Commentary No 16

No 16 : 31 October 1970


  1. Makeyev is the deputy head of the department of housing and communal services [ZhKU], and not, as the Chronicle stated, the head of the department of buildings and works [ZhSU],


English texts of many of these documents may be found in M. Bourdeaux, Religious Ferment in Russia: Protestant Opposition to Soviet Religious Policy (London and New York 1968), Rosemary Harris and X. Howard-Johnston, Christian Appeals from Russia (London 1969), and M. Bourdeaux’s forthcoming Faith on Trial in Russia (London 1971).


The persecution of Mikhail Makarenko (Novosibirsk-Moscow)

  1. For the 1968 letter of protest about the Galanskov-Ginzburg trial and the beginning of Makarenko’s problems in Novosibirsk, see Chronicle 2.2 and Commentary 2.
  2. The “Festival of Bards” – an annual gathering of singer-songwriters that included the nationally famous such as Alexander Galich, Yu. Klyachkin and Vladimir Vysotsky as well as local performers. “Illicit” recordings made at such festivals circulated as magnitizdat, the taped equivalent of samizdat.
  3. The work of all three artists – Pavel Filonov (1883-1941), Robert Falk (1886-1958) and El Lissitsky (1890-1941) – enjoyed a revival after the death of Stalin.
  4. Makarenko’s letter to the February 1968 Budapest Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties may be contrasted to the “Appeal” sent from Moscow by Kostyorin, Bogoraz, Litvinov and others (see 1.4),

For the subsequent treatment of Mikhail Makarenko, see Chronicle 33.5 (In the Perm camps) and Issue 46.10 (Vladimir Prison).


  1. Published in Possev, Frankfurt, 5 July 1963.
  2. Ya. E. Elsberg is referred to in the “Extra-judicial persecution” section of Chronicle 14.10 as “the well-known informer and witness at the secret trials of the thirties and forties”.
  3. R. M. Samarin, Professor of Foreign Literature at the Institute of World Literature was a critic in 1958 of the journal Foreign Literature for its careless selection of material for translation), and in 1969 of vol. 5 of the Concise Literary Encyclopedia for its excessive liberalism.
  4. N. V. Lesyuchevsky, chairman of the board of the Sovetsky Pisatel publishing house is said in the Soviet Union to have denounced the poets B.K. Livshits, B.P. Kornilov and N. Zabolotsky, and the prose-writer Yelena Tager.

Commentary No 5

No 5 : 31 December 1969


[1] Notable prose works appearing in samizdat during previous years.

  • Ginzburg, Krutoi marshrut (1967 (in Grani 64-8, Frankfurt);
    Into the Whirlwind (London 1967)
  • Shalamov stories published 1966-1970 in Novy zhurnal (New York);
    two included in Michael Scammell (ed), Russia’s Other Writers (1970).
  • Lidiya Chukovskaya, Opustely dom (Paris 1964);
    The Deserted House (London 1967);
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn, V kruge pervom (1967);
    The First Circle (London, 1968)
  • Vladimir Maximov, Dvornik Lashkov (Grani 64, 1967).
    House in the Clouds, in Scammell collection (1970).

The books’ tamizdat (published “over there”) dates are given, as a rough indication as to when the work was circulating in the USSR. Evgenia Ginzburg and Varlam Shalamov wrote classic accounts of Stalin’s camps; Chukovskaya’s work is set during the mass arrests of the 1930s; and Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle is a semi-autobiographical account of his time in a sharashka, a secret research establishment where the staff are prisoners.

Item 6 – Response to Sakharov from Estonia

[2] Two documents reached the West at the end of 1968. The first, “To Hope or to Act?”, concerned Sakharov’s well-known Reflections on Progress. The document from Estonia put forward ideas somewhat more radical than the Chronicle’s summary would suggest. Written soon after the Czechoslovak occupation, it warned:

“For twelve years already, since the 20th Party congress, we have waited and asked our leaders for liberating reforms. We are prepared to ask and wait for a certain time longer. But eventually we will demand and act! [see 10.5] And then tank divisions will have to be sent not into Prague and Bratislava but rather into Moscow and Leningrad!”

The second document, an “Open Letter to the Citizens of the Soviet Union” dated September 1968 and signed “Gennady Alexeyev, communist”, made various similar points from a more Marxist position.

The Russian text of “To Hope or to Act?” was published abroad in Possev No. 1, Munich, 1969 and in an English translation in Frontier, London. Vol. 12, No. 2, May 1969.

