12.4 Political trials around the USSR

No 12 : 28 February 1970

DNEPROPETROVSK (Ukraine)

From 19 to 27 January the trial of I. G. Sokulsky, N. G. Kulchinsky and V. V. Savchenko, accused under Article 62 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (which corresponds to Article 70 of the Russian Code), was held in Dnepropetrovsk.

The judge was Tubelts, the assessors were Krikunov and Grinevich. The prosecutor was the deputy-procurator of the region, Zhupinsky. The defence lawyers were Romm and Sarry (Moscow) and Yezholy (Dnepropetrovsk).

The case was heard in closed session. Only the mothers of the accused, the correspondents of several Ukrainian newspapers, and officials of the KGB were present. Sentence was passed in open court. The accused were charged with:

  1. The preparation and distribution of an “Appeal to the creative youth of Dnepropetrovsk” [see 11.15, item 14]. (Sokulsky admitted authorship of the work. In this document, among other things, were discussed the dismissal from their work of persons devoted to Ukrainian culture, and facts about enforced russification.)
  2. The distribution of the document by Valentyn Moroz, “Report from the Beria game reserve”.
  3. The distribution of the article by Academician Aganbegyan, “The Soviet Economy”.
  4. The copying of chapters from the book by Molnar, The Slovaks and the Ukrainians (the books of this author have been published in the USSR, and the book in question has received positive reviews in the press).
  5. Keeping (at Sokulsky’s house) a letter addressed but not sent to the CPSU Central Committee entitled “Acting like the satraps of the Tsar”.
  6. (Sokulsky only) his own verse.
  7. Verbal statements on the national question and on the military intervention in Czechoslovakia.

The procurator demanded: six years imprisonment for Sokulsky; four years for Kulchinsky; and three years for Savchenko (who was at liberty during the trial).

The court passed the following sentences: four and a half years’ imprisonment for Sokulsky under Article 62 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (strict-regime); two and a half years’ imprisonment for Kulchinsky under Article 187-1 (which corresponds to Article 190-1 of the Russian Code); and a two years suspended sentence for Savchenko, with three years probation, under Article 187-1.

The Article under which Kulchinsky and Savchenko were charged was altered in the course of the proceedings. The accused pleaded guilty within the terms of Article 187-1 of the Ukrainian Code. Sokulsky expressed his repentance.

SARATOV (Volga District)

In Saratov the trial of six young persons accused of creating an anti-Soviet organisation and of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda (Articles 70 and 72 of the Russian Criminal Code) was held from 5 to 13 January.

The head of the organisation was Senin, a student at the Institute of Law. The other members were Romanov, a fourth-year student in the history faculty of Saratov State University; Kulikov who had graduated from the faculty of physical education of Saratov University and was at the time of his arrest a trainer in artistic gymnastics; Kirikin, a student at the Institute of Law, and Bobrov (likewise); and Fokeyev, an evening-course student at Saratov University.

At 28 Kulikov was the oldest of those convicted. All the accused pleaded guilty and repented.

There were about fifty witnesses at the trial, principally students. According to inexact information, the organisation was called the “Party of True Communists”, and had a programme of liberal-democratic content. Its aim was the creative study of Marxist literature from primary sources and also of other works by Soviet and foreign authors, both published and banned. At the trial the accused particularly emphasised that they had conducted not “agitation” (“a little for many”), but “propaganda” (“much for a few”), and that newcomers were invited to join the organisation only when they had familiarised themselves with the propagandistic material, and only if their views were similar.

The trial was organised on the model of analogous Moscow trials — specially invited people, and a few relatives. Near the courthouse there was a crowd [see 14.10], 100-150 strong, mainly of young people.

Senin was sentenced to seven years; Romanov, Kulikov and Kirikin to six years; and Bobrov to four years; all in strict-regime camps. Fokeyev was sentenced to three years in a normal-regime camp.

RYAZAN (Central District)

In the second half of 1968 in six students from the Radio-Technical Institute (see photo, below) in Ryazan formed an illegal group, a “Marxist party of a new type” [see 14.7]: Yury Vudka, Shimons Grilyus, Frolov, Valery Vudka, Martimonov and Zaslavsky.

Ryazan radiotechnical institute (Vudka i ko)

Yury Vudka, an external student and a turner at the Ryazan agricultural machinery factory, wrote (under the pseudonym L. Borin) a pamphlet called The Decline of Capital, which was the programmatic document of the group.

In August 1969 the group was arrested by the KGB. The arrest was preceded by its denunciation by two members of the organisation, Martimonov and Zaslavsky, and by their confession of guilt. Charges were brought under Articles 70 and 72. The case was heard in February 1970 in the Ryazan Region Court. The witnesses were from the Moscow area, Leningrad, Kiev, Saratov and other towns.

(Apparently the Ryazan group was linked with various towns. Senin’s Saratov group, sentenced a month earlier, had the same Decline of Capital as its programmatic document.)

Yu. Vudka got seven years; Sh. Grilyus and Frolov, five years each; V. Vudka, three years – all strict-regime. Zaslavsky and Martimonov, who had been at liberty during the investigation, were given suspended sentences.

THE GORKY AFFAIR (Volga District)

In Gorky the case of Mikhail Kapranov, Sergei Ponomaryov and Vladimir Zhiltsov [see 10.6] continues, and with it the associated case of Vladlen Pavlenkov.

M. Kapranov is a former student of Gorky University, twice expelled from the university for speaking out at a Komsomol meeting and in a private letter about the economy and politics of the Soviet Union. He is the father of two sons.

S. Ponomaryov is an arts student, a contributor to a factory broadsheet, and the father of a four-year-old daughter.

V. Zhiltsov, a fifth-year history student of Gorky University, who received first class marks throughout his years of study, was arrested just before he was due to defend his graduation dissertation. During his arrest his leg was broken.

All three were arrested in the summer of 1969. In January 1970 all three were charged under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code, changed later to Articles 70 and 72. The investigators were Khokhlov, Belovzorov and Savelev.

The charges concern the composition and distribution of leaflets.

In spring 1968, to mark the centenary of Gorky University, an appeal was issued and posted in the streets of the town — in particular opposite the KGB building and on the university buildings. It contained the following demands:

  • that those condemned in the political trials of the 1930s be fully rehabilitated, and that the true nature of those trials be made public;
  • that the conditions of imprisonment of present-day political prisoners be improved;
  • that democratic freedoms be introduced.

The charges also concern an attempt to form an anti-Soviet organisation. (It is possible there was an intention — and no more than that — to form a group to fight against infringements of legality.)

In October 1969 Vladlen Pavlenkov was arrested by the KGB. He was born in 1929 and is a teacher of history. The Chronicle has no information about the charges against Pavlenkov, or whether his case is in some way linked with the case of the three, or is simply one and the same case (a ”case of the four”).

The investigators sent Pavlenkov for a forensic-psychiatric examination.

Vladlen’s wife, Svetlana then wrote to KGB senior investigator A. M. Khokhlov that if her husband were declared of unsound mind she would respond by burning herself to death [see 11.15, item 13]. She also sent a statement to Procurator-General Rudenko and to the Chairman of the KGB, Andropov.

V. Pavlenkov was declared to be of sound mind.