The Arrest of Yury Orlov, 10 February 1977 (44.7)

<< No 44 : 16 March 1977 >>

On 1 February Yury Orlov was summoned to the Procuracy of the Cheryomushki district of Moscow to see investigator Ponomaryov. Orlov wrote a statement in the record of the interrogation:

“It has been explained to me that case No, 46012/18-76 has been instigated against the journal of information, the Chronicle of Current Events. I refuse to take part in this case. The Chronicle of Current Events accomplishes a huge amount of socially useful work by circulating information on violations of human rights. Similar information is circulated — with regard to the West — by many Western publications, which fact one may confirm by reading Soviet newspapers.

“The right to circulate information on humanitarian subjects, particularly on violations of human rights, was enshrined in the Final Act of the conference on security and cooperation in Europe and in the other international covenants which are in force on the territory of the USSR. The persecution of the Chronicle puts the USSR in the position of an uncivilized, backward country regarding humanitarian matters.

“Therefore, I am not participating in this case.

“Yu. Orlov 1 February 1977”

On 2 February, a summons was delivered to Yu. Orlov’s flat for him to appear at the Procuracy on 3 February. Orlov was not at home that day. The summons was handed to his wife. After this, apparently, the surveillance organs lost track of Orlov.

Surveillance of the flat was established. Cars were positioned around the house, and agents on the street.


On 7 February at half-past eleven two policemen from police station 27 attempted to serve a summons for Orlov on his wife I. Valitova. Valitova would not accept the summons and would not allow them to carry out an inspection of the flat, her demand for a search warrant having been ignored. One of the policemen inspected the flat all the same. The policemen did not give their names.

Two hours later a policeman brought I. Valitova a summons to appear at the Procuracy at 15.00 hours on 7 February. She was interrogated by investigator Ponomaryov, who had interrogated Orlov on 1 February.

To Valitova’s question in connection with what case she had been summoned, the investigator replied: “The Chronicle case …”

To the question whether Orlov had been at home on 2 February and whether he knew about the summons, Valitova refused to reply, “on ethical grounds”. To the question whether her husband was now at home, she replied that this was better known to the police officials who had inspected her flat.

Further questions concerned the materials confiscated at the search of 4 January. Valitova replied: “I have not seen them, I do not know, I have not read them.”


On 9 February Orlov appeared at the home of L. Alexeyeva and called a press conference. Journalists who came suggested to Orlov that in order not to reveal his whereabouts he should make statements in writing. He refused and during the press conference spoke aloud.

Orlov said that in the event of his arrest he would probably be given a light sentence but Ginzburg, Rudenko and Tikhy would be presented as recidivists and given maximum sentences.

Correspondents put the question to Orlov whether he was hiding from the authorities. Orlov replied that he was not especially hiding, but he did not intend to go to them himself. The last few days he had not been in Moscow, as before his possible arrest he had decided to go and visit his native village.

While the press conference was going on, the house of L, Alexeyeva was surrounded. Agents stood on stairway landings, in entrances and in attics. Cars were stationed around the house. Other cars approached people who came out of the house and lit them up with their headlights.

Orlov spent the night at L. Alexeyeva’s flat.


On the morning of 10 February six people in policemen’s uniform appeared at L. Alexeyeva’s flat. They had no search warrant. They said they wanted to have a look to see who was in the flat.

“People with views like yours might be in your house.”

“Well, not people with your views, certainly.”

The policemen asked to be taken into a room — they said they were uncomfortable standing in the corridor. No one was there. The guests started to nose around in the corridor, to look into wall cupboards. Alexeyeva protested, saying that they had no search warrant.

The policemen went into the second room, where Orlov was. “This man is wanted by us.”

They said to Orlov that he was being detained for not appearing at the Procuracy and took him away.


L. Alexeyeva and several friends who came to see her went to the city Procuracy. They were told that no one would talk to them.

About two o’clock in the afternoon I. Valitova went to the Procuracy. Investigator Ponomaryov said that she could come the next day for information about her husband.

On 11 February Tikhonov received Orlov’s wife.

Valitova asked on what grounds her husband had been arrested. Tikhonov replied that he was suspected of having committed a crime but refused to say what articles Orlov had been charged under. He said that Yu. F. Orlov was in the K G B investigation prison in Lefortovo.

Tikhonov proposed to Valitova that she phone the information offices of the Procuracy and of Lefortovo prison to receive further information.


On 10 February TASS announced:

“A Slanderer Detained

“Recently a search was carried out with the sanction of the Procurator at the home of a certain Orlov. A large quantity of anti-Soviet and slanderous material was confiscated. On the first of February, according to information received by a TASS correspondent, Orlov was summoned to an interrogation. He behaved provocatively and insulted representatives of the Procuracy.

“When the summons was repeated, he did not appear, a matter punishable by law. In connection with this, on 10 February Orlov was arrested in accordance with the legal procedure effective in this country.”


