The first explosions in the Soviet capital
On January 8, 1977, terrorist attacks occurred in the Soviet capital for the first time since pre-revolutionary times. With an interval of thirty minutes, in the very center of Moscow, three explosions rang out one after another, killing seven people. About 40 were injured. For the first time in Moscow, a terrorist attack was launched against the civilian population.
On alarm, all police and KGB officers were raised. However, an unprecedented search yielded no results. For almost a year, the criminals managed to stay free until they were detained after the next failed attack.
ExplosionsOn January 8, 1977, at 1733 hours, there was an explosion in a subway train. At that moment, the train was on the stretch between the Izmaylovskaya and Pervomayskaya stations in the open area, due to which the number of casualties was less than it could be. The bomb, which was in the Utyatnitsa, was left in the train in a bag. The explosion killed seven people.
After 32 minutes, there was a second explosion.This time the explosive device worked in the building of a grocery store at the current Big Lubyanka. By happy coincidence, there were no dead in the explosion.
Five minutes later there was a third explosion. This time, an infernal car exploded, hidden in a garbage bin at the entrance to a grocery store on today's Nikolskaya Street, which at that time was called October 25th Street. Nobody died in this explosion either, the massive cast-iron urn withstood the explosion - and the wave went up.
The victims of the three explosions were 7 people. Another 37 people were injured of varying degrees of severity. As a result of an unprecedented terrorist attack, the entire staff of the police and the KGB was alerted and thrown in search of criminals. General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev returned to the city urgently, having a rest on the hunt. He took the case under personal control and demanded that the head of the KGB, Andropov, and the Minister of the Interior, Schelokov, find the criminals as soon as possible.
Investigators interviewed several hundred potential witnesses - people who could see the criminals during the laying of hellish cars.However, the testimony did not give anything: the witnesses either did not see anything, or gave conflicting information. Some talked about two curly brunettes, others saw three, others talked about two men and a woman, the fourth - about a lonely man who, just before the explosion, was in a hurry to leave the store.
It was clear only that all three explosions were the work of the same criminals. Hot on the heels of no one managed to hold up. The criminals were gone, and the investigators could only carefully examine the evidence in the hope of narrowing the circle of searches.
In the body of one of the victims of the explosion, a fragment of an utterance was found, which served as a shell for an explosive device. Later, several more fragments were found at the site of the explosion. Utyatnitsa was identified by them. It turned out that she belongs to the party, produced in Kharkov. Because of this, for some time the investigators believed that Ukrainian radical nationalists could have been involved in the bombings. However, elements of an alarm clock produced at the Yerevan Watch Factory were found at the site of one of the explosions.
Also, according to the results of the examination, it was found out that the welding electrode with which the bombs were made had a special coating.Such electrodes in the Soviet Union were used exclusively at the enterprises of the military-industrial complex. This made it possible to narrow the circle of suspects a little, since it meant that at least one of the terrorists was working at one of the defense factories.
Nevertheless, this evidence was too little. It was possible to purchase these things in at least several cities of the USSR, and there were so many defense plants that it was no easier to look for so little evidence of the suspects than to find a needle in a haystack.
However, soon sensational information came from Tambov. The local militia cheerfully reported that the elusive terrorist, in search of which all the security forces of the Soviet Union had been knocked down, was with them. They managed to detain a local resident who, out of revenge, was trying to blow up the hut of a forester in conflict with him with an improvised explosive device. And during interrogations, he allegedly already gave confessions about involvement in the Moscow bombings.
But the investigative group that came urgently from Moscow quickly realized that the man had incriminated himself, having fallen into the harsh hands of local policemen. So ridiculous were his testimony, in all contradictory to the real details of the crime, about which he had no idea.
Several months of work by the best investigators in the country proved to be unsuccessful. The investigators did not have any suspects, all that they could report to Brezhnev, who kept the case under personal control, is that traces of criminals lead to several cities of the Soviet Union. No one took responsibility for the explosions, did not make any statements. The attack was inexplicable.
At first, the Soviet media did not report anything at all about a series of terrorist attacks in the capital. But it was impossible to conceal such information: too many witnesses — the next day, in all the queues and in the transport of the capital, they whispered about yesterday's explosions, passing on to each other the most incredible rumors about what happened.
Only on January 10, two days after the explosion, TASS gave very moderate and restrained information about the terrorist attacks in Moscow. The news agency reported that on January 8, an explosion of small capacity occurred in the car of the Moscow Metro. Help was provided to all victims. On the other two explosions, as well as the number of dead and injured, nothing was reported.
On the same day, a Soviet-British journalist, Victor Louis, published information about the attacks in one of the Western publications, suggesting that it was organized by radical dissidents.This fact caused a sharp aversion in the circles of Soviet dissidents. The fact is that Louis was closely associated with the KGB. Even in Stalin's time, he went through camps, after his release he married an Englishwoman and led a very non-Soviet way of life: he kept salons and circles for bohemians, wrote complimentary notes about the USSR to Western publications. He was not without reason suspected of working for the Soviet special services, especially given the fact that Louis was allowed by what was forbidden to other citizens: operations with antiques and jewels, meetings with foreigners, etc. In Moscow, Louis lived in one of Stalin's skyscrapers and, in his own words, had “more cars than Brezhnev” foreign cars.
Louis's version of the involvement of dissidents was perceived by the latter as a version of the KGB. Two days later, Academician Sakharov conveyed to the West an open appeal to the world community, in which he stated that he considered Louis’s statement to be a provocation by the KGB, and called on the public and Western politicians to put pressure on the Soviet leadership, demanding maximum public inquiry into the attack.
Part of the dissident circles decided that the explosion was originally the work of the KGB in order to crack down on all dissenters.Others thought that it was the work of some crazy people or radicals, but the KGB will now take advantage of this occasion to toughen repressions against dissidents.
