The Trial of Vyacheslav Igrunov, 11-13 March 1976 (40.5)

From 11 to 13 March 1976 a case was heard in the Odessa Regional Court concerning the ordering of medical treatment for Vyacheslav IGRUNOV. His actions were defined as subject to Article 187-1 of the Ukrainian SSR Criminal Code (corresponding to Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Code).

According to the “Resolution of the investigative authorities on bringing the case to court” (a document analogous to an indictment):

Vladimir Vladimirovich Igrunov (b. 28 October 1948), Russian, with a secondary education, who had worked as an electrician in the regional communal services department until his arrest, arrested 1 March 1975, had been involved in 1972-5 in preparing and distributing “anti-Soviet libellous works”.

In 1972-4, Igrunov distributed the following libellous works: over ten issues of the Chronicle of Current Events, the article “Think!” by L. Ventsov, works by Amalrik and Sakharov, the books The First Circle, Cancer Ward, August 1914 and The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn.

In 1974-5 he distributed, reproduced or tried to reproduce Avtorkhanov’s works The Origins of the Partocracy and The Technology of Power and Solzhenitsyn’s “Letter to the Soviet Leaders” and The Gulag Archipelago.

He introduced the witness Mirolyubov to The Gulag Archipelago. In conversations with Mirolyubov, he made use of slanderous fabrications defaming the Soviet system.

He kept in his house, with the aim of distributing it, the article “Report from the Beria Reserve” by V. Moroz, which was handed over to the KGB in August 1974 by Igrunov’s wife Svetlana Artsimovich.

He also kept at home, for the purpose of distribution, issue 32 of the Chronicle of Current Events and showed it to Artsimovich. Together with Artsimovich he made a card index (of names) for this issue, using 616 cards, to which he transferred part of the libellous information from the Chronicle. Both the Chronicle and the card-index were confiscated from Igrunov during a search on 1 March 1975.

With the aim of distributing them, he kept at his parents’ flat a copy of Avtorkhanov’s Technology of Power and the following anti-Soviet, libellous works: “Draft of a Basic Law [Constitution] for Russia”, the author of which is the mentally ill V. Kharitonov,[1] ‘The Three Russian Revolutions’ and The Anti-Gospel of Maria Dementnaya.

Igrunov has suffered three cranio-cerebral injuries: in 1964 he underwent in-patient treatment at a psycho-neurological clinic. Igrunov was described by his parents as an irritable and abrupt man. During the investigation he behaved strangely and reticently; “a fear of responsibility for his actions” was observed, together with a groundless hot-temperedness. He refused to give evidence.

Vyacheslav Igrunov, b. 1948

Igrunov’s behaviour during the investigation gave rise to doubts about his sanity, as a result of which a decision was taken, on 14 April 1975, to carry out a forensic-psychiatric diagnosis in a hospital.

According to the conclusions reached by experts from Odessa Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 (Sedykh, Maier, Kravtsova, Chernysheva and Lyamina), Igrunov “displays a psychopathic personality structure against a background of an organic disease of the central nervous system, without symptoms of a psycho-syndrome”. However, taking into account the severe nature of the illness, the commission did not decide the question of Igrunov’s responsibility at the time of the criminal actions and recommended that a further diagnosis be carried out at the Serbsky Research Institute of Forensic Psychiatry [in Moscow].

The diagnosis carried out at the Serbsky Institute (by Pechemikova, Lunts, Taltse and Azamatov) proved that Igrunov was suffering from a severe mental illness in the form of chronic schizophrenia. Igrunov is not responsible. Because of his psychic condition, and taking into account his tendency to conceal his morbid emotions, and also the nature of the acts committed: he represents a serious danger to society and needs compulsory treatment in a Special Psychiatric Hospital.


The course of the pre-trial investigation in Igrunov’s case has been described in detail in issue 38.8 of the Chronicle. However, that account included certain inaccuracies:

  • V.S. Alexeyev-Popov is not a philologist but a historian;
  • on 9 August 1974 the Memoirs of Khrushchev, not his speech to the 20th Party Congress [1956], were confiscated from Igrunov;
  • the surname “P. Osherovich” appeared in Chronicles 35 and 38 by mistake;
  • at interrogations in March O. Kursa did at first “insist on his evidence of the previous year” (i.e., that he had bought books by Grossman and Solzhenitsyn privately), but after a personal confrontation with Rezak he confirmed that he had obtained these books from him;
  • the psychiatric diagnosis in Odessa lasted from the middle of April to the end of May.

In addition, there was a basic error of fact in Chronicle 38. It was reported there that Igrunov had been subjected to two diagnoses in the Serbsky Institute, the first of which had allegedly declared him to be responsible. A record does indeed exist of a diagnosis on 28 July 1975, but it merely demonstrates the necessity of prolonging the examination for another month, “because of the obscurity of the clinical picture”.

