The Trial of Ogorodnikov, 3-7 September 1980 (58.6)

<<No 58 : November 1980>>

From 3 to 7 September 1980 the Kalinin Regional Court heard the case of Alexander Ioilevich OGORODNIKOV (b. 1950), who was charged under Article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code.

Ogorodnikov was arrested on 20 November 1978 (CCE 51.15) and sentenced to one year in ordinary-regime camps for ‘parasitism’ (CCE 52). On completing his sentence, he was not released from custody, as a new case had been instituted against him (CCE 55). In protest against this Ogorodnikov declared a hunger-strike, which entered its hundredth day some time before the trial opened. His spleen has been removed, and he also has a stomach ulcer. He is very weak and had to be carried out of the courtroom.


On the first day of the trial only Ogorodnikov’s mother was admitted to the courtroom, which was full of a ‘special public’. His father and wife [Elena Levashova] were informed that they would be called as witnesses. Ogorodnikov’s friends were similarly denied admission to the trial.

Alexander Ogorodnikov (b. 1950)

At the beginning of the first court session Ogorodnikov presented a petition requesting the court to “remove all these bastards” and admit his friends. The court refused his petition. He then filed a petition challenging the composition of the court. This, too, was refused. He then thanked the defence counsel and renounced his services, whereupon counsel left the courtroom. The court then ruled that Ogorodnikov’s mother be escorted from the court (the reason for this is unknown to the Chronicle). Ogorodnikov shouted: “Don’t go, mother, or I’ll slash my wrists!” His mother was then escorted from the courtroom by policemen.

On the third day Ogorodnikov appeared in court with a bandage around his neck, and all that day an ambulance was in attendance outside the court building. On the same day Ogorodnikov’s mother was allowed to attend the trial and his mother and wife were called as witnesses. After questioning they were allowed to remain in court. The ‘special public’ behaved in such a hostile way towards Ogorodnikov that the Judge was forced to have several people removed from the court. Ogorodnikov was accused of involvement in the publication of the journal Obshchina (Community), the circulation of tamizdat and samizdat and “oral anti-Soviet agitation”.

Vladimir Poresh and Victor Popkov were called as witnesses; they had already referred to Ogorodnikov’s involvement in the publication of the journal Community at Poresh’s trial (CCE 57.1, April 1980). A number of Ogorodnikov’s acquaintances were also questioned as witnesses. They stated that Ogorodnikov had given them “literature” when he lived in Moscow. Prisoners from the camp where Ogorodnikov had served his sentence for “parasitism” spoke favourably of the accused but said that he conducted anti-Soviet conversations. Witness M. Timonina stated that Ogorodnikov had tried to rape her. It was said in court that while living in Sverdlovsk (where he attended university), Ogorodnikov “cohabited with a girl who was under the age of consent”. The report of a forensic psychiatric examination was also read out, which stated that Ogorodnikov was “responsible for his actions, but pathologically hysterical”.

Ogorodnikov’s speech in his own defence lasted five hours. He was sentenced to six years in strict-regime camps and five years in subsequent exile.


On 23 September 1980, the Moscow Helsinki Group adopted Document No. 141, about Ogorodnikov’s trial. The document states in part:

“The instigation of proceedings against Ogorodnikov and his arrest in 1980 (correction: in 1979, Chronicle), during the last days of his sentence for ‘parasitism’, were an unlawful means of prolonging his sentence…

“The harshness of Ogorodnikov’s sentence is convincing evidence of the authorities’ determination to crush completely the movement for freedom of religious belief.”


The Abramkin-Grimm-Sokirko case was not divided into three separate cases until 20 August.