The Trial of Gorbanevskaya, 7 July 1970 (15.1)

<<No 15 : 31 August 1970>>

On 7 July 1970 there was a session of the Moscow City Court’s judicial board for criminal affairs to consider the case of Natalya Yevgenyevna GORBANEVSKAYA.

Chairman – V.V. Bogdanov; People’s assessors – Andreyev, Zaslavskaya

Procurator [prosecutor] – Prazdnikova

Counsel for the defence – S.V. Kalistratova

Expert – Professor Lunts

The hearing began at 10.30 am and closed after midnight at 00.40.

Natalya Gorbanevskaya, 1936-2013


After opening the proceedings Judge Bogdanov asked whether the two parties had any petitions to submit. The defence petitioned for the postponement of the case, since it had only been given two days to study the four volumes of case materials.

At the same time the defence submitted the following petitions:

  • that the case should be referred back for further investigation;
  • that a further forensic-psychiatric examination and a supplementary general examination should be carried out;
  • that [further] documents should be provided and attached to the case;
  • that [additional] witnesses should be called to the judicial hearing.

The FIRST PETITION noted that the 25 December 1969 ruling to undertake criminal proceedings against Gorbanevskaya contained no specific data as to what actions she was accused of having committed or when. This was in violation of Article 114 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure.

The resolution contained nothing but the text of Article 190-1 of the RSFSRCriminal Code quoted almost word for word, i.e. no charge had in effect been brought. This was a gross violation of the right to a defence, since defence counsel did not and could not know, when studying the case, which of Gorbanevskaya’s actions were regarded by the investigators as falling under Article 190-1 (RSFSR Criminal Code).

In her SECOND PETITION defence counsel S. V. Kalistratova stated the necessity for further forensic-psychiatric examination. On 19 November 1969, Gorbanevskaya was examined by a medical commission headed by [Moscow City chief] psychiatrist I.K. Yanushevsky. After studying the record of her illness, documents over a period of more than ten years, and data gathered during the examination, the commission concluded that Gorbanevskaya was not suffering from any mental illness; she did not need to be sent to a psychiatric hospital.

A commission of experts at the Serbsky Institute, however, reached the opposite conclusion. Gorbanevskaya was suffering from schizophrenia, a chronic mental illness, they decided; she was of unsound mind and required compulsory treatment in a Special Psychiatric Hospital.

The existence of two opposite medical opinions about Gorbanevskaya‘s mental state, defence counsel believed, necessitated an especially thorough investigation as to whether she was or was not of sound mind, especially since the report on the in-patient examination [at the Serbsky Institute] gave rise to well-founded doubts as to the accuracy of the experts’ conclusions: the form of schizophrenia was not mentioned, nor was a single symptom of mental derangement adduced. All the evidence indicated that the examination report was drawn up in violation of the law, and defence insisted on a thorough check of the findings of the in-patient examination. Defence counsel therefore petitioned:

  1. for Gorbanevskaya’s letters to her mother and her children (the investigator had not passed these letters on to the addressees) to be attached to the case file;
  2. for the provision and attachment to the case of the true record of Gorbanevskaya’s illness;
  3. for witnesses who had known Gorbanevskaya for many years and were able to testify as to her character, emotional condition//, intellectual capabilities, way of life and behaviour to be called to testify; or
  4. the arrangement of a further forensic-investigational examination of the case.

Since Gorbanevskaya wrote and translated poetry, defence counsel asked for an additional examination team to be appointed, containing experts of various types, to clarify whether Gorbanevskaya’s poetry and translations indicated any pathological changes in her personality; the defence also requested that a list of her published works and an appreciation of her work written by the poet Boris Slutsky be attached to the case.


The prosecution [procurator Prazdnikova] objected to the postponement of the case, since it considered that defence counsel had had adequate time to acquaint herself with the case.

The prosecution asked the expert’s opinion on whether Gorbanevskaya should be brought to the hearing. The expert stated that medical opinion was as a rule opposed to the bringing of a mental patient to a court hearing, since the patient was not only the object of investigation but also an invalid whom doctors were obliged to look after.

