An unmythical Altshuller
(PART 2.)

Leonid Filkovsky,
Baltimore, USA.
e-mail: leonidf@att.net

Copyright © 2003 by L. Filkovsky

Some time soon after the WWII the Soviet Government agreed to give the German patent library to the US in exchange for various industrial equipment. G. Altshuller sharply criticized that agreement. He claimed that all this equipment will be trashed in 20 years while the German patents will then just become valuable. He didn't like a cheap talk and send a critical letter to Stalin, and 19 copies to such institutions as the Communist Party Central Committee, Communist Youth Union Central Committee, central newspapers, etc. Instead of getting answers to the letters, Altshuller was arrested and accused of anti-soviet propaganda. KGB frightened some people from Altshuller's circles and they started to "recall" his anti-soviet statements.

However, Altshuller succeeded to refute these accusations, using the works of the founders of Marxism-Leninism. For example, the investigators accused Altshuller in declaring that Marx was greater than Engels. Altshuller showed that Engels himself had declared so on Marx's funeral... Since all the interrogations of Altshuller occurred in evenings, the investigators jokingly called them, "the evening school of Marxism-Leninism". They still joked then... KGB realized that they dealt with a strong intellectual personality and needed to be prepared better. Altshuller had been released.

Soon after that KGB called in R. Shapiro. Using "sticks and carrots" they tried to make him to become an informer, but he firmly refused. Then, they called in Aba. He was told that without becoming an informer against Altshuller and Shapiro he would never become a doctor, would never be left alone, etc. Under an intense psychological pressure, after few meetings, Aba consented. Since then, he promptly recorded all meetings and conversations with Genrich and Rafik, jokes he heard from them, etc. and, with comments, passed those to KGB.

It lasted two years. When KGB accumulated a few heavy volumes of these records, in 1950, G. Altshuller and R. Shapiro were arrested.

The first article of accusation was, selling government secrets abroad. Earlier, Altshuller and Shapiro invented a method to use airplane tires for storing of breathing oxygen for pilots. This invention was sealed as a government secret. The inventors were very proud and expected a sizeable reward. After receiving nothing, they sent an inquiry about the status of their invention. In this inquiry they referred to an article from the law, according to which authors of invention might get a permission to sell their invention abroad. Based on this inquiry and comments by Aba, investigators claimed that Altshuller and Shapiro had already made contacts with foreign intelligence and sold the secret.

The second article accused them in trying to secretly cross the international border under the waters of Caspian Sea. They had an invention for regenerating oxygen from sea water. Plus, they were awarded a first prize in a contest for design of protective suit for mine firefighters (money for this prize arrived later, to there jail accounts). Investigators seemingly had some inventive skills, too. They put together the protective suit and oxygen from sea water and got a suit for crossing border under sea. The fact that the amount of oxygen by this method was enough for no more than 15 minutes, was not significant.

The third article was, an anti-soviet propaganda. It was based on all the conversations recorded by Aba, which showed that they are extremely dangerous anti-communists.

The fourth article accused them in creating an anti-soviet organization. The organization consisted of three members, including the informant.

The fifth article was, keeping an unlawful weapon. To this one, Altshuller agreed. During his short assignment in flight school he met a friend, who was sent there from the active service. Genrich received a gift from this friend, a revolver he got as a trophy. The friend was killed in a flight accident. After the war, there was a government order to return all personal weapons. Altshuller didn't obey and kept the revolver as a memory of the friend.

KGB used everyone who ever attended Altshuller's meetings, as prosecution witnesses, after they all were appropriately "educated". KGB called in the parents, whose apartments were used for the meetings. Even Altshuller's sister was forced to be a witness for the prosecution.

After Aba, the next most important witness according to the KGB plan supposed to be the most beautiful girl, former Altshuller's date (let's call her Lu). She was sent from Baku to the town where the investigation took place. In the train Lu sat next to a very sympathetic middle-aged woman. This woman saw the girl's parents in the train station crying, and being a mother herself could not stay indifferent in face of such a tragedy, wanted to help, if not with deeds then at least with kind words... Lu shared with the woman her feelings and problems. They talked all the way to that town. The woman comforted Lu, advised her about how to present herself, what to say and what not to... A few years later Lu saw this woman again, entering the KGB office in Baku, in uniform.

The investigation used various pressure methods, mental and physical, widely known today from the post-Soviet GULAG literature. Despite this and despite the fact they never saw each other during this time, both Altshuller and Shapiro refused to plead guilty (a guilty plea was the ultimate goal of KGB investigation). They were transferred to Moscow, interrogations continued in infamous KGB prisons: Lubianka, Butirka, Lefortovo. First interrogators gone, new ones appeared. One of them was colonel Chernov, later described in the book, "Adventures of an American in Russia" (Morris ?). Chernov was very pushing and offending, bragging that after his interrogations all sign guilty plea. He received the highest award for some big cases, showed volumes of files against a famous writer I. Erenburg - ready to go forward "any moment Stalin would order" - so such an insignificant case as Altshuller's wouldn't be an obstacle...

Investigators slept during the day, while guards made sure the prisoners didn't sleep, and maintained interrogations at night. Between interrogations, airplane engines were turned on near cells...

Other investigator explained that Altshuller's opinions were not in accord with the party plans and that such a person simply could not go free. He would stay in KGB as long as it'd take for him to sign the accusations. Like that Japanese prince in the next cell, who was there quite a few years already. When he'd sign, he'd be send to a camp. There are people in camp, work, life... This investigator sometimes called Altshuller in to listen together to radio reports of football games, to talk on some unrelated topics, even to eat something his wife cooked.

Altshuller was firm, but he also was sure that in a short time Stalin would die and everything would change then. He finally decided to wait for Stalin's end in a camp, and agreed to close the "case". The investigator promised a verdict of no more than 15 years and agreed for Altshuller to write the accusations in his own words, under supervision, which Altshuller did, taking in account the future, i.e. post-Stalin changes. Thus, after a few horrible months in KGB cell, Altshuller "admitted" to his crimes.

Genrich was transferred to a larger cell, for two. The other one was a similar "criminal" and they both were happy to talk normally after months of silence and talking to investigators.

A few days later he was brought into a room with a desk and a major sitting by it. The major asked for his name, looked through some files, found a paper and gave it to Altshuller to read. It was a decision by "Special committee", which said that Altshuller got 25 years. The major called for next, and Altshuller was taken into other room. That was the end of the judicial process - no court, no arguments, no promised 15 years...

A guard brought in Genrich's belongings, among which Genrich found a jar of preserve, a gift from the cell mate of a few days. This touched him to tears.