The Persecution of Believers, December 1978 (51.15)

<<No 51 : 1 December 1978>>

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS

On 2 July the Deputy Head of the Smolensk KGB ‘chatted’ for an hour and a half with T.N. Shchipkova (CCE 49) about the journal Community [Obshchina] (CCE 49 and “Samizdat Update” in this issue, CCE 51.21), Shchipkova refused to answer his questions. At the end of the ‘chat’ she was given a warning under the Decree of 25 December 1972. Shchipkova did not sign the warning.

After a search in April (CCE 49.14), the lecturers in the Faculty of Foreign Languages were forced to describe their attitudes to Shchipkova in writing.

Soon afterwards Shchipkova was dismissed from the Pedagogical Institute “for lack of sufficient qualifications”. Shchipkova has worked at the Institute for 17 years; she knows 5 languages and has 40 diplomas.

Tatyana Shchipkova, 1930-2009

In September there was a meeting of the Academic Council of the Leningrad Department of the Academy of Sciences’ Foreign Languages Institute, at which Shchipkova had once defended her doctoral [candidate’s] dissertation. The speakers said that Shchipkova was a believer and, therefore, … the Academic Council agreed to request the Higher Degrees Commission to deprive Shchipkova of her academic degree.

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A charge of ‘parasitism’ has been laid against Alexander Ogorodnikov, leader of the Christian Seminar (CCE 41; CCE 43.11; and CCE 46).

In the middle of November Ogorodnikov, who was living in Redkino (Kalinin Region), received a summons from the police to appear on 22 November with a document demonstrating that he was employed.

On Friday 17 November, when he was preparing to go and find work, he was detained at the rail station and held at a police station for 16 hours.

On Monday 20 November, when he was again about to obtain work, he was arrested in the morning at the rail station and taken to an investigations prison in Kalinin.

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On 2 November Alexander Kuzkin was visited at work by a psychiatrist and two men in civilian dress. One of them asked Kuzkin about the authorship of the texts “What will happen in our country in 1980?” and “The mysteries of the number 666”. Kuzkin said that he was not the author, but agreed with what they said; he was then delivered to the Central Moscow Regional Psychiatric Hospital (the head of his department was Lydia Ivanovna Zhuravlyova, and the doctor in charge of his treatment was Yevgeny Vladimirovich).

As Kuzkin refused to change into hospital clothing, he was tied to his bed and given an injection; in the morning he was given another shot. Then he was taken for an examination, while under the influence of the drug, so that he could hardly answer any questions.

On the day Kuzkin was hospitalized, KGB officials confiscated some papers from his home and made his mother write a declaration, dictated by them, that her son was engaged in harmful activities and that she asked for him to be protected against the bad influence of Father Dmitry Dudko and a number of Kuzkin’s acquaintances, whose names were also dictated to her.

The KGB summoned friends of Kuzkin’s for chats.

Kuzkin spent about two weeks in this hospital. The he was transferred to the psychiatric hospital near his place of residence, in Abramtsevo, Moscow Region (the head of his department is Oleg Ivanovich Kleshchevnikov, the head doctor is Rudolf Dmitrievich Smirnov). There he is being subjected to intensive ‘treatment’.

Many years ago, Alexander Kuzkin (b. 1949) applied to a neurologist because of a temporary worsening of his memory, but he reckoned he was not on the clinic’s register of patients. Kuzkin has participated in A. Ogorodnikov’s seminar and has not hidden his religious convictions.

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In recent years the situation of the monks at the “Holy Assumption” Pochayev Lavra (the town of Pochayev, Ternopol Region) has grown significantly worse.

In 1960 there were 149 monks and novices at the Lavra; now there remain 50 in all. Of these, 20 are unfit for work, either because of illness or because of old age.

The majority of brothers have in recent years been forced out of the Lavra. The authorities’ basic weapon in evicting the monks has been registration for residence. The same means is used to prevent new monks being tonsured. Every day two or three men apply to become monks. However, during the whole of 1976 only three managed to register at the Lavra.

