The trial of Nekipelov, May 1974 (32.4)

<<No 32 : 17 July 1974>>

In May 1974, the Vladimir Regional Court examined the case of V. A. Nekipelov charged under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (for search and interrogations of Nekipelov in the Myuge case, and for his arrest, see CCE 29).

Victor Alexandrovich NEKIPELOV was born in 1928; he has a higher education in pharmaceutics, and at the end of the 1960s completed the Gorky Literary Institute’s correspondence course. He has published his verse and translations in several newspapers and journals. In the mid-1960s a collection Nekipelov s poetry Between Mars and Venus was published. From 1970 Nekipelov worked m the town of Solnechnogorsk (Moscow Region), where he had a temporary residential permit. In the autumn of 1971, when he had already received permission to live there permanently, and had an authorization for a flat, both were suddenly withdrawn, without any explanation. From the spring of 1972 Nekipelov lived in the town of Kameshkovo (Vladimir Region) where he worked as a manager of a chemist’s shop. Nekipelov has two children, born in 1967 and 1972.

Nekipelov was arrested on 11 July 1973. The investigation was conducted by a senior investigator of the Vladimir Region Procurator’s Office, Junior Counsellor of Justice E.N. Dmitrievsky.

Nekipelov was subjected to a psychiatric examination in the Serbsky Institute and declared accountable for his actions.

*

Interventions in defence of Nekipelov have been published.

In a statement to [KGB chairman] Yu.V. Andropov of 9 October 1973 S. Myuge (see CCE 30), shortly after he had left the USSR, reminded Andropov that he, K.M. Velikanova and Nekipelov had been suspects in the same criminal case, in which the main burden of the charges had lain on Myuge. Now Myuge had been allowed to leave whilst Nekipelov had been arrested. Myuge hoped that “the leaders of the KGB will find it possible to free Nekipelov from prison so that he can subsequently go abroad”. The text of the statement was published in A Chronicle of Human Rights, number 4.[note 8]

In January 1974, the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR published a statement signed by T. Velikanova, S, Kovalyov, A. Krasnov-Levitin, G. Podyapolsky and T. Khodorovich. It said, in particular: “… his own fate, his persecution, his soul, and the face of the world in which he lived was reflected by Victor Nekipelov in his verse, and his verse was found at his home when it was searched. It is hardly necessary to search long for the real reason behind Victor Nekipelov’s arrest: certain worlds cannot bear their own reflections.

“But as poetry is not included in the crimes specified by our criminal code, it is natural to ask: of what is Victor Nekipelov formally guilty? And to this question there is, evidently, only one possible answer, strange though it may be: of nothing — not even of what people are normally tried for in our country.”

The authors express the fear that Nekipelov “… is threatened by the most terrible of the possible punishments — a psychiatric hospital”. The statement is published in A Chronicle of Human Rights, number 7.

trial

The trial was held on 16, 17 and 21 May 1974. The prosecutor was Obraztsov, and defence counsel was Nimirinskaya; the names of the judge and assessors are not known to the Chronicle.

Nekipelov’s friends were not allowed into the courtroom, and when on 16 May they entered the room during the recess and occupied some free places, they were rudely removed by the policemen. They were not allowed in even to hear the verdict.

In the indictment Nekipelov was charged with the following:

1. he had “circulated” the 19th issue of the Chronicle of Current Events by giving it to witness Dvortsin for perusal (this assertion was proved by the evidence of Dvortsin);

2. he wrote, and had the intention of circulating, a “letter of appeal” with the title “They want to try us — for what?” (intent was proved by the fact that the letter was typed and that the text contained an appeal to his relatives and friends);

3. he wrote and circulated eight poems (the assertion about circulation was proved first by the fact that some of the poems were type-written; secondly by the evidence of his wife that she was familiar with the poems; and thirdly by the evidence of witness Afanasyev that Nekipelov had sent him three poems — with two of which Nekipelov was now charged);

4. he had made manuscript drafts on the basis of which he was intending to write a “Book of Anger” and an article about special psychiatric hospitals “with the aim of future samizdat publication and distribution”;

5. he had circulated orally “deliberately false fabrications which defamed the Soviet political and social system” (proved by the evidence of witness Voropayev and by witnesses Serkov and Ulanov, who occupied the same cell as Nekipelov during his pre-trial detention).

Nekipelov pleaded not guilty, on the grounds that he had expressed his own thoughts and convictions, and, therefore, his works were not deliberately false. Nekipelov denied giving the Chronicle to Dvortsin. He stated that he had not even read the 19th issue of the Chronicle before his arrest. Nekipelov also denied any intention of circulating his article “They want to try us — for what?” At the same time, he expressed regret concerning the last lines of the article. Regarding his eight poems, Nekipelov stated that seven of them were not criminal; he had even sent two of the poems to a reviewer of his published book of poems, Afanasyev, in order to obtain his critical comments. Only in regard to the poem “A not quite canonical ode” did Nekipelov express regret that he had written it, but he noted that he had typed only one copy of it.

Of his manuscript drafts Nekipelov stated that in the first of them there were ten lines in all, which contained various phrases, not the plan of a book, and that the indictment had conferred a title on a non-existent book; the second draft had only eight lines, written, he thought, in connection with P. G. Grigorenko’s internment in a psychiatric hospital and not containing any slander. Finally, regarding the “oral circulation” Nekipelov stated that his conversations with Voropayev, Serkov and Ulanov did not contain any slander. The statements of Ulanov to the pretrial investigation, alleging that he had praised Gulag Archipelago could easily be refuted since he had been in the same cell as Ulanov long before Gulag had come out. Nekipelov protested against the use of his cellmates as witnesses, as it was easy to exert pressure on people under investigation. Nekipelov said that investigator Dmitrievsky had exerted pressure on him by threatening to reclassify the charges under Article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code.

