From the Vault
July 6, 1983
Something very strange has been happening at Radio Moscow. An announcer there, one Vladimir Danchev, referred to the Soviet presence in Afghanistan as an “invasion” on five separate occasions between May 18 and May 23. On May 24, Mr. Danchev disappeared and has not been seen since.
Radio Moscow, of course, is owned and operated by the Soviet government. And the official Soviet line on the presence of 105,000 Russian troops fighting in Afghanistan is that they were invited there by the legitimate Afghan government to help suppress “bandits and foreign supported counter-revolutionaries.”
For any Soviet citizen, much less an announcer on Radio Moscow, to suggest that the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, installed a puppet government and now face popular opposition from the Afghan people constitutes the kind of ideological heresy the Kremlin views as treason. All the more so if the offending statements were made in English language broadcasts beamed around the world.
We do not know, and probably will never know, whether Mr. Danchev was acting on his own or simply reading what had been handed to him when he broadcast the only truth Radio Moscow has ever put out about what is really happening in Afghanistan.
But either way, it is obvious that someone in the very citadel of Soviet disinformation sacrificed his career, and perhaps even his life, for the sake of a courageous dissent from the Kremlin’s bloody war of conquest in Afghanistan. Incarceration in a labor camp or a mental hospital is the very least that Mr. Danchev or his scriptwriter can expect.
And the very least that those of us in the free world can do is to salute this act of courage by someone willing to sacrifice everything for the right, just once, to speak the truth.
– Copley News Service
August 18, 2015
You always seem to hear about actions of the Russian government for different reasons each week. But how the Russian media and government correlate is something I am rarely exposed to.
During the time frame that this article was written when people in the Soviet Union were in the Brezhnev era. This era saw a slight decrease in immediate threat for disobeying the rules, but some violent laws were still in place. For example, if you owned a business and raised prices when demand was high, you could be put to death. There was also the threat of punishment by the KGB.
It was only a few years prior that a new constitution had been formed to guarantee the freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly, along with the rights for work, health and education. We easily see a correlation between now and then. Both the United States and Soviet Union have had armed forces in Afghanistan; we are allowed to talk freely about this. But while Danchev had the written right to talk about this subject, he was forcibly taken off the air and sent to a psychiatric hospital. No one is fully sure of what happened to him after his hospital stay.
Even today, Russian writers fear repercussions from their government. Most news outlets release misleading information to citizens, hoping to stay on the Kremlin’s good side. They even attempt to destroy other countries’ prestige in order to help raise their own. For example, they whitewashed Russia’s actions in Crimea, Ukraine, in an attempt to make Russia seen like the knight in shining armor.
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