Mary-Wynne Ashford, 1992

Mary-Wynne Ashford interview, February 16, 1992
Interviewer — Duart Maclean, on behalf of Metta Spencer

D: When do you remember a time when you saw any evidence of increasing or decreasing levels of trust and interest in the other side, east or west, or citizen to citizen diplomacy? Does anything come to mind?

M: The first time that I met Soviets was in Budapest — I went to the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War Congress, and that would be 1985, May or June. At that time there were 12 Soviet physicians and their translators who came to that meeting. They were very, very reserved and if you sat down with them you could never sit with one alone, there were always 3 together. We asked questions like where did they stand on the question of nuclear energy in the Soviet Union and they simply said that nuclear energy is necessary for the Soviet Union and then they would get up and leave. There were no real personal exchanges as far as I was concerned with the Soviets, it was not possible to sit down and have a cup of coffee and have just a friendly chat. Part of that was language, but part of it I think was that they were extremely uncomfortable with being put on the spot and having to answer questions.

The next time I was in the Soviet Union after the first time was in October of 1986 on an exchange trip with 10 Canadian physicians. We met with Soviet physicians with the Soviet committee for the Prevention of Nuclear War in Moscow, Leningrad and Tblisi and we travelled with a physician and a translator in all three cities and at that time we found the Soviets much friendlier. Oh, I’ve missed a time too, we had 5 Soviets come to visit us (Soviet physicians) in Victoria for a morning and we took them all around the hospital and at that time we established more friendly contact with them and actually we had more personal discussions — that was in 1985 — probably just after the Budapest meeting. After that we were in Moscow for this exchange and at that time we found that the physicians would talk the particular issues like the prevention of nuclear war. Still we could only sit with them with their translator or with more than one person present at a time. We could not sort of say, “Would you like to come with me and go shopping “ or “Why don’t we sit down and have dinner” or something like that. They were always in groups. The meetings were careful meetings, they were with large groups at universities and hospitals and we were shown certain specific things and had the definite feeling that we were being shown the best wards of the hospital and when we asked for specific things like to view the pediatrics ward that simply could never be worked out. The neo-natal ward in a Moscow hospital, it clearly was not the place where very sick new-borns, premature new-borns, were because there were only 3 infants in there and for the city of Moscow it should have had a hundred. We would get little glimpses of what else was going on when various people would speak to us privately, like the pediatrics resident who said the problems they were having with cerebral hemorrage with the new-born, and so on.

There was one moment that was very significant when we were in a dacha outside Moscow visiting with two Soviet physicians, man and wife who were both physicians, and sitting around the table the woman turned to Ian Hastie from Toronto and said, “You know, Ian, we simply have to get out of Afghanistan,” and there was, you know, a terrible silence in the room and we couldn’t help looking over our shoulders to see if there were microphones hidden and we kept worrying whether something would happen to her because she had said that at that time. Even though Gorbachev was in office really Glasnost was not prevalent and we had the feeling that the Soviet physicians knew exactly how far they could go in their discussions and that was one step over the line.

Another time in that year we were travelling from Moscow to Leningrad on a midnight train and I was the only woman on the trip and when I got on I did not realise that it was a European-style train and I was going to be sharing a compartment with someone and while I was thinking of which Canadian to share my compartment with the translator came in and threw his suitcase on the other bed and said “Mary, I share your compartment,” and then he sat down and started talking very sadly about how communism was failing and he was a very strong, strong supporter of the Communist party and had been a translator with Khrushchev when Khrushchev met with Nixon. This was a man who had worked his way to the top and had truly believed in all of the things that Lenin had said and he would quite often tell me some of the things that Lenin had said in conversation, but he said that basically this doesn’t work and our people are lazy and we grow enough turnips and cabbage to feed everyone in the Soviet Union but we allow them to rot in the ground and our transportation system is impossible and we can’t promote tourism because our hotels are of such dreadful standard nobody from the West would stay in them and he was really very, very melancholy and very depressed and talked for nearly two hours, much of which I have on tape actually, about the failure of the system and I asked him if he wanted me to turn off the tape and he said “No, its too late,…” (Note: Mary says that she could find the tape if Metta is interested in hearing it). [I wonder whether this could have been Sukhardreev, whom i later interviewed at the UN, where he was an official.]

That was the first time that anyone spoke openly to me who was a communist about having some doubts about the communist system and how it was going to work. Basically what he said was,‘we have to change, we have to take a new road with Gorbachev and I don’t know where it can possibly lead.’

So the next time that I was back was in February of ’87 and that was for Gorbachov’s great peace forum, a forum for the survival of mankind ( Forum for a Nuclear Free World for the Survival of Humanity) and that was a meeting that brought together 1,000 people from around the world in 8 different groups — physicians were one group — and then there were government leaders, businessmen, religeous leaders, writers and entertainers, military, etc. We were brought there at the expense of the Soviet government and we had many, many reservations about accepting that, there 5 Canadian physicians invited to that — myself, Tom Perry Senior, Ed Crispin, Alex Brian, and one more — anyway, we were very concerned about whether we should accept this from the Soviet government or whether we were going to be manipulated and eventually when we learned that Pierre Trudeau had accepted and so had Paul Desmarais of Power Corp. We decided if they could, then we could accept. And it was people like Gregory Peck, Yoko Ono and Michele Legrand, from entertainers, Graham Greene as one of the writers, really they had chosen top people from around the world. When I got there I discovered that I was one of the key-note speakers for the physicians group and they had not told me that…I was just filled with panic, I was supposed to speak about stereotyping the enemy. Anyway, that was an amazing meeting because it was very clear that glasnost had taken hold and that we were now able to get newspapers from the outside or get the International Herald Tribune and read about the Forum that we attending. Moscow News had changed into a very radical newspaper, it’s the English language newspaper that used to be available for tourists, it’s still available, but it was the place were Moscovites we going to find out what kind of radical changes were happening. And it was the place where the general Soviet public could write letters to the editor complaining about how things didn’t function. So that was an extremely interesting meeting and at that time we suddenly found that the Soviet doctors were just bubbling over to tell us everything that they could think of, things that were going on, things that didn’t work, things that had to change. They clearly had enough faith in the changes in the system that they were willing to risk their lives and careers, because if there had been microphones everywhere the things they were saying were committing themselves to the process of change. At that time they would come into our rooms, in fact people were coming and going out of our hotel rooms at 11:30 pm and midnight and at one o’clock, because everybody wanted to talk. It was a very, very exciting and turbulent time, but really filled with enormous optimism. That I found a profound change and I’d written a lot of personal notes about that and I’ve got a copy of Gorbachev’s speech that he made. His speech was absolutely superb, we were in the Kremlin and then after he gave his speech we were in the part where they have their government sessions, and then after that we went into the Kremlin palace and had a big celebration. Andrei Sakharov was there, he had just been released from detention in time to come to that meeting, so it was terribly exciting to hear what he had to say and then to see him applaud Gorbachov part way through his speech. He rose to his feet and clapped his hands over his head so everyone could see him. It was very moving. In the middle of Gorbachov’s speech he said “Is it not time that we declared, that we had an international treaty that declared the illegality of weapons in space or the militarization space,” and the audience clapped and he stopped speaking and he looked up and he laughed and he said “I’d rather anticipated more thunderous applause.” So everyone REALLY clapped then. After that episode I went through a really big change in my personal attitude to what was happening over there because I recognized that I could go on forever being afraid of the communist party and whether we were going to be manipulated and whether we could trust what Gorbachev was saying or I could actually listen to the words and say “My God, if this man is sincere then everything is going to change” and we could certainly foresee from his words that it would mean the end of Soviet intervention in the countries of the former Eastern Block and that although he didn’t say it in words it had to mean the end of the Berlin Wall, there was no way that he could continue with what he had said and leave the Berlin Wall in place, also that they would have to get out of Afghanistan. All of those things were very clear from his words and I either had to say to myself “Well, this is a genuine change or I just have to go on being cynical forever,” and it didn’t make any sense to continue being cynical, it just seemed self-defeating and so from that time on I really thought this is just a fantastic time of change in the world and certainly I got that impression from the Soviet physicians, especially from some of the ones from Georgia.

