Survey of samizdat, December 1968 (5.1)

«No 5 : 31 December 1968»

Samizdat is a specific medium for exercising freedom of expression in our country. During the last few years samizdat has evolved from a predominant concern with poetry and fiction towards an ever greater emphasis on journalistic and documentary writing. This is particularly true of 1968.

In this year samizdat has not been enriched by a single major prose work [1], as it was in past years by such works as the novels of Solzhenitsyn, the memoirs of Eugenia Ginzburg, the collections of stories by Shalamov, and the novels by Chukovskaya, Maximov and others; during the year no literary miscellany such as Syntax or Phoenix has appeared. On the other hand the readers of samizdat (they are also its volunteer publishers) have received during the year a regular flow of documents, open letters, speeches, commentaries, articles, news items, etc. In other words samizdat, in addition to its role as a supplier of books, has begun to carry out the functions of a newspaper.

The following survey will probably not be a full one. Furthermore, the notes on some of the materials are too brief – but this is due to force of circumstances, and does not mean that they are of lesser importance. Consistency has not always been shown in deciding whether to include various materials of 1967 which were circulated mainly in 1968. The Chronicle feels, however, that the task of giving readers a survey of the samizdat now in circulation is so important that it does not wish to restrict itself by considerations of a formal bibliographical nature.

samizdat in 1968
Kostyorin, Yesenin-Volpin, Marchenko, Sakharov


Materials on Czechoslovakia

1.1 Translations from Czechoslovak articles and documents

The first document to appear in this category was a speech made last year [1967] by Ludvik Vaculik at the 4th Congress of Czechoslovak Writers. This speech gave a detailed account of the workings of a totalitarian regime. Attacking an undemocratic regime based on the triumph of “mediocrities”, Vaculik emphasized in the strongest terms that “in criticizing the State regime, I am not casting aspersions on the ideals of socialism, for I am not convinced that all that has happened in this country was inevitable and, furthermore, I do not identify the power in question with the idea of socialism …”

In the spring and summer of 1968, a great variety of materials from Czech and Slovak newspapers and periodicals was circulated. Among them were interviews with the widows of Slansky and Clementis [the communist leaders executed in 1952], and other materials about the trials of the 1950s; speeches by Dubcek, Smrkovsky, Cisar and other leaders of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. Particularly important was the fact that samizdat made available the full text of the declaration known as “Two Thousand Words”, which in the official Soviet press was described in a misleading way. Samizdat has also put into circulation an example of a truly free, non-totalitarian polemic: Joseph Smrkovsky‘s “One Thousand Words in Reply to Two Thousand Words”.

The “Czechoslovak Spring” was interrupted by brute force at the end of the summer. There are several samizdat documents relating to the first days of the occupation: leaflets addressed to Soviet soldiers, and messages to the population. “On the third day of this treacherous aggression we are still free,” begins a message from the historians of Prague to their fellow-citizens: “this brutal invasion has not brought our people to its knees’.

In the months since the Moscow Agreement [of 26 August 1968] only very few Czechoslovak materials, unfortunately, have come into circulation via samizdat. The most important of these was the speech by Joseph Smrkovsky on 29 August, in which the President of the Czechoslovak National Assembly said outright that “the country has suddenly been occupied by overwhelming military force”. He admitted that the Czechoslovak leaders in Moscow had been forced to accept a tragic compromise which had been dictated, however, not by cowardice but by a feeling of responsibility towards the population of the country. “The talks and the decisions arrived at weigh heavily on our shoulders,” Smrkovsky said in conclusion. “We are obliged to conduct this debate in the shadow of the tanks and aircraft that have occupied our country. The only way out of these difficulties is through the unity of the people and the government, through obedience to the call: ‘we are with you, as you must be with us’.”

