The Trial of Marinovich and Matusevich, 22-27 March 1978 (49.3)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

From 22 to 27 March the Kiev Regional Assizes Court in Vasilkov (Kiev Region) examined the case of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group members Miroslav Marinovich and Nikolai Matusevich, charged under article 62, part 1, of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (= article 70 of the Russian Code). Matusevich was also charged under article 206, part 2, of the code (’malicious hooliganism’).

Judge Dyshel himself presided over the court. The list of recent trials over which he has presided includes those of

  • Zinovy Antonyuk (CCE 27.1) sentence — 7 years imprisonment + 3 years in exile;
  • Vasyl Stus (CCE 27.1 — 5 + 3);
  • Semyon Gluzman (CCE 28.7, item 4 — 7 + 3); and Lyubov Serednyak (CCE 28.7, item 4),
  • Nikolai Plakhotnyuk (CCE 28.7, item 1 — SPH [special psychiatric hospital]),
  • Yevhen Sverstyuk (CCE 29.5, item 2 — 7 + 3),
  • Leonid Plyushch (CCE 29.6 — SPH),
  • Nadiya Svetlichnaya (CCE 29.5, item 3 — 4),
  • V. Vylegzhanin (CCE 34 — 4) and
  • Georgy Vins (CCE 35.3 — 5 + 5).

Both the accused refused defence lawyers. Nonetheless, Karpenko, the lawyer appointed by the court for Matusevich, took part in the trial.

Miroslav Marynovych, b. 1949

Miroslav Marinovich (b. 1950) is a graduate of Lvov Polytechnic Institute. Before his arrest he worked as an engineer in Kiev. His mother lives in Drohobych; his wife, Raisa Sergiichuk, in Vasilkov.

Nikolai Matusevich (b. 1948) was barred in 1972 from the fourth year of his history course at a Kiev teachers’ training college, because of his ‘poor progress’. The real reason was his sympathy for the Ukrainian intellectuals who in that year had been arrested. Before his arrest Matusevich worked as an editor in a publishing house for medical literature in Kiev. His parents and sister live in Vasilkov, his wife, Olga Geiko, lives in Kiev.

the trial

The date of the beginning of the trial was kept secret. The relatives and friends of the accused, summoned to court as witnesses, received notification of the trial only towards the end of the first day — the evening of 22 March. The court-building was surrounded by a large squad of police and auxiliary police [druzhinniki]. Many witnesses were not allowed to stay in the court-room after they had testified.

On the day the verdict was announced those witnesses who were at work were not released from work. On 24 March, after trying to obtain permission to attend the trial, Lyubov Murzhenko was taken to a police station and detained there almost all day.

At the beginning of the trial Matusevich stated that he did not acknowledge the court and was taken from the hall for ‘contempt of court’. He was brought back only when the sentence was announced. When the verdict was read out the disoriented Matusevich asked: “You are really not allowing us to make our final speech?” In reply his hands were tied and he was shoved out of the hall.

On the first day of the trial Judge Dyshel told Marinovich, who had protested against the closed nature of the trial, that the trial was open, but no one had come to it. When, the next day, Marinovich realized from the questioning of Svetlichnaya that he had been deceived, he refused to take part in the trial and answered all questions addressed to him with one phrase: “I refuse to participate in a closed court session.”

The ‘case’ of Marinovich and Matusevich consists of eight volumes. Under Article 62 of the Criminal Code they were charged with taking part in the preparation of documents of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group: the ‘Declaration’ (CCE 43), Memoranda Nos. 10 and 11, and also with the ‘circulation’ of the group’s documents.


In connection with these charges the following were called as witnesses:

  • member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, A. Berdnik;
  • N. Svetlichnaya; Memorandum No. 11 includes an account of her situation after her release from the camps (CCEs 43 to 45);
  • V. Lisovaya; Memorandum No. 10 recounted how the KGB persecuted her (see CCE 44),
  • M. Kotsyubinskaya (CCE 45), E. Obertas (CCEs 45, 46) and the wife of Matusevich, Olga Geiko (CCE 45).

The testimony of B. D. Antonenko-Davidovich (CCEs 45, 46), who was unable to be present because of illness, was read out. Also questioned were the parents, the sister, an uncle and a female cousin of Matusevich, and the mother, sister and wife of Marinovich.

Nadezhda Svetlichnaya, in answer to questions about whom exactly she had given information to about herself, who had compiled Memorandum No. 11 and what part had been played by Marinovich and Matusevich, replied that she had appealed to the group and not to its individual members. After reading out a phrase from her declaration to the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party (CCE 44): “I consider it beneath human dignity, after all that has been lived through, to be a citizen of the biggest, most powerful and most perfect concentration-camp in the world”, Judge Dyshel asked: ‘On what grounds do you make this assertion?’

“Today’s kangaroo trial of Marinovich and Matusevich asserts this better than my declaration,” answered Svetlichnaya.

