4.2 The Soviet press on the demonstrators’ trial

No 4 : 31 October 1968

On 10 October 1968 the following official announcement appeared in the papers Moskovskaya pravda [Moscow pravda] and Vechernyaya Moskva [Evening Moscow]:

“IN THE MOSCOW CITY COURT

“On 9 October the criminal trial began in Moscow of K. I. Babitsky, L. I. Bogoraz-Brukhman, V. N. Delone, V. A. Dremlyuga and P. M. Litvinov, accused of violating public order in Red Square, Moscow, on 25 August this year.”

On 12 October two articles on the trial were published: “Aiming for a sensation” by N. Bardin in Moskovskaya pravda, and “They got their deserts” by A. Smirnov in Vechernyaya Moskva.

Just like the official announcement the articles mention, in the first place, only one charge, that of violating public order: i.e. the charge under Article 190-3. Secondly, even this ‘violation’ is not described, and nowhere is there any reference to the fact that this was a protest demonstration against the intervention of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia. Instead, the writers of these articles, not shrinking from direct libel, give ‘character-sketches’ of the accused aimed at compromising them in the eyes of the reader. It was precisely this kind of ‘information’ that Larissa Bogoraz had in mind when she said in her closing speech on 11 October,

“I have no doubt that public opinion will approve the verdict. Public opinion will approve of three years’ exile for a talented scholar and three years in the camps for a young poet, first because we shall be depicted as parasites, renegades and purveyors of a hostile ideology, and second because, if people appear whose opinion differs from that of the ‘public’ and who have the audacity to speak out, they will soon end up here.” (She points to the dock.)

According to unconfirmed rumours, the correspondents of two other Soviet papers who were present at the trial refused to write the articles required of them.