The defence asked the expert exactly what psychotic phenomena and concrete changes in Gorbanevskaya‘s personality prevented her from taking part in the judicial hearing. The expert Lunts replied that creeping schizophrenia – the commission’s diagnosis of Gorbanevskaya’s illness – is not characterised by crude, well-defined psychotic phenomena such as delirium, hallucinations, etc. The illness takes its course without affecting [the patient’s] fitness for work or his former intellectual level and skills.

The prosecution regarded as groundless defence counsel’s reasons for petitioning for the appointment of a further psychiatric commission. In the prosecutor’s opinion, a defence counsel should not declare expert findings to be groundless before they have been examined at the judicial hearing, otherwise he is assuming the authority of the experts. The commission of experts had had at its disposal all the documents in the case, and the experts had known what actions Gorbanevskaya was accused of. They knew that Gorbanevskaya had circulated slanderous material and communicated it to “our maligners”.

The prosecution objected to the appointment of a team containing experts of various types to examine Gorbanevskaya’s work, since her “written output” had been included in the case and presented to the experts, and also since her unhealthy condition would not necessarily be reflected in work such as translations.

The prosecution had no objection to defence counsel’s petition for the assignment of the rights of legal representative to E.S. Gorbanevskaya, N.E. Gorbanevskaya‘s mother, and for her admission to the trial.

After consultation the court pronounced that E.S. Gorbanevskaya had been recognised as the legal representative of N.E. Gorbanevskaya and should be admitted to the trial. The court rejected the other petitions.


Witnesses were questioned. The chairman asked Forsel, a resident of the Karelian ASSR, when and in what circumstances he had met Gorbanevskaya. The witness Forsel stated that he had seen Gorbanevskaya “for five minutes plus two hours”: he  explained that in the summer of 1969 he had spent some time in Estonia, in Tartu, where, since he had recently been released after a ten-year sentence which he had served partly in Vladimir Prison, he had visited his “camp-mates and prison-mates”. In Tartu he had seen Gorbanevskaya in the flat of a friend, to which she had come with her little boy. He had seen her for only five minutes, and had been told that she was from Moscow.

After that, he and two friends – Enn Tarto and Mart Niklus – had talked to Gorbanevskaya in another flat. Gorbanevskaya had asked about the situation of the prisoners in Vladimir Prison, especially the political prisoners. The witness had told Gorbanevskaya about this. In addition she had been interested in the case of a certain Tartu schoolboy who had stuck up leaflets in connection with the anniversary of the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia, and who had been apprehended and beaten up. Forsel said that Gorbanevskaya had showed him some sort of typewritten journals. There were five or six of them and they were called “A Chronicle of Events”. The witness had taken one of them, which seemed to him to be the most recent, and begun to read it. The others had also read them. He remembered that it contained something about the Tatars and “their return to their native land”, about some resignations and dismissals from work. He could not remember any more details, since he had been a little tipsy. He had seen and heard no more of Gorbanevskaya than this.

The chairman asked what impression the conversation with Gorbanevskaya had made on Forsel. “I didn’t like the way a man who had just come out of prison was being drawn into some risky enterprise, being hindered in living in peace,” said Forsel.

The prosecutor asked whether it was true that Forsel had testified during the preliminary investigation that his acquaintance Niklus had called Gorbanevskaya an “important person” from the Sinyavsky-Daniel circle and said that the material was intended for communication to “the West” and also that “there was an awful lot of material”. The witness confirmed this.

The prosecutor asked whether the witness had not got the impression that Gorbanevskaya was eliciting information of a purely factual nature about political prisoners. The witness confirmed this.

Defence counsel asked whether Forsel had not reported this conversation to anybody. “No, I didn’t report it to anyone in Tartu,” replied Forsel. Defence counsel: “Where did you report it?” Forsel: “I reported it in Petrozavodsk [capital of Karelian ASSR].” Defence counsel: “To whom did you report it?” Forsel: “To the KGB.”

Did the witness did not know, asked the defence counse, that Gorbanevskaya had come to Tartu not to gather information but to arrange a holiday for her child. The witness was aware of this.

Defence counsel: “Do you assert that Niklus and Tarto also read issues of the Chronicle in your presence and that neither you nor they left the room during that time?” The witness answered in the affirmative.

