The Trial of Irina Grivnina, 14-15 July 1981 (63.1)

<<No 63 : 31 December 1981>>

On 13 July [1981] Moscow Helsinki Group member Ivan Kovalyov published an appeal:

“I have the honour to call myself a friend of Irina Grivnina. I am proud to be able to say the same of many other prisoners of conscience.

To them has fallen a difficult but honourable fate. They are the living proof that truth is stronger than falsehood, kindness and sympathy are stronger than indifference, good is stronger than evil.

Today these people – the country’s pride – are in prisons, camps and exile. They are not understood and not supported by the silent majority, and sometimes not by their relatives either. But the amount of goodness, honesty and responsiveness these people possess is so great that it gives them the strength for moral opposition to falsehood, violence and tyranny in any situation.

Today a court must determine a measure of punishment for Irina Grivnina – woman, mother, open-hearted human being. I maintain that Irina Grivnina has never lied, never slandered and never attempted to discredit or undermine the social arrangements and international prestige of the country. I maintain that she is innocent.

I appeal to the court: prove that this trial is open and independent – remove the police cordons, guarantee entry into the courtroom for all who wish it, weigh up all the evidence of the case thoroughly and without prejudice, and reach the just judgment of acquittal. Show your good sense. Show, even to some small degree, those qualities which are inherently characteristic of the defendant.

I appeal also to all honest people and to all people of good will, and, in the first place, to my compatriots.

We are all equally responsible for what is happening. Do not let an injustice take place. Do not let a trial turn into a mindless act of violence. Speak out in defence of Irina Grivnina!”


On 14 and 15 July Moscow City Court, presided over by V.V. Bogdanov (who also tried Yu. Grimm – CCE 58, and A. Lavut – CCE 60), examined the case against member of the Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes, Irina Vladimirovna Grivnina (b. 1945; arrested 16 September 1980 – CCE 60). She who was charged under article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. The prosecutor was Moscow Procurator A.A. Golovin; defence attorney A.A. Sarne-Rubanova defended.

Irina Grivnina, b. 1945

The trial took place in the Lyublino District People’s Court in Moscow, where Yu. Orlov (CCE 50.//), T. Velikanova (CCE 58.1), Vyacheslav Bakhmin (CCE 58.//), Yu. Grimm (CCE 58.//) and T. Osipova (CCE 62.//) also stood trial. Apart from the specially invited public, only the husband of the accused, V. Neplekhovich, was present in the courtroom. The block in which the court building is situated was cordoned off.

On 15 September 1980 the Moscow Procuracy separated the case of Grivnina from the case of L. Ternovsky (CCE 56, 57). On 22 October 1980 it transferred the-case to the Moscow KGB.

During seven months of investigation Grivnina was interrogated 21 times. She refused to give evidence – over the whole period only a few lines appeared on the records of her interrogations. During the investigation Grivnina was twice taken ill and fainted. Two hours after one of these faints she was summoned to the next interrogation.

During the investigation, the cases against Felix Serebrov (trial, CCE 63.1b) and V. Kuvakin (trial, CCE 63.6) were separated from the case against Grivnina. Moreover, material relating to O. Kislina, Pinkhos Podrabinek, his wife L. Ivanova and A. Naidenovich was separated for further investigation of mentally ill persons in institutions of healing, including persons who, in a state of non-responsibility for their actions, had committed various socially dangerous acts. With the aim of defaming the Soviet social and political system Grivnina presented these people in the ‘information bulletins’ as innocent victims of an alleged Soviet practice of ‘the use of psychiatry for political purposes’, and libelled Soviet officials and the humanitarian activities of Soviet psychiatric institutions.


According to the indictment:

“during the period from September 1978 to April 1980, in the City of Moscow, together with F.A. Serebrov, V.I. Bakhmin (trial, CCE 58), A.P. Podrabinek (trial, CCE 61) and L.B. Ternovsky (trial, CCE 60), [Grivnina] systematically circulated and compiled ‘illegal information bulletins’ on the territory of the USSR. In these bulletins she incorporated material which was selected tendentiously and treated in a slanderous way, and which contained deliberate fabrications defaming the Soviet social and political systems, concerning ‘psychiatric repressions’ allegedly carried out by Soviet authorities, deliberate and premeditated detention of healthy people in psychiatric hospitals because of their political and religious beliefs and the tormenting of these people in psychiatric institutions. In this manner she distorted and discredited the activities of Soviet government officials and medical institutions.

During this period the above-mentioned documents were reproduced and circulated with Grivnina’s participation on Soviet territory and were also sent to the West for the same purpose, as a result of which they were used by foreign anti-Soviet publishers and as a means of imperialist propaganda in the commitment of acts of ideological subversion against the Soviet Union.

