Letters and Documents (26.15)

<<No 26 : 5 July 1972>>

In May 1972 there appeared in samizdat an open letter, whose authors are concerned about the fate of K. Lyubarsky, V. Chornovil, I. Svitlychny. D. Shumuk and L. Plyushch (see CCE 24.3 and CCE 25.2), who were arrested in January 1972, and others.

The letter talks of the protracted periods of investigation and the refusal of the authorities to release K. A. Lyubarsky, for whom Academician A. D. Sakharov and Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences I. R. Shafarevich have offered to stand bail. The authors call on readers to demand free admission and publicity at the forthcoming trials. The letter carries 17 signatures.


On 7 June Vladimir Osipov sent a letter to Angela Davis asking her to petition the Soviet government for the release of I. Ogurtsov (see CCE 1.6), Vladimir Bukovsky and P. G. Grigorenko.


At the end of June, the ACTION GROUP for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR, in an Appeal to the UN Secretary-General, protested against: the new wave of persecution of people for their beliefs; the violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence; the brutal treatment of political prisoners and persons under investigation; and the criminal use of psychiatry as a means of bringing pressure on freedom of conscience.

On 7 June 1972, the Presidium of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet issued a decree. The first paragraph of this decree says:

‘‘For the illegal transmission, concealment from examination or attempted transmission, by whatever means, to convicted persons, of articles, food products, money, liquor, and also other substances and goods prohibited from use in corrective labour institutions, it has been laid down that where such activities do not involve criminal responsibility the guilty parties shall be subject to an administratively imposed fine of from ten to fifty roubles, or to measures of social pressure.”

Academicians Sakharov and Leontovich sent the following telegram to the Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, Academician [M. D.] Millionshchikov:

“In connection with the forthcoming ratification, at a session of the Supreme Soviet, of Decree No. 615 of the Presidium of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet of 7 June 1972, we ask you to bring the following statement to the attention of the deputies.

“The culpability for illegal transmission of food products to prisoners which is established by the Decree is an official indication of’ the existence of a regime of chronic starvation in our camps and prisons. No-one would resort to illegal transmission if there were no necessity for it.

“The Decree opens up possibilities of making the tragic situation of prisoners, which is well known to us from a multitude of reliable sources, even worse, by instituting searches of prisoners and their visitors,

“We call upon deputies to vote against ratification of the shameful Decree of 7 June 1972. We call upon deputies to speak out for a reform of corrective labour legislation, with the aim of putting an end to the intolerable torturing of prisoners through starvation.

“Mikhail Dmitrievich, we should like to think that you will not be indifferent’’.

This statement was not brought to the attention of deputies [note 1]. The Decree, of course, was ratified.


On 29 June, the Human Rights Committee studied a paper by Committee member A. N. Tverdokhlebov, ”Notes on legislation in the field of intensifying the struggle against persons who evade socially useful labour and lead an anti-social, parasitic way of life”, and passed an “Opinion” on the subject.

In its “Opinion”, the Committee expresses in particular the wish that punishment should be decreed only in cases where it is clearly indicated what it is that is being punished, i.e. (in relation to the problem under examination) that the meanings of “anti-social, parasitic way of life” [note 2] and “socially useful labour” should be unequivocally defined. The Committee considers that housekeeping and the bringing up of children should be regarded as socially useful labour, and furthermore that in accordance with Article 122 of the USSR Constitution men should enjoy equal rights with women in this question. The Committee points out that the use of labour as a punishment contradicts a proposition in the Constitution, that “labour is a matter of honour”. Finally, the Committee considers that penalties may be imposed only for particular actions, not for a way of life.



[1] The text of the decree was published in Vedomosti Verkhovnogo Soveta RSFSR (15 June 1972), and ratified at the Supreme Soviet session of 29-30 June.

[2] This broad definition was embodied in Article 209 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (“Leading a parasitic way of life for a prolonged period). Its terms were harshened some years later, see CCE 47.17.