8.12 Extra-judicial political persecution, 1968-1969

No 8 : 30 June 1969

The Chronicle is changing the title of this regular section, since the material it receives has a wider range than the term “repression” suggests. Persecution of dissenters does not always go as far as direct repression such as dismissals, expulsions, reprimands and so on; it may take the form of discussions at meetings, talks with various authorities, etc. These kinds of persecution often form a basis for the creation of “public opinion”, and a springboard for future repressions. Therefore, the Chronicle considers it impossible to disregard facts of this kind, and does not think it necessary to put them in a separate section, since all kinds of persecution are part of the same phenomenon.


[1] Zinaida Mikhailovna Grigorenko, wife of P. G. Grigorenko, has been expelled from the Party in absentia by her district Party Committee, without having her case discussed by her local Party cell. She had been a Party member since 1930.

[2] Grigory Podyapolsky, a geophysicist at the Institute of Terrestrial Physics, has had the defence of his dissertation postponed after signing a letter in defence of P. G. Grigorenko.

[3] Maria Petrenko, a geologist at the All-Union Research Institute for Nuclear Geophysics and Geochemistry, was interviewed by the Institute’s “triumvirate” [the secretaries of the Party Bureau, the Trade Union and the Komsomol bureau, tr.] on the subject of her signing the same letter. The following questions were asked: Why did you sign the letter? Are you its author? Where did you sign the letter?

[4] Leonid Petrovsky, a historian and worker at the Lenin Museum, expelled from the Party in the winter of 1968-9 for signing a letter protesting at the, conviction of the demonstrators of 25th August, recently wrote a letter to the editor of the journal Kommunist, concerning articles advocating a revival of Stalinism, and was forced to resign from his job “at his own request”.

[5] Irina Zholkovskaya [see 8.8], wife of Alexander Ginzburg and teacher at Moscow University’s Department of Russian for Foreign Students, has been suspended from teaching and transferred to purely technical work in one of the University’s Research Libraries. The wording of the dismissal was “unsuitability for the post occupied” and the reason given that Zholkovskaya had not renounced her husband, nor condemned him, and continued to believe in his innocence.

Paradoxically, at the same time as both her department and the Academic Council of the Preparatory Faculty, and also the University’s Academic Council condemned and dismissed Zholkovskaya, precisely because, she was Ginzburg’s wife, she herself was knocking at the doors of all possible authorities, trying to prove her right to visit her husband.

[6] Natalya Gorbanevskaya, the poetess who participated in the demonstration of 25 August, was dismissed “at her own request” from the State Institute of Experimental Pattern Design and Technical Research (GIPROTIS), where she worked as an engineer and translator. When she applied in October 1968 for an unpaid extension of her maternity leave, the authorities told her that they had, of course, no right not to grant the extension, but asked her to resign before the end of her leave so that there should not be a “stain” on the institute. At the same time the head of the department of technical information Kuranov declared that in any case Gorbanevskaya could not be allowed to resume her former work – although the work is in no way secret and does not require a security clearance.

[7] Alexander Daniel, the son of Yuly Daniel and Larisa Bogoraz, finished school in 1968 and applied to the physics faculty of Tartu University [Estonian SSR]. After he had beaten all the other applicants in the examinations, the number of places in the department of theoretical physics was cut, and all the places available were taken by applicants who had not sat the competitive examinations. In November 1968 Daniel began working at the Computing Centre at the Moscow Construction-Engineering Institute, but in May 1969 he was forced to leave “at his own request”. At a meeting of Party activists, where the Department of Applied Mathematics was condemned for having taken Daniel on to the staff, the Rector of the Institute, Dr Strelchuk (Doctor of Technical Sciences) expressed particular dissatisfaction that there were many Jews in the department. “Of course, I am not an anti-Semite,” he said, “but we must after all be internationalists.” The head of the personnel department, Feldsherova, who had given Daniel his job, received an official reprimand. Formally speaking, her guilt consisted in employing a minor without agreeing the matter with the trade union committee.

[8] Julius Telesin, a mathematician at the Central Institute of Mathematical Economics, has been dismissed by decision of the Academic Council, on the pretext of having failed to be re-elected in competition with other candidates.