Witnesses

Three of the witnesses summoned to the courtroom — N.M. Komarova (Nekipelov’s wife), K.M. Velikanova and M.N. Landa – refused to testify.

The motives for their refusal were: for Komarova the fact that her husband had not committed any crime; for K. Velikanova, the vagueness of the charges; and for Landa, the illegality of criminal persecution for literature. Witness Serkov stated that his interrogation at the investigation had lasted 15 minutes, yet very lengthy statements had been written into the interrogation record, and that he had signed the record without reading it, as he did not have his spectacles. The witness Monakhov, Nekipelov’s deputy in the chemist’s shop, described how one day he had discovered the “Open letter to Stalin” by F. Raskolnikov in the drawer of Nekipelov’s table and immediately telephoned the town soviet.

Witness Afanasyev testified that Nekipelov had regularly consulted him on questions of poetry. Of those sent to him, he regarded the two poems with which Nekipelov was subjected to a psychiatric examination in the Serbsky Institute and declared accountable for his actions.

Witness Afanasyev testified that Nekipelov had regularly consulted him on questions of poetry. Of those sent to him, he regarded the two poems with which Nekipelov was now charged as good; he could not perceive any libel in them and at one time had advised Nekipelov to publish them as part of a historical cycle, as they described the times of Ivan the Terrible.

Prosecution and defence

The state prosecutor, a senior assistant of the Vladimir Region procurator, Senior Counsellor of Justice Obraztsov, declared in his speech that Nekipelov’s claims to freedom of speech and freedom of the press were unsubstantiated and slanderous, as in reality Article 125 of the Constitution guaranteed these freedoms only in those cases when they were used in the interests of working people. Of the charges enumerated above, the procurator withdrew the ‘oral circulation’ as it had not been corroborated by the evidence of witnesses in court. In conclusion the procurator said that since Nekipelov had partially repented and expressed regret that he had written some of the poems, his punishment could be limited to two years’ imprisonment.

Defence counsel N.Ya. Nimirinskaya, referring to the official commentary on Article 190-1 (Commentary on the RSFSR Criminal Code, Moscow: Yuridicheskaya literatura, 1971), to which, in her opinion, even jurists often did not attach due significance, noted that statements expressing a critical or even negative attitude to one or another aspect of our system were not a crime; only deliberately false information was a crime. Convictions, whatever they were, did not constitute a crime. Convictions, uttered aloud or set down on paper, continued to be convictions. Therefore, Nimirinskaya regarded as a slip of the tongue the procurator’s remark that convictions of a certain sort, when expressed orally or in writing, became slander.

However, an examination of Nekipelov’s case, she said, permitted the assertion that it was precisely with the utterance of his views and convictions — mistaken though they might be in a number of cases — that Nekipelov was being charged, as thereby slandering the Soviet political and social system. The defence lawyer declared that the charge had been formulated too generally and abstractly: the indictment simply enumerated the titles of ‘slanderous’ works; it was not known which particular information and circumstances expounded in these works the prosecution regarded as slander. Because of the abstract nature of the charge, said the lawyer, she had had to make assumptions as to which phrases might be interpreted by the charge as slanderous.

Having reviewed possible hypotheses regarding the criminality of the article “They want to try us — for what?” and the seven poems, the lawyer reached the conclusion that the charges of slander were unfounded. As for the poem “A not quite canonical ode”, Nimirinskaya said that it should not have been written. But even in this poem there was no crime as envisaged by Article 190-1. It only contained derogatory remarks about Brezhnev and [Czechoslovak leader] Husak. The ‘fabrications’ specified in Article 190-1 had to concern the political and social system, however, not individual political leaders. The prosecution was stretching too much the interpretation of a crime under Article 190-1. The lawyer cited an episode from a play by A. Zorin, The Bolsheviks, in which a girl is arrested for writing an insulting inscription on a portrait of Lenin; Lenin insisted that she be freed.

Besides which, Nekipelov had not acquainted anyone with his “Ode”.

Nimirinskaya declared that it was legally inadmissible to build a case exclusively on hypotheses, ascribing to Nekipelov, on the basis of two small manuscript drafts, the intention to write a book and an article of slanderous character.

The lawyer considered unproven the episode of the giving of the Chronicle to Dvortsin, since it was confirmed only by the evidence of Dvortsin himself, who could easily slander Nekipelov in order, for example, to cover up for those from whom he had really received it.

Nimirinskaya reached the conclusion that Nekipelov was not guilty of the crimes with which he was charged.

*

As his final speech, Nekipelov read out a poem which said, among other things, that in his works he “never called unfreedom freedom” and he hoped that he was one of the tiny guiding stars of Russia.

In the verdict the court repeated all the charges enumerated except for the oral circulation, found Nekipelov guilty, and sentenced him to two years imprisonment in ordinary-regime corrective-labour colony. In addition, the court imposed costs on Nekipelov to the sum of 199 roubles. The verdict also mentioned procedural violations committed during the pre-trial investigation as regards the interrogation of the witnesses of “oral circulation”.

On 10 July 1974, the RSFSR Supreme Court considered an appeal and left the sentence unchanged.