This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
From card catalog: Isaac Don Levine, journalist on Soviet affairs, author of "Mind of An Assasin," talks about censorship of press in USSR.
Levine talks about being a reporter in Russia. The conditions under which foreign correspondents live are those approximating captives. The food problem being what it is, foreign correspondents with families get their food imported from Finland; flow of information. Recounts anecdotes of his time in Russia as a tourist. Story of Lazar Kaganovich's mysterious death in 1962 (?) (Wikipedia says Kaganovich didn't die until 1991). Mentions many Russian figures by name and reputation.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 70484
Municipal archives id: T592
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
You know there are generations of anti-communism pending on when they broke with the COS I belong to a fairly early generation back into the thirty's and there are a few earlier ones there are those who broke with communism during the. Hitler pact and believe it or not there is something still breaking. Dawn Levine doesn't belong in any of them because he's one of those rare intellectuals deeply concerned with the Soviet Union was never a communist. I didn't have to break now I don't know whether he has an adequate apology for that it's a fact that when I was in my very youthful zeal on the red side of the line he was one of the boogieman he was writing books that obviously were being paid for by Wall Street because they couldn't be true. Well done so much to say about him as a newspaper man as a correspondent and journalist probably has more. Great historical scoops to his. Record than any man I can think of offhand beginning with the famous willy nilly letters and going right through to his recent scoops on the murder of prodigy to measure the the mirror time extent of his contribution to American. Confusion and enlightenment and the Russian there is usually confusion because I said before nobody seems to be sure of anything his first book was published in June one thousand nine hundred seventeen and was called You'll never guess it was called the Russian Revolution. His last book was published a year or two ago I don't know the exact date and it was called the mind of an assassin about a man who killed Trotsky and the extraordinary circumstances behind it and that if you're good on computing is as quite a stretch of time from one hundred seventeen to one hundred sixty two and it's more than it's not and itself an adequate measure of what he's done because every one of his books as a book has made. A mark on our understanding and our feeling. I don't know what he's going to talk about. Presumably it'll be one facet of what he's just seen I must confess I was astonished after his life long fight against Stalin ism and. Everything connected with it that he was allowed into Moscow. That was and I first realized that he was a double agent and I was even more astonished. I was even more astonished when they let them out but he did get out and here he is and it's a pleasure to use my friend and our colleague Isaac nonliving. I'm going to surprise my friend Lyons and talk about something that he hasn't much learned from me namely about emotional shocking thing that I've discovered in this Soviet Union during the lies trip after spending thirty days in landing. Moscow altogether sixteen in three years here and publicity. This shocking thing was the condition of the working press and in fifteen of point two minutes here I shall confine myself only to the subject of the press and the news which does not reach the outside world from the Soviet Union the shock came when I discovered that there was a map in position of the press office not only of the United States embassy but of other foreign embassies circumscribing and defining the area around Moscow which is open to foreign correspondents it is a small. And on even law Aine. Which surrounds the mediate area of Moscow the city included any credited correspondent who wants to make a trip outside of that area can do so only after applying for permission to the Soviet Foreign Office and upon the securing of such permission he can take the car and drive twenty five thirty five fifty five miles out of Moscow should he however venture out on his own not the chances but it's almost certain that a couple of cops militiaman will stop him and will turn the car back the dollar arresting him and then he will come in protest and the blame be flown to that particular place where he was stopped was even within the permissible area but then it becomes a matter for diplomatic exchange and the trip is over. In addition to this shocking discovery about the press I found I was with my wife when entertained by some of the leading correspondents in Moscow I shall not give any names this is just on the record that the conditions under which. Foreign correspondents And that means about one hundred and twenty of them all together in Moscow the conditions under which they live are those approximating captive. You drive up to a wonderful looking apartment house from the outside you think you might enter it through the front entrance but there is no front entrance or it's blocked or barred you drive into the courtyard the courtyard of this ep could be muddy the courtyard consists of an something like an enclave at the narrow entrance to that enclave is a bull or a sentry box twenty four hours every day these are the essentially boxes are taken by crewmen when you come in to do to a luncheon or to a dinner and I have occasion to do both you are observed and to be sure if necessary you are photographed when you come out the same procedure is followed that may not be hard upon the visitor but upon the inmates it contributes deeply to the first three ssion the bitterness. The harshness of being a foreign correspondent in the Soviet Union and anyone who has seen those covers punkins realizes can realize how difficult that assignment is in addition to that. It should be emphasized. That the food problem being what it is correspondence with foreign families and those without foreign with foreign families are not good families and children I'm referring to foreign correspondents get their food imported from Finland with the exception of milk and bread most of them rely upon regular food parcels shipped in from film and for their daily. Home meals. In addition to this I want to mention a dinner which we have at their home of any tell you in color sparkling of one of the great taste perhaps the two or three greatest newspapers in Italy this gentleman and his wife and they had a little girl who lived under the conditions that I've just described in a year and a half they have never had contact with any of the Russians. With the exception of one girl who comes every morning the Russian girl the employee to read the press for them and of course that girl being the only link between them and the world in which they function is obviously not to be taken into their full confidence. At the luncheon given for us by one of the leading correspondent at which eight or nine of the top men in Moscow were present. I found myself regaining same with them Are you experienced upon a day of questioning to be sure with my experience or sick of responding to there when I was stationed in the Soviet Union roughly between one thousand nine hundred nineteen twenty four until the fall of twenty four and when I illustrated to them by one story which I'm going to quote here because it's a matter of concern I just say and of deep interest along newsman they saw I saw loudly and expressed themselves in this sense those were the good old days if only we could have those conditions now or the other way around if we could have been