Responses in Moscow to events in Czechoslovakia, July-August 1968 (3.1)

<<No 3 : 30 August 1968>>


On 26 July 1968, a thirty-year-old loader, Anatoly Marchenko, sent an open letter to the editors of the [Czechoslovak] newspapers Rude pravo, Literarni listiand Prace, voicing his protest against the campaign of slander and insinuations against Czechoslovakia, and speaking of the threat of intervention in that country.

Two days later, on 28  July 1968, Anatoly Marchenko was arrested in the street and sent to Butyrka prison in Moscow. He was charged under Article 108 (Infringement of ‘passport’ [identity card] regulations) of the Criminal Code.

Anatoly Marchenko, 1938-1986

From 1960 to 1966, Anatoly Marchenko had served a sentence in the Mordovian political camps on a trumped-up charge of treason [Article 64]. On completing his prison sentence, Marchenko wrote a book, My Testimony, an uncompromising, factual document on conditions in contemporary Soviet political camps and prisons. The facts given in Marchenko’s book could not be refuted by the punitive organs of the country. The author began to be subjected to administrative blackmail and arbitrary measures. After a short interval he received two warnings that he was infringing the passport regulations. The first warning he received after undergoing a serious [medical] operation, the second was simply illegal.

On 21 August 1968, [Moscow’s] Timiryazev district people’s court (under Judge Romanov) examined the case of Marchenko, accused under Article 108 of the Russian Criminal Code.

A seriously ill man, suffering from progressive deafness and anaemia, who has spent a great part of his life in the unbearable conditions of strict-regime camps and corrective prisons, he received the maximum sentence under that article — one year of strict isolation from society.

A group of Anatoly Marchenko’s friends (Ludmila Alexeyeva, Larissa Bogoraz, Yury Gerchuk, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Pyotr Grigorenko, Victor Krasin, Pavel Litvinov and Anatoly Jakobson) appealed to the citizens of our country in a letter revealing the true reason for Marchenko’s arrest.

During the night of 7-8 August Irina Belogorodskaya was arrested on charges of circulating this letter. She was accused under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code, which carries a sentence of up to three years for spreading information which defames the Soviet social system. A search was carried out in Belogorodskaya’s flat and in the flat of three of the letter’s authors.

Irina Belogorodskaya is so far in Lefortovo Prison.


On 29 July a letter was handed in to the Czechoslovak embassy, signed by five Soviet Communists: P. Grigorenko, A. Kostyorin, V. Pavlinchuk, S. Pisarev and I. Yakhimovich. It approved the new course of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and condemned Soviet pressure on Czechoslovakia [CCE 5.1, item 1.2]. On July 30th, Valery Pavlinchuk died.

A young physicist from Obninsk, one of the most active and public-spirited people and communists of the city, a talented scientist and teacher, Pavlinchuk was expelled from the Party and dismissed from his work for circulating samizdat. Shortly before his death he sent an open letter to Alexander Dubcek, in which he directly expressed his solidarity with the new political course in Czechoslovakia, seeing it as an example of real socialist construction, free from dogmatism and excessive police control.


Even before the invasion, Czech newspapers had disappeared from the book-stalls [1], and with the invasion L’Humanité, Unità, The Morning Star, Borba, Rinascita and other [foreign communist] publications ceased to arrive. Regular jamming of broadcasts from foreign radio stations began. The press and the airwaves were monopolized by our own propaganda.


On 24 August, in Moscow’s October Square, a certain citizen shouted out a slogan against the invasion of Czechoslovakia and was roughly beaten up by some strangers in plain clothes. Two of them hustled him into a car and drove off; the third remained beside a second car. Indignant onlookers began to demand that the police should detain this participant in the assault. But the police only examined his papers.


Many incidents are known of non-attendance on principle at meetings held with the aim of achieving unanimous approval for the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia. There have also been cases where people have found the courage either to refrain from voting or to vote against giving such approval. This happened at the Institute of the International Workers’ Movement, at the Institute of the Russian Language [CCE 2.2], in one of the departments of Moscow State University, at the Institute of World Economics and International Affairs, at the Institute of Philosophy and at the Institute of Radio Technology and Electronics.


Two students of the Mechanics-Mathematics Faculty of Moscow State University were arrested after gathering signatures for a petition of protest. These students are now free.