Defence counsel asked for witnesses Niklus and Tarto to be summoned to the judicial hearing. When questioned during the preliminary investigation, they testified that Gorbanevskaya had brought no material to Tartu and had neither shown them any nor given them any to read. Defence counsel expressed the opinion that if three witnesses give conflicting testimony about one and the same event, then they must all be questioned in court in order to establish the truth. The prosecution objected, since the witness Forsel had been questioned in court and the testimony of the other witnesses was irrelevant to the case.


The witness Shilov, an investigator of the Moscow Procuracy, was questioned. He testified that on 24 December 1969 he carried out a search of Gorbanevskaya’s flat. The search was coming to an end and he was drawing up an inventory of confiscated items, while Gorbanevskaya sat sharpening a pencil with a safety razor. To speed up the compilation of the inventory he suggested to Gorbanevskaya that she should number the sheets of one of the confiscated manuscripts – it was [the poet] Akhmatova’s Requiem. Gorbanevskaya unexpectedly rushed to take this manuscript away from him and in the resulting “momentary struggle” cut his fingers with the razor. As a result of a laceration of the thumb, heavy bleeding set in. A report of the incident was submitted to the Procuracy, and the report of a forensic-medical examination was available.

The prosecutor asked how the investigator assessed Gorbanevskaya’s action. Shilov replied that the action “was resistance to a representative of authority with the infliction of slight bodily injuries”. The witness went on to say that after the incident Gorbanevskaya apologised to him and said that she had cut him by accident. The witness regarded Gorbanevskaya’s action as one of minor revenge for the fact that she was weaker than he and could not get the better of him.

Defence counsel inquired about the reason for confiscating poetry by the well-known Soviet poet of high standing A.A. Akhmatova. The witness replied that in order to make a thorough study of an accused’s character, the investigating bodies required information about his philosophy, tastes and habits.

“Do you know,” asked defence counsel, “why Gorbanevskaya showed such indignation at the confiscation of that manuscript?” The witness explained that, as he later discovered, the title sheet of the manuscript bore an inscription by Akhmatova and that this, possibly, made the manuscript dear to Gorbanevskaya.

The defence then asked when the witness had felt the cut: when it was inflicted or when he saw the blood. The witness explained that during the “momentary struggle” he had been unable to establish the moment when the cut was inflicted. In answer to defence counsel’s question he said that official witnesses to the search and police officials had been present at the incident, and that I[rina] Yakir, [Boris] Shragin and [Andrei] Amalrik had arrived only later. Defence counsel asked him to try to remember whether I. Yakir had not been an eye-witness of the incident. Shilov denied this.

The prosecutor asked Shilov: “Did you search Amalrik?” “Yes, when Amalrik arrived at Gorbanevskaya’s flat I asked him to show me what he had on him.” “I mean the search of Amalrik’s flat,” the prosecutor stated more precisely. “Was it you who carried it out?” The witness confirmed this. “And who came to Amalrik’s flat while it was being searched?” The chairman ignored defence counsel’s attempt to object to this question as irrelevant to the case under consideration, and the witness replied: “An American correspondent and his wife came to Amalrik’s flat.” “And what did they bring with them?” asked the prosecutor. “A bottle of whisky. They came to attend a party.” The prosecutor stated: “There you have Gorbanevskaya’s circle of acquaintances.”

Defence counsel submitted to the court a petition for the calling of Irina Yakir as a witness, since Gorbanevskaya claimed that she had been present at the time of the incident. Defence counsel drew the court’s attention to the fact that so far all her petitions had been rejected.

After consultation the court rejected the petition for the calling of I. Yakir as a witness.


The findings of the forensic-psychiatric examination were considered.

The chairman invited each side to put questions to the expert. Defence counsel announced eleven questions. The court decided that six of defence counsel’s questions to the expert were admitted. The defence’s questions basically came down, first, to the clarification of how the “changes in thinking, emotionality and critical faculties which are specific to schizophrenia”, and which were referred to in the diagnosis, were concretely expressed in Gorbanevskaya, and in regard to what actions held against her by the investigating bodies the diagnostic team had discerned signs that she was of unsound mind; and, secondly, whether the medical examination had been sufficiently thorough: whether psychological examination was carried out, e.g. tests; whether Gorbanevskaya’s works and her letters to her mother and children had been studied; whether her close acquaintances, who had known her for a long time, had been questioned.

