citizens. It is just a discussion group. I have a friend on the city council who does go to those meetings. The discussions are sometimes absolutely shallow, he says. They have irregular meetings. They are subject to corruption, too — in the sense of bribe-taking.
One of them is Leonid Batkin, a prominent historian and specialist in the Italian renaissance, a member of the Democratic Russia movement and one of the people who broke away from the coordinating committee of that movement, which is regarded as a movement of mainstream democrats. He broke away because he is worried about corruption and authoritarianism. Their group has invited Sasha’s group to join them but Sasha says they are generals without rank-and-file, while his group is rank-and-file without generals. His group might go so far as to appoint someone to be a major or a colonel but won’t have generals. However, he admires Batkin personally very much, He is a member of the Moscow Tribune too. Both of these groups, Democratic Russia and Moscow Tribune have some of the same members but they are separate. Moscow Tribune pretends to be a kind of a think tank. It has 400 or 500 members, was founded in probably 1989 or 1990. Their meetings normally attract about 200 members. There have been attempts to turn Democratic Russia into a political party, but that immediately led to splits. There was something called the Democratic Party of Russia, led by a guy named Travkin. Also there is a Kadet Party, they pretend to be the same one as during the Revolution. Actually there are two Kadet Parties, and they both belong to Democratic Russia. Democratic Russia is getting more and more authoritarian and more willing to accept executive authority. Intellectuals don’t go for this much, so relations between Democratic Russia and the Moscow Tribune are deteriorating. In 1989 the idea was introduced that authoritarian regime is a necessary precursor to genuine democracy in Russia. It was introduced by A. Migranyan, who lectured in Toronto. This was in an article published in Novy Mir in July or August of 1989.
Another person in Gorbachev’s circle is the editor in chief of Novy Mir, Zalygin.