Reprisals against the Helsinki Groups (44.2)

<< No 44 : 16 March 1977 >>

Searches in Moscow (2.1)

The authorities began their attack on the Helsinki Groups at the end of December 1976 with searches at the homes of a member of the Moscow group, Vladimir Slepak, and members of the Ukrainian group, Nikolai Rudenko, Oles Berdnik, Ivan Kandyba, Lev Lukyanenko and Alexei Tikhy (CCE 43).

On 4 January 1977, searches were carried out in Moscow at the homes of members of “the Moscow Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR” (the [Moscow] Helsinki Group). The searches were carried out in connection with criminal case No. 46012/18-76. The search warrants were signed by Senior Investigator for Especially Important Cases A. I. Tikhonov (Moscow City Procuracy).

A Search at the Home of Alexander Ginzburg

On the morning of 4 January there was a ring at the door at the Moscow flat of Alexander Ginzburg. Someone asked for “Alec”, Ginzburg’s wife Irina Zholkovskaya opened the door.

Crossing the threshold, the man who had asked for Alec quickly surveyed the corridor, and with a cry of “Follow me, comrades!” rushed into the flat. Another six men burst in after him. The search began.

Senior procuracy investigator Borovik led the search. The witnesses were A. M. Natanzon and S. L. Grishin. Who the other four were remains unknown.

At first only I. Zholkovskaya and her two young children were in the flat.

As his first concern, Borovik began to search the toilet. He insisted that Zholkovskaya be at his side during this. After turning his back on her and the witnesses, the investigator opened the door of the wall cupboard in the toilet, rummaged in it (precisely in the place which was not visible from the corridor) and pulled out an envelope of foreign currency. Borovik did not show precisely what sort of currency it was or in what quantity. Then, after rummaging in the cupboard again, he pulled out an envelope from under a book package from America. He went into the bathroom and the kitchen, then returned to the large room where the other operations men were waiting for him.

After the “search in the toilet” Borovik personally did not look for anything but just examined the books and papers to be taken away and drew up the record.

The foreign currency and the envelope from the package were entered in the record under one number (the package had been sent to Ginzburg by a friend of his who now lives in New York). A standard type of wall-cupboard was called in the record a hiding-place.

After this Zholkovskaya was left in peace and they did not insist she be present even when they opened the writing desk and cupboards. However, when she went out to change her clothes in the children’s room, two of them set off after her. They showed no reaction to Zholkovskaya’s request to leave and remained in the room whilst Irina Sergeyevna changed.

Half an hour after the beginning of the search A, Ginzburg arrived home with his friend Yury Mnyukh. After this no one else was allowed into the flat. For a long time, friends were not able to hand in food for the young children. Finally, they were allowed to leave food by the door and then, when the friends had gone away, the men carrying out the search brought it into the flat.

During the search Ginzburg’s wife had a serious attack of high blood pressure, but permission was not given to call an ambulance until night time.

As a result of the search the following were confiscated:

  • the journals Kontinent, Herald of the Russian Christian Movement, Posev, issues of the paper Russkaya mysl, and cuttings from Soviet and foreign newspapers;
  • issues of the Chronicle of Current Events, Archive of the Chronicle, and A Chronicle of Human Rights in the USSR;
  • issues of the Bulletin of the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives, The Fraternal Leaflet, and Herald of Salvation;
  • documents of the Committee for Human Rights, of the Helsinki Group, and of Amnesty International;
  • works by Solzhenitsyn, Nabokov, Conquest, Sakharov, Amalrik, Orlov, Turchin and Podyapolsky;
  • books on Russian and Soviet history published in the USSR;
  • religious literature;
  • receipts for postal orders, book packages and parcels, and correspondence with prisoners;
  • a card-index containing information on Soviet political prisoners;
  • personal correspondence of the Ginzburgs, photographs and notebooks;
  • two Japanese radios, three Japanese tape recorders, tapes, a typewriter, four self-erasing slates for drawing and writing, called ‘printing blocks’ in the search record.

Also taken were:

  • certificates to the sum of about 150 roubles;
  • all notifications from Vneshposyltorg [Foreign Parcels Trading Agency], and also customs licences for the contents of parcels received from abroad;
  • savings account books of the Solzhenitsyn family and Ginzburg’s power of attorney to conduct the family’s affairs in the USSR, notarized in the Moscow Notaries’ Office;
  • two savings account books in the name of Ginzburg;
  • 4,700 roubles belonging to the Fund to Assist Political Prisoners;
  • 300 roubles of the earnings received the previous day by Ginzburg and Zholkovskaya, which were lying in a separate box.

After the operations men left, 38 kopecks were left in the house.