Of the later documents one may mention the appeal of the Czech writers of 31 October and the “Ten Points” of the Students’ Union of Bohemia and Moravia which formed the political basis of the student strike of 18-20 November. The Ten Points are an expression of complete support for the “action programme” of the Czechoslovak Communist Party; they condemn any return to press censorship and government by an inner caucus, and demand guarantees of civil rights and liberties.

1.2 Open letters and articles by a Soviet author about the issue of Czechoslovakia

Before the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, at the end of July 1968, when the Soviet press was conducting a particularly violent campaign against the democratization in Czechoslovakia and when the threat of intervention seemed more real than at any time before or after, there had already appeared two documents expressing sympathy for Czechoslovakia and indignation at the propaganda campaign: a letter to all members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and the whole Czechoslovak people [CCE 3.1] signed by five Communists, P. Grigorenko, A. Kostyorin, V. Pavlinchuk, S. Pisarev and I. Yakhimovich; and an open letter by Anatoly Marchenko [CCE 3.1] to the Czechoslovak newspapers Rude pravo, Prace and Literarni listy.

The sending of Soviet troops to Czechoslovakia under the guise of “fraternal help’, unanimously approved in the pages of the Soviet press, met with various forms of protest from individual Soviet citizens. Among the samizdat reactions to these tragic events may be mentioned:

  • the letter of Ivan Yakhimovich;
  • “September 1969” by Valentin Komarov;
  • “The Logic of Tanks”, an article by an anonymous author;
  • “An appeal to Communists” signed “Communist’;
  • a letter by P. Grigorenko and A. Kostyorin; and also a letter to the Party’s Central Committee from A. Kostyorin, resigning from a party “which has become the gendarme of Europe’.

All these documents, though differing in style and form, make the same points: (a) the intervention in Czechoslovakia is the result of a revival of Stalinism; (b) the real reason for it was a wish to suppress democratization, freedom and the rule of law, and to destroy a dangerous experiment in combining socialism with democracy; (c) the invasion was a moral defeat for the occupiers; (d) our people and intelligentsia are collectively responsible for what has happened, and all honest, thinking people in our country must unite.


Materials on the trial of Ginzburg, Galanskov, Dobrovolsky and Lashkova [January 1968]

The main letters on this trial [CCE 1.2] were listed in the first issue of the Chronicle. Apart from these, there are samizdat versions of the speeches by the defence lawyers B. A. Zolotukhin and D. I. Kaminskaya, as well as of the final pleas of the defendants Alexander Ginzburg and Yury Galanskov, for whom they appeared.

There is also the letter to the editors of Literaturnaya gazeta from Vadim Delaunay, in which he shows, from his knowledge of the preposterous evidence given by Dobrovolsky in the investigation of the case in which he (Delaunay) was implicated together with Bukovsky and Kushev, that the sentences in the [Galanskov] trial were based on false evidence by Dobrovolsky. Also circulating in samizdat are letters sent by various people to Larissa Bogoraz and Pavel Litvinov after their statement [about the Galanskov trial] – the best known of these is the letter signed by twenty-four school children.

Among the people listed in the second issue of the Chronicle as having been subjected to extra-judicial repressions were the schoolteachers Yury Aikhenvald and his wife Valeria Gerlina [CCE 2.1] who were dismissed from their jobs after signing one of the letters on the trial. Their dismissal was carried out in such a flagrantly illegal way that the school had to reinstate them after a court order. The record of a discussion of Gerlina’s case at a trade union meeting at her school and in the education department of the local Soviet is circulating in samizdat. Apart from its purely documentary value, which derives mainly from the light it throws on how little the concept of legality means to the mass of educated people, this record is one of the few documentary works of the past year which can be read for literary pleasure as well as for the information it provides.


Materials about the forcible confinement of Alexander Volpin and Natalya Gorbanevskaya in psychiatric hospitals

This event was reported in the first issue of the Chronicle. The confinement of Volpin in a mental home [CCE 1.3, item 2] gave rise to a whole number of documents: the note which Alexander Volpin left for his wife when he was taken from his home; a record of his conversations with the doctors; his appeal to his friends; a letter from his wife, Victoria, to the Minister of Health, B. V. Petrovsky; a letter from 99 mathematicians in his defence; a note written by his wife and mother, about the conditions under which he was held in the hospital; the text of the order by which he was forcibly confined, and other materials.

