Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs – Alexander Ogorodnikov and Vladimir Poresh

     Keston College has received reports from reliable sources in the Soviet Union that Alexander Oeorodnikov (35), the founder of the religio-philosophical 'Christian Seminar' movement in the early 1970s, has been rearrested under article 188-3, a malicious addition to the Criminal Code, which came into force in October, 1983. The new law enables the courts to impose an additional sentence of up to 5 years solely on the word of prison or labor camp officials charging prisoners with "violation of camp discipline ," such as lying down on a bed during a daytime "rest period," having a shirt button undone (this qualifies as being incorrectly dressed), refusing to eat, etc.

      From 1974 onwards, members of the various 'Christian Seminar' groups were hounded by the KGB. Some were arrested, interned in psychiatric hospitals, beaten up and harassed. Ogorodnikov was arrested in January, 1979 and sentenced to one year labor camp. A second arrest in September, 1980 brought a prolonged sentence of 5 years' camp plus 5 years' internal exile which was due to begin in November 1985. It is now known that he was removed from the camp some time earlier, and placed under investigation.

      Ogorodnikov's health has suffered badly during his imprisonment. He has lost all his teeth and is now practically blind. He has a wife, Elena, and a young son. 

     A similar fate earlier befell Viadimir Poresh (36), former leader of the Christian Seminar group in Leningrad. He was due to go into exile in August, 1985 after having served 5 years in a strict regime camp. Because of his personal integrity and defense of other prisoners he was transferred from the camp to Chistopol prison as a disciplinary measure. Shortly before he was due for exile Article188-3 was invoked against him. He is reported to have been moved to a labor camp at Abagur in the Kemerovo region of Siberia. The Abagur camps have a particularly bad reputation for harshness of conditions going back to Stalinist times. Poresh and his wife Tatiana have two young daughters; Olga and Xenia.