The Trial of Vladimir Maramzin, 19-21 February 1975 (35.4)

No 35 : 31 March 1975

From 19 to 21 February 1975 Vladimir Rafailovich Maramzin, a prose writer, a member of the trade union group among the writers at the Leningrad branch of the Soviet Writer publishing house, was on trial at the Leningrad City Court. The presiding judge was Isakova, the people’s assessors were Krainov and Kurochkin. Acting as prosecutor was Procurator Katukova; the defence attorney was S.A. Kheifets (who shares a surname with the writer Mikhail Kheifets, recently convicted in Leningrad, CCE 34.2).

*

At the beginning of April 1974, the home of Vladimir Maramzin was searched in connection with Case No. 15. (At the same time searches were carried out at the home of Mikhail Kheifets and those of other Leningrad residents, CCE 32, 34.) Judging by the conduct of the searches and questioning, the investigators were most interested in the five-volume collection of poems by Joseph Brodsky: it was compiled by Maramzin, a friend of Brodsky, who admired and collected his poems.

Later, especially after Brodsky’s statement in defence of Maramzin when he was arrested in July 1974, this charge came to figure less and less in the case. Kheifets’s article on Brodsky, the basic charge in his case, was analysed at his trial quite separately from the compilation of the whole collection, and Brodsky’s poems did not figure at all in the final indictment against Maramzin.

After the search Vladimir Maramzin sent a statement to the Leningrad branch of the Writers’ Union in which he described as unprecedented the confiscation of manuscripts from their author. (A number of manuscripts of published and unpublished works had been confiscated from him.) A later declaration by Vladimir Maramzin contained a protest against the arrest of Mikhail Kheifets. These declarations and a few others were published in the West,[1] for example in the newspaper Le Monde.

While Maramzin was under threat of arrest, and after he had been arrested, a widespread campaign in his support and defence was conducted in the West.

*

A few days before his trial the press department of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs handed the correspondent of Le Monde a letter from Maramzin which was quickly published by the newspaper. In it Maramzin expressed his chagrin at the fact that his name “is now being used abroad for anti-Soviet purposes”.

“I am moved to say this not by fear of punishment but by real indignation at the murky political influences which want to use me in their fight against my country. It is insulting for a writer to be used as a plaything in political machinations. Wherever I find myself, I am sure of one thing: I shall never have anything in common with organizations carrying on this anti-Soviet campaign. I regret that I sent my declarations abroad and involuntarily gave the enemies of my country an excuse for attacking it, and thus inflicted harm on my state.”

(Quoted from V. Mikhailov’s article “When Understanding Dawns”, Leningradskaya pravda newspaper, 21 February 1975.)

[charges]

Vladimir Maramzin was charged under Article 70: 1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. He was accused of producing and disseminating materials described in the indictment (and later in the verdict) as anti-Soviet:

  • Conversations with Stalin by [Milovan] Djilas, “in which the Soviet state is libellously called imperialist and predatory”;
  • the book Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Record, “in which it is libellously stated that there is no freedom of speech in the USSR”;
  • Vestnik RSKhD (Messenger of the Russian Student Christian Movement), Nos 101-102, “containing calls for the overthrow of the Soviet regime and statements that freedom of speech does not exist in the USSR”;
  • An Unfree World by H. Böll, in which “Soviet society is libellously called an unfree world”;
  • a speech by G. Svirsky;
  • the letter written [CCE 1.4. February 1968] by Grigorenko and Kostyorin to the Budapest Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties;
  • a Lenten letter to Patriarch Pimen;
  • and an interview with Western correspondents (the author of the interview is not named).

The indictment also lists the following “anti-Soviet documents published abroad” in Maramzin’s possession which were confiscated during the search:

  • Messenger of the Russian Student Christian Movement, Nos 100, 103, and 104-5;
  • Berdyaev’s The Meaning of History;
  • The Russian Literature Triquarterly, No 1, 1973;
  • Vol. 3 of the Collected Works of O. Mandelstam;
  • The Social Meaning of Christianity by G. Fedotov; and
  • The Sources and Meaning of Russian Communism by Berdyaev.

The descriptive section of the indictment also listed Maramzin’s ‘anti-Soviet statements’, but these were not included in the direct charges.

