Politburo meeting. Discussion concerning what to do with Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Text published first in Russkaya mysl (Paris), 30 September & 10 October 1993
MEETING OF CPSU POLITBURO
7 January 1974
Comrade L.I. BREZHNEV
Comrades in attendance:
Yu.V. Andropov, A.A.Gromyko, A.N. Kosygin,
Podgorny, Kirilenko, M.A. Suslov, D.F. Ustinov,
Grishin, Polyansky, Shelepin, Katushev,
M.S. Solomentsev, Demichev, I.V. Kapitonov
BREZHNEV. According to reports from our embassies abroad and in the foreign press, a new work by Solzhenitsyn, “The Gulag Archipelago”, is to be published in France and the USA. Comrade Suslov tells me that the Secretariat has taken a decision to deploy works in our press, exposing the writings of Solzhenitsyn and bourgeois propaganda in connection with the publication of this book. No one has yet read this book but the contents are already known. It is a crude, anti-Soviet lampoon. Today we must discuss what we do next. Our laws give us every right to send Solzhenitsyn to prison because he has offended against all that is most sacred – Lenin, our Soviet system, the Soviet regime, everything that we hold dear.
In the past we sent Yakir, Litvinov and others to prison; they were convicted and that was an end of it. Kuznetsov, Alliluyeva and others moved abroad. For a time it caused a stir, then all was forgotten. Then this delinquent element Solzhenitsyn went on the loose. He takes a swing at everything and shows no respect. What should we do with him? If we penalise him, will that be to our advantage? How will bourgeois propaganda use it against us? I am raising this issue for discussion. I just want us to exchange opinions, talk it over and reach the right decision.
KOSYGIN. We have a note from Comrade Andropov on this matter. It contains the suggestion that Solzhenitsyn be deported from the country.
BREZHNEV. I have talked with Comrade Andropov on this issue.
ANDROPOV. I consider Solzhenitsyn should be deported from the country without his consent. In an earlier period Trotsky was deported from the country, without asking his consent.
BREZHNEV. Obviously, Solzhenitsyn himself will not agree to that.
KIRILENKO. He can be removed without his consent.
PODGORNY. Can a country be found that will take him without his consent?
BREZHNEV. Remember that Solzhenitsyn did not even go abroad to receive the Nobel Prize [in 1972].
ANDROPOV. When it was suggested that he go abroad to receive the Nobel Prize, he asked for guarantees that he could return to the USSR.
I have been raising the problem of Solzhenitsyn since 1965, comrades. He has now reached a new level in his hostile activities. He is trying to create an organisation within the Soviet Union, made up of former prisoners. He is speaking out against Lenin, against the October Revolution, and against the socialist system. His composition The Gulag Archipelago is not a work of art but a political document. That is dangerous. There are tens of thousands of Vlasovites, members of OUN and other hostile elements within the country: hundreds and thousands of people among whom Solzhenitsyn will find support. Now everyone is watching to see how we deal with Solzhenitsyn, whether we take legal measures against him or leave him in peace.
Comrade Keldysh [president of USSR Academy of Sciences] recently rang me and asked why we are not taking any measures against Sakharov. If we do nothing about Sakharov, he says, then Academicians like Kapitsa, Engelgardt and others will start behaving the same way.
This is all very important, comrades, and we must resolve these issues now, even though the European Conference  is now under way .
I think we must put Solzhenitsyn on trial and apply the Soviet laws to him. Many foreign correspondents and other dissatisfied people are coming to visit Solzhenitsyn. He talks to them and even holds press conferences. There might be a hostile underground organisation in the USSR that the KGB has overlooked. Solzhenitsyn, however, is acting openly and brazenly. He exploits the humane attitude of the Soviet regime and conducts his hostile work with impunity. Therefore, we must take all the measures of which I wrote to the Central Committee, and deport Solzhenitsyn. First we shall ask our ambassadors to sound out the governments of the countries where they are serving to see if they can take him. If we do not deport him today, he will continue his hostile activities. You know that he wrote a hostile novel August 1914, the lampoon Gulag Archipelago and now he is writing October 1917, a new anti-Soviet composition.