The story of how Gorbanevskaya was sent to a mental hospital is told in her own account entitled “Free Medical Care”.


Materials concerning the 25 August 1968 demonstration on Red Square

The main letters connected with this [CCE 4.3] were listed in the Chronicle. In addition, there is now a letter addressed to the deputies of the USSR Supreme Soviet and the RSFSR Supreme Soviet. The main point made in this letters that the sentences imposed on five of the demonstrators is an infringement of fundamental civil rights.

The letter was signed by 95 people, including the leading actor Igor Kvasha, the writer on church affairs A. Krasnov (Levitin), the Doctor of Biological Sciences A.A. Neifakh, the writer Victor Nekrasov, the historians Leonid Petrovsky and Pyotr Yakir, Doctor of Philology L. Pinsky, and the pianist M.V. Yudina.

Some of the most striking samizdat items of 1968 were the final pleas at their trial of Larissa Bogoraz, Pavel Litvinov, Vadim Delaunay, Vladimir Dremlyuga and Konstantin Babitsky, and the speech made in her own defence by Larissa Daniel [Bogoraz].


The case of the demonstration on Pushkin Square of 22 January 1967

The documents on this case have been assembled by Pavel Litvinov. Included among them are verbatim records of the trial of Victor Khaustov and of that of Vladimir Bukovsky, Vadim Delaunay and Yevgeny Kushev. A number of other documents, which have been circulating in samizdat since the beginning of 1968, are reproduced in this collection. In the autumn it was also published [in Russian] in London, but unfortunately this edition – for some unaccountable reason – omits the letter of P.G. Grigorenko which forms the logical conclusion to the whole collection. [The letter is included in the English-language edition].


Andrei Sakharov’s Reflections on Progress [Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom]

The author of this study, an Academician and “Father of the H-Bomb”, attempts an rigorous and objective approach to world problems. He shows that the world is threatened by a number of dangers: thermonuclear destruction, famine for half of mankind, uncontrolled changes in the environment, threats to intellectual freedom, the growth of racism and nationalism, and the emergence of dictatorial regimes.

In Sakharov’s opinion the only solution is to be found in overcoming the divisions among humanity, attempts to bring the two economic systems closer to each other, an intellectually rigorous, objective and democratic approach to the formulation of domestic and foreign policy, intellectual freedom, aid to underdeveloped countries through a drastic reduction in military expenditure, and the observance of geo-hygiene. In line with these basic propositions Academician Sakharov makes concrete recommendations to the leaders of our countries.

Sakharov’s study has evoked a response from members of Estonia’s technical intelligentsia.  In an article entitled “To Hope or to Act?” [2] they maintain that Sakharov “puts too much faith in scientific and technical means, in economic measures, in the goodwill of those who control society, and in people’s common sense”, and that “the root causes he sees and the remedies he advocates are external, material ones, while the inner, spiritual, political and organic ones are ignored”. The article says that what we need most of all is a moral revival of society, since, “having destroyed Christian values, the materialist ideology has not created new ones”. This has given rise to a society in which solidarity is an external, mechanical thing, and one which is actually based on socially alienated individuals who are fearful of their neighbours and feel insignificant and lonely before the state machine. New moral values are essential. The authors of the article demand not only intellectual freedom, but also political freedom, real democracy and a renunciation of the doctrine of militant, aggressive communism in foreign policy. The authors of the article conclude that the “leading minds of our society” should apply themselves to working out new social, political and economic ideals.


