Death to Captive Nations Week
"one of the wildest kinds of cold war kind of thing you ever seen in your life."
|Moss Robeson||Apr 20, 2020||1|
PART ONE—The Hidden History of Captive Nations Week
A little known and lesser understood Cold War tradition turned 60 years old last summer in July. Public Law 86-90, signed by Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 17, 1959, “authorized and requested” the President of the United States to proclaim the third week in July Captive Nations Week “each year until such time as freedom and independence shall have been achieved for all the captive nations of the world.” The term “captive nations” referred to countries “submerged” by communist governments. Although the White House is not obligated to keep the tradition alive, no President has dared to shirk it, which is perhaps best understood today as a symbolic renewal of the United States government’s commitment to leave no stone unturned in its undying mission to “promote democracy” around the world.
At first, former FBI director and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Congressional testimony last summer regarding his investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion was scheduled to fall on the 60th anniversary of Eisenhower’s signing Public Law 86-90. Mueller’s hearing was then postponed to the fourth week of July, which Donald Trump in fact declared Captive Nations Week, because according to White House tradition the observance actually begins on the third Sunday of the month.
Much about the timing of Mueller’s testimony was ironic, given the sensational conspiracies about Russia’s presumed stranglehold on the U.S. political system that dominated the news from 2017-2019. For starters, Lev Dobriansky, hailed by some as a “one man lobby” and “hero of the Cold War,” and the principal author of Public Law 86-90, railed against “the Russia First movement in this country” and even participated in a nationally televised “Golden Shower for Goldwater” back in the 1960s. What’s more, as admitted by an admirer, Dobriansky was “firmly in the grip” of the cultish, sadistic, and formerly pro-Nazi Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera (OUN-B), a fascist group responsible for countless war crimes during World War 2, including the massacre of many thousands of Jews and Poles, after which it established a transnational, underground “dictatorship-in-exile” in the so-called “free world.”
As the longtime president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) and National Captive Nations Committee (NCNC), not to mention on-and-off again chairman of the “Ethnic Division” of the Republican National Committee (RNC), the far-right Dobriansky was probably the OUN-B’s most influential supporter in the United States. He colluded with various radical anti-communist political interests in the U.S. and around the world, as a result of which Captive Nations Week observances during the Cold War were often led by exponents of the OUN-B. The likewise extremely right-wing and highly secretive John Birch Society was also a big advocate of the Week. The Society’s founder infamously declared President Eisenhower, among other top U.S. officials, to be a “conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist conspiracy.”
To make matters more serendipitous, Alexandra Chalupa, director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)’s “ethnic outreach” and Trump-Russia research in 2016, is a Ukrainian American at the center of the alleged “DNC-Ukraine collusion” issue. Her idol and grandfather, Olexji Keis, plausibly a Nazi collaborator turned postwar OUN-B supporter who later in life led anti-Soviet protests in the United States, was a founding member of the U.S. branch of the OUN-B associated, Cold War-era “Union for the Liberation of Ukraine” (SVU). This group should not be confused with the likely fictitious Soviet Ukrainian group of the same name that was the center of a 1930 show trial in Kharkiv; the SVU was a small organization in the United States closely tied to the “Americans to Free Captive Nations, Inc.” Together they sponsored an annual demonstration at the Statue of Liberty that closed out Captive Nations Week in New York City during the 1970s. Dobriansky himself spoke at the event some years.
In 2018, Trump proclaimed Captive Nations Week on Friday, July 13th, two days after scandalously accusing Germany of being a “captive” nation to Russia, and three days before his notorious Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin, during which Trump said he took Putin at his word that the Russian government didn’t interfere in the 2016 election. Back in 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon awkwardly met Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow amidst Washington’s inaugural Captive Nations Week observance. Dobriansky’s Public Law 86-90 was the focal point of Khrushchev’s rage the day of his “kitchen summit” with Nixon. According to Jay Whitefield, the Soviet leader “sarcastically welcomed Nixon and his entourage to ‘the land of the captive people’ … [and] told Nixon that the resolution ‘stinks like fresh horse shit.’”