All those who apply are carefully ‘screened’ by officials of the Ternopol KGB Department. In the words of Vladimir Liestvin, when he applied for registration at the Lavra in July 1977, a KGB official who did not give his name talked to him and tried to persuade him to work for the security organs.

A number of buildings, the bishop’s residence and the garden have been taken away from the Lavra. It is planned to open a museum of atheist propaganda in the residence, a psychiatric hospital is to be set up in the other buildings, and an excursion bureau is to be established in the monastery grounds. The police hinder pilgrims from reaching the Lavra in all kinds of ways.

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PENTECOSTALS

CHERNOGORSK (Krasnoyarsk Region). In the spring Yakov Kubai and Alexander Sheifer were arrested for refusing to be conscripted into the army. On 19 June Procurator Netkachev informed them that criminal proceedings against them under Article 80 of the RSFSR Criminal Code had been dropped, but that the military enlistment office would send them another call-up notice.

On 3 March Roman Roda (CCE 49.14), Presbyter of the congregation, was called for military reserve training: he also refused to go. The newspaper Soviet Khakassiya published an article about him. At his place of work (Roda works as a joiner in a factory) a meeting was held. He was given the following character reference for the court: “Has mastered all the machine tools, allows waste, doesn’t turn up for Saturday work-days in honour of Lenin, distorts the facts of Soviet reality, praises bourgeois life.” On 21 June the court fined Roda 100 roubles.

VINNITSA. The sacking of Nikolai Polyakov (CCE 48) was ruled to be unlawful by a court, which reinstated him at work and ordered him to be paid for his 3 months of enforced idleness.

Settlement of MIKHAILOVKA (Neklinovsky district, Rostov Region). On 18 May Yury Safronov, leader of the local congregation, was warned by the Procuracy that if he did not register the congregation, he would be held criminally responsible. In the 1960s, Safronov served a 3-year sentence.

MOSCOW. In May Anatoly Vlasov (CCE 46, 47, 49) was visited at home by KGB official Yu. S. Polyukh, who had come for “a chat”. The ‘chat’ concerned the ‘Swedish case’ (CCE 47) and Vlasov’s acquaintance with dissidents. Polyukh said that all dissidents were renegades and would get just what they deserved. Polyukh had also visited Vlasov in March. Then he had ‘advised’ Vlasov to concern himself only with “religious matters” and reproached him for taking part in a press conference held at [Alexander] Ginzburg’s flat (CCE 48).

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BAPTISTS

(Largely based on material from the Bulletin of the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives)

The ‘Swedish case’ (CCE 47) is continuing, although the Swedes themselves have been released, and expelled from the country. On 22 May 1978, searches were carried out in Moscow in connection with this case at the homes of Pentecostalist Anatoly Vlasov and Baptists Alexander Semchenko (CCE 47), Nikolai Epishin and Alexander Batylin, also in the town of Ramenskoye (Moscow Region) — at the home of Baptist Viktor Strelnikov (CCE 47). At Vlasov’s home nothing was confiscated (not even religious literature); at Semchenko’s a typewriter, blank paper, about 30 religious books and personal notes were confiscated; at Epishin’s — a typewriter, about 40 religious books, 2 tape-recorders and 10 cassettes; at Batylin’s — religious literature, 5 tape-recorders, 232 cassettes, 60 tapes, 4 microphones and 2 cameras; while at Strelnikov’s, religious literature and personal notes were confiscated.

On the same day. Investigator Lundina of the Babushkino district in Moscow interrogated all five men “as witnesses”. According to her the case had reached Moscow from Minsk. During the interrogations she referred constantly to the article “Under a False Mask” (Izvestiya, 5 April 1978).