On 10 February, a telegram was handed in for Carter and Vance at the US Embassy concerning Orlov’s arrest. The telegram was signed by Alexeyeva, Bonner, Velikanova, Grigorenko, Turchin, Khorodovich and Shcharansky.


On the evening of 10 February senior investigator Pantyukhin carried out a search at Orlov’s flat. The witnesses were Alekseyev and Osipov. Orlov was not brought to the search, and the warrant was presented to Irina Valitova. She refused to take part in the search. After the January search there was almost nothing in the house. They found some samizdat and a few materials of the Helsinki Group. They took Orlov’s personal documents and testimonials from his place of work.


The arrest of Yury Orlov aroused a further wave of letters of protest (see section “Letters and Statements”, CCE 44.28).

More than 90 people signed a collective letter in defence of Orlov, demanding his immediate release. The letter emphasizes that Orlov’s activities were of a lawful and constructive nature and were in full accord with the Helsinki agreements.

Below, the letter of the leader of the Soviet group of Amnesty International, Valentin Turchin, is quoted in full:

“The arrest of Yury Orlov has provoked pain and indignation in the hearts of all his friends — those who can speak of it openly, as well as those (and they are, of course, the majority) who do not dare to express their feelings aloud. The basic feature of Yury Orlov as a man is his calm and profound feeling of his own worth and his no less profound respect for the human worth of others. This quality, which manifests itself as steely firmness in his observance of ethical principles, is combined in Orlov with a great kindness and responsiveness — one may even say tenderness — in regard to his friends. Contact with such a personality is ennobling; it gives spiritual strength.

“Yury Orlov is an outstanding physicist, one of the top specialists in the Soviet Union on accelerators of elementary particles. He graduated from the faculty of physics at Moscow University in 1952 and until 1956 worked in the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics in Moscow. After Khrushchev’s report at the 20th Party Congress, Orlov, together with a few of his comrades, put forward a programme of democratic reforms for the party and state at a party meeting of the institute (he was then a member of the communist party). This would be a rare act of audacity even today, but in those times, it was simply unheard of. Orlov was expelled from the party and dismissed from his job. About a year passed until he was able to find work — for this, he had to go to Erevan, the capital of Armenia. Until 1972 Yury Orlov worked in Erevan, coming to Moscow from time to time to take part in the launching of new accelerators. To this period belongs a series of his remarkable works, for which he received the degree of Doctor of Sciences, the rank of professor, and was then elected a corresponding member of the Armenian Academy of Sciences.

“After arriving in Moscow in 1972, he worked for some time in the Institute of Earth Magnetism and Circulation of Radio Waves of the USSR Academy of Sciences, but at the end of 1973 was dismissed: formally because of staff reductions, in reality because of a letter to Brezhnev in which he again presented a series of questions about the necessity of democratic reforms and pointed out that these questions were connected with the recent campaign against Academician Sakharov.

“Since then, he has not been able to find work. Forced to earn a living by giving lessons, Orlov has none the less continued his scientific work.

“In the last two years he has written several works in which he has laid the foundations of a new approach to problems of theoretical physics, called by him “wave logic”. It is possible that these most interesting works will in the future be the start of a reconstruction of the very basis of the natural sciences.

“In May 1976 Yury Orlov organized the “Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR”, the aim of which is to monitor how the humanitarian articles of the Final Act are being realized in practice and thus to aid their implementation. The group has accomplished a great deal of work, having collected about 80 separate items of material relating to this question and having sent them to the governments of the participant countries of the Helsinki agreement. Alas, the overwhelming majority of these materials turned out to be evidence of crude violations of the Final Act. But guilty of this, of course, are not those who are documenting the violations, but those who are carrying them out.

“Orlov’s activities did not have an anti-State character, nor were they generally, in the narrow sense of the word, political. The Final Act of the Helsinki conference proclaimed human rights to be an international problem. In accordance with this, Orlov’s group has made specific facts about the violation of the humanitarian articles of the Final Act internationally known. This has been a noble and self-sacrificing activity, without which it is impossible to realize the high ideals so often proclaimed on paper.

“I am ashamed of a country in which such people as Yury Orlov and the other members of the Helsinki group are put behind bars.”


In the West, a widespread campaign has begun in defence of persecuted dissidents in the USSR.

A few days after the arrest of Ginzburg the US State Department issued a statement expressing disquiet about the arrest. It was specified that the statement had been approved at the highest levels. U S congressmen and senators addressed repeated protests to Carter and Brezhnev. The American representative in the UN Commission on Human Rights made an enquiry about the four people arrested in the USSR. The Soviet representative regarded this as interference in the internal affairs of the USSR. The enquiry was withdrawn.

The Canadian parliament and various public figures and organizations in England, Holland, Switzerland and Sweden have expressed their indignation at the events in the USSR.