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The Yuri Orlov File

Human Rights Legend and Distinguished Physicist Turns 90

Founder of Moscow Helsinki Group Endured Gulag and Exile, Still Teaches at Cornell

Web Posting Includes KGB and Politburo Documents on Orlov's Dissident Career, Declassified U.S. Reports on the Human Rights Challenge Orlov Faced, Complete Orlov Physics Publications List, First Publication in English of Orlov's Historic 1956 Speech Criticizing the Communist Party, and Video of Orlov-Reagan White House Meeting from 1986

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 482

Posted August 13, 2014

Compiled and edited by Svetlana Savranskaya and Tom Blanton
Editorial assistance by Anya Melyakova and Allison Brady
Special thanks to Sidney Orlov

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Related Links 

Soviet Dissidents and Jimmy Carter
September 18, 2012

The Alexeyeva File
July 20, 2012

The Moscow Helsinki Group
30th Anniversary:
From the Secret Files
May 12, 2006

Yuri Orlov Physics Publications and Reports


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Yuri Orlov in Siberian exile 1984.

Young Yuri Orlov holding accordian with his cousin Vladimir and dog Jack.

Yuri with his grandmother Pelageya in 1929.

Second lieutenant Yuri Orlov, Soviet army, Hungary 1945.

The Free Orlov committee at CERN 1978.

Yuri Orlov and Evgeni Tarasov in Siberia 1984.

Orlov, Irina Ginzburg, Valentin Turchin, and Andrei Amalrik in Moscow, 1975.

Reagan Presidential Library.

Photo credit: Megan Dirks.

Yuri Orlov with his wife Sidney Orlov in 1987 in front of their barn in Ithaca.


Washington, DC, August 13, 2014 – Marking the 90th birthday of the human rights legend and distinguished physicist Yuri Orlov, the National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org) and the Memorial Society in Moscow (www.memo.ru) today posted online an extensive collection of formerly secret Soviet and U.S. documents on Orlov's career as a Soviet dissident, including the first English-language translation of his historic 1956 speech at his physics institute in Moscow, and his 1976 founding of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

The posting also includes Orlov's complete publications list as a still-active research physicist, his 2009 Vernon Hughes Memorial Lecture at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, and never-before-published video of Orlov's White House meeting with President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

The documents include detailed KGB, Communist Party Central Committee and Politburo documents, together with parallel CIA and White House assessments, that suggest how courageous human rights activism by leading Soviet scientists like Orlov as early as 1956 fundamentally threatened the repressive Soviet system while setting the stage for the late 1980s perestroika/glasnost period that ended the Cold War.

Yuri Orlov and Ronald Reagan (with interpreter) in the Oval Office, October 7, 1986. Credit: Reagan Presidential Library.

The documents show that through organizing the Moscow Helsinki Group (with Lyudmila Alexeyeva) in May 1976, Orlov institutionalized human rights monitoring based on the principles in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, signed by the USSR and even published in Pravda. Multiple other Helsinki groups soon followed throughout Eastern and Western Europe, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, contributing enormous intellectual capital to the international human rights movement and to social processes that culminated in the peaceful revolutions of 1989. The Moscow Helsinki Group remains the oldest still-functioning human rights organization in Russia, and Orlov subsequently became honorary chairman of the International Helsinki Federation.

Orlov survived multiple repressions by the authorities: fired from his Moscow physics institute and denounced in Pravda for his 1956 speech, he was effectively banned from working in the main institutes and had to pursue his scientific career in distant centers such as Yerevan and Novosibirsk, where sympathetic physicists supported him. In 1972 Orlov came back to Moscow at the Terrestrial Magnetism Institute but soon lost his job there for the multiple sins of co-founding the first Soviet chapter of Amnesty International and speaking out against the persecution of fellow physicist Andrei Sakharov.

