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Interview Transcript

Sergei Kapitsa   (cont)

So the whole thing was cut into two series of one hour each: part one how the economy is going to the dogs, and part two, how to get out through innovation and financing industrial development.

 And, it was filmed during the summer months, with some announcements in the newspaper launched in September.  And it was quite an event.  I sat down three times and I followed the reactions, and people said, "Well, you are really doing strange things, and see what happens."  Well, nothing seemingly happened.

 But then, on Monday, they had the meeting of the Central Planning Authority, dealing with the matters of Siberian economy.  And Aganbegyan was invited.  And the chairman of that committee, a man called Baibakov, who was deputy prime minister responsible for this economic agency.  Half of his speech was a denouncement of this.  He said, "Oh, that stupid Kapitsa doesn't understand anything in economy" (because to him I was a junior figure--he knew my father well and they were really friends), "but you, Aganbegyan," who was sitting there, "how dare you say these things.  You've divulged state secrets on our economy.  And you've committed an ideological crime by misinforming the Soviet public on what's happening.  And your ideas are subversive if not crazy" and all that.

 Well, what can you say when things are like that are said.  So next Aganbegyan went back to Siberia, not as an exile, but as a professor.  I was told of what had happened, and two committees were appointed--one of the KGB that had to investigate the matter of divulging state secrets--that's their matter.  Once we were publically accused of giving away secrets of the state, it was a serious matter, so you could really go to Siberia, without any adjectives, for those matters.  And, on the other hand, once we had committed an ideological crime, a party committee was appointed to investigate into all these things.  I was never summoned to these committees.  They hang around, investigated, looked at the tapes, looked at the  transcripts, and every time they were showing us the transcript, they had the signature of the deputy chairman of this whole thing, and we were not meant to go there.  You see, we were not made to go there; we did it on our own good will, you see.  And with the grand seal of that very authority, so what could they do.  It was a ridiculous situation.  But we had to go on a tour with my group to Berlin, Prague, and Budapest, touring eastern Europe, on matters of science and technology.  That was all canceled, and I was told by my best friend that my days on television are now counted.  But somehow, we still carried on.

 And then in about a couple of months, we were summoned by one of the heads of the Soviet television, and he was a very decent man.  He called me and my producer to his office, and for fifteen minutes, he reprimanded us for irresponsible behavior since the country's in difficult position.  "You're allowing yourselves absolutely irresponsible statements you should keep to your own.  Speak about butterflies or volcanoes, but don't meddle with matters of high economy."  We sat there, and we didn't say, "We won't do it any more," you know.  We didn't even apologize saying that we were sorry, we won't do it again.  We didn't say a single word, so he didn't get even any satisfaction, you see.  He was speaking to us like a headmaster to naughty schoolboys.

 After that, we left, and we ought to have sort of crawled out of his office, humiliated and all that.  But we walked out, and in all dignity, he sort of shepherded us out of his office--a certain gesture of courtesy that you wouldn't really expect in these situations.  And when we opened the double doors of his office, he patted me on the shoulder and said, "You know, Sergei, everything you said was absolutely right."  So after that, we kept on, because the economy was going to the dogs.

 Yes, and the second half of our talks was taken off air, although that was sort of a happy end.  We were seeing what to do, so we showed only part one how the economy was really falling apart.  That was noticed by the world press, and I think in the Herald-Tribune, there was a short byline saying that the second half was never shown.  They always notice things like that--these Kremlin watchers.

 In a few months, Chernenko died, and Gorbachev came to power.  And much of what we said became the first issues of Gorbachev's policies.  And on the morning of that day, when we were having dinner at this friend of mine, just before taping with Aganbegyan, and Begyan had spent four hours with Gorbachev, discussing with him the same matters, and sort of briefing him on the state of the Russian economy and what to do.  This was what Gorbachev asked Aganbegyan to do--to get a sort of a briefing on major issues of economics.  Aganbegyan was very well prepared for this discussion.  But another country could never say in any stage of this discussion that this had ever happened, because we would simply lay low.  I didn't have a single word.  I know that I would be protected by those who were on sort of--who knew what was really going on, because the country was split, you see.  There were people on one side, on the other side, and the huge media that were sort of wobbling in between and would go the way the wind would blow finally.  They had no control of this thing.

 And so I knew that if we didn't do anything, we simply lay low, we would carry through.  If we start fighting sort of saying--we weren't doing anything; simply have to wait and see.  That we did, and finally came off in a good position.

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RAO > Catalgoues > Transcripts > TRAC > Sergei Kapitsa p.9


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