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Lev Navrozov, 88, literary translator and Soviet dissident

NEW YORK — Lev Navrozov, a literary translator in the Soviet Union who smuggled out his study of Lenin and Stalin’s campaigns of terror when he emigrated to the United States in 1972, died Jan. 22 in Brooklyn. He was 88.

His son, Andrei, said he had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Navrozov’s contempt for Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, and Stalin, his brutal successor, arose out of intellectual loathing, not of a personal history of exile or repression.

In his book, “The Education of Lev Navrozov: A Life in the Enclosed World Once Called Russia” (1975), he described Lenin as a “barbarian” unworthy of his country’s deification.


“He had to enserf every soul psychologically,” he wrote. “He had to destroy inside every soul all the psychology of independence that had been accumulating throughout the history of Russia.”

The book, which was partly autobiographical, was praised by philosopher Sidney Hook and historian Robert K. Massie.

But in The New York Review of Books, Helen Muchnic, a scholar of Russian literature, wrote that Mr. Navrozov, “carried away by what is certainly justifiable disgust for the inequities, cruelties, and hypocrisies of a barbarous despotism,” had “allowed his hatreds to overflow the banks of rationality.”

Nonetheless, Saul Bellow, in his novel “More Die of Heartbreak” (1987), placed Mr. Navrozov among the dissident writers Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Maximov, and Andrei Sinyavsky as “commanding figures, men of genius, some of them.”

A legal battle with former Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel occurred over a short passage in the 628-page book. She demanded that its publisher, Harper’s Magazine Press, delete a passage suggesting that as Israel’s envoy to the Soviet Union she had given Stalin a list of Russian Jews who would fight for Israel.

All the Jews, Mr. Navrozov wrote, “disappeared” at the hands of Stalin’s “organs of state security.”


A similar accusation by Mr. Navrozov in Commentary magazine led Meir to file a $3 million libel lawsuit against the publication. She dropped the suit when Commentary published a statement asserting that it believed her denial.

Mr. Navrozov, who had defended himself in the lawsuit, remained angry about the contretemps years later.

In 2002, he wrote on the conservative website Newsmax that her lawsuit had forced his publisher to “freeze my book instead of selling millions of copies of it.”

If she had continued with her lawsuit, he said, she would have been revealed as “an unscrupulous, wily politician who had destroyed the immigrants’ book and sued me for $3 million in order to conceal her blunder.”

Mr. Navrozov was born in Moscow on Nov. 26, 1928, the only child of Andrei Navrozov, a writer, and the former Dina Minz, a neuropathologist. He attended the Institute of Foreign Languages at Moscow State University and later translated into English works by Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Alexander Herzen, and Mikhail Prishvin.

As a well-regarded translator, he lived comfortably with his wife, the former Muza Gerasimova, an English-language editor of scientific texts, and his son in a country house near that of Soviet diplomat Andrei Gromyko.

“Despite our seemingly tranquil life, away from Soviet realities, we became more and more despondent and dissatisfied with our senseless existence,” he wrote on WorldTribune.com in 2012. “Something desperate was brewing in our minds.”

After moving to an apartment in Moscow, Mr. Navrozov and his family left the Soviet Union in 1972 with help from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and American real estate developer Daniel Rose. They settled in Riverdale, in the Bronx.


Mr. Navrozov was pugnacious and passionate.

In 1980, after accusing The New York Times of having become a “quasigovernment newspaper catering to practically all decision-makers in the country,” he took out an ad in the paper to announce the creation of a nonpartisan group with the aim of developing a daily “adversarial” competitor to The Times.

He scheduled a news conference at the Waldorf Astoria hotel to announce the formation of the group and promised to let Times representatives “grill him.” The group apparently never got far.

Mr. Navrozov wrote for Commentary about Soviet affairs for several years after his arrival in the United States; in later years, he wrote prolifically for Newsmax and WorldTribune.com.

His primary focus shifted from the threat posed by the Soviet Union to Western democracies to the one posed by China. He believed that liberal, socialist ideas harmed democracy.

More recently, he cautioned that the Affordable Care Act was reminiscent of Soviet-socialized medicine. “Obamacare will destroy the delicate fabric of existing free-market medical services,” he wrote in 2012 on Newsmax.

In addition to his son, he leaves a grandson. His wife died in 2015.

Andrei Navrozov said that his father’s politics did not evolve in the years since he came to the United States.

“What changed was his mode of presentation,” he said. “He wanted to be accessible and talk to wider audiences. It’s like he started to speak in a populist voice in his columns. He was speaking to the common man, but he didn’t know a common man.”