September 25, 1986
Meeting Minutes of the Politburo of the CC CPSU, Regarding Persecution of Political Dissidents and Spies
This document was made possible with support from Leon Levy Foundation
MEETING OF POLITBURO OF CPSU
25 September 1986
Chair: Com. GORBACHEV. M.S.
Present: Comrades Aliev, G.A., Vorotnikov V.I., Gromyko A.A., Zaikov L.N., Kunaev D.A., Ligachev Y.K., Chebrikov V.M., Scherbitsky V.V., Dolgikh V.I., Yeltsin B. N., Soloviev Y. F., Talyzin N.V., Biryukov A. P., Dobrynin A.F., Zimyanin M.V., Razymovsky G.P., Yakovlev A.N., Kapitonov I.V.
About the Results of cde. M.S. Gorbachev’s trip to Krasnodar and Stavropol Provinces.
GORBACHEV: The trip to Krasnodar and Stavropol provinces [went] beyond the prepared framework. The intention was as follows: in the Krasnodar province to find out how the agro‐industrial complex is working in the new conditions, and in the Stavropol province to [assess] how agricultural enterprises were implementing the switch to economic self‐sustainability in practice. However, the conversations with working people, the issues they raised during those conversations, forced us to go beyond those topics. People were saying that they support the policy of perestroika, that correct decisions had been made, but that they don’t always reach down to them.
We were impressed by the growing engagement of the people, their desire to speak out and take clearly defined positions on all issues of the life of the party and the country. They were saying that we must overcome industry‐specific approaches and parochial interests. Finally, in the meetings and conversations they raised issues of organization of party work in contemporary conditions. How party committees function also affects the progress of perestroika.
What political conclusions can be drawn from these meetings and conversations? The most important political conclusion is that support for the party’s policy among the people is growing stronger. People say openly that we cannot stop in the middle of the road, we must go boldly forward.
GORBACHEV: Cde. Guzhenko addressed a letter to the CC CPSU. He is asking to be allowed to retire and connects his request with the tragedy of “Nakhimov.” He is suffering deeply over what happened. I think it would be the right [decision] to satisfy his request.
POLITBURO MEMBERS: We agree.
GORBACHEV: I asked Victor Mikhailovich [Chebrikov] to tell us what kinds of people are serving their sentence for crimes, which western propaganda calls political.
CHEBRIKOV: According to our laws these crimes are especially dangerous state crimes. A total of 240 people have been brought to bear responsibility and are serving sentences for committing the aforementioned crimes. These individuals are convicted of espionage, violating state borders, circulating hostile leaflets, hard currency counterfeiting, etc. Many of these individuals made statements about their refusal to continue their hostile activity. They connect their statements with the political changes following the April Plenum of the CC CPSU and the XXVII Party Conference [on 25 February-6 March 1986].
It seems that we could, for a start, free one-third from prison and later one-half of these individuals. In this case, only those persons who maintain hostile positions towards our state would continue to serve their sentences.
GORBACHEV: It seems that one could support such a proposal.
CHEBRIKOV: We will do this rationally. In order to assure that the aforementioned individuals cease their hostile activity, they will be watched.
SCHERBITSKY: How does one explain that relatively few individuals have borne criminal responsibility for committing especially dangerous state crimes? Perestroika?
CHEBRIKOV: It can be explained by the preventative measures taken by organs of the KGB. Many individuals are noticed, so to speak, as they approach that line beyond which lies criminally punishable activity. The organs of the KGB and society are used in order to influence. them.
GROMYKO: Which crimes are the most dangerous and what kind of punishment is meted out with them?
CHEBRIKOV: Espionage. Punishment is either execution or 15 years in prison.
Polishchuk has been shot for espionage. Yesterday Tolkachev’s sentence was implemented.
GORBACHEV: American intelligence was very generous with him. They found 2 million rubles on him.
CHEBRIKOV: This agent gave very important military-technical secrets to the enemy.
GORBACHEV: Let’s come to an understanding that we agree with Comrade Chebrikov’s ideas. Let the KGB draw up proposals in the established manner.
MEMBERS OF THE POLITBURO: We agree.
[handwritten signature] A. Lukianov
In this September 1986 excerpt, Gorbachev receives a report from KGB chief Chebrikov that he had requested on “what kinds of people are serving sentences for crimes, which Western propaganda calls political.” Obviously following Gorbachev’s lead, Chebrikov proposes to alleviate the prison sentences of two-thirds of the 240 persons he lists under this category; but, in response to a question from Gromyko, he notes two cases where the guilty parties had already received a sentence that could not be reduced—execution for espionage.
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