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Dissident movement in Ukraine



This letter was provoked by a pogrom-like attack begun by the regional press, but taken up by the national press, against Oles Honchar’s novel “Sobor” [“Cathedral”] which was published in No. 1 of the journal “Vitchyzna” [“Homeland”] in 1968, and was published at the beginning of the year in two other publications.

The novel was aimed at defending national spiritual values, against the  Russification of Ukrainians and the barbaric destruction of the environment of the Ukrainian people. Usually without having been read, it was “discussed and unanimously condemned by work collectives” from milkmaids to academicians.

The author of the Letter was the poet Ivan SOKULSKY, while the commentary to it was given by Volodymyr Zaremba and Mykhailo Skoryk. The Letter, from the end of the summer of 1968, was addressed to the Head of the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR V. Shcherbytsky, to the candidate for membership of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union O. Vatcheno (the first secretary of the regional committee, depicted in the novel as the negative character, the “upstart” Volodka Loboda) and to the secretary of the Union of Writers D. Pavlychko. The Letter stated that for supporting the novel a number of people had been accused of “Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism”, and expelled from the Party or from the Komsomol, or dismissed from their jobs. It also gave examples of the destruction of monuments of Ukrainian culture and of a negative stance to all things Ukrainian. The Letter was reprinted in “Ukrainsky visnyk” [“Ukrainian Herald”] and broadcast on Radio Svoboda.

Ivan SOKULSKY was arrested on 14 June 1969, both as author of the Letter and on other charges. On 17 January 1970 he was sentenced by the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Court under Article 62 Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR (“anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”) to four and a half years labour camp. In the same case, for duplicating and circulating the Letter, Mykola KULCHYNSKY was sentenced to 2.5 years under Article 187-1 (“dissemination of patently false statements defaming the Soviet political and social system”).  Viktor Savchenko received a suspended sentence – 2 years, with the probation period being 3 years.

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