Later, Semchenko, Batylin and Strelnikov began to be summoned for interrogation by Investigator Artyomova of the Proletarsky district procuracy in Moscow. They are charged under Article 142 (“Violation of the laws separating the Church from the State”) and Article 162 (“Engaging in a forbidden trade”) of the RSFSR Criminal Code. The leaders of the official Baptist congregation in Moscow, of which Semchenko, Batylin and Strelnikov are members, have reprimanded them for behaviour “discrediting the members of the congregation”.

The Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives receives many complaints from Baptists about the forcible dispersal of their prayer-meetings, of weddings and so on. Such dispersals are accompanied by 15-day arrests, violence, breaking into private homes, illegal searches, and confiscation of literature, other articles and money, as well as imposition of fines beyond their ability to pay. Such information has come in particular from the Kharkov Region [Ukraine SSR], where on 14 May in the town of Merefa the wedding of P. I. Snitsarenko and G. A. Litvinenko was broken up. In the settlement of Nauchny (Crimean ASSR) the authorities broke up a crowd of believers who had gathered to say farewell to L. N. Bovdyr, A. N. Bovdyr and A. A. Andreichenko, who were leaving to serve in the Army. The believers of the churches in Bezhitsky and Bryansk complain that the authorities do not merely break up their prayer-meetings, but even break into homes when they just visit each other; among them are families who have been fined over 300 roubles in a month. In Rostov-on-Don the leaders of a district Soviet Executive Committee and police officials started preparing ahead of time to put obstacles in the way of the wedding of P. V. Gokun and I. R. Goncharuk, also of G. I. Bublik and L. P. Zakharova (the first wedding nevertheless took place). A telegram to the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives from believers in the settlement of llinskoye (Moscow Region) states that on 28 May police and vigilantes broke up a prayer meeting; while this was going on Alexei Pozdnyakov (16 years old) was beaten unconscious by unidentified men in civilian clothes. In the village of Ivanovka (Bryansk Region) police and vigilantes broke up the wedding of V. Vysotsky and L. Dyomina; 10 of the guests were sentenced to 15 days’ imprisonment.

In a letter addressed to Kosygin, pensioners N. F. Zdanovich and M. F. Zdanovich complain about the action of the local authorities in driving away guests who were visiting them for Easter; the Zdanoviches were fined 50 roubles each. M. A. Pshenitsyn (CCE 46) from the town of Zheleznodorozhny (Moscow Region) appealed to Brezhnev in an open letter; he describes the break-up of a prayer meeting at his flat on 4 April. Baptists from the town of Sumy state that on 19 August police and KGB officials broke up the wedding celebrations of Sirenko and Koplik, 6 people got 15-day sentences and V. F. Kucherenko was beaten up and taken to the Preliminary Detention Cells; on 23 August he was transferred to the town prison and criminal proceedings were begun against him.

In Donetsk on 22 April 1977 the secretary of the district Soviet Executive Committee and the police broke into R. S. Goncharova’s house, where the children of believers were gathered at the time; they carried out an unlawful search, confiscating spiritual literature, a Bible and 150 roubles. The district Procuracy brought a criminal case against the owner of the house. After her fellow believers interceded for her, the regional Procuracy closed the case (for lack of evidence) but refused a request to return the spiritual literature and money. (The religious literature confiscated from Goncharova, which was produced illegally, is not liable to be returned. No money was confiscated from Goncharova or stolen from her,” according to V. L. Tatarchuk, Deputy Head of the Investigation Department). On 6 July 1978 Goncharova was detained at the flat of a fellow-believer in the town of Makeyevka, whom she was visiting, and the local authorities are again preparing a criminal case against her.

Fifty Baptists from the town of Kivertsy (Volynskaya Region) have applied in a letter to Brezhnev, demanding an end to forcible dispersals of their prayer-meetings; on 23 July believers in Kivertsy were stopped and thrown into cars while they were still on the way to a prayer-meeting.

