Austrians love their dogs, and they look after them well and train them thoroughly. That was certainly true of the Shreibock chows. Austrians know that without good training a dog cannot be lovable, and theirs, most of them dachshunds, are lovable indeed. It is unheard of to bar them from restaurants. Austria does not have the sharp discrimination between a person and his pet as we have in America. After all both have to eat.
Beatrice reports that while taking a glass of wine in a cafe one afternoon she saw a man come in and sit down at a table near her. His dog, that had been following him, jumped on the chair opposite the man, and put its front paws decorously on the table. It watched attentively as its owner ordered for both man and dog. When the order, wine and a sausage, came with two glasses of water the dog held down the sausage up with its forepaws and daintily ate it, then had a drink of water.
1947: We were given a dog by a subordinate of mine in the DBS, Jack McClelland, who used to raise prize dachshunds in his spare time. He had a considerable number of them in his house at any one time, and the house looked it and smelt it. They couldn't be allowed loose, mating with any trash they met up with, and Jack could not afford separate premises for them, so they all lived together, he and the dogs.
The name we gave to this one was Ingrid, or in full, Devonshire Ingrid of Bristol (Our address was 5Bristol Avenue), but she was always called Iggie. Iggie was intended as a playmate for Barbara, three years old at the time, who was pleased enough to begin with, but after a few weeks friction developed between them. Barbie hit on the idea of pulling up a fold of the dog's skin and biting it. Dachshunds have very short fur and this must have hurt badly, so Iggie would bite back. After this scrapping between the two of them had gone on for a few weeks and Barby's forearm was covered with "dawg baits" we had had enough; we bundled Barby and Iggie into the baby carriage and returned Iggie to Jack McClelland. It was a shame to do that: Iggie was a truly perfect specimen, and we later saw her at a dog show where she had won a blue ribbon. At the same time I was relieved to have turned back what could be construed as a bribe from a subordinate.
1959: Arrival of Penny, a dog of mixed ancestry--Beatrice who came to love her resents my calling her a mongrel. Penny was a gift from Jim Giffen, a colleague at the University of Toronto. She was a typical pet store product, frail and in poor health but of a truly loving and dependent nature. She would not have lived long anyway, but she wandered out on the road, despite our training, and was struck by a car. The driver was distressed; he had tried to miss her, but she just ran under a wheel. She limped back to the house where she died, probably of heart failure. I remember Barby, then a student at Forest Hill Village School, tenderly picking her up and placing her on a cushion. She lived only a day or two after her accident. We took her to a veterinarian, who couldn't do much but bury her. But her short life was enough to show us the companionship that a dog offers, something the aristocratic Lady Ingrid of Bristol had not taught us. We just had to get another.
1959: Our third, Bonnie, was a beagle, a noble, courageous dog, bought not from a pet store but from a kennel. (She had papers, but we never registered them, not intending to put her into a competition.) Beagles at their origin were working dogs--they hunted rabbits. I remember the day she was brought home, Barby put a string on her and was following her across the lawn, while tiny Bonnie, a few weeks old, ran up and down with her nose to the ground, presumably trying to pick up the spoor of a rabbit..
Their hereditary prey was hardly formidable, but Bonnie was formidable; she would stand up to a dog several times her size, and the other would slink away. She never had to fight: she was protected not by physical but by moral force. On one occasion Beatrice was walking with Bonnie on a leash in a park in front of the Belmont High School. Along came two Dobermans running unleashed, and Bonnie stood in their path, simply stopping them with her gaze . The owner of the Dobermans came up and cried "Call off your dog!" "Call off yours," Beatrice replied; "my dog is leashed, yours are not." The man and his dogs slunk off.
Bonnie was also the most intelligent of the four we had. And she was also the one that most enjoyed eating. On one occasion Beatrice had a cake in a box on the kitchen table, and in a hurry before going out she just left it without thinking . Sure enough Bonnie, probably after jumping several times, got it down, and enjoyed a feast. Then she stuffed the box under the refrigerator. An almost perfect crime. Unfortunately she was disturbed during the work of concealing the box by Beatrice's return, and she left an identifiable part of the paper hanging out in plain sight. Beatrice gave her a severe talking to--that was the most severe chastisement Bonnie--or any other dog or child--ever had from this mistress of the house.
