80th birthday of Mykola Rudenko


On 19 December Mykola Rudenko, a writer, human rights protector, founder of the Ukrainian Helsinki group (UHG), has reached the age of 80 years. This day the overcrowded hall in the Kyiv city house of teachers greeted Mykola Rudenko. The celebration was organized by a member of the Kharkov Group for human rights protection Vasyl Ovsienko, he was also the presenter. The Kharkov Group joins the numerous congratulations and wishes and greets Mykola Rudenko with his birthday and awarding him by the title of the Hero of Ukraine. We wish him health, inspiration and new creations. We present below Mykola Rudenko’s biography.

Mykola Rudenko (R. in what follows) was born to a miner’s family in the village of Yuryevka, the Lugansk oblast. He early lost his father, who perished in the mine in 1927. The family with three children decided to go in for agriculture. All work hard, but in a year the land and the cattle had to be given to a kolkhoz, which R.’s mother had to join. The famine of 1932-33 was never forgotten by R. In the age of eight because of a trauma R. stopped to see with his left eye.

He began to compose verses in his childhood, some of them were printed in newspapers for pioneers. He was a winner of a competition and got a scholarship from the Ministry of Education, thanks to which entered the philological faculty of Kyiv University in 1939. He studied only to months. R. entered the Communist Party in 1939 after finishing the secondary school, at the mine, where once his father had worked. In 1939 was recruited to the army (he concealed that he could not see with his left eye). On 4 October 1941, in the first battle under Leningrad, he was gravely wounded with an explosive bullet. After a long cure he was appointed a political instructor (politruk) of a near-front hospital. Was awarded with the Red Star Order and several medals. On his demobilization in 1946 R. did not return to the university. Having published in 1947 the collection of verses ’Z pokhodu’ (From the march) he was accepted to the Union of Ukrainian Writers (UUW). Worked as a executive secretary in the publishing house ’Radianskiy pismennik’, was an editor of the magazine ’Dnipro’ (’The Dnieper’), the secretary of the Communist Party committee of the UUW, a member of the Kyiv city committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine.

R. is the author of many poetical collections, novels and narratives, in particular, ’Veter v litso’ (1955, The wind to the face), ’Posledniaya sablia’ (1959, The last saber), of science fiction books ’Chudesny bumerang’ (1966, The wonderful boomerang), ’Sledami kosmicheskoy katastrofy’ (1962, Following the track of a cosmic catastrophe).

At first he demonstrated some disobedience in 1949, when, in the form of criticizing ’cosmopolites’, the authorities destructed Jewish writers. They demanded negative characteristics for such writers from R. as the party secretary of the UUW. He clearly sabotaged this order, which, to tell the truth, did not facilitate the lot of the victims. That is why in autumn of 1949 the authorities attempted to exclude R. from the Communist Party for some ’shortage of the member fees’, but the meeting decided to limit the punishment to a stern reprimand. From 1950 R. did not occupy any ruling position, thus loosing all the privileges of the Soviet nomenclature. Nevertheless, ’I remained to stay at the party’, R. said later in an interview, ’I believed too much in the great affair of the Communist Party, I was a faithful Stalinist, I wrote many verses dedicated to our leader, I wrote even a long poem about Stalin’.

Dethronement of the ’personality cult’ of Stalin at the 20th Congress of the CPSU made a terrible impression on R. R. himself regarded his speech at the plenum of the directorate of the UUW as the beginning of his dissident activity. In this speech he accused the Soviet bureaucracy of the rusification of Ukraine, of creating the personality cult and of possible resurrection of this cult. In 1960 R. wrote a letter to Khrushchev about the necessity of reforming the existing state system under the new conditions. He wrote that the administration machine (the party must not solve all economic questions) and the election system needed urgent reforming. It was the result of ruminations that the root of the problem was not in Stalin; if a paranoiac and a sadist could head the state and party for so many years, then the doctrine laid in the foundation of the state was deeply wrong. Studying the ’Capital’ by Marx convinced R. that the Marxist doctrine was wrong at its fundamentals: in the understanding of the theory of the surplus value. This value is not created by the super-exploitation of a worker, but by the solar energy (photosynthesis), adjusted with the labor of a peasant and his cattle on land. Thus, as early as in the beginning of the 60s R. was convinced that the destruction of millions of Soviet people was not Stalin’s mistake, but was caused by mistakes of the Marxist theory. Well imagining the consequences of his act, on 18 April 1963 R. however sent a telegram to Khrushchev. It read: ’An avoidable catastrophe threatens to the Soviet people. It can be avoided only by the all-national heroic deed. I ask your audience to explain it in details. M. Rudenko’. Naturally, rumors spread that R. got crazy. At the same time R. took his records to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CC CPU). In the foreword to his records R. warned that if the party authorities did not reform the administration principles on democratic principles, then the country would await a terrible requital. After this the opinion about R. being crazy became indisputable. Recommendations followed to his relatives to treat R. During 14 later years R. methodically wrote letters to the CC CPU and the CC CPSU, where he explained his ideas; he never got any response. All these time R. was permanently surveyed by the KGB (tailing, wiretapping, etc.). On 14 March 1973 R. wrote a letter to V. Shcherbitskiy, the first secretary of the CC CPU, with copies to the KGB and UUW, protesting against wiretapping and demanding to stop it at once.

In the early 70s R. became friendly with O. Berdnik, supported him when Berdnik was forbidden to publish his works. In 1972 R. was forbidden to publish too.

