The Persecution of Believers-1 (49.14)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

Orthodox Christians; Catholics in Georgia; Adventists

Orthodox Christians

In recent years, a certain sign of the celebration of Easter has been the appearance of reinforced squads of police and vigilantes who surround the churches and zealously refuse to let young people through to the services. Every year the system of encirclement becomes more aggressive. In Moscow, for example, in 1978 the church in Sokolniki was surrounded by police with dogs which raged frenziedly just outside the church fence.

Under pressure from the authorities, more and more churches are being made to abandon the procession with the cross. For example, in 1978 in Leningrad only the clergy of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery were allowed to take part in the procession; believers who wanted to join the procession were stopped by the police. Only a few foreigners were allowed through. All the other believers were not even allowed back into the church, where Metropolitan Nikodim was taking the service.

In anticipation of similar measures in 1978 the believers of the church in Orebnevo (Moscow Region), where the priest is now Father Dmitry Dudko (CCEs 38, 39), formed a church self-defence force for Easter — 20 people in all, with white armbands. The police outside the church were much more numerous, but they unwillingly admitted that parishioners had the right to keep order. The believers even managed to resist the usual attempts by police and vigilantes to stop young people entering the church.

*

On 21 April officials of the Smolensk Procurator’s Office searched the flat of Tatyana Nikolayevna Shchipkova, a Master of Philology, a senior lecturer at Smolensk Pedagogical Institute, and a specialist in Romance philology. About 80 works were confiscated — including seven prepared copies of the religious-philosophical journal Obshchina (Community). The search order was made out in connection with the case of A. Podrabinek.

Officials of the Procurator’s Office broke down the door of the fiat and searched it for six hours. During the search A, Ogorodnikov (CCEs 41, 43, 46), V, Popkov and E. Kashtanova — members of the Christian seminar — were present in Shchipkova’s flat.

*

At 2 am on the night of 21 April Sergei Yermolayev (CCE 48), a member of the Christian seminar, was taken off the Smolensk-Moscow train. At the Vyazma station MVD Captain Minchenok told Yermolayev that the Moscow Procurator’s Office were making out a criminal case against him under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code; on this basis he carried out a search lasting over eight hours. Yermolayev was also given a body search (during which a woman witness was present, despite his protests). Two typewriters were confiscated from him. Yermolayev was detained for four more hours without any explanation and then released. Captain Minchenok refused to give Yermolayev a copy of the search record or a list of objects confiscated; nor did he show him a search warrant or allow him to write down the surnames of the official witnesses.

*

In connection with these events A. Ogorodnikov issued a press statement on 29 April in the name of the Christian seminar:

“The journal Community, which we have produced, is a religious-philosophical journal, aiming to reflect the process of religious revival in modern Russia … It concentrates on spiritual seeking and does not touch on political problems … The Russian Orthodox Church has suffered terrible sacrifices during the 20th century and been subjected to cruel state control. The state went beyond its area of competence and began to regulate religious organization. It has basically reduced the whole breadth of the church’s witness to the narrow limits of ‘performing the cult’… In this tragic situation for the Church, we are starting to produce the journal Community, exercising our right to confess our religion and live according to the dictates of Christian conscience …We protest against these actions, whose aim is to destroy freedom of religion, and call on all who love freedom to join their voices to our protest.”

Catholics in Georgia

The villagers of Tskhalbili (Akhaltsikhe district) in the Georgian SSR are Armenians by nationality and Catholic in religion. Their church has been closed for many years now and converted into a fertilizer storehouse.

At the end of December 1977, a group of believers took over the church and began to hold prayers there. The police threw the believers out of the building.

On 29 March 1978, the third day of the Catholic Easter, the entire population of the village assembled in the church for prayers. The believers set up a 24-hour guard on the church and took the sacks of fertilizer out. The police who came to the village did not even get out of their cars this time. A few days later the village authorities gave the parishioners oral assurance that the church would no longer be used to store fertilizer. The believers offered to remove the guard, put their own lock on the church doors and assemble there for prayer. The church remained in the hands of the parishioners. The authorities are offering to repair the church and turn it into a museum, saying the Catholics would be able to meet there for prayers as before. The believers, however, ask that the church should remain a church, and are prepared to collect the money to repair it themselves.

Adventists: The Arrest of Shelkov

On 14 March Vladimir Andreyevich Shelkov, head of the All-Union Church of True and Free Seventh Day Adventists, was arrested in Tashkent at his daughter’s house.