Almost thirty years later, former Secretary of State Dean Rusk recalled learning about Captive Nations Week while working in the Kennedy administration, “so I called my colleagues and said, ‘What in the hell is this all about?’ And they brought me this Captive Nations Resolution which … is one of the wildest kinds of cold war kind of thing you ever see in your life.” George Kennan, the architect of the Truman Doctrine and the United States’ operative Cold War “containment strategy,” once accused some of the “captive nations” named by Public Law 86-90 of having been “invented in the Nazi propaganda ministry.” Kennan (and perhaps Rusk, too) was referring to the joint resolution’s references to “Idel-Ural” and “Cossackia.”
Lev Dobriansky met the World War 2-era Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera in Munich in 1952, and thereafter became an ardent supporter of the OUN-B and its Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), chaired for life by Bandera’s deputy and indirect successor, Yaroslav Stetsko. The ABN was a coordinating center of far-right, no less anti-Russian than anti-Soviet “national liberation movements,” many if not most of them led by former Nazi collaborators and war criminals, that agitated for the violent breakup of the Soviet Union and considered World War 3 to be “inevitable”—necessary, even.
Dobriansky claimed to disagree with the ABN on the question of WW3, but nevertheless denounced “the Communist conception of peaceful co-existence,” which fellow travelers declared a “Trojan horse” for Soviet world domination. The ABN’s Idel-Ural and Cossackia committees indeed originated in Nazi Germany’s conquest of the Soviet Union. Vasili Glaskov, a longtime leader of the “Cossack Liberation Movement” who appeared at a 1950 ABN conference in Scotland, was a Nazi puppet during World War 2. In those days he proclaimed “Cossackia” to be “in the hands of the Great World Reformer,” Adolf Hitler, who “categorically decided to end the Jewish-Bolshevik plague.”
When Dobriansky met Bandera, the Ukrainian fascist leader ultimately rejected by Hitler, the Central Intelligence Agency still hoped to unite the post-WW2 Ukrainian emigration behind the Foreign Representation of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council (zpUHVR), the leadership-in-exile of a CIA-sponsored breakaway faction of the OUN-B that denounced Bandera after the war and renounced fascism in favor of a pragmatic pluralism. In 1967, the year of the founding of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians and the World Anti-Communist League, Dobriansky accused the zpUHVR, composed of allegedly reformed ex-Nazi collaborators, of being “soft on communism” and “CIA tools.”
Almost a decade before feuding with the CIA and zpUHVR, Lev Dobriansky got Yaroslav Stetsko, an unrepentant fascist war criminal and leading ideologist of the OUN-B, his first visa to the United States with the help of friends in Congress. Dobriansky did so in 1958 contrary to the wishes of the CIA and State Department, which for years remained at odds with the OUN-B and a burgeoning “Captive Nations Movement” despite having played a role in fanning its flames. For one thing, a CIA front called the Assembly of Captive European Nations cheered on the adoption of Public Law 86-90 and observed Captive Nations Week.
Lev Dobriansky founded in 1960 and chaired for decades the National Captive Nations Committee to oversee the Week’s annual grim festivities across the country. An early undated roster of the NCNC (from when it was “still in formation”) included the following members: Austin App, a pioneering Holocaust denier; William F. Buckley, the founding editor of the National Review; James Burnham, considered by some the first neo-conservative, who “ended up running a rogue CIA operation with mobster Frank Costello to kidnap American Communists and pump them full of sodium pentothal”; Eugene Lyons, editor of Readers Digest; Kalin Loicheff, secretary general of the fascist Bulgarian National Front, a member organization of the ABN; Clare Boothe Luce, former Ambassador and Congresswoman married to the publisher of Time and Life; Clarence Manion, “the man who started it all,” that is, Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, and a lifelong friend of Ukrainian nationalists; Phyllis Schlafly, the “ultra-conservative, anti-abortion, anti-feminist crusader,” who joined the NCNC’s leadership in the 1970s; retired general Charles Willoughby, “my pet fascist,” in the words of Douglas MacArthur; and Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, who accused President Eisenhower, the first to proclaim Captive Nations Week, of being a “conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist conspiracy.”
