The right to correspond.
Since the end of 1975 Zavyalkin, the governor of Vladimir Prison, has taken an active part in supervising the prisoners’ correspondence. From December 1975 stereo-postcards which arrived in letters were not given out. From February 1976 there was an increase in the number of incoming and outgoing letters being confiscated. Written reasons for confiscation were no longer given.
Vladimir Central Prison
Outgoing letters were confiscated as “suspicious in content”. No reasons were given for confiscating incoming letters. Specific places in the text of prisoners’ letters, demonstrating the reason for confiscation, were not indicated; prisoners were not allowed to make corrections in letters which did not satisfy the censor. On 11 March 1976, Zavyalkin gave orders that prisoners were no longer to be informed of the confiscation of incoming letters and were to be told that outgoing letters had been confiscated without the reason being given (in fact, this practice had already been introduced in February). Registered letters were no longer delivered.
In January 1976, 60-70 % of the correspondence addressed to Kronid Lyubarsky — about 40 letters — was confiscated. In February two of his attempts to send his regulation letter was stopped by the censor. On 23 February, Lyubarsky declared that he refused to send any more letters until the illegal confiscation of correspondence ceased. He made a legal complaint against the prison administration. The court concerned did not begin to investigate the case, replying that the relations between prisoners and the prison administration was not subject to law. Lyubarsky appealed against this decision.
Earlier, Mikhail Makarenko had ceased corresponding with his family, for the same reasons as Lyubarsky,
Yury Vudka’s correspondence, letters to his parents, was confiscated more than once. His letters to friends got through, though with difficulty. Letters from Yu. Vudka’s fiancée in Israel were often not allowed through. On 23 March, before being sent to a camp, Vudka declared a hunger-strike because of the difficulties in his correspondence.
A letter sent in January by Pashnin was sent after a delay of 12 days.
Of 12 postcards enclosed in the letter, only one was left in the envelope. A letter sent in February was confiscated.
Georgy Davydov rewrote his January and February letters several times. On 17 March 1976 he composed the following [two-word] letter: ‘Greetings … Goodbye.’ This text satisfied the censor.
Gabriel Superfin had to rewrite his January letter three times. In answer to numerous queries Colonel Zavyalkin replied: “G. Superfin has the right of correspondence.” When Superfin sent an academic enquiry to the journal Decorative Art, Zavyalkin enclosed a note in the letter. The note, addressed to the chief editor of the journal, pointed out the undesirability of a correspondence with the prisoner Superfin.
Superfin wrote an official letter to the Khudozhestvennaya Literatura [Creative Literature] publishing house about the confiscation of his Bible. He asked that the prison administration should be informed of the Bible’s literary and creative value. A note by Zavyalkin to the chief editor of Decorative Art was found in this letter, as in the former one, although the letter’s addressee bore no relation to that journal.
The prisoners have written many complaints about the treatment of their correspondence to a variety of official bodies. They made the following demands:
- That all letters still not sent should be delivered;
- That illegal confiscation of incoming and outgoing letters should cease;
- In the case of the censor discovering fragments which are impermissible from his point of view, he should, before taking a decision to confiscate the outgoing letter, point out these passages to the prisoner and suggest that he correct the text of the letter accordingly;
- Only that part of an incoming letter in which impermissible passages are found should be confiscated;
- Prisoners should be informed in writing of the confiscation of any letter;
- The reason for confiscation should be given;
- Prisoners should be given the opportunity to put their personal signatures on the form confirming that they have received letters addressed to them;
- Postal receipts should be handed out when registered letters are sent off;
- N. Mityukov, the censor, and Colonel Ugodin, the head of the security section, who are personally responsible for organizing and putting into practice the unlawful infringement of the prisoners’ right to correspond, should be removed from their posts;
- Letters should be delivered to the punishment cells.
All the complaints were sent back to Vladimir Prison. Governor Zavyalkin answered: “The action taken by the administration is correct.”
From 15 March onwards, a mass confiscation of complaints began, without reasons being given. It is interesting that copies of the same complaint were sometimes sent and sometimes confiscated.