It was pointed out that the case evidence included tape-recordings of Western radio stations “which transmitted Maramzin’s declarations and made use of them to whip up anti-Soviet hysteria”, as well as “extracts from foreign publications in which Maramzin’s declarations were reprinted”. It was noted that in the pages of the ‘Trotskyist’ newspaper Novoe Russkoe slovo Maramzin was defended by his close acquaintance A.A. Kiselev, a ‘well-known NTS activist’. (Kiselev is a specialist in the work of Andrei Platonov, which was why he was acquainted with Maramzin.)

A considerable part of the ‘anti-Soviet materials’ used as evidence against Maramzin consisted of his ‘own personal libellous compositions’; the short novels The Man Who Believed in His Special Destiny (‘which libels our people’s court’) and A Blonde of Both Shades, the stories “Cadres” (‘which distorts the nationalities policy of our government’), “Secrets”, “Funnier than Before” and “Push-Pull”. It was pointed out that Maramzin “had, at his apartment, presented A.V. Kuznetsov, who later betrayed his country, with a signed copy of the libellous story ‘Push-Pull’ ”; it was also pointed out that his stories had been published in the US publication Russian Literature Triquarterly — “the case evidence includes reports from the Leningrad branch of the Main Administration for the Prevention of State Secrets Appearing in the Press [Glavlit, 2] and from the International Post Office, affirming that the Russian Literature Triquarterly is anti-Soviet and that its import into the USSR is forbidden”; that Maramzin had also given his stories to A. Voronel for publication in the collection Jews in the USSR — the report issued by the same Leningrad branch of Glavlit [2] affirms that this collection is also anti-Soviet; and that Maramzin had given the short novel A Blonde of Both Shades to Catherine Dore, a citizen of France, “an emissary of the Trotskyist organization, the Youth Socialist Union”, so that she could take it to the West, and to Anri Volokhonsky, who had now left for Israel.

Referring to Maramzin’s statements during the pre-trial investigation and his letter to Le Monde, the indictment noted that he had agreed with the evaluation of his activity as anti-Soviet, and that he had said that formerly he had not always realized what harm his actions were doing his country, but that now he regretted this and repented.

[Maramzin’s statement in court]

Maramzin fully admitted his guilt and made a statement to the court, which the Chronicle quotes with some abbreviations:

“I deeply regret the harm my activities have done to the Soviet State and I sincerely repent of what I did. I am especially indignant at those who were quick to describe me as a dissident and an anti-Soviet, ascribing to me non-existent links with some sort of organizations which are unknown to me and hostile to our country.

“Thus, for example, the French newspaper Le Monde as long ago as 8 April 1974 published false information, anonymously written, which alleged that I was being charged with having links with anti- Soviet organizations and with sending my manuscripts abroad. When I found out about this, I appealed to the investigator to give me the opportunity of writing an open letter to the chief editor of Le Monde. The point was that while I had indeed sent my manuscripts abroad only two or three people in Paris could have known about this in April 1974. No-one has accused me or is accusing me of having links with anti-Soviet organizations. This means that someone abroad found it useful to substitute wishful thinking for the truth. Someone is trying to prove that by his own actions he has succeeded in making me an enemy of my country. And this someone must have been one of those who visited me in Leningrad. A fine way of thanking me for my hospitality!

“It seems that these ‘friends’ of mine knew better than me which anti-Soviet organizations they represented and in whose interests they intended to use my acquaintance. Behind all this was the wish to see me arrested all the sooner, so that they could play up this fact for their own ends.”

(Further on, Maramzin tells of how he gave his manuscripts to Catherine Dore for safekeeping: “I did not imagine that this was part of a widely-planned provocation”; he speaks of the arrival of a messenger from Dore, Paris student Karine Vaast, who ‘in order to compromise’ the defendant gave him some kind of leaflets in English, which he “did not show to anyone and burned immediately after her departure”).

“I see that I was mistaken in thinking that my foreign acquaintances were interested in me as a writer. But the people behind them needed only an excuse for kindling enmity. I hope that everything that happened to me will serve as a lesson to my fellow-countrymen who show true Russian hospitality and trust to similar acquaintances from abroad. I state decisively that I have never given Catherine Dore or her masters the right to defend me, and I protest against the use of my name in the anti-Soviet struggle.”

Maramzin admitted that he had produced and stored samizdat literature and his own works, that he had sent his letters to the West and that all these documents contained libels and statements defaming the Soviet regime. However, he did remark that ‘some of the libellous expressions’ in the text of his works seemed to him to be necessary for character portrayal: “A comic writer always risks being identified with his heroes.”

