6.4 An ultimatum by political prisoners

No 6 : 28 February 1969

At the end of February 1969 a group of political prisoners in camp 17 of the Mordovian labour camps, including Yuly Daniel, Yury Galanskov, Alexander Ginzburg, Valery Ronkin and Vyacheslav Platonov, presented an ultimatum to the camp administration: either the administration should respect the guarantees given when the hunger-strike was called off in February 1968 or the prisoners would start another hunger-strike. The hunger-strike would be aimed at the arbitrary actions of the administration of camp 17 and would be conducted only on its territory.

The immediate cause of the ultimatum was the withdrawal from Valery Ronkin of the right to a personal visit, due in May, on the grounds that he had described himself as a political prisoner in a conversation with a Major Golubyatnikov. In February 1968 a promise had been given that measures of punishment such as withdrawal of the right to visits would be applied only with the sanction of the Procurator. Other guarantees were also being ignored.

The strict regime at camp 17 is harsher than that at others. Camp 17 has become the place where those who, in the opinion of the administration, might exert an influence upon other prisoners are confined in isolation. It was for just this reason that Vyacheslav Platonov and Leonid Borodin found themselves in camp 17, having initially been put in a camp together with the other Leningrad ‘Social Christians’ [see 1.6].

In camp 11 Vyacheslav Platonov landed up in the BIR (barrack of intensified regime [i.e. a punitive regime]), whereupon several dozen protest declarations were immediately sent to Moscow by the other prisoners. Platonov was released from the barracks but not returned to the camp zone; first, he and Leonid Borodin were transferred to the investigation prison at Saransk [capital of Mordovia], and then, at the beginning of February, they were both moved to camp 17.