Appendix to Anatoly Marchenko’s My Testimony

Marchenko‘s book, which gives an account of the life of Soviet political prisoners during the current decade, came into circulation in 1967. One can form a partial idea of it from the letter by Marchenko [CCE 2.6] included in the second issue of the Chronicle. This letter, together with a number of other documents, forms part of an appendix to the book compiled in the autumn of 1968, when Marchenko was sentenced for infringement of the identity-card regulations and sent to a strict-regime camp in the north of the Perm Region.

The appendix includes:

  • Marchenko’s letter to A. Chakovsky, editor of Literaturnaya gazeta [the weekly “Literary Gazette”], in reply to a sentence about political prisoners being kept “at public expense” in the latter’s “Reply to a Reader”;
  • Marchenko’s open letter to the President of the Soviet Red Cross [and Red Crescent Societies] and to a number of other officials about the situation of political prisoners; the reply to this letter from the Vice-President of the Soviet Red Cross Executive Committee, F. Zakharov;
  • Marchenko’s open letter to the Czechoslovak newspapers;
  • a statement by eight friends of Marchenko concerning his arrest;
  • Larissa Bogoraz‘ letter, “On the arrest of Anatoly Marchenko”; and a statement by the same author in connection with the arrest of Irina Belogorodskaya.


Documents concerning Solzhenitsyn

These consist of: Veniamin Kaverin’s letter to Konstantin Fedin; Solzhenitsyn’s correspondence with the secretariat of the Union of Soviet Writers; and a record of the discussion in the secretariat of his novel Cancer Ward. For an account of these documents see the second issue of the Chronicle [CCE 2.5].


Two letters by Lydia Chukovskaya

The first letter, “Not an Execution, but Thoughts, Deeds”, was written in connection with the 15th anniversary of Stalin’s death. It concerns the threat of a revival of Stalinist methods of ideological repression.

The second letter, “The responsibility of a writer and the irresponsibility of Literaturnaya gazeta”, is concerned with Solzhenitsyn, his readers and his critics.


A letter from P. Grigorenko to Yu.V. Andropov

An account of the author’s “prophylactic chat” at the KGB.


Speech by Grigorenko at a dinner in honour of A.E. Kostyorin’s 72nd birthday

This speech is about Alexei Kostyorin’s life, the support which he has given to the cause of the Crimean Tatars, and the tasks which confront their movement. [3]


The Funeral of A.E. Kostyorin

The writer Alexei Yevgrafovich Kostyorin died on 10 November 1968. He was a member of the Soviet Communist Party since 1916, a former prisoner of Stalin’s camps, and an active fighter for the rights of men and justice for small nations. He was buried on 14 November. Between 300 and 400 people were present at his funeral [4].

The samizdat booklet on this event consists of:

  • a preface by the chief compiler [Pyotr Grigorenko];
  • a description of the funeral (“Yet another mockery of sacred feelings”) written by P.G. Grigorenko;
  • an obituary written by a group of Kostyorin’s friends and read out by Anatoly Jakobson at the morgue of the Botkin Hospital in Moscow;
  • speeches at the morgue by Muarrem Martynov (Crimean Tatar poet), S. P. Pisarev (member of the Communist Party since 1920), Ablamit Borseitov (school-teacher) and [Reshat] Dzhemilev (engineer);
  • speeches at the crematorium by Professor Refik Muzafarov (Doctor of Philology), and P. G. Grigorenko (Master of Military Sciences);
  • speeches at the subsequent memorial meeting by Pyotr Yakir (historian), Khalid Oshayev (Chechen writer), Andrei Grigorenko (technician), Zampira Asanova (doctor), Leonid Petrovsky (historian), and an unknown man to whom the compilers of this collection of documents have given the pseudonym “a Christian”.


Information bulletin, issued by representatives of the Crimean Tatars in Moscow

In 1968, as in past years, these bulletins continued to describe the activities of the Crimean Tatars’ representatives in Moscow, and to provide information about the persecution of individual members of the movement as well as about large-scale acts of repression (such as the events in Chirchik [Uzbekistan] on 21 April and in Moscow on 16-17 May). The Bulletins also contain various appeals by the Crimean Tatars’ representatives [CCE 2.4] to cultural figures and to world public opinion. One of these appeals was reproduced in the second issue of the Chronicle.


