8. Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1


  • PERSPECTIVES—Human Rights in the USSR and Eastern Europe

1. In recent weeks the tempo of dissident activity and harsh official reaction has accelerated throughout Eastern Europe. The pre-Christmas exchange of imprisoned Soviet dissident, Vladimir Bukovskiy, for Chilean Communist leader Luis Corvalan received international media coverage and focused renewed attention on the human rights scene. Since the exchange, the Orlov Committee, organized to monitor Moscow’s compliance with the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and other Soviet dissidents have endured a rash of arrests, interrogations and house searches where the KGB has planted false evidence. In January a group of Czech intellectuals and Prague Spring leaders issued a legalistic human rights manifesto, “Charter 77;” Prague reacted immediately with police harassment. These events provide an appropriate peg for reviving world interest [Page 29] in the human rights movement in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and for updating covert action themes in support of this goal.2

2. The Soviet human rights movement has suffered important losses in the past year. Moscow has expelled some of the most effective dissident leaders, like mathematician Leonid Plyushch and now Bukovskiy, or harassed them into emigrating, as in the case of Andrey Amalrik. Life has become even more difficult for the dissenter who is unprotected by publicity and its attendant constraints against official reprisals. The latest form of reprisal is physical violence, disguised as random street crimes. In April, dissident historian Konstantin Bogatyrev died from massive wounds inflicted by “unknown assailants.” Most of his friends believe the attack was KGB-inspired, and, according to several sources, the KGB threatened Bogatyrev’s doctor. More recently, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Andrey Sakharov, and others observing a protest vigil on Soviet Constitution Day (5 December) were assaulted by KGB-infiltrated bystanders. This tactic of physical assaults may have spread to other countries. In Czechoslovakia, for example, former politician Dr. Frantisek Kriegel was assaulted by masked men following his involvement in anti-government protests.

3. An effective countermeasure for these tactics is publicity. So far the human rights movement has survived official reprisals but would probably not survive a total, Stalin-style crackdown. Such a crackdown has not occurred in part because Soviet authorities remain sensitive to the pressures of world opinion. Addressees are asked to tap media assets, liaison and other local contacts to continue the campaign to keep dissidence alive in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

4. The following State Department-approved themes are intended as updated guidelines for your covert action efforts:

A. Continue to insist that CSCE means something, particularly Basket Three which eases regulations concerning the practice of religion, travel and the flow of information. Point out areas where the Soviet bloc signatories might demonstrate closer compliance. Encourage, for example, broader dissemination of printed material, Western newspapers, books, bibles, etc., to the East European population. Press for increased cooperation among mass media organizations and publishing houses. Publicize instances where sensitivity over charges of [Page 30] violating CSCE has prompted conciliatory gestures, e.g., the easing of restrictions against Western journalists. Point out that the Soviet and East European governments will have to comply more closely with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki accords or lose face—and propaganda points—this summer when the 35 CSCE signatories reconvene in Belgrade.

B. Downplay the deleterious effects of the recent wave of emigrations and expulsions. Stress that important dissident leaders, notably Andrey Sakharov, one of the founding fathers of the human rights movement, are still active inside the Soviet Union. The Orlov Committee has received international attention since its establishment last May and continues, despite official harassment, to compile and publicize evidence of Soviet violations of the Helsinki accord. Remind audiences that the dissident movement has produced a number of strong leaders. In the past, new personalities have emerged to carry on the struggle after leaders like Solzhenitsyn have been expelled.

C. Continue to publicize the evidence of human rights violations which recent emigres provide. Remind audiences that dissidents like Amalrik and Bukovskiy have not lost credibility by leaving the Soviet Union.

D. Continue to publicize the extreme measures taken against dissidents: harsh prison sentences, psychiatric abuse, and the recent phenomenon of street violence. Focus on key individuals like the ailing Mustafa Dzhemilev, imprisoned for his efforts on behalf of displaced Crimean Tatars, Sergey Kovalev and Andrey Tverdokhlevob, sentenced for their activities in the Moscow chapter of Amnesty International, and the members of the Orlov Committee such as Aleksandr Ginzburg and Lyudmila Alekseyeva, who continue to be harassed by the KGB.

E. Expose Moscow’s increasing independence [dependence] on the more devious tactics against dissidents, designed to paralyze the human rights movement over the long term without attracting significant publicity. Soviet officials continually interfere with communications between dissidents and the outside world: by intercepting mail, jamming phone conversations and harassing would-be interviewers from the Western press. A customs regulation instituted last July substantially increased the duty on gifts sent to the USSR and thus undercut the financial support which religious groups, families of political prisoners and “refuseniks” (dissidents, usually Jews, who have been denied emigration visas and subsequently fired from their jobs) receive from abroad. More recently, the KGB has taken to planting evidence, e.g., foreign currency, to incriminate such dissidents as Aleksandr Ginzburg and members of the Kiev and Leningrad branch of the Orlov Committee. Remind audiences that such measures, though less dramatic than [Page 31] imprisonment and torture, also violate the spirit, and frequently the letter, of the Helsinki accords.

F. Generate publicity on the key human rights issues in other East European countries. In Czechoslovakia, for example, focus on the Charter 77 manifesto and the official reprisals against its authors. Polish workers who demonstrated against the June announcement of price increases have been fired and some arrested; some of their defenders, members of the Workers Defense League, have subsequently lost their jobs. The German Democratic Republic continues obstructing reunions of families separated by the East/West border; recently East Berlin imposed exile on dissident balladeer Wolf Biermann. According to recent reports, the health of veteran critic of the Yugoslav regime, Mihajlo Mihajlov, imprisoned under particularly harsh conditions, is deteriorating rapidly.

G. Encourage CP contacts, where feasible, to view objectively human rights violations in the Soviet bloc. Several West European parties have already demonstrated varying degrees of independence from the CPSU. In 1976 they reacted sharply to Plyushch’s account of psychiatric abuse and to films of Soviet labor camps. More recently they denounced Prague’s reprisals against the Charter 77 group.

H. Appeal to local and international professional and religious organizations to speak out on behalf of persecuted colleagues in the USSR and Eastern Europe: authors, artists, engineers, historians, clergy, etc. Where feasible, urge these groups to promote professional contacts with their Eastern colleagues.

I. Persuade agents of influence and liaison contacts that their governments could make a contribution to human rights everywhere by speaking out on behalf of dissidents—especially those governments with strong socialist credentials or those which have protested human rights violations in non-socialist countries. Stress the importance of many voices, representing differing systems, working to influence Soviet and Eastern European leaders in a matter of international concern.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Box I–029, USSR-Cuban Intervention in Africa, 9 Jan 1978–7 Jul 1978. Secret; Sensitive. A typed notation under the subject line indicates the paper was approved by the Department of State on May 17. See Note on U.S. Covert Action for further information on “Perspectives” papers.
  2. On April 22, the Department of State also approved a “Perspectives” paper on Soviet interference in other countries’ affairs. The “Perspectives” guided worldwide media assets to “remind audiences of Moscow’s continued meddling in East Europe’s internal affairs,” from Hungary in 1956 to Czechoslovakia in 1968. The paper continued: “The 600,000-man Red Army still stationed in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and East Germany is a daily reminder of the potential danger in adopting policies not sanctioned by Moscow.” (National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Box I–029, USSR-Cuban Intervention in Africa, 9 Jan 1978–7 Jul 1978)