42.11 Letters and Statements

No 42 : 8 October 1976

[1] Yu. Orlov, V. Turchin and A. Sakharov: To the Conference of European Communist Parties (23 June 1976).

Respected delegates to the Conference of European Communist Parties!

We appeal to you to include in the conference’s programme the question of the human rights problem in States ruled by Communist governments, and to formulate a generally accepted and principled attitude to this problem.

It has now become generally recognized that the basic rights proclaimed in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1948] and partly defined in the Covenants on rights [1976] must be observed. The leaders of Communist Parties in the countries of Europe have more than once declared their devotion to the idea of human rights and democratic forms of government. We can only welcome such statements.

It is clear, however, that people judge the theory and practice of Communist Parties, and will continue to do so, by the situation in those countries where Communists are in power, and chiefly by the situation in the Soviet Union. Although in comparison with the Stalin period the situation in our country has basically improved, it is still characterized by massive systematic infringement of the elementary civil and political rights of the individual, by undemocratic forms of government and arbitrary repression by the authorities.

The authors of this letter isolate two aspects of the problem: the policies of the CPSU in relation to non-governmental organizations, and the freedom to exchange information, to hold beliefs and enjoy freedom of conscience. They put a number of specific questions to the conference, among them:

— Is the existence of independent non-governmental organizations possible in a Communist State?

— Does the conference consider it justifiable to persecute people for distributing in samizdat informational and other journals, in particular the Chronicle of Current Events?

— What kind of guarantees must there be in Communist States to ensure the independence of the judicial and legal system?

[2] A. D. Sakharov: Speech to the meeting of the International League for Human Rights (dated 25 September 1976; the speech was read out to a session of the League on 29 September).

I am very grateful for the honour awarded to me, of being chosen as a vice- president of the International League for Human Rights. Like all those who have gathered together in this hall, I agree with the basic principle underlying the League’s activities — the supreme importance of human rights in the complex of problems facing mankind.

I hope that, in spite of the difficulty of actively defending rights in the USSR, I shall nevertheless be able to work with the League. However, a necessary condition of such co-operation will be the cessation of the blockade set up by the Soviet authorities of my telephone and postal links with other countries, which has been going on (with short interruptions) for two years now.

Here today I will not speak about all the political prisoners in the USSR: they include those condemned for religious activities, for attempting to leave the country, for reading and storing literature which the authorities find undesirable, and on charges of so-called “nationalism’, and others. I wish to remind the meeting of the fate of those whose activities were unmistakably in defence of rights, who collected and distributed information on the violation of human rights in the USSR. They are not politicians. They did not expect any changes in the political structure of our country as a result of their activities, they were not seeking any benefits for themselves — on the contrary, as a result of their activities their lives and the lives of those dear to them have become unbelievably difficult, often poverty-stricken. Yet they have regarded the fate of each unjustly condemned person as their own personal sorrow. Such are Sergei Kovalyov, Andrei Tverdokhlebov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Semyon Gluzman, Kronid Lyubarsky, Gabriel Superfin, Viktor Khaustov, Anatoly Marchenko and others.

It is thanks to the stand they have taken and t their activities that a trend towards the defence of rights in society has grown up in our country. The lives and health of many of them are now in danger as a result of cold, hunger and work which is often beyond their strength, and other hardships they face in the camps and [internal] exile. Detailed information about the position of each of them can be obtained from the publications of Amnesty International, Khronika Press and others.

I am convinced that, in conditions when human rights activities are cruelly persecuted in a number of countries, our duty — the duty of the League — is to defend the freedom and lives of our friends, comrades and fellow fighters in the battle for human rights throughout the world.

Note

A. D. Sakharov was chosen as an honorary vice-president of the International League for Human Rights in June 1976. He is a member of the League’s Council of Directors. The League is a non-governmental organization, which has consultative status at the UN, UNESCO and so on. Its headquarters are in New York.

[3] A. D. Sakharov: To Gerald Ford, President of the USA and presidential candidate of the Republic Party, and to James Carter, presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of the USA (September 1976),

In this appeal A. D. Sakharov says:

I am convinced that worldwide preservation of political and civil human rights, of freedom of conviction and conscience, the freedom to exchange informa- tion, freedom of movement and freedom to choose one’s country of residence, is inseparable from the basic tasks facing humanity — the preservation of international security, of economic and social progress, and the maintenance of the environment I am convinced that there is no room for isolationism and national egoism in the defence of human rights.