Arrested by the KGB in February 1977 for his Helsinki Group initiative, Orlov suffered through KGB prisons, a three-day farce trial in 1978, years in hard labor camps at Perm-35 and -37, and internal exile in Siberia, before being deported from the Soviet Union in 1986. According to Anatoly Chernyaev's notes of the Soviet Politburo session of September 22, 1986, President Reagan had only agreed to have a summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik, Iceland (it would take place in October), on the conditions that the Soviets release imprisoned American journalist Nicholas Daniloff (he was traded for Soviet spy Gennadi Zakharov, jailed in New York), and "if there was a positive response" to American demands for action on a list of 25 Soviet dissidents imprisoned or in internal exile. Of that list, Chernyaev's notes show Gorbachev ordered the release of only Orlov, saying "we should not agree to more than Daniloff and Orlov in one month. The people will not understand us. We also have our limits."

Orlov and Reagan face the media in the White House Cabinet Room, October 7, 1986. Credit: Reagan Presidential Library.

President Reagan received Orlov at the White House on October 7, 1986, only days after Orlov's arrival in the U.S. and three days before the beginning of the Reykjavik summit. According to Orlov's account in his memoirs, Dangerous Thoughts: Memoirs of a Russian Life (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1991), Reagan told him that the U.S. had asked for the Soviets to release Andrei Sakharov and let him immigrate to Boston, but the Soviets had said impossible because Sakharov knew too many nuclear weapons secrets. Orlov advised Reagan not to ask for Sakharov's emigration but only for his release, to stay in the Soviet Union but freely. For the next several months (and years), Orlov traveled and spoke throughout Europe and the U.S. to bring attention to the remaining dissidents in the USSR, who were subsequently released "like drops of blood squeezed from a stone."

Orlov went on to serve as a Visiting Fellow in 1988 at CERN, the European nuclear research center, and as Senior Scientist starting in 1987 in the Nuclear Studies Laboratory at Cornell University, where he became Professor of Physics and Government in 2008. While his early physics research in the USSR had focused on the design of particle accelerators, including a proton synchrotron at his institute (the Heat Engineering Laboratory, subsequently ITEP) in Moscow and the electron synchrotron at the Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia, Orlov's work at CERN and in the U.S. focused on elementary particle spin physics and measurement of subatomic particles, as well as the foundations of quantum mechanics.

Yuri Orlov meeting White House chief of staff Donald Regan, introduction by President Reagan, October 7, 1986. Credit: Reagan Presidential Library.

The Brookhaven National Laboratory's famous Muon (g-minus-2) Collaboration (now at Fermilab) recruited Orlov in 1987 based on his early publications from Yerevan about particles in magnetic fields (g-2 rings), and he later became a founding member of Brookhaven's Electric Dipole Moment Collaboration. These collaborations have produced experimental results that suggest "new physics beyond the Standard Model," according to Orlov's friend and colleague Vernon Hughes, to whom Orlov paid tribute in an eloquent 2009 memorial lecture. As a Brookhaven statement from 2002 explains, "The g-2 value measures the effects of three of the four forces known to exist in the universe — the strong force, the electromagnetic force, and the weak force (but not the fourth force, gravity) — on a characteristic of these particles known as 'spin,' which is somewhat similar to the spin of a toy top." For more details on Orlov's physics career, see the Cornell Physics Department web page.

Orlov received his first visa to return to the USSR in June 1989 in the middle of Gorbachev's glasnost and nationally televised sessions of the newly elected Congress of Peoples' Deputies — including Andrei Sakharov. Orlov's remarkable visit, recounted in the memoir Dangerous Thoughts, included reunions with his children and human rights activists, and even a speech on the platform of the Luzhniki sports complex where the nascent "Memorial" association held massive public meetings chaired by "my physicist friend" Lev Ponomaryov, who had helped keep Orlov alive in exile.

Sidney and Yuri Orlov with Archive director Tom Blanton at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Moscow Helsinki Group, 2006. Photo: Svetlana Savranskaya.

