Alternative Culture (49.16)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

Since 1974 an artists’ movement to make art independent of the authorities has become well known: the ’bulldozed’ exhibition and the exhibition of the Izmailovsky Park in Moscow (CCE 34); the exhibitions in the ’Bee-keeping’ pavilion (CCE 35) and the ‘Model House of Culture’ at the Exhibition of Economic Achievements (CCE 37); and the exhibitions in the Caz Palace of Culture and m the Nevsky House of Culture in Leningrad, and numerous ‘flat exhibitions’ (CCEs 35, 36, 44). The Lepta and Archive collections (CCE 43) and the journal 37 (CCEs 43, 48) have appeared in Leningrad samizdat.

In January 1977 Vadim Nechayev (CCE 48.18) and his wife Marina Nedrobova organized a Museum of Contemporary Painting in their flat (Leningrad, 55 Sredne-Okhtinsky Ave, flat 58). An exhibition of paintings of the 1950s and 1960s, a portrait exhibition, and a posthumous exhibition of the Primitivist artist A. Ivanova were held in the flat.

On 15 November 1977, the day the ‘Biennale-77’ opened in Venice, as a sign of solidarity an exhibition of 17 Leningrad artists and seven from Moscow was held in the same flat. After a brief period, the exhibition was closed down by the police.

On the same day, 15 November, Vadim Nechayev made a speech to Moscow artists. In it he said:

“A few years ago, a movement of independent artists standing for the right to create freely got under way, primarily in Leningrad and Moscow …

“A new concept appeared — Alternative Culture. It has no founder, no programme, no manifesto. It ranks with such concepts as cultural movement’, ‘spiritual renaissance’, ‘intellectual explosion’…

“In the past year, however, there has been a decline, due to the persecution and emigration of many talented artists and writers. Culture cannot exist under a blockade; it will either break through it or perish. I consider it my duty to break the conspiracy of silence surrounding independent culture, to give it the opportunity of a normal existence …”

On 12 December 1977, in the flat of Nechayev and Nedrobova, a conference was held on the subject: “The Moral Significance of Unofficial Culture”. The principal lecture was given by Vadim Nechayev. A report on “Academics and Alternative Culture” was made by the physicist and mathematician Mark Pekker (a Jewish refusenik). Father Lev Konin, a priest (CCEs 45, 46), entitled his speech on the re-awakening of religious consciousness and neo-Christianity “The Pre-Dawn Dreams of Russia”. One of the editors of the journal 37, Tatyana Goricheva, spoke “On Christian Responsibility”. The sculptor Olga Pekker (Sladkovskaya) told about her idea of a monument to the victims of the Personality Cult [of Stalin] (for this idea she was expelled from the Tauride art college: the official reason for her expulsion was “professional ineptitude”).

*

On 26 December 1977, V. Nechayev was expelled from the Union of Writers

“For activities incompatible with the demands made in the Statutes of the USSR Union of Writers, activities which manifested themselves in:

  • the organization, production and circulation of the manuscript collection Archive, which is of a nature alien to the socialist outlook;
  • the circulation of statements defaming Soviet state policy in the area of culture;
  • and also the organization of exhibitions in support of the anti-Soviet festival in Venice (Biennale-77)

 (in CCE 48.18 the report on Nechayev’s expulsion contains inaccuracies).

V. Nechayev, M. Nedrobova, M. Pekker, O. Pekker, L. Konin, K. Kostsynsky (Uspensky) and V. Ovchinnikov have signed [January 1978] an “Open Letter from Leningrad Cultural Personalities to the International PEN Club”, supporting the proposal by G. VIadimov to form a Russian section of the PEN-Club.

V. Nechayev was summoned to the Leningrad O V I R where it was suggested that he emigrate. Nechayev said he would think it over.

On the night of 16-17 April Marina Nedrobova heard noises outside the door of their flat. When she opened the door, she saw rising flames. Nechayev and his guest put out the fire. When the fire-brigade arrived, they established the cause of the fire: arson by means of a bottle of fuel. The police refused to take fragments of the bottle for analysis.

The Trial of Gooss

On 25 March 1977, under Article 224, part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code (“illegal storing… of narcotic substances without intent to sell”) the people’s court of the Kirov district of Leningrad gave Vladimir Gooss a suspended sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment, with compulsory conscription for labour. [This punishment involves living in a place designated by the authorities and doing a job assigned by them, but not otherwise living in captivity.]

V. Gooss (b. 1950) entered art college at the age of 16. After a year he was sentenced under Article 206, part 2 (“malicious hooliganism”) and Article 191-1, part 2 (“resistance to a police officer or a people’s vigilante [druzhinnik]”) of the Russian Criminal Code to 2 ½ years deprivation of freedom, which he served in full.

Gooss is an artist. His works were shown at the exhibition of independent artists in the Nevsky House of Culture and, after he was tried, in the exhibition of solidarity with “Biennale-77”.

According to the charges against him, on 6 December 1976 Gooss was detained by police officers, in a state of extreme intoxication; at the police station, a metal Validol tube containing hashish was taken from his trouser pocket; when his flat was searched afterwards, a matchbox containing hashish was found.

At the trial Gooss said that he had been invited to the home of a certain Igor. They got drunk and Gooss woke up in the police station, where he was told by investigators that they had found narcotics in his pocket. Then they told him that narcotics had also been found in his home. Gooss explained that he did not know where the narcotics in his pocket and in his flat had come from (in the flat they were taken from the cupboard of his wife’s sister).

The witnesses Saarik and Akimov testified that on 6 December, as they were taking a walk, they saw two young men who had been “horsing around”. Saarik took a toy whistle out of his pocket and blew it. Immediately a policeman appeared; a minute later — another one. The policemen took Saarik, Akimov and one of the two men who had been “horsing around” (it turned out to be Gooss) to the police station.

It transpired in the interrogation that Akimov was a vigilante. At the trial it also transpired that there were two records of the search of Gooss’s person: in one of them, which Gooss had not signed, the capsule of hashish was mentioned; in the other, drawn up two hours later and signed by Gooss, it was not mentioned.

The witness Bolshakova (61 years old with 2 years of education), who witnessed the search in Gooss’s flat, said at the trial: “Well, he (investigator Semyonov — Chronicle) set me in front of the cupboard and said: ‘Watch closely, I’m going to get into the cupboard,’ and he shows me his hands. ‘See, they’re empty,’’ he says. Well, then he got the little box off the top shelf of the closet.”

Gooss’s wife Lyudmila Sokolova testified that three days before the arrest of her husband, on Friday, Igor invited Gooss to meet some people who wished to see his paintings. Lyudmila suggested that these people came to their home on Saturday or Sunday. Igor insisted that Gooss come to his home, even if he brought only one painting and a few drawings. This seemed suspicious to Lyuda and she said that she would come. The next day, Saturday, Igor returned unexpectedly; he said that ‘they’ wished to meet Gooss himself, and fixed a rendezvous for 12 noon on Monday, when Lyuda would be at work.

Defence counsel S. M, Zaitsev drew the attention of the court to numerous inconsistencies in Gooss’s case, which had become clear in the course of the court investigation. He demanded the acquittal of the accused.

The court (chairman — E. I. Kotelevskaya; prosecutor — V. I. Osipenko), ignoring all the arguments of the defence attorney, did not even summon ‘Igor’ to the court.

Gooss is serving his “compulsory conscription for labour” in Kingisepp [Estonia].