At that time I was free to wander all over the place in Moscow with the physicians and their wives. There was one Physician’s wife, she’s a psychiatrist, and speaks very little English, so she got me together with her friend who is married with a film director , a major film director and we went to the Soviet cinema club which is a place where the actors and film directors get together and again met the radical people, the people who were making the movies like “Repentance” and so on, and really had a chance to talk frankly about how their world was changing and where we say things going. A major change for them was that now they would be able to produce the things they wanted to produce, and say the things that they wanted to say. In fact, Yevtushenko said that as well, Yevteshenko read his poetry at one of the evening meetings and said that now these things could come out.

D: At what point do you feel that they began to feel safe?

M: It had to be between October and February, because I was there in October and they didn’t feel safe, I was there in February and they did.

D: What was the communication do you think they received that made them feel safe, genuinely safe?

M: I think it was that they opened up the freedom of the press and it became obvious that it was a genuine change between October and February, I don’t remember the historic stuff from that period of when glasnost actually became an official thing, when they said “Yes, the Moscow News can print what it wants.” Also at that time they said they had to know the truth about their own history, i.e., Stalin’s horrendous crimes had to be made public and acknowledged and they had to look at the fact that their history books used in the schools were filled with complete deception and lies. They had to bring that forward. All of that had taken place between October and February. That opening of communication was the turning point that meant they could never go back. Gorbachov said that in his speech, he said “This is a revolution and we can never go back, we cannot turn it back now.” I think that is also why he had to release Andre Sakharov, because it was now longer consistent to keep him in jail if people were allowed to say anything they pleased. It is about the most exciting thing that I think I’ve ever participated in in my entire life.

Before October, April of 86, was Chernobyl…oh, that tells me when the meeting in Germany in Cologne in 86 was, which must have been in late May or early June, so it was about 5 weeks after Chernobyl or shortly after Chernobyl…and the Russians did not want to discuss Chernobyl they felt that was irrelevant to the meeting, but the Americans put pressure on them and said “look, you cannot come to this scientific meeting and not disclose everything possible about this disaster and its medical consequences and the Russians stayed up over night, the Soviets I should call them, and actually drafted a statement which disclosed a tremendous amount about the response we know now that it was grossly incomplete but it was most they had ever said about anything. So that was also a change, the fact that professor Ilian (276) was there and came forward with his statement. (Ilian Nachasov )(278).

In October when we were there on the exchange they didn’t want to take us to see patients in hospital six but we did meet with them at hospital six in order to discuss (hospital six is where the radiation victims went) and they asked us if we would forgive them and not go and see the patients, because by then there had been hundreds of delegations of people to see the patients and the patients were starting to feel like creatures in a zoo. We agreed with that and they did discuss the medical consequences with us and the problems of dealing with that size of disaster and again we realized that professor Ilian gave us a lot of information but not all. He still is not willing to accept the size of that disaster, he is one of the old guard as far as talking about the dimension of disaster.