As told by Christopher Simpson, the CIA’s covert attempts to drum up domestic support for Washington’s declaration of political warfare against the Soviet Union “became instrumental in introducing into the American political mainstream many of the right-wing extremist émigré politicians’ plans to ‘liberate’ Eastern Europe.” The Crusade for Freedom (CFF), a CIA front that enlisted Ronald Reagan as a spokesperson, targeted the US population with $5 million of propaganda from 1950-1955, which doesn’t sound like much today, but according to Simpson established the CIA via the CFF as “the largest single political advertiser on the American scene during the early 1950s, rivaled only by such commercial giants as General Motors and Procter & Gamble.” Reagan didn’t know or didn’t agree with the unwritten rule to keep some distance from the Ukrainian-led, far-right vanguard of the “Captive Nations Movement,” which in large part thanks to Lev Dobriansky co-opted the RNC’s “ethnic strategy” by the time he ran for President.
Reagan, Dobriansky, and other Cold Warriors put Jimmy Carter on blast in 1977 when he almost dared to become the first “leader of the free world” to ignore Public Law 86-90. “The White House treated the [Captive Nations Week] proclamation as if they should send it out in a plain brown wrapper,” opined Reagan. “After all, it might have offended the Soviet Union…” The Congressional backlash was led by U.S. Representative Larry McDonald (D-GA), several years before he succeeded Robert Welch as the second-ever president of the John Birch Society. (As told by Politico in 2018, “The tale of Representative Larry McDonald might be the weirdest, most unbelievable one in modern American politics that you’ve never heard.”) No later than 1977, the National Captive Nations Committee began to keep track of an annual “honor roll” of politicians, from the federal to local level, that issued a Captive Nations Week proclamation. By then, the NCNC had created a symbolic “advisory committee” that included most members of Congress.
During the summer of 1983, in observance of the 25th annual Week, Yaroslav Stetsko visited the White House and met Ronald Reagan, who had appointed Dobriansky his Ambassador to the Bahamas, who in turn helped secure jobs in the Reagan administration for OUN-B supporters in the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. The following year, Christopher Simpson attended a Captive Nations Week event in New York City and witnessed a speech by Nikolai Nazarenko, an admitted Nazi collaborator, also “the self-styled leader of the World Federation of Cossack National Liberation Movement … and the Cossack American Republican National Federation … Nazarenko’s speech at the 1984 Captive Nations ceremonial dinner in New York left little to the imagination about his own point of view or that of his audience.” Simpson’s essential book, Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Destructive Impact on Our Domestic and Foreign Policy, is worth quoting at length:
“There is a certain ethnic group that today makes its home in Israel,” Nazarenko told the gathering. “This ethnic group works with the Communists all the time. They were the Fifth Column in Germany and in all the Captive Nations … They would spy, sabotage and do any act in the interest of Moscow,” he claimed … “They had to be isolated … arrested and imprisoned … This particular ethnic group was responsible for aiding [the] Soviet NKVD,” he continued. “…You hear a lot about the Jewish Holocaust,” he exclaimed, his yellowed mustache quivering, “but what about the 140 million Christians, Muslims and Buddhists killed by Communism? That is the real Holocaust, and you never hear about it!” The Captive Nations Committee’s crowd responded with excited applause in the most enthusiastic welcome for any speaker of that evening.
In July 1990, President George H.W. Bush concluded his remarks at a Rose Garden ceremony, “let us pray together that the light of liberty will shine across our entire planet, and the next Captive Nations Week will be the last.” Alas, almost thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the tradition is kept alive by two vestiges of the Cold War: the Captive Nations Committee of New York, and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation headquartered in Washington DC, which have nothing to do with one another except that they are both creations of Lev Dobriansky, and each organized Captive Nations Week events last summer.
PART TWO—The 61st Annual Captive Nations Week in New York City
After attending mass, the 2019 Week’s demonstrators assembled outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan to take photos and begin their annual march, the destination of which in recent years has been the Maine Monument at the southwest corner of Central Park. The only organization that turned out its members was the Belarusian American Alliance (BAA), also known as “Pahonia,” the name of a medieval Lithuanian symbol adopted by 20th century Belarusian nationalists. Their white-red-white flags have dominated New York City’s dwindling Captive Nations Week demonstrations in the 21st century. Their flag and symbol, I didn’t yet realize at the time, were associated with the World War 1-era Belarusian Democratic Republic and later the World War 2-era Belarusian Central Council (BCC), a Nazi puppet government created by the SS that joined forces with the OUN-B to form the ABN. Today the BCC president, a war criminal and ABN leader, is buried in New Jersey, and the BAA president is the go-to Grand Marshal of the march. Almost thirty years ago, Mario Cuomo, then Lieutenant Governor of New York, did the honors, with “the Ukrainian group … at the head of the marching columns.”
