The Trial of Nazaryan, 15 Nov – 1 Dec 1978 (51.1)

<<No 51 : 1 December 1978>>

On 1 December 1978, the Supreme Court of the Armenian SSR sentenced Robert [Khatikovich] NAZARYAN (b. 1948) under Article 65 of the Armenian Criminal Code (= Article 70, RSFSR Code) to 5 years in strict-regime camps and 2 years’ exile (the Procurator had asked for 6 + 2).

Robert Kh. Nazaryan, b. 1948

The final stage of the trial lasted from 27 November to 1 December. The trial began on 15 November 1978. On that first day none of the accused’s friends was admitted to the courtroom. Yu.D. Mkrtchyan, Nazaryan’s defence counsel, therefore refused to enter the court, and the session did not take place.

On 16 November 1978, all who wished to attend were admitted. To the audience’s surprise, however, Nazaryan then requested that the trial be postponed for a week, as he had not had time to study the case materials. The judge ruled that a week would probably not be long enough and ordered the trial to be postponed for 10 days. “Outsiders” were once again excluded from the final stage of the trial.


Criminal proceedings against Robert Nazaryan, a member of the Armenian Helsinki Group, were instituted on 20 December 1977. Two days later he was arrested (see CCE 48.25). On 29 December 1977 Nazaryan was issued with an “Order on proceedings against him as an accused” (for a week he had been a ‘suspect’).

On 22 January 1978 Nazaryan sent a statement to Brezhnev:

“The violation of my rights and those of my family, which we have been powerless to resist, was the reason for my involvement in the human rights movement in the USSR …1 ask you to intervene so that the case against me be closed, and my family and myself be allowed to leave the USSR.”

On 27 January Nazaryan sent a statement to Mikaelyan, head of the KGB in Armenia.

“With the permission of the investigator … I read a letter written by my wife Susanna Nazaryan on 29 December [1977] … From the letter of my young wife it is clear that she is in the grip of profound contradictory emotions and uncertainty, and is liable to do something rash like, for example, having an abortion, dissolving our marriage or committing suicide.”

He asked Mikaelyan to grant him a meeting with his wife, and also requests an interview with Mikaelyan to discuss the affairs of the Armenian Helsinki Group.

On I February Nazaryan was received by Mikaelyan. With respect to Nazaryan’s emigration Mikaelyan said: “You’ll sit in camp for a time, then you can emigrate in the standard way with a visa.”

Nazaryan: “Why was I not arrested in the summer when I was engaged in these activities?”

Mikaelyan: “Because you were not afraid then, whereas now you are married.”

The meeting lasted half an hour.

On 22 February, Nazaryan had a meeting with his wife and mother. On 3 April, Nazaryan sent Demirchyan, Chairman of the Constitution Commission of the Armenian Supreme Soviet, a statement containing draft texts for two articles of the Constitution (Article 69, Armenia’s right of secession from the USSR; Article 5, On referenda). He also requested the release of Zograbyan, Airikyan, Markosyan and Shakhverdyan.

On 4 April Nazaryan appealed to the Extraordinary Session (concerning the Constitution) of the Armenian Supreme Soviet:

“On 1 April 1977, the Armenian Group to Assist and Monitor the Implementation of the Helsinki Conference Final Act was organized in Erevan. This three-member Armenian group, which was founded on humanitarian principles and acted openly, set itself the task of seeking an amnesty for four Armenian prisoners … and also of securing satisfaction for the legal demands of those Armenian citizens whose human rights and basic freedoms have to one or another extent been violated …

“In April, May and June 1977 our Armenian Helsinki Group conducted its humanitarian activities openly …

“It is a fact that in April, May and June 1977 the activities of our Armenian Helsinki Group were not harassed, were not stopped, and, finally, were not condemned by the KGB. Is this not evidence that our group was genuinely engaged in humanitarian activities within the constitutional and legislative framework of the USSR.”

He requests the Supreme Soviet either to acquit him or to grant him and his family permission to leave the USSR.

In the former Armenian Constitution, the Armenian language was declared the official language of the Armenian Republic. This statement did not appear in the draft of the new Constitution. On 11 April Nazaryan made a second appeal to Demirchyan and suggested that the old statement concerning language remain in force (cf. CCE 49 [pp. 85-871; see also “Additions and Corrections” in this issue).

The Indictment

On 17 August Nazaryan was issued with the final list of charges (in legal terminology, a “Resolution concerning alterations and additions to the charges”). In August, the pre-trial investigation was completed. In September Nazaryan studied the case materials. The investigation was conducted by Lieutenant-Colonel A, Karumyan, Senior Investigator for cases of special importance of the Armenian KGB.

