10.4 Persecution of the Action Group for the Defence of Civil Rights in the USSR

No 10 : 31 October 1969

The act of a group of Soviet citizens [see 8.10] in appealing to an international organization, the United Nations, and protesting against violations in the Soviet Union of basic civil rights and Soviet laws, has become the subject of investigations by the KGB and the Procuracy.

The Chronicle has already reported the arrest of Genrikh Altunyan [see 9.4], a member of the Group, and the investigation of his case. That investigation is complete and the charge first brought against him under Article 62 of the Ukraine SSR Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code) has been reclassified under the article of the Ukrainian Code which corresponds to Article 190-1 of the Russian Code.

However, the KGB and the Procuracy have not restricted themselves to Altunyan: at the beginning of September [1969] Tatyana Velikanova, Anatoly Krasnov-Levitin, Alexander Lavut, Yury Maltsev, Grigory Podyapolsky and Tatyana Khodorovich, all members of the Action Group, were summoned to interrogations at the Moscow KGB headquarters.

The interrogations were conducted by investigator Mochalov, who violated article 158 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure by his refusal to inform the witnesses to what case their summonses related. The investigator asked about the reasons for the creation of the Action Group, and its aims. All the witnesses were subjected to abuse, shouts and threats during their interrogations: ‘Scum!’ ‘Rabble!’ ‘We’ve had enough of playing at democracy with you!’ ‘It’s time to squash you!’ ‘Prison has long been calling out for you!’ ‘So you’re trying to topple Soviet power!’ ‘Want to liquidate the party!’ ‘Break up the collective farms!’ ‘Restore private property!’ ‘You’ve got together with the fascists! Sold out to the White Guards!’ ‘People shed their blood for you!’

All those summoned to interrogations refused to answer questions which were not related to a case, and declared that the appeal to the United Nations could not and should not be the subject of an investigation. The investigator refused to enter in the records corrections and additional statements made by the witnesses, thus violating the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure. Because of this the majority of those interrogated refused to sign the records of the proceedings.

Action Group (11 members) for web

Top row: Altunyan, Krasin, Plyushch and Yakir.
Bottom row: Lavut, Kovalyov, Khodorovich, Velikanova, Podyapolsky, Krasnov-Levitin and Yakobson

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On 12 September 1969 the Orthodox writer Anatoly Krasnov (A.E. Levitin) was arrested. Levitin spent seven years, from 1949 to 1956, in Stalin’s camps. He was later rehabilitated. Levitin’s deep religious convictions, and his activities as an Orthodox writer, led [in 1958] to this talented teacher and literary scholar being deprived of the right to teach in schools.

A. Krasnov is the author of a number of articles in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate. Apart from this, he is the author of a three-volume History of the Living Church.

Since 1959 Krasnov-Levitin has written a large number of works, in which he has spoken out in particular against violations of religious freedom in the Soviet Union:  Struggling for Light and Truth, The Brassy Clatter, The Fiery Chalice, The Drawn Bow-string, On Monasticism, The Free Church, and others. In recent years he has written two important philosophical works: Stromati and Christ and the Master (see Issue 5 of the Chronicle [5.1, item 16]). The journal Science and Religion has twice written about Levitin-Krasnov: see Vasilyev’s article “The Theologian-Inciter” (1966, No. 10), and the section ‘A Contemporary “Secular Theologian’ in N. Semenkin’s article “From Anathema to Vocation” (1969, No. 8).

During recent years Levitin-Krasnov has also spoken out continually in defence of civil rights, and in defence of people arrested and sentenced on political charges. His signature stands at the foot of numerous collective protests, including the letter to the Budapest conference [see 1.4] . He is a member of the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the Soviet Union. As a publicist he has commented on the arrests of B. V. Talantov (Drama in Vyatka) and of P. G. Grigorenko (A Light in the Window).

On 12 September, the Procuracy investigator L.S. Akimova carried out a search in Levitin’s flat. During the search, the following works of A.E. Levitin-Krasnov were confiscated: A History of the Living Church, On Monasticism, Stromati, a letter to the Pope, a letter to the Patriarch in support of the letter from [Moscow] priests Gleb Yakunin and Nikolai Eshliman, A Light in the Window, Drama in Vyatka, Listening to the Radio, The Brassy Clatter, and others. Also confiscated were samizdat materials and a typewriter.