As we began to make our way to Columbus Circle, I struck up a conversation with Jaan Kuum, the secretary of the Captive Nations Committee of New York (CNC-NY), which he admitted is a one man operation these days. Jaan gave me a flyer that listed the late Horst Uhlich and Ivan Docheff, both former ABN officials, as honorary presidents of the so-called Committee. Something else that stuck out to me was the paper’s mention of the “captive nation” of “East Germany,” which it defined as “East & West Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia, Sudentenland, etc.”—lands that belong to Poland and the Czech Republic.
Docheff was for many years the chairman of the American Friends of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (AF-ABN), which succeeded in currying the favor of various Cold Warriors with the help of Dobriansky and others. According to declassified CIA documents, “there is sufficient evidence in the files to indicate that [Docheff] was definitely pro-German and that he worked for German Intelligence Services.” Uhlich, born in the Free State of Prussia, became the last president of the CNC-NY in 1978. That year, he wrote an article published in the ABN Correspondence that referred to the post-WW2 expulsion of Germans from Eastern and Central Europe as one of history’s worst genocides. Uhlich emigrated to the United States in 1971, and settled in New York City. Although he moved to Leesburg, Florida in 2004, he still drove up to New York every summer for Captive Nations Week until he died in 2013. The presidency of the CNC-NY has since remained vacant.
Jaan recalled that Uhlich “was instrumental in the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. He [also] kick started the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan right across the river in Jersey City.” Indeed, according to Jersey City’s Ukrainian Weekly, Reagan “launched his  presidential campaign on Labor Day at an ethnic festival held here at Liberty State Park … The majority of the more than 20 ethnic groups taking part in the festival were affiliated with the Captive Nations Committee of New York.”
Last July, in memory of Horst Uhlich, six years after he died, a Belarusian-American man carried a Prussian flag through the streets of Manhattan, and the CNC-NY flyer I received made special mention of East Prussia: “The Cornerstone of all Captive Nations MUST BE FREED NOW.” After we reached the Maine Monument, Jaan led an awkward rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star-Spangled Banner. The BAA president gave a speech in Belarusian, Jaan talked a bit about Prussia, and then, an old-time fellow traveler of the Captive Nations Committee stepped forward, seemingly out of nowhere. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been coming to this demonstration since 1964, and my parents before that,” a man named Jeff Smith said into a megaphone, hunched over in a suit and tie, as he began to jab at the air with his index finger.
About 30 seconds later, Jeff launched into a tirade against the “murderers” at home and abroad, the “people throughout the history of communism who have aided and abetted it, people like the New York Times, people like the Council on Foreign Relations, and all these NGOs on the Upper East Side, people that do business with Russia, people who do business with China,” and all the other “schmucks.” Contrasting his small audience with the oblivious passersby in the park, he assured them, “YOU are the uncorrupted! That’s the difference between you and them. They want comfortability. They want respectability,” he said mockingly. “You’re the uncorrupted,” he ended his speech. “You’re the good guys.”
After things wrapped up, I spent some two hours sitting on a nearby bench with Jeff and Jaan, the latter clearly growing uncomfortable with the former’s unhinged rants sprinkled with anti-Semitic tropes. Jeff, maintaining prolonged eye contact with me under the hot summer sun as he jangled his keys, let me in on a secret: there is an “invisible government” ruled by “all the same families,” many of them from the Upper East Side, that controls the international banking system, via which they facilitated the rise of Capitalism and Communism. “Trump rallies times 10,000,” Jeff prescribed, would be necessary to break their power. He name-dropped only two people, Nikolai Nazarenko and Robert Welch. The founder of the John Birch Society allegedly almost hit him once after they got into a heated argument about Israel; perhaps they debated Palestine’s status as a captive nation.
Not long before we parted ways, Jaan handed me a program. I hadn’t seen any passed out earlier. Inside was a CNC-NY roster that looked like it hadn’t been updated in years. It identified Natalia Nazarenko, widow of the pro-Nazi Cossack leader, as the “Parade Chairman” and national representative of Cossackia, although she died in 2012. Jaan privately clarified that Jeff didn’t speak for the CNC-NY, but the program named him as “Captive Nations Committee Advisor.”
