[For more about the prisoners mentioned below, see CCE 46.23]
The Perm Camps
Yevgeny Pronyuk’s state of health has sharply deteriorated; he finds it difficult to rise from his bed. Pronyuk has tuberculosis of the lungs. Before his arrest part of one of his lungs was removed and this operation delayed the progress of the tuberculosis. In the camp the disease became active again and a cavern opened up in the second lung. Pronyuk’s relatives have pleaded for his release — they received a refusal, based on “an unfavourable reference from the corrective-labour institution”.
In the middle of February, the prisoner Pedan, who was in the cooler, overheard a conversation between the camp commandant Polyakov and the prisoner Udartsev. Udartsev, a Nazi collaborator who had earlier provoked Zalmanson into a fight (CCE 45), made an offer to Polyakov to “take three others and settle accounts with the Jews’. Pedan reported this conversation to the district procurator, who then visited the camp and talked to Pedan and Polyakov.
At the beginning of 1977, an inspection commission from the regional soviet executive committee recommended that the Estonian Turu, who got 25 years for being a partisan and has served 22 years, should have the case for his release reviewed by a court.
On 5-6 June Yevgeny Sverstyuk had his ‘April’ long visit from his wife, which had been won for him by 20 hunger-striking political prisoners (CCE 45).
At the beginning of June, a delegation from “the Ukrainian public” visited the Perm camps: it consisted of S. A. Krizhanovsky, literary critic and Doctor of Philology, someone from the Znanie (Knowledge) Society and a worker from a Kiev factory who was a deputy to the Supreme Soviet. Sverstyuk refused to talk to them in Ukrainian, as they had come “in the role of KGB Majors, not as representatives of Ukraine”.
The delegation from “the Ukrainian public” also visited Camp 36. The members of the delegation visited the workshop. Afterwards they summoned Svetlichny, Kalynets, V. Marchenko, Sergiyenko and Lisovoi, one by one. The conversations — in the presence of a Perm KGB official and a representative of the camp administration — were short; the Ukrainian political prisoners did not want to talk to the delegation.
In March. P. Plumpa was deprived of a short visit because he had infringed the regime regulations.
On 10 April N. Slobodyan was put in the camp medical section, suffering from a bleeding ulcer. On 11 April, some prisoners handed in a statement to the camp commandant, asking that Slobodyan be taken to the hospital in Camp 35 in an ambulance, not in a ‘Black Maria’, as usual. On 12 April he was taken away.
At the end of April Valery Marchenko handed Doctor Titov a statement, asking to be given medicines and food sent to him by his mother. Titov refused.
On 2 May 20 political prisoners sent the USSR Procurator-General statements about the bad standard of medical care. The clinic and even the hospital were lacking in the necessary medicines, yet it was forbidden to receive them from outside; the prisoners received no dental care; the doctor Petrov was a drug addict. The statements also spoke of specific people who had been ill but had not received treatment. Previously, in response to complaints about the medical service, the camp had twice been visited by Orekhov, procurator of Chusovoi district, but nothing had changed. They also demanded that the camp should allow visits from representatives of the International Red Cross.
In the middle of June Gluzman, Demidov and Grinkov were allowed to have long visits lasting three days. This does not often happen. Usually, political prisoners are given two-day visits, sometimes only one- day visits (this is the minimum according to the law).
On 15 June, 16 people held a one-day hunger-strike to mark the start of the Belgrade conference. It is known that those who took part included Demidov, Grinkov (they interrupted their hunger-strike in the evening, when their visit from relatives began), Kalynets, Marchenko, Svetlichny, Sergiyenko and Kovalyov.
On 23 June Vasily Lisovoi should have had a visit from his wife. Two hours before she was due to leave Kiev, she received a phone-call from the KGB telling her that her husband was no longer in the camp. Vera Lisovaya travelled to Moscow and after two days of going to the Main Administration for Corrective Labour Institutions, she got to know that he had been taken to Kiev. As it later turned out, he had been transported from the camp as early as 13 June.