That takes us up to 87, that is when we had a meeting in May in Moscow at the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War congress and I spent three weeks there after that meeting and travelled to Armenia, Aberbijan and then back to see my friends in Georgia, separated from the trip and spent a couple of days in Georgia visiting, and then flew back to Moscow and then out to Zurich. By that time things were really changing and we were travelling freely all over the place and meeting with people and talking and basically were able to discuss whatever we wanted, now people had their own limits on what they would discuss, it depended on their personal sense of freedom, but by and large things were pretty open. We were getting information in and out, by that time I had a video tape because we had met with the Metropolitain of Moscow and thats a long story that Metta already knows about, about exchanging a Soviet candle and bringing it to a church and lighting it here and having the whole congregation light candles in response and then send a video tape of that back to Moscow, in a gesture of peace between Christian communities. So I took our video tape in May back to the Metropolitain of Moscow and we had an incredible meeting with him and more video tapes and more candles and so on, and at that time, my translator the communist said that of all the things that you have done in the Soviet Union, this may turn out to be the most significant. I thought that was a really interesting comment from someone who declared himself an athiest. Since that time his family have become baptized Christians. I don’t think he has, but his grandson and daughter have. His name is Alexander Agaviev (315), and we can quote him, he’s a very, very comical man and I’ve written reams about him on my computer that I have intended to write into a book some day. Because he was just an extraordinary man, exceptionally articulate in english and witty and he was able to take Shakespearian jokes and Biblical jokes and turn them around, really an amazing facility.

All right, so that takes us up to the end of the Moscow meeting. In Georgia I saw the movie ‘Repentance’ which was the one about Stalin and the horrors of Stalinism. And it doesn’t specifically mention Stalin but everybody knows that that is who it’s about. And it was my Georgian colleague there who insisted that we go see that and got us tickets. It was hard to get in and arrange to have somebody sit beside us who could translate.

The next year was ’88, I worked in France I went back and met the man from Metropolitain one time to invite him to come to Canada. I made a very short trip, about a four day trip to Moscow to invite him to come to Canada to a Canadian church service and he was not permitted to come. I’m not sure why. The church service was in November or ’88 and I’m not sure why he couldn’t come but he did arrange for us to get the head of the Russian Orthodox Church for North America to come anyway. So we still had a church service and it was covered by the CBC and featured right after the Gray Cup in November. In May of’88 we had the international congress in Montreal and the Soviets came to that, by which time we had established some very close friendships and there are a number of those people who I am very, very fond of and we exchange Xmas gifts and so on still. In terms of major changes in attitude, though I couldn’t pinpoint anything specifically, just to say that it was more an openess and more a collegiate exchange by then.

Since then, I have continued to go to all of the congresses and have spent a lot of time with the Soviet physicians and I’m now on the international executive so have spent a lot of time again with the new Soviet executive because they have elected new people… Dr Chasov (356) retired when he became the Soviet minister of Health and that would have been in’88, he turned it over to Dr. Michael Cousen (361) and then this past year Dr. Cousen stepped down and Dr. Kaleznikov (362) was elected and that is the first big election they’ve had of activists over there and their group has changed from being the sort of high level people who had lots of privileges to the hard-working, genuine social activist. Interestingly enough 10% of the members of the Russian People’s Deputies, Congress of People’s Deputies, 10% of them are physicians. I think that is really interesting, because the physicians who have went over there have had an enormous impact, a lot of television coverage, three meetings with Gorbachov by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, some with Bernard Lowen (373) and Eugene Chasov and some with the whole executive when they were in Moscow. Before I was on the executive sad to say (laughter). So although I’ve heard Gorbachov speak and been at a reception ten feet from him I haven’t met him. Although I’ve met with Shevardnazov (377) and Gromyko while he was alive and Vitaly Zerkin (378) and the former ambassador from Russia here, Mr. Makarov (380). I think I have a tape of our meeting with Vitaly Zhurkin at the Canada-America-USSR Friendship Committee or whatever it was called. That would be a tape that would be interesting for Metta from a historic perspective.

D. When did you meet with Gromyko?

M. That was at the Great Peace Forum at the reception where Andre Sakharov was…there were huge tables lined up and my friend from Georgia knew everybody and took me around to be sure that I met with all of these different people. Gromyko was a very interesting man and people were talking about reinstating the Soviet moratorium on nuclear testing which had come about, Gorbachov said that that came about as a result of his discussions with Lown and Chasov, and then the moratorium lasted, I forget, 15 or 18 months or something, and then they were going to resume testing. And there was an American woman who was arguing with Gromyko to say that they had to reinstate that. He was very interesting in his style of listening and smiling and not answering. Just the basically listening.

