Nils Petter Gleditsch
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Cyril Pustan was a plumber and sometime member of the British Communist Party who became active in the peace movement in the late 1950s. He participated in the European leg of the San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace in 1961, organized by a US pacifist group. (In a spirit of transparency: So did I.) The Walk was unique for a pacifist demonstration extending into Eastern Europe, with 19 days on the road in Russia. On the walk, he met (and eventually married) a US walker, Regina Fischer, who experienced a moment of fame in Russia as she was Bobby Fischer's mother. After the walk, they settled in the German Democratic Republic. Cyril worked as fitter and a welder, but for most of the time he taught English. He never learnt German well and was frustrated by East German bureaucracy. Eventually, he died by his own hand. The short book includes nearly 70 pages on the 1961 Peace Walk, but more detailed and informative accounts have been published by other participants. The most interesting contribution, largely a tragic one, is the portrait of someone trying to combine peace activism with a never-ending belief that 'real existing socialism' was the key to world peace. Unlike most of his fellow walkers in 1961, Cyril Pustan was not a pacifist (neither was Regina). He didn't save the world, neither was he a spy. The author, who is married to Pustan's niece, distances himself from the spy hypothesis, but given the flimsy evidence he might as well have left it out entirely or at least dropped it from the title of the book.