The Trial of Konovalikhin, August 1978 (51.5)

<<No 51 : 1 December 1978>>

On 23 August, in Sovetsk, a session of the Kaliningrad Regional Court presided over by I. I. Kapturov started examining the case of Vadim Konovalikhin (CCE 49.15), charged under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code. The state prosecutor was Deputy Regional Procurator V. P. Sizov; there was a civic prosecutor, P. N. Stankov, and the defence counsel was barrister A. G. Panfilov.


Criminal proceedings were instituted against Vadim Ivanovich KONOVALIKHIN (b. 1943) on 28 March 1978; a search was conducted at his flat on the same day. After the search he was kept in custody for several days. From 25 April to 22 May Konovalikhin underwent forensic-psychiatric examination as an in-patient; he was ruled responsible (CCE 49.15 contains several inaccuracies). On 25 May Konovalikhin was presented with the charges and taken into custody. While in custody Konovalikhin gave some testimony and pleaded guilty.

Later, in a private letter, Konovalikhin explained,

“The thing is: my mother is very ill, and it looks as though I won’t see her again. I have therefore taken this step — see you in court!”

On 20 July Konovalikhin was presented with the final charge sheet and released after he had signed an undertaking not to leave the town. On the same day he and his defence counsel began to study the case: the pre-trial investigation was over.

The trial

On 23 August, the trial began. Entry to the courtroom was open to all. As soon as the session began Konovalikhin gave the presiding judge the following statement:

“Since I, Vadim Ivanovich Konovalikhin, did not and do not consider myself guilty under Article 190-1, I declare before the court that I renounce my signatures on the investigation documents which contain deliberately false charges against me I also renounce the statements I wrote myself about repentance, as I wrote the signatures and repentance in exchange for release from custody.”

The judge began to read this statement out quietly and then, thrown into confusion, cast a questioning look at the Procurator.

After the reading of the indictment Konovalikhin explained that he did not consider himself guilty, as all the remarks he had made in statements and oral discussions corresponded to reality.

The judge then read the conclusion of the official forensic-psychiatric examination, and, with the words “It’s bad that they’re interfering”, he also read the letter of the WORKING COMMISSION to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes (CCE 49.15).

When Konovalikhin’s statement was read out, concerning his resignation from Soviet trades unions and his wish to join the [American] AFL-CIO or the Free Trades Union (CCE 48.21 and CCE 49.18) — this is one of the statements with which Konovalikhin was charged — People’s Assessor A. V. Kotov asked: “But aren’t you aware that [George] Meany belongs to a gangster organization?”


The first witness to testify was the accused’s father, I. A. Konovalikhin. He said, in particular, that his son had fallen under the influence of the ‘unclean’, a group of nine individuals formed in Sovetsk by Roman Kosterin (see CCE 49.15 and “Arrests, Searches, Interrogations” in this issue, CCE 51.8) with the aim of defending human rights.

Witness N.N. Nazimov, Party Organizer of the factory [PMK] where Konovalikhin had worked during the summer of 1977, said that he had not personally heard Konovalikhin make any slanderous remarks, but had heard from other employees that Konovalikhin had expressed dissatisfaction with the Soviet regime. When the judge read out a number of phrases from Konovalikhin’s ‘criminal’ statements and asked Nazimov to comment on them, Nazimov confirmed them. Konovalikhin attempted to object to the judge’s leading questions, but the judge warned him that he would have him forcibly taken out of the courtroom.

The judge used similar methods to obtain ‘confirmation’ of the charges from most of the witnesses. Marakina, an accountant at a television workshop, and Bogachev, a former radio mechanic there, related at the trial that the testimonies they had given at the pretrial investigation concerning Konovalikhin’s spoken remarks were obtained from them by Investigator Kudashkin reading them extracts from Konovalikhin’s statements.

Bogachev said that while working with Konovalikhin he noticed that the administration used to nag him constantly. After his dismissal — in February he had been dismissed from the workshop for ‘absenteeism’ — Konovalikhin tried to get a court to reinstate him in his job. The head of the television workshop, Galushko, rang the KGB and asked them to exert pressure on the court. “I agree on certain points with Konovalikhin’s criticism of the Soviet system,” Bogachev declared.

Galushko related that when money was being collected for the Peace Fund, Konovalikhin had said he would prefer to donate to the Relief Fund for Political Prisoners. Galushko said that when stating his socialist obligations Konovalikhin undertook to fight for human rights and wage rises, and against bureaucrats. Galushko also said that Konovalikhin frequently made slanderous remarks about the CPSU, Soviet trades unions and the voting system.

Konovalikhin appealed to the court for a further four witnesses to be called. His petition was granted.

Two of them, L. V. Zimina, a dispatcher at the television workshop, and Minin, a radio mechanic, said that they had not heard Konovalikhin make any anti-Soviet remarks. Minin also said that Konovalikhin was dismissed from the workshop for criticizing the administration and the trades unions.

Minin’s assertion was supported by radio mechanic Safonov: “Both Konovalikhin and I did not turn up to work, but only Konovalikhin was dismissed.” Safonov said that Konovalikhin had been dismissed for making critical remarks and for wanting to emigrate from the USSR, while Galushko was the one who had provoked the discussions of political subjects.

Ibbatullin, the head of the aerials department, told the court that there was no freedom of the press in the USSR and that CPSU officials were appointed as the chairman of city soviet executive committees. In his opinion there were no grounds for bringing Konovalikhin to trial.

When the questioning of witnesses was completed, at Konovalikhin’s request the judge read out Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (on the right to emigration and free movement within one’s own territory).

