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::Face of the day

Edward Lozansky : I married my wife again and again

Edward Lozansky : I married my wife again and again
August 30, 2010

Over thirty years ago, or more precise in 1976, Edward Dmitrievich Lozansky, a budding Soviet nuclear physicist, was getting ready to present the important results of his work in the area of plasma physics which he believed could make an important contribution to the search for the new energy sources.

However, not only this presentation was suddenly canceled. He was fired from the job, his marriage to Tatiana, the daughter of a prominent Soviet general, was pronounced null and void and on top of that he was «advised» to leave the country and make it snappy.

The story has a curious and rather startling sequel. This week Edward and Tatiana again went through a marriage ceremony at a Moscow registry office. However, back in 1982, they had another rather unusual wedding ceremony in US Capitol, when the groom was in Washington among Members of Congress while the bride remained under house arrest in Moscow.

It is not easy to figure out what is going on here when the life of Soviet elite, Cold War, US politicians, love, and collapse of communism get all mix together. Shall we try?

First a few facts about Edward and Tatiana.

Edward D. Lozansky is a nuclear physicist, political scientist and journalist. He is founder and president of the American University in Moscow and professor of World Politics at Moscow State University. Also, President of the World Russia Forum, the annual event at U.S. Congress to generate new ideas for U.S.-Russian cooperation. He is the author of 14 books and monographs, and over 500 articles. He graduated from the Moscow Physics and Engineering Institute and got his PhD from the famous Kurchatov Institute of the Atomic Energy, the birth place of the Soviet atomic bomb. In 1976 he lost his job because he criticized the Soviet regime and distributed what was officially known as «anti-Soviet» literature and was forced to leave the USSR for the United States. In 1990, jointly with Academician Yuri Osipyan and Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov, he founded the American University in Moscow, which at the time was the first private higher education school in Russia.

Tatiana I. Lozansky (Yershov) graduated from the Moscow State University and worked on her PhD at the USSR Academy of Sciences. She is the daughter of Colonel General Ivan D. Yershov, one of the key military commanders in charge of the Soviet Army’s invasion in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Q: Edward and Tatiana, please help us sort out your life story. I found countless references to you and your work on the Internet but these bits simply refuse to fall into place and make up a whole.

E.L.: Granted, this is a bit of a puzzler, and a single article can hardly accommodate all the necessary explanations. So we had better discard gossip and conjectures and concentrate on the essentials.

Q.: Then, Edward, if you don’t mind my asking — why didn’t they arrest you back in 1976, as they did to other dissidents for similar offenses, but sent you to the West? They sort of threw the fish in the water, right?

E.L.: Naturally I can’t be absolutely sure, since it was not my decision, but I assume that it was, not least, thanks to my father-in-law who had friends in high places. He certainly did not like the idea of a son-in-law behind bars or in a mad house. The way he saw it, it was more sensible to have me divorced from Tatiana and expelled from the country, which would have been the least damaging both to his own career and to the future of his daughter. Given her looks and standard of life, he was sure she could easily find a replacement for me.

Q.: A question for Tatiana, now. How did you get involved with Edward? You were from entirely different social backgrounds, were you not?

T.L.: Competition to enter Moscow University was, as ever, on the cutthroat side, and though I had not done too badly at school, my parents decided to hire someone to coach me in Physics and Math for the entrance exams. A family friend recommended Edward, and my mother, rather thoughtlessly, agreed. As a result, I found myself among dissidents — scientists, artists, writers, musicians. All of them read and distributed forbidden literature and were horribly anti-Soviet; at first this shocked me no end, but eventually I got used to it and even passed on some of what I heard to my friends. As it often happens, I fell head over heels in love with my tutor and we made a rock-solid decision to marry.

Q.: And your parents bestowed a blessing on your marriage to a man like that?

T.L.: Of course they’d much rather have had me marry a person from a different milieu. But they knew only too well how headstrong I was, they realized there was no stopping me, they knew I’d go and marry him anyway, blessing or no blessing. Seeing that I was adamant, my parents gave me up as a hopeless case. True, they bitterly regretted it before long. At first things were more or less all right. My husband went on with his research and teaching. I was an undergraduate at the most prestigious Moscow State University. We had a beautiful baby girl; everything seemed just fine, but that was a sort of dual life.

