In the course of discharging my duties as one of seven Chief Inspectors employed by the "Ukrainian"
educational authorities to supervise the network of some 500 regional and local inspectors in Ukraine, I was intimately associated with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev. I knew most of its 100-odd full-time members and its 125 associates. I must say that I never heard of Trofim Kichko, author of the notorious anti-Semitic book, Judaism Without Embellishment, whose publication in the Soviet Union stirred up a wave of indignant protests in the free Western world.
This does not mean that Kichko is a phony. But he certainly is what we call in Soviet-Russian slang a "sotrudnik." The dictionary will tell you "sotrudnik" means an associate, or a part-time employee. But the slang meaning is much simpler. A sotrudnik is a stooge. He may be a stooge of the secret police or of the "central organs," or both. In the educational-literary-scientific world, such stooges usually are frustrated,
mean and vicious men who have failed to prove their mettle as gifted educators, writers or scientists. Consequently, in order to fashion a career they resort to denouncing others and doing whatever the "central organs" want done — no matter how abhorrent. In many cases, the "sotrudniks" are set up as "fall guys" by the authorities; then "take the rap" if anything goes wrong. But in nine cases out of ten, they reap material benefits by scheming, intriguing, plotting and betraying their closest friends.
Although I have not had the honor of being acquainted with Kichko — and am sure I have not missed much — I have known another prominent "sotrudnik," Aaron Vergelis, editor of the Kremlin-sponsored Yiddish-language journal Sovietish Heimland.
I have no words to describe Vergelis, except to state that had he lived in Nazi Germany, he would have sold out the Jews to Hitler and Eichmann, and been an ardent member of the Gestapo's Jewish Affairs Section.
This is exactly what he did do in the Soviet Union. As an agent of the Soviet secret police in the heyday of Stalin's anti-Jewish terror, Vergelis was instrumental in arranging the executions and deportations of hundreds of prominent Jewish writers, poets, artists and intellectuals. But he knew how to ingratiate himself with Khrushchev after Stalin's death, and was handpicked for the stooge job of publishing a monthly journal in the Yiddish language, expressly to try to prove that no anti-Semitism exists in Khrushchev's Soviet Union.
Now if a renegade like Vergelis is ordered by his masters to publish a vicious attack on the Catholic Church, along the lines of Kichko's "literary masterpiece" against Judaism, he will do so happily and gleefully. But we Jews won't like it if the world views such an attack as an expression of "Judaism's traditional opposition to Christianity." Vergelis is a puppet who would accuse his own mother of being a bordello madam, if so ordered by the Kremlin.
His writings, ravings and outpourings do not represent Soviet Jewry, not even the ideas of the few Jewish Communists still left in the Soviet Communist Party. He is simply the mouthpiece of the Kremlin. And the same goes for Kichko. I am certain he is a Jew-hater, yet he hates his own people even more. His anti-Semitism is more than matched by his hatred for the Ukrainian nationalist movement; his writings do not represent the Ukrainian people, their thinking or mentality, but are a direct expression of the Kremlin's political tactics.
Many people have asked me, what is the so-called Ukrainian Academy of Sciences? Could it really publish such a book as Kichko's on its own initiative, without orders from, or at least the approval, of the "central organs" in Moscow? I have been asked also whether it could possibly be true that Khrushchev learned of the book only after its publication and the subsequent outcry in the West. To answer these questions, I must first describe the Academy of Sciences.
In the ten years which followed Stalin's death in 1953, there had been three sweeping educational reforms in the Soviet Union, and a dozen minor ones. The Ministry of Education and Culture in Moscow has changed its name and shape repeatedly. In the beginning all educational and cultural activities were centralized under the Kremlin's top-ranking woman, Ekaterina Furtseva, who was rumored to be Nikita Khrushchev's mistress at that time. Then the central Ministry of Education and Culture was disbanded. In its place appeared the Ministry of Culture and the State Committee for Higher Education. Next, three separate Ministries were created — to deal with general education, higher education and cultural matters. As matters stood when I left the Soviet Union in 1963, the Ministry of Culture in Kiev, i.e., the Ukrainian branch of the Ministry of Culture in Moscow, was responsible for a dozen key departments: elementary and secondary education (8-year schools), vocational schools, high schools (11-year schools), correspondence and evening schools, cultural
contacts with foreign countries, publication of textbooks and instruction books, operation of teachers'
seminaries and colleges, entertainment (folklore, shows, ballet, theater, movies, etc.), literary journals and publications, music, art and drama, and the principal universities of Kiev, Kharkiv, Odessa and Lviv, with their branches at Poltava, Uzhorod, Simferopil and Dniepropetrovsk.