The court investigation lasted three days. On 30 August, the summing-up speeches commenced. Procurator Sizov demanded that Konovalikhin be given three years in camps, while barrister Panfilov demanded that he be acquitted: he had expressed his beliefs in his remarks and statements and, therefore, they could not be considered “deliberate fabrications”. The verdict was pronounced the same day.

The indictment

The following is an extract from the verdict:

“Under the influence of the foreign anti-Soviet broadcasts to which he had been listening, Konovalikhin systematically, in 1977-1978, prepared by writing and typing on a Moskva typewriter especially obtained for the purpose, and disseminated, deliberate fabrications slandering the Soviet social and political system. These he sent to party and Soviet administrative organs and to trades-union organizations of the USSR, and also to international bodies and official and private persons in foreign states.

“Thus, on 2 October 1977, at his flat, he wrote a statement containing deliberate fabrications defaming the Soviet State and the policies of the Communist Party; he sent this to the 7th Session of the USSR Supreme Soviet and sent a copy to the United Nations Organization.

“On 7 January 1978 he wrote similar statements containing similar slanderous fabrications which he addressed to Soviet trades unions and sent to the local committee of the trades-union organization of the Sovetsk production unit No. 4 of the Ekran [Screen] combine, and on 21 February 1978 he wrote and sent a statement to the local committee of the Kaliningrad regional radio and television repair combine; he intended to send a copy of it to the All-Union Central Trade Union Council and the so-called “Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements on Human Rights Questions”. He wrote and sent letters and statements of anti-Soviet content slandering the Soviet social and political system to the following: the CPSU Central Committee; the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet; the USSR Procurator-General; the Procurators of the Kaliningrad Region and the town of Sovetsk; Amnesty International in London; the West German Chancellor; and other official and private persons in foreign states.

“In addition, Konovalikhin systematically and with bad intent disseminated deliberate fabrications slandering the Soviet social and political system. He did this in conversation with workers of PMK-24 and the Sovetsk production combine Ekran, where he worked from 1977 to 1978.

“In court Konovalikhin pleaded not guilty to preparing and disseminating in written, spoken and printed form deliberate fabrications slandering the Soviet social and political system, and explained that from 1977 to 1978 in answer to the state organs’ refusal to grant him permission to emigrate, he sent letters and statements to Soviet political and social organizations and also to official and private persons and organizations and also to official and private persons and organizations in foreign States.

“In these letters and statements, he expounded in sharp form his views on the Soviet social and political system, but he did not consider this to be slander.

“He made similar remarks in conversations with employees of factory [PMK] No. 24 and the No. 4 production unit for radio equipment repair.

“Witnesses Nazimov, Popov, Pomadin, Marakina, Slivka, Bogachev, Fakhrutdinov, Zotova, Galushko and Plekhova explained in court that Konovalikhin systematically slandered the Soviet social and political system. They suggested to him that he cease this slander, but he showed no reaction and in conversation with them continually claimed that there was no freedom of expression or press in the USSR and defamed the Soviet regime, the CPSU, Soviet trades unions and the new [1977] Constitution of the USSR. At the same time, he made approving remarks about the way of life in capitalist countries.

“Witness K. G. Konovalikhina testified at the pre-trial investigation that at her son’s request she had copied out his statements to the local trades-union organizations of the regional Ekran combine, with a copy to the chairman of the All-Union Central Trade Union Council.

“Konovalikhin’s explanations to the effect that the information he prepared and disseminated was in accordance with reality are invalidated because he did not adduce one single fact on which he could base his criticisms of the Soviet social and political system. This demonstrates the presence of direct intent in his actions to prepare and disseminate fabrications of a slanderous nature.

“His claims that he has been persecuted for his beliefs have also been disproven. No administrative measures have been taken against Konovalikhin; he was dismissed from his job at the Sovetsk production unit of the No. 4 Ekran combine for infringing work- discipline regulations by absenteeism, and a detailed testimony about the circumstances in which Konovalikhin was interned in a psychiatric hospital in October 1977 was given in court by his father, Konovalikhin, who explained that noticing deviations in his son from normal mental activity, he and his wife took him to Kaliningrad Regional Psychiatric Hospital, where he spent 24 hours.

“Konovalikhin’s guilt in committing this crime is also proven by his own personal testimonies, including statements he wrote himself at the pre-trial investigation, and were verified in the course of the court investigation, in which he admitted slandering the Soviet social and political system.

“The court considers that Konovalikhin’s renunciation of these testimonies at the court investigation was motivated by his desire to evade responsibility for his actions.”


The court applied Article 43 of the Russian Criminal Code:

“… the court has taken into account the nature and degree of social danger of the crime, the fact that it is a first offence, details about his character, and also the possibility of reform and re-education without isolation from society …”

and sentenced Konovalikhin to 4 years’ exile.

Vadim Konovalikhin, b. 1943 (in Komi ASSR)

The time he spent in custody (28 March-29 March and 25 May-20 July) and under psychiatric examination was calculated according to the usual “one to three” ratio. The court kept in force the former measure of restraint — his signed undertaking not to leave the town. Konovalikhin’s typewriter was confiscated as an “instrument of crime”. After the verdict was pronounced the judge told Konovalikhin: “There, you see — in this country no one is persecuted for his beliefs!”

Konovalikhin made the journey to his place of exile, the town of Mikun (Komi ASSR), by himself (without a guard). He is working as a foreman in a television workshop and living in a hostel. He has been promised a flat before 1 January 1979.



Before 1945 the town of Sovetsk was called Tilsit.