Letters and Statements (49.19)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

1.

110 signatures: “To all the citizens of our country, to all honest people abroad” (March 1978)

A protest against the deprivation of Soviet citizenship of P. G. Grigorenko (CCE 48), ending with the appeal:

We appeal to all our compatriots, to all rational and honest people of the world, to demand of the Soviet government: Give Pyotr Grigorenko back his Motherland!

2.

Sergei Yermolayev: “In defence of P. G. Grigorenko” (15 March 1978)

“… Must we really reconcile ourselves to the current practice of depriving of their citizenship those who uphold human rights in the USSR — Alexander and Natalya Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Maximov, Vladimir Bukovsky and others, and now — Pyotr Grigorenko?

“We are convinced that nobody can deprive a citizen of his Motherland. Belonging to Russia, communion with her, is determined not by a compulsory place of residence, nor by nationality, but by the spiritual roots which bind a person to the life of her people, to its past, present and future …”

3.

In five appeals Asya Bubuyan (CCE 48), the mother of Shagen Arutyunyan, a member of the Armenian Helsinki Group, his wife Asya Nagapetyan and his brother Marzpet Arutyunyan, request “intervention in the matter of the release” of Shagen — “To the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR, Sarkisov”; “To the President of the USA, J. Carter”; “To the A F L-C I O federation of trade unions”; “To the government of West Germany”; “To the Armenian community abroad and the world public”.

4.

M. Landa, I. Zholkovskaya-Ginzburg and S. Khodorovich (12 April 1978)

In connection with publications in Western newspapers which cast doubt on the activity of the Aid Fund for Political Prisoners (CCE 46), the authors — the managers of the Fund — declare:

“that the arrest of Alexander Ginzburg has not interrupted the activity of the Fund, moreover the Fund has increased in size … To permit the seizure of the Fund’s resources would be to deprive of support hundreds of families who are being persecuted as a result of people exercising universally recognized human rights.”

Later they write:

“To give an idea of our activities we will quote approximate figures, which we consider to be available for publication …

“Assistance to prisoners under investigation or in camps, prisons, exile or psychiatric hospitals, and also to their families, mostly their children (30-40 roubles per month for each child) and to elderly parents, takes approximately 75 per cent of our expenses. Partial reimbursement of the expenses of relatives in travel to places of captivity for meetings takes about 9 per cent. Legal expenses (lawyers, fines, deductions from wages for refusal to testify, and so on) take about 7 per cent. Aid on release, and afterwards if necessary, takes a little over 8 per cent. Other expenses take under 2 per cent.

“The Fund is now giving assistance to about 300 prisoners (in camps, prison, and also exile), to their families and children (about 120 children), to more than 30 prisoners in psychiatric hospitals and their families, and to about 30 families suffering extra-judicial forms of persecution … It is important to stress that this assistance is given regularly.”

“In the Soviet Union, the principal difficulties lie not in the fact that the Ministry of Finance strives to control charitable activity, but that the KGB, together with the MVD, is striving to close it down altogether, apparently as being something alien to the goals of building communism.”

The statement ends with the words:

“We hope that there will be a sufficient number of noble people in the West who will assist both in the successful resolution of the problems of the Fund on their side of the border, and, as before, in giving extensive moral support to the Fund’s activity in our country.”

5.

V. Bakhmin, A. Podrabinek: “Appeal to foreign psychiatric associations” (17 April 1978)

The authors, members of the Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes, request that the necessary steps be taken to form as soon as possible the international committee to investigate the abuse of psychiatry stipulated by the Congress of Psychiatrists in Honolulu (CCEs 47, 48).

6.

A. Podrabinek: “To the Procurator-General of the USSR, Roman Rudenko”

Having sent to the addressee Bulletin No. 6 on the case of Rozhdestvov (CCEs 47, 48), A. Podrabinek writes:

… the Working Commission considers the numerous crude violations of the norms of criminal procedure by the courts of first and second instance to be sufficient grounds for a protest by you to the RSFSR Supreme Court.

A reply to this letter was sent from the RSFSR Procuracy on 24 February. The last sentence of the reply reads: “There are no grounds for protesting against the court decision referred to.”

7.

20 signatures: “To the governments which participated in the Helsinki conference; To the international “Helsinki” organization; To the U N Human Rights Commission*.

The authors, for the most part Ukrainian defenders of the rule of law, request the addressees “to support the movement to defend the rule of law in the Ukraine and to raise their voices in defence of the convicted and persecuted champions of human rights”.

8.

A. Berdnik: “To the U N; To the Human Rights Committee; To the Amnesty International Organization. To the Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, L. Brezhnev” (9 May 1978)

“On the anniversary of the Victory over Fascism I declare a hunger- strike, demanding the release from his dungeon of the front-line soldier, war invalid, commissar, poet and philosopher Mykola Rudenko …”

9.