The defence’s final question asked what methods of treatment the diagnostic team had in mind when it recommended confinement in a hospital of special type, and whether it was not possible to provide the same treatment in a normal hospital.

The chairman asked the expert how much time would be needed to draw up answers to these questions. The expert referred to the need to consult medical documents kept in the institute’s archive in order to draw up answers; he pointed out that he could make use of the archive only from ten o’clock on the following day, as the working day was already ending. The expert considered that he could provide answers to the questions only by 1.00 p.m. on the following day (i.e. 8 July).

At this point a member of the court staff entered the room and said something to the secretary of the hearing, who then suggested to the chairman that he should announce a five-minute recess to clarify certain organisational questions. The judge said that the hearing would adjourn until the next day and that there was no point in a five-minute recess. However, the secretary continued to insist. A five-minute recess was then announced. In fact it lasted about an hour, during which the chairman and the expert repeatedly left the room and went to the floor above. Besides this the Procurator and the expert spent a long time in the consultation room, together with the chairman and the two people’s assessors. The hearing was then resumed, and Professor Lunts read his answers to the questions and submitted them to the court in writing.

According to Professor Lunts it had been established that Gorbanevskaya was suffering from a creeping form of schizophrenia which “has no clear symptoms” but which causes a change in the sphere of the emotions and the will, in thought patterns, and in an insufficiently critical attitude towards one’s own mental state; memory, former knowledge and habits were, however, preserved. The diagnostic team considered that Gorbanevskaya was showing slowly increasing mental changes, which from “the theoretical point of view cannot be described as an improvement (i.e. an alleviation of the illness), although externally they resemble this.”

Lunts stated that Gorbanevskaya’s written output, which was attached to the case, was known to the experts, but that “in cases of creeping schizophrenia such output by no means necessarily reflects the mental disturbances caused by the illness.”

To the defence’s question as to why a Special Hospital was necessary, Lunts replied that in [such] hospitals, apart from the actual treatment a regimen existed which met the requirements of patients’ subsequent adaptation to the conditions they would encounter on their discharge from hospital. A mind which had undergone pathological changes and yet preserved certain of its individual aspects intact was a combination which increased the danger to the public from the patient, as he lacked a critical attitude towards his behaviour and was not conscious of his illness, said Lunts.

Thus defence counsel did not manage to extract concrete answers to her questions.

The chairman asked N.E. Gorbanevskaya’s legal representative, her mother E.S. Gorbanevskaya, whether she wished to make any statement about the findings of the forensic-psychiatric examination.

Gorbanevskaya’s mother replied that she realised her daughter would be punished, but that she considered her to be a healthy person and therefore asked that she should not be put in a psychiatric hospital. Gorbanevskaya’s mother spoke of her daughter’s fitness for work. The prosecutor reminded her that in September 1968, when the Procuracy decided not to take criminal proceedings against N.E. Gorbanevskaya for her participation in the events of 25 August 1968, she had been handed over to her mother’s care; he asked whether E.S. Gorbanevskaya did not consider that she had carried out her duties as a guardian badly, as her daughter “had not ceased her criminal activity”? E.S. Gorbanevskaya agreed with this and stated: “If my daughter has committed a crime, sentence her to any punishment, even the most severe, but do not place an absolutely healthy person in a psychiatric hospital.”

Defence counsel asked whether it was true that the accused was hostile towards her mother, as stated in the findings of the forensic examination. Gorbanevskaya’s mother replied that she and her daughter had had their differences and disagreements, but that there was no question of hostility – her daughter had always been solicitous towards her. Defence counsel asked whether Gorbanevskaya had ever shown any emotional coldness towards her children, as mentioned in the reports of the examination.

E. S. Gorbanevskaya said that Natalya was a conscientious mother who loved her children very much.

The judicial investigation ended.


The prosecutor took the floor.