1970: Wally was our fourth and last dog. He was a dachshund, with a long body suspended on short legs that kept him close to the ground. His ancestors were hunters of badgers, and with that shape he could comfortably pursue one down a badger hole. Our Wally never had an opportunity to exercise the hereditary occupation. Nor did he ever find out about sex. In fact none of our dogs ever found out about sex. Whether because Wally came after Bonnie, or because of the latter's moral force referred to above, he always stayed close to her. Once when Wally was lost in the woods of New Hampshire we sent Bonnie out to look for him and she returned with Wally trailing her. .
He lived a long life, some sixteen years, much of which was in Austria during our ten-year sojourn there. We would naturally have lived in Vienna but apartments available there seemed all to be on upper stories, without elevators, so we stayed in the suburbs, in turn Baden, Perchtoldsdorf, and Moedling.
We were in Moedling where he had his final illness; Beatrice took him to the vet, and seeing the illness was incurable (his kidney was gone) he pushed a needle with poison into his thigh and Wally died peacefully, looking into Beatrice's eyes. She couldn't think of that afterwards without tears.
He was our last; our memories of these will have to do us for the rest of our lives. Of our four dogs Bonnie had by far the best mind, and the strongest moral force. Penny was the most lovable, Wally the most light-hearted.
There were also several dogs that we knew casually. Beatrice took a special interest in guide dogs. She tells me that not all dogs are capable of becoming satisfactory guide dogs. They are just not intelligent enough. Nor they are caple of being trained before a certain age--perhaps a year. And their training takes time, and they have to retire when they become too old to do the work. Further, they need a certain boldness of character. One dog we knew was just a baby--it would cry when you were eating a cookie if you didn't give him part. So the working seeing-eye dog is a select individual, and then it has a short working life. All this explains why guide dogs are so expensive.
I much enjoyed some three months I spent at Stanford as a Morrison Fellow. There I had great colleagues, Brian Arthur, Marcus Feldman, Paul Ehrlich, Sripad Tuljapurkar. I don't recall much of what I taught, but I do remember Professor Yotopoulos, a very kind and generous faculty member who had Beatrice and myself to dinner on our first evening at Stanford, and who the next day took us over the campus and showed us the Rodin sculptures of The Burgers of Calais. We spent much time discussing the impact on environment of population, and especially the impact of the middle-class, however defined. These are the people who fill the planes, whether on corporation account or on their own, the people who buy S.U.V.'s who read newspapers. Aside from the weight of the cars they drive better off people drive more. These are things the poor can't afford, while the rich are too few in number to have much effect. Hence the importance if the middle class, and of the fact that in times of growth this group increases at a faster rate than the population as a whole.
My stay at Stanford ended with an unfortunate medical incident. A urologist in the Stanford hospital, whom I was advised to consult, claimed that he observed some indications of cancer, and advised a biopsy. I said that I had an engagement in Tokyo in the next two or three days, and couldn't take the time. He insisted that I would be in and out of the hospital the same day. But after the operation I did not seem to be recovered from the local anesthetic, and was told to stay overnight. Then a terrible headache developed. Apparently the fluid in my spinal column was draining out, and the fluid in my brain was moving down into the space. Only now did the doctor, when I called him in somewhat of a panic, say "You have to lie flat on your back-that is the only treatment necessary." So I did, for two weeks, and missed my engagement in Japan. When the two weeks were over I was recovered, and could just barely make it to Jakarta at the time the Indonesians were expecting me.
The bad news coming out of Indonesia on its urban economy, its stock markets, its balance of trade and so forth, apparently does not weigh heavily on the countryside. At least this is the sense I take out of a comparison I was able to make over a span of 37 years, extending between my first visit and my last.
As mentioned above I spent a year in Indonesia in 1952 and lived in the village of Balearjo for some two months of that year. Balearjo was typical of the rural parts of one of the poorest countries in the world. After I was told some of the detail of how a family lived, or observed some activity, I would rush back to my room in the headman's house and write detailed notes--some 150 pages in all, typed on the portable typewriter I had brought with me. At the time I made no use of them--they lay buried in my files at home.
