16 November 1988* (1979-K) Memorial

KGB report (Kryuchkov) to Central Committee [3.4; 4]. “Provocative statements” made at the Moscow conference organised by the Memorial Society. [Russian: 16 Nov 88, 1979-K] 5 pp.

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16 November 1988, No 1979-K

To the CPSU Central Committee

Concerning the provocative statements made by certain participants of the All-Union Voluntary Historical and Educational “Memorial” society conference

On 29 and 30 October a conference of the so-called All-Union Voluntary Historical and Educational “Memorial” society was held in Moscow at the Central House of Film [Dom kino].

According to available information, about six hundred individuals took part. The mandate commission registered 338 representatives from 58 of the country’s towns and cities; 220 of them came from Moscow and the Moscow Region. The following among others were members of the presidium: Academician A.D. Sakharov, the writers A.Ya. Rybakov and B[ulat].Sh. Okudzhava, R[oy].A. Medvedev, and the secretaries of creative unions Yu.P. Platonov [Architects], Yu.B. Solovyov [Designers], T.T. Salakhov [Artists]and A.F. Yermakov [Film-makers].[1]

On the whole, the organisational committee and the public council were unable to channel the work of the conference into a constructive exchange of opinions about the society’s draft Statute and the main lines of its activity. The said issues were considered in only a few of the speeches, mainly in the contributions by representatives of societies and groups from other [Soviet] towns and cities.

The work of the conference and its pronounced political and, in some cases, anti-Party attitudes were defined by the speeches delivered by representatives of the


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“Moscow Action Group of Memorial”, the Democratic Union [note 7], the Moscow Popular Front, the unofficial magazines Glasnost [Sergei Grigoryants] and Express Chronicle [Alexander Podrabinek], and a number of other individuals who are known for their anti-social actions.

Certain of the conference participants, it should be noted, tried to introduce a healthy current in its proceedings but they were unable to influence the entire process of discussion. Overall, the lack of preparedness and organisation for running a conference was evident among its organisers. With minimal and timely preparation on their part for active and constructive participation the nature of the discussion could have gained a different outlook with a positive content.

Speeches by Bogoraz-Brukhman, Bonner, Krivenko, Skubko, Timofeyev, Roginsky, Aksyuchits [2] and certain others promoted the idea that one of the main lines of the society’s research should examine in detail all periods of repression, starting in 1917 and ending with the present day. In their opinion “repressive measures continue today as well”. “We must take responsibility for all periods of terror, both by the Reds and by the Whites,” Bonner declared.

According to [Yury] Skubko, “despite perestroika the political system in our country remains that of functioning Stalinism”. He suggested that a resolution be adopted, including the phrase “destalinisation cannot be achieved so long as a one-party system is in operation in the USSR.”[7]

The writer and commentator [Oleg] Volkov, after describing himself as “a prisoner of the Solovki camp”, [4] declared during his speech that he


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“could not draw a line of demarcation between the repressive measures that preceded Stalin and those that occurred during Stalin’s time”. In his words, “In 1917 those [expletive omitted] who were brought here by the Germans in a sealed carriage carried out an experiment in this country”. “Those [deleted] should have thought”, he declared, “ what that experiment would cost.” The speaker later stressed that “if the experiment did not take the leader of ‘those’ [deleted] would not have hesitated to carry out executions”.

[Arseny] Roginsky,[5] a member of the so-called Democratic Union, proposed that everyone be included in the list of victims – among them Trotskyists, followers of Stepan Bandera, participants in the nationalist military units of the Baltic region and others. In his opinion, the Memorial Society should become the political heir of the so-called Helsinki Groups which operated formerly in the Soviet Union: it should actively defend human rights in our country and abroad. As an example of historically genuine work, he cited the Chronicle of Current Events, published illegally at the time, and as the confederates behind that periodical he named the following who earlier served time for criminal offences: [Tatyana] Velikanova, [Sergei] Kovalyov, [Alexander] Podrabinek, [F] Svetlov, [Sophia] Kalistratova and [Elena] Bonner. [3] The audience met the naming of these individuals with a tumultuous ovation.

[…] Aksyuchits read out a resolution “On restoring historical justice to Solzhenitsyn” which was adopted by an overwhelming majority of votes.

The economist [Sergei] Krivenko declared that “the Soviet Union is ‘the evil empire’ not only for Americans but also for our friends in socialist countries” since “all the tragic events in those countries were orchestrated from Moscow.”


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Academician [Andrei] Sakharov suggested that a supplementary question be added to the forthcoming [December 1989] population census. Additional pages should be added, permitting full statistical data to be gathered about individuals who suffered repressive measures during the years of Stalin’s Cult of Personality. Zedin, Kotlyar and Dobroshtan, who had all suffered [political] repression in the past proposed that Memorial should nominate Academician Sakharov as a deputy of the USSR Supreme Soviet. They and others demanded that people who had suffered during the years of the Cult of Personality be awarded pensions on the level of those awarded to participants of the Great Patriotic War, and that the honorary title “A Victim of Stalinist Repression” be established.

Introducing himself as a freelance journalist who had also been repressed in the past Dryubin [note 4] declared that the main task of Memorial was to unite all forces for political struggle. At the end of his address, he turned to those present with a provocative question: “What will you do if Stalinist times return?” In reply shouts rang out in the hall: “We shall take up arms and fight!”

Adelseitov, a spokesman for the Crimean Tatars, called on the organisational committee of the Memorial Society to join in the struggle for the rapid return of the Crimean Tatars to their historic homeland. One leader of the so-called Jewish Cultural Organisation, Chlenov, called on the Memorial Society to help defend the interests of the Jewish people who, supposedly, are the targets to this day of “racial and cultural genocide”.

During the course of the conference there were hardly any debates about the draft Statute of the Memorial Society. Every speaker considered it his duty either to


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speak about himself or to promote his own political platform. The striving of members of the so-called Democratic Union to turn the [Memorial] society into an opposition party should be noted: they wanted to use Memorial as a tribune onto which they could drag their extremist ideas. The aforementioned provocations of the members of that “union” did not receive a sufficient rebuttal from the audience.

The intense atmosphere that dominated the hall may be judged from the following. In response to a reprimand for his improper behaviour on the tribune Skubko started a fight and struck Yermakov, the organisational secretary of the Union of Film-Makers.

American and West European TV correspondents filmed the course of the conference.

For Your Information.

Committee Chairman V. Kryuchkov

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NOTES

This report may be compared with two earlier KGB reports to the Central Committee dated 4 December 1987 and 27 July 1988 concerning, respectively, proposals for international seminars in Moscow, on Human Rights and on “The KGB and Perestroika. It contains a number of misspelt names and misleading statements.

[1] Certain “creative” unions and mainstream publications (Ogonyok, Literaturnaya gazeta) were initially invited by the organisers as potential trustees of the Memorial Society. They played a visible role at the two conferences held during 1988.

In October 1988 the unions were represented at the Central House of Film by their secretaries: Yu.P. Platonov, USSR Union of Architects; Yu.B. Solovyov, USSR Union of Designers; T.T. Salakhov, USSR Union of Artists;and A.F. Yermakov, USSR Union of Film-makers. For a time the chairman of the Architects Union, Glazychev, was considered the acting head of the Memorial Society.

The creative unions and editors of leading weekly newspapers and magazines were still prominent two months later when delegates from over fifty towns and cities assembled again in November 1988, this time at the community centre of the Moscow Aviation Industry, a less central and prestigious locality. Among guest speakers on that occasion was Khrushchev’s son Sergei.

When Memorial was formally constituted and established in January 1989 the creative unions and mainstream publications were no longer involved.

[2] Larisa Bogoraz and Yelena Bonner were veteran dissidents. The others listed here represent a younger generation of dissidents, such as Lev Timofeyev, and researchers at Institutes of the Academy of Sciences such as the economist Sergei Krivenko.

[3] Some of those named here, e.g. the defence attorney Sophia Kalistratova, were not prosecuted and sentenced nor did they spend time in a Soviet prison, penal colony, or psychiatric hospital. Key figures behind the compilation of the Chronicle from the mid-1970s onwards were its editors Tatyana Velikanova, Alexander Lavut and Sergei Kovalyov and specialist contributors like Alexander Podrabinek who supplied material about the abuse of psychiatry. (“Svetlov” almost certainly refers to Felix Svetov.)

[4] Dryubin was the father of political prisoner Mikhail Rivkin.

[5] Oleg Volkov was sent to the Solovki special camp in 1928. Released the following year he was again imprisoned there from 1931 to 1936. He was the author of a book of memoirs Descent into Darkness (1990).

[6] In the 1970s Arseny B. Roginsky (1946-2017) edited Pamyat (Memory), an almanac of uncensored writings about Soviet history latterly published abroad. Arrested in 1981, he served four years in a corrective labour camp before being released in 1985. From 1998 he chaired the board of the International Memorial Society. Roginsky never belonged to the Democratic Union.

[7] Democratic Union — first independent political party in the USSR, founded in May 1988. Associated in particular with former dissident Valeria Novodvorskaya. Among the activists quoted above Yury Skubko was a member of the Democratic Union.

GENERAL

  • 1. Notes and additions by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
  • 2. Text added to original typed text 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 and Annotation,
John Crowfoot
27 December 2020

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