The arrest of Pyotr Grigorenko, 7 May 1969 (8.3)

<<No 8 : 30 June 1969>>

On 7 May 1969 P.G. Grigorenko was arrested in Tashkent and charged under Article 191-4 of the Uzbek SSR Criminal Code (which corresponds to Article 190 of the RSFSR Criminal Code).


Pyotr Grigorievich Grigorenko was born in 1907 in the village of Borisovka in Zaporozhe Region [south Ukraine]. His father was one of the organisers of the collective farm there, and Pyotr Grigorievich himself was the first in his village to enrol in the Komsomol. From the age of 15 he worked as a metal-worker in Donetsk, where he also completed a course at the workers’ higher education college (rabfak). In 1929 Grigorenko entered the Kharkov Polytechnic Institute, but in his third year he was transferred by Party directive to the Kuibyshev Military Engineering Academy. After completing his studies at the Academy, he served four years in military units, then studied in the Voroshilov General Staff Academy. Grigorenko participated in the battle of Khalkin-Gol [on the Manchurian border in 1939 against the Japanese] and in the Second World War. As a result of a hip wound Grigorenko became a 2nd category War Invalid.

He was awarded the Order of Lenin, two Orders of the Red Flag, the Order of the Red Star, the Order of the Great Patriotic War, and six medals.  After the war Grigorenko spent 17 years at the Frunze Academy [in Moscow], first as Head of the Research Department, and later Head of the Cybernetics Department. In 1948 he defended his thesis and was awarded the degree of Candidate of Military Sciences. In 1959 he was given the military rank of Major-General.

In 1961 Grigorenko spoke at a Party Conference of the Lenin district in Moscow, calling for the restoration of Leninist principles. Following this, he received a Party reprimand and was sacked from his job. Six months later he was demoted and sent to Ussuriisk [near Vladivostok in the Soviet Far East]. The defence of his doctoral dissertation, fixed for November 1961, was cancelled.


Even in Ussuriisk, Grigorenko did not cease his open protests against the voluntarism of the party leadership then in power, and in February 1964 he was arrested by the KGB. To prevent him from opening his mouth at a trial Grigorenko was declared insane, and put in a prison psychiatric hospital in Leningrad, from which he only emerged fifteen months later. He had been reduced to the ranks and expelled from the Party, in the meantime, although a sick man should be considered not only not legally responsible for his actions, but also should not have to bear responsibility before Party and administrative organs either. The taking of these repressive measures is just one more proof that the tale of Grigorenko’s “insanity” is pure fiction.

After coming out of hospital, the war invalid Grigorenko was reduced to working as a porter to earn his keep. .But despite this painful existence, and despite the threat of new internment in a hospital, General Grigorenko never ceased his struggle against arbitrary acts. He protested against the trials of Khaustov and Bukovsky, of Ginzburg and Galanskov, and of those who took part in the demonstration of 25 August 1968. He was one of the twelve co-authors of the [February 1968] appeal to the Budapest conference [CCE 1.4], and spoke out in support of Anatoly Marchenko when the latter was arrested. He protested at the arrest of Irina Belogorodskaya, and later compiled a record of her trial. He also compiled a collection of materials on the funeral of A. E. Kostyorin, a very close friend, who had been carrying on the struggle with him against all manifestations of arbitrariness, especially arbitrary policies towards national minorities. Together with Ivan Yakhimovich he sharply condemned the continuing occupation of Czechoslovakia.


As time passed, Grigorenko became increasingly occupied with the fate of the Crimean Tatars, a people deprived of their homeland. His numerous actions in support of the Crimean Tatars earned him the respect of a large section of the Tatar people. Two thousand Crimean Tatars have appealed to Grigorenko to act as public defence spokesman at the trial of ten activists of the Crimean Tatar movement which is shortly to take place in Tashkent. Grigorenko sent their letter of appeal, together with a declaration of his own, to the Uzbek SSR Supreme Court, but he got no reply.

