Russia: The Scholar as Pawn

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From the Cell. One afternoon last week the U.S. embassy was informed that Barghoorn had been arrested as a spy "a few days ago." Six times during 48 hours, the U.S. protested that Barghoorn was innocent, demanded his release. But all U.S. Ambassador Foy Kohler got from Deputy Foreign Minister Valerian Zorin was a stubborn nyet. Nobel Prizewinner John Steinbeck, winding up a trip through Russia, declared angrily: "They should have arrested me. I covered more territory and asked more questions." In New Haven, Yale students and faculty launched a movement to circulate protest petitions on 1,200 U.S. campuses.

The uproar was obviously more than the Kremlin had bargained for. Five days after his arrest was announced, the prisoner was taken from his cell, put in a car packed with Soviet plainclothes cops, and driven to the ramp of a London-bound airliner. Barghoorn was "not doing the proper work" of a scholar, insisted the Russians, but he was being released because of the "personal concern expressed by President Kennedy."

One theory, publicly advanced by former CIA Chief Allen Dulles, is that the Soviet had arrested Barghoorn by way of retaliation: the U.S. has just expelled two Soviet diplomats for spying and arrested a "chauffeur" for a Soviet trade agency in Manhattan. According to this theory, the Russians meant to swap their spies—a blackmailing deal which President Kennedy had previously ruled out. Another explanation, forecast by Barghoorn himself in his book, is that the Kremlin may feel that cultural exchanges have gone too far, that Russians have become too ready to mix with visiting foreigners. The arrest of a well-known U.S. professor would serve as a warning to Russian citizens that "the attraction of Western culture" can still be extremely unhealthy.

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