Paruyr HAYRIKYAN: interview about Vasyl STUS and about himself
Vasyl Ovsiyenko: Paruyr Hayrikyan is telling his story in the presence of Mykhailo Horyn and Vakhtang Kipiani near the graves of Vasyl Stus, Yuriy Lytvyn and Olexa Tykhyi on Baikovy Cemetery on September 11, 1999.
Paruyr Hayrikyan: In 1973 I was in the zone ZhKh-385-3/5 in Barashevo in Mordovia. Before the end of my term it became known that a Ukrainian poet was brought to the zone. It was Vasyl Stus. I soon left the zone.
As Vasyl himself was a particular, passionate amateur of truth and justice, I will tell the truth. I was a little disappointed, because I believed that a political fighter arrived in the zone. In a short space of time I failed to realize that this man was the fighter at heart, the fighter as the poet and the fighter as the person. In his sentence I tried to make out a kind of political motivation and aspiration to independence, freedom, but there was nothing of the sort. During my first term I got acquainted with him, we had good relations, but we did not become friends then.
I was released, but in eighteen months I had to return to the same zone. Usually returning to the concentration camp is perceived as a heavy event. But just because I then managed to open for myself Stus, came to know him I experienced real joy in connection with my returning to the same zone.
It is significant that usually, when someone is released from the zone, those staying behind bid farewell as though forever: supposedly he was discharged and was leaving for good. I hated to show it, but it was heavy for me to come back to the same zone. However, in court I held my own, they were so afraid of me that they transported me in a special aircraft.
When I arrived in the same zone, Alexandrov was the brigade leader there. He was a stinker. I remember how he used to tell me that I would return once again. I thought that when I would meet him he would remind me: “I told you…” And he would rule the roost during seven years as an add-on to the first four years. It was depressing.
I remember the first reaction of my friends who had seen me off. Israil Zalmanson: "Oh, Paruyrik, you are back here?” Others reacted differently, with regret, but his feelings were simply boyish… And Vasyl, as soon as he saw me, at once grew several years older. He had heard that I had been arrested, but here saw for himself that after long-awaited freedom I came back. I remember his words. When we embraced, I prepared a hand and he lowered his hand and told: "Paruyr!…”
Then our true friendship began. You know, I’ve just now suddenly recollected it all. His first sentence read that he was against his people. And it oppressed him. He explained: “When they told me that I was against Ukrainian people−here the Ukrainians lived in this society and I was against them−for me it was equivalent to death”. Therefore he spoke at the trial: “I am not against my people, I cannot be against my people”. We were political activists. And he was a dissident, he was a littérateur, and I will tell a detail, which you, Ukrainians, probably, know very well. When people wrote the statement in defense of Valentyn Moroz, Chornovil and others, knowing the grandeur of talent of Vasyl Stus as the poet, wished to ward off the danger and hold him back from signing this common statement so that he could keep aloof from it and serve Ukrainian poetry only. And then Chornovil told me that Vasyl, having remained alone, wrote it in round words which sounded more sharply, than our joint creation.
During all these years when we communicated with him, Vasyl played a historical political role about which, probably, quite a lot is to be told yet. As a rule, the Bolsheviks speculated on the idea of internationalism and maintained that the nationalists allegedly fought for their individual targets, hated each other, while the Bolshevicks were internationalists without national bias of any kind.
After my discharge we tried and formulated the positive way to independence by a referendum. We pursue this idea now as well; it means liberation of a person, her/his self-determination, and attainment of national self-determination through personal self-determination. We managed to harmonize human rights with the rights of a nation. All of this was included into our program and obtained a constitutional base. Of course, the Soviet constitution is not a constitution. But we relied on it and we were guided by the international principles and the Soviet constitution. Nevertheless the Bolsheviks arrested me once again and gave me seven years. They sentenced my friends Azat Arshakyan and Ashot Navasardyan to seven years, too.
In Mordovia, they put us into different zones. Several Armenians were kept together, but in my case they ordered to keep me apart from other Armenians. And here the KGB officers made a blooper: they put me into the cell of Vasyl Stus with whom I had closer relations, than with any Armenian with whom I communicated until then. Especially it concerned spiritual intercourse. After my returning, when I discovered this man, got to know him better, he became near and dear for me. I never cried. The only time in the zone when I cried was when Mikhail Heifetz read me poems of Stus and told: “I stay with a genial poet here”. And he read me his poems. He read the first, second, third poem and translated them into Russian. I could not contain myself.
After the surgical operation Stus was taken to the 17th zone. (Since January, 1976.--V.O.).
But when I returned to the zone 3/5, he met me, I embraced him, he did not understand, what was the matter. He did not utter a word and I told: “Vasyl, I know, for what they have sentenced me; I know that I fought against communists and wanted them to disappear from the face of the earth as a political force. I struggled against them and for liberation but for what they have imprisoned you?”
And I failed to contain myself… I was impressed by his poetry. He was my dearest friend in the zone, and I am thankful to Heifetz for his words in his book: "All of us were friends of Stus, but Paruyr Hayrikyan was hiss true friend”. To my good fortune he has immortalized this fact and I am thankful for it. (M.Heifetz’s book about P.Hayrikyan The POW Secretary was published, in particular, in the following edition: Mikhail Heifetz. Selected Works. In three volumes. The Kharkiv Human Rights Group.– Kharkiv: Folio Publishers, 2000.–Vol. 3, p. 198 – 284.--V.O.). But I spoke about his strategic contribution. I will tell about it now, and then I will return to 1975.
In 1976, the National United Party, of which I was a member, used to organize an action intended to remind that in Armenia there was such party which strived for referendum. Its members were arrested. This information was transmitted to the West so that our allies in the West could have an argument. As a rule, the true political prisoners supported this action. We engaged in joint activity: we supported the Day of Ukrainian Political Prisoners (on January, 12th. --V.O.), we took part in common activity days on October 30, the Day of the Soviet Political Prisoner, different actions were carried out together, but this action targeted not the defense of political prisoners but political issues. On August 11 we went on hunger-strike. This hunger-strike was supported by political prisoners in all zones. The Armenians went without food for three days and the rest of prisoners hungered on the last day only.
