Dyadkin & Gorbachev’s trial, September 1980 (58.20)

«No 58 : November 1980»

From 16 to 18 September the Kalinin Regional Court, presided over by Judge A.N. Kiselyova, heard the case of Josif Getselevich DYADKIN (b. 1928), who was arrested on 25 April (CCE 56.13) and Sergei Maximovich GORBACHEV (b. 1952) arrested on 5 June (CCE 57.9). Both were charged under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code.

The prosecutor was Procurator V.K. Sukhorukov; the defence lawyers, V.S. Knyazeva and L.P. Gushchina.


According to the indictment, Dyadkin

“during the years 1976 to 1980 repeatedly circulated, in oral and written form, deliberately false fabrications defaming the Soviet State system. During the period 1976-1980, Dyadkin repeatedly made public statements of a slanderous nature, defaming the Soviet political and social system, to employees of the Kalinin branch of the All-Union Geophysical Research Institute: at political education seminars and in conversations with the staff of the Institute.

“Dyadkin’s assertions can be summed up as follows:

“The October Revolution and the Civil War resulted in unnecessary casualties and economic collapse. During collectivisation the best part of the peasantry was annihilated, and agriculture virtually destroyed, and this is the cause of difficulties in agriculture today. Socialism is a regime of coercion and the mass destruction of nations and ethnic groups. The USSR’s foreign policy before the Great Patriotic War led to the outbreak of the war. Assistance to the peoples of Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan and Angola is described by Dyadkin as aggression and occupation by the USSR and is the cause of the ‘Cold War’. Dyadkin repeatedly stated that the rights and freedoms of the individual are restricted in the USSR. The official press lies and restricts and distorts information. In the summer of 1977 during discussions of the draft Constitution in political education seminars, in the laboratory and at a general assembly of the employees of the Institute in June 1977, Dyadkin stated that the draft Constitution restricted the rights and freedoms of the individual in the USSR, and that the draft contradicts the International Covenants on human rights; he then handed a libellous statement on this subject to those presiding at the assembly.

“In 1976 Dyadkin wrote, copied on a typewriter and circulated in typed manuscript the pamphlet ‘The Silent Players’, containing libellous fabrications defaming the Soviet political and social system, and passed on the aforementioned pamphlet to citizen A.P. Lavut, residing in Moscow, and citizen Lozovsky, residing in Kalinin. In 1976-1980 Dyadkin repeatedly brought up slanderous information from the pamphlet at political education seminars, in an Institute laboratory and in conversations with his fellow-employees. In addition, Dyadkin sent the above-mentioned pamphlet to be published abroad [note 1], where information from it is being used in bourgeois propaganda against the USSR.

“In 1980 Dyadkin wrote, duplicated and circulated in typed form an article entitled ‘On the number of Don inhabitants who perished in 1917-1920’, which is of libellous content, and gave this pamphlet to citizens S. M. Gorbachev and L. A. Lozovsky to read.

“At the same time Dyadkin produced a photocopy of Bernshtam’s libellous article in the Herald of the Russian Christian Movement entitled ‘The Different Sides in the Civil War of 1917-1922’. In addition, during the period from 1976 to 1980 Dyadkin typed, with the intention of circulating, several articles of a libellous nature defaming the Soviet social and political system. Namely: the articles ‘The Trial of Lubman’, ‘Contact with the KGB as a Psycho-Phenomenon’, ‘Three Figures’, ‘The Appeal of 8 December 1978’, ‘Story of a Cell-mate’, and ‘The Rear-guard battles of Marxism’. Dyadkin gave the article ‘The Rear-guard Battles of Marxism’ to citizen S. M. Gorbachev to read.

In January-February 1979 Dyadkin wrote and sent two libellous letters to the editors of the newspaper Izvestiya: ‘An Open Letter about the article “Shame on the Defenders of Murders”,’ [see CCE 52.1] and ‘An Open-As-Possible Letter’ in which he defamed the work of State organs in connection with the explosions in the Moscow Metro.

In March 1979 Dyadkin refused to vote in the elections to the USSR Supreme Soviet. Replying to the request of the members of the election commission who visited him at home to explain his reasons for refusing, Dyadkin slandered the Soviet electoral system, defamed Party and government leaders, and then wrote an explanation in which he again slandered the Soviet electoral system and defamed Party and government leaders.


Gorbachev, said the indictment,

“received from an unidentified person the pamphlet ‘Non-political Letters’, containing deliberately false fabrications and defaming the Soviet political and social system, typed four copies and in autumn 1979 gave them to citizen Golitsyn to read, knowing their libellous content.

(The ‘Non-political Letters’, an article by P. Rastin from Poiski [Searches], are reflections on the bringing up of children, Chronicle.)

