58.5 The Trial of Victor Kapitanchuk

No 58 : November 1980

On 2 September Tatyana Kapitanchuk telephoned Moscow KGB investigator Levchenko, who was conducting the case against her husband Victor Kapitanchuk, a member of the Christian Committee to Defend Believers’ Rights in the USSR (arrested 12 March, CCE 56). She asked him whether he knew what her husband’s opinion was on the engagement of a defence counsel. Levchenko promised to find out and telephone her, and also asked her whether she was sending money to her husband.

On 10 September Levchenko telephoned to tell her that she could send her husband a parcel: “Not too much salami, but lots of cheese, and some coloured pencils. “ When the parcel was delivered the pencils were not accepted.

On 12 September Tatyana Kapitanchuk was approached at Leninsky Prospekt Metro Station by a policeman, who asked for her documents and took her to the police office in the station. He recorded where she lived and worked, and asked her where she was coming from. When she asked why the police were interested in this, the policeman replied that she “had no right to ask”.

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On 17 September Levchenko informed Tatyana that he would allow her a meeting with her husband. The meeting took place the following day in the presence of investigators Levchenko and Yakovlev.

The meeting was granted after a request from Kapitanchuk. He spoke favourably of conditions in the Lefortovo Investigations Prison and about the treatment he had received from the KGB officers. He said that he was allowed to read the Bible and to pray, and no pressure was being brought to bear on him. At first he had pleaded not guilty, refused to give testimony and written a protest letter about his arrest. Then, after studying the documents of the Christian Committee to Defend Believers” Rights in the USSR, reports of medical examinations, court verdicts and other materials, he had realized that he had broken the law. On realizing this he had found strength, so he said, in religious meditation. He stated during the meeting that he was sure his activities had been contrary to the spirit of the Gospels.

According to Kapitanchuk, during the investigation he had not mentioned any names, nor was he asked to do so, since by the time of his arrest the investigators had already obtained all the necessary material. He had also had a face-to-face meeting with Gleb Yakunin. Kapitanchuk asked Yakunin whether he had any “moral complaints” about his repentance. Yakunin asked whether the “repentance” was sincere. Kapitanchuk told him that it was, to which Yakunin replied that he had no complaints. Kapitanchuk had great hopes for his future religious activities. “The time of militant atheism in the USSR has already ended,” he said.

After the meeting, which lasted approximately two hours, the items confiscated during a search at their home were returned to Kapitanchuk wife. These include tape-recordings on cassette and spool, notebooks, a typewriter, religious works by Kapitanchuk, and three religious pamphlets published abroad.

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During the investigation Kapitanchuk was presented with approximately twenty documents of the Christian Committee. He stated that the documents contained assertions which he knew to be false at the time of the documents’ composition, for example the claim that there existed special camps for believers, which were full of Baptists and Pentecostalists, and that hundreds and thousands of dissenters were being treated in psychiatric hospitals for their beliefs. (He did not accept that the documents as a whole were libellous.) He stated that he had never been an enemy of the Soviet authorities: he had merely tried to rectify particular shortcomings.

Whilst under interrogation Kapitanchuk wrote a letter to the US Congress at the request of the KGB. In this he requested that documents he had signed should not be used for purposes hostile to the interests of the Soviet Union. He was also requested to state in the same letter his opinion of Sakharov and of the activities of Tatyana Velikanova. He refused.

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From 8 to 9 October the Moscow City Court, presided over by V. G. Lubentsova (who also tried Yakunin, this issue CCE 58.3), heard the case of Victor Afanasevich Kapitanchuk (b. 1945), who was charged under Article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. The prosecutor was a Senior Assistant Procurator of Moscow City, Funtov, and defence counsel (appointed by the court) was lawyer Vasilyeva.

The trial was held in the Moscow City Court building. Apart from the “special public”, only the wife and brother of the accused were admitted to the courtroom. The proceedings were recorded on film and described in detail in a report by TASS correspondent Matvei Belov for distribution abroad.

The report says in part:

Victor Kapitanchuk stated: “I plead absolutely guilty of conducting anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda in written and spoken form, with the aim of weakening the Soviet regime, whilst living in Moscow between the years 1976 and 1979.”

He also admitted that, together with Gleb Yakunin and Lev Regelson, who were also convicted in the courts recently, and with others, he systematically prepared, reproduced and circulated literature containing libellous fabrications which defamed the Soviet social and political system. He also pleaded guilty to sending the literature which he wrote during these years in different ways to the West, where it was widely distributed and actively used by anti-Soviet organizations and centres of propaganda in their hostile activities against the Soviet State. He was aware of this before his arrest…

“I fully admit,” Viktor Kapitanchuk stated in court today, “that by my crimes I contributed to the hostile activities of anti-Soviet organizations and groups abroad against the Soviet Union,

“These actions of mine have brought harm to the Soviet State,” said Kapitanchuk, “and I deeply regret this. “

As stated in the indictment, which was read out today, during the investigation Kapitanchuk pleaded guilty, stated that he sincerely repented of what he had done, condemned his anti-Soviet activities, and stated that he would desist from them in future.”