A diploma from one of the Big Four universities in Ukraine is equivalent to a lifetime ticket aboard the Soviet gravy train, unless one talks too much or has stupid relatives who get in trouble with the secret police. Since the rush to get into the Big Four universities is terrific, the Soviet authorities have instituted a "numerus clausus." Few, if any, Jews are accepted at all, and the number of Russian students is usually kept much higher than the average percentage of Russian residents in Ukraine. Three out of the four university rectors and 86 out of its 112 top ranking professors are Russians. Among the assistant professors, lecturers and instructors with academic rank, the proportion is about three Russians to two Ukrainians.
The latter, however, are so Russified that about the only thing which remains Ukrainian is their names. They speak Russian only, sing paeans of praise for the "great Russian culture" (it is great but not unique), and blacklist students speaking Ukrainian on the campus.
I speak fluent Ukrainian, an accomplishment I acquired while locked up at the institution for juvenile
delinquents in Kharkiv. But I can't write Ukrainian, even though I am a graduate of Kharkiv University and defended my doctorate dissertation there. What's even more funny (or tragic, depending on how you view it) is that I served as senior official of the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Culture without knowing the language well enough to write a simple letter. But speak it I could, albeit with a Russian accent. Most of the other Chief Inspectors could not even speak it. Only two of us were Ukrainians, the other five were Russians. Of the five, three were "pure" Russians, one a Jew who posed as a Russian (myself), and one a Russified gypsy, my good friend Vassili Lugovoy.
This is why I apply quotation marks when speaking of the "Ukrainian" Ministry of Education and Culture, the "Ukrainian" Academy of Sciences, and the "Ukrainian" Republic.
The Russians keep up the semblance of Ukrainian autonomy within the USSR, and must pretend great
friendship and harmony within the Soviet prison of nations. For political reasons they need the "Ukrainian" representative's extra vote in the United Nations and "independent" cultural and social contacts between the Ukrainian Republic and foreign (mostly Afro-Asian) countries. Believe me, a hick sheriff of a hillbilly town in Kentucky has a greater impact on American foreign policy than the "Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs" does upon the external policy of the Soviet Union.
But in Ukraine proper, the Soviets proceed with their campaign of planned Russification with great cunning and deceit. I had some experience in this field, and I can only say that this devious policy is quite successful, from Moscow's point of view.
The Ukrainian Academy of Sciences plays a key role in the Russification, professional education, economic exploitation and political propaganda drives. Under the new educational-system setup, the Academy of Sciences is an octopus-like body, responsible for 34 scientific institutes which provide university-level training for promising young men and women, 12 research laboratories, 5 permanent exploration units, two publishing houses and an Intelligence branch of its own.
Under the old system, all such activities were concentrated in the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. I don't know about other phony "republics," but under the new order the "Ukrainian" Academy is authorized to maintain direct channels of communication with Moscow, by-passing the USSR Academy on most levels.
This fact is of the greatest significance when analyzing the general problem of Soviet-sponsored anti-Semitism in Ukraine, and Kichko's ugly book in particular.
Let me add here that the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences is an extremely efficient body despite its top-heavy superstructure. It dabbles in everything, and comes up with positive results in many fields. Among its achievements I can recollect offhand is the underwater exploration and mapping of the entire Black Sea — its currents, shoals, reefs and, most important, sea bottom. The sounds and noises made by the surf, river streams pouring out of their estuaries, underwater currents, schools of fish, and whirlpools caused by storms — all were tape recorded, coded and programmed for the giant electronic-brain computer built especially for this purpose by scientists of the Academy's computer department. The ostensible purpose of this research was to provide adequate advance knowledge of the navigation hazards which can be expected in the Black Sea under all
conditions of weather, climate and time of year.
The Black Sea is relatively small, landlocked and overflowing with the waters pouring into it from such great European rivers as the Danube, Dnieper, Don, Dniester and Bug. The accumulated silt and sand create moving shoals off the eastern and northwestern coasts. These shoals shift southward until they are swept away by the powerful currents racing down the Bosphorus and Turkish Straits into the Mediterranean. Thus, intimate knowledge of the Black Sea, its currents, both surface and underwater, and the shifting sea bottom features, is of great importance to navigation, harbor-construction, recovery of wrecks, and the like. But there was one more purpose behind the great underwater exploration performed by the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.
