19.12 Samizdat update

No 19 : 30 April 1971

[1] Social Problems, issue No. 9 (January-February 1971), compiled by V. Chalidze.

Contents:

1. O. O. Gruzenberg, “Shame” (reminiscences of the Beilis case [of 1911-13]).

The author, one of Beilis’s defence counsels, describes the attitude of the authorities, public reaction to the trial and the selection of a line of defence. Gruzenberg is of the opinion that the ruling circles of Russia were convinced of Beilis’s innocence. “There was not a single member of the monarch’s immediate circle”, writes Gruzenberg, “who was not convinced of Beilis’s innocence. But none the less even the ancient Russian principle ‘neither take revenge by trial, nor grant favour by trial’ was sacrificed. Public opinion expressed itself in numerous protests by scholars, writers and the press. Our line of defence was to take part as little as possible in the tangled discussion of the existence of Jewish dogmas which, it was said, allowed the use of Christian blood, and to concentrate our attention on proving Beilis innocent.”

2. Dietrich A. Loeber, “Legal Rules ‘For Internal Use Only’’’ (translation) [6].

The established procedure for the publication of normative acts [any generally binding orders which may or may not have the force of law] in the Soviet Union, and how it is put into practice, is compared with procedure and practice in East Germany, Poland, Yugoslavia, West Germany, Switzerland and the USA. In the USSR, according to the author’s information, which is based on an analysis of Soviet sources, over 80% of the Resolutions of the Council of Ministers are not published, although they are not all of a normative character. Evidence is produced indicating how Soviet courts make use of unpublished legislative acts.

3. Documents of the Committee for Human Rights.

(a) A. S. Volpin: “An expert opinion on questions raised in a letter by G. K. Makudinova [wife of Andrei Amalrik]”. Comparison of certain articles of the Code of Criminal Procedure with the RSFSR Code of Practice of the Legal Profession demonstrates a disparity in the conception of defence counsel’s duties. A law is needed to regulate the duties of defence counsel and to define precisely the grounds on which he is entitled to decline a brief. It is explained that defence counsel is obliged to give his client complete information on the way he is handling the brief. The client may defend his right to be given complete information through the courts.

(b) “The right to defence”. (An expert opinion on legal assistance.) An examination of the right of an accused to be represented by the defence counsel of his choice at any stage of a criminal trial. The law provides an adequate guarantee of this right in the court of first instance. Demands that defence counsel show his “pass”, which are often made in practice, are always unlawful, and when the case is being held in open court they are also senseless. The Russian Code of Criminal Procedure does not stipulate that defence counsel and appellant must necessarily be present at an appeal hearing in the court of second instance, therefore, contrary to Article III of the Constitution, it does not guarantee the right to defence. This contradiction should be eliminated.

4. “The scientist’s charter”.

(Ratified by the first General Assembly of the World Federation of Scientific Workers in 1948.) its aim is to promote scientific freedom and progress.

5. Documents on legal practice

V. N. Chalidze: To the Moscow City Procurator. A note on the legal status of the Committee for Human Rights.
V. N. Chalidze: Letter to USSR Procurator-General Rudenko on a verdict delivered by the Apsheron District People’s Court on 29 June 1968.

*

[2]

A. Krasnov: “The living word.”

A reply to “Message to the Nation” (CCE 17.13, item 16 [full text in Survey, London, 1971, no. 80]). The author argues against the “Russian patriots” (“Message to the Nation” is signed thus) from the stand-point of a Christian and a democrat. That which divides people and engenders hostility among them the author calls the dead word. “The living word is the word of the struggle for liberty, equality, fraternity and justice among people.” Thus the essay ends.

[3]

Sergei Severny: “To the authors of ‘Message to the Nation’”.

This essay is devoted to exposing the unsound logic and lack of scientific integrity of the “Message to the Nation”.

[4]

Robert Conquest, The Great Terror, London, 1968.

An anonymous translation of two chapters, “The problem of confession” and “Foreign misapprehensions”, from a book dealing with the “show trials” of 1936-1938 (on this book, CCE 14.12, item 10). [“Foreign misapprehensions” is in fact not a chapter, but one section of the book’s Epilogue, ed.]