On 11 June guests had gathered at the home of an 84-year-old Baptist woman, Popovich (Marshintsy village, Novoselitsa district, Chernovtsy Region): they sang songs and psalms and read the Bible. By a decision of the district Soviet Executive Committee’s administrative commission, two women were fined: L. S. Chernyshevskaya was fined 25 roubles, and A. V. Ruskanu, 50 roubles. As a result of an appeal to the district court, which took into account A. Ruskanu’s material difficulties, the fine was lowered to 30 roubles, but after a protest by the Procurator this court decision was revoked.

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Twenty-eight members of the congregation in Magnitogorsk have sent a declaration to the USSR Minister of Defence, the Procurator-General of the USSR, the [unofficial] Council of Baptist Churches and the Council of Prisoners’ Relatives, also to the commanders of various military units, informing them that tribunals have begun criminal proceedings against young Baptist servicemen in the Soviet Army (I. V. Rotar, V. M. Zhikhor and A. M. Pugachev) for refusing to take the military oath of allegiance. The believers ask for the early release of the sentenced Christian servicemen, and in general for an end to the practice of sentencing people for refusing to take the oath on religious grounds. A similar letter was sent to the USSR Minister of Defence by A. M. Pugachev’s parents and sister.

The military tribunal of Kharkov Garrison has sentenced Baptist A. A. Kalyashin to 3 years’ imprisonment in an ordinary-regime camp for refusing to take the oath on religious grounds, under Article 243 of the Ukrainian SSR Criminal Code (“Avoidance of military service”). Kalyashin is serving his term in Sumy Region.

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DEDOVSK (Moscow Region). The Baptist congregation in Dedovsk has no building in which to hold its religious services. The money collected to acquire a suitable house was confiscated during a search of V. Ya. Smirnov’s home (CCE 49), Because of the resulting situation, the congregation applied to the Dedovsk Soviet Executive Committee for permission to hold services in the settlement of Nakhabino and also asked for the return of the money (9,641 roubles) which had been collected for the repair of the building the executive committee had offered the congregation. Permission to hold a service in Nakhabino was granted for two days only.

After triumphal Easter services which the congregation held at the flat of Mr. and Mrs. Ryzhuk in Nakhabino on 1-2 May, they began to be threatened with criminal proceedings (M. O. Kondrashkin, Procurator of Krasnogorsk district, vowed to arrest Ryzhuk if the latter did not stop holding services in his flat). The Ryzhuks were fined 100 roubles.

On 21 May the authorities set up a cordon of police, vigilantes and men in civilian clothes to prevent a religious service being held. So the Baptists sang and prayed while standing in the street outside the fence; three of their fellow-believers from African countries were witnesses to this. On 24 May P.V. Rumachik, presbyter of the congregation, received a warning from the police that if he had not found work within a month, he would be sentenced for parasitism. On 26 May about 20 police officers carried out a search at the Ryzhuks’ flat (since 1961 Ryzhuk has been arrested 3 times and has served 10 years altogether because of his religious beliefs).

In a letter to the Council of Prisoners” Relatives, Presbyter P, V. Rumachik explains the pressure the authorities exert on the Dedovsk congregation by the fact that many young people, formally members of the [officially recognized] All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians and Baptists, had been confessing their faith at his services in Nakhabino, and that the leaders of the All-Union Council had “reported this to the relevant people”. According to Rumachik, four people responsible for All-Union Council youth groups had been searched and three of them might be arrested.

The Council of Baptist Churches has appealed to Brezhnev, the Chairman of the Moscow Region Soviet Executive Committee and the Council of Prisoners’ Relatives in a declaration concerning the persecution of P.V. Rumachik. He had been given temporary registration for a year in his own family’s flat, after returning from imprisonment (it had been his fourth term of imprisonment), but even before the year had run out, he was informed by the police passport section that he was to be evicted from the flat. The authors of the letter conclude that Rumachik is being threatened at one and the same time with a charge of parasitism and with eviction from his flat, in order to deprive the Dedovsk congregation of its presbyter.

