Taking time out from the problems of arms control, Secretary of State George P. Shultz met with a group of Soviet writers and artists Wednesday for lively talk about glasnost and perestroika.
Shultz also went for a ride in the countryside, visiting the grave of poet-novelist Boris Pasternak and stopping for a Holy Week service in a Russian Orthodox Church.
“It was an egghead’s kind of holiday,” an irreverent member of the U.S. Embassy staff said.
Shultz, a former university professor, clearly enjoyed the intellectual discussion of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reorganization), which are championed by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Lunch at Poet’s House
Lunching on borsht and blini (small, thin pancakes) with red and black caviar, Shultz listened for most of the time.
The cozy gathering took place in the dacha of poet Andre Voznesensky in the writers’ colony of Peredelkino, about 20 miles west of Moscow. Voznesensky was not present; he is visiting in the United States. His wife, Zoya, presided.
Chingiz Aitmatov, a prize-winning novelist from Kirghiz whose father disappeared in Josef Stalin’s purges of the 1930s, was among the guests. Also present were Andrei Dementev, a poet and editor of the literary magazine Yunost; playwright Mikhail Roschin, painter-sculptor Zurab Teseretelli, and writer Anatoly Rybakov.
“Those people were terribly articulate, and Shultz is a wonderful listener,” an American who was present said.
The artists spoke in Russian, and a State Department interpreter translated their words into English.
Support for Glasnost
All of them, a guest said later, endorsed Gorbachev’s effort to open up the traditionally secretive society. And they agreed with the new leader that it will be impossible to reverse the process once it has taken root.
“Shultz was enjoying it enormously,” the guest added. “After all, he taught at three universities (Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chicago), and he was back at a round table with other intellectuals.”
Before lunch, Shultz visited the nearby grave of Pasternak, whose reputation is being rehabilitated nearly 30 years after his death. A literary commission has been established to honor his memory, his dacha at Peredelkino is to be made into a museum and his most famous novel, “Doctor Zhivago,” will be published in his homeland next year.
Shultz left a bouquet of red carnations at Pasternak’s grave, then entered the village church, where a morning service was in progress.
Afterward, meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, Shultz mentioned that the intellectuals were supporting Gorbachev’s major themes.
“It’s good that you had this meeting,” Shevardnadze told him. “They are very interesting people. I know some of them.”