After continued visa drama, Orlov also returned to Moscow in May 1990 for the International Helsinki Federation's annual meeting, as the IHF's honorary chairman. Orlov's continued engagement with the international human rights struggle was dramatically highlighted at the 30th anniversary celebration in 2006 of the founding of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and will be the subject today of a birthday party hosted in Moscow by the ombudsman of the Russian Federation — Orlov will attend by Skype from Ithaca, New York. Yuri Orlov continues to live at the cutting edge both of physics and human rights.



Document 1: Yuri Orlov's Statement at the Party Meeting of the Heat Engineering Laboratory of the USSR Academy of Sciences, 23 March 1956.

Source: Yuri Orlov's personal archive

In 1956, Yuri Orlov is a junior scientist at a very prestigious lab in Moscow-the future Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics of the Academy of Sciences. A genuine believer in democratic socialism, he takes the results of the XX Congress of the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) to heart and welcomes Nikita Khrushchev's speech denouncing Joseph Stalin's cult of personality and political repressions. He thinks that there should be wide discussion of the speech. Along with several other researchers, he challenges Party members to reflect on Stalinism and the way Soviet society reacted to it. Orlov's presentation at the meeting is stunningly direct and fearless. He condemns the Stalin period as "a shameful page in the history or our country" and questions the democratic nature of the Soviet regime. Here a rising nuclear scientist comes out as a human right activist at heart. This statement would soon cost him his Moscow career.


Document 2: Report by I. O. Shmelev, Head of the Political Department of the Heat Engineering Laboratory of the USSR Academy of Sciences to the CC CPSU, 31 March 1956

Source: Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), Fond 4, opis 16, delo 24

The head of the Political Department of the lab immediately grasps the importance and sensitivity of what happened at the Party meeting and sends a report all the way to the Central Committee of the CPSU. He summarizes statements by several outspoken Communists who shared Orlov's views and calls Orlov the main instigator, the "leader of the choir." In the report, Shmelev presents himself as the voice of reason at the Party meeting trying to rein in Orlov and his supporters. Shmelev suggests that the perpetrators be punished by expulsion from the Party and from the lab, and proposes to disband the primary Party organization and conduct educational ideological work among the scientists. The report provides a marvelous vignette of the life of a Moscow Party organization in the early post-Stalin years, where mass fear still reigned and destalinization efforts were only superficial.


Document 3: Draft Resolution of CC CPSU about Hostile Outbursts at the Meeting of the Party Organization of the Heat Engineering Laboratory of the USSR Academy of Sciences on the Results of the XX Congress of the CPSU Prepared by Comrades Mezentsev, Churaev, Shmelev, Belyaev, Furtseva, Shepilov, Suslov, undated, circa 4 April 1956.

Source: Yuri Orlov's personal archive

This draft resolution condemns the statements by Orlov and his supporters at the Party meeting and suggests strong measures to punish the perpetrators. The significance of this draft is that it was prepared at a very high level-among the authors are the Ekaterina Furtseva, First Secretary of the Moscow City Party Bureau, the first woman member of the Politburo and future Minister of Culture of the Soviet Union; Mikhail Suslov, full member of Politburo in charge of ideology; and Dmitry Shepilov, member of the Presidium and future Foreign Minister. The draft outlines punitive measures against Orlov and his supporters and organizational measures against the Party group of the lab. The authors also suggest that the author of the report published above-Shmelev, the head of the political department of Orlov's lab-be fired for failing his responsibilities. His diligence in writing the report did not help him, nor did contributing to this draft resolution.


Document 4: Resolution of the Presidium of the CC CPSU "About Hostile Outbursts at the Meeting of the Party Organization of the Heat Engineering Laboratory of the USSR Academy of Sciences on the Results of the XX Congress of the CPSU," 5 April 1956. Strictly Secret.

