To the Editors:
The following letter may be of interest to your readers.
PEN American Center
Mr. A.M. Rekunov
Procurator General of the USSR
Pushkinskaya Street 15-A
Moscow 103009 RSFSR USSR
Dear Mr. Rekunov:
We are writing to you to express concern for one of our colleagues, Alexandr Bogoslovski, a forty-seven-year-old Moscow writer and archivist who has devoted many years of his life to research in the history of Russian culture and poetry.
Mr. Bogoslovski’s work came to an abrupt end this year when he was arrested on May 31st. In July, he was sentenced by a Moscow court to three years in prison for violating the Russian Criminal Code, article 190-1, which prohibits the dissemination of anti-Soviet literature. During the previous year, his apartment had twice been searched by the police.
We are distressed to hear of Mr. Bogoslovski’s treatment, for none of his work has ever included any discussion of Soviet policy. He has published articles in the Soviet Union’s official literary encyclopedia, and has collected books and other materials for his work on the history of Russian culture. Material seized during the searches of Mr. Bogoslovski’s apartment included rare books, religious tracts, and bibliographic cards on early-twentieth-century Russian poets, notably Boris Poplavski, who died in 1935. To the best of our knowledge, these books are not illegal in the Soviet Union and are available in rare and antiquarian bookstores there.
We are dismayed that this material was evidently misidentified as containing statements against contemporary Soviet leaders.
Mr. Bogoslovski’s eyesight is failing, and he suffers from severe eczema: on medical grounds alone, we seek more humane treatment of his case. But his arrest and conviction appear to be an error, one that we urge you to correct. It is our understanding that an appeal in his case is pending, and we ask you to take this opportunity to restore his freedom.
Elizabeth Hardwick, Richard Howard, Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Arthur Miller, William Styron, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut
October 11, 1984