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Dissident movement in Ukraine



Article 56 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR  “Treason against the homeland” (analogous to Article 64 of the RSFSR CC)  came into force on 1 January 1961.

The Article states that “Treason against the homeland” refers to “actions deliberately committed by a citizen of the USSR to harm national sovereignty, the inviolability of its territory, state security or the defence capacity of the USSR, crossing to the side of the enemy, espionage, betrayal of military or state secrets to a foreign state, flight abroad or refusal to return from abroad to the USSR, providing a foreign state with help in carrying out hostile actions against the USSR, as well as conspiracy to seize power,

- shall be punishable by deprivation of liberty for a period of from ten to fifteen years with confiscation of property and with exile for a period of up to five years, or without, or by the death penalty with confiscation of property.

A citizen of the USSR, recruited by a foreign intelligence service to carry out hostile activities against the USSR, is absolved of criminal liability if he did not take any action to carry out the criminal task, and voluntarily informed the authorities about his link with a foreign intelligence service” (in the versions of the Law of the UkrSSR from 27.06.1961 and 29.02.1984).

The article replaced Article 54-1 of the UkrSSR Criminal Code of 1934 (analogous to Article 58-1 of the CC RSFSR) and Article 1 of the Law of the USSR “On criminal liability for state crimes” from 25.12.1958.

It was introduced into post-Stalin criminal legislation in the same way as Article 62.  “Treason against the homeland” included even unsuccessful attempts to escape from the USSR, the refusal to return from a capitalist country, activities (including peaceful) connected with the wish for national state self-determination of non-Russian nations which were part of the Soviet Union, creating organizations aimed at changing the state system. It was used fairly rarely against dissidents (the case of the Ukrainian Workers and Peasants’ Union of Levko LUKYANENKO), although threats that it would be applied (and the death penalty), were used to apply pressure on people on trial (the case of “Spilka ukrainskoyi molodi Halychyny" [“Union of Ukrainian Youth of Halychyna"].

The article was slightly changed by the Decree of the Presidium of the Verkhovna Rada of the UkrSSR from 29.02.1984 “by a citizen of the USSR to harm sovereignty … state security or the defence capacity of the USSR”.

During perestroika a review began which continued after the collapse of the USSR of cases under this article, although the review took different forms in different countries of the former USSR. For example, in the Baltic Republics the question was resolved in radical fashion: the USSR was declared an occupying state and the struggle against it could not be qualified as a crime; in Russia pursuant to the Law of the RSFSR “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression” from 18.10.1991, the review of cases under the analogous Article 64 is carried out by a court. In Ukraine, in accordance with the Law from 17.04.1991 “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression in Ukraine” all those convicted under Articles 62 and 187-1 are eligible for rehabilitation, but the issue of those convicted under Article 56 has effectively not been resolved.


Based on material from “Memorial”, Moscow

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