The Trial of Julia Voznesenskaya (Okulova), 29-30 December 1976 (43.5)

<<No 43 : 31 December 1976>>

CCE 42 described the searches and arrests in Leningrad in connection with Case 62, the “anti-Soviet slogans case”, particularly the arrest of Julia OKULOVA (Voznesenskaya is her pen-name) and Natalya Lesnichenko. Three days after they were arrested Okulova and Lesnichenko were released on condition that they did not leave the city.

Julia Voznesenskaya, 1940-2015

On 18 November Senior Investigator Grigorovich of the Leningrad Procurator’s Office separated Okulova’s case from Case 62. The resolution determining this decision reads:

This criminal case (i.e. Case 62, Chronicle) was initiated on 12 August 1976, on the basis of evidence indicating a crime under Article 70, paragraph 1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code, following the discovery of 16 inscriptions of an anti-Soviet nature in Leningrad, on public and residential buildings, historical and cultural monuments, means of transport and other places, on 8 and 15 April and 3 and 5 August 1976. In the course of investigation it was established that the following persons had taken part in writing the above- mentioned inscriptions: Volkov, Rybakov, Gum (N. Lesnichenko’s married surname) and Okulova.

On 12 September 1976 Okulova was detained in accordance with Article 122 of the RSFSR Code of Criminal Procedure, but on 15 September her written promise not to leave the city was chosen as the measure of restraint.

On 24 September 1976 Okulova was charged with crimes covered by Articles 17, 98 (paragraph 1) and 230 of the RSFSR Criminal Code, i.e. with having been an accomplice of Rybakov and Gum in committing the premeditated defacing of State property on the night of 4-5 August 1976, by writing slogans on it in indelible paint. In addition, she had been an accomplice of Rybakov, Volkov and Gum in committing the same premeditated disfigurement of cultural monuments protected by the State in Leningrad, in August 1976.

On 17 November 1976 the criminal case against Julia Nikolayevna Okulova was dropped for lack of evidence of criminality in her actions. At the same time the investigation established that in 1976 Okulova had systematically prepared and disseminated in written form works which contained knowingly false fabrications which libelled the Soviet political social system, and that she had thus committed a crime covered by Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code.

Thus on 20 April 1976 Okulova had taken part in preparing and disseminating a document entitled “The Measure of Time: Prospectus for an Anthology of Verse and Drawings”, which contained knowingly false fabrications alleging that there is no freedom of speech, creativity or the press in the USSR. Typed copies of this document were confiscated during the pre-trial investigation from the accused Volkov and Okulova’s close friends Filimonov and Andreyev. One of the copies was brought to the investigating authorities by witness Mityashina.

Sinyavin, Filimonov and Trifonov, when questioned during the investigation, testified that Okulova had taken an active part in producing the said defamatory document.

The accused Volkov also mentioned that Okulova had given him this document to look at, in her flat in the summer of 1976. The witness Trifonov explained that Okulova had been concerned to disseminate the text of the said document among her acquaintances.

In May 1976 Okulova had produced and disseminated a handwritten document — so-called “answers” to questions formulated as a questionnaire by I. I. Sinyavin, who has now left to live permanently abroad. The said document libels the Soviet political and social system, Soviet culture and the policy of the Soviet government.

Sinyavin included Okulova’s ‘answers’ in an anthology he had produced, Petersburg Meetings, which he gave for safe keeping to his acquaintance Yu. D. Andreyev, from whom it was confiscated on 13 September 1976. When interrogated during the investigation, Sinyavin testified that Okulova had written this anti-Soviet lampoon at his request and had given it to him in his flat in May 1976. The accused, Okulova herself, confirmed the fact that she had passed on this document.

The witness Trifonov, interrogated on 15 September, stated that in the first half of 1976 Okulova had written her own answers on Sinyavin’s questionnaire and had later given them to the latter. During the said interrogation Trifonov said that at that time Okulova had shown him too the content of her answers.

According to the report of a handwriting expert dated 2 November 1976, the said handwritten document had been written by Okulova herself.

On 9 August 1976 Okulova produced a 14-page handwritten document, entitled For the Press, which contained libellous fabrications about the Soviet political system and the Soviet people’s intelligentsia. The said document, intended for publication, was confiscated on 13 September 1976 at the home of Ye. P. Borisova, a friend of Okulova.

The accused Rybakov confirmed that Okulova had produced the said handwritten document. During an interrogation on 12 November he testified that on 9 August Okulova had written down biographical information about Trifonov. During an interrogation on 15 November 1976 Trifonov stated that most of the said document had been produced by Okulova and had been intended for passing on to a representative of the American consulate in Leningrad …

A separate criminal case under Article 190-1 was brought against Okulova.