D. So you didn’t notice any change in Gromyko’s thinking over the years of seeing him on TV, etc.

M. No, he didn’t seem to be affected. I may not be the best judge of that, but that was my impression — that he was not moving with this woman. With Shevardnaze (408) you got the feeling that this was an exceptionally bright and capable man. With with a lot of insight. It was quite a different feeling, talking to him.

D. Did you make any surprising discoveries from talking to the other side?

M. There are many times that we said things that they didn’t know. One was about the incidence of AIDS in the Soviet Union. We asked them how they were dealing with it and they said we have no AIDS cases and we said well, yes, you have… The WHO reports that you have 28, I think, at that time. And they were surprised, because they didn’t have access to their own statistics.

We were working with a Soviet physician that the Americans… I don’t have the reasons that the Americans felt so strongly that he was responsible for the abuse of psychiatry in imprisoning dissident citizens, and I think, and this is just an intuition not a – I have no way of saying this – but I think we had a very definite impact on ending that, because whatever he did that we protested that this was completely inappropriate and unethical and that we had to see an end to it and gradually we watched things change. We listened to Chasov promising to follow up and then we listened to this psychiatrist saying, well, I can assure you that that is stopping, which to me is an admission that it had occurred. Eventually we saw the Soviet psychiatry association being re-admitted into the world psychiatry association, which indicated that it had actually finished.

I think Eugene Chasov has been extremely important as an influence on Gorbachev. Because he was Minister of Health and because he was also the personal physician, cardiologist, to all of the previous heads of state right back to Brezhnev, he had certainly been accused of being a loyal party member and so on and he has always said’well, of course.’ Within the system you deal with people within the system.

Bernard Lown made the initial contacts in 1980 and 1981, so that still would have been Andropov then. Initially, Chasov would not agree to an organization of American and Soviet physicians. It looks to us that he got permission from Andropov to go with it later.

D. So even then there might have been some inklings of change. Can you give me the name of the psychiatrist that was the head of the psychiatric organization.

M. Marat Vartanyan (SIDE 2, 029) Marat continues to come to all of the meetings, which is very interesting to me. He was just at a recent meeting in Stockholm and it seems extraordinary to me because he is a very strong man and the head of a very important psychiatric institute in Moscow and yet he does not have one relationship with a psychiatrist from outside of the country and so one has to ask,‘why then does he keep coming to this particular meeting?’ And I really wonder if he has gone through a personal value change. That is a question that I have.

Our group was not aware of this cloud over Vartanyan in 1986 when we first met him and he took us on a tour of their psychiatric hospital and we had the feeling that basically we were seeing the wards of the hospital of the patients almost ready for discharge. If we were showing someone a psychiatric hospital here, they would see people a lot sicker than we saw. At that time we were not aware that Vartanyan might have been responsible for these abuses. We were seated at a reception and saying,‘you know, Marat, we hear these stories and we are very, very deeply concerned about them, what is your feeling and is there any way that you can help to change that?’ So, he must have experience that as the mildest of the criticisms and he must have experienced that time after time after time, as foreign groups of doctors came into the country.

D. That puts a lot of pressure on a professional.

M. On a professional, it is a tremendous amount of pressure to face, unethical behavior. It is a very, very difficult thing who has gone in with any ethical sense at all and even if you haven’t, it must be extremely difficult to face that.

D. Sooner or later it is going to work its way inside.

M. I think so.

D. Are there any other of these discoveries?

M. In terms of nuclear testing…in May of’90 we went out to Semipalatinsk where they test the nuclear weapons and at that point the general public, the Kazak tribespeople and so on were learning the fact of the medical consequences of nuclear testing and they were extremely angry and they had put so much pressure on Gorbachev that Gorbachev announced that it was not possible to continue Soviet testing in Kazakhstan ever again. He said in a note to Bernard Lown,‘if you could put as much pressure on George Bush as these people have put on me you would have an end to nuclear testing right away.’ I’m not sure when the people of Kazakhstan realized the impact of all of those testings. I know that they had been suspicious for a very long time and I know that they regarded the physicians movement as extremely important because they invited 600 people to the meeting, of those 300 were foreigners and of those 150 were physicians. They worked very closely with us in setting up that meeting. Later at the recent meeting of the UN on comprehensive testing, a year ago in January, again we met with the people from Semipalatinsk, who are now the Nevada-Semipalatinsk Movement to Stop Nuclear Testing. Again the physicians and that group of the public have stayed in close contact.

