The Shcharansky Case (45.5)

<<No 45 : 25 May 1977>>

On 18 March, three days after the arrest of A. Shcharansky, 28 activists of the Jewish movement sent a letter to the International Tribunal on the Shtern Case (CCE 44):

“We had no time to experience a feeling of relief in connection with the release from prison of Dr Shtern before news of a fresh arrest was received …A. Shcharansky and a number of other Jewish ‘refuseniks’ are charged with spying for the U S A …

“In its monstrous absurdity… and in its possible consequences this charge recalls the notorious ‘case of the doctors’ of 1952 and the well-known Dreyfus affair of the end of the last and beginning of this century. These fears are further confirmed by the fact that the Shcharansky case has been started against a background of sharply increasing so-called anti-Zionist propaganda: articles in newspapers and journals, and films on television and in the cinema proclaim ‘Zionist crimes’ and ‘Zionist genocide’, hold forth about ‘an international Zionist plot’ and the ‘struggle of international Zionism against the forces of peace and progress’. Rumours spread round Moscow that the January explosions in the Metro and the February fire in the Hotel Rossiya were the work of Zionists. There are dozens, even hundreds of lectures on the same theme in institutions and enterprises. All this creates a dangerously explosive situation and the Shcharansky case acquires in this context a yet more ominous meaning.

“In this situation we need your help more than ever — the help of scientists and religious figures, intellectuals and artists, the help of ordinary people and of all those who understand what consequences, harmful to peace, such a development in events may involve. And our first task is to save an innocent man …

“We consider it vital that the International Tribunal on the Shtern case should also consider the case of Shcharansky …”


On 22 March, the school friend and fellow-student of Shcharansky, physicist Yury Yarym-Agayev, sent a letter to the Procuracy of the USSR, the editors of Izvestiya and editors of foreign newspapers. After talking about Shcharansky he writes in conclusion:

“On 15 March Anatoly Shcharansky was detained by the authorities. It is by now already obvious that this was not a simple detention, but an arrest. Anatoly Shcharansky — a criminal? From everything I have said about this man it should be clear to you: such a metamorphosis appears to me to be absolutely incredible. For this reason, if Shcharansky is not set free in the near future, I shall insist on being presented with the most rigorous proof of his guilt and on attending the trial, if one takes place. I consider that I have a right to this, regardless of whether other friends and relations of Anatoly show a similar interest in his fate.

“I am writing to the editors of Izvestiya because this newspaper was the first to “have the audacity” to incriminate A, Shcharansky with a criminal offence. It is incomprehensible how the government newspaper News of the Councils of Workers’ Deputies [the full title of Izvestiya] can in effect make serious criminal charges against someone before the case has been examined in court. If the editors consider it possible to publish private opinions, then let this letter also be published.

“As I am not convinced in advance that my letter will be quickly published, and as meanwhile public opinion is being formed about Shcharansky both here and in the West, I consider it essential to convey this letter as soon as possible to the widest circles of the public.”


On 24 March Shcharansky’s mother, Ida Petrovna Milgrom, sent a letter to the Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, N. V. Podgorny. Having told how Anatoly had been applying for permission to leave for Israel since 1973, and that his wife had gone there in 1974, she writes:

“I am writing to request you to show humanity and permit my son to go to Israel and re-join his wife. In this way the immediate problems of my son’s life will be resolved and you will give us, his aged parents who have lost during this time both peace and health, the possibility of peacefully living out the few years that remain to us.”

After the arrest of her son I. P. Milgrom wrote repeatedly to the KGB to find out under which article her son was being charged. She was sent from one reception room to another and told nothing. In the end, on 31 March, she was received in Lefortovo by an official of the investigations department of the KGB (attached to the USSR Council of Ministers), V. I. Volodin. According to Volodin, he was supervising Shcharansky’s case. Volodin said that Shcharansky had committed a particularly dangerous crime against the state, that the investigation of his case would take a long time, and that until the end of the investigation his mother would receive no further information.


At the beginning of April, the brother of A. Shcharansky’s wife, Mikhail Stiglitz, who is living abroad, asked the Soviet Embassy in England under which article his brother was being charged. In reply it was suggested that he read S. Lipavsky’s article in Izvestiya of 5 March.


On 2 April in the town of Istra (Moscow Region) a search was conducted in the flat of Shcharansky’s parents, where he is registered. Anatoly’s driving licence and military card were taken and also telegrams from his wife which had arrived after his arrest, typewritten copies of the verses of O. Mandelstam, E. Yevtushenko and K. Simonov, the book by Abram Tertz (Andrei Sinyavsky) Walks with Pushkin, and the handbook Israel: Facts and Statistics.


On 7 April I. P. Milgrom sent the head of the investigations department of the KGB, Lieut.-General Volkov, a statement in which she again asked to be informed under what article her son was being charged.

On 9 April she wrote to the deputy procurator of Moscow responsible for supervising the organs of state security, Yu. V. Stasenkov. Recounting her conversation with Volodin, I. P. Milgrom writes:

“… I am not a legal expert, but it is quite clear to me that a man should not be declared guilty before he has been tried. I am very worried by such a biased approach to my son on the part of the investigators. I wish to know whether this approach has been reflected in the conditions of my son’s imprisonment, and for this reason I ask to be allowed a visit to my son so that I may convince myself that he is alive and well. When my request is considered, I ask that it be taken into account that I, his mother, am 70 years old and that his father is 73.”