On 21 December investigator Grigorovich visited Okulova at home and invited her to come with him “for a quarter of an hour”. At the Procurator’s Office Grigorovich showed Okulova the warrant putting her under arrest. Okulova declared a hunger-strike.


On 29 December the trial began. The judge was Isakova, the people’s assessors were Sergeyev and Yudin (some of those at the trial had seen them at KGB headquarters); the counsel for the prosecution was Vasilyev, an assistant procurator of Leningrad. There was open access to the courtroom (60 seats were available). Those present were not prevented from making notes.

Julia Nikolayevna Okulova (b. 1940) studied for two years at the Theatre Institute. After a search carried out at her place of work, the Shelgunov House of Culture, in September 1976 (CCE 42) she was asked to resign.

The evidence against Okulova consisted of items listed in the “Resolution”: the planned anthology The Measure of Time, the biographical information she had written down about G. Trifonov, and her answers to Sinyavin’s questionnaire.

There were five witnesses at the trial: Yuly Rybakov (CCE 42), Gennady Trifonov (CCE 42) and Vadim Filimonov (arrested for “hooliganism”), who were brought into the court under guard, also Yelena Pavlovna Borisova (mother of Vladimir Borisov) and Yu. D. Andreyev.

The witness Rybakov was called by the court at Okulova’s request (“I disagree in essentials with the evidence given by witness Trifonov. I insist on Rybakov being called, as he can confirm that Trifonov’s evidence is false”), although the prosecutor protested against his appearance. On the other hand, in two instances (Andreyev and Trifonov) the judge told the witnesses: “Repeat the evidence you gave during the pre-trial investigation.”

Okulova asked Trifonov: “Gena, do you know I was arrested because of your false testimony?”

The prosecutor asked the court to take into account the fact that Okulova had two children who were still minors, and to give her 5 years’ exile, as provided for by Article 43 [mitigating circumstances] of the RSFSR Criminal Code.


Okulova pleaded not guilty. She denied that the documents incriminating her were defamatory. In her defence speech she said:

For statements to be ruled defamatory it must be proved that I knowingly lied. But I can repeat all my answers to the court and I stand by every word. These are my convictions, my truth. A difficult truth, which I have suffered in arriving at. The truth of our ‘alternative culture’.

A poet has the right to contact with his readers, and the lack of such contact, the impossibility of it, is not our fault, or mine: it is a fact of life which can be verified …

The anthology The Measure of Time, an anthology which was unfinished, was an attempt to find new ways of addressing the reader.

As for the document For the Press, when this document was composed Trifonov dictated it to me; I didn’t have the least reason to doubt his integrity, especially as it was largely confirmed by documents. But as later events have shown, Trifonov has a rich imagination: to what extent he restrained it, I don’t know and can’t say. However, in this case too, there are no knowingly false fabrications libelling the Soviet political and social system: in the first place I wrote the document, Trifonov’s biography, at his dictation and he signed it on every page, confirming his own words. Thus the question of my preparing this document simply does not arise. I am starting a case against Trifonov for giving false evidence against me …

In the Commentary to the RSFSR Criminal Code the following point is made: the preparation or dissemination of works which, even if they express a hostile attitude to Soviet reality, do not contain knowingly false fabrications, cannot be regarded as a crime under Article 190-1.

I sec the defects and shortcomings of Soviet reality, and I don’t consider it possible to hide them, I consider it my duty to speak of them: my words now are such an attempt to speak out. Soviet power is not a maiden to be given away in marriage, and it is absurd to speak of its “purity”. Serious shortcomings do exist; they are especially prominent and noticeable in Leningrad. A whole generation of poets has had these problems. A generation of unpublished poets…

It is unthinkable to speak here of libelling the Soviet political and social system. These works do not libel anyone, they accuse; so, of all the charges only one remains: a hostile attitude to Soviet reality and the fact that I wrote the three works …

In those three documents I was sincere. In them I protest against the established order of things, against the official policy towards a number of poets and artists. What is said in these documents is the truth.

Therefore these documents cannot be used as evidence for the prosecution according to Article 190-1.

I consider the charge against me under this article to be an insult. The charge has not been substantiated by the evidence of the pre-trial investigation or of the judicial investigation. The charge is lacking a corpus delicti. I do not consider myself guilty and demand a full acquittal.

On 30 December 1976, in her final speech, Okulova said among other things that she had already been on hunger-strike for ten days and would continue to be so.

The court sentenced her to 5 years’ internal exile.