When asked the reasons for confiscating a routine series of complaints, Captain Doinikov replied: “The authorities know what they’re doing.” Doinikov based his remark on the instructions given by Procurator-General Rudenko, who, he said, had recently visited Vladimir Prison.
Cooler Number 1: the “best punishment cell”.
There are about fifty punishment cells in Vladimir Prison. According to the deputy head for regime at the prison, Cooler Number 1 is the best. It is twice as big as the others (its area is 1.2 metres by 2.2 metres); instead of a latrine-bucket there is a water-closet.
There is no ventilation in the cooler and, as the water-closet has no flushing apparatus, the cooler smells. The window has no small ventilation window set in it, the glass is broken, and prisoners in the cooler have papered it over, one after another, with bits of newspaper. There is a bare cement floor. The seat is a half-cylinder of cement attached to the wall (height 50 centimetres, length along the wall 30 centimetres, depth 22 centimetres). The cylinder has a board on top of it, ringed with iron. It is difficult to sit on this construction: one’s legs and back quickly get tired and the sharp protuberances of the cement “covering” cut into one’s back. The cooler is cold.
Anyone put in the cooler is deprived of all his warm clothing; he is dressed in a thin cotton tunic; no jacket and bedding are given out, even at night. For the sleeping period, a heavy wooden trestle-bed, bound with iron, is dragged into the celt.
On 22 August 1975, Yury Vudka, Gunars Rode and Alexander Chekalin got seven days each in the cooler, after they had complained about the inedibility of the fish.
On 12 October 1975, Grodetsky got 10 days in the cooler, for refusing to stand up during a half-hour visit to the cell by Procurator Obraztsov.
On 26 September, Alexei Safronov got eight days in the cooler, for making a complaint about A.D. Larin, the deputy head supervisor of the Administration for Corrective Labour Institutions. Later this punishment was rescinded. The procurator’s reply read: “It has been established that A.V. Safronov was subjected to an unjustified punishment, following a decision on 25 September 1975. In connection with this, measures will be taken to rescind this punishment and to discover those responsible for putting Safronov in a punishment cell.”
Balakhonov spent 28 October to 19 November (apart from one day) in the cooler.
From 10 to 14 November 1975 a hunger-strike took place in the prison, in protest at the increased number of incarcerations in the cooler (CCE 38.//).
Suslensky was in the cooler from 21 January to 2 February, and from 17 February to 3 March 1976, for complaining.
On 6 February, Makarenko got 10 days, and on 8 February Lyubarsky got 12 days. They were both punished for knocking on the wall to communicate with Superfin.
On 7 February, Pashnin got 10 days in the cooler for making complaints.
In the middle of March Sergiyenko was put in the cooler.
On 26 March, Abankin was put in the cooler for 15 days “for communicating between cells”.
Vladimir Bukovsky has been put on strict regime for refusing to work. Since 19 February he has been receiving the lower food norm and is being kept in a solitary cell. Like Lyubarsky and Makarenko, he renounced the right of correspondence because it was constantly interfered with. After conversations on 17 May with officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Administrative Department of the CPSU Central Committee, Nina Ivanovna Bukovskaya received the impression that her son was on hunger-strike.
From 10 December 1975 to 13 January 1976, Vladimir Konstantinovsky was on hunger-strike. He was alone in his cell.
Vladimir Ivanovich KONSTANTINOVSKY is 34 years old, married, and has two children. Until his arrest he was living in Kaliningrad; he is a military man. He was arrested under Article 64 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. The trial was in Moscow. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison, plus 5 years in camps, plus 5 years’ exile. He was charged with espionage. He pleaded not guilty. (Konstantinovsky and his co-defendant V. Lysenko were mentioned in CCE 38.//.)
Konstantinovsky’s wife is called Lyudmila Nikolayevna, his sons are Volodya and Ivan. His mother is Antonina Fedoseyevna Konstantinovskaya; she lives in Leningrad, at Prospekt Shaumyana 73, flat 34. Her telephone number is 210-875.
Alexei Safronov was on hunger-strike from 26 December 1975 to 15 January 1976, demanding to be transferred from cell 2-36. This cell is next to the section for infectious diseases (patients with tuberculosis, venereal diseases and other illnesses). The sanitary system is a common one for all the prisoners on that floor.