The chapter “The problem of confession” analyses the methods used by investigators to extract confessions from prisoners, on the basis of a vast quantity of documentary material, using both Soviet and foreign sources (memoirs of former prisoners, stenographic records of the trials, Khrushchev’s report at a closed session of the 20th Party congress, various items from the Soviet and foreign press). Not confining himself to a history of the “show trials”, the author directs the reader’s attention to the fate of the millions of innocent victims.

In the chapter “Foreign misapprehensions” Conquest explains the reasons for those misapprehensions and for the conscious distortion in the West of events taking place in the USSR, and shows that this factor led to an intensification of the uncontrollable terror.

[5]

P. Yakir, “To the Presidium of the 24th Party Congress”

(copies to the delegates of foreign communist and workers parties). 27 March 1971. An Open Letter (here reproduced in an abridged form).

… In the internal life of our country a dangerous trend towards the restoration of Stalinist methods of government has begun to make itself felt in recent years, and in art, literature, historical works and memoirs—towards the rehabilitation of Stalin himself, one of the greatest criminals of the 20th century. It is understandable that the Stalinists, dreaming of revenge, find this trend to their liking. But is it not understandable or natural that it provokes protests from those who warmly welcomed the ‘liquidation of the consequences of the cult”? Is the alarm of many thousands of people not understandable, when the shadow of the sombre monster has once more loomed up before them? That alarm is felt by an enormous part, if not the overwhelming majority, of our creative, scientific and technical intelligentsia, that alarm is felt by the thousands of representatives of the national minorities, whose rights, trampled underfoot in the Stalin period, have to this day not been restored, and by many, many other citizens of the Soviet Union who are not indifferent to the fate of the country.

In the second half of the 1960s a great torrent of letters, appeals and statements—individual and collective, on specific questions and general ones- came flooding into various Party and government organisations. The critical content of these documents was in the vast majority of cases utterly loyal. It was natural to expect that the leaders, who had announced the final “liquidation of the consequences’’ to the whole world, would politely and competently explain to their fellow-citizens where their criticism was just and where unjust.

WHY THEN WAS THE ANSWER TO CRITICISM AT BEST SILENCE, AND AT WORST, JUDICIAL AND EXTRA-JUDICIAL PERSECUTION?

Once more political prisoners have appeared in the camps. Once more “persons of unsound mind”, for whom the main sign of “recovery” is a volte-face in their beliefs, have appeared in the psychiatric prison-hospitals. Once more public recantations are required, and those who do not recant—and sometimes those who do—are demoted, dismissed, expelled from their institutes. The selectivity and “discrimination” with which repression is carried out (for equal “guilt” one man gets off with a reprimand at work, another gets off scot-free, but a third is given several years in the camps) only underline the arbitrariness and lawlessness of the repression.

Answering criticism with persecution – whose method is that? Who finds it necessary? Is that the way to prove one’s righteousness to one’s fellow-citizens and to the world? IS THAT THE WAY TO ACHIEVE THE IDEOLOGICAL UNANIMITY OF SOCIETY? It merely causes the circle of malcontents to broaden, irrespective of how their discontent finds expression.

Samizdat has appeared, and is stubbornly continuing to exist. Is that not a sign that the spiritual needs of society are not being properly satisfied? And is imprisonment on account of samizdat a way of satisfying spiritual hunger?

Why can France see the Soviet film Andrei Rublyov, but not the Soviet Union? Why can foreign communists read and admire Solzhenitsyn, while in the Soviet Union we can read only malicious articles about him?

Who would think of writing to the UN or appealing to world public opinion, if his own leaders were to give convincing answers to the serious questions troubling serious people?

The conclusion suggests itself: POLITICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL DISSENT, EVEN IF IT IS LOYAL, IS SECRETLY CONSIDERED TO BE A CRIME IN OUR COUNTRY.

My personal experience is a “happy drop” in the ocean of the far less happy fortunes of others, some of whom are known to me, others unknown General Grigorenko, the poetess Gorbanevskaya, the communist Yakhimovich, the mason Gershuni, the engineer Pomazov, the poet and pedagogue Gabai, the student Dzhemilev, the philologist Fainberg, the worker Borisov, the artist Kuznetsov, the physicist Kadiyev, the worker Vorobyov, the engineer Ubozhko, the actor Vail, the mathematician Pimenov, the historian Amalrik, the worker Dremlyuga, the engineer Altunyan – and many, many more whose fate, like the future of our country, depends on the decisions of your congress.

Notes

[6] From The International and Comparative Law Quarterly, London. January 1970.