Letters and Statements by Political Prisoners (49.8-1)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

V. Romanyuk: To the Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church

Father Vasily Romanyuk (Mordovian camp 1) declares that he has always considered himself a member of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. He asks for a foreign lawyer to be found for himself, and for help in enabling his family to emigrate.

V. Romanyuk: To His Holiness Pope Paul VI

This appeal was written with reference to the conference ‘Religious Activists for a Lasting Peace, for Just Relations between Nations’, which took place in Moscow in the spring of 1977. Romanyuk writes that conferences dedicated to the problems of peace on earth should discuss above all the question of human rights. In Romanyuk’s opinion, such conferences should not take place in Moscow, ‘because Moscow is the worst enemy of humanity and peace.’

V. Romanyuk: To the President of the USA, Jimmy Carter

Romanyuk welcomes the human rights policy of Carter’s administration. After describing the human rights situation in the Soviet Union, he expresses the hope that ‘the American people and all people of goodwill on our planet will devote the maximum effort to ensure that human rights and dignity are respected in all the countries of the world,’

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M. Kazachkov, S. Kovalyov: To the President of the USA, Jimmy Carter

This letter was written in response to the letter sent by Soviet academics to Carter about the neutron bomb (Pravda, 14 March), The authors write:

“… We dare to think it does not reflect the opinion of at least some of those who signed it. As a dishonest testimony, that letter should not influence your decision.

“… Under the guise of independent opinion, you are being offered the propaganda arguments of your ideological and political enemies; playing with the concepts of morality and humanity, they willingly or unwillingly defend the military and political interests of those who have never been influenced by those concepts, who have taken the most harmful decisions, who constantly demonstrate that blood and tears are cheaper to them than water — and will make that clear once again if the West allows them to …

“We have no pretensions to any of the scientific prowess of all those who signed the letter of 14 March, but in the USSR the degree of one’s civic responsibility is not so directly linked with scientific degrees — it depends more on which side you are of the KGB cordons outside people’s flats and of the danger zones round the political camps, than on whether you are in the first ranks of the academic councils. We are far from advising you on the question of armaments, but, imagining the great burden of responsibility linked with your forthcoming decision, we should like you to know, in taking that decision, that there are people in the USSR — quite a lot of people — who understand and trust you …”

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S. Gluzman: To Academician B. V. Petrovsky, USSR Minister of Health (8 May 1978)

Citizen Minister!

I have no wish to repeat well-known facts which bear witness to the catastrophic state of medicine in the political labour camp system of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs. In my years of life and activity behind barbed wire I have been able to see with my own eyes many things I never heard about either from my lecturers at the medical institute or from my older colleagues. Today I am convinced that the chief task of medicine in the camp system is to sanction punitive measures as a form of so-called re-education, to assist in the systematic and deliberate destruction of the prisoners’ health. Today I am no longer deceived by the many publications of a deontological nature or by statements about the humanism and impartiality of Soviet medicine.

I am powerless to change anything. I can oppose this objective evil and immorality only by my short, quiet words. Today I am deprived of the opportunity of unrestricted communication with my colleagues in civilized countries and of describing to the world — with conviction and in detail — the cynical trampling underfoot of the basic principles of medical ethics in the USSR.

However, I cannot keep quiet in the hope of a better future. I cannot and I don’t want to. 1 am powerless to help my fellow prisoners or to re-establish justice and true deontological principles, but a general feeling of aversion impels me to break the only link I have with my colleagues employed by the MVD — my doctor’s diploma. Because of this feeling of aversion, I renounce the status of doctor given to me in 1970. You can take my diploma at any time from the home of my father in Kiev.

I am making the contents of this declaration known to Dr H. Mahler, the Director of the World Health Organization, and the members of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet.

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V. Abankin: To the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet (25 March 1978)

In this statement Abankin backs up his renunciation of Soviet citizenship, announcing his intention of leaving the USSR after his release, and proclaims a one-day hunger-strike in confirmation of his renunciation of citizenship.

