Persecution of the Working Commission, April 1980 (56.4)

A Search at the Home of Grivnina.

On 26 December, a search was conducted at Irina GRIVNINA’s home in Moscow in connection with the case of V. Yanin, who had been charged by the Kuibyshev KGB under Article 64 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (“Betrayal of the Motherland”) for illegally crossing the frontier.

Irina Grivnina, b. 1945

The search was conducted by Omsk KGB investigator Malyshev. Items confiscated: copies of the Information Bulletins of the Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes (some in many copies), a card-index of prisoners in psychiatric hospitals, papers relating to the use of psychiatry for repressive purposes, a copy of the Chronicle of Current Events (No. 53), books published in the West (including Russia’s Political Hospitals by [S. Bloch and] P. Reddaway, in English), a camera with films, and an enlarger.

During the search, some friends of Grivnina — V. Golitsyn, T. Osipova (see “The Administrative Arrest of Osipova”, CCE 56.3) and V. Bakhmin arrived at the fiat. They were all subjected to body-searches. A notebook, a book published in the West (Russia without Embellishments or Silences by Vladimirov) and several pages of typewritten manuscript were confiscated from Golitsyn. Nothing was found on Osipova or Bakhmin.

After the search, which lasted from 9 am to 7 pm, Grivnina was told to report to the KGB for questioning. She refused, because her daughter was ill and she herself was on sick leave ‘to look after her child’. The investigator called the police, and Grivnina was taken to the KGB by force.

Investigator Kriventsov handed Grivnina a letter which she had sent to Yanin’s wife on the subject of material help, which mentioned the existence of the Working Commission. The investigator was interested in the activities of the Working Commission. Grivnina advised him to consult the bulletins and other documents confiscated from her, where these questions were illustrated in some detail. In March Grivnina officially joined the Working Commission.

A Search at the Home of A. Podrabinek (Ust-Nera).

On 29 January Demin, a Deputy Procurator of the Yakut ASSR, conducted a search at the home of Alexander Podrabinek, a member of the Working Commission in exile in Ust-Nera (for his 1978 trial, see CCE 50.7). The search was conducted in connection with Case No. 46012/18-76 (CCE 52-4) by order of Koloskov, a Deputy Procurator of Moscow.

During the search, the following were confiscated: a typewriter, 12 issues of the Information Bulletin of the Working Commission, a copy of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, papers of the Moscow Helsinki Group, excerpts from case materials relating to A. Podrabinek’s trial, cuttings from foreign newspapers and items of private correspondence.

No copy of the search record was given to Podrabinek (he was told: “We don’t want it to reach the West”). Some items confiscated were not entered on the record. A search was also conducted at Podrabinek’s workplace, but here without a warrant.

After the search Podrabinek was taken to the Procuracy, where Sorokin attempted to question him about the confiscated material. Podrabinek refused to answer his questions and asked for the reasons for the refusal to enter items on the record. This was refused.

On 11 February, Podrabinek was dismissed from work “on the expiry of his work agreement”: the woman whom he had temporarily replaced came back to work ten months earlier than expected. Two days later she resigned. In those two days the hospital administration managed to dismiss Podrabinek and engage a replacement. On 12 February, Podrabinek submitted a statement requesting work. The chief doctor of the hospital attached the instruction ‘No Vacancies’ to the statement. (In actual fact the hospital staff is not at full strength.) On 6 March Podrabinek began a lawsuit to seek reinstatement.

The Arrest of Bakhmin.

On 12 February, Vyacheslav Bakhmin, a member of the Working Commission, was arrested at Grivnina’s flat in Moscow. It was not until a week later that his wife managed to discover that he was being held in the KGB investigations prison, Lefortovo. G.V. Ponomarev, investigator for the Moscow City Procuracy, said that Bakhmin “might” be charged under Article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. In fact, although he is held in Lefortovo, he is charged under Article 190-1.