However, the fears were unfounded. No universal persecution of dissidents began, and the authorities no longer raised the topic of explosions in the press, because the investigation could not boast anything.
Ten months have passed since the series of explosions. It seemed that the criminals would never be found, that they had gone to the bottom and would no longer prove themselves.
Suddenly, the criminals made themselves known again after almost a year. At the end of October 1977, in the waiting room of the Kursk railway station, one of the vigilant passengers discovered an abandoned travel bag. On top lay a blue sports jacket from a suit and a hat. But under them was hidden some fancy device with protruding wires. A vigilant citizen immediately reported the finding to the police. The investigation again had a chance to catch the criminals in hot pursuit, since they could not go far.
Immediately began the search for terrorist activities. At the stations, all suspicious persons were checked by policemen, cars were inspected on the outskirts of the city.It was quickly found out that the bag in which the bomb was left was made in Yerevan and did not go on sale in other cities. All trains traveling from Moscow to the Caucasus were checked by the police.
Signs of the suspect were very vague. Brunette (in the Caucasus, almost everybody came up with these signs), a man may not have outerwear. And once again helped the case. Already at the entrance to Armenia, a suspicious man was found in one of the trains on the route Moscow - Yerevan. He wore sweatpants from the same suit as the jacket left at the station. The man had no outer clothing and found it difficult to intelligibly explain where his jacket had disappeared and what he was doing in Moscow.
A man named Hakob Stepanyan was detained. Together with him, he was arrested and his fellow traveler, artist Zaven Baghdasaryan. During a search of Stepanyan in the apartment, a map of the Moscow metro was discovered. Not the most powerful piece of evidence, but several batteries, toggle switches, coils of wires, and several welded bodies were also found. The investigative group that arrived in Yerevan brought with them a travel bag in which the bomb was left.Stepanyan's mother confirmed that her son had the same.
Bagdasaryan did not find anything compromising. But the investigation quickly found out that a close friend of both detainees was the well-known KGB Stepan Zatikyan, who had already served time for clandestine political activities.
Zatikyan was one of the founders and leaders of the underground National United Party of Armenia, created in the mid-60s. The political goal of the movement was to separate Armenia from the USSR and create an independent Armenian state.
Soon the leaders of the underground party were arrested and convicted for anti-Soviet agitation. Zatikyan received four years in prison. At that time, the party was headed by his relative, the well-known Armenian dissident Hayrikyan (Zatikyan was married to his sister). After being released, Zatikyan withdrew from party activities, and Hayrikyan reoriented the party to more moderate methods of struggle. They intended to achieve a referendum on independence.
However, Zatikyan decided instead to leave the territory of the USSR. He wrote letters to the Supreme Soviet with a notice of renunciation of Soviet citizenship, persistently tried to get permission to leave the country, but was refused every time.
Zatikyan immediately interested the investigators - he was searched. Several soldering irons, toggle switches, coils of wires, metal studs (one of these studs was found at the site of the explosion) and nuts, batteries, several electric blasting circuit schemes and a Moscow metro circuit were discovered. In addition, Zatikyan worked as an assembly fitter at the Armenian Electrotechnical Plant in Yerevan, which also worked for the military industrial complex.
According to investigators, the events developed as follows: after his release and numerous refusals at the exit, Zatikyan allegedly flew off the coils and decided to take revenge on everyone, two acquaintances fell under his influence, whom he persuaded to start revenging the Soviet imperialists for oppressing Armenia. Zatikyan led the group and soldered bombs, while Stepanyan and Baghdasaryan were the performers. Perhaps there was someone else in the terrorist group, but it was not possible to establish his identity. Three appeared before the court.
Much attention was riveted on the court, but not of the Soviet press, which, on the contrary, tried not to remember it again (after the trial they only reported that the organizer of the explosions in Moscow and two accomplices were convicted and sentenced to death), and dissidents.First, in January 1977, through the mouth of Victor Louis, the KGB presented a version about the involvement of dissidents in the terrorist act. Secondly, in response to this statement, Sakharov almost openly accused the KGB itself of organizing the terrorist act. Third, Zatikyan was a relative of the well-known Hayrikyan in dissident circles. The combination of all these factors and caused an increased interest in the case.
One of the main arguments of dissidents against the case was the fact that the court was held behind closed doors (which is not quite so, on the order of Brezhnev, the process was even filmed). According to the dissidents, the absence of a public court was an argument in favor of the falsified case. Did not add clarity and behavior of the defendants in the process. There was no serious evidence against Bagdasaryan, but he admitted guilt. Stepanyan also admitted guilt, but denied Zatikyan’s participation. And Zatikyan not only denied his participation, but also declared non-recognition of the Soviet court. Meanwhile, according to the investigation, it was he who was the main organizer and inspirer of the terrorist acts.
As a result, a real commotion and even a small split arose in the dissident environment. Some believed in the official version, believing that some individual radicals could really fly off the coils and begin to avenge everything in a row through non-motivated terror.Others categorically denied this possibility and piously believed that the attack was an insidious provocation of the KGB in order to have a reason to crack down on the dissident movement. Still others believed that the investigators had managed to detain the real terrorist, but he was Stepanyan, while the rest fell into the dock rather “for company”.
The court, held in January 1979, found all three guilty and sentenced to death. Despite all the doubts of the dissidents, the attacks stopped. No new rounds of persecution of dissidents also happened, which simply makes senseless the version about the provocation of the KGB to crack down on the dissident movement. Moreover, the many-month unsuccessful searches for terrorists clearly do not fit into the version of the provocation. Now, more than forty years later, the official investigation only doubts the most irreconcilable and radical conspiracy theorists.