Therefore, I propose that we deport Solzhenitsyn by administrative order. Let us instruct our ambassadors to make the necessary enquiries about receiving Solzhenitsyn in the countries named in my memorandum. If we do not take these measures, all our propaganda work will have no effect. If we place articles in the press and talk about him on the radio but take no measures that will be just words. We must decide how we are going to deal with Solzhenitsyn.
BREZHNEV. What if we deported him to a socialist country?
ANDROPOV. It’s unlikely, Leonid Ilych, that socialist countries will be receptive. We would be making a gift of such an unwelcome character. Perhaps, we could ask Iraq, Switzerland or some other country? He can live comfortably abroad, he has 8 million roubles in European banks.
SUSLOV. Solzhenitsyn has grown insolent. He has insulted the Soviet system and the Communist Party, and raised his hand against the Holy of Holies, against Lenin.
It is a question of time, how we deal with Solzhenitsyn: whether we deport him, or try him according to our Soviet laws, something must be done. To implement one measure or another against Solzhenitsyn, we must prepare our people and that must be done by deploying wide propaganda. We acted rightly towards Sakharov when we carried out the necessary propaganda work. There are no more bad-tempered letters about Sakharov. Millions of Soviet people listen to the radio and hear broadcast about these new compositions [by Solzhenitsyn]. This all has an effect on the people. We must issue a series of articles and expose Solzhenitsyn. That most certainly must be done.
In accordance with the decision taken by the Secretariat, it is intended to publish one or two articles in Pravda and Literaturnaya gazeta. The people will learn about this book by Solzhenitsyn. Of course, we must not start a campaign about it but print several articles.
KIRILENKO. That will only draw attention to Solzhenitsyn.
SUSLOV. But we cannot keep quiet.
GROMYKO. Solzhenitsyn is an enemy and I shall vote for the most severe measures against him. As concerns propaganda measures, these should be on the right scale. They require careful forethought. Neither, however, can we reject the steps proposed by Comrade Andropov. If we deport him by force, against his will, we must be aware that this could turn bourgeois propaganda against us. It would be good to expel him with his agreement but he will not give his consent. Perhaps, we should be patient for a little while longer, whilst the European conference is still under way? Even if some country agrees it would not be expedient to expel him now because this might lead to a wide propaganda campaign against us, and that will not help us when the European conference comes to an end. I suggest waiting 3-4 months but, let me repeat, in principle I favour severe measures. Solzhenitsyn should now be cordoned off so that he is isolated for those months, and could not receive people through whom he can wage his propaganda.
Leonid Ilych will be making a visit to Cuba in the near future. This is also not entirely favourable to us because it will be hindered by many different kinds of material against the Soviet Union. We must take the necessary propaganda measures within the country to expose Solzhenitsyn.
USTINOV. I think we should begin work on the proposals made by Comrade Andropov. At the same time, we must publish propaganda materials exposing Solzhenitsyn.
PODGORNY. I would like to pose the question as follows. What administrative measure are we to take towards Solzhenitsyn: are we to convict him under Soviet law and make him serve his sentence here, or, as Comrade Andropov proposes, are we to deport him? It is beyond doubt that Solzhenitsyn is an insolent and vehement foe, who is leading the turncoats behind him. Everything he is doing goes unpunished, and that’s also clear to all of us. Let’s see which measure will be most advantageous to us: a trial or deportation. In many countries, in China, they hold public executions; in Chile the fascist regime shoots and tortures people; in Ireland the English take repressive measures against the working people. Meanwhile we are faced by a vehement foe and look the other way, when everyone and everything is being smeared with filth.
I consider our law humane but, at the same time, merciless towards enemies, and we should try Solzhenitsyn according to our laws in our Soviet court and make him serve his sentence in the Soviet Union.
DEMICHEV. Of course, there will be a fuss abroad but we have already published several items about Solzhenitsyn’s new book. We must further expand our propaganda work. We cannot remain silent. If Solzhenitsyn said in his “Feast of the Victors” that he wrote such things because he is infuriated by the Soviet regime, he is even more insolent and open in his opposition to the Soviet system and the Party in The Gulag Archipelago, which he wrote in 1965. Therefore, we must offer sharply-worded articles in our press. In my view, this will not affect the relaxation of international tension or the European conference.
SUSLOV. Party organisations are waiting, and the socialist countries are also waiting, to see how we react to Solzhenitsyn’s actions. The bourgeois press is now promoting this book of Solzhenitsyn as loudly as it can. We must not remain silent.
KATUSHEV. We all share the same assessment of Solzhenitsyn’s actions. This is an enemy and we must treat him accordingly. Evidently, we cannot avoid resolving the problem of Solzhenitsyn now. However, we must find a comprehensive solution. On the one hand, we shall use all our propaganda against Solzhenitsyn and, on the other, we must take measures in accordance with Comrade Andropov’s memorandum.
Obviously we can deport him with a decree from the Supreme Soviet and announce it in the press. He has assaulted our sovereignty, attacked our freedoms and our laws, and he must be punished for doing so.
Negotiations about Solzhenitsyn’s deportation, obviously, will take 3-4 months. However, I repeat, we must find a comprehensive solution and the sooner we deport him, the better.
As concerns our press, we must issue articles.
KAPITONOV. I would like to pose this issue as follows: if we deport Solzhenitsyn, what will our people think? They may respond, of course, without any reservations, gossip and so on. What are we showing this action: our strength or our weakness? I think that, no matter what, we shall not be demonstrating our strength. So far we have not yet exposed him ideologically and have told the people nothing about Solzhenitsyn. Yet that must be done. We must begin our work, first and foremost, by exposing Solzhenitsyn, turning him inside out, and then any administrative measure will be understood by our people.
SOLOMENTSEV. Solzhenitsyn is a hardened enemy of the Soviet Union. If it was not for the current foreign policy operations of the Soviet Union we could solve the problem, of course, without delay. How will one decision or another reflect on our foreign policy operations? In any case, obviously, we must say everything that has to be said to our people about Solzhenitsyn. We must give a critical assessment of his actions and his hostile activities. Of course, the people will ask, Why are no measures being taken against Solzhenitsyn? In the GDR, for example, they have already printed an article about Solzhenitsyn, and in Czechoslovakia as well. I say nothing about the bourgeois countries, but our press is silent. Over the radio we hear a great deal about Solzhenitsyn and his Gulag Archipelago, but our radio keeps quiet and says nothing.
I believe that we should not be silent. The people expect decisive action. Critical material exposing Solzhenitsyn should be printed in our press. Obviously, we should reach agreement with the socialist countries and the communist parties of capitalist countries about propaganda measures that they might carry out in their countries.
I think Solzhenitsyn should be convicted according to our laws.
GRISHIN. Comrade Andropov, obviously, needs to find a country that would agree to accept Solzhenitsyn. As concerns the exposure of Solzhenitsyn, that should begin without delay.
KIRILENKO. Whenever we talk about Solzhenitsyn as an anti-Sovietist and a malicious enemy of the Soviet system this always coincides with some other important events and we defer a solution to the problem. In the past this was justified but now we cannot postpone a decision on this issue. What has been written about Solzhenitsyn is good but, as comrades have already said here, it must be more soundly and critically expressed and argued. For instance, the Polish writer Krolikowski has written a very good expose of Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn is becoming more and more insolent. He is not alone but is in contact with Sakharov. Abroad he has contacts with the NTS. Therefore, the moment has come to grapple seriously with Solzhenitsyn and then deport him take other administrative measures against him.
Andrei Andreyevich [Gromyko] is concerned that this measure might rebound on us. However that may be, the problem cannot be left as it is. Enemies are hampering us and we cannot keep silent about it. Many bourgeois newspapers even are now writing that Solzhenitsyn, evidently, will be tried under Soviet law and has already violated the copyright convention which we have joined.
I support Comrade Andropov’s proposal.
Articles should be provided in the newspapers but very well argued and detailed.
KOSYGIN. We share a common opinion, comrades, and I fully support what has been said.
For several years Solzhenitsyn has been trying to win over the minds of our people. For some reason we are afraid to touch him and yet the people would welcome all our actions with regard to Solzhenitsyn.
If we speak about public opinion abroad we should consider what will do least harm: to expose him, convict him and send him to prison or to wait several months and then deport him to another country.
I think that we shall face the least costs if we act decisively towards him now and convict him according to Soviet laws.
Obviously, articles about Solzhenitsyn must be provided in the press, but they must be serious. Solzhenitsyn has been bought by Western companies and agencies, and he is working for them. The book Gulag Archipelago is an out-and-out anti-Soviet work. I talked with Comrade Andropov about this problem. Of course, the socialist countries will not accept Solzhenitsyn. I am in favour of Comrade Andropov trying to sound out capitalist countries to see which of them might take him. On the other hand, we should not be afraid to apply the harsh measures of Soviet justice to Solzhenitsyn. Look at Britain. They are killing hundreds of people. Or Chile, it’s the same thing.
We must put Solzhenitsyn on trial and tell everyone about him, and then he can be sent to Verkhoyansk to serve his sentence. No foreign correspondent will travel there: it’s too cold. We have nothing to hide from the people. Articles must be published in the newspapers.
PODGORNY. Solzhenitsyn is actively carrying out anti-Soviet work. In the past we deported or put on trial less dangerous enemies than Solzhenitsyn yet we still cannot approach him, we keep looking for a way to do so. Solzhenitsyn’s last book gives no excuse for any concessions.
It is necessary that this measure, of course, does not harm other operations. Solzhenitsyn has quite a few followers but we cannot ignore his actions.
I believe that the people will support any action we take. Articles should be published in the newspapers, but they should be very well argumented and convincing. Many know about him and also about the latest book. The Voice of America, Free Europe and other radio stations are transmitting broadcasts. At home and abroad people are waiting to see what measures the Soviet government takes against Solzhenitsyn. He is not afraid, of course, and assumes that nothing will happen to him.
Despite the European conference I believe we cannot back down and take no measures against Solzhenitsyn. Even though the European conference is taking place we must put Solzhenitsyn on trial and let everyone know that we are following a principled policy in this respect. We shall show our enemies no mercy.
We shall do great damage to our cause if we do not take measures against Solzhenitsyn, even though there will be an outcry abroad. There will be all kinds of talk, of course, but the interests of our people, and the interests of our Soviet State and our Party come before everything else. If we do not take these decisive measures, we shall be asked why we are not doing so.
I am in favour of putting Solzhenitsyn on trial. If we deport him this will show our weakness. We must prepare for a trial, expose Solzhenitsyn in the press, bring charges against him, conduct an investigation and transfer the case, via the Procurator’s office, to the courts.
POLYANSKY. Can he be arrested before the trial?
ANDROPOV. He can. I consulted Rudenko.
PODGORNY. As concerns deportation to another country, that’s no good without the country’s agreement.
ANDROPOV. We shall begin working on deportation but, at the same time, we shall open a criminal case against Solzhenitsyn and isolate him.
PODGORNY. If we deport him he will do us harm abroad.
GROMYKO. We must concentrate, obviously, on the alternative of dealing with him here.
ANDROPOV. If we drag things out with regard to Solzhenitsyn I think that will be worse.
PODGORNY. We can spin out Solzhenitsyn’s case, say, by dragging out the investigation. But let him be held in prison during that time.
SHELEPIN. When we met at Comrade Kosygin’s three months ago and discussed what measures should be taken towards Solzhenitsyn, we concluded that administrative measures should not be taken. That was right at the time. Now a different situation has developed. Solzhenitsyn has openly turned against the Soviet regime and the Soviet State. Now, I believe, it would be advantageous if we resolved the problem of Solzhenitsyn before the end of the European Conference. This will show our consistent and principled approach. If we carry out this operation after the European conference, we shall be accused that we were insincere when we took the decision and are now beginning to violate those decisions, etc. We have a clear and correct policy. We do not allow anyone to break our Soviet laws. Deportation to a foreign country is not a suitable measure. In my view, we should not involve foreign States in this matter. We have judicial bodies, let them investigate and then hold a trial.
BREZHNEV. The problem with regard to Solzhenitsyn, of course, is not simple but very complex. The bourgeois press is trying to link the Solzhenitsyn case with the conduct of our major operations to reach peaceful solutions. How shall we deal with Solzhenitsyn? I consider that the best way is to proceed in accordance with our Soviet laws.
