The Trial of Mikhail Rivkin, 12-13 July 1983 (Vesti 1983, 21-1)

<< USSR News Brief (Vesti iz SSSR), 15 November 1983 >>

On 12-13 July 1983 the Moscow City Court examined the case of Mikhail Germanovich RIVKIN, the only one of the “socialists” group who refused to submit a request for a pardon (see Vesti 1983, 16-5). The deputy chairman of the Moscow City Court, V.G. Romanov presided; procurator Zakharov was counsel for the prosecution; Rivkin was defended by attorney O. Yefremov.

All roads leading to the court building were closed off. Yury Khavkin and Vladimir Chernetsky, who were arrested as part of the same case but later pardoned, attempted to reach the courthouse but were stopped. They were warned that a second attempt to attend the hearing would be classified as hooliganism.

Mikhail Rivkin is accused under Articles 70 and 72 of the RSFSR Criminal Code of “anti-Soviet activities” in the period between 1978 and 1982. These found expression:

  1. in the preparation and editing of issues 2, 3 and 4 of the samizdat almanac Variations. Issue 2 in collaboration with Andrei Fadin and Pavel Kudyukin appeared in autumn 1978; issue 3 in summer 1979; and issue 4 at the end of 1979 and beginning of 1980;
  2. Writing articles for Variations: “Stages in the degradation of the human personality” (issue 2), “At the crossroads”, “The issue of reaction”, “On the arms race” (issue 3), and editing articles for issue 3;
  3. Writing answers to a list of questions he had received from Kudyukin. These answers were characterised by the investigators as “an outline for a programme and strategy of hostile forces”;
  4. Recruiting people to become members of an organisation called the “Federation of Democratic Forces of a Socialist Orientation”; instructing members of the organisation in conspiratorial techniques (working, in particular, with B. Kagarlitsky, G. Lifshits, Yarygin, Mirskaya and Isakova);
  5. Preparing for publication a daily newspaper and magazine with a print-run of 1,000 copies; travelling with Fadin and Kudyukin in early 1981 to Alexander Shilkov in Petrozavodsk [Karelia, Northwest Russia] to pick up printing type and bringing it back to Moscow (the type has not been found by the investigation and there is no information about its use).

Rivkin submitted two petitions: one, that the Institute of State and Law conduct a specialist examination of his articles to assess their objectivity; two, that Alexander Shilkov (see Vesti 1983, issue 3, item 9) and Ivanov, who chaired a meeting at Rivkin’s workplace in 1977, be called as witnesses. Both petitions were turned down. Mikhail Rivkin refused to testify in court on the grounds that the actions he had committed did not constitute a crime.


Nine witnesses spoke in court. Marina, the wife of Alexander Shilkov who is now serving a sentence [three years in the camps, three years’ exile], said that her husband had brought the type to their house in order to set a copy of Marina Tsvetayeva’s work. The typefaces were of different fonts and could not be used, however. She could not recall whether Rivkin had taken the type or not.

Witnesses Isakova and Mirskaya did not give testimony of any substance. Fellow workers of Rivkin (one is called Sukhov) told about a gathering at work in 1977 about the draft Constitution of the USSR. Mikhail Rivkin spoke at this meeting and said that in his view the clauses concerning the role of the Party and a “State of All the People” [gosudarstvo vsenarodnoe] contradicted one another. Rivkin again petitioned for Ivanov, who presided at that meeting, to be called as a witness. He was again refused.

Andrei Fadin, who was called as a witness, refused to testify. He said that it was unjust, in his view, that the person standing before the court had been less involved in their affairs than those who had been pardoned. In Fadin’s words, Rivkin had left the organisation voluntarily before he was arrested. At the judge’s suggestion the deposition given by Andrei Fadin during the preliminary investigation was made public despite a protest by Rivkin. Fadin refused to confirm what it said.

Pavel Kudyukin also refused to testify and rejected the deposition he had made during the preliminary investigation. He denied that Rivkin had taken part in the publication of Variations. Boris Kagarlitsky answered the questions put to him in court, but gave no testimony as to the substance of the case. He gave a very positive description of Rivkin. Witness Yarygin said that Kagarlitsky had acquainted him with Rivkin. The latter had asked him to help publish a samizdat collection and recruited him for an “anti-Soviet organisation”.


The procurator asked that Mikhail Rivkin be given the maximum sentence for these articles of the RSFSR Criminal Code. Rivkin’s defence attorney, referring to the positive assessments of Rivkin to be found in the case file, asked for leniency towards him.

In his last words to the court Mikhail Rivkin denied his guilt. He declared that although it was humanly very tough for him at the moment he was making this sacrifice quite consciously “in the name of social progress and the democratisation of our country”. Regrettably, progress without victims was not possible. For him it was impossible to behave as Fadin and Kudyukin had behaved. “I do not regret the outward freedom my comrades have preserved, by submitting a request for a pardon,” said Rivkin. “For me the main thing is inner freedom, no matter what the circumstances in which I find myself.” Rivkin insisted that he should be acquitted on all counts.

The court sentenced Mikhail Rivkin to 7 years in a strict-regime penal colony, followed by five years’ internal exile.



Further entries from USSR News Brief detail how on 30 September 1985 Rivkin was moved from the Mordovia camps to Chistopol Prison (Tatarstan, Volga District), where he was on hunger strike in April and May 1986. In January 1987 Mikhail Rivkin was transferred from Chistopol Prison to the KGB’s Lefortovo Prison in Moscow. On 16 March that year he was released.

In 1990 Rivkin gave an extensive interview about the case (see, “Dissent”), in which he characterised the response of each person involved and dismissed the suggestion that “outside” intervention by Western Communist Parties had been responsible for the other detainees’ early release.

Mikhail Rivkin (b. 1954)