Grivnina’s criminal activities constitute a public danger for the additional reason that, not possessing medical education, she, by her activities, interfered in healing processes, impeding the normal work of Soviet psychiatric institutions and in certain situations endangering the health of mentally ill people, encouraging them to commit antisocial acts and using their sickness for her own criminal ends.

The investigation has established that during the given period six of these ‘information bulletins’ – Nos. 11, 14, 19, 20, 21 and 22 – were compiled, reproduced In large quantities, distributed on Soviet territory and sent to the West for mass circulation, with the direct participation of Grivnina.

In these documents Grivnina deliberately resorted to distortions and misinterpretations, juggling with and clearly falsifying the facts, and composed deliberate fabrications concerning the reasons for and circumstances of the hospitalization and the conditions of detention The case material has also been found to include deliberate fabrications by Grivnina about the ‘unthinkable’ conditions in which sick persons are detained in a number of psychiatric institutions in the USSR, including assurances that strong drugs are administered as a form of torture, and about the restrictions and humiliations to which patients are supposedly subjected in psychiatric hospitals.

Official material attached to the case file testifies that the equipment and conditions of treatment, detention and safety in both the general and special hospitals of the USSR fully correspond to existing legislation. The newest drugs and medical technology and numerous rehabilitation measures are widely used in order to achieve the most effective possible treatment for mentally ill persons and their return to normal life.

The qualified psychiatrists questioned as witnesses (the names of 34 psychiatrists are listed, some of whom were mentioned in the Working Commission’s Information Bulletins – Chronicle), who have been directly involved in the treatment of persons described by Grivnina in the ‘information bulletins’ as victims of psychiatric persecution, testified that all these persons were indeed mentally ill and that there were sound reasons for committing them for treatment in psychiatric hospitals.

During the course of the investigation the defendant Grivnina admitted her participation in the preparation and circulation of the aforementioned ‘information bulletins’. Grivnina’s testimony is confirmed by the contents of a typewritten document taken from the home of Moscow resident V.S. Tolts (CCE 56 – Chronicle), which has the form of an interview with Grivnina in which she talked about her direct participation in the composition of ‘information bulletins’ compiled after May 1978.

Grivnina refers to her direct participation in the composition and reproduction of ‘information bulletins’ in a letter to A. Podrabinek dated 12-20 October 1979 in which she gives information about the composition by her of Bulletin No. 11 V.D. Kuvakin was questioned as a witness and testified that he knew of Grivnina’s participation in the composition and circulation of ‘information bulletins’, including No. 11, the contents of which he had read in September and October of 1978.

Witnesses L.B. Ternovsky, O.L. Ternovskaya, M.Z. Novikov and the defendant in a separate case, F.A. Serebrov, testified that Grivnina was one of the authors of ‘information bulletin’ No. 22 and participated in its composition and circulation.

As a result of searches carried out at Grivnina’s flat on 26 December 1979, 10 April and 12 and 16 September 1980 the following articles were confiscated: typewritten ‘information bulletins’: No. 11 – 5 copies, No. 14 – 8 copies, No. 19 – 13 copies, No. 20 – 16 copies, No. 21 – 11 copies; numerous typewritten and handwritten drafts of texts appertaining to ‘information bulletins’ Nos. 20, 21 and 22; 15 accompanying letters for Bulletin No. 20, earmarking this document for wide distribution: also three Unis and Olympia typewriters and other material demonstrating the active participation of the defendant in the composition and circulation of the aforementioned numbers of the bulletin.

A card-index, notebooks, loose notes and letters containing data on mentally ill people whom Grivnina included in the ‘information bulletins’ as examples of the ‘psychiatric repressions’ alleged to exist in the USSR, were !also confiscated from Grivnina’s home.

The fact that ‘information bulletins’ composed with the participation of Grivnina were confiscated from people living not only in Moscow but in other towns of the USSR bears witness to their mass distribution.

The following testimonies, collected in connection with this case, confirm Grivnina’s participation in sending ‘information bulletins’ composed by her and the information contained in them to the West.

N.A. Kuznetsova, V.G. Polenova and N.N. Silkina, telephonists at post-office No. 85, who were questioned as witnesses, identified Grivnina from photographs, and testified that she regularly telephoned abroad. Moreover, witness Silkina stated that in the course of these conversations Grivnina talked about the publication of ‘information bulletin’ material in the West and specifically mentioned numbers 19, 20 and 21.

Moreover the material evidence attached to the case file includes letters from a certain Gunnar in the Swedish and Russian languages dated 20 and 21 August 1980 confiscated at a customs inspection of Swedish citizen Tor Klass, who entered the USSR on 23 August 1980 on the ‘Helsinki-Moscow’ train via the entry point at Vyborg.

In these letters Grivnina is mentioned as a source of information on matters concerning ‘the use of psychiatry for political purposes’.

