Open Letters from A. I. Solzhenitsyn, 13 August 1971 (21.4)

<<No 21 : 11 September 1971>>

To Andropov,
USSR Minister of State Security

13 August

For many years I have borne the lawless acts of your officials in silence: the inspection of all my mail by x-ray techniques, the confiscation of half of it, the tracking down of my correspondents, the persecution of them at work and by administrative organs, the spying around my house, the following of visitors, the tapping of telephone conversations, the drilling of holes in my ceiling, the installation of recording apparatus in my town flat and at my country cottage, and the continuous slanderous campaign waged against me from lecture-platforms whenever these are placed at the disposal of officials of your ministry. [5]

But after yesterday’s raid I shall keep silent no longer. My country cottage (Rozhdestvo village, Naro-Fominsk district [Moscow Region]) was standing empty, and the eavesdroppers presumed that I was away. However, having returned to Moscow because of a sudden illness, I asked my friend Alexander Gorlov to go to my country cottage to fetch a motor-car part. But the lock on the door of the cottage was missing, and voices could be heard from inside. Gorlov entered and demanded the raiders’ documents. In the small building, hardly large enough for three or four people to turn round, there proved to be as many as ten of them, dressed in plain clothes. At the command of their leader: ‘To the woods with him! And shut his mouth!’, they twisted Gorlov’s arms behind his back, knocked him off his feet, dragged him into the wood with his face to the ground and began to beat him cruelly.

Meanwhile the others were hurriedly running back to their cars by an indirect route through the bushes, taking with them parcels, papers and other articles (possibly some of the equipment they had brought with them). But Gorlov resisted vigorously and shouted for witnesses. In answer to his cry, neighbours from the other cottages ran up, barred the raiders’ path to the highway, and demanded their documents. At this one of the raiders showed a red identification card, and the neighbours made way for them. Gorlov, his face disfigured and his suit in tatters, was led to one of the cars. ‘I like your fine methods! ’ he said to his escorts. ‘We’re on an ASSIGNMENT,’ they replied, ‘and on an assignment everything is permitted.’

The man who had shown the neighbours his identification, according to which he was a Captain, and who himself gave his name as Ivanov, first took Gorlov to the Naro-Fominsk police, where the local officials greeted ‘Ivanov’ with respect. There ‘Ivanov’ demanded an explanatory statement from Gorlov about what had occurred (!). Although badly beaten up, Gorlov set out in writing the object of his visit and all the circumstances. After this the raiders’ leader demanded an undertaking from Gorlov NOT TO DIVULGE the incident. Gorlov refused point-blank. They then drove to Moscow. On the way the raiders’ leader tried to prevail upon Gorlov in exactly the following terms:

“If Solzhenitsyn ever finds out what happened at his dacha, it’ll be all up with you. Your career (Gorlov is a Master of Technological Sciences, has submitted his doctoral dissertation, and works at Giprotis [the USSR State Institute for Experimental Pattern Design and Technical Research]) will come to a full stop, and you won’t be defending any dissertation. It’ll affect your family, your children, and if need be – we’ll PUT YOU IN JAIL.”

Those who know how we live know that these threats can be carried out in full. But Gorlov did not give in to them; he refused to give any undertaking, and now he is in imminent danger of reprisal.

I demand from you, citizen minister, public identification of all the raiders, their punishment according to criminal law, and a public explanation of this incident. Otherwise I shall be forced to conclude that they were sent by yourself.



To A. N. Kosygin,
Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers

13 August

I am sending you a copy of my letter to the Minister of State Security. I consider him to be personally responsible for all the lawless acts listed in it. If the government of the USSR does not endorse these actions of Minister Andropov, I await an investigation.



During the days which followed Gorlov was several times summoned to the KGB for interview. KGB representatives stated that their organisation had had nothing to do with the incident, attributing responsibility for the entire affair to the local police.

The Naro-Fominsk chief of police apologised to Gorlov in person, saying that the police officials had mistakenly taken him to be a burglar, while guarding Solzhenitsyn’s house. The police-chief assured Gorlov that the guilty officials had been punished.


[5] For background see Leopold Labedz, Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Record, London, 1970, 2nd (expanded) edition, New York, 1971.

[5a] For more detail see the report in The Guardian and the Los Angeles Times, 9 September 1971.