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ROSTOV-ON-DON. Details have become known about the forcible incarceration of Baptist L. M. Ovchinnikova in a clinic for epidermological and venereal diseases, after the Easter events in Rostov-on-Don (CCE 49).

Ovchinnikova had travelled to Rostov-on-Don and been detained by the police, together with others. She spent the night in jail and the next day, 8 May, she and seven other believers were taken to the venereal disease clinic, where they were forcibly examined; Ovchinnikova was then taken to a ward. The doctor in charge of her treatment turned out to be Tatyana Alexandrovna Pernaki, who admitted to Ovchinnikova that she could not release her, although the patient was perfectly healthy, as she had been brought in by the police. T. Pernaki told Ovchinnikova’s parents, who had come to Rostov to find out what had happened to their missing daughter, that the patient was in an individual room. However, Ovchinnikova was in fact held together with 13 sick people until 19 May, when T. Pernaki discharged her, writing in the records that she had “allergic dermatitis”.

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On 3 July the Baptist Ya. G. Skornyakov was arrested in Rostov-on-Don. Skornyakov received a 15-day sentence in Rostov and was imprisoned in dreadful conditions; he was then transferred to a prison in Dzhambul, where a trial of Baptists is in preparation. His state of health is bad: Skornyakov has a stomach ulcer.

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KRASNODON (Voroshilovgrad Region). On 22 May a woman calling herself Krasnova, an employee of a psychiatric hospital, turned up at the fiat of G. Yu. Rytikova, a member of the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives, and suggested that the latter should visit the clinic for an examination. Taking into consideration the many threats she had received from KGB officials and the Voroshilovgrad Region Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs, Rytikova refused. She took her three youngest children and left the house. The five eldest children and their 80-year-old grandmother remained at home. On 30 May an ambulance arrived at the Rytikovs’ with people looking for the owner of the flat. They shouted at the children “Where have you hidden her?” Rytikova sent telegrams to Brezhnev, Kosygin, Rudenko and the USSR Minister of Health, asking for a guarantee that she would be able to live freely at home. She received no reply.

Galina Yuryevna RYTIKOVA is 41 years old and the mother of nine children. Her husband, a Baptist clergyman, served a 5-year sentence on a ‘religious’ charge a few years ago. He cannot live at home because of constant threats and persecution by the authorities. Galina Yurevna’s house has become a ‘post-box’ for the Council of Prisoners’ Relatives: replies to all the Council’s appeals, and information from congregations on persecution, come to her address.

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MUKACHEVO (Trans-Carpathian Region). 152 Baptists have appealed in a letter to the Christians of the whole world, the UN Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and the Council of Prisoners’ Relatives: on 26 August young people had gathered in a forest clearing for a religious service; about 200 policemen and KGB officials broke up the service, beat up the believers, and confiscated religious literature and personal property. The believers were pushed into buses and driven away; five people were arrested; the rest were fined. The letter-writers point out that the authorities have acted in a similar way in Bryansk, Rostov-on-Don, Kharkov, Omsk and other cities. They demand freedom of religious worship and compliance with the Helsinki Agreements.

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OMSK REGION. 172 Baptists have sent a declaration to the judicial bodies of the USSR and the RSFSR about the conduct of the trial of K. G. Gur on 31 March. This was a show trial, conducted in the district House of Culture. The accused Gur (b. 1924) was charged with beating up E. Klabukova, a minor and the daughter of a Baptist woman, causing her minor bodily injuries (Article 112, pt. 1, RSFSR Criminal Code).

The court sessions were organized in such a way that the administrative authorities of the local State- and collective farms tried to keep Gur’s fellow-believers busy on urgent work, while the Party activists, local Komsomol members and so on were driven to the House of Culture in cars. In the opinion of the local Baptists, the trial was wholly designed to arouse feeling against the accused: the court did not hear out the testimony of the witnesses who could contradict the prosecution’s version (these witnesses included the victim’s mother). Even the prosecution witnesses admitted that they knew of what had happened only from the victim herself. In this way Gur was condemned effectively on the evidence of one person. He got one year in an ordinary-regime camp.

