Soviet dissidents laud Polish workers, defy KGB, crackdown
In a new upsurge of Baltic nationalism, 20 Baltic dissidents have issued a statement congratulating Polish strike leader Lech Walesa for his stand in the neighboring Polish port of Gdansk.
The brief statement congratulates Mr. Walesa "and all the Poles on the achievement of beginning of democratic reforms which are so important for all the socialist countries."
It is bound to infuriate the KGB, which is alert to try to stamp out any sympathy among Soviet people for the Polish strikers. The Kremlin is still jamming Voice of America, BBC, and other Russian-language shortwave Western broadcasts to prevent word of Polish successes reaching Soviet ears, though English-language broadcasts are unaffected.
The signers include Estonian nationalists Enn Tarto and Erik Udam and number of Lithuanian activists as well. All the activists have been under KGB pressure since a number of them signed the "Baltic appeal" in August last year calling for Baltic independence from the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, the KGB's determination to crack down on dissidents of various kinds -- human rights advocates, religious activists, nationalists -- is reflected in its latest treatment of two other Baltic nationals: an ornithologist who studies human rights instead of birds, and a mild-mannered chemist who belonged to the Communist Party for 12 years before resigning. Both men are also Estonians.
What's happening to the ornithologist, Mart Niklus, and the chemist, Juri Kukk, as told to this newspaper by reliable sources, indicates that in this post-Olympic, post-Afghan-invasion period, the Kremlin is undeterred by the prospect of strong human rights attacks against it by the West at the Madrid security conference in November.
But cracking down n dissidents at home and crushing the "dissent" of the new workers' movement in Poland are matters of a different magnitude. Despite reports from Washington over the weekend of unusual military activity on both Poland's borders (with the USSR and East Germany), the Kremlin is clearly reluctant to go as far as using outright force to quell the Polish daring if it can avoid doing so. That moment may come, but other backstage political and economic measures will come first.
At home, however, the Soviet authorities show no such reticence about using drastic methods. The latest pressure against Niklus and Kukk comes three weeks after the biggest dissident trials here for two years -- and at a time when the number of Jews being allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union is falling steadily.
Mr. Niklus, it is now learned, started a hunger strike Aug. 23 in a prison in the Estonian capital of Tallinn to protest the 41st anniversary of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty that yielded Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia to Soviet control.
And sources say Mr. Kukk has now been moved from a psychiatric hospital in Estonia to another in Moscow. The KGB reportedly failed to persuade Estonian doctors to certify him as mentally ill and is now trying to have the necessary papers signed in Moscow. This could be followed by life imprisonment, sources fear.
Both Mr. Niklus, arrested March 19, and Mr. Kukk, arrested March 13, are perfectly sane, as anyone who has talked with them can testify.
In a show of support for both men, 36 Baltic dissidents have signed an appeal to Amnesty International in London, and to the Soviet and Estonian Supreme Soviets (nominal legislatures) calling for them to be released at once.
The appeal says Niklus should be released or be allowed to emigrate to Sweden , as he has applied to do.
It also calls for Mr. Kukk and all others arrested recently, including the exiled 1975 Nobel Peace Price winner Dr. Andrei Sakharov, to be released. The appeal talks of "growing waves of repressions of dissidents" and adds: "We regard these arrests as an indication of potential danger of the restoration of the bloody Stalin terror."
Both men passionately believe in the individual's right to be free to choose where to live, where to work, and how to think. They are also staunch Estonian nationalists. Mr. Niklus is a veteran dissident. A bachelor, he was jailed for 10 years after graduating from college in 1958. His "crime": showing photographs of Tallinn slums to overseas visitors to a world youth festival.
He was released after serving eight years (to be told his sentence had actually been reduced to seven). In 1976 he was arrested again. He went on a hunger strike, was released after 56 days, and is trying the same tactic again now.
Mr. Kukk was a loyal communist until he spent a year in a laboratory outside Paris in the mid-1970s. Back in Estonia, he saw the gap between life as the party says it is, and life as it actually exists. He resigned from the party -- and a campaign of harassment and intimidation against him began. Before their arrests, both men signed Baltic dissident statements condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and supporting the Western boycott of the Olympic Games. Mr. Niklus was also one of 45 Baltic dissidents to sign the "Baltic charter" in August of last year. It called for independence for Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and incurred the wrath of the KGB.
Friends now fear both men will be put on trial, perhaps for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, the same charge leveled in August against Russian Orthodox priest Gleb Yakunin (sentenced Aug. 28 to five years labor camp and five years internal exile) and activist Tatyana Velikanova (four years in a strict-regime camp and five years internal exile, on Aug. 29).
But Mr. Kukk could be in jail for much longer if the KGB succeeds in having him declared mentally disturbed.
Meanwhile, two Lithuanian human rights activists have just been sentened to prison terms and internal exile. Antanas Terleckas received three years in camp and five years exile afterward for producing underground literature and supporting other dissidents. Jullus Sasnauskas received 18 months camp and five years exile. The trials were held in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.
Two more dissidents were to go on trial in Moscow Sept. 22.
Meanwhile, JEwish emigration has been cut back drastically. In the eight months through August, Soviet officials allowed only about 16,000 Jews to leave, compared with 34,255 at the end of August last year.
Soviet officials, especially in the Ukraine, are now demanding an invitation from a close relative in Israel (spouse, parents, children, brothers, or sisters). As a result approvals in Odessa, Kharkov, and Kiev had almost ceased by early 1980, according to Jewish sources.
Jews in Kharkov have told Western correspondents that officials there say Jews no longer may reapply for emigration after being turned down once. The usual custom has been to reapply every six months.
The decline in emigration is attributed to a general Kremlin crackdown on dissent, to the poor state of detente after Afghanistan, and possibly to Soviet fears of a Jewish "brain drain." Some 200,000 have emigrated in the past decade.