Genrikh Altunian is 70!


Genrikh Altunian was born in Tbilisi in a family of army officer. In 1944 his family moved to Kharkov. In 1951 A. entered Kharkov higher military aviation school. After the graduation he worked as a radio technology engineer in the same educational establishment.

From 1956 to 1968 A. was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). He was a party leader of the department, had the rank of major, was going to get the status of candidate of science. Yet, by and by he started to diverge from the dogmatic understanding of the socialistic reality. In 1964, at a party meeting of his department, he openly declared about his mistrust to the new leadership of the CPSU and spoke on thenon-democraticmethods of the displaced Khrushchev.

In July 1968 A. made acquaintance Piotr Yakir, Piotr Grigorenko, then with Aleksey Kostyrin.

In August 1968, for his relations with the above-mentioned people and for the refusal to condemn Andrey Sakharov, P. Grigorenko and others, A. was expelled from the party and dismissed from the army. It was directly said in the order of marshal Krylov, the commander of rocket troops, that «engineer major Altunian frequented the flats of the army commander Yakir’s son and the former general Grigorenko, he brought from there revisionist letter of academician Sakharov, thus covering with shame the high name of an officer of the Soviet army relations». A. tried to be reinstated in the party, he handed appeals to all proper instances until he reached the Central Committee of the CPSU. The party control commission rejected his appeal. A. compiled a detailed record of his negotiations and passed them to samizdat.

In May 1969, after the arrest of P. Grigorenko in Tashkent, A. signed the open letter on the protection of P. Grigorenko and Crimean Tatars. At the same time A. joined the Initiative Group for human rights protection in the USSR. Being a member of this Group he had time to sign only one letter to the UNO Committee of human rights protection. This letter (of 20 May 1969) condemned the brutal violations of human rights in the USSR.

In June 1969, jointly with other nine well-known human rights protectors with the communist outlook, A. turned with a letter to the International Conference of communist and workers« parties with the protest against the invasion of Soviet troops to Czechoslovakia; he also signed a letter in defense of Ivan Yakhymovich.

On 11 July 1969 A. was arrested and accused after Article 62 Part 1 of the CC of the UkrSSR («anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda»). However, after the arrival of his advocate from Moscow for learning the case, the KGB had to change the article for Article187–1 of the CC of the UkrSSR. On 26 November 1969 A. was convicted by the Kharkov oblast court for three years of the common regime colony. With the violation of the law on the correcting labor, he was directed to a colony outside Ukraine: to the Krasnoyarsk kray, the Kanskiy district, station N. Ingash, POB 288/1’A’«.

After his release on 10 July 1972 A. returned to Kharkov; he visited 22 organizations in his attempts to find a job and at last managed to find a job of a mechanic at the Kharkov enterprise «Kinotekhprom».

A. made many trips around the Kharkov oblast. He continued to read and distribute samizdat and signed a number of letters together with well-known human rights protectors from Moscow and Kyiv, including the letters in defense of A. Sakharov and L. Pliushch.

On 24 February 1978 A. was taken to the Kharkov KGB, where he got the official warning according to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 25 December 1972. A. compiled the record of the talk in the KGB and passed them to samizdat, which later was added to his accusations.

On 30 May 1980 his place was searched, and the GULAG archipelago by A. Solzhenitsyn and many other «hostile» literature were confiscated. The KGB officers wanted to confiscate even the Bible.

On 16 December 1980 A. was arrested again, and on 31 March 1981 he was condemned by the Kharkov oblast court according to Article 62 Part 1 of the CC of the UkrSSR for 7 years of incarceration in the stern regime colony and 5 years of exile. At this trial, as well as in 1969, he did not plead guilty. The Moscow Helsinki group issued document No. 164 of 7 April 1981 «Trial of Genrikh Altunian».

In December 1986 A. Sakharov made public the list of political convicts and demanded their immediate release. A. also figured in this list. Investigating officers from the KGB demanded from A. to write the petition for pardon. In response A. wrote an application where he demanded to terminate his case as illegal. Nonetheless, he was released on 9 Mar 1987.

After his release A. took active part in the public life, in particular, in the creation of the Kharkov branch of «Memorial» and, later, of the People Rukh of Ukraine (PRU), worked in the magazine «Glanost». In 1990 A. was completely rehabilitated.

From 1990 to 1994 A. was a people’s deputy of Ukraine, a member of the permanent commission of the Supreme Rada in questions of defense and security, a deputy chairman of the commission on mercy at the Presidential administration; he did much for the adoption of the law «On rehabilitation of victims of political repressions».

Besides, he was a member of the Central Provod (committee) of the PRU, the chairman of the Kharkov regional branch of the PRU.

Since 1997 he is a co-chairman of the Kharkov branch of «Memorial». He also is a coordinator of the Ukrainian-American bureau on human rights in the Kharkov oblast and the chairman of the Kharkov union «Ukraine-Armenia».

In 2000 A. published his book of memoirs «Tsena svobody» («The price of freedom»).

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