A New Way of Fighting Religion, June-July 1976 (41.4)

[Alexander ARGENTOV]

On 14 July 1976 Alexander Alexandrovich ARGENTOV (b. 1951) was summoned to the military registration and enlistment office of Moscow’s Tushino district. He was sent for immediate examination to a psychiatric clinic. Argentov had never been registered as a psychiatric patient before.

On his arrival at the clinic Dr Alexander Ivanovich Mazikov told Argentov that the only reason for his hospitalization as a psychiatric patient was his religious belief, and added: “We shall beat your religion out of you.” (Argentov is an Orthodox Christian.)

Argentov was then forcibly transferred to Psychiatric Hospital No. 14 in Moscow (15 Bekhterev Street; head doctor, Vladimir A. Koryukhin; phone, 325-39-20) and placed in section 3. The doctor placed in charge of Argentov was Semyon Moiseyevich Degtyarev, the head of the section (phone, 325-46-16). The cross Argentov wore was removed by force.

On 15 July Degtyarev, before making any diagnosis, prescribed aminazine tablets for Argentov and warned him that if he did not take the aminazine tablets willingly, he would be given the drug by force, “in the form of injections”.

On 16 July ten friends and acquaintances of Argentov’s sent a protest against his confinement in a psychiatric hospital: to the Tushino district procurator; to the USSR Ministry of Health; and to the Secretary-General of the World Council of Churches.

“We, the undersigned, have known A.A. Argentov well for a number of years and consider it our duty to declare that Argentov is mentally healthy and that his forcible confinement to a psychiatric hospital because of his religious beliefs is unlawful and inhuman …”

Argentov’s parents, convinced atheists, have written a statement to the hospital’s head doctor, insisting on the complete mental health of their son and asking for his release.

On 21 July Alexander Argentov appealed to Patriarch Pimen of Moscow and all Russia:

“Your Holiness, please intervene on my behalf! … And if you cannot speak up for me, at least bless in silence my sufferings for the faith.”

On 25 July a letter was sent to V.A. Kuroyedov, Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs (USSR Council of Ministers). The USSR Ministry of Health’s Directives of 26 August 1971 (on the urgent hospitalization of mentally-ill persons who are a danger to society), the letter pointed out, say that a commission must examine a patient within 24 hours of admission. There has still been no such commission in Argentov’s case. The authors demand Argentov’s release and call for criminal charges against those responsible for this event:

“Humanity and legality must triumph! Otherwise this most inhuman psychiatric persecution of a man for his faith will bear witness to the fact that freedom of conscience in the USSR, guaranteed by the Soviet Constitution, exists only on paper.”

Copies of the Open Letter to Kuroyedov were sent to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, the USSR Procurator-General and the newspaper Izvestiya.

According to the head doctor of the hospital, on 2 August a commission of five people declared Argentov mentally ill and in need of compulsory hospitalization.

On 3 August Argentov’s friends were no longer admitted to see him. Only his relatives are allowed to visit him.


On 15 June 1976 Alexander OGORODNIKOV and seven of his friends were detained at the yard-keeper’s lodge of a tuberculosis clinic. They were, taken to Police Station No. 22 and released shortly afterwards.

During their detention a number of handwritten sheets of paper — notes on themes for a religious seminar — were confiscated from them (without a search warrant). Two days later Ogorodnikov was dismissed from his job as yard-keeper “at his own request”. Ogorodnikov is 26, and a former student of the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography [VGIK, Moscow].

In July, Ogorodnikov’s friends who had been detained on 15 June in his yard were visited in one way or another by KGB officials. A search was carried out at Yevgeny Nesterov’s home (secretly) and at his place of work (officially); he was also interrogated. Elena Levashova, a fourth-year student at the Moscow Institute of Culture, was lured into a police station by a trick and then interrogated. Alexander Belikov, a junior research officer at the USSR Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Radio-technology, was also interrogated. Two other friends of Ogorodnikov’s were harassed on the streets of Moscow by “four men in civilian clothes”, who followed them closely, pulled their hair and snatched off their glasses. When policemen came to their aid, the “men in plainclothes” showed the policemen the red covers of their [KGB] identity cards and then departed.