On 8 January 1977 an explosion took place in the Moscow underground.
On 10 January TASS reported that the explosion was not of great force, “medical help was given to those suffering injury, and an investigation is being conducted”. Later, at meetings of Party activists, it was said that not long before the explosion in the underground on 8 January there had been two other explosions on 25th October Street.
The Western press and radio commented on this event in lively fashion. A theory was discussed, said to derive from official sources, according to which the explosion in the underground was the work of “dissidents”. In connection with this, all commentators referred to a correspondent of an English newspaper, the Soviet citizen Victor Louis, known for his proximity to the KGB. Later V. Louis stated that in his report on the explosions [The London Evening News, 10 January 1977] he had not used the term “dissidents”.
On 11 January a former member of the All-Russian Social-Christian Union (see CCE 1.6), Leonid Borodin, issued a statement for the press:
By supporting, even as a matter for discussion, the theory about the explosion in the Moscow underground allegedly being an action of dissidents, the Western press and radio are behaving extremely irresponsibly. If someone decided to finish off opposition of all kinds in the USSR, he would begin precisely with such actions, i.e. terrorist acts. Today all who call themselves dissenters, whether they belong to liberal-democratic groups or the national- religious tendency — all have on extremely negative attitude even to less radical measures than terror. The West must understand that what for it is material for sensation is for us, as in this case, a question of our existence. The statement by Victor Louis is deliberate disinformation, calculated to exploit the love of the Western press for sensation. It is absurd nonsense from every point of view.
On 12 January A. D. Sakharov appealed to the world public:
… I cannot rid myself of the hunch that the explosion in the Moscow underground and the tragic deaths of individuals are a new provocation on the part of the organs of repression, and the most dangerous of recent years. Precisely this hunch, and the fears connected with it that this provocation could lead to changes in the whole internal climate of the country, have prompted me to write this article. I would be very glad if my thoughts turned out to be wrong …
On the same day two KGB officers went to the home of Vladimir Rubtsov. They asked him to recall where he was on the evening of 8 January and said that this was very important in connection with some transport occurrence. Rubtsov replied that he was at home. ‘Your brother does not confirm this,” retorted the KGB officers. It later became clear that Alexander Rubtsov had simply refused to answer questions about his brother.
Subjected to similar “conversations without a record” in connection with the explosions were the secretary of the Soviet group of Amnesty International, Vladimir Albrekht, the former political prisoners Ivan Cherdyntsev (Vladimir Region), Vyacheslav Rodionov (Alexandrov) and Vladimir Zhiltsov (Gorky).
It is known that the “interrogation” of Albrekht was conducted in a very abusive manner, with threats (“Take off your glasses and I’ll smash your face in!”); his briefcase was snatched from him and examined. Those doing the interrogating did not introduce themselves and did not show any authorization for the interrogation and search (see CCE 45.22 for further detail on this episode).
On 22 January Kronid Lyubarsky (see CCE 44.16 “After Release”), who had just been released from Vladimir Prison, was told at a police station that if he had come out a little earlier, he would have had to prove his alibi for the day of the explosion.
On 14 January the Moscow Helsinki group organized a press conference at which the following statement was made on behalf of the Ukrainian and Moscow Helsinki groups, the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR, the Initiative Group for the Defence of Human Rights in Georgia, the Soviet section of Amnesty International, the Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes, the Jewish movement for emigration to Israel, and the Christian Committee for the Defence of Believers:
… Dissidents regard terror with strong disapproval and revulsion … We appeal to employees of the media throughout the world to use the term “dissidents” in this sense only and not to expand it to include persons who use violence …
We ask it to be remembered that every journalist or commentator who does not draw a difference between dissidents and terrorists helps those who are trying to revive Stalinist methods of doing away with dissenters.
At the same press conference Pyotr Grigorenko and Yury Orlov appealed to the Forum of Peace-loving Forces in Moscow. They declared that at present in the USSR “the situation is reminiscent in a dangerous way of the days of the burning of the Reichstag”.
In the last few days the authorities have decided to apply the same arsenal of weapons against these groups (the Helsinki groups — Chronicle) as those which were tried out in the USSR and Germany 43 to 44 years ago — forgeries, insinuations, slander.
On 25 January A. D. Sakharov was summoned to the USSR Procuracy. The deputy Procurator-General of the USSR, S. I. Gusev, said to him:
…The purpose of the summons is to issue an official warning. Recently you made and circulated widely a statement which is being exploited by foreign propaganda hostile to us. In this statement you monstrously and slanderously assert that the explosion in the Moscow underground was a provocation on the part of official organs…, directed against so-called dissidents. You are obliged to disavow your deliberately false assertion by publishing a denial … Some time ago you were warned by deputy Procurator-General of the USSR comrade Malyarov, but you continued your actions, which arc legally punishable according to Soviet laws. You are abusing our patience. Today I am giving you a second extremely serious warning. You must draw conclusions. Otherwise, you will bear responsibility according to the law.