“Dyadkin and Gorbachev, charged under Article 190-1 and questioned as accused, pleaded not guilty. Dyadkin stated that he did not consider it a crime to receive and circulate this type of information.

“Dyadkin admitted the facts concering his actions in producing the pamphlets but refused to answer questions concerning their circulation. The accused Gorbachev admitted that he had duplicated and given to citizen Golitsyn the pamphlet ‘Non-political Letters’; he denied that it contained libellous fabrications defaming the Soviet political and social system.

“The fact that the pamphlet ‘Non-political Letters’ was produced and circulated by S.M. Gorbachev is confirmed by Gorbachev’s evidence, his own statement, and the results of a technical examination, which show that the letters were typed on Gorbachev’s typewriter. The witness Golitsyn, who received the above-mentioned pamphlet from Gorbachev, refused to give evidence.

“The results of a scholarly examination show that the contents of the pamphlets and articles do not correspond to historical fact and are a slander on the State and social system of the USSR.”


The experts were: the head of the Faculty of CPSU History at Kalinin University Yu. N. Klimov; and lecturers of the same faculty A. I. Lukyanov, G. G. Pavlov and I. V. Spiridonov.

Dyadkin’s demographic works (“The Silent Players” [CCE 45.20, item 4] and “On the number of Don inhabitants …”) were commented on by a Kalinin University professor, D.Phil. (Economics) V. V. Petrov. He stated that although Dyadkin’s original data did not raise any doubts, his method was scientifically unsound.

The fact that Dyadkin had obtained figures for three periods approximating those published in the Soviet press (no information had been published on the other periods) was dismissed by Petrov as pure coincidence. The expert concluded from this that Dyadkin’s calculations represented a “pseudo-scientific attempt to justify his Libellous fabrications”. The other experts stated that the works by Dyadkin shown to them, and the other samizdat materials, contained deliberately false libellous fabrications, defaming the Soviet political and social system.


The Procurator spoke chiefly on the class war, of foreign radio stations “trumpeting Dyadkin’s name”, and that “one has the impression that someone is directing the writing of works like Dyadkin’s”.


Dyadkin’s defence counsel, Knyazeva, said that according to all comments and references her client was a man of exceptional honesty and high principle, who enjoyed the respect of his colleagues. He was a serious scientist and the author of fifty published scientific works.

While she did not share Dyadkin’s views, she stated that she did not find any corpus delicti in the acts with which he was charged as there had been no deliberate falsehood in this case: the accused had been sincerely convinced of the truth of his assertions. At this point, she cited the official commentary on Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code, which states that a person can be charged under this article only if the accused circulated libellous fabrications, knowing they were false. She asked that Dyadkin be acquitted.


In his final speech Dyadkin said that his conscience was clear. The law was on his side and he demanded to be acquitted. Concerning a question from one of the assessors which hinted that his real motive might be emigration, he stated that he had no intention of leaving his country. In reply to the Prosecutor’s words that “people of his sort do not feel ‘quite themselves’ in our country, he said that he felt quite himself everywhere in his homeland, including in prison”.

Gorbachev’s defence counsel, Gushchina, said that there was no corpus delicti in Gorbachev’s actions, in view of the absence or deliberate falsehood. To cite, as the Procurator had, the conclusions of experts was inadmissible. The question of the presence of deliberate falsehood was a legal one and the resolution of legal questions was not within the competence of the experts. It was not permitted to ask them questions of this kind, which only the court was entitled to solve. She asked that Gorbachev be acquitted.

Gorbachev said that he had not noticed the libellous nature of the article by Rastin with which he was charged, and that he had realized that the article was libellous only after reading the conclusions of the expert who perceived in it “a hidden call to undermine the Soviet system”.

As confirmation of ‘Dyadkin’s guilt’ the judgment cites the evidence of V. Sidelnikov, Yumatov, Gel, D.V. Belokon, V.I. Aksyonov and A.P. Bukhanov (the first five are his colleagues at work; the others are members of the election commission).

From the judgement:

“The deliberate libel in Dyadkin’s statements and articles is confirmed by his comments in confiscated exercise books and a notebook containing notes.

“Gorbachev’s deliberate libel of the political and social system of the USSR regarding ‘Non-political Letters’ may be seen from his ‘rough plan’ with notes beginning with the words: ‘to demonstrate the bureaucratic police system in the USSR’ (Vol. 2, p. 349).

“In view of these facts, the arguments of the accused denying that there is deliberate libel in the information they produced and circulated, which defames the Soviet political and social system, State organs and the electoral system, cannot be regarded as convincing. Dyadkin and Gorbachev’s assertions to this effect are inconsistent with their level of development and education, and Dyadkin’s long experience of life.

“The deliberate libel in the articles and pamphlets ‘The Silent Players’, ‘On the Number of Don Inhabitants …’, ‘Non-political Letters’ and the works of other authors, and their tendency, are sufficiently obvious.”

The court sentenced Dyadkin to three years and Gorbachev to two years in an ordinary-regime camp, the sentence demanded by the Procurator. The judgment also contains separate resolutions to institute criminal proceedings against the witnesses Golitsyn (CCE 57) and Lozovsky (CCEs 56, 57) for refusing to give evidence, and to discuss at her place of work the behaviour of Zoya Gorbacheva, who refused to answer certain questions about her husband at the trial.


Friends who had gathered at the court were not admitted to the courtroom. The court, having fulfilled Dyadkin’s request that his [grown-up] son and daughter be admitted to the courtroom, immediately afterwards fulfilled the Procurator’s petition to summon his son as a witness (he was questioned last of all, having been nearly forgotten).

Dyadkin (1928-2015) with grown son, second wife Nadezhda and their son Yefim

The audience in the courtroom insulted the relatives of the accused; and insults were frequently shouted at the witnesses.

On 26 November the Moscow Helsinki Group adopted Document No. 143, “The Trial of Josif Dyadkin and Sergei Gorbachev”.


On 13 November the RSFSR Supreme Court examined the appeal of Dyadkin and Gorbachev. Their relatives were not admitted to the building — ‘because of repairs’.

From Dyadkin’s appeal:

“I find the verdict of guilty in my case unjust on the following grounds:

(1) “The court did not take into account circumstances of the case which justify me: I did not have the intention of defaming the political and social system …

(2) “I did not and do not have personal reasons to defame the political and social system …

(3) “It can be seen from my behaviour that not only did I have no intention of defaming the system, but I did not even attempt to impose or spread my humanitarian convictions, which I did not consider fully developed …

(4) “In the last decade since the 20th [1956] and 22nd Congresses [1961] of the Soviet Communist Party, thanks to them and to subsequent events, I began to conceive a belief in the supreme value of moral categories (kindness, humaneness, justice and sincerity), the inadmissibility of justifying inhumane phenomena by referring to the achievement of noble aims, the individual responsibility of each person vis-a-vis social norms (and for believers, before God), and the unacceptability of shifting the blame from particular leaders to the political and social system which they represent.

“I admitted at the trial that, having no experience of clearly expressing my thoughts on humanitarian matters (in addition to which I was busy before my arrest with intensive scientific and technical work), I made erroneous, inappropriately ironic, unreasoned statements, which were offensive to the social conventions of our society. I should not have done this, and I shall certainly not do so in future. However, these statements do not constitute a corpus delicti under Article 190-1 of the Criminal Code, as they represent my personal convictions, which I did not attempt to impose on other people.

(5) “An analysis of my unfinished notes ‘The Silent Players’ and ‘On the Number of Don Inhabitants …’ clearly shows that they consist chiefly in an application of the methods of mathematical statistics to demographic aspects of the mortality and birth rate of the population of the USSR … As for the few humanitarian sentences between my calculations. I have already said that I am not satisfied with them and that I intend to alter them, to correct them and to cut some out altogether. Article 190-1 of the Criminal Code specifies deliberately false statements. But I was convinced at the time that the statements in my articles corresponded to reality.

(6) “The judgment alleges that I said, ‘The October Revolution and the Civil War resulted in unnecessary casualties and economic collapse’.” (the first quotation from the indictment above, Chronicle). “In fact, I said something different. I condemned the sacrifice of human lives in general, as did Korolenko and Gorky during the Revolution and the Civil War, without in the least attempting to judge whether they were unnecessary.

“I condemned the Stalinist method of collectivization, which led to an increase in the mortality rate of the peasants — the providers of the nation’s food — and a decrease in the level of agricultural production per capita of population, and not by any means the principle of collectivization; I condemned the methods of Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung and Pol Pot, which led to massive casualties among the population, and not socialism, which I do not consider in any way to blame.

“I spoke about my failure to understand why troops were sent to Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, and about the erroneous foreign policy of the USSR, and of Britain and France, but did not say that their mistakes led to the war, which, as we all know, was started by Hitler. I spoke about the doubts which arose in me because the [1977] draft Constitution did not formulate any right even remotely similar in its terms and ideas to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights …”

The Supreme Court left the sentence unchanged.



[1] Dyadkin’s demographic survey was published in English as Unnatural Deaths in the USSR, 1928-1954 (Transaction Books: New Brunswick, 1983). The title in Russian is «Статисты» (literally extras or bystanders).