Petro Hryhovorych Grigorenko was born in the village of Borysivka in 1907 (now located in the Prymorsk district of Zaporizhia oblast) and died in New York City in 1987. He was a general major in the Soviet Army and also received his doctorate of military science in 1961. Grigorenko was a founding member of both the Ukrainian and Moscow Helsinki groups in 1976, despite being sent twice to psychiatric clinics in 1964-1965 and in 1969-1974.
He was a Komsomol activist of the 1920s, who was swallowed by the Soviet penal system due to its intolerance of dissenting opinions. Grigorenko's views were ideologically consistent with the foundational principles of the Soviet Union, but at odds with the politics of retrenchment that followed Khrushchev's removal as general secretary. Grigorenko had joined the military, studied at the Military Engineering Academy named after Kuybishev and even held leadership positions in Belarus in the years 1934-1937. His military service during Word War II was in the Far East, where he participated in the battle of Khalkhin-Holi in 1939. Grigorenko was wounded twice. After the war, he taught at the military academy from 1945-1961, receiving his doctorate and authoring 83 texts on military strategy, history, theory and cybernetics.
After the Twentieth Party Congress, Grigorenko began critically evaluating the Soviet Union’s political system and the degree to which it had deviated from Leninist ideals. He openly shared his ideas in the military academy and also at party conferences in Moscow, calling for democratization of the political process. He was almost immediately stripped of his mandate to speak at party conference, as “politically immature,” banned from teaching at the academy, issued a serious reprimand from the party and sent to the Far East Military District to serve in the city of Ussuriysk. While on vacation in Moscow in 1962, he founded an underground organization called “The Union for the Fight to Restore Leninism,” under the aegis of which he published a number of criticisms of bureaucratism and the Soviet penal system, as well as violent crackdowns of protests in Novo-Cherkassk, Temirtau and Tbilisi. It was only a matter time before he was detained (at the Khabarovsk airport on February 1, 1964). He was taken back to Moscow, and thrown in a cell at the KGB prison. He refused KGB chief Vladimir Semichastnyi’s offer to repent during his interrogation, which meant he was arrested, tried and sentenced for breaking Article 70 of the RSFSR’s Criminal Codex. After a court issued medical examination, he was diagnosed as suffering from paranoia (“paranoialnyi rozvytok osobystosti”—Rukh Oporu 188), a verdict Grigorenko believes was politically motivated and sanctioned by members of the Moscow Politburo. He was sentenced to mandatory medical treatment in Leningradsk.
In April 22, 1965 he was released following Khrushchev’s ouster, as a person who had recovered from mental illness. He held a variety of odd jobs—as a guard, tour guide, driver, builder. In 1966, he joined Moscow dissident circles, began reading samvydav materials, and even joined the campaign to help Crimean Tatars return to their native lands. In 1967, he wrote a critique of the Red Army’s crimes during World War II in a pamphlet which circulated in samvydav circles. He wrote another piece directed at communists in which he stated Stalinism was a deadly illness for communism. He supported the democratizing movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968, agitated for the removal of Soviet troops from the country, wrote a critique of special psychiatric clinics used to punish dissident and political adversaries and even tried to give the dissident movement more concrete organizational form. That same year he participated in demonstrations of Crimean Tatars outside the Central Committee’s office building, also gathering statistics and other useful information for foreign correspondents about the violation of Crimean Tatar rights after their attempted return from exile. In November 1968, his apartment was searched and his entire archive confiscated. Ignoring KGB threats, Grigorenko flew to Tashkent as a “people’s defender”, where he was arrested again and held for 5 months by the KGB in Uzbekistan, before being sentenced again to mandatory medical treatment for psychiatric conditions. His prison diary documented the hunger strike he initiated in protest of his treatment. His illegal arrest, and other indecencies was published in the Chronical of Current Events («Хро́ника теку́щих собы́тий»), a Russian language samizdat journal published irregularly in 1968-1983 and documented the human rights struggle, political repressions, and the Soviet penal system.
Grigorenko’s case attracted the attention of the larger human rights community — Tatars picketed outside the prison in Tashkent where he was being held, hundreds of signatures were gathered in Moscow, protest actions took place in Norway, Italy and Belgium. But to no avail, he was released only on the eve of President Nixon to the USSR on June 24, 1974. After his release, he continued his support for other human rights defenders (Mustafa Dzhemilev), he was a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Ukrainian Helsinki Group in 1976 and the following year wrote a brochure documenting the struggle of both groups with the KGB. In 1977, he was given permission to travel to the US for medical treatment, where he lived out the rest of his days, where he continued his human rights work.