Meanwhile Grigorenko was caught up in an ever-thickening web of slanderous gossip and provocations. The story was circulated at various meetings and discussions that Grigorenko “had sold himself to the imperialists for the sake of fame”. Declarations were put out, calculated to appeal to people’s baser feelings, to the effect that Grigorenko was a Jew but was registered as a Ukrainian when he joined the Party. An anonymous letter was handed around, supposedly written by the Crimean Tatars, explaining to their fellow Tatars that Grigorenko was a madman and an “anti-Sovietist”. In April this year the KGB tried to organise a provocation by arranging a meeting between Grigorenko and a complete stranger who telephoned him; they possibly hoped to catch him “red-handed” at the moment when some material of a truly anti-Soviet nature would be handed to him. Grigorenko came to this “meeting” accompanied by a large group of his friends; there were KGB cars parked all around, and the whole place was thick with KGB men. But at the sight of undesirable witnesses the KGB had to call off their provocation.

The “stranger” never approached the General, and only later, after Grigorenko‘s arrest, did he pay a visit to Grigorenko’s wife Zinaida and staged a crude provocation. The watch kept by the police on Grigorenko himself, and on his house, went to extraordinary lengths; they followed him in their cars, making no secret of it and even trying to provoke him to an open clash. In April 1969 Grigorenko appealed to Yu. V. Andropov in a second letter, but as with the first, sent in February 1968, he received no reply.

Grigorenko &amp; Dzhemilev (web)

Pyotr Grigorenko; Mustafa Dzhemilev

On 2 May this year the telephone rang in Grigorenko’s flat. The caller said he was speaking on behalf of Mustafa Dzhemilev, and that the Tashkent trial was beginning on 4 May. Grigorenko flew out to Tashkent at once, and there he found that the date of the trial had not yet been fixed, and that Mustafa Dzhemilev had not asked anyone to ring him. On 7 May Grigorenko was arrested with his return ticket in his pocket, and, ill as he was, with a temperature of 38°C [over 100°F], they put him in the Uzbek KGB prison.

On the same day, seven Moscow flats were searched in connection with the Grigorenko affair; the flat of Grigorenko himself, and those of Ilya Gabai, Victor Krasin, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Andrei Amalrik, Nadezhda Yemelkina, and Zampira Asanova. The searches were conducted by investigators of the Moscow Procuracy, on the instructions of the Uzbek SSR Procurator’s Office. The searches were directed by L. S. Akimova, from her desk at the [USSR] Procurator General’s Office. She is known as the investigator of the Irina Belogorodskaya case, and director of investigations linked with the Pushkin Square demonstration of 22 January 1967, and the demonstration of 25 August 1968 on Red Square.

Not only were all samizdat, typewriters, notebooks and scraps of paper with telephone messages and other jottings confiscated during these searches, but also all personal correspondence, photographs and valuables. From Ludmila Alexeyeva‘s flat they took personal letters written by Anatoly Marchenko, letters from Yuly Daniel to his family, and photographs of Solzhenitsyn, Marchenko, Litvinov and Bogoraz [Larissa Bogoraz-Daniel]. From Nadezhda Yemelkina they removed two savings books belonging to her mother. Yemelkina herself was stripped, and, furthermore, in the absence of a woman investigator, she was illegally examined by a civilian witness of the search. During these searches, generally speaking, the witnesses did not behave like people obliged to ensure the observation of legality but like active helpers of those carrying out the search.

P. G. Grigorenko is still in Tashkent. The investigation of his case is being led by investigator Berezovsky, who also headed the investigation of the ten Crimean Tatars, in whose defence Grigorenko had wished to speak. It was Berezovsky, too, who conducted the search of Grigorenko’s flat in November 1968. The main questions being put to witnesses are: have they received from Grigorenko documents containing “deliberate falsehoods”, and have they noticed in Grigorenko any signs of mental derangement.  So far only a few witnesses have been called:  in Moscow, the wife, daughter and niece of A. E. Kostyorin; in Tashkent, Pyotr Grigorenko’s sister, and also D. Ilyasov and E. Ilyasova, at whose flat Grigorenko was arrested.


