- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It is rare that a man dreams big, dedicates his life to a project and sees it to fruition before his death. Yet, this is precisely what happened with Lev E. Dobriansky, a scholar, educator, American patriot, and, above all else, a relentless anti-communist, who died on Jan. 30 at the age of 89.

Dr. Dobriansky had an illustrious academic career, teaching economics for over 35 years at New York University, the National War College, and Georgetown University, and publishing numerous books and articles. The most important part of his career, however, was fusing intellectual thought with political activism. It was animated by a heartfelt belief that the old communist-controlled Soviet Union was a prison of nations and that this arrangement was so inimical to the human spirit and the desire of people for self-governance that it would not last.

He authored the “Captive Nations Week Resolution,” espousing these sentiments and pledging the support of the American people, and had it passed by Congress in 1959. Thereafter, he worked to ensure that — despite the shifting political winds in Washington and the ebb and flow of U.S.-Soviet relations — Congress and the White House would celebrate it annually for nearly five decades. He also tirelessly lectured, testified and wrote about how truly fragile the Soviet empire was, urging that U.S. policy toward Moscow must take this into account.

Most of Washington’s foreign policy “realists” were dismissive, expecting the Soviet Union to endure. They were proven wrong and Lev Dobriansky was proven right. While Vladimir Putin’s Russia has relapsed into authoritarianism, the Soviet empire’s formerly captive nations have become free and many of them have embraced democracy and free markets. While the collapse of Soviet communism had many causes, the forces of nationalism and the desire for self-determination were among the most important of them. We are also told by many of the former Soviet dissidents and freedom fighters how important in their long struggle against communism were voices in the United States — like Dr. Lev Dobriansky’s — denying the legitimacy of the Soviet empire, validating their aspirations, and predicting their eventual triumph.

Having seen the Soviet Union’s demise, Dr. Dobriansky spent the last 15 years of his life working both on explaining its causes and honoring its victims. Toward that end, he helped create the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. This educational effort continues apace, and on June 12, President Bush dedicated a Victims of Communism memorial on Capitol Hill. According to the White House spokesman, the president, upon learning of Dr. Dobriansky’s death, expressed sadness, called him “one of our nation’s greatest champions of freedom.” Mr. Bush indicated his respect for “Lev’s commitment to educating politicians and students alike about the evils of communism and the great promise of liberty,” and the president’s belief that “Lev was a leader who helped tear down the walls of tyranny and deliver hope to millions of people around the world.” These sentiments we fully and heartily share.

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