Sakharov emphasizes, among possible international actions, ‘the fight for a general worldwide amnesty for political prisoners’. The appeal ends with these words:

I hope that the principles involved in actively defending human rights throughout the world will assume an ever more important place in U S policy, in the spirit of the freedom-loving and humane traditions of the American people.

[4] Boris Mikhailov: To the chairman of the World Peace Council, Dr R. Chandra (August 1976).

Respected Chairman,

Being the father of four children and a sincere supporter of peace, I share the pacifist attitude of the [1950] Stockholm Declaration. However, in my opinion it is in need of some additions. I feel that it should have indicated precisely the quite large group of states which are not included in the traditional “imperialist” definition, but whose economy is becoming more and more militarized, whose armies exceed the requirements of defence, whose armed forces are to be found far beyond the borders of their own countries, and who have a widespread practice of providing arms to other states, whatever the motives for this practice may be based on. The absence of a precise addressee for the declaration has prompted me to refrain from signing the present edition of this document.

Unfortunately, in the institution where I work the campaign to collect signatures for the Stockholm Declaration has turned into a test of loyalty, a means to discover and mercilessly persecute all dissent. My viewpoint has been distorted, I was declared to be a warmonger, I was slandered and threatened with dismissal from work, which would have deprived my whole family of the means of existence. It is appropriate to point out that the pressure put on me contravenes the peace-loving spirit of the declaration and the principle of willing participation in distributing and signing the document. As far as I know, my case is not the only one, which makes it all the more necessary to condemn such discriminatory practices.

In sending you this letter, Mr Chandra, I hope that you will support me and I assure you of my sincere desire to do my part in the fight for peace, without wars or violence, to which the activity of the World Peace Council is dedicated.

B. Mikhailov is an employee of the “Ostankino Palace – Museum of Serf Art”, near Moscow.

[5] Shagen Arutyunyan: Declaration to the Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet (30 July 1976).

Arutyunyan asks Podgorny to deprive him of his Soviet citizenship and allow him and his family to emigrate from the USSR.

On 11 July 1968 Arutyunyan was arrested and was given three-year sentence under Article 65 of the Armenian SSR Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 70 of the RSFSR Code) and Article 67 of the Armenian Code (equivalent to Article 72 of the RSFSR Code).

In his declaration to Podgorny, Arutyunyan writes:

After my return from the camps in 1971, I was subjected to persecution by the KGB. My moral and political convictions are at variance with the official ideology and I feel myself alien and irrelevant in this country.

[6] Kestutis Jokubynas: Letter to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party, P. Griskevicius (22 June 1976).

K. Jokubynas states that for two years his applications to emigrate and join his brother in Canada (and to the appeals of his brother) have been met with refusal. On the last occasion the reason given was “because your request cannot be granted.” Jokubynas writes:

If anyone said there was a slave-owning system in the Lithuanian SSR, he would be brought to trial for “slandering Soviet reality”. But what other form of society forbids its citizens to leave their place of residence? I should like to know by what right, on the basis of what law, I have been chained to this particular country?

K. Jokubynas is a former political prisoner who has served two terms of imprisonment; the second sentence was for an attempt to converse with a foreign sailor in the port of Igarka [Northwest Russia]. [See more details in CCE 43.] He now lives in Vilnius and works in the republican library.

[7] Nadezhda Svetlichnaya: To L. I. Brezhnev, Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the CPSU (14 August 1976).

For the last four years I have been in a camp for women political prisoners in Mordovia. The only thing I admit being guilty of, then or now, was my insufficient knowledge of the law, particularly Article 125 of the USSR Constitution and Article 19 of the [Universal] Declaration of Human Rights.

Relying on the right of each person to any information, something which is guaranteed by these documents, I read samizdat literature, among other things, for which I landed in prison …

How could I not have learned to understand Soviet laws? Eighteen months ago I became acquainted with the “Decree on passports” and “Some rules on the registration of citizens”. They were published in the press and contain the relevant article guaranteeing that people returning from imprisonment will be able to renew their former residence permit, regardless of living space, at the homes of their parents, marriage partners or other relatives. However, I and my small son, who is not yet capable of committing any crimes against anyone, have been told for four months that we have no right to live in Kiev, where we had been registered permanently at my brother’s fiat until my arrest; the reason given was the lack of living space which is up to the standards required by the health norms. (This is now calculated at 9.5 square metres per person. Before it was 7 square metres per person and then the question of a lack of living space never arose.) …

Or it may be that I have again misunderstood the laws, and that the “former residence permit” which is mentioned in the “Decree on passports” is a permit to live in the captivity from which I was recently released.