After that the KGB intensified its work with us. The undertakings later initiated by Gorbachev they took upon themselves in their doings with Armenians: the matter concerned the National United Party. The KGB set before itself the goal to liquidate this party, or, to be more precise, they intended to do away with the streamers of this party because they treated each political prisoner as a streamer. Out of eighteen persons arrested in 1973-1974 eleven were let out ahead of time. Navasardyan had to serve 9 years, but he did 2.5 years only and was taken away home, Arshakyan had 10 years, but he was released after three years. In this way many prisoners were discharged. In addition to that many of them did not write penitential letters. There were such who wrote, but the majority did not write. And in the zone from this generation remained only those who flatly turned down any suggestions to converse with them.
During this very period we prepared the action as follows. I had to officially recognize that there existed such party. Before the arrest we maintained that all of us were adherents of this party, we were adherents of independence and stand up for a referendum, but we had no organizational connections with the party. That is all of us were tried separately, for the petty casual affairs which were not connected with the organization. We planned as follows: I was going to recognize that I was a secretary and my partners in crime had to announce: “Yes, we were members of this organization, there is such party, and we aspire to independence. You perform a genocide having arrested its leaders who aspire to self-determination”. The KGB earmarked me for separate proceedings, and it precipitated the discharge of my friends. It was of material importance: instead of 18 persons only seven could testify. The others did not testify for they had to be arrested at once, because the NUP was an underground organization.
Once I was sitting dejected in spirit. We were talking about Azat Arshakyan. And Stus had especially tender feelings toward Azat: he loved him as a younger brother. To his delight he recollected, how once Azat was telling something and forgot what was Russian for a bee and then went on: “Vasyl, well it is a tiger that flies”. (Laughs). For Vasyl as a poet… well, how a tiger can fly? And it appears that the bee is similar to a tiger. Vasyl always recollected this episode with Azat. He knew that I did not like the fact that Azat agreed to be discharged. Azat was one of the leaders of NUP, he was a councilor of this underground organization. What for do we need freedom, if our nation is in captivity? And Vasyl assured me: "You simply fail to take something into account. Azat did not sell himself: He is not a venal creature”. Later, when he was hospitalized, he contacted with Azat and first off he asked to tell me: “Tell Paruyr that with Azat everything is all right”.
But still before that he told me: "Paruyr, all of us know that you are the party leader. We see that your orders are fulfilled unquestioningly. But what does your program stipulates about non-Armenians who wish to join your party?” I answered: “The party rules permit admission of non-Armenians, but in practice there was only one case when one Russian became a member of the Organization of the Independence of Armenia”. He said: “You know, I wish to declare myself a member of your party but in order not to stand at attention and not to salute you each time I see you, I will call myself a member-sympathizer”. I smiled, because it was a great surprise for me. It appears that he must have thought it over.
Many Ukrainians followed the lead of him: Roman Semeniuk, Iryna Kalynets, Vyacheslav Chornovil, Ivan Gel, Gennady Kuznetsov followed, a number of Russians, but the example was set by him. The Lithuanians, Latvians, Russians… the most important thing was that Russians followed this example. Heifetz in his book (“The POW Secretary”), in particular, wrote about this episode: “And what happened as a result? Our national political organization turned into an international political organization and it happened due to Vasyl Stus”. That is the poet, who considered himself to be far away from politics, took a step which triggered the developments which made it possible for us to come together in 1988. (Hayrikyan means meetings of representatives of national and democratic movements of the people of the USSR in 1988–1990–V.O.). Because the basic idea was as follows: you struggle for the national liberation, but I, the patriot of my country, understand your struggle and I join you, as he wrote. And since then the Armenian cause, the Ukrainian cause in the concentration camp became a common cause. And, naturally, this trend developed in the long term.
Well, let us return now to 1973… I remember such episode. Vyacheslav (Chornovil) was transferred to our zone with a hunger-strike. He came and stopped the hunger-strike; it turned out that in the 17th zone there was one such Chekmaryov, a controller, especially malicious person who terrorized all and everybody to such degree that political prisoners who have risen against the empire, directed all their efforts against one cop to make the administration to replace him. They went on hunger-strike. The cop was not replaced and Vyacheslav was transferred to our zone. I think, they wished to suspend hunger-strike and give him the chance to communicate with Vasyl Stus. We became acquainted and also associated with him for a short time. Vyacheslav was a ball of fire and, probably, he went in for sports, too, though he had problems with his hand. Nevertheless he wrote, read, and sewed gauntlets; he fulfilled daily work quota in three instead of eight hours in order to have extra free time to be preoccupied with himself. At first sight, it was a unique image, while we were not on friendly terms yet but only were acquainted and planned certain actions for the future. Certainly, he took the lead in it. When he devised his idea of the Status of a Political Prisoner, I noticed that he and Vasyl after that meeting behaved like they were not prisoners in the concentration camp. They lived for the sake of literature, art, and Ukrainian history.
Then I was taken away from the concentration camp.
Now for the episode about which I later heard from Vasyl. He said: during a short period they issued milk to the patients there. Once, said he, I stood in line and 3-4 persons had to get milk. Suddenly there popped up a scum, who had been transferred to us from the special zone, Vladimir Sidelnikov; he pushed away Vasyl and began jumping the line. Vasyl asked: “What is the matter with you? If you are in a hurry, you can ask politely to be let ahead but why do you start to elbow the line?” In response Sidelnikov hit Vasyl. And he replied word-for-word: “As far as I cannot imagine, how one can hurt a person, I simply embraced him, I took his hand and both of us fell down”. Then others ran up and separated them. And Vasyl only held his hand. Vasyl himself was a nervy man: his miner’s tenacity is visible. He was a hefty fellow, but his disposition did not allow him to use force; here are his words literally: “he has hit me but how I can hurt a person?” Such was our longhair education.
The political prisoners demanded to take Sidelnikov away from the zone 3/5. The administration derived benefits from the conflicts of political prisoners of such high rank with the ordinary prisoners who were considered political prisoners, too. He (who?) got 15 days of arrest.
