To: Leonid Brezhnev, Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Honorable Leonid Ilych,1
I address this letter to you in the hope that your personal intervention will help me to receive the justice which I have been unsuccessful in getting from the appropriate levels of appeal.
On November 20, 1973, agents of the State Security Committee of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR (the KGB) seized from my home many books of a religious nature. The seizure of the books was in gross violation of Paragraph 192 of the Code of Penal Procedure of the Lithuanian SSR because not all the books were included in offical record of the search. Not one of the bags into which the books were placed was sealed. When I wrote a complaint to the Chairman of the KGB of the Lithuanian SSR and to the Prosecutor General of the USSR, I was promised that those books unconnected with the criminal case (What case? Against whom ? I have not found out to this day.) would be returned.
After two years, on December 3, 1975, a security agent, Captain Marcinkevičius, returned some of the books seized from me and gave me a receipt to sign. When I requested a copy of this list, Marcinkevičius refused, explaining that only one copy had been signed. In truth, however, a second copy was on the office desk. Thus Paragraph 192 of the same Code of Penal Procedure was again transgressed since I needed a list of the books being returned to document whether I had received back all the books on the list2.
1The author of the letter, Vladas Lapienis, has been active in the religious dissent movement; his activities have been reported in the Chronicle (see, for example, No. 11, 15). According to the report of the Lithuanian group to monitor the implementation of the Helsinki accords Lapienis was arrested in Vilnius on October 19, 1976, and was charged with "duplicating and distributing religious and 'slanderous' literature".
2Printed at the end of this letter.
Nevertheless, the KGB, without any explanation to date, has failed to return quite a number of books (See the attached list)2 and my "Rheinmetall" typewriter. In this way they directly transgressed paragraphs 10 and 25 of the Constitution of the USSR and paragraph 17 of the Universal Declaration Human Rights, to say nothing of the fact that as responsible employees of the government apparatus, they failed to keep their promise—something which surely does nothing to strengthen the authority of the state organs they represent.
"One can be injured not only by a bullet or by a blow of the fist. Often in life, a person, especially one of a more sensitive nature, is disabled by deceit, falsehood, slander, threats, angry words, and similar wrongs. Medical tests prove these statements" (Tiesa, January 21, 1975). Nevertheless, KGB interrogators questioned me for eight days, often treating me roughly, slandering me, threatening me with arrest, and the like. So it is they who are guilty of the offenses specified in Paragraph 187 of the Penal Code of the Lithuanian SSR. Particularly guilty of this were Senior Lieutenant Gudas and Major Markevičius. These people have got to understand that by such methods they discredit not only themselves, but also the government agencies which they represent. They discredit the Soviet government.
On account of the unjust and criminal actions by the KGB of the Lithuanian SSR, I have more than once presented complaints to the following: The Chairman of the KGB of the Lithuanian SSR (November 30, 1973), the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR (January 4, 1974), the Prosecutor General of the USSR and the Chairman of the KGB of the USSR (June 12, 1974), and again to the Chairman of the KGB of the LSSR (October 15, 1974), but each time my complaints fell into the hands of the very people whose unjust actions I was complaining about.
No one is likely to contradict the statement: "Conduct against the law is a crime." But then it becomes clear that the central government turns offenses over to the offenders to be investigated. Is that normal? Can this be allowed?
Even though Soviet laws state clearly on this point that a person who has complained about some kind of acts by employees in state offices must receive a clear and rational reply from higher officials, it is now clear to me why I never did receive such a reply.
In the course of my interrogation I learned that for a long time, security agents had been observing every step I took, no matter where I went: to the library, to the store, or to see relatives. In the final analysis, it is their own business and that of their superiors, even though it seems to me that they could make wiser use of their working time: I am no foreign espionage agent nor any underground political activist. But I was shocked to learn during the interrogation that by using microphones, they eavesdropped on conversations in my apartment. That is in direct contravention of Article 128 of the Constitution of the USSR, guaranteeing citizens the inviolability of a citizen's apartment and the privacy of correspondence, a direct offense against the Universal Declaration of human Rights, Article 12, and against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 17.
In speaking of the injustices and the persecutions I suffered, I have no right to cover up the crimes and persecutions that people of die same religious persuasion as I—people of faith—Catholics—suffer simply because they are believers.
