The Arrest of Shcharansky, 15 March 1977 (44.9)

<< No 44 : 16 March 1977 >>

On 4 March there appeared in Izvestiya (Moscow evening edition) an “Open letter from S. L. Lipavsky” to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, to the UN and the US Congress, which contained a direct accusation of espionage against Anatoly Shcharansky and Alexander Lerner. In an afterword to Lipavsky’s letter, “The CIA: Spies and “Human Rights”, Slepak and Rubin were also named.

The same day searches were carried out at the home of an acquaintance of Shcharansky, teacher of philosophy Tatyana Panchenko (several materials of the Helsinki group were confiscated from her) and at the homes of five Jewish activists — A. Lerner, B. Chernobylsky, D. Beilina, I. Nudel and M. Kremen.

At the searches, lists of Jews who had been refused exit visas on “security grounds” were confiscated. Materials confiscated from Lerner were not itemized in the record but put together into parcels and sealed. At Nudel’s her correspondence with the authorities about prisoners and her correspondence with prisoners were taken. Simultaneously with the search at Chernobylsky’s, two Jewish families living on the same stairway as he, with whom Chernobylsky has no contact, were searched.

On 5 March, Slepak, Shcharansky, Lerner, Chernobylsky, Beilina, Nudel and Kremen issued a statement to the press, in which Lipavsky’s letter and the newspaper commentary on it were described as crude libel (see section “Letters and Statements”, CCE 44.26).

The same day the proprietor of the flat which Lipavsky was renting for himself and Shcharansky was interrogated. (Lipavsky had stopped frequenting the flat about a week before the appearance of the article. It should also be noted that a month before this Lipavsky had signed a letter in defence of A. Ginzburg). The proprietor was told that both her lodgers were spies. At the end of the conversation, she signed some papers without looking at them.

On 6 March, a search was made at her flat. The search took place in the absence of Shcharansky and Lipavsky.

The ceiling was broken, floorboards were taken up. Rolls of the Torah, almost all of Shcharansky’s books in Russian, English and Hebrew, including a Hebrew-Russian dictionary and a collection of Decrees of the Russian Empire concerning Jews, published at the end of the last century, were confiscated. Blank paper and clean carbons, notebooks, all personal letters, photographs of relatives and friends of Shcharansky and undeveloped photos, also of relatives and friends, were confiscated. In addition, the diploma, work-book and certain other documents of Shcharansky and his wife (now living in Israel) were confiscated. They took 18 roubles in certificates, a portable tape recorder, another recorder, an electric alarm-clock, and lenses from a camera (the camera itself was being repaired). The detectives took the search record away with them. They told the proprietor that Shcharansky could enquire about his things in the reception room of the head office of the KGB.

Beginning on 4 March, Shcharansky was constantly accompanied on the street by a convoy of eight agents and two cars. Operations men stood on guard round the clock at the actual door of Slepak’s fiat, where Shcharansky was living during this time.

On the evening of 15 March Shcharansky went down to the entrance to see off two foreign journalists and to post a letter to his wife. The journalists were pushed aside and Shcharansky was seized at the entrance. What charge has been brought against him is not known. Shcharansky is in the KGB investigation prison in Lefortovo.


Anatoly Borisovich Shcharansky is 29. In 1971 he graduated from the Moscow Physical-Technical Institute. When specialization began in his senior years at the institute, Shcharansky started to study mathematics in accordance with an individual programme and he had no relation to any secret research. After graduation from the institute, he worked as programmer in an open institute — the All-Union Oil Research Institute. In 1973 he gave in his documents for an exit visa to Israel and since then has regularly received refusals. In 1975 he was dismissed from work. After this he worked as a private secretary for scientists and at the same time gave private lessons.

In 1974, hoping that it would make the departure of her husband easier, Shcharansky’s wife — Natalya Shtiglits — left for Israel.

Having himself been refused, Shcharansky occupied himself both with general problems of the departure of Jews from the Soviet Union and with the affairs of specific families. He was regularly sentenced to 15 days in prison for taking part in collective actions by ‘refuseniks’.

Since the summer of 1976 Shcharansky has been an active member of the Moscow Helsinki group. His work in the group concerned, for the most part, problems of emigration from the Soviet Union. Since he knew English well, Shcharansky was constantly in touch with foreign journalists and gave them information about the Jewish movement for emigration and the work of the Helsinki group.


On 16 March a press conference was organized at which A.D. Sakharov, the Helsinki Group, representatives of the Jewish emigration movement, the Christian Committee for the Defence of Believers’ Rights and representatives of the Pentecostalists made statements in defence of Shcharansky.

A.D. Sakharov said in his address:

“… Shcharansky lived such an open life that it completely precluded any kind of secret activity. He spoke openly against the violation of the right to emigrate, and against other violations of human rights. He openly joined the Helsinki group and openly met foreign correspondents and guests from abroad … I am convinced that it was precisely for his boldness and openness, for his consistent, humanitarian and honest position that Shcharansky has been chosen as the latest victim.”