The KGB's Anti-Testimony Campaign

A detailed account of the KGB disinformation campaign against Testimony can be found in Allan Ho and Dmitry Feofanov's Shostakovich Reconsidered, pp. 48-60. The following three documents complement that account. The first, a Reuters report printed in the British leftwing newspaper The Guardian in 1979, describes the first step in organising opinion against Testimony abroad. The second, a report in a pro-Soviet American leftwing paper, shows the results being put into practice only two days later. The third document is an excerpt from a Western study of Soviet espionage confirming the status of Vassily Sitnikov, who coordinated the KGB anti-Testimony campaign.

From Reuter in Moscow. [The Guardian, 8th November 1979]

Soviet officials have told foreign Communists that a book just published in the West as the memoirs of the late composer Dmitri Shostakovich is a forgery, reliable sources reported today. The sources said that Moscow correspondents of Western Communist newspapers were called to the state copyright agency on Friday to hear a passionate attack on the book, Testimony, which suggests that the composer was not the devoted advocate of the Soviet System he appeared.

Correspondents of non-Communist news organisations were not invited to the meeting. There has been no mention of it in the Soviet press where the publication of Testimony in the US and Britain at the end of last month has also been ignored. The book has been serialised in several Western newspapers. It recounts several of Shostakovich's brushes with the authorities and is said by its publishers to be based on interviews with him over four years by the former Leningrad musicologist Solomon Volkov. Soviet musical sources said they were aware that Mr Volkov, who now lives in New York, had extended talks with the composer, who died in 1975 at the age of 69, in the early 1970s. In an introduction. Mr Volkov says that Shostakovich signed every chapter as he compiled it.

The sources who reported the agency's meeting said that the agency's deputy chief Mr Vassily Sitnikov, told the Communist reporters: "We know that Shostakovich had very little to do with the book. For one thing, he never wrote or dictated any memoirs." But at the same time the official agreed that Mr Volkov, who says in an introduction that he had the composer's permission to publish in the West after his death, had four interviews with Shostakovich in the spring of 1973. Harper and Row, the US publishers of the Shostakovich memoirs, yesterday denied that the book was a forgery.

By Phillip Bonosky [New York Daily World, 10th November 1979]

MOSCOW -- "It is a lie from beginning to end."

This is how Vassily R. Sitnikov vice-president of the Soviet Copyright Agency, VAPP, characterised Testimony: the memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, published in New York by Harper and Rowe [sic] Oct. 31. The book purports to be the authentic opinions of the Soviet Union's great composer, "as related to and edited by" one, Solomon Volkov. Shostakovich's widow Irina, son Maxim, and daughter Galina, have denounced the book as a forgery and have called Solomon Volkov an impostor who deliberately created a fraudulent version of the composer's character and ideas in an attempt to compromise not only Shostakovich's honor but also as part of the ongoing "dirty war" against the Soviet Union.

Here are the facts: Volkov gained entry to Shostakovich in 1973, pretending that he had been sent for an interview by the magazine Sovietskaya [sic] Musika, on whose staff he was listed. Actually, the idea was his own. His purpose became clear later on.

The book states that "For some four years before Shostakovich's death, working first in Leningrad and then in Moscow, the brilliant young Soviet musicologist Solomon Volkov drew forth from Shostakovich memories whose publication the composer came to see as mandatory." Volkov did not have continuous dealings with Shostakovich "for four years." He met Shostakovich for the first time at his summer home near Leningrad twice in the spring of 1973 and twice later that same spring in Moscow. At the Leningrad sessions, Shostakovich's friend and pupil, the eminent musician, Boris Tishchenko, through whose graces he got to see Shostakovich in the first place, was present. And during those sessions, as Tishchenko has testified, Shostakovich spoke of nothing but music. The two sessions later in Moscow were not attended by a third person and it is on these two sessions, a few hours long, that Volkov bases his fraudulent account, fattened into a book, safe in the knowledge that the only person who could have branded him a liar is now dead.

Once it was known that a manuscript existed, and no piece had appeared in any magazine, Mrs. Shostakovich asked Volkov to show it to her. He snarled back that things would "become much worse" for her if she interfered with his sending it abroad. It is a lie that the manuscript was submitted to Soviet publishers and turned down. Volkov was well aware that no Soviet publisher would have accepted or even read such a patchwork of slander.

Many aspects of the case don't survive even the most casual examination. The main one, of course, is that there is no supporting proof anywhere for Volkov's statements, except his own. Even so, he does not dare state that Shostakovich actually said what Volkov quotes him as saying. All Volkov claims is that he had taken down the composer's "ideas and facts" in shorthand, which he then later wrote up in Shostakovich's "language," and which Shostakovich approved by writing "Read." The publishers themselves, fearing more skepticism than already exists about the book, added the cautionary "As related to" and then "Edited" before they revealed the name of Volkov. The "researchers" at the notorious Russian Institute of Columbia University added the rest.

But even so, the gaps in the explanations yawn wide at the reader. Shostakovich, as the whole world knows, is the composer of a number of great symphonies. Well-known in the U.S. is the Seventh, Leningrad Symphony, which he wrote during the siege of Leningrad. He also wrote many songs, including a number based on Jewish themes. A song from his works will be the official song of the 1980 Olympics. Shostakovich was a deputy to the Supreme Soviet, a winner of the Lenin Prize, a Hero of Socialist Labor, People's Artist of the USSR, secretary of the USSR Union of Composers, a man whose views were well-known to the whole world.

Now one is supposed to believe that this man lived a monstrous secret life of deception, was so morally corrupted that he could even delude his wife and children, not to speak of his Party and friends, and to top it off even wrote lying music -- and that he revealed his true self only to a man he had never met before, who spoke to him four times, and only twice alone. Can anyone in his right mind believe that? "Shostakovich," said Sitnikov, "was a Communist until the day he died."

Volkov is now listed at the Russian Institute at Columbia University as "researcher" -- euphemism for "working for the CIA".

The Secret World by Peter Deriabin and Frank Gibney
(Ballantine Books, 1959, revised edn. 1982), pp. 339--40

DERIABIN: Take my old co-worker Vassily Romanovich Sitnikov, for example. You met him as head of the KGB spy group subverting American and British officials in Vienna during my time there. Today he does his work in the "literary" field. While I've been in the West, Russian writers have been harassed, put on trial, imprisoned and tortured, many have died or have been exiled; the best among them now live in the West as emigrants. They've been defeated and driven out of their country by the Soviet regime, working through its KGB. As one weapon in this battle, the Soviet government ratified the International Copyright Convention and ever since has been manipulating copyright laws to silence and jail writers who dared stray from narrow orthodoxy. The KGB's role is clear: Sitnikov and another old colleague of mine moved into the top leadership of the Soviet Copyright Agency as soon as it was formed, in 1973. Well, one might say, Sitnikov had some qualifications. He got into the world of books via the KGB's "Disinformation Department" (he was its deputy chief), which spent its time planting fraudulent documents in the West, sponsoring books for the lies they spread, painting swastikas on synagogues to give the impression that Nazism was reawakening in West Germany -- all sorts of things to suppress and distort truth and to confuse and mislead the West...

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