The Arrest of Sergei Kovalyov, 27 Dec. 1974 (34.1)

<<No 34 : 31 December 1974>>

On 27 December 1974 Sergei Kovalyov was arrested in Moscow. On 23 December a search had been carried out at his apartment — one of many searches which took place on that day in Moscow and Lithuania in connection with ‘Case 345’, being investigated by the Lithuanian KGB (see below CCE 34.7 “Arrests, searches, interrogations”).

The search began in the early morning and went on for 12 hours. The following items were confiscated: statements and letters written by political prisoners; statements on their behalf; issues of A Chronicle of Current Events and A Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church; a list of 135 imprisoned Lithuanians; 43 photographs (of P. G. Grigorenko, Ilya Gabai, Pavel Litvinov, Larissa Bogoraz and others); the texts of trial verdicts; a copy of The Gulag Archipelago; Valery Chalidze’s book Human Rights and the Soviet Union; letters; and notebooks.

Sergei Kovalyov, 1930-2021

After the search, S. Kovalyov and his wife were taken away to be questioned as witnesses. During the interrogation, Kovalyov told the investigator A. V. Trofimov that he refused to take part in the investigation; he gave as the reason for his refusal the many violations of the law that were taking place in the conduct of cases concerning the dissemination of information. When the interrogation ended, Kovalyov was given a summons to come again on the following day.

On 24 December, after he had been sitting in the waiting-room for about two hours, he left, leaving his passport in the office. On 26 December the investigator Trofimov spoke to Kovalyov on the telephone, inviting him to collect his passport at any time he found convenient, and also to have a short ‘10-minute’ conversation with him. On the 27th, Kovalyov arrived at the Lubyanka prison at 10 am, In the evening, it became known that he had been arrested. Next day it became known that he had been flown to Vilnius.


(by Andrei Sakharov)

Sergei Kovalyov, a scientist and Doctor of Biological Sciences, has been arrested. He is my close friend, a man who has wonderful spiritual integrity and strength and limitless altruism. Not long ago, he and I discussed writing a New Year appeal for an amnesty for political prisoners. Today, he himself is on the other side of the prison wall.

The official reason for his arrest is a charge concerning the publication in Lithuania of A Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church. I consider this to be a pretext convenient for the authorities, who can now conduct the investigation and trial far from his friends and from publicity. Kovalyov, a wise and talented man, has already devoted many years of his life to the defence of people’s rights, to the struggle for openness and against illegality. He has been a member of the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights from the very

beginning of its activity; he is a member of the Soviet group of Amnesty International; he is the co-author or author of fundamental documents which have marked out the path to be taken in the struggle for human rights in our country. Kovalyov has quietly done many good works and accomplished many difficult tasks. It was not fortuitous, for instance, that it was he who managed to put the mother of Simas Kudirka in contact with the US Embassy, something which led in the end to Kudirka’s release. In May of this year Kovalyov, together with T. Velikanova and T. Khodorovich, announced the renewed publication of the Chronicle of Current Events and his own responsibility for disseminating it. This was a courageous and historic step, but at the same time it was a challenge to those who had called the Chronicle libellous and anti-Soviet, those who fear truth and openness. His arrest yesterday was an act of revenge for his courage and integrity.

I appeal to Sergei Kovalyov’s colleagues — the biologists of all countries. I appeal to Amnesty International, of which Kovalyov is a member; all his activities have been in accordance with the spirit of this organization;

I appeal to the International League for the Rights of Man;

I appeal to everyone who prizes goodness, integrity and intellectual freedom.

I call for an international campaign for the release of Sergei Kovalyov.

Andrei Sakharov
28 December 1974

Together with this statement A. D. Sakharov issued an appeal written by himself and Kovalyov on the eve of 27 December:

“Today, on the threshold of the New Year of 1975, we call for a general amnesty for prisoners of conscience throughout the world, for the release of those suffering for their convictions and for their selfless, non-violent defence of other people’s rights. We write this in a great and tragic country, whose fate has an enormous influence on the life of the whole world.”


A Statement for the Press

[by Konstantin Babitsky]

I have the honour to be a friend of Sergei Kovalyov. He is one of the best people I know, perhaps the very best. I love him like a brother, and I admire his rare personal qualities as a man, a scholar and a citizen.

I share the values of Sergei Kovalyov and I approve of his activities in defence of human rights. If I myself do not take part in this activity, it is merely a matter of personal capabilities and talents, nothing more.

My approval of Sergei Kovalyov’s activities extends also to those about which for some reason or another I don’t know in detail. Sergei Kovalyov is not capable of immoral or dishonourable behaviour. Nor could he break the law, if we mean by this the law in its strict sense, without arbitrary interpretations or qualifications.

And, of course, I trust Sergei Kovalyov more than all the investigators and procurators in the world.

I am surprised at the behaviour of those persons who carried out the arrest of Sergei Kovalyov. Do they really not understand that, by taking part in such an unjust and unscrupulous act, they have for ever — I repeat, for ever — deprived themselves of the possibility of being considered decent people?

I cannot but note that a nation which treats the best of its sons in such a stupidly wasteful manner provokes doubts about its own future. Nevertheless,

I love this nation and wish to remain with it to the end, no matter what that end may be.

Konstantin Babitsky
30 December 1974


[A Statement by the Action Group]

On 30 December 1974 the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR — Tatyana Velikanova, Grigory Podyapolsky and Tatyana Khodorovich — issued a statement, which was signed by another 52 people. The statement reads in part as follows:

“We who know Sergei Kovalyov, a man of great mind and heart, cannot accept this act of arbitrary injustice; nor can we reconcile ourselves to the fact that an honest and open campaign for human dignity, for the right to have and defend one’s own convictions, leads only to prison.

“Sergei Kovalyov is a talented scientist, the author of more than sixty scientific articles, mostly in the field of the electro-physiology of pathogenic matter and the mechanisms of cellular interaction. Half of these were published after he was forced, in 1969, to leave the Laboratory of Mathematical Methods in Biology at Moscow University on account of his participation in the Action Group.

“For Kovalyov, the defence of human rights is a natural extension of his scientific work: a scientist cannot reconcile himself to lack of freedom in information, to forced conformity of opinion, to falseness. Kovalyov keeps to the same principles in his public activity as in his scientific work: a full knowledge of the facts, responsibility for reporting them accurately, exactitude in drawing conclusions. And always — openness and frankness.

“Sergei Kovalyov has openly spoken out in defence of a great many unjustly persecuted people; he has defended legality, free speech, humanitarianism.

“Today, he himself needs support.

“We express our solidarity with Sergei Kovalyov in his noble activity. We demand his release.

“We call on all those who agree with us to come to his support.”