Just before the search of Levitin’s flat, his friends Oleg Vorobyov and Vadim Shavrov had been there. The search began as soon as they had left the house, while they themselves were quickly detained by the police on suspicion of “stealing suitcases”. Shavrov was released from the police station after the search was over and Levitin-Krasnov had been taken away. Vorobyov was searched at the police station, without a warrant for the search of his person being issued, and Lenin’s letter “To the Members of the Politburo” (about the events in Shuya) [see 9.9, item 10] was taken from him. He was then sent to the violent patients’ section of psychiatric hospital No. 15, from which he was not released until 20 October. Oleg Vorobyov was among those who signed their names in support of the Action Group’s [first] appeal to the United Nations [and later received a six-year sentence in Perm].

For three days A.E. Levitin was held in a preventive detention cell at the police station, and then he was transferred to Butyrka Prison. An investigation was begun by the Moscow city Procuracy. (The investigator was Akimova, already well known as chief investigator of the Pushkin Square demonstration (22 January 1967), the Red Square demonstration (25 August 1968), and the Irina Belogorodskaya cases.) A charge was brought against Levitin under Article 142 of the Russian Criminal Code (Violation of the laws on the separation of Church and State) and also under article 190-1. Witnesses are being questioned about Krasnov-Levitin’s works, mainly about Stromati.

On 9 October Levitin’s case was suddenly handed over to the Krasnodar Procuracy, and A.E. Levitin-Krasnov was sent off to Krasnodar [South Russia].

Soon after Levitin’s arrest, a letter began to circulate in samizdat, entitled “To Public Opinion in the Soviet Union and Abroad”, signed by thirty-two Soviet citizens, including six former political prisoners (Leonid Vasilyev, Zinaida Grigorenko, Alexander Yesenin-Volpin, Victor Krasin, Vadim Shavrov and Pyotr Yakir). The letter says that A.E. Levitin was

“becoming more and more worried by problems of civil freedom, since freedom is indivisible and there can be no religious freedom if basic human rights are being trampled upon. He was the first religious person in our country in the post-Stalin years to affirm this truth and to raise his voice in defence of civil rights and of those who have fallen victims in the fight for civil freedoms.”

A letter by six Christian believers on the subject of A. Levitin-Krasnov’s church and religious activities has been sent to the World Council of Churches, with copies to Patriarch Athenagoras, Pope Paul the Sixth and the International Committee for the Defence of Christian Culture. The letter says:

“We deeply deplore the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church finds its supporters amongst laymen and ordinary priests, and not among the bishops of the Russian Church, many of whom are barren fig-trees, completely under the control of the Council for Religious Affairs … Anatoly Emmanuilovich was doing his duty as a Christian, and none of his activities, which were all in defence of the Christian faith, infringed Soviet laws … We, Christian believers and citizens of the Soviet Union, are deeply disturbed by the arrest of the Orthodox writer A. Levitin-Krasnov and [see below] the teacher B. Talantov. We join with them in their protest against the abnormal relations which exist between Church and State, and we demand the opening of the forcibly closed churches, monasteries, seminaries and houses of prayer.”

The letter was signed by: J. Vishnevskaya, B. Dubovenko, V. Kokorev, V. Lashkova, E. Stroyeva and Yu. Titov.

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On 11 September 1969 Mustafa Dzhemilev, a member of the Action Group, was arrested in Gulistan (Tashkent Region) by investigator Berezovsky. He has been charged under Article 191-4 of the Uzbek SSR Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 190-1 of the Russian Code). Mustafa Dzhemilev’s case has been joined to that of Ilya Gabai (reported in the last issue of the Chronicle [see 9.6]). Dzhemilev refused to have a defence lawyer, explaining his refusal by his wish that another lawyer would not share the fate of B. Zolotukhin [see 1.3 – section 3, No 18]. M. Dzhemilev petitioned for the appointment of a defence lawyer from the International Committee for the Defence of Human Rights.

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On 17 October 1969, a member of the Action Group for the Defence of Civil Rights in the USSR, Yury Maltsev, received a written summons to a military recruitment centre. There he was told that he had to undergo a medical examination, and was taken without further ado into the neuropathologist’s consulting-room where there were two psychiatrists in attendance, one from the district health centre.

Maltsev was asked whether he had ever requested permission to leave the Soviet Union; why he was thirty-seven years old and not married; and why, with a degree in philology, he was working as a telegram-deliverer at the Central Telegraph Office. In turn Maltsev asked what was the relevance of all these circumstances to the state of his health. The psychiatrists remarked that these circumstances were signs of oddity. Then an officer took Maltsev to the military commissar, who stated that he would like to use Maltsev as a translator, but for this a medical examination was obligatory. Some orderlies came into the commissar’s office and took Maltsev away to the 5th section of the Kashchenko psychiatric hospital.

