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On 22-28 May in Moscow the Congress of PEN Club will take place.
PEN Club is going to present the position of this influential organization of writers, concerning the Chechen war.
But the Russian officials will surely try to interpret the fact of the Congress taken in Moscow as a sign of approval of the Russian policy...

Open letter

to the Administration of the International Pen Club
and personally to Homero Aridjis, Terry Carlbom, Jan Honout, Jane Spender, Alexandre Blokh, Sook-Hee Chun, Georges Emmanuel Clancier, Peter Elstob, Ronald Harwood, Nadine Gordimer, Nancy Ing, Francis King, Gyorgy Konrad, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Predrag Matvejevic, Arthur Miller, Antonio Olinto, Michael Scammell, M. le President Leopold Sedar Senghor, Mario Vargas Llosa, Thomas von Vegesack, Per Wastberg,

to National Pen Centers

to Members of the Russian Pen Center

From: Sergey Kaledin, Member, Russian Pen Center
and Naum Nim Member, Russian Pen Center, Editor in Chief
Index/Dossier na Tsenzuru Magazine
tel (095) 201-50-86
E-mail: nim@index.org.ru

5 мая 2000 года

May 5, 2000


The International Pen Club is planning to conduct its annual Congress in Russia in the end of May.

We are all aware of the fact that for over 6 months Russia has been waging a full-blown war, which is killing or turning into defenseless exiles peaceful residents of this country The war has already taken away tens of thousands of human lives Weapons of large-scale destruction are being used to raze towns and villages to the ground ... Lynching without a trial and humiliation of people are becoming part of routine everyday lawlessness.

All this creates a fertile soil in which Russia's totalitarian regime is growing stronger. Criticism from inside the country can no longer oppose the lawlessness of the authorities. The resurgent traditions of the so-called democratic centralism (the attitude being You elected us? Then support and obey us ) are being successfully presented by Russia's leaders to its people as the true observance of the democratic principles of social organization.

The main danger however is that the crimes of the Russian authorities are committed under the cynical cover of democratic phraseology. The country's leaders are trying again and again to convince the global community that their main goal is to protect human rights and freedoms, guarantee security to the citizens, the country itself and even the entire world. Unfortunately, these hypocritical assurances do convince many people

If under these circumstances the Pen Club Congress is conducted in Moscow, the event will be used by Russia's political elite, regardless of the original intent of the Congress' participants, to neutralize non-compromising international initiatives demanding unconditional observance of human rights from the Russian government.

The country's authorities will undoubtedly portray the Pen Club Congress in Moscow as a vivid proof of the fact that Russia enjoys both freedom of speech and all other human rights and freedoms. The Congress will help the Russian government make cynical lies about their sincere adherence to democratic values sound convincing.

The Charter of the International Pen Club demands that we all assert human principles, principles of peace. We do not believe that the Pen Club Congress in Russia can contribute to the victory of these principles.

Numerous activities associated with the Congress will make it inevitable for its participants to demonstrate their involuntary support of and to the Russian authorities.

In the end of last year the Russian Pen Center gave a reception to honor Putin, then still the Prime Minister. Putin used the occasion to explain to those present in his resolute and assertive manner (which is now well known to the world) that the war in Chechnya was conducted by Russia to ensure security for Russian citizens. Nobody managed to oppose his cynical logic.

That was Putin's first attempt to find understanding and recognition with the Russian intelligentsia, and he was indeed understood and recognized. There followed enthusiastic responses praising the new leader as straightforward and open-minded.

Members of the Russian Pen Club deliberately or unwillingly helped strengthen the authority of the current President, who is one of the main masterminds of the bloody Chechen epopee.

Participants of the upcoming Congress might find themselves playing (even if unwillingly) the same role.