By the way, not to forget about Chekmaryov whom I have mentioned above: he oppressed political prisoners. Then I managed with the help of other political prisoners to do so that Vasyl would not suffer. We imitated that Chekmaryov was our co-worker and they took him away. Of course, you know all about subsequent events, or don’t you?
P.Hayrikyan: So, it worked like a dream… I decided to set the KGB and him at variance; I did not want to unmask him and we pretended that he helped us delivering letters. (Laughs). Heifetz writes about it a little.
And what happened in this case? They demanded to take Sidelnikov away from the zone as the provoker while the administration objected to it, and our political prisoners went on hunger-strike requesting to take Sidelnikov-provoker away from the zone. At that moment Azat Arshakyan returned from hospital and that was our only salvation. He came and asked: “What’s up, why are you on hunger strike?” The inmates explained: “Sidelnikov hit Vasyl and we demand that he be taken away; we cannot give him a good thrashing. He is provoker”. Azat said: “Well, let’s see”. He came up to Sidelnikov and asked: “Volodya, are you afraid of me?" He answered: No". And he was a boxer, Azat went in for boxing. Azat gave him a smack. And then he asked him once again: “Well, are you afraid now?”−“Well, Azat, What’s wrong?” Azat said: “You just pack your bits and pieces and go to the shift, out with you”. That one packed bits and pieces and out he went to the shift. The watch wondered: “What’s up?” And that one kept silent. He was so frightened that could not utter a word. In the meantime the hunger-strike came to an end. Vasyl told: “Of all things! We decided to make common cause and struggle while it was possible to tackle it with one punch”.
M.Horyn: Yeah, he unriddled it in a wink.
P.Hayrikyan: Well, it is a note to the point while we are talking about Vasyl. In fact, I do not know what else I could tell you. Now, when Vasyl is no more, I recollect, how we valued every line produced by him: Jews, Ukrainians, Armenians, Russians, Lithuanians, Latvians… Besides, he never underlined that he was the poet, that he was distinctive in nature or character from others, never. We realized it ourselves.
In 1976 I had a special merit, for a short time, maybe a deceptive one… There was a search in our zone. They searched belongings of all prisoners, but as a result they took away nothing from the inmates; only they confiscated all manuscripts of Vasyl Stus. And we understood that it was performed to keep up appearances, but in fact this show was directed against Stus. We to put forward a request on October 30, 1976 to make the administration to return the manuscripts of Vasyl Stus. If they do not return, we will continue our hunger-strike in all zones. I managed to inform through my channels… Well, our ways of keeping in contact is a separate topic… Today we may talk about it openly: I hope we will not need to use any more.
My method was as follows. Usually the requests had to be sent to the public prosecutor during 24 hours. I sent requests to the public prosecutor by recorded delivery. I always glued the on the return-address section at the lower end of an envelope: these KGB censors never checked the written return address. If I needed to pass some piece of information to the 17th zone, I wrote the return address of an inmate of that zone on the delivery confirmation form. In such way I sent these letters through the KGB. (Until now I haven’t disclosed this method, because it might be needed again). The letter went to the Office of Public Prosecutor, in the Office of Public Prosecutor they tore off the delivery confirmation form, signed it and sent it back to the sender. But this time the delivery confirmation form went back not to me but to Vasyl, to Razmik, or somebody else. They received this delivery confirmation form and already knew that it should be heated up a little, because I used a dissolved Analgin pill to write a message with instructions what had to be done.
Thus, in all zones the inmates knew that we were preparing powerful hunger-strike. At the time I was in the KGB: they brought me to Armenia. Colonel Grigoryan came and asked me: “Who is this Vasyl Stus?” I answered: “He is our friend.”−“I do not know and it does not interest me, but from Moscow they asked me to tell you that his manuscripts were returned”. That is they were so frightened having learnt that we were capitally prepared that they returned one hundred manuscripts. Then more than one hundred political prisoners were about to go on hunger-strike. I liked it: I knew that I did manage to do something for my friend.
There were also other ways to conduct communication, but this was the most original when I informed my friends through the KGB. In the same way I received delivery confirmation forms from my friends. Without being noticed I substituted forms: when the censor gave me the form to sign, I retained the new one and returned him the old one.
I got the short end of the stick in the 17th zone due to the slovenliness of the censor. This slovenly woman−she was untidy and unclean in her appearance and habits−was drinking her tea as she told me later. She was drinking her tea and had nothing at hand to cover her cup and it occurred to her to cover the cup with my delivery confirmation form and all of a sudden letters became apparent. Can you fancy that? But they revealed only one part, that is that delivery confirmation form, which they gave me, while those forms which I had sent (I gave them an envelope with the delivery confirmation form) were not the same which I returned, the latter were checked and resent by a special unit. In the special unit, probably, the women were more persnickety and they did not cover their teacups with requests to the public prosecutor.
And there was still another episode characterizing Vasyl. Sergey Soldatov and Vasyl Stus did not go to the working zone, while all of us went there. I returned from the working zone from work and saw that the inmates were busy discussing what steps were worth undertaking in their unending camp life. Vasyl answered Sergey that yes, he agreed with him (it was Sergey Soldatov’s idea that there was something up with our health). And Sergey, in all likelihood, was right. Once a year, on the Day of the Political Prisoner, we will go on hunger-strike, and on other dates we will not resort to it. I told: “Vasyl, if you that person, whom I know, you cannot limit yourself to this one day because you are a poet”. I have kept in mind his words. He said: “The Poet is not a man without intelligence. Once a year I will, on the Day of the Political Prisoner, go on hunger-strike and other dates we will observe submitting protest statements”. I told him: “And if someone is beaten, what should you do: either strike or hunger-strike?" This question poised in midair.
