Days and Lives :: Arrest

Prisoner: Nina Gagen-Torn

“A door key clicks. Last name is called. The person named gets up, alarmed. “Put your clothes on! Come in for interrogation!” The cell turns intensely quiet. “Why is it always at night?” I wondered. “Don’t they have time during the day?” It didn’t cross my mind that this was done on purpose, because night interrogations terrorized us. It is odd to remember now, but for some reason I was not terrified: at that time my faith in Soviet authority was not yet completely broken.”


In the following excerpt from Stolen Years, several prisoners recall the farcical justice of a Soviet trial.

Movie Transcription

Paulina Myasnikova – This is how the trial went. They asked us our name, last name, patronymic, date of birth and whether or not we admitted our guilt. And then they left the room. Five minutes later they reappeared back in the room with the sentence all typed up, and you would get a 10-year prison sentence. Nikolai Getman – The trial lasted no more than 5 or 7 minutes. There was no need to prove any of the evidence. Everything had been determined in advance. Simeon Vilensky – My sentence was announced to me at the Butyrki prison. It was in a little cigarette paper-size document—tiny piece of paper. I was supposed to sign it, and confirm that I had heard the sentence, and received the document. I refused to sign it, but that didn’t make any difference. That’s all there was to the trial.