In her speech the Procurator pointed out that on 25 August 1968 N. Gorbanevskaya committed a crime – taking part in a group action which gravely violated public order – for which the other participants (Bogoraz [wife of Yuly Daniel], [Pavel] Litvinov, Delone, Dremlyuga and Babitsky) had been convicted and were now serving their sentences. However the investigating bodies, taking into account the fact that Gorbanevskaya was of unsound mind, had refrained from instituting criminal proceedings against her and had handed her over to her mother’s care. We now see, said the Procurator, and Gorbanevskaya’s mother admits, that she discharged her obligations as a guardian badly, and that Gorbanevskaya continued her criminal activity. Thus on 29 August she communicated to the editors of the [foreign communist] newspapers Rude Pravo, Unita, Morning Star and others a letter which tendentiously described [CCE 3.3] the events of 25 August 25 1968 in Red Square. The Procurator quoted part of the letter:

“My comrades and I are happy that we were able to take part in this demonstration, that we were able, if only for a moment, to interrupt the flood of unbridled falsehood and cowardly silence, and to show that not all the citizens of our country approve of the violence which is being perpetrated in the name of the Soviet people. We hope that the people of Czechoslovakia have learnt and will learn of this. And the belief that Czechs and Slovaks, when thinking of Soviet people, will think not only of the occupiers but also of us, gives us strength and courage.”

Gorbanevskaya, said the Procurator, had  compiled and circulated among her acquaintances the booklet Noon [CCE 9.1, item 3], which threw a tendentious light on the events in Red Square on 25 August 1968 and on the trial of the participants in those events. We know, continued the Procurator, that in fact there were no events, but that there were actions grossly violating public order by which the participants attracted the attention of people present in Red Square. But Gorbanevskaya, in the opinion of the Procurator, was herself creating and inflating these events in order to attract the attention of our maligners. Gorbanevskaya described the trial of these violators of public order in a tendentious light, implying that the charge was fabricated by the investigating bodies. The Procurator further pointed out that it had been established by the documents in the case that Gorbanevskaya had been, one of the compilers of the collections A Chronicle of Current Events, which appeared in samizdat. These collections dealt tendentiously with events in the Soviet Union and accumulated information about arrests for anti-social activities, representing these arrests, moreover, as unlawful. Gorbanevskaya had procured information for these collections and even travelled to other cities and republics of the Union for this purpose. Thus [Yury] Gendler had testified [CCE 5.2] that the information which he had personally given to Gorbanevskaya was later included in the first issue of the Chronicle. The witness Forsel had testified that Gorbanevskaya travelled to Estonia especially to gather information, and that she also circulated these documents. Gorbanevskaya had duplicated and circulated these collections. A search of her flat on 24 December 1969 revealed copies of these collections typed on a typewriter belonging to her, a fact confirmed by the findings of a forensic science examination. In October 1969 Gorbanevskaya travelled to the places of exile of Bogoraz and Litvinov, and in January 1970 issues of the Chronicle typed on a typewriter belonging to Gorbanevskaya were confiscated from them.

Gorbanevskaya had written the essay “Free medical aid”, which claimed that officers of the KGB had forcibly placed her in a maternity hospital and then in a psychiatric hospital. [Lev] Kvachevsky had testified that Gorbanevskaya had personally given him this essay.

Gorbanevskaya, continued the Procurator, had stopped at nothing in her criminal activity – she had communicated her works (they could be called works only in a loose sense) to our maligners. These works had “been used abroad for anti-Soviet propaganda. The radio-station “Liberty” had broadcast the essay “Free medical aid” and also the sixth issue of the Chronicle. Thus, said the Procurator, the documents in the case established that Gorbanevskaya had systematically prepared and circulated slanderous concoctions defaming the Soviet political system, i.e. committed acts specified in Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

During the search of 24 December 1969 she had attempted to obstruct the performance of investigatory actions – the confiscation of a manuscript – and shown resistance to the investigator: in cutting him with a razor she had inflicted bodily harm which, though slight, had upset his health. Investigator Shilov had explained the circumstances of Gorbanevskaya’s action to the court in detail. Thus it had been established that Gorbanevskaya had committed an act specified in Article 191 of the Russian Criminal Code.