An extract from the indictment follows:

“Nazaryan, being of an anti-Soviet, nationalist disposition and living in Erevan, from 1976 until his arrest in connection with the present charges, with the aim of undermining and weakening Soviet authority, was engaged in anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, systematically disseminated, prepared and stored for dissemination, anti-Soviet literature in the form of anonymous hooks, collections, articles and poetry, the said literature containing fabrications defaming the Soviet political and social system and the policies of the CPSU and the Soviet State, and, having established contact with certain foreign correspondents, gave them slanderous material and information, which was used in the West for purposes hostile to the Soviet Union. In order to mask his anti-Soviet activities and lend significance to the hostile material he had prepared and disseminated, Nazaryan independently declared himself a member of the so-called “Armenian Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR”.

“His criminal activities took the following concrete form: As early as 1969 and 1970, while a student at the Erevan State University, Nazaryan took an active part in the so-called Armenian Culture Club, and was engaged in politically harmful nationalist activities, for which he received a caution.

“Having failed to come to the appropriate conclusions, from 1976 on he established links by correspondence with the following prisoners sentenced for nationalist anti-Soviet activities: Paruir Airikyan, Razmik Zograbyan, Razmik Markosyan, Bagrat Shakhverdyan and others; he spoke out in their defence in an attempt to gain wider support for their nationalist anti-Soviet activity and to justify it, using all sorts of methods; duplicating and disseminating their photographs and his nationalist, slanderous texts entitled “To American Citizens of Good Will”, “My Firm Belief” and “Donations to Aid Armenian Political Prisoners”, in which the above-mentioned prisoners are called ‘political prisoners’, allegedly sentenced for their national and political beliefs.

“In 1976 and 1977 in Erevan Nazaryan at various times gave these texts to E. G. Avetyan, V. V. Ananyan, S. V. Osyan, E. B. Arutyunyan and S. R. Shakhazizyan for them to read.

“In 1976 Nazaryan organized the collection of donations through various people and gave material aid to the above-mentioned prisoners — Paruir Airikyan and others — and also to their families.

“In 1976 Nazaryan was cautioned by the KGB of the Armenian SSR concerning the inadmissibility of such actions, which were damaging to the interests of the USSR state security. However, this did not deter him from continuing his hostile activities.

“In 1976 and 1977, with the aim of undermining and weakening the Soviet regime, Nazaryan systematically disseminated 40 works of anti-Soviet literature which he had obtained in 1976 in Moscow from the following antisocial dissident elements: Elena Sirotenko, Tatyana Khodorovich, Gleb Yakunin and others. This material included, in particular, three collections printed in New York entitled A Chronicle of Human Rights in the USSR and a typed copy of A Chronicle of Current Events; the brochures [note 1] “30 October 1975 is Political Prisoner Day” and “Letters of a Mother”; the articles and texts “Now that the Shot has Missed its Mark”, “Yevgeny Barabanov’s Statement to the Press”, “A Shameful Prison-Camp System”, “Letters from Political Prisoners to Soviet Cultural Figures”, “The General Secretary “The Censuring of Academician A. D. Sakharov”, “An Open Letter to the Secretariat of the RSFSR Writers Union”, “The Writer as the Conscience Of Russia”, “19 April 1974”, “Hitler Won the War”, “A Sad and Moving Poem”, “Peace, Progress and Human Rights”, “The Formation of the Social Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the Soviet Union”, “The Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the Soviet Union”, “To the Democratic World Community” and others. The said texts contain slanderous fabrications defaming the Soviet political and social system, and malicious attacks on the foreign and domestic policies of the Communist Party and the Soviet government.

“At the end of 1976 at his home in Erevan, Nazaryan gave E.B. Arutyunyan the article “Peace, Progress and Human Rights”, the author of which is indicated as Andrei Sakharov [note 2] In spring 1977 Arutyunyan returned this article to Nazaryan via K.V. Mkrtchyan, and on 22 December 1977 it was confiscated in a search of Nazaryan’s flat.

“The article contains the slanderous allegation that the USSR is supposedly a “totalitarian empire” and that it is striving “to subordinate to its influence large areas of the world”; it calls for the creation of a “flexible, pluralistic and tolerant society” in the USSR.

