The Corner

World

Microscopic Dots. Let’s Look at Them.

Igor Bitkov and his son, Vladimir

Stuart E. Eizenstat has written a big book on the Carter presidency. (Eizenstat was Carter’s chief domestic-policy adviser. He also had a substantial hand in foreign affairs.) I have reviewed the book for the forthcoming NR. Eizenstat tells the story of a meeting between President Carter and Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet foreign minister. Carter brought up the case of Anatoly Shcharansky, the “refusenik” in the Gulag. (He would later be known as Natan Sharansky, in Israel.) Gromyko expressed bewilderment at this. With all the issues lying before the USSR and the USA, the president is talking about one guy, one zek (prisoner)? Gromyko dismissed Shcharansky as “a microscopic dot.”

I like that phrase: “microscopic dot.” I don’t think I will forget it. These microscopic dots are pretty much the most important things in the world.

Last week, I went to Guatemala to visit three microscopic dots in prison. They are a family named Bitkov — Igor and Irina and their daughter, Anastasia. The Bitkovs also have a young son, six years old, who is in the care of guardians (after a brutal experience in an orphanage).

The Bitkovs built an excellent company in Russia, from the ground up. But the state — Putin’s oligarchs — wanted in on the action. They wanted their cuts, big-time. The Bitkovs would not oblige. They thought they could remain independent. They were wrong.

Anastasia, then 16, was kidnapped and raped. Igor paid a ransom. With the threats increasing, the Bitkovs fled Russia. The oligarchs then swooped in to gobble up the Bitkovs’ company. They got it after all. The family, with few options, fled to Guatemala.

For a while, they lived normally, relatively speaking (and only relatively). But then the Russians pursued charges against them in Guatemala — financial charges. These went nowhere, being absurd. Then the Bitkovs were arrested for passport fraud, essentially. Their sentences? Igor got 19 years in prison and his wife and daughter got 14 years each. For passport fraud.

The sentence for rape is between eight and twelve years. Murderers almost never get what the Bitkovs got. I could go on.

And I do in a piece published today on the homepage, here. As I say in that piece, the Bitkovs deserve an entire book, or a movie. What has happened to them is revolting, and instructive, too. The U.S. Congress really ought to know about this case. There is a hearing before the U.S. Helsinki Commission on Friday.

Most Popular

Culture

Jonathan Swift in a White Suit

In 1965 Tom Wolfe visited Princeton University for a panel discussion of "the style of the Sixties." The author of The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, published that year, was scheduled to appear alongside Günter Grass, Allen Ginsberg, and Paul Krassner. Grass spoke first. The German novelist's ... Read More
World

In Appreciation, and against (Too Much) Nostalgia

To put it a little self-pityingly: It seems that my gurus are going, and the world’s. Richard Pipes, the great historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, died on Thursday; Bernard Lewis, the great historian of the Middle East, died yesterday. We had them both for a long time. Pipes was born in 1923, Lewis way ... Read More
Law & the Courts

This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism—May 20

1996—What’s one way to deal with unhelpful precedent? Just ignore it entirely, as Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Romer v. Evans does. In 1986 the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that it is constitutionally permissible for states to make homosexual conduct criminal. A decade later, the Court ... Read More
Culture

Comedians Are Catching On

The comedians are beginning to catch on. Over the weekend -- just one week after featuring a bevy of top-line Hollywood stars impersonating members of the Trump administration, as well as a cameo by a vengeful Stormy Daniels asking for President Trump’s resignation -- Saturday Night Live finally acknowledged ... Read More
PC Culture

The Nature of Progressive Insensitivity

Former vice president Joe Biden is back in the news yet again. For a second time, he seems surprised that poor residents of the inner city are capable of doing sophisticated jobs: We don't think ordinary people can do things like program, code. It's not rocket science, guys. So, we went and we hired some folks ... Read More
Culture

The Feminization of Everything Fails Our Boys

Let me share with you two troubling — and, I believe, closely linked — news reports. The first, from this weekend, comes courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry. In one chart, he highlights the dramatic and growing gender gap in higher education. In short, women are dominating: ... Read More