The Arrest of Revolt Pimenov, July 1970 (15.3)

«No 15 : 31 August 1970»

In July 1970 Doctor of sciences Revolt Ivanovich PIMENOV, a research officer at the Mathematical Institute, was arrested In Leningrad. (For the search of Pimenov’s flat on 18 April, see CCE 13.10, items 17 & 18.)


Pimenov (b. 1931) graduated from the mathematics and mechanics faculty of Leningrad University. In 1949 he was forcibly hospitalised in a psychiatric institution with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, after he had submitted his resignation from the Komsomol. A second commission headed by Professor Goland then judged him to be healthy; the only thing the professor insisted on when discharging him was that he should withdraw his resignation.

Revolt Pimenov, 1931-1990

In March 1950, threatened with a second hospitalisation, he agreed to remain in the Komsomol; in 1951 he was expelled from it, reinstated by the district committee, and then expelled from the University; but he was reinstated, and graduated in 1954. He worked as a mathematician.


On 25 March 1957 he was arrested, and on 26 August put on trial under Articles 58-10 and 58-11 [Counter-Revolutionary Activities], together with B.B. Vail, K.G. Danilov, I.D. Zaslavsky and I.S. Verblovskaya. Charged with writing the articles “The Fate of the Russian Revolution” and “On the Speech of N.S. Khrushchev” and an essay on “The Hungarian Revolution”, Pimenov was also accused of attempting to set up an anti-Soviet group among the students of the Leningrad Institute of Librarianship.

B.B. Vail, an eighteen-year-old first-year student of the Institute of Librarianship, was charged with trying in company with Pimenov to create an anti-Soviet group, and with the possession and circulation of anti-Soviet literature. Only Article 58-10 of the Criminal Code was applied to the other three accused; they were acquitted under Article 58-11. R.I. Pimenov was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment; B.B. Vail to three; and K.G. Danilov, I.D. Zaslavsky and I.S. Verblovskaya were each sentenced to two years’ loss of liberty.


In December 1957 the judicial board for criminal affairs of the Russian Supreme Court, after considering an appeal by the Leningrad Procurator, delivered a decision that the case should be re-tried. In January 1958 the new trial sentenced Pimenov to ten years, with three further years’ deprivation of rights; Vail received six years, Zaslavsky and Verblovskaya five years, and Danilov four years. This time all were accused under Article 58-11.

R.I. Pimenov was released on parole with a probationary period of three years by a decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Court of 15 July 1963, and the deprivation of rights was quashed.

A year later R.I. Pimenov defended his master’s dissertation at the Mathematical Institute of the Academy of Sciences, and at the end of 1969 he defended his doctoral dissertation. He is a member of the Committee on Gravitation and author of the book Spaces of the Kinematic Type (the mathematical theory of space-time) and many mathematical papers. In addition R.I. Pimenov has written several plays, and the article “How I searched for the English spy Sidney Reilly”.

B.B. Vail was tried a second time in the camp, his term of imprisonment being increased to eight years. He was released in September 1965 and lives in Kursk, where he works in a puppet theatre.


In April 1970 Pimenov’s flat was searched. At the same time Vail‘s flat in Kursk was searched. Both searches were carried out on the instructions of the Obninsk City Procuracy.

Immediately after the search Pimenov was repeatedly summoned for questioning as a witness in the case of V.I. Zinoveva by V.I. Borisov, an investigator of the Obninsk Procuracy and Deputy Procurator of the city of Obninsk, who had come to Leningrad, and junior counsellor I. P. Filimonov, an investigator of the Leningrad Procuracy.


Besides this, R.I. Pimenov was summoned for a talk by V.A. Medvedev, secretary for ideology of the Leningrad city Party committee.[Note 1]  We quote extracts from the conversation which took place on 20 April 1970 in Medvedev’s office at the Smolny Institute [Party headquarters in Leningrad].

Medvedev: “You understand that you and I have to talk about things other than science. Your scientific achievements are all well and good, but there is this other matter … You’re behaving badly.”


Medvedev: “There’s this whole collection of anti-Soviet literature which has been confiscated from you.”

Pimenov: “There was not a single line in it containing calls for the overthrow, weakening or undermining of the Soviet regime.”

