Tatiana Pavlova (history of Russian Quakers), 1995

Interview with Tatiana Pavlova in Toronto, September 1995

Interviewer — Metta Spencer

TATIANA PAVLOVA: My first thesis was about the second English republic. It was 1969. My second thesis was on folk utopias in England in the seventeenth century, like an egalitarian utopia, a communist utopia, and a cooperative utopia. It was at the Academy of Sciences, Institute of General History. I also published about John Bellers.

When I was doing my first thesis, I came across the Quaker movement. It struck me what a strong belief and what a strong commitment to social work the early Quakers had. When there was a question of what I should do after publishing my first thesis, I offered to my officials John Bellers 1654-1725, Quaker social reformer. Fortunately, Karl Marx approved of him in his writings, so I could show it to my advisers and say, “Karl Marx approved. We don’t know anything about his teachings. Let me study him.” And my next book was about Bellers and his social projects.

But he was a Quaker, so I had to write about his background, so there was a chapter about Quakers. After it was published in 1979, British Quakers learned somehow about this book, that some person in this closed society is studying the Quaker movement professionally, and they came – Peter Jarman and William Barton – came to Moscow to our institute and found me.

Since then, I know Quakers and I was invited by them several times to England. The first time, I was not allowed to go by our officials to go because it was quite abnormal that a scientist would be invited by a religious organization without anyone who could watch him, so they said no. Then in 1988 I went the first time, and then in 1989 the second time.

And then in 1990 I was invited by the American Quakers to stay for the winter term at Pendle Hill. While I was there, Friends offered me to join the society. I wrote a proper letter of application and I was accepted in 1990. I was the first Russian Quaker. Now we have many more. We have four members of the Society of Friends in Russia and one person applied for international membership, but each Sunday we have about 20-25 Russians. We have a very good core group of Russians. We are registered now as the Society of Friends. We can invite people and do things.

METTA SPENCER: Tell me what happened in Chechnya.

PAVLOVA: First when the war started, members of the human rights committee, with Sergei Kovalyev, showed us by television what a terrible thing was started. And then the movement of Soldiers Mothers started. It existed before, but when the war started, mothers were just going to Chechnya without any organization to save their children. And then, after that, they were organized by the Soldiers Mothers.

Then Soldiers Mothers, Japanese Buddhist monks, Russian Baptists, and some of our Quakers both English and Russian, took part in a peace march to Chechnya, which happened in two stages. First in April they flew to Vladikavkaz because Grozny airport was closed and walked from there to Grozny, but on the way there, on the border of Chechnya they were stopped by soldiers, put onto buses and sent back. So the first time they were not able to go to Grozny, but the second time they organized the movement again and made some negotiations with officials, then they flew back to Vladikavkaz and they achieved it. Some Chechen women joined them. Men were there too — Buddhist monks, Russian Orthodox. Among the Soldiers Mothers were also some Soldiers Fathers too.

SPENCER: Was there much opposition from soldiers in keeping marchers out?

PAVLOVA: I think they had orders from military commanders to keep the peace marchers out. They were not very rude, but they were not nice.

SPENCER: Was there much coverage in the press about the march?

PAVLOVA: Not much. Just a few seconds on TV at a time, ten seconds at a time, and tiny articles in some newspapers. I have a feeling that since the war started, the government in general turned to the right and the press was much more under control than before.

Journalists do not feel free to publish what they want. … The anti-Chechen attitude is very complicated. It is not just the Russians are nationalist and anti-Caucasian. Chechens traditionally were always warriors. They were always invading people who were established on the lands. That’s why the Russian government had trouble with them. And then when Dudayev came to power, all the trains which came from Moscow to Armenia or Georgia and back, on the territory of Chechnya there were Chechen gangsters who robbed the trains. So there was a lot of crime. And some of the Chechen groups are controlling part of Moscow. The Chechen mafia are very powerful, with a lot of money. Very rich. Many people are robbed. So there is a feeling of compassion, and compassion to those young boys of 18 or 19 who were ordered to go to Chechnya. Probably they didn’t want to go. Some of them were crying on the streets of Grozny, not knowing what to do. Chechen snipers were shooting them one after another. When we heard about it, they felt compassion, not only to the Chechen people who were bombed, but also to Russian boys who were ordered to do this cruel thing.

SPENCER: What do you think is going to happen there?

PAVLOVA: I would like us to withdraw our military from Chechnya. This is not a solution to put soldiers there. Everybody suffers from that. But also I think we need to protect the Russian population of Chechnya because they were suffering under the Dudayev regime. There was very strong opposition to Dudayev among the Chechen people themselves, because he didn’t pay salaries. Medical help was not working.

Chechen warriors should give up their weapons. the whole country is full of weapons. So there should be some compromise on their part, they shouldn’t be such a country of warriors and crime. But what will be the salvation? I hope that negotiation will succeed. They were negotiating when I left, and they signed an agreement that Russian troops would withdraw and there would be an exchange of war prisoners, but when the agreement was signed, the next day Dudayev said that he doesn’t approve of it. He sent his representatives but he did not approve. In the daytime when the negotiations were taking place it was all right, but at night there was a lot of shooting. I have the impression that Chechens shoot to our posts first and our posts are forbidden to shoot back during the negotiations, but somebody did. So every night there was shooting.

SPENCER: Before, wasn’t it true that the Russians were supporting an opposition movement?


SPENCER: That opposition ended, didn’t it?

PAVLOVA: Yes, because it was such a mistake that the Russians started bombing that after this brutal invasion, even people who were in opposition to them, felt so offended by it that they became warriors to push out Russian troops from their country.

SPENCER: They didn’t reach and agreement about whether Chechnya would become independent.

