Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Suerskoye village (part 2)

See part one here

Quite unexpected help in providing us with literature was given to us by the chief of the post-office in the village. He had connections with Tumens’ town library. He supplied us with books by Darvin, Timiryasev, Lamark, Reklu. We were very grateful to him. He was a son of a man, convicted for taking part in operations of socialist-revolutionaries. His father was set free after February revolution and after the process against SR in 1922 he was exiled to Siberia. His son finished the course of communication service and was sent to Suerskoye. Here he married a widow, built a small house; he had a garden and a kitchen-garden. He worried that he would be considered a “kulak”, as he had a cow and a horse, which he used to bring post from Yalutorovsk. I liked to speak with him about the books I was reading, and he used to write down some of my thoughts. The chief of post-office reminded me my former Russian populists. Villagers respected him and asked his help for writing applications. It was nice to meet a decent man. Once when I came to take my post he asked me (we were alone): “Tell me, you are a scientist, you lived in Moscow and Leningrad, contacted with high-rank party members, can you explain why lately they scolded Trotsky and Zinoviev, now took it out on Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky… Trotsky and Bukharin are charged of the same thing, they are said not to believe in the possibility of building of socialism in our country?” I looked at the clever eyes of this man, my intuition said that he could not be a MGB agent. I decided to answer him. “I think the Central Committee of today does not believe itself possible in building of socialism and because of it sticks a label to others, opponents of Central Committee.” The postman laughed and I continued: “Now, if we don’t consider economically weak states there are two types of state capitalism in the world, one of them develops on the basis of wide democracy, the other on the basis of dictatorship. These conditions were developed in connection with history of these states. One of the special features of our century is that both democracy and dictatorship cannot go without some social principles. All the regimes speak of welfare of the people.” I wanted to say more but a woman came to take newspapers and our conversation was interrupted. The postman shook my hand and said:”I understood something, but there are a lot of things that are not clear.”

I want to speak of the conversations with Vladimir Mikhailovich Smirnov. I was a little acquainted with him before exile but in Tobolsk and especially in Suerskoye we became friends. Smirnov was a man of education. He knew several foreign languages, he was familiar with political economy and philosophy, and he was considered one of the best specialists in economy. During the first years of Soviet power he was the chief economic consultant of Higher Soviet of National Economy. From his young years he was a social-democrat, spent many years in France. He highly estimated the leaders of European social-democracy Karl Kautsky and Edward Bernshtein.

I knew that Smirnov was a close friend and shared the ideas of L.D. Trotsky whom he considered a social-democrat of West type but not a Bolshevik. Smirnov emphasized that for many years Trotsky and Lenin had different views on the revolution movement, but they became close before October 1917 and collaborated up to Lenin’s death because Trotsky as well as many social-democrats estimated political situation in Russia and in Europe as very favorable for the victory of democratic movement.

Smirnov was present at the meeting of a small group of military men with Trotsky in Beloborodov’s flat at the beginning of 1926. There were close friends of Trotsky: N.I Muralov, the chief of Moscow garrison, S.Mrachkovsky, a well-known hero of the Civil War, Kh. Rakovsky, the former chairman of the Ukraine Soviet of National Commissars, A.G. Beloborodov, National Commissar of Interior, one of the most popular journalists of that time L. Sosnovsky and V.M. Smirnov. The essence of the matter was set forth by Muralov, he spoke of Stalin’s and his associates activity, who started an open discredit of many old Bolsheviks, Civil War participants, of removal them from their posts and substituting them with their supporters. Muralov also mentioned false and openly provocative attacks against Trotsky. He offered that with the help of military units of Moscow garrison, which were under Muralov’s command, to arrest Stalin and all his supporters in the Central Committee and GPU (The Chief Political Management). Smirnov also set forth his point of view, supported Muralov and though he believed in democracy, in this situation it was necessary to use the most severe measures to stop decidedly Stalin’s clique’s activity. Everybody asked Trotsky to support Muralov’s offer. Trotsky’s reaction was unexpected. He not only refused to support violence against Central Committee but spent a lot of time trying to convince them to refuse any organized statements of opposing groups. Trotsky made a comparison with the French Revolution, noted the bad effect of differences between revolutionaries, who came to power, he thought that measures against Central Committee would not be approved by less significant party members. He also said that he would be accused of Bonapartism. At this point I added: ‘Lev Davydovich - making an analogy with French revolution, probably, forgot that national tribunes, calling to revolution, Mirabo and Lafayet very soon deviated from it, Danton, Robespyer and Marat came forward and soon were burned in the flames of revolution, but the traitor and secret plotter Fushey outlived all of them. Trotsky had to make a conclusion from these facts”.

Smirnov agreed with me and continued his story. Despite that he personally had great respect for Trotsky he considered it necessary to criticize Trotsky’s position. He said: “ Lev Davydovich, your arguments are not conclusive, your passive position will result in activation of Stalin’s clique. What do you count on refusing from decisive struggle? Almost all party staff and GPU are already in Stalin’s hands. The army is ready to come out now; there won’t be another chance in a year”. According to Smirnov’s opinion in 1926 the great popularity of Trotsky in the party and army would give him a real chance to restrain Stalin’s clique and mass arrests of oppositionists would not follow, Smirnov and I would not have found ourselves in Siberian exile. I think Smirnov was right to some extent. The course of historical events probably would not change notably but elimination of Stalin’s gang would allow preventing the deaths of great many people.