Then for 5 years--1985-1989--I returned to Indonesia each year when it was winter in Vienna. I took advantage of that return to revisit
The first surprise I had was to be recognized as the visitor of 45 years earlier. A man who had been a school boy in the class which I had addressed at the earlier visit was now village Headman.
The changes were enormous. In 1952 the young boys, practically naked, were splashing around in the mud with the water buffaloes of which they had the care. By 1984 the boys were at school part of each week-day, and when they were free kicking a football on a level field in which goal posts had been set up. They were now neatly dressed in knee pants and shirts.
At the earlier visit education (meaning ability to speak and write Indonesian, and work simple sums) was limited to the Headman and one or two senior citizens. By 1984 everyone under 40 had been to primary school in the village, and some had even followed through with secondary school in a neighboring village.
In 1952 a badly rutted dirt road ran through the village, nearly impassable in the rainy season. Thirty years later the village had a modern paved road, on which automobiles could drive through the village, peasants could take a bus to Malang and even travel to Surabaya. I saw those same neatly dressed boys riding their bicycles up and down that road.
Electricity was coming through to the village, and there were already several television sets in use. The primitive tiny home-made houses of 1952 were now inhabited only by the very poorest landless villagers; by 1984 most lived in architect designed and professionally built houses. So the paved road and the houses along it gave the village a totally different aspect from 1952.
But when I asked an older villager what was the biggest improvement in their lives they mentioned none of these, but only the change in diet. At the earlier visit they had enough rice for no more than three or four months after the harvest. Rice was a luxury that ran out and was replaced with corn. But then the corn ran out, and in the time to next harvest villagers had to be content with cassava, that they knew was not nutritious but a seemingly infinite quantity could be grown. This was the season of paceklik, a word conveying infinite sadness and resignation in Javanese, and meaning a condition of semi-starvation.
Then came the Green Revolution, the greatest gift of all development aid. Crops were multiplied two, three and four-fold, with the use of better seed, of varieties that could get along in the dry season, fertilizer. By 1984 rice had become available all year round. And one of the details--rice has to be hulled before it can be cooked; the hull has no nutritive value. Hulling had always been done by putting the rice in a tub and pounding it with poles, essential work left to the village women. Now the village has an electric hulling machine. to which the peasant-farmer can bring his rice and have it hulled for a few rupiahs, i.e. a few pennies, while he stands by. The women are saved a long, boring and arduous task.
And finally, birth control had come. With the earlier large families, despite high death rates each generation was more numerous and, land being fixed, poorer than the one before. Now it is from those smaller families that the neatly dressed boys above mentioned come.
The changes above mentioned are to my view and to that of the vast majority of the population the essence of development. Never mind whether the stock market in Jakarta is up or down, how foreign investment can be attracted, making Indonesia an industrial power the way that Malaysia and now China are becoming. First things first--adequate nutrition, at least elementary education, decent housing,
Development aid is too often designed with the urban middle class in view. Of course we want these to prosper, but they should take their turn. Yet as things stand they can jump the queue. For governments are not constituted of peasants--they are made up of members of the upper middle class. They are made up of people who get around, who can decide what form foreign aid is to take.
The year after our failed trip to Japan we set out again, this time going via Asia, landed at Narita airport, and taxied to our pre-arranged hotel. The following morning we had breakfast in a nearby restaurant-of which I remember only the "doorsteps". These were white bread cut into one-inch thick slices, and then cut in two. The resulting pieces were toasted in a very hot oven, leaving their insides quite soft. Very tasty, and one of many clever ideas we met in Japan.
After that we made our way on foot to the office where I was to work. It included a nearly vertical climb up a difficult rocky path. When we got to the top, Beatrice was told that this path was not meant for women, that there was a separate easier path for them. On a later investigation Beatrice found that the "easier" path was considerably more difficult. There is no end to the ideologies that keep women in their place, and Japan is especially rich in them.
When we got to the office in Nihon University we met Naohiro (Hiro) Ogawa our prominent host, who took his scholarly work with great seriousness. (For example, he had a bed in his office, and many nights he didn't come home.) And Kiyoshi Kobayashi and Zenji Nanjo, in different degrees participated in my work..
