Extrajudicial persecution (26.13)

<<No 26 : 5 July 1972>>

At the beginning of April 1972, at a meeting of the Party Bureau of the poetry section [of the Moscow Writers’ Organization], Bulat Okudzhava was asked to publish a letter in the paper Literary Gazette condemning the publication by the Possev publishing-house of an anthology of his works (already published, with the possible exception of one story, in our country, Chronicle).

Bulat Okudzhava, 1924-1997

Okudzhava agreed to on condition that he would be given the opportunity simultaneously to condemn some of the  obstacles standing in the way of the publication of works of art in our country. Finally, it was agreed that Okudzhava would make the required “condemnation orally at a writers’ meeting. On 1 June, however, at a session of the Party Committee of the Soviet Writers’ Union of the USSR, the talk was again exclusively about a letter to the paper. Okudzhava refused to write the required letter.

The Party Committee unanimously expelled him from the Party “for anti-Party behaviour and for refusing to condemn the fact of the publication of some his works by the Western press”. [note 1]


in the Spring of 1971 the Belorussian composer G. Shirma, speaking at a plenum of the board of the Composers Union referred disapprovingly to the experiments of young composers in the field of musical form; he said that it was precisely such attitudes that had led to the events in Czechoslovakia. The Kiev conductor Igor Blazhkov expressed his strong objection to Shirma from the floor. When Shirma continued to speak in the same vein, Blazhkov walked out of the hall.

Sometime later Kiev’s composers were asked to condemn Blazhkov’s conduct. The young composers Godzyatsky, Grabovsky and Silvestrov, all only recently accepted into the Composers’ Union, refused to do so [note 2]. All three were expelled from the Union for a year. A year later, in the Spring of 1972, the question of the renewal of their membership of the Union was raised. The leaders of the Ukrainian branch of the Union said that “now was not the time to discuss the matter”.


At a meeting of employees of the All-Russian Performing and Concert Society (VGKO) on 17 May, Party Committee Secretary A. V. Gibov demanded a condemnation of the behaviour of musicians Mikhail Gusev and Vladimir Kondratyev. He told of how Gusev and Kondratyev had held conversations about politics in a railway carriage and uttered critical remarks: their fellow-travellers in the compartment — a State-farm chairman and a deputy to the Supreme Soviet — had denounced them in writing to the KGB, and the KGB had sent this denunciation on to the VGKO Party Committee.

Despite the demands of those in attendance, Gibov declined to give the names of the authors of the letter of denunciation, or to read it out in full, justifying his refusal by saying that the letter was too long. He merely stated that Gusev and Kondratyev had said that living conditions were better in West Germany than in the USSR, and that in our country the finest writers were not published. To Gusev’s objection: “I had in mind Pasternak”, Gibov rejoined: ”We know what sort of person your Pasternak was!” Gusev said that he had only been speaking the truth and therefore he would not retract anything. The meeting gave Gusev and Kondratyev a public reprimand.


In mid-May Yelena Alexeyevna KOSTYORINA, daughter of A. E. Kostyorin (see CCE 5.1, items 11 & 12), was dropped from the Party bureau and expelled from the Party ”for activities incompatible with continued membership of the CPSU, and support for anti-Soviet elements”. These “activities” and “support” consisted in the fact that in May 1969 E.A. Kostyorina has associated herself with a letter sent by the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR to the UN (see CCE 8.10). She had also signed one of the collective letters in defence of Vladimir Bukovsky [see CCE 22.2 [note 3].]

Here are a few excerpts from speeches on the occasion of Kostyorina’s expulsion.

From the speech of a spokesman for a higher Party committee: “Our court knows what it is doing, but you defend the anti-Sovietists . . . You have recalled your father, who was convicted in 1937. Well, he was rightly convicted . .”

From the speech of the Party bureau secretary: “I have not read the letters which Kostyorina signed, but in those letters people are defended whose relations with the higher organs are not all they should be . . “

From a speech by a member of the Party bureau: “Solzhenitsyn wrote a calumny in his work ‘A Day in the Life of Ivan Trofimovich’ (sic!) . . . I do not know Bukovsky, but since he was convicted, it must have been right”.

After the meeting, at which Kostyorina was expelled from the Party, the participants said: “We don’t really know why Kostyorina has been expelled. She signed some letters or other, but they didn’t show them to us or read them out. But since it was a Party bureau decision, if must have been something bad.”

On 25 June by order of the chief administrator, Kostyorina was relieved of her post as station director without any explanation and transferred to temporary work for a period of two months.

A few days later employees of the KGB presented themselves at Kostyorina’s home with an order for the seizure of a typewriter. The order had been made in connection with Case No. 24 (see CCE 24.2). Since there turned out to be no typewriter in her home they left after ten minutes.


The wife of Leonid Plyushch (see CCE 24.11, item 23), Tatyana Ilynichna Zhitnikova, a methodologist with a 12-year record of employment in the Department of Pre-school Institutions in the Ministry of Education of the Ukraine, and the mother of two children, has been barred from lecturing. “Lack of confidence in her as a methodologist,” was expressed, and also doubt that she would be able to continue with both her jobs.


A girl student at the Grekov Art College in Odessa, Kaganova, has been expelled from the college after requesting a testimonial for OVIR [Department of Visas and Registration]. An impromptu Komsomol meeting ended in anti-Semitic jeers.



[1] At a later point, Okudzhava was readmitted to the Party. He finally gave up his membership card in 1990.

[2] Vitaly Godzyatsky, Leonid Grabovsky and Valentin Silvestrov are dodecaphonic composers. See Silvestrov’s article in Yunost, Moscow, No. 9, 1967. P. G. R. Shirma (b. 1892) was a choir-conductor and musical folklorist.

[3] Kostyorina’s name was not on the copy of the letter received in the West. She did, however, sign the Action Group’s fifth letter to the UN, summarised in CCE 12.10 (item 19).