In court today he gave a statement to the court which he asked to be published. Witnesses were called today at the open hearing of the criminal case against Victor Kapitanchuk. Amongst those called were Lev Regelson and also Nazarenko, Shadrina, Prikhodko and others…

Their testimonies confirmed Kapitanchuk’s involvement in the writing and circulation of such anti-Soviet literature as a “Statement to the Press on Adherence to HAIG [Helsinki Agreement Implementation Group]” of 19 October 1977 [CCE 47], and letters and statements dated 4 January and 18 May 1978 and 4 February 1979.

These documents formed part of the case materials and contain slanderous fabrications about allegedly systematic “political repression” in the USSR, and claims about alleged unlawful prosecutions of individuals not for actual crimes, but for their political or religious beliefs.

These and other letters and appeals in the case materials contain false claims that in the Soviet Union the authorities use “psychiatric repression” against such individuals, and that people known to be sane are interned in psychiatric hospitals because of their beliefs, and are tortured there. In other writing he slandered the USSR Constitution, grossly distorted the policies of the Soviet State and the CPSU on religion and the Church, rejected the democratic nature of the mature socialist society, and subjected the constitutional rights of Soviet citizens to harsh criticism.

The evidence given in court demonstrates that Victor Kapitanchuk maintained links with a number of foreign correspondents working in Moscow and with other citizens of capitalist states of an anti-Soviet disposition, in particular the journalists Vale, Kent, Le Gall, Miletich, Mydans, Ruane, Reppert, Satter, Savborg, Hastad, Hutter, Shipler, Evans and others. On a number of occasions Kapitanchuk arranged large gatherings at his own home or at the homes of his fellow-thinkers, which these correspondents attended. Slanderous documents were circulated and their contents discussed, Kapitanchuk made oral statements in which he slandered the Soviet social and political system, and he gave literature of similar contents to the journalists for wide distribution in the West …

As a result of Kapitanchuk’s crimes the anti-Soviet “Washington [Street] Research Centre” [note 6] published and distributed in the West more than ten compilations in English and Russian which defamed the Soviet system and were actively used by imperialist circles in the USA and several West European countries, and by foreign anti-Soviet organizations and centres of subversion in their activities against the Soviet Union and their interference in its internal affairs. The accused stated that he had maintained links through Yakunin and Regelson with Dakin, an editor at the “Washington Research Centre”. “There was an agreement between Yakunin and myself,” said Kapitanchuk, “that all the documents we wrote concerning the situation of believers in the Soviet Union should be sent to Dakin.”

The case materials also contain copies of archival summary records of criminal cases, copies of court decisions and other material connected with the investigation of certain individuals who are mentioned in the literature fabricated by the accused, which claims that, though not guilty, they suffered for their beliefs. This material demonstrates that these persons were prosecuted with justification for definite crimes (appropriation of State property, illegal possession of fire-arms, etc), and that the information about them circulated by Kapitanchuk is libellous.

The court examined excerpts from medical histories and statements submitted by psychiatric institutions concerning persons mentioned by Kapitanchuk in his fabrications. These documents prove that Kapitanchuk’s claims of “psychiatric repressions” in the USSR are libellous, in view of the long-standing illnesses of the persons concerned, who have undergone courses of treatment in psychiatric hospital. Psychiatrists from Moscow psycho-neurological clinics, questioned in court as witnesses, fully disproved the inventions of Kapitanchuk, and stressed that his libellous fabrications were defaming the work of Soviet psychiatric institutions …

During the open trial of Victor Kapitanchuk it was noted that his conduct, his full recognition of his guilt during both the investigation and the trial, and his detailed evidence about the circumstances of his crimes had all helped to establish the truth about the case …

In his final speech Kapitanchuk stated:

“I fully repent of my crime, I condemn my criminal activities, and sincerely assure the investigators and the court that in future I will desist from such activities, and in my work I shall endeavour to make good the harm I have caused to the Soviet State and people.”

His sentence: five years, suspended. He was released from custody in the courtroom.

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Kapitanchuk graduated from the Chemistry Faculty of Moscow University in 1967. Until recently he worked as the Director of a Laboratory in the All-Union Scientific Restoration Centre for Works of Art.

In 1965 he was baptized. For further information on the joint activities of Kapitanchuk, Yakunin and Regelson between the years 1971-9 see “The Trial of Yakunin” and “The Trial of Regelson” (this issue, CCE 58.3 and 58.4).

In 1978 the samizdat journal Obshchina (Community) No. 2 (CCE 57) published an article by Kapitanchuk entitled “The Ontological Problem of Russian Sophiology”.