The Academics of Diplomacy


The Soviet Union's crackdown on political dissidents this year prompted Harvard to try its hand at quiet but persistent international diplomacy.

Early in the fall Sviatoslav I. Karavansky, a Ukranian dissident living in internal exile in the Soviet Union, accepted a two-year-old invitation from the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures to lecture here.

In a reply to the invitation written last fall after his release from prison, Karavansky urged Harvard to continue its efforts toward gaining his release.

The Slavic Languages and Literatures Department not only invited, but listed in the course catalogue as an associate professor Stanislaw Baranczak, a 33-year-old poet, essayist and literary critic from Poznan, Poland. Baranczak was to begin a three-year term here July 1, 1978, but the Polish government has steadfastly refused to let him go, despite continued protests by Harvard officials--including several letters to Polish authorities from President Bok--and the State Department.

Later in the year, after the USSR banished Andrei D. Sakharov, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, to isolated Gorky, the Physics Department invited him to spend a semester here as a Loeb Lecturer.

In January 85 physicists from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sent a telegram to the president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences--of which Sakharov is a member--warning of a "serious deterioration" in U.S.-Soviet scientific exchanges unless Moscow reversed its decision to banish Sakharov.

At the same time, Bok joined four other university presidents in sending a cable to Soviet Premier Leonid I. Brezhnev protesting Sakharov's banishment. In the spring, Harvard scientists joined 25 other members of the National Academy of Sciences in suspending all formal scientific exchange with the Soviet Union to protest that nation's treatment of dissidents.

On the other side of the world, a Taiwanese court sentenced Lu Hsiulien, a recent graduate of the Law School and a prominent political activist in Taiwan, and seven other dissidents to prison terms of 12 years to life for what the government termed was their support of the Taiwanese independence movement.