The matter of Telesin’s dismissal was examined in the absence of his supervisors: one was on a study trip, and the other was officially informed that the matter would not be raised on that day. This allowed the Deputy-Director of the Institute, Yu. Oleinik, to make untruthful references to their negative opinion of Telesin, although the favourable report from Telesin ‘s laboratory contradicted them. He also said that the subject of Telesin’s research “had a nasty taste” – but there are other people engaged in identical research who are still continuing their work. After Telesin had exposed Oleinik ‘s lies, the director of the Institute Fedorenko declared that the Institute “must liberate itself from certain persons”. Telesin was dismissed by eleven votes to six. The real reason for his dismissal was KGB pressures after he had signed several letters of protest. According to a statement by the Prosecutor at the trial of Burmistrovich, materials taken from Telesin would be dealt with separately.

[9] In May of this year Rokhlin, a Master of Chemical Sciences at the Institute of Elementary Organic Compounds, was considered along with other candidates for competitive re-election, at a meeting of the Academic Council. The Director of the Institute, Academician Nesmeyanov, called upon the members of the Academic Council to vote against the re-election of Rokhlin. “I am a man who remembers certain sorts of things,” said this former President of the Academy of Sciences, “Last year Rokhlin was one of those who spoke at a meeting in the Institute against the sending of Soviet troops to Czechoslovakia.” In spite of expectations to the contrary, this speech did not affect the result of the voting. Rokhlin was elected Senior Research Officer, with an average ratio of votes for and against.


[10] In January 1968 there was a cultural evening for young people at the Leningrad House of Writers. After the evening, a group of members of the literary club “Rossiya”, made up of V. Shcherbakov, N. Utekhin and V. Smirnov, sent a letter to the regional Party committee. It was a lengthy denunciation of the evening, full of slanderous fabrications and openly anti-Semitic in character. The evening was called “a Zionist rally”. On the basis of this denunciation, and without verifying any of the facts, the deputy Director of the House of Writers, A.Z. Shagalov, and a consultant of the Leningrad branch of the Writers’ Union, S.S. Tkhorzhevsky, were dismissed from their posts. Furthermore, plans to publish manuscripts by several writers who participated in the evening – losif Brodsky, Maya Danini and Yakov Gordin – were cancelled. Moreover, Yakov Gordin received a reprimand from the Party group committee of the Leningrad branch of the Writers’ Union, for having put his signature to a letter protesting against political trials, and his contracts with the publishing houses “Sovetsky Pisatel” and “Detskaya Literatura” were annulled.

[11] Irina Muravyova has been expelled from the Union of Journalists, and the writer Boris Ivanov has been expelled from the Party and dismissed from his job, both for signing letters of protest.

[12] In February 1969, V.M. Lavrov, Doctor of Geology and Head of the Coal Department at the All-Union Geological Research Institute (VSEGSI), sent an unsigned letter to the offices of the paper “Pravda”, addressed to the journalist Sergei Borzhenko. The letter contained sharp criticism of Borzhenko’s articles on the situation in Czechoslovakia, and the writer expressed the hope that “all honourable Leningraders would subscribe” to his opinion. The letter was posted in a different district of the city from that of the Institute, but within three days Lavrov was faced with the charge of having written an anonymous political letter. Several closed Party meetings were held in the Institute, with KGB participation. Lavrov was demoted to rank-and-file geological work, and the coal department was purged.

[13] Vladimir Borisov (not to be confused with his namesake in the town of Vladimir) has been forcibly interned in a psychiatric hospital after signing a letter in defence of Grigorenko and the appeal to the United Nations. His wife, Dzhemma Kvachevskaya, has been told that if she does not cease her efforts to obtain his release, the same will be done to her.


[14] At the end of May 1969 the decision was taken at a Party meeting in the Academy of Sciences Institute of Biophysics to petition the Institute authorities concerning the dismissal of Abakumov and Dionisiev from the Institute. The charge of political unreliability which had been levelled at them was based on letters written by the inhabitants of certain villages on the River Yenisei, where Abakumov and Dionisiev had spent their holiday in the summer of 1968. In the opinion of the letter-writers, Abakumov and Dionisiev had held politically uninhibited conversations verging on anti-Soviet agitation. Their political unreliability was shown in particular by the fact that they had been listening to tape-recordings of the songs of Yuly Kim. After the KGB’s district office in Serpukhov had investigated the ” Abakumov and Dionisiev affair” for over half a year, it handed over the materials to the Institute of Biophysics for internal handling.

The participants in the Party meeting offered friendly criticism of Abakumov ‘s and Dionisiev’s conduct, but did not conclude that any change should be made in their status: the petition for their dismissal was added to the Party resolution on the suggestion of representatives of the district Party committee.