Source: Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), Fond 3, opis 14, delo 13

The importance of the incident at the Heat Engineering Lab is underscored once again by the fact that a resolution was passed by the highest ruling party body, the CC CPSU Presidium, condemning the "outbursts" and ordering the expulsion of Orlov, Avalov, Nesterov and Schedrin from the Party and from the lab. The resolution approved the draft and measures to disband and re-subordinate the primary Party cell to root out the emerging dissent. The resolution actually reaffirms the correctness of the general Party line and the impermissibility of deviations from it, which shows the limits of Khrushchev's destalinization.


Document 5: Yuri Andropov, Chairman of the KGB, Memorandum to the Politburo, 29 December, 1975.

Source: U.S. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitrii A. Volkogonov Papers, Reel 18, Container 28

Yuri Andropov gives the Politburo an alarming report on dissent in the USSR in connection with criticisms of Soviet human rights abuses by the French and Italian Communist parties. The main thrust of Andropov' report is how to keep the internal opposition in check in the aftermath of the signing of the Helsinki agreement and the following increase of international pressure on the USSR. He gives the number of political prisoners as 860; the number of people who received "prophylactic treatment" in 1971-74 as 63,108; and states that there are many more "hostile elements" in the country, and that "these people number in the hundreds of thousands." Andropov concludes that the authorities will have to continue to persecute and jail dissidents notwithstanding the foreign attention. This document sets the stage and provides a good preview of what would happen after the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) was founded in May 1976.


Document 6: KGB Memorandum to the CC CPSU, "About the Hostile Actions of the So-called Group for Assistance of Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR," 15 November 1976.

Source: U.S. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitrii A. Volkogonov Papers, Reel 18, Container 28

The KGB informs the Politburo about the activities of the MHG for the first time six months after its founding. The report gives a brief history of the human rights movement in the USSR as seen from the KGB. Andropov names each founding member of the group and charges it with efforts to place in doubt Soviet sincerity in implementing the Helsinki Accords. The document also alleges MHG efforts to receive official recognition from the United States and reports on its connections with the American embassy.


Document 7: Helsinki Monitoring Group, "Special Notice," 2 December 1976.

Source: Memorial Society, Moscow, Archive of History of Dissent, Fond 101, opis 1, Box 2-3

This notice, one of a series by the MHG publicizing official Soviet misconduct, testifies to the increasing harassment of members of the group by the KGB. This time it is the son of co-founding member Malva Landa who has been warned that he might lose his job. The document is signed by Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Orlov and other leading MHG members.


Document 8: Memo from Andropov to CC CPSU, "About Measures to End the Hostile Activity of Members of the So-called Group for Assistance in the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements in the USSR," 5 January 1977.

Source: U.S. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitrii A. Volkogonov Papers, Reel 18, Container 28

After the two informational reports above, the KGB started to get serious about terminating the activities of the MHG. This report charges that the group is capable of inflicting serious damage to Soviet interests, that in recent months group members have stepped up their subversive activities, especially through the dissemination of samizdat documents (and particularly the MHG reports), undermining Soviet claims to be implementing the Helsinki Final Act. The Procuracy would later develop criminal charges to put an end to these activities.


Document 9: Resolution of the Secretariat of the CC CPSU, "On Measures for the Curtailment of the Criminal Activities of Orlov, Ginsburg, Rudenko and Ventslov," 20 January 1977.

Source: The Bukovsky Archive, Soviet Archives at INFO-RUSS http://psi.ece.jhu.edu/~kaplan/IRUSS/BUK/GBARC/buk.html, Folder 3.2

Following the recommendations of the KGB report above, and another report submitted by Andropov on January 20, the CC CPSU Secretariat decides to "intercept and curtail the activities" of Orlov, Ginzburg, Rudenko and Ventslov of the MHG, and the Ukrainian and Lithuanian Helsinki groups. All four would be arrested soon after the resolution.