The back page listed what appeared to be all the sponsoring organizations the Committee had ever had, most of which are presumably defunct now. Some that stood out to me, in alphabetical order: the “Albanian National Organization (OKLL),” also known as the monarchist émigré Legality Movement Party; the Austin App Unit (named for the “pioneering Holocaust denier”) of the Steuben Society, a German American group; Ivan Docheff’s Bulgarian National Front; the Committee for Liberation of North Caucasia, apparently led by Tscherim Soobzokov, a Circassian Nazi collaborator turned CIA agent; the “Emergency Administration of the German East,” reportedly “a side group of the far-right Aktion Widerstand” (“Action Resistance”), which was active in the early 1970s; the Front for a Free Vietnam, a 1980s exile organization “dedicated to the overthrow” of the Vietnamese government; the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, which remains heavily influenced by the OUN-B; Nazarenko’s World Federation of Cossack Liberation Movement; the World League for Freedom and Democracy, the successor of the World Anti-Communist League, which was in part a monster of Yaroslav Stetsko’s creation; and the World Prussian Association, among other potentially problematic German organizations.
When I asked Jeff and Jaan about the upcoming “Captive Nations Week Summit” in Washington DC, they had no idea what I was talking about.
PART THREE—The 1st Annual Captive Nations Week Summit
The next morning I caught a train to Washington DC, where in the grand Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, things got started with a pre-recorded video welcome by Senator Ted Cruz, who officially hosted the event although he did not appear in person. Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOCMF), then welcomed guests in the flesh. “Across town at GW,” that is, George Washington University, he was proud to tell us, “we have high school teachers from across the country right now, who are engaged in a program to better understand the history of communist regimes and be able to teach that in the classes across the country, and all that’s possible with the dedication of our [VOCMF] staff.”
Lev Dobriansky co-founded the VOCMF in 1994 with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Lee Edwards, its chairman today, who dubbed Dobriansky “a hero of the Cold War” upon his death. Edwards, a “conservative icon” and distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, one of the preeminent right-wing think tanks in Washington, long ago created (with Dobriansky) the controversial American Council for World Freedom (ACWF), the first U.S. branch of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), which the Anti-Defamation League described in 1981 as having “increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact, for extremists, racists and anti-Semites.” The League had numerous ties to Dobriansky’s National Captive Nations Committee, including WACL founding member Walter Chopiwskyj, the president of the Arizona state branch of the UCCA and NCNC, and a “loyal supporter of the OUN-B,” according to a fawning obituary that appeared in the Ukrainian Weekly.
Marion Smith, in his opening address at the 2019 Captive Nations Week Summit, informed his rather sizable audience, “We are going to hear [next], and it’s a special treat, from Dr. Paula Dobriansky today, who is a trustee of our foundation … but her father…” he reminded us, started it all back in 1959. “And I’d like to point out that in 2016 we [VOCMF] took the opportunity in Captive Nations Week to name Venezuela a new captive nation,” citing Cuban and Russian support for the Maduro government. Since then, “we’ve been very pleased to see the Trump administration is taking [the right] steps…”
“My father, who you’ve heard a bit about,” Dobriansky said at the podium, “Professor, Dr., Ambassador, he had these various titles … I looked through a little bit of his memorabilia—I’m still sifting through a bit of it, Dr. Edwards—and I came across, by the way,” a Captive Nations Week booklet that she read from before continuing her speech. Paula Dobriansky was a founding member of Dick Cheney’s neoconservative Project for a New American Century before serving two terms as George W. Bush’s Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs. “So the question is, for you, this morning and as we go forward this day with the summit,” Dobriansky asked, “what is the enduring nature of that legislation [Public Law 86-90] and Captive Nations Week?”
I think there are three points to be made here. The first is that it is truly an excellent national forum and institution for a constructive re-examination and assessment of where the captive nations have been—those of the past, and where we are at present. And this very forum is a perfect opportunity to do that. It also goes far beyond the mere celebration and annual commemoration of Captive Nations Week. It is truly vested with an ideology, a moral narrative of the values of the traditions, of the principles that really describe us…
Dobriansky then read from Donald Trump’s Captive Nations Week proclamation of 2018, “because it underscores this very point, in better words than I can.” She has twice now been considered, and passed over, for a top post in Trump’s State Department.
