The Arrest of Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Merab Kostava, 7 April 1978 (45.9)

<<No 45 : 25 May 1977>>

On 23 March, the Tbilisi newspaper Dawn of the East printed an anonymous article, “Who benefits from this?” On 24 March, the article was republished in Georgian in the newspaper Komunisti. The same day Z. Gamsakhurdia was expelled from the Writers’ Union. On 25 March Zviad Gamsakhurdia issued a “Statement to the Press”:

“On 23 and 24 March there appeared in the Tbilisi newspapers Dawn of the East and Konninisti an anonymous article, ‘Who benefits from this?’, in which the activity of Radio Liberty is described. After prolonged abuse of this radio station the author or authors mention my name and try to link my activities with that radio station.

“In particular they assert that I use this radio station to disseminate slanders against the KGB. Obviously, they have in mind the fact that this radio station often broadcasts my articles and statements published in samizdat and in the Western press, and also in the journals ‘The Golden Fleece’ and ‘Georgian Herald’, of which I am editor. The author or authors also use the fact that I am personally acquainted with one of the employees of this radio station, the Georgian emigre N. Sharia. Slanderously distorting reality, as is the custom of the Soviet press, they also assert that I allegedly make my utterances from Munich, whereas in fact I am categorically forbidden to make any visits abroad, even as a tourist. The journalists from the KGB have even lied to the extent of saying that I am allegedly ‘generously paid’ by this radio station.

“I declare before the whole world that I have never sent any materials to this radio station by any channels, and if its employees have somehow got hold of samizdat circulated in the Soviet Union and abroad, where my materials have also been published, this took place independently of me. Thus, whatever correspondence or telephone conversations I have had with N. Sharia, these have concerned such questions as, for example, invitations from the universities of Munich and London, commemoration by Georgian emigrants of my father K. Gamsakhurdia, and so forth.

“The dirty libel referred to above is needed by the authorities at this time to prepare the ground for taking vengeance on the members of the Georgian Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreement in the USSR, a group which includes myself and my friends. As has recently been confirmed, this is a favourite device of the KGB: to obscure the issues around people such as ourselves.

“I strongly protest against the publication of the above-mentioned libel and call on all people of good will to raise their voices against the slanders and tyranny of the KGB in the Soviet Union.”


On 1 April, the newspaper Komunisti wrote: “The day before yesterday an expanded meeting of the rectorate of Tbilisi University look place… at which the slanderous and provocative assertions of Zviad Gamsakhurdia about the university and particular professors and teachers were discussed.” (Zviad Gamsakhurdia had accused them of cooperation with the KGB — Chronicle.) According to the newspaper, it was asserted at this meeting that Gamsakhurdia “carried out the assignments of foreign intelligence services”. The same issue of the newspaper printed a letter to the editor from Professor V. Kvachakhia, “Bring the Slanderers and Provocateurs to Account! “

The same day the newspaper Literaturuli Sakartvelo published an article, “Do not Bear False Witness!” signed by David V, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the rector of the Mtskheta seminary, Metropolitan Gaioz, and two other bishops. (In 1972-73 a group of Georgian intellectuals publicized their revelations about the rigging of the election of David V, and about corruption and graft in the Patriarchate, accusing Bidzina Keratishvili, who had become Bishop Gaioz, and senior members of the KGB of being the organizers, see CCE 34.)


On 5 April, in the Institute of the History of Georgian Literature of the Georgian SSR Academy of Sciences, where Gamsakhurdia had latterly been working, a meeting was held at which he was “admonished”.

On these days, a leaflet went round Tbilisi containing accusations against Gamsakhurdia. “Representatives of the Georgian intelligentsia” came to his home and expressed “indignation at his behaviour”.

On 6 April in Tbilisi Musical College no, 3, where Merab Kostava taught, a meeting of the teachers’ council was held at which attempts were made to persuade Kostava to sign a ‘recantation’. Kostava objected that he had certain moral principles which he did not propose to abandon: “You yourselves would not believe me!”

Merab Kostava, 1939-1989


On 7 April, the leader of the Georgian Helsinki Group, member of the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in Georgia and member of the Soviet group of Amnesty International, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, member of the Georgian Helsinki Group Victor Rtskhiladze and member of the Action Group Merab Kostava were arrested.

On the morning of 7 April Zviad Gamsakhurdia went to work. An hour or two later a large group of KGB officials broke into his house, opening doors with their own keys and, not saying a word to his household (only Gamsakhurdia’s wife, her 8-month-old child, and her sister were at home), they started a search. During the search, objects and documents were taken without any record being made. The members of the family did not see a search record. On the following days KGB officials came every day to Gamsakhurdia’s house and, in the absence of members of the family, continued to take things away. They took from the house books, valuables and documents. When the ‘searches’ had ended, it transpired that the archives of Gamsakhurdia’s late father, the classic writer of Georgian literature K. Gamsakhurdia, and the collection of weapons built up by him had been taken from the house.

On 14 April 1978, Andrei Sakharov, Pyotr Grigorenko and Sophia Kalistratova sent a statement to the USSR Procurator-General. Describing how the ‘searches’ in Zviad Gamsakhurdia’s house had been carried out, they wrote:

“Such methods of investigation, grossly violating the norms established by law and the guarantees of the rights of the accused, turn searches and the removal of evidence into a kind of legalized robbery.

“We insistently demand the urgent and objective verification of the information set out above and the speedy adoption of measures for the elimination of arbitrary lawlessness and the restoration of legality.”


In view of his recent heart trouble V. Rtskhiladze was released on 11 April on a guarantee not to leave town. He has already been summoned for lengthy interrogations (at first, he was summoned daily).


Members of the Moscow Helsinki Group and also T. Khodorovich, Z. Grigorenko, A. Lavut, T. Velikanova, I. Melchuk, R. Galetsky and V. Turchin have declared:

“Repressions against the human rights movement and especially against the Helsinki groups are being continued and extended. These actions on the eve of the Belgrade conference bear witness to the fact that the Soviet government is totally ignoring the humanitarian articles of the Helsinki agreement.

“We call on the community of nations signatory to the Helsinki agreement to support our demand for the speedy release of Gamsakhurdia and Kostava and an end to the repressions against the human rights movement.”

The Christian Committee for the Defence of Believers’ Rights has also spoken out in Moscow in defence of Z. Gamsakhurdia and M. Kostava (see “Letters and Statements”, CCE 45.19).