Document 10: Memo from Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to President Jimmy Carter, 14 February 1977.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

In this memo for the President, Secretary Vance reveals the increasing problems Soviet Jews are facing when attempting to emigrate. There have been increased difficulties in receiving invitations to immigrate from abroad through the Soviet mail and no prominent Jewish emigration cases have been resolved in the past month. Additionally, one disturbing development is the showing of an "anti-Zionist" movie on Soviet national television and the appearance of several articles in the national press that discourage potential emigrants from applying to emigrate.


Document 11: Extract from CC CPSU Politburo Meeting, "About the Instructions to the Soviet Ambassador in Washington for His Conversation with Vance on the Question of 'Human Rights'," 18 February 1977.

Source: Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), Fond 89, Opis list 25, Document 44

After Orlov and Alexander Ginzburg are arrested and Lyudmila Alexeyeva goes into exile, and anticipating the visit of Secretary of State Vance to Moscow in March, the Politburo discusses a rebuff to the Carter administration on human rights issues. Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin is instructed to meet with Vance and inform him of Soviet "bewilderment" regarding Carter administration attempts to raise the issue of Ginzburg's arrest. Dobrynin should explain to administration officials that human rights is not an issue of inter-state relations but an internal matter in which the United States should not interfere.


Document 12: Memo from Jody Powell to President Carter, "Soviet Dissidents," 21 February 1977.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

White House Press Secretary Jody Powell advises President Carter that he should reach out to the Soviets informally, either in a phone call with Dobrynin or through National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, prior to his upcoming meeting with Vladimir Bukovsky in order to prevent a public reaction on their part and forcing the President into a position of having to avoid the appearance of backing down. The President must convey to the Soviets that it is necessary for him to build domestic political support for arms control and détente more generally. Additionally, Powell argues, the American people will not "support a policy that abandons our position in support of basic human rights." The Soviets, he says, "are sophisticated enough to understand that the domestic political flexibility we need to make progress in other areas is enhanced by your position on human rights."


Document 13: Cable from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw to the Secretary of State, "U.S. Government Initiatives on behalf of Human Rights in the USSR," 7 March 1977.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

This cable details the actions taken by the U.S. government in order to fight for human rights in the Soviet Union. They consist of a balanced implementation of the Helsinki Final Act, discussion at the Belgrade CSCE Review Meeting of human rights violations by the Soviets, the dispatch of diplomatic observers to the trials of activists, U.S. assistance to private groups promoting human rights in the USSR, support for the right of emigration, and efforts to secure the release and emigration of imprisoned activists.


Document 14: Memo from Secretary of State Vance to President Carter, 23 May 1977.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

In this memo, Vance states the flow of Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union has remained constant, despite the fact the Soviets have stepped up their harassment of Jewish activists. Recently, prominent Soviet Jews have had their apartments searched, been called in for questioning by the KGB, and been named in the press as being "anti-Soviet." At the same time, several Jewish "refuseniks" have been allowed to emigrate. The Soviets have employed this mix of tactics in order to allow Jews to continue to emigrate so that they will not be called out for cutting off emigration opportunities, while still ensuring that emigration is risky and discouraged.


Document 15: National Security Council, Global Issues [Staff], to Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. National Security Advisor, "Evening Report," 7 June 1977.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

This report to their boss by the staff of the Global Issues directorate of the National Security Council on their daily activities includes a remarkable initial paragraph describing internal U.S. government discussions of the Moscow Helsinki Group (called here "the Orlov Committee"). Staffer Jessica Tuchman says a State Department-hosted group of experts agree that "the hidden bombshell in the whole human rights debate with the USSR" is the fact that the nationalist movements in the Soviet Union all see human rights activism as just the "first step" to autonomy-thus the real threat to the Soviet government.


Document 16: White House Memorandum, 24 June 1977.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

This memorandum discusses a letter from Congressman Lester Wolff that condemns the Soviets for the arrest of Anatoly Shcharansky and the persecution of Orlov, and urges the White House to push for closer monitoring of government compliance with the provisions of Helsinki. The memo warns that taking too harsh a stance against the Soviets at this point could create complications.


Document 17: Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, "The Evolution of Soviet Reaction to Dissent," 15 July 1977.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

This document traces the Soviet government's response to dissident activity especially in light of their agreement to the human rights provisions outlined in Basket III of the Helsinki accords. The authors note that the Soviet Union signed the accords assuming it would not result in an increase in internal opposition, but that instead the Basket III provisions have provided a rallying point for dissent. The analysis also suggests that internal protests sparked by food shortages and the open criticism of the Eurocommunists, including the French and Spanish Communist parties, are further causes of the current Soviet crackdown on internal opposition. The document mentions political unrest in Eastern Europe as well as the new human rights campaign by the United States government-which has prompted dissidents to make their appeals directly to the U.S.-as reasons for Soviet anxiety. Next, it outlines the Soviet government's much harsher measures against dissidents in the wake of the Helsinki accords. These include the arrests of members of the Helsinki Watch Group, the cutting off of access to the West, and accusations of espionage leveled at dissidents. Further, it concludes that the Soviet government's increased anxiety over dissent is the result of a variety of factors, including the approach of the Belgrade conference and their general fears of increased Western contact leading to popular discontent and a variety of alleged social vices.


Document 18: State Department Minutes, "Meeting of the Interagency Coordinating Committee," 6 December 1977.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

In this meeting, Vance's chief Soviet affairs adviser Marshal Shulman opens by exploring the dichotomy in Soviet actions. On the one hand, SALT and Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) negotiations are going well and the Soviet attitude is positive, and it is clear that they want an agreement. However at the same time, the Soviet Union is guilty of many individual cases of regressive and repressive behavior, including the cases of Orlov, Shcharansky, and Ginzburg. The tone of U.S.-Soviet relations, he notes, may be affected by these circumstances. However, for the most part, current negotiations are moving forward reasonably well.


Document 19: Memo from Joyce Starr to Arthur Goldberg, "Update on Shcharansky and Kuznetsov cases," 31 January 1978.

Source: The Carter Presidential Library

This memorandum contains a list of facts about the Shcharansky trial and the imprisonment of Edward Kuznetsov, communicated to Arthur Goldberg (U.S. Ambassador to the Belgrade Conference on Human Rights) from White House staffer Joyce Starr's meetings with Avital Shcharansky and Sylva Zalmanson, Kuznetsov's wife. Starr writes that despite the claims of the Moscow court, Shcharansky's mother has not been allowed to see him, and that she has been told by the court and by the KGB that it is a closed trial and that she will not have permission to see him until after the sentencing. She continues, writing that the Moscow court has refused to show the decree that extended Shcharansky's trial for six months and that the Soviets are acting in conflict with their own laws on criminal procedure. According to Soviet law, Shcharansky ought to be consulted regarding the selection of a lawyer, but instead his mother has been given this task. Starr adds that over 100 people have been questioned about the Shcharansky case, including a prisoner blackmailed to testify against him. Finally, Starr notes that the only lawyer in the Soviet Union who agreed to take the case was subsequently exiled. She adds a note on Kuznetsov, who was force-fed as a result of his hunger strike, indicating that his relatives' requests to see him have been repeatedly denied.


Document 20: Central Intelligence Agency, National Foreign Assessment Center, "Human Rights Review, 5-11 May, 1978," 12 May 1978.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

In the "Human Rights Review for May 5-11, 1978," the Central Intelligence Agency's National Foreign Assessment Center states that Orlov may go on trial within a week and will most likely be charged with the same general offense as Ginzburg. Both dissidents were arrested in February of the previous year, but few details into the investigation of Orlov have been publicly released.


