The Trial of Bukovsky, Nov. 1971 to January 1972 (23.1)

<<No 23 : 5 January 1972>>

[Appeals and Statements]

In a letter of 26 November 1971 [64] addressed to the Fifth International Congress of Psychiatrists in Mexico, the Action Group for Human Rights in the USSR announced its support

“for the appeal and proposals of the Committee for Human Rights [CCE 22.7, item 5]. which are aimed at the working out ways to limit the possibility of arbitrariness and malpractices in relation to people who have been ruled to be mentally ill or who are undergoing psychiatric examination”.

The letter reads:

“Sharing the Committee’s anxiety about the imperfection of the guarantees of the rights of these people, we consider it essential to try to draw the attention of the participants of the Congress in particular to the most immediate and in practice important, in our opinion, question, which concerns the psychiatric criteria of non-responsibility which are used in forensic medical diagnosis during the investigation and trial of people charged with political offences”.

Listing the documents, the study of which, in their opinion, would be useful in this connection (the diaries of P.G. Grigorenko, [65] the letter of V. Fainberg [66] and the book of Zh. and R. Medvedev, A Question of Madness), the authors of the letter especially stress the achievement of Vladimir Bukovsky, thanks to whose initiative the participants in the Congress (and the world as a whole) have gained access to materials which describe the illegal methods of carrying out such examinations in the Soviet Union. [67]


On 28 November 1971, the Action Group made an appeal to the USSR Procurator-General, R.A. Rudenko, with a copy to the International League for the Rights of Man, protesting against the new illegalities to which Bukovsky had fallen victim.

His desire to use the services of lawyer D.I. Kaminskaya, who had defended him at an earlier trial, had been rejected by the investigator on the grounds that Kaminskaya did not possess “a security pass to “secret” proceedings. [68] (This argument was repeated on 24 November 1971, by the Chairman of the Presidium of the Moscow Collegium of Lawyers, A.K. Apraksin. [69]) Noting the illegality of the practice of demanding “security passes” of this sort, and also the absence in the existing situation of any sort of guarantee that illegal methods of pressure would not be applied to Bukovsky by the investigators (throughout the entire period of his detention [8 months] Bukovsky’s mother, Nina Ivanovna, had not had a single meeting with him, nor received a single letter, so that he had been completely deprived of contact with the outside world), the authors of the letter write:

“Because of the absence of a lawyer until now, it is unknown what Bukovsky is actually accused of. The absence of a lawyer may facilitate the thickening of the mystery surrounding the trial itself, even including the possibility that its start might not be known been met without the participation of a lawyer” contradicts Soviet criminal procedural law. In addition, the whole practice of demanding “security ” before lawyers can be admitted to “secret” cases contradicts international about in advance. We demand the admission to Bukovsky’s case of the lawyer demanded by him, D.I. Kaminskaya, and full publicity for the forthcoming trial of Vladimir Bukovsky… We are convinced of the complete innocence of Vladimir Bukovsky, hut at the present time we refrain from the natural demand for his release, as we are certain that full publicity for the trial proceedings, together with the granting of his right to a defence, will be enough to prove his innocence”.

On 29 November 1971, members of the Committee for Human Rights, V.N. Chalidze, A.D. Sakharov and A.N. Tverdokhlebov, and consultant of the Committee A.S. Volpin sent a supervisory complaint to USSR Procurator-General Rudenko, asking for an end to be put to the infringement of Vladimir Bukovsky’s right to a defence on the part of the investigators.

“The statement of the chief investigator that ‘the requirements of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure under Article 201 have already law, the Constitution of the USSR, the lawyers’ statutes of the Russian Republic, and elementary logic. And this is not to mention the fact that ‘whatever the body which issued the decree on the basis of which Apraksin rejected Kaminskaya for her lack of a ‘security pass’ for the proceedings, it is clear that this body issued not only an illegal but also an ineffective decree, in the sense that the decree does not ensure the secrecy of proceedings.

Certainly, according to the Code of Criminal Procedure the lawyer in a case has the right to study no larger a number of documents than the defendant himself, but the liability of a person to be charged with an offence does not depend, either according to the law or in practice, on his possession of a ‘security pass’ for secret proceedings. Such deliberate mistrust of a lawyer is unfounded and undoubtedly infringes the professional dignity of a lawyer, especially as, according to the ‘ statutes, Article 10, people ‘who do not possess the moral and professional qualities to be a Soviet are not elected to the Collegium of Lawyers’.”


