Pavel Doronin Collection at SIS Archive Moldova
This ad-hoc collection mainly consists of documents separated from the fond 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 Pavel Doronin, an ethnic Russian and a retired worker who was accused of „anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” and convicted in March 1972 to one and a half years in prison, according to article 67, part 1, of the Criminal Code of the Moldavian SSR. Between 1967 and 1971, Doronin produced a series of leaflets criticising the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which he disseminated in Chișinău and sent by post to several Soviet state institutions and factories. He also posted anti-Soviet messages on banknotes (in vanishing ink) and wrote a number of “anti-Soviet” letters and short texts which he sent to various Soviet newspapers. Some of these pieces contained open appeals to overthrowing Soviet power. Doronin’s case is revealing for the forms that individual protest against the regime – mostly based on social and political grievances – took in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Chișinău Bulevardul Ștefan cel Mare și Sfînt 166, Moldova 2004
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Name of collection
- Pavel Doronin Collection at SIS Archive Moldova
Provenance and cultural activities
The criminal case against Pavel Doronin was opened on 6 December 1971 and immediately transferred under the jurisdiction of the Moldavian KGB. The file was registered under No. 6647. The collection files comprise three volumes of investigative data, interrogations of the accused, witness accounts and official papers relating to the trial of the defendant (including the official accusatory act and the final sentence). The significance of this ad-hoc collection stems from its focus on individual forms of opposition to the regime which, although isolated and spontaneous, provoked a harsh reaction on the part of the authorities. This collection also shows how the loyalty of a Soviet citizen was gradually weakened and led to a growing radicalisation of his anti-regime attitudes, which were magnified by the repressive apparatus in order to fit the official definition of “anti-Soviet activities.” Doronin was a retired former railway worker with solid credentials of a loyal Soviet citizen, which made his opposition to the regime untypical in many respects. Born to a family of workers in 1905 in the Bukhedu railway station of the Eastern Chinese Railway, Doronin was of Russian ethnic background and had a “healthy” social origin from the perspective of the regime. In 1934 he graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Railroad Transport Engineering and subsequently worked in the railway system in various regions of the Soviet Union. In 1960 he came to Chişinău, where he was first employed at the city’s railway station and then moved to the Luch factory, retiring in 1965. Although his status as a skilled worker was privileged by Soviet standards, the first signs of his discontent toward the regime emerged in connection to his poor living conditions. He received an apartment in one of the city’s poorest and least prestigious districts, which contrasted to the promises of career advancement and material prosperity that had determined his initial choice to move to Chișinău. After his retirement, around 1967, Doronin became even more disenchanted with the regime. During the preliminary investigation, it was revealed that his discontent toward the regime was also fuelled by his listening to Western radio stations (mainly Voice of America and the BBC), as well as by his earlier conviction by a military tribunal for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” in 1943. As a result of this trial, Doronin spent ten years in a forced labour camp and was only rehabilitated in 1955. He was a part of the first wave of the mass rehabilitation of political prisoners which occurred in the Soviet Union shortly after Stalin’s death and preceded Khrushchev’s Thaw. Apparently, the first stage of his “anti-Soviet” activity was triggered by the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution. In early November 1967, he wrote a short text criticising the regime. The content of this text – Кто Продаёт Свою Совесть / Кто Причиняет Стране Страдания (Who Sells His Conscience / Who Causes Suffering to the Country) – represented an acrostic with the first four letters of each line forming the initials of the Soviet Communist Party – КПСС / CPSU). During the next few days, Doronin constructed seven typeset-stamps in his apartment (each one coinciding with a word of the acrostic), which he then used to print twenty-four leaflets. He disseminated six of these leaflets in various locations throughout Chișinău and sent the other eighteen copies by post to different destinations within and outside the Moldavian SSR (including state institutions, factories, religious organisations, etc.), using several fake sender’s addresses. His next “anti-Soviet” action occurred one year later, in November 1968, when he filled out a questionnaire in a TV journal and openly criticised the heavily ideological content of the Soviet television programs, as well as their low quality. He sent this questionnaire