Letters and Statements, May 1975 (36.11)

[1] Danylo Shumuk (CCE 28.16)

has already applied twice to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet to have his Soviet citizenship withdrawn (10 December 1972; 10 December 1973).

On 1 August 1974 Shumuk appealed to the UN Human Rights Commission:

“As I have already appealed twice to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet to relieve me of the ‘honourable title’ of citizen of the Soviet Union … but on both occasions without result, I am forced to appeal on this matter to the Human Rights Commission of the UNO, and to the free world in general — to help me to rid myself of this ‘honourable title’. I am already 60 years old and it has been my lot to live 30 of them in severe conditions of captivity: before the war in Poland, during the war under the Germans, after the war in Russia. I still have to serve seven years of oppressive imprisonment in a special-regime camp, in a crowded cell — two square metres to a man — which is kept locked all clay, on an extremely inadequate diet, with five more years of exile to follow. Considering my age and the serious state of my health this is really a life sentence—it is murder. [see CCE 24.3] “I do not wish to die in harsh captivity, in an alien, hostile environment, as a citizen of this state, and thus bear responsibility for all the evil deeds committed by the USSR’s punitive agencies — this is why I renounce Soviet citizenship …”

On 10 December 1974 Shumuk applied for the third time to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, asking to be deprived of his Soviet citizenship:

“I no longer wish to be even formally considered a citizen of the USSR, nor to bear moral responsibility for all its flagrant lawlessness. I do not need to repent or to be persuaded on anything concerning this subject—everything is already quite clear to me. I ask for only one thing: liberate me from the ‘honourable title’ of citizen of the Soviet Union.”

(Shumuk’s declaration is quoted in a translation from the Ukrainian.)

[2] L. Z. Kopelev, Writer, Member of the International PEN Club, WWII Combatant

“To the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee” (8 April and 22 April 1975)

In two letters the author calls for an amnesty for political prisoners and asks that disputes with ideological opponents be conducted only by ideological means.

[3] Father Gleb Yakunin

“Open Letter to the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee” (19 April 1975)

This letter was inspired by two events: the declaration that the “Easter rest day” (4 May) was to be a working day, and the campaign under the slogan “For the sake of that Lad”. In the author’s opinion both amount to mockery. The former is an insult to millions of [Christian] believers; the latter is an insult to the memory of fallen soldiers.

Yakunin considers that these actions are prompted by a spiritual crisis. “Your train has entered a desert of spiritual famine” is the basic theme of the “Open Letter”.

[4] Mykola Rudenko

“Open Letter to L.I. Brezhnev” (six pages)

Dear Leonid Ilyich,

Allow me to share with you certain thoughts, which, I feel, are of interest to others besides myself. Please excuse my writing to you by hand: my typewriter was confiscated from me during a search carried out at my apartment on 18 April 1975, on the directions of the Moscow Procurator’s Office (see the section ‘The Eighteenth of April’ in this issue, CCE 36.2).

I see no other conflicts in our society except the eternal conflict between youth and old age, between spiritual freedom and bureaucratic restriction. However, some people try to depict even this conflict in terms of ‘class’.

It is my profound conviction that a reasonable, well-regulated conflict is not only normal but also extremely necessary for every society: without it there is not, and cannot be, any development. Only the ground rules for the conflict have to be worked out. The conflict must be resolved not by force, but by reason. By no means always — and in least measure of all! —is this conflict dictated by class contradictions.

Young people in the Soviet Union are very keenly aware of how laws are simply ignored, and they feel strongly about it. Some are used to hiding their thoughts, others are brave enough to raise their voices in protest. And so the conflict between fathers and children —a deep, internal conflict — comes to the surface and is discussed throughout the world.

Until now I have never sent any open letters to the Central Committee…  But in order to defend myself and Andrei Tverdokhlebov, my friend in Amnesty International, I am compelled to publicise this letter.

I believe in human reason — I believe that it will be victorious! That is inevitable! And there is nothing wrong in the fact that western nations are helping us to rid ourselves of Stalinism — I welcome this help. It comes not from the bourgeoisie, as some allege, but from a high spiritual culture.

[5] A. V. Sokolov (Moscow) and J. Steindl (Vienna)

“Declaration Addressed to the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, L.I. Brezhnev, and to B. Kreisky, Chancellor of the Austrian Republic” (6 May 1975)

Alexander Vsevolodovich Sokolov (b. 1945, a journalist) worked until recently on the newspaper Literaturnaya Rossiya, then left it for personal reasons. Lately he has worked as a stoker, a janitor and a fireman.

Johanna Steindl came to Moscow from Vienna in 1973 on the basis of a cultural exchange agreement between the USSR and Austria and worked for two years as a teacher in the Thorez State Pedagogical Research Institute of Language-Teaching. In July 1975, her agreed term of employment came to an end. Alexander and Johanna met in the spring of 1974 and in February 1975 they decided to register their marriage.

The Moscow Registrar’s Office refused, however, to accept their application without the consent of Sokolov’s parents to the marriage (A. Sokolov’s father is a retired lieutenant-general with a pension, who formerly worked in the KGB, the General Staff and the Military Diplomatic Academy), although in accordance with the RSFSR law on marriage and the family no such consent is, in fact, required.

On receiving a refusal Alexander and Johanna appealed to the Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, At the beginning of March the Moscow Registry accepted their application. The registration was due to take place on 4 June.

On 26 April, J. Steindl went to Vienna on a short visit for medical treatment. At Sheremetevo Airport customs officials secretly removed her return visa to the USSR from her passport. Johanna only noticed this when she had taken her seat in the plane; she wanted to refuse to leave but was persuaded that a mistake had been made, and that the visa would be restored at the Soviet Embassy in Vienna. In Vienna, however, Soviet Consul Vishnyakov refused to renew the visa, saying that he was acting on ‘instructions’ from Moscow.