When I presented the proposal that was written up in Peace Magazine, that we should convert part of the military to an environmental disaster response organization, that was taken up by Dr. Cuzon (080) and he said he directed it straight to the head of the Soviet military, and he said that is going to happen in the Soviet Union. Now I have no idea, that really sounded like a propaganda statement. But nonetheless, he regarded it as a significant thing.

I think that probably stereotyping the enemy was the one thing that caught them again and again, and when I gave my speech about stereotyping at the Great Peace Forum, after I had finished the translators, everybody, was applauding, even the translators came out of their booth to shake my hand. So their feeling of being stereotyped as vicious robots and militaristic people who were going to attack the world — their feeling about that was a very deep felt sense of inferiority and they felt very strongly that that was an image that they did not want to project.

That was one thing that got a lot of response and I think that is why they asked me to speak about stereotyping because that was the issue that wherever I was invited to speak as we did our little tours with the doctors I would address the statement that we cannot continue to create an image of an enemy in the other side, whether it is the Soviets creating the Americans as the enemy or whether it is us looking at them as the evil empire. That was the one thing that they would respond to in what I said.

We talked a lot about human rights and in particular, IPPNW took the stance that … well, one of the unwritten agreements in IPPNW is that you will not criticize another country’s government…that the physicians from that country can criticize their own government but in order to permit us to work together we would only criticize our own government. And so when it came that we knew that Dr. Vladimir Brodsky had been jailed and we were protesting there was a big movement in Canada for us to say that, to condemn the whole thing to the Soviets and to demand that our Soviet colleagues take a stand. What we did instead was to say “No, that is the problem of the Soviet physicians and what we must do is work within IPPNW to say to them,‘this is a terrible thing, what can you guys be doing?’”, rather than going public and having our organization condemning them. It was a very difficult decision in Canada because some of our physicians felt strongly that we had to stand up as CPPNW and make a big public statement. But in the end we said “No, we will do it from the inside.” And I think we were right, I think that certainly with the letters that went back and forth to Chazov we know that a couple of months later Brodsky was released and and came out west. There was a psychiatrist named Koryogin (119) who was the other one who was released after that.

Because there was information contacts and because we were making contacts with people who were colleagues and also had power we were able to effect some change. The American approach was, “How do you expect us to stand up and speak to the public and talk as friends when this is public, that you have jailed our colleagues? It puts us in a terrible position?” I think that that had a big impact on Chazov. Chazov signed, apparently signed the original document that put Sakharov in jail, because he was a member of the Supreme Soviet at the time. At this time, in 1992, Chazov had retired from all of his positions, he was not well, but he is an absolutely ardent peace and disarmament activist, speaking everywhere. And I think again, that this is a man who had had a tremendous effect from working in this movement, from the impact of his colleagues all over the world.

D: What inspired you to take this non-confrontational approach towards human rights abuses in the Soviet Union?

M: That is really complicated. What had really convinced me that IPPNW might really be able to work was this underlying agreement that we would not knock each other’s governments, that we had to listen to our colleagues and recognize each other’s limitations. I suppose one of the things that affected me was hearing a czechoslovakian woman who was not a physician, this was at a women’s peace meeting, where she gave a speech and afterward people were shouting questions from the audience and slightly hostile, saying it sounds to us as if you are defending your government and do you not ever question them? She said, “ Listen, I am here and my way was paid by my government. Do we not have some understandings? If I tell you that I am married, do you not understand what that means? Do you think that means that I live in bliss? No, if you are married you understand what that means. I am telling you that I am here speaking for my government. Do you not understand what that means?” And I thought, yes, you have to work with the people that you can work with and you have to allow them enough room to move, that you don’t destroy them. Because if you do and if they have to take a position against their own government, then they will lose their role and then you’ll then be left dealing only with the dissidents, and you don’t make changes in the government by dealing with the dissidents. You make the changes by dealing with the power.

