37.2 The Trial of Vladimir Osipov

No 37 : 30 September 1975

From 24 to 26 September the Vladimir Region Court dealt with the case of Vladimir Osipov (CCE 34.//), charged under Article 70, section 2, of the RSFSR Criminal Code.

Vladimir Nikolayevich Osipov was born in 1938. From 1961 to 1968 he spent seven years in the Mordovian camps under Articles 70 ( paragraph 1) and 72 of the Russian Criminal Code. In 1971 Osipov began to publish the journal Veche openly in samizdat: the journal’s cover always had ‘Editor: V. Osipov’ typed on it. Until 1974, when Osipov left the editorial board of Veche, nine issues of the journal had managed to appear. After leaving the board Osipov began to publish the journal Zemlya just as openly in samizdat. Prior to his arrest on 27 November 1974 he had managed to publish one issue.

The pre-trial investigation provided 45 volumes of “case materials” for the trial.

The indictment accused Osipov of having published, edited, or disseminated nine issues of Veche, his own articles in Veche, articles from the Western press and accounts of press conferences with Western correspondents.

Neither the pre-trial investigation nor the court was concerned with examining the essence of Osipov’s articles or the entire journal Veche, and defined them, without any proof, as “libellous” and “anti-Soviet”. The efforts of the investigators and the court were merely directed to proving that Osipov had, in fact, published, edited and distributed Veche.

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The court called 18 witnesses from among Osipov’s associates while he was editor of Veche (16 of whom were former political prisoners). Asserting that Veche was a legal journal and that, therefore, there was no need to hide anything, the overwhelming majority of witnesses — editorial colleagues, authors and readers of the journal — gave detailed testimonies to the court.

The witnesses Pirogov and Polenov from Yaroslavl stated that they had been subscribers to Veche and had received all nine issues of the journal, either from Osipov in person or by post from Goryachev, who had now emigrated. They also stated that they had paid between 5 and 10 roubles for each issue. Polenov had handed over all his copies of Veche to the KGB.

A. Ivanov (Skuratov) [1] testified that Veche had been edited by Osipov personally.

V. Zaitsev stated that he had been told by Osipov to give a folder containing issues of Veche to Goryachev, but that he had not known at that time what they were about.

The evidence given by Goryachev after he had already received permission to emigrate, which was used at the trial, stated that at Osipov’s request he had typed five copies of the journal Veche, distributed the journal through the post and personally given it to subscribers; he had been paid for doing this.

I. Ovchinnikov, who edited issued number 10 of Veche, described in detail the quarrel on the editorial board of the journal and spoke of Osipov’s character in a very negative manner.

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The prosecutor, Drozdov, maintained in his speech that Osipov’s statements as editor of Veche concerning the publication’s loyalty to the Soviet system were merely the “camouflage” of an accomplice of foreign anti-Soviet organizations. He demanded that the defendant be sentenced to eight years in strict-regime camps, justifying the “mildness” of his demand by the defendant’s state of health and his difficult family situation.

Osipov was defended at his trial by the Vladimir lawyer R. F. Volkova. (Apraksin, chairman of the presidium of the Moscow City Bar, had refused to allow Osipov’s wife, Valentina Mashkova, or his mother, N. P. Sukhanova, to engage the Moscow lawyer they had chosen.) In her speech, she concentrated on the fact that her client had not had the intention of undermining the Soviet regime. In addition, none of those interrogated had described Osipov’s views as anti-Soviet, and the State security organs had not given him a single warning during the whole time that the journal was being published, but had suddenly called him to account under Article 70, after he had already announced that Vech’s publication was being discontinued.

The defence lawyer drew the court’s attention to the fact that Osipov’s “Slavophilism” was dominated mainly by a concern for religion and national regeneration, not by aggressive criticism. She admitted, however, that some of his articles contained ‘libel’ and therefore asked for the charge to be changed from Article 70 to Article 190-1.

Osipov did not testify at the pre-trial investigation. He followed the same line at the trial. He pleaded not guilty. In his closing statement, he maintained that he was loyal to Soviet authority and that his entire activity had been dedicated, not towards the subversion of the Soviet system, but towards national and religious regeneration. He said that he still considered Veche to have been a timely and necessary publication.

The sentence of the court repeated almost word for word the indictment and the prosecutor’s speech. The court sentenced Osipov to eight years in strict-regime labour camps.

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To the organization Amnesty International
To world public opinion

Statement

Yesterday a court in Vladimir passed a sentence of eight years of strict-regime imprisonment on Vladimir Osipov, publisher of a legal samizdat journal. He was charged on account of the allegedly libellous nature of certain articles in the journal Veche (those on drunkenness, on the destruction of ancient Moscow, on the persecution of religion — in fact, those which were the most effective in my opinion), and also because he came out in defence of political prisoners, in defence of Bukovsky, because of his congratulatory telegram to Solzhenitsyn, and his article on the first Osipov case in 1961. At that time Osipov, together with Eduard Kuznetsov and others, was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment under the same Article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. [3]

The new sentence passed on Osipov is a cruel revenge for his dissent — for his attempts to communicate his views to other people. I do not share most of Osipov’s beliefs or the standpoint of the journal produced by him (which Osipov himself describes as nationalistic and Christian). But 1 am convinced that this kind of persecution for one’s beliefs is absolutely intolerable. In particular, it is opposed to the principles proclaimed in the Final Act of the Helsinki conference, and is incompatible with the spirit of detente. I call on all who value the principles of freedom of thought to come to the defence of Vladimir Osipov.

Andrei Sakharov, Academician
27 September 1975

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We are shocked and angered by the barbarous sentence passed on Vladimir Osipov, editor of the journals Veche and Zemlya.

The hand-written (or typed) journals Veche and, later, Zemlya have been produced legally since 1971.

Why was it necessary to condemn a well-known journalist to eight years’ deprivation of freedom in a strict-regime labour camp, two months after the discussion of humanitarian problems at Helsinki? Was it not in order to demonstrate to anyone who might still have doubted, that in the field of ideological repression the Soviet authorities do not intend to retreat even one step?

The coming months have also been designated for the trials of the well-known social and humanitarian activists — Andrei Tverdokhlebov and Sergei Kovalyov.

International public opinion still has the power to save these men from cruel sentences — if it so desires.

There is still time also to have changed the sentence on Vladimir Osipov.

26-28 September 1975

Yu. Orlov, T, Khodorovich, G. Podyapolsky, T. Velikanova, M. Landa, S. Khodorovich, N. Ivanov, A. Lavut, V. Rodionov, L. Borodin