[The Trial]

The trial of Vyacheslav Igrunov was presided over by Judge Meshkova, assisted by People’s Assessors Butuzov and Kabanova. The state prosecutor was Sadikova. Igrunov was defended by counsel Nimirinskaya. Psychiatric experts were Azamatov (the Serbsky Institute [Moscow]) and Lyamina (Odessa City Psychiatric Hospital No. 1). The case was heard in Igrunov’s absence.

Thursday. 11 March

It was discovered that the expert Azamatov was absent. The proceedings were suspended until 9 o’clock on the following day.

Friday. 12 March

All designated participants for the judicial investigation were present, with the exception of witness Alexeyev-Popov, who was in hospital. A decision as to the necessity of this witness’s presence was put off.

The ‘Resolution’ quoted above was read out.


The witness Mirolyubov (husband of Igrunov’s schoolteacher, with whom he had kept up an acquaintance) was questioned.

Nikolai Yevdokimovich Mirolyubov (b. 1913), a member of the CPSU, a metal worker, said that Igrunov used to visit the Mirolyubovs and in the course of conversation “mentioned the Solzhenitsyn question”. He had given them The Gulag Archipelago to read. Mirolyubov had read 100-150 pages and had returned the book, as he had not liked it. This was in about May or June 1974. The copy had evidently been photocopied on an Era machine and was recognized at the investigation by Mirolyubov. Igrunov sometimes used to discuss democracy. This subject “was treated by him in an interesting way: he said there was no democracy in our country”. According to Igrunov, democracy meant freedom of speech and action (“on the whole, anarchy”, Mirolyubov summed up). Igrunov used to say that the workers had ‘not developed’ sufficiently to be able to take charge of the government. Igrunov spoke only negatively of our society.

Defence counsel: Did you notice anything strange in Igrunov’s behaviour?

Mirolyubov: Yes. I found it strange that he was against everything.

The lawyer made the question more precise.

Mirolyubov: He’s artistic, condescending and takes pride in people following his “lead”.


Witness Valery Fyodorovich Rezak (b. 1945), Russian, an engineer with the Crimean Hail-Suppression Task Force living in the village of Zolotoye Pole, Crimean Region, stated that he had known Igrunov since 1968-1969. They had met rarely. Formerly, at Igrunov’s request, he had photocopied and typed various books for him, for example, Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. On 11 February 1975, in the afternoon, Igrunov had come to Zolotoye Pole and called Rezak away from his work. He had brought 10-15 rolls of film and some photographic paper and asked him to make prints from the films (for a payment). A few days earlier Rezak had received a parcel from Igrunov containing photo reagent. He did not have time to copy anything as there was a search on 14 February and everything was confiscated. He did not know what was on the films.

Prosecutor: At the pre-trial investigation you said they contained material by Avtorkhanov and Solzhenitsyn.

Rezak: It was not I who said so; the investigators told me this when they confronted me with the films.

The prosecutor referred to a handwritten “Declaration about the crime committed”, which Rezak wrote on 16 February 1975. Rezak insisted that he was telling the truth.

In the spring of 1974, when Rezak was working temporarily in the town of Belogorsk, Oleg Kursa had visited him twice and had brought him some films, saying that Igrunov had sent them. There were 6-10 films, in very bad condition, and Rezak had returned them, saying there was no point in printing them. At the pre-trial investigation Rezak had recognized these films, which were confiscated in August 1974 from Kursa (the investigator had told him that these, too, contained material by Avtorkhanov). At the same time O. Kursa had taken away two copies of the Gulag Archipelago which Rezak had made. Both copies were identified by Rezak at the pre-trial investigation. (One had been handed in to the KGB by Alexeyev-Popov, the other had been confiscated from O. Kursa, Chronicle.)

Prosecutor: What did Igrunov say about democracy?

Rezak: We didn’t speak about that. Igrunov is an economist by education, and we used to talk about the national economy. Igrunov considered that economic competition between industrial enterprises was necessary, that it would be a good stimulant.

Prosecutor: And what did he say about freedom of speech?

Rezak: He says that freedom of speech, in our country as in any other, is still subject to certain limitations.

Prosecutor: So, you agreed to help him out, not knowing what he had given you. How are we to understand that?

Rezak: I didn’t think that there was anything dreadful in it.

The witness Rezak had not noticed any mental oddities in Igrunov’s behaviour.

The witness Kulakova (wife of Rezak) confirmed that Igrunov had visited them on 11 February, had stayed the night and left in the morning. According to her husband, he had asked him to copy some sort of rare book — she did not know what it was. Her husband himself had not known. Igrunov had brought a lot of photographic paper with him.

