Pasternak gets his due, finally

WHEN it comes to who's in and who's out in the Soviet Union, it pays to stay tuned. Most recently the late Leonid Brezhnev has been following Joseph Stalin into the annals of official disrepute. Yet other leading Russians, particularly in the cultural field, who were once out are again in. Mikhail Gorbachev's drive for glasnost and less censorship set the climate. The late author Boris Pasternak, for instance, would have been fascinated to witness the rehabilitation of his reputation taking place in the USSR over the last two years. His membership in the Soviet Writers' Union has been reinstated and his famous, long-banned ``Doctor Zhivago'' has been published.

A commission set up in recent years by the Writers' Union to commemorate Pasternak, who passed on in 1960, has played a key role in the author's improved reputation. One of its top projects was to turn Pasternak's dacha (summer house) in Peredelkino, a writers' colony in a southwest Moscow suburb, into a Pasternak museum. The union, which owns the house, at first fought the idea; with the Ministry of Culture, it said the home should be a literary museum for a broad spectrum of modern writers. But poet Andrei Voznesensky, who headed the commission, argued that Pasternak was no ordinary writer but a genius. He views ``Zhivago'' not as political or anti-Soviet, but as a lyrical novel. Voznesensky held out for a separate museum and won.

It is sad that such a deserving reinstatement has taken close to 30 years. Still, the Soviet establishment's reversal is admirable. Lifting such constraints on obvious literary and artistic talent, however biting its criticism of the Soviet system, in the end benefits not only the Soviet people, by broadening their perspective, but all who appreciate the arts.

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