Knowing the dominance of names like Panasonic in the American computer market we expected, now that we were within a subway ride from the factory where they are made, to find something new to us and especially ingenious, and sold at a low price. Nothing of the kind. The computers we were given for our work were old and awkward to use. Nor could one buy a portable, as we thought of doing; such were far more expensive than in the United States. If there is any meaning to the word "dumping" this is it. However that was 15 years ago-perhaps the WTO has succeeded in eliminating this defiance of its rules.
We knew that the Japanese "salary man" is much closer to his office than the American opposite number. After work it is the custom for men who have worked together all day to go out and drink and dine together. Beatrice and I wandered into a popular restaurant and could see at first hand this socializing of fellow workers. Beatrice must have been the only woman in the establishment. We were treated with friendliness, offered suggestions on what was good o n the menu. The menu, incidentally, consists in realistic models of the items offered, and not merely their names.
Great courtesy on casual meetings combines with complete absence of anything like friendship with foreigners. We met an American lady who had been in Tokyo for more than twenty years, apparently spoke Japanese perfectly. She had come in the first place to study with a Zen teacher, and this she did for a time. One on one teaching is not unusual for Zen. But after a year or two he went on to other things, and she was living alone when we met her. She complained that she had no friends, that there was no part of Japanese society into which she could fit. . And even a Korean lady married to a Japanese was in somewhat the same position. We couldn't tell her apart from the Japanese, but they certainly could.
In a crowded country people adapt. I went for a swim in a pool near our hotel. Swimmers went round and round the pool, all at the same rate, all using the same stroke. I was just out of line. With my obsolete breast stroke, and slow speed I had many impatient exclamations that I was breaking formation. .
When our two weeks were coming to an end, I went to a bank where I had put some money, and said that I intended to leave it there, thinking that I might return or might want to buy something in Japan by mail order.. But a clerk explained to me that money from such a small account could only be withdrawn in person. I objected to that way of doing business. Without saying a word the clerk quickly went to the counter, and came back with the due number of Yen. He brusquely handed them to me as though to say-"Here is your money-now get out!"
Yet we met more than one instance of helpfulness to a foreigner. Whenever we would stand on a corner examining a map someone more than once stopped and asked if he could help.
We returned to Vienna, crossing the Pacific with Singapore Airlines-in the most efficient, cleanest, and most comfortable plane that I have ever known. When we landed in Los Angeles we were met by a former student Robert W. (Bill) Hodge. He took most of the day with us, driving us around and showing us parts of L.A. that we would never have gotten to on our own. And finally he dropped us at the airport for the next stop on our way back home to Vienna.
Sadly, that was the last time we would ever see Bill Hodge. I can still hear his sharp clear accents, his habitually ironic expression, his eye for the malice behind respectable behavior.
Bill was the student who so impressed his teachers at the University of Chicago, that they arranged an appointment on the faculty for him before he had completed his dissertation. Yet all that brilliance didn't make for a happy life. His charming wife divorced him, he quit the University of Chicago to take a post in Los Angeles. The Hodge we saw in L.A. lacked the zest in life of the Hodge at the University of Chicago. His old teachers think back with sorrow to this student of outstanding promise who died in his fifties.
And after L.A. we made our way back to Vienna. .
While at IIASA I had a call from the Royal Society of Canada in Ottawa asking me if I would go to Bucharest to represent Canada at a meeting of the corresponding Romanian body.
Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had made his wife Elena the President of the national scientific body, the Academia Romana, so in effect ending for the duration its functioning as a scientific body.
Once the C.'s were out of the picture with the dissolution of Communism throughout Eastern Europe the scientists could take over their own institution, and they made this first meeting of the revived Academia Romana something of an international celebration. Among other ways of signalizing the occasion, a medal was cast, and everyone in attendance at the meeting was given one. I am looking at mine now, and it says 1866-1991, the 125 years of age that the academy had attained.
The opening was not only in science. I remember Joel Cohen, young Harvard biologist, after some months in Romania staying with us in Baden for a few days of decompression, as he called it. As one example of life under the Romanian variant of Communism, Joel related that everyone who had a typewriter had to submit a sample sheet of its work once a year. When a seditious letter was discovered, its author could be known by comparing typescripts. That was typical of the practices of the dictatorial regime overturned in 1991, and its head and wife executed -quickly it was said to prevent their incriminating some important people.