The witness Nikolai Fyodorovich Shkorbut (b. 1955) who was temporarily working as a watchman at the laboratory of the Crimean Hail-Suppression Task Force in February 1975, stated that Igrunov had entered the laboratory (in March or April) and asked for Rezak. Rezak had, according to the witness, warned him that a friend of his might come. When Rezak was asked again about this, he refused to confirm that he had said this. (The witness Shkorbut, according to those present in court, did not really understand what was going on, and was clearly confused: he asked other witnesses if there was a possibility that he himself might be put inside.)


Vyacheslav’s father, Vil Nikiforovich Igrunov, was then questioned; he was born in 1924, is a member of the CPSU and works as director of a fur supply- base.

Since 1968 he had had virtually no contact with his son. The reasons for the rift between them were that his son had joined the history faculty against his wishes, that he had gone from one job to another, often not working at all for lengthy periods, and that he had married. They had met for the last time “in 1970 or 1971, I think.”

Until his 11th year at school, his son had grown up like other children. Then “deviations appeared — he made friends, among whom was the 23-year-old A. Rykov”. It was only later that V. N, Igrunov found out that in 1968 they had been visited “by the KGB”. The libellous [Czech] work “Two Thousand Words had been confiscated from Vyacheslav and from Rykov. In 1975 there was a search at the home of the Igrunovs and, in the room formerly occupied by Vyacheslav, “a pile of documents and a book were discovered.” “My son must have brought them in when I wasn’t at home.” Vyacheslav Igrunov had not made any “negative comments” in his father’s hearing.

The witness knew nothing about his son’s liking for anti-Soviet literature. He felt that it was all the fault of the influence exerted by A. Rykov. V. N. Igrunov stated that his son had been on the register of a psycho-neurological clinic, “because of his glaucoma” (?). He had always been a good student and read a great deal. In his second year he had taken some sick leave, “because of his glaucoma”. The witness had not had any thoughts doubting his son’s mental health. His son was stubborn, and not always with good reason. He was excitable. There had been no sudden changes in his character, although the witness remembered that in his tenth year at school, he had become more excitable and his attitude to his parents had changed. He had no particular liking for philosophy. He painted “abstract pictures”.


Vyacheslav’s mother, Appolonia Ivanovna Polyanskaya (b. 1921), a doctor.

She considered her son to be normal, still developing, like all children. He had always behaved well to his mother and still did; he was on good terms with his sister and was very fond of her. He had normal relationships with his friends. She did not think that any change had taken place in her son’s character in his 10th year at school. Her son was a good, modest, polite man, somewhat excitable. At school he had liked physics and chemistry. When he grew older, he began to be interested in philosophy: he had read Marx, Engels and Lenin. At the age of eight he had received an injury to the skull (some boys had pushed him off a tram). Then he had begun to have headaches; sometimes he was sick at school. At the age of 15 the pains began again. They had gone to the psycho-neurological clinic; there it was diagnosed as basal arachnoiditis. According to the psycho-neurologist, there were no pathological changes in her son’s mind. The arachnoiditis was treated with magnesium and glucose and vitamins. He obtained sick leave because of his asthenia. He worked during the vacations. He had always worked hard, though with gaps between jobs.

Later he had received further knocks on the head.

The witness knew nothing of her son’s liking for anti-Soviet literature. She had seen the material confiscated only at the time of the search and did not know how it had got into the flat. In answer to a question from the prosecutor about her son’s relationship with his father, she replied: “They have the same sort of characters; they have never made allowances for each other.” She had a good relationship with her son. Vyacheslav used to visit her, bringing her granddaughter with him. She had last seen her son in February 1975.


Witness Gleb Olegovich Pavlovsky (b. 1951), expelled from the Young Communist League for not paying his membership dues, was a graduate of Odessa State University history faculty. He had been unemployed since February 1976. He announced his refusal to give evidence. The witness’s relationship with Igrunov concerned matters “of a purely theoretical and ideological character”. The present hearing was, in Pavlovsky’s opinion, “unjust, unlawful and impossible”. The trial of a man for spreading ideas was a trial of ideas. “I am a communist by conviction and I consider that such a trial is impossible for a socialist society,” said Pavlovsky.

The judge reminded Pavlovsky that he had given evidence at the pre-trial investigation. Pavlovsky replied that the evidence he had given to the KGB had not clarified matters, as he had intended, but had obscured them. In that sense it was false, and he renounced it. Pavlovsky was aware of the responsibility he incurred for giving false evidence, but he explained that at the time he had been a family man and had feared for his relatives. The evidence had been the result of ill-judged behaviour.

Judge: How was your evidence false? Were your answers not to the point?

Pavlovsky: The questions were not to the point. I should have made this clear to the investigator.

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[1] Vasily Kharitonov is among those listed as “Victims of Soviet Psychiatric Abuse” in S. Bloch and P. Reddaway, Russia’s Political Hospitals, London, 1977, Appendix One, p. 366. (The US title of this book is Psychiatric Terror.)