The Case of Vladimir Bukovsky, 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!”

The Trial of Vladimir Bukovsky [74]

On 5 January 1972 the trial of Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky took place in the District Court (Yegorevskaya Street, 14) of Lyublino [a Moscow suburb].

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”.

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.

The Final Speech of Vladimir Bukovsky [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.

I will say something else: the repression of me has been prepared for a long time, and I have known about this. On 9 June [1970] I was summoned by Procurator Vankovich and threatened with repression; [78] then there appeared the article in the paper Pravda [17 December 1970], under the heading “The Poverty of Anti-Communism”, which the procurator has quoted almost in full in her speech. The article contained the charge that I, supposedly in return for small handouts, was “selling slanderous information to foreign correspondents in entrance-ways”.

And finally, in the journal Political Self-Education No. 2, 1971, there was an article by [first] deputy-chairman of the KGB, S, Tsvigun, in which it was also stated that I occupied myself with anti-Soviet activities. So it is quite understandable that the low-level investigator investigating my case could not go against his boss, and was forced at whatever cost to try to prove my guilt.

Prior to my arrest continuous following of me took place. I was harassed, threatened with murder, and one of the men who followed me went so far as to threaten me with his service pistol. When I was already under investigation I petitioned for a criminal case to be initiated against these people. I even indicated the number of the official car in which these people had followed me, and provided other facts which made it quite possible for them to be found. However I received no answer to this petition from the bodies to which I had sent it. Instead, the following quite eloquent reply was received from my investigator: “The behaviour of Bukovsky under investigation gives grounds for ordering an examination of his mental condition”.

The investigation was carried out with innumerable procedural infringements. One could say that not a single article of the Code of Criminal Procedure remained uninfringed. The investigators even look such a shameful step as to put an agent in my cell with me, a certain Trofimov, who admitted to me himself that he had been ordered to conduct provocative anti-Soviet conversations with me, the aim being to provoke me into similar statements. For doing this he had been promised an early release. As you see, what I have been incriminated with as a crime is permitted to some people, if this is required by “the interests of the case”.

I sent complaints about this to various bodies and I have now demanded that the court attach them to the case; but the court “has been too embarrassed to do this”.

As regards the investigator, instead of examining my complaint and giving me an answer, he sent me for an in-patient medical examination to the Serbsky Institute of Forensic Psychiatry.

The investigation department of the [Moscow] directorate of the KGB very much wanted me to be ruled insane. How convenient! After all, there was no case against me, the prosecution had nothing on which to build, but if such a ruling could be made it would not be necessary to prove the commission of any crime, there would simply be a person who was ill, mad …

And that’s how everything would have gone. There would have been no need for this trial, and there would have been no final speech by me: I would have been sentenced in my absence, —if the intensive involvement of public opinion had not had its effect. For after the first period of examination—in the middle of September— the medical commission discovered an ominous lack of clarity in its clinical picture of me, and, from the questions of the doctors who dealt with me after this, I understood that they were preparing to rule me insane. Only on November 5, after the pressure exerted by public opinion, a new medical commission ruled me healthy. Here is reliable proof of my assertions (which here in this court are called slanderous) that the psychiatric repression of dissenters is carried out on the orders of the KGB.

I have yet another proof of this. In 1966 I was interned in psychiatric hospitals for eight months, without trial or investigation, and was transferred, as different doctors discharged me, from one hospital to another.

Anyway, on 5 November I was ruled sane, was once again locked up in prison, and the procedural infringements continued. Crudely infringed was the execution of Article 201 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure at the end of the investigation. I demanded that the defence lawyer chosen by me should be provided. But the investigator refused me this and signed Article 2) by [without the statutory signature of defence counsel], even writing in addition that I had refused to acquaint myself In accordance with my right to a defence assured by Article 48 of the Procedural Code. I demanded that lawyer Dina Isaakovna Kaminskaya be invited to the court for my defence. I made this request to the Chairman of the Moscow Collegium of Lawyers and later received his refusal, which included this statement: Lawyer Kaminskaya cannot be appointed for the defence, as she does not possess a security pass for secret proceedings, asks what “secret proceedings can be involved, when I am being tried for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. And in any case, where, in which Soviet laws, is there any mention of this famous “security pass”? Nowhere. So a lawyer was not provided for me. Moreover, the above-mentioned reply from the Collegium of Lawyers, was removed from the case-file and returned to the Collegium of Lawyers, about which there is a note in the case-file. The document was then replaced by another, more innocent reply from the Chairman of the Collegium, which I was not shown. How is this to be evaluated? Simply as official fraudulence.