The Party meeting was preceded by a meeting of the Institute’s Party activists, and by a session of the Academic Council where the affair was discussed in detail. Most of those who spoke at the activists’ meeting were sharply critical of Abakumov and Dionisiev, but no unanimous condemnation was forthcoming. Dubrovin, as the relevant laboratory head, reported favourably on Abakumov ‘s and Dionysus’s work and character. There were several speeches in defence of “the accused”. These speakers were particularly indignant that Abakumov and Dionisiev had not been invited to the activists’ meeting. This is the explanation they were given in reply: “Why are they needed here? All the circumstances of the case are clear as it is.” The head of one of the Institute laboratories, B. N. Veprintsev, called for caution in deciding such matters. He recalled the public condemnations of dissenters during Stalin’s time, and the consequences of these.

At the session of the Academic Council, the Chairman L. P. Kayushin, informed his listeners that “a crime has been committed by members of the Institute”, and called upon the members of the Council to condemn them unanimously at a general meeting. Many of those who spoke sharply condemned Abakumov and Dionisiev. B. N. Veprintsev protested against the idea of organising such a meeting, ana against carrying the campaign of censure any further. E. A. Liberman declared that, only a court could determine what was a crime according to the law, and if his colleagues had been listening to songs – well, that was their own private affair. Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences Tikhomirov declared that Soviet scientists ought to feel gratitude to the government “which feeds them”. He said that he was surprised at some of the speeches of those present, who were in effect justifying the conduct of Abakumov and Dionisiev. In his opinion, certain intellectuals liked playing the liberal, and then, when they went abroad, they “behave badly there”. Liberman stressed that he did not know any facts about the “bad behaviour” of “liberals” abroad. But the sort of people who liked making demagogic speeches over here, such as Tikhomirov, whom they had just heard, tended very often not to come back at all from abroad. With this discussion between Tikhomirov and Liberman the session of the Academic Council ended.

There is reason to believe that the “letters from people resident beside the Yenisei” were organised by the local KGB organs there, which had followed the itinerary of Abakumov and Dionisiev. This “excursion” on the part of the KGB detectives was evidently occasioned by a private conversation Abakumov and Dionisiev had had with a local Party worker whom they happened to meet.


[15] Zinoviya Franko, granddaughter of Ivan Franko, has been dismissed from the Academy of Sciences Institute of Language Studies, in effect for carrying on a correspondence with a friend in Canada. A letter in which she described various sorts of discrimination in the Ukraine, did not reach its destination. The letter was opened, kept, and later read out at a closed Party meeting at the Institute.

[16] A.L. Put, Master of Biological Sciences and senior research officer, and G. F. Matvienko, Junior Research Officer, have been dismissed from the Institute of Zoology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, for signing the letter (“of the 139”) from the intelligentsia of Ukraine, The dismissal of G.O. Bachinsky from the same Institute has already been reported in the Chronicle. The man behind all the dismissals is the Institute’s Director, Academician I. G. Podoplichko, who at the end of the 1940s publicly renounced his student son, who had been arrested and sentenced to ten years for “Ukrainian nationalism”.


[17] Extra-judicial repressions are continuing in connection with the case of Nazarenko, Vasily Kondryukhov and Valentin Karpenko, who worked at the Kiev Hydroelectric Station, and were taking University evening classes. In January 1969 they were sentenced under article 62 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code and given sentences ranging from eighteen months to five years in strict regime camps. They were charged with, distributing leaflets, books published in the West Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s, and samizdat works. Nazarenko and Karpenko were arrested in June 1968, and Kondryukhov in September 1968. Their trial lasted from 26th to 2Sth January; the Judge was Matsko, the prosecutor Khrienko. There was a brief account of this trial in an earlier Chronicle, which also reported the expulsion from the University of the worker-student Vladimir Komashkov, who appeared as a witness in the case.