“In May 1977, at his home in Erevan, Nazaryan gave K. V. Mkrtchyan A Chronicle of Human Rights in the USSR (No. 1, 1973 [Khronika Press, New York]), the articles “Now that the Shot has Missed its Mark”, “30 October 1975 is Political Prisoner Day”, and others, 35 items of anti-Soviet literature in all, which, together with a statement, she submitted to the KGB of the Armenian SSR on 22 July 1977 …

“Choosing as one form of anti-Soviet activity to write and disseminate slanderous articles and poems, Nazaryan systematically during 1976 and 1977 prepared and disseminated material containing fabrications defaming the Soviet political and social system with the aim of undermining and weakening Soviet authority. At the beginning of 1977, in order to duplicate this material, “Nazaryan rented a ‘Ukraine’ typewriter with Armenian typeface from No. 12 ‘Tsiatsan’ Communal Consumer Service Establishment, and ‘Moscow’ typewriters with Russian typeface from witnesses R.A. Papayan and E.B. Arutyunyan. With the same aim he also made tape-recordings of certain works and distributed them by playing them on tape-recorders.

“Thus, throughout 1976, Nazaryan prepared and disseminated among his friends material containing nationalist, anti-Soviet fabrications, entitled “Song of the Captive Soldier”, “Stand Up Again, Sons of Armenia”, “Armenia”, “Experiences”, “We Armenians”, “The Anguish of Vuspurakan”, “The Song of Armenia’s Sons”, “Karabakh’s Lament” and others; he wrote a dedicatory inscription of similar content to the book “ The New Testament” and gave it to his nephew Arturik Ekimyan, a minor, this material depicts the Armenian people as “having no rights” and “having lost its former glory”, and contains an appeal for ‘vengeance’ and ‘unification’ in the struggle for a free, independent and unified Armenia.

“In January-March 1977 at his flat in Erevan, Nazaryan wrote an article entitled “Open Letter to President Carter”, which he duplicated and disseminated together with the ‘Programme’ and ‘Statutes’ of the illegal anti-Soviet group calling itself the “National United Party”, which he had obtained. These contain slander against Soviet reality and an appeal to fight for the secession of Armenia from the USSR and the creation of a so-called “independent Armenian state”, and make the deliberately false allegation that the Russian people and Soviet government arc pursuing the aim of depriving small peoples of their independence.

“In 1977 at his flat Nazaryan at various times prepared and disseminated the texts entitled ‘Appeal’ and “Protest Complaint”, containing slanderous fabrications about Soviet reality …

“In an attempt to defame the foreign and domestic policies of the Soviet state in the eyes of the world, Nazaryan sent the documents he had prepared abroad, and also disseminated them in the USSR among accredited correspondents of bourgeois newspapers and radio stations, supplying them with slanderous information about Soviet reality for publication abroad. This material has been used widely by organs of the bourgeois mass media in a hostile anti-Soviet campaign.

“Thus in April 1977, Nazaryan prepared and duplicated on a typewriter a slanderous anti-Soviet article entitled ‘Declaration’ (‘Appeal’) which is distributed among contacts in Erevan and Moscow, including foreign correspondents, as the programmatic document of the so-called “Armenian Helsinki Group” [note 3]. It contains slanderous fabrications alleging that human rights, human dignity and basic freedoms are being grossly violated in the Armenian Republic and calls for efforts to obtain the release of political prisoners and “the reunification of Nagorny Karabakh and the Nakhichevan A SSR with the Armenian Republic”.

“In April 1977 Nazaryan prepared and duplicated on a typewriter, and disseminated, an anti-Soviet article entitled “Why I Burnt It”, containing hostile attacks on the current domestic and foreign policies of the Soviet Union, and a protest against the allegedly “anti- Armenian policy pursued by Moscow” and “violence against Armenian patriots and dissenters”.

“At the beginning of 1977 Nazaryan prepared and disseminated the text ‘The Final Speech of the Armenian National Hero Paruir Airikyan (spoken at his trial)’, in which hostile attacks are made on the Soviet system and the CPSU, and Paruir Airikyan, a member of the so-called “National United Party” and himself sentenced for anti-Soviet activities, is presented approvingly as a supporter of the ideas of ‘independence’.

“In spring 1977 he prepared and distributed material entitled ‘Appeal’, the author of which is indicated as Alexander Malkhazyan. It contains slanderous fabrications about the policies of the CPSU and the Soviet government, and alleges that the political, civil, economic and social rights of citizens are suppressed in the Soviet Union.

“In March and April 1977 he prepared, duplicated on a typewriter and by photographic means, and distributed so-called “Protest complaints” of a nationalist and slanderous content, the authors of which are indicated as Eduard Beglaryan, //Art in Kaspar Tatos, Ambartsum Irilyan, Razmik Markosyan (sentenced for anti-Soviet activity), Shagen Arutyunyan and others, and also the slanderous “Letters of Paruir Airikyan to Silva Kaputikyan”.