The celebration was to be a joyous event, but its organization seemed up in the air. When Beatrice and I got off the plane there was no one at the airport to tell us where to go, we did not have a hotel, we just did not know what to do. We got a taxi to take us to the Canadian Embassy. It being Sunday, we did not hope to find much more than a caretaker there, but just as it happened the Ambassador was returning from a trip abroad, and visiting his office to look at his mail. He made enquiry and located the headquarters of the Academia Romana. We thanked him for his help, and our taxi continued to that office..
There we were introduced to Dr. Duina Dragonescu, Professor of Sociology in the University and to be our guide while we were in Bucharest. We and Duina became good friends. I especially wanted to visit her at home, to see what life had been like during the Dictatorship. She demurred at first, saying we would not like her place, but finally agreed. The apartment consisted of two small rooms and a tiny bathroom. The kitchen was a shelf along one wall of the combined dining and living room..
She was married to another academic and had one son in his early teens. When I asked what he wanted to study when he went to university he said "Anything that will help me get out of this country and into the United States."
We took our guide to lunch and dinner more than once, and heard a good deal about how hard it was for an academic to keep alive. Each Romanian family was allotted 2 kg. of meat per year, 2 eggs per month.
On enquiry I found that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences had not accepted the invitation to send a representative, I phoned Bruce Alberts, long-time President of the NAS, and offered to represent that body. The offer was accepted with thanks. That made the gathering just a little bit more inclusive, and me just a little bit more important.
The proceedings were attended not only by scientists but by high officials of the newly formed national government. They did not include papers announcing scientific discoveries, but rather discussions of the organization and the functions of scientific societies in the several countries represented. Setting standards for scientific work seemed to be important for some, but, as I explained, in the English speaking world standards are set rather in the culture, and especially in the editing and refereeing of journals, not by decrees of an official body. One prominent feature today is the competition for grant funds. A very different way of generating science from that practiced in the 17th century.
The dictatorship can hardly be forgotten. Ceaucescu had torn down everything in the heart of the city, including churches and other buildings on tree-lined avenues, and replaced them with a palace covering the center. It is 12 stories high, and contains over 1000 rooms, 4,500 chandeliers, a vast underground parking facility, a bunker designed to protect against a nuclear attack. At the time of our visit nothing was complete, and the new government had no plans to finish it, nor to complete the similarly unfinished high rise apartment buildings surrounding it. The new regime is going to have a hard time putting Ceaucescu's monster hulk to use. In the plan the apartments were to contain the residences of the bureaucracy, convenient to their work, and arranged so that every one of them could be both watched and watching others, day and night. I keep thinking with horror of the kind of mentality that would be planning such a regime. In one thing it had been successful: it had destroyed forever the "Paris of Eastern Europe".
On entering the country we had converted a good deal of money, far more than we could find things to spend it on and it was not re-convertible. We left it with Dr. Dragonescu, saying it would be useful to her, worthless to us. She was not embarrassed at receiving money from us, but simply took what was offered.. That completed for me the tragic picture of a naturally gentle and proud spirit reduced to this humiliating condition.
During the course of 10 years at IIASA I had occasion to go to Moscow several times, and from the first visit onward the arrangements for my trip seemed weird. I was not allowed to choose our hotel, but were put up at a hotel for foreign academics, apparently to let the foreigners talk to one another rather than corrupt the native population. And when applying for a visa one had to state where one planned to go, in my case Moscow half a dozen times, and Kiev once.
One lost all sense of autonomy once inside the USSR. When in Kiev I thought that here was a chance to see Mogilev in White Russia, where my father was born and brought up. It was about 200 miles distant-=-could I not just take a bus there? The answer was no, on several counts. There is no bus or other direct connection. And if one got there one would find no directory in which one could look up :"Keyfitz" to find kin. (The USSR didn't want to encourage conspiracy by helping people get in touch with one another.) So I was urged to forget about Mogilev.
I remember one of our trips in which we were assigned not one but three interpreter-guides, perfectly charming young ladies who spoke flawless English. One of the guides accompanied me on business, while Beatrice was escorted by one of the other two. and visited the Pushkin Museum, where among other things there were four Gaugin's and innumerable icons. To our knowledge the four Gaugin's had never been shown elsewhere in the world,.