Once there, Maltsev refused to change his clothes. The doctor on duty took him aside and said: ‘We have no authority to discharge you from here, since it was not we who demanded that you be brought here. Your resistance will oblige me to ask the orderlies to help, and they will undress you by force.’ On 21 October all the samples for analysis were taken from Maltsev, including a blood sugar test. Evidently they now propose to give him insulin injections. He has been interned for a month-long diagnosis. In the words of the doctor, there will be no treatment carried out during this month, because treatment is dangerous for the health.

On 21 October 1969, searches were conducted by officials of the Moscow City Procuracy at the homes of members of the Action Group N. Gorbanevskaya, T. S. Khodorovich and A. Yakobson. The search warrants did not state in connection with what case the searches were being made. There was simply a reference to article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

During the search of T. S. Khodorovich’s flat, some friends arrived, but the officials in charge of the search did not allow them to be present while it was being made. The police were called and the friends escorted out of the flat.

Manuscripts of Yakobson’s works of literary criticism were taken from him, together with the compilation Midday [Red Square at Noon], which concerns the trial of the Red Square demonstrators, and some poems of Yuly Daniel. From T. S. Khodorovich were taken the appeal of the foreign students who demonstrated in the GUM department store, and the first letter of the Action Group to the UN. From N. Gorbanevskaya were taken her personal correspondence, her poems, and issues of the Chronicle.

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One of the members of the Action Group, P.I. Yakir, has received a letter signed: ‘On behalf of all the inhabitants of the town of Sumy [in N.E. Ukraine]: Chairman of Sumy Town Council Executive Committee, Bondarenko, and secretary of the Executive Committee, Krapivnaya.’ The letter says, among other things: ‘You have chosen the road of betrayal of the interests of the Fatherland.’ P. I. Yakir received a similar letter from the Director of school No. 37 in Kishinyov [Moldavia] and the history teacher of the same school, Feldman, who wrote: ‘It turns out that you, Pyotr lonovich, are giving the West food for malicious propaganda .., Come to your senses, Pyotr lonovich, before it is too late, and do not sully the radiant name of your father, which our class enemies are trying to turn into a symbol for their struggle against the Soviet Union.’

Copies of both letters were sent by their authors to the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

P. I. Yakir received a similar letter from a certain citizen Rozin, who said that he had also signed protests against violations of legality. The Chronicle hereby reports that amongst the signatures on protests sent from Kiev, where Rozin’s letter came from, there is no mention of the name Rozin.

To the Sumy Town Council P. I. Yakir sent the following reply:

“If we are afraid of causing a stir in the West, then we ought once and for all to renounce all criticism, self-criticism and open discussion, to renounce argument; for it is through argument, as you know, that the truth is born. My father, like many other honourable and innocent Soviet citizens, was destroyed by Stalinism. And it is Stalinism I too am fighting against. Do you suggest that in doing this I am bringing shame on the name of my father? Unfortunately there is a tendency nowadays to confuse anti-Stalinism with anti-Sovietism. In this way Stalinism is equated with Soviet power, and this conflicts with the spirit of the 20th and 22nd Party congresses and the resolutions they passed.”

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In Kiev a search was made of the flat of Leonid Plyushch, a member of the Action Group, in connection with the case of Oleg Bakhtiyarov. Bakhtiyarov has been arrested under Article 62 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 70 of the Russian Code). During the search, manuscripts of L. Plyushch’s philosophical writings were confiscated, and then Plyushch was summoned to an interrogation. The interrogation was in connection with the case of G. Altunyan. L. Plyushch refused to testify, since the letter to the United Nations about which Plyushch was questioned is not a matter for legal investigation. L. Plyushch was interrogated a second time in connection with the case of Bakhtiyarov, from whom some philosophical works by Berdyaev had been confiscated on his arrest. At this interrogation, too, L. Plyushch refused to testify.

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At the end of September a criminal investigation under Article 190-1 was brought against Action Group member Vladimir Borisov (Leningrad). He is accused of signing the letter to the UN and a letter in defence of Grigorenko. Borisov has not been remanded in custody, but transferred to a dangerous section of the city psychiatric hospital where only his mother and wife are allowed to visit him. When Borisov learned that criminal charges were being brought against him he attempted to escape from the hospital. He was then moved to the prison psychiatric hospital on Arsenalnaya Street where only those already convicted in court can be held. The investigation of Borisov’s case is being conducted by the Leningrad city procurator’s office and is led by senior investigator Belov.