Therefore we are calling upon all Pen Club members to consider once again the appropriateness of conducting the Congress in Russia. We believe that the decision not to conduct the Congress would be a proper, courageous, and ethical act. There is always a cost to acting ethically. However, it is one's only hope to acquire something of real value


Dear Sergey and Naum Nim,

I am in sympathy, but wonder what can be done at this late date. No-one from any of the Australian Centres is attending and our proxy is with Gordon McLaughlin of New Zealand. If you decide to have a vote of protest please let me know so I can tell him to vote accordingly.

All the best

Judith Buckrich

Melbourne Centre


Dear Mr. Nim and Mr. Kaledin,

Thank you for your letter considering the PEN International Congress. I hope you have heard about our decision not to go to Moscow,
if not I am now sending it to you, as we sent it to the International Administration, Polish, Norwegian, Swedish and Russian centers as
well as to the Writers for Peace Committee Chair Mr. Boris Novak.

Sarajevo, April 17th 2000

We received the letter from the Polish Pen Center from the 21st March 2000 considering the situation in Chechnya, and we want to
express our agreement with whatever was said in it.

We in Bosnia-Herzegovina still have a fresh memory of genocide and we especially are sensibilized about suffering and tragedy of
Chechen civilians and about slow and indifferent reactions of the international community. Therefore we consider the events in Russia
connected with the tragedy of Chechen people even more painful for us.

We understand that the Congress in Moscow can not be cancelled; the PEN center of Russia may not be able to successfully resist all
political pressures put upon them. Thus we think our participation on the Congress would be ignoring of the sufferings of the Chechen
people and supporting the crime escalation in this part of the world, as well as a cynicism toward our recent tragedy.

Board of the PEN Center of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo

Mr. Terry Carlbom did not welcome our decision and sent us a letter about it. Meantime we received a letter from Mr. Boris Novak, who
resigned from his Chair position because of Chechnya, and then Mrs. Monica von Paemel, President of the Flamish Belgian Center,
decided not to attend the Congress too.

Your letter will be published in our media, because we think it honest and courageous, and it expresses our position considering the

We wish you all the best, and keep up the good work, your sincerely

Ferida Durakovic, secretary
PEN Center of Bosnia-Herzegovina


Dear PEN Members,
Thank you for your letter. PEN is an organisation for Writers, and our
concerns are Promoting Literature and Poetry, and Freedom of Speech. It is
the considered opinion of the President, the Executive Committee of
International PEN and myself that we serve our ideals best by being present
at the Congress in Moscow, thereby visibly supporting the Russian PEN
Centre, which so long and so courageously had stood up for these ideals.

I am quite certain staying at home will impress no one. I am also quite sure
that the only way to counter the media spin-doctors of any regime is to
present your case straight and fairly, if possible on the spot.

Finally, I find your proposal generally speaking a proposal to stay at home
whenever the wind blows chilly. In that case we might close down eighty
years of history in defence of Freedom to Write immediately. That is no way
to face the present, or shape the future.

The Executive Committee has issued a statement concerning the situation you
might find relevant. I enclose it below. It was presented to our Standing
Committee Writers for Peace in Bled, Slovenia. After deliberations, the
Writers for Peace Committee expressed its intention to attend the Congress.
I do hope you change your mind and do so too.

Yours sincerely
Terry Carlbom
International Secretary

May 1, 2000

From: the Executive Committee of International PEN
To: the Annual Meeting of the Writers in Peace Committee in Bled
Re: the Moscow congress

Dear Colleagues,

The upcoming congress in Moscow has rightly been the subject of considerable
concern and debate within your committee and has regrettably resulted in the
premature departure of Boris Novak from his position as chair. No doubt,
especially as the congress follows so quickly upon your meeting, the
congress and the war of the Russian government against Chechnya will be the
subject of debate in Bled. Here is a summary of the position and actions
taken by the Executive on the congress and what we propose to do in Moscow:

1. As you already know, the Executive Committee had a lengthy discussion
about the congress at our meeting in early February, after protracted email
activity on the subject in the months leading up to our only meeting and a
visit by the International Secretary to Moscow. At that meeting, we
considered very carefully the concerns expressed by some Centres and your
committee chair and took the following actions: we wrote a strongly worded
letter to then Acting President Putin, copies of which were sent to all
centres and to the press as part of a press release; we wrote to the Russian
centre, supporting their courage in undertaking a congress under difficult
circumstances and urging the following strategy: first, not to permit any
government presence whatsoever at the congress, specifically not to invite
or allow to attend any government representatives; secondly, to specifically
invite to speak at the congress writers such as Gьnter Grass who have been
very outspoken in criticism of the war; we also devised a preliminary press
strategy, to ensure that there would be ready and equal access for foreign
and Russian media (where appropriate) at the congress, so that the actual
position of International PEN is made available in Russia and to the outside
world; we decided to issue a pre-emptive press release on the first day of
the congress, stating emphatically International PEN's reasons for having a
congress in Moscow, and our position on Chechnya; we circulated the letter
from Boris Novak, and the position statement of the Russian centre on
Chechnya to all centres, and asked all centres to make sure that their own
national media were aware of the congress and PEN's position.

2. Since that meeting, we have continued to monitor the situation in Moscow,
the ongoing war and the response of centres. The International Secretary,
President and the London office have remained in close contact with the
Russian centre. The Congress was discussed at the Writers in Prison meeting
in Kathmandu. Fawzia Assaad, a member of the Executive Committee, met with
the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation on the
Protection of Human Rights in the Chechen Republic, during the annual UN
Commission on Human Rights meetings in Geneva.

3. Gьnter Grass has accepted the invitation to speak at the congress. While
a few individuals have been critical of the position taken by the Executive,
some 60 centres are attending the congress, and we have no doubt that a
strong position on the war will be articulated by the General Assembly. Such
a statement will be a valuable contribution by International PEN to the
widespread critique of this deplorable war, and made stronger by being
issued right in Moscow, not from afar.

4. Once we are in Moscow, we will determine how best to proceed during the
congress. We may propose that once the General Assembly has discussed the
issue of Chechnya and created a resolution, we then request a meeting,
outside the congress, between PEN (a delegation to include the President and
Vice-Presidents, the International Secretary, and the President of Russian
Centre) and the appropriate high-level Russian officials, in order to
present our resolution. Such a meeting would be arranged only in
consultation with our host centre, and only if this is deemed appropriate by
the General Assembly. We will also issue a press release at the end of the
congress incorporating this resolution and the response, if there is one,
from the Russian government (either to the resolution or to our request for
a meeting).

We wish you a productive and enriching meeting in Bled and look forward to
seeing many of you in Moscow.

For the Executive Committee
Marian Botsford Fraser
Deputy Chair

19 MacKenzie Crescent Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6J 1S9
vox: 416 534-2165 fax: 416 534-8761


To: Administration of the International PEN Club
National PEN Centres
Members of Russian PEN Centre
and personally to: Judith Buckrich, President Melbourne Centre
Ferida Durakovic, secretary PEN Center of Bosnia-Herzegovina,Sarajevo
Terry Carlbom, International Secretary

From: Naum Nim, member of Russian PEN-Centre,
Chief Editor of Index/Dos'e na Tsenzuru

May 15

Dear colleagues!

On the 5 May, together with Sergei Kaledin, I've sent an open letter to the members of PEN, in which I've expressed my fear that the Congress of PEN in Moscow will be used by Russian political elite to neutralize non-compromising international initiatives demanding unconditional observance of human rights from the Russian government.

I'm grateful to the colleague Judith Buckrich, President Melbourne Centre, to Ferida Durakovic, secretary PEN Center of Bosnia-Herzegovina,Sarajevo and to Terry Carlbom, International Secretary - from whom I've received the answers.
I've understood, that many members of PEN Club share my fear.
I thank Terry Carlbom, who informed me about the decisions of the Executive Committee of International PEN that were the result of the discussions on the congress in Moscow.

