The Trial of Lukyanenko, 17-20 July 1978 (50.6)

<<No. 50 : November 1978>>

From 17 to 20 July in the town of Gorodnya, the Chernigov Regional Court examined the case of Levko Lukyanenko, charged under Article 62. part 2, of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 70 of the Russian Code).


Lev Grigorevich LUKYANENKO was born in 1928 in the village of Khripovka in Gorodnya District, Chernigov Region (where his parents still live). (In CCE 48 the year of his birth is given as 1927. This is also the case in his official documents.)

From 1944 to 1953 he served in the army and at that time he entered the Party. In 1958 he graduated from the Faculty of Law at Moscow University. He worked in the Vinnitsa and Lvov regions, at first in the Soviet and Party apparatus, then as a lawyer. In 1960 he drafted a programme for a Marxist party, the “Ukrainian Worker-Peasant Union”, containing, in particular, proposals for a referendum on the question of the separation of the Ukraine and for socio-political reforms (the legalization of private initiative in light industry and agriculture). In January 1961, a group of seven people (including the lawyer Ivan Kandyba) were arrested for discussing the draft. In April 1961, a closed court sentenced Lukyanenko to death for “betrayal of the Motherland1; two months later the sentence was commuted to 15 years in camps [Note 7]. Lukyanenko served his sentence in Mordovia and in Vladimir Prison.

After his release in 1976 he lived in Chernigov under surveillance (CCEs 43 and 46). L. Lukyanenko corresponded with numerous former and current prisoners and exiles and wrote declarations and publicist works in defence of the persecuted. He was one of the founders of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (CCE 43).


On 12 December 1977 Lukyanenko was arrested. The Chernigov office of the KGB carried out the investigation. CCEs 48 and 49 give accounts of the searches and questioning conducted in connection with his case.

Lukyanenko’s relatives and friends did not find out about the trial until the end of the first day, when several of them (in particular, his wife and brother) were served a court-summons to appear as witnesses on 18 July.


In accordance with tradition, the hall was filled beforehand with a “special public”. Measures were taken against those wanting to attend the trial even at the entrance to the town: suddenly there was an epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in the locality and the entrance to Gorodnya was, therefore, blocked as being a disinfection point. Passengers on public buses were told to get out and were escorted across a strip of sawdust. Officials of the State Car Inspectorate told the car carrying Oksana Meshko, a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, to return to Kiev. Meshko got out of the car and despite attempts to get her back in by force, she struggled free and continued on foot. She managed to hire a private car and got past two more posts, each of which was guarded by a couple of plain-clothes men as well as uniformed police. But at the entrance to the town officials of the next post detained Meshko: “You are someone we want.” Three men drove her back to Kiev in the car they had stopped and put her out when they got there.

Before being questioned the witness Zvenislava Vivchar asked the Judge whether the trial was open or closed. The Judge did not answer her question and the Procurator expressed displeasure. After an adjournment Vivchar was not readmitted to the hall. She wanted to wait in the corridor but was ordered to go home to Kiev. Vivchar found a compromise solution: she went out into the street and sat down on a bench. This proved insufficient. A couple of plain-clothes officers dragged her to a car and drove her to a bus station in Chernigov.

Lukyanenko refused to answer the court’s questions and declared a hunger-strike. He petitioned several times for his case to be examined in his absence, but this was rejected. His petition of 19 July pointed out that his cold cell and the bare planks (in place of a bed) had prevented him from sleeping.

The indictment

The indictment stated that on regaining his freedom in 1976 Lukyanenko did not set out on the road of reform but continued his involvement in anti-Soviet activities by corresponding with prisoners, both released and still in prison, and spreading in letters deliberate fabrications which defamed … and he had systematically contravened the rules of the surveillance he had been under till the day of his arrest, and because of this he had been fined on several occasions. At work he took no part in public life and went to neither the First of May nor the October demonstrations.