However, the Procurator continued, the case materials included the findings of the forensic-medical examination. The expert, the eminent psychiatrist Professor Lunts, had explained in detail to the court that Gorbanevskaya was suffering from a psychiatric disorder and required treatment in a psychiatric hospital of special type. Such authoritative medical findings, said the Procurator, must be respected, and in accordance with Article 11 of the Criminal Code Gorbanevskaya must be exempted from criminal punishment. But in accordance with Article 58 of the Russian Criminal Code // forcible measures of a medical nature must be taken, namely, treatment in a psychiatric hospital of special type, as recommended by the commission of experts.

Defence counsel then requested that her speech be transferred to the following day, in view of the lateness of the hour and of her tiredness (“eleven hours’ work and the need to study a four-volume case in one day”).

The chairman expressed the hope that after a five-minute recess counsel would be ready to make her speech for the defence.

Defence counsel began with the fact that Gorbanevskaya, who had been arrested almost seven months earlier and was a talented poet and translator, had until the very day of her arrest been engaged in much socially useful work in the field of literary translations.

Defence counsel referred to Gorbanevskaya’s most recent work (a translation from Polish of Tatarkiewicz’s three-volume work The History of Aesthetics) and pointed out that the fee for this work even now provided subsistence for the accused’s two little sons, whom she was bringing up without a father.

The belief that Gorbanevskaya was fit for work, mentally healthy and therefore of sound mind, forced the defence to consider with anxiety the possibility of a judicial error, as a result of which Gorbanevskaya might find herself in a psychiatric hospital for an indefinite period and be prevented from working and from supporting and bring up her children.

Defence counsel criticised in detail the conclusion that Gorbanevskaya was of unsound mind. The reference to the authoritativeness of the commission of experts – instead of a thorough check by the court of the commission’s conclusion – was a violation of the law, since the question of sanity or insanity was decided, according to the law, by the court, and not by a commission of experts.

Defence counsel stated that the rejection of all the defence’s petitions aimed at checking and analysing the conclusions of the commission was at variance with the law and violated the right to defence. Defence counsel considered that the defects in the commission’s report gave grounds for maintaining that the conclusion that Gorbanevskaya was of unsound mind was unjustified and must be rejected by the court.

Further, defence counsel criticised logically and point by point the investigator’s resolution concerning the handing-over of the case to the court, claiming that the episodes cited in the resolution were either unproven or did not constitute a crime.

  1. The Procurator’s reference to the fact that in August 1968 Gorbanevskaya, together with Litvinov, Bogoraz-Brukhman and others, committed a crime specified in Articles 190-1 and 190-3 of the Russian Criminal Code, and that the case against her was closed only because she was judged to be of unsound mind, was at variance with the law and with the principle of the presumption of innocence.

The fact of a crime and of insanity could be established only by a trial, but Gorbanevskaya had not been brought to trial. The reference to this episode should therefore be deleted from the charge.

  1. There was no reason to charge Gorbanevskaya with composing the letter of 28 August 1968 [CCE 3.3] and with sending it to the editors of the [foreign communist] newspapers Rude Pravo, Unita, L’Humanite and others, since (a) this letter had been within the field of vision of the investigating bodies by the time the case was closed on 13 September, and (b) the investigator’s resolution described this letter as tendentious, and not as containing deliberately false, slanderous concoctions. It was clear from the letter’s contents that it reflected only the author’s emotional attitude to the events described. Therefore the letter could not be regarded as criminal under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code. This episode must also be deleted from the charge.
  2. Gorbanevskaya had not been charged with sending her work Noon abroad for publication, and there was no evidence that it had been published with her knowledge and consent. Besides this, the publication of a work abroad did not in itself constitute a crime. Gorbanevskaya did not deny that she was the author of the manuscript Noon, or that she circulated the work among her acquaintances. However, the defence considered that this did not constitute a crime, since the manuscript Noon was not criminal. In her manuscript Gorbanevskaya evaluated a number of facts. A person’s evaluative judgements, based on his convictions, could objectively be correct or incorrect, useful or harmful, but they were not subjectively (deliberately) false. Besides this, the work contained criticism of only one trial (“of the participants in the demonstration of 25 August [1968]”), and expressed no opinions about the Soviet political and social system.

The defence therefore considered that this episode too did not constitute a crime.

