11.7 Arrests among Moscow students

No 11 : 31 December 1969

On 20 November 1969, the KGB arrested Vyacheslav Bakhmin,  a fourth-year student of the physics and chemistry department of the Moscow Institute of Physics Technology  Bakhmin is twenty-two years old, and was a pupil at the Kolmogorov boarding school (No. 18). He entered the Institute in 1966. A search was made in the hostel where he was living; Bakhmin himself was not present at the time, and his friends at the hostel were told that he had gone away on a trip. (Now, three weeks after his arrest, the Institute authorities want to expel Bakhmin from the Institute for failing to attend classes.)

The next day, 1 December, searches were made simultaneously in six Moscow flats and two girl students were arrested: Irina Kaplun (a third-year student of Moscow University’s Philological Faculty, in the department of structural and applied linguistics), and Olga loffe (a second-year student taking evening courses at Moscow University’s Faculty of Economics). During the search, several items of samizdat were removed from lofe, and also her own poetry and papers, verses by her father Yu.M. loffe, and a typewriter. The search was made in lofe’s presence and after it she was taken for questioning under an escort often men. At nine o’clock that evening a warrant for her arrest was signed [see 15.2, trial].

On the same day Irina Kaplun was taken for questioning. Earlier in the day, when she was still in the university building, she had been taken ill with heart trouble and had gone home. But she never reached her house. Evidently she was picked up on the way there and sent to the KGB without being taken home for a search first. The search was made while she was being interrogated. Removed from her were samizdat items, verses and stories by herself, a home-made anthology of poems by Evtushenko and a typewriter.

Both girls are nineteen years old. Olga loffe studied at physics and mathematics school No. 444, and Irina Kaplun at No. 16 special language school. In 1966 both girls, with nine other pupils of No. 16 special school, all under sixteen, pasted up leaflets, the content of which was as follows: there must be no repetition of the Stalin period, everything depends on us. About three hundred of these leaflets were pasted up or put through letter-boxes of private dwellings in various districts of Moscow. Most of them were handed over to the KGB by the recipients. The main question put later to the children was: tell us the names of the adults who organized this. The investigation was conducted by Major Yeliseyev. School lessons alternated with interrogation sessions which lasted from four to six hours. At the interrogations, the girls were told: “If you think that some things in our country are not quite as they should be, then you ought to come and see us at the KGB and talk it over with us.” Irina Kaplun was told that “she ought to be thankful that her uncle had been rehabilitated at all, they might well not have done it.” (Her uncle was a revolutionary who worked in the Profintern [the international trade union organization], the Communist International, and the Central Committee; he was imprisoned under the Tsar; in 1938 he was executed and in 1956 rehabilitated.)

The case was not taken to court. After completion of the investigation, the school authorities took the matter up with the children. There were interviews and heart-to-heart talks with the district committee of the Komsomol. And it was always the same question: “Surely you can tell me who were the adults involved?” Altogether two children were expelled from the Komsomol, one from the school, and all of them were given reprimands with entries in their personal files. Two teachers were deprived of their right to teach, the school head was relieved of his post, and the class teachers were given reprimands and relieved of their duties as directors of their classes.

It is assumed that the arrest at this stage of I. Kaplun and O. loffe is connected with a protest which they were preparing against the celebrations for the ninetieth birthday of Stalin [see 10.11].

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On the same day, 1 December, a fourth-year student at the Moscow State Institute of Historical Archives, Tatyana Khromova, was subjected to a search and interrogation. During the search, personal letters and a file containing poems by O. Mandelstam were removed. They wanted to carry off her icons, and were greatly interested in where she had obtained them, but after she had begged them at length, they agreed to leave them. They were interested to know if Khromova believed in God, and why there were so many religious poems in her flat.

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On 5 December Valeria Novotvorskaya [Novodvorskaya, name corrected, see 12.11] was arrested in the [Kremlin] Palace of Congresses, where she was scattering and handing out leaflets before the beginning of a performance of the opera “October”. Novotvorskaya made no attempt to escape and continued to hand out the leaflets until she was approached by KGB men. The leaflets were written in the form of verses and the theme was our tanks in Czechoslovakia. There was probably also something in them about the Constitution. After Novotvorskaya’s arrest, several copies of three manuscript booklets of her own poetry were removed from her flat.

Valeria Novotvorskaya is nineteen. She won a medal on graduation from secondary school in 1968 and gained a place with honours in the French department of the Foreign Languages Institute. At the time of her arrest she was in her second year of studies there [see 13.2].