In 1974 R. was expelled for the Communist party for ’metaphysical perversions of Marxism’. In 1975 he was also expelled from the UUW. R. had to sell his car and country house and found a job of a watchman.

In 1974 R. passed his manuscript ’Energiya progressa’ (The progress energy) to A. Sakharov; he did it through Z. Krakhmalnikova. While discussing this manuscript in Moscow, R. got personally acquainted with A. Sakharov and V. Turchin. After the discussion Sakharov suggested R. to rewrite his manuscript in order to make it more accessible to a massive reader; he promised to publish this treaty in samizdat. In this manner ’Ekonomicheskiye monologi’ (The economic monologues) were created that were published in samizdat in 1975. Besides, R. was proposed to join the Soviet group of the ’Amnesty International’ (AI), and he immediately started active work. On 18 April 1975, one month after R.’s participation in the first meeting of the AI, he was arrested, but soon released giving the promise not to leave the city.

When R. tried to restore his invalid pension, he was coerced to the psychic examination in psycho-neurological hospital for war invalids; it happened in February-March of 1976. Only thanks to doctors’ decency he was not put to the lunatic asylum. It was in the hospital, where R. wrote his poem ’Isoriya bolezni’ (The case history), which was published in samizdat under the title ’Ya vilny’ (I am free), and the poem ’Khrest’ (The cross) about the famine of 1932-33.

After consultations with P. Grigorenko, O. Meshko, O. Berdnik, L. Lukyanenko, I. Kandyba, O. Tykhiy, M. Matusevich, M. Marynovich and N. Strokata he gave an press-conference to foreign journalists at the Sakharov’s flat in Moscow on 19 November 1976. At this press-conference R. declared about the creation of the Ukrainian Helsinki group (UHG). In the same evening R.’s flat in Pushcha-Voditsa near Kyiv was stoned. That was the way, in which the KGB ’saluted’ the creation of the UHG. On 23-24 December 1976 R.’s home was searched; during the search 39 USD were stealthily put by the KGB. Soon R. published the UHG Declaration and Memorandum No. 1. In the part ’Typical violations of human rights’ of the Memorandum he made public the data about the famine of 1932-33, about the repressions of the 30s, the UPA destruction, the repressions against the figures of the sixties, the list of political concentration camps and Ukrainian political prisoners. In January 1977 R. wrote the first versions of the Memorandums Nos. 2 and 3.

On 5 February 1977 R. was arrested in Kyiv and sent by plane to the preliminary prison of the city of Donetsk, where the criminal case was started against him and O. Tykhiy.

The trial was held on 23 June – 1 July not in a courtroom, but in the ’Lenin’s room’ of the ’Smeshtorg’ office in the town of Druzhkovka of the Donetsk oblast. There was ’procedural justification for it’: O. Tykhiy was born and lived in the vicinity. The signboard was removed from the office. The questioned witnesses were removed from the improvised courtroom. One of the witnesses of the accusation was professor Illya Stebun, who once had been defended by R. from accusations of ’cosmopolitanism’. R. was condemned by the Donetsk oblast court, according to Article 62 part 1 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR, to 7 years of stern regime colony and 5 years of exile. R.’s publicist essays, fiction and oral sayings were qualified as slanderous. The court confined itself only to the confirmation of this accusations. For example, about ’Energiya progressa’ the verdict states that the work ’is that of an enemy, since it contains insinuations against the Soviet administrative and social structure’. The verdict also does not contain any proves that R. had intentions to undermine the Soviet regime.

Special orders of USSR and UkrSSR Glavlits (state censorship committees) R.’s creations were withdrawn from circulation (libraries and shops) – all in all 17 books.

R. did his tern in colonies ЖХ-386/19 (the settlement of Lesnoy) and ЖХ-385/3 (the village of Barashevo, Mordovia). At first, since R. was a 2nd group invalid of the WW2, he was driven to hard physical works.

In September 1981, after R.’s wife arrest, he was sent to perm political concentration camps in order not to permit them to meet.

R. was often put to the punishment block for the participation in prisoners’ strikes, tearing off the strips with his name and refusal to work. The head of the colony said: ’You have lost the right to be called a 2nd group invalid of war’. Having qualified R. as 3rd group invalid, the colony administration began to send him to hard works.

On 31 January 1984 R. was sent and in 5 March 1984 he came to the place of his exile, the settlement of Mayma of the Gorno-Altaysk autonomic oblast. Three years later, having finished her term, his wife joined him. R. was released in December 1987, but it appeared that they had no place to return: their apartment in Kyiv was confiscated after the arrest of R.’s wife. In the end of 1987 R. with his wife left for Germany and then for the USA. In 1988 he was deprived of the Soviet citizenship. He headed the Ukrainian representation of the UHG, later the UHS.

In September 1990 R. returned to Kyiv. His citizenship was returned, and he was rehabilitated. In 1993 he was awarded with the T. Shevchenko literature state prize for his novel ’Orlova balka’ (The eagle’s ravine). In 1996 R. was awarded the Order ’For services’ of 3rd grade for the great contribution to the development of the Ukrainian literature and for his human rights protection activities.

R. was a member of the Ethics commission of the Ukrainian Republican party (URP). Now he is a member of the Ukrainian Christian party.

In 1998 R.’s book ’Naybilshe dyvo – zhyttia. Spogady’ (The greatest miracle is life. Memoirs) was published.

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