Courtesy Reuters

Soviet Taboos

THE task of the foreign journalist who tries to report conditions in the large sections of Europe now ruled by dictatorships is delicate and difficult. When it is a matter of inflicting suffering upon individuals or classes which block the realization of their goals, dictators are hardboiled to the last degree. But they are as sensitive as the most temperamental artist when the effects of their ruthless policies are criticized, or even when they are stated objectively without comment. The foreign correspondent who disregards this sensitiveness, hews to the line of factual reporting, and does not hide behind softening euphemisms and compromise phrases, works under a Sword of Damocles -- the threat of expulsion from the country or of the refusal of permission to reënter it, which of course amounts to the same thing.

A typical illustration of the workings of the dictatorial mind was the angry and outraged reaction of the Soviet officials to a message sent out by a foreign correspondent in the winter of 1932-1933 about the deportation en masse of the greater part of the population of several Cossack villages in the Kuban Territory where the peasants, with a keen sense of impending famine, had endeavored to conceal grain from the state requisitionings. These deportations were not mentioned in the Moscow newspapers, but received a good deal of detailed publicity in Molot, the Soviet newspaper published in the regional center, Rostov-on-the-Don. The correspondent, therefore, had unimpeachable official authority for reporting the fact of the deportations; yet the censor refused to pass his message when it was submitted as a press telegram, and was very indignant when the correspondent sent it out by mail. It was considered distinctly bad form to write in specific and positive terms about the process of driving from their homes and exiling to the bleak wastes of Siberia tens of thousands of people, including old men, women and children. A more figurative and generalized description of the fate of these Kuban peasants,

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