These testimonies are objectively confirmed by the notes of telephone numbers of Moscow correspondents of bourgeois newspapers and information agencies and also by the addresses of foreign anti-Soviet organizations and of individuals living abroad engaged in activities harmful to the USSR, all of which were confiscated during a search of Grivnina’s home.

When interrogated as an accused person Grivnina admitted responsibility for the composition and circulation of the ‘information bulletins’; in addition she also stated that she was not guilty of the crime committed, she did not repent of her actions, and she refused, for no reason, to testify at the interrogations or to take part in the investigative operations.

The First Day

Grivnina submitted over ten petitions to the court, upheld by her lawyer, concerning requests for documents and information from Soviet institutions. All her petitions were dismissed. Grivnina then refused the services of her lawyer. This petition was granted.

After this Grivnina made a statement:

“I fully recognize the existence in our legislation of articles introduced with the purpose of safeguarding the state structure and the existing order, such as Articles 70 and 190-1.

I consider unnatural and illegal any arbitrary or elastic interpretation of these legislative norms, as in practice this leads to the persecution of people for political dissent. I do not consider that I have broken the law, since I never distributed information the truth of which I was not certain of. When even the slightest doubts about veracity existed, the information was not used.

Looking through the episodes described in the criminal case against me, I became certain that the majority of the people we have helped, and who have been held in psychiatric hospitals in connection with these same articles, have also not broken the law. They simply expressed their opinions aloud and were sure that they were telling the truth.

The refusal to grant any of my petitions testifies to the court’s unwillingness to establish the truth of the case. I am therefore now abandoning any demeaning attempt to prove my case, and I refuse to answer any of the court’s questions, although I reserve the right to a final speech”.

After Grivnina had refused to testify, the questioning of witnesses began.

Kuvakin said that he did not know whether Grivnina was connected with the Working Commission. He had not received any material from Grivnina. He did not know where the Working Commission found its information. ‘I suppose that people who were in need of help applied to the Working Commission’.

Serebrov said:

“Grivnina was arrested for one basic reason – for communicating information to people living abroad by means of telephone conversations. The order to listen into and record Grivnina’s telephone conversations is missing from the criminal case file on myself. I do not know whether it is present in the case file on Grivnina. The information which I have just given the court was given to me by KGB officials. I have no reason to doubt its truthfulness. If a copy of the order to listen into and record Grivnina’s telephone conversations is missing from Case No. 536 then I consider that this case is a screen designed to conceal the real reason for her arrest. I do not wish to take part in this farce. I am not a puppet that will obediently play the part written for it.

Therefore I refuse to reply to any questions in this trumped up case.”

12 doctors from various psychiatric hospitals were then questioned.

The Second Day

In his speech the Procurator said:

“This crime was directed against the prestige, authority and dignity of the Soviet political and social system. … Opponents of our system are trying to bring to life echoes of the distant past, and hatred for the socialist order in the minds of various individuals.”

On the grounds that Grivnina ‘is on trial for the first time, engaged in socially useful work before her arrest, and has a young daughter to support’, he asked for a sentence of five years of exile.

In her defence speech Grivnina said that the telephonists had apparently been given recordings of her conversations to listen to, and told what testimony to give. For example, Silkina stated that Grivnina had been using the public telephone since summer 1977, although she had phoned from home until her telephone was disconnected in February 1980.

In her final speech Grivnina said:

“Every human being is an inner world, a whole universe so complex that one careless touch can destroy it irreparably. It is terrifying to imagine what losses world culture would have sustained had Chaadayev, Dostoyevsky, van Gogh or Maupassant been hastily ‘cured’. I have deliberately named only the most obvious examples, but the number of talented and even brilliant people who have been marked to some degree or other with the stamp of madness is considerably greater. Genius often seems strange or even mad to ordinary people like us.

In Information Bulletin No. 11 the following statement was made: we are active in the defence not only of healthy people who are placed in psychiatric hospitals for any reason, but also of those mentally ill people who do not constitute a real danger to society. As we see it, words, even those of a madman, cannot threaten the common good … to imprison people in special psychiatric hospitals after charges of dissent have been brought against them is, to us, an immoral and criminal act’.

That quotation is from a book written by my friend Alexander Podrabinek. I fully share his point of view.

This principle is the basis of the Working Commission’s activities and we have never maintained that those we have adopted are without exception mentally healthy people.

I simply cannot understand how the publication of facts about violations by individual doctors and hospital staff of their medical responsibilities can defame the political and social order of our country.”


The sentence: five years of exile. The text of the judgment was a virtual repetition of the text of the indictment; however, references to Serebrov’s testimony were deleted. The audience greeted the sentence with disapproval: ‘Too little!’

On 31 July the Moscow Helsinki Group adopted Document No. 175, ‘The Trial of Irina Grivnina’.

At the beginning of October Grivnina was taken for transit. At the end of October she arrived at her place of exile: 476110, Kazakh SSR, Kokchetavskaya Region, settlement Krasny Yar.