The Trial of Davydov and Petrov, 10-16 July 1973 (29.2)

<<No 29 : 31 July 1973>>

From 10 to 16 July 1973 the collegium of the Leningrad City Court (chairman – Karlov, people’s assessor Dyakov, second assessor-name unknown to the Chronicle) heard in open court the case of G. V. Davydov and V. V. Petrov, indicted under Article 70, part 1, of the RSFSR Criminal Code.

Georgy Valentinovich DAVYDOV (b. 1941) is a geological engineer and graduated from the Leningrad Mining Institute. Before his arrest he worked as a senior research assistant at the Leningrad Institute of Geology and Precambrian Geochronology of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He is the father of three children (aged nine, eight and two).

Vyacheslav Valentinovich PETROV (b. 1937) has a secondary education and is a bachelor. Before his arrest lie was employed as a blue-collar worker in various trades at the “Twenty-Second Congress” Metallurgical Plant.


Davydov was arrested by the KGB on 22 September 1972 at Moscow airport on his way to Leningrad. Confiscated from Davydov at the time of his arrest were several parcels of samizdat literature received the day before from A. A. Bolonkin (Bolonkin himself had been arrested on 21 September). V. I. Balakirev was arrested in Moscow on 22 September, and V. A. Shaklein on 28 September.

V. V. Petrov, at whose Leningrad flat samizdat literature was seized on 22 September, was arrested on 5 February 1973. Before his arrest he had been repeatedly interrogated as a witness in the case of Davydov.

The investigation of the case of Davydov and Petrov was conducted over a period of more than nine months. More than 50 persons were called as witnesses. The investigation was conducted by the Leningrad administration of the KGB (by senior investigator Major Glushkov and investigators Gordeyev, Pospelov, Yegerev, et al).

The charge against Davydov specified that in 1971-1972, having entered into a criminal conspiracy with the Muscovites Shaklein, Bolonkin and Balakirev, and also with the defendant Petrov, he prepared, distributed, and kept at his home a great deal of samizdat literature, including A Chronicle of Current Events, the Journals Free Thought [Svobodnaya Mysl], The Light of Freedom [Luch svobody] and The Democrat [Demokrat], the texts “The program of the Democratic Movement of the Soviet Union [DMSU] and several other similar journalistic and literary works. Also confiscated at the time of Davydov’s arrest were 20 copies of Free Thought No. 2 which had been printed on a flat-bed press, two chapters of Robert Conquest’s book The Great Terror printed by the same means, several parts of Bolonkin’s work “A Comparison of the Living Standards of Workers in Tsarist Russia, the USSR, and Advanced Capitalist Countries”, and films with the texts of CCE 25 and the [Frankfurt] journal Possev for 1970.

The charges against V. V. Petrov specified that in March 1972, jointly with Davydov, he had mimeographed at his home no less than 40 copies of “The Tactics of the DMSU”. and subsequently had kept the stencils and the finished brochures. In the spring of 1972, he had written a work entitled “The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Alliance”, described by the investigators as a programmatic document, in which he had set forth methods for combatting the Soviet regime. Petrov had given this work to Davydov to read and to make critical comments.

In the course of the investigation Davydov did not acknowledge any guilt, but at the trial he acknowledged his guilt completely. Both during the investigation and at the trial Petrov acknowledged partial guilt.


At the trial, confirming the factual aspect of the indictment, Davydov emphasized the very negligible role of Petrov in their joint work. As he had done during the pre-trial investigation, Davydov refused to name the Leningrad source from which he had received literature.

In explaining his position to the-court, Petrov said that he could, with certain qualifications, acknowledge only the factual aspect of the case; but he categorically denied the charge that he had aimed at the subversion and weakening of Soviet authority.

At the trial, the witness I. Rudoi, a senior engineer at the Leningrad K. Marx Combine, confirmed without qualification all the testimony he had given during the investigation. The indictment was studded with his testimony. He regularly received samizdat literature from Davydov, familiarized himself with it, and even paid a fixed sum for reading it.

The witness V.I. Osipov, a student at Leningrad State University, confirmed the fact that he had once received literature from Davydov, noting that this had taken place at his (Osipov’s) initiative.