On the one hand, there were our friends, all highly critical of the Soviet establishment. On the other, there were my parents and their set — the top brass and Party bosses, including even Politburo members and top KGB men. One day someone informed on Edward saying that he distributed the underground anti-Soviet «Kontinent» magazine and eulogized Academician Sakharov during his lectures... Dad’s almighty friends decided to help him get rid of so embarrassing a son-in-law; Edward was offered emigration on condition of divorcing me. For my part, I was promised that I could take my daughter and join him within a year, when the dust had settled.

Q.: Did you believe that?

T.L.: Naturally we were not as gullible as all that, but we decided to risk it and seize the chance. Edward left for the United States where he became a professor at a university. I had graduated from Moscow University by then and enrolled into graduate school at the Academy of Sciences. A year later I went to OVIR, the Visa and Registration Department, to hand in the papers for joining my husband in the United States. They just laughed at me there and told me to forget this nonsense... That was a terrible time. They took care to disconnect my telephone, and the only way I could talk to Edward was through our friends, which put them at great risk. Thus artist Grisha Bruskin also had his telephone disconnected for «malicious hooliganism» and was threatened expulsion from Moscow after I had made a long-distance call to the US from his apartment. Grisha described this episode in his book The Past Indefinite Time recently published in Russia. Not to put at risk my superiors at the Academy, I took on a cleaning job at the Zarya multiple service firm. Otherwise I could have been expelled from Moscow for «parasitism.»

Q.: Did you actually work as a cleaner or did you simply use the job certificate as cover?

T.L.: Oh yes, I did some very real cleaning — washed floors and windows in school buildings where my firm sent me. Around that time my husband and I launched a campaign for family reunification. Many prominent people joined our campaign — Nobel Prize winners, Olympic champions, even Mother Teresa, but most importantly, hundreds of people from all over the world who had learned about us from western media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and many other papers as well as practically all major US TV channels. This gave us tremendous publicity.

One of the PR acts at the time was our second wedding «in absentia» on Capitol Hill in US Congress. Under the US law, marriage by proxy is a possibility, given certain conditions. I was represented at the ceremony by Republican Party leaders Senator Bob Dole and Congressman Jack Kemp, the men who subsequently ran for president and vice president. I signed the relevant papers secretly passed to me through diplomatic channels. That created such an uproar throughout the world that the «Evil Empire» quaked and the cage door was flung open.

Q.: Edward, how did this U-turn come about, how did you end up going back to Russia and why you are supporting Russia in the international arena, after all that?

E.L.: The simple answer is that modern Russia and Soviet Union are two different countries, and I believe Russia is not responsible for Soviet crimes. Moreover, Russia should be added to the list of 30 or so captive nations enslaved by communism including 14 other Soviet republics and the countries of Eastern Europe. In the absolute numbers of victims it was Russia that suffered the most and it was Russia that liberated itself, all the captive nations, and for that matter, the world, from Soviet-style communism. Recently a high ranking Russian official, the Chairman of the Duma’s Foreign Relations Committee Konstantin Kosachev made the following remarkable statement: «Our society is to no lesser extent the victim of the erstwhile regime, was no less articulate in condemning the crimes of Stalin’s totalitarianism, and acted on its own, without external intervention and democratically, to remove the communist ideology from power.» Unfortunately, U.S. media preferred not to notice such a bold and courageous statement.

I published many articles in the Russian press and frequently appear on many TV and radio talk-shows repeating more or less the same lines. Only a few weeks ago I said on one of the main Russian TV channels that it is time to admit that although the Red Army made the most crucial contribution to defeat the Nazis, it was the same Red Army that occupied the Baltics, Western Ukraine, and Eastern Europe for almost 50 years. Since this show was pre-taped these lines could have been easily deleted, but they were not.

My weak voice, of course, is obviously not the only one. The work to deal with the Soviet legacy is being done slowly, but surely. This regime and its policies have been repeatedly condemned by Russia’s current top officials and the media, including government-run TV which are constantly filled with devastating documentaries and feature films describing the horrors of the Soviet era. Most recently both Medvedev and Putin denounced Stalin’s terror in connection with the Katyn massacre, and we have heard them denouncing communist policies and dogmas many times since and before.

The job of writing a comprehensive multi-volume modern Russian history was offered by the Kremlin to no one else but Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the person who, through his writings and public activities, has done more than any other man to destroy the communist ideology. Due to his old age he passed this honor to the Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO) — one of the most prestigious schools for future Russian diplomats — Professor Andrei Zubov, known for his calls for Russia’s de-communization similar to the de-Nazification of postwar Germany. History books rarely become bestsellers, but this one surely did. It has won praise from many well-known scholars, including Richard Pipes and others who can hardly be charged with being Moscow’s appeasers or sympathizers.