V.M. Smirnov was acquainted with Trotsky for many years from the emigration time and knew him as a very willful, decisive and energetic person who believed in democratic ideals and had a great ability of convincing people. But at the meeting in 1926 in Beloborodov’s flat he saw absolutely another person: indecisive, broken, who did not wish to struggle and evidently reticent. I told Smirnov of my two meetings with Trotsky in 1927: in Glavconcesscom and in Beloborodov’s flat at the end of the year. I noted that his answers to my questions were very contradictory. He spoke of a new stage of revolution and at the same time he acknowledged the complete failure of the attempts to gain democracy in the ruling party and the state, he saw a possible turn to fascism but at the same time hoped for opposing groups unification against Stalin, he understood that the power was in the hands of those controlling party stuff and GPU and at the same time continued to count on the support of workers from the West.

Such conversations with Smirnov on winter evenings helped us to understand what was going on. We often spoke of Trotsky, made various assumptions of his strange behavior in the period from 1924 till his deportation to Alma-Ata at the beginning of 1928. We were convinced that he understood what was waiting for him. It was well known that during Civil War Trotsky offered to examine Stalin’s actions two times, in Revtribunal in1918 for disorganization of the army, in Tsaritsin, in 1920 for failure of Polish campaign. Only Lenin’s incomprehensible intercession saved him from the tribunal. Trotsky knew better than anyone how dangerous was Stalin, temporary holding a grudge. Since the Civil War the wicked Eastern satrap only waited for a suitable moment to revenge on his deadly enemy. In 1928 Stalin was not determined yet to carry out his malicious plan. In spite of this, Trotsky practically did nothing. Smirnov supposed that he already enjoyed the sweetness of bigger power, and he, as many others, could not be reconciled with its loss. Possibly Smirnov was right to some degree, but after many years I realized that there were deeper reasons both of subjective and objective character of the passive behavior and contradictory statements by Trotsky at the last years of his life in the USSR.

I enjoyed my discussions with Smirnov, he was the most interesting person of high education. His moral standards were very high; he was a noble man, a true aristocrat of spirit. He called Lenin a dictator and Stalin an usurper and counterrevolutionary. Already in 1921 Smirnov was an active opposition member, he was considered a main ideologist of democratic tsentralists – “detsists”. The most ardent and long discussion we had were about the possible struggle with Stalin’s clique. Smirnov said that the fourth revolution was possible, which would sweep away Stalin’s clique and lead to the victory of democracy. He defended this position ardently but did not take into consideration the real arrangement of forces in the country, did not imagine by which layers of the society this revolution could be supported, considering that the most high-principled, selfless and brave people perished in the previous revolutions. Discussions with Smirnov stimulated me to active search of arguments, when I did not agree with him. Then I still did not understand clearly the connection between tendencies to dictatorship witch appeared immediately after October upheaval in 1917 and history of Russia. Only after many years I realized that Stalin’s violence all over the country was a natural phenomenon here. I came to this conclusion after many years in jails and concentration camps and after studying a lot of books on history. Jails and camps helped me in extreme conditions to understand what the main mass of prisoners and warders were, the latter were as many, as the former. Both groups were essentially slaves. Books on history, especially by V.O. Kluchevsky and S.M. Solovyev convinced me that the slavish psychology of the majority of people in Russia in the XX-th century was the result of special conditions of Russia’s origin and the process of its historical development as a state. Revolution in such a country is a catastrophe. In Suerskoye I could not bring up these arguments to Smirnov, but still spoke on this theme. I mentioned “Philosophical letters” by Peter Chaadayev and paid attention on his arguments. Russian state developed during several centuries on two connected bases: Orthodoxy and autocracy. P. Chaadayev saw an extremely reactionary character of religious, national and social structures in Russia and considered that in the near future civil life on democratic basis was impossible. Chaadayev did not believe in the future free Russia. I asked Smirnov: “Does Russia of today differ a lot from Russia of Chaadayev?

Russia entered the XX-th century as a very backward and sluggish, mainly peasant country with a primitive mode of life and a backward farming. And all that on the background of narrow-minded and reactionary national-religious self-conceit.” I mentioned an extract of a conversation between a French socialist Prudon and A.I. Hertsen: “Russian autocracy has a concealed basis, secret roots in the heart of Russian people itself…” I put another question: “If all this is taken in consideration, are Russian people to-day bent for democracy or dictatorship?” Smirnov was not ready to answer these questions. It is interesting to note that in the discussion Smirnov’s wife Varvara Alexandrovna was on my side. This fact irritated Smirnov, he did not speak with me 2 - 3 days, and afterwards we continued to speak. I substantiated my position, said that we have not to think of a new revolution but of a very gradual evolution, that now propagation of democratic ideas in masses was impossible because the opposition could not have its own newspaper. Plekhanov and Lenin were free to popularize their ideas; they published a newspaper “Iskra”, published books in conditions of freedom in Europe. In tsarist Russia there were underground printing-houses. In Stalin’s Russia this was impossible, hundreds of thousands of GPU agents and informers watched every step of the oppositionists. Smirnov denied all that. He with his knightly spirit, a tall lean figure and unwillingness to accept reality reminded me of Don Quixote. Stalin and his clique threw out the mask cover from the revolution and we could see the hidden earlier essence of so-called dictatorship of proletariat.

