9.5 The case of Yury Levin (Leningrad)

No 9 : 31 August 1969

As reported in the Chronicle [see 8.14, item 8], Yury Leonidovich Levin has been arrested in Leningrad. On 26 June 1969, he was summoned to appear before an investigator of the Leningrad Procuracy, Yu.M. Tumanov, and taken into custody. He was charged under article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code (not, as stated in Issue 8, under Article 70).

In 1957 Levin was sentenced to ten years imprisonment under Article 58-13 [Counter-Revolutionary Activity], but in 1964 he was amnestied after doing seven years of his term. The reason for his conviction was his attempt to emigrate. Since 1966 he has sent several letters by registered post to the ‘Voice of America’ radio-station. According to him, the letters did not contain anything political, but were ‘innocent’ and addressed to one of the lady announcers of the ‘Voice of America’. However, they were obviously not reaching their destination, and Levin repeatedly complained to the Leningrad post office about this, but to no avail. Finally, said Levin, he decided to ‘catch the KGB out’. To this end, he sent a registered letter to the American Embassy in Moscow, stating that the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia was classified as a criminal offence under article 73 of the Russian Criminal Code. Levin assumed that the KGB would take steps over this and thus unmask themselves as readers of private correspondence by X-ray-type techniques. The letter was sent on 12 October 1968, and at the beginning of November of the same year Levin was put in a psychiatric hospital on the orders of Belyaev, the chief psychiatrist of Leningrad. Ten days later he was declared healthy and discharged.

In March 1969 Levin complained to the Procuracy that his letters were systematically going astray. On 23 May 1969, he was summoned to the district office of the KGB  on Vasilevsky Island, and had presented to him for signature the following statement: ‘During a customs examination a letter written by Yu.  L. Levin and addressed to the American Embassy in Moscow was found and confiscated, its contents being of a clearly anti-Soviet nature.’ Here it may be recalled that according to the Russian Criminal Code interference in private correspondence is classified as a criminal offence. Nevertheless, a few days later [on 5 June – No. 8], the party activist group at the Institute of Mechanical Processing, where Levin was employed as a mechanic, discussed Levin’s letter to the embassy in his presence, having been given the text by the KGB, then condemned him and passed a resolution: ‘To request the Procuracy to institute criminal proceedings against Levin for libellous anti-Soviet statements sent to our enemies …’ On 24 June 1969, a search was made of Levin’s flat and country cottage. He himself handed over all his correspondence with ‘Voice of America’, and also some tape-recordings of its transmissions, which he had managed to pick up in spite of the jamming. Apart from this, the search produced nothing significant. The next day Levin was arrested.