Some time elapsed. Now, I do not remember particularly what exactly happened, whence and what signal we received, and he came up to me and said: “We cannot soft-pedal the issue: it is necessary to do something.” I told him: “You may remember that I told you that you are a poet and cannot contain yourself? You are a fighter by nature. If I am a conscientious fighter by my political convictions, you a fighter by nature by nature, you are a fighter at every turn.” There was provoker Vladimir Kuzyukin…
V.Ovsiyenko: He was an officer from Bila Tserkva, the captain unless I miss my guess. He served in Czechoslovakia, he circulated leaflets against occupation…
P.Hayrikyan: Right. He did not expect that he would be exposed and denounced. It seems to me, Heifetz describes it. This provoker had just returned from the hospital zone. I made tea. Vasyl told: “I do not wish to go”. And Heifetz asked him to come, because he needed to see him, he simply intended to talk. We sat down to table. Kusyukin was expected to arrive at 12 o’clock, and he arrived at 3 p.m. making excuses that the car went into a skid. There was no rain and it was dry all-around, and therefore we concluded that something went wrong: he was busy with something on the road, he stalled for time to be instructed or they simply they fed him. Such thing could happen, too. If you come and tell your friends that the KGB tried to persuade you, that they stopped you, treated, it is natural. But when he in dry weather says that the car went into a skid…
I served tea and during this tea party I told him: “You know, we’ve had our tea already, but for you we left black caviar”. You know, in a zone once in five years the black caviar was distributed: black caviar with butter and bread. He took a thick slice of bread and spread on it a very thin layer of butter and black caviar. When we were hungry in the zone, we ate stale bread. And he began eating only the top layer; that is he was so full up−he had had his fill in the zone!–that he didn’t feel like eating bread and he ate only the top layer. I showed our guys: look how he is eating. And then during the conversation I suggested that on the road he had met the KGB officers. He had no time to respond, because he could not understand, how on earth I got to know it. Then I went on and told as follows: “You say that you met Stepan there, but Stepan was not there: he told me that you were not there”. He was taken aback. I told him: “You know, in the zone you should tell the truth”. Vasyl was there; Vasyl paid heed to it, but told nothing.
But the next day, when we sat in a dining room, Kuzyukin came there and took his place. Vasyl silently, without words went into a skid, rose to his feet, because he could not sit at one table with a hack. I already do not remember the details, but the essence was as follows: either you will go away, or we will go away. And, if my memory does not betray me, this Kuzyukin remained at the table, while we all went away.
Vasyl could not put up with any weaknesses when they were to the detriment of his friends and in favor of someone’s ego. He liked to reason, to look for the causes, but once, probably, tired of it all, he told me as follows: “A scum is a scum and it is not worthwhile hunting out all whys and hows? Take care of yourself, and keep out of scrapes.” He knew classical sayings which I always use and I do not know, whether they were his creations or he simply quoted them. When we spoke about the KGB and about that system, he told once: “They speculate with our decency”. I remember it as a catchphrase, I often recollect these words when I have to deal with geeks. A riffraff is everywhere a riffraff, they speculate with our decency.
I can speak about Stus endlessly. Vasyl Stus always accompanies me in my life, as well as Chornovil. Later I shared difficult days with Chornovil.
Arshakyan informed me about the death of Stus. His wife arrived to visit him. In 1987, when I learnt the details, I wrote a short article for the Glasnost.
With Stus I drank only once, when we marked the fortieth birthday of Chornovil. In the zone I got cognac through the soldiers. In general, I did not drink. But Chornovil had his birthday, the fortieth birthday in 1975, right?
Vakhtang Kipiani: He was born in December 1936 and his birth was recorded on January 1, 1937. So, he had two birthdays.
P.Hayrikyan: Wait a minute; it happened on December 24…
V.Ovsiyenko: Yes, on December 24, 1936 or on January 1st, 1937, so they indicate.
P.Hayrikyan: We celebrated on December 24.
V.Ovsiyenko: Right, it is the authentic date of birth.
P.Hayrikyan: In what year was Chornovil born?
V.Ovsiyenko: In 1936.
P.Hayrikyan: In 1936? Then we celebrated in 1976. Early in the year I was in the 17th zone. And to which place was I transferred? Yeah, you’re right: in summer the 17th zone was closed down. I remember how we celebrated his fortieth birthday…
V.Kipiani: How many Armenian political prisoners were there during the last years?
P.Hayrikyan: Seventy persons served their terms, but it is a total number since 1967.
V.Kipiani: Were all of them condemned or they were only under investigation?
P.Hayrikyan: These were sent to the camps. Many of them–one quarter–found themselves in the camps for criminals. Plus forty persons were sentenced under different articles.
V.Kipiani: So, for the last 20-30 years there were hardly more than one hundred persons, right?
P.Hayrikyan: Right, for last 25 years. From 1967 till 1988.
V.Kipiani: And how were they getting on in life? We have but scanty reports and almost no written sources.
P.Hayrikyan: There is an adequate literary expression–I don’t feel like telling it to a journalist, it’s for my friends only–and this literary expression reads: the majority became whistle-blowers. But Edik Kuznetsov used to tell me: “do not get mad at them: it’s their life which makes them go wrong”. I discussed it with Edik, you know Edik, he is a keen observer, and he told: “It’s their life which makes them go wrong”. Even such good people as my fellow-fighters in those years… they behaved in such a way that… [Jammed word].
M.Horyn: The same was with our friends: many people drew aside.
P.Hayrikyan: No, “drew aside” is another pair of shoes… But the above persons rose against me: this was not the matter of political disagreements but an open struggle, they became allies of those who opposed not me but our party…
M.Horyn: I have in view something else. He did not change his view of our opponents, but he said: “I do not want any more”. Very many my friends did not like to go to the jail for the second time, even very close ones. “I will not go, that’s not my headache”. And he did not go. When I told them: "Guys, it is necessary to go to prison", what did it mean to go: just be up and going of one’s free will? It meant that something had to be done. This time I had no support and in 1981I had to go alone, it was not teamwork anymore. It does not mean that there were no people who helped me, but there were no people who wished to straightforwardly announce: “I throw down the gauntlet”.
