05 Feb [Moscow] Pushkin square
December 5th, 1965; January 22th, 1967, and others.
Aleksandr Esenin-Volpin, Vladimir Bukovsky, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Aleksandr Ginzburg, Yuri Galanskov, Apollon Shukht, Lyudmila Polikovskaya, Irina Yakir, Viktorya Volpina and others.
The manifestation in Pushkin square was conceived by the mathematician and activist Aleksandr Esenin-Volpin, who was son of one of the most relevant figures in Russian culture at the beginning of the 20th century (the poet Sergey Esenin, suicide victim at the age of thirty in 1925). The manifestation organized in December 1965 in front of the poet’s statue is considered the founder event of the human rights movement in USSR.
The gathering was organized to protest against the writers Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuly Daniel’s trial. They were arrested in September in 1965 due to the publication of their own works in Tamizdat, with the pseudonyms of Abram Terz and Nicolay Arzhak. Shortly afterwards Sinyavsky and Daniel were convicted respectively to seven and five years of imprisonment. Formally the trial was open to the public, but actually it was limited to a few participants, that were carefully chosen by the Party.
Together with the legal action against ‘the social parasite’ (1964), future Nobel Prize Iosif Brodsky, this one against the two Muscovite writers represent one of the famous and debated trials of the time, not so much because of the defendants relevance, that until that moment were considered ordinary intellectuals with an employment in the official academic world, but most of all because of the dispute way of the trial.
Sinyavsky and Daniel were accused under the article 70 (Anti-Soviet Agitation and Propaganda), therefore clearly due the subject of their work. They refused to declare themselves guilty, so the two intellectuals started a surreal discussion with their oppressors about the nature of their work. Sinyavksy attempted to highlight the shoddy mistake, inherent to identifying mechanically the ideas and the characters’ behavior, totally functional, with the author’s opinions, who created them to pursue clear artistic intentions. Daniel claimed his point of view about the contemporary soviet society, in which he glimpsed a return to the cult of personality.
On December 5th, 1965, the anniversary of the entry into force of the Stalinist Constitution (only on paper guarantor of the right to demonstrate) was called a manifestation that, according to Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Vladimir Bukovsky memories, was able to summon between eighty and two hundred people, for the most part students.
The twenty-two arrested were released shortly after the capture, but then they were expelled from their institutes. The manifestation, initially defined by Esenin-Volpin in his Civil Appeal the ‘openness meeting’ (miting glasnosti), in the following years was turned into the ‘silence meeting’ (miting molchaniya), during which the protestors gathered in front of the monument raised to ‘the Sun of Russian poetry’ used to take off the hat, remaining in silence not more than five minutes to prevent the police intervention.
Starting from 1977, this form of annual protest was postponed to the 10th of December, the anniversary date of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signature in 1948.
During the soviet period Pushkin square was the place of at least of another gathering: on January 22nd, 1967, a group of students protested against the capture of the almanac Phoenix redactors, that had taken place a few days before, between January 17th and 19th. The protestors in a lower number than two years before, holding posters with the phrase ‘Freedom for Galanskov, Dobrovolsky, Lasckova, Radzievsky’, were stopped by the members of the Komsomol and then arrested.
A. Esenin-Vol’pin, Graždanskoe obraščenie, http://antology.igrunov.ru/authors/volpin/1083933987.html (05/2018).
M. Clementi, Storia del dissenso sovietico, Odradek, Roma 2007, pp. 49-54.
A. Ghinsburg, Libro bianco sul caso Daniel’ Sinjavskij, Jaca Book, Milano 1967.
V. Parisi, Guida alla Mosca ribelle, Voland, Roma 2017, pp. 128-130.
G. P. Piretto, Il radioso avvenire: mitologie culturali sovietiche, Einaudi, Torino 2001, p. 284.
Pjatoe dekabrja 1965 goda v vospominanijach učastnikov sobytij, materialach Samizdata…, http://old.memo.ru/history/diss/books/5dec/index.htm (05/2018).
[Translation by Diletta Bacci]