a cut of Spondon when you were there I told him that some time I believe it was late in twenty three the news winter only world that the head of the coming turn at that time of the coming weeks internationals you know via head. Or forward a statement to the effect that the red flag will fly over the White House I got a query from New York the query arrived in the evening which means that in the afternoon in New York I dashed over to the Foreign Office I had no difficulty after a few minutes in getting to the queen of and then to Cherry Well they said the only person who could really give you a statement on this is you know of him self but where is in of if he's in a session of the political road in the Kremlin whereupon I told my man I think I had one of those motorcycles and a man were driving me to make for the Kremlin. And I was allowed to proceed to dig gold of course from the outside where the pulley bureau was in session under the inside and wrist of tsunami of came out right that same late evening and he dictated a short statement to me and I dashed back to the Foreign Office and charing OK.D. and by two am It was off to where it would take them weeks months got to spawn once now to get to Grammy cause there is a query of similar import what could reach them. No. My time being limited and since I'm bent upon surprising my good friend Gene. I'm going to disclose two or three items which have not reached the place of the United States or anywhere else. Which I not a single working political journalist but as a tourist and I went as he put it at my only experience without accreditation and without prior payment or any payment by any magazine or newspaper syndicate I didn't switch I picked up which we love story for you and for those who may care to read if it is printed the conditions under which vital news is kept from a core of one hundred twenty correspondents I can number one some time last December laws or Gun know of each. One of the leaders of the end type party group died in Moscow as a result of a heart attack no no gifts of his death was printed in the Soviet press when I picked up this news item I decided to very fight the only way I could very fight would be to go to the cemetery Do you know what give each cemetery what. Wife Are you really have is bury and where a number of other it will last for years. From Within of and she charing down library and when I arrived by cab not by name tourist car at this cemetery I was there woman in charge of the caretakers cottage at the entrance where we don't know which is a grave exactly involved were and she pointed to. The reader yard of a rather extensive cemetery and we proceeded there of course I could not with any certainty say that the grave that I saw which had no monument was his grave because monuments are usually put up a year or so after the ground the soil settles. But there was no question and there is no question in my mind that the news of cut him over to his death from a heart attack and the description acts like the one that I got of how he was carried out. With reference to his brother Maurice a visit to the United States and was even received by Roosevelt and he was here and was the subject of a little controversy when he was here involving me all of this information led me to the absolute belief. Is dead and that if your government for reasons of its own defied it not to publicise it over each in case those who do not remember will want to know where the man who built the subway and was a member of the Politburo in one of Stalin's right hand man the same goes and this is a footnote for a book gun. Is a line. At Luzhniki which is an outlying section of Moscow not far from the stadium and not far from the landing Hill for the university is but not a Fingal use paper man would ever think know not think is not the word would ever dare to go down there and even have a look at Bill gunning before going out of the country and writing a little piece about his condition I understand that he owed for suffered a flight heart attack recently No I can remember too we went down to the Caucasus to the belief and in the capital of Georgia. Where Stalin was born. And where I had the good fortune of. Being received in the archive of the Central Committee of the Institute of Marxism Leninism in capital upon walking it from end to end there was no visible sign of Colleen when we climbed up to the by car to be sure we went down by Finney. To the mound in the center of the city which dominates the entire country. And which is decorated by a beautiful building with a grand care if a restaurant building we were advised I was advised to go in the explore the park behind. You part which I can tell you only pushed the car is. Up. All the way back and you keep climbing. And then you go on a level and then again and that they had to feed those of you who have read books. One if you would if you. Follow you in this picture it can be fien. Margin Call in his book described. Well I arrived there and I found that was missing. And written on the pedestal were three words in three different language. Here rather than written in Russian Colleen. And D.S. had been rubbed out in Armenian. If I found out later folly in Georgia and if. That. Had been taken down the night before. Cough. Arrived in carefully for three weeks before our visit with a matter of. The end tires thirty. A night. And. Was a whole row as I was. By a crew of men who dumped it I would fight in a. Dump when I inquired if the fellow musician. Of. Country the only. Gift organisation. I was given was the. One Castro to feel even. George. Had long seen. Every vestige of folly but one of the Georgian with whom I thought fed our heart. And in this connection I want to emphasize. That this was a general sentiment the forest one could discern it during a visit of several days among the Georgians because they are native patriotism was the one. That stalling of course represented to the nth degree the fact that they are making fun of a country with three million could dominate two hundred million and perhaps another billion for a number of years when I got to Oxford out from London of course before proceeding to the United States where I met that I had the good fortune to meet with six or seven or eight so of your colleagues and also in London all of these experts and they are experts they are really students of every printed word that comes out of the Soviet Union between the lines and on the line they were under the impression the Georgia or was it the only country the only area let's say every country in the Soviet Union were the styling cult was still untouched and they thought it was quite new See. My report about what happened to the stylings statue but as far as I know no other word of that has reached or had been reached Moscow when we were there by must go I mean of course the foreign press corps in Moscow one more item I think and I will close because I want to confine myself to keep you pressed. The representative of the group was in Moscow when we were there I think his name Mr BALL Will war will correct me with bikes be E.I. T Z. And it was generally known that negotiations of a very important nature were being conducted on an economic level and I shouldn't see only on an economic on an economic political level between the groups and the Soviet government those Soviet leaders who do remember that there was one state Apollo treaty and he just came to me that it groups had signed a contract for the construction and I checked it on my diary of twenty four planes to be built outside in West Germany and to be transported and installed in various areas of the Soviet Union now it may very well be that this item has appeared in the press I have not seen it seemed to me. A singularity important item in connection wi