[other witnesses]

The testimony given by the witnesses, who were laconic and restrained, agreed as regards the facts (that Maramzin gave them manuscripts to read and distributed samizdat material) with what Maramzin himself had said. According to rumours, before the trial he had sent letters to some of his friends asking them not to refuse to give evidence in court.

With regard to the facts of the case the defendant himself took up the position of a man supporting the evidence of the witnesses rather than giving evidence for himself. With regard to evaluations the witnesses differed from the defendant and denied above all the anti-Soviet character of his works.

One of the witnesses who appeared at the trial was Mikhail Kheifets, convicted last September and still confined in a KGB investigation prison. While expressing his friendly attitude to Maramzin and his respect for his talent as an author, he spoke with incredulity of Maramzin’s letter to Le Monde (he had been shown the letter by the investigator): “This letter seemed very strange to me. Usually a person in prison defends himself, but this is a protest against those who have tried to defend him in his sufferings.”

[Prosecutor Katukova]

In her speech the prosecutor Katukova repeated the points made in the indictment and then devoted the greater part of her statement to the problems of the ideological struggle between capitalism and socialism, both in general and in relation to this trial:

“Unfortunately, among our intelligentsia there are to be found Philistines who have no firm political views. In order to achieve their narrow personal aims they are ready to go as far as treachery. On 1 April a search was carried out at Maramzin’s apartment, which was quickly made use of by reactionary circles in the West in order to stir up anti-Soviet hysteria with the aim of destroying international détente …

“Maramzin’s anti-Soviet inclinations were formed by his acquaintance with anti-Soviet works published abroad. A new tactic adopted by our enemies consists of using as a weapon the propagation of reactionary Orthodoxy. A significant role is played in this by the so-called Russian Student Christian Movement. The leadership of this organization has openly put the movement at the disposal of reactionary circles; their messengers prepare and train militant anti-communists under the guise of religious propaganda. These anti-Soviet types have recently taken up as a weapon and tried to resurrect the Russian idealist philosophers so as to use these works to influence Soviet people in the direction necessary to them. This is why, by illegal means, they send into the USSR books by the avowed anti-communists and anti-socialists Berdyaev, Frank and Fedotov.

“And Maramzin kept these books at home, as revealed by the searches at his apartment. Maramzin himself admitted that he did not read Soviet papers or listen to Soviet radio. Thus, he was set, willingly or unwillingly, on the path of betrayal. Now he has realized this and declared it in the hearing of all … This trial has been a lesson not only for Maramzin but for other ideologically unstable citizens.”

While considering Maramzin’s guilt proved and his ‘criminal actions’ rightly defined as coming under Article 70, the procurator noted the sincere repentance of the accused and the fact that he “took measures on his own initiative to avert the consequences of his criminal actions”, and therefore considered it possible to apply Article 44 of the RSFSR Criminal Code [extenuating circumstances] in his case and to give him a suspended sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

[verdict and sentence]

The defence lawyer S.A. Kheifets drew attention to certain unproved items in the indictment (as a result, the unproved assertion that Maramzin gave the witness Makarov a letter from Grigorenko and Kostyorin was not included in the verdict), and asked the court to accept the state prosecutor’s assessment of the appropriate sentence, considering, however, that the term could even be reduced.

The court gave Vladimir Maramzin a suspended sentence of five years’ imprisonment in a strict-regime labour camp. Maramzin was released from detention in the courtroom.

There are a number of detailed transcripts of the trial circulating in samizdat, which differ from each other in their degree of comprehensiveness. (Attempts by those present in the courtroom to take notes were physically obstructed by the KGB officials who filled most of the courtroom.)

In addition, the trial was described by the Moscow writer Victor Sokolov, who was present. His article contains not only a description of the trial, but also an attempt to analyse the various moral positions taken up and various assessments of the trial by people with whom the author happened to discuss it.

According to information from Leningrad an anonymous pamphlet, hostile to Maramzin, has appeared there, but its text is unknown to the Chronicle.

NOTES

[1] See Chronicle of Human Rights in the USSR (Chalidze publishers: New York), 1974, Nos 8 & 9.

[2] A reference to the censor’s office, Glavlit or the “Main Administration for the Prevention of State Secrets Appearing in the Press”.