The Chronicle is in possession of a statement which Bakhmin asked to be published if he should ever be arrested:

“I do not accept that those organs which have repeatedly compromised themselves through lies and falsification should have the right to investigate my activities. I will state here and now that I refuse to take part in such an investigation. It is degrading to try and prove one’s innocence in an investigation when the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

“It is difficult at present to imagine what concrete charges have been prepared for me. It may be that, like Podrabinek, I have invented ‘slanderous information’, trying with all my strength to discredit the system which exists here (as if it had not already discredited itself many times before the whole world). It may be that, like Shcharansky, I ‘worked for Western intelligence’ and regularly supplied the West with all kinds of secret information (it is not important that I never had any). There will be volumes of case materials, ‘witnesses’ ready to say anything, a courtroom full of ‘the public’. I will explain nothing to them, as they will already be indifferent. Now, however, while I have the chance, I want to say that I have never committed any crime, I could prove this at an open trial, and it is for precisely this reason that there will be no such trial, I will have nothing to say at any other kind of trial.”

An open letter (117 signatures), written on the occasion of Bakhmin’s arrest, states:

“It is quite obvious that not only has an innocent man been arrested, but also a man who loves his country and has done much good for his people. Unfortunately, in our State there are forces which suppress all such activity, which seek to standardize the life of our country at any cost and to eliminate public opinion.

“Such actions not only prevent a most honourable man from leading a full life, condemning him to suffering. The arrest of Bakhmin is one more example of actions which worsen the situation of most of our people, an action which paralyses initiative, an action which complicates the political situation in our country. Finally, our sense of self-preservation tells us that this action increases the chances of reprisals against any one of us; if today an innocent man is arrested, then tomorrow somebody else may be arrested. For while it is possible to talk of greater or lesser degrees of guilt, it is impossible to talk of greater or lesser degrees of innocence…”

An appeal by Irina Grivnina (21 February) states:

“When seen in the context of the stormy recent events both in our country and throughout the world, the arrest of Vyacheslav Bakhmin may seem an insignificant event. But this is not so. This arrest is evidently the beginning of a series of actions which have been planned for a long time by the KGB and are intended to destroy the Working Commission.

“A way has been found out of the present awkward situation in which the psychiatric suppression of dissenters in our country is becoming the subject of wide discussion in the UN Commission on Human Rights and at international psychiatric congresses: members of the Commission are charged with slander and tried at closed trials, after which the long-awaited silence will ensue …”

Alexander Podrabinek sent letters to Lane Kirkland, the Secretary-General of the American trade union association AFL-CIO, and to the “International Committee to Defend the Podrabinek Brothers” (11 March). The second letter states:

“Vyacheslav Bakhmin is now in a much more threatened situation than I. I ask you to defend him, just as you have defended me and my brother Kirill. I ask you to treat Bakhmin as you treated my brother. My own defence is much less important to me than the defence of my friend.”

Statements and appeals in defence of Vyacheslav Bakhmin also came from his brother Victor, from E. Nikolayev, and from two members of the Working Commission, F. Serebrov and L. Ternovsky.

A. Nastavin, who has turned to the Working Commission for help on a number of occasions and lives in Schaste (Voroshilovgrad Region), and Yu. Yarym-Agayev, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, submitted written evidence on Bakhmin’s activities, in which they expressed their high esteem for his activities in defence of the rule of law, Nastavin stated that he was prepared to appear at the trial as a defence witness.


On the day of Bakhmin’s arrest searches also took place at the homes of Alexander Lavut (see “The Arrest of Lavut”, CCE 56.6), Leonard Ternovsky and Felix Serebrov. On 15 or 16 February yet another search took place at the home of Alexander Podrabinek in Ust-Nera [Soviet Far East].

Several issues of the Information Bulletin of the Working Commission were confiscated from Bakhmin, along with several sheets of Working Commission notepaper, a letter to Bakhmin from A. Podrabinek, a book by Nina Bukovskaya, Letters of a Mother, two copies of the collection In Defence of Economic Freedoms, and articles and books in English.

In the other searches, also, materials and files of the Working Commission were confiscated, together with handwritten and typewritten texts, books, and personal correspondence. Some Soviet books on psychiatry were confiscated from F. Serebrov.

On 13 February, the Moscow Helsinki Group issued Document No. 123, “Repressive measures against the Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes”. The document mentions the arrest of V. Bakhmin and the searches connected with his case. It refers to the history of the founding of the Working Commission and lists the KGB’s activities against its members. The document states in part:

“Despite the climate of persecution, intimidation and repression which has prevailed throughout the three years of its existence, the Working Commission has done much to investigate and publicize dozens of cases in which dissenters and believers have been placed, without justification, in psychiatric hospitals.