Carlos Vecchio, the U.S. ambassador of Venezuela’s self-declared president Juan Guaidó, also delivered introductory remarks, during which Paula Dobriansky departed. “Thank you, everyone … It is a true honor to be here. I remember when I came here [to the United States] … in 2014,” Vecchio began his short speech, “the institution that received me was Victims of the Communism, so thank you very much for that support that I got when I got here. I don’t have words to express my gratitude for that moment.” Vecchio gave the VOCMF credit for having set him up with a “new life” in the United States, before moving on to describe the situation in Venezuela as a “man-made disaster … created by one regime … The fight to defeat the Venezuelan dictatorship, listen well, is a great opportunity to tear down now and forever the wall of the Communism in Latin America,” he said to substantial applause. “This is not only about Venezuela. It’s about the future of the region…”
It was around this time that I noticed the program said the event was held “in conjunction with the US Department of State Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.” It was later explained to me that this was the first-ever “Captive Nations Week Summit,” and only the second-ever “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” itself one of the first initiatives undertaken by the State Department under the leadership of former CIA director Mike Pompeo. Soon after Pompeo was confirmed as Secretary of State, rumors and reports began to swirl about Paula Dobriansky’s pending nomination as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the third-highest position in Foggy Bottom, which would have granted her oversight of the CIA, among other things. Fortunately, for whatever reason, this did not come to pass.
Of the Summit’s three panel discussions in the Russell Building, two were moderated by officials from the Heritage Foundation, and the third from the VOCMF. Ana Quintana, formerly a student of Marco Rubio’s, and now the Heritage Foundation’s senior policy analyst for the western hemisphere, chaired the “Captive Nations of Latin America Panel,” which included John Suarez, executive director of the U.S. government-funded Center for a Free Cuba. In a 2017 speech to the Young Americans for Freedom, Lee Edward’s old stomping grounds, Quintana compared the radical right-wing Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to Nelson Mandela before saying, “we need to be applying so much freaking pressure [to Venezuela in particular, and other U.S. adversaries, or ‘captive nations’] that it makes these countries hurt. We need to put a lot of things on the table…” Since then, tens of thousands of Venezuelans have died as a result of US sanctions. Quintana also advocates the elimination of foreign aid to Central America and barring migrant caravans from entering the United States.
Luis Almagro, former Foreign Minister for the leftist President of Uruguay José Mujica, concluded the Summit with a short speech criticizing Cuba. Mujica bid Almagro “goodbye” after his election as General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS) and subsequent denouncement of the Venezuelan government in 2015. “Until then, no world leader, certainly not one from Latin America, had so aggressively and dramatically accused the Venezuelan government of human rights violations,” according to NPR’s White House correspondent. If Luis Almagro lost old friends on the left, he found new ones on the right. After he finished speaking, he hugged Marion Smith. In the months to come, the OAS authored a report alleging election fraud in Bolivia, which provided cover to a right-wing coup against Evo Morales’ leftist government, but since then has been largely discredited by MIT researchers.
During a break, I asked Lee Edwards if we could talk about Lev Dobriansky after things wrapped up. He said yes, but slipped away before the event ended, as did Paula Dobriansky. They might have anticipated my intentions to ask some uncomfortable questions. (For starters, what of the hundreds of indigenous “captive nations” in North America alone?) As the room emptied out, a representative of the Victims of Communism reminded us to come again next year.
The day before the Summit in Washington DC, as Jeff, Jaan, and company marched in New York City, the VOCMF executive director had an article published (“Communism is making a comeback; so should Captive Nations Week”), in which he said, “Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Yet this usually-forgotten, federally mandated occasion … is worth resurrecting in the 21st century.” It goes without saying, but I strongly disagree.
Three days later in Manhattan, the Captive Nations Committee had scheduled a “Freedom Demonstration” to be held across the street from the United Nations, the historic enemy of the John Birch Society, which used to plaster the country with signs that read, “Get US out! of the United Nations.” As seen above in a photo of the 1976 Week’s observance in Cincinnati, the slogan appeared at Captive Nations events. As it were, this was the first time I laid eyes on the U.N.
