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RFE/RL Translations
April 19, 2017

From Metropole to the PEN Centre

by
Henry Jackson Society

The Metropole affair of 1979 made a special contribution to the struggle for the anti-censorship Article 29 of the Russian Constitution, which the current regime has gone to great lengths to reduce to the status of a stage prop. The recent scandal at the Russian PEN Centre over the expulsion from its ranks of Sergey Parkhomenko, the ‘administrative conclusions’ drawn about certain turbulent writers and the voluntary resignation of others, have shown the 1979 affair in a new light. The persecutor in the PEN scandal is Yevgeny Popov, president of the PEN Centre, and himself a hero of events that took place almost forty years ago, in which it was he who was persecuted. The example of Popov seems to turn the Metropole affair on its head and to illustrate just how easily and imperceptibly ‘keeping politics out of art’ can lead to betrayal of the very ideals for which someone fought and suffered. Or is it all simply a matter of the blandishments of power which, in certain circumstances and at certain times, become irresistible?

So what kind of conspiracy was this that in 1979 took place in full public view? A mutiny on the ship of Soviet culture? The coming out of non-official literature? Who was the winner in that match against Sofia Vlasievna (i.e., the Soviet regime), and where will playing games with Putia Vlasievna, her direct descendant, lead?

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