- Kharkiv, Ukraine
- Moskva, Moscow, Russia
- New York, United States
- Ussuriysk, Russia
Ion Grigorescu (b. 15 March 1945, Bucharest) is a complex artist, who is continually experimenting and innovating in his art. Painter, draughtsman, photographer, and essayist, he is in known in the first place as one of the few multimedia artists in Romania. According to his own testimony, he chose art because he believed that it was a less ideological field, only to discover already as a student how much he had been mistaken. A graduate of the Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of Visual Arts in Bucharest in 1969, he became like all artists in communist Romania a member of the Union of Visual Artists in 1971, but he preferred to do what he liked rather than what was requested of him. According to the critic Erwin Kessler, Ion Grigorescu “is the Romanian artist who contributed most to the transformation of painting from a traditional practice to a conceptual artistic medium.” The fact that during communism he was an absolutely marginal figure gave him an extraordinary advantage, because it meant that he could experiment as he pleased. At the same time, he had to deal with the immense disadvantage of working completely outside the official network, without exhibitions, living from the sale of his works through the informal channels by which Sorin Costina came to him. In fact, Ion Grigorescu concentrated more on art forms such as photography and short films, at a time when these had an inferior status in relation to the traditional plastic arts and found no place in exhibition galleries.
Consequently, his experimental works only had a limited public under communism, and were generally presented only to his friends. Among them is Dialogue with Ceauşescu, a short film of 1978, presenting an imaginary and impossible conversation between the artist and the dictator. Ion Grigorescu plays both roles, wearing a mask to play Ceauşescu. The film is silent, with the conversation appearing written on the screen, starting with a sentence that has become famous: “If the people cannot lead, then it ought at least to criticise!” By the continuous rolling of the texts belonging to the two roles in two separate columns, the film subtly suggests the non-existence of dialogue between the dictator who leads according to his own wishes and the people whose criticism is ignored. Asked to what extent we can speak of an art of protest in works of Ion Grigorescu that became very well known only after the fall of communism, such as Dialogue with Ceauşescu, Sorin Costina emphasises that it was precisely the artist’s marginality that helped him to survive in a peripheral network: “Back then, no one saw him, His films were seen by approximately twenty people in Timişoara. And that was in the 1980s.”
It is interesting to note the episode concerning the portrait of Ceauşescu that was ordered from Ion Grigorescu in 1980, on the occasion of the dictator’s birthday. Instead of painting something conventional by pastiching official photographs, as was the usual practice, he painted a triple portrait, with three different views of Ceauşescu during his so-called “working visits” to various construction sites. When the painting was refused as being out of conformity with the official canons, Ion Grigorescu remade it, keeping only one of the three images but making the hands with which Ceauşescu was indicating what was to be done on the site exaggeratedly small in relation to his height. Obviously this second version was not accepted either. Basically, the artist’s great achievement was to suggest, albeit through paintings that did not include any taboo elements as such, a critical reflection on the Ceauşescu regime.
After 1989, Ion Grigorescu became one of the most famous Romanian artists not only nationally but also internationally. His artistic creation is multi-faceted, but he is best known as a performance artist, a maker of film and video art, a photographer, and less as a painter, although his portfolio also includes paintings (including church paintings and icons). He is also the author of a number of essayistic and theoretical texts published in specialised journals. He has had over forty solo exhibitions and taken part in over 300 group exhibitions, and his works are to be found in the most famous art galleries in the world, including MOMA in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris.