P.Hayrikyan: I understand. But the like-minded persons, who… Then we had an oath. Now in our party the oath is forbidden. The oath was abrogated since 1991; it meant adoption of Christian approach. Because if you tell something under an oath, it means that you can lie if you are not under an oath? And God told us: Do not lie. Therefore we excluded an oath altogether. And it is written in the Bible, in the Gospel…
V.Ovsiyenko: "Do not swear. Yes–yes. No−no".
P.Hayrikyan: But these guys had sworn an oath, the late Ashot Navasardyan. Per 1987-1989 he simply idled. He used to tell me: "Look, you want that we again go to jail?”−“Listen,” I said, “I served a longer term than you, I always was ahead of you, ahead of you all, I always took more upon myself. And now you have a choice to operate in the open, we have already begun to cooperate”. Azat Arshakyan started raking up personal offenses and maintained that when he did his term I didn’t help him. I said: "Listen, when I served my term and you were at large, you did not help my family. I helped your wife.”−“Yes, you helped, but your current co-workers did not help my family”. I told him: “This is something utterly irrelevant. I tell you: let us continue our struggle”.
Later it turned out that at their second discharge they signed waivers of non-participation. They were the main activists. Andronik Makharyan (?) who is now the leader of Republican Party, joined the group which the KGB had organized against us, and there he worked for two years in the group which fought against independence. Because they were afraid to be jailed for the second time…
But I have told you that they were in the majority. However, there is Markosyan Razmik who endured until the year before the last and now I have no grudge against him. He said: "I was a representative of the struggle for national liberation, I am not a politician, I struggle for independence. Excuse me, please…”
V.Kipiani: What is he doing now?
P.Hayrikyan: Nothing special. From time to time he puts himself on the map; e.g. he put up a nomination for the parliamentary elections, but then he withdrew his motion. He is one of party founders and therefore he has special rights. Four persons have survived: the founders of the legal part of our party.
Razmik Zagrabyan played the game and at large his behavior was spotless, but now in the so-called Republican Party together with Demirchyan he is playing against us. Demirchyan is so clever that he has never turned his words against me, but his various jackals… For example, you know that our flag has three colors, right?–red, dark blue and orange–therefore he says that Hayrikyan has so long dreamt of a tricolor that he is now changing his skin depending on the colors of the Armenian flag. This is blasphemy both with regard to the national colors and with regard to me because I have never changed anything.
And they are working with him knowing very well that they are materialists, Bolshevist conformists who used to change their skin and whose basic enemy is national self-determination. So, can I state now that he has become a whistle-blower, too? He was my soldier. I was the gun and what I said went. I was the carrier of the idea which was developed by our predecessors. I was the leader of National United Party. You swore the oath in my presence. Have you at least discussed it with me?… But all the same he is a good person. And those who had written penitential statements, they dropped out… They have left the ranks.
Some decent activists went abroad; they became whistle-blowers, too, I have the right to say so. However, the oath read nothing about… But you have been fighting for liberation of the native land and now where do you leave? To whom do you leave your native land? To scum? I have met one such recently and he said: "Look, who has come to power: Levon Ter-Petrosyan, the KGB agent. Now Demirchyan has come to power, he is also a KGB agent. Robert Kocharyan is an ex-party organizer… How can I live there?" And I told him: “And you leave Armenia to this scum?"
It was not an easy job, but I have managed to prepare a new cadre of members. Simply now we took a powerful blow. All the time we were on the way up. During the presidential election we determined, who would be the president: Robert Kocheryan or Demirchyan. Everything depended on my opinion because our voices predetermined the outcome of the second round. All of us knew it. Naturally, Demirchyan could not tell anything against me, and from Robert we got the commission on constitutional reforms. I headed this strategic commission for one year over.
A month ago he pretended that was eager to accelerate this work, and he charged the specialists to carry out the job. I told him that I was the best expert. And he replied that there were doctors of sciences. These doctors were all out to boost the power of communists with the help of Constitution. It is doubtful whether they were constitutionalists. It is unlikely that they were experts in the constitutional law. He wanted them to take their cue from him. And I didn’t work on orders from him: I gathered all experts in the constitutional law, I suggested certain philosophy of the process. That is, we helped him to become the president and he gave this work to us. And human rights. Working on human rights we have developed the regulations concerning the office of ombudsman; I have already submitted the document to the constitutional committee. We will wait and see, whether the National Assembly adopts it during this month; if it fails, we will cross over to the other side.
V.Kipiani: According to the information, which we receive, mostly Moscow press, Levon Ter-Petrosyan in the late eighties was one of political prisoners sentenced in the matter of the Karabakh Committee.
P.Hayrikyan: They were not political prisoners. They kept them in Moscow…
V.Kipiani: As far as I understand you are rather critical about him, your attitude to him is negative.
P.Hayrikyan: In fact, what happened? I was banished from the country and they brought Levon Ter-Petrosyan from the Moscow jail directly to the square and a week later he was sent to Paris for treatment. In the Soviet past it was unheard-of that the person with a criminal record could go abroad to be treated to France.
V.Kipiani: Wasn’t he a member of the Karabakh Committee?
P.Hayrikyan: Four of them were KGB agents. Officially they argued against each other; they officially declared that “you were a KGB agent”, our communication agent. The Karabakh Committee is a misunderstanding. If the country, the nation has the organization under the name of “Self-Determination” and this national-liberation movement has been already recognized, and then someone aspires to solve the national problem and creates an eleven-member committee? Eleven blockheads came together: when people rallied, they appeared, when there were no people, they were nowhere to be seen. And then the KGB started changing the governance: I was banished from the country and then these second-echelon KGB agents assumed power as alleged successors though actually all of them were KGB agents.
V.Ovsiyenko: When did it happen?
P.Hayrikyan: In 1988.
V.Kipiani: It was done by the ruling of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, or wasn’t it?