As in 1975 (CCE 39), Lisovoi had been transferred to Kiev for ‘re-education’. They want to get him to recant in writing, best of all in public.
The KGB have been trying for a long time to enlist the help of Vera Lisovaya. She replies that she cannot persuade her husband, a convinced communist, to re-examine his views (CCE 30),
Vera has been told that, by refusing to talk her husband round, she is encouraging his “bad behaviour’ in the camp and adding to his sufferings (Lisovoi has spent more than half of his sentence so far in the cooler or the punishment barrack). Recently, Lisovaya has also been asked to refuse parcels sent to her and her two children from the West. The subject of “presents from the enemy’ was brought up as the main reason for the most recent persecution of Lisovaya, including loss of her job (CCE 44), and also in talks with Lisovoi. He is told that, if he does not give way, a criminal case will be initiated against his wife on a charge of ‘speculation’.
On 1 July, the Lisovois were allowed a three-hour meeting in Kiev.
Ivan Svetlichny, who was working as a fireman during the last part of his term in Camp 35, was deprived of invalid status after his transfer to Camp 36 (because of a childhood accident, he has fingers missing on both hands) and sent to work in the workshop. Here he has to drag heavy boxes about and do other work he is not capable of. He is punished for not fulfilling the norm. Some political prisoners have demanded that Svetlichny should have his invalid status restored and be given light work.
After suffering a series of internal camp punishments for refusing to work on Saturdays (CCE 45) Josif Mendelevich has been sent to Vladimir prison for 3 years.
A supplementary appeal in the Kovalyov case, presented to the President of the Lithuanian SSR Supreme Court by the Moscow lawyer E. A. Reznikova at the end of 1976 (in September she studied the ‘case’; in November she met Kovalyov in the camp), has been turned down. Kovalyov himself also intends to submit a supplementary appeal, but he has been unable to obtain his notes on the case, which were confiscated from him when he was transferred from Vilnius in January 1976; he was promised that they would be sent on to the camp by post.
Alexander Sergiyenko was also deprived of his ‘case’ notes (72 extracts from the contradictory evidence given by the witnesses, notes on distortions in the court record and other comments), when he was transferred from Vladimir prison on 23 December 1976. Since September 1976 Sergiyenko’s supplementary appeal case has been in the hands of the Kiev lawyer S. Martysh, who also defended Sergiyenko at his trial (CCE 27). Martysh was not allowed to look at the “Case materials’, which are kept in the KGB archives (not at the regional court building), The archivist told him it was ‘not permitted’. The lawyer wrote out the appeal from memory and in December 1976 he applied to make an official journey to Vladimir to meet his client. Three hours before his departure, his journey was cancelled, and the appeal was sent to Sergiyenko in camp by ‘special post’. At the beginning of February Sergiyenko received it, but soon afterwards the camp administration took the appeal away from him, together with notes Sergiyenko had drafted about it. Since then, officials of the Procurator’s Office, the MVD and the Ministry of Justice have been ‘searching’ for it.
The pilot Valentin Zosimov has arrived here (see “The Right to Leave One’s Country’ in CCE 43).
Letters and Statements by Political Prisoners
The Chronicle continues to publish statements for Political Prisoners’ Day on 30 October (see CCEs 43-45).
G. Ushakov: To the Chairman of the Praesidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet (Mordovian Camp 19, 30 October 1976).
Ushakov protests against the lack of a statute for political prisoners in Soviet legislation, “in spite of the fact that such people really do exist in the USSR’.
The intolerance shown in our country towards any non-communist ideology, even towards any communist ideology which differs from the official one, leads either to blind obedience or to forcible imposition of the ruling ideology; it leads to the transformation of certain people (who do not want to obey blindly or to have any ideology imposed on them) into particularly dangerous state criminals or, more precisely, into political prisoners.
