Voices from the Past (No. 01): The Trial of Gleb Pavlovsky

A Chronicle of Current Events (No 65) 
31 December 1982 

On 18 August 1982 the Moscow City Court examined the case of Gleb Pavlovsky (b. 1950) who was arrested on 5 April 1982 (CCE 64). Pavlovsky was charged with offences under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code: “Dissemination of fabrications known to be false, which defame the Soviet political and social system” (see below).

Pavlovsky was accused of being an editor of the samizdat journal Poiski (Investigations), Issues 1-7 (CCE 58), and author of a number of articles published in that journal, including some under the pseudonym P. Pryzhov.

Yekaterina Gaidamachuk (CCE 58), Victor Sokirko (CCE 58 and 60) and Alexander Daniel (CCE 63) were called as witnesses in court.

Gaidamachuk refused to give evidence.

Sokirko repeated the testimony he had given during his own trial (29-30 September 1980, CCE 58; he received a three-year suspended prison sentence).

Daniel said that he considered Pavlovsky’s articles were intended for debate and discussion. Pavlovsky objected, saying that the articles were defamatory because that was the assessment made of them in the sentences handed down at the preceding trials of the Poiski editors (CCE 58).

In his speech defence attorney D.M. Akselbant (CCE 58) said he considered the arrest of Pavlovsky to be a mistake on the part of investigators since the editors of Poiski had announced as far back as 31 December 1979 that they were ceasing publication of the journal (CCE 56). There had already been three trials in the Poiski case. The present charge sheet repeated in full the accusations brought in previous years and there were no indications that Pavlovsky had continued his literary activities after signing, in early 1980, an admission of his responsibility under Article 190-1. Akselbant read out excerpts from the Short Literary Encyclopaedia and the Theory of Literature textbook used at Moscow State University, in order to show that a literary work cannot be a literal reflection of life but is its refraction through the prism of the author’s perception, and that caricature and exaggeration are forms of literary expression, not examples of defamation. The defence attorney suggested that the criminal charges against Pavlovsky be dropped.

In his last words in court Pavlovsky declared that he fully admitted his guilt and would accept any verdict the court reached.

Invoking Article 43 of the Criminal Code (Extenuating circumstances), the court sentenced Pavlovsky to five years exile.

On 26 August 1982 Akselbant submitted an appeal in which he argued that since the court had applied Article 43 the sentence must be a judicial error. Five years exile was undoubtedly a more severe punishment than the fine envisaged as the lower level for this crime. The appeal was turned down.

This report was published in the last issue of the Chronicle of Current Events (31 December 1982). After 15 years of harassment, intimidation and arrests it was finally shut down by the Soviet authorities.

Issue 65 of the Chronicle has never been translated into English. The other issues to which this report refers may be read in translation at the following addresses:

CCE 56, 30 April 1980 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR46/051/1981/en
CCE 58, 31 October 1980 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR46/022/1981/en CCE 60, 31 December 1980 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR46/003/1982/en
CCE 63, 31 December 1981 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR46/032/1983/en
CCE 64, June 1982 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR46/062/1984/en

Article 190-1, RSFSR Criminal Code 


“The systematic dissemination by word of mouth of deliberate fabrications which defame the Soviet political and social system, or the manufacture or dissemination in written, printed or other form of works of the same content,

“- shall be punished by deprivation of freedom for a term not exceeding 3 years, or by corrective labour for a term not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding 100 roubles.”

Translated by John Crowfoot

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