Letters and Statements, July to October 1972 (27.7)

<<No 27 : 15 October 1972>>

In defence of Pyotr Yakir


In July 1972, a letter in defence of P.I. Yakir (for his June arrest, see CCE 26.1) was sent to the CPSU Politburo and the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet. Amongst other things the letter says:

Pyotr Yakir, 1923-1982

“Pyotr Yakir always felt it his duty to fight against any attempts whatever to revive Stalinism. Only those who equate Stalinism with Soviet authority can accuse Yakir of anti-Sovietism …. The disinterested desire to participate in the discussion of pressing social problems can only be respected, and everyone has a right to such participation. To deprive people of this right, to arrest them for their protests and criticism is to demonstrate one’s might (which no-one is doubting) but not one’s right! “

The letter is signed by 51 persons. [They included Vladimir Slepak, Nina Bukovskaya, Zinaida and Andrei Grigorenko, Sakharov and his wife Yelena Bonner. In August there appeared a well-supported foreign petition [note 1].


On 30 June 1972 Andrei Dubrov [note 2] appealed to the USSR Supreme Soviet, the UN Human Rights Commission and the editor of The Times [London] in a letter which concludes as follows:

“I call upon progressive public opinion in the Soviet Union and abroad to come to the defence of this outstanding personality of the democratic movement. We have the strength to prevent a repetition of the horrors of Stalinism and Fascism. Freedom for Pyotr Yakir!”


On 1 October 1972, a letter by Vladimir Lapin [note 3] was dispatched to R. Rudenko [Procurator-General of the USSR]. He calls upon the Procuracy and the court to bear in mind, when examining the case of P. I. Yakir, the fate that befell his family and himself in the past, his moral qualities, and his social activities.

“People are inclined to remember evil as well as good.

“‘We cannot forget!’ they say of ‘the inhumanity of the fascist camps. ‘We cannot forget! ’ ought to be said of the inhumanity of Stalin, Beria and Yezhov’s similar torture-chambers. To forget about them, not to pass judgement on them, and not to condemn them aloud – would this not be giving history the chance to repeat itself?”


Alexei Tumerman: Press statement

The Chronicle reproduces the full text of a statement issued by Alexei Tumerman on 11 October 1972:

“The reasons which have prompted me to issue this statement to the press are as follows. At the time when I was forcibly confined in a psychiatric hospital [see CCE 26.7] my mother was summoned for a talk with the organs of state security, and she was cynically told that until she had come for the talk I would not be released from the psychiatric hospital.

“During the talk, my mother was assured that our applications for permission to leave the USSR would b’ considered in the near future and all our family would receive permission to leave. But our departure would be assured only on condition that I immediately ceased my activities in the movement for human rights in the USSR.

“Should I continue these activities I could expect not emigration but arrest.

“in connexion with the conditions imposed upon me by the state security organs I feel obliged to make the following statement: I categorically refuse to make any deals of this kind with the KGB or to regard the promised exit permission as payment for “good behaviour’’. I have never thought of my participation in the Soviet human rights movement as a means of pressurizing the authorities into granting me permission to leave. I consider participation in the Soviet human rights movement my moral duty, the only possible line of conduct for a man with my opinions. For me it is a question not>t of tactics but of conscience, and I regard deals with one’s conscience as unworthy of a free man, therefore I state that I shall continue to participate in the human rights movement in the USSR in spite of the fact that I regard the threat by the KGB as a very real one and consequently my arrest as by no means unlikely.”


Recantation: two statements by Chalidze


On 6 September 1972, Valery Chalidze addressed a letter to KGB Chairman Andropov in which he wrote, amongst other things [note 4]:

Valery Chalidze, 1938-2018

“I was very distressed to learn that your officials informed the arrested K. A. Lyubarsky” [see elsewhere in this issue] “that I had allegedly renounced my own publications.

“Whose idea could it have been that I had renounced my statements in defence of human rights, renounced the many communications I have sent to the authorities in which I have tried either to assist the competent officials to correct infringements of the law or to help in improving our laws? I hope that an inquiry by you will establish the identity of the fabricator and whether his intentions were evil – which would be no great surprise.

