The Trial of Kronid Lyubarsky, 26-30 October 1972 (28.4)

<< No 28 : 31 December 1972 >>

The case of K. A. LYUBARSKY was heard from 26 to 30 October 1972 in Noginsk, Moscow Region, at an assizes session of the Moscow Region Court. He was charged with disseminating libellous anti-Soviet fabrications with the aim of undermining and weakening the Soviet regime (Article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code).

The judge was Makarova, chairwoman of the Moscow Region Court; the State prosecutor was Zalegin, deputy procurator of the Moscow Region; and the defence counsel was L. A. Yudovich.

Kronid Arkadyevich Lyubarsky, Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences [Ph. D.] astronomer, author of two books and 35 articles in scientific journals, was fulfilling commissions for a program of research on Mars with the aid of automated interplanetary space laboratories [when he was arrested].

Kronid Lyubarsky, 1934-1996

On 15 January 1972 Lyubarsky’s home was searched in connection with “Case No 24”.[CCE 28.3]. The search was conducted by Major Kislykh of the All-Union KGB. In late February or early March; a separate case was established and transferred to the KGB administration for Moscow and the Moscow Region. It was investigated under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Yu. B. Smirnov, chief of the administration’s investigations department, and investigators V. N. Sorokin and N. A. Smirnov.

In the course of the pre-trial investigation Lyubarsky acknowledged that he had given samizdat material to his acquaintances to read. He also testified that he had received a considerable part of the literature from Julius Telesin (who left the USSR in 1970, see CCE 14.11, item 22).[1]

On 26 March 1972 Lyubarsky handed the investigators a statement in which he said that familiarity with samizdat material might mislead an unprepared reader and hence do damage to the state, and he declared that he was giving up samizdat activity.

Several confrontations were arranged between Lyubarsky and V. G. Popov, his pupil and long-time acquaintance. At these confrontations Lyubarsky persuaded Popov to confirm that he (Popov) had received literature from him. Before this the investigators had shown Lyubarsky materials relating to Popov. Lyubarsky was misled with respect to certain works which had supposedly been confiscated from Popov during a search. The investigators told Lyubarsky that a case against Popov had been prepared, but that he would not be arrested if he gave truthful testimony, in which matter Lyubarsky could help him. Popov, however, while remaining at liberty, did not fully confirm Lyubarsky’s testimony, and he was arrested in July 1972.

It has also become known that the investigators informed Lyubarsky of a statement supposedly written by V. N. Chalidze in which the latter said he was discontinuing his activities in defence of human rights.


The indictment contained 54 items.

It charged that for several years Lyubarsky kept, reproduced and disseminated anti-Soviet literature. He was also charged with anti-Soviet agitation in oral form (it was stated that he had recounted the contents of certain criminal works to V.G. Popov, Irina Kristi, and Grigory Podyapolsky). It was further stated that Yury Shikhanovich, as well as Julius Telesin, had given Lyubarsky literature, including issues 12-22 of the Chronicle of Current Events.

The defendant acknowledged that he had reproduced and disseminated samizdat materials, but did not plead guilty under Article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code and categorically denied any anti-Soviet intent in his acts. Lyubarsky declared that he had never testified that he had received literature from Shikhanovich. It was from Yesenin-Volpin that he had received the literature the transfer of which had been attributed to Shikhanovich, but he had not mentioned Esenin-Volpin earlier because of ethical considerations. (A. Yesenin-Volpin the USSR shortly before the trial.)

Lyubarsky acknowledged the hostility and bias of Avtorkhanov’s book The Technology of Power [Tekhnologiya vlasti], and a certain bias in Grossman’s book Forever Flowing [Vsyo techot], but pointed out the usefulness of these books because they were filled with facts and the latter work had artistic merit. He categorically denied the criminality of the following texts: issues of the Chronicle; the journal Social Problems[2] [Obshchestvennye problemy]; the documents of the Human Rights Committee; A. Marchenko’s My Testimony (Moi pokazaniya]; A. D. Sakharov’s Thoughts on Progress [Razmyshleniya o progresse]; the letters of the Action Group, and other Open Letters. He requested the summoning to court of the authors (and of representatives of groups of authors) of some of these documents: Sakharov, Podyapolsky, Chalidze, Tatyana Velikanova.

This request was refused by the court.

Lyubarsky pointed out that in 37 items of the indictment, he had found a lack of conformity between the charge and the documents in the case. Thus the indictment referred to his having testified to the transfer of incriminating literature to specific persons. He had in fact testified that persons named in a list of his visitors shown to him by the investigators might have read the literature, since it was lying about openly.

Concerning the statement he wrote during the course of the pre-trial investigation (see above), Lyubarsky testified that its chief purpose was to protect his young friends against arrest and punishment.

