Mariia Rozanova at the Siniavskii-Daniėl’ trial. [Detail] Source: International Memorial archive.

In the twilight of the brief Khrushchevian thaw in the USSR, the politically motivated media trail of two dissident writers came to represent the changing and contradictory attitude of the Soviet regime.  Between 1965 and 1966 Andrei Siniavskii and Iulii Daniėl’  who beyond the curtain were known under the pseudonyms of Abram Tertz and Nikolai Arzhak were accused, tried and convicted of anti Soviet activities. A direct participant and witness of the trial was Mariia Rozanova, Siniavskii’s wife, who together with Daniėl’s wife, Larisa Bogoraz, devoted herself to recording a stenographic account of the entire court case, which was later included in The White Book on the Siniavskii-Daniėl’ Case written by Aleksandr Ginzburg (1967).
Rozanova recalls how the Siniavskii-Daniėl’ trial deeply divided the Soviet intelligentsiia: on the one hand detractors of the two writers considered them traitors to the motherland while on the other hand their supporters and many Western intellectuals, considered the whole judicial procedure to be nothing more than a political manoeuvre  (cf. Passeri 2018-2019: 16).  Years later, Maria Rozanova recalled that after the trial many of their acquaintances switched to the side of the prosecution: “…through the absurdity of this trial [there] suddenly erupted a near Shakespearian passion – a hatred towards us on the part of some of Daniėl’ friends” (Rozanova 1998: 1). On 5th December 1965, there was a protest in Pushkin Square in Moscow in favour of the two detained writers organised by Aleksandr S. Esenin-Vol’pin, which was compared to the Decabrist uprising of 1825 (cf. Shubin 2008).
Aware that Abram Tertz’s true identity would soon be discovered by the KGB, Rozanova first tried to throw the services off the scent, and immediately after her husband’s arrest, she did everything in her power to defend him and prevent his deportation. After his conviction, she tried to obtain a reduced sentence, managing to have Siniavskii released after five years instead of the seven stipulated in the sentence (cf. Carbone 2007: 234).
During the years of Siniavskii’s imprisonment, Rozanova faced immense pressure and  intimidation from the KGB to induce her to sign a confession admitting her husband’s guilt. Thus, she began to study the Soviet Criminal Code, drawing up two formal documents, a letter addressed to Brezhnev, the USSR General Prosecutor and the Chairman of the KGB, as well as to the editors of the newspapers “Pravda”, “Izvestiia” and “Literaturnaia gazeta”, and a statement to the President of the Supreme Court of the USSR. 
In the letter, dated 24th December 1965, Rozanova questioned the legality of Siniavskii’s arrest and investigation. She argued that under no circumstances could her husband’s works be seen as anti-Soviet, and enclosed, in support of her thesis, an account by Siniavskii on the phenomenon of cohabitation. She emphasized that arresting an intellectual for what he writes, goes against the  Soviet Constitution in that it represents a clear limitation of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Moreover, Siniavskii was not the first writer to publish abroad: other authors had done so without consequences. She denounced the pressures to which she was continually subjected by the police, such as the seizure of books and other property from her flat, and the method by which investigations had been conducted that did not comply with the standards guaranteed by the law. Not least, she raised the question of the possible violence Siniavskii might suffer in prison (cf. Ginzburg 1967: 64-77). In the second official document, the statement dated 9th February 1966, Rozanova once again denounced the KGB’s intimidating methods towards her, her acquaintances and her friends, pointing out that she had already raised the problem in her request addressed to the Central Committee of the USCP, the KGB and the USSR Prosecutor’s Office, without receiving any response. She asked that the document she had written be attached to the Siniavskii case and that she be protected from unlawful action (cf. Ginzurg 1967: 83).

Cheti Traini
[31st December 2022]


  • Carbone A., «Non c’è niente di più spaventoso degli schiavi che diventano padroni». Dialogo con Marija Rozanova Sinjavskaja, “eSamizdat”, V.1-2 (2007): 233-238.
  • Ginzburg A. Belaia kniga po delu A. Siniavskogo i Iu. Daniėlia, Posev, 1967: 64-77; 83, , online (last accessed: 31/12/2022).
  • Rozanova M., Abram da Mar’ia, “Sintaksis”, 34 (1994a): 125-151.
  • Rozanova M., Teatr absurda, ili profil’fas, in “Khranit’ vechno. Andrei Siniavskii”, special supplemen to “Nezavisimaia Gazeta”, 1 (1998).
  • Shubin A., Dissidenty, neformaly i svoboda v SSSR, Beche, Moskva 2008,, online (last accessed: 31/12/2022).

To cite this article:
Cheti Traini, Mariia Rozanova at the Siniavskii-Daniėl’ trial, in Voci libere in URSS. Letteratura, pensiero, arti indipendenti in Unione Sovietica e gli echi in Occidente (1953-1991), a cura di C. Pieralli, M. Sabbatini, Firenze University Press, Firenze 2021-, <>.
eISBN 978-88-5518-463-2
© 2021 Author(s)
Content license: CC BY 4.0