On 15 January Safronov’s request was granted.
On 13 and 16 February 1976, the prison psychiatrist Rogov talked to V.P. Fedorenko. After the talks Fedorenko was given two injections. On 20 February Fedorenko was put in handcuffs and his moustache was shaved off. This action took place under the supervision of Major Kiselev. On the same day Fedorenko was thrown into the cooler for 15 days. He was only given his jacket to wear in the cooler after the other prisoners protested. On 27 February, Fedorenko was visited in the cooler by Zavyalkin and Larin. They tried to persuade him to stop his hunger-strike and promised to let him out of the cooler. Fedorenko refused. Nevertheless, he was released from the cooler three days early.
At the end of March Fedorenko was continuing his hunger-strike. His condition is serious: he has abscesses all over his body and one arm and one leg are paralysed.
Ukrainians in Vladimir Prison.
The Ukrainians often come into conflict with the administration because of their desire to use their native language.
During a visit from his son, Valentyn Moroz was forbidden to speak in Ukrainian. A document was drawn up accusing Moroz of “infringing the rules and not obeying orders”.
In spite of the fact that the law stipulates that letters must be checked through within three days, letters written in Ukrainian are often kept back for a month, the reason given being the need to translate them into Russian.
V. F. Zavyalkin said to A.K. Zdorovy in April 1975: “If you want it to be quicker, write in Russian, like normal people.”
There have been cases when complaints written in Ukrainian have been returned. One of the replies recommended that “If declarations are to be examined in detail, they should be written in Russian.”
Captain Doinikov returned to Zdorovy letters which were addressed to official institutions in Dnepropetrovsk, demanding that the addresses should be rewritten in Russian.
The same Doinikov told Prikhodko: “You should be grateful to us for not taking money from you for translating what you write into Russian.”
The prison library refuses to order any periodicals in Ukrainian. Subscriptions to Drug Chitacha [The Reader’s Friend] and Perets [Pepper] are not allowed. Subscribing to other Ukrainian periodicals is also made difficult.
Since 1 October 1975 Ukrainians have been having their moustaches forcibly shaved off. The administration bases this practice on a secret Order Number 0125, dated 30 May 1975, of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs. From 1 to 20 October Lukyanenko, Sergiyenko, Zdorovy and Fedorenko were subjected to this procedure.
On 17 January 1976, Zdorovy refused to shave off his moustache, which had grown again. He regarded the order as an insult to his personal and national dignity. Zdorovy did not display active resistance but the warders did not want to use force. Then Major Kiselev, the assistant prison governor on duty, himself twisted Zdorovy’s arms behind him, pulled his face back and ordered a prisoner in attendance to start shaving him. After this “execution” Zdorovy could not move his arms or head for a long time.
Major Kiselev drew up a document complaining that Zdorovy had “infringed the regime regulations by refusing to obey an order and not carrying out a hygiene regulation”.
The following were put on strict regime for refusing to work: on 20 December 1975, A. Zdorovy, for a second term of 6 months; on 6 January 1976, Yu. Vudka for 2.5 months, until the end of his prison term; on 20 March, L. Valdman’s term of strict regime came to an end (see CCE 39.2).
On 20 March Gunars Rode returned from Riga. He had been given the opportunity to visit his father’s grave and was driven round the town. Rode was offered the chance to appeal for a pardon, but he refused.
On 15 March, two weeks after being put in the cooler, Yakov Suslensky was taken to the prison hospital in a serious condition. The doctor, Larisa Kuzminichna Sukhacheva, made the following diagnosis: a cerebral-vascular crisis. The prison psychiatrist Rogov took an interest in the illness: he detected “symptoms of psychiatric illness” and summoned civilian psychiatrists.
After medical treatment Suslensky felt better.
On 16 March there was an examination, and the visiting doctors upheld the diagnosis made by Sukhacheva.
On 22 February Ma-Khun returned to Vladimir (he is the Yui-Shi-Lin referred to in CCE 39.2). He had been in Moscow for a re-investigation of his case. The Chinese who gave evidence against him now say they did so under pressure from the investigator. There has been no re-trial, but Ma-Khun hopes that his sentence may be reduced.