The measures that are foreseen (I mean: letter to Putin; the decision not to permit any government presence; the decision to inform world as well as Russian public beforehand about the position of PEN Club on Chechen war; the plan to include resolution on Chechnia into the press-release of the Congress) - if they'll all be realized - can prevent the possible efforts to use the Congress of PEN for support of the totalitarian aspirations of todays Russian power.

I think that now, in a week before the congress, it may be useful to send the preliminary variant of the resolution of the Congress to the national PEN-Centres for approval and possible additions (including those Centres, that decided not to take part in the Congress). It'll give guarantees that the decisions of the Executive Committee will be fully realized. At the same time it'll allow to focus Mass Media (and first of all Russian Mass Media, in which the position of PEN Club nowadays is not presented at all) on the position of PEN Club on Chechen war.

To International PEN from Polish Center

21 March, 2000

In response to the letter sent to Secretaries of all Centres on March 7, 2000 and the Report from the Executive Committee of February 28, 2000, we feel that as one of the oldest PEN Centres (operative since 1924), and the hosts of last year's PEN Congress, we have to voice our concern over the following issues:

1. The Russian Government, in the absence of an elected president, is pursuing a policy of genocide in Chechnya. The planned murder of an entire nation is accompanied by the systematic destruction of its civilization and culture: schools, libraries, museums, even cemeteries, have been or are being totally destroyed. The letter of protest made public by the Russian PEN does not mention these facts, nor does it explicitly condemn the racist propaganda used by the Russian authorities to justify its actions in Chechnya. The letter sent by International PEN to Russian Acting President, Vladimir Putin, also fails to mention these facts directly. We feel that circumspection displayed in this situation defeats the purpose of communicating with the Russian authorities. Furthermore, we do not deem publicizing this letter in the Polish press appropriate. We do feel, however, that the wording of the Report from Executive Committee is vague when concerns raised by "a number of Centres" with regard to the Moscow Congress are mentioned. The nature and origin of these concerns may be of great interest to all Centres, and we would appreciate receiving specific information about this issue.

2. It is likely that the PEN Congress in Moscow will be used by the Russian Government as a propaganda tool. The presence of the international intellectual community in Moscow may serve to legitimize a genocidal regime. Our Russian colleagues stand to lose much more than they could possibly gain under these circumstances, since they will be the first objects of government manipulations, perhaps even blackmail. Acting under such constraints, they will not be able to effectively avoid cooperation with the authorities. Therefore, since it is too late to cancel the Congress , we insist that events accompanying the official meetings be reduced to a minimum. We feel that the presence of International PEN President, Mr Homero Aridjis, at a poetry reading open to the public is inappropriate, as every resemblance of normality in the proceedings of the Congress will inevitably be a form of condoning the Russian Government's actions in Chechnya.

3. The PEN Congress must take a position on the war in Chechnya and voice in the strongest terms our condemnation of the crimes committed there by the Russian army. Any equivocation or understatement in this matter is in contravention of the PEN Charter. The recent letter of protest, signed by many leading intellectuals from Europe and America, including members of the Norwegian, Polish and Swedish PEN Centres, condemns the silence of world public opinion. By not condemning fascism, colonialism and totalitarianism, Europe becomes "nothing but an association of people deprived of imagination, a community of shame". The traditions and principles of PEN excluded the possibility of membership in such a community.

With best regards,

President Janusz Maciejewski
Vice-President Adam Pomorski
Secretary General Taduesz Piуro

To P.E.N. 67th World Congress in Moscow from Belarusian, Bosnya & Hertsegovina, Esthonian, Moldavian, Polish, Slovenian, Ukrainian Centres


Dear Colleagues,

Contrary to our tradition, this year's PEN Congress is being held in a country in which a massive, genocidal military and paramilitary operation is under way. Besides mass murder, the crimes perpetrated against the civil population of Chechnya include deportations, rape, torture, destruction and theft of personal property as well as the systematic looting and destruction of the material bases of Chechnyan culture and civilization. At the same time, freedom of infomation has been severely curtailed, and the official propaganda plays on xenophobic and even racist common ethnic stereotypes.