Crimean Tatars on Trial

This anonymous pamphlet describes the tragic expulsion of the Tatars from the Crimea, the struggle they have waged for their rehabilitation and recent repressive court proceedings in which “every document containing information about the national movement … is regarded by the local authorities as being anti-Soviet, while peaceful demonstrations and meetings … are described as ‘mass disorders’.” The author of the pamphlet recalls the events in Chirchik [Uzbekistan], the police raids in Moscow and the Crimea, and the suppression of the national movement for justice for the Crimean Tatars.


Nikolai Alexandrov, “Our short memory”

A pamphlet about historical “forgetfulness”, which is not only an insult to the memory of millions of innocent victims, but also a real threat to the future of our people.


Anatoly Krasnov, Christ and the Master, Stromati, “The situation of the Russian Orthodox Church”; “Drops under the microscope”

Christ and the Master is an attempt to discuss several basic questions of Christian teaching through a literary and philosophical study of [Mikhail] Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita. The thread of the argument is provided by the chapters in the novel about Christ. The book is written in a free, discursive manner with frequent digressions into the author’s personal reminiscences and reflections.

The Greek word stromati literally means “carpet’, but in the figurative sense of “miscellany” it was used by various ancient teachers of the Church as the title for their books. Written in the form of observations loosely tied together by the general theme of the part a Christian should play in society, Krasnov’s book deals with such questions as the moral responsibility of a Christian to society, the role of the Church in the life of society, and the collaboration of Christians with people of different views in the solution of common moral and political tasks. The author gives a brief survey of the various political trends at the present time and states his attitude towards them. At the end of the book the author gives his political credo, which he defines as “democratic humanism’, and calls on people of different persuasions to unite on this basis.

His letter on “The situation of the Russian Orthodox Church” is addressed to the Pope, and it gives an account, based mainly on the author’s personal observations, of the attitude of different generations of Russians to religion and the Church, the way in which some young people are turning to the Church, and the relations between different faiths. He raises the need for an inner revival of the Russian Orthodox Church, and examines the difficulties in the way of this. The author speaks of the criticism which he and others have made of the Russian bishops, and contends that such criticism is both justified and necessary. The question of uniting the Western and Eastern Churches is also touched upon in this letter.

The article “A Drop under the Microscope” is about the difficulties which have arisen at the parish level in the Russian Orthodox Church as a result of a change in the parish administration. This change consisted of taking the administration of parish affairs out of the hands of the priest and transferring it to the council of twenty laymen headed by a church elder. The author shows that this reform is in conflict with canonical tradition, and he points out the practical consequences which it entails in conditions of constant interference by the authorities in the life of the church: infringement of the rights of the priest, unchecked power for the elder, who is appointed by the state authorities, etc. As an illustration, the example of the Nikolo-Kuznetskaya church [in Moscow] is described in detail. The author also treats the more general question of the way in which the Russian Orthodox Church has been denied its rights in the Soviet Union, and of the responsibility of the Church hierarchy itself for this state of affairs.


Two letters from the Pskov Priest, Father Sergy Zheludkov

In a letter to Pavel Litvinov, S. Zheludkov expresses his support for the appeal by Litvinov and Larissa Daniel, “To world public opinion”, and speaks of the aims shared by all “people of goodwill”, irrespectively of how they define their views.

The “Letter on the Day of St Nicholas and Victory Day” (9 May 1968) is addressed to the heads of various [foreign] churches. It was written after reading Anatoly Marchenko‘s book My Testimony [1967]. Referring to this book, the author speaks of the grievous situation of political prisoners in the USSR and he calls on all Christians, and particularly their spiritual leaders, to speak up in their defence.


