20.7 The Trial of Anatoly Levitin-Krasnov

<< No 20 : 2 July 1971 >>

On 8 May 1971 the measure of restraint imposed on Anatoly Krasnov, who was at liberty during the investigation, was changed: he was taken into custody.

On 19 May 1971 the Moscow City Court convened at the premises of the Lyublino district court to hear the case against the Orthodox writer A. E. Krasnov-Levitin (charged under Articles 190 and 142, para. 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). The Judge was [V. V.] Bogdanov [who presided at the trials of Natalya Gorbanevskaya, CCE 15.1, Olga Ioffe, CCE 15.2, and M. Ya. Makarenko, CCE 16.7)]; the Procurator was Biryukova; and counsel for the defence, A. A. Zalessky.

A group of friends and relations of A. E. Krasnov had gathered in front of the court. Only his step-mother, G. A. Levitina, and Academician A. D. Sakharov were allowed into the court-room.

The indictment contained many quotations from Krasnov’s works, which formed the basis for the charge of slandering the Soviet social and political system and of “inciting servants of the church to violate the law on the separation of church and state” (Article 142). A. E. Krasnov-Levitin was also charged with signing a number of appeals and petitions in 1968-69, of which the Letter to the Budapest meeting of communist parties and the Appeal to the UN of May 1969 [41] were singled out for special attention.

Krasnov-Levitin pleaded not guilty on all counts, claiming that the arguments in the indictment were based on an arbitrary and incorrect interpretation of excerpts from his works. He explained that his works contained criticism of individual phenomena, not slander against the system, and that he had expressed his actual opinions, not deliberately false fabrications. Krasnov informed the court that several of the quotations cited in the indictment as examples of “anti-Soviet slander” were texts from the Holy Scriptures.

The witnesses – G. Yakunin and V. Borozdinov (both priests), Father Agafangel (Dogadin), a priest-monk at the Pskovo-Pechorsky monastery, V. Lashkova [41a], V. Berestov, E, Kushev, [42] V. Shavrov, L. Kusheva and others – testified that they had read the works of Krasnov and saw nothing slanderous in them.

Procurator Biryukova repeated the indictment and asked that Krasnov-Levitin be sentenced to three years of ordinary-regime corrective-labour camps.

Defence counsel A. A. Zalessky refuted the arguments of the indictment point by point and asked the court to draw its own conclusions from his address.

In his final words A. E. Krasnov-Levitin said:

“I am a believing Christian. But the mission of Christianity consists in more than going to church. It consists in putting the behests of Christ into practice. Christ called upon us to defend all who are oppressed. That is why I defend people’s rights, whether they be Pochayev monks, [43] Baptists or Crimean Tatars, and if convinced opponents of religion should some day be subjected to oppression I shall defend them too…. No right-thinking man considers that it is a crime to criticise individual tenets of the law and suggest adjustments to them. This democratic right of every citizen was won in the hard struggle for freedom by the English, French and October revolutions.

“. . . I have written the truth and nothing but the truth. Everything in my work is based on documentary facts and is in accordance with reality. … I consider that the Procurator’s address is a disgrace to Soviet justice. . . .”

(For information: a transcript of Krasnov-Levitin’s final address circulating in samizdat contains a few factual inaccuracies.)

In its verdict the court deleted three items from the indictment (the paragraphs on the Pochayev monks, on blessing the water, and on excerpts from the letter to TASS), changed the charge from Article 142, para. 2 to Article 142, para. 1, and sentenced A. E. Levitin (Krasnov) to one year of corrective labour at his place of work with deduction of 20% of his wages under Article 142, para. 1; and three years of ordinary-regime camps under Article 190-1.

On A. E. Krasnov-Levitin and his works, see the case of Levitin-Krasnov, CCE 15.5, 17.12 (item 23), and 19.12 (item 2).

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 The Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR has sent an appeald to the UN Human Rights Commission, Pope Paul VI and the General Assembly [Pomestny Sobor] of the Russian Orthodox Church describing Anatoly Emmanuilovich Krasnov-Levitin as a man of high morals; he is a convinced opponent of any sort of violence or political extremism, his weapon being the public word addressed to the conscience. “The verdict of the Moscow City Court can be seen as yet another act of arbitrary tyranny by the authorities against dissenters, against believers, against fighters for Human Rights in our country.”

The appeal was supported by 30 people.

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Academician A. D. Sakharov has appealed to Podgorny, chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet, to alleviate the fate of Krasnov.

“The works of Levitin on which the charges against him were based”, Sakharov writes, “in fact express a viewpoint natural for a believer on the moral and philosophical meaning of religion; they state opinions on present-day internal church problems, and also discuss from loyal and democratic standpoints the problems of freedom of conscience. … I was present in court and am convinced that there has been no violation of the law by anything Levitin has done.”

[Full text in Russkaya mysl, Paris, 11 September 1971.]

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An Open Letter by Gennady Smirnovsky (Moscow), “Behind the closed portals of Themis” – a report from Krasnov-Levitin’s place of trial – has appeared in samizdat.

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In June, before the sentence had even been confirmed by the appeal court, Krasnov was transferred from Butyrka Prison to the Krasnaya Presnya Transit Prison [in Moscow] where he was put on general duties.

[Commentary No 20]

20.7 The Trial of Anatoly Levitin (Krasnov)

[41] Texts in A. Brumberg, in Quest of Justice: Protest and Dissent in the Soviet Union Today, London, 1970, pp. 171-3, 458-61.

[41a] Vera Lashkova was a co-defendant with Galanskov, Ginzburg and Dobrovolsky at their trial in in January 1968.

[42] A godson of Levitin. Kushev’s book of verse, Ogryzkom karandasha, Possev-Verlag, 1971, has a foreword by Levitin.

[43] See Krasnov-Levitin’s materials in Zashchita very v SSSR [Defending the faith in the USSR], Ikhthus, Paris, 1966, pp, 63-87. The monks were from Pochayev in Western Ukraine.