B.V. Talantov, 1903-1971; N.N. Samsonov, 1906-1971 (18.12)

«No 18 : 5 March 1971»


On 4 January 1971 Boris Vladimirovich TALANTOV (b. 1903) died in the prison hospital in Kirov [Volga District]. He was arrested on 12 June 1969 and at the beginning of September sentenced under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code to three years’ imprisonment (CCE 8.14, item 3 and CCE 10.2). The indictment was based on his works on the position of believers and of the Orthodox church in the USSR.

Boris Vladimirovich was born into the family of a priest in Kostroma [Central Russia]. His father, who was sentenced in 1937, died in the Temnikov camps in Mordovia in 1940. His younger brother Serafim, a hydrotechnician, was arrested in 1930 and sent to work on the building of the White Sea canal [where he died].

Boris Talantov in 1969

Boris Vladimirovich graduated from the Physics and Mathematics Faculty of the Kirov Pedagogical Institute, and remained there as a lecturer in higher mathematics (until 1954). Both as a student and a lecturer B. V. Talantov was repeatedly persecuted because of his social background and his religious beliefs, which he never concealed. Several times he was barred from teaching and persecuted in the local press: O. Lyubovikov wrote about him twice in Kirovskaya pravda, in the articles “Out of the Gutter” (Iz podvorotni) 1958 and “With an open visor” (S otkrytym zabralom), 1967 [note 1]. In Perm in 1967 B. V. Talantov was subjected to a search. In the same year, unable to endure the constant harassment any longer, Boris Vladimirovich’s wife died.

Boris Vladimirovich was an active fighter for the freedom of the church. The letters “On the mass destruction of churches of architectural value” (1963) and the “Letter from twelve believers of the Kirov Region to Patriarch Alexy” (1966), of which B.V. Talantov was the author, or co-author, are well-known.

At his trial Boris Vladimirovich conducted himself with dignity and courage, pleading not guilty; he took leave of his near ones in advance, saying that he had no hope of ever seeing freedom again. From September 1970 onwards his health began to deteriorate sharply, and in November he was placed in hospital. On 4 January Boris Vladimirovich had an hour’s talk in prison with his son Gleb and bade him farewell; he died twenty minutes after his son had left.

The body of the deceased was handed over to his children and buried on 8 January, all the rites of the Orthodox church being observed. The farewell to the body of the deceased lasted several hours. A large crowd accompanied the coffin to the cemetery. The mourners included non-believers—former students of Boris Vladimirovich.



On 27 February 1971 the eminent Soviet geophysicist Nikolai Nikolayevich SAMSONOV died of an acute heart attack.

Nikolai Nikolayevich was born in St. Petersburg in 1906. On graduating in 1929 from the Physics and Mathematics Faculty of Leningrad University (specializing in astro-geodesies) he began work in the field of exploratory geophysics. In 1931 he headed a group of gravimetric expeditions in the Donets Basin and Baskunchak. From 1932 to 1936 he worked for the Directorate of Geology as consultant-curator for problems of the Major Donets Basin. He subsequently transferred to the Directorate of Northern Sea Routes [Glavsevmorput], where he was in charge of geophysical prospecting for valuable minerals in the Arctic. In 1936 his appointment as senior research officer was confirmed.

On 6 July 1941 Nikolai Nikolayevich entered the people’s volunteer corps and fought at the Leningrad front. On 15 March 1942, at the request of the Directorate of Northern Sea Routes, he was demobilized and sent to join the Nordvik expedition a in the Arctic, where he worked until 1946. There then followed work at the Scientific Research Institute of Arctic Geology and the All-Union Institute of Exploratory Geophysics (in 1951-1952 he headed a gravi-magnetic expedition in the Taimyr Depression using aeroplanes and helicopters), and in 1954 he was transferred to the All-Union Institute of Prospecting Technology.

He was decorated with the Medal of Honour [Znak pochota] and other medals.

In 1950 N. N. Samsonov and S. A. Poddubny were awarded the Stalin Prize (3rd class) for designing a new type of gravimeter and solving the technological problems associated with its manufacture.

N. N. Samsonov was the author of fifteen published works, two text-books on gravimetrics and four inventions (including the Samsonov density meter (SDM), which is widely used as present).

Samsonov‘s unpublished works on questions of linguistics and thought-processes are of great interest.


In 1956 N. N. Samsonov wrote to the Party committee of the October district of Leningrad, and later to the Central Committee of the Party, attaching his notes entitled “Thinking Aloud”. Here he argues that between 1934 and 1937 Stalin carried out a counter-revolutionary coup, destroyed the Communist Party of Lenin, replaced it by a party of the bureaucratic e1ite, thus perverting the Leninist concept of the withering-away of the state under socialism, and laid the foundations for the creation and consolidation of the bureaucratic state. In his letter N. N. Samsonov urges a return to Leninist democratic principles of governing the country.

On 6 November 1956 he was arrested and detained at the ‘Big House’, KGB headquarters in Leningrad. He was charged under Article 58-10 (now Article 70 of the Russian Criminal Code). However, a visiting commission headed by Professor Torubarov of the Serbsky Institute judged Samsonov to be of unsound mind, and on 26 November he was placed in the Leningrad Prison Psychiatric Hospital (LPPH), later renamed the LSPH (Leningrad Special Psychiatric Hospital).

Doctors [L.A.] Kalinin, Kelchevskaya and others, having acquainted themselves with N. N. Samsonov’s works on language and thought-processes, considered him to be mentally healthy, but advised him to admit in writing that he was of unsound mind when he composed the letter to the Central Committee. Such an admission, they told him, would testify to his “recovery”. However, for the eight years he spent in the Leningrad SPH N.N. Samsonov refused to admit that he was of unsound mind and demanded a judicial examination.

In 1958 he was threatened with forcible injections of Aminazin, with the candid explanation that in view of his diseased liver Aminazin would result in a worsening of his health. But even this threat did not shake Samsonov’s determination. They began to use Aminazin. In 1964, afraid of dying in the Leningrad SPH (he was suffering from emphysema and a weak heart), Nikolai Nikolayevich was compelled to write the required declaration.

On 30 September 1964 he was discharged from the Leningrad SPH. A year later he was released from supervision and given a pension. Recently, as is the right of a pensioner, he had been working for two months every year at the same place as before – the Institute of Exploratory Geophysics, perfecting the instrument which he created in collaboration with S.A. Poddubny.



[1] For Talantov’s reaction to these articles, see Michael Bourdeaux, Patriarch and Prophets: The Persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church Today, London, 1969. The book also contains the texts of the 1963 and 1966 letters written by Talantov.