We know such phenomena not only from post-colonial countries but also from the experiences of the lost decade in post-communist Europe. Their mechanism, be it in the Balkans or the Caucasus is always the same. The collapse of the existing structures of a multi-ethnic state takes on the form of war. This war forces upon its participants highly aggressive national identification instead of a civic or neighbourly one. It acts as a pogrom carried out with the use of heavy arms (air strikes, artillery, missiles, tanks) by regular army, police and paramilitary forces. The military pogrom paves the way for mass plunders and all-encompassing corruption. It is usually difficult to point to the real principals behind the military action and the crimes, since they act in the name of the state.

The genocidal scale of the events, mass terror, murder and deportation, unbelievable suffering of people has irreversible consequences for the lives of all the communities that have been drawn into the conflict. Even the ordinary soldiers in the regular troops quickly become criminalized. Banditism and brutality cease to be socially condemned. Public opinion accepts all this as it accepts the institutional practice of concentration camps. Russia, so tragically marked by the Gulag experience, has accepted the return of such camps in Chechnya.

Violence on the territories covered by military action is accompanied by formal or informal introduction of the elements of martial law on the territory of the entire state. Freedom of speech is violated by censorship, whole spheres of reality are wiped out from propagandist information services. This concerns especially TV programmes, which have the widest reach, and are psychologically most suggestive. Independent journalists are being corrupted, persecuted, repressed and secretly assassinated.

The lack of information and the distortion of what is left are conducive the expansion of national and racial hatred. Common stereotypes are supplemented with secondary political, religious and cultural motivation for genocidal practice. Vulgar names by which the Caucasus inhabitants are referred to, such as "blackasses", "blacks" are transformed in the official repressive Russian euphemism into "a person of Caucasus nationality". The anihilation of the town of Grozny finds a higher-order explanation in the slogan worthy of the civil war in Lebanon "the struggle of Christianity with Islam" and in a return in propaganda to a colonial discourse. The thesis about the cultural inferiority of Chechens is being supported by systematic destruction of Chechenyan schools, libraries, museums, churches, architectural monuments. Also the justification given for the killing of civilians as a fight against terrorism is typical. All these practisees, documented by UN Reports, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, humanitarian organizations and Russian human rights activists have been condemned recently by the Council of Europe and by the UN Human Rigths Commission.

Among all the propaganda lies, the only truth is the suffering of people.

Dear Colleagues,

In the wake of the First World War, the founders of PEN and later the authors of the PEN Charter established a set of clear principles which all the members of PEN have pledged to uphold. To react swiftly and decisively against war crimes, genocide, mass and wanton destruction of civilization and culture - these are our duties as members of PEN and, indeed, as civilized human beings. The United Nations Resolution on genocide and the Declaration of Human Rights show that the principles of the PEN Charter are based on universally shared commitments and values.
PEN cannot take part in any actions aimed at creating the impression that the situation in Russia is normal, that is, acceptable by our standards. In the nineteenth century, Leo Tolstoy had the courage to speak out in protest against the colonialist genocide perpetrated by the Russian Empire in the Caucasus. Today, we must repeat his words, quoted after the Christian Apostles: I cannot be silent! It is our duty not only to protes againts the genocide in Chechnya but to warn against the typical-character of this phenomenon. Silence or turning away from the truth would strip us of our identity and of our moral right to refer to the PEN Charter.
The last enormous attrocity of the 20th Century is taking place in Chechnya. In a time of unconditional interdepencies of all people and all world events we cannot decline from the co-responsibility: we condemn and we warn.

We are requesting the P.E.N. World Congress to consider this letter as an official Congress document.

Belarusian Centre
Bosnya & Hertsegovina Centre
Esthonian Centre
Moldavian Centre
Polish Centre
Slovenian Centre
Ukrainian Centre

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