A Moscow Letter From Eric Fawcett

Peace Research In Moscow

1) Soviet Peace Committee (SPC)

This is a long-established organization, well-supported financially from the Soviet Peace Fund, with splendid premises on Prospect Mira (Peace Prospect). Like all Soviet institutions, however, it has undergone major changes, and perestroika finds expression in the form of exciting new projects undertaken by a rejuvenated organization.

I met three staff members, all political scientists in their 30’s to 40’s, fluent in English and very busy when I visited: Dr. Andrei Y. Melville, Vice-President of SPC; Dr. Alexander I. Nikitin, Director of SPC Research Centre; Michael P. Shein: Consultant to International Department of SPC.

The programs they described to me may be classified broadly into public or research, and Soviet or international, but cross-over occurs between these classes. Thus Economic Conversion is a matter of immense and urgent concern in the Soviet Union, and SPC provides the infra- structure for an Economic Commission, comprising trade-union and management people from industry, academic economists and other social scientists, party members, military and government representatives, etc., which is beginning to work on issues of economic conversion in the Soviet Union.

On the other hand, the findings of the Economic Commission are relevant to the problems of economic conversion in other countries. Michael Shein told me he was just back from a visit to the UK by members of the Economic Commission, to consult with groups like Science for Peace on how to help their country convert its deeply militarized industry.

Michael Shein also referred to the work of three Soviet groups which are working on problems under the auspices of the SPC: Lake Baikal Pollution, Arctic Ecology, and Acid Rain Monitoring. Each of these groups could provide mutually beneficial help and information to corresponding Canadian groups.

Projects described by Alexander Nikitin as being under way in the Research Centre of the SPC include:

  • Conflict Resolution, with plans to establish a centre in Moscow for studies in conflict resolution, and the hope to learn from western specialists in this field how to deal with the Soviet Union’s notorious internal problems;
  • Public Opinion Surveys on many topics — peace, ecology, economic and social issues, etc.;
  • International Security, including environmental and economic problems, resource exhaustion, etc., as well as the traditional concern with military security;
  • Formation of a Computerized Data Base on international cooperation and joint projects.

Keen interest was expressed in meetings with other organizations. I was given a report on a substantial meeting held in February with the Center for Soviet-American Dialogue, with workshops on global ecology, energy, the economy, people’s diplomacy and various other problems. Alexander Mikitin recognizes Science for Peace as the natural Canadian counterpart to the SPC Research Centre, and expressed great enthusiasm for arranging workshops or roundtables; topics suggested include: pollution of lakes and rivers (Baikal/Great Lakes); Arctic issues; acid rain; European security (there was special interest in the fact that Science for Peace has a small but significiant membership of political scientists); conflict resolution (Meech Lake/AzerbaijanArmorg). When I remarked that these would be small affairs, with little expectation of any considerable public participation or media attention, he assured me that this was just what they wanted — in fact he suggested a venue in a small university town away from the distractions of the metropolis, with 3 or 4 Soviet participants (Waterloo, Kingston?).

2) Peace Research Institute Moscow (PRIM)

This organization was founded within the last year. I met the Director, Professor Alexander K. Kislov (a historian), who is also Deputy Director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, where PRIM is presently housed. The Institute replaces the Scientific Council on Peace and Disarmament Research, and the concern expressed by the Director lest PRIM grow too large and bureaucratic suggests that this may have been the fate of the earlier organization. He envisages PRIM eventually as having about 10 staff members, working mostly on contract, with rapid publication of their research findings.

These two organizations will join the Academy of Sciences Committee (Soviet Scientists for Peace Against the Nuclear Threat: CSS) as members of the Science for Peace International Network (SPIN). I was unable to arrange a meeting with the Chairman of CSS, Vice-President of the Academy of Sciences Yuri A. Osipian, since he was deeply involved in the intense political activity in Moscow this summer.

Science for Peace can expect to receive the future publications of both organizations which I encouraged them to send also to the more active members of SPIN. We should also endeavour to establish a computer data link with the Soviet Peace Committee. They are now exchanging data with US groups, but not yet Canadian.

I should strongly emphasize the very different nature of Soviet Peace Committee from the organization we once knew — its renaissance provides yet further evidence that ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ are not just empty words, but ideas now being put into practice with vigour and determination. When, for example, I asked for SPC literature and found there was none, the reason was most interesting: the old literature was regarded as propaganda of little significance now, and the new literature is not yet available because of the tremendous difficulty in getting things published in Moscow, where innumerable new organizations have sprung up, each putting out its own literature.

The Russian scholar will recognize the syndrome from previous historical experience — everything ‘before the resolution’ is abandoned and the world is to be created anew. This time however is different — there is no violence. Science for Peace should assist in this process of reconstruction and democratisation by engaging in the interaction and exchanges that have been suggested.

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ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)