As the representative abroad of the Soviet Committee to monitor the fulfillment of the Helsinki Agreements, and as a citizen of the USSR, I regard it as my duty to draw attention to the violation of the Human Rights of the Soviet citizen which is the intention of the Soviet leadership under the recently published new Soviet Constitution. If ratified as expected toward the end of this year, it will be tantamount to a coup d’état.

The new Soviet Constitution under Articles Two and Six openly formulates and institutionalizes the dictatorship of the Communist Party—neither elected by the people nor accountable to any elected Parliament—as the organ of power. For the first time it is openly stated that the Communist Party from now on shall determine “the general long-term development of society, and the foreign and domestic policy lines of the USSR.” Article Forty-four of the published Constitution places outside the law all citizens whose political convictions diverge from the general lines of the Communist Party. These citizens are thereby excluded from the principle that all citizens are equal before the law. Moreover, although the same Article provides for equality before the law for all citizens regardless of their attitude to religion, the freedom to practice that religion is not written into the Constitution and therefore could be held to place such citizens also outside the law.

Under Article Twelve any citizens who, acting in accordance with their political or religious convictions, are held to have used their property or personal possessions to harm the interests of society (as defined by the Communist Party) will have their property and possessions seized by the State. For the first time under Article Sixty-six the compulsory education of children in Communist doctrine is established with a penalty that can include the removal of children from their parents in the event of noncompliance. At the same time Article Twenty-five establishes a single system of education throughout the country, for the declared purpose not of improving education but for the “inculcation of Communism.” Article Thirty-nine automatically deprives all dissenting citizens of their Human Rights and Liberties, in so far as the use of such rights is judged to be detrimental to the interests of Communist society. The threat to the rights of Soviet citizens contained in Article Fifty-nine is particularly menacing for, under this, anyone who in the view of the Communist Party fails to “bear with dignity the high calling of citizen of the USSR” is to be deprived of his constitutional liberties.

Under Articles Forty-six and Forty-seven scientific, technical, and artistic work is only permitted if it is judged to be in accordance with the aims of Communism and—in defiance of international treaties and agreements—all sources of education, information, and culture are held to be illegal, except those received within the framework of formal inter-State exchanges sanctioned by the Communist Party. Article Fifty-one forbids all social organizations whose aims are at variance with the construction of Communism, and Article Sixty-five imposes police duties on all Soviet citizens. In order to make more severe the persecution of people who send abroad truthful information about injustices within the USSR, the Soviet leadership proposes to amend the Constitution under Article Sixty-two to enable them to treat all actions regarded as undermining the authority of the USSR as state treason. State treason is punishable by death in the Soviet Union. In defiance of international agreements, Article Thirteen does not exclude the use of forced labor.

The majority of these provisions, though carried out de facto and in defiance of the Russian Constitution, never formed part of it. The fact that they did not gave dissenters in the USSR a clear-cut position on Human Rights, and this position was reinforced by the creation of a Civil Rights Movement in support of the Constitution, which allowed dissenters to remain citizens of the USSR. Thus, under the old Constitution, the reprisals carried out by the Soviet authorities against Civil Rights campaigners were unconstitutional.

Evidently it has been a paramount aim of the Soviet leadership to strip Soviet citizens of all constitutional and legal bases for any dissent or variance from the line laid down by the Communist Party. The new draft Constitution, by creating a constitutional coup d’état and by the formal usurpation of authority by the Communist Party, makes it legally impossible for those citizens of the USSR who are non-Communist by conviction to retain their citizenship. Consequently, if the new Constitution is ratified in its present form, I shall be obliged to renounce my citizenship of the USSR.

These moves represent a clear defiance by the Soviet authorities of both the spirit and the letter of the Helsinki Agreements. Far from extending Human Rights within the Soviet Union as was undertaken by Mr. Brezhnev at Helsinki, the citizens of the Soviet Union are now to be openly stripped of rights that had previously been theirs, though the enjoyment of them was restricted. I appeal to all the signatory governments of the Helsinki Agreements, in the name of my comrades still behind barbed wire and deprived of all voice, to condemn this flagrant action by the Soviet leadership against the Human Rights of the 250 million citizens of the USSR. These countries should also take note that the new Soviet Constitution threatens not only the citizens of the Soviet Union, but every country in the world, for under Article Twenty-eight Soviet foreign policy is defined as an instrument for interference in the internal affairs of other states on the side of “the forces of world Socialism.”


This Issue

October 13, 1977