The Trial of Yemelkina, 25 November 1971 (23.2)

<<No 23 : 5 January 1972>>

On 25 November the trial took place in Moscow of Nadezhda Pavlovna YEMELKINA (for her arrest see CCE 20.11, item 14). She was charged (under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code) with preparing and circulating libellous information which defamed the Soviet social and political system.


On 27 June 1971, at 6.00 in the evening, Nadezhda Yemelkina [Emelkina] went out into Pushkin Square with a placard demanding freedom for the political prisoners of the USSR and freedom for Vladimir Bukovsky. In addition to this she threw into the crowd a bunch of leaflets with the following text:

“In recent years hundreds of people in the USSR have been arrested and sentenced for being true to their beliefs, for demanding freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the Soviet Constitution. Those condemned are kept in the Mordovian camps – postbox ZhKh-385, Mordovskaya ASSR if sentenced under Article 70 of the Code, or in camps for ordinary criminals if convicted under Article 190. Alternatively, Nazi methods are applied to those sentenced – the internment of healthy people in special psychiatric prisons, where they receive forcible treatment and are held for an indefinite period of time.

“Citizens! Be aware that in your country people continue to this very day to be arrested for their beliefs, like in the terrible times of Stalin.

Nadezhda Yemelkina, 25, worker, Moscow.

27 June 1971.”

That evening there was a holiday on the occasion of Youth Day and many people were in the square. After a few minutes Yemelkina was seized by police officials and driven off to a police-station, whence she was transferred to the Butyrka Prison.

The trial took place in the people’s court of the Babushkin district of Moscow. Judge [V.V.] Bogdanov presided; Procurator Biryukova led for the prosecution; while Yemelkina was defended by lawyer [S.L.] Ariya. [2] The proceedings lasted from 11 am to 2 pm. Almost one and a half hours were spent on preparing the text of the sentence: the entire judicial hearing, therefore, lasted for no more than one and a half hours.

Seven witnesses were questioned in connection with the case, including two police officials who had detained Yemelkina, and who confirmed what had occurred on Pushkin Square on 27 June. All of them recognized the placard which Yemelkina had held, and copies of the leaflet which she had handed out.

Yemelkina confirmed the facts with which she was incriminated, but pleaded not guilty. She said that the facts stated in the leaflet corresponded to reality and were not libellous fabrications. She declared that the right to protest against the infringement of legality was her constitutional right. To the procurator’s question whether she regretted what had happened, Yemelkina answered in the negative.

In her speech for the prosecution Procurator Biryukova stated, among other things, that there were no political prisoners in the Soviet Union and that this term was in no way applicable to Soviet reality. She said also that in the Soviet Union no-one was tried for his beliefs. Yemelkina’s assertion that in our country people are imprisoned in psychiatric prisons she described as a monstrous slander. In conclusion she demanded as punishment for Yemelkina five years of exile.

Defence Counsel Ariya, in his speech for the defence, said that five years of exile would be a clear infringement of the law, as Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code laid down three years of imprisonment as the maximum punishment. Exile was a milder measure than imprisonment. If a milder measure was being applied, then it was completely unfounded in juridical terms that the term of exile should significantly exceed the maximum term envisaged for the normal type of punishment.

Yemelkina said that her final speech was the text of the leaflet which she had handed out.

On 24 November 1971 the court sentenced N.P. Yemelkina to five years of exile [Note 1].

A statement circulated by Yemelkina’s friends after the trial contains the words:

“She spent five minutes on Pushkin Square calling for freedom for Soviet political prisoners. For this she received five years.”

Nadezhda Yemelkina (b. 1946) and her friend Galina Vinokurova during a search in Yeniseisk, Krasnoyarsk Krai. On the kitchen table lies confiscated samizdat, including Marchenko’s My Testimony



[1] Yemelkina was convicted on 24 November 1971 and arrived at the Siberian city of Yeniseisk, her place of exile, on 16 January 1972.

Yemelkina was mentioned in a 24 October 1971 letter to French President Pompidou and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev by Pyotr Yakir who expressed doubts that she or Bukovsky could be acquitted by a court in the USSR (CCE 22.7, item 1).

[2] Bogdanov presided at a number of other political trials: those of Natalya Gorbanevskaya (CCE 15.1), Olga Ioffe (CCE 15.2), Mikhail Makarenko (CCE 16.7, item 2) and Anatoly Levitin-Krasnov (CCE 20.7).

Biryukova was State prosecutor at Levitin’s trial, as well. Ariya previously defended Vera Lashkova (CCE 1.1), Ilja Ripss (CCE 10.15, item 6) and Joseph Mendelevich (CCE 17.6).