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The apartment fits Americans' conception of a Soviet dwelling, with bare walls, simple furnishings, a dark, out-of-the-way location--and of course a reknowned spokesmen for Soviet Jewry.
Although the apartment was just past Central Square in Cambridge, Natan Sharansky's thoughts were back in the East, where he said the Soviet Union is at a "historic crossroads" and that decisions made in the next several months will determine the path that country will follow.
Sharansky, who criticized Soviet policies toward Jews before being charged with treason and sent to a labor camp in 1978, changed his first name from Anatoly to Natan--gift from God in Russian--after he was taken from prison, stripped of his citizenship, and flown in 1986 to Israel, where he now resides.
Sharansky, 39, will give a Hillel-sponsoredspeach at 8 p.m. tonight in Sever 113 on Jewishhistory and human rights.
Saying that Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachevhas "an aura of euphoria around him," Sharanskycautioned that "the U.S. must with a sober mindlook not at the good public relations that theSoviet Union has undertaken but at the purefacts."
To win the West's aide, the Soviets are "tryingto decrease the pressure on them by releasingpeople like [Andrei] Sakharov and myself," hesaid.
But he added, "The politics of Gorbachev havetwo faces--one face for the dissidents who aregiven much attention by the West and another forpeople who are not well-known." While Gorbachevhas publicly endorsed relaxing restrictionsagainst Soviet Jews, he recently issued a decreestating only those Jews with immediate familymembers in the West could apply for visas,Sharansky said.
He said Gorbachev's historic trip to Washingtonnext month will bring the Soviet Union to acrossroads and that many decisions made duringthat period will determine whether Soviet societywill become more open.
Sharansky, who undertook a 110-day hungerstrike while in prison, is the former spokesmanfor Sakharov and started, with Sakharov, anunprecedented watch group for Soviet human rightspolicies toward Jews in 1975, the year Sakharovreceived the Nobel Prize.
The Soviet Union tried to crush the group,arresting and imprisoning all of its leaders. ButSharansky continues as a leader of Soviet Jewry,who "represents the undefiable will that can't bebroken," said David Makovsky, a graduate studentin Middle Eastern Studies in whose apartmentSharensky spent the night yesterday
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