A-") hour behind schedule, Aeroflot Flight 031 last week touched down at London's Heathrow Airport. One of the passengers from Moscow had very special reasons for his trip. To his superiors in the Soviet Writers' Union, Author Anatoly Kuznetsov, 39, had explained that he needed to visit London in order to conduct research for a book on Lenin, who lived there in 1902. Actually, Kuznetsov had a much more compelling motive. Four days after his arrival in London, he managed to evade his Soviet-assigned traveling companion and flee to freedom. Seeking refuge in the home of a Russian-speaking British newsman, he declared: "I am a Russian writer, and that is who I am and I am not going back to the Soviet Union."
Repressive Climate. Kuznetsov is the most important literary figure to defect from the Soviet Union since the end of World War II and the best known personality within Russia to flee since Svetlana Stalin left in 1967 and wrote her recollections in Twenty Letters to a Friend. Along with Yuri Kazakov and Vasily Aksenov, he ranks as one of the most widely read authors in Russia. Noted for his sparse, evocative style, he has written numerous short stories and four novels. His 1966 documentary novel, Babi Yar, which recounts the Nazi massacre of thousands of Russian Jews outside the author's native Kiev, implies that many Russians were not displeased to see the Jews gone. Kuznetsov's latest novel, The Fire, which was serialized in one of the largest Soviet magazines, tells of suicide and despair among young engineers in a large industrial city.
Despite the Soviet Union's increasingly repressive intellectual climate, Kuznetsov remained in good standing in official circles. Unlike Novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose works are banned in the Soviet Union, or Poet Andrei Voznesensky, who is forbidden to travel abroad, Kuznetsov seemed to enjoy the privileges and prerogatives that come to an obedient Soviet writer. He has been a member of the Communist Party since 1955. Only last month, after Poet Evgeny Evtushenko and two other liberals were purged from the editorial board of Yunost (Youth), a big Soviet monthly, Kuznetsov was given one of the posts.
Secretly, Kuznetsov was desperately unhappy. For him the final blow was the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, which, he says, turned Russia's intelligentsia against the Soviet regime. He began planning his escape. His pretext for traveling abroad was perfect. How could Moscow deny a Soviet writer the opportunity to research a book on Lenin's stay in Britain? Kuznetsov transferred his Russian royalty payments to his wife and nine-year-old son. After photographing the pages of his unpublished works, he sewed the 35-mm. film into the lining of his coat. Into his suitcase Kuznetsov crammed copies of his published works* and other manuscripts.