To the Editors:
As you read this, Leningrad writer Vladimir Maramzin sits in prison. He was arrested on July 24 and charged with the compilation of the “works of an anti-Soviet person”—i.e., my own poetry. In the “Declaration” printed in The New York Review, July 18, Maramzin publicly explained the reasons for collecting my work in several volumes. But now the charges against Maramzin have been changed.
In the last week friends of Maramzin in Leningrad report that the trial, twice postponed and now scheduled for early January, will now be for Maramzin’s own works. He will be accused of writing and disseminating anti-Soviet literature. At the moment he faces an almost certain seven years at hard labor plus exile thereafter. Friends report that for Maramzin this is equivalent to a death sentence. His health will not allow him to survive. His only hope is that pressure from the West may make Leningrad authorities relent, and either lessen the sentence, or perhaps allow him to emigrate.
Indeed, Maramzin decided to emigrate after he was called as a witness in the case of Heifitz and Etkind. A vyzov was sent from Israel, but it was only for him, not his wife and child. He requested a vyzov for all, and this was sent but in the meantime Maramzin was arrested. The arrest came on the very day he went to pick up the papers for an exit visa. He had already begun to fill out the application (on his birthday) when the authorities came and put him under arrest.
Twice the trial has been postponed. The Leningrad authorities have sought to press a variety of charges against him, but could find no evidence that was even remotely plausible, even for a Soviet court. My poetry is so far removed from politics that it did not make a very good indictment, and this is apparently the reason for the latest postponement and the change in the charge—to Maramzin’s own works. He has been an active writer “for the drawer” for many years, and in samizdat circles is regarded as one of the most important writers of his generation; he is often satirical, and while his work hardly offers any threat to a government, the prosecution will no doubt focus on satire such as his stories “The Two-Tone Blonde” and “Don’t Steal” (published in English in Russian Literature Triquarterly, No. 5).
Russian defenders of Maramzin stress that pressure from the West must come before the trial if it is to have any effect. Maramzin’s life itself may well be at stake, so every possible effort to publicize his case must be made quickly. The American PEN Club has offered its good offices. Any kind of press release may help. Telegrams of protest should be sent to: Nikolai Podgorny, Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Moscow USSR and to: Gruppovoi komitet literatorov, Leningradskoe otdelenie Soiuza pisatelei SSSR, ulitsa Voina, Leningrad, USSR. The latter is the group to which Maramzin belonged, as a children’s writer (his only published work being children’s literature).
On Being Free January 22, 1976