The Case of Vyacheslav Igrunov, December 1975 (38.8)

<<No 38 : 31 December 1975>>

V. Igrunov is threatened with internment in a special psychiatric hospital. As far as the Chronicle knows, in the last three years no such sentences have been imposed in “political” cases.[i] There follows an account of the investigation in Igrunov’s case, including (for the reader’s convenience) some episodes reported earlier (in CCE 34-37).

At the beginning of August 1974 Professor Alexeyev-Popov of Odessa University, a doctor of philology, was stopped on the street by KGB agents. “We know,” they told him, “that you have a copy of The Gulag Archipelago. You must hand it over immediately to the KGB.” Alekseyev-Popov did so.

At the same time, he either confirmed or himself gave information, that the book had been given to him by an acquaintance, a young historian Gleb Pavlovsky.

When Pavlovsky was summoned for interrogation, he gave evidence that he had got the book from Vyacheslav Igrunov.


Vyacheslav Vladimirovich IGRUNOV was born in 1948. the son of a man who was formerly an important Party activist. He studied at the Odessa Institute of Economics. In 1973 he dropped his studies because of the birth of a child. He worked in a factory producing folk-art objects — first as a master craftsman, later as a workshop foreman. In his last year there he worked as an electrician.

Vyacheslav Igrunov, b. 1948

The Odessa KGB had had its eye on him for a long time, ever since 1968. He was summoned by the KGB at that time because of his interest in the events in Czechoslovakia: in particular it was known that he had sent someone a Russian translation of the “Two Thousand Words” manifesto through the post.

Pavlovsky was interrogated for several days in succession about Igrunov but Igrunov himself knew nothing of this. On 9 August 1974, Igrunov was detained and taken for interrogation. Igrunov denied the statements made by Pavlovsky and asked for a personal confrontation with him. While this went on his home was being searched.

Samizdat was confiscated without any warrant: it included the article “Report from the Beria Reservation” by Valentyn Moroz, and Khrushchev’s [“Secret”] Speech to the 20th Party congress. A watch was set up on the house.

On 14 August Igrunov’s friend, the physicist Oleg Kursa. paid him a visit.

In the absence of the owners. KGB men again visited the house and discovered Kursa reading samizdat. The following works were confiscated: The Gulag Archipelago, Vasily Grossman’s Forever Flowing, a microfilm of a book by Avtorkhanov, and the two-volume edition of Osip Mandelstam’s works.

Kursa stated that he had brought the books privately in Simferopol; the microfilm had been a present — he did not know what it contained. In the second half of August Igrunov and Kursa were interrogated. Because of the testimony given by Pavlovsky, the following were also interrogated: Svetlana Artsimovich (Igrunov’s wife). A. Katchuk, V. Sudakov, S. Makarov, and Yu. Shurevich.

0n 3 September 1974, Igrunov, Kursa and Pavlovsky were formally given a “warning” under the appropriate decree, for “acquiring, storing and disseminating literature of an ideologically harmful and anti-Soviet nature”. Igrunov refused to sign the “warning”.

On 4 September Igrunov was summoned for a talk, at which an unknown KGB official gave him a less formal “warning”:

“You’re not Chalidze or Solzhenitsyn or Sakharov. We’ll find a way of dealing with you!”

Then everything quietened down until February [the next year].

* * *

In the middle of February 1975 KGB officials turned up at the meteorological station in the village of Zolotoye Pole (Crimea). They summoned meteorological engineer Valery Rezak and asked him to accompany them to his house for a search. Rezak managed to warn his wife and play for time — he was showing the KGB men the way. However, his wife was unable to destroy microfilm containing samizdat. She tried to burn it, but microfilm does not burn, it melts. (It is far simpler to throw it into boiling water to wash off the emulsion — Chronicle.)

The following items were confiscated: microfilms of Avtorkhanov, Solzhenitsyn and a great deal of other samizdat publications, and photographic equipment. The Rezaks were taken to a hotel in Simferopol and interrogated for four days in succession, for eight to nine hours every day,

Rezak stated that he had got the microfilm from Igrunov, who had brought it from Moscow. over a number of years, according to Rezak, he had regularly reproduced samizdat works at Igrunov’s request,  from the uncensored version of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita to The Gulag Archipelago. He gave similar evidence against A. Rykov, O. Kursa, E. Zilberman, and V. Telnikov (who left the USSR in 1971). Rezak said he himself had taken part in this because he was paid for it.

* * *

On 1 March 1975, a search was carried out at Igrunov’s house. The following items were confiscated: A Chronicle of Current Events (CCE 32), a handwritten text of a name index for that issue, a typewriter, film-developing equipment, and published records of Party congresses.

After the search Igrunov was arrested.

On the same day searches were carried out in Odessa at the homes of A. Katchuk, Yu. Shurevich and P. Osherovich — all of which produced nothing: at Katchuk’s home two broken typewriters were confiscated.

On 2 March in the city of Kalinin [Central Russia] a search was carried out at the home of O. Kursa — also without results.

On 11 March A. Rykov’s home (in Moscow) was searched.

* * *

On 11 March 1975, Rezak and Igrunov were brought face to face. Rezak was continuing to give evidence. Igrunov refused to participate in the investigation, declaring that he did not consider his activities to be either anti-Soviet or illegal.

In March there was a search (or perhaps the procedure known as “confiscation”) at the home of V. Korobko, a relation of Kursa’s and an acquaintance of Igrunov’s. He was asked to supply the investigation with literature belonging to Igrunov. Korobko agreed to do so and handed over books published in the Soviet Union from Igrunov’s library.

