Arsenie Platon Collection at SIS Archive Moldova
This ad-hoc collection mainly consists of documents separated from the fonds of judicial files concerning persons subject to political repression during the communist regime which is currently stored in the Archive of the Intelligence and Security Service of the Republic of Moldova (formerly the KGB Archive). It focuses on the case of Arsenie Platon, a person of peasant background and an aspiring poet, who was tried and convicted in 1961 for displaying nationalist views and for conducting “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” among his friends and acquaintances. Platon’s “anti-Soviet” opinions were mostly expressed in a series of poems and short proclamations in which he criticised ethnic discrimination against the Moldavians and called for the overthrow of Soviet power. This case is emblematic for less widely known forms of grassroots cultural opposition, falling under the same broad category as the cases of Gheorghe Muruziuc and Zaharia Doncev. Platon’s file includes no further information about his fate after the end of his prison term.
Chișinău Bulevardul Ștefan cel Mare și Sfînt 166, Moldova 2004
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Name of collection
- Arsenie Platon Collection at SIS Archive Moldova
Provenance and cultural activities
The case of Arsenie Platon is revealing especially due to the marginality of its main protagonist within Soviet society and to the spontaneous character of his acts of resistance to and criticism of the regime. At the time of his arrest on 14 October 1961, Platon was a self-made aspiring poet who had published several of his texts in local newspapers in the town of Bălți, where he was living at the time. He had received a certificate of disability due to the open form of tuberculosis he suffered from and did not have a permanent job, being occasionally hired for temporary or menial assignments. He had just graduated from an evening school for working-class youth that summer, thus completing his education several months before his arrest. Although initially indicted for hooliganism, his situation became much more problematic on 18 October 1961, when a search of his house by the local police and KGB staff revealed incriminating evidence (mostly consisting of poems and several short-handwritten proclamations) that confirmed his “anti-Soviet” disposition and his radical nationalist views. His case was immediately transferred to the jurisdiction of the KGB in Chișinău. Platon was put under KGB custody on 19 October 1961 and officially accused of “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda aimed at undermining Soviet power” and of “spreading and producing anti-Soviet literature,” according to article 67, part 1, of the Criminal Code of the Moldavian SSR. Platon’s preliminary investigation and trial lasted for two months. The official accusatory act relating to his case was drafted and submitted to the Prosecutor General of the MSSR on 21 December 1961.
Arsenie Platon’s file is currently stored in the Archive of the Intelligence and Security Service (SIS) of the Republic of Moldova. It was registered under Nr. 6539 and begun on 19 October 1961. The file consists of two volumes. The first volume (approximately 400 pages) contains mainly the records of the preliminary investigations and of the trial itself. It includes the following items: an official questionnaire of the defendant; detailed interrogations of the accused, which began on 20 October 1961 and lasted until mid-December; detailed interrogations of witnesses, including Platon’s friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and family members (around twenty people overall); search protocols of Platon’s house and protocols of additional incriminating evidence adduced during the preliminary investigations; a psychiatric assessment conducted at the request of the investigating KGB officials, which concluded that the defendant was sane and perfectly aware of his actions; an expert assessment of Platon’s handwriting confirming his authorship of the “anti-Soviet” poems and proclamations found at his home; various certificates and documents confirming Platon’s disability and his previous work experience; the official accusatory act summing up the main counts of indictment; the record of the court sessions in Platon’s case, held on 2–4 January 1962; and the official sentence, pronounced on 4 January 1962. The second volume includes five packages of manuscripts, handwritten notes, and various fragments of writings authored by Platon. The most interesting pieces in this volume are the “anti-Soviet” poems (written both in Romanian and in Russian), which were carefully selected, catalogued, and translated (when appropriate) by the KGB officials. The second volume also contains a detailed and lengthy inventory of all the papers found in Platon’s house and subsequently confiscated by the KGB. This evidence is meticulously recorded, down to the smallest examples of short notes scribbled by the defendant in his notebooks or on separate sheets of paper. Several photos confiscated by the KGB, which were used as incriminating evidence in order to prove Platon’s guilt, are especially interesting in this regard.