In that case I ask you to send me back to the camp, so that I won’t have to say, in the words of Shevchenko: “I am in freedom now. The freedom of a dog on the end of a chain.”

[8] Nadezhda Svetlichnaya: Declaration (27 September 1976).

In May of this year I was released from a woman’s political camp in Mordovia, where I spent 4 years.

According to the “Decree on passports” now in force, after my release I should have been registered as a resident in the place where I lived before my arrest, that is, in Kiev. Nevertheless I was refused the right to live in that city, to live anywhere, in fact, except for one place — the village of Polovinkino in Voroshilovgrad Region, where I was born, but where I have not lived for 23 years and to which I find it extremely difficult to return for many reasons.

In forcing me to live there and only there, I have in fact been condemned to exile, which was not part of my sentence.

A month ago I sent a letter to the CPSU Central Committee and to L. I. Brezhnev, asking for permission to register for residence in Kiev in accordance with the law, but I have received no reply. Today I am going to find out why there has been no reply. If the answer is negative, my son and I will obviously have no other choice than to emigrate, but even this does not depend, as is well-known, on my wishes alone.

[9] N. Strokata and M. Landa: To the International Federation of Members of the Resistance Movement (October 1976).

A letter in support of Nadezhda Svetlichnaya and her son (see above).

[10] Nina Strokata-Karavanskaya

(1) To the Committee of non-governmental organizations attached to the UN  Children’s Fund [UNICEF],

(2) To the International League for Human Rights,

(3) To the organization “World Goodwill”.

The letters call for action in defence of Pyotr Starchik (see 42.1 “Sent to Hospital for his Songs”).

[11] Open Letter from the Action Group for the defence of Human Rights in Georgia
to the Russian Section of the BBC

Our Action Group for the defence of Human Rights in Georgia is indignant at the fact that on 27 June 1976, without checking and without any relevant comment, you repeated the false information given out by TASS about the alleged act of hooliganism committed by a member of our Group, the writer Zviad Konstantinovich Gamsakhurdia, who is also a member of Amnesty International (see CCE 41 — Chronicle).

If you do not issue a correction … we shall come to the conclusion that you are taking into account the wishes of the Soviet government and closing your eyes to the real situation.

Irakly Kenchoshvili, Merab Kostava, Viktor Rtskhiladze

[12] Leonid Sery: Appeal to the governments of the USA, Britain, Canada, Australia, West Germany and France, to the International Committee for Human Rights and the International Red Cross (September 1976).

The Sery family (he himself is 40 years old, his wife is 32) have six children aged from one year to 13 years. He works as a turner in the port, earning about 180 roubles a month (after deductions), which together with allowances brings their monthly income up to about 230 roubles. L. M. Sery gives detailed facts about prices and the choice of goods in the shops and markets, in order to explain why and how they are always hungry and cannot buy many things they need.

L. M. Sery also describes his unsuccessful attempts to increase his income by getting better work or additional employment (he fulfilled his work norm by 140 per cent), or by getting work for his wife which would fit in with the housework. He writes [?note 4]

I was not satisfied with this situation, I began to protest, to express my dissatisfaction aloud, to write complaints, and I refused to go to political lectures.

I believe that during working hours people should work and not engage in demagogy, slogan-shouting, drawing up proclamations or calling meetings, and 1 say this to the faces of the authorities; as a result they persecute me and call me anti-Soviet.

In answer to complaints he sent to Moscow and Kiev, Sery received threats: “You have unhealthy thoughts and we might have to give you treatment.” At the end of his letter Leonid Mikhailovich writes:

In view of all this and the pressure put on us, we have become convinced that in our country a working man does not have the right to protest; our trade unions have no rights cither and make no attempt to secure them. In reply to our letters we have received only threats and mockery. We decided to write a letter to the 25th Congress of the CPSU, asking them to let us emigrate to any capitalist country. And we also wrote to them that we have no money, so the expenses of our journey will have to be borne by them…

Help us, don’t let us die here from constant lack of nourishment. Indifference is also a crime in God’s sight.

Our leaders should be ashamed that their workers are not in a position to feed their families and it is disgraceful to feed the people with promises and slogans. Please help us to emigrate. We should like to go to America or Canada. There are Ukrainians in Canada, and we would find the language problem easier. We are also Ukrainians.

We’ll wait for an answer, if we stay alive 1 Here’s hoping!

L. M. Sery’s address is: 270005, Odessa, 199 Frunze Street, apartment 128.