Ushakov demands a review of the sentences imposed on people who were tried for political reasons, on the basis of the Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, which is now in force, and asks that a political amnesty be declared; until this is done, the existence of political prisoners in the USSR should be acknowledged.
G. Ushakov: Open Letter to US President James Carter (2 April 1977).
Ushakov expresses his “admiration at the vigilance and firmness” which the President is showing “with regard to the question of human rights, a question which lies at the root of the whole problem of international cooperation”. He writes that the Soviet government is not fulfilling its obligations according to the Helsinki Agreement and the International Covenants on Human Rights, in particular article 19 on freedom of information, article 15 on maximum terms of punishment, and article 10 on respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of liberty and their human treatment [These references are to articles of the 1968 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the USSR in 1973].
Ushakov calls on democracies to be vigilant against totalitarianism.
S. Soldatov: To N.V. Podgorny, Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet (from Camp 19 in Mordovia, early 1977).
. , . The Supreme Court of Estonia judged me responsible for founding the Democratic Movement of Estonia and sentenced me with four co-defendants. Without wholly denying the fact that I drew the co-defendants and other people into social-political activity, I must state that our activities were not aimed at endangering the health, property or self-respect of our fellow-citizens, nor at any violence in relation to the authorities. Therefore, there is no basis, in our case, for either criminal or political charges.
Soldatov puts forward a demand for a political amnesty and a basic
improvement in the treatment of political prisoners (he gives a list of names); he writes of the criminal conviction of his son on fabricated charges (see his statement in CCE 45) and of the terrorization of his wife. As in his statement of 30 October 1976 (CCE 45), he writes that he would like to exercise the right to freedom of information and to express his religious and civic position to representatives of “Amnesty International, the UN and the press, and would like to meet them in the camp (“the place of my detention”).
The letter ends with some discussion of “the profound idea expressed by a great Russian writer: mankind has a choice before it — not peace or war, but peace or violence.”
V. Osipov: To the Procurator-General of the USSR (from Mordovian Camp 19, 22 February 1977).
Osipov protests against the punishment inflicted on R. Markosyan, M. Ravins, P. Airikyan (CCE 45) and P. Sartakov. He points out that for Markosyan, who has a stomach ulcer, the food in the cooler — bread and water, cabbage soup once every other day — is ruinous to health.
[Statement by a group of prisoners — Antonyuk, Gluzman, Kalynets, Kiirend, Kovalyov, Marchenko, Plumpa, Sverstyuk, Svetlichny, Shakhverdyan.]
The West is facing a choice which cannot be avoided, and which will determine for a long time not so much merely the political atmosphere, but the moral climate in Europe and the world. Although this choice is essentially linked with the question of political prisoners and the inalienable rights of man, it nevertheless is not primarily concerned with the fate of a few thousand hostages in camps or in the big zone” of evil, violence and falsehood. In reality, the main question is concerned with something else — how far freedom and rights are valued by those who habitually and confidently exercise them.
Before the eyes of the whole world, the irresponsible political leaders of the communist bloc brazenly disregard their international obligations and openly violate their own laws under the cover of closed trials, covering up their crimes by lying empty phrases about serving the people, and some sort of higher form of democracy.
Is the West willing, in its search for doubtful temporary security, for passing political and economic advantages, however substantial, to go on refusing to notice arbitrary repression, to feign ignorance and trustfulness once again, to smooth rough corners by means of polite phrases about the faithfulness of each of the opposing sides to their own social concepts? Does the West consider the military might and evil determination of totalitarian states sufficient reason for once more permitting criminals to lock up other people who are weaker than themselves? Let us call things by their proper names — do you consider yourselves forced by your appeasing tendency to be accessories to crimes? For a lie does not exist without those who believe it or at least pretend to believe it. Your acceptance is no less necessary to the criminals than your dollars, your indifference no less than your machinery.
