The Trial of Vyacheslav Bakhmin, 22-24 September 1980 (58.2)

<<No 58 : November 1980>>

From 22 to 24 September the Moscow City Court, presided over by N.A. Baikova, heard the case of Vyacheslav Ivanovich BAKHMIN, a member of the Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes. Bakhmin (b. 1947; arrested on 12 February 1980, CCE 56.4) was charged under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. The prosecutor was Procurator T.P. Prazdnikova; the court-appointed defence counsel was A. Polyak.

The trial was held in the People’s Court of Moscow’s Lyublino district, where Tatyana Velikanova was also tried (this issue, CCE 58.1). Apart from the “special public”, only Bakhmin’s elder brother Vladimir was admitted to the courtroom. None of his friends was admitted. His wife and younger brother Viktor were called as witnesses. On 24 September Bakhmin’s friends were forbidden even to enter the area in which the court building is situated, because on the previous day they had “violated public order” (when Bakhmin was led from the court building and placed in a black Maria, they had shouted greetings to him).

Vyacheslav Bakhmin, b. 1947

Bakhmin was accused of preparing and circulating the Information Bulletin of the Working Commission and of circulating “anti-Soviet literature”, in particular The Gulag Archipelago. Of the thousand “episodes” (Bakhmin’s estimate) contained in the 22 issues of the Information Bulletin produced before his arrest, only 14 were cited against him.

Also cited against him were an appeal to the International Congress of the World Psychiatric Association in Honolulu (CCE 47.15) and letters he had sent to Soviet psychiatric hospitals, concerning unlawful hospitalizations and other illegal acts. The indictment noted that these materials and the Information Bulletin had been published by the Possev publishing house [in Munich, W. Germany], and readings from them had been given by Radio Liberty.

Bakhmin made a number of petitions: he requested that the “Directives on the urgent hospitalization of mentally ill persons who constitute a public danger” [1] should be entered in the case file, that additional witnesses should be called, particularly from the Serbsky Institute, and that his wife and brother should be questioned first. The court granted only the first petition and part of the last: Bakhmin’s wife was questioned first, but his brother was the last to be called to the witness stand, following a demand by the Procurator. Defence counsel also entered a petition for A. Sokolov, who had testified during the pre-trial investigation about Bakhmin’s circulation of The Gulag Archipelago, to be called as a witness. This petition was also overruled, whereupon Bakhmin renounced the services of the defence counsel and declined to take part in the proceedings (he maintained a demonstrative silence), The court did not accept his refusal of defence counsel.

Of the 34 witnesses summoned to appear only 17 attended, mostly doctors from various psychiatric hospitals and clinics. They described conditions in the hospitals and stated that there had been no violations of the law during the hospitalization of patients. Matchenko, Chief Doctor at a Krasnoyarsk psychiatric hospital, and Gurevich, a Section Head at the Sychovka Special Psychiatric Hospital, both disputed the report in the Information Bulletin about the persecution of psychiatrists and medical staff who had treated patients sympathetically and refused to perform inhuman acts; they stated that they had not been responsible for any ’persecution of medical staff. Witness Koltsova, who works in Moscow Psychiatric Clinic No. 3, was unable to reply when asked by defence counsel which sorts of patients are considered socially dangerous.

Bakhmin’s friends Boris and Marina Rumshisky (CCE 57.3) were also summoned. Before giving evidence, Boris Rumshisky wished Bakhmin a happy birthday (25 September was his 33rd birthday) and threw some flowers to him which landed on his lap. The Judge warned Rumshisky about his behaviour and declared a recess (during which the escort removed the flowers). Afterwards, Rumshisky was refused admission to the court by the usher. His wife was also excluded, so that “he wouldn’t be bored on his own”. The Procurator, Prazdnikova, demanded the maximum punishment,  three years in camps. Defence counsel Polyak stated that, according to Article 301 of the RSFSR Code of Criminal Procedure (“The sentence must be lawful and justified”), the accused was not guilty, since the concept of “intent” was absent from his actions.


In his final speech, which lasted 40 minutes, Bakhmin stated that

“… only two of the 14 episodes held against him contain inaccuracies. The case evidence on the other twelve either confirms the accuracy of our accounts of them, or else it is self-contradictory.”

