Dr. Lynn Visson

Polemic concerning D. Shalin interview with Boris S. Rabbot

I am not a sociologist. But since as Boris Rabbot’s wife of 35 years I had intimate knowledge of his life, biography and professional career, I feel bound to respond to some of the highly distasteful allegations made during the course of this “polemic.”

Dima Shalin’s interview with Boris [http://cdclv.unlv.edu/archives/Interviews/rabbot_08.html] was not intended as a scholarly article or part of a scientific survey. It grew out of a highly informal and spontaneous conversation. Due to his lengthy illness, Rabbot never had the opportunity to personally review or edit the text. Like all interviewees or memoirists, he describes people incidents, conversations and people as he remembers them. (For the record, I first heard from Boris about the KGB beating incident some 30 years ago).  As for V. Shlapentokh’s suggestion that, 60 years later, Shalin should have checked on the veracity of this event with other sources – who or what, pray tell, are these “sources?” KGB officers and inaccessible archives? Boris’s fellow-students at MGU? Most of the latter are now either dead, seriously ill, or were not privy to the details of this incident.

According to Shlapentokh’s twisted logic [http://vladimirshlapentokhrussian.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/%d0%bc%d0%be%d0%b6%d0%bd%d0%be-%d0%bb%d0%b8-%d0%b1%d0%b5%d1%81%d1%82%d1%80%d0%b5%d0%bf%d0%b5%d1%82%d0%bd%d0%be-%d0%b4%d0%be%d0%b2%d0%b5%d1%80%d1%8f%d1%82%d1%8c-%d0%b0%d0%b2%d1%82%d0%be%d0%b1%d0%b8/], immediately upon the conclusion of every session each KGB interrogator or torturer should have ceremoniously handed his victim a signed receipt containing a dated and stamped verbatim record of the interrogation, names and addresses of all witnesses present and a precise listing of all acts perpetrated on the person under interrogation and the precise nature of injuries sustained. Perhaps a demand should have been made for the medical records from the doctors who treated Boris Semenovich for the broken vertebrae resulting from this beating?      

This situation is somewhat reminiscent of the post-war dilemma faced by the families and heirs of German and East European Jews murdered during the Holocaust, who prior to World War II had deposited monies for safekeeping in British and other West European banks. On attempting to access these accounts, the heirs were told to produce their relatives’ death certificates.

Such an approach denies the validity or interest of nearly any and all memoirs, autobiographies, interviews and literature, including accounts of the Stalinist camps or of the Holocaust. Insistence on such “proof” only serves to create a grotesquely Orwellian parody of Soviet “научный” social science.  

“Наука” is one thing. V. Shlapentokh’s insinuations, however, are far removed from scholarly discourse. Not only is the KGB torturer unavailable, but so is his victim. Boris Rabbot cannot defend the truth of his statements for the simple reason that he is dead. It takes little scholarly honesty or moral courage to engage in libelous assertions – i.e., to print misrepresentations which defame an individual’s reputation.          

On the other hand, L. Batkin’s recollections of B.S. Rabbot’s work with Rumyantsev are indeed in keeping with the true course of events.  Boris frequently mentioned to me his respect for and friendship with Batkin, who comments that “Вся связь с Румянцевым по поводу меня шла через его доверенного помощника Бориса Раббота.”  As Alexei Matveevich’s aide, Boris was in fact the “gatekeeper” for access to Rumyantsev, as shown by dozens of memoranda, reports, letters, etc. in Rabbot’s personal archives.

Shalin’s comment, “Если верить Баткину, то доклады Румянцеву писал не только, а возможно и не столько, Раббот.  Борис опустил этот факт в своем интервью,” is entirely correct. Rumyantsev had a staff of референты working for him, and many of them reported directly to Boris Semenovich. One референт’s excellent recollections of his work with Rumyantsev and Rabbot will appear in a memorial volume devoted to Boris.

I therefore refer those individuals genuinely interested in B.S. Rabbot’s life and work to the forthcoming мемориальный сборник “Борис Раббот:  шестидесятник, которого не услышали” (составители Е.В. Виссон, В.А. Арканов, Моска:  РВалент, 2012.)

Since it would be an insult to Boris’s memory to continue a “discussion” with those who in the guise of “наука” are engaging in thinly veiled libel, I will not respond to any questions or comments. The мемориальный сборник should provide appropriate answers to the issues raised in this so-called “polemic.”



*International Biography and History of Russian Sociology projects feature ititive interviews and autobiographical materials collected from scholars who participated in the intellectual movements spurred by the Nikita Khrushchev's liberalization campaign. The materials are posted as they become available, in the language of the original, with the translations planned for the future. Dr. Boris Doktorov (bdoktorov@inbox.ru) and Dmitri Shalin (shalin@unlv.nevada.edu) are editing the projects.