Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs – Search and Arrest

     Last year the May issue of "Orthodox America" featured an article on the autobiographical novel, Open to Me the Doors. the moving story of a Jewish man's conversion to Orthodox Christianity, his estrangement from the once familiar milieu of contemporary Soviet society as he comes to understand the significance of his newly acquired citizenship in the New Israel. It appears that an epilogue to the book is now being written--the story of which is all too familiar.

    During the night of January 22/23, 1985, a 12-hour search was conducted in the Moscow home of writer Felix Svetov. He was subsequently arrested on charges of "circulation of deliberately false concoctions , slandering the Soviet state and social order" (Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code), and confined in the "Matrosskaya Tishina" ('Sailors' Rest') prison where he is still being held awaiting trial.

     At the same time the KGB searched the exile residence of Svetov's wife, Zoya Krakhmalnikova, as well as the homes of several people who had come to her defense when she was arrested 2 years ago (article in "OA"#23). Among them were the priest, Fr. Vladimir Shibaev, writer Vladimir Zelinsky and art historian Elena Murin.

     Felix Svetov (b. 1927) is a writer well known in the Soviet Union. Since 1955 several of his books and numerous article s have been printed bv Soviet publishing houses. He was a regular contributor to the journal "Novi Mir" ('New World') under the editorship of A. Tvardovsky, renowned for having published some short works of Solzhenitsyn. Most of Svetov's earlier writings address problems of literary criticism and the role of culture in the modern world. Although not politically active, he stood up in defense of A. Ginsburg, A. Sakharov, Fr. Dimitri Dudko, T. Velikanova, and Fr. Glob Yakunin. For his courage in acting upon his convictions, Svetov was expelled in 1980 from the Writers' Union.

    In the :70's Svetov became converted to orthodoxy and from that time, together with his wife, applied his talents to enriching the religious Samizdat (unofficial or "self-publishing''), particularly the anthology of Christian writings, "Nadezhda ," compiled by his wife. Here was published his article ''The Optina Hermitage--Today".

     Such an honest and outspoken voice as Felix Svetov's has no place in the Soviet system which is built upon and supported by lies, denunciations and threats, a system which fears above all the word of truth. And here lies the real cause of the arrest of Felix Svetov and so many other courageous souls.

    Just as Svetov stood up for others in their time of need, now that his own trial has come a number of brave voices are speaking out in his defense. They stress that Svetov did not participate in any political activity; he is a literary critic by profession, a prose writer, and never considered himself to be a dissident in the political sense of the word. But "it is now the turn of those whom the Soviet authorities regard as their potential adversaries. We see here a very frightening symptom which has manifested itself once before: at first, the repression of outright "enemies ," then--of potential opponents, and later--a war against everyone, i.e., a senseless and blind terror ruled by a single, inviolable law: "Where there's a man, a case will be found."     ("Possev," Feb., 1985)


    Do not neglect toremember Felix Svetov and his wife Zoya in your prayers, for they are our countrymen ;-- fellow citizens of the New Israel, members of the Orthodox Church, whose struggle to confess the Faith has brought them arrest, imprisonment and exile.