The witness M. Prima, a member of the Party, chief of the scientific-technical department in a factory and a former classmate of Petrov, testified to the latter’s anti-Soviet attitude during the period of their acquaintanceship in the late 1950s. He recalled that Petrov had welcomed the Hungarian events of 1956. Petrov stated in reply that he was serving in the army al that time and hence could not have discussed those events with the witness.

Vladimir Andreyevich Shaklein (b. 1937, an engineer), who was brought to the courtroom under guard from Moscow, refused to testify as a way of protesting against the inhuman conditions under which prisoners are transported from one place of confinement to another. But at the request of lawyer Goldenberg, he agreed to answer several specific questions which might affect Davydov’s fate. Shaklein confirmed Davydov’s testimony that the two of them had met by chance, stating that the initiative in their subsequent joint samizdat activity belonged to him (Shaklein), and that he had drawn Davydov into that activity.

The witness Valery Ivanovich Balakirev (b. 1940, former lecturer at the Moscow School of Metallurgy), who was also being held in custody, gave detailed testimony as to his meetings with Davydov, the exchange of literature, and the fact that in Petrov’s presence he had taught Davydov how to use the mimeograph. Noting the conspiratorial nature of their activity, he evaluated the “Program of the DMSU” as an anti-Soviet work and confirmed his testimony that Davydov was the source of its appearance among “the Muscovites”. Balakirev testified that the documents “Program of the Estonian National Front” [note 1] and “Russian Colonialism in Estonia” had been received by him from Davydov for summarization in the Chronicle. Balakirev also confirmed his testimony that on instructions from Davydov, he and Bolonkin had jointly mimeographed 45 copies each of two instalments of Conquest’s book for distribution in Leningrad.

The witness G. Semyonova (senior research assistant at the Mekhanobr institute [Research Institute for the Mechanical Concentration of Minerals]), former wife of defendant Petrov, confirmed in court her testimony that in 1964-1968 Petrov repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the October Revolution, accused the Communist leadership of being responsible for the death of his father in the war, and once showed her two samizdat works. The witness acknowledged, however, that Petrov most often expressed his dissatisfaction with respect to everyday matters and usually when he was drunk.

The witnesses Margarita Davydova (Davydov’s former wife) and Fedulova did not appear in court.

Alexander Alexandrovich Bolonkin (b. 1932) a Doctor of Technical Sciences, aircraft engineer, graduate of the Moscow Aviation institute and the Mechanics and Mathematics Department of Moscow State University. Prior to his arrest he was a reader [assistant professor] at the Moscow Aviation Technology Institute. Bolonkin was brought to the courtroom under guard on 16 July. In his testimony he emphasized the purely personal nature of his meetings with Davydov. He confirmed that he had repeatedly transmitted packets, the contents of which were unknown to him, from the “Muscovites” to Davydov, and from the latter to the “Muscovites”: “They asked me to deliver them, and I did, I didn’t know what was inside. I am not a KGB agent, and don’t search things belonging to others.”

Bolonkin disowned the depositions, read aloud in court, given by him under duress during the investigation: “You will sign anything at all when they blackmail you.”

In answer to a question from Davydov concerning the work “A Comparison of the Living Standards of Workers in Tsarist Russia, the USSR, and Advanced Capitalist Countries”, Bolonkin explained that the purpose of his work was to select reliable statistics from more than one hundred official sources, and that the work contained no broad conclusions drawn from these comparisons. The judge ruled out of order Davydov’s query to Bolonkin as the author of 40 other scientific works: “What are the scientific criteria for works of that kind?”

Statements by accused and the defence

Davydov then made a statement to the court in which he accused the investigators of incompetence in evaluating the samizdat literature on the basis of which he was charged. He quoted a certain tsarist censor, who had said: “Give me the Lord’s Prayer and I’ll find in it a sentence for which the author could be sent to the gallows.” Davydov acknowledged his own incompetence in evaluating such literature but declared that he regarded the investigators as equally incompetent. He recalled investigator Glushkov’s admission that he was far from being a specialist in economics, history, philosophy, etc, but that it was easy for him to prove the anti-Soviet tendency of any particular work. And investigator Kondratyev generally applied the label anti-Soviet to everything that did not correspond to the latest decrees of the Party and the government, i.e., to the spirit of today’s newspaper.

