44.2.2 – The Arrest of Alexander Ginzburg [3 February 1977]

<< No 44 : 16 March 1977 >>

On 2 February 1977 an article, “Liars and Pharisees”, was published in the weekly Literaturnaya gazeta under the signature of A. Petrov (Agatov). Its appearance aroused serious concern for the fate of Alexander Ginzburg and Yury Orlov.

The same day a press conference was called at Ginzburg’s flat. Ginzburg told correspondents that in view of the dangerous accusations made against him in the newspaper he had decided to report for the first time the details of his work as representative of the Fund to Aid Political Prisoners and their Families.

The fund was founded by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in April 1974 from the royalties for The Gulag Archipelago. Part of the money was left by the Solzhenitsyn family before their departure [from the USSR in February 1974]; part was received in 1974-75 in the form of money certificates. Ginzburg himself stopped receiving transfers from abroad in his name from the beginning of 1976. Ginzburg said that the only way in which he had received money from abroad since then was when people brought him Soviet money and said: “This is money which Solzhenitsyn asked to be given to you for assisting political prisoners.”

In addition, about 70,000 roubles were collected in the Soviet Union. A thousand people gave money to the fund. In three years 270,000 roubles were received and distributed. In 1974 assistance was rendered to 134 political prisoners and their families; in 1975 to more than seven hundred families; and in 1976 to 629 families. The decrease in the number of families in 1976 can be partly explained by the threats to which many people who benefited from the fund were subjected (in particular, those in exile were threatened that their situation would worsen). Besides regular help to political prisoners and their families, help was given on a once-only basis to people who had been released from the camps or from prison.

“If I am now arrested,” said Alexander Ginzburg, addressing the journalists, “then I ask you to pay great attention to the work of those who replace me, as they will certainly need it.”

The following day, 3 February, Alexander Ginzburg was arrested. Ginzburg’s wife described his arrest in a letter to Amnesty International:

… On the evening of 3 February my husband went out, lightly dressed, to make a call from a phone box: the phone in our flat was cut off long ago by the authorities. He went out and did not come back. He was seized at the entrance to our building and it was considered unnecessary to inform me of this. Leaving my two small children at home, myself sick and with a temperature, I together with friends drove round police stations all evening, until, at the KGB reception, when it was by then night time, I was told that according to their information my husband had been ‘detained’. The following day it became clear that ‘detained’ meant arrested.

“The same evening, 3 February, KGB officials, knowing full well about my husband’s illness, took him to Kaluga Prison (Kaluga is 200 kms from Moscow) …”

A. I. Ginzburg is being held at this address: Kaluga Investigation Prison, 110 Klara Zetkin Street, postbox IZ 37/1. The case is being conducted by Lieutenant-Colonel Oselkov, a senior investigator for especially important cases of the Kaluga Region KGB.

Alexander Ilych Ginzburg was born in Moscow on 21 November 1936. After finishing school he worked in a theatre (as an actor and assistant director), and as a newspaper reporter. In 1956 he entered the faculty of journalism of Moscow University.

In 1960 he put together the [samizdat] poetry collection Syntaxis, which published the verse of the SMOG poets, and of Bella Akhmadulina and Genrikh Sapgir. Ginzburg’s own poetic efforts were also printed in the collection. The same year Ginzburg was arrested and convicted of forging documents: he had sat some examinations for a friend.

In 1962, after his release, having with difficulty registered as a resident of Moscow, he tried to get work of any kind, but everywhere met with opposition from the powers that be. He worked in sewage disposal, as a lathe operator, as a laboratory assistant and a librarian.

In 1964 Ginzburg was held for a few days in the Lubyanka. Shortly afterwards a letter appeared in the Vechernyaya Moskva [Evening Moscow] newspaper under Ginzburg’s signature, in which he dissociated himself from the sensation around his name in the Western press. Ginzburg actually composed a letter of this sort, but the published text had little in common with that of the author.

