4.4 Concerning certain political prisoners sentenced for “betraying the Motherland”

No 4 : 31 October 1968

Article 13 of the Declaration of Human Rights states:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

In the concept of “Betrayal of the Motherland” Article 64 of the Russian Criminal Code includes “flight abroad or refusal to return to the USSR from abroad”. In practice any attempt to leave the Soviet Union and settle in another country is defined as ‘Betrayal of the Motherland’.

It may be an attempt to cross the frontier illegally, although Article 83 of the Code makes provision for illegal crossing of the frontier as such, and envisages the much less severe punishment of imprisonment from one to three years. We must remember that Article 64 provides for terms of imprisonment from ten to fifteen years and, in exceptional circumstances, execution and that anyone sentenced under this Article is bound to end up in a strict- or even special-regime camp.

Or it may be an attempt to obtain political asylum while abroad. It must be stressed that such people who ‘come back’, who have grown homesick for their native land and the families they left behind and return to the Soviet Union, are usually put on trial.

Here is the information available on some of the people sentenced under Article 64.

  • Andrei Novozhitsky – served in the Soviet Army in East Germany, went over to West Germany, and returned after a year. He was sentenced to ten years and served part of his term in Vladimir Prison.
  • Vladimir Pronin — a specialist in agricultural mechanics from Cherkassy Region [in central Ukraine], served in the Soviet Army in East Germany, crossed to West Germany, returned, and was sentenced to ten years.
  • Pyotr Varenkov – who also crossed over to West Germany while serving in the army in East Germany, served twelve years in prison from 1953 to 1965.
  • Pyotr Tibilov, Yury Bessonov and a certain Budyonny – also served in the Soviet Army in East Germany and fled to the West, were given long sentences.
  • Not long before the end of his term of service Anatoly Gurov fled from East to West Berlin, returned the same day to collect a colleague he had left behind [see 9.11], and as a result served a ten-year sentence.
  • Anton Nakashidze – a dancer in the Georgian song and dance ensemble, remained in England while on tour and later returned: he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.
  • Golub – a biologist, applied for political asylum while abroad and then returned to the Soviet Union and publicly recanted. His return was reported in the press and he began work again, but six months later, when the fuss over his return had died down, he was arrested and sentenced.
  • Gennady Zamaratsky – tried to flee across the Caucasian frontier into Turkey, served eight years’ imprisonment including two stretches of three years each in the prison at Vladimir, and was freed in 1966.
  • Valery Zaitsev – a naval mechanic, tried to escape to America with the crew of his repair and rescue ship while working near the coast of Alaska in 1962. He was sentenced to ten years; the other members of the crew were tried with him but details of their names and sentences are not available.
  • Anatoly Rodygin – a naval officer, graduate of the Kronstadt Naval Academy, poet, member of the Leningrad branch of the Writers’ Union and captain of a fishing boat, tried to escape across the frontier by jumping into the Black Sea in 1962 and was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. In 1966 he was dispatched to Vladimir prison because he ‘was suspected of wanting to escape and had not embarked on the path of reform’.
  • Victor Samchevsky – was sentenced for attempting to flee abroad.
barbed wire and Marchenko

Anatoly Marchenko

In 1960 Anatoly Marchenko was arrested while trying to cross the frontier into Iran […] As is well known, Marchenko was recently sentenced again: this time a criminal charge of “infringing the passport regulations” [Article 108] was fabricated against him — this is, incidentally, yet another Article of the Criminal Code that directly contravenes Article 13 of the Declaration of Human Rights, this time its first part.

The fate of yet another person condemned for ‘betrayal of the fatherland’, a stevedore from Archangel called Mikhail Konukhov, is described in detail in [Marchenko’s] book My Testimony. Mikhail Konukhov made an official statement about his desire to adopt British citizenship. Afterwards he was for a long time subjected to various forms of illegal persecution and provocation by hooligans, then he was forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital and in the end he was arrested and sentenced under Article 64.

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