Platon’s case is fascinating because its protagonist was a rather unlikely source of opposition to the regime. He was a person of peasant background who hailed from a relatively well-off peasant family which had, however, been ruined by Soviet requisitions during the famine of 1946–1947 and then by collectivisation. Platon also studied in a Romanian primary school up to the age of twelve, which might have played a role is his future criticism of the regime. His father died in 1950, leaving the family in dire material conditions. However, his remaining relatives did not display any anti-Soviet leanings, integrating quite successfully into Soviet society. The family had moved to Bălți in the late 1940s, with several of Platon’s siblings and his mother settling in the city. It seems that the stimulus for Platon’s anti-Soviet opinions was provided not so much by his family experience as by his reading during the late 1940s and early 1950s, when he displayed his first literary pursuits. His discontent with the regime was enhanced by his arrest and conviction for hooliganism in 1956, after which he spent almost a year in a labour correction camp. Contact with the inmates there and his feeling of being unjustly convicted probably also played a role in his disenchantment with the regime. According to the official accusation, Platon began his “anti-Soviet activities” in 1957. He was accused of “systematically conducting anti-Soviet nationalist agitation among his entourage” during 1957–1961. Concretely, this was displayed through “a large number of anti-Soviet poems, containing calumnies about Soviet reality and the Communist Party, rude and insulting lies concerning the Head of the Soviet Government and nationalist hostility toward Russian citizens residing in Moldavia and toward communists, as well as open calls to rebellion against Soviet power.” In the Soviet context of the time, these accusations were rather serious and could result in a prison sentence of up to seven years. Platon was also accused of “idealising the former Romanian bourgeois regime” and of comparing the current conditions under Soviet rule unfavourably with the previous state of things. From the point of view of the authorities, the fact that Platon made his views public and did not hide his opinions was especially damning. Although Platon confessed to the authorship of the incriminating papers found in his house, he vehemently denied most of the witness accounts that revealed his “anti-Soviet” opinions, probably attempting to use a strategy of denial in order to alleviate his sentence. He used his precarious health condition for the same purpose, trying to convince his investigators that his subversive writings were a result of his poor health and constant depression. However, this strategy backfired when Platon was presented with additional evidence corroborating the witness accounts. One piece of this evidence is particularly revealing. In a letter sent on 19 November 1960 to the editorial board of the literary periodical Cultura Moldovei (The Culture of Moldavia), where he occasionally sent his poems for review and publication, co-signed by Platon and one of his fellow aspiring literary dilettantes, Titus Jalobă, the authors candidly inquired: “Why is the alphabet of the Moldavian language different from the alphabet of Romanian, while the two literary languages do not differ in the slightest? What is the reason?” They further implied that both languages should share the same script, be it the “Romanian” or the “Slavic” one. Interestingly, the editorial board responded by invoking the “choice of the people” in 1940 and the ease of learning Russian that a common script provided, while advising the senders of the letter to “ask the Romanians” why the latter preferred the Latin script. This almost surreal exchange is revealing both for Platon’s views and for the manipulation of evidence by the KGB investigators, which allowed them to prove Platon’s guilt despite his claims to be a naïve victim of his poor health and unfavourable life circumstances.
On 4 January 1962, despite his disability and precarious health, Arsenie Platon was sentenced to three and a half years of prison in a high-security labour correction colony. There is no further information on his fate in his KGB file. Despite the lack of data on his subsequent destiny, Platon’s case is revealing for a form of “opposition from below” which might otherwise be difficult to trace. Although of peasant background and with an incomplete education until late in his youth, Platon’s status as a (partly successful) aspiring poet and intellectual raises a number of questions about the sources of discontent toward the regime and about the role of “self-made intellectuals” in this process. This case also points to various strategies of “marginal” individuals devised in order to cope with their marginality and uncertain social status, including through ostensible intellectual pursuits which might lead them to question the legitimacy of the regime. Although Arsenie Platon’s story is a very interesting case study and a fascinating research subject, his collection is not widely known and did not play any significant role in the discussions concerning the various forms of opposition to the Soviet regime. As in other similar cases, these “marginal” examples should be recuperated and made available to a wider audience.