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Young Baptists in the Omsk, Kokchetav and Tselinograd Regions decided to hold a united open-air service on Sunday, 4 June, in a forest in Isilkul district. The day before, the traffic police already blocked all approaches to the place where the service was to be held and were stopping and turning back cars, checking the documents of all drivers, taking their numbers and fining them.

Those who managed to reach the place held a service for about two hours in relative peace, but then the clearing in the forest was surrounded and tractors were brought up, which began to tear up the ground, trying to run people over and drowning the prayers with their powerful engines. In the end police and vigilantes began to provoke a fight. Despite the fact that the believers did not physically resist, they filled the Black Marias with those arrested and drove them to a police station, where they were detained until the evening. The rest were dispersed with insults and violence: rough wrestling methods were used — they were dragged along by the hair, beaten with sticks, threatened with firearms. The food, dishes and other things which had been prepared for supper were confiscated and taken away. The tractors broke down shrubs and saplings while chasing through the wood after the Baptists. Many of the vigilantes were drunk. Finally, Police Chief Lavtukhin was forced to try and make his subordinates listen to reason through a megaphone.

Two days later, two believers — the Gamms, father and son — were informed by the administrative authorities of the Siberia collective farm that, for damaging collective pasture-land of over 10 hectares, they would have to pay a fine of over 1,800 roubles. The damage was calculated “on the spot” and on the basis of the expected harvest for next year. The documentation of the case was not shown to them but sent to the district centre. In declarations addressed to the higher authorities the believers demand the return of property confiscated from them during the pogrom and of the money paid in fines by drivers of cars; they ask that the claim against the Gamms, father and son, be annulled. The declaration was signed by 572 people.

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FRUNZE REGION [KIrghiz SSR]. On 2 April in the village of Luxemburg, Kant district, a flat where believers had gathered was invaded by men in civilian clothes, headed by Third Secretary V. Sennik of the district Party Committee, V. Lazareva, Secretary of the district Soviet Executive Committee, and Sevostyanov, Head of the district OVD. Without showing any documents, they began to confiscate religious literature. At the demand of the flat-owners, a record of the confiscation was drawn up, but no copy of it was given to the believers. The officials took the names of all those present, including children.

A year earlier, after a similar raid, I. Shlekht and Ya. Yantsen were charged with organizing a religious Sunday school and each received a 3-year sentence (CCE 47).

On 2 April the same charge was made against A. Ya. Mokk (63 years old, a Group II invalid, disabled by an industrial injury), G. A. Vibe and I. S. Garpinyuk. At first the investigation was conducted by Assistant Procurator Sadykov, but later the case was transferred to KGB official Kolyada.

The accused sent a protest to the Procurator of the Kirghiz SSR about the conduct of the investigation. They drew attention in particular to the fact that Kolyada had interrogated Vibe as a witness in the case and had then preferred charges against him. When Vibe, now in the position of an accused, refused to answer the investigator’s questions, the latter transferred to the record Vibe’s answers during the previous interrogation. All three are charged mainly with teaching children religion. In addition, the children summoned for interrogation include not only those present during the search of 2 April, but also those who had been interrogated already in connection with the case of Shlekht and Yantsen a year earlier. Kolyada conducted the interrogations in such a way, and for so long, that Mokk had a heart-attack in the investigator’s room and an ambulance was called for him, Mokk, Garpinyuk and Vibe ask for a new investigator to be assigned to their case and for an objective investigation.