Item 11 – Grigorenko speech at Kostyorin’s 72nd birthday

[3] In 1968 the Crimean Tatars in Moscow held a birthday party on 17 March for Alexei Kostyorin (1896-1968). Outraged by the invasion of Czechoslovakia on 21 August, Kostyorin had just resigned from the Soviet Communist Party: he did not want, he said, to belong to “the gendarme of Europe”. Seriously ill, he asked ex-Major General Petro Grigorenko (1907-1987) to attend the party and speak instead.

Item 12 – In Memory of Alexei Kostyorin

[4] “I have known Alexei Kostyorin for a very short time. Less than three years. Yet we have lived a whole life together. While Kosterin was still alive, a person extremely close to me said, ‘You were made by Kostyorin’. And I did not object. Yes, he made me: he turned a rebel into a fighter. I will be grateful to him for this to the end of my days.”

Thus spake Grigorenko at Kostyorin’s funeral in November 1968. This was a remarkable occasion for which Crimean Tatars, Chechens, and even Volga Germans had journeyed thousands of miles, and, prolonging an old tradition, it also became a political demonstration.

Kostyorin spent three years in tsarist jails, then a further seventeen years (1938-55) in Soviet prisons, camps and internal exile. After his release a few of his stories and essays appeared (often severely censored) in Novy Mir and elsewhere.

He was the father of Nina Kostyorina [Kosterina], killed in the war, whose Diary [Novy mir excerpts, December 1962; English translation,The Diary of Nina Kosterina, Crown publishers, 1968] is a Soviet equivalent of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Just before his death Alexei Kostyorin resigned from the Party and was also surreptitiously expelled from the Writers’ Union.

Commentary No 18

No 18 : 5 March 1971


  1. The Russian text of one of Zinaida Grigorenko’s letters, dated 11 February, and addressed to “The World Mental Health Society”, is in Possev 5, 1971, pp 5-6. English extracts were published in The Observer, 2 May 1971.
  2. Chernyshov appeal. Russian text in Possev 5, 1971, pp. 3-4.
  3. Victor Fainberg. A shortened text of the document is in Possev 3, 1971, pp. 6-7; the full text in Kaznimye sumasshestviem (punished by madness), a large compilation on Soviet prison-hospitals, Possev Verlag, 1971.


  1. On Karavansky, see also V. Chornovil, The Chornovil Papers, 1968, pp. 166-226, and Michael Browne, Ferment in the Ukraine, London, 1971, Passim.
  2. Krasivsky’s sentence, according to other sources, was twelve years, plus five in exile.


  1. Nos. 1 and 2 appeared as a book: Ukrainsky visnyk. Vypusk I-II, P.I.U.F. – Smoloskyp, Paris (3, rue du Sabot, Paris) – Baltimore, 1971.
  2. Text in Programma Demokraticheskogo Dvizheniya Sovetskogo Soyuza, Amsterdam, 1970. See Chronicle 11.16.


  1. Zarlyk Saginbayev 300 dnei v tylu vraga: dokumentalnaya. povest, Frunze, 1969, reviewed in Sovetskaya Kirgiziya, Frunze, 3 December 1969.
  2. Nasriddinova, President of the Supreme Soviet’s second chamber, The Council of Nationalities.


  1. The text of the 1932 Regulations are to be found in Sobranie uzakonenii … RSFSR, No. 74, p. 331, exact date 10 July 1932.
  2. Article 200 defines this offence as “a self-willed exercise of an actual or supposed right, which has involved infringement of the procedures prescribed by law, and caused substantial damage to citizens or the State or public organizations”.


  1. A leaflet distributed in Moscow on 18 January 1970 by the Belgian student Victor van Brantegem, calling on Shostakovich to intervene not only for the Greek Theodorakis but also for Soviet political prisoners. Text in Possev 2, 1970, pp. 6-7.
  2. Also present at the discussion of the Voinovich story, according to several sources, was a General in the KGB.
  3. Yevtushenko statement on events in Czechoslovakia, dated 22 August 1968, may be found in Abraham Brumberg, ed., In Quest of Justice: Protest and Dissent in the Soviet Union Today, London, 1970, p. 311.
  4. For attacks on Chendei see, e.g., Zakarpatska pravda, 18 July 1969. But see also praise of him in Molodaya gvardiya 5, 1968, p. 299.
  5. Handilstidning, Stockholm, 13 April 1971, reported that Silmale had a serious cancer operation in 1964 and now suffers from high blood pressure. She is the author of essays on Balzac and Pirandello, published as afterwords to Latvian editions of their works, and the translator of Camus’s La Peste, published in Latvian in Riga in 1969.
  6. In this as yet unpublished document the priests gave their addresses as, respectively, Kaunas-Garliava, P. Cvirkas 35, and Sakjai district, Valakbudis. See the text of a similar, collective appeal in Studies on Comparative Communism, Los Angeles, III, 2, April 1970, pp. 141-5.
  7. On Zverev see A. Amalrik, Involuntary Journey to Siberia, London, 1970, chapters 1 and 2.