by post to the Moldavian Radio on 9 November 1968, again using a fake address and claiming he was a student. During 1969 and 1970, Doronin wrote a number of anti-Soviet messages (Долой КПСС / Down with the CPSU!) on several banknotes (in vanishing ink) and used these banknotes while paying for various purchases. His technical education and expertise was an additional factor which aided him in carrying out these actions. This was confirmed by the careful reconstruction performed during the investigation by the KGB operatives. In May 1970 Doronin creatively altered an anti-American caricature published in the Soviet journal Krasnaia zvezda (Red Star), the official organ of the Soviet Ministry of Defence, by inserting Brezhnev’s portrait instead of the original image of the American president and writing the initials of Czechoslovakia, Egypt, and Vietnam against the background of heavy weapons, initially intended to refer to US war-mongering. Later, during the investigation, it appeared that this inversion of meaning was not lost on the Soviet repressive apparatus, which immediately grasped the subversive nature of Doronin’s message, despite his claims to the contrary. Throughout 1970, Doronin sent various anonymous responses to a number of articles published in the local and central Soviet newspapers, reacting to perceived instances of ethnic discrimination and social inequality. One of the most interesting examples concerns several short critical texts he authored on behalf of the MSSR Jewish community, in which he claimed to represent various Jewish organisations and harshly criticised the official Soviet position on Jewish emigration from the USSR and on Israel. Another revealing example was a short note on Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the context of the latter’s nomination for the Nobel Prize, which Doronin sent to the main Soviet party newspaper, Pravda, in October 1970. In this document, Doronin praised the dissident writer and condemned the official Soviet stance. Doronin’s situation was aggravated by the fact that on 7 January 1971 he sent a letter to the US Embassy in Moscow in which he reacted to an article published the previous day in the Soviet government newspaper Izvestiia. In the words of the Soviet authorities, Doronin “expressed his solidarity with the Zionist organisations in connection with the anti-Soviet activities pursued by the latter” and claimed to represent a fictitious “League for the Defence of the Jews,” displaying “opinions hostile to the Soviet state.” Finally, on 15 December 1971 (while already under KGB investigation) Doronin sent an anonymous letter to Izvestiia, responding to a request to suggest possible topics for future articles, in which he expressed his discontent with instances of social inequality and economic discrimination, emphasising the discrepancies between official discourse and social reality in the USSR.
Pavel Doronin’s case file, registered under No. 6647 and begun on 6 December 1971, consists of three volumes. The first volume includes various procedural papers related to the initial phase of the investigation, the protocols of the searches conducted in Doronin’s apartment, as well as detailed interrogations of the accused. Among these materials, one of the most interesting pieces is Doronin’s statement of 14 January 1972, in which he confesses to all the incriminated “anti-Soviet” actions and attempts to justify his deeds through a series of personal events and family occurrences which purportedly intensified his psychological anguish and pushed him to act out of “spite, hatred, and rancour” rather than out of a conscious “anti-Soviet impulse.” This defence strategy ultimately proved effective, since the investigating officer noted the “sincere repentance” of the defendant, although it did not prevent Doronin’s receiving a prison sentence. The second volume focuses on various witness accounts, several kinds of supporting evidence, and detailed expert assessments of the case materials and of Doronin’s psychological state. Besides the psychiatric assessment conducted in January 1972, which concluded that the defendant was perfectly sane and aware of his actions, the KGB officer responsible for the case ordered a number of specialised expert assessments (chemical, biological, a special examination of Doronin’s writing etc.). The authorities were also careful to trace Doronin’s family history and to interview several members of his immediate and extended family, investing considerable efforts in researching his personal and professional trajectory. This volume also includes the official accusatory act concerning Doronin’s case. The third volume contains the pre-trial paperwork, the detailed stenographic record of the court sessions (which were held between 24 and 27 March 1972), as well as the official sentence and the concluding paperwork. It should be noted that Doronin was not arrested after the opening of the criminal case against him. The authorities only issued a restriction order in late December 1971, and summoned him for periodical interrogation to the KGB headquarters. The inquiry started on 6 Dember 1971 and was officially closed on 6 March 1972. The sentence in Doronin’s case was delivered on 27 March 1972.
