25 September 1986* (Pb) Political Prisoners

Politburo meeting (excerpt). KGB head CHEBRIKOV brackets political prisoners with those committing “serious State crimes”, as did the RSFSR Criminal Code (see Notes). Between one third and a half of all political prisoners to be offered their freedom if they agree to discontinue their previous activities. [Russian: 25 Sep 86, Pb] total 3 pp.


[page one of three]

Top Secret

Single Copy
(Draft Minutes)

25 September 1986

In the chair

In attendance:
Comrades G.A. Aliyev, V.I. Vorotnikov, A.A.Gromyko, L.N. Zaikov,
D.A. Kunayev, Ye.K. Ligachev, V.M. Chebrikov, Shcherbitsky, Dolgikh,
B.N. Yeltsin, Solovyov, Talyzin, Biryukova, Dobrynin, Zimyanin, Nikonov,Razumovsky, Yakovlev, Kapitonov

  1. Conclusions from Comrade M.S. Gorbachev’s visit to the Krasnodar and Stavropol Regions



[page two]                                                                                                       48.


GORBACHEV. I have asked Victor Mikhailovich [Chebrikov] to say what kind of people are serving sentences in our country for crimes that Western propaganda classifies as political.

CHEBRIKOV. According to our legislation these are especially serious State crimes [Note 1]. In total 240 individuals have been prosecuted and are now serving sentences for committing these types of crime. These are people convicted of espionage, crossing the State frontier, distributing hostile leaflets, dealing in hard currency, and so on. Many of them have declared that they will no longer pursue their hostile activities. They link their declarations to the political changes following the April [1985] Plenum of the CPSU Central Committee and the 27th Party Congress [25 February-6 March 1986].

It would seem that we could at first release one third and then a half of these people. In that case only those who continue to adopt hostile positions towards our State would be imprisoned.

GORBACHEV. It would seem that this suggestion could be supported.

CHEBRIKOV. We shall proceed in a sensible fashion. To be sure that these individuals do not continue to engage in hostile activities, they will be kept under surveillance.

SHCHERBITSKY. How can it be explained that comparatively few people are being prosecuted for especially grave State crimes. Is it due to perestroika?

CHEBRIKOV. It is explained by the stress that the KGB lays on its prophylactic work [Note 2]. Many individuals are discovered, if one can put it this way, on the brink of committing a criminal act. To influence them the capability of the KGB and of the public are used.


[page three]                                                                                                               49.

GROMYKO. Which crimes are the most dangerous and what is the punishment for them?

CHEBRIKOV. Espionage. It is punished by execution or 15 years imprisonment. Polishchuk was executed for espionage. Yesterday Tolkachev was executed [for the same crime].

GORBACHEV. American intelligence paid him very generously. He was found in possession of two million roubles.

CHEBRIKOV. That agent provided the Adversary with very important military secrets.

GORBACHEV. Let us agree that we approve, in principle, the suggestions made by Comrade Chebrikov. Let the KGB put forward proposals in the established manner [Note 3].

POLITBURO members. Agreed.

[signed]  A. Lukyanov



[1] The 1960 RSFSR Criminal Code listed “anti-Soviet activities” (Article 70) among the particularly serious State crimes, a list including treason, espionage, dealing in hard currency and illegally leaving the country. Those convicted of crimes under Article 70 were sent to specialised camps in Mordovia (Dubrovlag) or, latterly, in the Perm Region.

[2] To control dissent and reduce numbers convicted for political offences the KGB introduced the practice of prophylactic chats and warnings (see 31 October 1975*, 2743-A).

[3] Chebrikov reported back to the Politburo in late December (see 26 December 1986*, 2521-Ch). This leisurely approach was somewhat disrupted by the death, after a prolonged hunger strike, of the veteran rights activist Anatoly Marchenko (see 4 February 1987*, 206-B) and in February 1987 the release of political prisoners began.


  • 1. Notes by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
  • 2. text written by hand is indicated in italic script;
  • 3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been inserted in a previously typed document this is indicated by underlined italic script.

Translation, John Crowfoot

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