Marinat, Alexei, interview by Petru Negură, 2003 (in Romanian)
The Petru Negură Collection includes an interview with Alexei Marinat. The collection also holds a personal archival file on Marinat’s case (originally stored in the former KGB Archive, currently the Archive of the Intelligence and Security Service of the Republic of Moldova). These pieces are important as illustrations of one of the most well-known and representative examples of opposition toward the regime in Soviet Moldavia. The interview was taken on 8 December 2003. In its transcribed form, it comprises almost forty pages of text. The interview is a comprehensive overview of Alexei Marinat’s life story. It focuses on three main topics: (1) the interviewee’s personal and educational experiences in his early youth, from the late 1930s to his arrest in 1947; (2) his labour-camp experience and the impact of this life-changing tragic period on his worldview and political opinions; and (3) Marinat’s integration into the Soviet Moldavian intellectual milieu after 1954, his position within that era’s debates and conflicts between rival factions of local writers. Two early experiences made Marinat particularly critical of the Soviet regime, especially in the context of the 1946–1947 famine, when he was writing the diaries that ultimately led to his arrest and deportation to a Siberian labour camp. The first was his role as a low-level clerk in his village under the Romanian administration of 1941–1944 and his family’s history of “collaboration” with the Romanian authorities. Marinat’s father was one of the well-off peasants in his community and was appointed mayor by the Romanian authorities during the occupation regime. After the war, his father was persecuted by the Soviet regime and sentenced to several years of hard labour. The second formative experience was Marinat’s mobilisation into the Soviet army in 1944. As a Soviet soldier, he participated in military operations on Romanian, Hungarian, Czechoslovak, and Austrian soil and had the opportunity to witness at first hand the situation in Romania and to make a number of Romanian friends and acquaintances. It was around this period that his passion for literature, already visible in his teens, matured. He also wrote his first diary entries in 1945 and 1946. After returning home from his military service, his interest in literature prompted him to enrol in the Language and Literature Faculty of the newly created Moldova State University. During 1946–1947, as a university student, he was lucky enough to be taught by several instructors with a solid educational background in inter-war Romanian schools, which shaped his world-view accordingly. It was during this student experience that Marinat wrote most of his personal diary, later published as Eu și lumea (I and the World). In this text, he expressed open and strong criticism of the regime and of Stalin’s policies. This view provided the pretext for his arrest in May 1947. Interestingly, the camp experience was formative for the consolidation of Marinat’s anti-regime opinions. He socialised with a number of exiled intellectuals and practised several “survival strategies,” among which humour was prominent. His writing skills also helped him to overcome the extremely difficult experience of detention: he frequently wrote letters for other inmates and received small gifts in return. Summing up his experience in the camp and immediately after his release in 1954, he used the metaphor of a “great camp” to describe Soviet society as a whole. He noted, moreover, that there was ultimately more freedom for the inmates, who were not afraid to speak out, while his former colleagues in Chișinău were “afraid of Stalin even after his death” and “were afraid to say anything.” After his return, Marinat worked as a journalist for several youth and satirical journals. In 1957, he became a member of the Union of Journalists, and in 1959 he was inducted into the Moldavian Writers’ Union. His first novel – Fata cu hărțag (The Naughty Girl) – appeared in 1960 and was well received. Although of Transnistrian origin, he sided with the “Bessarabian faction” of the Moldavian writers, who advocated a return to standard Romanian and a higher quality of literary output. Marinat mentions Romania’s fundamental role as a source of high literary models in the early 1960s. He acquired a number of Romanian books from Kiev and Moscow and read voraciously, which helped to improve both his style and his literary status. His most famous novel – Urme pe prag (Footprints on the Threshold) – was published in 1966. It provoked a minor scandal in Moldavia’s literary circles because of its subject matter – the Siberian camp experience – and because his novel displayed a clear “anti-Soviet” message. The subject matter of the novel revolves around two previously taboo topics of “Soviet Moldavian” literature – the role of the secret police and the effect of deportation to Siberia on the personal destinies of the protagonists and on society at large. In this sense, Marinat’s prose was directly compared by contemporaries to Solzhenitsyn’s critique in his famous story One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. However, while Solzhenitsyn’s work appeared at the height of Khrushchev’s thaw, in 1962, the context was much less favourable in Marinat’s case. The authorities severely rebuked him for this novel and forced him to “repent” by writing an apologetic work praising Soviet heroism and condemning the “Romanian Fascists” in the Second World War, which was published in 1973 under the title Izvoare fierbinți (Hot Springs). Marinat claims that there was practically no samizdat at the time, but his novel was widely read in this key, even if it was published legally. The author himself acknowledges his astonishment at the official approval of its publication. Marinat also speaks about his active role during the national movement of the late 1980s. He claims that he made “countless speeches” and that it was he who “first raised the question of the Latin alphabet” at a meeting on 30 October 1988, held at the Writers’ Union. Apparently, Marinat directly confronted the first secretary of the Moldavian Communist Party. As a reprisal, the authorities tried to re-open the criminal case against him (on grounds of wartime collaboration), but ultimately failed. Marinat kept his distance from some of the colleagues he suspected of being “KGB agents” and remained critical of the regime throughout the Soviet period.
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- Cusco, Andrei
Negură, Petru, interview by Cusco, Andrei, October 29, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection