Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Party, KGB accused of 'genocide'

The KGB bugged Raisa Gorbachev's hairdresser, Boris Yeltsin's sauna and the home of former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin, an investigative journalist told Russia's Constitutional Court.


Testifying at the Communist Party trial, Yevgenia Albats, a reporter for Moskovskiye Novosti and author of a book on the KGB, told 13 judges who are to determine the party's fate that the KGB had served as a police force subject to the party's every whim.


"The two power structures were tightly interwoven", she said. "When the KGB had the choice of using force or following a constitutional path, it never chose the constitutional way".


Basing her testimony on five years of research and interviews with KGB officials, Albats bitterly condemned both organizations for what she called a "genocide" of the Soviet people. In what was the most emotionally charged statement the court has heard yet, she said that "one out of every four children in our country has psychological defects" and directly blamed the KGB and the party.


But her performance Tuesday was almost too much for the court, where tempers flared as the trial entered its third week. The court finished hearing testimony Wednesday from witnesses testifying in defense of President Boris Yeltsin, whose decrees banning the Soviet Communist Party's activities after the August 1991 coup have been challenged by 37 pro-Communist lawmakers.


The judges are now hearing witnesses on both sides of a countersuit, filed by 52 progressive legislators, which aims to prove that the party was unconstitutional because it controlled the Soviet government.


When they have finished hearing these witnesses, which could be as early as Friday, the judges will then discuss whether or not to subpoena Mikhail Gorbachev, the former party general secretary, and other party leaders. Sergei Shakhrai, the lawyer representing Yeltsin, met with Gorbachev on Tuesday evening, but said that he had gone over some questions he had on recent party documents and did not discuss the question of the former Kremlin chief appearing in court.


As Albats spoke on Tuesday, Communist supporters heckled, interrupted and challenged her testimony. When she left the courthouse, she found that the air had been let out of her tires.


The next day, the court's chairman, Valery Zorkin, threatened to remove a lawyer for the Communist side, Yury Ivanov, for what he called "unrestrained" and provocative questioning of another witness for Yeltsin's defense.


Then Communist supporters held an impromptu press conference in the hall outside the courtroom to chide the Russian broadcast media for ignoring their side. Russian television responded Wednesday night by cutting out completely what little air time they had planned to give the Communists, which prompted them to hold another press conference on Thursday.


And so it goes at the case that was billed as the trial of the century. Instead of shocking party secrets and sensational confessions from former Communist leaders, bickering and backbiting have filled the courtroom. But there has also been information on the party's modus operandi for more than 70 years.


The first witness for the countersuit on the party's constitutionality, Anatoly Smirnov, testified that the party had financed 100 political organizations abroad and that it had violated a treaty of cooperation with Finland by using its neighbor as a "laboratory where the Communist Party tested out new forms of relations with the West".


Smirnov, the former head of the secretariat of the Central Committee's international department, said that party funding for foreign Communist organizations, delivered by the KGB, had ranged from $2 million per year to groups in the United States and France to $15, 000 annually to Lesotho.


Testifying that the party had aimed to "sovietize" Finland and that it had deliberately violated its 1948 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, Smirnov said that three KGB agents received state awards after Urho Kalevi Kekkonen, whom the KGB supported, was elected as the country's president in 1956. The KGB also tried unsuccessfully to prevent the election of Mauno Koivisto to the Finnish presidency in 1981, he said.


But he added that his testimony held no surprises.


"Many of these facts are already well known in Finland", he said.


In a short but emotional testimony, Lev Razgon, a well-known writer who spent 19 years in Soviet labor camps before and after World War II, accused the party and KGB of concealing the true figures on the number of Soviet citizens arrested and killed during Stalin's purges.


Statistics released by the KGB in 1990 place the number of those arrested between 1930 and 1953 at over 3. 7 million, but Razgon noted that figures published by the newspaper Argumenty i Fakti only two months later put the number at over 19 million for the same period.


"They tried not only to hide the truth, but to reduce it", he said.