PARIS (Feb. 13)
Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the Soviet poet, admitted today that he had made changes in his world-famous poem, Babi Yar, for political reasons because the West had used the poem for a propaganda effort to "pretend" that anti-Semitism was widespread in the Soviet Union.
The poet came to Paris for a press conference held in connection with the publication of the first edition in French of his poems. Babi Yar was the site of the ravine near Kiev where the Nazis slaughtered tens of thousands of Jewish men, women and children during the occupation of Kiev.
The poet denied he had made the changes in his poem–which had been widely interpreted in the west as an attack on continuing anti-Semitism in Russia–to please the Soviet Government. He argued that "times have changed in Russia and no one any longer has the power to oblige an artist to modify his work against his will."
He explained that he rewrote the part in his poem which charges Russia with anti-Semitism "in order not to furnish a bludgeon for our enemies." He said he had originally written the poem to show that "anti-Semitism is one of the seeds of fascism everywhere in the world." Pressed by many of the French journalists about the status of anti-Semitism in Russia, the poet said that anti-Semitism "is no more of a problem in Russia than it is in many other countries. Every nation has its fools."