- Bucharest, Romania
Jiří Gruntorád is a Czech librarian, founder and director of the Libri Prohibiti Library. After elementary school he apprenticed as a forester and afterwards, he worked in different professions such as forest worker, tram conductor, bricklayer, stoker or storeman. In 1968 he liked to listen to foreign radio stations and his favourite music was representatives of alternative culture or the underground, such as the band “The Plastic People of the Universe” or songwriters like Karel Kryl or Vlastimil Třešňák. He was in touch with the underground scene from the late 1960s. It was books that became Gruntorád’s destiny, though. He entered the samizdat scene in the second half of the 1970s when he worked as a bricklayer in the District Administration of Housing Estates. In 1978 he was asked to fix a wall in dissident Václav Benda’s flat, who he later befriended and who familiarised Gruntorád with the samizdat. Gruntorád recalled the first moment he encountered the samizdat with the following words: “When I saw it for the first time, it was like a revelation for me. Besides the fact that it is a medium with an impact comparable to the Internet of today, it facilitated also a kind of spiritual connection. It enabled me to get to know many people that I could not meet in person and that I only met many years later. This spiritual connection was the most important quality for me. Next to it was, of course, the artistic quality that was, in the case of some works, really high. They brought energy and motivation.” It was this motivation that inspired Gruntorád later to publish samizdat texts banned in Czechoslovakia, be it poetry, prose, expert texts or various pamphlets. In 1978 Gruntorád published a typed copy of Jaroslav Seifert’s poetry book “Morový sloup” (The Plague Monument) as the first publication in the newly created samizdat edition “Popelnice” (The Dust Bin). In the following year, he signed Charter 77 and was sentenced for illegal arming (despite it never having happened) and he spent three months in prison. After his release, he continued publishing samizdat literature with the help of his friends and professional typists. He managed to publish thirty books until he was taken into custody in December 1980 again and later sentenced to four years of imprisonment for distributing samizdat texts and non-official music recordings (officially for the so-called “subversion of the republic”). Thanks to Gruntorád’s friends, there were new books published in the Popelnice edition. From 1981 to 1983, Gruntorád was held in one of the most cruel Czechoslovak prisons in Minkovice, North Bohemia. Part of his sentence was also served in a prison in Valdice in the Jičín District where he met poet and artistic leader of the underground band, The Plastic People of the Universe, Ivan Martin Jirous, nicknamed Magor (The Lunatic) and whose best-known poetry book “Magorovy labutí písně” Gruntorád smuggled out of the prison. In December 1984, he became involved again in publishing of samizdat books despite being under so-called security surveillance; he had to report himself to the police every day and he was assigned where he could live. In total, almost 130 books were published in the Popelnice edition, mostly typewritten A5 format. These were texts that were difficult to find in other samizdat editions or texts that were originally published by exiled publishers, though there were also new books. Gruntorád’s collection of samizdat literature made up the basis of the Libri Prohibiti Library that Gruntorád founded in 1990 and has been the director of ever since.
From 1990 to 1995 Jiří Gruntorád was the secretary of the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted (VONS) and in 1994 he became a regular member. Gruntorád was presented with many decorations for his activities; among other things, he was awarded the Medal of Merit of 1st grade in 2002 by Václav Havel and in the same year Magnesia Litera for his merits for Czech literature. From 2007 to 2010 he was a member of the scientific council at the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Jiří Gruša was born in Pardubice on the 10th of November, 1938. He studied history and philosophy at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, where he graduated in 1962. From 1964 to 1970 he worked as an editor in several periodicals: Nové knihy, Výběr z nejzajímavějších knih, Zítřek, as well as in the magazines Tvář and Sešity pro mladou literaturu, which he also founded. The end of his editorial work was related to his prosecution in 1969-1970 because of his book Mimner. Although he was liberated, he worked in professions unrelated to literature in the following years. Gruša gained experience in many roles, such as an administrator, a librarian, and a construction consultant. But Gruša has been writing continuously and in 1972 he founded the samizdat´s Publishing house Petlice with Ludvík Vaculík, and since 1980 resumed his familiar profession as a writer.
Due to the impossibility of official publishing, he published his texts in samizdats and exile publishing houses. In 1981 he travelled to the USA after receiving a literary scholarship, but during his stay abroad he was deprived of Czechoslovak citizenship. Gruša returned to Europe and was forced to exile in Germany. After 1989, he worked in diplomatic services, then in 1991 as Ambassador in Germany, in 1997 as Minister of Education, in 1998-2004 as Ambassador in Austria, and another five years as Director of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. At the same time he was President of the International PEN Club.
Gruša started his artistic work as a poet, but from the mid-1960s he focused on prose. Gruša's poetic style is very intellectual, writing a number of hidden references, characterised by his criticism of the regime. Important works include Orwellian dystopia: Mimner aneb Hra o smraďocha, Dotazník aneb Modlitba za jedno město. Since the 1990s, Gruša has turned to essays: Česko, návod k použití, Šťastný bezdomovec, Beneš jako Rakušan. Gruša has won a number of awards because of his literary work, including the Jiří Kolář Prize in 1976, two years later the Egon Hostovský Prize, and in 2002 the Magnesia Litera and the Jaroslav Seifert Prize. Jiří Gruša died on October 28, 2011 in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany.
- Bad Oeynhausen, Germany
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Saulius Grybkauskas is a senior research fellow at the Lithuanian Institute of History. He defended his PhD ‘Industrial Management in Soviet Lithuania. Tensions and Conflicts, 1965-1985’ in 2007. Grybkauskas is the author of two books and a number of research articles. His main research interests include the Soviet nomenklatura, KGB activity, Soviet economic policy, and the Soviet regime's control of society.
- 01109 Vilnius Kražių gatvė 5 , Lithuania