The Trial of Anatoly Ivanov: November-December 1977 (48.9)

<<No 48 : 14 March 1978>>

From 29 November to 29 December 1977 the case of Anatoly Ivanovich IVANOV was heard in the Leningrad City Court. Judge Malinina presided, the prosecution was conducted by Procurator Shmelyova and the accused was defended by defence counsel Zaryan. There was a total of 20 hearings (two of them closed).

Ivanov was charged under Articles 153, pt. 1 (“Private entrepreneurial activity”), 221 (“Illegal practice of medicine”), 228 (“Manufacture or sale of pornographic articles”) and 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code.


Anatoly Ivanov (b. 1951) completed eight classes of schooling, then graduated from a technical school and worked as a laboratory assistant at a factory. The factory sent Ivanov to courses in applied mathematics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics at Leningrad State University. In November 1973, on account of illness, Ivanov retired from the third-year course and was granted academic leave. When he came out of hospital the courses had been disbanded.

From the age of 15 Anatoly was an enthusiastic student of Indian culture and had achieved considerable success in the mastery of Yoga.

Having graduated from a People’s University of Physical Culture, Ivanov gained the right to conduct classes in gymnastics as a form of therapy. In 1973 Ivanov was given a teaching group by the House of Medical Employees and after a year handed in an official report on his work. He proved to be a talented teacher; many people wanted to study with him. Several more groups were organized. Ivanov was even asked to take charge of a group of people studying ways of conducting gymnastics in factories.

Until his arrest in 1977 Ivanov systematically took classes for health groups, where he taught the elements of yoga. In 1975 Ivanov sent a letter to Brezhnev with a proposal that Yoga be developed in the country as a method of fortifying people’s health.

On 9 March 1977, a schoolgirl, Sklyarova, wrote to the KGB about Ivanov’s remarks on political themes. On 27 April that year, another denunciation appeared: the mother of one of Ivanov’s girl pupils, Poplavskaya, declared that Ivanov was running a brothel and was himself a drug addict and an underground millionaire. On 28 April 1977, a search was carried out at Ivanov’s home and he was arrested. The accusations of brothel keeping and narcotics were dropped immediately, but Ivanov was not released.


At his trial Ivanov was charged with having received an unlawful and unearned income of 8,520 roubles (Article 153, pt. 1) between November 1973 and April 1977, while working, on average, with five health groups. The groups were organized by their members with his knowledge and active participation.

Ivanov was also charged with teaching exercises in the forbidden system of Hatha Yoga and giving treatment at home using acupuncture, hypnosis and the laying on of hands while possessing neither a medical education nor a training in physical education, (Article 221).

Ivanov was further charged with giving his friends the Kama Sutra, Alfred de Musset’s Countess Gamiani and Octave Mirbeau’s The Torture Garden to read (Article 228). Ivanov had also repeatedly conducted conversations among his students and intentionally circulated “deliberate fabrications which defame the Soviet political and social system” (Article 190-1).

Ivanov pleaded not guilty to the charges under Articles 153, 221 and 228; he admitted partial guilt to the charges brought under Article 190-1. He talked about everything in detail and with frankness, replying to all the questions.

At the trial it became clear that it had been the group’s senior students who had collected money from the students: 2 roubles 50 kopeks from each person per month. They handed over 60 roubles per month to Ivanov. Other instructors of ’Health’ groups in Leningrad received the same amount; the rest went on rent for the premises and remuneration of technical staff. All organizational matters and financial transactions were in the charge of the senior students. The initiative for founding groups belonged entirely to the senior students.

Witnesses thanked Ivanov for “recovered youth, spirit, good humour and health”. “They said here that he didn’t pay his taxes, but have you counted up how much has been saved just by our not needing medical care?” A methodologist in medical gymnastics: “Why do you ask if his methods are correct if, when I came into the group, I could hardly move my legs, while now — do you want me to do a dance for you right now?” There were doctors too among the witnesses. They noted Ivanov’s knowledge of his subject and emphasized that the study classes were of a general therapeutic character and that no “illegal practice of medicine” took place during them.

Expert philologists did not find the Kama Sutra and Mirbeau’s The Torture Garden pornographic. With regard to de Musset’s Countess Gamiani Professor V.Ye. Balakhonov concluded:

Countess Gamiani has no artistic value, it is meant for a narrow circle of litterateurs close to de Musset …, it does not follow that it cannot be deemed pornographic.”

The court and the Procurator scarcely dwelt on the charges under Article 190-1. (It is known, however, that back in 1973 the KGB had a “prophylactic chat” with Ivanov.)


The Procurator asked that Ivanov be found guilty on all counts and given five years in camps on this basis.

The defence counsel noted with astonishment that the Procurator had from the very first day “for reasons unknown had a prejudiced approach” in prosecuting Ivanov.

The defence counsel challenged the prosecution on each of the articles of the Criminal Code with which Ivanov was charged. Regarding the decree of the Committee on Physical Culture and Sport which prohibited Yoga (and also women’s football and bridge) to which the Procurator referred, Ivanov might well not have been aware of this decree. It was published only in the newspaper Soviet Sport in January 1973, and even after its appearance, Yoga had been repeatedly popularized in our press. Zaryan ended his speech thus:

“All of Ivanov’s activities took place before the eyes of hundreds of honest, decent, highly educated people, and all of them are convinced that Ivanov was doing good, useful work. Their conscience would scarcely have failed to prompt them, and they would scarcely have resigned themselves to the fact, if they felt that Ivanov, by deceiving them, was making a profit out of them. There can scarcely be another courtroom anywhere in which, in the total absence of any victims, a verdict of ‘not guilty’ is so keenly awaited.”

The courtroom greeted these words with an ovation. In his final speech Ivanov said:

“I have not lived an entirely proper life: I’ve been too keen on self-education and helping people … At the same time I did not exploit the labour of others, and a State organization gave me approval for classes with groups. Nobody told me studying yoga was banned. It was not I myself who organized the groups but the students …

“For eleven years I have regularly collected information on ancient Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Old Russian medicine. Medical men have said my knowledge is quite thorough and complete …

“On two occasions I held sessions of acupuncture, and in both cases I had no mercenary aims …

“Now my life, my future — and the life of another person, my mother — depend solely on the decision of the court …

“The Procurator’s request is nothing other than a reprisal. It seems to me that they want to jail me but not for things I have done and that the charges have been invented to have me put away in prison.”

With regard to Article 190-1 Ivanov said that he had not set himself to circulate fabrications. “People put questions to me and I answered. I am not to blame if people understand me wrongly because of their inadequate education.”

Ivanov asked the court not to deprive him of his freedom. He said that if they gave him the chance, he would “study, labour and apply all his powers in the name of the future of all people”.

The court found him guilty under Articles 153, 221 and 190-1 and sentenced him to 4 years in ordinary-regime camps with confiscation of property and confiscation of 8,250 roubles in favour of the State.