PAVLOVA: No. There was an agreement that the railway and some other essential things will be under the control of Russia. (Remember I said the railways were constantly robbed.) So it will not be complete independence but something like Tatarstan.

SPENCER: Tatarstan is quite close to being independent.

PAVLOVA: Yes. but the disagreement is not so sharp as in Chechnya.

SPENCER: Would the Russians accept that much autonomy?

PAVLOVA: I don’t know. I would like them to accept it. I think the main problem is over the oil pipes that go through Chechnya. They have a refinery and oil pipes in Chechnya and Dudayev had access to this oil. At first they were selling this oil abroad and they shared the profit with the Russian government, and it was okay but when Dudayev stopped sharing the profit with them, then the Russian government thought they had to do something. Because oil goes from Caspian Sea from Russian territory, it goes to Chechnya, and Chechnya wants to have all the oil. IF there is an agreement about the oil, I think it will be okay.

SPENCER: Isn’t that the preciptating factor in making them decide to attack?

PAVLOVA: I think so. Some of our analytic journalists think that the oil problem is the main problem. Very interesting point is, why if Dudayev is a criminal, as our government says, why he was not taken by the KGB. We have such a wonderful system, our KGB – everyone can be taken, like Trotsky was found, but why Dudayev cannot be found and brought to the courts, and judged. But Dudayev is unachievable somewhere. Nobody know and nobody cares, but I think there is something secret about that. Every person who can read comes to this: Why, if Dudayev is doing something wrong, why not take him and investigate him? They don’t do it. They do cruel dreadful things to people who are innocent but they don’t touch Dudayev.

SPENCER: What is your image of the future? Do you expect more events such as the Chechnya situation?

PAVLOVA: Russians are now very disorganized. The situation is chaotic. There is also a danger of terrorism. Dudayev has warned that there will be terrorism throughout Russia. So I am afraid that something like that still could happen. Russia is a huge country with many problems.

SPENCER: Could there be more regions that could demand autonomy or is it the end of that?

PAVLOVA: I don’t see any territories right now, but who knows? I think it will take a long time to make positive changes in Russia. Now I have no idea whom to vote for in December, or next year for president . I don’t trust our politicians. Probably Yavlinsky cares about the people, but I just hate Gaidar because he is responsible. Everybody lost their savings in the bank because of him. And a journalist asked him, “But you made people into poverty! What do you think about people who should survive?” He said, “I don’t care about people. I care about the new economic laws. And they are working now. Our shops are full of food.” But people cannot afford to buy the food and they lost all their money. So I don’t trust the reformers like Gaidar. And Chernomyrdin, he does not control the situation at all. Zhirinovsky, some people still like him.

So, I think we need a group of politicians who would be perfectly honest. Because every politician who comes to power in our country takes something for himself. Nobody is honest. Nobody cares about ordinary people, who had such a hard life and who are now in poverty. People could trust Lenin. I don’t like him, but what was good about him was, when the whole country had no sugar and no bread, he lived the same way with them himself, having only tiny pieces of sugar.

Our government lives in enormous luxury and this is why people don’t trust them.

SPENCER: You don’t see anybody as a possibility?

PAVLOVA: I am in sympathy mostly with Yavlinsky, but I will have to see.

SPENCER: Yabloko? They have abou;15 percent support don’t they?


SPENCER: Who are some of the others? Is Lukin part of it?

PAVLOVA: Lukin, Boldyrev from St. Petersburg, and Yavlinsky. They are really the leaders. There are some other people whom I trust more or less.

SPENCER: Viktor Sheinis?

PAVLOVA: Sheinis, yes.

SPENCER: How can we help?

PAVLOVA: There are different ways. First, keep in contact with us because for us it is very important when people from abroad understand our situation. I see that you understand. Many people don’t understand and they just fall in love with Mr. Gorbachev. It is very important for our people to go abroad.

Personal support means a lot. Just keep in touch. I know that friends contribute for our elderly people, we have social work with them and alcoholics. Some people make financial contributions to that. Some people who cannot work, elderly people.

SPENCER: We are having a meeting tomorrow, for a group that wants to support human rights throughout Russia.

PAVLOVA: Of course, I will help. I don’t have much contact with human rights groups. WE have a very good human rights group, Memorial. Though, what are human rights? It is such a complicated question. I can give just one example. We — myself and my son — in 1992, three men with guns robbed us in our apartment and kept us like that. They took everything they wanted. The police did their best to find them and they succeeded. But two of them during the investigation process were let out. The third person is sitting in prison, waiting for a court date but they don’t judge him. They delay every month. It happens with many many people in our country. I am pretty sure that the people who were making investigations, and the judge and the people of the court, all these people are corrupt, or they were bribed by criminals who came with guns and who are free now. And when people ask about human rights of criminals, I want to ask, and who will care about my human rights? I was robbed, and my property was not restored to me. We have no insurance, so everything valuable was lost. And the court appears to be on the side of the criminals. I cannot afford to hire a lawyer. I am just a victim. We have much work to do with this.

SPENCER: Just law enforcement. Stopping corruption, it sounds to me as if that is about the worst problems there. I have the feeling that people have been brought up to believe that making a profit was immoral, and now suddenly it is moral, then anything goes.

PAVLOVA: Yes. Exactly. And especially state officials. They were communists, and now after communism, they feel free. They were raised as atheists, no light within. They feel free. Even well-paid judges.

SPENCER: It is the saddest outcome. We were so optimistic ten years ago!

PAVLOVA: We too! We were fascinated.

(She reports that nonviolence workshops have become popular in Russia. Some of them are led by trainers from the United States and Britain. Some of them are organized by Russian psychologists who have been trained elsewhere. There is also a peace centre in Moscow now, staffed by Patricia Cockrell and Chris Hunter, who previously worked with the Quaker Peace Service. )

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