The trial of Velikanova

Veteran rights activist finally prosecuted

<<  No.7 (196), 15 February 2016  >>

Velikanova, Tatyana Mikhailova

Between 5 August to 9 October 1980 (see Chronicle of Current Events, No 58) twenty two people were prosecuted in the USSR in a succession of political trials. Many of the accused were arrested the previous year. Tatyana Velikanova and Father Gleb Yakunin, the two most prominent detainees, were taken into custody on 1 November 1979, a month before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Their trials were delayed until after the 1980 Summer Olympics, held in Moscow that year.

These events have a disconcerting echo today. It was in 2014, after the Summer Olympics in Sochi, that Putin seized control of the Crimea and unleashed the ongoing campaign in east Ukraine.


In 1980 some of those on trial admitted their guilt and were given reduced or suspended sentences. After a decade of reporting on Soviet political trials Tatyana Velikanova (1932-2002) took a principled stand and refused to take part in the proceedings. She received a nine-year sentence. Her refusal to accept the conditions of Gorbachev’s pardon delayed her release until the end of 1988.

For the lengthy and revealing report on her trial in A Chronicle of Current Events, the samizdat periodical she edited and distributed for years, see CCE 58.1, November 1980.