From spring 1928 Smirnov and I exchanged letters with many exiled and imprisoned people from Siberia and the Ural. We managed to be in correspondence with imprisoned in Tobolsk jail Misha Ivanov, Nikolay Karpov, Misha Okujava, Lado Dumbadze. We had correspondence with Khristian Rakovsky and well-known journalist L. Sosnovsky and his wife Olga, my wife’s friend, they were exiled to Barnaul. Smirnov wrote to “detsists”, his letters reminded political treatises. It was surprising that we were permitted to be in correspondence. The secret turned out simple: GPU wanted to know what went through exiles minds. Once I received a strange postal money order from Kh. Rakovsky, one of the founders of the social-democratic party in Balkan, a friend of Blagoyev, Rakovsky was a former chief of Ukrain government. On the back side of the postal order Rakovsky set forth his opinion on the First Five-year plan, he considered it the mere result of bureaucratic activity which could only lead to hunger. Unfortunately, this forecast proved to be right. At the same time in “Pravda” declarations of opposition of denial from fraction activity were published. Some of the oppositionists sharply blamed Trotsky, others tried to veil their position, and the third group declared organizational breaking-off with opposition but demanded to have a right to uphold their views at the next party congress. “Pravda” published two “platforms” of oppositionists capitulation. One, signed by Radek and Boguslavsky, came to a complete ideological and organizational capitulation. The other, signed by Kh. Rakovsky and L. Sosnovsky, agreed to refuse from fraction activity but considered it necessary to retain the right to speak out their views at party congress. Smirnov considered all the “platforms” and declarations of this kind disgraceful, he said: “The declarations do not contain principles but a mere self-seeking.” It really was. The former revolutionaries who had enjoyed the sweetness of power could not afford to refuse from privileges which they had occupying high positions.

In May 1929 I received a letter from Klava Ryazantsev. She wrote that after my leaving she felt very lonely, she saw in me a friend and adviser. I immediately answered, advised her to read and walk more, as books and nature help to fight against melancholy. At this point our correspondence stopped, Klava was moved from Tobolsk to another place. The image of fine, suffering Klava “a spy”, was kept in my memory.

In July 1929 dear guests came to our exile: my wife, elder daughter Vera and son Vissa who was two and a half year old. To Smirnov his sister Ossinskaya came with his six year old son Roma, who lived with Ossinsky’s family after his parents’ arrest. The guests instilled in us hope for the near discharge from exile. Ekaterina Osinskaya, a clever and educated woman, described with humor the behavior of “rights” headed by Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky who lately had struggled against “lefts” and now tried to unite with them to fight with Stalin’s group. Ossinskaya said that the “rights” were being excluded from the party and “trotskists” were now being released with the aim to use them against the “rights”. In this connection Smirnov said ironically: “The “Leninists” of today waited for Lenin’s death to do with all the differently minded using his name as a cover.” At these words his wife looked around anxiously and shut the door and windows. This old Bolshevik was desperately afraid for her husband and not without grounds. Smirnov did not accept any compromises, he was sure that all the Stalinists were counter- revolutionaries. Varvara Alexandrovna was in trepidation to think that her husband would have the most tragic fate. Her foreboding of evil was true: Later Smirnov, Marat of the Russian revolution, was shot.

The arrival of my family was a great occasion for me, I was happy to see my wife, daughter Vera and son Vissa. Polya, who was14 years old, did not come, she began to work in a printing house as a type-setter. She wanted to be self-supporting and to help her family. Polya struck us from her childhood with her soul and selflessness. I almost did not know my son. I threw him to the ceiling and he cried: “More, more!” Vera and Vissa enjoyed milk, which was of a special taste because of very good field grasses. I looked at the children drinking milk and thought that in Leningrad they had no such possibility 12 years after the revolution. We walked a lot, were boating on the Tobol, My Dina remembering her young years, rowing very well with oars. We were singing and I sang my beloved opera airs. How wonderful life could be if political adventurers, liars and rogues did not rule the country. We often went to meadows together with Smirnov family and Ossiinsky, there we found many flowers: chamomiles, buttercups and bells. Vissa lagged behind, sat down on the earth, asked to lift him in my hands, sulked and swore: “damned nail”. Sometimes I took him on my shoulders and ran, he was delighted and urged me like a horse. Vera liked flowers from her childhood and knew their names; I saw how attentively she looked at every flower. Afterwards, she drew the flowers rather well. Dina, E.M. Ossinskaya and Smirnov’s wife sometimes were sitting on the grass surrounded by colorful field flowers. A fantastic sight. Human happiness is made up of separate moments, how little we appreciate these wonderful moments. Peasants met my family very affably and always brought some refreshments. They paid a special attention to my son. The children of the village who drove horses very well, took him sometimes on the horse with them and trotted in a circle about our place. Dina was anxious; she feared that Vissa could fall down. Dina and E.M. Ossinskaya spoke often with women, who told of misfortunes that fell upon the village after the authorities demanded to organize a collective farm. The women asked for an explanation of why the collective farming was necessary, what was the meaning of dispossessing of “Kulaks” and a “complete collectivization.” Naturally, neither Dina, nor E.M. Ossinskaya, neither anybody else could explain why they had to go to a collective farm. Then Dina and Ossinskaya spoke with me and Smirnov of their impressions from conversations with peasants. To them, residents of big cities for the first time making acquaintance with the life of Soviet village, everything appeared in a very gloomy light. They were surprised and depressed with what they saw and heard from the peasants. I think, any person, who visited the village then and was capable to estimate reasonably what was going on, understood that the village was nearing general catastrophe.

The meeting with my family soon was over. At the end of July I saw off my family to Yalutorovsk, carried my son into the car, Dina and Vera cried. When the train began to move, I jumped down. A cart was waiting for me. I broke the rules; I was not permitted to drive so far from the place of exile. Coming to my house I fell on the bed without undressing, face in the pillow, and slept all night. Everything was empty. Anguish and loneliness-again. I renewed literary reading in Podkovyrkin house. The chief of post-office got “Anna Karenina” for me and even “Madam Bovary” by Flober. I decided to read both books to my attentive listeners. For two weeks I was reading for two hours by evenings. When I finished, I tried to analyze the behavior of two women and their troubles, one in Russia, another in France. Young country women estimated their storm of senses in their own way: “They were mad from fat”. I felt that my desire to justify their behavior did not attain success. After that I decided to read “Voskresenie” (Resurrection) by Tolstoy. Young people were delighted with the image of Katusha Maslova.

In my education courses I taught two young men and two young girls till 9-th form of high school program. My teaching activity stopped unexpectedly with stormy events in the village.

The Procurator of Tumen came to the village accompanied by other court officials to fulfill the slogan of Central committee of “Complete Collectivization.” They knew that Suerskoe villagers did not want to go to a Collective farm. “He himself” came as the peasants said; it was known in Tumen that Suerskoye was a rebellious village. The administration did not forget the bell that appealed to rebel against “communia” in 1921. They did not forget Agrafena Podkovyrkina, “the snake”, as she was called by enthusiasts of complete collectivization.

All the peasants were driven to club. Smirnov with his wife and I also came, we were curious. The club was full. The peasants made room for us. Nobody elected the presidium, but officials from Tumen were sitting at the table. The procurator, a stout, red-faced man was sitting near the chief of village Soviet, a thin man of about forty. The chief of village Soviet stroked his hair, smeared with some oil and obsequiously smiled to the procurator. He stood up and with a husky voice let to “a member of Tumen Party committee” to have the floor. The procurator tightened the belt on his field shirt of khaki colour, with his right hand he lifted his hair that fell on his narrow forehead. Then he began his speech and immediately put a question “point-blank.” I remember his speech very well; it resembled hundreds and thousands of such speeches. “The Party is finishing the period of New Economic Politics… In the village, class stratification occurred; we have poor persons, Kulaks and middle class… We have to liquidate Kulaks as a class and pass on to complete collectivization on the basis of unit of the poor with the middle class peasants. Many middle class peasants fell under the influence of Kulaks… All the working peasantry has to unite into collective farm to give the last battle to capitalism and pass on to the building of socialism.”

The speeches of Stalin, Molotov, Kuibyshev, Kaganovich, Mikoyan in their “theoretical” level differed little from the speech of Tumen procurator. Everything was going, so to say, normal, as a bad song with music. But suddenly the provincial Tsitseron animated with his speech, blurted out a phrase: “Who won’t go to kolkhoz, will be worked out into polish.” An unexpected response followed: people began to make noise, to swing arms, to shout. Afanasy Podkovyrkin rose and cried: “How are you going to work out people into polish, you think we are dogs? … People go to kolkhoz on their own accord, you want to throw rope on our neck and pull us into kolkhoz like sheep?” The peasants shouted: “Afanasy is right; we are men, not sheep!”

When the agitation stopped a little, Vladimir Smirnov suddenly arose, his face pale, eyes flashed, long hair disheveled. He poked his long thin arm in the direction of the speaker and with a thunderous voice said: “Who gave you a right to speak in such a tone with people? Your language is a language of a gendarme but not of a representative of Soviet power… Afanasy Podkovyrkin is right when he says that kolkhoz is a voluntary organization and people do not go to kolkhoz under compulsion. You, procurator, break an elementary law and you have to bear responsibility for that. You think that fear is the main stimulus of social development... But you won’t intimidate people! They won’t allow you to work them out into polish according to your figure of speech.” The peasants shouted again, a young man cried: “We will work out to polish the procurator himself.” Those sitting in the presidium became agitated; the procurator bent over the chief of Soviet and said something in a low voice. Stroking his greasy hair the chief said in a squeaky voice: “Exiled Smirnov, you were condemned for anti-Soviet actions; nobody gave you a right to come to the meeting and speak counterrevolutionary speeches.” The statement of the chief of the village Soviet made me indignant, I could not be silent and said: “Nobody deprived us of the civil rights, at least nobody declared this to us, we have the same right to speak out as all the citizens of the Soviet Union, our words differ from yours by the fact that they are based on the constitution, proclaiming the right of the citizen and person… And you, pretending to be a representative of Soviet power violate the constitution… Your interpretation of complete collectivization has nothing in common with Leninism, for your speeches, addressing people; V.I. Lenin would offer to exclude you from the Party...” As all the people including presidium listened to me attentively, I added: “You being a procurator got accustomed in every free speech of a citizen, when he says truth, to see an enemy of revolution. We consider it impossible to stay longer at the meeting where elementary rights of a man and citizen are violated rudely.”

The hall was silent. Nobody responded to my remark, even the procurator was silent. Smirnov, his wife and I rose and left the meeting ostentatiously. The peasants followed us, only about 20 persons, the members of village Soviet remained. About ten Komsomol members and three Party members left the meeting. We understood that it would not end easily. During the night, several peasants were arrested, including Afanasy Podkovyrkin. Between the arrested there were mostly middle peasants of whom the procurator said that they fell under the influence of “Kulaks”. The village was agitated. Women cried, the men began to kill cattle again. This was the answer to the procurator’s propaganda for complete collectivization. We learned that something like this was going on in many big and small villages. In Moscow the administration began to worry, a hypocritical article “Dizziness from success” by Stalin appeared, where he accused local authorities of violence over peasants connected with complete collectivization. But Stalin was a coward. Apparently, he was afraid that on the basis of mass protest of peasants against collectivization the “rights”, “lefts” and “vacillating” would unite. Also commanders of Red Army who took part in Civil War knew the repressed “opposition” people very well and highly estimated them. Exactly Stalin’s fear was the reason of the article. His head was really dizzy only for one reason: because of his success on the way to unlimited power. Could he ever suppose that so comparatively easily he would remove from the political scene such Party leaders as Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Preobrazhensky and many others figures experienced in political struggle and very popular in the Party. The success of Stalin, who was not known much at the first half of 20-th, in the struggle for power - is a problem demanding a big, thorough analysis. I wrote a little about that and will write more in the final part of my memoir.

At the end of August V.M. Smirnov was arrested at night. Varya ran to my place pale and crying and shouted: “ Volodya is being taken.’ I dressed quickly and ran to their house. I applied to GPU man with a protest:” Smirnov is an old Bolshevik, he worked with Lenin. He is the author of Communist Party program, maintained at the Y111-th Party congress. GPU man got confused a little and answered: “We only fulfil the order that came from the authorities.” Vladimir Mikhailovich and I said good-bye. I only could tell him: “Stand firm!” Varya, crying, threw herself on her husband, he tried to soothe her. Smirnov was seated in a cart, two escorts sat with him. Several days Varya had fever, she was lying, did not eat, I was sitting near her bed, tried to distract her from gloomy thoughts. Varya said in a low tone: “Grisha, what will they do with my Volodya, I fear for him so much, he is so risky. He gave all his life from young years to the revolution movement, he was dreaming of democracy and freedom in Russia, of better life for people. And now it turned out in such a way…” When Varya calmed down a little I offered her to go to the Tobol River. We were walking on the bank, but Varya could not be distracted from gloomy thoughts of her husband’s fate. I considered Smirnov one of the most brilliant representatives of revolutionary romantics in Russia. These freedom-loving, selfless, courageous people were doomed to death after October; they were antipodes of the petty bourgeois mass that won.

After the stress I suddenly had a strong tooth-ache. There was no dentist in the village, I had to go to Tumen; I needed permission from a GPU representative. After long negotiations I got the permission. When I came to Tumen, the tooth-ache stopped but still I went to see a dentist. I wanted to stay in the town, to meet the local exiled, to learn anything of Smirnov and the arrested peasants of Suerskoye. I telegraphed to my wife in Leningrad that I would stay in Tumen about two weeks and asked to let me know about my family’s health. Unexpectedly I received a telegram from Ada Lvovna Voitolivsky, our neighbor in “Astoria”. She said that my wife and children were well and she got a permission to see her husband in Tobolsk jail and would take a ship in Tumen. Soon Ada arrived to Tumen and we spoke the whole day before her journey. She talked about my family, of the situation in Leningrad and confirmed the Osinsky’s information that probably we would be soon set free from exile. Ada always estimated a situation reasonably but she did not expect that a relaxation of repressions would be transient. After about five years, our long-term jail and concentration camp period would begin and only few would survive. I already wrote of Ada. This brilliant, talented courageous woman very firmly endured all the hardships and could keep her human nobility in extraordinary conditions of concentration camps and exile. In Tumen I heard from exiled people a lot of news. The prisoners of Tobol jail had different opinions; most of them decided to hand applications of breaking off relations with opposition, among them my friend Mish Ivanov and Ada’s husband Nikolay Karpov. Smirnov was sent with an escort from Tumen. Later we learned that he was imprisoned in Suzdal jail in a former monastery. When I returned to Suerskoye women came to my place crying. They asked to help their arrested husbands. The wife of Afanasy Podkovyrkin said crying: “They want to shoot my husband, help him, for God’s sake.” I was confused; I could not find way to help the poor women. Suddenly it came to my mind to send a telegram to general procurator of Russian Federation Krylenko, telling him about the arbitrariness of local authorities to peasants who did not want to go to Kokhoz. I was acquainted with Krylenko from the beginning of 20-th, I met him and spoke with him in the 2-nd House of Soviets and in Moscow Party Committee. He was of low height, with a big cap on his head. My wife and I were present in the process against socialist-revolutionaries, Where Ktylenko was the prosecutor. He not only accused the former collaborators on the struggle against Tzaism but tried to understand, what stood behind their protest against the Soviet Power. I knew very well that in Party congresses Krylenko, being People Comissar of interior tried to defend law, he thought that it was not right to repress people on the basis of so-called “revolutionary expediency”, that the law and not the class principle had to be the base of civil and criminal law. In the telegram to Krylenko it was necessary to appeal not only to the law and reason but also to sense. The text of the telegram was: “Stop the local arbitrary rule of Tumen procurator and court. Condemned to death, without guilt, is the former participant of Lena events, participant of Civil War Afanasy Podkovyrkin, a citizen of Suerskoye village, Tumen district.” I signed: “Exiled on opposition affair Grigorov.” The chief of the post-office, my friend, did all to provide that the telegram would be delivered. I did not believe in success of this action, but I had to do it. After the post-office I came to Varya’s place, offered to go for a walk to the Tobol bank. When I told her of my telegram to Krylenko she smiled and said:” You, Grisha, also a romantic as my Voldyua, you still continue to believe in wonders.” In Suerskoye arrests continued, every day 2 or 3 men were driven with a convoy. Women moaned and children cried in the village. Varya and I remembered Nekrasov: “Show me a place where a Russian peasant does not moan.” Here we see the results of the decisions of Party congresses and plenary sessions… Here is the union of the working class and peasantry in practice! In 1918 Karl Kautsky , an official literary hereditor of Marx and Engels spoke of “Russian form of Bonapartism” but I don’t remember where it was written that Napoleon Buonapart taunted his people in such a way as Stalin’s clique does.

In “German Ideology” Marx and Engels wrote that private owners unite into a class to defend their interests. Analyzing the situation in Suerskoye village I understood that the peasants-owners irrespective of their economy level united for struggle against violence that was carried on by the “People State” that drove all of them into collective farms. The situation reminded the period of “Military Communism”. Then all the peasantry rebelled with their own arms against the tyranny of the new power. In this situation, only politics, (not economy and class stratification of the village) plays the main role. Lenin understood it and in 1921 New Economy Politics (NEP) was proclaimed and the problem was solved. As soon as Stalin’s clique became stronger NEP was abolished and in the village “complete collectivization” began in spite of the peasants’ resistance. Millions of those who resisted were dealt with; three generations of the most active part of peasantry were destroyed. The state put the peasants on serf condition. I think that many years will pass till a new generation of farmers comes that will be able to feed the huge country. The same fate befell workers. F.Dostoyevsky in his work “Demons” showed that when a person or people are imposed with the urge of a political rogue they are deprived of freedom absolutely. The Soviet state made everybody equal in slavery.

After Smirnov’s arrest I had more free time, there was nobody to discuss things with. I often saw Smirnov’s wife Varya and tried to distract her from gloomy thoughts. Sometimes it helped when we went for a walk; nature is the best doctor. At the end of October, winter suddenly began, a lot of snow fell. One morning when I was doing gymnastics I heard a bell ringing and the creak of a sledge. I heard voices and footfall at the porch. I thought GPU men came to take me away from Suerskoye. Somebody knocked at the door, I opened it and was surprised to see a group of peasants and between them Agrafena Podkovyrkina and her son Afanasy. I invited them into my room. Further on a scene that shook me within followed. I was standing in the centre of the room surrounded by peasants. Suddenly they fell on their knees and those nearest to me began to kiss my legs. What happened? Seeing Afanasy Podkovyrkin I understood that something extraordinary happened. Afanasy raised his hand and asked everybody to calm down; he wanted to tell of the circumstances of his and other peasants’ release from Tumen jail. Peasants of many villages of Tumen district were also released. It turned out that my telegram to the General Procurator Krylenko played a significant role and influenced the fate of many peasants of Tumen district. Krylenko sent an authorized commission to Tumen. This commission established the compulsion of Tumen procurator and local administration, released all the prisoners and declared in the jail yard that all those who exceeded their authority and drew the peasants into collective farms by violence would be punished. After this story I shook hands with everybody, kissed men and women and was happy as a child. The peasants brought many presents, the food would be enough for half year of my life in exile. Of course, I refused all presents and offered to celebrate this fabulous release. The entire village celebrated Christmas. Varya and I organized Fir-tree celebration for children, got toys and sweets. Many people came. Young and old women danced, drew Varya and me into round dance. Everybody drank vodka, ate fried pork, pies, jellied meat, sour cabbage and pickled cucumbers and drank wonderful bread kvass. Wherefrom all that appeared? Sledges covered with carpets rode in the streets, the peasants sang loudly accompanied by accordion. I tried to understand which new winds blew in the Central Committee of the Party. I wrote a letter to Emelyan Yaroslavsky, a member of Central committee, asked to revise my “personal case”, and reminded him that I was sent to exile without any official charge.

At the end of March the weather became warm, brooks streamed. Rooks and larks came. At the beginning of April the peasants began to go to the fields. I went with them. When the tillage began I sometimes ploughed, watched the layers of soil pulled off and thought of frailty of human life. Girls sang while the sun warmed. I enjoyed manual labor. Once, when everybody had a rest, a woman came to me and said laughing: “Savich, you plough well, we will marry you, and you will start a house and live well”. Everybody laughed, so did I. Suddenly my life changed. Early in the morning the chief of the post-office came running to my place. His face beamed with joy, he held a post-card in his hand. He said: I, like a postmaster of Gogol, decided to read this card”. It said: “Comrade Grigorov, an order was given of your release from exile” Em. Yaroslavsky”. I was stunned, and then embraced the postman. I asked “Varvara Rozhdestvensky also received this news?” It was found out that she did not. My joy grew dim, what will come to Varya? With whom she will speak of her grief? Why they release only me? Probably, my letter to Yaroslavsky had an influence. Later I got to know that Sergey Mironovich Kirov solicited my release. In the village everybody already knew of my release. Afanasy Podkovyrkin came, then his mother. Later a lot of people came, old and young, everybody congratulated me. I was uneasy and thought of Varya. She also came, said with tears that she was very glad for me and hoped to meet me and Volodya soon at large. GPU chief informed me that soon he would drive me to Tumen, where I would get release documents. The entire village came to see me off, they put parcels with fried duck, pies, and pickled cucumbers into the cart. One woman brought a big home-made cheese. Afanasy Podkovyrkin tried to hand me 200 roubles “for small expenses” but I decidedly refused. Afanasy embraced me with his strong arms and cried. Men and women came crying. They kissed me, I felt tears welling up. Varya stood aside; she also dried her eyes with a handkerchief. I came up and embraced her. GPU chief sat beside me in the cart, the horse started, somebody cried:”Don’t forget us, dear friend!” My pupils saw me off up to the forest. I parted for ever with Suerskoye, with good simple people, with dear Varya. I was worried. GPU chief said: “The peasants loved you”. We stopped near Tumen GPU office. GPU chief handed me over with the accompanying package to the man on duty. Other released from exile already gathered here. The chief of Tumen GPU office came and said that we are free and have to come in the morning to receive certificates and railway tickets. I invited everybody to the land-lady I had stayed with when I had come to Tumen to the dentist. Here all my presents proved useful. The land-lady put a big samovar on the table. Everybody was agitated, planning their future. I was surprised with their optimism; there were few pessimists, and I was one of them. In the morning we were handed certificates and railway tickets. It was written in my certificate: “Comrade Grigorov Grigory Isayevich born in1900 is released from exile and directed to his dwelling place Leningrad.” I took the Novosibirsk-Moscow train.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Suerskoye village (part 1)

Turns of destiny and tyranny
Book 2 . Part 8. Chapter 3

Short description:
The "complete collectivization". Discussions with V.M. Smirnov
Meeting of a group of military men with Trotsky at the beginning of 1926 who offered to arrest Stalin and all his protégés in the Central Committee and GPU. Very strange Trotsky’s position.
The prosecutor of Tumen carries on collectivization. V.M. Smirnov and I come forward in defense of peasants.
I telegraph to the general prosecutor of RSFSR, the peasants are set free.

I remember very well the period of life in Siberian village. That was the first time in my life when I lived so close to the land, among the hereditary agricultural workers, for whom the work on the land was the meaning of life and the sole source of living. There were some original and freedom-loving people between them. I could see how brutal “the complete collectivization” was conducted; which led the country into social and economical abyss. The process was catastrophic: the basis of the peasant economy was destroyed and the most active, hard-working and initiative part of the agricultural population of the country, that before revolution provided Russia and Europe with agricultural products, was being destroyed.

The sledge drove us to a hut where a tall man in a greatcoat and with a revolver was waiting for us. My escort passed me and the packet to this man. He was the authorized representative of Suerskoye village. He told me that I would live in the village, I could find a flat, and I had no right to go more than 10 kilometers out of the village. I entered the hut and was happy to see Vladimir Mikhailovich Smirnov and his wife Varvara Alexandrovna, who would also live here. We shook hands, embraced and kissed each other. Even Siberian dog Chung pulled my sleeve, recognizing an old acquaintance from Tobolsk. We spoke till late at night. The landlady put hay on the floor, and we lied down. We slept soundly without dreams.

We got up in the morning, washed ourselves and after tea went to find flats for rent. The peasants left their houses, looked at us with curiosity, even bowed low, they probably took us for some significant persons from town. We stopped, spoke with them, asked where we could find rooms. When they understood that we were exiled, old men and women shouted: “Such people as you are, everybody would gladly take to his house”. They showed us two wooden houses. We settled very close to each other: I was given a small room, Smirnovs a bigger one. I settled in the house of Stepanida Ivanovna Krylov, her house consisted of two rooms and she gave me the small one. The rent was 5 roubles a month. Stepanida {Stesha) was a widow: her husband was killed at war in 1915. She raised a son and a daughter; they already helped her in farming. She had a small yard divided by a wooden fence for a cow and a horse. Her piece of land was 10 kilometers far from the village.

In my room there was a big bed with a feather mattress and two pillows, near the window looking on a big street, stood a small table. Over the bed a portrait of the late Stesha’s husband hung, he was an artillery man with a clever and energetic face. Stesha spoke of him wiping her tears. A girl of 16, Nastya, quickly washed the floor and wiped dust from the window-sill and table in my room. Stesha’s son came in, he was a boy of about 17, thin, pale with blond hair. He was the main worker in the family. Neighbors came to meet me; they looked at me with curiosity.

The peasants, interrupting each other, told me the history of the village and its habits and called names of men and women, whom I did not know, but I learned a lot of interesting facts. During the Civil war when the food detachments emptied out all the “surplus food” from barns the peasants suffered from hunger, they had not enough food for children, many children died and there was a great loss of cattle. The peasants were driven to despair and decided to rise in rebellion. An old woman said: “What had we to do, my dear, to die in this case and in that case”. Suerskoye was the centre of rebellion of the whole Yalutorovsky region; many Siberian villages joined the rebellion. They constantly struck the bells and appealed not to submit authorities, attacked the food detachments and killed the “activists”. The rebellion was suppressed, the men were deported to the North, and some of them were shot. Therefore few men remained in the village, mostly women and teenagers.

Stepanida told me of this severe time in details, wiping tears with her handkerchief. “In these years we were saved only thanks to fishing in Tobol, we ate fish without bread and salt. Since then my children are ill.” Stepanida baked in the big stove a loaf of bread, there was a fish baked inside the loaf. Mitya, her son, did the fishing. When the peasants learned that Smirnov and I were political exiles, they felt sympathy to us, they asked why communists put into prison and exile other communists. A woman of 60, Agraphpena Podkovyrkina asked especially many questions. I was interested in her and asked peasants about her. They said that at the beginning of 20-eth Agraphena was the head of rebellion in the village. She climbed the bell tower and struck the bells. When all the peasants met, she appealed to them to begin struggle with the food detachments. The peasants responded to the call, attacked the regiments and there were victims in both sides. The rebellion was suppressed, Agraphena and other instigators were put to prison, but in 1923 they were discharged.

Once, Agraphena invited me to tea. I met her son Afanasy, strongly built, with big grey eyes, a big forehead and black hair. Being a young man he went with a group of peasants to the river Lena mines and there in1912 took part in a strike. Afterwards he was sent to his village under police surveillance. In the World War 1 he was rewarded with two Georgy crosses, in the Civil War fought against Kolchak. At that time his farm was destroyed, his son died from inflammation of the lungs and only a daughter remained. When he returned home, Afanasy built a new house, bought a horse and a cow. The period of NEP (new economical politics) was quiet. Afanasy was interested in politics, regularly read news-papers. He read some works by Lenin and Trotsky. He asked me many questions: “Why they are going to abolish NEP? Why was Trotsky expelled from the party? Wherefrom came the Georgian that took Lenin’s place? Why the communists are exiled to Siberia?” Then a friend of Afanasy came in, a tall bold man with a red beard. He listened to our conversation and said: “The Bolshevics deceived the peasants, they promised to give them land, but did not. Now they forbid every step, control everything, write down peasants’ farming, and write down how many cows, horses, sheep and even hens they have. For what reason?“ It was very difficult for me to answer all these questions, I tried to explain something in simple words, but I saw that the peasants did not understand.

I organized some kind of counseling for school-children in the village club: helped them to solve arithmetic problems and use a map, read with them “Russian speech”. Sometimes we went out, where I explained the origin of clouds, snow and rain and spoke of landscapes. In the club I gave three popular lectures of the origin of the Universe. In the small village library I found “Don Quxote” by Servantes. I began to read it aloud in Podkovyrkin house; their neighbors also came to listen. I explained what I read, spoke of Spain. After this book we were reading Nekrasov’s poems, I read “Russian women” in the club. Many people came. I spoke of the December rebel in 1825, of execution of Pestel, Ryleyev, Kakhovsky, Muravjev-Apostol and Bestuzhev-Rumin. My listeners were surprised to learn that near their village in Yalutorovsk 7 Dekabrists were exiled, between them Pushkin’s friends Kukhelbeker and Puschin and princesses Trubetskaya and Volkonskaya rode via Tumen and Yalutorovsk when they followed their husbands sent to penal servitude. Tzar Nicolay the first threatened them by depriving of nobility. Their relatives spoke of severe conditions of life in Siberia. Nothing could stop these courageous women. I noticed that the Dekabrists were rich, were close to tsar court, but they rebelled for better life for the simple people. I read Pushkin’s verse dedicated to Dekabrists. Everybody was silent; they were impressed by Nekrasov’s and Pushkin’s verses.

Among my pupils there was a younger sister of Afanasy Podkovyrkin Ksenia, a girl of 18. Being a child she was hurt with a cart wheel and limped. After 3 months of studies, Ksenia learned algebra, logarithms and geometry, learned by heart many verses by Pushkin, Lermontov and Nekrasov. I realized that in favorable conditions a person’s abilities can unexpectedly be revealed. Later I invited Ksenia to Leningrad.

There were rumors in the village of repressions against “Kulaks” and “complete collectivization.” The peasants were worried; groups gathered in houses, they said that this was the end of their free life. They came to Smirnov and me asking to explain the situation. During military communism the village was utterly destroyed. In the period of NEP the economy was restored and they lived as usual, only many men went to town in winter to search a living. There were no “kulaks” in Suerskoye. Smirnov and I collected interesting facts. The richest peasants had two cows and two horses. 95% of peasants had one horse and one cow. A small group of peasants had no horses and cows. They wanted to go to a collective farm. Smirnov and I established that these peasants were lazy workers, drank vodka and often made rows. By the way, in Russia before the revolution there were few “kulaks”, rich peasants like American farmers. The reason was a backward economy of Russian village. A question arises: wherefrom suddenly “kulaks’ came to the Soviet state? In reality it was a result of cowardly imagination of ignorant politicians in the ruling party, they were afraid of the growth of political strength in villages. Class struggle in Russian village was a myth. But slogans “Abolition of “kulaks” as a class” and “complete collectivization” gave an instrument of unlimited tyranny to local authorities. The “extremes” in the village were dictated by Moscow, they were part of criminal politics of Stalin’s Central Committee. The natural stages of development of agricultural economy were broken. Suerakoye was a cell of social body. What was going on in the cell was going on in the body. Collectivization and industrialization were two sides of one historical process of suppressing people’s power and establishing of serfdom relations both in the village and in town. The state was everything, the people was nothing! As a result millions perished. Smirnov and I asked the peasants: 90% did not want to go to a collective farm. When a commission arrived from Tumen to count the cattle and agricultural implements, the peasants were terrified. As soon as the commission left, they began to slaughter the cattle. I woke up by night from the roar of cows and horses, bleating of sheep and squeal of pigs. The meat of the slaughtered animals was salted in barrels, which were buried in yards and in the field. During one winter in1929 the village changed its look, the people who were active earlier now were mostly seating at home, hungry and pale children wandered about, and beggars appeared. The life in the village came to a standstill, everybody was waiting for something. Young men stopped to go to dances, old women were wandering like shadows. The peasants stopped to clean streets, rubbish heaps appeared, and there were snow-drifts beside the gates. When I asked from my hostess a spade to clean in the yard, she said: “There is no will to do anything, again no peace, we rested a little from commune, and now they are after us again… Oh God, when will they leave us alone.” I felt depressed but I only could say:”Everything passes, we have to hope for better time.” She was silent and wiped tears with her handkerchief. Smirnov and I tried to understand what was going on. We had books sent by D.B. Ryasanov from Moscow. Ryasanov was the most well-known specialist of Marx’s works. We had also “Economic Tables” by Keney in French. Smirnov translated this book. In these books the principle of free trade was considered, the authors spoke against feudalism and serfdom. We were convinced they were right considering what was going in Suerskye. After the appearance of the commission for calculations of the cattle and agricultural implements the village was on the verge of catastrophe. What the economists understood in the XV111-th century, the “wise men” of Stalin’s Central Committee absolutely did not understand. In the Siberian exile the books helped us realize the inevitability of catastrophic consequences of what was going on in the village at the end of 20-eth.