Bakhmin continued:

“How was the investigation conducted? Those officials whom we know to be responsible for violations of the law were, on each investigated episode, sent such questions as: ‘Please tell us what you know about this or that incident concerning the criminal case against V.I. Bakhmin, who is charged under Article 190-1 with circulating deliberately false fabrications …’ What could these people reply when asked such a question? When the Procuracy organs are already saying that a man is charged under this article with circulating deliberately false fabrications, then naturally the reply will always be of the same type, as can be seen from the testimonies of the doctors and section heads. They said that every-thing was fine, that there were no violations of the law either in hospital procedures or over hospitalizations …

“In her speech the procurator [Prazdnikova] often said that all the persons referred to in the Bulletins were ill. But the Commission never tried to debate this point. The real point is that a sick person has certain rights, just as any other one does, and these rights are firmly stated in the ‘Directives on the urgent hospitalization of mentally-ill persons’, which are very often violated. For example, Sebelev, mentioned by witness Koltsova, was forcibly hospitalized in a state of alcoholic intoxication by the police, who removed him from his own flat. He was shortly afterwards discharged since it was considered that he did not require in-patient treatment. This was an example of flagrant violation of the ‘Directives’, as a state of alcoholic intoxication does not constitute one of the stated grounds for forcible hospitalization.

“Moreover, in many cases even the psychiatrists themselves do not know the ‘Directives’. They are not only unfamiliar with their provisions; they do not even know of their existence. This was highlighted when it was discovered that among the members of the Commission charged with checking the medical reports of [Dr Alexander] Voloshanovich (CCE 51.19), not one of them had ever heard of the ‘Directives’. The work of the Commission consisted in checking out the diagnoses made by Voloshanovich. Not one of the psychiatrists on the Commission even once saw any of the patients they were reporting on, throughout the entire period of their investigation. Their own diagnoses are founded only on the case histories, which they did just trouble to leaf through, and of course they agree with the diagnoses made earlier in the hospitals …

“In her speech the Procurator referred to the secrecy of our activities, yet the activities of the Working Commission were absolutely legal. We do not hide from anyone, something which cannot be said about this trial, which is being conducted virtually behind closed doors. Only three of my close relatives have been admitted to the court. As for my friends, they were not admitted; they were prevented from entering by police cordons. All this serves to prevent anyone from knowing what is happening in the courtroom. Who is afraid? The names and full addresses and telephone numbers of the members of the Working Commission appear openly on the title page of every Information Bulletin. Issues of the Bulletin were regularly sent by me to the USSR Procuracy and the Ministry of Health. I enclosed letters requesting that if any inaccuracies or incorrect information were discovered, corrections should be sent to the members of the Working Commission, so that they could be included in the next issue.

“However, the Procuracy, which is supposed to ensure that the law is observed, would, the very next day, send the Bulletin to that organization so endearingly referred to by the Procurator as ‘the committee’, namely the KGB. The same happened to the issues of the Bulletin sent to the Ministry of Health. Probably the KGB is more competent in matters of psychiatry … In our country the KGB decides what citizens shall read. The KGB is an organization which, should a citizen read literature which he is not supposed to, conducts a search at his home and confiscates from him books, articles and poetry of which our country should be proud. I am ashamed that in our country people are afraid of words…”

The court sentenced Bakhmin to three years in ordinary-regime camps.


Moscow Helsinki Group

In Document No. 144, “The Trial of Vyacheslav Bakhmin”, adopted on 2 October 1980, the MHG states in part:

“The judgment cites against Bakhmin the ‘libellous’ contents of the Information Bulletins, supposedly issued ‘secretly and illegally’. In actual fact the libel is contained in the judgment itself, which also disproves it: it indicates that the names and addresses of the compilers appeared on the title page of every Bulletin, Moreover, the legality and openness of the Commission’s activities are corroborated, as stated above, by the very act of sending copies of the Bulletin to official institutions and organizations …

“The case materials contain no proof that the Bulletin was deliberately inaccurate, and there is no reference to this in the judgment. As regards mistakes in the Bulletin, which are quite possible (particularly in the atmosphere of constant persecution and hindrance by the authorities of those who collect and check out information), their small number simply bears witness to the meticulous and conscientious checking performed by Bakhmin and other members of the Commission …

