Orthodox America

The Cry of the New Martyrs - Igor Ogurtsov  

I thank God that He judged me worthy to suffer for all that is best in the world; our generation also needs martyrs…There is nothing in the world a man should fear except his own baseness, his own fall… (from Igor Ogurtsov’s letters to his parents)

On August 22, Igor Ogurtsov will celebrate his 44th birthday--his 14th behind bars. His health has been so totally undermined during his years in prison that his parents are appealing to the Soviet government for the release of their son when he completes his 15-year prison term in February 1982. Ogurtsov is sentenced to another 5 years of internal exile hot his parents fear that in his weakened state he will not be able to physically endure the conditions of exile and are basing their appeal on humanitarian grounds.

Igor Ogurtsov was arrested in 1967 when it was discovered that he was the founder and leader of the All-Russian Social Christian Union for the Unification of the People (Russian acronym VSKhSON). Other members of the group were also arrested, but Ogurtsov received the heaviest sentence--7 years of prison, followed by 8 years strict-regime camp and 5 years internal exile, He was charged under Article 64 of the Soviet Criminal Code ("Treason to the Motherland"), although during the 3 years of its existence the only activity of VSXhSON had been to recruit members (the majority of whom were from the humanities and technical intelligensia of literature. The basic aim of VSKhSON is the establishment of a national, Christian Russia which is to be achieved through the Christianization of politics, economics and culture. "Communism can be overcome only by the Christianization of the whole life of society.. .Christianity reveals the meaning of existence....It establishes the correct hierarchy of values in the world."

In the words of another leader of VSKhSON, Evgeniy Vagin, "Ogurtsov is a rare and happy example of a man who matured early spiritually, intellectually and politically. When I became acquainted with him, he was just over 20 years old, but he was already a fully developed personality With an integrated and definite outlook.. He scorned insincerity and put a sense of duty above all else...And today Ogurtsov remains the same as always, unbroken by harsh persecution..." The Vladimir Prison where Ogurtsov spent his first 7-yr. term is known for its harsh conditions. From lack of nutrition Ogurtsov contracted avitaminosis and furunculosis. When his mother tried to send him the garlic he requested (2 packages, weighing not more than 2f Ibs each, are allowed per year), the first package was returned marked "not permitted"; the second was accepted except the 3 or 4 bulbs of garlic which were returned to her. !

In February 1974 Ogurtsov's prison term ended and he was transferred to Perm "corrective labor" colony where, for the first time in 7 years, he was able to breathe fresh air and to see the blue sky unobstructed by barbed wire. But after only 3 weeks he was transferred to the isolation ward of the Perm city prison. He was informed that he had been brought there for a psychiatric examination upon the recommtndation" of a psychiatrist at the Vladimir Prison. Knowing the potential danger of such an "examination!', Igor's parents immediately began appealing to the authorities, protesting the groundlessness of such action. After 2 months in prison, Igor was confined to a psychiatric isolation ward where he was given the same degrading treatment as the mentally ill. This was obviously a deliberate attempt to crush his spirit, He was finally returned to the camp where, although he was classified as a 2nd degree invalid, he was forced to work 8 hours a day as a stoker. By this time he had lost his teeth and hair, and he wrote to his parents that at times he simply could no longer standup. In July 1979, Ogurtsov was transferred from the camp to Christopol Prison, apparently as punishment for his participation in a prisoners' strike earlier that year. He remains there to this day.

In 1974, at a press conference in Stockholm, Alexander Solzhenitsyn stressed the moral support that the Western media brought to those suffering behind the Iron Curtain. But unfortunately, he added, Western correspondents sometimes become weary of the subject of repeated violations of human rights in the USSR. "For example, everyone now has become weary of speaking about [Ogurtsovl and this man is being destroyed with the knowledge of the whole world!"