14.7 Details of the Ryazan Trial

No 14 : 30 June 1970

As already reported (see Chronicle 12.4), a group of six people has been arrested and convicted in Ryazan.

The investigation was carried out by the KGB; more than 100 witnesses were summoned.

The case was heard in the Ryazan Region Court from 10 to 19 February 1970. Yury Vudka (b. 1947), an external student at the Ryazan Institute of Radio Engineering (RIRE); Simon Grilyus (b. 1945), engineer at the “Red Banner” factory; Oleg Frolov (b. 1948), a student at RIRE; Valery Vudka (b. 1950), a student at RIRE; Yevgeny Mortimonov (b. 1948), a student at the RIRE; and Semyon Zaslavsky (b. 1948), also a student at RIRE, stood before the Court on charges of attempting to create an anti-Soviet organisation (Article 72 of the Russian Criminal Code), and of circulating anti-Soviet literature and of conducting anti-Soviet propaganda (Article 70).

The judge was Deputy-Chief Regional Judge Matveyev, the prosecutor Regional Procurator G. Dubtsov, and the defence counsel Trukhachyov, Kogan and Titov.

The following items confiscated during searches were placed before the Court as material evidence:

1. Literature:

  • (a) The Decline of Capital [Zakat kapitala], a programmatic document written by Yu. Vudka;
  • (b) “Dero’or” (Old Hebrew for “Trumpets of Freedom”) on the individual in contemporary society;
  • (c) “Marxism and the Magicians [kolduny]” on the events in Czechoslovakia;
  • (d) What Lies Ahead? (in Russian and Ukrainian) a version of The Decline of Capital specially written to be “intelligible to workers”.

2. A typewriter.

3. Photographic equipment.

The trial was held behind locked doors – entry was by special pass. Besides officials of the KGB, there were present in the court-room “representatives” of large factories, educational institutes, military academies and the Regional committees of the Communist Party and the Komsomol. Altogether there were not more than 30 people in court, including relatives and fiancées of the accused.

More than twenty persons appeared as witnesses.

The accused pleaded guilty, but when the sentences were delivered the Judge remarked that the repentance of Grilyus and the Vudka brothers was insincere.

The decision to plead guilty was taken by the accused at the suggestion of the investigator, who cited Article 38 of the Russian Criminal Code (extenuating circumstances) on the role of sincere confession; in Court, however, the accused learnt from their lawyers of the existence of Article 39 (aggravating circumstances), which essentially cancels out Article 38 if the deed is defined as a group-action.

The Court accepted that the contact with abroad, which had been established by preliminary investigation, consisted in no more than the transmission of The Decline of Capital to a Czechoslovak citizen and a Dutch citizen. It was also established that the group engaged in the propaganda of its views and the recruitment of new members, seminars being held on the book The Decline of the Capital.

The main testimony was given by S. Zaslavsky, who was arrested on 29 July 1969 and released the next day. Yu. Vudka, O. Frolov and E. Mortimonov were then arrested on 30 July, V. Vudka on 14 or 15 August, and S. Grilyus on 21 August in Klaipeda [on the Lithuanian coast] at his parents’ flat.

Procurator Dubtsov demanded seven years of strict-regime camps and three years’ exile Yu. Vudka; five years’ strict-regime Frolov and Grilyus; and three years’ corrective labour V. Vudka. The sentence of the Court differed from the Procurator’s demands. Yu. Vudka’s term of exile was reduced to a year, while Grilyus and Frolov each received three additional years of exile.

Since Zaslavsky was said in Court to have come voluntarily to KGB headquarters and given frank testimony, the Court gave him a suspended sentence of three years; Mortimonov too received a suspended sentence of three years as being seriously ill (he had previously suffered one heart attack, and during the trial his condition suggested that another attack was impending).

Several dozen people who had read The Decline of Capital or who had known of the existence of the group but not reported it, were expelled from the Komsomol and from their institutes.