Perhaps, on the contrary, the West will find the wisdom to conclude that people have no aim more important, more worthy or more urgent than to oppose coercion and the lies which veil it:
- the wisdom to defend morality and justice for all. as the only guarantee of the secure existence of the present overcrowded and intertwined world;
- the wisdom to prefer spiritual values to everyday practical needs and to defend them today, not tomorrow;
- the wisdom to disregard minute contradictions between narrow interests and to unite for the sake of a great cause.
The West must have the courage to declare firmly that blood and tears are not anybody’s internal affair, the courage not to retreat in the face of problems whose solution is not completely clear and is in any case very difficult, and to try to put an end to lawlessness at the very source from which deception and the temptation of violence are creeping out in all directions.
It must have the patience and perseverance honestly to do all it can to prevent an armed conflict and yet not retreat a single step.
It must achieve a selfless fidelity to its moral duty. This is the real choice.
Attempts are being made to convince you that despotism can be peace-loving, that leaders who employ hundreds of thousands of people inside their country in professional falsehood, slander and illegal repression will want honourably to keep their word outside the country; they tell you: “Be realistic, don’t forget how powerful we are, don’t drag morality into politics, leave it to Sunday sermons. Is it realistic to notice what we keep hidden and openly speak of it? That could make detente more difficult.’
Well, this morally straightforward choice is not perhaps easy from the point of view of traditional politics.
However, if freedom is again bartered for a price in the political game — someone else’s freedom, which your predecessors helped so many to lose, then take into account the fact that the bad habit of trading in other people’s freedom will inevitably threaten you with the loss of your own.
Yu. Litvin: To the UN Committee for the Defence of Human and Civil Rights (Komi ASSR, Corrective Labour Institution 25, 9 March 1977).
Yury Litvin (CCE 39) disagrees with the verdict in his case, which called his manuscripts libellous: these included the poetry anthology Tragic Gallery (CCE 39 was inaccurate on this point), the short story “A Worker’s Notebook”, the article “Theses on the State” and an open letter to Brezhnev about the anti-Sakharov campaign of 1973.
I wrote the truth, and only the truth, in my works and it is not my fault if it was irreconcilably antagonistic to the policies carried out by the CPSU, nor is it my fault if the truth is persecuted in our Soviet way of life.
As a proof of his innocence, Litvin quotes some of his poems, including one which the court had described as “maliciously libellous”. He expounds his views and comments on them.
In conclusion, Litvin appeals to the workers of the West:
If the Western working class makes a mistake of the kind which the Russian proletariat made in 1917, it will no longer be merely a mistake, but a crime.
On 24 April, after serving a 3-year term, Juozas Grazys (CCEs 32, 36) left Perm Camp 36 for freedom.
In June Georgy Yermakov (CCEs 36, 38, 39) was conditionally released early from Perm Camp 37, nine months before the end of his sentence.
On 2 July Mikhail Makarenko (CCEs 16, 33, 44) was released after serving an 8-year term. Before his release, he was transferred from Vladimir Prison to Leningrad. Makarenko wants to emigrate from the USSR. On the day of his release the journal Ogonyok (number 27) published A. Kostrov’s article “The Second Hypostasis of Teodor Voort’, which mentions Makarenko, among others.
In 1974 Alexander Slinin (CCE 37) from Kharkov got 3 years in camps for “refusing to serve in the army”. In the middle of 1976, he was transferred to a chemical construction plant (a conditional release with compulsory labour). In the middle of 1977, he left the USSR.
In the summer of 1975 Yakov Vinarov (CCEs 37, 38) from Kiev got 3 years in camps on the same charge. In June 1977 he received an early conditional release and left the USSR.
In December 1975 Alexander Silnitsky (CCE 38, where his surname is wrongly spelt) from Krasnodar got 2 years in camps on the same charge. A year later he was transferred to a chemical plant.
In the summer of 1975, Lev Roitburd (CCE 37) from Odessa got 2 years in camps for “resisting the police”. He was transferred from a camp to a chemical plant. On 2 July his sentence ran out.