“From May to June 1977, in Erevan, Nazaryan prepared, duplicated on a typewriter and by photographic means, and distributed a document entitled “Report to Participants in the Belgrade Conference”,* containing a slanderous portrayal of Soviet reality, of the rights and freedoms of Soviet citizens, the political and social system of the USSR, and the domestic and foreign policies of the CPSU and the Soviet government, which are allegedly pursuing a ‘great-power* policy; it also contains the deliberately false allegation that there exists in the Soviet Union “a dictatorship of the CPSU, which has ruined the country’s economy”, and a hostile appeal to foreign states to exert political ‘pressure’ on the Soviet Union.

“In the summer of 1977, with the aim of further distributing this literature, Nazaryan attached the ‘Declaration’, “Why I Burnt It” and other texts to the above-mentioned “Report to Participants in the Belgrade Conference”, and, together with their photographic negatives, gave these materials on various occasions to Benyamin Ovakimyan, Saribek Gedakyan and others to give to his dissident acquaintances in Moscow, and to send abroad via the latter. The above-mentioned ‘Declaration’ was also sent abroad in autumn 1977 by Nazaryan via Françoise Aupetit, a French citizen who met Nazaryan while staying in Erevan. Nazaryan also gave her slanderous information concerning the USSR…

“In 1976 and 1977 Nazaryan stored at his home in Erevan anti- Soviet literature intended for distribution with the aim of undermining and weakening Soviet authority.

“Thus, in 1977 Nazaryan prepared and stored for distribution the following texts: “To the Representatives of the Countries Attending the Belgrade Conference, to Armenian Compatriots” and “A Statement on Joining the association Amnesty International”, which contain deliberate fabrications slandering the Soviet political and social system.

“In spring and autumn 1977, in Moscow and Erevan, Nazaryan obtained and stored for distribution anti-Soviet literature, in particular the anonymous books The Legal Fight Against State Atheism and Laws of the USSR, typed copies of Nos. 42/1976 and 46/1977 of A Chronicle of Current Events, The USSR Constitution Bulletin No. 1; ‘The Voice of Those Who Disagree, Criticize and Argue’, “This is not my Constitution”, “In the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee”, “Some Remarks concerning the 1977 draft Constitution of the U SS R”, “To the Procuracy of the USSR — on the arrest of A. Shcharansky”, “Appeal to the World Public”, “Questionnaire Answers”, “To the Editor-in-Chief of Izvestiya”, “Open Appeal to the Leaders of the Soviet Union”, “Dear Silva Kaputikyan” and ‘Forgiveness’, in which hostile attacks are made on the policies of the CPSU and the Soviet government, and scurrilous remarks appear about Soviet reality …”

When questioned as an accused, Nazaryan largely corroborated the facts cited in this indictment relating to his preparation, obtaining, possession and dissemination of literature and materials. However, he denied being guilty of crimes, stating that he had not committed any acts designed to undermine or weaken Soviet authority, and that in the USSR the questions raised in the above-mentioned material concerning democracy, human rights, and the national interests of the Armenian nation and other nations, had allegedly been incorrectly resolved or not resolved at all (Vol. 3, pp. 135, 136-7, 150-4, 156-285, 290-305).

“Contrary to the accused’s unfounded statements cited above, the whole body of evidence obtained in the course of the investigation and cited above is irrefutable proof that Nazaryan’s activities relating to the dissemination, preparation and possession of literature and materials containing anti-Soviet fabrications slandering the Soviet political and social system were directed against the foreign and domestic policies of the CPSU and the Soviet government, and the stabilization and deepening of detente, and towards the undermining and weakening of Soviet power.

“The statements of the accused alleging that the literature and material which he is charged with disseminating, preparing and storing, contains no fabrications slandering the Soviet political and social system are objectively belied by their contents and demonstrate Nazaryan’s efforts to conceal the anti-Soviet aims of his activities.

Conscious of the socially dangerous nature of his actions, Nazaryan did not stop his anti-Soviet activities, despite the fact that the authorities repeatedly confiscated anti-Soviet literature and other slanderous material from him and others to whom he had given this literature.

This circumstance also demonstrates that the accused was aware of the socially dangerous nature of his actions and that they were premeditated with the aim of undermining and weakening Soviet authority.”

