Whatever happened to Andrei Amalrik?

A few days ago I found a Time issue from 1973:

Flipping through, I came across this:

First of all, that opening sentence …

After three years in Siberian prison camps, writer Andrei Amalrik, 35, was looking forward to going home.

… would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. As if he’s thinking, y’know, these Siberian prison camps, they’re okay, but truth be told, I’d kinda rather be sleeping in my own bed, if you don’t think I’m rude to say so.

It’s strange, though, reading news from the past. These past people, they somehow don’t know what’s coming next. These 1973 people, they have no idea what 1974 holds. Don’t they have history books? Don’t they realize it’s all been decided already, and 2017 is the real frontier?

Back to Andrei Amalrik. As the article says, he had spent three years in prison camps, and just when he thought he was done, Soviet authorities sentenced him to three years more. He was weak from meningitis and general bad health (Siberian prison camps will do that to you), and on top of that, he had begun a hunger strike. Nobody knew if he would survive.

I had never heard of him, but I had to know how his story turned out. I didn’t have much hope for him, given his dire situation, but I looked him up.

According to his Wikipedia page, his second prison sentence was commuted to one year, due to “his poor health … and protests from the West,” although even after release, he remained exiled in the same remote region of the country. In 1975, he was finally able to return to Moscow. Then, given an ultimatum by the KGB — leave the country, or face another prison term — he and his family moved to the Netherlands in 1976. They later moved to the US, and then to France.

A (mostly) happy ending, after all. Except …

In 1980, on his way from France to Madrid, he was killed in a car crash at age 42. His wife, who was also in the car, was not seriously hurt.

Can you imagine — surviving four years in Siberian prison, only to die in an auto accident?

Who, in 1973, would have predicted that?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.