throughout the week of the Scharansky trial, Western reproters and dissidents were featured prominently in the leus of very official, very silent, Soviet opratives. They roamed freely in the crowd that milled by the police barriers on narrow Serebryanicheskaya Street, snapping away with expensive Japanese and German still cameras, intent on fulfilling - or perhaps overfulfilling - whether plan the state requires of them.
Reporters speaking with dissidents were choice subjects for the Soviet lensmen, who strolled casually out from behind the steel barricades to get good angles for their snapshots, then retired to survey the crowd again. On the last day of the trial, a videotape crew was spotted taking sequences from the second story window of an apartment building across the street.
The photographing has been markedly more contained, however, than at the May trial of Yuri Orlov. Then, each day, Soviet teams lugging portable Sony videotape cameras covered the crowd as though it were a sporting event. They set up in a parked bus, at the street corner, and in no less than five unmarked Volgas which followed reporters across Moscow on the way from court each day.
The most prominent still photographer at that trial, who used a Hasselblad and declined to give his name, told those who asked that he was taking pictures "for my files. I have very good files." He was not seen at the Scharansky trial and the Soviets who were there refused to say anything at all.
The government conducted two "briefings" a day at both the Scharansky trial and the simultaneous trial of Alexander Ginzburg in Kaluga, south of here. The Moscow briefings were conducted in a room of the courthouse where American newsmen Craig Whitney and Harold Piper recently wer named as defendants in an unprecedented civil slander suit. No questions were allowed of the briefing officer, Magomet Birbildaikov, who joked when he saw reporters crowded into the defense dock awaiting him the first day "that's a dangerous place to be."
Since he would answer no questions and Tass, the official agency, was reprinting his prepared statements in the languages of the correspondents for the most part, by the second day he had no audience.
In Kaluga, reporters were treated to intimate sessions with court officials over coffee in the mornings and if they wished, cognac at night. The provincial officials were not so reticent as their Moscow counterparts and actually answered questions, reporters who covered the story from there reported.
But they were official answers, and gave the official side of the story only.
The Western press corps was dominated by Americans and virtually every one of the 23 permanently accredited here spent varying amounts of time - barring vacation and illness - at the police cordon. West Germans were numerically the next largest group, followed by British, French, and Scandinavians.
News of what was going on inside came from three persons: Leonid Scharansky, Anatoly's older brother who was allowed to observe three-and-a-half of that trial's five days; and in Kaluga, Ginsburg's wife, Arina, and mother, Lyudmila. Arina was expelled after a day and a half and her mother-in-law, 70, took over.
Each day, as police vans carried the two men away from their trials, supporters outside chanted their names and then waited tensely for the appearance of a relative from within to tell what had happened.
At the Scharansky trial, the daily crush of supporters and correspondents around Leonid was so great that slow-footed reporters found themselves at the far edge of an impenetrable group of perhaps 60 others. In those cases, the Russians, who listen to foreign broadcasts and known the names of most American correspondents, made way to let reporter in.
Tape recorders, indispensable items in later getting accurate translations from Russian to English, were passed hand-over-hand through the crowd into good listening position near Leonid. He spoke from memory and the last two days, notes he successfully made during the trial.
Soviet television, movie and still photographers took up positions in the Scharansky courtroom just before the verdict and sentence were announced, the first time they had been openly in the courtroom.
Some of the supporters outside the trial said they believed the government spent so much time taking pictures for two reasons: psychological intimidation and perhaps productions later of a television program. The last such production featured poor-quality photos taken from long distance of U.S. newsmen. The program alleged they worked for Western intellingence agencies.
Whatever the ultimate use for the film, the Soviet photographers kept the news to themselves - if they knew.