Letters and Appeals

During the investigation, members of the Armenian Helsinki Group attempted to help Nazaryan in certain ways. Ambartsum Khlgatyan was especially diligent in this respect (for further information on him see in the section “Letters and Statements” his “Explanatory Note” to the Armenian KGB).

On 24 August Khlgatyan composed an “Open Letter to V. A. Ambartumyan, President of the Armenian Academy of Sciences:

“A great hope inspires us in writing you this anxious letter. It is impossibly difficult for us to predict the response in store for it, but we are certain of its fate, certain that it is destined to surpass the limits of a private appeal and attract national attention.

“We know you to be a man of great learning, recognized as such throughout the world, a distinguished, responsible citizen and an ardent patriot. We appeal to your conscience as a good, compassionate man, in the belief that you cannot be indifferent to the fate of a young physicist, a colleague and personal acquaintance of yours who once worked under your supervision.

“We call on you to raise your most authoritative voice in defence of an Armenian defender of the rule of law, the young physicist Robert Nazaryan. We call on you — by your public defence of Robert Nazaryan — to throw a heavy weight into the scales of justice and progress, and against arbitrary repression and the forces of darkness …

“A gifted mathematician, Robert Nazaryan was fully capable of becoming a recognized scientist long ago. But, held back by his troubled conscience and hunger for important accomplishments, he had no desire to exchange the life of a human-rights fighter and warrior for progress, a life beating with the ceaseless pulse of passion and fire, for the deadening life of working for the state …

“No, like the author and signatories of this letter, Robert Nazaryan has not committed a crime. Evil and evil-doing are totally alien to his nature …

“In conclusion, allow me to say to you in all sincerity that all the time I was composing this letter to its distinguished addressee I was constantly pursued by the thought that most probably some words will be devoted in the annals of Armenian history to this letter and also your reaction to it. this is why we address the letter to you personally, for we know that you are already assured a considerable place in the abiding history of our ancient and exceptional people.

“May your counsellors be Wisdom and Good!”

The letter was signed by “friends and fellow campaigners of Robert Nazaryan” A. Khlgatyan and E. Arutyunyan (see CCE 48.2-5) and also by his mother, wife and sister.

On 2 September, the “friends and fellow campaigners” of Robert Nazaryan, members of the Armenian Helsinki Group A. Khlgatyan and E. Arutyunyan, appealed to the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party:

“In the Supreme Court of the republic a trial is being prepared in connection with the trumped-up charge against Robert Nazaryan of committing a State crime … In this critical hour we call on Armenian communists to intervene without delay to prevent the illegal suppression of an innocent person. We are deeply convinced that Robert Nazaryan is absolutely innocent. We therefore conclude our appeal with this plea:

“Don’t permit judicial tyranny!

“Release Robert Nazaryan!”

On 26 September A. Khlgatyan wrote the following appeal to A. D. Sakharov:

“Panting, wheezing and grinding to a halt, Stalin’s locomotive nonetheless continues to run over its last victims, one of the most warm-hearted and recent of whom is our friend and fellow campaigner Robert Nazaryan … In a telephone conversation with you I asked you not to ignore Robert’s fate and to say a word of support in his defence. I appeal to you once again with this big request. I assure you that it is my firm belief that Robert Nazaryan will endure his prison ordeal honourably and under no circumstances will he bring upon himself the shame which Zviad Gamsakhurdia and other members of the Georgian group have brought upon their names.

“In Georgia there are many who are suffering shame for the desertion and faint-heartedness of former defenders of the rule of law who have deserted their cause.”

On 5 October, A. Khlgatyan sent an appeal to Brezhnev and to K. S. Demirchyan, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party:

“I assume that you are acquainted with the ‘case’ against Robert Nazaryan created by the Armenian KGB. In an excess of vigilance these jingoists accuse him of committing a state crime in the form of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda aimed at undermining and weakening the Soviet system. I swear on oath that this is a lie …

“Moreover, the sentence of Robert Nazaryan, an ardent patriot and passionate upholder of friendship between the peoples of Armenia and Russia, would be a poor gift on the glorious occasion of the 150th anniversary of the eternal union of two fraternal countries … The Soviet Union is a mighty power. It needs genuinely great policies. These cannot be substituted for by petty, vacillatory actions.

“Release Robert Nazaryan! Release all prisoners thrown into prison for pursuing humanitarian ideals!”



[1] The mother in question was Nina Bukovskaya, mother of Vladimir; both publications were tamizdat, issued in Russian by the Khronika Press in New York.

[2] Published in English in Sakharov Speaks (1974).

[3] This document has not been identified, cf. Documents of the Moscow Helsinki Group (1976-1982).