Page B4 - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 5, 1985
There's a place for you in the
Michigan Student Assembly
Prof. tells of life in USSR
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By CHRISTY RIEDEL
"In my previous life, there were
times when I was just at the bottom,
as I am now. I didn't know that I could
"And finally, not once, at least three
times in my previous life, I made it.
So my experience convinces me that it
is possible - if I would have enough
energy and heart and conviction - it
is possible to make it here, too."
POLITICAL SCIENCE PROF.
Alexander Yanov has been talking for
over an hour, filling in the details of
his "previous life" in the Soviet
Union. He tells the tale in a heavily-
accented voice, stopping at times to
look for the right word. When he is un-
certain, he looks to his daughter
His is a long story and one that holds
an equal amount of pleasant and un-
pleasant memories. His energy,
however, has not shown the slightest
signs of waning. The short, stocky
man is still as vibrant, deliberate, and
emphatic as when he began telling his
For Yanov, who has been a visiting
associate professor of political scien-
ce at the University since the fall of
1983, being "at the bottom" holds a
meaning that many would find dif-
ficult to understand.
JUST LAST YEAR he published
what many consider his best book,
"Drama of the Soviet 1960s: A Lost
Reform." He has a following of
students who find him a provocative
instructor and a good friend. Several
colleagues admire the Soviet emigre's
accomplishments and consider him a
valuable asset to the University's
political science department.
It certainly doesn't seem like the
bottom, but in his own eyes, Yanov
thinks "I am in a position in which I
can't influence anything, in which it is
not my choices, but somebody else's
He has run into obstacles with his
recent book and in the political scien-
ce department. Yanov said he an-
ticipated reviews for his book for a
long time, but all the waiting was in
vain because his publisher neglected
to send out review forms for the book.
"A BOOK NOT REVIEWED is a
book non-existent for the author,"
At the heart of conflict within the
political science department lie
Yanov's views on the Soviet Union
and the United States. According to
David Singer, a professor of world
politics, "My impression is that his
theoretical interpretation is different
from the conventional American wis-
Yanov blames ignorance about the
Soviet Union for the vehement op-
position to his ideas. Although he
came to the United States because he
Daily Photo by ALISA BLOCK
Soviet emigre Alexander Yanov tells his political science students that it
is possible to resolve the superpower conflict.
thought it was "the intellectual reader
of the modern world," he found that
this was not always true.
"WHAT I FOUND out is that
America...is a rather underdeveloped
country in terms of intellectual
superpower," he said. "It might be a
superpower in many other things, not,
unfortunately, in Soviet-American
Yanov bases his political views of
the Soviet Union on his own experien-
ces. He spent the first 44 years of his
life there, where he experienced the
turmoil of World War II, the terrors of
the Stalin regime, and deStalinization
Because of the vast differences
Yanov sees between Soviet regimes -
which he described as being "the dif-
ference between life and death" -
Yanov asserts that the key to the
solution of the superpower conflict
lies in one fact: that there is no Soviet
"NOT ONLY IS THERE no Soviet
political system, but there exist dif-
ferent regimes which are an-
tagonistic, hostile to each other," he
Yanov tells his students in his Soviet
foreign policy, government, and
politics classes that this difference
"must be the main conceptual
political tool. If we have...a unified
Soviet system, there is no solution. If
we have different regimes, then we
can press for the regime which we
"This is a different approach," he
PARADOXICALLY, then, Yanov is
under fire in the U.S. for the same
ideas that ultimately led to his exile
from the Soviet Union 11 years ago.
Yanov received a degree in history
from Moscow University in 1954 and a
doctoral degree from the same
university's Institute of National
Economy in 1970. From 1954 to 1974,
Yanov was, publicly, a freelance
political writer, and secretly a poet.
He said shame kept him from
revealing the poet in his soul.
"Why were you ashamed of these
poems?" his daughter Marina asks.
"They are wonderful poems."
"IT WOULDN'T LOOK GOOD in
the eyes of my colleagues," he an-
Yanov said the Soviet government
gave several reasons for exiling him,
From 1970 to 1974, Yanov put
together a three-volume book called
"The History of Russian Political Op-
position," which chronicled the
political opposition in the country
from the 15th to the 18th centuries, he
"IT DIDN'T EVEN touch the 19th
or 20th centuries," he said. "But you
understand, of course, that political
opposition is not a popular subject in
The Soviet government accused
Yanov of treason when he smuggled
the book on microfilm to the United
States via an American professor.
Although Yanov tried to be careful,
he said that the KGB knew all the
details of how he smuggled the book to
"IN THE LAST five years (in the
Soviet Union), my every step was
registered," he said.
Although treason was the cause the
Soviets said they were exiling him for,
Yanov thinks there was a deeper
"I was a writer, indeed," he ex-
plained. "I had my ideas, I had my
audience, I had my following, I had
people who believed me, and just to
incapacitate this audience I had to be
either isolated, or compromised, or,
still better, just out of the country,
(condemned) as a traitor."
ALTHOUGH LIFE IN THE Soviet
Union was far from ideal, Yanov said
being an exile is "terrible."
When he arrived in America, with
his wife Lydia and his daughter, he
knew virtually no English, ''When I
came here I knew 'hello' and 'okay,"'
he said. "And all my friends were still
(in the Soviet Union)."
His friends here, both students and
colleagues, agree that he has made
the transition successfully.
"I'M GETTING MORE PRAISE
from his students than I have from
any other colleague," Singer said.
"He's very provocative," said Tom
Dwyer, who was a student of Yanov's
for one term. Dwyer said that Yanov's
method of teaching, which involves
attacking and finding flaws in
traditional schools of though regar-
ding the Soviet Union, made his class
Cynthia Buckley, a graduate
student who took three of Yanov's
classes as an undergraduate, said
that Yanov is very open with his
"He's very flamboyant," she said.
"He dances with his dog at the
Russian House parties."
His students are so important to
him because he sees so much of his
hope in them.
"The students are my hope in this
sense: The message (that the super-
power conflict can be resolved) is still
not delivered. We can do." He pauses,
then emphasizes those same words
again. "We can do something about it. ;
"That's what I'm telling my studen-
ts - it is for them, it is for their
generation to solve this problem," he
said. "And I think we know how to do
education on housing issues.
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