On 7 December 1971 the mother of Vladimir Bukovsky, Nina Ivanovna Bukovskaya, appealed to the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, N.V. Podgorny, to issue an order for the right to a defence, as guaranteed by Soviet law, to be observed: the lawyer whom N.I. Bukovskaya had been able to find for her son had been refused by him, as the investigator had not presented this lawyer to Bukovsky personally, but had recommended him in his absence. N.I. Bukovskaya also writes of  her fears that she might not be admitted to the courtroom, as she may be named as a witness in the case, and she asks to be protected from such an arbitrary act.


On 12 December 1971 the members of the Committee for Human Rights, A.D. Sakharov, A.N. Tverdokhlebov, V.N. Chalidze and I.R. Shafarevich, appealed to the Chairman of the Moscow City Court [N. A. Osetrov], expressing their desire [a] to be present at the trial of Bukovsky and “to observe in person the workings of justice in this case, which has aroused great public interest”, and [b] asking him to inform them by telephone of the date of the court hearing.


In a letter [70] to the Procurator-General of the USSR and the Minister of Justice of the USSR [V. I. Terebilov] Academician A. Sakharov, Academician M. Leontovich, corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences I. Shafarevich and the writer A[lexander] Galich report that, having studied materials which give a clear idea of Bukovsky’s activity, they consider

“that these materials cannot serve as the basis for the arrest and trial of Bukovsky. They do not contain libellous fabrications, nor agitation or propaganda with the aim of undermining the Soviet political and social system. His [TV] interview [71] is based on what he saw and heard and experienced himself during his imprisonment in a special psychiatric hospital and in a camp. As regards the medical documents sent by Bukovsky to Western psychiatrists, [72] they can in no way be regarded as libellous, as they are copies of genuine documents. ”


On 27 December 1971 member of the USSR Writers’ Union V.E. Maximov, [73] whose secretary Bukovsky was right up to his arrest (CCE 22.2), sent this statement to the Procurator-General of the USSR and the Chairman of the USSR Supreme Court [A. F. Gorkin]:

“Having studied the documents sent by my secretary Vladimir Bukovsky to the court of international psychiatry, I consider it my duty to state the following:

(1) As far as I know, extracts from a person’s medical history, medical conclusions, and records of medical diagnoses have never been, and are not, state secrets. All the more so if they are written in a qualified and impartial way.

(2) Soviet psychiatrists should only welcome wide publicity being given to their, I dare to hope, impartial conclusions, so that the provocative rumours and idle fabrications of political speculators, which are used with great advantage to itself by so-called bourgeois propaganda, may be cut off at their very source. …

On the basis of the above I consider the initiation of a case against Vladimir Bukovsky on these grounds to be unfounded.

Naturally, the investigators may have additional information about which, until I can study it, it is difficult for me to judge. In that case it is the duty of the investigatory organs to present this information to our public”.


On 29 December 1971, in an open letter about V. Bukovsky, the Action Group said that he had

“obtained and collected forensic psychiatric diagnoses, on the basis of which people who have dared to criticize those things in our country which in their opinion deserve criticism, are being subjected to refined torture for many years. Bukovsky sent these documents to Western psychiatrists so that they could study the problem and raise it before the judgment of world public opinion….

… The fate of Bukovsky is now, and always will be, linked with this crucial social fact: the sentencing of Bukovsky is necessary to those people who wish to conceal the existence of the system of repressing people by psychiatric means, and to continue such repressions. ” The letter ends with the appeal: “Freedom for Vladimir Bukovsky!”


On 5 January 1972 the trial of Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky took place in the Lyublino district court (Yegorevskaya Street, 14) of Moscow.

The approaches to the court-house were sealed off by the police a block away on either side. Neither Bukovsky’s mother, who had been summoned to appear as a witness in spite of her statement that she could not tell the court anything about the substance of the case, nor any of his friends, nor any member of the Committee for Human Rights was admitted to the courtroom (“because of the lack of unoccupied places’’).

The judicial examination was conducted by an assize session of the Moscow City Court. The Judge was V. Lubentsova, [75] the procurator [prosecutor] was [Aza M.] Bobrushko, the people’s assessors were Kondakov and Shlykov, the defence counsel was V.Ya. Shveisky, [76] and the secretary was Osina.