PAVLODAR [Kazakh SSR]. Anna Aronovna VIBE has sent a declaration to the Head of the USSR Department of Internal Affairs, stating that on 23 March her 13-year-old daughter Lena was detained on the way to school by a policeman, who pushed the girl into a car and drove her to a police station. THERE Lena was interrogated by Фive policemen for three hours. The adults were interested in who did what in the congregation, what was going on among the believers, and much else besides.

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BLAGOVESHCHENSK (Amur Region). Mr. and Mrs. Andreyenko have written to Rudenko, Procurator-General of the USSR, that on 23 July at the airport, on the pretext of an inspection of their personal effects, a Bible and exercise hooks containing sermons and religious verses were confiscated. Another member of the congregation, L. Gusakova, was subjected to the same kind of ‘inspection’. The Baptists had learned that they were detained at the airport after a phone-call from the KGB.

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TAGANROG. On 12 October the people’s court of the October district refused to allow a claim by Tatyana Sorokina (b. 1954) against the “removal of her child” by her husband Sergei Sorokin. On 9 November the Rostov Regional Court refused to allow an appeal by Sorokina against this decision.

Tatyana Sorokina has been married to Sergei Sorokin since April 1977. In February 1978 a son was born to them. In July Sergei Sorokin took the son and left his wife.

In court Sergei Sorokin said that his wife “belonged to the sect of Pentecostal-Baptists, to whose meetings she also took the child. He did not want to bring up the child in a religious way” (from the decision of the people’s court). Tatyana Sorokina was told, before the court hearing, by the Town Education Department that she “should drop God. If you don’t stop believing, they’ll take away the child.”

The reason given by the people’s court was: “… the plaintiff’ has no residence of her own and has not been employed anywhere since June.”

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JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES

A court in Maikop [Adygei ASSR] has sentenced Yury Kupriyanov (b. 1958) to 3 years’ imprisonment under Article 80 of the RSFSR Criminal Code, for refusing to serve in the Army. At the trial Kupriyanov said: “I cannot serve because of my religious convictions.”

In D. Krylov’s article “With whom are we Dealing?” (Adygeiskaya Pravda, 6 September) it is stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses “are an organization which aims to corrupt people’s souls, to entice them away from the active construction of communism in our country”, and that their way of life “harms the society in which they live”.

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ADVENTISTS

Searches for the “True Witness” printing press

In August-September 1978 a series of searches and arrests took place in Stavropol Region. The operation was conducted by Procurator G. V. Ponomaryov from Tashkent, who carried out the search of V. A. Shelkov’s home in March (CCE 49). The searches were intended to discover the printing-press of the Adventist publishing house “True Witness”.

On 13 August, in the village of Essentuki, V. K. Kovalenko, A, S. Kovalenko, V. R. Zaporozhets and P. G. Tomailo were subjected to searches; in Mineralnye Vody, E. A. Kolesnichenko and M. M, Yakovenko were searched.

On 22 August KGB officials in Pyatigorsk district caught a car containing printing materials. Anatoly Ryskal (b. 1939), a resident of Pyatigorsk, and 19-year-old Yakov Dolgotyor were arrested when the car was seized (CCE 48 reported Dolgotyor’s arrest in January; 30 days after his arrest he was sent to a psychiatric hospital, from which he was soon released; during the investigation he was beaten up).

On 23-24 August in Pyatigorsk, N. V. Irinin and A. M. Ryskal were searched; in Mineralnye Vody V. P. Prilipsky was searched. On 3 September searches took place in the town of Georgievsk, at the homes of M. M. Zinets and E. Ya. Barkova. On 11 September a search was carried out at the home of G. I. Spalin in the village of Lysogorskaya In Pyatigorsk the home of N. T. Chekmareva was searched.

At the end of the search at A. S. Kovalenko’s home, the searchers carried a burnt-out radio-receiver out into the street and told the neighbours it was a radio-transmitter. Irinin’s neighbours were told by searchers that they had found a radio-transmitter and some dollars. Prilipsky’s neighbours were informed that five underground tunnels, two sacks of gold, a money-printing machine and yet another radio transmitter had been found in his house; his floors were said to be covered in carpets while his cellar was full of flour and sugar.