BREZHNEV. Our procurator’s office can begin the investigation, draw up the charge sheet, and explain in detail what he is guilty of.
In the past, Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned. He served his sentence for a gross violation of Soviet legislation and was rehabilitated. Yet how was he rehabilitated? He was rehabilitated by two people, Shatunovskaya and Snegov. According to our laws he should be deprived of the opportunity to be in contact with [people] abroad, while the investigation is under way. The investigation must be conducted openly and show the people his hostile, anti-Soviet activities. The people must be shown how he has defiled our Soviet system, slandered the memory of our Great Leader, the founder of the Party and the State, V.I. Lenin, defiled the memory of the victims of the Great Patriotic War, justified counter-revolutionaries, and directly violated our laws.
In the past we did not fear to confront counter-revolution in Czechoslovakia. We did not fear to let Alliluyeva leave the country. We survived all that and, I think, we will also survive this. We must provide argumented articles, and give a strict and precise response to the writing of such a journalist as Olson, and publish articles in other newspapers.
I have talked with Comrade Gromyko about the influence our measures towards Solzhenitsyn will have on the European conference. I do not think it will have a great influence. Obviously, it is not expedient to deport him because no one will accept him. When [Anatoly] Kuznetsov and others fled the country, that’s one thing; it’s another matter when we are deporting someone as an administrative measure.
Therefore, I consider it necessary to instruct the KGB and the USSR Procurator General’s office to draw the procedure for bringing Solzhenitsyn to trial and, taking into account everything been said at this Politburo meeting, to adopt the appropriate judicial measures.
PODGORNY. He should be arrested and charged.
BREZHNEV. Let Comrades Andropov and Rudenko draw up the entire procedure for charging him, keeping everything in accordance with our legislation.
Comrades Andropov, Demichev and Katushev must be instructed to prepare information for the secretaries of the fraternal communist and workers’ parties in the socialist countries and other leaders of fraternal communist parties about our measures towards Solzhenitsyn.
The following decree has been adopted:
On measures to halt the anti-Soviet activities of Solzhenitsyn, A.I.
1) For malicious anti-Soviet activities, as expressed by the transfer to foreign publishers and information agencies of manuscripts, books, letters and interviews that: slander the Soviet system, the Soviet Union, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and their foreign and domestic policies; defile the radiant memory of V.I. Lenin and other leaders of the CPSU and Soviet State, and the victims of the Great Patriotic War and the German-fascist occupation; justify the actions both of internal and of foreign counter-revolutionary and elements and groups hostile to the Soviet system; and also for gross violation of the rules for publishing literary works in foreign publishing houses, laid down by the World (Geneva) Copyright Convention, Solzhenitsyn A.I. is to stand trial.
2) Instruct Comrades Andropov and Rudenko to determine the order and procedure for conducting the investigation and the trial of Solzhenitsyn, in accordance with the exchange of opinion at the Politburo, and to submit their suggestions on this matter to the Central Committee.
3) Instruct Comrades Andropov, Demichev and Katushev to prepare information for the first secretaries of the Central Committees of Communist and Workers’ Parties of the socialist and certain capitalist countries about the measures we are taking with regard to Solzhenitsyn, bearing in mind the exchange of opinions at the Politburo, and present this information to the Central Committee.
4) Instruct the Secretariat to determine the deadline for sending this information to the fraternal parties.
 The ongoing Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which ran from September 1973 to July 1975, and culminated in the signing of the Helsinki Accords.
1. Notes and additions by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
2. Text added by hand is indicated in italic script;
3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been inserted
in a previously typed document it is indicated by underlined italic script.
Translation, John Crowfoot
For Russian text, see http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB191/01-07-1974.pdf
and Dissidents and the Soviet Regime (2006), 2006 (pp. 27-37).
Source — Presidential Archive of the Russian Federation.
Working copy of Politburo meetings in 1974. 17 pp. Original.
[Рабочая запись заседаний Политбюро за 1974 г. 17 л. [Л. ?, 19—3457.] Подлинник.]