The trial of Poresh, 23-25 April 1980 (57.1)

<<No 57 : 3 August 1980>>

From 23 to 25 April the Leningrad City Court, presided over by a vice-chairman of the Leningrad City Court, N. S. Isakova (CCEs 1, 12, 16, 20, 35, 53), heard the case of Vladimir PORESH (b. 1949, arrested on 1 August 1979, CCE 54), charged under Article 70 of the Russian Criminal Code. The prosecutor was Leningrad Deputy Procurator 1. V. Katukova (CCEs 12, 16, 17, 20, 35). Poresh refused a barrister and spoke in his own defence.

The trial

At the beginning of the first court session Poresh protested against persecution of the following for their religious convictions: A. Ogorodnikov (CCEs 51, 52, 55), T. Shchipkova (CCE 56), V. Popkov (CCE 56), V. Burtsev (CCE 56), L. Regelson (CCE 55), S. Yermolayev (CCE 54), G. Yakunin (CCE 54), D. Dudko (CCE 56) and V. Kapitanchuk (CCE 56).

In the indictment Poresh was charged with producing the collection Bulletin (CCE 46 [pp 43-4]); producing, possessing and circulating the journal Community [Obshchina] (CCEs 49, 51); writing the letters “To Our Czech Friends”, “To the Youth of the West”, and to A. Solzhenitsyn (the first two letters, according to the indictment, were printed in the “White emigre newspaper Russkaya Mysl, an organ of the NTS”), and producing a photocopy of Solzhenitsyn’s book The Oak and the Calf. The indictment also stated that Poresh “had set himself the goal of subverting the Soviet system and talked about restoring the monarchy”.

Poresh’s testimony

In his speech Poresh spoke about the founding in 1974 of the “Christian Seminar on Problems of the Religious Renaissance in Russia” and about the persecution of its members (CCEs 41, 43, 46, 49, 52), He admitted that in March 1977 he had compiled the Bulletin, which contained, in addition to material on the seminars, some articles which he had written earlier, including those mentioned in the indictment. Poresh denied that the articles contained slander of the Soviet system, saying that notwithstanding repeated requests on his part, the criteria by which they were defined as anti-Soviet had not been explained to him. Poresh recounted further that he had passed the Bulletin on to A. Ogorodnikov, who was in hospital, and that the only copy was confiscated during a specially organized “sanitary inspection” (CCE 46).

By June 1977 Poresh had written a series of articles for the journal Community, which the members of the seminar had decided to issue instead of the Bulletin; the first issue of Community was numbered No. 2. Materials for Community No. 2 were confiscated during a search of the home of T. Shchipkova (CCE 49), Poresh told how he had gathered all the articles and notes remaining in his possession, supplemented them with new material, and then republished Community in 18 copies. Poresh said that he had asked S. Busov to put the journal on film. At Poresh’s request 14 copies of Community No. 2 were bound by V. Gusakov. Sometime later Poresh began to compile Community No. 3. Poresh said that he and V. Popkov had typed almost all the material on a typewriter borrowed from S. Busov. Poresh renounced the evidence he had given during the pre-trial investigation that the article “The Trial-Farce of A. Ogorodnikov” in Community No. 2 had been written by V. Sokolov, and also that he, Poresh, had given Regelson a letter to Solzhenitsyn and the journal Community on film to send abroad.

In their questioning of the accused, the Judge and the Procurator were chiefly concerned with the connections of the seminar and of Poresh personally with foreigners and with Solzhenitsyn. Regarding the letter to Solzhenitsyn, Poresh said that it contained a description of the seminar. He added that the letter contained a request to put the seminar in touch with Christian youth groups abroad. Poresh stated that in general he shared Solzhenitsyn’s views on Marxism- Leninism; he sees the [1917] Great October Socialist Revolution as a great tragedy for Russia. He said:

“It is written in the Constitution of the USSR that the ultimate goal of socialist society is Communism, that is, the creation of a godless state. As a Christian, of course I am against this kind of state, and of course, in this sense I was undermining it. The Kingdom of God cancels out Communism.”

In answer to the question: “Did he have the opportunity to make his confession and take communion during the pre-trial investigation?” Poresh replied “Yes”. After the questioning of the accused, the witnesses were questioned.

Witnesses

O. Okhapkin stated that Community No. 2 was compiled by Poresh, Ogorodnikov and himself. He recounted in detail the extent of the participation of each in the production of the journal and added that it contained no slander.

Busov denied having photographed Community No. 2; Poresh again stated that he had asked Busov to do so, and that the latter had made the film. Busov replied that he had photographed some pages in a sheaf, not a journal. He was not aware of the contents of the papers.

B. Dymov testified that together with Busov he had photographed a typed text without reading it.

Popkov, who was brought from camp to the trial, gave a detailed account of his own and Poresh’s participation in producing Community No 3 He stated that Regelson was meant to send the film abroad.

T. Lebedeva (CCEs 54, 56) stated, in reply to the Judge’s question, that Poresh had not given her the journal Community.

Poresh said that he had taken the second issue of the journal to Lebedeva’s flat, where he had “put it on the table”.

V. Kovalenko (CCE 55) said that Poresh had not given him anything to sign, nor shown him any journal.

Gusakov testified that he had bound 14 copies of some typed text for Poresh, for which he had received 28 roubles.

Ogorodnikov’s wife E. Levashova testified that Poresh had given her his article “A Walk through Moscow” to read.

I. Martcnov said that he had asked Poresh to show him Community and had read the literary section of the journal; he did not consider the journal to be anti-Soviet.

