The Trial of Shatalov, August 1978 (51.4)

<<No 51 : 1 December 1978>>

On 10 August the Stavropol Region Court, presided over by V. P. Leontev, sentenced Nikolai Petrovich Shatalov (CCE 48.17, item 6) under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code to 18 months in a strict-regime camp.

Shatalov was in custody from 10 August 1977 to 16 March 1978, during which time he also underwent a forensic-psychiatric examination as an in-patient.

The verdict

After the verdict was pronounced, he was taken into custody in the courtroom. The verdict stated:

“… In March 1976, the accused Shatalov and – under his influence – members of his family, decided to renounce citizenship of the USSR with the aim of emigrating to the USA. From this time on he gave explanations for this decision to emigrate in conversations with I. F. Ledenov, Chairman of the village soviet, and Kovalyov, a local inspector of the Petrovsky district OVD. When they suggested he look for work, he repeatedly made deliberately false comments defaming the political system.

“Thus, in conversations with Ledenov the accused stated that under the existing system in the Soviet Union he could not find work, that working people in the Soviet Union were oppressed in all sorts of ways, that they had no rights or freedoms, and that the authorities reduced their rights in every way they could.

“In conversations with local inspector Kovalyov, the accused repeatedly stated that he did not want to work because he wanted to emigrate; he did not like the laws in force in the Soviet Union and working people in the USSR were oppressed and had no rights or freedoms.


“In November 1976, with the aim of disseminating deliberate fabrications slandering the Soviet social and political system, Shatalov started writing letters containing these fabrications and sent them to various state organs.

“Thus, on 28 April 1977 the accused wrote two letters, which he sent by post to the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR, one being addressed to members of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. These letters of the accused contain in written form deliberate fabrications alleging that there is no justice in the Soviet Union, that Shatalov’s family was being mocked in subtle ways with the assistance both of modern science and of the techniques of the medieval Inquisition.

“On 1 May 1977 the accused wrote and sent by post to the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR a letter containing a fabrication alleging that the Soviet jurisprudence is criminal.

“On 22 June 1977, the accused Shatalov wrote and sent by post a letter addressed to L.I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, in which he wrote deliberate fabrications alleging that arbitrary repression exists in the Soviet Union, that most of the working masses are being robbed, that there is economic destitution and unlimited prospects of imprisonment, that hypocrisy and deceit have been elevated to the level of political policies and that a regime of personal power has been established in the country. On 27 December Shatalov wrote and sent by post a letter addressed to the Procurator-General of the USSR, containing fabrications alleging that socialist society is a forge of violence, that those who point out the villains are considered misfits, and that throughout the country tyranny, cynicism and sadism rule.

“Thus, the accused by his premeditated actions committed a criminal act under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

“When questioned in court Shatalov pleaded not guilty and explained to the court that he had indeed written and sent a number of letters to various state organs, but in these letters, he had described the state of affairs in the USSR as it really was …


“Witness I. F. Ledenov explained to the court that the accused Shatalov, after renouncing citizenship of the USSR, repeatedly stated in conversations with him that there was no justice in the USSR, that people were deprived of their rights, and that if he and his family were not granted permission to emigrate from the USSR, he would initiate a campaign of agitation among those who were dissatisfied with Soviet power.

“Witness Kovalyov explained to the court that when Shatalov’s family renounced citizenship of the USSR the accused and his wife and daughter refused to look for work. In conversations with him the accused repeatedly asserted that he did not intend to work as he had already done all the work due from him, that the regime in the country would soon be changing, that this would be brought about by people such as the accused, Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and others, that if he were not allowed to emigrate he would start a campaign of agitation among the people and seek out people who were dissatisfied with the Soviet regime. Moreover, Shatalov repeatedly declared that citizens’ rights were suppressed in the Soviet Union.”


Procurator B. I. Dremov took part in the trial. There was no defence lawyer.

Two workers who formerly worked alongside Shatalov stated in their testimonies at the trial that Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn wanted another revolution in the USSR, but that they, the working people, would not allow such a thing to happen. Shatalov’s wife and daughter Tatyana were also witnesses; after giving their testimonies they were removed from the courtroom.

Shatalov’s challenge regarding the composition of the court was rejected.

As justification for not imposing a maximum sentence the court referred in the verdict to the fact that Shatalov (b. 1929) “was for a long time engaged in socially useful work” and “the crime he committed did not belong to the category of serious crimes” [note 1].



[1] Shatalov’s crime, qualified as an offence under Article 190-1 and was investigated by the police. It was, therefore, not “an especially serious State crime” such as Articles 64-73 (e.g. 70: ‘anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda’), investigated by the KGB.

Russia’s post-Soviet Criminal Code, in force since 1997, places “Crimes against the Individual” (Articles 105-157) in first place. The post-Stalin criminal code of the USSR’s 15 constitutent republics grouped crimes in descending order of importance as 1. Serious crimes against the State; 2. Crimes against Socialist Property; 3. Crimes against the Life, Health, Freedom and Dignity of the Individual. This explains the oddity of periodic amnesties that freed murderers and rapists but were never extended to dissidents convicted under Article 70.