In the middle of March Oleg Kursa was summoned to Odessa. He was interrogated for three days. Kursa repeated the evidence he had given the year before.

On 20 March a search was carried out at the flat of Igrunov’s parents, where Vyacheslav and his wife had lived for about a year before his arrest. Some samizdat was confiscated, including Avtorkhanov’s The Technology of Power.

In the first half of April, Svetlana Artsimovich, Igrunov’s wife, was interrogated three times. The questions concerned the origin of the material confiscated during the searches, Igrunov’s acquaintances, particularly the Muscovites among them, and the conditions prevailing at Igrunov’s former place of work.

A widespread search was apparently conducted for some “samizdat library” which was supposed to exist in Odessa.


In April and May 1975, the following were interrogated: Pavlovsky, Katchuk, Igrunov’s parents, his sister, and former workers at the workshop where he was the foreman. For the first time, questions were put regarding the “strangeness” of Igrunov’s behaviour.

On 15 May, Svetlana Artsimovich [Igrunov’s wife] was interrogated. She was asked four questions:

—          Why did Igrunov keep 40 packets of photographic paper at home?

—          What contacts did Igrunov have outside Odessa, particularly in Moscow?

—          Did he know V. Khaustov, L. Bogoraz, or Yu. Shikhanovich?

—          What illnesses had Vyacheslav suffered from?

(During her first interrogations, Svetlana Artsimovich refused to cooperate with the investigation. Later she agreed to answer questions on condition that she would be allowed to visit her husband. This was promised her. However, when it became clear that she was not prepared to “cooperate” with the investigation, the promise was withdrawn.)

After a routine set of “unsatisfactory” answers from Svetlana Artsimovich, the investigator Grazhdan declared: “If you don’t want to talk to us in a friendly way, we’ll come to your place right now and conduct a search (the search warrant was already in his hands).

During the search the following items were confiscated: a tape-recorder, a camera, notebooks, personal correspondence, and rough drafts which had been checked over and left behind on 1 March 1975.


In June 1975, it became known that Igrunov was undergoing a psychiatric examination in section 14 of the Odessa Region Psychiatric Hospital. Officially nothing was said about this: parcels for Igrunov were accepted at the prison.

The psychiatric commission did not reach a united decision: two members diagnosed schizophrenia, but three of the experts did not come to a definite opinion.

At the end of June or the beginning of July, Igrunov was sent to the Serbsky Institute in Moscow.


In the middle of July 1975, Rezak (from the Crimea) and Kursa (from Kalinin) were summoned to Odessa. On 19 July they were brought face to face. Rezak confirmed his earlier evidence.

Oleg Kursa declared his refusal to take part in the investigation proceedings, on the same grounds as Igrunov.

Altogether about 30 people were interrogated from March to July 1975, in Odessa, Moscow, Leningrad, and other cities. Except for Rezak and Pavlovsky, no one gave evidence against Igrunov. Pavlovsky later stated that he renounced the evidence he had given.


There is good reason to believe that at some time in July a psychiatric commission at the Serbsky Institute declared Igrunov responsible for his actions. After this Igrunov was evidently returned to the prison in Odessa but was soon sent back again to the Serbsky Institute.

At the beginning of September 1975 Igrunov’s wife was officially informed that her husband was undergoing psychiatric diagnosis in Moscow.

In the middle of September Igrunov was sent back to Odessa, having been diagnosed “schizophrenic”. The commission was apparently presided over by G. V. Morozov, and D. R. Lunts took part in it.

The psychiatric report ends with an important practical conclusion: “an extremely dangerous man”.


On 2 October 1975 the investigator advised Svetlana Artsimovich quickly to find a lawyer for her husband.

The Moscow lawyer Abushakhmin agreed to take on Igrunov’s defence. However, Apraksin, the chairman of the Moscow Bar, refused to give him permission to travel to Odessa. Artsimovich herself spoke to Apraksin about the lawyer Pozdeyev, who had also agreed to defend Igrunov. Apraksin categorically refused to allow any Moscow lawyer to travel to Odessa, “especially for a case like this one”. When Artsimovich referred to a recent precedent — the lawyer Shveisky had been allowed to defend M. Dzhemilev (see this issue) — Apraksin declared: “That was a mistake which will not be repeated.”

Finally, an agreement was reached with the Leningrad lawyer Lesko.

In the middle of October some of the items confiscated during searches were returned to Svetlana Artsimovich: a typewriter, photographic equipment, a camera, a tape-recorder, and all books published in the USSR. On her demand all these items were delivered to her home.

On 28-30 October the lawyer Lesko studied the case and told Artsimovich that, as the outcome was a foregone conclusion — committal to either an ordinary or a special psychiatric hospital, he saw no point in participating further in the case.

Igrunov, as a non-responsible person, was not allowed to study the case materials. The lawyer did not meet his client even once.

On 8 December 1975 a preparatory court session began to read the case materials. The trial was fixed for 22 December, Shortly before it, the Voroshilovgrad lawyer Nellie Ya. Nimirinskaya agreed to take the case.

It is an interesting fact that, although Igrunov was charged under Article 187-1 of the Ukrainian SSR Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Code), the case was conducted not by the procurator’s office but by the Odessa KGB office. The chief investigators were Captain N. A. Shalagin, a senior KGB investigator, and First Lieutenant N. S, Grazhdan, an investigator, Examination of the case materials also took place at the Odessa KGB headquarters.

On 22 December the trial was postponed for an indefinite period, “due to the illness of an expert witness”.



[i] In fact, Leonid Plyushch received such a sentence on 5 July 1973 (see CCE 29.6).