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The new wave of Soviet repression

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The Soviet repression machine is gaining speed. Surely, as always, the evidence is somewhat contradictory. Those who search under a microscope for positive signals from the Kremlin will always be able to come up with something.

An American fifth grader, Samantha Smith, who has written a letter to Yuri Andropov, recently got the red carpet treatment in Moscow. Then she was sent to an exclusive summer camp rather than to a concentration camp, which are filled with Russians who, without official authorization, have dared to appeal to President Reagan.

A family of Pentacostalists was just allowed to emigrate from the USSR. For years the group has been hiding in the American Embassy in Moscow demanding exit visas. Apparently it became too much of an embarrassment for the regime. Meanwhile, other Pentacostalists at this very moment are being arrested for practicing their religious beliefs and some are sentenced to many years of hard labor.

Finally, the Soviet Union has accepted a compromise language on human rights at the review session of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Madrid. But it was the West, not the East, that definitely made the most of the concessions. And the adopted formula is sufficiently ambiguous to allow the Politburo to continue with repression. The fact that the compromise was proposed by Spain and endorsed by neutral countries with the Reagan administration remaining open-minded but unenthusiastic may mean that the alleged Soviet flexibility is motivated by a desire to outmaneuver Washington in a competition for the ''hearts and minds'' of the Europeans.

The tightening of Soviet political controls is well documented. The recent Central Committee plenum in Moscow emphasized the need to intensify the ideological struggle. Artists, writers, and other intellectuals have been strongly reminded that they are expected to act as soldiers in an intensified war of ideas. Those who refuse to conform are punished with growing brutality. An expression of unorthodox views which in the past would cause an official reprimand now routinely leads to a prison sentence. And offenses previously classified as anti-Soviet propaganda now are increasingly labelled as treason, a crime punishable by death.


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