“But how could Lyubarsky believe this invention, which discredits me? Has his long period of solitary confinement not dulled his perceptive faculties to the point of inadequacy? I must observe, by the way, that it is a dreadful way of dealing with a person to keep him in total isolation from the outside world and permit him neither meetings nor correspondence. In such conditions a man will begin to believe anything. I do not know if the invention of my renunciation was ill-inclined, but I do know that it was not without its purpose: communicated to Lyubarsky by investigator Smirnov, it was one of the factors which led him to recant.”

However important a recantation is in a man’s life it cannot, in the opinion of Chalidze, be used to swell the dossier of the person who has recanted.

“And it is utterly inadmissible to use a man’s recantation to denounce others. But this is precisely what has happened in the case of Lyubarsky. … Your men used a lie to help Lyubarsky to recant. Fliis lie slanders me and I await your inquiry into the incident and a report that the lie has been refuted – for that is my right.

“A second point. A confusion of the idea of sincere recantation and the idea of assistance in the exposure of crime has been permitted in the tactics of the investigation into Lyubarsky’s case. I call upon you to explain to investigator Smirnov and the accused Lyubarsky that sincere recantation is in itself an extenuating circumstance and so the fact that Lyubarsky has recanted does not oblige him to testify against other people.”


On 5 October 1972, V. N. Chalidze wrote a letter addressed to USSR Procurator-General Rudenko; Podgorny, the Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet; and KGB Chairman Andropov

‘‘Concerning the repentance of accused persons and their assistance in the exposure of crime”.

The letter speaks of the inadmissibility of confusion between the categories referred to in its title and especially their definition (that of the second in particular) as circumstances mitigating punishment, a confusion which effectively exists in the “USSR Fundamentals of Criminal Legislation” and in the Criminal Codes of a number of Union Republics. Whence follows, says the author of the letter, the inadmissibility in general of the use of testimony given by witnesses in custody as evidence in law.

Such a practice violates the principle of the impartiality of witnesses and the principle of the equality of all persons in the eyes of the court, not to mention the mutual corruption of investigators and persons under investigation, judges and defendants, which is fostered in this way by a trade in “incriminating” evidence. For example: the testimony of Dobrovolsky and Brox-Sokolov in the cases of Galanskov and Ginzburg [CCE 1.1]; the testimony of Gendler in the case of Kvachevsky [CCE 5.2]; the testimony of Gendler in the case of Gorbanevskaya [CCE 15.1]; and the testimony of Sebreghts in the case of Bukovsky [CCE 23.1].

Postscript by Sakharov: “I consider the question raised an important one and associate myself with the author’s arguments.”



Yakir arrest, 21 June 1972

[1]          On 30 August 1972, a similar appeal was sent to the members of the CPSU Politburo by 60 Western writers and intellectuals. Among them were René Cassin, Noam Chomsky, Arthur Miller, I. F. Stone, Yury Glazov, Mikhail Zand, and the Presidents of the Swedish, Norwegian and German PEN Clubs.

[2] Dubrov was a godson of Anatoly Levitin-Krasnov. His flat was searched in May 1972 (see CCE 25). Author of an interesting samizdat article on the political control of Soviet students (see Russkaya Mysl, 12 October 1972).

[3] Lapin was a young poet and publicist who “constantly supported the appeals of the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights” (See CCE 4 and remarks in Gorbanevskaya’s Red Square at Noon; also CCEs 6 and 10; also CCEs 17 and 20.]

Alexei Tumerman

[4] Tumerman was a close friend of Bukovsky. See CCE 19.7 and CCE 26.7 (footnote 6), also his letter to Yu. Andropov of December 1972  in which he describes the further KGB harassment he had suffered (Russkaya Mysl, 8 February 1973). On 27 February 1973 he left the USSR.

Chalidze on Recantation

[5] Written about the wrong man, these were timely words. In August 1973, Pyotr Yakir, with Victor Krasin, would admit his guilt in court, give a press conference for foreign journalists, parts of which were broadcast nationwide on Soviet television, during which he and Krasin publicly repented their former dissident activities (see CCE 30.2).