(1) Gorbanevskaya was charged with taking part in the compilation and circulation of the collections A Chronicle of Current Events, which appeared in samizdat. These collections were anonymous. The case did not include sufficient evidence that Gorbanevskaya had been an author of these collections or had circulated them. Analysing the evidence presented by the investigation bodies, defence counsel pointed out: (a) the inadmissibility of using as evidence the testimony of Gendler, who had been questioned as the accused in another case but never as a witness in this case; there was all the more reason to delete this testimony from the charge since defence counsel’s petition to have Gendler summoned before the court had been refused; (b) the testimony of the witness Forsel had been refuted by that of Niklus and Tarto, who had been questioned during the preliminary investigation; the court had unjustifiably refused the defence’s petition to have Niklus and Tarto called before the judicial hearing. Forsel’s testimony had therefore not been verified in court and could not be regarded as proof of guilt.

(2) Gorbanevskaya did not deny that she signed a letter addressed to the UN Commission for Human Rights. The defence drew the court’s attention to the fact that these documents bore the signatures of more than forty people and that proceedings had been taken against hardly any of the signatories. Defence counsel, not regarding this document as criminal, then repeated the arguments she had advanced in connection with the book Noon.

(3) Gorbanevskaya did not deny that she wrote the essay “Free medical aid” or that she gave it to her acquaintances to read. The defence did not regard Gorbanevskaya’s essay as criminal. In the resolution on sending the case for trial certain parts of the essay had been misquoted, which was easy to establish. It was said, for example, that Gorbanevskaya claimed in her essay that she had been forcibly placed in a maternity hospital by the KGB. In the essay she had protested against her forcible transfer from the maternity hospital to the Kashchenko hospital and simply speculated about the reasons for the transfer. The fact that Gorbanevskaya1s transfer to the Kashchenko hospital had been groundless was clearly confirmed when she was discharged a week later with the comment that she was in no need of a spell in a psychiatric hospital. The subject of the essay and its contents bore no resemblance either to any false concoctions or to defamation of the Soviet social and political system. The pamphlet spoke about some police officials in a sharp and hostile tone, but warmly and benevolently about others.


Defence counsel considered that this episode should be deleted from the charge against Gorbanevskaya because it did not constitute a crime.

  1. The investigator’s resolution on sending the case for trial mentioned that many slanderous works and documents by various authors had been confiscated from Gorbanevskaya, but did not say exactly which works or in what way they were criminal.

This vague charge could not be recognised by the court, since the investigator had adduced no evidence that Gorbanevskaya circulated these works and documents, and since possessing them did not constitute a crime under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Defence counsel considered that the documents in the case gave no grounds for judging any of Gorbanevskaya’s actions to fall under Article 190-1 of the Code.

Defence counsel then turned to the question of the resistance shown by Gorbanevskaya while the search was being carried out. The defence did not deny that Gorbanevskaya resisted investigator Shilov during the search. But no charge had been made against Gorbanevskaya under Article 191 of the Russian Criminal Code, nor had this Article been mentioned in the case at the time when defence counsel had acquainted herself with the documents. In such a situation the hearing of a case under Article 191 of the Code was in any case unlawful, since it violated the right to a defence. For this reason alone Article 191 had to be deleted from the charge

Moreover, Gorbanevskaya’s actions did not even conform to the terms of the Article, since no intention to use violence had been established, and the law penalised only resisting an official with violence.

Investigator Shilov had confiscated a manuscript copy of Anna Akhmatova’s work Requiem in violation of the law, according to which confiscation must be strictly limited to objects and documents relating to the case. Shilov’s statement to the effect that he had confiscated the manuscript in order to ascertain Gorbanevskaya’s philosophy, proclivities and habits was obviously not viable, since philosophy, proclivities and habits were not within the realm of the law of criminal procedure.

Gorbanevskaya, as was clear from her testimony and that of Shilov, had been sharpening a pencil for her son with the blade of a safety-razor. Aroused by the investigator’s confiscation of a manuscript which was dear to her, as it bore A.A. Akhmatova’s autograph, she had tried to take it away from him. In the “course of the momentary struggle” which resulted from this, two small cuts had appeared on the investigator’s fingers. As Shilov had confirmed in court, Gorbanevskaya had immediately apologised and said that she had caused the cuts by accident.