The indictment stated that “under the guise of taking part in the so- called Helsinki Group, Lukyanenko was engaged in anti-Soviet activity”. He was charged with writing Ukrainian Helsinki Group documents (a declaration and eight memoranda), the articles “Stop this Crooked Justice” (in defence of the artist Pyotr Ruban — CCEs 44 and 45), “A Year of Freedom” (about the year of his life following his release), “A Christmas Appeal to Inveterate Atheists” and “Problems of Dissent”, an open letter to Professor Vladimir Ruban (CCE 45), an appeal to the Kiev Exarch (requesting him to speak out about the ‘religious’ article in the draft of the new Constitution), two declarations about his desire to emigrate (regarding one of these see CCE 47), and letters to friends; and also with making oral statements. It was mentioned that Lukyanenko sent his articles to the editors of Soviet newspapers and journals and to his friends in letters. It was said that the article “A Year of Freedom” found its way abroad and was used by various radio stations as a propagandists document to discredit the Soviet system.


25 witnesses were called to appear in court and 20 of them actually appeared: Nadezhda Lukyanenko, Lev Lukyanenko’s wife, and his brother Alexander, A. Berdnik, a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, Yevgeny Obertas {CCEs 45, 46, 48 and 49), the wife of Pyotr Ruban, Lydia Ruban (CCE 48), Zvenislava Vivchar, the wife of Alexander Sergiyenko, the former political prisoners Igor Kichak (imprisoned in Mordovia with Lukyanenko; served 15 or 20 years), Vladimir Zatvorsky (CCE 49), Ivan Pokrovsky and Igor Kravtsov (CCE 48), Lukyanenko’s work-mates (he worked as an electrician in a children’s hospital) — the chief doctor, engineer Kalchenko, the former administrator Kozyr, and the section head and Chairman of the Trade Union Committee, Lisovaya, and also five members of the family of Pyotr Svitailo (CCE 48), with whom Lukyanenko stayed and held “anti-Soviet conversations”.

In the questioning of the first 10 witnesses, particular attention was given to the article “Stop this Crooked Justice”. Despite Lukyanenko’s request, the article was not read out in court.

V. Zatvorsky testified in such a way that he earned the retort from the hall “He ought to be locked up as well!” (as well as Lukyanenko, Chronicle).

I. Pokrovsky said that he had read the declaration of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group and had found nothing anti-Soviet in it. Similar statements about the declaration and the article “Stop this Crooked Justice” were made by N. Lukyanenko, Lydia Ruban explained to the court that she had possessed eight copies of the article “Stop this Crooked Justice”, because Lukyanenko had asked her to send it to various Kiev journals. A. Berdnik said, when questioned, that all those who signed the memoranda of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group were their authors. He also said that he had suggested writing minutes of the discussion and the signing of the memoranda, but Lukyanenko had said that this was not necessary. N. Lukyanenko said that she had heard the article “A Year of Freedom” on the radio:

“What l heard is exactly what is written there.”

“Did you ask him how he sent the article to the West?”

“Do you really think it was he who sent it?”

Lukyanenko’s colleagues spoke about him warmly; the only thing was — he did not sign the Stockholm [peace] appeal (some said ‘Helsinki’) and did not go to a demonstration. (In her testimony N. Lukyanenko recalled that her husband used to be compelled to be on duty every public holiday.)

The members of P. Svitailo’s family recounted that while he was staying in their house Lev Lukyanenko praised Petlyura and insulted Bogdan Khmelnitsky.

On 19 July, the Procurator gave the prosecution speech. It resembled a political lecture.

Defence speech and sentence

The four-hour defence speech made by Lukyanenko himself (he refused to engage a barrister) was constantly interrupted by the Judge, who demanded that he speak without using notes. In his final speech the accused said that he did not expect an easier fate than what had befallen Rudenko and Tikhy.

He was sentenced to 10 years in special-regime camps and 5 years’ exile. The court ruled Lukyanenko to be an especially dangerous recidivist. The special public greeted the sentence with applause.

On 12 September, after examining the appeal against Lukyanenko’s sentence, the Ukrainian Supreme Court left the sentence as it was.

On 20 October Lukyanenko arrived at Mordovian Camp No. 1.