Behind our hotel was a stationery store that was just about empty, until one morning it was filled with truckload after truckload of briefcases. These were piled on tables, chairs, desks, until the place was filled to the roof. When they stopped coming I went in and bought two--they were very cheap-- but how many can one use? Besides the quality was decidedly poor; there would be no market at all for such as these in the West.
The pricing system was erratic in all of the Communist countries. When in Bohemia we bought for pennies fine wine glasses that we are using to this day and that we gave as presents to our friends at home.
More than once I visited the home of Ivan Petrovsky, whom I had known at IIASA. We dined well-though heaven knows at what cost to the family in the rationed meat and other delicacies that we ate. Friends who had just come back from southern Russia contributed some fruit, perhaps melon. Petrovsky presented us with a box of Soviet chocolates, and very crude they were. They were rendered even less attractive by falling on the floor when the package was opened. (Beatrice felt a little ashamed later when she put the package in the trash.)
I liked Petrovsky well enough to give him a computer and printer for the use of himself and his daughter. We were well into the computer age by the late 1980s, but mass used of computers was still in the future for the USSR. At one university I visited I wanted the use of a computer, and was told that its its one computer was scheduled hour by hour, and they would put my name down. When my time came I had just that, the use of an out-of-date personal computer for an hour.
Petrovsky was a kindly man. There was a poor peasant living near his dacha who had a boy that Petrovsky sponsored and whose schooling he paid for. He was very much an outdoors man-who often went for a hike in the forest, and who in his time had hunted bear. Add to all these qualities a great sense of irony, a sense of the futility of life in general, but especially of life in the Soviet Union.
One can imagine the strain that Soviet living placed on a truly free soul like Petrovsky. Knowing all the time that he could unwittingly be doing things he was not supposed to do under the restrictive Soviet code, perhaps saying something that could bring the secret police down on his head, he would have new things to worry about day after day, and that told on him. I was truly saddened but not entirely surprised when I had a phone call from his widow who would now have to get along without him. An arbitrary repressive rule is hard on everyone who is is not in the nomenclatura but it is especially hard on one as active and imaginative as Petrovsky..
Late in the Brezhnev period there was some codification of what is permitted and what not, and as long as one avoided criticizing Soviet policy in print, or have too many foreign friends, one could stay clear of Soviet prisons.
And someone else we knew, Georgiu ..,.who had been an important public servant. When he retired his house was transferred to his successor, and he had to move. We caught up with him in his retirement in a miserable accommodation in a slum area, where he was living with his 103-year old mother. He cooked us an acceptable dinner and we enjoyed hearing stories of his life. Another of the honest, modest, gentle types that has his ups and downs under a repressive dictatorship.
And some contact with Soviet officials I had at meetings in the United Nations. I remember Ryabushkin from New York and Geneva. In Geneva I had some business with him on one occasion, and invited him to lunch. The cost was coming out of my pocket, so we ate at a cafeteria-type restaurant, a prix fixe. Two days later he invited me to lunch. No prix fixe for Ryabushkin but a very well-appointed restaurant. No doubt he thought of this contrast as demonstrating the superiority of Communism. ..
I gave my series of half a dozen lectures, honored by the presence of the grand old man of Russian demography, ?????There was one embarrassing moment-I wanted to refer to an ordinary Russian citizen, and the only name that came to my mind was ??? who at that time was under house arrest. That was a slip of the tongue if there ever was one.
Notwithstanding all the constraints there were some things the Russians did superbly well. One was the Bolshoi Ballet, of which I attended one performance. Another was the Moscow Circus. Our interpreter, Kuznitsky, was able to obtain three tickets. When it boy turned out that I couldn't go Kuznitzky's young son used the ticket, and surely he enjoyed it more than I could possibly have done. For Beatrice the high point of the circus was a hockey game between two teams of dogs. One thinks of the patience and skill taken in the training of those dogs. There was only one slip-up when a dog shot the puck into his own goal. On a different occasion I did attend an orchestral performance, so called. I don't recall all the instruments used, but among them were a toilet seat that was rhythmically banged down.