"The state should not concern itself with religion, and religious bodies should not be entangled with the civil government. Everyone must have complete freedom to profess any appropriate religion or not to profess any religion at all. Any discrimination among citizens with regard to their rights, flowing from their religious beliefs, is absolutely forbidden. Even any references in official documents regarding this or that faith which is professed by citizens must be completely deleted. No government payments should be made to churches or to religious bodies, which must become completely independent (emphasis added—V.L.) organizations of citizens who are of one mind, independent of the government. Only the complete implementation of these requirements can put an end to the shameful and reprehensible past, when the Church was in feudal bondage to the state . . ." (V.I. Lenin, "Socialism and Religion,"Works, Vilnius, 1952, vol. 10, p. 65).
You, Leonid Ilych, as Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, know better than I this and many other statements in the Constitution of the USSR (Par. 124, 125), in the Penal Codes of the Soviet Republics, and agree completely with regulations in a host of international documents signed by the Soviet government (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ar. 18 and 19; Art. 5, 18, 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Art. 4 and 5 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
However, these instructions of the founder of Soviet law and these international commitments on the part of the government are not observed. So that I might not talk without proof, I hereby submit a number of facts:
1.Since 1940, Catholic organizations, monasteries, and convents have been banned.
2.Teaching of religion in the schools is forbidden, teaching catechism to children is allowed only for the parents; priests are allowed only to ascertain knowledge of the catechism by asking the children questions individually. For catechizing children, several priests have been sentenced to a year in jail, while many others were assessed fines (1975—the pastor of the parish of Kučiūnai, Father J. Krikščiūnas—50 rubles; that same year the administrative committee fined (Miss) E. Žukauskaitė 40 rubles, etc.). And yet the children of believing parents are forcibly taught atheism, a fact that clearly contradicts Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
3.There are times when the government forbids priests to function as priests; e.g., in Vilnius, the Rev. Vladimir Prokopiv, who completed theological studies in Rome; in Kaunas, Father Vladimir Figolis. Father Vytautas Merkys worked in a tree nursery for over ten years because the government would not allow him to work in any parish. 4. Bishop V. Sladkevičius of Kaišiadorys since 1957, and the Bishop of Vilnius J. Steponavičius, since 1961 have been relived of of their duties by the government, and exiled to remote corners of Lithuania, where they live to this day in exile, and without indication of any crime.3
5. Persons who have not attained eighteen years of age are forbidden by the government to participate in religious ceremonies, even though the parents of these children require that thei children be allowed to participate.
3The exile of bishops Sladkevičius and Steponavičius is a major bone of contention between the religious activists and the Soviet regime. Bishop Sladkevičius was exiled because he was consecrated without the consent of the Soviet regime, while Bishop Steponavičius was denied office because of this opposition to Soviet interference in the internal affairs of the church. See Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, No. 20, pp. 5-15; No. 14, p. 5.
Priests who forbid youngsters to do so would commit an offense against Canon Law. Many priests have been punished for allowing children to be at the altar, or to walk in a church procession, or to sing in the church choir; e.g., Father A. Keina was fined 50 rubles for allowing boys to serve Mass, Father P. Orlickas was fined the same amount, and afterwards he was transferred from the parish for playing volleyball with youngsters; Father Lygnugarys was fined
50 rubles for visiting a patient in the hospital in Naujoji Akmenė; Father Suklys was fined the same amount for allowing children to participate in a procession; the organist of the parish of Kabeliai was punished for teaching children to sing in the choir, and the pastor of that parish, J. Lauriūnas, was fined for allowing the organist to teach their children to sing hymns. The pastor of Daugailiai, the Rev. Batuška, was fined 30 rubles for inviting priests from neighboring parishes to a religious festival . . .
6.For their religious beliefs, Aldona and Regina Bielskus were expelled from the University of Vilnius.
7.Bringing religious literature in from abroad and sending it in by mail are forbidden under the same law as is the bringing in of pornographic literature and of narcotics.
8.Catholic publications are completely forbidden; in Lithuania, not only are religious newspapers and magazines not published, but even catechisms are not allowed to be printed. Twice they allowed a prayer book to be printed and once the New Testament, but the numbers printed were so small that only a small fraction of the faithful could obtain them.