The following witnesses were questioned at the trial: Melnik (see CCE 24 [and 26]), Popov, Novikov, Vladimirsky, Vetkovsky, Smirnov, and Galina Salova (the wife of Lyubarsky).

Melnik testified that he had received from Lyubarsky microfilms of Avtorkhanov’s book and Grossman’s book Forever Flowing. Lyubarsky confirmed this.

Popov testified that, carrying out Lyubarsky’s instructions, he had delivered literature and had gathered information (for example, on Zemtsov’s appellate hearing in Leningrad, see CCE 14). He knew the contents of many works from Lyubarsky’s description. Once he saw Shikhanovich and Lyubarsky exchange literature, and he assumed it was samizdat. Many of his opinions were acquired from Lyubarsky. He now realized that the actions of Lyubarsky and his friends were anti-Soviet in tendency and harmful to the State system. He believed that Lyubarsky, too, had understood this. He stated that Lyubarsky pinned hopes on the coming to power of the intelligentsia.

Vladimirsky testified that, inter alia, he had read Grossman’s Forever Flowing and one issue of the Chronicle at Lyubarsky’s apartment. He described Lyubarsky as a serious scientist with a broad range of interests, and a kind and unselfish man.

Vetkovsky had received from Lyubarsky an issue of Social Problems and from Popov a bundle of literature including The Transformation of Bolshevism [Transformatsiya bolshevizma, CCE 8.13, item 1], Stalin’s Heirs [1961 Yevtushenko poem] and CCE 19 [30 April 1971]. He passed on the bundle to Smirnov, and when it was returned, he destroyed it. Smirnov [CCE 26.2, Melnik trial] testified that he had passed on the literature he had received to Melnik and had then returned it to Vetkovsky.

Zalegin, the state prosecutor, fully supported the indictment, and demanded as punishment 5 years’ deprivation of freedom and 2 years of exile.

L.A. Yudovich, Lyubarsky’s defence counsel, noted that for many counts of the indictment the fact of dissemination was not proved. He also asked that the item of the indictment charging oral dissemination of anti-Soviet information be dismissed as not confirmed by the testimony of the witnesses Kristi and Podyapolsky. After demonstrating the absence of anti-Soviet intent in Lyubarsky’s acts, defence counsel requested that the indictment be reclassified under Article 190-1 of the Criminal Code. He asked that the punishment be of such a kind as to permit Lyubarsky to continue his scientific work.

final words

In his final plea[3] Lyubarsky, briefly dwelling on the unproven nature of several facts alleged by the prosecution, once again emphasized that Shikhanovich had nothing to do with the literature confiscated from him (Lyubarsky).

Then, taking issue with the procurator’s speech, Lyubarsky noted the inaccuracy of the criteria applied in settling the question as to the degree of criminality of one work or another.

“In particular, the degree of criminality depends upon geography. For example, Akhmatova’s Requiem and [Yevtushenko’s] “Stalin’s Heirs” were confiscated from me. They were not incriminating in my case. But in Odessa possession of Requiem was cited to incriminate Reiza Palatnik [CCE 17, 18, 20.5-24] and in Leningrad “Stalin’s Heirs was cited to incriminate Melnik – in the case of “Stalin’s Heirs” this was not only the same poem but the same copy of that poem.

… And things change with time … During the search of my home they seized Raskolnikov’s letter to Stalin, which used to be regarded as an ultra-criminal item. Now it is recognized now as a highly patriotic document.”

Lyubarsky considered that the only possible way to evaluate actions was to examine the motives behind them. Pointing out that the prosecution had not tried to examine his motives, the defendant categorically denied the intention, attributed to him, of undermining and weakening the Soviet regime.

Lyubarsky said that he was amply familiar with Soviet achievements in many fields, and that he had made his own contribution to those achievements. (“While I was in the investigation prison I read an article in Pravda about the results of studying Mars by means of the space vehicles Mars-2 and Mars-3. I was able to take pride in the fact that although I had been imprisoned, I was still working…”). However, serious shortcomings also existed. Lyubarsky mentioned economic difficulties and the isolation of Soviet science; even the phrase “cult of personality” had disappeared from the pages of the press, while censorship restrictions had become unjustifiably severe  and the number of politically motivated trials had increased. He said that the events in Czechoslovakia had played an especially important role in generating awareness of these problems for himself and many others. Lyubarsky came to samizdat because he had failed to find answers to many questions in the press.

You can look at samizdat in various ways, but however you look at it, it exists… It has already become a social phenomenon. I have looked through foreign academic dictionaries and discovered that a new word from the Russian ‘samizdat’ has found its way into many of them … It seems to me that this is no cause for rejoicing, especially if you bear in mind that the Russian language gave to the world another word 10 years ago: ‘sputnik’.”

