Mikhail Shishkin: "Free the Word!"
On opening night of Winternachten festival 2017, January, 19, 2017, at the Theater Aan Het Spu in the Hague, distinguished Russian writer Mikhail Shishkin made a powerful statement about the freedom of speech:
" . . . In 1968, in protest against the Soviet tanks in Prague, a few people went out on Red Square and unfurled signs that said “For our freedom and yours.” They were arrested immediately. I was seven at the time and knew nothing of this. Our entire enormous country learned nothing about this action. These peoples’ fates were destroyed, and they faced years of prison or psych hospitals. After the Soviet Union’s collapse, people started writing and making films about them. Their action became a symbol of resistance and they themselves became heroes of the struggle for freedom.
"When the KGB archives were opened up briefly, it became clear that other people in different cities of the vast empire had also protested in August 1968 and had also ended up in prison, but no one had heard anything at all about their protests and shattered fates. Human rights organizations in the West knew nothing about them, and no one demanded their release. Later, no films were made about them and they did not become heroes. They were not awarded prizes, and no one toasted their courage at international PEN congresses. They never gained a martyr’s fame; they were just tortured quietly and out of the public eye their sacrifices had not been in vain. . . ."
To read the full text in my English translation, click here.