It necessitated my 12-day hunger-strike, a complaint to the USSR Procurator-General, the USSR Ministry of Justice and the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and also a new and active intervention by public opinion, for my legal right to a defence to be, at last, recognized and I was provided with lawyer Shveisky, who had been engaged by my mother. [79]


Today’s trial has also been held with numerous procedural infringements. The indictment, in which the word “libellous” is used 33 times and the word “anti-Soviet” 18 times, does not contain any concrete indications as to precisely which facts out of those communicated by me to the Western correspondents are slanderous, nor as to precisely which materials out of those confiscated from me during a search and, allegedly, circulated by me, are anti-Soviet.

Of the nine petitions which I made at the beginning of the trial, and which were supported by my lawyer, eight were rejected. Not one of the witnesses requested by me, who could have refuted various points of the indictment, was summoned by the court.

I am incriminated, in particular, with the handing of anti-Soviet materials to the Fleming Hugo Sebreghts, who had come to Moscow. These materials were, allegedly, handed by me to him in the presence of [Alexander] Volpin and [Valery] Chalidze. However, my demand that these two people be summoned as witnesses was not granted. Nor was even one of the eight people who could have confirmed the truthfulness of my assertions regarding the facts about the internment and living conditions of people in the special psychiatric hospitals summoned to court. [80] The court rejected my petition to summon these witnesses, on the grounds that they are mentally ill people and cannot give evidence. However, among these people there are two, Z. M. Grigorenko [wife of Pyotr] and A. A. Fainberg [mother of Victor], who have never been interned in special psychiatric hospitals, and have visited these hospitals only as the relatives of internees: they could have confirmed my evidence about the conditions of imprisonment in these hospitals.

Only those witnesses were summoned to court whom the prosecution asked for. But what sort of witnesses were they? Before my arrest there was sent to me, in all probability by officials of the KGB, a member of the state security forces, presently working in the customs inspection department at Sheremetyevo Airport, my former school comrade, a certain Nikitinsky, who had been instructed to provoke me into a crime  — organizing the import from abroad of equipment for an underground printing-press. But the ill-starred provocateur did not succeed in this. Subsequently the investigators, and now also this court, have tried to turn him into a witness in connection with this charge in the indictment. We have seen here that Nikitinsky failed in this task too.

What were all these provocations and crude procedural infringements necessary for, this stream of slander and of false, unproven charges? Simply in order to punish one person?

No, there is here a “principle”, a sort of philosophy. Behind the stated charges stands another, unstated. In condemning me, the authorities are pursuing the aim of concealing their own crimes—the psychiatric repression of dissenters.

By the repression of myself they wish to frighten those people who try to tell the whole world of their crimes. They do not want “to wash our dirty linen in public, so that they may appear on the world scene as unblemished defenders of the oppressed!

Our society is still sick. It is sick with the fear which has remained with us from the time of Stalinism. But the process of the gaining of spiritual insight by society has already begun, and it is impossible to stop. Society already understands that the criminal is not he who washes our dirty linen in public, but he who dirties the linen. However long I may have to spend in prison, I will never renounce my beliefs. I will express them, exercising the right given to me by Article 125 of the Soviet Constitution, to all who wish to listen to me. I will fight for legality and justice.

And I regret only this: that in the short period—one year, two months and three days—which I have spent in freedom, I succeeded in doing too little to this end.


The sentence of the court was seven years of imprisonment, of which the first two years were to be served in prison and the remaining five in a corrective labour colony of strict regime, plus five years of exile; court expenses to the sum of 100 roubles were to be paid by Bukovsky. [80a]

[Commentary No 23]


23.1 The case of Vladimir Bukovsky

[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 an A.P. 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.