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PROBLEMS AND MOTIVATIONS LEADING TO RETURN.
To give an overview and describe the reasons why émigrés and defectors return to their countries is in a way a complex undertaking because it involves for most of them a real human drama that has its roots in a multitude of deeply anchored feelings, emotions and expectations, which are usually put upside down by the destabilizing emigration and defection experiences.
To return under those circumstances seems to many people of free and democratic countries a normal and acceptable choice. That 'normalcy' is also recog
nized in international declarations and treaties, but the failure to make it"
outside the Motherland and to retum hame is exploited and misconstrued by com munist regimes so as to show that life on the native soil, shaped and determined by their principles, is superior to that of the so-called 'free world'. This additional political and ideological twist given by communist authorities to
such returns transforms a basically human drama into a political game with high
The problem does not become any easier when a high-level Soviet bloc defector reverses his decision to defect and gives his hosts the pink slip. One cannot deny that such defectors go through very tense moments, which again under
lines the human aspects of the problem, but cloak-and-dagger considerations are
not absent either. Unavoidably one ends up facing the 'bona fide' of the original defection, leaving behind a persistant question mark as to whether the defector
was geruine or a plant.
Many problems seem to stem from a distorted and utopian vision of life in the West in general and in the US in particular. This vision has its origins mainly from the bleak picture of the West that has been painted in the official
Soviet (bloc) press. The individual's reaction is often that such reports are twisted and that the West ( or America ) must be the opposite of the official propagated version: a perfect place with full employment, roads paved with gold
where making money is easy and without too much effort.
Many Soviet bloc émigrés do not realize the help they will need in their ad justment and how complex, alien, hostile and unfamiliar the new place can be
at times. Reared in a patemalistic world that found the jobs and doled out their
livelihood from birth to death, many such adults are at sea outside the managed Soviet (inspired) system, facing particularly a hard transition to a society that demands initiative and prizes property. Many of those émigrés have developed an 'entitlement mentality' that makes it harder to understand that they can get more in Westem societies, but that they have to do it on their own.
Not only do Soviet bloc émigrés find the freedom they were dreaming of but
also indifference and the freedom to fail ( or the constitutional right to be
wrong ). Problems are very often compounded by serious difficulties or an impos
sibility to find the old professional and social status back. This can vary
greatly from one job category to another. Moreover, the past education tums
out to be often worthless or of little value. Older émigrés stay 'eternally' in
low-level positions or keep on reschooling themselves. Sometimes, the newly
found freedom is not really trusted because of fear of oppression by the system ( authorities ), something that was inherited from living in Soviet bloc socie
For a minority of Soviet bloc émigrés and defectors this will lead to
disillusiorment, despair and failure of human courage. This, on its cum, will produce social ostracism or withdrawal into small, tight conmnities where people keep to themselves ( "America is too big an experiment" ).
Not only are hopes for a better life seemingly not fulfilled, but old
sores are revived or strenghtened; less positive aspects of life in the
free-world societies are overblown and ideas about the latter are very often
put in black-and-white perspectives:
* nostalgia for security and camaraderie of Soviet (bloc) life;
For some retuming émigrés living in an alien culture has also arisen
feclings that Soviet bloc propaganda failed to inspire: a sense of being Rus
sian ( or other Soviet bloc nationality );
a duty to the Motherland and a sense
of guilt or shame for having left.
Needless to say that the KGB keeps close tabs on the émigré community and
KGB 'spotters' continuously are looking for disenchanted expatriates who might
be persuaded to work for the Soviet Union ( other Soviet bloc country in case of
other nationality ) or who are willing -knowingly or not, to return in the frame
of a big repatriation campaign as obviously has been the case with the returning
émigrés at the end of 1986 and early 1987.
It should be stressed though -and it is seldom done by the Soviet bloc
media- that most Soviet bloc émigrés have integrated themselves well into their
new societies repeating an American story: the first generation of inmigrants
arrives and struggles to establish itself; the next one assimilates and worries
about losing touch with its roots. A minority though cannot ad just and gets disenchanted. But as Alan Dershowitz noted recently, this is nothing new:
"Every large-scale emigration -from the American colonists who came over
According to data obtained from the Commission on Security and cooperation in Europe ( also called the Helsinki Commission ), an independent agency of Congress, approximately 100,000 persons emigrated between 1973 and 1986 from
the USSR to the US: less than 1% returned.
Soviet bloc defectors distinguish themselves from émigrés in more than one aspect. Emigrés have usually been authorized to leave the country, while
defectors went off of their own free will, a decision often considered a crime in most Soviet bloc countries. Returning entails a big, sometimes life-threat
ening risk, even if Soviet bloc authori-ies have promised otherwise.
Problems and motivations that lead Soviet bloc defectors to change their
mind and choose the way back home span a wide variety of situations, characters
and personalities that very much acts like a wilderness of mirrors. Reality is
very often blurred with real intentions masked or phrased as a Delphic oracle.
Sometimes, the reason for returning will be apparent, although it should never
be taken at face value, nor does it represent necessarily the whole truth.
The real motives for redefection can be -as it also can be in the case of
defection- hidden and never revealed, surrounded by vagueness and generali
ties. In other cases, the guiding hand of some Soviet bloc authorities will
be present in a subtle way in either creating or exacerbating existing prob
lems that will form the fertile ground for the decision to return.
Finally, there will be cases where the defectors battling with their own
psychological problems and feelings, will cause the redefection on their own.
Same observers of the redefection phenomenon, such as Colonel Vernon
Hinchley, consider redefectors, especially the high-level ones, as fake or
(...) with the exception of a few such psychopaths as Lee Harvey
Of course such view might seem too simplistic, however, the higher the Soviet
redefector is on the 'value scale', the more questionable his bona fide be
comes with regard to the original defection.
In the cases of Igor Ryhkov and Oleg Khlan, the two Soviet soldiers who
defected from the Soviet army in Afghanistan in the summer of 1983, the return
mechanism seems to have been triggered off in Ryhkov by a letter received from
his wife, mother and brother that also included pictures of his little girl he had never seen. Very likely, homesickness, a possible guilt of having left close
family behind compounded by the terrifying prospect of never being able to see
formed a precarious balance easily broken by an emotional letter
Nikolay Ryzhkov, who left the US after a year at the end of 1934, was des
cribed by friends as "a homesick and undisciplined youth who showed little in