Grigorenko’s arrest has aroused public indignation. At the gates of the Tashkent prison the Crimean Tatars set up pickets and demanded his release. The same demand was one of the slogans used at the demonstration in Moscow on 6 June this year [CCE 8.5]. In one day, 55 signatures were collected for an appeal in support of Grigorenko. And his wife, Zinaida Mikhailovna, wrote an open letter about her husband’s life, his misfortunes and his latest arrest.

Two significant works on the subject of P. G. Grigorenko have also appeared as samizdat publications: “A Light in the Window” by A. Krasnov-Levitin and “The Arrest of General Grigorenko” by B. Tsukerman. Quoting the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan, the author of the first work, a well-know church writer, writes that today he sees more of the Christian spirit not in the representatives of the Orthodox Church, but in the Samaritans, “people from outside”. One example of a “Good Samaritan” seems to him to be P. G. Grigorenko, who for his bold criticism “paid with his career, condemning himself to journeys from one prison and lunatic asylum to another, to searches and arrests, to humiliations and insults”; now he has “come to the aid of the Crimean Tatar people, not his own kin, and paid with his freedom.” Reflections on P. G. Grigorenko and on the fortunes of the Crimean Tatars lead Krasnov-Levitin to the wider problems of the struggle for democracy and humanity in our country.The second work contains short biographical notes on P. G. Grigorenko and reveals the objective character of those problems which Grigorenko has devoted his energies to trying to resolve in recent years. Despite the restrained character of the analysis, the author is unable to conceal his admiration for P. G. Grigorenko’s sincerity and moral stature and his reverence for his moral heroism.

Apart from these works Grigorenko’s last political pamphlet before his arrest, “Who are the Criminals?” is also in samizdat. He wrote it after reading the charges brought against the ten Crimean Tatars.  In his pamphlet Grigorenko exposes the flimsiness of the charges; he deals with the question of the Crimean Tatars as a minority people, and the genocide of which they are the victims; with their national movement, which has the unanimous support of the whole people; and with the persecution of active participants in this movement. He refers to the decree of 5 September 1967 which withdrew the treason charge brought against the Crimean Tatars but deprived them of their national name and of the right to return to their homeland.  Grigorenko shows that the documents listed in the indictment were based on facts that these documents were sent to various high authorities, and that those authorities did not reply, nor did they attempt to refute the documents. The right to label them as libellous turned out to belong to the very same Uzbek authorities, about whom the Crimean Tatars had complained in the above-mentioned documents “…. Not one of the facts set out in the documents,” writes Grigorenko, “was checked by anyone, and the investigating organs are not in possession of any proof that any of the facts used are unreliable. In consequence the investigators were forced to restrict themselves to unfounded abuse of the documents they examined.” As P. G. Grigorenko shows, the author of the indictments, Counsellor of Justice Berezovsky, makes use of the word “alleged”, and of inverted commas, as his main devices for proving a point: allegedly methods of force and arbitrariness are being applied, allegedly in exile, are allegedly in places of “exile”, and so on. But unsubstantiated allegations and lies are not the only things that Grigorenko discovers:

“Sometimes Stalinism suddenly rears its ugly head. Here is what is written, for example, on page 10 of the indictment:  ‘This letter casts aspersions on the policy of the Communist Party and the Soviet government towards national minorities. The resettlement of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 is represented by the writers of the letter as “a barbarous crime’. Well, this brutal deportation of 1944 – that was part of the policy of the Communist Party and the Soviet government towards national minorities, and those who call it a ‘brutal crime’ must be tried for slandering this policy.”

Grigorenko stresses that investigator Berezovsky and Prosecutor Ruzmetov, who countersigned the bill of Indictment, are revealed as Stalinists not only through this casual slip, but by the very nature of this whole trumped-up case.