On August 12, 1981, Arseny Borisovich Roginsky was arrested in Leningrad on charges he had violated Article 196 of the Soviet Criminal Code--"forgery and the production and sale of forged documents." 1 But the documents to which this referred were not subversive in any conventional sense. Rather, they were letters needed to obtain permission to use the Leningrad archives for research. As a young historian Roginsky was trying to collect information about his father, who had been incriminated as an "enemy of the people," sentenced to a labor camp, and subsequently executed. Roginsky's previous efforts to research his father's history had aroused the suspicion of the Leningrad KGB, which blocked his acceptance to Leningrad University. Nevertheless, Roginsky successfully graduated from Tartu University.
While Roginsky was pursuing his studies, his research into the history of early 19th century Russia was recognized as promising by his university supervisors as well as the foreign scholars with whom he met. It was suggested that he work in the Leningrad archive after graduation, but he had two impediments. As a Jew and as the son of a former political prisoner, he was barred from work in any Soviet research institutions. 2 Roginsky's impassioned final speech at his trial did not focus on the concrete details of his case. The particulars had already been prejudged. He had been regularly harassed since 1977 with apartment searches. During a 1979 search the KGB had confiscated some books and Roginsky subsequently lost his job as a teacher. In 1981 he was presented the choice of emigration or arrest--a familiar ultimatum. Roginsky did not dwell on