[18] Lyudmila Sheremetieva was expelled from the Faculty of Journalism, where she was a correspondence student, just before the defence of her graduation thesis. During the preliminary investigation, Nazarenko testified that he had received supposedly from Sheremetieva the book by Chornovil dealing with the political trials of the 1950s in the Ukraine. Searches did not uncover any material to support this allegation, nor was it confirmed by any ether testimonies. Sheremetieva herself denied during both the preliminary and the court investigations. There were no other circumstances to incriminate her, and so the reason given for her expulsion was friendship with a particularly dangerous State criminal and, more important, her unwillingness to do a deal with the investigators. Sheremetieva then began the authorized four-month period of leave from work to prepare and defend her thesis. But on 7 April she way expelled without any warning, and without any investigation in which she could take part, for “actions incompatible with the title of Soviet student”. Later it was learned that the Dean and the Rector had received a letter from the KGB informing them of Sheremetieva’s “unprincipled behaviour” and of how she had been spreading ”hostile propaganda'”‘. Even earlier, before the trial, in the autumn of 1968, Nadezhda Kiryan had been expelled from the philological faculty, where she war a third-year correspondence student. During a search, she was found to be in possession of some materials left for her by Nazarenko.

[19] In April 1968, after leaflets had begun circulating in Kiev, a pass system was introduced for almost all the town’s higher educational establishments, including the University, of which the only part one can enter without s pass is the Rector’s office. External and internal students of the University have different passes, valid for different hours, and have been deprived of the chance to mix with one another in the University. The pass for visitors to the University has to have three official stamps.

[20] 22 May is the anniversary of the bearing of Taras Shevchenko’s ashes home to his native land, and this year, as last, an official festival was organised. After the festival had ended, late at night, a group of students singing Ukrainian songs stayed behind at the memorial statue and did not disperse for a long time. It later turned out that despite the darkness they had all been photographed, and all their songs and conversations had been tape recorded. The University administration was called in to help identify the voices of those who could not be Identified from the photographs. It is said that many of these students were deliberately failed in their examinations.


[21] On 12th June 1969 several organisations in Kharkov held general staff meetings in working hours in connection with the signing of the letter addressed to the United Nations. All the meetings were preceded by closed Party meetings, at which speakers were nominated and draft resolutions agreed on for the general meetings. It should be noted that the KGB put at the disposal of district Party committee and of the directors of the various enterprises a letter in support of P.G. Grigorenko: they alleged that this was the letter that had been sent to the United Nations. In addition to this, there was an atmosphere of hysteria and chauvinism at the meetings, because none of the district Party leaders or KGB men present attempted to put a stop to the hysterical tirades of speakers about how the United Nations was an imperialist, fascist organisation; how the people who had signed the letter were traitors, accomplices of imperialism, and slanderers; how all the Tatars should be wiped from the face of the earth, and so on. Especial mention should be made of the speeches of Kartsev, secretary of the Krasnozavodsk district Party committee, Academician Ivanov, director of the Ukrainian Technical Physics Institute, and Dubrava, a KGB man. Not one of the signatories of the letter was allowed to speak, apart from G. Altunyan. The letter itself was not read out. The very fact that such an appeal had been sent abroad was condemned ipso facto. At every meeting, resolutions were passed condemning the signatories of the letter. At meetings held at the technical and production plant Ukrenergochermet (Ukrainian Ferrous Metals Power Supply Trust), the Ukrainian Technical Physics Institute, and the State Institute of Transport Planning (Giprotrans), additional resolutions were passed demanding the dismissal of V. Ponomaryov, S. Karasik, A Levin and A. Kalinovsky, and demanding also that the matter should be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Procuracy. A meeting in the design shop at Teploenergomontazh (Thermal Power Station Construction Trust) condemned V. Nedobora in his absence. Those few who were brave enough to vote against the resolution, or who abstained from voting, are now undergoing threats and blackmail from the plant management.

To sum up, those condemned at the meetings for signing the letter to the United Nations are: Genrikh Altunyan, Sofia Karasik, Lev Kornilov, Alexander Kalinovsky and V. Nedobora (all senior engineers); Vladimir Ponomaryov (engineer); and Arkady Levin (chief design engineer). A short record of the Kharkov meetings has appeared in samizdat.

KOLOMIYA (Ivano-Frankovsk Region)

[22] Anna Stadnichenko, a member of the Kolomiya Town Executive Committee’s Department of Architecture, expressed her indignation at being forbidden to use the Ukrainian language in compiling technical documentation. When this new prohibition was introduced, the reason given was that the forms used for technical documentation were printed in Russian. Stadnichenko referred to article 17 of the law “On guaranteeing the equality of languages and promoting the development of Ukrainian culture” passed by the Central Executive Committee of the Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, and the Ukrainian Council of People’s Commissars on 6 July 1927. She received a severe reprimand from the Party and in September 1968 was dismissed from her job under Article 47(g) of the Labour Code. Later Stadnichenko was reinstated in her job, but the strict reprimand was not withdrawn despite her written requests to the Party authorities.