Gusev asked A. D. Sakharov to sign the following:
Citizen Sakharov A. D. is warned that he made a deliberately false, slanderous statement, in which it was asserted that the explosion in the Moscow underground was a provocation by official organs, directed against so-called dissidents. Citizen Sakharov is warned that in the event of his continuing and repeating his criminal actions he will bear responsibility in accordance with the laws effective in this country.
I refuse to sign this document. First of all, I must elaborate on what you have said regarding my last statement. There is no direct accusation in it against the KGB organs of having organized the explosion in the Moscow underground, but I express certain fears (a hunch, as I wrote). I express the hope in it that this was not a crime authorized from above. But I admit the sharpness of my statement and do not regret it.
In acute situations sharp methods are necessary. If, as a result of my statement, an objective investigation is carried out, the true culprits found, and innocent people do not suffer, if the outcome is not a provocation against dissidents, I shall feel great satisfaction. At present I have weighty grounds for my fears. There is the provocative article by Victor Louis in the newspaper London Evening News, which has still not been disavowed by the paper. There are the interrogations which have been started concerning the whereabouts at the time of the explosion of persons whose lack of involvement is clear to me. There are the many murders of recent months, in which the participation of the KGB could be surmised, and which have not been investigated. I shall mention two of them — the murders of the poet Konstantin Bogatyryov and the lawyer Yevgeny Brunov. You have said nothing about these murders, which occupy an important place in my argumentation.
On 26 January a short TASS report was inserted in Soviet newspapers about the summons of A. D. Sakharov to the USSR Procuracy, under the heading “A slanderer is warned”.
On 29 January 1977, 16 people published a statement “Regarding the Warning and Threat to A. D. Sakharov”, in which they note that Gusev, having called Sakharov’s statement
a crime, crudely violates the law, as, under article 102 of the Soviet Constitution … no one can be considered (and, consequently, also called) a criminal otherwise than by the sentence of a court…
We, like A. D. Sakharov, do not exclude other theories as well…
Article 51 of the Soviet Constitution imposes as a duty on the USSR Supreme Soviet the appointing of commissions of inquiry in necessary cases.
We consider that this is precisely such a case where the investigation cannot and should not be entrusted either to the organs of the KGB or to the organs of the Procuracy.
The commission of inquiry set up to investigate the explosion in the Moscow underground on 8 January 1977, should consider all possible theories, including that put forward by A. D. Sakharov.
Beyond doubt, all the work of such a commission should be public.
On 23 February an article by S. I. Gusev was printed in the New York Times under the title “Moscow on Sakharov”. Having expounded the official appraisal of Sakharov’s statement of 12 January (see above), Gusev writes:
Proceeding from humane considerations, we are so far applying only measures of a moral and preventative nature to Sakharov and some other persons. This fact is often assessed by the foreign press and some “dissidents”, including Sakharov, as a result of outside “pressure” on the Soviet authorities, who are supposedly compelled to “reckon with Western public opinion”. These are groundless illusions …
On 5 March A. D. Sakharov replied to this article:
… Mr Gusev’s article was written shortly after the publication of my letter to the President of the United States, J. Carter (see section “Statements by Sakharov” — Chronicle)^ and obviously was a reaction to that letter… Mr Gusev’s letter was an obvious attempt to test the firmness of this position in the West…
Mr Gusev expounds tendentiously on my statement but maintains total silence about my line of argumentation. In his article, a month and a half after the explosion, he gives no information whether this crime is under investigation. Gusev also evades by silence the question whether an investigation is being conducted into five cases of murder that 1 wrote about in my statement.
… Each day now brings new problems. On 4 March the newspaper Izvestiya printed a vile and provocative article in which Jews seeking to emigrate were accused of spying. This is a modern-day variation of the Dreyfus affair.”
The same day the New York Times published an article by Valery Chalidze, “What is this Slander?” The article concludes thus:
The question is not whether the Soviet Union will renounce its laws under Western pressure. The question is whether the Soviet Union will lake Western opinion into account and respect the guarantees of its own Constitution and … its obligations under the International Covenants on Human Rights and the Helsinki Final Act. I hope that the Soviet Union will not prove indifferent to the opinion of its International partners in this regard.”
(See also “Statements by Sakharov”, CCE 44.25).