Moscow fears that American Polaris submarines will enter the Black Sea via the Turkish Straits, hide on the sea bottom and launch their missiles with lethal accuracy in the event of a global nuclear war.
To prevent this, sensitive listening devices developed by the Soviet Navy's electronic research laboratories will be (or have already been) anchored off the sea bottom in a semicircle facing the Bosphorus, about 30 to 50 miles off the Turkish shore. These listening devices, which are controlled, removed, replaced and renewed at regular intervals by Soviet submarines, operate continuously around the clock, picking up all the sounds made by water currents, waves, fish and propellers of merchant ships passing overhead.
Soviet Naval Intelligence already has tape recorded the exact noises made by propellers of American Polaris subs. These recordings were probably made by one of the Soviet spy ships masquerading as fishing trawlers in the Atlantic and the North Sea. In any case, the Polaris tapes have been programmed and fed into the "Universal" computer built by Ukrainian Academy scientists.
The Soviet Navy's central listening post at the Sevastopol Naval Base picks up the transmissions of
underwater devices off the Turkish coast, and passes them on to the computer. A button is pushed and the electronic brain is capable of telling whether the noise was made by an ordinary submarine, a dolphin, a torpedo boat, a storm, or an atomic submarine. Till now, I don't think the "Universal" computer has flashed the red light to indicate that Polaris subs have entered the Black Sea. And if the whole business sounds like a cloak-and dagger story, it is no more fantastic or improbable than some other operations carried out by the Academy of Sciences.
I must stress here that although the underwater exploration and construction of the "Universal" computer were overt missions, published by the Academy in its bulletin, the submarine-listening business was a top-secret operation, of which I heard from one of my friends — a brilliant electronics engineer who spent a lot of time travelling between Kiev and Sevastopol, and who blurted out the story while drunk at my "dacha" (summer villa) near Kiev.
But the most important work — from the point of view of Moscow's long-range policies is done by the
Academy's political research department. This department is devoted to distortion, falsification and rewriting of history — right out of George Orwell's 1984.
The most important project is the Soviet Ukrainian Encyclopedia, whose volumes must be rewritten faster than they are published. To work on this project is a good way of getting a nervous breakdown, ulcers, or a bad case of "prisonitis" in a Soviet slave labor camp. It is useless for me to try and quote the deliberate lies, distortions and falsifications published by the "Ukrainian" Encyclopedia. Every second word is a lie, every sentence is crooked. Not even the serial numbers of chapters and pages are right, because from time to time subscribers are sent "important corrections," asked to cut out a page or a chapter, substitute a new one instead (special transparent adhesive tape is provided for the purpose) and send the removed pages by return mail to
the Academy's publishers.
Another major project was compiling the History of Administration and Jurisprudence in Ukraine, designed to prove that law and order existed only under the Soviet regime.
Quite vicious was the History of the Ukrainian Literary Language published in 1961, with the ostensible purpose of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of Taras Shevchenko, the greatest Ukrainian poet and best known figure in the progressive and enlightened Ukrainian national liberation movement. The book's real aim was to prove that there were — and are — two Ukrainian languages. A spoken one, which is uncultured, uncouth and full of foreign mostly Polish and Tartar-roots; and a literary one, which is elegant, polished and shares a common linguistic heritage with Russian. In other words, that Ukrainian and Russian are twin branches of the same tree. In my opinion, Ukrainian is closer to Bulgarian or Serbian than to Russian, as the Ukrainians belonged to the southern group of Slavic peoples, while the Russians are descendants of
northern Slavic tribes which intermingled with such local ethnic groups as Mordva, Mari and Komi.
IZ-AN-USSR (Izdatelstvo Akademii Nauk USSR — Publishing Organs of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences) publishes about 350 books a year, plus monthly bulletins, annual reports and numerous possobiya (educational aid) pamphlets. Its giant printing plant works overtime, but the pressure of publishing a book a day necessitates the "farming out" of much work to printing plants in Odessa, Kharkiv, Lviv, Simferopil, and other cities. Actually IZ-AN-USSR consists of two separate publishing houses, known (in Russian, of course — who uses the Ukrainian language in the "Ukrainian" Academy ?) as OTN (Otdeleniye Technicheskikh Nauk — Section for Technical Scientific Works) and OON (Otdeleniye Obshchestvennikh Nauk — Section for General Public Works).