P.Hayrikyan: Yes. They fixed this affair as follows. They imprisoned me in the KGB and held me for four months there, the intensive interrogations were conducted under the direct guidance of Moscow. Then I have applied new tactics for the first time. When you grow older you become bored with these questions. The investigator writes down his question, and I tell him that I wish to write the answer with my own hand. He writes down his question and gives me the page. I write on it: “I have not read the text written here”. The investigator takes the page and writes: “This question has been read aloud for Hayrikyan.” That is, I do not wish to read it, but it has been read aloud for me. I write down: “The investigator read something aloud, but at the time I recollected a melody and words of “Long live independent Armenia” and consequently he read, I did not hear”. He writes down: “The question for Hayrikyan has been read aloud again”. I wrote: “This time I thought of another song: “Not captivated, not banished, oh my Native land, you will be free!” In this way he kept filling out the square of paper and I did not listen to him. He asked his question, and I did not say no but wrote that I did not hear. I thought it no part of mine to listen and I did not hear. From Moscow arrived the KGB officers and said: “Please, for God’s sake, write something…” They also wanted get out of the scrape.
And then, after four months under the hatches−I remember the date very well, because it there was the day of declaration of war between the USSR and Germany−on June 22, 1988 I was sitting in the cell and from the outside I heard: “Hay-ri-kyan! Hay-ri-kyan!” At the time I thought that I was going out of my mind and developing verbal hallucinations: I heard my last name. It turned out that these were not hallucinations: fifty thousand people, mainly students, rallied, surrounded the KGB and demanded to set me free. How did the KGB officers respond? As soon as I could catch my last name chanted by the crowd and demand to set Hayrikyan free, the KGB officers brought a compressor under my window, switched on its motor and the compressor began roaring. All night long. I was sure that until the compressor made the noise, the demonstrators stayed there.
In all likelihood, this was the first demonstration against the KGB in the history of the Soviet Union. They were panic-stricken. They suggested me to go abroad, but I have refused. They told me that they wanted to close the books, but they needed the false color. Well, I said, let it be, I agree, set me free and I will be able to leave the country. And then I twigged that they wanted to take me directly to the airport and send away; therefore I wrote that if they drive me to the airport under compulsion, that is if they banished me against my will, then would I commit suicide in the liner.
When they did banish me, I later acquainted myself with the documents and learned that I had concluded an agreement with the Armenian diaspora. They failed to crack me here with the help of Karabakh Committee. Why did they arrest me? They did it because…
M.Horyn: You may remember, in my room, when you had arrived in Lviv, before we were summoned to the public prosecutor, we had been detained. Do you remember this story?
P.Hayrikyan: Yes, of course, I remember.
M.Horyn: Then you were accused of possessing drugs…
P.Hayrikyan: Yeah, sure, because of these “drugs” my father had a heart attack; you know…
M.Horyn: Yes, they told me, I told about it to my people. You may not remember that Vyacheslav and I told you that we had written an application to the United Nations that, if they tried to expel us from the country, to ensure that no country in the world would accept us. And you said: “I will write, too!” Do you remember it or not? We had to go to Moscow then, but we were detained, and we did not go. But you told that you would write, too. I said then: "Hayrikyan, write it immediately!" But you, obviously, were short of time to write. (Hayrikyan was in Lviv in December 1987. On December 8 he, M.Horyn, V.Chornovil and I.Gel had to go to Moscow to take part in the International Seminar on Humanitarian Affairs. All of them were detained “on suspicion of drug trafficking” and they failed to go.--V.O.).
P.Hayrikyan: Many a time I wrote to the, though in vain. Why did they take me away to Ethiopia? Because if they had taken me to America, or France, or Germany, or Switzerland they would have encountered special regulations: if a person is banished from a country, this person has to choose the receiving country. This was my reserve variant. I thought, if I am banished, I may tell the customs services that I do not want to enter their country. Then the communists will have to bring me back and to look for another variant. But they guessed the trick and took me away to Ethiopia. There were eight persons, the huge plane, and no passengers on board. They spent half a million on me. They brought me by special governmental airplane from Armenia to Moscow and from Moscow by special airliner… I think it was a cargo aircraft with passenger seats like in Boeing; I reckon there was an upper deck or something like it. Otherwise why did such huge plane carry out a direct flight to Ethiopia? What for? Nobody asked me anything, only a team of KGB officers arrived any filled out necessary forms.
M.Horyn: You know, it was a good idea because I was summoned by colonel, already major general Poluden Mykola Ivanovych−Lviv KGB major general–and said that they would help us to emigrate: emigrate, because otherwise we will have to arrest you, but if you go, both you and we may gain by it. And I told him that I already had been abroad. He asked: “Where?” I answered: “In Mordovia”. It was such time when they wished some people to go away immediately…
P.Hayrikyan: If they had allowed me to return home, say, half a year earlier, Armenia would have chosen the other road of development. I was elected a deputy: ninety plus percent, all population voted for me, for our ideas. I was elected a deputy, but I had to stay in America for six months. The deputy cannot return to his country! I had not enough experience: I should have bluffed my way out of it and go via Turkey and then walk on foot. But they parroted: just wait and just wait. Why did they prevent me to return? They appointed the new government: both I and my people remained out of the picture. The elected the top men of the Supreme Council and dropped me, too. And when I returned and displayed activity they maintained that I strived for a plum job.
V.Ovsiyenko: When did you return?
P.Hayrikyan: In November 1990. After two and a half years of exile… In general, I am a holder of homecoming record… The American Congress and Reagan participated in tackling this homecoming issue. Did you meet Reagan, or did not you?
M.Horyn: I did.
P.Hayrikyan: Was Lena with the baby? (Lena Syrotenko was P.Hayrikyan’s wife.--V.O.).
M.Horyn: I saw a woman with a baby. Our delegation was small enough.
P.Hayrikyan: I was there, too… I learned about it later… But the strangest thing is that eighteen months later, leafing my documents which I had managed to get back from the KGB, I came across the following note: “In my dream I saw Sergei Grigoryants. He told me that Lena met Reagan”. And below I commented: “I wonder what this dream means?” Then I got to know that Reagan arrived in Moscow and invited dissidents to a meeting. As far as I was arrested, Lena with my son went in my stead. When the son began to cry, Reagan asked what happened there. I was told that Chornovil explained him that Hayrikyan’s sonny requested in this way to free his father. It is interesting that I saw it all in my dream in the KGB jail: in my dream Grigoryants told me this story. But, it appears, that it did happen in real life. If I had not written down this dream, I would have never believed that I had had such dream.