Lyubarsky further took issue with the procurator, who had said that the scientific- technical intelligentsia does not produce material values. In this connection Lyubarsky referred to the program of the Communist Party, which stated that science had become a direct productive force. He said that for the scientific worker, it was natural to strive to find out things for himself.

… For me and the people of my generation this idea … was all the simpler, all the more natural, in that we had been reared in a special era: an era when cybernetics was a pseudo-science, when genetics was declared to have fascist tendencies, when probability theory was an idealistic vagary. That was the era when “the essence of all philosophy” was contained in chapter four of the Short History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik),when all economic theory was covered in Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism and nowhere else – God forbid! That kind of upbringing bore its fruits. So I will never take anyone at his word. Not later, and not now.”

The sentence: 5 years in strict-regime camps.

In effect, the trial was held behind closed doors. Those who wanted to attend it were removed from the courthouse by force. A large padlock was hung on the door. This is mentioned in a telegram sent to USSR Procurator-General Rudenko (copy to UN Secretary General Waldheim) demanding his prompt intervention by ten citizens who wanted to attend the trial (Tatyana Velikanova, Andrei Sakharov, Tatyana Khodorovich, Malva Landa, Zolina, S. Myuge, Elena Bonner, Shaburov, Olga Joffe, and Margolin).


Vladimir Georgievich Popov was tried on 22 November in the suburb of Babushkino at an assizes session of the Moscow City Court. The judge was Bogdanov, the procurator Funtov, and the defence counsel Shveisky.

Popov (b. 1946) is a member of the staff of the Polytechnical Museum. In mid-February a search was made at his home. From then until his arrest on 11 July he was repeatedly interrogated. The investigators were interested in Lyubarsky, Melnik (arrested in Leningrad on 17 January 1972, CCE 24), V. Vetkovsky, and E. Orlovsky (CCE 24).

After his arrest (in July 1972) Popov began to give detailed testimony.

At his trial Popov pleaded guilty on all counts and stated that he repented of what he had done.

The witnesses who testified at the trial were G. Banova, V. Vetkovsky, Smirnov, Yu. Melnik and K. Lyubarsky. The court heard a reading of a deposition by Pogosbekov (who could not appear in court as he was serving in the army), a former student at Kharkov University whom Popov had met in Kharkov and Baku. During the pre-trial investigation he had confirmed the allegation of Popov’s circulation of samizdat literature. His deposition abounded in revelations of Popov’s activity and views as having an anti-Soviet tendency. As early as 1970 Pogosbekov had informed the KGB of Popov’s anti-Soviet activities. Popov confirmed without reservation Pogosbekov’s deposition.

During the questioning Popov reproached the witnesses Vetkovsky, Smirnov, Melnik and Lyubarsky for insincerity. He accused Lyubarsky of having tried to mislead the investigators. In particular, Lyubarsky had stated that Popov had received a special issue of Posev from him, whereas Popov maintained that he had received it from Shikhanovich.

Supplementing his testimony, Popov stressed the role of Lyubarsky in the formation of his own views. He declared that now he realized their anti-Soviet, subversive character. Popov once again emphasized that he had received Posev from Shikhanovich and not from Lyubarsky.

The procurator, supporting the indictment, nonetheless asked that the defendant be sentenced to three years deprivation of freedom, to be suspended “in view of his complete repentance”. Defence counsel, agreeing with the prosecution, asked for a suspended sentence.

In his final plea Popov promised not only to break with samizdat activity but to do all he could to counter such activity among  the young people he knew. Moreover, he indicated to the court the necessity of taking strict measures against Lyubarsky, Shikhanovich and Orlovsky as they had exercised an influence on young people. Popov called on witnesses Vetkovsky and Smirnov to change their views, “otherwise; a severe fate will be in store for them”.

The court found Popov guilty of committing a crime under Article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. The text of the verdict noted as an established fact that Popov had received Posev from Shikhanovich. A copy of the Chronicle of Current Events was among the samizdat material incriminating Popov and mentioned in the verdict.

The court sentenced Popov to a three year suspended sentence with a probationary period of 5 years (in accordance with Article 44 of the RSFSR Criminal Code).



[1]  On Julius Telesin see CCE 7.13, item 13, and 8.12, item 8. See also his forward to P. Reddaway, Uncensored Russia (1972).

[2] Social Problems was a samizdat journal edited by Valery Chalidze and published in Moscow from 1969 to 1972. Various items from it were published in Dokumenty Komiteta prav cheloveka (Proceedings of the Moscow Human Rights Committee), International League for the Rights of Man (777 UN Plaza, New York, NY 100017), 1972.

[3] The full text of Kronid Lyubarsky’s final words in court was published (in Russian) in Almanakh samizdata, No 1, Amsterdam, 1974 (pp. 39-50).