14.8 Religious persecution

No 14 : 30 June 1970

VITEBSK [Belorussia]

In December 1969 criminal proceedings were taken against Mikhail Sych, the leader of a group of “Seventh-day Adventists” (the newspaper Vitebsk Worker of 26 November 1969 wrote of this group in an article entitled “Tanya’s misfortune”).

On 6 December Galina Alexandrovna Gavrilyuk, a 38-year-old manual worker, called at Sych’s house, and on seeing some policemen there immediately left. In the street she was detained by a policeman who shouted: “Citizen, what have you stolen?” She was taken to the police office as a suspect and there compelled to write an explanatory statement through threats of detention. Without witnesses present some money in Gavrilyuk’s handbag (865 roubles 55 kopecks) was confiscated, as was a book of religious content. During questioning Gavrilyuk was repeatedly asked whether or not she was a believer. Gavrilyuk received a copy of the protocol regarding the confiscation of the money only on 21 April 1970, as a result of an application to the Procuracy by her husband, P. A. Trofimov.

Gavrilyuk was fined 50 roubles by administrative order for infringing the decree of the Presidium of the Belorussian Supreme Soviet on the accountability of the leaders of religious groups for avoiding registration, for holding illegal religious gatherings and for holding religious gatherings among children. This decree is not applicable to Gavrilyuk, since she was not the leader of the group. But the people’s court of the Zheleznodorozhny district (Vitebsk Region), where Gavrilyuk brought an action questioning the legality of the fine, rejected her action. Without going into the substance of the case, the judge merely inquired whether Gavrilyuk was a believer and what sort of book she had in her handbag.

Numerous applications by Gavrilyuk and her husband, P. A. Trofimov, to the Belorussian Procuracy and to other authorities, including the CPSU Central Committee, requesting the return of the confiscated 865 roubles, were fruitless.

On 1 April 1970 Domashevsky, senior investigator of the Vitebsk Regional Procuracy, carried out a search at the home of Gavrilyuk and Trofimov “with the purpose of discovering and confiscating literature, letters and note-books of religious content.” The confiscated items included the text of M. S. Sych’s complaint to the presidium of the [regional?] KGB Directorate, and also drafts of Trofimov’s complaints.