20.4 The Trial of Kukui (Sverdlovsk)

No 20 : 2 July 1971

On 15-16 June the trial of Valery Kukui (b. 1938), an engineer at the Sverdlovsk “Agricultural Machinery” concern (CCE 19.11, item 13), took place at the Sverdlovsk Region Court under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code. Access to the courtroom was unimpeded.

The chairman of the court was [A.] Shalayev; the State prosecutor was Zyryanov. Dobrynin of the “Agricultural Machinery” concern (selkhoztekhnika) was //public prosecutor. Counsel for the defence was Naumov.

THE SUBSTANCE OF THE INDICTMENT

1. Between 1964 and 1970 Kukui verbally disseminated information slandering the international and domestic policies of the USSR: he claimed that anti-Semitism existed in the USSR, that there was no freedom of speech, that Soviet policy in the Middle East was determined not by the principle of justice but by the interests of the State, and so on.

2. Kukui typed, duplicated and circulated literature slandering the Soviet social and political system. The works mentioned in the charge against Kukui included Heart of a Dog.[34b] Kukui had to explain that this work was written not by him, but by Mikhail Bulgakov. In the course of the trial, however, the Procurator again returned to this story when questioning witness Varshavsky:

“Just look what obscene expressions there are in it!”

Witness: “Would you like me to read you some of the chastushki from [Sholokhov’s] Quiet Flows the Don?” [34c]

Procurator: “No, I would not.”

In his address tor the prosecution Zyryanov called Heart of a Dog an anti-Soviet work. “I’d like to grab him by his calloused proletarian foot” the procurator quoted indignantly. Defence counsel Naumov and Kukui himself in his final address insisted that Heart of a Dog did not contain anything illegal.

When questioned himself, V. Kukui systematically refuted every point in the indictment: his desire to emigrate to Israel was caused solely by his national feelings; he had not circulated anti-Soviet literature; his critical remarks had always related to isolated negative phenomena (e. g. to instances of anti-Semitism), but never to the State policies of the USSR.

All the witnesses (friends and colleagues of Kukui) gave testimony favourable to him, denying that his statements and actions were anti-Soviet. A few witnesses retracted testimony compromising Kukui which they had given during the pre-trial investigation, stating that it had been given under pressure from the investigator and because of fear (Blank, for example, said: “I thought that if Kukui was inside and I didn’t give evidence against him, I’d be put inside as well”).

The only significant witness for the prosecution was Valery’s brother Anatoly Kukui, who did not attend the court himself (because of illness), but who had written a letter saying that Valery was “a Zionist and anti-Soviet”, and that he, Anatoly, knew from what his mother had told him that Valery had “copied anti-Soviet material on a typewriter”.

Their mother, Zinaida Borisovna Kukui, who was present in court, refuted Anatoly’s testimony as lies and slander. Valery stated that he and his brother had disagreements due to their [unsatisfactory] living conditions.

The Procurator demanded for Kukui three years of ordinary-regime corrective-labour camps. The public prosecutor called upon the court to punish Kukui with all the severity of Soviet law”.

Defence counsel asked that the sentence be limited to one year of compulsory labour [i.e. without imprisonment].

[DEFENDANT’S CLOSING WORDS]

In his final address Valery Kukui said, among other things:

“I am indignant at the publication of the articles about me: ‘Where is the “land of his fathers”?’ and ‘Slanderers rebuffed’, in the newspaper Urals Worker [35] These articles were written while the investigation was under way. But the tone of the articles and their form were such as to suggest that the trial was already over and my guilt proven. I discern in this an attempt to influence public opinion and the verdict of the court.

V. Kukui ended his final address as follows:

“… I have faith in the justice and humanity of the Soviet court. I have faith that I shall be released, that I shall be allowed to return to my family and bring up my daughter that I shall be able to realise my dream of emigrating to Israel the land of my fathers. ”

The sentence was three years of ordinary-regime camps. [36]

Note

The decision to institute criminal proceedings against Kukui and to bring a court action against him was taken on the initiative of the director of the “Agricultural Machinery” concern at a meeting of the factory collective.

[Commentary No 20]