Activities of the Helsinki Groups, 1977 (44.10)

<< No 44 : 16 March 1977 >>

In January 1977, a Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements was set up in Georgia. Six people joined it: Beglor Bezhuashvili, a laboratory assistant in the department of art criticism at Tbilisi University; Zviad Gamsakhurdia (he is now senior research officer at the Institute for the History of Georgian Literature); the Jewish ‘refusenik’ brothers Isai and Grigory Goldstein; Teymuraz Dzhanelidze, a singing teacher at the musical technical college in the town of Rustavi; and Victor Rtskhiladze, chief inspector for the protection of monuments attached to the Georgian Ministry of Culture.

At the beginning of March 1977, V. Rtskhiladze was dismissed from his job.


On 5 January 1977, Yury Mnyukh joined the Moscow Helsinki group. On 14 January Naum Meiman joined.


After the arrest of N. Rudenko, Pyotr Vins (the son of Georgy Vins) joined the Ukrainian Helsinki group.


In summer 1976, the Pentecostalists of Nakhodka (Primorsky Region) appealed to the Moscow Helsinki group to direct the attention of world public opinion to their problems. On a mission for the Moscow group in December 1976 Lydia Voronina visited two communities of Pentecostalists — in Nakhodka and in the settlement of Starotitarovskaya (Krasnodar Region).

Many materials brought back by Voronina were lost in the January 1977 searches at the homes of members of the Group (see CCE 44.2). Therefore, her report gives only a general picture of the life of the Pentecostalists and contains almost no figures or specific facts (see section “Persecution of Believers”, CCE 44.20).


At the beginning of January, a “Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes” was set up under the auspices of the Moscow Helsinki group. It is composed of the Muscovites Vyacheslav Bakhmin, Irina Kaplun, Alexander Podrabinek and Felix Serebrov, and Dzhemma Babich (Kvachevskaya) from Leningrad. The representative of the Moscow Helsinki group on the Working Commission is P. G. Grigorenko. S. V. Kallistratova advises the commission on legal matters.

The postal address of the commission is: 117334 Moscow, Vorobevskoe shosse 5, flat 37, Irina Kaplun. Telephone: 137-69-32. For the activities of the Working Commission see section “The Release of Vladimir Borisov”, CCE 44.19.


On 8 January, the leader of the Moscow Helsinki group Yu. Orlov published a “Proposal for an International Conference on the Declassification of Information”. As a first stage Orlov proposes that information on natural disasters, epidemics, criminality, living conditions and violations of obligations on human rights should not be classified as State secrets.


In January, the Moscow Helsinki group compiled and conveyed to the public and to heads of governments documents Nos. 16-19 [Note 1]:

  • No. 16, “On reprisals against the Groups to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR.” Records of searches are given in an appendix.
  • No. 17, “On prisoners of conscience who need to be released urgently because of the condition of their health.” A list of seriously ill political prisoners (51 names) is given in an appendix.
  • No. 18, “On the position of the Meskhetians” (see CCEs 41, 43).
  • No. 19, “On the disruption by the Soviet authorities of the international symposium on Jewish culture” (see CCE 43). A number of facts from this document which were not included in Chronicle 43 are appended below.


All foreign scholars invited to the symposium were refused entry visas. Tourists who were suspected of being interested in the symposium also received refusals. Three citizens of the USA who announced to official Soviet persons their intention to visit the symposium were deported from the USSR.

In connection with the symposium there were searches at the homes of 21 people, amongst them 15 out of the 30 members of the Organizing Committee (10 out of the 13 Moscow members); moreover, at the home of the chairman of the Organizing Committee, Veniamin Fain, there were four searches, and at the homes of the deputy chairman, Leonid Volvovsky, Vladimir Prestin and Pavel Abramovich — two searches each. Besides the members of the Organizing Committee, another six people were summoned to the interrogations at the procuracies in Moscow, Leningrad, Tallinn, Kishinev, Vilnius, Tbilisi, Riga and Minsk.

On 21 December 1976, the opening day of the symposium, all the members of the Organizing Committee and another seven people were arrested in Moscow. Members of the Organizing Committee from other towns were not allowed go to Moscow. The brothers Isai and Grigory Goldstein, who had arrived in Moscow earlier, were arrested and deported to Tbilisi. Alexander Smelyansky, who managed to come from Kiev and to take part in the one-day symposium, was dismissed from his job. Two people received written warnings from the KGB in connection with the symposium, and four people besides the members of the Organizing Committee received oral warnings. 17 people had their telephones disconnected. The members of the Organizing Committee and another five people were held under house arrest for three days and nights.


In connection with the forthcoming Belgrade [CSCE] conference in June the Moscow Helsinki Group on 20 February 1977 addressed the governments of the countries which participated in the Helsinki conference with a proposal to set up without delay an international commission for checking violations of the Helsinki agreements in the humanitarian sphere. The commission should include representatives of the participant countries, as well as representatives of independent groups. The commission should be guaranteed all facilities for checking facts on the spot and receiving necessary information …

The implementation of international agreements is not the internal affair of this or that country. This matter needs effective international supervision.


In March 1977, the Moscow Helsinki Group published the document “Three Months before Belgrade”.

In the first section, “A General Evaluation”, it says:

“The development of events since August 1976, when the Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements published the survey ‘A year after Helsinki’, has shown the full correctness of the opinion then held on the problem of human rights in the USSR. In particular, the evaluation expressed then — ‘The Soviet government does not intend to implement its international obligations on human rights’ — has been confirmed, as well as the conclusion formulated by us in August 1976 that the Final Act of the European conference is being interpreted by an ever-greater number of people as a juridical basis in the struggle for human rights …

“In the USSR, the activity of individuals and groups of citizens who base themselves on the Final Act of the Helsinki conference in their struggle for civil rights is also continuing to grow. The stream of letters from citizens of the USSR to various Soviet bodies and to the public groups to assist the implementation of the Helsinki agreements is increasing, as well as letters to international organizations on the situation of political prisoners, psychiatric persecution, violations in matters of freedom of conscience, freedom of religious faith, freedom of exchange of information, and on violations of the right to emigrate.”

The second section tells of the reprisals of the Soviet authorities against the Helsinki group. The section “Future Activity of the Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements” says:

“For their part, the members of the Moscow group will as before, despite reprisals, inform world opinion of all the violations of international obligations on human rights accepted by the government of the USSR. The fruitfulness of the initiative of Yu. F. Orlov in setting up the Moscow group is borne out by many facts, in particular by the appearance of similar groups in the Ukraine, Lithuania and Georgia. In response to the authorities’ reprisals and the arrest of two of its leading colleagues, the Group announces the co-optation of two new members: candidate of physical-mathematical sciences Yu. V. Mnyukh, and professor and Doctor of Physical-mathematical sciences, N. N. Meiman. Member of the group L. M. Alexeyeva, in connection with her departure from the USSR, will fulfil duties as a representative of the group abroad. In this way, despite the reprisals of recent months, the group continues to work …

“In connection with the danger which now threatens the arrested members of the group, and also in connection with the campaign of libel being conducted by the organs of mass information, the group has asked certain individuals now abroad — Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Andrei Amalrik, Vladimir Bukovsky, Lev Kvachevsky, Leonid Plyushch and Valery Chalidze — to explain the true aims and character of the work of the group during personal meetings both with official representatives of the countries which signed the Final Act, and with representatives of Western opinion and political parties.”



[1] For full texts in English, see Reports of Helsinki-Accord Monitors in the Soviet Union, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, US Congress, Washington, DC 20515, vol. 1 (document 17), vol. 2 (documents 18 and 19), and The Right to Know, the Right to Act: Documents of Helsinki Dissent from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, same publisher, May 1978 (document 18).