Anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda
(ASA) was a criminal offence in the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....
. The term was interchangeably used with counterrevolutionary agitation.
The latter one was in use after the Russian Revolution
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...
and was gradually phased out by the end of 1930s in favor of the former one.
According to article article 58.10
Article 58 of the Russian SFSR Penal Code was put in force on 25 February 1927 to arrest those suspected of counter-revolutionary activities. It was revised several times...
of RSFSR Penal Code that acted during the period of Stalinism
Stalinism refers to the ideology that Joseph Stalin conceived and implemented in the Soviet Union, and is generally considered a branch of Marxist–Leninist ideology but considered by some historians to be a significant deviation from this philosophy...
, "propaganda and agitation that called to overturn or undermining of the Soviet power" was punishable with at least 6 months of imprisonment and up to the death sentence
Death Sentence is a short story by the American science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the November 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and reprinted in the 1972 collection The Early Asimov.-Plot summary:...
in the periods of war or unrest.
Since 1958 the RSFSR Penal Code was significantly revised. Its language was changed to make it closer to Western legal norms. Article 58.10 was implemented by a separate Article 70, Anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda
It was defined as:
- propaganda or agitation with the purpose of undermining or weakening of the Soviet power or with the purpose of committing or incitement to commit particularly grave crimes against the Soviet state (as defined in the law);
- the spreading with the same purposes of slanderous fabrications that target the Soviet political and social system;
- production, dissemination or storage, for the same purposes, of literature with anti-Soviet content
The penalty was from six months to 7 years of imprisonment, with possible subsequent internal exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...
from 2 to 5 years.
The article 70 was considered by the critics of the Soviet System as the grave violation of the freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...
. It was among the main legal instruments for the prosecution of the Soviet dissidents
Soviet dissidents were citizens of the Soviet Union who disagreed with the policies and actions of their government and actively protested against these actions through either violent or non-violent means...
, some other being the punitive psychiatry and the offence of the social parasitism
Social parasitism is a charge that is leveled against a group or class in society which is considered to be detrimental to the whole by analogy with biologic parasitism .-General concept:...
. In particular, the clause about literature targeted the samizdat
Samizdat was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader...
While the clauses was phrased using the provision "with the purpose of", official commentaries (referred to as "Additions and Explanations to..."), as well as the actual legal practice made it sufficient to assert that the prosecuted person of sane mind must have realized the malicious implications of their utterances.
This article was the most common tool in fighting Soviet dissidents. Shortly after the Sinyavsky-Daniel trial
The Sinyavsky-Daniel trial was a trial against Russian writers Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel, which took place in the Supreme Court of the RSFSR in Moscow between September 1965 and February 1966...
, the Soviet Penal Code was augmented with a weaker Article 190-1, Dissemination of knowingly false fabrications that defame the Soviet state and social system
(1967). It basically repeated the Article 70, with the omitted provision of the "anti-Soviet purpose". The penalty was lower: up to 3 years of imprisonment.
Petro Grigorenko in his memoirs wrote that any critique of the Soviet government or events in the Soviet Union was easily classified as ASA. Dissemination of any information which was not officially recognized was classified as "Anti-Soviet slander
". In this way nearly all members of Helsinki Watch
Helsinki Watch was a private American NGO devoted to monitoring Helsinki implementation throughout the Soviet bloc. It was created in 1978 to monitor compliance to the Helsinki Final Act...