Commentary No 12

No 12 : 28 February 1970

12.1 THE PRISON DIARY OF PYOTR GRIGORENKO

Somehow or other Grigorenko managed to write a diary for the period May-December 1969, also two analyses of his case, and then to smuggle the 9,000-word manuscript out of the KGB prison in Tashkent.

On 3 March 1970, his wife Zinaida wrote and circulated a desperate appeal, with her husband’s manuscript attached. The text revealed cruel physical beatings of Grigorenko, but, still worse, his total isolation from the outside world: he had not been allowed to receive a single visit, a single letter, a single parcel, a single telephone call. After honest psychiatrists had pronounced him sane, KGB ones had labelled him insane. Grigorenko’s manuscript — written with a remarkable detachment and even humour in the most fearful circumstances — will be an enduring example of man’s capacity for courage.

12.3 THE TRIAL OF ILYA GABAI AND MUSTAFA DZHEMILEV

[1] “… who [in 1952-3] had called the Jewish doctors ‘murderers in white coats'” — a reference to the “doctors’ plot” of Stalin’s last two years when a number of Jewish physicians were arrested and accused of plotting to kill the Leader. Signal for official anti-Semitic campaign only halted by Stalin’s death.

See Pisarev letter to Academy of Medical Sciences (CCE 13.9, item 2) (JC).

[2] Poet Nikolai Gribachov (1910-1992) distinguished himself in the late 1940s’ anti-Semitic campaign against “rootless cosmopolitans”. Found favour with Khrushchev; under Brezhnev became chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet (Literaturnaya Rossiya, “An unerring marksman against ideological enemies”, 16 April 2010). (JC)

12.8 FOREIGNERS IN DEFENCE OF SOVIET POLITICAL PRISONERS

Article 125 (Part 10) of the 1936 Soviet Constitution reads:

“In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system, the citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed by law:

  1. freedom of speech;
  2. freedom of the press;
  3. freedom of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings;
  4. reedom of street processions and demonstrations.

“These civil rights are ensured by placing at the disposal of the working people and their organizations printing presses, stocks of paper, public buildings, the streets, communications facilities and other material requisites for the exercise of these rights.”

12.10 SAMIZDAT UPDATE

Item 4 – Kochetov’s novel What is it You Want then?

In his novel, based largely on real persons, the Stalinist writer Vsevolod Kochetov describes a Moscow woman intellectual (Oktyabr 11, 1969) who “listened to radio broadcasts from dozens of different countries” and obtained lots of foreign newspapers.

“She took down radio broadcasts in shorthand and carefully filed newspaper cuttings according to subject … Scientists, specialists in literature and experts in international affairs needed this information … Her address was confided only to the most trustworthy, reliable people … At her place you could find shorthand records of, for example, confidential meetings of the Writers’ Union … the records of certain trials and even of conversations with people in top Party circles.”