Zholkovskaya and Ginzburg refused to sign the search record, but Ginzburg noted the following in it:

“I protest against the confiscation of materials on the violation of human rights in the USSR as allegedly being slanderous. I protest against the confiscation of money, postal documents concerning money, and material valuables, for by their nature they can neither be slanderous nor defame anything. In a state based on law this is called robbery. I protest against the provocative planting of foreign currency, of which there has never been any in this house…”

The search lasted from 8.45 am on 4 January until 3.40 am on 5 January.

On the same day, 4 January, a search was carried out at the fiat of Ginzburg’s mother, Lyudmila Ilynichna [Ginzburg].

A Search at the Home of Lyudmila Alexeyeva

On the morning of 4 January an acquaintance came to see Alexeyeva’s husband, N. N, Vilyams. The visit had been arranged with Vilyams earlier by telephone. Seven men burst into the flat behind the guest. (Vilyams’s acquaintance later recounted that no one had been visible on the landing.)

The search was conducted by counsellor of justice Smirnov. Those carrying it out did not waste time and went confidently to the cupboards and tables where the papers that interested them were lying. No one even glanced at Vilyams’s desk, where his mathematical manuscripts were lying.

They took samizdat and tamizdat materials of the Helsinki Group (even blank sheets of paper), and letters of political prisoners and their relatives. [Tamizdat refers to samizdat works taken abroad, published in the West, and then brought back to the USSR.]

When about nine hours had passed and 169 items had already been entered in the record, Smirnov began to cram the remaining papers into a large envelope without looking at them. To Alexeyeva’s question he replied that he would seal the envelope.

As a sign of protest Alexeyeva went out into the kitchen. Her mother, husband and two friends — Lydia Voronina and Anatoly Shcharansky, who had arrived during the search — left with her.

The “operations men” stayed in the house for more than an hour longer. Smirnov’s assistants came and went. One of the witnesses was allowed to go 50 minutes before the end of the search.

At seven in the evening Smirnov and his people departed, leaving a copy of the search record on the table.

A Search at the home of Lydia Voronina

When the search at the home of L. Alexeyeva came to an end, a warrant to

search her flat was presented to Lydia Voronina. Eight men put her in a car and took her away. Shcharansky, who wanted to go with Voronina, was forbidden to accompany her.

Pantyukhin conducted the search. Even before the witnesses had arrived, he proposed to Voronina that she hand over “materials defaming …” Voronina asked him to be more specific. Pantyukhin replied: “Works of Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and documents of the Helsinki group.” Voronina stated that she considered a search carried out with such a purpose to be illegal.

During the search V. Slepak arrived with a case, which was searched on the spot. The case turned out to be empty.

At the search (it lasted from 8 in the evening until 1 at night) the following were confiscated:

  • fiction published abroad, including works by Bulgakov, Korzhavin, Tsvetayeva;
  • emigre newspapers;
  • appeals by citizens to the Helsinki Group;
  • Voronina’s personal letters;
  • Shcharansky’s personal archive (including 438 letters from Shcharansky’s wife, who left for Israel in 1974).

A Search at the Home of Yury Orlov

The search at the home of Orlov was conducted by Tikhonov “in person”. As the residents did not open the door right away, a locksmith from the Housing Office forced it open at the demand of Tikhonov. This operation took 15 minutes. The search was carried out by four plain-clothes men, two witnesses and two policemen.

Confiscated were: samizdat, tamizdat, materials of the Group, fiction, journals in English, a typewriter and recording tapes. Amongst other things, Andrei Bely’s Petersburg (Moscow, State Publishing House for Artistic Literature, 1935) was confiscated.

The atmosphere at the search was tense. It went as far as Tikhonov calling the police in the middle of the day to take away Orlov’s wife Irina Valitova. The police came, but Tikhonov then changed his mind.

Questionnaires with 1,100 signatures, collected from those Meskhetians of Azerbaijan who want to re-establish their Georgian nationality (counting their families — 7,000 people), were confiscated.

About 200 pages of information about the persecution of the children of religious parents, collected in the Ukraine and Central Asia, were taken away.

Tikhonov began to seal up certain materials without listing them. Thus, one envelope was sealed. Another four envelopes had their contents listed in general terms at Orlov’s demand.

Notebooks with telephone numbers were confiscated from Alexander Podrabinek, who arrived during the search.


The same evening (the searches were still continuing) TASS circulated a statement saying that the materials confiscated at the searches established a link between members of the Group and the NTS, which was backed by foreign intelligence services.

The following day, 5 January, the Helsinki group arranged a press conference. Correspondents were told in detail about the events of the preceding day. It was announced that Yury Mnyukh had joined the Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR. The Group announced it was setting up under its auspices a Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes (see section “Activities of Helsinki groups”, CCE 44.10).

A. Sakharov was present at the press conference. He read his appeal to the Heads of the States that were participants in the Helsinki conference, in which he urged them “to react to the reprisals against members of the group in a most serious way and to take those measures which they deemed necessary in the situation which had been created”.

The Group made a statement which described the searches as “a new attack on those social circles which are seeking to set up independent channels of information and checks on the activities of official organs”.