Medvedev: “Well, procedural subtleties aren’t my strong point. It’s for the investigation to determine whether the literature is anti-Soviet.

“But a collection of undesirable literature has been confiscated from you. Legal subtleties are not my business, I’m talking to you straight … Why are you so interested in this sort of literature?”

Pimenov: “Well, I’ll try to explain it to you.

“The whole point is that some time ago we scholars lost our sense of personal security. At about the end of 1966. Until then fear somehow didn’t arise. And the feeling of fear made us think: why are we afraid? The need arose to determine the social causes of that fear. For scientific work one needs to be certain of the morrow. When such certainty exists, then specialists in narrow fields can appear, who are concerned solely with their science and are not remotely interested in social relationships.

“… A threat to one’s personal security prompts one to take up politics.

“And it all started with those trials [i.e. the Sinyavsky-Daniel trial in January 1966, and the Ginzburg-Galanskov trial in January 1968, see //CCE 1.1, 30 April 1968, eds.]. The main thing about them was the way they were conducted. The violation of procedural regulations riveted people’s attention to them and aroused public opinion …”

Medvedev: “What is it you want? If you think that some day we’ll let everyone say and write just what they like about everything, then that will never happen. We won’t allow that …

“Change your ideology. Of course, we haven’t the power to make everybody think alike, but we do still have enough power not to let people commit acts which will harm us. There will never be any concessions at all in the sphere of ideology! Remember that once and for all. I can enumerate to you on my fingers those basic truths which may not be violated.”

Pimenov: “There’s no need to enumerate them. I should merely like you too to bear in mind that subjectively, at any rate, I have never acted against the interests of the State. I may make mistakes, but I act with a view to the State’s interests…”

Medvedev: “That’s what the White Guards said! Everyone hides behind the interests of the State. The Kronstadt rebels, too, said that they were for the Soviet regime. Hitler, too, said he was a socialist. Nowadays everybody says he is acting in the name of the State, of socialism, for the people! Who will dare to say nowadays that he is against socialism, against progress?! Against the Soviet regime?! But we shan’t let anyone get in our way! We shan’t let anyone harm us! Just you remember that and re-think your philosophy! I realise, of course, that one conversation isn’t enough, but at any rate I advise you to think over your behaviour very carefully.”

Pimenov: “I have understood you …”


Subsequent interrogations on the “Obninsk case” were conducted by investigator of the Leningrad Procuracy G.N. Porukov. From the very first interrogations it became clear that Zinovieva was giving the investigator names and listing samizdat works which had not been confiscated during searches.

In May V.I. Zinovieva was released from custody until her trial. In a conversation she explained her motives for her behaviour during the investigation: her principal desire was to protect N.N. Ivanovsky, who had been “picked up with literature on him”. (Ivanovsky was detained on the morning of 18 April in I.S. Verblovskaya‘s flat in Leningrad.) When reproached that she had slandered Pimenov by saying that he had given her things which she had in fact not received from him, V.I. Zinovieva said: “Nothing will happen to him – the Academicians will intercede for him! But look, I was in prison, they kept me for four whole days on bread and water.”

The reason for Zinovieva’s testimony against B.B. Vail, which coincided exactly – even in the titles of works – with her testimony against Pimenov, is unknown.

During the investigation the witness R.I. Pimenov had two confrontations with the witnesses N.G. Pugach, a [woman] graduate student of the Leningrad Agricultural Institute, and I.M. Startsev. Pugach had once brought Startsev to Pimenov’s home. Now they claimed that Pimenov had supplied her with samizdat literature.

In late July R. Pimenov was summoned for questioning and detained without charge. B.B. Vail, after numerous interrogations in Kursk, was summoned to the Leningrad Procuracy, and after a confrontation with Zinovieva he was charged under Article 190-1. Vail’s wife was also questioned.

Pimenov too has now been charged under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

[For the trial of all three, see CCE 16.2 “The trial of Pimenov and Vail”]



[1] During “Perestroika” (1985-1991), Vadim Andreyevich MEDVEDEV, together with Alexander Yakovlev and Eduard Sheverdnadze, would become one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberal supporters in the CPSU Politburo and Central Committee.