Politburo meeting. Alexander YAKOVLEV reports on the Congress of the Writers’ Union. Discussion of ways to manage changes in the union’s bureaucracy [R 26 Jun 86, Pb], 5 pp.
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MEETING OF CPSU POLITBURO
26 June 1986
In the chair
Comrade M.S. GORBACHEV
Comrades V.I. Vorotnikov, A.A.Gromyko, L.N. Zaikov, Ye.K. Ligachev, N.I. Ryzhkov, M.S. Solomentsev, E.A. Shevardnadze, Demichev, Dolgikh, Sokolov, Talyzin, Biryukova, Dobrynin, Zimyanin, V.A. Medvedev, Nikonov, Razumovsky, Yakovlev, Kapitonov
- Comment by Comrade M.S. Gorbachev on certain pressing issues of cooperation with socialist countries
GORBACHEV. Let’s listen to what Comrade Yakovlev has to say about the way the USSR Congress of Writers is proceeding.
YAKOVLEV. On the whole the Congress of Writers is keeping within the course set by Party decisions but not without controversy. […] A periodic change in the membership of the board of the Writers’ Union is being brought up in the speeches. It is suggested that they be elected for no more than two terms of office. The present leaders of the Writers’ Union are called the “children of their time”, and it is proposed that they depart with that time. The audience has met such declarations with ovations.
[…] About the possible composition of the new leadership of the Writers’ Union. Markov is presently in hospital. Perhaps we could envisage such a variant: Markov becomes board chairman and Bondarev,
the first secretary. At the same time, however, a working bureau could be created made up of Comrades Bykov, Zalygin, Rasputin, Aitmatov and certain other writers. Comrades Yevtushenko, Voznesensky and Rozhdestvensky should not be discounted. We must be aware that the general feeling is such that the old leadership could be voted out.
GORBACHEV. I think we should not restrict ourselves to a single individual and should not struggle to draw the line when candidates are put forward for the board.
GROMYKO. Which alternative do the writers themselves favour?
YAKOVLEV. As concerns the first variant, the election of Comrade Markov as board chairman, we must bear in mind that he has already been part of the leadership of the Writers’ Union for a long while and is at this moment being criticised.
GORBACHEV. Of course, the election of Comrade Markov would be the best alternative. How is the candidacy of Comrade Bondarev regarded?
GROMYKO. He’s a major writer.
SOLOMENTSEV. He adheres to the correct course.
VOROTNIKOV. Comrade Bykov and certain others could be included in the proposal.
MEDVEDEV. But will Comrade Bondarev be voted out?
YAKOVLEV. That shouldn’t happen.
GORBACHEV. If Comrade Markov doesn’t get the votes, then Comrade Zalygin could be chosen. However, he’s getting on and not very strong. Probably we should rely on Comrade Bondarev.
ZIMYANIN. What about the secretariat of the Writers’ Union?
GORBACHEV. Let them remain.
YAKOVLEV. If we are relying on Comrade Bondarev as first secretary, then we should discuss this with Comrade Markov.
GORBACHEV. We should talk with Comrade Markov about everything. He must be given his due. Even if he is not elected, we must behave properly towards him.
YAKOVLEV. Should we talk to Comrade Bondarev?
LIGACHEV. After the board of the Writers’ Union has been elected.
GORBACHEV. Agreed. We shall still have to choose among those who are elected to the board. Philip Denisovich, what’s your opinion?
BOBKOV (KGB deputy director). If information gets out that Comrade Bondarev is favoured, he may not be elected. So this fact should not be made public prematurely. As concerns Comrade Bondarev, he’s a good candidate.
GORBACHEV. Yes, we should not expose Comrade Bondarev to attack.
LIGACHEV. A change in the leadership of the Writers’ Union, speaking generally, is overdue.
GROMYKO. We must not feel alarmed by a change in the leadership of the Writers’ Union. It is important that the new leadership is creative and authoritative. There was a time, after all, when the Writers’ Union did not exist and there were authoritative figures in literature all the same.
GORBACHEV. Of course, we must take the general mood in favour of a renewal of the leadership into account. There’s no need to dramatise things. Yegor Kuzmich [Ligachev] is right when he says that a freshening up of the leadership of the Writers’ Union is overdue. Let’s agree that our first choice is for Comrade Markov to be elected chairman and Comrade Bondarev, secretary. To that end we must use our ability to influence things. There will be a meeting of the Party group at the Congress, won’t there?
GORBACHEV. Let’s leave it at that and let Comrade Yakovlev attend the Congress.
[There followed about discussion about readiness of surgeons in USSR to conduct a heart transplant operation.]
 Writers referred to by Yakovlev were Georgy Markov, a Union bureaucrat, and Yury Bondarev, a pro-regime author.
Adopting a more independent stance, in their work and attitude to State and Party were Vasil Bykov, the pre-eminent novelist of the Great Patriotic War; Sergei Zalygin, who became the perestroika-era, non-Party member chief editor of Novy mir; the “village prose” author Valentin Rasputin; and the environmentally-concerned Kirghiz novelist Chingiz Aitmatov.
In the early 1960s “Comrades [Yevgeny] Yevtushenko, [Andrei] Voznesensky and [Robert] Rozhdestvensky” declaimed their poems before audiences of thousands in various sports arenas. They might still be of use.
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