(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…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.