43.6 The Helsinki Groups

No 43 : 31 December 1976

The Moscow [Helsinki] Group (see CCE 40.13), continuing its work of collecting and studying information about infringements of the humanitarian articles of the Final Act, has compiled 15 documents and made them available to the public and to government leaders. [1] Documents 1-6 were reported in preceding issues of the Chronicle (CCE 41.8 & 42.10). The subsequent documents produced by the group are summarized below:

Document 7 (October) – “New arrests on charges of religious or propagandist activity”. This reports the arrest of six Baptists; among those arrested were three women (CCE 42.6).

Document 8 (October) – “On abuses of psychiatry”. This reports the forcible incarceration in hospitals of Pyotr Starchik (CCE 42.1 and this issue, CCE 43.10), Eduard Fedotov (this issue, CCE 43.11), Nadezhda Gaidar, Alisa Otrokhova and Eduard Maslov. The document provides some statistics: “About 12 persons a day are taken away by the police from the reception of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet alone and sent for examination by duty psychiatrists. A further two or three persons a day are sent there because they tried to enter an embassy. In addition, an unknown number are taken from other public buildings and some straight off the streets (those who spoil the look of the landscape).”

Document 9 (October) – concerns the infringement of the right of residents of the village of Ilinka, Voronezh Region, to emigrate from the USSR.

The inhabitants of this village, Russian by descent, have long been adherents of Judaism and consider themselves to be Jews (they are indeed Jews according to the laws of Judaism). In their documents they are also registered as Jews. A number of families from here left for Israel in 1974. The document describes the difficulties the authorities put in the way of those villagers who want to leave. The chairman of the collective farm, Viktor Tarasov, does not pass on invitations sent from Israel to those they are addressed to, but hides them in his desk: “And don’t hope to get hold of them, there’s nothing for you to do in Israel!” If an invitation reaches the addressee (by indirect means), there are attempts to take it away, the necessary forms are not issued, and so on.

“The local authorities have stated that they will not allow any of the residents of Ilinka to leave in future, as they do not consider them Jews”, reports the Group.

Document 10 (November) – is about the persecution of Crimean Tatars who try to resettle in the Crimea.

Documents 11-14 (December) report the grave infringements of the right of citizens to leave the country they live in.

In its general comments on these four documents, the group notes: “The Soviet government insists on reducing the contents of all the humanitarian articles of the Final Act to a single point – the uniting of families (while denying its own shortcomings in this sphere too). It would like to get other States to adopt this same attitude, in the same way as it has imposed it on its own citizens.”

Documents 11-14 report the desire of many people to leave the USSR for other, non-family reasons. Some because of religious persecution, e.g. hundreds of Pentecostalists (see Document 11 and its appendices). Others because of discrimination against the families of Ukrainian political prisoners and against the prisoners themselves after their release: Document 12 provides a list of families of Ukrainian political prisoners who are trying to emigrate to Canada or the USA, as well as a list of political prisoners who have renounced Soviet citizenship (26 in all).

Document 13 reports the desire of four workers’ families to emigrate from the USSR for economic and political reasons. These are the families of L. Sery (see “Appeals and Statements”, CCE 42.11, item 12), V. Ivanov, I. Sivak and V. Pavlov (on the last three see this issue “The Right to Leave One’s Country”, CCE 43.15).

The struggle by Emilia Ilina of Leningrad for free emigration, without an invitation or payment, is described in Document 14 and its appendices (see above-mentioned section).

Document 15 (December) – “On the expulsion of seven pupils from the Venolis secondary school (Vilnius)”. The real reason for the pupils’ expulsion from school was their refusal to give false evidence against V. Petkus – this was the conclusion the group came to (see this issue “Events in Lithuania”, CCE 43.12).

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The group has also issued appeals to various international organizations and other statements. [2] Some of them have been noted in CCE 41.8 and 42.10. In October and December the following statements were issued: on the threats to settle accounts with Anatoly Marchenko without a trial (30 October); on the persecution of members of the group – Alexander Ginzburg, Anatoly Shcharansky and Vladimir Slepak (30 October); on the searches and interrogations of the lawyer D. I. Kaminskaya and the jurist K. M. Simis (2 December); a special report on the pressure being put on Malva Landa, a member of the group (2 December); a statement on the persecution of the Ukrainian Group (27 December).

The episodes referred to in these statements are described in various sections of this issue of the Chronicle.

Since the very beginning of its activity, the group has accepted written statements from individuals concerning infringements of the humanitarian articles of the Final Act. The number of statements addressed to the group is growing fast. People travel from a great distance to appeal to the group’s leader or one of its members for help. Contacts with people outside Moscow have led to journeys “announced in advance” as part of the group’s work: the group announces to journalists in Moscow that a journey will be undertaken, at its request, to gather relevant information about particular human rights’ violations on the spot.

In the summer of this year A. Ginzburg and V. Turchin undertook such a “pre-announced” journey to Lvov, to elucidate the position of political prisoner Ivan Gel’s family; his wife and relations had been terrorized by KGB officials, who accused them of making public Gel’s statement about his hunger-strike (CCE 42). Later V. Turchin travelled to Maikop at the group’s request in connection with the detention of driver V. Pavlov.