Since OON also stands for "Organizatsya Obyedinennykh Natsiy" (United Nations Organization), we used to joke that "successful work at the OON in Kiev can bring an appointment to the OON in New York."
OTN is a bona fide technical-scientific publishing house (sample titles I can recall: Professor Nikolai Starikov's Geological Exploration at Great Depths, Professor Belevtsev's Structure of Ore Deposits and Dr. Ostrovsky's The Nervous System of Cephalopods.)
To get a book published by the OTN section, one submits the manuscript to the OTN director, who passes it on to a commission of experts in the particular field the book deals with. They return it with their remarks, and if the author's scientific reputation is sound, no further approval is needed. It is up to the director of the OTN section to decide whether to print, but up to the Chief Director of IZ-AN-USSR to decide how many copies to run off for each edition. Unless the work is very important and of universal scientific value, 50,000 copies are printed for sale and distribution throughout the USSR. Very important books are authorized a first edition of 100,000.
If the subject is highly specialized or if the treatment is such that interest will be limited, the book is published either in the cheaper "pamphlet-monograph" form (in other words — a soft-cover paper-back on poor-quality paper) or as a "collective work" together with other monographs on the subject.
The OON section works in a different way, owing to the more ticklish and politically-explosive nature of its subject matter. In the OTN section, the scientists and professors themselves initiate publication by submitting manuscripts, or outlines and queries. But in nine out of ten cases, the OON section works in the opposite direction. A list of subjects to be dealt with, or instructions to produce a book on a specific subject, come "from above" — the Central Committee of the "Ukrainian" Communist Party, the Education and Culture subcommittee of the "Ukrainian" Council of Ministers, or even the "central organs" in Moscow.
The director of OON then looks for suitable authors, to whom he assigns each publication project. I know, for instance, that Dimitri Stashevsky's book American Imperialism in Europe in 1919-1923, which was published in 1960 after the U-2 affair and cancellation of President Eisenhower's planned visit to Moscow, was initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of USSR, cleared with the Political Publications Section of the Soviet Communist Party's Central Committee, and assigned to Stashevsky via the IZ-AN-USSR — OON.
Stashevsky who was about 40 years old at that time, was a brilliant writer, twice-divorced, with a weakness for vodka and women. Whenever he was "on the wagon," he worked hard, often 14 to 16 hours a day, and his memory was phenomenal. He earned a lot of money, but was always in debt, spending twice as much as he earned on drinking bouts in hotels and restaurants, buying expensive gifts for his numerous mistresses, and carrying on with minor girls whose parents blackmailed him later.
Moscow needed a "scientific-historical" book to prove the U.S. policy was "rotten and imperialistic" from way back, when it tried to branch out in Europe after the First World War, in the guise of helping refugees and the starving masses. Stashevsky wrote it in the record time of nine weeks, quoting from Lenin and inventing facts when no sources could be found to substantiate his thesis.
It took four more weeks for the manuscript to be corrected, edited and checked by an editorial committee, and then an unprecedented first edition of 150,000 copies was run off at the giant Kiev plant. Stashevsky got a very handsome fee for this one, and when I saw him last, he was staggering drunk in the corridor of Kiev's new "Moskva Hotel," his arm around the waist of a 16-year-old girl. "Meet my new niece," he said, winking broadly.
I do not blame Stashevsky and — believe it or not — I do not even blame Trofim Kichko. Writers who accept assignments from the OON section are prostituting their integrity in any case. People must make a living somehow, and if you turn down the OON assignments too often, you can find yourself chopping trees for an existence in some Siberian camp. At least Stashevsky felt subconsciously guilty about being a "literary prostitute"; one does not have to be a psychologist in order to diagnose his chronic alcoholism and woman-chasing as a desire for self-punishment and escape from reality.
I have written all this to show that a book like Kichko's Judaism Without Embellishment could not have been initiated, let alone written, without the approval of the "central organs."
Neither Kichko, nor the director of the OON section, nor the Chief Director of IA-AN-USSR, is crazy. They may be degenerates and renegades, but they are not lunatics. And only a lunatic would have published a book which caused severe embarrassment for the Soviet Union abroad, without clear-cut orders from Moscow.