The Christian Committee for the Defence of Believers’ Rights in the USSR: “To Pope Paul VI” (19 January 1978)

In the letter the Vatican’s attitude to the persecution of the church, religion and believers in the USSR is criticized.

“One of the evident truths from the experience of defending human rights is that a loud protest never makes things any worse for those whose rights are being defended.”

The authors remind the Pope that the Soviet government values the Catholic church as an extremely influential organization and is compelled to take its voice into consideration.

“The silence of the Catholic church hierarchy causes widespread displeasure not only among the Orthodox, Baptists, Pentecostalists and Adventists in the USSR, but also… among the Lithuanian Catholics and the former Uniates of the Ukraine.”

In the authors’ opinion, in contemporary circumstances, the Uniate church of the Ukraine could also lead an open existence.

“… The acceptance into its own jurisdiction of the Uniates of the Ukraine, who were forcibly thrust at it, is one of the most immoral acts of the Moscow Patriarchate.”

The authors criticize Radio Vatican and call upon the Catholic church to speak out in defence of all persecuted Christians in the USSR.

10.

L. Bogoraz: “Open letter to the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences A. N. Alexandrov” (22 April 1978)

The letter is written in connection with a petition of the Academic Council of the Russian Language Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences to deprive the author of her higher degree (CCE 48).

“… The Party banishes heretics and miscreants from its ranks, thus ensuring their unity. The Academic Council of the Russian Language Institute has excommunicated me from scholarship for ending my loyalty to the Party (but I was not bound by loyalty to it as a researcher on phonology), as if Marxism (in the conventional sense) and Linguistics also formed an indissoluble unity. I would like to know the opinion of the President of the Academy of Sciences: are scholars who are not Party members obliged to submit to Party discipline, to confess the Party ideology? In which areas of life are they ‘not to dare to have their own opinion’?

“The absurdity of the situation which concerns me personally has provoked the light-hearted tone of my letter. But the general situation — the functioning of scholarly organizations like the Academy of Sciences as an executive mechanism of state and Party policy — is serious enough, and Soviet and foreign colleagues must realize its potential danger.”

11.

O.Ya. Meshko: To the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR” (March 1978)

After relating the search of her home on 9 February and her interrogation on 14 February ((CCE 48), O. Ya. Meshko requests “an end to the illegal and extra-judicial persecutions” of herself and her son A. Sergiyenko (who is finishing a 7-year sentence in the Perm camps). She asks for the return of everything that was confiscated during the searches.

12.

L. Sery: To George Meany” (March 1978)

Leonid Sery (CCEs 42, 47) appeals to the President of the A F L-C I O. After describing his material situation and that of other workers, he again requests help to leave the USSR. The letter is signed: “A worker-dissenter (or dissident), father of seven children, the Christian believer Leonid Mikhailovich Sery …”

13.

On 11 March Pravda published a letter from the RSFSR People’s Artist, Director of the USSR Bolshoi Theatre and USSR State Prize laureate Algis Ziuraitis, “In Defence of the Queen of Spades”. Under the letter was an editorial note giving names not mentioned in Ziuraitis’s letter: the producer Yu. Lyubimov, the conductor G. Rozhdestvensky, the composer A. Schnittke (on 8 March Literary Gazette published an editorial ‘reply’, “To Dot the i’s about Yu. Lyubimov”).

Yu. P. Lyubimov, G. P. Rozhdestvensky and A. G. Schnittke sent a reply to Pravda with detailed professional arguments against A. Ziuraitis’s attacks; however, it was not published. [Note 11]

14.

M. Zotov: “Appeal to all people of goodwill abroad”.

Mikhail Vasilyevich Zotov (445035, Kuibyshevskaya oblast, g. Togliatti, Novozavodskaya ul. 89, kv. 10) has been trying for 15 years to arrange an exhibition of his pictures.

“… I can explain what brings me — once a woodcutter, mason, shepherd, metalworker, in my time the best milling-machine operator of the Kuibyshev Water Department Construction Unit, a soldier, after five wounds an invalid of the Patriotic War, now a staff artist of the Togliatti milk combine, to appeal to people of goodwill in the West and to propose to them — all who can, who are in a position to — to take 100 of my pictures as a gift…

“Even collective appeals from the workers have not helped …

“One artist, after he had looked my pictures over, commented: “Yes, of course, if all this is exhibited, there will be long queues …”

“Appeal to the government of the USSR. Ask them! You yourselves know what to do. I want only one thing: to exhibit my pictures in whichever country will accept them.”

15.