It’s taking a non-adversarial stance and assuming that the other person has high ethical standards and is operating in a position of good-will. And that you are not making an accusation, that you are both faced with a very difficult problem and that you would like to help in any you can and you know that he is going to do the most moral thing that is possible.

After the Berlin Wall came down we certainly had correspondence with our physicians from East Germany because we asked them to give us some chunks of the Wall to give as awards. So they sent us some communications about what that was like to go to the border guards and to try to get permission to get some chunks and we have photographs and stuff about that…that’s kind of an interesting story. After the Wall came down and you started to see the changes in Eastern Germany, our organization in Eastern Germany changed as well, and the people who had previously represented the east Germans were voted out of office, en masse, and were replace by a younger and more radical group. I think that is quite a significant change. That the people who we are dealing with now are the activists, were before we were dealing with people who had a certain amount of privilege. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, as I say, you have to deal with the people who have the power to make changes. So I don’t think it was a mistake to have dealt with the previous group, but now it is quite wonderful to be dealing with the new energy that you get from genuine activists.

D: (question about military doctrines, reasonable sufficiency, etc.)

M: Reasonable sufficiency was what Gorbachov was talking about by…well in fact that doctrine has been put forward by the Soviets in the early 80’s, privately, and we learned about it in about’86 or’87, and I understand that Gene Sharp’s documents on non-violent citizen protest, and so on , that those documents were being circulated in Red Square in August during the coup when Gorbachov was deposed briefly. I think that is a very significant change, I think that tells us how much peace activists had had an impact on the public in the Soviet Union in the previous year. That that many of the public would have access to those documents and would know how useful they were. So those were big changes.

We had a massive debate in Moscow about Star Wars between the American ambassador to the Soviet Union and Colonel Bowman (?- 207), American military — Metta will know him — and he absolutely demolished the American ambassador, so that stuff was all public. He said Star Wars was just the most ridiculous military concept that there ever had been. Unfortunately, the Americans really looked very foolish and after that nobody was allowed to debate Colonel Bowman in public anymore.

D: Anything significant on support for international cooperation, such as global agencies, U.N. World Court, third world problems, environmental question and so forth?

M: Well, we worked jointly with the Soviet committee on projects in the third world, that is one of the particular programs of IPPNW, which to say that if we can work jointly together that we are building a global community and we have jointly launched a satellite called Satel-Life, which is circling the globe right now and we are just establishing the ground-link so that physicians in countries that have very poor access to telephones and mail are able to make contact with medical researchers at British Medical Journal and New England Medical Journal. The result is that doctors in the former eastern bloc and the Soviet Union are already in touch and they are all ready to get updated information about AIDS and epidemiology and malaria and so on.

The Soviets actually I think did the launch for us and we are half owners of the satellite. I would have to correct all of those details, but they are something along that line.

D: question on changes in people’s thinking.

M: There is a Soviet guy who came over as a medical student, I’ve forgotten his name, and he gave a speech about’we Soviets are peace-loving people and blah, blah…’ and now he has become absolutely, rabidly anti-communist, which is a profound change in the past three years…I don’t know when he went through that change.

Now, my friend Alexander the translator, is a prime example. He wrote to me about last May, it was after we had been in Kazakhstan and he wrote and said he had resigned from the Communist party. I had asked him if he had resigned from the Communist party, but he said,‘No, Mary, I think I’ll be a communist until the day I die.’ And then he wrote and he said,‘finally I have had to admit that I have been duped and brainwashed and manipulated and that this is a dreadful thing and I want nothing further to do with it.’ And so, he finally resigned, and I have a copy of that letter. So that would be very interesting and he doesn’t mind being quoted.


The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books