  1. Exodus No 4 was published in English by the Institute of Jewish Affairs, 13-16 Jacob’s Well Mews, George St., London, W.1.
  2. A. S. Khomyakov, 1804-1860, and I. V. Kireyevsky, 1806-1856, were prominent Slavophiles and religious philosophers. A. I. Dubrovin was a leader of the chauvinist early 20th-century Union of the Russian while A. D. Menshikov (1673-1729) was a rather crude lieutenant of Peter the Great.
  3. Osipov’s statement was published abroad in Possev 5, 1971, p. 8.


  1. See Talantov on these articles in M. Bourdeaux, Patriarch and Prophets: Persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church Today, London, 1969, pp. 332-9. This book also contains the texts of the 1963 and 1966 letters.


  1. Presumably a reference to Stikhi, Frankfurt, 1969, where Gorbanevskaya’s poems of 1956-61 occupied 12 of the 136 pages.
  2. Stikhi contained the last three of these collections.
  3. Published in Grani 76, 1970, pp. 87-91.
  4. Published in Vestnik Russkogo studencheskogo khristianskogo dvizheniya (91, rue Olivier-de-Serres, Paris 15), No. 98, 1970, pp. 148-50.


No 6 : 28 February 1969

6.2 The case of Boris Kochubievsky

[1] “… who is of Russian nationality”. This does not refer just to Larisa Kochubievskaya’s ethnic and cultural background and origins in the multi-ethnic Soviet Union.

From 196// onwards Soviet ID documents (internal “passports”) carried an entry that, from 16 years onwards, fixed and defined the nationality (ethnicity) of the bearer. Boris Kochubievsky’s passport defined him as “Jew” – like 200,000 other residents of the Ukrainian SSR; entry No 6 in his wife’s passport bore the definition “Russian”.

[2] “early 20th century Black Hundreds”. Explain///

6.3 The case of Ivan Yakhimovich

Alexander Nekrich’s book. A reference to June 1941, a study exposing Stalin’s responsibility for the USSR’s unpreparedness for war against Nazi Germany. Closed discussion of Nekrich’s research at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism in 1967 provoked controversy and the book itself would not be published until the late 1980s [JC].///

COMMENTARY (international law)

International Law

Availability of these fundamental texts in a repressive and pre-Internet era. Bukovsky example of Soviet Constitution at Lefortovo Prison. Alexeyeva assertion that only after 1975 did the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the Soviet Union in ///, become readily available to ordinary citizens of the USSR.

Consequence, lack of legal understanding among educated people commented on by Chronicle in reference to reinstatement proceedings at Gerlina tribunal (Chronicle 2.1///)

1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Each issue of the Chronicle of Current Events carried the text of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The English translation of the Chronicle carried a further three Articles on its back cover, and the text:

“Amnesty International is an independent organisation which has consultative status with the United Nations and the Council of Europe. It endeavours to ensure the right for everyone to hold and express his beliefs. Amnesty International works, irrespective of political considerations, for the release of men and women who are in prison because of their beliefs, and for the implementation of the provisions of Articles 5, 9, 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

2. Political prisoners and “prisoners of conscience”

3. The Helsinki Accords (1975)

4. The European Convention on Human Rights and Basic Freedoms (1949///)

5. The European Court of Human Rights (Strasbourg)



Commentary No 11

No 11 :  31 December 1969

11.1 The expulsion of Solzhenitsyn from the Writers Union

[1] Sakhalin – an island off the Far Eastern coast of the Soviet Union, visited by Chekhov in 1890. His impressions of the forced labour camps and exiles’ settlements located there are  recorded in Sakhalin Island, first published in 1893-4.

[2] The USSR was not a signatory of any international copyright convention until the mid-1970s.