“Neither the investigators nor the court gave an honest test to the contents of the Information Bulletin, nor did the official institutions to which it was sent. Having refused Bakhmin’s petitions, which had as their aim to achieve a truly objective evaluation of the facts (in particular the petition for additional witnesses to be called), the court established the ‘libellous’ nature of the material cited against Bakhmin by referring to the evidence of witnesses who had an obvious interest in the outcome of the trial, namely the psychiatrists responsible for conditions in the psychiatric institutions and for the situation of the patients in them …

“It would be ridiculous to imagine that witnesses so directly interested in the outcome of the case would corroborate statements about their own unlawful actions. However, none of the evidence given by these witnesses proves the existence of deliberate falsehood in the concrete reports in the Information Bulletin which were cited against Bakhmin. Those witnesses who could have objectively confirmed the accuracy of these statements were not called either during the pre-trial investigation or at the trial…”

Public hearing in London

As already stated (CCE 57.3), a public hearing was held in London on 15 May at which witnesses’ testimonies relevant to the cases of V.I. Bakhmin and L.B. Ternovsky were presented. The hearing was organized by British jurists and psychiatrists, by Amnesty International and members of the British Parliament. It was conducted by the British lawyer representing Bakhmin, Louis Blom-Cooper (who earlier defended Alexander Podrabinek, CCE 50.7). He stated:

“This hearing has as its aim … the collection of testimonies and materials relating to the case and, once this is done, the sending of them to the Moscow Procuracy and to the court. In accordance with the norms of Soviet legal procedure this evidence must be taken into consideration, and the court is required to respond to it.”

Evidence was given by P.G. Grigorenko, the Swedish psychiatrist H. Blomberg and consultant to the Working Commission A. Voloshanovich. Statements sent from Moscow by Irina Grivnina (CCE 56.4) and Yury Yarym-Agayev (CCE 56.4), and a joint letter in defence of Bakhmin (CCE 56.4) were read out.

Deputies of the USSR Supreme Soviet

In March Bakhmin’s brother Viktor sent a letter to 60 deputies of the USSR Supreme Soviet, appealing to them to “do all you can to re-establish justice and legality”.

He received two replies. Z. Kiseleva wrote:

“Your problem should be referred to the RSFSR Supreme Court, the USSR Supreme Court and the USSR Procuracy. A deputy is not authorized to examine matters relating to investigations.”

Collective-farm chairman A. E. Terentyev replied as follows:

“I cannot give you a positive reply. If the matter requires investigation then I would have to go to the right place and gather all the paperwork, but 1 do not have time for that. My pleading would be unlawful because the case is taking place outside my constituency.”

Later the USSR Procuracy (to which he had not written) sent a postcard:

“I inform you that your complaint has been referred for checking out to the Moscow City Procuracy, which will inform you of its decision.”



BAKHMIN completed his studies at Moscow University Boarding School No. 18 (“the Kolmogorov Boarding School”) in 1966. He then entered the Moscow Physics and Technology Institute.

On 1 September 1969 he was called to the KGB for a chat concerning the circulation of “forbidden literature”. On 30 November 1969, (he was then a fourth-year student) he was arrested. In December, “in honour of” the ninetieth anniversary of J. V. Stalin’s birth, he intended to scatter anti-Stalinists pamphlets in the streets (CCE 11.7). In September 1970, when the pre-trial investigation was already completed, he was unexpectedly pardoned (CCE 16.10, item 3).

On his release he was warned that he could not continue his studies at the Institute. He had already been expelled from the Institute for “non-attendance at lectures”; shortly afterwards he was expelled from the Komsomol by the Institute’s Komsomol committee.

In 1974 Bakhmin completed his studies as an external student at the Moscow Institute of Economics and Statistics, whilst working as a computer programmer. In 1977 he was a founder-member of the Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes (CCE 44.15). On 18 October 1979, he was called to the KGB for a “chat”, during which he was given a “warning” (CCE 54.22).



[1] A contemporary analysis of the “Directives on the urgent hospitalization of mentally-ill persons” was provided in Chapter 6 (‘The Practice: Civil Commitment’) of Bloch and Reddaway’s Russia’s Political Hospitals (1977).