". . . We demand . . . freedom of the press," wrote Lenin. Wtihout freedom of assembly, speech, or press . . ., all talk about tolerance and freedom of worship will remain a miserable pretence and a discreditable lie" (V.I. Lenin "The Autocracy is Wavering," Works, Vilnius, 1951, vol. VI, p. 312). However, the law guaranteeing freedom of the press, of association , of conscience, and of speech, is applied only to the atheists. Believers who have dared to implement this right guaranteed by the Constitution ended up in the prisoner's dock and later in the strict regime camps of Perm and Mordovia: P. Plumpa, 8 years; P. Petronis, 4 years; V. Kulikauskas, 3 to 5 years; J. Gražys, 3 years; Nijolė Sadūnaitė, 3 years and 3 additional years of exile.6? They were all accused of something they were completely innocent of; namely, the libeling of the Soviet system. They were guilty only of attempting to fulfill a Christian duty: They wanted to provide prayer books for the faithful in order to satisfy the spiritual hunger of believers, and they tried to spread religious literature.
4Trials of these religious dissenters are reported in The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, No. 13, 16, 17.
9. The relatives and even the acquaintances of persons suffering for their beliefs are searched, questioned, and threatened: In Kaunas — M. Vitkūnaitė, N. Petruševičius, V. Gajauskas, M. Gavėnaitė, and others. In Vilnius, J. Lapienytė, K. Jakubynas, A. Žilinskas, A. Terleckas, and others.
10.Many believers are discharged from work without reason. On September 15, 1975, the Department of Public Education at the Rayon of Mažeikiai demanded the teachers A. Skirparas (with 27 years' seniority) and (Mrs.) Skiparienė (with 25 years' seniority) "voluntarily" to ask to be relieved of their duties because that year their son entered the seminary. In Vilnius, the children's music teacher A. Kezytė was relieved of her duties because she is a believer. In 1975, the KGB suggested to the administration of the University of Vilnius that they discharge (Miss) B. Kibickaitė simply because she happened to be visiting Nijolė Sadūnaitė when the KGB came to search Miss Sadūnaitė's apartment.
11.The priests V. Gelgota, A. Ylius, and P. Račiūnas were objects of newspaper articles in which they were slandered and vilified. These priests sent the editors of the papers letters of protest in which they showed that they had been vilified, but not one newspaper printed their letters.
12. In the "Decree on Separation of Church and State"
there was an instruction to turn over church premises and articles "to religious organizations to use free of charge." The Supreme Soviet on April 10, 1942, by decree set the rent for the use of the premises at 1% of the assessed value of the premises per year. Since 1961 the assessment on buildings for worship has been increased one and a half times, and accordingly the rental has been increased one and a half times. Law is law and the Catholic Church pays the charge punctually. But every law ought to be logical.
We cannot understand why religious groups have to pay compulsory insurance fees on property that does not belong to them. And it is even more difficult to understand why, in case of fire or natural disaster, the insurance compensation is made not to the group which paid the insurance premiums, and which will have to rebuild the building, but to the owner of the premises (the Executive Committee) which does not appropriate any money for the main-tainance of the premises, does not keep them in repair and does not turn over a single kopekof the insurance compensation received. (When the church at Dubingiai burned down, the insurance compensation was paid out to the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Molėtai; it was similar in other places.)
The history of the church at Klaipėda simply astounds us. The church erected with the parishioners' money was not only not turned over to the religious group for its use, but in 1961 it was taken from the group and turned into a philharmonic hall. The government does not allow the reconstruction of a great number of churches which burned or were destroyed during the war (Sangradas, Girkalnis, Batakiai, Gaurė, and other parish churches). Moreover, religious sculptures and wayside crosses erected by believers are pulled down by the government (e.g., the sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the churchyard at Skiemonys).
13. The government is constantly interfering in the internal affairs of the Church, ordering whom to appoint and whom not to appoint as professors at the seminary, setting quotas for those applying to the seminary, and forbidding bishops and administrators of dioceses to assign priests to parishes without the permission of the deputy for religious affairs.
That is just a small part of the facts attesting to the fact that in Soviet Lithuania the law regarding the separation of Church and state is systematically being broken. At the same time, Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs V.A. Kuroedov has stated in the newspaperIzvestia (January 31, 1975):
"Soviet laws set special legal norms protecting the legal rights of believers, religious bodies, and ministers of cult from attack."
"Any kind of discrimination against believers and any abuse of their freedom of conscience is categorically forbidden,"
Far be it for me to doubt the word of such a responsible person, especially when the Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs says further:
"We do not intend to conceal the fact that among us there are occasional incidents when some local organs still fail to prevent unjust action with regard to the churches and the faithful... In all these cases, measures are taken to right the wrongs, and the parties responsible in these cases are punished in accord with the law."
The facts I have submitted indicate that the Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs is little acquainted or not acquainted at all with the situation of the Church in Lithuania. There has not been a single instance in which anyone having transgressed the law on separation of Church and state and having discriminated agains believers was ever punished for his unjust actions. Just not long ago, in The Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe the following was written:
"The participating States will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion."
Precisely because, Leonid Ilych, your signature appears at the end of that document, I am of the opinion that I can turn directly to you.
The persecution of the Catholic Church is only one side of the coin. To cover the subject fully, it is no less important to focus attention on the results of this persecution. The lack of moral or spiritual education, or even the weakening of such education, the spread of atheism, with its nonbinding and very vague moral principles, has brought it about that in recent years criminal offenses have increased: The stealing of state and private property, robberies, burglaries and rape, drunkenness, narcomania, and sexual immodesty have reached untold proportions. Thousands of adults and young people in our republic are serving sentences in jails and camps. There are so many of these places: In Vilnius the jail O-Č, 12/36; the strict regime colony O-Č, 12/1, and O-Č, 12/10; in Pravieniškiai O-Č 12/2 and O-Č, 2/8; in Alytus 0-4, 12/4; in Panevėžys 0-12/5; in Kapsukas O-Č, 12/3. Camps for minors in Vilnius, Sniego Gatvė Nr. 2 VTK, in Kaunas O-Č TKN and others.
Even though it is painful for you to hear these things, nevertheless it is a fact that as long as atheistic education had not been introduced into the school, drunkenness, theft, and sexual promiscuity were infrequent phenomena. Nowadays, they are a daily occurrence.
It is rightly said that a strong family is the basis of a strong state. There is no doubt that atheism has weakened family ties, the number of broken families has increased, and the divorce rate is going up.
Can one speak of the strength of the family when in official publications it is proclaimed: "The teacher, forming the atheistic world-view of pupils, must most often destroy those religious views that the family has instilled in them" (B. Bitinas, Questions of the Methodology of the Atheistic Education of School Children, Kaunas, 1962, p. 2.)
But in destroying beliefs instilled by the family, the family itself is wrecked. Here are the results: In 1950 in Lithuania there were 23,245 marriages and 625 divorces, and now "the statistics in our republic show almost 40 divorces per 100 marriages. The divorce rate is growing not only in the cities, but also in the villages." (Mokslas ir Gyvenimas, 1976, No. 3, p. 30).
The first victim of divorce and the break-up of the family is the child. Psychiatrists in Hawaii and Wisconsin, USA, affirm that "the parents' divorce constitutes an extended psychic trauma for the children . . . Therefore it is more correct to view divorce not as an event, but as a process that, by its painful duration, causes psychic disorders in the children." (The weeklyKalba Vilnius, 1976, No. 6, p. 13). Should we not look here for the reasons for the unheard-of-increase in delinquency?
Atheistic propaganda makes use of mass media—the press, radio, television, of teachers in school and agitators in offices and factories —propagators of atheism, who do not hesitate to employ the methods of their choice; the worn-out jokes about priests, slander of priests and the faithful, the long-ago-refuted pseudo-scientific arguments (e.g., concerning the historicity of Christ), and arguments causing trouble by their uniformedness. Believers, on the other hand, are not allowed to defend themselves.
As the experience of Eastern European socialist states shows, granting greater freedom to the Church has not only not interfered with the building of socialism, but it actually helps.
Of all Eastern European countries, the highest standard of living has been attained by the German Democratic Republic, which during the war suffered the most. Characteristic of that country is its high level of productivity and high quality. But the believers of the German Democratic Republic are not so severely persecuted, churches are not continuously closed down, Catholic and Protestant newspapers are being published. In 1972, the Catholic Church in the GDR published 292 titles (St. Benn-Verlag), and there are no more Catholics in the GDR than in the Republic of Lithuania. In neighboring Poland, believers publish many books, they have schools of their own, and in the state schools, religion is taught to those children whose parents desire it. The same situation exists in Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia; in short, in all of them, with the exception of Albania.
