(Translated from the Russian by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation)
We, the signers of this letter, deeply disturbed by the unceasing political persecutions in the Soviet Union, perceiving in this a return to the Stalin era when our entire country was gripped by terror, appeal to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights to defend the human rights being trampled on in our country.
We appeal to the United Nations because our protests and complaints, addressed for a number of years to the higher state and judicial offices in the Soviet Union, have received no response of any kind. The hope that our voice might be heard, that the authorities would cease the lawless acts which we constantly pointed out—this hope has been exhausted.
Therefore we appeal to the United Nations, believing that the defense of human rights is the sacred duty of this organization.
In this document we will speak of violation of one of the most basic rights of man—the right to have independent convictions and to propagate them by all legal means.
At political trials in the Soviet Union one can often hear the phrase: “You are not being tried for your convictions.”
This is a deep untruth! We are tried expressly for our convictions. When they tell us we are tried not for convictions, in fact they mean to say the following: you may have any convictions whatever, but if they contradict the official political doctrine, do not dare to disseminate them. And truly, the arrests and trials, about which we will be speaking, take place each time that people having opposition viewpoints begin to propagate them.
But propagation of convictions is a natural outgrowth of the convictions themselves. Therefore, in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it is stated: “Each person has the right to freedom of convictions and freedom to express them; this right includes the freedom to uphold one’s convictions without hindrance and to freely express, receive, and disseminate information and ideas by all means, regardless of state boundaries.”
Thus, although the formal reason for persecution is propagation of convictions, in fact people are tried for the convictions themselves.
They are tried under accusations of slander against the Soviet state and social system either with design (Article 70, RSFSR Criminal Code) or without design (Article 190-1, RSFSR Criminal Code) of undermining the Soviet system. None of the people condemned at political trials we know about either intended to slander the Soviet system or, what is more, acted with the aim of undermining it. Thus, at all these political trials people were censured under fictitious accusations.
We refer to several examples, which have become the object of wide publicity both in the Soviet Union and abroad.
The trial of Sinyavskiy and Daniel, who were condemned for publishing artistic works critical of Soviet reality abroad.
The trial of Ginzburg and Galanskov, condemned for publishing the literary journal “Phoenix-67” and the White Book about the trial of Sinyavskiy and Daniel.
The trial of Khaustov and Bukovskiy, who organized a protest demonstration against the arrest of Ginzburg, Galanskov, and others.
The trial of Litvinov, Larisa Daniel, and others for demonstrating against the dispatch of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia; an important point at these two latter trials was that the participants were accused for the content of slogans.
The trial of Marchenko, formally condemned for violation of passport regulation, which, incidentally, was not proven at the trial; but in fact for the book “My Testament” about conditions of prisoners in the post-Stalin years.
The trial of I. Belgorodskaya for the attempt to distribute letters defending Marchenko.
The trial of Gendler, Kravchevskiy, and others in Leningrad who were condemned for distributing foreign-published books.
The trials of persons upholding national equality and preservation of national culture.
In the Ukraine, the trial in Kiev in 1966 at which more than 10 persons were condemned; the trial of Chornovil in Lvov condemned for his book about political trials; and many other trials.
The trials of Crimean Tatars fighting for a return to their homeland in the Crimea; in recent years more than 20 political trials have taken place at which were condemned more than 100 persons; 10 representatives of the Crimean Tatars stand before the latest and largest political trial recently being held in Tashkent.
The trials in the Baltic Republics, in particular the trial of Kalninish, and others.
Trials of Soviet Jews demanding the right to depart for Israel; at the latest trial in Kiev, engineer B. Kochubiyevskiy was condemned to three years.
Trials of believers demanding the rights of religious liberty.
All these political trials because of their illegality were held with gross violations of procedural norms, above all [that of] openness, and also impartiality of the judicial inquiry.
We wish also to call your attention to an especially inhuman form of persecution: the placing of normal persons in psychiatric hospitals because of their political convictions.
Recently there have been a number of new arrests. In late April 1969 artist V. Kuznetsov, Pushkino, Moscow oblast, charged with distributing “samizdat,” that is, literature not published by Soviet publishing houses, was arrested.
At this same time I. Yakimovich, former kolkhoz chairman in Latvia, was arrested in Riga, charged with writing letters protesting against political persecutions in the Soviet Union.
In early May former Major General P. G. Grigorenko, one of the better known members of the USSR civil rights movement who had gone to Tashkent on the request of nearly 2,000 Crimean Tatars in the capacity of public defender at the forthcoming trial of 10 Crimean Tatars, was arrested.
Finally, Ilya Gabay, teacher of Russian literature, was arrested May 19 in Moscow several days after a search during which documents containing protests of Soviet citizens against political repressions in the Soviet Union were seized. (In spring 1967 I. Gabay was confined for 4 months during investigation for participating in the demonstration of Khaustov and Bukovskiy.)
These latest arrests lead us to believe that Soviet punitive organs have resolved once and for all to suppress the activity of persons protesting against arbitrariness in our country.
We believe that freedom to possess and disseminate opinions has been placed once and for all in danger.
We hope that everything written in our letter will give the Committee for Human Rights a basis to undertake a review of the question of violation of basis civil rights in the Soviet Union.
The Initiating Group for Defense of Civil Rights in the USSR: G. Altunyan, engineer, Kharkov; V. Borisov, worker, Leningrad; T. Velikanova, mathematician; N. Gorbanyevskaya, poetess; M. Dkhemilev, worker, Tashkent; S. Kovalev, biologist; V. Krasin, economist; A. Lavut, biologist; A. Levitin-Krasnov, church writer; Yu. Maltsev, translator; L. Plyushch, mathematician, Kiev; G. Podyapolskiy, scientific associate; T. Khodorovich, linguist; P. Yakir, historian; A. Yakobson, translator.
Supporting the appeal are: Z. Asanova, doctor, Uzbek SSR; T. Bayeva, employee; S. Bernshteyn, literary worker; L. Vasilyev, jurist; Yu. Vishnevskaya, poetess; A. Volpin, mathematician; O. Vorobyev, worker, Perm; G. Gabay, educator; E. Egaydukov, mathematician; V. Gershuni, mason; Z. M. Grigorenko, pensioner; A. Grigorenko, technician; R. Dzhemilev, worker, Krasnoyarsk region; N. Yemelkina, employee; L. Zyugikov, worker; A. Kalinovskiy, engineer, Kharkov; A. Kaplan, physicist; S. Karasik, engineer, Kharkov; L. Kats, employee; Yu. Kim, teacher; Yu. Kiselov, artist; V. Kozharivov, worker; L. Kornilov, engineer; V. Lapin, literary worker; A. Levin, engineer, Kharkov; T. Levina, engineer, Kharkov; D. Lifshchits, engineer, Kharkov; S. Mauge, biologist; V. Nedobora, engineer, Kharkov; L. Petrovskiy, Historian; S. Podolskiy, engineer, Kharkov; V. Ponomarev, engineer, Kharkov; V. Rokityanskiy, physicist; I. Rudakov; L. Terpovskiy, doctor; Yu. Shteyn, movie director; V. Chernovod, journalist, Lvov; I. Yakir, employee; S. Vintovskiy, student.