Document 21: Secretary of State, to American Embassy Moscow, "Statement on Orlov," 18 May 1978.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

This public statement from the State Department's noon press briefing, sent by cable to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and Consulate in Leningrad, uses the strongest language to date on the Orlov case, no doubt informed by Alexeyeva and other Orlov colleagues in exile. Here, the U.S. "strongly deplores" Orlov's conviction and calls it a "gross distortion of internationally accepted standards," since the activities for which he is being punished are simply the monitoring of Soviet performance under the Helsinki Final Act.


Document 22: Central Intelligence Agency, National Foreign Assessment Center, "Human Rights Review, 12-18 May, 1978," 19 May 1978.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

The National Foreign Assessment Center states that Orlov was convicted on May 18 for engaging in "anti-Soviet activity." The court has passed down the maximum sentence of seven years in a Soviet labor camp, plus five years of internal exile. "His conviction was to be expected, but the proceedings were a travesty," the report notes, "as access to the courtroom was limited and Orlov was not allowed to call defense witnesses and was continually interrupted by the presiding judge. The prosecution claimed that Orlov disseminated fabricated and slanderous information about the Soviet Union to foreign sources, but made no mention of his leadership of the 'Helsinki Group'."


Document 23: Central Intelligence Agency, National Foreign Assessment Center, "Human Rights Review, 19-25 May, 1978," 26 May 1978.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

The National Foreign Assessment Center reports that, while international attention is focused on the trials of Orlov and Georgian dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the Soviet Union is taking other anti-dissident steps as well. For example, the leader of the psychiatric abuse monitoring committee, Aleksandr Podrabinek, was arrested, supposedly for failing to report a crime against the state. Additionally, Jewish "refusenik" Iosif Begun was arrested for illegally residing in Moscow, and one of the leaders of the dissident workers' "free trade union," Paplavskiy, was tried and sentenced to one year in a labor camp for vagrancy. Finally, several dissidents protesting outside the Orlov trial were detained for questioning. The Party organ Pravda has printed articles that suggest Orlov and Shcharanskiy both were working for U.S. intelligence services.


Document 24: "Background Memorandum: Shcharanskiy Case" and "Statement By Department Spokesman: Shcharanskiy Trial," June 1978.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

The "Background Memorandum" reports that the investigation period of the Shcharansky case is over, but charges still have not been made public. Soviet "evidence" of his illegal activities include his connections to physician Sanya Lipavskiy and Los Angeles Times correspondent Robert Toth and other alleged acts against Soviet interests. The "Statement by Department Spokesman" expresses great concern for Shcharansky, given how long he has been held without trial and that he was denied legal counsel. This raises doubts in the minds of State Department officials about the fairness of Shcharansky's trial and the protection of his human rights. The U.S. will stand up to protect his rights, the document notes, especially after Soviet press accusations of engaging in espionage on behalf of the United States.


Document 25: Central Intelligence Agency, National Foreign Assessment Center, "Human Rights Review, 26 May-1 June, 1978," 2 June 1978.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

In this edition of "Human Rights Review," the National Foreign Assessment Center states that Soviet authorities are maintaining pressure on dissidents in the wake of the Orlov and Gamsakhurdia trials. Orlov's wife has not been allowed to see him and, the daughters of imprisoned Ukrainian Baptist leader Georgiy Vins have been refused permission to immigrate to Canada. Many Jewish refuseniks and other dissidents have carried out acts of individual protest, including hanging protest banners from apartments and even threatening public self-immolation.