V.K. Bukovsky was charged with having circulated anti-Soviet materials of libellous content, with having communicated to foreign correspondents slanderous information, and with having asserted that in the Soviet Union healthy people are placed in psychiatric hospitals of prison type. In the indictment it was also stated that “Bukovsky had the aim of organizing an underground printing-press in order to circulate samizdat materials”.

Vladimir Bukovsky (1942-2019)

V. Bukovsky announced to the court nine petitions, which concerned: making the charges more concrete; summoning to court witnesses who could confirm the truthfulness of his statements to Western correspondents; publicity for the court proceedings and admission to the courtroom of his friends and acquaintances; the attachment to the case of several documents, in particular the refusal of the Chairman of the Collegium of Lawyers, Apraksin, to appoint lawyer D.I. Kaminskaya because of her lack of “a security pass for secret proceedings.”

The court rejected all the petitions made by Bukovsky and his lawyer Shveisky, and resolved merely to attach to the case materials a few of Bukovsky’s written complaints.

V. Bukovsky informed the court that in the interview he had given to foreign correspondents he had spoken about the facts of his biography and about other people known to him, who, while absolutely healthy mentally, had been interned by courts in psychiatric hospitals without any medical or juridical grounds. He described the conditions of life in the Leningrad Special Psychiatric Hospital and the methods of forcible treatment applied there; he spoke about how injections of aminazin and sulphazin, which produce a heightening of the temperature and serious mental depression, are ordered following complaints by orderlies; and also of how it is possible to get oneself discharged from the hospital only by renouncing one’s beliefs. Bukovsky informed the court of a series of inhuman actions concerning the prisoners in the Leningrad Special Psychiatric Hospital.

In reply to the question, what his motive had been in giving an interview to Western correspondents, and whether he had not had the aim of undermining or weakening Soviet authority, V. Bukovsky made a categorical denial and said that he had been thinking only of those people, his friends and others, whom, perhaps, it might be possible to save.

Bukovsky denied having handed two documents to the Belgian Hugo Sebreghts, an action with which he was charged.

Referring to the testimony of witness A. E. Nikitinsky, his school friend and now a customs official at [Moscow’s] Sheremetyevo Airport, Bukovsky said that Nikitinsky had more than once offered to let through for him someone from abroad with a duplicating machine, without a customs examination, but that he, Bukovsky, had rejected such an idea, after which Nikitinsky had ceased to visit Bukovsky’s home.

Under cross-examination witness Nikitinsky, in reply to the questions why he, a Communist, had listened at Bukovsky’s flat to anti-Soviet statements which, according to him, had distressed him, and why he had been silent and continued to visit the house, replied: “I said to him: I Volodya, chuck it, you’re hitting your head against a wall”.

Defence counsel V. Ya. Shveisky said that the prosecution had made a mistake by defining Bukovsky’s actions under Article 70 of the Russian Criminal Code, and that parts of the indictment, as the judicial examination had shown, had remained unproven. He asked for the acquittal of his client.

Final Words [77]

I will not touch on the juridical side of the indictment, because I have already fully proved to the court its lack of substance. My lawyer in his speech has also proved the complete lack of substance of the indictment, and I agree with him on all the points of his defence. …

Read More …


The court sentenced Bukovsky to seven years’ loss of liberty, the first two to be served in prison, the remaining five in a strict-regime corrective labour colony, followed by five years of exile. Court expenses to the sum of 100 roubles were to be paid by Bukovsky. [80a]



23.1 The case of Vladimir Bukovsky — [Commentary No 23]

[81] Numerous protests and appeals were made against this sentence.

  • There was an appeal of 22 January by 52 of Bukovsky’s friends to UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim (text and signatories in Russkaya mysl, 23 March);
  • A letter to The Times (31 January) from 39 prominent British writers, scholars and politicians;
  • An appeal by 75 Swiss writers, members of the Swiss Writers’ Association, to Kosygin (text and signatures in Der Bund, Bern, 20 January);
  • and an appeal to Brezhnev by Academician Sakharov (The Guardian, London, 21 January).

Nevertheless, the sentence was confirmed on 22 February at a two-hour session of the RSFSR Supreme Court, to which Bukovsky’s friends, Academician Sakharov and independent journalists were not admitted. Only his mother was allowed to attend (see AP dispatch of 22 February and The Times, 23 February). An A.P. dispatch from New York of 2 March reported that Bukovsky had been sent to Vladimir Prison, and that his friends feared for his survival in view of his heart condition.