"Here in Europe, pretensions to world domination were transformed into political doctrine, and in the end, states whose riches served ends full of hatred collapsed," you said on July 31, 1975, at Helsinki. "That is why the time has come to make unavoidable collective conclusions from the historical experience."
It is impossible not to concur. Not only has fascist Germany collapsed, but so also has the Roman Empire, which for three hundred years had persecuted the Christians, while ageless Truth or the faith of human beings survived, having withstood the viles ol centuries.
Those who direct antireligious propaganda in Lithuania and organize the persecution of believers are in error if they think that by physically attacking them and making use of force, they will root the faith and convictions out of their hearts.
The Catholics of Lithuania do not ask of the state that which it is wrong to demand. They wish that the state apparatus were not turned against the Catholic Church and its rights, which are guaranteed by the Constitution, since "In their proper spheres, the political community and the Church are mutually independent and autonomous. Yet, by a different tide, each serves the personal and social aspirations of the same human beings. This service can be more effectively rendered for the good of all, if each works better for wholesome mutual cooperation, with consideration of the circumstances of time and place". (Decrees of the Second Vatican Council, Vilnius, 1975, p. 185)
I address this letter to you, honorable Leonid Ilych, requesting you to correct the mistakes made and to rectify the transgressions against international and Soviet law:
1.Not to discriminate against believers by discharging them from work, carrying out searches in their home, and threatening them and arresting them;
2.To discontinue administrative interference in the internal affairs of the Church;
3.To grant amnesty to all prisoners suffering in the labor camps on account of their beliefs (see No. 8 above).
4.To return the books and things unjustly seized from me and during the searches of others.
April 23, 1976
(Signed) Vladas Lapienis, son of Antanas
Daugaviečio 5-11, Vilnius
Copies to: First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Lithuania Petras Griškevičius
A List of Books Taken From Me and Not Returned
1.Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčios Kronika — The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania No. 1-6
2.Arkivyskupas T. Matulionis — Archbishop T. Matulionis, 1972, 4 copies
3.Dr. P. Gaidamavičius, Milžinas, Didvyris, Šventasis — Giant, Hero and Saint, 23 copies (1 copy returned).
4.Laidotuvių ir gavėnios giesmės —Hymns for funerals and for Lent, 400 copies
5.J. Girnius: Žmogus be Dievo—Man without God, 4 copies.
6.A. Maceina'; Dievo Avinėlis — The Lamb of God
7.Kratkij tolkovatl k Novo Zavetu. In Russian, 2 copies
8.Prelatas M. Krupavičius, 2 copies.
9.Stasys Yla, Vardai ir veidai mūsų kultūros istorijoje—Names and Faces in Our Cultural History, 4 copies
10.P. Maldeikis, Meilė dvidešimtame amžiuje (Love in the Twentieth Century) (1 copy returned) 2 copies
11.J. Prunskis, ed., Mano pasaulėžiūra, Kultūrininkų pasisakymų rinkinys, (My Worldview: Statements by Cultural Leaders 2 copies
12.P. Maldeikis, Melas kaip pedagoginė problema (Lying as an Educational Problem) 1 copy
13.P. Maldeikis, Inteligencija ir jos tyrimas (Intelligence and Its Measurement) 1 copy
14.A. Grauslys: Ieškau Tavo veido (I Seek Your Face), 2 copies
15.Bishop V. Brizgys: Negesinkime Aukurų (Don't Extinguish the Altar Fires), 2 copies
16.Stasys Yla, Dievas sutemuose (God in Twilight) 2 copies
17.J. Klumpys, Petras Jurgis Frasati, 1 copy
18. B. Brazdžionis, Per pasaulį keliauja žmogus (Through the
World Man Travels) 1 copy
19.Pasaulėžiūros klausimai (Questions of Worldview) II d. 255 pp., 1 copy.
20.J. Grinius, Tauta ir tautinė ištikimybė (The Nation and National Loyalty) 1 copy