I did once suffer the Soviet shopping experience. Wanting to throw a small party to say good-by to the people who had been so nice to to me, I needed cakes and wine, and it took a good part of a day to buy them. There were long queues, rude service, and outrageously bad quality. In one store the articles I wanted were visible below the glass counter, but I could no get the attention of the staff, who were standing behind the counter with their heads turned away from possible customers.
Some time earlier I had obtained a list of dissidents in the Soviet Union collected by the US National Academy of Sciences, and this was a chance to make friends. Victor Brailovsky had been a scientist, a statistician in fact, until `17 years before my visit, when he applied for an exit visa. Immediately upon making the application he was dismissed from his job in the University, and since people without a job were called vagrants and could be punished accordingly, he had to find a job. He had one at the time I visited--it was in a bank, where he did various menial jobs.
You can bet that he welcomed me when I showed up at his apartment, in a building whose exterior, the style called Stalin Gothic, was rather like a block house in its exterior crudity, and the interior matched.
I was alone that time, but there was a later opportunity to visit accompanied by Beatrice. It was one evening when we had been given a small banquet by a Commissar (it was actually pretty good food ) and after two hours of dull talk, at about 10 p.m. our host summoned a taxi and instructed the driver to take us back to the University Hotel. Our 50 words of Russian were enough to have the taxi re-routed and re-directed to the home of Brailovsky. What with delays, and my vague idea of where Brailovsky lived, it was getting towards midnight before we arrived, but never have we had a more welcoming reception. In the course of the conversation we were given to understand that Victor had written an article on a statistical problem that he would like to see published in the West.
He didn't say this (the place was certainly bugged) but wrote it on a pad, which he destroyed after showing it to us. His request was that I put his ms. in my baggage and on my return submit it to regular journals. I agreed of course. By then it was about 1 o'clock, and Beatrice was falling asleep, so we said good-night.
On this I have to report a defeat. When I submitted the ms. to professional journal editors in the United States they had it professionally refereed. The report that came back to me was that ms. was correct and its smuggled source made it doubly attractive, but unfortunately the device had been anticipated by American statisticians, and the ms. was turned down. I tried three journals and then gave up.
Dissidents had very little money, so I left my camera with Victor, who said he could sell it and spend the money on good causes, especially helping other dissidents. I hope I gave comfort to worthy people under undeserved persecution. The satisfaction in this, plus my imagining myself as a secret agent was the only good I got out of it. But it was without much risk. What with the obligation on interpreters and others to whom we talked to report suspicious foreigners, our night-time forays were undoubtedly known to the authorities, but apparently we were not thought worth interfering with. I rather liked the idea of being detained and made a cause celebre between Moscow and Washington, but it was not to be.
In the sequel, with the breakdown of the USSR in 1989 the frontiers were opened and Brailovsky and other dissidents left. I understand that Brailovsky got to Israel, made something of a mark in Israeli politics, and was a member of the Knesset.
The mutual suspicion and fear that such regimes generate and play upon was demonstrated on one occasion when we left Slovakia by car. Our car was examined, including opening the engine, and using a mirror for the underside of the car, and all this was done twice independently--by two guards working separately and out of sight of one another. "What a waste of manpower!" you might say. The regime sees such devices rather as ensuring their stay in power.
Dissidence increased, more and more people were indifferent to the Communist line. At political meetings people would only half listen to messages that they had heard too often before. Those in the back rows might be playing chess to pass the time. Workers were increasingly inattentive to their jobs, would come late to work and leave early, We were never told about this collapse of morale in the Brezhnev era. The leadership was old, and the whole system became ossified, a rigid gerontocracy. .
What a fall this was from the fierce patriotism called into play by the War.
Before I had another chance to visit the USSR broke up. One Russian correspondent told me, because the very conspicuous ravages of the environment showed the public in an easily understandable way that the regime didn't care about anyone's welfare but its own..
How come it lasted for 70 years? The answer is simple. For the first few decades it spent away the capital accumulated in Czarist times. Then for two or three decades it spent the capital provided by nature--it spent down the environment, sold off the forests, the oil deposits.. After that there was nothing left but to take the inefficiencies out of living standards, and the spontaneous breakdown of the system was inevitable. Only the self-interest of the CIA and the arms makers could continue to present the myth of the USSR, the "evil empire," that was painted up to look like a match for the United States.
The collapse in 1989-90 should not have come as the surprise that it did.