This is a pretty long answer to your question but otherwise it is difficult to explain the reason for my, as you say, U-turn.

Q: What projects are you promoting at the moment?

E.L.: We organize lots of conferences devoted to the search for new ideas for U.S.-Russian cooperation. We work with Russian delegations in Washington and with U.S. delegations in Moscow. Also, we write articles and books. When I say «we» I mean we do it together. I do the writing, and Tatiana edits my texts. She has a most agile mind and is quick to spot logical incongruities or weak argumentation. I have to rewrite manuscripts five or six times after she has been at them with a red pencil.

Q.: Could you briefly sum up the main goals and purposes of your activity?

E.L.: In a single sentence, our objective is rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. and their strategic alliance. In our view the world at the moment is in far greater danger than it was during the past world wars and the Cold War. The multiple threats of terrorism, dissemination of weapons of mass distraction, damage to the environment, dwindling energy resources, infectious diseases, and tottery world finances are the problems Russia shares with the West. So to address them it is necessary to pool our efforts. Figuratively speaking we see ourselves as «barge haulers on the Potomac,» not unlike the Volga barge-haulers in the famous Ilya Repiin picture, except we are not straining to tow a barge but to pull Russia and America closer to each other. Both countries are digging in their heels, occasionally snarling, but a good barge hauler needs to go on with his hard work without slackening.

Q.: Yet your opponents say that under the present Russian regime this is impossible. I read a verbatim account of your debate with Garri Kasparov in U.S. Congress where you advocated a U.S.-Russia alliance, while Kasparov called for Russia’s isolation, expulsion from the G8 and, Reagan-like, wanted it branded the «Evil Empire.» E.L.: Kasparov is no doubt a person of some notoriety willingly quoted by the Western media, but they tend to forget that at the time when we were fightingt communism, Garri was a loyal member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and was perfectly happy with the Soviet system. The blue-eyed boy of that system, as a matter of fact. But this is by the by. Opportunism and mimicry in politics is nothing if not common. I would look at the issue from a broader perspective.

There are two major schools of thought relating to the choice of U.S. policy toward Russia. One of these favors consistent rapprochement with Russia and evolutionary development of democratic institutions in it through mutually advantageous cooperation and exchange of ideas. The other one, which is mostly furthered by so-called neo-conservatives, but not by them alone, proposes a fairly tough approach to Russia, renouncing all cooperation with it, weakening and isolating it under the slogans of promoting democracy and color revolutions throughout post-Soviet space.

So it appears that the foreign-policy stand taken by Kasparov, Illarionov, and other leading oppositionists in Russia is closer to the second school whose influence was predominant under Bush. Let me observe, though, that with the coming of Obama to power in the U.S. ideas of rapprochement with Russia through a «reset» in our relations have been increasingly popular.

Q.: How do you feel on the whole about Russia’s democratic opposition? Are there any personages you like there?

E.L.: Frankly, I don’t find this opposition exactly endearing. In the late 1980s and in the early 1990s we did our best to help them, bringing over from America computers, xerox and fax machines, which were then a rarity here. Tatiana even worked for Irina Khakamada’s campaign headquarters when the latter ran for the State Duma. But eventually we grew disillusioned with them. People referred to as «democrats» can never achieve any unity among themselves, they even stoop to soliciting the support of Limonov’s National Bolsheviks and the Communists. It appears that they have no positive program; the only thing that unites them is their hatred for the Kremlin. Instead of waging a competent political campaign to win votes, they are busy squabbling and appealing to Washington and Brussels.

As for those I do like, I could name perhaps Anatoly Chubais and Nikita Belykh. Those two are doing something real instead of spouting a lot of hot air.

Q.: What could you say about accusations of being linked to CIA and KGB?

E.L.: The sad fact is that in Russia one’s political opponents prefer label-sticking to a civilized discussion. Obviously, there are people who resent our efforts to achieve a rapprochement between Russia and the US. We clearly are a thorn in the side of those who for different reasons don’t want this to happen. So they find it easier to brand us as CIA or KGB agents rather than to engage in a substantive debate. Tatiana and me, we prefer simply to laugh it off. So far, thank God, we’ve had no problems either with US or Russian authorities.

Edward Lozansky — President of the American University in Moscow and Professor at World Politics Department, Moscow University

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