The Moscow procuracy sent this statement to the USSR Procuracy. From there it was sent to the KGB. On 20 April 1. P. Milgrom was summoned to the district division of the KGB; there she was told that there was no provision for visits to people under investigation.


In the West, the following are speaking out in defence of Shcharansky: a group of French mathematicians headed by Laurent Schwartz, the ‘Committee of Concerned Scientists’ and the Courant Scientific Research Institute in the USA, and the “Committee of the 35” in England (a women’s organization set up in England for aid to Jewish ‘refuseniks’ in the USSR; at the time of its formation it had 35 members).

On 21 April, a 25,000-strong demonstration by Jewish communities was held outside the Soviet Embassy in London in defence of Shcharansky.

On 22 April TASS responded to it with Sergei Bulychev’s commentary ‘A Zionist Sortie’, which was transmitted to the West:

“… As described in the Soviet press, Shcharansky received from a certain Lerner the job of collecting information on Soviet organizations and industrial enterprises working on defence.

“The question of helping the CIA to receive secret information on scientific and technical military matters was always on the agenda of the group of which Shcharansky was a member …“

At the beginning of May, a meeting of many thousands in defence of Shcharansky was held in New York, and an 80,000-strong demonstration took place in Israel.


In its issue of 8 May (7 May in Moscow) Izvestiya published an account of a press conference at which S. Lipavsky again repeated the accusation of espionage against Lerner, Slepak and Shcharansky.

In reply about 90 Jews who were trying to leave for Israel appealed to the world Jewish community:

“… The tag has already been fixed — ‘spy’, ‘traitor’ and ‘outcast’ are synonyms for ‘Jew’. And it is not far from here to a well-publicized trial and the uncontrolled explosion of the ‘popular masses’.”


On 12 May I. P. Milgrom sent a request to the procurator of Moscow city, M. G. Maikov, to allow a defence lawyer to take part in her son’s case at the stage of the pre-trial investigation (according to Article 47 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure this is allowed with the procurator’s permission; however, the Chronicle does not know of a single precedent).

In mid-May I. P. Milgrom sent the French defence lawyer R. Rappoport a request to undertake the defence of her son.


Between 10 and 18 May three well-known Jewish ‘refuseniks’ were summoned to Lefortovo for interrogation.

The present leader of an unofficial scientific seminar, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Mark Azbel, was interrogated four times. He signed a statement that he would not reveal to anyone the content of these interrogations. However, it is known that Azbel was asked to sign a record that had been prepared in advance for his signature. He refused.

Mathematician V. Brailovsky was interrogated three times. He signed a statement that he would not reveal the content of these proceedings. During the last interrogation Brailovsky was threatened with prison, after which he refused to take any further part in the investigation. Brailovsky was threatened with physical violence.

On 12 May, the editor of the samizdat magazine Tarbut (Culture), the physicist Veniamin Fain, was summoned for interrogation. The interrogation was conducted by investigator E. K. Kasumov. Fain refused to sign an undertaking to keep quiet about it, on the basis that to sign might prolong the period during which he was considered to possess secret information. Apart from that he declared that he could not agree not to make details of the case known when it was being so widely publicized in the Soviet press.

With regard to Shcharansky, Fain was told only that he was charged with committing grave crimes against the state.

Fain was asked questions about Shcharansky’s life, about his acquaintances, his work in the Moscow Helsinki group, documents compiled or signed by Shcharansky, Shcharansky’s participation in the collection of information on Jewish ‘refuseniks’, and about his activity in the Moscow “aliyah” (“aliyah” is Hebrew for “one who enters” and is the name given to Jews wishing to emigrate to Israel).

Fain declined to answer a single one of these questions.

On the investigator’s table lay a heap of documents, including photographs of Shcharansky with foreign correspondents taken during some press conference or other. The investigator tried to show Fain these documents.

In the middle of the interrogation a man entered the office — judging by his tone he was highly placed. He refused to introduce himself to Fain. According to this man the question of Fain’s emigration from the Soviet Union would be decided not by OVIR but by himself personally. He advised Fain to cooperate in the investigation, otherwise Fain would not only never leave the Soviet Union but might find himself behind bars.

The next day, 13 May, Fain’s interrogation was due to continue. On his arrival at Lefortovo, he made a written complaint to the Procurator-General of the USSR about the “illegal actions of the investigator”:

“In violation of Article 158 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure the investigator did not explain to me in connection with which case I was summoned as a witness and refused to name the article of the Criminal Code and the nature of the case.

“Investigator E. K. Kasumov not only did not satisfy my lawful demands but invited into the office an official whom I did not know and who, in violation of Article 141 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was not introduced to me by the investigator, nor was his name included in the record of the interrogation, but for all this the official carried out the function of an investigator.

“It is evident that these actions of the investigator constitute a gross violation of the Code of Criminal Procedure and are inadmissible.

“In connection with the above and on the basis of Articles 141 and 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure I ask you to order KGB investigator E. K. Kasumov to observe the Code of Criminal Procedure when carrying out his activities as an investigator.

“In the event that the investigator does not inform me of the article of the Criminal Code and the nature of the criminal case in connection with which I am summoned for interrogation as a witness I refuse, on the basis of the law, to take further part in the investigation.”

As Fain’s demands were not satisfied, he refused to take part in the interrogation.


(See also the section “Letters and Statements”, CCE 45.19).