“It has checked on the conditions in which prisoners of conscience are detained and has given help to people in psychiatric hospitals and to their families. Twenty issues of the working Commission’s Information Bulletin have been published…”

On 18 February, the Working Commission published a statement, which reported that:

“The work of finding out about and publicizing cases of the abuse of psychiatry will continue. The need to expose the repressive use of psychiatry derives not from someone’s arbitrary whim, but from the very fact that such abuse actually occurs. The ending of this shameful use of psychiatry is therefore a necessary precondition for the ending of the Working Commission’s activities.”

The Detention of Serebrov

On the day Bakhmin was arrested Felix Serebrov was arrested and taken to a police station (one hour before the search at his flat). He was placed under administrative arrest for 15 days “for malicious disobedience to the police”. (He had refused to appear for a chat with a local police officer.) On 22 February, Serebrov was charged with leaving the work given to those in detention [under “administrative arrest”] without authorization. He sent a statement to the Procuracy, and on 23 February declared a hunger-strike against the authorities’ intention of extending his term of arrest. On 27 February Serebrov was released.

The Arrest of Ternovsky

On 10 April, after a search at his home in Moscow in connection with Case No. 49609/14-80, Leonard Ternovsky was arrested and taken to Butyrka Prison. Ternovsky’s case is being investigated by the same Ponomarev.

On 12 April, the Moscow Helsinki Group published Document No. 129, on the arrest of Ternovsky:

“… We still do not know the precise charges to be made against Ternovsky, but there is reason to believe that he will be charged with the preparation and circulation of deliberately false fabrications defaming the Soviet social and political system (Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code).

“An honest, brave and honourable man, Leonard Ternovsky is incapable of slander or lies. He has committed no crime, and his arrest is yet another attempt to suppress the movement to defend the rule of law, to suppress freedom of thought and speech, to stop the collecting and publicizing of information on cases of the violation of fundamental human rights in our country.

“We protest against the arrest of Leonard Ternovsky and call on all fellow-human-rights campaigners to join us in our protest.”

A copy is attached to the document of a letter written by Ternovsky’s wife Lyudmila, in which she demands the immediate release of her husband and the return of objects and papers which were illegally confiscated. On 14 April F. Serebrov protested against Ternovsky’s arrest. He was joined by 25 others.

On the day of Ternovsky’s arrest searches also took place at the home of Tatyana Osipova and Ivan Kovalyov (this issue, CCE 56.3), and at the homes of Irina Grivnina and Felix Serebrov (see also “The Case of Brailovsky”, CCE 56.13). A store of copies of Information Bulletin No. 22 was confiscated from Grivnina. On 15 April Grivnina and Serebrov issued a statement:

“On 12 February Vyacheslav Bakhmin was arrested, followed on 10 April by Leonard Ternovsky. If such actions continue, the Working Commission will temporarily halt the regular publication of the Information Bulletin until at least one of its members is released …

“The persecution of members of the Working Commission is irrefutable proof that the Soviet authorities are striving to continue to use psychiatry to suppress dissent.”


Investigation of Bakhmin’s case meanwhile continues.

On 14 March Ponomarev conducted a search at the home in Moscow of former member of the Working Commission Irina Kaplun. He confiscated a number of documents of the Free Inter-Trade Association of Working People [SMOT], an old notebook belonging to her husband V. Borisov, and samizdat and foreign [tamizdat] publications. During the search, a man entered the room carrying some papers from Mark Morozov (see “In Exile”, CCE 56.21). Morozov had previously telephoned to warn them about the papers.

On 10 April Ponomarev questioned Irina Grivnina (after the search); on 28 April he questioned G. Notkin, and on 29 April, Felix Serebrov. Notkin was asked if he knew anything about Bakhmin’s past or his involvement in the activities of the Working Commission; Serebrov completed the personal details section of the record and then refused to talk to the investigator on the grounds that during the search on 10 April a savings book belonging to his wife, into which her wages were paid, had been confiscated from him. On 28 and 29 April Ponomarev also summoned T. Osipova, I. Filatova, A. Romanova, M. Petrenko and V. Neplekhovich for questioning. None of them went. M. Petrenko wrote a statement in which she refused to take part in the investigation of Bakhmin’s case.

Bakhmin’s relatives are unable to find a lawyer for his defence: nobody wants to handle it.