The statement includes a 5-page supplement: ‘Methods of Re-education and their Consequences’, written on the basis of his personal experience of 12 years in camps and prisons.

V. Abankin: To B.N. Stukalin, Chairman of the State Committee on the Press, USSR Council of Ministers (4 February 1978)

The author refers to an article in a Soviet paper which mentions that in fascist Spain the prisoner Capo Bravo was granted a meeting with his dying father. He was taken home for this meeting, wearing handcuffs and Under guard. In Madrid, there had been a demonstration of protest against the cruelty of the prison warders.

“When my comrades and I… read this article, we were amazed at the reaction of the Spaniards to this apparently humane action of the Spanish authorities…

“We remember Yury Galanskov and Mikhail Soroka, who died in prison and whose bodies were not given to their relatives for burial …”

Abankin lists people who have died without seeing their sons: the poet Drizna, the father of Yu. Fyodorov, V. Shibalkin’s mother, Abankin’s own father and S. Gluzman’s mother.

“How many such reports there have been, how many more there will be, but we probably still will not be able to understand, for a long time to come, the angry reaction of Spaniards to prisoner Luis Capo Bravo’s meeting with his father, arranged by the prison authorities.”

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E. Sarkisyan: To Mr van Gent, Switzerland (22 February 1978)

Dear Mr Dimmen van Gent,

On 15 February 1978 I was given your postcard. In my present life, which is not rich in happy events or sensations of proximity to the world, that day was a real holiday. Both 1 and my friends felt ourselves strengthened, thanks to your interest and kind words. We felt that our efforts and our words, sometimes so bitter, have not been in vain, that we are not alone.

How rarely, how very rarely, we receive such letters and postcards! For example, this was the first time I had done so. Old friends are afraid to write to us, we are in such need of normal, compassionate words of interest and remembrance, and then we receive them from distant, fairy-tale Switzerland! We are now in the season of snow and icy winter in the Urals. That’s so different from the warmth and sunshine of your Switzerland or my Armenia. But I’m used to it. For the last 10 years before my arrest I was living in Leningrad; that was so long ago. I lack many things: my family, security for the future, peace of mind. Once I loved to engrave stone and to emboss. What I made, I gave to my friends, but now even that is impossible, like much else.

I am sending this short letter without any hope of it being sent to you in Switzerland, unless a miracle occurs. If this does happen, please write back to me, otherwise 1 have no way of knowing what happened to my letter. (Here 1 have to hope for a second miracle; 15 February was in all probability an exception.) My natural right to write letters is restricted, so I must ask you to pass on my heartfelt thanks to Mrs Gaby Bader from Birmensdorf and Mrs Margrit Freher from Wettingen, whose Christmas cards I also received on 15 February. With my sincerest thanks,

Yours, Emil Sarkisyan.

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While spending half a year undergoing ‘prophylactic talks’ in a Kiev KGB prison (CCE 47), Valery Marchenko wrote a number of statements.

On 12 October 1977 he appealed to Glukh, procurator of the Ukrainian SSR, asking him to investigate the infringement of legal norms which took place during the investigation and trial of his case.

On 19 December 1977 Marchenko wrote to Rudenko, Procurator-General of the USSR, ‘out of my usual curiosity’ (in his own words), Marchenko informed him that two months had gone by since he had written to procurator Glukh, but that the latter had not seen fit to meet him or even to reply.

On 20 March 1978 Marchenko wrote to O. N. Yakimenko, Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Ukrainian SSR:

“This is simply intriguing. I have been writing statements addressed to the highest authorities for just one reason: to find even one official who does not break Soviet laws …

“I am categorically asking you to hand me the verdict in my case, whatever results this may entail.

“Perhaps you would like to differ from your silent colleagues and send me some kind of reply. However, I must warn you that if you intend to write ‘you were justly sentenced’, you will not be displaying any originality.”