He was cut off from Indonesia after the September 30 movement in 1965, which left him stateless. But this retired academic does not harbor any hatred, and works to improve the relationship between Indonesia and Russia.
Sudaryanto Yanto Priyono offered to meet up at the Indonesia embassy in Moscow: a place he could not visit for more than 25 years, from 1965 to the 1990s.
"We did not dare come to the embassy," the-75-year old told Tempo English at the celebration of Indonesia’s independence day at the embassy in August. "My Indonesian passport had been revoked."
In the aftermath of the September 30, 1965 movement in Indonesia, that was believed to have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, about 2,000 Indonesians in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), including Sudaryanto, were severely impacted, just like many other Indonesians residing in other communist countries. Their connection to Indonesia were cut off, and there was no clear information what had exactly happened at ‘home’.
Similar to Indonesian embassies in some other countries, the one in Moscow held a screening for all Indonesians there. According to Sudaryanto, they were asked to do three things: condemn the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), reject Sukarno’s politics, and declare loyalty to the new government in Jakarta.
Sudaryanto, the father of one daughter, said he did not mind condemning the PKI, but he could not condemn Sukarno. "There was no way I could do that."
He was also unable to declare his loyalty to the new government as he did not know what had exactly happened in Indonesia. The embassy only provided information that reflected the new government’s point of view.
He decided not to take the screening. "A week later, I got a letter saying that my passport was no longer valid."
Sudaryanto and many others became stateless, and were absent from the embassy for decades.
Until a couple years before President Suharto’s forced resignation, however, Sudaryanto started visiting the embassy again. He even started offering advice and assistance to promote better relationships between Indonesia and Russia, particularly in the fields of economics and education: something that he has continued doing until now. In 2010, he even got a token of appreciation from the embassy for his role in improving friendship and cooperation between Russia and Indonesia.
"He has helped us a lot," said Indonesian Ambassador to Russia Federation and Belarus, Mohamad Wahid Supriyadi.
In 2013, Sudaryanto had an opportunity to attend the independence day celebration at the State Palace, Jakarta.
The 22-year-old Sudaryanto flew to Moscow in December 1964. As a civil servant at the Department of Cooperatives and Transmigration in Jakarta, he was offered a scholarship to study in East Germany or the Soviet Union. He chose the latter. "I thought it was a great country," the alumnus of Semarang’s Diponegoro University told his story at the residence of Ambassador Ahmad Wahid Supriyadi. He studied at the Moscow Cooperative Institute.
It was hard at the beginning as he had to adapt many things. "First, there was the weather," he recalled.
He arrived in Moscow in December with no winter jacket. "I just had a suit." Fortunately, the person who picked him up brought a jacket. But he did not leave his dorm until a week later, as he could not stand the bitter cold. However, when he heard that his stipend might be cut if he did not show up for his classes, he decided to brave the cold and attend classes.
Other challenges followed, such as language, habits and food. "I finally overcame them."
Just as he was starting to enjoy life in Moscow, the September 30, 1965 movement exploded in his home country, and he lost his Indonesian citizenship. At that time, some of his friends went home, while others moved to Europe. Some tried to move closer to home and went to places like Vietnam. "If there were a chance to return, they would be close to home."
The rest, including Sudaryanto, decided to stay. Moscow continued giving the scholarship. Nevertheless, Sudaryanto suffered emotionally as he was cut off from his family without knowing when, or if, he could ever see them again.
His stateless status came with many limitations. At the beginning, he was only able to travel a maximum of 40 kilometers from the city of Moscow. "If I wanted to go somewhere, I had to obtain a special permit from the migration office," he said. The militsiya (police) also ‘visited’ his place every month to check if he had anti-Soviet books, and took anything away that they thought might resemble that. Other limitations included the fact that "I could not become a leader in my workplace."
But luckily there were some bright spots: he met a Russian woman at his campus who agreed to marry him even though she knew he was stateless: Tamara Averina. Sudaryanto continued to work hard at overcoming his barriers. He obtained his doctorate degree in 1971, and managed to become the head of international relations at the Centrosojuz market research laboratorium.
However, when Soviet Union Communist Party General Secretary Michael Gorbachev launched ‘perestroika’ (restructuring) and ‘glasnost’ (openness), which culminated in the collapse of the USSR into 15 countries in 1991, Sudaryanto’s position was again up in the air.
"What about my stateless status in the new constellation of the Russian Federation?" he wondered. Finally, he applied for Russian citizenship. "It was yet another new page for me."
In 1992, the rector of the Moscow Cooperative Institute asked him to join the institution, where he became the dean of the newly-opened Faculty of International Economics.
At the same time, there was a wave of pro-democracy movements in Indonesia. The Indonesian embassy started opening its doors for him and his friends. Sudaryanto started providing advice to improve relationship and cooperation between Russia and Indonesia.
"I do not harbor any resentments." If he were to be resentful, he explained, it would have been aimed at individuals. "But to whom?"
Even though he was already allowed to visit the embassy, he was still unable to imagine that he would be able to return to Indonesia, even after Suharto stepped down in 1998. "I still did not know what the situation was like there. I did not want to put my family in danger." Communism is, even now, still seen as a ‘latent monster’ in Indonesia.
However, in the years after 1998, he heard that it was possible for him and others to visit Indonesia, and he gave it a shot. "Finally I was able to step onto Indonesian soil again, and breath the air of Indonesia." Accompanying him on his first visit was his daughter, fashion designer Tatyana Sudaryanto.
"It was like getting drunk, listening to people speaking Indonesian," he said, recalling his experience in 2002. He took a train from Jakarta to Malang, East Java, to see his family and friends.
That visit was followed by many visits afterwards as he worked to connect Russia with Indonesia. "We connected a Russian city, Orel, with Makassar (South Sulawesi) in Indonesia, and they have become sister cities," he said, adding that he has also set up an organization called Makassar.
He was also the initiator for the Center of Indonesian-Russian Cooperation, an organization focused on collaboration in the field of education. "There have been MoUs with 10 universities in Indonesia," he said, such as with Gunadarma and Mercu Buana Universities in Jakarta and Brawijaya University in Malang.
Now, in his retirement, Sudaryanto remains busy. Besides connecting Russia and Indonesia, he is also an honorary professor at the Russian State University of Economics and Trade (RGTU). He does not, however, want to relax and enjoy his retirement peacefully in Indonesia. "That I can come often is enough for me." Now he can come to Indonesia anytime.
Purwani Diyah Prabandari