Davydov now disowned his previous testimony as to the anti-Soviet tendency of the literature on the basis of which he was incriminated. Dismissing his counsel, he declared to the court that he could not now acknowledge guilt under Article 70, pt. 1, of the RSFSR Criminal Code. From now until the end of the trial Davydov conducted his own defence. Resigning his authority, Davydov’s counsel Goldenberg asked the court to enter in the record the documents concerning the defendant’s state of health submitted by his relatives.

Ponomaryov, the state prosecutor, recited the factual aspects of the case, generally repeating the text of the indictment, and asked for the following sentences; for Davydov, 6 years’ imprisonment plus 3 years of exile; for Petrov 4 years’ imprisonment plus 3 years of exile.

In his speech in his own defence Davydov once more called the court’s attention to the fact that inferences as to the anti-Soviet tendency of the literature which incriminated him had been drawn by the investigators, who had used the unscientific method of arbitrary quotation. So their conclusions could not be considered correct. He also noted that the conspiratorial nature of his samizdat activity was a matter of necessity. Davydov opined that his actions could not be classified under Article 70, part I, since no corpus delicti had been proved to exist.

Petrov’s lawyer Kheifets, who in no way contested the conclusions of the investigators, dwelt in detail on the motives which had prompted Petrov to set out on a false path, sketching a portrait of a failure, a dropout, a man who had not found his place in life. The lawyer mentioned that over the past 10 years Petrov had changed his place of employment 45 times, “trying to find himself’. With respect to the fact that Petrov, Jointly with Davydov, had mimeographed 40 copies of the “Tactics of the DMSU”, Kheifets emphasized that the decisive factor here had been his client’s possession of a self-contained flat; and that Davydov himself did not consider Petrov a confederate, and did not trust him, so that he had asked Balakirev, who taught them to use the mimeograph, to use an assumed name in the presence of Petrov. The lawyer mentioned the irresponsibility of proclaiming a mere scrap of paper entitled “The Russian Social- Democratic Labour Alliance” to be a programmatic document for combating Soviet authority and stressed that there was no proof that Petrov had circulated this rough draft. He asked that Petrov be given the minimal sentence under Article 70, pt. 1 (6 months’ imprisonment).

Final pleas

In his final plea Davydov said that however the court decided, he was not asking for mercy but only wanted the opportunity to help his children materially. Since a penal camp did not provide such an opportunity, he asked the court to sentence him to exile for any period.

Petrov, in his final plea, expressed amazement at the sentence demanded for him by the procurator. He recalled that during the investigation, both the investigator and the procurator had said that his chief and only guilt lay in not giving information. (“If you had sat down on a chair and written out everything, like Rudoi, you would have gone to the trial as a witness.”) But somehow, he could not and would not take the sin of Judas on his soul. Petrov once again emphasized that he had not distributed anti-Soviet literature in any form, and that he had always expressed his dissatisfaction with the regime openly until 1966, when Article 190-1, which prohibits oral expression of dissatisfaction, was published. Since then, he had kept quiet. Petrov said that in 1956 he had indeed welcomed the Hungarian events – something for which he had been punished – but that no-one had at that time called him “an anti-Soviet”, and a weapon had been entrusted to him with no fear that he would shoot anyone in the back. Petrov asked the court to send him and Davydov “to the same penal camp” so that Davydov – who, as he was convinced, was never “an anti-Soviet” — could protect him against the influence of genuine enemies of the Soviet regime. Petrov noted that his friendship with Davydov had by no means grown from the soil of samizdat but was based on deep personal sympathy.


The verdict again repeated all the points of the indictment, and the guilt of G. V. Davydov and V. V. Petrov in the commission of especially dangerous anti-state crimes under Article 70, pt. 1 (RSFSR Criminal Code) was considered to have been proved fully. The sentences: for Davydov, 5 years in a strict-regime corrective-labour camp and 2 years of exile; for Petrov, 3 years in a strict-regime corrective-labour camp and 2 years of exile.

A few days after the trial the convicted persons were allowed visits from their relatives. According to available information, both filed appeals with the RSFSR Supreme Court.



This report is a shortened version of an anonymous samizdat document published as AS 1820 in the Samizdat Archive.

[1] The “Program of the Estonian National Front” is summarized in CCE 25. Two appeals of the Front to the UN, both dated 24 October 1972, are designated AS 1892 in the Samizdat Archive.