In such circumstances there were no grounds for considering that Gorbanevskaya had had any intention to use violence.

Closing her speech, defence counsel reminded the court that violation of the law during the examination of a criminal case could not be justified by references to the need to struggle against these or those crimes, and requested that the case against Gorbanevskaya should be closed, that she should be released from custody and allowed to return to her small children and her aged mother in order to look after them.

The address of defence counsel S.V. Kalistratova lasted about one and a half hours.

The court delivered a verdict that N.E. Gorbanevskaya had, while of unsound mind, committed acts falling under Articles 190-1 and 191 of the Russian Criminal Code and would be placed in a psychiatric hospital of special type for compulsory treatment. The period of treatment was not indicated.


On the morning of 7 July 1970 about twenty people – friends and acquaintances of Natalya Gorbanevskaya – gathered outside the premises of the Moscow City Court, where her trial was to take place;  from among them only V. Chalidze was admitted to the court.

At eleven o’clock those assembled realised that it was possible to listen to the trial at the windows in the yard (the hearing was taking place in a semi-basement room). About fifteen people were standing quietly at the windows in the yard when police sergeant Kichkin, who works permanently in the Moscow City Court building, appeared there. Kichkin had previously shown particular rudeness in dealing with people who attended political trials. On this occasion his behaviour was unprecedented. He immediately began shouting and breaking up the group. Then he hurled himself upon Julia Vishnevskaya, seized her and threw her to the ground. Kichkin then turned on Vladimir Telnikov, who had addressed him with the words: “How dare you treat a woman like that?” pushing Telnikov, tearing his shirt, and throwing him violently to the ground. Telnikov got up with a limp. Scratches and bruises were left on the arms of Nadezhda Ya. Shatunovskaya, a middle-aged lady [and mother of Olga Ioffe]: Kichkin twisted her arms and pushed her to the ground. A policeman and two vigilantes [druzhinniki] without armbands also appeared, seized Telnikov by the hair and dragged him into a car.

Yu. Vishnevskaya was detained an hour later.

Telnikov and Vishnevskaya were taken to the police station. On 9 July they were charged under Article 191 (resistance to the authorities) and on 10 July 10 they were sent to two Moscow prisons, Yu. Vishnevskaya to Butyrka and V. Telnikov to the prison on Matrosskaya Tishina Street.

N.Ya. Shatunovskaya submitted a request to the police on 7 July, and to the Procuracy on 15 and 16 July, that she should be sent for examination by a forensic-medical commission. This  was refused. Deputy Procurator Frolov justified his refusal by saying that she had inflicted her bruises herself. On 16 July N.Ya. Shatunovskaya handed in to the Sokolniki district Procuracy a statement that she was starting criminal proceedings against police sergeant Kichkin.

On 7 July, immediately after the incident, sixteen people sent a letter of protest to the chairman of the Moscow City Court. On the same day, after the apprehension of Telnikov and Vishnevskaya, statements were made to the police by: P. Yakir, N.Ya. Shatunovskaya, N. P. Yemelkina, T.S. Khodorovich and G. Podyapolsky. On the following day four more statements were made.

On 22 July Yu. Vishnevskaya was placed for forensic-medical examination in the Serbsky Institute, where she remains to this day.

On 24 August the measure of restraint of Telnikov and Vishnevskaya was changed: Telnikov is at liberty until his trial, having given a written commitment not to leave the city; Yu. Vishnevskaya is still in the Serbsky Institute, but the regime of her detention has been changed – she has been allowed visitors.

A group of N. Gorbanevskaya’s friends wrote an Open Letter. “Of what exactly are Telnikov and Vishnevskaya guilty? Or all the other people who were jostled and scattered in the yard outside the court on 7 July?” it says:

“Of being the friends of their friends. You don’t need to have views which the powers-that-be don’t like; you don’t have to defend those who are being persecuted for their convictions: but if you feel personal, human sympathy for those people, then expect reprisals. It turns out to be a criminal matter to stand in a courtyard where your friend is being tried, a crime to approach a window…

“A person may lose all his rights, all his liberties, but he must – in order to remain a person – retain his last freedom: the right to love those close to him.

“There is one thing left for us: to prove that we are still people.”