On 6 May, A. Sokolov and J. Steindl sent a joint declaration to Brezhnev and Kreisky. In this declaration, after telling their story, they wrote: ‘Help us; allow Johanna Steindl to return to Moscow, so that we can officially become husband and wife. We are long past our youth and can answer for our words and actions, and believe us, we are ready to take the most extreme steps, the most extreme actions — so as to avoid losing each other; for if that happens, we will have almost nothing left to lose,’

On the same day, at a press conference, A. Sokolov released the declaration to foreign journalists.

On 14 May, A. Sokolov was dismissed for being incompetent from his job as a fireman at the Moscow Miniature Theatre.

[6] Larissa Bogoraz

“Open Letter to Yu.V. Andropov, KGB Chairman” (9 May 1975)

… Over a year ago [February 1974], a group of Soviet citizens issued the Moscow Appeal — a call to investigate and publicize the crimes of the recent past, which were connected with the activities of your organization . …

My own signature was among those on the Moscow Appeal [1].

… I wish to inform you that l myself intend, to the best of my abilities, to found an archive and publish its contents; in the near future I shall publish a questionnaire, on the basis of which I hope to gather material…

[7] V. Voinovich

“Open Letter to Yu.V. Andropov, KGB Chairman” (12 May 1975)

On 4 May this year I was summoned by telephone to the institution headed by yourself, where two of your colleagues, Petrov and Zakharov (this was how they introduced themselves, not giving their rank or occupation), had a talk with me. The conversation, which lasted for two hours, consisted mostly of expressions of regret that such a talented writer as they considered me to be, should need to be published abroad. They offered me the opportunity of returning to Soviet literature. Petrov even said that he would have published my novel about the soldier Chonkin, had he been able to cut out the one word “PUKS” [in upper case letters this means “The Road to Socialism”, in lower case it means “farts”].

“Haven’t you noticed that we’re changing?” my partners in conversation asked. Their words fell on fertile soil. I have always reacted in a conciliatory way to the KGB, considering it to be in no way worse than the Union of Writers. This was why I accepted their invitation to a second meeting at the Metropol Hotel.

The meeting was to take place on 11 May at six o’clock, beside the statue of Marx. When I went to the assigned meeting place near the Metropol three minutes before the agreed time, I noticed that some strange animated activity was going on there. My new acquaintances were for some reason running to and fro and making mysterious signs to some unknown people. It seemed as if an important operation was being prepared. When he bumped into me, Zakharov, the younger of my guardians, seemed to be embarrassed; he took me by the hand but suddenly let go and ran round the corner supposedly in search of Petrov, who, as it happened, was approaching from a completely different direction …

Soon they both returned, and we went to room 480 in the hotel (now you will have to use a new room).

Here I proposed to my new admirers that I begin my return to Soviet literature with the publication of a selection of my works. They promised to do this in the near future, but meanwhile asked me to tell them more about my friends and to provide their surnames. At the same time, they informed me several times that they knew all about me, but I realized that they knew nothing apart from my open conversations on the telephone…

Petrov said that … he personally … was interested in my contacts with the West and with foreign journalists and in how such contacts had been formed and developed…  Zakharov told me that I was just about his favourite writer; and he was interested in my creative methods; he stared into my mouth, not noticing that an object was slipping out of his left sleeve and dangling in the air.

“What’s this, a microphone?” I asked, and tried to pull it out; but Zakharov, though embarrassed, managed to pull his arm away.

At this moment, some sort of gas was released (? Chronicle) because my awareness of what was happening became blurred. It was obvious that Petrov had been affected by even more of the gas than I, for he began to babble utter nonsense: “We’re being sincere with you, but you are not being sincere with us.”

The only phrase I caught from his whole disconnected speech was this one about sincerity’, but later, when the initial shock had passed, he suddenly ended his rambling speech with his first intelligible sentence: “Would you like me to tell you about my family?”

After I discovered the microphone I wanted to leave immediately, but my acquaintances persuaded me to stay. “What difference does it make to you where the microphone is, in my sleeve or in the wall?”

I agreed that, indeed, there was no difference, and stayed to hear a story about how the writer Dudintsev puts his manuscripts into some kind of sacks. I was again asked to change my attitude to the KGB. I was told a story about the murder of the artist Popkov, which the Western press had been shouting about, or so they said…  Sometime later Petrov thoughtfully, and with sadness in his voice, informed me that a man’s life was a very uncertain thing. Then he suddenly said that he might have understood me, had I been 70 years old. At the age of 70 life was already essentially over. But to end it at the age of 43…  He spread out his hands in bewilderment…

I am not afraid of threats, Yury Vladimirovich. My soldier Chonkin will avenge me. In his ragged puttees he has gone out into the world and all your debt collectors put together (according to the official version the artist Popkov was murdered by a drunken debt collector — Chronicle) cannot vanquish him now. . .

And if anyone is summoned by the KGB and told that they’re not as they were, let him not believe it. They are!

THE MOSCOW APPEAL (13 February 1974)

A couple of months after Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago came out in Paris, on the very day that Solzhenitsyn was deported from the Soviet Union (13 February 1974), the famous “Moscow Appeal” appeared, signed by Sakharov, Marchenko, Bogoraz and seven other human rights activists.

They demanded not only that the Archipelago be published in the USSR, but also that they be given access to the archives so as to obtain a complete picture of all police activities. This last demand—to open the KGB archives and expose all the crimes of the state—has up to this day remained vitally important in Russian society.

Daria N. Khubova, “Imprisoned History: the KGB archives”, RGGU, Winter 1994