M.Horyn: They said that those were Muscovites who selectively invited people to this meeting. But in fact this list was received from the USA Embassy. The American Embassy drew up the list.
V.Ovsiyenko: When did this meeting take place?
M.Horyn: It took place in 1988. On our there were Gel, Chornovil, wife of Chornovil, my wife, Bishop Vasylyk and, it seems, Sverstiuk.
V.Ovsiyenko: And what month was it?
M.Horyn: It was summer, Vasyl. I think, it took place somewhere in June or July.
P.Hayrikyan: I met Reagan in America: there was such a general meeting. Then I spoke about the earthquake in Armenia on December 10. Reagan was a tight fellow and a real President. I have American friends who mean “Reagan” when you pronounce “President”. And if you tell “the President of America» and then add “Clinton”, they will be upset: in America there was one President−Reagan.
V.Kipiani: How strong were such sentiments in the Armenian diaspora?
P.Hayrikyan: Such sentiments were not typical; I failed to find adherents of such ideas. The majority of them are socialists. If a person is a materialist or a socialist, s/he mainly starts to reckon with conditions. And the real conditions did not allow thinking of independence. It is necessary to be such idealists, as we were: inherent idealists. We are fanatics, fanatics of the party and even not of our idea. I had an opportunity to meet the top brass of Armenia, and they told me that it was not high-time for independence now: “What are you talking about?” We possess documents now: Levon Ter-Petrosyan has made it public that then they co-operated with the KGB, co-operated allegedly for the benefit of Armenian interests against the Turks. I said: “It is written on your flag: “Death or Freedom”, but you have forgotten to put a comma there and add: “When it is convenient”. It was a response to his words that it was not a convenient time for independence now though it is written on the flag: “Death or Freedom!” And I told him about it.
Under currently disorderly conditions our citizens will forget about these clever words. First of all, they, these citizens, suffer themselves, let them think, too. I have not been deputized this time. You know, all over Armenia, in the wake of elections, the people framed words: “Wow, Ovanes has not been elected? How come? Was not Hayrikyan deputized?” It was on everyone’s lips. I communicated with people and explained that we knew about it, that many a voters gave their votes for other candidates because we had not been on electoral roll. But there were people who asked: “Whom did you give your vote to?”−“But I was so sure that others would vote for us…” (Horyn laughs). Your fate is at stake and you ruminate on it…
There is one more instance of incongruous behavior. The question is as follows: who is the best politician. I do not poll fifty plus percent of votes; however I poll the biggest percentage and at the very least I may be the third best. Whom will you elect as president? And I never come first. It means, those people who consider me as the best politician, they write in the same questionnaire (it is possible to make a comparison with the help of PC)… twice more people consider me as the best politician, but twice less people are ready to vote for me so that I might become the president. Who should be the president, if not the best politician? Should it be a collective farmer like Lukashenko? They say that the president should be a mafioso, tough powerful guy, capable of anything and you are not capable of anything, you are a fastidious person. It beats me. Probably, the same problems I face here again.
M.Horyn: The people need an average politician. They need a middling man: nobody needs an outstanding personality.
P.Hayrikyan: We’ve already met their demands, we’ve already become mediocrities. Earlier we differed on something and we were ready to go forward. And now we simply work: there is a biography which certifies that you can serve disinterestedly.
M.Horyn: I will tell you that in the early twentieth century we had two interesting figures: Hrushevsky, scientist and very poor administrator, and Mihnovsky of Kharkiv, young politician, author of the brochure Independent Ukraine written in 1903 or in 1905. He was a real statist. When in 1917 the government in Ukraine began to emerge, he said: “Let’s create our army”. Hrushevsky and other our cultural figures came together and decided to celebrate the Independence Day; they planned to take costumes at the theatre, dress up three hundred cavalrymen, they could gallop past the monument to Khmelnytsky (you were there today) and in this way they wanted to celebrate this day. And Mihnovsky said: “What for is this sham? I will mobilize ten thousand soldiers in Russian uniforms, we will tie deep-blue-and-yellow ribbons, and these ten thousand modern armed soldiers will march past the monument”. They called them young soldiers, but this youth was 30 plus years old, close on forty; Mihnovsky was the officer of imperial army. But they were not even admitted to the meeting and they decided it their way. It was the conflict between those who already know how to do it and those who theoretically were in the past. If the Ukrainian government were headed not by scientist Hrushevsky, but by absolutely different people, the march of history would have been different. In six years He realized it all. Until 1924 he lived in emigration in Czechoslovakia. And in 1924 he decided to return to the Soviet Ukraine…
M.Horyn: During the Bolshevik rule. He decided to come back, when in Ukraine the Bolshies were already cutting off the heads of people right and left. So, he returned, they made him the President of the Academy of Sciences, isolate from the society, and in 1936 they killed him, and he drops out of the history. At the time the affairs of the state were directed by people who were at odds with political administration. It is one thing to be a historian of genius and another thing is to be a talented statesman.
P.Hayrikyan: It is a separate science. The people simply cannot understand that it is a science of social management.
M.Horyn: I’d like to tell you that the governance in the Western Ukraine… There was no such outstanding personality as Mykhailo Hrushevsky, but in the Western Ukraine they organized excellent army and government. They had no facilities and resources to influence events in all Ukraine… But they established discipline there while here they had nothing.
P.Hayrikyan: How did Vyacheslav succeed to be elected the governor there?
M.Horyn: It all lies in a nutshell. Any one of us could then become the Head of Lviv Oblast Rada, such was our authority. Therefore, nothing to it.
P.Hayrikyan: Did it depend on volition of people, or it did not?
M.Horyn: Yes, it depended on volition of people. I may tell you now that in Lviv there was a certain group of people which would carry out any task you set. All ins and outs were controlled.
P.Hayrikyan: You did not lose contact with the masses and realities while I was physically cut off my people.
M.Horyn: Here also everything did an about-face later in time.