Document 9 was compiled as a result of a visit by V. Slepak and A. Shcharansky (members of the group) and A. Lipavsky to the village of Ilinka in Voronezh Region:

“It turned out that getting there was not so easy. The Muscovites were detained at a distance of 3 kilometres from the village and after two days of discussion with leaders of the collective farm, the village soviet and district police, they were expelled from the district” (quotation from Document 9).

At the end of October L. Alexeyeva undertook an announced journey to Vilnius. She had the task of collecting information about the exile of Roman Catholic bishops Julijonas Steponavicius and Vincentas Sladkevicius and about the expulsion from school of Catholic boys in Vilnius. The fruits of her journey were used in document 15 and in the joint document issued by the Moscow and Lithuanian Groups (see this issue “Events in Lithuania”, CCE 43.12).

The group is in contact with the corresponding group at the US Congress, with the governments of some countries who took part in the Helsinki Conference, and with international non-governmental human rights organizations. The Soviet authorities are hindering these contacts, particularly by preventing the group from sending documents through the post. Notifications of delivery have been received only for documents sent to the Soviet government (no answers have followed).

Ukrainian Group

On 9 November 1976 the Ukrainian Public “Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements” announced its formation.

In the corresponding declaration [3] the Group stated: “Experience shows that observance of the Helsinki Agreements (especially the humanitarian section) cannot be guaranteed without the participation of the public as a whole.” The group intends to promote the [1948] Universal Declaration of Human Rights and will try to ensure that this document – without its bureaucratic distortions – becomes the basis for relations between the citizen and the State.

The group declared that it would study and publicize facts about the infringement of human rights in the Ukraine and also those relating to Ukrainians living in other republics.

The group has 10 members:

Oles Berdnik – a science-fiction writer; in 1972 he was expelled from the Union of Writers (CCE 25). In 1949-1956 he served a sentence in a camp. He now lives in Kiev.

Pyotr Grigorenko – the group’s representative in Moscow.

Ivan Kandyba – a jurist. In 1961 he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment (CCE 33) as one of the authors of the programme of the “Union of Workers and Peasants” (which was never actually set up). Since his release he lives under surveillance in Lvov Region (CCE 42).

Lev Lukyanenko (b. 1927) – a jurist, the chief defendant in the same case. He was sentenced to be shot, but the sentence was commuted to 15 years. Now lives under surveillance in Chernigov, works as an electrician (see this issue “News in Brief”, CCE 43.17, item //), Has often defended the rights of political prisoners.

Oksana Meshko – mother of Alexander Sergienko, who is now in Vladimir Prison; in 1947-56 she was a political prisoner. Well known for her many statements in defence of civil rights in the Ukraine and in defence of her son (CCE 38). Lives in Kiev.

Mykola Matusevich (b. 1946) – a historian. He was expelled from college for “unreliability” and then sacked from his job. Lives in Kiev.

Miroslav Marinovich (b. 1949) – an electronics engineer, who has been sacked from his job three times for his friendship with dissidents. He is now an editor in the Tekhnika publishing house. He lives near Kiev.

Nikolai [Mykola] Rudenko (leader of the group) – a writer, author of over 20 published books. During the Second World War he was a company political officer and was seriously wounded. He was expelled from the CPSU and the Union of Writers because of his philosophical and economic works. He is a member of the Soviet Amnesty International group (CCE 36).

Nina Strokatova [Strokata] – a microbiologist, wife of political prisoner Svyatoslav Karavansky (see CCE 13.7). In 1972-1976 she served a term in the Mordovian camps. She lives under surveillance in Tarusa [Kaluga Region, RSFSR].

Alexei [Oleksa] Tikhy – a teacher; in 1957-1964 he was a political prisoner. After his release he was banned from working in his profession. In 1976 he was subjected to searches (CCE 41). He lives on the Izhevka farmstead in the Donetsk Region.

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At the beginning of December 1976 the group published a “Memorandum”. A section on “Typical infringements of human rights” gives a historical survey of the sorrows of Ukraine – from the 1933 famine (with its 6 million victims) to the political trials of the 1960s and 1970s.

It particularly mentions those trials in which propaganda advocating Ukrainian separatism or even simple discussion of it was defined as a crime: “anti-Soviet propaganda” or “creating an anti-Soviet organization”. Cruel sentences were passed in the 1970s on the smallest suspicion of “nationalism”. The Memorandum asserts that the continuing imprisonment of Ukrainians in political camps and prisons is a grave violation of the Helsinki Agreement, and gives a list of 75 political prisoners (with a proviso that the list is incomplete). Details are also given of six Ukrainians who have been put in psychiatric hospitals for political reasons.

Immediately after the Group was founded, crude pressure was brought to bear on its members. On the night of 10 November stones came flying through the windows of Mykola Rudenko’s flat. Rudenko himself was not at home. Oksana Meshko, who was in the house, was wounded by the stones. The police refused to investigate the attack: “It’s an insignificant incident – after all, nobody was killed.”

At the end of December searches were carried out at the homes of Rudenko, Berdnik, Kandyba, Lukyanenko and Tikhy (see this issue “Arrests, Searches, Interrogations”, CCE 43.7).

Lithuanian Group

Information about the Lithuanian “Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements” is given in this issue in “Events in Lithuania” (CCE 43.12).