V. A. Shelkov was born in 1895; in 1923 he was consecrated as a Seventh Day Adventist Bible worker and in 1927 was ordained as a preacher; in 1936 he was chosen as deputy head of the All-Union Church of True and Free Seventh Day Adventists; since 1949 he has been head. Shelkov has been constantly persecuted. From 1931 to 1934 he was in exile in the Urals. In 1945 he was arrested and sentenced to be shot. He spent 55 days in the condemned cell. After an appeal, execution was commuted to 10 years in camps. In 1957 Shelkov was arrested again. He was sentenced to 10 years’ strict-regime, He served his sentence on the Taishet-Bratsk railway at first, then, after 1959, in Mordovia. After his release in 1967 Shelkov settled in Samarkand with his family. At the end of 1969 Shelkov was detained on the street and put in a Preliminary Detention Cell. His house was searched at the same time, Shelkov was released from the Detention Cells on an undertaking not to leave town. From that moment he began to live an illegal existence.

Shelkov is in charge of the Adventist publishing house ‘The True Witness’ and is the author of many books on religious and legal themes printed by the same publishing house.

*

Shelkov’s arrest was followed by a four-day search of his daughter’s house. The search was carried out by about 20 people, headed by Procurator Ponomaryov. The searchers were well-provided with firearms, portable radios, mine-detectors, powerful torches, cameras, axes, crowbars, spades and screwdrivers. All the residents of the house were pushed into one room and put under guard. The search began every day at 8.45 am and ended at 8.15 pm. At night five or six people were left to guard the house. During the search, the floors were broken up and split, doors were broken down, walls were smashed in, ceilings cracked open, and mattresses, eiderdowns and pillows torn apart. They tried to split open the piano. They dug two-metre-deep ditches in the yard and under the house, taking up the asphalt in the yard and demolishing the sheds there, examining the cesspools with the aid of magnetic lifting gear and probes. The material damage caused by the search was not paid for.

The searchers discovered two hiding places in the house. These were holes dug in the ground, about the size of a small room, less than two metres high and lined on the inside with plywood; they had disguised entrances. In one of them a suitcase and briefcases containing literature were found. Apart from that, the house was found to have a larder with a false floor; this hiding-place contained some money and a savings-bank book belonging to the mistress of the house.

During the search Shelkov asked permission to go to the toilet; after he came out, a gas lire in it was examined. A notebook and other papers were burning in it. The notebook was dragged out of the fire and included in the evidence of the search.

As a result of the search the following were confiscated: Bibles, psalm-books, religious verses, tape-recordings of psalms and sermons, religious tracts and pamphlets, literature about the legal side of church- state relations, including live different pamphlets about the new Constitution, complaints and protests from believers, statements by human rights activists (among these were V. Bukovsky’s The Draft Constitution’, ‘Oprichnina 77 and ‘Oprichnina 77 Continued’ by Khodorovich and Nekipelov, a series of well-known documents about psychiatric repression, a set of documents concerning the Russian Social Fund [Relief Fund], and ‘Charter 77’), the bulletins of the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives, and a list of ECB prisoners for 1977. The confiscated material also included typed extracts from a book by Vas. Shukshin, six religious books published before the Revolution, and two books on history published in Russian in the USA. In addition, tape-recordings of broadcasts by Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, the BBC and Radio Liberty were confiscated. Tape-recorders, a slide-projector, religious slide series for children, state-bonds, savings-bank books and all the money there was in the house were also confiscated, as well as manuscripts, letters, postcards and photographs.

Throughout the four days of the search no one of Shelkov’s family was allowed to inform his seriously ill wife, who was in hospital, about what was happening.

Those who carried out the search categorically refused to give their surnames, profession or rank. They behaved aggressively and constantly threatened the believers, saying they would now be crushed. While the search was going on, someone rang the bell at the gate. A number of officials ran out, and when the person who had rung began to walk away, they opened fire.

*

Ilya Sergeyevich Lepshin, Shelkov’s son-in-law and the owner of the house, was arrested at the same time as Shelkov. During the search Lepshin suffered severe heart spasms. Ponomaryov would not allow a phone call to be made for an ambulance, but when the sick man’s condition began to look dangerous, he himself called a doctor. Later Lepshin was taken away in an ambulance.

*

Dina Vladimirovna Shelkova has sent an ‘Open Letter’ to Soviet organizations, protesting against the arrest of her father and husband. In the letter she expresses her fear for their lives. She writes:

“… during the search Ponomaryov threatened my father with special penalties and tortures and new experimental methods of interrogation, saying: ‘There, at our place, he’ll tell us everything and account for everything.’

“… they put my husband in an ambulance and took him off to an unknown destination. I only know a KGB man got into the car with him and began persuading him to co-operate, promising him freedom in return!”

