Pavel Mikhailovich Litvinov
Павел Михайлович Литвинов
Pavel Litvinov and Irena Grudzińska-Gross, reading for Natalya Gorbanevskaya, 2014
Born (1940-07-06) July 6, 1940 (age 82)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Alma materMoscow State University
Known forHuman rights activism and participation in the 1968 Red Square demonstration and dissident movement in the Soviet Union
ChildrenSergey, Joseph, Dimitri, and Lara Julia M. Santiago, spouse of Pavel Litvinov
Scientific career
InstitutionsMoscow State University of Fine Chemical Technologies, Hackley School

Pavel Mikhailovich Litvinov (Russian: Па́вел Миха́йлович Литви́нов; born 6 July 1940) is a Russian-born U.S. physicist, writer, teacher, human rights activist and former Soviet-era dissident.


The grandson of Ivy Low and Maxim Litvinov, Joseph Stalin's foreign minister during the 1930s, Pavel Litvinov was raised amongst the Soviet elite. As a schoolboy, he was devoted to the cult of Stalin, and was tapped, unsuccessfully, by the KGB to report on his parents Flora and Misha Litvinov (a story that is related by the journalist David Remnick in his book Lenin's Tomb).

After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 and the return of family friends from the labor camps, Pavel grew disillusioned with the Soviet system. He had a short-lived marriage when he was 17. While in his 20s, he became a physics teacher at the Institute for Chemical Technology. During his time at the Institute, Litvinov became acquainted with a group of intellectuals who were following the show-trials of the dissidents Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel. His immersion in samizdat literature at this time brought him into contact with the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Varlam Shalamov and Robert Conquest.

When writers Alexander Ginzburg and Yuri Galanskov were tried for publishing samizdat in 1967, Pavel Litvinov and Larisa Bogoraz released their famous "Appeal to World Public Opinion", appealing to the international public to protest against the closed trial. The replies he received from Soviet citizens were smuggled abroad and published in book form in 1969.[1] Most were sympathetic, though the collection also included hate mail that attacked Litvinov for being a Jew and for his supposed lack of patriotism. Litvinov's exchange of correspondence with Stephen Spender inspired the formation of the Writers and Scholars Educational Trust and its journal Index on Censorship.[2]

Over the following years, Litvinov became active in the dissident civil rights movement and was an editor of its regular samizdat bulletin Chronicle of Current Events. The periodical, founded in 1968, documented searches, arrests, and court proceedings in Russia and other Soviet states. During 1967, he compiled a book on the trial of Vladimir Bukovsky and three others. Summoned to the headquarters of the KGB in October 1967, he was threatened with arrest if the book was published, but he ignored the threat and arranged for it to be published abroad as The Demonstration in Pushkin Square. He compiled a similar book about the Trial of the Four.

The historical banner of the Red Square demonstrators, For your freedom and ours.
The historical banner of the Red Square demonstrators, For your freedom and ours.

On 25 August 1968, Litvinov was one of the participants in the 1968 Red Square demonstration against the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, that had taken place four days earlier. Among the others were Larisa Bogoraz, a philologist, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, a poet, Vadim Delaunay, poet, Viktor Fainberg, an art critic, and Vladimir Dremlyuga, history student. They raised banners in Czech and Russian expressing support of the Czechoslovak independence and solidarity with Alexander Dubček, the Czechoslovak leader who was the architect of the Prague Spring.

The KGB promptly arrested the protesters, brutally beat them, and their secret trial was held that October. Litvinov was sentenced to five years' exile in Chita, Zabaykalsky Krai, Siberia.

In 1974, after his return from exile, he and his wife Maya left the Soviet Union to Vienna by train and from there to Rome until they moved to United States. In New York, he joined fellow émigré dissident Valery Chalidze in publishing A Chronicle of Human Rights in the USSR, which documented political repression.[3]: 79 

Litvinov currently lives in the United States, where he taught physics and mathematics at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York from 1976 until his retirement in 2006.[4]


Pavel Litvinov is a son-in-law of the dissident and literary scholar Lev Kopelev.[5] His son Dima Litvinov is an environmental activist with Greenpeace. In 2013, he was arrested as part of the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise ship case.[5]

Pavel Litvinov is a member of the board of the Andrey Sakharov Foundation.[5]

In 2005 Pavel Litvinov participated in "They Chose Freedom", a four-part television documentary on the history of the Soviet dissident movement

See also


  1. ^ Reve, Karel Van Het, ed. (1969). Letters and telegrams to Pavel M. Litvinov, December 1967-May 1968. Dordrecht, Holland: D.Reidel.
  2. ^ Index on Censorship. 4 (1). Spring 1975. ((cite journal)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Horvath, Robert (2005). The Legacy of Soviet Dissent: Dissidents, Democratisation and Radical Nationalism in Russia. BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies. Vol. 17. London; New York: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 9780203412855.
  4. ^ Hackley School e-Connect newsletter, June 2, 2006 Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, accessed July 23, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Litvinov, Pavel (2013-10-25). "Facing Russian prison for a peaceful protest". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-08-14.


Further reading