Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red Square at Noon

Today is Wednesday, 25 August 2010.

Konstantin Babitsky. Tonia Baeva. Larissa Bogoraz. Vadim Delone. Vladimir Dremlyuga. Victor Feinberg. Natalia Gorbanevskaya. Pavel Litvinov.

Names you’re unlikely to recognize. On 25 August 1968, as the clock in the Kremlin tolled noon, these eight sat down on the raised parapet around the medieval Execution Ground in Red Square in Moscow.

They displayed a Czech flag and four handmade banners: “Hands off the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic”. “Shame on the occupiers”. “Long live free and independent Czechoslovakia”. “For your freedom and ours”.

They were bearing witness against the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the USSR and several allies on the night of 20-21 August 1968. They were instantly assaulted by plainclothes KGB loitering in the Square, and shoved into automobiles.

The eight would have been under no misapprehension that their protest could reverse the course of history. Unlike the sadly vast majorities in every time and place, they simply accepted the common human responsibility to “show an affirming flame”, as Auden wrote in “1 September 1939”, and acted upon it.

For their decency, they suffered public obloquy, trial, imprisonment in jails or KGB “psychiatric” institutions, exile.

I wish they could have known, in that brave moment, that they were helping to change my life for the better forever, and that I am perpetually grateful. I’m certain I’m not the only one.

Natalia Gorbanevskaya, Red Square at Noon. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is it that these few changed your life "for the better forever"? Have you taken inspiration from their acts and, if so, how does that translate into your political action today? Are you involved personally in local, state, national politics? Have you taken a stand for which you were tried and imprisoned? In what tangible ways did their "martyrdom" affect your life directly? I'm not being sarcastic here - I just don't know to what you refer when you say that their brave moment changed your life.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous HH said...

I didn't assume you were being sarcastic. This was actually part one. There was an event on 28 August 1968 which, with Red Square at Noon, together had a tremendous impact, so I'll have part two on Saturday. So: Thanks for watching! Stay tuned! Don't touch that dial!

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I assume that you're referring to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago (and the shenanigans which ensued there) and/or MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington. It was quite a time...

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops. My bad. I see now that HH indicated an event taking place on 8.28.68. Guess that year designation is a rather important fact that I inadvertently overlooked (although the five-year anniversaire of MLK's speech at the Lincoln Memorial is memorable as well). Still, quite a time...

12:58 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home