*

On 14/15 March, a search was carried out in Tashkent at the house of the Adventist Maslov. The search was led by Kasumov, senior investigator of the city procuracy. Religious and legal books produced by the ‘True Witness’ publishing house were confiscated, as well as atheist and juridical literature issued by official Soviet publishing houses. In addition, a typewriter, typed material, tape-recordings, an ordinary 8-year education certificate and two clean school slates were confiscated.

After the search Ilya Sergeyevich Maslov was arrested. Maslov is 57 years old and a Second World War invalid.

During the search of Maslov’s house Arnold Albertovich Spalin — a visitor — was discovered in a secret hiding-place and arrested. Everyone who visited Maslov on 14 or 15 March was searched. Elena Krivoberets was arrested after such a search (she was released about a month later).

While L. I. Razdymakha was undergoing a body search, 250 roubles disappeared from his briefcase: they were not listed on the search record.

*

At the same time V. G. Bedarev, a member of the Adventist Church, was arrested in Tashkent. A search involving the confiscation of religious literature was also carried out at Bedarev’s house. During the search, a new pair of binoculars worth 95 roubles disappeared from the house.

*

On 17 March searches connected with the ‘Tashkent case’ were carried out in Riga at the homes of Adventists P. S. Byshevoi, L. P. Byshevaya, E. K. Nagreckaite and A. P. Darguzes. When the Byshevoys asked to see the warrants, they were threatened with a 15-day spell in the detention cells, in handcuffs. The Byshevoys were insulted and threatened with firearms.

In Riga, as in Tashkent, everything connected with religion was confiscated, as well as typewriters, money and savings-bank books.

At Nagreckaite’s house, they also confiscated a woven wall-panel, embroidered with religious texts, money (about 36,000 roubles), paper, carbon paper, a few woven fragments, bed-linen, toilet soap, four deodorant bottles and 10 bottles of shampoo.

*

On 18 March, a search was carried out, without a warrant or a search record, at the home of Vera Sannikova in Dzhambul, and religious literature was confiscated.

*

On 29 March searches were carried out in Tashkent at the homes of the following Adventist women: Karbovskaya, Furlet, Podosinnikova, Yakubina, Onishchenko and Kukartseva.

At Karbovskaya’s home religious books and 31 test tubes containing concentrated carbohydrates were confiscated. From Furlet, in addition to a large collection of religious literature, the following were confiscated: a transistor radio, a typewriter, paper, carbon paper, stapler and staples, a wooden binding machine, a money box containing 1,000 roubles, eight suitcases, seven briefcases and 13 bags. In the yard outside the house charred papers were discovered and confiscated.

On 6 April Sofia Prokopevna Furlet was arrested.

At the house of Maria Pavlovna Podosinnikova the following were confiscated: a camera, a photo enlarging machine, photographs, lenses and other photographic equipment, a Grundig tape recorder, a Bible and a number of exercise books containing religious notes and two state bonds.

At Yakubina’s house state bonds to the value of 1,090 roubles were confiscated as well as savings bank books, a ‘Spidola’ radio, two tape recorders, a ‘Panasonic’ cassette recorder, cassette tapes, photographs, a packet of carbon paper, typing paper, tape recordings of a religious and human rights nature, staplers and staples, 16 pamphlets in a foreign language, books published in the USSR — handbooks and guides to proofreading, editing, stenography and typing; juridical literature; and books about the problem of freedom of conscience and church/state relations in the USSR — 35 titles altogether.

Ponomaryov, while carrying out the search at Yakubina’s house, insulted her, threatened her with prison and a beating; he also threatened to incinerate her together with her house.

At the house of Alexandra Semyonovna Onishchenko the following were confiscated: a diplomatic dictionary in three volumes, a dictionary of foreign words, the book Questions of C P S U Ideological Work, a course of lectures on the history of scientific atheism, pamphlets and books published by the ‘True Witness’ which were found in a hiding place under the house in the cellar, together with the historical novel At the Dawn of Christianity (published by A. S. Severin, 1893), human rights texts, 25 suitcases, briefcases, travelling bags, five handbags and a few card boxes and sacks containing samizdat literature, photographs, manuscripts and tape recordings. From the storeroom in the yard 29 large photographic negatives were confiscated; in addition, a tape recorder, a slide projector and 33 test tubes containing concentrated carbohydrates were confiscated. The search record stated: ‘During the search, planks were taken out in living rooms and auxiliary buildings, cellars and attics were investigated, the ground in the yard was examined with the aid of metal detectors,’ During a search a mine detector was also used.