Ma-Khun had no money when he left Vladimir, so when he was in Lefortovo Prison he was not able to use the prison shop. He was not allowed to write letters in Moscow.
On 19 March, the KGB summoned G. Davydov. Davydov was asked to use his influence with his wife to stop her writing to Ma-Khun. The security man remarked that Davydov’s wife could lose her Leningrad residence permit.
Chronicle 39 has already reported the anti-religious activities of the Vladimir Prison administration. Here are some more examples.
In 1974 L. Lukyanenko had the cross he wore confiscated. Earlier, V. Moroz had his cross taken away and his prayer-texts were confiscated.
On 20 November 1975 Zavyalkin said to Pashnin: “Chernoglaz threatened to make a great fuss about this matter, but he went elsewhere, and there was no great fuss. That’s why we’ve been confiscating crosses and we’ll go on confiscating them.”
On 13 April Pashnin’s cross was returned.
On 19 October 1975, a Jewish religious calendar was confiscated from Yu. Vudka. When he complained about this, Kapkanov, head of the Administration for Corrective Labour Institutions in the Internal Affairs Administration of the Vladimir Regional Soviet Executive Committee, replied: “As synagogues are not State or public publishing houses, the calendar was rightly confiscated.”
As already reported, on 22 January 1976 G. Superfin declared a hunger-strike, because a Bible, a prayer-book and three issues of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate had been confiscated from him (CCE 39.2). Because of his refusal to surrender the religious literature voluntarily, Superfin spent the first six days of his hunger-strike in the cooler. Superfin continued his hunger-strike for 35 days, from 22 January to 26 February 1976.
In answer to the numerous complaints made by prisoners, I. F. Sychugov, an Assistant Procurator of Vladimir Region, and N. P. Kapkanov, head of the Vladimir Regional Soviet Executive Committee’s Administration for Corrective Labour Institutions, made the same reply: “The actions taken by the administration are lawful.”
After ending his hunger-strike Superfin was put on a special diet.
Chronicle 38 included a report on Airapetov. More details are now known about his case. D.M. Airapetov is a doctor, an oral surgeon; he is 47 years old and comes from Baku. After his arrest he was subjected to a psychiatric diagnosis. He was declared responsible, although the diagnosis spoke of his paranoid personality development.
Airapetov was charged with writing insulting letters to L.I. Brezhnev and sending them through the post. The letters concerned personal and social matters. The Supreme Court of the Azerbaijan SSR sentenced Airapetov to 7 years’ imprisonment under Article 63 of the Azerbaijan SSR Criminal Code (corresponding to Article 70 of the RSFSR Code); of these, three years were to be spent in prison.
On 20 October 1975, Georgy Davydov made an appeal to K.T. Mazurov, Chairman of the “Committee for the Organization of International Women’s Year in the USSR”. Davydov referred to the existence of women’s political labour camps in the USSR. A country which has political labour camps is in a state of civil war, he wrote. “The clearest evidence that an undying civil war is going on is the existence of women political prisoners in this country,” Davydov demanded that political camps for women should be liquidated.
At the same time as he made this appeal Davydov declared a hunger-strike.
A Letter by K. Lyubarsky (1 June 1975).
The subject of the letter is the decision of the Higher Academic Degrees Board to deprive Lyubarsky of his degree of Candidate of Physics and Mathematics, because of his anti-patriotic activities. Recently the same thing happened to A. Bolonkin (Candidate of Technical Sciences), V. Lisovoi (Candidate of Physics) and G. Dubovov (Candidate of Physics and Mathematics). The most shameful effect of this, in the opinion of Lyubarsky, is the spiritual corruption that takes place in those who voted for this Higher Academic Degrees Board decision.
The declaration ends with these words: “…A man can be ‘demoted’ as a Candidate of Science, but not from the ranks of the learned.”
Georgy Davydov has been punished for trying to send information out of the prison.
 Also incorrectly called Mo-Khun in CCE 39.2. On Ma-Khun’s release and his unusual case see CCE 42.// and his lengthy document in CHR, 1976, No. 23-4, pp. 54-67.
 On D.M. Airapetov see also CCE 44.//, which reports that he does not consider himself a political prisoner.