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When Everyday Russians Knew the Communists Were Failing

by Sudhama Ranganathan Thursday, Jun. 21, 2012 at 9:17 AM

Growing up my parents kept people from all different ethnicities, races, religions, backgrounds, etc as friends. They tried not to discriminate, as they didn't want others to discriminate against them or their children. They had friends from Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, South America and of course America. They allowed people into their home from different backgrounds and were allowed into the homes of others. On the street we lived we were the first non-all white family; my mom being British, my dad being from India and our neighborhood predominantly Sicilian.

Once we had a Russian carpenter working on our house that had escaped life in the former Soviet Union. He talked about how hard it had become in the town he and his family originated from. His uncle was a writer that wrote views sometimes differing from the state. They weren't highly subversive and didn't advocate overthrowing the government or using violence, but, according to him, they just advocated allowing people to have choice in life. That was it.

According to him these were days where inside the USSR signs of desperation on the part of the government could be seen by ordinary folk. The KGB was nervous that people were truly becoming interested in free elections and that the propaganda keeping them in their place wasn't as roundly convincing as it once was. So they started expanding experiments they had been tinkering with in certain communities known as the “programs.”

In these communities there were already people living that were writing, drawing, filming, singing or just talking about things the government felt weren't a direct threat or advocating violence or harm to the government, but the government thought might cause people to start thinking about alternatives, free speech, freedom of expression or freedom of assemblage. These were what we would consider American rights and inspire those in the military to fight for the rights of others back home when overseas, but to communists they were to be feared and so they sent in undercover agents from various factions of the Soviet government, be it KGB, military intelligence, etc.

They would first pose as normal members of the community with normal occupations, etc, and get to know their neighbors. They would identify which people they felt would be sympathetic to the government, either through blind loyalty like former military service, family members of military personnel, emergency service personnel or their family, those loyal to the ideals of a communist state. They would then identify people most likely to just want to join, either because they wanted a sense of belonging and always felt on the outside, they were easily manipulated or they were just natural tyrants and bullies pining away for legal sanction to carry out their compulsions.

Then they would identify people that were neutral for whatever reasons, and finally those rumored or known to harbor ideas rooted in more political choice than they felt they were getting. The intelligence operatives would go in and start by identifying themselves at some point to blind loyalists that would do anything without question not even wondering if it was right or wrong. They would tell them the government wanted to rid the nation of foreign spies, and that they felt they had some in their community that needed to be rooted out.

Then, they would teach these people tactics to recruit those most likely to join in. These people would do so, and through manipulation, little perks, emotional and psychological pats on the back and more they would slowly build a sizable base. They would throw little festivals involving the loyalists showing them as influential people within the community. The perks, etc would be on display. Soon others wondered how they could get some for themselves.

Folks on the fence started to come over. Once that dried up, intimidation and harassment started to occur. Threatening phone calls would be made, doorbells would be rung in the middle of the night with no one there over and over, mail would show up opened, cars would start to get vandalized and houses too. People would show up to workplaces and would talk to people's boss's in front of them and others at work pointing and nodding in their direction. They would get blacklisted and treated as personae non gratae until they acquiesced.

They could also move away, but they risked losing contact with everyone they knew and loved and having their problems follow them and thus being put on a list like those targeted by the government in their former communities. In this way they turned them or made them mute and ready to distance themselves from the real targets. Those favorable would eventually be turned or removed from the community one way or the other, and even sent to prison just to get them out of the way.

Remember, these weren't militants, political radicals, extremists, terrorists, etc. They were just artists, poets, authors, musicians, journalists, etc. The government had targeted them as painting or drawing or writing, etc, things that could affect people's thinking. Perhaps inspire them to think more freely. Inspire them to think about the kinds of things Americans believe to be their birthright as Americans as bad, evil and things to be worked against.

They would conduct government (revenue funded) experiments trying to either change these people from expressing themselves in the manner in which they were, get them to stop expressing themselves altogether like we would think is our American right here, discredit them thoroughly so no people would want to associate with them through spreading lies etc, set them up and send them to prison or drug them unknowingly and get them to act crazily or erratically and then have an excuse to have them committed to a psychiatric facility.

It was believed the old ways were harming the government as people would easily question and resent these blatant actions, so the government sought ways to get people involved and fool them through psychological/ emotional manipulation into not only agreeing with them, but participating.

But, freedom is a hard thing to keep people from seeking, and eventually they come back to it. The Russian carpenter told us people in his town knew the government was becoming desperate, because when they targeted his uncle's family, they had to keep doing more and trying harder. Their attempts to get him to change what he wrote about failed. Their attempts to get him to stop failed. Their attempts to discredit him failed, and often backfired casting themselves in a bad light, which they couldn't even see because they were so focused on the job of ruining his uncle's life.

Their attempts to set him up failed as he was retired and it was really difficult to get him to really trip up that way. Their attempts to use drugs failed, as he would stay in much of the time due to his retirement, and people knew he was being drugged. If they did see him acting strangely on the breadline they knew - no matter how much they tried to deny to themselves - he had been drugged, and some of them had participated or knew of those that had participated in breaking into his home when he was out and drugging his food.

So the government had to spend more and more money to bribe people into participating, or distract them through local politics, or intimidate them with periodic heightened military presence, or making examples out of innocents. But the more this happened, the more things like the “American Dream,” and having a country with choices like that, seemed better and better. The more this happened, the more folks thought, “they aren't really saving me from anarchy, but depriving me of my rights so the elite can stay wealthy and powerful. This is not human or humane.”

The whole “program” in the town to quell freedom of thought in the town and free thinkers became so out of hand they began to come across as enemies of the people; beating folks until they were angry, then tossing a few of them crumbs to provide solace and sew jealousy. Apparently so many government agents had become embedded in these towns it became obvious. It was an open secret, and those eventually become like infected sores running and smelling more foul as time progresses. All people want to do the more they look at them instinctively is heal them.

But the communist government that sought to overcome and fool people by using false hope and orchestrated chaos began to look worse and worse. They began to look more and more desperate. They began to be more and more secretly resented, and people increasingly wanted deep down to have them out of their lives and out of their communities. They realized the spies weren't the people the government was pointing to like his uncle, but the twenty or greater agents embedded on his one block alone.

Perhaps the inner drive for freedom within those people drove them to trip up, over do it and cause the resentment that eventually took hold. It took decades, but it was this kind of inner turmoil and paranoia that needed no foreign spies. It was it's own undoing and in the end the spies to be feared were the ones working for the government of the country in question itself, not any foreign nation. That carpenter made me feel so proud of the American ethos and to be an American. I've never wanted to be anything else. He isn't the only carpenter through the ages that has inspired peace and liberty, but it still is profound to me. Guess you can't judge a book by the cover.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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