P.Hayrikyan: Do they experience difficulties there now?
M.Horyn: It’s easy to say difficulties… People who were far from our movement came to power there. These people did their damnest to please Kuchma. I do not say that it is necessary to come up against the President, but you cannot be the chief administrator of Lviv Oblast if you an underling of the President. There are no renowned figures in administration now.
V.Kipiani: The administration consists of agrarian nomenclature including former chairmen of collective farms whose career is sponsored by the executive committee and they successively become governors for the second and the third time.
M.Horyn: We are insiders here, and I think that it is possible for us to come into the open: this fact does not reduce the importance of Vyacheslav as the person. You know Vyacheslav far and wide and I know him closely being acquainted with him for almost 40 years; so, we know two sides of Vyacheslav’s personality. Vyacheslav would have better forborne from becoming the head of oblast rada. He was not up to standards of the job. He was an excellent political manager, but in order to administrate such complex economy, he had to be a business manager.
P.Hayrikyan: So, did he fail there, or did he not?
M.Horyn: No, he did not fail, but he could not do anything with it. He carried out political actions. He removed Lenin’s monument which action was televised. But when he began restructuring his administration he lacked needed skilled personnel. Also the former chief of militia retained his office. The whole group of yesterday’s officials retained their jobs. He had not a team of his own because it had not yet been formed.
When in July 1987 I returned from the jail, he said: “Mykhailo, let us resume publishing the Ukrayinskiy Visnyk Magazine. Within three days I got down to work on it. And when he went to head the oblast rada, he needed at least one-hundred-strong dependable personnel to assign them allotments of work in the basic directions and branches. He became an oblast administrator without a team. Paruyr, do you understand what it means?
P.Hayrikyan: Yes, I do.
M.Horyn: It means he had to rely on old team.
P.Hayrikyan: And the old team had its own strings and purposes.
M.Horyn: And the old team gummed up the works. For the first time he met with the KGB: the KGB did not feel like giving him the information and he had no background on money handling and turnover. It means, the KGB did not work for him. Then he went to the Verkhovna Rada; he seldom attended its sessions because he was the head of the oblast rada. At the time we liquidated the KGB and formed the Security Service of Ukraine. I was a member of this commission. And he said: “Look, it is necessary to replace the chief of KGB in Lviv”. I asked: “Do you have a candidate?”−“Yes, I do.”−“Who?”−“Your brother”.
V.Kipiani: Whom did he mean: Bohdan or Mykola?
M.Horyn: Mykola, the youngest one. He was his assistant. I: “Let us go to Marchuk”. To this KGB officer, chief of the KGB of Ukraine… “Let us go to Marchuk”. I gave a call home and asked: “Mykola, do you agree?” He agreed. I: “How will you go? They will make you knuckle under. You are going to the KGB, but you do not have at least 50-100 persons who may head the departments. You go absolutely alone to this pack of wolves. They will tear you to pieces! Be ready for it”−“I am ready”. We were delayed, Mykola arrived; now Mykola had to wait for us, while Vyacheslav and I went to Marchuk. Vyacheslav was the speaker. Marchuk came down on us: “Again you try to follow in the tracks of the Central Committee of the Communist party which had sent down to us a man who did not know chalk from cheese! We will have to train him for five years at the very least! I am firmly against it”. Vyacheslav started saying something and I intervened: “Yevhen Kyrylovych! I do not think that the post of the chief of the Lviv KGB is an operative post. I believe that it is a political post. While the heads of the departments and assistants are operative posts. My job responsibility consists in ordering me team: “Get’em! Dog this person” And they get him. Today we are giving the thieves a rap over the knuckles, tomorrow we will give a foreign secret service a rap over the knuckles, the day after tomorrow there will be another target. That is the chief is expected to formulate the course of actions but not to be an operative agent, it is not my business”. Nothing came out of it. Marchuk was firmly against it. Then we suggested such one Stepan Volkovetsky from Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast…
M.Horyn: Stepan Volkovetsky: firmly against. The third one turned to me: Victor Burlakov. He worked for us in Rukh when I was already going out as the head of secretariat which was the Rukh government, the executive power. He said: “Please, go to Marchuk, I wish to work in the KGB”. I knew Burlakov, I went to Marchuk and said: “Yevhen Kyrylovych, here is our man who would like to work, he is a good writer, good journalist and good operative”. Burlakov really proved to be a good worker. This time Marchuk did not say No. He said: “Well, you know, I wouldn’t leap to conclusions. I will study his background for six months”. I asked: “Will you study his cousins six times removed?” He laughed: “Yeah, right you are”. In two-to-three months Burlakov came and said: “They have already employed me”.
P.Hayrikyan: Was Burlakov their man? (Horyn laughs).
V.Kipiani: When our TV cameraman tried to shoot him for a telecast, he turned away. Yesterday, during the celebrations in the KPI, I was there with the TV cameraman and I told him: “Photograph him”. He was standing with his back to us and he did not see us. The TV camera works noiselessly, but I see that he–upsa-daisy–went behind the stand. I said: “Kesha, go-go”. And he went away: he did not want to be photographed.
M.Horyn: I asked: Victor, what department were you assigned to? He said that to the fifth. Do you know, what such fifth department is? Vasyl knows.
V.Ovsiyenko: It is a political department, “ours”.
M.Horyn: The political police, the fifth management. At once he took rank of the lieutenant colonel and a post of the deputy chief, and then became the chief, took rank of the colonel and so on.
P.Hayrikyan: And where is he now?
M.Horyn: Now he works there: he is an adviser to the Head of the State Security Committee.
 Sermon on the Mount: “34But I say to you, do not swear at all... 37But let your "Yes’ be "Yes,’ and your "No,’ "No.’” Mt.: 5:34, 37 (translator’s note).
 For the correct chronology and sequence of events see: https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Грушевський_Михайло_Сергійович (translator’s note).
 In fact, Chornovil was elected the Head of Lviv Oblast Rada (translator’s note).
 The proper bane of this organization in Ukraine is as follows: Security Service of Ukraine. The admissible abbreviations are SSU and SBU (translator’s note).