Alexander Zinoviev: An Introduction to His Work by Michael Kirkwood

By Michael Kirkwood

Zinoviev's dual topics are the character of Soviet communist society and the West's lack of ability to appreciate it. it's the function of this publication to track the advance of his pondering through a chronological research of his most vital works.

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He decided to launch a public protest, an event to which he invited foreign correspondents. This act of de- Homo Sovieticus 21 fiance cost hirn his post at Moscow University and led to his 'expulsion' from the Soviet Philosophical Society for good measure, although he was not in fact a member of that body. On 26 September 1976 a Western radio station announced the publication in Switzerland of Ziiaushchie vysoty. The reaction in Moscow was immediate. Most of Zinoviev's friends and colleagues dropped hirn like a hot potato, although Zinoviev maintains that they had absolutely nothing to fear and claims that their actions were motivated not by fe ar but by envy (Zinoviev, 1987b:1l2); it was not the publication in the West of a book critical of Soviet society which upset them but the fact that the book became such an overnight success.

The practice of informing is widespread and is regarded as normal behaviour by many people. Refusing ever to inform on anyone is difficult in an environmen t in which it counts as normal, expected behaviour. Rule number four is at first sight surprising. We are used, after all, to the notions of 'serious' and 'petty' crime. Our legal system differentiates between various degrees of criminal behaviour, reflected in graduated systems of punishment. We are used to thinking in moral terms of degrees of 'good' and 'bad', 'right' and 'wrong'.

Notiee, however, another consequence of diehes. They are devoid of genuine communieative content. Thus when Gorbachev urges people to support perestroika, his exhortations are often dothed in the same old diehes. Cliches, however, are not confined to Russian. What makes the Soviet diche special is the accompanying ritualistie behaviour. In times of crisis, collectives 'volunteer' to 'take on increased responsibilities', 'to become vigilant', 'to take measures', and so on, while everyone knows that most of the ensuing effort will go into making it appear as ifnew responsibilities, etc.

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