The Leningrad trial, 17-26 December 1968 (5.2)

<<No 5 : 31 December 1968>>

Issues 3 and 4 of the Chronicle gave news about the arrest of several people [CCE 3.4] in Leningrad, and about the circumstances of their arrest [CCE 4.5].


In October two of the accused in this case, Nikolai Danilov and Yevgeny Shashenkov, were declared of unsound mind and the court ruled that they be confined for compulsory treatment in a mental hospital ‘of special type’ (i.e. in a prison hospital).

Nikolai Danilov, a lawyer by training, worked at the end of the 1950s as a KGB investigator in the Ukraine and on the island of Sakhalin [Soviet Far East]; he then gave up this work and for a long time did ordinary manual labour; only recently did he begin to work as a legal consultant. He writes verse and has been doing a correspondence course at the Literary Institute. In April 1968, together with Yury Gendler, Lev Kvachevsky and Victor Fainberg, he wrote a letter to the USSR Procurator-General about procedural irregularities at the trial [of the Social-Christians, CCE 1.6] in Leningrad last spring. In June 1968 he was expelled from the Institute. He has a nine-year-old daughter.

Yevgeny Shashenkov is an engineer. In 1950, while a student at Leningrad University, he wrote a letter to Stalin as a result of which he was arrested and interrogated with all the brutality then prevalent, before being sent for the first time to a prison mental hospital. He was sent there a second time in 1963-4, and the same thing is now about to happen to him a third time. Nevertheless, as far as is known, Shashenkov has shown the greatest fortitude under interrogation, refusing to give any evidence.


There were thus three defendants at the December trial: Yury Gendler, born in 1936, legal consultant, father of a five-year-old daughter; Lev Kvachevsky, born in 1939, chemical engineer, father of a six-year-old-son; and Anatoly Studenkov, born in 1935, physicist and engineer, father of a seven-year-old daughter.

Lev Kvachevsky (centre) and his sister Gemma (r.)

The Judge at the trial was the deputy chairman of the Leningrad City Court, Karlov; the prosecuting counsel was Procurator Dosugov; Gendler’s defence counsel was Romm, and Studenkov’s was Shafir. Lev Kvachevsky refused to have a lawyer and conducted his own defence. His elder brother, Orion Kvachevsky, a geologist and former inmate of Stalin’s concentration camps who was rehabilitated in 1956, wanted to appear for the defence, but was not allowed to, nor even to be present at the trial: the day before the trial he was sent off on a trip connected with his work.

The defendants were accused of ‘producing, harbouring and circulating’ works ‘of an anti-Soviet nature’. Among these were the following books and photocopies of books:

  • [Milovan] Djilas, The New Class;
  • [G. von] Rauch, A History of Soviet Russia;
  • [E. Stillman (ed.)], Bitter Harvest; [?],
  • The American Public;
  • the journal Mosty [Bridges]; [N.]
  • Sokolov, The Murder of the Tsar and his Family;
  • [Nikolai] Berdyaev, The Origins and Meaning of Russian Communism;
  • [Barry] Goldwater, Why Not Victory? and The Conscience of a Conservative;
  • [A.] Avtorkhanov, The Technology of Power;
  • [G.P.] Fedotov, The New City; and others.

Furthermore, they were charged both in the indictment and in the verdict with harbouring a number of typewritten samizdat materials, a precise list of which is not yet available. There is some evidence that the list even featured letters sent by Soviet citizens to high Soviet authorities.

From the legal point of view the indictment and sentence sound odd when they speak of the accused having entered into ‘criminal relations’ with P. G. Grigorenko, V. A. Krasin, and P. M. Litvinov, from whom they had allegedly received material ‘of an anti-Soviet nature”. Not one of these three was called as a witness at the trial. On the other hand, on the first day of the trial some unknown persons attacked Victor Krasin in Moscow, striking him on the face with a knuckle-duster.

Anatoly Studenkov, apart from being charged like the others under Article 70, was also accused of illegally distilling vodka, forging documents, and petty larceny. It is clear that this circumstance played no small part in the full and ‘sincere repentance’ he made during the pre-trial investigation, and it was because of this repentance, as well as his full admission of guilt and the readiness with which he gave evidence under investigation and in court that, despite the four Articles under which he was found guilty (70, para, 1; 94; 158, para 1; and 196. para, 1, of the RSFSR Criminal Code), Studenkov received the shortest sentence of all.

Yury Gendler pleaded guilty, but denied any anti-Soviet intent in his actions. He stated that he had been guided only by a wish to help in the democratization and liberalization of Soviet society on the lines laid down by the 20th and 22nd Party congresses, and that it was only during the pre-trial investigation that he had ‘realized the anti-Soviet nature of his actions’.

Lev Kvachevsky pleaded not guilty. He admitted most of the facts with which he was charged, but absolutely denied their criminal nature. In his speech in his own defence, and in his final plea, he reasserted his innocence and his right to read anything he wished.

The Procurator demanded imprisonment in strict-regime labour camps for all three defendants: six years for Kvachevsky, four for Gendler and eighteen months for Studenkov. Defence counsel for Gendler and Studenkov demanded that the indictment be reformulated under Article 190-1 of the Criminal Code.

The court sentenced Kvachevsky to four years, Gendler to three and Studenkov to one year — all in strict-regime camps.



[1] Yury Gendler (1936-2011) emigrated to the USA in 1974 where he worked for Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe, becoming director of its Russian Service in 1992 [JC].