That's why I say — do not blame Kichko and Vergelis, but pity them. They are monsters and renegades, but also victims of the cruel and inhuman Soviet system. Judaism Without Embellishment was published in the Ukrainian language for circulation in Ukraine only. Moscow desired to whip up violent, Nazi-like anti-Semitism among the "broad masses," so as to divert discontent from fastening upon the Soviet regime, and foment hatreds between Ukrainians and Jews.
About Khrushchev's alleged ignorance of the book — this I can believe. One cannot expect the Soviet leader to read every book published in the Soviet Union. He was much too busy for that — travelling to Egypt to stir up trouble in the Middle East, worrying about the failure of his agricultural policy, and quarrelling with Mao Tse-tung in Peking. But Khrushchev was certainly responsible for its publication, because no one would dare to initiate an anti-Semitic campaign without his approval and blessing. I would say that the chain of responsibility went as follows: from Khrushchev down to Suslov, then the chief Soviet communist theoretician: from Suslov to the Central Committee's Political Publications Section, which worked out the project in detail; and thence to IZ-AN-USSR-OON, which assigned Kichko to the job.
The entire project boomeranged for three unforeseen reasons, which should have been foreseen by the IZ-AN-USSR-OON. Which is why I believe the responsible men (but not Kichko himself, who only did as ordered) are now digging coal in the frozen Arctic wastes of the Soviet Far North. The worst thing about the book were the crude anti-Semitic cartoons and illustrations, which would have done credit to the Nazis' infamous hate-sheet Der Stuermer. The Russians, after being caught red-handed in the act of disseminating anti-Semitic propaganda, could have explained Kichko's text in one way or another, but there was no excuse for the cartoons and illustrations, and no explanations were possible. Which is why Nikita Khrushchev was reported to have exploded and raved, "Idiots!" and "Duraki!" (Stupids) after reading Kichko's masterpiece. This was mistake number one. On the other hand, though the Soviets hate China now, they know the ancient Chinese proverb that "one picture tells more than a thousand words." Kichko's book was designed for distribution among kolkhoz peasants and big-city workers, who would not have bothered reading another political propaganda piece, without the eye-catching cartoons.
Mistake number two was designating it as an "atheistic campaign book." If Kichko's hate-filled piece had been distributed only to city libraries, village reading-rooms, schools and youth clubs, it could not have been purchased by American-Jewish tourists or Western diplomats passing through Kiev at that time. In fact, foreign visitors as well as the outside world would have remained ignorant of the new anti-Semitic campaign, unless some courageous local Jew had stolen a copy from a library and handed it to a foreign tourist to be smuggled out abroad. But because it was designated as an "atheistic campaign book," it was placed on sale in all general book-stores and on special book-stands in front of the Museums of Atheism in Kiev, Lviv and other big cities. The third reason why the book backfired was the reluctance of IZ-AN-USSR to withdraw it from the market without first receiving clear-cut orders from the "Council of Ministers" in Kiev or the "central organs" in Moscow. And Moscow hesitated to backtrack and eat humble pie under pressure of "Zionist-capitalist-bourgeois" propaganda. It was only after the Western Communist parties came out against the book, and Moscow saw that it was losing the support of pro-communist left-wing groups in the West, that Khrushchev asked to see it and ordered it burned.
Yes, Kichko's book was burned, yet Kichko, Vergelis, Khrushchev and the inhuman Soviet system are still
very much alive. It is useless to speculate on the reasons which prompted Moscow to order the publication of Kichko's book in Kiev rather than in Leningrad. Probably, the Kremlin masterminds felt that what they were doing was a criminal act, of which they were secretly ashamed. By ordering its publication in Kiev, they took out insurance against failure. If the book boomeranged, as it did, they could always claim that "not only Jews, but we Russians ourselves, have suffered for many, many years, from Ukrainian nationalist chauvinism, its bias, prejudice and intolerance" — to quote the words of Khrushchev's son-in-law, the former Chief Editor of Izvestia, Alexei Adzhubei, in reply to a question put forward by an Israeli newspaperman in France.
To sum up, I must reiterate that I do not hate Kichko or Vergelis. Hatred is emotional, while these people are sick persons in urgent need of psychiatric treatment. What I do hate is the rotten system of Soviet-Russian colonialism, which makes puppets out of men, and is based on deceit, exploitation and injustice.