11.2 Grigorenko on the Special Psychiatric Hospitals

The noted Russian thinker Pyotr Chaadayev (1793-1856) was officially declared to be mad after the publication in 1836 of an essay in which he saw the only salvation for Russia’s backwardness in the traditions of western Europe and of the Roman Catholic Church. He was not, however, put in a mental hospital. Notwithstanding his oft-quoted  case, and many generalized assertions by Soviet publicists, virtually no hard evidence exists of the tsarist regime imprisoning opponents in mental hospitals, or that the practice ever became more than a passing, local phenomenon.

11.4 Samizdat update

Item 1 – Andrei Amalrik’s Involuntary Journey

Amalrik had been known to the world at large earlier, ever since, on 16 July 1968, he and his wife had demonstrated with placards outside the British Embassy against Britain’s (and the USSR’s) supply of arms to the federal side in the Nigerian civil war. Moreover, as he reveals in his autobiographical Involuntary Journey, he had known members of Moscow’s foreign colony (see 13.9, item 10) since the early 1960s, a fact which accounts in part for the period of Siberian exile (1965-6) described in that remarkable book.

Item 16 – The Action Group and its fourth appeal to the UN

The fourth appeal, dispatched on 26 November 1969 and signed by nine Action Group members, was, predictably enough, intercepted by the censorship. Unlike the previous letter two months before [Commentary 10], which was published in full a few weeks later (see 19 October, The Observer, London), the fast copy of the fourth appeal reached the West over a year later.

11.6 The arrest of Vladimir Gershuni

[1] The Socialist-Revolutionary Party (est. 1901) was the great rival to the Bolsheviks on the left of the Russian political spectrum. In elections to the 1918 Constitutent Assembly the SRs won over half of the votes [JC]

11.15 News in brief (Item 9)

The Chronicle later amended and clarified this item, pointing out first that the name’s correct form in Russian is Mender, in Latvian Menders.

A leading social-democrat, Dr Menders was deported to Siberia in the mid-1940s, but had the luck to survive and to return home in 1955. His 1969 sentence was in fact five years of banishment from Riga, on the charge that he had allegedly given some materials to a foreign tourist. But no memoirs of his have yet been published abroad. In 1970 he was allowed to return to Riga, after a sharp decline in his health, and in April 1971 he died.


No 8 : 30 June 1969

8.5 The 6 June 1969 demonstration by five Crimean Tatars on Mayakovsky Square

* See Julius Telesin‘s detailed account of this episode in his preface to Uncensored Russia, pp. 49-50.

8.10 An appeal to the UN Commission on Human Rights

A fortnight after Pyotr Grigorenko‘s arrest the Action Group for the Defence of Civil Rights in the Soviet Union was formed. From the start the terms ‘civil rights’ and ‘human rights’ were used interchangeably in the group’s title and other such phrases. Both terms have a fairly modest ring. Perhaps because of the re-stalinization process which the group saw beginning, the more radical notion of ‘political rights’ was eschewed. Indeed, in such an atmosphere the very creation of the group required enormous courage, given the acute, almost paranoiac fear which the secret police in totalitarian states always feel for groups beyond their close control. As the fifteen people concerned represented not only Moscow but also Leningrad, Kiev, Kharkov and the exiled Crimean Tatars in Central Asia, violent KGB antagonism was in fact certain. Nor were these people cranks, but intelligent, mostly professional men and women with an average age of somewhat under forty.

8.11 The Independent Union of Youth (Vladimir)

[Article 126 in Chapter 10 (The Fundamental Rights and Duties of the Citizen) of the 1936 Constitution of the USSR reads “In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to develop the organizational initiative and political activity of the masses of the people, citizens of the U.S.S.R. are ensured the right to unite in public organizations – trade unions, cooperative associations, youth organizations, sport and defense organizations, cultural, technical and scientific societies […]”, JC.]

8.14 News in brief

Item 13 – Mustafa Dzhemilev among Tatars deported from Moscow

Mustafa Dzhemilev was born in 1944. In 1962 he was one of a group of young Crimean Tatars in Tashkent which took part in the growing Tatar campaign to be allowed to return home to the Crimea. For this he was sacked from his job in an aircraft factory. Six years later he wrote — at Pyotr Grigorenko’s request — a fascinating memoir about the group’s activities. In 1966-7 he spent a year and a half in prison. In 1970 he was duly sentenced to three years in strict-regime camps, as a co-defendant of Ilya Gabai [see 12.3]