Description of content
The collection contains archival files from the depository of the former KGB Archive (currently the Archive of the Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service). Arsenie Platon’s case consists of two large volumes. The first volume totals almost 400 pages of records. The main types of documents within this volume include trial records (interrogations of the accused and relevant witnesses), official reports, including protocols of searches, expert conclusions of the relevant specialists (relating to the psychiatric assessment that Platon underwent during the investigation, as well as the assessment of his handwriting in order to confirm the authorship of the incriminating papers), and other categories of judicial files (including the official accusatory act, the records of the court sessions, and the official sentence in the case). The trial records comprise two main categories: interrogations of the defendant and ample supporting evidence provided by witness statements (including defendant–witness confrontations). These types of documents cover the first 250 pages of the volume. The remaining portion of the first instalment of Platon’s file (roughly the next hundred pages) consists of various expert assessments, supporting documentary evidence, detailed inventories of incriminating material evidence (various papers confiscated from Platon’s house), and various certificates confirming Platon’s medical status, his disability, and his previous work experience. The final part of the first volume (pages 358–397) contains the official accusatory act, the record of the court proceedings, the official sentence, and various related procedural papers. The second volume of Platon’s file includes five packages of manuscripts, literary drafts, several draft proclamations, handwritten notes, and various fragments of poetic writings authored by Platon. The most interesting pieces in this volume (to be found mainly in packages nr. 1 and 2) are his “anti-Soviet” poems (written both in Romanian and in Russian) which were carefully selected, catalogued, and translated (when appropriate) by the KGB officials. The second volume also contains a detailed and lengthy inventory of all the papers found in Platon’s house and subsequently confiscated by the KGB. Several photos, which were used as incriminating evidence in order to prove Platon’s guilt, are especially interesting in this regard. One of these photos features Platon with a raised axe in a threatening position. Below the photo, Platon made the following note (in Romanian): “Unde-s C…?” (Where are the C…?), which was deciphered by the KGB officials as referring to communists. These pieces of evidence aggravated Platon’s situation and, corroborated with the witness accounts, thwarted his strategy of self-defence during the investigations. This volume also features Platon’s private correspondence with various literary journals and other periodicals to which he sent his poems for review and publication (including drafts of his poems), providing a rare glimpse into this “self-made” intellectual’s efforts at self-assertion and the critical response of the literary experts in Chișinău. As in other similar instances, the case materials also reveal the attitudes of the authorities toward this type of defiant individual actions, which the regime tended to regard as serious misdemeanours, especially when a larger number of people were purportedly exposed to the defendant’s “subversive” opinions. This explains why Platon’s defence strategy, focusing on denying the validity of the witness accounts and claiming his own vulnerability as a main premise for his actions, ultimately turned against him and failed to alleviate his plight.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 100-499
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 10-99
- photos: 0-9
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Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Cusco, Andrei
Cașu, Igor. 2011. ”Arhivele comunismului. Basarabean trimis în lagăr de ruși pentru versuri pro-românești: ”Cu frații mei românmi la luptă să pornesc!” (Archives of Communism: A Bessarabian sent to a labour camp by the Russians for his pro-Romanian poems). Adevărul.md, 22 March. Accessed December 11, 2017. http://adevarul.ro/moldova/social/arhivele-comunismului-basarabean-trimis-lagar-rusi-versuri-pro-romanesti-cu-fratii-romani-lupta-pornesc-1_50adb4797c42d5a663994ecc/index.html
Cașu, Igor , interview by Cusco, Andrei, December 04, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection