ROAR: “Mysteries surround Luis Corvalan’s life story”

Both the personality and fate of the legendary former General Secretary of the Chilean Communist party, Luis Corvalan, are full of mystical stories and enigmas, the media say.

“It is a sad event for all the Communist and left-wing activists worldwide,” said Ivan Melnikov, first deputy chairman of Russia’s Communist Party and State Duma deputy, commenting on the report about Luis Corvalan’s death.

He described Corvalan as a notable figure of the 20th century who served “as an example of strong ideological convictions, firmness and courage in struggle and a genuinely temperamental heart.”

The Chilean Communist leader survived the severe conditions of Augusto Pinochet’s concentration camps, Melnikov stressed. Corvalan was also greatly pained by the destruction of the USSR, he added. Nevertheless, he always believed that “a historic truth belongs to Communists,” Melnikov noted.

Even at an old age, Corvalan continued analyzing the causes of the Soviet Union’s breakup, the deputy said. The Chilean communist described it as “a lesson taught by history, but not a defeat in the construction of socialism,” the deputy stressed.

This politician “will always remain in our memory as a bright representative of a whole generation of world-scale leaders who gave a strong impetus to the ideas of social justice at the whole continent,” Melnikov said.

“Corvalan hoped that future generations will heed the experience of seniors and will be able to build socialism at last,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily said, adding that Chile “has lost its legend.”

His name was rarely recalled recently, but “he continued living with thoughts about a future where communism will reign,” the daily said. Corvalan never thought the political trends of the past years to be hopelessly outdated. He even published a book on the destruction of the Soviet power where he discussed “the mistakes of the Soviet regime,” the paper wrote.

“Corvalan’s personality and fate is full of mythical stories,” the daily said. “Even he himself could not probably say with full confidence what was true and fiction in his biography.”

“It seems that only one Chilean was better known than Corvalan,” the daily said. “Paradoxically enough, this man is Augusto Pinochet, who controlled the fate of the legendary communist for many years.”

People around the world knew about Corvalan, and he was awarded the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize, the paper noted. But he was more known in the USSR as a man who was exchanged for dissident Vladimir Bukovsky.

The Chilean communist leader and his family were granted political asylum in the Soviet Union. “But could the man who genuinely worried about the fate of his motherland to be far from it?” the paper asked. “Despite the fact that Pinochet was still in power, he decided to return in 1983.”

Russian special services organized operation “Revival” and helped Corvalan to enter Chile through Argentina’s territory, Rossiyskaya Gazeta said. The politician was given a new name, Domingo, and a new background and “he even had plastic surgery three times so that there could be no doubt that Domingo and Corvalan were two different men.”

"Corvalan always had the voters’ support,” the paper said. “But after he left the post of General Secretary in 1989, it became clear that the success of the Communist Party in the elections had been based exclusively on this man’s charisma. Without him, the Communists would not have received representation in parliament for several years.”

He “understood the politics of communism very well,” said Anatoly Lukyanov, the chairman of the USSR’s Supreme Council in 1989-1991. “There are people who do not see ways in politics, they hear, but they do not make conclusions and do everything in their own way,” he told Izvestia daily. “Corvalan, on the contrary, saw a lot of ways before him, and he was able to not only hear, but also to heed the people.”

The former Chilean Communist leader was one of the most famous figures in the history of the 20th century, historian Roy Medvedev told the daily. “Being the leader of the party that was financed by the USSR, he was a very astute politician. It is the fact that Chilean communists did not fully support the Soviet leadership.”

“It is difficult for me as a historian to assess Corvalan,” Medvedev said. He is “an enigma man, a legend man, and it is difficult to say which facts we know about him are fiction and which ones are truth.”

Medvedev noted that Corvalan and his followers did not support Stalinism. But Vladimir Bukovsky described the Chilean communist as a man “faithful to his ideas and a staunch Stalinist, the type of man very well known in Russia.”

“I did not know him personally, we did not even meet at the moment of the swap,” Bukovsky told RIA Novosti. “I only know his reputation, and everyone knows it,” he said.

“Until his last days, Corvalan wrote articles in his party paper that communism would still return, that now there is a temporary delay, and the future still belongs to communism,” he said.

“It is difficult to say much about him,” Bukovsky noted. From the documents of the central committee of the Soviet Communist Party, it is known that “he was involved in terrorist activities, staging explosions because he asked for explosives, bombs and sent his colleagues to Moscow for special training,” he noted.

The efforts to free Corvalan succeeded in 1976, when the USSR proposed to exchange him for a Soviet dissident and political prisoner Bukovsky, Russianews.ru said. “The US pressed Chile and the swap did take place. Corvalan was granted political asylum, the politician was received [in the USSR] as a statesman.”

“All schoolchildren knew Corvalan in those years, and he almost became the most popular foreign communist politician,” the website said. His courageous appearances helped this, and his image was first put on posters and then on badges and postage stamps.

Corvalan’s dreams came true, and he witnessed the failure of a dictator’s regime, the website said. “And the current social democratic course of the country, compared to the years of reaction and junta, is much closer to the ideals cherished by Corvalan and his followers.”

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT