P.G. Grigorenko’s prison diary, February 1970 (12.1)

«No 12 : 28 February 1970»

The Chronicle has a copy of the diary written by P.G. Grigorenko during the period of imprisonment before his trial. It covers the time from his arrival in Tashkent and his arrest until the second forensic psychiatric diagnosis, inclusive.

We reproduce the contents of this diary in condensed form [1] with quotations from the original.

Pyotr Grigorenko, 1907-1987

may 1969

3 — Arrive in Tashkent by air, go to Ilyasov’s flat. The call to appear in court at Tashkent turns out to be a provocation. Decide to return to Moscow, but fall ill.

4 — Notice that the flat is being watched.

7 — Arrested just before the departure of flight for Moscow, after a search which furnishes the investigators with no evidence.

15 — Charged under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

8 May-11 June – Statements to Procurator-General of the Uzbek Republic, Ruzmetov, and to the Procurator-General of the USSR, Rudenko. Demands: to release me; or to transfer the investigation to Moscow, my place of residence, and (in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code) the “scene of the crime” (the incriminating documents were found in Moscow); or to permit me a meeting with my wife. If none of these demands are met, I announce a hunger-strike.

june 1969

13 –– Hunger strike begins.

15 –– Forced feeding begins. They beat me, half-choke me.

16-19 –– Forced feeding. They’re beating me, making me choke. They twist my arms. They beat me on my wounded leg, on purpose. The most zealous are the “Lefortovo [Prison] boys” sent specially from Moscow.

17 — Statement that my continued hunger-strike will be in protest at this bestial treatment.

18 –– Write a statement about whom to blame for my death. After these two statements the acts of cruelty are cut short. They begin simply using force to bundle me into a strait-jacket. I resist. The number of my attackers rises from five to twelve. The struggle goes on and on. Most often I collapse with terrible pains in the heart. I hope that my heart will give out. I long to die, calculating that my death will serve to expose this tyranny.

20 — Naumova, the procurator responsible for ensuring the observation of legality, comes to my cell and gives me to understand that my death is desirable. She confirms what Major Lysenko, the head of the detention prison, had told me earlier: “Don’t you think you’ll earn yourself a funeral with lots of speeches. No, you won’t get the sort Kostyorin got. And we won’t hand your body over to your relatives. They won’t even learn the exact date of your death. They’ll be informed perhaps three days later, or perhaps three months, or perhaps six months. And the exact place of your burial won’t be revealed.” Why am I helping them to achieve their aims? I begin to waver in my decision to aim for death.

24 — Investigator Berezovsky informs me that my family has been deprived of its pension because of my arrest.”


Grigorenko goes on to write about:

— the end of his hunger-strike (28 June);

— a complaint addressed to Rudenko and Kosygin (Why have a sick wife and a disabled son been deprived of their livelihood?);

first diagnosis, 18 August 1969

— the outpatient forensic psychiatric examination of 18 August (CCE 11.15, item 6), which judged Grigorenko to be of sound mind;

— eight interrogations (late August to October):

from the nature of these — the carelessness and lack of interest of the investigator, who was unprepared for them — P.G. Grigorenko concludes that the aim is now to proclaim his “insanity” and try him in his absence, and that a second forensic psychiatric examination is therefore to be expected.

Apart from physical torture Grigorenko also speaks of the methods of moral pressure:

— his illegal arrest in Uzbekistan (“Get this,” he was told, “the laws weren’t written for us; we’ll do just as we like with you”);

— his imprisonment in a KGB cellar (cases under Article 190 of the Russian Criminal Code should be dealt with not by the KGB but by the Procuracy; and as a rule persons under investigation are kept in a normal, communal cell);

— his double guard: one for the detention prison as a whole, plus a personal one consisting of Lefortovo warders;

— denial of the use by him of the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedural Code;

— the absence of any answer to his formal complaints to Ruzmetov and Rudenko (fifteen in all); from October onwards Berezovsky did not answer either;

— the denial of any contact whatever with his family;

— the failure to present an appropriate warrant when he was taken to the second examination in Moscow; the result of this diagnosis was not revealed; he was placed under a strict isolation prison-regime at the Serbsky Institute; he was deprived of the right not only to receive visits but also to receive parcels (others got theirs daily in accordance with the rules).

“While preparing me for ‘lunacy’, Berezovsky spread slander about me. I chanced to hear that such slander had reached the ears of Obushayev, the KGB investigator, and Rutkovsky, the investigator from the Uzbek Procuracy. Berezovsky even resorted to outright provocation: on 26 September, while he was preparing a question for me, and rummaging among his papers, Obushayev and I started a discussion on our own. Suddenly Berezovsky interrupted Obushayev, shouting at the top of his voice:

‘What are you arguing with him for? You know he’d happily hang us from the nearest tree!’ He went on shouting variations on this theme, obviously expecting me to explode. But I just waited until he’d finished, and said calmly: ‘Let me answer with a paraphrase of Lydia Chukovskaya‘s words: ‘Perhaps you deserve to be hanged, but our people doesn’t deserve to be fed on hangings any more. I refuse to hang you – out of respect for our people.'”

“It is clear to me that the whole situation has been designed to inspire a feeling of ‘no way out’ – of hopelessness and despair. What the head of the detention prison had said about the consequences of my death was aimed to produce the same result, for it emphasised that ‘you’re utterly at our mercy, even after death’. Nor is it surprising that people seek death in such a situation. It was chance that saved me from death.

“Only now have I realized the special horror of the fate which overtook those unfortunate people who perished by the million in the torture-chambers of Stalin’s regime. It wasn’t the physical suffering – that’s bearable. But they deprived people of any hope whatsoever; they reiterated to them the omnipotence of their tyranny, the absence of any way out. And that is unbearable. (…)”

Second diagnosis, 22 October-19 November 1969

By air from Tashkent to Moscow. Taken from the aerodrome to the Lefortovo Prison.

“I am invited to climb into the ‘box’ – a tiny cage (aboard the prison ‘microbus’), in which someone my size can sit only doubled up, back and sides jammed up against the iron plates. The cold outside has made the iron cold, too. I am not even wearing an autumn coat … I’m travelling in a light summer suit … Add to the uncomfortable position and the cold … the exhaust fumes which somehow penetrate my ‘box’. Reach the Lefortovo Prison in a semi-conscious state.”

From Lefortovo to the Serbsky Institute. Department Four. Solitary confinement. Special guard by the door.

“Persons charged under my Аrticle (art. 190) undergo examination in a ward for petty criminals. I have been placed in a section for politicals (art. 70 of the Criminal Code), but have been isolated from the others. I am the only person in the department on a prison regime.

“Throughout my period in solitary there is no psychiatric investigation of any sort. True, Maiya Mikhailovna does invite me once for a chat. But thechat doesn’t come off. I put a stop to everything by announcing that I don’t want the doctor to note my answers down just as he wants. ‘I’ll talk about anything you like, on one condition: that I note down the content of my answers.’ Past experience had taught me that this was vital.

“The doctor responsible for me in 1964, Margarita Feliksovna, wrote down my answers in an unbelievably distorted form. And she did so not just because of her fervent desire to present me as ‘of unsound mind’, but from sheer political illiteracy and ignorant narrow-mindedness. It was perhaps the last that prevented her from understanding me. For example, she asked me: ‘Pyotr Grigorevich, at the Academy you used to get 800 roubles a month. So what turned you to your anti-State activities? What did you lack?’ Glancing at her, I realized that any answer would be fruitless; for her, a man who made material sacrifices was ‘of unsound mind’, however lofty the causes which prompted him. So I answered briefly: ‘You won’t understand. I couldn’t breathe.’ And you should have seen the joy that flashed in her eyes, how quickly she jotted down my answer in her notebook, because in her opinion it testified to the fact that before her sat a crazy lunatic.”

The solitary ends (on the eighth day), the investigation begins. Conversation with Professor Lunts. (We do not reproduce the contents of this conversation, since it closely resembles the one which Grigorenko cites later in these notes, a conversation with the chairman of the diagnostic team.) Next comes the psychological examination. Grigorenko quotes two problems set him by a professor of psychology – the two which seemed to Grigorenko ‘the most taxing’: to solve a problem involving nothing more than a knowledge of the four rules of arithmetic (let us recall that P. G. Grigorenko headed the department of cybernetics in the Frunze Academy) and to explain the meaning of a picture (evidently taken from Krokodil [a Soviet humorous periodical]).

“Perhaps such conversations are necessary when one is dealing with a cretin or someone in his dotage. … The Professor … behaved throughout as if he felt embarrassed. I was probably no less embarrassed myself,”

This was the end of the preliminary meetings with the doctors.

19 November — the diagnostic commission: Morozov, director of the [Serbsky] Institute of Forensic Psychiatry and corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences; Lunts; Maiya Mikhailovna; and a man in a brown suit (the only one not in a white coat). The questions are asked by Morozov, the chairman of the commission. They all involve an attempt to reveal some inconsistency in P.G. Grigorenko‘s view of himself and his attitude to his actions. The line is: “Grigorenko has no doubts about the normality of his actions, which have led to this diagnostic session; yet Grigorenko himself recognized, after treatment in the Leningrad special psychiatric hospital, that similar actions of his which led to the diagnosis of 1964 were mistaken. As a result of the intervention of the psychiatrists Grigorenko had been behaving “normally, in the accepted way’, — before he ‘went back to his old ways’.”

Grigorenko answers that he considers his previous activities (before 1964) to have been mistaken in the ideological and political senses, and in no way because of any damage to his psyche (“not every mistake a man makes is the result of damage to his psyche”); he testifies that the cause of his so-called ‘normal’ conduct was not the influence of the psychiatrists but completely independent factors (particularly his exhausting work as a loader). (By “normal” conduct is meant that for some time Grigorenko did not write anything for circulation.) He declares it wrong to believe that he has “gone back to his old ways”, since his activities over the last two years have not borne even a superficial resemblance to what he did before.

This last statement of Grigorenko‘s makes the man without a white coat ask him: “What’s the difference? Your tactics may have changed, but in essence there’s no difference. …”

“No! The essence is different,” says Grigorenko.

“The old approach was typically Bolshevik: the creation of a strictly conspiratorial illegal organisation and the circulation of illegal pamphlets. But now there’s no organisation, no pamphlets; just open, bold attacks on obvious tyranny, falsehood and hypocrisy, attacks on the perversion of truth. Before, the call was for the overthrow of the regime of that period and for a return to the point at which Lenin left off. Now the call is to remove the visible evils of society, to fight for strict observance of the existing laws, and for the realization of constitutional rights. Then the call was for revolution. Now the struggle is an open one, within the framework of the law, for the democratization of the life of our society. What, then, is there in common, either in tactics or in essence? Of course, if it is only a person who bows submissively before any arbitrary act of the bureaucrats who is considered a normal Soviet person, then I am “abnormal”. I am not capable of such submissiveness, no matter how, or how much I may be beaten up.

“I have said, and I repeat once again that in I963-4 I made mistakes. But I did not need psychiatry to correct them. I had already begun to understand these mistakes before my arrest.”

Comparison of the two diagnoses

After the first (Tashkent) examination, when the investigators had the diagnosis of a highly competent commission that Grigorenko was of sound mind, against all common sense it appointed a second commission, wishing to obtain at any cost the diagnosis that he was of unsound mind.

The Tashkent commission had at its disposal the following materials: the results of the clinical examination performed in the Serbsky Institute in 1964, including a psychological examination and an encephalograph; papers from the Leningrad special psychiatric hospital; the observations of the psychiatric out-patients unit of the Leningrad district of Moscow; the observations of the prison administration and the laboratory analyses made in the prison clinic.

The Moscow commission, in addition to everything listed above, had another encephalograph and the results of a further psychological examination.

The Tashkent commission’s examination lasted about three hours.

“They chatted to me for a long time. Then they examined me. All four participated very actively in the conversation. During the examination all four considered it their duty to test my reactions. All the while they were discussing some point at length, using Latin words, and sometimes even arguing. There was one moment, when Professor Detengof asserted something while examining me. Kagan at once came up, did the same thing as the professor and said, ‘Gracious me, Professor, you’re quite wrong.’ Both the lady doctors came up and checked. Then Detengof checked again, and all agreed, as it seemed to me, with the opinion of Kagan”.

The Moscow commission examined Grigorenko for twenty minutes.

“After what I had seen in Tashkent, what took place in the Serbsky Institute can only be considered a mockery of the concept “expert diagnostic team”. There were no examinations. There was a straight-forward question-and-answer conversation, led by one man. (…) Lunts was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that when the chairman addressed a question to him, he had to repeat it. (…) My general impression was that everything had already been decided.”