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As a result of the search, 200 roubles and two gold crowns for teeth disappeared from Zaporozhets’s home, 4,000 roubles from Yakovenko’s home, an electric drill with bores, an electric grinder with a selection of emery discs, and an electric bell from Irinin’s home, and a watch from Barkova’s home.

At Yakovenko’s house the search continued for two days; during the search the mistress of the house and her daughter were locked up in a big stove in the yard; no copies of the search record were left behind — Yakovenko does not know what exactly was confiscated. Maria Yakovenko’s child was questioned during the search in the absence of its mother.

During the search at Prilipsky’s house, his 8-year-old son was also questioned without his parents being present.

The searchers stove in walls and poked about in them, took up floorboards and removed roof-tiles, searched the lavatories and cesspools, ripped open furniture panelling, removed picture frames and searched in clocks and inside passport-covers.

At Barkova’s house they found religious literature buried in the ground. At Ryskal’s home they confiscated two religious pamphlets.

During the search E. Ya. Barkova gave her 92-year-old mother a purse. One of the officials hit the blind old woman and grabbed the purse from her. It turned out to contain 52 roubles, the mother’s pension.

On the day before the search, Irinin had been put in a preliminary detention cell for 15 days. He was brought to witness the search in handcuffs. In the cell Irinin had been interrogated a number of times and threatened with a beating. Fifteen days later he was released, with the words “After all, mistakes happen! Don’t be offended.” Later Irinin was summoned by the KGB, who tried to persuade him to cooperate with them.

During the search at A. M. Ryskal’s home, the officials detained his daughter and two other Adventist women, E. F. Korkishko and V. I. Shevchenko. They were subjected to body-searches, then taken to Mineralnye Vody and imprisoned for 30 days (this was probably formulated as “establishing their identity”). The cell was full of fleas, lice and dirt; the women were not once taken to wash themselves during the month. They were constantly interrogated, threatened and insulted.

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In September 1978, Valentina Romanovna ZAPOROZHETS (52 years old) was arrested. The following were also arrested: Rikhard Spalin (b. 1937), brother of Arnold Spalin, who was arrested in March (CCE 49), Yekaterina Ryskal (b. 1938), sister of Anatoly Ryskal, and Nikolai Irinin (b. 1947).

On 25 September the Moscow Helsinki Group published a report on “The Persecution of the Church of True and Free Adventists” (Document 64)://

“… we express our great concern and sympathy for the hunted and persecuted True and Free Adventists. We have a great respect for the self-sacrificing and successful activity of their publishing house ‘True Witness’, which has developed over many years in seemingly quite impossible circumstances…”

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RIGA. On 15 August Z. S. Kirsnauskaite was taken to hospital with a sharp attack of her chronic nephritis. On 31 August she was discharged with a temperature of 38.2 degrees Centigrade and a statement that she was healthy, and her complaints had been a symptom of psychopathy.

Kirsnauskaite complained to Moscow. On 1 December she was summoned to the Latvian SSR Ministry of Health and told that she had mental abnormalities, otherwise she would not have started complaining to Moscow; a car was called, which took her to a psychiatric hospital.

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The Adventist Valentina Mikhailovna VELICHKO, a resident of Glevakha village, Vasilkov district (Kiev Region), described in an open letter how her 16-year-old son Kostya Ladchenko was recruited by the KGB. The mother learnt of it by chance. According to Kostya, the person in charge was KGB Colonel Vadim Stepanovich Furman from Kiev; his ‘chief’ paid him well and took him to restaurants; for betraying church activists the KGB pays an informer up to 500 roubles.

It also turned out that the husband of V. M. Velichko’s sister, Anton Iosifovich Bunevich, was working for the KGB. Bunevich said the K G B officials had persuaded him to work for them by means of promises and threats.