In 1966 he entered the Historical Archives Institute as a student. In 1967 Alexander Ginzburg was arrested for compiling the White Book, a collection of materials about the trial of Sinyavsky and Daniel. In January 1968 he was convicted (CCE 1.1, 1.2, 1.3) together with Yury Galanskov, Vera Lashkova and Alexei Dobrovolsky under Article 70 of the Russian Criminal Code. The “Trial of the Four” aroused a stream of protests (CCE 2.1), which proved to be the beginning of systematic resistance to the violation of human rights in the USSR and served as a stimulus to the founding of the Chronicle of Current Events.

Ginzburg spent his five years of imprisonment first in the Mordovian camps, then in Vladimir Prison. In 1972 he was released at the end of his term and settled in Tarusa. In all subsequent years he was subjected to constant oppression and reprisals. Twice he was placed under administrative surveillance; he was not allowed to come to Moscow to see his mother, wife and children; difficulties were put in his way to prevent him from obtaining any, even the most unskilled job, whilst at the same time attempts were made to bring him to trial for parasitism.

Since 1974 Alexander Ginzburg has been the official representative of the Fund to Aid Political Prisoners and their Families. He has been a member of the Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR [Helsinki Group, CCE 40.13] from the moment it was founded.

While Ginzburg was in the camps he developed an ulcer from which he suffers to the present time. Soon after the search on 4 January Ginzburg entered hospital with a diagnosis of pneumonia with an underlying tubercular infection. On being discharged he was referred to a tuberculosis clinic. At the moment of his arrest he was still undergoing regular treatment. In the first few days of February Ginzburg should have gone into hospital for treatment of his ulcer.

Ginzburg has two children, one aged four and the other two years old.

The day after his arrest TASS announced for publication abroad:

… Ginzburg was arrested with the approval of the Kaluga City Procurator for activities at variance with the law. He is a character without a definite occupation, a parasite who began his career with speculation and buying up icons.

“In 1961 he was convicted of cheating, and in 1968 he received 5 years for anti-Soviet activities. Already at that time links were discovered with the pro-fascist émigré organization the NTS, which, as is well known, is linked with Western secret services.

“After his release he continued to be actively engaged in anti-Soviet activity, the specific nature of which, one must suppose, will be disclosed during the investigation. As has already been announced, a search was carried out at Ginzburg’s flat, as a result of which materials were confiscated which testify to his direct links with the NTS, also anti-Soviet brochures and Zionist lampoons, and also a large quantity of Soviet and foreign currency…”

On 4 February people began signing a collective statement in defence of Alexander Ginzburg. It speaks of his extensive activities as a manager of the Fund to Aid Political Prisoners and as a member of the Helsinki Group. It points out that Ginzburg’s activities have continually elicited libel on the part of the Soviet media.

“The trial, if indeed it takes place, will be the revenge of the authorities on a courageous man, for his charity and kindness. The sentence, if indeed it is pronounced, will be equivalent to the murder of a father of two young children.”

The letter demands the immediate release of Alexander Ginzburg. Under the letter are 321 signatures. Amongst those who signed are inhabitants of various towns in the Soviet Union: friends and acquaintances of Ginzburg; former political prisoners and exiles; representatives of various dissident groups; Jews who have been refused [exit] visas; representatives of religious communities; and independent artists.

In addition, many other letters in defence of Ginzburg have appeared (see CCE 44.19 “Letters and Statements”).

On 4 February at a press conference the Helsinki Group and the Action Group [for the Defence of Human Rights] announced that Ginzburg’s successors as managers of the Aid Fund would be Tatyana Khodorovich, Malva Landa and Kronid Lyubarsky.

The joint statement of the groups was handed to journalists. It spoke of the alarming situation that had arisen recently, and announced that the KGB was now hunting for Yury Orlov.

On the evening of 6 February a search was carried out in Tarusa at the home of a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, Nina A. Strokatova, in connection with the Ginzburg case. The search was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Oselkov. None of those conducting it besides Oselkov showed any documents. Oselkov himself stated that they were “his boys” and the witnesses, but it was not permitted to see their documents.