“Take note of that — she is insulting a Soviet court, she is slandering it!” exclaimed Dyshel, turning to the procurator.

Svetlichnaya’s words aroused a storm of indignation amongst the ‘public’, who on other occasions hurled threatening or abusive replies in the direction of the accused and several witnesses; the court reacted favourably to all this. The Judge asked Svetlichnaya: “We have assembled here in an open court session with the participation of people’s assessors and a defence barrister, in the presence of the public, and you call this a kangaroo trial?”

“And you call this an open trial, where neither relatives nor the close friends of the accused, nor even the accused himself are admitted?” answered Svetlichnaya.

The next day, 24 March, when Svetlichnaya, amongst others, had given Dyshel a declaration requesting to be allowed back into the courtroom, a man went out especially to fetch her and bring her into the session.

Vera Lisovaya, having confirmed what was written about her in Memorandum No. 10 (that her ‘chats’ with the KGB had brought her to the verge of a heart-attack), said that she had related the cause of her illness to the acquaintances who had visited her, amongst whom were Marinovich and Matusevich. On these grounds the court considered the part played by the accused in the ‘preparation’ of Memorandum No. 10 to be proven.

Olga Geiko refused to answer the Procurator’s question, “Do you still consider yourself a member of the group?”

Judge: Defendant Marinovich, what can you say about this?

Marinovich: I refuse to take part in a closed court session.

Judge: Marinovich, I cease to understand you. On your word hangs the fate of your comrade. It is one thing if she is simply a witness, but it is completely different if she is a member of the group; then her place is side by side with you and you keep repeating your “I refuse”. When it was a question of your own interests you could well say ‘‘this is ethical, but that is not ethical”. But not to take account of your comrades — is that ethical in your opinion?

“It is not the place of a Soviet court to talk of ethics,” Marinovich added to his usual formula.

M. Kotsyubinskaya and E. Obertas refused to tell the court from whom they had received the documents of the group confiscated from them during searches. Obertas said at the trial that he was a friend of the accused and supported their activities.


For almost a whole day the court looked into the question of Matusevich’s ‘hooliganism’. Of the 36 witnesses who appeared, 14 were summoned in connection with the charge of hooliganism.

The event which served as grounds for this charge took place six years (!) earlier. Travelling with friends in the Carpathians in the summer of 1972, Matusevich heard in the village of Krivorivnya that one of the tourists had insulted a Hutsul woman [note 1] who was passing by. Matusevich reproached the offender, whose travelling companions then attacked Matusevich. Matusevich managed to escape them and the incident, it seemed, was over and done with.

However, a declaration turned up at the KGB offices from the tourist-group leader G. Makogonenko, according to whom Matusevich had shouted at the tourists, ‘Push off to the Urals! Muscovites! Cattle!’ and had hit one of them (V. Danilov). This version was quoted in the indictment. The case concerning hooliganism was instituted only in 1977, two months before the statute of limitations ran out. Of course, no traces of the fight were left on the ‘injured party’.

Eleven members of the tourist group and three of Matusevich’s travelling companions, the Obertas couple and Valentina Girenko, were witnesses at the trial: all the tourists who testified before the break replied (with greater or lesser certainty) to the question whether they knew the accused: ‘I know him’, ‘I remember him’, ‘I remember him clearly’, although it was Marinovich who sat before them in the dock, not Matusevich.

Not all the tourists affirmed that they had heard the criminal phrase. The Judge inquired at length how the incident should be described — as a ‘fight’, ‘struggle’ or ‘argument’. Even when it was the group’s documents which were under discussion he asked the ‘injured party’ each time whether he had any questions for the witness. Danilov would answer with an important air that he had no questions to ask. According to the charge, Matusevich had accomplished an act of hooliganism out of a nationalistic motivation, because the tourists had been conversing in Russian. Meanwhile, it came out during the trial that [Matushevich’s companion] Valentina Girenko usually spoke in Russian.

The court investigation was carried out on 22, 23 and 24 March. The sentence was announced on 27 March; each of the accused received 7 years in strict-regime camps and 5 years’ exile. The beginning of sentence (date of arrest) was 23 April 1977 (CCE 45.7).


A week before the trial the district newspaper Shlyakh Ilicha published an abusive article by P. Barzinsky, entitled ’Black Ingratitude’, about N. Matusevich and his family. On 19 March the article was reprinted in the regional newspaper Kiev pravda.

On 15 April the newspaper Shlyakh Ilicha published another article by Barzinsky, “Spiteful Critics”, in which not only Matusevich and Marinovich were stigmatized, but also “their confederates, especially the anti-Soviet Alexander Berdnik and Yevgeny Obertas”. The article said that letters had reached the editor from people demanding that Berdnik and Obertas ‘answer for their actions before a court’.



For the arrest of Marynovych and Matusevich see CCE 45.7.

[1] Hutsul — a distinct ethnic group to be found in Western Ukraine and Romania.