Document 26: White House Memorandum from Joyce Starr to Robert Lipshutz and Stuart Eizenstat, "Human Rights Policy and Coordination," 18 June 1978, and "CSCE: Failure of U.S. Diplomacy," and "Ambassador Arthur Goldberg," 19 June 1978.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

In "Human Rights Policy and Coordination," Starr critiques the U.S. for failing to consolidate control and coordination of its human rights policy within the White House. She proposes that the solution to this problem is to have a high visibility person in the White House assume responsibility. In "CSCE: Failure of U.S. Diplomacy," Starr states that the U.S. embassies in Eastern Europe have failed to convey CSCE priorities, including human rights, to their host governments. Even though both the U.S. and Soviet governments have signed onto the Helsinki Protocol, the U.S. has not given specific explanations of precise expectations to the Soviet Union. She urges that this be done immediately. Finally, in "Ambassador Arthur Goldberg," Starr conveys that the Ambassador has accepted the President's request for him to serve as a member of the World Court.


Document 27: Central Intelligence Agency, National Foreign Assessment Center, "Human Rights Review, 16-22 June, 1978," 23 June 1978.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

The National Foreign Assessment Center states that in Poland, the dissident Movement for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights (RUCH) is adopting a more combative stance. Recently-elected members to Opinia, RUCH's publication, have stated that they would favor taking more aggressive actions, but no specific steps have been indicated. For the past two years, the dissidents have won concessions from the regime, but a more aggressive approach by them may lead to the regime taking stronger countermeasures as well. Additionally, the recent sentencing of Orlov has led to protests from much of the European scientific community. These Soviet human rights violations may jeopardize future European-Soviet scientific exchanges, but they also further increase the sensitivity of European scientists to the plight of their Soviet counterparts.


Document 28: Memorandum from Joe Aragon to Hamilton Jordan, "Human Rights," 7 July 1978.

This memorandum discusses Soviet treatment of dissidents, as monitored by Joyce Starr. Aragon notes that the overall Soviet campaign against dissidents continues despite Carter's forceful public stance on human rights. He writes that if anything dissidents have become further shut out of Soviet society since Carter came to office. He specifically mentions the Helsinki group, and Slepak, Orlov, Shcharansky, Nadel and Ginzberg as dissidents in need of United States help. He goes in depth into the Slepak case and the state of his family, characterizing Slepak as the Soviet equivalent of a Martin Luther King, Jr. However, he writes that while the administration so far has made public statements in support of the dissidents, it has failed to act on the diplomatic level. Aragon concludes that Carter cares deeply about human rights, but that this reputation is at risk due to the failure of low-level officials to follow through on the initiatives outlined in the Helsinki Final Act. Aragon calls for a meeting in which he and others will discuss a course of action for the President.


Document 29: Statement by Secretary of State Vance, 8 July 1978.

Source: Carter Presidential Library

In a July 8, 1978, statement on the Shcharansky and Ginzberg cases, Secretary Vance condemns the trials for their lack of justice and due process. He says that to petition and criticize one's own government is a fundamental human right as acknowledged by international law and the Soviet government itself. Vance says he will continue to negotiate a SALT II agreement with the Soviet Union because it is vital for world peace, but notes that he has requested several other members of the U.S. government to cancel trips to the Soviet Union in light of these trials. Vance concludes that this struggle to win basic human freedoms will be a long-term one for the administration.


Document 30: CC CPSU Politburo Session, Conference with Members of the Politburo and Assistants in Preparation for the Reykjavik Summit. 22 September 1986.

Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Moscow.

Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze reports to the Politburo on his talks in Washington and informs the Soviet leadership about Reagan's decision to accept Mikhail Gorbachev's invitation to meet in Reykjavik on the condition that American journalist Nicholas Daniloff, accused of spying against Moscow, is released, and some "positive action" is taken on the U.S. list of 25 leading Soviet dissidents, including Orlov. Gorbachev accepts the conditions and sets forth his main ideas for the summit. It is decided that Orlov will be released within a month to make the Reykjavik summit possible and that other dissidents will be released later. Daniloff will be exchanged for Soviet spy Gennadi Zakharov. This shows that Orlov was released in direct connection with the Reykjavik summit, not as part of the exchange for Daniloff, as reported at the time.


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