P* Kulagin affirmed that Poresh had shown him the second issue and material for the third issue of Community. In addition, he said that he had seen a filmed text of Solzhenitsyn’s book The Oak and the Calf in Lazutkin’s flat (CCE 54), and Community No. 2 at Lebedeva’s.

A, Golovushkin confirmed that Poresh had given him the book The Oak and the Calf. To the question whether Poresh had conversations of an anti-Soviet nature with him, he replied that he did not remember. Golovushkin explained that the evidence he had given on this subject during the pre-trial investigation was the result of acute depression.

A. Arro testified that Poresh had spoken of the necessity of freeing the Church from State control, and of ours being a totalitarian state. Arro said that he had heard from “reliable sources” that everyone who had anything to do with Poresh would be put in prison. For this reason, he, Arro, had sent a statement to the KGB:

V. Yu. Poresh held anti-Soviet conversations with me, defaming everything we hold sacred. If Poresh comes in contact with people who are less mature politically, he may cause a great deal of harm.

I request that his activities be brought to the attention of the KGB organs and stopped, because if this is not done, something terrible might happen.

(This statement was written two months before proceedings were instituted against Poresh.)

The witnesses were asked many questions about Ogorodnikov.

S. Shuvalov of Ufa (CCEs 43, 44) said that Ogorodnikov had given him a collection of issues of the journal Posev over several years, Kontinent and The Gulag Archipelago to read. Shuvalov renounced the evidence he had given during the pre-trial investigation that Poresh called on people to overthrow the Soviet regime and restore the monarchy. Shuvalov said that Ogorodnikov referred to Solzhenitsyn as a pretender to the throne. Isakova asked whether Poresh and Ogorodnikov shared the same ideas, and afterwards specified: “That is, what one says, the other might say?” Shuvalov replied: “Yes”.

The witness Ilyn (Kalinin) confirmed that Ogorodnikov had given him a summary of Community and his article.

Levashova was asked whether Ogorodnikov hadn’t spoken to her about publishing the journal. In reply Levashova asked: “Whose case is being tried in this court — Ogorodnikov’s or Poresh’s?”

The testimonies of G. Podosokorskaya and I. Kanysheva, who did not appear in court, were read out during the trial. Podosokorskaya had testified that she had typed texts included in Community for Poresh, and that she had read the journal and Poresh’s article “A Walk through Moscow”. Kanysheva (a nurse at Moscow City Hospital No. 4) had confirmed that books and articles of an anti-Soviet nature had been taken from Ogorodnikov, and that she had discovered them during a sanitary inspection and handed them over to the Head Doctor.

T. Goricheva (CCEs 55, 56; see also “The Right to Leave” in this issue) also did not appear at the trial. Poresh confirmed the evidence he had given during the pre-trial investigation that he had given Goricheva a copy of Community.

After the witnesses had been questioned, Poresh petitioned the court to conduct an expert examination to determine whether the texts with which he was charged were of an anti-Soviet and slanderous nature. No such examination was carried out.

Closing speeches

Procurator Katukova stated that the CIA, in supporting reactionary emigre groups, was carrying out diversionary work against the Soviet system:

“The cornerstone of their activities is internal diversion and the use of unstable elements for their treacherous purposes. By starting a propaganda campaign about so-called “human rights” and attempting to expose alleged persecution of believers in our country, certain Western groups try to cover up the repressive actions of their own henchmen. They stop at nothing, using for their purposes rabid anti-Soviet agitators and slanderers — Solzhenitsyn, who was expelled from the Soviet Union for his criminal activities, Krasnov-Levitin and others.”

Elsewhere in her speech for the prosecution Katukova said:

“Attempts to restore bourgeois ideology under the guise of Christianity include the use of works by the reactionary emigre activists N. Berdyaev, S. Bulgakov and G. Fedotov.”

Then, after enumerating all the episodes mentioned in the indictment and stating that the guilt of the accused had been proven in full, Katukova suggested that it be taken into account that Poresh “is being tried for the first time, and during the pre-trial investigation gave evidence permitting the truth on the episodes covered by the case to be ascertained’, and asked that he be sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in a strict-regime camp, followed by five years in exile.

In his defence speech Poresh stated that his activities were not anti-Soviet in nature. He denied the Procurator’s assertion that he had acted under the direction of foreign centres. He said:

“In essence I am being sentenced for my beliefs. If ours is a totalitarian state, I have indeed broken the law by having my own beliefs, which 1 never concealed, and which I spoke about honestly and openly. I just do not understand how I could be put in prison. What I have done is the natural result of my convictions. According to the laws of our country I should have sat quietly, without a word; but for a Christian it is not enough to perform rites, we cannot restrict ourselves to this, we need to address the whole world.”

In his final words, Poresh said:

“Here you are, you have witnessed the trial, you have acquainted yourselves with all the materials. I do not ask for leniency; that is against my principles. The Citizen Procurator has requested a short sentence for me. I would ask for more, but I understand that that would be too great an honour for me. There are people who have done more for the Church than I have, I am glad that I am being sentenced under this article and on the basis of the materials to be found in the case file.”

His sentence: five years’ strict-regime camp and three years exile.

*

Relatives of Poresh attended the trial; his friends were allowed in only for the reading of the judgment. After they started to shout, “Christ is risen!”, “Volodya [affectionate form of Vladimir], we’re proud of you!”, “Volodya, we love you!”, they were pushed out. In the corridor, Poresh’s friends sang an Easter hymn.