E. Orlovsky: “On the draft Constitution of the R S F S R”, a letter to the editors of the newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya (2 April 1978, 14 pages)

The author proposes: to remove from the draft Constitution of the RSFSR articles which repeat similar articles in the Constitution of the RSFSR; to introduce an article forbidding the application of unpublished normative acts, acts which contradict the Constitution, and acts which have not been approved by a session of the Supreme Soviet; to introduce an article “on freedom of information” (a draft article is given); to stipulate the right to defend constitutional rights; and to set up a Constitutional Court.

On 22 April the editors of Sovetskaya Rossiya wrote to E. Orlovsky that his letter commenting on the draft had arrived too late.

16.

E. Orlovsky: “On the question of the freedom to emigrate from the USSR” (l May 1978, 9 pages)

“… I consider the right to leave one’s country and return to it one of the most important democratic rights, one of those which are of great significance for the correct development of society…

“The right to emigrate serves to a certain extent as a guarantee against tyranny within the country,.. But I am by no means in agreement with the idea that the right to emigrate is the most important democratic right. I consider far more important, for example, the right to receive information freely, within the country as well as from other countries …

“But I consider massive emigration undesirable and harmful, whether of Jews, Russians or other nationalities. Emigration appears to me harmful both to the emigrant and to society, as it deprives society of capable, energetic and honest people … Emigration undoubtedly weakens the so-called democratic or human rights movement… Neither can I recognize as normal the fact that in various groups and commissions which examine questions of the observance of democratic rights in the USSR, a significant and sometimes leading role is played by people who have applied for permission to emigrate …”

The author points out several demands to the authorities made by members of the Jewish Emigration Movement which he considers unlawful (most of these demands concern refusal of emigration for ‘security reasons’).

17

E. Bonner, N. Meiman, I. Nudel, V. Slepak: “To the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Begin” (end of January 1978)

The letter was written immediately after the end of the 40-day hunger-strike of Eduard Kuznetsov, one of the “aeroplane men”.

The authors point out that in 1970, when Kuznetsov and his comrades planned a hi-jack, there was no article in the Criminal Code with a corresponding punishment, and the articles of the code according to which they were tried (“betrayal of the motherland” and “theft on a particularly large scale”) were far-fetched. The article punishing hi-jacking of aeroplanes (article 213-2) was only added to the Criminal Code in 1973.

“The world public is now particularly sensitive to everything related to the hi-jacking of aeroplanes and the taking of hostages, but the convicted men committed neither of these acts …

“Amnesty International’s refusal to adopt those who were convicted in the 1970 Leningrad trial saddens us deeply and seems to us faint-hearted and unworthy …

“Now even the most severe sentences of 15 years are more than half over. You, Mr Prime Minister, are personally acquainted with the hell of the Soviet camps. You know that to be in them is a long- drawn-out torture. You know that their main purpose is the physical and moral degradation of the prisoners …

“We ask you to use all your authority and all the influence and opportunities of the government of Israel to effect the release of Anatoly Altman, Gilel Butman, Mark Dymshits, Vulf Zalmanson, Izrail Zalmanson, Eduard Kuznetsov, Josif Mendelevich, Alexei Murzhenko, Boris Penson, Yury Fyodorov and Leib Khnokh.”

18.

THE CHRONICLE IS TEN YEARS OLD

On 30 April 1968 the first issue of the Chronicle of Current Events came out. On the occasion of its tenth anniversary the Chronicle has received several letters.

The statement of the Moscow Helsinki Group says: “…The ten years of the Chronicle of Current Events’ existence are ten years of struggle for publicity, against the intolerance and injustice of our society, a struggle to make it more open, more democratic and generally humane.”

From the letter of Alexander Podrabinek: “I know people who were moved by reading the Chronicle to protest openly against social injustice and totalitarianism. For, knowing about the sufferings of his neighbours* not every man can walk past comfortably without showing moral support, without defending the oppressed.”

From the letter of Ivan Kovalyov: “… during the investigation of the case of S. A. Kovalyov, my father, the investigating organs received numerous positive answers in reply to their inquiries to official organizations as to the accuracy of the Chronicle’s information.”

The Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church mentioned in its message of congratulations (Issue no. 32) the constant attention of the Chronicle of Current Events to Lithuanian problems.

The editors of the Memory [Pamyat] collection (CCE 42) write:

“The Chronicle was born during the events of 1968 and is by its very essence the printed embodiment of the spirit of 1968, based not on a political but a moral and spiritual resistance, the word of truth. Its tenacity confirms the significance of this attitude in the interpretation of ‘current events’, and, in our opinion, reflects the unity of the Resistance principle, which was first fully thought out ten years ago. Perhaps it is precisely the very existence of the Chronicle which is the core binding the Resistance together …

“The Chronicle is not only the people who compose its text, but those who send it information, and those who copy and circulate it, and perhaps even those who only read it. This is what assures the Chronicle’s existence, its basic indestructibility.”

Documents 39-49 of the Moscow Helsinki Group