Doronin’s case is revealing for the forms that individual protest against the regime – mostly based on social and political grievances – took in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The defendant was obviously aware of his actions and the potential consequences and acted alone. He thus did not represent any practical danger to the Soviet regime. However, the materials of Doronin’s file show to what extent the authorities overreacted even in such cases of individual protest without any wider implications. This case also points to the factors that could transform a loyal Soviet citizen into a critic of the regime and to the kinds of discontent that could favour such an outcome. The sources of Doronin’s disenchantment with the regime stemmed from his earlier criminal conviction, which he saw as unjust and life-damaging, despite his rehabilitation in 1955, as well as from personal grievances which he linked to the lack of equity and justice in Soviet society. He began to openly express his critical opinions due to a series of personal and family crises in the late 1960s and found an outlet in his criticism of the regime. However, the way in which the repressive apparatus interpreted and magnified his acts of defiance shows the mechanisms used by the Soviet regime in order to identify and classify the various forms of opposition from below.Despite his old age and the poor state of his health, Pavel Doronin was sentenced in March 1972 to one and a half years in a high-security prison, according to article 67, part 1, of the Criminal Code of the Moldavian SSR (“anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda aimed at undermining Soviet power”). He was taken into custody in the court chamber. This sentence was relatively lenient by Soviet standards and probably reflects the attenuating circumstances that the Soviet justice system took into account. However, the punishment was still disproportionate and reflected the regime’s obsession with any form of opposition, even if it was sporadic and innocuous, as in this case. There is no further information on Doronin’s fate in his KGB file.
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). Pavel Doronin’s case file consists of three volumes. The first volume (totalling approximately 280 pages) mostly includes preliminary materials of the official investigation and trial records (mainly interrogations of the accused), as well as official reports, including protocols of searches and other types of judicial files. This volume also includes photocopies of the main incriminating evidence against the defendant (i.e., the documents produced by Doronin) and detailed lists of the items discovered and confiscated in Doronin’s apartment during the searches. This type of supporting evidence is of particular interest due to the fact that it was not destroyed by the KGB staff after the trial, thus allowing direct access to Doronin’s activities. This volume also features several expert assessments of the case materials, including the psychiatric assessment of Doronin’s mental health, as well as specialized examinations of his handwriting and the conclusions of the chemical and biological analyses of the materials used by the defendant to produce the “anti-Soviet” leaflets. The psychiatric assessment concluded that the defendant was perfectly sane and aware of his actions, despite several head injuries he had suffered in the past. The second volume (approximately 275 pages) holds the same types of evidence, but focuses on the witness accounts, which represent the bulk of the materials. The witnesses in the case fall under several categories: members of Doronin’s immediate and extended family, neighbours and former co-workers, people who discovered his leaflets and the banknotes marked with anti-Soviet messages and the recipients of the letters he sent to the various Soviet newspapers, factories and state institutions. This volume also includes a range of specialized expert assessments concerning the chemical and biological analyses of the materials used by Doronin to produce his “anti-Soviet” documents, complementing the evidence from the first volume. Finally, this part of Doronin’s file also comprises the official accusatory act in Doronin’s case. The third volume, which is a bit shorter (approximately 83 pages), includes the procedural papers relating to the trial itself and the detailed stenographic report of the court proceedings, which covers over 80 % of its content. The volume also includes the official sentence, pronounced on 27 March 1972, as well as various other papers connected with Doronin’s arrest and incarceration. The case file demonstrates the considerable efforts of the Soviet KGB investigators to prove Doronin’s guilt and to assess his personal trajectory and the impact of his actions in a wider social context. The meticulous expert assessments of Doronin’s mental sanity, as well as the reconstruction of his actions and the specialized analyses of the material evidence point to the fact that the authorities took this case rather seriously, despite the isolated nature of Doronin’s criticism of the regime. The file also reveals the intricacies of the regime’s attitude toward and classification of various degrees of opposition in the early 1970s, which partly explains the relative leniency of the sentence and the categorization of the defendant’s actions as more or less dangerous to the social and political order.
- 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.): 0-9
- photos: 0-9
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Geographical scope of recent operation
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
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Author(s) of this page
- Cusco, Andrei
Cașu, Igor , interview by Cusco, Andrei, December 21, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection