In response to:
Evdokimov Case from the February 17, 1983 issue
To the Editors:
The New York Review of February 17, 1983 contained a letter, signed by fifty-one senior staff at North American universities, expressing deep concern at the arrest in the Soviet Union of a young classical scholar from Leningrad, Rostislav Evdokimov. This concern was focused on the claim by Soviet authorities that Evdokimov suffered from what they called “schizophrenia inherited from the father.” His father, Boris Evdokimov, had been a powerful dissident voice in the 1960s and 1970s, until muffled by forced confinement to psychiatric institutions for seven years. (He died shortly after his release. His stomach cancer had received no treatment during these seven years, and strenuous efforts from friends and supporters in the West to allow him to leave the Soviet Union went unheeded.)
This outrageous charge of inherited schizophrenia was subsequently dropped. Protests against it may have helped. However, the authorities’ treatment of Evdokimov was no less menacing for that. In March–April 1983 he was tried in Leningrad and found guilty of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. He was sentenced to five years in a “corrective labour institute” followed by three years’ internal exile. Amnesty International has investigated his case, and has concluded that his dissemination of private views on political, religious and trade union matters (including a defiant attack on the way his father had been maltreated) was completely in line with his civil rights as defined by articles 19 and 22 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He has therefore been adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and two local groups, one in Canada and the other in Norway, are currently campaigning on his behalf.
We in the Norwegian group are particularly concerned about Evdokimov because the camp at which he is being held is the notorious camp VS 389/36-1, the subject of recent publicity because of its dreadful record of unexplained deaths in recent months (Oleksij Tikhij, Valerij Martsjenko, Jurij Litvin; the fate of Vasyl Stus is, to our knowledge, unknown, but Amnesty fears that he, too, is dead). We feel sure that the signatories of the letter you printed in February 1983 would be interested in knowing just how dangerous Evdokimov’s predicament is. This camp’s diet is so minimal and its living and working conditions so harsh (factual reports have reached the outside world) that the chairman of the PEN club in Sweden has called imprisonment there a sentence of slow execution. Evdokimov is suffering from a kidney disease, and reports have reached us that his eyesight is weak, and that his teeth are dropping out. Medical care at the camp is known to be inadequate.
Evdokimov is subjected to other harassments. From early 1984 he was prohibited all visits, even from his mother, until 1986. He is an orthodox Christian, but not allowed to read the Bible.
We can, indeed, not envisage the rigors of winter—the camp is about 750 miles east of Moscow—nor the impact of this ordeal on Evdokimov’s health. This short letter can give only the barest outline. That his life is in danger cannot be in doubt. Since his intellectual loves are literature and classical studies, it seems to us appropriate that NYR readers be made aware of his predicament, especially as your journal has earlier been willing to publicize his case.
We in the Norwegian Amnesty International group appeal to your readers to make known their concern for Evdokimov by writing to the Soviet ambassador in their country of residence, or to V.M. Blinov, the Justice Minister in the Republic where the camp lies. (Address: SSSR, RSFSR, 101473 Moskva, ul. Yermolova 10a, Ministervsto Yustitsii RSFSR, Ministru V.M. Blinovu.) Please ask for Evdokimov’s immediate release, and ask for proper medical care to be made available to him.
Amnesty International (Norway) Group 140
Since receiving this letter the Editors have been informed by this Amnesty group in Norway that Rostislav Evdokimov has been given a term in a punishment cell, which involves reduced food rations, and a further threat to his health. Such punishment can last up to six months.