*

On 15 April, the Adventist Semyon Fyodorovich Bakholdin (b. 1929) was arrested in Tashkent. The arrest was preceded by a search.

On 19 April Timofei Ivanovich Krivoberets (b. 1940) was arrested in Tashkent.

*

On 25 April fresh searches were carried out in Riga in connection with the Shelkov case. The following were searched: Ya. N. Galetsky and his father N. I. Galetsky, L, M. Timma; K. K. Jodzeviciene, E. A. Vaitkutiene, and A. V. Borisova.

During the search at the house of Yaroslav Nikolayevich Galetsky there were only two small girls — aged 4 and 6 — at home. The searchers took the lock off the gate and broke down the door into the house. The children shut themselves up in the bedroom. A few minutes later the door to the bedroom was broken open. The children were interrogated by Dolgoleva, who was in charge of the search. She asked the little girls where their daddy and mummy prayed, where the ‘little books’ out of which their parents prayed were kept, who else lived in the house, who came to visit them, and did they know so and so? (The Code of Criminal Procedure allows the interrogation of minors only in the presence of their parents or a teacher.)

Photographs, an exercise book containing religious notes, a letter and a piece of paper with a poem on it were confiscated from Ya. N. Galetsky’s house.

At the house of Nikolai Ivanovich Galetsky the following were confiscated: Instructive Stories for Children, religious pamphlets in Latvian, and notes of telephone numbers. During the search, the door was broken down and its veneer damaged, holes were made in the wall, people crawled about in the attic, searched the barn and dug up the vegetable garden.

After the search, N. I. Galetsky was interrogated at the procuracy. He was asked how he had come by the books seized in the search, whom he knew in Riga with links with foreign countries; he was asked about the financial and domestic side of his life, for example where his children were now living. (N. I. Galetsky’s son Rostislav is now leading an illegal existence regarding his place of residence.) Nikolai Ivanovich refused to answer these questions as they either had no connection with the case or were contrary to the Decree on the Separation of Church and State.

In the flat of L. M. Timma religious literature, manuscripts, notebooks, notepads and a typewriter were confiscated. Afterwards Timma was interrogated about the evidence uncovered during the search. He refused to answer questions, giving the following reasons: during the search, the door of his fiat had been broken down; nobody except Baklanova, who was in charge of the search, had shown him their identity cards; the literature confiscated was of a purely religious, non-libellous nature.

*

The Moscow Helsinki group (document 45) and A. D. Sakharov (16 April) have spoken out in defence of the Adventists.

*

A number of members of the Church of Seventh Day Adventists have formed ‘a group of the All-Union Church of True and Free Seventh Day Adventists to promote legal defence and factual investigation concerning the persecution of believers in the USSR. The leader of this group is Rostislav Galetsky, the secretary is Leonid Samoilov, the members are Nina Kuznetsova, Lyubov Sytnikova, Lyudmila Strelnikova, Nadezhda Prisypko and Anna Zubareva.

In April, the group produced a series of documents on the arrests and searches in Tashkent and Riga (documents 26, 27 and 28) and on secret searches, surveillance and bugging of Adventist houses (documents 29, 30).

On 11 May the group held a press conference, at which the group’s document 31 was read out:

“For two years the group to defend religious rights, whose existence we have just announced, has been (unofficially) concerned with doing all in its power to promote the rule of law. Today (11 May 1978) the group announces openly its official existence, its functions and activities.”

The journalists were given the Declaration of the group. It states that the group will concern itself with the following activities:

—           collecting information and complaints from religious citizens, both those who belong to the All-Union Church of True and Free Seventh Day Adventists and those belonging to other religious associations;

—           giving the widest publicity to ‘information about the arbitrary violence and repression which result from the dictatorship of state atheism’;

—           appealing, protesting and complaining both to the local authorities and to international human rights organizations, as well as to the governments of countries which took part in the Helsinki conference;

—           taking part in legal/educational work among religious citizens persecuted because of their faith;

—           giving aid to the persecuted and their families.

*

In the settlement of Enem (Krasnodar Region) Nina Fyodorovna Mikhel was fined 30 roubles in February because her children do not go to school on Saturdays (this has no influence on their abilities — the children learn the lessons they have missed and do the homework). The headmaster of the school, Z. M. Yagumov, the class teacher Z. B. Khotko and the teacher Motyagina, publicly ridicule and insult Misha and Nadya Mikhel, threatening to put them in a boarding school and to deprive their mother of parental rights.

In the same settlement Dina Alekseyevna Podyachaya was also fined 30 roubles. She is also being threatened with deprivation of parental rights.