10.1 The trial of Anatoly Marchenko (Perm Region)

No 10 : 31 October 1969

The Chronicle has already reported [see 9.10, item 1] that Anatoly Marchenko has been sentenced again, to two years’ imprisonment in strict-regime camps, under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code. Marchenko’s trial was held on 22 August in the reading room of the camp zone at Nyrob, a settlement in the Perm Region [Volga District], and was formally considered open, although of course no one except prisoners and administrative personnel is ever allowed into the zone.

Anatoly Marchenko was charged with uttering these statements: ‘the Soviet Union is violating the sovereignty of other countries, and Soviet troops were sent into Czechoslovakia to suppress freedom with tanks’; ‘there is no democracy in the USSR, freedom of expression, of the press, of creativity does not exist’; ‘it is the Soviet Union who is to blame’ for the events on the Sino-Soviet border. Apart from these statements, Marchenko was charged with refusing to report for work, and with declaring while in the punishment cell: ‘The communists have drunk all my blood.’ This charge was based on the testimony of two overseers, i.e. punishment-cell warders, Lopanitsyn and Sobinin. Since they contradicted each other in their evidence as to the date on which Marchenko had uttered this statement, it was stated in the indictment, and later in the sentence, that he had uttered it twice — on 14 and 15 May. After the overseers had reported, KGB security officer Antonov, to whom the overseers are subordinate in their job, began to collect further material on Marchenko, and on 31 May he instituted criminal proceedings.

The charge was corroborated at the pre-trial investigation by duty warders Sedov and Dmitriyenko, as well as by the overseers’ testimonies. Sedov was not summoned to appear at the trial, but his testimony was read out, in violation of the law, and also incorporated in the verdict. Dmitriyenko declared at the trial that he had not known Marchenko before, and had ‘decided’ that the statement attributed to him in the charge had been uttered by him, but now that he had seen Marchenko at the trial and heard his voice, he was firmly convinced that Marchenko had not spoken these words. Moreover, Dmitriyenko declared that he knew who had spoken the words; and he could name the man and summon him to court. The court did not react to this declaration, and ignored Dmitriyenko’s testimony in the verdict, although a court is obliged by law to explain why it has rejected any testimony which contradicts the conclusions reached in the verdict. Fellow-prisoners of Marchenko in the punishment cell, summoned to court at his request, stated that they had not heard the sentence he was charged with uttering. Concerning the other statements he was charged with, Marchenko said that he had held conversations with prisoners on these subjects, but that his statements had been distorted beyond recognition in the witnesses’ testimony. Marchenko said he had been annoyed by the words of witness Burtsev to the effect that ‘Czechoslovakia ought to be crushed once and for all’, since he considered the idea of crushing a man, a nation or a people to reveal hatred of mankind. During conversations about freedom of expression, the press and creativity, Marchenko had in fact replied to prisoners that no ideal freedom of expression, press or creativity existed anywhere, nor did pure democracy, including in the Soviet Union: every country had its limitations.

The prosecution witnesses recounted Marchenko’s views in a primitive and arbitrary form; not one of them reproduced them accurately, and their testimony was contradictory. According to Marchenko, the case against him was a fabrication of Antonov, the camp K.G.B. security officer, who had pressurized the witnesses — all dependent on him—into giving suitable testimony. The court declared that ‘there was no reason not to believe the witnesses questioned at the trial, all the more so since many of them had given explanations even before proceedings began—some in their own handwriting—which confirmed the facts brought to light in court and which had led to criminal proceedings being instituted.’ It was precisely these ‘explanations’, on the basis of which criminal proceedings had been instituted, which were given at interrogations conducted by the K.G.B. chief Antonov.

The court’s second argument, which it considered proof of the reliability of the witnesses’ testimony, was the fact that the Investigation had been headed by the Deputy-Procurator of the Perm Region and ‘the court has no reason to doubt his objectivity’.

The composition of the court was as follows:

Khrenovsky, Chairman; Rzhevin and Biryukova, People’s Assessors;

Baiborodina, Procurator [prosecutor]

Marchenko conducted his own defence.

On 30 September the Russian Supreme Court considered Marchenko’s appeal, and an additional appeal by the lawyer Monakhov, who spoke at the hearing. The composition of the court was: Ostroukhova, Chairman; Lukanov and Timofeyev, Members of the Court; Sorokina, Procurator. The verdict of the Perm Region Court was upheld.