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This report is taken from PN Review 78, Volume 17 Number 4, March - April 1991.

A Montgolfier Letter from Moscow John Peck
Readers of this journal who know their Nadezhda Mandelshtam better than I do will be able to supply better comparisons than I have to the material below, which I summarize from a report published by Josephine Woll in Dissent, Spring 1990 (New York: Irving Howe and Michael Walzer, editors), entitled '"Literary" Ugliness in Russia'. This report translates portions of a transcript of the sixth plenary session of the Russian Republic's section of the Union of Soviet Writers, printed in Ogonek 48 (1989). That session was held in mid-November, before some of the most dramatic features of revolution from above and ferment from below had registered, and before the Russian Republic's role in nationalist turmoil had been fully choreographed. My aim is to expose to non-specialist literary folk in Britain what Ms Woll and her editors have made available to American readers, even though a tent-meeting of other literary folk may not be the most sensitive device for gauging wind velocity through the Sybil's leaves ('this most unreal of gatherings', remarked Mrs Mandelshtam of a comparable occasion).

Ms Woll's selections from the transcript at first pertain to the printing of excepts from Andrei Sinyavsky's Strolls with Pushkin (Progulki s Pushkinym) in Oktyabr, a monthly edited by Ananev. That event was enough to provoke Yuvan Shestalov to protest, 'Someone is trying to destroy our spirituality. And today I want to repeat these words: "The fatherland is in danger!" ... I have traversed Russia from Kola to [Kamchatka] and what I saw ...


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