Archbishop Ermogen, Letters to the Patriarchate

“On the 15th anniversary of the re-establishment of the office of Patriarch (notes on its historical, canonical and legal aspects)”

The first of the letters by Archbishop Ermogen to the Patriarchate, in which he disputes the legal validity of his dismissal, was written in November 1967; the second in February 1968.

In these letters he not only shows the illegality of his dismissal, brought about under pressure from the authorities as a reprisal for his staunch resistance to actions detrimental to the Church; he also attempts an analysis, from the point of view of both canon and secular law, of the whole question of relations between Church and State in the USSR.

There is an even more detailed study of this question in his article “On the fiftieth anniversary of the re-establishment of the office of Patriarch” (25 December 1967) which makes numerous references to the decisions of the Ecumenical and National Councils of the Orthodox Church, including the National Council of the Russian Church of 1917-1918.


Open letter to the Kiev community of Baptists and Evangelical Christians

This letter is the latest in a series of similar letters which appeared in 1967 and is in defence of the Baptist preacher G[eorgy] P. Vins who was arrested in 1967 and is being subjected to cruel treatment in a camp. The letter is signed by 176 members of the community in the name of four hundred Baptists and Evangelical Christians in Kiev.


B.V. Talantov, “Statement to the USSR Procurator-General”

This statement contains protests against the persecution to which the author, who lives in the city of Kirov [Volga District], is being subjected for his opposition to interference by the Soviet authorities in the affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, and against the acquiescence in this interference by the church hierarchy.


G. Pomerants, “Three levels of being”; “Man of air”

The first article is about the roots of religious feeling in man. The author examines the various levels of being which arise with the awakening of different of the human psyche. The author concludes that there is an “amorphous” mystical sense of religion, which is outside the Church and is not limited to the dogmas and Holy Scriptures.

The second article is about the concept of “the people” [narod]. The author concludes that the concept has no real content.



In 1968 there were three new collections of verse: Alexander Galich, Book of Songs, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, The Wooden Angel (verse of 1967), and Yuly Daniel, Verse of 1965-7. Apart from these there are, as usual, many individual poems circulating in samizdat – they include “Farewell to Bukovsky” by Vadim Delaunay, and several poems by unknown authors written under the impact of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.


Human Rights Year in the Soviet Union: “A Chronicle of Current Events

Four issues

No 1 : 30 April 1968

Description of the trial of Yury Galanskov, Alexander Ginzburg, Alexei Dobrovolsky and Vera Lashkova. A list of the main [Soviet] newspaper articles on the trial. A list of the main letters concerning the trial. Information about the first cases of reprisals against signatories of such letters. The appeal to the Presidium of the consultative meeting [conference] of Communist Parties in Budapest. Information about the trial of the members of the All-Russian Social Christian Union for the Liberation of the People. News in brief.

No 2 : 30 June 1968

Cases of extra-judicial political persecution in 1968. Appeal from the Crimean Tatars to world public opinion. Materials on Solzhenitsyn. Letter by Anatoly Marchenko about the situation of political prisoners, and the reply from the Soviet Red Cross. News in brief. Corrections and additions to Chronicle No 1.

No 3 : 30 August 1968

The shortest issue of the Chronicle, concerned almost entirely with events during the invasion of Czechoslovakia and those preceding but closely linked with it. There is information about the arrest of Anatoly Marchenko and his trial; about other arrests in Moscow and Leningrad; about various forms of protest against the occupation Czechoslovakia (including the demonstration on Red Square), and about the trial of Boguslavsky, a Leningrad resident.

No 4 : 30 December 1968

Court proceedings in the case of the 25 August 1968 demonstration on Red Square. Exile for Babitsky, Bogoraz and Litvinov. Short commentary, the Soviet press on the trial, samzdat documents concerning the case. Information about some political prisoners condemned for “Betrayal of the Motherland” [Article 64]. A “new” method of conducting house searches. Supplement to the collection of materials on the Sinyavsky-Daniel the White Book). News in brief.