The brigade searched Strokatova’s house and the personal effects of her guests: Yelena Danielyan, Kronid Lyubarsky and [his wife] Galina Salova. The record of the search was compiled extremely carelessly and after protests was written afresh.

During the search Oselkov spoke rudely and when asked to be more polite began to threaten that he would call the police and removing the guests from the house.

Salova and Danielyan tried to add comments to the record, but Oselkov forbade them to do this,[1] stating: “It’s clear to me what sort of people you are.” Samizdat, a Declaration of the Ukrainian Helsinki group and letters in defence of Ginzburg were confiscated during the search.

On 9 February Pyotr Grigorenko, Zinaida Grigorenko, Valery Turchin, Sofia Kalistratova, Andrei Sakharov, Lydia Chukovskaya, Lev Kopelev, Alexander Korchak and Yelena Bonner appealed to the Kaluga Region Procurator to change the measure of restraint imposed on A. I. Ginzburg. They asked that he be released him from custody until the trial on their personal guarantee or on bail.

Although the authorities are obliged by law to reply within a period of two weeks there was no response whatsoever.

On 25 February a search was carried out at the Tarusa home of Ginzburg. The search warrant, signed on 2 February 1977, indicated that the case was being investigated  according to the second part of Article 70 of the Russian Criminal Code (until then it was not known under which article Ginzburg was being charged).

Lieutenant-Colonel Oselkov conducted the search. Lieutenant-Colonel Nikiforov, Lieutenant Danilov, Lieutenant Pustoshinsky, Lieutenant Petrachenko and Klimenko took part in it. The search was carried out in the presence of Kronid Lyubarsky and Oleg Vorobyov, whom they brought to the house (they were registered as residing there).

The search lasted from 12 noon on 25 February until 6.50 am on 26 February. Those carrying it out were rude and did not especially trouble themselves to observe legal formalities.

The officers confiscated textbooks for studying foreign languages, dictionaries, and books in foreign languages, including one by the American poet Allen Ginsberg with his verses against the Vietnam War. They removed an unused film, notebooks, old carbon paper and various notes about political prisoners. They took away two of Ginzburg’s letters from Vladimir Prison, his appeal against his sentence to the Procurator and the speech of Ginzburg’s lawyer Boris Zolotukhin at the trial in 1968. They confiscated a knife from Ginzburg’s work room.

In the storage space above the kitchen door they found a box containing samizdat of the 1968-70 period and copies of various court verdicts and statements to official bodies (including statements by Ginzburg himself). They called the box a hiding-place and spent a long time photographing it.

In the West Andrei Amalrik, Vladimir Bukovsky, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Pavel Litvinov, Natalya Solzhenitsyn and Valery Chalidze issued protests against Ginzburg’s arrest.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn has requested the famous American lawyer Edward Bennett Williams to take on the defence of Alexander Ginzburg at the forthcoming trial.

In his letter to Williams Solzhenitsyn wrote that Alexander Ginzburg, as representative of the Public Fund, had rendered assistance to hundreds of political prisoners and their oppressed families; in conditions of constant opposition from the Soviet authorities this work demanded unusually noble human qualities. Solzhenitsyn expressed his certainty that the Soviet authorities, unable to charge Ginzburg directly for his charitable activities, would raise false charges against him. At the end Solzhenitsyn wrote that he would without fail bring to the lawyer’s notice every detail about the case.

Williams replied to Solzhenitsyn that he would take on the case and submit a visa application to the Soviet embassy in order to go and see his client. Williams considers that his chances of receiving an entry visa and access to the case are slight, although certain points of the Helsinki Agreements give a legal basis to such a request.

(In 1961, at the request of the Soviet Embassy in the USA, Williams took on the defence of G. Melekh, a Soviet employee at the United Nations, who had been charged with espionage. The case did not go to trial, as agreement was reached on Melekh’s expulsion from the country.)

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NOTES

[1] CCE 45.21 corrects this statement, saying that it did not apply to Salova.