It rained that morning, and nobody attended the “rally” but Jaan and myself. Almost as soon as I arrived, he told me he was disturbed by Donald Trump’s recent derogatory comments about “The Squad,” and reiterated that Jeff Smith doesn’t speak for the CNC-NY. Jaan, seemingly a kind and harmless man oblivious of Captive Nations Week’s sordid history, was hung up on Jeff’s repeated pejorative references to London the day we met, because it is Russia, not Britain, he explained, that poses a threat to other countries. I laughed and told him it’s obvious who Jeff really meant is to blame for the world’s problems.
Jaan changed the subject. I honestly think he didn’t know what I was talking about, but didn’t want to admit his ignorance, or maybe he knew just enough to know he didn’t want to know more. After all, Jaan wasn’t familiar with the name George Kennan, the architect of U.S. Cold War strategy and perhaps public enemy #1 of the Captive Nations “liberationists.” Reminding me not for the first time that he is half-Cuban, half-Estonian, Jaan returned once again to his spiel about Prussia. A few steps away, he had propped up a sign that probably once belonged to his idol, Horst Uhlich: “FREEDOM for PRUSSIA NOW.” Next to it were aging homemade signs that I suspect were made by other now-dead right-wing activists. I didn’t have the heart to tell Jaan the truth about Captive Nations Week, and agreed to take a photo of him for the CNC-NY Facebook account. His eyes widened when I said, “See you next year,” but this tradition’s expiration date is long overdue.
EPILOGUE—The Trojan Horse
In recent years, Captive Nations Week has been described as “one of the weirdest artifacts of the Cold War,” but until 2016, a twelve to thirteen foot tall wooden structure more literally deserving of the label lorded over Epsom, New Hampshire for decades. Ironically, its removal from the small town, by which time it had come to be cherished by locals, was possibly no less controversial than the arrival of its nearly identical predecessor. The original sculpture, a literal Trojan horse burned to the ground in 1987, was built in 1975, apparently by a member of the John Birch Society in Maine. Its political message was explicit, sporting a sign that read, “The U.N. is a Trojan Horse in America. Get the U.S. out of the U.N. and the U.N. out of the U.S.” Subtlety was not the forte of its creator, who also once built a mock concentration camp to warn against the evils of Communism.
By 1977, Barbara Anderson, the treasurer of the New Hampshire Conservative Union and owner of an “American Revolution era-inn and tavern” in Epsom, had bought the horse and placed it on her property overlooking the rural community’s main thoroughfare. Next to the daunting sculpture, she put 42 white crosses in her front yard, which she called “the Graveyard of Captive Nations,” and the following summer hosted the opening day ceremonies of New Hampshire’s Captive Nations Week. As reported by a local newspaper,
Before addressing about 75 spectators, [the “ultra-conservative”] New Hampshire Gov. Meldrim Thomson strolled past the wooden horse … [and] among the wooden tombstones, bearing the names of such countries as Cuba, South Vietnam and Poland and the years when they became ‘captive’ and fell under communist influence. Thomson told the crowd, “I wondered as I came up whether I would see a new one today, one that said ‘United States’ with a question mark behind it…”
Around 2010, years after Barbara Anderson died, the property changed hands along with what remained of the second generation sculpture, absent the original signage. The new owner, the proprietor of a natural foods store that set up shop in the former tavern, reportedly “made sure the Trojan horse was written into her purchase-and-sale agreement,” and considered reconstructing the graveyard, “but we were going to put [in it] what has died in America, like common sense, courtesy, [and] faith.” Although this idea wasn’t carried to fruition, the horse became a popular tourist attraction and apparently a newfound source of pride and identity for the town. Most locals had evidently come to regard it as merely “a reminder of the potential evils of government.”
When in 2016 the property was foreclosed and its owner was forced to relocate to a neighboring town, she brought the horse with her, upsetting many in Epsom. The equivalent of the town’s mayor allegedly fought the decision in vain. According to the Concord Monitor, the decrepit wooden stallion’s owner “saw the irony in that Epsom officials originally hated the horse when Anderson brought it to town.” As of 2018, she admitted, “He’s in bad shape now,” and predicted that “he” was probably “destined for a bonfire.” A friend of the late Barbara Anderson told the Monitor that the original sculpture was intended to “symbolize anti-freedom and takeover of the U.S. from within,” which is why the Trojan horse was probably the perfect mascot for Captive Nations Week, itself a vehicle for an array of crypto-fascists to attain political power in the United States and abroad.