4.5 A “new method” of conducting searches

No 4 : 31 October 1968

On 27 September 1968, Ivan Yakhimovich’s apartment was searched. Until recently chairman of the Jaune Guarde collective farm, Yakhimovich was dismissed from his job after sending his well-known letter to the CPSU Central Committee. His wife Irina was also sacked from the school where she taught.  He is at present living with his wife and their three children in the Latvian town of Jurmale. He has been illegally deprived of his residence permit – the police simply crossed out the permit stamp in his passport – and so he is, naturally, unable to find work.

The warrant for the search, signed by the Assistant Procurator of Jurmale, Kviesonis, authorized a search on suspicion of Yakhimovich’s involvement in the theft of 19,654 roubles from the Jurmale branch of the State Bank. Of course, the searchers found no money but they did remove a few samizdat materials, also Yakhimovich’s letter protesting about the arrest of the demonstrators on 25 August, the rough draft of his unfinished essay on the post-January developments in Czechoslovakia, his wife’s personal diary, and so on.

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Yury Gendler’s flat was searched in a similar way in Leningrad on 1 August. That evening a few Leningraders (eight or ten people) had gathered at his flat to draft a letter addressed to the citizens of Czechoslovakia. They were influenced in their decision by the letter Anatoly Marchenko had written [on 26 July 1968, Chronicle 3.1] to Rude pravo, Prace, and Literarni listy. One may suppose that the young Leningraders wished to express their sympathy with the political developments in Czechoslovakia.

On precisely the same evening the police came to search Gendler’s flat. The search warrant alleged that “Gendler, together with Tsal, had accepted bribes for the installation of telephones.” Suffice it to say that Yury Gendler is legal adviser to a soft-furnishing factory and can therefore have no connection with the installation of telephones. In addition this was the first time that he had heard of the above-mentioned Tsal. Nevertheless there was not only a search of Gendler’s flat but also a personal search of all those present, and a further search of all their flats. As a result of the searches several books and photocopies of books designated as ‘anti-Soviet’ were discovered. Consequently a number of people were detained for three days and a number arrested—this time not by the ordinary police but by the organs of state security.

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On the night of 16-17 October Andrei Amalrik was detained by the police on a Moscow street. The suitcase he was carrying ‘appeared suspicious’ to the policemen. In the suitcase they discovered a typewriter and typewritten copies of some letters, all of which they confiscated on the pretext of checking whether the typewriter had been stolen. They refused to make an official record. Amalrik was also interrogated by KGB men. After Amalrik had made persistent complaints to the Procuracy everything that had been taken from him was returned.

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These are the three examples of the way in which the organs of state security are conducting searches through intermediaries, using false criminal allegations which are later conveniently forgotten. It was also the ordinary police who conducted the searches of both the demonstrators and several other people in the case of the Red Square demonstration of 25 August 1968. The products of the searches, with a few exceptions, were not used at the trial. As was learnt after the trial, the Moscow City Procuracy, which had conducted the investigations into the case, handed over these products of the searches, once again, to the KGB.